Handling Night Terrors

I will preface this by saying that I do not know if what my son has is technically night terrors.  We have no medical diagnosis of any kind.  I never saw night terrors in anyone else so I have nothing to compare it to.

What I do know is that my son, C, has probably always had these.  He cried and did not sleep steadily from the day he was born.  Once he could communicate, I could see that he was "waking up" in terror: his eyes would be wide, he'd be crying, and he'd be calling for me (sometimes screaming for me).  I would be there but he would look right through me.  He was seeing something else and had no awareness that I was there.  It could take up to an hour for him to break out of this.  He almost never remembered the episodes.

Now that he can communicate even better, I can see that he literally seems to be trapped in a dream.  Part of him knows he is dreaming and he is trying to break out of it.  He calls for me.  Sometimes he does get an awareness that I with him but he screams loudly to speak to me because to him it seems I am very far away.  He does not know where he is.  He asks me where all the other family members are.  He cries a long time because he is so afraid.

Usually I just hold him, rock him, tell him I am there.  Sometimes I try to give him good images, sort of try to insert happy things into his dream.  Nothing has really worked, until tonight.

It might just be a fluke.  He might have had more awareness than usual or been in a different frame of mind because he is sick and has a fever, but this is what I did tonight when he woke up crying in fear.

First, I told him I was there.  I was holding him and was right in front of his face but he did not see me.  He was calling so loudly and crying, "Mommy is that you?  Are you here?"  I also reassured him about my husband and daughter when he asked.

Next, I told him that Daddy and I are so excited for Christmas.  I wondered if we would see Santa's sleigh.  He got calmer for a moment but quickly got very fearful again.

Then, I did something they do on a lot of my meditation CD's, something I never tried before with him.  I said, "C, when I count to 3 you are going to be wide awake. 1...You are becoming more awake and you can see that you are in my room. 2....You can feel Mommy holding you 3....You are awake now and you are safe.  Everything is okay."  He DID wake up when I did this. I could see his eyes suddenly "see" what was really there.  However, he was still upset.  He could not explain to me why, he said he did not know.  He just continued to cry for a while and get a little confused now and again.

I told him that he was safe again.  I told him he is always safe and that no matter what everything will always be okay.  I said even if he thinks we are not there, we are, we'll always be there for him.  I told him that even when he thinks he is so lost and alone he can call on God and he will be helped.  He will never, ever be alone.

When he reached full awareness, the crying stopped and he said he wanted to go back to bed.  This is usual.  As soon as the episode ends he wants nothing more than to sleep.

This was the quickest episode he has ever had.  The total time was no more than 15 minutes.

Of course, after I told him I would always be there I thought about what would happen if I was not there.  Something could happen to me, something may.  What I said to him is still true.  I will still always be with him and he can always call on me, but I decided that I needed to write this down somewhere because I cannot imagine anyone else would know what to do in this situation.  It's scary to see a child this way- looking right through you and being so afraid.  It's terrible actually.  My consolation is that now he is sleeping so peacefully again and will probably not remember any of it.
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Mystery Math Town Review


I have been wanting to download Mystery Math Town by Art Gig for some time now.It has rave reviews on iTunes and on one of my favorite sites Common Sense Media.  The only thing holding me back was the price, the fact that it has one.  I like free.

What prompted me to finally take the plunge and pay the $2.99 were two things.  One is that A and I have gotten through memorizing her math facts so we need an activity to replace the drilling but that will still be reinforcing what she has learned. I don't want to move on to other math like fractions and geometry (which she is really good at) and have her forget her facts. Another is that she has recently become obsessed with mystery stories.  Time for Learning had a unit on mysteries for language arts and she has been devouring mystery books ever since!

I'm glad we got this app.  She is begging me to play just one more level which is a definite plus.  The paintings talk to you and give you clues about the mystery.  You can't finish the level or move to new areas until you solve math problems.  You also collect numbers on your way in order to fill in the equations so it takes strategic thinking.

With each level the players get paintings of different characters to add to their gallery.  There, the characters will make them laugh and tell them a bit more about themselves slowly unraveling the mystery.
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Teach Your Kids to Relax!

This week I have been adding in some short activities for both self esteem and relaxation.  This video was especially good for learning to relax your body and being able to identify what it is to be relaxed vs being tense.  It's fun for kids with stories and animals but works well for us, too!

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Times Tales Review


We started Times Tales this week.  It's only been two days but the stories seem to be sticking even more than the addition stories did.  This is a DVD rather than a book (although they have a book as well), so maybe that is why she is remembering better, or maybe the stories are better, who knows?

This comes with a DVD and another disc with worksheets and tests on it to print out.  The DVD has two parts.  First, you do Part One for a week or two and once you have those equations down, you move on to the rest.  This is only for the upper times tables which is disappointing to me because they do not have a product for the lower ones.  They start at 3 time 6.  A really needs to also learn 3 times 4 and 3 times 5 as well.  But we'll deal with those later, I guess.

Without me planning it, we moved into times tables at the exact same time Fred did in our Life of Fred books.  I have really been moving instinctively with homeschooling.  I make a plan but then go with my gut and adjust it accordingly.  I was going to move into times tables weeks ago  but decided that we should work on addition and subtraction longer. Somehow, our lessons are all overlapping.  That has been happening since we started this journey.  Our vocabulary words will have something to do with our science lessons.  Social Studies will be reinforced in a Fred story.  A book for language arts will mention something we learned in history.  You know you are doing the right thing in life when you find this type of synchronicity in what you are doing.

