I sometimes struggle a bit with the notion of “Catholic home education” as a discreet entity. I remember the laughter when the Catholic Education Service under Oona Stannard came out with the phrase that there was no such thing as Catholic homeschooling (but if there was the CES wanted a slice of the pie when the Govt cracked down on us).
Some time ago a Catholic home ed mum asked me how we were getting on using the Seton curricula books. I said we were doing fine. They are high quality, well presented and have a great reputation. She told me another mother had been faced with a child who said, after finishing a Seton book that she never wanted to hear the name of St. Therese again. OUch!
I buy a lot of the children’s workbooks from Seton and Catholic Heritage. Both produce good quality educational materials. Seton is pretty tough, leaning towards a Classical approach and CHC is gentle, leaning towards a Charlotte Mason approach. Seton seems too rigorous at times – hence the CHC, While CHC doesn’t stretch them enough (IMHO) so Seton. I’ve been able to adjust the children’s learning to where they are. Sometimes the CHC books have worked much better; at other times being stretched with Seton has worked well too.
But they are both very Catholic. Language Skills, Science and RE all have a Biblical and Church History with saints approach. The children have not complained, but I am worried sometimes that they are being bashed over the head with religion.
I think it goes back to that swinging pendulum again. The balance is found when the pendulum points straight down, but our culture has it swinging so far away from religion and there’s so much misinformation about the Catholic Church and her history, that homeschool curricula seem to feel the need to redress the problem by swinging the pendulum out the other way.
I buy Catholic mostly because I trust it. Even so-called Christian writers (Story of the World Vol 2 for example) will write complete nonsense about history pertaining to Catholics. And it’s not just an American problem. The same rubbish appears in books this side of the pond too.
I want the children to know their Faith properly. The Catechism free zone that I grew up in was not helpful in any way. I want them to understand what happened, and the genuine heroic nature of so many saints who faced persecution and death with such amazing grace and courage.
I don’t want them growing up with a sentimental view of life as a Catholic. Those sloppy-pass-the-insulin holy cards with equally insipid tales about the saints put me off reading any lives of the saints when I was a child. I needed a saint who understood real life and real pain. St Agnus (pictured left) did know all this, but her picture and the story that went with it, put me right off.
So I want my children to love the saints and understand them as real flesh and blood people who suffered and kept the faith even in the darkness. But I also want a little balance. So, I confess I’ve been adding a few things to their work. Instead of always writing about holy things, I’ve replaced it with the occasional story about aliens and wombats. Ahem. Yes, well, the children love it and they love their saint stories too. I want to keep the pendulum pointing downwards so they will know and love God and all His friends, but not feel there’s nothing else to learn about, or that they can’t have fun.
That brings me onto another aspect of the “too holy” Catholic books. If I have one criticism of Seton it’s the unrelenting seriousness of the workbooks. There is nothing wrong, in my way of thinking, in a couple of banana skins and an alien with his toe stuck in his ear.
I like that Catholics can have a laugh with the saints, without being disrespectful. I also love the Eastern Icon approach to saints because they seem more real somehow. Look at St. Nick there.
We are blessed to have an Eastern0-like mosaic in our church, which I love. I think they are more real because they come directly from the times of persecution. There’s no sugar, but there is gold. I love that.
So I walk the narrow path of giving my children a high quality truly “Catholic and catholic education, without making them sick of it. They need to know enough to defend themselves from daft assertions (Catholics worship the virgin Mary; the Catholic Bible was added to at the council of Trent and all Catholic priests were selling indulgencies…etc.) while still loving the Faith and the Church Christ gave us. Not easy.