Sunday, May 24, 2015

Fulton Sheen Family Day (the 2nd!)

Do you live in the Peoria area?  Do you want to learn more about the Catholic faith?  Do you love Fulton Sheen?  If you answered yes to any of those questions, you need to be at the Second Annual Fulton Sheen Family Day!  I am helping plan it along with Bonnie of A Knotted Life, the Sheen Foundation, and St. Mary's Parish, El Paso.

This fun event is open to all ages, but is especially designed for families with kids.  You can read more about last year's event in this post.

Click on the picture to download (and share!) the event flyer:

This year's day will be open house style Fulton Sheen Pilgrimage in the town of his birth and at the parish of his baptism, including:
-Fulton Sheen activities for all ages from 2:00-3:45 p.m.
-Family friendly Holy Hour from 3:45-4:45 p.m.
-Invitation to attend the 5 p.m. Vigil Mass at St. Mary’s
-Snacks, giveaways, and door prizes!
-Suggested donation of $1 per family member

You can keep up with the details and RSVP at the Facebook Event here.

If you have any questions, would like more info, or would like to volunteer or donate towards the event, please contact me in the comment box or at katherine (dot) bogner (at) gmail (dot) com.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Meaningful Student Gifts for the End of the Year (or anytime)

Our school year is 7 6 5 days away from coming to a close.  There are many to-do lists to complete, shelves to clean, supplies to pack, and (large) stacks of paperwork to file.  I am sure that all my fellow teachers, DREs, and catechists are in a a similar state of busyness.

But a more prominent item on our minds is saying good-bye to our students.  For some it is just a formality, because we will see them around in the parish or school or community.  But for a few kiddos in our classrooms, it might be more serious good-bye due to moves or transfers.

Regardless, the end of a school year signifies an end of a chapter and a change in the relationship you have with these kids that you have spent so much time with over the past year. At the end of the school year, I like to give my students a unique book.  I pick out a story book that can be used to carry a special message to the whole class.  On the inside cover, I write each student a letter that talks about the special meaning of the book, as well as specific encouragement just for them.  It takes a long time to write the letters, but makes the simple story book so much more meaningful, and something that I hope the students treasure.

This year, I will be giving my students all a copy of The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, which is one of my favorite children's books.  (A little note: one way that this is affordable for me to do for a whole classroom is that I save my Scholastic Reading Club bonus points from the year.  If you don't use Scholastic in your classroom, I highly recommend it!)

A couple of years ago, I used the book You are Special by Max Lucado.  In the letter for this book, I included all of the things that I thought were special about each student, but reminded them that they are unique and wonderful because of who God says they are.  It was a perfect book for a tight-knit class that both loved...and challenged...each other just like a set of 29 siblings :).

Last year I used the book The Boy and the Ocean, also by Max Lucado.  The main message of the book (which has lovely illustrations) is that God's love is big, and wide, and never ends.  I thought it was a great reminder for a class that went through a lot of changes and challenges in our year together.

This year's book is not specifically a Christian book, but it has always reminded me of the story of the Prodigal Son. (I actually have an activity about it here!) In the letter in this book, I am going to remind the kids of the power of generosity, and that just like the giving tree, our God loves us so much that He gives and gives and gives, even to the point of completely giving us Himself.  Our response should be like the boy's at the end of the book- to want to be with Him always. 

So, that's what I do at the end of the year.  However, story books and letters might not be the right thing for you.  You might be looking for a birthday gift, or graduation gift, or a thank you, or a First Communion or Confirmation gift.  You might be able to spend $0.99 per kid, or $30 per kid.  I thought I round up a few of my other favorite ideas that can be used for varying ages, budgets, and purposes.

