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 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, 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, health, Mental Health, Opinion, parenting, Social Change, teaching, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

They’re after me Lucky Charms!

There are three things that I am very passionate about. Three things, that if I were asked five years ago would I care about them, I would have probably answered with “eh not so much”. Simple living used to mean being boring, education used to mean finishing college- didn’t really care about the general education system, and nutrition meant making sure I ate something in between my three daily energy drinks.

Now these things mean so much more to me.

I would like to start with a nutrition post. I know I’ve already lost some of you, but I promise I have good reason!Image result for nutrition meme

Growing up, I knew what healthy was. I still know what healthy food is. Everyone knows what healthy food is. But do you know just how unhealthy the unhealthy food is? And do you know how unhealthy some of the healthy food is? And do you know why we don’t know these things? How are we all not dead yet?

Well, it sounds like we’re speeding up to it. I heard a quote recently that I cannot for the life of me remember where I heard it, but in short it said; our generation of children growing up now, will be the first to not live as long as their parents. THAT’S TERRIFYING.

There are plenty of areas to pick on: fast food, sodas, processed foods, etc, etc. But what I accurate breakfast cereal cocoa puffs box changedam going to focus on is a food that hurt me. It hurt me deep.

I grew up on bags of off-brand sugary cereals. We also had the “healthy” cereals like Cheerios, Corn Flakes, etc, but those usually got topped with a spoon full of sugar. All of these were mixed with skim milk, so you know, totally healthy breakfast.
accurate breakfast cereal froot loops box unchanged

This probably sounds pretty normal to most of us. Without these sugary cereals I probably wouldn’t have made it through college. Most poor college kids ate Ramen noodles, I ate Captain Crunch. My pregnancies were both a blur of doctors appointments, insomnia, getting fat and swollen, and Fruit Loops. Then I discovered Fruit Loops with marshmallows; forget about it! I could go days just eating that.

*Before I start savagely ripping into cereal companies I want to say that I am only picking on them so hard because I felt the most duped. Yes sugar is blatant but the rest…eh…

Cereal companies are some of the biggest villains in the advertising world. Cartoon characters are featured on almost every cereal that is catered to young children. Why? Because kids like cartoons. They also are easily swayed with brand recognition (hello Disney). Those brightly colored familiar faces are all placed strategically towards the lower shelves where little eyes can see them better. Cereal companies also are great with flowery words that hide some of their horrible ingredients. A few years ago (2013), Kellogs had to pay a few million because they were advertising that Frosted Mini-Wheats helped children focus and do better in school. Obviously that’s an unfounded claim but I bet it was totally believable when you saw it on tv. Kellogs also got busted for claiming that Rise Crispies were beneficial to your health. Eh, not so much.

As I have posted about before, my daughter has had emotional problems pretty much since birth, if that’s possible. I have an autoimmune disease that is steadily getting worse it seems like with no plausible cause or cure other than medications that I refuse to take. Both of us seem worse off when we have cereal in the morning. Is that science? Not really, but it did make want to do some research.

Youtube brought me to a gentleman who introduced a chemical to me that I had never heard of. Trisodium Phosphate.

Image result for trisodium phosphateImage result for trisodium phosphate

I checked my own box at home, and sure enough this isn’t propaganda. It was right there in front of me.

“As the cereal maker noted repeatedly, “TSP itself is safe and the amount of TSP in cereals is tiny. It’s a water-soluble salt that helps adjust acidity.”” This was taken from an article defending General Mills. I understand that as a counter argument but I just can’t shake the feeling that I shouldn’t be eating a chemical cleaner. Now, it has been compared to baking soda, which can also be used as a chemical cleaner but is found in many baked goods. Possibly the same? I don’t know, I’m not comfortable with it because I don’t know. And I feel like most people weren’t aware of this either.

They are supposedly removing artificial coloring from their cereals slowly but surely so there’s that. As of now though, a lot of cereals still have these artificial coloring in them. Let’s look at those shall we?

They are known as the Southampton Six by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (which have been pushing for the removal of these dyes). The Southampton Six include: Red 40, Ponceau 4R, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Quinoline Yellow, and Carmoisine.

