Friday, September 19, 2008

Tiger Cubs - More Learning Opportunities!

Spawn joined Cub Scouts two Mondays ago. As a Tiger Cub, technically, the whole family joined. Tiger Cubs attend all meetings with their Akela or Akelas (an adult leader or mentor). This past Monday was our first meeting. The boys began learning The Cub Scout Motto, The Cub Scout Promise, and The Law of the Pack. We talked about what we did this summer, learned about the importance of the popcorn fundraiser to cover the cost of patches and badges, and the boys played some foosball at the end of the meeting.

I'm sure the pace will pick up some soon - especially now that I've volunteered to be their Den Leader! :O :D It sounds like fun and the Cub Scouts do so many cool things. Next week we're going on a steam train ride to a corn maze. The week after that - we're going to a Lehigh U football game for Scout Day. Tomorrow, we're doing our first Show and Sell - where the Cub Scouts man a table in front of our local Kmart and sell popcorn on the spot rather than taking orders. Spawn and I will be manning the table with other Scouts for two hours tomorrow afternoon. It's an opportunity for the boys to practice their public speaking skills, use their good manners, and earn some money for their account - to defray the costs of their activities. Spawn isn't altogether certain how he feels about Scouts. I think he'll warm up to it soon enough after he's had a chance to make friends with some of the other boys. We're really pleased with our decision to join Cub Scouts and volunteer our time to the organization.

It's one more layer of opportunity to enrich Spawn's education. I'm so pleased that we have this opportunity!

Chrissi, Cyber School Mom

Saturday, September 6, 2008

We're Trick-or-Treating for UNICEF!

Spawn's charter school is founded on the basic concept of teaching children the importance of leadership and community service - building better communities by making better leaders. Spawn is leading his own community service project this fall - he's trying to raise $50 for UNICEF through donations on Halloween and an additional $50 for UNICEF through sponsorship of his October reading challenge.

Spawn loves trick-or-treating, but most of the candy he collects he can't eat due to his sensitivity to red and yellow food dye and his steel crown - no sticky foods - they could pull it off! He wants to trick-or-treat, so he's going to trick-or-treat for others this year. You can help Spawn reach his goal (and possibly exceed it!) by visiting [link no longer available] .

UPDATE 9/7/08: Spawn is also looking for sponsors to pledge per book for every book he reads in October to add to his UNICEF donation collection. (This could be as much as 1 - 2 books a day or as little as 3 books a week.)

Thank you for helping Spawn with his first community service experience!

Chrissi, Cyber School Mom

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

First Day of 1st Grade on the Books!!!

It's 2:00 AM, Sept. 3, 2008. Spawn's 1st day went much more smoothly than last year. Still a few bumps in the road, but nothing that isn't managable with a few phone calls to the school and some help from Spawn's new teacher to ease the transition. We won't have a full day's work for at least another week or so. PALCS eases all students gently into the workload to help new families transition to the cyber school system. His first speech therapy session is tomorrow and he's so looking forward to seeing his speech therapist!

We've been packing lunch for Spawn all summer to take to summer recreation - mostly lunch-boxy snacks and quick stuff. Not the greatest choices. So we made the switch to Japanese-style bento lunches. Check out for more info about packing healthy, speedy bentos. Spawn is going through a big growth spurt right now, so the night before his first day, he gobbled up most of the pretty, colorful foods I'd set aside for his lunch. No cucumber slices, no multi-grain crackers, no Yo Kids yogurt to make a pretty bento the first day. :( What he did get instead (which isn't the prettiest bento ever, but we're still learning) is 8 tortellini with 2 T. of marinara for dipping, 2 T. of pistachios, 2 slices of American cheese, and a small pear, cubed, with a cup of whole milk.

Small Bento

We took the traditional first day of school photos in the afternoon and did the annual first day of school survey questions.

Small - Big Smiles 1st Day 1st Grade

Then we played outside for a bit and Spawn took a spin on his bike. He's still learning and backing up and steering are concepts he just hasn't grasped yet. :D

Small - Outta My Way!

Small - Still Learning the Ropes

Small - And He's Off!!!

