Friday, December 3, 2010

Little Flowers: Starting Early or Waiting?

In some recent emails from the Little Flower’s Leaders Loop (not a member yet? here’s how - ), there was some inquiry into the advantages, if any, of starting LF early. I wanted to take a quick moment to address that via the newsletter so that everyone, regardless of program, might know our view and reasoning.

Teaching our children about the faith is an obligation we have as parents. Our catechism begins to teach us about this as it discusses the Ten Commandments and “Honor Your Parents” (#2197 and following). The Church has spoken about this reality in numerous documents including Quadragesimo Anno, (1931, Pope Pius XI) and Rappresentatni in Terra by Pope Pius XI and Gravissimum Educationis, of Pope Paul VI and more recently the words of John Paul ll. The Church is clear - we are the parents and the responsibility relies on us. And those of us here have proven we take this responsibility very seriously.

However, the manner with which we pass along the faith need not always be so serious. I, myself, have strived to provide a proper balance between the real jubilation and fun our faith provides with the appropriate seriousness of the content. Piety and reverence are virtues we learn but everyone also knows of my love for eutrapelia and joy.

With all of that in mind, it is easy to jump right into teaching the faith as soon as possible. Teaching our children the faith can really be a good deal of fun for both us and ourselves. It is great being a Catholic so why hold back?

I am humbled and pleased families are eager to get started with any of the programs we have. I take it as an unexpected compliment some families with three and four year olds want to get started. They have a “Right Now!”, “I’m not waiting”, “Let’s jump right in!” mentality that is contagious BUT....

Of course, there is a ‘but’. Our Church wisely teaches about the ‘age of reason’ and this might need to be applied here. Our children are our greatest treasure and every treasure requires a level of protection. While there is nothing harmful within any of the programs; there does exist a real risk that too soon might really be ‘too soon’ and therefore not be beneficial.

Teaching the faith to your children is necessary but how you do it and with what programs, books and materials is vital. Not every program is well suited for a three year old or, on the other hand, with a fourteen year old. The progression of both intelligence and ability must be honored in our children. A fourteen year old will not learn much from a program designed for pre-schoolers and neither does a three year old learn from a program designed and written for a five year old (and older) child.

As I wrote in the Leader’s Loop:

“I will voice my concerns about starting LF too early. While introducing saint's lives, virtues and more is very important for all ages, we need to realize there are many concepts that are more challenging for younger children to handle and comprehend. Now, granted, there are children who are reading and writing at young ages but the spiritual aspects remaining challenging - even for us as adults! There is a cognitive and intellectual development of our children we need to respect and accept. Too much, too soon can result in frustration for both the child and the mom.

The other reality - faced by other groups - is the fact that by starting younger, some get tired of doing it (bored or a 'been there, done that attitude) by the time they can really begin to both understand it and appreciate it.

I am humbled by Moms such as yourself so eager to get their children started on the path of holiness but I feel that is best to take a small wait in introducing LF to such a young girl - this coming from a mom of 7 girls! Starting off on introducing your daughter to saint's stories and working on practicing the virtues appropriate for a 3 year old is a great foundation and LF will be a wonderful addition once she is older and better able to understand the concepts. Once she is older she is more fully able to really participate by both being able to read the materials on her own as well as do the activities more independently.

Each family will make their own decision but using other materials, developed with a preschooler in mind, would be my recommendation and waiting for LF until they are older.”

I hope this clarifies our position on this. I honor every parents right and obligation to teach the faith to their children and welcome each and every opportunity to have our programs be a part of this formation.

Finally, in the midst of this season of Thanksgiving I want to take a moment to say “Thank You” to all of you. Thank you for letting us into your homes, schools and home school groups. Thank you for letting us help you raise the next generation of saints, the next leaders who will both bring Christ’s Kingdom here on earth but celebrate it for all eternity in heaven.

This year has been a challenge for all us for many reasons even without the added challenge of the economy. The perseverance and dedication of many of the families of Behold the Child, Ecce Homo Press, Little Flowers, Blue Knights, the Hospitality families, Honor Guard and more is encouraging. When I remember all of you in my prayers the words that most often come to my heart as “well done, good and faithful servants!” Thank you!

Two recommended preschool materials might include:

The Catholic Children’s Treasure Box series published by the Maryknoll Sisters in the 1950’s now reprinted and available from many sources.

Rosemarie Gortler has written a lovely series of small books for preschoolers including “Little Acts of Grace”. These are perfect preschooler books and also available from many sources.


Cam said...

It is hard to wait! I just stumbled across your blog and am enjoying it. We have two girls and are still years away from starting the program (ones two and a half and one's six months) but I still love googling the program now and then!

Angela said...

For those looking to do things with younger children I found a great site. Catholic Icing. It is a site run by a Catholic home schooling mom. I have found so many wonderful ideas for my youngest there.