Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sensing the Saints from Divine Mercy Sunday through St. Catherine of Sienna's Feast Day

This week is chock full of fabulously famous feast days - as well as a few lesser known ones - which make it easy to weave plenty of sensory-smart faith experiences into life and learning.

Since learning about and celebrating the saints is an avocation of mine, I was excited to take time over the past few days to browse books and websites about saints whose feast days are this week and, then, to brainstorm ideas for sprinkling saint-connected activities into each and every upcoming day.  In case you like doing the same, I thought I'd share the fruits of my labor.  (Not that it was really labor to put these ideas together.  For me, it is fun, fun, fun to do!)

Divine Mercy(the Sunday after Easter) and St. George (4/23)

Without question, Divine Mercy Sunday is a day to spend some extra time before or after Mass chatting about Divine Mercy and, perhaps, praying the chaplet

In our family, it is also a time to get our taste buds in on the celebration.  This morning, my daughter helped us make a simple breakfast to remind us of the Divine Mercy image:  a heart-shaped piece of french toast with red and blue berries streaming from it.

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Over breakfast, we prayed and 
read "St. Mary Faustina Kowalska: A Hero Finds Hope in Mercy" in our Loyola Kids Book of Heroes. We also chatted a bit about the Divine Mercy image that St. Faustina saw and about the history of the original painted image.

Later, we followed up on our breakfast chat by letting the children choose between beginning to listen to The Neces
sity of Divine Mercy or 7 Secrets of Divine Mercy in our minivan while on the way to an event.  They chose the former, which will be our travel time listening for the early part of the week.

Then, this evening, viewed the trailer for The Original Image of Divine Mercy: A Documentary (and all want to see the whole thing!)

Before that, though, we took a side step into honoring today as the traditional day for celebrating St. George.

For dinner, my daughter helped me create a reprise of some of 
dishes we enjoyed last year with friends.
This year, our table looked like this:

After grace and reading "St. George" from the Picture Book of Saints, the children dug in with their sword picks.  Meanwhile, I continued reading "St George, Martyr" from In His Likeness and "Saint George" from Saints for Young People for Every Day of the Year - of which give more factual accounts of St. George than the typical St. George and the dragon legend.

I particularly liked how in
Saints for Young People for Every Day of the Year, the dragon story was explained symbolically with the dragon standing for wickedness and the lady for holy truth.  There was also a reflection which stated:

We all have some "dragon" we have to conquer.  It might be pride or anger or laziness or greediness or something else.  Let us make sure we fight against these "dragons", with God's help.  Then we can call ourselves real soldiers for Christ.

Since my children were all busy stabbing our food dragon when I read this reflection, we gave it only cursory thought.  Later in the week, I think we may revisit the idea, then.

Speaking of revisiting, we will also likely revisit some other St. George readings we've enjoyed in past years as reading later in the week, since we opted to read some American history at bedtime.  So, ready in our book basket are:

St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen (4/24)

St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen is a new-to-us saint, so we'll likelyread excerpts about him from
In His Likeness and Saints for Young People for Every Day of the Year.  We may also listen to brief audio about him on the Franciscan Media website or view this short homily about him on YouTube:

Then, after reading about St. Fidelis in Saints for Young People for Every Day of the Year, we'll think about this idea, from page 182 of the book:

It is a great honor to be able to help others come back to Jesus, back to the Church.  Let us try, by prayer, good example and kind words, to be real apostles.

Most likely, we'll then pause to pray for the conversion and reversion of specific friends and family and will also chat about ways we might proclaim our faith without fear

We may also consider what Pope Benedict XIV said at St. Fidelis' canonization about how he:

"...practiced the fullness of charity in bringing consolation and relief to his neighbors as well as strangers... comforted widows and orphans... was always helping prisoners...showed constant zeal in visiting and comforting the sick..." and tirelessly preached the Catholic faith.

Undoubtedly, this will inspire proprioception and vestibular input as we move about the house gathering things for the needy or take a walk to go visit and help some neighbors.

We may also do some copywork using quotes from St. Fidelis:

It is because of faith that we exchange the present for the future.

Woe to me if I should prove myself but a halfhearted soldier in the service of my thorn-crowned Captain.

St. Mark (4/25)

St. Mark's feast day will bring more prayer, reading, learning, picture study, and reflection to our home, as well as gustatory delight!  Much like last year, we'll likely enjoy eating a vegetable dip winged lion.

