Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Let your gentleness be evident to all

It's a simple verse:

"Let your gentleness be evident to all" - Phil 4:5

But it can transform your life if you let it.

This is the verse that I have been meditating on as I go for walks around our community these days. We are getting ready to leave New Mexico. So, as I walk, I reflect on my time here in small town Portales and what this community has instilled in me.

I grew up in Chicago in an unstable home. So, being kind and friendly was not really my strong suite. I tend to be sarcastic and assume the worst intentions in people. Yet, I have softened so much in the 3.5 years that I have lived here.

It is hard to stay grumpy and negative when you are constantly greeted with a smile and genuine interest with each new person you meet. People here are so encouraging and eager to help.

I hope I don't lose the gentleness this town has cultivated in me once I leave here. I hope that part of this town stays with me forever.

It is no coincidence, then, that this is the verse that came to me when I decided to put a new verse in my heart during my walks.

Since I have started chewing on these simple words, I have met many of my neighbors and had the opportunity to be a positive impact in their days. In this stressful negative world, I hope it is as refreshing for them as it is for me to see the smiles a simple conversation can bring.

What would your day look like if you based it on the theme of this verse? How would your children grow from your example? Try it out and tell me in the comments below!



Tuesday, March 31, 2015

10 Ways To Live Peacefully

The purpose of this blog is to demonstrate how to live a peaceful life. The best way that I know how to do this is to approach each interaction with honor and respect. So, the next Top Ten Tuesday list will focus on living peacefully. I just want to share what that looks like in my life. Here are ten relationships that are important for mothers to approach peacefully.

10. Live peacefully with the world
        I have tried to touch on this in my top ten series about moms getting involved in national issues. Many people would say that it isn't peaceful to stir up these issues. My concern is that these issues are going to create a world that is chaotic for our future generations. I want to see change on these topics for our future. I do believe in doing this peacefully. That is why I try not to sling slanted facts and prefer to share my experiences and appeal to those reading with my story.
  9. Live peacefully with your community
         As mothers, we have tremendous influence in our communities to make change and to do good. I want to explore those opportunities. Check out my latest post about cultivating peace in your community.
  8. Live peacefully with other moms
         There seems to be a never-ending mommy war going on these days. If we are going to bring peace into the lives of those around us, it will have to start by standing together.
  7. Live peacefully with your body (and your children's bodies)
          I have touched on this as well, but I hope to share more of my story in the coming weeks. I really believe that we need to start taking a look at what we are eating if we have a hope for having a healthy future generation (or grandchildren at all, for that matter)
  6. Live peacefully with your extended family
         This one is hard for me. I seem to be the odd one out and I am very passionate/firm about my stance on many things. I am still learning how to do this gracefully.
  5. Live peacefully with your family unit
          It is one thing to be a gentle parent and a loving wife, but sometimes having everyone together can be a bit mind-numbing. I will be sharing how my family builds a peaceful foundation in our home.
  4. Live peacefully with your children
          This is so important. The only way to do this is to have a moral compass that everyone uses to guide them. The guidepoint of that compass should be love and peace, which we have to model for our children. Stay tuned to learn about my compass and some of our tips and tricks.
  3. Live peacefully with your spouse
          Man this is hard, luckily the Bible gives some great guidelines about this....or does it? I will let you know what I mean in the coming weeks!
  2. Live peacefully with yourself
         So, so, so important. But, it doesn't look the same for everyone. Some of us are not the "mommy time" type. Find out what "mommy time" looks like for someone who hasn't left her kids with others in 2 years (no, you don't have to be crazy like me, but if you are, it's ok! You can still find a way to keep it together :)
  1. Live peacefully with God
           Remember that moral compass? Hint, hint, He is mine ;) The best part is that He offers so much more than that. In fact, it is the least of His concerns. I am learning grace through him daily and the Bible promises that he will give "peace that surpasses all understanding" to those who petition for it. I would not have peace without His grace.

We will dig deeper into how to apply these ideas in the coming weeks! Stay tuned I hope you enjoy.




Thursday, March 26, 2015

Can Ted Cruz Do The Job

Just a few days ago, Senator Ted Cruz announced his candidacy for the presidential office. Many Tea Party supports are glad to hear this because of his consistent efforts to stand up to the left wing spending spree.

