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Posted in Education, Family, literature, Mental Health, Opinion, parenting, reading, Social Change

New Release

So it’s been a while since I’ve made any new posts. It’s not for lack of motivation or even inspiration, but I have finally been able to release my book about special needs parenting. I think a lot of my readers, from some of the messages and conversations we’ve had, can relate to many of the struggles my family’s had to tackle. Now that it is out and ready to be digested by the masses I will get back to regularly scheduled posting.

The book uses a mix of humor and mental health research to try and bring light to pediatric mental illness, which is greatly debated and even denied thanks to overdiagnosis and ignorance by some. If you give it a read please take a minute to leave a review. It would greatly help me out with future writing endeavors.

YOU’RE GOING TO BE FINE is available here in print or eBook.

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Posted in Education, Family, Opinion, parenting, pop culture, Social Change, teaching, Uncategorized

Kindergarten is hard

“Kindergarten is the new first grade”- everyone in education ever

Kids are growing up faster these days.

When I was in kindergarten it was a half day. We had quiet time on our mats. I remember eating graham crackers with peanut butter. Letters were learned, numbers were counted, and we went home with paint on our hands.

I don’t remember tests. I don’t remember stress. I don’t really know if I had a “desk” per say.

“Five- and 6-year-old kids now spend hours in their seats doing academic work, often with little or  no recess or physical education, or  arts, music and science.  These kids are tested ad nauseam and expected to be able to do things by the time they leave kindergarten that some, perhaps even many, are not developmentally prepared to do” (source).

Since the early 2000’s kindergarten classes have been under attack to be more and more academically focused. More reading! More math! More STEM education! We need those computer engineers knowing what they’re doing early on! (Yes I realize the photo is not a kindergartner just stay with me here)

baby-boy-child-159533

But it’s not just quantitative data from a group of disgruntled moms, dads, or teachers. It’s actually a legit change in curriculum that has been studied since the 1990’s.  “The researchers compared kindergarten and first-grade classrooms between 1998 and 2010 and found that kindergarten classes had become increasingly like first grade” (source) Its not just the lengthening of the days and the increasing intensity of the subjects, its the lack of thought about their interest stimulation and the amount of testing (TESTING!) that kindergarten involves now.

“In 2010, 73 percent of kindergartners took some kind of standardized test. One-third took tests at least once a month. In 1998, they didn’t even ask kindergarten teachers that question. But the first-grade teachers in 1998 reported giving far fewer tests than the kindergarten teachers did in 2010” (source).

This is one reason I think the whole “play equals learning” movement has been thriving so much. Montessori schools, Tinkergartens, the interest in Swedish education systems, have all risen here in the U.S. because we don’t want our kids turning into intelligent zombies. This is also why a lot of people believe the diagnosis of ADHD, ADD, and other disorders has dramatically increased. I can’t say yes or no to that one, but I do feel that this sort of learning at such a young is detrimental to what is natural for a child.

One parent said “I’m worried that my son is going to hit a point where he doesn’t like learning in school because he thinks learning is humiliation and frustration, and discouragement and anger rather than curiosity and encouragement, and fun and discovery. I think that a lot of the policymakers don’t care. They think there are kids that are disposable” (source).

Children are curious by nature. Every child wants to learn when they are young. It’s exciting, and fun if you let it be.

“We saw notable drops in teachers saying they covered science topics like dinosaurs and outer space, which kids this age find really engaging,” says Bassok, the study’s lead author” (source). 

“The percentage of teachers who reported offering music every day in kindergarten dropped by half, from 34 percent to 16 percent. Daily art dropped from 27 to 11 percent” (source).

But why is this movement towards more strict lessons and academics for such young students still gaining momentum when so many people seem to be against it?

“Much of this is tied to the belief that academic performance should be the sole measure of school and teacher effectiveness” (source). 

That. Right there. “Effectiveness”. Qualitative data. Competitions. Seeing our students succeed “better” than other countries. Better then other states. Better than the county next to us. Better. Because more academics means higher test scores, which means your class is “better”. It’s kind of a sad premise. What about people skills? What about emotional learning? What about art skills? Music ability? Physical ability? What if your child is an amazing unicycle rider, is there nothing good to say about that? I couldn’t do it. I think it’s awesome.

