Dear New Homeschooling Mom

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Dear new homeschooling Mom,

I’m so excited that you have taken the big leap!  Not because I hate public school or think private school is overrated, but because I know it takes a special kind of bravery to take hold of  your child’s education and put that burden on yourself.  It’s a huge responsibility, and definitely not a step you can take and be a wimp about it.

kidsI pray your husband and you chose this path because you love your children, and you want to redeem your time with them.  Because you envision something different for your children than what the rest of the world does.  I certainly pray it wasn’t under traumatic circumstances like bullying, an abusive teacher, or a learning disability that can’t be worked through.  These are problems you can only run from for so long.  Look instead at all you gain!  Fear is not the best motivator when times get rough.

I love seeing pictures of your new homeschool area!  I’m sure you were stoked to get those cute little desks from IKEA. I love the alphabet and math facts on the wall.  I frequently see all your efforts and questions to create a learning environment.  But can I interject?  Your homeschool area is… your home!  The rigidity of sitting in a desk 8 hours a day is one of the biggest downfalls of the school system.  Don’t be disappointed if that school desk collects a lot of dust while all the kid’s work is on the kitchen counter, the sofa, or his bed.  That’s a good thing!  Comfort is a perk of being home.

petsI also see all your questions about curriculum.  I have a few suggestions on that, but the shocking truth is: It’s not necessary.  There are hundreds of way to homeschool for free.  Between online sites like mathgames.com (completely free), a library card, and a child’s interest you would be surprised how much learning can take place.  I don’t want to discourage you from picking a curriculum, I just don’t want you to put all your hopes and dreams on it.  It will be great – for a season.  Then it will get difficult, and then you’ll love it again.  These rhythms of learning are normal.  So instead of beating your head into the wall when it fails, just set it aside; borrow a book on the subject, read it together, and try again later.  I promise you it will still be ok.tri

Please stop asking for permission to do what is right for your child.  If the question is, “Is it ok if we…?” The answer is, “You’re the mom.  You know best.”  Every child is different and what is good for Billy may not be good for Susy – and these two might be siblings!  Grab a cup of coffee, a good book (I recommend the Bible) and relax!  No matter how a schooling day goes, the household enjoys it more if YOU are enjoying it too.

The only thing I ask of you is that you take this amazing opportunity and become friends with your kids.  You can’t demand good character out of a hollow relationship.  They will be with you now for a long time, so prepare yourself to have little shadows in the ebbs of your life.  They will watch how you treat others, how you care for the home, and how you love your spouse (and vice versa!).  It’s waist deep in this lifestyle where children can really learn to be honest – the way mommy is honest – and patient, and kind… While they can re-learn math or reading at any point in their lives, growing up with integrity is kind of a one-shot deal!  They’ll Anakinonly be children once, and in the blink of an eye they’ll be off to college… And you’ll miss them terribly.

I am just now on week two of the school year.  We live in a one-bedroom apartment that is like a Little House in the Big Woods type of experience – only we are surrounded by a concrete forest in the middle of the city.  We eat, learn, play games, laugh, discipline, pray and cry in the same area.  And yet, it’s working!  Witnessing the growth is such a reward.  If it is working for me in these crazy circumstances I’ve been in, I’m sure it will work for you too.

true story

bri and me

The Creative In The ADHD Brain

Anakin typing

Confession: I have been guilty (along with a list of teachers and coaches) of accusing my child of either being lazy or sabotaging his opportunities.  A lot more before I understood what it means that my oldest has ADHD, and thankfully a lot less now that I understand the balance between his attention and his distractibility.

I don’t think we give these children (and adults) enough credit.  Yes it’s hard for them to engage in some things at the same level as other “normal” children – either gazing out the window absent-mindedly or cutting off their peers every five minutes – but their brains don’t just stop there!  There is something amazing on the other side of this disability and it’s their God-given, creative genious!  When they reach that sweet spot, man can they take off!

DifferentI strongly recommend you pick up the book “Different” by Sally Clarkson and Nathan Clarkson. [Disclaimer: This is not an affiliate link, it’s my honest mom’s recommendation.] Nathan was diagnosed with ADHD, ODD, and OCD – making him a very different child growing up.  Now he’s used his talents to create movies like “Confessions of a Prodigal Son” and he acted in “The Purge”.  His adult life now is the result of Sally Clarkson’s labor of love, and raising an ADHD child to reach his “sweet spot”.

