My eldest son is 6 years old. He's a very smart, compassionate, and intuitive young boy. I'm amazed by him every day. In watching him grow, I've been trying to discern something, that I now turn over to you for your input.
This coming fall, my son is supposed to begin classes for his First Communion and First Reconciliation. I'm not sure if I want him going to CCD classes at our Parish or if I should do all of his formation for these Sacraments at home as part of his school curriculum. I personally know the teachers of the First Communion class and love their teaching style and classes. From what I know of them, I would say they both have solid Faith lives and would be a good example to my son. I'm stuck on the example presented to my son by fellow students. Children who are ignorant of the Faith (and not by any means is that their fault) coming to receive Jesus for the first time. It's a beautiful day in our Parish, with an average of 40 first Communicants there. The Church is packed to over flowing with parents, family, and friends to witness this glorious day. We usually hold our Parish First Communion on the Saturday morning before Mother's Day. I've been involved in the music for this day for several years, and its always the same thing. On Saturday morning there are 40 beautiful souls receiving Jesus. On Sunday morning we're lucky to get 6 back. My husband makes the point of telling me we can tell our son that the other kids went to another Mass. But again, the following Sunday morning in our Parish is usually the May Crowning. And all First Communicants are asked to come back and take part. So here are six of the same little boys and girls in their beautiful dresses and handsome suits, sitting in the front row, waiting to make their dedication to Mary after Mass. It's obvious the other 34 First Communicants are missing. I'm not trying to judge, but I have to wonder, are there really 34 sets of parents who would rather cut their First Communion parties short in order to go to the Saturday Vigil Mass? Or 34 sets of parents who are going to wake up early and get to the 8 in order to avoid the May Crowning? It doesn't look good, and it lends scandal to the Parish, and to the First Communicants who have made the commitment to show up. What starts as a beautiful day turns into a heartbreaking weekend for those who witness it. And if its to the point that my son might turn to me and ask "Why do I have to go to Mass twice in a weekend and all my friends get to stay home and sleep in?", I have to wonder about my response to him. The easiest thing I could do would be to homeschool him through his First Communion Prep. My husband is right to point out that Communion has a communal aspect in that it should be Parish/Church oriented. I could have my son receive at a Sunday Mass with our Parish. But I also struggle with this decision as I don't want it to become a form of spiritual pride for me, or for my son for that matter. I don't want either of us to think of ourselves as "Catholic Ultra" because we homeschool. It's like I told a friend this past weekend, we're called to faithful, not to be laundry detergent. I don't want my son to look down on other children because he's somehow "more Catholic". But I don't want him to be scandalized by the actions of his peers, or the blatant disregard of his peers' parents.
The homeschooling programs we've been looking into for next year have beautiful religious programs. And that brings up another discerning point for me. We are a "Catholic" homeschool. My husband and I reached an agreement about homeschooling based on academics. In study after study, it has been proven that homeschooled children do better in all tests and scholarships etc. But in discerning this First Communion issue, I realize that I can't just do this for the academics. If I'm going to homeschool, it also has to bring in my Faith. As I cannot lose my Faith identity when walking throughout my life, I cannot allow my school here at home to lose its Catholic identity because I've decided not to lend my teaching skills to preparing my children for the Sacraments. How many parents do this? Use the local CCD program at their Church as a crutch not to have to explain morality or the Faith of Christ at home? On Mother's Day, my Pastor said these words during his homily and it hit me hard, "...Saying things like 'I'm not going to force my child to go to Church. Instead I'm going to wait until they're older and then let my child decide what he/she wants to believe.' Isn't this just another way of saying 'I don't care about my kids?'" Whoa! That really hit me between the eyes. Am I using the term "Catholic homeschooling" because I'm a Catholic who happens to be homeschooling? Or am I trying to incorporate the Faith into my school life? And if I'm not going to prepare my children for the Sacraments at home, then why do I bother calling my school Catholic? Afterall, when I attended Catholic School as I child, I was exempt from CCD classes. Because I was learning the Faith in school. Am, I teaching the Faith to my children? Or just how to add, how to spell, how to read, and how to write. Wouldn't it be better for them to go through life completely uneducated and yet know the Lord? Well, I'm not extremist. I'd like them to know both:)
So this is where my journey has brought me so far on this...Undecided... Please let me know you're thoughts? Or what you have done with your own children that works, or doesn't? And please keep us in your prayers as we continue to discern this most important point in my eldest son's life.