Kindergarten Teacher Resigns “My Job is Now About Tests and Data – Not Children. I Quit.”

April 2nd, 2014

(freepik.com)

Have you heard about Susan Sluyter, the veteran teacher who taught Kindergarten at Cambridge Public for nearly 20 years? Sluyter resigned from her position last year, citing that testing and data collection mandates are an imposition on teachers and limit how young children learn.

Susan Sluyter, you are my hero!

Here are some excerpts from Sluyter’s resignation letter that was printed on the Washington Post website:

“I have watched as my job requirements swung away from a focus on the children, their individual learning styles, emotional needs, and their individual families, interests and strengths to a focus on testing, assessing, and scoring young children, thereby ramping up the academic demands and pressures on them.

Each year, I have been required to spend more time attending classes and workshops to learn about new academic demands that smack of 1st and 2nd grade, instead of kindergarten and PreK.  I have needed to schedule and attend more and more meetings about increasingly extreme behaviors and emotional needs of children in my classroom; I recognize many of these behaviors as children shouting out to the adults in their world, “I can’t do this!  Look at me!  Know me!  Help me!  See me!”  I have changed my practice over the years to allow the necessary time and focus for all the demands coming down from above.  Each year there are more.  Each year I have had less and less time to teach the children I love in the way I know best—and in the way child development experts recommend.  I reached the place last year where I began to feel I was part of a broken system that was causing damage to those very children I was there to serve.”

My Daughter’s Stuggle

Maia is in kindergarten, and she doesn’t do well. School is extremely aggravating to her, a source of constant unhappiness, and there’s nothing I can do to make it easier on her. She is a slow learner. The school acts like she is learning disabled, but her own doctor disagrees. She simply doesn’t grasp things as quickly as other students can and do.

She’s the youngest in her class, but the school constantly overlooks this fact. She turned 5 a month before kindergarten started (in August.) Most of her classmates are already 6 years old, but she won’t be 6 until next August. Her age hardly seems to factor into discussions about her development. The school, including her teacher, only want to discuss development treatments.

Why the Invasive Focus on Testing and Behavior Therapy?

“Next came additional mandated assessments.  Four and five year olds are screened regularly each year for glaring gaps in their development that would warrant a closer look and securing additional supports (such as O.T, P.T, and Speech Therapy) quickly.   Teachers were already assessing each child three times a year to understand their individual literacy development and growth,” writes Sluyter.

I have told our school countless times that she doesn’t have ADHD, and if she did we would learn to deal with it naturally. If you ask me, teachers and counselors aren’t qualified to diagnose ADHD, but they don’t shy from sending home countless requests for testing and have gone as far as to send home a Connor’s Test diagnosing her with ADHD. At first, I allowed them to test her for everything, but when her results were all normal or almost normal, I opted out because they wanted to put a headset on her.

Our family doctor laughed and laughed at this because Maia is a sweet, gentle, not-at-all hyperactive kid. She has focus and attention issues, sure, but they will balance out in time. She takes daily vitamins, as well as fish oil, and eats a healthy diet…Sorry, Byron-Bergen Central School, I will not be placing my 5-year old daughter on Ritalin or any other drugs…. Nor will I allow her to be the only student in the classroom wearing a headset to “better understand her teacher.”

No More Recess For My Little Girl

“What about teaching children to write and read through the joy of experiencing a story together, or writing about their lives and what is most important to them,” asks Sluyter in her letter. “When adults muck about too much in the process of learning to read and write, adding additional challenge and pressure too soon, many children begin to feel incompetent and frustrated.  They don’t understand. They feel stupid.  Joy disappears.”

My daughter is read to almost every single night. This started when she was just a wee baby, just a couple days home from the hospital. You better believe I read to her…I’m a writer after all! I read to both of my girls, and my oldest struggled in kindergarten – third grade, but she’s an incredibly voracious reader now, at 12 years old. Some kids just grow into it later than others…But, the school acts like we don’t do anything to help her development. They act as if the only thing that can help her are drugs and therapy – their therapy.

When I told my daughter’s teacher that our family doctor would be handling all of her developmental issues from here on out, you should have heard the heavy silence on the phone! She was pissed! I couldn’t believe it. As if our family doctor isn’t qualified to handle our daughter’s developmental health.

Maia can sound out words, and she can count with help from me and her dad. She can do a lot of things, but the school never focuses on what she’s excelling at. They just criticize and criticize and now, if she doesn’t finish her work on time, she’s held back from recess as a punishment for not meeting the school’s rigidly high standards. What has happened to kindergarten?

