Have you ever really stopped to listen to children at play? So much of the language used in early childhood is mimicked from what children hear in their everyday lives. For instance, the young child may be taking your order at a restaurant, asking, “How can I help you?” or “What would you like to drink?” Playing house may lead to a comment such as, “You can’t go outside until you clean up your toys!” or the humming of a lullaby as a baby doll is rocked gently to sleep. For those of us in early childhood and lower level elementary classes, play and imagination go hand in hand. Children learn from their experiences and the stories they hear each and every day. Different situations and scenarios begin to develop in a child’s mind and, in turn, lead to creativity and the formation of their own unique personalities.
Jim Davies, Ph.D., wrote “Imagination is quite possibly a uniquely human ability. In essence, it allows us to explore ideas of things that are not in our present environment, or perhaps not even real 1.” But what is real in the mind of the child? Even if something is not physically seen or heard, but lives in one’s mind, how can we as parents and teachers say it isn’t “real?” Pictures and images are created in the mind and it is an exciting place to explore. The beauty of the imagination of the young child is shown when the child creatively expresses him or herself, whether it is through art, storytelling or play.
Brooke Pernice, who works at our school and parish as an Associate Minister of Music and Faith Formation, recently posted a video on “Imagination through the Ear 2.” Although Brooke was unable to see the illustrated pictures, she would pretend she could climb into the book or tape and experience the story through her other senses. This is a testament to how critical books are to growing and developing the imaginations at the earliest of ages.
Parents and teachers play an important role in cultivating a child’s imagination. Introducing books and stories that are beautifully written, such as Bible stories, fables and nursery rhymes, assists children in building virtues such as temperance, fortitude, and justice. Children begin to understand how persistence pays off, that the prince can save the
princess from the dragon, and that good can conquer evil. This gives us as parents and teachers the perfect opportunity to foster creativity and play.
As digital learning presses on and the summer months approach, it is important to encourage children to use their creativity to interact with the world around them. Saying, “I’m bored!” is really not a bad phrase to hear. Reading to a child or having books readily available for them to interact with can spark curiosity, which may lead to a new adventure.
Across the country, students are learning at home. Here in Gladstone, SCBA teachers are supporting scholars by phone and video conference. We hear reports of students delighting in regular, on-line connections with teachers and classmates. More importantly, we hear reports of parents making the most of this opportunity, connecting with their students over great texts and worthy work, rediscovering the delights of a mind-to-mind, student-parent-text, relational engagement. A crisis is an opportunity, and this crisis is an opportunity to kindle afresh a shared, family delight in learning and working together.
I am a learner and during this unprecedented time, I find comfort in learning more about the classical model, in particular, the Charlotte Mason philosophy. I enjoy reading and listening to Dr. Bill St. Cyr and his wife Maryellen, founders of Ambleside Schools International. In a recent newsletter, Dr. St. Cyr posted suggestions for parents educating at home. He suggests keeping three things in mind during this stay-at-home period.
Keeping it simple.
Keeping it delightful.
Keeping it simple.
Often, less is more. A few things, done carefully and well, will foster more growth than a multitude of tasks done with compliant tedium. In most cases, even with teacher support, parents may not be able to sustain the full pace and richness of classroom instruction. Thus, SCBA teachers are sending home a workload that is sufficient to keep scholars actively engaged and growing but not overwhelmed. There will also be bonus hours for nature walks and sidewalk painting; for silent reading and composing; for knitting, paper cutting, and Legos; for card games and board games; for family Bible reading and family read-a-loud.
Keeping it delightful.
We are creatures made to delight, delight in God’s creation and God Himself, delight in family and friends, delight in good books and good things, delight in good work and good play. Of course, every person’s life has its share of distressing events, but life is meant to be a series of delights punctuated by adversity, not a series of adversities punctuated by the occasional delight. The greater the maturity of a man or woman, the more he or she can sustain delight in the good, despite distressing current events. In preserving an atmosphere of delight, it is important to remember that stress is the great delight suppressor. Conversely, relational joy (the pleasure of sharing a moment or a task, even a difficult task, together with someone who values me and connects with me) is the great delight multiplier.
