Big Changes Coming to Mustard Seed Training!

tl;dr:

Hello, loyal friends! It’s been 10 years since I started Farrell Ink! Wow!

In the past decade, I have encountered thousands of adult education students and teachers working hard to advance their career and educational goals. I saw administrators, teachers, and students become advocates for themselves to improve HSE exams, career prep curricula, and adult education programs.

Reading Out Loud

As a teacher myself, I enjoyed researching solutions to some of our stickiest educational issues, and sharing them on this blog! This website has been the core of my digital presence for the past decade, so I plan to leave my existing posts as a reference for adult learners and educators.

However, my new business, Mustard Seed Training, is going in a different direction and I need to switch web platforms to accommodate.

All posts will stay up, but by next year, this site will revert to a basic, free WordPress blog.

In addition to my career in adult literacy, for the past 10 years I have also been volunteering as a catechist, i.e. teaching religious education. It started with formation in a Montessori-based method called Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS). This method teaches adults how listen to God with children.

So… what is Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS)?

Catechesis = Latin for “the process of forming disciples of Christ”

CGS was developed in Italy by Sofia Cavaletti and Gianna Gobbi over many years of teaching and observing children. It is based on the Montessori method with a multi-level classroom environment called the “Atrium.” Cavaletti and Gobbi identified key scripture verses, prayers, and elements of worship that connect with children’s spirituality at various developmental stages, and then created hands-on materials that allow children to “work” at their own pace.

Though it all started in an Italian, Roman Catholic setting 50 years ago, the method has been translated to languages and cultures around the world. It has also been adapted to various Christian denominations, as it highlights the key elements of faith that we share even though some of our practices are different.

My favorite part is the way the Montessori method in general emphasizes empathy and social-emotional learning, which builds a strong moral foundation for life.

I hope you see why I love it so much!

Mustard Seed Training formed two years ago to serve fellow CGS catechists and turn a ministry into a career. However, it has taken me this long to figure out: What does that look like, specifically?

At a formation this past summer, the National Association for CGS shared two big needs of fellow catechists: crafting custom wooden materials, and adult faith formation.

What are the materials needed for CGS?

Um, it varies… based on the catechist and location.

CGS is not like other curricula. It’s not a kit you can buy in a store or implement by reading a teacher’s guide.

It requires physical work and mental decisions on the part of the catechist about what objects are most essential and available in their context. It is intentionally this way, to force adults to develop themselves and their space in preparation for encountering the child.

The method is also extremely adaptable to various budget and size restrictions. You can put together a DIY program with found objects and donations, or you can buy individual sets for hundreds of dollars. Even with the cost of buying materials, over the long term this approach actually saves money over the annual textbook or app subscription costs.

Let’s take, for example, the Good Shepherd parable which young children find so attractive. Here is one version of the Good Shepherd materials:

20170523_095156

The children love when the shepherd finds the lost sheep and carries it home on his shoulders, rejoicing. Children will repeat this activity over and over again with great focus and joy. As they deepen their abstract thinking, they are able to enter in to some of the more challenging questions posed by the parable:

  • Who is the Good Shepherd?
  • Why did the sheep get lost?
  • Could this parable be talking about me?

The method involves dozens of such standardized activities for children ranging from 3-12 years old. Many catechists are continuing experimentation and observation with 0-3 year olds and 12-18 year olds. My long-term goal is to extend this into standardized materials for adults, particularly those new to a parish community (called RCIA or “Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults”).

When I moved from Cleveland to Jefferson, Ohio, I helped my new parish get started with this method for 3-6 year olds. During the process, I got to use some of my woodworking skills (thank you, shop class!) to create materials we needed. Thinking I would save time, I also ordered some materials online, and experienced long wait lists from the few woodworkers who serve this growing national market.

Being in process of creating materials for my own local program, I realized that I am fortunate enough to already have the tools and skills to serve other catechists who need materials. So basically, I’m going to become a carpenter!

Where can you find me?

I’ll be building my new online blog/shop at MustSeed.org (currently redirects here)

Please join my “Catechists’ Corner” Facebook group or follow my Facebook page.

I’ll start off by recommending high quality materials that can be used for CGS and are readily available on Amazon. For example, you can find beeswax candles for a model altar, lovely writing paper for prayer cards, or a shepherd reacting to an angel by Fontanini.

In addition to recommending materials, I plan to make wooden sets as well. In the level 1 curriculum for 3-6 year olds, there are 24 standardized, unique-to-CGS wooden sets that you won’t find at WalMart or Amazon. The demand for CGS materials is only growing, and I am eager to pray over materials as I build them. It would be a blessing to turn my ministry into a career.

So what’s next?

Over the next few months, I plan to figure out sources for wood, create templates, develop a process for manufacturing and shipping, and build up some initial inventory. I’m also doing market research on which custom CGS materials are in highest demand. If you have an opinion on which materials YOU need, please let me know! I’m happy to take requests.

Thank you!! I greatly value your friendship, interest, and support for advancing adult education, and hope many of you will be interested in staying connected through this transition.

Your Early Holiday Gift: A Sneak Peak at Mustard Seed Teaching

Hi friends! SHHHHH! I have been working on something, and I can’t keep it a secret any more! But don’t tell everyone just yet…

I’m not ready to shout it to the WHOLE world, but just couldn’t wait to give you a sneak peak into an exciting new project I’m planning to launch in early 2017. I really look forward to your feedback!

fb-profilepicYou may notice I’ve been updating my social media profiles and testing out a redesign to my website, which will still be around at Farrellink.com

While I’m keeping the website, I closed Farrell Ink LLC as an organization last year. In 2017, I will be building a new social enterprise called Mustard Seed Teaching, which will work closely with the existing non-profit Mustard Seed Books.

