Frequently Asked Questions
Mission and Philosophy
Our Mission Statement
The mission of Saint John Paul II Formation Cooperative is to provide a Catholic environment infused with morals and values that helps to ensure the complete formation of the homeschooling family. Providing cooperative education that integrates spirituality with academic, human, and apostolic development, Saint John Paul II Formation Cooperative offers the family the essential elements necessary to continue cultivating Catholic education within their own homes. The fundamental goal of the co-op is to provide an orderly, creative learning environment that promotes moral integrity, provides an interactive teaching and learning atmosphere, and encompasses practical ways of implementing this formation within the regimen of home life.
“All men are called to the same end: God himself.” (CCC 1878)
All of us were created with a specific task to complete in our lifetime; that is, to know, love and serve God in anticipation of living with him in heaven. In addition, at our baptism we were given a more specific mission when we were adopted as a child of God. At that point, we took on the mission of “preaching the gospel to all nations.” In freedom and love, we spend our lives responding to these specific calls from our Creator. Living life with a clear understanding of this divine purpose infuses a supernatural meaning into even the most mundane tasks. Children who understand education as a response to this mission are less inclined to rely on external motivations and more inclined to excel for the greater glory of God.
All people are endowed with a specific set of human talents and struggles, which are inherent to the individual. Education which encourages the development of human virtues (human formation) and assists each student with overcoming his natural passions will produce solid citizens who can adapt to a multitude of environments without compromising Christian beliefs. In this system, perseverance, timeliness, orderliness and diligence are greater measures than academic perfection.
The universal purpose of education is to teach a student to recognize the truth, assimilate this truth, and teach this truth to others. What is this truth? That God, who 3is love, has created each of us in love and to love. Each of us must absorb this understanding into all of our faculties to live as a unified person – a mature Christian. This is the principle of Integral Formation as defined by St. Ignatius of Loyola, and is the core of the educational system employed at Saint John Paul II Formation Cooperative. Most co-ops emphasize intellectual formation and may incorporate some human formation in the form of character development, but often lack spiritual and apostolic formation. However, all of these facets are important in developing as a fully cohesive Christian. An imbalance in any area weakens the whole.
“The human person needs to live in society. Society is not for him an extraneous addition but a requirement of his nature. Through the exchange with others, mutual service and dialogue with his brethren, man develops his potential; he thus responds to his vocation.” (CCC 1879)
The effect of integral formation brings us back to our universal vocation accepted at baptism – to preach to all nations. God has asked each of us to be leaders in the environment in which he has placed us. It is not sufficient simply to be good people; we must encourage others toward the good. Saint John Paul II Formation Cooperative does not view leadership ability or training in the secular mindset, which tends to be self-serving. In truth, a leader is anyone who has the capacity to move others. Those who learn to maximize their human talents and couple these talents with God’s grace for the purpose of serving others and inviting them to a loving relationship with their Creator are true leaders. In this sense, a mother of a well ordered home is just as much a leader as a CEO/philanthropist.
Because of this philosophy of employing integral formation for developing effective leadership capacities, it is necessary for Saint John Paul II Formation Cooperative to employ a specific longitudinal curriculum, which permeates all age groups. Certainly, it is at the upper levels when universal truths are explored through Science, History, Art, and Literature, and expressed in Writing; however, the lower grades serve as the well-tilled soil, seeded and cultivated in order that the harvest is plentiful. Each class, at every level, must be an exercise ground for the principles of integral formation, in which human, intellectual, spiritual and apostolic growth is planned, demonstrated, encouraged, and rewarded. Thus, the graduate of Saint John Paul II Formation Cooperative is a Christian witness, fully integrated, ready to lead in any environment to which God calls him.
How do you include Catholic formation in your co-op?
Morning Meditation and Virtues
To start the day, the co-op gathers together to have a morning meditation. Meditation is a group prayer time where parents and children pray together, listen to, and discuss certain aspects of the Catholic faith. During this time, the focus of the discussion is on a virtue, which is chosen based on a rotating cycle. Saints of the week are also discussed, and the speaker will highlight one or two who happen to be excellent examples of the given virtue for that week. Throughout the day, the children are given an opportunity to practice the virtues they have learned, and are rewarded for their good behavior with a points system.
