Keeping It Catholic!

When Home Education is a Way of Life

Answers from or based on the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church

Q. Could you explain what's wrong with using Christian but not Catholic Christian books?

The encyclical Christian Education of Youth teaches us that "Every method of education founded wholly or in part on the denial or forgetfulness of original sin and of grace, and relying on the sole powers of human nature, is unsound." This is exactly what both non-Catholic and untested forms of education will do.

Catholics must remember that Catholicism is the one, true Christian faith. A true Christian education is a Catholic education. When encyclicals of the Church use the word "Christian" or "Christianity," they are referring to those who are Catholic or to the Catholic faith itself. All other faiths, whether or not they call themselves Christian, contain error. This is one very good reason to be on guard when it comes to choosing "Christian" books and magazines for your homeschool. They will, unfortunately, contain errors of faith, history, and more.

Q. Is KIC saying that every book we use in our homeschools must be written specifically by and for Catholics?

Yes, for the most part it is best to use Catholic books, literature, and those books that contain the truths taught by the Catholic faith. That is not to say every book "must" be written by a saint (though that certainly wouldn't hurt!) but one must know the truths of the faith to know the difference between "some" truth and "all" truth.

For example, C.S. Lewis wrote stories and essays containing some truths revealed by the Catholic Church. C.S. Lewis is highly admired by our Protestant brethren for his insightfulness but they fail to recognize where that insightfulness came from.

The same is true of Dorothy Sayers who wrote the essay "The Lost Tools of Learning" on the Trivium and Quadrivium, or what is today called a classical curriculum. Again, a talented writer on the brink of Catholicism discovered and shared truths always taught and defended by the Catholic Church.

Catholics were the ones who recognized the beauty of faith shining through such works. This ability to see and recognize the truth, wherever it may appear, is the source of the saying "Everything that is true and beautiful is Catholic." However, this saying cannot excuse us for not knowing what a Catholic education is and of what it consists. Nor should it be used to excuse the use of anti-Catholic books to strengthen the faith or point out error to children.

Q. Couldn't I just use books from a few anti-Catholic sources anyway? The books are very attractive and seem fine in some respects, and I could always point out the errors to my children to reinforce the faith.

Christian Education of Youth once more provides the answer: "And if, when occasion arises, it be deemed necessary to have the students read authors propounding false doctrine, for the purpose of refuting it, this will be done after due preparation and with such an antidote of sound doctrine, that it will not only do no harm, but will be an aid to the Christian formation of youth."

Notice how the Pope is clear in saying that pointing out errors of faith to the young must meet certain conditions: only when necessary, when the occasion presents itself, and only after previous (due) preparation of the child. Nor can such teaching be presented lightly, but given with what the Holy Father called the antidote - which was sound doctrine!

The Magisterium teaches us something about our reasoning powers once more when it says, "Hence the true Christian, a product of Christian education, is the supernatural man who thinks, judges and acts constantly and consistently in accordance with right reason illuminated by the supernatural light of the example and teaching of Christ." Keeping It Catholic cannot stress enough that only Catholicism holds the entire Deposit of Faith. Only the Catholic Church gives the entire teaching on grace and provides opportunities to attain sanctifying grace through the Sacraments!

On the temporal side, we should ask ourselves why we would want to financially support any anti-Catholic business or those that present a Catholic facade, homeschooling or otherwise.

Q. I teach catechism every day. Isn't that enough to make our homeschool Catholic?

The encyclical Militantis Ecclesiae teaches: "Religion must not be taught to youth only during certain hours, but the entire system of education must be permeated with the sense of Christian piety."

It also says, "Religion must permeate and direct all branches of study." How are we to do this using books that ignore or twist things of the true faith, and all things pertaining to the Catholic religion?

Q. I get the impression that Keeping It Catholic believes we should only use canned curriculums. Is this true?

As Catholics who homeschool, we have two options. But first, let us say that the adjective "canned" implies something not quite fresh. It's usually a derogatory adjective, too, so we at KIC prefer the use of "prepared curriculum" instead of "canned" and often, even over "packaged."

Second, a prepared Catholic curriculum (and we must emphasize Catholic) is definitely one of the two options open to those homeschoolers who want to Keep It Catholic!. We say this because the home study programs are experienced. They were the first to address Catholic educational needs and offer good materials to homeschoolers. In the few areas where Catholic materials are not available, the Catholic home study programs are very careful in selection of books, offering tips in their lesson plans on what to rectify where such things are needed.

"Worthy of all praise and encouragement, therefore, are those educational associations which have for their object to point out to parents and educators...the dangers to morals and religion that are often cunningly disguised in books..." (Christian Education of Youth)

Third, if parents are considering using a packaged program, a Catholic home study program should always be preferred over any other home study courses offered. This is because Catholic programs are the only ones loyal to the Magisterium, and for Catholics that should be the first consideration.

Building your own Catholic curriculum is the other option. We at Keeping It Catholic have done both!

So it is a parental choice on how to provide a Catholic education in the home - whether it's using one of the few Catholic home study programs loyal to the Magisterium of the Church, or building your own Catholic program at home. Keeping It Catholic (the upcoming book) will be sharing how to do just that!

Q. What about those older Catholic books available through publishers and home study programs? I really would like to see something more up-to-date!

Again, we refer to Christian Education of Youth: "So today we see...educators and...innovators are wont to refer contemptuously to Christian education as...'obsolete." Old books that contain truth should automatically be preferred to newer, modern or "up-to-date" books that contain error. Remember the old saying, "You can't judge a book by its cover." Similarly, a new book is not necessarily a better book.

When considering the complaint about the “older” books available from Catholic home study programs and Catholic publishers, remember that the Church’s doctrinal and dogmatic teachings never change. Also remember that only Catholic books emphasize the Church’s teaching that we need supernatural grace in addition to actual grace to accomplish anything with God’s help.

