Friday, November 30, 2012

A Literature-Rich Advent Alphabet of Faith, Others, then Selves (Free Printable)

Including Ideas for Montessori, Workboxing, Sensory, Motor Skills and Traditional Activities

Last year, I created An Alphabet of Plans for a Literature-Based Family Advent Rich in Sensory Input and Special Activities, which served us well.  As I thought we would, we used the plan as a guide for our learning and fun during Advent, yet did not become slaves to it.  Rather, we went with the flow of life, reading most of the stories listed on the plan, doing some of the activities on it and adding other impromptu ones.  As a result, we enjoyed a relatively relaxed, yet meaningful Advent.

This year, I was going to simply tweak the plan to accommodate the shorter Advent season, but when I started to do so, I found that both my head and heart began to squawk:  Different year.  Different needs. 

Unfortunately, neither my head nor my heart initially clued me in to which of this year’s many desires I should consider when revamping our Advent plans.  Thus, I began a map-less journey through thoughts, books, blogs and computer files.  It was not a productive one, and, only after spending ridiculous amounts of time stumbling along, did I think to pull out the compass of prayer.

Duh!  Advent is about awaiting Jesus and silly me got so caught up in possible Advent to do’s and to read’s that I neglected to just get quiet with our Lord.  Thankfully, the Spirit prompted me to do so, and that is when the words “Faith, Others, then Selves” came to mind, quickly followed by an undeniable desire for more discipline in our home.  (Discipline in the sense of structuring time). 

During the full fall that we had, our daily rhythm at home became rather arrhythmic.  Too often, we weren’t at home at all, and when we were at home, positive habits were ignored and routines began to become more an exception than a rule.  Although learning, living an loving progressed, I feel that they did not do so as fully as they could have with more discipline.

So, as I look towards Advent, not only do I seek to inspire an atmosphere of joyful anticipation in our home, but also one of much needed restoration – re-establishing a steadier rhythm for how we learn, play and work while still keeping our main focus on the meaning of the season.

It was with these thoughts in mind that I proceeded to revamp last year’s Alphabet of Plans for a Literature-Based Family Advent Rich in Sensory Input and Special Activities or this year.  Now,with but a day to go, I have finally finished this year’s Literature-Rich Advent Alphabet of Faith, Others, then Selves.

I share it below as a free printable for anyone who would like to borrow ideas from it.  Included in the plan are:

  • a dated, alphabetical table of Key Advent Words, suggested Read Aloud choices, ideas for Montessori Tray and Workbox preparations and notations of Special Activities, Observances and Traditions
  • an explanation of our Ideal Weekday Rhythm for Advent
  • Daily Rhythm Cards that we will cut and use on a visual schedule to help us maintain discipline
  • A Theme Poster to remind us of our focus.

Of course, as we did last Advent we will use this year's plan as a guide, not a rule.  We won’t read every book or do every activity.  If we did, we’d be so busy doing there would be little time for just being – taking a quiet pause as we await Christmas.  

That said, I will be trying to hold us accountable to re-establishing a better daily rhythm of homekeeping, homeschooling and time to breathe and be.   For it is a new Liturgical Year, and for us, a fresh start to our home-and-school year.  NO need to wait until January 1st for that, as I see it.

Further explanation of what is included in this year's plan and how I expect it to unfold can be found on the plan itself, available here.

Please feel free to borrow ideas from the printable in order to enrich your family's or classroom’s Advent experience.    And, since I love finding new-to-me books and resources, reading about how others celebrate this special time of year and bookmarking ideas for the future, I’d appreciate it if you’d take a moment now to share your favorite traditions, book titles, CD titles, DVD titles, Montessori tray ideas, workbox activity ideas, etc. in a comment. 

May your Advent be blessed!


PS  For fellow Advent lovers, this post is linked to Liturgical Time's, Familia Catolica's and Catholic Blogger Network's link ups.  Click on over to these to glean more great ideas!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Last Minute Ideas for a Christ the King Feast Day Tea

image from Wikipedia

Between preparing for and celebrating Thanksgiving and beginning to obsess over how to tweak our Alphabet of Plans for this year, I almost forgot that today is Christ the King day – a day that I had set aside at the beginning of the academic year as one on which we’d celebrate a monthly Liturgical Tea.  Luckily, I remembered last night and Mike was gracious enough to offer me time online to plan and share about the tea we will celebrate.


