* Hope for the Future

This is such a well-written post about hopes for kids with learning differences. Make sure you read the last line- it’s perfect!

The Diary of a Not So Ordinary Boy

I was asked recently what my hopes for Sam’s future are.  I don’t usually think about them; I have become accustomed, as he is, to living in the moment, responding to the every day. The future, which once seemed so frightening, a black hole into which my fear fell, amplified by scary sounding medical terms, is no longer so distant.  Sam will be leaving school in just two short years.  OK, so I know he’ll be off to college of one sort or another, but there you are.  He won’t be my small boy any more.

So at the future I was forced to look.  And the idea of hopes and dreams, which I so long ago abandoned, returned, changed immeasurably by Down’s syndrome, and yet, funnily enough, not so very much at all.

We want the same things for Sam that we want for our other children, namely, that…

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* Ten Things of Thankful

Lizzi, the creator of Ten Things of Thankful, shared her amazing week of relationships, relationships, relationships, and more relationships!  It’s such a joy to read!  Yes, she is still trying to get folks to vote for their favorite badge for this event, so I decided to post my choice below.  It’s from The Bipolar Mama blog, which is another blog worth reading.

I am going to follow Lizzi’s free-flowing format instead of my typical list style. We’ll see how that goes!  One of my happiest moments of the week was hearing that a student scored in the 98th percentile in reading on his EOY testing.  He is a gifted kid who lagged in reading due to a lack of systematic phonics instruction.  I knew he was going to ace it and I’m so proud of all his hard work in the past year.  It was an academic challenge that could have made him feel inadequate, but he persevered.  His parents gave him SO much support!  Woohoo!

This past week was a paperwork nightmare, with more to come, but I got a lot done.  Thankfully, I have a great computer and scanner.  How did I live without this technology?

I found a new mystery series, another British goodie.  I’ll save the details for my AlphaBooks Blogging venture.  (Don’t remind me that I’m a week behind on the AlphaBooks calendar I created!)  Back to the mystery.  It’s set after World War I, which brings back memories of my grandfather’s amazing survival in Russia.  The British troops had made their way to the frozen tundra, but the supplies didn’t catch up.  Without the generosity of a generous Russian peasant, my grandfather would have died.  I’m grateful he lived to tell the tale!

Speaking of grateful, my dearest blogging widower also survived another week of intense training (he’s the trainer!).  Just a few more weeks to go.  If you had told me, back in the day, that my introverted widower would be leading groups of social workers, police officers, DA’s, lawyers, judges, and medical personnel, I would have fallen over.  Wow.  If you had told me I’d be living a life of peace and joy, I might have strangled you or jumped off a cliff.  So that makes six things of thankful.  Not that I’m keeping a list.

I am grateful for the parents who have trusted me to teach their kids.  For trusting my judgment.  I’ve always been so sure of myself, even when there was nothing to warrant it.  That’s actually called arrogance.  But I have learned a lot in my career and I’m grateful for God’s grace in every part of my life, including my teaching niche.

If you are reading this, I am grateful that you are taking the time!  You have no idea how much it means to me.  Maybe it means too much, but honestly, there seems little point in writing if no one is reading.  I’m thankful for the blogging world, which forgives my lapses in keeping up with all their great writing.  I have a lot to read today!  And that’s all, folks!

* AlphaBooks Blogging: N is for New Tricks

If you love dogs and mysteries, enjoy self-deprecating humor, appreciate any kind of humor, and love dogs, David Rosenfelt’s New Tricks mystery is for you.  It’s one of eleven books in the Andy Carpenter series.  Andy is a dog-loving, wisecracking, and clever lawyer who must be a thinly disguised version of the author.  In fact, they both started a Tara Foundation to rescue Goldens, although the “real” one has saved over 4000 dogs.  David Rosenfelt is also the proud owner of 27 dogs!

In New Tricks, Andy’s client is a Bernese mountain dog, Bertrand II (aka “Waggy”).  This boisterous pup (“who could walk to New Zealand without getting tired”) is at the center of a tangled mess of murders and millions of bucks. Andy Carpenter maneuvers his way through explosions, twists and turns, romance with Laurie, and lots of dog walks.

My dear blogging widower wouldn’t read an Andy Carpenter book if you paid him. For some reason, he hates dogs.  It’s a sign of true love that I forgive him this foible.  Besides, that means I don’t have to share these terrific books.

