Thursday, January 19, 2006

Besides Rainbow Resource...

Anyone have any favorite homeschool catalogs? Here's my list of favorite and obscure sources for homeschool stuff. They all have dead-tree versions, which I far prefer for browsing.

American Home-School Publishing
No-nonsense catalog of "academically rigorous materials" oriented toward a classical education. Really good. I can't figure out why it's not better known.

Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers
These are the Artes Latinae guys. Everything your budding classicist could ever want. They have a printed catalog available. And a nice selection of Latin for little kids.

Chaucer Studio Recordings
Run by a professor in the English Dept. at BYU. I had an e-mail from him a while back saying he was having some new things recorded soon. Low prices, free shipping; they're just in it for the love of spreading Middle English. And you get a free cool Chaucer tote bag if you order enough materials. The grad student I talked to seemed amused that the department had tote bags.

Armor Forensics
For your budding CSI, or suspicious parent of teenagers. See their press release for all the cool details. Not really homeschooling, but my elder child loved browsing through it. And I'm sure I could find some use for 100 yards of "Caution: Crime Scene" police tape. Or an assortment pack of biohazard stickers.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Waiting for Jack to Get the Comfy Chair

Confession: I'm a TV addict. I grew up watching TV basically from when I got home to when I went to bed (I always could do my homework in class). For one glorious half-year in third grade, the school in our rapidly growing suburb was overcrowded and everyone went to class half-days until the new school was built; I got to watch game shows all morning and mosey over to school after lunch. How I loved Match Game '77 and The Price is Right. I still know how much a four-door mid-sized sedan cost in the late seventies.

Like any ex-addict, I rail against the evil Demon Box at any opportunity. By every measure, television is terrible for children: studies have shown TV-watching leading to obesity, ADHD, low academic scores, behavioral problems, increased violent tendencies, child neglect, brain dysfunctions. Well, duh. I sneer in contempt at the feeble attempts of some of my fellow homeschoolers to excuse TV by naming a few so-called 'educational' programs that teach as much in one hour as a kid could get from five minutes of reading a book on the topic. Popping in a video ain't any different, either; don't kid yourself. It's still the leering, brain-damaging, sugar-and-gadget-hawking electronic pseudo-parent, sliding its tentacles into your Precious Offspring's ganglia. Ten years of No TV, and Offspring #1 fills her spare time with bike rides, books, paper dolls, chess, craft projects, playing with her buddy down the street, and learning to program in Perl. There's a television in our bedroom, for watching the World Series and our weekly Family Movie Night.

But when the last child is tucked into bed ... I did mention that I'm an addict, didn't I? Make that a hypocritical addict.

So anyway. I've been watching the latest season of 24, stealthily tape-delayed of course. Geraint Wyn Davies, the star of the unintentionally hilarious vampire-cop show Forever Knight (I can't put into words what's so funny about a vampire with a Canadian accent; just trust me), is apparently going to be in a recurring role, but I haven't figured out who he is yet. I need a good look at the uber-villain; might be him. The terrorists du jour this season are sort-of Russians, but really from "one of those breakaway Russian republics." Maybe Latvians. Certainly no one has said the word Chechen, and given last season, where Kiefer Sutherland had to show up in public service announcements in the middle of each episode assuring us that the network really didn't believe that all Moslems are terrorists after CAIR threw fits about the Islamic terrorist bad guys, I suspect Fox isn't planning to get anywhere near the faintest hint of a suggestion that, well, you know what.

This is what makes me think Geraint Wyn Davies would be such a good choice for Head Bad Guy. Fox has got to be thinking that the Welsh-Canadian Antw-Dwfwmytion League can be safely ignored.

After three episodes, Jack Bauer hasn't actually tortured anyone, though he's threatened to do it a couple of times: bonus points for aiming one of those threats at a fifteen-year-old. Perhaps the whole "torture for the sake of your country" thing is a little sensitive right now. He's still incredibly short; I really expected the villains, when a flushed-out Bauer showed himself, to say "Bozhe moy, I expected you to be taller." Perhaps to keep the contrast from being too embarassing, the latest head of CTU is Sam Gamgee, I mean Sean Astin, professional hobbit, who showed up in time to save the day in episode 3.

