Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Blog

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Categories
    Categories Displays a list of categories from this blog.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Team Blogs
    Team Blogs Find your favorite team blogs here.
  • Login
    Login Login form
Recent blog posts
Montessori Training Begins in June

Early Childhood Mntessori Teacher Traininglogo amssm

Begins June 13, 2016 in Palm Harbor, Florida

Palm Harbor Montessori Teacher Education Center

Join us for 14 days of training before the practicum begins.
Complete all course work during the school year.

Call or send an email to:
Catherine Varkas 


Hits: 668
Rate this blog entry:

Posted by on in Uncategorized

Early Childhood Educators of The Orthodox Church,

Worship Is Faith In Motion:

Join in and receive a curriculum that covers a three year span.

The 15 Week ONLINE Course Includes:

  • Lesson Plans
  • Patterns for the Hands on Materials
  • Video Presentations
  • Live Video Conferencing
  • And More

The classroom, called the Children's Room, is a specially prepared environment designed to satisfy the child's natural inclination to movement and to spirituality by providing hands-on biblical and liturgical activity. Once demonstrated by the teacher, the children are free to repeat each activity, to retell the Bible stories while manipulating the pieces, and to proceed to other connected activity for carefully selected biblical stories, Orthodox hymns, prayers, and liturgical traditions.

The program is designed to address a most sensitive time for spiritual formation, ages three to six, providing an authentic Orthodox experience where the spiritual child is honored, nurtured, and given a place for reflection and expression of faith.

Contact Catherine Varkas


His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta and His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios of Boston have offered their blessings for this program. Dr. Anton Vrame, Director of the Religious Education Department for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, endorses the course and hopes to see it flourish.

Dimitra Dinos of South Africa wrote to Catherine, “What an inspiring way to introduce the topics. The parables, the Mystical Supper model, and the Jerusalem model are just amazing. After every lesson I am more and more inspired and excited to get started with the children.   It is evident that you enjoy your work very much and that you put your heart into the presentations you do.  It has really been a great experience for me.  I feel confident that together with your instruction and the videos I should be able to carry out the lessons in the children’s room.”

Hits: 729
Rate this blog entry:
When you are inspired… your thoughts break through their bonds, your mind transcends limitations,
your consciousness expands in every direction,
and you find yourself in a new, great, and wonderful world.”
Hits: 807
Rate this blog entry:
Photo shared by on in Uncategorized

           The first duty of the educator…” “…whether he is involved with the newborn infant or an older child,    …is to recognize the human personality of the young being and respect it.”   Maria Montessori

er he is involved with the newborn infant or an older c

Hits: 1208
Rate this blog entry:

Posted by on in Uncategorized

I am often asked what materials I would recommend for the beginning of the school year.

  • The answer is easy; Practical Life, Practical Life, Practical Life.

Practical Life is where the children learn the skills needed to manage the prepared environment.

  • To maneuver throughout the total environment.b2ap3_thumbnail_Pegs.jpg
  • The Sequence of everything
    • Each activity
    • Each area
    • The whole environment
  • To manage the materials
    • the practical life materials
    • the materials for development
  • To initiate receiving a lesson
  • To show their work to the teacher
  • Everything that is learned in practical life may be applied to the whole environment.
  • There are standard procedures that apply to everything.
  • And of course Grace and Courtesy is essential.


