Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Spread The Word To End The R-Word

Today is a national campaign targeted at ending the derogatory use of the word "retarded." If you know me you know that I am 1) for the right of free speech and 2) do not buy into political correctness. Still, you would also know that I am one who always tries to show respect. When I challenge a person, I challenge their ideas, their teachings, and their comments, not their physical appearance, skin color, or any other personal trait. Even then, I still respect their right to disagree. Respect is something that people with disabilities and special challenges never seem to get, and they are the one group of people who deserve it more than anyone else.

People with special needs like my daughter who has Down Syndrome work extra hard to accomplish the most simple tasks of life. Instead of cheering and applauding their accomplishments we use words that are supposed to simply describe their delays, such as retarded, and use it to insult others. This group of people would do almost anything to earn our respect and instead of giving it to them, we use them as the butt of our jokes. We find humor in their difficulties and feel a false sense of superiority and security because we are not like them.

The next time you think of using the R word, or hear someone else use it, think of all the people who are hurt by the comment. They may not be standing around you, but they are out there, working extra hard to be a productive citizen of society. They don't want you to do it for them and they don't want your sympathy. All they want is a little respect and a little dignity. For just once, they would like to live in a world that understands that a person who has a cognitive disability has probably done more in their life to earn respect and admiration than we will ever do in our lifetime. They deserve our love and acceptance, not our ridicule. So join with us in our campaign to end the use of the R-word as a way of making fun of others. Instead let us educate others about the accomplishments of a segment of society that is so little understood.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Getting our hands on Nutrition

In our Science curriculum we began studying nutrition so I started on my journey to find out how to emphasize nutrition in a hands on and interactive way. The Food Guide Pyramid popped into my head. Of course in searching I came across the new and supposedly improved Food Guide Pyramids. Personally I do not like them. For one, that is not how you make a pyramid! Pyramids are made with blocks built one upon the other. The Egyptians did not make a pyramid with color coded lines. To me all they did was keep the shape and threw out the visual aspect of the teaching. Since my daughter is a very visual learner I started looking for the old Food Guide Pyramid and that is what we used. Now she can not only see the foods directly on the pyramid, she can more readily see the size of each section since that corresponds to how many servings of those foods you should have. This has really been a lot of fun since we have already been exploring our senses through food. This has allowed us to take that activity to another level by really examine the nutritious aspects of the food we are working with. So here is how we began.

First I found a song and video at the Food Guide Pyramid Games website. This actually uses the old pyramid style that I was looking for so I was really excited. Even more important than that, my daughter absolutely loves it! Believe me, we listen to this song over and over and over again! That is OK though, because she has really grasped the whole concept thanks in part to this song. Click on the screen-shot to watch the video and hear this catchy tune. (OK, the kids will think its catchy but after about 50 or more plays adults will start to find it annoying!)

Now, after she grasped the concept with the song we started taking magazines and cutting out pictures of various foods and then we made our own Food Guide Pyramid on poster board. Gess then had to figure out where to glue all the food on the pyramid. She picked it up really fast! After we were done she found it fun to lay it on the floor, play the video above and dance around it while she sang the song. I finally put it on the wall to keep it from getting messed up. Still, she will play the video and run over to it on the wall pointing to all the corresponding sections as she sings. I didn't think she would have this much fun with it once we were done! Here she is next to her Food Guide Pyramid.

We also have drawn a smaller food guide pyramid with no food on it. Just something simple.

We have used this at lunch time and had her place each item she had with her lunch on the corresponding blocks of the pyramid. We also have done this with her play food. Here she is having found some food for every section.

We have also made some food guide muffin tins making sure all food groups were properly represented in them. With six tins and six categories that was easy enough. I have also found Gess in the kitchen getting out all sorts of food just playing around with it herself and she loves telling you what category all her food goes in now. More importantly she is now eating all of her dinner because she wants to grow up big and strong. That of course is the point of getting our hands on nutrition, to teach her not just what category it all goes in, but to make healthy choices. This has helped her want to do just that. So "come to the food guide pryamid....come on lets go!"