We may even share a luncheon with friends, to include a "quill" penne and "martyr red" tomato dish inspired by one described at Catholic Cuisine and a gluten-free recipe at Vega-licious.

Among our readings may be:

Our Lady of Good Counsel and Venerable Nano Nagle (4/26)

We received a cute little Our Lady of Good Counsel peg doll in a Marian Peg Doll Swap I participated in, so she will grace our table from the earliest hours of the feast day of Our Lady of Good Counsel along with an Our Lady of Good Counsel prayer card. 

Then, in the evening, we'll add some blue
 and white candles and a blue and white breakfast-for-dinner meal to the table (in honor of Our Lady), which we will enjoy as I read about Our Lady of Good Counsel in Saints for Young People for Every Day of the Year and, perhaps, online at  Augustinian Friends and Tradition in Action.  A picture study or art creation may be in order, too, depending on how exhausted we are from a busy day we already have scheduled.

If we do happen to have energy, we may also focus on another new-to-me Venerable Nano Nagle, who you can hear about here if she is new to you, too:

If that happens, for fun, after reading about Nano as a child, we might just go outside for some great "heavy work" climbing trees and take some late lessons outside, too, as inspired by hearing about hedge schools.

We also might pray a prayer I found in a pdf at Presentation Primary Listowl's site and chat about the idea that "the pattern of (Nano's) life was the movement from action or service to contemplation and back again to action or service" as described at the Nano Nagle website.

St. Zita and St. Peter Canisius (4/27)

Thursday is previously scheduled to be a busy day here, too. However, it won't be too busy to do some housework cheerfully and prayerfully, to set aside alms for the poor, and to have some bread (and maybe even make some ) in honor of St. Zita, who we will read about in More Once Upon a Time Saints and, also, perhaps in the story The Saint-Maid of Lucca at the Baldwin Project and the pdf at The Real Presence.

We might also read about St. Peter Canisius in 
Saints for Young People for Every Day of the Year and at Aquinas and More, along with seeing if the children can figure out which line from the Hail Mary is not from the Bible, but is attributed to St. Peter Canisius and also, perhaps, reviewing some extra catechism together in honor of the saint.

St. Peter Chanel and St, Louis de Montfort (4/28)

On Friday, the kids have their final parkour class for this school year, where they will be facing literal challenges to hurdle over. After that, we will read about St. Peter Chanel in 
Saints for Young People for Every Day of the Year and/or watch a clip about him on Catholic Online.  Then, we'll chat about how seeming failures, hurdles, and challenges can turn out to be huge successes with God's good graces.

I may also have the children color an image of St. Louis de Montfort as we talk about  Marian Consecration and begin reading St.Louis de Montfort: The Story of Our Lady's Slave

St. Catherine of Sienna (4/29)

Finally, the week will close with learning about St. Catherine of Siena.  

I may ask my oldest to follow St. Catherine's example by writing to political leaders, as inspired by Church Pop.  Likewise, I may have the children color an image from Catholic Playground while we listen to any one of the following readings in whole or in part:

We might also 
go through items to find some more to donate as St. Catherine was known for giving things away to the needy.

Most certainly, as our week unfolds further, my children and I won't get to every idea I have listed here and may also end up hopping down different saint-inspired bunny trails.  However, I am certain that we'll enjoy sensing the saints in one way or another every day.

I pray you have a richly blessed week and can enjoy some of these ideas, too!  I'd also be grateful if you'd share favorite resources, recipes, and readings related to any of this week's saints or any upcoming ones.  Thank you and God bless!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Happy Easter

"Mommy, I wish Easter were every day.  It is the greatest day of all.  The day the Lord rose from the dead... the most important!  The day everyone had been waiting for since the fall... I had such a good time today.  I love serving... going to Mass...  seeing my family... relatives...  I liked it all."

Just now, as I sat here quietly counting blessings in my mind, my oldest was winding down playing with Legos and talking about our Easter day.  I think he nailed it.

From the Vigil last night...

Through Easter Mass today...

To this very moment...

I am
ever grateful that He has risen.  I am overwhelmed with thanks for the gifts in my life --  for moments of pause, of joy, of family, of faith, of rejoicing.

May your Easter season be filled with grace and love!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Who Couldn't Use a Little Help with the Art of Conversation?

I have been delighted to review Color My Conversation by Northern Speech Services over the past six weeks and am looking forward to completing this speech therapy / conversation coaching program with my children and, also, to incorporating learning from it into other activities we are involved in.

