Review: Classically Catholic Memory

We were so excited to bring both Classically Catholic Memory and Catholic School House to the Atlanta Catholic Homeschool Conference this past April. We were able to see the materials of both of these fine programs. And, it is nice to have truly Catholic options instead of “Catholicizing” other programs.

Both programs are set up to either use them as materials for an individual family or for use in a co-op setting. Both programs include Religion, Latin, Science, Geography, Language Arts (poetry memorization) and History. Catholic School House can actually be used as your primary curriculum at least in elementary by using the included supplements. You would need to add a math and phonics section and of course great books to read.

I will focus on Classically Catholic in this article because ultimately it is the program I chose to purchase for a variety of reasons. I already use a curriculum, Mother of Divine Grace so I really needed a supplement, not another entire curriculum. And, a local friend shared with me how she used the program in her home with her family.

As I said, I use MODG for my curriculum, but I have found that as my older children got older and entered high school, that I had less time to do all the memory work required for the little ones. Things like math facts, Baltimore Catechism questions, poetry and geography memorization just weren’t happening. Additionally, we never were successful implementing timelines. I have nine children that range in age from 17 down to 2. This upcoming school year, we will have 8 officially in school. So, I implemented family school several years ago to address these deficits.

The problem I encountered was one of planning … I didn’t. So, each day I kind of winged it. Ultimately, it would fizzle out; no memory work would be accomplished. So, in steps Classically Catholic Memory.

From the website:

Religion:  Each year provides various Catechism questions and answers and passages from Scripture.

Latin:  Each year provides various prayers and hymns.

History:  History sentences from one of four time periods:

  • Alpha Year:  Creation through the Birth of Christ (Ancients)
  • Beta Year:  The Time of Christ through 1500 (Middle Ages)
  • Gamma Year:  1500 through 1800 (Early Modern Times)
  • Delta Year:  1800 through Modern Times (Later Modern Times)

Science:  Science questions and answers from one of four science topics:

  • Alpha Year:  Life Science:  Animal Life
  • Beta Year:  Earth Science and Astronomy
  • Gamma Year:  Chemistry and Physics
  • Delta Year:  Life Science:  Human Anatomy and Physiology and Plant Life

Math:  Skip counting (every year)

  • Alpha and Gamma Years: Geometric Formulas
  • Beta and Delta Years: Conversion Formulas

Timeline:  The same timeline is learned every year.

Geography:  Countries, some capital cities, and physical geography of either one or two continents per year.

  • Alpha Year:  Asia and Australia
  • Beta Year:  Europe
  • Gamma Year:  North America
  • Delta Year:  Africa and South America

Great Words I and II:  Every year provides material that includes poems, historical documents, and speeches.

As you can see, a great amount of material is covered in a systematic manner. The only thing I will probably add is more Baltimore Catechism questions. But this is easily addressed. I plan to copy the questions out I want them to cover, divide them up over 4 years, and paste them onto each of the planner pages.

In particular, I am very pleased with the breadth of the geography and history timelines. I only have Alpha year at this time, but in week 10, they study China and will map Beijing, Kunlun Mountains, the Yangtze River and Gobi Desert among other things. The timeline will cover St. Thomas Aquinas, Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, The Plague in Europe, St. Joan of Arc and St. Catherine of Siena (additional items are covered). Finally, we will be able to work on our timeline as a family.

Latin includes the memorization of various prayers including the Table Blessing, O Come Emmanuel and the Hail Mary. It is not that it is particularly innovative in itself, but that it is included in a package – so no fumbling around for additional resources. Nor are there labor intensive organizational skills required.

Math includes working on the skip counting tables – yes, in a methodical manner. One of the shortcomings of homeschoolers that I have seen mentioned in various places is memorizing math facts. Additionally in this year, various geometric formulas are memorized.

The poetry sections, called Great Words, has two levels. I plan on using this section last so I can have the elementary age children learn the level 1 materials, and the middle and high school students learn the level II materials. Level II includes an excerpt from “Give me liberty, or give me death!” by Patrick Henry.

Finally, a section to not be missed – The Subject Summary at the end of the book. Yes, she in a few pages gives you the summaries for each area by week. So, in a glance you can see what materials are covered in 18 weeks in religion or the timelines. If you wanted to flesh this out even more, you could easily use this to plan for additional books to be read, art projects and music.

