5 Days of Asynchrony

About 2 years ago, I first stumbled across the term asynchronous, and in many ways, it felt like I had just stumbled upon a user’s manual for my son, who was five at the time.

Later this week, I’ll share some of my favorite links to other bloggers, educators, and researchers who gave helped to shape my understanding of asynchrony, but today, I get to tell my story.

Asynchrony is, in a nutshell, development outside of the expected developmental window. It’s usually a combination of really early and really late at the same time.

It means, in our case,

  • early reading but late collaborative play
  • early math but late physical coordination
  • early awareness of people’s emotions but late development of the maturity to deal with said emotions
  • early interest in and understanding of the world coupled with late development of the social skills that ease peer interactions

It’s not easy.

I’m not complaining. I’m grateful for J and who he is, and I’m especially grateful that I can homeschool him. Public school can be rough for asynchronous kids.

We tried it. He went to public school for kindergarten & first grade. It wasn’t an entirely negative experience, and we worked with some talented and dedicated educators along the way, but look at this:

A side-by-side comparison of what they did at school and what he was naturally drawn to at home.

There’s no judgement for the teachers intended in this picture. Their responsibility is to teach all the students, so of course they choose work that is accessible for most students, but my kid… he gets to twiddle his thumbs.

Meanwhile, he needs to spend time in small groups, interacting, playing, learning to trust his peers, but that’s not what the school had time for.

So we homeschool.

Here, we can spend 5 minutes on the multiplication tables and half an hour on shoe tying.

Here, we can set up play dates and small group interactions in a supported environment where he can practice those very important “soft” skills.

Here, he’s free to spend hours a day reading and learning about chemistry, rather than being told he can’t balance a chemical equation until 10th grade.

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And most importantly, here he isn’t constantly being told that there’s something wrong with him. He isn’t being compared to “normal” and being made (unintentionally) to feel like an outsider, just because his brain and body happen to be on a different timeline.

He’s celebrated for who he is, and we can always focus the next thing, regardless of what the developmental charts say we should be doing.

Come back tomorrow and the rest of the week for 4 more days of Asynchrony, how it plays out in our family, links to other resources, and maybe some helpful tips for you as well, if you’re in a similar boat.

And read more from other bloggers at the iHomeschool Network through the graphic below!

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Lessons in Adulting – Self Regulation

Self-regulation starts with self-awareness.

Have you ever thought about it?

We can’t ask ourselves or our kids to control that which they do not see, any more than we can ask a colorblind person to match the colors or someone listening to loud music to respond to verbal commands. It doesn’t work.

And yet, I have been guilty of expecting my kids to do just that. This last couple years, as we’ve come to understand more about our kids and how they tick, our approach has changed.

I am CRAZY proud of my sensory kids and how much more comfortable they’ve become with various sensory triggers. In the last year, we have learned to handle vacuum noises, air hand dryers, and blenders. We have been able to take our kids to the fireworks for the first time, and last month we actually took them to a live show — and had a great experience!

The secret?

Earmuffs. (aff. link on pic)

Crazy, right?

We went from full-on meltdowns to offers to help.

They ask to use the vacuum and to push buttons on the blender.

My kids now ask to use the hand dryers (one of the three still wants me to cover her ears, but she does it).

You know what changed? We started acknowledging our kids’ reactions as valid and giving them tools to self-regulate. We didn’t force them to stay next to the really loud sounds until they got over it – we gave them the earmuffs and space, and they approached us when we were ready.

A couple weeks ago, we went to a family acrobatics/juggling show. I had selected our seats carefully, and I packed the kids’ earmuffs. J, who is 7, didn’t use them. A & E both wore theirs part of the time, adjusting for themselves when they thought they needed it.

It gives them a modicum of control.

This year, a large part of our focus has been those Executive Functioning skills. the ability to plan, regulate, organize yourself in the day-to-day activities of life.

I’ve been working through

Smart but Scattered (aff)

And reading everything The OT Toolbox puts out about executive function, self-regulation.

We’ve been playing lots of board games, card games, and movement games (like Mother May I).