And, yes, Sluyter is right, my daughter feels stupid. She is miserable. And, I am so sorry she has to experience such a different kindergarten than I knew. I hope more teachers see that they have a voice and begin to express how ridiculous they standards are, and how they’re ruining this generation of kids for their academic futures. Children learn through play! They learn through experience too! Stop diagnosing kids with ADHD and start teaching again.

How to Get a Picky Eater to Eat

April 1st, 2014

Every family has a picky eater…This kid loves to push around the fork, whine, and complain, ultimately refusing to eat. If your son or daughter is a picky eater, employ one of these strategies to get your demanding daughter or selective son to eat a well-balanced diet.

Stick to a Routine

The Mayo Clinic recommends that you “serve meals and snacks at about the same times every day.” This will help your child associate eating with certain times, and could help ensure that your child is hungry come mealtime. “Provide juice or milk with the food, and offer water between meals and snacks. Allowing your child to fill up on juice or milk throughout the day might decrease his or her appetite for meals.”

Make Mealtime Fun

There are all sorts of ways to make mealtime fun. You can serve food that’s prepared to look like wild animals, or your child’s favorite superhero. Cookie cutters should be employed all year round – not just around the holidays – because they allow you to cut sandwiches that look like dinosaurs, or create pancakes that are actually fairy princesses. Other ways to have fun at mealtime include:

  • Dressing up (encourage kids to dress in their favorite costumes, or invent something from their wardrobes. Parents are encouraged to dress up too!)
  • Eating food on unconventional serving ware. (Serve food in dump trucks and other toys.)
  • Experiment with food coloring. (Green Eggs and Ham anyone?)

Make a Dessert Rule

I tell my kids, “If you don’t finish that, you don’t get dessert.” The promise of a delicious dessert is an excellent motivator to get picky eaters to pick up the fork. This has to be strictly enforced in order to work. A little tough love never hurt anyone. You may have to serve dessert to one child and not another. Desserts don’t have to be unhealthy. There are some great healthy dessert options out there, including this recipe for healthy fudgy brownies: Big Fudgy Bittersweet Brownies

Quaker Warm & Crunchy Honey Almond Review

March 31st, 2014

BzzKit

From the Quaker webpage:

“Quaker Warm & Crunchy Granola Honey Almond livens up your breakfast. This new and delicious hot cereal starts with whole grain Quaker Oats and specially bakes them into tasty clusters of multigrain granola that stay crunchy even after you heat them with milk. With the sweet and nutty flavors of honey and almonds mixed in, this creamy and crunchy breakfast is a delicious start to your day.”

“A new deliciously crunchy hot cereal

Specially baked granola clusters stay crunchy even after being heated with milk

Made with whole grain Quaker Oats

As much whole grains (33g) and fiber (4g) as a bowl of Original Quaker Instant Oatmeal (27g whole grains, 3g fiber)”

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary box of Quaker Warm & Crunchy from BzzAgent, in exchange for my honest review.

Preparing Quaker Warm & Crunchy Honey Almond

The instructions are really simple. They’re printed on the box, and on the bag. If you’re planning to take this with you to work, you don’t have to write down the instructions before you leave the house.

Step 1: Pour the granola into a microwave safe bowl

Step 2: Add ¼ cup milk (I used Almond Milk instead of regular milk. It was quite tasty.)

Step 3: Microwave for 25 seconds. (I had to microwave for double the time in order to get the consistency I liked.)

Quaker Warm and Crunchy Granola

A Little Crunch Goes a Long Way

Overall, I really liked this cereal, as do both of my daughters. My oldest (Nadia, 12) is a very picky eater. She wasn’t that thrilled with crunchy granola, but that was to be expected. My youngest (Maia, 5) absolutely adores this cereal. She asks for it every morning, and that makes me happy because it’s healthier than her sugary breakfast favorites.

In my opinion, Quaker Warm & Crunchy is good, but it’s not that crunchy. It has a tendency to clump and be more like oatmeal than crunchy granola, but it’s still really good. There is crunch in almost every bite, so that’s another positive, and a little crunch is better than no crunch.

I should note that this cereal doesn’t have to be heated to be tasty! I tried eating the granola directly from the little baggy and it’s addicting. I have considered adding it as a topping to my yogurt, but haven’t tried that yet. Overall, this is a good cereal and good for busy moms who want to serve granola, but don’t have the time to prepare it themselves.

I Love Being a Step-Mom

March 17th, 2014

I remember the first time I met my husband’s kids. It was before we started dating. Back then, he wasn’t my boyfriend. He was a friend’s divorced older brother. I saw him tossing his daughter into the air and then patiently brushing his oldest daughter’s unruly hair while they watched cartoons together.

