Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Saint Daniel the Stylite Academy

Catholic homeschooler Sally Thomas describes her family’s routine, which sounds familiar, when translated into the language of the Reformed tradition for the Knippenberg household.

In addition, having spoken with a couple of folks in Albuquerque, I’m thinking of introducing my son to Euclid starting next year. In the mean time, I might try the Famous Mathematicians book she mentions.

Update: The Friar has a bit more, focusing on some of the "vices" homeschoolers display when they end up in college. It seems to me, however, that many of the vices (grade expectations, narcissism, and slovenliness, for example) are hardly unique to homeschoolers, even if they have slightly different sources.

Update #2: The Friar has more, responding both to this thread and to a question I posed to him (but failed to proofread).

Discussions - 27 Comments

Yes, that was just about it at Pitrone School for Boys, too. The familiar beauty of the experience Sally Thomas relates, and the translation that you mention, is made the more touching in the knowing that it is never quite the same in every family, just as every family is not quite the same.

I kept a daily schedule for each child. This proved handy when Hillsdale wanted a transcript when our oldest boy applied there. It never seemed like much, day by day, although we were always busy. When I listed what he had done, it took pages as I was also supposed to include what textbooks he had used. We did not use many textbooks, but he had read so many books on so many subjects. I included what I knew he had read and he was upset because I hadn’t kept track of everything. I couldn’t keep track as we often went off the schedule, but the digressions were always useful.

Joe, one of our favorite things was to "find out" about something. We had a set of encyclopedias, lots of books and used the Internet, too, which would be far better today. I would just assign something for them to research: platypus, transcendentalism, P.T. Barnum, particle theory. They’d have to tell me about it over lunch. If they were getting along, it might be a joint effort, otherwise it might be competitive, but it made for great conversation.

I read the article, and it appeared she was running something of a religious hothouse. Praying the Angelus........?????????

I knew some women who prayed the Angelus, but they were in a PRIORY, not a home.

Is religious stridency a requirement for being a homeschooler? A sine qua non, since Mrs. Thomas has a thing for Latin? I favour homeschooling, and I suggested as much for my little nephews. But I think there’s a danger of making kids a bit too dogmatic, too strident, too intense.

Dan: We told our four school-age children this evening that we’re taking them out of their parochial school tomorrow, and returning them to homeschool. They were mostly delighted (they had been lobbying for the change for several months), but also sad at leaving {some of} their new friends. A complicated decision, and one not made lightly. We’re making the change, in part, in order to a) pray the Angelus daily and b) improve their dogmatic formation, and intensify the stridency of their faith.
Exhale over the "stridency" worry. One man’s "stridency" is another man’s principled thoroughness. We’re in a war. We’re generally losing. We’ve decided to invoke our personal "Patriot Act" to increase our kids’ chances of winning. Radical? Damned straight! The right thing to do for our kids (and for the future of the republic)? We believe so. I’d feel a LOT better about the change if Kate was available to teach my kids.....(Kate, it was 79’ in Abq. today....!)

Recall, I favour homeschooling, and if I’m fortunate to have children, I intend to make sure that their education is thorough, and that means NO public schooling.

It’s clear that the stigma that attaches to homeschooling is the widespread perception that the only people that actually homeschool their kids are, let’s be blunt here, let’s say what the public perception is, and that perception is that the people who homeschool their kids are religious "kooks," or "freaks."

That’s a problem.

That was the narrow point I was trying to make about the article. The author of that piece tended to confirm, not invalidate the prevailing perception.

"One man’s "stridency" is another man’s principled thoroughness." That was well written, well phrased, but I don’t think it’s accurate. The Apostles weren’t strident, Christ WASN’T pushy, St. Paul propounded the Gospel, and was always open to religious dialogue, as evidenced by his words to the Athenians.

I don’t know of anyone who prays the Angelus outside of a Monastic setting. Hell, I’d be hard pressed to name a single non-clergy Christian who actually KNOWS WHAT the Angelus is.

Praying in Latin, singing hymns, again in Latin.............??????????

Now, I’m NOT hostile to Latin. I took a semester of Latin as a Senior in college, as an elective. Now, not too many students do that. So I’m more well disposed towards what they’re trying to do than most.

But it appears to me that they’re running something of a religious hothouse there. And I don’t think that’s a good idea. Because they’re leave themselves open for a backlash. Christianity needs to be taught, but it can’t be rammed down a kid’s throat.

