Experiential Science: Genetics and Heredity

Every other year, my parents rent a large vacation home in some hidden corner of the country and the whole family converges for a week of togetherness.  As far as families go, we have a middle-sized one–ten adults and twelve kids all together–but 22 people in one house is still plenty.  For the most part, the kids’ ages overlap and they have a glorious time romping together while squeezing in a bit of sightseeing on the side.

Somehow, my mom and sister and I got to talking about genetic traits last fall.  This resulted in the kids running around and surveying each other about their eye color, earlobe type, and hand-folding preferences, which in turn led to the epiphany that we should do a full-scale family survey at the next family vacation.

Of course, any self-respecting homeschool parent would be horrified to bypass an educational opportunity, especially one that the kids are excited about.  So we spent some time leading up to our big trip delving into heredity.  In case you’re looking for kid-friendly ways to approach the subject, I thought I’d share a few cool resources.

Genetics

Our kitchen wall currently displays the most exciting aspects of our study of heredity.

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It’s All About Attitude

Anxiety

A positive attitude has helped my kids be more joyful.

Not long ago, Pookie posed a new dilemma for me.  For a child whose life has been sprinkled with one dilemma after another since he was born, this was not novel, but this dilemma was particularly heartbreaking.

You know how your kids get all worn out at the end of the day, and suddenly little things become more upsetting?  A request to pick up the bedroom floor becomes a form of martyrdom, or a missing stuffed animal turns into a full-fledged sibling conspiracy–that sort of fun.  Well, like most families, we’ve got that going on.

But Pookster was taking it to a new level.  Not only was he getting upset about random stuff because he was tired, but he started soliloquizing about all that had gone wrong over the course of his day.  Never mind all the wonderful and exciting things that we had done, he was focused on all the minor disappointments and frustrations.  While that was enough to make me pause, I became even more concerned when he took to wailing things like, “I hate my life!” and “I wish I’d never been born!”

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SeaWorld San Antonio Home School Day: A Review

SeaWorldLate last fall we attended a Home School Day at SeaWorld San Antonio.  I was a little nervous about doing so because I could find so few reviews online and they had reportedly just revamped their format for the Home School Day (providing educators as guides and correspondingly increasing the price), but we decided to give it a try–and we were so glad we did!  Since I’m just now taking the time to catch up my blog, I thought I’d share our experience in case someone else is considering signing up for the coming year but wants more info.

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Homeschool: The Social Factor

Yep, that’s right–a homeschool post on socialization.

First of all, a little detour on what is meant by socialization.  Google defines “socialization” as

  1. the act of mixing socially with others
  2. the process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society

For many people, “socialization” means that a child is enrolled in a school with same-age peers, spending the day under the tutelage of their instructor and mingling with other children during group projects and recess times.  While this certainly does offer a child social experience, it’s only part of the picture.

socialsiblings

Siblings offer built-in socialization.

Socialization begins at home, and it looks different for every family.  Children who attend brick-and-mortar school will have different social experiences both in and outside of school, depending on personality and family values.  Some kids keep mostly to themselves or play with only a few friends at school, while others play with a large group of children.  Some families spend much of their free time quietly at home.  They may interact with each other constantly, or they may engage in more solitary activities.  Other families schedule frequent playdates, interact regularly with neighborhood friends, or are involved in activities at church or in the community.  Each family chooses the way that they feel will best teach their child the social skills necessary for life, modeling social interaction for their children in all they do, whether they realize it or not.

If each family socializes differently, then clearly socialization will look different for each homeschool family.  Some folks have social opportunities built-in, with a houseful of siblings or a multitude of cousins living nearby or a neighborhood teeming with children.  Some families are involved in myriad activities, getting their kids out of the house and interacting with others every day of the week.  And some families prefer to spend more time at home, limiting their outside engagements or simply taking advantage of opportunities as they come.

