Archive for June, 2007


I remember when I was a child and I did something to anger my father, all he had to do was to point his index finger in my direction and I would diminish myself into fits of remorse and tears.  My little sister, who never knew when to stop misbehaving, got very mad at me one day. 

She said "Why is it that you never get punished and I always do?"
I thought about it and stated in a very intelligent 7yo voice, "It is because I know when to stop and when I tell you to stop, you should!"

Now, I was not being the bossy older sibling.  I just saw that she had difficulty perceiving from her environment  when  her actions needed to stop.  This is the same child who always had trouble crossing the street and I wanted to help her.   

It was actually a revelation to me at the time and  I couldn’t believe that,  without knowing, I had figured out what other children longed to know…how to avoid the dreaded punishment..or did I?    I had NO CLUE that I was not receiving some kind of correction in the same way as my sister.  The reality of it was,  following all those times when my parents caught  misbehavior, I "disciplined" myself and my father was wise enough to see that in me.  I was so respectful of my father and in my mind he was an all-knowing powerful man (in a godly way) and that to truly disappoint he or my mother was too much for me to bear.   I made a firm purpose of amendment many a time.  So, I guess that makes me strange, but I just felt I had a mission to learn all I could that was good…I did not want to fall prey into anything that wasn’t good.  I guess I still feel that way.

I was reading that in Italian,  the verb meaning  to teach  is "insegnare"  which literally means "to indicate or point out something".  As it says in Sofia Cavalletti’s book, The Religious Potential of the Child: 6 To 12 Year Old , "The adult must "indicate" or point out reality for the child.  Reality itself will then engage them in a profound educational process."

This lead me to remember what I wrote above and I then thought forward about 30 years and thoughtFavoritegift_jim_daly_3

about my role as a director here in our little homeschool.  How can I point out what needs to be done without getting in the way of the work.  I know that sometimes I literally sit on my hands to keep from correcting the children. Most of the time, they need my hands to be off their work.  I know they don’t need me moving things around while they are concentrating on them or clean up their work for them….it is their workthey will clean it when they are through!   I also have to speak less and listen more so they can finish their thought processes.  I don’t want them to lose their concentration and any kind of interest, much less, diminish any sense of awe and wonder they are experiencing by my meddling. 

I brought up this topic when Lori from Montessori For Everyone was posting on the 4Real board

I know in difficult situations or situations I want to "over control"  I try this little mind trick…I imagine myself literally standing behind myself so there is a barrier between me and what is going on in front of me so I can be more objective.  It may sound funny, but I found that it worked…to imagine me putting myself in the way so I would not get in the way.

I also am thinking of short phrases I can give myself to keep my mind on task and open to the child even amidst the distractions…like the phone ringing and the mailman’s grand arrival (which is like a great celebrity event here)  These things interrupt our work cycle…I try to plan around them.

I am also contemplating how to have the older ones mentor the younger ones…have them "point" the work out with out them frustrating each other.  Each of the children have strengths and weaknesses that when they really do work in a spirit of co-operation they seem to teach each other in a way that is deep and lasting…but getting to that point and keeping that point is what I am trying to observe in them now…and yes, I am keeping a journal

Lori said, about the subject of mentoring, that it was like siblings without the rivalry, which she saw in a class that visited hers from another school.   

"The director at my last school was friends with the director there, and we did this school swap where all of their kids came to our school for a day, and all of our kids went to their school for a day. Carmel is a school/farm, with an Erdkinder (high school) program like Maria M. outlined but is so rarely seen.

Anyway, when they came to visit us, we were totally taken aback at the way the older kids took care of the younger ones. They held their hands, carried them, helped with shoes, wiped noses, etc. It was like a sibling relationship without the sibling rivalry. We were in awe, and felt like our own school hadn’t done a very good job of cultivating that kind of closeness.

Doing it at home is probably even harder, because of the sibling rivalry dynamic. I would suggest that the older one be given certain specific tasks to help the younger ones. It can be a presentation (a puzzle, or bead stringing – something simple), and/or ongoing tasks like helping with coats or shoes."

