While I’ve written here almost exclusively about Catholic life at home, and the beautiful spirituality of the Catholic home, I realized haven’t really touched yet on the topic of homeschooling. I’m the oldest of four children and was homeschooled all my life by my truly wonderful parents. So I can’t deny that most of my passion for writing about Catholic life at home has stemmed from my experience growing up as a homeschooled child.
In an ideal world, I would love for every family to be a homeschooling family in some shape or fashion, simply because of the potential homeschooling has to bond the family, to nurture children and raise them in authentic respect and love for their parents, to enforce a wholesome focus on relationships instead of material things, and, of course, to create a unique environment where the Faith can be deeply integrated into our everyday lives.
From my own experience, homeschooling is without a doubt a colorful adventure; and when you make it homeschooling of a traditionally Catholic kind, it can explode with astonishing beauty and grace, even if it’s wrapped up in diapers, crying toddlers, and math books (as it almost always is!).
Even under all the chaos of our ordinary life, there can be a rhythm of grace in the Catholic home (Michele Chronister, author and homeschooling mother, aptly calls the home a “domestic monastery”) where, if we manage to catch onto this rhythm as best we can, so many virtues can be taught; faith, hope, diligence, patience, mutual charity, peace, industry, generosity, forbearance . . . you name it!
From waking, praying, eating, studying, cleaning, conversing, eating, studying, and praying, repeated over and over until we finally collapse in bed, the home is a mine of spiritual treasures for the Catholic family. So homeschooling, apart from anything else, gives the family yet another opportunity to remain in this “mine” with much more consistency than other families might be able to, and it helps them better catch onto this rhythm of grace where virtue can be learned (through much trial and error!).
God knew what He was doing when He established the home as the very building block of human society. Here, He foresaw that so many graces necessary for salvation would be waiting for every family earnestly seeking Him. While we’re not meant to stay inside our homes without pause, never seeking to build other friendships or practice the works of mercy as God has called us to, it still makes sense that Satan would seek to lure and distract society as a whole from the home.
While I do think there are many proven educational and social benefits of homeschooling, in my view, the far most important benefits are the spiritual ones–the times where the choice my parents made to homeschool reaped a little more beauty and grace for our home and our family, and strengthened us a little more for the arduous trek to Heaven. Catholicism and homeschooling are integrally connected when homeschooling is used as a tool, a means, for growing in sanctity as a family.
Homeschooling isn’t a possibility for everyone; there are financial, health, or logistical reasons, to name a few, that just make homeschooling untenable. But in principle at least, homeschooling is something truly beautiful, and something intrinsically Catholic at heart, because it bears witness to the father and mother as head and heart of the home, respectively, and their united primacy in bringing up their children–as well as the great spiritual importance of life in the Catholic home.
The beloved late Servant of God Fr. John A. Hardon, S. J articulated this former point quite well:
What do we mean when we say that parents are the primary educators of their children? We mean everything.
- We mean that parents begin to teach their children from the moment their children are conceived and born.
- We mean that parents teach their children during the children’s infancy and childhood.
- We mean that parents are the first, and most important and indispensable teachers of their children.
- We mean that unless the children are taught by the parents, the children will be getting only a substitute education.
All of this we mean when we say that parents are the primary educators. But we mean much more. After all, there is a primacy in what the children are taught. They can be taught how to walk and to talk. They can be taught how to read and write. They can be taught how to eat and drink and take care of their things. They can be taught arithmetic and spelling, and history and geography. All of those things they can be taught and should be taught. But what they mainly need is to know why God made them; why they are on earth at all; why they are in this world; that they are here in this life in order to prepare and train themselves for the world to come.
In a word, children are to be taught that their short stay here in time is only a preparation for the world that will never end. They are to be trained for heaven…
Under God, parents are the first in time, first in authority, first in responsibility, first in ability, and first in dignity to educate their children for eternal life.
So I especially wish to thank my parents for having homeschooled me and made our home a place that reminds me of the reality of Heaven, and of the potential graces of Catholic family life (even if some family members always forget to put up their shoes . . .). Catholic homeschooling is something I cherish, both as an ideal and a (often messy) reality, and hope to carry on one day in the future.
And finally, may God bless all faithful Catholic homeschooling parents who, in their vocations, are generously witnessing to God’s design for the Catholic family and for their home–both of which should be consecrated to Him daily, in deed and in truth, in virtue and in joyful love!