Category Archives: Uncategorized

5 Reasons to Read Picture Books to Older Children

Educators and parents often consider picture books to be for young children in early elementary grades. However, I have found picture books extremely helpful for older children in late elementary, middle, and high school grades. Read on to find out 5 reasons why you should read picture books to older children.

Child Reading

1. Reading to another person reaffirms that you care.

2. Reading to another person shows that you value literature.

3. Older students may have special needs or English may be a second language which can make comprehension or reading difficult. By reading to older students, you remove some of the roadblocks preventing the enjoyment and understanding of a story.

4. Reading picture books to older children helps them to understand pronunciations, story lines, and other constructs of literature which they may miss through lectures and by reading to themselves.

5. Reading to older children lets them sit back, relax, and enjoy a great story.

When You Have to Cut Ties with an Advertising Venue

I rarely speak about the business side of things. I prefer to focus on sharing information that directly relates to children, families, and education. However, today there was an incident that immediately made me concerned about an advertising venue.

Peace, Love, Kids First

Peace, Love, Kids First

I was invited, as were many others, to attend a promotional event. The guest list was supposed to be small so I chose to RSVP. If the event was larger, I would not have gone because two of my children have sensory issues and it can be easy to meltdown when there are a lot of people or is a lot of noise. I often do bow out of events because they are highly likely to be triggered in some situations.

When we arrived the room was a decent size for the amount of people invited and the food was fabulous. We appreciated it! There was a bit of noise, but that happens when you have children in a room. One of my children began crying quietly because the noise was overwhelming so we sat together for a bit. He decided he would be okay so we stayed. Then, about 20 minutes later, he began to get upset again as did my other kid with SPD. At that point, I knew it was time to go. Yes, I would love to stay, possibly win a prize, and chat with others, but my kids come first. Also, calming a kid in full meltdown mode is quite the task. Why bother letting it escalate that far? That is not necessary.

I, then, instructed my children to gather their things and throw away any trash. I realized that the hostess was trying to get a group picture at this time, but meltdowns were coming and I knew staying was not an option. I explained that two of my children have SPD and in order to help them calm, I needed to go. I did give permission for pictures to be taken and used. (The form did not list which event, though.) I did not say that I would make my children take pictures if they did not want to or that we would stay even if meltdowns ensued.

The hostess, then, began to get upset. She tried to bully me into staying. She said that my release meant I HAD to stay for and take the group photo. She went on to say my kids had to do the same. I tried to explain, again, but she got more agitated and began ranting about losing her job. Look, I get blogging assignments (including one just like the event today) sent to me all the time. I rarely take them. If others do take them, then rock on!

The hostess was unbelievably rude. She was so very inappropriate and such a bully that I handed back the “goody” bag of discount codes that every adult received and my children did not get the goody bags for kids before we left. Now, I don’t care so much about that if it calms the raging host, but it really isn’t fair kids to miss out because they have special needs.

I understand about work, but my kids come first.

I, unfortunately, will no longer advertise with Macaroni Kid because of this anti-special needs response. This behavior is not what I expect from a hostess or business owner. I cannot support those who care more about adult ego or cash than about children’s needs.

My alliance is with children including those with special needs.

Household Items You Can Use as Math Manipulatives

math manipulatives

One of the most valuable lessons I learned during my teaching career is that you don’t have to spend money on the expensive supplies in order to help children learn quality information. After teaching at schools with a high free and reduced lunch rate, I prefer to use items which are cheap and easily accessible instead of the shiny, new, EXPENSIVE math manipulatives. Below is a short list of items you can use with out breaking the bank. Remember to take your child’s age and maturity into account when choosing which manipulatives to use.

