I reiterate: each family has a choice; each family has the primary responsibility for the bringing up of the children in that family and of the ongoing care of the members of that family. This letter is shared for those homeschool families also utilizing the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium as a portion of their child's faith formation upbringing, so as to provide the fullest possible information for the family to make a fully informed decision for their own personal family situation.
The special sacramental preparation sessions are outside the atrium but are an integral part of the atrium experience. Sacramental preparation is an optional experience only in that it is reserved for those children preparing for reception of the First Sacraments – thus a 6 year old or an 8 year old (or any age) may attend, at their personal readiness. The sessions are separate so that the children preparing to receive their sacraments can have their special, focused time of more direct and intense preparation.
While respecting the right and the opportunity to homeschool our children – in academics, in the faith, in all manners of life – something to consider when placing your child in an atrium for a community experience of faith formation is that the sacramental preparation work is not presented during normal atrium sessions, thus the children will not have the opportunity to work with the appropriate materials, which their peers are working with. Children may only work with a material once it has been shared with them; another child may certainly share the material, but the depth of the meditation happens in a discussion with the catechist.
The concepts and symbols introduced during sacramental preparation are assumed to be experienced by those children returning to atrium after receiving the sacraments of Reconciliation and First Holy Communion. New older children coming into the atrium are sometimes given presentations so they understand the symbology, the connections, the build-up into the depth of our faith; we hope to return to these sacramental preparation meditations again and again, for a deeper exploration, but many times, there is not enough time and these older children, while gaining much from the atrium, do not receive the fullest possible experience. I personally invite all older new-to-atrium children to also join the sacramental preparation sessions - are we not always in need of preparing ourselves to more and more deeply receive the Sacraments?
Your home preparation can, should and must continue. It will be different from the atrium experience, providing your child with a much fuller faith life, appreciation for family formation and, when done in conjunction with the atrium, appreciation for community formation.