So back to my original thought, for dyscalculia, I recommend Time Tales for sure!   It's really the same concept as Addition Stories- every number is a character and when they get together you have a story.  Example: 8 is Mrs Snowman.  4 is a chair.  When Mrs Snowman (8) stands on a chair (4) she reaches for 3 buttons and 2 mittens.  8X4=32.  This actually works.  They go through several steps on the DVD and eventually they get to flashcards with no picture and no talk of the story but now the child knows the equation!  I do not know how or why, but it works!
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PBS Makes Being Green Fun for Kids!

I have found myself using PBS a lot for science and for some fun ways to teach environmental consciousness.  My daughter was sort of born a hippie (or molded into one early on).  She loves earthy lessons and has always enjoyed taking on tasks like cleaning up parks or saving the pandas!

For science, Dragonfly TV is great!  They have fun and interesting video clips, like "Worm Farm," about the boy who loves trash and worms!  The games are challenging making the kids into real scientists.  They also list things to try.  This is science that does not talk down to kids.  I have no idea if the show is still on but the website is a hit for us.

Next, I have to mention EekoWorld.  Create your own animal, learn ways to reduce your carbon footprint, and discover more about the world around us.  This site got A so engaged that when we first found it, she stayed on it all evening after school and again the next day.  Again, this site does not talk down to kids.  It really treats them like the important players they are the future of this planet, while still getting them to HAVE FUN!

Last, we have Meet the Greens.  Mini episodes about recycling and sustainability, fun games where kids learn to spruce up what you have instead of throwing away and buying more, and lots of laughs along the way! 

As an honorable mention I have say we have also used Nat Geo Kids to supplement our science lessons as well. Great videos and games here as well!! 

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Homeschool Typing

I found a wonderful FREE resource for teaching children to type.  It's on the BBC website and called Dance Mat Typing.  It's a lot of fun.  There are different animals for each level you are on who have quirky personalities and keep the kids entertained.  At the end of each level they entertain the student with a song and dance.

They teach starting with the home row and where to keep the fingers.  They explain everything very simply with lots of positive feedback. They then give the child sentences to type.  There is a keyboard you can see on the screen so that you have a good idea of where your fingers are and which key to press.  You can make the on screen keyboard invisible later on for more of a challenge.

I just love when I find free resources that are high quality!  One issue with dyspraxia is handwriting.  A has a hard time printing.  We are learning cursive but that is proving even more difficulty (but we are doing it anyway because I feel like it is therapeutic for her and read that it is good for making connections in the brain.)  Truth be told, kids will most likely type more than printing or writing in the future.

Check Out Dance Mat Typing
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I thought I would talk about what we are doing for Spanish.

First off, my kid has always been good with languages.  It really is like her thing.  She was in private school in kindergarten and they taught Spanish there and she did really well.  It was one of the few times she ever got an "O" on her report card.  When she has taken aptitude tests it always comes back that she has a strong ability to learn languages.  For this reason I was excited about Spanish.

But she wasn't.

She hates it.  We use Rosetta Stone.  I'll admit it is challenging, but I figured she would like it because it is on the computer and it's like a game.  If you never used Rosetta Stone before, it's teaches by immersion so they never say anything in English.  Nothing is ever explained.  They don't tell you, "This word is a verb," or "Use a when it's feminine."  Still, you catch on.

She does pretty good with it, but she HATES it!  She complains and whines whenever it is time for Spanish.

For this reason, I stopped doing Rosetta every day.  Now we alternate.  We do Rosetta and the next day we use a free site called Duo Lingo.  This one is more like a game.  She likes it and it reinforces what she learns on Rosetta. But there is no way Duo Lingo can really teach you anything.  It seems like it can only test you on what you have already learned elsewhere. Every Friday I go to the Easy Peasy site (also all free) and go to the Spanish section there and we will do a lesson.  It usually brings us to 123 Teach Me and sometimes has us watch videos as well.  This mixes it up a bit.

I was lucky to get my Rosetta Stone for free.  If I had shelled out hundreds of dollars for it and she hated it, it would bother me even more.

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Time 4 Learning Review

I signed up with Time 4 Learning in the beginning of the year.  I was not sure how much I would use it so I had books for all our subjects as well.  I had a hard time at first figuring out in what order we were supposed to go in and how to navigate the site.

The first thing we did on T4L was the Language Arts.  A lights up when it is time to do this.  They have familiar characters that come back for every lesson and it feels more like a video game than learning. However, I assure you learning does take place.  It is not too easy by any means (my daughter scored really high in language arts when she was evaluated and this still challenges her) and it covers all the common core standards.  My daughter loves the little cartoons.

There is also a second Language Arts section with spelling words, grammar, and comprehension.  These do not have the interactive cartoons.  This section is more just reading along and clicking answers.  So, it is not as exciting as some of the other sections, but it is still more "fun" than a book and workbook.  We also do things on our own like book reports and if I see she needs practice in something like run on sentences or commas I seek out lessons for this.

The thing she loves the most is Time 4 Art.  I expected it to be an art program like "Paint" for them to draw on, but it is not at all.  It's a program with cartoon characters again that teach really in depth lessons about technique and art history.  It's interactive so the kids can showcase what they learn.  I think I have learned as much doing this with A as I did taking Art History in college!  After each lesson they give the kids some projects to do on their own so they can apply what they just learned about.  A loves it and does it outside of school time, too.  The only problem is she is going to finish the course soon and I know she is going to miss it!

We were doing our own thing with science for a while.  I had an astronomy lapbok I wanted to do with her and I built lessons around that.  When we finished astronomy I decided to give T4L a shot in science.  It's good.  They give you experiments to do which she has really enjoyed.  It's basic stuff for 4th grade like the scientific method and such.  I am also supplementing with some other things.  I like the Waldorf approach to science so I am also teaching about animals and the natural world around us.  Science (at least for fourth grade) is pretty much just reading along and answering questions, too.  No videos or cartoons.