Check out our first two FREE courses!

You know how much I love sharing FREE study materials! Dr Rick Chan Frey and his team at Mustard Seed Books developed a series of 1st grade level readers that anyone can view, download or print for free. That’s TWENTY FREE BOOKS for 1st graders! Having a first grader myself, I decided I had to tell the world about these cool books.

But sharing the books is just the beginning…

Mustard Seed Books has the potential to go way beyond the existing original series. We want to develop a community of authors so that teachers, parents, and even kids can write their own Mustard Seed Books to share with the world. It’s not rocket science to write a 1st grade book, after all, and turns out to be quite a bit of fun!

screenshot_20161013-074005
Little Lizard

With my background in adult literacy, I instantly saw these elementary school books as adaptable for adult beginning readers as well.

Mustard Seed Books has the potential to address a major crisis in our field: we don’t have enough high-interest, beginning-level readers for adults, nor do we have many high-quality mobile apps for that demographic. Sure, there are some really awesome book series available on the market, and some great desktop-based software that has converted to mobile friendly.

But adult literacy publishers and programs alike are struggling to keep their doors open. The financial pinch means open source content is taking over. Mustard Seed Books offers a simple, engaging method to make that movement relevant to beginning adult readers. AND make reading materials easily accessible on any device, online OR offline!

“We don’t have enough high-interest, low level readers for adults.”

So I started daydreaming, as I often do…..

WHAT IF…

instead of writing books FOR adult educators, we wrote them WITH adult educators?

WHAT IF…

instead of writing books for a NATIONAL audience, we wrote them for LOCAL contexts?

WHAT IF…

instead of writing separate science, social studies, language arts, and math courses, we COMBINED them in a series of short and fun-to-read books?

WHAT IF…

we encouraged readers and parents and teachers to write and share their OWN stories?

WHAT IF…

high-demand entry level jobs had short, easy-to-follow training manuals?

That’s just a first glimpse at my vision for Mustard Seed Teaching. I hope you’re getting as excited as I am!

Starting in the spring, I will be offering a LIMITED NUMBER of online and face-to-face workshops to bring Mustard Seed Books to the world of adult literacy and workforce development. The workshops are not quite ready for prime time yet, but I wanted to share these FREE materials with you first, my most loyal readers.

PLEASE TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK!

I’m very open to improvements, and eager to talk with you about possibilities to get involved. Please feel free to comment, email, or schedule a call. But most importantly…

Enroll in the first two FREE courses today!

Think of it as an early holiday gift from me to you. Hope you enjoy!

TLC: 2014 GED® Test Instructional Strategies

Farrell Scholars, I’m finally bringing it home! This month I ended my recent whirlwind tour of 2014 GED Test workshops with a training for The Literacy Cooperative of Greater Cleveland. We had instructors from all over Northeast Ohio participate, from Cuyahoga to Ashtabula counties. As usual, our conversation was uniquely responsive to the concerns in the room, and we developed an interesting list of potential resources for teaching digital literacy skills. Look for that list as my next blog post!

Check out the presentation, including a new sample lesson:

Instructors worked in groups to develop their own interdisciplinary lessons. Here is the template and their scanned results:

Though this workshop was not provided through New Readers Press, The Literacy Cooperative generously raffled off five copies of Teaching Adults: A 2014 GED® Test Resource Book. Here is the newly updated book sampler, which has been fully reviewed for accuracy by GED Testing Service:

NaBoWriMo: Book on the 2014 GED® Test

UPDATE February 28, 2013: Teaching Adults: A 2014 GED® Test Resource Book is now available to purchase from New Readers Press!

This is the month for writing! It’s National Novel Writing Month AND National Blog Posting Month, both fueled with plenty of resources by BlogHer.

“I’m writing a book you’re sure to read, oh yeaaaaah.” –Jeff Miller

Yes, Farrell Scholars, I am also writing a book this November. Not a novel or blog posts, but an instructional resource book for New Readers Press. On the 2014 GED Test. Oh yeah.

Lady Dancing on Steps in Snow

It’s part of their Teaching Adults series, alongside Teaching Adult Literacy and Teaching Adult ESL. It’ll be chock full of engaging, educational activities.

It’s due to be published in 2013, so keep it tuned to Farrell Ink, rock stars.

And I shall call you squishy and you will be mine…

Okay, readers, I have decided to name you. But it would be against my personality to just pronounce you “something” without your consent.

Bonus points if you can name the movie & character quoted in the title of this post.

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,000 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Farrell Ink Receives CC All Star Award 2010

Constant Contacts All Star 2010 CLEVELAND, OHIO–Farrell Ink LLC has received the 2010 All Star Award from Constant Contact®, Inc., for being a top performer among more than 400,000 small organizations worldwide that use Constant Contact’s marketing tools & advising services. Farrell Ink LLC is one of Constant Contact’s 2010 top performers for using email marketing in all year round to communicate about program developments, upcoming trainings, events, literacy resources, free cool online tools, and more.

Constant Contact looked at criteria including the following when selecting this year’s All Stars:

  • Communicates regularly with contacts
  • Quality content: high rates of email opens & click throughs
  • Quality contacts: low bounce rates & spam-free mailing list
  • Use of social media (including videos, online archives & networking sites)
  • Use of reporting tools to measure & improve outreach

Exciting Farrell Ink News!

AmeriCorps LogoFarrell Ink is working with the Literacy Cooperative and a group of community literacy providers to submit an AmeriCorps grant in April 2010. As an AmeriCorps Alum who has lobbied for years to expand national service, I was thrilled to see the Serve America Act passed last year and triple the size of AmeriCorps. We hope to bring some of the AmeriCorps passion & funding to expand literacy services in Cleveland.
To find more about AmeriCorps, please visit AmeriCorps.gov

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