Diocese of Austin: Homeschoolers Need Not Apply

Twenty years ago, when my parents began homeschooling first my younger brother (who had some non-standard learning needs) and later all of us, homeschooling was still very much a fringe phenomenon. It was not unusual for people to predict, on hearing that children were homeschooled, that they would not be able to get into college, or for neighbors to harass homeschoolers by repeatedly calling the truancy officers on them. The extent to which homeschooling has become mainstream since that time has been quite extraordinary, and due in no small part to the academic and personal successes that homeschooled students have shown themselves capable of. Many states’ public education systems are now actively friendly towards homeschoolers, and make state curricula available free of charge to homeschoolers who wish to use them at home.

Sadly, one area where this increasing social acceptance of homeschooling has often been lagging is in Catholic circles at the parish and diocesan level. Homeschoolers are sometimes seen as a threat by parochial school systems — this despite the Church’s teaching that parents bear the primary responsibility as first educators of their children.

Such a situation has recently reared its head back in our old home diocese of Austin, Texas. A local Catholic homeschooling group, Holy Family Homeschoolers, sent an invitation to their annual Homeschoolers Blessing Mass to newly appointed Bishop Vásquez. In past years, an invitation had always been sent to the bishop. Bishop Aymond had officiated at the Blessing Mass when he first came to the diocese and had allowed a certain degree of openness in dealing with Catholic homeschoolers at the parish and diocesan levels.

Given the many demands on Bishop Vásquez’s time, it is hardly surprising that he was unable to attend this year. What is, however, both surprising and distressing is that the response to the invitation sent to Bishop Vásquez’s office came not from the Chancery but from the Catholic Schools Office, and in a tone which was decidedly dismissive:

> Bishop Vásquez received your invitation to celebrate a Eucharistic liturgy for the fall homeschooling blessing Mass.
>
> Bishop Vásquez believes Catholic education, and in particular Catholic school education, is an essential part of the life of the Diocese of Austin. As you know, Catholic schools are at the heart of the mission of the church.
>
> Bishop’s presence at the homeschooling Mass would convey a contradictory message equating the importance of Catholic school education with Catholic homeschooling; therefore, Bishop Vásquez must respectfully decline the invitation.
>
> Sincerely in Christ,
>
> Ned F. Vanders, Ed.D.

Ned Vanders is the diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Schools, and I think that the above email pretty clearly backs up the complaint I have heard that he is “openly hostile to homeschooling”.

Again, let me be clear: I think it is quite reasonable and understandable that Bishop Vásquez is unable to attend. A note from his office to that effect would in no sense be offensive. However, I think that the response that was received by the Holy Family Homeschoolers is worrisome in two senses.

First, it suggests that “Catholic education” means nothing other than institutional Catholic schools run by the diocese. Understand, Austin is not one of these diocese with a long and rich history of parochial schools. In a rapidly growing diocese of half a million Catholics in 125 parishes, it offers 17 elementary schools and 5 high schools, serving a mere 5,000 students. Clearly, the diocese is equipped to serve only a small minority of Catholic school-age children directly through its schools. One would think, under such circumstances, that the diocese would be especially eager to work with parents who take it upon themselves to provide a Catholic education to their children in the home. Instead, what we see is the claim that “Bishop’s presence at the homeschooling Mass would convey a contradictory message equating the importance of Catholic school education with Catholic homeschooling.”

Surely, Catholic education is something more than a particular 22 institutions in the diocese, serving a small fraction of the diocese’s children. Catholic education includes not merely those 22 schools, but also the religious education programs in all 125 parishes, and also the efforts of those parents who, in the spirit of the Church’s teaching that they are the primary educators of their children, take on the responsibility of educating their children. If “Catholic education… is an essential part of the life of the Diocese of Austin” then surely this essential part encompasses more than 1% of the people in the diocese. Surely it involves the education, in the faith, of all the children in the diocese. This does not mean that the bishop must be present at a mass blessing homeschoolers. He is a busy man with many duties, and such things are often not possible. But it does mean that it should not be suggested to homeschooling parents that they are acting in opposition to “the heart of the mission of the church.”

Secondly, it is concerning to see such a response issued on behalf of the bishop and the diocese to members of the flock. Politeness is something which costs very little. A simple, “Bishop Vásquez appreciates the efforts of Catholic parents who are striving to educate their children in the faith, but the demands of his office make it impossible to officiate at the Blessing Mass this year,” would have caused the diocese no inconvenience and earned it continuing goodwill among a dedicated and active group of parents. Instead, the response sent seems calculated to be as dismissive (if not actively adversarial) as possible.

In my experience, such an openly contemptuous communication to the public is almost never made by an administrator unless he believes that he has the full backing of his superiors — or believes his superiors to be so oblivious to his actions that he has free rein. If Superintendant Vanders’ email is an accurate indication of Bishop Vásquez’s attitude towards Catholic homeschooling, it seems to suggest a great deal of unnecessary antagonism on the bishop’s part. If it is, instead, an indication that the Catholic Schools Office receives little guidance or oversight, that seems a troubling sign for the diocese.

Either way, this is a regrettably provocative opening in the relationship between homeschooling families and the Austin Diocese.

101 Responses to Diocese of Austin: Homeschoolers Need Not Apply

  • “Politeness is something which costs very little.’

    And in my experience slaps in the face tend to be very expensive. Did the Bishop really want to go to war with Catholic homeschoolers in his diocese, because I think that is what that petulant little note just did. Stupidity on stilts!

  • That this fellow Vanders was willing to slum it in teachers’ colleges for seven years or so in order to place the initials “Ed.D” after his name should have been a red flag to whomever hired him.

  • I think the homeschooling phenomenon is a complete travesty. What on earth is wrong with being part of your community, whether in a Catholic or public school? Bishop Vasquez is right – a “Catholic education” will not be gotten solely by parents and Catholic schools ARE at the heart of the mission of the Church.

    Homeschooling began originally in the South as a way for whites to avoid having their children associate with black children. Today, it’s a way for holier-than-thou Catholic to avoid having their children associate with lesser Catholics. Many “Catholic” bloggers act as though homeschooling is the only option if you’re a real Catholic. It’s a load of _____.

  • As an editor, I debated with myself whether to let the above comment by “PDQ” (full of prejudice and falsehood as it is) out of the moderation queue, especially as it was posted anonymously by an IP address which has in the past always posted on the site under different names and has always sought to spread heat rather than light.

    On consideration, I’ll allow it through, as I think our readers are capable of seeing falsehood for what it is. I will, however, note that having looked up the IP address of the commenter I find that it is 208.78.150.3 and comes from a user at the NATIONAL CATHOLIC EDUCATIONAL ASSOC (NCEA) in Washington DC. Make of that what you will.

  • Looks like Vanders needs a learning experience.

  • DarwinCatholic mentiones early on that his parents started homeschooling do to “non-standard” learning needs. That wasn’t the reason I started homeschooling, but that is the reason we continue. The Catholic Schools here do not have the curriculum available to meet my kids’ needs. This was also a complaint of one parent who eventually had to pull her child and put her in public school. Another parent of a Down’s child was rejected by the Dio. schools because they either could not or did not want to teach him.

    Homeschooling will allow one of my children to go to a special tutor this fall during regular school hours when the tutor has time to fit him in. (The after school hours are already taken up with public school kids who can’t get out during regular hours.)

    And then there is the expense issue…

    As for Catholic “schools” being a the heart of the Church’s mission…why didn’t Christ found any? The system as we have it was a response to to the compulsory education laws we have in this country at a time of strong Protestant dislike for Catholics.

    I find myself wondering if the Bishop ever really got the invitation or if his secretary just passed it on to the Super for follow-up, and the Bishop never actually read the Super’s letter himself to make sure it really conveyed what he (woud have) wanted to say.

  • PDQ,

    This is 2011. Catholic homeschoolers are not homeschooling because they have examined and rejected the Catholic schools. I live in the Diocese of Austin, and I assure you that you are completely wrong about the motivations of homeschoolers here, and about our attitudes toward and involvement with our parishes and the other Catholics therein.

    But I don’t hope to convince you of this. What I want to know is what you think was gained by the gratuitous slap by the bishop. Homeschoolers here under Bishop Aymond felt welcome and involved, and their attitude toward the new bishop was unreservedly enthusiastic and welcoming. We are all staggered by this unprovoked attack. Goodwill was overflowing; and now it’s been squandered. And why?

    There’s a saying in Texas: Kicking the dog won’t make him come lick your hand. Homeschoolers aren’t going to respond by signing up their children in the diocese’s schools. Other than a venting of spleen, what was gained?

  • Thanks, Don, for reinforcing Darwin’s point by letting PDQ’s comment get posted. The racist card–how…refreshing. To paraphrase Andy Warhol, in the future everyone will be racist for fifteen minutes. And note that he/she made that observation right before indicting his/her opponents for being “holier than thou.” Apparently, working for the NCEA erodes one’s sense of irony.

    My only response to PDQ–put your money where your mouth is. If the schools “ARE at the heart of the mission of the Church,” then make them tuition free to all baptized Catholics.

    Well?