 

Cotton swabs

coins

candy

crayons

paper clips

bookmarks

bottle caps from water or sports  drink bottles

erasers

rubber bands

straws

construction paper cut into shapes

sidewalk chalk

crackers

magnets

stickers

beads

beans

Parenting Tool: Reframe the Issue

reframe the question

One day my middle child took a very looooong time getting ready. I checked on her, my oldest child checked on her, my youngest child checked on her and she still was not ready. When she finally emerged from her room, she asked why we were bothering her. I said, “We were waiting on you to go to the park and meet up with friends.” “Oh, I forgot”, she said. “Why didn’t you say that?! I would have hurried up.” I am laughing a little as I write this because all I had to do was remind her of the reason we needed her to hurry up. She did not realize what was at stake. Now I know to reframe the issue in terms my children understand more clearly. Since then I have tried the reframe strategy and it helps a lot. Two examples of ways you can use the reframe strategy are listed below.

 

Situation 1

Parent: It’s time to clean up.

Child: ——–

Parent: The room is messy, clean up.

Child: What? Why?

Parent: Remember that when we have lego blocks on the floor, we step on them and get hurt. Now that you are finished with the legos, we need to clean up.

Child: Oooooh. Oh, right. It hurts to step on legos. Remember when I steppe don the blue one? I cried!

Parent: It does hurt. So let’s clean up.

Child: Okay.

The parent changed the frame from something she wants to a necessity for safety reasons. The adult can also offer to help the child clean up or make the activity into a game about colors, counting, or speed.

 

Situation 2

Parent: Please take the dog outside.

Child: No, I am busy with video games.

Parent: The dog needs to go outside to run otherwise he will chew our new toys because he will be hyper. My hands are full so I cannot do

Child: I am still playing video games, but I could do it in 15 minutes when I am finished with the games.

Parent: That sounds helpful and soon enough that the dog will be okay. I like that you offered a solution that works for both of us instead of sticking with “no”.

The parent did not back down when help was needed, however by explaining the situation in different terms, the child was better able to understand the parent’s viewpoint and offer a helpful solution. If there is no emergency, then it should be okay for a child to say they will help after a particular television show, board game, or phone call is complete. Both parent and child ought to be flexible when problem solving.

For more Parenting Tools, read my ebook titled Expand Your Parenting Toolbox: Create a More Peaceful Home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stop Dilly Dallying! (Read the book!)

 

 Child Reading

Yesterday my son wanted to read (as usual) so we sat down with several of his favorite books. I asked him a question about the main character and he answered, then excitedly opened the book to the first page of text. I began to read, then paused to ask another question. He became impatient and stated firmly, “Stop dilly dallying. I WANT to hear the story.” I was taken back for a moment. After all, I am a teacher by trade and part of learning to be an “effective teacher” is knowing how to ask open ended questions and help children make connections while reading texts.

Even though we unschool, I still find myself going back to my old ways. Sure, it is okay for me to ask a genuine question for my information. However, my child just wants to hear the stinkin’ book and I really shouldn’t interrupt his enjoyment of reading. If I interrupt often, he may decide that reading is no longer fun or worthwhile. Truth be told, it really isn’t my right to interrupt a story. I would be irate if someone interrupted my favorite story! Why would it be okay to interrupt his favorite story? It isn’t. It just isn’t.

When I interrupt, even with the best of intentions, I am sabotaging a few things. I am breaking my son’s concentration which reinforces a short attention span rather than allowing a longer attention span to grow. No wonder children have such short attention spans even in upper grades. WE, teachers and parents, interrupt them constantly in order to meet our curriculum standards, our schedule, and our goals. (We also tend to use topics not chosen by students which means they may not be invested in learning the information, but that is a topic for another post.)

 

Children imagination

 

When I interrupt, I cause a break in the fluidity of the author’s story. How can a child learn the ebb and flow of a story or chapter without hearing stories, or a chapter, from beginning to end? Yes, we can list the parts of a well written story, but children can and should learn to write their own stories through reading and hearing uninterrupted examples of stories. Plus, the author would have noted any breaks the reader should take when reading the text. Besides, it is a reader’s right to use his imagination to help him understand a story. My questions can throw this creative process off balance.

