Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wall Organization Ideas--Great for Classrooms and Homeschools!

Over at TheChuppies you'll find a fabulous blog entry, including tons of photos, which show you how to organize with cute wall hangings, decor, clips, containers, etc. A bunch of the ideas are perfect for classrooms, including homeschool. I'm using the list as I remodel our classroom space.

And at RaisingOlives you can find a tutorial for raingutter bookshelves.

I may keep adding to this list as I find more... ;)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Thanks, IKEA Guy!...a Homeschool Remodel Adventure

After 10 years of homeschooling and 14 years in this house, we are remodeling our "schoolroom." I spent some time on the IKEA website yesterday afternoon and found a few things I wanted. So dh and I headed out for an IKEA date night. Join me on the journey...

7:15 Arrival. At the top of my list is a metal door cover I'd seen on the website. In the description it said it could work as a magnetic board. We make a pass through the maze that is IKEA and finally ask a salesperson for help.

7:25 In kitchens..."We're looking for the metal door covers that we saw on the website. Can you point us in the right direction?"

Saleswoman looks at me like I'm from planet homeschooler. "We don't carry anything like that."

"But I saw it on the website this afternoon."

"No, nothing like that here. It'd have to be brand-new for me to not know about it."

We keep looking, continuing through the maze.  We find a salesman who scratches his head. "There are some smaller magnetic boards in organization, but nothing big like that." Since we're standing IN organization, we take another run through, give up, and head back upstairs.

Salesperson #3...or is it #4..."Nope."

Crazy homeschool lady..."But I saw it on the website this afternoon. It said it was IN STOCK for this location."

Salesperson #umpteenthousandandone..."Nope."

It's now 8:42ish. (Time flies when you're having fun.) We've trecked through IKEA 10 times, uphill both ways and in the snow. We find a computer "self search" machine. Enter "magnetic board." Zero results. Enter "magnetic." Get a list of hits that INCLUDE THE PHRASE "magnetic board." Mine isn't there.

8:50 Find a salesman near the stock/EXIT area. Tell him our long, sordid story. He looks on the "self search" machine. Unbelievably, HE GETS THE SAME RESULTS AS US. (Pound head into large metal--perhaps magnetic?--object!) Yet, there is hope. This man finds a computer with internet access. Attempts to get on. Learns that since he's only been an employee for two weeks that he NEEDS A PASSWORD. Waits for assistance to access internet. Waits. Waits some more. Another guy comes to help. He doesn't have a password either. We look at the first employee. He shrugs. "He was hired the same time I was."

8:58 With new help, salesman finally accesses IKEA website. I immediately direct him to the magnetic door panels. He enters the stock number into the "self search" machine. We all peer at the "location in store" box. What does it say?

"Consult sales personnel." 

(Attempt to drive large metal--perhaps magnetic?--object into temple.)

9:00 Across the loudspeaker: "IKEA is now closing."

9:01 Salesman says he has no idea where to find the item...although he does note that the computer indicates that 31 of them are available at this location. (Note to IKEA...the reason you have 31 of this item is that NO ONE ON YOUR STAFF KNOWS WHERE THEY ARE!)

9:02 Salesman says his best guess is that the item is warehoused at another location and that you make the purchase here before picking it up there.

9:03 I ask how you're supposed to make a purchase, sight unseen.

9:04 Salesman tells us to try kitchens. (Note: Go back and read 7:25.)

9:06 We fly through the lower floor and return back upstairs to kitchens. On the way we desperately call out to a couple salespeople chatting..."Kitchens? Metal door panels?"

"That way!!!" they yell.

9:08 We find a miniature display version of the door panel. Reject it. (If we'd actually wanted it, I'm not at all sure that they could have found it!)

9:10 Head to checkout with a few purchases.

9:13 Walk out the door as they're turning off the lights.

Moral of the story? Please let me know.

Hopefully, I'll have a remodeled room to show you in a month or so. Maybe. If IKEA isn't involved.


