Liturgical Living for Kids: A Review of the Lent 2018 Activity Pack

I’m not a mom yet, but it’s obvious to me that it’s tough to raise your kids as faithful Catholics. It’s even more difficult in our secular society to keep them Catholic once they venture into the world. While there’s no shortage of negative media vying for your child(ren)’s attention, thankfully, there are many wholesome (and fun!) resources to introduce your child to the Catholic faith.

As we approach the middle of February, Catholics anticipate a season of penance 40 days before Easter called Lent. Lent is often a confusing time for kids: there’s ashes on foreheads, a sudden giving up of favorite treats or activities, and no meat on Fridays. For younger children, and even pre-teens, Lent may seem more like a drag than a time of spiritual growth. An online friend, Aleesa Bansmer McCarthy, is a creative soul who is dedicated to helping your child understand the ins-and-outs of our beautiful faith through interactive activities. This year, Aleesa has introduced the Lent 2018 Activity Pack, designed especially for your little ones!

A Review of the Lent 2018 Activity Pack

Calendar Countdown

The first aspect of the activity pack I love is that it stays true to the penitential and sacrificial nature of Lent, while still engaging small children. Aleesa maintains the color scheme of purple, the liturgical color for Lent, into all of the pages of the pack. This is a great way for kid to connect the colors they see at Mass to the activities in the pack.


Lent Countdown

A “calendar” sample

One of my favorite activities is a “calendar” with 40 boxes. In each box, depending on the day,  there is an outline of a fish (a day for fasting) or the name of the day (Palm Sunday, Holy Saturday). Throughout Lent, kids can mark off the days, and count down to Easter. Along the way, they are reminded to fast and pray for others.

Be My Lenten Valentine


Sample Valentine’s Card

Children can also start off Lent (which begins on February 14th!) by giving away custom Valentines included in the pack. Featuring an drawn image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Aleesa’s valentines are a perfect way to counter a society that has largely secularized an originally Catholic holiday. What better way to evangelize friends and family than with the Sacred Heart? The design above is one of two designs available in the Lent Pack.

A Chain of Giving

Finally, an aspect of Lent that is often overlooked is the giving of alms to the poor and needy. Too often, we focus on our own personal fasts from chocolate, technology, or gossip instead of what we can do for others. With the Alms Chain activity, kids are given strips of card stock. Each time a child completes an act of mercy for the poor, she can link her chains together, creating a ribbon of mercy. It’s a great way to show your children that little acts of kindness add up!

Worth it?

At only $5 on Aleesa’s Etsy shop, SaongJai, the 2018 Lent Pack is a highly recommended purchase. If you want your children to know why Lent is important for holy living, this pack is a great resource to help make the season “real” for your little ones. While I only reviewed three of the features of the Lent Pack, there are so many more: Lunch reminders not to eat meat, coloring pages of holy images, the Stations of the Cross worksheet, and a spot for your child to record her prayer intentions. The pack is a great way to introduce the joy of liturgical living in a fun and educational format.

To learn more about Aleesa’s creative work, visit her on Facebook and on Etsy.

May God bless you as you prepare for Lent!

Liturgical Living for Kids

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Media Friday #3: Teaching with VIPKID

Disclaimer: I am an independent contractor with VIPKID. Before writing this post, I was not compensated in any way to provide a positive review. I simply want to share the pros and cons of teaching with this platform.

Happy Friday, everyone! It’s time for another Media Friday. On Fridays, I like to highlight something in the digital media that is fun and uplifting. In the past, I’ve featured the


Litany of Trust and the Blessed is She online women’s community. Today I want to take a bit of a detour. For 15 days, I’ve taught online English classes with VIPKID, a company that provides a private, 25-minute, American-style elementary school experience to children living in China. Truly, this side hustle is so much fun (for me at least), and I think talking about it qualifies for a Media Friday.

Like anything, VIPKID has it’s pros and cons. Let’s start with our pros.

