Stress-Free Writing Instruction

Stress-Free Writing Instruction

Writing instruction does not have to be painful for the student or the homeschool mom (or classroom teacher).  So many homeschool moms worry when their child hates to write.  When mom approaches the dreaded time for writing instruction, she often hears…

I can’t do this.

My hand hurts.

I hate this!

Please.  No!!

Don’t fear, Sweet Momma.  Today I offer up some stress-free writing instruction strategies to help our uniquely-wired children build confidence in writing.   No more tears for mom or child!  Check out the video below.

While you can use the strategies I provide without purchasing a curriculum, I do share with you my absolute favorite writing program.  Hint… Andrew Pudewa… Institute for Excellence in Writing.   Can I say amazing??!!!

When in doubt, remember your goal.    Think outside-the-box with me and let’s equip our kids to thrive!

For more outside-the-box teaching strategies our uniquely-designed students, check out this post on alternative reading instruction ideas.  

Equipping Our Kids: Identity in Christ

Equipping Our Kids: Identity in Christ

I have taught in Children’s Ministry for 15 years now.   In my experience in children’s ministry and church as a whole, I have noticed a pattern.  As we share Jesus with children (and new believers), we tend to use the same verbiage over and over again.  Some would use the term “Christianese” to describe the language used in Christian circles and in ministry.

This Christian language begins when our children are young.  We start intentionally teaching the preschool-age children using and repeating specific language and key phrases.  We choose specific truths from the Bible and repeatedly use those ideas to convey the message of Jesus.

“Jesus is your friend forever.”

“God loves you so much.”

“When you are afraid, you can trust Jesus.”

As the children grow older, we may beef-up our language.

“Do all things through Christ Who strengthens you.”

“You are covered in Christ.”

“Know who you are in Christ.”

Truth of Scripture- Yes!

All of the above key wording and expression of biblical ideas are wonderful and based on the Truth of Scripture.  However, I have observed a shortcoming in our efforts to grow our children (and often new adult believers) in the Truth of Who God is.   The apostle Paul reminds the early church in his letter to the Corinthians,

“I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.” 1 Corinthians 3:2

By the term “milk”. Paul is describing the way in which he initially shared the gospel with the Corinthian church.  Specifically, that when he first shared the gospel with these new believers, he approached them with what they could digest at the time. The “milk” he shared were the fundamentals of the gospel.

An example of the milk we may share with children in our modern churches might be, “Jesus died on the cross so you can be in heaven with Him forever.”

Cornerstone Truth as the Foundation

The truth of the gospel and the truth of God’s love for His people is expressed in these simple expressions that we share with young children. These basic truths are incredibly valuable and the foundation of our faith.  This basic language in a child’s vocabulary is crucial to deeper understanding of the gospel.

Paul himself would not have shared the “milk” of the faith in the infancy of the Corinthian church if it were not appropriate to do so.  However, the pattern that I have seen often in the church community (and that includes me) is that we fail to move from “milk” of the gospel to the “meat.”  This lack of depth was glaringly obvious in my own home one evening a few years back.

Our family was in a deep season of chaos, stress and growth. My daughters had both entered the world of navigating their own friendships. That evening one of my girls was struggling with a hurt relationship and feelings of rejection. It was one of those moments in my parenting journey that I’ll likely remember for a long time. How I wished that I could “fix” it and take away her pain! That power was and is not mine. I had to point her to Him.

What do we want our children to absorb?

Here’s the deal… our children are going to grow up soaking up a multitude of ideas.  What do we want them to absorb?  Do we want them to soak up the expectations of a world which tells them that to be valuable they need to be a certain size, wear a certain type of clothing, have the latest phone and avoid the uncool and unpopular in fear of being ostracized by their peers? What do we want our kids to believe about themselves?

Or as Christian parents, do we want them to know the beautiful truths of Scripture?  Furthermore, don’t we want them to grow in their understanding of the foundational truths we began teaching them when they were preschool-age?  We in the Christian community say that we want our kids to know the love of Christ and what it means to be in relationship with Him. As I realized in my own home, we need to be intentional if we want to truly equip them with a solid understanding of that knowledge.

 

As mentioned earlier, this lack of progress from spiritual milk to spiritual meat came clearly into focus a couple of years ago in my own home. One of my girls was navigating the painful feeling of rejection and had taken on that rejection as part of who she believed she was. “Who you are in Christ is what matters,” I told her.  “Remember who you are in Christ,” I would implore with both of my girls.   

Behind closed doors, I desperately prayed for both of my girls to know how loved they are by God.  Earnestly, I pleaded with God to allow my children to know their value because of Jesus.  I begged Him to make their faith their own, to please give them the gift of knowing who they were because of Him.  Suddenly, it hit me. ‘Who am I in Christ? What exactly does that mean? Do I even know who I am in Christ, Lindsay?  How do I expect my children to cling to that truth of their Identity in Christ if I am not exactly sure myself? I need to find the verses of Scripture that tell me more about my Identity in Christ.’ 

Did I Know My Identity in Christ?

I had been in church for almost three decades prior to that night.  In depth Bible Study, line-by-line inductive study, was my jam for years.  I knew a lot of truth and a lot of the Bible.  In fact, I had chunks of Scripture memorized because my girls and I had made Scripture memory work part of our homeschool time. Yet, when it came down to it, I really wasn’t knowledgeable of my true “Identity in Christ.” Where did that phrase come from?  How could I equip my girls to know deeply that their identity is found in Jesus alone?  No longer were the illustrated picture story bibles going to do.

