Friday, June 28, 2013

Mystery Readers with FREEBIES!

Happy, happy Friday!  I am not here today, but you can find me guest blogging today over at~


Click here to learn all about how to implement a Mystery Reader program in your classroom!  I give a brief overview, a few tips, and include some FREEBIES to get you started! 

Also, if you enjoy reading my blog, please vote for me for the Top 25 Teacher Mom blogs for 2013. Click the button below .  You can vote once a day until July 9!

 

 And finally, today is the last day that my What Are Jellyfish? informational reading packet will be 50% off (just $1.75!). You can read all about how I used this packet and a simple, fun, and gorgeous jellyfish craft my boys and I made by clicking the picture below.



Have a blessed weekend!

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Blog Lovin and A Bit Overwhelmed!

As many of you have probably already heard, Google Reader will be no more after July 1.  If you're like me, you don't want to miss any of your favorite blogs' updates!  Although I follow many blogs via email, it is not feasible for me to follow all 300 that way! That is where bloglovin' comes in.  I have recently joined and I like the streamlined look and how easy it is to use. 
Add all your favorite blogs and receive all new and recent posts in one feed!   To follow my blog, just click the link below!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin


In other news, I'm wondering if I am the only one who is feeling extremely overwhelmed with the chaos of my life?  I know that summer is supposed to be teacher "downtime", but the reality is that many of you are working either from home or outside of the home.  Some of you may be actively looking for a new job, preparing to change classrooms, grade levels, or schools. Others of you may have personal and/or family issues that are demanding your time, attention, and energy.  And, quite a few of you may be just starting to decompress from a long, rigorous year of teaching.  

For me, I have shared with you that I am in the midst of major, major changes.  Now, the"chaos" of my life that I mentioned above is really a good chaos.  We are moving to a new house in a new town in just two weeks. At the moment, we are going back and forth between two homes, as our new one is under major renovations.  My current home is a labyrinth of boxes and piles of items to be packed.  I am trying to keep life as normal as possible for me and my two youngest sons, who are a little reluctant to be moving from the only house they have known for the last seven years.

On top of that, I will not be returning to my teaching position in the fall. Instead, I will be fulfilling a dream of mine to be a stay-at-home-mother and a homeschooling mother! My head is swirling with ideas and with uncertainties of  how I will work out all the logistics and details.  My future homeschool room is a mess right now, as the remodeling is taking place. 

I'm moving on to the unknown, and that can be pretty scary. I don't know quite what to expect, how this will all work out, or even if it will work out the way I have planned in my head.

But that is ok.  I'm somewhat of a risk-taker, and am not afraid to make changes in and out of the classroom.  However, that doesn't mean that all this change and chaos is easy for me because it is not.

So, when I am feeling afraid, exhausted, and am drowning in all my responsibilities and obligations, when my best doesn't seem good enough, I turn to the only place I know to give me peace, solace, hope, and an attitude readjustment.  That is God's word~the Bible.

 


Graphics:  The School Supply Addict.  Font by A Cupcake for the Teacher 


Graphics:  The School Supply Addict.  Font by A Cupcake for the Teacher

Where do you turn for encouragement when life is a bit too overwhelming?  Do you have any favorite quotes to share?  I'd love for you to share them!
 
 

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ramblings of a Writer



Writing is a dreadful labor, yet not so dreadful as idleness.
~ Thomas Carlyle
I have a confession to make:  writing is terribly difficult for me.  It's something I often dread, fret over, agonize over selecting just the right word, and always feel as if the finished product is horribly inferior and needs to be deleted.  All this, even though I have a BS Ed. in English and have written a Master's thesis, journal proposals, and more essays and research papers than I care to remember! In spite of it all, writing calls to me like a siren, something I yearn and desire to do ever since I could hold a pencil and form letters. It's how I process my feelings, my ideas, my frustrations, my goals, plans, and the manner in which I can drain my brain of the barrage of ideas that bombard me at all hours of the day and night.
Ever since I taught eighth grade language arts so many years ago, I have also shared with my students that writing is difficult for me.  I tell them that it does not come easily, is quite painful sometimes, and that it takes much effort and perseverance.  I am not one who can bang out an impeccable piece of prose in just a matter of minutes. However, because of my intense desire to write and the cathartic nature of putting pen to paper or tapping the keys, so to speak, I have not given up, do not avoid writing, and love, love teaching writing to students of all ages.  
 Smiling Pencil
As I was thinking of teaching writing, I  wanted to share what I do as a writing teacher that may be of interest or help to you:

