Monday, July 8, 2019

Aru Shah and Hindu mythology

It's here, it's here! The latest Rick Riordan Presents book, Aru Shah and the Song of Death by Roshani Chokshi.

I love these books. In Riordan's own words, Non Western writers need to be allowed to tell their own stories, and these books are a great way to introduce a YA reader to different cultures and stories from around the world.

So, I couldn't help myself, and I made it into a teaching moment. Because that's kind of what I do.

Kids who read books about modern kids immersed in mythical stories then become interested in those origin stories, and so I gathered some resources about Hindu religion and mythology to give kids a way to look deeper into it.

This website contains a nice, kid friendly summary of various aspects of Hindu culture, the gods, and the more famous story.

This youtube video on Shiva the God of Destruction and the rest of this list of Hindu gods.

For more fun, check out these books:

Hindu stories book

More Hindu stories from Sanskrit

A guide to the various Hindu gods.

(All amazon links are affiliate links, and if you buy through them, I will get a few pennies. Thank you for the pennies.)

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

American Revolution Girl Squad edition

I have two daughters, 6 and 8 years old, both of whom are super into girl power. They are also really into history, and we've done a few deep dives into the American revolution before, but that history is always more exciting to them when it's about women.

And so, one day we saw this.

This Liberty's Kids video (you watch Liberty's Kids, right? Right??) is about Sybil Ludington, a young girl who rode by night to gather her father's troops to prepare for a British attack. Paul Revere who? Give it up for our girl, Sybil.

So, I logged onto our library website and requested this book: (Amazon link is a referral link)

Then, I thought about who else we could cover, and Abigail Adams of "Remember the Ladies" fame came to mind. Abigail was awesome, and this book was great:

Then, the next time I was at the library, I saw this book on display. Fate, and my amazing librarian, were on my side. Each page of this book highlights a different woman from the American revolution, many of whom I'd never heard of.

And last but not least, my new favorite American revolution hero, Deborah Sampson, who dressed as a man to fight in the war.

Happy Independence Day! And go girls!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Let's go to space

The theme for this year's summer reading program at out library, and at libraries all over America, is "A Universe of Stories." I took this as my cue to teach my kids as much about space as possible. Because, honestly, what kid doesn't love space??

First, some youtube videos that are fun while still teaching lots about space.

Another great place that we looked is NASA kids club. This page has videos from the ISS, printable puzzles and packets of information, and fun games to play that teach kids about STEM and specifically about what it takes for NASA to plan a mission to space.

This printable pack of Free planet facts and coloring pages is also great for teaching about space in a fun way, and is a good rainy day activity.

My kids also really love this game from the PBS kids show Ready Jet go, which teaches the stories behind the constellations.

These books about the women who helped to make the space program possible are a great addition to any study about space. Both of my girls loved these books, and they are a great crossover between STEM learning and history.

This is the most recent book about space that we read as a family. It explains how rare it is for a planet like Earth that can support life to exist.

For younger kids, this book from The Cat in the Hat's learning library provides a great introduction to everything space related. The video that goes with it is included with Amazon Prime, so if you subscribe you can watch it for free.

What resources for teaching about space are your favorites?

Monday, June 24, 2019

Fun, cheap, and easy ways to avoid the summer slide

Summer is here and I know that everyone wants to kick back and take a break, but we also don't want our kids to lose half a year of progress in their education. So here are some fun ways to sneak in some learning without laying out a lot of money.

1.  Your local library. Without question, this is my favorite resource for summer learning. Most likely, your library has some kind of summer reading program that rewards kids for reading books, but also look for all the free programs and classes they offer. In addition to storytimes, there are often science programs, school readiness classes, and music classes. And of course, you can check out books and often access online resources like audiobooks and educational videos.

2. Podcasts. We spend a lot of time in our car in the summer,  driving back and forth to activities, parks, and pools. I tend to fill this time with educational stuff. Some podcasts that both my kids and I love:

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls. This is probably my favorite. The podcast features biographies of powerful women through history.

Brains on. This podcast features really cool science topics in shows with lots of kid-interaction.

Stories. This one is just what it sounds like, storytelling at its best.

3. Computer games. My kids beg for screen time, so I make sure it's learning time too.

Prodigy is one of my new favorites. It is an interactive fantasy world game that incorporates math. In order to fight monsters, players need to complete math problems. The math is adaptive and adjusts to each student's individual level. My kids love this, and I love that they are doing math. Plus it's completely free! (Your kids may ask you to upgrade. I'm told that the upgrade gives them bonuses for the game play section, but doesn't add to the educational aspects.)