I’ll share about my younger son in another post, but I wanted to highlight something amazing about my oldest, Anakin.  We’ve always struggled with writing assignments, although he’s advanced for his age, because of the work it took to get him to sit still and focus long enough to write a book report/essay/story that made sense.  And then something was unlocked in him that has him taking off, publishing e-books [Anakin does receive a percentage of the purchases from this link, so it’s as close to an affiliate link as I have], illustrating his own cartoons and writing like crazy; he found a passion for history.

Anakin and Caleb reading

He says history is his favorite subject and he wants to become a writer.  He says things like, “Now that I’ve read the book ‘Unbroken’ I’d like to see how Angelina Jolie directed the movie based on his life.”  His passion – at the young age of 10.5 – is to write fiction stories in historical context so you learn about history without the rote work of memorization.

Confession: History was MY WORST SUBJECT EVER.  And then came math.

Now I can’t make him just write a “paragraph” on anything, as you can see in his assignment on The Silk Road of the Middle East.  The instructions were to write a paragraph or short story on what it would be like to trade along The Silk Road. And here comes Anakin, 809 words later, he has created quite the plot – with developed charaters, dialogue, and within the historical context of the times.  One I’m happy to share with you (for free) because my son wants to know if it’s readable enough for younger children to stay captivated – in the hopes of developing it into a children’s book, complete with illustrations.  Y’all let me know!

The Life of a Silk Road Trader

 

Old Goku

Original Artwork by Anakin Hass, “What would Goku look like when he’s finally old?” based off the Dragonball Anime universe.

The point is, successful adults with disabilities are those that are able to major on their strengths.  The key to raising successful adults, then, is to be parents who let children major on their strengths! If you would’ve asked me last year if Anakin was a good writer I would’ve answered with a, “Eh…” and a half smile.  And I would’ve been wrong.  I missed his gift because he just had not found anything he was passionate enough to write.

 

I want to encourage you, from one mom to another – whether you homeschool or not – to give your children the space and time they need to pursue their passions.  Even if it doesn’t look like the things you are passionate about! We are raising world changers.  I believe, prophetically, that the battles to be won will be fought by those who stand their ground at the intersection of a Kingdom Need and a Heart-Filled Talent.  This intersection will be their posts as adults, and we need to shepherd them in that direction.

Have you ever been surprised by something you didn’t think you could do, but you did very well?  How did that experience impact your perspective on life?

The Special Needs, Battle-Worn Parent

Confession: This post may seem like a rant.  But it’s my heart’s goal that through THIS momma’s rant, you can be just slightly more aware (if you aren’t already) of what it’s like to walk a mile in these shoes.

Being the mom of a special needs child is hard.  I know MANY moms in different battles and my heart just goes out for them, because though I have it much easier than some… It’s still exhausting.

boys reading

I’m sure we all have moments where we yell at others but only inside our heads, because we’re still trying to keep what little appearance of sanity we have.  But it may sound something like this:

“Well your child is constantly interrupting others and can’t wait his turn to talk, but I don’t think that’s an ADHD symptom at all…”

So you’re assuming he’s just rude and sabotaging his friends on purpose?  This is TEXTBOOK impulsivity in a social setting, classic symptom of ADHD – and I know, because I read the books.  Would you like one?

“Your child’s behavior is not the greatest, so although the rest of his peers are advancing, I don’t think he is taking this as seriously as his classmates and we won’t be advancing him.”

He fractured his hand at the growth plate of his middle trying to impress you with the skill he was trying to accomplish because it mattered to him THAT much to earn your approval though… Just sayin’.

chess

“I would never try medication with MY kids! We’ve been able to manage little Tommy’s behavior just fine by cutting out his sugar and red dye number 40.  I’ve also read that more protein helps little boys with the same issues you struggle with.”

Would you tell a diabetic that he just needs to get his fat self to exercise and eat healthy and he wouldn’t need his insulin any more?!?  And would you not think that I have tried everything before this point?

“I just don’t see the big deal with behavioral issues.  After all, boys will be boys.”

