I remember the overwhelming feeling of having a newborn baby and realizing how much of a blank little slate he was! Up until that point, most of my experience with children was of the 5 and up set, as I had been teaching for several years at that point. Fortunately, I quickly learned that children’s minds are designed to learn!
The best part: their play is their learning and having fun with language through silly poems and rhymes is an important part of their language and literacy development!
More good news: it doesn’t have to be another task on the check-list because it can be a fun and natural part of your day! Better yet, children have been found to retain more information when it is set to music!
Here are 3 ways to have fun with poems and rhymes with your young child:
Use time you normally spend together to fit it in: while cooking or getting ready in the morning! It doesn’t have to be a dedicated time for rhyming! In fact, connecting these rhymes or songs to activities increases the connections that your child’s brain is making! We used to sing and do “morning songs” while I changed my son in the morning when he was really small.
Car time Karaoke! : Use travel time as a time to sing poems and nursery rhymes. The car was the place where my boys both learned their address by singing it.
simple songs, such as the Name Song, hold a lot of fun and are great for children’s development of sound mastery. (Think “Jane, Jane, Bo Bane…”) In that song, there is all kinds of sound manipulation that really encourages neuroplasticity in the brain.
Getting started on anything can be just about the hardest thing out there, amiright?! It was true in elementary school whenever faced with a clean sheet of Steno notebook paper (crispness, be darned!) and it still stands the test of time today all too often.
What can be even harder is picking up the momentum after a break…yet, here we are! Sometimes the break gives us a second wind and if that is you, then go and get it! But for some of us, stepping back up to the homeschool plate seems overwhelming. Perhaps we ended prior to break on an exhausted note, haven’t solved some of the challenges we went into the break with, or just have some of those end of break blues (my teenage son definitely had some of that!)
Take it in bite-sized bits. The beauty of homeschool is that we teach our children to self-regulate and this is a perfect time to walk through this and model it. Set a small goal, a fun activity to get started, add in a little reward here and there for meeting small goals, and really acknowledge even the small steps toward success. Even better, let your child choose what their reward might be, such as a preferred activity. We call these things metacognitive practices in the educational world and they are super important in order to learn how to set goals and reflect in a healthy way.
Identify a key word. This year I picked ‘Kindness.’ I wanted to remain really mindful that my actions are kind on a day to day basis and that when I catch myself being grouchy or irritable (all normal things!) that I still make sure to treat my people kindly.
Collaborate with your child. Especially important if you were already having challenges prior to break, sit down and ask your child what is hard about it for them. You might be surprised at the answer! I talk about this type of strategy in depth in my Collaborative Parenting Workshop, which I have available to purchase as a pre-recorded session for $25. You can find out how to purchase that workshop session pre-recorded here: https://deannawestedt.com/pd-events/.
As always, follow my facebook page for more tips on homeschooling success from a homeschooling mom and advocate who just happens to have a doctorate in education! I’ve been in the trenches, so if you’re looking for research based guidance from someone who also first-hand understands, I can help guide you with homeschooling solutions!
I talk to so many homeschooling moms that feel overwhelmed by the pressure they place upon themselves to get everything “just right” when it comes to their children’s development. Especially in the younger years, the societal expectations can start to seep in, no matter how hard we try to focus on our children’s developmental pathway. Are they reading yet? Do they know their numbers?
And I am here to tell you with a lot of years of experience both in the classroom and as a parent who has homeschooled both when the kids were littles and then again when they got bigger, coupled with what research actually says that there is a huge developmental spectrum when it comes to academics. There is such a wide variety of what is considered…normal!
When I assess young children for school readiness, I encounter many parents that try to prep their children by cramming to cover addition, subtraction, and even multiplication! In reality, what I am truly looking for are the soft skills! Yes, we check their foundation in ABC knowledge, but it is just that…a foundation to build upon! Most importantly, I am looking for their ability to engage, their understanding of how to “operate” a book, if they break words apart in silly ways and produce rhymes! And what does all that need in order to develop? Interaction! Play! Singing! Hands-on! Life experience.
So, you can totally take a step back from those kinder prep workbooks! Give young children books to thumb through and model where you start reading and which way you go. If you are not a singer, invest in some great Dr. Jean songs ( any kinder teacher will swear by it!). I can’t tell you how many things my own two learned through song, including their address and all the books of the Bible! Let them build with whatever building set they have!
When I look back upon the hours I spent planning when my kids were little, I now realize it was the simplest things that were most impactful. Prioritize the play and leave room for the unexpected. I promise…you won’t regret it!
