Our article last week on long-standing tensions between Catholic home-schoolers and Church structures such as parishes and dioceses generated quite a response from readers: hundreds of responses to our online poll, hundreds of comments left on the story online, a lively discussion on Facebook and numerous emails.
The vast majority of commentary has come from people defending home schooling and rebutting the view of a priest interviewed in the story who asserts that Catholic parents are duty-bound to send their children to Catholic schools. Others wanted to offer us a reality check on the cost of Catholic schools, which is prohibitive for many families, especially if they’ve got a larger family.
With our space limitations, the story was bound to have weaknesses. One of the greatest, I believe, is that a reader could come away from the story thinking that, by and large, the institutional Church and the clergy frown on home schooling and don’t appreciate the sacrifices those parents make. Yes, the story quotes a home-schooling mom who says her pastor is great, but we don’t hear directly from a pro-home-schooling cleric.
We did in the comments to the story online. The most powerful was from a Father James Farfaglia from Corpus Christi, Texas. Here’s a taste: “I have been working with home-schoolers for most of my priesthood. They are the backbone of the Church. They are having children, they are in line for confession, they are at daily Mass, they pray the Rosary and they are at the abortion clinics. They are among the most active members of any parish community. For me, the home-schoolers are the heroes of the Church. Of course, I also support Catholic schools. ... Catholic schools are very important of course for the life of the Church. ... Home schooling is not for everyone. Catholic schools are not for everyone.”
Somebody else pointed out that the priest’s assertion in the story that home schools don’t produce vocations to the priesthood and religious life is not quite accurate. In fact, 4 percent of all those being ordained to the priesthood this year were home-schooled, as were a full 7 percent of all women professing perpetual vows in 2010 — both interestingly high.
What the feedback also makes very clear is the vast variety of experiences Catholics have with Catholic schools and Church support for their educational choices.
My four children are now in a fantastic parochial school. But we’ve also tried public schooling, charter schools and home schooling (using the K12 program).
Ultimately, it is the parents who have to decide the best means to educating their children. From the engagement we received on that article, it is clear that there are a lot of Catholic parents these days who take that responsibility very seriously.