Saturday, December 3, 2016

Best News EVER!!!

No.  I'm not exaggerating.  This is pretty much the best news ever.  ANDRE HAS A FAMILY!!  And not just any family.  My friend Amanda and her husband are adopting him.  Amanda and I have been friends since 1st grade.  We graduated from high school together and reconnected through facebook.

I had no idea that Amanda and her husband were considering adoption.  I had no idea that she had searched the kids on Reeces Rainbow and felt drawn to Andre.  I wasn't even planning to do the Christmas Campaign this year. I signed up in a moment of exhaustion and maybe incoherence.  And now look!!

Next Christmas, there will be pictures of this little chunk with his family around the Christmas tree. Maybe even a screaming on Santa's lap picture?  Next Christmas there will be presents, and cute outfits, and love, and a family!

Advocacy works. You never know who is looking or thinking or praying.

Here is what Andre's family had to say in the Reece's Rainbow Profile:

The Schaus family is excited to be adopting for the first time. Chris and Amanda have been married for 15 years and have two beautiful biological children – Esme (10) and Gavyn (7). They are both teachers – Chris is a high school English teacher and Amanda is a Chairperson for Special Education. They enjoy spending time with family and friends, taking walks in the neighborhood, and snuggling up with a good book together. Life is full of extra curricular activities, church functions, and sports, but their hearts are not full yet.
For the last year Amanda and Chris have been discussing adoption and Andre’s picture continued to resurface. But on October 23, 2016, a Facebook post by another Reece’s Rainbow adoptive parent, Natalie Tena, who was raising funds for Andre’s Christmas Miracle Maker sealed the deal and they haven’t turned back since.
The Schaus family is excited to welcome Andre into their home and their family and friends could not be more supportive. They are currently looking for prayers and support to make this adoption financially, emotionally, and spiritually successful. Andre is already a member of their family in heart and mind. Please consider partnering with them to bring him to his forever home.

If you'd like to make a tax-deductible donation to Andre's family, you can do so here.  

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Educational Game

I chose to play Community in Crisis.   Community in Crisis is the second game in the Read to Lead series, which addresses engagement, literacy and career-awareness simultaneously.  According to the description, it is designed to 5th grade Common Core State Standards in Reading Informational Text, and is ideal for school-day, after school-, and summer programs.  Community in Crisis gives educators access to 40+ flexible hours of game-based learning and project-based activities. Students play the role of executive director of a community organization.

The simulation takes place in Port Douglas.  Hurricane Dante has recently damaged the town.  The staff of the community center are responsible for assisting community members in their recovery efforts.  

I was given two choices and played the Not It episode.  There are two main issues in this episode that the community center director (player of the game) has to address.  One is that no one wants to clean up the snack room.  The other is that no one wants to work with a client named Herb.  Everyone claims "not it" in both cases.  

There is not a lot of direction when you start the game.  There really isn't any.  I figured it out after a few missed clicks but 5th graders made need some direction in the beginning.  Once you get used to playing the game, it is very easy and students should be able to complete the activities independently. 

Community in Crisis works on a lot of different skills.  Some that I noted were diplomacy, writing, note taking, and problem solving.  Students must complete each task before they are allowed to move to the next item on the to-do list.  

My only complaint about CiC is that you are rarely given choices of what to do or say.  It would be very easy to click repeatedly to get through most of the simulation.  I think it would be better if students were sometimes allowed to pick the less diplomatic or appropriate response to a situation in order to see what the consequences were.  

I did like that the game gave you the option to print at the end so students could turn something in to the teacher to show that they completed the assigned activities. 

I may play a few more episodes to see if this is something I feel my 6th and 7th graders would enjoy and benefit from.  
         There’s a new client at Common Ground and nobody

Monday, November 14, 2016

Adolescent Interview

I interviewed "Freddy."  Freddy is a 13 year old male who is a self-proclaimed phone and phone company expert.  He knows the price of pretty much every phone plan from every company.  He tries to convince me to switch to T-Mobile every time I talk him.  

Freddy believes that he spends 18 hours a day on his phone but said that he turns the sound off at 10:00pm to go to sleep.  He also said that he spends about 10 hours a day making actual phone calls on his phone.  He gets home around 3 and goes to bed at 10 so his numbers are a little off.  He did insist that he talks on the phone from dinner until bedtime.  He informed me that he never ever actually turns his phone off partially because he needs the alarm on it.  

Freddy said that he is on 15 social media sites.  He was able to list 11 that he uses, including some that I've never even heard of.  He believes that social media is good to connect with friends and family that aren't local but it can also be dangerous.  He mentioned kidnapping, pedophiles, pornography, and drug sales as potential dangers.   

Freddy got his first smartphone at 11.  He thinks that kids should have smartphones by the time they turn 12 but they need to be educated to the dangers associated with phones and social media.  He stated that kids need to stop showing off online. I asked him what that meant.  He said that kids think it's cool to post nasty stuff and swear.  I questioned him a bit at this point because I've seen his facebook posts.  He admitted that maybe he needs to take his own advice.  

