Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Greater Than Jumping Game: A Frugal, Fun Approach to Early Math Skills and Sensory Diet Heavy Work

Last week, before Hurricane Irene came in with all her wind, rain and downed limbs, the weather was absolutely ideal.  So, the kids and I spent long hours outside in the yard.  During much of this time, the children were thoroughly engaged in undirected play, which is just the way I feel summertime should be.  Kids should be allowed the time and freedom to pursue their own creative endeavors and explorations.  Well, usually, they should.

Sometimes, parents do have to step in.

For example, when I noticed one day that Like was not getting enough natural Heavy Work through his self-directed choices of activities, I knew I had to find a way to weave some in.  Thus, was born our Greater Than Jumping Game.

On a recent trip to take advantage of back-to-school deals at Staples, I bought some deeply discounted Trend Enterprises Pocket Flash Cards in order to encourage Luke and Nina to recognize their numbers better.  Since my rule had been that we neither open nor use any new back-to-school materials until Luke’s first official day of Kindergarten, I knew that the children would be psyched if I made an exception and eager to do anything I suggested once I brought out the cards.  So, bring them out I did.  And, soon after, we spontaneously created a little game the kids have literally been jumping for ever since. 


Here’s a brief how-to on how to play our


 Greater Than Jumping Game


  • a deck of number cards (purchased or handmade)

  • a mini-trampoline (mattress, couch or any jumping surface)


  1. Have each child draw a random card and read the number on it.

  2. Lay out the drawn cards and decide which one is greater than the others.

  3. Have the child who drew that card jump on the trampoline the number of times indicated while the other chid(ren) count the jumps.

  4. Play again and again, getting lots of number recognition and jumping in.


  • Pincer Grasp (at times, for drawing cards)
  • Number Recognition
  • Number Value
  • Gross Motor
  • Motor Coordination/Motor Planning

Quick Tips/Extensions

  • To help children gain confidence, begin by using only a small amount of cards – say cards for 1-10.  Then, gradually increase the number you use.
  • After all the cards have been drawn, challenge children to lay them out in order from lowest to highest or to sort them into odds and evens.
  • With one child, simply be the “second player” yourself.
  • Extend math concepts and increase jumping time by having children add the cards drawn together and jump however many times the sum is.
  • Get even more vestibular and proprioceptive action in by incorporating this activity as a part of an obstacle course.

What movement-based ways do you encourage math literacy?
Do you have a great frugal and fun activity to share?
Please share your ideas or links. 

This post is being shared at Homeschool Creations Preschool Corner
where you can find links to lots of fun Pre-K and 5K ideas.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Discount for You for Future Horizons Autism and SPD Materials and Conferences

If you're a regular reader of this blog, there are three things you may know about me:

  1. I am grateful for the community of fellow special needs and homeschooling parents and professionals I have found online.
  2. I am blessed to be able to review products related to both homeschooling and special needs both here and at Our Journey THRU Autism.
  3. One company I LOVE to review for is Future Horizons, an awesome place for SPD and Autism resources!
Truly, I love Future Horizon products, such as MoveAbout Activity Cards, 28 Instant Songames, Danceland, the classic Out-of-Sync Child and so many more.

MoveAbout Activity Cards 28 Instant Songames: Fun Filled Activities for Kids 3-8Danceland: Songames and Activities to Improve Sensory SkillsThe Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder, Revised Edition

Now, I am so excited to say that Future Horizons is giving me a chance to help other people access Future Horizons products at a discount.

To Get Your Discount

Just got to Future Horizons and look around.  If you see a product you would like, order it using the code HAPPY when you check out.  By doing so, you will not only receive 15% off the total cost of whatever you purchase, but also FREE SHIPPING (in the continental U.S.)  Not a bad deal for you! 

