Is Home-Schooling The Only Meaningful Option For Catholic Parents Today?

“Parents are the first and the most important educators of their own children, and they also possess a fundamental competence in this area; they are educators because they are parents.”       Pope John Paul II 

… Seton Home Study School [is] here to assist parents with their educational duties. We help by providing counseling by phone, message boards, fax, and e-mail. We also provide daily lesson plans, testing services, books, software, videos, online testing, online audio lectures, and other educational materials for Catholic homeschooling. 
Seton serves an enrollment of approximately 10,000 students, and several thousand more families through book sales and by furnishing materials to small Catholic schools. Click here to find out more about the Seton Home School Programme.
 
Comment:
Seton is an American programme but by far the best out there, according to the several parents in Scotland with whom I’ve discussed the subject – my own great-nephews love it – and if you click here, you will read some glowing testimonials from both parents and students.  Parents who fear that they are not equipped to home-school, should have their fears allayed after perusing the Seton website, with its wealth of materials and online support from professional teachers.  You will even note the “chat” facility at the right hand side of the screen…  
Feel free, however, to recommend other programmes, and share your thoughts about the concept of home-schooling but before you do, it would be worth watching the video below – towards the end, after his devastating critique of the American school system [which mirrors what is happening in the UK] Michael Matt reveals that his own children were successfully home-educated.  After you see the film (takes around 30 minutes), tell us whether or not you think that  home-schooling is the only real option open to parents who wish to ensure that their offspring are taught the Faith right across the curriculum,  in order to cultivate a Catholic world-view, something which  was once integral to any true Catholic school but which, now, is never mentioned. Share your thoughts…

 

39 responses

  1. I imagine Seton is in general very good, but one caveat: the reader, reprinted by Seton Press, named These are Our Horizons contains some dodgy material in relation to other religions- watering down the necessity of being a Catholic, false ecumenism. So, I would caution parents to be aware that just because something was written in the fifties by a Sister and given an imprimatur, doesn’t mean it doesn’t need a check! It SHOULD mean that you can use it without checking first but …..I was reading it and my eyes were bugging! Americanism was already rife long before this date, unfortunately. I haven’t read all of the series and indeed I use the early readers with delight!

    • Mary,

      My niece loves the “Horizons” series and has not encountered anything like you describe. I spoke to her a few minutes ago and she said that Seton is very keen to use only traditional material, and if you contact them to point out the issue to which you refer, chapter and verse so to speak (i.e. a concrete example) they will deal with that, to correct it. My niece knows that from personal experience – they welcome any information which will make their programme more Catholic. Obviously they do not have an entire community of traditional Catholics, so they do cater for the novus ordo people, but not at the expense of watering down Catholic doctrine; they are “traditional leaning” and any materials which I’ve seen have been entirely Catholic.

      In fact, one of the things my nephews love about the programme is that it intertwines Catholic Faith and Church history throughout. Every subject is permeated with the Faith and that is the way Catholic schools are supposed to educate. I’ve been so impressed with what I’ve seen in every single subject; English, history, science, you name it. I’VE learned a lot in these subjects just by checking out the Seton materials.

      But do – please – contact them if you have spotted an error or a weakness. I’ve seen materials which DO stress Catholic dogma on the necessity of the Church, so I’m sure they would want to put in an erratum slip or something if they continued to use that text. I strongly urge you to contact them with the details of which book is the culprit.

      • Editor,

        Yes, good idea, I will contact them about two of the stories in that book..My intention was not to “diss” the entire series, of course, as I pointed out. I think it’s a fair point and up for public discussion as the books are in the public domain and used by many homeschoolers. An erratum is usually in connection with a typo, is it not? Do have a look at that particular textbook as it is very interesting in relation to the “mindset” of those who wrote the book. And those who have the imprimatur! Not suggesting it is Seton’s fault, as they could well expect that a book “imprimatur-ed” in the Fifties was doctrinally perfect.

