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Homeschooling Community in the Word on Fire Institute

November 27, 2023


The Word on Fire Institute is opening a dedicated community space, Homeschool Parent Formation Community. You’re welcome to join this space (included in Institute membership). Vanessa Lopez will lead this for the purposes of offering: Formation of you as the primary educator of your child; support for you while you do this great task; encouragement in peer-to-peer discussions; and growth in our intellectual and faith lives together.

Vanessa, you’ve graciously accepted the role of Community Leader for the Homeschool Parent Formation Community here at the Word on Fire Institute. Can you share a little about what it’s all about and why someone should join it?

Word on Fire is a joyful, faithful, and energetic movement in the service of Our Lord Jesus Christ and his holy Catholic Church. So is Catholic homeschooling! That these two movements should coincide for the benefit of all was the inspired insight of Dr. Matthew Petrusek, the Word on Fire Institute’s Senior Director.

Catholic homeschool parents are embracing a boldly different way of life to ensure the sound formation of their children as disciples of Our Lord. This new online community will serve these brave parents and help keep the wind of the Holy Spirit in their sails through the inevitable storms, trials, and doldrums.

Homeschooling is a beautiful endeavor that can also be excruciatingly difficult—just like letting God make you into a saint, which is what homeschooling can help families do! The Word on Fire Institute is an ideal place for homeschool parents to continue their own formation even as they live a life of sacrifice for the sake of their children’s formation. Homeschool parents will be able to connect with and support each other as, together, we find refreshment and inspiration from the top-notch Catholic formation available to Institute members. We will help each other to let God make us into saints!

You’re a veteran homeschooling mom yourself. Can you share about your journey into homeschooling and how you and your husband discerned that this was the educational path for your family? 

My husband and I were both big nerds all the way through school, so we hit it off right away when we met in college. After we married, we carefully selected a home that was zoned to some of the highest-performing public schools in Southern California. But as we began to have children, we also began to meet many Catholic homeschooling families at our parish. We were deeply impressed with their lives—their faith, their courage of conviction, their joy, and their teenagers. My pastor challenged me to consider homeschooling, and around that time, a friend loaned me the book Catholic Home Schooling by Mary Kay Clark. I also began to consider how my innocence had been steadily eroded in school and how my self-worth had become wrapped up in my academic performance. The Lord used all these encounters and reflections to call us into homeschooling.

We reasoned that for something as important as the spiritual and moral formation of our children, we wanted to embrace the approach that seemed most likely to safeguard that formation. At first, we only planned to homeschool through elementary school, but after the United States Supreme Court issued the opinion Obergefell vs. Hodges, we decided to homeschool all the way until college. Our firstborn will be graduating from high school this spring! Over the years, we have additionally observed countless educational and developmental benefits to homeschooling. Our children are engaged, responsible learners with lively relationships with the Lord, and I think much of their positive development can be traced back to this educational decision.

Homeschooling has also helped my husband and me grow and develop as spouses and parents. I doubt I’ll ever feel like I have enough patience, but I know I have more than I used to!

Catholic homeschooling needs to keep Christ as its center.

When you think of “homeschool parent formation,” what comes to mind? What sort of resources will you be sharing that will, indeed, help with the formation of parents who are homeschooling their children?

Homeschool parents pour their blood, sweat, and tears into the formation of their children, so they need a place where they can be refreshed and formed themselves. They need to take time to cultivate the critical relationships in their lives—with the Lord, with their spouse, with their children, and with themselves—in order to persevere and thrive. Homeschoolers are also in a particularly good position for evangelization since their lives can be more flexible and available to serve others. Indeed, their very lifestyle catches people’s attention and engages people’s curiosity, opening up the opportunity for evangelistic conversations. There are also some characteristic pitfalls that homeschool parents need to watch out for, such as perfectionism and judgmentalism (I’m speaking from personal experience here!).

I’ll be sharing lots of resources over the months chosen with these various needs in mind. The Word on Fire Institute offers many outstanding courses in Catholic formation and evangelization that we will be taking and discussing together with the particular situation of homeschool parents to guide our reflections. We will also read and discuss documents such as Pope St. John Paul II’s “Letter to Families,” portions of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and many other relevant articles.

In addition to this formation, there will also be a place where community members can post questions about the more practical “nuts and bolts” of homeschooling and find support from each other. Finally, Catholic homeschooling needs to keep Christ as its center, so we will be praying for and with each other in our space for sharing prayer intentions.

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What about people who are discerning or on the fence about homeschooling, or grandparents who want to be supportive but are less hands-on? What are the benefits of joining this community for those not necessarily in the water at this time or who have family members who homeschool?

People who are not actively homeschooling are most welcome to join this community! I have met many parents who see the potential benefits of homeschooling but who are hesitant to give it a try. This community will be an excellent place to learn more about Catholic homeschooling and talk to others who are actively doing it to help guide parents’ discernment. If they decide not to homeschool, they are still very welcome! Perhaps they will find something helpful or inspiring to incorporate into their personal and family lives.

There are also many folks who have already raised their children, or who never had children, who are intrigued by homeschooling and would simply enjoy learning about it, perhaps to help promote it in their own contexts. These people are very welcome indeed and can often be in just the right time and place to help someone else give homeschooling a try.

This call to teaching is something clearly on your heart, and now you’ll be helping guide this community as well as your children at home. What are your hopes for the members of this community?

My hope is that we can all help each other become saints! God created us to need each other and to learn from each other, and I hope that the Word on Fire Institute’s Homeschool Parent Formation Community will be a place where Catholic homeschool parents (and others!) can find the strength and inspiration to persevere in the universal call to holiness within the particulars of our individual lives. I can’t wait to see where the Lord will lead us!