Discovering the Strengths of Dyslexia

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I stood in the hallway of our local school and listened while the psychologist explained terms to me like auditory processing, visual processing, and working memory. My head spun as I sought to understand these new phrases and their implications. My eyes filled with tears as I fought to keep my emotions in check and a million questions exploded in my mind. A strange mixture of grief and relief threatened to overwhelm me.

We finally had a word for what described my twin boys’ struggle with reading, writing, and math. Dyslexia.

I am privileged to share that journey today in honor of Dyslexia Awareness Month for the subscribers of the Wild and Free monthly bundles. I’ve come to see dyslexia as not only a weakness but also a strength. Dyslexic learners are often entrepreneurial thinkers, good at recognizing patterns, can expertly manipulate 3D objects in their mind, and think in pictures instead of words. My own boys are excellent visual problem solvers and artistic. As Brock L. Eide writes in this book The Dyslexic Advantage, “Dyslexic brains have their own kinds of strengths and benefits, and these advantages should be recognized and enjoyed. Our goal is to help individuals with dyslexia recognize these many wonderful advantages, so they can enjoy the full range of benefits that can come from having a dyslexic brain.” In this article I share our story as well as some practical resources that have benefitted our family.

Once again my friend Molly Balint of The Farmhouse Creative photographed my boys as they drilled sight words while playing Connect Four, did some phonics play, and practiced their writing.

If you are interested in subscribing to the bundle (which is basically a digital magazine), check out the details here. You can even try one for FREE!

I will be posting daily over on Facebook this week about Dyslexia, so if you are interested in finding out more, follow me there.

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My Favorite Homeschool Books

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I must confess I've not read many books on homeschooling, partially because I was homeschooled myself, loved it, and had a great experience, so I never went through a "research" phase to determine if it was something I wanted to do or not. 

But this time of year I am deeply thinking and planning about our upcoming academic year, and I find myself returning to some books again and again, as well as discovering some new favorites.

One book that I read almost annually is Sarah Mackenzie's Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakeable Peace. This is a slim volume that is full of wisdom, encouragement, and practical suggestions. This book introduced me to loop scheduling, using a "time budget," and choosing a literary mentor to guide my reading through the year.

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I'm currently really loving the influence of Cindy Rollins. First, I read her book Mere Motherhood: Morning Times, Nursery Rhymes, and My Journey Towards SanctificationIt's really more of a memoir than anything else, but filled with so much goodness that includes what she did right--and wrong--told in a conversational way with a side of sarcasm. I've also become a Patron of her podcast, and am literally sitting down and taking notes of the exclusive content I've received by joining here.

Know and Tell: The Art of Narration by Karen Glass is a book I wish had been written several years ago when I was just starting this homeschool journey. It has cleared up all my questions having children narrate ("tell back") the material that is read to them (or they read) either orally or in written form. Since my boys struggled so much with reading/writing due to dyslexia we have not been consistent in this area, but this book has helped me as I plan for this year. There is even a chapter on narrations and learning challenges, so there is much to consider in this wonderful book. I will also be implementing some of the content from the "narration in the classroom" chapter in my co-op class this year.

What is your favorite homeschooling book? Or, if you don't homeschool, a book that has impacted your educational philosophy or parenting style?

The Power of the Voice

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I'm very excited to share that an essay I wrote about my life as a homeschooled student has been featured in Wild + Free's most recent subscriber bundle, Wander. Wild + Free is a beautiful homeschool community. I have benefitted from their conferences, digital bundles, Instagram, and podcast.

I was thrilled to write about one of the most treasured memories from my days as a homeschooled student when my mom read to my siblings and me after lunch. I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next to my favorite character, while being transported to another time or place by the power of Mom’s voice. These books were dubbed 'family books,' and we continued to read aloud together even long after I was old enough to read on my own. The power of the audible voice captured any wanderings of my mind, making the stories dance off the page and into my imagination.

To illustrate this article, my friend Molly Balint of The Farmhouse Creative photographed our own read-aloud moments. It's so special to have these images, not just for the article, but to treasure and document our days.

