Good Times with a 250-Family Homeschooling Group
By Priscilla Mc Caffrey
Photo credits: Monica O’Brien-Costantin, Kristin Gawley, Monica McCaffrey, Patti Ward, Lynn Wehner, Julie Weyant and Luke Weyant
How can Catholics build community when they hail from widely-separated parishes and locales? In this remarkable photo essay, Priscilla Mc Caffrey explains how it’s been done for two decades, quietly and effectively, by one sizable group of homeschoolers spread across two states in the Northeastern US.
OUR HOME IS IN WESTERN CONNECTICUT so over the years we have enjoyed the benefits of knowing two homeschooling groups, one in near-by New York and the other in more central Connecticut.
GAMES GALORE: In Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, a beautiful 4000 acre park in Westchester County, New York, the annual Kelley picnic hosts games for all – including one where my daughters join friends and Moms for the soccer match for 13 yr. olds and up.
ON THE SIDELINES: There are players and spectators from dozens of large and small families.
SIZABLE FAMILIES, SENSIBLE CARS, REASONABLE REFRESHMENTS — a supply of water and light beverages, a camping pot for hot tea, a coffee box from Duncan Donuts, or later in the day perhaps vino or beer will make their appearance.
THE ENTIRE PICNIC, A COOK-OUT FOR 250 PEOPLE, happens without too many missives sent to too many people.
THE KELLEY FAMILY HAS HOSTED THIS FOR YEARS and bears the organizational burden; captains are established for competitions, games, play, food and clean-up.
THE REST OF US agree to contribute and it happens.
EACH FAMILY RETURNS HOME WITH WEARY CHILDREN AND HAPPY MEMORIES of the annual Kelley Picnic, grateful for the group of friends who come under the umbrella of St. Monicaʼs.
WHO BELONGS TO ST. MONICAʼS? Anyone in the area who considers their family a homeschooling Catholic family and gets on the email list for posts.
THERE’S NO MEMBERSHIP FEES. No official calendar. Lots of prayers offered and requested.
BESIDES THE KELLEY PICNIC, St Monica’s has evolved over the years so that there are several events throughout the year that usually one family arranges for all or part of the group.
ANOTHER ANNUAL FAVORITE IS THE BRADLEY PUMPKIN PARTY, with autumn ambiance to rival anything out of Hollywood — a cross between Nanny McFee and Meet Me in St. Louie.
IN THE ROLLING HILLS OF AVON, CT. WE ATTEND A YEARLY MUSICAL PERFORMANCE put on by the members of Adoro Te homeschooling group. It is spectacular.
THE YOUNG ACTORS AGES FIVE TO EIGHTEEN HAVE AN INTENSE REHEARSAL SCHEDULE FOR TWO TO THREE WEEKS AND SING AND DANCE AND ENTERTAIN IN OUTSTANDING FORM. It is a credit to extremely gifted moms whose talents would grace any corporation, university, chemistry lab or theater, and to eager and cheerful students. Iʼve seen many children blossom in the atmosphere of expectant charity. (‘We know you can do this!’)
WE HAVE BEEN FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO HAVE SEVERAL OF THESE PERFORMANCES ON AN OUTDOOR STAGE ON EXQUISITE DAYS IN JUNE, with gardens in bloom and tables on the lawn for 300 picnickers.
ADORO TE WITH ITS WEEKLY FRIDAY ACTIVITIES which include clubs of interest, making lunch bags for the homeless, and easy access to Mass and Confession, encourages young people to be true lovers of life. My humble contribution is to host the annual teen hike in Hemlock Hills before the trees leaf out in April. Love that first splash of sun they come back with. There is also year-long tennis organized by another of the indefatigable moms.
THERE ARE TWO SCHEDULED DANCES EACH YEAR, the Fall Ball for families and Silver and Gold for the young people in high school and those returned from college.
ORGANIZATION, GENEROSITY AND SOLID FRIENDSHIPS make this homeschooling group a success.
VENDORS REALIZE WE ARE A NICHE — middle-of-the-school-week customers — and have come to enjoy us. They gladly work with sizable groups with a lot of younger tag-alongs.
THE ONLY PROBLEM FOR MY CHILDREN HAS BEEN deciding whose bus to travel on to Washington, DC, for the March for Life.
THEY ARE ALL JOYFUL WITNESSES who mean to have a good time, even when a six hour journey lands them in a snowdrift and delays them by a night. ( Just more time for dancing!)
Priscilla Mc Caffrey is an editor at Roman Catholic Books. She is in her last year of homeschooling and grateful for the remarkable homeschoolers she has met. She recommends that interested folks check out the St. Monicaʼs site below – for new members and information on current events, upcoming activities, and items of interest to homeschoolers.
Click HERE to contact St. Monica’s.