These resources had their place in my girls’ journeys (check out my favorite children’s Bibles here), but now they were ready for some “meat.”  It was time to teach them to use God’s Word as the offensive weapon it has the power to be. They needed to guard their minds against the lies of this world.  It was time to equip them on a practical level, with the Sword of the Spirit. That weapon, Scripture, is ours to use when we accept God’s free gift of salvation. 

I was determined to find out exactly what Scripture says about me and my children and I was going to make sure my girls were confidently aware of who they were in Jesus.   As far as my daughters were concerned, it was time to stop absorbing the lies of the world which told them that their value came from others.  My girls were going to know their Identity in Christ and their mom was going to get some clarity as well.

On A Treasure Hunt

I spent my time researching Scriptures that would help us all understand who we are in Christ.  Using those verses, I created a personalized printable of the Scriptures for each of my children.  I framed and displayed them in their rooms.  These reminders have been a source of strength for each of them as they navigate the world.  Initially, I had them read aloud straight from the image so as to embed the truth deep in their minds.  Repetition is an awesome and simple memory tool.  To this day, when I sneak in their rooms to get one more snuggle before bed, I use it as a tool. I pray the Scriptures out loud over them. 

 

Identity in Christ Scripture Download

Sweet Mom Friend, I am convinced that all of us need to know who we are in Christ and some times we need encouragement and practical tools to help us remember.  I desire this for us all so that we may equip our kids to live in that freedom. I am convinced it is critical to develop an understanding of the specifics of our Identity in Christ (the meat that strengthens us further). 

There are incredible blessings that come from knowing that our identity is based on Who Christ is and not on what the world says about us. However, it is almost impossible to recognize and live in that freedom if we don’t know what Scripture has to say about it. That is why I have created an Identity in Christ Scripture Art Set that I would like to share with you as you pour into your children.  I have made these in the past for some of my students and it only makes sense to share with you, Precious Mom Friend.  We are all in this together!  Sign up below for your free downloads. 

I hope they are a blessing to you and your family.  Repeat them aloud at mealtimes and at bed time.  Share them with one another in the car.  May God’s Word be the loudest voice you and your family hear each day.  Do you have any creative ways and ideas that have helped you and your family deepen your faith?  Please comment below and share.  We are in this together! 

Grab Your Free 4 Steps to Meltdown Recovery Cheat Sheet!

 

Deepen your parent-child relationship.

Equip your child with  tools to navigate BIG emotions in a healthy way.

Empower your unique child to live a life of confidence and purpose.

Create peace & joy in your home and ENJOY your child.

Do You Have Parenting Figured Out?

Do You Have Parenting Figured Out?

"I will always need parenting help..." One thing I have learned in this journey as a momma is that I will never have parenting figured out.  I will always need parenting help and that is ok, Friend.  God, in His mercy, allowed me to let go of the belief that I could...

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Simple Tool to Help Struggling Readers, Part 2

Simple Tool to Help Struggling Readers, Part 2

A Homeschool Mom’s Simple Tool to Help Struggling Readers

This is Part 2 in a series to help homeschool moms equip their struggling readers for reading success.  In this second part, I am going to share with you one simple tool to help struggling readers at home.  If you have not read Part 1, please do so.  🙂

Like many homeschool moms, when I began homeschooling my girls almost 10 years ago, my first goal was to make sure my oldest daughter could read.  It seemed that all of her preschool-age friends were getting ready to go to traditional kindergarten and soon I was dodging questions from their respective mothers.

“Why are you homeschooling her?”

“Aren’t you worried about socialization?”

“Public school was good enough for me, so its good enough for my kids.”

My First Educational Goal

In response to the inquisition I experienced from well-meaning mom friends, I naturally became a little internally defensive.  Like many ladies who make the decision to homeschool their children, I began my homeschool journey with a specific goal in mind.

I MUST TEACH MY KID TO READ.

This was my mantra.  I figured that once I taught her to read, I would feel a little more at ease as I navigated the homeschool skeptics.

Searching for the Perfect Reading Program

In my effort to teach my oldest daughter how to read, I perused the local homeschool store.  I am so fortunate to live in an area where homeschooling is very popular.  The community of homeschool families is HUGE and so yes, we have a local homeschool store that could rival Target in its ability to suck me in for hours.  It is a haven of books, beautiful boxed curriculum, phenomenal art and composer study materials, maps, Bibles… math manipulatives… it is a homeschoolers dream!

This post contains Amazon affliliate links.  If you purchase any resources that I recommend using my links, I may receive a small commission from Amazon at no cost to you.  I will not ever recommend any product that I do not stand behind fully.  Thank you for your support so I can continue to offer as much free content as possible to mommas like you and me.  🙂

Mountains of Books

I cannot count the number of hours I have spent sitting on the floor of the local homeschool store surrounded by mountains of books.  Honestly, those memories are heavenly.  Anyway…

Needless to say, I searched and searched for the perfect reading curriculum because I was determined that my daughter would read.  I had to accomplish that goal and fast.  No, my motives were not pure, but God is merciful and I have learned better now.

Ultimately, it wasn’t an expensive boxed reading curriculum that ended up being the key to effective reading instruction for my daughter.  Nope.  It was a $15 paperback book that opened the world of reading to both of my girls.

Interestingly,  both of my girls (and their momma- aka Me) have since been diagnosed with ADHD.   I did not realize this at the time because I was of the belief that ADHD was a “fake” diagnosis.  I believed that my solid Christian parenting-style would eliminate any unwanted  hyper, impulsive and distracted behavior in my children.  Ugh!!! That is an entirely different story that you can read about here.  So sorry for that rabbit trail… like I just mentioned… ADHD.

