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Don’t Bypass Your Child’s Handwriting Struggle – 5 Signs They May Need Support

Imagine for a moment that when you write on a piece of paper the letters on the paper do not look like the image in your head. Every time you write you feel totally confused and frustrated. This is a typical event for a school aged child with handwriting struggles. Now think about all of the things you couldn’t do if this was your handwriting experience.

When Max entered Preschool at age 4 he loved having books read to him and showed great interest in reading and writing. Activities that used his gross motor skills were difficult like catching a ball, balancing, and running so he had developed a passion for reading. During his first year of preschool his teacher introduced letter formation. This is when it became obvious that Max was struggling with handwriting and he began to avoid writing activities while his interest in reading changed.

Max was lucky, his teacher began using the CEW© handwriting program that helped to address his underlying challenges like coordination, posture, fine motor control, sensory processing, while teaching him letter formation using music and movement. He was engaged and having fun!

Handwriting challenges in children are often not confronted early enough or in a way where the child can enjoy handwriting as a base skill instead of an obstacle. A child’s handwriting difficulty has no reflection upon their intelligence, but can deeply impact performance and self-esteem in school. This results in a low performing student. “These kids simply require a little more attention with handwriting in a way that’s framed differently so they can continue to grow as confident students”, says Michele Parkins Occupational Therapist and co-creator of CEW© program, which will be offered at STAR Center in July.

Childhood handwriting challenges lead to:

A decline in performance in all areas of school
A negative impact on child’s well-being
A loss in concentration and motivation
A bad attitude towards school

Often, overcoming handwriting problems is not just a matter of practice. The material needs to be presented in a new way that addresses the unique style in which the child processes information. Preparing children in a fun way for writing will lead to improvements in cognition, motor skills, and reading comprehension.

5 Signs Your Child May Need Handwriting Support

Avoids tasks inlvolving writing
Takes longer than others to complete work
Wiggles and moves whole body while writing
Shares ideas through speaking versus writing. Written work does not represent the child’s capability.
Repeats “scripts” about how to make the letter such as, “start at the top, move to the bottom, loop around…”

STAR Center announces new Handwriting Boost Camp in Denver, CO using the CEW© program.

Handwriting Boot Camp

July 27 – August 7
Age: Kindergarten – Elementary school

After 10 weeks in the handwriting CEW© program, Max’s mother shares, “We have seen incredible improvements with Max since starting your program. His letters are written so much clearer and more accurately with increased understanding for the sounds that the letters make. He has started to sound out words and begun to read.” Go here for more information: http://spdstar.org/handwriting-boost-camp/star

STAR Center, a Colorado 501(c)(3), is the premier treatment center for children and families living with Sensory Processing Disorder, feeding disorders, and other sensory issues associated with other conditions such as ADHD, autism, and a wide variety of additional developmental disorders. Mile High Mamas has partnered with Star Center on this promotion. www.spdstar.org | 303.221.7827

Spotlight: Auraria Early Learning Center for kindergarten this fall!

Do you live or work close to downtown? Are you looking for high-quality kindergarten for your child?  
 
The Auraria Early Learning Center (AELC), a 4-out-of-4 Qualistar-rated center, provides full- and part-time programs for children 12 months to 5-years-old with a fully accredited kindergarten program and summer camp for children through age 8. It is not only open to students, faculty, and staff of the Auraria Campus, but also to families from the Denver-area community. 
 
We sat down with Katy Brown, Director of Communications & Campus Outreach at the Auraria Higher Education Center.
 
Do you have to live near downtown Denver to enroll your child?
 
There are many AELC families who live in outlying suburbs and commute to downtown for work. They’ve found that the AELC is a convenient and high-quality option for preschool, kindergarten, and childcare. A few have also said that commuting with their children gives them an opportunity to spend more time as a family on a daily basis. We are particularly proud of our kindergarten program, which offers full-day optional enrichment care (so no need to sign up for before or after care like other school programs); tuition includes healthy meals and snacks; and kids graduate kindergarten ready to hit the ground running for first grade.

What makes Auraria Early Learning Center different from other programs?

