Posted tagged ‘The Basics’

Tips and Tricks for Working with Younger Family Formation Students

October 26, 2014

Now that you’ve done a couple lessons in our first official month, it’s a good time to check in and issue some reminders, especially if this is your first year with Family Formation.  Some of these things apply to students of all ages, but if you are teaching younger kids you may find these suggestions to be particularly useful.

Be prepared.

  1.  Read through the lesson ahead of time and edit for your needs.  To begin with, each Home Lesson has a section labeled “for older saints.”  You can automatically assume that those topics are at a slightly more advanced subject matter, at a somewhat deeper level (appropriate for 3rd grade and older).  We absolutely want you to read the entire lesson as you prepare, but this may be one section you save to teach next time around.  (This is a good place to remind you thatFamily Formation lessons rotate on a three year cycle.  The lessons you’re doing with your 1st grader this year will come around again when he’s a 4th grader.)
  2. You’ll also want to consider your child’s learning style.  Younger students tend to be very concrete thinkers who see things at face value.  For example, in the lessons you just did on the Mass, your 5th grader can understand the big picture of flow and order, but your kindergartner just needs to know that this is something you do every Sunday and we meet Jesus there.  Seeing her parents paying attention and praying is the best concrete reinforcement for this lesson.
  3. Have your supplies ready to go before you call everyone together to begin.  Imagine your 5-year-old as having an Attention Span Countdown Clock on his head.  Do you really want to spend some of that precious time searching your office for a scissor and the right colored crayons?

Consider their skills and prepare stuff you know will be frustrating to them.

  1. Next week’s Vessels and Vestments lesson is a perfect example.  If you know the cutting will be too difficult or too time consuming for your squirmy 1st grader, cut and assemble those pieces before the lesson begins so you can spend more time talking about the Mass and less time in a melt-down over cutting on the lines.

Watch the time.

  1. If experience is telling you that 15 minutes is the amount of time you can hold your little one’s attention, simply plan your lesson for that long.  The advantage of this is that you can fit a 15 minute lesson in just about anywhere!clock
  2. You may want to consider breaking a longer lesson up into two times per week.
  3. There may be elements you can use in your bedtime routine.
  4. You may want to re-play popular games at another time to reinforce what you’ve learned.
  5. The whole point of Family Formation is to make passing on the Faith an integral part of your family life.  If setting aside an hour each week isn’t working for you, try some of these ideas to figure out another format.

Are you new to Family Formation in 2014?

October 7, 2014

It struck me last night at our first classroom meeting of the year as we were going through a long to-do list of basics and extras and opportunities and stuff to pick up and stuff you could buy and stuff you needed to make sure your kids were bringing home and stuff to memorize and stuff to bring back next month and ways to sign up to help our program that it was probably ridiculously confusing for first-timers.

If that’s you, I’m guessing you weren’t alone. Every year we need to find the balance between giving enough information to new people, covering all the information we need to convey, and staying within our time limits, and we probably fail way more often than we realize. If you happen to be one of those whose head was spinning a little when you left, read on. This primer of the Church of Saint Paul’s October classroom meeting is for you!

First of all, this time and every time, the most important part of Family Formation is attending the monthly classroom session and doing the Home Lessons (preferably on the weeks indicated).

If you don’t do anything else, do these lessons. They are the core and the most valuable part of Family Formation!

 

Other stuff we talked about:

Memory verse (optional): Each month we encourage students to learn a memory verse to be recited for the classroom catechist the following month. You can find this verse on the front cover sidebar of each Home Lesson and on a separate sheet that was in your packet. There are almost always separate verses for younger and older students. Those who can successfully recite will receive a small prize – typically a Holy Trader Card.

W.O.G. logs (optional): W.O.G. Logs are a way to encourage kids to read the Word of God on a regular basis. Simply check the box for each day you read the Bible and bring that month’s log to the next meeting and put it into the correct box in the entry. Each month all the WOG Logs that are turned in are placed into a drawing and two students will win Dairy Queen gift cards. Numbers are tallied throughout the year, and in May the students with the highest number of days reading Scripture will be honored with a special prize. You can see the total number of days our Family Formation students have logged throughout the year on Family Formation’s bulletin board in the hallway near our office.

