Wednesday, January 11, 2017

How to Develop a Culture of Life in Your Home and Classroom



During January, teachers and parents often weave lessons and discussions about the dignity of the human person into their plans and activities.  This truth is important every day of the year, but remembering Martin Luther King Jr., the anniversary of Roe V. Wade, and the March for Life present us with teachable moments that are relevant today.  As I make plans for some of those important discussions in the coming weeks, I am excited to start using The Culture of Life Study Program created by the America Life League. I'm so impressed by the curriculum they have created and grateful to add this new resources to my classroom content.  Go click on over to their website to explore all the things they offer (including both print and digital lessons for purchase and many FREE instant downloads to get you started, like this set of sample lessons.).  If you'd like more info or to hear my humble opinion about some of the resources they offer, read on :).

Disclaimer: American Life League provided me with free lessons and materials in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own!  I'm happy to share this solid resource with other educators.

Across Content Areas and Grade Levels:
This program includes lessons for preschoolers through high schoolers, organized into both stand alone mini lessons as well as full units of study.  The cohesive nature of the units would allow a religious ed program, school, or family to develop continual growth of understanding about the culture of life over the education of its students.

The lessons are also supplemented with Scripture, art, hands-on models, literature, and media, providing opportunities for all types of learners to engage with the material.   They cover pro-life topics with both depth and breadth.  Many times kids (and adults) think that pro-life topics are limited to pre-born babies instead of recognizing the dignity of each and every human person.  The Culture of Life Study Program offers materials on babies, the elderly, disabilities, eugenics, diversity, marriage, euthanasia, social justice, and more.  The cross-curricular lessons are intended to tie into literature, science, art... and even foreign language classes!

All of the Units of Study and Mini Lessons are organized, complete, and thorough.  As a teacher, I love that the authors have included not only the recommended steps for an activity or lesson, but also objectives, ideas for reinforcement and evaluation, supply lists, sample discussion questions, color photos of sample student work, opening/closing prayers, etc.  They really have thought of everything related to this curriculum and have organized it into easy to follow lessons, including appendices of handouts/printables.  From the experienced to the novice, I know that any teacher, catechist, youth leader, or parent could comfortably and successfully use these lessons.

Some of the lessons are created as one time activities, like this book study, discussion, and art project about Mother Teresa.  Others are multi-day units covering more content, such as The Beauty of the Developing Human Being for 7th-8th graders.  And other materials, like the sweet Miracle of Life Coloring and Activity Book, could be used time and time again to promote pro-life conversations and formation.

Units of Study:
The Culture of Life Units of Study are setting up a sequence of lessons for the full education of a student.  The units begin with the  Life Primer in elementary, move to Life Foundations in middle school, and offer Life Lens, Life Scope, and Life Quest in high school.

Included in the Life is Precious Unit Study for K-2nd grades is the video Baby Steps, which offers 4-D Ultrasound imagery of babies 8-34 weeks.  Menu options let you watch the babies grow at each week of development, seeing them kick, wiggle, smile, and yawn.  There also is a Guided Tour feature, which gives a five minute narrated week-by-week overview of fetal development.  (You can watch the English narrated version here.)  They also send a Precious One 12 week fetal model for the students to see and touch.  I've written here before about how much I love the Touch of Life Fetal Models.  They continue to be one of my very favorite pro-life resource.

Books and Movies:
Teachers of any kind will tell you that time is at a premium.  Adding in another unit might seem impossible, but these lessons fit well within many different subject areas and even use books and movies that are often already in a classroom curriculum.  Content in the Life Primer Unit (K-2nd) includes popular picture books (like Horton Hears a Who and On the Night You Were Born) to introduce each topic.  Discussion guides are available for chapter books like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Giver series, and To Kill a Mockingbird, just to name a few.  There are also a whole collection of discussion guides for modern movies, teaching kids to look for culture of life themes in everything they read and watch.  There are lessons for some of my favorite movies including The Blind Side, August Rush, The King's Speech, Bella, The Magic of Ordinary Days, and It's a Wonderful Life.  Those movie discussions would lend themselves perfectly to a youth group or pro-life club.

