Archive for the ‘Education Class’ Category

The Simple Woman’s Daybook

Monday, September 29th, 2008


For Today, September 29, 2008:

Outside my Window…Curtains are shut. It’s a dark autumn night – new moon – time for bed soon.

I am thinking…how enjoyable it is to interact with friends on the internet, after the day’s work is done.

From the learning rooms…As a paraeducator, my desire is that students would invest themselves in their own lives and learning, that they would love to learn.

I am thankful for…my godly husband and my dear family, for another day to be alive.

From the kitchen…We enjoyed a hearty vegetable chowder for dinner, with garlic toast.

I am wearing…a comfortable knit top and denim skirt.

I am reading…Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother by Carolyn Mahaney.

I am hoping…always, to get more done than I have time or energy to do.

I am creating…this blog post. I created a nutritious dinner. Is that enough?

I am hearing…a quiet house. Just my husband and I are still awake.

Around the house…my husband and son-in-law have split and stacked loads of firewood!

One of my favorite things…time to relax at the end of a busy day.

I found this activity over at Tamy’s 3 Sides of Crazy blog. I liked her list so much I decided to join in on the fun! Thanks for the inspiration, Tamy!

Extracurricular Activities – An Expert Speaks Out

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

One resource I learned about while taking classes in para education at Bellingham Technical College is a program called Love and Logic. In Love and Logic Journal, Vol. 22, No.4, Dr. Charles Fay wrote an article entitled Extracurricular Activities for Kids; How Much of a Good Thing is Still Good?

Dr. Fay lists some of the benefits usually attributed to extracurricular activities, such as young people being less likely to get involved with drugs, drinking and gangs. He cautions that extracurricular activities become harmful, however, when they undermine the child’s involvement with his or her family.

In general, Dr. Fay gives the following guidelines:

  1. If there is no longer time for family dinners, time spent on extracurricular activities is inordinate.
  2. If children have no time or energy left to do chores and contribute to the family, they are too busy.
  3. Children need some down time to think, relax, and learn how to handle boredom. If every moment is organized into one activity or another, the child may learn to expect constant entertainment.
  4. If parents are burdened with all the demands of the child’s extracurricular activities, this is harmful. Dr. Fay states, “Healthy parents don’t allow themselves to feel guilty when they take good care of themselves by setting limits on activities that run them ragged. They know that having rested and relaxed parents is more important to kids than doing everything they want. Involvement in extracurricular activities is a poor substitute for quality family time.”
  5. If the child is highly stressed by all his or her extra activities, parents need to clue-in to help the child set priorities.

I highly recommend the Love and Logic publications. They are well thought-out and teach concepts which have been successfully tested in homes and schools.

Continuing Education at Bellingham Technical College

Friday, March 31st, 2006

The final class in the paraeducator certification series begins next Tuesday evening. The class is entitled Effective Instruction. Some topics which will be covered include:

  • Assessment and educational standards
  • The teaching/learning cycle
  • Library/technology skills
  • The writing process
  • The reading process
  • Team teaching

The first two paraeducator classes were packed full of helpful information, and involved observation of experienced paraeducators at work, much reading, and lots of writing on educational topics. These classes would be valuable for home educators, as well as for parents of a child with learning challenges.

I will also need to earn Internet and Computing Core Certification (IC3) before being certified as a paraeducator. I purchased the Computer Literacy Basics textbook, and plan to work my way through it on my own, since another night class would be just too much.

After completing this certification, I hope to either volunteer at the high school where our daughter is a student, or work part-time as a paraeducator, if a position is available.

I’ll be sorry when these classes are done. I feel as if I’ve been privileged to participate in a fine book discussion group.

A Research Paper for Paraeducator II Class

Saturday, January 28th, 2006


Among students who are classified as learning disabled, arithmetic difficulties are as common as reading problems. Some studies suggest that 6% of school age children have significant math deficits. Such students may respond to repeated failure by not trying to learn anymore and by lowered self-esteem. As such students reach adulthood, their math illiteracy will handicap them in daily living, and will limit their job prospects. What are some of these math disabilities?

