You are your child's first teacher

Learning styles are like sun rays breaking through the clouds.   Children can play under the clouds, yet sunshine energizes them to produce more activity.  Teaching with methods that best engage different learners transforms information into a deeper level of understanding. Auditory, kinesthetic, and visual materials help learners focus on content without having to decipher through mismatched communication filters.

Instruction that incorporates learning styles achieves efficient and effective results.  Yet, not all teachers, and quite frankly, many teachers do not have the time to assess the learning styles of individual students.  Doing what works best for an individual child is usually not the focus of classroom management.  The process of how learning is going on does not receive as much attention as what has been learned.  However, what gets learned is greatly impacted by how a child learns. 

As parents, knowing the approaches to how your children learn best will empower you and them to make the most of their education.  With this knowledge, you have valuable insights to share with your child’s teacher.  Educational toys, study aids, and lesson plans adapted for each learning style make absorbing concepts easier. Thus, learning becomes efficient and effective.  Understanding how a child learns is an invaluable everlasting skill necessary for developing lifelong learners.

Allow me to use a driving example to illustrate how innate sensory learning styles affect our comprehension.   Suppose you are really interested in joining a particular organization.   You get directions to an event from one of the insiders, Ben.  He is “in the know,” and is your benefactor into the group.  There is one problem.  You are a visual person and Ben is kinesthetic. Ben is familiar with the location of this event because he has driven there for various events.  Thus, Ben knows how to get to this gathering, but does not remember any street names.  

Ben begins giving directions by saying, “You know the busy intersection at Mopac with the electronics store.” “You can grocery shop across the street, get a drive-thru burger, or take your kids to gymnastics,” Ben goes on to explain.   These directions seem perfectly reasonable to him because he learns from the dynamic intersection of information and movement.  He does not realize everyone does not mark locations based on the activities they conduct.   As a visual person, you are lost because your mind is picturing all the grocery stores along Mopac, as well as drive-thru burger restaurants. 

Charlie Brown’s teacher just gave you driving directions – whomp whomp. If Ben had said something like the shopping center in the northeast quadrant off Mopac with the Fry’s Electronics then you could have visualized the location.

With more probing questions on your part, and a degree of frustration, you ultimately arrive at your destination.  But, in the back of your mind, you are preoccupied thinking if Ben cannot give simple directions, the potential fulfillment from this organization may not be good.  You find yourself becoming less enthusiastic about upcoming events.  Ben is starting to wonder if he should spend his time with a better prospective member because you always arrive late.  When you are on time (from leaving 30 minutes earlier to compensate for bad directions), you are frustrated.  You may ultimately choose to stop going to the gatherings altogether.  

Similar situations often happen for kinesthetic students.  Kinesthetic learners engage with dynamic information.  Students with kinesthetic learning styles are forced to sit all day with limited movement and few hands-on applications.  This diminishes their attention and renders them less receptive to learning.   Because they have a quick grasp in applying knowledge, concepts should be varied for these students.  Their ability to process two or more math strands at the same time makes them candidates to be great math problem solvers.  However, the same math concept is usually taught for four to six weeks.  Consequently, these students does not achieve their full potential because subjects are presented in a static manner.

Look at another example.  Vivian, your benefactor, is a visual person. (Of course, you are not.)  Vivian starts off well with simple directions.  She instructs you to exit 610 at Sheppard, take a right, and go 6 blocks. Now, it starts to get complicated.  Vivian has traveled to this destination many times before, and there is a street sign down.  Vivian says, “You know the Quickie, convenience store, on the corner?”  You say, “No.”   “The convenience store with the bright yellow sign that you pass on Insight Street,” continues Vivian.  You are silent.  Vivian, being helpful, “You have to start looking for the store because your turn is just past the convenience store,” says Vivian.  You respond, “I’ve never noticed a store.”  Vivian keeps talking because oral language often cannot compete against the visual images in her mind.  Vivian is still picturing the Quickie store.  She cannot fully comprehend that you cannot picture the store as clearly as she does.  “Start looking because you turn right just past the convenience store,” finishes Vivian. 