I don’t think boys are supposed to struggle with insomnia, bed wetting, and poor appetites either.  And him talking out of turn in a class is not nearly as concerning to me as the migraines he gets two to four times a week from constantly trying to focus around non-stop distractions.  But I’m glad you feel he’s manageable.

swimming

“My mom just whooped me when I didn’t focus.”

Yeah, my mom whooped me too.  We now have lived 6000 miles apart for the past 8 years.  You were sayin’?

“Have you considered that maybe you just shouldn’t homeschool him?  At some point you need to see you may be doing things wrong and you should leave him to an expert.”

I don’t even want to dignify this with an answer.

Anakin and friends

I could keep going. But I can also go in the other direction; I have friends who have just loved on us and never said a word – which is helpful.  But if there’s one thing I’d like for all these people to know is that they are the icing on the chocolate cake of my problems and my battle as a parent of this child.  Which is why many, many moms in my situation just walk away and don’t bother saying a word.

We don’t want to begin to tell you how much we have to wrestle with our spouses over this.  Many spouses are in a sort of tug-o-war over their hopes for their special needs children and how to address it, and while we’re walking that tight rope we’re still fussing with the child (usually over the SAME thing, over, and over again… It’s like beating a dead horse until you get it to the edge of the water and then making it take a drink!).  And we still have to research for outside sources of help for our child.  While managing the rest of the family and other “normal” kids and not so “normal” kids.  And let’s not forget any semblance of self care…

family pic

So from all moms like me, I kindly ask moms like you: When you see us in the struggle at the school line or the grocery store, don’t be THAT mom – the judgy mom, the mom with all the answers (the one I used to be, when everything seemed in control).  Instead, be the mom that brings an extra cup of coffee or sends a funny meme.  Be the mom that teaches their kids about differently-abled brains and how to be friends with kids who process life differently than yours.  Be the mom that “moves towards the mess.” If you don’t know what to do, just lift three fingers and whistle the “Hunger Games” tune.  We get it.

put your love glasses on

One Week of Idita-Reading

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Confession: My oldest son loves to read.  In fact, when he gets into a book we’re all normally annoyed by how he binge reads – and neglects everything and everyone else.  My daughter likes to read too…

… But when it comes to my youngest, asking him to sit down and read a book is like asking him to volunteer for wisdom tooth extraction.

Caleb at Iditarod Start

Here’s Caleb, freezing cold but happy to see the Iditarod Ceremonial Start in Anchorage!

Sit the youngest in front of the pediatrician and  he can read 4th grade level texts at age 7.  He knows a lot of “encyclopedic information” from books about animals and human anatomy.  But there’s something about sitting down with a book for a few minutes, specially a fiction book or a chapter book, that he was just not having it.

Enter IDEA, stage right! (Interior Distance Education of Alaska)

Anakin's Artwork

Original Artwork by Anakin Hass, done entirely by freehand 3/4/17

They are our homeschooling charter school.  I’m always very thankful of their educational support.  They have always stood behind me as a homeschooling parent – an experience I’ve heard is unique to charter schools in Alaska.

Our schools every year participate in the Iditaread, a race against mushers actively competing in IditarodThis race to Nome is a big deal for us Alaskans, as these Mushers access towns that are off the road system completely – only reachable by dog mushing or plane.

http://iditarod.com/photo/

Mats Pettersson lead dog jumps and is ready to continue to run after Mats checked in at the Kaltag checkpoint during the 2017 Iditarod on Sunday afternoon March 12, 2017.Photo by Jeff Schultz/SchultzPhoto.com (C) 2017 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

In the Iditaread, kids read on average a page per musher’s miles.  They log their miles and try to make it from Fairbanks (only this year) to Nome (979 miles) before their selected musher does.  Many homeschooling families do this challenge outside of the official Iditaread because it’s very fun for readers. (That’s the key… It’s a marathon of reading, usually all pages are done in two to three weeks!). 

http://iditarod.com/photo/

Jason Mackey runs on the Yukon River with many snowmachine tracks running alongside on the trail nearng the Kaltag checkpoint during the 2017 Iditarod on Sunday afternoon March 12, 2017.Photo by Jeff Schultz/SchultzPhoto.com (C) 2017 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Obviously, this was daunting for my 7 year old.  But I have a couple of liberties recommended to me by the teachers and staff at IDEA:

