Tag Archives: Children

A Service Project Idea for Students with Traveling Friends

It’s that time of the year when many families in our parish travel together. If your class is continuing to meet for Sunday Church School over the summer,* consider doing this project during class one Sunday. A week or so ahead of time, ask your students to think of someone they know who will be traveling soon. Tell them about this project they will get to do: assemble a personalized travel activity folder for that person (their “project buddy”). Before introducing the concept to your students, you may also want to ask your priest if he knows of any traveling families in the parish, and have each student who can’t think of any traveling friend to create a project for one of the children in that family. Before the service project day arrives, print a variety of activity page options at different age/ability levels, so that your students have a choice and can customize the travel activity folder for their project buddy. (*If you are taking a summer break from classes, you can either make these for your own traveling students, or shelve this idea for a Sunday when you want to give them an opportunity to think of and bless someone else, and do it together then.)

Before class on the service project day, gather:

Two-pocket folders with fasteners (various colors, one per project buddy)

Markers, crayons, colored pencils, etc.

Plastic sleeves (several for each project)

Narrow dry-erase markers (one per project; optional)

Blank paper (three-hole punched)

Two copies of the travel prayer, hole punched, for each project

Enlarged photocopy of a picture of someone’s face for each project (each student – if it is not anonymous – or their project buddy would be ideal)

Copies of other coloring/activity/game sheets (three-hole punched)

When your students arrive at class on the service project day, talk together about traveling. Have any of them traveled? What did they do? How was the actual travel? What did they do to pass the time?
Once you have allowed the students to chime in about traveling, reintroduce the service project. Invite them to think about their project buddy. What does that person like? What kinds of activities would they enjoy doing while traveling? This project offers us the chance to serve someone else by creating something that they will enjoy in a time that could otherwise seem long and perhaps not-so-fun.

Have each student select a two-pocket folder from the pile and decorate it with their project buddy in mind. They may want to give it a title such as “George’s Travel Activity Folder” or “Fun for Catherine for Travel.” You can decide together whether these will be presented by the students themselves (in which case they can include a personal note inside like “I thought you would enjoy these activities while you travel. God bless your trip! Love, Maya”). Another option would be for them to be assembled and you can deliver them anonymously. It is up to your class.

Once the folder is prepared, your students can begin to assemble and insert the contents. The first sheet inserted in the fasteners should be the Orthodox Christian Travel Prayer reproducible. Insert it together as a class, and while you do, read it together, allowing each student to insert their travel buddy’s name where appropriate. (At the end of class, be sure to send a copy of this prayer which you printed home with each student so they can remember to pray for their project buddy while the buddy is traveling.)

Aside from the prayer, the contents of the folder are really up to your student. You will need to supervise and make sure that they are adding things that are age-appropriate for their buddy.

Here are some suggestions, and we will offer links to printables, as well.

  1. If you photocopied an enlarged photo of someone’s face, slip it into one of the plastic sleeves. The traveler can decorate the face with glasses, a moustache, a crown, etc., using a dry-erase marker. Then, they can wipe it clean and try something different!
  2. Car games such as scavenger hunts, tic-tac-toe, etc. should also be slipped into plastic sleeves to be used and reused in the same way.
  3. Your students can create their own activity pages with some of the blank paper you provide. Encourage them to think about the things you’ve studied in class and draw about those or create an activity page related to something you’ve studied.
  4. They may wish to insert blank pages so their buddy can draw or write whatever they wish in their travel activity folder.
  5. Your students may also wish to include printable activity/coloring pages that you prepared before class.

Once they have collected all of the pages that they wish to include in their buddy’s activity book, have them insert the pages and close up the holding tabs. They can tuck the thin dry-erase marker (if you provide these) into one of the folder’s pockets, for storage between uses.

After the activity books are all prepared, you can decide if your students will wrap them or not before they are given. This is up to you and your class! Say a prayer for the project buddies and their families, and ask God’s blessing on everyone traveling this summer, then dismiss so the students (or you!) can deliver the activity folders to their new owners!

Here are some links that you may find helpful as you print pages for this project. They’re listed in no particular order.

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Here are a variety of secular travel activities for kids to do. Of particular interest are the printable car games. Most can be used alone, as a sort of solitaire, or in groups. You may want to encourage your students to plan to include more than one of these copies for each notebook they assemble. That way the students’ family members can participate, as well!

http://www.landeeseelandeedo.com/2017/06/printable-car-games-for-kids-road-trip-games.html

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Find printable Bible Story coloring pages here which you could add to the travel folders when you do the service project: http://www.coloring.ws/christian.htm

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More (secular) road trip printables for the travel folder service project can be found here: https://www.thejoysofboys.com/free-printable-road-trip-games/ or here: http://lalymom.com/printable-road-trip-games-for-kids/

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Printable Bible story activity pages are available here. These would be great for elementary-aged traveling friends’ folders: http://www.dltk-bible.com/worksheet-index.htm

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Printable Orthodox Saint story activity pages can be found at this site. The pages will work well for a variety of ages’ travel folders, if you do the service project we mentioned: http://dce.oca.org/page/activity-books/

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Older children may be interested in having these beautiful scripture coloring pages in their travel folder:: http://joditt.com/free-christian-coloring-pages-adults/

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Here are some Bible story dot to dot puzzles at varying degrees of difficulty, for the travel folder service project: http://sundayschoolzone.com/resource-type/coloring-pages/connect-the-dots/

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Find mazes of every letter from A to Z here. If you know your students’ travel buddies’ names ahead of time, you could print the first (and last) initials’ maze for their travel folder: http://brainymaze.com/for-teachers/. (Find mazes of all sorts at the parent page, http://brainymaze.com/.)

