Tag Archives: Parenting

Flip the Classroom!

Open House … we enter the 7th grade hallway into Justin’s next class.  Balance balls,  talking about a student-centered classroom, online video and quick assessment at home, individualized guidance and instruction in class.  Wow – a whirlwind of new information and concepts!  Welcome to 7th grade math for Justin this year  at Landstown Middle where his teacher is Flipping the Classroom.  I was SO intrigued that after hearing about the approach I came home and did a little research.  I’m excited to see how it goes this year.

The question – how can our teachers get kids more engaged in learning, and individualize their teaching more than in the normal lecture style.  Not sure about your kiddo, but our youngest can definitely zone out in a lecture where he is just taking notes.  The Flipped Learning concept tries to change that – flips introductory learning to online videos and quick assessments to see what kids understood/retained, the the work to apply the concepts (what was HW before) is done in the classroom, with individualized attention based on their prep work the evening before.    And since our kids’ generation is so comfortable with online content, so the instructional videos may work out.  And we can watch them together so that we can see how the concept was taught and help them if needed.

I love the little graphic below:  teacher goes from Sage on the Stage … to Guide on the Side, coming alongside the kids to reinforce the concepts and help them apply it.

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source: http://ketabstudio.com/wp-data/imgs/img_flipped-learning-main-photo.png

Our kids grew up in Montessori settings through about second grade before they went to mainstream schools, and that individualized approach is what we have missed at times.   And I especially like the idea of elevating the level of activity and engagement while the kids are in class vs passively listening or taking notes.

Not sure how many teachers are trying this at LMS, but excited to be a part of it!

So here’s how it works:

source: https://learningsciences.utexas.edu/sites/default/files/flippedgraphic(web1100px)_0.png
source: https://learningsciences.utexas.edu/sites/default/files/flippedgraphic(web1100px)_0.png
  1. Teachers create/post instructional video content on a secure teaching site (we are using Edmodo)
  2. Kids have a short homework segment – 15 to 30 minutes to watch the video that may introduce a concept, then take a quick assessment to help the teacher gauge their level of understanding.  (what would have been taught in class in the traditional classroom)
  3. In class, the teacher can then individualize the instruction to the students – meet them where they’re at.  (what would have been homework in the traditional classroom.)

I will try to post updates periodically on how the ‘flipped classroom’ is working out for us.  Would love to hear from anyone else who has experienced a Flipped Classroom.  Fingers crossed!

Love that our middle school is trying out these innovations in learning!!  Go Landstown Middle School!! 

Sulley – Adoption Love

Our house is pretty head over heels over Sulley, the adorable dog that we adopted from K-9 Justice League this past winter.  We are just so grateful for this loving, sweet and gentle dog.  He fits our family like a glove.  Hard to see this frisky, happy dog now and recognize any shred of the neglect that was a part of his life before he was rescued. I’m glad his days are brighter now – ours are too!

Sharing a few pics from a recent romp in the yard with our oldest son and Sulley’s best buddy.   Please consider adopting instead of shopping.  There’s a dog out there whose life you can turn around if you do.

Love this shot. Best buddies
Love this shot. Best buddies
Sulley Valentine
Sulley Valentine
The presidential pose - Josh & Sulley are the best ticket!
The presidential pose – Josh & Sulley are the best ticket!

Unexpected Call From School …

So its Friday evening at the end of a long day at work, and I have settled down on the couch to relax.  The phone rings.  It’s Justin’s new science & homeroom teacher on the line.  [Inner dialogue: First week of school, sometimes a tough subject for him, inclusion class – uh oh – is there a problem???]

But what followed was the most lovely and heart-warming chat!

She called just to let me know how thrilled she was to have him in her class, and talked at length about how he had settled in with his table mates, was helping out another child that sits near him.  She said he was friendly, polite and (encouraging but also surprising!) that he’s speaking up already in class and asking for help if he doesn’t understand something.  She was encouraging and supportive, and said she felt confident that he would do well this year because he seems so focused on learning.

