With the closures of most schools around the nation due to COVID-19, many parents are finding themselves suddenly homeschooling their children. The unexpected, overnight change has brought this alternative approach into focus.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that mothers and fathers have the just claim to decide which kind of education their children shall receive, including providing for religious or moral instruction. And from a religious perspective: according to Catholic teaching, parents have always been regarded as the primary educators of their children. The Code of Canon law states:
“Since they have given life to their children, parents have a most grave obligation and possess the right to educate them. Therefore, it is for Christian parents particularly to take care of the Christian education of their children according to the doctrine handed on by the Church.” (Can. 226 §2)
This has now gathered increasing attention. There are many advocates for this form of education now during this pandemic but also before this time. For my family and thousands of families all over the country, homeschooling actually became the best means of education many years prior to this virus outbreak.
But, there are of course critics too. In fact, Harvard Magazine, a publication affiliated with Harvard University, recently issued an article titled “The Risks of Homeschooling,” in which the writer Erin O’Donnell and Harvard professor Elizabeth Bartholet criticize homeschooling as violating “children’s right to a ‘meaningful education.’” Moreover, Bartholet attacks the practice as not protecting the children “from potential child abuse,” and “may keep them from contributing positively to a democratic society.” Also, she also says that a majority of homeschoolers, up to 90 percent, are families with “conservative Christian beliefs [and] extreme religious” ideologies, “who question science and promote female subservience and white supremacy.” Lastly, Professor Bartholet goes as far as to recommend a presumptive ban on home-education. Harvard was also planning to hold an exclusive, private anti-homeschooling conference, but then canceled it due to the coronavirus. However, this announcement came on the same day that a public online conference in defense of homeschooling was held.
In an interview I conducted with the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), the Senior Counsel for Global Outreach stated that “the timing is providential” as Harvard’s event had been planned for some time. However, “the alumni magazine article brought attention to Bartholet’s extreme views at a time when everyone was suddenly schooling at home.” HSLDA added that the call for a ban from the professor “was a new height of irony that caught everyone’s attention,” and when looking deeper into “the hypercritical and unfounded views of Bartholet – almost no one could refrain from criticizing [it].” Addressing the allegation that homeschooling hides child abuse, the representative called these accusations, which Bartholet aimed directly at the organization, as “bordered on malicious,” and that “child abuse is a crime. We agree that the government has a duty to protect innocent children from criminal acts and to punish those who commit such abuse.” Finally, when it comes to Bartholet’s canceled conference, HSLDA’s representative did not “expect that those seeking to impose more regulations on homeschooling will stop their ill-advised campaign.”
In an interview with the Director of Admissions of Seton Home Study School, Draper Warren, he described the Harvard Magazine article as “gloriously unhinged and unreasonable that I think any person of goodwill would be more likely to homeschool after having read it.” Moreover, “it reveals the current nature of government schools as a means to force acceptance of so-called secular liberal values which are often in conflict with natural ethics, rights, and morality.” Warren stated that the now-canceled Harvard conference would have “no authority, and…not much influence in areas that would affect homeschooling families,” and that “giving it more attention only serves to give it influence and imply it has more authority than it does.”
Notwithstanding the attacks by anti-homeschoolers, today the movement for schooling at home and the promotion of parental rights over the state is increasing in number and expanding to newer heights, as I will highlight in my next featured article.