This morning- I wrote this:
When we first started home schooling and joined our Catholic home school support group we were invited to an opening school year Mass and pot luck dinner at the home of one of the families. We showed up, with our four young children, not sure what to expect and probably looking a little shell-shocked, because after entering the house we found ourselves wall-to-wall with a ton of other people. There were lots of families there, and it being a Catholic home schooling group, many of the families had lots of children. There were people of all ages: babies, toddlers, elementary-aged children, middle schoolers, high schoolers, and adults, crammed into every ounce of empty space in the average sized house, and spilling out into the backyard.If we had had any doubts, or been at all unsure about our decision to home school, that night put all our fears to rest.We celebrated Mass in the living room, again packed tight together with people we barely knew, who helped us with our kids and illustrated beautiful reverence even in that over-stuffed room. Then we shared a huge meal with them and met so many kind, welcoming faces. The older children doted on and helped out with the younger, the younger children played happily and safely together. It was truly beautiful.I knew, in that evening, this was where I wanted to raise my children, as a part of this community, among these families.There were several other family events that year- hoedowns, an All Saint’s party, a Christmas caroling party- all just as well attended, all just as family-friendly and fun.
Fast forward seven years. My children are no longer the little toddlers at the home schooling events. I am now thinking about how I will approach home schooling a high schooler (in only a year and a half!) and we now have 5 children in tow when we show up at events like the Christmas caroling party (like we did last night). Lots of other things are different as well. Those parties that used to be wall-to-wall people—have now dwindled to two or three families. Last night’s party, an annual event which used to draw a crowd of close to 100 people, literally ended up being only 3 home schooling families- and one of them was the host family! This happened at the All Saint’s party this year, as well. And our opening school year Mass is no longer even planned as a family affair on the weekend, but a mom and kids event on a weekday morning.
“What has happened?” I can’t help but wonder. Where are all those wonderful families I felt so blessed to be raising my children with? Of course there is a simple answer to the question- I could easily list the families who have moved away, or the ones whose children have graduated and are no longer home, but what I really wonder is how the face of Catholic home schooling has changed in such a short time. We still have lots of families on the list for our group, just as many as before, but now, like the rest of the world around us, they are pulled in so many different directions that attending family events seems to be a luxury they cannot find time for. These fun family events used to be the priority and something everyone in the group looked forward to, but now these events are just another thing on everyone’s calendar and very susceptible to be rejected in favor of something else.
I fear this is a symptom of not just busyness but a different attitude towards Catholic home schooling altogether, and a whole different reason behind it. Now, instead of home schooling being a conscious decision made in an effort to raise children in a Christ-centered, family-focused environment, where they will grow up practicing their faith in all they do and sharing the beauty of it with others, home schooling seems to be just another educational choice. It has become, I think, a somewhat trendy choice of late, at least in this area. Lots of people jump into the home school ring for a few years and then jump back out when their children get to a certain age. In fact, it is highly likely that in a year and a half when my oldest begins high school (at home with me) she will be the only high schooler in the home school group. Home schooling, for many families, seems to be more about flexibility and educational freedom (really great things), but less about faith and family (even better things).
For Tim and me- it is still about God and about family and about raising our children to be strong Catholics, living lives that are counter-cultural and Christ-centered. It is hard to do that, and especially because we no longer have a large group of families supporting us in this journey, but though it saddens and upsets me, it does not deter me. We will march on, with the few families who feel the way that we do, and trust in God to lead us, and our children, closer to Him through the experience…
Then, I debated whether or not to post it. I was afraid it might come across as negative, or judgmental, or unsupportive of the other families in our home schooling group. I do not want to hurt anyone, or judge anyone else's heart-felt decisions for what is best for their families but then I read this (please, please, please take the time to click and read, it is so important for us as parents to be aware of, no matter how sickening, disturbing, and disgusting we find it) about some of the things happening in the public schools in this country.
So, to make a long, agonizing, discernment short, I am risking offending my friends because I believe so strongly in the importance of strong families and in the importance of protecting our children from the horrors of this culture we live in. We have only one chance to raise our children, only a few short years to teach them right from wrong and give them a strong foundation. I believe, without a doubt that the best way to do that, maybe the only way, is in strong families! Clearly the state run educational system is doing nothing to build up families, and EVERYTHING possible to break them down. So, I wonder.....why would anyone want to risk their children's salvation by throwing them to the wolves of public education?!?!?!?!