We discovered this series quite by accident, while searching for original copies of the books from the Our Holy Faith series. It turns out that the 5th grade text in this series matches the title of the 4th grade text in the Our Holy Faith series: The Vine and the Branches.
You can learn more about how we found this series and some of the process we've undertaken to bring it back into print on our blog.
The late 1920's and early 1930's would appear to have been an especially fertile time for the writing of Catechism books. The world had just finished a Great and terrible war, and was entering a new modern era. There was a great desire for new methods of teaching that were less formalized and exterior--forms that incorporated the new understanding of how children learn, such as those enumerated by educational pioneer Maria Montessori and others.
This reaction to the teaching methods of the past, especially in the field of catechism, which had for many years been largely rote teaching and memorization of the questions and answers of the Catechism, resulted in the Munich Method, also known as the Steiglitz or Psychological Method. This method sought to teach children the faith by first engaging the imagination of the child with stories or other visualizations, followed by a discussion of the application of the moral of the story to the child's life, and finally--only as a last step, after the lesson had been absorbed by the child--this process was followed up with the formula from the Catechism for memorization.
In assembling a new curriculum for the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Marquette University Institute for Catechetical Research sought to incorporate this method in its presentation of Catholic Doctrine to children. And thus, the Highway to Heaven series of textbooks, along with the Religion in Life Curriculum of which they are the centerpiece, was brought into being.
This goal of seizing the imagination of the child is what makes these books especially charming: they tell the Greatest Story Ever Told in a way that engages children and encourages them to visualize the scenes of the Life of Our Lord. To this end the series is most beautifully illustrated as well.
Perhaps the best way to explain the motivation and synthesis of this Catechism Series is by reprinting for you this series of articles from the Journal of Religious Education from 1937:
As you can see, this series was conceived first of all from the standpoint of an integrated curriculum, based on the best materials then available...which, by the way, included Mother Mary Loyola's books!
For this reason, as we have done more and more research on this curriculum, and have sought to track down copies of all its recommended resources, we have fallen more and more deeply in love with this series.
One item worth pointing out: Because this series was printed in the 1930's, before the Baltimore Catechism was revised in the early 1940's, it contains the unrevised Baltimore Catechism. This means that it will align numerically with the original BC as printed by TAN, but NOT with the later St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism, which uses the revised BC.
We currently have the full set of Catechism texts available in both softcover and hardcover. For grades 1-4, we felt it was important to retain the color illustrations, as these are part of what makes these books so appealing to children. This unfortunately means that they cost a little more to produce. However, we think you will agree that the extra expense is worth it.
We have now finished reprinting the Teacher's Manuals for each grade, and we are still working on creating readers for each grade that include as much as possible of the recommended reading for students. We went back and forth on the topic of whether to reprint the Teacher's Manuals as-is, or to update them and include some of the helpful information from the recommended resources. In the end, we have decided to reprint them as-is, for several reasons:
1. We know that you will have greater confidence in knowing that the contents of these manuals was not "tampered with" in any way.
2. The more we sought to track down the recommended resources, the more we found that they were far too valuable in toto; it would have been very difficult to include only brief excerpts, and besides this would have created a bloated Teacher's Manual that would be more costly. We felt it best to produce these as inexpensively as possible, and include a comprehensive resource list in the back of each (as this was missing from most of them) to assist parents and teachers in narrowing down which resources are of the greatest use or importance.
We have also realized that these Teacher's Manuals are a great deal more than just Teacher's Manuals; they contain a full religion curriculum. That is why they were titled "Religion in Life Curriculum." So we need to begin calling them Curriculum Books instead.
Here is an introduction to the books in the series:
|First Grade: The Book of the Holy Child introduces young children to the story of the Life of Our Lord up to his finding in the Temple and his return to Nazareth with his parents, where he "advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men." The unit for First Communion preparation was originally found in the First Grade Curriculum book; however, it can be used with any of the grades, First through Third, so we have included it in the Curriculum book for each of those grades.|
|Second Grade: The Life of My Savior continues the work of First Grade, this time telling the whole story of the Life of our Lord at an age-appropriate level.|
|Third Grade: The Life of the Soul begins introducing the Baltimore Catechism #1 to the children. For this reason, it makes a very good preparation for First Communion and can be swapped with the Second Grade Text if one wishes (or if desired, one could start with the First Grade book in Kindergarten instead).|
|Fourth Grade: Before Christ Came explores the history of God's people before the coming of the promised Messiah.|
Fifth Grade: The Vine and the Branches begins at Pentecost and explores the History of God's people after the birth of His Church on earth. It focuses especially on biographies, in order to maintain the important task of teaching concepts by their application to real lives.
|Sixth Grade: The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass spends the entire year studying the Mass in detail, with a special focus on the prayers themselves and in helping young people to learn to use a Missal. It may prove helpful for newcomers to the Traditional Latin Mass of any age.|
|7th and 8th grade are combined in one book: The Highway to God. This book covers the entire Baltimore Catechism #2 and is accompanied not by a curriculum book, but rather, a volume called Practical Problems in Religion (see below) that contains detailed sample answers for the discussion questions contained in The Highway to God.|