i stumbled upon the answer to this question quite by accident while i was browsing other user’s sites in the design exhibition area of the forums
quite simply, the left bar isn’t loading on the front page, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
if, for example, i type in the address followed by “/category_name” then the page will load the left information
kind of an odd system, but i suppose it makes sense, since the front page is a CMS page.
while i havent answered my question, i have found out how to work around it. i’m going to keep the front page a bit of cms content, and then pass them on to the catalog with a link