faith formation at home: 4 favorite resources

The sign-up sheet from church stared at me for months while I hemmed and hawed.

What was the best day and time to pick for their religious education classes? Which one of us would drive and pick up? How would we fit it into the rest of the weekly calendar?

Nothing worked perfectly. We talked ourselves into one option. Then another. Frustrated, I picked two class times and scribbled out a check.

Then one Sunday morning, before I dropped off the registration forms, I pulled everything out of the envelope again.

Nope, I thought. This doesn’t feel right. We’re not cramming faith formation in as one-more-thing, one-more-pickup-and-drop-off.

We’re doing it at home.

. . .

Here is the embarrassed admission of the theologically-trained mother: I am terrified to be the primary educator of my kids’ faith formation, as the Catechism so beautifully puts it.

I am scared because I know how frightfully important this is. It is the ultimate truth, the faith that defines my life and work, the claim of love upon which I have staked my hopes.


That is the heart of the problem. I’ve seen too many examples of religious education gone awry. Too strict or too soft, too dense or too thin, too judgmental or too wishy-washy.

So I want a beautiful, vibrant, livable way. I want to share with my kids the truth of the faith that is at the core of who I am.

Of course I believe that this is passed on in a thousand small, ordinary moments at home (and I’ve spilled quite a bit of ink on the subject).

But I also want to make sure that they learn the core teachings and basic facts that give our faith its structure, too.

Just in case – purely hypothetically – while we’re making small talk over dessert on a certain child’s baptismal anniversary, and his mother includes (in her short sermonette on the joys, effects, and truths of baptism) a toss-away line of “you know there are seven sacraments, right?” And said child screws up his face in a quizzical whaaaa? of disbelief over celebratory ice cream, prompting his panicked mother to try and squeeze in centuries of sacramental theology before the mint chocolate chip melts entirely.

You see my point. Sometimes there are surprising gaps.

So when we decided to choose the path of faith formation at home for our kids this year, I consulted a few good resources in addition to the curriculum we’ve decided to use. I might have had the courses in theology, but I’m no trained religious educator. I wanted guidance in what’s developmentally appropriate and what’s practically realistic.

Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Theological

Sofia Cavalletti’s Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is hands-down my favorite approach to religious education with young children. I’m blown away by this catechetical model – its respect for the child, grounding in solid theology, celebration of the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church, and above all its insistence that the child is already in relationship with God.

I dream about a day that I might be able to go through the intense training it takes to become a catechist, because I would love to help start a local atrium. And I’m a Montessorian at heart, so this model makes sense to me for the way kids learn.

But for now it’s enough to introduce basic principles and practices of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at home: decorating our prayer altar according to the liturgical year, offering the kids hands-on experiences with liturgical vessels, and grounding our prayer with Scripture in the parables.

Two of my favorite resources from Catechesis of the Good Shepherd are The Good Shepherd and The Child (a great introduction to this approach, for parents and teachers) and A is for Altar, B is for Bible (a beautiful children’s book that illustrates many of the core stories, objects, and practices of this approach).

2. Practical

If you’ve read more than one post on this blog, you know my thoughts tend toward the theological (also known as the poetic, the mystical, or what we joke about in our house as “the ether”). I often need help to come down to earth and ground the cosmic in the concrete.

So when I stumbled across a dog-eared copy of Celebrating Faith: Year-Round Activities for Catholic Families (at Goodwill, of all places!) I was instantly taken with its practical approach.

The author offers plenty of ways to celebrate both liturgical and secular feasts through the eyes of faith at home. I always love to consult her ideas when turning the calendar page to a new month.

Likewise, I love the perspectives from a wise dad compiled in Raising Faith-Filled Kids: Ordinary Opportunities to Nurture Spirituality at Home

When I was a new mom, a parents’ group at our church read his book. It sparked so many helpful discussions about everyday moments to teach kids about faith. I soaked up the wisdom around me from those conversations, and I still turn back to this book when I need a boost from a parent who’s traveled down this same road.

What are your favorites? I know we’re only at the beginning of this journey, so I hope I’ll find more good resources to share along the way. Let me know your suggestions!

Disclaimer: this post includes affiliate links. 

5 thoughts on “faith formation at home: 4 favorite resources

  1. well haha! from a fellow-ether-mom (read “pastor), yea, i pretty much decide it didn’t make sense to form others and leave my own mal-formed. I knew the challenges would be different: genes for one, facing the work-in-progress, BEING the work-in-progress..among many other difficulties big and small.
    Plus i’m not that great a planner. Still, in our own ways through Advent, Lent, ordinary times, family communion, dinner arguments/conversations..the kids are growing to make faith central. It has been harrowing and rewarding; and i know it won’t reach a terminus coz life and faith have a way of twisting around each other, one forcing the other to make sense. Thank you for this post, and many others which I always enjoy reading!

    1. Isn’t that the truth, Jenni? We can’t overlook the ones nearest and dearest to us in whatever our call is elsewhere or to others, too. Love your image of life and faith twisting around each other, calling out to each other – beautiful. Thanks for reading!

  2. Hi,

    I’m the Director of Religious Education at St. Robert Bellarmine in Flushing, MI. We use Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for all our school and parish students, from 3 years-6th grade. We have all three levels and hopefully, next Fall, we will be opening our Infant/Toddler atrium for children 12 months-2 1/2 years old. We have had CGS for 9 years now and it has made an incredible difference for our children and families! The children themselves love to come to the atria and because of that, the parents do not dread taking them. The children are growing in their relationship with God, while learning about scripture, liturgy, and the Mass. We are now seeing children who want to be at Mass and who are drawing their parents more deeply into their faith.
    Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is absolutely wonderful. What I love the most about it, is that it doesn’t treat the children like they are empty vessels, but it recognizes that the child already has a relationship with God and a religious potential. This is so different from other approaches to religious formation. If the child is already in relationship, we are just presenting them with materials, fostering that religious potential, and letting them deepen it and fall more in love with Jesus and His Church.
    Our parish is a host for Level I, II, & III training as well, so if you have any questions about the program or training. Let me know!
    I could talk forever about how CGS is amazing, but I’m just going to say that I’m so thankful and blessed to be in the atrium with the children!
    Also, another really good book is Baptism is a Beginning. It is great for parents and takes them from infant baptism to six years old. It has resources on prayer, fostering joy and wonder, and moral formation.

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