On 27-28 April I attended a Home Schooling Fair (or conference) at the Milwaukee State Fair Grounds. It was organised by the Greater Milwaukee Catholic Home Educators, a home-school support group for over 140 families in southeast Wisconsin and Northern Illinois. Its motto is, 'Keeping Christ in our Hearts and in our Homes' and it provides various programs and events for Catholic home-school families in the area.
The conference was originally held so that home-schooling parents could see the subject materials available, and Catholic publishers could more easily sell their products to the home-school community. Over time, more vendors, speakers, and children's activities have been added.
This year there have been 20 workshops, covering science, literature, maths, faith, fatherhood, special needs and spiritual issues, with Mass, confession and four hours adoration made available.
Reasons given to me for the choice of home-schooling included, 'It was very plain, that if we were really going to impart our Catholic values to our children, then we could do it best by teaching them at home ... In reality, home-schooling our children has been just a continuation of what we had already been doing when we started raising them.'
The disruptive, negative influence of some students in classrooms was mentioned and the fact that home-schooling fostered closer family ties.
Another said, 'We love the home-school lifestyle: the wonderful curriculum, the family togetherness, the freedom, the ability to have a truly Catholic education for our children. It's drawn all of us closer together.'
Some parents disapprove of a sex education class, a method of teaching such as the look-say reading method, or the negative socialisation. There are also families who never have their children in a public or private school because they recognise the benefits of home-schooling and begin home-schooling their children in kindergarten.
The impact home-schooling can have is evident in a statistic from the director of vocations in the Rockford diocese who said that of 30 boys who graduated from home-schooling families between 2000 and 2005 in that diocese, seven entered the seminary - 23 percent. 'If the same percentage existed for the 3,250 boys who graduated from Catholic high schools in the same period there would be about 750 preparing for the priesthood', he said.
Overall, many who were home- schooled through high school have successfully gone on to college, served in the military, or entered religious life.
In Australia home schooling is on the increase since most Catholic schools are failing to educate their students in the faith with less than five percent of graduates practising.
Having read so much about Catholic schools in Australia and experienced almost 20 years teaching in a so-called Catholic school myself, I can understand the frustration of such parents who turn to home-schooling.
It is very hard to understand why so many bishops, parish priests and principals continue to neglect their primary and fundamental duty of shepherding souls through a proper Catholic education.