  • Every writing task that I ask students to write, I do as well.  This has many benefits.  First, it gives me a rough idea of how long it will take students to complete a piece ( at least 50% longer than it took me). Also, it gives me insight as to whether my directions or the prompt was clearIt gives me a model to show the students of what the finished product may look like if I do not have student examples. And it helps me break down the task into teachable parts.
  • I share my writing as samples of the entire process from brainstorming to publishing.  This allows for authentic modeling of the process and can be used when teaching mini-lessons on word choice, revision, transitions, writing purposes, etc.
  •  I use a writer's workshop model when possible- to allow for choice and voice in student writing, for individualizing writing to match student interests and abilities, and to foster an authentic community of writers.
  • I use anchor charts and lots of them!  In true fashion, I create them with the students on chart paper and do not create them ahead of time.  They are hung on the focus wall and around the room for students to use as they work independently.  
  • Students maintain a writer's notebook that is used for Quick Writes, as a dialogue journal, for responding to creative journal prompts, and for experimenting and practicing skills and strategies we are learning during whole group time.  The student's portable word wall is also kept in their journal.
  • I do my best to create a risk-free, can-do environment-  Because writing is difficult for me, I am sensitive to those writers who need time and lots of it to get started, to craft their piece and who need to spend much time "polishing". Learning, including writing, is such a social activity!  Students work collaboratively, I make use of an Author's Chair, and work with students in Guided Writing groups where I can focus on specific skills or strategies and offer scaffolding.
Writing can be dreadful, but it can also be extremely rewarding and let's face it, is more important than ever before in our digital and social media age.  Blogging for me is something that I enjoy immensely even though I know that I am not the best, creative, or most talented writer. And that's ok.  And that is also why I cannot even tell you how astounded and shocked I was when I discovered a little message in my email this morning that informed me that my little blog had been nominated for the Top 25 Teacher Mom blogs- 2013 from Circle of Moms.
 
 I am honored and humbled to be in the company of the other super talented nominees, many of whom I recognize and respect so much! I'm not sure who nominated me, but I thank you from the bottom of my little, grateful heart!



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Sunday, June 16, 2013

My Father Was a PIG!

Yes, it's true that my father was and still is a PIG!  Let me explain... throughout most of my childhood, my father was a trooper in the PA Sate Police.  By the time he retired some twenty-five years later, he was a Lieutenant and station commander.  I was fascinated by his uniforms, shiny badge, his night stick, and his pistol. Later, when I was a teenager, he was a criminal investigator dressing in plain clothesI still have vivid memories of him putting on his bullet-proof vest and placing his pistol in his leg holster where it was hidden from view.  It didn't really hit me until after I was grown the danger he faced day and night...the fact that he was willing to risk his life in the name of justice, and the sacrifice he made for his family as he worked very long hours on very little sleep.

One memory I have as a first grader, is the belt that he wore when off duty.  It had a huge, shiny belt buckle that said PIG on it.  Now, at the time, I was too young to know that this defamatory word was slang for "cop" (a name he detested; he preferred police officer).  On the buckle was written:
 Pride
 I integrity 
 G uts

This pretty much sums up my father and he used my formative years to not only teach me what these words meant, but to model them as well.  He always told me "Actions speak louder than words" and "Don't tell me, show me".  He had no patience for lip service or half-hearted attempts to do the right thing.  When I struggled as a teenager, I remember him taking a piece of paper and writing GUTS on it.  He slid the paper across the table to me, and told me that this is all I needed to make good choices.  Have the guts to do the right thing, no matter what others are doing or saying.  Have the guts to maintain your character and integrity; strive to live a life of purpose that glorifies God. Take pride in yourself, your work, your family, your house, your life. For many, many years, I kept this piece of faded and crinkled paper in my wallet as a reminder of that conversation.

