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S-t-r-e-t-c-h... Like Elastigirl!

Added by Heather Idoni

Monday, February 25, 2013
Vol. 14 No. 3, February 25, 2013, ISSN: 1536-2035
(c) 2013, Heather Idoni - www.FamilyClassroom.net

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Guest Author
-- Barbara Frank
Winning Website
-- Math Munch!
Helpful Tips
-- Teaching Writing
Reader Question
-- Auditory Processing Disorder
Additional Notes
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Guest Article

Stretch Like Elastigirl!
  by Barbara Frank

In the movie "The Incredibles", a pair of retired superheroes marry, have a family and settle down... or so they think, because before long they're yanked out of retirement to save the world from an evil genius.

Helen, the wife and mother of the family, was once known as the superhero Elastigirl because of her body's unique ability to stretch like rubber. Called back into service, she uses her body as a boat and even a parachute to save her children from the danger posed by the evil genius.

How astute of the movie's creator to make the character of the mother someone who can change shape in order to help her children! Being "elastic" is a necessity for all moms; adapting ourselves to the needs of our families is a regular event for us. And never is this truer than in the case of homeschooling moms, because we're faced with so many changing situations as we work with our families. For instance:

-- Within ten minutes we might go from teaching one child to count to teaching an older child how to multiply polynomials.

-- We invest time into creating lesson plans only to modify them when it becomes apparent that they're not working for our kids.

-- We adapt our manner of teaching to each child, and also try to accommodate each one's learning style.

These aren't easy things to do because it's human nature to be a creature of habit, to become used to doing things "our way". But parenthood requires that we become more adaptable, more elastic, than we ever thought we could be.

When I became a mother, I chafed at having my plans interrupted. I wasn't all that old (25), but I was already used to doing what I want when I wanted. When plans had been made, I expected that they would happen. But having a baby changed all that. If I dressed my daughter in the perfect outfit to wear to an event, she'd spit up all over it before we left the house and I'd have to change her clothes at the last minute and be late to the event. Or perhaps I'd anticipate going out with a friend, but then the baby would wake up with a fever and I'd have to cancel my plans. It took a while, but I finally learned to accept last-minute changes to my day. I had to adapt to becoming a mother.

Of course, we make even more plans as homeschooling parents, which translates into more changes in store for us. Perhaps you have your day all planned out with a new unit study or an exciting field trip, but you're awakened at 3 a.m. by one of your children leaning over you and saying "I have to throw up!" followed by several hours of doing so every 10 minutes. Your day is shot. Your plans are just a memory. And before long, your stomach starts to feel a little funny. There go your plans for tomorrow as well as the ones you lost today.

You can cry over it, or you can accept that you need to be flexible and adapt to the new reality. However, this doesn't require an act of will. What it does require is prayer.

I homeschooled my children for 25 years, so I can't even count how many times I prayed for help in dealing with challenging circumstances. Interestingly, instead of changing a given situation, most often God helped me adapt to it. Perhaps the most serious of these events was when one of our sons was born with Down syndrome and several of the medical issues that often come with it. Learning that your child is not the child you were expecting is a pretty big shock at first. In fact, some parents can't cope with the idea and give their child up for adoption. My husband and I never wanted to give our son up, but we were very concerned about how we would care for him as well as our other three children, much less homeschool some or all of them. Well-meaning social workers told us our homeschooling lifestyle was no longer going to be possible because our son would need such a variety of therapies.

Brought to our knees in prayer, we found that God provided answers in His timing while gently making all of us more adaptable to the situation. We were enabled to cope with our son's health problems, including two years on an apnea monitor. Our children learned to accommodate their younger brother's considerable needs and to aid in his development by loving him up and playing with him. My husband quit his job and started an in-home business so he could be around to help (and God blessed that business so that it supported our family for the next 12 years). Ultimately, we were enabled to keep homeschooling so that all of our children are now adults who were homeschooled through high school.

But these weren't things we did on our own; these were things God helped us to do. As a homeschooling mom, I wasn't some kind of superwoman who just had to put on the red and gold bodysuit. It took prayer, not Spandex. So if you need help coping with the situations you face as a homeschooling mom, pray for help and guidance, and you, too, can stretch like Elastigirl!

Copyright 2013 Barbara Frank/ Cardamom Publishers


Barbara Frank homeschooled her four children for 25 years and has written several books related to homeschooling. You'll find her on the web at www.cardamompublishers.com, www.barbarafrankonline.com and www.thrivinginthe21stcentury.com


Your feedback is always welcome! Just send your email to heather(at)familyclassroom.net


Winning Website

Math Munch

A Weekly Digest of the Mathematical Internet

From the site: "We write Math Munch for everyone who takes pleasure in reading it. Most of all, though, we write it for our own students -- to share math with them that we find meaningful, amazing, and inspiring. Each week we create a post that curates some of the great mathematical resources of the internet. Websites, videos, articles, applets -- we share them all to help our students build positive and personal relationships with mathematics."

