Raising a Child with Down Syndrome: Talking with Cale Clarke on Relevant Radio

I got a call from Cale Clark the other day. After reading a controversial article from The Atlantic Magazine, The Last Children of Down Syndrome, he wanted to know what it’s like to raise a child with Down Syndrome. What was it like to get that diagnosis? What’s our life like now? And how do we deal with the uncertainties about our son’s future?

Our family’s experience is only one data point, but it is an experience shared by many families blessed to have a child with T21…

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Advent and Christmas Activities for Preschoolers with (and without) Down Syndrome

With many schools being closed yet again, I thought I’d share our Advent traditions and what Junior and I are doing for the month of December.

Here goes….

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Three Qualities of Great Teachers

How’s your school year going? Whether your kids are homeschooling, distance-learning, or doing some form of hybrid schooling, chances are you’ll be teaching your children to some extent. By default parents are teachers, especially in these uncertain times. So today, I’d like to share a little pedagogy with you, because after all, your teaching style is far more important than the curriculum you use and the plans you make.

We’ve all had some outstanding teachers and some not-so-great teachers. Have you ever stopped to think what made your great teachers great? Have you ever considered how you can be more effective and motivating as a parent-teacher? Here are three qualities of great teachers:

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Even the Saints Could be Difficult Children

Sanctity. For many of us, this is what we want above all for our children. We want them to grow up to be devout, holy Catholics filled with grace and virtue. 

But sometimes that seems impossible. When our kids are obstinate, quarrelsome, selfish, or hot-tempered, it seems there is no way they will overcome their faults and grow up to be mature, generous adults… let alone saints!

So for this Feast of All Saints, I did some dirt digging.  Saints are not born, but made, though the mercy and grace of God.  When we feel discouraged about our kids, it helps to hear about saints who were normal as children — usually very good but sometimes really challenging.

Here are three children who were difficult at times and still grew up to be saints:

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Homeschool Activities for Preschoolers with (or without) Down Syndrome

Ideas, ideas. I love great ideas for teaching Junior, our preschooler with Down Syndrome. As I promised in my post about Teaching Preschoolers with Down Syndrome, here are some of our favorite educational activities :

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Luna’s Magical Trip to the Moon

Here’s a sweet and delightful picture book for your little ones! My teenage daughter and her friends collaborated on it over the spring and summer.

Luna has always dreamed of going to the moon. One day, the opportunity arises in an unexpected way. At first, Luna is afraid to embark on her adventure, but she realizes that this is a once in a lifetime chance. On a daring quest to save the moon from Ash the fire-breathing dragon, Luna meets amazing friends and grows in self-discovery. With beautiful illustrations, this book will capture the imagination of young readers, while teaching important life lessons on kindness and courage.

Just look at some of these beautiful illustrations by Grace Gunther:

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Teaching Preschoolers with Down Syndrome at Home

Last spring, I read an intriguing book, When Slow is Fast Enough: Educating the Delayed Preschool Child. It is written by Joan Goodman, a child psychologist who specialized in the diagnosis and early intervention of preschool-aged children with developmental delays. Her book is the result of extensive and highly detailed observations of twenty early intervention programs around the United States.

As a homeschool mom of a preschooler with T21, I was keenly interested in her work. Frankly, I could not put it down. I found her astute observations of these early intervention programs concerning and her recommendations enlightening yet challenging.

Although this book is about early intervention pre-schools, there are some important and useful ideas that parents can glean from Goodman’s work for teaching their preschoolers with Down Syndrome at home:

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Free Nature-Themed Alphabet Cards

You’re going to love these — you moms with preschoolers and kindergarteners. In the spring, Junior surprised us by learning all the upper case letters by playing with a foam letter puzzle and singing the alphabet. So, I gave him a puzzle with the lower case letters. But he insisted that lower case “a” was not “a”. I realized I need to present the letters in pairs, differentiating between “big letter A” and “little letter a”.

So I went searching online for alphabet wall cards, but I could not find anything to my taste. (I was looking for cards with real photos of things found in nature.) I asked my teenage son to make alphabet wall cards for Junior — beautiful ones with photographs of real things from nature. I could not have been more pleased. And now I’m happy to share them with you.

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Beginning a New Homeschool Year: The Two Best Things You Can Do for Your Homeschool

Well, here we are! The day after Labor Day, Our Lady’s birthday, and for many of you, the first day of a new homeschooling year.  I’m wondering how it went for you all. Great? Wonderful? Not-so-wonderful? Horrible?

However it went, I’d like to share some thoughts about beginning a new home school year including the two best things you can do for your homeschool.

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Free Virtue of the Month Cards!

In my pediatrician’s office, there is a poster that says:

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.

Watch you words, for they become actions.

Watch your actions, for they become habits.

Watch your habits, for they become character.

Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny

It’s so true that our actions become habits which build up or break down our character. And the time for developing good habits — virtues — is while children are young. Children’s characters are like freshly made play-doh – malleable and relatively easy to form. As children grow into teens and then into adulthood, their characters become harder to form, like old playdoh that dries up and gets crusty.

Most kids don’t think of the effect their actions have on their character. But once children reach the age of ten, I think it’s worth pointing out to them that the way they treat their family members now and the virtues they exercise now will have an impact on the type of person they will grow up to be. You don’t become an accomplished pianist just by waiting to become one. You practice daily and faithfully, drilling in those musical passages until they become a part of you. The same goes for developing one’s character. Want to be a great husband and father? Start by being considerate and generous now. Want to be successful in your career? Start by being industrious and persevering now. As I told my son, if you wait until you’re grown to be the wonderful person you want to be, it might be too late, because old habits die hard.

To be a little more proactive about growing in virtue this year, I made Virtue of the Month cards for my kids… and yours!

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