Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Homeschooling

Naturhistorisk Privatundervisning
(Natural Private Education)
September 1877
So far 2014 has been a roller coaster year for the 'Catholic In The Ozarks' blogger.  Without going into the details of the circumstances, I pulled my 10-year-old boy out of his Catholic school in January.  He is now being homeschooled by me 80% of the time, and his mom 20% of the time.  Yes, it's official, I am now a homeschooling dad.  This is something that my wife and I had considered for years. Circumstances have been pointing us more and more in that direction over the last year, and this January it became obvious that the time had come.  As for our daughter, things are still up in the air. We may bring her home next year, or the year after, but the writing is on the wall.  It will likely happen eventually.  We cannot expect our current situation to maintain itself indefinitely. We are thankful of course to everyone who has helped us get this far in the Catholic school system.

The situation my wife and I find ourselves in is actually quite common.  Most Catholic parents don't even bother to investigate Catholic schools, simply because they know they are financially out of reach. Some parishes will offer assistance with tuition, books and uniforms, but this is on a case-by-case basis. Most Catholics are afraid to ask for help, and many more simply won't.  While this is unfortunate, because many parishes are willing to help, I can understand why some Catholic parents feel this way. It's so much easier to send a child to a public school, especially the way the laws are set up in most states. It is blatantly obvious that most states want to discourage blue-collar working-class parents from sending their kids to religious schools. Oh sure, lawmakers will tell you they have nothing against it at all.  Blah, blah, blah...  I wasn't born yesterday. My father always told me that actions speak louder than words. If lawmakers in this country really had nothing against religious schools, than legislation would already be signed into law, providing state assistance to any blue-collar parents choosing to send their children to one. Lawmakers tell us they have nothing against religious schools in their states. Baloney! If it's true, show us the money! Otherwise stop lying to us. We're not stupid.

Still, even if the state did provide money to parents choosing to send their children to religious schools, some still wouldn't do it. For a growing number of Catholic parents are joining with Protestant parents in the United States and choosing to educate their children at home instead. My wife and I have now joined their ranks.

The first couple months have been a bit challenging.  The first hurdle was just finding a good curriculum to follow.  Protestants have been at this a while, so the market is saturated with their stuff. Some of it is pretty good. However, as Catholics, some of it doesn't necessarily fit out needs. It took about a month of research and study to find something that we think will work for us. We are about 70% satisfied now.  Obviously, we will be fine-tuning things over the next several months. Then comes the question of homeschool cooperatives. Do we want to be in one? If so, what kind? The questions just keep coming. One thing we did right away was join the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and put a lawyer on retainer. For just $10/month we now have the legal ability to spank anyone who dares question us or try to interfere with our rights as parent-teachers. Granted, in Missouri that is not likely to happen, since this state has some of the most liberated homeschooling laws in the country, but you can never be too careful. While homeschooling is legal in all 50 US states, Missouri is definitely one of the better states to homeschool in, and that holds true for some of the surrounding states as well. Other states require much more oversight and regulation, nevertheless, homeschooling is legal in all 50 states.

This is not the case in some other countries. In Germany for example, homeschooling is illegal, thanks to an old law that is still on the books, and has recently been used by Left-wing statists to persecute homeschooling families there. Parents who homeschool can be subjected to fines, imprisonment and even have their children taken away by the state -- indefinitely. The situation is so bad in Germany, that some homeschooling families have fled to the United States for protection. One family -- the Romeike family -- fled to the United States in 2008 and petitioned for asylum due to religious persecution for homeschooling in Germany. The Romeikes are a devoutly Christian family who believe homeschooling is part of their religious obligation. Initially a Tennessee judge granted them asylum because he believed that Germany had wrongly restricted the family's religious freedom. That decision however, was quickly opposed by the Obama administration which sought to deport the Romeikes back to Germany. The matter went to the federal courts, where a federal judge sided with the Obama administration. Appeals to the US Supreme Court fell on deaf ears, and as usual, our nation's highest judicial body proved itself worthless once again. (Should this be any surprise to anyone after Dred Scott and Roe v. Wade?) It refused to hear the case.  Just when it looked hopeless however, and deportation was inevitable, the Obama administration reversed itself and allowed the Romeikes to stay in the United States indefinitely. While I must praise the Obama administration for eventually doing the right thing in this case, let us not forget that it was the Obama administration that caused this poor family 6 unnecessary years of heartache and pain in the first place. Why all the emotional torture for these people?  Isn't America supposed to be the place people come to when their freedoms are violated elsewhere?  I think the Obama administration really screwed up on this one at the beginning, but let's just hope that's all it was. For the alternative is something far more sinister. For now however, let's just be thankful that somebody in the administration saw how unfair this was and finally did the right thing.

