Thursday, January 30, 2014

Concerns of the Children

At one evening atrium, early in January, I just wasn't prepared for our intended Epiphany celebration. We have many materials and presentations I could do with the children - so I thought we'd start at the prayer table and discern which materials we should work with based on a light conversation.


Our light conversation covered the following topics: 
  • Let's celebrate Christmas until February 2nd - for the traditional 40 days of Christmas - the original date for the Presentation in the Temple - and because we prepared for approximately 28 days so the celebration can be longer than the preparation time - and so we could actually celebrate True Christmas in the atrium. 
  • Because what is True Christmas? The coming of the Light into the world - 2000 years ago, at our baptisms, and at the Parousia. We are ALWAYS to be preparing for the Coming of the Light. 
  • We got to looking at our liturgical calendar (sitting on the prayer table) - Easter is longer than Lent - and we end with a Sunday in red: Pentecost. 
  • But what about the other red days? 
  • And why doesn't our calendar show the rose Sundays for Advent (Gaudete) and Lent (Laetare)
  • (we reviewed why we use rose and how to know which Sunday is rose and why that Sunday in each season)
  • We began reading our Liturgical Colors booklet, going through each color, explaining the significance and definitions of any new words - quizzing on what they already know. 
  • New terms up for discussion: Requiem Mass, age of reason, children dying before the age of reason, children dying in the womb
  • Discussing All Saints Day, followed by All Souls' Day - purgatory came into the conversation. Do you know we have NOTHING in the atrium (officially) on purgatory? On the Church Militant, Church Suffering and Church Triumphant? This is CORE to our faith and we have missed it as an official work in the atrium. Hm. 
  • So we talked about the 3 portions of the Church; the reality of Purgatory - not as an alternate to Hell, but a place all its own - for purging the remnants of stains from our white garments (tying in to the Baptism studies we've done, the parables we've done that mention white garments such as the Wedding Feast, Holy Communion, Reconciliation, etc.) - as a place that we CHOOSE to go when God pronounces our particular judgment at the moment of death (Heaven or Hell) and we ourselves realize our uncleanliness to be in Heaven - thus we choose Purgatory to finish purging, cleansing - so that we enter the gates of Heaven whiter than freshly fallen snow. 
  • This led back to the babies who die before being baptized; who die in their mother's wombs. What does the Church teach us about them? 

These were 9-12 year olds, entirely guiding the conversation where they wanted it to go. 

These were real conversations, real concerns, real questions - real spiritual needs be addressed. 

Thank you Lord for these precious souls before me, revealing to me the core of our Faith, the purest questions we have, and most essential responses. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Level 3 - new space

Work in progress, and changes have already been made - but thought I'd show off ;)

Two months ago:
(curtains have been added in the meantime too)

Salvation History
Or History of the Kingdom of God
this shelf is more or less unchanged

Typology and Art supplies
calligraphy has been built up
sparkly pens box made more accessible
additional art supplies on the bottom shelf

overall untouched - details filled in though

Moral Formation
Bibles, Scripture charts, information on Scripture
more or less untouched

Prayer table, information on prayer, communal prayer
(white table holds the liturgical calendar)
communal prayer has been built up
(we now have 3 levels of planning - new post soon)

our prayer table supply cabinet

resource area and children's folders
podium moved to prayer area
additional end table inserted and both turned
so folder containers for 2 atriums are out at the same time
(no more switching them around work for me)

Geography and charts
charts box is looking great now! will have a post on that soon
geography shelving needs work - would like that dark brown
on the left to slide under the medium brown on the right
Contemplating making the brown table taller
(rather than cut down the nice furniture that the
dark brown end table truly is)

practical life supplies

long wall and covered chalkboard (so we can mount timelines!)
Swapped out 2000 Years for History of Israel
added a pink wall-folder-hanging-thing on the corkboard on the left
tall basket holds the large timelines

the children move  the lamps and the low tables around as/where needed

view from one corner
the tables get moved around a LOT

view from another corner

and a 3rd corner

and the 4th corner

another view of the long wall. I LOVE this thing! 

