A little over a year ago, I shared with you in this space a “day in the life” homeschooling my son with Down syndrome. He went to public school up until age eleven and until two years ago I never pictured myself as a homeschooling mom. Today? I can’t imagine ever sending him back to public school.
When we started this homeschooling thing two years ago, I opted to use Simply Classical, a complete curriculum using a classical education model but adapted for children with learning challenges. I’ve made some minor modifications to it so that it best fits my son’s needs, but it is what they advertise - a complete curriculum, except for one thing. It’s Christian, but it isn’t Catholic.
Nathan attended religious education classes at our parish through his sacrament year in second grade, but we stopped after that because he just couldn’t keep up anymore. Since then, his religious education has consisted of a subscription to MagnifiKid for the Sunday Mass, reading through sections of the St. Joseph Catechism for children, and a set of patron saint flashcards. It’s not nothing, but it’s not great, either. He became an altar server this past school year, so I felt it was time for me to step it up a bit.
At the beginning of 2023, I grabbed a copy of Accepting the Gift’s book, Friends & Intercessors by Amanda DeBroeck with good intentions of going through it with Nathan. Around that same time, my stepmother was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer so during her brief time left I focused all my energy on her and on just getting through the homeschool days without adding anything new to my plate.
As I began to think ahead toward the new school year, I circled back to Friends & Intercessors - and discovered an excellent resource that was music to my weary soul! It’s not quite open-and-go, but the activities found within the pages are things that I (a woman who is not naturally crafty in any way) can do without dread. I tried other activities in the past, and I’ll be honest - they tested my non-crafty patience. I always prefer simple ideas but in this season of life? It’s a necessity.
Nathan benefits from multi-sensory approaches to learning, but that doesn’t mean we have to do things that are complicated or time-consuming. Here are a few examples of simple activities from Friends & Intercessors:
St. Bernadette first saw Our Lady when she was out with her sister and a friend gathering wood for a fire. Scatter pretzel sticks on a flat surface, then gather and stack them neatly in a little “woodpile” like St. Bernadette would have done.
St. Gianna Molla was a pediatrician and mother. Role-play caring for a baby doll as both a mother and a doctor.
St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost items, so play… Hide and Seek!
In addition to the lovely images of each saint accompanied by the stories of their lives (as well as the aforementioned activities), Friends & Intercessors also includes additional resources - books, films, shrine information, and websites - if you want to expand your child’s knowledge of the saint. (You can download a preview copy to get a sample of what's included.)
The book is structured to cover a calendar year with 4-6 saints featured each month, though this structure is just a suggestion and you can choose when and who you cover and when. We started with St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American woman Catholic saint. The activity for St. Kateri is “Worship Wherever” and we took the “wherever” quite literally! My husband, my son, and I headed out to a local historic state park which was the site of the last major battle of the Civil War and is in one of the most ecologically diverse sections of our state.
We drove our Jeep throughout the park, saw deer cross our path, strolled down to the river, and finally ended up at the end of the road on the battlefield. Once there, I grabbed a roll of twine I’d brought from home and we created a cross using sticks we found nearby. When it was finished, we left it behind at the beginning of a walking trail for whoever came behind us to find, modeling St. Kateri herself.
Andi Sligh is a wife and mother of two children with disabilities and three dogs. She is a lifelong Alabamian, Dr. Pepper addict, Catholic convert, and former engineer who rediscovered a love of writing when she became a mom. You can find more of her writing at https://andisligh.com/