We’ve been talking about possible reactions to different scenarios, modeling having a choice of how we respond.

We’ve been strengthening pathways to the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain where reason and logic lie).

And we’ve been listening to our kids – asking them to pay attention to their bodies and the signals they’re getting.

Just like awareness of toileting needs precedes toilet training, awareness of hunger precedes appropriate food portioning, awareness of time precedes activity planning, and more.

There’s a really good post by the Child & Nature Alliance of Canada that’s been going around about the phrase “be careful”. The thing is – so often, kids don’t know what we’re actually telling them to be careful of. They probably would be careful if they saw the danger as we do. We need to point out what in particular they should be aware of.

When I started Driver’s Ed, the teacher projected a slide. In it were various road hazards, cars on the road, cars waiting to turn, etc. He started calling us up, one by one, to point out what we thought we should be paying attention to. The answers were all over the place.

The exercise, though more than 20 years ago, made an impression on me, as I realized how we can only react to that of which we are aware.

That’s a gift we can give our kids, as well. We can recognize that they don’t see the world through our lenses (which is not necessarily a bad thing!), and that in order to make wise choices they first need to be able to see their options, and process them, in an environment that is safe, supportive, and not overwhelming.

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This post is the 2nd in a series I’m calling “Lessons in Adulting”. Click here to read the first installment!

 

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Stealth Spelling – Games to work on those crucial skills

Spelling. It’s important. Your entire life (until everything is voice to text automated), people will be judging you based on how well you can spell.

Some people excel at spelling. For others, it’s harder. But spelling lists are boring and drudgerous. Is there a better way?

The cool thing is that, in the early years especially, if we do activities with our kids that encourage them to look closely at letters and how they work together, especially in a non-threatening game format, we’ll be sharpening their spelling muscles and causing them to pay more attention to how words are spelled as they progress educationally.

Some of our favorite activities are

Crossword puzzles

Word searches

Scrabble (and Scrabble Junior)

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Bananagrams

Boggle (and Boggle Junior)

Spelling puzzles

Hangman

Jumbles

Apps: Endless Alphabet, Endless Reader

Websites: Spelling City, PBS Kids

This isn’t to say that spelling lists need to be banished. There can be a time and place for them too, but the more we train our kids to be aware of how things are spelled, the easier they will find the skills needed to learn and spell words correctly.

Your turn: how do you incorporate spelling into your routines in a fun and collaborative way?

 

THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. ANY LINKS TO RESOURCES ON THE AMAZON WEBSITE ARE PART OF THE AFFILIATE PROGRAM. WE ARE A PARTICIPANT IN THE AMAZON SERVICES LLC ASSOCIATES PROGRAM, AN AFFILIATE ADVERTISING PROGRAM DESIGNED TO PROVIDE A MEANS FOR US TO EARN FEES BY LINKING TO AMAZON.COM AND AFFILIATED SITES.

 

Homeschooling – 2 week update

We’re traveling a bunch in September, so I started counting and documenting our 180 days a couple weeks ago, just so we wouldn’t fall behind.

We haven’t actually cracked open a textbook, though. In fact, my kids have barely noticed a difference in their routines, because the reality is

When you engage your kids, every day is a homeschooling day.

I started sitting down in the afternoon and documenting what we’ve done that fits in various subject categories.


We’ve been busy. This creation led to a discussion of area, perimeter, patterns, and multiplication facts.. 

We’ve had lots of domino runs, towers, and chain reactions. These are so good for practicing find motor control, patience & resilience (when things accidentally fall).

We’ve been to the beach. A few times. Today we got to experience the tide coming in and filling the tidal pools, investigate the sea life, and watch the boats, as well as playground time too. Here, E declared that the birds were copying her.


We’ve done a few simple chemistry experiments, testing our hypotheses and asking follow-up questions. 


We’ve read. Lots of books. And created lots of mediocre artwork. And played games. 

We’ve been learning. Once our month of travel is over, we’ll settle into a regular routine and open those books, but this is good too. 

