Sunday, September 28, 2014

What Choice Did Our Children Surprise Us By Making?

Last Sunday, our children had a choice between celebrating Elephant Appreciation Day at a local zoo (which is somewhat of a tradition for us ever since the year we did our Montessori-inspired unit on elephants), enjoying free family fun at a local community day (which promised a magician show, a reptile show and more!), or attending our church collaborative's barbeque and croquet event (which, we forewarned our crew other children might not attend.)

Boy, were we surprised when our three children chose the latter. 

Why go see entertainment when you can be entertainment?  Nina wanted an audience for hula hoop tricks.  Older parishioners happily obliged her, and before we knew it, the Stanger Kids Circus was gracing the church lawn.

Happily surprised, in fact!  

For, if there is one thing that I think is often missing in Catholic parish communities it is just that - community! 

Too often, Catholics (myself included) complain that our parishes do not offer enough of a sense of community.  We wish that we had the "church family" that other Christians seem to enjoy.  Yet, such a sense of tight-knit relationships eludes us.  Not only do we fail to find "family" in our parish communities, but we also have a hard time just making friends.

As folks run in and out of Mass and check off other "required" faith experiences, it's hard to make connections.

But, it does not need to be that way, does it?

And not everyone is running, right?

Not at all.

Simple, "old" pastimes on the church lawn can bring "new" fun.

Some folks already are slowing down and making time for one another.  And if more of us join them, community can and will happen.  Catholic parishes, I believe, can become like fellow Christian "church families" -- communities where people of faith truly know, care about and interact with each other outside of weekly services.

As the old saying goes, if you aren't a part of the solution, you're a part of the problem.  So, I was thrilled when my children chose to forgo events in our wider community last Sunday in order to prioritize a parish event.  

Our family was one of only two families with children there, but we still had such a good time chatting, playing and laughing alongside an inter-generational gathering of church folks.  I hope more families choose to do the same at our next collaborative social.

How does you you find friendship and "family" within your church community?

If you leave a link to a faith formation idea or a reflection relevant to raising young children in the faith in a comment here or on our Training Happy Hearts Facebook page, I will pin it on the Training Happy Hearts: A Call to Faith Formation in Young Children Pinterest board

2014 Catholic Bloggers Link-Up Blitz

Saturday, September 27, 2014

7 Words for This Week


What, you do not know that acronym?

Don't worry.  I just made it up, because although I could say T.G.I.F, as in "Thank God it is Friday, (the week was so blessed!)

Instead, I find myself thinking, "How is it Friday?" as in, "Where did this week go?"  (Or, as the case may be now, H.I.I.S, since I began writing this on Friday, paused, and now find Saturday almost done!)

Truly, the week flew -- fast, fun and full of discovery! (Okay, there were moments of being frustrated, tired and whatnot, too, but let's focus on the more positive stuff!)

This past week there was...


Sunday, we were blessed by spending time with part of our church collaborative community enjoying simple timelsss pastimes.  (More on that tomorrow!)


Before I ever met Mike, I began going to Honeypot Hill with my brother, my sister and their families.  I would love it if we all could still go there together now that I have my own children, timing never works for that.  Thus, Mike, the kids and I simply continue the tradition on our own.

How we love climbing ladders to pick apples, feeding the animals, doing the mazes and appreciating the beautiful scenery! 


One thing I love about homeschooling is having time to learn alongside my children!  Part of that learning this week included the Outside the Box crew mentoring the kids and me in creating our first stop motion animation videos as a part of a Animator badge work.

The children were so proud of their work (and I was pretty amazed by how relatively simple stop motion really is.)   


Nature study (insects and plants), physical education (hiking and jumping off rock walls) and faith (marveling at God's amazing creation) this week included a fabulous free monarch butterfly tagging program at Allen's Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, a place that makes me feel so lucky to live in the area I do.

Isn't it gorgeous?


... or lack thereof!

Nina bravely pulled out another tooth this week and now has a 4-space gap that makes me laugh every time she smiles.  How she can articulate at all, I do not know, but her chatter and song have not slowed down!

In fact, Nina had her first church choir practice ever this week and came away from it beaming!  She's so excited to finally be old enough to join the church choir and has been telling me she wants to serve our church in every way she can as she grows.  Yay!


