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I have been mulling many blog topics, so I need to get a few of them out there.  This one seems most important.

Why am I writing this?  Let’s just say that children have a way of making you eat crow.  You eat your hat. You find out even though you thought you’d been humbled since having children, you still might have a long ways to go toward being a less judgemental human being.  You have got to keep your mind open, because sometimes God has another plan, and it’s often not the one you would have chosen At. All.  If this has not happened to you yet, it probably will.  Go with it.

Dear Doctor somewhere in the greater Seattle area, as well as to those who may feel you would NEVER put a child on medication for attention issues or many other things,

I will not identify you, but I will write a public apology after having written this post about how I strongly disagreed that my child needed medication for ADHD.  I was sure we could keep going without medication.  At least I thought I had a few more options to use beforehand.  I used them.  You were right, Doctor.  My child is doing much better on medication and our relationship and his ability to function have all improved.  Here is a link to what I thought before, which has to be modified slightly.  http://wp.me/pQx9m-1o.

We began and finished a year of Vision Therapy, and it did a lot of good.   In fact, it was well worth pursuing, because my husband went to a meeting about it and said, wait a sec, that’s me.  So he decided to go to Vision Therapy, too!  And now he can read for longer periods of time and pay attention.  So that was yet another reason we should be glad we adopted.  Strange paths we travel.

Vision therapy is a lot like occupational therapy with the focus being the eyes.  Both kinds of therapy have lots of naysayers, but the strangest things do help some kids, and are worth trying.  Our son’s math improved greatly after this, but his reading didn’t.  I wish they had referred me further, but they did not.

My next realization came during a very stressful year.  I will not go into gory details, but there was a lot of stress around here, and not a whole lot of money, and I thought maybe it was just the stress of the situation that was making our child act out.  After a while, it was apparent that he was lying and stealing and having tantrums and encouraging a lot of anger in the family.  It was getting downright dangerous, how he could not control himself, and I finally decided to take him back to the counselor we saw when we first adopted him.  This was a very good thing.

Our counselor recommended a few things, and we got a full educational psychology evaluation in the same building.  It would have been expensive to do all this, but we were extremely blessed by the cadillac of insurance plans that particular year, and so we went for it.  I cannot explain this “coincidence” at all.  We always seem to get what we need when we need it most.  Insurance was it this time around.

After the full eval, the psychologist told us it was abundantly clear that he had pretty severe dyslexia and getting more severe ADHD, both of which needed a game plan.  She referred us to yet another professional in the same building, a psychiatrist.  I had, meanwhile, asked my family doctor for a referral to a pediatrician who did meds in her building, but when I met that doctor, I had a feeling he was the type to dispense meds and not really try any harder than that to listen.  My gut said to keep looking, which is how I ended up with the psychiatrist.  I figured he was especially qualified to know about side affects in children and such things, but also still an MD.

We decided to try a medication that is well known, and played with the dosage a bit.  We also found that most of our children sleep better and more quickly if we give them Melatonin, which is a simple over-the-counter supplement.  The immediate affects of the medication became clear.  First of all, he did not lack energy.  It did not turn him into a shadow of his former self or a zombie or anything.  Not at all.  But now he could make some sort of sense out of phonics.  Finally.  He also stopped the non-stop chatter that would just wear a person down.  The ongoing counseling he was going through started to have more of an affect on our relationship because he could actually make the choice to calm down and think.  Before meds, sometimes he needed a time out nearly all day in order to function in our family or learn anything from homeschooling.  I had hated fighting with him so often.  Now we had some tension, but it was possible to overcome it.  Bad side affects:  Well, he’s much less hungry and has lost a little weight.  He also gets a “rebound” affect when it wears off around dinner time, but that’s what the trampoline is for.

I should add that we tried two other things as well.  I went ahead and had the school district test him again, and he qualified for special education in math, reading and speech.  We checked with OT, but some of his physical skills were so good, the OT was amazed and said it probably had more to do with attention than actual skill.  Yeah, he’s pretty awesome at sports and mechanics.  That’s where dyslexia comes in.

