Partying Mozart-Style

Apparently, not many people throw “Magic Flute” parties, as in, the opera by Mozart.  From what I can tell, parties centered on Mozart himself are not too common either.  At least, if they exist, they don’t get broadcast in the internet world.

Well, Drama Queen has never been one to stick with the norm, and she decided that her 7th birthday party should be based on Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”  To be precise, she prefers the children’s version by Classical Kids, “Mozart’s Magical Fantasy.”  I’m a big fan of copying other people’s ideas that I find on the internet, but they just weren’t out there for this one.  Therefore, I’m posting photos from her party just in case someone else out there is just weird enough to throw a Magic Flute party.


Some of you may be like I was four months ago and not know what this Magic Flute thing is.  It was the last opera Mozart wrote, prior to his death only months later.  “Mozart’s Magical Fantasy” is a modified version of the real thing.  It begins with a girl named Sarah visiting an orchestra during a dress rehearsal of the “Magic Flute”.  She is specifically there because her mom is playing the part of the Queen of the Night.  However, the lights go out, the “rehearsal” begins, and Sarah is swept up into the story.  She uses her flute to defeat a dragon who is attacking the prince, Tamino.  (In the real version, there is no Sarah, and the dragon is killed right away.  In this version, the dragon is shrunk and becomes quite the scaredy-cat – a good comic-relief character.)  A bird-calling man dressed in feathers (another comic-relief character) named Papagino enters the story, and they all go off to find princess Pimena.  Her mother is the Queen of the Night, who turns out to actually be the “bad guy” of the tale.  The scorcerer Sarastro, who the Queen of the Night has portrayed as the evil abductor of her daughter, turns out to be the kind, benevolent father-figure.  Tamino has to face challenges to win his love, Pamina, during which Sarah’s magic flute is very helpful.  Papagino finds his true love, Papagina, and Sarah and the dragon sing their own song to each other about the journey being over.  (That’s the song my kids go around the house singing the most.)


Since I couldn’t find much specifically in terms of Mozart or Magic Flute, I went with a general music note theme.  That, of course, had lots of ideas online.  I found this colorful party plate set, called Dancing Music, on Birthday in a Box, which was perfect for us.


For food, I used music note cookie cutters for cheese and jello, made sandwiches to (kind of) resemble piano keys, and arranged veggies as an eighth note.  (Okay, so there’s not actually a piano in “The Magic Flute,” but Mozart was an accomplished pianist, so it works!)

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You can see my centerpiece there as well.  It was simply the CD, along with a Mozart bio and a Magic Tree House book based on the story.  We bought that little Mozart finger puppet recently when we went to an Atlanta Symphony Orchestra production of “Tchaikovsky Discovers America” – another from the Classical Kids collection.  I gave The Brain the task of finding a way to make it stand, and this was his humorous solution.


We didn’t do much with decorations.  Mr. BANG and Drama Queen hung up streamers everywhere (two rolls for $1 at Dollar Tree), and I hung up a couple things from the Dancing Music set.  (The next day, while walking across a parking lot downtown, Drama Queen commented out-of-the-blue, “Happy treble clef Birthday.  I love that!” lol)

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I always like to have fun with my kids’ birthday cakes.  I’ve made a construction truck scene, a train, and a pirate ship, among others.  To be clear, I’ve never taken any classes and don’t particularly have any skill in cake decorating. (My pirate ship completely fell apart, so I made up the story that Hook had tried to shoot cannon balls at Peter Pan but it backfired, destroying his own ship.  The kids loved it!)  But I just have fun with it and don’t worry about perfection.  I give my kids lots of examples to prove their mom is not perfect!