There's so much that I am thankful for on this Father's Day. The impact my father made on me is tremendous.  He is one of the most self-less, loyal, intelligent, and loving people I know. I am blessed, so blessed, to have a close relationship with him. We're a lot alike in that we struggle to maintain our patience, have a bit of a stubborn streak, have difficulty keeping our opinions to ourselves (although we have both improved in this area!), and tend to view the world as simply black or white/ right or wrong. I'm so grateful that my three boys are influenced and loved by this man of God. And, for my husband, who lost his own father four years ago, my father has graciously stepped in as a father figure for him.

Dad visiting my first grade son's classroom in April

I think that what the world needs is more PIGs.


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Friday, June 14, 2013

Mockingbird: Young Adult Literature About Asperger's


 

 A few weeks ago, I completed an on-line course about young adult literature via ThinkportThroughout the summer, I will be sharing the strategies, ideas, and book suggestions that I learned from the course.  For our culminating project, we had to write a lesson plan for a young adult novel of our choice; the book I chose was Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine.   When I saw that Andrea from Reading Toward the Stars! was starting her weekly "Book Talk Thursday" linky party, I just knew that I had to share this book with you and join the fun!

Why did I choose this book?
This novel deals with several tough issues that sadly affect many kids today.  One of those issues is Asperger's Syndrome, something that has touched my life personally, as my oldest was diagnosed with this disorder six years ago.  Not only is the ten year old protagonist struggling with her Asperger's diagnosis, but with the loss of her brother who died in a school shooting.  Considering recent events, this novel offers a glimpse into how students, families, and communities deal with such a tragedy.  Adolescents enjoy reading books that present challenges that they can relate to and that can help them sort through and make sense of the world.  This book does just that.  Moreover, the book is written in an easy-to read style, yet is rich in symbolism, references to the classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, metaphors, idioms, and vocabulary.

What is this book about?
Ten year old Caitlin is grieving the loss of her older brother who died in a school shooting. He was her rock, her best friend who helped her to make sense of a very confusing world, as she was coping with the loss of her mother a few years earlier and a recent Asperger's diagnosis.  He was the one who gently guided her in understanding appropriate social behavior and interactions and offered her a refuge when the world became too overwhelming.  Now he is gone, her father has isolated himself as he tries to make sense of a world without his wife and son.  Caitlin begins her quest for closure and along the way realizes that the world isn't as black and white as she had thought and ends up bringing healing not only to her own family, but to her entire community.

Who would I recommend read this book?
 This novel, Mockingbird, is appropriate for socially and emotionally mature fifth to eighth grade students who can handle such sensitive issues.  As well, I would highly recommend this book for any preteen or teenager who is struggling with the isolation of Asperger's Syndrome and for their family and classmates as well.  It offers a realistic glimpse into the mind and world of a child with Asperger's and how our individual differences are to be celebrated.

If you are interested in purchasing the book, you can check it out here:





Have you read a good book lately?  Click the button at the top of this post to join the linky and to share either a children's or adult book that you recommend!



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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Independent Play With {GASP} No Technology!

I don't know about you, but as a parent, I often place pressure on myself to be actively engaged with my sons all.the.time.  Now, I have been a parent for twenty years and know better.  It is not realistic, nor is it healthy for parents to constantly entertain their kids.

Today I took the boys to the lake. We were in a hurry and left the house without any sand toys.  I was curious to see how my six year old would do with his "brave talking" (he's the one with Selective Mutism) when around other children.  We placed the beach blanket on the sand, and I plopped myself into my chair as the boys ran excitedly to the frigid lake water.  I almost got right back up to play with them, but then stopped myself. I decided to "kid-watch" instead. And I'm glad I did.

