Worth Every Mile: Why This Sussex County Family is Happy to Commute to OLMC


The author, Eileen Vandenberg, lives with her husband and three children in Sparta, NJ, where she founded and continues to run a homeschooling co-op.

In the last two months, how often have I heard, “You live WHERE?!” or “Your school is WHERE?!”

And, I can’t help but smile.  

According to Google maps, it is only 23.7 miles… northwest of Boonton.

But those who ask, in that syntactic arrangement, have already done the math of distance, plus time of day, compounded by NYC-bound traffic.  

What can be a breezy 32-min drive on a Friday morning (my estimation: about 50% of weekday commuters work a 4-day week and use Fridays to work from home), can be 50-60 minutes Monday through Thursday.  

It doesn’t matter to me. It’s all good.

Regardless of the day of the week, if it is a school day, we are out the door at 6:30am. By the time we reach the corner of our block, I have a daily, faith-based, kids’ podcast on (Catholic Sprouts). After one of these short episodes (about five minutes), sometimes we talk about what we just heard. Sometimes we just sit quietly and reflect.  

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We only started OLMC in the late Fall, so our commutes have been mostly in the dark.  

“I’ll be able to practice my poem better once the sun comes up, Mom.”  

Thus, our typical habit of drive-time academics gets put on the back burner for a little farther along on our journey. Fortunately, there is no shortage of quality kids’ programming in the podcast world, so I move on to either a science (Brains On) or history (Forever Ago) podcast. Classical music is always a backup should we not be in the mood for chatter, and so is, ever glorious, silence. We also LOVE audiobooks, and have been through dozens, but have not used them on our school commute thus far.

This has become our routine, and it works for us. One of the aspects of self-reporting that grates on me is the tendency for everything to sound rosy and idyllic. Believe me, it’s not. Our mornings are just as rushed and hectic as the next family’s. The moments just prior to leaving the house can be filled with angst and conflict. “CAN YOU JUST GET YOUR SHOES ON?!?!?!”  (It’s been 11 years, thus far, of that refrain. It will be written on my headstone, I’m sure.)

Unbeknownst to me, God was leading us down the path to enrollment in OLMC long before that fateful, first day of school in November - of all times:

  • A year prior, we had made the decision to bite the bullet and take out a car loan for our family’s vehicle and be done with mile-limiting car leases.

  • We recently relocated within our hometown, yet, did not leave the convenience of ready-access to the highway by staying within the same neighborhood.

  • In October, my 8-yr-old said to me—Out. Of. The. Blue.—while sitting waiting for a doctor’s appointment, “Mom, I want to go to school. When can I go to school?” Can I tell you I had already been thinking of turning to formal schooling as homeschooling had been going abysmally for us this school year? Thank you, Lord, for the “permission” to move forward. Out of the mouths of babes, as it were.

  • The homeschool co-op I founded and still currently run, was scheduled to go on a long hiatus just when the Advent season was getting underway, allowing my children to not feel like they were missing out on a favorite activity and opportunity to see their friends by missing co-op.

  • After attending the OLMC Light of the World Tour—under a cloud of secrecy—I was contacted that evening by a friend saying, “I heard you visited OLMC. Great school!” (So much for me keeping it on the ‘down lo’.)

  • My homeschooling friends and community and immediate family have all responded with support and admiration regarding our decision. It helps that in the homeschooling community, OLMC has become known as THE ONLY place to send your kids to school, if you are going to send them to school.

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I would be remiss if I did not say something here about the power of conviction. Why make the trip to OLMC when there’s a local Catholic school just a little over 5 miles from where we live? Well, for starters, there’s the Classical curriculum. I was using that model as a homeschooler. I had always been drawn to the Trivium and employed memory work in our homeschooling from Day One. But it was more than that, obviously.  

As soon as I stepped into OLMC, I felt it. The power of God in a community that holds Him as its absolute center. It’s difficult to convey in words that feeling when you just know deep down that this is where you are called to be. In my heart, I felt that this was a place where my children would be loved and empowered to always hold Christ at the center of their lives. Community drives a culture, and I am enamored with the one brought to life at OLMC.  

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I’ll end here with what my eldest son wrote to me in a card just a couple of weeks ago for my birthday:

Dear Mommy,

Happy Birthday to the best Mom in the world. I’m really happy that you put us in Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I am very grateful for what you have done for us. We all love you up to the stars and back.

XOXO Love, Michael

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