I want to address something that's been coming up a lot lately. We've gotten comments from family, friends, and here on our blog about the side effects of Spawn's meds - from people who judge who are not qualified to treat or diagnose neurological disorders or conditions. Such comments are uninformed and unwarranted. I approved a comment just today that was made anonymously over the summer (I'm sorry, I haven't figured out what blog entry the comment was posted to yet) about concerns over the side effects of Spawn's medication. It is the last anonymous comment that I will read or moderate/approve on this subject. If you want to comment on it, you'll need to participate in the conversation with myself and Spawn's father rather than judge anonymously from a safe distance and run.

Spawn is thriving on his ADHD medication. It has changed his life and the dynamics of our family for the better. ADHD is a real condition - an imbalance of neuro-transmitters in the brain. I am not a doctor, but I do believe that it is wrong to withhold medication that could improve the quality of someone's life by correcting a chemical imbalance that every other person on earth takes for granted. My job as his mom is to give him every opportunity to excel to the best of his abilities - not to worry about what others will think of me "medicating" my son. His pediatrician is the one medicating him and he's fully qualified to do so. We maintain a journal of his symptoms, successes, and obstacles and review it with his pediatrician every few months.

The only side effect of his medication that requires constant scrutiny is his weight. Like many children with ADHD who require stimulant-type medication, Spawn doesn't have much of an appetite during the day. We mitigate the effect of the medication by starting off his day with a BIG breakfast of fruit, dairy, protein, and grains, small, but nutrient-and-calorie-packed snacks throughout the day, and a late, BIG dinner when Spawn's appetite comes back in the evening. He'll probably always be quite slim because he's very active and not prone to eating junk or overeating in any measure. We limit him to mostly organic foods and foods without red and yellow food dyes and artificial flavors.

Now, to address the message that I approved today that was posted back in July. The anonymous comment implied that his multiple "severe" side effects outweighed the benefits of his medication. Also, that gifted children are often misdiagnosed as having ADHD. What so many people are unaware of is that ADHD causes some children (and adults) to become hyperfocused or especially gifted in certain disciplines. (Michael Phelps is an outstanding example of this hyperfocus gift!) Many children with ADHD are gifted. Their brains work differently than ours. And for some of them - the disorder or condition is a gift itself! Medication and therapy for ADHD children helps them learn coping skills to combat their inattention and imulsivity in a world where children must fit into a prescribed role and adhere to society's rules - rules and norms that they cannot relate to without treatment and therapy.

I'm unaware of what other side effects the anonymous comment was referring to. Spawn has behavioral issues unrelated to his condition or his medication that were problematic long before he ever began taking his medication - namely how he relates to other children. He is an only child who lives in a neighborhood without any other children his age to play with.

I can only assume that his social abilities were the supposed "side effects" you were referring to. Rest assured, Spawn has friends and has been making great strides thanks to his behavior modification therapy and medication that have helped him to develop coping skills for dealing with his shyness and inability to relate to his peers. We learned over the last 6 months about the importance of a strict routine for schoolwork/bedtime/meals/activites and how lapses in routine can inhibit his coping mechanisms and his ability to relate to children his own age. We are proactive with his care and his diet. We don't rely solely on medication to treat him. The medication is merely a tool in our arsenal. ;)

The effect of his medication is strictly monitored by his doctors, teachers, and his father and I. We look forward to another challenging school year and will continue to challenge him to come out of his shell and find new opportunities for him to make new friends and learn new skills!

Chrissi, Cyber School Mom

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

First Day Back from Break

Whew! Spring break was very enlightening for us! Spawn was bored three days into vacation and I realized summer vacation this year is going to be very, very long. Eeps!

We're working on finding some activities for the summer. So far, we've settled on season passes for the pool and possibly an environmental ed day camp at one of the local state parks. He needs to be doing. Relaxing is not his style. ;)

Spawn has a lot of trouble relating to his peers now that he's so focused and understands his needs. He gets upset with kids who are loud or scream because it's so distracting and - in his opinion - unnecessary. He finds regular loud, impulsive children of his own age distracting and difficult to understand. While he's probably less mature than them, he seems more mature because he prefers quiet and calm to the usual boisterous behavior of his peers.

The question is - do I force him into a playgroup where he views his peers as immature "babies" that he can't relate to or continue to let him gravitate to older kids that he doesn't talk down to and views as intellectual peers because they're less impulsive, calmer, and easier to relate to?