  • Back to the post: David Carlin, in his “Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America,” pointed out that the episcopate is remarkable for one destructive trait: the ability to consistently alienate those who are their most naturally loyal constituency.

    I suspect that a couple weeks of bursting mailbags, jammed telephone lines and overloaded servers will teach Bishop Vasquez about the dangers of forwarding his correspondence to others to answer.

  • Grimmace. That letter is an unprovoked and gratuitous slap in the face to people who homeschool in Austin. And it seems to reflect obliviousness regarding the primacy of parent’s roles in their children’s education. See, e.g. the Catechism, which indicates 1. That parent’s have the primary responsibility for the education of their children; 2. That “the home is well suited for the education of the virtues…” and “the natural environment for initiating a human being into solidarity and communal responsibilities,” as well as catechesis; and 3. That parents have a fundamental right to choose the form of their education. Dr. Vanders view, which denigrates the education in the home as less important than the Catholic school system, seem to be in tension with the Church, which states (as any sensible person would agree) that what happens in the home is far more important.

    Additionally, I think the basic socioeconomic message (given the cost of sending kids to Catholic schools and that public school quality is closely linked to housing values) is basically that only the education of upper middle class children is “important” to the Diocese of Austin, which is pretty appalling.

    Given some recent experiences, I sympathize with administrators who deal with homeschooling parents – like most people, they can be demanding and difficult, and by definition they may have less appreciation for the work of Catholic schools. But Dr. Vanders serves his dioces very poorly with these types of communications.

  • especially as it was posted anonymously by an IP address which has in the past always posted on the site under different names and has always sought to spread heat rather than light.

    Oh, wait a minute. Are you saying this may have been an act of anarchic street theatre? Emphasis on “anarchic.”

    If so, I’m no longer irritated–I’m amused.

  • John Henry,

    I have to correct you on one point. Bishop Aymond, despite pressure to establish a diocesan high school for the Catholic middle class, made it his priority instead to establish St. Juan Diego High School, to serve primarily the needs of the poorer and more numerous kids from east Austin. It’s been a massive success. Google for it; you’ll be impressed. Bp. Aymond may have wished that we all had our kids in Catholic brick-and-mortar schools, but he knew that the important thing was Catholic education, and that the Catholics with their children in public school (and often enough, in private Protestant schools with high academic standards–we have quite a few of these) far outnumber the Catholic homeschoolers.

  • Dale,

    No, this is not our West Virginia friend :-) — unless he now works at the NCEA in DC. But when I ran the IP address a found a few scattered comments over the last three months which all basically amounted to, “People who disagree with me are bad. Nya, nya.”

    John Henry,

    I definitely agree with your last graph:

    Given some recent experiences, I sympathize with administrators who deal with homeschooling parents – like most people, they can be demanding and difficult, and by definition they may have less appreciation for the work of Catholic schools. But Dr. Vanders serves his dioces very poorly with these types of communications.

    Indeed, I think that, given the tensions within parish Catholicism where it is at this time and place it’s important that Catholic homeschoolers not allow themselves to fall into seeing the parish (or the diocese) as “the enemy” when it comes to raising their children in the faith. So I can certainly see why someone in a diocesan office that deals with homeschooling would hear the word “homeschoolers” and roll his eyes a bit.

    The problem is that this was allowed to turn into actively insulting a group of active Catholic parents for no very good reason — that’s the sort of thing which only serves to make things worse.

  • A hearty “Amen” to Dale’s point about the dangers of bishops handing off correspondence replies to others. Were I in Austin, I would make sure that Bishop Vásquez was informed of the nature of the response by Dr. Vanders.

  • Am I the only one amused that this man’s name is one letter removed from being Ned FLanders? Definitely not as nice, though perhaps he does share a mean passive aggressive streak.

  • The actions of the Chancery official in Austin and PDQ’s mean-spirited comment that you traced to a similar body in D. C. both serve to illustrate a serious problem at the core of the U. S. Church: a legion of modernist spies in the employ of the Church (whether or not as volunteers). These are lay people who, since V II, have taken over too many functions of Priests and Religious. Most of them know only a protestantized, community-oriented, immanentist kind of Catholicism. Even the most orthodox of Bishops and Priests are encumbered with them. I don’t think there’s any solution until we reach the point of a smaller, openly persecuted Church.

  • Given some recent experiences, I sympathize with administrators who deal with homeschooling parents – like most people, they can be demanding and difficult, and by definition they may have less appreciation for the work of Catholic schools.

    Yes, homeschoolers run the gamut from soup to nuts (metaphor chosen deliberately). Even I find them irritating at times, and we homeschool. There is a skeptical, sometimes antagonistic mindset toward the local diocese–but there’s also appreciation. Back when Archbishop Daniel Flores was an auxillary bishop in Detroit, he gladly celebrated Mass for the Michigan Catholic Homeschoolers’ Conference in Lansing. I can’t tell you what a great impression that made on all present. And Bishop Mengeling sent a supportive note which was incorporated into the program.

    Which makes wholly gratuitous slaps like this extremely destructive. I’m sure it was cathartic for Dr. Vanders, being bishop for a day, but this one is going to take some doing to repair.

    I have to think the Bishop is going to do something to make amends on this one.

  • I have to correct you on one point. Bishop Aymond, despite pressure to establish a diocesan high school for the Catholic middle class, made it his priority instead to establish St. Juan Diego High School, to serve primarily the needs of the poorer and more numerous kids from east Austin. It’s been a massive success.

    I think that’s great. And I wasn’t criticizing Bishop Aymond. But I think the broader point still stands; only a small minority of all Catholic children attend Catholic schools, and an even smaller percentage of less wealthy children are able to attend (despite the laudible efforts of schools like St. Juan Diego HS). The upshot of Dr. Vanders’ statement still suggests that the real important Catholic education will be primarily (with a few exceptions) available to the upper middle class.

  • “I will, however, note that having looked up the IP address of the commenter I find that it is 208.78.150.3 and comes from a user at the NATIONAL CATHOLIC EDUCATIONAL ASSOC (NCEA) in Washington DC. Make of that what you will.”

    My wife having taught for years in Catholic schools notes that there are more than a few Catholic school administrators that are little different from their public school counterparts. Also some that are very good. Looks like Vanders and the NCEA fall in the former category.

  • Homeschooling is a joy sometimes, but also a sacrifice; it is undergone as an act of conviction by parents.

    It also is not ideal for every child.

    But for those children for whom it is ideal, it produces superior results even to good private schooling (albeit not by particularly large margins) and vastly superior results to typical government-run schooling (though only slightly superior to the best government schools).

    I said that it produces superior results, “for those children for whom it is ideal.” I suppose that’s a truism: If another option were able to produce better results, it wouldn’t be the ideal, now would it? But I phrased it that way to indicate that children differ from one another, and also parents differ: There is no one-size-fits-all education.

    Still, I suspect that homeschooling is the ideal — that is, the option which is best for the child and even for that child’s family as a whole — for a far larger number children than the number who are actually homeschooled.

    I wouldn’t be surprised at all if, given some opportunity for making a valid comparisons, we found that a society in which the majority of children were homeschooled for the majority of their childhood was healthier and happier and more productive than an otherwise-identical society in which our current mix of mostly-government, occasionally-private, and rarely-parental schooling was used.

    Anyway, prejudice against (or ignorance about) the practice remains common. And when one knows no homeschoolers personally — when one has not seen the thing being successfully done — it takes a great deal of courage and entrepreneurial verve to get going.

    It is therefore a good thing — a corrective to the existing prejudices and ignorance — when prominent Catholics (both clergy and laity, in apostolates and diocesan administrative roles and elsewhere) encourage homeschooling. And it is counterproductive when homeschoolers get the cold shoulder and are treated as the proverbial “red-headed stepchild.”

    Allow me to add that I have only one child old enough to be in school, and she is not quite home-schooled, nor is she quite private-schooled. For this child, we use University Model Schooling. She is at school two days a week, where she turns in assignments and receives new ones; she is at home the remaining three days, working on the assignments under the supervision of my wife. The result is much like really excellent private schooling (but for only about $1500 a semester), mixed with homeschooling (but in which my wife gets a break two days a week) and we like it quite a lot.

  • Seems much ado. Since I’m avoiding real work at the moment, I’ll go to the trouble of a fisk.

    Bishop Vásquez received your invitation to celebrate a Eucharistic liturgy for the fall homeschooling blessing Mass. Notes purpose behind letter.

    Bishop Vásquez believes Catholic education, and in particular Catholic school education, is an essential part of the life of the Diocese of Austin. States bishop’s opinion. It should be noted that this statement needn’t be taken as a criticism of homeschooling or any schooling. As you know, Catholic schools are at the heart of the mission of the church. Notes purpose of schools. I’m not seeing anything facially for anyone to disagree.

    Bishop’s presence at the homeschooling Mass would convey a contradictory message equating the importance of Catholic school education with Catholic homeschooling; I’m not much in the message department, but all this is saying is that a Catholic school education and homeschooling are not coequal. While I wouldn’t go so far as to claim officiating a mass is encouragement of homeschooling, I think it is a legitimate claim to make. I think people are reading between the lines and seeing a claim that homeschooling is illegitimate rather than the more modest claim. therefore, Bishop Vásquez must respectfully decline the invitation. A polite end to the letter.

