SummaryThese trying economic times may have a bright side. As more parents worry about meeting the mortgage and putting food on the table, Catholic school tuition (averaging $3,500 per year in elementary school and over $10,000 for high school) often becomes an impossible expense.
These trying economic times may have a bright side.
As more parents worry about meeting the mortgage and putting food on the table, Catholic school tuition (averaging $3,500 per year in elementary school and over $10,000 for high school) often becomes an impossible expense.
Parents who are committed to providing a Catholic education are considering home education in increasing numbers, but not all are convinced. Education of children is a subject upon which parents really need to agree.
If they don’t, children know it, and it can undermine their education.
It is a problem when one parent wants to teach the children at home, but the other parent disagrees.
Although it may be either the husband or the wife who objects, in practical terms it is usually the husband who objects to home schooling. (Since it is usually the mother who does the bulk of the teaching, if the mother objects, there is little possibility of home schooling.)
Through the years I have spoken to countless mothers who are certain that they need to home school, but report that, although they are ready, willing and able, they cannot pull the children out of school over their husbands’ objections.
Helping our friends and neighbors make the jump into home education is often a matter of convincing Dad, and tailoring our responses to particular objections may help. Let’s look at a few common objections.
“The kids will be different”
Some students in the public junior and senior high schools in my neighborhood dress all in black, dye their hair hot pink and black, wear chains and dog collars, and Count Dracula makeup. Some of the boys wear their pants so low that their drawers are billowing in the wind behind them as they walk.
Many students have tattoos and piercings, and one particular style of ear piercing leaves a hole in the earlobe big enough to stick your pinky finger through. The home schooled children I know are “different” in the sense that they are exceptionally polite and well-spoken, modestly dressed, and religious.
“You can’t keep up with the laundry, cooking and cleaning as it is”
For the past several decades, society has done a good job preparing women to run boardrooms, but has failed to train them to run households; consequently, many of our homes are messy and poorly run.
Home school conference organizers have recognized this and often feature speakers who address home management and organization topics.
The Seton newsletter has dealt with this subject numerous times, and so have home school online groups. Families need clean clothes and nutritious meals, so this is a legitimate concern and we should all try to do better.
On the other hand, a sparkling home will not mean much if we fail to raise our children to be confident Catholic adults of strong character and impeccable integrity.
When the children are home all day, mom is forced by circumstance to develop a system that maintains a reasonable amount of order and includes enlisting the children to help.
In place of parents providing services to consumer children, every family member past the toddler stage should participate in home maintenance, and home schooled teens are universally recognized for their responsible attitudes.
Another possible solution is to apply some of the tuition savings to laundry or cleaning help. This might be especially useful the first year the children are home.
The bottom line is that pure hearts and souls are more important than clean socks.
“The kids like organized sports”
Parents of a child who is even mildly talented in a sport have visions of high school athlete-of-the-year awards, college sports scholarships, and professional team signing bonuses.
Naturally, to reach these lofty goals, junior has to be enrolled in the local public high school.
Personally, I am a fan of organized sports for children. The physical training is great in a nation of couch potatoes, and there are lots of life lessons — about motivation, hard work, winning and losing — to be learned.
Parents need to be reminded of two things: first, competitive school sports programs exclude most would-be athletes, and second, team sports are widely available outside of institutional schools.
A typical varsity baseball team has, at most, a couple dozen players, and many of them will “ride the pines”, that is, sit on the bench while the coach plays his starters.
The same is true for most team sports, so in a large central high school, only a tiny fraction of the students actually play for the superstar teams. Only a fraction of that group will be offered a meaningful sports scholarship to college, and more than a few of that tiny group will not play because of injuries or disappointing performance.
A student is more likely to be hit by lightning than receive a million dollar professional sports contract!
Home schooled children can play sports and many do. Virtually every municipality has Pop Warner football, AYSO soccer or Little League baseball/softball. Many American Legion halls sponsor high school baseball teams, and parishes have CYO basketball teams.
Club sports like wrestling, judo, and karate are widely available, and any county with an ice rink offers figure skating and hockey.
As home schooling expands and support groups become better organized, we are finding annual field days and intramural competitions.
If home schooling’s history with the National Spelling Bee is any indication, our athletes will excel.
“You’re not a trained teacher”
Although none of us should be judged based on our high school or college training, it is not unreasonable to consider our qualifications to teach. The first response is that marriage and parenthood have matured us, and increased our commitment to intellectual growth.
Secondly, we have already proven that we can teach our children, as evidenced by the fact that they can walk, talk, and eat with a fork and spoon.
Most importantly, we do not need to tackle our children’s education by ourselves.
Many home schooled students are enrolled in a school, like Seton Home Study. Seton provides books that are written specifically for the home school situation with daily lesson plans.
Teachers and counselors are available to help by telephone or email, and (at least for Seton) there is never an extra charge for help. The author of this column is only a high school graduate, yet has successfully home schooled for 20 years.
Professional educators need to teach a classroom full of students of varying abilities, with different learning and family problems, from different backgrounds.
At home, mom needs to teach only her own children, individually, and she can customize the curriculum and control the environment in ways that classroom teachers simply cannot.
“We want the kids to attend a good college”
Home schooled children with high SAT or ACT scores can receive admission into virtually any college or university in the country.
This is especially true of Seton grads who have a fully accredited diploma. Some schools actively seek out home school graduates. Get onto Seton’s website and look at what our students have achieved. For example, Seton graduate Jonathan Bate in 2006 was first in his class at prestigious West Point.
“I am not sure home schooling is a good idea”
Readers will be shocked to hear how often a parent objects to home schooling without giving any good reason. It’s really just a feeling, not a reason, and it’s just not good enough!
We are discussing your children’s education, their lives, even their eternal lives. The very least a parent owes to his or her children is to do some homework.
In addition to Seton’s website, a significant amount of data is available at www.nheri.org, the website of the National Home Education Research Institute.
Hard data shows that home educated students do better than their institutionalized peers judged by every important indicator.
Many parents do recognize the problems in their children’s public or parochial school, but still object to home schooling. If home schooling is not the answer, then what is? You might say, “Look, we both see the problems with the present school. I am offering home schooling as a very workable alternative. You disagree. Okay, then what is your solution?”
If nothing else works, then suggest a limited trial of home schooling. Just try it for one child for one semester, or for a summer, or for a few courses, and see how the experiment turns out.
This time of year, when many parents are making plans for the next school term, let’s all remember to pray for parents who are struggling with this important decision.