Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Shampoo Finger Paints

Art.  Literacy.  Sensory input.  Hygiene.  These are all common subjects/goals in an early ed classroom.  And, I think one of the best parts about homeschooling pre-school is that we can attend to them all at once as a solution to tubby time reluctance!

Indeed, the other night, when Luke needed a little extra motivation to get into the tub, I remembered an activity presented in Bonnie Arwine's Starting Sensory Integration -- Shampoo Finger Paints.  A mere suggestion of them had Nina running to the bathroom, disrobing and asking to jump in the tub. Two ingredients, a plastic container and a spoon later, Luke was also lured into the fun.  And before we knew it, the kids were exploring colors, writing letters, enjoying tactile and oral-motor input and, of course, getting clean!

We took lots of pics and will be sharing them in a post next month as part of 30 Sensational Activities in 30 Days over at OJTA -- a fun event for raising awareness about Sensory Processing Disorder, sharing experiences and ideas about sensory activities (good for ALL children) and -- bonus -- getting a chance to win over $100 in prizes.  If you want to join in, simply check out a preview of Bonnie's book (found HERE), choose an activity to try, take some pics or videos and then enter by contacting OJTA here.  It will be fun to see which sensory activities you and your children enjoy and to get ideas for other ones that Luke, Nina and Jack can laugh and learn with!

I know we'll be trying out some other colors of Shampoo Finger Paints again this week -- maybe on a tray or in our outdoor sensory sand (and everything else) box, but, most likely, in the tub!  They really work for us.  What works for you to get your kiddoes both into the tub?  Do share in a comment below.  Thanks!

works for me wednesday at we are that familyThis post is being shared at We are THAT Family's Works for Me Wednesday.  Check out the links there to see what works for other in their daily home and work lives.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Our Sensory Seeker

As you might have noticed by the button in the left column, I belong to the SPD Blogger Network, hosted by Hartley's Life with 3 Boys.  Each month, Hartley invites those of us in the network (and anyone else for that matter) to join in an SPD Blog Carnival, which works as a wonderful online magazine of sorts where folks can share and learn about life with SPD kids.

This month's carnival is about Sensational Siblings.  And, since I have been so busy with attending to my SPD kiddo Luke and his two sensational siblings Nina and Jack, I am a bit late in joining in.  But, as the saying goes, better late than never.  So, here's our take on one of our Sensational Siblings -- Nina!

What does it mean to Nina to be the sister of an SPD kid?  Well, at just a bit over three years old, if you ask her, she may give you one of her expressive knit-brow, twisted mouth looks, wondering what you are talking about.  She does not really register the term "SPD".  But, she does, oddly enough, benefit from her brother's SPD therapy.

Indeed, when Luke was still going to OT for SPD, Nina got something that is rare in our household -- 1-on-1 time with Mama.  Yep, when Luke was off with Miss Teresa in the OT gym, Nina got then-pregnant me all to herself.  No brother.  No housework.  No anything competing for time and attention.  So, in the waiting room, we read together, drew on a huge painted wall chalkboard, played card games, played Mama Says... Enjoyed the less-than-an-hour that sometimes passed too quickly.

And, since formal OT stopped and home therapy became the norm, our little girl continues to bask in the bennies.  No, she does not get much 1-on-1 Mama time anymore -- especially now that baby has arrived, but she gets lots of something she loves:  sensory fun!

Luke needs vestibular input, so we often use our ottoman on wheels as a kid-spinner and Daddy works his muscles by turning, swinging and flipping kiddoes during rough play sessions.  Nina giggles so hard after spinning and shouts, "More! More!" when Daddy starts playfully man-handling the kids.  She truly loves all of it!

And, she gets more use out of some of Luke's proprioception tools than Luke does.  It is Nina, not Luke, who most often moves a piece of furniture to get the crib mattress we use as an indoor jumping board.  And, she is always my monkey jumping on the bed, couch, jogging trampoline.  Plus, she loves doing obstacle courses with Luke.  Such a seeker, our girl!

Indeed, our Seeker smiles and laughs every time we do a tactile input activity!  Shaving cream.  Goop.  Playdough.  Soap suds.  You name it; Nina loves it.