    As far as the claim of parents being the primary educators of children, I think a partisan interpretation is being offered as a normative one. I would hazard to say that there are few if any church officials that see church education programs as being in opposition to parents being primary educators of their children.

  • What a shame. I do hope an apology is issued, a sincere one, and not an “I’m sorry you misread this” as MZ seems to indicate. I am morally certain that this note did not originate from the Bishop, and it should be brought to his attention.

    I was educated in Catholic Schools my entire life, in a total of four different dioceses. My parents sacrificed dearly to pay for our tuition. I can tell you from experience that they are great at times, and at other times they are less-than-ideal. I now homeschool. That should give you an idea of my current opinion.

    We have a son with autism. Two years ago he could barely say full sentences. Now he’s reading C.S. Lewis and other childrens’ literature at the age of seven. One school official gave my wife the best insult/compliment ever, when he told her, “There is no way you brought him this far. You had help.” She wasn’t being flattering, she was being accusative.

    My children know the faith. They have high academic achievement, AND, they have MANY friends, who are all well-behaved and polite. I don’t have to worry about my children being picked upon. I don’t have to worry about them feeling left-out, or picking up nasty habits. As great as Catholic schools can be, a dedicated homeschooling curriculum will always be superior. A great teacher can never be a substitute for a loving parent.

  • “a Catholic school education and homeschooling are not coequal”

    What did you have in mind, MZ?

  • “As you know, Catholic schools are at the heart of the mission of the church.”

    Actually, I disagree. If it is at the heart of the mission of the Church, educating only 5000 students suggests it badly underserves the people of the Diocese in that vital mission.

    Perhaps the bishop is going to roll out a massive expansion, opening a lot more schools. If so, then I withdraw my objection.

  • As far as the claim of parents being the primary educators of children, I think a partisan interpretation is being offered as a normative one. I would hazard to say that there are few if any church officials that see church education programs as being in opposition to parents being primary educators of their children.

    Agreed, and I think it would be wrong to suggest that parochial schools are wrong or inferior to homeschooling for this reason. That said, it seems rather strained to suggest that parents are the primary educators of their children — and yet somehow parents educating their children is at odds with the church’s emphasis on Catholic education.

    As for the fisk — well, all I can say is that I think it takes straining beyond the bounds of credibility to suggest that the email was meant as anything other than a “we are doing the Church’s work and you are at odds with it” message.

  • I’ll go to the trouble of a fisk.

    Why? Your point is contrived.

  • I’m with Darwin about the fisk. We can analyze each word, what it says and what it doesn’t say. But at the end of the day, it is hard to see this as anything other than adversarial to Catholic homeschooling.

  • Whew! The whole Catholic homeschooling phenomenon is a two-edged sword. Out here in California, land of fruit and nuts, we have been blessed with many energetic and devoted homeschooling parents–mostly moms– and with brick-and-mortar Catholic schools all up and down the State. However, our so-called Catholic schools are mostly populated by non-Catholic children and their parents. Very few schools can boast more than 51-percent Catholic populations. School administrators–lay or religious–have to cave to the demands of the majority of the parents. As a group, most of these parents favour a more secular orientation and do not vigorously stand up for ALL of Catholic teaching on social and moral issues. Like any parents, they want their kids to be well educated and leave these schools able to compete with the best. Yet, our kids are not leading the pack academically. They are barely aware of Church teaching on so many issues which impact our youth, and their liturgical understanding is stunted and ‘Protestant-ized’. Our brick-and-mortar schools are a joke that used to be private, but is now known to all: especially the kids.
    Homeschool parents are circling the wagons in the face of this decline. But, with that circling comes a retreat. Instead of staying on the barricades and demanding that Catholic schools be Catholic and strive for excellence, the departure of these families leaves a vacuum which is filled with the same stuff that fills a Hoover. Once their own, and banding together, homeschool families become a church unto themselves only reflecting the needs, desires, and hopes of their own circle. These parents come to see the parish as an annex of their homeschool and their domestic church. The family becomes an idol. That is not healthy, and it’s not Catholic.
    It is the unambiguous duty of the Bishop to correct this and bring back balance to our families and our schools. If he does not, he will answer to the top ‘Bishop': Our Lord, the greatest and best teacher.

  • Magistra Bona,

    This point keeps coming up in various forms or another … that some homeschoolers see themselves as the church and the parish as an extension. Certainly if such an error exists, then it should be corrected by the Bishop. The question is to what extent is such an attitude prevalent. Further, if it is prevalent, then why is that the case? Before a message such as that from Mr. Vanders comes out, it seems to me that a case should be made the there is a need of correction.

    Further, the comment keeps coming up about whether or not a parent should see homeschooling as “better” than the parish school. I think that a blanket statement either way is patently false, but I also think it is false to think that the case can’t be made in specific, individual cases. The very reason one chooses the homeschool should in fact be that the education (academic and moral) is better. Whether or not this is true depends entirely on both the school and the parents.

  • Magistra,

    I think the question you bring up is important, but perhaps a bit more complex than you’re giving it credit for here. It is true that in many parts of the country (Austin is not one of them — there there is actually more demand for Catholic schools than there are seats in said schools or funds to build more) there are not enough Catholics interested or able to attend Catholic schools to fill all the seats, and so the identity of Catholic schools gets diluted as they become generic private schools subsidized by the Church.

    Such a situation becomes self perpetuating after a while, with the increasing secularization of the schools driving away more Catholic parents and thus feeding into the secularization.

    However, in such a situation, I think it’s at least as worthwhile to ask: Are there perhaps too many Catholic schools, or are they being administered according to the wrong principles if they do not seem desirable or affordable to the majority of Catholic parents?

    I think that you are right to point out the dangers of Catholic homeschoolers retreating into their own world and ceasing to see themselves as members of their parish and their diocese. However, if that is in fact not healthy, as you say, I would think that would make it all the more desirable for the diocese and the bishop to seek a close relationship with homeschooling organizations which draws those families into the diocese and the parish, not to intentionally push those people away, thus effectively forcing Catholic homeschooling families to “go it alone”.

    Also, forgive me, but I can’t see it as very realistic to imagine that Christ is going to ask bishops at their final judgment, “And did you make sure to give it to those homeschooling families in the jaw so that they’d understand the importance of enrolling in parish schools?” There are a lot of responsibilities bishops have towards their flocks, but it’s hard to see browbeating people for not enrolling in the diocesan schools as being one of the top responsibilities which Peter and the disciples were commissioned with.

  • Phillip,

    The NCEA, National Catholic Education Association, seems to have a problem with homeschooling.

    To be fair, someone within that organization has a personal animus towards practicing Catholic ‘practices’.

    If this person is the same one trolling around the Catholic Blogosphere, it may be safe to say that he is what Pope Benedict XVI calls a “professional” Catholic (in name only).

  • I would hazard to say that there are few if any church officials that see church education programs as being in opposition to parents being primary educators of their children.

    Let’s hope so! But what on earth was Dr. Vickers saying when he wrote the following:

    the Bishop’s presence at the homeschooling Mass would convey a contradictory message equating the importance of Catholic school education with Catholic homeschooling

    Your ‘fisk’ (deliberate scare quotes) doesn’t really help much here, which is too bad since this was the main point under discussion. Why should homeschooling be considered less important than Catholic schools? Catholic schools exist to help parents educate their children; they are a means to an end, and parents (rather than Dr. Vickers) are tasked with determining the best way to achieve that end.

  • I work for a Catholic school in the diocese of Austin and, now having attended countless meetings and workshops led by Dr. Vanders, I remain positively baffled as to a) why Archbishop Aymond hired him, b) why he was not fired within his first year of service, and c) why Bishop Vasquez has not fired him yet. The email he sent does not surprise me at all.

  • The young folk I’ve met and have taught who have been home-schooled are an impressive lot. They are, typically: virtuous, academically capable, creative, responsible and compassionate toward others. To put it succinctly, they are model Catholics.

    By contrast, too many kids I’ve tutored from Catholic schools are not much different than kids educated in the public school system. Typically, they exhibit a strong sense of entitlement, lack focus, excuse their irresponsibility and lack of motivation and routinely put themselves before and above others. They grow up to be Catholics in name only.

    If I had children, given what I see on a daily basis, I’d want my kids home-schooled.

  • Perhaps Bishop Vasquez was unable to attend due to a schedule conflict, asked Mr. Vanders to send his regrets, and Mr. Vanders embellished the response with his own opinions of Catholic homeschooling. Apparently Mr. Vanders’ feelings about homeschooling are well-known. Is the same true of Bishop Vasquez’s views on the subject?

  • Let me step in just briefly and say, as the author: I do not want this threat to become an attack on parish or diocesan schools. They have their place, and they do very important work. As someone who went to parish schools for six years and was homeschooled for the remaining six (and who now homeschools his children) I certainly do not think that homeschooling is the only good choice for parents or that “all good Catholic parents” homeschool.

