"Intellectual distinction is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for election to a Rhodes Scholarship. Selection committees are charged to seek excellence in qualities of mind and in qualities of person which, in combination, offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead. The Rhodes Scholarships, in short, are investments in individuals rather than in project proposals..."

Friday, November 1, 2013

No iPad needed to use the Providence eLearning Books!!!!

Providence eLearning has several of the books you normally can get for the iPad on iBooks available through udemy.com.  For $10 you can access the videos as well as the audio narration and footnotes, if they were available in the book, (iBook cost is $9.99) as often as you like with lifetime access.  So, if you don't want to make the hardware investment, you can enjoy the video lectures on your PC or laptop.


The Transmogrifier has been used at my house

"Words fail me."

© Universal Press Syndicate
The transmogrifier has been used at my house.  Somehow, my eight year old blond precocious boy has transformed and is carrying a stuffed tiger, wearing a red and blue striped shirt and spiking his hair.  Really.  I'm not kidding.  And you can imagine the things he is doing.  Hobbes even came to church with us and I had to hold his paw during the "Our Father."

He's taken to playing Calvin ball.

That's the problem with a homeschool education.  I think they sometimes go a little far.  He is convinced he's Calvin and is refusing to respond to his own name.  What's worse is he has decided that school is a waste of time because it's just a cruel way of making him remember stuff that doesn't matter to him.  He wants to go off and hunt more tigers in the woods and build robots out of cardboard boxes.

What's a mom to do?  Let him be Calvin for a little while.  I can't complain. He has read and reread every single comic in the COMPLETE CALVIN AND HOBBES 4 Volume set over and over again, repeatedly.  I will let him be Calvin for a while and then I can use the Transmogrifier to become Miss Wormwood a little later.  Where DID I put that green dress with purple polka-dots?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Julia's Guardian Angel

Dear Friends -

This is our daughter Julia.  She is 13 and has a life threatening allergy to peanuts.  1/100 of a peanut could and probably would kill her if she ingested it.  She could possibly die if she comes into contact with peanuts because her body sends blood rushing to the area touched by the allergen, causing blood to pool in the area (typically extremities) resulting in a drop in blood pressure and possible stroke.

She is one of the primary reasons we homeschool.  Going in to a school situation is risky for her.  Honestly, going anywhere is risky.

She recently met Bullet, an Australian Labradoodle that is a Peanut Detection Dog.  His job is, like a narcotics dog, to sniff out peanuts and peanut residue for people that have life threatening peanut allergies.

On Sunday we called 911 after arriving home from our Montana vacation. Julia had touched something with peanut residue at a restaurant on the way home. Within minutes, her fingers, knuckles and hands were swollen and covered with hives. She must have also brushed her lips because they were swelling up, too.

We've been contemplating getting a peanut detection dog for Julia for almost a year now, but there is just no way we can afford it.

Today we decided we just have to ask for help.

Please check out our fundraising site.

Thank you for taking a look and please pray that Julia will be able to raise the money for a guardian angel.

By the way, we are quite certain that the contact happened when she touched something in the bathroom at the restaurant, possibly the bathroom door.   Whatever it was, it was small enough to not be visible or smell-able because she is overly scrupulous about what she touches.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Double Review - Providence eLearning Digital Publications: Pride and Prejudice & Frankenstein

I'm behind in posting, but more importantly I am behind in my reviews. 

For the record, I am paid to review books from Providence eLearning.  However, I am under no obligation to review them here.  I do that for your benefit.  And, I think they are a valuable asset to the homeschool, high school teen. 

Being well-read means, to me, that you have read the Classics.  You know, those books that have been read over and over again, year in and year out - that's a classic. And, it you can tie technology into it, well then, I'm all in!

