In the Kid Zone

Putting the Blinders On

Today I put a hat on my son. It was so that he wouldn’t look up at me after every single word! He is also distracted when reading because it is not the favorite subject. This slows him down and limits his ability comprehend the passages. So we are going through phonics, again, and using the hat. This time it took only 15 minutes for the reading exercise instead of 25. Here’s hoping that the trend continues.

My God give you patience and grace. Keep on trail blazing!


In the Kid Zone

Memorization May Not Be In the Cards

As a kid we all memorized facts. We memorized math facts, spelling, history dates, and science terms. Flash cards were the name of the game and how fast you could do them was your bragging rights. Memorization is just part of learning and the purpose is to make things go a bit fast in our heads. Schooling a child with a disability memorization may not be in your cards. Memorization is tedious for even the most talented student. How much harder for a child who struggles with concepts and unable to express themselves? 

My son was not getting math. He is 9 this year and we are still not past our first math book Alpha from the Math-U-See curriculum. I love Math-U-See for my kinetic learner. They go by concepts, not by grades (yay!), and there is a block set you can buy (and do buy it) to help with concepts. There is one noticeable difference: no flash cards. That wasn’t a problem for me because I had flash cards I used with my daughter. Here is where we ran into trouble. My son was not memorizing his facts fast enough. I was holding him back and not going on. Really, we should know all our 2 addition facts before going on to 3s. And so we continued our daily drudge of flash cards. Little by little he was remembering. What is smaller than baby steps and slower than a snails pace? That was us.

Near the end of the last school year I stopped the daily flash cards and just used the number blocks instead. Now my son uses the blocks to figure out his problems and we are on track to finishing the program this year and possibly going to the next stage. My son is so much happier and math is more enjoyable.

I know what you are thinking: what do I say to all those other people who ask why he can’t spit out a memorized fact? This is my response: don’t you use a calculator to figure out basic math? How many times do we as adults just reach for that calculator to do basic facts? What mathematician, engineer, or programer goes without a calculator of some sort? We all use a tool to help us with math. At this point my son is using number blocks as his help. As he learns more and works with his hands-on-help he is memorizing more facts. Step out of the schooling box with your children. The majority of kids with disabilities will not be pushed into that mold. This is your time to be creative, to explore new possibilities, and to grow as a parent as well. 

May God give you patience and grace. Keep on trail blazing.

In the Kid Zone

How to Keep Boys Engaged!

Here is a brief video I came across. This has been a theme in my research and teaching prep for the year. It has been brought up in my Time Travelers History curriculum and my Institute for Excellence in Writing preparation. Hopefully, I will remember to update this blog on what works with my active son.


Adventures, In the Kid Zone

The Summer Challenge

Summer is almost here and we get excited because we are together again. My daughter currently is attending a charter school and we have adopted her school schedule (which I love) for our home school schedule as well. So back to summer. Even us home school families get the summer blahs or just burned out during summer. So how do you make summer fun but not exhausting? Here are a few tips that I have found to be helpful for our family.

1. Don’t put your kids in a bunch of summer activities, aka day camps. This just frazzles the family. We usually pick only 2 things. Usually it is VBS and swimming lessons. My daughter has added a week long camp for art or dance. This year we are doing more swim lessons so camps are out. By limiting ourselves there is more room for spontaneous fun with Dad and friends. Our lives are so busy during the school year; why pack in summer as well? Everyone needs a rest.

2. Organize your time but be flexible. I know this is hard to do. I “organize” by making a list of activities I want to do with the kids. This does not exceed 1 per week. For example we are going to the Zoo, Discovery Center, Museums, and visit the Capital Building. To afford all of this you need to be creative. I have a family pass to the Zoo and Discovery Center. The passes are worth the upfront cost. I renew one at the beginning of the summer and another in the fall. The Museums have one a day a month where they are half price or free. The Capital Building is a self tour and doesn’t cost anything. Find out what is in your town. If you live in a small town this is where # 6 comes in real handy.

