Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Happy the Home- Ten Ways to Encourage Parent Involvement in Religious Ed

"Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule." ~CCC 2223

1. Encourage parents to pray with and for their children

2. Improve communication with parents

3. Get resources in their hands

  • offer parish book programs or find space for a parish library- movies, videos, etc.
  • give activities for Liturgical seasons to each family
  • send home traveling activity bags like this
  • share great websites like this and this and this
  • give info about what kids are learning at a specific time in a specific class

4. Involve parents especially in Sacramental prep

  • go beyond the meetings  and use the opportunities that you have to evangelize
  • invite to retreats & classes- make the parents participants as well as the kids
  • send home books, videos, etc. about the Sacrament like this or this
  • target Sacrament families and specifically invite to parish programs

5. Challenge parents to grow in their faith

  • advertise parish and regional programs, as well as local religious communities that minister to families
  • offer a parent Bible Study or book group, especially during kids’ class time
  • offer same/similar program/content to both kids and parents
  • ask parents to come last 15 minutes of class and pray for their kids
  • if not available, ask parents to stop and pray for their kids at a certain time of day
  • invite parents to participate in the Sacraments- Masses, Confession times, etc.

6. Encourage fellowship

  • host potlucks or parties just for the religious ed families
  • introduce parents, especially those new in the program
  • invite established parents to invest in parents new to the program

7. Let the kids be the teachers

  • offer programs where the students sing, recite, act, etc. like this awesome program
  • invite parents to participate in a special religious ed class to see what their kids have been learning

8. Help them be hands on

9. Celebrate Liturgical Seasons

  • invite to parish services for Lent, Advent, etc.
  • send home family friendly resources to help the parents and kids learn about and enter into season.  Give the families ideas for living out the seasons and feast days like these for Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, All Souls/Saints Days, patron Saint days...
  • host special programs teaching about the Liturgical Season geared towards families  like this or this or this
10. Center on the Eucharist

  • encourage family attendance at weekly Mass and raise awareness of daily Mass
  • involve the kids in special children’s Masses & advertise to the families
  • don’t change the liturgy, invite the children to participate in it more fully
  • offer Adoration times with parents during class time or a Holy Hour that is welcoming to children  maybe offer a resource like this

Click here for the printable handout of the 10 Ways:

Click here for the powerpoint presentation: (fonts and layout will undoubtedly be messed up, fyi)

Click here for a pdf of the powerpoint presentation:

Happy the Home- Ideas for School to Home Activity Bags

I love sending resources home with my students and CCD kids!  However, sometimes you can't send those resources home for the families to keep.  When that is the case, use a School-to-Home Activity Bag.  You can come up with a fancier name, but the basic idea is that you collect a bag of books, activities, movies, etc. and send them home to a specific family for a specific amount of time.  They then return the bag and it is passed to another family.  Not only does it save you money because you don't have to purchase enough for each family, but there is also an element of "specialness" because the kids only get it for a limited time.
The Way of Light Story Bag

No matter what you choose to send home, here are a few basic tips:
1. Communicate with the parents that the resource bag will be coming home.  Explain at the beginning of the year, send home an email, etc.  Create a pattern for returning the items- for example they are given out and returned every Wednesday.
2. Include in the bag a note explaining what is in the bag, suggestions for using it, and a date to return.
3. Make a list of all of the items in the bag so that it can be checked before returning.
4. If necessary, also send a survey for some kind of feedback- what the student learned, what was the favorite item, overall comments or questions, etc. so that you know that it was used.
5. Pack it all in a bag that is labeled so that it makes its way back to your classroom.  A few kinds of bags I have used include canvas ones like this from craft store, donated cloth bags from a local organization, and even free convention totes.
Marian Family Shrine

St. Maximilian Kolbe Shrine
I do recommend that you make the bag easy to recognize. This can be easily done by simply writing the name of the activity on the side of the bag with fabric paint, or can be more elaborate and decorative.  You also can make the bags multi purpose by decorating them all the same with the name of your classroom or something more clever than "School to Home Activity Bag."  My classroom is decorated with owls, so I made these bags to use universally.  It will be easy for the kids to recognize that they belong back at school.  Because they are general, I can send home any activity that I need to with a student- I don't need a specific bag.  I like that flexibility.
 I have this set hung on an accordion hanger in my classroom so that can be quickly grabbed and loaded to send home.