UPDATES in January (prior to posting):

  • curtains hung on windows
  • timeline on wall swapped out for History of Israel
  • 2 larger tables with chairs - removed (for now they are against the wall under the timelines, for our epiphany celebration - but with that move, it cleared up so much space, I think we'll remove the tables entirely and see if we can get some equal-height shelving under that rail to have a "surface area" with storage underneath (curtains hung to cover it) ---- remove all but 2 chairs (for visitors and adults who can't sit on the floor); use floor tables (seen in last photo above - two are stacked under the 2000 Years timeline), get more of those; and we have hard mats for the floor and two other lower tables. 
  • Geography: I propped the one table up higher, so the map of Jerusalem table slides underneath now, with a drawer to hold the movable pieces. The children can pull it out, use it, put it away. This frees up space to the left (along with the removal of the table) to have a nice box for our large charts to the left of the geography (shown above to the right, with the charts at an angle - this has been made larger, so the charts now sit flat against the back)

Yeah, need to get some new photos ;) 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Same Children: A New Mix

Many times, the children get into patterns - patterns of follow-up work, patterns of who they will work with - developing habits which can be good and perhaps some that limit their growth.

LOVE that smile!
He was TRYING to be goofy -
he turns out handsome!
In a recent atrium (our last for this group before Christmas break), one boy (who had been absent the week before) was taken aside to move ahead on his First Missal. Of the 3 children in this group preparing for the sacraments this year, one has flown through and just about finished (strong reader/writer plus a few other reasons ;) ), one likes to write/trace/copy but takes a bit longer (absent last week), and one would really prefer not to do so much paper-based work but did spend last week working on his.

So while the second from above was working on his First Missal, the first and third spent quite a while working on the pin-maps - the strong reader could read and the not-so-strong reader could match the pins/labels and find locations - they made a perfect team!

This freed up the usually joined-at-the-hip-little-sister to spend some work time with the other girl her own age (who usually quietly does her own thing or follows the 7yo girl).
They seem to be making their own missal -
but focusing on the moments with which they are familiar
from their previous gestures work.
They might just do all the pages for a Missal
but we'll assemble them at a later time ;) 

The older boys and girls were working individually and in pairs on the prophet studies. Having a grand time. Really.
Finding all the issues and errors in the material would be a more accurate statement ;) Guess what I'll be spending Christmas "break" doing - while it's all still fresh in my mind ;)

Interesting observation here: my Sunday morning children have issues with this material but no-one can articulate it; my Wednesday evening children are able to work through it with an adult on hand to help - they've not reported any issues to me; my Thursday children somehow have worked out any issues, so while I am aware they had some, they figured it out. My Friday children - are the ones who can say "here is the issue; here is how I am addressing it, but here is the actual issue in the material itself." So I can actually correct it for everyone else.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Atrium Work Cycle - a new take

We talk a lot about the work cycle in Montessori environments - on a variety of levels.

The physical work cycle - gather your materials, work with the materials, return the materials in a way they are ready for the next child.

The internal work cycle - preparing for one's work (asking questions, wondering, articulating a need), locating the material to fulfill that need; internalizing the experience

Perhaps we can look at the work cycle in another way as well:

  1. Introduction to the material
  2. It drives you totally crazy - unsettling - trying to fit the new pieces into your current framework (or re-create the framework!!)
  3. Peace at last - the joy that comes from internalizing the new experience and being fulfilled

Introduction to the material

yeah, easy stuff. alright.
Prophets - prophecies - I know this. 

It drives you totally crazy - unsettling - trying to fit the new pieces into your current framework (or re-create the framework!!)

There's new stuff here.
That doesn't fit!
I have to re-think this!
Why do you DO this to me!?!?

Peace at last - the joy that comes from internalizing the new experience and being fulfilled.

Hey Ms. Jessica -
despite all the mistakes in the material
I am really learning and loving this study!
No, really! 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sacramental Preparation: Ceremony of Intention

Getting ready for sacramental preparation each year, every atrium has a different procedure - some are tied to a parish, some are tied to schools, some are entirely independent; the children are coming from different situations; a priest may or may not be involved and/or on a variety of levels.

Our Friday homeschool atrium has families from two parishes: one is a Traditional Latin Mass parish, with a priest from the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP); the other parish is/are/was the local Novus Ordo parish(es) - sort of. Anyway, it all gets complicated to explain, but the families are all SO involved with their children and love the atrium, that it all just works itself out, in most cases.

Of our 3 children preparing for the sacraments of First Holy Communion and First Reconciliation, 2 children are TLM and one is NO. Due to the nature of our atrium, we do not have a particularly associated priest for this group, so I was thinking, "What could we do for the ceremony of intention that brings these children together, but still involves a larger community?"

The result for THIS year:
(note: the parents could have been involved - if I'd planned this sooner and there weren't a ton of little ones and intricate transportation arrangments ;) )

All children in our atrium gathered around the prayer table. I sat at one end of the horseshoe with a table of candles next to me. They had each brought the dates of their baptisms (and first reconciliation and FHC if appropriate), along with any pertinent photos to commemorate the day(s).

