Thursday, October 10, 2013

Baby Atrium

We have some sweet visitors with us in the atrium sometimes.

They know what they like! And where they belong!

So handsome! 

Setting up our portable line
did NOT take long for the boys to find it! 

Returning to level 1 and inviting the 2 year olds to join us (their siblings are extras!) recalls to mind my son's first years in the atrium.

I discovered Catechesis of the Good Shepherd the school year before my son came to be. When I returned to my home-state to attend a Catholic college for a degree in theology, I even found a local formation course for level 1. I was unable to attend with my schooling schedule and uncertainty regarding my son.
At 2 1/2, he had been in the atrium for a year
1-4 parish sessions a week (depending on the season)
at-home atrium available anytime

It was almost 2 years later when I looked again. I would have to coordinate a weekend each month to make it happen, but it happened. I would drive an hour to my hometown each Thursday, do some housekeeping for an old employer (I used to be the family's nanny), visit with family; my mother would pick up my son after work on Friday and take him up north for the weekend (she went up north every weekend). I would stay at one of my grandmother's homes, then drive 2 hours north-east for a day-long training. At the end of the 9-5 day, I would drive 3 hours north and west to reunite with my son. We were still nursing so we got lots of snuggle time in before a late supper. After his bedtime, I would prepare some materials (anything that needed wood-cutting especially). Then we would get up the next morning, drive a bit south to Mass, drive the rest of the way home (sometimes stop and visit some more family) - and spend the week preparing the rest of the materials I had learned about that weekend.

The year I was in training, I taught a preschool class in the same (old nursery) room as the kindergarten class (who had different teachers, but we met at the same time). I was introducing concepts and materials as I could and by Christmas, the DRE asked if I would do a full-blown atrium and combine the two classes (there were issues with the other teachers). We (the DRE, my co-teacher and myself) spend Christmas break clearing out the room and preparing what we could.

Over the next 18 months I had homeschool groups, children of the RCIA, regular Sunday School children, my daycare children (I ran an in-home daycare at the time) and many visitors.

My son was 15 months old when we started atrium in our home and eased into it at the parish - his responses were phenomenal (to my oh-so-biased heart!).

Yes, he had his moments of standing on a table and dropping glass items on the floor. This would be when I was in a presentation and the co-teacher refused to do anything in regards to my son, yet I was expected to control her two boys doing cartwheels in the middle of the room. I had a new co-teacher by the end of the year.

Everything I was learning in CGS about how the 3 year olds respond - I literally saw, before my eyes, my son growing into those very moments:

  • light - fascination with the light, respect for candles, attention to detail in snuffing, concentration 
  • colors - hanging the chasubles, matching the colors, watching for the colors in the church
  • the Good Shepherd - the sheep follow the Shepherd; the Shepherd loves the sheep - these are the first two concepts the children hone in on
  • water - 3 pourings of the water at Baptism - no more, no less
  • Sign of the Cross - he practiced for hours
  • pouring water (cruet of water into 3 glasses)

There has been some talk and some experiences within CGS for the very young child (before age 3) - and the discoveries being made are so sweet and SO wonderful! 

I have so many stories to tell of the other children aged 3 through 6, then elementary children up to age 12 within the level 1 atrium, also connecting with these things. My son was only 1 and I saw it unfold before my eyes, like a miraculous opening of a rosebud, petal by petal - until at age 3, he was able to go so deep with the 3 year old work, then deeper and deeper each year until he began level 3 a year earlier than typical. And now he is a such a big boy, doing Bible studies of his own, able to speak intelligently about the Liturgy and about Scripture and - oh - I am so proud of him! 

The day he read from the Bible for the first time, in his own voice, with his own reading power, I cried.
(he was 5 by then...)

I have video of him as a toddler carrying statues and chanting, enacting the Mass (complete with a "Roman Missal", objects (statues and candles placed and rearranged on coasters)), drawings of angels and empty tombs and one beautiful story I will share on another day of the Good Shepherd and the sandpaper globe of the world. 

All before he was 3 years old - most of it before he turned 2. 

The religious capacity of the very young child... No wonder Jesus said, "Unless you become like little children...."

Setting up "candles" at home with crayons and dinner candle holders
Close-up of the "candles"

One of the very few photos I have of not-yet-dubbed-Legoboy in the original atrium
He set up the altar all by himself. So precise.
And he wanted to snuff the candles!
(surprised? ;) )

Legoboy's alter-ego in today's level 1 atrium ;) 


This past Pentecost
atrium time before the ceremony, as I was setting up

This past Pentecost
our ceremony

The Roman Missal work for level 3
How time has flown... 

This child has revealed so much to me - and I pray every day I will never place an obstacle in his path, although I know in my human weakness I have been and will continue to be an obstacle.

I am ever so grateful for the time I spend in the atrium with children of all ages - every level has its own gifts and graces. These children before age 3 have such a Light - such radiant souls.

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