"The whole trouble is that -- literally -- we do not know what is good for us; and what makes the trouble still worse is that we think we do. We have our own plans for our happiness, and too often we merely regard God as somebody who will help us to accomplish them. The true state of affairs is just the opposite. God has His plans for our happiness, and He is waiting for us to help Him to accomplish them. And let us be quite clear about it: We cannot improve on God's plans." This Tremendous Lover, M. Eugene Boylan, O.C.R.

Monday, May 30, 2011

End of the Year gifts for Sunday school kids

Spoiler alert! If your kids attend my Sunday school classes, they have not yet received these gifts! You may want to re-visit after the graduation ceremony! :-)

I saw THIS gift idea, and thought it was a great foundation for a Christian children's gift...check out my twist on this idea!

Romans 12:2 says "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." I think as Sunday school teachers (and parents!), we can not pick a better summary of our goal in teaching our children. We want them to know that they are IN this world, but not OF this world, and intended for such a great purpose- the Will of God!

So I picked up snack size Milky-Way candy bars, put a few in a cello bag and created these labels for each child. Voila! A simple, inexpensive, "thank-you" for your Sunday school kids!

Feast of the Ascension

I can't believe how quickly this Easter season has gone for me! This Thursday is the Feast of the Ascension, and I wanted to share with you the craft I've prepared for this Sunday's class, plus a few other links that I really liked!

For this craft, you just need the two pages that I have for you to print out, string, and a wire coat hanger. (I always have a ton of extras from the dry cleaning!)

To start out, take your hanger and pull down the bottom bar to elongate the shape. Use the twine or tape to secure each piece to the hanger.

You can print out this image of Christ HERE.

I tied string to one end of the hanger, "thread" the clouds through the string, then tied them to the other side.

You can print this scripture, as well as the clouds HERE.

I also found this website, from the religious education department of St. John the Baptist Church, which has a free printable coloring page for the Ascension.

And of course, my favorite Catholic-crafty blog has a few other links up as well HERE.

Happy crafting, happy celebrating this beautiful Feast of our Lord this week!

Christ is Risen! He is Truly Risen!

First Friday Link Up

I'm linked up over at Catholic Icing...be sure to check it out!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pascha (Easter) Lapbook

Lucky for me, Pascha is celebrated for 50 days! So, while for many Easter has come and gone, we Catholics are lucky to continue celebrating! Here is a quick lapbook that I created for my Sunday school kids, I hope you enjoy!

I started with the Troparion for the Feast. I love that the songs we sing in church teach the faith. My kids LOVE to sing this one too, which makes it all the more fun. I printed the troparion in English, Greek, and Arabic. You can print the flip book HERE.

Next, I made a three-fold page. On the outside, it reads "Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?" from Corinthians. Then when you open it, we have the Pascha icon. I set up the page so that you just fold it in half, then fold it in thirds. You can print that page HERE.

At the top center, I have the words from the angel at the tomb, as well as a little coloring page for the children. It is really beautiful and you can print it HERE.

At the bottom of the page, I found a printable book online from this website. This link actually takes you to an entire other set of pieces for a lapbook, but I wasn't crazy about the other parts, so I just used the Easter story book.

On the top of the right flap, I included our Paschal greeting, "Christ is Risen!", as well as the response, "He is truly Risen!" We practice this a lot with the children, as it is used during Liturgy, after Liturgy as we kiss the cross, and also in the social hall. You can print this piece HERE.

I saved my favorite part of the lapbook for last! At the end of Pascha's Liturgy, Father blesses baskets of eggs in our Church. Other Eastern Churches fill their baskets with all the foods they've been fasting from during Lent, such as meats, cheeses, butter (oil), and sweets. In my own family, we have chosen to fill our basket this way for the blessing. It is such a fun tradition! To remind the children of this part of the Liturgy, I made a little basket. Once you have it cut out around the edges, I cut a small slit where the basket would be open. Then, I put glue only on the edges. Then, I cut out all the pieces that we traditionally put in the baskets. You can print this last pieceHERE.

