When I was considering home schooling, one concern I had was that the children and I would feel isolated. My husband and I have had seven mailing addresses in our I2 years of marriage. Some of those homes were far from both of our families, and since I grew up in Ohio and my husband is a Massachusetts native, one of us has always been a “transplant.” As a stay-home mom away from my family, I often felt very isolated.
We finally settled in Massachusetts five years ago. For the first couple years here, our older children attended our parish school. The first year, I was pretty active with school activities and started to feel like part of the community. Then, we bought a house on the other side of town, and had a new baby over the summer. The children started riding the bus to school that fall. The feeling of “being connected” evaporated like a summer rain. Between bus and school time, my first and third graders were gone 8 hours a day. I didn’t see the other parents in the parking lot, and I no longer had time for fundraisers. At the end of the long day, the kids would come home with homework. Many afternoons were filled with crankiness. The next year, my third child joined the ranks of school-aged children, so now we had children in grades K, 2, and 4. More cranky afternoons. The baby and I had time together, but our family wasn’t the happy, nurturing environment it should be. I started to seriously consider homeschooling. I had homeschooled the oldest child when he was in first grade — a year that saw us move from West Virginia to Michigan and finally to Massachusetts. My skeptical extended family saw wisdom in my decision (Divine Inspiration in my mind!) by the end of the year. But now, we had Mike’s family here. My mother-in-law taught at the school and my niece and nephew attended there, too. If I pulled the children, would they be offended? I offered the question to God in prayer.
The baby and I went to weekday Mass in the late spring of 2007, and I saw a mom with two junior high students. I approached her after mass with a shy, ”Do you homeschool? Are the laws strict here? Do any other Catholics around Western Massachusetts homeschool?” This gracious mom answered my questions and invited me to First Friday Mass with the group. I saw this connection to the group as a sign that God wanted me to homeschool, and our extended family has been supportive of our decision.
The Western Massachusetts Catholic Homeschoolers offered more than I had imagined. We joined the group that fall and started attending the monthly First Friday Mass and luncheon. There, the children and I all found new friends. Once a month, we looked forward to worshipping together at Mass and Eucharistic Adoration, then fellowship afterward. However, as winter set in, that feeling of isolation set in too. When I read through our Catholic Cantor newsletter, I noticed an event listing that included a Mom’s Bible Study. I called the Mom who was hosting that week to find out more. She told me about the group—moms pray while the kids play. They met weekly and were just starting a new book by Kimberly Hahn, Chosen and Cherished. I couldn’t wait to go! This group was exactly what I needed. The first time I went to Bible Study, the kids went off to play, and the baby stayed on my lap. The moms had tea and conversation until the children had all settled in. The hostess started the opening prayer, asking our heavenly Father to bless our time together, to bless our husbands in their work, and to help our children establish good friendships. As we prayed, I felt warmth and peace—the Holy Spirit filled that room.
At Bible Study, some of the moms mentioned Co-Op. I was curious—What did they do? How did it work? When I found out that French, sign language, and science were some of the subjects the students could study, I thought it would be a great opportunity for my children for the new school year. At Co-op we met more families. I never imagined how many Catholic homeschoolers there were in Western Massachusetts!
Through Co-op, Bible Study, and First Fridays, the Western Massachusetts Catholic Homeschoolers provides weekly and monthly support to area Catholic homeschoolers. The group will take that support to the next level by hosting the New England Catholic Homeschool conference, scheduled for Saturday, June 6, in Chicopee Massachusetts (just north of Springfield). The conference has commitments from 17 vendors to date (see full list at WMCH.stblogs.com), including Seton Home Study School, Bethlehem Books, and Scepter Publishers as well as registrations from homeschoolers in all six New England states, as well as some from New York and Quebec.
The agenda for the day includes two dynamic speakers and four innovative workshops to help homeschoolers plan for next fall:
Fighting the Good Fight:
The Homeschooling Family and the Church Militant: Cynthia Montanaro
Cindy, a lifelong Catholic, is a mother and grandmother, retired after a 25 year homeschooling career. She pursued a liberal arts education at Thomas Aquinas College in California and has continued this interest in the classical method and the Great Books. She has written for Catholic magazines and newspapers, taught in various capacities at the parish level and has recently completed a memoir of her youngest son Tim, entitled Diary of a Country Mother. Cynthia is a secular Carmelite, happily married for 32 years to Andrew and lives in rural Blandford, Massachusetts.
Accepting God’s Call with Grace: Jean Golden-Tevald, D. O., FCP, CFCMC
Jean’s life includes Medical school, private practice and missionary work, marriage, children, adoption, and homeschooling. She tells us, “I took a sabbatical from practice in 1997 to homeschool our daughter (then 11 and in 6th grade), middle son (then 8 and in 2nd grade) and youngest son (then 6 and in 1st grade). In September 1999, we went to Russia and brought home two daughters (10 ½ and 9) and a son (7). I homeschooled all of them for the first year, then we started the round robins of trying to meet the educational needs of them all. We went back to Russia for one more girl (at age 10) in 2003. The 4 Russian children are full siblings. I homeschooled through 2005, by that September, everyone had returned to school in one form or another. Our biggest challenges were meeting the special needs of the children, from very gifted to severely learning disabled (not to mention learning a new language!). I learned a lot!” She runs MorningStar Family Health Center where she is a certified FertiltyCare practitioner offering Family care, Creighton NFP and NaPro Technology.
#1 Magdalen College answers questions about Catholic Higher Education
#2 TORCH Leaders from Traditions of Roman Catholic Homes will facilitate a discussion among support group leaders throughout New England covering topics such as organization, communication, pitfalls and of course how membership in TORCH can help. We expect Carmen Ana Klosterman, Regional Director for the East Coast and Jeanette and Bob Cohen, Associate Directors of the National organization. Bios are available at the TORCH website.
#3 Art History Museum: Need a quiet break? Stop to see these prints received by a member as a Picturing America grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
#4 Nick Morganelli, Meteorologist and homeschool dad, will present ideas for making science fun at home and in the co-op classroom. Nick, realizing his boyhood dream of becoming a meteorologist, graduated from Lyndon State College, VT with a B.S. in Meteorology in 1991. A member of the American Meteorological Society, Nick holds their Seal of Approval for Broadcasting Excellence. His love of science stems from his middle school science teachers: turning bookwork into hands-on fun and excitement!
For registration information, please visit WMCH.stblogs.com.
We hope to meet you at the conference!