Now, when you hear "speech therapy", you may think, My child doesn't need speech therapy, and you may be right.  Many children do not need therapy.  However, in my opinion, all children can benefit from conversation coaching, and
Color My Conversation (CMC) offers a structured and effective way to approach such coaching.

CMC in a Nutshell

 CMC is geared to be used by SLPs, educators, special educators, and others - like home educating parents! -  who work with children at a K-7th grade level that struggle with conversation skills, including children with:
  • ADHD
  • articulation challenges
  • Asperger syndrome
  • fluency challenges
  • high-functioning autism
  • language delays
  • LLD
  • mild intellectual disabilities

The program can also be helpful for children with no formal challenges nor diagnosis who could just use an extra boost in social skills.

Parents can easily use CMC acting as a conversation coach.  To do so, you:

  • watch about 10 minutes worth of online introductory training videos when first beginning the program.
  • complete a lesson once a week for about 45 minutes or twice a week for about 30 minutes with your children after watching reading the lesson plan and printing what you like (sample found here) and watching a 2-10 minute training video for the lesson, like this one:
  • complete "at-home" (or, really, sometimes, out-and-about) practices during the week.

The program is designed to take 14-16 weeks, but could be stretched out as an entire year course, or, could be abbreviated with you pulling from particular lessons as different coaching needs become apparent.

Indeed, the author of CMC,
Rosslyn Delmonico, MA, RSLP, CCC-SLP, has laid out the program so logically and well, that, while lessons definitely build on another in consecutive way, you can easily navigate ahead in order to pull particular points forward when a proverbial iron is hot. You can hear her talk a bit more about the program here:

Truly, when you first open your CCC box of materials and start watching the training videos, you can see how Rosslyn distilled her 35+ years of professional experience into a a program that that is straightfoward to implement, yet engaging for a student of a variety of ages and skills.  Using movement, color, song, hands-on learning, and role play, CCC offers learners a multi-sensory approach to succeeding with social language from the most basic face-to-face greetings to more complex conversations.   

Each lesson:
  • inspires learners to come up with ideas through brainstorming.
  • offers learners knowledge through the presentation of social rules.
  • builds relationships and fun through role plays.
  • ignites independent learning and success through practice suggestions and project development.

Taken together, CMC lessons act as a tool to help individual children meet with conversation success.  

We used CMC "as directed" here over the past six weeks, and I am already seeing fruit from it.  My shy child is taking new interest in conversation - and, though, still my most reticent with acquaintances and strangers, has been amusing me random comments and observations since we started using CMC:
  • "Mom, that was a yellow conversation."  
  • "Oh, Mom, you were supposed to have a short conversation - chit chat - not a loooong conversation."
  • "Mom, I think they forgot their red or yellow stone."  

Hearing my daughter make such comments on the conversations she listens to and takes part in makes me smile.  She is obviously synthesizing what she's been learning and taking new notice of social language.  

What Is Included?

CMC comes as a kit with a link for accessing helpful online training videos. 

Northern Speech Services Color My Conversation

Within the sturdy 14"x16" CMC Kit Box are:

  • 12 color-coded "Conversation Path" Stepping Floor Graphics with no-slip backings and dry-erase fronts
  • 100 Topic Prompt Picture/Emotion Cards
  • 50 Game Tokens
  • 50 Dry Erasable Wall Display Cards
  • 2 Dry Erase Pens
  • Cloth Ribbon (approx. 9.5ft)
  • Game Board (foldable) with 4 Activities on the back
  • a CMC Ball which requires a pump to inflate
  • a Classroom Poster
  • an Instructional Manual on CD
  • 12 CMC Songs on CD
  • Additional Reproducible Worksheets & Activities 

Online are the training videos I mentioned earlier.

In order to use the program, you need nothing else besides a printer, paper, and ink or any worksheets and lessons plans you might want to print out.

What Do the Kids (and I) Think? 

When I asked my children what they thought of CMC, my oldest child (eleven) said:

I like how they used stones that could all fit together to depict conversation. It helped me think about how to walk through a conversation.  I did not like the songs.

My oldest also struggled, at times, with eye contact, which has always been difficult for him, but it is improving.  Also, I think the concrete, color-coded stones helped him to realize how he often jumps into conversation "in the middle", forgetting to bookend them with the niceties of "yellow conversation" hello's and goodbyes.  So, there has been fruit to using CMC with him so far, and I expect there will be more as we get to advanced and expert levels of the program.

My youngest child (six) said:

I liked how the stones were like a puzzle, and I liked the thing where you tossed the balls back and forth to have a conversation.

