Olivia Spears turns the page of one of the resource books for Into the Deep Catholic homeschool catechesis materials on Feb. 9, 2023. ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD | WKC
Into the Deep
Founder sees ‘God’s fingerprints’ across new Catholic homeschool resource
BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
The team behind Into the Deep, a Catholic homeschool catechetical resource, is “passionate about getting it right,” according to founder Olivia Spears.
“I wanted it to be doable and encouraging and an opportunity for kids, parents and teachers to come together in prayer,” she said. “We want to be able to facilitate opportunities for the child to encounter the person of Christ.”
Spears, who with her husband, David, and four children belong to St. Stephen Cathedral in Owensboro, said Into the Deep always teaches “from some form of beauty – poetry, sacred art, hymns, a hands-on activity.”
As a homeschooling mother, Spears designed the content in a way that she herself would use while educating her children. She is delightfully surprised at how broadly received Into the Deep has been, with even non-homeschooling families tapping into the resources.
She said a good friend, whose children attend public school, uses the resources for her children’s faith formation a few times a week. Spears also knows a family whose children attend Catholic school, and who study the resources together as a family on Sundays.
Some families have started utilizing it as a supplemental resource over Christmas or summer break to “touch base” while school isn’t in session.
“One of our goals is to help parents in their role as primary catechists – no matter how their children are educated,” she said.
Spears considers this entirely the work of the Holy Spirit, and that she is just along for the ride.
“I got the idea in summer 2020,” she said. “A year before, my husband and I had felt the Lord was prepping to ask something of us.”
The two prayed and fasted, and one day, while Spears was deep in prayer, “it popped into my head. I brought (the idea) to David and he was really convicted too – in a way only the Holy Spirit can do.”
A theology and catechetics graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, Spears decided to start with writing a year’s worth of curriculum, focused on first through third graders – “but it can kind of flex,” she said, noting that parents would know their children’s needs.
“Even if no one was interested, we could use it in our own family!” said Spears.
They released Level One in summer 2021 – and were blown away by the positive response. Besides fellow homeschool families, Spears said several parishes and schools started using Into the Deep.
They released Level Two in summer 2022, broadly aimed for fourth through sixth graders, and were amazed at even more interest.
Beyond Kentucky itself, Spears said families in multiple states like California, Washington state, Texas and New York have ordered materials, and an international customer base is growing with families in Canada and on U.S. Army bases around the world.
Aware of their international customers, Into the Deep started offering digital download options to avoid the headache of international shipping.
“It’s more far-reaching than we ever expected,” she said. “That’s just the Lord. That’s what he does. God’s left his fingerprints everywhere.”
Working with her team, which includes artist/graphic designer Mary Claire Scholl, and theological editors Grace Bellon and Derek Driskill, Spears said they “have a blast” together.
Spears said Into the Deep uses a lot of science and nature themes in their resources, and for good reason: “Jesus constantly pointed to nature and to the natural order, constantly using those as metaphors.”
“Teaching through a nature study is so accessible,” she said.
The resources include ample parents references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and provide an optional reading list to supplement each lesson.
“We encourage them to always start with a family prayer, which could include reading the scriptures, singing hymns, or reading a story,” said Spears.
The lessons are scripted to make it convenient for busy parents, though she encourages them to read ahead when possible. Each lesson concludes with a closing prayer and the option of a “deep dive,” which Spears explained as being for children who really absorb a particular lesson, “so this is an optional way to go deeper if there is more interest on the child’s part.”
Spears said the content is not dated, leaving it flexible according to each family’s needs. It is set up to use two lessons a week for an average 36-week schedule, “but you know your family best.”
In late 2022, Into the Deep was thrilled to receive an imprimatur from Bishop William F. Medley of the Diocese of Owensboro.
“It was such a gift,” said Spears. “People are reassured by that stamp of approval from the bishop.”
Besides these two levels, Into the Deep has also released a unit study on the Mass and picture studies around themes, “using a vast array of sacred art from across the centuries,” said Spears.
This summer they are taking a break before releasing the next level, but still have big plans: they hope to release a Catholic liturgical planner for kids.
Spears said the planner will have an emphasis on the parables, will walk children through Lectio Divina, and will have a place to write prayer intentions and what they learn about a chosen saint of the month if desired.
She said Into the Deep is the fruit of “our feeble efforts to introduce Jesus over and over again to our children.”
Her hope for all families who utilize these resources is that they learn “that life with the Lord is the best way to live!”
Learn more at https://intothedeep.co/.
Originally printed in the March 2023 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.