Thursday, July 25, 2013

How can parents be the "primary educators" of their conventionally-schooled children?

It is within the family where children are raised and formed as human beings.  The parental role in this human formation is governed by love, a love which places itself "at the service of children to draw forth from them ("e-ducere") the best that is in them" and which "finds its fullest expression precisely in the task of educating." (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, No. 239)  That is why the family may be called the "first school."

The parental duty to educate their children comes tied to a right.  Parents are the "original and primary" educators of their children, and their duties as well as their rights are "irreplaceable and inalienable." (Compendium, 239)  The duty is non-delegable.  The parent is ultimately responsible for his or her child.  Though the parent may obtain the help of other persons or institutions, these always remain in loco parentis, in the parents' place. Importantly, this is a task shared by both parents, and so "the role of the father and that of the mother are equally necessary" (Compendium, 242).

I agree completely.

So, having that out of the way, I do not believe that all parents should keep their children out of conventional school. 

I think my parents did a great job of being our "primary educators"; we five attended public and Catholic schools. All of us have college degrees with three of us (so far) having post-graduate degrees. We are all married in the Catholic Church (no pride, just facts) and follow Church teaching. How did my parents 'succeed' in raising us? By God's grace and....

--- Our parents went to parent-teacher conferences and checked our homework. They walked the halls and knew who our friends were.
--- None of us attended sex education classes in public school. Yes, I was the one kid in 9th grade who sat in the library and wrote a paper on dolphins or something. 
--- My parents limited television and other media.
--- The library was our go-to entertainment, especially in the summertime.
--- We consistently ate dinner and worshiped together.
--- There were lots of books in our house. We saw our parents read and they also read aloud to us.
--- We saw our father studying for his Bachelor degree that he completed when he was 40 or so.
--- My parents weren't afraid to change schools for various reasons. This can be a hard thing (especially for the extreme introvert I was and am); I attended different schools every year from 5th to 10th grade. yes, that is 6 schools in 6 years. But my mother had her reasons. The funny thing is, I recently visited my hometown where my parents still are. I visited only 2 friends. One was a high school friend, but we became friends when we taught together in Slovakia. The other is a friend from 7th grade (if anyone knows any amazing Baptist man 35 to 42 or so, I would love to make a match for her- she is a lovely woman...)
--- They even opened our lockers!
--- They supplemented our public school education. I took a bit of ballet, voice, violin, and piano lessons. But we weren't crazy-busy (hence, the time to eat together as a family)
--- We were blessed to have room to play as children.
--- We were blessed to have an intact family. But even if you are doing it yourself through divorce or widowhood, it is still possible to be a 'primary educator.' You need a 'village.' Yes, it does take a village to raise a child, but it is the parents' right and responsibility to choose the inhabitants of their children's village.
Please add your ideas on how to be a 'primary educator' in the comment box!


  1. Thank you for the compliments. It was by the grace of God that you children have turned out so well. Our "jobs" as parents are not over and continued prayers are necessary daily for the salvation of your most precious souls. Everything will be revealed in Heaven and there's no need for homeschooling there. Education is used to guide us through the mind field of the evil one to our Heavenly home.

  2. You can send your kids to school and still have people think they are weird. My older daughter will be in first grade this year, and my younger daughter in kindergarten next year, at a private, independent (but operating with the approval of the diocese), very small Catholic school.

    Why do we want to send our kids to that weird school? They could just go to the nearby parochial school. It would be cheaper and they could play sports through the school. Plus, it would just be, you know, more normal, without daily Mass and teaching the kids Latin and stuff. Or there's a nice public school right down the street.

    I'm no traddy - I appreciate that they learn Latin in that I know it will improve their English vocabularies, and while I'm glad that the kids go to daily Mass, I don't really care about the fact that it is EF three days a week and OF the other two. Whatever. But what I do care about is that those kids come out of that school knowing and defending their faith. In a world where I think my kids are going find it even more difficult to hang onto their faith than in my generation, I think that, as parents, that a solid foundation in their faith is the best thing we can give them.

    Kids can make friends and take dance and play sports anywhere. None of that stuff should be a deal-breaker when you are making a decision about how to educate them. The best way that parents can be the primary educators of their children is to determine the most important goal for their children's education, and then do whatever it takes to make that happen, even if it involves sacrifice. That plan is going to be different for every family, but the only parents I would criticize are the ones that never consider what their children's educational goals should be.

  3. Thanks good Sarah. Your post got me a bit "misty". I am really proud of you and your family. Thanks for all the work you do with your kids and husband. Most of all, thanks be to God for all the graces he has poured upon us !!!

    Love, Dad

  4. My husband and I were both public-schooled, and so are our children. I met my husband when we were in Jr. High...we were both in band. We went to school together through jr and sr high school. My husband's mother was a teacher in the school system (she supply-taught). Both of our mums were involved in our schooling...went to meetings, and such. My mum wasn't able to do the field trips and chaperoning on band trips because she had to work (my father died when I was quite young), but she did keep up with what we were doing in class. I did do the sex ed classes up till grade 9 in which class I sat out because of something my mum thought inappropriate. I think I stayed home that day or something....can't quite remember.
    In my house, we had no TV till I was in university. This meant we read...TONS...we had our own books, we borrowed books from friends and family, from the public and school libraries. We, mum, brother and I, are to this day, avid and voracious readers. We would have lots of discussions centred around what we were reading, either for leisure or for school.
    I would say that between the voracious reading and my Mum making a point to know my friends, friends' parents, and be in the know on what was happening at school (she knew all the teachers, etc. etc.), this helped ensure she was on top of what was going on in our education. She encouraged us to learn, to be open to learning new things and trying new things, and to be independent thinkers (ie., don't just believe it because it's in the book, think through, talk to adults, etc.). One of the best gifts she gave us was a love of reading and books. I have started to pass this on to my 2 children. The proof is in my book purchases at Costco, Chapters (like your Barnes & Noble), and Amazon (ahem...).
    Now that I am raising my 2 kids in public school, I'm doing similar things, but also getting to know the teachers better by volunteering as I'm able. I'm an at home wife and mum, so this is eas(ier) for me to do. This fall, I hope to be taking on some work in the library at my kids' school as they have need of it. Most of the teachers know my kids and myself. We are very fortunate to have a community based school...parents know each other, kids know each other, and teachers know parents and kids. It's a big school but it's very homey and community in its feel. Our school encourages parental involvement. We've also been blessed to have teachers who are passionate about teaching and passionate about kids.
    Ultimately it is a parent's choice and responsibility for their child's education, however that looks.
    Thanks for writing this article! :)


thanks for commenting! (comments on old posts are moderated)