I also got to chat with Jennifer Pepito about reading aloud as a family and how to know whether we're doing too much or enough in the podcast portion of the bundle.

If you are interested in subscribing to the bundle (which is basically a digital magazine), check out the details here. You can even try one for FREE!

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What I'm Into Right Now (July 2018)

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July is almost over (can you believe it!) and since I wasn't able to post in June I have a nice round up of favorite things for you this month.

Watching:

We've been watching When Calls the Heart for all five seasons as a family because it's a clean show the kids enjoy. Kind of reminds me of Christy or Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, remember those? Season five, however, ended in a very un-Hallmark manner with a shocker that left the kids in tears! What!?! Definitely will be interested in what plays out next season!

I still am enjoying Father Brown on Netflix. It's my laundry-folding show and it's a comfort that the bad guys are always caught and the mysteries are tidily solved each episode.

Listening:

I've become a Patron of Cindy Rollins' podcast, The Mason Jar and am enjoying the exclusive content from her site. I am literally taking notes, the content is just that good.

Also, I just finished the fourth book in Alan Bradley's charming Flavia de Luce series. I adore them on audio. I don't know anyone else personally who has read them, however Cindy Rollins and Jen Hatmaker are fans. I was really happy to hear Jen rave about them on a recent episode of What Should I Read Next. These books really need more people to discover them!

Reading:

I've read some good books lately, one of my favorites was this psychological thriller I Found You. Caveats include strong language and an especially icky assault scene, but overall I just couldn't put it down. Can't wait to try more of her books. A Murder for the Books has been a fun cozy type of mystery. Think a Hallmark movie in book form, so at times, it verges on cheesy, but a nice summer-type of read.

Parenting Is Your Highest Calling: And 8 Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt was one of the best parenting books I've ever read. Seriously, there's not many more books you need to read besides this one. It was my first introduction to Leslie Leyland Fields, but I definitely plan to read more of her work!

I picked two books this summer to be my "professional development" to help me become a better homeschool parent to my kids. The first title, The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain has been hugely helpful and encouraging as I look to more year helping the boys thrive not only in spite of, but because of, their dyslexia. The other is Know and Tell: The Art of Narration by Karen Glass which I'm busy highlighting. It will be helpful in not only our narrations at home, but as I teach a Writing and Rhetoric class at our local co-op.

Eating:

I made these Stuffed Sweet Peppers (by one of my favorite Instagrammers) for a party and man, were they delish! Also easy, which is always a plus. The other night we also tried these Korean BBQ Burritos which were quite tasty and had a unique blend of flavors.

What are YOU into right now?

Toddler Activity Boxes

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In preparation for this school year I knew I needed a constructive plan to keep Ava, my toddler, creatively engaged. Since we homeschool, it would be important to the flow of our learning that she have her own "work" of play to do. But whether you homeschool or not, keeping a toddler busy can be a challenge while to try to accomplish other tasks.

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In anticipation for the fall I created four "activity boxes" just for Ava. Call them what you want: sensory boxes, busy bins, they all are meant to engage her imagination and give her something tactile to do. I created one for each morning we are home. 

And look at that goofy face! She loves her boxes!

If you are interested in creating your own boxes, I will link to what resources I can here to help you get started. I created loose "themes" to get me organized.

Animal Box 1 (top left photo)
Felt map with animals from Target's Dollar Bin
Melissa and Doug Habitats Reusable Sticker Pad
Melissa and Doug Water Wow
Number cards with sticky foam to form the letters from Target's Dollar Bin

Craft Box 2 (top right photo)
Dot Markers (not shown--but Ava LOVES them)
Mr. Potato Head (similar)
Construction paper and scissors from the Dollar Store
Wikki Stix Adventures Across America book and Alphabet Cards

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Sand Box 3 (Bottom left photo)
Sensory Sand with real shells from the beach and sand toys I dug out of the shed and washed up and added to the box.