Freddy seems to respect the rules that his mother has set forth.  He doesn't use his phone at meals and he doesn't send anything questionable by text or social media because his mother would not be happy.  His mother doesn't, however, take his phone away as a punishment.  He said she did that once and he just switched to his ipod, tablet and laptop so it was pointless.  

Freddy wasn't very excited about teachers using social media to communicate with students.  He feels that his phone is separate from school and doesn't want his teacher interfering with that part of his life.  Freddy thinks that if a teacher is going to use social media to communicate with students that interactions should be monitored by a principal to make sure the teachers are not being inappropriate or communicating too often.  When pressed on this issue, he said that lots of people, teachers included, have trouble being appropriate on social media and he would be very concerned about some teachers communicating too often with students or communicating inappropriately.    

I asked Freddy about using technology in the classroom. He said his class has ipads, a smartboard, and one computer.  He is not a fan of the program that the ipads use and is not happy that he can't use it for other purposes.  He also believes that the classroom should have more computers, a smart tv instead of a smartboard, and ipads that have data packages and not so many programs blocked.  I asked what he would like to be able to do with the ipads.  He mentioned school wide games of Kahoot and taking pictures on field trips.

Freddy has a hard time imagining life before smart phones and social media.  He can't even imagine spending one day without his smart phone.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Orphan Sunday

What is Orphan Sunday?
Orphan Sunday is the second Sunday of November.  It's a day that the church is supposed to stand for the orphan and remember that God commanded us to care for those in need.  Now, before you stop reading because I said "the church," please know that I have very mixed feelings about that.  The church clearly is not doing enough to care for orphans and I hate the implication that only Christians care about orphans and foster children.  That certainly is not true.  Plenty of people are involved in orphan care and foster care without believing in God and plenty of Christians are not involved at all.  This blog post is not about Christians or the church.  It's about helping kids in need of families!!!  

What is the Orphan Crisis?
Here are some stats that I took from The Orphan Foundation.  Statistics can be twisted and there is a lot of discussion about how many orphans there really are.  How many of those are true orphans and how many are social orphans?  However, no matter how you look at it, the stats aren't good and the futures of children without families are bleak.
*There are 143,000,000 orphans in the world.
*There are an additional 20,000,000 “displaced children” in the world.
*The combined count of these categories makes the orphan population the 7th largest nation on the planet – slightly larger than the population of Russia.
*In Eastern Europe, less than 50% of the orphan population will live to see their 20th birthdays.
*In Eastern Europe, of the orphans that survive their 20th birthdays, 50% will end up in organized crime, drugs, or prostitution.
*In Africa, homeless children are armed and used for war.
*In Africa, there is a concerted effort to extend children’s lives beyond 5 years of age.
*In the US, 25,000 children will leave the foster care system without families.
*25% of these foster children become homeless.
*56% of these emancipated foster care children enter the unemployment ranks.
*27% of the emancipated male children in foster care end up in jail.
*30% of the emancipated females in foster care experience early parenthood.
*30,000 children in foster care are simply dropped from state care because they have run away.
*In the US, most young adults ages 18 – 24 still live at home with their parents, while approximately 25,000 children are annually released at age 18 from the foster care system without families to support them.”

Can we agree that there is a crisis both domestically and internationally?  If you still need some visual proof, check out my friend's facebook page.  She just brought home a 10 pound, 7 year old!  10 pounds!!  At 7!!!  We have a problem!

I'm just not in a position to adopt or foster.  What can I do to help?
Help foster children/families:
*Call your local agency and ask what you can do to help.  They may need someone to help with paperwork.  (Most caseworkers are overworked and underpaid.  They'd probably love to have someone help them out with office tasks.)  They may need Christmas gifts or clothes.  They might need someone to go into a group home and give the kids good hair cuts.  You'll never know what they need if you don't ask.
*Check in with a foster family if you know one.  See what you can do to help them out.  Offer to bring them dinner when a new child moves in.  Offer to take their other kids out for a day/evening so they can spend some time with the new child.  Offer to collect clothes or supplies for their new child.
 *Offer to teach an older foster child a skill or trade.  The fate of foster children who age out of the system are not good.  Give them a leg up and maybe a job!
*Donate.  The Dave Thomas Foundation is probably the most well know organization that helps foster children become part of a permanent family.  Together We Rise provides duffle bags to children in foster care so they don't have to move their meager possessions in garbage bags.  I'm sure there are many others as well.

