Homeschooling and Libraries

Things I'm thinking about and learning while working with homeschoolers and writing Helping Homeschoolers in the Library for ALA Editions.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Interview with Maureen Wittmann, Part 6

Adrienne: To bounce to another topic, it seems to me that homeschoolers who are Catholic have been the biggest growing segment of the homeschooling population over the last five years or so and have become a more visible/vocal group. Is that your perception as well?

Maureen: It's interesting to look at the origins of contemporary homeschooling. (If you do an Internet search, you should be able to find several articles on the topic.)

Many people assume homeschooling is a conservative Evangelical movement. However, homeschooling had a more liberal, grassroots beginning in the 1970's by advocates of child-led learning such as John Holt. Evangelical Christians discovered homeschooling in the 1980's because of a great dissatisfaction with public schools.

Catholics were late coming to the homeschooling table as they had their own schools. Private Catholic schools are easily accessible in most parts of the country. Many of the Catholics who were homeschooling in the 1980's were dissatisfied with changes taking place in Catholic schools.

But then something happened. People began to discover the very real benefits of homeschooling. I began to hear parents in the 1990's saying things such as, "Even if the very best Catholic school was next door, I'd still homeschool." It's during this time you start to see more people of different faiths homeschooling, as well as more people of color.

I don't have any statistics, only anecdotal evidence. From what I've seen, traveling the country, speaking at conferences, and moderating several email lists, Catholic homeschooling is still growing strong while Protestant homeschooling is leveling off.

Homeschoolers are not easily pegged. We come in all shapes and sizes. All colors and creeds. We've gone mainstream.

Adrienne: One thing I notice about Catholic homeschoolers is that many are devoted to the ideas of classical education and/or using real books/great books. I think part of it is because so many got into homeschooling less for religious reasons but more, as you note, because they saw the benefits of homeschooling over institutionalized schooling. I wondered if you had any thoughts on this.

Maureen: Catholic homeschoolers are all over the board. We come in all shapes and sizes. But you're right – you do see a lot more dedication to the classical model, the trivium, as it is something that has deep roots in the history of the Catholic Church. Of the eight big Catholic home study schools, four are classical.

You also see a lot Charlotte Mason advocates in Catholic homeschooling. Miss Mason was not Catholic but she borrowed a lot of her ideas from the classical model. Her promotion of real books, training of habits, dictation, and so on, are easily "baptized."

I think, ultimately, homeschooling for us does come down to sharing the faith. Heaven, not Harvard, as they say. (Though, most of us are shooting for both.) What better way to share our religion, than to live it, side by side, with our children. Faith is better learned, and nurtured, within the family, than by an institutionalized school.


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