I have not touched social studies on T4L yet.  For 4th grade they have a lot of ancient history.  I decided  that I wanted to teach about our state, NJ, instead.  So, we did a course on NJ history and then learned the counties.  Now we are going to move on to learning the 50 states and capitals.  We also receive the scholastic news in the mail and do that.  After geography, we'll try out the social studies on T4L.  Again, it does not look cartoony- it's pretty much reading and answering questions on the computer so I will probably supplement it with videos and games that relate with the lessons.

That brings me to math.  I did not touch Math on T4L for a while.  We use Life of Fred and we have been working on addition facts since school started.  I knew A could not do fourth grade math yet.  However, at one point she told me she wanted to learn to tell time.  Fred does a lot with this but she wanted more.  So, we skipped to the Time section on T4L and she did well with it.  Then, two weeks ago we began adding T4L to the other math we were doing and she did the addition and subtraction units successfully. So, she is caught up to 4th grade work!  Now we will probably take a break and work on memorizing the times tables like we did with the addition facts and then we will use T4L for math again.  We also use Khan academy, Big Brainz, and Xtra Math.  We have a lot of resources.  I don't want it to get dull and I think the more times things are explained in different ways the better.  One of them will click!

The math section has games.  They are not as high tech as the games in Language Arts.  I suspect they were created earlier.  They are still pretty fun though- for math anyway.  I would not use it as my sole math curriculum though, but maybe for others it is different.  I just don't think it really explains as much as it should how to do things.

T4L keeps records of your child's work so if you are in a state where you need to show the work or you just want to be able to track it, this saves you a lot of time.  Also, it gives you the ability to move up or down one grade level if you need to to accommodate your child.Customer service is very good as well.

Overall, T4L is great!  You really can use it as your sole curriculum and it is only $20 per month.  They even give you a free month for any friend you refer.

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Symptoms of Dyscalculia


I have been really surprised to see how little is understood about dyscalculia.  I am also very disappointed to see that there are almost no useful strategies or teaching techniques being put out there to help people with this disability.  You usually see something like, "These people will have to use calculators," written on the learning disability sites.  Unacceptable!  We can get the math in there somehow, we just need to figure out a way in.  We at least have to try!

Here are some symptoms of dyscalculia:

* The child will usually be very good with language arts and spelling.

* Displays difficulty in grasping concepts of time and direction. Loses track of time and does not have a good sense of how much time has passed.  Mixes up left from right.  Gets lost easily.

* Forgets names.  Can't match up names and faces.

* Not good with money.  Poor planning and budgeting.  Unable to balance checkbook

* Frequent errors in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  May know the answer one minute but then forget it the next.

* Misreads numbers, substitutes one number for another when read or writing numbers, reversals and omissions are common.

* Difficulty remembering basic math facts and in memorizing formulas or the order of operations.  For example, may frequently forget to add the right column before the left.  May seem to have a concept mastered but then fail the test.

* May have poor athletic coordination and difficulty in dance and sports.

* Trouble with strategic planning and keeping score in games.

* May have difficulty reading music or learning the fingering of an instrument.

* May have difficulty knowing where numbers belong on a clock or where items belong on a map.

For help The Dyscalculia Forum is a good place to start.  If you suspect your child has a learning disability in math request an evaluation from the school district.  They should be able to identify this and then begin to work with your child  if he needs extra help.  Of course, you may also have to work with him at home as well.  It all depends what kinds of teaching style he responds best to.
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Symptoms of Dyspraxia

I think in the US, many kids who have dyspraxia may be getting misdiagnosed with ADHD.  This happened to us with A.  Many doctors did not even know about dyspraxia or DCD. I kept being asked where I learned of this.  I was also told that ADHD would be a better diagnosis to go with in order to get services through the school and because it can be medicated.  There is no pill for dyspraxia and I think that might be why in the US it gets ignored so much.

Dyspraxia can be treated though with occupational therapy.  It is also often either outgrown or learned to be coped with.  When I was about 19 years old I suddenly felt everything come together for me.  I knew my right from left then and I could do things with my body I had never been able to do before like dance a bit better or perform certain exercises that used to seem impossible.  I also became more organized.  I felt "normal" (or at least normal-er).

There are definite differences between ADHD and Dyspraxia.  You will find ADHD symptoms all over the web, but dyspraxia does not share the same level of awareness.  Here are the symptoms of Dyspraxia, also known as DCD, as taken from The Dyspraxia Foundation.

What is Dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia is recognized as an impairment or delay of the organization of movement. With this may come problems of language, perception and thought. Other names for dyspraxic include Clumsy Child Syndrome; Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD); Minimal Brain Dysfunction: Motor learning Difficulty; and Pereceptuo-motor Dysfunction.
My notes: Personally, I see Dyspraxia as a neurological difference.  The Dyspraxic brain works differently than the typical brain.  It's not as good with the body, but it's excellent mentally in making connections and using imagination.

What causes Dyspraxia?
There is usually no known cause. Current research suggests that it is due to an immaturity of neuron development in the brain rather than to brain damage.