One doesn’t need to teach a "radical" Christianity. Fanaticism is a good barometer for heresy. No. Christ himself is "the sign raised in contradiction." Christianity is, as G.K Chesterton observed, the one thing capable of making sure that a man isn’t a slave to his times. Genuine Christianity is "radical" enough. As was evidenced when Christ preached that those "who did not eat his body, and drink his blood [would] have no life within [them]." The people began to depart, for they found his saying "hard," but Peter remained, as did the 12, and when Christ asked them too, if they desired to depart, Peter responded "where shall we go, you have the words of eternal life." The message of Christ is a radical thing already. It doesn’t need to be further radicalized.

The Western elites have branded Christianity a thing of unreason, a thing of mindless fanaticism. The absolute last thing we should be doing right now, is doing anything that validates that falsehood.

Christ appeals to the entire person, mind AND soul. So to the extent that homeschooling parents try to prepare their kids for the real world, I’m all for that. But to the extent that they try to turn their kids into pushy fanatics, I think their efforts are ill-advised.

There’s a tension. Christianity has dogmas, has doctrines, without which it ceases to exist, ceases to have meaning, and becomes vulnerable to the spirt of the world, a world whose Prince is hostile to the message of Christ. So when Christian parents try prepare their kids for a life of mental and moral combat, I’m all for that. But there is still a line, which if crossed, means we have people like Falwell, Dobson, et al, who do more damage than they know.

So my point is that there is a tension, a line.

Studies show (to borrow a line from someone) that there are roughly three general types of homeschoolers--those who undertake it for religious reasons, those who have "special needs" kids whose needs (they judge) can’t be adequately addressed in a school setting (or who can’t afford the school that could adequately address them), and "un-schoolers" (who don’t want to turn their kids into little organization men and women). I have encountered all three types, mixtures, gradations, and variations.

Yes, the public face of homeschooling is its religious one--more often the conservative evangelical than the traditionalist Catholic. (And Latin, by the way, is something of a fetish, even among the evangelicals.)

I’m aware that some homeschoolers are extremely insular, but so is public school in its own way. But for me the most important thing about homeschooling is that my wife and I get to be the most important influences in our children’s lives, not their (more or less randomly assigned) teachers or their so-called peers.

Dan: I believe we differ in matter of degree, not of kind. The difference of degree is likely not immaterial, but my wife and I keenly feel the tension you describe, and will do our best to address, if not resolve, it as we resume educating our kids at home.
Joe: I’m reminded of the wonderful line by Edna St. Vincent Millay: "Only Euclid has looked on Beauty bare."
And, yes, for us the decision came down primarily to mitigating the unhealthy peer pressure, and the effects we saw it having on our kids.

There is another reason to homeschool your kids, Joe. School wastes so much time and even good schools can use dreadful, dreary books. When I was substituting the other day at the Christian school, I read aloud to the sixth grade class a chapter of the book they had been assigned. The words were as savory as unsalted matzoh in my mouth, it was so ineptly written. The teacher assigned it because it was "Christian literature" and I pitied the children thinking the word literature had anything to do with what I was reading.

I did not want to waste my children’s time and mental energy on the useless. To hear people say, "It doesn’t matter what kids read, as long as they are reading." is horrible. They would not feed their children’s bodies a steady diet of candy or other nutritionally empty foods. It matters what you put in a child’s head.

(Gary, please, do not tempt me with climate. It is gray, cold and snowing again in Ohio.)

My children were also mostly happy to come home. We found many outside activities that made "being at home" not such an insular experience. We created a homeschool cooperative so that one day a week there was a "school" to attend with sports and games, a teacher we hired for kids with reading problems, and we parents took turns teaching those subjects in which we had a special interest. Besides that, there were swimming, soccer, baseball, horseback riding, dance and music lessons, youth theater, political organizations, science and chess clubs, lectures at the art museum, field trips to everywhere possible and even if the peers exerting pressure were not always the best, it was not the daily pressure of school. You only get one chance with your kids. Why not do everything you can to win the battle?

Dan, what do you care about how that woman educates her children in a religious sense? Are you worried she’ll turn out a bunch of Savonarolas or religious hermits? In my experience, that is extremely unlikely. Those you cite as religious fanatics were not home schooled. Do you think the Thomas children will be morally unfit for society given their prayer cycles? You might be right. They might not fit into our current societal mores. Is that such a bad thing?

It seems to me that homeschooling is only a temporary solution to the public education problem. Furthermore, by removing the smartest from public education, it makes reforming those institutions even more difficult as the parental pressure and expectations are gone.

Does anyone think that homeschooling could work on a mass scale? By that I mean, that homeschooling is a viable alternative for educating the masses? It seems to me it is not, and while escaping is nice, and providing for one’s own is understandable, homeschoolers do so at the peril of the nation which has to deal with terrible public education for even longer.

