Therese McDonald

Therese McDonald

March 23, 2015
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Faith is at the heart of Therese McDonald's home, where learning and the formation of the whole child go together.

The mother of four has been homeschooling for 20 years and says, "All the formation we give our children in reason, in reading, in mathematics, in writing, in conversing and in creating are all bound up in the faith."

McDonald was one of several speakers at the Western Canadian Catholic Homeschool Conference at Providence Renewal Centre in Edmonton.

Books are important for the formation of children, she said, recommending parents get only good books, "books that inspire virtues and help us to be holy."

For that to happen, "you have to be the pre-readers of the material that you are going to read to your children." One book she recommended is the Hunted Priest, the life of a persecuted priest during the Reformation in England.

"Making a rich environment of good books will most certainly lead to a good education, to the ability to think critically and to a mindset that reasons well," McDonald said.

"All we learn should lead to holiness and the ultimate goal of heaven. I say to my children, 'What you learn is God's gift to you. How are you going to return it to him? How are you going to make it a gift back?'"

McDonald says when she finds a good book with inspiring stories she makes her children act them out.

The family celebrates the liturgical year and the children dramatize it as much as possible.

OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE

"We always celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We talk about it and my children know the story very, very well. We always acted it out.

"We get into the costuming and we get into the Mexican food and the beautiful hymn to Our Lady of Guadalupe and we make it a celebration, a fiesta."

Lent, for the McDonalds, involves public activities in addition to faith-oriented events in the home. "We do Stations of the Cross and sing. We like to do a lot of processing outdoors."

The McDonalds' goal is to form tradition. "Tradition roots our family life."

ST. NICHOLAS

The feast of St. Nicholas is one of McDonald's favourites because it involves chocolate. "My children put their shoes out. And my big kids who are away at university come back to the chocolate that they miss on St. Nicholas Day."

The McDonalds' tradition has been to decorate for Christmas at the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8. At Christmas, the family celebrates the full 12 days.

At Valentine's Day, the focus is on the immaculate heart of Mary and sacred heart of Jesus.

The feast of St. Joseph is a manly day for the McDonalds. "We talk about St. Joseph as the protector, the guardian of the family. It's also a great day to talk about carpentry or fatherhood or what it is to be a man."

The McDonalds also tour churches, go to farmers markets, drive places and attend marches.

"Is this education?" McDonald asked. "I think this is the best kind of homeschooling."

The Holy Spirit is present in every aspect of homeschooling, she said. "He is there. He is your school."