C.A.T. Stats for families (optional):  The C.A.T. stands for Catholic Authority and Tradition and works along with the W.O.G.  to teach us more about the Catholic Faith through the treasures of Sacred Tradition.  This year we are encouraging families to learn together and we handed out a resource sheet with suggestions.  Parents, turn in your family’s CAT Stat card each month to be entered into a drawing for a family prize!

All Saints’ Day Party (optional, but super fun!): Annual event for families celebrating the Feast of All Saints. The evening begins with Mass and then dinner, games and lots of fun. Kids (and adults) should come in costume, dressed as a Bible character, animal, or Saint. (No cartoon characters or scary costumes, please.) There will also be a separate teen room with games and snacks for kids in 7th grade and older. Please pre-register after Masses beginning this weekend.

Saints’ YES! (optional): This is a social group for 4-6th graders. They meet monthly for a wide variety of fun events. Register at the beginning of the year to participate. Their first meeting is Friday, October 24 and if you have a 4-6th grader, you’ll get a postcard advertising their event.

Handmaidens (optional): Handmaidens of the Lord is a group for girls, grades 4 through 6, with the aim of encouraging and teaching the young ladies to grow in holiness and providing opportunities to develop friendships. A typical meeting features study in virtue, a feminine art, tea time, and topic handouts for further study at home. Registrations are being taken now and the first meeting is on Thursday, October 23.

Soldiers of Christ (optional): This group, for 4-6th grade boys and their fathers, features lessons on virtue, scout skills, active games, and social time with other boys from the parish. Registrations are being taken now and the first meeting is on October 23.

Mass Challenge (optional): Each year Family Formation sponsors an additional challenge and this year we’ve given you resources to memorize the responses for the Mass. Students will recite the responses to their parents and turn in the certificate when they are memorized to the parent’s satisfaction.  The prize is a special t-shirt.  Family Formation and Little Lamb/Sunday Celebration students can earn their shirt for free and parents who have also complete the challenge can get a shirt for a small fee to cover the costs. NOTE: We do this challenge every 3 years, so if you aren’t ready to do it before May, it’ll be around again in 2017.

So to recap – this is an active and creative parish with lots of opportunities to grow in your faith, socialize, and serve others. Focus on the essentials for now and eventually add other stuff that will fit in with your family life. All of these things (and lots more that you’ll hear about throughout the year) are available each year and on an ongoing basis. We’ll see you when you’re ready!

Also, please, please, please, if you have a questions, ASK! That’s what we’re here for!

The Basics: Meet the W.O.G.

October 5, 2014

It’s the beginning of the year, and in the interest of introducing all our old friends (and familiar elements), I’d like you to meet the W.O.G.  He’s our Family Formation mascot and it’s his job to encourage kids to read the Word Of God.  (Get it?)  You’ll see him greeting families at all our monthly meeting times and in a variety of other places.  His image has been on stickers, tattoos, and buttons in the past and you’ll see him printed in your home lessons in places where we want to remind you to open your Bibles.

Maybe most important is his work with the W.O.G. Logs.   Each month, we encourage kids to keep track of days they’ve remembered to read God’s Word.  At the Church of Saint Paul program, kids can bring their completed W.O.G. Log page back to the next Family Formation meeting to be entered in a drawing for some kind of prize.  (In October, 4 lucky kids won Dairy Queen gift cards!)

Of course, we hope kids will do a little Bible reading each day, but even if they only read one day in a particular month, we encourage them to bring the W.O.G. Log back to church for the next Family Formation classroom time.  God is glad for this beginning step and can use it to work in their lives!

There is a little change in procedure this year: instead of dropping off your W.O.G. Log at class with your catechist, we want you to put it in the appropriate box by the holy water font when you walk it.  We’ll still do prizes the same way – it’s just the drop off place that has changed a bit.