A few minutes after the call I asked Justin to come over and sit with me.  Then I shared with him some of the kind things his teacher had to say.  “Wow!” he said.  “That’s awesome.”  Then he beamed (sort of like in the pic below … but with less hair now) 🙂

What a LOVELY way to kick off the weekend!  I am so very grateful for the teachers who spend part of their Friday evening calling their students families and doing other things to help their students learn.

p.s.  For those new to the blog, Justin has high-functioning autism and is in an inclusion class (blended mainstream and special needs kids.)  So while this is not dramatic, its the small victories that make our days and this was a great one.  Here’s a post with a little more background – link

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Joy in Ordinary Moments – Welcome Fall!

There’s a wonderful quote from Brene Brown that goes:

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As we shift from summer into fall, this seems fitting.  During summer months, we tend to seek out the extraordinary – great vacations, outdoor adventures, etc.  Back to school and fall bring us back into a routine and a cadence to our days and weeks. Perhaps more ‘ordinary’ moments – but full of opportunities for joy and love and gratitude.

  • sharpened pencils – because, I mean really, there are few ordinary things better the night before school starts 🙂
  • the gorgeous color of mums on our front porch
  • baking – giant, soft ginger cookies are our back to school tradition
  • pumpkin patches, bobbing for apples, corn mazes
  • the comfort of our routines – bedtimes, reading time, packing lunches
  • the changing color of the leaves
  • the cool breeze in the air
  • more family dinners around the table because our schedules are a little more normal

Each season we try to create a ‘bucket list’ – with a few of the things that we open to experience in the upcoming season.  And when it comes to fall, its an oldies-but-goodies list that rarely changes.

Every Kid Needs a Champion

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For the next 10 months we will entrust our kids to teachers.  The best ones will build trust, inspire, motivate, and make learning fun!  I hope everyone is blessed with one (or many) terrific teachers this school year.

Watched this terrific TED talk – highly recommend.  Human connection is so key to learning.  Kids have a relationship, then they have trust, then they learn best.

Every Kid Needs a Champion.  Check it out!

3 Cheers for Surfers Healing!

Justin LOVES the water!  When he was younger, even though he could swim he loved to let himself sink to the bottom of the pool and rest there.  It was soothing for him, he said he liked the way it felt.  But how do you think lifeguards felt about that?  We know he could swim, but its unnerving.  You see, drowning is the leading cause of death for kids with autism.  And we live in Virginia Beach – surrounded by water at both the beach and the bay.  So the only way to retain our sanity as parents was to make sure he was a capable and confident swimmer.   So he swims, does SUP, and has tried surfing and snorkeling, too.  And he loves them all!

Today was Surfers Healing Virginia Beach, a highlight of the year for our autism community.

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The program runs camps around the world that pair pro surfers with kids with autism – to take them out to ride the waves and expose them to surfing.   If the organization is new to you, check out their website to learn more about this great org.  http://www.surfershealing.org

The kids love it so much that its in high demand.  The camp extended to two days, and the over 400 slots are reserved within less than an hour of opening!  And I can never say enough about the kindness and heart of the surfers who participate.  They are so great with our kids!

This was Justin’s second year and – true to its hashtag – it was #oneperfectday.

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The weather cooperated so we had sunny, clear blue skies and warm water.  The dolphins even made an appearance off the surfing area to And while I loved watching my little surfer, we stayed for hours watching so many other families cheer on their sons and daughters.

When it was Justin’s turn to surf, he confidently followed his surfer  out into the surf, and they paddled their board out a good distance to wait for some good waves.  They floated around for a while (my little guys might happily do that for hours) then caught their first wave rolling in.  With the help of his surfer, Justin rose to his knees and them stood up on the board.  Sometimes for a few seconds then a spill, sometimes longer as they rode the wave all the way in.  When they reached the coast, Justin would turn around and march back through the surf … ready to give it another go.  He was brave and confident and happy on the water.