We recalled the reason why we come to atrium (first answer from a 10 year old: "to learn how to set our hair on fire!" at which point I remembered to distribute hair ties to those with long loose hair (me included!) and those with loose long sleeves --- the better answer: to more fully deepen our understanding of our faith through our relationship with the Holy Trinity, most specifically Jesus Christ Himself.)

We then recalled the season of Advent - a time of preparation, not for the first Coming of Jesus, but for what?
  • to receive the gifts He gave us with His first coming
  • and to deepen the reception of those gifts, spreading His light in preparation for the second coming
What are those gifts of His first coming? His Light and His Life. 

The world received His light as a gift (light the Paschal Candle) - but each person must come forward to receive it. 
When did you each receive the gift of His light? 
The children came forward with a lit candle, the date of their baptism and placed any photos they had.

"Children" is, by definition, in this post, referring to all the Children of the Light - yes, the adults came forward as well. 

Is it always easy to keep this light shining?
Recall the Good Shepherd (for all the children). Recall the True Vine (for those who have already prepared). We have weaknesses, we have blockages, we can become lost. Jesus wants us to REMAIN, He wants us to be found again by Him. 

How are we to be found? By the gift of Reconciliation. 
Each of those who have received this gift, came forward with a light. 
Those who are preparing, came forward with an unlit candle.
(other children remained seated)

And when our Lights are shining - when our souls are truly ready, we can receive a profound gift: the Life of the Good Shepherd Himself - the life of Him who lays down His own life to fight that evil that would ensnare us in sin. 

Each of those who have received this gift, came forward with a light. 
Those who are preparing, came forward with an unlit candle.

And we sing our song: 

Create in me a clean heart - 
Help me start over again. 

Please Lord don't leave me, 
I need your Spirit, 
I cannot make it alone. 

Restore to me the Joy of Salvation - 
Oh my God. 

Yes, Advent is the perfect time for sacramental preparation to begin. Why again do we wait until January in most cases?

We left the table to quietly work the rest of our time together. The overhead lights were only on in the other half of the atrium so the focus would be on the light of Christ spreading through all those sacraments received by the "children" in our atrium. If just our own sacraments could spread that much light - how much more within the universal Church? 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Order of Creation: Adam and Eve

Several weeks ago (by the time this posts), a group of level 3 young ladies were studying the second chapter of Genesis, where Adam is created first, followed by the garden of Eden and its contents, Adam is the only human when God invites him to name the animals. Eve was then created as Adam's help-meet - as the flesh of his flesh and the bone of his bone - his earthly completion.

"I wonder why Adam was created first, and Eve only brought to the Garden after the naming of the animals?"

Perhaps a wrong choice of words - I was getting at "Why Adam first before all else; then Eve at the end --- as compared to chapter 1 when they seem to have been created in the same moment."

But let's take a look at the question I asked again:

"I wonder why Adam was created first, and Eve only brought to the Garden after the naming of the animals?"

An astute young lady confidently stated:
Perhaps because Adam and Eve would have argued about what to name the animals.

Indeed. Later, when reviewing typology of Sin, we further discussed that with the man as the head of the household/family, Adam's authority should be taken seriously and God was setting the stage for this plan for the human family. Eve still threw this order upside down - taking advantage of the fact that Adam failed to guard the garden (keep the serpent OUT to begin with) and guard his wife (he was right behind her while she was being tempted and led astray - he saw the whole thing). They were indeed equally guilty for Original Sin - and a huge part of that Original Sin came about because they turned the Plan of God - the order God created - upside down - thus disrupting all the REST of God's creation over which man is a steward. 


I love level 3.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Lovely Day in the Atrium

Father presenting Isaiah 40:3-5

working on calligraphy strokes with markers

calligraphy strokes - and mounting on sturdier paper

she almost always sits in this spot...

left-hander - working on calligraphy strokes
yeah, we'll have that book next time she comes

mounting prophecy tracings onto colored paper

reviewing geography work - pop quiz in January
to ensure they remember levels 1 and 2 work ;)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Vine Stretching Out

During a True Vine meditation - only on part 1 !!

Using the example of temptation with a cookie jar of one's favorite cookies inside - you're hungry - but mom says "no cookies until after dinner" (which isn't anywhere near ready yet).

We talked about the vine dresser caring for the vine, running his fingers along the tendrils. But remember - this is part 1 - we've not talked about blockages!

An astute young lady explains that when her arm is reaching - stretched out - reaching - reaeaeaching for that cookie jar, her vine is curling all up on itself and she's not reaching out to other people and live her life in full joy as the Good Shepherd wants.