I thought it was funny that my youngest mentioned the stones fitting together, too.  In all honesty, I did not even realize the stones were shaped in such a way that they could get squished all together into a loose fitting "puzzle path" until my children pointed it out, and, for some reason, that little "cool" thing left an impression on my children.  (Hey, whatever gets them engaged, right?)

Also, it is not a typo that I wrote "balls".  A blow-up ball comes with the kit, but my youngest liked using other balls, too - his football, small balls we have.  So, we went with that.

My youngest was not even in earshot when my oldest offered his comments about CMC, so I know he was not just parenting Big Brother.  They were both genuinely impressed by he design of the stones, and, thus, I was pleased with the quality of materials in the kit.

Then, there is my middle child (nine), who was the biggest fan among my children of CMC.  When I asked her about the program, she said:

I liked Color My Conversation in general.  I especially liked the songs.  Although they are meant for younger kids, I still liked them, because they are kind of catchy and tell you what the conversations are.

(And, yes, to her non-song-loving Big Brother's chagrin, she has been singing and humming the CMC songs about the house at times.)

I really liked the conversation stones.  They are so cool that they are erasable and that they connect.
(Kudos on that stone design, CMC.  That's 3 for 3 here.  A true win!)

I also liked tossing the ball back and forth to have a conversation. 

(It baffles me why two of my children commented on this.  We've ball tossed and done talking sticks before.  It is not a new concept.  But there was something about the stones, ball, and program all together, that appealed to my children.)
It was fun to have conversations, but it was sometimes hard when I was having them to keep on track with the stones.  It felt a little bit strange to say "Hello," and, then, wait for the other person before saying more.  It is also really hard to say the "bye" part.  For example, you might say, "Oh, I have to run now," which means "bye" in my mind, but not in the other person's.  They might need "bye".  I combine things like that in my mind.

(The program teaches formulaic conversations at its beginning, which don't allows flow the way my children naturally converse.  At first, I wasn't sure I liked this, but, then, I realized that the "formulas", taught using son, stones, balls, and movement, got my children thinking more and more about HOW they converse and what niceties, expressions, styles, and conversation types might be most appropriate given different situation.  At that point, I decided I quite liked the "formulas" as a starting point.)

It was fun to dance to the songs. 

I really enjoyed Color My Conservations and I think I want to do it as a co-op class if it's possible.

I was surprised when my daughter requested we use CMC as a co-op class, but can absolutely see how CMC could be used as is in one or how some activities, principles, and materials from it could be woven into hybrid speech-and-(fill-in-the-blank) classes.  Now, she has me thinking...

There is one thing I don't have to think much about though: recommending that those looking for a well-written, engaging, multi-sensory program for improving children's conversation skills look at
Color My Conversation.  It truly is simple to use and can benefit children of a variety of ages and abilities.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

How My Son Is Learning Computer Science {A CompuScholar, Inc. Review}

When I told my oldest son about the possibility of reviewing Digital Savvy  by CompuScholar, Inc., he was excited and begged to do it even though he is a year younger than the target age for the course, which is aimed at students in grades 6-12.  

My oldest son simply loves computers and dreams of creating his own video games some day, so the idea of learning about coding with CompuScholar, Inc. thrilled him.  The Digital Savvy also pleased me.  I do not like my chilldren spending long periods of time online each day and would prefer each of them to get into learning online rather than simply playing around.  Thus, I hoped Digital Savvy  would be a win-win for us.  My oldest son would get more daily time with his hands on our laptop as he made his way through the program, and I would know  that he was immersed in something that would increase his knowledge and skills in an area he is interested in rather than in less purposeful computer-based pursuits.

Little did I know, the win-win would turn into a win-win-win. 


My oldest boy does not like putting pen to paper to write more than a few sentences at a time.  However, I had told him that if we took the
CompuScholar, Inc. review, I would expect him to dive into Digital Savvy enough so that he could write the bulk of our review of it.Then, when it was time to write the review, we happened to be away from the house with no laptop with us.  So, I handed my son a notebook and pen and told him to write out his thoughts.

Wow!  He wrote several paragraphs.  (I am just a tad excited here!)  So, with no further ado, let me share what he penned.

In My Son's Words
I was really excited when my mom said I could do this!  I wanted to learn more about computer programming, but forgot that I had to learn about other things first.  So, Digital Savvy is not that exciting now, but I know it will get exciting when I get to coding.