Here are a couple pics I captured of Justin out on the water.  John Wright did the official pics and they should be posted soon.  Here’s his FB Page Link

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And here is a mesh of a few other pics I captured from the 1-2:30 slot on Saturday, Aug 15th.  (just click on the image to see the full image … the preview will just show a part).  Still trying out this new photo gallery, Mesh, to see what I think …

Thanks to Izzy Paskowitz for realizing that water helped your son, and growing a program to extend it to the global autism community.  We are so grateful!

…before they close forever …

Quote from Anthony Doerr, from the novel All The Light We Cannot See

My friends and family all know how much I love to travel.  To explore, to discover new things, to have adventures, and to share what I pick up along the way with others!  I just can’t get enough of it.  On the flight home from New Orleans I read the quote above: “Open your eyes and see all you can, before they close forever.”   And that’s it in the end – we are gifted with just a finite amount of time on this earth, and I can only hope to see, hear and experience life richly and to make an impact with the gifts and time I am given.

Sometimes we read things that just strike a chord with what’s on our mind or our heart.  Today this was it for me.   Find beauty.  Connect deeply.  Make an impact.  Love life.

CSA Season Begins!!

The awesome fruits and veggie of Farm Chicks Produce​ are BACK – and I am so happy! 🙂

We are part of a wonderful CSA program (community-supported agriculture) with Farm Chicks and it’s an important part of helping us cook and each with the fruits and veggies that grow here in our region and based on what’s in season.  I feel so much better about our meals during CSA season.  Once you have a big bounty of great local food in your fridge, you almost can’t help but plan meals to be sure you can use everything.  And I definitely feel much happier about our family’s nutrition when I know we make healthy choices.

I had to be away from home this morning, so Bryce handled our CSA pickup today.  When I got home, there was a gorgeous and yummy spread of strawberries, asparagus, lettuce, carrots, spring onions, cilantro, and spinach … and of course their delicious eggs for the week.

And aside from the food itself, I look forward to going to our farmers market every weekend and seeing this positive and hard-working family – Amy Cooper and her daughters Maddy and Michelle.  They are always a bright spot in the week.    (and they bake, too!)

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So if you are in VB or Chesapeake, you should definitely check them out at the Chesapeake Farmers Market at City Park.  Here’s a link for a little more info on CSA, and the Farm Chicks Produce website – check it out!

How does CSA Work?

Farm Chicks Produce Website (great recipes too)

Maker Saturday: littleBits DIY Electronics

Today was a terrific Maker Saturday at 757 Makerspace with over 20 kids attending the littleBits Electronics workshop – all ready to learn, tinker and have some fun!

littleBits are an easy and fun way for tinkerers of all ages to learn and invent with electronics.  With modular pieces that connect with magnets (hard to make a mistake!) you can connect power to inputs and outputs.  At a minimum you will have some fun bringing to life some blinking, buzzing, spinning creations.  From there … your imagination is the limit on how to uses these capabilities to create!

There’s a great little intro to the company and their kits on their website here:  http://littlebits.cc/intro

They have made it easy to experiment and hard to make a mistake – basically a color coded scheme where blue connectors are power, pink are inputs (like remote control, sound, light, or touch), green connectors are outputs (like buzzers, scoreboards, light, motors to drive a servo, and orange are wires that help you branch out your circuit so that you can take several actions.

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The kids such a blast – they were inquisitive, hands on, and oh so creative.  Here are some pics from the session.

Today was the first littleBits session and was mostly an ‘open build’ where the kids worked in small teams to experiment and create, then shared their creations and what they learned with the other teams at the end of the class.  Excited to see what next week’s littleBits projects hold.

Great Makerspace Saturday! And, as always, I can’t say enough about 757 Makerspace here in Norfolk.  Visit, join, make!!

Members have access to the space and the Saturday classes are included in your membership. We got the value of our membership from the great classes alone – and have started our first project (stay tuned for a future post.)

