Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Catholic Alternatives for Trial and Triumph

One of the more interesting texts that Ambleside Online uses in its Primary school years, is the Religious biography book Trial and Triumph, and the book Saints and Heroes (in two volumes) as an alternative in later years.

The books are not particularly Catholic friendly, not just because of their choice of heroes in the Post reformation years, but also because of their handling of doctrinal issues.
This doesn't necessarily make the books bad as such, just not really in line with Catholic teachings!

Enter the alternative.  Actually, there are a few options for Catholics out there, but they are not exactly like the books they will be replacing, so it is worth remembering that.

Throughout years 1-6, Trial and Triumph is used to provide historically pertinent biographical sketches of figures in Church history.  This makes the choice of books a little tricky, but Michele at Mater Amabilis has given it a great shot and has come up with some lovely choices!
Quickly distilled down, each of the early years uses an option for New testament, Catechism, Saint's Biographies and one for each of the main Church 'special' periods (Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter).
You can read about those for each of the levels on the page in question.  We're concerned with the New Testament options, so those are the only ones I am going to mention.

Year 1: (Mater Amabilis Level 1B) has the child reading a picture Bible.  Familiarity with Biblical stories is always good :)

Years 2 and 3: (Mater Amabilis Level 1A) has The Life of Our Lord for Children by Marigold Hunt.

Years 4 and 5: (Mater Amabilis Level 2) uses The First Christians: The Acts of the Apostles for Children by Marigold Hunt for year one and Pearls of Peace - A Rosary Journey through the Holy Land by Christine Haapala for year 2.

Years 6 and 7: (Mater Amabilis Level 3) Has the children reading through the Gospels and a Bible History, and reading chapter book biographies of the saints.  The same goes for year 8 (Mater Amabilis Level 4).

The two Marigold Hunt books for years 2-5 are the ones that I find quite thrilling.  Primarily because they are very good alternatives for Trial and Triumph.  If you also use A History of the Church: From the day of Pentecost Until the Council of Chalcedon A.D. 29 - A.D. 451 by John Mason Neale (not Catholic, but compatible) you have a very nice coverage of the Early Church.  The only downside, is that none of the books are particularly long, nor do they cover much time between Christ and His Apostles.  However, paired with the saint biographies (age appropriate) for each year, you get a fairly good coverage.  From year 6, the biographies are chapter books, which does allow for reading the eras you are covering in history especially those later, post reformation years.

What about older children?  An alternative to George Hodges' Saints and Heroes?
I noticed several that might be worth looking into (some were suggested by Andrew Campbell in the Latin Centered Curriculum)
The Fathers of the Church: An Introduction to the First Christian Teachers by Michael J. Aquilina Church Fathers: From Clement of Rome to Augustine by Pope Benedict XVI
Holy Men and Women Of the Middle Ages and Beyond by Pope Benedict XVI  
There are in fact, a number of books by Pope Benedict XVI that are worthwhile taking a look at!
In addition to each of these, there are of course, the works that the Church Fathers wrote themselves so definitely allow them to read those!

So, what should we use to replace Trial and Triumph?  For the earlier years, our own saint biographies and histories are quite good, but the later years chapter books and Primary texts are best.
There is no ONE alternative for Trial and Triumph, but instead a set of books.

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