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Monday Minute: Top 3 Suggestions for When Your Homeschool Day is Tough

Pinterest and Facebook picture perfect aside, every homeschooling parent encounters their challenges. In fact, I would bet it is safe to say that behind every successful homeschool story, there are a few tumultuous days here and there. But sometimes, the homeschooling waters can seem rougher than usual. What’s a parent to do when their homeschool day goes off-line?

  1. Take a step back and do a quick assessment. Just as you would with a young infant, assess whether there are factors such as hunger or the need for a movement break. Behavior is communication and even our children who are old enough to verbalize may not always developmentally have the filter and processing to think through what it is that would make them feel better. Not only do these things address physical needs that could contribute to some behavior challenges, but they also allow for a brief resetting of the mind.
  2. Take a step back from schoolwork. If frustration has taken over the learning day, it may be time to take a break from academics, at least for a few minutes. Allowing your child to do something that is calming such as going outside, reading a book, or listening to music can be immensely helpful. As the parent, you can set the parameters on this and even decide in advance with your child what activities might help them to calm a frustrated brain.
  3. Relationship build. Even in the busyness of a day, 5 minutes spent doing something with the child outside of school work that is of the child’s choosing can strengthen the relationship and create a bond outside of the day to day “must-do’s.” Also, making a tradition or habit of finding at least three genuine positive praises to say to your child everyday will reinforce a positive connection that can help balance out the relationship.

These suggestions are great for mild and infrequent issues that spring up naturally from time to time, but if you are experiencing constant defiance in the homeschool relationship, it may be time to try some more intensive collaborative structures. Contact me at deanna@deannawestedt.com for a free consult to talk about how I can help empower you in your homeschool journey. Or sign up right here on my website on the parent tab on my OnceHub link!

Also, check out my upcoming virtual webinar on addressing homeschool challenges with collaborative structures.

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Monday Minute: Flexible Seating- A Positive Solution

Swings provide proprioceptive movement for children as they learn!

Homeschooling provides the unique opportunity to customize learning to our children: an outside the “classroom box” approach that has the potential to uncover true joy in learning for those who previously didn’t fit within that classroom box (FYI: some of our world’s most inventive thinkers admittedly did NOT fit within the classroom box).

Flexible seating is one way we can customize learning for our children! Without the constraints of maintaining a classroom of children, as homeschoolers we have the opportunity to provide options in the when and where of learning. Here are some tips and insights:

  1. Flexible seating can actually teach children to self-regulate their learning! By allowing children to explore how and where they best learn we teach them to understand how to regulate their learning environments and potentially think towards careers that would best suit them. In certain fields, flexible work space is the name of the game!
  2. Explore tools for flexible seating through occupational therapy retailers online.
  3. But you can actually do flexible seating for free by just allowing your child to work outside if that best suits them (forest bathing has been shown to contribute to calm) or to stand or sit in various locations as desired.
  4. Flexible seating does not have to be (nor should it be) a free for all unless that is absolutely working for your family dynamics. Parameters to work within are generally helpful for families. If a parent is working from home this might also influence the set up. Talk it over as a family, try different things out, and revisit the set-up as necessary.
  5. Although flexible seating is often thought to benefit children with certain types of nuerodiversity, and while that is often the case, the truth is that many types of individuals can benefit from exploring how they best work!

If you are interested in learning more about how to collaborate with your children for a healthy homeschool experience, contact me for a free consult at deanna@deannawestedt.com or schedule right here on my website on the “parents” tab!

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Monday Minute: I have ADHD. Can I be a successful homeschool parent?

Yes! Absolutely! Here are some tips to approach homeschooling if you are the one with ADHD:

1.The first step is recognizing this about yourself and understanding the ways it impacts your day to day. The great (and daunting) thing about homeschooling is that we get to lead by example, but it is in these moments of finding strategies and working to find a solution for our challenges we set the best example of all. That’s right, our challenges (which by the way are often also our strengths) can be the best opportunity to showing our children how to be successful in our day to day life.

