Friday, October 31, 2014

Taking Time for Me

Some of you may remember my review of Captivated, a DVD from MediaTalk101 which brings to life the reality of how our society has been saturated by media. It surrounds us on a daily basis and while it appears to be helping people stay connected, it actually does the opposite. In one of Beth Moore's studies she talks about how having instant access to information makes us more anxious not less. While it is great to get news quickly when we don't get that news we are not happy. We used to have to wait days, weeks, or even months to hear from someone, and we dealt with that. Now if we don't get a response to a text in a few hours we are in panic mode! There really can be too much of a good thing and media is one of them.

So, now that my review year is almost over I feel it is a great time for me to take a break. Therefore I am taking the month of November off. No don't rush off because I have actually scheduled some posts to finish out the month so there will be activity here. There will also be a couple of reviews coming that you won't want to miss as well some posts on Thankfulness. These are pre-scheduled though, so it may be much longer before I respond to any comments or can be reached on Facebook. This isn't a permanent thing. I am just taking time to step back and work through some priorities and keep media where it needs to be in my life, as a helpful tool, not a distraction.

To learn more about what I am talking about see my review of the Captivated DVD. You should purchase this and not only put it to use in your own life, but share it with friends. It might change your life. It certainly did mine! It is actually inexpensive to watch it online.

I want to thank you each of my readers, old and new. As we spend this month thinking about what we are thankful for, know that you are high on my list!  God bless!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: Clued in Kids

Who wants to hunt for treasure? Maybe a better question would be, who doesn't? Treasure hunts are lots of fun and my recent review had us doing two of them. Clued in Kids was created by a mom who realized that hunting for treasure is a great hands-on way to teach a concept. It is not only fun, but healthy too because it allows the child to get up and move around. For the purpose of my review we received two PDF printable hunts: Homework Reward Treasure Hunt and Thanksgiving Treasure Hunt.

When you get your printable hunt, it is in a PDF booklet form. Both of mine were 8 pages in length. They came with easy to follow directions and the clues were divided into two per page. At the bottom of each clue it tells you exactly where to hide it, so set up is really a breeze!  All you have to worry about is finding something for a prize at the end. While these were beautiful, full color photos, I printed mine in black and white.

Each page has an activity that you must do to find the next clue. You might have word puzzles, scrambled words, math problems, fill in the blanks, deciphers, and other things like that. They also have fun activities like make a paper airplane or cluck like a turkey. Once you finish the puzzle it has a word to help you figure out where your next clue is. It might be one word like milk so you have to think about where that item would be kept. Other times it will say a specific phrase like "look beneath a bedside table." You start by handing the child their first clue. Then it is off!

The first hunt we did was the Homework Reward Treasure Hunt. I have blogged on here a couple of times how I have trouble motivating my Gess to do her "homework" independently. Part of her struggle is due to her special needs, but part of it is just lack of motivation. Well, this turned out to be a great motivator. I told her if she completed all of her tasks in one week she could go on a treasure hunt! The first week after I mentioned it, she was not successful. I was actually glad because I think that failing first gave her even more incentive to try harder the next week.  Finally, her tasks were done so on that Saturday, she went hunting!

I started by placing her first activity clue on the table with her bucket of colored pencils. Every time her clue had an activity to complete she would come back there to do it. It was fun to watch her finish and then run off to the find the next one!  She really enjoyed hunting for them!

For her prize I got her a new CD that I knew she was wanting really badly. Of course your prizes can be much smaller. A page of stickers, a coloring book, or whatever special thing your child will enjoy. I just wanted an excuse to get her something cool.

You can actually try this hunt for free if you sign up for their newsletter!

The next hunt was the Thanksgiving Treasure Hunt. This was a little tricky because it is not quite Thanksgiving season yet, but we are getting there. What I did was wait a little closer to the end of October and made my prize a pumpkin with a carving kit. Granted the carving part is not a traditional Thanksgiving item, but the pumpkin can be! Since we will start studying the Pilgrim story this was a fun way to review and prepare for the upcoming holiday!