Disclosure:  It's a Win-Win-Win-Win

To be fully honest, this is not only a great deal for you, but for all involved:

  • Future Horizons gets some sales, which means they will be able to keep bringing us great materials and conferences.
  • Authors of the books/materials you order will receive twice the royalties they would if you purchased the book from, say, a rather large online book retailer, which i think is awesome.  (I LOVE that FH puts authors; rights and concerns at the forefront and helps us to do so as well through a simple choice of where to purchase their helpful books and materials.) 
  • Plus, I will make a small percentage off any sale that uses the code HAPPY, which will help me defray future homeschooling and at-home therapy costs.

Yep.  A WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN.  I am so thankful for the chance to do this.

Use "Happy" Anytime
You can use the code "HAPPY" at Future Horizons at any time to get this deal (the 15% off and the free shipping within the continental U.S.).  So can your friends and family.  Please feel free to pass it on!

Good for Conferences, Too 

Bonus:  The code is not just good for books, DVD's, CD's and cards, it is good for conferences, too.  There are some great Fall and Winter conferences coming up in many locations.  Check to see if there is a Future Horizons' and Sensory World's Upcoming Conference near you.

I don't expect you will, but if you run into any trouble using the code, just let me know and I will try to get it straightened out.  Future Horizons is truly an author- and customer-friendly business.

This post is being shared at Frugal Tip Tuesday, since reviewing materials and getting/giving discounts is one way we remain frugal at our home.  It's also being shared at Gratituesday, since I am so grateful for the opportunity to help my family while helping other families find great resources.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mix-and-Match: A How-To for Perfect Picnics for Picky Eaters with Montessori Overtones

“Summertime and the living is easy…”  Isn’t that the way the classic tune goes? 

Obviously, the lyricist never tried to pack the umpteenth picnic of the season for a family of picky eaters.  Because, let me tell you, coming up with palatable, portable meals several times a week can become more of a chore than a pleasure for a discerning mom.

Trust me, I speak from experience. 

You see, our schedule has us eating outside on at least five occasions weekly, and as a budget-and-nutritious conscious mama who is trying to appease picky palettes in a casein (milk-protein) free family, grabbing a pizza or fast food to go just isn’t an option.  That means picnics – and just how many nutritious, casein-free, choosy-kid-pleasing picnic menus can one mom come up with in a week?

If you’re me lately, none.  I’m done with trying to appease the finicky appetites of my kids with pre-planned picnic menus this summer.  Instead, I am giving them both independence and choice – but only choices that fall into our new Mix-and-Match concept of picnicking.

Packing a Mix and Match Picnic

Just what is Mix and Match Picnicking?  It’s a smorgasbord of healthy foods that offer picky eaters choice while pleasing discriminating parents.

To put yours together, make a list of four categories of food that your kids will already eat or that you would like them to:

  •  proteins
  • fruits and vegetables
  • carbs
  • treats

For the sake of ease, try to stick with things that don’t take a lot or prep and can be eaten with few, if any,  utensils.

Then, look in your cupboards or fridge and pack three or more foods from the first three categories and one or two from the last into your picnic bag, cooler or basket.  (We use recycled Gerber baby food and hummus containers for many of our smaller items because they pack so easily.) 

As your packing, be sure to include at least one whole food liked by each picky eater and at least one “new” food.  (By “new” food, I mean a food that you are trying to broaden your child’s palette with.  Nutritionists and eating specialists say that truly picky eaters sometimes must be exposed to a food up to 20 times before they will tolerate it.  And, by “exposed”, they don’t mean necessarily eating or even taking a “polite bite”.  They mean, simply seeing the food or, better yet, seeing someone they like enjoy it.  So, including a food that you like, but your kids don’t, in your picnic on a fairly regular basis makes sense.)

Finally, consider repackaging favorite processed foods – such as crackers, breads and chips – into smaller containers.  (Experience has proven in my family that if you don’t want an entire bag of chips or box of graham sticks eaten, don’t bring it.  Mindlessly munch on carbs until they are gone is just too easy and, like many children, mine will often choose to fill up on salty or sweet processed foods over healthier, whole foods.) 