Here's my top ten gift list for kids:
  1. a good Bible (that's right for their age/reading level) (like this one or this one) (and super awesome points if you write a message on the inside cover or a slip of paper that you tuck inside.  And get your pastor and other teachers, volunteers, etc. to also write a short message of blessing for the student before you give it to them.)
  2. A Catechism of the Catholic Church
  3. the YouCat or YouCat Prayer Book
  4. a great CD by a Catholic musician (like this one or this one or this one)
  5. a Saint medal or Miraculous medal (a couple of favorite sources are this one and this one)
  6. Catholic coloring or activity books
  7. books on the Saints (this series is one of my favorites for 3rd-6th graders)  ***make sure you keep an eye out for the books you can buy at bulk prices ($2-3 a copy) from Totus Tuus Press and Dynamic Catholic- they have great stuff for both teens and adults.
  8. Blessed Rosaries (or Rosary rings, or Rosary bracelets)
  9. a crucifix (especially great for a graduate moving into a dorm or apartment)
  10. small Saint icon or Mary or other Saint statue (bonus points if you get the patron of your school or parish)
Those are my favorite gifts to give students- what are yours?  I'd love to hear more about the gifts you give your students that are affordable, memorable, and meaningful. 

Blessings on the end of your school year!

(oh, and I'm not getting anything out of posting this list- just trying to share some ideas with you that might help you give meaningful gifts in the future.  These items are things that I have all purchased and given to kids and teens over the years.  I hope that these ideas inspire you to find meaningful gifts for the kiddos in your lives!)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Honoring Mary: A Collection of Ideas

Happy Mother's Day!  In honor of the Mary-like Mother's heart in every mom, homeschooler, teacher, catechist, and DRE, I've collected a whole series of posts with tons of ideas for teaching kids about Mary- and through her, modeling Christian life, prayer, generosity, and virtue.

Click on any of the pictures below to take you to a post with more info, ideas, printables, and pictures.  I'll spare you more descriptions...and let the posts do the talking!

And, to every woman reading this, thank you for all of the ways that you mother each soul you meet: the kind word, the smile, the caring touch.  You are what the world needs.  Keep on living that call to be what God has made you to be!
"A woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised." ~Proverbs 31:30

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue Retreat for Girls

Retreats are a great way to engage with your faith, to reconnect with God, to find quiet and time for prayer, and to learn more about who Christ is and who you are in His sight.  We routinely hear about retreats offered for adults or teens, but what about retreats for kids?  While they will be a little different in nature, I think retreats for kiddos can be a great way for them to engage, reconnect, learn, and pray. 

Some other examples of retreats that we have offered include one for boys about the Armor of God and another for girls that we called our Princess Celebration.  The same summer as the Armor of God retreat, we hosted a girls retreat called Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue.

Do you know this poem?  It was made popular by Archbishop Fulton Sheen:

Lovely Lady dressed in blue–—
       teach me how to pray!
God was just your little Boy,
     tell me what to say!
Did you lift Him up, sometimes,
     gently, on your knee?
Did you sing to Him
     the way Mother does to me?
Did you hold His hand at night?
Did you ever try telling stories of the world?
O! And did He cry?
Do you really think He cares
     if I tell Him things–—
Little things that happen?
And Do the Angels’ wings make a noise?
And can He hear me if I speak low?
Does He understand me now?
Tell me–—for you know!
Lovely Lady dressed in blue,
     teach me how to pray!
God was just your little Boy,
     and you know the way.

Author:  Mary Dixon Thayer

The Child On His Knees, pages 24 and 25, The MacMillan Company, New York, 1926

Based on this beautiful and sweet poem/prayer, we wanted to have an afternoon where the girls could learn more about our Mother Mary, about how she can be a guide and model Christian for us, and how she shows us all the dignity of being a daughter of God.

We invited the girls in our (small) CCD program Preschool-6th grade, and asked the junior and senior high girls to come and help.  I am a huge advocate of multi age events- everyone learns, everyone participates, everyone wins!

The event was three hours long on a Saturday afternoon.  The girls and helpers were all invited to wear something blue in honor of Mary, and many chose to dress up a little.  During the day, the main project was to make a personal Mary Shrine.  Many time I like to have several hands on activities that the kids move between, but that large multi part activity was enough. 

We also had a guest speaker.  A friend of mine came and talked about how Mary has been a model for her of what it means to be a young lady.  She even brought her beautiful toddler daughter along and talked about how she teaches her about Mary and femininity. 

The afternoon ended with some quiet time in the church and a special prayer asking Mary to help all of the ladies present to model her more and more so that we can be draw closer to her Son.