    I think the major problem with Superintendent Vanders’ email is that it suggests that homeschooling and Catholic schools are in some sort of competition in which one must win out over the other. In reality, the important thing is that children be educated and formed in their faith. Institutional Catholic schools and Catholic homeschooling are both means to that end, and one may be more appropriate than the other in specific circumstances or for specific parents.

    So I want to make sure that the thread does not turn into a venue for bashing the good work that Catholic schools do.

  • DC,

    Your post is very prudent.

    I think Dr. Vanders is the one coming around as the one who has a problem with homeschooling.

    I normally (try) to wait a year or two before ascribing responsibility to a new bishop so as to give him an opportunity to correct problems within his new diocese.

    I think Bishop Vasquez has barely been there a year (For What It’s Worth).

  • To better exemplify, rather than a homeschooling group, take this to be an independent Catholic school. (It could be any private association for that matter.) If a diocesan official were to decline to participate for the reason that the independent school was not part of the diocese’s mission, I imagine there would be a lot of the same complaints and hurt feelings. Declining doesn’t make independent Catholic schools wrong or make them 2nd class schools. Regardless of how laudatory their efforts, they would still not be part of the diocesan goals.

  • So, are we all agreed that there’s a problem? Since your bishop in Austin hired the problem, let him fix it. You don’t need a homeschool or a parochial school education to figure this one out. Easy A.

  • I plead ignorant to the fact that Catholic schools are at the heart of the mission of the Church. My understanding is that the salvation of souls through the sacraments and preaching of the Gospel were at the heart of the mission. Not sure what that says about me or Mr. Vanders knowledge or worldview, but seeing as the Apostles set out preaching and bringing the sacraments to the faithful rather than setting up K-12 schools, I’m tempted to feel comfortable with my understanding.

  • Our Catholic school has a homeschooling association. (I have no idea what it does.) It would seem that both Catholic schools and homeschoolers could work together to fulfill the Church’s mission.

    A good family friend normally homeschooled but was unable to for a few years due to illness so her kids then attend Catholic school until she could again. I am sure there is more of this type of cross-over going on but I cannot cite anything to support my opinion.

    I think providing more options to parents is a good thing (as long as it adheres to Catholic teaching and orthodoxy).

  • I’m curious as to what specific objections the superintendent has to homeschooling. Is it that homeschoolers are not as well-catechized as Catholic school kids? Surely not. I would assert that the average Catholic homeschooler is much better catechized than a Catholic school student. Is it academic objections? Again, homeschoolers do very well academically as compared to brick-and-mortar students. They also rank higher on social maturity and being psychologically well-adjusted versus their peers. I would love to hear a concrete argument about how the average Catholic homeschooler would be better off in Catholic school than he or she is right now.

    So, what is Dr. Vanders’ objection? The only thing I can figure is that either 1) he feels threatened by the homeschoolers excelling over the parochial students in most every area, or 2) he resents the lost revenue. If it’s #1, that’s not very Christian of him, and I would certainly hope that Bishop Vasquez does not agree with, or condone, such an attitude. If it’s #2, I suggest he take a look at your average Catholic homeschooling family. A large majority would never be able to afford tuition for one or two kids, let alone the large families that many have. We’re talking single-income families, most of whom I know scrimp and save as it is. No cash cow here, I’m afraid.

    I won’t even get into the many issues of so many of our Catholic schools being Catholic in name only, or only on some issues. But I would suggest to Dr. Vanders not to trouble himself with the supposed specks in the homeschoolers’ eyes, and rather to turn his gaze to the mirror.

    As far as the homeschoolers removing themselves from their parish and diocesan community, from what I’ve observed, it tends to be the opposite–that they are highly involved members of the church. Not only the parents, as RE teachers/aides, committee members, etc., but also the children, as altar servers, volunteers, active participants in non-Mass activities, etc. I know that at our parish, our RE classes would be in unbelievably desperate straits, and our VBS would probably not even happen, were it not for the homeschooling moms and teens who volunteer. And at least one or two homeschoolers seem to be altar servers at every Mass, too.

    Just daydreaming here, but if Catholic schools would be willing to allow students to take classes on an a la carte basis, now *that* would be awesome.

  • Magistra Bona said:

    Instead of staying on the barricades and demanding that Catholic schools be Catholic and strive for excellence, the departure of these families leaves a vacuum which is filled with the same stuff that fills a Hoover.

    This is a rather haphazard assessment.

    Are you suggesting that parents continue to send their children to schools you claim to be inferior, so that by doing so they can make the schools better at the expense of their childrens’ education and Catholic upbringing? Would you also recommend that your child marry a non-Catholic spouse, vs. the Catholic spouse he or she loves, just so your child can make the non-Catholic a Catholic? The idea that we should enroll our children in schools to improve the schools, which are supposed to be about the business of improving our children is the stuff of nonsense.

    You then wrote:

    Once their own, and banding together, homeschool families become a church unto themselves only reflecting the needs, desires, and hopes of their own circle.

    Accusing Faithful Catholics of being a “church unto themselves” is rather ironic coming from a person I suppose is not the Pope. If you are the Pope, then I offer you my sincerest apologies. But if not, then by doing so you have committed the error you accuse homeschoolers of doing. You have made yourself the magisterial authority on who is and who is not a part of the real Church, vs. a church unto themselves.

  • Regarding Catholic schools being the heart of the mission of the Church… I suppose the argument can be made as this is one medium by which the Gospel can be transmitted to the faithful. However, the general rule seems to be that children pick up their parents’ religious practices (or lack thereof) despite the best efforts of the parochial school, youth ministry, or the RE/CCD program. There are exceptions to this generality, but the general trend stands.

    This is most likely why homeschoolers as a set, seem to out perform their peers in the public schools, and to a lesser degree, the private schools.

    That said, the hostility from Vanders and PDQ are unnecessary. Volumes could be written refuting their specious claims.

  • Doesn’t surprise me at all…they’re afraid that students taught outside their system might actually believe in God or something.

  • Dr. Vanders’ makes an error in his thining that is far too wide spread, that the term ‘Catholic schools’ does not include homeschools. I guarantee that my children attend a Catholic school, it just happens to be run in our home! I would also ask, in Dr. Vander’s opion, what makes a school a Catholic school? Do a few prayers before and after school (and maybe before meals), a religion class thrown in once a day and maybe a Mass once a week or so make a school a Catholic school? We choose to homeschool for many reasons, one being that both the curriculum and enviroment at most parochial schools is not very Catholic.

  • Watch what you say about the Bishop if you are Catholic. As Church Father St. Ignatius of Antioch teaches us, the Bishop is the link the faithful have to our Faith in whatever area we live in:

    “Wheresoever the bishop appears, there let the people be, even as wheresoever Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”

    With that said, it is clear Austin homeschoolers have too distant a relationship wih the Bishop. You can blame the Bishop all you want (which will get you nowhere), but he is just one man. If you want to improve that relationship, homeschoolers need to be more positively visible to the Bishop. Participate in more diocesan functions that impress the Bishop. And yeah, it is a political game, and politics have always been the scourge of the Church. But it only has to be a scourge if you let it be. This isn’t a humongous campaign I’m talking about. It’s simply letting the Bishop know the homeschoolers in his diocese are a blessing to him. Sorry to put it all on you guys, but that’s just the way it is! By the way, I’m also an Austin homeschooling parent, so I’ve now committed myself to the same cause. :-D But we can do it if we have a positive attitude and work together!

  • I don’t know, Magistra Bona, what you say doesn’t square with the homeschoolers I have known. I am not homeschooling. But I am considering it. I don’t know anything about Catholic schools in either Austin or in CA for that matter. I do know that where I am there is no support for homeschoolers from Catholic leadership. But Catholic homeschoolers do quite a lot in the parishes, including teaching religious ed and myriad other things. As well they are active in the wider community. It just isn’t the way it is, this “annex” as you say — I think that they see themselves cooperating with local parish.

    Since where I am the Catholic world does not recognize them at all, they do a lot also socially with Protestants. In some places Catholic homeschoolers get together with unschoolers of all faiths or no faiths. All of which, the contribution in the parish, the social interaction with other faith outlooks, well I would say it’s all VERY Catholic. That is what we are all about as Catholics, being in the world.

    And then you say that in your Catholic schools in CA that half of the kids are not Catholic, and the ones that are haven’t formation and the schools then refuse to emphasize a basic Catholic formation. That to me, strikes as you say, “not Catholic”.

    The Church itself deems the vocation of parents to educate their children in the faith as a domestic church, the Church uses that term, and since it does it certainly does not correlate that people who homeschool “make the family an idol”. Society as well as the Catholic world benefit in innumerable ways from these Catholic families and the fact they are what they are supposed to be, what they are called to be, a family. How one chooses to educate their children in the faith, it could be Catholic school, it could be homeschool, it could be religious education at parish, and it could be all of those depending on the child, the time and the circumstances. But all parents regardless of which option still have the responsibility to educate their children. It is a vocation. All Catholic families are domestic churches and the parishes and dioceses have to recognize and find better ways to support them right now.