A geography club seed began germinating in my brain long ago.  It was more recently watered and fertilized by similar desires by my friend Dani and just this week grew into a seedling I am delighted by.  Children from five families got together for our inaugural meeting this week and had so much fun!


You might recall from one of the reasons I listed last week about why I am hesitant to call myself a homeschooler that my children have begin a completely self-initiated fort building project.  Well, it is not just their anymore.  

Luke recruited a friend to be in his army, using paperwork and all, and then, together with that friend, his siblings and the friend's little brother, worked happily away pounding nails, layering mud and bricks and fortifying their fort walls.


Plus, of course, there were plenty of mini-lessons, including Nina choosing to create simple sentences, and...

(Note:  There are two Amazon links below for your convenience.  If you choose to click through them to make any purchase, we may receive compensation at no extra cost to you.  Thank you.)

Jack combining Montessori Sandpaper Numbers with a favorite open-ended toy (the awesome MindWare Q-Ba-Maze ) to practice numbers.

What a week it's been!

Did your week fly, too?  What fun and learning have you been enjoying?

Sharing at Conversion Diary, Managing Your Blessings, Pebble Pond,  Weird Socialized Homeschoolers and Home to 4 Kiddos.

Weekly Wrap-Up

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Free Printable 7 Sorrows of Mary Cards and 2 Questions

Thank you for using affiliate links to Amazon contained in this post should you choose to do so.  Clicking through them to make any purchase may provide us with compensation at no extra cost to you.

My Apologies!

To anyone who downloaded and printed the Seven Sorrows of Mary 3-Part Cards I shared last year, I am sorry!

It was not until using them again with my children this year that I realized there was an error on the name and artist for the "Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb" card.  I have since corrected the error and replaced the original file with updated printable Seven Sorrows of Mary cards.  Please feel free to update your cards and do not forget to look at the original post to refresh your mind on ten ways to use the cards.

Two Quick Questions

1.  Speaking of the 3-part cards I share, a quick question:  Do you like their size or would you prefer a different size?

My children and I like the current size for the fact that it is a traditional playing cards size and, thus, easy to hold in your hands as well as to store in baseball card page protectors.  However, for art-based cards, in particular, we wonder if double-sized (or even another size) cards might be better.  A larger size would allow us to see more details.  What do you think?  Please let us know in a comment what size you'd prefer future cards to be!

2.  I have switched over from 4Shared to Google Docs to share newly made printables.  Has the switch made accessing printables easier for you?  Do you have another suggestion you prefer?  Although I have been at blogging for five years now, I am not as tech-savvy as some might think, but still want to share in a way that is most effective for you, the readers.  I appreciate your feedback!

Resources and Ideas for the Upcoming Feast of St. Michael the Archangel

Gather ideas in a resource round-up for a St. Micheal's Day Tea (or a super simple breakfast celebration as we ended up celebrating last year.)

Thank you for visiting.  Please do share your feedback about the size of 3-part cards, preferred download locations and whatever else you wish to suggest or request!

If you leave a link to a faith formation idea of your own here or on our Training Happy Hearts Facebook page, I will pin it on the Training Happy Hearts: A Call to Faith Formation in Young Children Pinterest board

2014 Catholic Bloggers Link-Up Blitz

Friday, September 19, 2014

7 Reasons I Almost Hesistate to Call Myself A Homeschooler

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Another week of  homeschooling is winding down here.  As it does, I wonder why I call myself a "home"schooler at all.  We remain rarely at home.


Trees beckon!

While we were away on western PA visiting family, one of our neighbors trimmed the trees in the cul de sac near our home.  Nina was delighted and has wanted to play in the trees often since discovering how much easier they are to climb now.  

The boys have been equally delighted, grabbing hockey sticks and wiffle ball bats to be weapons as they perch in the trees to defend themselves from the British.

Physical education and dramatic play tied to Revolutionary War studies are schooling; they just aren't homeschooling!

D.I.Y. takes us o-u-t!

The kids are working on an animator badge a la  Of course, we could work on it at home (and have done so a bit), but it's so much fun to create and share with others.  So, we joined the Outside the Box homeschoolers for a joint lesson!