What about soft skills? Things that you can’t teach an adult. Things that you learn as a child. Empathy, understanding, and all that hippy dippy stuff that makes you a decent member of society. You learn those things in kindergarten.

What about the argument that this rise in a more strict curriculum of math and language arts is only due to the fact that children are entering kindergarten more school ready? That this emphasis on early education is creating children who are already able to read and write at the age of five? I say fine. That’s great if kids are grasping these concepts early because they want to. I love early literacy initiatives when they are in a fun and open environment. But the structure and the testing doesn’t need to change in order to stimulate a child’s intellect. Centers, dramatic play, art, music; all these things still play crucial roles in their development and do not hinder them reading and writing.

So I’m just going to leave this here to wrap all this up. I love this little poem so much it was even read at my wedding. Maybe one day we can get back to it but for now, this has been a huge deciding factor for me to homeschool. I know not everyone can and I’m not trying to sway you to, but just keep in mind your kids are going through more after a day of kindergarten then we ever had to.

All I Really Need To Know
I Learned In Kindergarten

by Robert Fulghum

All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.
ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do
and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not
at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the
sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:
Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.

Flush.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some
and draw and paint and sing and dance and play
and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic,
hold hands, and stick together.

Be aware of wonder.
Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup:
The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody
really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even
the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die.
So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books
and the first word you learned – the biggest
word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.
The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation.
Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any of those items and extrapolate it into
sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your
family life or your work or your government or
your world and it holds true and clear and firm.
Think what a better world it would be if
all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about
three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with
our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments
had a basic policy to always put thing back where
they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you
are – when you go out into the world, it is best
to hold hands and stick together.

Posted in Education, Family, homeschool, Opinion, parenting, teaching, Uncategorized

More important than a homeschool curriculum

(This post contains affiliate links because we like food)

Every couple of months I have an epiphany. That I am not living in the moment. That I am planning too much, organizing too much, not letting enough of our lives happen organically. It’s easy to say, “that’s it, from now I will let the chips fall where they may” than it is to actually do that. Especially for an A type like myself. I have been getting rid of our stuff for the past three years trying to live more simply. I make lists at night as a way to “wind down”. Planning parties and events is actually something that is fun for me. When I teach a class or do a workshop the prep work involved is one of my favorite parts. But this isn’t about just me anymore

When I started homeschooling this past August I thought it would be a surefire way to live in the moment more with my family, especially my daughter. However, I was still working, still trying to stick to schedules, worried about new obstacles like Board of Education reviews and Kindergarten assessments to make sure I was doing everything right.

I spent hours, upon hours, planning out our curriculum in painstaking weeks of prep once we decided that this was our plan. I didn’t want to purchase one, I was decreasing my work hours mind you, so I was going to formulate one of my own. It was a good plan. It was a good curriculum, but that’s not what we needed.

Our homeschool journey began because of mental illness. I knew that, and I still did not factor in my child’s truly unique gifts and her weaknesses when applying everything I knew about education in the elementary years. I was still thinking like a teacher, like a librarian, like an administrator, not like a homeschool mom of a mentally ill child. I was not worried about living in the moment.

I knew I wanted more outside time for her, but it wasn’t a priority, it was an afterthought. Once we get done our lessons, then we can do that. I knew I wanted more arts, crafts, baking, exploring, after our lessons.

This was wrong. This was so wrong. And I see that now.

One of our biggest obstacles was socialization and I don’t mean now that I homeschool. I mean before when she was in public daycare and then public Pre-K. When there are more than two or three other kids around my daughter gets overwhelmed. She breaks down, she either feels not seen or heard and lashes out or acts out. Either way, it’s not fun or a great learning environment. We have slowly been able to get her around smaller groups and this has helped her come out of her shell in a whole new way. She doesn’t remember most of her friends’ names but she knows something about them, “the boy with the spiderman shirt that one day”, “that girl that helped me out of the ball pit”, “that girl that says she likes my drawing”. She is connecting with people, which was a huge struggle all its own. That is not something I planned in our curriculum.