Hits: 1293
Rate this blog entry:

Some tips for the first few days of Sunday School or Pre School when you are trying to get the children used to the idea of the independent work cycle:

  1. Be sure to have a shelf with enough stuff on it that does not matter how they use it.
    1. Like some puzzles. Bead stringing, some Lego shapes, or constructor-toys-basically any manipulatives that do not require a lesson.
    2. These toys will not stay in the room for very long. It is just busy work, while the children are getting used to the whole idea of choosing work, bringing it to a mat, returning it to the shelf, and putting the mat away.
    3. The only requirement for the stuff on this shelf is that the children take their work to the mat, do the work, put the work away, and put the mat away.
      1. If the children do not put their work or mat away, then just put it away when you see it.
      2. If you are nearby when the child finishes the work, then you can say, “I will show you how to put this away.” And do so.
    4. The work is only available when it is on the shelf.
Hits: 961
Rate this blog entry:

Posted by on in Uncategorized

mapofisrael3In a regular Montessori environment, there's an area of the room dedicated to Geography. In it, one finds globes, puzzle maps, pictures of foreign countries and people, land and water forms, etc. It's a sequence that spans the entirety of the 3 years the child spends in the Primary (ages 3-6) classroom.

The very first presentation is done using a Sandpaper Globe, on which the water is painted blue, and the land is covered in sandpaper.
Very simply, the teacher touches every inch of the surface proclaiming, "This is land" or "This is water" as appropriate. Upon the regular course of lessons, it would lead to exploration of continents and countries, both geographically and culturally.

Likewise, in our Sunday School environment, we have an area of the room dedicated to Geography. It's much less extensive, focusing mostly on Israel as it was at the time of Christ, but we begin in the same place - with the Sandpaper Globe. 

Hits: 2021
Rate this blog entry:

Posted by on in Uncategorized

anastasisTwo of the areas of the Catechism environment, Parables and Life of Christ, involve icon figures used as visual aids while reading the children the parables and the major events of Christ's life from the Gospels.

These icon figures are made by isolating individual figures in an icon, printing them out, and mounting them on a thick, flat piece of wood carved to imitate the shape of the saint (or Christ) being mounted. 

We love using these figures because they connect the work back to the icons the children see in Church every time they go. A couple years ago, a class of mine was lent a huge icon of the Nativity that was taller than most of the children. After we had done the Nativity work with them, showing them with movement how Joseph and Mary travelled, how Christ was laid in a manger, how the angel came and how the shepherds went to worship Christ, the children began to recognize the figures in that large Nativity icon saying things like, "There's the shepherds!"

Hits: 887
Rate this blog entry:

Posted by on in Uncategorized

crossThis one is a post from Anna Chilcote McDonald:

First an apology - It’s been a while. During the last year, I moved, got married, got a new job, became briefly nomadic, etc etc etc… My new home parish unfortunately doesn’t have the space for a preschool catechism classroom (Sunday School for older children currently happens in the Church or the Narthex – I can’t very well clutter up those spaces with all of my bookcases and whatnot), so I’ve been away from the actual practice of catechism since I left Florida. But in God’s time, perhaps that will change soon enough. All the same, I’ve still been working at a Montessori school and interacting with the children, silently wondering what’s going on in their little minds and hearts.

Right now, I’m back sitting in a classroom at Hellenic College/Holy Cross with my husband Paul, my friend and teacher Catherine, and a few others who have come from near and far to learn about Montessori education and what it has to do with our Faith. Every time I come here, I learn something I thought I knew. The people who come bring their experiences and their knowledge, and they continue even now to shape our work – and rightly so, as our Faith is an organic experience for each of us. My husband, drawing upon his recent education at St.

Hits: 796
Rate this blog entry:

Posted by on in Uncategorized

childrenThis is a post from Anna Chilcote McDonald:

Back when I was a catechumen, I nannied for a family with 4 daughters (now 5). One evening, I was standing in the living room talking to their mother when the youngest at the time (she was 2 1/2) came up to me and started pulling on my arm. She was saying something, but I don't know what it was.

Finally, I pulled myself away from her mother and knelt down next to her to see what she wanted. She placed a grey Crayola colored pencil on my forehead and said, "The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit." She then did the same on each one of my hands. And that was it.

I think we can all agree that a 2 1/2 year old child is incapable of rationally understanding the concept of being a catechumen and the theological significance of those outside of the Church needing to receive the gift of Holy Spirit in order to become a part of the Church.

