Archbishop Gerard Pettipas

Archbishop Gerard Pettipas

March 21, 2016

Archbishop Gerard Pettipas has not always been convinced about homeschooling.

The first homeschooling family he ever met was in Chalk River, Ont., 20 years ago. His first impressions were not entirely positive.

"I marvelled at the mother's patience, while hoping that the children would eventually all receive an education. But I wasn't sure," said the archbishop of Grouard-McLennan in northwestern Alberta.

Today, Pettipas has high praise for homeschooled children and their parents.

In his talk, Stay the Course: Why You Must Continue Homeschooling, he encouraged parents at this year's Western Canadian Catholic Home School Conference to persevere.

Anecdotally reflecting on the many homeschooling families he has known and experienced since that first encounter, Pettipas shared some of his observations about homeschooled children:

Homeschooled children are, on average, very polite, he said, largely because they are usually not as exposed to television, even children's programming.

They are on average, good students and high achievers.

They seem better able to form relationships across generational boundaries; and they are serious about faith and religious practice.

"Again, this is only anecdotal, but I would suggest that a larger than average proportion of candidates for the priesthood and religious life these days come from homeschooling families," said Pettipas.

Pettipas himself was not homeschooled, clarifying that it would be an overstatement to think that he favours homeschooling in opposition to other education models.

"Growing up on military bases, I didn't even have the luxury of a Catholic education in my childhood. However, I came from a believing and practising home, and that made all the difference in my case."

Not every family can, or should, home school; it takes a particular set of skills and convictions, he said.

By deciding to be the only educators of their children, as far as education relates to student-teacher interaction, parents who choose to homeschool their children go even further than the Church's teaching that parents are the first and the principal educators of their children.


"Such parents obviously believe there is no pursuit in life as a parent that exceeds the responsibility and the joy of not only educating their children, but more importantly, forming their mind and their spirit and their conscience as well."

Pettipas shared a list of commitments that he calls the FLAP formula to encourage homeschooling parents to persevere.

Focus on what is important: "Most things are good, but not all things are necessary," he said. "Do not be led astray by what others say. They will try to distract you, confuse you, to match their own confusion."

Learn: "Every educator must also be a student. Don't only teach your children; let them teach you as well. Know that you also are a student, and you will persevere in your own instruction."


Accentuate the positive: "Being of a positive disposition will help you to remain 'on task.'"

Pray: "You cannot rely only on yourself and your own actions," said Pettipas. "Sanity comes from recognizing that there is a powerful God who can do more than I, especially in the hearts of people, where all good intentions arise."

Children must see their parents pray, especially their father, said Pettipas, citing Soeur Emmanuel, who offered this advice when asked for wisdom: "If the father of the home prays, the child learns that even daddy, strong and powerful as he is, bows to a power greater than himself."


Barb Duteau, one of the coordinators of the conference, said Pettipas was a cheerful, encouraging speaker.

Both Pettipas and Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith, who celebrated Mass at this year's conference, have been supportive of parents and all forms of Catholic education - whether their kids are in school or homeschooled, she added.

"You get from both that we are the ones responsible for passing on the faith," she said.

"All families have problems of falling away from the Church; nobody is immune to that. We just have to stay the course."