Red 40: comes from petroleum distillates or coal tars. Mmmm yummy. Red 40 can cause allergic reactions in “some people”. No big whoop, a lot of things do. They can also cause hyperactivity in children especially if they have ADHD or ADD. *Collar pull* eh okay, I mean so can sugar and stuff so go on…it also contains “p-Credsidine, which the U.S. Department of health and Human Services says is “reasonably anticipated” to be a human carcinogen.” Ah…well…shit.Image result for red 40 coal tars

On studies done on poor little lab mice, Red 40 caused immune system tumors, lower reproduction success, decreased brain weight, and lowered the chances for their offspring to even survive. The argument is, as usual, it’s okay in small doses. The problem is, on FDA labels there is no guidelines that makes companies list how much Red 40 is in their products. Ergo, you have no idea how much you are eating. I think just skipping it entirely would be your best bet. Red 40 can also be called Allura Red, Allura Red AC, and Red No. 40. The other problem is some foods that are not red or orange still contain Red 40. Pickles, dressings, BBQ sauce, and some cheese may have it in there.

Yellow #5 or Tartrazine: I remember in high school hearing that guys that drank Mountain Dew had lower sperm counts.

Image result for uh what gif

Apparently, this view was widespread enough that the Wall Street Journal ran an article about it and Dear Abby advised her readers to not use Mountain Dew as birth control. The culprit is tartrazine. Again, tartrazine has been linked to hyperactivity in children. In 2010, the FDA actually released a memo that stated “for certain susceptible children with ADHD and other problem behaviors, the data suggest that their condition may be exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including but not limited to, artificial food colors”. Of course this is only going to effect a small number of consumers who have ADHD, ADD, or other mental disorders. There have also been studies done on allergic reactions to Yellow 5, particularly with children on medications, and their inability to fully get beneficial treatments because of it. Yellow 5 is already banned in some European countries.

Image result for jacked up on mountain dew meme

But what about the sperm issue? Apparently there was a study done in 2009 in Algeria and another done in 2010 in India that showed reduced sperm count in mice when they were given tartrazine. Just slightly, mind you, so I wouldn’t bank on that for safety.

Blue, dabbodedahboodah: Blue No.1 & Blue No. 2: “Brilliant blue” was originally made from coal tar like red, but now a lot of places are able to make it from an oil base. “Indigotine” is a textile dye. Again, these are both relatively safe when ingested in small amounts but have been linked to hyperactivity. Blue dyes have a unique set of worries because their dangers have been linked more to skin absorption and entering the bloodstream via tongues. A study using pigs and the blue dye showed the dye did indeed enter the bloodstream. This was worrisome because “several studies show that these dyes might inhibit cell respiration”.

In addition to dyes there is the ever present argument of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Sugar is obviously one of the main ingredients in most children breakfast cereals. There is a laundry list of problems associated with excess sugar consumption: liver damage, diabetes, hyperactivity, obesity, metabolic dysfunction, even things like depression can worsen with too much sugar. It has been proven that sugar is as addictive, or more so, than cocaine. Again, the problem with sugar being on the ingredients list is you are given the grams. So, let’s say Golden Grahams has 14 grams of sugar per serving which is probably a cup, or half a cup. What does that mean to you? Probably not much. Food companies are not required to put a percentage next to sugar to show how much you should consume in a day like they do other ingredients. Like so:

Image result for food labels no sugar percentageImage result for food labels no sugar percentage

I do believe that there are motions to put another label under sugar that says “added sugar”. Again though, it will only give you grams, no percentages. It would seem that if they can give you percentages for fat and sodium, they should for sugar too right?

So what am I saying? Do you have to cook a homemade breakfast every morning or risk feeding your kids and yourself poison? No, that would be ridiculous. My daughter loves Lucky Charms. Loves them. Like if a box of Lucky Charms and I were hanging off a cliff and she could only save one I would be worried about my chances for living. However, I will definitely create a better diet that will restrict Lucky Charms, and all the other unhealthy cereals, to very limited consumption. Everything in moderation. So what do you do the rest of the mornings? Here are some things to limit and/or stay away from if you can manage it, and a list of better options:

 

The Good

Puffins cereal

Cascadian Farms

Kix

Kashi

Oatmeal

The Bad

Lucky Charms- the first ingredient listed is whole grains…that’s about where anything nutritious stops. The following ingredient is marshmallows or sugar. However, there is about 3 grams of fiber but there are also color additives. So, it’s a battle for this one but on rare occasions I think I will still allow Lucky Charms in my cabinet.

Frosted Flakes- Anything that says “frosted” you should probably not consume in high doses. Frosted Flakes is fat free and all that jazz but high is sugar and carbs. I don’t think any dyes to speak of though, so an occasional bowl is probably okay.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch- Surprisingly, this cereal has a little less sugar than it’s siblings. I think maybe the cinnamon flavoring helps? I don’t know but they are made from whole grain with only 28% of it’s calories being from sugar so that’s better than some. Still very high in carbs.