Our children will be watching us, taking their emotional cues from us. When we face adversity with peaceful confidence, they learn to face adversity with peaceful confidence. When we fret, they learn to fret. But how shall we avoid our own fretting? Let us remember that we may not be in control, but God most certainly is. Let us keep our hearts stayed on Him and meditate upon these words:
I know my family, especially when my children were young, was rarely at home. Dinner was often fast food served in the car while going from one place to another. Family dinners during the week were rare and after homework, there wasn’t much time to play. During this time at home, many families are finding themselves with time for family dinners and play. Kids (and even parents) are asking: Where can we go? What can I do now? On day 2 or 3 of staying home my daughters (ages 18 and 25) were discussing whether or not they should get out the blocks and plastic animals and my son (age 22) was getting out the Hot Wheels. Blocks and plastic animals were my kids favorite toy. The blocks were made by a friend from scraps of wood and the animals, small plastic ones from Wal-Mart, were easily the least expensive toys we owned. When they were younger they would all play together building zoos and cities. We had all kinds of other toys but they always went back to the blocks. Those blocks could become anything they imagined. They didn’t make noises or take batteries.
The thing we often forget is that through play, our imaginations can take us anywhere we want to go. In our society play is seen as something frivolous. Something to do when your serious work or chores are complete. “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning,” Fred Rogers said. “But for children, play is serious learning.” Children, especially young children, learn by doing. When children play, they often mimic what they have seen. They play house, family, office and school. They dress up and pretend to be doctors, princesses and super heroes. They pretend to build roads and buildings. I’m often disappointed with the toys I see available. They all take batteries and make sounds. This eliminates the need for a child to make the noises and sounds themselves. A fire truck can only be a fire truck, but a block can be a fire truck, a building, an animal or a person. How often do we see a child become more interested in the box a toy came in than the toy itself?
Imaginary play is critical to social and emotional development. It gives children a safe place to explore what they have learned. When playing with other children, they learn to take turns, to share, to respect other’s opinions, to follow rules and to resolve conflict. Imaginary play teaches children to become problem solvers. Einsten said, “Imagination
is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution”. Think where we would be if Henry Ford hadn’t imagined a horseless carriage or Thomas Edison hadn’t imagined a light-bulb. We’ve sent men to the moon because someone imagined we could go there. Where would the great works of art and music be if it wasn’t for the artist’s or composer’s imagination?
While staying at home isn’t easy, it does give us an opportunity to slow down, read, play and use our imaginations. Give your child time for unstructured play. Give them materials to build and create. Read great stories to imagine themselves in magical places. Dr. Seuss said it best, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” Explore the outdoors. The imagination is limitless and you can do anything and go anywhere!
With having so much extra time at home due to the Coronavirus Covid 19, I found myself reading more, doing some much needed de-cluttering and watching more movies. Two of those movies were about Mister Fred Rogers. A lot of you won’t know who I am talking about, some of you might remember him from Comedy Skits and others just might not have been a fan. But as I watched these movies, I found myself wondering how he would have confronted all that is gong on in our world today. Things that happened in the world were brought into Mister Rogers Neighborhood where he believed in meeting conflict head on. He taught with soft spoken, direct simple short questions and then silence. Through the part of the neighborhood called the World of Make Believe, Mister Rogers would use puppets to demonstrate conflict, understanding, acceptance and healing.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned from him but here are some of my favorite Mister Rogers-isms:
How great our world could be if we could only instill in our kids and in ourselves a little bit of Mister Rogers’ belief that everyone is beautifully unique and special with our own unique and special gifts we bring into the world. And in these unique and special qualities in each of us, we offer kindness, acceptance and healing. That would be a beautiful thing!
4 Ways Mister Rogers Forged Deep Relationships With Everyone He Met, By: Graham Winfrey
17 Quotes From Mister Rogers The World Really Needs Right Now, By: Delaney Strunk
Movie: “A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood” written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue, Noah Harpster, Tom Junod
Documentary: “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
Written by: Suzie Jones
Returning to school from our holiday break, I read to my first grade class at Borromeo Academy a storybook called, "The After Christmas Tree" by Linda Wagner Tyler. The story is taking place after New Year’s when it was time to take down the family Christmas tree. To make the season last longer, the family decided to invite friends to a winter party. Everyone decorated the old Christmas tree with treats for the birds and wild animals.
The book ended with the children decorating the “outside” Christmas tree with pine-cone bird-feeders. Everyone associates receiving and giving with Christmas. How often do we think about there being a “second season of giving?”
The students were excited to illustrate their favorite part of the story. The class copied the title and a quote from the story in their best handwriting.
