Parents are their children's first instructors in the faith
Families are the first society that children become a part of, long before they integrate into any school, civic community or government. It is the natural community that God gave us so that children could be educated, first and foremost, by their parents. By taking their responsibilities as educators seriously, parents not only contribute to the welfare of their children, but also to the common good of society at large (Compendium of Social Doctrine of the Church, 238).
The Church teaches that family is much more than just a unit in the culture or the economy; it is “a community of love and solidarity, which is uniquely suited to teach and transmit cultural, ethical, social, spiritual and religious values” (Charter of the Rights of Family). Recognizing that each person is a gift from God, parents should love and respect their children and teach their children to love in return.
As primary educators, parents are also children’s first instructors in the faith. By word, example and common prayer, parents can show children the love of Christ and teach them about the deposit of faith. The Charter of the Rights of Family also points out that parents have the responsibility to ensure that their children are not taught subjects in school that are contrary to Catholic teaching. This is particularly applicable in the area of sex education.
Not only in the faith, but also in the areas of learning social virtue, freedom and responsibility, parents are to be models and educators. Catholic social teaching says that the role of parental love is to “[place] itself at the service of children to draw forth from them (‘e-ducere’) the best that is in them” (Compendium, 239). Parents should be concerned with supporting their children in many different areas – academic, social, catechetical, personal – always orienting them towards seeking truth.
While parents may choose various modes of education for their children (Catholic education, public school or homeschooling), it remains the parents’ duty above anyone else’s to teach their children. This necessarily means remaining informed and involved in the education children are receiving and supplementing or moderating when the need arises.
The Catechism reminds us of this role by saying that parents “bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues” (Catechism, 2223).