Steve, how much influence do you think such families have on the public system? By taking our children out of the system, we provide a pressure, saying that our expectations are not being met. Teachers in my community understand why I home schooled.


You’re right about time-wasting.


You’re right; the solution isn’t universal homeschooling. You have to feel called to homeschool. But the solution may be school choice.


You provide no pressure because the school still gets its funding from property taxes, which you still pay. They probably rejoice, they get more money to waste and do not have to provide any service to get that money.

If homeschool or private school parents got to NOT pay property taxes then I would 100% agree with you. Maybe that is the solution.

Steve: You’re half right about the fiscal pressure. We homeschooling families DO continue to pay property taxes, BUT individual schools are funded are on the basis of enrollment. Not having our kids in our local public schools (and, in our case, the local parochial school) decreases the money available to the school....and even the school system.
I wrestle with the valid point that it’s precisely our kids (i.e. those whose parents are vitally involved in their kids’ educations) who are needed as a leaven in the public and parochial systems. But in the end it’s pretty easy to choose to do what’s judged as best for one’s own kids rather than the collective.
Kate’s description of a rich homeschool vita closely parallels our own.......down to the horseback riding most weekdays at 1:30pm. Reagan was right so far as he went: "The backside of a horse is good for the inside of a man".....AND child!"
As usual, I’ll agree with Joe K: Nothing short of school choice will shake-up public education. And I’m unwilling to wait for that to happen while I consider my responsibility before God and man to fully educate my children.
Lastly, I take {smiling} umbrage at the silly, unfounded assertion that homeschooling is escapism. I believe that homeschoolers are *the* most committed to the life of the mind, and to its consequences, both in and for this life, and for the next.
Kate, it’s going to be 72’ here today.....and I *still* want to talk! :-)

Coming back to Dan. Isn’t it a little dogmatic to expect everyone to raise their children as you would have them do?

Gosh, Dan, you make it sound like the Angelus is some long and difficult penitential practice that only the heroically pious could manage!

I remember saying the Angelus back at St. Valentine’s during the late 1970s.

The Friar knows what he talking about with those vices, which of course have their corresponding virtues. Those vices are exaggerated at a college that’s mostly home-schooled kids (the two I’ve seen close-up are Patrick Henry and Bryan), where the sense of entitlement of a certain kind runs amok. The way to curb vice and encourage virtue in any particular case, of course, is to send your kid to a college where the home-schooled population is relatively small. (Let me add I know of two home-schooled kids who went to quasi-home-schooled colleges (one TA) who finally rebelled in sort of pathetic and self-destructive ways in law school.)

As to The Friar’s comments, he does have a point. (However, I do get publicly schooled kids with the same expectations.) None of my children home schooled right through. We were unprincipled home schoolers, in that I was more interested in the child’s or the family’s needs than I was in home schooling. Each of my kids was at school, public and/or private, at some point. It did alleviate that sense of entitlement, and was a different learning situation. I thought the variety was good for them. However, they preferred being at home and learned far more at home than at school.

There was an article mentioned here a week or two back about how to praise children. To praise them for accomplishment, rather than potential makes all the difference. It is especially true in the home school setting and it took me nearly half of a family to understand it. You need to make them work and work hard and be careful to put them in competitive situations WHERE THEY WILL FAIL. It really helps.

Finally, home schooling offers no immunity to any of the sins of man. Each son went through from six months to two years of some kind of awfulness in his late teens. With the first ones, I was sick to think that it might go on forever. Then it didn’t and I came to expect a certain amount of fatheadedness at some point. All are currently fine, and it is such a relief.

Steve, if all parents had to pay to send their children to school they would demand a much better product than they currently get.

A query for those with more extensive experience of home-schooled college students than I have: to what degree do the "vices" displayed by the home-schooled students (especially those connected with "narcissism" and excessive self-esteem) represent in effect a failure on the part of the parents to resist "the culture"? What I have in mind is the way in which a substantial portion of contemporary evangelical culture provides a kind of parallel universe to its "secular humanist" counterpart. Is there anything to this thought?

The Angelus is like Compline, or the Breviary. It’s the type of prayer left to the clergy. Non-clergy members may recite it, but few do.

I suggested to my sister that she homeschool my nephews. Her and her husband fell back on the idea that school also serves to "socialize" children. And that homeschooled kids are deprived of the opportunity to truly "socialize."

Of course I didn’t want to get pushy, so I let the matter drop.