Immediately, the boys began to swim and play in the water with intermittent squeals as to how cold the water was.  Christopher had remembered his over-sized water gun that was in the swim bag.  As soon as he ran back to the water's edge, and squirted his brother, it attracted the attention of a few kids around my boys' age.  Ok, here was the test... would Christopher talk? 

Not only did he talk, but I could hear him suggesting games to play like "run from the shark" and collecting "lake weed" (LOL- "There's no sea weed in a lake", he said.). He and his brother were laughing, running all over the beach, and playing with toys their new friends shared.


So, today's experience reminded me that kids need independent play without a helicopter-mom like me peering over their shoulders and structuring their play.  Kids need playtime.  Period.  And I'm not talking about playing their tech gadgets.  I'm talking about real, old fashioned play. But,why is this so important?
Independent, tech-free play is critical because...
  • it fosters independence... it teaches kids how to entertain themselves, a necessary skill they must learn as they grow and mature.  Independence, slowly moving away from mom and dad's constant direction, is a crucial life-skill. Kids need practice in making good choices when they have "down time".
  • it teaches kids about cause-effect, consequences of one's actions, and problem-solving.  The more children play independently with themselves, or with other kids, the more they learn about how their actions affect others and how to solve problems without running to mom or dad to solve them.
  • it teaches kids creativity... to use their imaginations through play.  Turning off the television, the game systems, the iPads, etc. allows for kids to remember that the world is their playground. Go tech-free for a day and watch in wonder as kids rediscover their Legos, Lincoln Logs, the possibilities of an empty cardboard box, making up new games, the fun of building a "tent" out of blankets in the living room, and the thrill of a good book.
  • it fosters social skills... like how to meet new friends, how to take turns, how to compromise, how to be a team player, and gives extra practice interacting with others in an unstructured environment.  These skills can, in turn, be applied to more structured situations like a classroom environment.
  • it provides them choice on their terms... kids love when they can choose what activities they can do and make up their own rules without parents dictating to them (all within reason, of course)..  So, if they change the rules as they are playing a board game, that's ok!  That's creativity!
Now that summer is here, and unstructured time is plentiful, I am challenging myself to allow for more independent, free play time without my boys relying on technology or me to entertain them. I don't have to have every minute of their day planned and structured.  I just need to let them be kids.

How about you?  How do you remedy the "I'm bored" complaint or encourage your children or students to play independently?


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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Are You a Duck or an Eagle?

 A few years ago, my Headmaster shared this inspirational story with our faculty.  I just ran across it again and desperately needed the reminder. Maybe you do too. Complaining and whining can be a a waste of time... it depletes our energy... it doesn't allow us to use our gifts to bless others, especially our family, students, and colleagues.    Enjoy!


Harvey Mackay, tells a wonderful story about a cab driver that proved this
point.

He was waiting in line for a ride at the airport. When a cab pulled up,
the first thing Harvey noticed was that the taxi was polished to a bright
shine. Smartly dressed in a white shirt, black tie, and freshly pressed
black slacks, the cab driver jumped out and rounded the car to open the back
passenger door for Harvey .

He handed my friend a laminated card and said: 'I'm Wally, your driver.
While I'm loading your bags in the trunk I'd like you to read my mission
statement.'

Taken aback, Harvey read the card.

It said: Wally's Mission Statement:

To get my customers to their destination in the quickest, safest and
cheapest way possible in a friendly environment.

This blew Harvey away. Especially when he noticed that the inside of the
cab matched the outside. Spotlessly clean!

As he slid behind the wheel, Wally said, 'Would you like a cup of coffee?
I have a thermos of regular and one of decaf.'

My friend said jokingly, 'No, I'd prefer a soft drink.'

Wally smiled and said, 'No problem. I have a cooler up front with regular
and Diet Coke, water and orange juice.'

Almost stuttering, Harvey said, 'I'll take a Diet Coke.'

Handing him his drink, Wally said, 'If you'd like something to read, I
have The Wall Street Journal, Time, Sports Illustrated and USA Today.'

