Poor little bunnies.

A Sad Tale.

The life of a chocolate easter bunny is a short one in our house.

2e Tuesday::Finding A Voice.

Finding her voice.

One of the most discouraging things I’ve been through as a parent is watching my child find her voice until about age 5, and then slowly lose it over the course of a few years. If anyone has ever witnessed the slow silencing and taming of a wild, irrepresible spirit then you’ll know what I’m talking about. Only, in the case of naturalist, she wasn’t tamed at all by her experiences in school…she just went underground in her mind. Her spark? Gone. Her passion? Gone. Her curiosity and humor? Gone, baby, gone. It’s not a pleasant thing to look into the eyes of an 8 year old and see resignation already there.

The interplay between being gifted and LD meant that her experience in a classroom was so very different from her peers. She felt this difference keenly–most out of the box thinkers are incredibly intuitive and self reflective. Even at 5, she knew something that didn’t dawn on me until 7 years later…she processed things fundamentally differently from everyone around her. Even though she had friends and loved her teachers, she still related to her school environment as an outsider looking in.

I recently attended a seminar on helping gifted kids find friends. Ha. Doesn’t that sound funny?! Most people assume, because of the gifted label, that kids like this are set in life. But the truth is, friendships are made between equals. Best friendships form because two people share common interests, goals, and experiences. And statistically speaking, in a classroom of 35 kids, there was maybe only 1 who had a shared interest with Naturalist. While other girls ran around playing cooties (it was 1st grade, after all!) Naturalist was out trying to protect the habitat of a bunch of red ants. While other girls were talking about boys (in 3rd grade…it starts so early!) Naturalist wanted to discuss frog culture and go down to clean up a creek. Naturalist would tell jokes that no one else laughed at. She struggled to do things that everyone else was doing easily. Out of 8 years on this earth, she spent almost half of them feeling like an outcast. A stranger in a strange land.

Not unlike how the Bee Girl felt in Blind Melon’s video for ‘No Rain’. (Remember that?! 1993 in the house!) The embed code isn’t linked up, so click through here to watch the poor Bee Girl dance her way across a city, trying to find someone to connect with. And then, to see what happens when she comes across a meadow full of Bee People!

Helping her find her voice again has been a large part of the last 4 years of homeschooling. I’ve been on the lookout for people, places, and things that will put her around other people ‘like her’. Dynamic, creative, nurturing, and involved. I realized the importance of the task one night when she had the chance to meet her hero, Jeff Corwin. He picked her to go onstage with him and help out with a giant frog. First, he played around with her and started asking questions he thought she wouldn’t know the answers to. Heck, I didn’t think she’d know the answers to them. But she did. She answered every one. Then he tried to stump her, and still she answered them right. Finally he gave up and complimented her on knowing so much. It was a moment of clarity for me. In school, her experience was the opposite…she never knew the answers, never felt what it was like to do well in class, and never was complimented for anything. But if it had been a naturalist school, then she’d have had a different experience. A joyful one!

So, she started volunteering at a vet’s office. She took enrichment classes at the Science Museum and at our local university. She spent a week camping at a Wolf Camp, where all the counselors and leaders were amazed at her depth of knowlege and composure in a harsh outdoor environment. Then I told them that she pretty much sleeps outside on our balcony every night, even through the winter. They thought that was the greatest thing they’d ever heard, and I knew she’d found “her people”.

The internet is also full of possible connections to help find others like her. I know the internet is a scary place, and we’ve gone over the rules 093458034958034598 times. She’s connected with friends in places like the Spore Community, the Dyscalculia Forum, and the Being Dyslexic Forum. These connections have given her confidence and a self esteem that I haven’t seen before. Slowly, she’s finding her own voice and starting to develop her strengths rather than dwell on her weaknesses. I’m happy to see that!

I think these connections are important for anyone, but for a 2e, out of the box learner, they are a literal lifesaver.

****************
Click through to link to past 2e Tuesdays.

Math Mondays::Learn Math or Die Trying…plus a Giveaway!

