Category Archives: Parenting

Uniforms: The Great Equalizer

Many years ago uniforms were widely added to school dress codes and are mandatory in many areas. Not all schools did this, but there was a clear trend. Many argued for uniforms for valid reasons. Many opposed as well. As a former teacher and parent, I find this topic much more cut and dry than most.

Uniforms have been popular in dress codes over the past few decades.

Uniforms: Socioeconomic Equalizer and Anti-Bully Tool

When uniforms became a new fad, many argued that this type of dress code would help those who cannot afford the newest, coolest clothing. This makes sense to some degree. It’s not easy to buy the most popular brands. Then again, most families in need either accepted donations or purchased sale items which likely cost less than a week’s worth of uniforms. Some families cannot afford to go to the laundromat more than once per week which may mean a child must wear a uniform twice in one week, even if dirty.

If students are good people, being taught to be good citizens by their families, then odds are that bullying is not an issue no matter what others wear each day. Make no mistake, bullying begins at home. When it spreads through schools, you can still go back through the chain to find bullying by one or more families at the start.

On top of that, when a family can only afford a few uniforms, the socioeconomic status is still obvious in the wear and tear or unwashed appearance of the clothing. Bullying can still occur with a uniform dress code in place.

Uniforms: Gang Prevention

Another popular opinion is that without clear markings on clothing, gangs will have less of a foothold in schools. I am thankful that people are concerned about safety in schools. The problem is that gangs are not stupid. They will use hairstyles, tattoos, shoe or sock choices, hairbands, and other ways to show their alliance and gang colors or symbols.

Uniforms: Good for Everyone

The pervasive idea that uniforms are good for everyone is a bit of a generalization. After all, those with sensory issues may very well have negative behavioral reactions to the feeling those polo shirts and collars have. This can cause tardiness, ongoing in class behavior issues, and distractions. On the other hand, children who are raised with love, patience and taught to focus on school will likely not have difficulty moving on from seeing what others wear to do school work.

Uniforms may be comfortable for some students, but not all.

In the end, I found uniforms to stifle creativity of my students and children. I am firmly against using them as a mandatory dress code and encourage others to consider the cons along with the pros. It is easier to teach a student who feels comfortable and happy. This may mean polo shirts and cotton/polyester blend pants or it may mean leggings and a t-shirt. The goal is learning. Don’t let uniforms stand in the way.

 

 

7 Reasons Homeschooling Works and One Reason It’s Tough

 

  1. Flexibility

When a family decides to homeschool, they get to set their schedule. Does mom work the night shift? No problem, homeschool in the morning or afternoon. Does dad have a business trip during the week and you are invited? Awesome! No absentee notes to write and have rejected by the principal because they aren’t sick notes.

Head on out to Boston, New York, or nearly anywhere you’re your wallet can afford. You may even learn something about history, cultures, transportation, architecture, or art while out and about.

  1. Family Time

Because your schedule is not set by the local school, you can decide when you have classes, trips, chores, movie night, and other events. It can be easier to schedule family time when it is convenient rather than in the time left over after dealing with schedules other entities give you.

  1. Developmentally Appropriate Lessons

I hear complaints every day. Either schools are asking students to do things they are not yet ready to understand or schools are giving kids busy work they have already mastered. We can’t blame schools and teachers too much for this. They are stuck. They have many kids and a curriculum which says it is for all, but really has expectations that all students will master the same benchmarks. Sure, teachers scaffold, remediate, and try their hardest, but some kids are ahead or behind the given benchmarks due to their developmental stage.

This means that many come away from public school frustrated because this learning model does not meet everyone’s needs. Homeschool families can choose to work at a student’s developmental stage and build from there. With one on one or small group lessons, such as in a co-op, this is an easier task than in a classroom with 18 or more students.

  1. Time for ESE

There are some fantastic ESE programs at brick and mortar schools for those living with special needs. However, there are also advantages to one on one and small group instruction provided in a home education setting. Students who are easily distracted, are too shy to speak up when they do not understand, or who get lost in the shuffle when there is a large group will benefit from having more attention and help. There is no comparison between an 18 to 1 ratio and a 1 to 1 ratio. There just isn’t. Keep in mind that with less time spent waiting for his turn, your child will have more time to attend therapist and doctor appointments, if needed.

