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 Family, Mental Health, Opinion, parenting, Uncategorized

The importance of ignoring

When I see the breakdown starting; the clenched fists, the low growl, the slanted eyes, my first reaction is start figuring out exactly what happened to trigger her. Sometimes I have to know. We were having such a nice time, and boom. But through the past two years of dealing with emotional disorders in my child I have learned that sometimes it’s best to ignore it. Ignoring is a controversial topic and I’m not here to change your mind about it necessarily, but there are pros to learning when to meddle and when to let be. Image result for preschool tantrum

Last night we had a tantrum starting. It was late, close to bedtime, and she wanted to watch a movie. Of course she knew it wasn’t going to happen but as soon as I start explaining why she fell to the floor, kicked her legs, and yelled at me “no, no, no, movie”. She did this lovely little regression she does when she’s not getting her way. She’s five now, so this kind of behavior is getting to be not age appropriate. I started trying to talk over her but decided to use the ignore tactic instead. It may or may not have helped there were other people there at the time. My husband and mother were both standing, watching her little body flare on the floor.

“I can’t talk to you when you are acting like this so I’m going in the other room until you’re ready.” (Note: I could still hear/see her she wasn’t in any danger for anyone who automatically goes to the worst case scenario). I expected the usual heightened screaming and yelling but I heard nothing. She stayed on the floor and kicked a few

more times, then got up and calmly said, “mommy can I just have my bedtime snack?”

I hugged her and told her how great of a job she did calming herself down and gave her a snack.

Ignoring has it’s time and place. Some people think you are sending the child mixed signals. That ignoring their negative behaviors is showing them you only care when they are being “good”. I used to think that’s what ignoring her would mean. To me though, there’s a difference. If she’s having a panic attack or is uncontrollably upset about something, no I would not leave her alone to figure it out. If she’s angry to the point of losing control, no I would leave her alone to define her inner emotions herself. If she’s having a tantrum or a fit over something like a snack, movie, etc, yes I will. The main argument I have seen, is that the child is trying to get attention and that ignoring will only make it worse or make them feel isolated and

unwanted. I do think this would be the case if that child is ignored daily or if the child is too young to understand. If you aren’t listening to their stories and questions, and then ignoring them AGAIN when they’re having a breakdown, yeah they’re going to feel like they just can’t do anything right. However, there is such a thing as negative attention. I know, *gasp* this is life altering, but in an age of helicopter parenting and children not being capable of ever doing wrong, it bothers me that this is overlooked. I also feel that a one year old having a breakdown and a five year old are two very different things. Look at the age appropriateness of your child’s behavior and don’t ever leave an infant or toddler alone.

The perks and benefits of ignoring:

    1. You won’t lose your sh*t- you shouldn’t yell at a toddler or child having a tantrum. I do think “monkey see, monkey do” is a thing. They see you yelling at them yelling, then they in turn need to yell at you, because they’re yelling, and it’s just so loud. Losing your cool is going to happen but in the case of a mini meltdown, just say “we’ll talk when you’re ready, I’m right over here” and walk away. No yelling, no threats. Related image
    2. End the need for negative attention- once your child realizes ‘hey, mommy isn’t going to sit here and stare at me and give me what I want’, they will stop.
    3. Resist the urge to over explain- if you ignore the tantrum then you are not as tempted to sit there and try to have a reasonable conversation with them while they can’t even comprehend their own feelings. Talking it out only works AFTER the tantrum has subsided.
    4. Teaches appropriate responses- when your child starts to realize that they get nothing when they lash out but conversation and better end results when they communicate, they will try to communicate more effectively. Just keep in mind again the age appropriateness of what you are expecting your child to say/do. “That is not how we behave” is pretty much the staple explanation to tantrums in my house.
    5. Self soothing- again there’s mixed feelings out there but I think self soothing is a HUGE plus for children to learn. I don’t have someone around all the time to hug or hit or yell at or talk to or whatever I may need at that time. You have to learn that sometimes you have to soothe yourself. Children with emotional needs even more so.
    6. It’s not cute or funny- one recommendation that drives me bonkers is to use humor to diffuse the tantrum. I love humor, we use it a lot, but how is that teaching the child to deal with their feelings? “Hey I know you’re angry and sad but let’s just forget that for minute and look at this funny face I’m making ahhhh so great okay let’s go play”. Um, what? That’s not a great life lesson and I don’t want my kid throwing a fit every time they want play and be funny with me. Just you know, say so.Image result for kid laughing then mad gif

AGAIN, you know your child and you know what is a sad cry, angry cry, frustrated cry, and “I just can’t believe you aren’t giving my ice cream for dinner” cry. You can decipher better than anyone else when these tactics should be used. I would use more support and physical contact when the tantrum seems uncontrollable and the child really needs your guidance. I am talking from dealing with emotional disorders but obviously all children can benefit from knowing what to do and when.

