Unschooling Math


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If you are like me the word “Unschooling” is a foreign concept- perhaps conjuring images barefoot hippies or screaming kids. (This image was given to me ironically by a friend who whole-heartedly believed in the principle. More recent research of mine doesn’t show this to be consistant with the unschooling community- though I admittedly still am in the dark about much of it.*)

Despite my lack of understanding when it comes to Unschooling I have found some very interesting articles on Unschooling and Math- showing a different angle of having younger children acquire math skills that would be good for children with and without learning difficulties.

Unschoolers and Mathematics

Zen and the Art of Unschooling

There are more links if you are interested in more stories of if these articles spark any ideas. Again, I don’t know about Unschooling as an option for primary education but I do believe in the inquisitive nature of children- especially among children with learning disabilities. We see the world differently which provides a great jumping-off spot for teaching about math (and social studies, and language arts and… well you get the idea).

Teach your children about the world as you see it! Experience it with them and they will be well-rounded and knowledgable about the world! I am constantly thankful for my mother’s insistence on introducing my sister and I to the world around us and her willingness to answer our incessant questions. I find more and more that I still hark back to those lessons to shape my worldview and inform my decisions- not to mention the early education those experiences gave me so that my later education built on.


Scantrons- My old Foe…

***Part of reconsolidating my website I am adding this I wrote in the latter part of the school year. For several of you this may be a new post!***

I am a 22 year old college student, married and am happy with my life.
Today, however, I feel quite down on myself. I ran into an old foe today… one I had not anticipated crossing blades with anytime soon. This post is proof I survived the skirmish, but at a cost.

It arrived during my preparation for a test. I was studied up, I knew the material and was feeling really good about my chances at getting a solid “A” and getting a good hour of “Free time” for reading.*

The first clue came from another student: “Would you like a pencil, too?”

Bewilderment. Then my stomach dropped a little, “I don’t think so… why?”

“Well, I think there’s gonna be a scantron part.”

(In case you are one of the 2.5 people who do NOT know what a scantron is- here is a visual from the scantron site. Look at that. Now look at it again as a dyslexic and appreciate my situation.)
I could hear the cold, high laughter** of the scantron in the back of my mind, mocking me, my heart sank a little.

Continue reading

“Brave” Teaser Poster!

Many of you really responded to my previous post about Dinsey’s recent statement that there will be no more of the “Princess Movies” most of us grew up on. I said:

So what do movie-makers do when girls are no longer interested in being princesses? Make childish femme fatales? Go all-out on boy action movies? Is there not some kind of in-between for girls? Some kind of HEALTHY middle ground for girls to emulate? Kick-butt independent girls? Girls who can do adventures and fight dragons and surprise everyone? Girls who don’t have to be sexy and dress mature for their age- who can just be girls and don’t have to be anything else?

I also challenged Pixar to remember their motto and give us the female characters who care carry their own stories. Well: it looks like they have been working on it:

Brave is set in the mystical Scottish Highlands, where Merida is the princess of a kingdom ruled by King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). An unruly daughter and an accomplished archer, Merida one day defies a sacred custom of the land and inadvertently brings turmoil to the kingdom. In an attempt to set things right, Merida seeks out an eccentric old Wise Woman (Julie Walters) and is granted an ill-fated wish. Also figuring into Merida’s quest — and serving as comic relief — are the kingdom’s three lords: the enormous Lord MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd), the surly Lord Macintosh (Craig Ferguson), and the disagreeable Lord Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane).(From Entertainment Weekly)

What do you think? Worth waiting for? Is this the answer to our questions? Or will we have another “Tangled” incident where their intentions of a Strong Princess will become “Mild Princess + strong male character” ?

Dedication: Happy Birthdays, Sweetheart

As I have written on our About page I’ve started a special new blog: Devotionals for our Family written for a very special young woman, my not-so-baby sister, Sharon on the double occasion of her 12th birthday and her decision to be baptized. I’d like to take the opportunity to talk to her a little bit.

Hey Baby Girl.

