faith formation at home: 4 favorite resources
The sign-up sheet from church stared at me for months while I hemmed and hawed.
What was the best day and time to pick for their religious education classes? Which one of us would drive and pick up? How would we fit it into the rest of the weekly calendar?
Nothing worked perfectly. We talked ourselves into one option. Then another. Frustrated, I picked two class times and scribbled out a check.
Then one Sunday morning, before I dropped off the registration forms, I pulled everything out of the envelope again.
Nope, I thought. This doesn’t feel right. We’re not cramming faith formation in as one-more-thing, one-more-pickup-and-drop-off.
We’re doing it at home.
. . .
Here is the embarrassed admission of the theologically-trained mother: I am terrified to be the primary educator of my kids’ faith formation, as the Catechism so beautifully puts it.
I am scared because I know how frightfully important this is. It is the ultimate truth, the faith that defines my life and work, the claim of love upon which I have staked my hopes.
I DO NOT WANT TO MESS THIS UP.
That is the heart of the problem. I’ve seen too many examples of religious education gone awry. Too strict or too soft, too dense or too thin, too judgmental or too wishy-washy.
So I want a beautiful, vibrant, livable way. I want to share with my kids the truth of the faith that is at the core of who I am.
Of course I believe that this is passed on in a thousand small, ordinary moments at home (and I’ve spilled quite a bit of ink on the subject).
But I also want to make sure that they learn the core teachings and basic facts that give our faith its structure, too.
Just in case – purely hypothetically – while we’re making small talk over dessert on a certain child’s baptismal anniversary, and his mother includes (in her short sermonette on the joys, effects, and truths of baptism) a toss-away line of “you know there are seven sacraments, right?” And said child screws up his face in a quizzical whaaaa? of disbelief over celebratory ice cream, prompting his panicked mother to try and squeeze in centuries of sacramental theology before the mint chocolate chip melts entirely.
You see my point. Sometimes there are surprising gaps.
So when we decided to choose the path of faith formation at home for our kids this year, I consulted a few good resources in addition to the curriculum we’ve decided to use. I might have had the courses in theology, but I’m no trained religious educator. I wanted guidance in what’s developmentally appropriate and what’s practically realistic.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Sofia Cavalletti’s Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is hands-down my favorite approach to religious education with young children. I’m blown away by this catechetical model – its respect for the child, grounding in solid theology, celebration of the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church, and above all its insistence that the child is already in relationship with God.
I dream about a day that I might be able to go through the intense training it takes to become a catechist, because I would love to help start a local atrium. And I’m a Montessorian at heart, so this model makes sense to me for the way kids learn.
But for now it’s enough to introduce basic principles and practices of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at home: decorating our prayer altar according to the liturgical year, offering the kids hands-on experiences with liturgical vessels, and grounding our prayer with Scripture in the parables.
Two of my favorite resources from Catechesis of the Good Shepherd are The Good Shepherd and The Child (a great introduction to this approach, for parents and teachers) and A is for Altar, B is for Bible (a beautiful children’s book that illustrates many of the core stories, objects, and practices of this approach).
If you’ve read more than one post on this blog, you know my thoughts tend toward the theological (also known as the poetic, the mystical, or what we joke about in our house as “the ether”). I often need help to come down to earth and ground the cosmic in the concrete.
So when I stumbled across a dog-eared copy of Celebrating Faith: Year-Round Activities for Catholic Families (at Goodwill, of all places!) I was instantly taken with its practical approach.
The author offers plenty of ways to celebrate both liturgical and secular feasts through the eyes of faith at home. I always love to consult her ideas when turning the calendar page to a new month.
Likewise, I love the perspectives from a wise dad compiled in Raising Faith-Filled Kids: Ordinary Opportunities to Nurture Spirituality at Home.
When I was a new mom, a parents’ group at our church read his book. It sparked so many helpful discussions about everyday moments to teach kids about faith. I soaked up the wisdom around me from those conversations, and I still turn back to this book when I need a boost from a parent who’s traveled down this same road.
What are your favorites? I know we’re only at the beginning of this journey, so I hope I’ll find more good resources to share along the way. Let me know your suggestions!
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