I have no illusions about my little boy. He's incredibly bright, but due to his condition, even he realizes he can't relate to his peers. He prefers the company of older kids because they're quieter and more thoughtful and he can't focus his thoughts and quiet his mind around children his own age who kind of do everything out loud. :/ Who can fault that reasoning? He has a habit of hugging kids his own age and younger because he thinks they're loud because they need attention. So he hugs them! LOL! :D That little habit makes it even harder for him to relate to kids his age. ;)

I so wish there was a support group in the area for parents of kids with ADHD. I never know if what I'm doing is right for him. Just kind of bumbling my way through it and doing what feels right for him. :/

Chrissi, Cyber School Mom

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spring Break!!!

Today is the start of Spawn's first spring break. I don't think I've ever looked forward so much to spring break even when I was in school. :D I've been sick with this nasty coughing crud the last 5 days and now Spawn is getting it. We really need a few days to recuperate. I love the way Spawn's school worked out spring break. We're off from today through Easter instead of 2 days on either side of Easter weekend. 9 whole days!

Spawn's been learning a lot of great new stuff - pennies, nickels, and dimes, morning, afternoon, and evening, and he's going to start learning how to tell time to the hour after the break. :D

The elementary ed staff implemented a new program called Imagination Station a few weeks ago. It's a Language Arts computer game program that adapts to the student's needs and adjusts its programming to work on the concepts where they need more help. Spawn loves it. It's a great addition to the curriculumn! We'll probably play some iStation games even during the break to keep Spawn in the game. ;) I'll try to get another pic of the week up during the break. Otherwise, see y'all on the flip side of break!

Chrissi, Cyber School Mom

Saturday, March 1, 2008

What I wanted to blog and what I am blogging - Two Entirely Different Things!

I have a half-finished blog to wrap-up the week and the pic of the week that I failed to post this week, but...ugh...just this once, I gotta say - I'm tired. Down to the bone tired. We have an insane week coming up. I go to great lengths to keep our schedule as light as possible because Spawn has swimming, speech therapy, and karate every week during the school year. That's 3 out of every 5 school days that we do only the basic subjects and use the other 2 days to make-up work. This week is completely over-booked and I'm kicking myself for doing this, but I had no choice. All are necessary evils. Gotta just pull up my big girl panties and get through the week.

Monday: Swimming 4:00
Tuesday: Speech Therapy 4:00
(Also my dad's birthday today.)
Wednesday: Pediatrician for ADHD med follow-up: 4:00
Thursday: Karate 4:00
Friday: PALCS DEIBEL Testing (at the library in town - at least they come to us for this!) 2:45

Notice how most of the appointments are scheduled for 4:00 pm? Spawn needs that routine. Friday is really going to screw him up. :( I still have to do a full day's lessons every day this week and even double up on some so we can work ahead and take off all of spring break week. The meds Spawn takes cause mild insomnia, so he only sleeps a few hours a day and goes to bed some time between 2 and 4 am. He's not even able to pull himself together to start his school day until after noon most days. If I could make all those classes and appointments 2 hours later, my life would be so much easier. :/ Then again, his meds only last about 5 hours, so his classes would be a write-off. I just haven't figured out how to cram a day into 5 hours yet. I'm worn down to a nubbin trying to cope with less than 6 hours sleep most days. I wonder how other parents of kids like Spawn cope. ???

You know those backpacks they make for long-distance runners? The ones that hold like 2 quarts of water and just have a straw that runs up the strap to the runner's mouth? Can I get one of those filled with Jack & Coke? I'll just curl up in a fetal ball and suck down the sauce from my backpack the rest of the weekend. Gawd I'm tired. :I

Chrissi, Cyber School Mom
(who's finally admitting to having a rough day)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Mom's Week-Ending Progress Report

What a wonderful, busy week we've had! We had some personal/financial obstacles thrown in our path and we're not sure yet how that will affect Spawn's school situation. Rest assured - Spawn's education is our top priority. I can't see a scenario related to the current problem that would cause us to make an alternate schooling decision instead of more financial sacrifices. More on that at a later date.