  2. And yes, I totally agree that if you are not near to a traditional Catholic school (and there is only one of these that I know of in Britain, which is Catholic in root and branch that is- maybe there are teachers doing their best to educate in an integrally Catholic way elsewhere, but a whole school? I only know of St. Michael’s School in Burghclere) then the only really Catholic option is to homeschool if at all possible (and even if it appears impossible, apply to St. Joseph for a solution) because, seriously, children are at risk of losing both faith and morals in the school system.

    Books, peers, even teachers- they will just meet a barrage of secular nonsense at best and at worst- consider what they can access on a pal’s smartphone. The horror.

    I know that kids have to face the world someday but not in their most formative years! If they emerge in the state of grace (which would be a wonder of God’s grace) they will still have lost out on so much good example, inspiration and solid character formation which they could have from a Catholic educator. That’s just the reality. I’m sure there are humanly virtuous teachers out there but that’s NOT enough to reach their final end, sanctity, or even salvation.

    Can you risk it?

    • Mary,

      I’m afraid I cannot agree with you about the “traditional Catholic school” to which you refer in the south of England. I would NEVER recommend it. I don’t approve of boarding schools anyway – young people need to be with their families during their formative years, to avoid undue adverse influences on their development. I’m afraid that is as true of St Michael’s as of any other school of its kind. There is an element, as you may know, within the alleged “traditionalist” community who are no such thing – most of them are too young to remember the Church prior to Vatican II and they lean to being more like the Amish than Catholics. These extremists are off-putting for young people and I’m afraid I speak from experience of talking to young people, when I say that.

      Who would want to risk THAT?

      • Editor,

        I agree with you. I do not approve of boarding schools and couldn’t ever imagine sending my children to one.

        I also agree with your comments on Seton. It is excellent. I’ve used bits and pieces of it and have always found it thoroughly Catholic.

        • Petrus,

          I’ve been extremely impressed with the Seton materials. They are, I’ve always found, thoroughly Catholic, as you say. Of course, I’ve not studied everything, but what I have seen is very impressive.

          • My one criticism is Seton is the Mathematics programme. It is good, but it focuses too much on algorithms. Children need a conceptual understanding of number and I don’t think this is explicit enough. However, this is an extremely small criticism.

      • Editor:

        Well, of course, I can understand not wanting to send children to boarding school….. and it may well be that there are some Amish-leaning Trads (Are you sure? I don’t know any, myself, and I do know many families who go to that school and they are exemplary and not in the least bit Amish, if by that you mean avoidance of technology? inventions? Strange clothes? Nope. Of course, we live on Earth, and not in the Garden of Eden, so one can’t expect Paradise anywhere). But even if there were a small OTT element (not sure how you define “extremism”) how would it even begin to compare with the sharply declining faith and morals all around? It seems not to be even handed, to compare the two…… Like “wearing a long skirt with trainers” (admittedly slightly Amish- looking) versus “being exposed to heresy and peer pressure to access porn” ….errrr……which would I prefer my child to encounter?

        No contest!

        • Mary Murphy,

          Parents can protect their children from the heresy etc without sending them to a school which has any sort of extremism. If they can’t home-school then parents can send their children to a non-denominational school and use the “bad bits” to teach them the Faith and Catholic morals in a practical way. It’s definitely better than putting them under the influence of people who impose their ideas on children as if it was Catholic dogma when it isn’t and that’s the experience I’ve had of certain types of traditional Catholic schools. They tend to be too strict, especially about secondary things like dress – they’re big on women never wearing trousers, as if it were a teaching of the Church which it is not, They do tend to wear skirts down to their ankles and generally look dowdy, IMHO.

          I am also sceptical about those who do attend being “exemplary” Catholics. The traditional Catholics I know tend to keep to themselves, and are not the least bit interested in reaching out to those in the “mainstream” Church, or participating in events which mean interacting with other Catholics, known as “conservative” or “orthodox” – meaning they may not attend the traditional Latin Mass. That sort of ghetto-ism doesn’t appeal to me.

          I’m not saying that ALL traditional Catholics who attend those schools are the same – of course not. I’m sure there will be some who are “exemplary” as you say, but I would guess that’s more to do with their own family life and beliefs, than the schools.

          One thing I would say in their favour and it can be a problem for home-schoolers, is that they are probably very good with discipline which children do need and which can be a problem for parents home-schooling if they have a challenging child.

