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29 November 2016


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This post pricks so many issues for me so be prepared for several, perhaps unrelated, thoughts.

First, the baby bust. I am so frustrated that it seems that only one of my children (2007) was born when other children were born. We can find so many friends her age and almost nobody for any of the other children. It is really apparent now that my oldest is starting to become very socially aware. We can't send her to play with kids her little sister's age forever. 2010 babies are also scarce on the ground. I worry about these things.

Melanie B

I wish I could go back and have the girls copy out the catechism. Ben isn't ready for that much copying and he still needs to learn to read first, but eventually I might have the younger kids do that.

I still need to figure out how to do first communion prep for a child who cannot read at all. Or do I keep putting it off until he can? I honestly think he's ready to receive in terms of understanding the Real Presence. He's not ready to go to confession, though, because he will not talk to a priest or to anyone outside the immediate family. I guess this is where sending him to religious ed might work, but I think he might rebel. He's done classes with siblings at homeschool retreats and vacation Bible school and the art museum, but never a class where he was solo.


Secondly, there is a rather heated debate happening in my diocese right now. Some families are strongly objecting to the sex ed program that is used at one of the Catholic high schools. This is particularly problematic because there are only two diocesan high schools so there isn't a lot of choices to voice your concerns with your feet and still have your kids go to a Catholic school. The school is not allowing students to opt out. You will attend this class or you will not attend the school.

For many families, this high school is the only reasonable choice to make. For many other families, mine included, Catholic schools are these theoretical places that exist far away from us. Anyway, coming back from the tangent. All that to say this is very heated because parents are backed into a corner without many options.

Some of the parents are very concerned that the material is too explicit. This sounds like a reasonable concern until you know that these particular parents have lamented nudes at the art museum. So. There is a very real fear that knowing will lead to doing. Maybe? I'm not exactly convinced.

The school has very recently made the material available online, but I have yet to click over and look at it for myself. I'm not sure I want to know.

Puberty happens whether parents like it or not. I know one mother in this same social group who has worried about finding an appropriate puberty book for her oldest boy (12) because every book she finds discusses a particular physical reality of a boy going through puberty. Cough. She seems to think that if he never finds out about that particular aspect of life, it won't happen to him because the seed wouldn't have been planted in his mind. (If I point the joke out, is it still a joke?)

I know parents have concerns, but I wonder about the desire to keep children not just innocent, but ignorant.


Melanie, re: first communion prep for a child who cannot read, I would do the same catechism stuff I am doing now but entirely with memory/recitation. If anything the catechism method should be especially well suited to a nonreader.

Jenny, whew. I think there's no such thing as too explicit in the sense of *factual information,* but it's possible to be imprudently explicit with imagery; and of course, it is possible to run contrary to correct moral teaching. Still, though, I am surprised that the diocese permits the high schools to be so inflexible with parents since church teaching is clear that parents are primary educators and they only delegate it to the schools.


Oh, one more thing, Melanie -- my parish absolutely insists on confession before communion, I think. A kid who wasn't ready for confession would be assumed unready for communion. Perhaps exceptions would be made for kids with special needs, I don't know.


Comment, the third: Knowing too much too soon.

I was a child who knew too much too soon. My mother, for reasons I cannot fathom, told me everything there was to know when I was four years old. My early childhood featured regular retreads of the information in question. I, too, had that feeling of revulsion and being horribly trapped while she told me these things. She would tell me that she wasn't telling me everything, that some things had to wait until I was older, but the withheld information turned out to be all the different types of birth control and why you definitely should be using it.

By the time I got to the normal age for learning these things, it was old, old information. It didn't strike curiosity or wonder in me at all. I don't remember ever not knowing. My memory doesn't go back that far.

This was not a good state of affairs. I knew way, way too much. And when the information was becoming relevant, the conversations stopped because, I guess, she thought she had checked off that box. I had a lot of information and not much guidance to go with it.

I might state again this was very bad.

My approach with my own children is definitely colored by my own experience. I err on withholding rather than telling. I try extremely hard to answer questions that are asked instead the next question after that. I like to think I am doing fairly well at threading the needle. I don't flinch at classical statuary, anyway. I am helped by an oldest child who has been decidedly uninterested.

But yes, the sixth commandment exists to protect children. I think children do need to know that. They aren't afterthoughts. God provides for them.


I have spent more time than I ought clicking around this afternoon looking for that curriculum in order to make a reasoned judgement on it, but cannot find it.