One disability involves mastering basic number facts in all four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division). Such students need help with thinking strategies, not just fact practice. Mathematical reasoning is the goal, not mindless computation. The use of a pocket facts chart can be helpful. Eventually, students will hopefully note a pattern to these facts. Much practice in small doses is helpful. A small number of facts should be presented for mastery at a time, and practice should be interactive, with active engagement by the student. It can be helpful for the student to chart his/her own progress. Another helpful strategy is to ask the student, “How do you remember (math fact)?” Have him drill himself using his own strategy.

The brain tends to remember material that:
• It is ready for.
• Has meaning.
• Can be arranged in patterns.
• Can be linked to previously learned information.

Another math disability involves the student being reliably unreliable in paying attention to operational signs, borrowing/carrying appropriately, and in sequencing steps in complex operations. Such a student may not be very disabled, in reality. He may have a good grasp of math concepts, but have weak lower level skills. Graph paper or lined paper turned sideways can help the student organize written work on a page. This is an aid in properly aligning columns of numbers for addition/subtraction, and for division problems. The teacher and Para educator can partner with the student to help him develop his/her own compensations for this disability.

Other students do have good informal math understanding, but have difficulty with the formal procedures, language and symbols of math. This informal/formal gap is a factor in the majority of math learning problems. Such students need many experiences with concrete materials, or manipulatives, which they can physically hold, move, and group to make strong connections between informal and formal math. Such children are not really helped by the practice of using workbooks. Students must become demonstrators of math ideas, not just problem answerers. To truly succeed in math, understanding must be connected with the symbolic representations of math. If students do not see the connection between real things and more abstract mathematical principles, they will not look for patterns or meaning. They will view math as a collection of unconnected facts to be memorized, but not understood. To establish the connection between math and meaning, the practice of estimation can be used. The student can then note whether his final answer really makes sense.

Math disability may arise from a misunderstanding of the language of math. Some students with language deficits may react to math problems as signals to do something, rather than as mathematical sentences to be read for understanding. For such students, the teacher should slow down the pace of delivery in presenting concepts, offering explanations, giving directions and asking questions. Information should be given in small chunks. Students should be encouraged to read and say problems before and after computing them, and to ask themselves, “Does this answer make sense?” It can be helpful for students to play teacher and explain their understanding of the math problem to others. Also, students who work on math in small groups are more likely to ask necessary questions.

A rare math learning disability is associated with visual-spatial-motor organization. Such students have tell-tale accompanying weaknesses: a poor sense of their body in space(clumsiness), disorganization, and difficulty understanding non-verbal social signals of gesture and facial expressions. These students need repeated experiences with real materials that can be felt, seen and moved around. They also learn well verbally.

Some students have developed emotional blocks which keep them from really thinking about math. Such students need many opportunities to see themselves as successful thinkers. If the student can be helped to see that math is not so much computation as it is problem solving, or thinking, he or she can be helped to overcome anxiety. The teacher and Para educator should work with the student to define his strengths, and then use those strengths to teach the student those concepts he/she finds to be difficult.

In Your Child’s Growing Mind, author Jane Healy, states:

Most people think of math as arithmetic, the study of numbers, and the rules or operations such as addition and multiplication that we use to manipulate them. Guess again! Mathematics is a much greater science of relationships, which uses numerical symbols to describe fundamental truths about our universe. The numbers or symbols on a page represent powerful abstract concepts – but they are rooted in concrete experience. (page 322)

This quote emphasizes what has already been stated. To help a student who is experiencing difficulties with math, math must be tied to real life, to concrete experience. The student must also be helped to see that math makes sense. It is not a grab-bag of facts to be memorized. According to Jane Healy, the child must develop two separate abilities to experience success in math:
1. The ability to comprehend relationships, to reason abstractly and to solve problems.
2. The ability to follow rules, to analyze, to compute accurately, to observe carefully, to form educated guesses, and to maintain an orderly line of thinking in problem solving.

