Saturday, December 1, 2018

First Communion Resources

Child number 9 is currently preparing for First Communion. Over the years, we have tweaked what we have used with the kids a bit here and there but the one constant that has remained is that we never rely on the parish materials to provide real preparation. Some of our parishes have provided ok resources but most have been very lacking.  Our current parish sadly falls pretty squarely into the very much lacking end of the spectrum.

This year we are using a variety of resources at home including read alouds, audio stories, DVD's, and hand-on materials.
The backbone of of our religious ed at home for this age is the St. Joseph First Communion Catechism (No. 0). Yes, this is the good old fashioned Baltimore Catechism with all the wonderful pictures and explanations.  I don't focus on memorization at this age but rather on becoming familiar with the answers and a basic understanding of what they mean.  We also use the 2nd grade Faith and Life books.
For read alouds we are using The Weight of the Mass, Patron Saint of First Communicants: the Story of Blessed Imelda Lambertini, St. Patrick's Summer,King of the Golden City,  and a short story about St. Tarcisius which can be found in the book True Stories for First Communicants. I have also found an audio version of the story on LibriVox.
We use several resources from Holy Heroes.  Their DVDs on The Holy Mass and The Eucharist achieve the goal of explaining concepts to children and keeping their interest WITHOUT talking down to them.  The Altar Gang audio CD volume 3 is all about First Communion and great to listen to in the car or during quiet time.
One of my favorite resources for combining solid teaching with hands-on projects is the Preparing to Receive Jesus program by Catholic Heritage Curricula.  This program teaches through a combination of stories and hands-on projects. The stories included in the program are older traditional stories that I love sharing with the children.  This program also has us making sacrifice beads, a personalized Mass book, and learning about the various sacred vessels used in the Mass.

With every child, I purchase a banner kit from Illuminated Ink. Not only do these kits help me avoid having to collect all of the materials and creative juices for a banner, they also include in depth explanations of the symbolism behind all of the items included in the banner.

With some of our older kids, we made lapbooks from Holy Learning. These wonderful resources allow you to customize your project for each child so you can easily work with younger and older kids at the same time.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Advent Read Alouds

For several years now, I have intended to collect enough Advent books to read one book aloud each evening as a family. But I have always managed to put off collecting the books long enough that I was never able to make it happen. This year, I have actually managed to get the books together in time to make this happen. I won't mention how many of these books have sat on our shelves unread for the past several years waiting for me to get my act together.

So what will we be reading this Advent?

I have seen many people suggest wrapping up all of the books so that your kids can unwrap one to read each night. If you keep wrapping paper in the house, I can see this being a nice touch. We do our best to avoid wrapping paper so I'm planning to just put all of the books into one bin and pick a book each evening.

I will probably pick up a few more from the library to add to the pile as time allows and hopefully add to our collection over the next few months so that we have different selections for next year.

What is on your Advent reading list this year?

Monday, August 20, 2018

Get Ready 4 Kindergarten Birthday Box

Do you have a preschooler in your house who is just dying to jump into school like the big kids? Or are you just looking for fun and easy projects to do with your preschooler that require zero prep time on your part? The Get Ready 4 Kindergarten Activity Boxes are the answer to either problem.

These activity boxes are designed to help little ones get ready for kindergarten while providing a guided program for parents that incorporates literature, crafts, games, and more.  We received the Birthday Box to review with our 3 toddlers.
Our box focused on shapes. Included in the box were two craft projects, plastic shape tiles with pictures the child could attempt to copy, an Eric Carle book, and shape related flash cards for the child to match with the designated shapes.
The plastic shapes and book were the hands down favorites of the kiddos.  One of the pictures they were asked to copy was of a caterpillar. We are currently watching a bunch of caterpillars at home and waiting for them to turn into butterflies so this was an instant favorite for Seamus.
The book arrived wrapped like a birthday present. Instant bonus. What kid doesn't like opening presents?

The craft projects included in the kit were making bird feeders and writing a thank you note. Nothing fancy or out of this world BUT every single item for the projects were included in a single bag per project. No chasing down glue or paper or anything. It is all right there at your finger tips. This is simply wonderful. This means you can open the box and go or hand a project off to an older sibling without worrying about them needing anything.

Seamus, Charlie, and Kolbe all loved the box and playing with it. I recommend this resource to any parent who is looking for an easy way to add some fun to their school time with their toddlers.

I received a free activity box in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own. No other compensation was received.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Divine Mercy Sunday

We decided to celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday in style this year. At least in OUR style. And that means crafts and food.
 I had other plans. Grand plans. They feel by the wayside and I am completely ok with that.
This year the younger crew made these Divine Mercy crafts from CatholicIcing. You can see each kid has their own take on things.
We made brownie sundaes this year as well.  I had intended to read one of our favorite books on the subject with the kids but, alas, I cannot find it. I know it is one the shelves and I know I just saw it and had it in my hands a week or so ago. But today, today I could not find it. So so frustrating. I'm hoping to find it later this week and share it with the kids.
Tomorrow we will break out the HolyHeroes CD during quiet time. And perhaps send up a few prayers to find that missing book.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Divine Mercy Sunday!

CTC Math

One popular math program in homeschooling circles right now is CTC Math. CTC Math is an online program covering grades K-12, from beginning counting all the way through to calculus. We tested it out in our home over the past month.

