This past February, our daughter Katie married her fellow Christendom graduate, Peter Spiering. It was one of those joyful rest stops on our family’s journey of life. In the whirlwind of such a milestone day, you just have to pause and take it all in; as you’ve heard, and maybe said yourself, “Children grow up too fast.”
Remember how it was as new parents? You’re so concerned about every little thing. What the baby eats or doesn’t eat, when she sleeps/doesn’t sleep, and so on. Remember her first sneeze, when you leaped for the phone and speed-dialed the pediatrician? Fast forward a few years, and maybe a few babies, and then a sneeze elicits only a “cover your mouth!”
In our early days in Florida—the pediatrician on speed-dial period—we came across some disturbing news. It was a story in our local paper about a trading card company promoting cards that featured criminals, some rather gruesome. I was unsettled for days, but it gave me the germ of an idea. Could a trading card be promoted that featured good and holy role models for children? The idea took shape, and two years later, we launched the Holy Traders, trading cards that feature saints.
The cards were a hit, particularly with homeschoolers. Seton Home Study School was one of our first customers. We found out later that Seton is always looking for sound materials to help Catholic families raise their children strong in the Faith.
As we were starting our family, we learned about Seton and the integrity of their program. After that, the decision to homeschool with the Seton curriculum became an easy choice.
As the kids were growing up and the years began to move faster, we wanted to introduce the family to the four seasons. The logic was that, if you can’t slow the passage of time, at least you can break it into four observable units! I loved south Florida; I grew up there and have many wonderful memories. But our dream was to find a location that had three elements: a strongly orthodox diocese, a vibrant homeschool community, and four seasons. So, for the next four years, we searched for this dream location.
I’ll let my better half take up our story from here…
Homeschooling? Eighteen years ago when we started considering it, that word always elicited a raised eyebrow. Back then, before it became quite the fashion, it seemed to go hand-in-hand with my Catholic conversion, and my open-to-life kind of lifestyle. But the alternative? The thought of sending our precious little ones to the public school seemed frightening. So Katie turned five, and thus we began…
For the first two years, I improvised with early learning books from the local K-Mart. Meanwhile, we moved to Front Royal, Virginia, where my husband Jim had been offered a position with Seton Home Study School. You guessed it, we started the Seton curriculum that fall.
Katie was in second grade, Emma in kindergarten, Clara and Sam were preschoolers, and I was pregnant with Richard. Jim suggested that I try the full curriculum for Katie. I told him that I would give it a try. It wasn’t long though before I found some subjects a bit challenging, if not overwhelming.
I spoke with a Seton counselor about my struggles, and she suggested that I focus on assignments and material relevant to the final exams. I adopted the strategy of reviewing the quarterly tests ahead of time. This way I would know what in the lesson plans were the most important concepts to ensure my children mastered.
Math and religion were straight-forward. Simply teach one lesson each day. Check. Science and history were simply books to read. Check, check. Spelling, and vocabulary were done with weekly tests according to the Seton lesson plans. For reading, we focused on the assignments required for a grade. To write a book report, we needed the lesson plans, and I very much appreciated the help there. I was especially grateful to have someone else grading my children’s reports rather than have my own A++ on each one of them!
Jim and I found this method of homeschooling to be quite productive for years. We are grateful that Seton provided the flexibility we needed for our family.
Katie made it successfully through elementary school, and as she entered her high school years, she took charge of her lesson plans. She moved forward at her own pace, coming to me when a question or problem arose.
She developed an independence and self-confidence that she carried with her as she moved on to Christendom College. I’m happy to share that Katie graduated from the college last spring and married her beau and fellow graduate Peter in February.
Proximity to Christendom was one of the factors in choosing Front Royal as our home, and over the years we have been enriched by participating in so many aspects of the Catholic community here. Our boys serve at Mass at our parish, St. John the Baptist, and at Human Life International. The children participate in town, community, and parish sports, the award-winning parish drama club, Little Flowers, Trail Life USA, K of C Squires, and ballet. For the latter, Isabella is following in her older sisters’ dance steps!
A few years ago, we made the decision to send our youngest son to public school in order to take advantage of their special education services, which he really needed at the time. He was blessed with good teachers, and we feel that we made the right decision for him. But almost every day that I dropped him off, I walked to the car with tears in my eyes.
Now, two years later, he has progressed so far that he is at home again, using the Seton curriculum and enrolled in the Padre Pio Learning Center, a tutoring co-op at our parish. I no longer feel the need to drench him with holy water when he leaves the house in the morning! It is also wonderful that we no longer have to worry about the bullies at the public school. Yes, all of the kids at the co-op are sweet, well-behaved children from our parish. How impressive!
So this is where we are now! After Richard was born came Peter, John, Philip, and Isabella. Isabella is four years old and works in her early learning books. Here we go again…
Is a Homeschool Co-op in your Future?
The Padre Pio Learning Center is open Tuesday -Thursday from 9:30 to 1:00, and uses the Seton curriculum to teach Math, English, Reading, Spelling, Vocabulary, Science, History, and Religion. For us, it’s been the best of both worlds.
Our children are learning from the trusted curriculum that Seton Home Study School provides, but we do not have to shoulder all the responsibility for organizing and teaching. The kids build friendships with sweet children in a small classroom setting for just three half-days a week and are at home for the remainder. I’m convinced that this is a model that could be fashioned in many parishes.
If you are interested in starting a program like ours in your parish please contact me,
Jim Shanley 540-636-7855