The Mission of The Oratory
The primary words that guide our work at The Oratory were written by St. Paul to the Philippians (2:1-5), a community of believers not unlike us.
“So if there is any encouragement In Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus....”
Through prayer and the frequent contemplation of this passage, we strive to create a community based on the joy and charity and humility of Jesus Christ.
The Mission Statement
The Oratory is a homeschool academy which offers classes twice weekly in order to support homeschooling parents. We seek to support each other in the noble mission of educating our children in the classical tradition and, above all, teach them to love all that is good and true and beautiful.
The Mission Statement uses particular words that are revealing:
“to support homeschooling parents”: We see homeschooling as a wonderful way of education, especially since parents are the first educators of their children. But there are difficulties which arise, and The Oratory exists to help parents overcome these difficulties, so that homeschooling for them is successful. Unlike most educational models, which remove the child from his family for the majority of his waking hours, and thus remove the family as the center of his existence (replacing it with immature peers), this 1 1/2-2 day a week model serves only to strengthen the family by making homeschooling feasible—providing difficult classes like high school chemistry and composition and Latin and higher math...so we don’t have to give up our high ideal of homeschooling our children.
“in the noble mission”: We say noble because in this culture, it is increasingly a battle to educate our children in the Truth, and to pass on the truth about the human person and his place in the world. To teach a child to love what ought to be loved, is a noble endeavor, and our duty.
Students gather for the recitation of poetry
“to educate them in the classical tradition”: We take for our guides educators who understand the classical tradition, which, in the end, aims to teach a person how to reason and communicate the truth which he logically concludes. A classical education helps a child understand what it means to be human, by drawing on the wisdom of the ages, which is conveyed through the study of the liberal arts—and not to simply make him a knower of facts.
Beginning with our youngest students we strive for classes that are informed by the classical trivium (grammar, logic/dialectic and rhetoric).
First, we have grammar, which is the accumulation of knowledge, and includes some learning by memorization. Then comes logic/dialectic—through which the child begins to understand what he has learned and is learning in the context of truth and goodness (that is, why it has value). By high school, rhetoric comes in, by which the student learns to present logically formed and persuasive arguments, in the defense of what is true and good. Douglas Wilson (The Case for Classical Christian Education) writes that rhetoric is the “presentation of...truth and goodness in a lovely form.” For the high school ages, the curriculum draws from a myriad of sources but the main guide will be from the author of Creating Your Own Classical Curriculum, Laura Berquist.
The students gather for prayer in the Adoration Chapel of St. Francis Church
“and to inspire in them a love for all that is good, and true, and beautiful”: We strive to do this only with the help of the Holy Spirit; thus, this coming year, along with morning prayer and Mass, our days will begin with a peaceful period of silent adoration in our beautiful church.
As far as the classroom, we believe that young children respond to beauty—we seek to enliven that response through our art study classes; we desire that children respond to the beauty of words, thus our poetry and literature and recitation classes; we give them the beauty of music through our choir, wherein the children sing beautiful and sacred music. In these areas, particularly for the lower grades, our foremost guide is Charlotte Mason (1842-1923).
We are very excited to offer classes which explore some of the “Good Books” (as identified by Dr. John Senior). The “good books” draw students to the good, true, and beautiful through the great medium of literature that speaks of the universal human condition, and inspires students to naturally align themselves with the good.
The teaching of Latin is part of The Oratory’s curriculum
We recognize the absence of much reading in our technological age and we think it may be of great benefit to younger students to be accountable to someone other than a parent in requiring them to read good books. The students will also become accustomed to the Socratic method (providing the student with questions that help him arrive at correct conclusions) in the Good Books classes. The preparation of the child’s heart and mind to be able to receive the Truth through the reading of good literature is an essential prerequisite for digestion of the “Great Books” in high school and college.
Finally, on a practical level, we acknowledge from long experience several needs homeschooling families have:
- the need for another person other than a child’s mother to be accountable to
- the need for an opportunity for children to see each other and experience the joys of companionship and the excitement of being with other children
- the need for homeschooled children to learn to take personal responsibility for their own learning (in its failures and successes) apart from their parents
- the need for a child to adjust to teachers beyond their mother. Tangentially, it is often difficult for the homeschooling parent to challenge their child to excellence and independence, yet both are essential if the student is to flourish academically, at any age.
These are only a sampling of the potential problems many of us have faced as homeschoolers. The Oratory hopes to provide help in all these areas, without undermining parental authority and without moving the family from the center of existence for each child.