Imagine if I began a blog post by quoting some writer who expressed some negative thoughts about homeschooling in a post that also talks about how awesome public schools are and how excited the writer is for his children to board that yellow school bus.
Now imagine that I said the following:
If you want to use the public schools because you think these schools will suit your children well and they will benefit from it, then God bless you.
If you have to use the public schools even though you don't want to because you have no viable alternatives at this time, then God bless you even more.
If you are going to use the public schools because you have been stewing in a steady stream of sensational horror stories about homeschooling and homeschoolers, because you've been convinced you're not smart enough to homeschool, because you are convinced that all Catholic homeschoolers are secret wannabe Amish-like end-times preppers and you would never do anything that would keep your kids from fitting in with the mainstream, or because your children are still so undisciplined that you break out in hives at the thought of spending more than a few hours a day with them and because you're still trying to teach them basic civilization (let alone reading, writing, or math) and think you're doing pretty well because so far you've managed to postpone sibling cannibalism, please think again. Good decisions are not born of terror and disgust and disdain.
It wouldn't be very fair of me to say any of the above, would it? It wouldn't be very nice or very just for me to assume that many or most of those Catholics who send their kids to public schools are doing so because they hate and fear homeschoolers and homeschooling, would it? It wouldn't even be nice of me to assume that there are enough Catholics who send their kids to public schools who think this way to write a scolding, warning, nagging sort of blog post about it all, would it?
Well, would it?
If you clicked on that link and read Simcha Fisher's post, you'll notice that she's using Matt Walsh's piece here as her jumping-off place. I don't know much about Matt Walsh, but having read through the piece I see a passionate criticism of public education of the sort that I see all the time, even from people whose kids are currently enrolled in public schools. There is nothing wrong with deciding that the system is broken; there is nothing inherently incoherent in deciding the system is broken and yet that in your small town or relatively sane state the damage done by federal education mandates and weird educational ideologies has been kept to a minimum. Both may be true, and if the second is true than your decision to make use of the local public schools is perfectly logical, if that's what works best for your family.
However, the fact that Catholic bloggers are even debating whether the Little (Weird) Town on the Homeschool Model of Catholic Education or the Lord of the Flies Public School Model of Catholic Education (with supplements by the parish religious ed. department) is better is proof of one big truth that tends to get overlooked: neither of these models would be necessary were it not for the sad failure of diocesan Catholic education in our times.
When I was a sophomore in high school, my parents committed an act of great sanity and lucidity by pulling all of their children out of our Catholic schools and commencing upon the grand adventure called Catholic homeschooling. They did this for one simple reason: as good Catholics, they had been brought up to believe that Catholic kids went to Catholic schools, full stop. Even with the rising costs of education, even with several moves across and around the country, even with a family that eventually grew to include nine children, my parents made tremendous and even heroic sacrifices to educate our family in the Catholic schools--only to learn, at a rather late date, that the schools in question were no longer authentically Catholic at all.
We didn't learn history or literature from a Catholic perspective. Religion class was weak and spotty, sometimes scheduled less frequently than gym. Our school Masses were few and far between, and we went whole years without being offered the chance to go to confession in our schools. Our science courses were taught from a secular humanist perspective that crossed the line from pure science into ideology all the time (some texts poked open fun at the "ancient" people and their "superstition" that a Divine Force was involved in setting the mechanisms of creation going). Our high school health class included lessons on how to use contraception and what kinds to buy--and when a few of us actual Catholics objected, the "Catholic" teacher snapped, "This is health. Take that stuff up with your religion teacher."
And for all that, my parents were doing without on a shoestring, one-income budget; and their money invested in "Catholic" education was fraudulently swindled away from them by these hucksters and harridans who handed out scorpions and screamed at us to call them bread.
I didn't choose to homeschool because I hate and fear public schools. I chose to homeschool because I take my duty as a Catholic parent to provide my children with a Catholic education very seriously. Perhaps Catholic schools are improving (though the stories I hear from those who use them aren't encouraging), but they remain ridiculously expensive where I live. Had I chosen, instead, to make use of the public schools my life would be harder, as I would have felt the need to create my own supplements to give my children a Catholic perspective in the humanities as well as supplemental Catholic ethics (especially in high school) to combat the dehumanizing sex education and the forays by the science texts into areas that properly belong to philosophy and about which science ought to keep its arrogant mouth shut. And that's before we even talk about the necessary entanglements with parish-based religious education programs, a subject which makes some Catholics weep openly and gnash their teeth, but which is properly saved for another blog post.
So for me, the easiest, simplest, best and most affordable way to make sure my kids are getting a Catholic education (not just an "education") was to homeschool them. Other people will choose the "public school and supplement" model. Still others may have actual not-horrible not-heretical Catholic schools in their areas to choose from, whose tuitions don't require Mom to stash the youngest kids in day care and get a full-time job in order to be able to afford the price. It's just not fair, though, to admit on the one hand that public schools are hardly perfect, are not a panacea, and do not fulfill, on their own, a parent's serious obligation to provide his children with a Catholic education, and then to insinuate on the other hand that many or most Catholics who homeschool make the decision out of disdain, disgust, and fear. Most of us are making that decision for the same reason the public-school families make theirs: the Catholic schools have failed us, and in the vacuum left behind, we're all still scrambling for workable solutions to the failed, but once-great, model of diocesan Catholic education.