“but, Daddy, at school they said, . . .”: Why I homeschool

A few years ago, we tried brick and mortar.  We had our girls in a pretty good Catholic school and our son in a pretty good public school.  At Christmas that year (kindergarten), he started talking about the (alleged) religious symbolism of the candy cane.  We asked if he’s heard it at CCD, Lord’s Brigade, or on EWTN.  He said, “No.  From [my teacher].”  Indeed, our town’s general homeschool community, which my wife follows on Facebook to keep up with events, Is largely made up of secularists who find the local public schools too religious!”

But, still, even if you set aside questions of the moral and psychological dangers, bullying, peer pressure, subversive agendas, disputes about curriculum or teaching models, ability of the school to accommodate learning or physical disabilities, and so forth, those  two years, and the continuing aftermath, have highlighted a dilemma that troubled me my whole life.

My children’s generous uncles and aunts, starting with the Wii that I expected to be a one-time capitulation, have given them a steady stream of video game systems, so each of them now has at least one DS-whatever, and they’re constantly talking about the next thing they want.  I recall when I was laying in the hospital two years ago, watching my daughter play her DS, and thinking–whether I was actually hearing this or hallucinating, I may never know–the nurses, the hospital patieht rep, and others complaining about my kids having so many video games when we always say we’re struggling financially.  We are, and we’ve purchased very few of the games they have, and of course games have horrible resale value.  The point is that they’ve been roped into a materialistic cycle I’d always wanted to avoid.

My son’s hand me down DS broke over Thanksgiving.  His uncle sent him a hand me down Of what .i thought was the latest middle for first communion.  

Today, I took the kids to the park to fly a kite we bought at a dollar store.  We were having a good, old fashioned, inexpensive, fun time, but while I assembled the kite, I heard him talking about how he wants to save up for the latest model, which apparently is literally the “new 3DSXL.”  Within what I thought was reasonable for his fragile psyche, I lost it a bit and got a bit preachy.  We had a moment, hugged it out, but when I tried to talk about living in the moment, he said how at school they always talked about preparing for the future and planning for emergencies.  In his mind, having a second DS in case one breaks qualified as an emergency.   I’d been enjoying those 6 months when he carried around a box of Legos.

But how do you teach your child to be humble, to have poverty of spirit, to put others first, etc., when schools, and ironically Catholic schools especially, teach pride, ambition, and competitiveness?

The Jesuits have always been controversial for their accommodation of local cultures, and for their frequent interference in politics,  but I do not understand how an Order which rarely produces bishops or cardinals and has taken 500 years to produce a Pope because it teaches against pursuing advancement has contributed so much to the competitive approach to education we find in modernity.

When a dress code is not just about teaching modesty and obedience but wearing a “blue blazer with brass buttons,” is that teaching children to follow the examples of John the Baptist, Martin of Tours, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, or Pier Giorgio?  Even the Monarchs who’ve been canonized generally dressed below their stations.  

When a school advertises its “high academic standards,” makes students compete for titles like “valedictorian” even to the point of destroying friendships, gives awards for “perfect attendance,” etc., his is that teaching children to live the Beatitudes?   Help that homeless person you pass on the way to school, get a few minutes late, lose perfect attendance and lost the edge on being “#1.”  Besides, helping the homeless is dangerous, might be illegal, and you need to direct them to proper charities.  Is that a message that teaches kids to be Saints..

I know I could do a lot better as a parent, but I also know that what Ai consider better is the opposite of the World.

That’s why I homeschool.

5 responses to ““but, Daddy, at school they said, . . .”: Why I homeschool

  1. Theodore M Seeber

    Part of being prepared for any emergency is knowing the resources that are already in your reach. Video games having horrible resale value=video games for the poor at bargain basement prices at your local pawn shop. I first noticed the phenomenon with music, I could never afford the 1980s prices of $10 for an album, but they were $.50 an album at the pawn shop, usually played once and discarded

  2. We require our parents to get approval from us for all gifts they give our children, and we limit our kids to 1 hour of “screen time” per day. Just because your relatives want to give things to your children, that doesn’t mean you have to accept them. And if you do, you can put limits on their use.

    • It’s kind of more complicated than that, and tangential to my point, but the first DS, because they worried my kids would be jealous of a cousin, was given specifically against my wishes, and pretty much every thing since.

  3. joyschoenberger

    Of course your kids will hear things at school that are contrary to what you want to teach. The thing is to provide an environment where discussions happen all the time, where your kids are absorbing everything like a sponge, but are bringing to you their concerns and getting your help in discerning right from wrong.

    As a recent example, my son John told us at dinner (our usual forum for family discussions) that his teacher said if someone does something to you, it’s ok to do the same thing back to him. I told him that’s not true. John said his teacher doesn’t believe in anything (she is completely secular, non-religious). I said, well, we do believe, and Jesus teaches us to love our enemy and to forgive those who hurt us. Both my kids nodded their heads in agreement. We talked about how there are lots of people in the world who don’t believe the same as we do, and will tell you things that just aren’t true. And whenever our kids express distress over someone in school who did or said something mean to them, we add that person to our nightly prayers – putting into action what Jesus told us explicitly to do.

    • Exactly, Joy,
      but I’m pointing at something more fundamental with the system, that even many homeschoolers fall into (or are forced into), making it about ambition and competition rather than skill mastery.

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