Last September, I had the privilege of reviewing Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.  I think this story has a bad rap, thanks to the movie industry. The only movie close to the story is from 1931.  And it missed the mark.  Frankenstein is a monster (in size) book and it took a while to review.  While I was not thrilled with their choice of having a woman narrate (in the audio narration) this amazing story of a man, writing about a man found, in search of a man made, running from humanity.  This is a masculine story, and I will be honest, this was my ONLY disappointment about this book.  I learned so much, from a literary perspective - about the author, the time period in which this classic was written and literature itself.  Professor Lasseter has a great way of tying old literature in with the modern world.  The video production work was very well done, too.  I highly recommend that all BOYS read this.  Girls could learn a thing or two, too, like this girl did.

Next, in March, I had the glorious pleasure of rereading and reviewing one of my very favorite books, Pride and Prejudice.  The audio narration was SPLENDID!!!  The narrator dramatized the reading, changing voices for the various characters and had an English accent, just as I would have expected.  It felt like Jane Austen was reading the book to me as she would have read it.  Again, Professor Lasseter did a most excellent job of bringing to the surface much of what is not spoken in the book.  Really, after reading this book as many times as I had in the past, you would think I had it all figured out.  He brought several things to bear I had missed in the past.  All I can say is Bravo!

I really wish there was more material available of this caliber.  I just finished reviewing Le Morte d'Arthur, my husband's very favorite book.  It was spectacular.  They abridged the book, in way very pleasing to this homeschool mom.  I will follow up later with a review of that...stay tuned.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

CVBS 2013

It is finished.  It was great and I can't believe how much fun it was!

On Saturday,  April 13th, after obtaining the blessing of my husband, I approached our priest about Catholic Vacation Bible School. You see, Catholic Vacation Bible School is a big deal at our house.  My kids think it's cool to go to "school" at the Catholic school building for a week.  And, what's not to love about our Catholic Vacation Bible School?  Ours is so beautifully Catholic.  For as long as we've been parishioners, CVBS was run by a truly beautiful woman.  Jean became ill last year and went on permanent disability, much to everyone's sadness.  She.was.AMAZING!  A beautiful woman filled in for her managing the Religious Education program at church, but when I asked her, "What about CVBS?"  She said they would need to find someone else.  She wouldn't be able to do it...then she asked, "What about you?"

She said this within earshot of someone who knew I loved the program and she chimed in, "Yeah, Cathie, what about you?"  I said my husband would never let me...So, I went home.  I didn't ask. I simply said, "They have no one to run CVBS this year!"  His reply, "Why don't you do it?" 

I was floored.  I did not expect him to authorize it, let alone suggest it!  So, I asked Father if they had anyone to run it.  He said they did not and asked me to call the parish office and let them know and someone would be getting back to me.  Without Jean there was a big, big hole there, not just for CVBS, but for Religious Ed, Sacraments and Special Events. 

So, I called.  And I waited.  And waited. And waited.  Finally, I got a call back on April 25th from the principal of the Catholic school.  She had offered to manage the CVBS position, whomever filled it.  I went in for an interview on May 1st and on May 8th, I became a temporary employee of the church. 

That is when the ball got rolling.  I had 6 1/2 weeks to put together a curriculum (using a curriculum that really didn't have a workbook or full teacher's manual), plan art, music, snacks, and well, the entire program based on the fact that Father had arranged for a traveling relics exposition to be shown to the children at 1pm on the last day of CVBS.  Someone else had decorations, which was a blessing, considering I'm not a highly visual person.  However, I had details Jean had never had to deal with before, like serving lunch and going past noon on Friday.  So, I picked a curriculum that was based on the martyrs and persecution in the early Church (I had two from which to choose).  It seemed fitting, considering what our country is doing right now and how our religious freedoms are being taken away left and right.

So, fast forward five weeks...the curriculum and workbook are done, the teacher's manual is done, all the supplies for art had arrived.  However, my decorating person wasn't able to help, so I ended up taking that, too, but in the end it ended alright.  We managed to make it look festive, but not too campy.  I did teacher training, I had no less than 50 people help me set up classrooms, stuff confirmation letters, assemble manuals, put together art kits, assemble teacher's supplies and decorate.  Did I mention I have the very best friends in the whole wide world????  One of them blogged about CVBS the week it happened because I was a little busy.
CVBS 2013 II
This is Margaret's beautiful bunch of kids in front of our "Communion of Saints."  She ran my nursery, which meant she took care of my beloved 4 year old who wasn't quite ready for the 4 year old class.  By the way, her eldest two took on the 4 year old class and lived to tell about it!  See, they are even smiling? And this was toward the end!

