An Update on our Catechism Project

Back in March, we told you a little about our plans to republish two series of graded catechismsOur Holy Faith (from the late 50s/early 60s) and The Highway to Heaven (from the 1930s).  We've spent the time since then working hard toward achieving this goal.  So we'd like to update you on what has been happening, because we are pretty excited about it.

First, in the Our Holy Faith series, we were able to track down originals of each of the textbooks for grades 4-8.  (TAN already has grades 1-3 available.)  8th grade is printed and ready, and the other grades are in process as we speak and we hope to have those ready in about 2-3 weeks.

But the most exciting news is that, thanks to the help of some great friends, we were actually able to find the long-lost 2nd Grade Teacher's Manual and reprint that.  We all owe our gratitude to those who graciously shared this book with us.

So all of the Teacher's Manuals for that series are now available.  Which brings us to the next topic...

We really like the Teacher's Manuals that came with the Highway to Heaven series but one of the best things about them is that many of the recommended resources for both student and teacher are in the public domain.  We have spent the last month or two hunting through the tall grass and the desert sands to locate as many of these books as possible.  And the good news is that many of these additional resources are every bit as wonderful as the series itself!

First there is a book of Catholic Nursery Rhymes that takes you from A to Z through the life of our Savior.

Then there is a three-part series of books by Marion Ames Taggart, suitable for young children, called "The Wonder Story," "The Wonder Days," and "The Wonder Gifts." These are short booklets with beautiful color illustrations that look at Jesus' birth, His hidden life, and the gift of the Sacraments.  They are printed on a thick poster-board-like-paper for durability.

There are three very well-written and handsomely illustrated booklets by Rev. William R. Kelly covering the Mass, the Sacraments and First Communion.

Then, as the children get older, there is another set of three books by Rev. Henry Matimore, called the Madonna Series.  These contain bible stories and stories of the saints that form part of the supplemental reading for the middle grades.  Did I mention they too are beautifully illustrated?  Here's the frontispiece from one of those books:

There is a book called A Character Calendar, which presents for each and every day a saint, focusing on what particular virtues that saint embodied, ways we can imitate them, and a brief prayer to that saint.  Simple but lovely.

Then there are loads of books intended as aids for the teacher that are wonders of simple, pious pedagogy.  Two volumes by Sister Mary Eaton give a basic outline for how to catechize young children, starting at 5 and going up to 14, with suggestions for how to talk to them, how to point out God's wonders in everyday conversation, etc.  To the Heart of the Child by Josephine Brownson, Leading the Little Ones to Christ by Rev. George Dennerle, and Teaching the Ten Commandments by the School Sisters of Notre Dame are all worthy contenders in this category as well.

The list goes on with a book called Practical Aids for Catholic Teachers, which is a compendium of advice and classroom activities compiled by seasoned Catholic educators in the early 20s.  There are read alouds meant to help drive home the lessons of the Catechism, called "Teacher Tells a Story" by Hannan and "Tell us Another" by Herbst.

There are even books for the upper levels called "Biblical Questions" and "Modern Questions" which give students the opportunity to discuss applications of their faith.  These tie in well with the series, as they are written by Rev. Bandas, the same author who wrote "Practical Problems in Religion," which is an answer key to the discussion questions in the 7th and 8th grade textbook.

Last but not least there are Catholic editions of music books called The Music Hour that include Gregorian Chant and Latin Hymns, and a series of Art books called Art Education through Religion, the latter of which we are still trying to locate.

Each grade level (from 1-5) also has recommended readings from the various Catholic readers that were then available.  Many of these are no longer available, and may be too pricey to reprint in full color, so we are looking into assembling readers that have all the readings you will need for each grade level.

So you can see why we are both excited and overwhelmed!  All of these books are worthy of being reprinted and put back into use.  Of course, not every mother is going to have the time in a busy homeschooling schedule to read all of these, so we are looking to include helpful portions in the Teacher's Manuals if possible.

Ah yes...the Teacher's Manuals.  Reprinting these is going to take some time, I'm afraid.  Those who know us, know that we are dedicated to printing the great books we find as-is, without tampering with them.  But occasionally these books are worth tampering with in order to make them even better or more useful to today's parents and children.  This is one of those examples.

The original Teacher's Manuals, though helpful and full of extra readings and activities, were laid out one unit at a time, so that it is not always easy to see where one lesson ends and the next begins.  We are hoping to rearrange the material so that it is very simple and easy to see which lesson coordinates with which suggested readings and activities, etc.  And as mentioned before, we are considering including helpful passages from the teacher resources.

However, especially at the younger grades, it will be most helpful to actually have access to the many supplemental student books like the Nursery Rhymes and the Madonna Series, and they are worth adding to your collection.  We are doing everything we can to reprint these in color as economically as possible so that you can actually have a fully fledged catechism program for your children.

Check in with us over the next months to see how we are progressing!

Oh, and if you have great graphic design or editing experience and would like to volunteer to assist us in such efforts as assembling the readers, we would love to have the help.  It's an enormous task (and I'll be honest with you: it may not be a lot of fun) but is sure to be very rewarding!