Homeschool program shares Catholic culture, builds community
Catholic homeschoolers in Vermont have a unique opportunity to enrich their educational efforts and their Catholic faith by stepping out of their homes one day a week for a distinctive homeschooling initiative.
Burlington VT Catholic Schoolhouse is a supplemental program for homeschoolers that meets one day a week for three and half hours from August to May in St. Mary Parish Center in St. Albans.
Having just completed its third year as a local chapter of the national non-profit organization Catholic Schoolhouse, the program’s mission is to empower families to share Catholic culture, explained Patty Lawson, director of the Vermont chapter.
“We seek to help homeschool families in northwest Vermont enrich their educational experience. Our flexible approach to learning is inspired by classical elements and presented in a structured environment,” said Lawson, who holds a master’s degree in theology, is a homeschooling graduate and the homeschooling mother of six.
She is the wife of Deacon Phil Lawson, executive director of pastoral ministries for the Diocese of Burlington.
Educators describe a classical education as comprising three phases of learning: The grammar stage, phase one, teaches facts at a time when children’s minds readily absorb information; the logic stage, phase two, develops teens’ ability to reason, to understand cause and effect; and the rhetoric stage, phase three, teaches young adults wisdom, the ability to communicate well and bring together knowledge from previous stages.
In addition to offering a classical format, said Lawson, “Our program impacts youth in that it forms a community where they are able to form friendships and learn together while growing in faith, virtue and knowledge. It encourages them to strive for excellence and serve others in our community.”
The older students participate in a yearly service project and often volunteer to help with parish functions.
“We encourage devotion to the Eucharist by learning about our Catholic faith, the Mass and the Eucharist and attending Mass together as a community on our weekly chapter meeting day,” she said. Many of the children serve and read at Mass, and the group celebrates special feast days such as All Saints, and they have a May Crowning for Mary in May.
Currently there are seven families and 18 children enrolled for next year from parishes in the Diocese of Burlington, including St. Patrick, Fairfield; Ascension, Georgia; St. Luke, Fairfax; St. Mary, St. Albans; Immaculate Heart of Mary, Williston; St. Anthony, Burlington; and St. Pius X, Essex Center.
When 10-year-old homeschooler Ethan Quizon first heard about Catholic Schoolhouse, he recalled, “I was so excited to go!” Now, he added, “What I like about CSH is making new friends, science experiments, math, presentations and recess,” as well as the CSH Mass where “I get to serve with my friends, and I get to be a lector.”
Ethan proudly shared, “One of my greatest achievements this year at CSH is earning Triple Crown Super Scholar title. When I heard about Triple Crown Super Scholar, I wanted to be one of those people who worked hard to earn this great achievement,” which, he stressed, requires memorizing three years of material in eight subjects.
“My children love attending Catholic Schoolhouse; they love the art and science projects and seeing their friends. The memory work that they learn each week has been helpful as we encounter certain topics in our schooldays at home. The Catholic Schoolhouse community has been a great source of support to me as a homeschooling parent, for which I am very grateful!” said Katie Reis, mother of five children ranging from 8 years to 10 months.
Having been part of a number of homeschooling cooperatives, Lawson acknowledged she appreciates CHS and “the well thought-out classes that can add support to any homeschool curriculum, the great materials they provide, the training and support it offers, the focus on community both local and nationally and the leadership which truly reflects the Catholic principles of stewardship and subsidiarity and so allows each local chapter to do what is best for its area.”
For more information about Burlington VT Catholic Schoolhouse visit burlingtonvt.catholicschoolhouse.com.
— Originally published in the Fall 2022 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.