Diocese of Joliet

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Home-Based Catechesis Family Resource Center

Welcome Catholic parents! Whether you have chosen to provide your child with a home-schooling experience for religious education (the Church calls this “home-based catechesis”), or you simply want to supplement the formation your child is receiving at school or in parish religious education sessions, this is your one-stop web page for the best resources to help you share Catholic faith with your child.  You can also learn more about diocesan policies and guidelines. The Religious Education Office of the Diocese of Joliet offers this to help you in the very important role of forming your child in Catholic faith.  Please bookmark our site and be sure to use these resources to assist you in forming your child in Catholic faith

First, allow us to affirm your choice to take an active role in your child’s faith formation. You are, after all, the first and best teacher of your child. To do this well, you need to know that the Church has some guidelines for home-based catechesis. The 2005 National Directory for Catechesis says:

If Catholic parents choose to provide catechesis for the children in their home, that catechesis must be both complete and authentic. The bishop of the diocese, the pastor of the parish, the parents and the children all have God-given responsibilities that must be respected in considering home-based catechesis. The home-based catechesis of children is a cooperative effort between the children, their parents, parish leadership and the diocesan bishop.

Parents who choose to catechize their children at home should not feel alone in this task. They are part of the parish’s total catechetical effort and should be welcomed in all parish catechetical program activities. Pastors in collaboration with parish catechetical leaders should provide the support, encouragement, and direction that parents need in order to ensure that they teach their children what the Church intends to be taught by providing parents with copies of the appropriate sections of the diocesan curriculum. Parents who would like to provide catechesis at home should make themselves known to the local pastor and consult with him or his delegate to ensure that the catechesis provided in the home is the catechesis of the Church. Dialogue between the pastor and the parents is essential to the complete and authentic catechesis of children in their homes. (259-260) 

How to get started

If you are considering home-based catechesis, your first step is to contact your parish director or coordinator of religious education. You will need to work with the parish to make sure that you are using materials they approve of, and that you will meet all parish requirements for sacrament preparation. 

Although we realize some parents, for a variety of reasons, may prefer to choose their materials and work independently of the local parish, the Church actually does not recommend this. Because sacraments normally take place within a parish community, it is proper to work with parish leadership. This is not just a matter of meeting a given parish’s “rules”, but more importantly it is because parish catechetical leaders are professionals trained to provide the current catechesis of the Church.

Think of it this way – even though they themselves have a body, most parents are not qualified to provide their own child’s medical care, but would normally consult a doctor. In the same way, even though a parent may have Catholic faith, the Church asks that parents consult the parish “expert(s)” to provide the current catechesis of the Church. Note the term “the catechesis of the Church” – by this, the National Directory means a balanced, comprehensive and holistic catechesis based on the current teachings of the Church, NOT the catechesis that individual parents might want to provide because of philosophical differences with current teachings or the administration of the Church.

Please remember when dealing with your pastor or parish director of religious education that this will need to be a two-way conversation. As the National Directory says, above, there are “God-given responsibilities that must be respected” all around. You DO have the right to provide home-based catechesis for your child. However, the pastor and religious education director have the right to set policies and guidelines to see that “the catechesis provided in the home is the catechesis of the Church”.  For the good of the children, parents and parishes need to work together to design a comprehensive Christ-centered catechetical experience. This is policy in the Diocese, as set in Faith Formation in the Diocese of Joliet, March 2003.

The parish may include requirements for families to attend certain gatherings, retreats, or periodic home-catechesis parent meetings. Additionally, many parishes will require children to be present in parish religious education during the period of preparation preceding a sacrament, because sacraments are communal -- celebrations for the child’s entire faith community, not just for the family.

How to Become Your Child's Catechist

When parents take on the role of formally sharing Catholic faith with a child, they may feel a little inadequate at first. After all, it has probably been years since their own last religious education experience. Actually, most parents have what it takes. The main assets needed to be an effective catechist are simple: faith in God and the desire to share it. 