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On Virtuous Year-End Awards

For many of us in North America, the Sunday Church School year is coming to an end. The end of a year offers the opportunity to note growth and accomplishment in all of us, but especially in our students. This a good time to review their growth and celebrate with them the positive ways we have seen them change.

Perhaps your Sunday Church School offers awards at the end of the year, such as certificates celebrating perfect attendance, most improved, best at ____, etc. Those achievements are important, and should be noted. But there are even more important ways for a child to improve than curriculum and attendance. As Orthodox Christians, we should constantly be evaluating and celebrating our spiritual growth and that of our students. The end of a school year is a great time to do so! Let us take a little time to think about each of our students and note their growth in the virtues. Growth in virtue is one way to measure their growth in The Faith. Perhaps this year would be a good time to begin giving our students virtues awards as well!

Not sure where to start? Check out our recent blog posts on the virtues (see https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2017/03/03/on-pursuing-the-virtues-an-introduction/, the beginning of the series), which offered suggestions of ways to teach our students about each of the virtues. Each of these blog posts can offer us helpful information about the virtue on which it focuses, which we can then apply as we think about each child. How have they grown in humility, liberality, chastity, mildness, temperance, happiness, and diligence? Which of these virtues do they best exemplify in their life? In which virtue have they grown the most?

Once we have answered some of the above questions, it would behoove us to find a way to acknowledge our observation of our children’s growth. This could be as simple as setting aside time with each child to privately encourage them and congratulate them on their growth in this area. Or perhaps we could take part of our last class together and have a “virtues awards” ceremony, wherein we note and celebrate each child’s growth in virtue.

If we choose to do an official “ceremony,” we can begin the discussion by showing the students a picture of them from the beginning of the school year (if we have one!) and compare it to how they look now. We can talk a bit about how they’ve grown physically this year. We can ask them to share other things they’ve learned over the course of the year (for example, how to ride a bike or play lacrosse or cook dinner). We could discuss academic growth as well, including the awards they’ve gotten at school. At this point, we can segue into a discussion of the children’s growth in the virtues. We can take time with each virtue as it applies to each child or we can talk about each child in turn and celebrate all the virtues in which we have noted growth for that child. Perhaps we will want to present the children with a tangible award celebrating their growth in a particular virtue. We may even want to present them with a gift such as an award certificate, a playful token representing the virtue in which they’ve grown, or a donation to a charity of the students’ choice in honor of their spiritual growth. How we choose to acknowledge the growth will vary, according to what the class needs. The important thing is that we notice the growth and encourage our students to continue to grow in virtue! When others see the good that is happening in us and acknowledge it, it makes us want to press on – and become even more godly! Let us do this for our Sunday Church School students, and press on together with them!

 

Here are ideas of tangible awards for each of the virtues, in case you want something to give to your students and need ideas. (You can choose to do just a verbal award, give a token gift, or maybe a donation to the charity of your class’ choice. Whichever works best for you!)

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Ideas for an award for the virtue of Humility:

This printable certificate: Humility Certificate

or

This playful “award”: a slinky, some silly putty, or a container of slime. All three seek to return to the lowest point, just as we should continually try to be completely humble.

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Ideas for an award for the virtue of Liberality:

This printable certificate: Liberality Certificate

or

This playful “award”: a pack of stickers or a large container of bubble solution – something that can be freely and easily shared, to continue practicing the virtue of liberality!

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Ideas for an award for the virtue of Chastity:

This printable certificate: Chastity Certificate

or

This playful “award”: a playful bar of glycerin soap (perhaps with a toy embedded in it) or a kid-friendly liquid soap pump. Either offers a way to continue to keep (your hands, at least!) pure.

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Ideas for an award for the virtue of Mildness:

This printable certificate: Mildness Certificate

or

This playful “award”: a stress ball or a liquid motion bubbler. Both are calming and can offer a way to remain mild in the face of an opportunity to be angry or anxious.

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Ideas for an award for the virtue of Temperance:

This printable certificate: Temperance Certificate

or

This playful “award”: a box of cookies, fruit snacks, or other beloved treats that can offer the child the opportunity to continue to practice temperance.

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Ideas for an award for the virtue of Happiness:

This printable certificate: Happiness Certificate

or

This playful “award”: a smiley face pin – actually, anything with a smile emoji on it! Wearing a smile will make others smile as well, and will remind you to continue to choose to be happy.

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Ideas for an award for the virtue of Diligence:

This printable certificate: Diligence Certificate

or

This playful “award”: a hoola hoop, jump rope, or puzzle. Whichever your child would enjoy the most, while working at it and being reminded to keep trying and not to quit!

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Here is a link to all seven certificates, if you wish to print all of them: Virtues Certificates – Google Docs

 

Gleanings from a Book: “Orthodox Christian Parenting Cultivating God’s Creation” By Marie Eliades

We recently discovered the book Orthodox Christian Parenting – Cultivating God’s Creation by Marie L. Eliades, published by Zoe Press in 2012. This book is a compilation of quotes and writings about raising and educating Orthodox Christian children. The text is gathered both from Church fathers and contemporary Orthodox Christians, and is presented by theme. (An important note: the introduction to the book tells more about the project and encourages readers to discuss what they read with their spiritual father to see what is best for their own family.)