When I interrupt, I take the fun out of the story. My child will ask me if he has a question. He will let me know how long he wants to look at an illustration and when he is ready to turn a page. It is not my job to interrupt. It is my job to be here to read with him, answer his questions, and discuss the information when he wants to expand his knowledge.

 

This topic is a difficult one for me, personally. I spent many years teaching canned curriculum easily fall to old habits. (Canned lessons are the curriculum for each subject which is pre-written by a large company. Though I could scaffold lessons to meet the needs of all learners, I still had to follow the topics and standards listed in the lessons.) Going forward, I will work to catch myself before I interrupt a story to ask questions. Yes, my child will learn the conventions of language, reading, and writing. No, I will not interrupt his enjoyment of books in order to teach the topics I prefer to teach. I must trust my child to let me know when he has a question. He will learn organically if I step back from the bossy behaviors which have become my pattern and let it happen.

Yes, I will “stop dilly dallying” and read the story.

*If you want to do this, too, but feel you must also interrupt at times, then please read the book aloud at least once before interrupting the story to practice reading and comprehension strategies.

 

If you want more information or to attend a reading training session or to get more information, please contact me at the link found here. Let me put my experience to work for you!

 

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

Should Teachers Have Guns in Class?

For those new to my blog, I am a former public school teacher and currently homeschool with my children. This range of life experiences puts me in an interesting position to evaluate safety and educational concerns within both of these generalized educational models.
I recently noticed a social media post about guns in schools. The post suggested that teachers should, and in some US states do, have the right to carry a firearm on campus and in class. Let me be clear. I am not pro or anti-gun rights. I am raising questions about the safety of this idea.

 

gun sense 2

 

What if someone with a gun comes on campus?
This could be a criminal or a student who was bullied and now wants revenge or protection. I understand this concern. There was a person who ran through and hid on a campus where I worked years ago. He robbed the local bank and because the campus had a wooded area, he was able to hide there after running through our outdoor area. Would I have been safer behind the locked door with my students or would I have been safer with a firearm in hand while standing at the door as he ran by? Would it be effective to bring a firearm every day to class? How would it be stored? Would I wear it while sitting in circle time? Would firearm safety be part of the curriculum in my kindergarten classroom?

What if a student grabs the firearm off your holster, desk drawer, purse, or bag?
I have worked with many students who are living with emotional or social issues. Their special needs mean they often act in ways others find irrational. Sometimes this includes violence. Would I rather be hit by a chair, if thrown, or shot by a bullet? Good question. After all, some children with emotional special needs fixate on an issue or idea and have a difficult time getting away from this hyper-focusing until they do the action they are envisioning. I have had students in class who planned to kill me. Thankfully they did not have access to obvious weapons, but one child did list exactly how it would be done. If there had been an option for a firearm, that child would have taken it by any means necessary. Yes, even if it meant breaking into a locked drawer, climbing the cabinets and bookshelves, or opening my personal bag. The child was not bad or mean, but rather fixated on the compulsion to follow through at any cost. It is highly likely that the child would have felt terrible afterwards, but due to the compulsion to hyper-focus on harming another, the act would still be carried out if the opportunity was there.

bully yell A

What if a teacher loses patience or overreacts?
Stay with me here. Most teachers and school staff are fabulous people who work hard to teach every day. They do not want to harm anyone. They prefer peaceful options if issues arise. Unfortunately, there are always a few teachers or staff members here or there who have anger issues. They may also be racist or hateful toward those who are considered “different”. What if a teacher loses patience, thinks “I’ll show these kids who is boss”, and whips out a gun? Yes, sometimes teachers bully. No, it is not far-fetched to consider this possibility. There are several former co-workers who I would never work with again (on the same campus) if I knew they had a firearm with them. I would not feel safe after hearing the comments some teachers share around the lunch table.

I am not saying that we should repeal gun ownership rights. Also, I am not convinced that we need firearms in every classroom. I do, however, think gun sense is important. We need to get past this idea that everyone is out to get us and foster a rational decision making process.