Oh, and don’t forget drinks.  (We usually just go with half-frozen, half-fresh water in thermoses in the cooler.  They double as ice to keep other food cool and you don’t have to worry about drinks adding extra sugar to anyone’s diet.)

And, as you do all of this, if you want your children to grow in independence and Care of self (Montessori-style), have them do much of the choosing and packing, lessening how much you do and  increasing how much they do each time a picnic is packed.  I have found that my kids are getting very good at picnic preparation and tend to be more excited to eat for having helped pack!

Serving A Mix-and-Match Picnic

Once you’ve laid your picnic blanket down, unpack your fruits and veggies first – because eager, hungry children are often more willing to eat them when other temptations remain hidden.  Likewise, take out your drinks last – because the same hungry children will just as often fill up on drinks and then refuse other sustenance as they become eager to play.  (I don’t know about you, but I find it a lot easier to catch my young ones on a buzz-by to take a sip than a bite.)

Once all your foods are laid out, encourage your children to eat at least one food from each of the prime categories.  One way we do this with our little ones is by talking about the foods as we put them out, placing foods food from each category together as we lay them out:

  •  Ooo.  Look at these colors.  Different colors mean different vitamins.  I wonder which ones you’ll choose to keep your body healthy?  Who thinks they can eat a few different colors of the rainbow?
  • Oh, and here are the proteins.  Who remembers what proteins do?  That’s right, they build muscles.  Who can a muscle? Wow!  You’re strong.  I wonder which of these you’ll choose to get even stronger.
  • Wow! You sure have used a lot of energy today?  What are you going to eat to give your body more? 
With older children, just asking them to choose three or more different colored foods, or at least one food from each category can do the trick.

Our Mix-and-Match Lists

Our grab-and-go picnic list will be different from others’, because, as I mentioned before, we are a casein-free family.  Also, I prefer whole foods or leftover cooked foods to other choices, and our kids tend to prefer finger foods that they can dip, spread something on or build mini-bite towers with than more traditional mealtime fare. Plus, we choose meats with no nitrates or additives, fruits and vegetables that are organic (unless they are part of the Clean Fifteen) and organic breads and chips, or at least ones with no additives, preservatives nor high fructose corn syrup. 

With all those limitations, plus those of my children’s palettes and my husband and my preferred “new” foods, our current Mix-and-Match picnic choices are:

  • Proteins:  boiled eggs, hummus, bean dip, tuna, cashews, pistachios, almond butter, peanut butter, garbanzo beans, sliced no nitrate hot dogs or diced leftover meats
  • Fruits and Veggies: sliced pears, sliced apples, diced plums, grapes, strawberries, cubed watermelon, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, soy beans, guacamole, diced kiwi, bananas, snap peas, leftover cooked vegetables (diced), grape tomatoes, sliced red peppers, baby spinach
  • Carbohydrates/Treats: corn chips, bread, wraps, leftover pasta, muffins, whole wheat crackers, taco shells, no-salt pretzels, graham sticks, homemade cookies or cakes

Montessori Overtones

Though not classic Montessori, Mix-and-Match Picnics are Montessori-inspired in that:

  • Practical Life is involved in the sense of Care of Self, Transferring Skills, Opening and Closing Lids, etc.
  • Mathematical Skills are included with Sorting and Categorizing, which are inherently involved in the packing and the eating.
  • Grace and Courtesy reinforcement occurs in the social experience of picnicking together. 

Indeed, picnicking becomes just another way to intertwine Montessori into everyday experiences.

 How do you let your child's growing independence manifest itself while still guiding them to make better eating choices?  Do you do any mix-and-match meals?  What are your picnic parameters?  How do you help your children gain independence as they satiate their hunger, appease their limited appetites and care of their bodies?  Do share in a comment.

