Thursday, October 5, 2017

Invitation to Learn Spiders

 Our study of spiders began with autumn activities from The Artful Year. Using yarn and glue, we made stiff spider webs. Using pipe cleaners, puff balls, and a hot glue gun we made spiders for those webs. Then we found books, videos, and a song about spiders to help us dive a little deeper.

Surf over to Free-Learning to find the treasures we uncovered.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

An apolitical guide to gun safety for families

Another mass shooting occurred. As expected, the news feeds filled with conversation about gun safety. It is a heated topic, one that is political and often gets brushed under the rug before anything really informative sees the light of day. I see rants on both sides but very little practical advice for parents who are concerned but don't know what to do.

Here is my attempt at starting a conversation about how to talk about gun safety with your children and their friends' parents.

1. Put on your apolitical hat.

Talking about firearms is about safety.
It isn't about the right to bear arms.
It isn't about past tragedies.
It is about keeping everyone safe.

2. Educate your child

Have an open and honest conversation about firearms.
Define what is a firearm. It is a tool for killing. They are used for sport or in self-defense.
Discuss what your child should do if they see a firearm:
  • Stop
  • Don't Touch
  • Run Away
  • Tell an Adult

3. Do not depend entirely on the child to keep himself or herself safe

Children are learning. They are sometimes impulsive and often ill-equipped to always make the right decision. In the case of gun safety, educating children is only a piece of the puzzle.
We also have to take on the responsibility ourselves as parents and caregivers.
But how?

4. Be the first-to-invite. 

When your child makes a friend and asks to have them over say, "Yes!" It gives you the opportunity to lead by example.
If your pint-sized guest will be dropped off then treat firearm safety as standard operating procedure. When you run through the logistics, include it:
"Thanks! My daughter/son is excited to play with your daughter/son. Where should we meet? We would be happy to have you to our home. We own ___ firearms. [They are all disassembled and locked in a safe in the garage.] We have ___ as pets. Does anyone in your family have allergies? I just made a batch of peanut butter cookies. Are there any food sensitivities I should know about?
...
If you would be more comfortable meeting at a playground then that would be great, too."

 5. When your child is invited to someone's house

"Thanks for inviting my kiddo over to play. Before I accept the invitation, can you tell me if you have firearms in the house?
...
How many? Where are they? Could you show them to me before I leave?
...
Awesome. Thanks! I'm glad we could talk about this openly and honestly."

If the answers make you uncomfortable, then you could politely decline the invitation to their home. But offer an alternative! Suggest meeting at a playground, the library, or some other neutral ground.

"Thank you for your honesty. I would feel more comfortable if we just met at a playground. Where does your child like to play?"

--

Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for children.

Making safe spaces for them to explore and play freely is as important in early childhood and adolescence as it is in infancy. It includes locking medicine cabinets, keeping the kitchen safe, and, yes, guns out of reach. It also includes having open conversations about hard topics....made even harder by political and personal convictions. But just because it is hard does not mean that we don't have to do it.

--

Note: My family does not own guns. I wrote this to the best of my ability with my apolitical hat on. If I linked to an article that offended you then please accept my apology. This is my best effort to help us all keep our children safe.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Fan Favorites - September 2017

National Book Day September 6


7 Key phrases Montessori teachers use and why we should use them, too
Montessori teachers use language that respects the child and provides consistent expectations. Words are chosen carefully to encourage children to be independent, intrinsically motivated critical thinkers.