Just be aware that my girls both have attention-based learning issues and one of them has been diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder.  APD is an auditory disorder in which the child has normal hearing ability but the brain is unable to accurately process and distinguish that auditory information.  This can hinder reading and language development.  You can read more about Auditory Processing Disorder here.

Back to that amazing reading program that I soon discovered.  Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons was the program that I was able to use with my hyper and highly-distracted girls.

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

This book offers highly effective reading instruction for children with special learning needs.  Quite frankly, I think it is a great remediation resource for older children who are struggling with their ability to decode and blend words.  The goal of this book is to get the ball rolling per say.  Decoding skills and fluency are developed quickly using this method.  Reading comprehension methodology is not specifically addressed.

100 Easy Lessons uses an instructional strategy called the SRA DISTAR Method.  Prior to being introduced to this Instructional Book, I had no familiarity with the method despite my education training in graduate school.  However, I found the logic and reasoning behind the teaching method to be absolutely fascinating and extremely effective for me as an instructor and for my children as students.  The PARENTS GUIDE at the beginning of the text is extremely important to read as it explains the logic and reasoning behind the program.  For geeks like me, it is also mesmerizing.

The DISTAR method (Direct Instruction System for Teaching Arithmetic and Reading) is a very methodical teaching program.  It has been shown to be an extremely effective and simple tool to help struggling readers.  This methodology was used to develop the 100 Easy Lessons program written by Siegfried Engelmann over 40 years ago.

Modified Alphabet System

The system uses a modified orthography system (fancy way to say the alphabet symbols used to represent speech sounds).  This alphabet provides visual clues to indicate which sound is associated with the letter as it is used in a printed word.

For example, the letter symbol “e” is modified slightly depending upon its positioning and therefore, its use in a word.

  • The “e” in “led” is says the short e sound.
  • The “e” in “like” is silent and therefore has no sound.  It is therefore shown in a smaller text size in order to cue the student to it’s silent role in the word.
  • The “e” in she is long and says its name (which is noted with the macron above the “e”.)

The smaller size of the “e” indicates the “silent e.”    All silent letters are initially introduced in a smaller font to point out that the letter symbol makes no sound.

In the initial lessons of the book, the modified alphabet are used as a scaffolding technique (extra supports to help the learner).   These visual cues are extremely helpful for children with special learning needs.

They are gradually removed as the child begins to fluently recognize (whether consciously or not) the letter patterns and sounds.   The logic is that as the modified letter symbols are gradually dropped, the student is able seamlessly transition to reading and decoding using traditional letter symbols.  The child’s brain has incorporated the letter patterns and their usage and no longer needs the extra visual cues.

Mom-Friendly Teaching

100 Easy Lessons uses scripted step-by-step instructions for the teacher.  This may seem to be stifling to the teacher.  However, the scripting is one of the many reasons that instructional tool is effective for kids with special learning needs.

The modeling provided using the script, is verbalized aloud to the student.  The letter sounds and words are easily repeated by the child.  The child follows the visual text both with his eyes and his pointer finger.  Quick progress and smaller incremental goals are achieved which is ecouraging to child and teacher.

Minimalism Limits Distractions

The 100 Easy Lessons pages are very minimalistic with no pictures and very little color.

On the surface the text may appear dry and boring.  Again this is one reason why the system is so effective for children with special learning needs.     Highly distractible children tend to become overly stimulated with lots of visual input .

These students are set up for success.  The eyes are focused on the text only.  The text does not have to compete with the visual input of  illustrations.  (This is not to say that illustrations are not of extreme value.  They are so incredibly valuable.)

The goal is to teach students the basics of reading (phonemic awareness, decoding skills and growing fluency skills).  Therefore, limited visual input is a benefit during specific and direct instruction.  Once the basics of reading have been mastered and the child requires less mental effort to decode words, the addition of illustrations to books is less of an issue.

Minimal Time Commitment

The lessons are extremely short (no more than 20 minutes a day).   The lower time commitment makes learning to read very manageable for both the child and teacher.  When I used this system with both of my girls, I often broke up the lessons into 10-minute sessions.  I would break up the lesson into a short 10-minute session in the morning and a 10-minute session before lunch.

The point is that this book can be modified to fit the mental capability of the student.  If the student is older the student may be capable of more than one lesson per day.

Regardless, I highly recommend modifying ANY curriculum into smaller chunks of time when necessary.  I especially receommend  shorter lessons with your younger children and any child who struggles with executive functioning.

Short but consistent lessons over time is so effective.  Forcing longer lessons is more likely to lead to a resistant and frustrated student.  That leads to a dead end.  A child’s level of interest and motivation is one of your greatest weapons when teaching your child any subject area.

Please save yourself from the mistake of “forcing” your student to work through longer lessons when they clearly have reached their limit.

This will only create more resistance to engage when it is time for your next lesson.  A frustrated child leads to a frustrating teaching time.  Frustration within the brain of a child only leads to mental shut down.  Forced instruction when a child is mentally shut down is a certain guarantee that nothing taught is retained.  It is not worth it.  Trust me.  I have made that mistake.

Unfortunately, in our culture, we have believed a lie that says more is better.

This is not always the case.  I argue that longer lessons are definitely not effective with students who struggle with learning differences.   When learning a non-preferred subject area, I always recommend shorter and manageable lessons.

Additionally, I highly recommend reducing anxiety in your child by preparing them IN ADVANCE for what is expected.  Before your lesson, clearly tell your student your expectation of reading time over the next 10, 15, or 20 minutes.  Time length should be based on child’s capacity at that time.  If a child knows what to expect and when to expect an end point, success is more likely.