He Bit Me! What to Do About Biting

crying biting graphic

Biting is a common behavior among young children. When teaching in public schools I noticed that some of my students living with special needs also exhibited this behavior. Every parent, teacher, and relative seems to have advice about how to stop a child who bites in her tracks, but does the advice help? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no.

Here are some of the helpful comments, paraphrased, from friends of my Facebook page. Thank you to all who spoke up. I didn’t plan to add your information, but you had a lot of wisdom to share!

The child needs positive attention so notice when he is doing good things.

Spend time one on one together.

The child needs more autonomy and choices.

I wouldn’t react to it, but end play date or activity if it happens.

I would state expectations ahead of time.

Why is this happening? Find out why.

Pick up the biter and move her from the area. Tend to the hurt child.

Try to mediate the issue once all is calm if both parties are capable and willing.

 

Below is a list of additional strategies which may help when children bite.

Role play before issues occur and also after emotions have calmed.

Practice using replacement behaviors.

If the issue occurs because the child needs to chew or bite a certain texture, look into other things he can safely bite, for example Chewelry like these.

Have a continuous dialog with the child.

When children harm each other, separate, but do not punish. If you punish, that will encourage sneaky retaliation rather than in the open communication and problem solving.

Make sure there is an enriching environment.

Encourage peaceful communication even if it is nonverbal.

Make sure there is plenty of space for opposing priorities and personalities.

Healthy foods that are not processed tend to help lower the chances of behavior issues.

Avoiding triggers like hunger and being tired can help with behavior issues.

Stay calm. It is not because the child want to upset you.

It is because the child I feeling a large emotion.

 

Remember, it takes time and patience, but you and your child can

get past biting!

Whining

This blog post is an excerpt from the new ebook Expand Your Parenting Toolbox: Create a More Peaceful Home which can be purchased on Amazon.com.

FINAL Cover

Whining. It’s the thing many parents’ nightmares are made of. It’s annoying, people stare, and the child keeps whining. We just want it to stop. Maybe we give the child everything he wants. Maybe we yell. May be we ignore. Whatever we do, we know one thing. It HAS to stop!

I have news. (I’m not sure if you will call it good or bad news.) Children whine to communicate. It can be difficult to handle this type of communication, especially when children are older and society expects them to communicate without whining. It is easy for a caregiver to become frustrated or angry.

Remember that this is not about you or your ego. It is about your child. Make sure you are calm. If your child needs hugs, for you to listen, or to step away from the area where a trigger may have occurred, then do what is needed. If your child feels the need for space, honor that request as long as she is in a safe situation. You do not have to give the child an object he wants, but you do need to address his concern in order to help him move on with the day and calm down.

Your whining child is not what many people are worried about in a store. Most people, in my experience, are more worried about how you will react to that child because most people do not want to see a parent hit or yell at a child. If someone does tell you to hit or yell at your child, that person does not have your child’s best interests at heart and should be ignored.

Parenting Tool: Wait

This blog post is an excerpt from the new ebook Expand Your Parenting Toolbox: Create a More Peaceful Home which can be purchased on Amazon.com.

 FINAL Cover

I know, this seems strange, but I’m serious.

Wait.

If no one is in immediate danger…

….wait.

Wait for your child to think, then respond.

Wake up a few minutes earlier and wait while your child dresses herself or toilets himself.

Wait.

When calling your children inside for dinner, wait. They may be wrapping up a game or saying good bye to friends.

Wait.

They wait on us quite often at the store, at appointments, while we are at work.

It’s our turn to wait.

Leave long pauses so your child can think and respond.

Leave the pauses so your children can bring up difficult topics they want to discuss.

Wait.

Sometimes we are so busy talking, rushing, or yelling that we forget that patience can help de-escalate difficult situations and help us to better understand our children.

Take a moment.

Take a few breathes.

Wait.

It’s their turn.

Wait.