Themes include:

“The Bigger Picture” (addresses why the book’s content is important)

“Marriage and New Beginnings” (sets the foundation for a new Orthodox family, and offers Orthodox perspectives on infertility/pregnancy/childbirth/adoption/loss of a child)

“Raising our Children” (speaks to childrearing from early childhood through youth)

“In the House of the Lord” (offers the basics of Orthodox family life at Church and at home)

“Adolescence and Growing Up” (talks about the issues and challenges that older children and their related adults face)

“So, They’re Leaving Home” (suggestions for launching a young adult)

We found many encouraging and challenging quotes throughout the book, and will share a few of them with you. This book will be of great benefit to any Orthodox Christians who marry, raise children, and/or teach children about the Faith. We recommend that people in those categories consider reading the book because of its insights into what the Church has taught about raising and teaching children of all ages.

Find the book here: http://www.shop.zoepress.us/Orthodox-Christian-Parenting-Cultivating-Gods-Creation-978-0-9851915-0-4.htm

Here are a few quotes from the book:

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“Saint John [Chrysostom] says that the souls of children are soft and delicate like wax. If right teachings are impressed upon them from the beginning, then with time these impressions harden as in the case of a waxen seal. None will be able to undo this good impression… There is no more wonderful material with which to work than the souls of children. Parents create ensouled icons of God, living statues.” (p. 24)

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From a section from St. Porphyrios:
“Teach the children to seek God’s help. The great secret for children’s progress is humility. Trust in God gives perfect security. God is everything. No one can say that I am everything. That cultivates egotism. God desires us to lead children to humility. Without humility neither we nor our children will achieve anything. You need to be careful when you encourage children. You shouldn’t say to a child, ‘You’ll succeed, you’re great, you’re young, your fearless, you’re perfect!’ This is not good for the child. You can tell the child and say, ‘The talents you have, have been given to you by God. Pray and God will give you strength to cultivate them and in that way you will succeed. God will give you His grace.’ That is the best way. Children should learn to seek God’s help in everything.” (p. 86)

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From a section from St. Porphyrios:
“Young people these days say, ‘You need to understand us!’ But we mustn’t conform to their ideas. On the contrary, we need to pray for them, to say what is right, to live by what is right, and proclaim what is right, and not conform ourselves to their way of thinking. We mustn’t compromise the magnificence of our faith… We need to remain the people that we are and proclaim the truth and the light. The children will learn from the holy Fathers. The teaching of the Fathers will instruct our children about Confession, about the passions, about evils and about how the saints conquered their evil selves. And we will pray that God will enter into them.” (p. 90)

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“The Orthodox educator does not project himself as superior because he sees his own self as more sinful than everyone. His students teach him. He cooperates harmoniously with his colleagues; he bases the success of his work on prayer. He educates himself daily in order to be able to educate his little brothers in Christ. How different is this model of educator from that of the various educated people of our age who often, ignoring the education of the Three Hierarchs, set out with a  luciferian egotism of knowledge, of projection, of worldly wisdom and often more based on their individual net worth. In fact, the Three Hierarchs as brilliant stars can serve to enlighten the darkness of our age, to cast light on the facts of ‘education’ of which our purported leaders of education are entirely unaware.” (p. 135)

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“Orthodox holy Tradition teaches us humility, obedience, repentance and love. Tradition can only be passed on by example. ‘Youth ministers’ will not be able to communicate much about Orthodox spirituality unless the young ones are actually seeing this happen in the home or at least in the homes of other church members. SOMEBODY actually has to start living Tradition in order for it to be conveyed. It is no wonder that the Greek word for Tradition, ‘paradosis,’ means to pass along or hand down something that is living and active.” (p. 160)

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From a section by Fr. Artemy Vladimirov:

“We very much pity those Orthodox Christians who think that the best rest for their exhausted soul is to watch television news. This isn’t a bad thing, perhaps, but it’s a dead thing. You may spend all of the earthly time you have been allotted with such distractions, but you will never be at peace. If you want to calm your mind and ease your heart, try calling instead on the most holy name of Jesus Christ, without haste and with only one intent: to attract His attention and repent of your sins.

“Try taking a walk for ten minutes as you invoke his miracle-working name, and you will see spiritual profit. Begin in a simple, humble manner, ‘O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ You may even do this somewhat mechanically, knowing that this tradition has been sanctified by generations of saints, but as you walk and pray, try not to think of anything else. Just walk in the presence of God.

“In these ten minutes you will find that your fevered mind is soothed, that the noisy bazaar of your thoughts has become light, clear, and direct…” (p. 201)

Encouragement for Orthodox Christian Fathers

There are many definitions of the word “father.” Here are a few of them:

“Father:

b) A male whose impregnation of a female results in the birth of a child. c) A man who adopts a child. d) A man who raises a child.…

…A male ancestor: He has died and now sleeps with his fathers.…

…a) A man who creates, originates, or founds something: Chaucer is considered the father of English poetry. b) A man who serves or is thought of as a protector: beloved as the father of the nation.

Father-Christianity

…a) God. b)The first person of the Christian Trinity.

…One of the leading men, as of a city: the town fathers.

Abbr.- Fr.

…a) A priest or clergyman in the Roman Catholic or Anglican churches. b) Used as a title and form of address with or without the clergyman’s name.”

From http://www.thefreedictionary.com/fathering.