Whatever you do.  Follow through on your end time.  If you set the expectation that you are asking for 10, 15 or 20 minutes, stop at 10, 15, or 20 minutes.  Be a trustworthy coach to your student and cooperation is more likely to follow.

Final Recommendations

Overall, I highly recommend Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons for the beginning reader as well as for older students who are struggling with traditional phonics-based lessons.

As mentioned earlier,  the lack of  illustrations usually targeted to a younger audience is removed which reduces the older student’s potential feelings of embarrassment and shame  when using introductory level reading instruction.

Additionally, the book can be modified for older remedial students in that more than one lesson can be addressed each day if appropriate.

The scripted lessons, while some may intitially find stifling, are so helpful for the homeschooling mom or dad who may be nervous about his or her lack of reading instruction experience.  The book can also be used by parents wanting to supplement reading instruction over summer vacation.

Bottom line… Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons is very user-friendly, requires no prep time for the instructor, is extremely well-priced (around $16), and is extremely effective for a multitude of students.

Don’t Forget… Every Child is Unique

I will say it once, and I will continue to repeat myself… Forgive me.

Children are not all the same.  Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons using the DISTAR teaching method has been proven extremely effective with many children.  However, it may not be a fit for you or your student for one reason or another.

My goal is to bring to the forefront a variety of teaching tools and methods that can be implemented depending upon your child’s wiring.  Check out this post on the Orton-Gillingham method of reading instruction which has shown incredibly helpful for children who may have dyslexia.  

Praise the Lord for options as we educate our children.  They are a gift but they are many.  

What about you and your student?  What areas of reading skills does your student struggle in?  Phonemic awareness?  Decoding skills?  Fluency?  Reading Comprehension?  Send me your concerns and I will do my best to address them in the coming weeks.  I really want to hear from you.  Please reach out.  🙂 lindsay at a heartforallstudents dot com  

You’ve got this, Teaching Mom!

Help for A Struggling Reader, Part 1

Help for A Struggling Reader, Part 1

Help for Your Struggling Reader

Lately I have had several moms approach me about tutoring their children because their children are “struggling” with reading.   Often times these moms have children with special learning needs. Sometimes mom doesn’t know of a specific diagnosis of a learning disability.  However, they do know one thing. The traditional approaches to reading instruction are not effective and they need help.  What about you?  Do you need help for your struggling reader?

When asked for reading tutoring, I typically respond with a specific question, “What exactly is your child struggling with in regards to reading?”

  • Does your struggling reader understand phonetics and have the ability to decode (sound out) words?
  • Is he struggle with reading fluency?
  • Can your child understand what he has read (reading comprehension)?

The entire process of reading has multiple component skills that ultimately work together to produce a truly literate reader.  These skills are like building blocks. Each one building upon the other.

Reading is more than correctly decoding written words.

Here is the deal that is often overlooked.  Reading is much more than just being able to sound out words quickly.  Often times when our children are able to “read” aloud we think that reading has been accomplished.  However, that is not necessarily the case.

The components of reading include:

  • Phonemic Awareness
  • Decoding
  • Fluency
  • Comprehension

I really believe that understanding the basic elements of reading will help homeschool moms like yourself help your struggling reader.  Let’s take a look at reading piece by piece and see how it equips you to see your child’s reading journey differently.

 

Letter Tiles App

Pre-Reading Skills-Phonemic Awareness

One of the first reading skills is something called “phonemic awareness.”   Words are all made up of units of sound called PHONEMES.  When a child starts to recognize that all spoken words are composed of individual units of sound, he is developing the skill of Phonemic Awareness.

When a child can hear a word such as BUG and is able to identify the three sounds: Buh, short U, and hard G sound, he is demonstrating this skill.  Using the word “BUG” the child drops the initial /B/ sound and replaces it with an /R/ sound to say RUG.   The ability to perform this exercise is showing further phonemic awareness.

Phonemic awareness is a  foundational skill to reading.   If you believe you need help for your struggling reader, I would recommend playing with words aloud to see if he can hear the different sounds that make up words.   A great option for parents to use with these children is the All About Reading Pre-Reading Program or another multi-sensory approach.

 

All About Learning Press

Decoding or Sounding Out Words

(Phonics)

When a child looks at the letter sequence D-O- G (visual input). He initially produces the sounds “D”- “short O”- “hard G.”  Once he pieces together the sounds, he says the word DOG.   This skill is referred to as DECODING and the process of decoding involves:

  • PHONICS: the sounds assigned to printed letters or combinations of letter symbols (using visual, auditory & verbal senses)

When seeking help for your struggling reader, it is important to assess your student’s phonics skills.  Phonics is the sounds that are represented by printed letters or combinations of letters.  For example, in the English language, the letter A is represented by four possible sounds:

  • the short a sound as in CAT,
  • the long a sound as in CAKE and
  • the “ah” sound as in ALL.
  • the “uh” sound as in ABOVE

All letters in the English language have sounds associated with them. Some have one specific sound and others have more than one sound depending on letter combinations.

Going back to our DOG example, the student will walk through the following steps as he decodes the word:

  • Determines that the letter symbols represent three separate sounds
  • Creates the sounds individually “d”-“short o” sound- “hard g” sound
  • After making the individual sounds out loud, the student puts the sounds together in his own mind. (Note that when the child speaks the sounds aloud that he is also “hearing” the sounds in his own voice.)
  • Finally, he blends them together so as to clearly say the word DOG

This process is decoding.

Fluency

As the decoding skill becomes second-nature, the goal is for the child to become faster in his ability to recognize familiar letter patterns and words.