Episode 4 tonight!
Not Making This Up

Italian newspapers are reporting that Pope Benedict XVI has been regularly sneaking out of the Vatican and returning to his old digs where he lived as a cardinal. For those whose Italian is rusty, here's an English newspaper report on the odd phenomenon. The favored theory in Rome is that the Holy Father is visiting his cats, which he was not allowed to take with him to the papal apartments; Cdl. Ratzinger's devotion to his felines was much discussed at the time of his election.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Flying and Schooling

Can it be done? Can we have dinner in the crockpot, our shoes laced, our surfaces cleared, our zones cleaned, our hot spots decluttered, and our children educated, too? Do you have the faintest idea what I'm on about?

If you do, you may be a FlyBaby: one of the disciples of the FlyLady, leader of the nation's largest benign cult for women with messy houses and frayed nerves.

According to FlyLady, you can have a clean, inviting home at all times, even if you homeschool, or have a disability or chronic illness, or if you're a single mom, or work full time. Her theory for why this is true is, first because you have to--who else is going to do it?--and second because decluttering, zone work, and morning/evening schedules actually make your life easier rather than loading you up with lots of extra cleaning.

My experience? True, mostly. I've acquired an evening routine and imposed it on Oldest Child: bathe, wash hair if necessary, pick up house (me) and room (her), lay out clothes for tomorrow. Likewise a morning routine: say prayers and get dressed right away--this alone has shaved half an hour off the morning--and I reboot the laundry and the dishes. If I get no other housework done all day, at least I won't be faced with piles of laundry, dishes mounting in the sink, or a complete disaster of a house.

On the other hand, at the moment I'm surrounded by piles of unsorted CD-ROMs on the computer desk, books waiting to be scanned, books from last semester's homeschooling piles up on and next to the speaker, and I haven't gotten around to my Christmas thank-you notes yet. I don't think I've dusted since August. And I have to say, in all honesty, that it's not because I haven't yet ascended the ladder of perfection to the lofty heights of true Flying, but because I kind of like living this way, slightly cluttered, and a little bit late and dusty.

So flying isn't incompatible with homeschooling or any other time-suck if you don't feel like you really have to do all that zone cleaning; and some of the basic ideas really do save you time and frustration. The very best advice she has is decluttering, which is the spiritual center of Flying. Decluttering for FlyBabies isn't just bagging up some old clothes for Goodwill: it's a way of life, sort of a housewifely Therese of Lisieux approach to living. You don't just vacuum your carpets each Monday morning, you bless your family. You don't just force yourself outside for fifteen minutes of raking leaves, you bless your heart. It's holiness for housewives, reminiscent of the old spiritual advice to offer up washing the dishes to God as an act of prayer.

And you don't just give things to charity, you bless other people with them: that means you don't try to hold a garage sale, or stick it in the attic in the hope your children will want it some day, but give it to somebody else, even if you don't know who that person who needs it will be. "Blessing" with your unneeded stuff is accompanied with all sorts of encouragement about being freed from the burden of Things--things which try (and fail) to fill in the emptinesses in your life, things which waste your time with endlessly putting them away or trying to find the things you really do need in the crowd of things you don't, things which could be instead, through giving them to others, avenues of grace. Among the slew of e-mails you receive as a FlyBaby are some amazing testimonials about "blessing"/decluttering. One woman writes about an iron saucepan she keeps beneath her bed, which her ex-husband used to beat her with, and which she is now ready to discard. Another writes about finally getting rid of the "poor" clothes hanging in her closet, finally at peace with the fact that she no longer lived in poverty and now could always dress nicely. And on the lighter side, paeans to the liberating power of "flinging" oppressive worldly goods, amusing anecdotes of weird items found in the process, and lots of talk about "God breezes," which are sudden freeing epiphanies involving housework. It's like Erma Bombeck meets the Egyptian Desert Fathers.

