Faith at (Home) School
Home-Schooling Programs With a Strong Catholic Identity
Considering home schooling your children? Or changing programs? Here’s the rundown on faithful Catholic home-school programs and supplementals.
Though it is not a definitive list, the programs discussed are some of the most popular Catholic programs.
Angelicum Academy Homeschool
The Angelicum Academy Homeschool Program (Angelicum.net) is a Great Books Program that offers preschool through college-level courses. Currently, approximately 2,000 students are enrolled in the academy.
Inspired by Mortimer Adler, who headed the Great Books movement, a group of scholars founded Angelicum Academy in 2000.
Pat Carmack, one the founders, told the Register, "Angelicum’s curriculum is specifically designed from nursery through eighth-grade levels to prepare students for the study of the Great Books in their high-school years per Dr. Mortimer Adler’s advice and in the ninth to 12th-grade levels to engage them in weekly, live discussions, usually with two moderators (generally at least one Ph.D. in the field) about a Great Book read that week."
High-school students read some 120 Great Books over the course of four years.
Written tests are emailed or mailed in to be graded, and there are also oral exams conducted live online. Since the program utilizes the Socratic method (a guided but conversational approach of mutual inquiry), the teachers are called moderators.
The program has seven moderators, most of whom are Ph.Ds, as well as half a dozen part-time instructors who consult and grade.
Sean and Ana Koch from Plano, Texas, had this to say about the Angelicum, "Our daughters have truly loved Angelicum’s Great Books program. As an integral part of our home school, it has had a profound impact upon their education and overall development. Over four years, they have had the opportunity to read a large portion of the great works of Western civilization, while cultivating their speaking and critical-thinking skills. Our oldest just graduated and will be attending Hillsdale College this fall."
Catholic Heritage Curricula
Catholic Heritage Curricula (CHCWeb.com), for pre-kindergarten-12th grade, was founded in 1993 by two Catholic families living in rural communities without access to parochial schools. Unlike other Catholic home-schooling programs, CHC does not have tuition and enrollment fees; there is only the cost of materials. This puts all of the control and responsibility in the hands of the parents and students.
While CHC doesn’t do any grading or record keeping, it does offer a support staff consisting of certified teachers to answer home-school questions. CHC publishes more than 70 of its own titles faithful to Catholic teaching.
Juli Smith, a mother of four from northern Illinois, has been home schooling with CHC materials for more than five years.
"I have enjoyed the flexibility of the lesson plans that allows me to intertwine family life and schooling with ease," she said.
Another aspect that she appreciates about the program is that most of the subjects have a Catholic base, as CHC publishes many of its own books. "This allows our children to learn that the Catholic faith is a part of our lives, not just something we do on Sundays and occasionally other days," Smith said.
Fisher More Academy
Fisher More Academy (FisherMoreAcademy.org) was formerly known as Regina Coeli Academy, but in 2012 it became part of Fisher More College in Fort Worth, Texas. The program, which serves approximately 400 students in grades five-12, has been around since 1995, and is accredited through the Northwest Accreditation Commission.
The academy is more like a typical school, in that the students meet for classes at regularly scheduled times (generally Monday-Thursday, 8:30am-noon) using state-of-the-art conference software. Students get immediate feedback on progress because exams are autograded online.
According to Wendy Pierce, director of online enrollment for Fisher More Academy, "The unique features of our program are the interdisciplinary composition offered at the high-school level, the one-on-one writing instruction offered at the junior high level, and the teaching of science using a Thomistic philosophical approach guided by the magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church."
She went on to say, "Our goal is to help nurture a Catholic worldview that prepares our students on how to answer the moral issues that face them now and in the future."
Michele Szewczyk, a mother of four from Warren, Ohio, has been using Fisher More Academy for the past two years. "I have enjoyed this program because it has reassured my husband and I that we are on track with what we are expecting of our children," she said. "Having solidly Catholic material presented by instructors who live and share their faith is important to us."
Homeschool Connections (HomeschoolConnectionsOnline.com) was founded in October 2008 by Walter Crawford and Maureen Wittmann; it serves some 600 families. Homeschool Connections is not a home-school program per say; rather, it offers individual online courses for middle-school and high-school students, as well as for adults.
Parents can pick and choose courses or design their child’s whole curriculum with the courses.
Wittmann told the Register, "We are unique in that we are not a home-study school. In fact, we have a number of students enrolled in home-study programs who supplement with our courses. Many of our parents design their own programs and use a more eclectic approach. Also, because we are not a full-service program, we are able to keep our prices low."
Currently, they offer 125 recorded courses. For their live, interactive classes, they are offering more than 60 courses for the 2013-2014 school year.
All of the courses are taught by instructors with a master’s degree or Ph.D., including heavy hitters such as Jean Rioux (chair of philosophy at Benedictine College), Joseph Pearce (professor, author and speaker), Gary Michuta (author and apologist) and Monica Ashour (theologian and founder of Theology of the Body Evangelization Team). Students are tested and receive grades for the courses, but parents are responsible for record keeping.
A former student of Homeschool Connections, Katherine Dea, who will be a freshman at Benedictine College, in Atchison, Kan., this fall, told the Register, "I really enjoyed the live classes because I had the opportunity to ask the professor questions during class and discuss the material with classmates. There’s also an option to go back and rewatch the live classes in case I missed something. ... I feel like I learned much more with Homeschool Connections than I could have with any other online high-school program."
