Sunday, October 30, 2016

Try a Design Challenge for All Saints and All Souls Days

Would you like to challenge your children as you learn and play in celebration of All Saints Day?  Then, you might want to try the design challenge I will be using in our fifth Problem Solving with the Saints co-op class this week.

Before I share it, though, I'd like to catch you up with some photos from our St. John Paul II challenge.

Flashback to Mountains and Book Stands

For our Saint John Paul II challenge, the children had to make a self-standing "mountain" that was at least 27 inches tall using just these supplies.

When my children tried this challenge at home, they used rolling, folding, tearing, twisting and taping...

...then measuring... make this:


At co-op, one team used rolling, tearing, and taping to make this:

All the children that tried the challenge hearkened back to what they'd learned during our St. Kenneth Build a Book Stand challenge:  Cardstock becomes strong in two cylinder shapes.

And, maybe in one...

Yes, even in one!

Even in a short one!

I just love to see the children applying what they've learned through one challenge to another.  I'll be curious to see how their past experience and new ideas play out for our All Saints Day challenge this week!

All Saints and All Souls Days Design Challenge Food for Thought

This week will be the only week during our Problem Solving with the Saints co-op course that we do not use a saint scrapbooking sheet.  Instead, we'll chat about All Saints Day and All Souls day using two favorite books.

{Disclosure: Some links which follow are affiliate ones.  Should you click through them and make any purchase, we may receive compensation at no extra cost to you.  Earnings go straight back into training happy hearts and sharing about it with you here.}

To introduce All Saints Day, we will read and chat about
Jackie's Special Halloween, which I just reviewed this past week and fell in love with.

Later, to introduce All Souls Day, we'll read and chat about The Spirit of Tio Fernando: A Day f the Dead Story.

The All Saints and All Souls Design Challenge

After we read and chat about All Saints and All Souls days, I will offer the children the following supplies:

  • 1/2 bag of marshmallows (or a small bag of cotton balls)
  • 2 disposable drinking cups
  • 10 paper clips
  • 5 sticks of spaghetti
  • 1 inch of tape
  • 10 inches of string or yarn
  • a ruler or tape measure (to be used for measuring only)

With these, the children's goal will be to suspend as many marshmallows or cotton balls) as possible above the floor or table as they meet these specifications:

Of course, our Lord wants all souls with Him as saints in heaven. Gather as many “souls” (marshmallows) as possible in the “heavens” (a place at least three inches above the table or floor.)

I cannot wait to see the creative solutions the children come up with!

More Ideas for Praying for All Souls

You can find five ways to observe November, the month of Souls in Purgatory by clicking through the photo below:

Try Other Problem Solving with the Saints Challenges

You might also enjoy clicking through the images below to see more of our co-op plans and to access free printables.

Forthcoming will be our St. Edward challenge from a few weeks ago and an upcoming Saint Charles Borromeo challenge.

In Case You've Yet to Find Our All Saints Day Party Challenges...

You might also like to click through the post titles or images below to find details and free printable challenge sheets for game challenges to enjoy at an All Saints Day party, in your home, at a co-op, or on specific saint feast days.

The Final 3 All Saints Day Game Challenges

3 All Saints Day Game Challenges

3 More All Saints Day Party Ideas

2 All Saints Day Craft Challenges and a Physical One

3 Skills-Based Game Challenges for All Saints Day

We always find that a combination of praying with the children, reading them stories, and engaging them in hands-on activities helps them internalize stories about the saints and their virtues. 

We would love to hear how your children best learn about the saints and how they enjoy the challenges we share should you try any. Please leave comments and links here or post photos to our Facebook page.

Saints in Heaven, pray for us.

Friday, October 28, 2016

A Must-Have Picture Book for All Saints Day

{Disclosure: Some links which follow are affiliate ones.  If you click through them and make any purchase, we may receive compensation at no extra cost to you.  Anything we earn goes straight back into training happy hearts and sharing about doing so with you here.}


It's no secret that my children and I love celebrating the saints, so I was absolutely delighted when I contacted Catholic author/illustrator Sherry Boas to see if I might review a copy Jackie's Special Halloween and received an immediate reply, followed by a package from Catholic Word that contained a copy of Jackie's Special Halloween in it.