The decluttering really does make homeschooling easier. I don't waste time searching for the right materials; I don't beat myself up for that curriculum I spent too much money on and found useless; I don't hold on to stuff with the thought that at some point I'll list it on VegSource and recoup some of my costs. I give it to some other homeschooler, free, and it's all done. And I've blessed some other homeschooler who doesn't have any more money to spare than I do ("I've been looking for this! You're really just giving it away?").

Some of the general Flying principles work pretty well for homeschooling, too. Just like I plan our menus a week in advance, doing all the shopping at once, I've learned to plan lessons a week in advance and have everything I'll need, including worksheets, photocopies, and books all set on a particular shelf. A little increased order lets me order lessons so that tutoring-intensive work, like science and composition, are at times when the preschooler is more easily diverted (or asleep, or absent), while during high-need baby times I assign more autodidactic subjects like Latin (on CD-ROM) or reading assignments. With a weekly chart of subjects affixed to a clipboard (I learned this technique from a homeschooling mom of eleven), the older child can check off what she's done, see what she still needs to do, and clip finished work at the bottom for later grading.

I was never this organized before, and I definitely owe it to FlyLady.

But I still don't dust.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Factum Non Dictum

Or in English, talk is cheap. So I've written to the diocesan Tribunal--those folks who handle annulment cases, but can apparently answer questions about canon law for laity on other matters--and asked for clarification on Canon 793 (see posts below) in relation to a diocese or parish requiring CCD classes and particular textbooks for children not enrolled in a parochial school. The letter (e-mail really) is addressed to the Judicial Vicar of the diocese.

Dear Father -------,

On behalf of myself and other interested parents of the diocese, I would be grateful for replies to the following brief questions.

Canon 793 specifies that "Catholic parents have also the duty and the right to choose those means and institutions through which they can provide more suitably for the Catholic education of their children according to local circumstances."

1. Do Catholic parents as a general matter have the right to choose not to make use of particular educational materials and/or classes, if in the parents' best judgment such materials and classes do not provide suitably for the Catholic education of their children, and the parents provide for the Catholic education of their children in some other way?

2. May a parish or diocese require Catholic parents to enroll their children in a class which, in the parents' best judgment, does not provide suitably for the Catholic education of their children, particularly if only a single option is made available to the parents?

3. May children be refused the sacraments of Communion, Confession, and/or Confirmation if their parents do not enroll them in a class as in (2), but provide their children a suitable Catholic education in some other manner?

4. May a parish or diocese require Catholic parents to educate their children using a particular textbook chosen by the parish, one which in the parents' best judgment does not provide suitably for the Catholic education of their children?

5. May a parish or diocese require Catholic parents to educate their children by choosing from a limited list of textbooks, none of which in the parents' best judgment provides suitably for the Catholic education of their children?

6. May children be refused sacraments if their parents do not use the particular textbook, or one of the list of textbooks, required by the parish or diocese as in (4) and (5), but provide their children a suitable Catholic education in some other manner?

Please note that I am not inquiring whether a diocese or parish is required to provide additional educational options; but only whether parents are forbidden from refusing to make use of materials and classes which they deem unsuitable, if they are able to provide a suitable Catholic education through other means.

Thank you for your time and attention, Father.

So now I wait.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Could Be Worse

Boy, this makes me want to complain less about the "Use this list or else" diocesan approach to homeschoolers. That these people are still in the Church, despite all, when others have left for far lesser reasons, strikes me as a heroic demonstration of forgiveness.

(Via Amy Welborn)

Monday, January 02, 2006

Blest Are We

As an appendix to the following post, here's a review of the Fifth Grade text, Blest Are We, used in my parish and approved by the USCCB for classroom use as not being contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Catechism. I wrote this back before removing Offspring #1 from fifth grade CCD. I've since become familiar with the Third Grade text, which suffers from all the same flaws, with a few unique shudder-inducing features of its own, such as the concluding devotions where the teacher is supposed to force the children to "pray" in Yoruba and Polish, sounding out the words phonetically. The very worst of it is a required Sioux prayer to the Great Spirit, with a disturbing obfuscation of any distinction between the Lakhota deity and the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. How this passed the USCCB's protocols I can't imagine.