She’s developed a special interest in baking and cooking, which isn’t surprising. It’s not something I enjoy doing and thankfully I have family and friends who do it with her who have more patience and understanding in the kitchen than I do. I did not plan on baking as being part of our curriculum.
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Art has been a saving grace for the past two years but this year even more so. She’s developing a love of photography and cartoons. “How do they make your drawings actually talk?” Animation is something we will probably study for a long time. I did not have that in our curriculum.

To be clear, I believe in some kind of a curriculum. Some sort of guidance of where we are this month versus where we want to be in three months. I want to see growth. But that growth may not always be in black and white. We are growing in so many ways I wasn’t counting for and in so many areas I can’t report back to the Board of Education. Her mental growth and behavioral improvements are by far more important at this stage than her reading progression, which is also where it should be (go figure).

So for now, our biggest lesson is our upcoming garden. We usually spend about ten minutes on a lesson, tops. But when I showed her a video about how to make compost she wanted to watch another and another. My first reaction was to say “well let’s move on to our other project for the day” but I didn’t. I put on another video and another. She drew a recipe for creating your own compost. Created a list of green materials and brown materials. Asked me almost every day after to explain to her what leachate was again. I did not have gardening and compost in my curriculum but it is now.

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Posted in DIY, Education, fun, Library, teaching, Uncategorized

A Polar Bear named Chuck

I haven’t done a lesson/educational post in a while but a week ago I had the privilege of teaching a small class of about twelve elementary aged students a STEM class. My daughter attends a co-op one day a week and the deal is parents have to chip in, which I think is fantastic.

However, STEM is not my strong suit. I’m a words person, not a numbers person so at first, I was a little panicked. Then I started to realize, why can’t I do both?

*This post contains affiliate links because I like to eat

So I started thinking of science-related issues that I cared about, since that would obviously be easier to write about and decided to do something on global warming. Thus, Chuck was born. Here is the lesson plan and what you need to recreate for a class or in your own home.

The story-

(We made the story into a game to keep the student’s interest. If you are doing this with just one child you may want to tweak that part. The game was that each group of students received a folder with a habitat picture inside. They had to give clues as to what their habitat was to the other students to guess. When the correct answer was guessed, the picture was taped to the front of the class.)

 

A Home for Chuck

One polar bear’s escape from the melting ice

Page one: Have picture up of Arctic landscape

(Does anyone know, or want to take a guess, about how many cubs a polar bear usually has? Answer: two)

When Chuck was a wee lad he lived on the ice of the Arctic with his mom and his sister Chucklette. He was born in a small den, in December and came out to see his Arctic home in March.

Everyone repeat after me- Polar bears live in the Arctic. Not the Antarctic. The Arctic.

Repeat- Penguins and Polar Bears do not live together!

Chuck was a little bit bigger than his sister but they would play and wrestle in the snow.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbILj_CYqno

****Change pictures- picture of Arctic melting

At the ripe age of 30 months old, or close to three years old, Chuck went out on his own to be a man. He would catch seals and fish. He did this by waiting near a melting ice patch in the land. This would be the best place to find seals because the freezing, then melting of the patch gave seals a place to pop up and breathe.

Chuck, like most polar bears, was a great swimmer. But because swimming takes up so much energy, he would need to get back to the ice to rest. So he would wander around on a large home of snow and ice.

Only, his home wasn’t so large anymore. Chuck started to notice that the older he got, the smaller his arctic home became. He liked the water for hunting but he couldn’t live on it. His home was getting thinner, smaller, and more wet.

“Well,” said Chuck one day, “I have had enough!

I’m a big ole Polar Bear, I need land, lots of land to roam. I think I should set out to find myself a new home.”

As luck would have it, there was an abandoned researcher’s site nearby and it had a tarp, some rope, and a large tub.

So Chuck fashioned himself a parachute and decided to see the world!