Spawn's had a great week and he's been working AHEAD in many of his subjects! He caught up on two weeks worth of Language Arts lessons alone this week and some of the more difficult concepts are coming more easily to him. He's been having a lot of fun playing with words and rhyming games. We covered several new letters and phonics lessons this week - the letters O, H, and L, and the word ending family "-ot". Spawn has a lot of fun thinking of words that end in "-ot" and even making up pretend words.

The book of the week this week was I'm A Jolly Farmer by Julie Lacome - a fun book about a little girl's active imagination and her partner in imagination, her dog, Fred.

Spawn began working with the Hundred Chart in Math last week and by the end of this week, he was counting by 2's, 5's, and 10's using the Hundred Chart. This is stuff I didn't even do until 1st grade! I'm so proud of him!

He aced this week's Technology: Basic Graphics lessons in Science and the fridge is proudly plastered with his awards. :D

Social Studies was a review of concepts. He learned more about needs and wants and about saving to buy something he wants and what basic human needs are. I think he's beginning to realize that I meant it when I told him to save his pennies for that new Mega Rig Firetruck set! :D

Health, Safety, and Phys Ed brought a week of changes. Spawn has a new Phys Ed teacher, Mr. Devlin. We're so sorry to see Mr. Mitchell leaving PALCS, but we both look forward to learning more about and from Mr. Devlin. Mr. Devlin, apparently, is also a big Eagles fan. :D

Spawn began his new session at the YMCA this week also - continuing both swimming and karate lessons with Miss Joanne, Sensei Sue, and her assistant and son Mr. Chris. His swimming class is small - just three students. I got his report card from last session and was very pleased with the results. Spawn needs a little more focus and patience and some practice on jumping into the water unaided with just his PFD. Otherwise, it's apparent to his instructors that he's becoming much more comfortable and confident in the water and growing as a beginner swimmer.

A new student joined his karate class and the kids had a great time getting to know each other and beginning the new session's lessons. We also found out that a kids t-ball team will be forming at the end of March at the Y. Spawn can't wait to get started!

Chrissi, Cyber School Mom

Monday, February 18, 2008

Pic of the Week

Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Spawn's First Field Trip: The Crayola Factory, Easton, PA

DJ and Red

Chrissi, Cyber School Mom

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Solution

I want to start by reporting that Spawn's second marking period report card was every bit as impressive as the first! All A's again with a marked improvement in Language Arts! He improved from a 95% to an astounding 100%!!! Language Arts has been his most difficult subject all year and requires 4 times as much instruction time as all of his other lessons combined. The Language Arts lessons are extensive to begin with, but Spawn's inattention and inability to sit for (age-appropriate) reasonable periods of time forced us to take long and frequent breaks to get through each day's lesson without falling behind. It has been exhausting.

I'm happy to report that I was both right and wrong in my most recent post - musing over whether or not Spawn might have a learning or behavioral disorder. I was close. He has a disorder known as ADHD. It saddens me deeply that it's gone untreated and undiagnosed for so long due to my own ignorance. I thought he was just a difficult and stubborn little boy with way more energy than his peers and no suitable outlet for it. I thought there was something in me that was lacking as a parent - that I wasn't strict enough or that I was being too strict with unreasonably high expectations. Not so.

I'm happy to discover that I was wrong. It's a relief to know that his condition is treatable. I'm sad because I now know he has a much more difficult road ahead of him to adulthood than his peers. Children with ADHD never "outgrow" this condition. As they reach adolescence, most children develop coping skills that makes it appear that they outgrow their condition. My goal is to help him learn to cope with his condition and to hopefully overcome the difficulties of his ADHD.

At first, I was very resistant to the idea of treating his condition with medication. He has what is known as Combined ADHD. He has difficulty with both attention AND hyperactivity/impulsivity. Friends and family came down on me for capitulating to his pediatrician's wish to treat him both medically and with behavior modification. We've been coping with Spawn's difficulty through behavior modification all along through trial and error. We did our best to cope with his problems without knowing what we were up against. While it helps, it simply isn't and hasn't been enough. Spawn has medical needs that can't be met through behavior modification alone.