A Scooter, a Walker, and a Tricyclist – a tale of processing speeds

This morning, we went for a walk at a beautiful nature preserve. One on a tricycle, one on foot, and one riding a scooter (their choice).

It was a beautiful day as we started down the gently curving mile-long path. 

The scooter glided easily. In fact, more than 50% of his time was spent waiting for others to catch up. Again and again, I reminded him to wait, that I needed to be able to see him, because gliding is easy, almost effortless. It’s easy to keep going.

The tricycle started out slow. She pedaled with persistence and diligence and kept her trike on the middle of the path, but she was, by far, the slowest. And hills were nearly impossible. I had to push her up anything beyond the slightest incline. But she kept going, enjoyed herself, and was proud of her independence.

My walker was the most flexible. She could run ahead to where the scooter waited or could slow down to stay with me and the tricycle. She didn’t really notice the gentle, sloping ground, and her hands were free to touch the fauna along the path, finding juniper berries and various textures of leaves. 

Because we we’re pushing her abilities, she had time to enjoy her surroundings, to notice and ask questions. I held her hand for a bit and even carried her on my back when she was tired.


Cracks and breaks in the path were a hazard to my scooter, who could easily get toppled if he wasn’t paying attention. They didn’t phase the other two in the least.

At one point, we stopped at a scenic overlook with a raised pathway. We stowed our wheels, and suddenly, these three kids whose paces were so disparate were now close to unison. 


Sure, by the end of the path the tallest was slightly ahead, but it was nowhere near the difference seen with the various wheels.

Now, I know that all analogies break down eventually, but they can be useful too, so hear me out.

We’re all outfitted with different brain processing speeds. They’re innate characteristics of how we’re made. They are NOT intelligence. Some of the most brilliant people I know take a long time answering a question, and the opposite rings true as well. 

Someone with a slower processing speed will have the experience of constantly being helped along, pushed, nudged, dragged, pulled to keep up with the group, and will have little experience with downtime in a classroom or group setting. They’re constantly being told to finish things up, save it for later, switch gears to something else & then come back.

Someone with a faster processing speed isn’t showing off or intentionally leaving the group behind. It’s how he’s wired. He may have already passed by that tree, categorized it in his mind, and have moved on – and would be reticent to come back and rehash what to him is already in the past. 

My walker was made for this trip, and we saw that when everyone got down and walked/ran. They were able to run together, adjust their speeds to the group, and have a shared experience which was almost impossible for the tricyclist and required enormous amounts of restraint for the scooter.

Do you know what I said most often to the tricyclist? Let me help you.

And to the scooter? Wait.

And to the walker? You’re right – you found ________________.
So…. what’s my goal with this post? Empathy & understanding for our kids and their innate speeds – not judging someone as less intelligent because she happens to take longer to get there – and understanding for that kid, too, who has to hear “wait” 50x when all he wants to do is keep going. 

5 Steps to Learning a New Skill

Learning something new isn’t easy. As adults, we sometimes forget how hard it was to practice and develop the coordination necessary to swim, ride a bike, or tie our shoes, but at one point, we all went through 5 basic steps of learning a new skill.

I post this because we sometimes think that we (or our kids) should be able to jump from step 1 to step 5, from modeling to independent mastery, but we forget the steps in between that are so vitally important.

So here we go. These steps are largely necessary, though some people may occasionally be able to skip some of them. And they may also take longer or shorter amounts of time to move through.