I thought through how to make this cake.  Again, I normally just copy other people’s cakes – I’m not so creative myself – but there was nothing for me to copy this time.  I finally decided to make kind of a swirling staff with notes like on our plates, and just have a toy dragon and fondant flute sitting on top.  Again, it’s nowhere near perfect, but Drama Queen absolutely LOVED it, and that’s what matters!  Plus, all the little boys at her party thought it was super cool that she had a dragon on her cake!  (Only one other family knew the Magic Flute story at all.  Drama Queen and Mr. BANG had planned with those two sisters to put on a play of it for the other kids, but unfortunately, of all things, their car broke down and they weren’t able to make it!)


For party favors we gave them recorders, pencils with flute pictures on them, music note stickers, and some random things from my “treasure box” left over from my public school teaching days a decade ago!  My kids’ poor friends are going to be getting those in every goody bag and Easter egg hunt until they’re teenagers!  Oh, I also got some free personalized merchandise with my order, so I got these cute personalized magnets for some of the guests.

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As for special activities and games and creative, fun crafts…I don’t do those.  I’m a big fan of sending the kids outside to play – they come up with plenty of fun on their own without me interfering!  This year we did actually rent bouncies for the first time.  Drama Queen had been asking for a party at a local bouncy house, and we had told her she could do that as her present from us.  Then The Brain had the brilliant idea to use the same amount of money to rent bouncies at our house.  That way, we could do it anytime we wanted and invite as many people as we wanted, and let the party last as long as we wanted!  (From the first family’s arrival to the last family’s departure was about 4.5 hours!)

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The only theme related activity was that I had some coloring sheets set out: a dragon, music notes, a flute, and a girl playing a flute.  A few kids did have fun coloring those pictures.


We also did our annual Montessori birthday walk.  I gave her the choice this year if she wanted to do it or not.  She said she did because “it’s a special part of having a birthday.”  It’s fun each year having new friends who are so curious about the whole thing, and older friends who are eager to explain what it all represents.


Another successful birthday party in the books! (and on the blog…)



First, Character

A modern proverb that we hear frequently is “Don’t compare your kids to other kids.”  It truly is an important piece of advice because every child is different, and each develops at a different pace.  Homeschooling, however, makes following that advice extra difficult, I think.  Since our kids aren’t in a school where all the kids of a particular age are being presented the same material at the same time, we homeschooling parents wonder at times, “Am I teaching what he should be learning right now?”  “Do I have him on track with others his age?”  We homeschooling parents aren’t trying to make a better than/less than judgement call, but just evaluating our own academic plan for our children, compared with what other children are learning.

Of course, in our current society, academics are ranked as Top Priority.  It seems like kids now are learning material a year or two earlier than I did in school.  Even at the kindergarten level, I remember all year learning about the Letter People – focusing on one letter each week.  Mrs. Blakeman’s kindergarten class with the inflatable Letter People hanging from the ceiling is a cherished memory of mine!  But now it seems as though children are expected to know all of the letters by the time they start kindergarten – kindergarten is now time to learn how to read.  (Please correct me if I’m wrong on that.)

The funny thing about that to me is that children are pushed to higher levels of academics at earlier ages, and yet character development is barely in the picture.  Personal responsibility, hard work, perseverance…those seem to have been thrown out the window.  I’ve heard stories of parents contacting their child’s college professors because the work is too hard.  A friend of mine who is a college professor was telling me recently that his students don’t know how to read for comprehension – they can only scan for specific information to answer a specific question.

Last summer as we were preparing for Drama Queen to begin piano lessons, her teacher gave me some assigned reading so I could learn about the Suzuki method.  One quote (from Shinichi Suzuki’s book, Nutured By Love) stood out to me:  “First character, then ability.”  If I remember correctly, it was the motto of his childhood school, and it had a big impact on him.  It really spoke to me as well – to the point that I made it our school motto.

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We love academics around here, we really do.  Drama Queen has made huge improvement in her reading skills over the past few weeks, which is very fun and exciting.  Plus, she is practically giddy over learning any math I put in front of her.  Mr. Bang, meanwhile, isn’t all that interested in his own work, but eats up anything I do with Drama Queen.  When I give her math challenges just in normal day-to-day situations, he almost always spits out the (correct) answer before she even has a chance.  In addition, my little first grade girly-girl has gotten herself interested in some of the major American wars, so at her request, we’re spending this semester focusing on one war a month:  Revolutionary, Civil, WWI and WWII.  Academics are fun; we love learning new things!