While prayer and the cultivation of one’s relationship with God is the primary focus, chapel time also serves to develop discipline of body, mind, and soul through obedience, piety, and other virtues. Thus, in order to receive the graces endowed during chapel time and to preserve the mission of the Formation Cooperative, it is of utmost importance that each family makes EVERY effort to participate fully.
When walking into the Chapel, we prepare ourselves in prayerful preparation through interior silence and recollection. As is the practice of our faith, when entering the chapel, we genuflect and in silent reverence say, “Lord, increase my faith”. The adults model and gently enforce the appropriate posture and disposition for prayer and listening.
Chapel standards that we all strive to cultivate in our children are as follows:
- All children Kindergarten and up will take their place in the forward center pews
in the Chapel. Allow for ample room and orderliness, maintaining an arms distance from one another. Younger children are encouraged to join only as they are able and as long as they are not a distraction to the prayer.
- Respect and reverence are the acceptable conduct while in the presence of our Lord. The older children set the example for the younger ones by listening, kneeling with elbows tucked tightly in (our body is a sacramental!) and when called upon, politely answering questions by promptly standing and speaking audibly. Talking out of turn is not allowed and even whispering is discouraged.
- Chapel time consists of an opening prayer, meditation, saint information, virtue and a resolution. Positions of standing, kneeling and sitting occur during specific moments throughout chapel time. During the times when kneeling is requested, it is recommended that eyes be closed to allow for a deeper personal reflection during prayer. At all times, body posture, including the hands, should be in a prayerful position.
Formation and instruction in prayer must be consistent, convicted and firm. This is done all out of love in our efforts to bring them to the God who loves. It is possible that some children may fall short of the standards mentioned above. When that occurs, the child’s parent, with the assistance of the other parents as needed, will encourage the child to meet these standards and consistently motivate him toward these ideals. Should a child be excessively loud during prayer time in the chapel, that child’s parent must assign responsibilities of his/her other children to a neighboring parent, remove the disruptive child to a quiet, non-distractive spot, and then return as quickly as possible after gentle reprimands have been made.
Prayer During Class TIme
Children are guided in prayer during class to focus their minds and prepare them to do their best work for the greater glory of God.
All of Saint John Paul II Formation Cooperative’s behaviors, activities, celebrations and academics are centered on and around Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. This is the defining truth of our Faith that separates us from other Christians. During Mass, children will sit with their families or by mutual agreement may sit with another family. At all times, the children will attend to the celebration with the same regard as that expected during chapel time. If a child becomes disruptive, respectfully remove him from the Mass. The gathering area outside of the main church should be used only for parents with infants and toddlers or to help settle a child before returning to Mass. Children should not play, run, or distract others while in the gathering area. All adults and children should continue to participate in the Mass when standing in the gathering area, thus being a model of piety.
Angelus, mid-day balance, and grace before meals
At noon, morning classes will come to an end. Everyone will gather quietly and reverently in the chapel to unite in prayer. Someone from the formation team will lead the prayers and invoke students to assist. All adults need to be present as to model and monitor behavior. For consistency and unity, the same version of the prayers will be used each week.
A little before 1:00 pm, the students and adults, who are outside at recess, will line up and then reverently proceed to the chapel for the Rosary. The adults and students remaining inside will also gather in the chapel. All students will assemble into the pews in the same fashion as during meditation. Kneeling is the preferred position, but sitting quietly with eyes closed will be allowed under certain conditions. Someone from the formation team will lead the Rosary and call upon students to assist.
End of Day Intercessions
To end the day, all memeber of the co-op take the time to meet in the chapel for a closing prayer. During this time, the students are given an opportunity to voice prayer intentions.
Curriculum and Grades
What curriculum do you use?
Our curriculum is not based on one specific program, but is pulled from multiple sources.
We operate on a four-year cycle with the time period of history directing the theme of each year. In general, those years are Ancient Lands (Greece, Rome, and the Biblical era), Medieval Times, Renaissance Period, and U.S. History... throughout all is the focus on the Catholic Church's contribution to mankind. History, Literature, Writing, and Art come from these time periods. Students in K-8 study the same time period, with older children learning topics in more depth than younger ones.
Grades 4 through 8 are taught Excellence in Writing by a teacher certified to teach the course.
This unit-based type of program is more efficient for teaching and also allows for great family discussions at home!
Click here for a sample booklist.
