Friday, May 8, 2009

Sunday, May 10, 2009 ~ Fifth Sunday of Easter

Note: These Sunday & Holy Day Gospel Reflections are written so that mothers may prepare for Holy Mass in advance either as a small group or individually (especially since we are so often necessarily distracted during Mass itself).

John 15:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."


How rich this Gospel is! We must be so intimately connected with Jesus Christ that we literally are a growth, an outshoot of Him. There is no way we can bear fruit alone. I have tried. I have failed. Every time in my life when I rely too much on my own abilities or emotions, I can feel the distance it puts between me and my Lord (when I come to my senses, of course).

As Americans, it can be very easy to fall into the temptation of relying completely on ourselves, our own abilities, our own efforts, to pull ourselves up from our bootstraps and accomplish great things, but here the Lord reminds us that if we try to achieve anything without Him, we will be cast out, wither, and be burned. I have felt this way. The majority of our American culture would probably feel this way, too, if they would allow themselves to feel it.

Relying on another is considered weak. We are told to be independent, self-sufficient, and in moderation, this is wise advice. Being dependent on another human can crush us. No one should become a doormat. But we often forget that relying on Christ is essential to our well-being, our happiness, and our eternal destiny.

Especially today, when relying even on God is considered weak, I clearly recognize the pruning that takes place in my soul when I depend completely on Him. Everything that is "me" is cut away to reveal Christ. For we were created in His image and likeness, and underneath all the stains of sin and the tendencies of selfishness, He resides. In reality, relying on another does make us weak. It makes us weak and humble, stripping us of our comfort and insisting we boldly live as bearers of the Kingdom of God, so that we have no choice but to trust in the Lord and cling to Him.

If we remain intimately connected to God, He will bless us! That is what we all want, isn't it? Our "if only" syndrome of always wanting more or wanting change is a result of our desire to achieve great things, to be happy. How can we ignore the Lord's simple, clear statement - "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you!" There is the key to the elusive achievement and happiness of this world.

We all want to bear fruit. We desire to accomplish great things in our lifetime. This can only be done when we are so closely knit into the very being of our God that nothing of our own desires is left. Then, His will becomes our will, and the things we ask for will be united to the things He desires for us.

Lord, help me to shed my self-interest. Let me see through your eyes the way you created me to be, pure, unblemished, remaining always in you. Show me how to glorify you in all that I do and to take no credit for myself. Allow my life to bear great fruit by the daily conversion of my heart to become more and more closely united to your Sacred Heart, so that your will may be mine.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

How It Really Went... Day of Reflection Summary

So, you have read my explanation, the survey questions, and the schedule for our Day of Reflection for Homeschooling Mothers (or maybe you are starting here at the top; if so go back here to understand how it all began). Now, let me share with you how the Day of Reflection actually went and some personal reflections from completing the survey on my own. I will apologize, in advance, that this is long, but it is a detailed recap of the day.

First of all, our committee gave the mothers instructions to complete the survey on their own before the Day of Reflection, which meant we had to complete it, as well. This was more daunting of a task than I had originally imagined when I typed it! Fortunately, we distributed the survey over a month before the Day of Reflection, so I had time.

The first two weeks, I read the questions over and over. I could not bring myself to write anything down. Even after creating the questions myself, I really felt the need to process them as they apply to my life before putting pen to paper. To me, this seemed odd, since my most natural form of thinking and communicating is writing, but... I took the questions to my Holy Hour; I pulled them out during my morning quiet hour (or half hour) and looked them over a few other times.

Just after Easter, exactly two weeks before the Day of Reflection, I finally started writing answers. The first section was pretty simple; I had been working on my prayer life during Lent a lot, so my answers were clear. The section on struggles was also easy, for the most part. It was nice to actually write down the issues we have, almost like a Confession of sorts, the first step in "the program" or admitting I have a problem!

The third section on successes was really the hardest for me. While I did not feel I had many big successes or even little ones, I was able to recognize that the core elements of my homeschool are a success, even if the details sometimes get lost. I am a planner, so the goal-setting section was my favorite.