Although I am intrigued by Senator Cruz, I am not yet convinced that he is the man for the job.

It will come as no surprise that, amidst all the finger pointing, it is actually BOTH parties who are to blame for the national budget crisis we are facing. In my research into this topic, I found that the main cause for unnecessary government spending seems to be the result of promises to other politicians and lobbyists.

Shocking I know!

The other concerning issue is the increased line of spending for healthcare in the national budget. More people are on medicaid and more people are getting needless procedures when options that are both less expensive and less invasive are available. Requiring those simpler options would save the government and taxpayers a significant amount of money.


Once again, that wouldn't go over well on capitol hill because of the many people on staff from Big Pharma backgrounds.

We need someone who can unite congress in an attempt to get this budget under control. We need someone who will engage congress instead of telling them what to do as the last two presidents have dictated.

Can Ted Cruz do this? Maybe...

He has had a fair amount of legislation go through with by-partisan support. He is committed to empowering congress.

Unfortunately, this is not the stance he is taking. He is spending a lot of time talking about his accomplishments. I understand that he is doing this to point out that, even though he is only a first term senator, he is very capable. But, please, just let the record speak for itself.

I don't want another President who is so keen to push his agenda that he bullies congress into doing his bidding. That will only create more needless programs and needless spending and prevent congress from uniting to deal with issues already at hand.

As I already mentioned last week as part of the top ten series on the need for moms to address government issues, we need team players in congress.

If we want team players, we need a team leader.

Do you think Senator Cruz can do it?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and share this post so that we can get his attention and show him what really matters to us!


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Congress Grid-Lock Is Endangering Lives

In my last post, Why Your Child Probably Isn't At Risk As A Sex-Trafficking Victim, I shared how sex-trafficking is endangering the lives of American girls who you may know and love.

This next post in my series, Top Ten Ways to Address National Issues, is addressing how congress grid-lock is preventing powerful bills from passing and securing a safer future for our beautiful children.

When I generated this list, I was not aware that there would be an ensuing battle over a sex-trafficking bill. Now, I am even more concerned about the way congress is handling national matters.

In an article written just two days ago by Florida Senator Marco Rubio, he shares his passion for the issue and the need to protect the people of Florida. Unfortunately, other congressmen are preventing this bill from going anywhere because they are determined to have it both ways.

It is frustrating to see the democratic party point fingers and blame republicans for putting stipulations into their bill that supports their point of view. After all, why would you work so hard to free women and children from bondage only to murder future women and children, creating more pain in an already heart wrenching situation. Republicans want to draw the moral line and make it known that America stands for what is right.

It is also frustrating to watch republicans pretend they have no other agenda. They knew the addition to the bill would aggravate Democrats. So, why not have an upfront conversation about it rather than put up your hands and blame the other party for not doing their do-diligence.

Why does it have to be every man for himself? Since when was watching out for ourselves and shouldering all of the work on our own the most efficient way to accomplish anything. If anything is going to get done, it is going to take a team effort.

How can WE fix this problem? Start by taking an active role in who is voted into these positions. For that matter,

VOTE!







Senators have a key role in our government. Don't overlook them. I started this series because the mid-term elections were at hand. If more people had taken the time to sort out the issues and put their support behind the right candidate, we may have people in office who were there to work.

There is another election coming. 2016 will not only be a presidential election, it will also be another opportunity to get senators into office who know how to get the job done.

Now is the time to gather information and decide who to support. Jump into your local and state politics. Take a look at what is really going on.

Who is doing the work?

What bills are on the floor?

What bills are being ignored? Why are they not moving anywhere?

Write to your congressmen.

Go to events. Meet them! Tell them what you think. And watch them.

It is YOUR job to watch them. They won't do it for you. So keep your eyes on every move. Because come election time, you shouldn't vote for their platform--you should vote for them. Vote based on their voting history and community involvement.

Lets put people in congress who are voting, not fighting!


Friday, March 13, 2015

Why your child probably isn't at risk as a sex-trafficking victim


OK, you caught me! I am leading you in just a BIT with that title. The truth is, all children are at risk to some degree because we live in a fallen world.

BUT, some kids are at far greater risk. If you are the sort of mom who reads blogs while her kids are napping and you are sneaking some chocolate, you kid probably isn't one of them. You are probably engaged and involved in your child's life. That greatly diminishes your child's likelihood of being abducted.

