It’s very common for us to see a cycle in homeschooling parents:
- Sign up for CLAA studies, claiming that they want higher standards for their children. At this point, parents are amazingly good at explaining what’s wrong with modern schools and other study programs and how the CLAA is the only program that agrees with historical Catholic educational teachings.
- Imagine that the home school culture using the CLAA must be strict, all-consuming and hard. Parents sign their children up for heavy course loads aiming at the highest studies without having yet made their first beginning in the program.
- Finding the way difficult because of problems coming from their own weaknesses and failures, they suddenly leap to the conclusion that the children “can’t do it”, that it’s not “realistic” or isn’t “for their family”.
- Quit CLAA studies, making excuses for why they are returning to what they have already experienced and explained was not effective–even objectively false!
As dogs return to their vomit, so fools repeat their folly.
What’s the cause of this trouble? Is it true that all of these children “can’t do it”? No. Is the home school culture for students studying the classical liberal arts necessarily miserable? Not at all. The problem is not the curriculum (history proves that). The problem is not the child. The problem is hypocrisy in the parent.
Our Lord taught that hypocrisy is the #1 enemy of true religion. Hypocrisy can be identified by two habits:
- Hypocrites demand much of other people.
- Hypocrites do not do what they tell others should be done.
In Matthew 23, Jesus criticized the Jewish leaders for hypocrisy, saying:
“They tie up heavy loads and lay them on other people’s shoulders, but they do not lift a finger to move them.”
Sound familiar? That’s hypocrisy, and it’s the #1 obstacle in the way of your children’s opportunity to enjoy studies that can actually feed their souls and allow them to grow.
What, exactly, does hypocrisy look like in homeschooling?
- Parents have not cultivated the virtue of temperance, indulging themselves in many pleasures, and yet make great fuss about their children’s food, leisure activities, etc..
- Parents have not cultivated the virtue of prudence, giving very little attention to true learning in their own lives, and yet insist that their children pursue an extraordinary course of study.
- Parents have not cultivated the virtue of justice, doing many secret things that are unjust, yet demand that their children speak the truth, take nothing without permission, etc.
- Parents have not cultivated the virtue of fortitude, giving in to worldly pressures in many different areas, yet yell at their children about giving in to peer pressure.
Now, there are two things wrong here. First, what the parents do. Second, what they demand of their children. In our generation, foolish parents draw the conclusion that because “no one’s perfect”, they should relax the demands they put on their children and, thereby, end the hypocrisy. This, however, is not what Our Lord teaches, and parents have no right to live contrary to Christian morals. Jesus says that those commanded by hypocrites should “do what they say”, because they are often telling others to do what is right, though they do not do it themselves. It is good for the children to obey their parents in these situations. However, this is not likely to work because such a request requires great grace, for the child would need to not only obey his parents (which is hard enough), but to do so knowing that his parents are hypocrites, which is a great provocation. What happens in these situations is that parents cause their children to stumble and Jesus warned adults solemnly, saying,
Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
The only correct solution to this hypocrisy is for parents to repent and become examples of the morals they are to teach their children. Parents must order their own lives to the end of the education that they should give to their children. This is the real problem in homeschooling: Parents are asking their children to do something that they are not interested in doing themselves. That’s never going to work–and pulling your child down to a program that is better suited to your life is not the solution.
The solution is to repent and become the Catholic you want your children to be! Be a living example to them, not telling them what to do, but showing them how and helping them to do it with real, experienced wisdom. Support your children in growing in holiness, but growing with them and creating a home that is spiritually fertile rather than full of weeds and thorns. Jesus tells us how to do this:
If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life maimed or crippled than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into fiery Gehenna.
If that kind of heavenly-minded faith is not in you, why are you asking of it from your children? Is it not also necessary for you to “be a saint”?
You should seek this repentance knowing that Jesus promises benefits for you and your children when you do so. He says,
“How can you say to your [child], ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your [child’s] eye.
You can see that when you take your own spiritual life seriously, your ability to help your children will improve. You will become able to help them, teach them and, most importantly, inspire them to do good.
It is arrogant to blame the CLAA for problems when many are enjoying great fruits from the CLAA program, which has already proven itself capable of leading children into religious vocations, which are the highest of all callings. It is hypocritical to blame your children for not enthusiastically pursuing things that you do not pursue yourself. If you truly want your children to do great things, you must lead them in that life.
God bless you and help you.