Those of you who know/use a Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling will find humor, as I did, in my responses to "What do I not like and/or is not working with my current homeschooling philosophy/approach/curriculum?" and "What do I like and/or is working well with my...?" For both, I put something about not having anyone tell me what to do. :)

The day itself was easy to do. Our committee only had two planning meetings and several phone conversations to pull it all together. During introductions, I wrote down which curriculum/philosophy the mothers use for future reference. We are going to try to do some sort of Planning Day to give mothers time to share resources and give tips to actually plan for next year (beyond what was done at the Day of Reflection).

Since the mothers had completed the survey, except two or three of them who signed up late, writing on the notecards was relatively easy. The mothers chose one of their greatest successes/blessings to write on a blue notecard, one of their greatest challenges/struggles to write on a yellow notecard, and one question they need answered to help them plan for next year on a red notecard.

We had asked one of the seasoned homeschooling mothers, known for her wisdom and Christ-centered homeschooling lifestyle, to give a personal testimony on how personal spirituality affects our homeschool, focusing on the point that if our spiritual life is not in order, our homeschooling will not be successful, no matter what we do. I did not actually get to hear her talk, because another committee member and I spent the entire time sorting the notecards, but I hear it was well done and well received.

Sorting the cards was interesting. We saw some duplicate issues and tried to group some of the cards into categories and address a few cards at one time. There were some cards that were so specific that we could not address them that day, but we saved them for future reference. After coming back from the talk and sorting cards, I did a demonstration that I have seen on retreats before and is based on one done by Dr. Stephen Covey of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I modified Dr. Covey's visual to better fit the spiritual life and added a component I saw on retreat once. You may recognize this, as I did it at a Little Flowers meeting not too long ago!

First, I put a bunch of gravel into a clear vase, explaining the gravel are all the little things we do every day - math, vacuuming, changing diapers, cooking, laundry, spelling, etc... Then, I put in a bunch of rocks about the size of the palm of my hand, explaining they are all the more important things we do for God - being true to our vocation, going to Mass, setting aside prayer time, etc... Purposefully, all of the rocks I had did not fit in the vase, and I expressed frustration at this, saying "daily Mass will have to go".

Then, I poured everything out into a large bowl. I explained we needed to start over and try it a different way. First, I put in the rocks. Then, I poured in the gravel, and it all fit perfectly level to the top of the vase, demonstrating that if we put God first, most other things will fit. It was funny that as I was pouring the gravel, some of it bounced out of the vase onto the table and floor. We chuckled, saying "there goes laundry; there goes spelling!"

Anyway, to close the illustration, I told the mothers that when we put God first, more will fit into our lives than we thought possible, and I poured in some sand (not a lot, but enough for effect). Finally, I said that God might even surprise us by filling our lives with extra graces, and I poured in some water. I was mostly silent at the end.

I LOVE this illustration! Can you tell? But, moving on...

We divided into small groups to discuss the talk and visual. I have not had a chance to ask the other leaders how their groups went, but I thought ours was interesting and fruitful. This gave mothers a chance to share and get a little of the tension and emotion off of their chest. A few very practical tips for fitting in prayer and Mass were offered, as well!

Back in the large group (there were 24 moms there altogether), we had just a few minutes of silent prayer time where the mothers were encouraged to turn over their day to the Lord. We began discussing the struggles/challenges cards first. One of the leaders would read a card, and mothers would respond with positive tips or encouragement. We were clear to state that we wanted anything said to be encouraging and uplifting, not commiserating. This went very well! The moms shared lots of great ideas on how to overcome the struggles and resources, as well. The topics we covered were: finding time for yourself, planning, making a schedule and sticking to it, juggling multiple ages, and discipline issues.

Lifting each of our struggles up in prayer was important, and the format we used worked well. We told the mothers to keep their petitions relatively brief, and they did. Going around the circle, each mother said their prayer petitions, and we all responded, "Lord, have mercy." The only awkward bit was we sometimes did not know when a mother was finished with her petition, so perhaps we should have added a closing phrase for the petitioners, as well, to cue us to respond.