Q. I've heard the Catholic programs are just too hard, and I'm worried about flexibility. From what I've been told, it sounds like using a non-Catholic program would offer more flexibility to a homeschooling family. What is your view?

Good question! First, the Ordinary Magisterium gives us the four marks of a Catholic school (organization, syllabus, textbooks of every kind and teachers must be Catholic) because the Church recognizes that: "... many parents have little or no preparation, immersed as they are in temporal cares." So wrote the Holy Father Pius XI.

This does not mean parents are incapable. Rather, it means the Church acknowledges the very full lives of her married members. It is because we parents are so busy that we are truly blessed in that the Church provides us with those four "marks" of Catholic education.

It is also because of our very busy lives that easier avenues seem attractive. It is because we truly are "immersed in temporal cares" (as the Holy Father also wrote in Christian Education of Youth) that what we "think" is flexibility seems like the right path to follow. But why do non-Catholic programs sound so good compared to Catholic ones? Do we really understand what it being implied? Are we to give up Catholic education because other avenues are easier?Are those non-Catholic programs as good as we're led to believe, even by "prominent" Catholics?

Flexibility is fast becoming the buzz word in the Catholic homeschooling world. It's become a ruler or standard whenever schedules and subjects are under discussion, as in "How much flexibility does your curriculum offer?"

Flexibility can mean anything from wanting a bit more freedom from a tight schedule to whatever the day may bring. The range of definition is getting bigger. Homeschooling mothers who really need a helping hand are not assisted by those who accuse Catholic home programs of "inflexibility."

In fact, Keeping It Catholic has noted a curious phenomenon that our questioner asks about, too - some Catholics either insinuate or actually denigrate Catholic home study programs. All one has to do is hear the word inflexible and it becomes the kiss of death for a home study program.

Yet never a word of complaint about "inflexibility" is heard from Catholics that endorse non-Catholic programs, like Calvert, Christian Liberty, Sonlight, etc.

This is not because those "Christian" programs are really "flexible" or offer a colorful array of "flexible" choices.

Flexibility might mean such programs don't offer report cards to enrollees (parents don't feel they have to send anything in). It could mean they don't assist parents by checking work and/or tests, (again, parents don't have to send anything in) or that they don't offer phone counseling (parents have to search for a helping hand but it doesn't cost so much, many believe). Some parents feel all that is fine, and so it is.

But the Catholic home study programs also don't expect work to be sent in (unless parents wish it), nor do they mandate that anyone call them for counseling. Such options are up to the parents.

That's flexible.

For example: Parents can have a child who is good in math study a higher level book, but remain at his age level in other subjects, if the parents deem it appropriate.

That's flexible.

Parents can opt out (or opt in) when it comes to sending in work to receive their child's report card.

That's flexible.

Parents have up to a year to finish any course, a reasonable time frame. And, in most instances, Catholic home study programs have no problem extending that time, if needed. No questions asked.

That's flexible.

In fact, parents don't even have to enroll their children in an entire program if they don't feel it's necessary. They can enroll for one class, two or three....OR they could just purchase the books they need from a Catholic home study program in order to customize their Catholic curriculum!

Now that's flexible!

So what is the problem?

The problem is that the Catholic home study programs offer time-tested Catholic education. Expectations are high because educational standards are high. To reach that high and worthy aim means work. This is true of anything worthwhile.

We simply are not going to see that kind of achievement outside of a real Catholic education which display those four "marks." So determination and perseverance, and plain old-fashioned fortitude (the kind that is going out of style) are getting confused with "inflexibility."

Real study, rote memorization and drill takes determination. Intense phonics takes study. Real study skills must be developed. Back to perseverance again.... All of that can be boring, and it can we have to pull out the fortitude. Believe us...We at Keeping It Catholic understand. (We homeschool, too!)

It is that high standard of faith and academic education that Catholic schools once provided to children. Once it was discarded, the Catholics schools were no longer worthy of the name. We don't want that to happen to our homeschools!

Catholic education... It is exactly that kind of education for which the saints who worked so hard on the behalf of Catholic education in America aimed. Yes, one can aim for sainthood and high academic achievement at the same time! (St. Thomas Aquinas is a perfect example of this!)

A true Catholic education on earth is focused on the last end (death and the life beyond) while travelling to it through "this vale of tears." Only Catholicism teaches thus.

A child who graduates using the time-tested method of Catholic education (either with a Catholic program or one of your own design) isn't going to be an "underachiever and proud of it," ala Bart Simpson!

Religion permeates the curriculum in the available Catholic home study programs (the longer-standing ones especially).

Could it be that many Catholic homeschool parents are falling for the errors of "pick and choose" that permeates our culture,whereby we don't even appreciate a thorough Catholic program anymore?

Most importantly, our own Catholic home correspondence programs are the only ones loyal to the Magisterium! That should definitely tip the balance in their favor whenever deciding between them or a non-Catholic program.

Q. I've heard people say that being so careful is just a fortress mentality. What do you think?

"It is therefore as important to make no mistake in education, as it is to make no mistake in the pursuit of the last goal..." So says the Holy Father in the encyclical Christian Education of Youth.

As for the fortress mentality question? The allegation is (we are truly sorry to say) uncharitable as well as ignorant. It infers parents have no rights, as well as holy obligations, to protect and educate their children in matters of faith, morals, civic instruction, etc. Parents especially have a solemn responsibility to know and live the faith, passing it on to their children, and guarding their children especially against all dangers, both physical and spiritual.

One last word on that subject. A fortress is a structure designed and built to protect that which is within. If the home is the “domestic church,” protecting our Catholic home life and education is a praiseworthy and holy obligation.

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