Sadly, there is a whole group of kids out there whose parents are not engaged. How can we protect them?

My last post in this top ten thread was about the need for women to unite to use our unique gifts to increase the peace and love in our world. While this is fresh in our minds, I want to talk about something very serious in woman's and children's rights today.

Human-Trafficking

"Human-trafficking is a form of modern slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others." (http://www.polarisproject.org/)

Many people work very hard promoting programs to get people involved in changing the lives of the less fortunate. But, do any of us really have room for another program in our over-scheduled lives? I have come to learn that programs are not the most effective method of reaching any person for an reason.

The most effective method for changing lives is to reach out to the people around you--let go of some of those things in our schedules so that we can make time for people. Or, better yet, a person. You can make a lasting impact if you focus on a select few. Jesus understood that. It is the reason he spent all of his time with those 12 men. Maybe 12 people is still too much for you. Instead, can you do just one?

I want to tell you about one person whose life was saved from sex-trafficking. I hope it will inspire you to get involved in someone's life today.

If you saw her in the store, you would think she was just another rebellious teenager--trying to hard to stand out wearing wannabe punk-rocker clothes. She often didn't smile and had an air of superiority about herself.

She is one you wouldn't be surprised to see on a missing person's poster. Probably a runaway. Or maybe too deeply involved with drugs. She should have made better choices.

What you didn't see was what happened in her home. As the only child to a single, mentally unstable woman, she took care of herself. She spent her days reading books and watching animal planet since her mother didn't send her to school. She often missed meals and was always sick because her mother didn't have any real income or the self discipline to clean.

Worse than that were the men. Her mother depended on men to provide for her. The type of men who take advantage of vulnerable women. The particular man they were living with at this time was very violent.

Out of fear, the girl started reaching out to anyone who would listen. The man's boss was nice. He always did nice things for her. Bought her things and offered to "get her out of there."

She wasn't a fool. She knew what that meant. It was so bad here that nothing could be worse in her mind. Of course, she had never even kissed a boy, let alone had sex. So, she couldn't even begin to understand.

Thankfully, this girl also reached out to the police. They did nothing at first. But, one day the neighbors finally called. The police took the girl away. She bounced around in foster care.

But, finally, she landed with an amazing family who loved her through her rebellion. They took her to their church. The people in that church loved her too. They even trusted her and gave her opportunities to learn and grow in character. She started helping out and searching for ways to meet the needs of others. She graduated high school and went on to college. She is now raising a family of her own.

What would have happened if just one of those people had not reached out? I would not be writing this blog today. I would have had a much different fate. I would have traded one hell for another.

So, before you decide that a child or teen is beyond your ability to impact, please just stop. Do SOMETHING. It doesn't have to be big. Maybe it is just a smile. Maybe it is letting a comment slide by. Maybe it is a call to the police.

Just please remember that you could be the one to turn a child's life around. You don't need an organization or the government to do it for you. Look around and see what you can do today.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Right Start Math vs. Montessori Math

As requested on a recent thread on the Montessori Homeschool Facebook Page (run by Bess Wuertz, writer over at http://www.graceandgreenpastures.com/), I am going to share my experience using Right Start Math verses Montessori Math.

In may of last year, my husband and I both found ourselves out of work. Because of this circumstance, the money I had set aside for all those beautiful Montessori math manipulatives went toward living expenses. Luckily, I had already purchased the Right Start Math Level A lesson book for the purpose of playing the games and singing the songs during circle time or just for fun. Taking a second look at it from a teaching perspective, I initially thought that this would be a good fit for us. Beyond just saving us money, I thought that it seemed to follow a similar scope and sequence to Montessori and would be easy to build knowledge one lesson at a time. The fact that there were many manipulatives to start with was very important to me.

As we got started, I found that lessons one through eight are set up to teach the right start method. They begin by introducing the quantity of three using objects, fingers, and tally sticks. Each day adds a number and a material. By lesson 9 we had discovered the tally sticks, abacus, pattern materials, ordering strips, and bead cards.

At this point, I was still very excited about the Right Start program. I loved that the materials were presented in a precise manner, similar to a Montessori lesson. However, as we got into the meat of the material, my enthusiasm quickly dwindled.