(Now, everyone is going to get a super secret folder that has a picture of a habitat inside, along with a number on the outside. You will work in pairs or threes, just for a minute. When I call your number you will look at your habitat, then you and partner will have to describe it to the rest of the class to see if we can guess which habitat it is. For example, if I opened my folder and it was a picture of a living room I would say something like: Well, Chuck couldn’t live here because he would bang his head on the ceiling. Notice I didn’t say anything about it being a room or a living room. So we will NOT say what our habitat is, we will give clues. Repeat after me “I will NOT say what my habitat is”. Can someone define habitat for us? Answer: Natural home or environment for animal, plants, or any organism. *Handout folders)

When habitat is guessed, student tape the picture to the board.

First Group: Parachutes to Mountains

After a long day of floating through the sky, Chuck sees something below him and starts his descent.

Group one, open your folder and tell the class why you think Chuck couldn’t live there, or just something about your habitat without saying what it is. *student tapes their habitat on the board.

*Class discussion *Clap- one two three

So Chuck saw the snow and thought, “hmm this might be a good place to land.” And land he did, with a thud. The mountain was quite uneven, as most mountains are. Whoa, whoa. But Chuck got steady.

“Wow, it’s hard to walk on these rocky mountains.” Chuck weighed as much as 10 men, and trying to climb any higher on the mountain was a very hard and scary task. “Maybe I should just climb down instead.” Slowly he made his way to the bottom of the mountain. Once he was on safe flat land he realized how hungry he was. He looked around and didn’t see any animals he could eat. Just some scattered green things. He looked back up and saw some birds flying overhead. “Well, how am I supposed to catch those for dinner?”

“I don’t think the mountains are for me.” Chuck got in the tub and threw up his parachute to catch the wind. He drifted and sailed through the sky until he saw another place to land.

Group Two: Parachute to the Ocean

 

Down he went. Group two, open your folder and tell the class why you think Chuck couldn’t live there, or just something about your habitat without saying what it is.

Now polar bears, are actually the only bear that is considered a marine mammal. Polar bears can swim for hours and hours to get from one piece of ice to the other. But this water wasn’t as cold as he was used to. It was warm and salty. Saltier then he had back in the Arctic.

“Well at least there’s some fish,” Chuck thought. He dove down and got a fish to eat. Then looked around. He was getting tired. But there was nowhere to get out of the water!

“I can’t live in the ocean ALL the time,” Chuck said. “This place can’t be my new home. He swam back to where his tub and parachute were floating and waited for a strong wind to blow. “Let’s try again,” he said and off he floated into the sky.

 

Group Three: The desert

Group three, open your folder and tell the class why you think Chuck couldn’t live there, or just something about your habitat without saying what it is.

Now Chuck was used to not doing much when it was hot outside. During summer in the Arctic, polar bears have “walking hibernation” where they do less activity. But this heat was TOO much. Chuck’s thick fur and skin made him so hot.

“There’s got to water around here somewhere.” He thought. He walked and walked. He passed a strange looking animal that had two humps on his back. (What animal is that?)

“Excuse me,” Chuck asked the camel. “Is there any water around here? Or a place to cool down?”

“Cool down?” the camel laughed. “Certainly not. There is some water about two days walk that way.” He nodded behind him.

“Two days!” said Chuck. He couldn’t walk for two days without water. “How are you able to go so long without water?”

“Oh I have these humps and I’ve lived in the desert all my life. I’ve adapted.”

Chuck shook his head. He couldn’t adapt to all this heat and the dryness. He went back to his parachute and waited for the wind to blow.


Group Four: The Rainforest

Group four, open your folder and tell the class why you think Chuck couldn’t live there, or just something about your habitat without saying what it is.

When Chuck landed this time he was surrounded by green! He had never seen so much green in his life.

“Well, it’s still really hot here. But at least it seems like there may be water around.”

He was getting tired from all this traveling and decided to take a nap.  As he laid his head down he heard sounds of all kinds: birds chirping, monkeys howling, bugs and frogs clicking.

“This is much louder than the Arctic,” Chuck said. (Why do you think it’s louder in the rainforest than in the Arctic?) He thought maybe he should try to hunt for another snack before deciding if he could live here.

He sat and waited. There were so many animals nearby that he could hear but nothing was coming near him. At home, in the Arctic, Chuck could just sit still and blend in with the snow so his prey didn’t see him, but now! (Why would that not work now?)