  • Pick rookie mushers for emergent readers!  Caleb is racing against Roger Lee in his first Iditarod, all the way from England! It gives them a chance to learn about new mushers.  If your kid is a good speedster reader, he can tackle the more challenging mushers.  My son always races against Dallas Seavey – and that’s hard to beat! He’s won multiple times and finished last year in record time.
  • I get to “vet check” the books the way veterinarians check the dogs to make sure they’re healthy.  In that sense, I can offer Caleb 2 miles per page if the book is more 2nd-3rd grade level, as well as make sure with my oldest who has read the entire I Am Number Four series that the content isn’t entirely inappropriate for a 10 year old.
  • Keep track with maps and colors and progress book marks – provided entirely by IDEA, Caleb now has a visual so he doesn’t feel discouraged.  He can trace his finger along his map and see how far he’s come!

iditaread1

We started with a kick off party at the school where each kid did a cut out of their lead dog.  Then the staff can move their dogs along as the kids reach the check points along the way.  This captivated all three of my kids!

Then we added a twist: Mom and Dad are doing the Iditaread too!  We’re racing mushers as well (and falling tragically behind, but it’s the effort and attitude that counts!).  We’re leading by example.  The rules for us are a little different though:

  • I can’t count pages I read during Paul’s work hours, because that’s not fair!  So the pages I read have to be between 12-1pm (his lunch break) or after 5pm in the evening.
  • Pages of books we read aloud to the kids in the evening or during lunch count for the parent who reads and the children who sit still and actively listen.  Woo-hoo for the Read Aloud Revival led by Sarah McKenzie!

iditaread2

We’ve spent a lot of evenings just reading after dinner until bed time. The TV is collecting dust, and I kind of like it that way! However, we decided to take the weekend off, and our mushers didn’t, so now we’re pretty far behind them.  But there has to be a balance to everything – a big learning point when you have 1 confirmed and one awaiting diagnosis for ADHD.  So there is still school work, math, writing, chores, family board games, outings and church.

And for the record, Caleb read 300 pages this week.  Motivated himself to make it 400 pages starting tomorrow.  He’ll make it to Nome with his “lead dog Max” in no time!

caleb and max

How do you motivate children to love reading when they seem to prefer doing ANYTHING else?

The Auditory Learner

I thought I was so smart when I made my daughter flash cards to memorize her multiplication tables.  Then my feelings were completely hurt when she wasn’t learning anything from holding them in her hands for 30 minutes at a time.

multiplication

Duh!

My daughter is an Auditory learner.  In part due to vision problems she had from Kindergarten through 2nd grade, which required vision therapy and kept her from successfully being able to read and write.  Vision therapy helped strengthen the nerves around her eyes and now she reads and writes just fine.

That doesn’t mean that she’s a visual learner though.  It just means she can read and write.

Her memory is directly linked to what she hears – specially what she hears in her own voice.  And this can be such a tough type of kid to teach because most public school curriculum is visual, and a lot of the homeschooling curriculum is kinesthetic (which works too, but only in some things).  So what do I use?

I get audio books for the books she’s supposed to read that are a bit too thick.  Our Library has the Overdrive app which allows us to borrow audio books directly to our phone!  Audible is a good source too.  And a good old fashioned trip to the Library for some CDs to play in the van work great too.  When we had long days in the van, driving everywhere, we listened to stories narrated by Jim Weiss.  Celtic Tales.  A Tale of Two Cities.  The Three Musketeers.  My kids know a lot of the classics from listening to this on the go.

It also means that we do better having conversations about history and science than making her write it or fill out worksheets.  Specially if I want her to remember key points.

Auditory math feels like watching paint dry.  I’m glad I use manipulatives for this, and she’s actually able to keep up visually for the most part.  But when it came to memorizing her time tables, which is just plain boring memorization, she couldn’t do it on her own.

For this, I sat down and talked her through the time tables.  I started with 2s and 3s, and then I would give her an answer and ask her what time table gave her that number (example: 18 = 2×9 and 3×6).  We sit together for thirty minutes and go back and forth on them, and if she’s confused, I ask her to say the correct fact four times back to back.  Now she’s learned up to her 5s.

