Saturday, October 20, 2018

Growing Up, Learning Together and Living Wellness

Conor is 17 this year and he is growing up physically and emotionally.  With adulthood comes so many new hopes, goals and new experiences.  Conor and I have decided to take a post secondary course together this winter.  This allows Conor to experience a college course and me to guide from the side.  Conor still struggles with non conventional behaviors and anxiety. He needs supports to transition and keep on task.  He is excited to go and learn at this new school.  He has grown and learned so much in the last years of homeschooling.  They have gone by fast. I am excited to see him grow and learn more.
So what to do?  What next? What kind of work does he want to do? What are his interest? Also weighing in this horrible statistic, for people on the spectrum the unemployment rates are 73 per cent.  I want to find some realistic goal for Conor that he would want to do and like to do. Conor will still keep a focus on his art and learning to market and sell his own work.  He continues to develop as an artist and is working on gaming and marketing his  own persona and you tube channel.
Conor is so focused on fitness and he is a pro at meditation so yoga teacher training did seem a natural fit for him.  Yeah! Enter Southwest Institute of Healing Arts which is an accredited post secondary institution. We will be at the Spirit of Yoga building.  We went to open house in September. Conor loved it!  Studio school space has recently moved and the new location is lovely. So here we go. Conor goes to yoga teacher training and so do I!  Stay tuned!

As we prepare for this course I have tried to find a teacher for Conor who will come and work for him on the nomenclature of yoga and helping him with a good foundation. Hard to find that person under the restrictions of my grant which is now not allowing for personal trainers. So here I come again. I am and I can.  Conor has two months to prepare for and get ready . Here are some of the tools we are using and will continue to practice yoga an hour a day at home and at the gym doing movements and learning the positions and breathing. 
Oak Meadow Health and Fitness is a huge resource for us. This Waldorfian ( I know that isn't a word) based curriculum breaks it down physical, social, mental/emotional and spiritual wellness. That us, that is the nomenclature we need to learn. We are still using The Mind Up Curriculum which is a mindfulness brain focus method of strategies that Goldie Hawn has supported with her foundation.
We have been working hard at learning the movements and breathing of yoga.  Conor is doing great and really likes it.  He says he can see himself working at and teaching others how to meditate.  This makes me so glad.  He is a little worried about communicating during teaching but he said today he will draw up cards to help him remember the next movements and words to say, so he is creating his own supports and anticipating his needs and adapting for his known weakness.  This is so exciting and it gives me great joy to share this adventure. I am thrilled to learn yoga teacher training too.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Merging Montessori and Waldorf into Our Homeschool Hybrid.

I wanted to make a collection of some of the things I write to people on my Facebook group page for Montessori and Waldorf Homeschooler's Hybrid Group.   The group is about 3 years old now and up to 4000 people. Administering a group has taught me a lot.  For one thing people ask questions so I have to research and think about what I know and what I do, what works well, what my son likes. You have to do some self assessment to tell people what you know and often the answers I share would only work for me and my learner.  Sometimes you don't know what the answers are.   In a group for Montessori and Waldorf for homeschoolers who are dong a hybrid version of the two or mix of many,  as is my case there SURE ARE NOT Perfect answers

2016 this Deanna Bowman-Pennock asked this question.  I don't think she ever came back one the page?

