Help for the Homeschool Mom of Struggling Writers

Help for the Homeschool Mom of a Struggling Writer

I love words.  I love to write.  I can feel the words flowing from my fingertips constantly, and when they aren’t actually flowing through my fingertips, I’m writing blog posts and books in my mind.  That’s how much I love words and putting words together to communicate.  And that’s why it’s been so hard for me to be mom to a struggling writer.

My sweet Isaac has never enjoyed writing.  Way back in kindergarten, he decided he didn’t like it.  And as much as I tried to explain how wonderful writing was, he just hated it.   So, a couple of years ago, I decided to stop fighting it, and start thinking outside the box.  So I decided to observe him to figure out the root of the problem.

The first thing I noticed was that it took Isaac a long time to write anything.  It seemed that he pressed the pencil a little bit too hard, and it was more labor-intensive for him to write than it should have been.  He hated turning his pencil over to erase, so many times, he just wouldn’t, and he made random scratch marks all over his paper, I think out of frustration.

I also noticed that he struggled to start his writing assignments.  A blank page was daunting to him, and the beginning of a writing project was the worst day of his life, closely followed by every other day of a writing project.  I knew that I wanted to change this, but how?

The first thing I did was I addressed the physical part of writing.  I did some research and I found something called dysgraphia.  This is a learning disability closely related to dyslexia where the child struggles with the actual act of writing.  The symptoms seemed to match pretty well, so I looked into getting him some therapy.  We went to a physical therapist in our area and while he wasn’t diagnosed with dysgraphia, we did find out that he had some pretty severe delayed fine motor skills which were hindering his writing.  So, we began to work on it under the direction of the therapist.

Every day, during our read aloud time, I would have Isaac do his “fine motor” work.  He would do simple tasks like transferring marbles from one place to another with chopsticks or digging beads out of therapy putty.  Slowly, over time, I began to notice a big difference in his writing.  He wasn’t struggling or laboring over it like he once did.  Addressing fine motor issues was a huge step in writing success for Isaac.

Next, I wanted to address the blank page phobia.  I knew that Isaac thrived when he talked to me.  He could tell me lengthy stories and describe vivid scenarios in detail.  So, I decided to start working with him verbally.  I decided to be his recorder.  I would introduce a topic, we would discuss it, and I would collect his thoughts on paper.

Then, we would take that paper, and we would organize his thoughts using a graphic organizer.  After that, he would use the graphic organizer to verbalize his paragraph or story to me.  He would stand next to me at the computer and say what he wanted me to type.  I would type it on the computer in large print, double spaced, exactly like he said it.  NO EDITING MOMS!  This is critical.  If you want learning to happen, you have to write it without capitals, periods, misspell a word or two…make mistakes so that he can practice finding them.

I would print that out, and he would edit and revise it.  Then, I would type it out again with the revisions.  And finally, I would have him copy it in his handwriting.  This process would take anywhere from two weeks to a month, depending on the project.  It made all the difference in the world!  Soon, he began to really enjoy writing, because it was something that he could see slowly, but surely, coming together.  And when he was done, he really had a piece to be proud of, one that he could take complete ownership of.  It was a win-win.

The past two years, we have seen tremendous growth in Isaac’s writing.  And when I think about it, I realize that we could have just gotten stuck in that spot.  I could have left him behind, and let him continually struggle.  But instead, we were able to find a solution that improved everyone’s experience.  This year, I decided to try a more formal method of writing instruction using Here to Help Learning’s writing curriculum.  We are loving it so far!  In fact, my next post will be a review of Here to Help Learning’s program.  I hope you’ll check it out.

Most of all, if your child is struggling in an area, it’s always a good idea to stop and think outside the box.  Don’t get stuck in the box of how everyone else does something.  First, look at actual physical delays.  Is there a fine motor delay?  Are you dealing with dysgraphia or another learning disability?  Next, does your child just need a little more assistance from you?  Remember, it won’t last forever.  Independence will come.  But your help may be just what they need to get going.  And if you can’t offer them that assistance, can you try an outside-the-box writing curriculum like Here to Help Learning?

