Homeschool vs Govt Schools: Vatican Says Let Parents Decide

Archbishop Francis A Chulicatt speaks to the UN in support of homeschooling.

Public schools do not offer an equal chance for a good education to all students. Some public schools are excellent. Others are soul-killing factories. From my experience, it seems that this divides along economic lines.

Wealthy parents, who have access to private schools for their children, also have the option of sending them to the best public schools. Poorer parents often have no choices. They are forced to send their children to sub-standard, dangerous, inner-city public schools.

The deterioration of our society is apparent in the students themselves. Violent, disruptive children from dysfunctional families are common. In my House district I’ve had children as young as 7 or 8 or who were so violent and disruptive that they were uncontrollable. One elementary age child could not be left alone with younger children for even a short period of time because he would try to kill them by choking them.

Many of the children in these schools grow up without hope of a future. In spite of years of sex education they seem to have a complete lack of morality concerning personal sexual behavior. The girls regard getting pregnant while they are teens as an achievement. The boys brag about the number of out of wedlock children they have sired.

Homeschooling is the only viable alternative for many people. Private school tuition is more than they make, and even if they could afford it, their children would be unhappy as the lone working class child in a school where all the other kids come from wealthy families. The lifestyle of the other children would be too different from theirs and too unapproachable.

The choice between public and private schools is a no-win scenario for lower income parents. Homeschooling is the one option they have. The great thing about it is that homeschooling works. I can say from my own experience as a homeschooling mom that homeschooled kids learn. They have no trouble in college or holding jobs when they’re grown.

They don’t suffer the emotional and moral damage that is inflicted on children who spend their formative years in the pressure cooker of an inner city public school. They have strong friendships with other homeschooling kids that last into adulthood. They bond deeply to their families and their faith.

That’s why I was so happy to see the article, Homeschoolers applaud Vatican position on homeschooling. It is great to know that once again, my Church supports families in doing what is best for our children. If you’re interested in homeschooling, read it and smile.

Advocates of homeschooling applauded a statement by the Vatican’s representative to the United Nations in which he defended parents’ right to homeschool their children. Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said in remarks to the international body, “Parents … have the right and duty to choose schools inclusive of homeschooling, and they must possess the freedom to do so, which in turn, must be respected and facilitated by the State.” He added, “For some time now, my delegation has noticed a disconcerting trend, namely, the desire on the part of some to downplay the role of parents in the upbringing of their children, as if to suggest somehow that it is not the role of parents, but that of the State.”

Speaking at the Economic and Social Council at the UN on behalf of Pope Benedict, Archbishop Chullikatt “States are called to have respect for the freedom of parents to choose for their children schools, other than those established by the public authorities, to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions which equally applies to their right to make judgments on moral issues regarding their children.”(Read the rest here).

  • Faith

    I’m just going to take issue with the idea that whether schools are good or not always divides by whether the schools are wealthy or not. I have a sister who has taught special ed for many years in many different types of schools. She preferred working in the lower income schools rather than the very wealthy district schools. Why? The students in the wealthy school (a high school) drove better cars than the teachers and saw themselves as higher status. They looked down on their teachers. They knew their parents would cover for them if they did anything bad. The teachers were afraid of these wealthy parents who threatened to sue whenever they didn’t like what the teachers were saying or demanding. They expected the special ed teacher to fix their kids for them. And any kind of violence was covered up in a way she never saw at lower income schools. There was pressure to inflate grades and always make the school look good to the detriment of actual teaching. No, she left after a year and went back to that lower income school, where the parents were so happy to get support from the school and help with their kids. Often they were immigrants who took education very seriously and had high expectations for their children.

    Of course, money does factor into and influence how good a school is, but it is also more complicated than just money; and sometimes money can have a downside to running a good school.

  • neenergyobserver

    There are other factors than economics but it is also valid. And middle class isn’t inner city either. I’ve found here that small town schools tend to be as good as most private (in my experience mostly parochial) schools while larger cities they are not. Why? I don’t really know but I suspect that the level of community involvement is just a lot higher and keeps everybody awake.

  • Irksome1

    In an economy where both parents must often work to support a family, homeschooling has unique barriers of its own. It may very well work, and I’ve seen (anecdotal) evidence which implies it may work better than the alternatives, but it’s not a panacea.