Then, we moved on to the blessings. We wanted to end on a high note. This followed the same format. One of the leaders read a card or two, and the mothers shared their encouragement and other successes. This went faster, of course, but it was still very fruitful. The topics covered were: children enjoying learning, a satisfying day, children recalling what they learned, going to daily Mass, knowing what children are learning, and being with our children all day.

These prayers went the same way as the petitions, except we focused on praises and responded, "Blessed be God forever."

I should probably mention that we were mostly running on time. I think we noticed during the blessing discussion that we were ten minutes behind, so we just cut out one of the breaks in the schedule.

Finally, we discussed the red cards, the questions. Some of these issues had already been addressed in the struggle discussion. I felt like this part of the discussion needed to continue, so I hope our Planning Days can address more questions. As mothers, I think we just do not take the time to ask questions of other mothers enough. The answers are out there. The topics we covered were: juggling housework and schooling, quality time, starting on time, keeping children on task, motivating children to love to learn, and fitting everything in each day.

At the end, we decided, somewhat spontaneously, to give the mothers two more notecards, one green and one purple. On the green card, we told them to write down one thing that they learned or thought of today that they can do this week to improve things at home. This was a resolution of sorts, and they took these home. Mine was to make a daily resolution for myself and evaluate it each day.

On the purple card, we had them write down additional questions or topics they feel they want to learn more about in order to better plan for next year. We are using these to figure out what to do on the Planning Days and maybe into the future. Our whole goal all along was to provide for the needs of our homeschooling group of mothers, so this was a way for us to better understand their needs. Topics written down included:

Learning styles & how to teach them
Charlotte Mason & living books
Planning the year in advance
Lesson planning as you go
Teaching a first time reader/phonics
Curriculum choices
Language arts/writing/spelling
Science ideas
Books your child loved/reading lists
Scheduling the day/time management
Organizing school room/materials
Lap books
Teaching religion
Meal planning
First communion prep
Long summer days
Motivating children to do work/stay on task
Schooling with toddlers/babies
Taking care of mom (prayer, exercise, social, etc…)
Devotions/prayers with children and as a family
Living the liturgical year
Putting it all together (am I teaching enough/everything needed?)

Wow! So, we have our work cut out for us, eh? I do hope we can address these issues in some way, although I just do not know how yet. It sounds like a homeschooling conference!

Seriously, I left that meeting so inspired and convicted, more than ever before, to do my best every day in my home. All of the mothers, even in sharing their struggles, were incredibly positive and encouraging. It was such a realistic discussion, realizing that we all struggle with many of the same things, but also refocusing us to the reason why we homeschool and reminding us that it IS all worth it!

I thought the day went so well that I suggested to the mothers it be done twice a year, once in January when we all hit a slump and once in May or June when we are getting ready for the following year. If you have any questions or reflections on the Day of Reflection or Survey or any of this, feel free to post a comment or email me (see sidebar). My wish in sharing all of this is that you, too, can benefit from our planning and preparations.

Once again, if you missed the original post and are still trying to figure out what all this is, here is the place to start at the beginning.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Lovers of Details, Read On... Day of Reflection Schedule

Below is the schedule we followed for the Day of Reflection for Homeschooling Mothers. The mothers were expected to come to the day already having completed their Personal Reflection Survey. Only the committee members had the schedule, so we added some reminder notes throughout to guide us through the day. In a future post, I will explain in detail what happened that day and elaborate on the notes below.

As before, feel free to pass this on by sending the permalink to friends and family. I am requesting that you send people to the blog post and not copy and paste the material.

Day of Reflection Schedule
12:30-5:30PM (on a Sunday)

To bring: drinks, paper goods, snacks, paper, pens, nametags, note cards, extra chairs, items to decorate prayer table

Participants: A committee member has contacted each mother individually at least one week before the meeting to ensure they complete the survey before the day and to answer their questions.

Leaders: All committee members will participate in assisting the committee members assigned to each discussion (as they are able with nursing babies); a leader without a nursing baby is assigned to each activity to keep things moving.