I’m so thankful that we have found a groove that helped my son so much.  This year, he’s writing more independently, and it’s a joy for us both!

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Pre-Adoption: Surviving and Thriving

Tips from my adoptive family to yours.

Tips from my adoptive family to yours.

You just got one of the craziest phone calls of your life…you have a new child. Your heart skips a beat or two, your head is spinning with visions of love, and you are just a pinch scared to death. Okay, maybe more than a pinch. But mostly, you are in awe. You feel surreal. You suddenly realize that you have about a month before your new child comes home, so you begin extreme nesting (of course, you have already been nesting for the past several months-this is simply extreme nesting). You have one visit, and then you have another, and one more…and then the day finally comes. The day when your child comes home.

Now what??

For me, the pre-adoptive stage was one of the most difficult stages of my life. Now that I’m on the other side of that, I am examining why that was the case for me. I know that God planned this for me because through our adoption, I have become a much more transparent, authentic person. I have seen the struggles of people that I previously chose to ignore. I have learned to choose love instead of fall into it. But honestly, I wish that I could have learned all of that without the hard times of the six months of pre-adoption. In that vein, I wanted to share some of my thoughts about the pre-adoptive stage with you, just in case that is where you are, where you’re about to be, or maybe adoption is still floating around in your mind, and you’re wondering if you can really do it. Are you strong enough? I know all those questions…maybe too well. So grab some coffee, and let’s chat about this not-so-sure stage of adoption.

Surviving and Thriving in Pre-Adoption

Your feelings are okay….all of them. I am my own worst critic. Hands down. I will beat myself up in the same areas where I freely give others grace. One of the areas I struggled with were my feelings. Some days, I felt on top of the world and completely in control, and other days, I felt like I couldn’t do it and the world was falling apart around me. I felt like I had made the biggest mistake that was sure to tear my family apart. Some days, I felt alone. Some days, I felt like I didn’t like my life anymore. Some days, it was hard to choose love, and I felt guilty about that. I mourned losing our “normal” and I struggled embracing our new normal. What I would love to go back in time and say to myself is…”It’s okay. All of it. All of those feelings are okay and normal. You need to feel all those things to get to the other side of this. So, feel everything…all the good things and all the bad things, and don’t feel bad about it.”

Don’t be the best version of you…be the real you. I wanted to be the perfect family for James. I wanted to be WonderMom for him. But I’m not. And I couldn’t pretend to be. It just wasn’t me. Be yourself…mistakes and all. Allow yourself the freedom to get frustrated. Allow yourself the freedom to get up and hang out in your robe and messed up hair.  Don’t shoot for June Cleaver. They don’t need her, they need you.

Trust God. I would imagine that adoption was something that you prayed about a lot, something you didn’t jump into, and something that you felt lead by God to do. But sometimes, it’s hard to remember that when life is hard. When I was struggling, I would wake up every day, and my first thought was, “I trust you God.” I knew that He lead us to adopt, and I knew that He wouldn’t leave us on our own, so I had to remind myself that I really did trust God to see us through the hard part.

Surviving and Thriving in Pre-Adoption

Focus on bonding/attachment first. When James came home, I think that we were too eager to get him to blend into the family from a logistical standpoint. In other words, we were really concerned that he knew our schedule, knew our rules, knew how things worked, etc. But I feel like it took us a while to really begin to bond with him, especially me. Bonding came naturally to Tim, but it didn’t to me, and it really didn’t come naturally for Isaac either. In retrospect, I wish that we would have intently focused on bonding rather than rules and procedures. Although, for those of you who struggle like me, bonding doesn’t have a time frame, so if you’re a little late, it’s okay. Just be intentional about it.