If you would like some guidance in ideas for building your homeschool plan for your littlest homeschoolers or an assessment to check in on their readiness skills, contact me at email@example.com
One of the top reasons families give for turning to homeschool for their child’s education is the ability to tailor the education to their child’s needs, especially if they present with any exceptionalities. Parents of children with exceptional skills or above average ability in any task often find that, while parenting brilliance sounds to most like a dream, it also presents with its own set of challenges. Many find their brilliant child’s giftedness doesn’t look like what society expects as brilliance. This challenge mainly happens because children with exceptional abilities typically have areas in which they are delayed or average as well. We call this asynchronous development and it can be the absolute nemesis of parents raising brilliance. Examples of this may look like:
The seven year old with the academic vocabulary score of a high schooler, but a filter that is delayed because of ADHD wiring or other neurodiversity.
The child who hyperfocuses/ perseverates on their special abilities and ‘wows’ others by their ability, yet struggles in relating to their peers.
A neurodiverse teenager who has an ability in a specific area well-beyond their years, but cannot articulate emotions at a developmentally appropriate level.
A child who completes academic tasks such as reading and writing, at the level of a highschooler, yet is not able to organize or complete work at a developmentally appropriate rate.
All of these things can make schooling and socializing difficult. Finding “your people” who understand these challenges can be difficult, especially when giftedness is included in the mix because just sharing that your child is gifted is so often thought of as bragging. In fact there are most certainly challenges you need to have a chance to voice to an audience who understands. I get it. I’ve been there.
If you would like guidance in how to structure you homeschool for your gifted or twice-exceptional child, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org I would love to guide you on this journey of homeschooling!
For parents of homeschoolers or in-person schoolers who have difficulty completing their work, it can be a mystery that stumps the most cleverest amongst us and leaves us wondering how to get them back on track. We know they are capable, yet work remains done or temper tantrums and flat-out refusal may ensue. Such circumstances can directly impact the dynamics in the home and trickle down into other facets of homelife.
Here are some top tips for digging deep into such challenges and how to work with your child to get things going, even if they never really were!
Talk with your child. Ask them what is hard about getting their work done. The answer may surprise you. It may have nothing to do with the type of work given at all. Find out from them some ideas of what they think might help to improve their work completion. These conversations can smooth out the rough edges and also teach your child important communication skills to resolve conflict and challenges.
Consider setting a timer and giving a concrete amount of time to work. Sometimes the task may simply feel overwhelming and a child who does not developmentally have a sense of time or has neurodiversity may react by avoidance or outbursts. Setting a finite time with a definite beginning and end can help to scaffold this skill of work for them. If they can only work for one minute independently to begin with…go with it! Start with their success point and work your way up.
Balance. Depending on what type of schooler you are or if this is a homework situation if your child is an in-person schooler, see what options you can offer your child for some child-led learning time. Perhaps it might look like asking them what they want to learn about and building lessons around that if you use unit studies or unschooling. For more traditional set-ups or homework situations, you may consider giving a when-then challenge that includes preferred activities. For example, you can say,”When you have X amount of this done, you may….(fill in the blank with whatever activity they like to do such as legos, etc.)
When…then for technology. If technology is a part of the issue, use the above mentioned when/then technique with tech. That is the way we work it in our household and it works marvelously (for us). There are a million different ways you can vary it for your family. There isn’t one right way, so you may have to tweek it here and there before you find a program of sorts that works for your family.
Writing is amongst one of the subjects I receive the most questions. Parents often feel the abstractness of the writing task as overwhelming. And many times our own experiences of writing instruction that lacked clear guidance colors our feelings towards the writing task itself. But the great news is that there is a way to give our children a success-filled tool box for writing and that writing instruction has greatly improved over the last couple decades. Here are my top strategies for turning your child into a more confident writer:
Allow for invented spelling. While going back and editing the piece together (try to use fun pen colors-not red ink- or Google Docs-for this task), when writing initially it is best not to get our child bogged down with the mechanics or conventional spelling.
Work on transitional phrases. Filling your child writing repretoire with words such as “Additionally,…” or “For example,…” strengthen their writing and make it flow smoother.
Teach your child a paragraph structure. Several formats exist and it is more about finding what works for you and sticking with it. I have lots of great resources for this and specialize in getting children to master this task to the point of 5-paragraph essays.
Reaching the milestone of high school graduation is monumental, whether a homeschooler or otherwise. But for many the question of “What next?” looms large. It can feel like a societal microscope examining those post-high school career and educational choices and one that is used as a barometer of our parenting and educational success.
So, what next?
For far too many, the pressure of entering college right away dictates the decisions. While this may be the right choice for some young adults, it is important to be open to the different options available to our young people. Here are a few things to consider when weighing the choices:
Would my newly minted young adult benefit from some time to mature before taking on higher education?
Does my child desire to follow a career path that requires higher education?
Does higher education support my child’s goals in life?
Would my child’s career goals be benefited by a year of travel or other training before starting formal higher education?