So, you’re twelve years old now. Twelve years ago your sister Kelly and I hung out with Nana and Papa Joe at the birth center where mom planned to have you. (It was a really awesome place, I must say, though I didn’t appreciate it at the time. I was pretty bored waiting for you to make up your mind already(!) and playing video games until you decided to make your entrance.) We transferred to the hospital, as I know you’ve heard by now, and you were the first baby delivered there by a nurse-midwife! Kelly and I got to watch- which we thought was pretty cool and not gross (’cause we’re weird- but you know that already!) I was so in awe of the whole thing I followed the nurse over to the station where they cleaned you off and weighed you… and then she turned and put you into my arms straightaway. I was about your age when that happened and I was mostly just shocked- I think that was the first time I’d held such a newborn. It was so awesome- holding you in my arms and looking down at your little adorable newborn face. I never wanted to give you to mom and dad…. but I figured they deserved a little time with you, too. I was so proud to be your big sister then…and I still am now. I love you so much and while I hate living so far away from you- I love seeing the wonderful ways you change each time we’re back together again.

I can’t believe how old you’ve gotten- you’re TWELVE. Is that even possible? You’ll like twelve- I know I did. Everything is getting ready to start and you are becoming who you are going to be for the rest of your life. It doesn’t seem possible you’re already here! I remember being there!  I remember the awesome times my Youth Group- who I loved so much- the same Youth Group that you are a part of now, though there are different kids in it now. Going to the same camps and activities you’re at…. (no pressure to meet your future husband just yet- it’s a long long time to wait between now and marriage stuff. You’ll enjoy it a lot better if you’re not worried about it the whole time like I was!)

You’ve been to the UK already- something most people don’t ever get to do, much less kids your age. I went there too, at your age. I think it really changes your perspective a lot. I remember sitting in class and daydreaming about the beautiful countries I’d been to and wondering how they could possibly exist in the same world as the boring classroom I was in (at your same school, too. But I don’t have to tell you that…. sorry for teacher’s flashbacks- I had no idea I’d be quite so memorable! But I’m confident you can make your own impression so that they will know you as YOU.)

So much going on- so much crazy-fun good-times ahead. Summer was my absolute favorite- so much possibility just tingling in the air, ready to go. Now that’s yours, too. Make the most of it, sweetie, because it is all yours.

I love you so incredibly much. I’m so proud of you and who you are and I hope to stay a part of getting  you to who you will be. You can always (always always!) talk to me: you’d be surprised by the things I know and the things I thought and experienced when I was your age…. don’t rule me out because we are probably a lot more alike than even we know.You are never ever alone, Baby Girl. (I’ll stop calling you that…one day. Promise!)

Tons of love from your sister,


Right Brained Living: Outside of the Box

I remember studying about patterns in Kindergarten. We were told by Miss Smith (named changed, of course) anything that repeats is a pattern and given colorful shapes to make patterns with. Ok, that sounded like a fun exercise, so I started making a pattern that made sense to me- a long string of alternating colors and shapes. I remember really enjoying myself – and wondering why my classmates patterns were so small. Maybe the teacher would be impressed by my efforts!

I hadn’t yet gotten around to creating the “repeat” when my teacher came around to check on us. Miss Smith looked over my work and scolded me for not doing my assignment. Although I tried to explain to her that it was just a really LONG pattern, she didn’t agree (she might have told me it wasn’t a pattern at all) and told me to do something simpler (i.e. a “real” pattern.)

After that I dejectedly pushed around the blocks (making shorter, more easily recognizable patterns, though I didn’t know if they would be short enough for her.) Luckily, I never had to explain my toned down efforts to Miss Smith as she never came back around to us.

When I hear that “dyslexics think outside the box”- I’m always perplexed by it. Do I? Do I think outside the box? I honestly don’t know. I know sometimes, when given a set of instructions I can be completely literal about them and often am paralyzed by my desire to answer within parameters (read: inside the box) for fear of getting penalized for not answering “correctly”. I know that other times I can be given an assignment or instructions and be WAY off on another planet with my ideas (which can be met by a wide spectrum of reactions, let me tell you.)

I have, all my life, tried to find the “box”. I know there have been times when I tried to constantly stay “inside”… but that drives a Right-Brainer like me crazy pretty quickly.

So I’ve learned to compromise.

I live outside the box, loving my own world and the way I see things, blurring the difference between what might be normal and what might be dyslexic. When the occasion calls for it- I find out how to answer as normally as possible and do my best to adhere to that standard. No need for the majority of people to know how deep my eccentricity runs.

But I’ll enjoy it. And those close to me can at least tollerate it (and sometimes are greatly amused by it!)

And I think that’s a good way to live.