The best way to ignore it in my opinion, is to stay close but act like it doesn’t phase you that your child sounds possessed. Start cleaning or straightening up the room next to him/her. Check on them, make sure they aren’t escalating. But don’t give in to the demand. That’s the biggest part of this whole scenario. Make sure they understand that you love them dearly, but reacting that way is harmful and hurtful and most all not effective.

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

Impulse Control, or lack there of

Stop hitting your brother.

Get your hands off your brother.

You can’t make your brother dance if he doesn’t want to.

Put down your brother.

He’s not a puppet, stop trying to make him talk.

No you can’t sit on his lap you’re twice his size.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST STOP TOUCHING YOUR BROTHER!

…impulse control. It’s one of the most difficult symptoms of ADHD that I have encountered. The endless talking, the inability to stop touching things, the constant

movement. More importantly, the lack of control. It’s hard as a parent and someone who grew up in a strict home to understand “can’t”. (Warning: Double negatives ahead) She can’t not touch him. She can’t not move around the couch. She can’t not speak over anyone else who is trying to speak to you. Anyone. Ever. And then of course is the backlash of “that’s just being a kid.” Just to clarify there’s a huge difference between a hyper child and a child with ADHD. A hyper child may have some issues keeping their hands to themselves, but in a child with ADHD you can see the physical discomfort as they try to restrain but can’t. If you haven’t had to see it that’s wonderful but I assure you it’s a problem.

Now that I have a better understanding of my daughter and what she’s going through I know now that no medicine is ever going to be able to help her in this area. Some parents can use the available treatments out there but even so, no amount of medication is going to work without some cognitive intervention.

How to handle impulse control:

    1. It’s okay to get mad/sad/frustrated. Just try to not project that onto your child. Yes, they need to be made aware that their behavior is not okay, and that it is causes conflict; however, making them feel guilty or responsible for your bad feelings is a bit much for a young child. For an older child, like 8 and up, I think they should know that what they are doing is causing you stress. That way you can work together on a plan of action.image
    2. Repeat yourself constantly. Something I loooooathe doing is repeating myself. I repeat; I loathe repeating myself. Did I mention I loathe it? Loathe what? Oh, repeating myself. Sometimes this is how it feels to talk to my daughter but I have to. I have to tell her many times that it’s time to put on pants. Most kids will putter and delay the inevitable but when impulse control is an issue it can take hours. Literally. Just to get dressed. One piece of clothing at a time; “Go put on your shoes”, “Please go get your shoes”, “I know that’s a beautiful a picture you just drew when I thought you were putting on your shoes but now you really need to put on your shoes”, “You know what? You can put them on in the car.” – not the best ending but it happens.
    3. I do believe in praising a child for being able to do something that is difficult for them. I think that it builds esteem, creates a bond, and gives them incentive. I do believe in special treats and awards. However, when my daughter started saying things like “if I’m good all day at school today I can have a snack when I get home right?” and I said, “Why don’t you be good all day at school today because that’s what you’re supposed to do and it will make me happy?” I got “the look” but we did have a good day that day. Awards can be over done but I feel like praise can’t, as long as it’s genuine. Kids are smart, and if you start praising them for every little thing (“Oh my gosh you walked down the hallway and didn’t trip that’s AMAZING”) they will know it’s not sincere. Praising for things that are milestone with impulse (“I’m so proud that you were able to get dressed before breakfast today, thank you.”) I think builds that positive experience.
    4. Routines. I’ve already posted about the importance of routines but consistency is crucial when teaching impulse control. If you do (blank) than (blank) happens and you feel (blank). This statement works for good and bad instances. Consistent punishments and consistent rewards are necessary when trying to change behaviors. We have a schedule for after school: snack, play outside, come in and help set table, eat dinner, play alone, bedtime routine.
    5. Learn the beauty of physical work. Chores. Wonderful chores. Cleaning up her bedroom has little appeal (although sometimes she really gets into it). However, doing things she sees me doing like the dishes, setting the table, feeding the cat, wiping down counters and tables; are all things she likes to do on her own. It occupies her, burns some energy, and keeps her out of trouble. I am starting a chore chart soon so we will see how that goes. Also, running is a godsend. Make up reasons for them to run. I like to pretend that the swing set in the furthest corner of our yard is the safe zone. So, she has to run from there to the house several times per game.
    6. Along the same lines, games are great tools for learning a new skill. Simon Says is one of my favorites. We play inside and out. When inside I like to put down colored paper in the hallway and make her go back and forth. If she steps off the square before I say the next “Simon Says” she loses. This teaches her to wait and listen to instruction before acting.