Key issue for memorization: You have to sound confident.  Your brain has to hear you say it like you know it.  You can’t memorize questions or doubts.  If you sound like you don’t really know, what your brain will remember is that feeling of “I don’t really know”.

Bible verses? Read them out loud often.  Lines to recite for a play? Record yourself saying them and play it back!

brielle-headphones

At this point someone would ask me: How do I know I have an auditory learner?

  • Does your child make songs out of everything?
  • Do you hear your child talk to herself during play?
  • Can she pick up a rhythm or hum a melody she just heard?
  • Does your child have a prosecuting attorney-like ability to quote you on something you said?  Maybe even weeks ago? When you weren’t even talking to her?
  • Does your child pick up on words or phrases she hears others say?
  • Does your child like it when you read out loud?

Then these are hints that she might be an auditory learner.  They’re very musical.

I just learned to use her strength in her favor instead of beating the dead horse over concepts that she just wouldn’t memorize fresh off the text book.

I also have a kinesthetic learner (movement/wiggly butt) and a visual learner.  It spreads me out in my homeschooling day!  Between learning styles AND difference in grade levels, every child is almost always working individually on all subjects.

What would you say is your learning style?  Can you remember things you read?  Do you learn songs very quickly?  Or do you prefer to be hands-on to understand how things work? Share below!

All Things Are Possible… With ADHD

This is blog 3 of 3 on the subject.  If you’ve just joined me, you can check out post 1 and post 2 first at these links!

Confession: I am realizing now that my apprehension against Ritalin is kind of like judging a diabetic for using insulin instead of dieting and exercising regularly.

But after a lot of research I’ve realized where my negative stereotype came from:

  • Seeing so many kids diagnosed early: What kind of four year old ISN’T a wiggle butt?
  • Reports of “zombie like” side effects on the medication.
  • The stereotypical “welfare mom” who takes advantage of the diagnosis to dump the kid from dawn to dusk at day care.
  • The ease of the diagnosis in the first place: even teachers and social workers can diagnose a child and refer him to get medications!

There’s always a little bit of truth to these stereotypes after all, or they wouldn’t stick.  Really difficult kids drive referrals, which is why boys are diagnosed in day care and most girls fall through the cracks.  That “zombie” kid may have been over-medicated because there isn’t an exact science to the amount of medication each individual kid needs – and as I’ve learned full well through  my RA journey, sometimes it takes months (in my case, a year and 2 months) to get the balance of medication right!  Lower income parents have a more difficult time with ADHD children and less support, having to work more and not necessarily having the child’s needs be any cheaper…

I’m no expert, but I have read enough on the subject to understand that the medications prescribed for ADHD are stimulants to help an underactive part of the brain – the part that helps with slowing down and thinking things through.  It’s not easy to dial it down!  But it makes sense to me because after Anakin would stand in the bathroom, toothbrush in hand, for 15 minutes, I would have him drink a cup of coffee with me in the mornings.

Cafe con leche, also known as cafe au lait.  Half brewed coffee, half milk, and some sugar.  It saved my life on more than one school morning myself… But I digress.  I did this every so often, specially on challenging school days.

I tackled all these concerns with his pediatrician too.  I came to understand that for most public school kids, they get put on longer-lasting medication.  Many schools are not exactly tolerant of a daily trip to the nurse’s office for another dose.  So when the aim is to help a child get through an 8-12 hour day, it’s not inconceivable that the dosage can be largely over-shot.

We decided to try a small dose that a) works immediately (side effects and all) and b) lasts only 3-4 hours.  If it was going to be too much, and negatively affect him, I wanted to know pretty immediately and call it good.  I also homeschool, and have been doing so the past 2 school years successfully without any medication.  In this time:

  • He learned to swim.
  • He published a book on Amazon.
  • He is a Cub Scout
  • He reads high school level fiction and even Kathy Reichs (we’re all a fan of the television show Bones)
  • He designs video games and learned coding
  • He’s an excellent chef – with the best mac and cheese in Alaska, I’m sure!
  • He’s made and kept a few good friends
  • Shot a .22 with outstanding accuracy
  • Premiered in a Christmas production with a local theater company
  • Performed in a choir, singing middle school level pieces of music with at least two part harmonies.