Goals for discussions: Keep it all positive, avoid repetition and belaboring the same point too long, ensure no one person monopolizes the conversation (including committee members).

Distribute nametags and notecards as mothers arrive.

1:00PM Opening prayer

1:05PM Introductions: Only say name, ages of children, and philosophy/curriculum approach.

1:15PM Review purpose of today: Share idea behind Personal Reflection & Self-Evaluation Survey. Explain that the day is about you reflecting in your heart and mind about your homeschooling and giving it all to the Lord. Everyone is in a different situation and has different needs, so some things might apply directly to you and some might not. We will not solve all of your problems today; only God can do that!

1:20PM Notecards: Write down biggest struggle, biggest blessing, and biggest question on colored note cards and turn them in to share later, names optional.

1:30PM Testimony on how personal spirituality affects our homeschool: During this, committee members sort note cards and prioritize based on repetition and appropriateness for group discussions.

1:50PM Big Rocks/Little Rocks Demonstration

2:00PM Share about personal spirituality in small groups: Divide into four small groups with one committee member in each group. Count off to divide randomly.

2:20PM Break (return to large group)

2:25PM Silent personal prayer: Everyone will be encouraged to silently listen to the Lord and ask Him for what they need this day. Begin with quick one-sentence spontaneous prayer.

2:35PM Discussion on “the biggest struggle”: Present guidelines for sharing – must be positive, share ideas to avoid or overcome the struggle, what worked for me, etc… (NO commiserating!). Read one card at a time and discuss for a maximum of five minutes each.

3:15PM Prayers of petition: Each mother shares out loud one petition, going around in the circle. All respond “Lord, have mercy” to each one.

3:25PM Break

3:30PM Discussion on “the biggest blessing”: Present guidelines for sharing – must be positive, share similar blessings and success stories, elaborate on ways to work toward such successes, etc…. Read one card at a time and discuss for a maximum of five minutes each.

4:00PM Prayers of praise: Each mother shares out loud one praise, going around in the circle. All respond “Blessed be God, forever” to each one.

4:10PM Break

4:15PM Discussion on “questions”: Present guidelines for sharing – must be positive, share suggested answers, recognizing one there is no one-size-fits-all solution, help with resources, etc…. Read one card at a time and discuss for a maximum of five minutes each.

4:55PM Closing prayer

Again, here's the permalink for this post if you wish to share it!

Time to Reflect... Day of Reflection Survey Questions

As indicated in my earlier post, below is the survey we gave to mothers to complete before the Day of Reflection for Homeschooling Mothers on their own, over the course of several weeks, in prayer. Our format included space for answers, but you can answer yours on paper or in a journal of any kind. Enjoy!

Feel free to pass this on if you think others would benefit. I merely ask that you not copy and paste the material but instead forward this permalink to your friends and family. I pray this survey brings many graces to your homeschool, as it has to mine already!

Personal Reflection & Self-Evaluation Survey

Instructions ~ This is not a test, and you will not turn this in. This survey is meant to be a tool to help you evaluate how things are going in your homeschool. It is for your personal reflection over the course of several weeks. Please print it out and take it to your quiet time on several separate occasions, perhaps to Adoration, responding to the questions carefully and honestly. Be sure to reread it all the way through several times before considering it complete. The survey is lengthy and detailed, possibly redundant at times, but this is by design to provoke thought in a variety of areas. It is fine, if after considerable reflection, you leave a question blank. You will not be asked to show it to anyone or share anything you do not feel comfortable sharing, but these general areas will be the primary topic of discussion at the Day of Reflection. So, if you plan to attend the Day of Reflection, please be sure to complete this survey BEFORE attending that day, although we will definitely not be covering all of these questions that day. Attach additional pages as necessary. Begin in prayer.