Kolbe Academy Homeschool
Kolbe Academy (Kolbe.org) was founded in 1993 by three families; it is an offshoot of their day school located in Napa, Calif. This Ignatian and classically based Catholic home-school program, which serves approximately 2,600 students in grades K-12, is overseen by 10 academic advisers in addition to support staff.
It is accredited by the National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools (NAPCIS), and it is operated with the blessing of the bishop of Santa Rosa, Robert Vasa.
According to Everett Buyarski, manager of academic advising for Kolbe Academy, the program has a heavy emphasis on the language arts: "To ensure that students will have the ability to think and to communicate at the highest level, in grades four to eight, we offer a classical composition series that uses a methodology of writing based on imitation, wherein a student learns the structure of sound writing, is given the tools and models to imitate it, while developing their abilities in the areas of sentence and word variation, figures of description, rhetorical devices and stylistic considerations. This allows the student to emerge as a writer who can ascertain the purpose of any given writing task and employ the best means of completing the task to communicate the message."
Christina Watkins from Oxford, Conn., has used Kolbe Academy’s high-school program for four of her daughters. She appreciates that the parent does the grading. "They let me be the judge of how my child has progressed," she said. "They believe big time in the principle of subsidiarity."
The students take the tests, and both the parents and the instructors grade them; then samples are submitted at the end of each quarter. In addition, this fall, Kolbe will be offering many of their high-school courses online.
Mother of Divine Grace
Mother of Divine Grace School (MotherofDivineGrace.org) was founded by Laura Berquist in 1995 after the publication of her book Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum.
Mother of Divine Grace School is a classical home-schooling program that serves grades K-12, and it is fully accredited. Approximately 4,000 enrolled students are overseen by 80 consultants and more than 130 teachers. Every family is paired with an educational consultant who has used the program successfully with her own children. "This education begins in wonder and aims at wisdom," Berquist says.
Mother of Divine Grace has a teacher-assisted program available where the student works one-on-one with a teacher who corrects the assignments and talks via phone with the student on a monthly basis.
If a student needs more attention, there is also a teacher-directed program, which involves more teacher-student interaction. In addition, for each of the subjects, there are learning-support classes, which are discussion groups that meet weekly with a teacher and other students.
John Lopke from Boise, Idaho, is a 2012 graduate from the program, and he will be a freshman at the University of Dallas this fall.
"These online classes have allowed many friendships to bloom," he said. "This is certainly one of the highest points in my experience with Mother of Divine Grace School."
Our Lady of the Rosary
In 1983, a group of Catholic priests, educators, writers and parents established Our Lady of the Rosary School (OLRS.com), which serves pre-kindergarten-12th grade; for the 2012-2013 school year, some 400 students were enrolled.
The program, overseen by two teachers, features an integrated and sequential Catholic curriculum, which provides exams, teacher assistance by phone or via Internet, counseling, teacher correction of exams, report cards and transcripts. Students mail in their tests for grading.
Denise Naaden, a mother of 13 from San Marino, Calif., has been using this program for 23 years. She said the textbooks do a good job of integrating Catholicism. "The children are experiencing their faith in every subject they are taught," she said.
Naaden also said that the curriculum prepared her children for college. Nine of them are attending or have attended Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, and one is a student at John Paul the Great University in San Diego.
Seton Home Study School
Seton Home Study School (SetonHome.org) was founded in 1980 by Anne Carroll; it’s an offshoot of Seton Junior and Senior High School in Manassas, Va. Currently directed by Mary Kay Clark, Ph.D., the program, which serves grades K-12, is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
Approximately 10,000 students are overseen by a staff of 135 teachers.
Clark told the Register, "Catholic families choose to home school with Seton because we provide Catholic textbooks with Catholic stories and Catholic art in all subject areas. Parents and students like Seton for providing daily lesson plans, tests, report cards, online tutoring and 15 full-time academic counselors available to answer questions."
The author used Seton for high school for her daughter, Ella, who will be a sophomore at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho, this fall. Seton’s program is a rigorous, writing-intensive program.
As a family, we Chaplins also liked the program because we found it affordable and convenient, since all of the grading was online for high school. Many tests were autograded, while other tests and papers were uploaded — there is also an option to mail in work for all grade levels.
Ella had this to say about the program, "Seton is challenging because of the large amount of writing required in almost every class, but this definitely prepared me to succeed in college."
Lori Chaplin writes from Idaho.
While Khan Academy (KhanAcademy.org) is not a Catholic resource, it’s an exceptional resource for learning math and prepping for the SAT. The site also has science, economics and humanities courses.
Catholic Home Study Service (AMM.org/chss) is a ministry offering free correspondence courses on the Catholic faith for teens and adults, such as a "Survey of the Catholic Faith," "A Guide to the Catholic Mass," "Christ’s Mother and Ours," to name a few. The program is sponsored by the Vincentian Community and the Religious Information Bureau of the Missouri Knights of Columbus.
Catholic Homeschool Support (CatholicHomeSchool.org) provides a wealth of information for those new to home schooling, including links for Catholic curriculum providers, Catholic resources, contact information for local Catholic home-schooling support groups and more.
By the Numbers
— In 2007, 1.5 million students were home-schooled (850,000 were in 1999).
— In 2007, 84% of home-schooled students received all of their education at home, with no outside supplemental instruction.
— Most-cited reason parents gave for decision to home school: religious/moral instruction (36%).
— U.S. Department of Education,
National Center for Education Statistics (2009)