And so much more...
The exciting thing is that the Culture of Life Studies Program is still in development.  More and more lessons will be added, creating a full K-12 scope and sequence.  I'll be keeping an eye out for the additional curriculum, especially in Life Foundations.  In the meantime, you should go check out the current materials in their store (including many FREE downloads!), the ever-growing topics and ideas on their blog, and consider making a donation to fund the next unit of study.

I hope you are feeling inspired this month (and always!) to weave culture of life conversations and lessons into your classrooms and homes.


And if you are interested, here are some of the pro-life resources I have on the blog:
Touch of Life Fetal Models & People of Integrity
Favorite Pro-Life Videos
Spiritual Adoption Prayer Coloring Page
Spiritual Adoption Bookmarks and Culture of Life Discussion Guide/Bible Study
Spiritual Adoption Update Postcards


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Twelve in Twelve 2016

Happy New Years! As we look forward to 2017, here's my 2016 in pictures:

January: Went through my first Holy Door for the Year of Mercy (which became nineteen doors in ten states!) all documented with a #holydoorselfie.  This was also around the time I became obsessed with making Saint Peg Dolls. And I got a brand new Bible and started reading/studying with the goal to finish the whole thing in a year.  (More on that later...hint- I didn't meet my goal ;).)

February: No major notable events, but I did have lots of meetings and therefore lots of pretty doodles.  I got a little organized and made a doodle each Sunday corresponding to the Scripture readings for Mass, and have kept it up for over a year.  I posted a summary of all of them here, or you can check out #sundayreadingsscripturedoodle and follow along!

March: Super notable was the birth of my adorable nephew Oliver whom we love to pieces.  I made the two hour drive a whole lot that month (and still do) to snuggle this little one and his big sister.

April: And five weeks later Oliver was followed by second nephew Theodore.  This time I majorly played hooky and flew to Colorado to spend a week with tiny Teddy and his mom & dad. He's the cutest.

May: Wrapped up the school year with our annual Fulton Sheen Field Trip and got my first glimpses of the newly restored St. Mary Cathedral in Peoria.

June: Summer!  First roadtrip of many- A friend and I traveled to the Appalachian Mountains.  We visited the Biltmore in Asheville, NC, hiked, listened to Bluegrass, ate great food, and drove the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway.  Also in June, I also attended the incredible Finding Your Fiat Conference and hosted the Why Make Beautiful Things Series.

July: And a couple weeks later, I was hiking in the Rocky Mountains.  I made two back-to-back roadtrips to Colorado, once with family and once with a friend.  (If you are counting, I spent about 6,000 miles in the car over the course of a month!) My brother-in-law will be restationed to another Army post by next summer, so we spent as much time in Colorado as we could this year.

August: School started again and was a fun milestone year for my top floor teachers and I.  With Mother Teresa's upcoming canonization, I also made tons of coloring pages and activities to celebrate her powerful life.

September: #describeyourselfinthreefictionalcharacters was all the rage, and I decided that even though I want to be Laura, Jo, and Lizzie, really I'm Mary Ingalls, Meg March, and Jane Bennet- the older, predictable, trustworthy sister. Not a bad role, I guess. And I also made a skirt out of curtains, just like Maria VonTrapp.

October: My sister and Teddy made their first trip home to Illinois.  This is my favorite picture from the whole year, especially considering that Violet was 21 mos., Oliver was 7 mos.,  Teddy was 6 mos., and they are all looking at the camera. :)

November: I couldn't pick one, so you get two pics for November. First, I roadtripped to Wisconsin to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine and sites around LaCrosse.  And, no big deal, we got to meet Gianna Emmanuela, the daughter of St. Gianna Beretta Molla.  Hearing her talk about her "Saint Mama" and hugging her was like a little piece of heaven.

And, also in November, I cut 14" off my hair to donate to Children with Hair Loss.  This is the shortest my hair has ever been, and I'm still getting used to it!


