Maximize Your Trick-or-Treater’s Halloween

I don’t get why we still hand out candy during Halloween. Candy isn’t exactly a ‘special treat’ any more, we have it so much that many parents don’t even let their kids have their Halloween candy, they have their kids trade it in for a toy. Even worse,  Halloween Bleed has started to occur: the two weeks preceeding Halloween are now filled with everyone, every where handing out candy. By the time the holiday actually rolls around, everyone but the kids is sick to death of candy. So why do it? Walking around for an hour or two on Halloween just for a bag of candy is hardly the most efficient way of doing things.

Instead, you should consider handing out money, maybe a quarter or a half dollar piece. If you’re rich you could do dollar bills. If the kids go to 10 houses, they would have $2.50, which is enough money to buy one bag of clearance Halloween Kit Kats (trust me, I have thoroughly researched this topic). Or if you don’t want your kid to have candy, they can buy something else instead: put it towards a toy, or buy a really cheap toy.

I guess the candy still has value for the kids; I’m pretty sure mine wouldn’t be as excited over a bag full of quarters than a  bag full of tootsie rolls, however awful tootsie rolls may be. But it’s definitely a more rational way of going about things. Even if just half of the people out there handed out money instead of candy, Halloween would be that much more optimized and parents wouldn’t have to buy as much candy from their kids.

Or they could just not give their kids candy every day of the week and save it for special occasions. When I was last in Finland, my mother-in-law told me that in Finland they also call Saturday “Sweets Day”(karkipäivä, according to my husband the day women get new underwear is also called this. He has no idea why.) because traditionally that’s the day of the week kids would get candy. And by candy, I mean a piece of candy. Did we have something similar in the US? I told her that in the US, every day is candy day. “But that’s not healthy!” she protested. No, it’s not.

So give out money instead, okay?


How is the speech therapy going?

In short, it’s not. Two weeks before we were scheduled to leave and visit family, our speech therapist informed us that she was leaving for a new position and would only be there for two more weeks.

Remember back when we were about to start speech therapist and the old speech therapist advised us to wait a month so that Alpha could start with the new speech therapist and not have to switch therapists after only a month? Yeah, so do I. Yet here are. Switching speech therapists after only a month.

Until we find a new speech therapist, I’ve been continuing with daily 15 minute practices at home and I believe we have made some practice. His n’s and t’s have improved to such a degree that we’ve progressed all the way through reading the stories and dropped practicing these sounds all together. Currently we’re working on L’s and D’s. His main problem with these sounds is pronouncing them properly at the end of the word. However, according to the sound development chart, final l’s are generally only pronounced properly when a child is 5 years old. Since Alpha is just now 5, he’s only slightly behind with that. I think his final d’s are suffering from German bleed because he always pronounces them as t’s, which is something Germans generally do. Making this problem even worse is the fact that many English words are the same as the German one and merely replace the final t with a d. So when Alpha says “bed” it comes out “Bett,” which is correct in German, but wrong in English. As a result, we read through the final-d work sheet going “Breaduh”, “beduh”, “colduh” in order to emphasize the softer d sound.

The only problem with my practices is that I may not be as picky as an actual trained speech pathologist who can really see if he is putting his tongue in exactly the right spot. I basically decide he’s making a sound that is ‘close enough’ to where it should be. Without a trained professional to aide us, this is going to have to be good enough.

I had a clever brainstorm and decided to combine speech practice with learning our letters. When we learn to make a sound, we form the letter that makes that sound out of clay and I ask him what sound that letter makes and he tells me. As a result, I’ve decided to just start going through the entire articulation development chart, starting at the beginning, in order to practice all the letters/sounds, even if he can already make the sound. Hopefully this will also help him develop phonological awareness.

One thing I can’t wait to start working with him on are his blends. I tried googling ways to teach kids how to make blends and just got a bunch of stuff on how to teach them how to read blends. Annoying. At any rate, we can’t start blends until he pronounces each individual letter properly. Then we do the whole sesame street thing and push the two letters together, faster and faster until they’re ‘blended.’ This is what they say to do to teach it reading it, so I’m hoping teaching kids to pronounce blends works the same way.


Teaching Kids to Write

I recently met up with two of my friends from high school and we started discussing how much we benefited from the education we got in the IB Program, especially the writing skills. All of us, at one point or another in our careers have realized that we have the ability to write and structure essays that most of our peers simply lack. For me, team projects in college consisted of everyone doing their parts and then me taking them and massively editing them so that they sounded good and used proper grammar. My first friend ended up taking a college English course, where she found out that the way she learned to write in high school was too complicated and she needed to dumb it down a bit. My second friend is currently getting her Masters degree and ended up writing a ten page paper at the last minute the same week her mother died and her teacher praised her writing, saying it was uncommonly good.

This discussion made me think about teaching writing in homeschooling and the many arguments I’ve read about how you don’t need to teach your kids how to write, period, because the kind of writing you need in the workplace is completely different from the kind of writing you’re taught at school. I think that line of thinking is missing the point. The point is not that you don’t need to teach your kids how to write, it’s that you need to teach them how to write properly, or at least to develop their writing skills so they can express themselves fluently on paper.