It was easy to fall in love with him, and even easier to love his kids. Now, his oldest is 14 years old! His youngest is 11. I get along with both girls, and for that I’m extremely grateful.

In my experience, step-moms do not get along with teen step-children. Personally, I’ve disliked almost every guy my mom ever brought home. (Full disclosure – most of them didn’t have kids.) My friends who had step-moms always told me how horrible and wretched they were, and it seemed like they were. Because of my childhood, I often worried that my husband’s kids would grow to resent me.

They didn’t.

My husband’s kids love me because I love them – as much as I love my own kids. For the last eight years, I have sheltered them on the weekends, clothed them, cooked for them, kissed their boo-boos and lectured them if they were acting inappropriately. It’s not always sunshine and roses, but those kids love me – adore me even and the feeling is mutual.

I think if a person wants to be successful at being a step-parent, they need to do the following:

1. Always consider the absent parent. My step-kids have an awesome mom. She cares for them well, and I don’t involve myself in her relationship with my husband. If my husband’s oldest daughter complains about her, I listen, but I also defend her because I know when she punishes or sets rules, it’s out of love. It’s important that kids understand that even divorced parents can successfully co-parent, and as long as everyone is taking their roles seriously each parent should have the other’s back.

2. Patience isn’t just a virtue; it’s a necessity for a successful relationship with step-kids. Rules are different at both houses. For instance, at their mom’s house, they aren’t allowed to use the Wi-Fi. We allow Wi-Fi at our home, but it can get excessive. When I turn the Wi-Fi off, my husband’s oldest has a tendency to get very upset. Remain calm when your step-kids get upset! Be patient with them because they are living in two completely different households and this can be frustrating.

3. Treat them well. Step-kids aren’t just your husband’s (or wife’s) kids. When you marry a person with kids, you’re becoming a parent. Be ready for this! Be ready to be selfless with your step-children! Children can sense this love and they will appreciate you and love you in return. You can have an amazingly close and special relationship with your step-children, but first you have to let them in. This means opening up your bed when nightmares occur, spending your weekends watching cartoons and basically doing everything you would for your own child. Try and love them all equally and you will be loved equally in return.

Warning: Do Not Take Tylenol While Pregnant

March 17th, 2014

I’m not a fan of Tylenol, or acetaminophen in general. Acetaminophen has caused countless deaths, and yet the FDA still doesn’t require the company to put stricter warnings on their labels. Now, Reuters Health is warning that using acetaminophen during pregnancy, particularly Tylenol, can affect your unborn child’s development.

“Expectant mothers often take Tylenol, with the active ingredient acetaminophen, to deal with back pain, headaches or mild fevers during pregnancy. But frequent use may be linked to poorer language skills and behavior problems among their children, according to a new study.”

The study was conducted by Ragnhild Eek Brandlistuen and her team of researchers at the School of Pharmacy at the University of Oslo in Norway. According to the Reuters Health article, “She and her coauthors studied 48,000 Norwegian children whose mothers answered survey questions about their medication use at weeks 17 and 30 of pregnancy, and again six months after giving birth.”

Nearly 4% of the expecting moms took Tylenol for at least 28 days during their pregnancies. Those moms recorded less developmental milestones in their follow-up questionnaire, which took place three years later. The children, whose mothers ingested Tylenol, reported that their children started walking later, have poorer communication and language skills, as well as their kids have more behavior problems.

Conversely, the research team found no developmental problems in children whose moms took Ibuprofen whilst pregnant. Expecting mothers should also acknowledge that leading autism researcher, Dr. Martha Herbert, has been researching the connection between acetaminophen and autism for years. Although she does not formally state there is a connection between the two, she does believe there is a possible link.

Just an FYI to new moms: Please don’t take acetaminophen while pregnant because it may do more harm than good.

How to Make Puffy Paint

March 17th, 2014

How to Make Puffy PaintIngredients:

Shaving Cream (Any kind, except menthol shaving cream)

Elmer’s School Glue

Paint

Bowl

Spoon

Measuring Cup

Directions:

Pour ½ cup shaving cream into the bowl. Use the spoon to scrape it out of the measuring cup. Mix in ½ cup glue – again using the spoon to scrape out the measuring cup and mix the two ingredients together. Mixture should be mixed together until there is a cool whip consistency.

Add approximately 2 tbsp paint. Use the spoon to stir in the paint. Add more paint to get the color you want.

You can use a paint brush, fingers, spoons, or put the puffy paint in a dispenser.