2. Reflect on solutions to address the challenges, then try them for a week. Flexibility is the name of the game when it comes to homeschool and there are as many ways to homeschool as there are fingerprints. No one way looks alike…nor should it. If you thrive off of structure find the balance that works for you without it becoming overwhelming. If your child needs flexible space, meet them in the middle on it.

3. Set small goals and write them down! The journey to the goal is what it is all about and that journey will invariably have twists and turns. If you find yourself off-track one week (or several weeks) operate with grace for yourself. This self-compassion is a wonderful thing to exemplify for our children. Also, when we don’t expect perfection from ourselves, we are more likely to pick ourselves back up when we get off track. And that also is worth a thousand academic lessons!

If you are ready for more information and want to learn more about strategies for learning in the home, sign up for a consult right here on my website deannawestedt.com. Go to the parents tab and click on my oncehub link! Or send me an email at deanna@deannawestedt.com

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Literacy in the Home Setting: Homeschool and Beyond

7,419 Homeschool Photos - Free & Royalty-Free Stock Photos from Dreamstime

Whatever path you take for education, the home is the first place children connect to the path to literacy. We, as adults, often connect literacy and learning to read to the term “education” which in turn is all too often connected to a formal school setting. But the truth is that the most meaningful learning happens in real life context. And what better place for that than the home setting.

That is not to say that children do not need direct instruction in literacy. Every child’s path to literacy looks a little different. If you are a homeschool parent, you know that teaching your children in the way that works best for them is critical. Homeschooling (or any home-based learning) must reflect compassion, flexibility, and grace. And this philosophy is so important in establishing a healthy relationship to reading and writing. Here are my top suggestions for making that happen:

  1. Use a Balanced Literacy Approach. The path to literacy is soooo much more than phonics. Are you reading to your children? That is literacy learning. They are learning Concepts About Print (Things we take for granted like which way to read and to go to the next line). This can be done in the very comfort of the basic read aloud time in a way that connects literacy to happy memories rather than focusing on “instruction.”
  2. Focus on yourself as the facilitator of literacy. This puts the parent/ teacher in the place of role model. Research on reading development shows that children learn best through shared experiences. In the world of literacy we call these shared writing (shared pen) and shared reading. Modeling for your child and allowing them to take parts of the task that they can do for themselves, like point to the words or write the words they do know is critical.
  3. Real life literacy experiences. One of children’s major life tasks is to emulate adults and learn from pretend play. This spills over into literacy development. Providing children with real life reading and writing opportunities is also important. This can be done by providing them with pretend play opportunities where they may write a grocery list ( using invented spelling or even made up spelling). They may copy words off of boxes in the pantry to learn to use resources. The goal here isn’t for perfect spelling or reading, but rather application of what they do know! There are so many ideas for center learning ideas which inspire true literacy learning through play.

If you are ready for more information and want to learn more about how to do balanced literacy in the home, sign up for a consult right here on my website deannawestedt.com. Go to the parents tab and click on my calendly link! Or send me an email at deanna@deannawestedt.com

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Rejective Sensitive Dysphoria: The Unrecognized Symptom of ADHD

It is an unfortunate fact that our young humans that possess a differently wired brain tend to hear a lot about what they don’t do right. Parents, teachers, and other caretakers often experience understandable frustration. Also unfortunate is the fact that the ADHD child often is much more sensitive to correction than their nuerotypical peer, feeling it as a personal rejection. They feel reprimands deeply and profoundly.

This fact, combined with the knowledge that typical reward and consequence type systems do not help the ADHD brain correct maladaptive behaviors, should lead us to use alternative methods to prevent permanent damage children. Remember, their brain is wired differently. We wouldn’t expect a child who needs to wheelchair to walk up steps. In the same way, we must sometimes “ramp it up” for children with ADHD by providing them with supports that help them develop the skills they are delayed in.

When you teach and parent, you touch the future and that is a pretty amazing place to be.

For more ideas on how to create accessible learning for the ADHD brain, contact me at deanna@deannawestedt.com.

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The Tip of the ADHD Iceberg

This last week I’ve discussed the challenges of invisible disabilities, including ADHD. Today, I want to touch on the misconception that ADHD is simply about hyperactivity and maladaptive behaviors such as fidgeting and not completing work. These are, of course, stereotypical behaviors associated with ADHD and due to the challenges the present in parenting and teaching an ADHD child they probably garner the most attention. However, if the Titanic is any indication, it is what lies beneath the surface that can be incredibly impactful.