As they were pulling away, Wally handed my friend another laminated card,
'These are the stations I get and the music they play, if you'd like to
listen to the radio.'

And as if that weren't enough, Wally told Harvey that he had the air
conditioning on and asked if the temperature was comfortable for him.

Then he advised Harvey of the best route to his destination for that time
of day. He also let him know that he'd be happy to chat and tell him about
some of the sights or, if Harvey preferred, to leave him with his own
thoughts.

'Tell me, Wally,' my amazed friend asked the driver, 'have you always
served customers like this?'

Wally smiled into the rear view mirror. 'No, not always. In fact, it's
only been in the last two years. My first five years driving, I spent most
of my time complaining like all the rest of the cabbies do. Then I heard the
personal growth guru, Wayne Dyer, on the radio one day. He had just written
a book called You'll See It When You Believe It. Dyer said that if you get
up in the morning expecting to have a bad day, you'll rarely disappoint
yourself.

 duck01



  He said, 'Stop complaining! Differentiate yourself from your competition.
Don't be a duck. Be an eagle. Ducks quack and complain. Eagles soar above
the crowd.''

'That hit me right between the eyes,' said Wally. 'Dyer was really talking
about me. I was always quacking and complaining, so I decided to change my
attitude and become an eagle. I looked around at the other cabs and their
drivers. The cabs were dirty, the drivers were unfriendly, and the customers
were unhappy. So I decided to make some changes. I put in a few at a time.
When my customers responded well, I did more.'

'I take it that has paid off for you,' Harvey said.

'It sure has,' Wally replied. 'My first year as an eagle, I doubled my
income from the previous year. This year I'll probably quadruple it. You
were lucky to get me today. I don't sit at cabstands anymore. My customers
call me for appointments on my cell phone or leave a message on my answering
machine. If I can't pick them up myself, I get a reliable cabbie friend to
do it and I take a piece of the action.'

Wally was phenomenal. He was running a limo service out of a Yellow Cab.

I've probably told that story to more than fifty cab drivers over the
years, and only two took the idea and ran with it. Whenever I go to their
cities, I give them a call. The rest of the drivers quacked like ducks and
told me all the reasons they couldn't do any of what I was suggesting.


Smile, and the whole world smiles with you.....

A man reaps what he sows. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at
the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up...let us do good
to all people.


eagle in sky
 Ducks Quack, Eagles Soar!
 

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Simplicity and Peace

Did you do a double-take when you stopped by to visit me?  You are in the right place!  It's me, just with a fresh new blog design, thanks to my favorite designer, Christi from~
Design by Christi

To celebrate my one year blogiversary and my commitment to continue sharing my parenting and literacy stories, I needed a make-over to reflect the changes in my life.  Major changes in my professional and personal lives.  This year has been all about simplicity and my quest for peace. Real peace that invades my soul...that reminds me of my purpose in life... that transports me from living in the past to embracing the present.

Peace that I have fleetingly grasped and longed for.  The peace that can only come from knowing and serving my awesome God.  But see, I need to do my part too.... for me that meant that I had to simplfy my life.  Too much clutter had not only over-taken my house but my mind as well. Over the last school year, I have been in the midst of many changes and so it continues.  I have simplified my life by coming home to care, to minister, to nurture my family and myself. I am cleaning out my mind and my house- getting rid of the garbage once and for all.  
 
doves of peace

Not only have I resigned from my teaching position and decided to homeschool my youngest son next year, but we are in the process of moving as well!  Change has always been scary for me, but I have never been one to stay in one place based on my comfort level.  Atlthough I have had to force myself to make major changes, whether it be accepting a new teaching position, leaving public school for private school, or being a SAHM, all change is uncomfortable, yet necessary for growth.  Some of my changes did not, at the time, appear to be wise choices.  Kind of like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, so to speak.  But upon reflection, I learned from those choices, "mistakes", and challenges. These experiences grew me.