The fully accredited kindergarten program offers a very low child-to-teacher ratio (1:8), which gives teachers the time and ability to give individualized instruction and cater to unique learning styles. (The toddler ratio is 1:4; young preschool is 1:7; older preschool is 1:8.) The AELC participates in the USDA Food Program, enabling the AELC to serve nutritious meals family-style, as well as healthy snacks. Food is included in the monthly tuition. Family communication and collaboration is an important aspect of a high-quality early childhood education program, and the AELC also offers a comprehensive communication plan to keep families involved in the school. Parents have daily interaction with the classroom teachers where they can communicate directly about their child’s progress, needs, and successes. 

In addition, the AELC has a parent-teacher group that meets monthly to discuss new initiatives, changes to policies/processes, and to discuss center events. Community-building events for families to be engaged with the school are scheduled regularly. Weekly classroom newsletters, monthly calendars, parent-teacher conferences, and access to teachers via email and in-person meetings are other ways that the AELC maintains communication with the families. 

What is your “Foundational Curriculum?”

The kindergarten program focuses on giving children a foundation in reading and literacy, math, science, and social studies. There’s also an emphasis on social-emotional development with opportunities for self-expression through music, art, and dramatic play. Many parents have said that their children have entered first grade after attending the Auraria Early Learning Center kindergarten program better prepared than their peers (see their testimonials here).

Is the program full-day or half-day? 

For kindergarten, both full-day or half-day schedules are available. Children must sign up to attend five days a week in the morning, but there is optional kindergarten enrichment from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. (no charge) and 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. (full-day rate applies). During the enrichment times, the children are engaged in learning activities.

Find out more information about the Auraria Early Learning Center  on their website. In partnership with Mile High Mamas. 

Saying good-bye to a nightmare school year and hello to hope

When my daughter was in second grade, I saw early signs that my bright, creative, adventurous and fun girl was struggling in a traditional classroom.  The following year, a friend told me about a Waldorf-inspired charter school that had opened in our area so we made a switch to their arts-based education. For the next two years, her art flourished, she learned handwork like knitting and weaving, she camped with her class multiple times, played the violin, spoke Spanish and made dear friends.

Through it all, she still struggled in her main academics so we hired a wonderful yet pricey tutor to supplement her education. We learned very quickly that we could do math flashcards until we were blue in the face because she simply could not learn that way. We needed someone who could teach her out-of-the-box because she was easily distracted and lacked focus. ADD, Auditory Processing and even Sensory Processing Disorder were discussed. I  repeatedly asked the school to observe her but I was constantly shut down and told I was overreacting. She wasn’t far enough behind to qualify for Special Education yet wasn’t at grade level. She was one of many kids falling between the cracks.

The only option they gave me was to get her professionally tested that cost $2,000–something our insurance did not cover and we couldn’t afford. We were stuck.

The bottom fell out last summer when the Governing Council ousted our visionary and capable principal, creating a ripple effect throughout the school as my daughter’s teacher–and others–left. In his place, a nice yet under-qualified new teacher was appointed and  the high-spirited class spent the entire year in chaos. Lack of discipline. No feedback. No assignments or in-class work were sent home until the parents complained–and then a barrage of ridiculous busywork ensued. He did not have effective teaching techniques because he was too overwhelmed with learning both the Colorado and Waldorf curricula. It was the Black Hole of Fifth Grade.

More than half the parents banded together to meet with the interim principal and Governing Council several times but our concerns fell on deaf ears. Six parents pulled their kids. When the principal announced this teacher would be looping with the class for sixth grade and beyond (and that most of us would be unable to transfer to the other class), many more left and I knew we had to be one of them. 

I open-enrolled her in a popular Montessori but we didn’t get in. I turned to our local public school, which she attended K-2 and where my son still goes. It was my only option. Little did I know it would be the best.

I met with their new principal who immediately put an action plan in place and assigned her one of the school’s best teachers for sixth grade. She and I sat down and within a half hour, I had real, valuable tools I could implement at home–more help than I’d received all year. My daughter won’t even be in the class until next fall and already, this teacher has sent me emails, phone calls, resources and encouragements.

Next I met with the interventionist/Special Ed teacher and we scheduled a time to have my daughter tested and she then offered to tutor her–for free–this summer. But then came another game-changer:

“I’ve been thinking about everything you’ve told me about your daughter. I very strongly feel like she is a Visual-Spatial Child a.k.a. a Topsy-Turvy Kid.”

I’d heard of Auditory, Kinesthetic and Visual learners but not Visual-Spatial and there’s a reason. After some extensive Internet searches, there isn’t a lot of information about it.

