Cursive handwriting will NOT be a dying art in this family

This image is so true! Today, many schools don’t teach cursive writing or spend so little time on it that kids don’t become proficient in it. Cursive writing is after all not required by the national education Common Core Standards.

Even in Texas which currently requires cursive writing be taught in elementary school, my kids still don’t know it. Yes, they did spend a month or so working on it in third grade, but since it isn’t consistently required to be used in the higher grades, it isn’t retained.

Jase just finished fifth grade and couldn’t read what his Nana wrote on his birthday card because it was written in that secret cursive writing. And of course both kids sign their name by printing it.

I am sure there are many out there that don’t think cursive writing is important. With the advancement of electronics in the schools and workplace, those people don’t see the benefit of cursive writing. Even my husband seems to prefer that Jase learn different word-processing software and email programs rather than work on his atrocious print handwriting, let along work on cursive.

Of course, I am one of those who thinks our children should be learning cursive writing. I want my kids to be able to sign their name – even if it is just for signing on those horrible electronic screens at the grocery store. And if they want to read family letters or historical documents, they will need to know cursive.

But there are even more important reasons. Research has shown that people who learn and write in cursive are better at expressing their ideas. It has been linked to better reading, increased brain activation and increased performance in all academic subjects, especially in language activities such as spelling.

And it will certainly help them as they advance in school when taking notes in class becomes important as you can take notes faster in cursive.

My mother (a former school teacher) has already sat down with the kids once this summer and worked on them signing their names. But now that we are back from vacation, I think we will continue working on not only their signature but the rest of the alphabet. I hope to have them reading and writing in cursive before school starts at the end of August. Of course then the trick will be to make sure they keep using it so that they retain that knowledge.

For those of you who want to teach your own kids, check out this website for cursive worksheets to practice individual letters, words and sentences. You can find short educational lessons written in cursive for reading and writing practice at this website. Good luck!

Adjusting my daughter’s ADHD meds – at her request

In June of 2015 we started our daughter Lexie on medication for ADHD. At the time, we weren’t even sure she had a problem. Her teacher had shown concern that she couldn’t sit still in class and was having trouble concentrating. The test from her pediatrician had proved inconclusive but she suggested trying medication to see if it would help – and it would give us the answer to the question whether Lexie had ADHD or not.

Jumping to medication may seem like a jump when you don’t have a definite diagnosis but no amount of redirection seemed to help Lexie. We worried about the side effects of the medication and that we would be creating some kind of zombie who shuffled through the day. But we also didn’t want her to continue struggle in school.

adderall-xr-10-mgWe started her on the lowest dose possible but saw little in the way of change. But the next highest dose seemed just about right but we waited until she started the school year to finalize the amount of medication she took. We wanted to see how she did in a school setting verses just being at home in the summer. At our first parent-teacher conference, her teacher said she was doing great. Lexie’s reading had already jumped several levels and she seemed to have no problem paying attention.

Everything progressed well through the school year. The dose seemed the right amount to give Lexie the focus she needed without diminishing her bubbly nature.

Then she started third grade. From the beginning, she began complaining about not being able to focus. She would tell us when her teacher had to redirect her or when she would get in trouble. Comments from the teacher came home echoing the same thing – Lexie wasn’t paying attention in class.

Lexie has never been a fan of taking the medication. She doesn’t like that it sometimes makes her not hungry. She worries that she isn’t her same fun self on the meds. But she also finally has realized the benefits. She too knew that last school year she had less problems.

drugitem_5271When I asked her if she thought the medication wasn’t working properly, she said yes. We talked about how much she has grown in the past year and how medications must change as you get bigger. She suggested that might mean she needed a higher dose. She then thought about it for awhile and even talked about it with her teacher who of course wouldn’t tell her what to do but did ask her questions to help her fully explore her options.

When we went to see the pediatrician, my eight-year-old calmly explained to her rationale for going to a higher dose. The doctor agreed it was a good thing to try so we went up one more level in her medication.

And so far it has been helping. Both Lexie and her teacher say she is more focused in class. So barring a drastic change in her weight at her one-month follow up appointment, it looks like Lexie was correct in asking for an increase in her medication.

Woo-hoo – School is back in session!