Help orphanages:  (Most of my examples come from Foundation For His Ministry in Mexico since I used to work for them and know that they are reputable.  I'm sure you can google and find similar programs in orphanages all over the world.)
*Helping orphanages can be tricky.  There are lots of mixed feelings about the benefits/harm that comes from outsiders visiting orphanages.  While we all want to help and "love on" children, that may not be the best way to help.  (That's another whole post for another day.)  If you do decide to visit an orphanage, please make sure you do so with a reputable organization that works in the area and knows the culture.  There are also lots of opportunities to use the skills you possess to support those who are permanently working in an orphanage.  Teams of skilled laborers, medical professionals and other skills are often accepted for specific projects.
*You can also help orphanages financially.
     *Sponsor a child.
     *Sponsor a permanent staff member.
     *Support a specific project.
     *Consider finding an Alternative Giving program that allows you to make donations to       charities instead of purchasing Christmas presents.
     *Consider having a contest at your child's school, children's church program, or club            to raise funds for an orphanage.

Help orphans:
*Through Reece's Rainbow, it's possible to help specific orphans.  RR raises grants for waiting children who are seeking their families.  The cost of adoption is huge.  Sometimes, knowing that some of the money has already been raised will help a family step forward and take the leap of faith to adopt.  Right now I'm working to raise Andre's adoption grant to lighten the financial burden for his future family. Some adoption agencies have similar programs.

Help adopting families:
*Adoption is incredibly expensive.  You can make tax-deductible donations to individual adopting families through Reece's Rainbow, AdoptTogether and several other organizations.There are also a lot of adoption fundraisers on sites like GoFundMe but those families aren't verified and donations aren't tax deductible.
*Support family fund raisers.  If you can't afford to support them, share them.  You never know who might be looking to buy some hand knit scarves or Avon.
*If you want to make sure that your money is going to carefully vetted families, donate to a reputable grant organization like Show Hope.
*Call an adopting family and check in.  The process is hard and exhausting and sometimes isolating.  Call and let them know you were thinking about them and their child.

Help prevent children from becoming social orphans:  (Social orphans are those that have one or more living parents who are not involved in their care.  Usually this is due to extreme poverty, disability or addiction.)  Adoption is a plan B for children.  It is born of loss and should be a last resort.  Above all, we should be working to keep children with their biological families and their culture if at all possible.  Here are some organizations that are working to do that.  I'm sure there are many more.
Eternal Anchor - Working in Baja California Mexico.  They have established a day care/school for children with disabilities.  This gives their families training and allows the children to continue to live with their biological families instead of being placed in a children's home or orphanage.
Mission to Ukraine - Working in Ukraine.  They work with families of children with disabilities.  They provide training and education to help families raise their children with disabilities.  They also provide summer camp experiences to kids.
Compassion International - Compassion works all over the world.  They work through a sponsorship model but it's so much more.  They work with the entire family and community to affect long term change.  Their goal is to develop leaders in their own community and culture,

What can you do to help?  Everyone should consider opening their home to a child in need.  If you can't open your home, at least consider opening your heart and helping somehow.  This problem isn't going away.  It's in our backyards and it's around the world.  What will you do to help?

If you are interested in adoption, foster care, or Safe Families, please let me know and I will hook you up with resources, families, and agencies.  I love to talk about adoption.  Encouraging and helping families in their journey is one of my favorite things to do.  

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Video Games in Education - Annotated Bibliography

I teach middle school boys.  They often come to school exhausted.  They've either stayed up all night playing a game or gotten up early to do it.  Students who don't talk to each other in class will play video games and chat at night.  They count down the days until a new game comes out.  The newest game system is at the top of all of their Christmas lists.  If they don't get it at Christmas, they hope that they will get it with mom's tax return.  They live and breathe for these games.  Nothing at school means nearly as much to them as those games.  

I wanted to look further into the idea of using video games in the classroom to see if there was some way I could harness that interest and obsession to help them learn in the school setting.  Right now, we use video games as a reward for good behavior and completed work.  Is there a way to use it for more than that?  Can they be used in an actual productive manner?  

Annotated Bibliography

Annetta, L. A.  Video games in education:  Why they should be used and how they are being 

         used.  (2008).  Theory Into Practice, 47, 229-239.  Retrieved from   

         This article explores why video games should be used in the classroom setting for all ages.  It 

         gives a solid rationale for it as well as telling about educators who have successful integrated 

         video games across all grade levels.  This article provides a logical assessment of the necessity 

         of video games in education.  

Annetta, L. Murray, M. R., Laird, S. G., Bohr, S. C., & Park, J. C.  Serious games;  Incorporating 

         video games in the classroom.  (2006).  Educause Review,  Retrieved from 


          This article reports on a class taken by graduate students that incorporated avatars and role-

          playing.  They took this class in an attempt to understand how to engage the Net Generation in 

          the classroom setting.  This article is helpful because it gives a real life example of using second 

          life games for educational purposes in an academic setting.  

Gee, J. P.  What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy.  (2003).  ACM Computers 

          in Entertainment, 1, 20.  Retrieved from
         This article focuses on how video games are created and the educational value that video  

         games inherently possess.  The article argues that good video games must be able to be 

         learned while also being long and challenging.  This article helps prove that today's students can 

         focus on tasks that are difficult for a long period of time if they are motivated to do so.  