IMG_8338

So next time you come for class, be sure to say hi to the W.O.G!  He loves handshakes, hugs, and high-fives and is even glad to give just a little wave to shy kids who are peeking at him from behind a parent.  Most of all, he loves kids who spend time reading God’s Word!

The Heart of Catechesis

September 12, 2014

This summer Laurie and I had the pleasure of representing Family Formation at the St. John Bosco Conference for catechists at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.  It’s always a wonderful time of fellowship with other religious educators, but more than that it’s a retreat, education, and inspiration all rolled up in just a few days.  (Highly recommended!)

This year the inspiration largely came through workshops given by Sherry Weddell talking about experiences that led to her book, Forming Intentional Disciples, and the thought that there are so many people out there (many in our pews) who may describe themselves as Catholic, but at the same time not even think it’s possible to have a relationship with Jesus.

This got me thinking about the gap between knowing stuff about Jesus and actually knowing Jesus.  Family Formation is really good at catechesis and the materials have led thousands of people to a greater depth of faith through the witness of family members to one another, family prayer and an ever-increasing knowledge of the Faith.  But because we want to make it just a little more obvious, we’re going to spend some time this year making sure we understand the connections to Jesus that are at the heart of each and every lesson, no matter what the topic.  In the words of one of the Bosco Conference professors, “Write at the top of each lesson – What does this have to do with Jesus?

Our founding pastor, Fr. Tim Nolan, used to joke with the kids that if they ever did not know the answer to a question in Family Formation class to just raise their hand and confidently say, “Jesus!”  Compare this with the words of Pope Saint John Paul II and you’ll see some pretty profound connections:

The fourth general assembly of the synod of Bishops often stressed the Christocentricity of all authentic catechesis. We can here use the word “Christocentricity” in both its meanings, which are not opposed to each other or mutually exclusive, but each of which rather demands and completes the other.

In the first place, it is intended to stress that at the heart of catechesis we find, in essence, a Person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, “the only Son from the Father…full of grace and truth,”(9) who suffered and died for us and who now, after rising, is living with us forever. It is Jesus who is “the way, and the truth, and the life,”(10) and Christian living consists in following Christ, the sequela Christi.

The primary and essential object of catechesis is, to use an expression dear to St. Paul and also to contemporary theology, “the mystery of Christ.” Catechizing is in a way to lead a person to study this mystery in all its dimensions: “to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery…comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth …know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge…(and be filled) with all the fullness of God.”(11) It is therefore to reveal in the Person of Christ the whole of God’s eternal design reaching fulfillment in that Person. It is to seek to understand the meaning of Christ’s actions and words and of the signs worked by Him, for they simultaneously hide and reveal His mystery. Accordingly, the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ: only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity.  

(Catechesis in Our Time, paragraph 5, emphasis mine)

All About Jesus logo

Whether we’re learning about angels or virtues or indulgences or Old Testament prophets or any of the other many topics we’re going to tackle this year, Jesus is the ribbon that ties them all together and gives them meaning and purpose!  In the Family Formation world it really is all about Jesus!

So anyway, this is my longish way of reminding everyone that the goal of Family Formation is NOT to prepare you to win the Worldwide Catholic Trivia Championship. (Although if such a thing existed, our families would take the trophy!)   Our real goal is to bring you closer to Jesus every week as you do your lessons, every day as your bring the Faith into your homes through family prayer, reading scripture, and establishing meaningful traditions, and every minute as you rely on His grace and increase your desire to love Him better.  And we’re so grateful for all of you who have joined us on that adventure!

Advice for parents of younger Family Formation students

October 25, 2013

Now that you’re wrapping up your first official month, it’s a good time to check in and issue some reminders, especially if this is your first year with Family Formation.  Some of these things apply to students of all ages, but if you are teaching younger kids you may find these suggestions to be particularly useful.

Be prepared.

