The Selfishness of Homeschooling

I spent several days last week with my husband’s high school teacher cousin and her husband who works for the teachers’ union in California.  To say they are Liberal would be to undersell their political stances in the same way that calling me a Conservative wouldn’t begin to cover it.  As they are nice people, it was an enjoyable weekend of back-and-forth political banter.  They support the President.  We don’t.  We both knew that going in which made any mention of politics more play than work.  Neither one was going to be persuaded which made it about the intellectual exercise.

No one offered any new arguments to me until we began to discuss education.  They seemed very interested in our decision to homeschool, the book I’m writing about it, and the children we’re raising.  They both conceded that we appear to be succeeding in raising and educating children who are both well-informed and socially normal.  It was then that she shook her head slightly and stated, “I think you’re doing a great job at it and you obviously have a love and a passion for teaching, which is what makes it even more selfish.  Not only are you keeping money out of the schools by not putting your children in them, depriving other children of the resources which could be purchased with that money, but you’re depriving those children of the opportunity to have you as a teacher.”


It’s not a new argument, to be sure.  I’ve been told many times that public schools are funded on a per-capita basis which means that our homeschooling keeps funds out of the public schools.  Our local school district would receive around $11,000 for each of my children per year, so by teaching them at home, I’m keeping $77,000 out of the local budget.  That money could be spent on computers, library books, or teacher salaries…or so the story goes.  In reality, I’ve never seen a government bureaucracy spend money that efficiently and I suspect that that $77,000 would not make much of a difference at all.

What is new to me is the idea that my teaching of my own children deprives other children of my brilliance. The social obligation which she assumed I should feel is based in her deep belief in the notion of Collectivism, the idea that what we are and what we can do somehow belongs as much to each other as it does to ourselves.  It’s a sort of communism of man. It is also an ideal which is central to Liberal ideology.  It requires a moral and cultural conformity which are the antithesis of the American experiment.

In choosing to educate my children at home, I’m not making a selfish statement but an Individualist one.  It is a decision which springs from my belief that the people in my household are my primary responsibility.  It comes from the idea that God has entrusted these children to me to raise, and that while I must be concerned with the well-being of my fellow men it should not come at the expense of these children.

I have heard it argued that the Christian position should be a Collectivist one.  It is the justification many Catholics make for voting for the Democrat Party.  There is a beauty in the ideal of the Brotherhood of Man, and just enough truth in it to make it almost right.  If only it didn’t require the subjugation of the family or the ownership of the individual by the group, but it does.  Their ideal would necessitate that I should turn away from the raising of my own children in favor of the need to educate the children of everyone else.  My ability to teach would be owned… and not by me.

So is it a selfish decision that I made to homeschool?  There may have been an element of that in my wanting to keep my babies at home and with me for as long as I possibly can.  On the other hand, while it may not be true for all children, this is the best choice for educating ours.  They are thriving and doing quite well as they learn at our kitchen table, much better than they would do elsewhere.  Our brief foray into traditional schooling showed us that quite clearly.  So for these children, the selfish thing would be to send them elsewhere, because giving my life over to teaching them is the task which God has given me to do.

18 Responses to The Selfishness of Homeschooling

  • There is a difference between rational self-interest and selfishness. But I don’t think that even applies here. Parents have a moral obligation to consider the best interests of their children. How can a decision in your child’s best interest possibly be considered “selfish”?

    A well-adjusted, properly educated child with a home education is valuable to society. Someone who is forced to go through the spiritually-depraved gulags that public schools have become may not be able to read, write, or do basic math by the time they graduate and become more of a burden on society.

    Never let the collectivists get you down. You are benefiting society by homeschooling. The only interests harmed here are the pubic school bureaucracies and communist teachers unions, parasitic entities that rely on coercion to maintain a quasi-monopoly over education.

  • I find the financial argument odd–where I grew up, your local property taxes went to fund the town’s school system, whether your children to public school or not. So if you’re keeping them at home, the town still gets your tax $ to fund public schools, so 100% of that money goes to educating other children. It’s unlikely you’re paying $77,000 in property taxes, but still–that money is likely state $, so your state taxes are still going toward paying other children’s education.