I <3 Technology

Technology. It has it’s good points and it’s drawbacks, to be sure. In my day-job I’m usually attached to a phone in my school’s IT  department answering the questions that fall under our jurisdiction. These questions range from the unique, “My house burned down, how do get a replacement computer?” to the extremely inane. (Don’t think there can be an “extreme” of inane? Good for you. Enjoy your bliss.) I see the gamut of computer-related problems and the frequent downsides of relying too much on a machine to access your life.

That said, as this semester kicks off I am reminded how essential it is to have technology in the classroom- particularly for the dyslexic student.

My example? Renaissance Drama:

1.) The teacher gives us a list of rhetoric terminology with the instructions to keep it close by and study it frequently. We are also to look for the rhetorical devices in each play we read and be prepared to discuss them. However, this list is located on a website we are all able to look up and bookmark. (It is then printable, easy to convert to .pdf files and searchable.)

2.) She then gives us a writing assignment to be completed and turned in by the end of class- write an ode.

“I know what an ode is, but what is the format of one?”

Quick search reveals the history and structure of an ode along with a few examples. From there it’s easy to compose my ode and print it out to the printer at the front of the classroom with no need for me to labor over “nice” handwriting my for my first day of class with a new instructor.

3.) Finally, as we discuss the papers that will be due in class, our instructor gives us the name of a useful reference book. I look it up on Amazon.com – $70 for a used copy. Kindle edition? $45. (Oh- guess what? I’ve got a kindle! Hopefully a money-saving device…but it will receive it’s review in due time.) Quick jaunt over the the university library’s online catalogue. They don’t have the book in my library- but they do have it as a free e-book to “check out”! Expensive source at my fingertips! (I did let the instructor know about the online book so she could tell the class. No reason to keep such valuable information to myself.)

These are just some of the uses I have for my computer during class. I am fortunate to be on a campus where Technology in the Classroom is encouraged- so much that we have a (mandatory) program where each student receives one of the above computers (a Macbook Pro, if you’re wondering) in addition to several printing and computer labs. This is a far cry from me- only a few years ago- having to beg teachers to let me sit at the classroom computers for heavy note-taking days! Even then, my arch-nemesis CHAOS would strike- causing me to mis-remember dates, assignments, project specifications and important papers. Since everything was a hard copy or told to me orally, I was usually at a loss! (It’s a wonder I didn’t make far worse grades in Middle and High School!) Now, I am either given or can create a digital copy of most worksheets and notes and am able to use iCal anytime an instructor mentions a due date- (I’ll admit, I’m still shaky at picking up on altered due dates. But as far as original due dates, I put them in the same day I receive my syllabus- which makes life so much easier!)

sample screenshot of ical, courtesy of Times New Rohan

So today I’m saluting Technology for it’s big help in getting (and keeping!) me organized, in the know and ready to go.

What are your tricks to staying organized?

Stressful times call for Sanity-Retaining Measures

This holiday season has been stressful.

And I know, I know, apparently the holidays are stressful for everyone (actually- I don’t understand that, but I yield to the possibility that will change with time.) but for my dh and I they have been a time of marked change, and that has required our full attention. Job and church changes and major decisions and possibilities… all while trying to build a marriage and figure out these new roles we find ourselves in. During the holiday season silence I was glad to receive encouragement from several fronts to continue writing. Thank you all for that. I’m not giving this up, but with personal concerns so pressing I chose not to write rather than, through writing, overstep the bounds I’ve set for myself. Though all of those things are still pressing and will be, they are more manageable now.

Which brings me to a subject I’ve been struggling with during all of this:

How do I deal with stress? Or, rather, how should I deal with stress? What is the healthiest way to do it?

Confession (for maybe the first but certainly not the last time): I get overwhelmed very easily. Particularly by the housework to be done. Balancing housework, schoolwork and relationships with husband and friends is much  harder that it appears. (That needs to be a warning sticker on those “Better Homes” / “Good housekeeping” magazines, don’t you think?)  I come home and am instantly struck that there are a hundred “little” things that need doing. And that my chances of doing those, doing my readings and essays and keeping the dog alive…. I may try to get “one or two” of the “little” things done, but often am confused as to how to make it happen or am frustrated that it makes a much smaller dent than I intended. Or it doesn’t get as completely resolved as I would like, so I don’t recognize it as a true accomplishment.