P.S. But dh notes, "Yeah, but we had fun together!!!" True story. ;)

P.P.S. The thanks goes to the IKEA guy who finally got us on the website!!!! Otherwise, we might still be there.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Book Review: Simplicity Parenting

I've just returned from a 5-day hiatus to the beach. The kids and I cleared out so that dh could finish (with help!) some big--and not-so-big, but messy!--household projects. While I try to ignore the smell of paint in the air, I'd like to share a bit about a book I read this week...all while living an extremely simple (cold, rainy) beach life.

The subtitle of Simplicity Parenting immediate grabbed my attention: "Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids." I'm all for CALMER. HAPPIER. MORE SECURE. And, while I would have loved to have had the information with my first few stints in parenting (my kids range in age from 5 to almost 21!), this book is especially helpful for my youngest two children who have had more than their share of stress in their young lives. (The book really resonates with recommendations that Patty Cogen gives in her book, Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child.)

Because of our Mennonite heritage, we do live a relatively simple life; I was happily surprised to note how many of the suggestions are already part of our daily lives. So here are some of the things we do, some things we hope to implement, and some of the excerpts that wowed me. (The book contains much, much more!)

Some WOW moments:

*they studied kids with ADD, devising a simplification regime "with a particular emphasis on simplifying environment (including dietary changes), screen media and schedules." Result? "68 percent of the children whose parents and teachers adhered to the protocol went from clinically dysfunctional to clinically functional in four months." Wow.
*I love this..."Before you say something, ask yourself these three questions: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?"

Currently part of our lives:

*we don't do a lot of outside activities with our youngest kiddos, ages 5 & 8. Currently, they have no outside sports, clubs, music lessons, etc.
*when our kids are overwhelmed, we try to slow life down and pull them closer.
*we try to only keep toys around that we really use. I rotate toys from storage areas rather than having everything out and available at once.
*predictability--we have a pretty regular schedule. Occasionally it gets high-jacked by the older kids' busy lives, but generally it's smooth for the little guys.
*we eat nourishing, homecooked, seasonal meals together as a family. Very little processed stuff. Virtually no eating out. (Except for date nights, which the little guys don't go on!)
*my little boys have lots of "unscheduled free time" each day to "daydream and play." That's one of the best things about homeschooling.

Wish List:

*despite rotating toys, we still have too many around than we really don't need. And I won't even TOUCH the book issue. It's definitely time to purge the shelves of outgrown or little read books. (Hello. My name is ____. I am a bookaholic.)
*I desperately need to decrease the amount of clothing accessible to my youngest two. The number of choices they have is overwhelming, overstimulating, and a source of constant stress for me and them. My problem actually stems from my Mennonite heritage. Most of what we have has been gifted to us. So getting rid of it means that I might later have to spend money. (What if I NEED a red t-shirt one time this year? What if the white button-down gets a stain? I might need that second--or third, or fourth--shirt.) Or something may end up in the landfill because no one will take away stained, holey clothing even for free at a garage sale. (I know. I'm pathetic.)
*An entire chapter is dedicated to "filtering out the adult world." It's something I need to work on. While I avoid having the news on when my little guys are in the room, they definitely overhear news as well as adult or bigger-kid conversations about things that they could find stressful.
*I have a new resolve to keep the television off during daytime hours. At night, they go to bed before evening shows are turned on. While my little guys watch very little television, zero would be best.

I loved this book and highly recommend reading it. Whether you already "simplicity parent" or not. :)

Homeschool Teacher Workshops!

I'm offering two new classes for homeschool teachers in April. If you live in the Portland/Salem area and are interested in being added to the email list, please contact me (see email under "About Me" on right sidebar). I will update information here as it becomes available. (If you've already contacted me about this class, expect to receive information this week!)