Needless to say, all things ARE possible.  Even with ADHD.

anakin-naan

The particular issue in this season of our lives is that the distractions and noise are constant and at times chaotic.  Not only was he having a difficult time focusing but the stress of trying to concentrate with the odds against him were also giving him headaches, depression, and an upset stomach.

So far, I’ve tried a dose of Ritalin twice – and always with his consent.  I’ve asked him, “Do you want to take your medication for XYZ this morning? Or do you think you can handle without?”  He’s asked me to do cub scouts and church without meds.  But on meds, he tackled a lot of chores and a lot of school work – might I add in an impressive amount of time.  DRASTICALLY less fussing with the sibling over every. single. chore.

Rabbit trail: How do I know this kid is a math genious? Because he’ll tell me, “Caleb only vacuumed 1/3 of the surface area upstairs.  Mean while, I have swept and mopped the entire floor down stairs, which is about twice the surface area Caleb has to vacuum upstairs in the first place! Therefore, it stands to reason that I should get on the computer first and not do any more chores – not even his chores!”  For the record, Caleb is 7.

He has complained it bugs his stomach but not enough to slow him down.  No change in personality either, just more task efficient; seeing the problem as “what needs to get done?” and then doing just that without complaining, fussing, or bullying his siblings into taking his place.

I don’t doubt that with or without medication Anakin, along many other kids, will accomplish things that will surpass anything his father and I could’ve hoped for!  While we read through the literature and learn better skills, we can certainly use treatment as our ally.

anakin-and-me

And we will probably BOTH need treatment.  All my research shows me that ADHD is hereditary, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Anakin probably inherited it from me.  If I braved this process for him, I owe it to him to brave it for myself too because I can only parent as far as I know.  If you want to know how this saga progresses, you’ll have to follow my blog.  Only time will tell!

Do you face medication concerns when it comes to your loved ones? How do you handle that conversation? Share below!

If Y’all Could Make Mental Health Not So Scary… That Would Be Great.

I last shared about the pivoting point that made a potential Ritalin believer for my son, Anakin.  But first, I had to go to his pediatrician and get a diagnosis.

Confession: I wish this process wasn’t so … scary.  There’s so much stigma attached to not having a perfectly wired brain!

… So many of these boys do poorly in High School.  They are also more likely to struggle with depression and as a result, turn to drug addiction.  Or they can be psychopaths, quite literally, with severe defiant disorders… Yikes! This is my ten year old Larry boy we’re talking about! The one who memorized and quizzed on the whole book of Acts, who got baptized at church camp!

Trust me when I say: Don’t google anything.  But take notes of everything about your kid – everything he feels physically, emotionally, and every behavior issue and bring that to a professional.  In my case, my Pediatrician has treated Anakin since he was 3 years old!  He has a history of all of Anakin’s developmental assessments through out the years as well as his vaccines.  He knows how smart Anakin is.

We talked about some physical symptoms that were concerning me; insomnia (I wonder who he gets THAT from?!), upset stomach, and a clumsy impulsivity that is above and beyond a preteen.  We also talked about how Anakin has always been forgetful but it feels that this school year he can’t find the pocket on his own pants.  Anakin himself shared that he’s frustrated because he stutters more often, isn’t getting along well with his friends like he used to, and that he feels worried or anxious all the time.

We didn’t need to talk about how Anakin has a difficult time with negative feelings.  And there’s no mild discomfort; everything on his pain scale is a 12 over 10 or a 0.  He’s been this way since he was two years old…

He sent us home with some questionaires – one for him to complete about himself, and one for parents to complete.  We came in another day with questionnaires filled and Anakin sat through about 45 minutes of testing to assess various neurological responses.

It was after all this that the doctor sat us down and said my suspicions were correct; although Anakin is very smart and has undoubtedly developed some good coping mechanisms thus far, he has ADHD.

He proceeds to explain to Anakin, eye to eye, what Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder means, with a drawing of brain neurons, and leaves me with a prescription of Ritalin which is completely optional and the list of a few authors.  He gives Anakin two books on how to slow down his mind to think.

