Friday, August 28, 2015

Parent vs. Teacher vs. Administration

Last year when my younger son entered private high school I had my first experience with grappling with what is the truth and what is reality. My son was raised to communicate openly and so we heard some things such as a struggle with math in the first trimester. In the meeting with the teacher and the headmaster my husband and I realized the divide. We had a concept of reality as was told to us by our son and then we heard opposing stories from the teacher. I also knew my son was a fast learner of math since I used to teach him and also he learned by online work. Yet my son was not able to learn much from that teacher. The teacher said our son was bad at math. We then hired a tutor who said our son was indeed good at math and was fast learner with a great memory. We had him tested as I have shared before and he had no learning disabilities and an IQ that placed him in the 97th percentile which is considered gifted. The teaching method in that class was self teaching by reading the textbook. I know and you probably know that people have different learing styles, well that was not working well for my son. Later I would hear that other students learned just fine with his method. So we kept the tutor for one hour a week. Our son would learn the material then excel in class so the teacher thought that some miracle had occurred and that indeed his teaching style was effective.

Other things happened both at school and with the sport team to show my husband that what we were being told and what our son was upset about was not reality as perceived by the adults in charge and also sometimes I got to hear the perceptions of other teens there. It is so crazy how perception can vary so widely.

So a big challenge for my husband and I last year was to decide when to act and when to just listen. When should a parent intervene?

Our son did not always like the result when we intervened because sometimes something that was a lie by omission or a more complete story would be revealed that changed the whole situation. Sometimes our son was caught where in the end my husband and I were in agreement with the school teacher and our son was indeed in the wrong.

After being caught a couple of times my son stopped openly communicating as much as he used to. That was fine by us because we'd rather not hear a stretching of the truth or a lie. Either tell the truth or don't tell me anything at all.

I used to feel that adults don't believe kids when they talked and that kids are truth tellers most of the time. I now see the shades of gray and the challenges of varying perception and how what reality is can be unclear. The fact is while we do want to trust our kids and while we did teach our kids to tell the truth they do not always tell the whole story, or they may fib or tell a big fat lie. It is hard to be in the position of wanting to instantly believe the adult in authority yet also wanting to believe your teen. Sometimes it's hard to know who really knows the real story. These are not just school issues they are homeschool issues, sport team issues and Boy Scout issues, basically every area the teen is involved in.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

How Teens Spend Their Time

When my older son finished his Eagle project he went back to work. He was first hired at age 16 at my husband's firm to do a temporary project that grew and grew. He took a break for the FIRST Robotics season since he did that for 35 hours a week 5-6 days a week. When summer came my husband and I worried if we pushed him to go back to work the Eagle project may not get finished. For one thing he had two merit badges to finish up.

I think it puts things into perspective when a teen does things across different areas. A teen should never just have schoolwork as their only "work". All people grow and learn through their experiences and who they are as a person and who they view themselves as (their self-concept) varies depending on the setting. I think it's important to do have a sense of self that has different environments and different adults and co-workers or peers. The only way to do that is to not be singly focused on schoolwork.

I think it is especially important to be in the adult workplace as there is very different dynamic than only doing classes and extra-curriculars with your age-mates. I feel all teens would benefit from more exposure to adults and not just in a teacher to student manner but teens interacting working alongside adults or doing work for them and serving them (i.e. being their cashier). I honestly had hoped my son would do a minimum wage job in the service industry (i.e. cashier, waiter, counter server). I did that when I was a teen and it taught me about people (the customers) and the demands of a boss to do a menial task job right and well. The service jobs were hard work and made me realize I'd better get my act together and move into a real career lest I be stuck serving coffee and doughnuts for a living.

In his teen years this older son of mine who just turned 18 has these experiences:

homeschooler at home
homeschool small classroom learning
homeschool tutor 1:1 teaching
homeschool online classes
college summer course on campus living in a dorm
community college while a high schooler in person classes
church youth group participant
varsity sports team 2.5 years, year-round
leadership role with sports team
Boy Scouts from age six to eighteen with Eagle rank
Boy Scouts high adventure camps far away from home 1-2 weeks long (3)
Boy Scouts Order of the Arrow (like an honor society)
FIRST Robotics team member 3 yeas, subteam captain 1 year
FIRST Robotics volunteer adult mentor
Part-time office work at an investment firm
community college matriculated student

Each of these experiences has been easy or hard, fun and challenging, good and bad. Each of these has helped my son grow into the young man he is today. 