Younger students can engage in play activities which help to build mathematical brains. Some of these activities involve:
• Small objects to count and arrange.
• Board games and dice, to learn the following of rules.
• Sorting and classifying hobbies.
• Unit blocks, patterns, and toy clocks to manipulate.

The child’s active, physical involvement in these real activities is essential, since most people learn by doing (active), not from watching it happen (passive). This is a way to teach children from the bottom up, rather than by presenting abstract rule systems too early. The more varied the experiences, and the more first-hand meaning the experiences have to the student, the more likely they will form a basis for advanced reasoning necessary for math.

Students can also be helped to overcome math difficulties by working with them to develop problem-solving skills:
• Encourage questions.
• Ask open-ended questions and welcome creative responses.
• Provide toys and games that encourage play the child creates himself.
• Show the child how to estimate.
• Practice “guess and test”, the forming of hypotheses.
• Take time to listen to the child’s ideas.
• Model adult problem-solving.
• Help the child to tolerate some uncertainty as he finds the best solution to a problem, or tests a hypothesis.

Certain facts and skills need to become automatic for a student to succeed in math. To build automaticity, the following are important:
• Motivation and involvement by the learner.
• Repetition.
• Novelty.
• Presentation through looking, saying, hearing, touching, and body movement. The more senses that can be involved in the learning process, the better.

Finally, families can help children overcome math learning disabilities and build a strong mathematical foundation by involving them in some of the following activities:
• Family games.
• Cooking.
• Shopping.
• Money-managing (allowance).
• Music lessons.
• Hobbies involving collecting and exploring nature.
• Measuring and weighing.
• Using maps and following directions.
• Calculator games.


“Wright, C. Christina. “Learning Disabilities in Mathematics.” LDOnLine. October, 1996. WETA, Washington, D.C. January 28, 2006.

Rosner, Jerome. Helping Children Overcome Learning Difficulties. New York: Walker Publishing Company, Inc., 1993.

Healy, Jane. Your Child’s Growing Mind. 3rd ed. New York: Broadway Books, a division of Random House, Inc., 2004.

A Journal Entry from My Education Class

Saturday, December 3rd, 2005

A Review of The Book of Think (or How to Solve a Problem Twice Your Size) by Marilyn Burns

The Book of Think by Marilyn Burns is a Brown Paper School Book published by Little, Brown and Company, and is still in print. The copy I reviewed was published in 1976, and is part of our home school library. As I reread the book, I mentioned some of the “brain teasers” to my younger children, ages 9, 12, and 13 (who had not yet read the book). They became engrossed in the problems, and immediately set about to solve them. It seems to me that the young teen audience is the one being addressed by the author. The book is an easy, entertaining read, but the concept being addressed – problem solving – is dealt with in a thorough manner.

Throughout The Book of Think, the young reader is encouraged to become responsible for recognizing problems, developing the skills necessary to deal with problems, and exercising good judgment to know who to ask for assistance, when necessary. This reminded me of the emphasis on the “Significant Seven Perceptions and Skills” mentioned in Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen. Particularly, The Book of Think would aid a young person to develop:

• Strong perceptions of personal capabilities (“I am capable.”) (Perception 1)
• Strong perceptions of personal power or influence over life (“I can influence what happens to me.”) (Perception 3)
• Strong intrapersonal skills (the ability to understand personal emotions and to use that understanding to develop self-discipline and self-control) (Perception 4)
• Strong interpersonal skills (the ability to work with others and develop friendships through communicating, cooperating, negotiating, sharing, empathizing, and listening) (Perception 5)
• Strong systemic skills (the ability to respond to the limits and consequences of everyday life with responsibility, adaptability, flexibility, and integrity) (Perception 6)
• Strong judgmental skills (the ability to use wisdom and to evaluate situations according to appropriate values) (Perception 7)(from Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen, page 6)

In The Book of Think, the young person is encouraged to be more self-observant. For example, he or she is told to explore personal sensory needs: What causes sensory overload for him/her? What is conducive to his/her concentration and creativity? This is an intrapersonal skill, one of the Significant Seven Skills. The young reader is also encouraged to wisely observe the behavior of friends and family to decide who would be a likely problem-solving helper. This is another of the Significant Seven Skills, an interpersonal skill.

