5 Reasons to Keep Homeschooling after COVID

When COVID-19 became a worldwide phenomenon, many states, like my native Virginia, closed schools for the remainder of the year and are deliberating on whether or not they will reopen in the fall. This means that parents across the country are being forced to homeschool their children. The level of their involvement will obviously vary quite substantially as some teachers use Zoom or Google Classroom to interact with their students directly while others are on their own to learn from their books (imagine that). Either way, there is undoubtedly more parental involvement in children’s education now than there has been in quite some time — maybe since before public schools were first developed.

Social media and the general online world of news and blogs are filled with people sharing their experiences of what it is like to stay at home during this pandemic. Like anything, there is a broad spectrum of reactions, with some people vindicating the position of stay-at-home moms by saying things like “now we know what you do all day,” while others are sharing their personal descent into madness, begging to get away from their kids or their spouses for even just an hour.

I have strong reason to believe that this migration to the homeschooling lifestyle is a great thing for our society in the long run, despite what the Washington Post and experts at Harvard may say, and I expect to see an uptick in people who choose to homeschool full time next year and beyond. Here are five reasons you should consider homeschooling full-time even after this virus has faded away.

1. It is your job! Even in the new edition of the Catechism, the Church teaches that parents have the moral obligation to be the “principal and first educators of their children” (CCC 1653). In fact, Article 7 of the Catechism, the article on matrimony, begins by explaining that marriage is ordered towards the procreation and education of children: “The matrimonial covenant … is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring” (CCC 1601). Pope Pius XI affirmed this in his 1930 encyclical Casti Connubii when he quoted Saint Augustine: “… with regard to offspring, that children should be begotten of love, tenderly cared for and educated in a religious atmosphere” (emphasis added).

Does the Catechism command that you educate your children at home? No, you can choose a variety of options with which to educate your child, but keep in mind that you are to be the “principal” educator of your child. Shipping them off to school for 7–10 hours a day and not being otherwise involved does not qualify, and a public school certainly does not meet Saint Augustine’s qualification of a “religious atmosphere.”

2. It is highly flexible to educate your children at home. This will leave you with opportunities to do things that are impossible when you are tied to the hours of an institutionalized school. In their recent podcast on homeschooling, Catholic author Tim Gordon and his wife, Steph, illustrate this point when Steph talks about how nice the flexibility has been because they have a daughter with various special needs and medical conditions. “It works really well with our schedule,” said Steph, speaking of taking their books along to the hospital or various appointments. Tim replied with “it works well with everyone’s schedules, wouldn’t you say?”

That is the point. Are you an early riser? That is excellent; get up and get started at 6 A.M., and then enjoy all of the free time you get with your family in the afternoon because you finished schooling your children before lunch. Do you have a business trip to go on? Take your kids! They can bring their books or other learning materials in the car or on the plane and do schoolwork from a hotel. You can go on field trips whenever you want, take a day off for an event and push the schooling to a Saturday, and hold biology class while you teach your son to fish.

Many parents who are new to homeschooling are finding it difficult to have their children stay focused on schoolwork, and this is certainly a constant challenge. But if you are disciplined and you teach your children to pace themselves and to be independent, the flexibility and time you will get with your family is unbeatable — something to be truly cherished.

3. It is part of our tradition as Catholics and part of our history as humans to educate our children at the family level, or possibly at the parish level (using the modern concept of the word “parish”). Dr. Ray Guarendi, a Catholic psychologist and homeschooling father of 10, writes that for over 99% of human history, “the family — or the clan or the tribe — was the undisputed teacher of youth” [1]. This harkens back to point number one, but it is subtly different. As Catholics, tradition (both capital T and lowercase t) is central to our lives. We look to our ancestors and the lives of the saints to see how they lived in order to imitate them and, God willing, attain salvation as they have.

I am not arguing that every saint was homeschooled or that homeschooling is the only path to sanctity. I am arguing that some of our greatest saints would be appalled at the thought of randomly assigned teachers, who may or may not be qualified, educating our children according to arbitrary, anti-religious government standards (a far cry from parents as “principal” educators). St. Thomas Aquinas, for one, wrote that early childhood education should be a sort of “guided discovery” for the child. That phrase could be unpacked quite a bit, but I think anyone can admit that an army of six-year-olds in desks all day being taught what the current educational regime deems intellectually and morally appropriate for them looks quite different from “guided discovery.”

4. It is counter-cultural. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 3% of children in the United States were educated at home for the 2011–2012 school year. This means that 97% of educated children in the U.S. learn through public or private schools. It is simply the cultural norm. But is the cultural norm good for our kids? Let us examine this idea.

