This past weekend I attended the Minnesota Catholic Home Education Conference. I heard two excellent talks and discovered interesting materials I had never seen before. I would like to spend the next few weeks here reflecting on what I learned. Those of you who were not able to attend a conference this year can consider this a mini-conference–free of charge!
Long-time homeschooler Ginny Sueffert spoke on “How Catholic Homeschoolers are Changing American Culture.” She told the story of Catholic education in America, with a much more positive perspective than you often hear from homeschool experts. She emphasized, however, that Catholic schools have largely been secularized since the 1960s. According to Sueffert, 100 American dioceses are requiring their schools to follow the Obama Administration’s controversial Common Core Standards.
Sueffert believes that Catholic homeschoolers have really taken over the role the parish schools used to play in Catholic life. I’d like to share with you some uplifting statistics on the good job homeschoolers are doing.
An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 U.S. Catholics are currently being homeschooled. In contrast, over 2 million students were in Catholic school this year. The NCEA says that over 85%–or more than 1,600,000–of these students were Catholic. So Catholic schools continue to educate about 20 times as many Catholics as homeschools.
Catholic homeschooling fosters vocations
Every few years someone in the Catholic press accuses homeschoolers of not having many priestly or religious vocations–without citing any evidence. Let’s put this ridiculous notion to rest. As Sueffert told us, former Archbishop Doran of Rockford, Illinois found that 23% of the boys graduating from one Catholic homeschool co-op in his diocese between 2000 and 2005 entered the seminary. What Catholic school can boast those numbers?
Archbishop O’Brien of Baltimore, according to The Catholic Review has said: “There’s no greater feeder for the vocations than the home-schoolers. I’ve seen this over and over again across the country. It’s in home schooling that you have every opportunity to share the values that really matter: respect for one another, respect for the church and the sacraments and the ability to sacrifice for others and to see how best we can serve.” The archdiocese also has an official statement on homeschooling: A Gift to the Church.
According to a survey of U.S. seminarians this school year, 4% had been homeschooled. 42% attended Catholic elementary or high school. That means that Catholic schools are only producing 10 times the priestly vocations that homeschools are (if we assume consistent percentages will eventually be ordained). It appears then that the rate of priestly vocations among homeschoolers is double that from Catholic schools.
A 2009 CARA study found that 14% of recent religious vocations among those born in 1982 and later were former homeschool students. That’s even more astounding! And fewer Catholic were being homeschooled at that time.
Other advantages of homeschooling
Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has found that homeschoolers on average score in the 87th-88th percentile on standardized tests, compared to the 50th percentile for public school students. I did not find any national statistics on scores from Catholic schools, but a few dioceses do have information online. In general, their students score in the 65th-75th percentile.
HSLDA’s 2003 study found homeschooled young adults significantly more involved in their communities, much more likely to be politically active, and more than 50% more likely than Americans their age in general to have taken college-level courses.
So, if you finished this school year feeling discouraged, don’t give up! You are making a difference.
Share with us: Do you know any homeschoolers who went on to become priests, religious, politicians, or other prominent members of society?