What is Jackie's Special Halloween About?

In Jackie's Special Halloween, a pumpkin named Jackie yearns to experience all of the activities of Halloween and ends up being chosen by a little boy named Pablo, who is equally as eager to enjoy dressing up, playing games, and eating tons of candy.

Pablo's mother and sister Bella, however, explain to Pablo that Halloween is more than just candy and costumes. The word Halloween comes from he phrase All Hallow's Eve, and hallows is another name for saints. 
The story, then, continues with Pablo and Bella carving Jackie into a special jack-o-lantern and placing her on the porch of their home, where she gets a perfect view of all the decorations, costumes, and guests at an All Saints Day party.

Each guest that comes to the party takes time to tell Jackie a little about the stories and virtues of the saints, and Jackie comes to understand that Halloween is about roe than just dressing up in costumes.  She recognizes that we can all experience God's love and live extraordinary lives and that she, herself, was created with the purpose of shining brightly.

Illustrated with cheerful artwork and recognizable pictures of the saints,
Jackie's Special Halloween engages children and invites them to learn (or recall details) about ten heroic saints who chose to live for God by practicing specific virtues. In doing so, the picture book reminds us that we, too, are called to holiness.  We celebrate and honor extraordinary men and women of faith, and we can choose to model after them, too.

Finally, the closing page of
Jackie's Special Halloween also contains a 10th century Prayer in praise of the Saints.

What Did We Think of the Book?

My children were just as excited as I was to open the package we received and to read the special All Saints Day book Jackie's Special Halloween.  In fact, they were so eager for us to read it, that I didn't even have time to read my camera before I began a family read together time. 

As soon as we cracked open
Jackie's Special Halloween, my children were captured by the bright, happy illustrations in it, while I appreciated how the story quickly connected the modern day cultural tradition of Halloween with the Catholic celebration of All Saints Day.

As we continued to read, the children thoroughly enjoyed guessing which saints each of the children in the book dressed up as, and I loved how author Brenda Castro wove together a story about an All Saints Day party, details about saints, and examples of virtue.

When my children and I finished
Jackie's Special Halloween, we all agreed it is a keeper!

My youngest, age six, said:

It was funny!  I liked guessing the saints!

My middle child, age nine, said:

I really thought it was cute how the pumpkin wanted to be picked because of Halloween and dressing up, but realized that was not the purpose of All Hallows' Eve.  It's to celebrate the saints!

My oldest, age ten, said:

It was cute!  The pictures were cute.  I liked that it talks about the saints.  I liked guessing each saint, too.  I guessed most of them except Saints Monica and Augustine.

And me? 

I whole-heartedly agree that
Jackie's Special Halloween tells a cute story that begs for guessing fun and reminds children of why we, as Catholics, celebrate Halloween, or, rather, All Hallows' Eve and All Saints Day.  I also can envision creating a series of All Saints Day games to match up to the saints explored in the story:

  • St. Francis of Assisi
  • St. Martin de Porres
  • Saint Teresa of Calcutta
  • Saint John Paul II
  • St. Therese of Lisieux
  • St. Vincent de Paul
    St. Monica
  • St. Augustine
    St. Juan Diego
  • St. Kateri

Plus, of course, virtue studies come to mind to further explore:

  • Obedience
  • Humility
  • Compassion
  • Forgiveness
  • Love
  • Charity
  • Courage
  • Sacrifice
  • Faith 
  • Wisdom

Gentle connections to vocations and pro-life issues can be made with Jackie's Special Halloween, too.  For, on the last page, Jackie reocognizes her purpose and that God created her with something special in mind.

Learn More

Most certainly, the 42-page, 8.5 x 11 inch, softcover
Jackie's Special Halloween picture book is packed with potential for expanding studies about faith, culture, and virtues, while it also stands as a fun, faith-based fall read aloud.  I am delighted to add it to our permanent book collection and encourage you to check it out, too..

You can currently find
Jackie's Special Halloween in softcover for $12.49 or formatted for Kindle for $3.99.  It is also available for FREE with Kindle Unlimited.

You can also read more about
Jackie's Special Halloween at Tracy's review at A Slice of Smith Life, where I first learned about this delightful All Saints Day picture book.

