Thank you for your letter. I think that as we reach this time of year there are probably many parents who are in the process of discernment with regards to Catholic homeschooling. What a wonderful witness you are giving in your complete trust in the Lord and His desire to uplift and empower you and your husband through this time in your life. God is good and wants to lead us gently to the path He would have us take. Thank you for stepping up and sharing your discernment with this forum as this will indeed give others the strength to trust in the Lord.
I will give you the opinions of my husband and myself with regards to highschool. It is my desire not to over-influence your discernment but to be candid with our reasons so that you are better able to understand your position.
We feel that highschool homeschooling has been one of the most rewarding experiences for our family. I have felt a closer connection with my young people and have grown to better understand their needs through this time together. In the same respect I have witnessed first hand the blossoming of their personalities through their choices concerning peer groups and activities. It appears that they are accepted for who they are and the unique talents they have. I have particularly felt a blessing in seeing the Catholic faith come alive for them through academic study of the faith.
However it is important to me that I let you know, my teens are quite normal and we have indeed had our share of discussions about all the same issues that other non-homeschooling families face. I do not think that highschool homeschool is intended to circumvent these opportunities for growth between parents and young people, but perhaps it does make it easier to understand feelings because we have a keener opportunity to really get to know our teens. Day to day contact can be healthy and rewarding as long as we as parents understand that the teen years are transition years and as such present challenges unique to this time. In the event we would face difficult times with our teens I am at peace that I would not "blame" highschool homeschool for the problems, but see these challenges (should they arise) as work the Lord would have me travel through within His will and with His guidance.
We do not have access to a Catholic highschool in our small town. If there were a worthy Catholic highschool available to us I am sure that the discernment would have been more difficult for our family. I think it is important to understand in your own heart the reasons that you and your husband are being drawn to the homeschooling lifestyle. Are you thinking of homeschooling because the Catholic highschool presents a problem or are you feeling called to homeschooling by listening to the Lord's call for your family? Ask yourselves this question and see what conversations develop. Because I did not have this ingredient in my particular discernment process, I feel that it is important that you face this issue and see how you feel. In other words, would I homeschool no matter if there were a Catholic highschool or not? If you can answer "yes" to this question, then it would appear that the Lord is indeed calling your family to the homeschooling choice for highschool.
If this is how you truly feel, then all challenges with regards to highschool can be overcome with the Lord's own strength. As far as entrance into college I can tell you that this has not been a problem for us. Scholarship monies have been made available to us as well as opportunities for academic excellence in college. Our two homeschooled highschoolers who have gone on to college have made the transition with ease and with eagerness. Seeing this eagerness to "embrace life" and all that the Lord is making available to them has been the greatest blessing. They enter into the college experience feeling empowered to excel and excited about their future and opportunities that lay ahead. I am so thankful to the good and tender Jesus to see this type of joy in my young people. I want them to go on the path that the Lord has put before them.
Students who are applying for college are judged on many factors, probably one the most important however is the ACT and the SAT. Certainly the activities that they did in highschool from 4-H, theater and sports are factored in but the overpowering evidence of their academic future lies in the scores on these two tests. This is not to say that this is the only criterion a college will use but it is generally the first and most overpowering.
Highschool homeschool is very much accepted and a mainstream method of education. In fact there are colleges who actively recruit homeschoolers, because they find them to be desirable additions to the campus. Campus life is about diversity and growth. Colleges do not want students who are all alike, this would make for a less academically stimulating environment. Certainly there are opportunities for sports and the financial rewards some of these activities will bring. Investigate these avenues in your own circle of homeschoolers. In my own family my children's cousins have engaged in very active and rewarding sports activities, etc. It is out there and available for homeschoolers. The changes are being made because concerned parents are stepping up and providing and facilitating such opportunities. Caring and involved parents are always the best criterion for the success of childhood endeavors.
This is a wonderful and exciting time to be homeschooling, especially in the highschool years. Watching young people enter life with confidence, beauty, purity, truth, and a love of the faith is a blessing from the Lord. This blessing's value is beyond words. I praise the Lord and thank Him for my teenagers and all that goes with them. I want them to become all the Lord would have them be and homeschooling is just a part of achieving that overall goal. For our family the call to homeschool led us to homeschooling in the highschool. We have tried not to look back, but with the Lord's grace continue to look forward. The Lord will provide all that is necessary for the future of our children. As long as we feel called to this lifestyle I pray we will listen and follow the call. Remember that the Lord created your children for success and goodness. Success measured in the Lord's eyes (and what eyes matter more?) is living the unique call for their life.
I admire your straightforward and loving approach to this question for your children. I feel that you are truly blest with a husband who is by your side through the discernment process. As a married couple you have at your access a well-spring of graces afforded through the Sacrament of Matrimony. Jesus is right there with you in this time. He is the most caring of Counselors. It is obvious that you are seeking His direction first and foremost. You can not fail if you truly rest in the Lord and pray to know His will. Keep up the good and fruitful work. You are a powerful witness to the beauty and power of a family who resides in the Lord.
Jesus, we ask that You continue the good work You have begun in this dear family. Allow the Holy Spirit to bathe them in the graces necessary to know and do Your will. Give them the clear knowledge of Your presence and Your overwhelming love as they strive to follow Your path and do Your will. We love You, Lord, and long to see Your face. Protect and guard all young people as they venture from the homeschool into the bigger world. Amen.
Sending out a prayer,