My son has always had time for fun seeing friends face to face as well as lots of online time such as talking and laughing while playing video games. I think it's important for teens to do a variety of things but to also focus and spend a majority of the time doing the things they love the most. It is natural to start off in grade eight or nine doing a little of this and a little of that. In the high school years though, their activities start to get more time-demanding and more serious. In order to fully participate teens wind up having to pare down how they spend their time and they work more intensely on a few things. What was so important in grade nine may have been left behind by grade twelve. That is normal and it's a part of growing up to change and to learn to prioritize one's time. We do not raise our kids to do things as resume builders for college applications and we are all intense so we want to focus in and try to do our best at a small amount of activities. 

Since I am still learning how to be a good parent I wind up learning the most through my first child as it's the first time for me parenting him. I don't always repeat the same type of story about my younger son years later as I feel it is repetitive. My younger son is less curious about multiple things and has always had a focus on usually one main thing at a time. He is not spreading himself as thin as my older son chose to do. Whereas my older will say, "I want to do it all and am stressed out that there is not enough time to do it all" my younger will say, "I love doing this and that's enough now I want some time to relax." Both approaches are alright. We are at a crossroads with younger son about whether he should continue with Boy Scouts or quit, that's the current topic of discussion. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Been Focusing On My Health

I continue to have various problems relating to inflammation in the body. Since December it has gotten worse. I now have full blown Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms on top of everything else. More importantly both my regular PCP and my out of pocket MD who focuses on nutrition and wellness both say I am prediabetic and need to make lifestyle changes to avoid Type II Diabetes.

I put off the plan for about three months and finally in August I did it. I had to do a Paleo Cleanse which is a detox and liver cleanse for two weeks. That was a nightmare as I could not leave the house for the first three days being stuck to the bathroom and in a lot of pain with cramping. I had a rough first week actually and mostly had to be at home suffering.

I eat Paleo now which is more strict than the 2.5 years I have been gluten-free. It is such a restricted diet that I just honestly don't know how compliant I can be. I basically eat eggs, meat, fish, shellfish, vegetables, fruit,  nuts and seeds. The only time I am not eating from scratch is when I am at a restaurant and that is pretty basic food that is compliant with Paleo. I am off sugar and am supposed to be alcohol free. I never drank much but here in Houston a lot flows socially so I do have 1-2 drinks when at a party (which can be once or twice a week). I generally do not drink when at home or just with my husband. Gluten-free alcohol and beer can be hard to find in restaurants and wine was not agreeing with me until just recently so my options are limited anyway. The bigger challenge for me is not eating dairy. I can't do soy either but I've been off that for 2.5 years so don't find that hard. I just really cannot eat processed convienience foods. Not that I did much before but when the list of restrictions grows it just feels deprived.

Doing Paleo cooking from scratch every day takes time. I fall into a rut with eating the same simple things. But eating boring foods that get repetitive makes me want to cheat and I start to feel deprived and limited which leads to negative emotions then that makes me resentful and angry so I want to cheat. When I cheat I pay the price either with IBS problems that tie me to the toilet for two hours or half a day or I have mood and energy swings which can leave me unproductive and barely awake.

I also quit coffee when I did the detox as I just really love cream in coffee (half and half) and sugar.
So I just quit it.

Well the good news is I feel fantastic. I lost 12 pounds in the detox weeks and 5 more since then (three weeks after). I have high energy and am wide awake at eleven at night. I wake up without being groggy. After my hypothyroid meds kick in (Armour Thyroid) I am wide awake just fine without the caffiene. I look better except when I cheat because that puffs my face up, puts bags under my eyes and gives me black circles under my eyes and causes pimples. My rosacea is clearing, the redness on my face is goin away,  and unless I cheat I am pimple-less.

This week I got news that confirms my body is still in dysbiosis or at least was until last month. I continue to not be able to absorb iron, ferratin, vitamin D and B12. I am having malnourishment due to the leaky gut causing my body to not absorb the good nutrients in the foods I eat.

I have been so focused on this project that blogging has been a low priority.