I had the time of my life.  It was truly a wonderful experience, filled with graces I never expected and some difficulties I never expected.  But the blessings and graces outweighed the difficulties easily 2 to 1...

I may post more details as the week goes on, but I wanted to let you all know I survived and loved to tell about it!!! (Spelling error totally intended there...)

Friday, May 31, 2013

Live Blogging at the MN Catholic Home Educators Conference

We are  at the blogger's chat at Minnesota Catholic Home Educator's Conference.  What a great turn out!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

In Praise of the Blogger Mobile App and iOS 6.x

I wanted to take just a few minutes to tell you how impressed I am with the Blogger Mobile App and iOS 6.X using my iPhone.  I created the last blog post in about two minutes using the camera on my iPhone, Siri and the Blogger Mobile App.  This is a great opportunity for people that have special needs to use technology to be able to communicate to the rest of the world.  So easy, so powerful!
And I dictated both blog posts, then edited with the keyboard.

Games For Learning

My daughter and I took a trip to the Dollar Store to see what we could get inexpensively to make games. We love making games at our house and my daughter is the chief maker. Enjoy our little video visit.
Here is our local store. We found almost every supply we needed from poster board to stickers, page protectors to markers!  They also had flash cards, workbooks to use for designs and coloring books.

So if you come to my workshop expect to here the praises of the Dollar Store and I will show some more pictures. I promise!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Short Blog Vacation

Folks, pray for me.  I volunteered to take on our church's Catholic Vacation Bible School program which usually has 200+ participants and 40+ volunteers.  It takes place in less than two months and I need to get things organized.

And, I am preparing for the Minnesota Catholic Home Educator's Conference where I will be giving my Beginning Homeschool talk and my Games for Learning talk.  I will also be facilitating the Special Needs discussion.

My dance card is full at the moment, so I will have to declare a blog vacation for a short time.  I will be back when I can come up for air!

God bless you all!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Catholic Readers

Brand new - Old books!
Folks, it has come to my attention that I have been disappointing my audiences with a lack of good CATHOLIC material.  I intend to correct that situation immediately!

I have been pouring over the free books at books.google.com and have found a wealth of Catholic school books!  I think one of the most exciting finds is that there are ENTIRE series of readers available from Primer level to Fifth level (middle school).  They are FREE.  They are Catholic.  What more could you ask?  Because they are public domain, you can download them and then print them (have you ever seen FinePrint?) OR read them on your tablet or PC. 

The three I recommend are:
Young Catholic's Illustrated Readers by the Catholic Publication Society
The Ideal Catholic Readers by Sister Mary Domitilla
Standard Catholic Readers by Mary E. Doyle

They are filled with virtue stories, biographies of Bishops, Saints and Martyrs, science and history.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Are you going?

Folks, the Minnesota Catholic Home Educator's Conference is coming right up.  We are just a month away!  And, if you blog, consider checking this out.  It's posted by the sweetest blogger in the state.  And, I will be there, too.  I hope that doesn't keep you from attending :-).

For what it is worth, I will be hosting the next session on homeschooling children with special needs right after the Blogger's Chat. 

On Saturday, I will be speaking about Beginning Homeschooling at 11am and making learning fun by using some very easy game ideas at 3pm.  You can get more details here, if you like.  I hope you can make it.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

St. Lawrence
This beautiful icon and many like it are available at monasteryicons.com.  Please visit their web site for beautiful, affordable Catholic icons.

My eldest son was confirmed this month. I am so proud of him. I am especially proud of his persistence in the face of difficulty and choice of confirmation sponsors.