One final note, the science section is very well done. Not only is memory work assigned each week, for example memorizing the classification system, but detailed instruction is given in the Teaching Notes section. Generally 2 pages of instructions are included. Activities include for level II  dissection of a perch (note you would need to get a dissection guide). Each week, five different levels of activities are included.

For me, hands on science slips. So, I do hope this will allow me to do more hands on projects this year. She also includes in the back animal cards that you may print and cut apart. But, she does suggest purchasing them. A number of additional items for purchase are suggested. You definitely do not have to purchase them, but information is included. Such items are Micro Mounts that include a cricket, locust, beetle and crab.

In closing, I will update this entry later in the year after using the materials. I am quite optimistic that this will be the puzzle piece I have been looking for.

To order, please actually visit Ingatius Press.




Review: Faith Facts for Young Catholics

I was asked by Sister Kieran Sawyer, SSND to review a program she developed called, Faith Facts for Young Catholics: Drills, Games, and Activities for Middle School Students” and the “sequel” to it, More Faith Facts for Young Catholics: Fun Ways to Teach the Basics of Our Faith.

I appreciate the paragraphs she wrote in the Introduction (bold text added for emphasis):

“The faith formation of our children includes three distinct but interrelated process: developing their personal relationship with God; deepening their sense of belonging in a Christian community; and increasing their understanding of and allegiance to the institutional church. A firm knowledge of the basic faith facts is an important aspect of all these processes, especially the third: coming to know and understand the formal church with its scriptures, sacraments, moral teachings, prayers, liturgical celebrations, hierarchical structures and history.

Faith facts give young people the vocabulary they need to think and talk about the deeper matters of personal, communal, and institutional faith. A facile knowledge of the faith facts is an important component in developing for them a sense of Catholic identity. The facts also provide a structure within which they can organize the vast array of truths that make up church doctrine and church traditions. To use an old phrase I learned from my father, memorized facts provide ‘pegs to hand your knowledge on.'”

The books are designed primarily to work in a classroom setting. For homeschoolers who belong to homeschooling groups and co-ops, the games and activities are well suited. For families who will use the resources in their individual families, some adaptions will be necessary.

First of all are the Faith Facts Study Cards. The cards are printed on card stock; each set in a different color to make it easy to keep them sorted. Furthermore, each card has a number printed on it, so you can keep track of where you are at on memory work, or you can easily assign a set of cards by number for you child to work on. The description from the website follows:

Study Cards
Faith Facts Study Cards Every middle school catechist needs these — 400 study cards, each with a faith vocabulary word or phrase on one side and the definition or explanation on the other. The cards are printed on heavy card stock and packaged in small baggies. There are four sets of 100 cards: Set A (green) is the easiest, with Sets B (pink), C (blue) and D (yellow) being successively harder. Set L (orange), the last 20 cards, contains questions with long or multiple answers (eg: Name the 12 apostles, Recite the Hail Mary). Games for teaching with the study cards are found in the Faith Facts Books below. The games and the cards were created by Sister Kieran Sawyer, SSND.

I think the price is reasonable for the number of cards you receive and the ease in which they are organized. In the green set, some examples include:

  • #13 – Baptism – The sacrament through which we become members of the Church and adopted children of God.
  • #14 – Benedict XVI – This person was gorn in Germany and baptized Joseph Alois Ratzinger. He was elected Pope in the year 2005.
  • #47 – Holy Communion – Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ under the appearances of bread and wine.
  • #73 – Matrimony – The sacrament that unites a baptized man and woman in a lifelong bond of faithful love.

Other definitions include those for Peter, diocese, bishop, Lord’s Supper, Sign of the Cross and soul.

In the next level of cards (pink), examples include:

  • #25 – consecration – The solemn prayer during hte Mass when the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • #64 – mortal sin – A very serious offense that destroys our relationship with God.
  • #88 -sanctuary – The main area in the church building where the altar is placed.
  • #95 – Sunday obligation – The expectation that Catholics are to participate in the Eucharist every Sunday (or Saturday).
  • #96 – tabernacle – The special locked cabinent, often made of gold, where the Blessed Sacrament is kept in a Catholic Church.