  1. Extracurriculars

Is your child a budding actress? Does your child have an aptitude for baseball? Less time in class waiting on others to complete work or have questions answered equals more time for extracurriculars. Sometimes your local school also allows homeschooled students to join their teams so keep this in mind, too.

  1. Friends

In brick and mortar schools you meet the people who are in class with you. Hopefully, you make friends with them and see each other outside of class, too. After school time is limited, though. During school, your job is to work on academics. You don’t get to practice social skills, navigating friendships with ample time to put towards solving problems.

Homeschool students often have friends of different ages and socioeconomic statutes. They also tend to have more time to devote to getting together, volunteering, and working on social skills such as problem solving

  1. Pursue childhood

Seems like we see articles about recapturing childhood and getting rid of screen-time. One great way to do this is to give your child the gift of time to play and exercise without imposing rules about how they should do this, though safety rules may be needed in some cases. Sure, those who attend brick and mortar schools can do this on weekends and after school. That can definitely work. Homeschoolers can do this, too. They can suspend lessons to enjoy a beautiful day attend a field trip outdoors, or explore a local town.

When It Gets Tough

Homeschooling isn’t without it’s challenges. Personality conflicts may occur between siblings or parent and child. Plus, the time and commitment needed to plan and stick with this schooling model can be overwhelming in some cases. Thankfully, there are online and local support groups which often help for free. There are also bloggers, consultants, and local classes in most areas. The idea is to take a team approach rather than going it alone. Plus, adjusting lessons and activities when you see a need to do so can be beneficial and lower stress.

 

If you would like to discuss homeschool or unschool options, feel free to reach out to me. I receive questions every day and am happy to help. Should you need a more in-depth meeting, reading coaching or lesson writing services, please let me know. I am happy to help. Allow me to put my experience to work for you!

 

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

 

 

6 Questions to Ask When You Are Choosing a Homeschool Program or Co-op

 

If you homeschool, you may consider joining a program, co-op, or school that partners with you to educate your child. Gone are the days of all homeschool students sitting separately at home with no other options. Today, homeschool students can choose from part day, full day, online, or co-op programs taught by multiple parents, depending on the subject area.

Many times, these options offer free, low cost, or moderately priced courses for students. As programs multiply across the U.S., it is important to ask questions before signing a contract, spending money, or allowing your children to attend a program like this.

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  1. Is the program secular, inclusive, or religious?

A secular program will include religion sometimes, but only as a historical or multicultural topic. An inclusive program may choose to celebrate a variety of multicultural holidays and may also choose to add religious information based on history and multiculturalism into lessons. Neither of these is guaranteed, though, because not all programs encompass all topics. If the program is religious, tenants of the religion may be included. There is, again, no guarantee of this and the program organizer may or may not include history or multicultural studies. It is important for parents to find out exactly what will be taught and from what perspective the lessons come.

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  1. How do the instructors handle discipline issues and is there a set of rules/expectations which is easily understood by students and families?

Discipline is tricky. Every parent and course organizer will have their own ideas about what a wise choice is in the classroom. Be sure your ideals line up with expectations during your child’s time in class. If not, then consider the differences and if they are deal-breakers or something you can accept and work with.

  1. If there is a contract, what are the terms? What happens if these terms are broken?

If there is a contract regarding behavior and/or money, be sure to read it carefully many times before signing. Check into the organizer’s reputation and don’t feel bad asking for references. If the person is new to the job, ask for personal instead of work references, if needed. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions about background, where the program is headed, and other important topics.

  1. Are families required to purchase curricula or other items separately to bring with them to classes?

Find out if there are any fees. Make sure you know about fees on top of basic tuition. Sometimes materials fees, cancellation fees, or other fees find their way into contracts. Having fees is standard in most programs, but you will want to note specific fees, due dates, and be sure you understand your responsibilities before signing a contract.

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  1. What are the backgrounds and certifications, if any, of your staff and parent volunteers? Are they experienced with special needs?

While teaching certification is important to many people, it is not necessarily the only way to prove that you are qualified in a subject area and to work with children. For example, many times artists make great art teachers even without going to college to become a teacher. You may, however, consider being present if your child has special needs or if the program is new. Safety is important. Second to that is your child having fun while also learning. By keeping a consistent set of expectations and understanding student needs, instructors and parents can produce a developmentally appropriate environment where learning is constant.

