Archive for June 5th, 2007

I just added a new sidebar for Catholic Mothers Online.  They have beautiful widgets you can choose from to install.  Another  beautiful group of ladies to visit!

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I am readying our home (and my brain) for September schooling.  There are several areas that I like to focus on.  I am considering :

  • the general curricula I want to cover,
  • Montessori presentations that marry into that curricula,
  • the trays and centers I want to have available for further exploration and experimentation,
  • ways of recording/enforcing the work…notebooking, lapbooking, movies or DVD’s , even websites (about any given subject)   …re-telling events like plays…etc  (stretching the lessons).
  • the baskets of books and activities that I can use during mommy lap time (i.e…books that reinforce the concept and sticker books from Usborne (which are available for many subjects) that practice what we are learning
  • and last and most importantly, how we are going to focus on the liturgical year.

…all the above is separated in 3 parts…

  • pre-school work for the 2 and 4yo (younger kids)
  • school work for the 7 and 8yo (middle kids)
  • school work for the 11,13,13 yo (older kids)

Today’s focus is Tray Work.  I have been thinking of different things to put out in September for some of the tray work on my Montessori shelves.  There are trays for practical life skills and such but the projects I am thinking of right now are beyond what is in my albums.   I have found a few new things that I wanted to share based on what I have on hand.  Because I am an Usborne books consultant, I have access to a few new titles that I will be incorporating into our work.  Other titles I have had for years…first I used them with the older dc (13, 13, 11) to great fun and success and now I want to share them with the younger set (8,6,4,2)


Many of Usborne’s Art books for older and activity books for younger children are terrific for tray work!  I am hoping to use several of these items in our new school year.  I really love the Usborne Art Treasury book.  This latest book is awesome for living art appreciation…you learn about the artist and a bit about his work followed by a project that is very laid out in a very clean visual manner.  There is nothing like exploring art by experimenting on your own without too much fuss over the outcome of the finished product. 

I thought that these new art cards from Usborne would make great art-tray work, too.  They  just came out with several great activity cards sets.  These art activity cards have a picture of the finished product on one side and the directions on the other.  Here is an example of what they look like.  50 Things to Draw and Paint really does give the children an art experience that produces creative results!

50 Things to Make and Do  is another card set for art work.  Here is an example of some of50_things_to_draw_and_paint

the projects you will find in these cards.  I have to honestly say that having a picture like this makes it easier for me to gather the materials for the activity as well as making it easier for the children to have fun with it.  ..there are a lot of visual learners here!…I am one too!

Some other card sets from the art activity card sets include:

50 Fairy Things to Make and Do 

50 Rainy Day Activities   

50 Christmas Things to Make and Do…(I am already thinking ahead!)

Telling time tray:
(younger kids)

the two items below to be used with Golf Tee Clock  (scroll down to culture…including the things that go with it)

Telling the Time   
Telling the Time Flashcards   
(don’t forget to look for the duck in all of Stephen Cartwright books!)these are wipe off cards…non-consumable is a good thing….  The book I like to use as a book in the lap…cuddle time to re-enforce the lesson.

Cooking Trays:…I am really looking forward to using these!

  Cooking Art: Easy Edible Art for Young Children

Usborne Activity Cards for Cooking:

30 Easy Things to Cook and Eat   
30 Healthy Things to Cook and Eat

30 Yummy Things to Cook and Eat 

Math and Phonics:

For Math…all kinds of manipulative type items and books can be used…pattern blocks….cuisenaire rods and card sets etc.  (can better be elaborated upon in another post)

for my under 9 crowd:

Math arts

Learning Palette:

Even more unexpected than the pleasure of the new activity cards, was the Learning Palette series that Usborne carries.  The first time I saw this, I didn’t even open it…I just threw it in the box that came with my sample kit that I received when I first started on with Usborne.  One day I "caught" my children raiding said box (which was under my bed).  They were strewn all over my room…(the kids not the books)…they were reading and two of them were fighting over the math palette.  I took a closer look and I wish I had brought this out sooner.  There are various levels of this…even including Algebra concepts for each grade….AND THEY ARE SELF CORRECTING!!  I was pleased to read this review at Love2Learn and My wish list for the fall includes more of these titles to keep in a pretty wood tray I found at a garage sale.  I thought I would put out a few of them at a time and keep switching as they request more or master them.