December: And this month has been filled with lots of good things, including tons of family time.  I'm currently hanging out in my parents' living room, surrounded by all the babies.  This sister pic is of us and our matching purses- earlier in the year I found and splurged on the perfect purse (it's the Fossil Sydney Tote).  It's soooo perfect that by the fall, both of my sisters had individually purchased their own.  We love our matching purses, but we (and their husbands) mix them up all the time, leading to some confusion and laughs.

So there's my 2016 in a picture nutshell.  Wishing you a very blessed 2017!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Advent Trivia Jeopardy

We might be approaching one of the greatest Feasts of the year, but as Advent winds down, there is a certain level of survival mode that kicks in for teachers/catechists/moms.  We only have a handful of school days left before Christmas break, but those days are filled with interrupted schedules, program rehearsals, parties, and kids pulled out of the room for various reasons. I know I am looking for "filler" activities that are still meaningful and catechetical.  Over the years, these Advent Jeopardy games have come in handy during these crazy last days of December.  I'd like to share them with you here in case you might be able to use them in your home or classroom!

In presentation mode, the main Jeopardy board with 25 options will appear.  Clicking on a point value in a certain category takes you to the "answer" and the next click takes you to the "question." Hover over the home button, and you are back to the main Jeopardy board.  When chosen, the point values will change color so you know that question has already been chosen.  Some of the different games also have Double Jeopardy options and Bonus Questions to make it more interesting and challenging.

(Note- because Power Point doesn't transfer perfectly to Google Slides, some of the fonts and formatting are going to be messed up.  If you download to your computer or make a copy in your Google Drive, you can make those corrections.  You also can edit the questions as you would like.)

Click here for trivia about five popular December Saints and their Feast Days:

 Click here for Advent Trivia Game 1:

 Click here for Advent Trivia Game 2:

Click here for the Challenging Advent Trivia Game:
(we used this one at a young adult Advent party, but it would also be great for middle or high schoolers)

And if you are looking for an additional lesson  to squeeze in, the O Antiphons start on December 17th.  You could use this coloring book or mini book to study and pray with the whole Church as we await our coming Messiah!


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Favorite Small Businesses {& a Giveaway!}


Growing up, my parents always made sure that we understood the importance of supporting small businesses.  Coming from a rural community, those small family owned stores kept our little town running.  They provided jobs, supported the community, and allowed us to live on a farm "in the middle of nowhere" with all the things we might need.

The nature of small businesses has changed with time, but I think that many of us still know the value of supporting those shops and owners.  One of my favorite small businesses is Kayla Phillips Design, owned by my dear friend Kayla (You might remember her from the Beautiful Giveaways in the past).  She creates the most lovely handlettering and typography designs, often with Scripture as the theme, and then makes products using the highest quality printing and materials.  Her gorgeous 2016 Christmas card design is pictured above.

Kayla also does custom graphics, logos, invitations, and more.  You can see more of her work and contact her here if you have a special project in mind.





Kayla's work is something that brightens up my home. Take this for example:
(the print, of course.  not the orchid.  I killed the orchid, like all other houseplants that cross my path...but my Psalm 16:6 print is as lovely as ever.)

And I featured this thank you card over on Instagram last week- isn't it sweet?

But really, I think the star in her shop right now are these art prints and brass stand.  Kayla chose six favorite original prints from her onehundredverses Project.  Each 5x5" design is printed two sided on 100 lb. paper and comes with a solid brass picture stand.

This solid brass holder is just lovely- I chose the hexagon stand, but there is also an option for a round stand.  All the prints fit together, so you can easily rotate between the six verses.  It would be perfect encouragement for your desk at work or the ledge above your kitchen sink.

The prints cover a variety of messages from Scripture and feature diverse design/lettering styles.  They include Colossians 2:6, Luke 19:9, Philippians 4:4...

Psalm 86:11, Jeremiah 29:11, and Psalm 73:28.

So, if you're in love with Kayla's work, head over to her Etsy Shop- you are just in time to snatch up a few last minute gifts while supporting a worthy small business.