How would I recognize a child with Dyspraxia?
The pre-school child
  • Is late in reaching milestones.  (My Note: Neither me nor my child were late in early milestones)
  • May not be able to run, hop, jump, or catch or kick a ball although their peers can do so
  • Displays difficulty in keeping friends; or judging how to behave socially
  • Has little understanding of concepts such as ‘in’, ‘on’, ‘in front of’ etc (My Notes: We did not have this issue)
  • Has difficulty in walking up and down stairs
  • Poor at dressing
  • Slow and hesitant in most actions
  • Appears not to be able to learn anything instinctively but must be taught skills
  • Falls over frequently
  • Poor pencil grip
  • Cannot do jigsaws or shape sorting games
  • Artwork is very immature
  • Often anxious and easily distracted
The school age child
  • Probably has all the difficulties experienced by the pre-school child with dyspraxia, with little or no improvement (I did not note any difficulties until this time)
  • Avoids PE and games
  • Does badly in class but significantly better on a one-to -one basis (My Notes: Good in class but not to full potential)
  • Reacts to all stimuli without discrimination and attention span is poor (My Note: This sounds a lot like audotory processing which is often also present)
  • May have trouble with maths and writing structured stories
  • Experiences great difficulty in copying from the blackboard
  • Writes laboriously and immaturely
  • Unable to remember and /or follow instructions
  • Is generally poorly organized My Note: *EXTREMELY*
My Note: By the way, your child does not have to have ALL of these symptoms.  Not at all.  My daughter spoke really early and had no speech difficulties.  It manifests slightly different for everyone.

And here is what they describe as symptoms of dyspraxic adults (but I see this in a lot of the kids as well):

Dyspraxia in Adults - Symptoms

People who have dyspraxia often find the routine tasks of daily life such as driving, household chores, cooking and grooming difficult. They can also find coping at work is hard. People with dyspraxia usually have a combination of problems, including:
Gross motor co-ordination skills (large movements):
  • Poor balance. Difficulty in riding a bicycle, going up and down hills
  • Poor posture and fatigue. Difficulty in standing for a long time as a result of weak muscle tone. Floppy, unstable round the joints. Some people with dyspraxia may have flat feet
  • Poor integration of the two sides of the body. Difficulty with some sports involving jumping and cycling
  • Poor hand-eye co-ordination. Difficulty with team sports especially those which involve catching a ball and batting. Difficulties with driving a car
  • Lack of rhythm when dancing, doing aerobics
  • Clumsy gait and movement. Difficulty changing direction, stopping and starting actions
  • Exaggerated ‘accessory movements’ such as flapping arms when running
  • Tendency to fall, trip, bump into things and people
Fine motor co-ordination skills (small movements):
  • Lack of manual dexterity. Poor at two-handed tasks, causing problems with using cutlery, cleaning, cooking, ironing, craft work, playing musical instruments
  • Poor manipulative skills. Difficulty with typing, handwriting and drawing. May have a poor pen grip, press too hard when writing and have difficulty when writing along a line
  • Inadequate grasp. Difficulty using tools and domestic implements, locks and keys
  • Difficulty with dressing and grooming activities, such as putting on makeup, shaving, doing hair, fastening clothes and tying shoelaces
Poorly established hand dominance:
  • May use either hand for different tasks at different times
Speech and language:
  • May talk continuously and repeat themselves. Some people with dyspraxia have difficulty with organizing the content and sequence of their language
  • May have unclear speech and be unable to pronounce some words
  • Speech may have uncontrolled pitch, volume and rate
Eye movements:
  • Tracking. Difficulty in following a moving object smoothly with eyes without moving head excessively. Tendency to lose the place while reading
  • Poor relocating. Cannot look quickly and effectively from one object to another (for example, looking from a TV to a magazine)
Perception (interpretation of the different senses):
  • Poor visual perception
  • Over-sensitive to light
  • Difficulty in distinguishing sounds from background noise. Tendency to be over-sensitive to noise
  • Over- or under-sensitive to touch. Can result in dislike of being touched and/or aversion to over-loose or tight clothing – tactile defensiveness
  • Over- or under-sensitive to smell and taste, temperature and pain
  • Lack of awareness of body position in space and spatial relationships. Can result in bumping into and tripping over things and people, dropping and spilling things
  • Little sense of time, speed, distance or weight. Leading to difficulties driving, cooking
  • Inadequate sense of direction. Difficulty distinguishing right from left means map reading skills are poor
Learning, thought and memory:
  • Difficulty in planning and organising thought
  • Poor memory, especially short-term memory. May forget and lose things
  • Unfocused and erratic. Can be messy and cluttered
  • Poor sequencing causes problems with maths, reading and spelling and writing reports at work
  • Accuracy problems. Difficulty with copying sounds, writing, movements, proofreading
  • Difficulty in following instructions, especially more than one at a time
  • Difficulty with concentration. May be easily distracted
  • May do only one thing at a time properly, though may try to do many things at once
  • Slow to finish a task. May daydream and wander about aimlessly
Emotion and behaviour:
  • Difficulty in listening to people, especially in large groups. Can be tactless, interrupt frequently. Problems with team work
  • Difficulty in picking up non-verbal signals or in judging tone or pitch of voice in themselves and or others. Tendency to take things literally. May listen but not understand
  • Slow to adapt to new or unpredictable situations. Sometimes avoids them altogether
  • Impulsive. Tendency to be easily frustrated, wanting immediate gratification
  • Tendency to be erratic ñ have ‘good and bad days’
  • Tendency to opt out of things that are too difficult
Emotions as a result of difficulties experienced:
  • Tend to get stressed, depressed and anxious easily
  • May have difficulty sleeping
  • Prone to low self-esteem, emotional outbursts, phobias, fears, obsessions, compulsions and addictive behaviour
Many of these characteristics are not unique to people with dyspraxia and not even the most severe case will have all the above characteristics. But adults with dyspraxia will tend to have more than their fair share of co-ordination and perceptual difficulties.
If you think that you may have dyspraxia click here to find out what to do. The Dyspraxia Foundation Adult Support Group represents adults, some of whom have only been diagnosed as having dyspraxia recently and are coming to terms with this knowledge.
The Adult Support Group has published Living with Dyspraxia, a practical guide to living with and coping with dyspraxia as an adult. 

