Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Ethics of Teaching Children a Lesson

Lately many pages and online friends have touted the "benefits" of teaching children lessons. Apparently there is an idea that children must be psychologically tricked into realizing the severity of some choices they may or may not make as older children and adults. I find this deeply disturbing. Not only do some of my (supposedly) attachment parent friends consider this to be the case, but many pages that claim to be in tune with nature and natural practices also subscribe to this belief. Personally, I find this disturbing for many reasons.

1. This idea supports the choice of experimenting on children and using psychological tactics to prove a point. This is the direct opposite of what attachment parents are supposed to do. We are supposed to model proper choices, be patient, and discuss issues/solutions.

2. This type of experiment often denies informed consent. No, a parent should not consent to a child being part of  psychological trickery in order to prove a point or do research. A child should be able to consent to any such test, but children are not always capable of this. In those cases, no consent can be given and no test or experiment should occur.

3. How would you feel if someone told you one thing, which possibly upset you though you did nothing wrong, then told you it was just a trick to see what you would say or do because you needed to be taught a lesson or because someone "needed" data?

4. How would you feel if someone thought you were only capable of true critical thinking if you were tricked into it? What if everyone thought you would not understand through modeling, reading literature, listening to and participating in discussions, and volunteering? I know that I deserve more respect than that, don't children?

5. Do we really need to make children feel bad in order to teach them a lesson? No, of course not. If you feel the need to make someone else feel bad in order to teach them, then you are not a fit teacher.

6. Putting your cause above children's rights, health, and safety (whether physical or psychological) is evidence that you are not putting children first. You may say you are doing the right thing, but you are not.

7. You are breaking the care giver/child bond when you use trickery to "teach". This can shake a child's confidence and affect decision making int he future with regard to friends and also partners. Unfortunately, one very negative experience can impact these decision making skills for life.

I could go on all day, but for now this is enough food for thought. Please remember that your actions directly affect how a child behaves. Trusting your child and modeling steadfast decision making skills are huge indicators of how your child will behave later in life. Trust yourself and trust your child. We are all inherently good.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Conditional Autonomy and Safety

I often hear parents tout the right to body autonomy when we discuss topics like non-therapeutic circumcision of minors or ear piercing. This is a valid discussion, of course, but in the same breath some parents will say other types of intrusions of autonomy are acceptable. After all, the parent must make some decisions for a child, right?

This type of autonomy is conditional autonomy. It is something we activists rarely discuss because conditional autonomy causes arguments and frustration. This topic often divides us and that never helps children's and human rights causes. The problem is that some of us see other intrusions as a strike against autonomy while others are mired in their authoritarian and ownership culture so much so that they feel necessary to implement authority over another person's body even if that person is not in imminent danger. I do not mention this topic to condemn, but rather to bring to your attention some of the issues that apply to the topic of conditional autonomy.

Many activists that I know tell me that genital cutting is wrong, but "spanking" is perfectly fine. After all, those kids deserve it if they do not bend to the parent's will at first warning. The problem is that genital cutting is a one time thing, though it does draw blood and harm, and spanking may happen repeatedly. Both behaviors can get out of hand or harm. Neither behavior can be agreed to, via informed consent, by a minor. So why is it acceptable to do one and not the other?

This topic does not stop at spanking, but that is a prime example for conditional autonomy. This topic can extend to blood work, genital exams, hair cuts, time outs, forced learning, and more. If a child is not in danger, then he or she needs to make these choices even if very young. Recently a study came out with findings that show young infants have a sense of self. There are several sites, such as NPR, that reported this information. All three of my children could wash their bodies by age one and tell me if they wanted a doctor to examine them or not through words, sounds, and behaviors. It is my job to honor these wishes unless they are in imminent danger for some reason. They do own their bodies and I have no right to over turn their choices unless they are in danger.

Valuing the autonomy of others, especially our children, helps them learn that they can say "no" and that they need to accept another person telling them "no". This teaches children that others cannot force their will. This teaches the child not to harm others and not to accept harm from others. Each time we make a choice, especially one that affects autonomy, it can chip away or it can build up the child's concept of self ownership.  This is why we must value autonomy without conditions. I would much rather go to the dentist one hundred times than have my child learn, by being forced to lay there while scared or while being restrained, that his or her autonomy is conditional upon the wants of someone else.

I hope this topic opens a dialog within your life because it has absolutely changed the way in which I treat my children. As a result, my children are now more confident in themselves and they often stop bullying of others when they observe it. My children have been known to speak up and ask me for help even if an adult is bullying a child. This is not typical in our American culture, yet it is refreshing to see the next generation stand up against those who bully or harm.