We head over to the library and I leave Anakin happily playing a computer game on army tanks to brave section 616 in the adult floor.

anakin_tank

Dementia… PTSD… Anorexia… Depression… Psychopathy… Autism… 

Lord Jesus, what have I done to my son?!

scary-books

Attention Deficit Disorder… Here it is… A quarter of the shelf.  I’m hoping it’s more because so many books have been checked out and not necessarily because not enough books are written.

adhd-books

This is what makes asking for help so scary!  To venture down a path of needing mental health walks you through all these terrifiying and very real potential problems, much like how I felt walking down aisle 616 at my local library (even the number sounds ominous!).

But none of these things are beyond Jesus’ ability to heal or work through.  Autism, like ADHD, is an inherited different wiring of the brain – nothing more, nothing less.  Nothing God can’t use.  It’s not the nails on the coffin; it’s the nails on the Cross!  They are souls Jesus died for who have a role to play in God’s Kingdom.  While I would ask God to help someone heal from PTSD or Anorexia, I wouldn’t ask God to “heal” someone with autism or ADHD; they are some of the most wonderful geniuses I have ever met.  

PS About the video of Anakin three years ago… we all laugh about it now.  I’m sharing now confident that he isn’t as mortified about the incident as he was then.  He is a good sport and has a good sense of humor.

Do you know and love someone who is “differently abled”?  How has that changed your perspective on people with these different diagnosis? Share below!

This “What Were You Thinking?!” Moment Is Brought To You By…

Confession: I was that mom to whom teachers could not say the word “Ritalin” to.  And when I heard it for the third time, I pulled him out and began to homeschool.

I think there’s a stigma to mental health among Hispanic communities.  We were raised with “Chanclaterapia” = “Flip-flop therapy”, ie: There isn’t any behavior that can’t be fixed by smacking him upside the head with your sandals.  I don’t think it’s cruelty as much as it may be ignorance, but I also know that for many families in third world countries, failure is not an option.  To do poorly in school is to do poorly in life, and unlike the U.S., to do poorly in these countries is to be destined for poverty in it’s most unforgiving forms.  Graduating high school and going to college thus becomes the Holy Grail of the Hispanic community.

But about my son… He’s 10 and a half and in 5th grade.  And I’ve homeschooled him since.  He writes very well – but only one paragraph at a time.  His current major research project has taken him 4 weeks.  Because if I have him sit down and write 5 paragraphs all at once, it’s a disaster of syntax and grammar that I’m sure, if he read it out loud just once, he’d realize how an automated call center machine from India has better English than him…

This “What were you thinking?!” moment is brought to you by…

In Math, we’re doing remedial elementary school coursework.  Because I want to make sure he doesn’t advance to 6th grade still having trouble lining up his place values when he multiplies and divides – although he’s done these operations since 3rd grade, he … still… can’t put his numbers in the right place consistently and … still… makes these mistakes.  But he can do it right in his head!  He just can’t consistently perform well on paper!

This “What were you thinking?!” moment is brought to you by…

He burned his hand twice in one week.  The first time he was making Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwhiches so for the life of me I don’t even know why.  The second time I saw it happen and no one would believe me unless they were there…

… We were at church early one Sunday morning, and I’m in the process of making myself some tea.  He sees me put the tea bag into the disposable cup and says, “There’s hot water right here!” and proceeds to touch it.  Touch the metal hot water dispenser that is plugged in to the wall to keep the water boiling hot.  With the sign that says: “Careful.  Hot Water.”  I’m standing there stunned, he’s shaking his hand and in tears.  He wasn’t even close to it! He had to take two steps toward it to touch it.  He looks at me like he can’t even understand the pain he’s in, and I ask him the question of the day: “Anakin, what were you thinking?”  to which he replies, “I don’t know!” and breaks down into sobs.

So when my 125 IQ’d, published author, high school level reader, amazing artist, self-taught musician son who can do SAT level word analogies like a boss at age 10 can’t explain to me his thought process behind the impulsivity of putting a hand on a known hot object, I knew it was time to seek help.  It’s not a bad behavior modification issue.  It’s not even a discipline issue…

… But if it was a discipline issue, and I addressed it with “chanclaterapia”, how long would I beat him with a flip flop before I realized it just wasn’t working?  Seriously if I used a flip flop every time he forgot something, lost something, spaced out, lied to me on auto pilot, left his shoes in the middle of the dining room floor, or flailed his arms into harm’s way, I’d smack him 9-10 times a day.  That would be the definition of insanity on my part!

