Thursday, October 16, 2014

Down Syndrome Awareness Presentation

I am excited to share a presentation that Gesserine gave for our homeschool co-op. I recorded it while she practiced at home rather than in front of class. I actually assisted her there and instead of doing that in the video I inserted slides with that information. Turn up your volume as she speaks softly!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: Apologia iWitness Books

I love teaching Gess the Bible and she loves learning about it. As she gets older there are deeper and tougher questions to tackle, questions adults don't always have the answer to. How did we get Bible? Where did it come from? How do we know it is true? Apologia Educational Ministries is helping us tackle some of these issues with their iWitness book series. I was blessed to be able to review three of these books for you: Old Testament iWitness, New Testament iWitness, and iWitness Biblical Archaeology.


The iWitness book series was created as a way to get "scholarly" information into the hands of those who might not otherwise pick up a book on these topics. They are very visual and presented in an investigative format. They have notes pinned on every page instead of just text. It is trying to help you visualize how you would do things if you were really investigating the issue, piecing information together bit by bit until you come to the final conclusion. It's like a rough draft for the scholarly book, with only the pertinent information left for you to view.

There are also beautiful illustrations on each page. Some are for decoration but many depict images of an actual artifact that you are reading about. You might see a piece of the Dead Sea scrolls, a tablet with Egyptian hieroglyphics, or works of art depicting the historical figure you are discussing.  They will have labels on them so you know exactly what they are and how they are relevant to the notes on the page you just read.


While reading like an investigation it does not start with the most recent history and work its way back to the event. This series starts at the beginning and works its way to recent history. They are also fairly small around 70 pages give or take. They are sturdier than a trade back, but smaller than a text book. Remember, the purpose is to get them into the hands of those who are not interested in large text books so this is strategic. Let me share a little bit about each one.

The Old Testament iWitness was the most fascinating for me because it was the book I had the least amount of information on. I have studied about the New Testament canon and am always reading up on archeological evidence for the Bible. While all three books still shared information I did not know, this is the one I was most interested in.

We discovered lots of information and learned new terms.  While I had heard of the Septuagint, Torah, Tanakh, and Talmud I was now clear on which one was which! New to me were things like Neviim, Ketuviim, and genizach.

You learn about the manuscripts, their copying techniques, and canon criteria. They go through each segment of the Old Testament, the Torah, the Prophets, Wisdom, History books and more including the Apocrypha. They share who wrote what when and the basic outline of what each book covered. They even touch on some archaeology and the New Testament. My favorite part was the Timeline at the end.

The New Testament iWitness was interesting too. I knew about some of the major councils and was aware that these did not decide what books went into the New Testament but rather just confirmed them. However, I was able to learn about it in more detail. I actually did not realize that apostles used hymns and creeds in their writings. They also included quotes from the early church Fathers that backed up their understanding of what was considered Scripture. Reading what Clement of Rome wrote about Matthew, the writer of the gospel, and mention him as someone he actually knew moved me. 

This book covers many other details like copying methods, differences in the copies, rejected books, and textual criticism which was a term I had never heard about before. That is the method that you use to determine which of all of our varied copies of the NT are the most original. I always thought the oldest made the most sense, but they share others methods that also make sense too. 

I believe iWitness Biblical Archaeology was Gess's favorite. I think she is still a bit young to be thinking about where the Bible came from but looking at actual artifacts was fun for her. The funnest part of this book for all of us was learning about the other cultures stories of a world wide flood account. The fact that there are so many confirm there was an actual event to tie it back to. To not only hear the stories but see artifacts proving their existence was really cool.

This book is more than just saying, "here is an artifact that proves an event of the Bible." It also provides history and background information that helps you understand the true significance of each thing, place, or event. It covers many interesting facts including proof of the Exodus, the existence of the house of David, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and even talks about the Shroud of Turin.

These books were fun and visual. I do like the way he made it investigative and had notes clipped on each page instead of  just text. It certainly did not look like a text book at all. However, it was almost a bit too much. To make it look fancy they used several types of font throughout the book and most of them made it more difficult to read. My daughter, who has special needs, struggled reading most of them, so we let her read the typed tags that marked what the photo on the page was for and we read the rest. But even for me it was sometimes too much strain. I would have liked more consistency and easier to read fonts.