 This is a different post I created some time ago due my observations of conditional autonomy.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Review of This Little Kiddy Went to Market : The Corporate Capture of Childhood written by Sharon Beder with Wendy Varney and Richard Gosden

 Many of us already know that our children are a marketing tool that companies use to sell products.  We know that incessant whine that some children have at the store when they see an impulse item they want. Many of us avoid children’s television shows or magazines because of the advertisements placed within them. Our children need to be protected from such things and our wallets thank us as well. This Little Kiddy Went to Market : The Corporate Capture of Childhood, written by Sharon Beder with Wendy Varney and Richard Gosden, not only presents evidence regarding advertising  and marketing to children, but also chronicles the fairly recent events within education worldwide that affect our children and their future.

As a former teacher and a parent, I spend much of my time researching education trends and news. Though This Little Kiddy Went to Market : The Corporate Capture of Childhood was published in 2009, there are still many topics we currently see in education today. Chapter Five discusses the de-funding of schools. Many of us think that there is a recession to blame or a high jobless rate to blame. However, the de-funding of public schools can be traced back to corporations, lobbyists, and lack of willingness to pay for community services like schools. The exciting part of this trend, for corporations at least, was that they could then go ahead and implement what the authors call “fundraising schemes”. Examples of such schemes are BoxTops4Education, Campbell’s Labels for Education, and other similar programs. You see by de-funding schools, these companies no longer have to pay high tax rates. These companies, and others, used those funds to create schemes that not only “help” the schools they de-funded, but also to build brand loyalty. Would you say no to a school in need of money? What if you have no money to donate? Sure, then you would absolutely share your box tops or labels in order to help the school. After all, it is for the children, right? The corporations make themselves look like “the good guys” after sneaking around and beginning as the “bad guys”. If you read far enough into this book, you will find out more pertinent details. For example, how many teenage boys out of every ten will be prescribed psychotropic medication if they attend a doctor appointment? (Hint: See page 205!)

I could go on forever singing the praises of the research-based information within This Little Kiddy Went to Market : The Corporate Capture of Childhood, but I prefer to ask you to read the book. Once you have this information, it will be difficult to see childhood and education in the same way. As with anything in life, follow the money and you will find the reason for legislation. 

Below I have listed some of the more thought-provoking quotes from the text. Please consider reading this book and sharing the information with others. Knowledge IS power and power helps us to make responsible choices for ourselves and our families. 

“Teachers have always used tests of various kinds to assess how well students are learning and which students are falling behind. However, standardized tests are aimed at assessing teachers and schools rather than for educational purposes” (p. 83).

“Standardised testing encourages poor teaching practices” (p. 89).

“Standardised tests are very good for testing the sort of knowledge that can be drilled into students, rather than real learning” (p. 91).

“The greatest victory of business reformers was the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act” (p. 101).

“The push for high-stakes standardized testing has created many business opportunities, as government funding is channeled into tests and texts rather than teacher training and reducing class sizes” (p. 107).

“Those who promote rewards and punishments in school tend to view learning as unpleasant work that has to be coerced, and increasingly it is” (p. 118).

“One of the most useful means of expanding markets for drugs is provided by the recently developed imperative for early intervention” (p. 211).

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Oh Good, Pink Ribbons Are Everywhere Again

As I picked up a few items for my family this morning, I noticed pink ribbons on signs all over the store. The signs said "Support Breast Cancer Research". I tried to put the signs out of my mind even though  pink is a stereotypical "girl" color, girls can enjoy more than just pink, and men CAN get breast cancer.

Unfortunately, something kept nagging at me. I wondered, as I walked along the store aisles, why genetically modified foods were in a store that requested customers to support breast cancer research. Isn't that counter-productive? Then I thought about the flu shots they push and thought about my children's vaccine injuries. I wondered how closely cancer and vaccines are related. I continued to ponder these issues, then cleaning chemicals came to mind and that was basically the last straw.

Seriously? Support cancer research, but sell cancer causing items? Sorry, no, try again. I will support breast cancer victims by feeding my children organic and non-sprayed foods as often as possible. I will keep their immune systems healthy by no longer vaccinating them. I will breastfeed until they self-wean so their cancer chances, and mine, are lessened. I will make available research and information. I will make sure my children have the chance to make educated decisions about their health. If my funds allow, I will continue to donate to individual families touched by cancer and other illnesses.

I suppose I am just venting my concerns, but if even one person stops and does some research, then I am thankful. The truth is that we can help spread information and sympathy through our actions even if we do not embrace the pink ribbon.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

SPD, Toilet Learning, and Communication

My son has been toilet learning for at least a year and a half. He is capable of staying dry and urinating in the toilet. He is somewhat capable of having BMs (bowel movements) in the toilet. He began toilet learning, by choice, before I expected him to do so. Yet, he is not completely finished with the process. No worries, I don't mind wiping the BM up or buying pull ups since he got a rash from cloth diapers and training pants regardless of how I washed or dried them or which fabric I used.