Kirriemuir, J.  Use of computer and video games in the classroom.  Retrieved from  

         This paper reports on how and why teachers are using computer and video games for learning 

         in their classrooms.  It also examines the reasons why teachers may not use computer and video 

         games  and the roadblocks they have encountered when trying to do so.  This paper is a good 

         source for both successes and obstacles in implementing video games in the classroom setting.  

Lee, J., Luchini, K., Michael, B., Norris, C., & Soloway, E.  (2004).  More than just fun and games: 

         Assessing the value of educational video games in the classroom.  CHI 2004, 1375-1378.   

         Retrieved from


Squire, K.  Changing the game:  What happens when video games enter the classroom.  (2005). 

           Innovate Journal of Online Education, 1.  Retrieved from 


          This paper details the use of Civilization III in a high school classroom.  It studies both students 

          who were successful using it as a learning experience and those that were not.  The author 

          investigates why some classroom structures do not lend themselves to video game usage  It's a 

          helpful article because it shows the positives and negatives of using video games in the 

         classroom based on a real experience.  

Squire, K.  Video games in education.  Retrieved from 

          This paper explores the history of video games in education.  It stresses the potential cognitive 

          benefits of game playing in the classroom setting.   It's a helpful paper because it explores the 

          history, present, and future of video games in educational settings.  

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Miracle of Adoption Christmas Campaign For Andre

I always say that I'm not going to do Reece's Rainbow's Christmas campaign but then I can't help myself. Kids need families. If a big grant is what gets them one, then I'll keep advocating and fund raising.
This little hunk is not even 2 yet. I refuse to watch him grow up in pictures---unless it's pictures taken by his new family. Kids shouldn't grow up in orphanages. They need love and families and security. I often wonder how Sara's progress would different be if she had been adopted sooner. You rarely see kids this young in his country! He needs a family now!! The early years are so crucial.
More than a big grant, this little guy needs some early intervention and love! Would you consider being his family? Watch for fund raisers for the next few months. I'm committed to raising his grant but more committed to finding him a family!
For more of his story, check out his RR profile:
You can follow all the fundraisers and updates on this facebook page.

*Coffee and Travel mugs to support your favorite professional and college sports teams. This runs through December 14th.
*To make a purchase to benefit his adoption fund, you can order avon here:
*You can also purchase hand made knit items including scarves, ruffle skirts, stockings, dish clothes, hair pompoms, and tons of other things. Check out the photo albums on my knitting page to see what is available.
*Use my Amazon link. A percentage of each purchase will go to his fund.

*Auction for Andre is happening December 4th-13th. Check it out here.

*You can get a Christmas ornament with Andre's adorable picture by making a $35 or more donation to his adoption grant.
Past Fund Raisers:
*Pampered Chef Party. Through October 31st.

*Shop the Virtual Craft Fair. The facebook group is here. The list of vendors is here. This runs from November 1-15th.
*LuLaRoe Pop-Up. November 12-13. If you haven't experienced LuLaRoe's clothes yet, you need to! So very comfortable and versatile! Feel free to join the group at any time but only purchases made during the November 12-13 sale will count towards Andre.
To inquire about adopting him or the process for his country, send me a message!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Miracle of Adoption Christmas Campaign Virtual Craft/Vendor Fair Participants

November 1-15, 2016

Shop from any of the vendors/crafters listed below.  All proceeds will go to a child waiting to find their forever family.

Join our facebook group for up to the minute information, sales and deals, featured items and to ask questions.

Share the blog post and facebook group frequently.

Check out the Miracle of Adoption Christmas Campaign  to see all the kids involved or to make donations directly to their adoption grants.

A Christmas Jubilee
Facebook page 
Benefits Jubilee
I will be adding crafts that I have made personally, but I am starting by offering handmade ornaments made from steel drums and bracelets with beads made from paper both created in Haiti

Angel Crafts Shop
Facebook page
Benefits Andersen 
Angel Crafts Shop started out as a project for a Sunday School class to help a couple of special needs orphans. After that one project, Ifelt the need to do more. I decided to combine my love for crafting and my love for these kiddos. So this store was born. 50% of the sale price of every item goes back to the orphans. 50% goes to keeping the store running. Products: Handmade Hair Accessories, Decorative Items and Wall Art

Avon for Adoptions 
Facebook page
Benefits Andre
More than just makeup.  Avon also includes body care, home items, fashion, and children's products.  

Chole+Isabel by Markie
Facebook page
Benefits Andre
There will be a special link created just for the craft fair shoppers!
Beautiful high quality jewelry with a lifetime guarantee. Created to empower women everywhere.

The Gourmet Cupboard
Benefits Christian
Affordable gourmet handmade mixes: soups, meals, side dishes, and more!

Hope in Sight Pampered Chef
Benefits Todd
Put Todd's 1st Party in notes
I do pampered chef kitchen items.

IncredAble Things
Benefits Leigha
Learning toys, sensory items, crafts, games and more!