My Note: If you think your child has dyspraxia, seek out a developmental pediatrician, but when you call to make the appointment find out if they are familiar with the condition!  I have found more OT's that are familiar with the disorder than doctors (of course that is just in this little bubble that I live in here.  It may be different elsewhere.)  If you need advice or support go to the Dyspraxia USA Facebook Page and post there.  People will help you out!


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What's It Like to Have Dyscalculia?

I wanted to post this video because I think it is important for people to understand what Dyscalculia is like for those who suffer with it. I think this young lady does a good job describing it!

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Dyspraxia and Self Esteem

When you have dyspraxia you feel different from everyone else.  You feel less than because everyone else seems to be able to do all the simple things with ease that you struggle with.  You get singled out a lot, people get frustrated with you, and you never win.

I know this because although I was never diagnosed, I am sure I had this as well.  My daughter has it now.

When you have dyspraxia you can't make your body do what you want it to do.  You also have little sense of direction and you have faulty spatial awareness.  It's almost like you are not fully in your body.  As a result, you are in your head more, you daydream.

My daughter is floppy and hyper flexible.  It makes her tired to sit up with good posture.  People think she is lazy. They don't know how hard she works to just sit up straight.

In addition to the dyspraxia, she was lucky enough to also have been given an auditory processing disorder, a visual perception disorder, and dyscalculia.  She even has some sensory processing issues when it comes to touch and taste.  So, she never feels like anything she does in any arena is quite right.

In reality, she is amazing.  In school, despite her difficulties, she made the Principal's list and was awarded a star student award at the end of the year.  She made it onto the swim team and beat her time each week.  She is in dance, girl scouts, band, she does plays, participates in events at the library, and much more.  She has had an article published in a magazine already.  Twice, she was invited to display her work at a board of ed meeting and she won a poster contest.  She has always had a pretty active social life, too.  She is very accomplished.

She doesn't see this though.  She sees that in 5 years of school she is the only one of any of her friends to never receive the monthly Terrific Kid Award.  She sees that her teachers were always annoyed with her for putting her head down, daydreaming, or making "careless" mistakes.  She can't seem to keep her shoes tied or her desk (or room) clean.  She always came in last place in swimming.  She thinks she is the worst in her dance class and her music class.  She thinks she is fat.  She thinks she is stupid.  She feels defective.

Sometimes she tries to make others feel as bad as she does.  Then we get mad at her.  Then she feels even worse.

I have been trying to build up her self esteem.  We all know that for girls self esteem usually plummets at puberty.  So, I sort of feel like I need to pack her with an immense amount of self esteem now to try and get her through those years.  Yet, it seems that as soon as she starts feeling good, something happens to make her feel bad again.

Some of it is her just being negative.  Like she feels like she is on top of the world because she is getting her math problems right.  Then as soon as she makes one mistake she feels awful and like a failure.

Other times, I really feel like it comes from the outside world.  Like I received an email from her dancing school.  It was sent to all the students stating that anyone ages 4 and up are welcome to join the dance competition team.  A was really excited about this but then got a bit guarded and said, "But I'll probably make them lose."  I said that wasn't true and they would not have invited her if they felt that way.  I told them she'd be signing up and their response was, "Welllll.....she is welcome to try, but it might be too hard for her.  We'll see how it goes."  This was not at all what I expected after getting the email that everyone was welcome regardless of their age or class.  Did they mean everyone except my daughter?  I offered her art classes instead and thankfully she was interested in that.  I certainly did not want her to join the team and possibly be asked to leave it.

Just a few days after this, at her weekly band class, the teacher asked me to sit next to my daughter during class.  I am usually in there but I sit in the back.  I thought A did okay in band. I think she sounds great when she practices at home.  She zones out once in a while in class but I did not think it was anything terrible.  But the teacher told me that she (the teacher) gets frustrated because A loses her place or does not hear the directions.  She also does not clap loud enough or in sync with the notes when they clap the sheet music.

You might not think having your parent sit next to you is a big deal but it is.  She is the only one who has to have her mom sit with her during class.  You can feel the embarrassment coming off of her.  She seems less focused now because all she can think of during class is how humiliated she feels.  She feels this is proof that she is "the worst in the class."  She feels less than normal again.

I tried to explain this to the teacher but she was insistent that it has to be this way.  Seriously, my kid is not one that acts up or is a distraction to anyone. She really just loses her place sometimes and has some issues with tracking when reading the music.  The teacher said to me, "Your daughter needs you!"  I felt like saying, "Yeah I know.  That's why I quit my jobs and spend 6-7 hours focused completely on her every single day." It's not like I'm not there for her. Also, I'm not planning to homeschool her til college.  This is a one year deal for us.  I am trying to instill coping skills and techniques so she can stand on her own with confidence when she goes back to school.  I am not trying to make her dependent on me.

I just want my daughter to have one place she can go where she feels normal!  Of course, she wants to quit music now.  That day as soon as we left the class and we hit the parking lot she broke down and cried and it tore at my heart.

When I was a kid I quit everything because I hated being embarrassed due to the fact that I could not do a cartwheel, was uncoordinated, and had poor motor skills.  I did not feel like I fit anywhere until I met a group of friends in junior high school who I wound up getting into lots of trouble with.  I pretty much dropped out of everything.  I don't want that for my daughter but I can see how and why it happens.

Kids need to feel good about themselves.  It's more important than anything.  They need to be treated equally and made to feel normal and okay.  Furthermore, every kid has something special about them.  That needs to be identified and magnified while they are young before it's too late.