“I can’t live here,” Chuck said sadly. He went to his parachute to try again.

 

Group Five: The Northern Forests or Woodlands

Group five, open your folder and tell the class why you think Chuck couldn’t live there, or just something about your habitat without saying what it is.

As he looked around at first he thought he was in the same place as he just left but the air was much cooler and the trees were all different.

“At least it’s getting colder,” Chuck said. He was finally able to take a short nap before deciding to try again for a snack.

“It sounds like everything is up in the trees, maybe I have to climb up to get some food.”

So Chuck went to the nearest tree and put his paws on the trunk. HEAVE, he tried to lift himself but could barely get his bottom off the ground. HEAVE he tried again. 

By and by he saw another animal walking towards him. Not as big as he was, but was still pretty big and furry. (What do you think he saw?)

“Oh Mr. Bear.”

“Ahem, I am lady Mr. White Bear. What are you?” she answered.

“Oh sorry, I’m a polar bear.”

“A polar bear? What are you doing here? You can’t live here.”

“Well, why not if you do? You’re a bear too.”

“Yes but I can climb quickly and hide. You can’t sir.”

No he couldn’t. He couldn’t hide here just as he couldn’t hide in the rainforest.

“I guess you’re right,” he told the lady bear.

So Chuck got his parachute and decided to go home…

 

Group Six: Antarctic

Group six, open your folder and tell the class why you think Chuck couldn’t live there, or just something about your habitat without saying what it is.

So, this is a hard one, the hardest one. Why couldn’t Polar Bears live in the Antarctic? It’s cold, it’s ice, it looks so much like the Arctic!

But it’s not.

Chuck walked around, seemingly confused. “It looks kind of like home but not completely.” He shivered, it actually felt colder here than back in the Arctic.

For miles and miles, all Chuck could see was more snow and ice. The ground was so hard and frozen solid, Chuck didn’t think he’d be able to build a den here. He also didn’t see any other polar bears or any animal for that matter.

Up ahead he saw water and started to get excited. Maybe there’s some seals nearby, although he couldn’t smell any even with his great sense of smell. But he smelled something else. Was that chicken? Definitely a bird. (What bird lives in the Antarctic?)

They were so funny looking like they were wearing suits. Chuck didn’t think he would like penguins very much and not having anyone else to talk to he decided to really go home this time. It was too cold, maybe even for him.

Chuck went back to the Arctic and decided to make do with his shrinking home.

“I hope everyone tries to help us save our Arctic home,” he thought to himself. As he looked around he saw another bear’s den and felt happy to be back.

 

Now, Chuck’s home is shrinking. Do we all know what that is?

Map of global warming.

*From here we talked about ways to stop global warming, lower pollution, and recycle. Then we made DIY parachutes out of used plastic grocery bags, twine, tape, and small polar bears I ordered off of Oriental Trading.


Lastly, I had built a wind tunnel that we used to launch our Chucks across the room. This was obviously the most fun part of the lesson but if building a wind tunnel isn’t possible for you the parachutes work just from being thrown as well.

Image may contain: drink and indoor

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Book Review: “You’re Going to be Fine” by Brittney D. Herz

I can’t express how honored I was to read this review. My Bipolar Mind has been a great resource for me and I appreciate the time Samantha put into reading my book and expressing her opinion on it. It’s still somewhat surreal to read messages from people reaching out to me, or reviews like this, and knowing that our story is resonating with so many people.
You’re Going to be Fine is still available on Amazon.com.

My Bipolar Mind

Book Review: “You’re Going to be Fine” by Britteny D. Herz


You’re Going to be Fine, by author Brittney D. Herz, is a captivating and heart-wrenching true story about juvenile mental health and the impact it can have on the child as well as their parents and loved ones. While the author, Brittney D. Herz, writes the story she constantly reminds us that this is truly her daughter, Gigi’s, story. This book makes your heart ache for this little girl who just wonders why she isn’t like all the other children. Unless you have ever struggled with mental illness yourself or have a loved one who has gone through it, you may not fully understand the agony that this family has gone through. However, Brittney does an excellent job at talking her reader through Gigi’s journey; putting you right there in the same room as them.

