Dr. William Marra on Home Schooling
The late Dr. William Marra, a philosophy professor at Fordham University for many years, gave numerous speeches at Catholic conferences, including homeschooling conferences. He homeschooled his own children. Dr. Marra passed away on December 12, 1998, on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, to whom he had a great devotion. The following is a brief part of a speech he gave in Toronto in 1993. May he rest in peace.
In homeschooling, aim at certain academic excellence. I claim that is the bonus that is always thrown in. If you seek first to defer harm, if secondly you permeate the situation with a Catholic atmosphere, the easiest part is the academic subjects.
Those few people who are destined to be the cultural leaders will have a far better preparation homeschooled than they will going to the most prestigious, expensive private school around.
The moment a child is four or five, don’t let him go to the government schools. That is when the most damage is done to Faith, reason, intelligence, and everything else.
If you keep them home for at least eight years of schooling, and hopefully for four or five more years, by that time they can even survive Fordham or Notre Dame. They can survive anything! The main thing is to protect the innocence of young people.
There are about six or seven small Catholic colleges in the United States. Home schooled children going to places like Christendom, Thomas More, Magdalen, Thomas Aquinas, Steubenville—they are the hope.
These will be the serious Catholic parents and the serious Catholic citizens. Those who want to be cultural leaders will need a college education. College is the easy part. Grade school and high school are the hardest parts.
Where there is a Catholic culture, it is founded on Catholic truth. However, this no longer exists except in a few pockets. Quebec probably was that way fifty years ago. Where one sees the churches, the streets named after saints, there once was the wonderful sense of the French Catholicism. Large families abounded and no one begrudged a new baby coming in the world. A new baby was celebrated. Of course there were problems, but there was a sense of the Catholic adventure of life.
When culture is a cause, anytime a given culture exists, you don’t need formal education in anything. The citizens of that culture, from the babe in arms up to the oldest man, everyone will gain strength and light and solidarity as it were, through a spiritual osmosis: the very stones of the street, the very stations of the cross at the crosswalks, the very names of the cities, the very fact that we say “on St. Michael’s Day, we are going to do this,” instead of saying “on September 29th.”
When you start using the saints as your chronology, illustrations from the Bible and the lives of the saints, when Joan of Arc is a topic among you, and not some rock star—that is Catholic culture.
The beauty of Catholic culture is that the more you practice it, you don’t have to articulate your Faith—you live it. That is where we get the great treasures of our culture, like music, the fine arts, architecture, without any great effort on our part, because this always accompanies Catholic culture when it is authentic.
Catholic culture is the cause of the wonderful harmony and the high level of civilization that has been enjoyed in the past. There is no such culture today.
Today we are having these small homeschools. Because there is no Catholic culture, Catholic culture has to become the effect. Thanks to Christ-centered homeschooling, these children, born into this barren culture, will be the future heroes. These heroes will have a dedication to Truth.
These homeschooled heroes will understand who is Christ, what is Truth, what is the Church, what are the enemies of the Church.
Some of these heroes are going to swear a vow to be holy, and they will mean it. These home schooled heroes will reject our secular materialistic world and all its vices. These homeschooled heroes will understand that life on earth is a pilgrimage. Some of these home schooled heroes will be dedicated to a zealous pursuit of the Truth, no matter what it costs them in study, dispute, or controversy.
Because of their dedication and formation in homeschooling, these parents will give us the young people who will be the heroes of sanctity in the first place, and the heroes of Catholic culture in the second place.
It is these homeschooled heroes who will make the cultural barren desert bloom once again.