I also read a great new book: The Microbiome Solution that releases tomorrow. I misplaced it so have not been able to quote from it in blog posts. The book confirmed for me why I am in this state of affairs with my leaky gut. It was a chain of events over the last 5 years due to common short term drugs being prescribed to me by my PCP for minor problems and probably it all started with the Lyme Disease 28 day course of antibiotics (which was necessary). It was like dominoes where one thing caused another thing but it was the dog attack with the two couses of antibiotics for the infected bite that really did me in. It was after that that my rosacea returned and the bowel problems began and the new vitamin deficiencies and anemia started. It was then that my thryoid went wonky (a first sign of an autoimmune disorder starting) and unrealted: the prediabetes.

This has been my major focus for the last five weeks and I've not felt like blogging about any of it.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Eagle Project Done

My older son completed his Eagle project about ten days before he turned eighteen (the deadline). Then there was the rush to complete the paperwork which was a detailed report of the planning, the stages, and the completion with analysis of challenges and lessons learned. We had to show proof of accomplishments and that was recordkeeping that I'd tended over since he joined Boy Scouts in fifth grade. My son had his Scoutmaster conference and had to get signatures from various people in the Troop, the Council and the sponsor organization. The paperwork was handed to Council three days before his birthday. He has 90 days to do his Eagle Board of Review and National BSA is doing their review.

I know some Scouts do an easier type project than what my son wanted to do. He wanted something substantial and difficult. He wanted something that would help many not a few. He wanted to build something, not a bench but something of practical use  to the community that connected them with nature. He origially wanted a bridge over a wetlands type nature preserve for a walking path but in the end he did a custom design and dock build. It was not a kit, it was designed to fit at that location and for a specific purpose (for rowing sculls) but it can also be used by the public for kayaks or stood on and fished off of.

My husband was on the design and build team. I did paperwork, stained the wood and fetched food and cold drinks for the volunteer workers (teens and adults). My younger son did some of the labot. It was a family affair. All total it was 265 hours of work. And it all began just 12 weeks before the deadline.

Last year the Troop rejected two proposals. Then a nonprofit was too busy with projects to have my son do something for them at that time. So this was the fourth attempt.

There are so many bumps and challenges that come with doing a project where you are coordinating volunteers and getting approvals from the recipient organization (but my son had two: a sport team and the town government) plus juming through hoops with the BSA. It is hard to deal with and there were multiple times when, "I quit!" was declared.

The leading of a team of people is another level of work in an Eagle project. The Eagle project is not supposed to be about one kid doing something on their own. They are supposed to make a plan and assemble and lead a team to do the work to get it done. It is not just a management type job where you step in and oversee workers. It is more like the launch of a start up entrereneural new company where you are trying to make something from nothing, only the "startup business" closes shop when that one thing is over instead of going on to do bigger and more things like a real business would do.

The Eagle project was so intense and fast and stressful that it took me weeks to write this post. I am too worn out also to even post photos. This post will have to suffice for now. Anyway my son really doesn't want me blogging much about him hence my recent quietness.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Executive Functoning Delays Teen Stages of Development

You may have heard that kids with executive functioning disorders such as ADHD (ADD) are immature. I did not realize until a professional explained to me and then I saw it in real life that this trajectory includes the typical teen developmental stage of testing limits and rebellion happening at a 2-4 year delay.

It is confusing for a parent to experience this as the immaturity can be expressed when younger as a polite and obedient child who appears to be more mature than their peers. At ten or eleven or even thirteen this child can follow the rules on their own, is happy to be obedient for parents and other adult authority figures in their life. If the child was parented well and taught manners and to follow rules (and laws) this can express as a well-behaved independent minded young person who can be trusted more than their peers. (The ADHD child who runs amok as their parents never taught them or had too loose boundaries is another story that I am not discussing here.) For one example of how this is expressed I have known about a handful of Boy Scouts who are frustrated when they join the Troop as they cannot cope or tolerate the other boys who break the rules or must be overly directed to do this or that. Some get really frustrated that boys are not ready to go to meals at summer camp when they were told to be prepared by or they talked after lights out (or God forbid talked about a topic the new Scout didn't want to hear).

It is a fact that kids with executive functioning disorders are developmentally delayed but the tricky thing is this may not be apparent to the parent with all personality types. Little indicators may not be noticed by parents but they are red flags. One red flag is the girl who clings to stuffed animals or dolls, taking them into public 3-4 years later than her peers, including breaking rules like wanting them in the classroom with her. Another is the clingy child whom the mother thinks is just affectionate or in a close bond with her when it's something abnormal that indicates fear and anxiety from separation. An unhealthy boundary such as the parent thinking the child or preteen deserves to be present for adult conversation between friends because "she is one of us" is just being a clingy child who prefers to not separate to be instead with the other kids her age (at a playdate or a function) or who is avoiding the social challenges of being with same aged peers or mixing with peers of the opposite gender.