The importance of using the strengths of both sides of one’s brain is also explored in The Book of Think. The author explains that the “left brain” is logical and orderly, and has much to do with speech and hearing. The “right brain” handles feelings, experiences, appreciation of art and music, and is inventive. This is reminiscent of the Chapter “A Path to the Future: Hemispheres, Learning Styles, Handedness, and Gender Differences” in Your Child’s Growing Mind by Jane Healy. Some of the exercises described in Your Child’s Growing Mind for helping the two hemispheres of the brain work together are also recommended in The Book of Think:

• Games that combine visual and verbal cues
• Visualizing pictures from listening or reading
• Describing actions with words
• Verbalizing intuitive discoveries
• Describing problem-solving experiences

The Book of Think concludes with “It’s not easy to know when you’re right. Thinking about thinking can help you get a head start.” “Thinking about thinking” is metacognition, described in Your Child’s Growing Mind as “clarifying one’s understanding of a topic, experimenting with ideas, or simply enjoying the landscape of one’s own mind.” (page 292) Also, on page 252 of Your Child’s Growing Mind, the author states that metacognition “means being able to stand back and view one’s own learning strategies and mental operations.” In The Book of Think, on page 73, the reader is encouraged to “Look at how you think, and how you get stuck. When you’ve got a solution, try to figure how it can help you next time.” This is another reference to metacognition.

I would highly recommend The Book of Think to any young person who wants to become more aware of his world and more creative in solving intellectual and life problems. The principles behind the book can be found in both of our class texts, Positive Discipline and Your Child’s Growing Mind.

A Journal Entry from My Education Class

Saturday, November 26th, 2005

Some Thoughts on “The Toolshed Muse: Creative Minds in Process” from Your Child’s Growing Mind by Jane Healy, PhD.

The last chapter of Jane Healy’s book, Your Child’s Growing Mind, was thought-provoking and informative. I especially enjoyed the section on “Creative Parents”, wherein she lists some things that parents do to foster creativity in their children. As I have mentioned in a previous journal entry, I have, off-and-on, homeschooled my children. When the children were younger, I sometimes worried that we were not covering enough “academics”. After reading this book and especially this chapter I feel “validated” that I did many things right, after all. Here are some of the “tips” offered by Jane Healy, and applicable examples from our homeschooling experience:

“Provide discipline and structure to give children security to explore.”

Both my husband and I sought to train the children, lovingly, to do what was right and especially tried to teach them how to love one another. Some examples of the structured environment I tried to provide are:
• The children had healthy meals and snacks on a timely basis.
• We (the children and I) would first do morning chores together to care for animals and get the house neat, before attempting any “school” work.
• We had a framework of “routine” activities each day; the children knew what to expect.

“Set realistic standards and encourage pride in achievement.”

I very much tried to stay away from comparing the children with one another. My husband and I, and the children, recognized areas of great talent and creativity in each child, and would seek to encourage that child in his or her individual endeavors. The children seemed to understand from an early age that it was not necessary to match up to brother or sister, but only to be oneself, and to develop one’s own talents. Of course several children could have the same talent. We have found that they encourage one another to excel. For example, our younger children are looking forward to following in the footsteps of older brothers and sisters who excelled in the “Running Start” program.

“Show active interest in a child’s thoughts and creative efforts.”


