Archive for the ‘Art-spirations!’ Category

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! 

Read Full Post »

Some time ago, I fell in love with Altered Composition books after being introduced to them by Kim of Starry Sky Ranch.

While spending one of my favorite gifts…a gift certificate to a book store ;o)   I came across this book~ The_decorated_page
The Decorated Page Journals, Scrapbooks and Albums Made Simply Beautiful by Gwen Diehn.  This book is a grab bag full of ideas and step-by-step visual directions (that include suggestions for materials and material gathering) that help you add dimension and creativity to journals. 

This book was not one that I read all at once.  I kept it by my "nursing chair" and would read a few pages at a time and then talked casually about what I learned to my twin dds (13) (it was a good exercise of persuasive Mommy-Narration)
I asked them to do the same thing (read 2 or so pages at a time) so they could absorb some ideas about creative journaling.  I wanted them to see that they could create something personal and meaningful with their journaling, whether it be a nature journal, a personal journal or one that fit some academic subject or idea.   I asked them to think of it as their own "art class".  I thought of it as "notebooking grows up".

Not surprisingly, this author did make some other books that I am interested in as well…like this one… 

The Decorated Journal
, and this one….

Making Books That Fly, Fold, Wrap, Hide, Pop Up, Twist & Turn: Books for Kids to Make

Ok, so my fever doesn’t stop there… Look at this from the book
More Making Books by Hand: Exploring Miniature Books, Alternative Structures, and Found Objects

And this book….had some interesting pages when I cked out the inside of the book…Visual Chronicles: The No-Fear Guide to Creating Art Journals, Creative Manifestos and Altered Books

I also found this interesting site that promises to join the scrappers and the journalers together.

I am on a mission.  I will let you know how it all turns out!  If anyone has a decent digital camera they are looking to get rid of…let me know.  Mine died and untimely death when it hit the floor :o(  I would looove to share some pictures of what we are creating with you!

Read Full Post »

While searching on the web this week we came across this interesting piece on The Book of the Hours and Our Lady. 

"The Books of Hours were the prayer books used by laypeople in medieval times.  Commissioned by royal family members, the nobility and wealthy patrons, they became status symbols, the jewels in the collections of book collectors."

We enjoyed viewing the illustrations  and discussed how some of these illuminations were used for different times of the day and seasons.   We especially liked the reference to the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary as we pray it frequently and love how, over time, the words come from our lips memorized.  There is such a special simplistic yearning of my heart to say such words often.  It edifies the spirit. 

I introduced the dc to illuminations while we were learning to read and write some years ago at the suggestion of Julia Fogassy from Our Father’s House.  I had the Dover book The Book of Kells and used that as an illustration of illumination so to speak.  I showed the children the illustrations and explained how very important their work was and how very exacting it had to be.  It was their great work..their Magnum Opus and all was dedicated to the Glory of God.  So too, was their work (the schoolwork and chores of the children) special to the Lord.  I had them look at their work like in the Sound Beginnings phonics book we have used…what is your best work and why, what is your least favorite work and why.  How would you like to take your least favorite and make it your favorite.  How could you do this? 

So too, is the way we approach art.  It raises the heart and mind above the ordinary and makes it extra- ordinary. 

Our latest art assignment involves making our own illuminated calendar using fine art for the months using their own choices…though taking into account this list from the site referenced above:

January  – Feasting

February – Sitting by the fire

March – Pruning vines

April – Garden scene

May – Hawking or boating

June – The hay harvest

July – Reaping the wheat
August – Threshing

September – Harvesting grapes

October – Ploughing and sowing

November – Gathering acorns for pigs

December – Killing the pig or baking bread

LOL frankly, I think baking bread would be an excellent illustration for the month of December…killing pigs isn’t my "thing" ;o)  I think the pictures of the Threshers and The Angelus for July would be a wonderful choice.  My suggestion was to find different works of art illustrating Our Lady doing different household tasks or someone modeling Our Lady in the doing of them.  I also recommended they chose a flower that matched their choice that showed some virtue or attribute of our Lady using this chart.   We are still tossing ideas around.  The finished product as yet will be determined and completed during the coming week or so.  I want to put this at the beginning of the Liturgical Year Notebook.

We  loved  reading this book….Marguerite Makes a Book and want to imitate what we have learned there using this art project…Illuminated lettering Kit…will be coming in the mail shortly.  We would love to give it a go!

This is  a great site (Leaves of Gold) that was posted by dear Martha at the 4Real board.  I parked my older ones at the computer and had them go through these pages step by step.  There are eight slides from illuminated manuscripts that pose "discovery questions" and answers that help the student (and teacher) explore each manuscript.

Could you imagine using this notebook to put your best copy work in??…what a find!

For further illustration here is a hypertext Book of Hours:


"The medieval "Book of Hours" evolved out of the monastic cycle of prayer which divided the day into eight segments, or "hours." These portable books designed for individual laypeople are smaller and less complicated than those used by the monks and designed for use by individuals. Usually, a Book of Hours include a liturgical calendar, along with the seven "Penitential Psalms" and additional prayers devoted to particular saints or personal issues. Most Books of Hours were devoted to the Virgin Mary."

I am hungry to know more….still seeking more resources!

Read Full Post »

The Girlhood of Mary Virgin

Dante Gabriel Rossetti(1828-1882)


This is that blessed Mary, pre-elect,
     God’s Virgin. Gone is a great while, and she
Dwelt young in Nazareth of Galilee.
Unto God’s will she brought devout respect,
Profound simplicity of intellect,
And supreme patience. From her mother’s knee
Faithful and hopeful; wise in charity;
Strong in grave peace; in pity circumspect.