If you've been looking for a picture book that explains the true meaning of Halloween and offers details about saints and virtues, Jackie's Special Halloween is just what you've been seeking!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Get Your Personlized Name Gifts {Review and Giveway}

Shhh!  I have just tucked away a beautiful Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse from CrossTimber, along with an accompanying bookmark that will be gifted to my youngest when he makes his First Reconciliation.

When I was offered a chance to review a personalized item from CrossTimber, I decided right away to get one for my youngest Jack, since he will begin his formal First Holy Communion preparations this year.  That decision made, ordering was simple!  I just went to the CrossTimber website, picked out the background motif and frame, typed in Jack's name, and added shipping information. 

Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews

Not long after that, I received a package in the mail and found this:


Before opening the well-packaged name plaque and bookmark I'd ordered for Jack, I new his name gift would have a castle/knights motif.  For, Jack is a knight-loving, sword-fighting boy and as soon as I saw that background, I knew it would be perfect for him.  However, I had no idea* how ideal the name meaning and verse that CrossTimber would come up with for Jack would be.

I was surprised and delighted to see that the meaning
CrossTimber selected included God's graciousness and being redeemed by truth.  Likewise, I was happy to discover that the familiar verse CrossTimber hand-picked for Jack's plaque included the words "...the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace".  Considering that the plaque and bookmark will be given to Jack to remember his First Reconciliation, both the name meaning and the words in the Bible verse just seem perfect!

*Let me clarify, though, that I could have known the meaning that would appear on the plaque as I ordered it.  For the folks at
CrossTimber are happy to chat online with customers about such things.  I simply chose to let the meaning and verse be a surprise for me - as they will be for my son.

Plenty of Name Gifts to Choose From

Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews

It's pretty obvious that I am happy with the name gift we received from CrossTimber and would, therefore, recommend them to you.

CrossTimber makes gifting personalized plaques, mugs, bookmarks, music boxes, and more so easy.  Whether you have a common name or a unique one, they are happy to work with you to research and create a name gift which includes your name's origin, cultural meaning, life meaning, and a hand-picked Bible verse.  They've been building their database of name meanings for 18 years and will also do custom orders.

Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews

CrossTimber also offers fantastic customer service.  You can chat with them online about your name meaning, request rush orders, resolve any rare issues that may arise, and work with them to create the perfect name gift for your needs.  As a family-fun business that enjoys what they do and has a backstory worth a read, CrossTimber truly aims to honor God and to please customers through providing quality products.  They also offer discounts and free extra items (and who does not like freebies?!)
Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews

Enter a Giveaway

Speaking of free items,
CrossTimber is offering a giveaway through December 4th.

CrossTimber 2016 giveaway

You can enter the giveaway for a chance to win a free name gift or $10 gift certificate.  The Grand Prize winner may choose between  Personalized Mug, a Name Plaque, or an 8x10 Plaque! Nine others will receive $10 Gift Certificates.  The giveaway,as I already mentioned, ends on December 4th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Learn More

Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews

Ninety Homeschool Review Crew families chose unique gifts from
CrossTimber.  Find their reviews by clicking through the banner.

Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews

You can also find
CrossTimber on social media on Facebook and Pinterest.

Crew Disclaimer

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Get Your FREE PRINTABLE St. John Paul II Notebooking Page and Try an Instant Design Challenge

This week at our homeschool co-op my Problem Solving with the Saints class will be focusing on St. John Paul II.

{Disclosure: Some links which follow are affiliate ones.  If you click through them and make any purchase, we may receive compensation at no extra cost to you.  Anything we earn goes straight back into training happy hearts and sharing about doing so with you here.}

Chat, Storytime, and Scrapbooking Page

We'll open our class by reading about St. John Paul II, hopefully with
The Story of Saint John Paul II: A Boy who Became Pope, if I can find where I laid my copy of it.

While I read, the children will take notes or draw pictures on a simple Saint John Paul II scrapbooking/notebooking page that I made and am sharing freely with you today.  We'll also pause to chat about St. John Paul II and, perhaps, to take a movement break related to what we read.