Multiplication & Division
...with Visual Models, Manipulatives, Games and "Real" Books
TWO Workshops for Homeschool Teachers

Interested in learning some fun new ways to teach math? Join other homeschool teachers as we explore visual models, play games, and use “real books” to inspire learning. Appropriate for adults who are interested in adding to (multiplying?) their math teaching toolboxes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Penpals for Writing Inspiration

One of my New Year goals was to do more writing...inspired writing...with my kiddos. The kids LOVE receiving their own mail, which seems to be decreasing in frequency as more and more technology appears on the horizon. In the past, I've encouraged them to write letters to Grandma, as she is a very loyal replier. But since you can only write so many letters to any one person, we're attempting to branch out a bit. Hopefully, our story will encourage you to start your own correspondence...

I happened to "run into" a past acquaintance (through adoption connections) on a homeschool forum who has two boys. Since they live in another state, I thought it might be a good penpal experience, allowing my son to connect with other children adopted at a similar time from the same country. It was fascinating to watch the enthusiasm with which he wrote these boys. My 5yo approached the task with equal enjoyment, drawing pictures and allowing me to write down his dictated letter. After having spent a couple months writing the penpals, I eventually figured out that my boys had more penpal energy than they knew what to do with, so I set out to find more...

One thing I noticed? My 8yo was VERY interested in writing to children adopted internationally. He didn't seem to care where they lived. He just wanted to write to other kids who started life in a similar way. So I posted on a local adoption playgroup forum, asking if anyone had a child or two who wanted to penpal with my boys. We found two matches who, like us, attend some annual adoption agency get-togethers. I love the fact that my boys are getting to know kids that they'll eventually meet and play with in another setting. My boys are quite inspired to write and wait with great anticipation for the mail to arrive. Today a letter arrived from one of the new penpals with a photo. My son personally carried it around to show various members of the family and now talks about the child like he's a new friend.

Want to find a penpal for your child? Start by considering interests that your child may want to pursue. In our case, the adoption connection is highly valued by my son. What would intrigue your child? With the advent of technology, I'm quite sure you'll be able to local a good match!



New friendships.

All just waiting to be discovered.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Penguin Unit...the Portfolder!

Our penguin unit ends on a high note. Here are a couple photos of my son's final project, his Penguin Portfolder...

Inside view of the double Portfolder:

 View showing Portfolder open from the opposite side...front cover (with white background) and back cover (black background):

The Portfolder contains:
  • photos taken throughout the unit along with captions describing the learning process.
  • penguin acrostic poetry
  • illustration depicting what a penguin looks like above and below water
  • a penguin riddle (Guess Who? from Bridges, Math Learning Center-MLC)
  • KWL (what do I know/want to know/learned) about penguins
  • Antarctica "trip" journal
  • map showing where various penguins live
  • life cycle cards
  • penguin fact book (MLC)
  • clue cards for various penguins to sort (MLC)
  • suitcase & passport from Antarctica journey (passport, MLC)
  • water temperature experiment results (MLC)
  • penguin height graph (MLC)
  • comparison/contrast chart on various penguins
  • descriptive bubbles in which my son describes the learning process for various projects
 We often include a booklist but didn't this time due to space issues.

Although the Portfolder doesn't completely reflect it, we also:
  • took a "flight" to Antarctica
  • played a penguin Mathwire game with our homemade penguin tokens
  • read piles of penguin books, including Mr. Popper's Penguins, and watched several penguin/Antarctica movies
  • played with penguins in our homemade penguin habitats
  • reviewed the continents and oceans of the world
  • "weighed and measured" penguins (MLC)
One additional resource we used in addition to penguin resources previously mentioned includes an excellent DVD, Life in the Freezer, a BBC Video production by David Attenborough.

More on Portfolders.

More on our penguin unit.

Monday, March 14, 2011

ADHD and Diet

While ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) has not been an issue in our family, the topic has always intrigued me because I've known so many children affected by it. I distinctly remember one little boy in my third grade class. From the moment he walked through the classroom door in the morning, I could tell whether he'd taken his meds or not. Please note that as his teacher I did not suggest medication...but when present, his ADHD symptoms did have a significant impact on his ability to learn.

I'm intrigued by a new study published in The Lancet which indicates that for some children a restrictive diet may have a greater impact on ADHD than drugs. (No surprise, but interesting, nonetheless!) An NPR article says:

64 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD are actually experiencing a hypersensitivity to food. Researchers determined that by starting kids on a very elaborate diet, then restricting it over a few weeks' time.

