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Homeschooling in the Heart of the Church
Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
At the outset, I would like to change two words in our title. I wish to address myself to home education in the heart of the Catholic Church. I have one reason for each of these two changes. Homeschooling has become a legalistic term which some are interpreting as in competition with the organized institutional education in schools. Moreover, while every religion requires home education, the Catholic faith contains the fullness of Gods revealed truth. Either we grow in understanding this truth or we lose the faith.
One more observation. We are speaking about home education at the heart of the Church. At the heart of the Church is the family. Consequently the full title of our conference is Home Education in the Heart of the Catholic Family.
Our plan is to ask three questions: What is home education? Why is home education necessary for the survival of the Catholic family? How is home education to be provided not only for the survival but for the progress of the Catholic family as we enter the third millennium?
What is Home Education?
Home education is the development by the parents of the whole personality of a child from infancy to adulthood.
It is education because it draws out, from the Latin word educere, the natural and supernatural potentialities of a person. Some of these potentialities are latent in a child from conception and birth; others are present from the time of Baptism. The parents primary duty is to cooperate with God as Author of nature and grace to draw out these latent powers in the child whom they brought into the world.
It is home education twice over. It is first of all home education because it is done by the parents, without whom there would be no home. It is secondly done at home, within the ambit of what we commonly identify as our domicile. Notice, I prefer to speak of home education rather than home schooling. This is to emphasize the dramatic personal character of the education, rather than its institutional structure.
When I speak of home education by both parents, I mean both parents, and not only by the mother. It may be that time-wise, she devotes more time to the training of her children than the father. No matter. What is important is that both mother and father are involved. There is a contribution to the childrens upbringing that, barring a miracle, only the father can provide. His share in the education of the children is imperative.
Moreover, home education does not absolutely exclude all other forms or sources of teaching the children. But in every case, and I mean every case, the home is the primary source. All others or any other educational agents or agencies are:
What is the span of home education? It is the whole personal and social life of the child; it is the bodily and spiritual well-being of the child; it is the physical, emotional, mental and volitional life of the child.
Why Home Education?
In stating my thesis, I might have said many things, like:
Each of these titles would have been true, but inadequate.
Let me be clear. I am not merely saying that home education is necessary in the modern world. This is not a conditional necessity. It is not just because the modern world has become so widely or deeply secularized that home education has become a necessity. No! I make bold to say that one of the main contributing factors to the secularization of a once strongly Christian culture has been the neglect of sound
The issue we are addressing is perennial. Either Catholic parents provide their offspring with the education the children need, or the inevitable happens. As it has happened.
Our main focus here is on Why? Why are parents so necessary for the proper education their children, and the corresponding survival of the Catholic family? The reason is really a cluster of reasons, all derived from what we know about human nature and divine grace.
We are here saying much more than meets the ear. We are saying that in Gods ordinary providence the parents are the main
This primacy as channels of grace for the children comes from the sacrament of matrimony which Catholic parents have received. Matrimony assures them of a lifetime of Gods grace to love each other in faithful charity and chastity until death. Matrimony also assures them of a lifetime of Gods grace for the upbringing of their children in loving obedience to God, as a precondition for reaching a heavenly destiny.
The purpose of marriage is to raise families for heaven, nothing less, and there can be nothing more.
One of the great blessings of modern home education is that it is waking up so many parents to their God-given responsibility.
In the providence of God, He allows no evil or suffering without intending to draw a greater good. The widespread secularization of organized education in so many countries of the western world has served as lightening and thunder to arouse complacent parents from their complacency. They are beginning to ask themselves, What is our duty? What should we do to join forces with other dedicated fathers and mothers who are making such great sacrifices for the home education of their children?
How to Provide Home Education?
As we enter the third part of our conference, I wish to make one thing clear. What I am sharing with you is no mere human pedagogy. It is not the service of psychology or of educational methodology.
It is nothing less than a mystery of faith. If I were to offer one passage in St. Pauls letter to the Romans, where the Apostle tells us, For those who love God, everything works together into good (Romans 8:28).
What is St. Paul saying? He is telling us that, if we are united with God in our love, he will use us to accomplish His divine plans.
Or, put in other words, depending on our union with Gods will by our practice of virtue, He will use us as channels of His grace.
Let me be stark clear. This is not merely giving others a good example, which we should. It is not merely that one does not give what he does not have, which is obvious.
It is much deeper. It means that in the measure of our wills being conformed to the will of Godin the measure that we love GodHe will infallibly use us to accomplish the designs that He wants to achieve especially in the lives of others.
What does this mean for home education? Everything!
In the degree that parents love God, God will use them to teach and train their children.
Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Holy Family, obtain from your divine Son the graces which home teaching Catholic parents so desperately need in our day
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