The kids made storyboards, watched clips about animation, planned their stop-motion animation scenes in teams and created animation studio boards.  (Nina and her teammate made their board quickly, as time was ticking, but were so pleased with what they did!)

Art, teamwork, sequencing and so much more explored, but again, not at home!

Mom says "yes", even first thing in the morning!

Almost every morning this week, the kids have asked first thing in the morning (before even getting out of jammies sometimes!), if they can run over to the cul de sac to see how their fort is doing.  I'm all for fresh air and purposeful heavy work in the morning, so I say, "yes".  

Some mornings, "seeing" turns to "working on".  The kids have been building their interpretation of a Revolutionary War fortification - a completely child-led activity.  So far, their fortification has bricks layered with mud mortar, a trench and a short wooden wall.  

Engineering, physical activity, history, teamwork... but, again, not happening in our home, or even our yard.

Field trips make what we read in books and hear on CD's come alive!

I'd love to say my children were actually settled in for a nap/quiet time in the photo above.  But, nope!  Not my kids.  They only nap if they are sick and ususally only settle for quiet time if I play new audio books for them.

What my children are actually doing in that snapshot is experiencing what it was like to bunk in a WW2 Destroyer.  For, although the kids are currently enamored with the Revolutionary War, we have listened to CD's and read about other wars in the past.  So, when a field trip to Battleship Cove came up on a local homeschool board, we signed up!

On the tour, we enjoyed a guided tour of a battleship, a submarine and a destroyer, as well as our own self-guided walk through a missile ship and past some PT boats.  In the afternoon, Luke, Nina and Jack gave friends who had been in another tour group a tour of what the friends had not yet seen.  It was so awesome to hear my kids teaching their friends what they had just learned!

History, exercise, public speaking.  All there.  At home?  Nope.

The weather is too good for indoor co-ops!

The children asked Daddy to teach a Flag Football class for homeschoolers this fall.  Their wish was our pleasure!  We put word out to our Little Way Home Educators group and have just finished up week two of a five week mini co-op where we spend some time playing Flag Football and some time doing a Trees class.  Then, of course, it's lunch and playground time!

This week, the mom leading the Trees class portion of our mini co-op could not come, so I threw together and led a plan that included building tree models out of train tracks to review the parts of the tree and to introduce the idea that water goes up from the roots and sunlight gets captured by the leaves and becomes food that goes back into the tree.  The kids loved this activity, which, in the photo, is just beginning.

Some science, some physical education, some socialization.  But, all in a park, not at home.

We love audio books!

When we were on our way back from PA recently, we began listening to George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved America.  Nina and Jack were non-plussed by it, but Luke got so into it, we had to finish it this week.

When it was done, we took Jack's request to listen to the "castle story" in the Brinkman Adventures and then tried out Jonathan Park: The Adventure Begins (Jonathan Park Radio Drama).  It captured the kids' attention right away with exciting adventures and has also brought up conversations about differing opinions on creation science vs. evolutionary science.

Although we listen to audios at home, I prefer to listen to new-to-us ones in the van where I can follow the stories, too (as opposed to hearing them as background "music" while I go about tasks at home.)  So, audio-learning and entertainment sometimes encourages us to be out and about!  Or, just makes the drives to and from places that much more purposeful and enjoyable.  History, science, faith, literature, even math all turn our minivan into a place for mini-lessons.

I'm often out, but still a homeschooler.

Lest you think we never stay at home or concentrate on learning when we are home, let me assure you that this is not the truth.  We just tend to tuck short, pointed lessons at home in between experiential learning outside of our home.

For example, when Nina was doing some Math the other day I noticed many of the numerals that she wrote were backwards.  So, I mixed mixed Montessori-inspiration with Nina's love for sensory experiences with a loose interpretation of an idea I gleaned from The Gift of Dyslexia, Revised and Expanded: Why Some of the Smartest People Can't Read...and How They Can Learn.  Then, Nina set to work with sandpaper letters and Thinking Putty.  

I loved her smile as she succeeded in building each number!

What do you think?  Should I really call myself a homeschooler?

Sharing at Conversion Diary, Managing Your Blessings, Pebble Pond,  Weird Socialized Homeschoolers and Home to 4 Kiddos.

Weekly Wrap-Up


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