Monday, May 3, 2010

Prevent the Home/School Disconnect

My husband and I walked into our second grade son's parent/teacher conference expecting to hear nothing but good things. The papers coming home looked good. The spelling tests were refrigerator worthy. Our son loves school, loves to learn and has, of late, been voluntarily spending some of his free time reading. Watching him discover books has brought me to tears, because I know the worlds he'll be entering as he becomes a more proficient (and hopefully, avid) reader.

Imagine our dismay when his teacher told us he's a great kid, but he needs to work harder, because he's a smidge behind. To add insult to injury, his report card showed his work for the quarter to be satisfactory. Satisfactory is one step down from excellent, the highest mark one can receive, at least in our school's grading system for grade 2. Why were we seeing what appeared to be a great report card, but being told he is performing below acceptable levels?

A few weeks later, we received our son's MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) test results. We now had another reason to be concerned. His scores were well below the district average. We were perplexed. I called his principal and requested a meeting. We needed to know where the disconnect was happening.

The meeting was only 15 minutes long, but so worth attending. We discovered that our son is a typical, bouncy, funny, smart 8 year old boy with a short attention span. He gets extra help with reading, but shouldn't need it for too much longer. His performance is satisfactory, but he could use a little reinforcement at home. His MAP scores are well within the range of normal, and the fact that reading is still fairly new to him may have hindered his success. He also gets nervous about taking tests, even if he knows the material inside and out.

If something doesn't seem right about what you're seeing at home, versus what you're hearing from teachers, set up a meeting. Teachers, staff and school administrators are there to answer your questions. Most schools have a website listing contact phone numbers and email addresses. Working together as a team, parents and teachers can create a plan to help students feel good about themselves and succeed.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Not Just Spirited: One Mom's Sensational Journey With Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) by Chynna Laird

I've been trying to figure out what to say about Not Just Spirited by Chynna Laird. I read it a few months ago, and I had trouble putting it down. It's a VERY personal look into the life of a family with a child who has Sensory Processing Disorder. I have no doubt that other parents will recognize themselves and their children in Chynna's words about her daughter.

Chynna's love for her daughter and her frustration in trying to find out what was wrong is palpable. My heart ached for her through her journey.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about SPD. You can find out more about Chynna and her other books at Lily Wolf Words.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Exercise - the new Valium...

My two boys (Kent, 12 and Cam, 7) tend to be high energy kids. If they can't get outside, they start to act up. Too much energy, not enough physical activity.

My stepson (Kodey, 18) has signed up with the Marines. He has to finish his Senior year, but if all goes well, he'll start basic training in September. He's been telling his younger brothers all about the exercises he has to do.

Well... this weekend our house was a mini-bootcamp. At any given moment, the boys could be found doing sit-ups, push-ups or jumping jacks. This was an absolute blessing, because none of the boys' friends were around to play with, and the exercise provided an excellent outlet for their energy.

They slept well, ate well and were better behaved all the way around. Hmmmm, could exercise be the new Valium?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Worth Its Salt (How Cam became a speller)

Our second grader had been having a really hard time learning his spelling words this year. He didn't want to practice them, and even when he did write them, they just weren't sticking with him.

At parent/teacher conference time, his teacher suggested letting him write them with his finger in shaving cream. Uhmmmm, shaving cream is expensive and not reusable. He then suggested flour. All I could see was a huge mess in my living room. We decided to try salt.

I have a dark metal cookie sheet (the kind with the lip around the edges). In salt about 1/3 of an inch deep, Cam wrote his spelling words. He'd write a word, and then slide the pan side to side to clear it. When he was done, we poured the salt into a Ziploc bag, so it could be used again the next night.

By Thursday night he knew his words, and came home Friday with a perfect spelling test. His second test, last week, was a 14 out of 15. YAY, Cam!

The funniest thing is last week he decided to just write them on paper with a pencil for practice. Maybe the salt method was the confidence booster he needed. All I know is it worked!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cozy Calm

My youngest son has not slept through the night consistently since he was born. He's gotten better in the last few years, but there are still 3 nights out of 7 when he wakes in the night - usually due to bad dreams.