Kid Wrangler T-Shirts
Benefits Walter

LuLaRoe with Mandy Rhodes
Benefits Andre
November 12-13 only.  

Miracle for Malcolm
Facebook page
Benefits Malcolm
I am selling customized Christmas Ornaments. I have a variety of colors and can do any country or state!

Benefits Andre
Norwex helps you turn your home into a safe haven. Together, we can improve our quality of life for generations to come!

Origami Owl
Benefits Andre
Origami Owl allows you to create unique, personalized gifts for yourself or for your loved ones. What I love most is that so much of our jewelry is interchangeable! You can change it out by season, holiday, occasion or just your mood! Discover the endless possibilities of Origami Owl!

Benefits Walter

Pocket Gypsy Designs
Facebook page
Benefits Kate 
Pocket Gypsy Designs sells reasonably priced hair accessories, jewelry and more.  Custom orders always welcome.  

Savannah Grace Shop 
Facebook page
Benefits Andre
Please put craft fair on the line that says family fundraising name.
I sell products to inspire, unify, and encourage people.

Scarves and Skirts for Sara
Facebook page
Benefits Andre
Handknit items including scarves, ruffle skirts, Christmas stocking, hair pompoms and many other items.  Buy It Now and Custom Order items available.  

Facebook Page
Benefits Andre
Wickless, Flameless, Chose your warmer, Cleaners, and more!!

Spirit Cups 
Benefits Andre
Coffee and Travel mugs for your favorite professional and college sports teams.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Journal Entry 3

I was most intrigued by the concept of blogging in the classroom.  Blogging is something I've done for a while.  I used to blog about my travels and adventures.  Then I blogged a lot about my adoption process.  I still occasionally use my blog to express opinions and give updates on our life.  Blogging is really easy and blogger is pretty self explanatory.  I hadn't, however, considered blogging with my students.  

Since starting the class I've been intrigued with the idea of using media and technology to increase my students' interest in literacy activities.  My students can definitely be described as reluctant readers and writers.  Writing is especially a struggle for them.  And why wouldn't it be?  They write a piece, hand it in to me, I read it, grade it and put it in a folder.  Why would they pour their hearts and souls or even minimal effort into that?  What's the purpose?  Where's the motivation?  

As I read about A'idah (Vasudevan, DeJaynes, Schmier, 2010, pp. 29-30) I had visions of my kids blogging about things they are actually interested in.  If the goal is to learn to write a topic sentence and supporting details, why can't they write about a movie they saw or their favorite rapper instead of a "boring" topic from a book?  Maybe if their writing was out there for their parents, teachers, administrators, and the public to see, they would be more motivated and more interested in producing quality work.  

Students can learn a lot of techniques from blogging.  Many of my students are proficient texters.  They rely heavily on their phones to correct spelling and capitalization.  While they can text, they struggle to type on a keyboard.  With today's technology, almost all jobs require at least basic keyboard and computer skills.  If they gain enough skills, they can also learn HTML, photo embedding and editing, video embedding, music uploading, linking and all kinds of other skills (Vasudevan, et al., 2010, pp. 29-30).  If they don't advance that far, they can still learn to express opinions and write well.  

I was so impressed with the idea that I've started a classroom blog.  We have a long way to go until the students gain the skills they need to blog really well but they are excited to take their turns writing on the blog and to have their pieces heard and appreciated. 

Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2013). A new literacies reader. New York: Peter Lang.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Journal Entry 2

What counts as literacy?  How does literacy change in response to the new media landscape?  What value should we ascribe to the new forms of communication that continue to emerge and evolve online?

For years I taught students with severe and profound disabilities. That experience taught me to see literacy as processing print in any form.  The vast majority of the students that I taught during that 14 year period could not read passed a first grade level.  For them, literacy meant reading a "Danger" sign or reading a package label to find their favorite kind of chips.  Now that I work with middle school students in an alternative school setting, I still tend to use that definition to define literacy.  Most of my students are considered to be "reluctant readers."  Only one of them ever chooses to read for fun.  So, I've learned to choose literacy activities that focus on what they enjoy and what they like to do.  We've read some of James Pattersons' Middle School series because the chapters are short, many pages contain drawings, and the print is large.  We read Tim Green's Unstoppable because many of them are they are interested in sports.  We read the Outsiders and watched chunks of the movie as we went to increase their comprehension and keep their interest in the book.  They have used the internet to research their favorite celebrity and write a biography.  You have to reach kids where they are.  If I start presenting Shakespeare or asking them to write biographies of a historical figure that they don't care about, I will lose them and they won't be participating in literacy activities at all.  

Literacy absolutely is changing in light of the new media landscape.  My senior year in high school, we had to write a thesis.  We spent months researching.  Hours upon hours were spent in the library looking through microfilm and hard-bound journals trying to find the information we needed.  Now, students can research a paper with some help from google.  Instead of teaching kids how to use the microfiche, we need to spend time teaching them how to find a reliable source on the internet.  It would be crazy to make them go back to using the methods that we used to research a paper.  Instead, we need to figure out and teach the skills that they need to know to properly use today's changing media.  