You’re Going to…

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Posted in Education, Family, literature, Mental Health, Poetry, Uncategorized

We’ll Try Again Tomorrow Video

There’s something about releasing poetry into the universe that terrifies me. I can speak in front of three people or three hundred. I can read an essay or an article I wrote to a full room. I can act (or at least attempt to), I used to perform in dance recitals (not well let’s be real), and I would get nervous but nothing like panic-inducing fear I get from reading poetry out loud.

I remember the first time I had to read a poem I wrote in front of an audience, I was seventeen or eighteen in my first year of college. I had won an award for a flash fiction contest and the story was basically a poem. Beforehand I told my teacher I couldn’t do it. That reading in front of others was just not a fun time for me.

He assured me I’d do great, it would all be great, everything was fine. I puked twice, went up and read way too fast, and it was over. I’ve had to read a few more poems to a group since then and it gets a little easier as I age but it’s still something so personal. A vulnerable arrangement of your innermost thoughts in an artistic display and you are exposing these ideas to others. It’s quite horrifying.

So now, this is my first ever video to correlate with a poem. Mind you my technology skills are a solid B, video is not my strong suit so don’t expect any amazing effects. It goes with You’re Going to be Fine and my new direction of writing for parents, children, and families with special needs.

See We’ll Try Again Tomorrow HERE!

Posted in Education, Family, teaching

Kind of-Sort of-Unschooling

Unschooling seemed too out there for me when I first read about it. To be fair, homeschooling seemed too out there when I first thought about actually doing it. But unschooling was waaaaay out there. I read two or three articles about it and just went on my way. No curriculum? No lesson plans? No schedule? I can’t function like that, how would she even learn?

After a few months of homeschooling in the traditional sense (ie curriculum that mirrors traditional school) for my five-year-old, I am now thinking more about the theories behind unschooling and why they could be helpful for us. I have become a huge fan Sir Ken Robinson over the past few months and have done a lot of research for my continuing education on our public education system. That alone made me question why I was breaking up our learning the way that I was…because I was trying to copy what traditional school was doing. But why? Is that really the best way for them to learn? Who says? (more about that in my book *insert shameful plug here*)

One book about unschooling I enjoyed—>

I had planned our curriculum for the year by August. I had broken it down weekly. Now I wish I could have those two weeks of my life back. It’s been quite the road of frustration and learning on my end. Some of the lessons and ideas Gigi clicked with, others she didn’t. She does have special needs so I try to be as flexible with the timing of things as possible but I wasn’t caving on what we were learning. Maybe I should be? That’s the point of homeschooling in a broad sense is to cater better to your child’s educational needs.

For those of you who may be thinking about it, or just curious about what unschooling is, here’s what I’ve gathered and what I’m concerned with (maybe experienced unschoolers can correct any misconceptions I have):

Interests lead learning- this part makes sense. My daughter digests lessons that she’s picked out better than ones that I do. That seems like a no-brainer. If she’s interested in something she will want to learn, therefore she will learn.

So we are starting to implement that. I’ve left my type A, list making, yearly schedule on hold and asked her what subjects she wants. I had everything planned in the order I assumed she’d be learning at public kindergarten. Plus some extra stuff just for fun. We finished up mammals and we’re going to move to birds. She said no, she wants to learn about frogs. So frogs it is. Frogs and nutcrackers are our focus for December. We will see how the learning develops as we paint nutcrackers, watch the ballet, and maybe go frog hunting if it’s not freezing.

Subjects shouldn’t be divided- The idea is that is all subjects can stem from one original interest. This is not as concrete but as I continue to learn about the concept it is understandable.

For example, one of the first things my daughter said she wanted to learn about was Native Americans. Timing wise that worked out perfectly since we started in October and ended in November. Using videos, books, and worksheets we learned about the Woodland Indians. We learned geography studying a map of America and where their tribes were. We learned science by reading and discussing how they grew crops, the seasons, and the animals in that area. I left out the whole slaughtering of millions of people post the first Thanksgiving and how sordid our history really is. Maybe first grade…

This seems to flow well but the fact that I can’t track what we’re learning ahead of time is something I will have to adjust to. For the purposes of portfolio reviews (every state/county is different but where I live you do two a year and they have to approve your learning milestones) I will have to at least in retrospect try to document what we’ve covered.