What grades are taught in the co-op?
Grades PreK through 8 are taught at the St. John Paul II Co-op. While the grade school and middle school are busy with their academics, the infants and toddlers of our homeschool families spend the day in the nursery playing, taking naps, eating, and listening to stories.
What subjects are taught in the co-op?
At St. JPII, the K-8th grade teachers will provide instruction one day per week, with assignments that are to be completed at home for 2nd through 8th grade. The coursework will meet the county requirements in the following subject areas:
K through 5th grade:
- History (with a Catholic Perspective)
- Writing (Excellence in Writing for 4th-5th grade, language appreciation for K-3rd)
- 2nd and 3rd grade Religion*
- Fine Arts
6th through 8th grade:
- Excellence in Writing (through the Institue of Excellence in Writing with a certified teacher)
- Fine Arts
- Logic (Tuesday only)
- Religion with a focus in apologetics (Tuesday only)
- Math Labs (Tuesday only)
- COGS (Catechesis of the Good Shepherd) will be taught pending COVID-19 guidelines
- Early language (alphabet and sounds)
- Early math (counting, shapes, patterns, sorting)
- Movement and music
- Various crafts that support their lesson
Since Math is such an individualized subject that cannot be appropriately taught with limited student/teacher meetings, that is to be done at home with whatever curriculum parents prefer. Middle schoolers have a math lab on Tuesday in which they bring in their math work from home to complete onsite. A teacher supervises the math lab, and offers help when needed. In addition, parents of K-3rd grade students would need to do a Reading program of their choice at home. While Religion is not taught as a separate class (except for the 2nd and 3rd graders, who are preparing to receive the Sacraments or just received them*), the Catholic Faith is interwoven into all our courses and part of the routine of our day. Most parents use a catechism course at home based on their parish's Religious Education department preference.
Is St. JPII Co-op an umbrella group?
No, St. JPII Co-op is not an umbrella group. Each family will need to conduct yearly homeschool reviews either through their county of residence, or through an umbrella group. Families registered in an umbrella group can still participate in our co-op.
If help is needed in building a portfolio for the purpose of homeschool reviews, parents can ask one of our many experienced homeschool families.
Feel free to ask for information on various umbrella groups, as several of our families are also members of different umbrella groups.
For more information on umbrella groups, visit the
Maryland Area Resources for Catholic Homeschoolers page.
Do you offer any programs or extra curricular activities?
Field trips are planned throughout the school year.
The middle schoolers hold monthly retreats to foster a relationship with God and with eachother.
Service projects are hosted by the middle schoolers with the help of the lower school and familes to serve our community and our Church.
A First LEGO League will be hosted by the Co-op pending COVID-19 guidlines.
Excellence in wiritng is offerend to students from 4th through 8th grade and is taught by a teacher certified by the Institute for Excellence in Writing.
How do you track progress and weekly homework?
Teachers and students use an online webiste called Jupiter Ed to post assignments, grades, feedback, and turn in work when appropriate.
The middle schoolers (6th-8th grade) have an additional homework sheet they keep with them during classes and at home to keep track of assignments.
Are teachers required to do a criminal background check?
All adults are required to recieve a criminal background check. A new background check must be completed regardless of whether the incoming adult has previously recieved one for their church or employer. Background checks cannot be shared between institutions, and St. JPII Co-op is not a diocesan organization.
I am interested in the co-op. Now what do I do?
If interested in our co-op? Here are the steps to follow:
1. Make initial contact by sending our director an
2. Set up a meeting to speak with members of our board.
3. If there is an open house in the near future, visit our open house to learn more (this isn't necessary in order to join).
4. Schedule a shadow day. Bring your homeschoolers to tour our school and visit classrooms. You and your children will participate in a typical day at St. JPII so you can determine if the co-op is a good fit for you and your family.
5. Inform the board member you have been in contact with of your decision.
6. You will be guided through the next steps. Typically, this will be registration along with parent and curriculum meetings during the summer.
What are the qualifications for joining StJPII Co-op?
Participating families must meet one of two qualifications:
Have a child 2nd-grade age or older for the full-day K-8 program, or
Have a child eligible for the half-day preschool program (usually ages 3-4). [The decision to offer a specialized Pre-K program is determined on a year-to-year basis.]
What is the cost to attend?