However, I regularly emphasize to my children that academics are not the number one priority.  Your character is what really determines what your quality of life will be and what impact you will have on others.  Because of this, I don’t want to leave character development to chance; I want it to be an integral part of the learning that happens in our home.  Last spring at the Great Homeschool Convention (which is much better than its cheesy name implies), I went to a session with Sonya Shafer of Simply Charlotte Mason, focusing on character development.  Her recommendation was to spend a few months really focusing on developing one character trait, which is the approach we are taking.

There are a few different things we do to help develop the trait we’re focusing on.  For one thing, I bought Shafer’s book, Laying Down the Rails, which is a great parent resource to understand what are appropriate expectations within a particular character trait.  I see that she also has one now for children that includes stories and activities and such to help motivate children to develop each character trait.  I don’t have that one yet, but I am certainly intrigued.  (If you have it, what do you think?)

I also bought a We Choose Virtues kit with fun posters to display as we focus on a particular trait.  With each new one we focus on, I hang the larger poster in the upstairs hallway, between their bedrooms.  We keep the smaller cards in the dining room and frequently use lunch time to review them.

Kids of VirtueVille Individual Fan Posters     Kids of VirtueVille Individual Fan Posters    Kids of VirtueVille Individual Fan Posters    Kids of VirtueVille Individual Fan Posters    Kids of VirtueVille Individual Fan Posters

I read lots of stories to them, stories which highlight that particular character trait.  My favorite sources are the Bible and The Book of Virtues, but of course, there are many other good sources.  Two others that we use frequently are My ABC Bible Verses and A Child’s Book of Character Building.

There was one other idea that I received back in February when I was visiting my former church in Virginia.  This idea was sent home with all the parents as a way to continue what the kids were learning at church, and I loved it!  Six months later, I have finally made my adapted version for my family.

Character flowers

We’re using these face flowers as a way to encourage us to watch for the current character trait in each other.  Each morning, the flowers start out flat on the table.  As one of us sees another family demonstrating the focus-area character trait, we get to put that person’s flower in the pot.  During dinner, we are able to share how we saw family members demonstrating that trait.  For instance, right now we’re focusing on one trait a week, reviewing the three we emphasized last year.  This week our character trait is obedience.  When Mr. Bang put his dishes away after breakfast without being reminded, he was showing obedience, so his flower went in the pot.  When Drama Queen put her clean clothes in her dresser as soon as I told her to, Ethan saw that she was demonstrating obedience, so he put her flower in the pot.  Now, obedience is a little different from honesty or self-control or others, because you have to be showing obedience to someone in authority over you.  As Christians, The Brain and I believe that our obedience is to our Lord, so we had the kids brainstorm with us what it looks like when we are being obedient to God.  They are able to watch for those things (disciplining in a calm manner instead of yelling, teaching them diligently, working hard to provide for the family, etc.) to be able to put our flowers in the pot.

The Brain and I took some time at the beginning of this school year to list our highest goals for our children.  Academics, of course, were in the list, but at the very top was that they grow into adults of strong character.  The thing about character development is that all children are constantly learning the level of character that is expected of them.  We want to be intentional about our children’s character development so that positive character traits become just a natural part of who they are.  Charlotte Mason made a great statement about that:

“Every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.”

What do you do to develop strong character habits in your children?   Are there any relevant children’s books that you recommend?

I’ve Been Awarded!…with a chain letter

So, have you heard of this Liebster Award that’s been floating around blogs?  I hadn’t until I got “nominated” for it.  Simple Days making for an Exciting Adventure listed me as one of the 9 blogs she recommended others to check out, which basically meant I got this Liebster Award.  It sounded like a chain letter (answer these questions, pass it on to x-number of other bloggers) so I thought I’d do a little Googling.  I mainly found other blogs who had received the “award,” but one lady actually did research and figured out more of what this is and the origins of it.

