Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Homeschooling - The New Normal

Naturhistorisk Privatundervisning, 1877

This essay first appeared on Church Militant.

Just a little over one year ago my wife and I made the difficult decision to homeschool our children. I won't go into the reasons why, as the reasons are a little different for every family, but I will say that it was one of the best decisions we've made in a while. We have no regrets.

Like most American families these days, our financial situation dictates that both my wife and I have to work, so juggling the homeschool schedule is a little challenging. I work the weekends, and handle most of the homeschooling during the week. My wife works during the week, and handles a couple homeschooling days during the week, occasionally doing a little review with the children on the weekend. Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? YES!

As it turns out, newly released data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that homeschooling has increased a whopping 62% since 2003, for families with children between the ages of five and seventeen. In 2012 some 3.4% of all school aged children in the United States were homeschooled, and that number has only gone up since the widespread implementation of Common Core standards. Of course, these numbers only reflect the children accounted for by government education records. A good number of homeschooled children were never on the grid to begin with, having never attended any formal school whatsoever. So the actual percentage may be much higher. Education laws vary from state to state, and while homeschooling is legal in all fifty states, some are more permissive than others. This has resulted in the migration of some homeschooling families from more restrictive states to more permissive states. I happen to live in one of the more permissive states, and I know many homeschooling families who have moved here from other parts of the country. My sister now homeschools her children as well, and so does my wife's sister. Half of the families in my department at work are now homeschooling. Slowly but steadily, it seems, homeschooling is becoming the new normal in America.

Then today I read these words from the Holy Father Pope Francis…
'If family education regains its prominence, many things will change for the better. It’s time for fathers and mothers to return from their exile — they have exiled themselves from educating their children — and slowly reassume their educative role… In our days, the educational partnership is in crisis. It's broken… On the one part, there are tensions and distrust between parents and educators; on the other part, there are more and more ‘experts’ who pretend to occupy the role of parents, who are relegated to second place…'
-- Pope Francis, General Audience, May 20, 2015
While the pope was clearly talking about a more general role of parents regaining control of their children's schools, I cannot help but wonder if the thought of homeschooling passed through our Holy Father's mind when he spoke these words. Obviously, not every family can do this, but a growing number of families are, and that is starting to make some government officials nervous. The Homeschool Legal Defence Association (HSLDA) is working hard to make sure that homeschooling remains legal in the United States. Like anything though, there is strength in numbers. As more parents, particularly Catholic parents, take up the homeschool vocation, we are bound to see greater strength materialise. I would encourage all Catholic parents to give this serious prayer and consideration. As parents, the most valuable investment we can ever make is in our children's education. It's not just about academics. It's about character. If we want to keep our children Catholic, and by that I mean truly Catholic, we can't rely on anyone else. We may just have to do it ourselves. Fortunately, a growing number of American Catholic bishops are beginning to support the homeschooling vocation, and Catholic homeschooling support groups are cropping up all over the nation.

END.

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Shane Schaetzel is a published author and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'FullyChristian.Com -- The random musings of a Catholic in the Ozarks.'

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