Saturday, April 28, 2012

Child-Led Learning

She was sure these were armadillo tracks.

We outfitted the whole family with second hand roller skates and blades for $30.

Sunday, they kept telling me it was their birthday.  So finally we made a cake.  Using this awesome easy flowerless cupcake recipe from Elena's Pantry.  Kaio decorated it with an angry bird of strawberries.  They wanted to invite friends over for the party.  Maybe if we lived on a commune that would have been possible.

She had no idea what this was, she just liked it cause it's pink, of course.  Amazingly we visited Toys R Us without buying a thing.  Just checked out the toys.  That's some major self control.  Also shows that the kids are starting to understand economics a bit even if they don't have all the words to explain it.  We took a couple shopping trips: to Unique Thrift store and Target.  Both places I wouldn't dare venture with ease in the past.  But this week they astonished me by prioritizing and choosing what they really wanted based on budget.

Her own watering can, sparkling shoes, and a second hand dress.  That's a happy girl.

As Nischala Joy Devi writes in The Secret Power of Yoga: A Woman's Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras:

A generous sprinkling of "Yes" throughout your life encourages openness and adventure as it leaves the door open for new possibilities. "Yes" also encourages us to surrender the idea of control and let the heart take over.  Life is never dull when you use "Yes" frequently.

I've been letting the kids lead me and we've been having a blast.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Viking Attack

Yesterday evening a violent communist viking attacked our great kingdom.

He sought to plunder our grains and collectivize the economy.

Our defenses strong, Sir Kaio held back the evil Marxist dictator.

An Sorcerer Nala, the most powerful magician in the land, bravely protected from the front lines.

The guardians of freedom did not stop or tire during the onslaught.

Although at times the outlook seemed dismal. Especially when the evil viking struck Sir Kaio down.

But then Sorcerer Nala cast a magic Band-Aid spell to revive the valiant knight's health. 

The fighting continued deep into the night, both sides at odds in a vicious fight.

Until finally freedom prevailed!  Victory and triumph for the kingdom!

And the poor viking...  Sorcerer Nala revived him, and they invited him to bask in the glamour of individual prosperity.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I Fear that We're not Cut Out for School

Another major milestone in the life journey of one of my children.  Time for kindergarten approaches and last Friday I met with our local public school staff to discuss transition of Kaio's IEP to elementary school.  I came armed with a mantra, "They are trying to help, they want the best for him."  I needed this mantra because earlier that week Kaio brought the IEP prep info home and I read his teacher recommending behavior modification goals like this: "Kaio does not enjoy teacher directed activities and when presented with non-preferred activities he often complains about pain in his arms or legs which prevents him from being able to complete activities.  If he has a different idea as to how an assignment should be completed, he will disregard teacher directions and complete the assignment as per his own agenda.  Kaio needs to complete teacher selected and non-preferred tasks following all directions."

Reading these brought back that empty looser feeling in the pit of my stomach.  The same feeling from my own childhood, when my parents and teachers punished me for not wanting to do things I thought were stupid and boring.   I totally related.  And I don't want to repeat the cycle with Kaio.  I hated when my dad would say, "Because I said so!" or "Children should be seen and not heard."  It seemed the more they tried to control me, the more we fought.  And like magic, as soon as I turned 18 and they unbolted the hold of rules and restrictions, our relationship dramatically improved.

So reading those IEP goals, I dreaded that our plan to start public school in the Fall wouldn't work.  On top of that Kaio begged not to go to preschool on Thursday.  He chose workbooks and grocery shopping over preschool!

So that Thursday we made a trip to the library and I checked out a book recommended by a local homeschooler on her blog Throwing Marshmallows.  I'd been following her posts since reading a loop email response about right-brained kids (visual spacial learners) exhibiting dyslexia.  

Kaio's sign to the faeries telling them not to ride on his carnival wheel while he's sleeping.  Here's the wheel:

He built this from a Lego Education Robotics kit, and then programmed it to spin with the software.

The name of the book is Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World: Unlocking the Potential of Your ADD Child and picking it up I felt a little ridiculous.  He hasn't been diagnosed with ADD.  I remembered the night I was seven months pregnant and on the phone with a friend from college, "The baby is moving constantly, I think he may be ADHD."

My friend laughed, "Oh no, perhaps a self fulfilling prophesy?"

My friend, a fellow psychology undergrad, knew all about my drawn out thesis research on fats and ADHD.  Back in 2004, when published studies on the benefit of Essential Fatty Acids (the kinds of fat in nuts, seeds, and fish) were just emerging.  Some published research demonstrated that giving EFA to kids with ADHD helped their attention.  I wanted to see if that held true with the general diet.  Were kids who's diets included more EFAs calmer and less ADHD?   

I did a little study (35 sample size) of elementary students at a local Christian school on their Omega 3 and 6 fat intake and behavior.  The survey found that children who consumed more margarine at home exhibited more ADHD behaviors.  At that time margarine was made with hydrogenized canola oil and contained Trans Fats.  Digging deeper, existing nutrition science research showed that trans fatty acids block absorption of essential fatty acids by the body.  The study was too small to say anything definitive, but supported that trans fats are bad for kids and EFAs good.  I vowed off margarine and started taking flax oil.  

I loved the whole process of research; hypothesizing, planning, discovering, decoding, and contributing.  I really loved it.  But put down that direction when I chose to walk into the world of IT.  I anticipate getting back into research someday, maybe with acupuncture.

So anyways, I started reading that ADD book in the library's family reading room.  Kaio, leafing through a  Ninjago story and Nala with Curious George.  I'm only into the first few pages and already starting to tear up.  I'm finally finding some words describing Kaio's tendencies, and in a beautifully positive light.  