One of this kid's strengths is Individualization. Here's a description from the Clifton Strenghtfinders 34 Signature Themes:

Your Individualization theme leads you to be intrigued by the unique qualities of each person. You are impatient with generalizations or “types” because you don’t want to obscure what is special and distinct about each person. Instead, you focus on the differences between individuals. You instinctively observe each person’s style, each person’s motivation, how each thinks, and how each builds relationships. You hear the one-of-akind stories in each person’s life. This theme explains why you pick your friends just the right birthday gift, why you know that one person prefers praise in public and another detests it, and why you tailor your teaching style to accommodate one person’s need to be shown and another’s desire to “figure it out as I go.” Because you are such a keen observer of other people’s strengths, you can draw out the best in each person. This Individualization theme also helps you build productive teams. While some search around for the perfect team “structure” or “process,” you know instinctively that the secret to great teams is casting by individual strengths so that everyone can do a lot of what they do well.

So, I made lots of suggestions about who would make a good sponsor.  He decided last year.  I suggested others.  He stuck to his guns.  He was right.  The man, the great man he chose is and was the Religious Emblem Chair of my son's BSA troop.  My son is the chaplain's aid.  Last year, my son and one other boy worked under the direction of this man on the Ad Altare Dei Catholic Religious award.  Consider the award confirmation preparation.  They met weekly for months going through the program.  The other boy often did not attend due to conflicts, so during meetings when working on this award, my son got to know this man well, and vice versa.  They found out they both had a mutual LOVE of history and the Catholic faith.

This humble man was honored when my son asked him to be his sponsor.  He attended the Sending Forth Mass and Dinner with our family, attended the Confirmation Mass (all two hours of it) and came to my son's party two weeks later.  He wasn't missing anything. 

Now, I know this man is wonderful for many reasons, but here's what brought me to tears.  He wrote a long letter to my son and gave him a gift that was so very personal and beautiful.  He had to know my son to truly understand how powerful his gift was.  My son granted me permission to reprint part of the letter here:
What's an appropriate, fitting confirmation present?  What might continue to mean something as the years roll by?  I'm sure it's been a question relatives and family friends have pondered for generations long passed.  I thought of these old Roman coins for you, one from the time of St. Lawrence and one from just a little later.  What would someone have received back during St. Lawrence's time or when his recent martyrdom was so actively bringing people to the church?  There were, of course, no Bibles back then, and most people were illiterate anyway.  In those times of persecution, you couldn't go buy a cross or an icon of your patron saint.  Plus, nearly all these new converts would have been considered very poor by our modern standards.  So their family and friends couldn't have given them much more than love and prayers - no gold, no valuable religious texts, no fine new clothes - but they might have given them a few small coins.  Maybe even these...
 The rest is all very personal to my son, but I was touched at how thoughtful this gift was and wanted to share it with you.  So, if you didn't catch it from the description, his gift to my son was two Roman coins: one minted around 222 AD and another minted around 313 AD. 

So, besides receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit, my son received a gift of a life long friend to lean on in his walk as a Catholic.  He is so very blessed.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Know Thyself

Plato wrote that Socrates says people make themselves appear ridiculous when they are trying to know obscure things before they know themselves.  I feel very strongly that teens that "Know Themselves"  have a better chance of success in life.  We do a lot of "know thyself" tests around here.

One of the most important tests I had the kids do was: Strengths Quest - Strengths Based Test for Teens.  As many of my readers know, I love the Strengths Based Tests.  So do my kids.  It was fun to see similarities and differences between my two teens, my husband and me.  I think discovering this information has helped us all to be a little more tolerant and understanding, too.

For example, my teen son's highest strength is:  Positivity.  Now, anyone that knows my son would see that.  But combine that with Individualization, Woo, Communication and Activator, you have someone that can get people to get things done.  He's a ring leader in the most positive sense.  He has a future in Sales or Recruiting or Teaching.  And since he can read people well, he is very good at finding the right gift or book for someone.  He's my go-to guy for buying presents in the family.