  1. Find out what type of educational model is being used.

Generally speaking, students need hands-on activities to help them recall information later. This means games, science projects, discussions, books, and other similar tasks. Lectures should be kept to a minimum. Students should have ample time to learn together to separately depending on their needs and the topic. Make sure to ask which educational model is being used (unschool, classical, thematic units, eclectic, etc) and have the organizer explain what a typical day looks like before assuming they see the style of homeschool the same way you do.

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Joining a program, such as a co-op or school, can greatly encourage you and your children to reach higher and learn more. Finding the right program for your child’s needs and family’s beliefs is a large part of the success or failure when joining a program.

Ask questions, be sure you understand what is expected of you and your child, and have fun!

Making Use of Sick Days – Get Your Kid to Rest

You know how it goes. Your little one has a cough or fever. Kiddo isn’t miserable, but definitely needs to relax, rest, chill out, whatever you want to call it. Unfortunately, your child is not interested in resting. She isn’t sick enough to want to sleep or rest, but sick enough to annoy the stuffing out of siblings, pets, and sometimes even mom or dad.

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What’s a parent to do?

Below are some ideas that let your child do something fun, or even educational, while resting.

(Please note that if ill, you won’t want your child to make something for others and you will want to sanitize all toys which may be reused or toss out anything that may communicate a disease to others after your child uses it. This is where the dollar store play dough or homemade playdough make a lot of sense. Toss it when finished without too much frustration over replacement costs.)
  1. Watch a documentary
  2. Write a story on a piece of paper or a computer/tablet/etc
  3. Draw a picture
  4. Use stickers to create a picture or story
  5. Play a computer game
  6. Play a board game
  7. Use beads to make a bracelet
  8. Sit and build with blocks
  9. Use kinetic sand or playdough
  10. Make sensory bottles and use them to look at and relax
  11. Make letter, number, or dice bottles and play a game
  12. Use tangrams
  13. Read books together
  14. Mix colors to make new ones or use watercolors to paint

Hopefully these ideas, as well as your own, help your child slow down a bit while healing from illness. Remember to secure the caps to bottles or other small pieces for safety and supervise your child as well.

Feel free to let me know your ideas as well. I’d love to hear them.

The Teacher Took His Microphone

 

She took the microphone away from a child.

She took the microphone away from a child.

By now many of you have seen the video clip of a teacher taking the microphone from a child living with Autism. Many have condemned the teacher while others have made excuses why this might be okay. I have a few thoughts about this, but also some questions.

Who was this performance meant to benefit?

When my students put on performances, it was to make the school, classroom, or parents look and feel good. I cannot remember one time when it was for all of the kids, chosen by the kids, and a benefit to the kids. Some children love to be in public and performing while others shy away and they certainly should be allowed to do either behavior without forced to perform like trained animals.

As adorable as seeing children on stage is, it is easy for them to think you are laughing at them when you really are laughing because they did something cute. Often, public speaking is part of state educational standards which really does not allow students with varying interests and abilities to be educated in the least restrictive environment while attending to their unique needs and interests. Free choice is the key, if I am being honest. Unfortunately. teachers have very little time for this type of educational model.

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What will teachers do when the number of children with Autism is greater than the number of those without?

While some children have Autism due to genetic factors, others have onset of symptoms after exposure to environmental toxins. At this point in time, both are coded as Autism. That may change in the future, but right now, to receive therapies and have them coded in a way that insurance companies will help pay for the costs, this is the reality.

As the numbers of those living with Autism climb, and make no mistake this is the prediction, how will our educational system fare? How will teachers be able to do their jobs with class sizes up to 20 in early childhood grade levels and over half of their students living with special needs? As numbers of those with Autism grow, will teachers be able to differentiate instruction, work on behavior concerns, and not burn out?

I am doubtful. In my state, all re-certifications must include ESE training classes. Because some of these classes will be taught in individual schools by those working there, we don’t actually know how much correct information or quality is going into them. I hope great care is being taken.

When I took my courses, I did so through a university. Unfortunately, they focused on coercion of students in order to make them comply even when it really was not necessary to force compliance for safety or educational purposes. The truth is that less is more. Routine, reminding of expectations before an issue occurs, and patience all help. Sometimes we have to be strict, but mostly we have to be flexible and understanding as long as safety is not an issue.

In addition, there were ESE teachers in my classes who repeatedly said terrible things about children and made generalizations about “them”. The term “animals” was thrown around and I was so appalled that I chose another university for my PHD program.