One issue that came up recently is my son's unwillingness to use speech as a communication tool. He can speak and often does speak at length. He is very intelligent and though he does zone out at times, he can snap back to reality as well. Today my son had a BM in his pull up type pant. Instead of calling me, he chose to take a toy and throw it at his oldest sister. Now keep in mind that this child has my father's pitching arm. My dad was up for a draft into minor league ball around age 19, but told the team no and chose to stay in college and play ball there instead so he could use the scholarship he earned. So the child has a killer arm and nails his target about 97 percent of the time. Poor big sister was not happy with him.

Once I heard my oldest child howl in pain, I checked on the situation and found that my youngest had a messy pull up, ten minutes before we had to leave the house of course, and he was having trouble letting me know what he needed in a socially appropriate way. I scooped him up and we chatted about kind, gentle ways to explain his need for a change. We checked on sister, then made sure little one had a new pull up.

My son was very resistant to learning sign language as an infant and toddler, but we have been working again because he is now interested. I suppose it is time to make a list of needs he may have and teach him those specific phrases in sign language.

I appreciate my daughter's patience with my son. I am thankful for sign language, which I hope will alleviate the current issue. Wish us good luck! :)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Slut-Shaming Pisses Me Off

Last night, before I went to bed, I noticed that many of my Facebook friends were making fun of a celebrity. Apparently this young lady had chosen to move her body in ways that many people consider to be less than "tasteful".  Let me be clear, there is NO EXCUSE for bullying. NEVER!
There is no excuse for slut shaming, either, which is the specific type of bullying I saw last night.

Fast forward to this morning when I saw even more people online slut-shaming and bullying this young lady. It does not matter who the person is, if he/she/other will see what you write or if he/she/other has some affliction or disease. BULLYING AND SLUT SHAMING ARE NEVER OK!

You are not a true feminist if you slut-shame. 

The bullies are the ones who sexualized this young lady. They created more of a rape culture through their bullying. They reinforced negative social constructs regarding gender, feminism, sexuality, and the human body. The truth is that we all have the right to do as we wish with our bodies as long as the behavior does not harm anyone else's body. No one has the right to bully or slut-shame because we do what we choose with our bodies. End. Of. Story.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Everything is an Emergency....

Everything is an emergency....

......when you are a preschooler living with sensory processing disorder.

One of my favorite books is Parts written by Tedd Arnold. In this book, a small boy is upset because he thinks his body is falling apart. It turns out that his parents forgot to tell him that it is normal to lose teeth, have ear wax, and have skin peel away from your body at times. This story always made my kindergarten students laugh because they have also wondered about such things.

The story also rings true in my own home. Today, while preparing dinner, my older children and I heard my son screaming from the other room. He was sitting and playing with blocks when I went into the kitchen, two feet away, to get dinner ready. Once I turned the corner and saw him screaming, I thought perhaps he had injured himself. It turns out that he had chosen to pick at a scab on his ankle and it opened up. His ankle began to bleed thus creating a hysterical child situation that lasted for around thirty minutes.

Many children would be upset about a scab bleeding if it was the first time it happened or if they were worried about the blood so my son is not the only child who would react this way. Most children would calm down quickly once they knew a parent or guardian was on the case. My son just kept screaming and basically not making sense to me. Eventually he let me carry him to another room and set him on a chair so I could get a better look and clean up his then bloody foot as well. He refused a band aid, but eventually let me carry him back to his play area, because he simply could not walk in his opinion. After an hour, he decided he could walk again, thank goodness.

He is very dramatic about everything. After all, in his mind EVERYTHING is an emergency. Hugs and love to everyone out there who has a child with similar behaviors. It is not easy to be empathetic all the time, but you can do it. The empathy and effort are worth your time in the long run. :)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Privilege And Entitlement

I have noticed many people discuss privilege in newspaper articles, blogs, and social media lately. This is an important topic and we should discuss it thoroughly. However, I notice that there is some misunderstanding as to exactly what privilege means.

First, we must define privilege. Privilege is a right or benefit. If a person has privilege this may apply to perks associated with skin color or having plenty of disposable income, among other things. A person with a traditionally Caucasian name may have an easier time finding a job because some employers pre-judge a person, whether they mean to or not, because of a name. A person whose family has wealth receives benefits because he or she has enough money to avoid student loans if college is attended. Many people without such wealth do not even have the option of higher education even if they want it.

Many people have at least one type of privilege. Perhaps it is easy for you to have children and you have never struggled with fertility. Maybe you did not have to pay for college due to scholarships or family wealth. Perhaps you have fair skin and a traditionally Caucasian name. All of these are some form of privilege.