For the older kids:

How Math Works

it is nice to have this book on hand for questions….it is even Internet linked!!  Every homeschool should have this book:Illustrated Dictionary of Math IR


Now listen, don’t let the fact that I sell Usborne keep you from enjoying these books too!  I sell themThe_scholar_jim_daly
because we USE them.  I sell them because Usborne books were the ONLY books that my very large motor son would use for first grade…not only did this kid learn, but he learned and retained A LOT of information.  The First Encyclopedia books and some of their learning sticker books (and these aren’t just for the little kids…many of them are so beautifully done that they were favorites of the older kids too…so by imitation he wanted them too, as a TOOL) were what hooked him…also anything about cars, planes or construction equipment and science experiments.  He even learned some Latin words from the Latin Sticker book.  We had a blast last year!  I was a previously frustrated parent with a dent in the center of my noggin from hitting it on the wall so much trying with all my being to get this child to learn.  I then began to "follow the child" and we BOTH learned a thing or two.  After I found these books working…and working sooo well I began to  sound like a walking commercial.  So I thought…why not become a consultant.  Now I get a discount on them without paying the full price…a frequent buyer, I certainly am!   So I tell you what I like and why I like it.  I can even tell you about a few that I don’t like ;o)


Sewing and Weaving Tray:

Sewing With Saint Anne

I have several embroidery hoops in the attic that I got for FREE at a garage sale.  (BTW…IHomemade_jim_daly
keep a sharp lookout for any and all art supplies…I usually get 100’s of $$ of supplies each year for pennies and a few dollars!) I am setting up trays rotating hoops that practice basic stitches and I think I will follow Theresa’s idea by making them practice geometry shapes and other fun learning things at the same time.  I am also going to use many of the ideas that the author Alice Cantrell of Sewing with Saint Anne has on her blog!  Using the Sewing Book I plan to lay out a project a week complete with needle, yarn or thread, thread scissors (safety ones) and all the material necessary for each project like making a pin cushion.   I am also using these ideas in one way or another….using what I have on hand.   I can’t wait to start with these trays!

Science Trays:
Science Arts

I want to make up tackle boxes made up with the materials needed for these trays so I can make them quickly before hand… they CLEARLY present science facts and projects…very visual makes it seem effortless and fun…these books will get you YEARS of mileage.  Well worth the investment.  I pull out the books and select what I want on the tray based on what we want covered that week…but!  I am flexible and the children also have time to select what they want to do (ahead of time for material gathering purposes)….

Ooh also, I do make up some fun baskets…like an observation basket by the window that has a view of the bird feeder.  In the basket, child binoculars, a little journal, pencil and field guide…a little poster with common area birds is on the wall by the window.  Our house is dressed as best I can for learning…ooh for the unlimited budget!

GIFT IDEA…ask a relative to make up a "Treasure Box" for your children as a gift for a birthday or "just because"….full of experiment pieces…like straws, string, balloons…non breakable mirrors, magnets…etc

100 Science Epxperiments Internet Linked

Big Book of Experiments

Science Activities (C/V)  I…combined volume included Science With Light, Science with Magnets and Science with Water

Science Activities II (C/V)    ..combined volume includes Science with Air, Science in the Kitchen, Science with Plants

Science Activities III (Combined Volume) Internet Linked incudes Science and Your Body, Science with Batteries, Science with Weather

Mostly for the older kiddoes…but of course everyone can "play" too!:

World of the Microscope     included on this tray I will have slides and microscope  really nice ones I found at a friend’s garage sale for FREE!