3. Make the outside fun. Take inventory of your outside fun things. Do you have chalk, bubbles, bug catching supplies, pool or sprinklers, bikes working, water bombs (post to come later how to make these), hula hoops (another fun DIY project), and the like? Home needs to be fun and that fun should be outside as much as possible. TV does not come on until the heat of the afternoon in our house. For most of the items mentioned I have a fun bucket. My kids are 10 and 8 so I can point to the fun bucket when the “I am Bored!” monster creeps into our house and off they go. For you moms with younger children this is a time to make their own fun bucket for age appropriate items. These are only for outside play and having a special bucket or box come out makes it even more fun for toddlers.

4. Plan for high heat and rainy days. This doesn’t seem to be a problem in our house IF we have spent enough time outside and away from our toys. Coming inside when the temperature rises is a welcome relief when kids are tired. On rainy days, no we don’t have them often in Southern Idaho, I get out a movie or our craft box. Legos are a must in our house. Puzzles and games are taken down from the closet.

5. Have a cleaning party at the beginning of the summer. Take a weekend and clean the house, inside and outside. Getting on top of chores is a key for a less stress summer. This way you are only mopping up after daily messes instead of deep cleaning after a week of partying. You can then have 1 hour in the morning to clean, yes it can be done, and the rest of the day to play. In the afternoon there is a quick pick up before dinner and then right before bed. This is our new plan because last summer was a total bust in this area. I procrastinate on cleaning and really need to work in this area of my life.

6. Combine forces! I have a great little group of moms from my church that meet once a month. During the summer we each pick an activity to host. Usually it is in the morning at a park. One mom in our group has a neighborhood pool that we will use. I am hosting a movie day during the heat of August. By having each mom take something we will have about 2 activities each month that we will not have to plan. The kids have fun with friends and we get to sip on iced coffee and chat! Win Win Baby!

7. Set your expectations to Relax Mode. Don’t have them set so high that you are running here and there and becoming frazzled. Keep summer to a minimum on the planning scale. You will be doing enough planning for a family vacation and trying to get your older kids off to summer camps. Some weeks will be busier. Some weeks will be more fun and you will feel like you are rocking it! Some weeks will make you feel like a slug. This is okay.

I hope some of these tips will be helpful for you. I will let you know through out the summer how we are doing.

May God give you grace and patience. Keep on trail blazing.

In the Kid Zone

Home Schooling and Sensory Issues

A note for this post. I received my certification as a Developmental Specialist back in 2007. I have been able to be home for 4 years and haven’t kept up my CEUs but I think I still have a little to say on the topic.

Home schooling a child with sensory needs is challenging to say the least. Sounds, smells, and touch can be a huge distraction. Here is where experimentation and a good evaluation of the home comes in.

One of our big distractions was the dishwasher. When I was home schooling my daughter ( now in a charter school) the dishwasher was white noise and actually helped her focus. I recently started to delay the dishwasher in the morning or turn it one at night for my son. The dishwasher is a huge distraction for him. Also our kitchen table sits near a window. I had to place my son with his back facing the window because the birds we feed were distracting him.

As for smells I needed to change up my essential oil routine. I have a diffuser in my kitchen. I had to experiment with what smells worked for him. My daughter likes lavender, my son doesn’t like that one. He likes chamomile. Both like the citrus oils. Cleaners are a smell distraction too. I changed to making my own cleaning products years ago to save money. Recently I bought a cleaner at the store. This distracted my son to no end. “What is that smell, Mom?” It is probably best to stay away from bleach as much as possible. My friend has 4 kids who are all are typical in development. She really likes bleach but came across an article that stated that bleach hinders concentration. I will have to find and post that article. My friend noticed a difference during school after she took out most of the bleach in her cleaning products.

The feel of itchy clothes is a game ended for my son. He doesn’t notice the itch until he is still. Then it is all over. I thought that he was just trying to delay school with a change of clothes but them I noticed that when he sat down to play the offending clothing would bother him and he would change. Also when we where in the car he would start to itch. Also I noticed that saying the clothes where itchy was generalization that something was wrong. I have finally come across a detergent I don’t have to make that helps with the itchiness. Socks need to be soft and clothes need to be baggy.