  1.  Read through the lesson ahead of time and edit for your needs.  To begin with, each Home Lesson has a section labeled “for older saints.”  You can automatically assume that those topics are at a slightly more advanced subject matter, at a somewhat deeper level (appropriate for 3rd grade and older).  We absolutely want you to read the entire lesson as you prepare, but this may be one section you save to teach next time around.  (This is a good place to remind you that Family Formation lessons rotate on a three year cycle.  The lessons you’re doing with your 1st grader this year will come around again when he’s a 4th grader.)
  2. You’ll also want to consider your child’s learning style.  Younger students tend to be very concrete thinkers who see things at face value.  For example, in the Stewardship lesson you just did, your 5th grader can understand the spiritual benefits of surrendering everything to God, but your kindergartner just needs to trust that one dime of her allowance goes back to Jesus in a collection envelope.  Seeing her parents also dropping an envelope into the basked each Sunday is the best concrete reinforcement for this lesson.
  3. Have your supplies ready to go before you call everyone together to begin.  Imagine your 5-year-old as having an Attention Span Countdown Clock on his head.  Do you really want to spend some of that precious time searching your office for a scissor and the right colored crayons?

Consider their skills and prepare stuff you know will be frustrating to them.

  1. For example, next month we have an activity that involves cutting out leaves to glue onto a tree.  If you know the cutting will be too difficult or too time consuming for your squirmy 1st grader, cut those leaves before the lesson begins so you can spend more time talking about prayer and less time in a melt-down over cutting on the lines.

Watch the time.

  1. If experience is telling you that 15 minutes is the amount of time you can hold your little one’s attention, simply plan your lesson for that long.  The advantage of this is that you can fit a 15 minute lesson in just about anywhere!clock
  2. You may want to consider breaking a longer lesson up into two times per week.
  3. There may be elements you can use in your bedtime routine.
  4. You may want to re-play popular games at another time to reinforce what you’ve learned.
  5. The whole point of Family Formation is to make passing on the Faith an integral part of your family life.  If setting aside an hour each week isn’t working for you, try some of these ideas to figure out another format.

More advice for working with Littles coming soon.

Other Pieces in your September packet

September 26, 2013

Because we wanted to get right to the Extravaganza fun I didn’t spend a lot of time going over the September packet, so let’s take a minute to look over the other pieces here.

prayer center brochureIf you are new, I’d especially like to draw your attention to the pamphlet on how to create a prayer center in your home. A prayer center is a silent witness to your family’s faith that actually speaks volumes to everyone who sees it! The basic idea is that you start with a small table or shelf and create a little Catholic shrine. For more on why and how, read the pamphlet and see this post from our archives.

You can find your kids’ memory verse (to be recited at the October classroom meeting) in the packet as well. It’s pretty simple – just list the seven sacraments. Tomorrow I’ll post some flashcards you can print to help your non readers or visual learners practice the list.

And last, you have two different pieces to help you keep track of the Family Formation dates for this year. There’s a magnet reminder to hang is some handy place – your refrigerator or perhaps a metal filing cabinet. AND there’s a half page, yellow sheet that has the big picture of all the relevant Children’s Ministry dates for 2013-14. Want to make sure you don’t miss the Mother/Daughter Tea this year? It’s on there! Wondering when to plan your child’s First Holy Communion party? It’s in the box at the center of the page.

One thing I’d especially like to point out is that, while the Family Formation classroom meetings are typically the first Saturday and Monday of the month, there are exceptions, so PLEASE READ CAREFULLY, especially in December when the Monday meeting is before the Saturday meeting and in April, when the Monday meeting is actually at the end of March. We’d hate to have you show up on the wrong day, so perhaps when you write that one on your calendar, you may want to circle it in red.

calendar

Are you new to Family Formation?

October 2, 2012

It struck me last night at our first classroom meeting of the year as we were going through a long to-do list of basics and extras and opportunities and stuff to pick up and stuff you could buy and stuff you needed to make sure your kids were bringing home and stuff to memorize and stuff to bring back next month and ways to sign up to help our program that it was probably ridiculously confusing for first-timers.

