22 September 2011

Get Playing!

The Worldwide Day of Play is September 24th this year.

What is the Worldwide Day of Play, you ask?  It is the one day per year that everyone, everywhere, is encouraged to join together, shut off the television and get outside to play together as a family.

The Day of Play is a great opportunity to get your family going in the right direction toward being active and healthy. It's easy to get stuck in the routine of watching tv every day before and after homework and dinner, but, in my experience, once we get the kids outside and playing, they want to do it day after day.  Playing comes naturally to kids and when parents join in, it is even better.

We try to get outside in the evenings whenever the weather is clear.  We are lucky to live in something similar to a cul-de-sac so the kids can play without fear of traffic and they can play with the 10 other cul-de-sac kids.

We get games of four square going that last for two hours or more.  I just love watching the kids play games I enjoyed when I was a child.  We keep endless supplies of sidewalk chalk on hand so the kids can draw hopscotch paths and other artwork.  They once did a hopscotch path with 100 squares!  They had fun AND taught the preschool aged siblings more numbers.

When the sun goes down, the flashlights come out for rounds of flashlight tag.  With sunset times getting earlier and earlier these days, the flashlight games can begin sooner and the kids run themselves ragged before having to go inside and shower or bathe before getting straight to bed.  By getting active, they burn their pent up energy from long days of school and homework and are able to get to sleep more easily.  It's win-win!

When I was a newer parent, I did not want my kids to get dirty when they played.  Getting dirty meant more laundry and more time spent in the bath.  I then realized that the dirtier they were, the more fun they'd had, and laundry is going to pile up no matter what.  It's nothing a bar of soap and some Clorox bleach can't easily fix.

With four boys, I was destined to have a constant stream of kids in and out the front door.  Getting outside to play is the best thing we can do to keep our kids healthy and active and ready to learn at school the next day.

I signed the Pledge to Play Outside at http://clorox2play2day.com and I encourage you to do the same.

Let's Play!

I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Clorox2® blogging program, for a gift card worth $40. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

21 September 2011

Read Together

It's tempting to give up reading to your kid as soon as he can read independently.  Every minute a parent gets back to herself counts, but did you know that by continuing to read to your child you can greatly increase his vocabulary, reading aptitude, and therefor, increase his test scores later in life? 

Even when your child is reading "chapter books" you should sit down with him and read a book to him. 

I can hear you saying, "what the heck am I supposed to do?  I have three kids.  I can't read to each one of them.  I'll never get time to myself."  What you can do is select a book that is slightly above your younger child's level, but not too 'over his head'.  You will be surprised how much he will pick up from your reading and your oldest won't get bored, even if he says he will. 

In our family, we especially like the Great Illustrated Classics and Classic Starts books.  The stories are timeless and reading them can help our kids on many levels.  They hear words they can add to their vocabularies, they learn stories that they will hear referenced again and again throughout their school years, and they learn lessons from the stories themselves. 

At our house, we are currently reading the Harry Potter Books.  The stories keep the boys' attentions and we are spending time together each night.  All four boys look forward to the next chapter.  Of course we don't read together every night, and sometimes one of the boys has too much homework to listen or one is too tired, but we keep it up because it's great on so many levels and I encourage you to do the same.  You won't be sorry.

11 September 2011

IEPs and 504 Plans- Be Ready

504 Plans and Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) are the source of angst for many parents of school aged children.  I’m here to tell you that these plans work for kids, and they are worth the hard work required by parents and educators to get them right.  

I'm not going to beat around the bush, though, you have to work the system to get them and work even harder to get the plan to work for your child.  I’m definitely not here to bash the system, I want to arm you with the tools to get through the process and come out on top.

One of my sons has Asperger’s Syndrome, dyslexia and dysgraphia, and I suspect that one of my other sons has dyslexia as well. I’ve been attending IEP and 504 Plan meetings for eight years, so in this case, I really am a been there- done that mom. 

The most important thing that I’ve learned, and it’s been a hard lesson to learn, is do not let yourself be intimidated at the meetings.  It is easy to let yourself get overwhelmed by the sheer number of administrators, educators, counselors and specialists sitting at the table.  It has happened to me on more than one occasion and is very frustrating to walk out of the school building and suddenly realize that I did not succeed in getting my child what he needs.  

Here’s how to make sure each meeting is successful:

Know what you want.  Before you go to the meeting, decide what your objective is.  Do you want a 504 Plan for your child or an Individualized Education Plan for him?  504 Plans are simply educational and environmental accommodations for your child.  Teachers and administrators are obligated to follow the plan in every way possible to help your child be as successful in school as his or her peers.  An IEP is a list of goals and a timeline stating how and by when the goals will be reached.  Good information can be found online at sites like this: 504 Plan vs. IEP and this: IEP Goals.    

Lay the Groundwork. Start by contacting the teacher directly.  Sending an email is effective because it gives you a record of all contact.  Once you have made your inquiry, the teacher is obligated to follow up and get you the information you need and set up a meeting, if warranted.  

Be Prepared.  Now that you know what type of plan you want for your child and have a meeting set up, revisit the key websites and write a list of accommodations or goals for your child.  Be specific so that you can make yourself clear in the midst of all the voices at the meeting, which can be an emotional setting.  

Anytime a parent is working hard to help her child, emotions can take over, and levelheadedness is crucial to success at these meetings.  Showing emotion is perfectly fine, of course, but you have a clear mission and need to keep a clear head so that the desired end result is always in sight. 

Stay on Track.  Once you are in the meeting, keep your eye on the prize.  Unfortunately, oftentimes, the teachers, counselors and administrators see your goal of getting an IEP or 504 plan as just one more thing to do in their already busy week.  An IEP or 504 Plan creates more work for many people at the school.  If your child is getting by, they might try to talk you out of your plan.  DO NOT LET THEM DO THIS.  You spent a lot of time and energy getting your plan together.  You know what is best for your child’s education.  Stay the course, but do so nicely.  Keep a smile on your face and kindly refute their efforts to dismiss your concerns.  Getting your child a Franklin Speller is not the answer to helping him learn to deal with his dyslexia. (This was actually suggested to me at a recent meeting!)  If you know that your child needs real help to get an equal education, then be assertive.  Remember, you catch more bees with honey, so smile when you assert yourself, but show them you mean what you say and that you have no intention of backing down from your goal.

If you follow these steps, you will get your child what he or she needs.  It might seem like an insurmountable objective, but the system is set up to work for you, you just have to learn how to work your way through it.  

It is definitely a learning process, but hopefully the course will be easier now that you are ready for action.

Good Luck.