Montessori Monday

This post is being shared as part of  We Are THAT family's Works for Me Wednesday and at One Hooke Wonder and Living Montessori Now's Montessori Monday.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Training Happy Hearts in Young Children Through Bedtime Blessings

Last week, Diana commented on The Holy Water Font – A Hands On Tool for Training Happy Hearts in Young Children that she was thinking of filling a font that she had placed in the hallway between her children’s bedrooms with Holy Water so that they could bless themselves before bed and upon waking, but that she had no idea if that was appropriate.

I responded that although I am not a theologian, I cannot see why having her children bless themselves at bedtime and upon waking would be inappropriate.  I went on to encourage her to take the blessing one step further by blessing her children herself before bedtime.

So sprung the idea for this week’s edition of Training Happy Hearts in Young Children:   

Bedtime Blessings.

The Bible contains examples of parents blessing their children.  (Think Isaac and his sons or Joseph and his sons.)  It also explains how Jesus blessed children. (Mark 10: 13-16).  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “…every baptized person is called to be a "blessing," and to bless…” (CCC 1669)  Thus, as we continue exploring ways that we can help our youngest ones in their own faith formation journeys, might I suggest beginning the tradition of a simple bedtime blessing?

We have been using blessing our children as a part of their bedtime routine in our home for several years now:

I draw a cross on my child’s head while praying, “In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, dear Lord, please bless my (name of child).”  Then, I lay my hand over the child’s heart, saying, “Holy Spirit keep working in (name of child)’s heart and Jesus know s/he loves you.”  I, then, kiss my child’s forehead. 

Through this simple prayer, I not only ask God’s blessing for my children, but also, hopefully, help my children to internalize the concept of the Trinity and of how God works in them as they love Him.

Please feel free to borrow or adapt our family’s bedtime blessing for the young ones in your life.

You might also try simply laying your hands on your children, or drawing the Sign of the Cross on them, and then saying, “May the Lord bless you and give you peace."

Or, you might choose a verse from the Bible and personalize it as a blessing targeted toward a certain habit or need.  For example, you might adapt parts of Ephesians 4:8 for a child who needs to learn to use words – and do so kindly – by praying, “Dear Lord, please bless (child’s name).  Help him avoid unwholesome talk and teach him to speak only what is helpful and builds others up.”

Or, perhaps you’d like to craft a lengthier and more personal blessing following a basic template, such as:

  • the Name of your child – “Jack,”
  • a Special Quality your child possesses – "We love you.  God gave you such a generous smile.”
  • a General Timeless Blessing You Would Like for Your Child – "May you always know the joy and peace of God’s love within you and continue to smile as you grow in your relationship with God.  May you always know His will in your heart and have confidence in the choices you make in your life.
  • a Specific Blessing Statement that Can Change Over Time – “May you sleep soundly tonight, even though you are not feeling so well.”
  • a Prayer for Protection – "And, may you remain safe and protected for all the days of your life.
  • Conclusion – “In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen."

Whatever you choose to do or say for a bedtime blessing, it is sure to become a ritual that brings the children in your life and you closer together.    

Today, I encourage you to think about your own family’s bedtime routine and your comfort level with praying together out loud.  Then, listen for God whisper in your own heart to guide you towards the specific that may be right for you and yours.

I’d love to hear about your experiences.  Share your bedtime prayer rituals, you favorite words of blessings for children.  I also welcome you to leave questions or thoughts on other topics about training young children up to love and live the faith.  And, please continue to join us each Sunday for new thoughts, tips and sharing about Training Happy Hearts: A Call to Faith Formation for Young Children.  

Friday, August 26, 2011

Making A Literal “Bed” Room: Our 13th Mini-Project for the 52 Weeks of Organizing Our Home(school) Challenge

The Need for Sleep

As a former teacher, whenever I see articles filled with back-to-school tips, I marvel that what I consider a basic and vital piece of advice is often overlooked:  Get enough sleep!