I think we have to value new forms of communication or we will lose our students.  When I started teaching, we copied notes and flyers and put them in students' and colleagues' mailboxes to communicate.  Now, we get countless emails a day to inform us of information.  Parents can use the parent portal and check in on their students progress.  Teachers use apps like Dojo to send daily progress notes and reminders to parents.  Why would we not allow our students to also use emerging technology and media?  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Journal Entry 1

"The distinctive contribution of the approach to literacy as social practice lies in the ways in which it involves careful and sensitive attention to what people do with texts, how they make sense of them and use them to further their own purposes in their own learning lives" (Gillen and Barton, 2010, p. 9)

The most important part of any literacy program is how the students internalize and use what they are learning.  Technology, social media, and the internet are a huge part of my students' lives.  At times, it can be a huge distraction.  I'm excited to learn ways to make it more productive for them, especially as it relates to literacy.  

As Wilber (2010) points out, new literacies are more interactive than traditional literacies.  If you write a paper and turn it in, you read it and the teacher reads it.  That's usually it.  If you write something on a blog, your classmates can read it.  Your family can read it.  Strangers can read it.  Anyone can have an opinion on what you write.  This could be both beneficial and detrimental.  I think my students might put more thought and effort into their writing if they knew that it would be read by a wider audience.  They might also learn the value and importance of the written word.  On the other hand, I think it would be hard for some of them to have their writing and ideas criticized, especially by someone they don't know.  

I have not used blogging in my teaching practices.  I think about it often but worry about what my students would post and how I would "police" that.  I have used it extensively in my personal life and have found it very helpful in connecting with others who are walking through a similar life journey.  Both Wilber (2010) and Huffaker (2005) pointed out that blogging can connect our students to peer-groups in the virtual world.  This could be especially helpful for some of my students who are not really connected with the other students in our very small classroom.  

I think one of the biggest things that we have to be careful of is intentionality.  Introducing new technologies is not the same as using new literacies.  Teachers must be very careful to use the new technologies in collaboration with data-driven pedagogies to promote literacy among students and not just increase technology time.  As Gillen and Barton point out, schooling and training in technology are often steps behind the emerging technology because creating programs and curricula takes time.  I think this is yet another reason to choose technologies and programs carefully.  If schools are going to invest in technology, it needs to be something that will be useful and relevant for a significant amount of time.  

I am looking forward to learning new ways to incorporate new media and new literacies into my classroom to help my students better connect with and understand texts.  

This post was written in response to the following articles:  

Gillen, J & Barton, D.  Digital literacies: A research briefing by the technology enhanced learning phase of the teaching and learning research programme.  1-30.  

Huffaker, D.  (2005).  The education blogger:  Using weblogs to promote literacy in the classroom.  AACE Journal, 13(2), 91-98.

Wilber, D.J. (2010).  Special themed issue:  Beyond 'new' literacies.  Digital Culture & Education, 2:1, 1-6.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Grad School.....Again.....

My advice to young teachers out there---go get your masters degree now!!  While you don't have a house or kids or a spouse.  Do it now.  Please.

I started several times but had two major problems.  1.  I never really found a program that interested me and that taught me more about the kids that I worked with at Elim.  2.  Life kept getting in my way.  I got halfway through a program and then decided to move to Mexico.  I started another program and then Sara came along.  I thought about going back but then we were moving.

Well, New York requires a masters so I'm starting mine online.  This could be very interesting.  One of the classes requires some blog posts.  I decided just to add a page to this blog so you may see some very interesting (or extremely boring) posts for the next few months.  Hang in there with me, I'll be back to advocating (or adopting??) in no time....

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Have a Child with Down Syndrome, Will Travel

Last week, I took the munchkin to Mexico.  It wasn't her first trip there.  I've had a few comments since then that range from "Wow!  You're brave!" to "I could never do that with my kid" to "You must be crazy!"  Let me address those.  I am definitely a little crazy and maybe brave.  And, in my opinion, you can do that with your kid and you should!  (I obviously don't know every single family dynamic or child but I think the vast majority of kids (special needs or not) should be traveling or at least getting out of their comfort zone.)  

In Sara's first 18 months home, she had been in 18 states. She's added at least two new ones since then.  I don't say that to brag.  I say that because traveling is obviously something I enjoy.  I was worried that she would change that but she really hasn't.  She loves to fly and is a road trip warrior.  Obviously that makes it easier to travel with her.  She's seen both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  She's been in more airports than I can count.  She's been to Mexico 3 times.  If I want to go, we go.

Now, is traveling with her easy?  No.  Does she always enjoy it?  No.  She's not a big fan of Mexico.  It triggers things in her that are hard for her to deal with.  But she's getting better!!!  It took her until Wednesday this time to start asking when she'd go home.  Do the positives outweigh the negatives?  Absolutely.  

