SummaryMandy Viles loves the Seton curriculum because it’s so rigorous and accredited and she knows her children are receiving a good, quality, Catholic education.
One of the great pleasures of writing Seton’s Family Life column are my encounters with moms who love their families, homeschooling, their faith, and their lives in general.
As soon as I received her answers to some questions I’d sent by email, I knew that speaking with Mandy Viles (rhymes with files) was going to be fun.
And I was right.
Meet the Viles Family
There’s Mandy, of course, and her husband Joe, a West Point graduate who was a UH-60 Blackhawk pilot for 20 years. Now retired from military service, Joe works for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The family resides in northern Virginia.
Mandy and Joe are the parents of nine children ranging in age from 17 years to 9 months, and grades 11 to preschool. The family has used the Seton curriculum for 11 years.
Mandy first heard of Seton when her husband was stationed in Germany, and she was teaching voice lessons to a Seton family. She enthusiastically described her musical background to this writer.
“My undergrad degree is in Music from Anderson University, Indiana. Before all my babies came along, I was a professional opera singer and did many performances in this country and overseas when we were stationed there. I have always taught private voice lessons. My kids have all dabbled in piano and singing and usually with a different teacher. Because I teach pretty much everything else, I think it’s good for them to have a different setting in which to explore other interests. After a 15-year hiatus from the stage, I went back to perform in local musicals at a nearby Catholic Church and I have loved it! It’s a very high caliber theater and has such an amazingly unique atmosphere. Not at all the cut-throat competition that I was used to!”
Like most homeschooling families, the Viles clan follows a routine suitable to their schedule. On Mondays and Wednesdays, the older children head off to co-op, driven by 11th Grader Elise. On those days, Mandy buckles down and does “meat-and-potatoes” schooling with the “littles:” phonics, math, writing. Tuesdays and Thursdays, she tells me by phone, are “our sacred homeschooling days” when all her children work very hard on their schoolwork. Those days are devoted strictly to schooling, with no outside appointments allowed. Friday is a school day, but is also the time they often head out to a museum or the public library.
Homeschooling, as it does for so many families, allows the Viles flexibility in scheduling vacations and additional educational opportunities. They do “light schooling” through the summer and often take vacations in May or September when seasonal rates have fallen.
Recently, the family took a month to make a coast-to-coast trip. Mandy also mentioned the importance of her family’s birthday breakfasts, when they celebrate each birthday with a large breakfast complete with decorations meaningful to the celebrant. It’s a festive occasion that would be impossible if the children were in a school outside the home.
Blessed with a Giant Homeschool Community
“We belong to Holy Trinity Church in Gainesville, Virginia, and we have a homeschool ministry of around 130 families. There is the Domestic Church whereby we celebrate Saint of the Month, Liturgical Feasts, and Holy Days, and in so doing, inculcate these traditions in our own homes. We come together as a community of folks who are all raising our kids in the Catholic tradition and culture. We have an elementary co-op that offers supplemental (and usually very fun) classes for kids in pre-K through 5th grade. Lastly, we have academic classes which meet once a week for the junior high and high school kids. And we’re super fortunate that our priests have volunteered to teach classes as well!”
Viles children also participate in many other activities. Elise will soon be Cadet Commander of her 140-cadet squadron in the Civil Air Patrol. She is president of St. Gianna Life Defenders, serves as a Virginia representative in Students for Life, and rides a unicycle with a troupe called Unistars. Having completed the Seton Latin program, Elise now takes an online course in Russian.
Ninth-grader Madelyn sings with her mother in various places, and she and seventh-grader Lydia run cross country and track with the Northern Virginia Homeschool Association. The high schoolers are in the National Honor Society through another co-op, the boys participate in Scouting and play basketball, and, in the summers, the seven oldest children swim for a neighborhood team, the Piedmont Tsunamis.
Any Closing Words?
When asked what she liked in particular about Seton, Mandy had this to say:
“What we love about the Seton curriculum: I love that it’s so rigorous! And I love that it’s accredited. That means a lot to us. That all their academics are looked over by Seton makes me relax and helps keep me on track. And when I talk to people, I can honestly tell them, ‘I don’t just hand out A’s because I think my kids are smart. Someone else grades their tests!’ It’s supremely Catholic and very, very thorough. Without a doubt, a good, quality, Catholic education.”
When asked for any advice she might offer to new homeschool moms, Mandy said, “Start early in the day, finish the school work, and then get to the fun stuff.”
For this writer, the “fun stuff” came, as usual, with the inspiration and joy provided by yet another glimpse into the lives of Seton homeschoolers.