She is truly a sensational sibling.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

30 Stories in 30 Days for SPD

As many of you know and may have read about in Daddy's special post over at our family blog, Luke has mild SPD.  Since discovering this, we have constantly been on the lookout to learn more about SPD ourselves, as well as to help others do so.  Thus, we are excited to share the following "pres release" from Hartley, a mom, author and blogger with SPD kids who is working to raise both awareness about SPD and money for the SPD Foundation!  

And, I must say, as we share this release, that we would LOVE it if when you check out Hartley's monthly-long October SPD event, if you are moved to donate, you do so using out name.  It might just help us win one of the fabulous SPD-related prizes that she is awarding each week.  Any of them sure would come in handy as we live and learn with SPD.

Enjoy the 30 Stories in 30 Days!
Hartley’s Life With 3 Boys is holding a one of a kind event showcasing the stories of 30 Families parenting a child with SPD in 30 days and is designed to not only help spread awareness of Sensory Processing Disorder, but to raise money for the SPD Foundation’s 30th Anniversary. 
With a new ‘sensational story’ posted every day through the month of October, including a never-before-published story from Dr. Lucy Jane Miller that will move you to tears, as well as the inspiring stories of other SPD advocates and authors such as Chynna Laird and Terri Mauro, and an emotional story told through the poetry of Jennie Linthorst, among the many other families just like me and you, these stories showcase what it is really like to raise a child with SPD and how increased support and funding is so desperately needed.  This event will spotlight the struggles and successes every SPD family faces on their SPD journey; from ‘ah ha’ moments, to finding help through Occupational Therapy, these families are on the front lines of this disorder every day. 

And helping them is easy.

Visit Hartley’s Life With 3 Boys blog and click on the “ChipIn” widget on the right navigation bar.  It will take you to PayPal where you can make a donation in any amount you choose.

In an effort to encourage everyone to donate generously, prizes will be awarded to the person raising the most money each week and there will be a HUGE PRIZE PACKAGE for the person who raises the most money during the month.  Also, if you raise $250 you will automatically win a prize!  So rally your friends and family, and have them donate under your name – all you have to do is ask them to leave your family’s name and email address in the comments of their donation – and you are entered to win!

The prizes are fantastic!  Here are some of the things you can win:
And MUCH MORE.  To see a complete listing of prizes, view HLW3B’s prize page here.

Now is the time to join in on the fun and help spread AWARENESS of Sensory Processing Disorder far and wide and provide them hope for tomorrow.

Thank you all for your support,
Hartley Steiner

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mary Lombardo -- A Woman Who Exemplified the Happy Heart We Seek

I was intending to post the next part of our Prayer Pegs series today, but, instead, I would like to honor Mary Lombardo, my 95 year old Grammy and the kids GG, who passed away last night.  The kids and I were blessed enough to visit her twice in the past week and wrote about one of those visits here, sharing Grammy's statement, "He smiles at me."  Reflecting on Grammy's life, I am realizing more and more that He continually smiles on all of us through knowing Grammy as we did:

Jack and GG resting comfortably together between kisses.
Mary, like countless women of her generation, did not complete her traditional education.  Yet, she possessed more knowledge and skills than many college graduates seem to today.  Life experience, trust in God, love for family and an appetite for the daily newspaper acted as her advanced curriculum and shaped her into a woman whose education far surpassed anything teachers and texts could offer.  It was a whole-hearted edification that Mary embodied – one that inspires me and makes me grateful to continue living the legacy of love, learning and life appreciation that Mary, my Grammy, has left behind.

From my earliest days, I remember Grammy “knowing stuff”, practical stuff that amazes a young child:  how to knit beautiful, warm winter mittens; how to turn Grampy’s strawberries and other produce into delicious homemade jams and jellies; how to reduce, reuse and recycle (even before it was trendy to do so) in order to make any manner of necessities and playthings.  Indeed, though some may say Grammy lived in “want” for many years, I don’t see it that way.  Money may have been tight.  Things may have been few.  But, ingenuity, trust and hard work multiplied whatever was there to fulfill needs… and desires, too.  Oh, how I looked forward to our homemade Christmas gifts from Grammy each year when I was growing up!  And, wow, how Grammy evidenced excellence in home arts and handiwork throughout the years!  Not many people could pull off huge family gatherings in a tiny home, ensuring all were well fed and relaxed, the way Grammy did.