Hello, friends. Happy new year to you all! I have a question, particularly for those who started out fixed on Waldorf and have migrated at least somewhat away, especially toward Montessori, because on an aversion to anthroposophy.
I read mixed perspectives on whether one can truly embrace Waldorf education without embracing anthroposophy. I'd like to hear some real life-applied examples of a successful Montessori-based, Waldorf-inspired homeschooling approach. Whether you're religious and don't care for anthroposophy, or you're secular and feel likewise, it makes me no difference. I'd appreciate any feedback, and I figured this was the place to ask.
here is my answer:   Good question and I am thrilled someone asked it. I don't want to put down anyone for their beliefs one way or another. We are all entitled to our beliefs and hybrids of what our otherness looks like here. There is no one way, canned formula for every child. It has been hard for me to stick with Waldorf as it is founded on a dogma and I don't accept that belief system. Big picture for me is take what works for me and my child and don't feel guilty or shame if what I am doing doesn't look like someone else's version. Montessori, unschooling, Waldorf or any other method doesn't know my kid. Again, it is the bite of the smorgasbord I want, not the whole enchilada. Sometimes it is hard to take that road. No road map for it. No one ever makes me feel included or accepted or even approved of because I am not following any one group's road map. I have to be strong enough and do the research enough to accept that I am doing it the best I can for what my kid needs right now and if I am feel I am not then adjust it, evaluate, Redesign it, assess it again, Create With him. Ultimately it is my child who is leading and I am just setting the stage with things and information that anticipate his needs and what he wants to learn. I am a strew er of learning, the set designer,  he chooses what he will learn.  We all do this. I believe we all learn only what is meaningful to us in the moment. You might memorize or learn something for a test but to really learn it and create something with that, which you know, you must be passionate about the subject and want to learn IT. It takes some confidence and I have moments of self doubt. 

For me it may have been easier to step out of line. My son is on the spectrum and didn't fit the planes of Montessori or Steiner. I recently went to a Waldorf autism conference where I got upset about the dogma of approach and definition of what is autism. The Waldorf way with children with disabilities is very dated (esoteric)and not based on concrete science. However I still see some value in the foundations of the extra lesson of painting clock wise and counter clock wise using red and blue spirals, I see value in drawing forms with either hands and feet in the air and ground and doing exercises with copper balls. Why do I do this ? Well it isn't because of the reasons channeled by Steiner but because neurologically something happens when we cross the mid line of our bodies and use the left and right hemisphere's of our brains. We are engaging whole learning in some way. I don"t agree with everything Steiner says. But some of his ideas do resonate. The same with Montessori. I can get very irritated with how the method can become almost a religion for some practitioners too. I have never liked anyone to tell me I am doing it wrong when they haven't watch me do. It's all subjective to perspective.

I believe anthroposophy may bring insight to others, and I wish them well in their pursuit of wisdom. It does not resonate with me at all. However I do practice Steiners's from drawing and Extra lessons work.  When we cross that midline of the body and use either hand or foot, like doing finger drawings, something is happening with the plasticity of the brain. Many therapist do this in Occupational therapy and physical therapy and in art therapy.  Diana Croft 's OT- Whole Brain Learning Therapy, we see this theory of cognitive connectivity. In different variants in all those therapies we see motions made with feet, hands and sensorial engagement to connect neurologically and cognitively the brain and bring clearer focus to body and brain. 

 Somehow Steiner through an occult practice tapped into to something about archetypes and form and the left and right hemisphere and cortex of our brains.  This is an example of how Anthroposophy and I merge in 21st Century science. While I find some of Steiner's work out dated even offensive. I do not, however, have to eat the whole enchilada of his or his follower's movement of anthroposophy. and go into astral ethrical whatever to see scared geometry exist in many cultures and these ancient archetypes mean something. My rule is first do no harm. Keep an open mind but if it smells band and looks bad.... So with Montessori same deal. My son did not fit Maria's planes of development. He had language delays and sensory issues. Still does. At 14 he is reading and doing math developmentally at about 9-12 ages. He may never intellectually ever be able to go much further. I will have to accept him As he is. He might never be accepted in a Montessori or Waldorf schools so I made up something for him to fit into. History and art from Waldorf and math, cosmic history, timelines from Montessori, we do robots and Minecraft and tv and nature and permaculture and I piss off a lot of educators who think I'm doing it wrong because I am not doing what they say is right. At 53 with my last child I finally have the confidence to say I don't care if they accept me. I no longer want their approval. Tomorrow we may need to do something totally different or maybe he will just pet the dog for most of the day and watch you tube videos. Is that worst or any better than what a special education classroom would have done to him for 12 years and call an education? I just think we need to let go of the edge of the pool and swim sometimes so we can teach our kids how to do that too. I had a beloved professor in college who told our class that everything we learned in K-12 we could learn in less than 6 months at 18. What we go to school for is to learn to get along with others and obey, for an agricultural society going to work in a factory you needed workers who did what they were told and got along. Now we need innovators, creators people who can look at the big picture and problem solve. Our children are going to be working in a very different world than our parents did or grandparents did or we are. Why are we still using the same models of education? We don't have to follow that plan. And for me following that plan was something I survived and have spent a life time trying to get over. School was brutal. I want to teach my child to love learning and find joy in it. The public school system didnt work for my older children and with this one I decided to step out of the system and create my own. So here I am in a new community of people who are all heard the pied piper's tune and woke up thinking why are we following this guy? The truth is We dont have to follow and so I got out of the swarm and am here, writing my own music and hopefully helping my son write his. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Integration with Floortime and Whole Brain Learning Modalities.