Friday, March 20, 2009

Parental Rights Amendment

I try not to spend too much time on politics because I do respect everyone's right to disagree. I just want to make this one post to share one issue that I do believe strongly in and does affect homeschoolers, and that is parental rights. I feel that parents are losing their rights in this country and I believe that an amendment to the Constitution is the only way to protect it. I do believe that the Consititution is something that we should not mess with very often, but to me this is one area I believe it is worth it. Well, Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, plans to introduce the Parental Rights Amendment in the House on March 31. There are currently 56 Cosponsors of the amendment. To see the list of sponsors click here. If you agree with this amendment please see if your representative is a sponsor and if so send them a note of thanks. If not, send your representative and ask them to do so. If you are unsure about how you feel or if you simply want more information visit parentalrights.org. The information below is taken from their website. The draft of the amendment is also below.
Thanks for at least giving me an opportunity to share this information with you. Do with it what you desire.

~God Bless

The only solution to the attack on the child-parent relationship is the Parental Rights Amendment -- securing the rights of parents to raise their children.

Only a constitutional amendment will ensure that the courts of our nation protect the fundamental right of parents to raise their children. And only a constitutional amendment will override international law that seeks to undermine the parental role. As the only complete solution to the danger confronting the child-parent relationship, the Parental Rights Amendment will place current Supreme Court doctrine protecting parental rights into the explicit text of the Constitution. Only the Parental Rights Amendment completely eliminates all threats to the child-parent relationship. It is the only comprehensive response to the attack on parental rights across our nation.

Below is the draft text for the Parental Rights Amendment.
View the annotated version here.


The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children is a fundamental right.

Neither the United States nor any state shall infringe upon this right without demonstrating that its governmental interest as applied to the person is of the highest order and not otherwise served.

No treaty may be adopted nor shall any source of international law be employed to supersede, modify, interpret, or apply to the rights guaranteed by this article.


  • Only a constitutional amendment will ensure that parental rights will be honored in the United States, and protected from the threat of international law.
  • Only 33 amendments have ever been passed by Congress, and of these, only 27 have been ratified by the states.
  • Passing an amendment takes supporters at every level of government – in Congress, in committees, and in the states. Every American can play a vital role in this process by signing the petition and involving others in this campaign.

A constitutional amendment will ensure that judges who are currently denying parental rights will be obligated to recognize them. It will ensure that judges who are presently refusing to recognize parental rights because of their lack of explicit protection within the Constitution will instead safeguard parental rights.

The founders of this country created a nation ruled by laws, not men. Placing parental rights into the text of the Constitution ensures that law will defend the American family. A constitutional amendment will shield the child-parent relationship from government intrusion, regardless of who sits on the Supreme Court.

Not only does an amendment adequately address the threat posed by judges who refuse to recognize parental rights, but it also meets head-on the threat against the child-parent relationship posed by international law.


As a legally binding international treaty, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is capable of permanently altering the role of the parent within the American family. If ratified, the UNCRC becomes the law of the land, unable to be held in check by state or national legislation. The only way to protect the rights of parents from the destructive policies contained in the UNCRC is through an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Presently, except in cases where a parent has been proven to be "unfit," American law presumes that the parent is acting in the best interests of the child, and defers to that parent's decision. The UNCRC, in contrast, supplants this traditional presumption in favor of parents with a new presumption in favor of the state.

The Senators who originally opposed the ratification of the UNCRC when it was originally signed by President Clinton in 1995 believed that the Convention marked a significant departure from the American concept of the relationship between state and child, and was incompatible with the right of parents to raise their children.

The only way to protect the vital role of parents from this cataclysmic shift is through amending the U.S. Constitution to reflect current Supreme Court doctrine which preserves the right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children.

That's why the Parental Rights Amendment is so important. If passed, the Parental Rights Amendment will protect and preserve the vital child-parent relationship for generations to come.


The judges on the Supreme Court will change over time, but the law will not. If the U.S. Constitution is amended to secure parental rights, the vital child-parent relationship will be effectively shielded from intrusion by the government.

Amending the constitution is an enormous task—requiring time, resources, vision, dedication, and hardworking people who will make it happen. But it is not impossible.

Timing is everything. Parental rights are in an uncertain state within the federal courts, and danger is on the way. In only a matter of time, international law could erase the rights that most American parents take for granted. That’s why time is of the essence. We can’t afford to wait until parental rights are gone before seeking to defend them—now is the time to take action.

You can play a vital role in the process of amending the Constitution by joining with ParentalRights.org in the fight to protect children and parents. If you believe that the vital role of parents in the lives of their children should be protected and preserved, then we need your participation in the campaign to pass the Parental Rights Amendment!

Sign the petition now to protect children by empowering parents, and recruit your friends to join the fight.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Saint Patrick's Day

Well we have been busy getting ready for Saint Patrick's Day, in fact you can say we probably celebrated it early. Last night we made our tasty treats, this morning we made shamrocks and this evening we had our corned beef and cabbage dinner. Yes, we will still wear green on March 17th and say Happy Saint Patrick's Day but we have pretty much done all the "traditional" things.