And, not many could adjust to the challenges and celebrations of life the way Grammy did, either.  Through all the hard knocks of her life – including losing a child, losing a husband and surviving cancer – Grammy remained steadfast in her faith.  Through the celebrations – births and weddings of grandchildren and great-grandchildren counted high among them – she modeled true joy and love.   With each individual she encountered, Grammy both saw and brought out goodness.  She was known to say things such as, “We have such a big family and we are so full of love.  Even with all the people in our family, no one really has problems.”  Now, some of us might be inclined to disagree with the latter half of that statement, fully able to list a problem or two.  But, with Grammy’s vision in mind, we realize these aren’t real “problems” – in the long run, they are simply stumbling blocks and lessons.  Grammy acknowledged this and she knew, especially later in life, the quickest way to navigate and learn from them: prayer.

Grammy often prayed in adoration, thanksgiving and supplication.  More than once over the years, when I walked in to visit Grammy, I found her eyes closed, lips moving, rosary in hand.  And often times as I went to say goodbye, Grammy shared thanks for our family. 

Family.  So much is learned, shared and habitualized through family relationships.  And, with Grammy at the helm, all such things were underscored with wisdom and love.  Oh, how Grammy beamed when she talked about the “population explosion” she and Grampy started and how it was so “full of love”.  And, how right she was.  Grammy had an uncanny ability to share simple words at just the right moments.  No big speeches.  No judgment.  Just understanding, love and a snippet of time-tested wisdom.  I still appreciate each time she offered these.  And, I can definitely see how they neatly tied bonds that will always remain strong.

So life smart, faith smart and family smart, Grammy was.  She was also book smart.  Or, rather, I should say newspaper smart.  That woman would sit during quiet moments with glasses perched at the end of her nose, pouring over the daily newspaper.  When we’d visit, she’d often have clippings of interest, underlined and ready for us, stuffed into old cereal boxes.  And, be it from the newspaper or schooling during her early years, Grammy had an astounding vocabulary.  Anyone playing Upwords with her was sure to be stymied with some of the words she laid out with her tiles.  Never boastful, but always brilliant in so many ways, Grammy serves as an example of what I believe all learned people should aspire to.

Small in stature but huge in impact, “Little Grammy”, as many of my cousins and I sometimes called Mary Lombardo, lived a long, rich and faithful life.  She remained a respected steward of time, talent and treasures through every stage that I can recall.  Even in her last years, when age and illness reframed her sense of time and erased many of her former talents, she adapted.  She used her time to do just what her body would allow her to do – to pray and to share smiles and stories with whoever visited her. 

When asked how her days were, she most often replied, “As usual.  No better.  No worse.”  But this was not said as a complaint.  Rather, it was a fact, which she shared with a smile that bespoke of acceptance.  Yes, acceptance.  Grammy once said, “Life is a gift and I am going to accept it as long as God offers it.”  She did that.  With grace.  With gratitude.  With a manner I have seen few do.   She lived in practical way, day to day, synthesizing all her experience into an education that made her as much a student as it did a teacher.
I am saddened to think that Grammy will not be around anymore to regularly mentor me in living a simple, faithful, yet rich life.  Yet, I am gladdened to know that she now looks down from her company with the angels and saints, cheering me on and encouraging me to model such things for my children.  I am also ever grateful that I had the opportunity to share so many special moments with Grammy through the years, and that my children, though gifted with far fewer moments with their GG, were literally touched by her love as well. 