This is the trailer for a new kind of computer game, based entirely on math. MATH! Geared primarily toward those ages 10 and up, there are a couple games that are set up like a first person video game…the first game is all pre-algebra concepts, while the second game is algebra based.

We have the one based on pre-algebra, Math Evolver – Virus Origin, and it has been rocking our world for the last few weeks. One day, when we first got it, Naturalist and Golfer played it for 3 hours straight, and when I told them it was time for lunch they were amazed because it felt like only ’15 minutes or so!’.

From the Dimension M website:

DimensionMâ„¢is an immersive video game world that engages students in the instruction and learning of mathematics. Pre-algebra and algebra objectives are covered through a series of missions that bring math into a world that today’s students understand. Students become so captivated in solving problems that they forget they’re learning but they don’t forget what they’ve learned.

Research with our programs demonstrates how well they align with the way today’s students learn and how naturally immersed students become in their learning. The result: increase in student motivation, increase in time on task, and the ability to apply their learning in real world situations that have meaning for your student.

It’s a challenging game, but set up in such a way that makes it very playable. At 9, Golfer is on the young end of the ability spectrum, so I sit with him and help explain the concepts so he learns how to finish the level. Naturalist, at 12, is perfect for it. Her dyscalculia means that I just give her a calculator to help compute, and then sit with her as she completes the levels in case she also needs some explaining. The game also has a ‘math concepts’ type dictionary that explains things, too…which is good as it’s been a while since I’ve had to worry about the Order of Operations or what the Additive Inverse of a number is.

I can see this game applying equally well to both an advanced math student in middle elementary range who wants more challenge, a Middle School range student learning the pre algebra basics, and to a high schooler in need of some remediation. It plays like a step above the popular Math Blaster
series of math computer games, and is much more sophisticated.

They have set up a fantastic website to explain the games, the skills they cover, and other FAQ. It’s worth a look!

And now for the giveaway portion of this post. I have the Math Evolver game that has levels 1-5 on it. It was only $19.00, and they play it every day! When I visited the website, I noticed they have more than 5 levels for the game…it actually goes up to 20. That is pricier, at $70, but I can justify that in the name of math education. 🙂 I have the original Evolver game (1-5) that is obsolete now that I’ve downloaded the complete game, and I’d love to send it to someone who’d like a chance to check out the game in their house!

Simply leave a comment in the comment section, and I’ll pick a random winner. The game works on both Windows and Mac’s, and is geared for ages 10 and up. I really can’t say enough good about this game, and am excited to send the game off for someone else to try with their kids! It’s been a fun way to spend time with my older kids, problem solving and learning new math concepts. (That was probably one of the nerdier sentences I’ve ever written, but there you go. I love this game! I missed most of these concepts the first time around, and am enjoying the experience of relearning them and going, “OH, OK! So that’s why….”)

Leave a comment, and I’ll choose a winner to announce next Math Monday. Comments need to be made before midnight, April 19!

Sassy’s Long Term Goals.

So, lately Sassy has been particularly feisty, whiny, and demanding. We’ve all noticed it here at Child’s Play (it’s hard not to when she’s yelling at everyone, “You are ANNOYING ME!!!!!!!) and I’ve been hoping this is just another downswing on her developmental cycle, to be followed shortly by amazing leaps in her abilities.

Sassy

I’ve been waiting for a while. A LONG while.

I think she’s coming out of it, though. She’s shrieking her displeasure less and less, so that’s good. Also? She’s been making long term goals all of a sudden. Usually she’s all about the right here and RIGHT NOW!!!! But yesterday, as she was eating a lemon (don’t ask), she pulled out a seed and asked how long it takes a seed to grow into a lemon tree. I told her about 5 years (??? Is that right?). She said, “In 5 years, when this seed that I will plant is a lemon tree and has lots of lemons growing on it, let’s have a lemonade tea party with your pretty cups and my lemons!”

She’s also coming in to my room in the morning and instead of asking, “what are we going to do today?! Let’s eat now! Right now! What can we do for fun right now?! What are you doing RIGHT NOW?!” she’s thinking further down the road. “Mom! I’m ready to have some fun! Let’s have fun now AND next week?! What are we doing now? And what can we do next Tuesday? I think we should go to the zoo! Today! AND next tuesday!!!”