So, as I am packing up my house, throwing out the clutter, and getting ready for a new adventure, I am keeping my goal in mind so as not to get overwhelmed. The goal of attaining a simple life that allows me to focus on what I love most: my family and my dedication to literacy instruction.  The lure of the woods and the view of the regal mountains where our new home will be is on my mind.  I want to be immersed in peace, to be a peacemaker, and to spread peace to those whose lives I interact with on a daily basis.

Thank you for accompanying me on my journey!  I have some more work to do on my blog since the design is brand-spankin' new and I have a new informational reading packet that will be finished this week.  Stay tuned!  

And may peace be with you!



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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Against the Odds: Why I am Choosing to Homeschool

Whether I am making major decisions in or out of the classroom, I usually follow a process and do my best to refrain from making rash decisions based on emotions and reactions.  First, I will research to see what the experts have to say... I will then pray... I will make a list of pros and cons... I will pray... and along the way talk to family, friends, and colleagues who have made a similar decision.

 

A few months ago, my husband and I started to seriously discuss my homeschooling our youngest child.  The one with Selective Mutism.  The one that although has struggled since he entered preschool as a three year old, has made incredible progress with his social anxiety.   His academic performance is within the normal range, he ended his kindergarten year whispering to his teacher, even giving a couple presentations in front of his class and parents (all whispered- but still he stood up and "talked").  He now looks forward to attending friends' birthday parties (although he won't speak or whisper to the other children), talks to clerks and waitresses, talks to strangers in the neighborhood, and when visiting new friends' homes.

But this is also the kid that for this entire school year would come home from school angry, frustrated, and sometimes full of rage.  Just when I would get him calmed down, it would be bed time and his anxiety about the next day would drive him to tears.  In the morning, my usually jovial child would refuse to get dressed and sob that he did not want to go to school.  He begged me to homeschool him. We knew that much of this behavior was a result of  him not being able to talk out loud or express his emotions the entire day.  All his emotions were repressed and stifled.



First day of kindergarten... note his facial expression

Once he got to school, his day would go better.  He never did talk out loud, but thanks to his teachers and everyone from the custodians to secretaries to the principal to teacher aids, he became more relaxed and comfortable.  However, looks are deceiving.  Inside he was filled with anxiety.  All.day.long. He did not talk or whisper to other children at recess and did not like days when the routine was altered such as when there were parties.

But he made it through a rough school year.  And so did I.  But then my husband and I decided that what was best for our family was for me to not work outside the home.  With that decision meant I could no longer afford to send the boys to the private school they attended.  The school we all love.  

The thought of putting Christopher in public school terrified him and me. He had made so much progress in and especially out of school with his social interactions.  We were afraid if he were to attend public school next fall, he would regress, which is common in some children with Selective Mutism when faced with major changes. Their coping skills are immature and they are not equipped to deal with the "normal" stressful situations that their peers can.  For many S.M. children, school is the source of intense pressure and anxiety.

So, we entertained the idea of homeschooling.  God had called me home to nurture and take care of my family.  Did that also include homeschooling?  What did the research say about homeschooling a Selective Mutism child?  Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum, a leading expert in the field of S.M., states in her book Easing School Jitters for the Selectively Mute Child (2011) that she is against homeschooling the S.M. child unless there is consistent social interaction with the child's peers.  Yes, the parent(s) can provide authentic, "real-world" social interactions throughout the day as the parent attends to errands and appointments.  However, learning is a social activity that is optimized when collaborating with one's peers.  How would I replicate that in a homeschool environment with only one child?  Would attending a co-op setting once a week be enough?

After more praying and talking with colleagues, including my son's guidance counselor, we made the commitment to homeschool next year.