Is it dogmatic to raise a kid as I mentioned earlier? Sure. There’s no way around that one. I think it was Chesterton in Orthodoxy that wrote that man is a creature who constructs dogma, doctrine. Layer after layer of doctrine. "Truths turn into dogmas the instant that they are disputed. Thus every man who utters a doubt defines a religion. And the scepticism of our times does not really destroy the beliefs, rather it creates them; gives them their limits and their plain and definite shape." Or again: "Man can be defined as an animal that makes dogmas. As he piles doctrine on doctrine and conclusion on conclusion in the formation of some tremendous scheme of philosophy and religion, he is, in the only legitimate sense of which the expression is capable, becoming MORE AND MORE human," {emphasis mine, I decided to pull my copy of Chesterton’s Orthodoxy to give you a feel for what he wrote on the topic}.

Today, in our colleges, ESPECIALLY the best ones, kids are getting hit with the troika of race/class/gender. It’s an all encompassing prism through which they view everything, history, politics, culture, cult, economics, you name it. A kid has to be prepared for mental combat. I don’t think it’s wise to allow others, strangers, the opportunity to brainwash your loved ones into the Comintern of race/class/gender.

I think there are risks to homeschooling. But on the whole, homeschooling is clearly preferable to sending kids off to public schools, and what’s more, probably better off than sending them off to even the best of the private institutions.

I commend the people who care so much about their kids that they refuse to deliver them over for liberals to brainwash. I think it’s gutsy.

And Tony, I didn’t try to lay down a law, a bill of proscriptions according to Dan

No. I was simply inquiring into the wisdom of raising a kid in an intense religious atmosphere. I’m all for raising a kid in an atmosphere that is religious, it’s just that it might backfire to raise a kid in an atmosphere that is intensely religious. That’s all.

Kate is right that every system of education has its advantages and disadvantages, some exposure to school is surely a good idea, total insulation from the surrounding culture is surely futile and produces the view that "we," alone, are not subject to sin, and that even the Amish allow their kids a period of awfulness. The temptation from the surrounding culture of "paranoid parenting" that homeschooling parents are most subject too is that of being control freaks--the education of John Stuart Mill with piety added. The bests arguments for homeschooling above-and they’re really great--is that it may be in many cases the only way of keeping school from being that big a deal. Much of the surrounding culture of sophisticated, educated parents is, in many ways, not self-indulgent at all. It’s all about what David Brooks calls the "Achievatron" of meritocratic success.

I’m going to suggest to my wife that we name our homeschool "The Academy of St. Awfulness". Has a truthful ring to it, and *might* indicate to some razor-sharp critics that ordinary parents "get it" regarding the tensions inherent in the adventure. "John Stuart Mill with piety added"??? Don’t we wish!

Gary, Although I’ve never experienced the pleasure of your home classroom, you probably do get it. The obsessive/compulsive homeschoolers are generally not successful entrepreneurs and all that. They tend to be hyper-Crunchies who have to find deep spiritual meaning in ever moment of life--as say Mr. Crunchy Con claims women can find in changing diapers.

Joe, The whole self-esteem problem is part of the feminization of our culture. Conservatives complain about it as if it were some liberal thing, but it is merely that as women become increasingly part of public culture, what women are becomes part of the culture, too. It is hard to "help" being what what we are. A mother’s inclination is to protect her child from ALL harm, and I see that as the worm in the apple of home schooling.

Home schools where fathers were involved, or where mothers had a more "manly" attitude towards their children, as in "Get out there and DO something!" created a better product than those who were mainly interested in protecting their children, even from the reality of the prevailing culture. In that home school cooperative I mentioned, I lost, every time, arguing against contests in which every child had to win something and that sort of attitude. Of course, I found the same thing in schools, elementary schools especially.

My husband wasn’t home much, and I took to looking for male-dominated activities like Little League where my sons could get worked over in a manly way. You can’t expect mothers not to be what mothers are, and a male, a fatherly counter-balance is needed in every family. When the family life is intensified because the kids are home with mom all day, it is even more vital. Fathers push, mothers nurture.

Forgive me. I don’t have time t edit. I hope I make the point.


Good point. I’m involved, and my kids do sports, albeit not those in which there’s lots of physical contact. They do, however, both win and lose races.

We also constantly remind them that "all have sinned and fallen short of the grace of God."

Joe, I gave my kids that scripture, too, which, for a couple of them, became an excuse not to do rightly in their awful period.

I know entrepreneurial former home schoolers, even from protective families.

While you can spare your child some daily moral degradation while home schooling, eventually he’ll find it if he wants it after he leaves your home. However, if you do it right, he’ll be VERY WELL EDUCATED while depraved, and never really able to shake off Truth, which makes the depravity much less fun than expected. Or at least, that’s what I am told. And they are drawn back, or at least that’s what I am experiencing as in "train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old (and not even too old) he will not depart from it.

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