And yet, it's still light-years beyond the text our parish had been using previously. At least it contains enough usable material to teach a class from.
Review: "Blest Are We: Parish Catechist Guide Grade 5," Silver, Burdett, & Ginn.

Overall, "Blest Are We" is a vast improvement over the content-free, dumbed-down catechetical materials used previously in our parish. It retains familiar flaws: like most modern textbooks, it's overly glossy and image-oriented, fragments information across each page and throughout each unit, is quite self-oriented. and is often maddeningly confusing and vague. But the mere fact that it has so much content, is reasonably orthodox, and seems to expect the children to learn something makes it a refreshing step upwards. And occasionally, crying out in the bland committee-composed textbook desert, there is a voice hinting at the treasures of our Catholic faith.

This review is limited to Unit 1, titled "Sacraments," which somewhat confusingly covers creation, the Church, the Beatitudes, sacramentals, and caring for the environment, but not sacraments (which are instead scattered throughout later units).

Unit 1: Sacraments
1 Sacraments of Creation
This entire chapter teaches, again confusingly, that nature is a sacrament of the Church; later, the Church itself is described as a sacrament, which certainly is true in a sense, but seems unnecessarily confusing for children who can't yet name more than two or three of the traditional seven sacraments.

I was dismayed to see that the "Scripture" section of the Creation chapter was not in fact Scripture, but was "based on" the first chapter of Genesis, with its majestic, familiar cadences replaced by such inanities as "God proclaimed, 'Let there be sky!' And the ever-changing sky became ours." This practice is continued throughout the book, with the most beautiful passages of Scripture re-written without an ounce of aesthetic sense.

The chapter concludes, as do all the chapters, with a "Prayer Celebration." This is a huge improvement on our parish's old text, and so I hesitate to be too critical, especially when the first chapter's prayer is Psalm 8: appropriate to the text, beautiful, a reminder that the psalms are the Church's first form of prayer, and a welcome appearance of Scripture. But aside from the dreary forced cheerfulness of insisting that it's not just prayer but a prayer "celebration," "Blest Are We" nearly ruins the whole thing with (a) the usual tin-eared adaptation of Scripture (this time with an awkwardly forced gender-neutral re-write); (b) prayer suggestions straight out of the seventies, telling the children to "imagine you are walking along the beach with the children pictured on page 15," and replacing the traditional concluding doxology with the sharing of "a gesture of peace as a sign of unity with creation."

2 The Church is a Sacrament of God's Life

To begin with, a minor quibble: On p. 25, the children are instructed in Sabellian modalism, as the three Persons of the Trinity are defined by function instead of ontologically. It would be nice if the text added that all three Persons, in fact, fulfill all three roles.

The optional activity of having the children write their "own eucharistic prayer" is just disastrous, and I'm thankful our catechist skipped it. And the yoga-ish "breathe out your hurt feelings/ breathe in God" exercise on p. 28, presented as a prelude to offering the Sign of Peace, is just embarrassing. Here is a theme that, alas, continues throughout "Blest Are We." For those of us who remember "Blowin' In the Wind" as a church hymn in our childhoods, it's just depressing to see the now-badly-outdated prayer practices still marring what look like genuine attempts to recover traditional Catholic prayer forms.

At last, on page 25, we learn what a sacrament is, and what the seven sacraments are. On the one hand, it's encouraging to see the children directly told what a sacrament is and does (even if the definition is a bit vague). It's also good to see the children expected to learn some definite information about the Church and the sacraments, especially the need for the sacraments as the ordinary channels of grace. On the other hand, at this point the children have been taught that nature and the Church are also sacraments, and nothing in the text attempts to explain the apparent contradiction.