So on it goes with my mentoring ideas.  I have been trying to  cultivate this selfless attitude which needs to be "caught" by them by repeated exposure to what is good and right in action and judgment.  It is hard for the children to let go of selfish attitudes at times, but when they do, they feel such a sense of deep well being that seems to foster even more learning/teaching moments amongst themselves.

The children teaching each other presentations is a new baby of mine.  I have been using this approach with one of my eldest(s) (twins) dd#2.  She is a bit delayed in Math and she has a wonderful gentle way with the younger children.  She has been learning the beginning maths presentations and sharing them with the little ones.  They are all learning a lot…and the younger is cementing the ideas in the older and the older is lending support and an eagerness to learn more in the younger.  Wonderful the way families work together when they live their divine mission, isn’t it?  What is our ultimate goal, our point, in education anyway?

I think this whole process reminds me of the " Civilization of Love" that John Paul II talked about in his Letter to Families :

"The gospel of love is the inexhaustible source of all that nourishes the human family as a "communion of persons". In love the whole educational process finds its support and definitive meaning as the mature fruit of the parents’ mutual gift. Through the efforts, sufferings and disappointments which are part of every person’s education, love is constantly being put to the test. To pass the test, a source of spiritual strength is necessary. This is only found in the One who "loved to the end" (Jn 13:1). Thus education is fully a part of the "civilization of love". It depends on the civilization of love and, in great measure, contributes to its upbuilding."

The Church’s constant and trusting prayer during the Year of the Family
is for the education of man, so that families will persevere in
their task of education with courage, trust and hope, in spite of difficulties
occasionally so serious as to appear insuperable. The Church prays that
the forces of the "civilization of love", which have their source
in the love of God, will be triumphant. These are forces which the Church
ceaselessly expends for the good of the whole human family.

First and foremost we must pray and keep on praying for our spiritual strength and direction…the rosary, morning and evening prayer, prayers to the Holy Spirit for guidance, and our Guardian Angels and St. Michael for protection,  and Holy Mass whenever we can…and of course Confession!  ( I know if I slow down in this area, I am sunk! 😉

Homeschooling is not just a set of subjects or boxes that need to be checked off everyday.  Homeschooling is a holy mission and a journey, and a family-centered way of life…a life in a domestic monastery.   I know that to live in fullness of this holy mission we need to constantly be lifetime learners with a can-do attitude, kicked up a notch with stick-to-itiveness.  We need to grow…stretch ourselves a bit in selfless ways..helping each other along the way, and that growth takes time, courage, and confidence in the one who believed in us enough to call us to this work in the first place.  He didn’t just call ME to teach an education.  He is calling US to live it.

Image: Jim Daly Favorite Gift and Flying High

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Try reading this article…I wish I could have read this the very first time I had difficulties with on the job discouragements! (you know, when the kids are driving you nuts and you are driving you nuts too?…ever have one of THOSE days?)  I say the very first time, because it would be best to read this only after you have been challenged a bit to know that you need divine guidance in the first place!

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I finally made this loaf of  Wheat (seems like white from berries that taste like white…oh…what are they called?…hard red winter or is it spring…or is it soft red winter or spring…I assure you, it was the correct one but I did the research and ordered the berries months ago…sigh!  …this is my real life folks! ) ahem…bread and this Honey Butter Recipe….I served the butter soft from the mixer…spreads like…well, like butter!

The bread had a wonderful rise and a beautiful crumb.  It sliced easily and makes great sandwiches…if you make it that far, that is!  I used lecithin as a dough enhancer at 1 TLBS per cuppa flour.  You know there is a problem when children request this before brownies, cookies and cake for a dessert…LOL!

HT: to Melissa at A Piece of Bread!  mmmm…thanks!!

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I would love to get a hold of Tim Seldin’s books..but here he is in a radio interview!
Timothy Seldin is president of the Montessori Foundation, and author of
"How To Raise An Amazing Child the Montessori Way" (DK Publishing)

ht: Joy Montessori

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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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Saturdays here are our big weekly cleaning day.  To make things more productive I have been trying to focus on our Friday evenings to set a productive scene for Saturday morning. 