I will always remember Mary Lombardo.  A woman trained up with a happy heart.  A woman who passed on with peace, having accepted her learning here and prepared herself for the hereafter.  Great-great grandmother.  GG.  Grammy.  Mum. Child of God.  May her legacy live on…

This post is shared at Thankful Thursday at Grace Alone.  Please visit the links there to be inspired by others testimonies of gratitude.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tasks Galore Giveaway

I haven't had much time for blogging lately.  Sorry!  But, I did want to pass on the wonderful giveaway opportunity at Creative Learning Fun.  It's for a Task Galore book, which would we wonderful for homemade Montessori-friendly activities as well as for activities for kids with SPD and similar glitches.  You can see a sample task here.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Growing an In-Sync Child: Simple, Fun Activities to Help Every Child Develop, Learn and Grow, A Rich Resource Review

Parents of children who need OT, but cannot afford it often look for frugal ways to provide therapy at home.  Parents of children who cannot afford My Gym and other such classes often look for less expensive ways to incorporate motor development at home.  Educators with limited school budgets but little to no PE or motor development training may find themselves suddenly in charge of leading such activities.  What to do?  Perhaps turn to Growing and In-Sync Child -- a great resource for parents and educators on this Frugal Friday, which I have reviewed below.

Growing an In-Sync Child: Simple, Fun Activities to Help Every Child Develop, Learn, and Grow
* * * * 1/2

Recently, I devoured Growing an In-Sync Child, co-written by the author of the well-known Out-of-Sync Child and Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun.  Why was I able to devour it despite having two preschoolers and one infant with me 24-7?  Because it is so easily read!  (and it earns its first star for this.)

Written by professionals in the fields of Early Education, Sensory Processing Disorder and Perceptual Motor Therapy, Growing an In-Sync Child makes topics and activities that are often accessible only to experts in classrooms and therapeutic offices around the world easy to understand and implement by even untrained  parents and educators.  Short chapters, concise information, helpful charts and easy-to-follow “recipes” for activities, as well as examples of the how and why behind the activities, make this handy guide work well for busy parents and educators who want to read it in snippets as time allows or refer to it as needed when observations of children’s needs demand a new approach.  Plus, hundreds of examples of WHY different skills are necessary make words such as “vestibular processing ("for standing while following verbal directions", "for sitting at a picnic table", "for doing gymnastics", etc.) and “laterality” ("for holding a bag and stuffing it with leaves",  "for sliding into home plate", "for talking on the telephone", etc.) easily understood.  And, I love the way the book avoids the typical “he” vs. “she” gender issue that so many books of this nature struggle with:  For each activity,  a name for a child is given – Michelle, Thom, Marvin, Kelly-Ann and so on.  The "he" or "she" follows naturally from there.  This works to make the activities seem real and personal, as opposed to generic and clinical. 

Indeed, authors Carol Kranowitz and Joye Newman did a fantastic job making this book accessible to everyone. Brief chapters, which explain theory and the importance of motor-development activities for young children, a chapter that details the story of three children who required early intervention and how focusing on motor development helped them academically and socially as well, page after page of activity "recipes” and multiple charts make the book an informative, easy read.  Without question, these make Growing an In-Sync Child very relevant to anyone living or working with young children.

I can attest that I, with one child who has SPD, one who does not but is a three-year-old sensory seeker and one who is but an infant beginning to master basic motor skills, had many “Ahh, that makes sense,” and “Oo, we’ll try that,” moments while reading this book.  I loved the pages in the back, which focus on walking, running, jumping, balancing, hopping/skipping/galloping, throwing, catching, climbing and striking/kicking.  These provide a quick inventory on what children can be expected to do for each skill at ages two to three, three to four, four to five and five to six, which, for me, offered comfort about some things I was concerned about with my children as well as direction for skills we might focus on in the weeks and months to come.  Also, with the book’s brief, yet complete explanations of tactile processing, vestibular processing, proprioception, balance, bilateral coordination, body awareness, laterality, midline crossing, motor planning, spacial awareness, acuity, binocularity and visual tracking, otherwise “technical” terms and related concepts become understandable.  After reading the book, even a layperson can explain such terms to others and with 60 or so ready-made activities that are fully laid out for children of beginner, intermediate and advanced levels of motor-skills to try anyone can implement motor development activities with confidence in the everyday life of children.  The book gets a star for relevance.

