Is the Catholic Church against parents homeschooling their children?
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In the United States, homeschooling has had a long and bumpy history. While families in the original colonies didn’t even have schools to send their children to, eventually public and private schools were built to meet the needs of families, and in-school education became compulsory across the nation.
Initially this meant that homeschooling wasn’t an option for Catholic families, but by the 1970s, laws were relaxed and families could start keeping their children home without fear of breaking the law.
At the same time, Catholics were suspicious of homeschooling, and the Church had not officially said anything either for or against it.
Then the Catechism of the Catholic Church was published, and while “homeschooling” is never mentioned in it, there are many passages that comment on education.
Duties of parents
Under the section, “Duties of Parents,” the Catechism explains the role of parents in education.
“The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute.” The right and the duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable.
Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues.CCC 2221, 2223
The Catechism comes out strongly that parents are to be the primary educators. In reality, this should occur even if a family decides to send their children to school.
Children naturally learn what it is to be a human being from their parents, even if there isn’t a formal lesson.
In a particular way, the Catechism explains that, “Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child’s earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another to grow in faith by the witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel” (CCC 2226).
Again, parents cannot wait until faith formation class to start educating their children in the Catholic faith. Their obligation starts immediately after birth.
Ability to choose
The Catechism does highlight the need for parents to have choices for their children’s education, and that they are the ones who make the decision.
As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators. Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise.CCC 2229
In this paragraph, parents are still the primary educators and school teachers are seen as assistants, who help parents “in their task as Christian educators.”
The Catholic Church supports families in their decision to either homeschool their children, or send them to a school. Either way, parents are still the “primary educators” and must not forget this central obligation.