Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

The Diocese of Superior will host its inaugural Homeschooling Conference for all homeschoolers and anyone interested in learning more about homeschooling Saturday, Sept. 17, at St. Joseph Church in Rice Lake.

Organizer Loree Nauertz, associate director of the Office of Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship, shared her excitement about the event.

“When our office first discussed the idea of this conference, I thought, ‘That would be awesome! It would be a great way to bring Catholic homeschoolers together to help support one another in this calling.’ As diocesan staff, we want to support all families in their call to holiness, and this is a group that we feel we have not yet fully connected with at the diocesan level.”

Nauertz affirmed their desire to listen to, connect with and support current or future homeschoolers. She also mentioned the importance of maintaining community connections for homeschooling families; she hopes those who have been homeschooling for a while and might not need to attend as participants would consider attending to support others.

Nauertz shared her desire “for everyone familiar to homeschooling to please come and spend the day in Rice Lake, whether you think you need it or not. If you don’t think you need this support because you are coming to the end of your homeschooling years or you think you have enough support already, I ask that you please consider coming in order to support those who are just starting out or wondering if they can really do this. I believe your encouragement and willingness to share your joys and struggles of homeschooling will be very beneficial to those just beginning.”

The schedule begins with registration at 9 a.m. with prayer, welcome and introductions at 9:30 a.m. Gina Loehr’s first presentation will be at 9:45 a.m., followed by discussion.

Mass with the Bishop is at 11:30 a.m., with lunch afterward. A second presentation by Loehr will begin at 1:30 p.m., followed by another discussion period.

At 3:15 p.m., a panel discussion will be offered, with the event closing at 4 p.m. St. Joseph’s offers a 4:30 p.m. Vigil Mass on Saturdays.

Nauertz said the keynote speaker was “a huge hit” at the diocesan women’s retreat in February.

“Since this is our first event of this kind, I wanted to bring in someone who was invested in homeschooling and whose name would be recognized by folks in our diocese,” she said.

Loehr was the first person she thought of because of “the amazing job” she did at the diocesan women’s retreat and because Loehr is beginning her 10th year as a homeschooling parent. Highly educated herself, Nauertz likes that the presenter has experience teaching at the high school and college levels.

Loehr holds a master’s degree in theology from Franciscan University and is the author of five books.

“Yet, she is so down to earth and practical,” Nauertz commented. “She understands the chaos of family life – with six children of her own and a 600-acre dairy farm – but she also understands the call to holiness for all families.

“Gina recognizes that homeschooling is just one way God may call you to educate your children, not the only way. I am so grateful she said ‘yes’ to the invitation,” Nauertz concluded.

She added her gratitude for Bishop Powers’ support through his presence and in celebrating the Mass.

“The diocese is grateful for your dedication to forming your children as disciples,” the event flyer states. “The conference will be a great opportunity for you to network, feel supported and equip yourself for that mission.”

Nauertz called the conference, “a chance for us to come together and support one another as homeschool educators.”

While she was studying education at UW-Stout, one of Nauertz’s brothers began homeschooling his daughter, who was entering first grade.

“I thought he was crazy,” she said, “and I told him all the reasons why I didn’t think he should do it.”

It was, to her surprise, a research paper she had to write for one of her classes that opened her mind to homeschooling as a viable option. The paper was to cover any type of education, and Nauertz chose homeschool education to prove her brother wrong. While she did learn about the benefits and came to appreciate the choice, she still was firm in her conviction that it wasn’t for her.

“Or so I thought,” she said.

Nauertz taught for three years in public schools before their first son was born. When Mark arrived, as much as Nauertz loved teaching, she decided she couldn’t do both well and resigned from her position to care for him.

Then, when Mark was 4 years old, Nauertz wasn’t sure she was ready to send him off to school the next year, and she spent the year researching homeschooling again.

It was a book by Kimberly Hahn and Mary Hasson, “Catholic Education: Homeward Bound – A Useful Guide to Catholic Home Schooling,” that convinced her and her husband, also a teacher, to homeschool for one year and re-evaluate after that.

“We have been doing that every year now for about 20 years,” Nauertz stated. “I am hoping that each of you who do homeschool will be able to make this event. I know for some that will be a huge sacrifice with the drive alone, let alone the effort it takes to either bring your family with—childcare is provided–or find a place for them to be for a day. These sacrifices are greatly appreciated, as your presence at this event will be a source of strength and encouragement to all those present.”

Readers are encouraged to share the event information with friends and family; Nauertz is also asking for prayers for the success of the event and blessings for families responding to a call from God to take this direct role in the education of their children.

Attendees needing childcare as asked to register online as soon as possible to ensure enough caregivers. Cost to attend is $25 per person and includes a box lunch.

Register at Contact Nauertz with questions, .

Gina Loehr