As pictured above, notebooking page we will use has a photo of Saint John Paul II and lists his feast day and patronage.  It also has a map where students can color in Poland (and Rome).  I made this saint-specific page, because the more general
notebooking pages that I had used in our first Problem Solving with the Saints class (which focused on St. Theodore Guerin) was well-received, but a bit challenging for the children in my class. 

Because my students are young, they found writing out details such as the saint's feast day and patronages difficult, and, truly, just seemed to want to decorate and draw on their scrapbooking pages.  Noting this, I decided to try a saint-specific page for  our St. Kenneth class with pre-printed details.  That went over well, so, now, each week, I am making new saint-specific pages.  Should you want the general page, though, please feel free to click through the image below to find a link to it.

The Challenge

Back to the Saint John Paul II class plan now...

After we read, chat, and notebook about St. John Paul II, I will lay out the following supplies per team:

  • three sheets of newspaper
  • one roll of masking tape or clear tape
  • a measuring tape

I will explain that the number of newspaper sheets is symbolic and ask if the students can guess why the number three might be significant.  (The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit within the Holy Trinity.)

I will then suggest that the tape, too, is symbolic - if we stick to and honor the tenets of our faith, as St. John Paul II did, we can join Jesus in Heaven one day, too.

Finally, I will offer our challenge specifications:

St. John Paul II loved God and nature and felt that mountains were a special place to meet God.  Build a “mountain”(paper tower) using only three sheets of newspaper (to remind us of God – the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost -, who St. John Paul II loved so much). Your mountain must be self-standing and at least 27 inches high (one inch for each year Saint John Paul II was pope).

For further challenge, make your mountain even higher and see if it can stand without falling over for 84 seconds (one second for every year of St. John Paul II's life.)

The measuring tape can only be used to measure; it cannot be included as a part of the mountain.

I cannot wait to see what the children come up with.  I imagine their mountains will be much like the Towers to Point to Heaven that children made in a prior Read Aloud to Real Challenges Co-op Class that I taught, one of which is pictured above.

Want to Try Other Problem Solving with the Saints Challenges?

Click through the mages below to see two more of our co-op plans and to access free printable challenge sheets.

I will (hopefully!) be sharing the challenge we did for St. Edward here soon, too.

How about Some All Saints Day Party Challenges, Too?

You may also appreciate some of the All Saints Day Party challenges we have enjoyed over the pas few years.  Simply click through the post titles or images to find details and free printable challenge sheets.

The Final 3 All Saints Day Game Challenges

3 All Saints Day Game Challenges

3 More All Saints Day Party Ideas

2 All Saints Day Craft Challenges and a Physical One

3 Skills-Based Game Challenges for All Saints Day

If you try any of these challenges, I would love to hear how they go or to see photo.  You can post photos at our Facebook page.

St. John Paul II and all the saints, pray for us.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

What Audio Collection Will We Be Adding to Our Advent and Christmas Listening?


I do not typically begin our Advent and Christmas celebrations this early in the year, but when our family was offered a chance to review one physical CD and a host of Digital Downloads from The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection by The Familyman, I could not resist. My children and I adore audiobooks, and we tend to center a significant proportion of our Advent and Christmas season studies each year on seasonal stories.  Thus, the opportunity to add to our collection was one I could not pass up.

Happily, choosing to start our Advent and Christmas season listening early this year by listening to the
The Familyman's Christmas Treasury has proven a delight for our family.  We listened to the one physical audio CD we received (The Stranger) in our minivan one day and have listened to the rest of the collection of Digital Downloads that we received as bedtime stories using my laptop.

The children have quite enjoyed these stories - often asking for "just one more", which was an easy request to honor since the stories are short - just 12-30 minutes typically!  All but one of the audios in
The Familyman's Christmas Treasury will definitely become added to our annual Advent and Christmas season listening repertoire.

(The one that won't be added is The Bishop's Dream, which is described later..)

What We Thought of The Familyman's Christmas Treasury Overall
The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection {The Familyman} Reviews

When I asked my children what they thought of the collection overall, my nine-year-old daughter said:

I like these stories.  They are about faith and Christmas.  They are fun, but there was one I didn't get.  It was about an old man, boy, and lots people who did not know what Christmas was.  Most of the rest were good though!

My six-year-old son added:

I liked them, too!  The one with Captain Chaos is funny!