          • Laura,

            Of course, some children are more suited to homeschooling than school and some parents are well equipped and able to do so. I would however like to remark that not all are in a position to home school effectively, because of lack of resources, time, health…. Thank God for the Web and Catholic resources which have made it more possible than it would otherwise be.

            As you wisely remark, some children are difficult for parents to educate without some structured support. In addition, some children benefit more from a very disciplined and more formal learning environment, just as a more relaxed and less pressured system suits some.

            In the past, some parents “opted out” of their children’s education, leaving it all to the priests and Sisters. Tragically, they were unaware of the damage being done by the new “catechesis”.

            Would it not be an equal (opposite) error to lose our trust in traditionally Catholic schools and religious orders because we don’t agree with this or that idea, find such and such a thing too extreme, etc….?

            That is quite a statement, that children would be better off in a non denominational (I.e. atheistic) school than in a traditional Catholic school!

            I think the trousers vs. skirts thing has been done to death on the web, so I’m not even going there (except to say that I cannot imagine any female saint in trousers except for a proportionate reason, and even then they would never wear the kind of immodest trousers that proliferate nowadays). I must respectfully disagree that such an issue would be a greater problem for the students’ formation than attendance at an atheist school. I think maybe lots of us are out of touch with the reality at these schools. As I said above, nowhere is Paradise or 100 per cent perfect, but I couldn’t even venture a comparison between the two!

            • Mary Murphy,

              To your claim re. female saints & trousers, and ignoring the case of St Joan of Arc (!) I respond to that as I have responded for years to the insistence of always having a baby baptised with a saint’s name*… Well, we’ll maybe have a saint in the future called Paige Turner (!) and similarly, we may have a saint in the future who dressed modestly in flowing female trousers, with long top. Who knows, maybe Saint EditorCT?

              Now I’m off to catch up on my self-sacrifice and all-night vigils 😀

              *For the record, I support the custom of choosing a saint’s name, I have one myself (!) but it’s not the end of the world if a parent chooses a non-saint’s name – without new names, there could be awful confusion in Heaven. Just think of it, shouting “Peter” or “Patricia” or “Mary Murphy” and scores of voices replying “Yes? What is it?” 😀

  3. We used another American programme called Kolbe which we found to be excellent. Our children even have a fairly good grasp of Latin and Greek even though neither myself nor my husband have! You see the teaching is in the book, so to speak. I would recommend this programme, especially for the more academically inclined, but it can be adapted either way really.

      • Editor, Crofterlady,

        I’m sorry to be jumping in so late! I just saw this discussion.

        I agree the Kolbe curriculum is outstanding! I have used Kolbe for over 20 years. The curriculum uses for the most part, primary texts which makes the (hefty amount of) weekly readings enjoyable!

        There is another school program- Our Lady of Victory – this program teaches the TLM exclusively. I have used some material from them but haven’t used their curriculum.

        • Jobstears,

          Thank you for that. I’m told, though, by parents who did thorough research before choosing, that they chose Seton above all other programmes, recognising that it is not as “purely” traditional as others. Overall, however they considered Seton to be the best suited for their needs.

          Don’t shoot me – I’m just the messenger!

          • Editor, I agree. I have been a Seton student for seven years and I know it is one of the primary reasons I have nourished my Catholic Faith. My mother looked at all the others, but Seton was the most structured curriculum of all. Their books are good and orthodox. Also, when we come across aspects of the modern church we use it to our advantage. For example, In their own edition of the Baltimore Catechism NO. 1, there was a page at the back of the book presenting the luminous mysteries. We immediately crossed these out and made us realize to be very independent thinkers.

            With regard to the Kolbe curriculum, I have a friend who was doing that and then changed to Seton. Unlike the Kolbe curriculum, they enjoyed Seton, as do I.

            Our district Superior of the SSPX likes Seton and is keen to use it. I would finally like to mention that Seton has more student than any other curriculum, with about more than 80,000 and increasing all the time.