  • A Christ the King image printed from Google image searches
  • A large candle with Jesus on it, on which the kids will tape a paper crown.

Tea Time Fare
  • Royal Punch (whatever purplish-colored 100% juice we can find.)
  • Warmed chocolate almond milk (because the kids don’t like real tea, but LOVE this!)
  • Red apples slices put together as hearts, to symbolize that Christ is King of our hearts.
  • GFCF Coconut-Almond cookies, to represent earth.
  • Vanilla coconut “ice cream” on defrosted blueberries, to symbolize the heavens, of which Christ is King.

  • Pray the Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ King as found at Catholic Culture:

Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before you. We are yours, and yours we wish to be; but to be more surely united with you, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to your Most Sacred Heart. Many indeed have never known you; many, too, despising your precepts, have rejected you. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to your Sacred Heart. Be King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken you, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned you; grant that they may quickly return to their Father's house, lest they die of wretchedness and hunger. Be King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbor of truth and the unity of faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one Shepherd. Grant, O Lord, to your Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give tranquility of order to all nations; make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: Praise to the divine Heart that wrought our salvation; to it be glory and honor for ever. Amen.
Prayer Source: Enchiridion of Indulgences , June 29, 1968

  • Since Christ is King of our Hearts, fashion homemade crowns out of heart shapes to wear at the tea.  (Alternately, others may like to just Perhaps print and color the stand-up Christ the King shared at Family Feast in Feria.
  • Mention Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks as shared at Catholic Culture that  Christ’s kingship is not based on “human power” but on loving and serving others and begin brainstorming ideas for how to love and serve others, which we might use next week when we make our Advent chain.
  • Borrowing from Amy at Splendor in the Ordinary, we will discuss the fact that although “we pay special attention to Christ's kingship this day, He is King throughout the year... we see Christ as King throughout the liturgy: in Advent, as we await His coming again in glory; in Christmastide, we see the coming of a King of Peace; at Epiphany, Christ adored by other Kings; at Lent and Good Friday perhaps his kingship can seem veiled to us but it is His Holy position that gives his suffering power and at Easter, He is the Triumphant Hero overthrowing evil to restore His Kingdom,” and, during Ordinary Time, he always remains King of our Hearts.
  • Work together on the word search at Sanctus Simpliticus.
  • Color the coloring page from Crusaders for Christ that is shared at Sanctus Simpliticus or the one that is shared at Sermons4Kids.
  • We won’t be doing it this year, because I don’t have the props handy, but I wanted to note the object lesson at Sermons4Kids is a good one and one I will likely use next year when I am (hopefully!) more prepared.
  • Sing the Christ the King song found at

Christ Our King Song
(Sing to the tune of Frere Jacques)

Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ
is our king;
is our king.

He rules with peace and justice.
He gives life to all people.
We praise him.
Praise our king.

Let us worship,
let us worship,
Christ our king;
Christ our king.

As king he shows the way,
the truth, and the life.
We praise him.
Praise our king.

As a bonus to our celebrations, tomorrow we will use parts of Mama Erika’s Raising Little Saints Feast of Christ the King packet during lesson time.  What a gift Erika has given us by taking the time to create and share this wonderful freebie!

Double bonus:  If I happen to get an unexpected gift of time, I may dive into reading the free Christ our King e-book at Open Library for my own education.  If not, at least I will have it bookmarked for next year.

Do you have favorite traditions for sharing Christ the King day with young ones in your life?  Does anyone know of a picture book that might connect to the day?


(If you receive this post via email and cannot see the linky, be sure to actually click over to the blog to read browse the rich catalog of ideas there.)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Montessori Fun Comes to a Grind

Nina Grinding Herbs and Corn

Yesterday, while we were visiting the Patuxet Pavilion, the kids had a chance to grind Indian corn and herbs in a traditional mortar and pestle.  Who knew it could be such fun?