    I suppose that overall it’s a small drawback that a local diocese treats homeschoolers like dirt. But it’s not everything, to get the nod of the local Bishop. That’s the thing about Catholic homeschooling, you can really do quite a lot, quite creatively, with very little to go on.

  • Dear Darwin, that letter was most regretable. I’ve many friends who homeschool their children – all of whom do quite well.

    I am intrigued that you were able to look up the ip address and determine that it came from the NCEA. I have my own blog http://restore-dc-catholicism.blogspot.com/ and the tools therein also allow me to record the ip addresses of commenters. However, there must be something additional that detects the owners of the ip addresses. What might that be? I’ve had some nasty comments in the past, even some borderline threats. If you’d point me in the right direction to obtaining that took, I’d be grateful. Thank you.

  • Janet, you may want to try sitemeter. Here’s a link to this site’s sitemeter so you can browse around.

    http://www.sitemeter.com/stats.asp?site=s32americancatholic

    Some people like to use the potential anonymity of the Internet as a free pass to remind us of how fallen we are as creatures. Tools like sitemeter at least lets you make it more challenging for them to beat you over the head with it.

  • Janet,

    If you have the IP address of a commenter, you can feed it into an IP lookup site such as:

    http://www.ip2location.com/free.asp

    This will provide you with the city and the domain in which the commenter originates. If the person is posting from home, it will often just say “Road Runner” or “Cox Communications” or some such, but if the person is posting from a school or place of business it will state what network the person is using.

    Now, in my opinion, it’s a bit aggressive to out someone’s place of work in response to the comment. The only reason I did it in this case was that the comment itself was somewhat offensive and the commenter was clearly abusing anonymity by both using fake email addresses and using multiple different online handles. That, combined with an accusation of racism, rubbed me the wrong way — especially given that someone working for an upstanding organization like the National Catholic Education Association should know better than to troll against Catholic homeschoolers.

  • The author is absolutely correct — I’m an Austin Catholic whose daughter has been added to a long waitlist at our local Catholic elementary school. I don’t see why Dr. Vanders has to criticize my next best alternative when Catholic school isn’t even available for me. Very poor leadership skills!

  • Steve,

    I certainly agree that Catholic homeschoolers, if they want any recognition, should be active in their parishes and in the diocese — though I think we (if I can still call myself that after having moved out of state six months ago) have done a pretty good job of that. After all, one of the priests ordained last year had been homeschooled, and came from a large homeschooling family. And I know a lot of other homeschoolers who, like me, were very actively involved in multiple activities around their parish.

    That said, I certainly don’t think that the bishop is in any way obligated to notice homeschooling or attend homeschooling events. It strikes me as totally understandable to decline the invitation to the Blessing Mass. My only beef is with the implication in the response sent out by the Superintendent that homeschoolers are acting in a way contrary to the “heart of the mission” of the diocese, and thus actively should not be noticed because it would be bad for the Church.

  • I can’t imagine that Bishop Vasquez’s mind on the matter is expressed in that letter.

    This Darth Vanders took some liberties with his response, thinking, I’m sure, that no one of import (to his mind) would ever hear or see it.

  • When we were starting with the education of our children we interviewed the nun that was the head of the schools in the diocese. Funny, no matter what “brand” of schools she was head of I would not allow her to be responsible for my childrens education. It sounds like this administrator is of the same ilk.
    The difference between many catholic home educators and their local catholic schools is that they are Catholic first and educators second compared to educators first and maybe catholic if they have to be.

  • “I don’t see why Dr. Vanders has to criticize my next best alternative when Catholic school isn’t even available for me.”

    Catholic school also isn’t available to many children with autism or other special needs. I have inquired about enrolling my daughter, who is autistic, in Catholic schools several times and have always been turned away. We homeschooled her for several years but had to give it up due to a change in our employment circumstances, so now we are stuck with public schools. Catholic school tuition would also be prohibitively expensive in any event.

    The problem with education bureaucrats of any stripe — public or parochial — is their tendency to forget that schools exist to assist the parents in fulfilling THEIR duty to be the primary educators of their children… not the other way around.

  • I’m in complete agreement with Elaine Krewer…

    A Catholic school education is simply not available for our daughter with Down Syndrome. Several years ago, my husband and I inquired about enrolling her in ANY of the Catholic schools in our large city. We were repeatedly told that our Diocesan schools offered “college preparatory” curriculums, and there was no place for a student with special needs.

    We ended up home-schooling her, and countless graces and blessings have flowed from this decision.

    However, I am extremely disappointed in the mixed message that the Catholic schools in our Diocese are sending. The Church teaches that all life is sacred — and this, of course, includes all children with special needs. But ironically, a parochial education for these same children is unavailable. The message is clear: “Parents of special children, you’re on your own.”

    How tragic.

  • As a Houstonian( Bishop Vasquze’s former Residence) and Home Schooler of 5 children, I would just like to say that the Bishop from time to time did say Mass for our Home Schooling Group at the beginning of the year as well as at our Home Schooling Conference. We had 3 bishops, so I would imagine he took his turn because of their schedules.

    Suz, you hit the nail on the head. At this point in our lives, my husband works 2 jobs so that I can stay at home and teach our children, (ironically, his second job is DRE for elementary education at our parish and I substitute for him because we can’t get enough volunteers). The only Catholic School near me is new and adding a grade every year at 5K/child and only 1 child eligible to attend at this point, it would be difficult to send my child there. My children are well educated in their academics as well as the faith. I have my oldest ,16yo son, considering the priesthood. My children are altar servers and volunteer with the various age levels that they can work with throughout our parish. As well as the annual Bazzaar and other events that we attened as a family at church and in our community. In short, we don’t live under a rock.

    We don’t hide from our parish we embrace it, we don’t hide from the world either and we are not the exception to that rule, it’s the ones who do hide that are the exceptions.

    Home Schooling is NOT so stigmatized as it once was in the 80’s and we no longer have to worry about the truant officer at our door, especially in the state of Texas.

  • “This Darth Vanders took some liberties with his response, thinking, I’m sure, that no one of import (to his mind) would ever hear or see it.”

    That may be. I know in my diocese, the diocesen paper routinely does not publish letters that are critical of the one-sided presentation of social issues. (These written by myself and others.) Only occasionally is a letter published which is usually poorly worded or doesn’t well present CST and its openness to a variety of solutions. Immediately following will be a rebuttal with cherry-picked lines from CST. The most notable recent example was the Wisconsin Teacher’s Union. They presented Bishop Listecki’s letter but conveniently omitted Bishop Morlino. Of course then began to declare that Catholics must support the Wisc. Union.

  • In response to Vander’s statement of the bishops belief that “Catholic schools are at the heart of the mission of the church,” Dale Price said

    “Actually, I disagree. If it is at the heart of the mission of the Church, educating only 5000 students suggests it badly under-serves the people of the Diocese in that vital mission. “

    Dale is exactly right. Educating Catholics children should be one of the items at the heart of a Diocese (along with educating adult Catholics and evangelizing non-Catholics, and spreading the Gospel in general). But that just isn’t the case. I send my kids to Catholic school, and am on my Parish’s school board. I am seriously considering homeschooling – not because I don’t like Catholic schools, but because I can’t afford them. If these were a priority – then there the Diocese’s in this country would find a way to make them affordable to Catholics.

    But the truth is that in most places, people are afraid to even say that sending your child to public school is dangerous to their spiritual development – but it is. We may homeschool one or more of our kids, but it will be because we cannot afford a truly Catholic school (as opposed to CINO schools), and we do not wish to send our children into the lion’s den of public education. I wish the Bishops really did see Catholic education as central to the Church. But their actions speak far louder than words written by flunkies attacking the faithful.

  • The villains in this drama are Catholics who beggar their co-religionists by sending children to government schools. They are the greatest enemies of Catholic schools, I’ve found in my 61 years. And the greatest enemies of homneschoolers. As long as the majority of Catholics send their children to be schooled in government schools, no finger pointing between Catholic school and home school families will bear much fruit.

  • I find this letter very disturbing.

    We sent our first two children to a Catholic School for the first 2 or 3 years of elementary school. We had some issues with inappropriate discipline from a teacher and decided to homeschool after our oldest completed 2nd grade.

    We discovered at the time that the same social issues we wished to avoid by not sending our children to public school were appearing at the Catholic School. With a very active Catholic Homeschooling Association in Austin, we felt fortunate to be able to Homeschool and remain within a Community of Catholics.

    Now, with a large family, sending the children to Catholic schools would not be financially possible anyway.

    I find Mr. Vander’s apparent attitude toward homeschooling disturbing and oddly self-serving.

    I truly hope this does not reflect our Bishop’s attitude towards homeschooling.

  • “The villains in this drama are Catholics who beggar their co-religionists by sending children to government schools.”

    Give me a break. With what many Catholic schools charge many Catholic parents simply cannot afford to send their kids to Catholic schools. In many areas of the country there are simply no Catholic schools to go to in any case within a reasonable driving distance. Additionally, considering the religious instruction that I am aware of in some Catholic schools, I can completely support parents who decide that they can do a better job of passing on the Faith themselves.