Here are seven common phrases you’d probably hear in any Montessori classroom, and how to incorporate them into your home life.
https://www.mother.ly/child/7-key-phrases-montessori-teachers-use-and-why-we-should-use-them-too-

This Dad is Obssessed with Bubbles






The Art of Saying No



"We should feel confident that our kids are self-aware and know what they want, or don’t want, in that moment — and that they know just how to say it."
https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/on-parenting/the-art-of-saying-no-how-to-raise-kids-to-be-polite-not-pushovers/2016/08/30/9537e5d0-696c-11e6-ba32-5a4bf5aad4fa_story.html?utm_term=.d746c3bc0adb

Build Anything with This



The real reason why the US is falling behind in math

We are pretty much the only country on the planet that teaches math this way, where students are forced to memorize formulas and procedures. And so kids miss the more organic experience of playing with mathematical puzzles, experimenting and searching for patterns, finding delight in their own discoveries.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2015/02/12/why-falling-behind-math/WQ34ITFotp30EPF9knjqnJ/story.html?event=event25


Watch Ludacris, a dad of 3, rap "Llama Llama Red Pajama" on Power 106 Los Angeles!




Stop Gaslighting Your Kids



Gaslighting is when you try and convince someone that their experience isn’t true. When we try and force children to keep eating after they say they are full, or convince them they aren’t hurt when they are, or tell them that what they are crying about isn’t worth crying about, we are telling them that their experiences aren’t reality. When we gaslight our children, they begin to question their own judgment. They stop listening to their intuition. They lose their sense of security and self-confidence.





Man accidentally starts Twitter war between Natural History and Science Museums

"Who would win in a staff battle between @sciencemuseum and @NHM_London, what exhibits/items would help you be victorious? #askacurator

"We have dinosaurs. No contest."

https://www.indy100.com/article/twitter-war-natural-history-science-museum-funny-social-media-7949936

#PrincessEngineering



Baby Yoga


Instead of saying "Stop Crying"




Why sensory processing disorder makes everything so hard and a phrase that will make things easier
"Asking for help falls under Executive Function. A child will have to have Working Memory to recognize that they are struggling with something; he or she will have to have enough Mental Flexibility to imagine that someone else might be able to help, and then enough Self-Control to pause what they are doing, find someone how might help, and ask.

That seems like a tall order for a young child, made even taller by SPD. If their brains are not processing physical stimuli, then how can they properly assess the situation and their needs, let alone Working Memory, Mental Flexibility and Self-Control?"


How Classic Cartoons Created a Culturally Literate Generation

Even if they never learned these elements in school, they at least had some frame of reference upon which they could build their understanding of the books and music and even ideas which have impacted culture and the world we live in today.

http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/secret-behind-baby-boomers-cultural-literacy

The Difference between Free Play and Smart Play


It is called "scaffolding."

"I understand that there is a difference between the kids dragging out the blocks and building something and me saying “I bet we could build a pyramid with these!” and watching them go to town. It’s a subtle distinction. And to be perfectly honest, BOTH kinds of play are incredibly important for the kids: for learning, for social interactions, for problem solving … the list goes on."

Monday, September 25, 2017

Invitation to Learn about Wetlands


A Learning Lifestyle

My preschoolers are officially not preschoolers any more. As we step into Kindergarten and 2nd grade, and as a family new to "officially" homeschooling, I recently bought writing curriculum from BraveWriter and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

The guidance offered essentially advocates for 1) focusing on creating an environment filled with books, music, and experiences; and, 2) a language-rich lifestyle - one where you listen to your child, respond thoughtfully, and pursue ideas together. (This builds on what we know about how preschoolers learn, too. ) She, of course, weaves writing lessons into the day and provides structure so parents don't have to come up with everything on their own. (Whew!) 

Books, Music, and Experiences

Despite being regulars at the library, I often find myself scouring the catalog and shelves for books that might work to answer my child's question or delve deeper into the subject du jour. It is no wonder why lists are some of the most popular blogs in the world. You know the ones: "101 Books to Read Before Kindergarten," "10+ Children's Books to Inspire Kindness," and my own  "24 Books for Preschool Engineers."

A Smaller, More Approachable List

The problem is that sometimes we want a smaller, more approachable list. One with fewer books that includes other things. I just want a few good books, a CD, and a video, perhaps a toy. Something like a thoughtful little themed basket.

