Book Review–“Praise God with Banners”

I just realized that I’ve referred to this wonderful resource many times, but never actually reviewed it! Since this book has been so helpful to us, I thought others might like to know about it, as well.

Praise God with Banners

As the name suggests, this is part of the Praise God with… series that CPH publishes (other titles include another family favorite, Paper Plates, as well as Paper Cups, Paper Bags, Shapes, and Puppets). The books are meant for classroom or church use (but are also great for home use!), and are reproducible. All of the patterns are meant to be used on a 9×12 piece of felt or construction paper, to create a personal-sized banner, but are easily enlarged for full-sized banners suitable for classrooms.

The majority of the book is dedicated to banners for the church year, but there are a few ideas for Bible banners, as well. Each banner has a basic design, with suggestions for colors of paper or felt for each piece, and also has additional ideas for extra embellishments, from gemstones and sequins to glitter and yarn. There are also suggestions for phrases and Bible verses appropriate to each banner. The back of the book has a full alphabet and numbers that you can reproduce as templates for whatever words you choose to put on the banner…I used these for some of our banners, and printed off my own fonts for others. There is also a brief “Lesson Connection” for each banner.

This is one of the most useful books we have in our homeschool library. We were able to create a full church year’s worth of banners from the designs, and may make a few more specific ones in the future. Some of the banners we made are almost identical to the plans in the book, while others were created using the book as a jumping off point, and then coming up with our own additions. I used some of the phrase suggestions, and came up with some of my own using words from hymns and other Bible verses for some banners. I also combined and/or repurposed some of the suggestions to make exactly what we wanted for some portions of the church year.

I highly recommend this book to teachers and parents. I’d like to think that even if we weren’t homeschoolers, we’d still have made church year banners for our playroom, to make a solid connection between church and home.

The Church Year in Banners

Well, we’ve finished all of the banners for our school room…this was definitely a labor of love! We have three up at all times…the seasonal banner, Luther’s Seal, and the Alleluia banner, except during Lent, when the Jesus Tree takes its place. We may make a few more banners in the future, specifically for Holy Trinity Sunday and Holy Week, but they’re not necessary, and will be done as time allows. We have the whole church year covered now, which was the goal when we started this project last fall!

Banners for the Time of Christmas

For our first Christmas school craft, we made banners for the time of Christmas. The time of Christmas is broken into three seasons, so we had three banners to make. They were a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too!

The season of Advent (only the first flame is glued to the banner–the rest can be added as Advent progresses):

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The season of Christmas (to be used for the 12 days of Christmas and the day of the Epiphany):

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The season of Epiphany (to be used on the days following Epiphany, until the beginning of Lent, as well as the time after Pentecost…all of the green days):

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We spent a lot of time going through the banner book, choosing designs, colors, and appropriate Scripture verses, deciding where the glitter glue should go, and then putting them together. The whole family got involved! We’ll continue working our way through the church year…we have plans to make banners for Lent and Easter, as well as an Alleluia banner (we already made a red banner). After we’ve made the basic banners, we may move on to specific banners for Holy Week, and other themed banners…we’ll just have to see how it goes. It’s another nice way to tie our church life and home life together!

Christmas School–Day One

Today’s lessons had very little to do with Christmas. Instead, we focused on the church year. It seemed like a good place to start since the first day of Advent was yesterday.

Turkey and Bunny are familiar with how the church year is set up, but I wanted to get a little more in-depth with it, as well as look ahead to the specific dates we will be celebrating later on in this church year. To do that, we started with our church year calendar. This is the third year we’ve had this hanging in our school room, and it’s a great resource. It shows all the major dates of the specific year, and also marks the lesser commemorations we might otherwise miss. It’s a part of our opening every morning to check the calendar, see what season of the church year we’re in, and note any special days.

As we were noting the festivals of this church year, we marked them on a church year spinner. It was actually Turkey’s idea to turn it into a spinner, where he and Bunny could mark the seasons as they change; it was my plan to just make a wheel and fill in the appropriate dates. I think it’s much better the way he suggested! This spinner is actually not so different from our big calendar, but it gives only the highlights of major feast days–much easier for at-a-glance checking, so both have a place in our schoolroom!

We then read the first installment of the “Mouse Prints” series that was put out by CPH a while back. As its title suggests, the focus of this book is The Time of Christmas. There are also books detailing The Time of Easter and The Time of the Church. They’re out of print now, but if you can get your hands on a copy of this set, I highly recommend it. This is a great way to introduce children to the times of the church, and what each of the seasons mean. We’ve read through the whole three book series several times now, but Turkey and Bunny still love it, because the stories (and illustrations) are just so cute!

On a more serious note, we also went through Ordering Our Days in His Peace. We read through the entire Advent/Christmas/Epiphany section, and then skimmed through the rest of the church year. This book compares the church year to a story, and shows that like a story, it needs a beginning, middle, and end for it to make sense to us. I think it’s a great analogy, and Turkey and Bunny were really captivated by it–they had never heard the church year described that way before.

Book Review: “The Liturgical Year”

As a conservative Lutheran, the structure of the Church Year is very important to me. From the beginning of the new year at Advent, to the season of Feasts and Festivals, to the teaching time of the year throughout the season of Pentecost, I mark my days by the flow of the church year even more than I do that of the calendar year.

Given my deep appreciation for the church year, and it’s usefulness in teaching and ordering our days, I was very excited to read The Liturgical Year (part of the Ancient Practices series) by Joan Chittister. This book is an excellent introduction to the concept of “Liturgical Time,” especially for those Christians who may not be familiar with the idea of having a specific routine of days in the church.  The author summarized the church year well by saying:

The liturgical year is the process of coming back year after year to look at what we already know, on one level, but are newly surprised by again and again…

There were, of course, a few things in the book that didn’t sit quite right with me (emphasis on Marian feasts, for one, and a sense of mysticism, for another), as the book was written by a Roman Catholic, but the Lutheran church shares much history with the Catholic church, so I found it to be mostly beneficial.

I also appreciated the author’s description as to *why* we live a liturgical life:

We do not live a liturgical life to look good to other people. We do not develop a liturgical spirituality to affect a kind of spiritual dimension in our lives. And we certainly do not go to Mass regularly to avoid hell. We live a liturgical life in order to become like the One whom we follow from the manger to the Mount of Olives.

Great resource for those wanting to understand more about the basis and practice of the church year!