Otherwise we really enjoyed them and learned a lot from them. The reading level on these books is for ages 11 and up. I think they are great for students of any age who want to know more about these subjects. People who are already well versed on the topics will love having these as a tool to share with others. Students who know nothing will walk away feeling more educated in these areas and hopefully have a desire to learn more. Having some knowledge will make them feel less threatened when they open the more scholarly books. Yet even if they never do, they learn enough here to have a basic background in each topic. I think these are great for older kids, teens, and even adults. I know many adults who would get a lot out of these.

The Old Testament iWitness, New Testament iWitness, and iWitness Biblical Archaeology books sell for $14.00 each. To learn more about these books visit the Apologia Educational Ministries website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about them by clicking on the banner below.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Most Adorable Argument Ever - NOT

There is a video circulating on the web of two preschool children arguing over whether it is raining or sprinkling. One child says their mom said it was raining while the other child's mother said it was sprinkling. They go back and forth for some time defending what their mom said. Eventually one begins to poke the other and for some reason this is supposed to be cute. I disagree.

No, its not the cutest argument ever. In fact it reveals one of the biggest problems in our culture today. We are so absorbed in media that we have disconnected ourselves from the very children that are in front of us. Whenever they do something cute we think we need to immediately run and grab a camera for all the world to see rather than actually interacting with them. I find myself falling trap to that very thing. This blog started as a way to share ideas on how to teach children with special needs, especially in a homeschool environment. However, if you want to have readers you need an active blog so I have included posts about non-related fun stuff we do. I still try to have an educational focus and the field trips and events do show how my daughter is being included in society, but there are many times that I lost precious moments with her because I had to stop and grab the camera.

The fact that the argument was recorded was not, however, the reason it was not adorable. The reason I make that statement is because the argument was unnecessary and I find it truly sad that the person taking the video failed to point that out. These are teachable moments. The ones we grab to explain what words mean and how we should use them. Please do not wait until these children get into elementary school to do that. Teach them now! It appears to me that this was taken by a caregiver of some kind. There were more kids in the picture and it looked like they were in a play room. If this were my child's caretaker I would fire them. Letting an argument escalate in order to capture some cute video is irresponsible. I would hope they are not paid for that level of care.

Instead of teaching the child that both mothers were correct and there are many wonderful words that we can use to describe the rain, they taught the children the meaning in life is to get attention.  Arguing and poking one an another is acceptable if you are cute while you are doing it. They are going to be stunned when they get in trouble for doing the same thing later when it doesn't seem as cute or it is in front of a person that isn't obsessed with media attention.

Children learn more in moments like these than they will in any classroom. That is why schools have a hard time teaching students. To disconnect education from application is to raise an illiterate and socially inept society. Don't believe me. Look around you, because that is pretty much what we have.

I am as guilty as any mom about wanting to capture those cute moments to cherish them forever, and there is nothing really wrong doing it from time to time. Those memories will be good to look back on. But watch yourself, lest you fall prey to the lie that being cute on film is more important than anything else. I am so proud of Gess and her accomplishments but I don't want to simply capture those moments for the future. I want to live in those moments too and I can't do that with my head glued behind the lens of the camera.

Engage with your children. Teach them when they are wrong. Correct them and when two arguing children are both right, let them know that!  Proudly tell them that both of their mother's were correct! Share with them many words they can use for rain. Go outside and feel it and let them think of other words to use. Draw pictures of it and let them choose which title they prefer. Is it sprinkle, rain, shower, mist, drizzle, or some other descriptive word?  Gess likes the more specific weather term of precipitation. That can work too. Let the adorable moments in your child's life be when they are learning, not when they are foolishly arguing. Yes, the kids in the video were cute. I grant you that much. I just wonder what they will be like when they become adults.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Fall Fashion Show

Gess has become a regular model in our local Fall Fashion Show. As always, she is a huge success. She really gets into walking the floor. Here are some shots of Gess in her outfit before the show.


Here are a few of pictures of her walking the room. She really gets into this part. She spins and poses and lights up the whole room!


I love my little girl! Well, she isn't so little anymore!


Friday, October 3, 2014

Down Syndrome Awareness Month - Health Issues

October is Down Syndrome awareness month. Since Gess visited her cardiologist last week I figured I would start by mentioning the health issues that people with Down syndrome often face.

When Gess was born she hospitalized at birth for 5 1/2 weeks due to a heart defect and feeding issues.We had planned to have our baby and come home. That was not to be!


We finally got to come home for awhile. They wanted her to gain weight and grow for the heart surgery. During this time we had home health come 3 times a week to monitor her growth and heart.