* The Summer Slide

waterslide-398249_640And despite the illustration, I don’t mean summer fun!  I’m referring to the long gap in a traditional school calendar, where kids may lose a month or two of mathematical computation skills.  For struggling learners who already have a tenuous grasp on math facts, “summer slide” is a serious concern.  How do you provide ongoing math practice when these same students need a break from a fatiguing school year?  Many of these kids will spend their days in sports camps, community summer programs, and other endeavors while their parents are at work.

Check out multiplication.com’s monthly newsletter devoted to this topic.  You’ll be amazed at the wealth of ideas in a single page!  TV free activities, online games, summer-themed fun, and more.  I believe if your child spends just 20-30 minutes a day engaging in fun review of math facts, they will approach the upcoming school year with greater confidence.  It might just help me, too!

* LearnZillion

board-784355_640LearnZillion is an online resource created to improve teacher instruction of Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  (Whether we should support CCSS is another matter altogether.  Regardless of that outcome, LearnZillion’s resources will be helpful for teachers who need a model of how to engage their students in a rigorous, inquiry-based classroom.)  The brainchild of Eric Westendorf and colleagues, LearnZillion is dedicated to providing free math and English Language Arts videos and lesson plans. Now serving over a half a million teachers, LearnZillion has an impressive collection of resources for grades 2 through 12.

Is LearnZillion free?  Yes!  You can easily create an account as a teacher or parent.  Once you create a classroom, it is very simple to assign students.  I especially appreciate that students may sign up without email.  So how does LearnZillion pay for itself?  It offers premium memberships to school districts.

What do I like about LearnZillion?  Based on my understanding of effective, brain-friendly instruction, these lessons and videos provide students:

  • a wide range of strategies for learning specific skills, which is more likely to support learning differences
  • built-in time for student processing of information
  • targeted instruction which is aligned with current research on how long and how effectively the brain can absorb information

What does LearnZillion provide teachers?  Not only are excellent resources available for free, but these can serve as a springboard to better lesson planning in general.  As a special educator, I’ve watched instruction narrow considerably over the past fifteen years or so in response to testing pressures.  Classroom teachers have found themselves in a narrow, data-keeping role, which tends to shrink lessons to match test items.  Teachers are frustrated with their role as “testers.”  If educators can share effective, time-saving strategies and techniques, I am all for it.  In LearnZillion’s blog, Westendorf describes the phenomena I’ve observed.  LearnZillion is his thoughtful solution.

* AlphaBooks Blogging: M is for Mo Willems

Mo WIlemsMo Willems is the creator of many clever kids’ series, incuding “The Elephant and Piggie” books.   Gerald the elephant and his friend, Piggie, are like Dr. Suess characters with social skills.  These books are deceptively simple in appearance, which also makes them perfect for kids who need uncluttered formats.  They speak through dialog bubbles, which appeals to this generation’s love of graphic novels.  Gerald and Piggie’s social miscues make these a perfect choice for teaching how to repair conversations, resolve conflicts, and most of all, how to laugh at gaffes.  Understanding these books also provides a platform for teaching abstract reasoning, along with plenty of slapstick humor to engage kids. even if some of the finer points are initially unclear.  Mo Willems explores their delightful relationship which often seems tested to the max.  And yet it survives, as Gerald and Piggie find ways to understand and forgive one another.  This series is a great tool for social skills instruction that will have you laughing along the way.

And there’s more!  Pigeon is another invention of Mo Willems, a conniving bird who is often desperate to drive a school bus.  Pigeon is a master of manipulation, and speaks directly to the reader in his attempt to garner support.  Kids love the authentic interaction; the Pigeon series offer opportunities to discuss whining and manipulation a gentle step away from your student’s actual behavior.  Disney is publishing the Pigeon series and even has lesson plans!  And games, of course!  Pigeon

Mo Willems is a well-respected author and illustrator, and is a former writer and illustrator for Sesame Street.  He’s collected an impressive number of awards, including 6 Emmys. He has a great website that links to GoMo, with videos, books, and more.  GoMo is a great place for watching him talk about his passions: encouraging parents, teachers, and kids to play with books that deal with silliness, anger, jealousy, friendship, and well, real stuff!  