The result of her research?  Yeah, it’s a chain letter.  There’s no actual award, no judges, no official recognition.  It’s really just a way to spread the word about other blogs that you like.  It apparently started as a recognition for blogs with 3,000 followers or less, but now it’s down to 200 followers or less.  At first, you were supposed to then “nominate” five other blogs, now it’s eleven other blogs.  So, I’m going to go with the fluidity of it and adapt it the way I want to adapt it.  😉

I will say that I did feel honored that the author of Simple Days listed Our Montessori Home as one of her nine blogs.  She’s not someone I know personally and I honestly have never heard of her blog, so it made me feel really good that she liked my blog enough to tell others they should check it out.  Thank you, author of Simple Days!  You made me smile!

I debated whether to continue it on or not, but, hey, why not?

The only problem is that I don’t follow many blogs, and the ones I follow are the giant having-a-book-published type.  So I just looked through some of my pinterest boards and found a few blogs whose ideas I like.  I went with ones that seem to have 400 followers or less.  I haven’t fully read any of these blogs, but I at least like one thing they posted!  🙂

Here are the “rules” of the award.  As I mentioned previously, I’ve adapted some of them.  Because I wanted to.

■When you receive the award, you post 11 random facts about yourself
■Answer the questions from the person who nominated you
■Pass the award onto 5 other blogs (while making sure you notify the blogger that you nominated them!)
■You write up 5 NEW questions directed towards YOUR nominees.
■You are not allowed to nominate the blog who nominated your own blog!

Here we go…


Random Facts:

1. I pretty much only drink water.  That habit started as a teenager when my mom only gave me about $3 per meal when I went on trips with my youth group.  I pretty much had money for food or a drink, definitely not both.  Food won out, and free water became my staple.

2.  Drinking water is the only healthy thing in my diet.

3.  I’d be perfectly happy eating only chocolate.  Ever.

4.  I just glanced over and noticed that Mr. BANG left his entire bread crust sitting on the table after lunch.

5.  One of my goals in life is to grow a garden.  I’ve made no progress in starting toward that goal.

6.  I probably wouldn’t eat the vegetables even if I grew them.

7.  I fell asleep at the wheel one time.  I totaled my car, but walked away with just some bruises and some airbag burn on my wrists.  No other cars were in any of the three lanes around me.  I really felt God’s amazing presence through that whole experience.

8.  A lady at the police station I went to after my wreck (to wait for my sister to drive across the state and pick me up – I was too young for a rental car) took me out to eat while I was stranded at the police station for hours.  It was just Taco Bell, but it was a huge blessing to me!

9.  I now coincidentally live in the same county where that wreck happened.  I didn’t even realize it until after I moved in and my brother-in-law pointed it out to me.  I lived in another state at the time and never thought I’d live in this state at all, much less in that same county!

10.  My husband was in a wreck this morning.  Thankfully, it was just a fender bender.  His car is fine, but the front of the other car apparently got dinged pretty good.

11.  I realized today that I start many, many sentences with “so.”


So, do you seriously want to now read answers to 11 questions about me?  Wow, this is very me, me, me…

1. What is your favorite thing to write about?  I guess child development stuff

2. What is your typical goal for blogging-daily, weekly, monthly?  at this point, if I post weekly, I’m doing good!

3. How do you find new blogs to read?  recommendations from friends

4. What has been your favorite book you have read in the past year?  Boundaries with Kids by Townsend and Cloud

5. How do you find time to blog? put off doing more important things

6. What brought you to blogging? putting off washing dishes

7. Do you still blog for the reason above?  haha!  Yes!  What do you think I’m doing right now?

8. Have you ever received an award? or been recognized for something?  um… I was voted Best Personality in high school.  Does that count?

