Posted in Family, Homeschooling

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?

Posted in Family, Homeschooling

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?

Posted in Family, Homeschooling

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!

Posted in Family, Homeschooling

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.

Posted in Faith, Uncategorized

Blast From The Past

This was a blog post published July 28th, 2015.  Sometimes going back and seeing God’s faithfulness in the past helps to jolt me to the reality that He really is a present help in time of need.

The past three weeks I have not been scheduled to work at my part-time job. This has been a bit of a financial blow that we are trying to overcome.

And as usual, this is the season when things go wrong, need repairs, or somehow we are reminded how much more money don’t have.

As y’all know I’m already a bit of an insomniac. Last week was different: I would stay awake with my heart racing, fighting a supernatural struggle against anxiety. Praying, listening to the Bible as I laid in bed so I wouldn’t hear all the other thoughts that assaulted me.

In my prayer time, I asked God what I was supposed to do with my Zumba certification. Because I can’t really seem to get a job as a Zumba instructor unless I’m also an accredited Group Fitness Certified Instructor… a certification that costs $300-500 I also don’t have. I just felt stuck.

May I add that finances were the LEAST of our trials? Talk about a spiritual assault! I had arrows thrown at me from every side! From family, to our kids, to work, and my husband’s job. I was weary from it! I can’t even begin to share all the details here, though my journal knows, but I was beat down on every side.

When I couldn’t take the stress anymore, I got a little lost with my kids to re-center.

Well the Lord has graciously provided an opportunity for me to substitute three Zumba classes this week. It means I make some extra cash (yay!). But for every one hour of Zumba I would teach, I do four hours at home perfecting the class and making sure my routine works. And then another hour fighting anxiety in prayer because I’m nervous that no one will show up or no one will like me or I’ll screw up. So this is taking a lot of my time.

And I already have to give time to the kids. Anakin’s hand completely healed and he’s ready to ride his bike (two weeks ahead of schedule! Praise God!). And I have to give time first and foremost to the Lord; I’m not that stupid as to be facing so many battles and not spending time working out strategies with my Commander. So the first thing our family has been doing (more consistently now than in the past, I confess) is reading our Bibles and studying it. And praying.

So here is where my fellow introverts ask me: Maria, if you are so anxious, and teaching a Zumba class makes you so nervous, why do you do it? Why don’t you just get a job?

Or my biggest pet peeve ever: Maybe you should just send your kids to public school so you can go work at an office? (Gotta love people who solve your problems without any God-given direction…)

It’s a risk I’m willing to take because I am motivated by the possibility that I could find that John Piper sweet spot where God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. If I can make the extra income we need helping other women have a good time (teaching Zumba) and not sacrificing our family life, I am in that sweet spot.

For the record, I’ve also applied for and interviewed other very basic, entry level jobs at local gyms.

My extra motivation this week came after I took the kids to their annual eye checkup.

My silly, beautiful little girl!

I always thought Brielle was dyslexic because I knew that she struggles with doing her letters backwards or spelling words all scrambled. I knew (and I’ve shared this before) that she works twice as hard as any other kid her age to read or write and that she focuses twice as much. Public school told me in Kindergarten that she’d probably outgrow it naturally. The charter school I homeschool through told me that she seems to be an auditory learner, and she has not fallen behind, but enjoys learning more through conversation, music, and movement than through print.

The doctor examines her eyes and notices that her eyes naturally rest looking outward a little instead of straight ahead. Which means to focus, and to see a line of print (like from her Bible, which she reads about a chapter a day or so) she has to hold a strain for a prolonged period of time… where other kids can just stare straight ahead and be just fine.

And now everything I’ve known in my heart makes sense, although it wasn’t dyslexia. But she does need to see a specialist for eye therapy to correct the issue, especially since she’s still young and there’s a good chance that as she grows she can be “cured”. In the meantime I’m just in awe of how dedicated she is to reading and writing, because she’ll write in her journal regularly and she loves the youversion app on the kindle.

And I’m thankful I homeschool because while she’s getting therapy, I can focus a curriculum JUST FOR HER that uses other styles of learning more than book work, so that she doesn’t fall behind on content and she can keep learning without straining her eyes. It’s one of those moments I know God was moving in Brielle’s favor when He told me I needed to homeschool before I even knew what was necessary.

I want the resiliency my kids have. They laugh through everything!

Then my youngest, Caleb, turns out to be quite the conman. We’ve always done his eye exams briefly at the pediatrician, with a chart. He’s always said he appears to have 20/20 vision in both eyes.

It turns out, he has ok vision in one eye and a WHOLE LOT OF PHOTOGRAPHIC memory. He memorized the chart and aced it.

Because at the eye doctor, he was discovered to have been soooooo farsighted in one eye he was in danger of losing the optical nerves in that eye. So he needs to wear prescription glasses as soon as possible. Talk about total surprise!

I was humiliated that I couldn’t afford to pay the $29 I needed to at check out for my son’s glasses, and had to ask them to bill me that when I pick them up.

But it motivated me to take on the Zumba classes with a fury because I now know I’ll need more money than I thought. I don’t know how much Brielle’s eye therapy will cost, or how often it will be, or how much our insurance will cover.

In all this, the verse that kept coming to mind over and over was in Philippians 4: Our God shall supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory. I had this verse given to me in every Bible app, every Facebook post or comment sent my way. I listened to it at night and read it during the day.

It has given me peace to know God somehow knew the entirety of my situation before I was aware of all of it. I know I’ve been attacked a lot (and so has my church, so it’s nothing unusual honestly), but I also see the Hand of God moving in my favor and having my 6. I can’t explain otherwise how getting the news that two of your children have pretty gnarly vision problems can result in a praise report.

Update: Present day (2017) Caleb’s eyesight has improved, though he wears glasses faithfully.  Brielle “graduated” from vision therapy and is now reading at grade level, hasn’t had any more issues since.  Praise God! Shortly after this post I got a regular Zumba teaching job which I stayed in until the room I used to teach went down for maintenance and I was, in essence, laid off. God has been faithful through out with different opportunities to make ends meet.