Catholic Kids, Easter and Holy Week

Did you wear pink or rose colored clothing to Mass for Laetare Sunday?

I did!

Okay, I have to confess, it was totally by accident, haha! When the kids were little, I was much more on top of the liturgical colors and the upcoming liturgical seasons.


Well, because I made it part of my curriculum. Just like we teach our children the seasons of the year, as a Catholic mom, I taught the Liturgical seasons. These seasons guided the rhythm of our daily lives including what I taught. Not only that, but I have seven kiddos and there are just so many hours in the day to get in everything!

Incorporating lessons pertaining to our liturgical seasons and faith make it possible to involve everyone in the family!

BUT, it was hard to find meaningful and faithful items each year…

That’s why I put together my favorite, family-tested ideas into packets around the Catholic seasons and feast days and used them as our school work.

I absolutely love the build up of Holy Week as we journey towards Easter.

Holy Week

To share this love, I want to firstly foster a sense of reverence for this most Holy Season. and do so together, family style.  Hands-on projects, such as the Jonah Project, Resurrection eggs, and Pascal Candle do just that. They connect Scripture, God’s Word, with physical activities the kids create. We dive into the story of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection as they unfold throughout Holy Week. We add another lesson each day!

I promise to write soon about the benefits of making mini-books, which is such a powerful method of creating sustained learning!

But I will tell you that my kiddos benefitted greatly from making mini-books! So I made them templates to use for Easter and Holy Week. For example, we made mini-books to learn what are the real symbols and true colors of Easter. If it involved some writing, I had the older siblings help spell words for the younger guys. Sometimes they just made them together. My little ones practiced handwriting skills making these mini-books. My older ones used beautiful Easter notebook pages for journaling and taking notes during the week.

The art of letter writing and handwriting!

I didn’t get around to sending Christmas cards this year! How about you?

I found if I added Easter Cards as our school work this week, it was actually easier than during do so in the Christmas season. It brought back the art of letter writing to my kids. I made printable cards with blank inside for my kids to write personalized messages. I also made some with lines, to make it easier for the little ones. This definitely counts as handwriting practice!

It is always such a delight to see the Easter cards we made each year, not to mention the awesome THANK-YOU’s from our neighbors, friends, and family! Easter cards remind our loved ones of the awesomeness of Christ’s victory over Death, especially those family members who have fallen away from the faith, or need a gentle reminder that you are praying for them!

A few days ago I bought the same Easter Egg dye kit we use every year. I also picked up bags of grass, the paper version, as we have a dog who eats everything, haha! But as always, it is virtually impossible for me to find beautiful faith-filled Easter stickers to decorate our dyed Easter eggs.

So I made Easter sticker sheets too, featuring the real symbols and true colors of Easter (see them in the group photo above). I researched the symbolism and made up info sheets for reference. The kiddos use them to learn, take notes, or add to a mini-book!

With Holy Week and Easter just around the corner, I better start printing up these activities for this year, as I do every year! Better make two sets, to share some of these traditions with my grandchildren!

Visit my Easter Pinterest Board I put together with a bunch of ideas too!

My hope is that I can also save you some mom prep time and inspire you to add these type of activities in lieu of your regular schooling.

It truly is my all-time favorite time of the year! Do take time as a family to contemplate this most glorious season!

Please share, comment your favorite Easter traditions, and “count it as school.”

Catholic kids and the REAL St. Valentine

Image of St. Valentine

Necessity is truly the mother of invention!

Here is my story!

In an attempt to spice things up a bit in our family homeschooling I was planning on doing all things St. Valentine! So off to the library I went. Only to find that practically EVERYTHING I found was about the cute (sometimes creepy looking) cupids with love arrows, hearts, flowers, chocolate BUT nothing about the real saint!

Just to paint the picture , here is a small sampling of titles you will find if you do a library or book search: Hugs and kisses for the Grouchy Ladybug by famed author Eric Carle, Groggle Monster’s Valentine (yes, that is a real book recommended on a popular teacher website), Valentine’s Day Jokes for Kids, The Secret Life of Squirrels – a Love Story, Little Ant’s Valentine, do I need to go on???

Needless to say I was dismayed and horrified at the same time!!

Who is the saint that causes us to be wild about hearts ♥, the color red and send friends and family messages of love every February 14?

The secular world is CLUELESS.

So I made it my mission to learn the real story behind this Catholic feast day!

Step 1:

I began our little evangelization journey/project towards reclaiming the REAL St. Valentine from the jaws of the secular world by first learning several prayers attributed to the saint, to ask him to intercede for our family and friends.

Step 2:

Next I went back to the library and scoured the shelves and on-line catalog, I took out a bunch of books that looked promising and eventually found a few good books to use for our nightly read aloud time. There are not many I would recommend but these definitely passed the mustard! Each one added different facts and historic details.