If that’s you, I’m guessing you weren’t alone. Every year we need to find the balance between giving enough information to new people, covering all the information we need to convey, and staying within our time limits, and we probably fail way more often than we realize. If you happen to be one of those whose head was spinning a little when you left, read on. This primer of the Church of Saint Paul’s October classroom meeting is for you!

First of all, this time and every time, the most important part of Family Formation is attending the monthly classroom session and doing the Home Lessons (preferably on the weeks indicated).

If you don’t do anything else, do these lessons. They are the core and the most valuable part of Family Formation!

Other stuff we talked about:

  • Memory verse (optional): Each month we encourage students to learn a memory verse to be recited for the classroom catechist the following month. You can find this verse on the front cover sidebar of each Home Lesson and on a separate sheet that was in your packet. There are almost always separate verses for younger and older students.  Those who can successfully recite will receive a small prize – typically a Holy Trader Card.
  • WOG logs (optional): WOG Logs are a way to encourage kids to read Scripture on a regular basis. Simply check the box for each day you read the Bible and bring that month’s log to the next classroom meeting. Each month all the WOG Logs that are turned is are placed into a drawing and two students will win Dairy Queen gift cards. Your numbers are tallied throughout the year, and in May the students with the highest number of days reading Scripture will be honored with a special prize. You can see the total number of days our Family Formation students have logged throughout the year on Family Formation’s bulletin board in the hallway near our office.
  • All Saints’ Day Party (optional, but super fun!): Annual event for families celebrating the Feast of All Saints. The evening begins with Mass and then dinner, games and lots of fun. Kids (and adults) should come in costume, dressed as a Bible character, animal, or Saint. (No cartoon characters or scary costumes, please.) There will also be a separate teen room with games and snacks for kids in 7th grade and older. Please pre-register after Masses beginning this weekend.
  • Saints’ YES! (optional): This is a social group for 4-6th graders. They meet monthly for a wide variety of fun events. Register at the beginning of the year to participate.  Their first meeting is Friday, October 12.
  • Handmaidens (optional):  Handmaidens of the Lord is a group for girls, grades 4 through 6, with the aim of encouraging and teaching the young ladies to grow in holiness and providing opportunities to develop friendships.  A typical meeting features study in virtue, a feminine art, tea time, and topic handouts for further study at home. Registrations are being taken now and the first meeting is on Thursday, October 11.
  • Soldiers of Christ (optional): This group, for 4-6th grade boys and their fathers, features lessons on virtue, scout skills, active games, and social time with other boys from the parish. Registrations are being taken now and the first meeting is on October 11.
  • Books of the Bible Challenge (optional): Each year Family Formation sponsors an additional challenge and this year we’ve given you resources to memorize the names of all 73 books of the Bible in order. Beginning soon, there will be opportunities to recite before and after classroom meeting times and the prize is a special t-shirt. Family Formation and Little Lamb/Sunday Celebration students can earn their shirt for free and parents who have also complete the challenge can get a shirt for a small fee to cover the costs. NOTE: We do this challenge every 3 years, so if you aren’t ready to do it before May, it’ll be around again in 2015.
  • Cate-Quizm Challenge (optional): This challenge is for adults and is designed to encourage them to read the Catechism and grow in knowledge of the Catholic Faith. Each card has 10 multiple choice questions. Use the Catechism references (the numbers in the parentheses) to find the answers. Bring completed cards back each month for a chance to win a Caribou Coffee gift card.
  • CCCs for sale (optional): We have a limited number of copies of the Catechism of the Catholic Church available that we’re selling for only $8!  We’re offering it at this fantastic price because we hope every Family Formation home will have and use a copy.

So to recap – this is an active and creative parish with lots of opportunities to grow in your faith, socialize, and serve others. Focus on the essentials for now and eventually add other stuff that will fit in with your family life. All of these things (and lots more that you’ll hear about throughout the year) are available each year and on an ongoing basis. We’ll see you when you’re ready!

Also, please, please, please, if you have a questions, ASK!  That’s what we’re here for!


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