Would my child benefit from first attending a junior college while they figure out their plan?
These questions should be used to help guide the conversations you have with your soon to be out in the world child. Formulating a plan based on their goals may seem scary if it doesn’t follow our societal expectations, but the most important thing to consider is the well-being of your child.
If you would like more guidance in formulating goals for your homeschooled child and want to know how to gear their learning for their strengths and goals, check out my coaching services on the For Parents tab or email me at email@example.com
Here are my top five ways to build an environment that will foster a foundation for literacy in your home:
Label the house! You can use post-it notes or little lined labels, but have fun labeling the house with your young child. Make a game of it by having them match the label to the house item. If you speak more than one language, you can label the items in both languages spoken in the house.
Introduce them to lots of vocabulary. One of the best ways to do that is to READ! READ! READ! to your child. The more a child is read to, the more likely they are to grow a full and rich vocabulary. A fully developed vocabulary helps your child with comprehension and promotes the ability to discuss what they read. So, talk with them about the walk to the park, working in the garden or house, or anywhere you might visit.
Create a writing center. Fill a spare box or bin with extra notepads, stickers, and various writing utensils. Allow your child to copy print from around the house. Encourage them to write “grocery lists” even if it is more scribbles than anything.
Encourage your child’s use of “invented spelling.” A child’s ability to correctly spell a word and utilize phonetic knowledge to represent a word in written form develops over a span of time between kindergarten to grade three. While some move a bit faster and some a bit slower, the main point to remember is that children’s spelling develops over time from a blend of spelling instruction and exposure to correct spelling through reading. A first grader may be able to represent the consonant blend /bl/ at the beginning of the word but maybe isn’t hearing blends in the middle of a word yet.
Let them see how you use reading and writing. Even if you are not a big reader, you can still share with them the importance it has in your day-to-day life. From typing an email, to checking out the coupon section, to reading a recipe, there are lots of ways to demonstrate to your child the place literacy has in your life, too!
If you would like more guidance in how to get your child ready for reading, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out my website under the For Parents tab to see the services I offer and schedule your free introductory consult session.
The experience that provided my foundational philosophy of education came from an event that happened well before my official decision to go into education. Despite the fact that as a six year old I was “teaching” my Cabbage Patch Dolls using extra worksheet pages from the ditto machine my first-grade teacher gracefully bestowed upon me, about four changes in my college major separated me from that foundational experience and the day I began my teaching career.
Although my elementary and jr. high years presented challenges for my twice-exceptional brain, by freshman year of high school I had hit my stride. My executive functioning was…well, functioning. By this time, due to maturation mixed with quite of bit of adapting, I “got” the whole school thing. My binders and locker remained decently organized (while my room at home quite a different story) and my school assignments were completed with ease and on time. I had mastered taking notes without distraction, could balance homework with extra-curriculars, and knew how to work with peers in a group. Further, my love of theatre, ballet, and tap brought me out of my shell. My love for writing did not fail me as I was an odd duck who looked forward to writing assignments. Everything else? Easy peasy with barely a cracked book. Honor Roll every semester. Things were looking good.
That all came to a screeching halt the day I met chemistry my senior year in high school. I heard the rumors about the class but could not actually believe that a teacher would honestly think that she had made a test too easy if most of her class got A’s. That seemed too incredulous to me at the time, because, as a teacher, wouldn’t students doing well be a sign that you were a successful teacher?
It wasn’t long before I was sinking in this class, and fast. And I wasn’t the only one. By the middle of the year, when mid-terms were posted most of the class had received less than a C. Those who were taking the class as a Junior did the only logical thing if they were in that boat and dropped the class. As a senior, I did not have that option. For the first time in my school career, I did not understand an academic subject. And I tried so very hard. I read the text diligently, studied for hours before a test, went to Saturday labs, and my parents hired the tutor recommended by the teacher, a pharmacist. In the end, no matter how I tried, it was not enough. I graduated but lost my lifetime membership to CSF. Even though I had all first six semesters of high school as an honor student, and lifetime membership only required four semesters, the rules stated one of those semesters had to be in my Senior year and chemistry alone disqualified me from that. It seems much less significant now, but I can tell you that the sting on graduation day was real when I didn’t get to wear that stole with my robe. Things like that matter when you’re a teenager.
Years later as I navigated teaching, I realized that I walked away with something much more important than that stole ever was: an understanding that successful teachers have successful students. And I took that lesson with me into my earliest days in the classroom. I made it my mission to meet every student where they were at, identify specific areas to be addressed which led to designing a model of flexible differentiation that became the foundation of my doctoral research design. That led to some pretty amazing results, too! As a kindergarten teacher, I always took pride in having all my students proficient by the end of the school year. When students came to me, it was truly important to me that every student be given the chance to master their challenges and shine in their strengths. Although painful at the time, without that experience, I may have not understood this idea on such a personal level. This realization alone makes it worth it: to know that so many students received something from me that they may not have if I had not gone through that difficult experience.
