O Lord Jesus Christ our God Who didst come into this world not to be ministered unto but to minister and to give Thy life as a ransom for many. Help me, I beseech Thee in my ministry of caring for the children Thou hast given me. Enable me to be patient in tribulations, to instruct with a meek and gentle spirit, to reprimand with inner tranquility and a sober mind, and to serve in humility of heart with love. May I thus live in Thee alone, by Thee alone and for Thee alone showing forth Thy virtues and leading my family upon the path of Thy saving commandments. That we may glorify Thee together with Thine unoriginate Father and Thine all-holy and life-giving Spirit both in this world and that which is to come. Amen.
- By An Anonymous Hieromonk
Children's Garden of the Theotokos
A Kindergarten and Primary Curriculum for Homeschool, Sunday School, and Catechism
The Church, our Guide
Our school year revolves around the life and rhythms of our holy Orthodox faith, and particularly the Church calendar. Our opening lesson, on Sept. 1, teaches the children that the Church is our Mother, guiding us always toward Christ. This theme is kept central throughout the Kindergarten year.
Looking to the Holy Fathers
The Orthodox worldview, as articulated by the Holy Fathers of the Church, undergirds the curriculum. We read and considered Sts. John Chrysostom, Theophan the Recluse, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, Isaac the Syrian, and many others for their guidance in raising children and families of faith, as we were writing the curriculum. Particularly, the lives of the saints and the rhythm of the liturgical year (its feasts and fasts) are central in The Children’s Garden.
Kindergarten is all about learning through experience. The main framework of this curriculum is the life of the church, yet we often wonder if our young children are connecting during liturgies and services. Our objective in The Children’s Garden is to bring the liturgical and sacramental life alive for young children on their own level. Activities are particularly designed for the young child to live his faith experientially, to participate in the movements of the church life and the wondrous world around him. In essence, it is an experiential catechism for children.
Nurturing Imagination in the 3 R’s
Basic knowledge about reading, writing, and arithmetic begins at this age with experience. Gently and imaginatively, the teacher introduces the letters, numbers, colors and shapes in a measured way throughout the year, choosing from a variety of approaches those which best fit the children concerned. Coloring, painting, movement, rhymes, poetry, and other creative ideas may be used. For those wishing a more Classical or academic approach during Kindergarten, pre-math and pre-phonics programs are reviewed and recommended.
Treasury of Orthodox Childhood
The curriculum has many original, explicitly Orthodox poems, songs, finger-plays and stories which feed the imagination of the child.
Age and Setting
The curricula is written for children from about 4 to 10 years old. The scripted lessons and suggested art projects are most appropriate for this age group. However, the subject matter can be easily adapted for older children by adding discussions, readings from Scripture and the Fathers, more complex artwork, and writing assignments. It can still work well as a catechism spine for large families or homeschooled children out of the target age range.
Although originally conceived of for homeschooling families, it has also been used by parents and teachers in a variety of settings:
parochial Orthodox school program for Kindergarten or pre-school
informal pre-school parish groups
after-school catechesis for children in public or private school
A unique daily and weekly rhythm is established by the parents/teachers to fit the needs of their children. Including prayers, chores, lessons, and activities tailored to their family or classroom, the lessons from The Children’s Garden are then regularly woven into this schedule from the two primary texts: Seasons of Grace and Treasury of Feasts.
Prayers of the Hours for Children is supplied as a starting point for family prayer throughout the day. This can be expanded in subsequent years. Guidance and sample schedules are provided to help families new to homeschooling establish a good rhythm for their school day.
Prayers of the Hours
A booklet for praying 5-minute “hours” throughout your school day. Includes daily songs commemorating saint of the day.
The Teaching Guide
The Teaching Gide has a threefold purpose:
explaining how to use the curriculum
articulating our basic philosophy of education for the primary grades
offering an appendix of helpful tools for Orthodox educators
The guidebook covers topics concerning homeschooling in particular and education in general, specifically from an Orthodox perspective. While not exhaustive, there is enough substance to help the teacher build some confidence and a sense of direction for nurturing children spiritually and ushering them into a solid understanding and experience of the liturgical life of the church. Both first-time and seasoned teachers will find inspiration and tools to help nurture this spiritual life in our children.
Seasons of Grace
A collection of five unit studies to be used throughout the year:
Book of Days (Sunday through Monday)
Book of Creation
Nativity Vowel Poems
Orthodox 12 Days of Christmas
Lent to Pentecost
Each scripted lesson is 5-10 minutes long and is accompanied by an art project. The art projects are collected into a blank book with script added by the child, parent or older sibling for a memorable keepsake the children will treasure.
Sample: Lesson from Unit 2 ~ Creation
Treasury of Feasts
A collection of saint’s lives and major feast days (3-4 per month) and activity suggestions to help bring them to life for your children. When possible, “liturgical offerings” are emphasized, in which the children can prepare something to be shared at the festal Liturgy. This helps to build an experiential bridge for them directly into liturgical life.
Children’s Garden CD
Twenty songs to be used throughout the school year. Most are original melodies and words, a few are standard Troparia: Obikhod or simple Byzantine melodies. Single voice, no accompaniment. Anyone can sing them! The CD is included when you purchase the full curriculum.
Book of Days Template
A cardstock booklet used with Unit 1 in Seasons of Grace.
Three Waldorf-style Blank Books
Used to collect artwork for 3 of the unit studies. (Those ordering a digital copy must provide their own blank books. They can be ordered from Paper, Scissors, Stone or A Child’s Dream Come True.)
Payment Plan and Scholarships
If a payment plan is needed, please contact us directly before purchasing. There is no extra charge for this arrangement but we ask that you only use the option if it is necessary. Scholarships are available to those who would like to use the curriculum but are financially challenged.