Visual-spatial learners (VSLs) are often artists, inventors, builders, creators, musicians, computer gurus, visionaries and healers. These children have powerful right hemispheres and learn in multi-dimensional images, while most schools, most teachers and most curricula are a haven for left-hemispheric thinking (or auditory-sequential learners) for  children who think and learn in words, rather than images, and in a step-by-step fashion. Though visual-spatial students are often very bright, they don’t always find success in academic environments. They have the most incredible moments of discovery, invention and problem solving but the skills of managing a time schedule, organization or showing their work may elude them. They march to their own drummer and nothing you do will convince them to change..and why should you want to? If there were not visual-spatial learners among us we’d be without art and dance, without science and invention, without drama and choreography, without most of the things that make life beautiful.

She sent me  home with “Raising Topsy-Turvy Kids: Successfully Parenting Your Visual-Spatial Child” and it was like reading my daughter’s Book of Life. We’ve had years without answers and finally windows, doors and the entire universe have been opened to us. We’ve known she was a right-brained kid living in a left-brained world and our initial move to the Waldorf charter school was a good thing. Unfortunately, our weak teacher, ineffective leadership and lack of resources drove us away. If the situation improves (the school has already replaced the interim principal for next year), we’d consider returning,

Everything happens for a reason and though I’m not sure where my daughter will attend middle and high school, I strongly feel she is exactly where she needs to be for sixth grade. And as a parent who has been fighting for answers for so long, I’m so grateful to finally have them hiding in plain sight and for the amazing educators who are making this possible.

Lending a hand to the sky ~ Musings on mothering a graduating child

The western mountains were sandwiched by clouds this morning. The row of peaks was obscured by chalky grey banks of opaque clouds, no doubt packed with snow. I could see the middle elevations clearly. Along the foothills—the base of mountains—were stark white cloud balls. They looked like the trim on Santa’s hat. It was beautiful and I wished I could have pulled off the road to snap pictures. The shoulder was too saturated. If I stopped, I might never get going again. It’s been raining here for nearly a week and that is highly unusual.

When I arrived home, I didn’t go inside right away. The rain stopped briefly, so I decided to survey my front garden. Nothing is blooming yet, but the green leafy parts are thriving. They love this rain. Some of my plants have doubled in size in the past week. So much to guzzle! Earthworms everywhere, including on one of my boys. He found a worm on the leg of his jeans this morning, curled and somehow clinging to the denim. He plucked it off and tossed it into the mud amazed. How?

He doesn’t stand still long enough for a worm to charge up shoes and pants. Maybe it dropped from a tree? Maybe a robin passing overhead slipped up and let her breakfast go? The worm has a wild story to tell.

Near the edge of the driveway, I stood looking down at a billowing pile of bright green chicks and hens. Tears formed. As if there hasn’t been enough moisture dropping from the heights, I lent a hand to the sky and let loose. I cried on my coat and on my shoes. I cried over the concrete, my nose launching droplets earthbound. Massive life changes are just around the corner of next week. Aidan is graduating from high school and it’s been a long, tough year but she is going to make it. The level of bewilderment I feel is unprecedented. I had no idea what it would be like to be the mother of the grown-up almost-graduate. I suspect that moment her name is called and she strides across a stage to accept her diploma I will be left a bit tattered—in a good way. But I don’t know because I’ve never been here before.

graduate2015Neither has she. Perhaps these last days of school are being perfectly and completely sheltered by the hood of grey above, quieting us with rhythmic splashing taps, stirring us with crashes of thunder, lulling us to deep sleep. Maybe it’s all a reminder to drink, drink, drink these days in as if we, too, are thirsty earth.

Yesterday, I saw blue sky for about twenty minutes. I stepped outside to the back patio and spun like Mary Tyler Moore in Minneapolis.

Within that dizzy hour, sog, sop, slop, slip, drip, drop, droop.

I went to bed early and without apologies. Before I fell asleep, Aidan came into my room and climbed up on the bed. She rested against the headboard. Archie joined us. She said, “Tell us a story, Archie!” and he did. I listened to him but I watched her laugh when he laughed at his own cleverness. She looked grown-up.

A few minutes later, I startled awake. Archie was kissing my forehead and Aidan was gone. “Goodnight, mama!” he whispered.

Appreciating your teachers but not the “huffy” look

It’s first period and I’m teaching high schoolers. The end of class is near and I’m starting to worry if  each small group is going to get a chance to present what they’ve been working on.