My oldest son, ten, chimed in:

They are almost all good stories.  I like that they are Christian.  Some of them are funny.

As for me, besides the story called The Bishop's Dream, I enjoyed listening to each of the stories with my children.  In this collection of fun family stories, Todd Wilson combined humor and a heart for Jesus with an obvious desire to promote the real meaning of the Christmas season.  Narrator and master storyteller Jim Hodges brings the stories alive with his well-lauded narration.  (We have listened to a number of other stories and collections narrated by Jim Hodges and typically enjoy his storytelling style.)

My Children Would Like to Tell You a Bit About Each Story

Cootie McKay's Nativity

My oldest said:
It's about a guy who doesn't know God. He builds the own's new nativity, because someone else drove into their old one.  The nativity ends up being... well, I am not going to tell you, but, just trust me, it has a happy ending.

My middle child added:
The person that actually drove over the nativity was an old woman who said, "I have to get this package to my son on time," but she was off on the day Christmas was.  This story was funny.

Captain Chaos and the Manger Blaster
My oldest smiled and said:
This one was hilarious.  It's about a boy who does not like the Christmas story and tries to change it.  He goes to his room and... it gets really funny!

My youngest added:
It was funny in the beginning.  The man gets rid of the crib so no one knows what Christmas is.

My middle child then chimed in to say:
I did not like how they said, 'and even the ornate Catholic church.'  It made it sound like it was not a good church.  It IS!  It's my church.  It's my religion.

Her big brother replied:
I did not think it made the Catholic church sound bad.  I just think it made it sound like a really pretty church, which is a compliment.  Our Catholic churches ARE pretty.

Gladys Remembers Christmas

My daughter, who is my most sensitive child, explained:
This was actually kind of sad.  It is about a girl who lost her mother.  She does not like her name.  She finds a package and in the package is a mystery thing - I won't tell you what - and, in the end, she is changed.

My youngest child warned:

It's not funny.

(He ends to like the funny stories.)

Harold Grubbs and the Christmas Vest

My oldest said:
It is about a boy and his dad.   They talk about his dad's vest.  It used to belong to a guy called Mr. Grubbs and it has a special meaning.  The story is cute.

My middle child echoed:
I thought it was really cute!

And, my youngest, chimed in:
Someone got changed!

The Stranger

My oldest said:
This one is about a strange man who goes around to all the houses of a church and one boy lets him in.  He ends making something, but you have to listen to find out what.

My youngest wanted to say more, but his big brother shushed him, saying any more details would spoil the listening for other.

The Bishop's Dream
Luckily, two of my three children had fallen asleep before this story played, while my oldest said:
This story is confusing, but I still like it a little.

He noticed that the church described in the story had an empty cross, not a crucifix, and that there were some other differences, too.  He said:
It's obviously not Catholic. St. Nicholas is someone is someone who believes in Jesus and brings gifts to people because he is kind and he helps us celebrate Jesus.

He added:

This CD is not a good one, because it says Santa Claus is fake, that Catholics worship St. Nicholas, and more.  We do not.  We celebrate his feast day because he is in Heaven and is close to God.  We also celebrate Christmas.  We ask Santa Claus for presents and he brings us three presents to remind us of the three Wise Men's gifts.  We also go to Mass and set our nativity.  We remember Jesus always - every day all year long!

It's Called Christmas

My daughter said:

That one I did not understand.

Her big brother explained:
It's about a boy from the future who is calling to help people change the past because in the future all religion and Christmas is deleted.  It's just an empty holiday.  It was my favorite!

The Secret of Snow Village

My daughter proclaimed:
It was adorable!  The girl never forgot that Jesus is what Christmas was about and went into a toy village

My oldest concluded:

I would recommend this audio collection to others.
Learn More

The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection {The Familyman} Reviews

To clarify:
The Familyman's Christmas Treasury CD-set contains only six of the eight audios we received for review.  All eight stories, however, are available as books and any are available as Digital Downloads
The Familyman on social media:

The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection {The Familyman} Reviews

Fifty Homeschool Review Crew families gave
The Familyman's Christmas Treasury a listen.  Click through the banner to read all our reviews.

    Crew Disclaimer


Related Posts with Thumbnails