Using our DOG example:

  • Eventually, the student will see the three letter symbols, D-O-G, and immediately know and verbalize the correct word.  He verbalizes the word aloud effortlessly and moves on to the next letter sequence with speed and confidence.

The ability to read with speed, proper inflection and confidence is what is termed “FLUENCY.”

Comprehension

As you seek help for your struggling reader, you will begin to tease out where your child’s reading weakness lies.  If she is strong is the previous two elements, it may be a reading comprehension issue that is causing her to struggle.  Reading comprehension is the component of reading that many children successful with the first three steps often become stuck.

The ability to comprehend or understand what was just read is quite consistently an area where many students hit struggle.  Students frequently struggle with the comprehension skill in the early years of reading.

It is not surprising that this skill would lag behind the other reading skills.

  • Understanding what is read requires that a child identify how to pronounce a word correctly using his relatively new decoding skills.
  • Once properly spoken aloud, your student must move to the next word and has to maintain the previous words in his mind (working memory) in order to process them as a whole sentence.
  • The extent of a child’s vocabulary obviously impacts her ability to understand a story line

Clearly, when we think about learning process is not as simple as it may seem on the surface level.  If your child is struggling with one of the earlier reading skills, it makes perfect sense that understanding the storyline would be much more challenging

All About Learning Press 20 Best Tips

So what do you do for your struggling reader?

Now that you have an idea of the component skills of reading, it is time to figure out which area your child is struggling with and then proceed from there.  Check out Part 2 of Helping Your Struggling Reader for a suggested outside-the-box tool that may be a great fit for your child.

Most importantly, know this.  One of the best things you can do to enhance your child’s reading journey is to read to him.  Read high-interest books outloud to your child without any expectation of having your child read to you.  Expose him or her to ideas and stories that are captivating and appealling to your specific child.  The memories you will create by sharing story will bless your entire family while also providing your child with an appreciation for books as a form of entertainment.    Check out the Favorite Family Book List below.  🙂

Favorite Children’s Bible Story Books

Favorite Children’s Bible Story Books

As a homeschool momma, I am always on the lookout for quality resources to enhance our family learning.  As almost all homeschool moms would likely attest to, we moms have an obsession with all things books.  I am no exception.  Throughout the years, my fellow homeschool moms and dear friends have together shared our latest can’t-put-down books or curriculum with an enthusiasm that is always contagious.  One of my most favorite types of book to collect throughout the years of parenting and educating my children at home has been children’s bible story books.  Today I am so excited to share my most favorite children’s bibles with you.  Yay!

We are so fortunate to live in a day and age that has allowed so many access to the Bible.  Even more of a blessing is the plethora of bible-based story bibles that allow our younger children and our kids who learn best visually, a more edible version of biblical principles, key concepts, and an understanding of Jesus.  As a Christian mom and educator on a mission to equip moms to empower uniquely-designed neurodiverse kids to thrive in education and in life, my passion is to flood our children with an understanding of who God is.  My heart is for my children to know who their identity comes from and for them to be solidly rooted in Him.   

This post contains Amazon affliliate links.  If you purchase any resources that I recommend using my links, I may receive a small commission from Amazon at no cost to you.  I will not ever recommend any product that I do not stand behind fully.  Thank you for your support so I can continue to offer as much free content as possible to mommas like you and me.  🙂

Our First Favorite Children’s Bible Story Book

When my daughter was just a year old we had her dedicated to the Lord as so many families do.  I will never forget when a dear friend of mine, Noelle, gave my little girl one of her very first bibles.  That yellow board book Bible has been with us for almost 13 years and has been through a litany of abuse and sweet moments at bedtime.  Almost a relic at this point, battered and worn down as it has been through 3 of my children, that little children’s bible was the first of our illustrated collection of favorite children’s bibles.  Grateful for that cardboard book as it has set the tone for many years of Bible exploration as a family.

So without further ado… let’s take a look at my family’s most favorite children’s bibles.  I wonder if you have any of these and if so, do they spark joy in your family?  Let me know.

children's bible story books, christian mom, homeschool

Toddler- 6 years old

The Biggest Story ABC Bible by Kevin DeYoung

This bible story book is a beautifully illustrated board book for younger children.  I would recommend this book for toddlers all the way up to 5-6 year olds simply because of the powerful imagery depicted in the illustrations.  The book is what you would expect.  ABCs throughout the bible.  Each page has one large letter of the alphabet along with a one line catechism-type truth from Scripture.  

This sweet book is perfect for those days or nights when your child has little attention span.  The colorful pictures and the simplisity of the text makes for a quick but powerful read.  

The Beginner’s Bible

This one is a classic that we have had for more than 10 years.  The Beginner’s Bible is brightly illustrated with dynamic colors and cartoon-like images of various biblical characters.  This illustrated bible does a great job of covering a vast number of bible stories while telling each one using simple language.   We have multiple copies including a new-testament only version.  The Old and New Testament version is a solid book with over 90 bible stories.  I highly recommend this as a staple in every home.

The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm and Carol Schoonmaker

The Big Picture Story Bible is a sweet depiction of some of the foundational stories from Scripture.  The title says it best… this children’s bible is BIG.  It’s definitely a curl-up-in-mom’s lap story bible as it is the size of a large dictionary.  Besides being a little cumbersome physically, this children’s bible has it’s own spin on presenting Scripture to children.  It is written in “sections” of the larger story of Scripture and is likely meant to be read over time instead of in one sitting.

I recommend this children’s bible for toddlers through kindergarden-aged children. 

 

Lower Elementary & Up

God’s Good News Bible Story Book by Billy Graham

After exploring the Billy Graham Library one winter afternoon, my youngest daughter and I purchased this beautiful Bible story book. 