Then what happens with these developmentally delayed kids is later on the limit pushing and rebellion starts up. Instead of starting with round one at 10-11-12 and round two of intensity at 13-14 a kid with executive functioning issues may not start with round one (which seems hard for the parent and seems like a bit change) until ages 14-15. Then when we think it what had been happening was hard then there is this second round at ages 16-17 that really scares us. It is scary because the stakes are higher as they grow older, such as being responsible behind the wheel when the license was gotten then later deciding to push the envelope with speed and other driving "techniques" that were advised against and complied with during the earlier instruction period. It is hard because we are not with them to observe these behaviors when they are an independent driver. Other risky limit testing that other teens go through are drinking, drugs, smoking cigarettes and having sex.

If with same aged peers who want to do those things the kid with the executive functioning issues may fare the worst with the risk. For example it's pretty typical in America for a teen to try a drink of alcohol at some point before age 20 or 21. Let's say in the group are five kid who are neurotypical who have a beer or two and they fare just fine. But the one kid or two or three (the more there are together the more dangerous this can be for peer self-checking and peer-pressure to make poor choices) may make worse decisions with more dangerous ramifications due to both their imparirmet to see the possible negative ramifications of a choice as well as the fact that the othrs went through that limit pushing stage two or three years ago when the stakes were lower.

Surely you knew a kid in high school who was wild and crazy but it seemed all in good fun. He took risks and often it was seen as daring or bold but in the end it was alright. Think about little things like the one who did the cliff diving or the brave snowboarder. Later those kids may be the ones doing street racing or drinking then driving. Sometimes those end in death as it did for three of my classmates who were in two different accidents, one during high school and one not long thereafter.

Limit pushign andrebellion are normal but executive functioning challenged kids are technically developmentally delayed. We may think it's cute that they were late in beliving about Santa Claus and the tooth fairybut this may not be a problem until the late bloomer pushes limits and does dagerous things in their middle o late teen years.

If this is your parenting situation I advise you to read and learn about ADHD and seek a counselor's advice for you and your spouse as well as open your mind to counselingfor your teen because they will need  to hear from other adults who are not their parents that what they are doing or choosing is bad and dangerous. They need to be directly taught about decision making and how to weigh risks before chosing a course of action. Mentors are also a help, a close family frind, a coach, a teacher, for example, if the teen can open up to them and if they trust that adult enough to listen to their advice.

The teen who pushes limits is normal and that normal behavior is not a failture of parenting. nor does it mean you are a bad parent. (This is a major problem I have with Chrisian parenting advice.)

A final word is that a strong-willed child with an executive functioning impairment is a compounded challenge that will require even more hard parenting work. There is a fine line between setting limits and being too restrictive because too much will drive the teen to more rebelliion that can put them at even more risk which can be dangerous.

It is hard to set limits while at the same time allowing some room for independent diceision making that is required for teens to learn to be independent thinkers who make good decisions.

Sorry About the Broken Amazon Links

Amazon made a programming change that makes, I believe, all my old links to books or products no longer functional. It will be a huge undertaking to edit them and I don't have time or it now. I apologize. It will take about five minutes per book and it will take patience and I have neither to spare right now.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

More Thoughts on Grades

Yesterday's post was dashed off quickly and ended due to keyboard problems (hence typos).

More on grades:

Good grades:

This may or may not mean you really learned.
This may mean you answered correctly as a guess.
This may mean you knew it that minute but forgot it by next week.
They will help you with college admissions as the colleges will think you are able to do the work and are smart.

Not A grades:

This may mean you learned but performed poorly on the test.
This may mean you didn't quite understand it thorougly.
You may know it but messed up on the answer by mis-bubbling.
You may have been a sloppy reader or too fastly skimming and not really saw the real question.
The tricks on the multiple choice got you. Gotcha!
Your writing skills may be weak.
You may hate writing by hand or have a disability that impairs you so you just write the skimpiest thing down and leave it at that. Even though you know more.
You may not understand any of it.
You may be sick on this day.
Or tired.
Your teacher may have made a mistake on the grading procedure.
Your teacher may hate you and intentionally slam your grade by making "errors" or using rough subjective grading policies.
You are developing a label of "not trying hard enough" or "not smart" or "doesn't care".