Praise 10X more than you correct. There will be some behavior issues. Even if the child doesn’t have any serious issues, there will be a learning curve on how the family works. So, during the pre-adoptive stage, it’s beneficial to be strongly focused on the positive. And not just with your adopted child, but also your biological kids. Point out EVERYTHING good, play those things up, and correct the negative gently, in private. Again, this goes for everyone, including your biological kids. Remember, this is a fragile time for your whole family.

Don’t care. I care about a lot. I’m a controller. But this is one time in life when it pays to just not care. Don’t care about what other people think of you. Don’t care that your kids are acting out. They are in a major transition, give them grace. Don’t care that your house is dirty. Don’t care that you are feeding your family frozen pizza every night (trust me…they will love it!). There will come a day when you will have the time and energy to start caring about some of these things again. And you will reign in your food choices, your family rules, etc. But now, just don’t care for a while.

Find an outlet. For lots of parents, this comes in the form of date night. It didn’t for us. Tim works late hours, and dates just don’t come very often around here. So for me, my blog was my outlet. When I started it, adoption was still just a lingering thought in my mind, but now I see exactly why God urged me to write again. He knew that I would pour out my thoughts, my frustration, my sadness, my loneliness, my anger, my happiness, and my joy on the pages of this blog. I am so thankful. I credit this blog with being my therapy for the past six months. So, start a journal, start a blog, take up painting again…whatever brings you joy and helps you release emotions, do that.

Surviving and Thriving in Pre-Adoption

Give it time. We are so impatient these days. When James came home, I wanted us to be an immediate Brady Bunch family. But, that isn’t exactly realistic. As we got to know James more and more, we started understanding him better, and he began understanding us better. Through the lengthy process of getting to know each other, we have become family in the truest sense of the word. So give it time, lots of time.

Know that you (and everyone in your family) will change. I am quite possibly the most habitual person in the history of the world. I love doing the same thing every day. When James came home, my habits were abruptly and completely thrown off, and I mourned the changes deeply. It’s taking me a while to get back on track. So, knowing that your family and your routines will change is helpful. Knowing that you can’t control how they change is also helpful. It’s another time when you just have to trust God.

Find people who understand you, and build community with them. Our CALL family has been amazing. We met two couples in particular who have become like family to us through this process.   Because they were going through the same thing, we didn’t have to feel bad about our feelings or censor what we said. We could just be real with each other. We message each other when things are tough and we pray for each other and we lift each other up. I don’t know that I would have gotten through the pre-adoptive stage without these people. So find some people who get you, people who have been there and build community with them.

There is no Cupid. I have told my kids this truth on a regular basis for the past nine months. So many times, we expect God to sprinkle this love dust over us or for Cupid to hit us with one of his love arrows, but that’s not what love is. We don’t just see someone random and fall deeply in love with them. Love is a choice, it’s an action. Love grows over time. So, if you are struggling to feel love for your new child, just know that it’s okay. Love comes when you choose to let it…just water it and give it sunshine and watch it grow.

Surviving and Thriving in the Pre-Adoptive Stage

Know that it’s worth it. This may sound a little harsh to you. But the truth is that through our pre-adoptive stage, God revealed Himself to me in a BIG way. I am not the same. I am changed for the better. Not only that, but my family is changed, and James is changed…all for the better. God has taken brokenness, and made something absolutely beautiful in our life. So, all of this, the junk from Questions 1-12…it’s all totally worth it. If you are “on the fence” about adopting, I’ll leave you with one of my husband’s favorite phrases… “Anything worth doing isn’t easy.” It wasn’t easy, but adopting was absolutely worth it. If I had it to do over again, I would. And honestly, I hope that God sees fit to let us adopt or foster again at some point in the future.

I want you to know that if you are in this pre-adoptive stage, you’re not alone. It’s tough, but this season will pass. And if I had it to do all over, this is the advice that I would give myself to follow. I pray that it is helpful to you too. If you are interested in adoption or fostering, please visit the sites below for more information:

The CALL

Project Zero

Can We Join Together to Do Something Great?