Here's a picture of our basket, plus a few other baskets from the parish!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Retreat feed back

As many of you know, we hosted our third annual children's retreat back in March. It was an amazing day, and I have had a few people request a bit more information about what we did. I've put together some practical highlights for other people looking to do the same.

Our parish can not afford to do a week long "vacation Bible school," so we have made it a habit each Great Lent to have one day for a children's retreat. This year, our theme was the Theotokos, the Virgin Mary. I think it was our best retreat yet!

The curriculum we used was from this Greek Orthodox website. The catalog can be found here. I ordered the following items for about $100:

V21 Volume 1 Master Tool kit
v21-5Prayer service booklet
v22-6 Student classroom booklet
v21-7 Theotokos Stamp
CB301 Illustrated Life of the Theotokos

They are well-done and I was very happy to have the guidance of a pre-planned program. In the past, I have created the retreat from scratch which is very difficult! I did have to edit the material in some places, namely, it is created to be a week-long program and we had just one day! I also thought that the music provided was not impressive, but the content was excellent.

You can print out our schedule for the day here. Basically, instead of four days of classes, we ended up with four stations which the children rotated through. Each station lasted about 45 minutes. We had a snack in the morning and also served lunch.

We started the day by checking in all the children for their "trip:"

They had to stamp their "passports" first. We made basic salt dough in four different colors, then we used the Theotokos medal (dipped in a LOT of flour) to stamp into the dough. While the children participated in the retreat, our kitchen staff baked them so they would be hard. We gave them to the children at the end of the day to take home and hang up in their prayer space. You can find a recipe for simple bake clay online, or use the recipe I found here.

The children also picked up their "luggage," which was a gift bag labeled with their group name on it. Inside the bag, I put inexpensive gifts and sea-travel themed games and activities. I also had coloring pages out for the children to have something to do while everyone arrived and we got them all checked in. Throughout the day, children had things to add to their luggage at each station.

Next, we broke into our groups (by age) and started out to our stations. I had treasure maps for everyone to follow. They are very cute, check them out!

The station curriculum was from the pre-planned retreat, then a few adds from each of the teachers to personalize the station. We taught the children about the Nativity of the Theotokos, the Annunciation, her presentation in the Temple, and her Dormition. If you are interested in more details about our "adds" to the curriculum, message me, and I will get the information to you!

We made an effort at each station to have a lesson, craft/hands on activity, and something active. We had children as young as 3 and old as 16, so it can be challenging to accommodate this large of a group. We also gave the children journals. I used the student booklet from the pre-made retreat as a template, but made our own journals. I included a coloring page for each station in the books for our pre-readers, as well as plenty of writing and drawing space for older children. They decorated their own covers and I think the journals turned out fantastic!

Here are a few highlights of the day.

We showed a short video clip of the annunciation from You Tube. I think it is important to use many different types of tools to reach out to the children.

That's my momma teaching in the Nave of our Church! (I couldn't do these retreats without her!)

This is one of my regular teachers discussing the Nativity of the Theotokos with some of the older children.

The obstacle course is always a huge hit and lets the kids get moving!

Beautiful lesson of the Presentation, done Catechesis of the Good Shepherd style.

Bean bag toss game...that's my hubby in middle!

The children made tissue paper flowers and put them by the icon of the Dormition. Then, we said prayers together. It was beautiful.

This is me teaching a small group. I read the story of Mary's dormition and put up the pieces of the icon one piece at a time in a puzzle to teach the children the meaning behind the icon.

I hope that this helps you to put on a retreat at your own parish! Please feel free to contact me if you would like more guidance!

P.S. I picked pictures that you can't see the kiddos' faces since they don't all belong to me. So, I know they're a bit generic, but at least you get the idea! :-)