Luke at the Grinding Spot... Again!  (He loved this activity.)
Who knew it would invite a child to come try again and again, promoting concentration while also offering some hand heavywork ?

I do now!

So, this morning as I prepare foods for our annual homeschool co-op Thanksgiving luncheon, I have been thinking about how to add grinding activities to our Practical Life pursuits.

A quick search online brought me to several other Montessori-inpired mommas and educators who have children grinding away:

While the interest is there among my children, I definitely want to bring our kitchen help to a grind.  Thus, it's time for me to look for the ceramic mortar and wooden pestle that I tucked away some time ago as a fragile artifact from my Japan days.  It would be better used by my kiddoes now than it is stored in the back of a cabinet!

What new Practical Life activities are your children showing an interest in and how can you encourage it?

 Want to be inspired with others' Montessori ideas an work?  Click on over to Montessori Monday and enjoy.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Faith, Fortitude, Freedom and Other Lessons of Thanksgiving

Yesterday, I saw a sign on the door of a local restaurant chain that said, “In celebration of Black Friday,...”  I don’t know why, but it shocked me.  Celebration of Black Friday?  Really?  Folks celebrate Black Friday?

No, thank you.  Not in our family.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  We are not opposed to a good bargain and, therefore, do not point fingers at anyone who heads out to find one on Black Friday.  We simply choose to avoid the chaos of shopping on that particular day ourselves and think that the day before Black Friday merits greater celebration.

Sandwiched between the candy highs of Halloween and the hoopla of the holidays for many – or between the festivities of All Saints Day and the joy of Christmas for others – Thanksgiving sometimes gets overlooked.  

Last Year's Cornucopia of Thanks

Not in our home.  We consider Thanksgiving a timely opportunity to help our children make connections between faith, fortitude and freedom, while also beginning to understand some of the sadder truths tied to the day and our responsibility to educate our children about them.

Thus, this year our Thanksgiving preparations began spontaneously when a friend lent us Monumental: In Search of America's National Treasure , a documentary that may be a bit “old” for our little ones, but which they were interested in nonetheless.  Watching it together acted as a catalyst for discussing our forefather’s faith and perseverance as well as for prompting a growing interest in how the Pilgrims lived.

Luke Running to go See "Faith"
The film also prompted our children to ask to go visit the Forefathers Monument in Plymouth, MA – a landmark that our family has been to in the past, and one that the kids have become more interested in after seeing it highlighted in Monumental as a “matrix of liberty”.  So, off we went last weekend to visit a giant memorial to faith, liberty, morality, education and law – all things that our family values and that our forefathers were said to have deemed important as well.

Luke and Nina Looking Up at "Liberty Man"

A few days after visiting the Forefathers Monument, the kids asked if they could go see “the knight” again – the figurine on one side of the monument that depicts the concept of “Liberty”  The children went on to say that “all the stuff on the monument makes us free”.  This thrilled me since their comments came during a discussion about how we each have free will and can choose to believe and do whatever we wish, but that we must also be ready to accept consequences for every choice we make.  For even if much of popularly taught Pilgrim/Thanksgiving history is a myth, the ideas of faith, fortitude and freedom, as well that of setting aside a day to give thanks and to honor fellowship between people, hold merit.  Furthermore, the fact that my children are beginning to examine what liberty means to them – and how faith can play into freedom – is something I appreciate.

Another thing I appreciate as we prepare for Thanksgiving day is books.  Our family has spent the past week reading picture book after picture book about the Pilgrims and the 1621 Thanksgiving feast in Plymouth.  With each book, we have paused to discuss character traits of different Pilgrims and the kindnesses that our land’s indigenous people offered to them. We have also noted how different life in 1620 was to life nowadays an how lucky we are to live with the conveniences, warmth and food that we do.

These discussions have had an impact on the kids.  In fact, the other night, after my voice tired of reading an entire pile of books, the children leaped up to embark in dramatic play, during which my five-year-old daughter built her own model of a Pilgrim house out of blankets, our kitchen table and a variety of other re-purposed items.  Then, she surprised me by giving me a tour in which she incorporated a wide variety of details from the various books we have been reading.  Likewise, today when we visited the Wampanoag Pavilion in Plymouth, my older son asked the interpreters there about what was true and what was not in what we have read.  As such, picture books have been a catalyst to learning and inquiry – a portal the past and a gateway to further education...