Reading and math- My biggest pause with unschooling is the way a child learns to read. Unschooling philosophy says that children will pick it up as you go. Which basically means unschooling uses whole word learning applications. A child learns to read by being read to and then eventually, they will remember words and letters they see and piece them together on their own. Whole word learning isn’t wrong by any means but as a librarian, I feel like the mixed method approach is the best. Maybe? Learning phonics is just as important, at least I’ve always thought so.

Same goes for math. I get that you learn math everywhere- grocery store, counting flowers outside, counting clouds. But what about multiplication? Evens and odds? I get that some mathematical concepts can be a very natural learning process but some may not be so much.

These are the only two areas I think I will continue to try using worksheets and books. To be fair, my daughter does not like writing some days but she really wants to read. We are doing whole word applications with books that she picks out from the library. This has given her the reins on what she is learning to read. We also read My World books or BOB Books.
Are they exciting? No, but I explained to her those books break it down so that she can recognize the words when she sees them again on her own so she asks for them now during our reading time. They do work.

 

Phonics and spelling we will continue to use ABC Mouse, Brainquest, and Scholastic. I use the mix because they all have a different approach. As long as the time we spend on them is not long (like not past ten to fifteen minutes) we can usually get through a letter or sound without any pushback. That was another lesson for me being a first-time homeschooler. I was used to teaching in 45-minute blocks. At home, with one ADHD child with other stimuli around, ten minutes. Get it or get out.

The conclusion to all this is I still am learning the best way to homeschool a special needs child. Our schedule has not been consistent because of my job but that is ending in the next few weeks. I hope to be able to offer her more freedom and more creative learning utilizing her interests. So far, I know we will have to change the spring and summer curriculum I developed. Instead of learning things chronologically to mirror the traditional kindergarten classroom we will be:

A) Doing much more baking and cooking. Gigi loves baking and wants to open her own business. We are going to start writing down our recipes, creating new ones, finding places to bake for (ie nursing homes, her co-op group, family), and how to create more healthy recipes. We have even talked about creating a logo for “business”, she has a thing about logos. This way we are learning math, science, and writing.

B) Gardening/garden planning. We are creating a better play area outside this spring. Part of that play area is going to contain an edible garden. She is going to help with the planning, mapping, design, planting, monitoring, and then cooking with our ingredients. We will be learning geography, science, math, reading, and writing. Also PE!

C) Camping. We tried going camping when Gigi was three and I think my husband and I are still scarred from it. However, I think it may be a field trip idea for this year. Camping provides AMPLE learning experiences.

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After this year is over hopefully I can update you with how it went using her interest as our guide as opposed to the standard instruction of our area. We are basically working off of a very broad schedule of topics. Each month I have two to three main lessons (i.e. phonics, addition, counting to 40) type of goal and then a list of five to ten topics. If she has one of her own that I don’t have then I’ll add it in there as we go. If she doesn’t I will ask her what she’s interested in and we’ll try to steer our learning that way. I think for now it’s a good mix that will allow us more communication together about her education, give her more motivation, and allow me the satisfaction of knowing we are hitting markers and I’m able to report everything that I need to. Since I do still really like schedules and with her diagnosis schedules work well for keeping her anxiety down we will still have a daily schedule. I will post it once I figure out which one works best. We are also adding personal hygiene and life skills in her learning.

Unschoolers with feedback or success stories are welcome to comment 🙂

Posted in Education, Family, Mental Health, Opinion, parenting, teaching, toddlers, Uncategorized

When your child doesn’t have any friends

This article is not about homeschooling; however, this is always the first question I get asked since I’ve decided to do it, and was honestly my first big concern: How will my daughter socialize?

Making friends was never easy for her, keeping them was even harder. One on one she seemed to play great, but you throw another kid or two or twenty (daycare/preschool) in the mix and forget about it.

Why is socialization important?

No one can deny that people have to be able to communicate, work, and live with each other. Unless you go off grid you will have to come in contact with others. But besides the necessity of it, there are other perks for children to be able to socialize.