One of the most impactful preachers of our time, Billy Graham does not disappoint in this children’s rendition of the Bible.  The images are absolutely beautiful and the text is solid with each story beginning with a portion of Scripture text.  The story then continues in a more child-friendly way so that major biblical concepts and the beauty of the Gospel shine through.

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

The Jesus Storybook Bible is hands down one of the most beautifully-written children’s story bibles I have ever read.  This version of the bible has been written and adapted by Sarah Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by the artist Jago.  The Jesus Storybook Bible is written from creation to Revelation as the one large story that Scripture is but is so often fragmented so much that many children do not understand the whole.  Every story points to Christ in the most powerful way.  Ms. Lloyd-Jones uses incredibly powerful language and imagery to portray God’s amazing love for His people.

On more than one occassion, I have found myself choking back tears as I read this to and with my children.  The power of Christ’s love for us is overwhelmingly evident and Sarah Lloyd-Jones’ heart for God and His Word is undeniable.  Every Christian family will want this favorite children’s bible on their bookshelf.  Honestly, even a single adult will be blown away by this depiction of Scripture.

The Jesus Calling Bible Storybook by Sarah Young

The Jesus Calling Bible Storybook is written by Sarah Young of the popular Jesus Calling series of devotionals for adults.  She paired up with illustrator Carolina Farias to create a gorgeous story bible that while more advanced in language than the Beginner’s Bible, is appealing to both younger elementary and older children as well.  The illustrations are phenomenal and incredibly engaging.

The main difference I see between this story bible and the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones is the addition of the Devotional element at the end of each smaller story.  The devotions are written from the perspective of Jesus speaking in first person to the reader.  While some people I know have shown some concern about “putting” words into Jesus’ mouth, I have always prefaced these readings with the caveat that, “This is something Jesus might say.”

All in all, I think this is a wonderful addition to any family collection.

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden by Kevin DeYoung

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden is one of those children’s bibles that I would rank up there with The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones.   Quite frankly, I would describe both children’s story bibles as family story bibles because they are both that good.

Kevin DeYoung does a phenomenal job of pointing to Christ throughout the retelling of pivotal stories from Scripture.  The illustrator, Don Clark, who also illustrated the The Biggest Story ABC bible storybook, has a unique and captivating style of art that will grab the attention of the entire family.  I cannot more highly recommend this favorite children’s bible.  

The Action Bible: God’s Redemptive Story by Sergio Cariello

Comic book-lovers, artists, and basically anyone breathing will LOVE this FAVORITE children’s bible.  Oh my Word!  This is a gem and I recommend this for every Christian home.  Let me tell you why.

Not all children (or adults for that matter) learn in the same way.  Some are auditory learners, kinesthetic learners and many, many are visual learners.  This very detailed and thorough version of Scripture is so powerful as the images are magnetic in their drama and shading.  Sergio Cariello has compiled one of the most thorough retellings of the bible.  Stories rarely shared with our young church congregations are told with text and alluring art work.

I recommend The Action Bible for every Christian home whether their are children in the home or not.  This is just that good!!  Grateful that God has blessed Sergio Cariello with such incredible art skills which have opened up Scripture to so many kids and adults alike!

 

What are your favorite children’s story bible books?  

Well, Friend?  What about you?  Do you have any favorite children’s bible story books in your home?  Do you love any on this list?  Which ones did I miss?  Share in the comments below!

Teaching a Child With ADHD

Teaching a Child With ADHD

Teaching a child with ADHD?

Do you have or are you teaching a child with ADHD? Whether you are a homeschool mom, a teacher in a classroom, a leader in children’s ministry or work with children ever… you have likely experienced the challenges that come from teaching a child with ADHD symptoms.  You know the signs:

  • Trouble paying attention to non-preferred activities (think math, reading, chores… whatever is not perceived as interesting is considered non-preferred)
  • Hyperactivity (the wiggle worms)
  • Difficulty taking turns
  • Impulsive
  • Difficulty transitioning from one activity to another
  • Strong emotional responses to change
  • Is your child struggling with reading?
  • Does she become overwhelmed and shut down when staring at a sheet of math problems?
  • His room messy even after he spent “forever” cleaning it?
  • Copying from the whiteboard or from another text bring her to tears?
  • Do you become frustrated with chores being “half-done”?
  • Check out Attitudemag.com for more information.

When our children struggle with symptoms of ADHD, it can be extremely challenging for teacher and student alike.  The student struggles to maintain attention and becomes bored and distracted.  Teacher becomes frustrated with her inability to teach the child effectively.  Academic growth stalls out while frustrations and tensions between child and teacher grow.

So what does the homeschool mom or school teacher do to more effectively teach a child with adhd?  After all, a child’s engagement is critical to retention and understanding.

** This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.  If you do end up purchasing any of the recommended items through this link, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you which allows me to continue offering as much free content as possible.  Appreciate your support.  

ADHD Teaching Tips

To gather some useful teaching tips to engage kids with ADHD, I sought out the advice of an amazing friend.  Alicia Matthews, MS, OTR/L, has walked alongside my family for years and is a wealth of information for helping parents and teachers more effectively engage and teach children with ADHD.  It is no wonder that I would seek out her ADHD teaching tips.

OT & ADHD

What is OT ? For those who don’t know, OT stands for Occupational Therapy. Many parents are catching on to the benefits of Occupational Therapy (OT) for kids. OT strategies are often used to strengthen various areas of development for children. According to Understood.org, a great resource for teaching students with ADHD:

Occupational therapy (OT) helps people who struggle to do everyday tasks because of poor motor skills. For kids, that includes tasks that are part of learning and functioning well at school.