Nina, Jack and Luke Test Out a Wampanoag Canoe

By focusing most of our read-aloud times this week on historical fiction and one non-fiction chapter book, we have allowed our children to access some history as well as to better understand the ever-present truths of Gifts and Fruits.  In fact, with the model of people’s past fresh in our minds, our children had the best year to date with two other pre-Thanksgiving experiences we enjoy annually.  They exercised fortitude against the cold and self-control amidst the crowd as we spent two of our family Sabbath Days taking in traditional parades and accompanying ceremonies.

Last week, we took in the brief Veteran’s Day parade in our present hometown and then enjoyed the song, speeches and Americana of the ceremony that followed it.  I was delighted to see that the ceremony began and closed with prayer and was punctuated with songs of patriotism and faith.  For try as some may to do so, separating the freedom our nation knows and defends from the faith that many of its people hold true is not an easy task.  Experiencing the interconnectedness between the two is something I feel privileged to expose my children to.  

Watching the America's Hometown Thanksgiving Parade
We continued our foray into God and country this past weekend when we drove over to “America’s Hometown” to take in the Thanksgiving parade and festivities there: a pre-parade ceremony with singers and a marching band, an artillery salute, a USAF F-18 Fly-By, a visit to the kids’ tent, the viewing of an impressive Coast Guard rescue demo, and a visit to historical encampments filled our day with countless examples of how people, past and present, choose to persevere in promoting freedom, and, in some cases, faith.  We are lucky to live in an area where the spirit of patriotism and underlying faith precepts are so accessible.  Even through secular events, our family has been able to gently tap into historical and spiritual truths as we enjoy seasonal events.

ll-Boy, Luke Loves Checking Out Historical Guns
Today, we dove further into history by once again heading over to Plymouth to visit both the historical encampments and the Wampanoag Educational Pavilion.  The truths spoken of by the interpreters there are only beginning to sink into my children and I have yet to figure out how to proceed with reconciling the celebration of what Thanksgiving means to us with the sad historical truths of what it can mean to the Wampanoag people.  It is a sad fact that the ideals of our faith are not always lived out through the choices of people.  Thus, even as my children focus on faith, fortitude and freedom this week, I turn to the Spirit to guide me in how best to educate them...

Nina Enjoying Trying on a Piece of History

Undoubtedly, even though the true history of Thanksgiving is quite different than the popular perception of it – and despite the fact that modern times seem to mark Thanksgiving as the day before “shopping season” begins – I consider this time of year a worthy time for faith formation.  I am grateful for each opportunity our family has had to put some “holy” into our Thanksgiving holiday by exploring the faith-driven example of the 1620 Pilgrims, the continuing fortitude of men and women who fight for freedom, and the living examples the Spirit’s Fruits and Gifts at work all around us.  

Perseverance and Patience in Making Corn Flour
Wisdom.  Understanding.  Fortitude,  Knowledge.  Piety.  Charity.  Joy.  Peace.  Patience.  Benignity.  Goodness.  Longanimity.  Faith.  All of these can be found in our preparation and celebration of Thanksgiving.

This year, for us, history lessons, handwriting exercises about thankfulness, dramatic play about Pilgrims and indigenous people, a homeschool co-op Thanksgiving luncheon and countless more read alouds will culminate in a day to celebrate – Thanksgiving – when we will indulge in the blessings of family, food and fun as we offer prayers of thanksgiving to our Creator.

Learning About Corn Food with Thanks to the Indigenous People of Our Land
How will you and your children consciously celebrate this Thursday (or whatever day your country or culture sets aside to examine its past while offering thanks for what is and what has yet to come)?