  • Rebecca Hamilton

    Just dropping in. These are all excellent comments that raise valid points. I’ve heard teachers complain about the privlege in the wealthier schools,, and I am certainly aware that homeschooling is difficult for families where both parents work. In fact, one barrier is that many parents have to each work at more than one job, just to make ends meet.

    However, what I’ve seen here in Oklahoma City schools is that the best teachers and all the opportunities are actively recruited for a few public schools where kids from monied and/or powerful parents go. When I say that the kids in my schools don’t have enough textbooks, I mean it. When I say the schools are dangerous and that the police are a constant presence, I mean that.

    Homeschooling, if the parents can find a way to do it, is vastly superior to this environment. It also provides a better learning experience.

    I am glad the Vatican supports the idea that parents, and not the state, should make the decision about whether or not to homeschool.
    As to what we need to do to provide an equally good education for all students, what do you think? I would really like to here your thouoghts on this.

  • Karen

    I agree that parents should have as many options as possible. We have to acknowledge also that all of us have an interest in seeing that all children receive an education. My kids are in excellent public schools in suburban Austin. (James Bowie High School and Joe Dan Mills Elementary School, should anyone be curious.) I also know a few homeschooling families through church and Cub Scouts. Texas has no restrictions or standards for homeschooling, and I have observed a number of problems from that. Specifically, the kids only learn as much as the homeschooling parent — read “Mom” here — knows. One friend of my son had to drop out of Cub Scouts because his mother allowed him to fall TWO grade levels below his age group. He would be in 5th grade now but is in 3rd grade because his mother simply never bothered for a year. He is now back in private school, and in special ed classes to try to make up the deficit. If this is a problem in an affluent suburb, how much worse is it going to be with parents who never had much of an education themselves? They have the best of intentions and desires, but asking high school dropouts or recent immigrants with no formal schooling to teach their kids a 21st curriculum is really asking them to make bricks without straw.

    For the very few highly educated parents living in poverty, home schooling is an excellent option. Allowing that is NOT inconsistent with addressing the problems in the public schools, either. For example, the violent six-year-old in the original post probably needs medical attention as well as intervention from social services. That is seriously abnormal behavior in a child so young, and is almost certainly a symptom of child abuse or psychosis. The schools can’t and shouldn’t provide that kind of serious medical treatment, and the child is certainly being harmed by leaving things as they are. His parents clearly aren’t capable — either from laziness or ignorance — of caring for him, so the rest of us have to step in.

    You are in a unique position, where you can advocate in the one place that matters for this, for these families. They need help and help costs money. That six year old kid is going to be either a success story for treatment or a an expensive occupant of the state prison. You can help. Do so.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Karen, I know a number of children who drop many grades behind in the public schools. I don’t think it’s true that homeschooled children only know as much as the one who teaches them, at least not exactly. There are many find curricula available that will guide a homeschooling parent and help them provide a more structured education if they need it.

      Aggressive children in the public schools aren’t handled very well. They are sometimes shuttled to an alternative school, or more commonly, simply dumped in special ed alongside vulnerable children who genuinely are special needs. As for providing them with therapy, etc, I’ve not seen anything meaningful at all and doubt that I will, given the cost. Also, removing them from their homes is neither easy or even always advisable.

      As for the solutions I can provide, I’ve authored bills to try to address some of these problems, but the roadblocks to passing them are extraordinarily difficult to navigate. Sometimes I get something through, but a piecemeal approach will never repair a system with the systemic inequities that our public school system has.

      I am not saying that homeschooling is a universal panacea for educational problems or that it is workable for all parents. However, I will state that, based on what I’ve seen, the problems with students falling behind, not learning, and coming out with second-rate educations are actually more common with students who attend public schools (at least in my part of the world) than among those who are homeschooled. I am speaking of specific instances I know of where kids simply fall through the cracks in the public schools and are shuffled aside.

      Also, the problems of bullying, and the moral and emotional damage that kids often encounter in public schools are not small things, either. Again, I am speaking of specific situations that I know of.

