Monthly Archives: September 2012

Back to School

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Since September began, I have been back to teaching, and the schedule has begun to fill up with the children’s activities and appointments.  I am putting up an article in progress about helping children with homework.  Although the article focuses on students with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) I think the strategies are helpful for all students.

How to Overcome Obstacles Common to Students with ADD

            Whether I am visiting with friends or family, talking with colleagues, or meeting with parents, I have heard the frustration of many parents who have a child with Attention Deficit Disorder.  Repeatedly they have heard that their child has potential, but the student continues to miss homework assignments.  Students often have a negative attitude toward school, and home becomes a battleground as parents want students to finish homework, and children procrastinate.  As a teacher, I have learned a few techniques to help my students with Attention Deficit Order be more successful in school.  Here are some techniques for parents and students to incorporate to overcome doubt and discouragement when dealing with horrendous homework.

Doubt and Discouragement.  Your child may dislike school and be frustrated by low grades and have difficulty concentrating in class. Remember that children and adults with ADD are unique, creative people, and God created them on purpose with these qualities.  Be sure to encourage your child to pursue extra-curricular activities in her gifted area, like sports, music, or art.  When your child can express himself, it makes him confident.  These positive feelings and situations can offset the negative feelings and situations your child may encounter.

Horrendous Homework.  Many parents demand that children remove all distractions and create a silent atmosphere for finishing homework.  However, this creates a dilemma for students with ADD as the quiet may heighten their sensitivity to sounds.  It is okay for children to have background noise of television or music.  Since students with ADD have trouble with focus, the background noise helps one part of their brain to be aware of the stimulus, freeing another part to focus on homework.  My son completes his homework in front of the computer listening to music.

Working in focused, brief stints with frequent breaks or rewards is helpful.  The drawback is that assignments make take a few hours to complete.  Parents should come alongside the students to redirect attention as needed.  The remainder of the article gives more details on how to break down homework into manageable chunks.

Bottomless Backpack.  The backpack needs to be sorted weekly, if not daily.  Students with ADD have trouble organizing and filing, recording information and retaining papers. Elaborate systems don’t work.  Purchase one colorful folder and put all worksheets into it.  If there is more than one folder, this increases the chance that something will be left behind at school or at home.  Expanding folders can hold quite a bit and even have a closure so things don’t fall out.

Keep a folder or binder at home with all of the informational letters teachers send home.  Teachers can be quickly reached via email, and sometimes a website can confirm assignment requirements and deadlines.  Teachers are encouraged to be in contact with parents, and they often have systems in place to help increase communication with parents.  Be sure to take advantage of Open Houses and parent-teacher conferences to build rapport with your child’s teacher.

Many schools issue an agenda book with places for assignments.  Some schools require parents to sign these books on a regular basis.  As a child grows, his responsibility to keep track of assignments should increase.

English Essay. The blank page incites fear in the hearts of students, and often students just give up and turn in nothing.  As an English teacher, I would rather receive something rather than nothing.  One technique that is helpful is to ask the student to recite what he already knows.  As he dictates, write or type his response.  Now the page is not blank! However, many students think they are done at this point.  Now is the time to edit the essay to complete it.  Allow a quick break for completing the rough draft, then get back to work.

Essays vary according to grade level, but regardless of students’ age, essays always need correct spelling, capitalization, punctuation and grammar.  Often papers need a quote–exact words from a work of literature or text in quotation marks.  Use any notes, prompts, or graphic organizers the teacher has provided to check the work.  The teacher may want a specific number of facts, sentences, paragraphs, or examples.

If your child runs out of ideas, prompt her with questions that can be turned into statements, like, what is a cause of the Revolutionary War? Or, what happens next in the cycle?  Finally, make sure the essay is turned in as a final draft—usually in ink or typed.  Always be sure your child’s name is on the assignment!

Mountains of Math.  Students often receive multiple problems to complete each night.  The key to math problems is to break down the assignment into manageable chunks.  Have your child complete three to five problems at a time and then take a break.  Graph paper is very helpful so that students can use the boxes to line up figures and decimal points to avoid careless errors.

For younger students, getting a handle on multiplication facts is key.  Get some flashcards and keep them handy for down time.  I used to drill my daughter during her nighttime bath or shower.  Card rides and dinner time offer some opportunities to run through tables.

Students with ADD usually benefit from movement or music associated with learning.  Help your student create a sing-song voice or use British accents to recite facts.  Use manipulatives or move from place to place.   Snap fingers or clap to create rhythm. Move the math mountain piece by piece and keep it fun.

Persevere.  Students with ADD need extra help and reminder from parents, teachers, and peers.  Helping your child is not cheating! Many classrooms implement cooperative learning. By creating structure, breaking down assignments, staying in touch with teachers, and helping with organization, you can help your child can be successful and less discouraged about school.

When Opposites Attract

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When I fell in love with my husband, I fell quickly and completely.  He is so handsome and funny. We married just five months after we began dating.  He was twenty-one and had never lived away from home; I was twenty-four and had graduated from college, lived in Russia for two semesters, and had been on missions trips. He was a school skipper, while I was a top student.  I was a pastor’s daughter; he had been in a glam rock band.  He loves video games and computers; I am a book worm.

While our opposite personalities create a passionate, exciting relationship, our differences can cause a lot of disagreement.  Here are some ways you may differ from your spouse and some strategies to keep your relationship interesting but not explosive.

