Teaching religious education at home is really a wonderful option for many parents. Of course there are many parents who homeschool for every subject, but there are also parents who have their children in a public school or private school and select to do just their religion classes at home. There are a wide variety of reasons to do this. There might be scheduling conflicts with the parish’s CCD or PSR program, there might be concerns about how well the materials chosen by a parish teach the faith, or parents might simply think that teaching religion at home will not only help their children learn the Faith better, but will strengthen their relationship with their child, who, if they go to a regular school, might not be at home all that often.
Whether Parents are allowed to do their religious instruction outside of the parish CCD or PSR program.
One of the first questions parents have is whether or not homeschooling for CCD or PSR is actually allowed by the Church. The answer is yes! The Second Vatican Council put together a document on Christian education, Gravissimum Educationis, in which it was explained that parents, society, and the Church all have a duty regarding the education of children, but that the primary and principal duty belongs to parents.
Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators. This role in education is so important that only with difficulty can it be supplied where it is lacking. Parents are the ones who must create a family atmosphere animated by love and respect for God and man, in which the well-rounded personal and social education of children is fostered. Hence the family is the first school of the social virtues that every society needs. It is particularly in the Christian family, enriched by the grace and office of the sacrament of matrimony, that children should be taught from their early years to have a knowledge of God according to the faith received in Baptism, to worship Him, and to love their neighbor.
In asking whether homeschooling for CCD is acceptable, we are acknowledging that there are two different spheres of authority that appear to over lap. These two positions were admirably summarized in the text Responsibilities and Rights of Parents in Religious Education published by the Catholic Home School Network of America. On the one hand, “Parents have the freedom to undertake systematic catechesis of their own children in preparation for the sacraments. For this reason, parents may use other means to catechize their children in the place of parish-sponsored programs, subject only to the doctrinal authority of the Church and to the virtue of prudence.” On the other hand, “Pastors have principal practical authority over the administration of the sacraments. For this reason, pastors are to judge the eligibility and proper disposition of candidates for the first reception of the sacraments and they are to set the time, place, and manner of the reception of a sacrament, subject only to the doctrine and discipline of the Church regarding sacraments and to the virtue of prudence.” These two spheres of authority should not be in conflict, but should harmoniously work together for the formation of good and Faith-filled children.
Every parish has different guidelines surrounding the reception of the sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation. Unfortunately, a few parishes seem to make it difficult for parents to do their religious instruction at home, while others make it very easy. The virtue of prudence would seem to suggest that parents should acquiesce to any reasonable requirements a parish might demand. However, it would also seem that if a parish were to deny a parent’s right to conduct religious instruction at home and demand attendance at the parish’s CCD program, that such a demand would be unreasonable. The Code of Canon Law would seem to suggest that parents have the duty to choose the best means for instruction when it says “Parents and those who take their place are bound by the obligation and possess the right of educating their offspring. Catholic parents also have the duty and right of choosing those means and institutions through which they can provide more suitably for the Catholic education of their children, according to local circumstances.” (Can. 793 §1.)
An excellent article, written by Benedict Nguyen, homeschooling father, canon lawyer, and Chancellor of the Diocese of La Crosse, WI, can be found here: “Home Schooling in Canon Law”
Canon lawyer Dr. Edward Peters wrote a pamphlet called Home Schooling and the New Code of Canon Law which is fantastic.
Responsibilities and Rights of Parents in Religious Education, mentioned earlier, is one of the best sources on this topic. It is published by the Catholic Home School Network of America and can be purchased here: Responsibilities and Rights at Seton Educational Media
To learn more about the Crisis in the Catholic Homeschooling Movement when this question was pivotal and greatly contentious, read more about this period in the history of Catholic Homeschooling on HomeschoolingCatholic.com! Crisis Within the Homeschooling Movement
Recommended Religion Programs
This series, which begins with a Kindergarten Catechism and goes through an 8th grade Church History text, is one of the most solidly Catholic programs available. With beautiful color pictures on most pages, these workbook style texts published by Seton Press are remarkably in-depth. Going far beyond the fluff content of many religion texts, the for Young Catholics series looks at foundational teachings of Catholic doctrine such as the nature and character of each of the seven sacraments, the Incarnation and Redemption, the sacrifice of the Mass, how to make a good confession, the Trinity and the angels, and of course the commandments. Parents are likely to learn almost as much as their children when going through this series. Each book has an imprimatur and they are sold at bargain prices.
A very popular series published by Ignatius Press, the Faith and Life series is solidly Catholic and gives in-depth instruction. This series is designed to incorporate many quotations from Sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Each grade level is very thematic and the overall series is described as a “spiral development of catechesis”.
This well-designed and beautifully laid-out series from the Midwest Theological Forum. (Yes, this is a Catholic organization despite a somewhat Protestant sounding name. It is possible the MTF also has some connection with movement/religious order Opus Dei.) The volume on Scripture was written by the noted Scripture lecturer Dr. Scott Hahn. While perhaps a little more expensive than some of the other options, this series has a lot of good qualities which might make it worth the price.