Please remember, there are some fantastic teachers who do bring poor teacher behaviors to the attention of administrators, but there are also teachers who are afraid of having a tougher work environment if they speak up. We must work to enable the positive teachers while re-educating or sending away those who are terribly behaved.

What about this child?

I would not be surprised if the teacher was tired and wanted to “put him in his place” when she snatched the microphone. She probably worked all day, had frustrations with him all day, and decided this would show him that she was in charge and to be obeyed no matter what. She was at her breaking point and has not been educated regarding 1. special needs and 2. psychologically appropriate educational techniques. Maybe this is her fault. Maybe her boss should train the employees better. Maybe her former college ought to retool their programs.

At any rate, she was wrong.

She was prideful, went on a power trip, and was wrong.

 

What if parents complain about accommodations?

What if parents complain about accommodations?

What if the other parents complain about teachers allowing ESE students to behave or learn differently?

It doesn’t matter what other parents think. IDEA says that those living with certain special needs must be accommodated.

I have seen some terrible comments on social media about how children with special needs shouldn’t get “extras”, also known as developmentally appropriate teaching practices. They blame the victim saying he had already had a turn, and maybe he did. Maybe he was working on learning about taking turns and has not yet mastered the skill. This is exactly why we have bullying. Many adults cannot handle being different from one another so they push that insecurity and hate on children who then bully each other. Thank goodness some people are working to educate those who bully others.

Providing training, skills, and strategies may help.

Providing training, skills, and strategies may help.

What should happen to the teacher?

First, I am not clear as to whether that teacher sees the child on a day to day basis or not. If so, she ought to, at the very least, be removed and replaced from that position so they do not come into contact. The child should not be moved from the classroom if she is a special area or classroom teacher. Removing the child from the classroom and putting him in another is disruptive to him and punishes him so the teacher is the one who must move.

Then, of course, the teacher must give a public apology. If she feels embarrassed, that is sad, but it is exactly how that tiny human felt so she will be okay in doing this. It is important for children to see that nobody is perfect and that we can do our best to correct mistakes. This is how children learn to be good humans, by observing our behaviors and how we adults correct ourselves. Snatching a microphone teaches the child that someone bigger can take your stuff without permission and he is more likely to do the same behavior to get his way if the teacher doesn’t apologize and then make better choices.

Next, all teachers in the district, yes in the entire district, must be educated regarding how to not take behaviors personally when they have stress due to teaching children with special needs. If you watch the video, the teacher was clearly taking something personally and on a power trip to show that kid who is in charge and who can do whatever they want. 

This may be a pervasive attitude in the area or school. If your notice in the video, no adult jumps up to stop the teacher, either. I would highly encourage parent education night as well, not only for information about Autism, but also to learn about other special needs present in educational settings.

Another potential solution is to provide support. I recall needing assistance due to students, in different situations, being harmful to themselves or others. When calling for assistance, I was often told that no one was available. Sometimes help would come, sometimes not. I ended up doing most of the work of a dean myself or with the help of my next door teammate.

When stress gets to be too much or someone is being unsafe, there should be someone who can help or give the teacher a break. I often said that if I had not been trained with strategies and skills to deal with high stress situations, then I might have lost it. I can understand how teachers snap. Please note that though parent volunteers are awesome, you cannot leave the classroom with them in charge so that is not a viable option for a break due to stress.

We must insist upon a supportive environment for students and teachers by providing training, tools, and support.

We must insist upon a supportive environment for students and teachers by providing training, tools, and support.

It is important to provide skills and strategy options so that teachers and students do not feel backed into a corner. Teachers have to remember not to take student behaviors personally. The truth of the matter is that we are all different and that is okay. However, being a bully is never okay. This teacher was at the end of her rope and chose to bully. It’s time for her take a step back and try things differently. There are a great many of us who benefit from this idea, too. There’s no shame in learning new strategies and all children, whether developing typically or not, deserve patience and multiple chances to learn social skills.

Teens and Homeschool

Now that the teen years are upon many in my social groups, I thought it wise to take time to address the unique challenges that occur when your child’s brain and body are changing rapidly. Some challenges are social while others are educational. When you homeschool, this can present concerns because parents are often both teacher and, of course, family. This can amplify stressful situations, in some cases. How can we homeschool teens while lowering stress?

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Teens may have mood swings or different priorities than parents.

