Catechismclass.com offers online subscription access to religion courses for Catholic students. While they list courses for children, teens, and adults, the courses for children in grades 1 through 6 are the focus of my review. I am told that grades 7 and 8 are being rewritten, and I make no recommendation for any other courses at this time.
These magisterium-faithful courses are beautifully presented. Courses have been endorsed by His Holiness Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Cardinal Raymond Burke, Cardinal Archbishop Charles Chaput, Bishop Robert Vasa, Scott Hahn, and others. All Catechismclass.com employees agree to the “Oath Against Modernism.” (Read in full on their site by clicking here.)
Catechismclass.com courses also reflect the six key tasks described in the General Directory for Catechesis: promote knowledge of the faith, promote knowledge of the meaning of the liturgy and sacraments, promote moral formation in Jesus Christ, teach how to pray, prepare Christians to live in community and to actively participate in the life and mission of the Church, and promote a missionary spirit. So these courses are comprehensive in scope.
To accomplish all of this, lessons each follow a seven-step format. They begin with an introduction that briefly summarizes the key idea of the lesson. Helpful links to other websites are included here and throughout the course. In the introduction, there is a link to CatholicCulture.org to read about the saint whose feast is celebrated on that day or the liturgical event occurring that day. Beautiful religious art adorns this and most other web pages in the courses.
Next in each lesson is prayer. The course teaches a wide range of basic prayers including the Rosary. (Note that Catechismclass.com teaches only the Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious mysteries, and not the Luminous mysteries.)
The lesson itself is then introduced with a reading from Scripture. Lessons generally use the RSV-CE translation of the Bible, but sometimes passages are from the Douay Rheims translation.
Questions and answers from the Baltimore Catechism follow the reading. These tie to the lesson theme, although it might not be obvious to students at first. For example, a third grade lesson on Noah and the Flood teaches the analogy to Baptism. So the Scripture reading about Noah is immediately followed by catechism questions and answers on Baptism. The lesson material that follows the catechism questions ties it all together. Sometimes there is a paragraph that makes the connection before the Baltimore Catechism questions and answers are presented; you can see that happening in the sample lesson on Creation available on the Catechismclass.com website. If the connection isn’t made before students study the questions and answers, you might want to have students go back to the questions after reading the lesson material, since they will likely read them with new understanding at that point. Lesson material also often references the current Catechism of the Catholic Church.
After students read the lesson section (also called “integration”), they are presented with an activity—and occasionally with two activities. Some of these are hands-on and some are reading, research, and/or writing. The aforementioned lesson on Noah and Baptism presents two food activities, both of which should be fun. A lesson on the Annunciation directs students to try to draw as much as they can of Fra Angelico’s painting of the Annunciation in three minutes. It follows with some explanatory notes regarding the painting that are very interesting. It seems to me that there are more hands-on activities for the younger levels with the older levels leaning toward more reading, research, and writing.
A closing prayer is included. It might be a single prayer or it might be a decade of the Rosary.
Every lesson concludes with a five-question true/false quiz. A tab at the top of the page allows parents to quickly check quiz scores. You can also see immediately when a quiz has been taken when you look at the list of your lessons to which you have subscribed. A link to each lesson’s quiz score shows for those quizzes that have been taken. Even better, since parents will have "enrolled" their child in the Catechismclass.com course, and each student has a unique login, the course automatically can email notification of quiz scores to the parent (or to a DRE, teacher, etc.).
The text of some prayers is included directly in the lessons. Sometimes prayers are presented in both English and Latin. Sometimes links are included to parts of the liturgy of the Mass. Courses present prayers of the Mass in both English and Latin as prayed in the Tridentine Mass. Clicking a button allows the student to hear the Latin prayers of the Mass as students read along. The prayers are also given in their English translation, but these are not always identical to the actual prayers used in the Novus Ordo Mass. For example, the Confiteor as taught in one lesson begins in English, “I Confess to almighty God, to blessed Mary ever Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the Saints, and to you, brothers….”—a lengthier version than what is actually prayed.
The content of the courses is excellent. However, I think more attention might have been paid to adjusting content for each grade level. Topics covered in the first six levels repeat in a three-year cycle:
First and fourth grades study the Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Catholic Faith.
Grades two and five primarily study the Sacraments but also some related topics such as the Mass, the Rosary, and the Breviary. While Sacraments are covered, the second grade course is not intended to be complete preparation for receiving First Reconciliation and First Communion. Catechismclass.com does offer separate First Confession and First Eucharist courses for $9.95 each but I have not reviewed them. There is also a young child's Confirmation preparation course for those dioceses that confer Confirmation at younger ages. These courses can be added to the second grade course to provide complete sacrament preparation.
Grades three and six study the Old Testament and the Mysteries of the Rosary.
Much of the content is identical in the grades covering the same topics. Usually additional material has been added to the older level courses. For example, the sixth grade lesson on creation also discusses marriage, while third grade does not. However, the wording, the style of presentation, and even the quizzes remain almost identical even though there is a two-year grade level gap in between. However, the artwork, the opening prayers, and the activities change from level to level. The opening prayers systematically work through all of the prayers children should know over the years, including prayers of the Mass.
You can view a free sample lesson through a link at the bottom of the Catechismclass.com website. It is typical of the lessons I reviewed although it doesn't include the quiz at the end. Note that all Scripture readings are not as long as the reading in the sample lesson.
When you subscribe, you subscribe to a single course. However, your subscription never expires. You can simply subscribe to additional courses as you need them. Your subscription will show quizzes as already completed if one student has already used a course, and you cannot “refresh” the quizzes for another student. So keep this in mind if you intend to use a course for more than one student.
While Catechismclass.com cannot guarantee that all parishes will accept their courses, parents can get a letter of completion to submit to their parish if that is needed.