Book Review: 67 Ways to Do the Works of Mercy with Your Kids

As a student in parochial school, I first encountered the Corporal Works of Mercy, as a list to memorize for a religion grade.  Thirty years or so later, I made my homeschooled children memorize them too, write them out in their best handwriting, draw pictures illustrating each one.

There’s nothing wrong with memorizing things, y’all.  But that should really only be the starting point when it comes to something as important and central to the Catholic faith as the Corporal Works of Mercy are supposed to be.

Heidi Indahl’s amazing book, 67 Ways to Do the Works of Mercy with Your Kids, is a comprehensive guide to moving from listing the Works of Mercy to living them as a family.  I’m going to rave for a minute here and tell you that I can’t think of a thing that Heidi could have added to this book to make it any better.  It provides everything you need to learn about, understand, and teach your children about the Works of Mercy, and then it goes on to provide dozens of examples of how you and your kids can do them in your community.

A new idea for me was the Cycle of Service: preparing your family for serving by learning about about the Works of Mercy and discussing projects in advance, acting in the community by serving others, and reflecting on the experience together afterwards.  Something else that was not familiar to me was the designation by Pope Francis of a new, unofficial work of mercy: Care for Our Common Home.

Implementing liturgical living in your Catholic home–celebrating feast days with special meals, lighting an Advent wreath, decorating your home altar, “giving up something” for Lent–is becoming more and more popular among Catholic families.  And that’s great.  But there are lots of ways to be Catholic, and I can’t think of a better one than integrating serving the least of these into your family culture in the mindful way that Heidi writes about in this book.

Heidi is an author, a blogger, and a Catholic homeschooling mother of many.  Along with her husband, she offers homeschooling consulting with a Montessori focus, and if I had known her sooner my adventures in homeschooling would probably have been more successful!  I love her blog, her Instagram, and her Facebook page, from which I frequently nab parenting memes to share because our philosophies are so closely aligned.  She is an authority you can trust.

Want to take a look before you buy?  You can preview and purchase the book right here.

For extra ideas that you won’t find in the book, check out this post on Heidi’s blog, and this Pinterest board.  And for more great books for Catholic families, visit her publisher, Peanut Butter and Grace.

Summer Fun: Exploring History

Y’all, it is HOT.  And our access to a swimming pool is gone.  It is hard to want to leave the air conditioning to have summer adventures, but we managed three days of fun this week.
I couldn’t get it together till Wednesday, when we had to leave the house for an appointment anyway.  Immediately thereafter, we drove downtown to visit Blount Mansion.
I vividly remember my own first encounter with this bit of Tennessee history as part of a seventh grade field trip–I was unimpressed and thought it wasn’t much of a mansion at all!  This time I was absolutely enthralled with such details as panes of glass installed in 1792–the first glass windows in town–and still there to be looked through over 200 years later, and the desk on which the Tennessee Constitution was signed, and William Blount’s very own fancy shoe buckles still in their original box.
Our guide did a great job of bringing history to life for us.  We spent close to two hours in the museum, the house, and the gardens, and Lorelei was NOT bored which she had come expecting to be.
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Thursday we went out for ice cream for the third time this summer. (Did I mention it was hot?) Lorelei and I enjoyed it but William did not like how fast the ice cream melted in the heat (we were very messy by the end!).
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Friday was really exciting.  Last week William had a follow-up appointment with his oral surgeon in Oak Ridge.  There was a traffic jam along our usual route back over the Clinch River to Knoxville, and Siri routed us a way I had never seen before.  Along this lovely country road we spied signs for an historic cabin and cemetery, and we passed right by a park.  On Friday, I told the kids we were having an adventure and we drove back to explore these places.
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We discovered that Bull Run Park has a swimming area and made plans to go back and enjoy it!
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Next we headed to the David Hall Cabin, and were conducted on an informative tour of this two-hundred-year old cabin and a couple more by the one of the owners, whose wife’s father was raised in it.  The Baumgartners live behind the cabins on four of the original 50 acres.  We thanked Mr. Baumgartner for all he and his family continue to do to preserve this history for us to enjoy and learn from!
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After looking at the cabins, we went back into the woods and explored the Arnold-Hall Cemetery, where David Hall (a Revolutionary War veteran) is buried along with other members of the families.  Y’all may know I love cemeteries, so that was a treat for me and the kids indulged me!
That’s it for this week.  I’ll be honest–I can no longer promise to do something every single day.  But I DO have some plans for next week!
For more summer fun, read on:
Why We Can’t Have a 70s Summer and What We Are Doing Instead
The Summer Fun Continues . . .
More Summer Fun
Summer Fun Update
Summer Fun:  Vacation
That 70s Summer
In Which I Grow Lazy

Catholic Minimalism Redux: Week One

Remember back at the beginning of the year when I was participating in the Catholic Minimalism Challenge, and making all kinds of progress, and posting impressive updates?
Well, along about week three, we got the flu.  For the second time.  As you might expect, that derailed basically everything except survival.
But a new challenge started last week, and I jumped at the chance to pick up where I left off.
Week One is supposed to be the Master Bedroom, which I did thoroughly in January.  In addition, I have kept up with it in the months since, and have even gotten rid of more things.  So I only needed to devote one day.  I went through the closet and drawers, and got rid of two small bags of clothes and a stack of books.  I did not go through all the jewelry and the sentimental things–I think once a year is enough for that.
I don’t have any pictures from the first day as there just isn’t that much change to show.  For the rest of the week, I worked on the hallway outside my office  I was SO EXCITED to tackle this area!  Here’s before:


 
What a mess, right?  Things were constantly getting knocked off  the top and on to the floor, and every time I walked by all that mess it made me sad.
This was the perfect time to tackle this area, because most of this is homeschooling material, and my homeschooling days have ended.  Lorelei will enter 8th grade at the local public school in August.
So I went through all of the homeschooling books, and got rid of some of them.  I probably should get rid of a lot more, and I admit that putting them in boxes and moving them into the garage, which will be the VERY LAST THING that ever gets minimalized, is just punting the problem down the road.  But let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, right?
Lorelei is spending some time dog-sitting for my sister with Emily, so I did not have her much-needed assistance with this project.  Therefore there is another box filled with things that she will need to go through.  Not my box, not my problem!
I’ll show you what it looks like now, and then I will explain what I’ve put there.
 

This shelf and this area now mostly belong to me.  I am feeling happy that as my children grow and sort of leave, I am able to claim more space in this house for myself.
I love that the top is currently bare.  I hope it can stay that way.  I might consider putting some pictures or decorative items there, but the space is crowded and things might get knocked off.
The top shelf is primarily books I have received in exchange for my honest review thereof, or have won via social media giveaways.  I probably don’t need to keep them all; that’s something I will revisit next time I go through the challenge.  At least I want to keep a list of them.  I am also keeping whatever books I am currently reading on that shelf, and my extra journals.  Most of these books were previously stacked in a dusty heap on the bottom shelf, and some were sitting in a cardboard box in my office, a space that has now been freed up!
Second shelf are Catholic project items.  For example, I have a binder for the Catholic Minimalism Challenge, and it lives there.  My prayer journal is there.  My binder with various Advent and Lent and other liturgical year tools is there.
The bottom shelf is a work in progress.  It currently contains homeschool materials that I borrowed from others and need to return, and extra folders, notebooks, and such that may be needed when school begins.  I’m thinking that we will need space for extra paper and school supplies for use in doing homework and I am willing to use the bottom shelf for that if need be.  I will have a better idea how I will use that space by the next Challenge.
Finally, in the corner you will see a couple of totes.  Yes, I found a use for some of the many totes that were taking up space in my bedroom!  One of them is holding a lot of prayer journaling supplies–scissors, glue stick, colored pens and pencils and markers, Catholic coloring book, prayers, prayer cards.  The tote keeps them contained, and if I want to go elsewhere to journal everything is ready!  The other tote is holding a special Christmas gift from my husband–a monthly subscription to a mystery to solve.  It’s really fun but also takes time we don’t seem to have, so I am keeping it all organized here so that when we devote an evening to working on it, everything is ready to go.
So there you have it! Next week is bathrooms.  Again I expect to spend one day on them, and then I am planning on working on the laundry room and the upstairs hallway for the rest of the week.

Homeschooling Update: Reading

Did you think I’d given up writing about my home-made homeschool curriculum?  Think again!  It’s just that I’ve been busy actually DOING homeschooling, as school began last week.  And so far it is going pretty well.  Today I want to write on our Reading curriculum.
I did have to order some new textbooks because some of mine were lost in the fire.  That makes me really sad because a few of them had been around a long time–they were discarded textbooks from St. Joseph that they were giving away back when I was younger than Lorelei.  It’s a sad commentary on  . . . something . . . that Catholic textbooks are no longer used in Catholic schools.  One of the best aspects of Catholic education is that the faith can be woven throughout the day and not confined to religion class.  How much more true that would be if Catholic texts were still available!
But the Internet being the marvel that it is, I managed to find what I was looking for:  fourth grade Catholic Readers from the 1940s and 50s.  I have a mixture of New Cathedral Readers and Faith and Freedom Readers, and I have a few secular readers I’ve collected over the years as well that we can use if we finish the ones we have.
Right now we are reading New Times and Places, and Lorelei is enjoying the stories, most of which teach Catholicism by showing Catholic people doing Catholic things in the course of their regular lives.  Most days of the week somewhere in the middle of our school day I just tell her to start reading and after about 30 minutes I tell her to stop, and then she tells me about the stories, which she is always eager to do.
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As you can see, there is nothing NEW about this book.  But that’s why I like it.
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I love the old-fashioned pictures, the innocence, the simple piety of these books.  I love that Lorelei is learning about living the faith even as she does her reading lesson, but in an organic way, not a preachy way.
On Fridays, we switch gears and I have her read and do some exercises from a workbook I bought somewhere, which includes short segments on Guinness Book of World Record Winners.  I just thought that looked fun. 🙂
When she finishes this first reader, she already has a chapter book picked out to read.  I’m going to have her read that and then do a book report.  Then we will start on the next reader.  And we will just keep going until we run out of year.
Jake and William were not confident readers, so I started them in the third reader, and we would take turns reading aloud to each other.  Lorelei, like Teddy, is fine to read on her own at grade level, and I expect we will move into 5th grade readers later in the year.   The problem with Lorelei is that she’s not that into reading.  She likes to read once she gets started, but unlike Emily (and me) it’s not the first thing she thinks of when she has free time–that would be t.v.  That’s why it’s important to me to make extended and interesting reading part of our curriculum this year, and why I’m going to concentrate for now on READING, not talking about it, or answering questions about it, or doing lessons based on it. [Update:  Reading continues to be a less-than-favored pastime for Lorelei.  We spent most of last year reading chapter books instead of readers, because she expressed enthusiasm about a series of books and I wanted to encourage that.]