Welcome to Joyful Catholic Families!
My name is Anne. When my husband and I were first married, we were dairy farmers and, as our children arrived, life became very busy.
When our oldest was in kindergarten, he attended PSR after school. All the Catholic kids walked from the public school down to the Catholic church. I remember the effort it took for me to pick him up from PSR. Often I had another child who was napping and it was always time to be preparing supper. I had decided that was just the way it was going to be…..until the day he came home from PSR with a mobile. The mobile was of different foods. I wondered how this connected to the lesson so I asked our son about the mobile. He had no idea why he had made the mobile AND I had no way of reinforcing what I am sure the teacher had carefully explained since I didn’t know what the lesson was about.
It wasn’t long until I decided that it made more sense for our family to start learning about our faith at home where I could know what was being taught and reinforce it throughout the week. This was before we had access to the internet, before I knew what resources I could use to teach my children, so I made some things and I stumbled across others that I purchased. I learned that I liked to teach our 5 children about our faith and our faith became a part of the daily rhythm of our lives.
Fast forward to 2004 – We were no longer dairy farmers and we had moved several times. I started working with families in a program called Generations of Faith. Families came once a month to learn about a faith topic. Sometimes the members of the families were divided by age group to learn about the topic. Other times the families stayed in the same room and learned together about our faith – AND they really liked the nights that they stayed in the same room!
In 2011, I started helping families learn about our faith in programs we call Little Lambs and GIFT (Growing In Faith Together).
Little Lambs is for 3-year-old through kindergarten-age children and at least one parent. We meet one Sunday per month after the Sunday morning Mass. We have snacks and then learn about our faith in a fun way. We can do many activities because each child has a parent to help him/her. Little Lambs is on a three-year cycle. My favorite year is the year we focus on the Mass. We end the year with each child receiving a Mass kit. We then “play Mass” with the dads as priests and the children as altar servers. (Check out the pictures here)
GIFT is for families with at least one child in 1st-6th grades. The entire family (including any older and/or younger children) comes once a month after the Sunday morning Mass to learn about our faith in a fun way as a family. Babysitting is provided for the younger children.
The challenge of teaching families is to keep such a wide age range engaged and learning.
- If all the material is over the kids’ heads, they will complain a lot to their parents and, eventually, the family will quit coming because it isn’t fun if the kids don’t want to be there.
- If parents aren’t learning, they will quit coming because it isn’t worth the effort to get their family to class.
When I started working with families I would never have thought it would be possible to have 1st grade – adults all learning (including and especially the teens). But it is not only possible, it is also fun. Our families look forward to coming to GIFT each month.
The families that come to GIFT and Little Lambs all go home with the activities we have done AND home lessons. The home lessons are from Family Formation. (I receive the lessons via email and make copies of them for our families.) The activities done in class and the home lessons allow the learning to continue at home for the rest of the month. (Note: I only use Family Formation’s home lessons, not the classroom lessons.)
Little Lambs and GIFT are the programs that I wish would have been around for my family. I love being able to provide fun ways for families to learn about our faith and then to watch the families as their faith lives blossom!
I do lots of google searches to find activities and crafts to use in these classes. Thank you to all those who have shared their projects so that others, like me, could also use them. And now it is my turn to share ideas so that more children and families can discover how much fun it can be to learn about our Catholic faith!