Thursday, January 13, 2011

Home schooling : the "medicinal choice"

Jean Rioux on my first homeschooling thread, Homeschooling, another bad idea, makes the important clarification I left unsaid.

The actual problem is two fold. First were the underlying societal occurrences which forced families initially to homeschool, and second homeschooling in turn becoming seen not as a necessary evil to mitigate those societal occurrences, but becoming seen as a positive good which in turn should be the first choice of parents.

As I alluded to in my first thread, the initial cause is the same as what has caused traditional Catholic mothers to be isolated, the destruction of Catholic society in general, and the destruction of Catholic neighborhoods in particular.

As Jean further points out, we are by nature social animals, and that socialization extends by nature beyond the nuclear family. Which would be subsidiarity on the micro level where mothers, sisters, cousins, neighbors and the like all help each other. But that helping in turn requires actual neighborhoods because distance does matter.

Aristotle says in book 5 of the politics that a sovereign state should be no larger than a man can see across or walk across in a day because men are by nature within a certain scale, and to go beyond that scale is unnatural to men. Let the state be larger or smaller, but to all things there is a natural limit. Likewise when it comes to the family and neighborhoods.

Physical distance matters, and it's that extension of physical distance between families, and neighbors that has in turn isolated families and burdened mothers because of that isolation. To which the additional burden of homeschooling may be the only choice and a necessary evil, but compounding that evil by in turn promoting that evil as a positive good that should be the first choice of parents is a rather bad idea.


  1. +JMJ+

    This is a great critique of homeschooling that seems so obvious now that I've read it that I wonder why no one has pointed it out before.

    Ultimately, homeschooling is the ruggedly individualistic (Dare I say "Protestant"? . . . Oh, I just did.) option that hinders rather than helps Catholic community.

  2. It seems to me to be a rather recent tradition for children younger than adolescence to be artificially segregated by age and "educated." History, rather, shows us the normative pattern was for children to be educated at home until they were near adolescence, then tutors were employed. Many of the intellectual giants from history were thus educated.

    Dr. Raymond Moore, a pioneer in the resurgence of home education since the 70's, compellingly argues that pre-adolescent children, boys in particular, are not emotionally mature enough to be separated from their parents for long periods of time. They do not have the mental or emotional capability to think independently, and will thus assimilate the values of whatever group they are put in.

  3. Dean May- Thanks for your point

    E.- So homeschooling is too independent and potentially protestant...I beg to differ. Homeschooling is not right for many people (it seems like the blog host is very much against it), but yes- I do enjoy it most days and I've been in charge of my kids (4 only) for 6 years.

    Why do WE homeschool? The Catholic schools here are very expensive and have about 50% non-Catholic students and 25% non-Catholic teachers(and also they don't get the whole Byzantine Catholic thing). Public schools here are physically dangerous (shootings) and unhealthy (old buildings, etc). These are negative reasons- the positive reasons are: time for ballet 3xs a week, community choir, Shakespeare, church activities.

    It works for us- not for all. In any case, the homeschooling population is tiny. The non-protestant, non-independent STATE has control of the vast majority of children ages 5 to 18.

  4. Priest's Wife,

    Your negative reasons for homeschooling fall under the category of homeschooling for medicinal reasons. While your positive arguments fall under the category of the disappearance of culturally integrated neighborhoods. With the exception of "don't get the whole Byzantine Catholic thing" falling under both.

  5. +JMJ+

    Priest's Wife: If you're objecting to nothing but the term "Protestant," then I think you missed my point. (I totally understand, by the way. If someone described something I was committed to doing as "Protestant," I'd probably go on the warpath.) I was agreeing with LTG that homeschooling is a necessary evil rather than a positive good. So if you're saying that you only homeschool because you have to, then we actually agree on more than you think and you don't need to be so sensitive.

  6. "But that helping in turn requires actual neighborhoods because distance does matter."

    Why don't Catholic parishes think "geographically" and try to get more parishioners to move within walking distance of the church? While suburban planning is not friendly to walkable neighborhoods, a custom of publicizing nearby apartments and houses would still help address many of the problems of distance.

    At present federal regulation bans housing ads from mentioning nearby churches (and probably religious schools too). Changing this could have minor, though real, positive effects. I hope to push for this reform soon, though I'm not sure where to start.

  7. A couple of things (and full disclosure, my mother homeschooled me and my two brothers k-12, and I don't think she's lying when she says she loved it, even though there were times when she hated it, just as any teacher must):

    It seems you're saying homeschooling leads to the destruction of community, but the Catholic Ghetto which you appear to desire was killed off long before homeschooling. Sending your children to a Catholic school with other children who may (and often do) live over an hour away does nothing to foster a sense of locality and community.

    Again, the Catholic schools in this country were started as a medicinal remedy against the protestantizing public schools. They were a necessary thing that often separated Catholic children from any non-Catholic members of the community.

    These are some things to think about. Does homeschooling serve a medicinal purpose? Yes. Is there a traditional mode of educating children that is inherently better? The changing face of history doesn't seem to allow it. Are the schools themselves, both public and Catholic, a modern innovation? At least in their current form, yes.

    Of course, most great men in history have been self-educated, regardless of their academic structure (Leibniz was a self-taught polymath).

    Oh, and E, my parents were protestant when they made the decision, yet I still don't think the arguments I've read against it hold.

  8. Thank you for commenting. And I too can cite more that a few examples of mothers who have loved homeschooling, just as I can likewise cite the same of children who were actually well educated by that same method. Of course the opposite is far more common. But even if the opposite was very uncommon, it would not detract from the argument I’m presenting here because the argument doesn’t concern whether mothers enjoy homeschooling, or whether homeschooling is successful. As with any medicine, the point of using it is that it be successful, so that if it wasn’t somewhat successful, it wouldn’t even be medicinal.

    David writes : “It seems you're saying homeschooling leads to the destruction of community”

    No. That would assume the community previously existed. What I propose is that seeing homeschooling as ordinary is a cause of preventing the formation of community. And that a right ordered view would see homeschooling as extraordinary.

    David writes : “Sending your children to a Catholic school with other children who may (and often do) live over an hour away does nothing to foster a sense of locality and community.”

    True, which is why as I wrote twice above, distance does matter. With the caveat, “nothing” is too strong a word for it. I would say it radically decreases it.

  9. Here's an aritcle where the author seems to share your thesis, but the commentors do a pretty job of rebutting him, and answer many of your points, as well.

  10. Just came across this via Front Porch Republic. Nicely said and full of good sense. We must do what is practical. We weigh and measure what is good for our families.