While privilege can lead to, but is not the same as entitlement. Privilege is something you inherently have either at one point in your life or throughout your life. Entitlement, when discussing privilege, is when you take privilege and use it for gain because you think you deserve it . Entitlement is still very ingrained into modern society in many ways. An example of entitlement would be when a person says another does not deserve children because fertility is only easy for those who are meant to have children. Entitlement also occurs when someone assumes that a female cannot do a job properly, but a male can do that job well. Entitlement occurs when police officers use racial profiling to determine who is stopped or investigated for a potential crime.

We need to discuss privilege so that we, and our children, do not take our privilege and use it to harm others. We need to discuss privilege so that we can move away from the way things are to a world where all people are considered equal regardless of age, ethnicity, sex, etc. We must be sure to evaluate our behaviors and attitudes often so we can choose not to buy into privilege, but rather focus on a world view that includes all people. Privilege is only here to stay if we choose to let it continue to rule us. It may take time, but we can force change.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Postal History Foundation Educational Freebies

A local friend was kind enough to let me know about a free program that the Postal History Foundation runs. This program allows educators, whether public school teachers or homeschooling families, to order supplies that include stamps and activity sheets for educational purposes. The lessons serve children from preschool ages to high school. They take donations as well, so feel free to support this fabulous educational program. I included pictures below of the items I requested. There is also a link below for anyone interested in this service.

Postal History Foundation

Topics include composers, authors, geography, alphabet study, and more.

My youngest was the only child who wanted a picture of his work. They all the had fun, though.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Sense of Touch, Bonding, and My Sensory Child

 Today my husband went to pick up his dinner. He frequents fast food restaurants, if you can call them restaurants, so this is fairly normal. I cook for myself and the children and he gets food "from out".

My son said goodbye to hubby, then went to play while my husband was away. When hubby returned, my son threw his toys in the air like a graduation cap, and then ran to me screaming. "Dad is home! Give me a hug!", he said. My son then proceeded to hug me with all his might and ask for a kiss as well. I asked why he did not get a "daddy hug". He said it was because he does not like for other people to touch him.

My son was exploring during a science club nature walk.

As you can tell from the above story, my three year old son does not always feel comfortable hugging his father. He has always had trouble bonding with others. He does well with me, but perhaps that is because I was his food source from the beginning, before his sensory issues came into play. Truth be told, there have been times when he would not accept comfort from me either. As he has grown, those times have lessened.

Sometimes I feel sad because of this, but really it is not something I can force. If I forced him to hug or hold hands with someone he was not comfortable around, it would cause regression and his sensory issues would probably get worse. I am very thankful that I found peaceful and attachment parenting. Child-led development is best.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Absence of a No: Body Autonomy Goes Beyond the Foreskin

Many of my friends and family members agree that children's bodies should stay intact, especially their genitals, unless there is a medical issue that cannot be solved in any other way. This makes sense. After all, who should be in charge of your body, you or someone else?

I want to remind people that we ALL judge. Some of us are more vocal about our summations than others, but we all judge. It is a normal human instinct to size up your environment and gauge safety for yourself and others. It is not normal to insult. It is normal to be honest. If someone gives  information or an opinion, it is not "bashing". Bashing is calling someone names or making threats. By the way, I will be the first to admit that I am often blunt. It is not because I dislike someone, but rather because I am not one to beat around the bush.

Recently I noticed a great many of posts online as well as blog shares that discuss haircuts and children. Sometimes they are cute posts and blogs because the child asked for a haircut and style. Sometimes they are sad because a hairdresser was not professional or a parent forced a child to get the haircut and it turned combative. These posts and blogs got me thinking. Why is it that so many young children are getting haircuts?

Stop and think about it. Did the child ask for a haircut? Even if the child seems happy to sit for a haircut, was there an opportunity to say no? Did the child ask for the cut, and then say "stop"?

I do tend to be an attachment/peaceful parent. If my child asks for a haircut, then changes his mind, I stop. I do not care if the style he wants takes more than one try or sitting. It is better to honor my child's worries, anxiety, and need for safety than to push that child further into his anxiety. We have come too far with his SPD to have regression because I forced something unnecessary on him. He needs to know that he is in charge of his body. My son needs to know that I will make sure no one encroaches on that right. He needs to know that the words "no" and "stop" are valid and honored. This teaches him about his rights and the rights of others.

If a child is forced, for example by being restrained, to have a haircut it can make that child regress. I have also seen restraining go wrong and children get hurt. The only time I have the right to restrain is when a child would otherwise be harmed. For example, if a child runs toward the road I stay close by and use my words. I pick the child up only if using my words does not work.

