Friday, May 25, 2012

Fun Summer Activities for Kids

In my last entry I talked a bit about summer learning loss.  I was thinking afterwards that it used to bug me that when I needed fun, educational activities while homeschooling I could not find very many in one place (especially on short notice) and many of the activities that I did find, although they were kind of fun, just did not get my son very excited.

Over the past few days I have put together an article describing lots of the fun activities we have done (and still do) and I do intend to keep adding to it throughout the summer.

If you need some fun activities for your child to prevent summer learning loss, take a look and hopefully it will also help you get creative with your own fun educational games and activities!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

School is almost out!

This school year is almost over and I am thrilled to report that once again my little angel has made the honor roll! Just because school is out does not mean that the learning ends though...

If you haven't already started planning a few FUN educational activities for the summer, why not get started? There are plenty of activities that you can do with your child to prevent summer learning loss- most of which you can find the information for free online!  Even if you are not really homeschooling, but are preventing summer learning loss, you may find what you need if you check out some great homeschooling sites- if you are not sure where to look first, I have a few articles that you might find helpful...

Homeschool for a child with special needs Is a personal story of home schooling outlining various activities we did together to keep it fun with numerous links to great, free homeschooling resources.

Free Printable Worksheets Is a directory of sites which I personally use and trust (which are free) when looking for worksheets for my son.

Free Printable Award Certificates for Kids Is more free printables!  Award ertificates really work wonders to motivate kids to keep trying and learning, if you need any then there are plenty on this article as well as links to many other free awards as well!

I do recommend the occasional worksheet- take a look at some of the work your child has brought home this year and try to find free worksheets on those precise topics  to give your child the extra practice they might need to cement that knowledge in their melon head.

Books are super important!  Try to stock up on books that are appropriate for your child's reading level and remember to ask them comprehension questions and see if they can sequence the story correctly.  Just 30 minutes of reading per day day help your child stay ahead for next year.  To help encourage reading we have a few special rules...

  • At lights out time, our son can stay up with the lights on as long as he wants over the summer- provided he is actively reading!
  • We bring books to our favorite restaurants (which typically have 30+ minute waits) and if he reads while we wait, he gets to order dessert instead of having dessert at home (I don't like to pay for those desserts since I make stuff like that at home regularly).
  • We bring books in the car.
  • We bring books to Dr. appointments- there is a prize if he reads and correctly answers a few questions while waiting.
Science is usually fun at our house- even the mundane parts can be fun if you think outside of the box or just get a little silly while reading through less interesting materials.  

Whatever activities you choose, do your best to make it a fun and rewarding experience.  The most important thing that any parent can teach is not facts, but a love of learning.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Explaining The Loss of a Pet through Euthanasia to a child

Sorry it has been a while since I posted, I really have been busy with drawing printables.

Two days ago our cat was euthanized.  She was 15 years old and had been chronically ill for about two years, then 3 days ago she suffered a stroke, went blind and was unable to walk.  It had to be done.  It was a heart wrenching decision to make in the first place and I was so scared to tell my 7 year old.  A natural death might have made more sense to him, but why were we ending it for her?

He was very close to her.  He has 2 dogs as well, but Saki (the cat) was his favorite.  He carried her around the house- everywhere he went.  We have had brief discussions before about pets not living forever and that someday we must let them go.  I wish we could have done it when he wasn't home and just told him "she died" but unfortunately the way it worked out that was not possible.

We told him that Saki loves him very much and knows that he loves her too. She has had a long and very happy life and has had more love than most cats get- so her life was well spent.  We pointed out that she had been very sick for a long time and that she was hurting so much that the medicine does dot help.  Now as well as pain, she must also be scared because she can no longer see.

I told him that the vet can give her a shot to make her happy and not feel any hurting or fear, but that after that shot, she would die so we would not see her anymore.

He cried for a while and cuddled me.  I offered him the chance to spend some more cuddle time with her which he gladly accepted and he really made the most of that time.  He took her to the grass so that she could spend time outdoors (she had  always tried to sneak out there) and spoke to her the whole time while petting her.  They kissed, he gave her tons of treats and people food and she gave him lots of kisses and cheek rubs and purred really loudly.

