* Share Your World

Sony H400/B 20 MP from Amazon.com

Sony H400/B 20 MP from Amazon.com

I have been an admirer of Cee’s Photography Blog since Nerd In The Brain guided me in her direction.  My dream is to own a nice camera and grow up to be Cee (look above for her personal advice on a great choice)!  I would dearly love to take up her photography challenges.  Her eye for beauty is something else.  Cee is not only a terrific photographer, but she is generous, funny, and courageous.  Read the story of her horrendous battle with Lyme disease.  It’s a miracle that she survived!

I am starting my first Share Your World post, one of Cee’s blogging challenges.  Here are the questions and my answers.  If you haven’t ever done this, it’s fun and, well, challenging!

In a car would you rather drive or be a passenger?  Definitely the driver since I am no longer controlled by a driving phobia.

If you were handed free opera tickets, would you go or sell them? Why?  I’d keep them and invite my daughter-in-law, who loves new adventures more than I do!

Describe your own outlook on life in seven words or less.   Jesus loves me, this I know.

Which would you prefer:  a wild, turbulent life filled with joy, sorrow, passion, and adventure–intoxicating successes and stunning setbacks; or a contented bordering on happy, secure, predictable life surrounded by friends and family without such wide swings of fortune and mood?  I grew up with violence and savagery, so I am all for peace and contentment.  Thanks to God, I now have true freedom!

* Helping student relearn math, part 2

red-sandstone-286091_640Although I am re-retiring from teaching this fall, I had committed myself to bringing two students to grade level this summer, if at all possible.  One student is Will, a rising 6th grader who needs support to untangle the math confusion in his head, sorting out what needs to be unlearned and relearned.  Unless this venture is successful, Will has another dreadful year of anxiety and distress ahead of him.  He has a jumble of partially learned processes, partially learned concepts, and a mass of incorrect assumptions.  He also has some dreadful habits: tuning out math instruction since it represents both chaos and failure, reluctance to admit that he doesn’t understand something, and no experience in explaining his reasoning.  None of this is a surprise.  It’s amazing that Will has the resilience to tackle math instruction at all, given his prior experiences.  He does ask really good questions when I allow him the time to process information.  His willingness to say, “I don’t get it,” is much improved.

How did he get here?  There are hereditary factors, but the particular math program used at his school was probably the worst possible match for his style of learning.  With topic shifts every two weeks or less, along with continual testing which triggered anxiety, he did his best to memorize procedures while missing the concepts altogether.  There was little hands-on activity and even less visual support.  By third grade, he was starting to hit a wall with working memory; there was too much to hold together.  With tutoring support in 4th grade, he scraped through the EOGs, but fifth grade triggered a complete collapse.

I had previously conceptualized this as untangling skeins of yarn, but currently, it feels more like digging through layers of rock.  Every time I think we have hit the core, I glimpse a deeper layer of misunderstanding.

As we’ve dug along, I have searched for novel ways to reintroduce concepts.  Specifically, I needed to reduce Will’s anxiety associated with fractions.  One tool that has been particularly useful in digging through fractions is a ruler.  Will does understand linear measurement and feels competent in using a ruler.  Our work with a ruler has revealed his misunderstandings of whole numbers, his inability to understand number lines, his misconceptions of fractional parts, and his misunderstanding of place value.  In fact, the more we work on fractions, the more layers of difficulty are exposed.  Fortunately, there are important benchmarks that he does possess.  Unfortunately, they are mixed with fragments of “math muck,” for lack of a better way to describe it.  In all of this, I have seen that Will has an intuitive grasp of math which is better than mine.  I am encouraged that if we can keep digging in small steps, he will surge forward before he goes to 6th grade.  Stay tuned!