Early Bird, Night Owl.  When I wake up, I wake up early and get up right away.  My most productive time is the early hours when everyone else is asleep.  I wake up at five, do my daily devotions, take care of house hold chores, and run.  On the other hand, I often fall asleep on the couch between 8 and 9 p.m. It is hard for me to teach an evening Bible Study or take graduate classes at night.  Friday nights after work, I like to collapse at home with a pizza and a good book instead of going out with friends.  In contrast, my husband has worked nights for most of our marriage and has even worked overnight shifts while sleeping during the day.  Right now, he works weekends as well, so we have to find pockets of time to see each other and communicate.  The worst thing I can do is hit him with a list of things to do, problems, or questions first thing in the morning.  If he wakes up at 9 a.m., I’ve been up four hours already and I’m rearing to go, while he wants to putter and drink coffee, check his computer and TV.  This can have devastating effects on our love life as we truly are ships that pass in the night.  I used to host a Saturday morning Bible study at our house.  Now, Saturday mornings are often times when I try to clear the schedule so Mike and I can go to a late breakfast before he heads to work.  I try to make him lunch to bring to work and fill his car with gas so that he has a smooth morning.  Since he works on the weekends, his day off is a Tuesday, which ended up being one of our busiest days this spring.  I worked all day, then taught Bible Study from 5:45-7, while my son had basketball games 3:30-5.  Our daughter added softball practice at 6, so this created tension since my husband expected and deserved some rest on his day off, while the three of us were in the beginning of a rigid school schedule.  On these nights I always ordered pizza and we didn’t often attend away games.  The most important thing to do when schedules or preferences conflict with quality time is to find common time to communicate.  For us, the weekly or bi-weekly breakfast date works best.  Couples must have non-threatening, positive communication as a foundation before broaching difficult subjects.

Spender, Saver. Everyone knows one of the biggest causes of tension in marriage is money, especially if the individuals are opposites in this important sphere. In couples that are opposite, one person is the spender, and the other is the saver.  In my marriage I am the one who manages our finances.  The biggest challenge here is that one spouse often bears the burden of this important responsibility.  While it makes things easier for one person to be tracking accounts and paying bills, both partners need to have input on how to spend the money.  For example, I recently saved money by switching phone service, and I made sure I told my husband about the great deal.  He is wonderful because he turns over his paycheck and never asks for anything for himself.  It is important for both spouses to have an understanding of what is coming in and going out.  A friend of mine recently lost her husband, and she had a rude awakening when she learned that bills had not been paid and her finances were a mess. Without giving details, I mention to my husband that I’ve paid a bill or we need to tighten the budget for an unexpected medical bill. Another friend makes purchases and then gives her husband the receipt so he can balance the books.  It is important to discuss major purchases.  Last September we bought a car and we both selected the car and decided when it was time and where we would shop.  However, when my daughter had oral surgery and got braces last year, I didn’t consult with Mike, and we should have waited a few months since this medical expense really emptied our savings.

Messy, Neat.  The day-to-day schedules of the household can be affected if one mate is messy, and the other is neat.  Somehow, Mike and I are evenly matched here, but unfortunately we both tend to be undisciplined.  I have a lot of creative clutter, and Mike doesn’t spend a lot of time on chores before he leaves for work, so if I have to label us, I would be the “neat” one since the bulk of the chores fall to me. Our friend suggested an interesting activity for engaged couples.  She suggested that each person make a two-column list of chores they don’t mind and chores they expect their spouse to complete.  Then the couple is supposed to compare lists and make a plan for housekeeping.

When opposites attract, there has to be some compromise.  For example, if the wife is home with the children during the day, and the husband expects to come home to a clean house, the expectations may be unrealistic.  Maybe the bedroom can be a restful spot where clutter is put away and the bed made each day.  Perhaps the living room is the sanctuary that is top priority.  Family dinner at the dining room table may be your clutter-free zone. Now that my children are teenagers, I need to delegate more tasks to them.  More and more these days I hear of men who take over the cooking.  I appreciate that my husband doesn’t complain when things get messy, but if keeping things neat and orderly is a blessing to your spouse, be sure to find at least one zone in your house where your mate feels peaceful.

Good Cop, Bad Cop.   Marrying someone with opposite traits poses challenges that often escalate after having children.  Couples can disagree over the discipline of the children.  Mike tends to dole out consequences like no TV for a week if my daughter talks back.  This is impossible for him to follow through since he works evenings.  I tend to be less likely to punish them because I discipline teens all day at school and I’m tired when I get home.  The best advice is deciding before a situation occurs what the consequence will be.  For example, if my teen comes home late, next time he won’t be able to go out.  That way, everyone knows the consequences.  The worst thing is allowing the children to manipulate the parents, pitting them against each other.  Parents should present a united front even if one spouse feels the other is too lax or too strict.

Book Worm, Social Butterfly.  The final area that causes misunderstanding in my marriage is our social lives.  Often these disagreements come up during the holidays, vacations, or days off. When blended families are in the mix, managing holiday celebrations is even more challenging.  I am a bookworm, and although I am comfortable speaking and teaching in front of others, I don’t enjoy parties.  My husband is usually the life of the party and will meet new people and tell stories while I sit in the corner.  When couples are opposite in this way, it helps to have a plan to navigate the event, like a wedding.  If the social spouse is talking, have signals or a pre-arranged time to meet up or leave the venue.  I am always proud to have my handsome, charming husband as my date.

Marriage to my husband is a wonderful experience, but our personalities can polarize us.  Instead of focusing on your differences, try to remember the excitement that they bring to your relationship.