As a naturally auditory or kinesthetic person, you never paid any attention to the convenience store because you were too busy thinking about tasks leading up to and post your designation (kinesthetic) or too busy listening to audio books (auditory).  You arrive at your destination after anxiously looking for the convenience store.  Because you spent so much time looking for it,   your attention was diverted from the route. You will not remember how to get back to this location on another occasion. Over time, the relationship diminishes as Vivian wonders what kind of a dunce she is mentoring that does not pay attention to the things around her.  You are tired of repeating yourself and still not being heard because your voice cannot compete with the images in Vivian’s mind.

Many children muddle through assignments that could have been made simpler with learning style differentiation.  They depend on parents, teachers, administrators, curriculum writers, and education industry manufacturers to get them to their destination.  Many children go through school not achieving their full potential.  Their gifts are subjugated to getting an acceptable test score or demonstrating skill sets important to local business curriculum influencers.  However, a journey filled with engaging study aids that best fit how they learn helps children thrive. Developing solid learning foundations early based on self-awareness of auditory, kinesthetic, and visual learning styles will be helpful in school, doing homework, and studying independently later in life.

Upon first glance, the pretty pink Gerbera flowers looked like regular daisies. The petals were a bright vibrant pink, and the center seed pod was a brilliant yellow with a lime hue. The leaves were very distinctive, green and pointed with a slight velvety feel.

I placed the flowerpot in the window sill next to my desk so we could admire each other’s beauty. About four days later, the plant did not like the view. Though the stems were standing straight and tall, the flowers were hanging their heads down and looked like sad and pitiful Mii characters on the Wii after losing. Then, I remembered the care card said it needed bright sunlight. I had wanted the flower near my desk and thought exposure to indirect daylight would be sufficient. Alas, I would have to appreciate the plant’s beauty from afar.

I moved them to kitchen window sill, which gets the brightest and most direct sunlight. In a few minutes, the plant was standing straight at attention. It was such a fast and dramatic change that we found it very amusing. The timing was also good because we were studying plant tropism, which is sensitivity to environmental changes that affects the direction of plant growth.

We learned about three kinds of tropism. Phototropism is sensitivity to light. Geotropism refers to changes in the soil that affect the direction of plant growth. Hydrotropism is environmental changes in water causing plants to grow or move. However, we were about to expand our understanding tropism.

I bounced down to the kitchen to discover my beautiful little plant looking a little depressed. Maybe, it did miss my exchange of carbon dioxide. I thought we had a perfectly symbiotic relationship. I gave it carbon dioxide and it purified my air with oxygen. No matter how dramatic the plant’s change in direction, I knew it could not be feeling rejected. Then, I remembered that the care instructions said it needed moist soil. The plant was acting so alive, that it almost felt like I was invading its privacy by reaching into the pot to feel the soil. It was not completely dry but could use a little more water. We watered the plant, got the soil most, and it was in the window receiving bright direct sunlight. We had satisfied hydrotropism, geotropism, and phototropism. Daisy, as my daughter called it, perked right up. We figured everything would be all good.

I researched Gerbera flowers because these seemed a little exotic. The first search said it was from the sunflower family. Now, the plant really had me confused. I looked up its scientific classification and discovered that Asteraceae class includes both daisies and sunflowers. Upon closer inspection, it really did look like a small sunflower with pink petals. We were experiencing a lot about tropism from a familiar plant.

