I posted a rant (2 entries below) about a diocesan level meeting where homeschooling came up. I decided to email the Director of Catechetics in our Archdiocese about it. Here is the text:
Dear Mr. Director Man,
I have been doing a lot of thinking about homeschooling since the Council Meeting last Thursday. For what it’s worth, I wanted to give you some of my thoughts.
It seemed as if you and certain other members of the council were uncomfortable with how these children were being catechized and prepared for the sacraments. It also seemed that certain members felt that these are families who isolate themselves from the larger Catholic community of their parishes. I don’t think that’s always true. There are some who fit that description, sure. But on the whole, most of these families are extremely active in their home parishes, homeschool associations, and town athletic programs.
There is a sizable group (6 or 7) of Catholic homeschoolers in our parish who meet monthly with one of our retired priests in residence. They use the Seton Home School Curriculum. The kids are prepared by their parents for the sacraments. I have given some of them the texts we use for First Reconciliation and First Eucharist Prep when they have asked for it. We had a young man from that group prepare with his mother to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. He did everything that the kids from the parish school and religious ed programs did (retreat, service hours, interview with a priest, mom came to meetings). His mother prepared him using the Baltimore Catechism. He was probably the best-prepared candidate that year.
I don’t tend to think that just because the Baltimore Catechism is 150 years old that it is useless (Is there no use for the National Catechetical Directory now that we have the NDC?). We joke about having memorized the answers to the questions when we were young, but at least then we knew what the Church teaches. Can we really say that about everyone who was catechized in the 1970s and 1980s? I think that the Baltimore Catechism is a fine resource. It presents the fullness of the teachings of our Church in terms which are easy for people to understand. In these instances, the family’s life is the primary textbook for the children. Everything else is a supplement.
Maybe the concern of certain council members is that older texts don’t present enough of the Church’s other teachings, such as on social justice. I have to tell you that most of these boys and girls are getting a better education about social justice issues from their parents than they could from the newest textbook series out there. These are families for whom Catholicism is a way of life. They go to soup kitchens regularly. They support various Catholic charities by visiting them and giving hours of their time to them. These are families who attend Mass at least weekly.
I know that you will be fair in drawing up a policy on homeschooling for the Archdiocese of (blank). I know you will draft the policy in accordance with Section 61.3 of the NDC, which discusses the parish catechetical program being a help to the parents (I didn’t see a distinction between parents as primary educators and parents as catechists in that section). Please consider this information from a homeschooling acquaintance of mine:
Brian Ray did a study of about 7,000 adults who had been homeschooled, and 5,000 of them had been homeschooled for several years. (I forget the exact number of years which put them in the long term homeschooled category.) One of the interesting things he found was that about 93% of homeschooled adults were active in religion, as compared to about 50% for the American population. And about 96% of homeschooled adults held the same religious beliefs as their parents. (Home Educated and Now Adults, Brian Ray, 2004) Those are some pretty good numbers.
Please also consider something else I read recently. Before the dawn of public education, most American children were taught by their parents. The American literacy rate was much higher then than it is now. Faith literacy among homeschooled children seems to be much higher than among the general population as well.
Finally, please respect that there are many, many homeschooling parents in our Archdiocese who feel that some textbooks do not present enough of the meat and potatoes of our faith (ie: Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist, that the Catholic Church is the only Church founded by Jesus Christ Himself). If they are not choosing texts or primary sources (such as catechisms and encyclical letters) which are at odds with Church teaching, they should not be prevented from using them.
Thanks for reading my (lengthy) email. I’ll be praying for you as the policy moves through its draft phase and into its final phase.
Viva Christo Rey!