* Ten Things of Thankful

Thanks, as always, to Lizzi for her Ten Things of Thankful initiative.  She wrote a thoughtful post on her interactions with a number of homeless folks.  That’s a brave topic to broach since homelessness is pandemic and complicated.  It’s one of those painful conditions that leaves me feeling overwhelmed and backing away.  Lizzi is a brave soul.

zombie-147945_640My dearest blogging widower has survived another week of providing training on child forensic interviewing, but more importantly, I finally understand why he’s always the last passenger off the plane.  This past time, the pilot was the first, running like a mad man to the exit.  That made me a bit worried.  I’ve seen World War Z and know how quickly zombies can take over a plane.  I stood still as large clusters of zombie-like folks trailed down the narrow corridor toward unsuspecting innocents.  I know zombies are attracted to sound, so I figured I was safe since all the folks behind me were hooting and cheering.  I couldn’t bring myself to watch their actual contact.  Gross!  I heard a lot of shrieks so I  s-l-o-w-l-y edged behind a sign warning people not to enter the corridor.  Not a chance!  Everything Everyone must have been sated as the remaining zombies trickled off the plane.  Where was my dearest widower?  Finally he appeared, dragging but not twitching.  Whew!  I guess he hides out in the bathroom until the feeding frenzy has passed.  He gave me a big smile.  I kept looking for signs of drooling, missing limbs, etc., but finally let him kiss me.  So here’s my thankful list:

  1. How thankful I am for having watched World War Z!  It’s given me valuable tips on survival.
  2. I’m thankful the pilot dashed off first, like a warning flare.  And of course…
  3. Thank goodness for the terrorist/ zombie-proof cockpit doors!
  4. Although I’ve always hated the Do Not Enter sign, wondering why I can’t simply run to my widower, I now appreciate its strategic placement.
  5. I’m thankful, in a totally selfish way, that other folks hang up banners and cheer hysterically at the sight of their former family members.
  6. I’m thankful that I’ve caught pneumonia, strep throat, influenza, and pink eye from my students because that melange of illnesses must render me a bit invisible.
  7. I’m thankful that my widower walks slowly enough for me to carefully examine his extremities.  Typically, I’m impatient when we walk together because I have the longer legs.
  8. I’m sort of learning patience when I walk with my dearest widower.
  9. It’s wonderful that my widower’s department saves money and books him in the last seat on the last row of every flight that arrives at midnight.  They have no idea how wonderful.
  10. Finally, what a terrific crew of custodians at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport!  By the time my widower and I have exchanged a tentative kiss, the blood and gore has been wiped away and the floors are shining.  Until the next time.

* Day #270 – Tom Bodett

This mom has such a precious heart! And her advice is important for all parents and teachers. It’s more than acknowledging differences. It’s allowing kids to be safe in the unique way that reflects their needs. Stay clear of the trap of conformity or public opinion. Like this mom, be guided by what is kind and keeps your child safe.

366 Days of Autism

Several years ago Super 8 began an advertising campaign starring the voice of Tom Bodett.  His famous phrase?  “We’ll leave a light on for you.”

Tucker can’t sleep without a light on and I’m not referring to a low-light nightlight.  I’m talking about a 90 watt bulb in a lamp.  His room is as bright as a 6 AM June morning…and he sleeps like a baby.

Now – I recognize that many children are afraid of the dark.  Tucker isn’t.  He’s fine in the dark.  Can he sit in a dark room?  Yes.  Can he walk around outside in the dark?  Yes.  Can he sleep in the dark?  No.

I often leave his room shaking my head, wondering how he can sleep with the beacon beside him.  Then I began researching ASD and ‘afraid of the dark.’  I know – it could just be a kid thing…but what if it’s…

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* AlphaBooks Blogging: O is for The Organized Teacher series

Organized teacherThe Organized Teacher series of books, published by McGraw-Hill, are an excellent addition to a new teacher’s library and can help us “old dogs” learn new tricks as well.  The snippet above is from the authors’ Facebook page.  I have not read all their books, but highly recommend The Organized Teacher, 2nd edition, which comes with a CD-ROM of  more than 150 forms and checklists. Steve Springer and Brandy Alexander collaborated with Kimberly Persiani to compile the first edition of this book.  Based on reader reviews, they have similarly high quality material in their other publications.