It is definitely problematic the way the diocese is usurping the rights of parents to opt out. The diocese argues that it is a month-long unit in a required theology course so it is a vital part of their overall Catholic education. I am less sure about such things.

The diocese argues that when parents choose to delegate to the schools, they lose the right to decide further about particular curriculum choices. I think that is shockingly wrong, but honestly, I am not surprised.


I'd be inclined to side with the diocese if their goal was to make sure that sex education occurs *in a moral context.* Assuming for the moment that everything in the program is orthodox (a big assumption, I know): Just as you could imagine prudish conservative parents wanting to opt out of the biology part if it offended their sensibilities you could easily imagine progressive-type parents (or non-Catholic parents) wanting to opt out of parts of Catholic sexual morality.

But even though I'd be more inclined to side with the diocese there, I'm still skeptical when it comes to sex education specifically that the parents don't have the canonical right to opt out.


They talk about there being a "sexual latency" stage to development, and I think it goes through about 10-11 - perhaps that lines up with the revulsion? So I think you're right about "more than they're ready for" being a burden - it either brings the sexual latency period to a premature end, or it becomes something that must be ignored/avoided.

In explaining the 6th commandment for kids, I've said it means a person shouldn't "act like a married couple" with people he/she not married to. I like your point about it being to keep children safe - good point. We tend to talk about the 9th commandment more broadly, including not being jealous of one friend's relationship with a different friend, and letting Mom and Dad watch a show together without insisting on hanging out with them....

Fr. Ricardo mentions often that we should teach the 10 Commandments in the context of instruction on how NOT to be slaves, since that's the context in which they were given.

Melanie, we did 1st Confession/Communion with non-readers partly by reading Bible stories together (Prodigal Son, 10 coins, Lost Sheep, Vine/Branch, etc) and then having the child narrate them to me as secretary, then (sometimes) illustrating them with drawings, coloring pages, etc. We put all these in a binder with their other prep work that my kids keep referring to as (sacramental) life goes on. I can read them back for the still-non-readers, but the pictures help a lot. For 10 commandments, we worked through each commandment with a little kid-generated picture that goes with each one, and perhaps a kid-generated label, and then put these all inside a file-folder 10 commandments like this one at Shower of Roses:


I love this post and discussion! Erin, would you be willing to share your copybook that you print out?


Hm, I'd have to go into the file and make a special version, because I have family photos of it. Will see how much work it would be.


I'm sure I can make one...I was being lazy! 😀.


This is a great post. Thanks for giving me more food for thought as I prepare for my first First Communion prep! I have a six year old boy turning seven in February, but happily he is surrounded by boys his age, including two other homeschooling boys his age just in our neighborhood!

Also, to Jenny's concern about her diocese, I believe Amy Welborn covered the situation well here: https://amywelborn.wordpress.com/2016/09/22/4th-period-is-sexytime-today/

Her post even includes a link to the offensive material. I agree with Amy--totally usurping parents' rights in a way that contradicts the teachings of our faith, and also just goes into inappropriate visuals and details.


I remember seeing that post on Amy Welborn's blog but didn't connect it to "the diocese Jenny is writing about."

I would be willing to use material that gives a similar level of information, although I would probably prefer a different presentation, in educating my own kids. (The term "explicit" is ambiguous and not neutral, so I am going to avoid it here.) I have to agree that the problem is the diocese making it compulsory (and possibly, putting it in class at all -- they had other options, such as sending material to parents with plenty of lead time and instructing them, "Kids will need to know this material, please review it for your reference and convey the content to your child at home.") But I am fairly sure they are in the wrong canonically *as well as*, pardon my French, just being dickish to parents by refusing to let parents opt their kids out.

I might promote elevating this above the diocese level, although I am not sure who to contact -- ask a canon lawyer blogger like the one at Canon Law Made Easy?


Oh look! Amy Welborn did indeed write about the goings-ons here.

I asked someone I know to send me a copy of the curriculum so I now have it in my inbox. It's not horrible but some of the details are over the top, and I don't know how you cover it in class without it getting really, really uncomfortable.

I'm not sure if the parents involved are going over the bishop's head or not. I do think he has made an error in supporting the school's stance in not allowing opt-outs.


For the past 83 Advents of my life it looks like much to still be learned. Thankyou Erin for all your posts and may our Lord shower His blessings on you and your family.

Kathleen Miller

My wording of the sixth commandment: If you're married, don't pretend to be married to somebody else. That worked for my little ones.

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