In the Beginning… (mid 1970’s to mid 1980’s)

Mr. William Bowman

Mr. William Bowman, one of the founders of Our Lady of Victory School (OLVS), located in Post Falls, Idaho, went to visit Christian Liberty Academy, a Protestant home study program started in 1967 by Dr. Paul Lindstrom in Illinois. Mr. Bowman learned about the business model of a home study program and how the Protestant organization was able to help serve its students. In 1977, Our Lady of Victory School took this information and began to offer a Catholic home study program. They appear to have been the very first Catholic homeschooling organization.

Seton Home Study School was founded in 1980 as a branch of Mrs. Anne Carroll’s Seton School in Manassas, Virginia. The home study program became a separate organization, and Dr. Mary Kay Clark became the director after her experience with the private Catholic school in Columbus, Ohio in 1985 when Seton Home Study School moved to Front Royal, Virginia. Our Lady of the Rosary School (OLRS) was founded in 1983. This Bardstown, Kentucky school, led by Mr. And Mrs. William and Janice Smyth, opposed what they viewed as trends of heresy and Modernism in the Catholic schools.

These three schools, OLVS, Seton, and OLRS were the first three Catholic home study programs, and the only three until the mid 1990’s. All three were primarily scholastic in method and closely modeled many of the elements of the Catholic schools that had come before them, even using many of the same textbooks. The early Catholic Homeschooling Movement depended on these three schools very heavily because legal protections for homeschoolers were few and far between, and being enrolled in an actual home study program gave some security to parents. These three were the pioneers, especially in the case of Seton Home Study School, which quickly grew to prominence. The home study programs would help get local homeschooling conferences started to spread the word about the movement.

The home study programs in these early years helped to forge a difference between homeschoolers who happened to be Catholics and Catholic homeschoolers. One of the most significant contributions was in the area of textbooks. Quality Catholic textbooks were no longer being published by the traditional Catholic publishing companies, but the home study programs were making many of the older specifically Catholic texts available.