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Amy M. Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Parenting Vocations

Our Catholic School Family

As Catholic Schools Week approaches in our diocese, I find myself reflecting on how we ended up choosing Catholic school for our children.

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Catholic school was not really on our radar when we started our family. My husband and I both grew up going to large public schools and did “fine.” When we bought our house, we made sure we were in a good school district and fully intended to send our children there eventually. Then the time came to send our oldest to kindergarten. Full of energy and with a love of story hours, our teacher and librarian parents strongly encouraged us to consider sending him to our parish school as it had full-day kindergarten. Great reason to pick a school, right? We knew we liked our parish, so we decided to try the school. We enrolled our son in kindergarten and our oldest daughter in the nursery school. Soon it was time for the first day of school. We barely knew anyone at the school, save for the few families we had met through church functions and common time spent in the crying room during mass (we had three children with one on the way at the time).

 

Grace

One of the first experiences that solidified our decision being the right one for our family was the first day of nursery school for our daughter. She was only three and cried when we got to school. Her teacher reached out and took her from me and carried her into the school. I took a deep breath and walked out of the school. I didn’t cry until I got to the van. When I picked them both up from school that afternoon, they asked me to pull forward to cone “0” for my daughter. Uh-oh, I thought. But no, her teacher met me at the van, carrying her. She had fallen asleep while waiting in the car line. I took her back from her teacher and buckled her into her car seat. She woke up and exclaimed, “Mommy, I LOVE school!” From that point forward, she jumped out of the car eager to learn and was sad on days she didn’t have school.

 

 

We quickly found that St. Mary’s, both church and school, was a second family to us. Through the years, the reasons have multiplied. Being in a Catholic school, the children attend from nursery school until eighth grade. The older ones look out for the younger children.

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The eighth graders walk the kindergartners to their classroom each day. The older grades “buddy up” with the younger grades; the classes interspersed at school mass. Oh, and school mass. The songs fill the air. The homilies bring out responses in the students. My first-grader comes home telling me who wrote that day’s gospel and what the lectionary is. They often talk about the saint of the day. Their conversations at home build on what they’ve learned at school and vice versa.

Our eighth graders have been playing basketball together for four years now. They have had enough players to have two teams of ten boys. The teams have been approximately the same for all four years. As the years have gone by, the boys have gelled as teams do. Watching them grow and become young men. They have been blessed to have coaches who care about helping them develop life skills as young men in addition to their basketball skills.

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Today we had three basketball games. At the first game, my first-grader was helping me video my fourth-grader. I suggested that she could help with her brother’s game next. She informed me that she had people to see when she was at school. The cheerleaders are very accepting of her and our preschooler and let them cheer along with them.

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The basketball tournament started this weekend for our boys. The two teams played back-to-back with many of the boys and their families staying for both games. Classmates and fellow students also came to cheer everyone. The whole gym cheered as each of our ten players scored in today’s game. The comradery is unmatched by anything I’ve ever experienced. I know that these boys have each other’s backs regardless of social status or level of coolness.

With an almost two-year old, I spend much of my time chasing my  toddler up and down the bleachers and out into the hallway. Out in the hallway, some of the students were talking. They all stopped to play with my toddler, who ate up the attention. One of the players from the other team saw me coming in and out of the gym, trying to catch a glimpse of the game but make sure the toddler was safe. He told me not to worry, he would watch my toddler so that I could see more of the game. As he said this, the four other students made the same offer. These kids could have easily been bothered by this little brother running around where they were talking. Instead, they were quick to offer to help.

When someone is sick or hurt or in need, the whole school quickly steps up to help in whatever way is needed, praying, bringing meals, offering rides, anything. It is just one way we can open our arms to serve others, bringing God’s Grace to everyone around us. The faith-based education allows our children to pray in school, go to church and participate in the sacraments with their peers.

When we started out, we were looking for a sound academic foundation for our son in full-day kindergarten. We have not been disappointed with that. Our son is currently taking classes two years ahead of his grade level, an opportunity that may not have been available to him in a different school. What we have found in addition is that our children are also receiving a strong expansion of their understanding of our beautiful faith through the integration of faith into each of their subjects. We teach and try to model the faith at home and love that these ideals are being fortified through their learning at school.

Faith, Academics, Life Lessons, and Compassion are the reason Catholic school education has remained the best decision our family has made.