Truly, Growing an In-Sync Child contains a plethora of practical information.  It not only offers the aforementioned 60 activities in an easy-to-read and implement format (Helps Your Child Develop and Enhance, What You need, What You Do, Ways to Make It More Challenging and What to Look For), but it also offers instant “menus” of activities to try by In-sync Component (such as body awareness and balance) and Time and Place (such as Doing During Your Nightly Routine and When You Have No Equipment).    Additionally, it contains a helpful table of activities by level and necessary equipment.  (Another star!)

With three children under five, I know the table will come in handy and I also am confident I can draw ideas from Growing an In-Sync Child for quite a while.  Thus, I want to give this book another full star for its longevity potential.  However, I also admit that parents and educators whose children are a bit older may not find the book as useful for as long.  So, I am only going to give it a half-of-star for longevity.  That being said, the book offers enough that I would still encourage those who work with children on the upper end of the “young children” spectrum to check out the book.  It is worth it and, when kids “age out” of the activities, the book would make a fantastic pass-along as a donation to a library, school or friend.

Growing an In-Sync Child earns a fifth star from me as it is definitely worth the trouble of ordering from inter-library loan if your own library doesn’t carry it.  In fact, after doing so just once, I am putting this book on my when-we-have-money-in-the-book-budget list and planning to order it from our Virtual Library service again soon in the meantime.  While there are many books I can read once or twice, take notes on and move on, and just as many that offer some good activities, this one stands out as one that invites paging through time and time again. There are just so many activity ideas I want to try in it given different ages and stages the kids will go through.  Practical tips, little reminders... I simply cannot take notes on them all.  I want the book on my personal shelves!

Obviously, I like this book and encourage others to take a look at it.  It is easy-to-use, chock-full-of-ideas and great for families and educators of young children who want to integrate simple, fun motor development activities into life and learning.  In my opinion, Growing an In-Sync Child truly lives up to its claims of being an easy to use, portable, expandable, inclusive and economical program that is developmentally-based, flexible and adaptable while addressing many skills simultaneously.  Full of riveting, ingenious, “new” ideas?  Perhaps, it is not.  (How many times can the motor development wheel be re-invented?)  Replete with easy-to-implement, targeted,  and enjoyable activities?  It is!  (The wheel can definitely be engineered to work better for today's drivers.)  As such, I highly recommend this book to all parents and educators of young children.  Get the kids away from the TV, off their bottoms and out of the rut of training just their brains.  Move, move, move to enhance their physical, emotional, academic and overall success through sharing some fantastic  motor development activities from the book's pages.

For an example of a simple activity from the book see the In-Sync Child website. 

To see what I base my star criteria on, please see my first Rich Resource Review post.  And, if you have resources you have found helpful for homeschooling, homemaking, Montessori, Reggio, Classical Ed, Charlotte Mason, Early Education, etc., do share.  I love checking such things out.

This post is being shared at Life as Mom's Frugal Fridays.  Click on the links there to find more tips for getting more for less.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Crock Pot Tapioca with Berries

In the past week, the kids and I have had fun making waffles, pancakes, roll ups, cupcakes and sundry other yummy delights.  Simple recipes.  Frugal fun.  Delightful times shared.  I am thankful for these experiences -- for delight of tasty comfort foods and the fun of making them with the kids as they learn math skills through every day life activities.

And, since yesterday, I mentioned the crockpot tapioca we made for our Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Liturgical Tea, today, I thought I would share the recipe we use in case others would like to try it out.  It is so easy and makes for a perfect, quick Power Foods Lab.  (Just click on the thumbnail to bring up a printable version to test out with your kiddoes in your own kitchen.  If it doesn't work, leave me a comment with your email or email me privately and I can send you it in Word.)

We'd love to hear about some of your favorite comfort foods and kid-friendly recipes, too.

And, on a completely different note, I am thankful for our wonderful Nina, who is 3 yrs. and 3 mos., today.  Daddy captured her perfectly over at our family blog Wonder and Will.  Feel free to take a peak if you want to see what our little lady is like of late.

This post is being shared at Thankful Thursday at Grace Alone.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mother Mary

“Happy Birthday, Dear Mary!”  Luke and Nina sang with glee earlier today as Jack gave a smile from his seat nearby and I brought cupcakes to the table.  Yes, we were having our first Liturgical Tea in a very long while – one in honor of the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Due to an unexpected health issue on Mama’s part, this Liturgical Tea was simpler than planned.  No Mary story from the Catholic Children’s Treasure Box.  No reading of Young Mary of Nazareth.  No related crafts.  To be honest, we almost no tea at all.  I just wasn’t sure I was up for corralling materials and cooking treats for it.