Last night, I sat at a fair booth for about an hour, representing The CALL ministry, which recruits, trains, and supports foster and adoptive families. I spent that hour trying to not be invisible to the vast majority of people who were sailing by my booth making every effort NOT to look at me. Now, before I continue, I totally get that. I do the same thing to people. I creep by, hoping that they won’t talk to me and ask me to do something, because if you ask me, I will say yes. It’s just in my DNA.

We Care About our Kids

But I also think that there’s a terrible misconception about us….by “us” I mean people who advocate for children in distress…I think that maybe you think that we think that everyone should be fostering or adopting. Let me just clear this up for you…it’s just NOT true. Yes, I wish that more people would foster and adopt, but not everyone is called to foster or adopt. And I know that. And it’s okay. So far, my family hasn’t been called to travel across the world to reach lost people. And that’s okay. We all have different paths of serving God. But what if I said, “Since I am not called to be a missionary, I don’t have to care about the rest of the world?” That wouldn’t make sense would it? Of course not! That’s why my family gives above our regular tithe to equip missionaries from our own church and around the world.

But so many times, we say “I’m just not called to foster care or adoption,” and somehow, we feel okay leaving it there. That’s where we go wrong. It’s biblical to take care of “widows and orphans in distress.”   So, we aren’t asking every single family to foster or adopt. We are asking to let the Holy Spirit move you. We are asking you to join us in prayer for our community. We are asking you to join with us to spread the word about foster care. We are asking you to simply care.

I’m so excited to report that every day, more and more people in Conway County care. We are now up to three foster homes! Three! It’s exciting! But, it’s still not enough, not when you realize that there are 89 kids in Conway County who need a place to stay, and that number changes daily. I’m always thrilled to have conversations with families who are considering fostering or adoption. I’ll never encourage you to just jump in without prayer and a conviction that it’s right for your family. I’ll never guilt you for it not being the right time. And, I’ll be 100% honest with you, and I’ll tell you exactly how hard it is. I’ll even share with you some of our own personal experience. I’ll also share with you how adoption has changed our lives for the better.

That’s why I’m so excited to tell you about the new Conway County Foster Care Coalition. This is a really, REALLY exciting thing here in our county. The CCFCC is made up of three organizations, all working together to a common goal: taking care of the children in distress in our community. Tomorrow night (Monday Sept 14), they are going to be holding a meeting. This meeting is open to ANYONE who cares about the situation, and I would highly encourage you to go. If you’ve ever thought about fostering or adoption, or if you have ever just wanted to find a way to help…I strongly urge you to attend this meeting. I promise, there will be no pressure. No one will ask you to do something that you aren’t ready to do. They just want to give the people in our community the chance to care.

Can you attend this meeting?

Can you share this information?  Click on the link below to see all the details:

Conway Co Foster Care Info Meeting PDF

Speaking Truth to Our Children {plus an awesome giveaway}

Talk Now and Later Review

“Mom, have you ever lied to us?”

I paused for a long moment, a bit shocked by the question my oldest son had just asked me as we drove into town several weeks ago. My mind rapidly began flipping through mental files, still frames of memories flashing one after another, each one, a moment where I had a choice to lie. Finally, the slideshow going on in my head rested at one memory, about 7 years ago.

Isaac was two years old, and we were in the car, on one of our many long trips to see Tim at one of his military trainings. We had been chatting about Tim being a soldier, but his next question at the ripe age of two, caught me completely off guard.

“Momma, could Daddy get hurt in a war?”

