Students from the Oconomowoc Catholic Schoolhouse homeschooling community on a field trip to the Schlitz Audubon Center. (Submitted photo)

Amanda Suprenant explained the decision she and her husband, Jim, made to homeschool the couple’s five children (ages 3-14) stemmed from the inherent responsibility to be the primary educators of their children as well as a desire to share time with them.

“Years into homeschooling, we found another program that is similar, but a Protestant-based Christian organization,” said Suprenant, whose family belongs to St. Frances Cabrini Parish in West Bend. “We very strongly desired other Catholic families to share this journey with.

A growing number of Catholic homeschoolers in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee are finding it beneficial to meet a couple of days each month for a unique collaboration experience.

Catholic Schoolhouse began in 2009 as a nationwide Catholic homeschooling initiative with one chapter before quickly growing to 95 chapters. Operating like a co-op, there are three  chapters operating in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee: West Bend Catholic, which was began three years ago by the Suprenants, and Oconomowoc and Milwaukee, in their inaugural years

“It was never between this program and Catholic schools, just more of a calling to homeschool followed by a desire to have strong Catholic families to journey with,” Suprenant said.

Catholic Schoolhouse was founded to enhance education in the grammar stage by providing classical memory work for the Catholic homeschool. To go beyond basic memory work, the founders enlisted experts in all areas of study and numerous resources, Catholic and secular, homeschool and traditional school to determine the information typically found in the elementary school years.

Due to Suprenant’s encouragement and the growing number in the West Bend group, the Milwaukee and Oconomowoc chapters began.

“We have 20 families this year,” she said. “Last year at West Bend, we had families from as far north as Oshkosh and as far south as Racine and as far west as Hartford. It is nice we have a connection across chapters, but it’s good to have a localized community to grow with.”

The West Bend community meets weekly on Wednesday and they offer social events for families, parents and scholars. They also offer a field trip each quarter and host several feast day parties throughout the year.

“One focus of CSH is to celebrate our Catholic heritage and spread authentic Catholic culture,” Suprenant said.

A group of five families who began learning about Catholic Schoolhouse last spring spent the summer praying, discerning, planning and spreading the word in the Milwaukee area. Mary Beth Brummond, who was also a product of homeschooling, explained that beginning the Milwaukee chapter is a labor of love and the work of the Holy Spirit. Mary Beth and her husband Mike have two elementary-age children and belong to St. Josaphat Basilica, Milwaukee.

“We have 21 families in our chapter and on our community days we meet for chorus, art projects (and) science experiments, and to review memory work in history, religion, math, language arts, etc., through fun activities,” Brummond said. “Children also give regular presentations to their class.”

Costs to participate in Catholic Schoolhouse range from $800-$1,200 a year depending on the size of the family. Each parent helps in some manner by co-leading a class.

Sarah and Bob Freiboth belong to St. Jerome Parish and have seven children: four girls and three boys, ranging in age from 1 to 15. They began the Oconomowoc CSH, and it was the answer to prayer, as other academic co-ops in their area were waitlisted.

“We were given two weeks by Catholic Schoolhouse National to get six families signed up to create our chapter and had six families in less than a week,” said Sarah. “God blessed us with little signs, such as this, through its inception. He is truly working wonders through CSH in Wisconsin and it’s exciting and humbling to be part of it.”

The Oconomowoc chapter has 10 families and two other women who volunteer their time to lead and assist in the classrooms.

“They will also give eight presentations throughout the year, with four of them being speeches they write,” said Sarah. “I love the CSH model at every level, but I believe the beauty and wisdom of the curriculum truly shines through in their upper-level curriculum. They lay out an entire high school recommended curriculum you can follow at home, as well as recommended credits to give for each class from ninth to 12th grade.”