A Moment Of Zen

This morning, my granddaughter took some pictures. She took pictures of things that are important to her. I’m thinking she has the makings of a fine photographer:

Clearly, we need new tulip bulbs…but it’s nice to see that she finds her flowers important to her. ❤️

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Planting Grass Seeds For Our Spring Nature Display

This year, we got some wheat berries for planting grass for a spring display. We started by spreading dirt.

Then we spread the seeds all over the surface.

Pat them down.

Sprinkle with water daily.

Wheat berry seeds start very fast, in just 1-2 days.

Soon you have more grass than you know what to do with.

❤️

Spring Is Coming…

Unfortunately, the ground hog saw his shadow where we live, which meant 6 more long weeks of winter to the already long winter. Thankfully, Mrs. Thaw has been making her way to melt the snows and begin her busywork of sweeping away the debris left behind by the long winter.

Late Winter Activities…

Mastering the felled tree and branches, like she had been climbing trees her whole life. With thick winter gear on, no less! You’d never realize this was her first time ever climbing a tree.

She had a great time climbing with her friends, on a lovely, warm, late winter day.

We played on the ice, and generally had a wonderful day.

❤️

Is The Internet Harming Homeschooling?

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You’d think with all this information at our fingertips, that it would only serve to improve homeschooling.  We even have online schools, these days.

However, increasingly, I find myself in homeschool groups responding to questions with advice about using the library.  Such a simple tool in a homeschooler’s tool belt, but an often overlooked one.

As a veteran homeschooler, who homeschooled before the internet was even a thing, we made heavy use of the library.  Rather than immediately answer all my kids questions, I’d say I wasn’t sure, but knew where we could find that information.  Then I’d take them to the library.

Tbis served so many purposes.  Having the children ask the librarian’s help finding a topic they were interested in (ie: what do hawks eat? After they saw a hawk at a nature center), the librarian’s excitement that a child actually wants to know something, feeds the child positive attention.  Positive attention from the outside world, I might add, that as a parent you just cannot do on your own…it fuels the child forward.  But now the child has the lifelong skill of knowing how to find the information they need.

Finding knowledge in books, not only compels reading and the child’s own intrinsic desire to read, but it also creates and compels a deeper intrinsic motivation that is so necessary, in my humble opinion, for the success of homeschooling…the deep desire of the child to discover and know what’s in these books.

Whereas, if we just plug them into videos online, no desire to read is created, even needed.  No one ever need to read again.

Recently, in my granddaughter’s homeschool group, I offered to do a snail mail/hard copy newsletter.  I feel so old fashioned.  However, I feel that it has such intrinsic value to homeschooling (another tool in our tool belts to inspire and compel the desires of our children on their journeys).

The newsletter I did for my kids group, not only published our weekly play dates and field trips, but had the all important (in my humble opinion) kids contributions.  Kids wrote and drew a variety of things.  One child, who wanted to be a journalist (is just finishing college now), took it upon herself to do book reviews.  This meant she had to read books, and then write about them.  My daughter, so inspired by the large comet we saw, drew the comet and wrote a whole interesting piece on it.  Each month, when the newsletter came, families could read these to their children (or the kids could read them themselves) and see what their friends wrote and contributed, which inspired them in ways far more powerfully than a mom could, to create something to offer.

These days, with online calendars and events…while maybe easier for adults, it really robs the kids of that connection we used to all share before the days of the internet.  And really, isn’t this all about the kids?

❤️

Why The Traditional School Model Of Rote Memorization Doesn’t Work…

🙏🏼 fwiw…there’s a chasm of difference between “teaching” and “learning”….indeed, an apples and oranges difference.

The traditional school model/approach (and what John Holt speaks to at length eloquently in the book, How Children Fail…which should really be titled, How School Fails) is that it “teaches” abstract (meaningless to the child) concepts…that the child has to take for granted (on faith are what you say they are) and memorize them without truly understanding them. And then we grade based on how well they parrot what they memorized, and grow up not understanding any of it. They way they try to FORCE this memorization is by mind numbing and soul killing repetition. This is collectively called “rote memorization”.

Now, the reason we don’t have 32 digit phone numbers…is the “rote memorization” area of the brain is VERY small…and can’t hold much at all. It never could.

This fact is well known…it’s why people like Jimmy Kimmel use it for comedy in the name any country on this map piece…and adults cannot. 👈🏼How Children Fail (or, as it should be called, Why School Fails Children).

And yet…even though we all get this…because as we memorize new passwords we suddenly find we can’t remember old ones 👈🏼because of the way this “rote memorization” area of the brain works, quickly reclaiming anything you are not using.