Kayla Phillips Design has graciously offered Look to Him and Be Radiant readers a giveaway AND a discount to help make Christmas shopping a little easier.
-Enter below to win a set of five of this year's Christmas card design- a flat card featuring John 3:16 in navy and ivory, pretty enough to frame and keep up all year.  Giveaway ends Saturday, December 10, 2016 so I can get them in the mail for you to use for Christmas!
-Choose your favorites and use code RADIANT at checkout for 20% off your total purchase from Kayla Phillips Design on Etsy.  Code valid until Wednesday, December 14, 2016, so shop soon!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

My Year of Mercy Pilgrimage


“To go on pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art or history. To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself, where his grace has shone with particular splendor and produced rich fruits of conversion and holiness among those who believe." ~Pope Benedict XVI

The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy has drawn to a close.  There were so many unique aspects of this Year of Mercy, opportunities for outreach, evangelization, repentance, and forgiveness.  I was excited for this Jubilee for many reasons, but visiting holy doors became the most memorable part of the past year.

Normally found only in the Major Basilicas in Rome and a handful of other churches around the world and unsealed only every 25 years, Holy Doors were opened temporarily in every Diocese during this Extraordinary Jubilee.  From December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016, making a pilgrimage to a holy door didn't require a trip to Rome, but was attainable in one's own Diocese.

If you need a little background info on the Extraordinary Jubilee or the Holy Doors, check out these links:
  • You can find info about the Holy Door in Rome here and the Year of Mercy here.
  • Info about the holy doors in the US from the USCCB here.
  • The site I used to find holy doors here.
  • My activities for the holy door here and Year of Mercy here.
I had planned on visiting a few holy doors throughout the year, and after going through my first one in January, I somewhat jokingly took a selfie with the door and posted it on instagram.  That was the start of a super fun year exploring churches around the US and documenting it all with #holydoorselfie.  I ended up journeying to nineteen different doors in ten different states!

I know people who got to walk through THE Holy Door in Rome, or who even got to visit holy doors in several different countries, but I still loved my little local-ish pilgrimage.  Why? Because I think that this Year of Mercy showed that God is not far away- His mercy and grace and truth are right there for the taking.  This opportunity for pilgrimage also made my traveling a little more intentional- while on a roadtrip or excursion, we looked for opportunities to stop and visit these churches. This led to finding daily Mass, time for prayer, conversations with parishioners, and other "accidental" holy moments and pauses during the trip. Viewing the stunning and unique architecture and art of each church was a great witness to the beauty and splendor found in our faith.

While the Year of Mercy might be over, and the holy doors closed, this opportunity for a pilgrimage of the heart remains.  The invitational nature of the Jubilee Year still asks us to be "merciful like the Father," and accept his mercy in return.  We can continue to take the time to visit churches, both locally and while traveling, as a way to expose ourselves to beauty and truth.  And we can allow Christ to fully cross the threshold of our heart, which is really the only holy door that matters.

~ ~ ~

If you're still reading, and if you're curious what holy doors I traveled to, here's my recap!  Kudos to the beautiful churches that were welcoming to pilgrims with well marked doors, helpful websites, and wide visiting hours.  And many thanks to the traveling companions that were along on my various roadtrips and supported my requests for these special stops- Emily, Luke, Shirley, Rachel, Danielle, Kayla, and Emily. :)

~ ~ ~

This was my first holy door, and I got to make a quiet, private visit to the church after a speaking engagement.  That quiet church is probably the only reason I took the time to take a selfie, which is where is all started.  Sacred Heart is just breathtakingly beautiful, and I highly recommend a visit if you are in Peoria.

Made a quick stop here on our way to a concert.  This place hasn't been nicknamed Catholic Disneyland lightly- U of I's Newman Center offers so much for its Catholic students, including this beautiful church.


Visited here on my first trip to Colorado to meet my brand new nephew.  My sister and I went in to the Cathedral to visit the holy door, but we couldn't find it.  Turns out they had a holy gate leading into the church property!


This door was at my sister and her husband's home church, so I actually went through it several times during my visits to see her.  Corpus Christi is such a wonderful parish!


It was May before I made it to the holy door at my own Cathedral.  Due to renovations it was a little more challenging to visit.  I took my class there on a field trip and one of our guides talked to the workers and moved a couple of things so that we could walk through- you can still see the caution sign in the background. :)


Indianapolis marked the first door on my just-out-of-school impromptu roadtrip to the Appalachian Mountains.  Luckily my friend Danielle was up for some stops along the way!


