After a year of commuting from Vicksburg to the Grand Rapids area, Kyle Dye was ready to move. As his family scoped out potential homes, he remembers cresting Gavin Lake Road and seeing St. Patrick Church amid the fields. That’s when he and his wife knew. This area would become home.
“The reason we picked the house is because of the church,” Kyle says. The church was undergoing a renovation at the time, but he and his wife Jamie didn’t need to see the inside to know they wanted to live in Parnell and become parishioners.
Today, the couple have five children enrolled at St. Patrick School, a toddler at home and a new addition expected in March. However, when the Dye family came to the area, they were committed homeschoolers. Their story is one about how God sometimes takes us in directions we don’t expect.
While they never thought St. Patrick School would become a daily part of their family life, it has. And Kyle and Jamie Dye say the experience has reaped rewards they never could have imagined.
Making a Home in Parnell
Kyle and Jamie were students at Western Michigan University when they met, but they didn’t connect on campus. Instead, Jamie met Kyle’s parents at a church euchre party near Jackson, where both families lived. Kyle’s dad went home and told his son, ‘you’ve got to meet this girl.’ Meanwhile, Jamie’s mom was more interested in finding her daughter a ride so she wouldn’t have to keep driving to Kalamazoo.
Although motivated by different reasons, the parents successfully persuaded the two to meet, and a beautiful relationship blossomed. Kyle and Jamie married in 2005 and then graduated from college the following year.
The decision to move north wasn’t easy, with Jamie noting the family was finally starting to feel at home in Vicksburg. She was coaching volleyball, and the couple had made friends in their parish.
However, once they arrived in Parnell, the two were committed to getting heavily involved at St. Patrick Parish right from the start. One of the first things Jamie did was call the parish office to see if there were any other homeschooling families in the area. In that way, the Dye family quickly made new friends in their new home.
From Coach to Athletic Director
While the Dyes weren’t enrolling their children at St. Patrick School, it didn’t take long for them to become involved in school activities. During Jamie’s very first conversation with Fr. Mark Peacock, who then the pastor, she mentioned playing volleyball in college. Fr. Mark’s ears perked up, and he mentioned the school was looking for a volleyball coach.
Jamie was quick to agree to coach the volleyball team, and Kyle soon stepped to help coach football and basketball as well. “I think [sports] are an essential part of learning adult life,” Kyle says. They teach about the value of hard work and being part of a team, and he didn’t want any student to miss that opportunity simply because an adult hadn’t volunteered to coach.
The Dyes also discovered that sports, scouts and other extracurricular activities at St. Patrick School were open to all parishioners, regardless of where kids attended school. Their children joined both sports and scouts at school while also participating in parish activities such as Vacation Bible School. The family’s circle of friends quickly expanded.
Several years passed in this way until, one June day, Principal Scott Czarnopys contacted Jamie with a question: would she like to enroll her kids and become the school’s athletic director? The position was unpaid but came with a nice tuition discount.
Absolutely not was Jamie’s first thought. “We were homeschoolers, and that’s what we do,” she explains. However, there was also something in the back of her head that said maybe they shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the idea. “We thought this opportunity had come to us for a reason,” she says.
Kyle and Jamie met with Scott, talked and prayed and eventually decided to give it a try for a year.
Closest Thing to Homeschooling
For Jamie, who had been very happily schooling her kids at home, the leap to a traditional school environment wasn’t necessarily easy. “I worried that we were going to try it, and we were going to hate it,” she says. Jamie loved that her children were interacting together at home throughout the day and was concerned that they would lose their close sibling bonds.
She quickly discovered she had nothing to fear. “Now that we’re in it, I think that [St. Patrick School] is the closest you can get to homeschooling without homeschooling,” she says.
While the situation has been different this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dyes found during their first three years at the school that students from various classes often mingled throughout the day. There was no stigma for little kids – or siblings – to talk or play with older students. Plus, Jamie often found herself in the school throughout the week as a volunteer. That meant she didn’t feel shut out of her kids’ schooling.
Of course, having the opportunity to have a relationship with a priest who is a daily presence at the school and the reinforcement of faith lessons taught at home are added benefits. “[Kids] don’t have to feel awkward if they have a question about religion or want to say an extra prayer,” Jamie says. At St. Patrick School, those sorts of things are welcomed, not discouraged.
After four years, Jamie says she has never regretted her family’s decision to enroll in St. Patrick School. It has become a place where her children have excelled academically, been recognized for their commitment to service and found a home away from home. For those who may be on the fence about enrolling their kids, she has this one piece of advice: “Go into the school and see it for yourself.”