Although not every child who has this diagnosis experiences every single symptom or attribute, it is incredibly important for caregivers to understand the underlying challenges. Doing so can completely change the lens of the adults caring for children who have ADHD, once again changing their behaviors from being “naughty” or “incorrigible” to being part of their differently wired brain. And while we very much want to address these challenges for students ( I mean, we don’t want to say not being able to to keep a job potentially is just a symptom), understanding the the child is not trying to struggle and make life difficult can be a breath of fresh air, take out the personal feeling that the child’s behavior feels like (yes, we are human , too), and relieve the frustration.

The ability to identify the specific and lesser known ways that ADHD may affect your child or a student can help you provide scaffolding (think a step ladder) to help them build the skills they need to function successfully in a world, that will not necessarily bend to their unique challenges. Our goal is to create a human that has the skills to be healthy, happy, and successful out in the world and this is a VERY attainable goal for the child with ADHD. Not only can the child with ADHD be able to survive they can be successful in whatever pathway they choose. In fact, if tapped into properly, I would venture to say they have the chance to be incredibly successful in their chosen path because the way their brain is wired often makes them incredibly passionate about their interests, often working leaps and bound beyond their nuerotypical peers. It is our role to help them identify their passions, give them the tools, and help them develop the skills that do not come naturally to them. This IS a big ask. You will get frustrated. You won’t handle every situation textbook. But, the process of raising and educating our children is to also model resiliency and most of all communicating that they will not be given up on.

When you parent and teach, you touch the future and that is a pretty amazing place to be!

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Invisible Disabilities: The ADHD Edition

The term ADHD is a common one these days, but for all of the recognition the term has, so many misunderstandings about the condition exist. It is so important to uncover the myths and incorrect “urban legends” surrounding ADHD and the impact these narratives have on the way our students with ADHD access curriculum.

  1. ADHD is not made up. It is a clinical condition wherein the brain is developmentally different than the average brain. In fact, the common medications given to treat ADHD/ ADD are stimulants, not sedatives as many think. There is a lot of evidence to support that the ADHD brain responds differently to stimulants than a brain that is wired in a neurotypical way.
  2. Medication is not a one and done treatment. While medication may be a part of a treatment plan (and for some it is not), there are many additional things that families may implement. Some children appear to do better without particular ingredients in their diet, while others may have difficulty managing their reaction to technology. In any case, there are many moving pieces to managing the ADHD brain and, like with other conditions, there is a spectrum. Even if a child is having behavioral challenges, it by no means implies that the family is not parenting that child. In fact, I have referred to parenting ADHD children as EXTREME parenting! Other aspects of treatment for ADHD may include cognitive behavioral therapy, occupational therapy, hippotherapy (horses), and working with a specialist who understands the dynamics of a family that is raising an ADHD child (or two).
  3. Attention deficit is actually a very misleading term. ADHD children can actually pay attention very well! Sometimes a little too well as they tend to perseverate on topics that are of high interest. And sometimes their brain is just overwhelmed by all that is around them and they have a hard time compartmentalizing. This is where giftedness behaviors often overlap with the ADHD brain. And thank-goodness for brains that are wired like this because I promise that we have many breakthroughs and advances in science and other areas thanks to brains that function like this. On the flip side, it is important to help a child who is wired this way to learn to balance this so they may develop proper executive functioning skills.
  4. Children with ADHD cannot just try harder…and tough love isn’t necessarily going to help them improve. Since the ADHD brain is wired differently it also reacts differently to common behavior management strategies such as reward and consequence driven programs. These programs do very little in helping the child with ADHD overcome their challenges. I highly recommend the book “Lost at School” by Dr. R. Greene in which collaborative problem solving structures are discussed. These strategies are amazing and not only do they help unravel the mystery of some of the most challenging behaviors, but also simultaneously teach executive functioning, communicating, and thought processing.
  5. ADHD/ADD is not necessarily more common in boys. While this may be statistically correct, it is likely that boys are simply more often identified because the present with behaviors that are noticeable or disruptive. Often times children, boys or girls, who are quieter and fly under the radar may have their ADHD/ADD ignored. While some may be noticeably hyper, sometimes ADHD presents itself in a student that daydreams or get hyperfocused on preferred activities and cannot transition easily. This means that students like this are at higher risk of falling through the cracks.