  1. Flexibility: With VIPKID, you can choose the hours you want to work. For those living in EST, peak peak times (yes, two peaks) teaching hours are between 6:00 AM and 7:30 AM. During this time, you have the best chance of being booked by parents. Regular peak hours may lie between may span between 4:30 AM and 8:30 AM, give or take 30 minutes. Weekend nights between Friday and Saturday are all considered peak time. With that, if there’s a day you want to take off, you don’t have to open any slots. If you want to work an all-nighter from Friday to Saturday, you can open those slots. Your schedule is yours.
  2. Prepared Lessons: Though I’m a teacher, I often struggle with lesson prep. While teaching with VIPKID, all of my lessons are prepared on a digital slideshow. Of course, it’s wise to review the slide content and directions before teaching a student, but with a little prep, VIPKID lessons are easy to teach. Just add lots of enthusiastic gestures and props (puppets, dolls, etc). Once in the virtual classroom, you download the lesson and wait for the student to enter. After s/he enters, turn on your camera and just have fun.
  3. Pay: I wouldn’t advise you to sign up for VIPKID today and then quit your day job tomorrow. However, it is a great side gig for those who want to make extra money. My base pay is $8 per 25-minute class. If I show up on time, I receive a $1 bonus. If the class I teach is booked less than 24 hours before its scheduled time, I receive a $2 short-notice bonus. If I teach my regular class, show up on time, and it’s a short notice course, I can make $11 per class. Easily $22 an hour for two classes. For a non-short notice class that I teach and show up on time for, I make $9, or $18 per hour.

Now, let’s talk about the cons of working for VIPKID.

  1. Slow Start: I’ll be straight with you, I was hired by VIPKID about 20 days ago. Since then, I have only taught four students. The other four have been student no-shows (I received half pay for these classes). When you are first hired by VIPKID, you will probably only be certified to teach Trial Classes (which are free courses provided to see if parents want to register their child). I believe that since the company assigns these courses to teachers, it may be a while before traffic picks up. Thankfully, just last week I was certified to teach Level 2 and Global Adventure. Earlier this week I recorded a mock lesson and took a quiz for Level 3 certification (I am waiting on the result). Since then, I have taught one registered student and have two more this weekend. You may hear of some teachers who have booked schedules every week, but honestly, they’ve probably done their time like the rest of us. So, if you sign up to teach for VIPKID, and your bookings are slow, it’s normal. Frustrating, but normal.
  2. Tedious Interview Process: A typical VIPKID interview and hiring process looks like this: Apply, record or perform a mock class with a VIPKID mentor, record a second mock class or attend a new teacher kickoff, and then you’re hired. Some teachers may have to do a third mock class before they are brought on as a teacher. Others aren’t hired at all. If you’re willing to teach, the process is worth it. However, if you’re not into jumping hoops, I wouldn’t recommend work as a VIPKID teacher.
  3. Culture Clash: I’ve taught for a year in Korea, and I’ve also worked at a summer camp in rural China. I am familiar with Chinese, and Eastern Asian, culture at large. But, for some teachers who are not as well-traveled or acquainted with other cultural structures, working for VIPKID can sometimes be frustrating. For example, parents are often encouraged to leave feedback for the teacher after a lesson. While most parents leave positive feedback, there are the few who don’t. For example, a parent, after watching the lesson playback, may not think you are energetic enough or that you don’t use enough props. While you may think your lesson was perfect and the student had a great time, a parent may not believe their child received the quintessential American experience in only 25 minutes. As a result, you may receive a poor rating. Luckily, you can appeal this with the VIPKID team.

Overall, teaching with VIPKID has been a positive experience. I enjoy teaching the kids that show up in my digital classroom, and it’s like I get to travel to China every morning. If you have a bachelor’s degree, are flexible, and would like to try your hand at English language instruction, I highly recommend VIPKID.

If you’re interested, you may click the link HERE. Please note, this is my personal referral code and I do receive a financial incentive if you are hired and teach your first class.

Have a blessed Friday! Next week, I look forward to talking with you about participating in the Sacrament of Confession and a visit to the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Massachusetts.



How to Be Happy: Learn a New Language

Note to readers: I know, I haven’t posted anything except a smattering of book reviews since September 1st. My profound apologies.

I love languages: acquisition, history, alphabets, sounds, shapes, grammars, linguistics. I spent 18 months of my life acquiring a master’s degree in English as a Second Language just so I could understand, and it’s all very fun to me. Once upon a time, I owned a book and inside it’s pages were poems written in English and another language. I remember one little poem was translated into German. While in the car with my mother and

Office, File, Paper, Chinese, Language

grandmother, I proceeded to read the poem out loud, convincing everyone I could read German. Though I knew little about the different sounds that different letters owned in different alphabets, but in my mind I was reading German. And I liked it. It was fun. I experimented with sign language a bit, though I never reached fluency.

In high school, I took two years of Spanish and loved it. To this day, I can’t understand why I never spent a whole four years in Spanish. Side note: Ms. Zuelly, if you catch this on my Facebook page and read this, I’m kicking myself in the pants for not taking both Spanish 3 and 4.