It amazes me the lengths we will go to defend something we do. Oh, but it is hot. Oh, she hates tangles. He will not sit still. She was screaming. Oh, but he has a special need. She asked for it, but now is not so sure so we will do it anyway.

None of these reasons matters. I still have no right to cut a child's hair without permission. The absence of a no does not equal yes. I realize that this term is used in other types of discussions, but it applies to haircuts as well.

I hope that rather than feeling judged, people stop and re-assess. I do this fairly often as well. I figure that a good parent spends most of the time re-assessing anyway. Certainly no one is perfect and I have made many choices I would change if I ever have to make them again. 

Much love and peace to you all! :)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

PSA My Posts Are About Me

Sometimes I forget that people who post threads, tweets, and blogs are not talking about me. Sometimes I feel emotional about a vent or information. I suppose that is just how humans are wired. My point is that I make a conscious effort to step away from my feelings as often as possible, process why I feel that way about what someone else has written, and then move on.  I have to remember that your tweets, blogs, and threads are about you and mine are about me.

Usually a vent is only a vent and information is only information.We all judge instinctively, our ancestors used this skill in order to survive, which may be why we sometimes feel poorly even when we have done nothing wrong or harmful. It is when the judging or venting goes to a place of name calling or general rudeness that we have an issue. I try not to go there. I am honest and blunt, though. (Just an FYI for those who do not know me in real life. That IS the way I am wired.) Also, I am at a place in my life where I don't care much about what others think of me.

I hope you all realize that my posts are about me, not you. If something hits you in your core please take time to figure out why. Chances are I am not concerned with you at all, but rather letting off steam so I can let go of my stress and move on with life. This is one way I am able to be a better mom, wife, and employee.

Much love to you all!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Making Progress

My youngest child is living with SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder). He has many obsessions, "odd" behaviors, and sometimes makes choices that baffle me. I used to dwell on his negative behaviors and feel depressed. Now I try to dwell more on the positive behaviors that come to light. After all, it has been months since the last time he head banged in order to hurt himself on purpose, though he still sometimes tries to throw himself down stairs or onto a hard floor. Small steps and large ones are all a celebration for us at this point.

It used to be that my son woke up screaming regardless of the time of day or for how long he slept. He could be beside me or on his own. It didn't matter, he woke up screaming. Yesterday was a WONDERFUL surprise. Not only did he wake up in a good mood, but he chose to stay in his room and play instead of come to me for "ba milk" and cuddles. He proceeded to play on his own, though I said hello and asked if he needed anything, for over an hour.

He might wake up screaming again today, tomorrow, or the next day. He might zone out and not speak all afternoon. However, I am still thankful that he is making progress and working through things. I look forward to many more positive steps forward in the future!

I want for other parents to know that positive changes do happen. It may seem frustrating or sad, but eventually things can look up. Seek support when you need it or when your child needs it. It can get better. :)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Rigor Fad In Education

There is a new fad in public school education. This fad is being driven by No Child Left Behind, The Common Core, and standardized testing. Most often the term used to describe this new fad is "rigor". We, teachers and parents, are being told that our students NEED rigorous teaching in order to learn. We are being told that without rigor, students will never learn or keep up with other countries in the modern day work place. (Perhaps in another post I will have the patience to discuss the people and companies that are making money off of this fad as this has become a very lucrative business opportunity for many.)

I am here to tell you that none of this is true. Humans are wired to learn. From birth we learn to eat, sleep, move, and make noises that communicate our needs. As we live, we learn more and more about our world. Yes, even children who are living with special needs will learn. A child may need more modeling and practice in one subject than another. Also, some children will be better at one subject than others. This is normal. After all, if you are great at repairing cars you do not have to be great at gardening. We are each unique so that we, as a species, can survive.

When I looked up the word "rigor" on the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website, I found the following information.

1 a (1) : harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment : severity (2) : the quality of being unyielding or inflexible : strictness (3) : severity of life : austerity
b : an act or instance of strictness, severity, or cruelty
2: a tremor caused by a chill
3: a condition that makes life difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable; especially : extremity of cold
4: strict precision : exactness <logical rigor>
5 a obsolete : rigidity, stiffness

b : rigidness or torpor of organs or tissue that prevents response to stimuli

adversity, asperity, hardness, hardship, difficult
I ask you, do you want your children to go to school and be faced with adversity and hardship in EVERYTHING they do? This is what is being suggested by "scholars". Well, let me be clear, some scholars who are not experts in developmentally appropriate practices will suggest rigor as a course of action in education. After all, we need to force children to learn, right?

