Friday, June 29, 2012

Homeschool Review: Jesus Our Life (Faith and Life 2)

Jesus Our Life (Faith and Life 2) from Ignatius Press

I used the Revised Edition. Last year, the Third Edition was published to incorporate the changes to the liturgy of the new Roman Missal. The changes can be downloaded in an Adobe file from the Ignatius website here.

We used Our Heavenly Father (Faith and Life 1) in first grade. You can read my review of it here.

Jesus Our Life has 34 chapters. The early chapters begin with the most basic concepts and incorporate Bible stories to show salvation history. In many ways, it repeats concepts introduced in the first book. Personally, I like this cyclical approach in catechism as much as I like it in math. First Son hears slightly more complicated information each year, building on his knowledge and understanding.

Later chapters focus more on the sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, appropriate for a second grade text. (Most Catholic children will receive these sacraments for the first time in second grade, as we do at our parish.) I liked the chapters on Reconciliation especially, though I think they come a little late in the year. Children should be practicing the actual steps of Reconciliation for at least a few weeks before their first confession, so it would probably need to be introduced before these chapters are read. Similarly, by the time we reached the chapters on the Eucharist, we'd already covered all the information in great depth in our sacrament preparation. We ended up skipping the chapters that explained the parts of the Mass, the articles of the Mass and the words of the Mass.

If I were using only Jesus Our Life, I would be tempted to begin with Reconciliation (chapter 17) and work through the end of the book, then return to the beginning for the remainder of the year.  Personally, though, I would not consider Jesus Our Life as sufficient for sacrament preparation (First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion). It does a solid job of imparting knowledge of concepts like the soul, the Trinity, and original sin (just from the first few chapters), but it's not very good at developing a great love for the sacraments. Hopefully I'll have a chance to post about our sacrament preparation later.

One of the aspects I loved best about Our Heavenly Father was the beautiful artwork included in each chapter. Other than a few photographs of the Mass, the pictures were all reproductions of famous paintings depicting appropriate Bible stories and they were lovely. Sadly, Jesus Our Life is instead illustrated with cheesy watercolors. At their worst, they are bad, but even at their best they are entirely forgettable. I'm not an expert of art history, but I cannot imagine there were not paintings that would have fit the themes. I happen to have the third and fourth books already, both of which revert to the paintings as illustrations.

I used the teacher's manual extensively in first grade. We had catechism two to four days a week and I incorporated many of the recommended activities. Because we focused two days a week on sacrament preparation in second grade, I did not have additional time for supplemental activities and we just read through the chapter and (usually) narrated it in one setting.

I also did not use the activity book this year, mainly because I didn't want to buy two copies and I didn't want to discuss every week why First Daughter did not also receive any activity sheets.

In first and second grade, we used the catechism questions provided in each chapter. I typed them up and printed them one chapter to a sheet of paper, placing them in our memory binder. When First Son memorized a chapter's questions, we moved it to our review tabs (first every other day, then once a week, then once a month or so). I liked the method, but was a little frustrated that the questions and answers were nearly the same every year, but not quite. Next year, both First Son and First Daughter will be memorizing questions and answers from the new Baltimore Catechisms. We'll stick with the same questions for a number of years. We will still read and discuss the questions and answers in our Faith and Life books.

You can learn more about the entire Faith and Life series on their website. The Faith and Life series is also available online through My Catholic Faith Delivered. I have heard good things about the online courses, but have decided against them myself, mainly for cost reasons. I can purchase the student textbooks for around $10 new or less used (two of them have been free from other homeschool parents) and use them for all of my children. The online subscription only covers one child for one year.

Ignatius Press has provided nothing in exchange for this review. I receive nothing if you follow any of these links, make a purchase, or subscribe to the online courses.

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