Meet my Catholic Homeschooling Montessori Cooperative
(Say it three times fast if you can!)
When I tell people that my family has joined a Catholic Homeschooling Montessori Cooperative, they say, “That’s cool/nice/neat etc.,” just as their expressions become clouded over trying to comprehend what I’ve just told them.
Catholic. Homeschooling. Montessori. Cooperative.
What on earth did I just say?
Thankfully, I have great friends who haven’t given me the “That’s a mouthful!” line.
No, they’re just awesome enough to boil it down to homeschooling – somewhere – with other people. Then they smile (what else are they going to do?), congratulate me and go on with their lives.
Little do they realize (and I am only starting to appreciate this myself) that I have just unleashed on them a (very) new paradigm in Catholic education. It is the marriage of a classical curriculum, rooted in our Faith, and the homeschool in the traditional school setting (with much smaller class sizes – imagine anywhere from two to fifteen kids per grade). It’s run by a hodgepodge of homeschooling parents, volunteer tutors and, in our lucky case, an amazing religious order.
Phew. That summary was a mouthful.
Now that I’ve described it, I realize that I’ve probably created more questions than answers. The best way to meet my kids’ school is to ‘see’ it. Let’s see if the following snapshot presents a clearer picture.
Run by the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara, I am beyond thrilled that my kids will have what I lacked during my Catholic education: a habited order of teaching nuns faithful to the magisterium. Trust me, the sight of their long, royal blue veils flanking a priest clad in his black, traditional cassock at our first morning assembly was enough to make this mom start tearing up in a “It’s like a Bing Crosby movie,” kind of way.
These sisters, some of whom look like they could have been in high school with me, are spearheading the whole operation. They’ve scrubbed the curriculum to be authentically Catholic in everyway. Even the plus signs must be written as crucifixes.
No, not really. I made that up. But you understand right? History and literature and other core subjects are all Catholic in content. Why not? Did we not help found like nearly all of modern Western civilization?
Okay. For some moms, it’s so not homeschooling. We aren’t physically at home ‘schoolhouse instructing’ all grades around one table. But for my mom friends who send their kids to ‘regular’ school, it’s so homeschooling. “What? You have to be there when the kids are there…and help out… AND keep track of grades?”
Why yes, yes I do. How it works is: while my kids are in class I am elsewhere on campus teaching or cleaning or helping in the library. We then go to daily mass (which is required, by the way), head home, eat and do homework. When daddy gets home he either finishes homework or quizzes them.
It’s homeschooling, like I said.
One of the most undervalued models of education is that of the Montessori method developed by Maria Montessori (whose contemporaries included John Dewey, Jean Piaget and other psychology/education big wigs) back in the early 1900s. Hey, she was a woman and she was Catholic. What serious contribution could she ever be expected to make?
Sadly, the Montessori school has been received as a fringe method in education. But I would call it extraordinarily humane and consistent with all the ‘best practices’ mantra I was force-fed during my credential training. Students are, after all, self-directed, using their senses and discovering in their natural learning style. Yes, they write essays and do workbooks too, but true comprehension, as all teachers know, happens with they internalize those lessons and apply them to real life.
There are, I believe, 24 families at the school. Most of them have more than three children in attendance. It’s a small enough but big enough entity where it’ll take you a year to get to know everyone. At least that’s what I’ve been told.
We all get there early (prayer at 7:40, start time is 7:45), four days a week, leave together for noon mass, and watch our children, from newborns to twelfth grade grow up under a tent of holiness not often found at other school types out there. In fact our motto is ‘sapientia et pietas’: wisdom and devotion. And together, through all the toughness, we’re cooperatively working for what will last into all eternity.
What do you think? Is this something you’d like to bring to your parish or diocese? Have another, similar model you are familiar with? Leave a comment below! Thanks for reading!
Copyright 2012 Marissa Nichols