Now just on the heels of that epic saga we have the emergence of 'Common Core' education, which if any Christian parents haven't already pulled their children out of public school for other reasons, they should over this. I'm not going to go into the litany of problems and complaints over Common Core. If you want to learn more about what is wrong with Common Core just click here. Rather, I'm just going to say this. Common Core was designed by corporate elitists and is nothing more than the federal government's attempt to micromanage every public school in America -- from coast to coast -- Alaska and Hawaii too.  It's taking the "No Child Left Behind" program and putting it on steroids!  Once the federal government has control of all academic standards in America, it will be able to dictate college admission standards, and punish those children whose parents dared to put them into private, religious or home school. For fear of this, many private and religious schools are now voluntarily adopting Common Core standards, so they can avoid this potential problem in the future. This is just wrong folks! There is no reason for the federal government to do this. The fed claims it's all voluntary right now, but we know where that leads. Currently, the fed is promising money to any state that adopts Common Core. So guess what all the cash-strapped states are doing? That's right, they're signing on as fast as they can. What however are they really signing onto? That remains to be seen, but I think it's safe to say that within a decade there is going to be a whole lot of regret out there. Was that federal money really worth it? I think most states will eventually say they wished they had not taken it. By then however, it will be too late for them. Fortunately my home state of Missouri is attempting to fight the implementation of Common Core here with HB 1490.  (If you live in Missouri, contact your state legislators and tell them to support it.)  A few other states are working on similar measures. Whether you homeschool or not, whether you send your children to a religious school or not, you should support these measures. Common Core is bad for America's schools, it's bad for teachers, and it's really bad for our children. It will however become America's universal academic standard soon unless 'we the people' stand up to fight it. Contact your state legislators today.

The following paragraph I want to address to our religious leaders, and by that I mean our parish pastors, our bishops and yes, even the pope.  Not that I think Pope Francis reads my blog, but I do hear he is in the habit of reaching out to common people in rather common ways.  So this paragraph is for him, and I call upon all bishops and priests to likewise hear this plea and respond...

Please, Your Holiness, we need your help. Will you address the rights of parents to educate their children in the way they deem best -- whether that be public school, private school, religious school or home school? Many of the world's leaders believe that parents have no rights in this area, and that the state has final say on how God's children are educated. This is wrong Your Holiness. We need advocates on our side. We need somebody to speak up for us and tell the world's leaders of our human rights, especially our rights as parents to do what God calls us to do. Please, Your Holiness, will you speak out for us? Will you defend us? Will you take our case before God and the world? If you will not, then who will?

Finally, I want to speak of something that is close to my heart. When I first brought my son home from school, I didn't know what to expect. I admit that I was frightened and intimidated by the whole idea. I knew this was the right thing to do, but I didn't know if I would be adequate as his teacher. I prayed, I worked, and I put together a curriculum. Then we began working together. It's only been two months, but something has happened that has changed my life for the better and my son's life too. Before, we rarely saw each other. I work weekends at a hospital, and he was at school on weekdays most of the time. We would see each other for a short time in the late afternoon, then it was dinner, homework and off to bed. My son and I were growing apart, and that's not a good thing for any boy entering into adolescence. A boy needs his father during these critical years, and homeschooling is allowing me to be with him most of the week. A daughter needs her father too, which is why it's only a matter of time before my girl is brought home as well. In just two months time I am getting to know my son again, and many of the issues he was dealing with prior to bringing him home are now starting to resolve. I am also discovering that what I originally thought would be an intimidating process has really turned out to be satisfying to me. Not only can I teach, but I can teach well, and to be quite honest with you, I couldn't have picked a better student. He's my own flesh and blood! Nobody knows him or understands him better than his mother and I. Likewise, there is nobody better than us he can relate to as teachers, for the same reason. Many of the learning problems he might face, I once faced too. I find him struggling with the same math questions I once struggled with, and because of that, I can bring my experience to him in a way that only a father can.  I've learnt that parents can be teachers, and in fact, we already are. We were their first teachers. We taught our children how to talk, and how to walk, and the basics of letters, writing, art and religion. Then we sent them off to school, but the truth is, we didn't have to. Most of us could have just kept going. That's how it was in North America just a little over 100 years ago. Most children west of the Mississippi River were home educated. Some of America's greatest inventors, leaders and even presidents were homeschooled. I work with people (licensed medical professionals) who were homeschooled. There is a joy that comes with homeschooling that I cannot describe here. It's almost impossible to put into words. All I can say is I'm glad we did it, and I think other parents should consider it as well -- at least as one viable option. To all Catholic homeschooling parents out there, I want you to know that I am now one of you, and I am with you. You have a friend and an advocate in me.

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3 comments:

Dreamer said...

Thanks for sharing!

Pilgrims9 said...

It is great to hear of your journey to homeschooling! We have been homeschooling since our eldest (now 18 & a recent graduate) was in Kindergarten. It is a natural extension of parenting. It has been a wonderful adventure & tremendous blessing for our entire family! May you have a blessed & fruitful Lenten season!

justamouse said...

Welcome to the club!I've been homeschooling my 7 in NJ for over 11 years.

Catholics have actually been at the homeschooling thing longer than Protestants, it's just the Protestants have the market cornered.

One thing you will want to think about is your parish/sacraments, and how you will prep your children for the sacraments. CCD? If you keep them home for sacramental prep, you will find a huge void of support from your parish. It's like homeschoolers don't exist, which is very sad because we tend to be devout families.

In my parish, we have gathered a lovely group of parents who support each other, and also worship together. I host a First Friday potluck at my house, other parents host a quarterly book report club, and we're thinking of putting on a Shakespeare play this summer. So in a way, if you build it, they will come. Not too much, then no one has time for schooling, but built around the church, and in support of the faith.