My daughter, on the other hand, scored highest in Input, like her trivia-loving dad.  She has to research, collect and research some more.  No surprise here, but learning that she also has Maximizer, Intellection, Harmony and Responsibility, means she has a combination that means she's reliable, thorough and fair.  If we want to know the "right" thing to do in a situation, we ask her.  Unfortunately, those traits can set her up to not want to decide on things because she never has enough information (input), wants to give the RIGHT answer (Harmony and Responsibility) and the BEST answer (Maximizer and Intellection).  She's truly the fairest in the land, or at least at our house (and I mean that both ways).

I also spent the money to have them do the Strong Interest Inventory.  High school is a time to consider your strengths and interests to know what vocation you might pursue.  The results here, too, were extremely interesting because they took into consideration my children's interests in combination with their strengths. 

As we do high school, I want my kids to know themselves better than I knew myself at that age.  I had an abysmal high school counselor who just wanted girls to go to college.  However, no one ever took into consideration any of my strengths when counseling me.  I had good grades in Math, Science and English.  So, I was directed to go the Math/Science route.  Surprise, surprise, my highest scores on my SATs were English (or whatever they called it wayyyy back then.)  So, I enrolled in a predominantly male high technology program because I was assured that I would be guaranteed a job because I was a woman (no one ever spoke of my abilities).  And, then, I made sure that I did my best, got scholarships and good grades.  I don't regret what I did.  However, the program really didn't fit my strengths. 

Have you ever heard the adage "Do what you love and the money will follow?"  Once I changed direction in my career to better match my strengths, I did very well and looked forward to going to work EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.  That was not the case on my first chosen career path (Laser Engineering) but it was the case before I left the work world to stay at home with my children (Curriculum Development, Subject Matter Expert, Training Development and Delivery). 

So, given my kids don't have a high school counselor, not that mine really helped me, I wanted to give them things to think about and information about vocations that matched their strengths and interests.  I do not receive any kick back for this, but you can purchase the Strong Interest Inventory (now called iStartStrong) at www.homeschoolbuyersco-op.org for half price.  It's a good place to start and if you have a child that is unsure of their future interests, this might be a place to start.
The Homeschool Buyer Co-op is a free homeschooling organization for both new and veteran homeschoolers. Co-op membership is free and confidential, and entitles homeschooling families to GroupBuy discounts on high-quality curriculum. On the site you'll find lots of free information, such as databases of free curriculum, field trips, and educational contests and scholarships. Highly recommended. Click here for more information.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Too Good to Pass Up! Special on Providence eLearning's Macbeth iBook

If you have an iPad and a high schooler who has to read Macbeth, I highly recommend using this iBook.  Several other iBooks have also been created by Providence eLearning, a subsidiary of Primera Technologies.  
The books are enhanced with audio AND video.  In the case of Macbeth, the text is read by William Lasseter, one of the English Lit professors at Providence Academy, who is also a Shakespearean actor.   Each act is followed by a lecture by Mr. Lasseter.  
Right now, Macbeth is available in the iTunes Store for $0.99.  The book is normally $9.99.  This is a great way for kids to access Macbeth with a professor right in the book.  It also makes Macbeth accessible in that the audio of the book is included, so the students may hear all the words pronounced correctly and read as if the reader were actually listening to a play.  There is also an actively linked glossary which explains characters and settings.  This format is particularly useful if you have a child with dyslexia or attention issues.
The folks at Providence mentioned to me that they may make a new book available at a lower cost each month. 
Check out this book on the iBookstore:
Cover Art


William Shakespeare & William Lasseter
Category: Literary Criticism

DISCLAIMER:  While I was compensated to review Macbeth last year, I get no kick-backs for any sales, whatsoever.  I just love the product and want others to know about it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

All my old presentation methods DO have a use!