  • Although this is a difficult and somewhat unfair situation for the homeschoolers, the way to think of it is as an opportunity, not just as a defeat. I mean that one ought to keep in mind that a deeper pastoral understanding of this homeschooling movement eludes many bishops, simply because they are often unfamiliar with it. The history of homeschooling is rife though with stories of excellent pastors who at first were hostile to the idea of homeschooling only to change their thinking when seeing the example and witness of holy Catholic families and their parents’ perspectives and experiences. The lay people simply put have way too much control and de facto authority in diocesan schools in general. Many of these bishops too, if they’re very young, are not completely familiar with the educational distortions present in their own parochial school systems, trusting too much as they often do the parochial and diocesan educational beurocrats with insufficient critical oversight. With 97% of Catholic mainstream parents contracepting, and teachers largely drawn from this larger group, most dioceses unfortunately still don’t require their teachers to take any oath of fidelity or anything remotely like it (an exception might be Bishop Vasa in Oregon), so there will inevitably be problems and parents naturally learn about it first. But patient and persevering witness can overcome these roadblocks, and the perceived hurt to families in this case likely will open doors with this bishop — an opportunity!

    I’d suggest reaching out patiently and persistently to the bishop and asking for a dialogue or series of informal meetings, where info can be exchanged not only about homeschooling but also about the growing and ever-more-successful private Catholic school movements where fine and experienced catholic educators have begun independent schools, represented by movements such as NAPCIS (nat. association of private catholic independent schools). Don’t let the response of a diocesan beurocrat shut down the correspondence on such a key issue touching also on local Catholic unity.

    Praise God for the vocation of holy Catholic marriage and parenting, and even for the difficulties it brings!

    Dominic M. Pedulla MD
    Catholic homeschooling father of 9
    Catechist, cardiologist, family planning specialist

  • Homeschooling attracts people for many reasons — some educational excellence, some family closeness, and some have no other affordable option. I have found that there are a number of families where I live that must homeschool because Catholic education is not affordable to them. Dr. Vanders should be ashamed for humiliating the poor in this way.

  • The villains in this drama are government school patrons. Refund to Catholic school parents their taxes to the school district and to the state and state sales taxes used to support government schools. The cash in Catholic parents’ pockets rises dramatically. Their ability to patronize or even to create Catholic schools rises accordingly. And the ability of government school Catholics to beggar their co-religionists effectively evaporates.

    The Wichita Diocese provides tuition-free Catholic education for K-12. They ask for a tithe of 5% of net income. It’s a much better bargain than ever rising taxes to fund morally bankrupt government schools.

    The strongest enemies of Catholic schools I’ve found in 25 years as a parent of Catholic school and university students, the most energetic enemies are government school Catholics who resent the example of Catholic schools. Fights to support Catholic schools often pit Catholic school parents against those who partonize, and not rarely are employed by, government schools. I take it as a simple fact of life. Both Catholic schools and home schools are far preferable to government schools. No child’s faith will be enhanced by attending government schools. We will never evangelize this society by sending our children to government schools. The villains of this drama are those who beggar their fellow Catholics and patronize government schools.

  • Patience, folks. Homeschooled Catholics (my wife and I have three – wish we had more) are as a group very young. Where do you think our future bishops are going to come from, homeschoolers or parochial schools?

    Also, no one has yet commented on the schooling our Lord received. Isn’t the school of Nazareth the original Catholic homeschool?

  • “Refund to Catholic school parents their taxes to the school district and to the state and state sales taxes used to support government schools.”

    I have long supported school vouchers but that is simply not the case today in almost the entire nation. Without such assistance the elementary tuition of 3,383 per year and secondary tuition per year of 8,787, these are averages from the National Catholic Education Association, is simply out of reach of most Catholic parents.

  • Wow! Ouch! What a gratuitous slap. I pray that this gentleman will familiarize himself with the concept of subsidiarity. It’s a doctrine of the church, and JPII commented on it quite a bit.

    I think that he might also be (pleasantly) surprised to meet the many families I know who homeschool and also have some of their kids in Catholic or public school. People homeschool for all sorts of reasons, and those reasons change over time. Many large families begin homeschooling because Catholic school is financially out of reach. Some homeschool for academic excellence, or because their kids have special needs or special talents. Most, if not all, have chosen to homeschool after prayerful discernment. The high number of vocations coming out of homeschooling families also speaks for itself.

    I also found the post-er who accused homeschoolers of racism to be uninformed to the point of being comical. That individual would be surprised to meet my family, and many of the other families with whom we homeschool. Let’s just say we don’t fit the picture.

    One final thought: would he be as hostile to a similar request from public school families, I wonder….

  • I am a Catholic (by God’s Amazing Grace).
    I am a homeschool parent (who sees the truth in the pros and cons that exist in all teaching environments).
    AND I am seeing the HIDDEN GIFT in the rejection received:

    Does Christ not invite us/you to suffer with Him?
    Does He not ask us to turn the other cheek?
    Does He not show us how to wear a crown of thorns?

    It is Lent…Holy Week…the letter a gift…an invitation to you, to us, the homeschool community to take up the cross and to walk with Christ. Accept it graciously and unite “the sting of this bite” with God’s suffering…so many of our children are in need…Columbine comes to mind…the children who do not live with the love and grace of God can use our prayers.

    Peace be with all…

  • P.S.
    The Divine Mercy Novena begins tomorrow…Good Friday.
    My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, let us forgive us our trespasses and pray for one another in a spirit of love and mercy. JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU!

  • Kiernan what a great point!

  • One of the unspoken facts of government schools is that the gentry patronize them. Open your yellow pages and look at the rosters of doctors, lawyers, real estate developers, stock brokers, bank presidents, corporate presidents, and so on. In each city where we’ve lived, a clear majority of these folks patronize the government school system. A clear minority of these gentry partonize Catholic schools. Warren Buffet is a strong patron of government schools in Omaha; his kids went on the public subsidy to OPS. Every supervisor I’ve ever had sent their children to government schools, and they all earned more than I did.

    As high as Catholic school tuition is, and my wife and I find it barely affordable, how much more a burden it is to us when we have to cough up how many thousands yearly to subsidize government schools. That or be evicted from our homes. Catholic school tuition is too high, but the additional freight of supporting government school families is insult upon injury. Catholic school tuition is high but worth it; government school taxes are high and not worth it. Per student cost in government schools here where we live is north of $10,000 per child per year. Talk about expensive, and talk about holding my head under water to subsidize someone else’s choices.

    When a government school parent complains that they can’t afford Catholic school tuition, they saddle me with additional burdens to subsidize their choices. And I have never so much as heard a thankyou from any of the government school Catholics who burn through our tax dollars.

    More students in Catholic schools, all else being equal, brings down the cost per child. More parents with tax dollars returned to them are able to afford and to found more Catholic schools and lower the costs.

    The villains in this drama are government school Catholics. Give me either a home schooled child or a Catholic school child, but spare me the government school child and the thankless burdens they bring. And spare me any stories about what wretches those Catholic school kids are.

    Vatican II produced a document titled, if I recall correctly, Instruction on Christian Education. It forbids states from discriminating among the choices parents make in educating their children. Our government clearly does discriminate, and I am among those who find government monopoly schools morraly unjustified.

  • I am very impressed by many of the new comments, which I’ve been reading since I posted a few minutes ago. I especially appreciate the woman who asked that we all pray for each other and keep Holy Week in mind.
    The poster who said that she is on the wait-list for a Catholic school jogged my memory about something I’d like to share. It might help those who think that we (homeschoolers) are freaks. I used to think that too. As it turns out, most of us aren’t — the freak-to-nonfreak proportions in the HS community seem to be surprisingly similar to the general and Catholic-school population, IMHO.
    My husband and I assumed that we’d send out kids to Catholic schools. The first time that homeschooling EVER crossed my mind was when I was expecting my second child. I was standing at the office of our parish school with my one-year-old, trying to put her on the waiting list. The woman laughed and pointed at my belly and said, “I hope you mean THAT one, because you are waaay too late for THIS one (pointing to my daughter in the stroller).” I still figured that we’d find a way, but my husband and I decided that we should at least get to know some homeschoolers as a backup.
    Suffice it to say that the amazing parents and kids that we met won us over. That was seven years ago, we we pray, discuss, and think very diligently over our educational decisions for each kid and for each year. If some or all of my kids spend some time in Catholic schools at some point, I hope that they will have good experiences and be a blessing there.

  • Replying to this part of MZ’s fisk:

    <>

    I don’t think the fisk holds. Substitute out any two other groups of catholics, and you see the clear meaning of the message. Can’t say mass for Legion of Mary because it would somehow take away from pivotal role of the Franciscan sisters? Can’t say mass for Knights of Columbus, because the Seminarians are the future of the church? Can’t say mass for the knitting club, because doing so somehow undermines the makers of religious vestments?

    That would be nonsense. Saying mass for one (legitimate) group within the church in no way undermines the standing of some other group.

    I think Darwin inferred correctly, as to the plain meaning of the letter.

  • Adding: apparently I punctuated my reply in a way that made my quote of MZ disappear. If anyone is unclear which part I am referring to, I’ll re-post.