Understood.org, Occupational Therapy: What You Need to Know

There is a common misperception about OT amongst many parents. I know because I used to be one of them.  I used to think that school-related OT was only useful if a student had handwriting issues. However, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Occupational Therapy for Teaching a Child with ADHD?

Occupational Therapy is not a new area of intervention for teaching students with ADHD.  However, recently more and more parents are learning of its effectiveness at addressing their student’s ADHD symptoms.  Fortunately, OT strategies can help with a variety of school-related issues. Today, we will discuss how OT strategies can assist with teaching students with ADHD.  Specifically,  today we will discuss a common ADHD-like symptom that impacts learning: visual attention weaknesses.

Why is it important to assess visual attention in students struggling with school?  Specifically, why do children who hate math and reading often have this attention weaknesses?

You may be shaking your head at the computer or phone screen mumbling, “Wait a minute, Lindsay. Huh? Visual attention? What is that and why do I care?  Just help me get my child to sit still and focus!”

Deep breaths, Friend… I’ve got you covered.

What is Visual Attention?

I love me some Understood.org… let’s see what they say about visual attention.

The brain, not the eyes, processes the visual world, including things like symbols, pictures and distances. Weaknesses in these brain functions are called visual processing disorder or visual processing issues.

Understood.org, Visual-Spatial Processing: What You Need to Know

Occupational Therapists (OTs) use their skills and knowledge of the brain and its connection to the body, to apply OT strategies to improve visual attention in children.

My Middle & Symptoms of ADHD Visual Attention Weaknesses

Like many other parents, I entered the world of OT through experience with my middle daughter.  My middle daughter began reading quite easily at the age of four-and-a-half. Because her early printing and handwriting was done fairly neatly and well, I always assumed learning would be easy for her. However, it wasn’t until the age of 7 that I began noticing some “little things” that were, in fact, becoming big issues for her.

I began noticing her aversion to school work or reading.  Physically flipping and cartwheels at all times. Physically writing answers on a piece of paper was a very laborious task for her. She quietly avoided writing answers to questions on paper. For her, the act of hearing a question aloud and then processing it into a coherent answer was enough for her. Having to physically write down her thoughts was an overwhelming task.  Additionally, I began noticing that she skipped words or lines of text while reading.  As the font became smaller, these reading “missteps” became more frequent.

I noticed her lack of attention to details, lack of focus and her continued hyperactive-like behaviors.

Physical Therapy Leads Us to Later Occupational Therapy

As a baby, my daughter was late to sit up, crawl and walk. Because of these delays, at around 10 months, I brought her to pediatric physical therapy for months in order to strengthen these areas. Later, these memories combined with other emerging challenges, prompted me to seek out an OT evaluation for her.

It was through this evaluation that I learned of my daughter’s struggle with visual attention. God blessed us with an amazing Occupational Therapist who ultimately worked with my daughter on visual perception issues. My daughter showed difficulty with visual convergence, visual tracking and overall control over her visual system.

Each week, Alicia, my daughter’s Occupational Therapist, implemented OT strategies to improve my girl’s visual attention skills. Alicia would then debrief me as to what “homework” I was to complete with my girl. It was crucial for me to support the continued strengthening of my daughter’s visual system.

Why OT for ADHD-Symptoms such as Visual Weaknesses?

Basically, visual attention is what helps us weed through all of the information that our brains receive at any given moment. In the case of this ADHD symptom, our brain must process all of the input that is collected from the eyes. The brain must then take all of the information it receives and focus on that which is most important.

Every day, our brains receive a mass amount of input from our body systems. We smell, we hear and we see, for example. Our brains then process the information and ultimately, decide where to focus.

For example, while at the park, you keep your eye on your child despite hundreds of other objects in your view. Your brain knows to focus on the little boy in the red shirt and not the trash cans.

Taking this into consideration, we can apply it to a child’s learning struggles. Often, when a child progresses in reading skills, he may begin to shut down or hate reading. This is indicative of a visual perception problem.

For more information on reading instruction, check out my blog post on Reading Instruction for Struggling Readers.

Are Visual Attention Weaknesses impacting your student?

In a child with a visual attention weakness, he may struggle when given a math worksheet. Often there are twenty or more equations on a sheet of paper. This can be very visually overstimulating for a child with visual attention weakness.

This child’s brain has to weed through the many digits and focus specifically on one problem. This can cause a student to become overwhelmed. Anxiety prevents him from processing the math problem well. and ultimately, this leads to gaps in educational success.

These symptoms are troubling for many parents and children to navigate. Often times there is the perception that the child is not trying, just sloppy or careless. However, experts now realize that these symptoms are associated with an actual cognitive deficit. Specifically, experts are finding that visual attention deficits are often at the root of these issues.

If this describes your child, do not fret. There are strategies to help.

12 Tips for Teaching a Child With ADHD 

Today, I am honored to have my sweet friend, Alicia Mathews, MS, OTR-L share her expertise with you. She will offer valuable suggestions on how to use OT strategies to improve a child’s attention. These OT strategies to increase attention are useful for home educators and traditional educators alike. I know you will find these tips useful.

Alicia, take it away!

Sensory: 5 Senses + Two More Senses

Get up and move!

As an OT, I start with sensory strategies to improve all learning challenges. For learning that requires visual attention while the child is seated, sensory input is recommended right before the child sits. When you can incorporate movement into a lesson, go for it!

Movement as a strategy to improve attention

While you’ve probably heard that getting up and moving can “wake up” the body, you’ve probably never been told why.