Copybooks if done regularly, will increase a child’s skill in spelling, punctuation, penmanship, grammar, word usage, and vocabulary. Writing in their copybook motivates a student to develop a sense of pride and excellence in their work.
The Grammar Stage is where my students are learning one skill at a time, moving on after a previous skill is mastered. Students begin their copy-work by tracing letters, printing letters, copying words, copying sentences, moving onto passages, dictation, and then writing personal narratives. These skills take several years to master.
The use of copybooks is an indirect way of reminding the student of proper mechanics needed when writing. Storybooks are only one source for copy-work. Other resources to use are Bible verses, poetry, fables, fairy tales, science or historical facts.
As a teacher in a Montessori based classroom I am privileged to see the wonder and excitement in the children’s eyes. When a child becomes absorbed in what they are doing, I dare not interrupt them, for I’ve learned that is the time when great learning is taking place in the mind and heart of a child.
Montessori has been around for over 100 years and was started by Maria Montessori. She was the first woman Doctor in Italy and was a Master of Scientific Observation of children. Montessori is not a method- it is a way of life! It is about slowing down, taking time, and working without interruption. It allows the dignity of the child to develop further into the person they are to become. Montessori is about grace, courtesy, kindness, and developing a love for learning. When given the opportunity a child can grow into an independent, self-sufficient individual. The Montessori classroom combines mixed ages of children which helps with confidence building and leadership skills. For example, when a child begins in a Montessori classroom at the age of three they become a Mentor to the children entering the classroom the following year, as they already know the beginning lessons. The lessons advance each year for the children remaining in the Montessori classroom until they are ready to graduate to the next grade level.
Many famous people, some being entrepreneurs, were Montessori educated at some point in their life. Dailymontessori.com had an article entitled “Who Are Famous Montessori Educated People?" Listed below are names of some famous people and what they are known for:
Larry Page and Sergey Brin – founders of Google
Jeff Bezos – founder of Amazon
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis – former first lady to John F. Kennedy
Sean “P. Diddy”Combs – singer
Prince William and Prince Harry
T. Berry Brazelton – pediatrician and author
Julia Child – author, chef, TV cooking shows
Elizabeth Berridge – actress
Kami Cotler – actress
Melissa and Sarah Gilbert – actors
Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Nobel Prize winner for Literature
Katherine Graham – ex owner of the Washington Post
Anne Frank – author and diarist from WWII
Written by: Nichole Finzer
It may seem as if a project of this nature is non-tangential to a Latin course, but we, as humans are integrated wholes. As a teacher, I strive to incorporate group-work in Latin so that scholars are not merely participating in an intellectual and cerebral foray into an ancient language, but so that they are doing both the aforementioned AND discovering what it means to be human. They are also experiencing an enjoyable sense of camaraderie with peers simultaneously (an important part of a Classical education).
Such a large part of being a human is grounded in relationship- with God and with other people. The term sobornost (a Russian concept) comes to mind. Sobornost expresses the need for cooperation between people, at the expense of their individualism, on the basis that the opposing groups focus on what is common between them. Group Work provides opportunities for scholars to experience opposing ideas, compromise, and ultimately sacrifice their own will for the good of all, creating something together that is better for the fact that it has been created together.
Teaching healthy conflict, resolution options, and even reconciliation is not necessarily what I thought being a Latin teacher would mean when I began the journey six years ago, but it has become a large part of what I do every day. During this stained glass project, mistakes have been made; some names are backwards, some techniques did not work out so well, but please LOOK RIGHT during morning drop-off! You’ll see the stained glass windows- and your scholars cooperation and community with each other- on display soon!
As Borromeo Academy nears the end of our third year following the Classical Model, we continue to ponder the question, "how does technology fit into our educational program?" With this model, we have a curriculum that is firmly rooted in Christ, and based on the classic principles of fostering a love for truth, beauty, and goodness. Understandably, parents also want to be sure that their children are groomed to keep up with the ongoing technological advancements that are critical in our modern world. So, where does that leave us in the traditional Classical classroom that has been devoid of technology? We must find a practical balance.
We are living in a time where it is difficult, if not impossible, to go through a day without using technology in some fashion. I remember when I was eight years old, and my parents purchased their first microwave, an enormous contraption that took up half the countertop space in our avocado green kitchen and could heat food in seconds. We were becoming the Jetsons! The pièce de résistance was when my sister and I no longer had to wear a 'shower cap with a hose attached' to dry our hair. Talk about old school.