Play-Doh Box 4 (Bottom right photo)
We've had this box for years, but I recently freshened it up by buying a bag of Mad Matter. All the kids love this and want me to buy their own bag in the color of their choice. It is very cool stuff! Similar to sensory sand--but less sandy and just more fun, in my opinion! So obviously Mad Matter is a great choice for older kids too. My older kids like to steal it out of her bin to play with it when I read to them.

You could also use these bins for "quiet play" when naptimes cease or only pull them down on rainy days. Check out my Sensory Play Pinterest boards for more inspiration. If you end up making your own boxes, or already have, I'd love to know what you filled them with!

Cromwell Valley Park

A few Sundays ago we took advantage of the perfect weather to visit Cromwell Valley Park. We have been there multiple times, but this time, we went to hike the orienteering course, which uses compass and map skills to follow a trail that pretty much takes you all over the main aspects of the park.

Of course, when you start a hike everyone is excited and exuberant! 

The building are quite lovely with some walled gardens. The Willow Grove farm house contains the nature center, where we saw live animals like snakes, birds, chicks, and turtles. I particularly love the Apple House. Apparently, this building was used as a "finishing room" when there were apple and peach orchards on the property. It is in this space the fruit was boxed and then transported to be sold along the waterfront and in stalls in Baltimore City.

The Lime Kilns were in the midst of being refurbished, which was neat to see. There are three kilns and the oldest was probably in operation from 1785 onward.

The kids had a blast playing in the Nature Discovery Zone, which had a sandbox, playhouse structure, and see-saw.

It definitely was a fun day of exploring and hiking in nature. We're definitely planning on packing a lunch and going back and spending more time playing in the stream sometime soon!

Hamilton {for kids}

I have found that my kids' interest often mirror my own. Even if but for a brief period.

So, it shouldn't have surprised me when I started listening to the Broadway blockbuster, Hamilton that they too would find the story interesting.

"Who was Alexander Hamilton?" and "What is dueling?" became some common questions in our house.

But, unless you want to explain to your kids what the Reynolds Pamphlet was all about (ahem) one might want to find a kid-friendlier version of history than the musical--until they're a bit older.

So off to the library I went to check out these wonderful picture books:

Duel! Burr and Hamilton's Deadly War of Words and Aaron and Alexander: The Most Famous Duel in American History. Both books have delightful illustrations and detail the almost ironically parallel lives that Hamilton and Burr lived. Duel! also does a good job of explaining that both men could have made different/better choices than dueling, should they have wished. It wasn't something they had to do. It also gives a short history of dueling in America and talks about other famous Americans who dueled (Andrew Jackson) or almost dueled (Abraham Lincoln).

So if your kids have caught Hamilton fever too, check out these books out!

Note: This post contains affiliate links.

Resources for Rest Time Play

2016-08-23_001Rest time is essential for our homeschool year. In the summer it often goes by the wayside in favor of afternoons spent at the pool, park, or bike riding, but once school starts again, we go back to the routine.

It takes the place of naps for the older ones and allows the house to be quiet for the baby's afternoon nap. It also gives us some downtime after studying together all morning and provides me an dedicated hour to work. I typically race to my computer to work on a blog post, article, website, or process photos.

To freshen up our routine this year, I made the kids Rest Time Boxes that they are only allowed to play with during our hour of quiet.

I bought three clear plastic bins from Target for each child.

Each box has foldable headphones and I check out Playaways from our library and put them in so they always have a fresh rotation of stories on hand. I basically just searched for items I thought my kids would like at the dollar store and on Amazon.

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Here's what I came up with:

Melissa and Doug Tape Activity Book

Build Your Own Cupcake Sticker Activity Book

Melissa and Doug On the Go Water Wow!

Henna Style Notebook Doodles

EyeLike Stickers Reusable Sticker Book

Fantastical Fairies Lacing Cards

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Tic-Tac-Toe Play Anywhere Game

Minecraft Activity Book

EyeLike Dinosaurs 400 Reusable Sticker Book

National Geographic Kids Ocean Animals Activity Book

Usborne Write and Draw Your Own Comics

Usborne Make Buildings Book

Word search books and stickers from the dollar store

 

Do you have a rest/quiet time in your home? If so, what do your kids enjoy doing during that time?

