Leader: Kyra Mathewson
What is the Church School Program?
The purpose of the church school program at Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Church is to facilitate the children on their journey of discovering The Lord. We have carried this out by implementing three unique programs: The Catechesis of The Good Shepard (3-6), The Catechesis of The Good Gardener (6-9), and The Catechesis of The Good Carpenter (9+). All three programs are influenced by the work of Dr. Maria Montessori, a renowned Italian physician and educator. Dr. Montessori believed in child-centered activities that aim to educate the whole child while fostering growth at an individual pace. Her methodologies beautifully parallel the teachings of the Orthodox Church in which we value the importance of following Christ with our entire mind, body, and soul. Within our atrium spaces you will find child sized holy materials that are specifically prepared to encourage hands-on, self-directed discovery. The children are also invited to participate in presentations about Christ that were created to help them make the Mystery of God into a more concrete concept. We allow the children to think and ponder the materials without being “told.” Through a child’s innate desire to discover, we pray that our children recognize Christ as a person and their love for Him, but most importantly His love for them! The atrium is a holy and special place and we ask that as you observe, you are respectful of the children’s materials and space.
What is an Atrium?
Created to meet the spiritual and educational needs of children as young as three years old, the atrium is like a retreat house, a place set apart for the children, who receive a series of presentations (or lessons) there. The environment and the presentations are carefully designed to lead the child to contemplate and experience an aspect of God interiorly. Built on the belief that God is indeed already in conversation with the soul of the child, the atrium and its materials are provided to further the child's relationship with God in a way that respects the uniqueness of each one and his or her growing awareness of that relationship.
"You may be wondering how these materials help the religious life of children? If an adult hears a beautiful passage from the Bible, the adult might take a Bible, find the passage, and read it slowly again and again. He or she may think deeply about the words and perhaps speak to God in a thankful or hopeful prayer. But a little child, too young to read, needs another way. In an atrium the child can ponder a biblical passage or a prayer from the liturgy by taking the material for that text and working with it." (Source: http://www.cgsusa.org)
The atrium space is structured with child-sized shelves and tables on which rest beautiful, generally hand-crafted materials used first by the catechist in demonstration, then by the children as they freely choose which aspect of God they wish to pursue and experience further. Everything placed in the atrium is for the child's use, according to his or her developmental needs. This enables the children to develop their physical, intellectual, and spiritual capacities in a safe environment under the direction of trained catechists and their assistants. Those who instruct also listen and observe as the children come into contact with God at their own paces and rhythms, guided by the liturgical cycle of the year.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. - Deut 6:4-9
"Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions, which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle." - 1 Thess. 2:15
“Of all the holy works the education of children is the most holy." – St. Theophan the Recluse