Saturday, April 12, 2014

Themes for the Next School Year

I always forget how busy the month of April is.  It's quite intense for our family.  There are two birthdays (which we have yet to celebrate), and Easter (haven't even figured out what I'm putting in the kiddos' baskets yet, let alone ordering anything I need to).  Home repairs are in full swing, thanks to our tax return money. Then if life wasn't busy enough, there's the final preparation to hand in all of my school plans for next year to the district by May 1st.  I had so desperately wanted to get it all handed in April 1st, with my 3rd quarter report, but it didn't happen.   In fact, I'm not even half way finished yet.

My husband also went back to work at the end of last month, which has meant some pretty rough times for Princess and Sunshine.  Princess can hold it together through lunch time, but then can't take Daddy being gone any longer, and falls apart until he comes home.  This is always an adventure.  Thankfully Sunshine naps in the afternoon and knows to expect him home when she wakes up.

While my husband was unemployed, he was helping me with my unit study plans and activities, creating about half of the printables, and doing most of the research behind activities I knew nothing about.  This provided me time to go back and update all of my other unit studies and work on other aspects of the blog.  Now I'm doing everything myself again.  I think I may be missing him being at home as much as the girls do, if not more.

New weekly unit studies will be posted each week, unless we have sick kiddos and/or a sick Mommy.  If I feel impressed to write another post or have time to finish others in my draft box, they will come as well.  I want to focus on updating all of my past units with free printables accessible to all of my readers, which takes a lot of time.  If you haven't already done so, please like Every Star Is Different on facebook.  I will be posting all updated units there, when they are complete.  You'll also receive notifications if you choose to follow my blog.  I'm also working on a printables page, so my readers are able to access links to all my printables in one place.

Just yesterday and today, I was able to update our Earth Unit: Pollution,
and Earth Unit:  Endangered Species & Habitat posts, with printables available for every activity, including ones I created.  If you haven't checked them out, please do so and share with others!
As I've been trying to put together my syllabus for next year, I've run into a few snags.  I thought Sunshine would be ready to join us, but she's not.  I had planned subject studies designed to incorporate her.  It appears at least half of those unit studies will have to be saved for the next year.  In the meantime I've developed a new set of themes for the older kiddos.  Each month I have selected a theme, that is broken down into three or four parts.  Most months will also have one week dedicated to a continent study.  General Conference Activities will be posted twice a year, prior to conference.  I'm super excited about our plans, especially those that will allow us to really dig into specific subject areas and literature, without having to adapt them for preschoolers.  Sunshine will have her own set of tot school/preschool unit studies.

Here are our unit studies for Dinomite, Bulldozer, and Princess:

Month 1:  July
Theme: All American Summer
Week 1:  United States of America
Week 2:  Baseball
Week 3:  Carnival/Fair
Week 4:  Pioneer Day
Week 5:  North America Continent Study

Month 2:  August
Theme:  Life At Sea Part II
Week 1: Shark Week
Week 2:  Beach Fun
Week 3:  Mermaids
Week 4:  South America Continent Study

Month 3:  September
Theme:  The Doctor's Office
Week 1:  Pediatrician & Pharmacy
Week 2:  Optometrist
Week 3:  Dentist/Orthodontist
Week 4:  Australia Continent Study
Week 5:  General Conference Activities

Month 4:  October
Theme: Witches & Wizards
Week 1:  The Wizard of Oz
Week 2:  The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe
Week 3:  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Week 4:  Halloween

Month 5:  November
Theme: I Am Thankful for My Family
Week 1:  My Family
Week 2:  My Heritage
Week 3:  Thanksgiving
Week 4:  Europe Continent Study

Month 6:  December
Theme:  Christmas
Week 1:  "Carol of the Bells"
Week 2:  "Hawaiian Christmas Song"
Week 3:  The Nutcracker
Week 4:  A Christmas Carol
Week 5:  Happy New Year

Month 7: January
Theme:  Winter
Week 1: The Arctic
Week 2:  Hockey
Week 3:  The Ice Age
Week 4:  Antarctica Continent Study

Month 8:  February
Theme: The Body
Week 1: Valentine's Day
Week 2:  Respiratory System
Week 3:  Digestive System
Week 4:  Integumentary System

Month 9:  March
Theme: Civilizations in History
Week 1:  Ancient Egypt
Week 2:  Ancient China
Week 3:  Imperial Russia
Week 4:  Asia Continent Study
Week 5:  Easter

Month 10:  April
Theme:  Spring Time
Week 1:  General Conference Activities
Week 2:  Earth Day
Week 3:  Spring Is Here!
Week 4:  Africa Continent Study

Month 11:  May
Theme:  Animals
Week 1:  Mammals
Week 2:  Birds
Week 3:  Reptiles & Amphibians
Week 4:  Fish

These units will be filled with new activities, adding to ones we've already done.  In case you haven't seen our updated Mammals Unit:
All other animal units will be completely updated soon!