Friday nights I have been making an extra effort to clean up real well with help from the troops (before and after dinner) in making the dishes disappear and getting the toys and manipulatives picked up and the main floors vacuumed and/or swept.  It gives us a clean palate for what I want to accomplish on the following morning.  In addition, all day Friday I make the washer and dryer work from morning till night with as many loads as I can get done.

Saturday morning there is no computer time or DVDs/Videos until morning chores are done.  They usually watch the EWTN kid lineup from 9-11ish and if they want to see this they have to accomplish a few things for the family first.   

Firstly, everyone knows that when they get up they take the sheets off their beds and put them in their pillow cases and take them downstairs to the washer.  Ideally the washer is empty Saturday mornings.  Sometimes there is a wait until I finish the cloth diaper load that I started the night before (cold wash and overnight soak)but at least the sheets are THERE and lined up…ready to go!

It takes 3 loads to wash all of our sheets.  As soon as they come out of the dryer, I call the appropriate people to pick up their sheets and make their beds right away.  Having the sheets in the pillowcases helps sooo much in washing and right away distribution after the dryer is done with minimal waiting and no pesky folding of the bottom sheet 😉   I would much rather use the same sheets changing to other sets occasionally then having so many of them in the system clogging up the works ;o)

I start dd#1 on breakfast (I am so glad to FINALLY have this kind of help now….YIPPEEE!….ahem…I digress…) and I go into the basement with Mr Edison(11) and Large Motor boy(8) and we haul up every bit of the laundry I did the day before…usually about 6 loads.   We dump all of the laundry in the center of the living room rug and  EVERYONE folds!…this is why I need the living room picked up and vacuumed before bed the night before!


Every piece of clothing MUST be put away before breakfast hits the table.  It is a great motivator.  While
we fold the 2yo is in front of the couch folding washcloths with a buddy.  She loves this work!  The socks are thrown over the arms of a chair with the toes pointing in the same direction.  After all of the other clothes are folded we make quick work of pairing and putting away everything.  I have tried doing laundry so many other ways.  This morning routine works best for us lately.

Breakfast is usually special on Saturdays…special but simple.  Like fresh scones and fruit or some such thing.  I will often make a pitcher of fruity iced tea (Celestial Seasonings Fruity tea bags and frozen strawberries) and I discuss the things we need to accomplish in order to have a special family night at the end of the day.  We decide on the chores that need to be finished and who does them.   We decide on what to make for our special Saturday night meal and dessert.  The day is finished with either a game or a movie. 

It has been hard at times getting full compliance on this whole idea.  But as I mention, trying hard to do a basic clean the night before makes things far less cluttered and easier for the children to comply with the tasks that need to be accomplished.  Providing the family fun at the end of the day is a good motivator too.  I think only 2 children once didn’t participate in family night because they wouldn’t help the team clean.  I honestly think that one of the two just wanted to check to see if not doing the work would have any consequences that he wouldn’t like.  He found out.  He actually acts as foreman now.  It is weird.

Another helpful thing is mentoring.  Having an older and a younger child do a task (like washing windows with child-safe cleaner) is sooo helpful.  It keeps the mess down, it helps refine the whole opus from start to finish, and it frees me to float from room to room filling in and giving direction where needed.  It teaches tolerance and many other virtues not to mention that it builds relationship.

On Saturday’s checklist of work to be done:

  • Wash shower curtain
  • All sheets washed
  • All Clothing folded and put away
  • Cleaning Fridge of gross contaminants [lol]
  • Cleaning inside windows and doors of fingerprints
  • Cleaning Bathroom including tub surround and washing floor
  • Wash Kitchen floor and Mudroom floor
  • Quick clean bedrooms including sweeping/vacuuming
  • Making sure all Sunday clothes are washed and pressed and shoes are located

Hopefully we will make it to Confession at 4pm and dinner around 6ish.  Before they come to the table for dinner they have to:

  • Show that their work was done or why it wasn’t
  • Their bed must be made
  • Sunday clothing must be ready (including shoes)

If you decide you want to come on over and help, Ithe biggest piece of dessert will be for you!

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