(If you receive this post via email and cannot see the linky, be sure to actually click over to the blog to read browse the rich catalog of ideas there.)
Please note: Links to Amazon within this post and others are affiliate ones. Should you choose to click through one to make an Amazon purchase, we may receive a small percentage of the sale. This does not cost you anything, but is a choice we thank you for making. Anything we make from links goes straight back into training up our children and to much of what we share with you here. Thank you!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

TV-Free Time as the Mother of Invention

As I was looking through the pictures that I just uploaded from our camera onto our computer, I could not resist sharing three that I had forgotten that I’d even taken last week:

Look at Nina’s feet in this one.  Do you know what she is doing?

She’s testing out Duplo roller skates, which she conceptualized and built all on her own.

Jack then took Nina’s model as inspiration and tweaked her ideas into something designed for a completely different purpose – a jump toy.  With pride, he moved his self-created toy about the living room and tried leaping over and around it at different angles.

Both children initiated their own learning.  They immersed themselves in inventiveness and purposeful activity, and then called out to Mike and me with glee to come and see what they had created. 


Their ingenuity makes me pause to recognize an eternal truth – humans are made to create.  It is natural and instinctive for us to do so.  Our Creator has endowed each of us with an amazing sense of resourcefulness and imagination. 

In our family, the fruit of that gift is often best enjoyed in a screen-free environment.  I have written before about how media and our eldest boy’s mind don’t mix (or mix too well, depending on how you look at it), how we have become a relatively tv-free family, and, consequently, how we sometimes spend evenings when other typical families might be watching television doing things like magnet painting and playing impromptu self-made family games.  What I have not shared is what we do on most of our “free” evenings.  That is, let the kids create.

Drawing.  Designing.  Imaginary play.  Forts.  Playdough models.  Parades.  Mock political rallies.  You name it, our kids create it.  And, I love it! 

Daily, I am impressed with the ingenuity that all three of Mike and my children evidence.  Moreover, I am amazed with how freely they move between what is and what could be.  With the heart, eyes and hands of childhood they care not for where imagination ends and reality begins.  Rather, they let imagination guide their inventiveness.  And, oh the things they invent.

As I reflect upon Duplo skates and jumping toys, I give thanks for the circumstances that led Mike and I to choose to be a mostly TV-free home and the inventiveness which we have witnessed as a result.

At the same time, I wonder when I lost the ability to move as easily as my children from conceptualization to creation.  What is that hampers me – and so many other adults – from consistently using the gifts that we have been given?  How can free ourselves from habits that confine our vision and impede the realization of what could be?  Is there a lesson that our children can teach us about how exercise our creativity daily?

I think so, and I am open to learning.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Art for the Untrained: Our Exploration of Secondary Colors

Montessori education calls parents and educators alike to follow children's interests and to prepare their environments with opportunities to strengthen skills and grow in independence.  So, what is a parent or educator to do when a child loves art, yet the adults in that child's life have little to no experience with creating and teaching art?

One sure-fire way to resolve the issue, I think, is to find a good mentor.  And, in my experience, that mentor can be found in a book!

Let me explain...

A Study of Line, Pattern and Color

Art is not something that I have ever felt extraordinarily talented at or knowledgeable about.  However, it is something that I always appreciated and, since following my children's interests, have begun to enjoy experiencing more and more of in recent years.

Luke's Secondary Colors Mandala
One of our family's recent forays in art as an after-dinner activity included making secondary color mandalas as inspired by Sandi Henry's book, Using Color in Your Art!: Choosing Colors for Impact & Pizzazz.

Nina's Mandala
We so enjoyed making these.  The children became fully engaged in tracing, cutting and folding circles.

Tracing and cutting circles connects art with math and fine motor skills.

Then, they mixed up secondary colors...

Mixing secondary colors connects art to science..
Finally, we all began painting lines to design original art pieces...

At first, Luke concentrated on trying to maintain symmetry.

Nina enjoyed exploring different style lines at first -- straight and curved.

Jack explored painting with his favorite color -- orange.

Meeting the Master Marc Chagall

As our artwork dried, we followed the lead of Using Color in Your Art!: Choosing Colors for Impact & Pizzazz in order to meet a master who was hitherto unknown to us:  Marc Chagall.

As suggested, we first explored Chagall's Green Violinist at the Guggenheim's online collection, noting the use of secondary colors in it, looking for details within the background of the painting, etc.