In the meantime, I also began medication.  I had no idea I needed it, but irritability and depression are two sides of the same coin, and I could not stop my occasional periods of downright unreasonableness.  I went on meds before our son did.  It helped me not to overreact during an especially trying year.  I miss my more emotional side sometimes, but I like the part where I can now parent without losing it.  It’s worth it, completely.  I am also FAR more patient with my husband.  And I like myself better now that I can parent the way I meant to. I’m not perfect at all, but now my kids and husband aren’t flinching.  Really.  I’ve tried two different kinds because my baby reacted to one in my breast milk, and was thrilled to go back when I was done nursing.

My condition is called PMDD, or Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder.  People think this stuff is made up.  I promise that it is real.  You can take that or leave it.  Here’s a link to super duper PMS.  The key part to the symptoms was the fact that I didn’t know I was that difficult to get along with.  It’s a bit like Jekyll and Hyde.  http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pmdd/AN01372

It’s not exactly fun to announce that our family needs meds of the psychotropic variety, but you know what?  It would be less fun to keep going like we had been and be miserable and have children who disliked us when they grew up or a very empty marriage.  These are all things that could have happened, and I think between counseling and medication (lots and lots of both), we have beaten the odds.  Part biology, part circumstance, this has been an amazing year, but we may have beat what maybe used to be what people called family curses.  Did you ever have a crazy uncle Harry in the family?  Might he have been less crazy if meds had been invented?  Maybe, maybe not.  Meds can’t always help.  Sometimes they do a great deal of harm.  There are plenty of horror stories along those lines.  That’s why you have to make a call, and a cost/benefit analysis.  Will it cause more harm doing what we’re doing, or is it worth the risk to try this route?  Only you can decide.  I wish it were easier to make that call, but it just isn’t.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention friends and prayer.  We prayed and prayed and we asked for guidance and found the best counselors out there.  We kept trying whenever we had a bad feeling about someone or something.  God has blessed us with friends who don’t judge and who keep right on helping or just saying they’ll help if we need it.  They know us and they still love us.  I wish everyone were so lucky.

Each family has to make their call.  The internet is full of sensationalism, but you have got to clear your mind.  You have to try something new if what you are doing isn’t working, and continues, year after year, to not work.  If a child cannot control himself and is always in trouble, how will his brain think?  It’s not good.  I’m so glad I took a chance.  I’m so glad we all did.  Once again, I was wrong to think I knew it all.

Next year, maybe I’ll learn something else new and mind-bending.  You just never know.

Links for dyslexia:  http://dyslexia.yale.edu/About_ShaywitzBios.html  Read Sally Shawitz’s book: Overcoming Dyslexia.  She’s not at all a fan of homeschooling, but I’ll overlook that in favor of her wonderful bios of older people and how they worked with their dyslexia, and her resources and explanations are beyond excellent.  Referred by our educational psychologist.

Links for ADHD:  http://russellbarkley.org/  Great stuff.  The best book of his might be the most work, but is something every parent should read at least for ideas:  9.Barkley, R. A., & Benton, C.  (1998). Your Defiant Child: 8 Steps to Better Behavior.  New York:  Guilford.  Referred by our child psychologist.