It is our hope that the Orthodox Christian fathers in our community are fathers that exemplify many of the definitions above. An Orthodox Christian father needs to move beyond the mere biological portion of fatherhood to being the man who raises his child(ren), founds the little Church in his home, protects all therein, acts as Our Father (God) would act towards his child(ren), leads the family, and takes seriously the role of priest in his own home.

To encourage the fathers in our community, this week’s blog post focuses on Orthodox Christian parenting from a father’s perspective. Each link will offer thought-provoking ideas on fathering and encouragement to the fathers among us. May God bless all of you fathers, and grant you many years, as you raise your children in the Holy Orthodox Church!

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The Spiritual Aspects Of Fatherhood

by Al Rossi, Ph.D.

A conference participant once asked the speaker, “What is the best way for a father to love his children?” The speaker replied, “The best way for a father to love his children is to love their mother.” I reflect often upon that superbly accurate statement. And I think the reverse is equally true: the best way a mother can love her children is to love their father.

More than anything else in the world, children need a loving family and parents who support each other, even if the parents are apart through separation or divorce.

Christ challenges us to love one another, and that challenge becomes even more compelling within our own families. Even in the best of families, there is broken-ness. And that is why the man’s call to fatherhood is so important. We fathers are called to show our families strong, manly love and forgiveness, virtues modeled powerfully in the father of the prodigal son (Luke 11:32).

This father is stable, loving, and generous. In his fairness, he avoids violating the freedom of either of his sons. When the prodigal demands his inheritance and decides to leave, the father does not attempt to withhold the money. He does not pressure the son to stay by trying to make him feel guilty. And the father is wise enough not to send care packages to relieve the son’s distress. The father allows both of his adult sons to make their own mistakes and to learn from their failures, an appropriate form of discipline for older adolescents and young adults.

The prodigal’s father demonstrates manly leadership by taking loving initiatives, and he takes many such initiatives. He maintains a thriving business to provide the generous inheritance. He creates and supports a loving family for the prodigal to run from and for the older son to remain with. And there was his last generous, joyful initiative as he runs out to embrace the returning son, kiss him, and put on him the best robe, ring, and shoes. He celebrates the return of his son with a feast. And in a scene all of us fathers can recognize, he opens up the conversation with the sulking older son.

The father takes the initiative in bringing about forgiveness and reconciliation in the whole family. He is a model for us in responding to our call to follow the Spirit of Jesus in taking many initiatives in our families, especially that of boundless forgiveness for our children.

When a father takes responsibility for his own spiritual life, for the way he prays, goes to church, and practices virtue in the family, he gives good example. Then his leadership in the family is authentic, based on his own solid relationship with God, and he is less likely to be concerned about any resistance his children may give him. He can lead family prayer. When I suggest that we stand in the living room and pray before a trip or that we pray in a restaurant, I often feel an initial resistance in my children. But quiet cooperation and peacefulness soon follow. Sometimes the children will even tell me that they prayed in a restaurant when I wasn’t there.

At times the father’s role of leading the family to great forgiveness and prayerfulness is an unpopular one. But as a man grows in his own spiritual life, he becomes more sturdy and willing to accept responsibility. Although all this is impossible for us fathers to do alone, God can do all things. God can even bestow the awesome spiritual power of fatherhood upon us.

Dr. Albert Rossi is a Professor of Psychology at Pace University, Pleasantville, NY and has a private practice in family counseling. Reprinted with permission from Resource Handbook, Vol. II, 95.1, Department of Lay Ministry, Orthodox Church in America.

from http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/forfolks/spirfrhd.htm

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Dad Time

You feel good when your kids treat you like a king on Father’s Day. But do you treat your kids like kings and queens by spending time with them the other 364 days of the year?

Paul Lewis, editor of Dads Only, squeezes time out of his schedule with these creative encounter ideas:

Body, arm, or even thumb wrestle your child

Help your child with a chore.

Talk about the values behind a TV program or commercial you’ve just watched.

Write a thank-you not of appreciation and encouragement to another significant adult in your child’s life, such as a Church School teacher, coach, or scout leader.

Give your child a back or foot rub.

“Kidnap” your child from school and have lunch together.

Together, fix and eat a bowl of popcorn.

Together, read aloud a chapter or psalm in the Bible.

Tell your child about five personal habits or traits you appreciate and admire in him/her.

Pray with your child about any problem.

Reprinted from Children’s Ministry Magazine. found at http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/forfolks/dadtime.htm, used by permission.

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Smart Dads

Connect with your kids all year long-not just on Father’s Day. Paul Lewis, author of The Five Key Habits of Smart Dads ($15.99, Zondervan Publishing House), gives these tips:

Talk at bedtime. Jot down conversation-starters in a notebook. For example, ask your kids about a fear they felt today, their latest dreams, or what they’ll be like when they’re older. Note and date your children’s answers.

Take a “fun” poll. Ask: What’s the most fun we’ve had as a family in the past month? in the past year? ever? Have kids tell why and put a date on the calendar to do the events again.

Keep kids talking. Make a 20-minute recording of kids talking about topics such as weekend activities, the day at school, pets, hobbies, friends, and latest fads. Send a copy to grandparents and archive the original.

Get kids’ advice. Spark family dialogue by reading “Dear Abby” letters and debating the advice. Have family members suggest solutions. They may even be better than Abby’s advice!

Reprinted from For Parents Only, May/June 1995 (Children’s Ministry).

From http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/forfolks/smartdad.htm. Used by permission.

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The following are links to other excellent resources for Orthodox Christian fathers. May they challenge each of their readers to be a more godly father!