I have to say, I’m not finding this advanced skill any less tiring.

Her longest long term goal affects me personally, as it involves marrying Hubby. She’s been irked for a while now that I married him before she could. I’ve seen her looking at our wedding picture with total disdain that he would choose ME over a cool girl like HER. One of my pregnant friends asked Sassy what she should name her kids (if it’s a girl: Beautiful. If it’s a boy: Awesome.) She then asked Sassy what Sassy was going to name her babies. Sassy declared, “I don’t know! I don’t even know who I’m going to marry! My mom already married my dad!!!” A while later she came up to me with little 4 year old tears. She’d been thinking about it all day. “Mom, if I can’t marry Dad, I don’t know who I’m supposed to marry. What if I can’t find anyone?!” I caved. “Alright. If you can’t find anyone to marry, I guess you can marry Dad.” I regretted my moment of weakness immediately. “Good! And then, when you go away, it will be just me and Dad going on dates and stuff!” Me: “Uh, Sassy, what do you mean ‘when I go away’? I thought I could stay around and we could all live together? I mean, where am I going to go? What am I going to do?” She thought for a second. “Well, mom, you’re just going to go on and live your life, I guess.”

So, that’s her long term goals so far. Go to the zoo, have fun tea parties together, and then depose me in my golden years. I don’t think I was quite so forward thinking when I was 4.

2e Tuesday::The Four Horsemen of the Learning Differences.

The Four Horsemen of the Learning Differences!

This post today is brought to you by Naturalist, who is starting to find her voice when it comes to having Learning Differences. She’s always been a very self aware girl, and at 12 is able to reflect even deeper on what it means to be ‘her’. Even though many things that she is starting to talk about happened when she was in school from K-3rd, this is the first time she’s expressed her feelings about them.

For a very long time, I felt like avoiding any labels for her was the best bet, so I didn’t address her frustrations and challenges as ‘disabilities’ or ‘differences’, I just talked about them like they were part of the wonderful reasons that made her, her. In a way, I celebrated the differences as things that made her “Unique!” and “Wonderful!”

I’ll tell you what, though. I don’t think this was the best thing to do in her case. This is a somewhat prickly and controversial subject, so I’m trying to choose my words carefully about it. But for her, it wasn’t being honest, and it wasn’t giving her the right tools and self talk to deal with the incredible challenges that come with being bright AND LD.

The truth about learning differences is that more often than not, they are brutal to a gifted mind that knows what it wants to do, what it should do, what it is trying desperately to do…and what it fails at doing. Not being able to spell, not being able to read, not being able to remember things that you KNEW only minutes before–there is no sugarcoating the high level of frustration that causes.

MY way of dealing with that in Naturalist was to give her pep talks, like, “you just think differently than other kids, but it’s good to be different and unique!” or “These are all things that make you who you are! I wouldn’t want you any other way!”. It was me, being Pollyanna. Being a cheerleader. Putting on my happy pants and rooting her on.

But sometimes, you’ve got to call a spade a spade. For me, that moment came after 2 1/2 years of hard core homeschooling…spelling every day, math every day, reading every day…and realizing that she couldn’t spell, read, or do math any better than she could 2 1/2 years before. She knew it, I was trying to run from it. I was hiding under my Polyanna blanket while she trudged along knowing something was stopping her from doing all this stuff but not knowing what it was. It was at that point that I started looking up and using ‘labels’ like dyslexia and dyscalculia. I thought it would make her upset and feel like something was ‘wrong’ with her. Turns out, she already felt that way. When I gave her a term for it, all of a sudden she had a reason for it. An answer. An explaination.

I bought her The Survival Guide for Kids With Ld: Learning Differences, which is a fantastic balance of being a cheerful book about Learning Differences while at the same time not sugarcoating the struggles or avoiding the issues. She devoured it in a week and from then on has found her ‘voice’ in the matter…something that had been missing until this point.