9. If yes, for what?  answered in #8

10. What are two things that have influenced your adult life?  1) Gateway Community Church gave me a whole new understanding of what church can be.  2) Montessori Institute of Atlanta gave me a new understanding of child development and appropriate expectations for different ages

11. What is your favorite day to celebrate?  Saturday – a day for the whole family to be together!  (or for the hubby to take the kids while I have a couple hours that I don’t have to act out whatever character role!  I’m Captain Hook this week – after he learned to be nice)


Questions for my nominated bloggers:

1.  Has there been a teacher/mentor who has been meaningful in your life?  In what way?

2.  Has there been a special friend who has been meaningful in your life?  In what way?

3.  Do you have any special projects you’re working on?  What are they?

4.  What do you want to be when you grow up?

5.  Are you a refrigerator-covered-with-magnets-and-kid-artwork kind of person or a refrigerator-should-be-clean-and-tidy kind of person?


And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for…

The blogs nominated for the highly coveted Liebster Award are:

*Maybe Montessori!

*Peace Starts At Home!

*We Don’t Need No Education!

*Making Montessori Ours!

*Tot Treasures!


Enjoy checking out these blogs!

And please let me know what other small-readership blogs I should be checking out!

Music Study: What Instrument Do You Hear?

My kids are obsessed with Paul Dukas’ piece The Scorcerer’s Apprentice.  You know, that Mickey Mouse cartoon in Fantasia where the brooms end up flooding the room?  You didn’t know it was by a guy named Paul Dukas?  Never heard of him even?  Me neither.  Until my kids got obsessed.

It started a year and a half ago when we were visiting my brother in Texas.  During our drive from his house in Austin to another brother’s house in the Dallas area, Drama Queen got to ride with her cousin.  And apparently one thing her cousin likes to listen to in the car is The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  She immediately started talking about it, singing it, and, of course, acting it out.  It had captured her so much, I decided to introduce her to the Fantasia version.  Of course, that just made her (and Mr. BANG) even more enthralled.

We watched the video a lot, and acted it out even more.  Finally I bought something I had had on my wish list for quite awhile:  Maestro Classic’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  This particular CD is awesome because in addition to having two beautiful recordings of the piece, with and without narration, it includes the history of the tale, a version performed by a drum and bugle corps, the conductor explaining themes in the piece, and some other features.  I can tell you, we have listened to this CD a LOT!  I think all three of us have every bit of it memorized.  (I later learned it was that same CD which she had been listening to on the road trip with my brother and nephew.)

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

So, one day I had an idea.  I set them up with our musical instrument cards and Bingo chips in front of a You Tube video I found of an orchestra performance of the piece.  For each instrument they saw, they got to put a Bingo chip on the corresponding instrument card.  They absolutely LOVED this!  They were so eager to place their Bingo chips, frequently calling out the instrument’s name while doing so.

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After playing that video a couple times, I switched to Fantasia’s cartoon version.  This time, as they heard an instrument, they placed a chip on the corresponding card.  This, of course, was more difficult for them, but they absolutely loved it, and recognized a surprising number of instruments.

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We have only done this activity with this one piece so far, but it could easily be done with any number of pieces.  In fact, we have just started a study on Beethoven (I cannot tell you how excited Drama Queen is about this!!), so I imagine we’ll be doing the same activity with his 9th Symphony or another piece very soon!

Cursive vs. Print

A friend asked me a question today that I have been asked many times: why does Montessori teach cursive first rather than print?

First, I’ll acknowledge that some Montessori schools do teach print first.  But every Montessori school I’ve been in that is faithful to Dr. Montessori’s research results starts by teaching cursive.

Second, let me state that I honestly don’t think it’s that big of a deal either way.  There are pros and cons to both, and children will learn how to write one way or another, sooner or later.  For me, I decided to go along with the Montessori theory that it’s better to teach cursive first.