The program's lessons come in three parts: video, text, and quizzes.  You have to do all of the text in each lessons, but you don't have to do the video.  I do both, but like the video best. 

The video and the text have a lot of the same things, but the text has stuff the video doesn't.  I wish that you could do the video, but not have to do the text, so you could choose if you want to do one or the other or both.

The chapters have three parts:  lessons, projects, and tests.  You can progress through the program without doing the projects if you want.  I did this.  I did not do the projects or a while, because I wanted to keep on going without asking Mom for help, and I did not want to do something on her computer and maybe mess it up and have her get mad.  So, I am going to go back and do the projects later.

Three things I have learned so far are:

  1. There was an operating system named GNU that changed to Linux when a guy fixed a problem with Linux.
  2. All updates on Android are named after candies, treats, and sweets, like gingerbread.
  3. The first computers that had operating systems only allowed you to type.

I'd suggest Digital Savvy for boys ages 9-15 that like computers.  This program could be good for anyone though.  I think you should try CompuScholar, Inc. if you like my description.

Back to Mom's Thoughts

 would like to add that Digital Savvy is easy to use.  My husband and I sat with our son and completed the first lessons together just to get a taste for the program, see how it works, and glean if we felt our son really could use it on his own. 

At that time, my husband and I both found navigating the course easy, and felt the text and video were clear and easy to follow.  Since our son had no problems with anything during our first foray with the course and did awesome on his first quiz, we simply let him "have at it" in 15-30 minute sittings several times a week, going at his own pace, completely independently after that.  This is the approach our son wanted and it fell into line with a current goal we have for him  - independent learning and responsibility.

So far, as my oldest has made his way though
Digital Savvy I have occasionally used my parent login to see how he progressing.  In doing so, I noticed that he has not been excelling at all the quizzes (which are graded automatically)  with the same stellar scores he had on the first ones, but, honestly, quizzes mean little to me at his point.  What means more is that my son is practicing his independent learning skills in an area he likes. 

Further, I know that there is a lot more to learning and retention than multiple choice quiz grades.  The "Hey, Mom, did you know..." comments he has randomly called out when using
Digital Savvy and the occasional spontaneous narrations he has offered while taking the course so far have proven to me that he is learning things.  The fact that using this program is giving him more knowledge and confidence also became apparent when he created a 2-D video game section prototype for a recent inventor/innovator fair he participated in:

...and also single-handedly created a short animation for a competitive team project:

I can only imagine what my boy will get up to once he finishes the Digital Savvy course.

Of course, part of  my son finishing the course will be doing suggested/assigned projects within it along with his independent ones.  For, yes, I did realize when checking on my son's  Digital Savvy progress that we still have work to do with his becoming a responsible independent learner when it comes to preset programs.   For while my son has been cruising through the videos, text, and quizzes with Digital Savvy, he has been ignoring a key component of the program: the hands-on projects!

Indeed, at an earlier point,was all set to use
included rubrics to score my son's projects when I realized that there was nothing to score yet.  He had been skipping the projects in order to forge forward more quickly.

When I first noticed my son's missing projects, I waited to see if he would go back and do them on his own.  Then, when he did not, I asked him during 1:1 study periods if there was anything about
Digital Savvy that he wanted to talk about or needed help with.   He only mentioned some cool facts.  So, finally, when I found that he still was not getting to the projects nor raising them during our 1:1meeting times, I simply called him on it, asking why he'd been skipping them. 

Just like my son wrote in his review, he told me
he did not want to "mess my computer up" trying to search for information or try things out.  I told him I appreciated his concern, but that we could surely sit together while he did the projects and, then, I'd be right there and not get mad at him.   He replied, "but that we have other things to do during 1:1's."  I reminded him that we could spend time working through a number of different areas, including
Digital Savvy and that the hands-on projects were as important to his mastering the Digital Savvy materials as the videos and quizzes were.  I then asked if he had been trying to buzz through the current course materials until he gets to what he considers the "good stuff" - the stuff that will teach him coding to make his own video games.  He gave that "you got me" grin.

My boy!

So it is we are now back on track with him making his way through the text, video, and quizzes and working on a plan for catching up on past projects and not blowing through upcoming ones.

I so appreciate, then, how
Digital Savvy has given my son an opportunity to explore a topic he wants to learn more about, while also learning to make his way through some of what he considers less exciting and more tedious work so he can lay the groundwork for "bigger and better" things ahead.  Computer science, character, study skills, and a bit of writing have all been fruit so far for us in using CompuScholar, Inc.

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