Gess struggled a little bit with the dates of when certain events happened but otherwise they were easy enough. That was good though because knowing what she has down and where she struggles will help me know what to focus on as we study it this year.

My only problem with the hunts were that some of the puzzles were a little hard to make out. It was only a couple of them, like the leaves that spelled scarves. It probably would have been easier if they had been in color so keep that in mind. Otherwise they were fun and as I said, easy to follow. I had no trouble with set up and Gess had no trouble with figuring out where the clue was. She had trouble finding a few though, even when they were right in her face, but that is part of the fun!

The Homework Reward Treasure Hunt and Thanksgiving Treasure Hunt are for ages 4 and up and sell for $5.99 each. Kids of all ages will have fun with these. They say they only take about 8 minutes to set up and that is pretty much accurate. With only one child doing them they lasted about 20 to 30 minutes to complete so it made for some fun random family time. I asked Gess if she enjoyed it and she said yes. I think she wants more!

To learn more visit the Clued in Kids website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about it by clicking on the banner below. And don't forget, you can also try one for FREE if you sign up for their newsletter.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: New Liberty Videos

My most recent review was from New Liberty Videos a company dedicated to producing Christian movies. For the purpose of my review I received a copy of the Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

This video actually covers topics other than the Dead Sea Scrolls. In all it covers three topics and is about an hour total in length. Let me tell you a little bit about each segment.

Dead Sea Scrolls
The first segment is the Dead Sea Scrolls, with Joel Lampe. This features what appears to be a lecture on the Dead Sea Scrolls. While I have heard a lot about them I really was not well versed on their exact significance. Joel did an excellent job of covering a wealth of information in a very short time. I was so fascinated with what all I learned, such as the fact that while they call them scrolls, there was actually only one scroll found completely in tact!

He shares how many scroll fragments were found and how they were pieced together to become whole scrolls. I was not aware that many of the scrolls found were not even Scripture. What is even more fascinating is to learn how that work continues even today. They are not done studying this amazing find! Joel also shares about the languages they were written in, what they were written on, and the most fascinating part is why they were left there in the first place!

Hebrew Word Pictures
The second segment was Hebrew Word Pictures, with Dr. Frank Seekins. At first I was thinking that this segment seemed out of place but by the end of it I was totally in awe of God. Dr. Seekins does an incredible job teaching how the Hebrew language was written in both words and pictures. He then begins to show you the picture that goes with each letter as you read some simple words. This language illustrates the true beauty and intent behind each word written in the Bible we hold so dear. Dr. Seekins calls it the heart of Hebrew. I think that is a great definition.

By the end of this short segment I was reading in ancient Hebrew! It was fascinating to me when he shared how the letter also symbolized an image which made it very easy to read. Without the images I can't really show you well, but all I can say is I want more of this!

The Forbidden Book
The final segment was The Forbidden Book, with Dr. Craig Lampe.This appears to be a partial segment of another video with the same title. In this one, the speaker gives you a brief history of how brave men sacrificed to get the Bible into the language of the ordinary people.

He begins to be pointing out that the Bible was originally available in several languages all over the world until the dark ages when Latin was made the only official language to read it in. While I knew the Bible was kept from ordinary citizens I never realized that there were also many errors in those Latin translations.  Then came Wycliff, Luther, and eventually Tyndale whose work led to the common people being able to read the Bible for themselves.

I learned interesting facts about each of those men and what led up to their determination to translate the Bible. Can you imagine being burned at the stake for simply speaking Bible passages in your own language to your children?  They were doing that. Mother's and many others were burned at the stake for not complying with the order. Tyndale also suffered that fate, but not until after the Bible was translated into English. While the segment was short it was fascinating. 