Successful teachers have successful students.
It doesn’t mean that we don’t have students who struggle; it means that we target our instruction diligently and systematically to help them get where they need to be. When we teach a new concept, we do a “quick check” to see who has gotten it, challenge the ones who did and reteach a different way to those who didn’t until they do. Yes, education is up against a lot these days. Yes, students come to us all over the map academically and with their own learning fingerprint, as unique as our thumbprints. Focus on what you can control. Make the most of those precious minutes, reflect on your teaching practice when you see students not getting the concept, shine a light on their strengths, and teach beyond a test and not to it!
If you would like some guidance in helping your child be successful, reach out to me at email@example.com . I offer 1:1 academic coaching sessions to help you navigate your child’s education.
As a young child, I was extremely quiet, could polish whole chapter books off in a day, and spent my young years compiling 20 journals in which I religiously recorded my thoughts and experiences. At the very mature age of 10, I would utilize post-it notes stuck to my desk lampshade in order to record all of the ideas that I would get, most often and inconveniently at bed-time, where I found it difficult to turn off my brain. These post it notes served as a holding bin and quite literally demonstrated the phrase ‘Stick a pin in it.’ I was “different’ than my peers, usually finding certain topics so interesting that I would become a little expert on them. By the age of eight, I adored my babysitter’s high school text books that she brought over to complete her homework. Time with adults was my safe space, as they never commented or made fun of my advanced vocabulary.
What many did not realize is that I also spent the better parts of second, third, and fourth grade unable to complete any of my school work. I have distinct memories for the duration of these years, of wondering why, yet again, I could not get my work done like the other kids who got to go out to recess. I, instead, would be spending another recess with my never-ending list of unfinished assignments. Although I have memories of making patterns out of the numbers on the paper or creating storylines for the pictures on the work page, I did not connect these things to not getting my work done. And for a long time, no one helped me connect those dots. I was left to wonder how the other kids did it, because I assumed they also made patterns and created storylines and managed to get their work done. It didn’t cross my mind that they simply focused. Some might say I was “bored.” Maybe, but that answer was too simple. In retrospect knowing what I know now, I realize that my brain was breaking up a task that felt tedious. In a way, by stopping throughout the worksheet to do something my brain enjoyed, I was breaking up the overwhelm and providing myself with a little “preferred activity” reward.
I so desperately wanted to know what the other kids got that I just didn’t. I could not, for the life of me, understand why I struggled to keep things organized, even with the best of intentions. I probably more resembled a charming, but unorganized professor, with my stack of books by my bed, some having been read multiple times. It wasn’t until the middle of my fourth grade year, that a teacher finally took action and informed my parents that I had a list of about 20 unfinished assignments. It was the first my parents had heard of it. I had always maintained A’s. I suppose I was graded on the fact that I could read many grade levels ahead of my age or that writing was something that I could almost feel. I loved writing so much and reveled in using newly noticed author’s craft from texts I had read. Playing with the syntax of a sentence was like a game for me and I loved to try a sentence several different ways just to see how it could change the impact of the words. Yes, at the age of nine. I also believe it was because I was quiet. At all costs, I avoided getting my name on the board. But finally, someone was willing to reflect these challenges in my grades. My parents worked with the teacher to immediately create a system, walked beside me as I completed unfinished work, and presented me with an incentive which forever helped to establish the habits that led to being a doctoral student with a 4.0. Most important, I don’t remember being in trouble. My parents did NOT let me know how disappointed they felt, even though I am sure they felt that and so much more… worry, confusion, frustration, upset they didn’t know earlier.
This was not the end of challenges for me. It created a platform and I grew. But I still struggled through my jr. high years to figure it out and many times learned the hard way. I had to become aware of the things that were difficult for me and I found ways to compensate.
Have compassion for our littles that are gifted and the unique challenges they face. The asynchronous development. The ones who simply don’t understand why their vocabulary of a 20-year-old does not fit inside the frontal filter of a seven-year old. They are our future thinkers, inventors, creators, yet they are one of our most underserved and misunderstood populations. They will not work for companies; they will create companies. They will not follow ideas; they will create ideas and advocate. It is not for us to decide a child’s future but to help them reach their potential. To walk alongside them and to help them connect the dots in the unique way that works for them. And by the way…these characteristics are now my superpowers. I still adore and swear by post-it notes and seek to advocate for our twice-exceptional youth!
If you would like some guidance for your twice-exceptional child, I would love to walk alongside you and bring my expertise to help! Check out my 1:1 coaching sessions where I customize strategies to help you meet the needs of your family at http://www.deannawestedt.com.