Image from
We then looked up some of Chagall's stained glass windows.

A Resource We'd Recommend

It was such an enjoyable and enriching experience to create and view art together that evening. It re-confirmed for me just how easy it is even for a parent with little training in creating or teaching about visual arts to just jump in and do so... with a little help from a book if need be.

Using Color in Your Art!: Choosing Colors for Impact & Pizzazz is definitely a book that can help.

We had this book out of our local library for two loan periods and, although it is recommended for ages 9 and up, found it to be a great fit for our family at ages 2, 5, 6 and 40+.  We used it as a guide for a number of exploration and liked it so much that penny pincher me is even considering purchasing Using Color in Your Art!: Choosing Colors for Impact & Pizzazz at Amazon, since it is being sold at a deep discount now.  With a year or more's worth of homeschool art inspiration and projects in it, I think the book would be a great value at under $6!

 What "mentors" have you found for following your children's interests with some expertise even when you do not possess the experience to do so?

Please note: Links to Amazon within this post and others are affiliate ones. Should you choose to click through one to make an Amazon purchase, we may receive a small percentage of the sale. This does not cost you anything, but is a choice we thank you for making. Anything we make from links goes straight back into training up our children and to sharing much of what we do here. Thank you!
Want to be inspired with others' Montessori ideas an work?  Click on over to Montessori Monday and enjoy.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Lesson from the Offertory Collection

(image from
Last Sunday, we were “just” on time.  So, we sat in a rear pew in our church.  No sooner did we sit down than did one of the elder gentlemen who always does the basket walk over to my husband and whisper in his ear a request to help with the offertory baskets.  Of course, Mike accepted the offer.

While I was happy to see Mike able to serve our parish even if in such a small, temporary way, I wondered how things would go during the offertory without Mike in the pew to help with our three children.  Too often, my oldest and at least one of his siblings bicker about who will get to put the envelope for the first collection into the basket, or one of them gets a coin because we have only two envelopes and they all cry “unfair” because they have different items to put in the collection baskets.  Now, I know this means we have a long way to go in teaching about true fairness, charity, humility, etc.  But, as I also know that teaching such things is a long-term endeavor, I was thinking less about what I still had to teach the children and more about how I would manage without Mike during the offering.  I wasn’t as worried about the spiritual implications of the kids’ offering-time behavior as I was concerned about their behavior from very present and practical point of view:  the possible need for a second set of arms to separate, hold or shush bickering babes during the offertory.

Silly me.

I should have trusted our Lord and his wisdom more.

For the first time in weeks, the kids were wonderful during the Offertory.  When Mike went to get the basket and then walked down the aisle to begin offering it to fellow parishioners in the front pews, my three children all scrambled to the end of our pew to watch him.  Enormous, proud and excited smiles beamed on each of their faces.  They quietly, yet enthusiastically, asked why and how Daddy got to do the collection.  They remained excitedly entranced as Daddy made his way up the aisle.

When Daddy got to our row, the children happily directed each other to place the correct envelope for the first offering into the basket that Daddy held out to them.  Moreover, they did so without one ounce of whining, fighting or complaining. The child with the second collection envelope did not bully past the child holding the first collection envelop in order to throw the second collection one into the wrong basket.  Nor did the child holding the second collection envelope hang a head, crying and pouting about being “last”.  Nor did coins get pried from one child’s hands by another child with cries of “unfair” that one had a coin and another an envelope.   In fact, it was with bursting anticipation, the children awaited Daddy to come up the aisle and with smiles, pride and excitement that they made our family’s first offering of the day.

Then, as Daddy went down the aisle for the second collection, the children’s joy remained.  The second collection went as well as the first  and ended with my oldest excitedly asking if Daddy can do the collection every week.

Hmmm... There I was worried that I would need a second set of arms to reign my kiddoes in as Daddy served as basket-holder for the day.  Instead, I simply needed to trust and offer praise as my children happily offered envelopes and coins. 