A full sensory diet should be developed by an OT based on your child’s specific needs – however, the rule of thumb for a “sensory snack” is that vestibular activities should be followed by proprioceptive activities.

1. Vestibular input:

Outside “vestibular” activities may include going down a slide, swinging high in the air, or riding a scooter.  Indoors vestibular activities may include log rolls, spinning in an office chair, or performing inverted yoga poses.

Vestibular sensory system involves changes in head position. This movement releases histamine, which increases arousal. Additionally, head movements also help organize other neurochemicals.

 2. Proprioceptive input:

Outside, activities may include climbing a rock wall, maneuvering through monkey bars, or jumping on a trampoline. At home, activities may include pushing/pulling a heavy bin of toys, deep pressure with a sofa cushion, or climbing up stairs on hands and knees.

This refers to movement that incorporate changes in joint position. This input is also described as deep pressure. This movement releases serotonin, which decreases arousal level and “calms” the body down.  (Think deep-tissue massage.)

Sensory tools and tips

3. Time

When working on a difficult activity, start with small increments of time (5 minutes can seem like a day for some kiddos). Increase time when accuracy and skill confidence develops. Don’t be afraid to use short movement breaks as small rewards – remember, vestibular activities increase alertness level and proprioceptive activities to decrease altertness.

4. Obstacle Course

When movement can be incorporated within a lesson, try utilizing an obstacle course. Place lesson materials throughout the course or incorporate a “writing/reading/math” obstacle within the course. Have your child help create the course for increased motivation.

5. Seating

Varying your child’s seating option can be helpful. A sensory cushion, therapy ball, or chair band can help a child stay “alert” during seated activities. For high arousal kids, they tend to become more of a distraction.  However, I think that they work best for kiddos that need to increase arousal level. For more active kids, these options tend to become more of a distraction.

In the end, we all know that every child is different! If something doesn’t work, try another option.

Warm up your eyes!

Why is it important to warm up the eyes?

When reading and writing, your eyes perform a variety of movements. When these foundational skills are not present or automatic, your brain has to work harder to compensate. Understandably, this negatively affects a child’s ability to focus and control extra energy because he lacks the mental effort that has been waster trying to control his eye functions.  Often, the following reading skills are overlooked at annual well-visits so it is entirely possible that a child may be struggling in this area:

  1. Fixation: the ability to focus on a target
  2. Saccades: the ability to jump from one target to another
  3. Pursuits: the ability to track a moving target

Occupational Therapy focuses on advanced eye movements and skills within formal treatment.  Here are some easy eye warm-ups you can do at home. 

6. Toss a Ball or Balloon

Hit a balloon or toss a large ball back and forth 10 times.

  • For older kids, you may vary the height and speed of the object.

7. Tick Tocks

Complete “tick tocks” by looking up and down 10 times in a slow rhythmical pattern. Follow with looking right and left.

  • You can complete with music to increase efficiency.

8.  Play “Eye Movement” Simon Says

  • Mirror eye movements made in the 4 corners of your visual field. Start with 1 movement and increase until someone loses the pattern!

Check out the environment

9. Lighting

Natural light is best. Florescent lights can quickly cause fatigue, especially with intensive reading activities. Use natural light when possible, and try to limit visual distractions. While it might be great to sit beside a window, it may be difficulty to “tune out” visual or auditory distractions from outside. When natural light is not possible, you can remove the amount of light bulbs in an overhead light or position your child with their back facing the light source.

10. Slanted Desk Area

Oculomotor (Lindsay’s Translation- Eye Movement) – Decrease eye strain.

Your left and right eye must converge (work together) to focus on text at near and far. Many children struggle with eye convergence. This often explains a child’s complaints of headaches and lack of desire to read.

You can decrease eye stress by using a slanted board or large binder under your child’s paper or book.  It is also helpful to maintain all text from one activity at either near or far. Instead of using a whiteboard, provide a handout or place the principal text beside your child’s paper.

11. Reduce Amount of Text on Page

Visual Field – Decrease the visual field.

Full pages of text can be overwhelming for children, particularly with non-preferred activities. For kiddos that are struggling with oculomotor skills, it may increase the likelihood of skipping words or full lines of text when reading.

A solid piece of paper can be used to cover half of a page, or can used as a line marker when reading or referencing. Some children may prefer a page “window.” A rectangle (to fill one or more lines of text) can be cut from a full piece of paper.

12. Use Color…Except Yellow

Perception – Increase visual perception. Visual discrimination, visual closure, figure-ground, form constancy, visual memory and sequential visual memory all contribute to visual attention and reading/writing skill development. There are some general suggestions that may help this area.

Ensure written and typed work is clear and without excessive text. Use contrasting colors, avoiding yellow text on white paper.

Research on color overlays and learning disabilities is limited. However, overlays are frequently used to decrease visual stress while reading or studying. There are a variety of colors available, and blues/greens are the most popular.

These can be used to cover a full page or a specific area of text. Similarly, highlighter strips may also be used to increase visual attention to text while reading. Older children can use a highlighter to maintain reading speed.

OT Evaluation

All in all, if your child is experiencing difficulty sustaining attention to seated tasks, or you suspect oculomotor and visual perceptual concerns, reach out to an OT for a sensory or visual-based evaluation!

Thank you to my sweet friend, Alicia Matthews, MS, OTR/L for her collaboration on this post.  She has been a part of my journey and I have learned so much from her.

Alicia is a pediatric occupational therapist with 8 years of experience in North Carolina. She has a Master of Science Degree in Occupational Therapy from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  She developed OT Avenue, LLC in 2017. Alicia currently works in home health and private practice in the Concord and Charlotte area. You can connect with her at OTAvenue@gmail.com