When it comes right down to it, if he were diabetic, I wouldn't withhold the necessary insulin in favor of changing his diet and hoping for the best. ADHD is a real medical problem that requires real medical treatment in addition to patience, understanding, and a lifestyle change. My husband was horrified at the idea of treating Spawn medically and especially at the thought of him being "labeled" at such an early age with ADHD - a condition that he believed is over-diagnosed. Presented with evidence of Spawn's classic and easily recognizable ADHD symptoms and backed-up by Spawn's pediatrician, I was able to convince him that protecting Spawn from the stigma of an ADHD diagnosis was not our primary job as his parents. A friend reminded me that our job is to raise him to be the best person and citizen he can be despite these obstacles. Sometimes, you just gotta pull up your big girl panties and get over your own prejudices and long-held beliefs.

Cyberschooling may be the reason that Spawn is doing so well with his studies. He gets one-on-one attention from his home facilitator (me) that he wouldn't get in a traditional classroom environment. Had we enrolled him in school at our local district's brick-and-mortar elementary school, he would either be in constant trouble and sitting in the principal's office (not so great for a developing child's self-esteem) or he would have been recommended for special ed due to his teacher's inability to cope with his needs in a classroom environment. We dodged a bullet. We are forever indebted to Spawn's cyberschool for meeting needs we weren't even aware existed at the start of this school year.

PALCS has supported us and Spawn in every respect. Whenever a need or concern presented itself, they have been there to help us do what is in Spawn's best interests. Equally invaluable to us have been the instructors and staff at our local YMCA (located in Stroudsburg, PA). They have been remarkably patient and hands-on with Spawn - trying desperately to keep his attention and keep him involved in his classes. (We did have a problem with one instructor/class. That instructor was a college student who was not following the YMCA's practices in coaching young, beginner swimmers. The issue was handled quickly and to our satisfaction and that of the other parents whose children took that class.)

As soon as Spawn's instructors were made aware of his diagnosis and condition, they began adapting class instruction to fit his needs. We have not had to pull him from any of his activites or enroll him in classes for children with special needs. We did switch him to a swimming class that consisted of only children his own age. He works much better with a group of peers than with children in a wider age group. I am so grateful that Spawn is being treated like a unique and beloved little boy - that he can just be a normal kid in a class with his peers where each child is treated as unique, but equal. My deepest gratitude to Sensei Sue, Miss Donna, Miss Joanne, and the Aquatics and Fitness Directors: Amy and Billy. You guys rock!

Spawn also has awesome cyberschool teachers who gladly take time out of their busy schedules to discuss his needs with me and support me in my efforts to adapt the regular curriculum to his needs. Thank you, thank you, thank you Miss Samuels, Miss DiPaolo, Mr. Mitchell, Miss Bonk, and Miss D'Angelo for your patience and understanding and for helping me learn to cope with Spawn's needs.

It's starting to sound like I'm accepting an Academy Award with all my thank yous :D, but I'm just a mom trying to do my best by my son and all these incredible people make my responsibilities as Spawn's home facilitator so much easier! All I'm saying is - recognize. ;)

More to come in another post shortly about what we're covering in Spawn's lessons. Check back soon for updates on: Language Arts: Spawn's favorite StoryTown books, Math: Counting Using a 100 Chart, Social Studies: What Do We Need?, Science: Technology Lessons and Unit C Test, All About Me: Love, Art and Music: Pinatas, Phys Ed: Journals, Activities, and Disease Prevention/Health Helpers and Classroom Cyber Pets for cyberschoolers.

Thanks for reading. It's been cathartic - getting it all out and said and being able to move on.

Chrissi, Cyber School Mom

Friday, February 1, 2008

Big Trouble in Karate Class

Spawn is having so much trouble concentrating in karate class. I know some of it is just the fact that being in a room with other kids for half an hour winds him up - especially when they're wound up, too. But he's also very stubborn. My concern is that he seems to be either ignoring his teacher or he's not hearing or not understanding the instructions.

I've tried rewards for good behavior, punishment for poor behavior (chores ;)), and even daily lectures about giving his teachers his attention and respect. The thing is - it's not a problem at home and I can't sit in on every class he takes at the Y - disrupting the class every few minutes to call Spawn back to attention. The one variable seems to be the other kids. He's just so easily distracted.

