'Tiny Thomists': How one Catholic curriculum offers big ideas to little kids

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A digital catechetical program for children as young as five aims to equip early learners with Thomistic principles that will help them understand and defend their faith as they grow.

"I think in a lot of curricula, it's difficult to teach the complexities of the Catholic faith and in such a way that is entertaining and interesting for young children," said TJ Burdick, founder and director of Tiny Thomists.  

"I think the sooner you can ingrain the truths of the Catholic faith into your children, the longer they will last and the more loyal they will be to the Catholic Church because they've experienced it intimately with their family."

With four children of his own, Burdick started developing the curriculum for his eldest daughter in 2016. Having seen the success for his family and an interest from other families in the local Catholic community, he decided to open the catechetical program to the public in January 2017.

Program participants receive bi-weekly emails with lesson plans for children ages 5-10. Each lesson is based on a specific theme and includes relatable and simple passages from Saint Thomas' Summa Theologica, as well as corresponding examples from the lives of the saints, and a "saintly situation" challenging pupils to address practical circumstances that they may encounter in their own lives.

Additionally, the program contains Gospel passages and Church doctrine in "kid format," to aid memorization and emergent readers. Simplified reflections on the mysteries of rosary are also available, incorporating both art and explanations of the decades.  

Burdick said the program allows children to engage in the complex theology, without overwhelming them.

"I don't think we give our kids enough credit … I know these kids can do much more than we expect of them, we just have to be courageous enough to challenge them and knowledgeable enough to be able to respond when they grow in that understanding of the Catholic faith."

The program normally costs $15 per month, but is on sale for $10 per monthfor those who sign up this week.

The goal of Tiny Thomists, Burdick said, is to prepare children for the challenges to be faced in the teenage years, when questions arise about who a person is and what the purpose of life and creation is.

He cited a recent study from St. Mary's Press and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. The study found that the majority of people who left the Catholic faith decided to do so between the ages of 10 and 20, with a median age of 13.

"At the adolescence age/young adult age they are starting to think about the world and to think about what their place is and what their life is. The whole point of Tiny Thomists is answering those questions before they come."

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