Corn Pops- A little less sugar, a little more fiber, but does contain hydrogenated oils. So not an everyday cereal by any means.

The Ugly

Honey Smacks- Used to be called Sugar Smacks but they wanted to sound a little more healthy. They have one of the highest sugar levels of all the breakfast cereals available. No fiber to speak of and an additive that actually makes you overeat makes this one Image result for crying facecereal I will probably not buy again. And this was one of my favorites.

Apple Jacks/Fruit Loops- Huge amounts of sugar, like no fiber, and tons of color additives. Pass.

Crunch Berries- I love the captain, I really do. And apparently most people that make eye contact with him do too (28% of consumers who made eye contact with the Captain bought Captain Crunch). However, I will have to exclude Crunch Berries from my occasional splurge because of the sugar, and the dyes.

Cocoa Puffs- I’ve never been cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs but even the few times I may crave these sweet chocolate cereals I will have to pass. The second ingredient listed is sugar with no healthy ingredients to combat the amount of sugar per serving.

Reeses Puffs- Although not as high in sugar content as some of the others on my ugly list it is high in color additives.

Posted in Family, health, Mental Health, parenting, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

Other than hyper…

When you think of a kid with ADHD or ADD, you may picture a small child swinging from a ceiling fan while making loud monkey sounds. Or maybe they’re on top of the kitchen counter trying to jump rope. They are, more or less, always hyper to the untrained eye.

Image result for child with adhdHowever, having a hyper child doesn’t mean that they have ADHD. Most children, at least a majority of them, have a resource of energy that adults just don’t understand. The phrase “he/she’s been running all day, how is she not tired” could be for any toddler or adolescent.

On the reverse side, not all kids who have ADHD/ADD act out in a hyper manner. Some are very often caught daydreaming or “in the zone” when doing something. Since children with ADHD get distracted very easily, some sufferers need to completely tune into one thing they are doing. If anything else is going on they will lose focus and not be able to complete task. They may not appear hyper but they are struggling nonetheless.

The difference really comes down to, is it negatively affecting your child’s life? A lot of times ADHD/ADD can’t be identified until they are in Kindergarten or older because their limitations of concentration haven’t really been tested. From what I have seen in work and at home, there seems to be three categories that ADHD/ADD symptoms are lumped into most often: Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.

Inattention:

  • Difficulty organizing
  • Cannot remember directions and has trouble with completing tasks
  • Seems to not be listening when being spoken to
  • Constantly losing things or putting them where they don’t belong
  • Difficulty concentrating on schoolwork or activity for the amount of time it would take to complete it

Hyperactivity

  • Can’t sit still; fidgets or constantly moves feet when sitting
  • Gets in and out of chair when sitting at table or desk
  • Talks excessively and usually loudly
  • Difficulty playing quietly

Impulsiveness

  • Interrupts, even when you are answering something they asked you
  • Struggles to control physical movements
  • Blurts out answers (if in classroom)

I think it’s important to note (since this is how I realized we may have a problem on our hands) that ADHD/ADD is linked with behavior issues. It’s easy to understand why, once you start to think about how a child with ADHD has to process the world around them. Frustration, anger, fear, anxiety, and low self esteem are all very real feelings for kids suffering through this. Parents may be exhausted and beat down but even when your child is screaming they hate you, they are probably going through more emotional turmoil than you are.

Some other symptoms that are not mentioned as much but still may be a red flag are:

  • Aggressiveness
  • Bold and no fear (meaning they will talk to strangers, climb on anything and not care about the idea of getting hurt)
  • Unable to hop on one foot (up to age 4)
  • Complete loss of control (for parents who experience this, it’s like a tantrum on steroids)

 

I am putting this information out there for parents who may be on the fence about whether or not their child has ADHD/ADD. There is a lot of literature available about how ADHD/ADD does not exist. That it is a made-up disease for pharmaceutical companies and to label overactive children as a way to explain their actions and behaviors. In the past three years, I have learned very clearly that is inaccurate. While medicating a child is a separate topic completely, I think we need to realize that mental illness is completely, 100% real, and that it does affect people of all ages, even children. Until that stigma is gone I feel a lot of children who need help won’t get it.

On the same note, I have said it before, I do think it’s also over-diagnosed as well. Do yourself a favor, if you think your child has a problem, go to a doctor. Not your pediatrician, but a counselor of some kind. They will be able to tell you after a few sessions and talks with you whether your child is just very energetic or if there’s something else going on. There are many natural remedies to some of the behaviors you may be experiencing and with just a little tweaking here and there you may see a huge difference in your child at home and at school.