Thursday, October 31, 2013

What I Love About Communication Junction

For the past two months, baby C.J. and I attended the first Sign and Play class through Communication Junction. Official graduates (I have the certificate in the baby book!), we developed together the best parts of the class in a handy top-five list.

A bit of background: my baby is now one. The class had younger kids, and older ones. The class worked well for all the ages. Actually, my four year old has complained multiple times that her sister knows something she does not, and I've thought about taking her, and I don't think she would be out of place.

That's Abbey, with baby C.J. sucking her thumb in the back. 
Abbey teaches the class, and she is a licensed speech language pathologist. She does not always wear that striped hat, and she is very helpful and knowledgeable.

Onto the benefits...

1. An educational setting. I've written before about finding the balance between allowing children to explore, to have downtime, and to learn concepts. The class was 45 minutes long, and it had this balance. C.J. loves stories, toys, and songs. It was educational, and I never planned on introducing a new language to baby, but I am glad I did - she remembers these concepts.

2. One-on-one time. C.J. and I don't get tons of one-on-one time, poor third child. She gets lots of mom time with the other kids, but it isn't the same as what Ty (first baby) and even Za got. This was 45 minutes of snuggle time, our fun activity together, our happy memories. (I'm smiling at her as I type this, just saying).

3. Age-appropriate. I mentioned that C.J. is one year old. The kids pictured above are older and enjoyed playing dress up the day we learned signs for clothes. C.J. did too, from her mom's lap - and all of the activities worked on different levels. For instance, during the final class, we learned the sign for brushing teeth, and all the kids had a blast with new toothbrushes.

More bubbles! Every child knows the signs for this command. 
4. Support and encouragement. My entire blog is devoted to encouraging parents to teach their children at home (and everywhere) and empower them to become teachers. Learning sign language gave me another tool in my mom-toolkit, another activity to complete with my kids. Because parents attend the signing classes with their children, they are helping teach!

5. Multiple lessons. Children rarely learn one concept at a time. Part of brain-based learning tells parents that the brain is a parallel processor. C.J. remembers signs, but she was also paying attention to my face as I pronounced words, dancing and balancing as we sang, and socializing with other kids.

The kicker? C.J. already has a skill that she will use for life, a skill that is in high demand and expected to grow even more.

It was a wonderful opportunity, and C.J. and I had fun. We bonded together, and I never knew that this program was in Peoria. Please check out Communication Junction's webpage for more information, or contact me with any questions about my experience.

Special thanks to Blissful Images for the fabulous pictures!

I received compensation in the form of a class fee waiver. All opinions posted in my blog, in person, on social media and any other form of communication are my honest and personal ones.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Do I Buy the Gloves?

It's cold outside! 

Ty and Za are taking hats and gloves to school for recess time. Not a big deal for adults - huge deal for kids.

 First, WHY can they not take the gloves and hats off together? I have shown them (and seen Za's preschool teacher show her) to take the gloves off, put them in the hat, and put the hat in the coat's hood or arm. Somehow, apparel ends up in different parts of the house, even different levels of the house.

 This raises two parenting questions:

1. Do I stand by the front door, and remind each child to keep their gear together? For how long? I know the kids are young and need reminding and examples, but really, how. long. I am happy to give them instructions, but at what point am I babying them too much? I want to use everyday events as teaching moments. This seems perfect, but it's just not.

2. What is the natural consequence for forgetting hats and gloves? Should it be, you don't have warm hands and a head at school? That bothers me, because I don't want little kids outside uncomfortable, or getting a headache or chapped skin. I want to teach the kids to be responsible, have a natural consequence, and keep their belongings organized.

I thought about this conundrum in the shower. Later as I wrote a grocery list, I added gloves. Our grocery store normally has little seasonal items, like kid gloves. Then I scratched it off the list.

Now I'm writing a blog post about it. Do I buy backup gloves for when we cannot find one, so we always have another pair to grab? Am I reinforcing disorganization by buying the second pair of gloves?

 AND, most of all, am I reading too much into this event?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Which Half Works?