I have been collecting whole brain learning activities and want to share what I am learning. So much is unknown still about how are brains learn. We are able to see through MRI and imaging so much more everyday but often we do not really know what we are looking at in those images. We know the brain continues to grow and change through out our whole lives and we have made great strides into meta cognitive studies. We are beginning to understanding parts of the story of how are brains learn and retains information. We can follow ideas of learning like Bloom's Taxonomy on observiation of cognition, but still the lines from hearing ideas and to learning to synthesizes and create original ideas is blurry in terms of how the brain is dong this. Not everyone can go from step to step of any method with ease and success.  Enter the sensitive children who abound in our schools, the ones who can't follow the class and get loss along the path of learning. My son is this learner. He struggles to comprehend and understand. It is a constant bombardment for him of sensory overload and intrusive thoughts and in all of that static in his brain he still has a love of learning. Along the way I have heard and seen some methods and tools that I think help him. Here are a few of our methods.

Floortime Strategies to Promote Development in Children and Teens- A User's Guide to the DIR Model
By Andrea Davis, Lahela Isaacson, Michelle Harwell 
This book gives a very simplified version of the principles of floor time. Reads like a conference power points. Big ideas with short to the point definitions.  Turns out I have been intuitively doing floor time with all my kids and did not know it. Basically as the leader, or therapist, or parent and in many cases all the above you get down on the floor with the child, and no real objective other than creating a relationship with that child meeting them right hear and now on their level and being present. Later after a relationship of trust is developed you can use other aspects of this therapy's techniques to teach and work with the child.  You must learn the language of that child's play. Behavior is communication. So get down there and play with your kid, use their natural interest, don't shove an agenda on them (they will know it) or a pre planned structure (this is about making a relationship not making a child do what you say) of what you want them to play at or with. Unlike the more popular treatment therapy Applied Behavior Analysis, Floortime operates in the space of respect for the child and seeing them as doing their behaviors for a reason not just an odd annoyance that must be stopped. You don't ignore negative behavior as is required in ABA with Floortime. You looks at why the child is doing what they are doing. You connect and observe and work with the child through creating a direct relationship. No treats or rewards and punitive damage is needed to implement the Floortime strategies. You follow the child in a way that honors that little person as an equal and whole person as they are. This philosophy is so much more honest to me than tricking a child into obedient by conditioning (modifying their behavior) them to do as they are told by using intrinsic rewards and punishment.  With Floortime's DIR tools of connecting and attunement to what they are doing and  how they play you create a relationship with the child.  If they hum and rock you do too. Acknowledge feelings, meet their needs, follow, adapt to their pace, wait, listen observe. There is a lot more to it but it is a basic organic process of intuitively meeting the kids where they are and observing their needs. Floortime is a philosophy of approach to me. It is how I am going to change me to match them and that is me changing the environment of everything to meet the child's needs right now in the moment.

My next tool is Barry Prizants model of SCERTS. Read his book Uniquely Human-A Different Way of Seeing Autism. In a nut shell Dr. Prizant has created a wheel of support that address a person on the spectrum needs of "social communication","emotional regulations"' and "transitional strategies". Scerts address communication issues, the need to become our own masters of our own self emotional regulation and transitional supports for the person to get to their own level to have self mastery.
If you buy one book on autism buy Dr. Prizant's book.  It has been life changing for our family.