This video is called Dyspraxia is a Pain.  The poem they recite was written by a nine year old girl, much like  my A.

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Math is Going Great!

I am happy to say that the math is going well. It's only be a couple of months but every day I know I did the right thing by homeschooling this year. My daughter is so much better now with the math. Not perfect, of course, but so much better. Some facts still seem to get lost but out of 15 or 20 problems she usually only has about two mistakes. Almost all of her addition and subtraction facts are memorized now (most of the time) and next week we move on to multiplication! She loves math now, thanks to The Life of Fred!

I have been studying up as much as I can on dyscalculia. It's such a strange disability. Sometimes you know it and other times you don't. A lot of the symptoms are the same symptoms you get with Dyspraxia which she also has- things like not knowing your right from left and having a poor sense of direction. I worry about what will happen when she goes back to school and I am not sitting next to her keeping her focused and reminding her of her tools. Oh- let me share the math tools in case there are other moms of dyscalculiacs out there :) This is taped to the desk.

 Math Tools

 * Remember what you DO know! For example, my daughter for some reason knows all the double facts. These have always been a breeze for her. So, if she is stuck on 5+6, if she takes the time to remember that she does know 5+5, she can figure out 5+6 from there.

* Remember the characters! (This is referring to the book we used called Addition the Fun Way Book for Kids: A Picture Method of Learning the Addition Facts , where each number was a character and each equation told a story. If she can remember the characters the story will come back to her. For example: 3+6. Well, we know 3 is a bee, and 6 is sick, what happened when they were together? Oh yes! The 3 bee brought a 9 sign over to 6 so he would not be disturbed!)

* Try to reverse it. We don't know why, but sometimes she has no idea what 4+3 is but she has no problem knowing 3+4.

* If it's a +2 just skip a number.

* If it's +9, add ten instead and take away 1.

* Draw a number line or a picture.

We started this year with first grade math.  It's less than two months later and she just finished the fourth grade units of addition and subtraction.  In essence, she caught up!  Now we will back track a little to get the times tables memorized but I am confident she will catch up here, too!

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Flocabulary is another awesome resource I found.  Now with math I needed something for extra help, but with language arts my daughter is way ahead of the game so I needed something fun and challenging.  I have to admit Language Arts is challenging for me to teach only because there is just so much of it.  We could probably do it all day long between writing, reading, puncutation, grammar, and vocabulary.  Flocabulary has videos on all of this and on other subjects too like math, social studies, and science.

Unlike Time4Learning, you don't have to pick a grade level, so I can skip my kid ahead when I want to and I have access to lower grade levels as well.  Each subject has a video and then both online and printable activities.  The vocabulary arena is where this site really shines but I have enjoyed all of the activities we have done thus far.

All of the vidoes are fun, hilarious, hip hop songs.  They are catchy so they stick with you and they are clever so they make smart kids light up and get inspired.  I had a few people look down their noses at me and say "Well we don't listen to hip hop."  It's not gangster rap, people.  It's intelligent rhyming that takes talent and is intended to make kids smarter.  It honestly reminds me a lot of Will Smith back when he was the Fresh Prince and he told us how, "Parents Just Don't Understand."

To add an even cooler element to this site, there are lessons for how kids can make up their own rhymes to help them learn (or just for fun!).  I plan to do this sometime soon with my daughter.  She's a writer at heart and loves words.  Vocabularly is so easy for her so taking it to another level by incorporating words into a rhyming song will be right up her alley.

I also have used the math videos to help her remember facts (just as a little extra added to what we are already doing) and if I find a social studies or science video that goes along with something else we are learning, I use that too.  I just love seeing her light up and laugh when she watches these things.  I love seeing her enjoy herself with schoolwork!  I also feel like these lessons don't talk down to kids, if you know what I mean.  It gives kids credit for knowing a lot more than most other online lessons do.  So, it challenges them and makes them think. I can't say enough good things about this site.  In fact, I may ditch Time4Learning and just continue a membership with this site (I am on a free trail right now).  Time4Learning is cool in that is basically is a whole online curriculum but the science and social studies are boring, a lot of the language arts are way too easy, and I find the site overwhelming and confusing.  We wind up just using it once a week or so to mix things up so it may not be worth the money since I have a curriculum outside of the site.

If anyone is actually reading this and wants to check out Flocabulary, here is the link.  They have free videos and printables to check out and, like I said, a free trial.

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Lots of Guilt

Now that I am home with A, I feel so badly that I have almost no time with my son C.  When I was home with him, pretty much for the past five years, I squandered our time together trying to make money from home (ironically, so I could spend more time with my kids) or by just generally wasting time, stressing out, and cleaning.  Now I see him a few hours before he goes to bed at night.  I feel terrible.

C is a great kid.  He is always cheerful and enthusiastic.  He helps me with everything.  He is generous.  He'll offer you his last piece of candy or last sip of his treasured slushie.  He's a real shirt off his back kind of guy.

He always tries to take care of everyone's feelings, too.  Like if I told him that I felt bad for not being a good mom, instead of feeling bad for himself he'd try to cheer me up.  He just wants everyone to be happy all the time.

When he was born he was different.  He cried for a year straight.  He never slept.  I never slept either.  I sort of forgot how to be an awesome mom then and became more like a Zombie Mom. What do you know, there is actually a term for that...a Mombie.  Yes, I was a mombie.

When he stopped crying, he started running and tackling.  Then I had sibling rivalry to deal with.  I guess I was more like a werewolf mom then, always howling.

Then, I was just tired of being a mom altogether. I was sick of folding laundry and cleaning up after everyone over and over again.  I hated to hear myself yell and I was still somehow tired.  So, then I started working more.  Then, I guess I was like an invisible ghost mom.