How Science Works (Reader’s Digest ) 

and the rest of the How….Works put out by Readers Digest…
How How Things Work: 100 Ways Parents and Kids Can Share the Secrets of Technology

How Nature Works

How the Earth Works

How The Universe Works
How The Body Works
How The Weather Works

I have a few ideas that would be best for another post! Ditto for the Catechism/Catechesis of the Good Shepherd work.

More about Trays in general:

As far as tray supplies go, you will find some wonderful things without breaking the bank at thrift stores and garage sales!  The trays I have found this way are SOLID WOOD and will hold up to years of use.  The ones I found in the craft store are very thin and would splinter easily.  Don’t be afraid to pick up porcelain or glass items for pouring, tonging or spooning exercises.  These kind of materials have a degree of error built into them….then CAN break so more care can be taught in the handling of them…and if it only cost you .50 at a garage sale you won’t be heartbroken if an accident occurs.  Take a look at the link that I have in the above paragraph to Theresa’s site…this is the kind of fun that you can uncover at a thrift store…one of a kind treasures!  I really like things to be visually appealing!  You can even find fancy spoons and different kinds of transferring tools and objects there!  Trays don’t have to be all made of wood either.  Think about how fun a transfer activity can be on a beautiful hors d’oeuvre dish and a fancy spoon! 

The other option is a tackle box.  These are great because they are stackable and easy for you to throw in a big basket and put up high on top of a book case for later use.  The other bonus is that it takes the toddler a few seconds longer to open and gives you a strategic edge on "dump control" ;o)

Every tray you do make, should have its own place.  It and the place you display it should be clean visually (not crowded) and easy for the child to grasp without knocking over anything else.  In this case, less IS more.  There is less frustration if the child does not have to fight his environment to get at the exercise and less frustration if the tray is laid out very simply with a degree of error or correctability built into the lesson. 

Only put out one tray at a time. 
In one of the Montessori books I own, the author talked about starting the year with empty shelves and introducing one or two things at a time with a specific place for each item to go on the shelf.  The children are instructed then how to not only complete the task, but know that the task isn’t completed until the tray or item is put back into its specific place on the shelf.   They will learn better to pick up their toys if their muscles are trained in this way to finish off their work.  …like I said before…it is like brushing your teeth, once you learn, you do it without thinking or even stressing over the simple action of doing it.  So we make the learning of that action as simple and stress free as we can! They should even be taught HOW to carry the tray…as my sister-in-law mentioned …carrying cafeteria trays isn’t a skill that homeschool kids HAVE to learn…LOL… ;o)…but it is!

I was thinking about this subject in bed last night.  I likened too many things on the shelves to someone being given too much responsibility at once….chaos can ensue.  I should know, I learned this the hard way…LOL   We have enough on our hearts and minds as parents without giving ourselves anything else to become stressed about.  Taking small steps and moving forward with greater surety is the best for creating the best learning environment.  You wouldn’t just give your 17yo son the keys to the car and say "go ahead and drive to California" without him learning the rules of the road and practicing first.  Even once he has built up some skill and self-confidence he should just make shorter trips at first with an adult to advise him to all of the nuances of the road and vehicle.  The same basic life rules apply here.  At least our children are younger and they are in our environment that we have some degree of control over.  I like to increase difficulty and responsibility bit by bit so the child learns without suspecting that I have an ulterior motive. They WANT work in the right circumstances and gradual competence leading to confidence plays a valuable role in that. 

So, to sum up, I know that taking precious moments to make up a tray or two to teach a specific skill is time well spent.  Children naturally want to learn everything.  I want to capture that drive.  I want to deliberately use my time to create little teachable moments that build up skill and confidence so I can, without being in the way, help my child to achieve self-mastery in many areas.  Bit by bit and on-purpose, I want to  help my child in his silent call to "teach me to do it myself"….next up I have to re-organize the bookshelves.  This picture of this little darling makes me wonder if I know where all my field guides are!

Art  Image Credit…click on the fine art for the name of the artist and the name of the piece! 

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