  4. I was enrolled in Seton for most of my school days and can attest to the excellence of the curriculum, particularly the English and Literature classes. It prepared me very well for university. The only slight caution I would give is that their assessment of Vatican II and the most recent Popes is significantly kinder than the Traditional position, although this only shows up occasionally in their materials. The SSPX prior of the church that services our mission chapel agreed with this assessment when conversing with my mother.

    That being said, a truly Catholic education should be assisted by the priests and religious whenever possible, as was universally done before Vatican II. Even though there was not an SSPX school near me, I did the Correspondence Catechism program from the SSPX Sisters for several years and was very close to my pastors, especially as an altar boy, which allowed me to receive much instruction from them.

    Although some might not prefer it, the Church has always welcomed Boarding schools done properly. Remember Fr. Francis J. Finn’s books, for instance? My Grandmother attended a boarding school run by Carmelite Nuns in the 1940’s and loved it. In America, I do know many youngsters who attended these schools and many teachers in them and am very happy with the wonderful work being done by them. The SSPX doesn’t usually allow students to board until about the high school years, which is much later in their development.

    • Steven C.

      What do you mean by “The Church has always welcomed Boarding schools done properly”?

      I am always wary when people say “the Church” to support their argument. As far as I know, the only documents of the Church on Catholic education don’t mention types of schools. Even if they did mention boarding schools as a preference, which I find hard to believe given the Church’s statements about the importance of the family unit, it cannot be something binding and I think it is off-putting to make people feel that this or that is what “The Church” teaches or “welcomes” when it is only someone’s opinion, be it a bishop or priest.

      Before Vatican II, priests assisted in Catholic education by preaching the faith from the pulpit and sometimes visiting the schools, also providing First Friday Masses in the churches, teachers would bring the children. They didn’t usually teach courses, not to my knowledge anyway. The thing was always that the home, parish and school between them taught the dogmas of the faith. You can’t have that with a boarding school, not that I am all that bothered by boarding schools, if that’s what the parents choose. I’d have hated it if my parents had sent me away but then I was a mammy’s girl, LOL! I’d have greeted for my mammy! LOL!

      • I agree with the uneasiness about using that kind of argument. I’ll explain it this way then: I suppose my statement is based a little more off tradition, although the Catholic Encyclopedia does make numerous mentions of flourishing Catholic boarding schools, which indicates the Church’s general mindset on them. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13554b.htm

        In New Orleans, where all of my family and I grew up(also one of America’s most Catholic cities), boarding schools were quite common and widespread. The nuns and priests would staff them and teach the pupils. In Catholic literature before Vatican II, they were also constantly mentioned in stories. I gave Fr. Francis Finn as one example, although there are plenty of others. And I must say, some of the methods they used, especially for the boys, would probably put today’s priests in much trouble in our politically correct world. But accompanying this spirit of discipline was a profound sense of love and goodness and these schools produced so many great Catholics, even very great saints. Many saints did schooling away from home with priests and nuns, such as Dominic Savio. I don’t believe this necessarily breaks any bonds with the parents, especially if correspondence and regular visits take place.

        I never meant to sound as if I insisted on boarding schools by any means. Some children might prefer them much more over others. They probably aren’t always prudent for many children. Most students also do not board until they are significantly older. I’m only saying that it is an acceptable form of education and one that may produce much good fruit if done well. This is what I meant by the term “welcoming”.

        • Steven,

          I take all the points you make so well on board, but I have to say that there is another side to boarding schools, Catholic or not. You appear to minimise the problem of bonding between child and parent, but I consider that to be a major issue – and that is true of the high school years just as much as it is in the early stages of development.

          In fact, attending a Catholic boarding school can be quite damaging on this account. I am not free to give much detail (I have no permission) but I do know of one case in particular where attending a Catholic boarding school adversely caused someone I know to take a regimented approach to his own family life and discipline. He never found it easy to bond with his own children, as a result of having spent the majority of his childhood and early adolescence in a Catholic boarding school.

          You hint at the fact that the clergy and nuns could be (were) over-strict, and you see that as a plus factor. However, again, without arguing for licence in childhood, I think a balanced, loving approach to discipline is much better in those formative years. It’s a tall order to expect priests and nuns to tailor their discipline to fit the spiritual and psychological needs of each individual child, so the system has to be geared to have blanket disciplinary measures of the do/do not do this – or else variety. Not ideal. I think in most families, siblings understand if their parents do not hold each of them to the same standard in everything, but it is impossible to expect that thoughtful approach from the authorities in a school setting.

