Strength and Courage for the Homeschooling Mom

I hope you all had a restful and blessed Christmas break. If only Christmas break could last much longer! But now we’re back to the grindstone with a long winter stretching ahead of us, marked with many uncertainties. Are you feeling the need for strength and courage?

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of conversing with a most interesting lady. Cathy (not her real name) was a police woman and mother of two teenage daughters. She worked the night shift in a sketchy Manhattan neighborhood. Consequently, she had stories galore to tell: how she and her partner would bust drug and prostitution rings; how she dragged famous singers, who had passed out intoxicated or over-dosed, out of bars; how she went after notorious gang leaders who then sent her death threats…

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Give Your Kids Books For Christmas!

Earlier this month, my sister, my friend Melissa, and I were brainstorming about what to give our boys for Christmas. What do you get kids who have so much already? “First world problem,” noted my sister, who has spent time volunteering in India and Malawi. So. true.

Kids don’t need all the latest high-tech toys. As I write this, I’m watching my kids play in the backyard with sticks. Where’s that drone we got them last year? It flew into a tree and broke. Where’s that R.C. car Sparky got two years ago… the one that drives up the wall? Broken, too. So there they are, chasing each other with sticks, having sword fights, and whacking the fence. As happy as can be. Which reminds me that kids don’t need expensive toys. They just need vivid imaginations, fresh air, and well… sticks!)

One thing kids can’t have enough of are quality books — wholesome, well-written novels that feed the imagination. It’s a worthy endeavor to slowly build a family library. So I always get my kids books for Christmas … among other things. Here are some of our favorites from this year:

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Free Advent and Christmas Art Cards for Little Ones

Preparing for Advent, I’ve been thinking about how to make this time meaningful for my little guy, Junior. Since he loves pictures, I made him a collection of art cards that depict the Christmas Story. And since he loves nursery rhymes, I added short little poems to go with each picture. The verses are very simple and repetitive, so he can understand and repeat the words. My hope is that by looking at the pictures and saying the verses, Junior will see the beauty of the Christmas story. Sacred art really has the power to draw us into contemplation.

Come take a peek:

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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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