Section 1: Personal Spirituality

1. What are my greatest joys as a wife/mother?
2. What are my greatest struggles as a wife/mother?
3. What is my greatest virtue?
4. What is my greatest fault?
5. How would I describe my relationship with God?
6. How would I describe my relationship with Mary, Our Blessed Mother?
7. How would I describe my daily, weekly, and monthly prayer and sacramental life? (Mass, 8. Confession, Rosary, Adoration, Spiritual Direction, etc…)
8. What is my involvement in service activities either in church or elsewhere?
9. What am I doing to increase my knowledge of God and the Church (Bible study, cell group, etc…)?
10. Am I living in full acceptance of the Church’s teachings, especially in regards to issues of human life and sexuality? (abortion, contraception, sexual relations, pornography, infertility treatments, etc…)
11. How am I taking care of myself as a child of God, so that I can properly serve my family – physically, socially, spiritually, emotionally?
12. How am I sharing my faith with my children in a personal/intimate way?

Section 2: Struggles

13. What is the single biggest struggle I faced with each child this school year? (try to put something for each child)
14. Which of my children is struggling the most? Why do I feel this is the case?
15. What do I not like and/or is not working with my current homeschooling philosophy/approach/curriculum?
16. What struggles did I have in choosing appropriate materials for the year?
17. What struggles did I have in creating effective lesson plans this year?
18. What struggles did I have in planning my daily/weekly schedule?
19. What struggles did I have with discipline this year?
20. What subject areas are not going well and/or am I not enjoying?
21. What subject areas are my children not doing well in and/or not enjoying?
22. What challenges have I faced this year with my children’s activities outside the home (sports, music, etc…)?
23. What challenges do each/any of my children have socially? Am I addressing those?
24. What concerns does my husband have regarding our homeschooling and/or our children? (if you do not know, go ask him)
25. Name at least three other struggles from this school year.
26. My worst homeschooling day this year was…
27. How can I prevent such nightmare homeschooling days?

Section 3: Successes

28. What is the single biggest success I enjoyed with each child this school year? (try to put something for each child)
29. Which of my children is having the most success? Why do I feel this is the case?
30. What do I like and/or is working well with my current homeschooling philosophy/approach/curriculum?
31. How did I succeed in choosing appropriate materials for the year?
32. How did I succeed in creating effective lesson plans this year?
33. How did I succeed in planning my daily/weekly schedule?
34. How did I succeed with discipline this year?
35. What subject areas are going well and/or am I enjoying?
36. What subject areas are my children doing well in and/or enjoying?
37. What do I really like about my children’s current activities outside the home (sports, music, etc…)?
38. Which of our current social activities benefit my children the most?
39. What does my husband appreciate most about our homeschooling and/or our children? (if you do not know, go ask him)
40. Name at least three other successes from this school year.
41. My best homeschooling day this year was…
42. What is preventing me from having such ideal homeschooling days?

Section 4: Goal-Setting (refer back to sections 1-3 while completing this section)

43. Why do I homeschool?
44. What are my priorities in homeschooling? What do I hope to accomplish?
45. What big changes will be happening in my family this year that will affect our homeschooling? (new baby, moving, new job, pregnancy, high school, college, etc…)
46. In the coming year, how can I use my greatest virtue to my advantage as a wife/mother/teacher?
47. How can I use the unique gifts and talents God has given me in my homeschooling?
48. In the coming year, how can I work towards overcoming my greatest fault?
49. What elements of my personality do I need to consider while planning my homeschooling? (morning person or not, organized or not, etc…)
50. What changes do I hope to make in my prayer life and sacramental life?
51. How can I better incorporate the liturgical year and prayer in our homeschool? (school prayers, feast days, Lent, Advent, Easter, Christmas, etc…)
52. What changes do I hope to make in my service/outreach to others and my adult faith formation/education?
53. What questions do I need answered about my Catholic faith and Catholic morality to help me better understand these areas?
54. What other changes do I need to make to be a good example to my children of a person striving for holiness on a daily basis? (physically, socially, spiritually, emotionally)
55. How can I build upon and/or repeat the successes I had with each of my children this year in the upcoming school year? (name each child and ideas)
56. What things can I try with each of my children in the upcoming school year to overcome the struggles of this year? (name each child and ideas)
57. What things do I need to do to plan for next year that will help me to be a successful homeschooling teacher?
58. What questions do I need answered about how to have a successful year? (philosophical, practical, etc…)
59. What materials do I need in order to plan for a successful year? (books, furniture, etc…)
60. What new knowledge or information do I need in order to have a successful year?
61. What do I specifically need help with in order to have a successful year? (information, materials, practical help, etc…)