As I reflect on last Sunday, I recognize an important truth that our Lord reminded me of through this simple exchange last week:  God calls each of us to serve in ways, great and small, every day.  When we say “yes” to His call, everyone benefits.  By seeking – or at the very least  accepting – as many offers as possible to say “yes” to God, we exemplify for our young children the wisdom of God and the beauty borne from obedience.

In what small ways have you and the young children in your life said “yes” to God lately?


(If you receive this post via email and cannot see the linky, be sure to actually click over to the blog to read browse the rich catalog of ideas there.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sharing About Short-Term Work You Can Do from Home

Using Time Wisely Heads Up:  If you are a passionate educator, or know someone who is, that is looking for a short-term way to make some money putting your passion to work, read on. In not, feel free to click away.  Today, I am sharing about a job opp for a job I enjoy that I can do around homeschooling for several weeks each spring.

In the first post I ever wrote here, I described my husband and my reaction to the question "What do you do?" and how it played into our homeschooling decision.  Ironically, now when people ask me the question, I have a long list of things I do besides "live well" and "homeschool" to make small talk with.  At any given point in recent history, I have been juggling no less than a handful of paid positions around parenting, homeschooling, "wife-ing", homemaking, etc.  Some of think this is lunacy.  I think it is a way for me to live my main call (parenting.homeschooling), while putting my past experiences and my innate desire to teach and help to use for my family.

A Short-Term, At-Home Job Opp for You (or a Passionate Educator You Know)

Among the contracts I enjoy is a short-term curriculum advising gig that I sign on for each spring where I help college students plan curriculum for an awesome summer program I hope to one day send my own kiddoes to.  It's a cyclical win-win-win:  I get to do it at home around my other commitments, the instructors I work with inspire me with their passion and knowledge as I guide them through lesson planning, and the students attending Explo in the summer reap the benefits of our work, hopefully reinvesting their own growing passions one day just as theor instructors and I am doing now.

So, what does this have to do with you?

I know a lot of you who read this blog (or people you know) are quality educators, passionate about creating amazing learning experiences for students.  I also know that economic times remain challenging and lots of moms (and dads and others) like me are looking for work they can do from home.  So, I wanted to share:

The folks I contract with at Explo are hiring!  So, if you have a background in curriculum planning and would be interested in the job, go for it.  Apply here and please write my name, Martianne Stanger, on the line where it asks how you heard about the job.

A Favor for Me

I want to be totally up front.  I truly enjoy my work with Explo and have been recommending the PCA position to friends and friends of friends for several years as a way to utilize experience in education, inspire students and make some money for one's own family all while working from home for several weeks each spring.  However, this year, I have even more incentive to do so.

As a way to find great new PCA's and thank you to experienced PCA's who refer new PCA's to them, Explo is offering a cash thank you.  So, if  you decide to apply, or if you pass this post along to anyone who does who puts "Martianne Stanger" as an answer to the question "How did you hear about this job?", it can help me and my family out some. That is, if get hired and complete your PCA role.

And I certainly think that if you get hired, you'd gladly complete your contact.  For several years now, I have been happily advising instructors in planning for Explo. The job is such a great fit for me and for other educators and former educators looking to make some extra income.  Plus, it supports a program, like I said, that I one day hope to involve my own kids in.

Details, Details, Details (About the Job)

If you want to apply to Explo as a PCA, just go here to read more about the job or here to apply. 

If you want to know more, here is the information Explo gave me to pass along:


Exploration Summer Programs is seeking creative and experienced educators to serve as Pre-Season Curriculum Advisors (PCAs) during the winter and spring for our summer enrichment courses. Over the course of a six-week development cycle, PCAs communicate with course instructors via phone and email to help them transform their ideas into creative lesson plans for a three-week enrichment course that will be taught during the summer. Each summer, Exploration offers more than 150 unique courses and more than 90 unique workshops in a wide array of academic disciplines. (See our website,, for a sample of the kinds of courses we offer.) These enrichment courses are hands-on, not-for credit, and ungraded. They are taught by summer instructors who are passionate about the fields in which they are teaching, but who are primarily undergraduate and graduate students with little or no teaching experience. The primary responsibility of the PCA is to mentor these young teachers in the development of student-centered, activity-based curriculum that will encourage our summer students to challenge themselves, discover the world of people and ideas, and experience the joy of learning.