Invitation to Learn

It is in the spirit of having a small sampling of one topic that I am writing Invitations to Learn. Each invitation grows from our homeschool life and is a pint-sized unit of study for the DIY crowd. With this list, I am inviting you to learn alongside your child and giving you a small amount of guidance for creating a rich learning environment in your home or school.

Read a book one day; listen to an audiobook another day; watch a movie a different day; go on a field trip a different day. By offering one great thing at a time, you are inviting your child to learn with you and enjoy learning with you! Over time you and your child will consider the topic in several different ways, using different materials, have different but related conversations about it, and you will grow your knowledge in wonderfully robust ways.

NOTE: Blogger seems to be acting weird. So I have moved the Invitation to Learn Wetlands post to another of my websites called "Free-Learn Colorado."

https://sites.google.com/view/free-learning/invitations-to-learn/wetlands


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Why sensory processing disorder makes everything so hard and a phrase that will make things easier

I have a memory of my son when he was two years old that has stuck with me over the years. He was doing one of his favorite things - pushing a dump truck at top speed back and forth in our cul-de-sac. He had figured out a way to balance perfectly with his hands resting on the bed in a way that did not let the bed flip up while he ran behind it. (A feat that other children did not recognize until they tried to race their dump trucks, too.)

What he had not figured out was how to keep an eye out for the terrain in front of him. The front wheels caught on a crack in the pavement and my son went silently end over end. He stood up, grabbed his truck, and started pushing again. 


"Whoa!" said a neighbor child. "He's tough."


I didn't realize how tough he was until he came racing by me and I saw blood dripping down his legs and arms. When he had landed, the asphalt had taken a good deal of skin off his knees and elbows...and he didn't seem to notice.


So I corralled him to clean his wounds quickly but carefully before unleashing him back into the street to play.



[]

That is what it was like for me to parent a young child with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). I am constantly trying to figure out what his needs are because it doesn't seem like he knows them himself. He is undersensitive, or a "seeker," constantly seeking more information by touching things, mouthing them, moving his body, overstuffing his mouth, etc.

He is undersensitive so he has trouble not anticipating sneezing, bowel movements, or vomit. He doesn't feel pain until it is a broken bone. Nor does he feel hunger until he is h-angry.


[]

At home, it is easy to stick to our routines. For years, I anticipated food needs and prepared snacks that were ready to eat whether we were approaching snack time at home or at a playground.

However, when we travel, routines with food are not as easy to maintain. Combine that with the frazzle of travel logistics and I am often faced with h-angry children.


It was when Tigger was six years old and we were on a family vacation that we were able to turn a corner with regard to self-regulation and food.


My son came to me screaming that he was hungry. He was upset and stressed. Old enough to understand that I am separate from him, he was finally able to understand that I did not know that his body needed food. I said, "I did not know you were hungry."


"Well, you should have known," he replied.


"You're used to me anticipating your hunger and having things ready."


"Yeah."


"But I didn't this time. In the future, will you please come to me and say, 'Mama, I'm hungry. Let's make a healthy snack together.'"


"OK!" he smiled. Then together we fetched a plate from my sister's cabinet and prepared a healthy snack.


[]

From that day forward I felt like I had found a new nugget of gold to keep close at hand as a parent:

"Let's do it together."

It seems so simple to say but it isn't. 


The best time I've used this phrase is when something is challenging one of my children (which usually coincides when I'm also running out of patience): I have asked ten times for someone to put on his or her shoes, or pick up some toys, or clear the table, or get dressed, or do the copywork, or fill the water bottles, or ..., or..., or...


When one of my children is dragging their heels, the BEST thing I can do is to help. I take a deep breath, count to ten, tie on my cape, and say, "Let's do it together." 


As soon as I offer help, the task is monumentally easier and everyone wins. The job gets done, and I show my children that I am there to help them when they need help...especially when they don't even know to ask for help.