Although The Organized Teacher is written for the regular classroom teacher, it can be useful for any educator who appreciates the wheels that have already been invented.  Those of us with organizational challenges will find a useful form for everything you can imagine.  I especially like their planners, weekly standards forms, and numerous assessment forms.  As someone who has written many rubrics, I was delighted to discover a rubric which used pictures instead of stars or numbers.  For example, one rubric depicts a pizza being transformed from a simple crust to “the works.”  Very clever idea.

The Organized Teacher is a modern (2012) classic.  Be sure to check out their other Organized books, as well!  Better yet, give one of them to a teacher you know and love!

* Final thoughts on student using multiplication.com

multiplication.com 2My special math student, Khalil, finished 4th grade having memorized his multiplication and division facts to 11, thanks to the unique language-based approach by Alan Walker at multiplication.com.  Here are the highlights of Khalil’s performance:

  1. This was the first time Khalil had ever memorized any math facts.  It was the first time he had demonstrated fluency with math facts.  On his last quiz, Khalil scored 95% (with a couple of self-recognized errors) in under three minutes.
  2. Khalil’s dramatic improvement in learning boosted his confidence in math overall.
  3. He began to solve word problems using multiplication and division.
  4. The memorization process in his brain changed significantly.  He started memorizing facts without referring to the associated stories.  His memory appeared more typical as repeated practice actually helped him recall facts, which had not been the case prior to using this strategy.
  5. He was eager to learn these facts, tracking his progress on a multiplication.com times table chart.
  6. This process ensured that he understood the commutative property of multiplication.  Khalil LOVED the commutative property!
  7. Khalil both learned from and enjoyed the multiplication.com games.  We both hummed the tune from “Sketch’s World” uncontrollably!

Khalil’s math problems are severe enough for him to be identified with dyscalculia.  However, if you have students who struggle with only specific facts, multiplication.com could be an effective strategy to try this summer.  The site could also keep your kids fluent in multiplication facts simply by playing games.  I’ve heard that Sketch’s World has a catchy tune.

If you haven’t checked out multiplication.com lately, you’re in for a treat!  The site has just released a student management system for tracking class progress, along with new resources for teaching individual times tables.  Each fact also features improved videos of the multiplication stories.  I’m not sure how long they can keep this FREE, so sign up while you have a chance!  Definitely sign up for their monthly newsletter.  It’s packed with great teaching ideas and materials.

No, I don’t get a commission.  Maybe I should ask….

* Ten Things of Thankful

First, thanks to Lizzi and her Considerings blog (read her post on valuing relationships- it’s great).  Lizzi is all about the silver linings, the half-full glass, no matter what.  Here are my silver linings for the past week in one package.  Fasten your seat belt, for this is a spiderweb tale.  Eventually it will come to an end.

cloudscape-384672_640I was picking up stray branches from a strong thunderstorm in our abyss back yard.  We’d desperately needed rain so I had been praying HARD all day for rain.  That night we had a strong thunderstorm, complete with hail which bounced like marbles on our cars.  We got 3 inches of rain plus branches, twigs, cats, dogs, etc.  I had been eyeing that mess out the window for days.  It’s always interesting to me that my dearest blog widower is trash-blind.  I’d love to be a fly on the inside of his head.  Or maybe not.  Ew!  At any rate, I can’t stand to see random sticks all over the “yard.”  What’s growing there already looks bad enough.  But first, the birdlings.  They also come to our feeders in storms, especially now that they are taking care of their second and third broods.  And the bird bath was nasty.  I put on plastic gloves and got the feeders nicely cleaned and stocked.  The birdlings were whistling excitedly in the trees:  Go!  Go!  Go!

But, I had to do something about the storm detritus, even though sweat was pouring off my face with a heat index well over 100 degrees.  I hate dripping wet skin.  Plus, my middle name is Mosquito Bait AND I hadn’t sprayed myself with insect repellent.  A little voice in my head said, Go!  Go!  Go!!  Typically, I responded, No!  No!  No!  I’ll grab just a few branches and oh, there are a few million weeds, and look at those tree seedlings sprouting up everywhere!   In the worst section of the yard, the part that is reverting back to Snakeland, I reached deep to pull out some twigs.  Then I felt it.  A tiny zap on my wrist.  I looked down and saw a deer tick.  If I had a robotic hand, I would have severed it right there. (Sometimes I like to think about having robotic parts.)  The tick and I ran our separate ways.