The above photo is of two laminated guides of The SCERTS model  I got from Amazon. They cover pre symbolic and symbolic stage tips and examples for a reference guide that is quick for educators and therpaist. I like when methods and concepts are broken down to small bite size and simplified key points for easy reference. These cards help with concrete examples of transitional langauging and supportive resources for learners. Also a big point that I love about Dr. Prizants work is it is about empowering the learner to self regulate and be self aware. Operating out of the concept of your child is a Whole person and equal. I am all for Empowering them with the tools to regulate their own behaviors but not eradicate their autism to make them into a neurotypical ideal of what is normal. This method gets the holistic need for a person to be. I like that.

Bal-A-Vis-X -Rhythmic Balance/Auditory/Vision eXercises for Brain -Body Integration originated by Bill Hubert. 
I really love this book and use these activities for sensory breaks. My son likes it too. You Tube has a several uploads of people teaching and showing this technique. The rhythmic bouncing of balls in what I would say is a juggling type exercises IS whole brain work. You are cross the mid-line with this work, you also employing hand eye coordination to the right and left hemisphere's of the brain. BAL-A-Vis-X teaches right to left hand movement to a beat, so you learn to control speed, pitch and measure of  your throw from left to right.  You are learning self awareness, listening skills and working in a group if you have the chance too. There are all kids of extensions for these exercises too. Bouncing behind you walking and bouncing spinning it around a circle, or with another person, Fun stuff that with just a few minutes use can clear a sensitive kid of his need to wiggle and gets everyone's brain back on track for learning.  Amazing results in a sensory break.
Waldorf education's form drawing work has also present us with some lessons and extensions into whole brain learning. Exercising the spatial intelligence muscle while coping and executing the forms
in Waldorf form drawing work books also engages these whole brain learning activities. Form drawing and rendering of these simple shapes and exercises helps learners relates to the space around forms, to the context of forms in the big picture, to patterns of continuityand also to awareness of  symmetry of placement All of this learning is working on spatial awareness and the small motor skills of hand to eye activity as well.
The Extended Lessons form drawing of Waldorf  that are found in the Joep Eikenboom's book "The Foundations of the Extra Lesson" is another tool in our tool box for work that crosses the mid-line.  This work which uses either hand to draw spirals or steps of different colors is steeped in Anthroposophy but the implications of crossings the mid-line is obvious. The exercises can be done with either foot as well.   Rudolf Steiner seems to have taped into an ancient knowledge of the value and benefit of movement between either hand while doing these arc typical forms has on our neurological development.  With a focus on the space between the forms, the neurological result of repetitive movements of drawing with either hand or foot is also beneficial for the child and another tool fro Crossings the Mid-line in Learning.

The Dominance Factor by Carla Hannaford Ph.D  is a book that teaches how to determine brain dominance. This  is another book, that I found, that clarifies and explains these concepts of how our brains works and where and how our strengths connect to our dominant areas of our brain.

This book will help you identity your learns strengths and weakness. 

Dianne Craft is another educator who is on to this whole brain learning exercises.  Her work can be found below.
Dianne Craft Here 

Monday, July 4, 2016

Montessori and the Differently Abled Adolescent

I keep learning more all the time with our mentor/educators Liza and Michael. My son is too. This summer has given him more down time to do his own thing. We have been preparing for more Montessori Math with Ms. Liza and it has been so empowering for me to learn more extension lesions with the materials and see and hear more original lessons and combinations of lessons with other materials avail today.
One of these extension lesson where Liza showed me how to encourage more work on the number line using another material I got on Amazon. Here we are showing fractions in whole numbers. Liza bring so many lessons and extensions of her Montessori training and years of classroom experience. Nice to have her in our village.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

How Kids Learn Valuable Skills through Gaming.