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This is what you get for asking a question.  Answers!  I’m amazed how much is in one of three categories: Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Classics.  I love my geeky friends.
Me:  Asking a really loaded question: What books do you think are absolutely necessary reading for a seventh grade boy? I was going to make a list for him to go to when I won’t let him on the electronic devices.
Ender’s Game. The Hobbit. Hatchet.
Well — I’d start with the classics:  the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Harry Potter, the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander. Robert Heinlein (Have Space Suit Will Travel and Space Cadet in particular).  Jack London’s Call of the Wild and The Sea Wolf. HG Wells, Jules Verne, and Arthur Conan Doyle (esp. The Lost World).  I could keep going … 🙂
Me: The Hobbit is on my list, we’ve done Prydain a LOT and it was a big hit.  No Heinlein, because it gets weirder and more mature if he wants to read more of it.  Did I say weird??  Harry Potter could use a bit more reading.  We’ve only let him at the first movie.  Thanks!
Me: The good news is, he’s read a lot of the books that are recommended on different lists
– I second “Ender’s Game” – great great book
The Bobby Pentagon series is a good read as well.
Narnia?  Enders game. Ray bradbury martian chronicles.  Anne mccafferty dragon riders of pern. Susan cooper the dark is rising series. 1980 s tom swift by … Victor appleton?
Belgariad series by David endings.
The Riddle Master of Hed series.  🙂
there’s so many Heinlein juveniles, he doesn’t have to get into the adult stuff. But as long as we’re there, Asimov is safe and easily obtainable. so much good stuff…
I read hardy boys.
Tom and Huck (there is some language but better he learn it from Sam Clemens than others)
Perhaps everything that Jules Verne wrote?  The Book of Proverbs is a good one:  “Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding,for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.”
He might like Asimov’s “Foundation” series, although a few more years and he might like it even more.
Ursula K LeGuin’s Earthsea trilogy and the Prydain Chronicles were absolutely my favorites in that general age range, possibly more so than Tolkien’s work. Somewhere around those times I rather enjoyed The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, and I think some other books by that author, but for some reason can barely remember what it was about other than magic and the fae in the modern British Isles. Roald Dahl’s works I was also rather fond of, but I have an impression that they are for a slightly younger age. For some good pulp sci fi adventure, I am currently finishing off the third of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom series and they would be a pretty good fit (and old enough to be in the public domain and on Project Gutenberg)
My son, who is going into 7th grade is into “Sherlock Holmes” at the moment.  He just finished “The Hunger Games” a few months back and I’m trying to get him into “Lord of the Rings”, or start him out on “The Hobbit”, but he’s not really into that kind of thing.  Some other good ones are “Kidnapped” by Robert Louis Stevenson, the good ol classic, “The Diary of Anne Frank”, “Oliver Twist”, “David Copperfield”.  I could go on and on and on.  Hope this helps…and hopefully I haven’t listed a bunch of things he’s already read.  Oh and maybe some Charles Dickens?  Okay, I’m done for now.
We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea, by Arthur Ransome (Swallows and Amazons series) and Carry on Mr. Bowditch… can’t recall author at moment…  I’ll post more later.  I am a book aholic, ya know!! 😉
Has he read the Cherub series by Robert Muchamore?  Our Thomas absolutely loved all of the books and was so sad when he had finished the adventure!!!
Me: So many good suggestions!!!  You are all right on!  I think the boys have Narnia memorized.  We have a cd set with Patrick Stewart and Kenneth Brannagh.  Thanks everyone!  I thought of Hitchhiker’s Guide, too.
Ok, now type this up and message it on your wall.  thes are awesome suggestions!
Eddings, Belgariad series.
Red Badge of Courage
Where the Red Fern Grows

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Low Budget Meal Planning

I need to keep this advice somewhere.  This looks like a good blog anyway!  I googled “large family meal planning”, if you are wondering.

Low Budget Meal Planning.

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I am so excited to have permission to send this out.

This is the MODG (Mother of Divine Grace School) newsletter for enrolled families, and it features an article on keeping your kids safe in the digital age from a Catholic perspective.  It is so wonderful because it is extremely informative without being holier than thou or anti-tech.  It says the amazingly obvious and yet not so obvious: you need to parent your kids even if you don’t like learning about all the latest gadgets.  Lots of tips, too!  Thank you so much, Cyndi Montanaro and Laura Berquist!  For more information about the school, go to www.motherofdivinegrace.org.  I have been grading papers from MODG for about 11 years now.  This is the best article ever, and my technology specialist (husband), approves, which is saying a LOT.  Enjoy!

MODG NEWSLETTER Vol 12 No 3

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Now that we’re sure about dyslexia, we’re also exploring ADHD. It turns out there are loads of misconceptions about both. I’d like to stop learning for a while, please. I know. Sacrilege.

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So… that last post was in September.  I was wondering how long it had been.  Ouch.  It’s February.  Oops.

I have been dying to blog lately, but life keeps getting in the way.  In fact, I can’t really participate in my beloved book club, because I can’t even finish the books I’m working on right now, and they are all good books I WANT to FINISH.  And then people give me more books, for my birthday, and for Christmas.  And then my dear toddler person decides that staying up all night would be fun, and getting up early would also be fun.  Wheee.