There are several reasons behind that theory:

Natural writing motions.  Have you ever noticed that when young children are first learning to write, they’ll fill whole lines with one long, squiggly text?   I know I have pages of my own “writings” like that from my childhood, and Drama Queen is at that point right now.  Dr. Montessori noticed that as well.  Cursive writing is much more like the “writing” a child naturally does, as opposed to short, choppy lines and circles.

d, b, p.  Those three letters can be so confusing to young children.  As they’re learning about the world, they learn that an object is an object no matter which way you turn it.  A book is a book, a doll is a doll, a sock is a sock, a car is a car, a rectangle is a rectangle, even if it’s upside down.  Then along come these little letters.  Suddenly Mommy, Daddy, and Teacher are very adamant that this little shape is NOT the same when you turn it around!  What?!  Some cursive letters are similar to each other, of course, but cursive does alleviate some of the reversal confusion.  Overall, cursive letters are easier than print letters to differentiate from one another.

One continuous movement.  The shape of the letter allows the hand to just make one continuous movement, left to right.  The child doesn’t need to pick up her pen, with few exceptions (dotting the “i” and crossing the “t”).

Beauty.  Cursive writing has a beauty to it that is appealing to children.

Consistency.  All letters begin on the base line and move up, toward the right.

Difficulty.  Okay, this one may sound strange:  cursive letters are more complicated to learn than print.  So why start with it??   At five and six years old, the child is in a perfect culmination of three Sensitive Periods:  SP for Small Detail, SP for Refinement of Movement, and SP for Language.  This unique combination of spontaneous interest is the ideal time for the child to learn to write in cursive.  During this period, the child is eager to learn to write, and is able to naturally learn cursive writing.  Around third grade, when cursive is typically taught in traditional schools, the child is past that sensitive period and the task is more difficult.  So it’s wise to take advantage of this easier learning period to teach the writing style that could be more difficult.

Transition.  Once children have learned cursive, it is very easy for them to learn print.  The reverse is more difficult.  Also, a child who writes in cursive can also read print, but a child who only learned print cannot read cursive.

When it was time for me to first start working on Sandpaper Letters with Drama Queen, it was easy to make the decision to start with cursive; I had been convinced of the benefits in my Montessori course.  However, I was still curious to see how it would all work out.  I quickly began observing something another friend who begins with cursive had experienced: while Drama Queen was learning cursive letters in our lessons, she began writing capital print letters on her own.  I never spent a minute teaching her print letters, but it wasn’t long before she was fully writing in capital print letters.  I wondered if I was wasting my time with cursive since she never did that on her own, but I stuck with it.  It was just this past summer that she started writing her name in cursive rather than print.  When she is writing a note to someone, she usually asks me to write it on a piece of paper, then she copies it on her card.  Always before, she wanted me to write it “the way I write,” as she said it.  A few months ago, she switched to wanting me to write in cursive for her to copy.  All of a sudden it seems like, everything she writes is in cursive.  She absolutely loves any cursive handwriting assignments I give her, and even asks for more.  If it was up to her, she’d spend all our school time doing handwriting work.  There were a few times recently where before our official “school time” started, she was already in the room, hard at work on some writing.

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copywork                                            phonogram word list (She was copying from a list of print

words.  Also she got distracted and left off the “t” in “feat”!)

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In her continent book, she chose to write in cursive.   Thanksgiving card (how do I turn this around??)

For us, I feel like following the cursive first philosophy has paid off.  Drama Queen is developing beautiful cursive handwriting, out of her own internal drive.  Plus, she easily learned print without any direct instruction, so at 5 years old, she can write and read in both.

Mr. BANG has learned all of his cursive Sandpaper Letters and recognizes all print letters as well.  Again, I haven’t intentionally taught him print – he’s just picked up on it.  Next week I’ll let him start his handwriting lessons, which will be cursive.  At this point, he hasn’t tried writing any letters of either form.