  • To Janine McDonald:

    I believe your sentiments, expressed at 12:36 this afternoon, while sincere, are seriously and perhaps fatally misguided. There are indeed times when one may “turn the other cheek” – when that person is the only one being harmed by the injury proffered. When others, such as our children, our Church and our culture at large are being harmed, we may NOT “accept it graciously” if that means assuming a passive and silent stance. If that sort of stance is what you mean by your series of questions about Christ is asking of us, the answer is a resounding NO! I might go a step further and say that such silence, when others beside us are being harmed, is sinful (and sanctimonious) cowardice. Sometimes we really do have to take a strong stand as did Deborah, as did Joan of Arc, as did the Crusaders, the soldiers who actually fought at Loretto, etc did. We are the Church Militant, not the “Church Meek and Mild”.

    While I do see that others are not responding, I need to rebut these errors lest others be unduly influenced by them. Have a TRULY blessed Easter.

  • Perhaps ask Cardinal DiNardo or someone from his office (have heard he has a few fans of homeschoolers in his inner circles) to work these issues out between either Ned & Bishop Vasquez and homeschoolers in his diocese or find a way to let it go. The law in Texas is on your side and you couldn’t ask for a more lax state than Texas for homeschooling. If Ned Vander has a prejudice, he answers first to God for his lack of charity, his lack of professionalism and his intolerance/lack of temperance (I’m somewhat referencing things he wrote on the diocesean website that would be good for someone who did decide to have a pow-wow with him and an omsbudsman—perhaps an unbiased priest). But I did bring this to Our Lord tonight in the Blessed Sacrament. Don’t be too troubled when you find yourself falling into various trials, right? “count it all a joy for the testing of your faith produces patience. Patience produces perserverance and perserverance produces character and character produces hope.”—paraphrasing James a good bit, but the gist of it. “My hope is in the Lord.” when it is in anything else, I find myself getting more discouraged and disappointed than I ought. He’ll help you and give you the people to help.
    I kind of like the gutsy nature of this article though. Grabs one’s attention, that’s for sure! Now just if it will give reconcilliation, right? God bless and best wishes to the Austin Catholic homeschoolers. Maybe even ask St. Catherine Drexel’s help. She founded a lot of Catholic schools in these parts of the country;)

  • In response to Janet’s perspective…

    I sincerely understand where you are coming from. You have moved me to look deeper for I do not want to lead anyone astray. If I may share more reflections of what my heart has pondered and seen since this afternoon:

    Jesus washes their feet…
    1 Corinthians 13
    St. Genevieve calling upon her community to have faith, fast and pray…
    Matthew 8:26

    Martin Luther King –
    The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
    Somehow we must be able to stand up before our most bitter opponents and say: “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you…But be assured that we’ll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.” (For me, these words – and MLK’s meek and mild actions in the fight for justice- are a great example of the CHURCH MILITANT!)

    Then there are the lessons taught by Mother Teresa –
    Humility is truth.
    Only humility will lead us to unity, and unity to peace.
    Be kind to each other – I prefer you to make mistakes in kindness, than that you work miracles in unkindness.
    We know that if we really want to love we must learn to forgive.
    Intense love does not measure – it just gives.
    The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for, and deserted by everybody. The greatest evil is the lack of love and charity, the terrible indiffernce toward one’s neighbor…

    I believe the plight of Austin’s Catholic Homeschool Community can understand the disease which Mother speaks of intimately. I see pain and angst because people are feeling unwanted, uncared for and deserted…denied the Greatest of Gifts by their Bishop and Brother…
    My eyes turn to the clock…it is 11:38 pm…my heart turns to THE AGONY IN THE GARDEN…so much blood flowing, His heart broken – THE PAIN OF REJECTION. But one bite does not deserve another. We must look to Christ on the Cross and continue to love in the spirit of charity – we must unite our pain with His and PRAY! Father, Forgive them…we must give in this way so we may receive true grace. We must have hope and believe and thank God for this opportunity to be Soldiers worthy of His Name. As DarwinCatholic points out, “this is a regrettably provocative opening in the relationship between homeschooling families and the Austin Diocese.” But this open wound was allowed by God; HE HAS NOT ABANDONED YOU! Stay focused on HIM, vigilant in virtue, faithful in prayer and Our Father in Heaven will resurrect and heal all members of the Church in the BODY OF CHRIST.

    And then there is Our Blessed Mother…what more do we need?

    A glorious EASTER blessing for you, too.
    Peace and Love

  • I agree that one must offer this up. But the Catholic in the world must also seek truth and justice. So the pursuit of truth and justice in this situation also calls for a correction of the wrong (which I believe is truly present) as well as an offering.

    To do otherwise is to abandon one’s vocation in the world.

    “And then there is Our Blessed Mother…what more do we need?”

    Nothing more. We offer up the wrong and with our Mother’s help work to correct it.

  • How about everyone here write the Bishop directly and make your feelings respectfully known?

  • I coached Little League for a very long time. I comment now that the only problem with kids in Little League is that they come with parents. I served on a Catholic school Board of Education for 10 years…same problem. It seems to me that the Bishop gave the invitation a truthful answer…people just don’t like the answer. The Bishop is right, “To teach the children of Jesus Christ and His Church” should be at the heart of the ministry of the Catholic Church. The best medium to do this is the Catholic schools. Unfortunately, not many Bishops stand for this commitment and the closings of an incredible history of development over 150 years is in dramatic jeapordy.

    The government school catholics, with their rousing commitment of an hour or so on Wenesday nights to train their children in the faith are part of the problem. Parents decide that curriculum is better elsewhere; or they want their children to have more diversity; or they are not going to subject their children to what they went through in a Catholic school; or; you name it…I have heard many more excuses de jour on why their darling children are better served at the government school. The real reason is generally found in their purses and billfolds. They do not want to make the sacrifices financially to send their children to the Catholic schools. Are you kidding me? Do these parents really believe their children will absorb the lessons of character development and integrity of person that happen each day in the Catholic school?

    Homeschool catholic parents, much of the same. Let me see, take 100 home schooled Catholic children and lets let the teaching interpretations of the Magisterium of the Roman Church filter through 100 parent groups that have decided that they can do it better than a faith based curriculum in their Catholic school? Right! And if you think that religioun curriculum is faulty, get out of your lazy-boy and get to your school board meetings and improve it. And if you think the social development of your home based child will be as well rounded sitting at the kitchen counter at your home every day than interacting with their Catholic schools student-body over 9 months per year-every day, not going to happen. Selfish decisions by parents to homeschool Catholic kids, with miniscule exceptions.

    And like the government school catholic (small c) parents, homeschoolers join in slapping the face of those that came before you to provide your children this Catholic school. Both parent group show lack of support by refusing participation in their local Catholic school when they make these alternative choices.

    You might review the social conduct going on in the government schools today. Should all the Catholic schools be gone someday, and the goverment is the only teacher of children…we will have a different world.

    Daniel M. Malone

  • Daniel is probably right that homeschoolers represent a diverse group and that not all of them homeschool for faith motivation. But it is true beyond any doubt that the main reason for the birth of the Catholic homeschool movement and for its flourishing over the years, however annoying for some to watch, was the existence — ongoing even today unfortunately in many cases — of corrupt sex ed programs and distortions/watering down the Catholic faith education which to a great extent still plague Catholic parochial schools. All one has to do to prove this is read the introduction to the vatican document The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality written, as the vatican says, in response to numerous pleas from all over the western world regarding deviant sex ed indoctrination in, among others and not excluding, Catholic schools. Or read what american bishop Donald Wuerl has recently written regarding the deficient state of Catholic catechesis over the last 40 years. Now Austin may be very different from OKC but I doubt it is different in the most fundamental essentials.

    And even though admittedly the financial and economic perspectives offer at best a partial or limited viewpoint, even here one should be respectful of the fact that homeschooling is certainly no economic windfall. Homeschoolers lose any benefit from tax dollars, and in most states have no right to any participation in extracurricular activities so must pay for these which have to be externally created (not sure about Texas but I believe it’s the same since the homeschool basketball programs I am familiar with in Houston, Dallas, and Austin and elsewhere in Texas all had to “go it alone” 100%). Hardly a boon when analyzed even solely from the materialist perspective. I have done both — sending my kids to parochial secondary schools as well as home-educating, and I can’t tell you for sure that the parochial institutions — despite steep tuitions — are any more expensive all in all. And one at the end of the day still has to ask if one got what was paid for — a true catholic education! And what about socialization? Jeez, is this still being brought up? I mean really? My main experience in OKC was that OKC homeschooling provided too many, not too few, opportunities for socialization. And I’m sure others will report the same.