On the other hand these senses can be used for concentration. My son likes to hear the birds in the background. He enjoys the smells of the oils I use for him. Sensory touch is soothing and we use that in between subjects along with active play time. Sensory touch is great for science classes! Yes, I am putting one more thing in your plate. Don’t try to evaluate everything at once. Take it little by little and bit by bit. And remember this post comes from several months of tweaking.

For some kiddos you won’t be able to get rid of all distractions and they will need to learn how to tune those out. I highly recommend getting help from therapy. If you have a kid with Autism, Down Syndrome, ext then please get developmental services for them. Just because we are home schooling our children with developmental disabilities and delays doesn’t mean we do this all by ourselves.

I hope this helps jump start a better learning experience for your kiddos and yourself.

May God give you grace and patience. Keep on trail blazing!

In the Kid Zone

Let the Children Help

Chores, it something all kids need. Trust me on this. I was the kid with very little chores to do and I am the adult who struggles keeping her house clean. But I am also a total otter, who married a beaver, and I just want to play ( look up personality quiz with lion, otter, retriever, and beaver). My kiddos are otters too. So chores are an essential learning tool for them. I started each out at age 4 helping to unload the dishwasher, sweeping, and cleaning the bathroom. Then I oversaw the work with a cup of coffee and giving a few directions on what to do. Now they can do almost everything in the house so while they do one chore I can take on another and we can bust out the house in no time. I still miss the days of overseeing and coffee.

The other day all this hard work paid off when my kids cleaned the house for Valentine’s Day. The only problem was that it wasn’t perfect. My towels where folded in squares when they needed to be rectangles. The corners of the house where not swept but had dog hair still visible, and the dishes where not loaded. But you know what that was okay. It was more than okay it was GREAT! My kiddos, the little, playful otters, cleaned the house on their own for Mom. I did not nit pick at the way they did it on their own. I praised them. I even left my messy, folded but messy, linen closet as it was.

Let your kids help. Train them to keep a home. Nothing has to be perfect at this time. They are kids and are not going to achieve an adult’s requirement of perfection. When you train in a gentle way they will have more “fun” learning. And you might get a surprise of a clean house when they are 10 and 8.

May God give you grace and patience. Keep on trail blazing.

In the Kid Zone

Boot Camp for Non-Listeners

What do you do when your kids are just not listening?  I mean when they really are not listening.  They are actively not listening to you.  I get this a lot with arguments between kiddos.  They start to argue on who is the best at __________ or who is Dad’s partner.  Whatever it is I tell them to stop the argument and find another topic to talk about.  But they keep going and I ask them to stop.  Yet they keep going and Mom’s voice is louder telling them to stop.  Oh, but no they keep going and by this time Mom is yelling above the voices to be QUIET and LISTEN to her.

Instead of getting to that point of QUIET PLEASE I have decided to take a different approach to command active listening.  We go to boot camp.  This is a 5-10 minute blitz of listening to Mom and doing whatever she requests.  Kind of like Simon Says but it isn’t meant to be a fun little game.  If you have a whistle this is even better!

So here is your tactical plan to defeat non-listening syndrome.  Take the kids outside, if possible, and have them do a loop of exercises.  Start with jumping jacks, then sprints or running in place, sit ups, push ups if they can, lunges across the yard or living room, pop ups (this is just squatting, touching your toes, and then popping back up into a jump), or any other exercises; the routine possibilities are endless.  Just make sure that your kiddos know what is expected of them.  Oh, and your number one rule: No complaining, just listening.

Every time you need to reinforce active listening switch up the order of exercises.  This way the kids won’t memorize the routine.  By actively engaging mind and body it helps get your point across a lot easier.  And best of all Boot Camp can be done anywhere.  Not listening on the family road trip?  Next rest stop is boot camp.  Not listening on a family fun day at a park?  Boot Camp!  I mean the possibilities are almost endless!

So next time Non-Listening Syndrome hits your kiddos hit it back with a little mind stimulation and exercise!