Here’s their page and a link to some prior blog posts on their space.

757 Makerspace Website

https://www.facebook.com/757Makerspace

Autism Awareness: Sensory Issues with Touch

April is Autism Awareness Month – so thought I would sprinkle a few slices of life throughout the month to give a little lens into a family with a child on the autism spectrum. There are so many different experiences – ours is just one, and much milder than many.

Our journey with autism has had plenty of Sensory Integration issues – basically challenges with sensory processing that can take many forms. One of the big ones for Justin when he was younger was the sense of touch.

THEN: for years, our little guy could not stand the feeling of fabric on his limbs. He walked around with his pant legs rolled up and his sleeves push up above his elbows. May sound like a minor issue, but when your child is always uncomfortable its a problem.  And while thats easier to work around in the summer with shorts and t-shirts, what about those cold weather months where no sleeves and pant legs are just not an option?

NOW: Over time, we found fabrics that were less irritating (lots and lots of fleece), never had any clothes with tags, and gradually over a couple of years he could tolerate the pant legs and sleeves.  Now its a distant memory … though he still has a wardrobe that is about as close to pajamas as you can get (still lots of fleece, PJs when he gets home, etc.)

But between THEN and NOW was a couple years of occupational therapy and lots of patience, support and flexibility as we worked to keep him comfortable.

Here’s a link below if you want to know a little more about Sensory Processing issues.

Sensory Processing Disorder Explained

Sulley Joins Our Family!

The kids have wanted a dog for a long (no really loooong) time – and this week their wish came true!  The campaign to get a dog was long and thorough.  Josh and Justin prepared chore charts, had everyone do personality quizzes where we were matched to different kinds of dogs, studied rescue sites for possible matches, and more.  And after this little labor of love, we met an amazing dog with a sweet and gentle spirit – Sulley.  He seems to be a mix between an Australian Shepherd and a Spitz … but hard to know for sure I guess.  In any case, he’s pretty darn handsome.

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Adoption Day pic – finding a comfy space

A great friend of ours adopted her dog through a great local organization, K9 Justice League, and recommended them to us.    This dog rescue group was terrific and so easy to work with for the adoption – highly recommend them!  Check out their Facebook page – here’s the link:

K9 Justice League Facebook Page

Josh monitored their page for several weeks, and came  upon Sulley and knew that we should meet him.  We visited an adoption fair and met Sulley, and we all loved him immediately.  He was sweet and gentle, with the softest fur you can imagine.  He’s a little tentative, quick to startle.  But in just a couple days he is already settling in and coming out of his shell.  He is practically Joshua’s shadow and Justin loves talking him out for walks (even in the cold!)

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Our little guy Justin, with Sulley and his terrific foster mom Sarah

It’s interesting to observe him, learn his queues, and try to ‘meet him where he’s at’ in terms of what he’s ready and willing to do and what he’s not.  Hope to get him signed up for obedience lessons soon, since left to our own devices not sure how well we would do with training.  So that should be good.  I think if you adopt a dog and survive a week of teen temps, permafrost across the lawn … and you all survive and still like each other … they every other season will feel easy by comparison 🙂

At least until he’s fully house trained, he’s sleeping in a crate at night in the bedrooms upstairs.  So we are getting over the ‘guilt’ of having him in a crate … feels a little like putting him in a cage.  But we have been coached to press through and so long as the crate is never punishment and just his little ‘cave’ that there’s no need to feel guilty.  (still working on that!)    And so long as his crate is in the bedroom with someone, he is pretty OK with it.

He is definitely warm with both boys – sort of clingy with Josh lately, but friendly with them both.  And other than a couple nose-to-nose stare downs, he and our cat Butterscotch are co-existing nicely without any dust ups 🙂

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If only we could skip over the house-training part (feels like potty training the kids all over again and can’t wait til that is done!)  Will be happy to be past the ‘accident’ stage.  He’s coming along …