I found some interesting articles on reading as I am preparing a mini-presentation for a group on the "dys-learning disabilities" (Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia).  This is a perspective on  reading.
In the 1970s, educational researchers who were seeking the answer to how people learn to read studied two possible options. Some researchers thought “context” or recognition of whole words and phrases was the most efficient way to read. Speed-reading methods developed during that time used to train people to read whole words and groups of words fast may be based on this method. Others believed good readers recognized “features,” the lines and contours used to form letters, to learn to read.
What they found was that we read more efficiently and that we remember more of what we read when we use feature-recognition reading. When we learn to recognize letter shapes and the rules for writing words, and commit these things to memory, reading does become automatic.
When we pick a curriculum and we are working with readers having difficulties, we can minimize barriers and assist all readers, and especially readers who have low-reading skills, by following some helpful guidelines.  If you are helping your struggling reader by making worksheets or notes for them, keep in mind the following suggestions:
  • Use “plain language” or “simplified language.” Careless writing can reduce you student’s ability to read and comprehend. Using a consistent, common, recognizable vocabulary improves reading comprehension.
  • Format text for easy reading. Poor text presentation can block reading and comprehension altogether for unskilled readers. The font style, size, and color can disrupt reading. And the spacing between letters in a word, or between words in a sentence, can interfere with efficient reading and with comprehension. Low contrast between text and the background interferes with vision and slows reading speed.  This is imperative for dyslexic readers.
  • Use highly-readable fonts and visually emphasized words that help rather than hinder readers. The visual system is optimized to see structure and when structure is absent, we struggle to understand what we see.
  • Use a visual hierarchy of font sizes, headings, and lists. The more structured and brief the presentation of information, the easier it is to scan and comprehend. Allow your student to quickly and easily find what they’re looking for.
  • Edit for clarity and brevity. Avoid repetitive, wordy text that buries the important information in the middle of clutter
  • Use flush left text whenever possible. Using centered text makes reading more difficult because the eye has to travel to a different place in the line, hindering automatic eye movement.
Twenty years ago, when I did my first training presentation, I learned the following methods which line up nicely with the rules above. Now, I HATE (yes, I just yelled) presentations that are stuffed with bullet point lists and I thought that was an abysmal way to train.  However, those bullet point lists make great handouts.  They should never be the presentation.  So, think about the rules for a good presentation slide from twenty years ago, using the old rules:
  • No more than 10 items per slide
  • No more than 10 words per line, if possible
  • Bullet points/outline form
  • Arial, Courier or Times New Roman Font
  • Black on white
  • KISS method (Keep It Simple, Stupid!)
  • Double spaced
And, consider making notes for your kids that are struggling, especially with middle-school or high-school subjects and teach them how to do it, too.
Dirkson, Julie. 2012. Design for How People Learn. Berkley: CA. New Riders. 
Johnson, Jeff. 2010. Designing with the Mind in Mind. New York: NY. Morgan Kaufman Publishers.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Great deal on Brainology...

Just a quick note - right now, for a very short time, the Brainology course is available for the low price of $19.99 at homeschoolbuyersco-op.com  so if you have ever considered this, now is the time!  That is 75% off the cost.
Brainology was created by Carol Dweck as a way to help middle school/high school teens get passed a fixed mindset.  My kids did it and really enjoyed it and learned a lot.  Expect to spend about 5-6 hours total, over a couple of weeks.  Don't rush it. 
I don't make anything off of this.  I just wanted to let you know.  Homeschoolbuyersco-op.com is a free organization that arranges group purchases for curriculum, passing on savings to home educators.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Video Case Study

If you would like to see a video case study my family did for Providence eLearning, here you go!

We had a really good time working with Providence eLearning.  My kids are really enjoying the materials.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Solving Problems Vs. Creating Solutions - A Mindset Context Switch

With all that has been going on in my schoolroom this year, I have had to change my mindset.  In fact, I've decided to take on the slogan of the Robinson family from "Meet the Robinsons."

Slogan of the Robinson Family - Keep Moving Foward!
Let me ask you this...Are you a problem solver or someone who finds creative solutions?