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“In a world that values wealth and fame, the Christian father is called to remember that no matter what other accomplishments he has in his career or his life, the greatest influence he will have on the world will be as a father in how he shapes the souls of his children.” Find this quote in the context of an excellent article on fatherhood, in Praxis, written by Dr. Philip Mamalakis, from the Praxis archives, Winter 2008, “The Church at Home,” pp. 12-14. Download it here: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/praxis/praxisarchive

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Fr. Joseph Honeycutt shares a few things he learned in his almost 9 years as a stay-at-home parent in this podcast. Be sure to listen to the end to hear the excellent advice he received from his mother-in-law, and also from his bishop, when his first child was born: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/orthodixie/father_mom

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Dads, whether or not you know it, you are pastoring a domestic church! Read Dr. Albert Rossi’s encouraging and helpful article on the subject here: http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/forfolks/pastor.htm

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Dads, how’s your inner life? What is its connection to your influence on your children? This interview will help you think about these questions and more! http://myocn.net/expectations-of-fatherhood-today/

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“I believe being a father means creating a world… I draw on a communion of artists and saints to shape our children’s imaginations, hearts, and minds with the wonder of God. My calling as a father is to create space for myself and my family to discover the wonder of God. I believe I’m called to both model and create an environment that encourages curiosity about God and his world. For where there is curiosity, there will be discovery. And where discovery of God’s beauty happens in its many and varied forms, there will be wonder and joy. And that joy–created, given, and shared–is what fatherhood in the Kingdom of God is all about.” http://www.knoxpriest.com/fatherhood-means-creating-world/ (The article is not written by an Orthodox father, but is still well worth the read!)

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Dads, if God has blessed you with children, there are things He wants your children to learn from you (and vice versa)! After all, we are placed in families for our salvation. Here are a few (not written by Orthodox dads, but still worthy of consideration) suggestions of what your children should learn from you:

8 basics every dad should teach his sons: http://matthewljacobson.com/2013/09/30/future-men-8-basics-every-dad-should-teach-his-son/

12 things daughters need their parents to say to them: http://emilypfreeman.com/12-things-your-daughter-needs-you-to-say/

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God is our Perfect Father, and no earthly dad can measure up to His infinite goodness. But dads who love God can learn much from Him, and imitate Him to the best of their ability! Here are ideas of 3 characteristics of a Godly father: http://www.imperfecthomemaker.com/2014/06/3-characteristics-godly-father.html#_a5y_p=1847102

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On the Beauty of Nature: Noticing God’s Handiwork

Summertime offers us plenty of opportunities to spend time out of doors with our Sunday Church School students or other children. While we are outside, whether with children or alone, let us be careful to take time to look at the world around us. Let us not just see God’s workmanship, but let us take time to actually notice it! Let us marvel at the beauty, wonder at the intricacies, and find God in His handiwork. As a rule, our busy society has removed “time to smell the roses” from our schedules. The change in schedule that summer offers grants us the opportunity to actually take back that time, and to teach the children in our care to do the same.

Let us teach children to love creation.Love all creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand within it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things.~ Starets Zosima, in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. To some degree this comes naturally to children. After all, they are usually the ones bringing a crumpled flower (or bug!) in their fist and proclaiming, “Look what I found!” Perhaps what we really need here is to allow children time and space to be in creation. Or maybe what we need is for them to (re)teach us to love creation!?!

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Let us urge children to nurture their sense of wonder. St Silouan urges us to ‘love every created thing; and emphasizes the beauty of nature. From my childhood days I loved the world and its beauty. I loved the woods and green gardens, I loved the fields and all the beauty of God’s creation. I liked to watch the shining clouds scurrying across the blue sky.’ If we lose our sense of wonder before the beauty of nature, so he believed, this suggests that we have at the same time lost our sense of God’s grace. ~ Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware). Read more at http://www.bogoslov.ru/en/text/2314168.html. I don’t know about you, but my very being sighs in delight as I wander (and wonder) in a woods. God’s creation is filled with wonder. We must not miss it; and it is imperative that we nurture it in the children’s lives!

Let us encourage the children in our care to treat all living things with compassion. “The compassionate love of St Silouan extends beyond animals to plants: ‘Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees’ (Revelation 7:3). On one occasion when the two of them were walking together, Fr Sophrony struck out with his stick at a clump of tall wild grass. The Starets said nothing, but he shook his head doubtfully; and at once Fr Sophrony was ashamed. In his own writings St Silouan says: ‘That green leaf on the tree which you needlessly plucked – it was not wrong, only rather a pity for the little leaf. The heart that has learned to love feels sorry for every created thing.Nurturing care for even the smallest of God’s creatures will help children to be more compassionate and better people! Respect for others and for God’s creation go hand in hand, and should be taught together.

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Let us learn from the lessons that God has for us in nature. “When you walk in a forest, garden, or meadow, and see the young shoots of the plants, the fruits on the trees, and the variety of the flowers of the field, learn a lesson from God’s plants–namely, the lesson that every tree each summer unfailingly puts forth at least one shoot of considerable size, and unfailingly grows in height and dimensions. It seems as though every tree endeavors each year to advance by the strength that God has given it; therefore, say to yourself, I, too, must each day, each year, absolutely grow higher and higher morally, better and better, more and more perfect; must advance on the road to the Kingdom of Heaven, or to the Father which is in Heaven, through the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Spirit dwelling and working within me. As the field is adorned by a multitude of flowers, so should the field of my own soul be adorned by all the flowers of virtue; as the trees bring forth flowers and afterwards fruit, so must my soul bring forth the fruits of faith and good works. ~ St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ, from http://www.antiochian.org/content/february-6-2013-prayerfulness-sight-nature. Teaching children to notice how determined plants grow amongst rocks; how hard an ant works; how stubbornly birds insist on flying in a biting wind; each lesson can strengthen their faith. Each part of nature gives us the chance to teach the children (and be taught, ourselves) about the greatness of God and how we should respond to it!

