In October, 2014, I had the incredible privilege of traveling to Mexico City for the first International Catholic Home Education Conference. The conference was held at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and I was honored to give two presentations at this event.
The weekend was a beautiful experience filled with wonderful surprises, faith-filled families, and an opportunity for me to give thanks.
The surprises began with our flight into Mexico City. I traveled with my daughter and we had a connecting flight in Houston, TX where we boarded the plane with Mr. Andrew Pudewa, Founder of the Institute for Excellence in Writing and the other conference speaker from the United States.
On that flight, a young Mexican man sat next to me and my daughter. His name was Josúe, and he was returning to Mexico City from a university program in which he participated. He asked the reason for our trip to Mexico City. When I explained that we were attending a homeschool conference, he replied that he had been home educated all his life. I was shocked!
This may not be a surprise in the United States today where more than 2 million students learn at home. However, the number of students practicing homeschooling in Mexico, Central America and South America is drastically smaller. In fact, the current home schooling situation in the countries south of our border is similar to what home schooling looked like twenty-five to thirty years ago here in the United States. Talking to this young man about his homeschooling experience was fascinating.
And, once at the conference, where we met home schooling parents, grandparents, and other home educated youth, we learned even more about the state of Catholic home education in these countries. Indeed, we marveled at these courageous families who are paving a new path for others to follow in the years to come.
On the Rise
Home schooling in Mexico, Central and South America is just beginning to rise. The families we met are choosing this form of education for their children for many of the same reasons families choose to home school here in the United States.
First and foremost, they seek to pass on the faith in a culture that is growing increasingly secular and hostile toward Christianity and the values it espouses. In addition, public education in many of these nations is sub-par, and sadly, many Catholic schools are “Catholic” in name only, failing in their responsibility to pass on the faith. Therefore, home education is increasing.
In talking with these families, I found myself giving thanks for the efforts of the forerunners of the home schooling movement in our country who paved the way for us today. In the United States, we currently have laws in place to protect the rights of home educators and their children. (Please continue to pray for these rights!)
We also have countless resources available to us in the form of curriculum materials, on-line resources, conferences, how-to books, co-ops, class options, social networks, and more. In Mexico, Central and South America the resources available to these families are few. In fact, many families use curriculum from the United States – curriculum that is written in the English language.
These families, who may not even know English, will teach their children using English language resources because they currently have no other options. Josúe, the young man I sat next to on the plane was homeschooled in just this manner.
A New Generation
In addition to being impressed with the courage and determination of these families who seek to provide a rich education for their children, I was also deeply inspired by their faith. The conference was rooted in prayer; beginning with Mass in the old Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, followed by adoration in the new Basilica, additional prayer during the conference sessions, and finally closing with Mass on Sunday.
During the chartered bus ride from the hotel to the Basilica, the participating families sang songs dedicated to Our Lady and prayed additional prayers. Indeed, these families gave witness to their deep and sincere faith throughout the entire weekend.
Back home, as I return to the task of teaching my children, I have a new sense of gratitude for the many home schooling materials, laws, and families who help to make our home education experience truly rich. And, I find myself praying with greater fervor for the families in other countries who struggle to pass on the faith and teach their children with far fewer resources. These families are the new generation of pioneers, and it was both an honor and an inspiration to meet them.
Mexico Flag © Les Cunliffe / Dollar Photo Club