Now she is potty training and doing quite well at it.  However, she is waking up early again.  This morning she woke up early because the cat jumped on her at 5:30 am.  The cat?  What cat you say?  Our neighbors gave us a cat.  She thinks she’s a doggy, and she even herds chickens back into their pen.  Chickens?  Yes, we do own only a townhome, but we have now six chickens, after this weekend craziness of going to the animal rescue in our area to grab a couple more.  I own a zoo.  Good thing my husband draws the line at creepy crawlies, because a young man at our house thought the Reptile Zoo was the best thing going.

Ok, back to books.  See?  This is the problem: Parental ADHD.  It’s serious.

I am currently reading several books, but I have had a lot of grading to do, too, so I’m not making as much progress as I would like.  For my birthday I recieved A Father’s Tale by Michael O’Brien, which is absolutely wonderful and I can’t wait to finish all 1000 pages, but I was rudely interrupted by The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  Also amazing, but in a completely different kind of way.  His writing is amazing in a truly literate sort of way, whereas hers is amazing because of the ideas it brings up for the reader to think about.  His does that, too, but there’s a big difference in how they go about it. fter The Hunger Games, I thought, phew, I finished that one, I dare not try the other two in the trilogy, or I’ll never get back to A Father’s Tale.  And then my dear, dear brother in law thought it would be funny to lend them to me.  I am NOT reading them right now, but I am one of those people who HAS to skip to the end, so I did peruse them.  I hear some folks don’t like how it ends, but I thought it was probably the most realistic part of the whole series.  The author has done some work with the affects of war on children, and I think the series reflects that, and is therefore fascinating.  I hope the movie does it any kind of justice next month.  I will have to give both of these books their own time here, when I’m actually done with them.  That probably means July 2012 if I’m lucky.

Ever notice how there will be a drought of movies, tv shows and sometimes books, and then a huge flood of good stuff?  Lately?  SO MUCH GOOD STUFF.  I can’t keep track of tv shows and movies, either.  Sure, there’s tons of stupid shows and movies, too, but the good stuff is SO GOOD.  Usually it’s the geeky stuff.

I’m always searching for answers to the curve balls my children throw at me, so currently all reading is at a halt until I finish Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz.  In my many travels to different types of professionals, I discovered this book.  One of my children will be tested for dyslexia later this month, and I’m looking forward to results, but at this point I’m also just going forward as if that child did indeed have dyslexia.  I have it on my Kindle Fire (which my brother in law also gave “our family”, not “me”), and it is taking me a while, but I do love highlighting all the parts I want my partner in crime to read, since he never reads the books I suggest.  I wonder if this crazy scheme of mine will work?

Some of “my” reading time is taken up with reading to young children, also.  For the second time, we appear to be moving rapidly through two series at once, The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander and The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  We’ve been through The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis too many times to count, so I’m trying to get them to listen to these all on CD, and today I picked up another recommendation, The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall.   So much good literature, why in the world did they invent things like SpongeBob books?  Really?

We’ve been having quite an interesting year around here, and I won’t get into that here, because it would be a WAT (wild-ass tangent, as we call them around here), and that would take away from the purpose of this blog.  Let’s just say life is one heck of an adventure and that things just keep getting more interesting.   Life is giving me a doctorate in something, but I’m not sure what yet.

Because we are having quite a year, I have decided to make a list of goals for this year in our homeschooling, especially the booklists from the curriculum I love, but I’ve decided not to follow it, because I need more flexibility to leave the house at inopportune moments.   Now I have “centers” posted on the fridge, and I try to remind them to do a fairly decent amount of work and their scouting badgework, and that covers quite a bit, really.  So far, I like it.  I feel a little weird about it, but I like it.  I think the kids do, too.  The principal seems ok with it. 🙂

I really hope to be blogging some more soon, but please, please don’t hold your breath.  I don’t want you to pass out.

On with life!

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This is a seriously inspiring collection of lighthearted Catholic homeschooling moms who have decided that unschooling is for them, at some level.  Some more than others.  All describe their lives as a family in extremely intelligent terms.  I LOVE this book and will have to buy it.  It’s been making the rounds through on of the homeschooling mom groups I attend and I’m so glad some days when I snoop on someone’s bookshelf.

The book has to make the rounds, and the next person is a person I shall see every morning this week, so  I want to type this before I move it down its chosen path to inspire others.