I have always considered myself a "problem solver."  While that might be a great title to have, I think it might be determental to my kids if their teacher is constantly trying to solve problems in her school.   I now try to actively seek creative solutions rather than focus on solving problems.  Why?  Creating solutions and problem solving involve very different states of mind. Creativity activates positive thoughts while problem solving is focused on what is negative. Creating is forward focused; it’s building toward the future. Problem solving is focused on the past.

I've had to make a context switch.

When I tell my kids "we have a problem" it casts a dark tone over the day and the person to whom this message is directed.  What if, instead we said something like, "Wow!  We need to find a new way to do this!"  I don't know about you, but my kids much prefer the later.  
What does creating look like?
There are five steps in the creative process from Robert Fritz, which are types of action, not a formula. These steps are:
  1. Conceive of the result you want to create. Creators start at the end by knowing what they want to create. (By the way, this is the way Right Brainers think all the time.  We start with the end in mind.)
  2. Know what condition or situation currently exists. If you don’t know what has already been created or done, it’s impossible to know what to do next. (This is where most people stop!)
  3. Take action. When you know what you want and what you currently have, take action. Creating is a learning process, so every action may not work. When actions don’t work, readjust. (Take a lesson from the Military - do an After Action Review.  Figure out what worked and what didn't so you don't have to redo it again.  Keep moving forward!)
  4. Learn the rhythms of the creative process. There are three phases: germination, assimilation, and completion.  (Listen to the niggling voice in your head...ideas come in the strangest places and at the strangest times.  Most of mine come after 11pm when talking with my husband.)
  5. Create momentum. Professional creators create momentum. The seeds of their next action are planted and  germinate in their present actions.  (Keep improving and keep talking about your changes with someone.  Sounding boards have a good way of keeping you in check and moving forward.)

The comments in parenthesis above are mine.  According to Robert Fritz, when talking about problem solving in a particular scenario in the corporate world, "The problem led to action to solve the problem. The action lessened the problem. Less action was needed to solve the problem. Less attention was given to the problem, and the problem resurfaced. Problem solving," Fritz explains, "provides a way to organize our focus, actions, time, and thought process. Designing solutions to problems gives the sense that something important is being done."
He adds, “…it’s an illusion.”
What’s the alternative if designing solutions to problems doesn’t work?  It is in finding creative solutions.  Now, you might say, "That is in the corporate world!  I am a home educator. When my kid has a problem, I need to find a solution!"  I can tell you that after years of trying to fix my son's dysgraphia, I realized that I needed to find creative solutions to the problem rather than to fix him.  He wasn't broken.  He just wasn't able to do what I was asking him.  Poor kid.  I am astounded at his resiliancy given I kept trying to fix him.    
So, the first thing you need to do is change your language.  Notice that the word “problem” is not present in the five steps above. The tone is positive and growth oriented.
What do you think could happen if instead of telling your child "There is a problem" to changing your approach to "Let's find a better way?"

Dysgraphia and Creative Writing

Dysgraphia is a learning disability in which writing is difficult.  This is more than just the inability too legibly create letters and words.  It extends to the inability to spell and properly organize thoughts on paper. A child that is dysgraphic gets hung up so much on how to form the letters, that their brain often loses track of what they were trying to spell or write. 

Here's a picture of the process for the visual learners...

When my son was diagnosed with dysgraphia in December, it came as no surprise to me.   I have spent much more time on handwriting, spelling and sentence building with him than with any of my other children.  When he practices a lot, his cursive is nice and legible, but it requires so much work and effort on his part, he is unable to write spontaneously.  He can do copy work very well.  He can't easily write what he thinks. 

I have always encouraged my son to type assignments.  He has had his own laptop since he was 10 because of the difficulties he has always had with writing.  He is not a proficient writer, but he types faster than he writes.  He has also learned to rely on the spelling and grammar checking, and I am okay with that.