  • Selfish? I’ve met precious few homeschoolers who could be called selfish. Here are some reasons why:

    1. Homeschooling and child-rearing go hand in hand. How many children does your interlocutor have? How many successful children will you be releasing into the workforce, earning money, paying taxes? You have increased your contribution to society sevenfold. Can she say the same?
    2. The money required to educate each student is, theoretically, $11,000, but that is not practically the case. If you, as a homeschool parent, educate your children for $1,000 each (an extremely generous allotment, in my estimation) you have 10,000 theoretical dollars left over to do with as you will. Since homeschool moms are also seldom stingy, I imagine the contribution to society is increased, even when your children are still at home. Homeschool moms have more time for community service, more time for charity, more time to assist people in their daily lives. And, as I said, one person doing community service is nothing like 7+1 doing it.
    3. Successful homeschool moms don’t in fact, keep their brilliance to themselves. They write blogs. They write books. They volunteer and teach at church. They are “Titus 2″ women to younger homeschooling moms. They teach classes to other homeschooling kids based on their own personal interests and expertise. The superhuman ones do this with children under 5 in the house while their public school peers are getting their degrees. And then I know a lot of homeschool moms, fortified with years of teaching experience, who make a career of teaching when their children start families of their own. And they don’t need government assistance for their education.
    3b. Speaking of government assistance: Although there are some homeschooling moms who require government assistance, most provide their own children breakfasts and lunches without government handouts. They don’t leech off neighbors by selling gift wrap to pay for basic necessities of their classrooms. They protect the environment by not requiring bus service to take their children to class. Though preparing meals at home may not be as efficient as the meal prep of a high school cafeteria, meals at home require no committees, no oversight, no cashier, and no government inspections. Hmm… maybe they actually are more efficient!
    4. Having touched on childcare, I’ll finish off with it. Homeschool moms provide the best care for their own children, and some of them take on a child or two more occasionally. And when their children are older and have gone, they often selflessly provide care for their grandchildren, if their own daughers (or sons) have (selfishly?) pursued careers outside their home.

    Selfish? A homeschool mom is the opposite of selfish. There are exceptions, I’m sure, but I can’t think of any right now.

  • Your husband’s cousin is not up to normal adult standards. I am sad to say, most public school teachers are weighed down by “degrees” in education which work unceasingly to their detriment. Let that pass for the present purpose.

    Being a good mother is not selfish — you are giving to the children, to the society they will support when they grow up, to the spouses (I imagine) they will find, to…… this would be a long list if I had the patience to complete it.

    Do you see? Don’t listen to a liberal who is afflicted with such crabbed thinking. You have done plenty to preserve peace in the extended family. And the gift to your husband is quite nice, too (I’ll bet he knows…).

    You might say a little prayer for her. You never know when someone will wake up from the sleep of kookoo leftism. It can happen suddenly, you really don’t know until, Bammo! there it is.

    Hang in there. We need about 75 million more just like you.

  • To all who homeschool: Be jealous of your virginity and innocence and be extremely jealous of your children’s virginity and innocence. It is the duty of the state to protect and provide for the virginity and innocence of all, our posterity and all who are in the public school in Justice, for it is the virgins and innocents who constitute our government. Criminals and pornographers and the like self-excommunicate themselves from the community by their vice.

  • The Mr. and I have pretty much decided not to send our kids to public schools where we live, eventhough they are well ranked. Most of our neighbors kids will be going. Our main decision is not that we think the schools are populated by bad teachers. We just dont trust them. Not only are we sure they don’t share our values on a whole host of issues, but I just don’t believe they’d even inform us of what goes on in the classroom that we might object to. They have too many masters (administrators, school board, Dept of Ed, unions, etc.), and none of them are me. I can’t be supervigilant, questioning my kids everynight and counteracting everything that happens in schools. We plan to send them to Catholic shool when they reach school age. I expect we’ll have to be on top of their education almost as much. However, I feel I have some control when I’m paying the bills. The collectivists don’t seem to understand that lack of trust and shared values undermines their whole system.

  • If the friends about whom you write “support the President”, as you most diplomatically say, they approve of the 55,000,000 baby killings thus done legally (and continuing) in the nation. No nation can survive such murders. The public school system, supported by its immoral Union will not survive either. Parents will soon be the ONLY school system. Keep homeschooling.

  • “I find the financial argument odd–where I grew up, your local property taxes went to fund the town’s school system, whether your children to public school or not. So if you’re keeping them at home, the town still gets your tax $ to fund public schools…”

    The schools also get funding from federal and often the state government that are tied to the number of students enrolled in the school. Enrollment goes down — they lose those dollars. They can even lose them if kids are absent enough from school, IIRC. I cynically believe this is the reason why some public school districts are starting home education/online instruction programs — so they can capture homeschoolers, call them “enrolled,” and save their fed/state money.

  • Well, homeschoolers do rob public school students of their “angelic” children’s moral witness. And homeschooling does rob the homeschooled children of a chance to witness for Catholicism, and perhaps learn to suffer for their faith. There are lessons in faith which in my opinion are only learned by those with “street moxie” i.e. trying to live Catholicism in the public square. The family is the most important influence and as the Catechism says, the parents are the primary educators in the faith. Homeschooling parents may underestimate their influence on their own children if they think the peer group has more power over their kids than they do. Either that or if the peer group does, maybe the adults in the family are just crappy parents. I went to small town Texas public school many moons ago, and learned the faith from my parents in the Bible Belt. Almost everyone I attended school with was Protestant and they were wonderful and for the most part moral people, better than some of the other (few) Catholic students. If the Catholic students “went bad” it wasn’t because of the average Protestant in public school. A lot if not most of the kids I went to school with would have never known a Catholic if it weren’t for me. I showed them that Catholics are decent normal people, not bizarre anti-christs with weird practices.

