I have often thought how said it is to have a lapse in Christian education during the times of theyear when most of our parishes have a "hiatus" or discontinue the church school programs. Although good reasons are offered to such a break, e.g. a heavy liturgical cycle during the ChristmasEpiphany seasaon in winter, or the unbearable heat and different vacation schedules in the summer. And yet there is a tremendous need to bridge these gaps in our educational programs by encouraging our child's awareness of God.
Whether we are out doing things together, noticing the beauty of God's creation, or talking about God daily, we can help to strengthen our child's love of God and belief in Him. Recently, I was made aware of a project-book for children that could be adapted to any season and used during those class-breaks, or as a supplement to regular classroom instruction during the school year. Such a booklet can be helpful to families who wish to keep a small rule of study on a weekly basis.
As a church school teacher or parent, you may want to develop such a booklet to help you and your child enrich your knowledge and awareness of God. A few church school teachers have developed summer project books which can serve as a source of ideas and format to help you get started.
A Personalized Book for Each Child
To begin the project, take color photographs of each child separately and/or group shots of the church school class and teacher (if a child is absent, obtain a photo from home). The photo is a nice remembrance for years to come, but more importantly it personalizes the booklet which, hopefully, will make a child more anxious to use it.
Secondly, purchase sketch pads (approxmately 9 X 12", 25 pages - cost: approximately $2.00), several rolls of double-sided tape, and a pint jar of rubber cement (if you are making several books). Using rubber cement, paste a brightly colored piece of construction paper on the front to cover the advertisement on the pad. Tape the photos on the cover and print the name of the child and a title on the book: John Doe's Summer Fun Book.
Planning the Contents
Make three calendar pages, one each for the months of June, July, and August. Fill in the boxes with the summer feast days - Ss. Peter and Paul, Transfiguration, Dormition, and specific saints' days that are celebrated in your parish. Title each Sunday with the theme of the Gospel lesson, and list the Epistle and Gospel readings for the Sundays and feast-days.
Next, try to provide a reading and/or activity for each week. For the Sunday gospels, you can use pictures from Bible coloring books and a simplified explanation or paraphrase of the lesson on the facing page. Three sources are:
Some of the gospel readings maybe too difficult for younger children to understand even in a paraphrased version, or some may be difficult to illustrate (or to find an appropriate illustration which fits). In such cases you may focus on some related theme. Such is the case this year on July 3rd when the gospel reading is Matthew 10:32-33, 37-38, 19:27-30. Jesus tells us: "he who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me." For this lesson you may want to use a drawing of a cross (which can be colored) and then include flower stickers (available at any 5 & 10 store) to put around the cross. The drawing of the Cross and other helpful drawings (which are easily xeroxed) can be found in the Teaching Aids accompanying the pre-school manual The Little Child in Church.
Another example is on July 17th when the gospel reading is Matthew 5:22-23, which speaks about adultery and divorce. In this case, stressthe fact that God made us a family, to love one another, to need one another, to forgive one another, and to serve Him. Write out directions to cut some photos out of magazines of family members (or find photographs of their own family) and draw pictures of how we can help each other. other.
A third example is the summer Gospel of St. Matthew 9:27-35 which talks about Jesus healing the blindmen. You can take a sheet of paper (almost as large as one of the sketch pages) and draw a dotted line down the centerofthe page and divide the page into 8 parts to form a book, In the first section write: "Oh, Lord how manifold are Thy works in wisdom hast Thou made them all." Then label the sections: At The Seashore and draw some of God's creatures seen there. In the Mountains and draw some of God's creation (example: flowers, rocks, and trees). These are things we SEE especially during the summer proving God's existence.
The child then cuts along the dotted lines, staples the parts together and has a little booklet that can be colored (you may want to tape an envelope on the sketch pad's page to hold the booklet so as not to lose it).
For the Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, you can purchase a color icon print of St. John and tape it into the booklet.
As for Dormition, enumerate things they can do to celebrate the Feast:
Next include the life of each child's patronal saint. Add a note to the parents asking them to familiarize their child with the saint's biography by regularly reading it together and even quizzing them on it.
Leave a few blank pages atthe end of the booklet for the child to describe his own impressions of the summer activities and especially any new parishes they visited while on vacation.
To complete the book, a table of contents should be included in the beginning as well as a page giving general instructions on how to use the book. A list of goals may be suggested for the child to have as he enters into the September church school program. Be sure to emphasize the return and completion of the booklet in the Fall.
It is my hope that this project may in some small way benefit my family in Christ by bringing us closer to the Living God and fulfilling His will in our lives.