I may have mentioned this here before, but maybe not.  I went to both Catholic and public schools.  I’ve never been terribly good about following directions, but I did earn a 3.5 GPA and higher most of the time.  I hated school.  I loved sports.   It wasn’t a total waste of time, but I can’t say it was how I wanted to spend my time.  I knew two families growing up.  Each had five kids, and I was friends with the oldest in each family, both girls a couple of years younger than I.  Well, one of them, five years younger, and we shared a driveway.  The driveway is a long, rocky, country driveway, and we were perched uphill from the family we shared with.  They were unschoolers.  My parents really wondered how anyone was going to turn out, but they have all turned out fine, often better than fine!  The other family used a rigid and thorough curriculum, and their kids have all turned out fine, too.  Because of those two families, I’m willing to bet that most things we’ll do with our family are going to be fine, too.  It’s too easy to feel guilty!  Some people should feel guilty, granted, but they are not usually the ones who do!  Silly world.  Memories of the unschooling family and the magazine called Home Education Magazine calm me down when I feel like the weight is too heavy and homeschooling is too hard.  It is so nice to know that, at a certain point, a child’s education is really up to him or her!  Sometimes that point is a lot earlier than we think.

Back to the book.

The author lists 13 families.  Most of them unschool, but the last four do a combination of ideas, like classical supplemented with some unschooling ideals.  Yes, it’s possible.  It sounds kind of like us!  The one I liked best was the one who had both a husband and a son involved in the computer game design industry.  A conservative Catholic homeschooling family with gamers who actually make money?  What??!  So I wrote to her about finding the balance in Gaming vs. Other Things, and she was quite sensible.

I loved quite a few chapters.  There is also a “Philosopher’s Perspective” in the epilogue, along with a short set of book lists.  Probably the most important thing that sets this book apart is her focus on St. Therese of Lisieux.  St. Therese focused on her “Little Way” of doing all things for love of Jesus, especially the small, everyday things.  In fact, she compares some of the saint’s writings with those of John Holt, who wrote “Growing Without Schooling”  and “Why Children Fail”.  There is a similarity about their way of telling us that we can no longer see the forest for the trees.  Sometimes life and the point to life (or the point to education), is a whole lot more simple, and therefore harder to grasp somehow, than we thought.

As an aside, I need write this somewhere.  She highly recommends the book “I Believe In Love”. I MUST remember to tell my book club!  If you are in my book club and are reading this, please, please write it down for next year so I will read it!

Here is a quotation from this book which I made my oldest child read, because it was such a succinct way to begin theology.  On accident.

Pg. 121-122:

My Plan: To study World War II

Where the Plan Took Us: To Theology and Beyond

While reading historical fiction set during the war, we discussed the Holocaust.  My then ten-year-old said, “Mom, how could God let this happen?  He’s so good.  He could have stopped it.”

How does one explain the problem of evil to a child?

I began by telling her that she had asked an eternal question, a philosopher’s question, a wonderful question.  I said that people have lost their faith over that question when the answers seemed inadequate, elusive, or wrong.  I took her back in time, to Adam and Eve, and asked what God gave them. 

“A choice!” she said.

“Yes, a choice.  He allowed them to choose good or bad, right or wrong, didn’t He?”

“Yes.”

“Why do you think he did that?”

“Hmmm… I don’t know.  Wouldn’t it be nicer if he’d made them obey?”

“Well, yes, in some ways, it would be nicer.” (I reminded myself to explain felix culpa to her later.)  “But let’s think about what kind of a relationship comes out of making someone do something. 

(They then perform a sock puppet show making up vignettes about those two types of relationships and crack themselves up.)

… For love to mean anything, it has to be freely given.  Had God made us pliable puppets, our love for Him would be meaningless. 

… Then we talked about the freedom God gave human beings — our free will– allowing us to make choices about everything, including love.  Where the possibility of true love exists, the possibility of utterly rejecting love co-exists.  And where the possibility of rejecting love exists, there is the potential for evil.  Some people will choose evil.

There are some beautiful quotations sprinkled throughout and I will leave you with one on pg. 71:

God’s love can only unleash its power when it is allowed to change us from within.  We have to let it break through the hard crust of our indifference, our spiritual weariness, our blind conformity to the spirit of this age.  Only then can we let it ignite our imagination and shape our deepest desires.  — Pope Benedict XVI, Address to Youth, World Youth Day XXIII

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