For more ways to understand and provide access to curriculum for our ADHD children, contact me at deanna@deannawestedt. I offer consulting and coaching services to walk along side teaching practitioners and provide accessible learning environments for students of all overlapping characteristics.

When you teach, you touch the future and that is a pretty amazing place to be!

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Tips for Living with Invisible Disabilities: Food Allergies Edition

We often focus on the medical aspect of food allergies for children and adults, but seldom do we reflect upon the toll it takes on those who navigate life with food allergies and their caregivers. Food allergies fall under the umbrella of the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) and for good reason. When someone has a food allergy that means that they may be susceptible to severe and life threatening reactions because their body reacts differently to a food that is considered otherwise safe. Add in to that well-meaning individuals who don’t understand some of the complexities and others who are just thoughtless or unkind, and living with food allergies can be tough! Below I’ve included my top tips to thriving with food allergies:

  1. Try to find the positive. This one is tough, because I will admit that so much of our society centers around food. It is foundational for many social activities. Although food allergies can make life challenging, I do credit it for making me more aware of what is in food and in some ways this has contributed to healthful eating choices in ways that go beyond just avoiding my allergen (s). Also, it created a sort of compassion in me that can only come from walking in these shoes.
  2. Focus on what you can eat, at least just as much as what you can’t. While a big part of managing food allergies is maintaining an almost hyperawareness of what goes on your plate, at one point I started appreciating the things I could have and the things I am able to enjoy. This is a case of glass half full, but it does remind me that I am able to eat a lot more things than I can’t.
  3. Be confident in advocating for yourself. At this stage in my life, I have very little qualms about what others may think of me doing what I need to be safe and feel comfortable. But… that was not always the case. So, if me now had a talk with me back then, I would tell myself not to worry so much about what others think when I ask questions at restaurants or have to turn down a treat. Breathing is important! Much more important than what others think. Those who know and care about me understand and accept this as part of who I am (and what I need to do!)
  4. Make sure that you are getting what you need in your diet just as much as keeping out the things you can’t have. This has been a very steep learning curve for me. Depending on the allergy, it may be necessary to take out whole entire food groups (such as dairy). Other food allergies such as wheat or eggs may make it harder to get other nutrients or protein (the later). Add in multiple food allergies and it gets really complicated. Learn what things you can put in to your diet to replace the vitamins and minerals that usually are obtained from your allergen. I ended up consulting a nutritionist at the local regional hospital who gave me tips and recipes for helping me with protein, calcium, and iron. Check with your insurance to see what they cover and what the requirements for this are (sometimes a referral and diagnosis code is required).
  5. Look for online support, but take it with a grain of salt. Emotional support is super important and it can be helpful to keep in touch with others who are experiencing the same as you. There is such a spectrum of allergy related conditions, though, so it is important to make sure that suggestions shared are right for you or your child. Always clear advice with your allergist and discuss a emergency plan in case of reaction.
  6. Find other ways to connect with people outside of food! Take a hike together or if food must be part, have a picnic where everyone BYO. Get creative here and have fun looking for ways outside of food to socialize.

When we teach and parent we touch the future and that is a pretty amazing place to be!

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Equity for Invisible Disabilities

As progress is made in the understanding of children whose brains develop differently, there is one area that continues to be problematic: the assumption that when a child is challenged behaviorally, the parents must not parent or the child is just being “difficult.” But for a parent who has tried all the “tried and true” methods with no results, the backstory is quite different.

The reality is, that for a child with developmental delays in executive functioning or maturational issues, the need for scaffolding and appreciating the baby-steps is incredibly important. If we heard that a teacher would not allow a child who is behind in reading to go to recess until they could read on grade-level, why would we do that to a child who has executive functioning delays that affects their impulse control. Of course, the issues need to be addressed, but I can promise you that a child who is repeating maladaptive behavior and receiving negative results isn’t in it for attention. And they certainly don’t enjoy it! Could it be that a fresh perspective is needed when looking at our frequent flier behavior challenges?