 

Flexibility

Because huge changes occur during adolescence, our children may seem to be in a bad mood or distracted from time to time. While you can try to power through curriculum and lessons, it may be wise to stop and take a break instead. Another option is to provide your teen with a list of activities from which to choose and an adequate time-period in which to complete one or more activities. If possible, give your teen the autonomy to choose topics to explore rather than use a canned curriculum you choose. This is not always possible so check your state homeschool laws before skipping a curriculum.

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No Traps Here

Make sure not to back your child into a figurative corner. Instead, leave room for variation and be patient. Demanding things immediately never pans out with toddlers, why would it work with teens nearing adulthood? It doesn’t. Give options within the necessary boundaries for a situation.

Fear of Failure

Also, offer to help if a task seems boring or difficult. Sometimes students will avoid tasks or complete them quickly, but incorrectly in these cases. Stay nearby if you suspect this is the issue. Gove examples. Offer examples other than yours such as those found on YouTube, SchoolTube, and educational websites.

Enlist Community Involvement or a Mentor

Sometimes our personalities do not mesh well with our children’s personalities. Consider attending local co-ops, partial day schools, or extracurricular classes. Many times, you and your teen can receive relief from stress by taking small breaks from each other during programs like this. You can recharge your batteries and your child can work separately from you with the expectations and help of another adult. If this option doesn’t work for your child, then consider looking for a mentor who can check in from time to time to help with school activities, talk about a pathway to your child’s dream job, and be anally to your child’s success.

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Extracurricular activities can help teens.

Team-building for a Cause

Encourage your child to be part of a team along with you. If your child is interested in animal rights, find ways to help support animals together. If your child is interested in art, consider working together to create a mural at a children’s hospital. Together you can help others and strengthen family bonds.

Look for the Good

Remember to focus on the positive when possible. Don’t let things slide, but don’t forget to find the good even if in small choices or behaviors. As your teen is better able to make choices without your assistance, be thankful and mention how wonderful this is to your child.

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Teens need time with friends.

It may seem difficult one day, then easy the next. Parenting a teenager is not all rainbows and puppies. Then again, they don’t think we parents are always reasonable, either. The key is to be flexible, be patient, try different strategies, and remember that they will become adults who can make wise choices because you are putting in the work now to help them get there.

Ways to Teach Handwriting Without Using a Pencil

Many parents ask me how to help their children who refuse to practice handwriting or who have difficulty forming letter shapes with a pencil. There are several things parents can do to help in this situation. Keep in mind that special needs may affect skill acquisition so if your gut says there is an issue, get it checked out. However, even when dealing with a special need, the following activities may help strengthen your child’s fine motor skills and also letter writing skills.

 

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Use clay to shape letters or for fine motor play.

Use a tray of rice or play sand, from your local home improvement store, to draw letter shapes.

Practice using tweezers to pick up small items such as buttons, pompom balls from the craft store, or beads, then sort them into groups according to color, size, or other characteristics.

Bend pipe cleaners/chenille wires into letter shapes.

Use q-tips, toothpicks, or sticky items like Wikki Stix to form letter shapes.

Use finger paint to draw letter shapes.

Use items from nature to create letters and words. (Sticks can draw in sand, leaves can be fashioned into letters, etc.)

Use a different material such as chalk on a sidewalk, white board, or computer drawing program.

 

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You can also use any of these ideas to draw straight, curved, and diagonal lines as well in order to help children practice making the lines that letter shapes use. The key is to get creative, use your child’s interests, and don’t be afraid to complete the activity with your child. It’s more fun when a caregiver participates. 🙂

Which Homeschool Preschool Curriculum Should I Choose?

Parents often ask how to get their children ahead in time for kindergarten. This is true for families of children in preschool who choose homeschool and those who choose brick and mortar schools. Parents want their children to excel. We want our kids to do better than the best. This is why many homeschool newbies ask which curriculum to use for their toddler and preschool students whose parents plan to homeschool. I see this question asked at least once a week in homeschool forums. Thankfully, I have an answer that will help you no matter who you are or how young your child happens to be.

The good news is that you do not need to purchase a curriculum for your child just yet. Instead, focus on social and academic skills through everyday situations. Don’t push children to recite letter names or count constantly. Do model how to count, how to be kind, and other skills. Model cleaning up after yourself and work as a team to do this. Model how to care for someone who is hurt or sad. In short, play and interact. How easy is that!?