Month 12:  June
Theme:  Kid's Choice, Make Up, & Review
Week 1:  Dinomite's Choice
Week 2:  Bulldozer's Choice
Week 3:  Princess' Choice
Week 4:  Make Up Week

I'm trying to find at least two chapter books to read together each month, related to our theme.  Some months the book choices are obvious.  For other months, I've had to do some research. I'm still not finished.  If you have any great read aloud book recommendations, for kids in 1st thru 3rd grade (reading levels are advanced in this house), related to our themes each month, please share in comments.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Preparing for an Appointment with a Developmental Pediatrician

Last week, for the fourth time, I had a first official appointment with a developmental pediatrician for one of my children.  One might think, by the fourth time I'd have it all down.  I wouldn't stress and freak out before the appointment trying to get everything ready.  There wouldn't be tears as I read each and every report about my child, discussing their weaknesses and difficult behaviors, written by therapists, special education teachers. etc.  But the truth of the matter is I did stress and freak out.  Tears came with each and every report written by therapists and special education teachers.  There's just something about reading those reports.  I know my children better than anyone else, but when their behaviors, adaptive abilities, and cognitive functions are put into numbers, compared to others, with ongoing comments about concerns, it's hard to take in.  
I will say, by the fourth time around I'm very familiar with how to read all of the scores, know the names of the tests, and know what to request, but that doesn't make the process, or the results any easier to take in.  The preparation becomes more difficult when met with opposition from therapists, special education teachers, and/or service coordinators who all have opinions of their own about my child, their behaviors, and my parenting skills.  This doesn't even take into consideration how hard it is for some people to fathom that one family can have FOUR special needs kiddos.  If only they knew how many times I've asked myself that same question, examining my parenting skills, picking apart every little thing I may have done wrong as a parent to cause all of this to happen.  In the end, I know it's not my fault, but insecurities and doubt are very powerful things.

The truth is, I know my children best.  When my gut tells me there's something wrong, and everything I try doesn't work, then I want answers.  I want my child to receive the help they so desperately need.  In my county and city school district, the only way I've been able to get that help, is by having my children properly  diagnosed.  Besides obtaining services, I have found, for me, the diagnosis means everything.  There's finally a reason behind the behaviors and the lack of response to everything I've tried.  With a diagnosis, there are now endless pages of educational information I can use as resources to help my child, and myself, as their mother.  There are support groups.  In some cases there may be networks where trainings are made available.  Over the years, I have learned a correct diagnosis is the opposite of scary.  But in order to receive a correct diagnosis, a parent must be well prepared for the appointment. 

How do I prepare for an appointment with a developmental pediatrician?

Preparing properly for an appointment with a developmental pediatrician takes a lot of time and effort.  It also requires you to work hand in hand with your child's therapists, teachers, etc.  In order for a proper diagnosis to be made, the developmental pediatrician will need to see and understand how your child relates to you, and also how they relate to others in and outside of the home (if applicable).

1.  Obtain as many written reports from therapists, counselors, and/or teachers as possible.  Meet with them before hand. Discuss concerns you have.  Explain behaviors you're seeing at home.  Most therapists and teachers are more than willing to help you in this endeavor.

2.  Request adaptive and cognitive testing for your child.  Confirm that reports will be in your hand by the time of the appointment.  These scores are extremely important for the developmental pediatrician to have when determining the proper diagnosis.

3.  Organize all reports, test scores, and letters, in a binder to have with you at the time of the appointment.  If you haven't realized it already, you will have a TON of paperwork about your child, that will need to be accessible for doctors, teachers, therapists, etc.  It's much easier to have it all in one place, than to have it scattered or lost.

4.  Write a Parent's Report.  Allow a few weeks for this process.  This way, when it comes time for the appointment, you won't forget to mention any of your concerns and questions.

How do I write a Parent's Report?

1.  Include a brief medical history about your child.  Include important information including foster care placement, adoption, abuse, neglect, health concerns, developmental milestones, complications at birth, difficulties with feeding, reflux, etc.  I tend to use bullets when I write my reports, but paragraph form is okay too.  You want to make the information as easy to read as possible.  Be sure to ask your pediatrician and/or specialists if they have any specific information they would like to you to include.

2.  Be prepared to give a family history of any medical, developmental, or mental health concerns and diagnoses.  Ask extended family members for help with this if you aren't sure of facts.  Family history can be crucial in receiving the proper diagnosis.  If you have adopted the child, ask social services for any information they have about the birth parents.

3 . Explain concerning behaviors in detail.  Be honest.  Your developmental pediatrician should not be surprised, offended, or judgmental.  These behaviors are the reason you're seeing a specialist.  Don't forget any.  This is usually the part of the preparation that takes the longest.  Keep a notebook on hand for a couple weeks before the appointment.  Jot down anything that you think of.  Ask therapists, teachers, counselors, and/or extended family members for input, if you feel comfortable doing so.  Do not feel embarrassed, ashamed, or nervous about anything you're going to share.  A developmental pediatrician's job is to help families with children who struggle with disabilities.  I can not express enough how important this part of your Parent Report is. Princess' behaviors have been quite extreme in the past.  Bulldozer scared us more than any of our kiddos with his lack of safety awareness resulting in some pretty serious situations.  Your developmental pediatrician is there to help you.  They are there to provide you with answers, advice, medication if needed, and documentation to protect you and your family.

