Affordable, Convenient Support Yields the Best of Both Worlds for Catholic Families
by Erika J. Ahern
On a crisp autumn day, twenty-six homeschooling families pull up to a rented school building. Uniformed children with backpacks pour out of the cars and into their classrooms eager for the day. Mothers and fathers carry their own books: they will spend the day sharing the duties of the PreK – 12th grade classical curriculum, leading a broad variety of classes: Shakespearean drama; Calculus; a Montessori-based preschool room; high school theology; physical education and music. Others will assist with reading groups, drama, art, or in the infant nursery and preschool.
The resurgence of classical education in the United States has brought with it hope for the future of the U.S. Catholic Church. Independent Catholic academies and comprehensive home school curricula have enjoyed success and borne great fruit in many families and parishes across the country. Examples of these include the Mother of Divine Grace homeschool curricula and the Regina Academies in Philadelphia.
Interestingly, for homeschooling families seeking support and community as well as the Socratic classroom experience, a third option has grown nationally in the last 13 years. Hybrid education–a structured mix of homeschooling and classes–has become a favored choice for many Catholic families.
Founded in 2003, Regina Caeli Academy has grown from just six families in the metro Atlanta area to nearly 300 families in nine cities. Over 1,000 students follow the Mother of Divine Grace classical curriculum together on Mondays and Thursdays, spending the remaining days of the week in the home.
The overwhelming impression a visit to Regina Caeli leaves is that of joy. Mrs. Karen D’Anselmi, whose 11th, 8th, and 4th grade sons attend the (location?) Connecticut center, remarks, “My kids are thrilled to go and love the social interaction and need the structure. It helps me for all the same reasons!” In areas where home schooling families may feel isolation, the days at Regina Caeli provide a twice-weekly meeting place for like-minded parents to receive moral and academic support.
Because families commit for an entire year to participate in the community, tutor or assist in classrooms, and follow the common lesson plans, parents find their home school transformed for the better. The program provides an accountability that instills habits of consistency. Mother of Divine Grace is a time-tested curriculum whose graduates go on to attend top colleges and universities; Regina Caeli takes that success and builds on it by bringing students into a community of learning together in charity, courtesy, and mutual encouragement.
Important parts of supporting parents and building community are the unifying principles of the Regina Caeli community. All staff members pledge an Oath of Fidelity to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, promising to practice the Faith in which they teach each other’s children. All parents, even those not on staff, can participate in ongoing education and personal consults with experienced classical educators. Tutors–mothers, fathers, priests, and religious–participate in yearly training in the classical vision, child development, and St. John Bosco’s beloved ‘preventative method’ of discipline.
The results surpass academic excellence and rigor: these communities built on dedication to the Catholic faith produce lifelong friendships and instill the moral courage to raise children “in the world but not of it.”
Regina Caeli’s motto, “Training the mind to form the soul,” continues to attract new families whose prayers and efforts unite for their children.
Erika Ahern is the Director of Education for Regina Caeli Academy. She, her husband, and their five children live in Connecticut and attend the Fairfield County RCA there.
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