  • The fact that you benefit from something does not make choosing it selfish, though focusing on that benefit does. Homeschooling could be selfish or selfless, depending on why and how you do it. Wanting to keep your kids and your talents all to yourself and your family and form them in your own image -> very selfish. Wanting to raise them into well-formed, faithful adults -> very selfless. Similarly, sending your kids to a public or private school could be selfish or selfless. Doing it for prestige, convenience or so you can spend the money on amazing vacations -> selfish. Doing it so your children can learn from the world and evangelize the world -> selfless. There aren’t many decisions we make that can automatically be determined to be selfish.

  • Mrs B – I’m just curious, so you have the same criticism of Catholics who place their children into Catholic schools? Wouldn’t doing so also deprive their children of the chance to witness for the faith, and of others to be witnessed to by them?

    Our children are not “angelic” and they also do not exist within a vacuum. Just because they are not around for the social experiment which public schools have become, does not mean that they don’t socialize with other children in other places. They play sports, have friends, hold down jobs, and interact with people from all kinds of faith (or non-faith) traditions.

    Having lived until very recently in Oklahoma, where less than 5% of the population is Catholic, they have had ample opportunity to learn to defend their faith. We just never felt it necessary for them to have to do so all the time.

  • ” And homeschooling does rob the homeschooled children of a chance to witness for Catholicism, and perhaps learn to suffer for their faith. ”

    These are choices made by informed consciences in emancipated adults. Children are in the custody of their parents because nature and nature’s God created humankind this way. Denigrating parental custody of the children’s natural birthright is cultural bullyism, taxation without representation in the lack of acknowledgement of “their Creator” and the citizen’s unalienable rights. It is not nice to fool Mother Nature and Mother Nature’s God. It is not butter, it is not marriage, it is not the endowed right to Life.

  • Mrs. French, I would say that the selfishness argument is interesting… and might be something to consider in the future. As it stands, you are quite correct that your first obligation is to make the choices you think are best for your children. In modern society it is so rare for children to be primarily raised by their parents, even before Kindergarten. Outside my parish, I know very few families where either parent stays home with the kids… even when they are infants. I am convinced we don’t yet understand what impact this will have on our kids.

    As for the future, when you are finished schooling the last of your own Children, perhaps you should prayerfully consider becoming a teacher… after all, Catholic Schools need good teachers too :).

  • I would never presume to tell another parent that the educational choices they make for their children are “selfish” out of hand. Parents need to make the best choice for themselves and their child(ren). That may be public, Catholic, or home schooling depending on circumstances. God has placed parents in position to discern what is in the common good of their family and what is the personal best interest of each of their children.

    However, there are some currents in your thought process that trouble me. You are an impassioned advocate of Individualism upon which you state you base your decision. But it seems to me that both Individualism and Collectivism base themselves on the same faulty premise that society and the rights-bearing individual are perpetually locked in a power struggle. As an alternative vision (and true vison of the human person), Catholic Social Teaching is based not on an Either/Or premise but a Both/And premise. We each have personal integrity and rights that cannot be violated, however these rights are unintelligable outside of the concentric circles of common life (family, chruch, community, government, etc.).

    Setting up false choice between Individalism and Collectivism leads to the idea that no one has a claim on “who we are and what we can do”. Our selves, our bodies, and our gifts and talents are solely our own to be shared only with those we choose to share them with. This kind of thinking leaves little room for the central Catholic concepts of stewardship or vocation, that God has gifted us and that we are responsible to ourselves and our communities to develop those gifts for to give in service.

    The New Evangelization highlights the need for truly Catholic teachers in our homes, Catholic schools, and public schools. Just washing our hands of any of these kinds of schooling and labeling them as selfish or untrustworthy falls short of a truly Catholic (universal) vision.

  • John Lawrence: that is a lot of fancy talk. Does the government guarantee in public education, that virtue and innocence of legally minor, dependent, read: legally unemancipated infant children will be protected and provided for and if not, taxation without representation results. Your piece lumps government and Catholic religion into one issue as though government was actually virtuous when all citizens know that government has become totalitarian in its vision for America. Abortion ss unions and contraception and all kinds of ignorance are codified and mandatory. Instead of “selfishness” let us label it “freedom from rabid vice”. Thank you, NO.

  • G.K. Chesterton (as usual) said it best,
    “How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone?”

  • As my husband says, you would think that if these teachers were so excited about having more children in the schools, they would be vehemently against abortion. As it is, in our county, 25% of every class is missing because they never had the chance to live.

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