School is a game. Play the game for the scores and outcomes to help you as a means to an end, if you know what your end plan is and if it involves some body evaluating your high school grades to decide on your admission or rejection to their program or institution.

Your grades will be weighed against your standardized test scores. An A in an AP class but a 3 on the AP test shows grade inflation in the classroom. If you have a disability and your standardized test scores suffer you can write about how you overcome your challenge in your college admissions essay and you can mention why and how you found ways to learn all year long in a class that does not equal what is seen on a standardized test like an AP test.

If you choose to not play the school game you need to understand that your choice is locking you out of some options for college choices. If you have the potential and capability but choose to slack off and not use your mind to its fullest potential in school you will just have to settle for a middle or lower tier college. There are lots of other students ready, willing, and able to do what the school game requires to gain admission to the college of their dreams. If you have a pipe dream to attend Harvard but are unwilling to do rigorous college prep work in high school just console yourself with the fact that if you ever did get in you would face four years of doing coursework of the type you say you hate. So really you do not want to be there after all, do you?

Friday, July 31, 2015

My Kids Still Don't Value Grades At School

In our alternative education homeschool I did not test or grade my kids. We focused on learning and doing and experiencing and discussing.

At this point in time my younger son has completed one year of private school. He philosophically does not value grades or think they are worthwhile. He is of the same mindset I was when I was in school. You can know a thing and mess up on the test and get a C but it doesn't mean you don't know the information if you can articulate it and perform to do it, but just made a mistake. If you are lazy and don't try on the essays it just means you are lazy. I think he came around and did want higher grades as he gets that it's valuable as a gateway to college but he thinks is all a game. Which it is. So he is dealing with it and trying to get good grades but he does not really care about a ranking or rating from an external party.

My older son has graduated from high school and been doing online classes for math with grades and he has taken six college classes (five at community college and one at a university). His grades have been As, Bs, and Fs. He does not care about grades and when I say that I mean he does not put any judgement on himself or feel good for an A or bad for a B. He feels badly for the Fs which were from being absent (due to robotics competitions) and lack of organization and time management. He decided this week, all on his own, to retake those classes this fall and he wants to pass them. But the drive for an A just is not there. He just feels grades are some rating that does nothing for you.

Due to learning struggles or apathy both kids have had the full panel of educational testing and IQ tests. They also doubt the number that says they are gifted. They don't think they are smart. I have not blown sunshine up their butts all their life or used the gifted label as I overhear some parents (especially of little kids) do. They think they are "just regular" and "normal", what they mean is probably that they are on the top of the bell curve but they are in the 97th percentile. So even when a number on a test shows they are in the top range for the human population of all people, they don't feel flattered or superior or confident or happy. They are just who they are

Whole Family Busy With Eagle Project

Twelve weeks before our son was to turn 18 (the deadline) he got approal for an Eagle project. This was after two rejections last summer and another project the nonprofit punted as they were busy with a major project.

Older son also needed to finish two merit badges, one was started four years ago. He forgot the info on his writeup so he decided to just do it over with current real life data.

Son chose a nonprofit to work with but in the end the town government wanted in on the approval so the poor kid had to work with two agencies one of which was a challenge. I will leave you to guess which that was. They had ongoing design changes including after the build and cement was in place.

The construction of the dock was done in the hottest week of the year. I honestly am surprised my husband survived the twelve hour days in the sun without having a heart attack or heat exhaustion. My son puked from dehydration. An adult got heat exhaustion. My son has a great tan and a sunburned neck (he refuses to wear sunscreen). My younger son helped on the job site as well.

Yesterday he met with the merit badge counselor for sign off on the last two Eagle required merit badges.

Today the Eagle project paperwork was completed.

I hauled out the old merit badge paperwork and got it all lined up and ready to fill in the dates on the application.

Also an existential huge discussion.

We are all drained by this.

My son had joked that it was his dream to finish the day before he turns 18. It's not fair to do that to volunteers we told him. He needs to get a sign off on the project from the nonprofit's rep, then  the Scoutmaster conference and the Board of Review in the next eleven days sometime. He will be out of town for three days and two nights for a FIRST Robotics competition.

Welcome to my world. A stress fest. Never a dull moment around here.