Learning to Together, the Byzantine way
Originally published in ByziKids Magazine, October 2021
By Judith Jolma
Tucked away in storage, two bins of costumes sat collecting dust. “What a shame,” thought Deaconess Jocelyn. “Wouldn’t it be better to put those to use?” The Children at St. John of the Desert Melkite church in Phoenix, Ariz. once decked themselves in purple, gold, and taffeta costumes each year for their Christmas play — a tradition COVID restrictions ended. So Dn. Jocelyn brought the costumes home. The children, wild with excitement, skipped and giggled.
“Let’s re-create an icon!” They decided. Carefully, they studied the icon of the Nativity of the Theotokos and rummaged through the bins choosing clothing and accessories to match what they
read. They searched the house for what they could not find among the costumes - like a basket for the baby. As the children began seeing the icon come to life, they were full of joy, causing the message of the icon to find a special connection and meaning for both the children and their mother, who played with them.
For the children, they were simply delighting in joyful play as they interacted with the beauty and love of the Theotokos. But their mother knew she was giving her children something very special. “Bringing the icons to life was entering a transcendence of time, entering back in time, and living the events of the icon. How much more will the children love what they read in that icon now?” Dn. Jocelyn said.
This beautiful little costume party was just one of the many activities Dn. Jocelyn and her children enjoy at their little homeschool club. For years, they had considered homeschooling but when COVID struck they were finally forced to do what they had long wished. “I love this!” Dn. Jocelyn said. Even though our beloved parishes were locked up, her family enjoyed a rich and vibrant Holy Week at home.
Their success was just too good to keep to themselves so she invited neighbors and friends. “Friendship is important,” she said. “Learning is more fun in a group. We invited friends for our birthday. Shouldn’t we do that for feast days?”
Soon more and more children were joining them. Wishing to center their homeschool co-op time around their Byzantine faith she turned to Byzikid Magazine as her guide. One party she hosted had the theme of the Nativity of the Theotokos. She saw something in the magazine about the Blessed Mother caring for birds so decorated her home with birds. “I can throw parties,” Dn. Jocelyn said. “The danger is in getting carried away. It helped to limit the scope of the magazine. By doing this, it didn’t take any special skills.”
Byzikid Magazine became their guide and inspiration for topics and activities. They baked, they sang, they created art. Soon she had the attention of all the people who create ByziKid. “Let’s help children everywhere do the same thing,” They decided. After all, our magazine makes it easy to celebrate our faith. Church shouldn’t be a drag. It shouldn’t be dull. It should be a celebration! A Party! A feast!
Just last month, they made it official. Now communities everywhere can start their own Byzikid co-op and bring the magazine you are holding to life. All the parents need is to find a spiritual father and someone to lead the organization for their group. The groups will be invited to visit virtually every month with Fr. Sebastian who will offer a short lesson on Greek. Khouria Sylvia will teach us one of her songs. Fr. Glad will give a lesson on icons. The co-ops will also learn how to love and serve our neighbors.
“As mothers, we want the best for our children and often that means giving the best education, and friendships,” Dn. Jocelyn said. “The Theotokos want the same things for us. And children teach us as much as we teach them. We learn together.”
Dn. Jocelyn and the team at Byzikid want to invite children into a living faith to know and love their God. Expressing the desire of every Byzantine mother’s heart she said, “I want it to be unthinkable to them to ever walk away from the richness of their Byzantine inheritance.”
As a contributing editor for ByziKids, it is my pleasure to share these articles with the Sophia Homeschool community as well. Although Sophia Homeschool serves all homeschooling families regardless of faith or affiliation, I think you will enjoy this delightful publication. I hope to share these articles with you monthly as a regular feature here. Enjoy!
ByziKids Magazine is a pan-Eastern Christian, grassroots, monthly publication dedicated to the celebration of Byzantine Orthodoxy through the eyes of our children. We are not affiliated with any particular Church or jurisdiction, but welcome and strive to encompass the teachings and traditions common to all of Byzantine Orthodox-Catholic Christianity.
By Judith Jolma, Founder of Sophia Homeschool.
Sophia Homeschool teaches parents how to homeschool. Learn more about our training at Sophiahomeschool.com
Learn how to create a homeschool method and environment based on your family's needs so you can thrive. My Foundations of Homeschooling Masterclass teaches parents to work with their budget, schedule, learning style, teaching style, and resources so each member of the family has his or her needs met— including yours! Learn to create a peaceful and joyful learning environment that lasts a lifetime. Identify learning differences and adapt your educational plan accordingly. Unlock the mysteries of teaching multiple grades at once. By knowing what your needs are, you will save thousands of dollars, time, and energy on methods that do not work. We will end homework battles and restore your relationship with your child.