Hits: 838
Rate this blog entry:

Posted by on in Uncategorized

xristosorofiThis is a post by Anna Chilcote McDonald:

Last week, I had the pleasure of assisting Catherine Varkas in exhibiting her course, Orthodox Christian Spiritual Formation, at the 2012 Clergy-Laity Congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

We enjoyed meeting a number of priests, educators, parents, and representatives of Greek Orthodox churches from around the country. They shared stories of their children and their parishes, relating both the good and the bad that they've seen, and they shared with us in our desire for an approach to teaching the Faith to our young children that truly transmits the beauty and essence of our Faith.
Our particular approach to transmitting the beauty and essence of Orthodoxy to the young children (3-6 year olds) is based pedagogically on the methodology and observations of Maria Montessori and Sophia Cavaletti, theologically on the teachings of the Fathers of the Orthodox Church, and has been refined over the years by Catherine's dedication to the child and to the Church.

My task at the congress was to relay who Orthodox Christian Spiritual Formation is, what our curriculum includes, where we're located, etc, of course, over the course of the few days we were there, I began to feel like something of a broken record, as I pretty much recited the same little speech in some fashion to everyone who approached us.
It went a little something like this:

Hits: 775
Rate this blog entry:

catherineThis is a post by Anna Chilcote McDonald:

A few days ago, I was sitting in a classroom at Hellenic College and listening to Catherine Varkas give a lecture on Baptism, the nous, and the spiritual nature/development of children.
She started by simply quoting the Philokalia, "The spiritual faculty, the nous, of the baptized infant knows God through immediate experience".
We all sat and tried to absorb that concept, contemplating the many ways it presents itself in our Church and in our work.

This is a lecture I've heard more than once, as this is the third time I've sat in on the Orthodox Christian Spiritual Formation course, but every time I hear it, I receive it differently, with different impressions, observations, and questions.

This time, I internalized a spider web of connections between that quote from the Philokalia, Father Meletios Webber's book Bread & Water, Wine & Oil, the letter Montessori dictated on her death bed, and something a 3 year old once said to me.

Hits: 855
Rate this blog entry:

The children polished a silver icon of Panagia until there was not a single trace of tarnish remaining. We took the icon from the work and hung it on the wall, replacing it with some other miscellaneous silver for them to polish instead. They went and took it off the wall, completely disregarding the tarnished cups and pitchers we'd given them.  They just wanted their Panagia.A Montessori environment is concrete. It's experiential. It's full of beautiful things for the children to touch and explore, and so is our church. The children get to kiss icons, light candles, smell fragrant incense, and participate fully in our church using all the faculties of their bodies.

In the Montessori 3-6 year old classroom, the children frequent activities known as Practical Life activities, which are indeed exactly what they sound like.

They are based in the practical actions made in life such as pouring water, squeezing sponges, scrubbing tables, tying shoes, dusting, etc. Anyone who has ever observed a Montessori classroom has surely seen children doing these things, and perhaps, if no one had ever explained it to them, were befuddled by the seeming futility of the activities. I'm sure many parents peek through windows of Montessori classrooms and walk away thinking, "they want $15,000 a year to let my three year old run around pouring beans?" Because of this impression many have, I would be remiss not to mention that the actual point of these Practical Life activities isn't to aimlessly occupy them.

These materials exist to bring the young child's awareness to his hands, to their ability to move, and his ability to master their movements. They allow him to focus intently on his work and thereby develop concentration. He has to decide whether to cut the flower stems and place them in the vase before or after filling the vase with water - a choice.

He has to consider his entire body and a complete sequence of events while trying to complete one seemingly simple task. I could go on and on about Practical Life, as what I've mentioned barely begins to cover the vast importance of the most central area of the 3-6 classroom, but I'm not an expert on the Montessori Method and this is supposed to be about Orthodoxy in the Montessori Classroom, not pitchers and shoes.

Hits: 840
Rate this blog entry:


Image Gallery