Mild for Me…Fire For My Hubby: A Taco Bell Sauces Review

February 9th, 2014
BzzAgent provided me with two complimentary bottles of Taco Bell’s bottled sauces. I received Mild and Fire Sauce.
“Gone are the days of stockpiling sauce packets in anticipating of the coming tacopocalypse. Now that your favorite Taco Bell sauces have been bottled, don’t hold back. Sauce liberally, sauce indiscriminately, sauce often – ideally with all of the following:
  • Mild Sauce
  • Hot Sauce
  • Fire Sauce
  • Verde Salsa
“With all four flavors available in 7.5 oz bottles online and in stores, there’s never been a better time to defy sauce conventions.”
Overall, the taco bell sauces are an excellent product. They’re not expensive. (I’ve seen them priced at just over $2) They taste great. (Just like the packets) And, they can be used in more than just tacos – taco salads, burritos, and more. The mild was just right for me, but the fire was entirely too spicy for my tastes. My husband, who may be crazy, loves the fire sauce!
The seasoning is perfection – absolutely delicious. If you eat at Taco Bell, you already know this. If not, you’re in for a treat when you check out this sauce. The texture is smooth, but not too thin of a liquid. It’s just the right consistency for all sorts of recipes, including soups and marinades.

The sauces are really tasty, and there’s a flavor for everyone. I recommend checking out recipes to see how you can use these sauces in more than just south-of-the-border meals. It’s delicious on macaroni and cheese, as well as used in barbecue sauce recipes and more.  

Review: Dr. Scholl’s For Her Cozy Cushion Insoles

December 1st, 2013
Fancy walking on a cloud? I’m keeping warm these days by doing just that. In my Influenster #RoseVoxBox, I received complimentary Dr. Scholl’s for Her Cozy Cushions insoles. My feet have never been happier. These insoles provide support, while keeping your feet dry and toasty. As you can see from the photograph, these insoles are white and fluffy. Believe me. They feel even softer than they look!

Keeps Feet Warm and Dry

Amazingly, Dr. Scholl’s Cozy Cushions provide increased protection from cold weather elements, such as snow and sleet. I wasn’t worried about my feet becoming soaked due to snow or rain because my boots are built tough.
I’m a Western NY girl.
I buy durable boots.
I was more worried about my feet sweating because the insoles made them too warm. This is not a problem! My feet stay dry, both inside and outside. Cozy Cushions provide warmth without overheating. Plus, with the extra padding they provide, I can confidently trudge through the three feet of snow my path is hiding underneath to my car that’s hidden under another six feet of snow.  

Trim to Size for a Comfortable Fit

Cozy Cushions can be trimmed to fit nearly every shoe size. I wear a size 10, but my boots are size 11. I didn’t need to trim them to make them fit. Instead, I was lucky enough that they fit perfectly. Judging by the weight and flexibility of these insoles, I do believe trimming them would be fairly easy.

All Day Comfort and Support

The back of the package reads: “Provides all-day comfort and support good for any season.” I’ll stand by the all-day comfort and support, but I don’t think these insoles are good for any season. They’re too warm and comfy for the summertime. You may be comfortable wearing them on a cool spring evening, but I wouldn’t recommend them for spring days. Overall, they’re definitely comfortable and supportive, but I don’t agree they’re right for the warmer seasons.

 Wear Cozy Cushions in Boots or Shoes

I chose to place my cozy cushions in my favorite boots. Because it’s winter, I’m rarely wearing other shoe styles. There’s simply too much snow on the ground to justify wearing sneakers. Still, those of you living in snow-free states will still enjoy these cozy inserts. They can be placed in any boot or casual shoe, so grab a pair before they sell out.

Overall, these cushions truly are like walking on a fluffy cloud. Grab a pair for yourself and then grab a second pair for a friend’s stocking.  
A pic of everything I received in my #RoseVoxBox

Giveaway: Celebrate 31 Days of Tricks and Treats with TruMoo

October 30th, 2013
Have you entered TruMoo’s Goosebumps Haunted Hollywood Vacation sweepstakes? All month long, TruMoo is is posting giveaways, decorating tricks and spooky recipes on their Facebook page. You can enter to win Halloween-inspired prize packs every Tuesday and Friday. All you have to do is like their Facebook page and respond in the comments section of their posts. You will receive a Goosebumps DVD coupon just for signing up.  
On Halloween, TruMoo has promised a special “bonus” prize pack – so make sure to stop by tomorrow and enter! 
  TruMoo Chocolate Milk and the Limited Edition Vanilla Milk are great treats for your kids, with no unhealthy tricks. It’s just simple, delicious and healthy milk. Thanks to BzzAgent and TruMoo, I received a complimentary coupon for a free half gallon of TruMoo. The kids love it! They can’t get enough and I’m happy to know I’m providing them with something that’s both good for them and super tasty.   