But, Luke woke so excited to have Mary’s birthday party, I couldn’t let him down no matter how “off” I was feeling.  Truly, just after waking up, our little man ran to the cupboard to find out muffin tins to lay on the table, ready to be filled with homemade cupcake mix.  He, then asked if we could use the “treat” whipped cream we’d bought.  How could I say, “no” to that:  young boy eager to celebrate Our Blessed Mother?  This Mama had to rally.

So, throughout the morning, the kids helped me make a variety of blue and white foods in honor of Mary – crockpot tapioca, blue (okay purple) gelatin wigglers and white cupcakes.  Then, they helped lay out a blue table cloth before decorating the table with a large picture of Mary, a number of smaller ones (our Mary Matching Cards) and a baby doll that they swaddled in blue to represent baby Mary.  From there, they worked together to set the table and lay out the foods we had made, along with a bowl of vanilla yogurt and some blue grapes (which I had purchased earlier in the week with visions of doing something fun for the Our Lady of the Grape Harvest traditions mentioned at Catholic Culture.  There's always next year!)  Then, unable to resist temptation, my two eager, sneaky preschoolers cut the gelatin wigglers into their own designs while I took out grape juice and milk in lieu of tea.

Almost ready for our "tea", we rummaged for some blue candles, popped them in some cupcakes and lit them.  The singing and blowing commenced, followed by saying a Hail Mary and asking Jesus and Mary to look after GG Mary (my grandmother who fell ill with pneumonia this morning at the ripe old age of 95).  Then we dined as we briefly discussed how Joachim and Ann prayed for a child in their old age, God gifted them with Mary and Mary, later, said  “Yes!” to God, so we could all receive Jesus in our lives.  This discussion ended with the kids' growing curiosity about how to make the whipped cream canister (a novelty in our household) work.  Ahh, the explorations of preschoolers.  Gotta love and laugh at them!  (Too bad our camera was already put away.)

Getting back on the Mary track, after eating, while the kids played, I read the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary aloud (which I, admittedly, had never really read in its entirety before and which struck me for all the wonderful descriptors it contains for Mary) and searched out Mary the Dawn on YouTube, since I had read about the hymn earlier, but could not recall ever hearing it.  My response to both was greater than the kids.  Indeed, they didn't really respond to any of this at all.  But, at least they were exposed to the prayer and hymn, so that they might wish to become more familiar with them at another time.  For, it is certainly true that what we do one time comes back another time...   For example, we had played Mary Matching in the spring.  Then, earlier this evening, when I could not find our 3-Part Life of Mary Sequencing Cards, Luke and Nina piped up that we should play Mary Matching “Go Fish” since we had the cards out for our tea time table.  We did, followed by the Slap Game.

Finally, we closed our celebration of Mary's birthday at bedtime when we sang "Happy Birthday" again before praying for Mary's intercession with a few things and continuing on with the rest of our bedtime prayers.

So, all in all, we had a delightful celebration of Mary’s birthday here today.  Song.  Cupcakes.  Games.  Prayer...  And, yes, reality!  I wasn't feeling my best.  The kids had their "moments".  I had mine, too -- you know, the less-than-best-model-Mama ones.  Thankfully, though, God expects none of us to be perfect and Mary, our gentle Mother, understands our humanity and is ready to intercede for us.  So, we cannot fail as long as we strive to know God and follow Blessed Mary's modeling.

"Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’"(Luke 1:38)  If we endeavor in some small way each day to be equally open to God’s will, we will, ultimately, be blessed.

Happy Birthday, dear Mother Mary!

We'd love to hear about some of your favorite Mary games, traditions, recipes, hymns, etc.  Please leave a comment!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Step Seven: Family Time and Play Dates -- Group Time Space with Creative Curriculum ® for the Home

Today, I am very grateful for friends and family aplenty and space that, although limited, is accommodating enough to enjoy time with guests.  For, since Jack has been born, we have had our fair share of folks swinging by to meet our newest student as well as to help Mama out a bit by watching the kids while I attend to a few things or by having me watch their kids so I don't attend to anything but enjoying witnessing children's play and learning unfold.

