Patrick will be twelve on the Feast of the Guardian Angels. He's technically a sixth grader this year, but his plan of study is all over the map. Patrick is a very capable student--pretty much everything comes easily to him. The part of planning for him that is both a challenge and a blessing is that Patrick is an exceptional soccer player. He is a nationally ranked youth player who is part of the Olympic Development Program; he's a boy with both eyes focused on the National Team and more and that focus colors everything else about him.
It took me a while to accept this dimension. Truthfully, I think God put Bobby Convey in my life to prepare me for Patrick. There's a certain knack to balancing an athletic gift with all the other dimensions of a child and I'm just starting to get the knack. Patrick devotes three hours a day, on average, to playing soccer. His weekends are all soccer, all the time. This is his choice. When you take the ball away, he justs finds something else to kick (balled up newspaper, balled up socks, balled up pretty-much-anything). Because so much of his time is consumed by his passion, when I plan his studies, I need to plan the most bang for the buck.
More importantly, since so much brain space is devoted to all things soccer, I have to be very careful to be certain to nurture the spiritual and emotional development of this child. My limited experience with child prodigies (as a consultant with Major League Soccer as they recruited teenagers) has taught me that there are huge chunks of development that can go unaddressed while the physical prowess and athletic greatness are being cultivated. My husband and I are committed to the whole child.
This is an incredibly intense child. That intensity can be a great blessing on the soccer field and in the learning room. It can make him a fiercely loyal friend. It can also drive us all crazy with its tunnel-vision. He can easily slip into feeling like he has the weight of the world (or at least the World Cup) on his shoulders. Habit training is ongoing and I also pray daily to touch his heart with things good and noble and so to counter-balance the intense competitiveness that can potentially hurt other people. In order to succeed on the soccer pitch that way he does, he is constantly evaluating himself. My job is not to take away from that but to make him aware of others as well. He is blessed to live in such a big family, to have Bobby as a role model, to have a big brother who has succeeded as an athlete in his own right. Without those checks, I'm afraid his ego would be out of control. We are all about humility--making him aware all the time that without God, he could do nothing.
Religious studies will be the core of Patrick's course of studies this year and next. Confirmation preparation is something we take very seriously around here and he has a substantial reading list ahead of him. He and I will begin a confirmation notebook this year, to be completed over the next two years. We are blessed with a pastor who takes a personal interest confirmation preparation and interviews each candidate. He mandates a notebook (though his is a bit sparser than mine). It's nice to know that someone else will read and relate to the hard work we'll put in. Patrick's notebook will have sections for:
- memory work
- saints' stories
- narrative records of corporal and spiritual works of mercy he performs
- narrations of apologetics books (we'll use the booklist from the Transitions curriculum), plus a few recent additions
- Catechism narrations
- Bible history
- Catholic Mosaic narrations, adjusted up to his level
- Narrations from Moira Farrell's Level 3 Catechesis of the Good Shepherd just as soon as it becomes available
Science and History
Although I made an attempt last year to set Patrick apart from his younger siblings and pursue Middle School plans just for him, it backfired pretty badly. He wants to be in our midst and he is a natural leader. So, to set him to working on the same subject matter (in science, history, even religious studies) just a notch or two above the younger ones has great benefits all the way around. The younger children have a tangible example of scholarship to which they can aspire and Patrick has living, breathing reasons to do his best (he also has something to feed his competitive nature in a positive way). So, he'll pursue unit studies with the rest of us, using some of those middle school books as his spines. First up is our bird study. After the baby arrives, we'll study Ancient Greece.
Math comes easily to Patrick, as it does to Nicholas. He is comfortable with Math-U-See and has made great progress there. He'll continue with that at his own pace. I think we'll hit Algebra this year.
I'm very enthused about using language arts materials from Hillside Education. I can't say enough good things about both the quality and the philosophy. Patrick will use Lingua Mater and Novel Inquiries.
We are blessed to have a friend who is enthusiastically teaching Spanish to our children. Patrick enjoys foreign language. He will also complete Latina Christiana I & II, working at his own pace.
That's a full load, particularly when one considers that his "school" day usually ends around 2:00 in order to get him out the door to training and he's frequently not home until 9:00 PM. It will require a great deal of discipline on his part and mine to accomplish both our academic and our athletic goals. His coach is very supportive and a big proponent of a quality education. The coach, Patrick's dad and I have all witnessed the academic shambles of several excellent young athletes who "finished" school early in order to devote their full time and attention to soccer. We are determined to provide for both academic and athletic success in this case.