You made it!  Silver lings time:

  1. We have two cars.
  2. We have a lovely house and pretty nice front yard.
  3. We have a fantastic bird feeder system.
  4. We have non-latex gloves.
  5. We have beautiful trees.
  6. We got 3 inches of rain.
  7. I am not visually impaired.
  8. I FELT the tick on my wrist.
  9. I was not bitten by anything.
  10. I repented of blaming my widower for being trash blind.  But I did make him listen to all of the above.  He loves me SO much!  Happy Father’s Day, dearest widower!

* Spotlight on Manchester Chick Flick!

This is my FIRST “Spotlight on Special Bloggers” and I couldn’t have asked a a more gracious and hilarious blogger than Manchester Flick Chick.  Chrissie’s blog is full of delicious, vegetarian recipes and stylish beauty tips which are animal-cruelty free.  I was first drawn to her blog by her humor and authenticity.  My special education radar was triggered when I read her self-description which includes: “I happen to have Dyspraxia which makes me wobbly, forgetful and weird in a good way ^_^”  Not too weird, as you can see below!  And her closing remarks capture all that is beautiful about this delightful blogger. Manchester Flick Chick
How did you start blogging? I started blogging because I would write scenes for a screen play I was working on when I was temping in an office. I shared it with a colleague and he said “You’ve got a real talent for dialogue there. To help you (as it was all on scrap paper and random scenes with a very scratchy narrative) why don’t you do a blog to get used to writing?” He set it up for me. I wrote a funny and quirky piece about my Adventures on a Saturday Day/Night and got a great response.
How did you choose your blog focus?  The focus of my first blog was myself but that felt too personal because I didn’t want everyone to know my business (I was in my early 20’s and a bit wild) so I turned it into a Manchester blog which also focused on fashion and beauty. I wish I kept the original name of Vamp It Up though, ha!
(One of Chrissie’s funny but insightful posts could help all of us who are shopping challenged.)supermarket
What was your educational experience like?  As a little kid I lost all concept of math after we stopped being aloud to  use plastic coins to count with – seriously. I would also sit starring into space formulating this amazing story in my head and then when I’d go to write it down I’d realise there was only ten minutes of the lesson left. There was such a fast difference between my homework and class work the teachers asked my parents what was ‘wrong’ with me.
My poor Mum and Dad felt totally bewildered and admitted they were hopping the teachers would know. My pediatrician listened to me talk ten-to-the-dozen about my weekend and said “She’s obviously very bright, she’s fine.” Oh, hell no.
High school teachers were equally as clueless and assumed I was either tired, lazy or that I just thought school was a social gathering, which by age 14 I did. I just didn’t see the point of this so called ‘learning’ anymore. In the past I’d really worked hard and tried my best and still failed repeatedly. Based only on end results most of the teachers lazily thought I’d not bothered and “Must try harder”.
I realised I had Dyspraxia after reading an interview with Florence Welch (Florence and The Machine), who spoke in depth about Dyspraxia. I cried with relief as it was likes she was describing me exactly! I went to my Dr’s and demanded to be referred to Neurologist. I wondered if I should have asked for an Occupational Therapist or a Phycologist first as they might have offered more daily practical help. However, it turned out there was a physical reason I have this (to do with nerve damage) so a Neurologist was best after all!
Flowers from The Bloke while Chrissie had an MRI