1.   She gets out of her comfort zone.  Sara is perfectly happy to stay home, eat goldfish crackers, and watch her ipad.  Forever.  While this is fine on an occasional Saturday, she needs to experience more in life.

2.  If I don't get her used to traveling now, I'll never be able to travel again.  I'm a single mom.  It's just the two of us.  If I ever want to travel again, I need to train my travel partner when she's young.  Not when she's 18 or 28 and "mature enough to handle it."  By then, she'll be permanently planted in front of Disney Junior and I'll never get her out of the house.

3.  She's learning that mommy is a constant no matter where she goes.  When a child has moved around a lot, they need to learn that home is the person and not the place.  She needs to be attached to me and not her things or her space.  Mommy travels with you and always stays with you.

4.  Life experiences.  Kids (and adults) can learn more from life experiences than they ever can in a classroom or from a book (so says this teacher)!  Give your kids life experiences---even if they may be a little uncomfortable at first.

5.  Especially in international travel, you have the chance for others to see that having a disability is ok and that a child with Down syndrome can be part of a family.  It seems to so simple to us but it's not in so many parts of the world.  We encountered kids who were both kind and cruel to Sara.  It's hard to watch but it's educating people who just don't see kids with special needs around them.

1.  Sara tends to wet her pants when she gets overwhelmed and frustrated.  It's not the worst behavior ever but it takes some extra planning on my part.  I have to have lots of extra clothes on me at all times.  And I end up with a suitcase full of nasty dirty clothes.  But it is what it is.  She does it at home sometimes as well.

2.  It's exhausting.  Three days later and I'm still exhausted.  I got up, put Sara on the bus and went back to bed for two hours.  Managing all of her needs while adjusting to time changes and just being on the go for a week is tiring.  There's no way around it.

3.  It can be hard to keep up the pace of the rest of the group.  You may have to miss out on certain activities because it's just too much.  It's ok to take an afternoon and nap or swim or chill in your hotel room.  Just make sure you aren't doing that the whole time!

4.  Your child may not be welcomed or accepted every where you go.  It's hard to experience but it's true, especially if you travel internationally.  People may point or stare or ask awkward questions.  Try your best not to take it personally or to go on the offensive.  Lots of people just don't know any better.  (It hurts.  It just does.  Try to wait until after your child is in bed for the night to cry about it.)  Just to be clear, the number of kind, welcoming, accepting people has far outweighed the ignorant, unkind ones in our travels.  But those negative interactions tend to stick in my head.    


1.  Travel with people who know and love your child.  I fly alone with Sara but we are always meeting people on the other end that love and adore her (and me).  I'm sure that there are people who take trips with their child alone.  I'm just not one of them.  Having support of friends and family that love us is invaluable to me.  It keeps me sane when things get tough.  It's nice to know that at least one person will hang back with you when you fall behind the group or wait for you while she goes to the bathroom for the millionth time or bring you breakfast in the airport when you haven't slept all night.

2.  Know that it will be hard.  Vacations are no longer relaxing for me.  I used to listen to music and read on the plane.  And on the beach.  Now I'm making sure she has everything she needs and giving her my phone to keep her happy.  I'm squishing into little plane bathrooms (because she loves them) and swimming in the ocean.  It's not about me.  It's about her having experiences and being happy.  I know that going in.

3.  Plan things that are both in and out of your child's comfort zone.  I'm all for Sara experiencing new things but I also know she needs some time in her comfort zone.  For example, instead of tacos every night, I made sure we went to a restaurant where she could get a hot dog.  She needs some familiar in her unfamiliar.  (Don't we all?)

4.  Start when they are little.  Start when they are smaller and portable.  Get them used to traveling early.  It will only get harder as they are older.

5.  Be prepared for the negative behavior.  Expect it.  We were gone for 8 days.  I took 12 pairs of shorts and underwear for her.  (It was still not enough. Ugh.)  I knew she would have at least one major meltdown.  I usually still take her stroller and her noise cancelling headphones.  I fly with a HUGE backpack of everything she could possibly need.  I try to be prepared for every possibility.  (I was not prepared for the headphones to break on the first day.)  

6.  Schedule some down time when you get home.  When it was just me, I used to fly on a Sunday night and work on Monday morning.  (Or sometimes fly on Monday morning and go straight to work.)  I don't do that anymore.  I know that we will both need some recovery time after a trip.  Some down time in our comfort zones.

I don't have all the answers and I don't get everything right.  I just believe that if you ever want to be able to travel with your child, you should start young.  Go to the places you want them to experience.  And then buckle up because it will be a bumpy ride but so worth it!

This group was so helpful to me last week.  
If you want to see more about our trip, you can check out our Facebook page.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Sometimes Stressed, Always Blessed #MomLife - Guest Post

Here is a guest blogger post that I wrote for I Am Savannah Grace.  Make sure you check out her shop and her facebook page.  I promise you'll be inspired.  

