How can EDS be so attentive to, so respectful of, children’s needs? What do they long for? How can we help children find purpose in their lives? How can we help children to know, love, and serve God? Who would think that children in our busy culture could be contemplative?
These are some the questions that lead EDS to the discovery of our religious formation program for young children, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. For a three year old – kindergarten child who participates in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, the work is intentional and self-driven. Using the Montessori Method, combined with a contemplative classroom called an atrium, children are encouraged to pursue their own endeavors of the spirit through thought-provoking presentations and repetitive meditative activities.
An important part of the program is practical life, which teaches children to do living activities in a purposeful way. These activities aid the growth and development of the child’s intellect and concentration and will, in turn, also help children develop an orderly way of thinking. As the children manipulate the practical life materials, they begin their ultimate work, which is to wonder – to wonder about who Jesus is; to wonder about the world and where their relationship with God fits into that world.
Practical life exercises are categorized in four different groups: preliminary applications (basic movements of all societies such as pouring, folding and carrying), applied applications (care and maintenance that helps everyday life – ex. setting a table, returning objects to correct places), grace and courtesy (children work on the interactions of people to people) and control of movement (children learn about their own movements and refine coordination through activities).
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is profoundly biblical and sacramental, and it is, at the same time, deeply respectful of the nature of young children, who make their way to God in freedom and joy.
Here are a few kindergarten students using the color mixing practical life material. Practical life materials are the first step to meditation and contemplation. The children can think about God as they work. Our intelligence, our hearts and our hands are engaged as one.