Which path have you taken?  What has been your experience either with cursive first or with print first?


Montessori For Everyone has a good post on this topic, including a great series of comments giving perspectives and rationales for both sides of the cursive vs. print “debate.”


Update:  I’m reorganizing my teacher cabinet and just ran across an article I printed last year but apparently never read.  It’s fascinating!  It’s written by a Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrician and explains the importance of waiting until both the left and right sides of the brain are formed before teaching children to read and write.  Also, she weighs in on this cursive vs. print topic from a scientific perspective.  Her comments are really interesting:

It makes more sense first to teach children to write the small letters of the alphabet in cursive before teaching them to print these lower case letters. When doing form drawings or writing in cursive, the right and left hemispheres are both active and working together. Printing of the lower case letters is a more abstract and advanced developmental task that requires the left hemisphere, which often isn’t developed enough for this task until seven to nine years of age. Girls may be ready to do this task by age six while boys often can’t do this task until after nine years of age.

She touches on handwriting again in her conclusion:

First grade is the time to introduce form drawing, learn the capital letters (as pictures that children can draw), and practice cursive writing. As the majority of children in the classroom strengthen their proprioceptive skills and integrate their right and left hemispheres (as evidenced by their ability to stand on one foot with their eyes closed, remember the shapes that are drawn on their backs, jump rope forward and backwards by themselves, and easily perform the cross lateral skip), then children can be more formally taught to read, and to learn how to print the lower case letters.

I definitely encourage you to take a few minutes to read the article, it’s very thought-provoking.  It definitely backs up Charlotte Mason’s philosophy that very young children need to be outside playing, not spending time in academics.

DIY: Golden Beads

One of my favorite Montessori materials are the Golden Beads.  These are math materials that really allow the child a concrete experience to develop an understanding of place value as well as addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division.

The first presentation with the beads allows the child to experience sensorially the differences between the categories, not only in bulk but also in shape and weight.  The unit bead, ten bar, hundred square, and thousand cube clearly show the geometric progression of the decimal system; each category is ten times the previous one.  That initial presentation is so important for understanding those differences, that I went ahead and bought the real set.  It’s not cheap, but it’s one of the materials worth the money.  (At Montessori Outlet, it’s around $35, and at Nienuis, it’s anywhere from $65-$160.)

Golden Bead Tray

However, once I was ready to move on to Formation of Large Numbers with Beads and Cards and the Collective Exercises, I really didn’t want to pay the money required to buy the full set of Golden Beads.  (One thousand cube is $30 and up.)  Wooden hundred squares and thousand cubes are much more reasonable (you can get 9 wooden cubes for basically the price of one bead cube), but honestly, I was doing this last minute and didn’t want to wait for a slow Montessori Outlet order to arrive.

wooden cubes

So I starting searching the internet for homemade alternatives.  I saw a lot of instructions on how to construct your own with real beads – whether with wire, pipe cleaners, or whatever else, but I wasn’t looking for something that crafty.  Plus, I didn’t want to have to run out and buy materials.  I kept looking.

I finally stumbled across a page which had a print-out of a cube pattern, complete with the dots.  Perfect!


I printed out enough to use for both thousand cubes and hundred squares.  Now, just as cardstock paper, I was going to lose most of the sensorial benefits of the Golden Beads, so I had to do a little work.

I already had foam board on hand, so I glued the hundred squares onto foam board squares so they would be at least somewhat 3-D.  That barely added any weight however, so I grabbed some coins.  I taped two pennies onto each square, between the paper and the foam.


For the cube, I taped a penny onto each square and then glued the whole thing together.  I had thought about trying to use foam board inside these as well, but decided not to.  Six months later, I’m kind of wishing I did – several of them are a bit dented in.

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The final result turned out to be…definitely usable.  They are in no way up to the quality of the bead or wooden materials you can buy, but with a low budget, they do the job.  They cost literally pennies to make!  😉

You can see here how they compare with the bead materials in terms of size.