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For younger children, being in a daycare/preschool/play group can help teach them patience, empathy, and help them with their fine motor skills. Young children inspire one another so if your child is late to the party on walking, they may do it sooner if they are around other kids who walk. Same with talking. Same with bad habits too, so be warned.

These early interactions start to create soft skills that your child will need for the rest of their lives.

The second big one, especially for children who are a little older, is self-esteem. Having friends and others that are like minded, helps boost your self-esteem. Being lonely, feeling alienated, and feeling isolated can destroy it.

Currently, I am in several ADHD Groups and I can’t tell you how many times I see moms saying things like “my son didn’t have anyone show up to his Birthday party” or “my daughter never gets invited anywhere”. It breaks my heart. Those kids know that they are being shunned and that can be devastating to their self esteem.

 

Is it as important as it’s made to sound?

Image result for gif about being loner

I think yes and no. Like I stated above, older children may suffer more without it, but the skills start in the toddler years. However, do I think you should throw your kid in every social opportunity that pops up because it’s crucial that they interact with kids everyday? No.

The first classroom is your home. You are teaching your child from day one whether you are meaning to or not. Back in the day, that was the only education. Parents, family members, or tutors (for the wealthy) taught all the children together.

TIMELINE OF EDUCATION SYSTEM IN AMERICA– pretty interesting but may make you leery of the education system if you’re not already, js.

The government stepped in and slowly enacted Compulsory Education Laws, state by state, starting in Massachusetts in 1852 and ending with Mississippi in 1917. Why does this matter? It’s just to show that children weren’t shut ins prior to being forced into public schools (or private even). But it also shows that they weren’t in classrooms full of other students either (and a lot were working horrid hours and conditions doing child labor but that’s a different post).

It has been proven that you need socialization to have a healthy lifestyle. Even if you are anti-social, you interact with people in one form or another and we as a species need that. What I think is overblown is HOW much young children need.

Under 5, the emphasis of social interactions should be on the family. This is the where the child should feel safest. This is where their trust should build a foundation, in their homes. I don’t just mean parents either: grandparents, cousins, siblings, etc. Play groups, community events, and family events are great ways to get doses of interactions for them as well. If they have to go to daycare because you work (been there) then that’s fine. Don’t do it JUST for the socialization aspect is all I’m saying.

How can I help my struggling child?

For whatever reason some kids (and adults) are just born smooth, confident, and/or friendly. Some kids are not. It’s something they have to work on. The set-up of a large classroom may be an overwhelming place for them to try and make friends.

If you find your child isn’t getting the interactions they need with other kids here a few things to try:

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Give them a chance to socialize in smaller groups: that’s easier for younger children (like mentioned above); however, there are options for all ages. The Scouts, art groups, summer programs (look for ones with smaller class sizes), STEM clubs, and other similar programs are a good way to socialize with children in a smaller setting with a similar interest. This helps with having an ice breaker and may have students from other schools they haven’t had a chance to interact with during the school year.

Play Groups/Play Dates: I was kind of anti play dates when I first had my daughter but as more and more of my friends had kids I was okay with it (socialize much?). It was a good way for me to get some adult time while my kids got to play with someone new.

Family exposure: I think it’s easy to overlook just how important it is to visit family when you have children. They need that interaction just as much as your grandparents, parents, and other family members do. With technology being what it is, it may be easy to write off actually visiting each other but make a point to do so.

Pen Pals: Because of the above mentioned Facebook post problem I kept seeing I decided to start a Facebook group to meet Pen Pals (for kids with ADD, ADHD, ASD, and any other disorder that may hinder their social skills). This could be great outlet for your child to make a friend at their own pace!

Pick-A-Pen Pal

Buddy Bench: in case there are any teachers or daycare professionals reading this I just heard about the Buddy Bench (it’s not new but it’s new to me). It’s where there is a designated spot (like a bench) that if a child goes to recess or break time and doesn’t have a friend to play with, they go to the Buddy Bench. That helps other kids who also don’t have a friend to play with find each other. Brilliant. Obviously this would not work with older kids the same way but maybe a different variation of the same idea could be implemented.