Many children who struggle with behavior challenges or organization simply do not connect the dots and they desperately need someone to come along side them to help them do it. Much like a structure under construction, they need behavioral scaffolding. And they need to know their small successes are just as important as the kids who get Student of the Month. So, be that person. Help them connect the dots. If tried and true consequences aren’t working for a kid, quit doing that and look outside the behavior chart box.

When you teach you touch the future and that is a pretty amazing place to be! For ideas on how to reach children in the classroom that are having trouble connecting the behavior dots, contact me for coaching and professional development opportunities at deannat@deannawestedtdeannawestedt.org

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Food Allergies in the Classroom #2

Food is an obvious central social theme in our society and culture. The impact of this starts young for children as they are bombarded with the message early on that there is a food attached to almost every type of celebration. Eating is something that unites us, but for the food allergic child or individual such socialization is quite the opposite of unifying.

Know that there is more than one right approach to managing a food allergy. When my son was diagnosed with food allergies at age 3, we took the approach of helping him learn to navigate the feelings that come along with the social nature of food. In his case, we felt the best approach (for him) was to equip him to know how to keep himself safe in an age appropriate way and to learn to accept that the world may not always accommodate him. However, this is not necessarily the correct approach for every child with a food allergy. As with many things, there is a spectrum upon which food allergies may lie. So right off the bat, I want to get it out there that one right way to approach a food allergy does not exist. It depends upon the type of reactions, the trigger (airborne or ingested or both), and the maturity/ comfort level of the individual. Please don’t be that person that says,” But I know a person that has a food allergy and they can ( fill in the blank).”

For example, we cannot expect young children to necessarily make appropriate decisions for themselves at all times. We can definitely start equipping them to do so and scaffold for them. Statistically, it needs also to be said that increased incidences of food allergy related injury or death increases in the adolescent years. A combination of the child venturing out more independently, feeling invincible, and perhaps a general feeling that the child is capable of more responsibility gives us an idea of the contributing factors. It should also paint of picture of why we cannot let our guard down.

Do not underestimate the seriousness of a potential reaction. Just because someone you know “just” gets a sick tummy or “just” gets hives, know that reactions depend upon the person. Pop culture would have us believe that epi pen is a magic cure all, when in fact it just buys time to get to the hospital. Most often a second epi pen is needed within 15 minutes (therefore, they are prescribed in double packs. What? did you think it was a bulk buy?) Serious traumatic brain injuries can occur for even those who do survive a serious allergic reaction due to oxygen deprivation. Truly, it is a very serious matter that can change somebody’s life forever.

Be considerate with questions. While most are happy to oblige , I have to say that the two questions I hear most often get rather old. The first question is” Why do I think so many people/ kids have allergies these days?” Hmm… no one really knows for sure, least of all me… but if you come at me with “…but kids didn’t use to have allergies like this,” I will tell you that modern medicine is a blessing and we have only to see the amazing things that come from the young lives that are saved through the use of an epi pen and hospitalization. The reality is that many food allergic children most likely died in infancy back in the day (at least that is one theory). I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have a higher percentage of food allergic children reach adulthood, then have fewer kids with food allergies.

Next question I hear is “What do you think cause food allergies?” Jury is still out on this and just like the above question, a million different theories and no definitive answer . A lot of times, I feel people just want a little reassurance as to why it happened because they want assurance that it won’t happen to them or their loved ones. They want to know what could have been done differently or have theories as to what could have been done differently. This goes back to the decades long debate of choices parents make while raising a tiny human and everyone wants to find the “reason” that it happened. The reality is that genetics are most likely to blame for the most part. Yes, research has showed correlation to other factors, but that is not causation. Case in point, my regular birth child is the one that had food allergies, whereas my C-section child had absolutely none. Some studies point to the opposite often being the case, but again we are a mixture of our own genetic stew.

Join me tomorrow as I share a bit more about allergic living from a teacher’s and mom’s perspective.

When you teach, you touch the future and that is a pretty amazing place to be.