[]

Asking for help falls under Executive Function. A child will have to have Working Memory to recognize that they are struggling with something; he or she will have to have enough Mental Flexibility to imagine that someone else might be able to help, and then enough Self-Control to pause what they are doing, find someone how might help, and ask.

That seems like a tall order for a young child, made even taller by SPD. If their brains are not processing physical stimuli, then how can they properly assess the situation and their needs, let alone Working Memory, Mental Flexibility and Self-Control?

And as we all know, if someone's needs are not being met, then everything else falls apart. 

The tough thing for a child with SPD or Autism is that they might not know that their needs are not met! That means that when parenting a child with SPD and Autism, one has unique responsibilities. A child with SPD does not have normal signals from his or her body, nor does he or she learn through imitation. Teaching self-care (like cleaning a cut, nourishing tummies, taking a rest) requires special attention, deliberate instruction, and 



"Let's do it together."

 is a simple phrase that helps everyone slow down and work together to do something difficult. 

By working together on the hard stuff, I am able to point out what is hard and bring my son's attention to it, thus teaching him how to identify when he is injured, hungry, tired, or needs to otherwise take care of his physical needs. 


By working together, it makes those difficult situations less so...for everyone. 


And slowly but surely we (yes we) create and maintain a supportive, reliable relationship. 
Photo by Rhendi Rukmana on Unsplash

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Invitation to Learn Pirates

A Learning Lifestyle

My preschoolers are officially not preschoolers any more. As we step into Kindergarten and 2nd grade, and as a family new to "officially" homeschooling, I recently bought writing curriculum from BraveWriter and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

The guidance offered essentially advocates for 1) focusing on creating an environment filled with books, music, and experiences; and, 2) a language-rich lifestyle - one where you listen to your child, respond thoughtfully, and pursue ideas together. (This builds on what we know about how preschoolers learn, too. ) She, of course, weaves writing lessons into the day and provides structure so parents don't have to come up with everything on their own. (Whew!) 

Books, Music, and Experiences

Despite being regulars at the library, I often find myself scouring the catalog and shelves for books that might work to answer my child's question or delve deeper into the subject du jour. It is no wonder why lists are some of the most popular blogs in the world. You know the ones: "101 Books to Read Before Kindergarten," "10+ Children's Books to Inspire Kindness," and my own  "24 Books for Preschool Engineers."

A Smaller, More Approachable List

The problem is that sometimes we want a smaller, more approachable list. One with fewer books that includes other things. I just want a few good books, a CD, and a video, perhaps a toy. Something like a thoughtful little themed basket.

Invitation to Learn

It is in the spirit of having a small sampling of one topic that I am writing Invitations to Learn. Each invitation grows from our homeschool life and is a pint-sized unit of study for the DIY crowd. With this list, I am inviting you to learn alongside your child and giving you a small amount of guidance for creating a rich learning environment in your home or school.

Read a book one day; listen to an audiobook another day; watch a movie a different day; go on a field trip a different day. By offering one great thing at a time, you are inviting your child to learn with you and enjoy learning with you! Over time you and your child will consider the topic in several different ways, using different materials, have different but related conversations about it, and you will grow your knowledge in wonderfully robust ways.


INVITATION TO LEARN PIRATES

It is "Talk Like a Pirate Day" so I've collected treasure from the far reaches of the high seas (the internet). If you accept this Invitation to Learn about Pirates then grab your 'scopes (paper towel rolls) and set off to learn about lenses, map-making, and adventures on the high seas.



I have found some of these at the library or for free online. For your convenience, I will also include affiliate links when available.

Books

I always love to start with a book (or two or three). 

Pirate Pete's Talk Like a Pirate by Kim Kennedy  (Author), Doug Kennedy (Illustrator)
  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Lexile Measure: AD790L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
Popular Pete is Perfect for Talk Like a Pirate Day!  

