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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Emerald Isle, NC | 2018

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A few weeks ago we spent our fifth vacation in Emerald Isle, North Carolina. The weather ended up being PERFECT! It was actually less humid in North Carolina than it was back at home in Maryland. The sun shown everyday, the breezes were strong, and the waves were delightful.

This year Ava really came into her own at the beach. She screamed with delight with every wave she jumped and loved going out past the waves with Josh where it was calmer--she wasn't scared at all!

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We spent everyday out on the beach. Other years we've needed a mid-week break or there's been at least one rainy day, so we've visited the aquarium or something like that. This year it was beach time all the time. We also had movie nights, went to Beaufort for ice cream and to look at the boats, got seafood takeout, and did LOTS of bike riding.

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We also did our annual family photoshoot on the beach the last evening we were there. It's so neat to have these picture to put in our Blurb books every year and see how the kids have grown and changed.

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There was a sea turtle clutch on the beach and the sea turtle volunteers had roped off the area to protect the site. They were having a "sea turtle party" to watch for the turtles to emerge. The eggs would have already have hatched and the turtles were building up strength to dig out of the sand and make their long trek to ocean. Our last evening there they hadn't yet emmerged but they were hopeful that night would be the one!

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Emerald Isle, thanks for another great year!

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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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!

Smoothie Favorites

About a year ago our blender died. I always swore I'd buy a Vitamix next. But in the end we didn't have the funds for such a large purchase so I went with something way more powerful than my original blender but not as expensive as a Vitamix: The Ninja Professional Blender

I couldn't be happier with our purchase. It blends everything I've tried with ease and has a nine-cup capacity. I no longer have to make smoothies in "batches." Although a Vitamix has lots of options and would have been great, the truth is I really mainly use a blender for smoothies, so my Ninja has been perfect for this. 

I've missed smoothies, and so have the kids! They are a cool treat in the summer and in the winter help us get our veggies to fight colds and sickness. My boys are terrible vegetable eaters, so also, it makes me feel good to know when we make green smoothies they are getting a powerful helping of spinach or kale--and with no complaints!

Some of our favorite green smoothies are the creamy Coconutty Green Smoothie, and the Green Banana Blueberry Smoothie. My daughter loves Strawberry Peach Smoothies and I'm partial to this Peanut Butter Banana & Oatmeal smoothie.

Are you a smoothie maker? Drop your favorites into the comment section!

Family Fun for Valentine's Day

I love Valentine’s Day. Growing up my mom always made the day special with pancakes for breakfast and an afternoon tea. Now, I love making the day special for my kids too. I also enjoy the fact that there’s no “right” way to celebrate it. No need to travel, buy gifts, or host a dinner. It is a fun day that brightens up winter and celebrates love. And is an opportunity to eat chocolate. Can’t pass up that opportunity!

Today I’m sharing our traditions for celebrating Valentine’s Day as a family. I hope they may inspire you to create some fun memories with your family too.

Come join me over at For the Family.

What Valentine's Day traditions do you and your family share?

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?

Ladew Topiary Gardens

2016-05-14_001 On Mother's Day this year we visited Ladew Topiary Gardens. We had experienced a ceaseless string of cool, rainy days, so we were excited that Mother's Day dawned warm and sunny, allowing us to spend a whole afternoon exploring Ladew's expansive gardens.

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The kids loved all the little fountains and pools.

One was stocked with big colorful koi and we discovered a snake sunning himself on the rocks near another pond.

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The azaleas were in full bloom. I think I loved the Japanese-inspired gardens the best. The shrubs cut like a boat in the middle of a little island with red sails was so whimsical!

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My mom joined us for our visit, which was perfect since she loves gardens so much.

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This topiary above was shaped to look like a dog house with a dog leashed to it. It was a big hit with the kids!

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The building above was a tea house! It reminded me of something out of Pride and Prejudice where some rich Regency family would have tea that the servants would prepare after a turn in the gardens.

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How cool is this topiary giraffe?

There is a house one can tour as well. I toured it the last time I visited, some 10 plus years ago. This time we did not. I would love to visit Ladew as the seasons change. Perhaps we can visit again in the summer when the roses are in bloom?

NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores + Beaufort

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We spent most of our days on vacation at the beach, except for two excursions. One was to Beaufort, famous for its connection with Blackbeard the Pirate. We enjoyed visiting the Maritime Museum again and seeing the exhibition on The Queen Anne's Revenge and her famous captain, Blackbeard. We also visited the unique Old Burying Ground, which I went into much more detail on in this post during our last trip. It is such a charming town with an old-fashioned feel. Josh and I snuck in a date night out to dinner one evening there too.

The other excursion was to the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. It is a small but lovely aquarium. Since we were there last, they now also have an outdoor play area!

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We even got to touch stingrays!

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The boys were particularly thrilled about the Venom exhibition! If you ever visit the Emerald Isle area, we highly recommend a trip to the aquarium and Beaufort!

Emerald Isle, NC | 2015

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The ocean. It makes me feel alive. It invites me to rest. It had been two years since our family had vacationed at the beach and in September we once again headed to Emerald Isle, NC to put our feet in the sand.

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We rested. We ate well. We read books and watched movies. We took walks and gathered shells. We battled waves and floated on our backs.

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We took the annual "last night on the beach pictures" that are always so fun to capture!

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Equal parts sweetness and sass, that's our Sophia.

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Gosh, I love these boys. We've made it so far! I remember thinking someday we were going to make it to age 8 and here we are! Crazy how far away these days feel.

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And now we have this little darling joining in with all the fun!

My mom joined us for vacation this year. I just adore this candid shot of her with Ava!

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The last days of summer come to a close.

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