Why Have We Chosen to Homeschool ?
  • To prevent Christopher from having to deal with too many changes that could possibly affect his mutism.  See, what I have not mentioned thus far is that we are also moving to a new town thirty-five minutes away.  In three weeks, he will leave the only house and neighborhood that he has ever known.  We think that moving, leaving his school, and entering a brand new school would be too much.
  • God has called me to be home with my children as a stay-at-home mom to fulfill my calling as a full time mom who is not distracted my the pressures and demands of also working outside the home.  I want all my decisions to glorify God and to be what is best for my entire family. That includes bringing my child home to educate him. To allow him to embrace learning in an environment where he can talk about his learning. As teachers, we know how very vital it is to discuss one's learning. Brain based research tells us that learning is not a solitary behavior. Learning is augmented when done is social situations that involves various modalities and social interactions.
  • To capitalize on Christopher's progress in social situations outside of the house.  He has worked so hard and now talks in public in almost all situations.  Within the last two weeks, we visited two new friends' homes.  He talked out loud, played, and interacted with the other children.  Children he had never met before.
  • We want to help him apply these skills in more structured, "school-like" situations.  For example, attending craft time at the library.  Participating in sports.  Attending homeschool functions and co-ops. We want to remove the stress from a brick and mortar school and work on changing his perception that any school environment is frightening.  We will take baby steps to help him develop more appropriate coping skills in dealing with his intense anxiety.
  • And eventually, we will help him to desensitize and apply these skills when visiting his older brother's school.  If he accompanies me to his brother's school without the pressure of being a student there, then there is a very good chance that he will feel comfortable, may even talk out loud, and be able to transition to the school in a year or two.
  • In a nutshell, because his social anxiety is now almost exclusive to school situations, if we remove him from a traditional school, we lessen the stress. In turn, we build off his strengths of socializing in other public places, and then desensitize him to a new school environment, the one his brother will attend.
I realize that homeschooling is not for everyone.  I never in a million years thought that I would homeschool.

But this is my story, and I'm sticking to it. 

What is your story?  Do you have any pearls of wisdom to share as an experienced homeschool parent?  I welcome your advice and suggestions!




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Monday, June 3, 2013

Tips for the Challenges of Autism

Please give a big, friendly welcome to my guest blogger today, Tasha, from A Tender Teacher for Special Needs. She is blogging about something near and dear to me heart:  Autism.  Whether you are a parent of a an Autistic child, like me, a teacher of Autistic children, or have a loved one on the ASD, you will enjoy reading today's post


Tips for the Challenges of Autism
Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder are general terms used to describe a cluster of intricate disorders that affect brain development.  There are varying degrees of this disorder that cause difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and behaviors that are repetitious.  The ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) umbrella consists of 5 subtypes: Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Rett’s Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder.  There are slight differences between these 5 subtypes, but the medical treatments and educational needs are congruent.
          Social interaction for autistic children is very challenging. The challenges that autistic children face with social interaction are very different, depending on the child. He/she can be nonverbal or may only speak a few words. Autistic children that are able to speak at their appropriate age level struggle to show facial expressions and emotions. There are actions that parents and professionals can take to teach social interaction. Eye contact is something that can be taught. Parents and professionals should take every opportunity to make eye contact. They can take time to do this through playtime or sensory activities. Another activity to teach social interaction is a game called charades. Most people are familiar with this game, but it really is effective when using picture cards of emotions. Lastly, use a mirror to teach facial expressions! Autistic children do not have a strong sense of self awareness, so this is really good practice.



       Communicating with other children and adults is also important for kids with autism. Like social interaction, communication will depend on the individual child’s needs and abilities. A popular strategy used for communication is schedule cards. Autistic children process and accept visual representation a lot better than someone just telling them what to do. It also gives them a sense of security because they will know what to expect each day. Another great strategy to use is picture cards. Autistic children get sick and upset just like we all do. Sometimes the only way they know how to express their frustrations are through screaming, hitting, biting, etc. Picture cards are an effective and safe way for them to show if they have an empty stomach, stomachache, or headache. Lastly, it is important to use very few words when communicating with autistic children. It takes them a little longer to take in and process our words. Therefore, the shorter you can keep your sentences, the better. It’s important to be concrete about what you say and that you give them plenty of wait time.
          Repetitive behaviors can be unhealthy or even dangerous. It is important to break any habits as quickly as possible. Positive and negative reinforcements will come in handy for this. To determine what kind of reinforcements to use, it is important to learn the child’s needs and interests. A lot of times, repetitious behavior is used for self-calming. Children with autism do not like to be touched most of the time, but they still need to feel loved and safe. Sensory integration can be very beneficial when showing a child proper ways to get that stimulation they need. Some sensory activities are; workboxes, swinging, deep pressure therapy, jumping on a trampoline, toys that are squeezable, and brushing their arms and legs with a soft, bristled brush. Be sure to brush in the direction that their hair grows though. Another possible reason for repetitive behavior in autistic children is that it may pertain to their interests. Be watchful and take notes to see when the repetitive behaviors are taking place. If you think it’s because of an interest, try to incorporate their interests into meaningful activities. 

