11/23/2017

Cultivating Goodness, Beauty, and Truth in the Home
by Sheila Schofield

“Whatever is True, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

As Catholic Christians, we all share in the universal vocation to evangelize and witness to the Truth. For us as parents - and educators, too - our unique contribution to that task of evangelization lies in the formation of the children in our charge – not only by our own witness, but by both the information we impart, and the intellectual formation we give them.

Thus, as home educators, our primary task of evangelization is the formation of minds and hearts with the Good, the Beautiful, and the True. It is then that our families, each through their own domestic churches, will imbue the culture at large with the beauty and joy of the Catholic Faith, allowing others to better know, love, and serve God.

A classical education is a tremendous aid in providing wonderful opportunities to develop a Catholic culture in the home. Such an education is said to begin in wonder and end in wisdom - which is not a what, but a who: the person of Jesus Christ Himself. Being partakers in the Beatific Vision for all eternity is the purpose of our existence. Incorporating a classical education into the home - or for those unable to homeschool, at least incorporating some aspects of a classical education into the home - is one way to introduce beauty and goodness into the family. And beauty and goodness are integral and foundational to the renewal of the culture.

Mother of Divine Grace’s classical curriculum has been a source of inspiration in creating beauty and goodness within my own domestic church for over 20 years. Academically, through the implementation of the curriculum, I came to see that there is a natural order to learning, with stages of intellectual development building upon one another: first, knowledge (a gathering of facts), next, analysis (an understanding of the facts), and then wisdom (an articulation of the facts, in the form of an argument and/or judgment, both verbally and in writing). Various skill sets are developed and mastered through specific assignments in each grade. In the program, there is a clear content – what is taught; and there is a clear method – how it is taught. The content is ordered to a later knowledge and the method is ordered to a later formation that results in students who can think clearly and logically, are active learners, effective communicators, and independent thinkers, all in the service of Wisdom. Consequently, spiritually, the MODG curriculum was an invaluable aid to my husband and me in the Faith formation of our children in the Truth.

In the early years, MODG encouraged our children’s curiosity and investigation, by appealing to their general sense of wonder in God’s creation. Visits to the zoo, museums, and the aquarium, as well as to beaches and parks, were enjoyed by all. Reading aloud, particularly Bible and saint stories, with the finest of illustrations, introduced our children to heroic and virtuous people and actions, and filled their imaginations with the beautiful and noble. (It has been said that Peter Rabbit paves the way for Aquinas!) Reading aloud to my children created memories, bonds, and conversations that have had a profound and lasting effect on their lives as adults. Simply listening to classical or sacred music, delighting in the planting of a vegetable garden, a sunset, or a snowfall, exposed our children to the beauty of the everyday, inviting them to observe, ask questions, and study further the mysteries of the world around them.

During the middle school years, we studied the Baltimore Catechism alongside Ancient Egypt and the pyramids, the Great Composers, Herodotus, pendulums, Shakespeare, and Latin. We explored the beauty of God’s design in mathematics, as well as in paintings and poetry. The children memorized, wrote, and began to analyze.

The high school years provided a wonderful time for our children to think, discuss, and ask questions. We read Church Encyclicals, discussed the moral life and the teachings of the Church.

The children studied Geometry, Chemistry, St. Thomas’ Summa, and the Federalist Papers. They learned how to reason, how to recognize and construct arguments, how to write persuasively, and how to articulate the Truth.

Spiritually, our homeschooling lifestyle afforded us the opportunity to live deeply the rhythms of the Liturgical Year. We delighted in celebrating the liturgical seasons, saint days, baptismal anniversaries, the feasting, the fasting, and many traditions of the Faith in our domestic church. Daily Mass, morning prayer, evening rosary, monthly confession, First Friday/First Saturday devotions, and Adoration, all helped us develop habits of virtue and religious practice that have continued through the years. Our home altar, displaying saint pictures, a crucifix, rosaries, candles, and flowers, provided not only a sacred space for family prayer and catechesis, but also a beautiful reminder of God’s presence in our home.

In closing, an authentic Catholic classical education instills in our souls the conviction that truth exists and is knowable. As teachers, it is essential to not just permeate our classrooms with God's Goodness, Beauty and Truth on a daily basis, but also our homes. The time and environment in which God has placed us, as well as the people and circumstances of our lives, all contribute to the manifestation of His Goodness, Beauty, and Truth in our world today. Recognize and nurture God’s image and presence in your hearts, your families, and your communities. Your sincere efforts to develop a truly Catholic culture in your homes will result in a truly evangelical witness to all you encounter and a spreading of the Kingdom of God here on earth.