Ideas for easing into the first day of school, maintaining backpack safety, traveling safely to and from school, eating healthy lunches, dealing with bullying, developing good study habits and the like are all important.  But, without a healthy dose of sleep, no students day can be as good as it can be.  Likewise, droopy-eyed educators can hardly be at their best.  Thus, as we think about back-to-school time here, we think about our bedroom environments. 

For months now, Jack has been able to roll, crawl and scamper, which has made the fact that he has still been sleeping in Mommy and Daddy’s bed a bit nerve wracking.  Momma cannot get much sleep between wake-ups for nursing, tending to the “big” kids and worrying that the baby might fall or crawl right off the “big bed” in the middle of the night.  So, I knew moving Jack to his own bed was important

The Dream and the Reality

Since before Jack's birth, my hope has been to change the Office-Learning Space into a third bedroom space, so Jack could have a safe Montessori-inspired bedroom until he is old enough to move in with Luke, leaving the third bedroom to be transformed again – this time into Nina’s big girl room.  That way, I could sleep better knowing Jack was safe.  Jack could learn to sleep on his own.  Everyone could get enough rest.  And, Jack could have the Montessori beginning I so dreamed for all my childen, asleep or awake!

Reality, however, teased that if I waited until I am able to clear the Office-Learning Space in order to make it a bedroom, Jack might be a teenager.  So, I adjusted the plan and decided that Luke and Nina’s room could become a sleeping room for all three of our children with a few slight modifications.  I could simply take out the dollhouse and play kitchen and put down a mattress for Jack.  Then, his independent sleep habit could begin – and Mommy-Teacher might catch a few more worry-free winks herself.

Simple project, right? 


Just as I was about to get to it, Jack changed the plan again.

Reality Changes

One evening earlier this summer as I was reading Luke and Nina a bedtime story as part of their 5 T’s, I turned to see Jack scaling the ladder on their bunk beds. 

Uh oh!  Not safe! 

As I took Jack down, only to have him head right back for the ladder, I began having visions of him trying to climb up to Luke’s bunk in the middle of the night.  I also wondered if I would wake one morning to find Luke and Nina teaching him to jump from the top bunk onto the lower one or onto his sleeping mattress.  Scare-ree!

So, my intended small project for reorganizing sleep spaces became a larger one.

A Multiple Day “Mini-Project”

Over the course of several days, I moved everything but the bunk beds out of Luke and Nina’s room into the hall, disassembled the very heavy bunk beds, found homes for pieces of it in other rooms, stopped tripping over the play kitchen and dollhouse that were temporarily housed in the hallway by moving one to the living room and the other to the Office-Learning space and then puzzled out how I could fit the extraordinarily heavy bottom piece of the bunk bed, lighter, but awkward, top piece and two crib-sized mattresses into the kids’ room as their “safe for Jack to explore” beds.

The result?  A literal “bed” room.  Three beds from wall-to-wall, with a small bureau, a shelf, a book shelf and a stuffed toy bin thrown in for good measure. 

Assessing the New Sleeping Space

Now, is our literal bed-room an ideal set up?    
No.  I can envision many better alternatives, but none that work with the time and budget resources we have.

Is it a move in the right direction as far as my dream of Montessori-izing my home?   
Sort of.  At least Jack has a relatively safe place to sleep, where he can independently get in and out of his own bed.

Is it working for us for now?   
To a degree.  Jack is out of Mommy and Daddy’s bedroom and not scaling high places in his new shared bedroom.  and, it is such a joy to see the kids slumbering together.  However, the slumber does not last through the night.  Mommy is still suffering interrupted sleep, ending up going in with the kids for their multiple wake-ups. 

Plus, an unforeseen glitch has arisen:  Jack has developed an attraction to the window fan that we use to keep the kids' room cool.  During our bedtime routine, he constantly crawls from his bed, over his sister’s and up to his brother’s, where he can reach the fan.  So, we keep removing him and he keeps returning until we simply unplug the fan in order to damper Jack’s attraction to pushing its buttons.  Unplugging the fan, in turn, makes the room get uncomfortably hot as the night wears on, which can make sleep difficult So, I have to sneak back into after the kids have settled, but before their first night waking, to turn the fan back on in order to preclude additional heat-discomfort wakings.  (Thank goodness fall is just around the corner!) 

