Sitting in eucharistic adoration at Holy Family Catholic Church in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, Linda Fahnlander asked God one question, “Do you want us to homeschool?”
She heard an immediate “yes.”
Catholic families choose to homeschool their children for the flexibility it offers and the opportunity to hand the faith to their children in a personal, yet radical way.
Homeschooling allowed Fahnlander to cultivate strong, close-knit relationships with her six children, ranging from grades three to 11, and for them to spend time with each other.
“They’re able to build close relationships and become each other’s best friends,” Fahnlander said.
The Fahnlander family uses Seton Home Study School, a program that builds a Catholic curriculum for families to use in their homes. From textbooks adorned with religious artwork to writing prayers to practice handwriting, the curriculum provides a Catholic homeschool experience.
Fahnlander said she appreciates the thorough education Seton has given her children, and the Catholicism that it teaches. Her family is also involved in co-op programs throughout the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. The outlets provide an opportunity for her children to experience situations similar to classrooms, she said.
“They’re exposed to teachers who are excited about their faith and the subjects that they’re teaching,” Fahnlander said.
Maria Navedo-Merkt, a homeschooling mother of four from Floral City, Florida, also uses the Seton curriculum, alongside co-ops. While she loves the rich Catholicism taught throughout the subjects, she admitted to not wanting to use Seton at first, thinking it was too Catholic.
“My husband said that if we were going to do this, we were going to do it all the way,” Navedo-Merkt said.
Catholic homeschooling influenced Navedo-Merkt’s faith life, she said. She recalled her children talking with their parish priest about Scripture.
“They have conversations that are so deep,” Navedo-Merkt said. “That came with homeschooling, and that also came with Seton. It has been a gift, a blessing, truly.”
Homeschooling has allowed Fahnlander’s family to have more prayer time together. When her children were younger, she said, they started each day in their family room, discussing a saint. At lunch, they pray the Angelus. They also attend daily Mass.
Homeschooling does come with its own challenges. “My job description includes a lot, and homeschooling is at the center of it all,” Fahnlander said.
Navedo-Merkt said the only negative thing about homeschooling is the exhaustion that comes from the job.
“Those things are not the end of the world,” she said. “God gave us the opportunity for sacrifice. We pray and find a way.”
While battling cancer in 2013, Navedo-Merkt sent her oldest child to a Catholic high school. Her son performed well and received several academic recognitions during that year. She said that’s when she knew she was doing it right at home.
Fahnlander said she loves the doors that homeschooling opened for her family in the community, from taking nature classes to volunteering.
“There are lots of ways to school,” Fahnlander said. “We did one way, and through all of this imperfection, we really did enjoy each other and learn. We know families who have had beautiful Catholic school experiences, and great public schools as well. I hope my children are open to whatever the Lord might lead them to in parenting.”
— By Josephine von Dohlen
(von Dohlen is a freelance journalist from Minnesota).