Reading A-Z. You can get a free trial to RAZ kids, which lets kids read leveled readers at their levels and take quizzes on them to earn points to upgrade their avatar. The trial does NOT auto renew, so you won't end up paying.

Reflex Math is a gamified math fluency site. It also has a free trial that doesn't auto renew.

Homeschool Buying Co-op has a whole page full of trials available for the summer.

4. Printables and books. This is the one that gets me the most push back from my kids because it feels the most school-like.

This summer learning pack from This Reading Mama contains mostly fun activities which kids don't realize are helping them practice valuable skills.

My kids did like this Star Wars math workbook. There are multiple grade levels available, and there's a reading/language arts version too.

That's all for me for now because we're off to the park again! I would love to hear what summer learning resources you use!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Everything I never knew I needed to know about sensory, Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, I talked about how my journey with sensory processing began when I discovered that my youngest daughter had some sensory differences that were making it hard for her to learn some school readiness skills. I also talked about the three main sensory preferences, and the realization that we ALL have a sensory preference. Being aware of my own and my older daughter's, along with my younger daughter's, and how they color our perceptions has been a game changer.

Today I'm going to talk about the major sensory systems and what you need to know about them.

Most of us learned about the five senses when we were little. Occupational therapists like to talk about seven senses.

1. Vision. Just like they taught you in kindergarten, this is the way your brain perceives visual input. People who are avoidant in this area tend to be bothered by bright lights, crowds, and movement. This could by why your child always has a meltdown in Target. People who are seekers in this area tend to crave these things. It's also important to be aware that low registration in this area can make it hard for kids (and adults) to notice some visual things, which can make reading and writing difficult.

2. Sound. If you avoid sound (like me!!), you may find yourself wanting to wear earphones in public places. My daughter seeks sound, so she's always talking or humming. Kids who have low registration for sound are often accused of not paying attention when really it's just that they have a hard time distinguishing the speaker's words from background noise.

3. Touch. My seeker daughter touches EVERYTHING. We took her furniture shopping once, and i nearly had a heart attack watching her feel all the sofas until she found a swatch book and was in heaven. The first time I ever heard of sensory issues was with kids with touch avoidance. These kids hate being messy; it actually seems to cause them pain. They may also be bothered by tags and seams on clothing, and they are often picky eaters.

4 and 5. Taste and smell. People can definitely seek and avoid these two senses too, but it isn't as common as the other 3.

And now for the two senses you might not have heard of.

6. Proprioception is the sensation of your body's position in space. The input for this comes primarily from your muscles and joints.  We feel proprioception as deep pressure, which can come in the form of pressure from the ground when you run and jump, from a bar when you hang, or from compression clothing or heavy weights. To simplify this a little, it is pretty rare for someone to avoid proprioceptive input. It's calming and organizing to the brain for almost everyone. This is why you see weighted blankets now marketed as stress reducers. Kids who are proprioceptive seekers will crash into things constantly. Kids who have low registration in proprioception will fall down a lot or seek extra input by leaning on walls when they walk. I live on this list of Proprioceptive Activities from Alisha at Your Kids Table. I think these activities are helpful for almost everyone but especially if you have a kid who has high needs in this area.

7. Vestibular is the sense of your body moving. This is the feeling you get on a roller coaster or when you're spinning. Some kids HATE the feeling of motion when they're swinging or riding a bike fast and other kids could swing or spin all day. Finding ways to proactively meet these needs for motion before you expect your kids to sit still for any period of time can be a life saver.

Overwhelmed yet? Questions?

For more reading from people who know way more about this stuff than I do, check out these great resources:

Sensory Basics from Your Kids Table
The OT Toolbox
What is sensory? from Miss Jaime OT

Repeated disclaimer: I am not a doctor or an occupational therapist, I've just read lots of great stuff from people who are and wanted to share what I've learned. If your kids are struggling, get them evaluated. Help is always good.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Everything I never knew I needed to know about sensory (Part 1)

I mentioned in a previous post that my younger daughter has been going to occupational therapy, and that has been part of what led us to overwhelm. To get a little more specific, she had some fine motor delays which the therapists thought were related to sensory issues.

Say what?