As each visitor comes, our “large group” areas get crowded quickly.  The kids and their friends spread out in our small living room with toys to play as we adults talk over and around them.  In the midst of the ensuing chaos, I smile, thankful for having space to host.  I cringe a bit too though, realizing continued reorganization might make everyone a bit more comfortable.

And with this in mind, I have decided it is time to pick up our Creative Curriculum ® for the Home series again with a focus on Group Time Spaces:

Beyond establishing interest areas, the Creative Curriculum® (CC) asks practitioners to identify spaces for group time, for displays and for storage, adapting these areas to children’s special needs.  It also asks that all areas be as comfortable and attractive as possible.

It suggests educators define a space to gather to talk about and plan the day, listen to stories, transition between activities and participate in music and movement.  For us, as a family group space, the kitchen, the deck, the stoop and the living room serve well.  In the kitchen and on the deck, we chat around a table.  In the living room, we enjoy music and movement.  In almost every room, we enjoy story times.  (Yes, even in the bathroom, where the kids have specific potty-time books and, occasionally, tubby time ones!) For company “group times”, however, space becomes more of an issue.  Both our office/play-n-learn space and our living room get crowded quickly.  So, the basement family room – if we ever unsurface and fix it up – may become the group space for play dates and entertaining guests.  It’s all a work in progress.  (Okay, a work stalled for the moment as we get used to having another member in our family and begin to think more seriously about moving toward homeschooling Kindergarten come December.)

Wherever the group time space ends up in our home, we hope to follow these guidelines that the CC suggests that it have:

-          sufficient floor space to accommodate everyone – check, once we are in the basement!
-          comfortable floor seating – check – foam squares and floor pillows for us.
-          space for charts, such as a job charts, daily schedules or charts for graphing  – We plan to actually spread these out in our home in order to keep them less visible to guests while still accessible for us.  Granted, our daily rhythm fridge chart is pretty visible to all!
-          an easel or chart stand to document group discussions or display big books – While we have an easel, I have no intention of placing it permanently in our living room, nor kitchen at this point.  (Maybe later in the basement family room...)  Indeed, notebooks do just fine for recording in our home environment and big book displays are unnecessary as we use few of these.
-          cupboards for storing materials such as CD’s, scarves and instruments and electrical outlets for CD players, etc. – Check.  As mentioned in an earlier post, we rededicated part our living room storage to musical enjoyment.

And, so, our Group Time Space has its own shape and that shape will continue to evolve -- hopefully stretching a bit so things don't feel so crowded when we are welcoming others into it!  How about yours? Where do you host family and friends in your home? How do you make the space work? Do you have favorite tips and discoveries for seating, schedules and charts, etc.? Do share! And, as always, keep checking back. I will continue posting the CC for the Home thoughts and summaries as time and inspiration allow.

In This Series:

Step One: Declaring Areas for Interest in the Creative Curriculum® Home

Step Two: Spaced Out -- Thinking about Space Planning Guidelines in the Creative Curriculum® for the Home

Step Three: Music and Movement Area Creative Curriculum® for the Home

Step Four: Materials Madness -- Basic Principles for Equipping Interest Areas Using the Creative Curriculum® at Home

Step Five: Outdoor Area of the Creative Curriculum® for the Home

Step Six: Displaying and Labeling Materials with Creative Curriculum® for the Home

Step Seven: Family Time and Play Dates -- Group Time Space with Creative Curriculum ® for the Home

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Prayer Pegs: Lunch Time, the Blessed Mother and Buckets!

There is a reason for my delay in posting the next part of our Prayer Pegs series, which was promised for August 18th, but is just coming together.  And, no, that reason is not simply that in juggling all of the balls of life, I allowed the one of writing the next Prayer Pegs post to drop.  For while that is true, another truth has become apparent to me:  The Holy Spirit had some work to do within me before I shared anything about our Lunch Time Prayer Peg... and for that, I am thankful!