(But continued to showed up to howl and walk around like a zombie because I still wasn't sleeping.)

I guess you really don't realize what's important until it feels too late.  Luckily, it is not too late.  He's five and I have spent time with him, he has good memories of me despite my many monster forms.  I just need to really concentrate on making a lot more of those.  He really deserves someone more like this:

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Tired and Painful

Now that I am working with A so closely, I can see why she started rushing through work and hating school.  It literally hurts her to sit up straight and to write for long periods of time.

Having dyspraxia, she has low muscle tone and weak upper body strength.  She also has a delay in motor skills and poor coordination.  She is smart as a whip and loves to learn, but the physical demands of school were too much for her.  Even being at home, it may be too much, so I am trying to accommodate her.

Once her arm starts hurting I have a tray for a laptop.  It has a pillow on the bottom of it. When I put this on the desk or on the floor, it is on a slant.  Writing on a slanted surface does not tire her arm out as much.

When I see her getting tired and slouching I put a blanket down on the floor and let her lay on her tummy and work. Now actually doing this is strengthening her upper body, but it feels better because now she is using different muscles for a while.

I let her type some of her work on the computer.  Not all of it, because I want her to develop her skills and muscles, but when she needs a break I do it.

She really does not complain.  Not nearly as much as I would.  All the doctors and specialists we have seen are always impressed by how much she pushes herself and how much she accomplishes.  I am impressed, too.  For instance, she insisted on doing ballet again this year.  She will not do an easier dance.  I see her holding those poses and her body tiring out, but she just keeps trying and pushing through it.  I would have given up.  In fact, I did give up. I am pretty sure I had dyspraxia as well when I was a kid and I bowed out of anything physical because I was so bad at everything. I did not even try because I was a coward and I did not want to be embarrassed.  My daughter is awesome.

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Our Schedule (for now)

Here is how the days have been working out (not exactly as I planned because we are moving a lot faster than I thought).

9-9:15- Spirituality- read a devotion, write a prayer, write about what you are grateful for, or work on SpiritualityforKids.com lessons. (I think she likes Spirituality for Kids best.  It has an 80 page workbook- we will probably just do this going forward).

9:15-10:00 (but we always finish earlier)- Math- Addition the Fun Way and Life of Fred- possible quizzes on basic facts.

10:00-10:45- (Always finish earlier) Language Arts- I have been coming up with my own curriculum and taking things from here and there.  This week we learned to write an outline, wrote a persuasive essay, learned alphabetical order, and looked up vocabulary words in dictionary. Also printable activities for vocb words from Flocabulary.com- the 5th grade level (I may cancel my time4learning account and get a Flocabulary one instead- she loves it!).

10:45-11:30- One cursive writing sheet and Rosetta Stone.  Learning languages is her strongest asset, yet she is HATING Rosetta Stone.  It is the only thing we are doing that she hates.

11:30-12:15- Lunch/ Recess- Recess is sort of like gym and OT, too.  I try to incorporate things that I know will help her with her dyspraxia during this time like her scooter or bike for balance, exercises for upper body strength, etc.

12:15-1:00 (again this is done way earlier)- Social Studies. This is her second favorite thing.  We are using a NJ History Kids site for now.  Today we also watched a short movie for kids on 9/11 and she took a quiz on it- got 100 (me=proud).

1-1:45 (never takes this long either)- Science.  We are working on astronomy now.  We have a lapbook and are doing two sections per day.

1:45 (by now it is usually waaaay earlier than this)- 2:05 practice your recorder for band.

2:05-2:30- Choice.  I thought she's pick Time4Learning because it is online, but she has been asking to do more Fred during this time.  We have only used Time4Learning once so far but I am having a hard time figuring it out...

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Two Great Resources for Dyscalculia


If your kid has a disability in math, I highly recommend the two products I am using: Life of Fred and Addition the Fun Way.

Now, my daughter is in fourth grade.  One of the things that scared me is that with math I have opted to pretty much just start over from the beginning.  She does not know her basic facts- neither multiplication nor addition.  I know in school they are doing high level work, but there is no way she can do this if she cannot even tell you how much 4+3 is.  Still, knowing this, I was still afraid that I was somehow doing "the wrong thing."

Now that I have used these two products for a couple of days, I feel much better.  I feel better because they are WORKING.  My daughter is 1) retaining the information, something she has never been able to do with math before (except for doubles for some reason- she knows all the double facts). and 2) she actually loves math now!

Life of Fred- The writer Stanley Schmidt would have been my favorite teacher if I ever had him back when I was in school.  You can just imagine how he would be.  He doesn't just teach math, he teaches everything and everything is amusing and makes you laugh.  When you laugh, you tend to remember why.

The book of Fred is a story book.  Within the story there is math, but kids barely know it, and they don't mind it either. At the end of each section is a "Your Turn to Play" with just a few questions, nothing to get worked up about.  Some of the questions are just fun or silly, which mixes things up a bit.  There is a lot of repetition in the stories- like, for example, within several chapters you are told that 5 an 2 make seven.  You are told in lots of different ways and it comes up in several different scenarios. Eventually, you remember.

You are also told about ancient philosophers, geometry, geography, the Greek alphabet, and much more. If you think this book is simple and talks down to kids at all, you're wrong.  I learn a lot reading this book as well!

This series is perfect for my daughter.  She has great reading comprehension and excellent language arts skills.  Learning math by reading a story is working for her. When we have extra time she asks me to do more Fred.  She hated math before and said she was bad at it.  Now she loves it and it's only been three days.

The only thing that worries me is that even when I finish the elementary set she will not have covered what fourth grade has covered (but she will  have touched on things they haven't.).  We may be able to get further than this set though because the books go a lot faster than you think.  We will be done with book 1 by the end of this week!

