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!

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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.

Related image

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 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, fun, history, Holidays, reading, summer, teaching, toddlers, Uncategorized

Summer Learning: A lesson on pirates

I haven’t actually done any “educational” posts in awhile and my daughter asked me this morning if we could learn about pirates.

Image result for pirates gif

I’m like YES, obviously we can learn about pirates.

Little known fact about me; I used to be obsessed with pirates. I did a research paper in graduate school about Blackbeard as my example of good and bad leadership skills. Peter and Wendy was actually the first chapter book that I read out loud to my daughter. I found myself censoring a few things but I digress-

I decided since I would be looking up some things for her to learn that I would share them with you to add some education to your summer break.

(This post contains affiliate links)

Treasure hunts-

One of the first things you think of, when you think of pirates, is lost treasure. “Booty” it’s called. Coins, jewels, and other riches obtained by piracy (theft generally speaking).

Treasure hunts are easy to set up at home. You can use rocks, seashells, plastic money, or their own toys. Hide them around your backyard or in your house. The big treasure prize should marked on a “map”.

Is this historically accurate? Not really. Most pirates didn’t bury their treasure, they spent it. One of the most famous pirates who did actually have a hidden buried treasure was Captain William Kidd. His loot has since all been found (at least they think so).

 

Legends and Folklore-

One thing pirates were, were storytellers. If you think about it, all that time on the sea with little to do in between navigating, thieving, and drinking; storytelling and music were a must.

Here is some pirate folklore to share with your family. Most of the stories are ghost stories or legends in nature. Some are about actual historical figures. There are plenty of stories out there about curses and signs of impending doom. A shark following the ship for instance meant death was approaching. Fridays were a unlucky day to sail. Gold hoop earrings could bring the pirate good luck and fortune on their travels. Never change the name of your boat, unless you want to run aground.

Some of the most famous folklore to come from pirates and other sailors were those of the mermaid. Different countries have different takes on what a mermaid is or was, and different ideas on what they looked like. Some believed them to be beautiful and wanting to help sailors get to safety. Most believed mermaids were there to lure men to their deaths.

I love the “You Wouldn’t Want to be a…” series. Lucky for you they have a pirate one!

Geography- 

Image result for map of where pirates sailed

Piracy took place all over the world, but during the Gold Age of Piracy (1650’s to 1720’s) most of the action was in the Caribbean. They were referred to as Buccaneers if they were Caribbean pirates. Although Pirates of the Caribbean was extremely fictional, the city of Tortuga was quite accurate. It was a high spot for pirates to refresh before hitting the high seas again. Tortuga was off the island of Hispaniola.

Why was this area so hot to trot for pirates? Spanish ships were constantly trying to get gold and jewels back to England and Spain for one. For two, most of the indigenous peoples of the area were killed off in many of the islands thanks to settlements centuries earlier. Three, there were a lot of places to hide.

It was a great time to be a pirate. But all good things come to an end and eventually England got sick of their money and ships going into the sea. The navy started to hunt down pirates in a ruthless movement to end the Golden Age and they succeeded.

Image result for pirates gif

Some resources to learn the geography of the Caribbean:

Geography Lesson: The Wonderfully Diverse Caribbean!

– Map making exercise for older elementary students. Great idea!

Jamaican Games for Fine and Gross Motor Skills Really cool list of ideas 

 Making steel drums for kids

 

 

Just for fun-

Mad Libs are a fun way to practice language arts skills! {Free printable}:

Image result for kid pirate map

Worksheets: Treasure Island Crossword Puzzle

For any adult wanting to brush up on their pirate knowledge I highly recommend this book:

And of course the classics:

        

Posted in Education, Social Change, Uncategorized

Finding hope for at risk students

Generally I try to keep my two jobs distant from each other just for the sake of not liking an “open concept” work life. However, we are doing a day of giving for the nonprofit I am the Executive Director of, Horizons Salisbury, May 16th 2018, and I feel compelled to shed some light on what that means exactly.

1. 132 students will not have Summer Learning Loss.

For those who do not know what summer learning loss is, it’s a phenomenon that has been studied since 1906. They found that during long breaks (be it summer, vacation, lapse in traditional instruction) students would actually regress in their education. Low-income students are generally more at risk for summer learning loss (or “the summer slide”) and year after year this will result in an achievement gap, putting them at a disadvantage to their peers. Programs like Horizons Salisbury is trying to close this gap through educational programming for these students.

2. 132 students will get the chance to swim, many still learning how to.

Swimming may not seem that important to everyone. However, there’s two major reasons why it is indeed crucial for our program. It’s a life saving skill. Again, low-income are more at risk for drowning. Why? Well for one, their access to swimming pools and instruction is limited, if available at all. Secondly, swimming is a skill that takes time and patience to develop. It’s harder for some children to learn it than it is others. But once they do (and they do learn to swim, it’s not just free time in the pool!) It’s a confidence builder the students take back to the classroom with them.

3. These at risk students will get “out of school time” education that generally is a privilege for students in higher socioeconomic households.

As stated in point one, without these initiaves our low-income students are automatically put at a disadvantage. We need to give them a fair chance at success in their academic careers.

4. These students will be one step closer to graduating high school.

Studies have shown, again and again, for the reasons mentioned above, that low-income students are more at risk for not graduating high school. Our goal is to get them to graduation to be college or career ready. In today’s competitive work force students need their diploma to have secure financial future to be able to end the cycle of poverty.

5. A small community like Salisbury, MD, will be stronger.

Even if you are reading this and you do not live in Salisbury, our community is probably very similar to yours. We have good points and bad. We’re not a huge city with ample opportunities for our students but were not small either. We consistently fall on the lower end of the scale when looking at the wealth in the state of Maryland. (Wicomico County)

Horizons Salisbury has dreams of expanding to all the shore but we need to keep the Wicomico County program strong first.

Our students are the future of our communities, and the more we support them and get them the education they deserve, the better we will all be as a whole.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. If you have any questions or concerns about the above information email me at Bglenn@horizonssalisbury.org. we appreciate your consideration in helping this cause and remember, no donation is too small to make a huge difference for at least one student.

If reading this after National Giving Day, you can support us anytime at http://www.horizonssalisbury.org