The next morning, the plant was okay. It was a cloudy winter’s day. So, I left it on the window sill to get as much light as possible. By the end of the day, not only was the flower bent over like a dejected hunchback Mii, but also the stems and the leaves were wilted. Irrational thoughts crossed my mind like how can I raise children if I cannot keep from killing a plant. Maybe this thought was a little dramatic, but so was the plant. I felt the soil again. It was moist and not too damp. It had been a cloudy day, so I settled on the planted needed light. I placed it directly under my desk lamp. After about an hour, the stem and leaves stretched upwards towards the light. But, the flowers looked a little dull. I decided not to leave the plant in the dark that night. After all, I am a good parent, my plant was not ready to face the night without a night-light. So, I took the plant to the bathroom in my bedroom, turned on the light, and closed the door.

The next morning, the plant was vibrant. It was a bright sunny winter’s day that got up to the seventies, so I placed Daisy back in the kitchen window. The plant started to show signs of its old self.  I went to bed more relaxed leaving the flowerpot in the kitchen window.

I bounced down to the kitchen expecting to see my bright cheerful sunflower. The leaves and petals were drooping like over stretched pantyhose. Again, this is a plant. So, it could not be reacting from not being near me in my bathroom. But, I had changed the plant’s environment.

Most plants do not live in 24 hour light, so only light could not be the reason for the change. Then it hit me, the poor plant was suffering from phototropism. The sensitivity to light, or in this case, a lack of heat was caused by no light. It was seventy during the day, but at night sometimes the temperature dropped into the low forties or thirties. The plant was freezing in the window at night. In the mornings, it was communicating as alive as it could. The message was we needed to expand our understanding of tropisms to include thermotropism.

Biotin Helps Grow Hair

Since I had my children, I have had increased difficulty growing my hair.   The center of my scalp had been weak for years due  to my beautician consistently starting at the crown of my head when applying perms.  Then prior to my first pregnancy, my thyroid was under functioning.  I was put on medication for my thyroid which led to it over functioning.  This caused Graves Disease, which they tested for using a radioactive iodine tablet.  During both pregnancies, I had to take anticoagulants because I had a blood clot during my first pregnancy. During the last two years, I was finally diagnosed correctly with ADD.  I take Adderall and a side effect is hair loss.  My thyroid has been functioning normally for over seven years.  However, my body and its natural processes have gone through quite a lot in the last decade.

The hair on my head is where these changes are most evident.  I have alopecia, male pattern baldness, in the top of my head.  I also have severely thin patches along the side of my head.  A friend of mine, who is a doctor, recommended that I take biotin.  I initially did not take it I a high enough dose, or perhaps not regularly enough.  I saw no results, and stopped taking it.  It seemed as during the last six months the baldness in the top was getting worse.  My hair did not appear to be growing at all, especially where the sides were bare.

I started taking 1000 mcg (1mg) of biotin.  In a couple of days, I could feel stubble from the hair follicles.  My hair is thickening and the top even has hair.  Though it is still very thin on top, it has only been a couple of weeks.  If it does not grow in completely, the front is growing well enough that it will be able to cover up the baldness on top.  The bald patches on the sides have also filled in.  I looked up biotin toxicity. The information that I found on the Internet was that toxicity is relatively low for biotin.  You might want to do your own research on the safe dosages.  But, biotin definitely helps grow hair.

The numerous people who knew about Sandusky’s predilection for young boys, saw the behavior, and enabled Jerry Sandusky is mind boggling.

We have heard of cronyism in the pursuit of money.  We routinely dismiss callousness when dealing companies that maybe sacrificing customer service or quality for profitability.  Even though football is big business at many universities, not just Penn State, the Jerry Sandusky case was something different.  This was depraved indifference to human life.  These children had their childhoods stolen and their lives shattered.

The Penn State University officials who allowed Jerry Sandusky to continue abusing young boys made a senseless decision.  Joe Paterno was the head football coach and Penn State would have continued to be a great football program without Sandusky.  But, I am sure the short-sighted people thought it would be best to circle the wagons in order to avoid lawsuits and public outrage.  Well, how much more will it cost the university now?  If they had acted years ago, it would have just been Sandusky’s sin.  But, now it is Penn State’s as well.