I'm a quote person. I design and sell thinking/inspirational/funny quotes for classrooms. I get a daily quote in my email. Quotes make me think. One of my favorites is about advertising, by John Wanamaker: "I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I can never find out which half." It might be a bit tongue in cheek, but he's right: everything a marketing strategist creates and everything a business owner spends money on may not sell something.It's funny and sarcastic. The product might be bad, or the advertising didn't work as intended. Eh, so much for business and consumers - now I've analyzed this quote into parenting. What if only half of what I do sticks? I'm not concerned about wasting my time, I'm worried about messing up this important job. It just that they mean everything and I know that I'll screw up. Some days it overwhelms me, and that maybe only some of it will stick.
Nerve-wracking, really.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Standardized Testing

Standardized testing has problems. 

The first principal I worked under always had this to say about standardized testing (paraphrased):

If we teach kids how to think, if we teach them how analyze problems and material, they will do well on tests.

I agree largely with this, and not completely because standardized tests drive me crazy, and I think there is a skill or talent to taking them. I do not think standardized tests measure everything.

Most teachers believe standardized testing needs changed, and their passion falls between tweaking it and overhauling it.

I knew all this as a teacher, and thought I knew all about standardized testing.

I did not realize the other emotion I would feel about testing as a parent.

What I am shocked about is the amount of tests my first grader takes, an how he comes home tired. Sits on the couch, stares at the wall. Tired. Doesn't argue about bedtime.


He takes three large tests per year - fall, winter, spring. He is tired when he finishes these tests.

I don't prep him for these. I want to see his true abilities so I know what areas he needs more focus and what is working well.

I know his teachers appreciate this information as well. When we meet for conferences, teachers always explain how they are using the test results to address areas in the classroom.

I don't have the answer for these long tests, and obviously educators don't either.

I feel that as my kids travel though the public education system, I know what to expect.

I did not expect the shock I felt when I saw my son's exhaustion from taking these tests though.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Name Calling

A friend with a baby girl C.J.'s age asked me the other day if it bothered me when people say nonsensical-girl-focused phrases. It does, and we made a verbal list:

* She's got that girl sass down!
* Ooooo confused? You'd better marry well!
* Is that lady-like?
* You don't want to get dirty, do you?

These are the worst offenders that I've had directed at one of my girls. Why is my little girl sassy? Worried about marriage? What does "lady-like" even mean, because I think everyone has a different definition. And getting dirty? What should she do? Sit under a tree with her hands folded?

I've explained to Za that she must be kind and nice, but I try not to name-call in this way, and I don't stick her in a stereotyped box labeled "proper girl behavior."

My friend doesn't have any little boys, but I told her the male-focused phrases are just as offensive: 

* Big boy, crying!
* You can't wear that! 
* Don't play with that. 
* Here, you need to know how to do_____.  (Especially excluding girls on said lesson).
* You don't want to play with yucky boys! (Said to girls). 

I despise these comments. Little kids live up to expectations and if we tell little girls that boys are "yucky," both sexes may believe it. If we tell little girls not to get dirty (and thus minimizing exploration and curiosity), both sexes may believe that females need to act a certain way. 

And where does that lead? Maybe to a society that turns males and females against each other, one that excludes certain people because they don't fit into a gender specific box, one that ignores the beauty both sexes bring to situations, in different forms, in a multitude of ways. 

Do any comments drive you batty? (I particularly dislike referring to my girls as "all sass," for example). 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I Don't Want To

Me. Not the kids. 

I don't want to make a meal, do the dishes, or wipe off the table.

I don't want to color Santa Claus, discuss when the Easter Bunny returneth, or address accusations concerning our house's lack of fall decor. 

I don't want to make coffee and tough it out. I want a nap. 

I don't want to explain the numbers- teens and twenties. Again. 

I don't want to tear tape, tape, glue, color, sharpen pencils, or fold paper. I don't want to scrub it off the floor or remove it from the table/floor/mantel later. 

I don't want to bathe anyone or wash uniforms. I do not want to iron anything. 

And I don't want to feel guilty about any of it. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Reading and Snuggles

I read snuggled up to the kids. I kiss them, play with their hair, and pat them. We lay together in bed or on the couch, cuddled with a blankie. 

Reading to the baby. 
Does the love and relaxed environment contribute to a positive attitude about reading? What about the physical love ? 

If so, what happens when children primarily learn to read from a teacher who cannot snuggle and brush hair? Does it matter at all?