She didn't thrive very well so we went ahead with heart surgery in January when she was 2 1/2 months old. We didn't take photos back then. We didn't even have a cell phone, let alone one with a camera. However, the Kansas City Star took photos of the actual surgery!  That is a bit graphic though so I won't share, but you can read the article on one my past blogs about Gesserine's Heart Surgery. Here we are consulting with the surgeon a couple of days before the surgery took place.


The surgery was indeed successful and just last week she had a follow up with her main cardiologist who said everything is going great! We don't have see him again for another 2 years.


I think that is the thing I was least aware of when Gess was born. I equated Down syndrome to intellectual delays, but not health issues. In fact there are many medical conditions that are common among people who have Down syndrome. Gesserine had to be fed by a tube the first year of her life, has had tubes in her ears, and her tonsils and adenoids taken out. She tends to get sick more often and has been hospitalized for pneumonia too.

According to the National Down Syndrome Society "People with Down syndrome have an increased risk for certain medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, Alzheimer's disease, childhood leukemia, and thyroid conditions."

As the NDSS goes on to say, "many of these conditions are now treatable, so most people with Down syndrome lead healthy lives." That is the case with Gess. With treatment she is leading a pretty normal life. Without her surgeries she would not be functioning to her full capacity. However these are stressful and scary moments for any family.

The intellectual delays were no big deal to me. I spent my time crying and worrying because my daughter's heart was literally broken! The first few years of her life were filled with doctor appointments, usually with specialists which meant long drives because we live in a very small rural town. My world and life began to revolve around my daughter and her needs.

However, by the time she underwent surgery I was at peace. First of all the more I learned about Down syndrome the more comfort I felt. Lack of good, factual, and positive information made the finding harder on me. I think hospitals do a better job today, but when Gess was born they had nothing for me! After scouring they finally found a book that was 15 years old. It was sad.

Then I learned to lean on and trust the God I claimed to love and know. It is an easy thing to say we love and trust God. It is another thing to live it out. The first time I ever read the entire bible through in a year was that first year of my daughter's life.When Gess entered surgery I began reading my bible. I got 15 chapters of Matthew in that day. I kept on reading it throughout the year and the Lord spoke to me through that. He comforted me, encouraged me, and got me through this time. It is an amazing thing to feel the peace of God through such a trying moment!

So here we are. 13 years later and Gess is a fairly healthy girl. Now our concern is that she may have stopped growing. The big question is - is that due to the fact that she has Down syndrome and has just stopped growing, or is there an underlying cause? We are awaiting x-rays to see and will follow up with an endocrinologist just to be sure.

In the mean time, health issues aside, Gess is enjoying life to the full!




Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Field Trip - Old Iron Days

We went to our first field trip with our Homeschool Co-op. It was an event called Old Iron Days where they show you how things were done before we had all this technology.

We saw food cooked over an open fire and ate a bit too. They gave us a taste of rabbit stew. That is the first time I ate rabbit!



We also saw how they used stoves inside their homes.


We watch them make and tried homemade apple butter ...

 and apple cider.


She shucked, ground, and sifted corn.



She watch them make a corn husk doll.



We saw several different inventions to help women wash clothes. These still took a lot of work!


We also saw what the old bank looked like and what doctors used to wear.



 There was so much  more that we didn't even get to and a few things I didn't photograph. It was a wonderful day! I can't wait to see more next year!


Monday, September 22, 2014

Fall Library Programs

We have to have one of the best libraries in the country! They are always doing tons of activities for kids. While many of the activities are book related, not all of them are. There are several activities that simply encourage the children to be creative, meet new friends, and try new things. Gess has participated in a couple of these this month.

The first one is called Play With Your Food. Instead of just making a snack, they literally make something out of their food before they eat it. These have always been fun, and Gess has found some interesting treats to make. This month she made a scarecrow, spiders, and a marshmallow animal.


They also started a Lego Club. This was the first time for this event. Each time they will have a different idea to build on. This time was just anything they wanted to put on display. Gess built a T-Rex but only managed to build a small one so she named it baby T-rex.



Gess loves sorting her Legos but has trouble building anything other than a house. We tried a T-Rex once using a pattern and that is why she tried making it this time, but without the instructions she didn't know how to finish it. I am hoping this group will help give her new ideas on how and what to build. I also want her to learn to just try new things.

I am thankful our library has these great activities. I bet your library has some great ideas too. If you don't know what they have to offer, go check them out. You just might be surprised!

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