But, no, they chose to allow a pedophile access and a marketing strategy to attract more victims.  One news station reported that emails among Penn State executives discussed being “humane” toward the coaches.  What about the children’s humanity?  The guilty verdict came in for Jerry Sandusky regarding the ten victims who had the strength to come forward. But, what about the others that were too emotionally scarred and/or ashamed to recount the humiliating and painful details.  Please spare me the how do we know there were others?  This denial is part of the problem.  Many people cannot accept evil, conspiracies, and random acts of violence.  They stick their heads in the sand because they want to feel safe.  This case nags at us because it forces people to look at the people who deal with children more cautiously.

This case will not go away because so many Penn State officials covered up Jerry Sandusky’s behavior.  This case is so disgusting because any woman who has ever loved a man, or been married to a man, believes that she could not – not know.  So, it disturbs people that Dottie Sandusky gets to walk away.  It is disturbing because we suspect the Sandusky foster children, especially the boys, are possible victims.  We are bothered that Matt Sandusky found the courage to stand up, and as usual, the other enablers rally to the defense of the abuser.

This case will not go away because we do not want to believe that a decent guy like Mike McQuery could just walk away.  It is incomprehensible to most of us how he could not be so enraged as to grab Sandusky and fling him across the shower.  It is incomprehensible that once reported by Mike McQuery and Joe Paterno that no one followed up on a brazen pedophile.

People should not easily forget how dangerous it is to place your allegiance to an entity over living people.  We see this time and time again – with Enron and the Catholic Church.   This case will not go away because it shouldn’t.

From the opening teaser, a little girl about five years old sitting behind me blurted out, “That scared my heart.”

Brave is one of the most suspenseful children’s movies that I have ever seen. For young children, it can be a little scary. That same child managed to climb into her mother’s lap during the movie and was being held tightly. Even my nine and a half –year old wanted to leave during some pivotal battle scenes. I had to have her bury her head into my shoulder and hide her face from some truly gut-wrenching scenes. At one point the little girl started to whimper and her mother told her to cut it out. Though maybe not the best approach, I did understand.

You see, the Brave trailers that I saw on television did not exactly portray the story. I was lead to believe Brave was a movie about a young princesses coming of age who chooses her destiny to be a warrior instead of the wife of a prince. While that was a subplot, it was a small part. The movie is not about the young lady coming into her destiny, but the unintended consequences of choosing one’s path. Plus, the bravery it takes to pursue your destiny when others have a different plan for your life. In Merida’s case, it was her parents, especially her mother. Brave is a mother-daughter movie.

It is a good movie for mothers to take pre-adolescents, especially in relationships where tension is rising as daughters search for their independence. The catalyst in the plot is a relationship between a strong-willed adolescent and a mother who “knows” best. Though sometimes the battles were hard to watch, I, like the other mother, wanted our daughters to fully embrace the message of the movie. It was during the battle scenes that you saw the fierce loyalty and devotion of the mother and the daughter to each other. And I do mean fierce literally. But, to children, seeing one’s mother in danger as Merida experienced is hard to watch, regardless of how outstanding the animation.

And I am not sure what exactly what Pixar is, but I loved the animation just the same. The transformation of the bear in the story is mesmerizing. I am sure I enjoyed it more than my daughter, who asked me to take her to see it. She was looking for the comedy of the mischievous little brothers and a little girl power. She got more than she bargained for. As a mother, I appreciated the growth of Queen Elinor and Merida as well as the expression of the depth of the mother-daughter bond. I also like to see women kick a little butt. I would like to see it again in 3D. All in all, I thought it was a very original movie.