3 Living the Beatitudes
The chapter on the Beatitudes has nothing particularly objectionable, beyond the abominable re-writing of Scripture noted above; mostly it suffers from an all-too-familiar "Jesus teaches us to be nice to people" approach, followed by the usual assurance that the first step in being nice to others is to be particularly nice to oneself. In an especially startling and cringe-worthy example of this latter point, the children are taught on page 35 that "showing respect for yourself" is entirely and exclusively a matter of preserving one's physical health.

One longs for an example of heroic virtue by a young person, such as St. Rose of Lima, St. Maria Goretti, St. Dominic Savio, or the many biblical saints (Jacob, David, the seven martyred boys of II Maccabees, the Virgin Mary, St. Stephen) who showed great holiness in their youth. Anything to give a hint as to the radical nature of the holiness called for in the Beatitudes, rather than the limp call to niceness presented as the heart of Christianity. To argue that the average child will not be engaged in such dazzlingly heroic acts is to miss the point; as any parent knows, it's the stories of fighting orcs and dragons that teach children the courage to stand up to bullies and barking dogs. Nagging children to remember to be considerate of others does nothing to recommend the adventure of Christianity to them.

4 Sacramentals, Prayer, and Devotions
This was a refreshing chapter to see included. I had had the impression that sacramentals had vanished altogether from Catholic life. Too bad that the first "sacramental" mentioned was the familiar Kindergarten-craft yarn-and-stick "God's eye." But then in an abrupt volte-face, the text suggests bringing holy water home and putting it in a stoup at the front door; a practice I haven't seen outside of Ireland and which I am (happily) astounded to see recommended. Imagine if our parish should go to the effort of providing a small container of holy water to each CCD student (with instructions as to its use).

This chapter is hit-and-miss. The most common devotions and sacramentals are actually listed (hooray!); but not until five pages into the chapter, and then there is no mention that the items should be blessed. The Book of Revelation and the pope's apostolic letter "Tertio Millennio Adveniente" are given an entire page; but with no actual quotations from them, nor any very clear indication what they have to do with sacramentals.

The discussion on the Communion of Saints is direct, informative, and actually mentions Purgatory (which didn't even merit a mention in the CCD discussion of All Saints and All Souls; the children were instead told that on All Souls' Day we remember our grandparents; besides being inaccurate, most of the fifth-graders' grandparents are still alive). The two page profile of three saints (St. Rose Philippin duchesne, St. Juan Diego, and St. Maximilian Kolbe) is well-done; and instead of the usual dreadful "Prayer Celebration" at the end of the chapter, the class is actually to recite a (shortened and adapted) Litany of the Saints.

And yet, on the very next page, the text reverts to an awful and self-caricaturing chapter called "We Care About Creation," in which the children learn the religious importance of growing vegetables and recycling. I don't intend to continue this review past that chapter, but must pause to note that this is characteristic of "Blest Are We"'s Jekyll-Hyde nature. One moment, the long-dormant treasures of the faith are being revived for a new generation; the next moment, the children are wasting their forty-minutes-a-week of religious education on admonitions to be nice to people and to sort their glass from their aluminum.

The Principal and First Educators of Their Children

A great number of catechists expressed concern that they were expected to be the primary influence on the religious formation of the children in the parish when, in fact, this is the responsibility of the parents or guardians. The importance of this obligation cannot be overstated. Canon law addresses this concern as follows: "Parents above others are obliged to form their children in the faith and practice of the Christian life by word and example; godparents and those who take the place of parents are bound by an equivalent obligation" (Code of Canon Law, Canon 774.2). If little or no foundation has been laid in the home, it is very difficult for catechists to overcome this deficiency during the relatively brief classes at the parish.
--Second Synod of the Diocese of Austin, "Religious Education," 8-7
The unofficial subtitle for this blog is "A blog about homeschooling, Catholicism, and Catholic homeschooling." (It will become the official subtitle if I ever figure out the necessary html.) But one subject I've tried to stay away from, despite its obvious relevance to the content of this blog, is the policy regarding Catholic education in my own diocese. This for several reasons, not the least of them being that there would necessarily be some unpleasant griping about the way our diocese, despite having an encouragingly pro-education, and explicitly pro-home education, bishop, treats homeschoolers.

