Thank You Kelly Ripa

Dear Kelly,

Thank you so much for your honesty and vulnerability about your son and his learning differences and the trials of the parent/ teacher conferences. I have been there.  I am still there. Both of my children struggle with dyslexia and dysgraphia as well. My husband and I have spent plenty of time in conferences with teachers, counselors, specialists, and administrators strategizing, discussing, debating, and well, at times, arguing.

The struggle seemed to be harder for my oldest son. My quiet one. My one whose strategy was to blend into the background. My one who tried to go under the radar and was only noticed by many of his teachers when he wasn’t meeting their standards and threatened to ruin all of the “test scores”.  Before each conference regarding him, I would have to prepare and reassure myself. What is the goal of this meeting? What do we want implemented for him? What will I hear about him?  Will I have to fight? What am I willing to fight for?  Has he made any progress? Do they see his intelligence? Do they see him at all? Can he be successful in this environment? Can he make it? How am I going to feel when this is over? As you can imagine, I was a bundle of anxiety and nerves every single time.

I learned quickly that teachers can make all of the difference. Many of them were on my son’s side.  Several of them were not. At one conference when my son was not quite eleven years old, one of his teachers said with a tinge of annoyance in her voice, “I am sorry that he has all of these ‘issues’, but this is what I need him to do. I need him to read, write, and [do everything] at this level.” I became an expert at fighting back the tears. My response? “I would love for him to be able to do all of that for you, but my son has to work triple hard and climb over huge hurdles to get there. I want for him to do all you ask, and he’s trying, but you need to be patient and understanding.” It was the typical “if he just focused and tried harder” comment I grew tired of hearing. He was trying hard; reading and writing just didn’t come easily for him. I found myself begging everyone to look through all of the learning differences and see the intelligent little boy he was. Like many times before, I walked out of that school that day defeated and got in my car and cried. This became the norm. This became the custom of our parent/ teacher conferences.

Until that one day, the day things changed. When my son was in the tenth grade, five years after the previously mentioned meeting, everything improved.  True to form, we sat and waited to hear the read through of the comments from the teachers. I held my breath as I always did and prepared to guard my heart. But this time? This time, I didn’t have to!  To my pleasure, words such as “leader”, “responsible”, and “independent” started to emerge from the statements.  I couldn’t believe it! I could breathe! I could relax! I beamed! For the first time at one of these meetings, there wasn’t a feeling of sadness or defeat. And, for the first time, I truly believed that the teachers working with my son saw him for the brilliant and intelligent person he was – and still is today!

The administrator facilitating that conference, who had worked with my son since the sixth grade, asked him what changed. What was he doing differently? What transpired to change the normally concerning comments to ones of praise and affirmation?   My son answered that he learned to stand up and advocate for himself. He learned to talk with his teachers about his struggles. He also said he was beginning to figure out how his brain worked and learned best. And, although he didn’t verbalize this, as his mom, I could tell that he believed that he was smart and intelligent and capable. He finally believed in himself!

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What a blessing! From then on, there was no dread walking into those conferences. We walked in hopeful and confident. We left encouraged and reassured.  I am not saying that school work became a breeze for him, but if a challenge presented itself, my son gained confidence in attacking it. In fact, my son graduated from high school with a “distinguished achievement” diploma this past school year and this spring, he will transfer to a top university in our great state of Texas. After many years of tears and frustration, it is such a relief to have many accomplishments and celebrations.

So, thank you Kelly so much for sharing your story. It is reassuring to know we are not alone in our struggles and we have others to celebrate our children’s achievements with us as well.

Sincerely,

Stacy

 

How do I find a preschool that teaches my child to write?

How do I find a preschool that teaches my child to write?

As parents, we always want to ensure our children are adequately prepared for school if not ahead.  One of the criteria we look for involves teaching children how to write their names and the alphabet.  Although this is important and is a skill that is eventually needed in elementary school, learning to create a story and a message and then convey it to paper is just as important and is learned best through play.  With this video, discover standards to look for in preschools as well as questions to ask the school administration and staff about their approach to the writing process.