  • The Story of Valentine’s Day by Clyde Robert Bulla
  • Saint Valentine by Robert Sabuda
  • Saint Valentine by Ann Tompert
  • Hearts, Cupids and Red Roses by Edna Barth

Step 3:

The next thing you knew I was immersing myself in the transition from the pagan rituals and the symbolism of the symbols and colors surrounding this feast day! Naturally that then brought me to the history of the feast day and story of how a Pope helped to Christianize this day, his name is Pope Gelasius. So cool right?

In true form it was the Catholic Church elevating a pagan feast day and its symbols by celebrating the feast day of an early martyr of the Church, St. Valentine. 

Thus became our family tradition, to make cards that included sacred and beautiful images of the real St. Valentine, the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary! We use Scripture verses that speak of REAL love.

Step 4:

I designed it to counts as school work, by adding notebooking sheets for our narrations, mini-book templates of various shapes and designs to have the kids write about all they learned from the history I had written for them on several reference sheets. We also added the mini-books to lapbooks too!

Handwriting practice lessons for the week included Scripture verses I had collected with God’s unending love for His children! Coloring sheets of St. Valentine, were super handy for my little ones during nightly rosary or quiet time.

And I also had holy cards designed so we could print/color and share. This collection has something for everyone in the family!

My talented daughters helped me put all of this together in a 50 page printable packet ! It is well loved by family and friends who use it year after year, as their family tradition and more importantly as an evangelization tool to tell the REAL story of St. Valentine.

For that we are grateful!

Leave a comment on your family’s journey towards evangelizing the culture by reclaiming the saints!!

You too can invite a family you know from your homeschool community or from your parish and make beautiful St. Valentine Cards or postcards to exchange or bring to neighbors! Immerse yourselves in all thing St. Valentine!

Cor Unum! One Heart & The Sacred Heart

The von Trapp family, of the Sound of Music fame, called their home in Vermont “Cor Unum” – Latin for: One Heart. They dedicated it to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and in so doing, called their family to be of one heart for our Lord.

image from:
image from:

Theirs was a touching and beautiful gesture that we repeated when we purchased our building to run our family business Emmanuel Books in 2001.  We dedicated the building and had it blessed on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and even made a heart shaped cake to celebrate.
We continue to consecrate our works to the Sacred Heart.  It is with much gratitude and love that we offer to you our latest in the “Reclaim the Saints” series for Living the Liturgical Year, Sacred Heart of Jesus! In it you will make your very own Sacred Heart Shrines, Holy Cards, a 10-page Prayer book, learn the history of this devotion and so much more!
Join us for the month of June and the devotion to the Sacred Heart!

History Portfolios

2390By Barbara Shurkin

Each Homeschool Journey History Portfolio encourages study and plenty of creativity while providing a compact way of organizing and showcasing a student’s own written research projects and reports, colorful drawings, photographs, clippings, downloaded images… anything that can fit between the pages! Use it as a stand alone curriculum using living books, or alongside your current history program. Each book is designed for individual use and will become a unique record of the student’s journey through history… a keepsake and a “book to treasure!” The History Portfolio Classic editions are designed for your middle school to high school students while the Junior version for your younger set, which is especially nice to families who want to study the same time period together. The body of the Portfolio is divided into chapters of commonly studied historical time periods, cultures and civilizations (see Chapter Titles below). The Table of Contents provides a thorough reference index to work with, indicating topics covering: works of literature, important people, works of art and architecture, important places and events, plus advances in science and technology.

Samples from Ancient History:

Samples from Medieval History:

The attractively formatted Portfolios contain an entirely unique system of “image boxes” and “text boxes” that support and showcase the student’s work, whether hand or type written reports, graphs, diagrams, hand drawn images, photographs, or images accessed from the Internet. Also includes black-line maps of the regions being studied. And a sturdy timeline comes bound in each History Portfolio ready to be removed and easily assembled (we suggest using our History Worth Remembering Timeline Figures…see p. ) The assembled timeline measures approximately 11” x 47” and is printed on heavy card stock. In the Teacher’s Guide you will find something specific to put into each and every image box and text box. In many cases, there is provided multiple, grade appropriate suggestions for each box. Whether you use the Guide as-is, coloring, cutting, and pasting the images into the Portfolio, or simply you use it as a springboard and source of ideas. The Full color maps are a great add-on!

samples from the JUNIOR edition:

The Ancient Timeline is divided into continents, and further into separate strands for each culture spanning the time between 5000 B.C. and 600 A.D. The dates provided cover the time from about 3500 B.C. (Sumerians) to 476 A.D. (Fall of Rome).  The JUNIOR edition includes a Teacher’s Guide. 

The Medieval timeline is divided into sections, allowing a separate strand for each culture or empire. Dates begin at The Birth of Christ and continue to 1500 A.D. The JUNIOR edition includes a Teacher’s Guide.

What exactly is a Lapbook, and how does it encourage REAL learning?

Dinah Zike

Before we begin discussing what lap books are, we need to begin by explaining what foldables are. 