She has words to explain what isn’t working in her brain and strategies for how to deal with that frustration. She has determination to go ahead and do things, even if they’ll be 10 times harder for her than someone else. Most importantly, she understands that she’s not the only one dealing with it. It’s her goal to talk to other people ‘like her’, and help other kids who may not understand what is wrong.

She wrote a few sentences out about what it’s like to have Learning Differences, as well as came up with some graphics. I’ll share them here, even though it kind of makes me cringe inside. I happen to share many of Naturalist’s struggles, but her inability to punctuate or spell words is not one of them. I have an almost photographic memory for how words are spelled, even if I’ve never seen them. Every misspelled word is like a scream in my head, so when I read this I get kind of twitchy. But bless her heart, if I made her correct every mistake she makes, she would quickly stop writing altogether. I’d rather she express herself confidently and hire an editor than censor herself because she’s worried about mistakes. And that’s a life lesson I hope she’s got down cold.

Here is Naturalists explanation of being a 2e kid:

gifted

gifted means creativety, but schools dont let me create but thats how i lern, i lern thro doing, not siting and tests. then since we cant create we shut down cuz we dont know what there talking about and we get teazed for being “stuped”. we wont to get away from people cuz you trusted them, and then they tern around and sit and chant with the kids that chant “stuped stuped your so stuped” and you lern that if you open your mouth people are going to laph and if you trust you are going to get your heart torn out and if you live your going to sit with no friends and no familie cuz they think your a failyer.

symbolsLD

an a makes 2 sounds, rite? not to someone with simbols LD! like me, it was very hard to atach meaning to symbols! sometimes i can read something over and over agen but not get what it ses!

writingLD

writeing LD is when you spell the way things should be spelled, in school we would have spelling tests 10 words! the best i ever got… 3 words, 3 WORDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! but normaly i got 0.

readingLD

LD means lerning disorder, but now lets think of it as lerning difrence! i have reading LD i read things beter up side down backwerds and colorful! but when im reading normal things disupear, i skip lines, the leters and words dance on the page!

**************

Math Mondays::Estimate This!

It’s already been determined by me that if my kids aren’t having fun, they aren’t learning. This runs counter to the public school theory that, to the best of my knowlege, felt that if my kids were having fun, they weren’t learning. And, truth to tell, because I am a product of that same public education, sometimes I look around and think, “Hey! There’s too much fun going on in here! Where’s the learning at?!”

There is a precedent for the role of play and fun in learning, at least in Athenian Greece:

Ancient Greeks have not only inspired countless generations that followed them to match or surpass their learning, but also instituted a sophisticated system of education through play, from the cradle to the grave. Given the heroic or “aristocratic” spirit of ancient Greece, the young were not only encouraged “always to excel”, but provided with corresponding play opportunities to do so. This explains why in ancient Greece, there were rarely any young social ‘dropouts’. Since there was so much for them to do inside a playful world, they did not wish to leave it. On the contrary, we have the opposite phenomenon of the young in ancient Greece knocking ‘down’ on adult doors, so they may be allowed to play in their games, too

I’ve found that even the most boring tasks around the house get a little ‘pep’ by making them into games. At first, I started making games out of ‘chores’ to stop the whining about doing them. But then, since most of the games incorporate estimating into the play, I discovered that my kid’s time and estimation skills improved a LOT.

This is a big deal over here, because at least two of us have dyscalculia (*ahem* Naturalist and me *ahem*) and at least one of us tends to become overwhelmed at daunting tasks and falls apart at the seams (*ahem* Golfer *ahem*). Dyscalculics have legendary poor time estimation skills, and keeping track of time, telling time, and our internal clocks seem to be completely unreliable and wacky.

HOWEVER, estimation is a valuable tool to have, in life AND in math. And here are some fun ‘life games’ that make math a little bit more…well…fun!

Estimating Length of Time:
*How long is a minute–While they are doing different activities, start a stopwatch and then ask the kids to tell you when a minute has passed. Do this at the dinner table, when they are washing dishes, when they are watching TV, doing the laundry, getting ready for bed, etc. etc. Anytime is a good time to estimate a minute. This is a GREAT way to introduce the theory of relativity, lol. My kids quickly realized that a minute watching TV went by much faster than a minute doing the dishes. An ice cream eating minute felt speedy while a folding laundry minute was super sloooow.