4.  Share your child's sensory response to the world around them.  If you have not read Visual Stimuli in the Classroom, Tactile Stimuli in the Classroom, and Oral Stimuli in the Classroom, do so.  They will be a great help to you in preparing this part of your Parent's Report.  Posts regarding auditory, olfactory, proprioceptive, and vestibular stimuli are coming soon.  If you are unsure of your child's sensory needs, or do not understand what to look for, ask your child's occupational therapist or special education teacher for help.  They should be able to help you with this.

5.  Write down your questions.  No matter how silly or serious they may be, write them down before the appointment.  You will most likely forget them if you don't.  If you leave without your questions answered, you will be devastated.  After all, that's why you've come in the first place.

When at the appointment with your developmental pediatrician, relax.  You've done all you can at this point.  Now is the time to just absorb all the specialist says.  Be sure to bring a notebook and pen with you to write everything down.  Depending on the office, reports can take weeks to be in your hands.  At other offices, you receive a report when you leave, however it's very short and to the point.  You want your developmental pediatrician to see as many behaviors as possible. Don't be embarrassed if you child acts out. etc.

Most importantly, keep seeing your developmental pediatrician regularly.  My children are seen at least every three months due to medications.  Prior to medications, they were seen every 6 months.  You don't just get a diagnosis and be done with it.  Developmental pediatricians are specialists at development.  Development is always changing.  Your child may receive one diagnosis, but then have it changed later on as their behaviors change.  At times it can be hard to identify exactly what the diagnosis is, so it takes continual observation.  Don't be discouraged.  Your developmental pediatrician wants to ensure that your child will receive the correct help.

When you return home, take the time to grieve.  In all four cases, I was correct in knowing what was wrong with my kiddos beforehand, but hearing it and confirming it with a specialist was a completely different story.  It's hard and that's okay.  You don't love your children any less, but you mourn for them.  You mourn for yourself, as your reality has just changed dramatically.  You mourn for the future.  All of this is normal.  I used to think when I mourned once over this stuff, I was done.  With each kiddo and diagnosis has come it's own mourning process.  

If you are concerned about your child, their behaviors, sensory issues, and/or emotional state, talk to your pediatrician.  Bring a Parent Report to him/her.  Help them, help you know if it's time to see a developmental pediatrician.  I don't know what I'd do without our developmental pediatrician. She is the best!

What have you found most helpful as you've prepared and made it through your first visit with a developmental pediatrician?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Easter Themed Activities for Kids (Designed for Use During General Conference)

 It's here just in time!  Here are our Easter Themed General Conference Activities.  I hope you enjoy them. I had wanted to add more, but just didn't have time.  If I come up with any others, I will be sure to share.

 Arranging Lilies
 All of my kiddos, including my boys, love to arrange flowers, especially when they're able to give them to Mommy when they're finished.  The kiddos will be provided a vase and several Lilies to arrange.  If they are bored with this, and enjoy math, I have provided addition facts for them to practice while they're arranging flowers.

Source: I created the cards for this activity as part of my Easter Themed General Conference Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Easter Events
 The cards can be used in several ways. During General Conference the kiddos will be playing a memory game with them to familiarize themselves with all of the events that took place leading up to Jesus' Crucifixion and Resurrection.  For those who don't enjoy a memory game, a simple match up might work.  The cards are filled with art work that is simply beautiful.  As we get closer to Easter and learn about each of the events more in depth, I'm hoping the kiddos will learn to sequence each of the events.

Source: I created the cards for this activity as part of my Easter Themed General Conference Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Building Herod's Temple
 After Christ entered Jerusalem, he cleansed the temple there.  The kiddos will build a replica of Herod's Temple using sugar cubes.

Source: I created the card for this activity as part of my Easter Themed General Conference Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Who Am I?
 These cards include important people in the Easter Story surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Once again, these cards can be used to play a memory or matching game.  For those who are familiar with the story, a Who Am I? game would be loads of fun.  I'm hoping before the end of the weekend, I am able to add cards giving facts about each person.

Source: I created the cards for this activity as part of my Easter Themed General Conference Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

 My kiddos are obsessed with bubbles.  Since they're a very quiet activity, I thought they'd be great to occupy them during some of the longer conference talks.

Nail Prints Puzzle
 These puzzles are so easy to make.  Just cut up a 5x7 picture into strips and glue it onto large popsicle sticks.

Source:  The free image for this puzzle can be found at  

Palm Leaf Scissor Practice
 Bulldozer loves to cut for fun, as long as he doesn't have to worry about the final product. I thought this would be a great, quiet, activity for him and the other kiddos.  We've talked about how palm leaves and branches were laid on the ground when Jesus entered Jerusalem.

Source: I created these leaves by simply drawing an outline on a piece of green construction paper.

Stringing Easter Eggs
I couldn't not include this activity, as it was a favorite from last year. The kiddos will decorate tree branches, stringing the eggs provided.

For those interested in the printable pack, click the link below:

I hope those able to listen to General Conference enjoy it!  Happy Easter to everyone!
Comments and questions are always welcome!