I suggest a different approach. Talk with children, model for them, read in front of them, read with them, explore nature, cook together, build projects together, have fun together. If we pay attention, our children will lead us through their own developmentally appropriate learning pathways. They will stumble at times and we will help them. Again, this is normal human behavior. There is no need for rigor. There is a need for patience, modeling, compassion, opportunities and action.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Review of Digital Frog Homeschool Digital Field Trips

I recently had the opportunity to review several digital field trip programs that are made by Digital Frog International. I jumped at the chance, since I am always looking for ways to help my children explore and learn. Thank you to Educents and Digital Frog for giving me access to the programs for a short time in order to review them. I am giving an honest review as a former teacher and current homeschooling parent.

The first program I reviewed is titled "The Wetlands". I found this program to be comprehensive. The topics included were erosion, flooding, nutrient cycles, types of wetlands, conservation, and more. There were many animations that showed information like how a bog is formed. The animal adaptation section was interesting and informative. My children enjoyed clicking the numbers on the map to find information about different animals and plants.

The second program that I reviewed is titled "The Rainforest". I was impressed with the amount of information found in this program. The topics included food sources, animal behavior, geography, plants, pollen and seed dispersal, rainforest strata, and more. My children enjoyed learning about symbiotic relationships. Another hot topic in our house is eye shine which is the light reflected from the back of an animal's eye. Eye shine is usually observed when nocturnal animals are out and about at night. Also, the eco-conscious part of me loved the information included about human impact on the rain forest through logging, drug research, different types of agriculture, and more. This is a program we will use over and over again to learn about different topics or review information.

The third program I reviewed is titled "The Desert". My children were mesmerized by the animals and plants this field trip explored. My son asked if we could visit a desert in person. I told him we could schedule a trip in the next year. This field trip had five deserts available for exploration. This was a great surprise because the photographs and videos were not exactly the same. My children were very interested in animal locomotion which is different in sandy, hot environments than in other environments. We also enjoyed seeing the information about burrowing owls since we have burrowing owls in our hometown.

All three programs allow the user to click on an unknown word and get a definition. The three programs also had photographs and video of the animals and plants listed int he field trips. There are games in each of the programs which helped my children comprehend the information. I also appreciated the way each program used maps to help my children understand the geography and location of each field trip. Each program also has a numbered map which helps guide the user. I absolutely recommend this line of educational programs. Visiting wetlands, rainforests, and deserts is optimal. However, many of us cannot afford to visit these places which means a virtual field trip is an affordable and enjoyable way to learn.

Visit Educents here for great deals on products like Digital Field Trips from Digital Frog International.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Adventures in Grocery Shopping: Shopping with a Sensory Child

Here is a list of things that happened today while my youngest child and I were at the grocery store.

1. He climbed the cart.
2. He climbed me.
3. He shouted, though he didn't realize it was shouting. People smiled because it is still cute for a three year old to sing loudly in a store for a short time.
4. He laid in the floor.
5. He sang a quiet song after being reminded of his whisper voice which is really closer to my normal voice.
6. He threw his body on the floor and banged his head and hands on purpose because we could not purchase the juice size that eh wanted. It was the same brand and flavor, just not the same size. Apparently I was wrong to buy the larger size.
7.  I carried him for a few aisles.
8. He got down and ran full force up and down an empty aisle.
9. He organized the single soda bottles because they were not arranged to his liking. An older gentleman smiled and complimented my child on helping. (Thank you, sir! I appreciate the positive reinforcement!)
10. He shouted at me in a loud and screeching voice about the type of vegetables he wanted. He then backed away from me and fell on top of the cart wheel. He then cried and screeched more as he complained about vegetables AND falling down. (Yes, I scooped him up and held him for a bit while he calmed down.)
11. Eventually we made it to the paper towel aisle and dog food aisle. He then chose to walk backwards, not sure why, while singing and chattering. A lovely older woman giggled and said something kind, though I don't remember what at this time.
12. We went to the checkout area. He helped to use the coupons, pay, and chatted with the cashier. This may seem normal, but for a long time he ran screaming if anyone was a few feet from him. The cashier was closer than that.
13. He sang a LOUD song on the way to the car. It was titled "Heavy" because I said the cart was heavy.
14. We went home and I rested.

It was a fairly easy trip, to be honest. Busy, but not as busy as past trips. :)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Making Gains

I need to take a look at how each of my children is doing from time to time. I decided a post would be a way for me to take stock of their gains. This post is more for me, than for anyone else. But I am sharing it anyway.

My Oldest Child

She is entering the tween years so there are loads of emotions and body changes, but most days are fairly calm. She still enjoys reading and cuddles. She is very outspoken and is not afraid to speak up for another person. All in all, she is doing well.