*How long do activities take–Once they got a minute down, we moved on to 5 minutes and then to 10. Then we started timing different activities. Golfer used to freak out when he’d face a mountain full of dirty dishes in the sink, because he figured he’d have to wash them for HOURS. Now he knows that it may feel like an hour, but the most he’s ever spent at the sink is 12 minutes. Same with a 10 minute clean up of their rooms. It’s even fun to make a chart with spaces for activities that take about 1 minute, about 5 minutes, about 15 minutes, about 1/2 hour, and about 1 hour. They can fill in what they think will take that long, and then time it. Most of the chore items they reported would take an HOUR to complete, but when we timed it, it was mostly 15 minutes or under. This amazed them, and helped develop a more accurate inner clock.

I have to say, nothing annoyed me more than being told, “One more minute, Mom!” and then a half hour would go by. Or, I’d say, “5 more minutes and then we’re turning the TV off!” and they’d go, “OK!” and then I’d turn it off after 5 minutes and be met with wailing and gnashing of teeth. Or the whining when it was time to do the dishes or fold laundry because it was going to ‘take FOREVER!!!!’.

Since doing these estimation drills, all that has decreased. They’ve gotten a good grip on how time ‘feels’ in their day. And if they ever relapse and say, “I don’t have TIME to shower/do the dishes/clean my closet!” then I say, “Wanna bet? I bet you can do it in under 15 minutes!” and they fall for it every time.

Who knew estimation could be such a strong ally in my mommy arsenal?!

(PS, many of these examples are gleaned from 50 Fabulous Measurement Activities but I see as I link to it that some kind of crazy is going on in the world of Amazon. There is one available for $17.00, and the rest are available for the reasonable price of $50-90!!! For this book!!!! Which I should offer to sell!!!!! Because I bet I could get, like, a billion dollars for it!!!! But I love it too much, I’m not even tempted to put it up there. But what the heck is going on? Are they out of print? Does everyone love their copy so much, no one is selling theirs, leading to a shortage? Someone with an econ background, tell me why this is so?!)

Math Monday Fever on other blogs:
Math Bingo!!! Yay!!! Over at Ordinary Life Magic.

Bipolar Weather.

Bipolar weather.

The essence of spring in Colorado. 60’s one day, 30’s the next. Thunderstorms followed by snowstorms.

It’s always keeping us on our toes!

The forecast is for up to 10 inches of snow tomorrow!!!??? Which is preventing me from following through on my very proactive plans to reorganize and pack up all our winter clothes to make way to reorganize and unpack all our spring clothes. By the time the weather cooperates, I’m afraid my organizational focus will have left me. It’s happened before!

Frito Vs. The Snow

Frito vs. the snow

It doesn’t take much snow to cover over Frito’s head, so this last snowstorm that blew through here made our backyard into an arctic tundra that threatened to completely obliterate poor Frito once and for all. I made a mental note to shovel an area outside our back door so she would have the space to do her business, but it just kept snowing and blowing and I never got around to it.

Turns out, she loves snow. The deeper, the better. I guess, descending from Tibet like her breed does, some genetic code kicked in and she sat at the door, begging to go back out.

I see more snow out there!

OK, she didn’t really ‘sit’ at the door…more like, she stood scratching at the door…

Just like my kids, she romped and romped in the snow…and then when it was time to come in she realized that she was freaking cold and the whining started….from dog and kids alike. Kids got hot chocolate, dog got a chew toy and a rubdown with a towel. But before I did that, I had to snap a picure of her ‘snow pants’…the snow got all rolled up in her hair and created this massively huge snowball all around her legs. I’ve never seen anything like it!

snow pants

She just kept giving me this look, even when I was trying to rub all the snow off (which was impossible, since it had become little ice balls). Sometimes I feel like Frito has no time for my kind of crazy. Isn’t that what you get from that look?!