In the blue set of cards, examples include the following definitions:

  • #21 – College of Bishops – All the Catholic bishops of the world, in union with their head the Pope, who is the bishop of Rome.
  • #22 – communion of saints – All the followers of Jesus, living and dead, including the faithful on earth, the souls in purgatory, and the saints in heaven.
  • #90 – transubstantiation – The special word used to name the changing of ordinary bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ at the consecration of the Mass.
  • #91 – vestments – The special clothing worn by the priests and other ministers for liturgical celebrations.

In the yellow deck, definitions are included for words like fidelity, excommunication, prudence, St. Augustine, St. Dominic, inspiration and logos.

All the decks are organized alphabetically for ease in working on specific definitions.

Alone, you could use the cards simply for memory work, taking perhaps ten cards at a time and drilling them for a week. In a 36 week school year, you would have worked your way through nearly all 400 cards and exposed your family to the “vocabulary” of the Church.

What if you want to step it up a notch? Then look to the two books that go along with the Faith Fact Cards. As I stated earlier, the activities are geared towards classroom. One fantastic idea that this set off for me is a Catholic Knowledge Bowl. Each family that wants to participate would purchase the set of 400 cards and work on them. At the end of the school year, families from your homeschooling group could get together and have a competition by giving out the definitions and having students compete to provide the correct word.

In the first book, Faith Facts for Young Catholics, these are some of the activity directions that are provided:

  • Sacraments – Drill One and Two
  • Ten Commandments – Drills One through Four
  • Review Card Drill
  • Parts of the Mass
  • Seven Gifts Memorization Game,
  • Prayer Relay
  • Several sports analogy games,
  • Twenty Questions
  • Complete the Passage
  • Scripture – Drills One through Three

All told, there are are 25 activities listed. In the resource section, you will find blackline masters for making copies of the forms needed for the games, the scripture passage cards and more.

I found the the scripture passage cards to be very useful – on one side is the beginning of a scripture passage like “#1 – My God, my God” and on the other side of the card, “1. why have you forsaken me.” (Ps 22:1) and “15. See, upon the palms of my hands” with the other side saying “15. I have written your name. (Is 49:15)”.

Another useful section is the Gospel Trivia Cards that include 36 cards with a question about a biblical passage on the front along with the location of the answer and then on the back the answer.

In the next book, “more Faith Facts for Young Catholics“, Sister Kieran provides another 13 activities including: Tick Tac Toe, Musical Flash Cards, Apostles’ Creed Games, Old Testament and Gospel Trivia, Bible Book Games and Catechism Categories Game.

A particularly useful feature of this book is the Flash Card Categories section. Sister Kieran offers 13 suggestions for categorizing the cards including Old Testament Men, Old Testament Women, Gifts of the Holy Spirit and Apostles. In the resources section you will find 103 Flash cards to duplicate and cut out.

And the Old Testament (30 cards) and Gospel Triva (30 cards) cards (black line masters in the resource section) are also quite useful. They include:

  • 5. Name both parents of John the Baptism. LUKE 1:5-23
  • 28. On what day of the week did Jesus cure a man’s paralyzed hand? MARK 3:1-6
  • 25. Two of the apostles were sons of a man named Zebedee. Name the sons. MATTHEW 10:2

This is such a great activity to foster independent work that familiarizes your children with the bible, the ability to look up passages and to be exposed to particular biblical fphrases. I can see giving a card to each child at the beginning of the school day for them to look up and write out.

And, finally, definitely not to be missed is the the “Who, What, When Study Cards”. This part of the resource section includes 16 black master pages starting off with 4 pages of a time line.

The next section offers 40 cards of events / people including Edict of Milan, St. Benedict, Crusades, Gothic Cathedrals, Council of Trent, First American Bishop, First Vatican Council, Rerum Novarum, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton  with a description of the term / person on the front and a date on the back.

Following the cards is the actual sequence of the 40 cards mentioned previously. Again, my mind is just churning on how I could use these as an independent activity for my children.

I found this to be a very well done package of resources. I believe you could use the Faith Fact cards independently of the books. But, I did find especially the second book to be filled with some very unique resources and ideas. I have a large family, so I could use the activities right here, but they do especially lend themselves to co-ops and larger group settings.