So held she through her girlhood; as it were
An angel-watered lily, that near God
Grows and is quiet. Till, one dawn at home,
She woke in her white bed, and had no fear 
At all,–yet wept till sunshine, and felt awed;
Because the fulness of the time was come.


These are the symbols. On that cloth of red
I’ the centre is the Tripoint: perfect each,
Except the centre of its points,to teach
That Christ is not yet born. The books –whose head
Is golden Charity, as Paul hath said–
Those virtues are wherein the soul is rich;
Therefore on them the lily standeth,
Is innocence, being interpreted.

The seven-thorn’d brier and palm seven-leaved
Are here great sorrow and her great reward
Until the end be full, the Holy One
Abides without. She soon shall have achieved
Her perfect purity: yea, God the Lord
Shall soon vouchsafe His Son to be her Son.

Poem:Rossetti, Dante Gabriel. The Poetical Works. 2vols. [Ed. William Michael Rossetti.] Boston: Little, Brown, 1913. I, 281-82. American printing of British edition published by Roberts Brothers, 1887.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)


Read Full Post »

The Virgin Mary Crowned Van Eyck
As a very visual learner, I really do find inspiration in fine art.  As I am the one being homeschooled most days, I especially love it when there is hidden meaning in the art we study like in this Icon of The Virgin Mary.  The inscription reads:

"She is more beautiful than the sun + all the order of stars; 
being compared w/ the light she is found greater. She is in truth the reflection of everlasting light, + a spotless mirror of God"
(Wisdom 7: 29 + 26)

While I was researching some topics for our Fine Arts Friday, I found this Van Eyck painting and it spoke to me in some way.  In the Madonna’s crown are roses and lilies.  (symbolizing her love and purity).   (The funny thing is that she resembles me a bit….hmm a lesson for my heart to ponder….  I know I have much, much to learn from my most lovely patron saint.)  I wanted to know more about this painting  and came up with this from this site:

 "Perhaps the place is in front of Jan van Eyck’s crisply painted little panel that shows the Virgin Mary crowned and standing serenely inside the light-filled nave of a Gothic church.

Van Eyck casts her as a gentle giant who fills the soaring space — a remarkable invention that conflates Mary, Queen of Heaven, with the radiant interior of the church’s otherworldly architecture. The triumph of spirit over matter is paradoxically embodied.

350pxeyckhubertlamb750pix_2OK…I need to know more than that.

Then I went here and I realized this was part of something bigger….so many people may already know this, but fine arts was something passed quickly over in school.  Now I relish it for so many reasons.  It is exciting to find hidden meaning in paintings and the viewer is one like a detective looking for clues as to his own identity…as we are heirs to something much grander than ourselves.    I learned a bit more here

The thing that I argue with people about today is that we are becoming illiterite to symbol which even the illiterate to the printed word in the past knew.  I hate being "dumbed down", don’t you?  Life tastes so much sweeter with all of the seasoning added in proper proportion….we need a feast for all of the senses…a feast rich with symbolism and hints to the greater mysteries they represent…much like the parables were and are today.

I loved reading the explanation here.  I would love it if the kiddoes could create a simple penned drawing like this one, and I will invite them to do so, but I wonder if they would find it to be too complicated….and I know the pics of Adam and Eve may be a little much for a certain child I have…but I can concentrate on the more central images.  Any more ideas for a fun way to represent this information?  I am all ears!
This all came from this site and I will be perusing it in my "free time" for more ideas!  Why is it when I want to do something like this, I think of our dear Alice and I suddenly get more creative?!

About the Artist:

Jan Van Eyck

"A Flemish painter who perfected the newly developed technique of oil painting. His naturalistic panel paintings, mostly portraits and religious subjects, made extensive use of disguised religious symbols. His masterpiece is the altarpiece in the cathedral at Ghent, the Adoration of the Lamb (also called Ghent Altarpiece, 1432). Hubert van Eyck is thought by some to have been Jan’s brother." from the Encyclopedia Britanica

"The Ghent Altarpiece: The Adoration of the Lamb" (interior view) painted 1432 by Jan van Eyck.

Read Full Post »

Cleaning and de-clutering is my primary focus as of late.  I am restructuring this old house for creativity!  It is so hard to be productive, much less creative in a cluttered space or in an area where it is hard to find things because they have no place.   I want the house to be as user-friendly as possible when we are "doing school".  I want to have all my supplies lined up and ready to go…I want to be able to find alll the pieces we have..and purchase the ones that we don’t.  I need to lock up some of the messier items to prohibit toddler distruction, but when the cabinet is open…we will be ready for business!!   I was so busy focussing on Science, History, Math, Geography and Language that I never gave much thought to art….well, until today…busy, busy, busy!…the GOOD kind!

Rita_mala_stockmar_mainpicArt is a wonderful experience for both kids and mom…and a wonderful way to be creative!!  Creativity is God’s wonderful gift to us.  I don’t want my younger children to miss out on any of the wonderful art experiences that the older children and I shared together!  We had some great times using  some of the great art supplies that are seen in many of the Waldorf schools.  Once you use real beeswax crayons, like Stockmar, you will never want to use anything else!  We usually blend our school subjects into art projects as well…and it is so nice to have those items on hand.   It is time for us to restock!
Oooh!  I can’t forget to mention some  of our favorite books!  Including:
Science Arts
Math Arts
Discovering Great Artists
…and so many more! We love the MaryAnn Kohl books!  You can get supplies for many of these projects here at Discount School Supply! (don’t forget to check out all of their great discounted products including sturdy playground toys!!)

So I am preparing.   My great source of inspiration to get it all together is Elizabeth Foss’ great post on The Art Box.  Go ahead and pay her a visit!  You will be INSPIRED!!

Read Full Post »