The positive aspects of this program are many. This program is online so you can access it anywhere with an internet connection. You pay one fee and have access to all the grades for all of your students. This is beneficial both for students who excell at math and for students who struggle. With access to all grade levels, a student can just keep moving along when they finish a level and there is no need to purchase new materials. A student who is struggling can easily repeat lessons and get extra practice until they understand a concept.

If you have a student who is easily overwhelmed by seeing a whole page full of problems at once, this program can help alleviate those feelings because problems are presented one at a time. This was a tremendous benefit to my 3rd grader who just gets anxious when he sees a page full of problems stretching out before him.

This program provides skill assessments so you can place your student at exactly the right place in the program. No need to review material already mastered. You can assign tasks for your student to complete by a certain date and give quizzes and quarterly tests all through the program.

One of my favorite features is the weekly update that is emailed to the parent which details exactly what each student accomplished that week. You get a list of log in times, lessons covered, grades, and more. This is incredibly helpful to me with one particular student who likes to fib about what they have done that day.  I can log in on the parent side and immediately check on what the student has accomplished that day and immediately verify if progress was made or not. This simply lowers stress levels and avoids confrontations and frankly removes the temptation to fib about what you've done that day because you know Mom can check immediately from her computer. Maybe you don't have a student who likes to stretch the truth but then again, maybe you do.

There are a few negatives.  This program is online. I know I listed that as a positive but bear with me here. Online only means you can't pack it along in the car. Online means it is all on the computer. Personally, I'm not a fan of lots of computer time for elementary and middle school aged kids. I've even seen a negative side in lots of online classes for high schoolers at times. For younger kids, I really prefer to keep them off the computer as much as possible and working in other ways.  So I really would not attempt to use this program with anyone under 3rd grade. 

The yearly subscription fee does mean that you have to plan to pay every year. Although the cost is fairly minimal if you have several children using the program, it will add up over time compared to some other computer based programs that are a one time purchase.

The program was not as user friendly as others we have used. It did take me a few days to figure everything out and there are still a few features that I am still getting used to.

After using the program with an elementary student and a high school student, I am overall very pleased with the program. We do plan to continue the program with two of our students for the rest of the year. 

I received a free year subscription to CTC Math in exchange for this review. I was not compensated in any other way and all opinions are my own.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Our Easter in Pictures

Hope everyone had a wonderful Easter!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

For the Boy Moms Out There

Today was one of those days where I had planned on mostly staying home all day. Doing not much but relaxing while waiting for the rest of the snow on the driveway to melt away because a 15 passenger van vs snow and ice on a gravel driveway is just not always fun.  But I quickly discovered we were completely out of chicken food and the birds must be fed so my plans changed. As I was walking out the door, I was informed of a few more items that we were also completely out of that just could not wait until payday in another 10 days. This does make me wonder why no one else can write down on the fridge when we are low on items but I digress.

So after the feed store, I headed off to the grocery store. Alone without any children, the grocery store suddenly becomes a lot more interesting than it would be otherwise and I find myself wandering aisles, wasting some time, and enjoying the relative quiet.

While wandering, I overheard a few parents having one of those discussions. The oh my gosh, it is so hard having x number of kids. One Mom piped up with "And I have all boys so that just makes it worse." As a mom to 8 boys, this is what I wanted to say:

I get it. Being a mom to a bunch of boys is hard. Oh so hard when they are little. They are a huge ball of energy and often never stop moving. Jumping off stairs and bouncing on the couch.  Climbing trees and finding every single mud puddle in a 10 mile radius. They are loud. Oh so loud that it can drive you to distraction. The nerf guns that have darts flying by your head with uncanny accuracy followed by a chorus of "But I was aiming for my brother, not you." And the smell. When you have more than one boy sharing a room, it has a way of developing what we lovingly call the boy funk around here. And those appetites. Where do they put all that food? And the growth spurts and holes in the knees of every single pair of pants they own and so many holes in their sneakers from using their feet as brakes on their bikes. Holes you are likely to not notice until the day they can't find their dress shoes and thus wear their sneakers to church.

I get it. It's hard. Wonderful but sometimes oh so hard. But then one day it changes. It changes because we aren't just raising boys. We are raising men.

Men who can help and take care of things on their own. I now have 4 boys who are much older. 2 are actually adults now. How the heck did that happen? I can't remember the last time I had to clear the snow off the van. In the winter, I almost never have to pump gas. I never shovel the driveway or mow the lawn. They can change the oil and change tires. They can pull a car out of a ditch or rescue me when the van is stuck in the driveway AGAIN. (Not like this happened this morning when I put the van into a snow bank at the end of the driveway or anything.)

One of them has a gift with building things and has made his own tool bench without plans using only scrap lumber. He's building shelves in the garage to help keep everything off the ground.  He still manages to leave tools all over the yard but he's starting to get a little better now that he has his own set.

Raising a handful of boys is not easy. Society certainly does not help us in this challenge anymore. There is very little real guidance provided for these young men as they try to navigate what being a man truly means.

They still eat a ton. They still grow like weeds. They still love to get messy and obsess over things that have no meaning to me. But they have become such a tremendous blessing now that they are older. So just hang in there. And remember that they don't stay this little forever.