There’s a commotion in the hallway. An entire class of middle schoolers, many of whom I teach on a different day, are waiting along with their teacher to get into my classroom.

I am annoyed.

I peek out and ask what’s going on. I’m told that they need to use my large room just for a moment to make a brief announcement.

I get huffy.

What!? Are you serious!? No one told me. I didn’t plan for this. How will I wrap up the class with 10 minutes less than should have? Aaaaaagh!

This is what I’m thinking in my head, and I’m afraid some of it shows as I mutter, “OK then. C’mon in,” and usher everyone in in a sarcastic flourish.

The interlopers fill the room, and the reason for their gathering soon becomes apparent. The high schoolers and middle schoolers want to honor…

ME.

One student hands me a tiara. A small speech is made by my fellow teacher, formerly known as Interrupter. Students form a line to one-by-one press their small notes of thanks into my palm. A young lady is chosen to read a poem that extolls my traits.

Huffiness was not among those listed.

I manage not to cry, and we all get a good laugh at how poorly I hid my irritation. Once class was over I was able to read through the notes and savor the poem. I was deeply touched by the kindness of my students and colleagues.

Soon, my school day was done and I ran an errand at the grocery store. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized I was still wearing my tiara.

I wore that SO much better than huffiness.

~~~~~

Lori Holden's book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open AdoptionLori Holden blogs from metro-Denver at LavenderLuz.com. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole (written with her daughter’s birth mom), is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful gift for the adoptive families in your life.

Lori is also available to deliver her open adoption workshop to adoption agencies and support groups.

10 Easy & Fun Teacher Appreciation Gifts They’ll Actually Want

It never fails. I always have the best intentions to shower my kids’ teachers with gifts of appreciation..until the end of the year rolls around and I’m so busy I just end up buying them a Target gift card. There is nothing wrong with gift cards but this year if I give them, they’re going to be creative. Here are some fun, fabulous, easy and practical appreciation gifts your teacher will love!

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1. If you’re going to do a gift card, here’s a fun way to present it as a  summer “Bucket List.”

bucket **********

2. I lost track of how many soap requests our teacher sent to our class. Check-out this cute printable from eighteen25.

 soap **********

3. Who knew gifting sanitizing wipes could be so awesome? It’s Always Autumn delivers!

 wipes

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4. Why not take giving a plant or flowers to the next level? Personally, I love to gift flowers teachers can plant in their garden! 

 plant **********

5. Our teacher is always in need of dry erase markers and kids will love pulling this bouquet together.

marker

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6. All you need are canning jars, dollar store baskets, polka-dot straws, lemonade, gum, and yellow flowers.  I love that this basket is so bright and summery!

lemonade

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 7. What teacher wouldn’t love to relax with your Summer Relaxation Kit?

relax

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8. The Dating Divas has an incredibly comprehensive list–101 teacher appreciation ideas for everything from decorating your teacher’s door to cute ideas for your bus driver.

 bus

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 9. From teacher’s mouths: We asked our teachers what they want. One mentioned that her friend got a pedicure and all the teachers were jealous! Another said she loves Amazon gift cards because she can buy pretty much anything there. Another said to stay away from sweets because she gets too overloaded. Several mentioned they love nice notepads and thank you notes with envelopes because they are regularly sending these home.  

Stationary from TinyPrints

Stationary from TinyPrints

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10. However you choose to honor your teacher, why not let your principal know what a great job they do as well with a note or copy of a letter you give to your teacher? For the past few years, I have been in charge of our church’s Teacher Appreciation Night where graduating seniors honor their all-time favorite teacher. It’s a spectacular event but one of my favorite things is inviting the principal and letting them know what a fabulous job their teachers are doing.

Should Colorado lower the bar for high school graduation?

Nearly two years ago, the state Board of Education approved the first-ever common set of expectations all Colorado students must meet to earn a high school diploma, starting with the class of 2021. The idea is to move beyond the mishmash of graduation requirements at 178 school districts and replace antiquated systems of counting credit hours with measures that matter.

The shift envisioned for Colorado, a bastion of local control, grew out of education reform laws that are supposed to better prepare students for college and the workplace. Now, state officials are contemplating significant changes to those 2013 guidelines, including giving more local control over ways students can prove themselves, lowering the bar in some cases and eliminating science and social studies requirements, leaving only English and math.