We've considered behavioral and learning disorders as a possible culprit, but it'll take time to get him evaluated. (I'm not keen on medicating my child for ADD simply because his attention span is short. He's 5. :p) Based on some of his responses to his lessons, I think it's possible that he may be dyslexic. I don't know how that would affect him, but it could be the reason I and his instructors have to repeat instructions for him so much. Guess I need to do some more research on dyslexia. I'm open to suggestions from experienced parents!

Chrissi, Cyber School Mom

Friday, January 25, 2008

Busy, Busy, Busy!

The winter months have kept us busier than ever! Spawn is doing great academically and CS Dad and I have never been so glad we opted to cyberschool! We are so blessed to have this opportunity! It's made us closer as a family and allowed us to be so involved in Spawn's education. He has a teacher, but more than that - he has support. We know what he's learning and what he needs extra help with. On the other side of the coin - we know what he excels at and can request more challenging work if he's bored with the existing curriculumn. It's such a personal experience. It's like getting a private school education at the price of a public education. I just don't understand all the cyberschool detractors (Representative Beyer).

We're coming up on the end of the 2nd marking period. Report cards should be out in another week and a half. If Spawn makes the Distiguished Honors List again, he's earned a huge reward - an early trip out to Knoebels for opening weekend! We're keeping our fingers crossed that Flying Turns is finally operational for opening weekend. Spawn would love to ride it!

Spawn has been meeting (exceeding!) his Phys Ed requirements by taking classes at the Stroudsburg YMCA. Karate and Swimming. His swimming has improved greatly and Sensei Sue does an awesome job of keeping his attention during karate class. He stopped taking karate classes in Belvidere over a year ago when the free bridge closed and the drive more than doubled. We'd considered pulling him from the class for a while because he had so much trouble paying attention and getting through the class without reprisals.

Now, he's a little older, a little more patient, and a lot more interested. The class is small and the other kids are so friendly. Spawn's never been a wallflower, but he's making friends on his own and that makes me the happiest of all! :D To date, his friends were limited to cousins and neighborhood kids and we live in a pretty rural area. There's really no one HIS age to speak of here. The YMCA really came to our rescue!

He's also practicing karate at home and even choosing to spend time in quiet meditiation! :o To keep boredom at bay on non-class days, he burns off excess energy on his new trampoline. Best $50 I ever spent on a Christmas gift!

Spawn's attention span is still short and sitting for extended periods for lessons is difficult for him. Mr. Mitchell, his Phys Ed teacher, mentioned at the beginning of the school year that exercise has a side benefit - increased concentration. Kids who take frequent, ACTIVE, breaks do better in school and can focus on the work at hand for longer periods of time. We've put it to the test this winter! Whenever Spawn starts to fidget - in the middle of a lesson or not - we take a 5 minute break so he can get up and move and bounce off all that excess energy. He used to pace like a caged animal and it drove me crazy! I don't like being cooped up inside during the winter either, but that pacing was driving me right out of my tree!!! Thank goodness I had the forethought to pick up that trampoline!!!

Spawn continues to ace his Science: Technology Lessons. The refrigerator is plastered with reward certificates with perfect scores!

His Language Arts results are improving steadily, too. He blows through the high frequency word flash cards now! His teacher assigns e-books as they pertain to the high frequency word lessons and Spawn often eschews playing online computer games in favor of reading those e-Books. They're published by Harcourt and they're just great! The books are published by Harcourt and the collection is called StoryTown
Highly recommend these for educators!

Even his handwriting is improving! The curriculumn does gloss over handwriting a bit, I think, so I do a little extra handwriting work with him daily.

I print out practice sheets from and . They offer a customizable tracer page program. (We prefer the Zaner-Bloser Font.) Just type in the letters or words that your student needs to practice line by line and click "Make Tracer Page". This is especially great for teaching kids how to spell and write their names, address, and phone numbers. It's really helped Spawn memorize important info like that - so I worry less about being separated from him accidentally in a theme park or something. He can easily identify himself to a security guard by writing his name if the guard can't understand what he's saying or he's too upset to make much sense. His school ID can only provide so much information if he gets lost.

Keep an eye out for more frequent blogs as we pick up steam heading into the 3rd marking period!

Before signing off, Spawn, CS Dad, and I would like to wish our friend, Brielle, a Happy 29th Birthday! You're the best aunt ever!

Chrissi, Cyber School Mom
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