Additionally, I learned the hard way – or rather Nina did – that the corners of the disassembled bunk bed can be dangerous.  Nina landed on one on her back on one when she was horsing around and got a big, bruised “owie” on her back.  I have since jammed a pillow over and around that corner as a temporary safety solution.  (Yep, that mushy maroon colored pillow in the photo above is the one! And, while we are talking about bedding, please excuse the riot of colors and patterns we are using.  I know they don;t do much to create a peaceful environment, but they are what we have and as we work on night-time incontinence, we find it is difficult to keep matchy-matchy bedding sets on all at the same time.  Quick changes, not coordinating bedding, are the current rule.)

Is creating the space a step in the right direction in developing better household sleep hygiene, and, as a result happy, healthy homeschooling?   
Yes!  In the past few weeks, all three children have managed to get to sleep in their own beds, without a grown up laying next to them, on more than one occasion.  Granted, there were complaints and tears, and staying asleep without adult help is a skill the kids still have to master, but, I am happy with one small success at a time. 

Yes, for now, I am counting the completion of our new children’s sleeping space as a triumph.

Any tips for magnifying our success with our literal bed-room or with improving sleep hygiene are most welcomed in the comments below!  We'd also be glad to hear how others have successfully helped their children master the skill of staying dry through the night.  Thanks!

This post is being shared as part of the Organizing Junkie's 52 Weeks of Organizing Challenge.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Blogging Thanks

HP Pavilion DV4-2140US 14.1-Inch Laptop (Black)As regular readers know, I often struggle with balancing my desire to blog with my call to be a better mother and wife.  I find it far too easy to "get lost" in writing or in being online instead of staying steady-on with my path of training up my children in the way they should go and maintaining an ever-improving home environment for them.  So, as I have meandered back into more regular blogging over the past few weeks, I have also questioned myself:  Am I headed towards a slippery slope of time management again?  Is blogging the best use of my time when it comes to meeting God's will for my life?

At times, when I found myself stealing a few minutes here to tap out an idea and a few more there to review recently taken photos that I might upload to go along with a post, I began to think the answers to my questions were, "Yes, you are already on that slope," and "No, especially when you allow yourself to stay up late to have some quiet blogging 'me' time instead of sleeping while you can so you can be a better parent and more effective housekeeper in the morning."  At other times, I reasoned that since I use blogging as a way to share our experiences and ideas and to journal about our family's journey with homeschooling and just growing into the people God wants us to be, blogging is actually not a selfish endeavor and does tie-in to who I am and what I have to offer the world based on the interests God has given me.

Still, I wondered:  Is God smiling or frowning when my fingers jones for the keyboard?

An answer came about a week ago in an email that I received from a reader:

"Thank you very much, Martianne! I love, love your blog. I am doing the prayer pegs with my kids. :) Know that you are evangelizing the future of the church with your blog. :) ... God bless you and your family!"

This email warmed my heart and made me realize that I am doing something worthwhile when I blog.  As long as my blogging inspires others without hampering my duties to my children, my husband and my home, it is okay.

Like anything, blogging can be tool toward living one's call and sharing one's faith or an idol that detracts from the main mission of life.  I pray to keep it the former.

I am very grateful for the opportunity blogging affords me to think, reflect and share.  I am also thankful for the wide community and fellowship it has opened up to me even on the days or nights I am otherwise cloistered away in my home with my children.  Likewise, I am very happy to know that God uses my desire to share online to inspire others in their faith and life journeys.

