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, teaching

Kind of-Sort of-Unschooling

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

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

One book about unschooling I enjoyed—>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unschoolers with feedback or success stories are welcome to comment 🙂

Posted in 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.

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 Family, fun, Opinion, pop culture, Uncategorized

30 clean jokes for Dad and Joke Day!

June 17th is Father’s Day and July 1st is International Joke Day. So many good reasons for bad jokes.

Why does it seem so much easier to think of dirty, not child appropriate, jokes when put on the spot?

Image result for laughing gif

Because we’re all just wrong in the head.

However! I am here to save you with some kid friendly, but hopefully still funny, jokes and puns to share for Father’s Day & International Joke Day!

  1. Two muffins are in the oven, side by side. One muffin says, “It’s really starting to get hot in here.” The other muffin looks over says “WOW! A talking muffin!”
  2. What do you call an old snowman? Water
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  4. I couldn’t figure out why the basketball was getting larger. Then it hit me…
  5. I’m good friends with 25 letters of the alphabet. I don’t know Y.
  6. What’s the stupidest animal in the jungle? A Polar Bear
  7. “You know, it’s times like this I wish I would have listened to what my mother told me.” “Why, what did your mother tell you?” “I don’t know I wasn’t listening.”
  8. Can a kangaroo jump higher than the Empire State Building? Of course, the Empire State Building can’t jump. Image result for laughing gif
  9. What did the buffalo say when his son went off to college. “Bison.”
  10. A horse walks into a bar. The bartender says, “hey.” The horse says, “yeah sure.”
  11. What’s red and smells like blue paint? Red paint.
  12. What did one cell, say to his sister cell when she stepped on his toe? Mitosis
  13. Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.
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  15. What’s brown and sticky? A stick
  16. My mom told me to stop acting like a flamingo, so I had to put my foot down.
  17. A friend said to me the other day, “what rhymes with orange.” I said “No, it doesn’t.”
  18. What do you call a dog with no legs? It doesn’t matter, he’s not going to come.
  19. What did one nut say to the other when it was playing tag? I’m a cashew.
  20. If you say “Raise Up Lights” you just said “Razor Blades” with an Australian accent.
  21. The lawyer told the judge, “my client is trapped inside a penny.” The judge asked “what?” “He’s in a cent.”
  22. Image result for clean jokes
  23. A man was washing his car with his son, when his son asked “dad, can’t we use a sponge instead?”
  24. What do you call Bears with no ears? B
  25. Why was the math book sad? It had too many problems.
  26. Image result for clean jokes puns
  27. “My dog has no nose.” “Well how does he smell?” “Terrible.”
  28. How do you make an egg roll? You push it.
  29. Why do seagulls fly over the sea? If they flew over the bay they would be called bagels.
  30. Image result for clean jokes puns

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Posted in Family, Opinion, parenting, Uncategorized

Explaining Death to Children

Not the best topic in the world for a blog post by any means, but thanks to some unfortunate circumstances in my life I have been thinking about this a lot lately. How to explain death to a child. Some children unfortunately experience it early on, some don’t

until they are older and arguably more able to deal with it. Some people like myself, don’t lose anyone close to them until they are an adult. Everyone grieves differently and everyone processes the idea of death differently. Kids included.

Having a five year old that I have to explain this concept to is not something I am super excited about. You can’t really avoid the topic of faith and spirituality on some level when death becomes a point of conversation. For someone like me (I’m sure some of you can relate) who struggles constantly with their faith, it becomes even harder sometimes. I know what I need to say in so many words but how? and what do I leave out?

I know her little inquisitive mind is not going to be okay with “well he’s in heaven now”. “Where in heaven? How do I see him? Can he see me? Can he hear me? Should I yell louder so he can hear me? What if wants to come back? What if he gets lost? What if he’s not there? What if…how come…when does…”

I can’t answer all of her concerns honestly and I’m a terrible liar trying to make up the answers as I go.

I did find some good resources I wanted to share in case anyone else might be going through this situation as well:

How to Talk to Kids About Death