Father John Hardon, a highly respected Catholic theologian, now deceased and currently being considered for beatification, spoke to homeschooling parents at a conference. This is a selection of his comments.
Why homeschooling? First, homeschooling is the most ancient form of Catholic education. For the first 300 years of the Church’s history, there couldn’t possibly have been Catholic schools. There couldn’t even be Catholic churches. The underground catacombs under the city of Rome were the churches. Schools were out of the question.
In the first three centuries, the Faith was established exclusively through homeschooling. Many of these Christian homeschooled students, strongly instructed in their Faith, became the martyrs on whom the Church was built.
For the next 500 years, homeschooled Christians not only established the Faith, but they reached out to the far regions of the known world. For the next 700 years, it was home schooling that spread the Faith, parents teaching their own children. The Church reached from the northern tip of Scotland to the southern tip of Africa. Religious orders came into existence. Some of these orders taught children, but most taught the parents who taught their children.
From the beginning of the history of the Catholic Church, the huge majority of children were never educated in Catholic schools.
The second reason why I support homeschooling is that wherever the Catholic Church has been established and has flourished, homeschooling has been constant and continuous. It is one thing to establish the Church in a country; it is something else to maintain the Catholic Church, even in survival existence. Historically, home schooling has done that.
The third reason why Catholic homeschooling has been necessary and indispensable is that parents are with the children from conception through all the years into adulthood. What a difference it is for parents to be with their children physically as well as spiritually! One of my definitions for Catholic homeschooling is the phrase “parents in intimate spiritual relationship with their children.”
This is no casual piece of rhetoric. Christ instituted the Sacrament of Matrimony not merely for the purpose of providing parents with the grace which they need to remain faithful to one another until death, but also to provide them with additional graces and strengths. In fact, the Sacrament of Matrimony was instituted to make homeschooling possible! It was instituted to give parents the graces they need to teach their children.
I have taught school for forty years, including twenty-five years of teaching my fellow Jesuits their theology. As a teacher, I have not been sacramentally guaranteed with the grace to effectively teach pupils what they most need. Only parents have been given the graces and thus the guarantee, by the Sacrament of Matrimony, to effectively teach their own children what they need, especially in the Faith, but also in other areas. Parents, and no one else, are sacramentally guaranteed the grace of effective teaching of their children.
Unless children receive sound Catholic home education, institutional education will be useless. Faithful Catholics have always been opposed by those who do not share their religious convictions. The principal source of that opposition from the beginning has been secular educators and the powers of the state. Opposition to the Faith and opposition to the right of parents to teach their children even the fundamentals of the Faith has been going on since the dawn of Christianity.
I have several suggestions to you parents. First, if you’re going to engage in homeschooling, you’ve got to be powerfully, powerfully, powerfully motivated.
Secondly, parents, if you are going to teach your children the Faith, you yourselves must learn, you yourselves must understand, what you hope to teach your children.
Thirdly, parents must cooperate with each other. Father must cooperate with mother in the teaching of the children. Not the mother alone, not the father alone, but father and mother must cooperate to teach their children.
Again, if you want to share your Faith with your children, you must have a deep Faith yourselves, and this means it must be a Faith that you are living. There is nothing that homeschooling needs more than parents who are living their Catholic Faith.
In conclusion, I pray this prayer for homeschooling parents. Lord Jesus, You were taught by Joseph and Mary at home in Nazareth. Give especially to these parents the light to see how indispensable homeschooling has been over the centuries, and how absolutely necessary is homeschooling, even for the survival of Your Church in our day, as it has been historically. But above all, dear Jesus, give us the courage we need to do what You want us to do because, dear Savior, the purpose of Catholic education is to prepare souls for eternity. Give us the courage of our convictions. Amen.
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