We offer a tiered fee structure,
based on the age of your oldest child attending the co-op. 50% of the fees are paid at registration, the other 50% is paid in January.
- PreK (half-day on co-op day only) - $400 per family per year
- Grades 2-5 (co-op day only) - $600 per family per year
- Grades 6-8 (co-op and drop-off days) - $800 per family per year
Stipend for Excellence in Writing (EIW)
Since Excellence in Writing requires trained tutors to properly teach the program and involves a large time investment in grading each student's work and providing personalized feedback, each upper school student (4th-8th grade) pays a stipend for the professional tutor.
- 4th or 5th grade - $100 per semester per student
- 6th, 7th, 8th grade - $200 per semester per student
Discounts are available if more than one student per family is taking EIW.
Books and Supplies
You would be responsible for buying most of your own books, although there are some that are availabe to borrow/rent from the co-op for the middle school students. We also occasionally collect donations (such as classroom and cleaning supplies, snacks) to help with the functioning of the co-op.
Logistics and Rules
What is the the typical schedule?
Beginning in early september and ending in late May, classes are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Thursdays, all grades in the co-op meet for mass, classes, and prayer time (preK through 8th grade). On Tuesdays, only the middle schoolers (6th through 8th grade) meet for an additional day of class and prayer. See the schedule below to get an idea of what a typical day looks like:
8:00 a.m - - - Arrival and set up
8:25 a.m - - - Meditation, pledge and announcements
9:00 a.m - - - Mass
9:40 a.m - - - Period 1 class
10:20 a.m - - Snack and manners
10:35 a.m - - Period 2 class
11:20 a.m - - Period 3 class
12:00 p.m - - Angelus and Midday Balance
12:20 p.m - - Lunch and recess
1:10 p.m - - - Rosary
1:30 p.m - - - Period 4 class
2:15 p.m - - - Period 5 class
3:00 p.m - - - Closing prayers and clean up
3:30 p.m - - - Dismissal
Click here for a sample schedule.
What is the dress code for students?
Students in grades PreK through 5th are required to wear the following:
- Navy blue polo shirt - short or long sleeve. Shirts must be tucked in.
- Navy blue sweater when needed. No hoodies.
- Khaki uniform pants with no cargo pockets or embelishments.
- Khaki shorts are permitted if the high is going to be above 80 degrees.
- Girls are permitted to wear khaki uniform skirts. Skirts are optional.
- Girls are permitted to wear navy blue or white leggings durring colder months.
- Shorts can be worn under skirts for modesty.
- Black or brown belt (with the exception of preschoolers, and girls with skirts).
- Clean tennis shoes.
- Girls' hair must be neatly groomed, ideally with clips or bands.
- Boy's hair may not fall over the ears or eyebrows and the back of the hair must be above the collar.
- A rosary is permitted to be carried in the pocket, or a ring rosary is permitted to be worn on a chain around the neck.
Students in 6th to 8th grade follow the same rules as the lower school children, except a white polo shirt and sweater is required instead of navy blue.
What is the dress code for teachers?
Teachers dress in professional teaching attire. Dresses, skirts, blouses, sweaters, and trousers are permitted for female instructors. Trousers, dress shirts, polo shirts, and sweaters are permitted for male teachers. Jeans are not permitted.
How does the co-op work?
The family comes for the day and a parent remains on site to help with teaching classes, assisting in classes, and/or helping with other functions so that the co-op runs smoothly. Working together as a team to educate our children fosters a feeling of community while building camaraderie and lasting friendships. It also allows the formation that is being learned at St.JPII Co-op to be practiced at home the other days of the week.
What is your response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
We value the health of our homeschoolers, teachers, family members, and our community. Educating and forming our children, while keeping them safe, is of the utmost importance. Among the uncertainty of the current global pandemic, we have several plans in place to continue giving our children their much needed education and Catholic formation. Accommodations are listed below, and we will adjust to remain obedient to Church authorities as well as local authorities. We will continue to follow CDC guidance on mask wearing, social distancing, and sanitation.
Please see our
COVID-19 page to see more specific accomodations we will be making.
Where are you located?
Our co-op is hosted by St. Lawrence Martyr Parish in Hanover, MD. We meet for the daily mass at 9:00 a.m on site, and then continue with our classes through the day in the education wing.
You can learn more about
St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church here.