"It's only five weeks," Pelsser says. "If it is the diet, then we start to find out which foods are causing the problems."

Teachers and doctors who worked with children in the study reported marked changes in behavior. "In fact, they were flabbergasted," Pelsser says.

"After the diet, they were just normal children with normal behavior," she says. No longer were they easily distracted or forgetful, and the temper tantrums subsided.

Some teachers said they never thought it would work, Pelsser says. "It was so strange," she says, "that a diet would change the behavior of a child as thoroughly as they saw it. It was a miracle, a teacher said."

While diet may not work for everyone, it's still a fascinating bit of information to consider. While ADHD has not been a factor for my children, I have done periodic GF/CF restrictions for one child who seems to become more highly anxious or stressed with too much gluten.

Parenting is a constant source of questioning and intrigue...  Now, back to the lab... :)

P.S. Here's a link to the Lancet summary.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Zero-Waste Living...a very cool video

This is way off my usual posts, but we're still recovering from illness, I've been working, and our routine is only beginning to return to normal... 

So in the meantime, I hope you enjoy this fascinating video, in which a family downsizes and lives a zero-waste style of living. It's amazing. I'm envious!

(Deep, deep down, I'd really like to live with The Waltons!) :)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Vital Importance of Tummy Time for LEARNING

Are you a parent? Teacher? Homeschooler?


*Note:  If you are a primary grade teacher, please read through to the end! ;)

When my children were little, I thought it almost impossible for them to spend time on their bellies. Why? When I put them in that position, they'd cry. Being a "good parent," I wanted to meet their needs, so I'd pick them up or put them into another position.

In doing so, my children missed a crucial piece of development.

Luckily, circumstances for most of my kids must have been "good enough" for them to grow up without significant deficits. It was only later, in working with another of my children who'd experienced early trauma and loss that I learned about the vital importance of certain early movements. Here, I'll define those early movements as:

  • crawling = scooting about on one's tummy
  • creeping = moving about on hands and knees

For YEARS we took one of my children through hours and hours of creeping and crawling, trying (and succeeding) in creating brain networks that had failed to wire in early life. To my amazement, the media is finally saying what a small body of professionals have been crying in the wilderness for years:

Experts: Lack of 'tummy time' causes developmental delays in children

An excerpt: "The Back to Sleep campaign encouraging parents to place babies to sleep on their backs and the growing popularity of convenient devices like infant car seats, swings, saucers and bouncy seats have led to children not getting enough tummy time. "Extensive time in containers limits movement, which causes problems with development," said Young.

There is growing clinical evidence that it's causing delays in otherwise normal children. "It's affecting motor skills, both fine and gross, and sensory development overall.  The developmental milestones have changed dramatically in 20 years."

I urge you to read the entire article. If your child is still small, give him time to creep and crawl. If she is older and experiencing developmental delays, do some research into the vital importance of early movement. Research is showing that problems with reading, math and other vital educational strands can be linked to wiring issues caused by this lack of early movement. Two programs designed to change neurological wiring that can be done at home  are Suzanne Day's Neurodevelopment Through Movements and Barbara Pheloung's Move to Learn.

P.S. If I was a primary teacher, I would have my entire class spend part of each day on the floor. Barbara Pheloung has a whole series of materials (see, for example, the book School Floors) for teachers to use in the classroom. The movements create the wiring that allow children to read, write, and do math. If the wiring isn't there, it's like trying to build a house without a foundation. A friend of mine who teaches special education is now doing it with great results with the children she sees.

See Related Articles:

Easy Solutions Can Prevent or Reverse Developmental Delays From Lack of 'Tummy Time'
(look for article linked from that page on midline crossing)

Signs & Symptoms
(look at this list...things that can be caused by insufficient movements at various developmental stages)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What Are We Measuring?



Four of us have been sick this week. Hopefully we'll be back to measuring something more fun...SOON! :)

Now off to measure some Vitamin D...
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