Here's an expert in children explaining that Kaio's brain develops differently and that's why some things seem so tough for him.  And if we just teach in the way that his brain understands, he'll love school, keep up and gain the confidence to excel.  And how unfortunate it is that so many visual spacial learners get labeled as misfits because they struggle through phonics or showing their work in math.  

I remember my friends in highschool who were so much smarter than me, but received awful grades and barely managed a GED.  Their parents wanted to medicate them with ADD drugs, like Aderal and Ritalin, which worked to help them focus on writing a paper, but dissolved the creativity and spirit that made them such cool people out of the classroom.  It was so sad to see that; these super smart kids being told by the school system that they're failures.

And now I see my own future tangled in this debate.  Can I trust a system built for the masses to give my child the creative freedom and leniency that he needs to thrive?  

We entered into a bit of this discussion during the IEP meeting.  Conformity and compliance at the price of creativity.  I told Kaio's teacher how the behavior modification goal made me feel, how it reminded me of being a kid.  

In general the team (Kaio's current teacher, the elementary school SpecEd Chair and a Kindergarten teacher rep) offered assurances that he would be given opportunities to express himself within the assignments.  They all knew about the right-brained learning style and gave some suggestions that showed me they had been trained in how to teach to these kids, like to use sight reading instead of phonics.  They also said the county is rewriting the grade testing standards to lend more to right brained learning style. 

Finally his teacher told me that she's been doing this for 12 years and she's never met a child as creative and spatially gifted as child.  That was so nice to hear, because when we entered into this SpecEd program I was so confused about what this meant in the long run, I kept wondering, "Does this mean he's retarded?  Does this mean he'll never be capable of moving out of the house?"  

Now, I finally see that he learns differently and he's going to be fine as long as I celebrate his style instead of fight it.  Worrying about his struggles with expressive and receptive language obscured my ability to fully relax and enjoy where he's at as a unique kid.  I mean, as wonderful and sweet as he his, he seems vastly different with how he processes information, this really concerned me.  I'd describe to people by saying, "like he needs glasses for his brain." 

Maybe, I should have trusted him more from the start?  Probably.  But, it took a book to make me realize that I don't have to be overwrought.  And most of all, I need to stop comparing.  That should be my behavior modification goal for the year!

Glow bracelets in the bathtub.  Which he turned into planets.  And then created a mini solar system model.  First a blue and green bracelet representing Earth, then a yellow bracelet for the moon, then two orange ones for the sun.  We hung them from the ceiling and spun them to create the orbit effect.

He doesn't like spending five minutes making construction paper snowmen at school.  But he'll sit for an hour building and programming robots.

He got so good at building these that he could assemble and program one in the time it took me to fry sausage for breakfast.

He's so troublesome and playful, benevolent and loving.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Space Shuttle Discovery Farewell Party

NASA thank you for helping develop Angry Birds Space and broadening the interest of my son from trains to space travel!  And NASA, thank you for making space ships and thank you for flying them over our city.  Today felt so special, a dignified salute to Discovery and the successful missions, and to the pause of an era. 

We partied on the lawn between Arlington Cemetery and Iwo Jima, in front of the Netherlands Carillion.  Not far from Reagan National, airplanes regularly landed in the distance, loudly shaking the blades of grass and tulips around the park.  But as the time for the pass over impended, air traffic at Reagan came to an eerie halt.  As more messages from the net and friends started coming in that the time neared, the huge crowd self muffled to a spontaneous silence, watchful silence.   A man's cell phone range, "It just passed over the Pentagon?  Ok, it should be here now then." 
Another man, "Twitter's saying it should be here now."
We could feel the rumble, but still not see anything.
Then a boy yelled, "There it is! Behind us!"
We all turned around and the plane flew right over us!   

Everyone screamed with joy and awe.  Pictured snapped like crazy.  Kaio jumped up and down. 

Discovery banked towards DC and the monument.  Seeing something that massive turn, it defied physics.  This event was rare for another reason: DC restricts its airspace, so I've never seen a plane fly in the district before.  It just felt so special.  The collective collaboration of all the groups to make today's simple tribute happen, felt deeply significant.  The emotions of those involved in Discovery's missions, and those who followed and adored space travel, we all felt radiating in the air.  

The plane paraded around the region, it passed over us three times, and we all knew the pilot must be clinging on, not wanting to land. 

Permission to take her around one more time Captain?
Roger that, permission granted Captain. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Call Me Queen Mom

Have to say that I like being called a queen.  And amazing that just a couple days ago I took a trip to the International Space Station as an astronaut.  Then this afternoon I spent as castle royalty, entertained by a wizard and knight.  I've got some pretty lofty tittles to add to the resume.

This has all been initiated by our brave knight pictured below.
 Brave and fierce, ready to fight off the vikings.

I was sure she'd want to be a princess, but surprisingly she asked for help making a wizard hat.  Then she decorated it with stickers and grabbed her spell book and wand.

She cast a spell on me, turning me into a monkey.  And she put on a magic show making things appear and disappear (by draping a piece of paper over them.  It was a super cute idea)
 Queen mom.  I got to design my own crown.

Such a full day, that started with a naturalist presentation on little forest creatures.  Kaio loved petting and checking out the Hissing Cockroach 

Then he want to school and Nala asked for a trip to the farm. This baby wanted milk but the mom ran away.  That's so mean!

She loves corn.

We came home and got crafty.


Yesterday we made a blow rocket.

Which is Mari's new favorite toy.  He's planning a paintball style outdoor battle hunt.

Imaginations have been running wild.  It's exhausting to keep up.  But it's my job as queen :).


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