By “taking time to smell the roses” and actually seeing what God has placed right before our eyes in nature, and by teaching our the children in our care to do the same, we can grow together towards God. Nature offers us the opportunity to perceive the divine mystery in things, to have a better sense of God’s grace, and to have compassion on all living things. The lessons we learn from nature can make us more virtuous and result in stronger faith and good works coming forth from our lives. So, let’s go! Let’s get outside! Let’s see what God has made, and marvel at His goodness!

And let’s take the children with us…

Here are more quotes on the beauty of nature and how it points us to God. Read them for your own encouragement, or discuss them with your students.

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“Now in the springtime, when nature is wearing its most beautiful apparel, one feels inexpressible joy when this natural beauty is accompanied by a sublime spiritual state. Truly, our holy God has made all things in wisdom!” (http://lightofdesert.blogspot.com/2014/04/on-salvation-and-paradise-elder-ephraim.html)

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“The soul cannot get enough of beholding the beauty of nature. Oh, if man would only lift his mind above this earthly realm to the heavenly Jerusalem, to the inconceivable beauty of paradise where the finite, earthly mind ceases to operate… There every saved soul will live in an ocean of love, sweetness, joy, amazement, and wonder!” (http://lightofdesert.blogspot.com/2014/04/on-salvation-and-paradise-elder-ephraim.html)

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“Do not forget your goal, my child. Look into heaven and see the beauty that awaits us. What are the present, earthly things? Aren’t they but ashes and dust and a dream? Don’t we see that everything here is subject to decay? Whereas things above are everlasting, the kingdom of God is endless, and blessed is he who will dwell in it, for he will behold the glory of His divine face!” (http://lightofdesert.blogspot.com/2014/04/on-salvation-and-paradise-elder-ephraim.html)

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“ O Lord, how good it is for us to be Thy guests! How fine it is for us in Thy world. The fields are fragrant, the mountains rise high up into the sky, and the golden rays of sun and the light clouds are reflected in the water. All nature mysteriously speaks about Thee, all is filled with Thy mercy and all carries the seal of Thy love. Blessed be the earth which, with her short-lasting beauty, awakens the yearning for the eternal homeland in Thy kingdom, where in everlasting beauty resounds the song: Alleluia!” Kontakion 2, “Akathist of Thanksgiving” http://www.orthodox.net/akathists/akathist-thanksgiving.html

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“Thou broughtest me into this life as if into a wonderful garden. I see the sky deep and blue, the birds as they chirp in flight; I listen to the soothing rustle of trees and the sonorous sound of waters; my mouth is enjoying fragrant and succulent fruits. How wonderful it is in Thy world and how joyous it is to be Thy guest!

Glory to Thee for the feast of life!

Glory to Thee for the scents of lilies of the valley and roses.

Glory to Thee for the abundance and multiplicity of earthly fruits.

Glory to Thee for the glistening of morning dew.

Glory to Thee for the joyous smile of dawn / with which Thou dost waken me.

Glory to Thee for eternal life / and the kingdom of heaven.

Glory to Thee, O God, in ages!” Ikos 2, “Akathist of Thanksgiving” http://www.orthodox.net/akathists/akathist-thanksgiving.html

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Read Fr. George Morelli’s take on the relationship between beauty and the Divine in this article: “Beauty, the Divine Connection: Psychospiritual Reflections,” at http://www.antiochian.org/node/23896

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Go Out and Play! Ideas for Summertime Outdoor Fun

It is almost summertime in North America! It is the perfect time of the year to get outdoors with kids. Perhaps you have Sunday Church School all summer. Maybe your parish runs a VCS during the summer months. Or possibly your parish has an annual summer picnic. For any (or all!) of these possibilities, you will want to check into the resources we have found for outdoor summer fun. Most of the following links feature multiple ideas. We will highlight a few favorites at each of those links.

We recommend that you visit all of these sites and scroll through their offerings. It will take some time, but you will come away with so many fun ideas! Be sure to make a master list of ideas you like and/or copy and paste the links for each activity that you especially liked into a document so that you have it at your fingertips for future reference. (You may wish to visit http://sassysites.blogspot.com/2011/07/oh-what-do-you-do-in-summertime.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+SassySites+(Sassy+Sites!) for clever ideas of ways to present these activities to the children with whom you intend to do them, especially if you will be using multiple activities for a single event such as VCS or a parish picnic!)

So, here is what we found.

For group activities:

Here are a bunch of clever outdoor game ideas: http://www.agirlandagluegun.com/2014/05/outdoor-games-to-play-in-summmmmer.html. We especially liked the splash-the-ping-pong-balls-off-of-the-golf-tees challenge, the put-on-a-frozen-tshirt race, the squirt-gun powered matchbox car racing, and the car-wash-sponge-on-a-paint-stick balloon boppers. What fun!

Find a pile of minute-to-win-it challenges for people of a variety of ages to try, at http://lets-get-together.com/2014/05/16/family-reunion-minute-to-win-it/. These would be especially fun for the whole parish, if you are hosting a parish picnic or other intergenerational event.