A large part of our cultural experience is found in the media we consume. Movies, TV, the news, and social media shape everyone’s worldview in unprecedented ways. Who is running the companies that produce these media? A study done in the 1980s found that 45% of “media elite” are atheist or agnostic, 94% support late-term abortion, and 55% have no problem with adultery [2]. These numbers are great metrics, but you could have guessed them without any such study. Nearly every major movie or TV show that portrays a relationship depicts fornication and moving in together as two key phases of a relationship. Contraception and pornography are woven into most Hollywood projects. The way relationships are depicted by Hollywood is deemed “normal,” yet those relationships are morally corrupt. Do you want your kids to be part of this norm? If the norm is abortion on demand, the glorification of fornication, and an utter disrespect or contempt for the divine, then my answer is a resounding “no.”

Another “cultural norm” parents face is teenage rebellion, a stereotype that is certainly based in truth. Friends become more important than family; Mom and Dad become stupid; and there is a heightened interest in all things sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Mom and Dad know that it is coming yet seldom know what to do about it. But has that always been the case? Dr. Guarendi posits that “present-day teen rebellion seems more cultural than biological,” and I agree with him [3].

Imagine a farmer in the mid-nineteenth century who has a large family. Would he view his son’s thirteenth or fourteenth birthday as a dreaded occasion? Or would he welcome a young and strong helping hand around the farm? There is a notion out there that placing increased responsibility on children will lead them to rebellion. Though that may be true in some instances, it is far to the right on the spectrum of responsibility, and right now, our culture sits firmly on the far left of it. Children need to be given more responsibility, much like the farmer’s son, and keeping your children at home provides ample opportunity for increased responsibilities in the home economy. The advent of adulthood should be welcomed, not dreaded, and homeschooling is key in that equation.

Public or private school may be the norm, but that does not mean that it is good for your child. In fact, in 21st-century America, it almost certainly isn’t.

If you want to be the parent of a kind, thoughtful, and hardworking child, follow Dr. Guarendi’s advice: “It starts by being willing to be a one-in-a-hundred parent. It means reaching higher than most — in love, in time, in standards, in supervision. It means protecting your child longer from soul-assaulting external influences. It means granting liberties based upon your child’s moral maturity and not his age or the freedom of his peer group. Overall, it means being resolved, whenever and wherever, to be countercultural” [4].

5. Homeschooled children have a better sense of self-worth and a better self-image than those who are schooled in an institution. The stereotype is that of the nerdy homeschooler who is unable to carry a basic conversation because he was never socialized. He will never get a girlfriend and will live in Mom’s basement, doomed to an acne-ridden, antisocial existence. But Dr. Guarendi provides research that supports the claim that “[homeschooled children]’s self-image is as solid, or more so, than their non-homeschooled counterparts. They are at ease around both children and adults. They are more civically minded, likelier to volunteer, join organizations, and vote. Overall, they report high levels of contentment” [5].

Many homeschooling parents will tell you that “how do you socialize your children?” is the most common question they receive. The problem with this stereotype and the often asked question is that it assumes that a child’s entire integration into society is based on his interaction with his peers; in reality, this is only one portion of a child’s socialization.

It also assumes that the group of children at the questioning parent’s school of choice is the best group to be socializing your child — a big assumption, to say the least.

There are certainly parents who never let their children interact with anyone outside their little bubble, mostly out of fear, and this will cause problems. The nerdy antisocial homeschooler stereotype has at least some basis in truth, but if you are a Christian, you should be far more worried about being more in conformity with the world than less. Dr. Guarendi sums it up nicely when he says, “If someday your child is pulled toward the culture’s ways more than yours, let it be because he climbed over your gate, not because you opened it” [6].

So there you have it: a handful of reasons to turn your back on institutionalized school forever. This list does not even include that homeschoolers perform better academically, that an increased disciplinary role of the parents benefits the children, or that tailoring an education to your child’s academic needs is not possible in schoolroom classes of 30, 40, or 50 kids. Those are all noteworthy points, indeed, and they would be worth your time to dig into.

Homeschooling was the norm for just about all of human history. A return to this method will yield fantastic results for our children’s academic careers and, more importantly, for their spiritual lives. It will also help to restore the nuclear family, the building block of a just society working toward the social kingship of Christ.

Can homeschooling be done poorly? Of course, but public school will certainly be done poorly, and many private schools are rapidly headed that way as well. Give your children the best chance at living a dignified, moral life, and teach them to think critically. Do it all at home.

[1] Guarendi, R. (2019). Raising upright kids in an upside-down world. Irondale, Alabama: EWTN Publishing, Inc. Page 1.

[2] Guarendi, p. 5.

[3] Guarendi, p. 4.

[4] Guarendi, p. 10.

[5] Guarendi, p. 25.

[6] Guarendi, p. 26.

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