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Friday, November 22, 2013

Anatomy of A Conversation with My Children - Life Lessons

I am always intrigued by how a seemingly simple conversation with my children can evolve into a more serious subject matter.  Wednesday morning I dropped Sebastien off at school first since his brother Nathan had a Doctor's appointment.  I then returned home for transportation round#2 with Isabella needing a ride to Middle School then Nathan and I going to the doctor's appointment from there.  On the short ride to drop off Isabella, I asked Nathan to please remind me to pick up a bottle of water for Sebastien so I could deliver it to him when Nathan was done with his appointment.  Sebastien's Spider Man water bottle had sprung a leak when I attempted to fill it that morning.  It was a Dollar Store purchase so I didn't expect it to last the entire school year. 

Sebastien likes to chew on the top to his water bottle, so it was likely the cause of it's early demise.  Nathan made a negative comment about this so I felt compelled to launch into my developmental explanation about why some children have a need to chew on things:  water bottle tops, erasers, etc...I informed Nathan that some children, like Sebastien, actually need to chew to help them focus in school.  Sebastien has a lot of motor energy that is probably hard for him to contain while in school.  Yet he does it extremely well.  Chewing may be a compensatory technique for him.  I'm not sure if it totally convinced Nathan, but it did allow me to further explain another topic near to my heart.

We discussed how everyone has different learning styles.  Some people are kinesthetic learners and need to be able to touch items to learn about things.  Writing, hands-on science experiments, and learning about letters through texture props can facilitate learning.  Also, some individuals need to be in motion to pay attention and learn.  Last year Sebastien's Kindergarten teachers were excellent about allowing the class to participate in music and movement prior to beginning their rotation of centers.  They learned their sight words through action games such as a "snow ball" throw.  The sight words were written on sheets of white paper, wadded into balls, and placed into a large bucket.  When the teacher began the music, a snow ball throw began.  When the music ended, each child had to grab one snow ball and bring it to the teacher.  The child then opened the ball and revealed a sight word, which he/she recited for the teacher.  Brilliant and fun!  I had the opportunity to observe this for the Christmas party last year and was impressed by the results.

Some individuals are visually tuned in and do well with written information, posters on display in the room, and other props.  I explained to Isabella that when I help her with homework, I always ask to see the math problem or the information she is trying to study because I need to have that visual cue.  If she just recites the math problem, it is harder for me to focus on a way to help her.  I also need pencil and paper to show her how I envision the problem being solved.  (kinesthetic)  

Music is a terrific auditory cue that helps with memorization of information.  Listening to the teacher, hearing a video tutorial, and being able to study while listening to music, a movie, or other external sounds are also indications that someone is an auditory learner.

We talked about how sometimes children can be on "sensory overload" and have a difficult time focusing in a classroom.  This overload can happen if the lights are too bright, there are unusual aromas in the room, if others are talking too much, or if the classroom has so many decorations and information displayed in the room that they become distracted.  (I have seen a lot of overloaded classrooms - sometimes out of necessity when teachers have no storage space.)

I explained to Isabella and Nathan that sometimes a child will be allowed to chew gum in the classroom if it helps him/her focus on the assignments.  Other children may be prescribed treatment by an Occupational Therapist that encourages them to sit on a therapy ball instead of in a regular desk chair because it helps the student maintain focus.  There are many reasons why students could benefit from adaptations to their environment and to their work stations.

When I mentioned the therapy ball, Isabella shared that there is a student in one of her classes who uses a therapy ball and sees a therapist.  The child is having a hard time attending to her work and gets distracted.  The student lost a parent in a car accident just over the summer and needs extra assistance adjusting to Middle School due to the trauma experienced so recently.

Of course, I started to get teary-eyed.  I stopped in front of the school to let Isabella out and gave her a big hug.  I told her how much I love her.  You never know when a car ride to school will lead to a conversation that stops you in your tracks.  Forget about the list of things that you planned to do!  That day, I took Nathan to his doctor's appointment, picked up another water bottle for Sebie, took Nathan back to school, and personally took the water bottle and a snack to Sebastien's first grade classroom.  Those simple actions took on new meaning for me as I thought about the now mother-less middle school child whose life had changed forever over the summer.  And I felt a deeper appreciation for the opportunities I still have to talk to my children about the things that matter to me and to them.

Anatomy of A Conversation indeed!  Allow your children to talk, but also take those teachable moments and see where a conversation might lead.  From a chewed up water bottle to learning styles to the loss of a parent...all these conversations are helping my children gain information that will shape who they are, how they learn to cope in the world, and hopefully inspire them to respond with compassion to those in need when the time comes.

Thanks again for taking time to read this and I welcome your input regarding the subjects I write about.  Sharing resources and encouraging each other as we go through our journey as parents is a worthwhile endeavor.  It is a pleasure to have you along for the ride.

Happy Weekend!