Confession 2: That feeling of frustration often comes out as a temper. (I.E. Not the healthy response. I know.)

How do I cope? Well, I don’t necessarily recommend any of this, but getting something done all the way does wonderful things for one’s sanity. (This is, essentially, the idea behind FLY Lady. Good resource. Very encouraging. Still working on getting that Day 1 concept.) I’m also learning to not punish myself for imperfection. I am not a failure for having a cluttered house. (Am I a failure if it stays that way and is not resolved really soon? Trying to convince myself the answer is “no”.)

For now? My goal is to de-clutter. Simplify. (Sounds peaceful. Peaceful is the goal. The de-cluttering may be achieved through slash-and-burn techniques… But I’m determined it will happen.)

In the meantime: Wives! Dyslexics! Moms! Anyone who’s listening! How do you keep sane? How do you attack housework? What are healthy coping techniques you have learned? Inquiring young wives want to know!

(P.S. That requires a physical WRITTEN answer. Any tips at all will help sanity be kept!)

Dear friends in Desperate situations

Tonight, as I stood with a blanket wrapped around me to ward off the cold while a group of friends huddled around our flat tire, I took a few minutes to reflect on how fortunate I have been over the years. Whenever we’ve been in a desperate situation there has been someone ready to bail us out or give us a hand. I want to recognize some of those people and situations in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday!

Top Ten {Tuesday}

(In no particular order)

Tonight: Flat tire on the side of the road in 24 degree weather. We made a phone call and within ten minutes we had friends helping us fit our donut on so we could get home.

– One Year ago: Two flat tires on the side of the road, in the rain, no cell phone signal, in front of a creepy barn. The same friend, James, came to help us limp down the road to his house. He took me home and he eventually got a second compatible donut for the car. (Also, that night we acquired our adorable Maltese from him! More on him in another post, though!)

One Year Ago: I got snowed in at my (then) fiancee’s house and was unable to return to the dorm. One phone call later and I had a warm bed down the street at Sue’s house for that night and the next.

One and a Half Years ago: I had finished my Summer Short Course at the school and was paying too much to stay in the dorm. Sue offered me her hospitality (even though she had never met me) for the two months until school resumed.

– Fourteen Years Ago, Utah: After being stuck in traffic for two hours, our kindly taxi cab driver in Salt Lake City turned off the fare meeter and restarted it closer to our destination. Saved us alot of money and gave us a great boost in morale.

Fourteen Years Ago, Utah: There’s a town called Helper, Utah that is the last stop for three hours before crossing the Colorado boarder and encountering civilization. My Aunt left her purse in a gas station there. We only discovered the mis-hap three hours down the road at the next gas stop. Fortunately when we called we discovered they had put the purse behind the counter and were waiting for us.

Fourteen Years Ago (various places): We were offered repeated help from mechanics,friendly  strangers  and some great AAA guys in the effort of making our Alternators last us until we got back home to Houston.

Three Years Ago: I was repeatedly offered places to stay  during the course of my travels with AIM. The hospitality I was shown made a huge impact on me and the way I view the obligations of a Christian host.

Two Weeks Ago: The two kindly strangers who stopped to help us out on HWY 242 in Texas with, you guessed it, another flat tire.

– Brother Hildegeist. There isn’t a timeframe on this one since he was always a constant. Any time a family member or dear friend was in the hospital, we could count on Brother Hildegeist to stop by and visit, say a prayer and generally encourage us. He is the model on which I base all hospital ministry. His influence is something for which I’ll always be grateful.

Who are some people who have helped you out over the years? Have you thanked them lately?

Mama Knows Best – WFMW


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works for me wednesday at we are that family

Maybe you wonder sometimes if your child has a learning difference.  Perhaps your child’s teachers have assured you that everything is “normal”, but you have your doubts.  Could you be seeing the signs of a learning disability?  The answer is “yes”, “no”, and “maybe”.  This is our story.

Sarah is our firstborn.   There are so many expectations for the first born, and Sarah is the first child of a first child married to another first child.  All of her grandparents are first children, too.  No pressure.  Sarah was (and still is) the child we always dreamed of having: bright, funny, and articulate.  Before she started school, we had no reason to suspect that she might have a learning problem.