The primary goal of all catechesis is to bring people to faith through a relationship with the person of Jesus Christ, not to stuff their heads with knowledge about faith. If parents have a regular prayer life and a relationship with Christ and the community of faith, they already have the basics to help their child develop these core elements of what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Catechesis is a primarily a ministry of the heart, not just the head.  If you believe in and love God, you are equipped to share faith. 

As far as knowledge and skills for catechesis, certainly these can be acquired. Parents who want to provide home-based catechesis should consider engaging in at least some formal catechist formation in the areas of “being” (spirituality), “knowing” (creed, scripture, church history, etc.) and “doing” (skills, practices and teaching methodologies). Contact the parish director of religious education to get started.

 Choosing Texts and Supplemental Materials

Typically, a parish will want home school parents to use the same catechetical materials as are being used in parish sessions, since these have met the guidelines of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Office of the Catechism and are in conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the official compendium of all that Catholics believe and teach.  The current list of texts approved by the Church can be found HERE.
 
Primary faith formation textbooks for elementary age students used in parishes in this diocese generally are by one of six major Catholic publishers: RCl/Benziger, Our Sunday Visitor Curriculum Division, Loyola Press, or Sadlier. Supplementary materials and resources may come from a wider range of Catholic publishers. Again, check with your parish to see what is acceptable. Links to some of these and to other good Internet resources can be accessed here:  Links to Great Sites for Catholic Families

We strongly recommend you do NOT search the Internet randomly for catechetical materials, as this will bring up resources from groups whose materials are not “the catechesis of the Church”, but rather based on the agendas of groups not officially associated with the Magisterium, or teaching ministry of the Church.  

The Diocese of Joliet Faith Formation Curriculum

The Diocese of Joliet has developed curriculum guidelines for Pre-School through Grade 8, based on the four areas of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the General Directory for Catechesis, and the United States Catholic Bishops’ Protocols for textbook conformity. This curriculum is holistic, providing for the teaching of knowledge and skills, certainly, but aimed primarily at creating disciples of Jesus Christ who connect their faith to their everyday life. Find the curiculum information here.

You will also find many useful resources for you and your child in the appendices to the diocesan  curriculum. These include web-based resources and books. Check it out, and be sure to study and use it.  Parent curriculum brochure

Sacraments for Home-Schooled Children

Sacraments are communal celebrations for the child’s entire faith community, not private family “Kodak moments” like birthdays or graduations. The entire parish benefits from the initiation of the community’s children, by the witness of their presence and by the reminder of the value of their own sacramental experiences.

In addition, children preparing for sacraments need to make a faith connection to other children their age with other family or even other ethnic backgrounds. This relational learning and growth will become the seed of their lifelong connection to the entire Body of Christ in the Church.

These are strong and compelling reasons for the preparation of children for sacraments among others their own age in a group setting, conducted by members of the community who are not their parents. Therefore, the Diocese of Joliet affirms the right of parishes to require that home schooled children engage in parish-based faith formation during preparation for sacraments. That does not mean that parents cannot be involved. It does mean that the parish embraces children and draws them into the heart of the community to help them become ready for the key life experiences of sacraments.

A Special Note About Parents' Role in Teaching Children about Sexuality

Because human sexuality needs to be taught from a Catholic perspective, it becomes a catechetical issue, rather than a health issue. Although education in sexuality is primarily the role of the family, parents should look to the Church for guidance and assistance in providing catechesis within the context of the moral principles and values of the Church.

“…Parents have the basic right, duty, and primary responsibility to provide education in human sexuality for their children and to decide what kind of formal education in human sexuality is best or children, and… they may ask the Church to assist them in providing this education.” (National Directory for Catechesis, 178) 

The currently approved Family Life Curriculum lists several texts that parents can use in this important endeavor.  Please see the current Diocese of Joliet Chastity Formation Resources page.