This column is intended to support and encourage Seton parents by giving practical tips based on my own two- decade experience home schooling with the Seton program. Occasionally, my spirit may inspire me to inspire you, but the major emphasis of this column has been to persuade Seton moms and dads to take the reins firmly in hand and maintain discipline, order, and academic excellence in the home. The presumption is that your children will be receiving the majority of their education in the home right through high school.
Sometimes parents are tempted to consider putting their high school age children in a free local public school. Whole books have been written (including one by the editor-in-chief of this newsletter) explaining why Catholic parents should home school their children. Many parents accept this premise, but feel that because their children have completed Seton’s elementary school program, they are well-formed in the faith and ready to face the temptations of public high school.
Although the Seton K-8 program provides a strong faith foundation, the temptation of materialism and immorality will exert such tremendous pressure on your child that knowledge and good intentions likely will not be enough to resist it. Children need to grow in maturity in the nurturing environment of the home. At some point, they will need to participate more fully in American society, but many, if not most, 14-year-olds lack the self assurance to be counter-cultural Catholics in a pagan world. And to do it alone!
Even many mature adults do not want to live and work in an environment that is constantly challenging their beliefs. That is why Catholic communities have sprung up around the country in places such as Front Royal, Steubenville, and Ave Maria. People want to live and work and raise their children in an environment which supports them spiritually and morally.
Seton’s high school religion course is challenging. Having spent eight years memorizing their catechism, students must now apply what they have learned and gain a deeper understanding. They do rigorous study in moral theology, liturgy and the sacraments, and scripture. They spend senior year studying apologetics and learning how to defend their Faith. No parish CCD program, no matter how orthodox, will come close to this program of study.
Catholic formation carries into other subjects as well. Students write about whether or not major characters in literature try to lead a moral life. They study the contributions of Catholics to Western Civilization. They spend an entire quarter of their mandatory government class critiquing the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. Their assigned reading in all subjects reinforces Catholic values.
After high school, some students will go on to truly Catholic colleges where they will learn theology and philosophy in even more depth. Most students, however, will either enter the workforce or attend a secular or only nominal Catholic college. For many, high school will be the last opportunity to pursue a serious course of study of the Catholic Faith.
The problem is not only what Catholic public school students would miss in a public school; the greater problem is what they will not miss. They will be required to read politically-correct contemporary literature and encouraged to develop tolerant attitudes for a wide variety of activities that the Catholic Church teaches are mortal sins. Health students have been required to carry a sack of flour around, and treat it like a baby, to demonstrate what a pain the responsibility of parenthood is!
Students will participate in a Day of Silence, when neither teachers nor students are allowed to speak because gays have been silenced in society. Your teen will rub shoulders, not with their caring brothers and sisters and other Catholic home schooled children, but with unhappy and frustrated students from dysfunctional families, or from two-mommy or two-daddy families. They will see classmates who are often neglected, or using drugs, or are sexually-active. There are plenty of terrific children in public schools who come from wonderful families, but you cannot control who your child may be forced to associate with in the classroom or lunchroom.
Many parents acknowledge the superiority of Seton’s humanities studies, but feel inadequate to teach high school level math and science, and any foreign language. This column will continue to help parents each month, but let this high school graduate, with four Seton grads under my belt, assure you that, with the grace of God, teaching your high school student can be done, and can be done very well. Don’t forget that Seton offers this newsletter, message boards, audio and video supplements, and our academic counselors to help parents and students with strategies for teaching and learning these subjects.
Moms who have lots of kids, but very little help around the house, sometimes struggle with guilt regarding their teens. They worry that their sophomore is changing diapers and doing dishes—he or she is a great kid—but too often the schoolwork is taking a backseat. There is a two-part answer to this dilemma. First, one of the primary functions of any educational setting should be to produce a graduate of strong character and virtue. As your teens care for younger siblings and shoulder the burden of household chores, they are growing in compassion, patience, responsibility, and industriousness. This contrasts sharply with a typical public school setting where students devote far too much time and effort to their wardrobes, texting on their cell phones, and discussing who is dating whom.
Parents have no greater responsibility than the spiritual development of their children. With Seton, this kind of development is often included in the academic courses.
Parental responsibility carries over to household chores. While we all want a neat and orderly environment, we need to put this into perspective. We need to recognize our own limits and acknowledge that it is not the end of the world if the breakfast dishes sit in the sink every day until lunchtime. I prefer home schooling that includes a tidy house, but if forced to choose, I would rather live in squalor to keep the souls of my children clean and safe.
The most frequent reason for enrolling Catholic children in a public high school is that Mom admits she has lost control of her teen. Junior is difficult to get out of bed in the morning. Janey is on the computer or watching TV every time Mom’s back is turned. Assignments are not completed on time and a super-smart 8th grader has morphed into a 10th grader who claims, “I don’t understand any of it.”
Mom tells her teens they would not get away with this nonsense in school, nor get half the individual attention, and the teens say, “Well, send me to school with my friends.” Dad has enough worries about keeping his job[s] and paying the bills. When Mom complains, Dad figures the kids will get a wake-up call if they have to turn assignments in on time. Tired parents may enroll their child in public high school, where really serious problems begin!
As a mother of twelve children, I am a wellspring of sympathy for any mother of an uncooperative teen. On the other hand, it is important to remember that disobedience and disrespect are sins against the Fourth Commandment. I do not know a single good Catholic parent who would tolerate a teen violating the Third Commandment and skipping Mass on Sunday. I cannot imagine putting up with an adolescent who steals and violates the Seventh Commandment. We must take the same unbending attitude toward enforcing the Fourth Commandment in our homes. It doesnt really matter if children are home schooled or attend a brick and mortar school, they must still honor and obey their parents, and their parents have a solemn obligation before God to insist on this respect.
My friends and I often hear a question that goes something like this, “All those children! All that work, and home schooling too! How do you do it?” With decades of home schooling among us, we agree that with daily prayer, especially the Rosary, we just do it! With daily prayer, you can do it too.