I think my “Now for Something Really Controversial“ post left ambiguity on the point I was most desiring to make, because I felt I had to do some convincing that public schools are truly dangerous to Catholic children and families. I want to emphasize that I’m not trying to make anyone in difficult circumstances who sends their children to public schools feel shamed. I understand that there are circumstances where there honestly seems to be no alternative. My hope was to encourage families to pray for and look into every other conceivable possibility. I also very much wanted to generate discussion from my readers about alternative possibilities in Catholic education they’ve heard of or discovered for themselves. Homeschooling co-ops? Private Catholic schools?
I received this question from a reader:
In your mind, what should a family do when neither good Catholic schools nor homeschooling is an option? I’m thinking of cases where the father is ill/disabled and the mother must work to make ends meet or single parent families. I’m not trying to be difficult, I’m just curious. I’m all for homeschooling or traditional Catholic schools.
Blog posts like this (and the numerous comments following) telegraph to me loud and clear that homeschooling cannot be for every family. I am not yet a homeschooler, but I can surely appreciate how very difficult it is and that it can sometimes be too much. And, it doesn’t need to be horribly extreme circumstances which cause a mother to close up the kitchen classroom.
Some of the mothers commenting at the site say they sent their children to public schools when they could no longer homeschool. I was left wondering: Was this their only alternative? Why? What were the circumstances? I was trying to underscore in my original post how serious the situation is with public schools and that as Catholic communities we need to help families avoid being backed into the public school option. As Catholic parents, I feel we need to do everything humanly possible to avoid sending our children there. Everything. Humanly. Possible. But I think we need ideas and creativity before many Catholic parents can avoid being backed into the public school system corner.
For some mothers this seriousness with local public schools may, in the end, mean trudging on with homeschooling. Maybe she would find some relief from receiving much more support from her Catholic community — perhaps a Ministry to Moms volunteer to help her? Maybe, there are other solutions that can be tried to make her job at home easier? Ideas?
I have to confess that articles like the one I linked above and its subsequent comments concern me a little bit. I would hate for women who are discouraged, as seems to happen frequently and universally with homeschooling, to see the discussion and prematurely decide to throw in the towel. While some families are truly in a situation where they cannot continue homeschooling, there are others who are in a situation where they need support and encouragement to find a way to continue, not affirmation in their despair. As a balance to the first post, I’d like to offer this one written by my dear friend Kimberly at Catholic Family Vignettes.
For other families, maybe there is a need to move and settle in a location near good Catholic schools and a good Catholic community. If they cannot move near such schools, perhaps, maybe consider Catholic boarding schools as alternative? (Though, I imagine not a very good option for families with very small children to be educated.) These alternatives take money, though, and not every family is in a position that allows them to move –particularly in this economy. Sometimes jobs just are where they are.
This serious problem facing Catholic families is why I think it extremely important that families/couples start out their lives together praying seriously and discerning what kind of career a husband will pursue, where the family can live with such a career, and what kind of educational and faith community situations are open to them in those geographies. Raising children and educating them and forming them in the Faith is the mission of the family. Every other choice a family makes has to be seen as supporting that end.
I would like to hear more ideas and suggestions on this problem of Catholic education from my readers. PLEASE feel free to share. I’m dying to hear from you!