A friend of mine who is an OT came to the house to informally observe and play with Charlotte as a favor to me, and she was the first person to suggest sensory as an issue. Now, I'm not an occupational therapist, but I am a crazy Internet researcher and reader and so I decided to dig deep, and suddenly so many things made more sense. This is why she walks into walls, hangs upside down, hums to herself when she walks. Everything fell into place.

I want to be really clear here, sensory processing issues are not an officially diagnosable condition, and to be honest, I'm not sure I would say my little girl has a disorder. But she does have some preferences that make some things harder for her and needs that we need to find ways to meet if we want her to be successful. But guess what? So do we all.

Sensory preferences

We all have sensory preferences. It occurs on a spectrum or to degrees, and for most of us it doesn't get in the way of our functioning because we find ways to meet our needs. The three main preferences that our therapist talked about are:

Sensory avoiding - We get stressed out by a lot of input, either sound, light, pressure, or touch. My little girl doesn't have this preference, but I sure do, and it very clearly explains why I need quiet where I am not being touched every day. For people who have this to a more extreme degree, or kids who haven't found ways of coping, this can start to cause trouble with functioning if it makes us avoid situations. These are the kids who cry when there are noises, who melt down in public places because they just seem overwhelmed, who find the bright lights of the mall terrifying.

Sensory seeking - Seekers need a lot of input, and they get it however they can. My little girl says she hums because walking is boring, but what it really is is that she feels understimulated and so she finds ways to meet her needs for sounds. These are kids who like to crash into things, who hang upside down or spin, who make noises. Some adults with seeking preferences NEED to run 5 miles every morning or else they feel crummy all day. This is an example of finding an adaptive way to meet your needs, and it's what we want to teach our seeking kids.

Sensory low-registration - This is a smaller category of people, but it's actually also one my little girl fits into. People with low registration tend to miss input. Just like seekers, they have what Alisha from Your Kid's Table calls a "big cup" for sensory input. They have a high threshhold. But instead of trying to fill the cup through constant motion or stimulation, people who primarily fit in the low registration category just don't register the input that they're getting. They often seem tired or even lazy, they miss instructions given verbally, and - like my sweet girl - they fall down a lot or hold onto walls because they are missing the input from their bodies that help them stay vertical.

Okay, friends, this was a lot, and you're probably starting to see yourself and your kids in these categories. Remember, we ALL have sensory preferences, and it's only a problem if it's interfering with functioning.

DISCLAIMER: Again, I'm not an occupational therapy, just a crazy mama researcher. It's worth it to see someone who is an actual professional. I'm always a big advocate of getting help.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

What we're doing, what we're reading: October 2018

Hi everyone!  It's been a while since I posted. Life got a little crazy for a while, as it is wont to do. My two girls started school again, one in all day kindergarten and one in 2nd grade. I am so happy and so fortunate to have the schools we do and teachers who work their rear ends off for my kids, but since I am who I am and my girls are who they are, I still supplement at home. ;)

My 2nd grader accelerates in math and she does a program through her school called Aleks which allows her to self pace her instruction. I can't recommend it enough, and because we're so happy with it, I haven't really been doing anything extra in that area anymore. We do still do puzzles and critical thinking games, my favorites are 24 and Set.  The great thing is that these don't feel like work to her, they feel like playing and bonding with mom and dad, while still working on both her math skills and a lot of the emotional intelligence/flexible thinking skills she needs too.

My kindergartner is adjusting to being in school all day every day like a champ. She is way ahead of the game in reading, but she's always been a bit behind in fine motor skills. She recently "graduated" from private occupational therapy, but I try to carry over some of what she learned there so we don't lose ground. Some of the things we've been doing that don't feel like work are playing with therapy putty and working on mazes from Brainy Maze

We've been working our way through this amazing list of Picture books for October from Sarah at Read Aloud Revival, and I can't say enough good things about Sophie's squash. It's a beautiful book about impermanence and regrowth and the perfect book for fall.

For our evening read alouds, the girls and I are working our way through Harry Potter 4. Sigh. I tried to wait because this is when it gets dark, but I can't blame them for loving it so much.

My eight year old is DEVOURING the entire Frog Princess series, and everything else she can find by E.D. Baker.

And me? Ever the YA fan, I'm adoring Storm Runner by Jennifer Cervantes, the second book published on the new Rick Riordan imprint at Disney.  These books tell stories from amazing writers of color about their own culture's mythologies, and they are AMAZING. Definitely more on this later.

I hope you're well! What have you been reading?