So I challenge my readers with difficult children today to stop and think for a moment: If you have been disciplining more than once over the same issue, and the child’s behavior is not improving, maybe it’s because discipline is not the problem!  At one point, we should all as parents be willing to brave the thought that our kids (and us) need professional help.  It was a tough pill for me to swallow, but I’m willing to hold your hand and walk you through it as your friend.

What is your biggest fear in asking your pediatrician or other medical professional for help when it comes to your child?  How have you overcome it? Share below!

And don’t forget to like/subscribe to my blog!  Thank you for your time.

Help! I Don’t Know What Kind of Homeschooler I am!

Confession: Even within the homeschooling community, there can be different “factions” – and some butting heads as a result.

You’d think just the fact that we homeschool would set us apart from what appears to be EVERYONE else, but oh no – from here it’s just a whole new world of soccer-mom style Hunger Games, unless you know how to get along with every one.

Beyond Bible-thumpers (or not), vaccine-haters (or not), special-needers (or not), we also have different schools of thought as to what “homeschooling should look like”.  These go deeper than personal parenting styles or opinion – it’s practically our philosophy for learning!


Don’t let it scare you too much – I will help you understand where these different moms are coming from, using myself as an example of how I fail at these miserably.

1.      The “unschooler”: It’s easy to think of an “unschooler” as a mom who refuses to do school work with her kids.  The end result is this mental image of a kid watching TV all day while mom sips a glass of wine, while other homeschooling moms are like, “Aren’t you going to have little Johnny LEARN SOMETHING!!”  The reality is, unschooling is super successful but super difficult to do.  It’s passing on a textbook in exchange of real-life application of that subject, like when I have my kids prepare a recipe to work on fractions and chemistry INSTEAD of doing them on Khan Academy.  You literally have to make an opportunity out of EVERYTHING and constantly inspire research, trial and error, and curiosity.  As hard as I try, I’m not above throwing a workbook at my kid and having him do a few pages so I can peruse Facebook for fifteen minutes (a.k.a. take a nap).

2.      The Charlotte Mason Schooler: Charlotte Mason was a brilliant educator of her time and I think every homeschooling mom should read a few of her books.  She always held the premise that children could surpass any educational expectation if properly nourished.  She advocated for reading, and read alouds.  Not Dr. Seuss, no, but The Odyssey or Hamlet – she did not believe in “age appropriate” reading, but rather that language development and imagination could have any child comprehend literary classics.  She was also big on imagination, public speaking, and nature.  I have decided I want to be Charlotte Mason when I grow up!  However with three children in different stages I am not as involved as this requires.


3.      The Public School Equivalent Schooler: These are the moms that do public school curriculum at home.  They basically work through workbooks, text books, and pre-set boxed materials from page 1 until it ends.  They feel they have to prove their homeschooling worth by having their children meet or surpass their peers in public school.  I started off this way because I didn’t know any better, and now I continue this way because my OCD does NOT allow me to reach the end of the year and leave a textbook unfinished.  That drives me nuts!

4.      The Pinteresty Schooler: You know the moms who have a craft or a science project for everything? Uuuuugh… I can’t even…

5.      The Unit Study Schooler:  These moms simply their lives by working on one subject at a time – and employing all other learning materials around that subject.  For example, as we are participating in the Idita-READ and learning about the Iditarod, we may read books on the subject, paint Alaska inspired art, trim the dog’s nails, calculate average speed for mushers, and write opinion pieces for our favorite musher.  Thus, for the whole week, we’re doing everything around this theme as long as it captures the kid’s attention; math, writing, reading, science, and history.  This is where I’ve been leaning more lately, mainly because I haven’t planned a lesson in weeks and I’m just running with it.

All this to say, no homeschooling mom is perfect!  We’re all crazy over our kids – there’s no competition!  So the best way to approach these fierce moms as they do homeschooling life (and it seems odd to you) is to appreciate that there is in fact a method to their madness.  It’s a beautiful thing to be able to pick and choose how we’re going to homeschool based on what is best for each kid and for this season, with the flexibility to adjust as we move along.