Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Do you know what October 14th, 2010 is? It’s World Spirometry Day!

I know many of you are looking at that and going what the heck is that? Well lemme tell ya. Spirometry is the measuring of breath. This Pulmonary Function Test (PFT) is the most common lung function test. It is used to measure volume of air and speed flow of air in and out of the lungs.

Using the measurements of how much and how long a person is able to inhale/exhale can aid diagnosis and treatment of breathing and lung ailments. The machine used to test these functions is a Spriometer.

Now that you’re all educated have you ever had this test? Even if you’ve never really felt short of breath or been diagnosed with a lung issue it’s a good idea to get tested.

My last test was pretty funny actually. I was having a really bad day so it was pretty ideal for me to be tested at the time. You want them to see your worst so they can keep you from being there right?

Anyway… I sat in the chair and the tech pulled up a cute lil picture of a fireman with a hose pointed at a camp fire. The idea was to blow as hard as you could into the Spirometer. The more air the further the water went to put out the fire.

Well, I didn’t put out any fires. I was lucky to get the water off the fireman’s shoes. But my son thought it was funny to see that lil guy trying so hard to put out that fire with a trickle. I’m blowing away and the tech looks at the screen and me asking if I felt faint. That did it. You know giggles are contagious…. Well my son started giggling…. I giggled… the tech giggled.

All of which made it even harder to try and put out that dang fire. Nope wasn’t gonna happen. But after my doctor heard the story and giggled a bit with us he gave me a new inhaler and some information on improving my lungs.

It was painless, even fun. You can give up cookies and caffeine for the sake of your health but you can’t stop breathing. So for the sake of your lungs at your next doctor visit ask him about a Spirometry test and make 2010 the year of the lung.

See if YOU can put out that campfire.

Sea Dragon drawing by Tristan VanCise

My best friend, sister in heart has a son the same age as mine. Our babies are going to be to become teenagers this year. During our chats we talk about our kids and what their doing.

So many times Rose would mention something about Matthew and I would reply. Just like Tristan. Tristan does that too. So often we began to wonder if they were supposed to have been twins.

I also began to wonder something else. Matthew is autistic. His mom would share their struggles, successes, and daily life of dealing with autism. I can’t even count how many times Rose would share with me and I would reply, “Just like Tristan.”

There are so many things that I noticed over the years with my boy that made him different. Not in a bad way. Tristan just never really seemed on the same social level as kids his age.

He gets along with almost everyone but a lot of the time other kids just don’t get him. He has a hard time getting them sometimes too. One thing is the repetitiveness that he has. If he says or does something that makes you smile or laugh he’ll continue to do it. Maybe not right in a row but I and guarantee that you’ll know it well enough to see it coming by the 50th pass.

He’s not trying to be annoying. Tristan just wants to make you happy again. One of his favorite things is helping someone. Whenever he asks if he can have something from the kitchen he never fails to ask if I would like anything too. Tristan is my sweetheart.

As I began to learn more about autism though my conversations with Rose the more I understood some of Tristan’s extreme behaviors. I call them extreme because they are more acute reactions than is considered “normal”.

Loud or sudden noises give him distress. When we got to the movie theater for example. Sometimes the action sequences of a film can get pretty loud. Tristan will cover his ears and sometimes get so upset he wants to leave. I mean tears in his eyes upset.

Rain and storms terrify him. I mean full blown panic attack, crying, have to go tinkle terrified. He’ll run in and out of the bathroom every 5 or 10 minutes because he’s so upset he has to go again.

At first I thought he was just being over dramatic. He’s a bit of a drama king, I tease he should be on stage doing Shakespeare. He always replies with a line from one of the plays, silly boy. But talking to Rose and sharing about our boys I’ve begun to see that these actions could be something else.

Thanks to my best friend, Rose and her willingness to share and put up with all my inquiries. I’ve learned new ways to see and deal with some of Tristan’s behaviors that I believe are autistic. Our lives have become less flustered. I think my son is just like Rose’s sweetie Matthew, autistic. I’m not worried like oh God there’s something wrong with my baby. It’s more like ohhhh that explains it.

We’re making appointments with his doctor to talk about having him evaluated for autism. I’m pretty sure it will confirm my suspicions and wonders and I’m okay with that. Because now instead of wondering we can say okay this is what it is and work on it together. Tristan and I can have a better relationship as mother and son and he can get more of what he needs to be all he can be in his life.

I’ll post again about our progress/findings/adventures on this path. And I’m sure it’s not the last time I’m going to say, “Hey, that’s just like Tristan.”

As a published author and homeschooling mom I understand that writing for an assignment is one of the hardest things to do for many homeschoolers and their parent/teachers. Every age in your class can benefit from these activities and resources and help them find enjoyment in writing.