Catholic Memory Work

In a previous post, I discussed this book:

I wanted to offer an update of how well this book works with children. Memory work is a difficult subject for me to tackle. At this point, I have 5 school age children in 4 different grades – that is a lot of material to memorize.

After copying the picture of the room that is used to work on the Ten Commandments, I sat the children down and said that we were going to learn all the commandments. The rolled eyes and groaning voices clearly indicated what they thought about it. But, ten minutes later, the oldest four could recite all Ten Commandments in order without the image. My youngest school age child (a first grader), could recite them using the image. Success!

Feeling proud and inspired with confidence, the next week we tackled the Seven Deadly Sins. A bit of difficulty was encountered because some of the words were difficult – avarice and gluttony. But, they knew what the idea of the sin was – the boar roasting in the fireplace was about eating too much – gluttony. The money tree outside the window was wanting to much money (avarice). This lead to a lovely discussion of sins – gluttony was not just about eating too much, but was about too much of anything and how these types of sin snare us and lead us away from God. Success!

Last week, we mastered the Seven Cardinal Virtues – again a success.

To note, the mnemonics need to be practiced frequently – we have a mini-contest on Fridays – the prize is candy for those that are able to recite all the memory work we have completed.

Memorizing Key Facts of the Faith

     I stumbled on the niftiest book, “Memorize the Faith“. I have to admit, I am a poorly catechized Catholic. I grew up in era that followed Vatican II. My religious education experience can be basically summed up in three words … ok, I know you can guess them … “God is love”.

I suppose I did learn the seven sacraments – not because I was instructed to memorize them, but simply through exposure growing up in a Catholic family. But, I couldn’t tell you the Ten Commandments, nor the Seven Deadly Sins let alone the Seven Cardinal Virtues.

Methodically, “Memorize the Faith” moves through the essential facts that we should have memorized. The technique is easy to master (Method Loci) and seriously works – at least with my overtaxed brain. Unfortunately, it’s not useful for memorizing things like catechism question and answers, but he does give you the concrete imagery to work on other key Catholic facts.

We are currently using it during our Family School Time, to memorize pertinent facts. I was able to memorize about 7 sets of facts in one sitting because his imagery was so effective for me, but … you still have to revisit the facts. Sadly, they didn’t get permanently “stuck in my brain”. Oh well, it was a great start. Just need to add in the periodic review.

Family School Time

On one of the lovely Catholic homeschool lists I belong to, I was lamenting on the fact that somehow I never managed to get to our memory work – things like poetry recitation, Latin drills, state cards and the rest. Providentially, a mom suggested “Family School Time”. Unfortunately, I cannot recall her name in order to credit this to her, but it has been a life saver.

We first move through our family prayer time. The details of which can be found in the next post.
Then, we move on to our scholastic memory work. Our schedule has us review the days of the week on Monday’s and Wednesday’s and the months of the year on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s – can you see my cheeks red from embarrassment that my 7th grader couldn’t remember the months? We follow this with the state and capital reviews (5 new ones per week and reviewing the rest). Remember, that I have all my school age children attending Family School, so even if my first grader isn’t working on the states, he is being exposed to it.

We work on addition facts on Monday, Multiplication facts on Tuesday, Subtraction Facts on Wednesday, and Division Facts on Thursdays. This ensures that even if children have moved past the “learning facts” stage, they still have a refresher. Finally, we work on our family poem. This year, I am attempting some Shakespeare with everyone.

After the poetry work, I dismiss the little ones. The have a short break while I work on the Latina Christiana I vocabulary words and chants with my three oldest children. I go through 5 lessons a day, so that by the end of the week, they have another chance to be exposed to all the those words.

My fifth grader is then dismissed and I work on the Latina Christiana II vocabulary with my oldest two who are in seventh grade. I have let the vocabulary slip with my oldest, so our goal is to review two lessons a day and then the current lesson’s words.

So, now I’m sure you’re gasping thinking of how behind I must be on our schedule. But, in reality, I have finally fit in all the drill work that I find necessary and with relief, we can move on to individual subjects. I find this system works for me because this type of memory work is a bit tedious and I do best just getting it finished (I hate having it hang over my head) and by requiring everyone to attend, the little ones are getting a head start.

Oh, and one other point to note, we do have additional memory work that is required in the syllabi we use. But, since I’m being honest, it doesn’t happen with as great regularity as the Family School memory work does.