Not only has technology changed the modern conveniences in our homes, it has created advances in medicine, manufacturing, general business, data mining, and the vast other areas, including academics. With the development of 'Smart' technology, we have access to a wealth of information at our fingertips. While technology should never be used to replace a good book or a classic work of literature, technology can offer enhancements to a student's reading materials and deepen their understanding of the curriculum. How incredible is it to be able to study an era in history and have the ability to listen to the music, view the art, and read scholarly articles relating to that period? Technology can have a place in the Classical classroom when teachers are intentional about how it is incorporated in the search for truth, beauty, and goodness.
“I hate reading! It is so boring. Why do we have to use this stupid book?” Welcome to the world of a seventh and eighth grade teacher. Yet, I understand where they are coming from – I get the message. Books weren’t always a passion for me either, but what a beautiful world text offers. Reading helps make us who we are by promoting creativity, facilitating our well-being, and assisting us to become more moral.
Literature allows for one’s imagination and creativity by exposing the reader to its vast world of selection. “Reading broadens our imagination by stimulating the right side of our brain. It opens our minds to new possibilities and new ideas, helping us experience and analyze the world through others’ lives.” (Literary Works, Mary 20, 2015 Paul Heavenridge). Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist, conducted a study using MRI imaging to observe the brain while subjects were reading. The images showed heightened connectivity in several parts of the brain. The neurological research concluded the improved brain function was similar to muscle memory, thus reading fiction was found to develop imagination. (Brain Connectivity, 2013) (Birkerts, 2012). Young and old can leave their troubles behind and escape into different worlds, and, of this, I am guilty. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a perfect example of a text that stimulates imagination and creativity. As a matter of fact, during a Friday silent reading class, one of the 8th-grade girls threw her Red Queen series book on the floor and shouted, “That’s it! I quit! I won’t be a witness to Mare’s (the main character) stupid decisions!” Everyone looked up from their books, shook their heads, and then went right back to their silent reading world. The young lady’s face turned red, she took several deep breaths, and then retrieved her book and turned the page. Visualizing and interpreting text triggers our creative side. “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ~ Dr. Seuss
Written works are an application of language that can improve our well-being personally and professionally. The use of reading materials for help in solving personal problems or for psychiatric therapy is called bibliotherapy and dates back to 1916. It received widespread attention after the World Wars when it was prescribed to treat combat stress, depression, mild alcohol abuse, and many other illnesses. Literature can help readers gain insight into personal challenges and help develop coping strategies. In other words, stories provide perspective.
Reading is more than decoding and comprehension. The Atlantic states that it makes us more moral. Stories allow us to empathize with characters and situations. Through the written word, we can evaluate circumstances and witness the experiences of others, not to mention, establish the foundation for our religion. “Literature explains human values. The works of Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle (the most famous Greek philosophers) contain virtues that promote perfection to a society.” One of my most heartfelt moments as a promoter of books occurred three years ago when I witnessed an eighth-grade boy quietly wiping tears off his face as he was reading Crossover by Kwame Alexander. Of course, I did the silent victory dance, it had taken four months to get him hooked, but there it was – a connection – empathy! “Literature is one of the most interesting and significant expressions of humanity.” ~ P.T. Barnum
Let’s take care of ourselves – read a book!
The seasons of advent and Christmas are perfect times for us to reflect on where God is in our lives and how we respond to his call of love. Without God we are nothing. We receive everything from He who created all that is good. As St. Maximilian Kolbe puts it, “Man is a being called into existence from nothingness, total nothingness. Whatever he possesses and is he has received from God.” We can either view things in our lives as something we are entitled to, or we can view our time and talent as something entrusted to us by God. Every breath we take is truly a gift from God.
If everything then stems from Christ, should we not in turn love and serve him to the best of our ability? I find that the problem is not in finding this desire to keep Christ at the center, but our inability to live it out. We are human and we fall short. We continually get discouraged and bury ourselves in other things; family, activities, or our work. The struggle is that these are not usually bad things in themselves, but can often take our time away from God. However, God continues to call us closer to him. Just as you schedule other aspects of your day, work, meetings, study time and others, we should also schedule time for Jesus. On top of this we can invite God into our daily activities through simple prayers throughout the day or an ongoing conversation with Him. Take time to talk and pray with others, whether it is boldly witnessing to someone or praying with your family in the car or before bed. Invite God into your daily life.
So as Christmas quickly approaches and we are rushing to make preparations, let us remember to keep Christ at the center through prayer and thanksgiving.