homeschooling · learning · parenting

Orthodox Homeschooling Part 2

In my previous post, Orthodox Homeschooling Part 1, I made the statement that I believe there is no such thing as an Orthodox homeschool curriculum, nor will there ever be.  I would like to expound on that a little, and share my experience.   I apologize for the length of this post.  I hope you make it through.

It is obvious that there is not an Orthodox packaged curriculum available to purchase.  You know, the kind of curriculum that includes everything; all the subjects, all the books, all the worksheets, and even a wonderful timeline and schedule.  Some packaged curricula even come with extras like music, art, handicrafts, logic, philosophy, the list could go on and on.  However, my personal favorite is the new trend that is showing up on the homeschool educational scene; the worldview courses.  (Oh what I would give for an Orthodox worldview resource for my children.)  Alongside the packaged curriculum there are the thousands of subject or skill based individual resources.  If you have ever been to a homeschool bookfair you know that the amount of products available for Protestant and Catholic homeschoolers is almost limitless.

Every year I swear I will not go back to the annual bookfair in my area.  However, as I strolled the aisles this year, aisles packed full of eager and motivated homeschool educators, I began to feel a peace in that crowded room that I had not felt in the years since I converted to Orthodoxy.  Before I would look at all those products and wish with all my heart that I could stroll up to counters and purchase the materials I needed to create a wonderful Orthodox homeschool experience for my children.  I fantasized about what a Orthodox history program would look like, how wonderful to see pages full of the lives and histories of the saints, an intensive study of the Old Testament that revealed the true presence of the Trinity from the beginning.  Just think about an Orthodox art curriculum that taught the theology of the icon, or a science program that fully captured the essence of Genesis in the way that we Orthodox understand.  I cannot even put into words my grandiose ideas and and longings.  I could see it in my head, all laid out, all planned out, it was all there in my head.  However, it was not in my hands.  Those materials simply do not exist for Orthodox homeschooling parents.   
This year I was ok with that, I had peace.  This year I had come to terms with a few things inside myself.  More on that later.

Then the phase of creating an Orthodox curriculum myself started.  I have to admit that this was an undertaking that I as a new convert should have NEVER presumed to think I was in anyway capable of accomplishing.  I hope this does not offend anyone who is attempting this project.  This is just my experience.  After trying and failing in this project, I did at least learn a few things.  And these few things have remained the backbone of our homeschool life:

  • Prayer
  • Fasting
  • Almsgiving

My heart, as much as it can be, is Orthodox, but my mind was and still is in the process of being renewed.  Orthodoxy is not like any other religious pursuit, it’s not trading one systematic belief system for another.  (My spiritual father calls this trading one superstition for another.)   Avoiding this pitfall requires a complete overhaul of my mind.

Some that are further down the road than I am make the distinction between Western and Eastern approaches.  These two different and distinct approaches come into conflict very strongly when it comes to the nature of knowledge.  The way in which children are brought up to think (Orthodox phromena) is very different than their heterodox peers.

The Protestant and Catholic homeschool curriculum writers, publishers, and venders make promises that ensure parents of a Christian foundation, a Christian worldview, and Christian virtues. I would venture to say that no Orthodox curriculum can make such a claim.  There is no course of study, or acquisition of knowledge that can bring about those kind of results in the Orthodox world.  Christianity is not learned in that way. Just because I know alot about Orthodoxy does not make me a better Orthodox Christian.

A Word About the Orthodox Homeschool Materials Available

My absolute favorite resource to date is the Children’s Garden of the Theotokos.
Why?  I think this resource is so simplistic in its approach that some people may think that it is too juvenile or sparse.  I disagree.  I would suggest that all newly illumined families receive a copy of this wonderful resource upon conversion.  I know that it is marketed as a Kindergarten or Primary school resource, but do not let that deter you.  This guide helped me get into a rhythm of prayer at a slower pace, it helped me include my children at a level they could tolerate, and most importantly it directed me to the Church as my primary source in teaching and training my children.  We sing the songs to this day, we mark our days, we commemorate the hours, we look to the saints, and we cherish this resource as a precious jewel in our home.  Go slow, establish the rhythm the author lays out, do it over and over for a few years, and then you too will see this resource’s irreplaceable value.

Another wonderful resource is Journaling Throughout the Liturgical Year.
I have not personally used this resource, but my best friend has.  I looked over it a few years back, but decided not to purchase it only because I had already bought the Children’s Garden of the Theotokos.  I decided that these two resources used different approaches but had the same goal.  Look to the Church, Look to the Church.  It also encourages rhythm and the study of the saints.

Internet resources are a true treasure when it comes to creating an Orthodox home and lifestyle.  Two of my favorite blogs are:

St. Theophan Academy 
and
Charming The Birds From The Trees   

Here is why.  These two women share their liturgical life with us.  Both blogs are highly relational and beautiful.  At St. Theophan Academy we get to peek into the author’s home and heart.  Her creative ideas for making Orthodoxy a lifestyle, along with free resources to help us mothers build our own homes are a constant inspiration to me.  I especially love this author’s page Reading Through the Year of Grace.  I have used it to build my own calendar, and I love it.

At Charming The Birds From The Trees there is a different kind of wonderful.  I like to think that I drink in this blog like a warm cup of tea.  This author is so simplistic and humble in her sharing that I am a little jealous.  She is an artist, but the picture she is painting for me is one of true Orthodox womanhood.  I know that I am being dramatic, but honestly this blog means so much to me.  Her style and seasoned approach capture for me the heart of an Orthodox home, and as her children grow she seems to bring them right along with her.

There are countless other Orthodox mommy blogs, but these two stand out for me.  I have learned so much from both of these women.  I offer these resources at the beginning of this discussion for all of us who are new.  We need to marinate.  Visit these links and soak in the goodness.  Find your own inspiration and begin to be open to the Orthodox way.  It is truly a wonderful journey.

In conclusion, I would like to share one last thought.  After years of searching for the perfect Orthodox curriculum it dawned on me.  Why haven’t one of these gifted, seasoned, and highly creative moms in the Orthodox homeschooling circle not produced a curriculum by now?  I think there is a reason.  I have my opinion, but I could be wrong.  I hope that some of these moms will weigh in on this question.  My prediction is that in their hearts they have found peace in the Church, and that an Orthodox curriculum is not what they need, therefore they have not created one.  Orthodoxy is so rich, it is true, and it lacks nothing.

As the liturgical year ends we are invited to participate in the Dormition, a wonderful feast of completion and finality.  The Theotokos joins her son in glory, and this speaks so deeply to me as I prepare for another school year.  It is Christ who gives life to this flesh, it is Christ who raises to life dead bones, it is Christ who alone is called teacher.

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2 thoughts on “Orthodox Homeschooling Part 2

  1. I think what you're saying is that you can't teach Orthodoxy through a box curriculum – certainly the liturgical life of the church is the best teacher! I can appreciate that – but as a convert (and new to homeschooling!), I also appreciate having things spelled out for me a little.

    These are all great resources! I also like Barabara Shukin's history portfolio's – although they are not an orthodox curriculum, she incorporates orthodox events into her timeline, which makes it easy to use for Orthodox.

    And of course, my best resource has been the Orthodox Homeschooling email list – just hearing lots of advice and encouragement from other mothers!

    Glad to find your blog!

    Like

  2. I am glad you found my blog, also. I can understand needing things to be spelled out. I think you understand my meaning when I say there is no Orthodox curriculum, and yes the Church is our greatest teacher. I hope in later posts I can explain in more detail why I feel this way.

    Like

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