    But more important than this is that the Church considers first of all the souls of the children and their formation/edification. This is the more important reason to choose homeschooling or any other method of schooling, because the first role of parents is to protect against ideologies — still rampant within Catholic institutions unfortunately — that would rob them of the faith and of their eternal salvation. For this none of us will escape the millstones discussed in Matthew 18, if we fail to protect our children’s souls. And it is often unfortunately too the negative socialization in the Catholic schools — this must be said however sadly — that provide a de facto distortion in Catholic attitudes which then must be corrected in the home. Sorry but it’s the truth.The parochial schools we still have to guard, protect, and convert. After all they are “ours” according to a certain concept of canon law. However they (the schools) have succeeded in many cases in distancing themselves from the oversight of watchful faithful Catholic parents, because a de facto schism exists in many dioceses and Catholic communities. Some will doubtless say this is too strong. But ask yourself how much success you’ve had lately in addressing liturgical abuses, for example, or teaching (the lack thereof mainly) about contraception, for another. I remember when in the 1990s we and numerous other parents complained about the secular hedonist sex ed programs in our oldest daughter’s schooling only to have all of us parents told “you are the only parents complaining bout this”. All of us were the only ones?

    So to return to address the main issue…homeschooling Catholics in this group in Austin who love the Church, love their bishop, love the Church’s institutions, should foster a dialogue with the bishop that will succeed in a mutually beneficial exchange and mutual deepening of understanding, without being unduly discouraged by beurocrats or any others interposed between Catholics and their bishop. This will benefit all.

  • Some of the later commenters are missing the point as to why Austin Catholic homeschoolers were surprised and offended by the e-mail.

    We don’t insist that we’re better than the diocesan and parish schools. We don’t mind if the bishop seems his first duty as to support the church schools–actually we expect it. We don’t demand that we be acknowledged and stroked and cooed over and told what a good job we’re doing.

    But we did expect that, GIVEN a decade of good relations between this diocese and its homeschoolers, without the antagonism characterizing so many dioceses; and GIVEN the high levels of parish involvement and orthodoxy on the part of homeschoolers that characterize this diocese; and GIVEN the friendliness, enthusiasm, and open support with which Austin homeschoolers greeted Bp. Vasquez … given all that, we expected that AT LEAST we would not be slapped in the face with an unprovoked rebuke when we invited, as every year, the bishop to our annual Mass.

    For Pete’s sake. Even my unsocialized homeschooled children know that, if you don’t want to accept someone’s invitation, you don’t go tell them that it’s because you don’t like them, you don’t approve of what they do, and there’s somewhere else you’d much rather be. You just RSVP with “Thanks, but I can’t make it that day.”

  • Mr. Malone, the Magisterium has always recognized that the education of children is primarily the responsibility and perogative of the parents. Not even the Holy Father may usurp natural law here – much less a parochial school. And no, I do NOT trust blindly any “faith-based curriculum” in parish schools more than parents.

    I’m a bit “long in tooth”. When I went to parish schools, the report cards always had this nice note to the parents, that said “parents are the primary educators of the children, schools are there to assist”. Sadly, that has waned; the fault lies as much with parental abdication as well as school arrogation.

    I salute those parents who take on homeschooling in obedience to their God-given duties and with the graces embued by the Sacrament of Matrimony.

  • “The family therefore holds directly from the Creator the mission and hence the right to educate the offspring, a right inalienable because inseparably joined to a strict obligation, a right anterior to any right whatever of civil society and of the state, and therefore inviolable on the part of any power on earth.”

    This is from Pope Pius X! encyclical “On Christian Education of Youth,” 1929.

    Nuf Said.

  • As the Second Vatican Council recalled, “Since parents have conferred life on their children, they have a most solemn obligation to educate their offspring. Hence, parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children. Their role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it.”

    –Pope John Paul II, “The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World”

  • Suz, thank you. The two quotes we have copied here show at LEAST 30 years of prevailing thought of the Magisterium of the Church telling of the parent’s primary obligation. No where does it state that it is to be in a Diocesan Parish School.

    Epic Fail Dr. Ned. Have you read Papal Encyclicals?

  • There’s no merit to “Doctor” Vander’s implied criticisms of home education. Our homeschooled (grades 1-12) kids have been accepted at the most prestigious colleges and universities, including those in the Ivy League. And they are devout Catholics.

    Like his counterparts in the government schools, “Doctor” Vander wants a monolopoly on the power and money (to the extent that it exists) in keeping all Catholic students under his control.

    And that’s exactly why so many parents choose home education. We don’t trust bureaucrats with our kids’ educations!

  • Your new Bishop would not have seen the invitation, I suspect. If your diocesan offices are the same as mine, a clerk would have opened the invitation and, taking note that it was to do with ‘schooling’. sent it to the local Catholic Education Office. The surest way to get a letter to the Bishop is to send it certified post, or hand deliver it to him personally.
    Where I live, the absence of truly Catholic religious education in Catholic schools, and the presence of materials that are damaging to a student’s Faith and general well-being, are the reasons that most homeschooling parents give for their heroic decision.

  • I would love to, and could afford to, send my five children to a Catholic school, if only I could find one that was truly Catholic. It is a growing trend, but has not spread far enough yet. As a military family who moves every few years, I can tell you that it only takes about ten minutes on a Catholic school website to tell if it is truly Catholic or not. If you haven’t figured it out in five minutes, just look at their reading lists. If none are on a saint or any other Catholic topic, don’t give it a second thought.
    When our local Catholic school system was in trouble, I attended a meeting to review a survey about the vitality of the school system. In a breakout session, I asked our pastor, who had graduated from that school system, when was the last time it produced a priest, brother, nun or sister. He could not recall the last time. I asked him if he was the only one produced from his time in school, and he could recall several others. Interestingly enough, that was nowhere in the survey about the vitality of the local Catholic schools. A few months later, my family attended the Mass at the regional Catholic homeschool conference. the Bishop said in his homily that he knew home schoolers were where his diocese’s vocations would come from. If the diocesan schools reform soon enough, great. We will be happy to contribute more of our charity, and our children to them. If not, we will continue to protect our children’s faith, and our home school produced religious will ensure future home school families are better treated. This is already happening in places around the country with strong parish-based home school groups, including onsite co-ops. Dr. Ned is simply behind the times and just doesn’t know it. I wonder how many religious his school system has produced under his care?

  • Bishop Aymond when he was in Austin also established St. Dominic Savio high school in the north west side of town for middle class Catholics. So Austin has the wealthy St. Michael’s Catholic Academy in the rich part of town, St. Juan Diego in the poorer part of town, and St. Dominic Savio.

    In any case, Catholic schools in Austin are expensive, even for tithing parishioners. When Catholic elementary school costs thousands to tens of thousands of dollars every year, some people cannot afford it.

    I cringe at the statement he made–probably thought no one but the small homeschooling group would ever see it–but he’s learned now that news can spread like wildfire through social media.

  • Offtopic (mostly):

    Hi all, my wife and I will possibly be moving to the Austin greater area within a couple years and have some flexibility as far as what area.

    One thing I would like to do is find a good solid parish and move close to that. Could anyone recommend a solid traditional and orthodox Catholic parish in the outskirts of Austin? I don’t want to be in the city; we want to have some space for our kids.

    Can anybody recommend a solid traditional Catholic Parish in a nice area of the outskirts of Austin for families?

  • Howdy “some guy”,

    I have heard good things about St. William in Round Rock. Round Rock is a satellite of Austin, about 30 minutes north of downtown. Plenty of families live up there and commute down.

    Here’s St. William’s website: http://www.saintwilliams.org/

  • some guy,

    St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Pflugerville (about 15 miles north of downtown Austin) is the parish we were members of, and we were certainly very happy there. It was also a parish where there were a number of large, orthodox Catholic families who were very active in the parish.

  • My wife and I will gladly put our 7 kids in the “Catholic” schools as soon as they (1) embrace a truly Catholic identity and curriculum; and (2) make tuition affordable for us Catholics who have more than 2.1 kids because, unlike the vast majority of the families in these schools, we actually follow Church teaching against artificial contraception.

  • My wife and I will be homeschooling our children here in Austin as well. We only very recently got married, so I don’t know the full state of the homeschool community or anything like that. When reading this letter, I highly doubted that Bishop Vasquez had anything to do with the rudeness or even stating that as his reason he could not go. Additionally, perhaps Vanders just simply chose his words foolishly, and didn’t realize how that statement would sound to the recipient. Nonetheless, it was certainly out of line. If you haven’t already, I would recommend some clarification from the Diocese about it, because I think it would be inappropriate for somebody to speak for the Bishop in such a way.

    @some guy
    Depending on which side of Austin you plan on living, I know both St Elizabeth in Pflugerville (first suburb north of Austin) and St William in Round Rock (2nd suburb north) are both wonderful parishes. I have been to a number of churches throughout Austin, and I can very certainly say that as a diocese we are extremely blessed to have a plethora of very holy, wise, and passionate priests serving in a variety of parishes. My wife works as St William where we both attend, it is a very large and beautiful church with wonderfully loving and wise priests. It is also a very very active parish.

  • I wrote a letter to the Bishop shortly after this article appeared asking if he would clarify his position and haven’t heard anything back yet. We’re in College Station and the community here would be interested in knowing. If anyone has had his position on Catholic Home Schooling clarified, would you please post?

  • Let me ask, as an outsider, something about Austin parishes. Are the priests regularly preaching on the immorality of contraception and sterilization? Has the bishop done so? Is it a noticeable pastoral priority in the diocese?

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