I have many pictures from the day, but most have kiddos in them that I won't share here, so the pickings are slim. :) Sorry about that, but here are a few shots of the activities:

Food is also important, so for snacks we had blue kool-aid, and blue jello,
and blueberries,
and cupcakes with blue sprinkles.

We read and prayed the Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue poem. A full page coloring page printable can be found here or you can use the three per page bookmarks by clicking on the image below.

You can hear Sheen recite the poem at the very end of this great talk on Mary:

We put together these goody bags that had lots of coloring and activity pages to take home, and a rosary, and some other fun things.  The bags were just lunch sacks decorated with a copy of the poem printed on blue paper.

The main event of the day was making this Marian lapbook with a pop up shrine, complete with a statue, roses, and candles.

All of the instructions for the lapbook shrines can be found in this post or by clicking on any of these images.

It really was a lovely day, celebrating Mary, and reminding a group of girls how lovely they are in God's eyes.  I recommend planning a retreat for some little ladies in your life!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Favorite Books About Mary + A Playlist

It's May, so Mary and Mothers are common themes in Catholic classrooms and homes.  I reserve our special Mary activities and lessons for the month of May, but I also like to enrich my students understanding with both literature and music.  Here are a few of our favorite books and songs about Mary!

First up, a playlist:  Click on the image below for a YouTube playlist of some great and fun and sacred Marian music.  The videos...meh, but the music is lovely.  I turn this on in my classroom just for the sound, not on the SmartBoard for the students.  What would you add?  What great Marian songs are we missing?

And our favorite books: I pull these books from other places and feature them in a special basket in our faith corner during the month of May.  This list doesn't include all the Bible story books we have that also of course feature Mary, but those are going to have to be saved for another post. 

These Catholic Story Coloring Books feature various Marian apparitions and are published through TAN books.  I wrote about how I use them in the classroom here, but unfortunately some of them can be hard to find.

Next up, collection of short, simple, and sweet books about Mary from St. Joseph Picture Books.  Quick and easy, I am still ok with my 5th graders reading them to keep them familiar with all of the stories surrounding Mary and her role in Biblical times as well as now.

And, there is definitely Fulton Sheen's Jesus, Son of Mary.  I love using this one as a read aloud.  In Sheen's typical style, the easy to read passages are packed with depth, allowing me to use this picture book to lead 5th grade level discussions on Mary's role as Jesus's Mother, the first Christian, and a model for all of us. 
 My 1947 copy has lovely illustrations, but so does the reprint version. :)

This one was recently acquired.  Mary's Story by Sarah Jane Boss chronicles the story of Mary's life starting with St. Anne and Joachim's desire for a child all the way to her Assumption.  It relies on both Scripture and Tradition , but also weaves some "legend" or the author's generalizations to fill in the blanks.  The text isn't my favorite, but also isn't worrisome.  However, I really like the illustrations.  They are lovely, reverent, detailed, and fresh all at the same time.
 They remind me a bit of Jan Brett's style for tucking more of the story into the margins and edges of pages, in corners and backgrounds.  It reminds me that there is so much of Mary's life that is was hidden, left to our imaginings.

This book, Just Like Mary by Rosemarie Gortler and Donna Piscitelli, is different in that each page (or few pages) tells about an event in Mary's life and then shows how she can be a guide to us in similar situations.

For example, here it recounts Mary & Joseph's flight to Egypt after the birth of Jesus, and how that can show us that we need to listen to God.  I like that it practically shows kiddos how Mary can be a model for our daily lives.

And my favorite Marian picture book by far is Take it to the Queen by Josephine Nobisso.   Gorgeously illustrated, it tells the story of all of Salvation History and the role of Mary as Queen Mother through an allegory that is full of symbolism and creative meaning. 
 "Hidden" images in the illustration point to more Christian truths, and the author even has a list of specific things to look and listen for on the inside covers of the book.  Its lasting message reminds us that Mary is always ready to take our offerings, work, gifts, and our very selves straight to the heart of her Son.

Lots of good reading!  I'd love to hear about your favorite kids' books honoring Mary- what else would you recommend?