Now what to put inside?  Here are some ideas:
-Books.  Varying levels both above and below your students' normal reading levels.  It is nice to send things that can be enjoyed my many different members of the family.
-Music CDs
-Cards with website suggestions, or even activities that require computer use
-Statues or icons.  Click on the pictures of the traveling shrines above for more ideas on that.
-If age appropriate, special stuffed animals or "reading buddies."
-Simple crafts with all supplies included.
-Coloring or activity pages
-Prayer journals or group writing notebooks

For Chrismas, I think it is especially nice to send home a bag of books, maybe even with some hot chocolate mix.  A collection of stories can be a nice way to spend a snowy day. 

 I also like the idea of sending home special things during a Sacrament preparation time.

For example, I might send these items home with a student preparing for their First Communion:
 Fr. Juan Pablo from Wee Believers with companions book (learn about the priesthood)
A journal/activity book about First Communion
The Weight of a Mass by Josephine Nobisso
Bible story books about the Last Supper
Bl. Imelda Lambertini story CD from Glory Stories
Bread of Life Bread of Heaven music CD from Rose of Sharon Media
Fr. Joe Kempf First Communion DVD

I might send these items in a First Reconciliation Bag:
You are Special by Max Lucado
A Little Book About Confession for Children by Kendra Tierney
A journal/activity book about First Reconciliation
The Giving Tree Stories & Scripture Activity
Bible story books about the Prodigal Son and the Lost Sheep

Fr. Joe Kempf First Reconciliation DVD

The possibilities are endless!  There are so many ways to use this idea to strengthen the connection between home and school.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Happy the Home- Praying for Your Students and Their Families

If the most important thing that parents can do for their children is to pray with and for them, then the most important thing that we can do as catechists/teachers is to pray for the families that we work with.

I know that I need to make a stronger effort to pray frequently and specifically for my students and their families.  Prayer matters and can change things, even if it is just the attitude of our hearts.

So how to do that with meaning and regularity?

I'm going to be honest right here and say that praying the Rosary is not my most favorite of things. (ahem- I know.)  I enjoy praying it while walking, or driving with a group, or sometimes even when I am having trouble sleeping.  But I don't naturally gravitate towards it.

However, I do a lot better at really praying the mysteries if I intentionally involve Scripture (love this book to help with that) AND if I make that mystery relate to the specific person or cause that I am praying for.  As an example, if I am praying for a sick family member and using the Sorrowful Mysteries, I might ask that they be given strength to offer up their suffering while meditating on the Agony in the Garden.  During the Carrying of the Cross, I can pray that they receive patience and comfort from people they encounter, etc.

Recently when praying the Joyful Mysteries, my CCD and school families were on my mind.  As I worked my way through the Joyful Mysteries, I realized that they are a great example of Christian fellowship that we should strive for in the Church.  So I started asking specific things for the families I worked with through the intercession of Mary, following her example in these events.  And then I went home and wrote down all of it so I wouldn't forget :)
I thought that I would share, so that if you or your catechists or coworkers are looking for a way to support their students' families in prayer they would have a tool to do so.  I typed them up into a little single page booklet that would be perfect to tuck into back-to-school paperwork.

The inside details the five mysteries, a Scripture verse to set the context, and an intention geared towards students, their families, and the Church.

Here are the intentions, to give you an idea:

The First Joyful Mystery
The Annunciation
We pray that our students’ homes will be places of grace, and that the work of the Holy Spirit will bear great fruit in their families.

The Second Joyful Mystery
The Visitation
We pray that our students and their parents will have the fellowship and support of a close circle of family, friends, and church members.

The Third Joyful Mystery
The Nativity
We pray that every child will be loved with awe and wonder, and cherished as the gift that they truly are to their families.

The Fourth Joyful Mystery
The Presentation
We pray that parents will find importance in bringing their children to the Church for reception of the sacraments and continued faith formation.

The Fifth Joyful Mystery

We pray that families will support the gifts and talents of their children, encourage their religious growth, and aid them in the discerning of their future vocation.

If you like this idea, you can try the technique the next time you pray the Rosary.  If you would like something to get you started or to share, feel free to print out the booklet by clicking on the picture below:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Obligatory Back to School Post- Peek Inside My Classroom

Here's my obligatory back-to-school post with pictures of my classroom. It doesn't look too different from last year or the year before, with the exception of the bright paint :) but it does look quite different from when I first moved in!


Happy New School Year, Everyone!