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Cristina Domestic Church Homeschool Ink Slingers Raising Saints

{Catholic} Homeschooling: Our Journey Beyond Academics

Education, for as long as I can remember, had been presented to me as a gradual progression of levels to be completed in a very particular amount of time. In my mind, it took the form of milestones to be achieved as quickly as possible so that one could just be done.  As I get older and my children progress in their own educations, I have come to the realization that education is a journey, not a race, and we owe it to our children to walk leisurely and take in all it has to offer.  Homeschooling affords us the luxuries of slowing down and never having to catch up, just continuing, at our own pace. We can stop along the journey and look inside the different windows of academics. If we like what we see, we actually have the time to go in and take a closer look.  What a priceless gift!

Having homeschooled for about seven years now, I have discovered that this lifestyle we have chosen is not merely about academics at home. It is about life  and character formation. The opportunity to use academics as a vehicle to teach virtues and shape their character presents itself not just daily, but almost hourly. Yes, our children need to learn math and science and social studies. They must be able to read and write proficiently. They must be exposed to wonderful and challenging and engaging works of literature and eventually be able to have an eloquent and pertinent discussion about them.  But why? Because, even if we are not of this world, we are in this world. It is our responsibility, our duty, as parents, to give them the tools they will need to thrive in this world. But it does not end there. Why do we homeschool? We do it because we can teach our children diligence and perseverance through math. It is a beautiful thing to be able to use science to generate an even greater sense of awe and wonder at God’s magnificent creation. Using history to teach them the difference between knowledge and wisdom, between sympathy and compassion, between hind sight and learning from other’s actions, is nothing short of amazing. Something as simple and tedious as handwriting or copy work is a perfect vehicle to bring glory to God because it requires patience and careful attention to detail, even temperance.  We have the opportunity to build such a solid foundation of character in our children, that their virtue will permeate everything they do as they grow up. So it is not just about the academics at home, it is about the development of the qualities each subject allows our children to put to practice and having the time to foster and nurture that development.

As my whole perspective on the education of my children has changed, so have my goals. I no longer school them to get them to graduate high school and possibly enter a good college. I school them to get them to heaven. I school them so that what my husband and I hold dear in our faith and family traditions will be passed on to them naturally, lovingly and without external opposition. For example, our children are now aware of the fact that they are not isolated from the world or the people around them; they are united to them, in action and emotion, in virtue and sin.  When they fail to complete a task diligently and in a timely manner, they see someone else has to pick up their slack. When they are disobedient and someone other than themselves gets hurt as a consequence, they understand how their sin can hurt the people around them. When they go out of their way to meet someone else’s needs, they see the joy they helped create and feel great about it.  They are learning how to run a home by completing chores that teach them to be good stewards of God’s blessings. They are learning that even in the most menial of tasks there is the immense power of conversion or salvation for a soul, if we do it with great love and for God’s great glory. As they encounter tasks they do not enjoy, they are learning the value of thanksgiving for the blessings that created the extra work. My goals with regards to their education, our goals as a family, are to help them become faithful, honorable, loyal, productive, constructive members of society. We hope to help them discover the ability to be content in every stage of their lives, no matter what the circumstances. We hope to instill in them an unending sense of gratitude for the blessings in their lives and to develop their ability to see those blessings in the best of times and in the worst of times. If we achieve this, with God’s grace, we will have succeeded in their education. Form their character and the academics will acquire new life and purpose in our children.

Are we doing our children a disservice by not pushing college on them? Well, no. As children reach their teens, they are very clearly inclined towards their passions. Teenagers are the perfect age for apprenticeships or internships in their fields of interest. What better way to have a child get an education than by interning, then working entry level in their fields of interest? What better way to appreciate a higher level education than by working your way through college? Who says college has to be completed in four years? If the child is working and studying at the same time, in their field of study, they will have a tremendous advantage once they graduate: experience.  Some children are just not meant for college. Whether they find it difficult, too easy, or completely irrelevant, some children just don’t belong in higher education. This is not to say that they just stop learning, they just don’t need to do it in an accredited institution. They do it on their own.  They pursue their interests and figure out ways to accomplish their plans without a college. By considering education a journey, instead of a race where you automatically move ahead to the next leg as you complete the previous one, children have the freedom, as they get older and more mature, to choose the path by which their journey will continue.

Whether you home school with an umbrella school, or use a boxed curriculum, or use living books exclusively,  go beyond the academics and begin to let go of the agitated pace that trying to keep up with the schedule of traditional brick and mortar schools brings to your home. Our days, planned or unplanned begin with a blank slate. We fill it up with whatever serves our family best each day. Take your time, take it all in.  Keep your eyes on the cross, trust in God’s providence, and always offer up our best efforts for His great glory.

 

~ Written by Cristina for Raising {& Teaching} Little Saints