So, when my friend, Eileen, offered me a Cozy Calm Weighted Blanket™, who was I to say no? Cameron was so excited to try it out this past Friday night. He loved how soft it is (cuddly, anti-pill fleece), and how comfy he felt just lying under it. He wanted to go to bed right then, but considering it was only 3:30 in the afternoon, I told him he had to wait.

He went to bed at 7 pm. He usually watches Mythbusters before he falls asleep. He was down for the count before the episode ended. AND, he slept 9 hours straight! He has slept soundly, and woken up chipper, every night since.

Eileen also gave Cameron a Cozy Calm Weighted School Lap Cozy™. It's sort of like a lap blanket and Cameron uses it when he is sitting at his desk at school. It's amazing! It stops the fidgets and allows him to focus on his schoolwork.

Full disclosure - Eileen has been a friend for the last 17 years, and I also do some writing and editing for her website, If I hadn't seen how well the blanket and lap cozy work with Cameron, I would not be posting about it. As Cameron says "Thank goodness for Eileen!"

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sticker shock, anyone??

Having raised two children to legal adults and still in the process of raising two more, I am well and goodly acquainted with the image of a sick child on the couch, puke bucket within easy reach and keeping one ear cocked in the dead of night for the sounds of wheezing, crying and/or retching. I am also intensely familiar with the worry of "should I take my child to the doctor or will rest, fluids and love make this better?"

We've been fortunate to have health insurance, but even still, co-pays for ER visits, urgent care visits and prescriptions are money out of pocket for us, and we try not to consult doctors for every little thing. So, when I read this line, "By changing to co-insurance, people are more aware of costs and the hope is that they'll be more careful about how they spend their [health care] dollars," said Schilmeister." in this article, Employees face 'shockingly higher' health costs, I was rather offended.

Our family eats healthy, gets lots of exercise and sleep. We try to be proactive about our health. I use homeopathic methods whenever I can (homemade chicken soup, herbal teas, lots of orange juice and apple cider) to build up our immune systems so that when the germs come knocking, it's not so easy for them to get in. We also go out of our way to play safely. The boys aren't doing things on a daily basis that would land them in the Emergency Room.

Our insurance costs will be going way up, because the HMO we were part of is no longer available. We'll have a deductible for the first time ever. The problem with this is that we most likely won't reach the cost of the deductible, so we'll be paying our healthcare costs out of pocket and a premium on top of that. It seems as though it would be smarter for us to just put the money we would spend on health insurance into a savings account and pay our own health care costs with no middle man involved.

The downside to that is what if, God forbid, I get breast cancer, or one of the kids needs to be hospitalized, or my husband is in a car accident on his drive to or from work? Then we'd meet the deductible for sure. And hospitals aren't keen on treating patients who don't have health insurance.

So, I guess, what it boils down to is we're damned if we do and damned if we don't. I'm off to make more chicken soup, at least that's affordable.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Halloween Costumes... on the cheap

Halloween is just around the corner. With the economy the way it is, and money being tight for just about everyone, I thought some frugal costume ideas might be in order. You don't have to spend a lot of money for your kids to have cool costumes, but creativity definitely comes into play.

The little boy above is my son, Cameron. Cameron was Harry Potter for three years running. His costume didn't cost me a cent. First off, he reminds me of a young Harry. Second, his older brother donated a flannel shirt. Cameron's costume consisted of too-short jeans, a t-shirt, a flannel shirt over that, a "wand" and the scar and glasses (until he actually needed them) were drawn on with eyeliner and lipliner by yours truly. Everyone who saw him knew who he was dressed up as - some people even addressed him as Harry.

My daughter went as a black kitten when she was little. She had a headband with cat ears attached, and wore a black turtleneck and leggings. Again, eyeliner and lipliner were used for face paint.

Other suggestions I can make are Farmer, Doctor, Chef, Painter - whatever your little ones want to be. Goodwill, thrift shops, friends' closets and yard sales are great resources for pulling together an original costume. If you're crafty when it comes to sewing, shop the clearance racks at textile shops. Or head to Target or Walmart after Halloween to pick up pre-made costumes at 75% off for next year.

What are your kids going to be for Halloween? Any other suggestions for costumes?