My husband and I are both introverts.  We could be perfectly content spending a majority of our time quietly at home or enjoying bike rides or hikes as a family.  While we enjoy a good conversation, we find large groups of people to be exhausting, and we don’t eagerly seek chances for a night out with friends.  He has several gamer friends from a former job that he meets online for a couple hours at least once a week, strapping on headphones to chat about gaming and work and life.  I chat with other moms during my kids’ class times and field trips, though my mom and sister are probably my closest friends.  And we’re fine with that.

However, we want our children to have experience interacting with a wide variety of people.  We want them to understand how to introduce themselves and start a conversation, how to join a game, how to deal with someone who is irritating or unkind.  Since they are not in school all day, they don’t have that built-in opportunity to practice social skills with unfamiliar people and a wide variety of different personalities; I have had to deliberately seek out opportunities for exposure.

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DIY Vision Therapy: Another 6 Exercises To Do at Home

Since so many people have stopped by to check out my post on 12 Vision Therapy Exercises You Can Do at Home, I thought it might be helpful for me to post a handful more for those who need them.  As I mentioned in the previous blog post, we learned that our youngest child was in need of vision therapy, but the cost was not affordable.  Immediately after learning this, I ran into a friend who happened to have a binder full of vision therapy exercises given to her for her OT work in a poor South African school.  None of the pages of exercises have any publication information or copyright information, so I think I’m safe in rephrasing and sharing their content.

Pooh

Mr. Pookie reads a story from The House at Pooh Corner.

We chose 2-3 exercises to do daily for a week, and then we switched to new exercises.  After about 10 weeks, Pookie spontaneously started reading.  We continued the vision therapy exercises for around six months before we petered out.  That was about a year ago.  His reading skills continued to improve steadily since then.  At this point, Pookie can fluently read material like Winnie the Pooh, and he started telling me about the content of War of the Worlds this morning.  He still prefers picture books, but that might simply be his age.  If we see a need, we can always do more vision exercises in the future.

We were also told that our son had not integrated a bunch of primitive reflexes.  Since I was trying to cover any possible deficit, I also added one primitive reflex integration exercise to our routine for each week.  (A YouTube search will give you examples.)  I have no idea if these had any impact, but I thought I’d mention that we did some of these exercises, as well.

Please let me know if you have any questions–or success stories!  I’d love to help other parents stuck in a similarly stressful situation. Continue reading

So You’re Worried Your Kid Might Not Love (or even like?!) Reading

You’ve heard it all before.  Plenty of people have written articles and blog posts about how to guarantee that your child loves reading.  But can you REALLY guarantee it?

LittleMe

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love to read.

I am the youngest of four children.  Three of us spent many happy childhood hours with our noses in a book.  The fourth sibling utterly surprised me when he showed up at our parents’ house as an adult with a book under his arm.  Several years post-college and working a job that required weekly cross-country travel to job sites, he said he didn’t have much else to do while he was in transit.  “It’s actually not so bad,” he sheepishly admitted.

I hardly think my family was unique, so I find it difficult to believe that there can be a guaranteed way to raise a child who loves reading.  I think everyone can enjoy reading a just-right book, but not everyone will want to spend hours of their free time curled up with a book.

So, if you can’t guarantee that your child will love to read, what can you at least do to encourage a positive attitude toward reading?  Continue reading

8 Authors Every Early Elementary Child Should Read

I love books.  In fact, I obsess over them at times.  We’re 38 days into the new year, and I’ve already read 30 books (not counting kids’ books).  It may be a disease.

Pooh

Pookie reads part of my favorite Winnie the Pooh story.

Be that as it may, this love of books has led me to spend a LOT of time reading to my children.  A while back (a long while–I’ve spent most of my free time reading in the past few months), I posted a list of must-read books for the under-six set; I thought it was finally time for my next installment.  After much pondering, I settled on eight authors who have written one or more truly wonderful books for kids in the early elementary years, roughly ages 6-8.  I referenced my favorites of their books, and I’ve separated these into picture books and chapter books, with stories getting progressively longer/more difficult in each category.  Enjoy! Continue reading