Quickly, when’s the last time you did a multi stepped algebra question? If you haven’t done one in the last couple of years…could you do one right now off the top of your head (without looking up the process)??? 👈🏼 If you are like most people, probably not. Because your rote memorization center reclaimed that to remember your passwords.

Sooo…if we already know this doesn’t work…WHY do we keep reproducing this failed school method at home…especially, when we have the freedom to not????

Like serious question…WHO told you that thee ONLY way to learn math is via the very failed method of rote memorization…and WHY did you believe them???

I have a story for you, and for anyone here struggling with this…

Once, at Easter a little girl is watching her mom get the ham ready to put in the oven. Her mom takes it out of the egg shaped can and cuts the little end off and throws it away, puts it in the pan, and puts it in the oven. Curious, she asks her mom why she cut the end off. The mom replies, “because that’s what my mom always did.”

Now, more curious than ever, she asks her grandmother about this…to wit, her grandmother replies, “because that’s what my mother always did.”

So the girl asks her great grandmother….who answers this way: “oh my, sweet child, way back when we had the very tiny house, with a wee tiny stove, we had to cut the end off the ham because the pan was too small to fit the whole thing. But just as soon as we got a bigger house, with a bigger stove, I no longer cut the end off the ham!”

Moral of the story…never be so certain of your ways, that you cease to question them.

🙏🏼❤️

Movement IS Important…Perhaps More Important Than You May m Realized

For the last year plus, since we pulled my granddaughter from services, we have been working on movement. Usually, when you think of the importance of movement and getting kids moving, you may start imagining lazy children or children who play video games all day. What you don’t, probably, think of, is hyperactive children…like my granddaughter.

However, perhaps, we should be.

My granddaughter’s Autism came with loose ligaments, and clumsiness. Her Autism came with retained reflexes, and developmental delays. Indeed, it also came with poor muscle tone, and gross motor regressions. Additionally, when PANDAS hit last winter, due to her pediatrician failing to treat Scarlet Fever, knee pain and struggling to walk became part of her line up. Needless to say, my granddaughter had a number of physical challenges to overcome…from her W sitting, and poor pencil grip…that healing and restorative movements were foremost in our minds.

Below, my active granddaughter is playing a game of trying to hit the ceiling with a wash cloth.

We’ve tried many things.

From 1 on 1 therapeutic yoga….

To adaptive ballet…

To adaptive swim lessons in a heated pool. We even have a large trampoline, and make use of the woods around us.

However, as good as all these things are, they weren’t hitting that sweet spot, like the horse does, of helping her development develop.

ABC’s And Crafting In General…

My granddaughter is in a phase where she’s really ready and needing to learn a new task, well, constantly…if not, she’s hyper and chaotic. Realizing the crux of raising a little genius, is really the right amount of intellectual stimulation…while still allowing for the background developmental aspects of the brain to develop.

While Waldorf would have us hold off another 3 years on introducing the alphabet, the fact is, I’m out of new songs to sing, I’m out of stories to tell, she’s raced through chapter books (3 since Christmas), she wants more, more, more…

One of the hard developmental tasks I have been trying to teach her over this last year…without making it a thing…is to slow down and take your time, that when you do, the finished product is sooo much better. But it’s been very hard for my brain to come up with tasks that really call this into being for her.

Now, with Valentine’s Day looming, and her eagerly making 1,001 valentines every day….comes her requests to put names on them. She’s really looking at those names….and I’m thinking that girl is going to sort out reading in no time, so if I care to introduce these things in a Waldorf-like way, I had better get on it.

In this project, I may have solved both of my (personal) dilemmas. One day, we gathered sticks from the yard together. They needed picking up anyways after all our wind storms. Then mom and I cut them up, and mom cut out the cardboard in the evening while she slept, and I traced the cardboard on 26 pieces of paper, drawing each letter in them.

What I imagined and expected, was that we’d do one letter a day…but no. And really, I should have known better, as this child who wants Valentine’s Day right now, and who is trying to make it come with every fiber of her being. She did so many letters, stopped and took a break to play, came home and did many more. 15 the first day. Then, on day two, she was so pleased with these, now dry, ABC cards she made that she raced through making all the rest of the 11 cards.

First we laid out the piece of paper with the letter on it, so she knew what it looked like and asked her if she could make the letter with her body. She was surprisingly accurate in being able to make the shape without help.

Then we read out of the LMNOP book, to help her hear the sounds the letter makes. She would naturally make the sounds. A few times she didn’t, so we asked her to.

Then she picked sticks to put on the lines. She’s naturally perfectionistic, so this was like a fun puzzle for her, which she’s quite good at. Once she had picked all the sticks, I had her transfer them to the cardboard. This was a bit more challenging for her, but she loved this part of it in particular and was surprisingly good at it, relieving any concern I had for her readiness.

Once the sticks were placed to her happiness on the cardboard, her favorite part was helping me glue them.