We loved Christ the Kind Cathedral- definitely some super interesting and unique design elements inside the church, always bringing to mind Christ as King with crown designs found throughout the structure.  They also had added glass panels in the vestibule with verses and quotes about mercy that were a neat touch.


This basilica-Wow.  The layers of design were fascinating.  I loved the ceiling and the stained glass and the historical stories of the construction of the church.  Note to parish employees- having a pamphlet or info on the website about the history of the church for visitors (or parishioners) is super welcoming and a fascinating way to encourage connection to the structure that houses your church.

I want to go back and visit Sacred Heart after they finish their new construction project!  While researching the location, I saw their design plans for the new cathedral and they are just breathtaking.  Go visit their website and see the plans!  It was fun to visit the current cathedral and see the new construction side by side.

My favorite part of Incarnation Cathedral in Nashville was the detailed panel ceiling.  Think I could pull that off in a house someday? ;)

This was the beginning of another roundtrip later in the summer with my friend Kayla, and was one of the few churches that I didn't actually get to go inside, but I'm still  "counting" it as a visit.  Assumption Church is just across the street from the state capitol, so we enjoyed the outside of both buildings.

Usually modern architecture is not my favorite, but after reading the story of this cathedral's design, I was totally won over.  The bishop involved in the new construction wanted it modeled after the grain silos that dot the landscape and represent the agricultural backbone of the midwest.

The "Cathedral of the Plains" is my favorite landmark along Interstate 70, and while I've driven past is many times in the past few years on my way back and forth to Colorado, this was only the second time I've been able to stop inside.  I absolutely love the story of the church's construction-how the local farmers worked together to help build what remains an amazing architectural wonder.

Cathedral of the Risen Christ, Lincoln, NE
What can I say?  The blue stained glass in the vestibule of this Cathedral was just stunning.  The outdoor statues and prayer spaces were also lovely.

Regretfully, this was another church where the timing didn't work out to get to go inside.  I want to go back though, because I loved everything about the outer design and detail, so I just have to see the inside!

This trip to LaCrosse wasn't just to visit the holy door- Shirley and Emily and I actually traveled to  meet Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, the daughter of one of my favorite Saints, St. Gianna Molla.  She was the sweetest, loveliest lady, and hugging her felt like I was hugging a little bit of heaven.  Having a holy door there to visit just added to the memories.

Also in LaCross is the fabulous Gothic St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral.  We found it "accidentally" after dinner and then planned to go back for Mass in the morning.  The stately structure brings to mind the inside of a ship, so appropriate for the church, our ark in stormy waters.  This was the first time I've seen a church with a large sanctuary and also small sanctuary behind that shared the same altar.  The priest could just turn around and celebrate Mass in the church or the chapel- very unique!

St. Raphael was going to be added to the list of churches I tried to visit at but couldn't get inside.  It had super limited visiting hours, but we stopped anyway just in case.  After walking around and verifying that all the doors were locked, we went back to the front door to take a picture...and found that it was propped open!  The door had definitely been closed a few minutes before, so we accepted it as a little favor from St. Raphael himself and went inside.  I wish that all of the lights had been on so that I could enjoy the exquisite detail of the high altar.  This holy door (the fanciest I saw!) should give you some indication of how pretty the whole church was.

Daylight savings time makes this selfie look like it was taken late at night instead of just late in the afternoon like it really was. I'm glad I was able to get the Diocese of Peoria's great Year of Mercy logo in the background.

And I know I already listed this one, but I think using my own Cathedral as a bookend for this journey is appropriate.  The renovations at St. Mary's in Peoria are complete, and the results are just amazingly wonderful.  Coming to my cathedral always feels a bit like coming home, and now the surrounding beauty just fills me with even more wonder and awe.  I snapped one last holy door selfie there just days before the Year of Mercy drew to a close.

There you have it- 19 doors, 10 states.  It might have been simple, but it was a fun journey.
Did you have the chance to visit any holy doors?  What pilgrimage, big or small, has had an impact on your life?