Building Better Families: A Practical Guide to Raising Amazing ChildrenIt hit me this past Sunday as I recited a perfunctory grace before scarfing down lunch in order to get back to chores while Jack napped.  I was saying, not praying, and I was on course to training my children to do the same.  Yikes!

I had just picked up Lighthouse Catholic Media’s Building Better Families and was listening to it as I bounced between baby care and my to-do list.  (Mike had graciously taken our older two children to a local wading pool for a few hours or I could have never listened to the message on the CD.)  As I listened, ever once in a while, Matthew Kelly’s recorded talk prompted me to pause with a “hmm”.  Then, as I caught myself simply reciting Grace just after hearing Kelly talk about the idea that there is a difference between saying and praying, I stopped short.  Eek!  I had just done that very thing!  I had rushed through grace, uttering words but not feeling much of anything.  My mind was on what task I would do next, instead of on the gift of conversing with the Lord in a rare moment of quiet in my home.  Would my children’s “prayers” be similar?  If I continued with the idea that our Lunch Time Prayer Peg would be grace and a Hail Mary, moving toward a goal of praying the Angelus (or Memorare) would I be teaching my kids to pray or to say?

My answer came at the very next lunch I shared with my older children.  Nina offered to say grace, mixing parts of the Hail Mary with her own thoughts about thanking God for her day.  I almost stepped in to “help” her finish the Hail Mary when I realized she was praying from her heart, not from rote memorization.  Her Hail Mary may have been incomplete, but her prayer was whole.  It was heartfelt.  It was hers.  My little girl shared aloud her own admiration for Our Lady and prayer to Our Father.

Then, yesterday, since by lunch time, we had not yet made for our read-aloud picture book of the week – Have You Filled A Bucket Today – I offered to share it with the kids at lunch.  When we got to the only part of the book I don’t particularly love (the part that, in effect, says only you can fill others’ buckets and only others can fill your bucket), I stopped to ask the kids who really fills all our buckets (God!) and how do we fill each other’s buckets (by sharing God’s love).  From this, our pre-lunch prayer took its own shape.  I thanked God aloud for my children knowing God is the real bucket filler by answering the way they did.  Then, we all thanked God for how we had “filled each others buckets” so far in the day and said sorry for when we had been “bucket dippers”.  Grace grew from the reality of the moment; our conversation about a book became our lunch time conversation with God.

And, so moving forward, I recognize that our Lunch Time Prayer Peg may one day still include the beautiful tradition of the Angelus and Memore, as I mentioned in the initial post of this series.  Indeed, praying – not saying – the Angelus would be a wonderful habit to instill in our family.  Yet, for the time being, simpler, more spontaneous, heartfelt prayers from each of us, at the kids’ level, seem to be what the Spirit is calling us to. 

On the deck, on a picnic blanket, in the car, at a friend’s house – wherever we find ourselves at lunch – we can model our Blessed Mother by humbly saying “Yes!” to God.  She did in so many ways.  We can emulate her abiding spirit by taking the time to pray from our heart, in whatever form helps us converse most openly and completely at our stage in life and faith sharing as a family.  For now, that is with bucket filling! 

How has God filled your bucket today?  And how are you passing that love on?  I would love to hear your thoughts about praying with your own children, avoiding just reciting prayers and recognizing when your own plan might not be the best one.  Please feel free to leave a comment and, if you know of a snazzy picture booklet or cards for helping families pray the Angelus, do share.  One day, as the Spirit moves us, we may yet benefit from such a thing!

This post is being shared at Grace Alone.  Enjoy reading others Thankful Thursday posts there.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

And the Winner Is...


I delayed announcing the winner of the Itsy Bitsy Printables Giveaway in hopes of getting a working camera to shoot pictures of the kiddoes drawing the winner so everyone could share in the fair, square excitement of it all.  But, since my camera is still broken and I cannot find the receipt for getting it serviced, I decided this morning to just let a helpful Nina draw.  She grabbed a bucket she found in her laundry room.  I wrote all the entries on slips of paper and she drew.  So, Shonda is is!  Congrats and enjoy the great printables which should be coming to you soon.


Related Posts with Thumbnails