On a personal level I have become a big fan of Patrick and admire his commitment to sharing Christ, not only with people of a different culture, but people who had once enslaved him. On my personal blog you can see my review on a book about Patrick that I thoroughly enjoyed.

To get Gess into the holiday spirit we implemented a few ideas I found in one of the blogs I follow. No time for flash cards had several cute ideas. I borrowed two of them and used them not only with Gess but with our Sunday School class. The first was the snack. Saturday evening Gess and I spent some time in the kitchen fixing Shamrock Rice Krispie Treats. They are quite yummy, however I was not lucky enough to find a shamrock shaped cookie cutter but the green still got the point across. (I would include photos but we are temporarily without a digital camera) We washed it down with some sour-melon Powerade which just happens to be green as well.

The other idea I borrowed was the craft. For Sunday School I decided to share a little about the life of Patrick and focus the lesson on Missionaries. For crafts we made Shamrocks. We used potatoes to paint the shamrocks as the blog suggests but we also added the bible verse "go and make disciples of all nations" Matthew 28:19. Patrick himself quoted this passage in his confession shortly before his death. Anyway here is her blog about how to do some St. Patrick's Potato Stamping.

To teach Gess about who Patrick was we rented the Veggie Tale DVD Sumo of the Opera. On it they have a short about St. Patrick called Lufti's Fanciful Flannelgraph. It is a funny, but fairly accurate description of his life story. You can view it below.

So this is how we have celebrated thus far. Here is wishing you all a very happy (and green) Saint Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Handwriting Without Tears - Mat Man

Handwriting Without Tears (HWT)is a handwriting curriculum that uses a developmentally based, active learning approach to teach children how to write. It implements the use of blocks, songs and special instructions to help a child learn how to write their letters. I found the blocks particularly appealing.

I discovered HWT through a fellow homeschooling mother at my church. She was watching my daughter during church one Sunday and they were playing with musical instruments. She discovered that my daughter was making letters out of the drum sticks, so they made a game of it. That afternoon she told me about Handwriting Without Tears and the blocks that they use to help you shape the letters. I ordered it and found it to be exceptional. While the first set of materials I purchased had the Preschool books rather than the Kindergarten set, this photo shows the basic materials I started with.

The concept is to first build the letters with the blocks. You can get letter cards that have the letter for you to build on one side and alphabet helps on the other side, a mat to try to make the letters with on your own, a chalkboard slate, the workbooks and of course the blocks to build the letters with. You get four shapes of blocks: A big line, a little line, a big curve and a little curve. Each letter tells you which one to use to make it. The theory is that building the blocks with your hands first helps you when you actually go to draw it. It really works well. To show how well this works they start off by having the children build Mat Man.

To make Mat Man you use the mat you would build the letters on and use it to make a man. It is amazing how making a man out of a mat actually helps children to do a better job actually drawing a man. Most children at that age can make a stick man rather easily. Well this activity helps them to refine that stick man into a what looks more like an actual person. Here is how it works. We start by placing the blocks around the mat to build the man.

We use the curves to make a head, ears and his smile and the lines are used for the arms, legs and feet. We even add in some beads to make the eyes and nose and we used to have hands we made by tracing my daughter's hand. When you are done the man looks like this.

Now here comes the great part. After they make Mat Man they draw him. It is amazing to see how well the child can copy what they just physically made with their hands! Here is the Mat Man my daughter drew.

If building with blocks can help a child draw a man they certainly can help them write their letters! My daughter just loves making Mat Man. Even though she has already learned how to draw him without having to build it first, she still loves sitting down with the blocks and building him. She would often keep playing with the blocks when our daily lesson was done. It is such a blessing when you find something that your children love to do!

In my next post I will share a typical Kindergarten HWT lesson and show my daughter learning one of her most difficult letters, the letter S. Handwriting Without Tears is a great curriculum for children with special needs but it was not made with only our children in mind nor is it made specifically for homeschooling. In fact the parent that shared this with me was using it with her children at home and they have no special delays, in fact they are rather bright. She just found it to be great way to teach them to write. I have since shared this with some families in our local DS support group and they have used it to supplement what their children are learning at school. So if you are considering what curriculum to use to teach your children to write, or find that your child is struggling with writing in school, you might consider trying Handwriting Without Tears. I am certainly glad I did!


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