Just Write No Rules
As an author I know that my finished product has to be as perfect as possible. My spelling, grammar and punctuation are all properly done and so on. But in the very beginning of writing a book or story that is far from the case.

This is a first draft, think of it as a lump of coal in the earth. That lump is slowly changed into a diamond. Then that raw diamond is cut and hewn into a fine gem. Writing story, book report or essay is the same process.

When I begin to write without the worry of having to follow rules there is a sense of freedom. Children feel the same way. Unbound they can enjoy using their imagination to create. There is always time to go back and fix things later. For a few assignments overlook the errors. Yes, that means turn of the editor completely. Just have fun putting words to paper.

Cliffhanger
Our house has a notebook in the dinning room, on the cover is the word Cliffhanger. During the day we each take turns writing in the story. There’s one catch you have to leave your entry with a cliffhanger for the next person.

For example, Timmy ran though the house looking for the lost key to Davey Jones chest. When suddenly there was a loud boom behind him, turning Timmy saw….

The next person would tell about what Timmy saw and add something for the next person to write out of. Anything and everything will end up in these stories. Making them fun to read and even more fun to write.

Journaling.
Kids love stories about them. Rose Wade mom of two says, “During vacations or special days out I get my kids to write down a few memorable lines, a memento of their experience.”

Keeping a journal is a wonderful way to remember special times in our lives. It gives kids a chance to write about the world though their eyes. Journals should be one of those no rules places. The freedom to write how they feel or what they see.

Word List Challenge
Ana Maria Seaton, artist, author and homeschooling mom uses this to challenge her eight year old daughter. “I started challenging her to come up with five words each month for my writers group that we would all have to use in a story. Simple words weren’t enough so she started to look for bigger words that she could find by reading.”

Get the whole family involved. Ask each person to give you three to five words. Once you have your list of words give everyone a copy and write a story including that list.

To make it more challenging for older students you can put a letter limit on the length of the words. All the words on their list must be at least five letters long. You’re also building on vocabulary with this exercise.

The Muse
As a writer there are moments I’ll see a photograph, magazine ad or pass by an object that inspires a story. Teaching a creative writing class at a private school I asked my students to bring in a muse. A young man named Joey brought in a Lego soldier, with no head.

That headless toy inspired a three page tale about what caused the loss. And where the toy hoped to find his little plastic head. On the first day of class I was told by this boy that, “writing stories is stupid.” A week later he writes one of the best toy tales I’ve ever read and was excited about it. All because of a little headless Lego.

Paula Smiley, homeschooling mom to five, plans to inspire one of her sons with his love for sharks and the ocean. A muse can be found almost anywhere. In your pockets, your cabinet, looking out the window, a museum the possibilities are truly endless.

Fan Fiction
Writing with a known character is fan fiction. There are writers of all ages that write about their favorite characters. Even the most stubborn writer will perk at a new story about their favorite television, book, or movie character.

My son has a terrible time trying to decide on a subject, but he loves Indiana Jones. He enjoys writing a new adventure for Indy and even adds himself in the story. It’s great fun and gives an uncertain writer more confidence because they know the subject so well.

Get Involved
There are many writing groups that welcome young writers. Get on the internet and search for local writing groups. Seeing how much someone else likes to write outside your home/classroom can be inspiring. Groups often provide mentors and materials to add to your curriculum as well.

Online
A favorite event of my family is National Novel Writing Month also known as NaNoWriMo. Taking place the month of November the goal of the event is to write an entire novel in thirty days.
Adult participants are required to pound out at least 50,000 words. The Young Writers Program allows kids 17 and younger to make their own challenging but reasonable goals. There are usually local events to provide motivation and encouragement.

There are dozens of websites that are geared for writers. The ones I’ve found students enjoy most are OneWord.com and Write or Die.com

One Word is a great way to warm up. Once you get to the homepage at http://oneword.com you simply click on the big purple go button. This goes to a screen with a text box and a word in purple at the top.

You have sixty seconds to write something about that word. Anything thoughts, a beginning of a story, describe the word. Whatever that word fills your mind with. After your minute is up you type in your name and hit submit to see other peoples responses listed with your own.

This is great for students not only does it give them that boost to write. They get to see their name and what they’ve written displayed. They can use this as their writing prompt.

Write or Die is my favorite writing tool. Not only do I use it in my son’s studies I use it to prod myself. You choose a word and time goal, mode and grace period. Once you click write you are taken to a text screen where you begin. If you stop typing for too long something happens to prod you back to work.

In normal mode an annoying sound that will only stop when your fingers start tapping keys is the prod. If you choose Kamikaze mode and idle too long your words begin to disappear.

Basically get out of that box, get out and have some fun writing in the park, at Burger King, in a museum. After all rules are made to be broken…or at least bent for the sake of making writing fun.