Here are a few of the things that made me uncomfortable:


  • The materials are really one dimensional and do not allow for exploration of concepts. Many of the materials serve to illustrate the lesson and do not have enough substance to be explored further if chosen as an independent work. 
  • The lessons are entirely teacher driven. So, each lesson builds on the previous ones. Therefore, the materials only need to serve the purpose of the lesson rather than need of the child to explore the concept behind the lesson. It serves more as an illustration than a true manipulative. 
  • The child will not need to explore it alone, so it doesn't need a control of error. This is a key component to Montessori manipulatives. Control of error enables a child to quickly recognize an error and correct it. Again, this allows the materials to be used more as an illustration than a manipulative which fosters mastery of a material through repeated use. 
  • The material themselves do not isolate concepts. This is my favorite part about Montessori materials. The isolation of concepts sometimes seems overly obvious. But, it allows for each concept to be clearly defined before combining them for more complicated work. Right Start appears to have tried to apply this concept by isolating specific concepts in the beginning lessons. However, even those isolated lessons are being presented in an abstract fashion as the materials are often not three dimensional. 
  • The materials are much less tatical than Montessori materials. There are many cards and the tally sticks are flat. Even the abacus is very limited in it's use. On the other hand the colored bead materials, geometric solids, and golden bead work are all three dimensional and interconnected. 
  • The lessons bounce between multiple concepts in a matter of only 15-20 minutes. This does not allow time for the child to concentrate on their work and move through initial mental blocks into mastery. I am sure you can guess what I am going to say about that: without time to concentrate independently with the material, the tools become an illustration rather than a math manipulative.
For me, these major differences really turned me off from the program as a main teaching tool. My kids had fun playing the games and singing the songs together. But, they were not drawn to the material to explore it beyond the lesson--even when I placed it on the shelf. This was very discouraging to watch. Especially given that my daughter had always shown a special love for math and seemed to acquire the concepts easily when we were using only Montessori materials.

I ultimately stopped using Right Start when we came to the part/whole circle lessons. We started with tally sticks in the circles as the lesson dictated and gradually moved toward using only numbers, checking our work with the abacus. She seemed to understand the ideas during the lessons.

Then, one day, we were counting the days until Christmas using our countdown snowman. She knew that our goal was to get to day 25! On day 18, she put the new number up and I asked how many  days remained until Christmas. She struggled with her fingers and said "ughhhh! I DON'T know!"

Not wanting this moment to end in defeat, I said "lets try it using the part/whole circle!" Surely the visual would help the idea click. I put 25 in the larger "whole" circle. Then I asked, "how many days has it been since the beginning of December?" She takes a minute to look at the snowman before saying "18!" I then responded, "So, what is our first part?" ........................................Well this wasn't going well! Time for mom to help, "18, lets put 18 over here. Lets use the abacus to see how many more we need to make 25." I then set 18 up on the abacus, showed her 18 and then asked her to count up to 25. She got to 20 and became confused when it was time to start counting the next line. At this point she is at the brink of tears. She knows this should be simple, but she can't make sense of the tools.



I pulled out her number cards and let her build numbers to forget about the botched lesson. Then, a little later, I pulled out her beads and asked her the same problem. She did it quickly, exchanging ones for a ten bar as she progressed. Easy peasy. Then came that confident smile I know!

I honestly did not expect something like counting on an abacus to be so difficult for a child compared to the golden bead materials. Yet, Dr. Montessori understood how concret these beginning math concepts needed to be for a young child to fully grasp their complexities. She also understood the need for the child to explore the work. One reason I was drawn to Right Start for Kindergarten was that I was not confident in my own teaching ability. I thought that teacher-led lessons would be best to be sure that all the right material was being covered. Instead, I almost ruined my daughter's love for math.

There are two reasons that I think Right Start didn't work for us. One, it does not invite the child to explore the work. Two, it doesn't provide enough exposure to the materials. The reason Montessori materials are so successful is because they draw the child in with their beauty, simplicity, and an innate sense of how they work. This leads the child to explore them over and over again, familiarizing them with the work and instilling their use as second nature.