But when she fights temptation and pulls her hand back (she shows how her hand curls up to herself), her branch of the vine is actually streeeeeeeetching out - because the sap is flowing through it and making it grow - grow - GROW - and stretch.

And then she can reach out to other people.


Love this kid.

Love atrium.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Calligraphy Area

Quick description of what we have right now - this could change anytime based on observation and response:

Overview of our art area, to kind of show placement of items. Calligraphy is upper left corner of this picture. The paper sorter and all other items shown are for all the children. 

Focus on the Calligraphy area. 
From left to right: 

1) The wooden cutlery sorters (from IKEA) contain the following: 
  • a set of "sparkly" writing pencils (normal writing pencils but they have a sparkly covering - just to keep the "regular" pencils for regular use and separate out the privilege of learning calligraphy through Step 1: Shaded Handwriting. 
  • behind the sparkly pencils is a set of colored rulers and soft-lead pencils - for creating straight lines that are easily erased, when they are working on blank paper (this is a much later stage)
  • 3 sections with 3 sizes of colored calligraphy markers (Speedball is our current brand - so far, so good!) - we have 3.0, 2.5 and 2.0. Honestly? For beginners? Start with 3.0 at the smallest - go for 3.5 if you can find them (I happened to have 2 in that size from a kit and they are currently mixed in with the gold/silver prismacolors in one of the cutlery sections)
  • gold/silver prismacolors - our budgets are running tight and I just asked for money to put into calligraphy, SO we're not getting full sets of prismacolors this year (or any of the last 6 years actually) - we use crayola which is so-so but functional. We have the round (premium) gold and silver prismacolors which lay on the color very nicely for coloring in areas --- and we have hexagonal (meaning they are "verithin") silver (need the gold yet). The verithins are a harder core and are great for writing or for making thinner lines. ONLY the children who have received a presentation on them can use them.
2) The Folders: 
  • Introduction to Calligraphy - Great Lesson style, complete with miniature chart images
  • Folders 1-8 - each folder is labeled Calligraphy 1, Calligraphy 2, etc. and contains an instruction card with corresponding number, along with any needed particular supplies (such as master copies, tracing cards, samples, etc.) The children move through these folders in sequence, following the instructions on the cards and checking their work with an adult before moving on to the next folder. Right now I am the only adult checking work because I don't have all the folders done yet and the material is so new, I think the other adults are scared of it. Hopefully I'll have fixed that by the time this post goes live ;) 
  • When children are ready, Folders 9, 10 and 11 will be added (creating a pen-wipe; using pens with cartridges; using actual dipping inks)
3) Books of samples: see photo below

  • Calligraphy for Kids (for any children who want to delve deeper on their own - I removed the binding and my son placed the pages into a sheet protectors within a binder. 
  • The Illuminated Alphabet - beautiful samples and 5 sets of upper/lower case alphabets with numbers. Gets into both calligraphy AND illumination. 
  • Book of the Hours from times past - preparation for Liturgy of the Hours in the history of our Church - for the children, beautiful samples of intricate calligraphy and illumination. 
  • Script and Cursive Alphabets: 100 Complete Fonts - for the children to peruse. These pages have no lines, just show the beautiful alphabets. These need to be placed in sheet protectors as well. The children can peruse these for their own inspiration or use them to trace, copy or for inspiration. 

Our gluing station:
glue cups, use a wash-style paintbrush to brush on the glue
Cup of water to rinse.
(the eyedropper is to dilute the glue if needed
or to use with the watercolors to the right of the glue station)
The children use the glue station to mount their work onto other paper (especially if they use tracing paper, but also if they do advanced artwork with their calligraphy creations.

Currently resides on the top of the paper sorter until I have children ready to use pens with cartridges, thus I've not entirely organized it. I would like the pen-handles in one cup, with the selection of nibs in a basket; ink cartridges in another basket. Perhaps include some colored rubber bands, so that if a red cartridge is in a particular pen, a red rubber band is placed around it to let other children know.

I have TONS of nibs for dipping inks - but do not have the right handles. I have ONE handle that won't work for the nibs I have. Grr. Until I get that matter squared away AND we have children ready for dipping inks, I am not even taking that work off the supply shelf.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The UNprepared Environment

Perhaps almost half of one of atrium groups consist of lefties - at least 1/3 of a class of more than 20.

In my smallest class, 1/4 of them are lefties.

The smeared hand. 

And guess who didn't think about the ramifications for calligraphy. ;) Yep.

New resource to obtain:
Left-Handed Calligraphy (Lettering, Calligraphy, Typography)