While all three segments were interesting, only the first one dealt with the Dead Sea Scrolls. This video is basically a recording of three separate live presentations where the speaker shares about the topic in front of an audience. I do not feel any of these are complete talks. I think they just took a part of a live lecture and put it on video. At the end of each talk they give you information on how to learn more. I would have rather had the video only cover one topic more thoroughly than to see each separate segment because I felt I like I was just scratching the surface on each one. While my daughter did not participate in watching with us, my husband and I really enjoyed it and did learn from it. I will hang on to it and use it in her studies as she gets older.

The Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls sells for $19.95. It is for a general audience and has no specific age range suggested. I would suggest it for middle school on up, though some elementary school students might find it of interest. To learn more visit the New Liberty Videos website or see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about it by clicking on the banner below.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Talking About Down Syndrome

I think an important part of educating yourself about Down syndrome is understanding the appropriate way in which to talk about it. While I have found much improvement over the years, there is still confusion on just how to speak about it. As a mother with a daughter who has DS sometimes I am not even sure what is "acceptable" these days. My emphasis is not about being politically correct but rather showing respect to the person or people involved.

People First Language - The most important thing to do is to remember to use people first language, that means that you address the person before you speak about their condition. They are not a Down syndrome child. They are a child who has Down syndrome. This of course would be used for any diagnosis. A child has autism, they are not an autistic child, etc.

Individual Distinction - People who have Down syndrome are individual humans and stereotyping them by their diagnosis is no better than classifying people by race or gender. The most common misconception is that all people with Down syndrome are happy. Like any other human being, people with Down syndrome experience a huge range of emotions each and every day. Living with a teenage daughter who has DS I assure you that is true. Do not assume that you know everything about my daughter because you know another person with Down syndrome. That is like me saying I know all about you because I know another red head (or whatever your hair color may be)! It's wonderful if that means you are educated about the syndrome itself, just do not assume it means you know how my daughter will respond, act, or feel in any given situation. She is her own person.

The appropriate spelling is Down syndrome - I was one of the guilty ones. I used that apostrophe and I capitalized the S in syndrome. Down syndrome was named after John Langdon Down who was the first one to classify it as it's own condition. He did not, however, have Down syndrome himself as using an apostrophe might imply. A medical condition is not a name so syndrome is not capitalized. Down is capitalized because it is a name. As you will note, trisomy 21, the more technical term for Down syndrome is also not capitalized.

Avoid the R-Word - While the word retarded has its valid connotation, since that word has been hi-jacked to be used in a derogatory way, it is best to avoid using it at all. Even doctors and medical staff are encouraged to use terms such as intellectual disability rather than mental retardation. In any case, out of respect for people who have intellectual disabilities never use the word retarded to speak about someone or something as stupid. With all the awareness you would think people would have stopped using it, but they still do. The good news is that since even the medical staff no longer use the term I doubt my daughter would take offense because she would not make any connection of it to herself since no one has ever audibly used the word "retarded" when diagnosing her.

Speak to the person, not about them - We love talking about our children to others and sometimes we do it like they are not there because they are too young to understand what we are saying. However, as they grow up we stop doing that. Yet some people still do it around people who have intellectual disabilities, even if they are adults. Never speak about a person in front of them. Speak to them. Acknowledge their existence, include them in the conversation, and treat them as you would any other person of the same age. Do not treat an adult like a child and do not treat a child like a baby.

Don't show favoritism - Acceptance has come such a long way that my daughter has only had one incident in her twelve years of life where someone actually made fun of her in her presence. What she does get is lots of positive attention! While that is a great thing sometimes I fear it is too much. While I want you to accept and embrace my daughter, please do not ignore and over look every other child, especially if they are siblings. Siblings who have a brother or sister with a special need are often over looked. They are special too! If my daughter is always getting attention just because she has Down syndrome, that is almost as bad as getting no attention because she has it. Yes, she will sometimes need extra attention and diligent care, but not in a way that says she is better than everyone else. She is as good as they are, yes. But better? No.

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!


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