CCD started last week, and I've realized that a lot of folks I talk to don't know the things I teach my kids--as in, they were never taught these things. So, for your edification--and since all of you can't make it to class--here are seven big things we teach them during first grade.
God loves them. God loves us all more than we can possibly imagine. He created us because he loves us--and so that we can know, love, and serve him in this life, and be happy with him forever in the next. God loves us no matter what we do. However:
That doesn't mean you get a free pass . We teach the kids the 10 commandments early on. God loves us so much that He gives us rules for our happiness. He wants us to go to Heaven to be with Him when we die--but we have a choice. We don't have to do what He asks of us.
At our parish, the kids receive First Confession and First Communion in second grade. So we have to make sure the kids are ready for these. So that means emphasizing that God loves us, but also, that our relationship with God is hurt by sin. Confession restores grace (God's life in our souls) and our friendship with God.
We don't want them to be scared of God, as in, terrified that He'll send them to Hell for taking an extra cookie. (Fear of the Lord is something different.) But we do want them to know what sin is, and what it does.
On that end, we teach them about Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, and that everyone in Heaven is a saint. They may not be a canonized saint, but they are saints.
Prayer is talking with God. This week, we're going to talk about how God loves them, why God created them, and what prayer is. I know a lot of times we get hung up on formal norms of prayer and the "best" way to pray. But at its heart, prayer is just talking to God. That's it. You talk to your friends, right? God is your best friend. (Or He should be!) How will you get to know God if you never talk to Him? We also briefly touch on the different kinds of prayer--petition, intercession, thanksgiving, praise, adoration.
Since we're a Dominican parish, we teach them about the Rosary, as well as Dominican saints. Our classroom's patron is St. Hyacinth.
In that vein, we also teach them about the Church year, especially the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter, and we teach them the Stations of the Cross.
They learn about the Real Presence. If I'm teaching that week, I am absolutely nuts about this. I love teaching kids about the Eucharist. When I tell them that they will receive Jesus--Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity--when they receive communion, their faces just light up. It's such an awesome part of our Catholic faith. We make sure that they know what it is before they leave.
Finally, we teach them about the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. I became really big on this after a priest at our parish told the catechists during a meeting that he interviewed a sixth grader who didn't know what the trinity was. I vowed that would never happen in my classes.
So, those are some of the most important points we teach in first grade. Did you know all these by the time you reached second grade?