In the early 1980s, Dinah Zike came out with a book called Big Book of Books.  This wonderful classic, which is still in print and selling for about the same price it did 20 years ago, describes in clear language, and with hundreds of examples and photographs, how to instill a sense of questioning, investigating , exploring and discovering and in your homeschool.  All this can be accomplished so very simply and cleverly with 8.5 x 11 plain sheets of paper that are either folded or cut into interesting shapes.  These folds and cuts are called foldables.

The absolute beauty of this concept and methodology is that it so naturally and easily makes concrete in a child’s mind, a newly learned concept.  This is accomplished by helping them to organize the thoughts and creates their very own teaching materials to retain this newly acquired skill.  Dinah Zike is the inventor of these foldables, giving them fun names and creating an illustrated guide that teaches you how to teach these folds to your children.

For example, she has a very simple fold called the large matchbook fold.  Here is a video showing you how to make one:

Begin with a sheet of paper folded in half but such that one side is 1 inch longer than the other then take that extra flap and fold it over so that it looks just like a regular set of matches.  You can cut this into smaller pieces or use as it is.  You can put on the outside of your matchbox a question, flip it open and the child can write in their answer.  You can use the outside and glue on a shape of a state.  Open up the inside and the child can place information of that state they have found.

Another example is the layered look book.  With this book, you’re going to stack a couple sheets of paper, placing them in such a way that they overlap.  All this is easily explained in her books for each subject with tons of photographs.  Next you or your child then pick a concept such as the solar system. Then you give each flap a title with the name of each of planets. You then fill out each flap with information that you researched or read using your existing curriculum materials.

What is so exciting about using this process is that you will very quickly find that your children begin to think in terms of keeping the information they’re learning into little mini books or foldables.  We have been using this methodology for the past 20 years.  It has revolutionized our homeschool.

Now we come to the concept of lap books.  Simply stated, a lap book is file folder, folded like a window shutter.  This shutter is the place to contain and organize your child’s collection of foldables. The inventor of lap books, Tami Duby, had been using Dinah Zike’s foldables in her homeschool and had accumulated  a bunch of them without finding a way of keeping them. She then came up with the idea of putting them together in one single file folder in a creative way. This new way not only fosters a love of learning in your children but also encourages clarity of thought.  It is also a visual reminder of all the things they have learned, not to mention a wonderful keepsake of their learning.  The important concept about making lapbooks is that genuine sustained learning is a process not  a fill in the blanks type of learning.  This methodology is a fabulous and successful process by which one learns and retains information.

By having your child create these foldables and then go through the thinking involved to sort them and categorize them into a lap book your child has a real sense of ownership.  We have seen this time and time again with our own children.  Concepts learned and made into foldables have stayed with them.

This methodology meshes so perfectly with the classical method of real learning.  It respects the natural stages of development which gives dignity to the child.  As your child grows the skills build up bit by bit just as outlined in the classical model of learning..  For example, in a classical education process, if your child is young and has not yet learned to write stories we began by having our child retell a Bible story we have just read to them.  The little retellings can be copied by you into a foldable and then illustrated by your child.  Once you have collected a number of these you can staple or glue them together so that you now have a wonderful keepsake of your little child’s Bible stories.

As your children mature and move through more advanced writing techniques you can still employ this methodology of making foldables. For example, our ninth-grade daughter needed to write a paper on some aspect of Westward expansion.  She came up with a thesis statement, and several questions she wanted answered.  Each question became a foldable.  It contained all the information she researched using several source texts.  Once she had collected all the information she took these foldables, organized them into a lap book and was able to use this as her outline and source material for her research paper.  She placed a copy of her finished product in a pocket outside her lap book, a job well done.

This process of learning can be used across the curriculum in every subject. We have made foldables and lap books for math, history, science, religion, and grammar.  This technique of learning is not meant as a craft project to do on top of regular schoolwork but is the process by which we accomplish real learning and retention of knowledge.

Now the next question you may have is, what do I need to get started?  The answer is use what you already have. Use the curriculum and texts you already are using.  Use plain sheets of paper, file folders,  and adhesive.   And oh yes, the only two books you really need to help you get started are Dinah Zike’s Big Book of Books and Tammy Duby’s The Ultimate Lap Book Handbook. Spend a week teaching your kids a bunch of the folds as examples and keep them in a zip-lock bag, one for each child.  Then just think of it akin to learning how to cook.  You take out your ingredients, in this case foldable examples and your curriculum books. Then try one of the “recipes” in the Ultimate Lap Book Handbook. As you and your children follow these recipes you will all get more confidence in your skills.  You will undoubtedly find your children creating their own wonderful recipes.

Here is a listing of just some of the skills learned using this process:

  • Writing.
  • Sketching.
  • Reading.
  • Researching.
  • Vocabulary and definitions.
  • Sequencing
  • Summarizing
  • Analyzing.
  • Recording information.
  • Cause and effect.
  • And much more….