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How Concerned is God with Freedom in America?

This week, tens of thousands of people stood in long lines to support a company which had been under fire for words said and dollars spent.  Although there were various motivations within those enormous crowds, it seems as though the vast majority were there in support of free speech.  The specific topic of the speech in this situation was homosexual marriage, but people from both sides of the coin on that topic ate their chicken sandwiches as a support for an American’s right to free speech.  I can assure you that I ate delicious, flaky, buttery biscuits three times within a week as my own support of Cathy’s right to free speech.  My kids and I ate there so many times, my three-year-old son stated this morning, “I’m ready for my morning biscuit.”

However, a new thought has been whirling around in my head.  What if God isn’t really concerned about freedom of speech in America?  From what I can tell, His ultimate goal is for EVERY PERSON to know Him and understand his immense love for them (“for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…”).  So it seems like as His followers, we Christians should live our lives with that ultimate goal at the forefront.  Jesus’ Great Commission to us is, “Go and make disciples of all nations…”  All along as I’ve thought through the CFA situation, I’ve tried to think about how it fits within that goal.  I’m now wondering, is the continuation of free speech in America within God’s over-arching plan of reaching all people with His love?

We Christians in America have had it pretty easy for a long time.  I personally love my comfortable life.  Right now, I’m sitting in a cozy glider rocker with my feet propped on the matching glider ottoman in my spacious living room typing about God on my computer (which I plan to post on the internet, where potentially anyone in the world can read it), while my children each sleep peacefully in their own large bedrooms and my husband plays a video game on a different computer in a different room.  All of this is in a well-lit, air-conditioned home.  If I decide I’m hungry, I have probably a hundred choices of snacks – junk food, veggies straight from the local farm, cereals, frozen foods…  I have it good, and I am incredibly grateful for every detail of it.

A lot of Christian organizations fight hard for keeping our freedoms in America.  There’s a big emphasis on keeping Christian values front and center in our nation.  All of that is great for keeping our comfortable lives in America, but is it helping with God’s ultimate goal?  What has been the result of American Christians having so many rights and such comfortable lives?  A fair amount of spiritual laziness, to be honest.  Especially across the Bible Belt, there is a culture of Christianity that is not any indication whatsoever of a person’s actual relationship with God.  There are plenty of people who have been going to church every Sunday their whole lives, but only because that’s just what you do.

We want to keep our nation “Christian” and comfortable.  But what if that’s not what is important to God?  When we’re comfortable, we’re less likely to actually rely on God.  Christianity becomes more of a feel-good “cause” or culture, rather than a fully dependent relationship with God.

Is it important to God that we continue to have free speech in this nation?  If we didn’t, our reliance on God would be significantly greater.  To be a follower of Christ, you would have to really take it seriously.

How would Jesus have handled this CFA-focused controversy?  What response would fit best with God’s ultimate goal?   In the Bible, we see a lot of times when Jesus got frustrated, even angry, when those who had studied the scriptures were doing things contrary to His ultimate goal.  On the other hand, he lovingly socialized with sinful non-believers.  He had completely different expectations for the two groups.  I’m trying to remember, but I can’t even think of a time that he called out a non-believer’s sin in anything other than a gentle conversation, and even then, it was only after he had connected with the person and begun building a relationship.  Then, after receiving that loving attention from Jesus, the person wanted to change his or her behavior.

A non-believer is going to live a sinful life.  We shouldn’t be surprised by that.  And we shouldn’t expect anything else.  It’s only after discovering the power of God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice that any of us have motivation to “live rightly.”  Paul described this so well in his letter to the Romans:

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

What would Jesus have done on Wednesday?  As I think about it now, it doesn’t seem like one nation’s free speech would have mattered that much to him.  It seems more likely that he would have been off in a bar or on the streets or somewhere building a loving relationship with a sin-filled person who did not yet know the power of His love.


“The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”  Micah 6:8