Again, here is the permalink for this post if you want to share the survey with friends and family! Thank you for NOT copying and pasting this post into emails or documents for distribution (for personal printing is fine, of course).

Day of Reflection for Homeschooling Mothers

As mentioned in a previous post, some friends and I planned and conducted a Day of Reflection for the mothers in our Catholic homeschooling group one Sunday afternoon. They have graciously given me permission to post the questions from our Personal Reflection Survey and the schedule from the Day of Reflection itself.

This will have to be spread out over several posts, as some of the information is detailed. First, in this post, I will explain the reasoning behind and purpose of what we did. In another post, I will list the questions for the Personal Reflection Survey. Then, I will post the schedule for the Day of Reflection. Finally, I will explain how the day actually went!

Our discussion started in March sometime, because we felt like some of the mothers newer to homeschooling, like me, needed some guidance and encouragement in planning for next year. We tossed around a variety of ways to do that and finally settled on doing a Day of Reflection first, for mothers to evaluate the school year they are now completing, before coordinating some Planning Days for mothers to actually sit down and plan for next year.

We quickly realized that one Sunday afternoon would not give the mothers enough time to personally evaluate their year and allow time for discussion, which, as we all know, is essential to any group of women! That is when we came up with the idea of a survey that the mothers would complete before the Day of Reflection, in prayer, to force them to take some time personally reflecting on the state of their homeschools.

When you see the questions you will probably be a bit overwhelmed. Keep in mind that we gave the mothers over a month to complete the survey on their own time. The questions themselves were totally led by the Holy Spirit and only took me about an hour to develop; then, the other mothers on the committee inserted a few others and reworded a few others. Our goal was to be very specific, so mothers could answer the questions as vaguely or as detailed as they wish, mostly hoping to provoke thought.

Most of us took our surveys to our Holy Hours and went through them several times to keep adding information. We encouraged mothers who could not attend the Day of Reflection for whatever reason to still complete the survey on their own, as we feel it has been a gift to us in evaluating ourselves and our children.

Now, we pass it along to you. Print it. Complete it on a legal pad or in your prayer journal. Take it to Adoration and pull it out when you have some quiet time to reflect. Share it with your friends who homeschool. The only request I have is that you NOT copy and paste from these posts or print out copies for your friends but merely forward the links of these posts to others via email. Thank you!

Here is the direct permalink for this post. I will put the permalink at the end of each post relating to the Day of Reflection to make it simple to pass on!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Way Late Little Flowers Recap on the Works of Mercy

These ideas were developed by me for my local group and are not a part of the official Little Flowers Girls Club ® created by Rachel Watkins. To purchase the excellent materials and begin your own local group, please visit

Last Friday, May 1, we had another Little Flowers meeting. These meetings have become so dear to me, and the girls were especially inspiring this week! We continued discussing and learning about Love of Neighbor! I apologize this summary is so late; I have a few other issues I am trying to resolve apart from Little Flowers, so this took back burner.

Now, for this meeting, I really felt right away when I prepared the first Love of Neighbor meeting (April 17) that the Lord wanted me to somehow incorporate the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy in this second Love of Neighbor meeting. Honestly, I was pretty stumped on how to do this with girls ages 4-12, though. The works of mercy are pretty heavy, in my opinion.

A few years ago, I did a relay with my little homeschool class where they did one symbolic action for each corporal work of mercy - dress a baby doll, give a mom a drink of water, say a prayer for the sick, etc... But, I have too many Little Flowers for that to work well. It would work with a smaller group.