Obviously because of his difficulties, I will not give up on teaching him the elements of writing (five paragraph essays, in particular), formatting (MLA mostly), and grammar (via intense Latin study and an extremely rigorous grammar program).  We've also come up with an editing process that I found out is used often...just didn't know it already existed.  It's called the power method and it uses an acronym which makes the process easy to remember:
Now, that may seem obvious, but it is not to an ADHD kid, especially one who hates the writing process.  I have always tried to get my kids to plan out what they are doing BEFORE they write.  They have begrudgingly done it, sort of...however, it wasn't until we were working through Essay Voyages by Michael Clay Thompson last year that they saw the power of the outline.  I gave the four kids I was working with an assignment.  Within the book, there was an outline of an essay.  Their job was to write their own essay, using all the things they had learned thus far from that outline.  They were all astounded at how easy it was when they had a good outline!  From there, the editing and revising was actually easy.  Handwriting aside, the process seemed easier.

However, I had never spent much time on story writing.  I didn't feel I needed to because my kids have always been good, not only at narration, but at making up their own imaginative stories.
One babysitter told us, after watching my children play, that my eldest son would make a good scriptwriter and director.  He would orchestrate elaborate stories into their play sessions.  Not only would he tell everyone what to do, but also what to say.  All the kids would follow his instructions because his stories, created on the fly, were fantastic.  Somehow, it occurred to me last year that my son needed to work and further develop that skill. 

One thing I have learned (listen up curriculum developers) is that the assignments need to be engaging  The premise behind TJeD is to let kids follow their interests and they will learn what they need to learn.  Inside my kid is a story teller without a way to get it out.  I decided that I needed to take things into my own hands and figure out a way to get him writing creatively.  So, given his interests - Star Wars, weapons, adventure stories, games and role playing (although he'd never played an official RPG), I took a lesson from Joseph Campbell and great ideas from George Lucas, a student of Campbell, and put them all together.

Last year, the idea started niggling and I bought some Star Wars books to thumb through.  Of course, my son thought that was divine.   Then, I had to take some time and learn what RPG was all about.  I guess I hadn't realized that Dungeons and Dragons (DnD) is a role playing game.  I never played it, but my friends in high school (yes, almost 30 years ago) did play it.  So I did have exposure, just not experience.

What I ended up with was a writing class for reluctant writers based on the Star Wars universe using role playing games as a way to a create the story.  While I wrote the class for my son, I knew he would not be interested in doing it by himself.  That is where the RPG comes into play.  I knew that if he had to share the story with others and that others would be involved in the story with him, he would work hard.  What an incentive!  So, we invited 11 of his friends to join us.  I used Joseph Campbell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces to teach the boys what makes a good myth.   One young man dropped out, but the older brother of another participant requested to join when he saw how much fun it could be.  These young men, aged 11-14 voluntarily joined us six weeks over the summer to write five 8-10 page stories.  And yes, my son came up with five 10 page stories.  I typed much of it for him because his ideas came so fast, he couldn't capture them all.  We're now working on using Dragon Dictation so he can hand it by himself.

Here is what I found.  The boys loved the themes, character development and structure.  But I think I was the big winners because I learned so much in those six weeks about boys, the writing process, RPG, Star Wars (did I really need to know more???) but most importantly  I also got to know these 11 young men much better.  It was especially funny to see how they would include each other or me in their stories, either by killing them off (not me) or buttering them up (most often me) so that others would include them in their stories.

My daughters, age 9 and 12 at the time, sat in hiding close to our school room enraptured as they listened in as the boys told their stories.  I am now working on the same process for girls, but the story lines will be much different.  In fact, we're toying with either a time travel element or putting the entire story in a particular period of time...not sure yet about that one.  Perhaps...

So, I'm curious.  Would it make sense to run the Star Wars class again?  Would there be interest?  I know the boys that took it enjoyed it, but I don't know if they will join us again.  By the way, I only charge for the cost of materials for these classes.  I am not interested in making money on it.  Last year, the boys paid $30, which covered all the class costs as well as snacks, materials, books, etc.  Let me know if you have someone interested.  My son would be...