Past Life & Past Life Regression

October 11th, 2013
Have you ever felt the chill of remembering something that you’re sure never happened? This type of Déjà vu is often the glimmer of a past life. Our subconscious holds these memories. Once in a while they can be experienced through no effort of our own. A billowing curtain can cause you to recollect a field of flowers the same color. A field you’ve never physically stood in, at least not in your current body. A past life memory can also challenge you to tackle current problems, like irrational fears, commitment phobias, and even financial debt.
Many people experience these seemingly random recollections, often attributing them to nothing. These memories aren’t false memories to be simply cast off and forgotten. They’re the memories of your past life and you can experience more. If you’ve ever felt the pull of a past life, or simply want to know how your past life is affecting your current one, you’ll want to regress into your past life. You can learn about the person your soul once inhabited.
What is a Past Life?
It’s truly amazing to think about. You lived in the past, in a time before your present consciousness, and these memories exist somewhere in your subconscious. At the time of death, or a period shortly after, the spirit moves on to another body. These past lives can be directly affecting your current life, so learning who they were, what they did, and how they lived is essential to ensuring your current life is full of positivity.
Many religions believe in this philosophy of reincarnation, but not all agree on what it means. Most believe that the spirit never dies with the physical body. Instead, it carries on to a new body where it can experience a new life. Some suggest the spirit lingers for a time to reflect on its past experiences, before leaving this knowledge for the constraints of the human consciousness.
Those who practice Hinduism believe that your reincarnated soul, or Jiva, requires positive Karma in order to move on to a positive incarnation, or rebirth. Much like Hindus, westerners who believe in rebirth believe that your past life could be directly affecting your current life. Dealing with these past life issues may be the key to a more fulfilling, healthier current life.
The experiences of this prior life exist somewhere in your subconscious, but this area of the subconscious is difficult to reach. You may require an expert’s help or a guide to deep meditation. Experiencing or interpreting your past life tends to be quite therapeutic and helpful to your current situation. Oftentimes, past life regression results in a more positive outlook that is free from the burdens your past life was causing you.
What Does my Past Life Mean to My Current Life?
Many believe that the actions of your past life directly affect your current one. In Hinduism, you’re reliving the triumphs and failures of your past life. A past life’s negative Karma could result in a current life filled with trauma, struggle, and punishment. Knowing the details of this past life can help you to better understand what was done and gives you the tools needed to tackle the issue.
Unlocking the Secrets of Your Past Life  
Unlocking the secrets of a past life isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible either. Understanding and patience is essential to the process. You’ll want to relax and allow the memories to move through your subconscious, to a place where you can more easily access them. This often requires the help of a hypnotist, tarot reader, or past life regression therapist.
Although past life regression therapy isn’t the only way to experience your past lives, it is one of the most effective ways to tap into the subconscious. This therapy does not rely on your belief in reincarnation, but rather focuses on experiences and allows the subject to therapeutically reflect on all of life’s experiences.
The therapist begins the session by inquiring about your current life, often asking you to describe a specific sensation or experience. They’ll ask you to describe the memory to them and from there they will gently guide you backward through time. You’ll be asked to transgress through your formative years, to a time before you were born. This is your past life and it may hold the secrets to current burdens. For instance, a past life’s violent death may be causing intense fears in your current life. For this, certified regression therapist, Ann Barham LMFT, suggests past life regression in the form of hypnosis.
Hypnosis is a state of heightened relaxation. During the hypnotic state, a hypnotist will help you to unlock memories. When hypnotized, memories are more easily accessed. The memory is greater improved over times when you’re fully conscious. When hypnosis is approached with an open mind, the person can experience the memories that are causing them pain and even great joy.   
Other experts suggest consulting the tarot, speaking with spiritual leaders, or simply meditating on the subject for a very long time. The tarot won’t lead you visually to the answer, but it can shed light on a past life that’s affecting your current situation. The past life spread is laid out in 14 cards, each one detailing the past life, and the lessons it holds for you. An effective past life spread can be found on Psychic-Revelation.com.  

When it comes to unlocking the secrets of your past life, no method is preferred over another. All that is required is an open mind and a willingness to learn. Some people do express difficulties accessing their past lives, but most are able to regress into these memories and experience these memories in an incredibly therapeutic way.