The absolute hardest part of it all, the waiting.

❤️

Encouraging Children To Play Independently…

While I’m sure I have more to say on this subject, this conversation came about the other day.

QUESTION: How do you personally encourage independent free play inside the home? My 4 and 2 year old almost never play with any of their toys. They are great at playing outdoors but I have to stay outside and watch them.

ANSWER: Big question that is hard to answer. ❤️

My parenting philosophy came from the first Waldorf kindergarten open house I attended over 30 years ago. It was held at night, so it was just parents…and we were seated in the center of the room. However, every couple of minutes a parent would interrupt the teacher because they just had to get up and touch a toy…they couldn’t help themselves. It was such an ah-ha moment for me.

So number 1 is: create an environment sooo compelling that the child is powerfully drawn to play with it…that, like those parents, they almost have no choice but to interact with it. So that, from the moment they get up….what they naturally choose to do, is what you wanted them to.

2. Fill their love banks. I swear children need attention more than they need air or food. And they WILL get their attention needs met one way or another. So you can either fill their love banks with positive loving attention or they will settle for negative attention if that’s all they can get. It’s like a pick or choose kind of thing. Once they are filled to overflowing with loving attention then they don’t need you for a while.

3. While the first two help a lot, sometimes they just need to be near you…this is when number 3 comes in handy: purposeful meaningful work. Whatever you are doing, have something they can help with….cutting vegetables, while you make dinner…sweeping floor and dusting whole you are cleaning.

Have a verse or song…this is the way we make the bed, make the bed, make the bed, this is the way we make the bed on a bright warm spring morning.

Eventually they will be bored of helping and filled up again on positive loving attention and off they will go again.

❤️

How Do Schools Make Failure Possible?

Those with special needs kids, and especially those of us with Autistic kids, know that our kids are always somehow those kids who are singled out, excluded, chastised, punished…we cringe when the school rings our phone.

We are sooo used to the way things are, that we’ve ceased to question them. We’ve accepted that our kids will always be the “failures,” constantly always “falling behind” the norm or standard…always needing help, and punished for their failures.

It’s no wonder to me that the average life expectancy of a child diagnosed as autistic is an unnaturally short, age 36…given that paradigm to live in, I’d want to hop off this crazy planet too.

For ‘normal’ is what we call the unchallenged collective of a filtered and pre-constituted life.” By Kevin Avison, A Handbook for Steiner-Waldorf Class Teachers

That’s the cool part of “perspective”….if the perspective, aka window, you are looking through doesn’t work for you…simply look at it through a different window, or perspective. Change your perspective, change your whole experience of things.

What better way to do that than, as Socrates suggests, ask the simple question of: How Do Schools Make Failure Possible?

See, children are born…and they grow, and through forces alive within them, they learn. They learn even if you do nothing. You literally cannot stop them from learning. Children are wired to learn….hungry and driven to learn. Not-learning is not-possible when it comes to how children are created and brought into this world. Thus, in the realm of the child…failure to learn is literally not-possible.

Thus, you’d have to be pretty darn bad at what you are doing to shut down that innate unborn desire in children. And yet, schools do it all the time with stunning regularity…and we’ve come to accept that as “normal.” And, again, we have ceased to question it.

Even just creating an expectation, for example: preschoolers will come in here and sit in these desks and be drilled on the alphabet for 20 minutes….is rife with ways typical preschoolers will now “fail” to meet that expectation. I remember being sooo stunningly shocked when the school first was going to assess my granddaughter at 18 months old, at how they actually literally expected her to sit in a chair and attend to them for 3 hours!!! I was like, for all your college, all your training, all your work with actual living breathing children….even the fact that you are parents yourselves….and THIS you “expect”?!

I’m sorry, but normal, natural 18 month old human children do not, by nature, sit at desks…they just don’t. The creation of this expectation, set the stage where the only possibility available, was that she failed. They created her failure. And sadly, she was intimately aware she failed to meet their expectations and it subsequently took many years and many kindly providers who were willing to help her work to overcome it.

Although it’s been wiped from Google now, someone once said: “let us never be so certain of our ways that we cease to question them.” Indeed, I believe there is great danger of our undoing when we stop questioning how we do things. Perhaps, up until now we just accepted this without question. However, somewhere about now, we question, how is it schools make it possible for children to fail to learn, when the child’s own innate inborn wiring made it not-possible to not learn?

For one, schools set a standard. Out of nowhere they draw a metaphorical line in the ethers….those who meet this line, are good, worthy. Those who do not, “fail.” You’re a failure as a child.

Whereas a reasonable person would see that the standards one set were at fault, and simply change their expectations, as Mother Theresa so eloquently says: “people are unreasonable, illogical…”, and thus do not see.