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There is a mystic around homeschooling. But, there is also a mystic surrounding the public education system. Many parents do not understand how to advocate for their children’s education.  Just remember the David Gregory misspeak trying to tell parents and the society at-large what they could do to help schools.  He is an accomplished news reporter, yet he is not clear how to approach education. Teachers are caught in the haze of federal standards and state standardized testing. Administrators are stuck in an industrialization education model as we approach the 21st century.  Graduates from our nation’s private schools are being out competed internationally.  So, homeschool families remind us that there are better ways to educate children.  These ways involve flexibility, creativity and differentiation.

I, like many parents, looked forward to the day my children could go to school.  My daughter and son were enthusiastic learners who were excited to start kindergarten.  But, each time I took them to school, I was dismayed.  My daughter literally cried in kindergarten from boredom.  My son was so mathematically gifted that his teacher could not begin to envision his abilities to challenge him.  These experiences threatened my children’s zeal for learning and put a ceiling on how much they would achieve.

I was fortunate enough to be in a position where I could homeschool my children. When I had to start looking for a job in another city, I again tried to find a school. Because I homeschooled, I had insights that many parents do not have.   I knew how my children learned best.  Oral style lectures prevalent in most classrooms were not the best way to communicate new information to my daughter.   She comprehends quicker when information is visually modeled.  Then she processes concepts logically and sequentially, so her auditory responses could cause some teachers to miss how deft and fluent she was after the concept was introduced.  I also worried that my son would not be challenged to his capacity.  The hum you hear as a computer runs because there is so much going on in the background typified my son. He was truly a kinesthetic learner whose mind was like a dual process computer.  He was constantly in motion, calculating, synthesizing and the like. I fed him with active information. In the best interest of the children, I wanted them placed in classes where they would continue to thrive.  School staff dismissed my requests that my children be placed with advanced learners.  Therefore, I had them tested to verify their abilities.

While the test scores revealed a new set of educational challenges for the placing them in school, they confirmed the educational products that I had created and the way in which I used them was successful.  My first grade son scored in the 99.9% percentile in math and achieved a 7th grade reading comprehension ranking.  This prompted two public school administrators to suggest that I take him to a private school. They were not prepared to support the education needs of a child that advanced.

Administrators tried assuaging my concerns about my daughter receiving challenging work.  They said she was like their other “gifted and talented” students.  My third grade daughter had scored in the 98th percentile in math.  While she was spelling was on grade level and her reading was on a 5th grade level, she could formulate 12th grade sentence construction.

Knowing my daughter’s keen ability to identify patterns, I used it to teach her how to combine sentences.  Thus, when tasked, my daughter can put together complex sentences.  Instead of solely focusing on mechanics and spelling lists, I wanted my children to understand how sentence structure helps us communicate.  My children would encounter words in the context of reading and writing.  Then, I used mini word walls that I created to practice spelling sounds and parts of speech when they were relevant. Like many homeschool parents, I designed resources to help my children attain their highest achievement.

My educational products tap into children’s creativity and link concepts with skills development.  Because children learn through pretend play, I would often write educational plays and skits to make a concept relevant and engaging.  Although I had coordinated educational programs, the performance of my children from homeschooling has fortified me that integrated approaches work and learning styles do matter. The more homeschoolers show success, we should apply these lessons learned to the broader education discussion.  We have to create nimble infrastructures and provide teachers with the resources to address the variety of learners.  Attempting to have every child fit into standardization is hurting our collective educational achievement.

I have never thought the term learning style was a good descriptive term, but as such we will go with it since universally when I say learning style people know what I mean.

In an effort to deemphasize the importance of learning styles, some people have started calling them preferences.  A preference by definition is something you like better.  But, when you have been divinely created to receive information best that is presented orally, visually or by figuring it out, this is not a preference.

Our Story Publications advocates nourishing the entire child.  As part of the whole child mix, we sometimes serve up recipes for healthy parents.  Our children follow our leads, not our words.  So, nutrition, exercise, sleep and physical fitness are good ingredients for how we support everyone’s mental capacity.