My Middle Child

She has grown by leaps and bounds since she was diagnosed with SPD as a 4 year old. She uses her words more than whining or melting down. She is able to fix problems with clothing and hair, sensory issues specifically, on her own most of the time. She asks for help when she cannot fix an issue. She has been having a tough time wearing more than her favorite three outfits so we are working on branching out a bit and finding comfortable clothes that she can tolerate. She is trying to eat more food varieties even though the textures do not always agree with her. She is gifted at using computers and can read well. She likes to complain about anything we ask her to do, but if it is her idea she does those same things with no issue. She is not the same kid who used to come home from pre-k and bang repeatedly against the wall because she was so stressed out. She is working hard!

My Youngest Child

He still does not feel pain in most areas of his body. He still throws his body around or down in an effort to harm himself if upset. However, these behaviors are calming down with patience, modeling, and his use of words to solve problems. We are moving from a place of sensory meltdowns to a place of typical pre-k tantrums. He talks, he walks, he makes eye contact. He does NOT like to be touched most of the time unless it is me holding his hand or carrying him. His allergies are a lot better, but they still exist. He can tolerate a small amount of most allergens, but we try not to expose him. He has been able to stay with his father once at home while I went out for an hour. This was a HUGE breakthrough. i am hoping it will happen again soon. He is now comfortable playing at the park without me holding his hand. He knows how to spell his name verbally and is asking how to spell other words. He spoke to other children, that he knows through a group we attend, at a park recently and I nearly cried. Previous to that, he would run away if anyone came near him. This day he was telling them an ENTIRE story about spiders and ladybugs! We will continue to work on his loud screeching vocal tones throughout the summer.

I am proud of all three kids! :)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Meltdowns, Tantrums, and Peaceful Parenting

People often ask me how I handle a meltdown or tantrum peacefully. First, two of my children are living with sensory processing issues so they do have meltdowns related to their triggers. Often this means they are so wrapped up in the issue that they literally do not know anyone else is in the room. Second, a tantrum, in my opinion, is more likely to occur when a child wants or needs something that is not being given. This often occurs without a true trigger in my experience. You are welcome to have a different viewpoint, of course. This morning we had a perfect example of a tantrum. The details, in all their glory, are below.

I went to the bathroom, and returned to my son and daughters who were awake and happy. My daughters had come downstairs to join my son and play while I was in the bathroom.

Me: What do you three want for breakfast?
M: I don't know, but I can get it myself. Thanks, mom!
K: I may want a sandwich, but I am not sure. (Yes, they are welcome to have any food as long as it is healthy, or mostly health, at breakfast time.)
E: Hi, mom. I want "ba times".
Me: Sure, I can help you do "ba times" after your sisters have their food on the table. They may need my help.
E: Pick me up! I want up.
Me: Well, my back still hurts so I cannot pick you up, but I can sit with you after I help K with her food. Would you like to hold me hand or help me make breakfast?
E: Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
Me: Darling, I will be able to help you in a minute or two. Would you like a bite of food or some water while you wait?
E: Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
Me: Okay, I will be right back. Your sisters need me, too.
E: Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa (He is literally a foot from me right now by the way.)
Me: Okay, girls, is there anything else you need from me?
M: Nope, I am all set.
K: Thanks mom, I'm okay.
E: Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
Me: Alright, E, I can sit and hold you now. Thank you for waiting your turn. It can be hard to wait when you want "ba times". I still cannot pick you up, but I can walk with you to your bed or a chair and sit with you.
E: Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
(I walked to his bed which was closer to him than a chair.)
Me: If you scoot, crawl, or walk to me, then I can hold you and nurse you.
E: Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
(He then scoots about two feet to me and climbs up.
He smiles, then nurses for about five minutes.)

Had I known that was all he needed, I might have nursed him first while my daughters had some fruit, but then again he often nurses for more than 20 minutes so that can be tough to predict. At any rate, he was having a tantrum, not a meltdown. He knew I was there and it would be his turn soon. He was not ignored. He was spoken to with love and compassion. He was given several options. He was offered a snack while he waited. I did everything I could, while still insisting that all of us have equal needs and rights. A three year old may need "ba times", but his sisters also need to eat and my back was injured. All of our needs are important, not just one person's needs.

I did not punish. I did not yell. I did not hit. I reassured my son that his needs would be met as soon as possible. I modeled how to handle stress. Peaceful parenting does not mean permissive parenting. It does not mean children are allowed to be selfish or put themselves before others. It means we guide them with love and mutual decisions whenever possible. If they cannot make a mutual decision, then we model how to do that so everyone's needs are met within a reasonable time period.

Monday, May 13, 2013

They Have To Learn That Hard Work Is How You Get Paid, Right?

My children sometimes participate in a program that gives them gift cards or educational toys if they test products. This is my children's choice not mine and I always supervise. Recently I spoke with a friend about this program. The friend said that the program was good because my children needed to learn how to work hard to get money and things.