Addition the Fun Way- Here is another great resource for kids with dyscalculia. Here is how it works.  Every number is a character.  For example, 3 is a bee and 6 is sick. Now for each addition fact there is a story. For example: Sick Six was trying to take a nap but kept being bothered.  The Three Bee wanted to help so she made him a Nine Sign that said Do Not Disturb.  The stories are a bit longer than that and more memorable, but you get the idea. I read each chapter several times before moving on to the next one.  Then, when my daughter sees the equation she can recall the story. So if she sees 3+6, she knows 3 is a bee and 6 is sick and she just has to remember what happened when they were together and she'll have her answer.

I can say this is working.  We have only done 3's and 4's so far but it works!  Once in a while, I see her trying to count on her fingers instead (she is unable to count on her fingers correctly so it is of no help when she does this) but then I prompt her to remember the story.  She will take a few seconds to remember it and then she will have the correct answer.  Some equations have already become automatic.

Fred gives kids a deep understanding of why and how math works. It provides the needed basis for kids who just don't get it the way most others do.  Addition the Fun way is good for memorization when drilling does not work.  

Our math routine is reading whatever chapter we are working on in Addition the Fun Way and possibly taking a quiz to see how much we are retaining.  Then we do Life of Fred.  My original intent was to do three chapters of Fred per day and to split them up throughout the day.  I was going to do this so I would not give my daughter who hates math, too much math at once and also I thought she might retain it better if it was reinforced throughout the day and in shorter spans so there was less chance of her zoning out.  However, we have wound up doing three or more chapters all at once because when a chapter ends she asks me to please do another and as long as she is enjoying herself I will keep on going.

I find so little out there on dyscalculia.  I don't think even the experts understand it. But the way I see it is, if your brain rejects math, trick your brain and disguise the math as something else.  If you are explaining something and it is not getting through, your explanation needs a new mode of transportation and a new point of entry. My daughter's strongest areas are her language and reading skills.  So, the math is going in through that door,

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First Day of School!

Well, first of all I had no idea how much work homeschooling is. I am just blogging this now at the end of the third day of school...

I set my alarm for 7am and put the alarm clock in the living room so I would HAVE to get up and walk a good distance to shut it off.  That's how much I don't trust myself sometimes.

We got ready without a hitch.  We were ready early, in fact.  Everyone was fed and set to go.  I was terrified on the inside for two reasons.

First, my baby, C, was going to full time kindergarten.  He had been in nursery school for the last few years.  This past year he was up to three, two and a half hour days. Now he was going to be gone five full days.  It just seems so long and so...well wrong, to give up your baby for such a long time.  I felt the same way with A, too.  I worry about the littlest things- "What if he can't open his juice box?" "What if his shoes are too tight?" 'Will he make any friends?"

But I put on a strong face and we all went to drop him off at the school.  It's not even a familiar school.  After all the issues I had at the local grammar school I put in a request to have him go to the better school across town.  So, the whole experience is new such as which doors to go to, where to line up, where the bathrooms are, you know. I don't even know the secretaries in the office yet.

We were early as was everyone else.  Must have said goodbye a gazillion times.  Then, we watched him disappear behind the doors.

When A went to school I had "the baby" home with me to sort of take my mind off of it.  Now C is going and I have my A at home to focus on.

So, we headed back to the house and my husband went to work.

Now for my second fear- I was scared for our first day of homeschooling.  Several times a terror hit my gut and part of me would say, "What the hell are you thinking?  Did you actually, really do this?" The secretary from A's school called asking why she was not there.  I know the superintendent and principal got my certified, legal letter about homeschooling- I even got a response.  Still, I imagined truant officers showing up at the door..of course, in my head they look more like a swat team.

I wiped the sweat from my brow though and we just dug in and got started.  It felt a little weird at first but we got into the groove.  We were attached at the hip all day.  I worked with her one on one on every subject. After lunch, I took her to her first music lesson for the homeschool band where she is learning to play the recorder.  She made a friend.  It was nice to see other homeschoolers.  I didn't really talk much to anyone, but just knowing they exist and seeing them in the flesh and observing how oddly well behaved all their kids (including siblings that are ages 0-12) are.  It reminded me of how A was before I ever sent her to school- how she had been always content and full of joy.

I worried that due to band we would not get to everything but we did and we had time to spare so I let her pick any subject to work on more.  At one point, as I was letting the dogs, out she joined me on the back porch and I got sad and wondered if I was doing the right thing.  Would she be lonely now that she is going to be mainly with me more than anyone else? But, she was really miserable in school.  She says she is happy.  It's not like she doesn't get out.  She's in ballet, band, girl scouts, and has friends.   She'll probably join the after school library program, too, in a couple of weeks. Oh yes and we joined a homeschool organization that we will do field trips with as well.

The day brought me back to when she was a baby, my only baby.  Those days were the best days of being a mom because being a mom was so new and it was really all I had to do.  It was my focus.  All we did was sing songs, do activities, go to toddler playdates, and try out new toys. It will probably always be my fondest time.  I feel like I got that back in a way.  I am with A now from 9-2:30 just working right alongside her- laughing, learning, creating.  It's nice.  Maybe it's just the thing for a little girl before she heads into puberty to have some time like this with her mom.

When the day was done, we picked up my C.  He was indignant that they expect him to partake in nap time, but he was okay.  Since I schooled A all day my energy was low and I had lots to do around the house, but all I wanted to do was hug him.  He gave in for a bit but all he really wanted to do was go outside and play. I did whatever he wanted for an hour.  I wish I could have given him more.

And that was day one.  No more long ones like this, I promise.

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