Flowers from The Bloke while Chrissie had an MRI

What advice would you give to others with similar issues? That was back in the 90’s when dyspraxia had just been recognised but dyslexia was well recognised by then but still no special support of any kind was available at my school. Nowadays in most schools it’s different. Even if the school doesn’t have the funding they will tend to refer students to an outside service that can help. Request a meeting with the head or learning support person in your school/college and always take someone with you you for support. If no luck, then go to your Dr with someone and keep going to them until one takes you seriously. It’s a neurological thing after all and Dr’s aren’t just there for the physical aspects of health.
Would you, could you share your fabulous veggie pizza recipe? I have yet to make one that’s just right!   To lighten the tone a bit, yeah I’d love to!
Chrissie’s Mediterranean Cheese Feast 
Buy a basic cheap thin crust margarita pizza.
Add a little sun dried tomato paste or green pest to the base – go easy with this.
Add your topping – mine tends to be left over roast veg, olives, tomatoes, red onion. I’d choose 3-4 toppings but add a lot of those.
Pile on a ton of cheddar cheese and a little feta or goats cheese.
Cook as per instructed on the label but add on a minute or two.
Grill on a very low heat to really melt the cheese, do not leave unattended or you will end up with a very black frisbee.
Enjoy!
Any final words?
Be patient, you will get there, I promise. Be tenacious and most of all keep your sense of humour!  If you feel like a total alien, well there are lots of us ‘aliens’ around, in fact we are more common than you might think!
Check out Manchester Flick Chick‘s blog yourself- and enjoy!

* Let them eat cake

I am not sure how I’ve had time, over the course of many grueling school years, to create such a horrific unusual back yard.  Once known as Snakeland, our back yard renders all visitors speechless.  I am still waiting for the first verbal response from anyone who looks at it.  People just stare, struck dumb at the sight.  Even our socially adept daughter-in-law is at a loss for words, and that’s saying something!.  I’ve stopped making excuses and simply stare along with them.

backyardWhat does it look like?  Hmm.  It’s an overgrown, sloping “lawn” that leads to the rest of our wooded lot.  There’s an elaborate bird feeder system in the center of the hill, which creates a perpetually poopy and dead zone.  Not completely dead, though.  The bird feeder attracts rats and mice, so the snakes created their own copperhead playground.  Hence, we had Snakeland for a few years.

But what started off as grass turned to weeds. The weeds couldn’t grow in the hard, rocky clay, so I decided to grow ornamental clover.  It provided a helpful ground cover for snakes but disappeared when the beautiful red blossoms were apparently a kind of aphrodisiac for deer.  The primary advantage of deer is that we don’t have snakes any more.  There are so many deer tramping through the yard that the snakes were either crushed or left in disgust.

Although I didn’t want the snakes to return, our wooded lot became a deer nursery.  A parking place for cute fawns.  Once I caught Lyme disease from deer tick bites, deer weren’t looking so cute to me.  My next ill-fated attempt to grow a ground cover was a supposedly deer-resistant vine.  I think it tasted like candy to the deer, so I planted an even more deer-resistant vine.  That was apparently whipping cream on a sundae.  Every one of these gardening ventures was not only expensive, but agonizing.  My back is very susceptible to mistreatment, such as lugging 40 pounds of wet topsoil up a hill.  Oh yes, I planted a bit of oxalis from a friend’s yard and occasionally a few of those survive the grazing herds.deer

Now our back yard is not only ugly, but stinky.  People walk in our house examining the bottom of their shoes.  Why?  I use Liquid Fence to keep the deer from consuming every ugly shred of the yard’s past: a melange of random clover, two kinds of vines, weeds, crabgrass, and oxalis.  And the deer?  They laugh at me between bites.

* Day #278 – What Is Autism?

Another terrific post from 366 Days of Autism. Early intervention is so crucial. Read on for her thoughts about Tucker’s development.

366 Days of Autism

Tough question, huh?

I knew something was up with Tucker for these 10 reasons…

  1. He had difficulty making eye contact.
  2. His language development was delayed.  He talked – but not much and not for conversational purposes.
  3. He just did things different (Read Day #3 – Ready, Set, Diagnose)
  4. He had obsessions – not just that he really ‘liked’ something, he was obsessed.
  5. If there was a change in routine he would absolutely freak out.
  6. He was not flexible – in any way, with anything.
  7. He preferred to play by himself.
  8. He would rock back and forth with his eyes closed.
  9. He chewed on everything – books, his clothes, furniture, pillows – and well after the age of teething.
  10. Most of all?  He was opposite of what my parents told me about raising children.  They always said, “You know you are raising your children right if they behave around everyone…

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