  • Arkenaten

    The choice of homeschooling should be a parental one. But how does one assess the capability of the parent? And one can assume that in most cases Parent = Mother.
    I have a friend who home-schooled her kids for years. She is a music teacher, so had ‘time’ on her hands. But even she was eventually obliged to send her three children to school when the pressure became too much. Provide an income and look after children.
    Socially, she believes her children have benefited from attending mainstream school and their education did not suffer because of the background she gave them. Maybe their self esteem develop[ed adequately as well prior to mainstream?
    Education is always one of the main election issues in any country – look at the abysmal mess of South African State education. Sheesh, ’tis enough to make one weep! But then look at the level of education of our president. (has yet to earn the capital letter)
    Only time will tell whether homeschooling will have a positive effect on the eventual graduates entering the work environment.
    But this is not going to solve the problems of children and parents who are not in a position to even consider homeschooling.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      All true Douglas. Thanks for this thoughtful comment.

  • Faith

    Okay now I’ll take issue with the idea that parents are not capable of teaching their own kids. I have been homeschooling for 16 years now. I’ve graduated two kids into college (both Dean’s list, thank you very much!) and I’ve three more to launch one 12th grade, one 8th grade and one 6th grade. I have been around homeschooling communities for many years. There are all kinds of different types of homeschoolers. Often they do the school at home approach where they enroll in an organization that provides curriculum and then offers support like grading tests and papers or giving advice when a child is struggling. Companies like Seton, Calvert, Kolbe, Sonlight provide services like this. Some homeschoolers are unschoolers in that they think involvement in life is the best teacher. These folks think that grade distinctions are absurd; a product of an institutional system that treats children more like factory products than human beings. I happen to fall somewhere in the middle. There are parents who struggled in school who are determined to make sure their children have it better than they did and are absolutely committed to excellence. They are learning right alongside their children, giving themselves the education they never had. Their lack of a degree is actually a motivating factor. For unschoolers, the way their children learn might not look very similar to the way a child in school learns but that’s okay because the child isn’t in school and schools are not the only way to learn. All children want to become competent adults naturally. Often though tragedies or a boring or nasty school system beats this natural desire out of them. Left to their own druthers, children are AMAZING learners. They are little sponges, passionate and curious.

    I think we need all three options to educate our children. Homeschooling, public and private ed. Some folks have to work two jobs and they just can’t swing the homeschooling thing. Some folks have to work two jobs but for some reason or another they can swing the homeschool thing. Each family needs to make own decision for what they think is best. Some parents really don’t see themselves as having the right temperament for homeschooling. If that is so, I’m not going to make them feel guilty because they didn’t make the same decision I did.
    No method of education is perfect. Each method, homeschooling, public and private, are going to have success stories and failure stories. I think homeschoolers tend to have more successes than failures because they are a small group and mostly the parents are passionately devoted to making sure their kids are well educated. You have your deadbeats there too, though.

    Sorry to have gone on so long. Time to take my homeschooled 6th grader to the library!

    • Wendy Macdonald

      Well said!
      ~ Wendy

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Great comment Faith! I’m STILL on vacation, but taking a few minutes to answer people. Thank you for stepping in and saying this.

  • Irksome1

    I think you’re responding to an argument no one’s making. I don’t think anyone is saying that non-degreed parents are inherently incapable of teaching their own children. I think people are just making a coomon sense observation that parents are going to be better at it than others. Since it seems that all here agree that society as a whole requires that children be well-educated, it follows then that society, through the organ of the government, would justly regulate and oversee the progress of homeschooled children. I’m not entirely comfortable with all the implications of such an arrangement, but I do wonder if much of the success that we attribute to homeschooling now isn’t just a product of parents that are highly motivated to make it work in the face of a hostile system. Might outcomes suffer if less motivated parents begin to homeschool? I don’t know. I do think we can easily arrive at a very uncomfortable place where through curriculum mandates and other regulatory bureaucracies, the state involves itself far more in the life of the family than it did when the kids were learning about condoms from a public school teacher.

  • Wendy Macdonald

    I sure am glad to have the freedom to homeschool our children. We are considered low income because we are a single income family, but our kids (and we) prefer our lifestyle. When I mentioned recently that it might be nice if we could have afforded private school… all three kids said: No way! Honestly, when I compare the maturity and thoughtfulness of homeschooled kids ( on average) to other types of schooled children, it encourages me to keep on teaching at home. Yes, there are exceptions. Having been involved with many different activities over 1o years of homeschooling I have observed a lot… I sure hope this freedom of choice remains intact.
    ~ Wendy

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I know what you mean Wendy. The differences between homeschooled kids and those who attend public school are startling — and good.