CLICK TO KEEP READING

-Eric Gorski

 

Mama Drama: Picking Up Bad Habits from Preschool Buds

Dear Mama Drama:

Hope it’s okay I’m a dad.

My wife and I have a 4 year old in preschool and have recently been struggling with whom our little guy is friends. There is one particular boy at school that we feel is a bad influence from whom our son seems to be picking up bad habits. Should we let his teacher know and perhaps ask them to not allow them to spend so much time together throughout the day?

(photo credit)

We even have the kid’s mother now asking for play dates and we’re not sure if we should encourage our son to hang out with this other little boy. Are we being too protective and controlling?  What would your advice be for encouraging our son to hang out with nicer, more well-behaved kids?

Thanks ~ Flustered Father

Task force recommends reducing Colorado testing burden

Despite agreeing that Colorado tests its students too much, a state task force was unable to find many places to cut tests other than in high school, a reflection of both stringent federal requirements and divergent views over the value of assessments.

The 15-member advisory panel, created in the last legislative session, met for the final time Monday after six months of talks.

Although it still must finalize a report to present to the legislature before month’s end, the task force agreed to urge elimination of all testing for high school seniors and a reduction for juniors.

But the group split on continuing to test ninth-graders in math and English, and on whether social studies tests should be scrapped altogether.

Beyond that, Colorado has little choice but to follow federal law mandating CLICK TO KEEP READING

By Eric Gorski

 

Colorado School Grades 2014 Rankings Released: How Does Your School Rate?

Colorado School Grades, an online tool created by a diverse coalition of 18 nonprofit community organizations, released its 2014 rankings of every public school in the state. The grades, which are available online at http://www.ColoradoSchoolGrades.com, are intended to help parents, students, educators, and community members better understand how their schools are performing.
 
Nearly 2,000 Colorado public schools are ranked annually, using data from the Colorado Department of Education and a formula developed with the Center for Education Policy Analysis at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver. By giving every school an easy-to-understand letter-grade ranking, Colorado School Grades offers the simplest and clearest representation of how schools truly are performing. Also on the site, the Families Take Action blog, written by teachers, parents, and other community members, provides tools for anyone wanting to improve their school.

For four years, Colorado School Grades has represented an alternative to other school rating systems, which are difficult to navigate or offer watered-down information. For example, the Colorado Department of Education indicates that more than 70 percent of public schools are “top performers,” making it difficult for parents to understand how their school measures up. Colorado School Grades rates schools on a more rigorous curve, so the community can understand which schools are performing at the highest levels.

2014 TOP-RATED SCHOOLS
 
This year’s top-rated elementary schools in Colorado are Bear Creek, Bergen Valley Intermediate, Parker Core Knowledge, Dry Creek, Heritage, Hulstrom Options K-8, Aurora Quest K-8, Steck, Swigert International, and Traut Core Knowledge. Nine of the 10 schools are located in the metro Denver area.
 
The top-rated middle schools this year include two in the mountain communities of Ouray and Aspen. The complete list: Stargate Charter, DSST: Byers, Flagstaff Charter Academy, Slavens, Altona, Aspen Community Charter, Montessori Peaks Charter, Ouray, Windsor Charter Academy, and McAuliffe International. 
 
The top-rated high schools in Colorado represent regions across the state, with three of the 10 located in the metro Denver area, five located in Colorado Springs, and two in Fort Collins. They are Ridgeview Classical Charter, Edison Junior-Senior, Liberty Common Charter, TCA College Pathways, the Vanguard School, DSST: Stapleton, DSST: Green Valley Ranch, Denver School of the Arts, the Classical Academy, and Palmer Ridge. 
 
HOW THE GRADES ARE CALCULATED
 
The Center for Education Policy Analysis at the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Public Affairs developed the Colorado School Grades formula that is used to calculate school grades. It uses the same variables and weights as the Colorado Department of Education’s School Performance Framework, which includes data such as a school’s academic achievement, academic growth, academic growth gaps and, for high schools, college/career readiness.
 
The resulting data goes through a grading curve that ranks schools from top to bottom. The top 10 percent of schools receive an A grade (A+, A, or A-), the next 25 percent receive a B rating, the next 50 percent receive a C rating, the next 10 percent receive a D rating, and the bottom five percent receive an F rating.
 
More information is available online at www.coloradoschoolgrades.com.