Most parents wrestle with the concern of how much is too much with gaming and screen time for  their children.  I know I have.  In our modern live's screen time is a given.  I think it is important as my son's parent and educator to monitor or be aware of my son's time spent in gaming. I also realize that my son models me and learns as he sees me using my screen time.  I am an example to him in self directed regulation of my own screen time.  With a child who is sensitive and differently abled, time on social media, and the social communication skills that is need to be safe and self regulated is something that is a huge concern and needs to be looked at.   It isn't so much of a lesson taught and learning unfolding with the learner as it happens.  This takes involvement on my end and sometimes shadowing my child in order to help but knowing when to step back and allow him to developing these skills on his own.  This is the art of parenting.  When to guide and when to pull back and how to know?
One of the things I struggled with in school was, my mind was not wired to learn in a non hands on style. Auditory processing during lectures where I have to sit passively listening and taking notes was/is NOT my optimal learning style. It is still almost impossible for me to stay focused on a teacher just talking if the subject matter is of no interest.  We have all been learners who's minds wander during a teacher's lecture. Many times in this learning environment if you miss a bit of information given, when you mind wanders, you are lost and unable to catch up. Algebra comes to mine here for me, where the learner must stay engaged or they will miss steps. Progressive learning in steps where you need to stay plug in to the speaker is hard for me to do in a 45 minute chunk of alotted time.  Not every learner can do this, sit passively and absorb information. We get caught up in this model for "what is" learning or education. Teacher talks, students listen, repeating it back to educator who then puts it all on a test whereby student proves that he has mastered the lesson by passing.

I was not a student who leaned well that way.  I think a lot of us were not students who learned well that way. There are so many different kinds of intelligence and learning styles. I needed to move and problem solve in a visual and preferably sensorial friendly way.   I like manipulatives in education where I can see and use my hands to know.  Let me do and I learn.  This is why I love and am drawn to the work of Maria Montessori and the materials she developed.

Gaming suited me, it felt good and my mind seemed wired to learn in this fast moving multimedia formula.  Crafting games and some other gaming themes, if done right seem to me to lead learners through portals into all kinds of organic learning.  I like getting to move, create, design, problem solve and control my learning environment.  Control of the learner is what and where we have come from.  Where I want to go in education is:  A learner controlled environment, where the learner leads and is in control.  Talk about taking ownership of learning.  Why are we not using gaming as a tool in our educational tool chest more? Some educators are of course.  Minecraft has all kinds of curriculum and learning communities that have sprung up.  You can learn programming mod, to chemistry lessons with Minecraft curriculum vendors.  What I really love about Minecraft is my son gets to play with others. Social communication peer interactions in communities on line.
One of my son's mentors helped me to see the many things my son is learning when he plays Minecraft.  

This educator Michael B., whom I found through a school-community called SelfDesign Global calls this authentic learning.  Learning that happens naturally when we do stuff. My son like thousands of other children loves Minecraft.  Minecraft is a crafting game where digital worlds of biomes are generated by the streamed game.  There are many versions  of this game.  He is playing a Personal Computer versions here on a private school server.
This is a tree house at night

Using only blocks users build/craft shelters or anything that can be imagined with the blocks available.  The users can make tools and use the natural resources available to them in the biomes. Quickly and what seemed liked to me intuitively, the gamer learned how to make tools, mine for ores, cut down trees, start fires, build communities and survive the nights. There are two main levels of difficulty in the game. survival mode is more difficult and things come after the gamers during the night in this mode which can upset younger children.  In the creative mode all resources and tools are available to the user. The gamers will not have to make tools or find resources and there are no monsters, so the user simply gets to create. Besides the obvious learning that goes on in gaming, how to play, learning the rules, learning the physics of the game it's self, something fascinating happened when my son started to get more proficient on the game and wanted to learn more about how too do things he did not know how to.  My son who is very limited in his his reading and comprehension ability started researching how to play Minecraft on the computer.  He mastered Google.