But I 'm done with being silent. So first let me talk about our wonderful bishop, who hit the ground running with the country's most farseeing, thorough, and practical programs for preventing abuse of children by clerics and church employees (this before the 2002 scandals hit the newspapers, and the local media started to be interested in what kinds of programs the diocese might have); who moved quickly to establish a diocesan high school on the "wrong" side of the freeway (the side where most Catholics actually live), where dropout rates are the shame of the city, with the intent of getting kids through high school and into good colleges; who began personally presiding at the annual homeschool blessing mass, and for the first time opened a dialogue between the diocese and homeschooling Catholics. The list could go on just on educational matters alone; and heaven knows what other good he has been doing, out of the public eye.

Now, in the last ten years, there has been something of a slow revolution in homeschooling. New homeschoolers no longer worry that their local public school district will sic the truant officers on them, or that the state will attempt to decide what books, curriculum, or pedagogy families will use. Homeschoolers have gone from being below the radar, to dangerous fringe kooks who everybody knows need stringent regulation if not outright outlawing, to just normal people exercising an increasingly popular educational option. Sure, there are places a little behind the curve, and, eternal vigilance being the price of liberty, we would be fools to become complacent and stop hounddogging our legislators, but there has been a sure and certain shift in the zeitgeist.

So it has been a rude shock to homeschoolers in this diocese, and in dioceses around the country, to discover that as far as their diocesan officials are concerned, it's the 1980's, and homeschoolers have emerged from below the radar only to find themselves the objects of hamfisted attempts to impose intolerable regulations, just as public school bureaucrats, afraid of a situation suddenly growing out of their control, once attempted to control and prosecute homeschooling families. The most obnoxious of these regulations stems from a development that devout Catholic parents at first hailed: the USCCB's welcome discovery of the empty-headed heterodoxy of most catechetical materials being used in parishes across the country. The bishops eventually compiled a list of acceptable catechetical materials submitted by publishers hoping not to lose Catholic school dollars. And suddenly, as diocesan bureaucrats have become increasingly eager to regulate homeschooling Catholic families, dioceses from St. Augustine to Los Angeles have decided that this list constitutes the only materials that parents may use to educate their children in the faith.

But nothing in the USCCB's protocols for determining orthodoxy of materials implies the listing to be exclusive; and by its nature the review process must necessarily exclude both out-of-print materials and catechesis not given in text form, such as explanations of doctrine from parents, pastors, and catechists. Nor does the list have anything to say about the quality of the texts in dimensions other than doctrinal orthodoxy. These are important considerations for homeschoolers, as the very nature of homeschooling makes the USCCB conformity listing almost completely irrelevant.

First, many families choose to use good and orthodox materials that are no longer in print: for example, Bishop Morrow's classic My Catholic Faith, the doctrinal contents of which are as true today as they were in 1941 when it was first published. Where there have been changes to non-doctrinal teaching, such as regulations regarding marital impediments or cremation, any reasonably educated Catholic familiar with her Catechism is able to give corrections. Recently reprinted due to the demand of Catholic parents for beautiful, orthodox, comprehensive, and affordable catechetical materials, as far as I know it has never been sent to the USCCB for approval--no proof of unorthodoxy, but a demonstration of the limited nature of the bishops' undertaking, as they don't pretend to review all Catholic educational materials that exist--only those currently printed by mainstream publishers for classroom use.

Second, as the ranks of Catholic homeschoolers grow, they more and more include unschoolers, who eschew textbooks in favor of real-life experiential teaching. Their children won't read the latest glossy Harcourt Brace Jovanovich offering to learn the teaching of the Church or the obligations to participate in social justice and live lives of heroic virtue: they learn these things from their families, from their pastors, from their volunteer work inside and outside the parish, from reading Scripture itself. Look at the pages of the textbooks used in parish CCD classes, they would say; see the photographs of people in "real life" situations with captions saying "How would you live Jesus' teachings in these situations?" Catholic unschoolers, and indeed all Catholic homeschoolers, don't need these things because they are living these situations, in the company of their parents who offer moral advice and instruction, not sitting at a desk, imagining. The bishops' list is of classroom materials. Homeschoolers, by definition, are not learning in a classroom. This raw fact alone should make obvious the unreasonableness of forcing homeschooling parents to use the "approved" materials only.