Ultimately I was disappointed about Right Start math because it is marketed as Montessori Materials adapted for classroom use. However, I don't believe that it contains enough of the components of a true montessori lesson/work to serve this purpose. I do like it as an aid to teaching concepts during circle time. The games and songs are very engaging and some of the materials present the initial concepts in intriguing ways. But, they don't have the breadth to guide the child toward mastery.

If you would like to know more about what key components make up a Montessori work, please visit this link saved in my Montessori pinterest album

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/355643701800452338/

This post will be followed by a youtube video comparing the two sets of materials to give a sense of what I mean.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnL-l1b929I&feature=youtu.be


Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Case For Play Based Learning

Last night, doped up on coffee. I posted this comment on the Montessori 101 Facebook page in a response to a discussion about whether Montessori learning is aligned with common core standards:

"The scope and sequence [of common core] IS better IF the child has had the correct exposure in the 3-6 years and has been given the correct tools in lower elementry to be successful. But, that isn't how common core works. They are trying to fit a montessori-esque scope and sequence into a standardized testing schooling format. Those two ideas go completely against each other because montessori isn't measured by tests, but demonstration through concrete experiences. There is a greater push by the government to have stronger ECE programs [that will] off-set this issue. But, do kids really need to be in school at that age if they have loving parents at home guiding them through these years (no offense to parents who work outside of the home, just saying it isn't necessary to make it a national standard when not all kids need it You all are hard workers, you rock, and you keep me in business as I have an in home learning center!)."
Dr. Maria Montessori explained it best: 

"The secret of success is found to lie in the right use of imagination in awakening interest, and the stimulation of seeds of interest already sown by attractive literary and pictorial material, but all correlated to a central idea, of greatly ennobling inspiration – the Cosmic Plan in which all, consciously or unconsciously, serve the Great Purpose of Life." (To Educate the Human Potential, p. 3)

My point was that there is not anything necessarily wrong with the sequence of common core. Rather, the issue is with the method being used to instill those concepts. 
Dr Montessori explained that a child's play and everyday experiences is the work of a child. At this age, their work is really about forming their ideas of the world and bringing context to experiences that have value to them.

 "But the child too is a worker and a producer. If he cannot take part in the adult's work, he has his own, a great, important, difficult work indeed - the work of producing man… The child's work belongs to another order and has a wholly different force from the work of the adult. Indeed one might say that the one is opposed to the other. The child’s work is done unconsciously, in abandonment to a mysterious spiritual energy, actively engaged in creation. It is indeed a creative work; it is perhaps the very spectacle of the creation of man, as symbolically outlined in the Bible." (Dr. Maria Montessori, 'The Secret of Childhood', Orient Longman Limited, 200)

 Unbeknownst to many, children are just like the rest of us in that, if an idea is not relevant to their lives, they do not work to retain that information. Children do not use geometric terminology or diagram sentences in their everyday lives. This implies that they don't have any context to enable them to apply those concepts. Instead, we should take their lead in guiding what is valuable to their learning experience.

 “Directing our action toward mankind means, first and foremost, doing so with regard to the child. The child, that ‘forgotten citizen’, must be appreciated in accordance with his true value. His rights as a human being who shapes all of mankind must become sacred, and the secret laws of his normal psychic development must light the way for civilisation.” (Education and Peace) 

It is still important to expose younger children to these ideas as their synapses are forming at a faster rate during this phase of development, allowing the content longer to develop and take root.  With this knowledge, it made sense to Dr. Montessori to develop a learning environment that would naturally lead to the acquisition of these skills. She did so through hands on experiences that allowed for concrete connections to be made using materials that were relevant to the child. She did not see an applicable need for standardized testing.

"My vision of the future is no longer of people taking exams and proceeding from secondary school to University but of passing from one stage of independence to a higher, by means of their own activity and effort of will." (From Childhood to Adolescence, opening)
That is why I was so excited to see this article that has been circulating the blogosphere today. One public school has recognized the need for children to create their own learning experiences. They are doing what they can to allow the students that attend their school to have the freedom to create their own learning experiences. This is so important for building up life-long learners. I am very sad to see that many parents are not pleased with this new policy. Lets get behind this school and show our support for this school's new no-homework policy!


http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150305/kips-bay/elementary-school-dumps-homework-tells-kids-play-instead
 P.S. 116's principal announced that students will no longer be assigned traditional homework.





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