This being the start of a new year, I know many parents have taken a weight loss challenge.  One of the best things that I did this year was to join Weight Watchers.  In about two weeks, I have logged in twice.  This is not a commentary on the program.  I joined during the free registration period for the three month online deal.   Given Weight Watchers offers this deal, they not only have a great weight loss program, but good market segmentation.  I am in the group that wants to get the healthy weight loss recipes with ingredients that I can find at my local Central Market.  I want an occasional reminder to drink half my body weight in water and to exercise regularly until it becomes a habit.  Plus, I have to find out the secrets behind the points system. 

The recipe secret is to simply be true to yourself and eat in moderation.  They make recipes and food combinations for regular people.  So, you can use whatever you have in your kitchen, pantry, cubbards or regularly shop for at a grocery store like Central Market go make tasty weight loss recipes.  They do not require fancy things like I had to buy when I followed the recipes of In The Kitchen With Rosie: Oprah’s Favorite Recipes.  They do not ask for fresh chervil, white pepper, shallots or dry sherry.  All of these are things one could easily find at Central Market.  But, most people do not eat like that, not even us foodies who crave fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains and love a great recipe.  

The program offers tasty weight loss recipes.  However, let’s be real, they are still weight loss.  So, when you are used to making chocolate chip cookies using a half a stick to a stick of butter, using two table spoons of butter can leave you with a digestive feeling that something is missing.  So, at my local Central Market, I can get whole wheat flour or spelt flour to make my cookie a littler heartier and healthier.  I spice up the Weight Watcher’s South-of-the-Border Chicken Soup aka chicken tortilla soup again at Central Market.  I substitute a half cup of chipolte salsa for a cup of regular salsa.  Plus, I use a fresh tomato from the Central Market produce section instead of the canned diced tomatoes that the soup calls for.  Whola!  With the help of Central Market, I have transformed healthy weight loss recipes into a healthy tasty weight loss recipes.

Now, you might ask – what is my fascination with Central Market?  Well, I see creativity and I look for inspiration everywhere.  I understand that the more pleasurable a thing is, the more likely you will continue.  When you go to Central Market, you are greeted with fresh produce and a store full of products that are common, yet spiced up.  It is more than just a shopping trip.  It is an experience.  Cooking can be very creative and is extremely sensory.  Good smells and tastes can create memories and comfort for you and your children.  Tasty weight loss recipes can help your children develop healthy eating habits that will last them a lifetime.  I want to help you enjoy cooking and healthy eating so that you can set an example with a sustainable lifestyle change.   Experiment with ingredients that spice up your weight loss recipes.  When you go to the grocery store, pick foods your taste buds enjoy and you will maintain your healthy eating habits longer.

I pointed out to my children how amazing the miners’ rescue was as well as how strong the men must have been mentally.  I paced the floor and we counted 15 feet across our bedroom, so the children could get an idea of how far the miners were underground.  I wanted them to appreciate the greatness of sciene and technology.  I presented it in a manner where they could see  themselves as scientists making practical, yet amazing discoveries and inventions.  

As I watched the capsule arrive inside the Chilean mine, I could not help but be moved bythe purposefulness of  technology.   I was fascinated to watch video images from a camera positioned more than 2,000 feet below the surface of the earth.  It captured a signal and broadcasted it around the world.  It was a testament to human creativity. 

 Point out the wonders of sciene to  your children.   Remember!  Your are your child’s first teacher.

The mini word wall is a product that I developed while teaching my daughter to spell.   I worry  we might miss something.  So, I made dozens of these mini word walls using word families, digraphs, diphthongs, vowel teams, and blends.    It is nice to have the large word walls for children to pass by and reflect on the relationships between the words.  But, I know  she  needs to practice in different ways because there are so many exceptions and rules.   We use the Mini Word Walls as quick practice or reinforcement.  Because children like to use dry erase markers, she does not mind having to think up words to get to write with the dry erase marker. 

Ank Word Family

 Over the coming weeks, I will be releasing a number of these.