Hot day? Need some fun ways to cool off with a group that doesn’t mind getting wet? Check out these watery games! http://thestir.cafemom.com/big_kid/156164/8_awesome_water_games_for. Ideas include using water balloons instead of balls to toss around on a parachute (or a sheet) and playing “Dry, Dry, Wet” (“Duck, Duck, Goose” with a wet sponge). Find more really fun water games (ie: batting practice with water balloons) here: http://www.tipjunkie.com/post/water-games/!

Plan an outdoor movie night as described here: http://www.thesitsgirls.com/diy/how-to-host-a-backyard-movie-night/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+thesitsgirls/dIsr+(The+SITS+Girls). Invite the whole JOY Club, and have a fun evening together! (You could have them each bring a large box, decorate them to look like cars, and have your outdoor movie theater be a “drive through” movie theater!)

Here is a list of 50 “old fashioned but still fun” games you can play with kids of all ages! http://www.nannyjobs.org/blog/50-old-fashioned-games-kids-can-play/ Chances are you played many of them yourself. Don’t worry if you’ve forgotten how the games go: the rules are right here for hopscotch, Red Rover, I Spy, HORSE, and so many more!!!

This blog was written by a teacher for the last day of school, but it contains a variety of fun indoor activities/challenges that kids would enjoy doing at church, as well. The activities are great for kids, but would also work intergenerationally. Check them out (and keep them “in your back pocket” for an outdoor event, in case the weather changes your plans)! http://tunstalltimes.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/our-last-day-in-pictures.html

Just for fun with kids:

Find 50 links for fun activities for both outdoors and inside at this webpage: http://www.iheartnaptime.net/50-of-the-best-kids-summer-fun-activities/. Some favorite ideas found here include directions for making a reading teepee, building your own kiddie car wash for bikes (or for kids!), making your own ladder golf game, and ice excavating.

This page lists inexpensive ideas for summer fun: http://www.buzzfeed.com/mikespohr/29-dollar-store-finds-that-will-keep-your-kids-busy-all-summ. Favorites include directions for a pool noodle sprinkler, kickball croquet, backyard (or beach) Olympics, busy bag ideas for indoor days, and a shower-curtain-liner giant dry-erase sheet!

Whether or not you work with boys, check out the fantastic ideas on this page: http://www.readingconfetti.com/2013/06/50-summer-activities-boys-will-love.html! We especially liked the clothespin catapults, the mini ice boats, and the printable playground scavenger hunt (for visiting new playgrounds)!

Many simple ideas for entertaining children are found at this page: http://teachingmama.org/simple-and-fun-summer-activities-for-kids/. Our blogger remembers “painting” the sidewalk (and the house!) with water when she was a kid – so simple, but it was fun to do! The soap boats are also a clever idea, and kids would have a blast with the pool noodle “water wall,” among other great ideas.

Find directions to create an obstacle course featuring pool noodles here: http://www.learnplayimagine.com/2012/05/pool-noodle-backyard-obstacle-course.html

For particularly curious and/or science minded kids, http://kidsactivitiesblog.com/50127/fun-science-activities offers ideas from creating a marble run (to learn laws of physics) to building a paper bridge (and testing its strength with penny weights) to experimenting with the chemistry that happens in your kitchen!

Still need ideas? Check out http://www.buzzfeed.com/peggy/the-ultimate-summer-bucket-list-for-bored-kids?sub=2339847_1322475#.ipoVbVrwr, http://workathomemoms.about.com/od/kidsactivitiesfamilyfun/a/ideas-for-kids.htm, or https://www.care.com/a/101-fun-things-to-do-with-kids-this-summer-1305030150!

 

Many of these outdoor activities can be used to help teach a lesson or review what you have been learning. Here are some suggestions in that vein:

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Make sponge “balls,” moisten them, and have a throwing-and-soaking party! Or, you could use these soggy balls for a review activity. Each person will try to hit a one-word target (the “targets”  can be written in chalk on the sidewalk or parking lot, or on slips of paper in the grass). Each word should remind the participants of something that you have studied together, or a scripture passage, or even part of the Divine Liturgy. When they hit or get close a word, they need to tell what they know about it to the rest of the group, in order to get their sponge ball back. http://www.marthastewart.com/265636/sponge-ball

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Cut a slice of a pool noodle, cap one end with a balloon, and end up with a pom-pom shooter!!! Great for outdoors OR inside! Decorate the pool noodle to look like a big fish, and the pompom can be Jonah… Have the students make their “big fish” swallow Jonah, and then later “spit him back out” just as it happened in the Bible (only considerably less messy!)! http://frogsandsnailsandpuppydogtail.com/superhero-pool-noodle-pom-pom-shooter/

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Host a friendly “Olympics” with game ideas from this week’s blog for the main events. Gather food ideas from here http://michellepaige.blogspot.com/2012/07/olympics-family-dinner.html, as well as candy “medal” prizes (also found here, as are printable other “metals” if you don’t want to use candy: circle.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/family-game-night-and-some-free-printables/.) Talk about St. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” Challenge all in attendance to “run” the “race” of their lives in the same way – with mindfulness, diligence, and focus – that an Olympian competes.