* AlphaBooks Blogging: L is for Lynley

That’s Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley of New Scotland Yard.  Never mind that Lynley is the creation of talented mystery writer Elizabeth George.  Never mind that none of her books start with the letter L.  Lynley IS a capital character, as are the other fascinating individuals who populate her well-written thrillers.  Be warned: Elizabeth George has such a remarkable gift that you will find yourself enmeshed in the lives of Thomas Lynley; his wife, Helen; colleagues Barbara Havers and Winston Nkata; and Azhar and his daughter, Hadiyyah.  I admit I have sobbed my way through some of George’s stories, stayed up until 4 AM to see all the puzzle pieces fit neatly in place, and mourned the last book in the series.

Barbara Havers is probably my second favorite character in the Lynley series.  She’s a headstrong, brilliant detective who forges her own path towards self-destruction.  Guilt-ridden yet arrogant, she’s one of the many broken individuals in George’s books.  George manages to capture the ugly side of human nature without losing sight of our unique strengths and gifts.  I’m not sure I would want to live in Elizabeth George’s head.  But look at her!  She seems quite benign, even friendly!   She has also started a foundation to support artistic endeavors by unpublished writers, especially those which benefit disadvantaged youth.photo_elizabeth_george             foundation

* AlphaBooks BLogging: K is for Kid Docs

Kid docsNo kidding!  I found a book that starts with the letter K!  Kid Docs, written by Jenny Lynne, is an e-book about an unusual hospital where young kids become actual doctors.  This experimental site recruits talented kids from an early age (would you believe 3 years old?). The author, aka Dr. Jen, wrote this book in partial fulfillment of her personal bucket list.  On her website, My Dream Came True, she shares bucket lists from around the world, along with her favorite adventures.  Writing was a childhood dream for her and Kid Docs is her third book.

Despite its complex medical language, Kid Docs is probably best suited for late elementary and middle school students.  It features kids about 12 years old, all of them full-fledged doctors.  The story focuses on a tender romance between two of the young doctors who have their first kiss towards the end of the book.  Almost every crisis is resolved as in fairy tale land, but there are deaths and lots of medical descriptions of bloody procedures.  I’m thrilled for Dr. Jen, who is inspiring people to fulfill their dreams and live without regrets.

I just read the book today, so you can tell it is a quick read for adults.  Most adults probably wouldn’t read it, honestly, but I needed a book for the letter K.  Ta-da!  I know I have won a prize!  It’s all about the prize, right??

* My Ten Things of Thankful

1ed57-tenthingsbannerThanks to Lizzi for her encouragement to give thanks!  Be sure to check out one of my favorite posts of hers called Amongst the Eaves and Angels. And here’s my thankful list for the past week:

1.  I’m forever thankful for my dearest blog widower. He cares so much for me!  I was buried with paperwork one evening and not being too pleasant about it.  He took off for the store and returned with a bag of chocolate.  The paperwork got a lot easier.

2.  My Asus transformer tablet continues to delight!  I use it with kids so I can protect my “real” computer, Black Beauty, but this tablet could easily replace a computer for many folks.  I’m a walking advertisement for all kinds of things.

3.  My daughter-in-law went to Japan and bought me the dearest teddy bear.  I do collect bears, but I’m very picky about them.  I have bed bears, of course, living room bears, family room bears, and now Ito, my adorable kitchen bear.  See that smile?  He’s home!

Ito4.  I never thought I’d be thankful that my widower has trouble understanding strong accents, but when some scammer tried to trick him out of money, the dearest one could not understand what he was saying and politely hung up.

5.  I’m thankful that a certain secretary can count.  I turned in my invoice for a student and would have lost $$$ if she hadn’t caught my error.

6.  I survived the week, which felt uncertain at times.

7.  I’m thankful to have been invited to a former student’s high school graduation.  Wow.  I taught two sibs in that precious family.  They’ve both grown into kind, clever, funny, and thoughtful adults.  Just like their parents.  Huh.  And the graduating senior is considering a career in education.  Now that’s miraculous!

8.  My CEU’s (continuing education units) arrived for one of the online classes I finished.  I have to decide whether I want to renew my teaching certification when I’m 70.  Yikes.  That’s not so far away.

9.  I’m thankful for the warm, sunny days with low humidity.  Until I got to be so OLD, winter was may favorite season.  Now I love the bone-soaking heat.

10.  I’m thankful for my blogging friends.  They have been an encouragement, usually make me laugh out loud, and actually read my posts!  I hope to do my first ever guest interview soon.