Homeschooling was not part of my reality while I was growing up, but it is thankfully becoming more prevalent in many parts of our American society. When I first considered fatherhood, I never envisioned homeschooling my children, but now I cannot imagine my family without homeschooling. (I recognize that every family and every situation is different, so I completely understand that homeschooling is not necessarily the best option for all families.)
When my wife and I started homeschooling our oldest child, I believed it was only appropriate to do so through elementary school. Soon thereafter, I started and completed a Master’s Degree in Education and taught in a middle school. Long story short, my experiences while working on my degree and teaching in a public school convinced me that homeschooling is a very real and the best option for my family. I was fortunate to get a little look behind the curtain and I learned that there isn’t a lot of rocket science going on in our current education system. In fact, I was very much disillusioned by what I discovered. The truth is that our education system is an artificial product of industrialization, not a better solution to educating minds and certainly not more beneficial to formation of souls.
While there are many good schools and countless great teachers working in American schools (private, public, and Catholic), they can never replace the love and education that a child can receive from a supportive family and parish community. That last sentence is one that will be shouted down by most of our society, but I suggest their argument is based on straw men that we, as Catholic fathers, should question and ultimately dismiss. That discussion is much too large to address in a few paragraphs, so I will not even begin to do so. Rather, I want to encourage other fathers that homeschooling is a real option, especially homeschooling your high school children. Additionally, I cannot emphasize enough how meaningful I think it is for a father to be actively involved in his child’s education, most especially older children.
Thus far, I have only helped one child all the way through high school (he is currently in college), so I am certainly not suggesting that I am some sort of homeschooling expert. My wife and I would like many do-overs, and I suspect that trend will continue for at least the next eighteen years, but when we sit back and consider our family’s homeschool experiences, we feel so blessed to have taken on this challenge because of the countless ways that our family has benefitted.
My primary thoughts for any father to contemplate as he considers homeschooling, especially the high school years are these:
1) Don’t doubt your capabilities. You will fail many times, but God gives you the graces that you need to succeed. Trust in your abilities and focus on why you homeschool, not on the instances when you wish you might have done better. The school doesn’t exist that would be perfect for your child, so why should you expect to provide a perfect school?
2) High school graduates are not expected to go out into the world with scientific knowledge to find a cure for cancer or literary capabilities to write the next great American novel. You can provide your children with a very solid education that will enable them to be successful in their next stage of life and give them the foundation necessary to further their education. At one time you probably learned everything that they need to be taught. Yes, you may have to refresh yourself on some things, but the knowledge does not surpass your intellectual capabilities. And never forget that there are countless resources for you to use; you do not need to continually plow new ground.
3) Plan to be actively involved with teaching your child. There is a meaningful connection that happens with being the primary teacher for at least some of your child’s classes; helping with homework does not rise to the same level. There is a humility, mutual respect, patience, and familiarity that can be achieved in this experience that is difficult to attain in other ways.
4) Take the opportunity to teach your child all the things that would be neglected in any other school. Make sure they learn about virtues, the saints, real history, the foundations of our Church, etc. They may receive pieces of these things in some schools, but you can do better than any school in most of these areas. You may even be surprised at how much your own knowledge grows along the way.
5) Do not be discouraged in your pursuit by those who do not agree with your approach. The number of people who disagree with homeschooling a high school student is likely to outnumber those who support your decision. Be a true teammate with your wife in this journey and seek others who will support you.
6) It is going to be hard, so don’t fool yourself into thinking that it won’t be.
7) It will be so fulfilling. You have the opportunity to have more control in guiding and leading your family to be saints. If you have the opportunity to do this, don’t let it pass you by.