Listen and wait.

Protecting My Child: We Met an Ignorant Bully

Yes, my title is strong. Here is why.

Today we had an unfortunate incident. My significant other has been ill and needed yet another test under sedation. Sometimes we can find a sitter or family member to help out, but today we could not so the children went with us. We packed food, books, games, phones with games, some of our homeschool supplies, and more. I took the children to lunch during the procedure so we would not have to be in the waiting area for an extended amount of time. We even sat in the car and spent time outside before going back in because I am no fool. It gets BORING waiting inside that waiting room. If I get bored, imagine how the kids feel!

After lunch, we went back into the waiting room and sat for perhaps 10-15 minutes. My son, who has sensory processing disorder, anxiety, and other concerns, was out of his seat so I directed him to sit back down so he would be safe. After all, which I explained to him, there is a walkway and if we are up moving around we will get hurt when people walk through. He was headed back to his seat the long way so he could hug a sister first when an employee, who I think was headed to lunch because she had her purse, offered crayons and a coloring page. I thanked her, but explained that he isn’t into that. (Trust me, we try, but he is not a fan of fine motor skills practice so we find other ways to develop his muscle tone. He even has special scissors because cutting is extremely frustrating for him.) So far so good, right? It was kind of her to offer an activity to my child. I appreciated that. This is where the situation gets troublesome. She looked at my four year old child, the kid who used to run away because he was afraid of new people and even family members he knew for years, and she said…

“You wanna come with me? You better behave or I am gonna take you!”

All three children gave her “the eye”, then turned to me. Oh, they knew this was NOT a good choice of words. They were right. I said, nicely actually, “We do not threaten, punish, or shame. Thank you for trying to help, but that is not something we need you to do.” Well, apparently that was a blow to her ego because she said she was not doing any of those things. I explained that we don’t operate our family that way and she was welcome to go on to her lunch break. I thanked her again for the offer to color and for trying to help, then turned back to my kids. She raised her voice and refused to leave us alone. She was in full bully mode! I repeatedly told her to go away. (Yes, I was blunt and stern at this point because she was being irrational and after saying she would take my son, I hope that was only a threat but who knows, I was concerned.) She repeatedly yelled at me, I asked for the supervisor and got the employee’s name. The supervisor hid “on the phone” in the office beside my chair the entire time and never did address the issue before we left to take my ill spouse home.

bully yell A

On one hand, some people have no clue how to behave. On the other hand, how are we supposed to protect our children, especially our children living with special needs, when folks like this pop up in our lives? I have a few suggestions, though I am sure some of you out there have even more ideas. Feel free to email or message me with your ideas. I am happy to credit you if you want them published in this blog post.

First, keep an eye out for your kids or use the buddy system. I know this puts a dark cloud over free ranging it, but sometimes you need eyes on the kids if in a new situation. Second, if someone approaches your child, know when to step in. If your child can handle walking away or saying leave me alone, great. If not, then you or the buddy can do this. Also, you can prepare your children by role playing and discussing what to do if this occurs. Third, educate. If I had a chance today, I would have explained my child’s special needs (even though he was behaving quite well) and asked if the employee had any questions. I know I know. It isn’t your job to educate. Unfortunately, sometimes it may be necessary even when you have no time or energy. I might have explained my experience with children, teaching, special needs, and child development then offered a discount on a service of her choice through my business. Fourth, if you are truly being harassed you may need to get a supervisor, security, or even the police involved. That shouldn’t be a first option, but there are times when we need a helpful hand from a perceived authority figure.

It really sucks when people are rude, mean, or ignorant. It sucks more when the person they are being rude to is your child. No one likes a bully. After the issue today, my child became hyperactive and ran laps around the house which he does not usually do. Climb, yes, run laps, no. My child and I were left with the after effects of the employee’s poor choices.

How you treat people matters. It really does. I guess some people didn’t learn that lesson in childhood. All we can do is prepare our children, do our best in the moment, and protect our children.