While researching, I came upon this lapbook from Faith Folders for Catholics. I bought it, hoping it would give me the inspiration I needed to make the works of mercy accessible for the girls. Maybe we would even make part of the lapbook, I thought. Unfortunately, once I saw it, I knew it was too complicated for the little girls to make, and aside from making it for them, I could not think of a way to adapt it.

So, instead, I begged the Lord for inspiration. That was when I realized we needed to do skits to act out the works of mercy, so the girls would be able to see them in action. After that, the idea came to have the girls make books where they would illustrate the works of mercy as they watched the skits. Making the book was easy with the ideas in the lapbook! They helped me focus and put it in words children would understand. I just typed the work of mercy on each page with a brief explanation and went to FedEx Kinko's!

So, our meeting began in prayer, as always. We are still singing the St. Therese song put to "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and praying an offering and Hail Mary to start our meetings. Then, I did a quick review with the girls. I asked them who the saint is - St. Jane Frances de Chantal - and allowed several of the girls to tell us about her. Then, I explained that I forgot last meeting to tell them that the flower for this virtue is the rose, because it is the most real and recognized perfect flower that everyone sees and wants in their garden.

Next, I explained what the works of mercy are: specific things the Catholic Church has identified that are wonderful examples of loving your neighbor. We talked about how there are Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, and I had them tell me that Corporal means body and Spiritual means soul. The works of mercy are about taking care of your neighbor's body and soul.

I briefly read the corporal works of mercy in a list - feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, and bury the dead - and then the spiritual works of mercy - admonish the sinner, instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, comfort the sorrowful, bear wrongs patiently, forgive all injuries, and pray for the living and the dead.

This presentation was deliberately brief. I explained that, since 14 works of mercy are a lot to remember and understand, we are going to make a book for them to remember them. Then, we are going to put on little plays or skits to demonstrate what the works of mercy really mean.

They went into their rose groups, and I passed out the booklets. I had already copied them and folded them in half. Their job, at this point, was to make a cover. I just had construction paper available for them to fold in half and staple over the top of the booklets. I provided pictures of St. Jane Frances de Chantal for them to glue on the cover if they wished, as well. Here are photos of the booklets before the cover and after.

Then, we took a short snack break, while I briefed my moms/helpers on what to do for the skits. After snack, I divided the girls into seven groups with mixed ages. I did this by having the girls gather together and sent girls to the seven moms in charge by height. First, I sent one or two tall girls to each mom. Then, I sent one or two medium girls to each mom. Then, I sent one or two small girls to each mom. Then, I sent one or two tiny girls to each mom. This gave me mixed age groups with 4-5 girls in each group very easily.

Each small group received a list of ideas for one corporal work of mercy and one spiritual work of mercy (thus the seven groups), some of which I got from the lapbook files. The ideas were ways children could perform the works of mercy. The group was to choose one idea for their corporal work of mercy and one idea for their spiritual work of mercy to act out. They did not need props, and I told the moms they could explain as much as they wanted (since I knew we had many quiet, shy girls). I am not going to post these lists, because so many of the ideas came from the lapbook. If you are looking for the ideas, I suggest buying the lapbook files; they are very well done and have a lot of information suitable for young children and even pre-Confirmation age!

Once we came back into the pavilion, the girls got their booklets and something with which to color. Their instructions were: as the groups are performing their skits, each girl should draw a picture on the page in their booklet for that work of mercy that will help them remember what it means. We did the skits in order of the works of mercy in the booklets and paused between each one for the girls to finish their illustrations.

This was a huge hit! The girls had a great time acting, even if they were a bit timid, and we enjoyed watching the skits. They were only about 2-3 minutes each, which was ideal, and the girls drew some great pictures in their books. A few examples: for feed the hungry, they acted out helping their mother take a meal to another mother who just had a baby; for visit the sick, they visited a sick friend in the hospital; for bury the dead, of course, they attended a funeral; for instruct the ignorant, they acted out one teaching a catechism class; for comfort the sorrowful, they invited a friend to play who looked sad; for bear wrongs patiently, when two girls disobeyed their mother and all four were punished, the two who obeyed did not get angry.