Finally, Catholic homeschoolers find the fluff-headed, dumbed-down Catholicism presented in parish catechetical materials to be as dangerous to their children's faith as any Christological or ecclesiological errors. While the excellent Ignatius Press curriculums, Image of God and Faith and Life, made the "approved" list, these cover only grades K-8 (and given the accelerated pace most homeschool children learn at, really only about through grade 5), with nothing for the high school years. Other than Ignatius, the undemanding content of the approved texts is frankly an embarrassment to the Catholic intellectual tradition. In the word of my non-Catholic husband, upon flipping through our second-grader's CCD text with its bubblegum contents, "It's hard to believe you guys produced Thomas Aquinas."

When the American bishops reviewed, judged, condemned, and at last approved the textbooks their diocese were spending millions on, was it ever their intent to imply that these books were the source and summit of Catholic catechesis, and that all parents be forced to use them, and them alone? If so, they gave no intimation that that was their intent.

In the main, American Catholic homeschoolers, as homeschoolers in general once were, are at the mercy of geographic fortune. You're in luck if you happen to be teaching your children their faith in Peoria, for instance, where the written policies for homeschoolers are benign and undemanding or in Pittsburgh, where the policy is lengthy, enthusiastic, and recognizes the obvious fact that "The Church is made one in the sacrament, not in the educational technique or textbook."

Less lucky are you to find yourself in Phoenix or, much worse, Florida, where the bishops have decided that those errant homeschooling families must be forced into CCD and made to use the texts their parents are homeschooling to avoid, or in the Los Angeles or San Bernardino dioceses, where homeschoolers are not only forced to use only materials from the bishops' list, but where Ignatius Press' high-quality, orthodox Faith and Life curriculum, though specifically approved by the U.S. bishops (and one of the two curriculums, the other also published by Ignatius, homeschoolers find to be usable), has been unilaterally removed from the list of acceptable materials by the diocesan educational politburo.

The $64,000 question, of course, is "Can they enforce it?" How many legions does the bishop, or more likely the diocesan Director of Catechesis, have? The main tool of enforcement, of course, is to hold the sacraments hostage, and forbid homeschooled children whose parents haven't toed the line from receiving their First Communion or Confirmation. Canon law would seem to be on the side of the parents, especially Canon 793:

"Parents, and those who take their place, have both the obligation and the right to educate their children. Catholic parents have also the duty and the right to choose those means and institutes which, in their local circumstances, can best promote the Catholic education of their children."

But Rome is a long way away, and meanwhile your pastor or DRE has told you that little John Paul won't be eligible for First Communion unless and until you agree to use the parish's materials. You know that you are responsible for ensuring he receives the sacraments. What do you do?

Realistically, in parishes where homeschooling parents have figured out there is a threat of their children being punished for the family's educational choices, the recourse is simply to lie. You are aware of your sacred obligation to raise your children in the faith and ensure they are provided the sacraments; you know that you are, according to the constant teaching of the Church, the primary and principal educator of your children; you know that you cannot, in conscience, follow the insane directive to choose from a list of unsuitable materials; and when your DRE asks if you're using the same textbook as the CCD children, you find yourself saying "yes," and ask God for forgiveness.

This is the actual situation of an ever-increasing number of Catholic homeschooling parents. Is this what our bishops really want? Is fear and distrust of pastors, evasion of discussions that might lead to questioning, and parents' resulting withdrawal from parish life for fear of being forced to choose between betraying our duties to our children or bearing false witness--is this what our bishop, who has done so much to open the door to dialog with homeschooling Catholics, intended?