Surprisingly, learning a new language can be fun and rewarding when approached the right way. Currently, I’m studying Mandarin Chinese with the Yoyo Chinese online platform. Here’s what I’ve learned while learning Chinese.

Pacing. Don’t expect fluency overnight. Because I learned a select few phrases with my boyfriend’s help, I foolishly thought I could jump right into intermediate beginner’s Chinese. Wrong. I, like everyone, else had to start at square one. While I wanted instant fluency, right now I can say “I like cola” and “I have four wives and a younger brother.” Every little bit helps.

Drill. When learning a new language, repetition and drills are key. Flash cards? Yes. Staring at worksheets? Yep. May I suggest using the online tool Anki? This helps me and paces my flash cards so I don’t become overwhelmed. I’m not for sure how it works if you’re not provided the electronic flash cards, but it’s a wonder. Finally, even when it’s most frustrating, you’ll have to press on.

Talk. In both Spanish and Korean, reading is my strong point. I can read most signs in Spanish and sound out most of the phrases in Korean. However, I am terrified of speaking in a foreign language. When I lived in Korea, I would take the bus instead of a taxi. If I took a bus, I didn’t have to speak. I find speaking painfully nerve wracking and I hate failure. If I speak, I want to be flawless. I don’t want to be just another laowai butchering the mother tongue in the Chinese restaurant while ordering chicken lo mien and wontons.

For example, the boyfriend and I went to a Chinese restaurant nestled between a liquidation store and a fruit store. I wanted ice water, but he had ordered hot tea in a kettle. Instead of asking the server for water, boyfriend called the server over and then stared at me.

Are you going to ask her for ice water, or not?

Me: Mute, internal dialogue: why can’t I find contentment with hot green tea?

*Instense stares*

Me: Wo yao bing shui.

Water acquired and very few blushes had. Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?

If you’re looking for happiness, I suggest learning a new language. Learn something typical: Spanish or French. Learn something wild and rare: Esperanto or Latin. Learn the language your grandparents spoke when they came to the country you live in: Maybe Italian, Greek, Korean, Russian, Chinese, or Mixteco. The possibilities are endless, and when you learn a language, the potential for happiness is endless.

Happy learning!

Zai jian!



Take 3 for Gifted Education

Last year was my first year as a gifted and talented education resource teacher and coordinator. I knew about negative 50% about gifted education services. Seriously: Little-to-no professional development in previous districts, no mention of gifted education services in my undergraduate courses, and little visibility. There is no one person or place to place the blame: gifted education is a strange animal. To eliminate some of the oddness, strangeness, and mystery surrounding gifted education, let’s take time to discuss 3 myths.

Artistic, Bright, Color, Colored

1. Myth: Gifted education is elitist. You know what and who I’m talking about. You casually mention an activity that your child participated in as part of the gifted program at your school and this person goes ham (with a capital H).

“Well, how come if Johnny gets to go to third grade for reading, Jimmy has to stay behind in first grade for reading? That’s not fair! ” 

Gifted education is one of many modifications and differentiation available for students.  Sometimes this looks like meeting in small groups with a teacher, while often, this may be a special assignment in a typical classroom. Think of gifted education like you would special education: changing the curriculum to meet the needs of a student. Would you tell your neighbor, whose child is on the Autism spectrum and receive specialized services, that she is elitist and participating in an unfair system? I doubt it, and leads to my next point.

2. Myth: Gifted kids are pretty typical. If by typical, you mean they all breathe oxygen, then you’re correct. On the contrary, gifted kids are not typical. There’s the stereotypical gifted child: quick, alert, ready to learn, eager to please, good vocabulary, excited to be at school. Yes, these students exist, but they’re not the whole of your school’s gifted population. Against popular belief, gifted students come from all walks of life and have varied ability levels.

For example, a student may have a gift for English language arts and reading, but may have a special education IEP and receive services for other needs. Sometimes, the disability masks the child’s gift, or vice versa. In the same field, an English language learner may have a knack for math, but still may not have English proficiency. Don’t be fooled: gifted kids come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

3. Myth: You can’t help your gifted child. So very false. You CAN help your gifted child! It may seem daunting at first, but there are plenty of resources to begin. If you live in Kentucky, Google the Kentucky Association for Gifted Education. There are so many great resources and events for parents just like you! On a larger scale, the National Association for Gifted Education is an excellent resource. You can also help your child by participating at school, discussing options with his or her teachers, and becoming an advocate for gifted students.

If you have any questions, tips, or comments about gifted learners or supporting gifted education in your area, drop me a note below. I’d love to hear from you.