  1. Modeling. An expert shows a beginner how something is done. A parent reads a book to a child. An older sibling shows a younger sibling how he ties his shoes, narrating the process. A potty training video breaks down the steps with visual cues “potty potty wipe wipe flush flush wash wash”, anyone? Grandma mops the floor while the grandkids watch from a safe distance.
  2. Participation. The expert still has control over the situation, but the learner is allowed to give limited input. This could involve the learner chanting along to the tie your shoes rhyme, a little stirring or pouring while baking cookies, throwing the socks into the washing machine. Rather than one plateau, this is a gradual stage where the learner takes on more and more responsibility until we get to
  3. Self-direction. The expert/teacher is still right next to the learner, but now the learner is in control of the situation. It’s the driver’s ed student finally sitting in the driver’s seat, though the instructor still has a brake pedal and is able to grab the wheel. It’s a 4yo deciding which toys to put away first, but his babysitter right there next to him, helping with the process and finding the missing pieces. The 6yo holding his own shoelaces and going through the rhyme, with helping hands right there to steer the process or catch some slack as needed.
  4. Partial independence. The learner is now in charge of the situation, but the expert/teacher still checks to make sure it was done properly. The mom still checks her 5yo’s teeth to see if he missed a spot. The dad runs a brush through his daughter’s hair just to check that she got everything. The teacher walks around the room, glancing at papers to make sure her students are carrying the ones in their subtraction lesson. The 8yo bakes a cake with her mom in the next room. By this point, students feel confident in knowing what they need to do, but they still need oversight, just in case. 
  5. Full autonomy. The skill has been learned, and the individual can be trusted to accomplish the task without outside help of reminders. You send your 10 year old into her room, and when she comes out everything is clean & put away. It’s time for bed, and you don’t double check that your child has remembered all the necessary steps because you’ve practiced so much that it becomes habit. The kids do their own laundry, no questions asked. You trust their math calculation at the farmer’s market and don’t double check it. This is the holy grail, what we’re working toward.

But so often, we forget that the intermediate steps are vital. And messy. Some may take a long time, and you may have to go back & repeat earlier steps. 

Learning is a process. And as much as we want our kids to have learned, we want, even more, for them to know how to learn. To be comfortable with asking for help and being learners, in those messy intermediate steps. We don’t want to shame them for not moving along fast enough, because that will diminish their desire to try again and learn something new.


So if I could encourage you with anything today, it would be to remember the process and be a willing partner to your kids along the way. 

Mundane Magic

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Sometimes, life is big, flashy, exciting, post-worthy. But most of the time, life, especially with littles, is pretty repetitive.

Lots of manners and social skills, toileting, hygiene, basic respect and self-control. Over. And over. And over.

It’s not flashy, not “Pinterest-worthy”, but it is so worthwhile.
I thought I’d share a few of our mini-milestones along the way.

1st time interacting with an abacus – they counted, sorted beads to one side or the other, and started grouping them by 2s. One of my favorite things about the Reggio Emilia philosophy, as I understand it at least, is that we don’t have to show our kids the “right way” to explore something like this. Instead, we can follow their leads and see where it takes us.

It may not look it, but a water fight (got these little squirters at the library summer reading program) actually involves sophisticated social interactions. (Can I spray you? Where is appropriate? When is enough? How do I ask for help?) Younger siblings are perfect partners for developing social skills. They accept you for who you are, don’t have preconceived notions of how it should be different, and are often working on similar skills themselves.

Screen time. Our kids’ screen time is extremely limited. None in the morning (unless we go somewhere like the auto mechanic like we’re doing tomorrow), and it will be immediately taken away if they treat each other unkindly or refuse to share (we have 1 family device). This incentivizes them working together and shows me what they are capable of when they’re motivated enough.

Discovery. The kids are slowly internalizing the language and methods we’re using, and it’s exciting. I filled an empty Voss water bottle (plastic) with a few water beads (aff) and some water, and the kids all interacted with it in different but meaningful ways. It was so rewarding to hear 3yo E verbalize, “I wonder what happens if I do __________”. That’s what we want – for our kids to think through possibilities and outcomes and then trust themselves to see what’s next (within safe boundaries, of course).

Chalkboards doors. I love these. It’s the Contact brand chalkboard paper (aff) – and for about $10 I had multiple writing surfaces covering my very 90’s cabinet fronts. The kids all have separate spaces to create, or I can start a “doodle” for them to add to, and they love cleanup as well (spray bottle with water and a paper towel). It’s great for so many motor skills and for strengthening the shoulder muscles.

There’s nothing showy, viral, or awe-inspiring in this simple, faithful, day-to-day model, but even though it is mundane, I want to stop and recognize the wonder of it all.