This reminds me of all the arguments I’ve read about homeschooling vs. unschooling. Unschoolers argue that kids are natural learners and do not need formal instruction because they will naturally pick up things that they want to learn and learn it. They will naturally specialize. The problem I see with this argument is that this seems to say that some people are just naturally good writers while others are naturally bad and there’s not much you can do about it, but i know for a fact this isn’t true. Both of my friends were told by the IB Administrator in their interview that he was concerned about their writing and they were going to have to work hard to improve on it if they got into IB and both of them did. The first friend I mentioned went from getting Ds on her first IB essays to getting As in her Senior year. The second friend was in IB gifted English in spite of any writing weaknesses she or anyone else may see in her whereas I was not. They’re both very good writers because of the instruction they received and both of them are extremely grateful for it (although they may have been less grateful at the time).

And isn’t that the point of learning? To get better at things we suck at? My son sucks at talking although his brain works fine, so we spend 15 minutes every day practicing his speech. He may never grow up to be a great orator, but that’s no reason not to make sure he can speak as well as possible. Alpha seems to be chugging along well enough in  math, though, so I could theoretically not teach him in anything in that subject. If left alone, maybe he would come up with the Pythagorean Theorem eventually, but he’d probably get their a lot quicker if I just told him about it. Because the point of teaching is to show us what other people have discovered, what they’ve done and what best practices we can use to get there ourselves. Maybe this is why American schools are so bad. I tried helping my 11 year-old nephew with his math homework and he kept protesting that yes, he could solve the problems the way I showed him, but that wasn’t how his teacher wanted him to do it and so he wouldn’t get full points. Screw that. That’s bad teaching and it results in bad learning. Similarly, teaching kids that a paragraph is four sentences long and a good essay consists of an introduction, three supporting paragraphs and a conclusion, all of which support your thesis which should definitely have the individual topics of the three body paragraphs is a boring way to write, but at least it does teach kids how to organize their thoughts, which is important. It’s a good starting place. But you should start there and work your way up instead of just staying there or never getting to that point in the first place.

So, we will definitely be teaching writing. I’m not entirely sure how, but we’ll probably start by just telling narratives, which I’ll write down and improve upon so the kids can get used to the differences between talking and writing. Then hopefully they will be capable writers when they’re grown.

My Sister and I

My sister and I are extremely different people to such a degree that it never ceases to amaze me that we get along as well as we do. Take smell stuff, for instance. My sister loves smelly stuff. She wants everything to smell like flowery-fruity-baked good something. This means every time I wash my hands at her house, I end up smelling like a pumpkin-caramel-cupcake-latte. She has several pumpkin candles. Nearly every outlet has one of those wallflower things in them, spewing some sort of flowering potpourri into the air. She even has two wax melting towers, which melt smelly wax and release the smell into the air. Her shampoo and conditioner of choice? Herbal Essences, duh. Her assorted teas consist mainly of pomegranate-flavored-green-blueberry-weight-control-bedtime-calming-stress-relief varities.

I, on the other hand, prefer unscented everything. My handsoap is all cheap, unscented, non-anti-bacterial, clear liquid hand soap bought in very large refill containers. Even my laundry detergent is unscented–I get the Tide Free and Clear, guaranteed to smell like nothing. I did end up with some perfumed laundry detergent once. I bought the Miele-made Persil once to see if it would improve my washing machine’s washing abilities, but the only thing it did was make me go, “Hey! These clothes smell like my host mom washed them!” She must use Persil (It didn’t improve the washing abilities, by the way, but soaking clothes that looked like they might get stained did). The only smelly stuff I have is my dish washing detergent. It smells like lemons, which is acceptable. You will not find a single smelly-scent emitting wallflower in my house, for sure, and I prefer my house to smell only of fresh air and regularly open the windows to air it out. My sister says it smells like a farm, which is to say it smells like animal poop. I don’t notice it, honestly. But I’m probably going to sniff the air periodically now, thinking “Does my house smell like poop or fresh air?” I do have a few smelly candles, but I never actually light them unless the kids want to. Then they usually sit there and continuously blow them out until I get tired of wasting matches. My tea collection is not fruit flavored. Earl grey black tea, snowflake white tea and jasmine pearl green tea, thanks. You want fruit? Eat a fucking orange.

My sister said she likes having her hands smell like a pumpkin latte after washing them and why didn’t I? I told her I didn’t want to get eaten by a bear.

What I can’t figure out is how we can be such different people, opposite in nearly everyway, and yet we still get along amazingly well. I’m an INTJ and apparently a rarity among females while she’s something like an ENFJ, the kind that really likes people and caring and always trying to help. It must be one of those cases where both of us bring exactly what the other one lacks to the table. She encourages me to be more girly and do things like wear make up (hasn’t stuck yet, but she did point out that I’m approaching 30 and it may be warranted), by more clothes and for-the-love-of-god-will-you-get-a-new-purse-you’ve-had-the-same-one-for-the-past-10-years. I point out things that she could be doing more efficiently or rationally and that she has 12 different flavors of lip balm in her purse. I also get to read through and edit her papers for grad school, which is exciting, aside from the fact that the amount of stress she’s going through to get her masters degree makes me never want to do it. Ever. I also watch her kids a lot, which would be a lot more helpful to her if we lived a lot closer. She’s suggested that I move closer and then I can homeschool her kids, too. In some ways, I wouldn’t mind that. In other ways, I doubt I could handle it.

My sister is very good with people and she seems to be constantly making new friends. On the other hand, I’ve finally figured out why it was my Sims always had awesome careers, but only two or three friends and concluded that since keeping older friends is a lot easier than making new ones, maybe I should just stick with that. I’m pretty sure if my sister and I weren’t related, we wouldn’t be friends simply because we’re such different people. I always like to tell people that since we’re the only sane members of our family, we figured we ought to stick together. And I’m glad we have.