Big thanks to the reader who took the time to send me a personal email last week.  Her shared thanks actually helped answer some questions I had been thinking about.  Big thanks, too, to all the readers who take time to leave comments on this blog.  Your questions, tips, invitations to view your own blogs and sites, etc. are always appreciated!  I am thankful for the communication we share and am making a point to leave comments at the blog posts I happen upon, too.

This post is being shared at Heavenly Homemakers Gratituesday, where many share the blessings they are thankful for this week.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Montessori on a Budget: Our Freecycle Walking Wagon Alternative

With an unlimited budget, we would likely outfit our house with a full line of “perfect” Montessori materials and equipment.  But, as homeschoolers we choose to “live like no one else so we can live like no one else” (aka Dave Ramsey financial advice).  In other words, more often than not, we make due with what we have.

Making do is not easy when Montessori websites and catalogs temp one to purchase beautiful materials.  It is easy to begin thinking that carefully selected and designed items in them are “needs”, not “wants”.  But, the reinforcement of knowing that Maria Montessori herself worked within her means and within the bounds of the interests and abilities of the children in her charge, help us stay philosophically and financially on track.

Thus, although we would love one of these ideal walking wagons for Jack,

Radio Flyer Classic Walker Wagon

we have found this freecycled find (a Little Tikes shopping cart) a suitable real alternative.

It provides much the same benefit as an ideal walker wagon by allowing Jack to develop independence at his own paceAnd – bonus – it didn't the bank for us.

Montessori Philosophy in Practice

Within Montessori philosophy are strong tenets for helping a child develop independence and self-motivation.  That means that infants and toddlers should be afforded the opportunity to follow their own internal timetable as they move along their developmental paths.  It should be up to the child himself to know when just the right time has come to begin pulling oneself up to a stand, “cruising” along and walking.* 

A walking wagon, or alternative for one, is a great tool for living by this precept.  When an observant parent sees that a child is pushing things along the floor, that parent might recognize that the child is ready to begin walking.  At that point, it might be time to offer a walker wagon, which can aid a child in the process of learning to walk by giving him something to practice pulling up on when his arms and legs are ready and by offering some stabilization when he wants to begin walking.

Jack’s Steps to Independence

We have definitely witnessed joyful steps towards independence with Jack and our thrifty “walker wagon”.

In June, he was naturally attracted to it, first reaching toward its handle from kneeling.

Then, leaning on it to stand, albeit on his toes.

(In order to stabilize the cart when Jack was at this pull-to-stand stage, we sometimes put relatively heavy, yet safe items in it or asked a sibling to help, as Nina is kindly doing in this picture.)

Once Jack gained comfort in standing,


he pushed it to take some tentative steps.

Before we knew it, he even began walking around and over obstacles, such as balls, which he happily bent and stood to put in and out of the cart.

Now, two months later, Jack takes full command of his "walking wagon" alternative.  He walks about the yard with confidence and glee, enjoying the feat of moving freely in his feet.

He has also begin standing for short periods of time on his own, but we have yet to catch that on film.

What economical alternatives have you discovered for ideal Montessori equipment?  How are you encouraging independence in your child’s developmental path?  Do share in a comment!

This post is being shared at Montessori Monday hosted by One Hook Wonder.

*Note: Just because we believe in the Montessori philosophy of allowing children to progress as naturally and independently as possible in their development does not mean we believe intervention is never warranted.  When we have been concerned about the milestones our children have (not) been reaching, we have sought the help of our family physician and Early Intervention services.  Montessori and seeking help are not mutually exclusive.  Please, follow your gut when following your child! :)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Holy Water Font – A Hands On Tool for Training Happy Hearts in Young Children

From their first mobile days, my children have loved dipping their hands in the Holy Water at the church doors and trying to bless themselves and us with it.  Admittedly, sometimes this has been done with less than fervent intentions, becoming more of an experience in silly water play than one of reverence.  However, since learning the Sign of the Cross, my two oldest children have been more apt to dip prayerfully.  And, when I found the small Holy Water font that my godmother gifted us for one of my children's baptism celebrations, they were very excited to have our very own front door font!  