Wild + Free Stargazing Bundle

2016-05-31_001 Summer is the perfect time for stargazing. The nights are warm and you can spend hours on a blanket charting a star-filled sky.

Wild+Free just released their June digital content bundle filled with stargazing inspiration! And I was privileged to contribute photos and an activity to this month's publication.

Also, included in this month's release is all the audio from their most recent west coast conference. Although I've attended two conferences in the past, I was unable to attend this time, so I'm excited to dig into all the audio content!

If you are interested in subscribing, check all the goodness here.

5 Women Inspiring Our Homeschool

2015-08-12_001 The school year will soon be coming to a close. We're finishing up subjects and planning summer fun!

Reflecting on the past year, it has been one of the most inspirational in terms of influence. I've always been lucky to have a wonderful network of local homeschooling mamas. But this year I've also had the benefit of learning from many other women in the homeschool journey through social media and networking. Blogs, podcasts, and Periscope broadcasts have been both inspirational AND practical. This year--more than any other--the wisdom and creativity of five women specifically has influenced our own day-to-day homeschool.

This post was inspired by Alicia Hutchinson's post by a similar name. Check it out. She has some other women you may want to meet to inspire your homeschool too.

Sarah MacKenzie of The Read-Aloud Revival

I've gushed about Sarah Mackenzie's podcast before, but seriously folks, it it a treasure of reading inspiration! I also loved her book, Teaching from Rest that introduced me to practical tools like loop scheduling (which made a positive difference in how we approach language arts).

Julie Bogart of Brave Writer

I was first introduced to Julie Bogart when she was interviewed for The Read-Aloud Revival. As she discussed teaching children writing everything that she said resonated with me. As a writer myself, I want my kids to communicate clearly, whether they love writing or not. And so many programs I've looked at seem dry and dull--sucking the life out of writing--not infusing it inspiration and joy.

Although I've not purchased any of the Brave Writer curriculum yet, I have loved Julie's Periscopes and Facebook Live videos. She often interacts lives with her following, which is what makes her such a treasure trove of inspirational wisdom. She was the one that convinced me to start doing something called "Morning Time" or "Morning Basket" which is essentially doing all our read-aloud reading first thing in the morning. This has become our favorite part of homeschooling, when we read poetry, history, science, art appreciation, our fictional book-of-the-moment, and practice any memory work (we've been memorizing a preposition song most recently). It can be as simple or elaborate as you like. A good overview of Morning Time would also be this post by Pam Barnhill.

Julie is an advocate for Poetry Teatime and Friday Free Writing, which we've also started to incorporate and will definitely be adding to our schedule in a more permanent way next school year.

Ainsley Arment of Wild+Free

The Wild+Free conference and digital bundles have helped put the beauty back in homeschooling for me. At a time when I'd gotten caught up in getting through our lessons in a way that seemed fast-paced and like drudgery, Wild+Free helped remind me of WHY I was doing it in the first place. It helped me envision how I could incorporate things like art and nature study into our daily life without sacrificing the daily need to do the essentials like reading, writing, and math.

Ainsley's vision for a homeschool community has been hugely beneficial to me!

Bethany Douglass of Cloistered Away

I appreciate Bethany's vision of simplicity in homeschooling and life. Her blog is a beautiful and restful haven of resources for everything from homeschooling to green cleaning to recipes. She approaches life from a posture of thoughtfulness and intentionality that really comes through in her writing. Whether you homeschool your children or not, her Instagram account is a feast for the eyes and soul.

Alicia Hutchinson of Investing Love

Is a newer blog I've been following and I also love her Periscopes. Alicia seems very relatable and her posts are always filled with practical inspiration, booklists, and unit studies.

Who inspired your homeschool this past year? 

 

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