I wish I had pictures of these, because they were precious! Some of the mothers were wary of whether or not the girls could do this, but we were all so impressed. After they finished drawing in their booklets, we practiced our Scripture song for Love of Neighbor and I explained a little homework project I had for them.

This idea came directly from Fr. Lasance's book on which the entire Little Flowers program is based. I invited the girls to participate in a Charity War. They are to choose one day where they try to do as many acts of loving their neighbor as possible from when they wake up in the morning to when they go to bed at night and record these acts on a list. My Little Flowers are encouraged to turn in their lists at the next meeting, and at the following meeting I will present a winner from each rose group with a prize. They were also told to invite their family members to join them and work out a prize for the family member who does the most charitable acts in one day. I tried to give them some simple examples like helping mom and sharing with sister. We will see how it works.

Finally, we prayed our closing prayers. We are still praying the St. Therese prayer from the Little Flowers manual, and I read all of the prayer intentions the girls write down during the meeting. Those are pretty precious, too! I closed by asking for the intercession of each of the saints we have studied, with the girls responding, "Pray for us!"

This was another great meeting. I am always in awe at what the girls grasp, and I am always flattered by the ones who want to tell me all about their lives since our last meeting. Our next two meetings in May will be about Obedience and St. Joan of Arc! Then, due to the heat, in June, July, and August, we are changing our meeting time and location to the morning indoors. Some of the girls are taking the summer off, but most of them will be at most of the meetings. We should even have a few new girls joining us!

As always, please email me via the link in my sidebar if you have questions or want more information about what we did!

Per the request of the official Little Flowers Girls Club ® I have removed the downloadable patch project sheets and practice pages. If you are interested in learning about how I used these documents in my group, please contact me directly.

Not about Harvard or Scholarships...

The Key to Homeschool Success

by Elizabeth Yank

This past weekend our homeschool group held its biennial Catholic Homeschool Conference. I gave a talk titled, “Getting Started: Jump Start Your Homeschool to a Slam Bang Success with Practical Tips, Helpful Resources, and Timely Advice.” A real mouthful! We cut the title for the program.

In my talk, the most important point I made is that homeschooling is not about getting into Harvard or receiving a basketball scholarship. Homeschooling is about love. But what does that mean?

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Click the link to read the rest of the story. This was impressive and inspiring in a simple way.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Fairy Refreshments

Therese has been enjoying The Girls' Book of Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker and Frederick Warne this week. I thought I should share this simple, easy, delicious drink recipe for a special afternoon tea time or other occasion with you.

My daughter had asked me on Friday morning to make the recipe. I took one look at the directions and said it was something we would have to plan, go to the store for the ingredients, and so forth. It looked easy except for the fairy ice cubes; that would take some effort, thus the delay.

We have since discovered that it is actually easy enough that two children, ages six and three, can make the drink without the ice cubes by themselves while Mom and Dad take an unplanned mid-day nap on a Saturday. Oh my! I wish I had a picture of the end result! While the drinks themselves looked nice and tasted delicious, about the kitchen itself, all my husband could say was, "We deserve this." So, we sent the children outside to play while we cleaned. Read the recipe and just imagine the aftermath.

Fairy Refreshments

Ice cube tray
Edible flowers and soft fruits
Orange & cranberry juices
Drinking straws

1. To make fairy ice cubes, put soft fruit or edible flowers into an ice cube tray. Fill with water and freeze overnight.

2. Decorate your glasses with "fairy dust." Dip the rim of each glass into some orange juice in a bowl.

3. Dip the glass into a saucer of sugar. This gives a frosted, glittery "fairy dust" effect!

4. Add ice cubes and chopped fruit to the glass. Fill halfway with some fresh orange juice.

5. Carefully fill the rest of your glass with delicious cranberry juice.

6. Use your favorite fruits to decorate. Try different combinations of juices and fruit!

Nasturtium's craft tips ~ Only use the following flowers for your ice cubes: rose petals, violet petals, chamomile flowers, nasturtiums, mint.