He asked to come with us to the appointment.  We allowed him to spend time with her until right before the process started- then he waited outside with my husband.  He cried, but he really was coping well.  He asked to see her body but we thought right there at the office may be too much- since we brought her home to be buried, we thought he should think about whether he really wanted to see her and we would discuss it at home.

When we got home, he was quite adamant that he see her, so we did eventually let him see her.  He was curious about what death looked like and actually found it comforting to see that she really did just look like she was sleeping and very relaxed.  In this situation I think that seeing her body actually helped him because the lack of pain was so obvious compared to how she had looked just before she died- she was at peace, and that helped him be at peace.

We buried her and he gave a lovely speech and planted a beautiful pink flower bush with her so that when we want to see her we can just look at the bush.  I asked him if he had any questions about death.  He said "not right now".  He has spoken openly since then about her death but MORE about her life and the fun times we had together.  He has placed a new flower on her grave in the mornings and at bedtime (stolen from my flowerbed- but that's ok this time).  He misses her, but is not angry about losing her or the fact that she was euthanized.

I think that some kids can handle parts of the process that others might not need to know about, what we did that helped him the most in this situation was follow his lead to see what he could and could not handle.   We offered very basic information about the situation, read his face and asked him questions before elaborating. This was he only had to process as much as he was ready for at the time.  I was shocked that he wanted to see her body and really did not want him to, but at the same time, I knew she did not look scary or hurt... so eventually I caved and now I'm glad I did (she was nicely swaddled in a blankie and positioned as if it were a nap) but seeing the body is not appropriate in all situations, try to gauge what your child is ready for.

If you have to explain a similar situation to your child, try using basic terminology, see if they understand, and try not to pile on too much info at once.  Death is the natural result of every life, they will be exposed to it at some point.

With the loss of the pet it is natural for them to want to "fix" the pet.  Those types of questions may lead into "if she dies from that, will I?".  An example of a simple explanation (involving a writing utensil and paper) is to draw two parallel lines about the width of your finger and make a teeny tiny dot.  Point to the parallel lines and say something like "In people, the small pieces like blood vessels are about this size.  Doctors can fix that because they can see it"  then point to the small dot and say something like "in a cat, that same piece is about that big, the doctor can't fix something so small".

A basic picture with a basic explanation usually helps to calm the fear that they will die from whatever the pet had wrong with them- I chose blood vessels because they came to mind after she had numerous blood clots and a stroke. He did eventually ask this question but was satisfied with this answer.  Some kids will perseverate and the questions won't stop coming.  If your child is the type to ask a lot of questions, try to have a few basic and "absolute" answers in your head before you talk to them.

Your vet may also have some helpful information, if you can, try to call them when your kid is not within earshot.  Our vet had tons of helpful sites (I lost the pamphlet, will post it if I find it)  some of which had free printable illustrated books to help explain it to younger kids.

I guess I babbled a lot here, remember to be honest with your child, but only volunteer what they are mature enough to handle and give them an open invitation to ask questions about it whenever they are ready.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Saving money on things you need

I just finished a new article on Squidoo about coupons and coupon codes!

I decided to write this one because I know a lot of people who need to save more money and I have been able to save a lot of money using coupons. My average trips to the grocery store I save about 70% - without buying stuff that we need to store.  I always use coupons for big purchases like furniture and tools too (and combine them with a sale when we have time to wait for a sale). There are a few special sites that I trust and recommend which you will find in that article .

It does not have to be time consuming to save some money- I spend less than 30 minutes per week actually looking for coupons and organizing them and when we are in the store I don't spend any longer than I used to (ok, maybe 5 seconds per item while I pull the coupon our of the book- but there is no hunting for them) when I am shopping.

I do plan on writing a follow up coupon article showing a few different ways to organize them.  My method is not the only one but it works great if you want to save a lot with minimal effort :)