He quickly found YouTube videos of tutorials of other Minecraft user's teaching him how to craft and create.  He all on his own found a community of education that he was interested in. He also found other sources on line to teach him, like Wiki-How and on line forums of users. He has self directed all of this learning and synthesized it into his own creations on Minecraft. He has created a lot of structures on the game, many rollercoasters and temples and entire communities. Sometimes he plays with other users on servers and the games has a chat feature built into it.  So now we have social communication in a realm that I can not create in a hothouse social skills me-made environment. He has a community to work it out with, fight with, make up with and learn from.  This is huge for a person on the spectrum. Gaming on this level lowers social, economical, racial and differently abled My words for disabled) awareness.  Gamers are equalized by avatars and anonymity.  If you build well and can play well you are in a place the levels the playing field. My son is more on equal footing with his peers here in this on line community than an other environment.  Playing with other children he has learned that he can take a second device such as a smart phone or tablet and Skype call kids as they play.  Granted this isn't something everyone can do but when it happened for him he was thrilled.  He did not have to figure out decoding language by typing in CHAT.
A pagoda temple inspired level of the massive treehouse.
Another game my son loves is his mobile device, this is a Sony PlayStation PS Vita hand held system.  This device also allows him to play another version of Minecraft on a hand held mobile device where he can join parties globally and actually communicate with other players as they play game together.  Now with a community comes conflict but with conflict comes problem solving and social interactions and emotional regulation skills and coping skills for my son that I can not teach him.  He must learn like we all did how to get along in the world with others by experiencing it.  Socialization in the 21 century looks like to him right now how to make friends, stand up for himself, how to handle bullies and all the while he is building and learning, and all in a sort of playground justice sandbox which is the gaming community.  My son loves Little Big Planet another non violent crafting game where gamers can create their own mazes and share them with the gaming community on Sony's PlayStation and LBP community hubs.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Book Reviews in the Catagory of Children Reference Books

I love big picture books for kids. The importance of classification in a child's mind of the world around him is to me the cornerstone of education. We are here to make sense of the world around us. To find the joy in that process of classifying and organize the chaos we are born into can begin in infancy with a great picture book.  As a toddler learns language and begins with her own classification process of the world around her we see how engrained into our psyche the cognition of naming things and classifying things in our world is to our comprehension of everything and our place here on planet Earth. One of the books that I found children and adults love is "Animalium" a big book by Big Picture Press.  This book is Currated by Katie Scott and Jenny Broom and is part of the Welcome to the Museum series.

Animalium is a beautiful book filled with hand drawn picture of animals formatted into the classifications in the book as if you are walking through the galleries a a museum on natural history. 
Each catagory of animals is in a chapter of the book.
The illustration are beautifully rendered. The books text is simple enough for a primary or elementary aged child but even a very young child can enjoy the pictures. This book is priced at $35.00. It can be bought at several vendors. If you think of books like this as a reference book for you library that can be passed down through generations of you children to their future children it's not so expensive.  This is not a book I will give away but a learning resource my family can uses for generation. This series is that beautiful.

The next Big Picture Press reference book I wanted to share is "Maps" by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski.
Maps is a picture book of drawings.
The Table of Contents. This is a simplified version of a world atlas for children. 
Each continent is covered and each Nations page dipicts cultural life, national resources as well as geographic highlights. The language is simple but the subject foot notes are in cursive. This can be fun to for learners to practice their skills of language in a beautifully printed book.

The final book I am reviewing in this series of Big Picture Press is "Historium" another Welcome to the Museum children's reference book. "Historium" by or curated by Richard Wilkinson and Jo Nelson is book that shows children artifacts of the world by continent. For over 100,000,000 years human beings have been make and creating objects and art. This book shows a charming introduction into archaeology by allowing the child to classify art objects by continent and time frame.
From scratches on a rock in Southern Africa to the artifacts of Easter Island, your child will have an excellent reference of artifacts and creative materials from around the world. 
This books also has a index of image credits where you can teach our child more in research and credible sources. This could be followed up by virtual tours often found on musuem's web sights and by following the names of the world greatest museums to their web sights for more learning we are teaching all kinds of research and study skills.