Sarah was as ready as any child can be to start school.  She knew her alphabet by sight by 18 months.  I read to her every day from the time she could sit in my lap.  She has a September birthday which means she turned six immediately after she started Kindergarten.  People who spoke to her couldn’t get over her advanced vocabulary.

Sarah age 5

Age was in her favor.  Readiness was in her favor.  Yet, she struggled.  Mightily.  I consulted with her teachers at the private school she attended many times, asking them questions.

By second grade (Second grade!), she was doing homework two to three hours every evening.  The teachers weren’t assigning excessive amounts of homework; Sarah just needed that amount of time to complete the assignments.  Friday mornings were the worst, though, because Friday was spelling test day.  Even after working all week with the spelling list, we sweated through the list again, just as if she had never seen it before.  Other worksheets and tests would come back with questions left blank, as if she had not noticed them as she worked.

The text skipping happened when she read aloud, too.  She would miss a word or a line or even a paragraph.  I noticed, though, that she did much better if the print had a colored background.  As I researched her symptoms, I continue to ask questions.  We took her to see a specialist who diagnosed Schotopic Sensitivity Syndrome.  Sarah used colored overlays and her teacher went to the trouble of making copies on colored paper. (Wow.) Those steps helped, but Sarah still struggled.

In particular, she struggled with writing.  Her letter formation was labored, and her handwriting was…well, her handwriting looked like a doctor’s scrawl.  Math was also a nightmare due to the handwriting difficulties. She understood the concepts, but the execution of a math assignment became a two-person project.  I became her scribe.

So, since it seemed like we had no family life outside of evening homework, my husband and I chose to home school Sarah and her younger sister beginning with third grade.  What a relief! [Warning:  Homeschooling is not for everyone; it is the ultimate test of parental self-discipline and commitment.]  The one-on-one, intensive attention and the flexibility of home school helped us turn the corner.

Three years later, Sarah entered public school, but not before we took her to another specialist.  God bless that lady!  She evaluated Sarah and concluded that Sarah has dysgraphia (huh?), and Sarah was eligible for Section 504 accommodations.  In Sarah’s case, the accommodations were:

  • Extended test-taking time.
  • Note taking assistance.
  • No bubbled test forms. (For Sarah, bubbled test forms are like taking a test to take a test.)
  • Modified requirements for writing-intensive assignments.

Sarah made A’s and B’s in middle school and through her freshman year of high school. In her sophomore year, the school failed to support her accommodations, and her grades began to fall.  Our requests for compliance with the Section 504 fell on deaf ears that year, so we withdrew Sarah from school, and she completed high school at home.  God enabled us to home educate Sarah, and today, she is making her way through college.

Here are some common signs of a possible learning difference:

  1. A disconnect between a child’s intelligence and her success in school.
  2. Difficulty in reading and writing, particularly, reversed and inverted letters and numbers.
  3. Floating or missing text on the printed page, missing questions on worksheets, and mismatched questions and answers on bubbled forms.
  4. Extreme frustration with “simple” skills that most children seem to master with much trouble: riding a bike, tying shoes, writing in cursive, and copying text.

What does Mom know?  What does Dad know?  More than anyone else!  You are your child’s best advocate, but you will have to do your research and become something of an expert to be as effective as possible.

10 Phrases from my Dyslexic Life

1. “So if everyone would pass up their *Super Important Project/Paper/Assignment* we’ll get started with class!”

“…. WHAT?”

2. “I used to have some shoes….” Or, as a good friend of mine says, “Once upon a time…there was a princess who had some shoes….”

3. “Oh no!” (Object. Usually of great importance, or one I will receive a fine for not having.)

4. “Wait… what’s today’s date??” (Usually when I needed to be somewhere or do something)

5. “No, you didn’t say that. You said _____” (Insert something opposite to what was actually said or decided here.)

6. “I never said that!” (Closely related to #5. Turns out that I often did say that exact thing.)

7. “I’m so sorry, I forgot!” (Said so many times in a day it gets old. But still true.)

8. “Just give me a second…” (Usually followed by an hour or more of goofing off during which I forget all about the promised activity.)

9. “AAAARG!” (*This is the sound of being overwhelmed by forgotten activities, appointments, promises and confused instructions*)

10. “Thank you so much.” (Said frequently, but not frequently enough, to those around me who support me no matter what and who help me be a better person every day.)

This post is linked to ohAmanda’s Top Ten Tues

Top Ten {Tuesday}