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Some people will ask why so many preschool programs push literacy. The answer is that they are not always developmentally appropriate programs, but they are required to prepare children for a rigorous kindergarten year. In Florida, where I taught kindergarten for nearly a decade, teachers graded preschools based on how incoming kindergarten students did at social and academic skills. This can affect funding of those pre-k programs so they HAVE to be rigorous, too, though this is not appropriate for children.

What should a prekindergarten program look like?

I will blog in depth about this at some point, but for now the things you need to look for include, among other things:

A variety of open-ended activities

No forced reading or pencil and paper activities, though these should be available and used via free choice

Students making decisions and having interpersonal interactions in with watchful teachers who can step in should students be unable to resolve an issue

Teachers who are patient and willing to work with students to find solutions rather than immediately punish or yell

What should a homeschool preschool program look like?

Your preschool or toddler homeschool day should be similar to what is included above for those who run preschool programs. Have a variety of toys, writing utensils, bubbles, gardening options, or any other thing your child can safely use and in which he is interested. Be available to answer questions and interact, but do not take over the activities. Your child may use materials differently than you expect, but unless safety is an issue, let your child go for it and try to do things differently than you might. Work on negotiating, caring for others, and other social skills, too. Use real-life everyday situations to teach rather than making your child sit and listen to you or sit and read during the day. Go on field trips to explore your town or county.

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What about children living with special needs?

It is highly important that children with special needs receive necessary treatments, therapies, and instructions for how to use coping skills. Early intervention is proven to be helpful in these cases. However, this does not mean you ought to force a four-year-old child to read early due to a special need. Honor your child’s developmental level. Offer a variety of activities and model how to do things he cannot yet do. He will eventually want to copy you and you can implement the information your therapists have given you and your child. Yes, you may need to work harder on skills with your child when she is ready, but most children who are younger than six learn best through hands on activities and you modeling how to do things.

How can I get started?

To get started, use what you already have. Lego blocks, bubbles, construction paper, and other items can spark a child’s imagination and create a pathway to learn a multitude of things. Play with your child. Have siblings and friends play as well. Everyone plays a bit differently and different topics will come up along with the chance to practice different skills. Don’t be afraid of mixed age play groups. This can aid in teaching your child without it being “work” or boring.

We don’t want our children to burn out on education before they hit kindergarten. In fact, we want them to be lifelong learners who seek out education from a variety of sources rather than hiding from education because they were forced to do too much, too soon. Remember, some children do read at age three, while others do not read fluently until closer to age seven. Some children are not yet ready for complex math at age 16 while others may be ready when younger than age 12. The goal is to honor each student’s developmental level without forcing them into a curriculum at such an early age that they may become frustrated with school. School should be hands-on, fun, developmentally appropriate, and lead to a lifelong learner lifestyle. Introducing a rigorous curriculum in the preschool years can sabotage this completely.

But we already began a curriculum.

No worries. If you began and your child loves it, great. However, if your sense that your child needs a change, then change things. It really is a luxury to be able to consider an individual learner’s needs at each stage and change when needed.

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For further information

If you would like more information about education or behavior management, sign up for my email list. If you feel that a consultation would benefit you or your family, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am happy to provide advice and behavior plans in order to help your home or classroom work efficiently and in a positive manner. Remember, you can do this. ?

About the Author

Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. is a former teacher, behavior coach, and tutor who works with families and students to help them reach their full potential in a peaceful, positive environment. Melissa’s educational experiences paired with real world experience give her a unique perspective when working with families to achieve their behavioral and educational goals.  Please contact Melissa with questions or to request services.

Phone Number : 407-712-4368

Email : lissa_kaye54@yahoo.com

Bitsbox Review

When I first heard about Bitsbox, I thought it might not interest my children so I ignored the information. One day I saw a decent price for this product and decided to try it once. As it turns out, my youngest child LOVED Bitsbox. So we ordered again and loved it again. I am excited to tell you about Bitsbox because we love it, and also because they often run a FREE BOX SPECIAL for new customers.

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Each Bitsbox booklet has a theme.

Bitsbox is a way for children to learn to program. I will add that I learned a bit about programming, too. I am not a computer person at all, so this was a very good thing! Now, I will say that though some of the coding was easy to use, other programs had a LOT of lines. Either help young children and inexperienced programmers or pace yourself by using the shorter programs first, then moving to the longer ones. We also found it helpful, especially for my youngest, to work on a program over several days’ time in order to not become stressed out, yet still complete the project.