This blog-style website is always kept current -- well worth checking out! :-)

Helpful Tips

Fresh Music for Little Ones

"For those of you with littles, here are a bunch of kid songs you can get for free from Amazon right now. I know hearing the same ones over and over gets old so maybe you can expand your collection with some of these. Or at least a different twist on some favorites!" -- Jodi in Iowa


Great Article on Writing

Developing Good Writers by Nancy Doran

"This is an excellent article! If you have children who are learning to write, I would suggest reading this article. It gives great advice from a teacher/professional writer's experience." -- Rene in MI


Distance Estimation Challenge for Kids

"On the way home from a dog walk, my children had a 'discussion' about which would be the quickest way home. As soon as they got in they turned to google distance calculator to see who was right! Plot out your walk and it tells you the distance."
-- Julie - www.homeschooling-ideas.com


Last Issue's Reader Question

"I'd like to hear advice from those homeschooling their kids who have Auditory Processing Disorder." -- Krystal in Louisiana



"Until you've tried to teach an APD/SPD child, you would think it wasn't real. My son has it (mostly Auditory of all the Sensory processing issues.) He's 9. His retention is very difficult. Even asking me the other day if his middle name was A or B (his or his brother's). He should know his own name by age 9, yes? Math he retains better than anything, reading is very hard for him; keeping all those letters in his brain is tough. It is very real and I personally have shed many tears trying to figure out how to educate him.

Not to mention his discomfort with change, large groups of kids, loud groups of people, etc. He's come a LONG way this last couple of years; I'm so proud of him. But he certainly has a long way to go. I have an older son who had just a couple of issues, but his were pretty mild and easily overlooked. People who don't know my youngest has this do not know there's an issue because he has come so far. But open a book and ask him to read and he'll have a melt down. I have a wonderful group of friends who have kids that are so wonderful and loving toward him. He has not been made fun of for this. And a terrific Awana leader who nurtured and loved him so he became comfortable in a group of kids. This has been SO good for him.

I adore the work Dianne Craft does. I found several of her things to be very helpful. I also found chiropractics to be somewhat helpful (not like night and day changes but still, anything was good!). And I learned that Teaching Textbooks was wonderful for him because he could have all the visual of the computer and wear headphones to help him process what the audio parts were on the discs. I learned that visual and hands on things help him a ton. I also bought some PVC pipe that curved from his ear to his mouth so he could talk into it and hear himself. If you can tap into visual things, it really makes a difference. Color coding, etc. Also, my son hates change, so any time I can let him know what to expect and help him with fears there, that is always good.

Dianne Craft also encourages the use of real, healthy fats. Lots of them -- helps to build up that brain. She has physical exercises to help the right and left sides of the brain communicate -- love doing those. I made a chart that was purely visual of all the exercises to do -- my 9 year old enjoys that chart.

And of course, prayer prayer prayer. God will show you what resources to use with your child.

And patience! Some days are easier than others. I have a friend with an adult son who has SPD. She said, "Remember, your child is about 3 years younger than his real age. Remember that especially where things like driver's ed come in." Well, I have remembered, and it's true... In some ways my son is much younger than a 9 year old.

My hubby used to ask me when our son was younger if I thought it could be autism, because that's the only thing we had heard of at the time. I am just so grateful I've been able to homeschool him. While he's not severe enough that people would recognize his problems on the surface, I know that he would be ridiculed in a school setting. He has no shame in our home." -- Christa in ID


"APD often goes undiagnosed and the child is often given the wrong diagnosis, including autism, mental retardation, deafness and a variety of other disorders including mental illness. APD is explained like this: When you are swimming under water, say at a swimming pool with lots of people around, you can only hear garbled words and sounds. Your brain, which has heard normal sounds your whole life, can often put the information together and grasp what the discussion above your head is about. But for a child with APD, all they hear are the garbled sounds and they have never heard real sounds put together, so they cannot understand what is being said. Another example would be the Charlie Brown cartoons - in the cartoons, whenever a parent speaks you have the 'yadayadayada' sounds but not words. This is what APD children hear; the words are completely distorted between their inner ear and their brain's processing center. The words are scrambled signals, like the military scrambling signals. Same concept. And there are varying degrees to this too. Some children can hear some sounds but not all sounds, so it is not as severe because with the ability to hear some sounds the child can piece together what is being said - they still work really hard but they do better. Those with severe APD can't hear anything. Listen here, this is what children with APD hear:


And this website explains in more detail about APD:


Children with APD often decide it is not worth the effort to figure out what someone is saying, so they tune them out - hence, they are given an autism diagnosis because the child 'tunes out people' and has communication and speech issues (often the child tries to repeat the sounds they hear which no one can understand because they are so scrambled - to the child, they are repeating exactly what they heard, but to the parent is garbled nonsense - again, listen to the link above as it will make more sense). These children often have sensory issues and other problems, but their main problem is not being able to cognitively process what they hear. Their ears work - but the pathways in the brain become crossed and instead of hearing words, they hear garbled sounds that make no sense to them. Can you imagine how frustrating it would be for a child not to understand what someone was saying to them, or to be able to communicate with someone else (esp. parents?) The frustration level in children ends up with poor behavior because they simply can't deal with the issues they face any longer - it is not a behavioral problem, it is a frustration problem. Figure out where the frustration is and work with it, and the behavior improves. This is the basis for special ed, in a nutshell. And it doesn't change whether the child is homeschooled or public schooled.

Over time they can decipher specific words simply from the repetition of the person saying them but that is one word (usually a noun) out of an entire sentence. The older the child gets, if they haven't given up, the harder they have to work. In order to grasp the content in a sentence, they often say, 'Huh? What?' or have a questioning look on their face. People generally think the child is lazy or stupid and the person gets angry and annoyed at having to repeat themselves. The sentence has to be repeated several times for the child to grasp enough short words within the sentence to be able to have an idea of what is being discussed, then they have to comprehend it by quickly thinking about the words or filling in missing words, what they could mean (if it is asking a question, giving a demand, etc.) and then try to form a reply. They work ten times harder to interact and communicate than the average child does - and they rarely if ever get the recognition they deserve for working so darn hard, usually they are treated very poorly and they know it. Because their hearing works but the processing part is the problem, doctors rarely consider APD because they aren't trained in it. By the time a parent has their child evaluated and into speech, OT, etc., (which can literally takes years) there may be a question about APD but finding places that actually test for this is difficult.

APD isolates a child completely from the rest of their world - they can't communicate well, they are expected to listen and reply but can't - they are labeled by others as stupid, lazy or 'problem' children. If these children can use PECS cards or sign language early on, they learn to understand words and how to communicate. They can learn to read lips. They receive numerous other therapies that can help them. There are specialized computer programs that helps train the child's brain to listen to sounds and words and build new pathways so they can learn to communicate better (like a brain injured person would have to relearn and build new pathways).

It is so easy to discredit what another parent is going through and blame poor parenting on the child's issues or that is a 'normal child thing' that the child will outgrow. But when the child is evaluated and begins to receive help, the difference is night and day. It isn't the parent's parenting that is the issue or that the child will someday outgrow it - it is the child's special needs that come out (there IS a reason for this!). Simply because these children don't look like a Downs child (my sister had Downs so I know how people are more accepting of physical differences) or the child is not physically handicapped doesn't mean that child doesn't have special needs. I have four children with autism and secondary, third and fourth disorders, etc. - no one would ever suspect just by seeing them because they look so normal. I've been accused of 'bad parenting' or not being strict enough when they had meltdowns, when they couldn't gag down someone else's food, couldn't tolerate loud sounds, had echolalia, etc. I know what it's like to be condemned without anyone ever walking in my shoes or knowing the heartbreak my children suffer at the hands of strangers who stare at them over things my children can't control.

And yes, some children may 'outgrow' (they actually learn to adapt through years of stress and frustration) some issues but they live for years with misery, with people treating them poorly and with a very low self-image of themselves. I'm not into children needing a healthy ego, but special children are often made to feel much less worthy than a typical child does. The earlier a child can be diagnosed and worked with, the farther they can go through childhood and into adult life. Instead of waiting to 'find out if they outgrow it' the parent is actually wasting precious time the child could be receiving help (either from the parent or professionals) that allows the child to catch up to and even pass their peers.

Here are some books I would highy recommend:

When the Brain Can't Hear: Unraveling the Mystery of Auditory Processing Disorder

Like Sound Through Water: A Mother's Journey Through Auditory Processing Disorder

I have both books; they are both excellent. The second one is the story of one mom and her APD son. After extensive working with him (and she describes just how hard it was) he did very well. A child doesn't 'grow out' of APD; they simply learn how to cope better with it. Just like with dyslexia or a math disorder, it is with the child for life - but there are ways and means to deal with it. Find those strategies and the child can do well. Sometimes children discover what works on their own and can do well, but often it is only after years of struggle that this happens." -- Rebekah in CA


New Reader Question

"I would like some kind of exercising program going on for my boys. Workout or whatever you want to call it. Do you know of some video training or something I could get? I hardly know how to ask for what I'm looking for. I'd rather it didn't have scantily dressed ladies on it. I don't really want my sons to think they need to be macho but I want something to get them some exercise when it's too cold, rainy or whatever to do much outside -- or just something to get their hearts pumping in the mornings. I could do a Google search but I thought maybe you parents would have recommendations. What would you suggest?"

-- Marie, member of our HomeschoolingBOYS.com group


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