 


          I hope that I have provided information in this post that can be useful for you in some way. Autistic children are challenging, but they need people to care and be patient. Sometimes that is hard to do when you feel like you are out of answers. I’d like to ask that you don’t give up on them. If something doesn’t work, try something else. They may not be able to verbalize it, but they need you.
     I’d like to give a big thank you to Lauren for allowing me to be a guest blogger on her page! It has been a joy to connect with Lauren, write this post, and to share it with others. If you want to connect, please visit my page at ‘A Tender Teacher for Special Needs’. I also have a freebie that I created specifically for young children with ASD at my TpT store. If you’ll click on TpT, it will take you directly to the item. It helps teach them to count from 1-10. Thank you for reading my post!


Thank you so much, Tasha, for this insightful post and for sharing such practical ideas that we can use!  Please make sure stop by Tasha's blog and show her some love!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Flag Day FREEBIE!

"You're a grand old flag, you're a high flying flag..."  No matter if you call the symbol of our country "Old Glory", "Stars and Stripes", or "The Star Spangled Banner", our American flag has an interesting and important history!


With that in mind, I created a little Flag Day informational reading activity that my boys and I will complete the week of June 10 during our summer "fun" school!



This little packet includes a two page informational reading article on the history of our flag, just perfect for first and second graders.  It's very simple and easy to use whether you are still in school or on summer vacation!



And... it is FREE to download and print for the next few hours!   Just click here to visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store to grab your copy!

To add to my little Flag Day summer unit, I plan to read a few of these books with my boys:  Patriotic Books from Reading Rockets.

AND, you must check out these adorable American Flag Marshmallow Pops that we are going to make.  The super simple recipe is here.


Don't forget to grab your FREEBIE!  After sometime later today, it will be listed in my TpT store for a mere $1.50!

Enjoy your Sunday!


 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

June Currently

It's here!  June is finally HERE!  Can you tell that I love, love summer?  Time for Farley's Currently!


~I enjoy watching mysteries and court dramas and 48 Hours is one of my favorites!

~My boys has their last day of school yesterday!  WOOT!  I'm so excited to spend many lazy days hanging out with them!  They already have big plans for the summer!

~We are trying to go to closing on a short sale house we have *almost* bought.  I say almost because we keep running in circles with the bank.  Word of advice:  NEVER purchase a house via a short sale.  The red tape and headaches are not worth the savings!

~It's been a very challenging year, and I'm dreaming of being at the beach. The smell of the salt water, the feel of the ocean breeze, and the serene sight of the majestic sea soothes my soul!

~My home office is beyond messy.  Clutter everywhere and I detest clutter!  I just finished an online class and my kids' end of the school year papers are every-where! Monday, yes Monday I will clean and organize my office!

~The #1 item on my vacay list is sunscreen!  I have had skin cancer, surgery, and reconstructive surgery and I NEVER want to go through that again.  I wear sunscreen every.single.day, (12) months a year.  I must also take books or my kids' Kindle Fire to read, read, read!  And since I don't have a Smart Phone (gasp!), I need to take my laptop to keep up with my social media!

Farley's Currently is always so much fun!  Come join the fun and link up here.

I'll be back tomorrow with a Flag Day FREEBIE for you!
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