Some pages in each Bitsbox book have less code and some have more depending on which program is being written.

Some pages in each Bitsbox book have less code and some have more depending on which program is being written.

If your child is into video games and other programs, this may be the product for you. I think that both homeschool families and those who go to brick and mortar schools can benefit from Bitsbox. As I noted above, Bitsbox can work for many developmental levels from beginner to more advanced. Some kits even include trading cards with cool graphics on one side and code on the back, along with the Bitsbox book themed to topics like movies or animals!

We LOVE these trading cards. They come with some Bitsbox books.

We LOVE these trading cards. They come with some Bitsbox books.

 

 

Though I may receive credits on my account if people sign up via my link, I am giving a true and honest review of this product. I do find Bitsbox to be educational and useful in my homeschool day.

What Does It Mean To Deschool?

What is deschooling?

When people are new to homeschooling, they often go to groups and ask questions about how to begin. Inevitably, during this type of conversation, the topic of how to deschool comes up. Deschooling occurs when you take the time to relax, realize you are not going to operate your homeschool the way a brick and mortar school is run, and have a chance to recharge your and your child’s energy. Once you are finished deschooling, you and your child should feel energized, renewed, and ready to learn. Many people will not understand this concept of taking a break in order to better utilize future learning. You could explain it as a vacation or mental health break in order to have time to rest and renew interest in learning. Most people understand the idea of a vacation or time off from work due to stress. This is the same concept as deschooling.

Child Reading

Deschooling can mean reading, playing with toys, or even traveling.

How long does deschooling take?

There is not one way to deschool. Each child or family will do things in their own way. There is no set length of time for deschooling, either. Instead, it is best to take your cues from your child. While you may not let the child make all choices, you can observe behavior and look for signs that he or she is ready to move from deschooling to home or unschooling. I suggest taking at least a week, but possibly several weeks or more depending on the situation. Always be aware of the requirements in your state, but if you are able to choose when your “summer break” is and begin your school year any time during the calendar year, you may choose to begin in a non-traditional month and to take your vacation at a time which is different than when public school students vacation. Again, keep in mind attendance laws and other rules in your state in order to be sure you deschool while leaving enough time to complete what must be done to meet state requirements.

What activities should we do during deschooling?

Many people are concerned about record keeping as well as how to provide an enriching environment while deschooling. This is a hugely important issue to address. Parents want their children to succeed and that is why homeschooling works so well in many cases. My advice is to make sure that you keep a schedule of some sort, for example wake and go to sleep around the same hour each day. Also, leave time during the day to explore toys, activities, documentaries, and play outside or attend local field trips. Do not plan set activities and do not force your child to stick to a rigid school schedule. Instead, leave the time you would normally use for homeschooling open in order to let your child find his or her interests while providing open ended options he or she may choose, if interested. You can, of course, play board games, draw anime, or create movies about your neighborhood if your child is interested in these activities, but they are not graded and have no deadlines. The activities can be completed or left incomplete. The key is to allow the child to have a break from the rigors and forcefulness of some educational models. Do not dictate the activities unless you must limit something, such as screen time, due to behavioral issues.

This is a great opportunity to let your child choose while you observe how the child learns best and, what activities are important to your child. If your child was bullied in school, use this time to work on self-esteem and how to be kind in the face of negativity. If your child found school difficult, work on self-esteem and consider where you may begin once deschooling is complete. Do not stress out if your child wants to watch television or eat junk food all day. If this is an issue again and again, then add a few rules which require outdoor time or the child to play with toys instead of only watch television.

You do not have to move from brick and mortar school directly to a homeschool curriculum. Take time to deschool so that when you do start, you and your child do not begin while being burnt out due to prior stressors. Do observe your child’s interests as well as what is easy or difficult. This will help you to know where to start when homeschooling does begin. Be aware of your state’s laws regarding attendance, work samples, curriculum, and homeschooling. Remember, not everyone has to deschool, but if you feel that you and your child need to take some time to reset your goals, ideas of what school looks like, or other concerns, then deschooling is probably a wise choice for your family.

If you would like more information about deschooling, homeschooling, unschooling, or behavior concerns, please contact me for a consultation. I am happy to put my years of working with students and families to work in order to help your family.