When my sweet friend asked if I would guest post for her about the topic of Sometimes Stressed, Always Blessed #MomLife, I had to laugh.  It was the first day of spring break for my daughter and I.  (Gotta love teacher life!)  We were supposed to be traveling to visit a dear friend but I had strep and my daughter had a sinus infection.  Rather than share our germs, I cancelled our much-needed trip and decided to stay-cation for spring break.  I was definitely feeling Sometimes Stressed in that moment.

Four years ago, I was a single, 30-something teacher with a great life.  I owned a home.  I had lots of vacations. (Yay for summers off!)   And, best of all, I had enough disposable income to do some fun things with those vacations.  My life was mine.  If I wanted to go out to dinner, I did.  If I wanted to go to the movies, I called a friend and went.  If I wanted to go halfway across the country to visit a friend, I picked a date and went.  I was Sometimes Stressed with work but my life was good.

Except I was missing one thing.  I really wanted to be living the #MomLife  With no marriage prospects in sight and a passion for the plight of orphans, I decided to adopt.  Once I made thAT decision, I jumped right in.  I started the process and my beautiful little girl came home a year later.  Bam.  #MomLife  And not just #MomLife.  Single #MomLife.  Special Needs #MomLife.  (I don't do anything halfway!)

So, now here I am, three years later.  I have no disposable income.  I plan doctor appointments for my school breaks.  Going out to eat can happen if it's Kids Eat Free Night.  Going to the movies?  Unless it's animated, I haven't seen it.  Getting a sitter; finding a friend; staying awake for a movie.  It's just all too much work.  And I wouldn't change it for the world.

This little girl with an extra chromosome has taught me more about love and patience and persistence and laughter than I would ever have learned on my own.  I'm exhausted all of the time.  I seem to be sick more often than not.  I am currently watching an episode of Barbie's Dreamhouse.  (Yes.  It's a thing.)  Going to the grocery store takes twice as long.  But I am Always Blessed.  I am still in awe that this beautiful creature lives in my home and calls me mom.  How crazy is that?

Yes.  I am Sometimes Stressed.  Always Blessed.  It's #MomLife.  And it's AMAZING!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Missions Trip

In 2003, I went on my first missions trip with Park Community Church.  My sister had been many times and I was so excited to finally get to go.  (I mean...speaking Spanish, working with kids, Latin America.  Some of my favorite things!)  It was my first taste of the Mission at Foundation for His Ministry in Vicente Guerrero, Baja California, Mexico.  I was hooked.  I went back in 2004 with another team.

In 2005, I went for the summer.  I was now addicted.  I went every single break I had from school and spent the summers of 2006 and 2007 down there as well.  In 2008, I quit my job and moved down there to work in the Day Home with children with special needs.  I thought I'd be there forever but God had other plans.  (Namely, a little girl in Colombia.)  I came home in April 2009 and picked up my life where I had left off.

I didn't visit the mission again for quite some time.  I had some healing to do.  I've since been for a few days at a time but I haven't been back for a full week since 2009 and I haven't been as part of a team since 2004.  Until now.  From August 7-13, 2016, I will be leading a group from North Darien Bible Church to my favorite place on earth.  I can't wait to share this experience with some great people from a new chapter of my life.

Right now, we have a committed team of 5 (including Sara, my mother, and I) with quite a few possible team members.  I can't wait to see who ends up in the final group!

It seems a little odd to me to be fund raising for a trip I've made before but things are a little different (and a little more expensive) with a group.  (Although this is very reasonable compared to a lot of other trips.)   I'll also have the added responsibility of leading the group!  (I've lead senior trips to places like St Louis but I've never led a group on a missions trip.)

I'm waiting to hear if the team can accept tax-deductible donations through the church.  (We aren't an official church sponsored trip at this point.)  Until then, I have set up a youcaring link to accept donations for the trip if you feel led.  All donations are very appreciated.

I have a blog post with current fund raisers.  I'll update it up until the trip.  Please check it out!  

More than anything, I ask for your prayers.  I've never led a missions trip before.  This is all new to me.  It's definitely different than planning a vacation or leading a school trip.  Pray for the right people to join the team.  Pray for safety.  Pray for the team members hearts as well as the people we minister to.  Pray for the staff at the mission.

Want to see a little more of what we'll be doing?  Check out this video!  (It was made when I was living there!)  

Missions Trip Fund Raisers

Current Fund Raisers:

You Caring Link

Avon Link - 20% of each purchase will go to the missions trip.  Please follow my facebook page for sales and special codes.

Amazon Link - a percentage of each purchase  made through this link will go to the missions trip.  (The percentage varies.)  

Scarves and Skirts for Sara - Hand knit items.  50%  of each purchase goes to the missions trip.  Custom orders accepted!

Baja T-Shirts - Each shirt is $20 including shipping.  Shirts can be ordered on this form.

Future Fund Raisers:
Online Auction