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Teach the Kids or Teach the Parents?

To teach or not to teach, that is the question. It is that time of year again. CCD will be starting up in another month and our parish needs teachers. I have been an on again-off again catechist for years. I feel compelled to teach in one form or another which is probably why I am blogging. However, do I really want to commit to a year of teaching seventh graders in preparation for confirmation? You see, my desire is to teach the parents of these seventh graders so that they can properly prepare their own children. My frustration with teaching CCD is that I feel like I am working independently of rather than in conjunction with parents. Parents must be the primary catechists. Unfortunately, as with most Catholic parishes, we don’t have an established culture of adult religious education. So here is my dilemma. Do I break new ground and work to initiate a parents’ religious education program or do I put my energy into the established program and hope I can teach the children well enough to have a “trickle up” effect on the parents? Is there a way to do both?

My idea for a starting point for a parent’s class is the book Keeping your Kids Catholic by Bert Ghezzi. This book offers great insights and practical advice for passing the Faith to children from toddlers to teens. I read it when my oldest was just starting school then read it again when my youngest was starting school. Different parts of the book become more relevant as children age and life circumstances change so it is well worth reading again and again. The format of the book is easily adapted to an adult education group since each chapter is followed by discussion questions.

Our wonderful DRE really needs teachers. She is a lovely lady committed to giving our kids an orthodox Catholic education.This is no happy-clappy Catholic Lite program. I know I am able to teach, but is this where I want to expend my energy? I promised her I would pray about it and I will. I guess the question is not really to teach or not to teach. It is, “what is my will and what is God’s?”


Tony said…
This is a toughie. My oldest daughter ran into bad teachers at a local parish. It seems that the teachers of the confirmation class, were last years confirmands.

I really don't want to cast aspersions on good intentioned and dedicated volunteers, especially when I was not willing to volunteer for that particular job. But what turned it for me was when the teacher wrote the sacraments on the board, and only wrote 6 of them. Now I understand that one could slip your mind, but I know that there are 7 dwarfs, it's just that I can never remember "sneezy". My daughter had to correct the teacher on a few occasions.

So we went to our pastor and asked for permission for me to home school my daughter. Our pastor said fine, recommended a book and off I went.

As my daughter's dad, I could play to her doubts and weaknesses to maximize the "catechetical coefficient" of my teaching. Also she had two "term papers" (which she squealed about... "Daaaaaaad!!!! They don't do term papers in religious ed!!!" -- "Honey, you're not in 'religious ed'").

We also had a "field trip" to an indult TLM at a local church. I did it for historical reasons.

If the parents are motivated, your idea has merit. If the parents are not motivated (which I would guess might be the case), you'll replace "insufficient religious ed", with "no religious ed".

(PS: this word verification crap is really getting to me, I have to enter longer and longer words upwards of three times... I do know there's a spam problem).
Barb, sfo said…
From what I have seen in my parish and neighboring ones, Religious Ed doesn't only happen "independently" of parents but also sometimes "in spite of" them.
I just got the book you mentioned & am anxious to read it....and I think your idea of educating parents is a fine one. I'm a Catholic-schooling parent but I'd go to a class like that. It's all GOT to be reinforced at home. But the priority is always soccer, not religious ed.
Perhaps you could stick with the teaching for this year, and ask that your DRE budget for a bulk buy of that book, one per family. It would add what, $5 to the cost of the class for the year? Worth it, I'd say! At least it would be leading a horse to water...
Christine Marie said…
I don't want to "poach" volunteers from other ministries, but I just had to comment. I am in TX right now on a short vacation and on my flight down I was scribbling furiously in my notebook the things I want to work on in the upcoming year at the parish. One of the major things that I want to work on is a parent education program. Under that heading I wrote down notes like "what topics, what format, when, and what parents could I get to help spearhead this." Just so you know, your name immediately came to mind. So it was just interesting to read this post.

Let's chat when I get back. Either way, I'd LOVE LOVE LOVE to get your input on topics as well as possibly have you speak at some point.

Also, please than the kids for coming up to help yesterday. Who knew I'd finish EARLY with moving the office? Talk about divine intervention ;) Anyways, I so very much appreciated their intent to help.

Greetings from TX :)
Catholic Mom said…
You are not poaching! I really think we can work on both. After much prayer and reflection I think I am going to step up and tell Margaret I will teach 7th grade this year. But let's still work on the parent education thing!

By the way, while you are in Texas, eat Bluebell Ice Cream. The Chocolate Covered Strawberry flavor is a taste of heaven!
Michelle said…
My girlfriend gave me this idea, which I used 2 years ago (last year I was blessedly just an aide): get email addresses from the parents and send them class summaries. Things like: "This week we discussed Chapter 3, which talks about Baptism. Baptism is a sacrament of initiation and is one of the seven sacraments of the church. etc, etc" I would also include discussions that arose (pets dying was one topic) and I would explain the Catholic Church's position as I presented it in class and some of the thoughts that the students brought up.

The feedback from many of the parents was positive (the rest were silent). This was an easy way for the parents to know what was going on in class so they could further the discussion at home (these were 5th and 6th graders who answer "nothing" to the question "what did you talk about today?") and also an easy way for me to present the Catholic teaching to those parents who were never taught or who did not remember.

I agree that word verification is out of hand. Three or 4 letters should be sufficient to prevent spam.

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