It is time for parents to rejoice! Today is the first day of school!

As much as I love spending time with Lexie and Jase, there comes a time when I yearn for my normal routine…and an end to the bickering that began earlier this month.

IMG_1950This morning brought about the usual mix of first-day excitement and nerves. Jase was nervous not just because he is starting fifth grade today but it is his first day as a morning patrol. He will either be monitoring the halls, helping kids out of their cars in the drop off line or holding out the stop signs at the crosswalks. He had two weeks of training at the end of last year but he still worries that he won’t know what to do. I am sure he will be just fine.

I dropped him off this morning with his camo backpack and lunch box from last year. His fifth grade teacher is Mrs. Vandertulip. He actually requested her. And one nice thing is that one of his best friends is in the class. On Meet the Teacher night they chose desks next to each other. I feel better with him having a good friend in class with him.

Lexie and I walked to school later in the morning. She is starting third grade today. Her teacher is Mrs. Reyes. We didn’t know who to request for third grade so we just let the principal pick someone who would be good for Lexie. We have yet to find out who she knows in her class but on Meet the Teacher night she did meet a new girl to her school who will be seating next to her. Lexie is so outgoing and friendly that I am not worried at all about her.

And as always, her backpack carries a letter to her teacher. In it I fill Mrs. Reyes in on Lexie’s eczema, allergies and ADHD. We will have a special meeting with the teacher next month about Lexie’s health issues but I always like the teacher to have the info on Day 1.

So now I am back at home and the house is quiet. People keep saying I will have tons of time on my hands but that isn’t true. In just a few hours I have a PTA meeting. (I am vice president this year.) And before I know it, the kids will be home, excitedly telling me about their days.



So now I am at home, trying to get back into the swing of things without the kids around. All too soon it will be time to go pick them up and listen to them excitedly tell me about their day. I’m looking forward to that.

Teamwork is the focus in my son’s co-taught, third-grade class

Jase started third grade this year and for the first time, he is being taught in a co-teaching atmosphere. In the past, he has always had one teacher who has about 20 students.

This year he was assigned to Mrs. Y’s class. She has 22 students. She, however, co-teaches with the teacher next door, Mrs. S who has 23 students. They share three classrooms worth of space.

3rd grade

There are many types of co-teaching  such as parallel, team, alternating, and station. In his class, they mix several of these varieties depending on what they are doing.

I would say parallel teaching is their main focus. Their schedules are the same. So if one is teaching science in her classroom, the other is also teaching the same science lesson in her own classroom. If one teacher is stronger in one subject, they might actually combine the classes for a lecture and then break into groups to put the lesson into practice.

Along this same line, when they do math, Mrs. Y teaches 10-12 kids, and Mrs. S teaches 10-12 kids. The remaining kids are divided into groups of 4-5 students (some from each class) and rotate through four different math stations. The kids are encouraged to work together and discuss the math problems at each station, and both teachers (along with a classroom helper) check on each station periodically.

This method of discussing and working together is used throughout the day. Whenever they are not in “lecture” mode, the teachers have the students pair up or work in groups. There is almost nothing that they do individually except for taking a test.

The teachers are constantly encouraging the kids to explain how they reached their conclusions. This allows the other students to see that you can get the right answer multiple ways.

Now co-teaching is not new. Co-teaching is about the two teachers working together. Yes, there are times when the classes retreat to their own areas but the majority of the time, the kids are intermingled and working together.

Their classroom is also set up to be changeable. The tables are on rollers so that the configuration can be set up to meet whatever the teachers need. They have projectors hooked up to their computers so all kids can see what they are talking about in multiple locations, and both teachers have auditory systems that can project their voices to either their own or both classrooms as necessary.

I find it a unique setup from what we are used to. And Jase really loves the format. It helps that Mrs. S and Mrs. Y work so well together. This is their third year teaching this way.

Our principal likes it so much that he has recommended all the classes be set up the same way. So Lexie’s class is set up with three classrooms too but her teacher and the teacher next door do only a small part of their day together. They by no means have the system down as well as Jase’s teachers. But it is a start, and I suspect the next year her classes will be more like Jase’s was this year. Or at least I hope so because I like this teaching method.