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.

backyard-bicycle-bike-630770.jpg

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, 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.

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:

Image result for lonely child

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.

Posted in Family, parenting, toddlers

Sleep deprived

I am so sick of reading articles about babies and children not sleeping; but at the same my kids won’t sleep so I end up reading them over and over again.

Routine?

Yes.

Teething and/or illness?

No.

Is their room in appropriate lighting?

Oh you mean the spotlight I have shinning in their faces? Totally.

Have you tried music?

Dear God, yes. And Ocean sounds. And rain sounds.

Have you tried oils?

Only like 19 of them but if you have more let me know.

Are you soothing too much?

Well, there’s two. So crying it out isn’t an option since they’re both loud enough to wake the neighbors, let alone each other.

Be stern. Tell them it’s bedtime and leave. Then come back in five minutes and blah blah blah…nothing works.

So upon my stumble I found this. Not so much advice, but at least I know it’s not just me.

Just wanted to share the article because it made me feel better, might help other parents struggling with sleep deprivation.

Posted in Mental Health, parenting, Uncategorized

It’s Easy to Feel Alone

It’s Easy To Feel Alone 

The HIE Help Center site is a great resource for parents with children who have mental illness or delays. While they specialize in articles about HIE (hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy), the information and coping help can be used for multiple disorders.

I had this article published in June 2018.