Following the success of Pirate Pete and Pirate Pete’s Giant Adventure comes a new book by the celebrated brother-and-sister team of Doug and Kim Kennedy. In this new adventure, Pete has a wonderful new ship, but no crew. But not just any crew will do. As Pete explains:  
“Ye gots to be stubborn and mighty cranky, Ye gots to be dirty and awfully stanky!Ye gots to load a cannon and know how to fire it,But most of all, ye gots to talklike a pirate!”  
One by one Pete interviews his potential crew, and one by one they get the boot! Whoever will he find to help him sail the high seas? A hilarious and fun-to-read-aloud book that will have every child talking like a pirate. 



We're also HUGE fans of the VNHLP (Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates). You can get started today with the audiobook version of the first book in the series titled "Magic Marks the Spot"!


  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 900 (What's this?)
Pirates! Magic! Treasure! A gargoyle? Caroline Carlson's hilarious tween novel The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates: Magic Marks the Spot is a seafaring romp like no other. The paperback features an Extras section containing an interview with the gargoyle, Hilary's application to the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates, and a sneak peek at the second book in the series, The Terror of the Southlands.




Then you might want to give yourself a pirate name. 

Go to the Quiz, which will give you your name and a horoscope-type description of your swash-buckling ways.  http://www.piratequiz.com/ Or just make one following these simple instructions:



Pirate Activity Books 

There is a big selection of pirate-themed books published by Usborne Books and More. I'm a HUGE fan of their activity books like Build Your Own Pirate Ships (building with stickers), Pirate Maze Book, and the Wipe-Clean Pirate Activity Book




Make a Telescope

You will likely need a 'scope of some sort before you head out on an adventure. So surf over to National Geographic for how to use these items to make a 'scope:

  • Two paper towel tubes
  • Scissors
  • Masking tape
  • Paint (any color you like)
  • 2 convex lenses (you can get these from a pair of magnifying glasses or order them online)
(Of course, just a paper towel roll to peer through could be enough for preschoolers.)


And for a little extra check out this video by Mr. Wizard!



Mapmaking with Preschoolers

Go into the backyard and count your paces between objects (door to the sandbox, from one side to the other, etc.). Use blocks to model the couch and TV in the living room. Or color a picture of your child's bedroom. The possibilities for rich discussions that touch on STEAM are endless. And if you talk like a pirate then it is even more fun! 

For more ideas go to EcoBabySteps...

"Sobel shows in Mapmaking for Children that developmentally appropriate mapmaking for children progresses through scope (home > neighborhood > community > nation) as well as through methods of representation (models > pictures > panoramas > contour and aerial maps). The more open you make your request, the more naturally your child can move through the stages of thinking about and representing the world."

...or check out a picture book that can help it come alive.

Maps are about far more than getting from a to b. Maps can help children understand and explore both their everyday environment and faraway places. With an appealing search-and-find technique, Follow That Map! is an interactive picture book that explains and demonstrates key mapping concepts. Kids will enjoy following Sally and her friends as they search for Max and Ollie, a mischievous dog and cat on the lam from the backyard. Sally and friends take an imaginative trip through the neighborhood, city and country, around the world and beyond. Kids can join in the search for Max and Ollie, who are hiding somewhere in every map. An activity at the end of the book shows children how to make a map of their bedroom.




Time to Burst Your Bubble

In an article from National Geographic, historians shed some light on the truth about pirates.
"Brace yourself for a barrage of "salty dogs," "scallywags," and "swabbies." Tuesday is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, a parody holiday and general nerdfest ginned up on an Oregon racquetball court in 1995 to honor buccaneer speech of the 17th and 18th centuries. 
But did pirates really "arr" and "avast" all the time? Probably not, experts say, though it's tough to say exactly how most so-called Golden Age pirates really talked. 
"There isn't much in the way of scientific evidence in regards to pirate speech," said historian Colin Woodard, author of The Republic of Pirates:Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down."
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/09/120919-talk-like-a-pirate-day-news-history/