Other information pertaining to looking for developmentally appropriate preschools:

 

So Much More

I wrote this a couple years ago in response to teachers working with children birth to five expressing to me their desire to be so seen as so much more than just a “day care worker”.  I know the pain when someone tells you that you are not a real teacher.  This is for all of the hard, dedicated professionals who work with young children.  You are “So Much More”!

So Much More

Please don’t tell that I am just

a babysitter or

just a day care worker or

not a real teacher, because

I am so much more.

What I do is important.

It is integral and

it is vital.

I am passionate.

I am loving.

I am nurturing.

I am caring and

I am purposeful.

Ask me,

I can explain the purpose of

my schedule,

my room arrangement,

my lesson plans, and

the purpose of my activities.

I can identify the

objectives,

outcomes, and

long term benefits

of everything I do – because I am that good!

When you ask me why your child has not achieved an unrealistic goal yet,

I debunk the earlier is better myth because

I am knowledgeable about

child development,

developmentally appropriate practices,

early learning, and

meaningful experiences.

I understand

foundational skills,

life success, and

I understand PLAY!

I understand PLAY so much that I embrace

messiness,

creativity,

out of the box thinking and

risk taking.

Yes – I embrace everything PLAY promotes!

I allow child-directed learning as it enhances

self-control,

self-regulation, and

executive functioning.

You are probably wondering what I am doing while the children are playing.

Let me tell you,

I intentionally

facilitate learning,

connect with the children, and

extend experiences.

Every day,

I build

relationships,

confidence, and

self-esteem.

I elicit

brain connections,

language skills,

problem solving,

interactions, and

strong bodies, because

We must develop the whole child!

I am qualified.

I am educated.

I am experienced.

I am skilled.

I am career oriented.

So,

You may call me teacher.

You may call me early childhood educator.

You may call me early learning specialist.

You may call me child development guru – because I am that good.

But please don’t call me

Just a babysitter,

Just a day care worker, or

Not a real teacher.

Because I am so much more!

And those labels do not encompass

THE PROFESSIONAL THAT I AM.

Stacy Benge, M.S.

September, 2015

So much more hashtag

How does play teach my child to write?

How does play teach my child to write?

Play is the best way to prepare young children for kindergarten.  It is amazing the educational skills learned when playing including the ability to write and create stories.  Explore how dramatic play, block play, and outside play all provide opportunities for young children to develop creative storytelling skills needed to be successful writers in the elementary, middle, and high school years.

When will my child be able to write?

 

When will my child be able to write?

As parents and teachers, we are all concerned about teaching our children to write; however, before children can write, they must have several foundational skills in place including understanding print carries meaning and conveys a message.  Learn ways to promote the writing process with young children and ways we can ensure they are properly developing skills to be successful in school.

 

Wonderful resources:

So Much More than the ABCs: The Early Phases of Reading and Writing by Judith Schickedanz & Molly F. Collins

Learning about Language and Literacy in Preschool (A NAEYC publication)

Everyday Steps to Reading and Writing

 

When do children start to write letters?

When do children start to write letters?

A common questions among parents is what age do children start to write letters?  Part of the early writing process is children understanding that letters are used to form words and convey a message on paper.  If given plenty of opportunities for open-ended drawing, children will start to draw letters on their paper and eventually letter strings.  Watch to learn more about the writing process and see examples of what young children’s drawings might look like as they develop as emergent writers.

What are the early writing stages of preschool age children?

What are the early stages of writing for preschool age children? 

An essential and early part of the writing process involves children having ample opportunities to draw.  Around the age of three, you will notice that children’s scribbling will start to look like something and say something.  See samples of the different developmental stages you can expect children to progress through as they are learning to write.  Also learn best practices to help promote the emergent writing process.