My heart sank as I contemplated the answer to this tough question from my toddler who was barely old enough to speak the thought clearly. At that point, we knew about Tim’s upcoming deployment to Iraq, and I knew that my answer here mattered. While I wanted desperately to give the easy answer of, “No, of course not,” I knew that this was a defining moment of my motherhood. In that split second, I made the decision to always be truthful, no matter how hard the question. So, I took a deep breath and I said, “Yes. Daddy could get hurt in war. But you know, Isaac, we trust in God, and we believe that God is good all the time, whether things are good or bad. God will always take care of us, no matter what happens.” I braced myself for Isaac’s response, which I imagined would be either uncontrollable crying or the start of another chain of questioning that I wasn’t prepared for, but he only said, “OK,” and went back to his toy. Somehow, he was able to rest in the security of truth.

It was that conversation that partly shaped the way I parent. Since then, I’ve fielded many, many other questions from, “Why did ______ happen?” to “Why did my birth mother have to give me up?” So, when the question, “Mom, have you ever lied to us?” came, and I flipped through my mental filing cabinet, I was grateful to be able to say, “Isaac, if I have ever lied to any of you, I didn’t know it. I can’t think of a single instance where I haven’t told you the truth. I’ve always done my best to be 100% honest with you.” And his response was, “I didn’t think you had.” At that moment, I was incredibly thankful that years ago, God lead me to choose truth.

That’s why I really appreciated Brian Dollar’s book, Talk Now and Later. As a children’s pastor of a large church right here in my home state of Arkansas, Brian has years of experience in ministering to families. One of the principles that he is passionate about is parents talking to their children. And not only talking to them, but being proactive and intentional about it.

Talk Now and Later by Brian Dollar Review

So many times, we tend to feel that children are “too young” or “not mature enough” to handle tough topics, but Brain reminds us that if your child isn’t talking to you about the tough topics, you can be sure they are talking to someone else, most likely their peers. And we all know how that can go! While Brian does emphasize that we should talk to our children in an age appropriate way, he also encourages us not to “dumb down” our answers and cautions us against believing that our children can’t grasp difficult concepts.

I was personally encouraged and challenged by Talk Now and Later because while I’ve always been open and truthful to my kids, I don’t know that I’m super proactive on certain subjects. I definitely tend to procrastinate. Brain’s knowledge not only encouraged me to be more proactive, but also equipped me with the right words to tackle the really sticky subjects like sex and death.

One of my favorite excerpts of Talk Now and Later is about how we tend to want to let children’s pastors and youth pastors take care of these subjects for us, but it’s really our job. It’s our job to lead our children spiritually. Here’s what Brian has to say about this:

We have hijacked the spiritual development of kids by promoting the idea that a “professional children’s minister” is the only qualified, competent person to speak spiritual truth into children’s lives. To some degree, we’ve developed a “savior complex” elevating our roles as the highest and best source of spiritual input for kids. Though we didn’t plan it, this perspective lowered parents to second-class status. Ultimately, we became a hindrance to God’s plan. Here’s the truth: God’s plan is for parents to be the primary spiritual leaders of their children.

I am so thankful that my son has felt comfortable enough with me to ask me tough questions, like “Have you ever lied to us Mom?” I think we are on a good path, but it’s a constant battle to keep the lines of communication open, especially as my boys approach their teenage years. I was so impressed by Brian’s book for that reason. It gives some truly wonderful tools for parents to utilize so that they can be proactive in prioritizing communication. I would very highly recommend Talk Now and Later to any parent who desires to improve in their communication with their children. It is so important.

You can check out Brian’s book on Amazon by clicking here. He also has an awesome Children’s Ministry blog where he writes with experience and wisdom. I would love for you to check it out by clicking HERE. I rarely hang on to books once I’ve read them, but this is one that I will keep handy and reference often.

Want your very own copy? Great, because today, I’m giving away a SIGNED copy of Brian Dollar’s book Talk Now and Later! Just click here to head to my Facebook page.  Then, click the “Giveaway” tab to grab up to 8 entries!  Giveaway closes on Sept. 8th.

Can’t wait to read it?  I understand!  Click here to get your hands on a “hot-off-the-press” copy of Talk Now and Later from Amazon!

So, I’d love to hear from you now! What’s the most difficult question your child has ever asked you?