Does the Catholic Church allow home schooling?
Absolutely, yes! In fact, the Catholic Church strongly supports home schooling.
Several documents of the Church use language specifically stating that parents must be acknowledged as first and foremost educators of their children:
- Canon law;
- Vatican II Declaration on Christian Education, #3;
- Pope John Paul II The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World, #36-40;
- On Catechesis in Our Time, #68;
- The Charter of the Rights of the Family Guidelines for Education Within the Family, Chapter IV (by the Pontifical Council for the Family, 1995) ; and
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994.
While not using the words home schooling directly, all the documents of the Catholic Church mentioned above leave absolutely no doubt that the primary right of education and the duty of education lie with the parents. The parents are the primary educators.
The Bible tells us:
Fathers teach your children… (Deuteronomy 6:6)
You shall read the law aloud in the presence of all… Assemble the people, men, women and children that they may hear and learn it. (Deut. 31: 11-13)We also read in Deuteronomy:
Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today. Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad… (Deut. 6: 6-7)
When your son asks you what these ordinances, statutes and decrees mean which the Lord our God has enjoined on you, you shall say to your son, “We were once slaves of Pharaoh but the Lord brought us out of Egypt…” (Deut. 6: 20-22)The Book of Proverbs also exhorts:
My son, forget not my teaching; keep in mind my commands. (Proverbs 3: 1)
From the very beginning of the life of their children, the Catholic Church encourages parents to teach their children about the Faith. It is not surprising then, that Vatican II reiterates this in #3 of its Declaration on Christian Education:
" Since parents have conferred life on their children, they have a most solemn obligation to educate their offspring. Hence, parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children. Their role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it. For it devolves on parents to create a family atmosphere so animated with love and reverence for God and men that a well-rounded personal social development will be fostered among the children. Hence, the family is the first school of those virtues that every society needs. It is particularly in the Christian family enriched by the grace and the office of the Sacrament of Matrimony that from their earliest years children should be taught according to the Faith received in Baptism… Finally, it is through the family that they are gradually introduced into civic partnership with their fellow men and into the people of God."
This Declaration further reminds us that “education requires the help of society as a whole” but it must not be forgotten that the original right of education belongs directly with the parents. Society may “aid” the parent but not usurp a parent’s power to educate.
Saint John Paul II said: "As the Second Vatican Council recalled, “Since parents have conferred life on their children, they have a most solemn obligation to educate their offspring. Hence, the parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children.”" (Familiaris Consortio, #36)
This information is taken from Catholic Homeschool Support.
So you are considering homeschooling and wonder – what do I do next?
- Pray - ask God to help you discern if He is calling to homeschooling. Consider praying a novena for discernment.
- Find a local Catholic Support Group – If you have a group in your area please contact them. It’s the easiest way to get to see what kind of materials families use. Generally groups have activities that you can attend to meet other mothers and kids.
- Find Out Your State’s Laws – Home School Legal Defense Association has information on all states laws regarding homeschooling. Your local group should be able to help too.
- Order Catalogs – Go through the Curriculum Providers and Homeschool Supply Providers and ask for catalogs. This gives you an idea of materials available.
- Attend a Homeschool Conference – If there is a conference within an hour or two, try and attend. This gives you a chance to actually see materials, attend workshops, and meet others who are homeschooling in your area. Conferences are generally in the spring and I list as many as I can find (the page usually goes up in the winter).
- Read about Curriculum Approaches – I’ve provided links for many approaches; begin to look at what bests fits you and your family.
- Join an Email List – if you can’t find a local group or you need to ask more questions than your group is able to answer, considering joining an email list. They can be an excellent source of support.
- Just Do It – if you are being called to homeschool, don’t be tempted to put off the decision because you are trying to pull everything together. Sometimes, families just need to do it and work on the details as they go along. Consider field trips, reading literature and nature study as a way to get started.