First Journal Entry for Paraeducator I Class

Wednesday, September 21st, 2005

Dear Cindy (Cindy is the instructor of the class),

From the introductory comments which you made yesterday evening, I have formed the opinion that this class will be both interesting and challenging. Thank you for making the time in your obviously busy life to teach this class. What a benefit to would-be paraeducators!

Since I do not yet have the course texts, I will begin with some insights into my own background in teaching and tutoring.

First of all, I love to learn! I did not attend college after high school. Nevertheless, I enjoy reading on a variety of subjects, such as health, nutrition, history and religious ideologies. I also enjoy reading young adult and children’s fiction. I have enjoyed becoming computer literate. My children have often been my instructors in this area!

Next, I enjoy facilitating my children’s learning. I have homeschooled my children at various times. My oldest son, who is 22 years old is the only child who was homeschooled exclusively until he began his college career at the age of 16 through the Running Start program. (From 1999 through 2002, some of the children attended Ebenezer Christian School.)

My philosophy of homeschooling is this:

  • establish the child’s tools for learning (strong reading and math skills)
  • use textbooks only as necessary to reinforce these basic skills
  • use good literature and “real” books as much as possible
  • read aloud to the children
  • take the children to interesting places
  • encourage individual interests and abilities (Currently, my children are taking lessons in such things as figure skating, violin, viola, cello, and bagpipes. We have done swimming, soccer and homeschool P.E. in the past.)
  • expect excellent work
  • give increasing responsibility for one’s own education to the child as he/she proves capable. Currently, my 13-year old daughter ordered the curriculum which she and her younger brother and sister are using this year. She determined how much work would need to be done each day, writes in the planners, and grades the work. I am available for question answering and assistance of any kind, but she takes great pleasure in her competency.
  • utilize community resources. As a family, we love Running Start! Five of our children have participated in this program. We do full-time college in lieu of highschool courses. By the age of 15 or 16, the children welcomed the challenge of college work.

Third, while some of the children attended Ebenezer Christian School, I did recess duty once a week, and also assisted the first grade teacher in helping the little ones learn to read. I continued volunteering at the school for two years after the children attended there.

Fourth, I learned about the role of the special education teacher and paraeducator when one of our daughters became very ill when she was ten years old. Schizophrenia caused her much suffering, caused her to lose much of what she already knew, and impaired her gross and fine motor skills. Gradually, as our daughter responded to antipsychotic medication, I noticed that she was able to learn again. I applied to have her evaluated at Nooksack Valley Middle School by Ian L. and Tari M. I sat in on the evaluations and found them enlightening. Specific learning weaknesses and strengths were identified, and an Individualized Education Plan was drawn up by Tari. Our daughter started at the middle school towards the end of her 7th grade year. Initially, she remained in the Resource Room for all instruction, had a shortened school day, and could barely read. Tari and I discovered that Debra was a great auditory learner. We phased her into regular classes. If the textbook was read to Debra (about three or four times over!) she could take the regular test (untimed) and do well. Debra ended up attending NVMS full-time for 8th grade, and won several awards, including one for some artwork (fine motor skills were improving!). I have been inspired by Tari and the others who helped Debra so much!

Debra is currently a sophomore at NVHS. We have had some trouble communicating her IEP requirements to all instructors. I sympathize with the busy staff at the high school. I have been told that there has been a 20% increase in the number of students with IEP’s this year, with no corresponding staff increase. As a family, we take turns reading aloud to Debra, since decoding is still irksome for her. The portion of Debra’s IEP which states that she needs difficult material read to her, does not happen at school. My goal, therefore, is to become certified as a paraprofessional and help at the high school.

I have taken the ParaPro Assessment prep. class taught by Tari M., but have not yet made arrangements to take the test. I was impressed by the skills standard expected of parapros. As I mentioned previously, the class you are presenting sounds excellent as well. Hopefully, skillful and caring parapros entering the work force will continue to help young people like Debra.