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Print copies of this photo-based outdoor scavenger hunt, gather several groups of children, and send them out to see what they can spot!  http://creativehomemakers.blogspot.com/2010/07/camping-scavenger-hunt-for-kids.html After comparing findings, talk about the beauty of the world God has made. Have them sort their findings into things God made and things that people made. Which things are more beautiful? Encourage them to be responsible with their trash so that they do not ruin the beauty of the world God has created for us to enjoy.

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Plan a late-night (glow, but shhh! it’s a secret) party for anyone old enough to stay up after it is dark. When you gather, talk about how you will all be doing a slip and slide, playing a version of tennis, completing a ring toss, etc., in the dark. Go outside and try to play each thing (you could split into small special interest groups and have them each try to play one game, briefly, to expedite the process). Come back inside and discuss how it went. Use this experience as an object lesson to talk about how Christ illumines our lives. As you discuss His changing power in the darkness of our lives, have some helpers outside affixing glow sticks and/or their liquid to each activity station. After the talk (and when all the now-glowing stations are ready), break up into groups again and allow the groups to rotate so that each person gets to attempt each activity which is now illumined. See http://www.designdazzle.com/2012/06/summer-camp-10-awesome-glow-stick-ideas/ for activity ideas.

Holy Week Activities

Following are suggested activities to help make journeying through Holy Week with children more focused and holy. Use these ideas with your class this year, save them to use next year, or pass the ideas on to your students’ parents.

Lazarus Saturday activities:

Divide your class into two teams and have a Lazarus Race as described on p. 9 of http://www.phyllisonest.com/.

Practice folding palm crosses like this: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/Palm-Crosses.pdf.

Palm Sunday activities:

Palm Sunday word search: http://www.sundayschoolzone.com/activities/phj05-triumphal-entry-hidden-message-word-search.pdf.

Lesson 4 (of this first grade level printable book) is on Palm Sunday: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/folder.2012-03-22.9458973042/unit-7.pdf.

Read the Palm Sunday story, written in easy-to-understand language, here: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/131.pdf.

Palm Sunday and Holy Week printable guide for kids: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/125.pdf.

(Also, find Bridegroom Services info for parents here: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/42.pdf.)

Holy Week activities:

Listen to these helpful webinars on ideas of ways to help children participate in Holy Week: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/family/files/lent/holyweek and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lX3UyHAKMac&feature=youtu.be.

Find brief descriptions of the Holy Week services, written in a way that children can understand, here: http://www.antiochian.org/node/25635.

Find links to articles on the Holy Week services (and more) that can help you better understand and experience the week here: http://www.antiochian.org/lent/holy-week.

Find practical, hands-on tips for helping children to better experience Holy Week here: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2010/03/holy-week-for-kids.html?m=1 and here: http://www.orthodoxmom.com/2011/04/18/holy-week-activities-for-kids/.

Find a fantastic selection of lesson plans, discussion ideas, and activity suggestions for helping children “Journey to Pascha” here: http://dce.oca.org/focus/pascha/. The lessons are leveled by age group, so be sure to check out each lesson for the ages of your children! (There are also many printable pdfs including a “Guide to Holy Week” that children can take with them or read, prior to each service.)

Together answer questions related to the Holy Week icons that are found at: http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2009/03/holy-week-scrapbook.html.

Make a mural for the events of Holy Week as suggested here: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/1832.pdf.

Find the Bridegroom Matins “Teaching Picture,” along with its description for use with children, at http://www.antiochian.org/teaching-pictures-holy-week-and-pascha.
Read about the Bridegroom Matins services here: file:///home/chronos/u-a7946be60baa093c55717211fa16f6ff84c0651b/Downloads/42.pdf.

Watch a 5-minute story, animated with Legos, from the Last Supper through the resurrection: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-M8Yesnt1V8&feature=youtu.be.

See the 25-minute animated story of Holy Week through the resurrection from The Beginner’s Bible: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PSgoPdKQFQ.

Find printable coloring pages for Holy Week here: http://meaburrelareligion.blogspot.com/2012/03/colorear-pascua.html.

Play this board game together: http://www.annunciationakron.org/phyllisonest/pdf/Great%20Lent%20Board%20Game%202011%202-19.pdf.

Holy Thursday activities:

Jesus washed His disciples’ feet word search: http://www.sundayschoolzone.com/activities/jesus-washed-the-disciples-feet-word-search.pdf.

Find a printable Holy Thursday notebooking page here: http://www.catholicicing.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Holy-Thursday-Notebooking-Page.pdf.

Find printable “Last Supper” coloring pictures here: http://meaburrelareligion.blogspot.com/2013/10/ultima-cena-colorear.html.

Read the Last Supper story written in easy-to-understand language, at: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/107.pdf.

Find the Last Supper icon to color at http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/LastSupper1.pdf.

There is a footwashing icon to print and color at http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/175.pdf.

Holy Friday activities:

Find quiet activities for Holy Friday and Saturday here: http://goodbooksforyoungsouls.blogspot.com/2014/04/quiet-activities-for-holy-friday-and.html.

Find the Holy Friday Vespers “Teaching Pictures” photo and description for use with children at http://www.antiochian.org/teaching-pictures-holy-week-and-pascha.

Find printable coloring pages for Holy Friday here: http://meaburrelareligion.blogspot.com/2012/03/historia-ilustrada-para-colorear-muerte.html.

Read the story of the crucifixion written in easy-to-understand language, at: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/100.pdf.

Print the crown of thorns icon to color, from: http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/54.pdf.

Print a colorable icon of the crucifixion at  http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/53.pdf.

Find a printable, colorable icon of the burial of Christ at http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/resources/43.pdf.