          Every child, of course, is different, and some may thrive in boarding schools. However, the very fact THAT every child is different, suggests, logically, in my view, that the best place for them to live and grow and bond with parents, is in their own homes.

          It is, of course, a matter for individual families and whether or not it has been a feature of Catholic communities in the past, is really not the issue. Junior seminaries were once commonplace, but I think few of us would like to see them returned now. The priesthood is far too important to risk young men drifting in to it for all sorts of mixed motives. Talk about women priests – it was a well-worn saying that there were more “mother’s vocations” than “son’s vocations” on ordination days, as a result of the pressures put on young boys in junior seminaries.

          I’m now officially rambling, so will sign off, acknowledging the rights of parents to choose boarding schools if they consider that system of education best for their offspring. I’d simply urge them to think very carefully and then…. opt for home-schooling 😀

          • Points duly noted. Thank you always, Madame Editor, for allowing the opportunity for discussion on your good blog, How comforting to know that we all are trying to help each other to Eternal Life.

            • Steven,

              You really ARE a knight in shining armour! Thank you for your gracious words and me after going at you hammer and tongs (can you detect my well practised Irish accent in there?!)

              God bless.

              • I believe I can fantasize it well. I do have considerable Irish blood in me veins. My surname beginning with ‘C’ is a decidedly Irish one. My mum’s 8th grade Religion teacher, a rather feisty Irish Nun, was pleased that she married an Irishman.

                Our Irish-American pastor teased a few years ago near St. Patrick’s Day that those parishioners who weren’t Irish might have a harder time making it to Heaven. 😉

                • Steven,

                  With your background and Irish credentials, I can think of only one way to say “goodnight” – cue for an Irish blessing…

                  😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

    • I agree with Steven. I also was educated with the Seton program for all of my Catholic and years and can heartily recommend it. It is rigorous, especially the English and Literature courses, but let me tell you – it left me with a love of literature that was an inspiration to begin this blog!

      • DOTF,

        I agree entirely – I assist with the English lessons for my home-schooled great-nephews (on a purely voluntary basis in case the Tax people are watching!) and the literature from Seton is just terrific, far superior to anything in mainstream schools.

  5. I think the main problem most people have with home-schooling (apart from the cost of it) is socialising. I know siblings have one another for company but what about socialising with children outside the home. I’ve heard a lot of people say that is a bit miss.

    • Josephine ,

      My argument is that I wouldn’t want them socialising with the majority of school children today!

      My children socialise at Mass and the various clubs they attend.

  6. Lionel, our French blogger, emailed me this report on the UK Bishops’ pushing of the LGBT agenda

    I believe we’ve had the news itself posted above somewhere, but this Lifesitenews report on the same subject is of much interest.

  7. This from Hexham & Newcastle’s Forward Together in Hope initiative:

    Some communities wonder about how to be ‘on the streets’, to use the words of Pope Francis rather than become unhealthy from clinging to its own security. These individuals and communities are wondering how we don’t just make our buildings friendly to those with disability but how we all become more welcoming to those who are poor, in ‘irregular’ relationships, come from other cultures, are part of the LGBT community, are homeless, recently from prison and so on.

    Bishop Seamus Cunningham “notes the comments” of those who are appalled by such ‘initiatives’.

    • Therese,

      I hope the Bishop includes the Person who said the following, in his “notes” about those “who are appalled by such [immoral] initiatives”…

      “If you love Me, you will keep My Commandments.”

      • Editor

        Where is your spirit of accompaniment and merciful inclusion? Tut tut. There’s a whiff of Orthodoxy in your reply (not to mention Crofterlady’s) which suggests self-absorbed Promethean neo-pelagianism.

        • Therese,

          I would keep that quiet, if I were you – “a whiff or Orthodoxy” ? On this blog? Have you looked up the word? The facilitator/lecturer in the video below has looked it up – and strongly disapproves… I hear he’s in line for a job in the Vatican…

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