This comment rubbed me the wrong way. At first, I was not sure why I was so bothered by the comment. After a few hours it dawned on me that children do not, in my opinion, need to be taught such things. They will naturally learn that hard work and persistence helps them achieve goals. After all, climbing a rock can teach the same lesson on the child's terms. Practicing how to start a swing and continue swinging can also teach this lesson in a natural way. I did not sign my children up, at their request, in order to teach them a lesson. I signed them up to have fun and possibly enjoy some educational items. I hope people understand that I am not opposed to children learning and growing up. I am just opposed to them being forced into adult ideals so quickly and so young.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Learning Uncensored

My family currently home schools. Sometimes people who do not home school wonder what homeschooling looks like. Here are some photographs and captions. Most of the time we gently guide the children using their interests. We attend many groups with other families so our children have opportunities for meaningful play, imaginative play, and more. Sure, we can do this at home and sometimes we do. However, spending time with other children helps my children to see topics, problems, and solutions from a different perspective.

We have visited animal rehabilitation centers.

We climb, run, jump, and explore.

This is fun!

We learned about air pressure with friends.
We look for animals in different habitats. We saw crayfish, frogs, and more on this day.

Ladybugs and other beetles are an obsession.

Who doesn't love a science project with chemical reactions?

Watch out!

We learn about nature and safety during hikes.

Why hello, fossil!
Relaxing the way our ancestors may have rested at the local mountain.
We explore regional and state parks. This park has a former coal mine.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Can Words Just Be Words?

Can words just be words? That can be a tough question to answer. For the most part words do have power. They can insult or lift up another person. They can cause blame or forgiveness. Words do have some power. They have the power we assign to them.

In my home the only words that are not acceptable are insults. Any word that means something derogatory or is used as an insult is not part of our home and family culture. Beyond this, our children are allowed to speak any word or words they see fit. We do not use "potty words" often in front of the children, yet they are welcome to use such words in front of us.

We frequently discuss how other people see "potty words" or "curses" because in the real world not everyone is like us. Some people are very religious and some religious people look down on certain types of words. Some people are steeped in culture and think such words are "bad" or "dirty". We talk about job interviews and visits to the store. You just never know who you will offend and why. Until you know someone well, avoid "curse words" so as to not offend.

We also stress that the children not hide themselves. These words can be used to explain frustration or excitement. These words can place emphasis on a feeling that other, more commonly used words do not. If these words are something the children use to express themselves, so be it. As I mention above, the only real requirement is that we insult no one using such words and that we do not use words that are commonly used as insults even if that is not our intent in the word's usage.

You might think we swear all day long as do our children. It is rare that any of us use "swear words", even the kids. If something is not banned, humans are less likely to want to participate in that banned activity. Not only are we encompassing all non-insulting words, but we also are helping our children to develop their self-led inner compass. They are learning inner discipline, instead of peer pressure or fear based "discipline".

Friday, April 12, 2013

Eight Ways To Teach While Grocery Shopping

Many homeschooling and unschooling families use every day experiences to teach. Grocery shopping is a fantastic way to teach math, wise choices, nutrition, and how to budget. Below is a list of ways to teach and be productive while grocery shopping. I used these ideas and tips even when my children attended public school. Feel free to add to the list. These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. I hope you find them useful.

1. Make a list for each child. Use pictures and/or words depending on the child's reading level. I usually put different items on different lists so each child is looking for different items and there are no arguments.

2. Bring paper and a pencil to practice math. You can practice adding to find the total, subtraction to find out how much change is due, multiply by the amount of each item you are purchasing, divide to find unit price, or use percentages to find out how much tax you will pay.

3. Allow the children to push a cart, lift items into the cart, and unload the cart as is age and ability appropriate. Not only does this increase awareness of surroundings, it also helps them get some exercise in which helps many children focus even more.

4. Ask your children to read signs in the store. Take time to explain why some words can be sounded out phonetically, while others do not follow basic rules of English. We have completed many impromptu grammar lessons in the grocery store.

5. Show your children how to stay with the list and budget. Have the children check off items as you select them.  Also, ask the children to make choices between similar items that are different prices and sizes. Discuss the per unit pricing and how long each item or box will last in your family.

6. Discuss how food gets to the table. Talk about farms, farmer markets, grocery stores, and delivery services. Discuss organic and non-organic foods. Discuss why some foods go bad more quickly than others, often due to a long travel time from farm to store. Find ways to use less processed and less genetically modified foods.

7. Allow your children to help choose the meal plan for the week and then help write the list, as is age or ability appropriate.

8. Discuss needs versus wants and talk about how to plan ahead to save money.