Position Details

A brief online training for PCAs takes place in early winter. Curriculum advising takes place between January and May 15. Most PCAs advise between one and six courses. PCAs coordinate an advising schedule with instructors, such that the advising process for a single course or workshop is completed in a six-week period (of your choosing). A full course takes about 15 hours to advise; a workshop takes approximately 7 hours to advise depending on the course and teacher.

Monetary Compensation + Graduate Credit

PCAs may elect to receive either monetary compensation or graduate credit (or a mixture of the two) for their work as PCAs. PCAs are compensated $200 per full-course and $100 per workshop advised to completion. Exploration is a Professional Development Provider and, as such, can award recertification points for this work.

Application Process

Please apply online here.

About Exploration

Exploration Summer Programs is an international leader in summer academic enrichment. Each year, Exploration runs programs for more than 3000 boarding and day students who hail from more than 40 states and countries. The Program was founded in 1977. Explo at St. Mark’s enrolls rising 4th through 7th graders at St. Mark’s School in Southborough, MA. Explo at Wellesley enrolls rising 8th and 9th graders at Wellesley College. Explo at Yale enrolls rising 10th through 12th graders at Yale University. Students attend either one or two three-week sessions and enroll in academic enrichment courses (and one or two workshops) per session. Twenty-nine people work 10.5 months a year in Exploration’s main office located in Norwood, MA. During the summer, the staff/faculty increases to more than 350 and operations move to the summer sites.

Additional Summer Curriculum Opportunities

In addition to hiring PCAs, Exploration also hires several Curriculum Advisors (CAs) who live and work on the campuses of our Programs during the summer. Summer CAs help coach new teachers in the development of their teaching skills through formal and informal observations, oral and written feedback, goal-setting, reflection, and one-on-one problem solving sessions. Additional information and the online application is available here.

Note:  There are NO affiliate links in this post, just ones that will bring you over to the Explo site so you can learn more about the job.  however, as I explained above, Explo is offering a special incentive to their experienced PCA's this year, so if anyone applies using my name, I will get a cash thank you.  That;'s another win-win-win.  A job opp for you or someone you know = quality PCA's found for Explo = some extra money for me and my family.  Thanks!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Activate Imaginations with A Picture Book-Inspired Leaf Art Tray

Quick, before all the leaves fall and turn brown in your area, if they have not already, consider making a picture book-inspired leaf art tray. It’s easy and so much fun! We just did it the other day.

On the tray, include some inspirational picture books, such as Leaf Man (Ala Notable Children's Books. Younger Readers (Awards)) or Look What I Did with a Leaf! (Naturecraft). Then, add a basket with scissors, glue and paper. Top the tray off with an array of autumn leaves in different shapes, sizes and colors, and your young artists will be good to go. They can begin creating beautiful seasonal art.

Of course, if you have children who are not well-regulated and might get crazy with glue or scissors, you might want to protect your picture books by sharing the stories during a read aloud, but not including them on the art tray.  I actually removed our books just in case once the kids were fully engaged in their art.

And, if you think ahead, instead of just putting the activity together on request to follow your children’s interests – as was the case in our home – you might consider making your tray and working area even more Montessori-inspired than ours was. For example, you could set out child-size scissors instead of grown-up ones, and you might want to provide stack of trays or cloths to define individual work spaces for each artist to create their masterpieces upon. 

Leaf Art by Nina (with Mommy's Help upon Request)

Leaf Art by Luke

Leaf Art by Nina and Mommy

Leaf Art by Nina

Leaf Art by Luke

Whatever way you choose to set up a picture book-inspired leaf art tray, it is sure to activate imaginations and smiles. Enjoy!

Please note: Links to Amazon within this post and others are affiliate ones. Should you choose to click through one to make an Amazon purchase, we may receive a small percentage of the sale. This does not cost you anything, but is a choice we thank you for making. Anything we make from links goes straight back into training up our children and to much of what we share with you here. Thank you!
Want to be inspired with others' Montessori ideas an work?  Click on over to Montessori Monday and enjoy.


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