When my son saw me installing the font by our front door, he was eager to fill it.  In fact, he wanted to use plain tap water.  I explained to him that the font was a special place for Holy Water only – water that has been blessed by a priest to help make us stronger in God’s love.  So he (im)patiently waited until we could collect some at church one Sunday.  Then, he and his sister happily blessed themselves at our front door font not only when we were entering or exiting our home, but also randomly throughout the day.

Unfortunately, since the kids initial excitement with our hands-on tool for encouraging faith formation, I both figuratively and literally let the blessing run dry.  I failed to use our font as much as the kids and then let its waters evaporate without procuring a further refill.  I am ashamed to admit, our family's Holy Water font was almost forgotten.

Not anymore!

The other day, as I glanced at our neglected font, I decided that as the school year begins anew, I am going to make it a point to collect some new Holy Water at church so we can reintegrate the ritual of blessing our selves with Holy Water into our home life.  It is such a concrete, simple and fun way to build spirit within a home.  

Do you use a Holy Water font in your home?  What other sacramentals and simple faith formation solutions grace your home?  Please share your ideas and question in a comment join us each Sunday for new thoughts, tips and sharing about Training Happy Hearts: A Call to Faith Formation for Young Children.

Let's Share the Call

I would be thrilled to continue to hear from some of you – both locally and throughout blogosphere so we can share our personal reflections and open dialogue on how to train up our children (grandchildren and all the young people in our loves) in the way they should go so that they may have happy hearts, united with God.

More Information on Holy Water and Fonts

For more information on Holy Water, its history, its uses and its forms, see the Water page at Fish Eaters.  And, if you'd like your own home font, feel free to start browsing for a style that matches your tastes:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Putting the Real in Ideal: Our Version of Chair Pockets

In an ideal world, I would have the time, sewing talent or money to make or order custom kitchen chair versions of these nifty organizers:

But, since I don’t, I have gone with a “do what you can with what you have” philosophy.  So, here is my economical version of our first real chair "pocket" organizer:

Now, I know what you’re thinking: That’s just a bag hung on a chair, not a pocket.  You are right.  But, I got tired of waiting for the ideal chair pocket to materialize with our limited budget of time, talent and finances.  So, I rummaged through a literal pile of possibilities until I grasped a solution – a bag of just the “right size” that I like but rarely have had an occasion to use.

You see, our no-cost-to-us chair bag serves the same purpose as a more ideal store-bought, or (dare I dream) custom-made chair pocket would.  In fact, it is even a tad more functional and smile-inducing for us.  Not only does it hang on a chair and coral our Morning Circle materials, it also pleases me to remember the colleague who gifted me the bag after some travels in Asia.  Plus, having a bag instead of a pocket is handy for us, since the bag can easily be carried from its home on the kitchen chair to a blanket on the front lawn, or to a chair on the back porch, or to wherever else we choose to have our breakfast and Circle Time.  That works for me!

What’s in our chair "pocket" bag?  Right now:

In the future, I will be adding a few other materials, which will hopefully include a magnet calendar that I have been working on, a portable daily visual schedule and a prayer intention book/album.

Do you use anything akin to a chair pocket?  Do you do a morning circle or breakfast book basket?  What tools and resources do you find enhance your breakfast time rhythm and how do you organize them?  Is there a way you’ve adjusted an ideal vision to meet the realities of your time and resources?  Please share in a comment.

This post is being shared as part of the Organizing Junkie's 52 Weeks of Organizing, since it is yet another small project I tackled to help me organize materials to keep our homeschool rhythm moving smoothly, as well as at We Are THAT family's Works for Me Wednesday, since translating my ideal vision of a custom chair seat organizer to a reality within our family’s resources works for me, and at Life as Mom's Frugal Friday, since our chair bag provided a no-cost alternative to a possibly pricey custom made chair pocket for us.  Please visit these link ups to enjoy other tips and inspiration.


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