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12 Picture Books that Instill Biblical Truth

December 5, 2017

The Christmas season is upon us! This is truly one of my favorite times of the year, and some of the things that I especially enjoy are all of the wonderful children’s books that we pull out for this special season. Now, we have our fair share of fun, silly, and just generally amusing Christmas stories, but the ones that I adore, are the ones that share about the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. Whether these books are relating the nativity story or conveying a modern tale of someone sharing the love and story of Jesus, these books are gifts that so beautifully reinforce the truths I am trying to teach my children.

I love these books – and the number of these books grows each year; however, we really only pull these treasures out for the month or so between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the rest of the year they are barely touched. The problem with this is I want to be reading my children literature that supports Biblical truth throughout the year – not only during the Christmas season. So, I’ve compiled a list of 12 of our favorite picture books that instill Biblical values and truth – and can be read all throughout the year.

And if your kiddos are loving the Christmas books, why not gift them with a book that will support you in your teaching of Biblical values all throughout the year?

Below I have listed 12 of our favorites, with a few short notes about each one. The links below are affiliate links, but that is truly for your convenience! We simply love each of these books and I wanted to share them with you!


You Are Special by Max Lucado – This is one of the well-know Wemmicks series books. And if you haven’t heard of them, check them out – seriously, each of is excellent. In this book, we meet the Wemmicks, who become obsessed with stars (good marks) and dots (bad marks). The main character, Punchinello becomes entirely wrapped up in what others think of him, until he has a meeting with his Maker, and is reminded that he is special because he was His. This is a beautiful story with a powerful truth. The book is a little on the longer side for a picture book, but both of my boys have loved these books since they were young!


If Only I Had a Green Nose by Max Lucado – This is another in the Max Lucado Wemmick’s series. I really could list each one, but wanted to add some variety to my list 🙂 In this story we again meet Punchinello, who makes every attempt to fit in, only to find that as soon as he makes a change, the fad that is “in” has changed. He learns about the importance of being content with who he is and how his Maker crafted him, rather than looking for worth in the eyes of others. Good Good Father by Chris Tomlin – Both of my boys love the song “Good Good Father,” by Chris Tomlin, so when this book came out we had to check it out! In the story we meet Tucker, a little bear who is seeking help from the King. He travels to see him, meeting several animals along the way, who each tell him one great thing about the King. As he gets closer to the castle, he has doubts about whether the King would want to see him. Yet the King appears offering sweet Tucker an abundance of love. This is a precious story about the great love of our God.
God Knows My Name by Debby Anderson – This is a delightful book that even the youngest readers will enjoy. On each page Mrs. Anderson conveys truth about all that God knows – from the number of hairs on your head to the number of stars in the sky. She talks about how God knows just what you’re feeling and how he cares for things in His creation. The pictures are colorful and inviting. It is evident that Mrs. Anderson was a kindergarten and first grade teacher, as young kids are drawn to her text. I also appreciate that she includes several scripture references to go along with her writing.

The Prayer That Makes God Smile by Stormie Omartian – This is a beautiful book that teaches children about prayer. It talks about different times that you can pray, things you can pray for, ways you can thank the Lord in your prayers, and the truth that God hears our prayers. She then talks about the best prayer of all – asking Jesus to come into your heart and be your Savior. Now, I have to warn you – if you’re reading this as a parent to your little one for the first time, be prepared to have tissues ready. I wept the first time I read this to my little guy, and still get teary eyed every time I read it. This book is rather lengthy for a picture book, but the pictures are adorable and the message of the book is powerful! The Oak Inside the Acorn by Max Lucado – Yes, this is another Max Lucado book, but not a part of the Wemmicks series. He just has so many excellent children’s books! This book shares the powerful truth that God created each of us with a purpose. And while it may be tempting to look around at what others have or can do, we must cling to the truth that God has a purpose for each of us, as this oak tree learns.


The Blessings Jar by Colleen Coble – This is a great one for little ones – especially as a gift from a grandparent. In this board book, Punky Grace is having a rough day – and a case of the grumpies. Then, her grandmother takes her on an adventure, looking for all of the little things she has to be thankful for. Soon, her blessings jar is filled to the top, and her grumpies have gone away. This is an adorable picture book with a great message about being thankful!

God Loves Me More Than That by Dandi Daley Mackall – This is another great story for little ones, with an important reminder for every reader. The story works in sets of 4 lines, where the first three lines rhyme and the final line in the set reminds us that God’s love is bigger, higher, deeper, etc than anything! With its colorful, child-friendly illustrations, this is a delightful book that teaches about how much God truly loves each one of us!


The One Year Devotions for Preschoolers by Crystal Bowman  – This has been a favorite in our house! Over the past few years both of my boys have loved this little devotional, so much so that our copy is literally falling apart. Each day has a child-friendly devotion that centers around a topic preschoolers may face – having a rough day, making new friends, when you’re afraid, etc. The illustrations are simply adorable, and each devotion has a verse and a rhyming prayer to share with your child. This is a great way to start teaching your kids to spend time with the Lord each day.


It Will Be Okay by Lysa TerKeurst – In this story we meet Little Seed and Little Fox, both of whom are dealing with fears. A beautiful friendship is formed, and as changes begin to occur and fears creep in, they continually remind each other that the farmer is good and the farmer is kind. As someone who personally deals with fear and worry, this story was a lovely reminder of the good and kind Father we serve. And just as Little Seed and Little Fox learn to trust in the farmer – and that things will we okay – this story encourages each reader to trust in the Lord, even in new or even scary circumstances.

Jesus Calling Bible Storybook by Sarah Young – Penned by the same author as the Jesus Calling devotional for adults, the Jesus Calling Bible Storybook weaves kid-friendly versions of Bible stories with a Jesus Calling style devotion at the end. The short devotion written by Young is written as though God is speaking to the reader, but can easily be modified if you think it may be confusing to young listeners. The combination of stories, devotions, and colorful illustrations make this a delightful read for kids!

With You All the Way by Max Lucado – Now, this one seems to be a little harder to find, but both of my boys love it so much, I had to include it! It tells the story of three knights (probably why my boys love it) who are all on a quest to win the hand of the King’s daughter. However, they must travel through the forest of the Hope-nots in order to succeed, with only the King’s song to guide them. Which knight is successful – the strongest, the fastest, the smartest? It is the one who chooses the right companion for the journey knows the King’s song well enough to hear it above everything else. This is a wonderful story that illustrates the way the Lord is with us in all things, and it is by learning to listen to his voice that we can have victory. There’s one page that may be a little scary for the youngest readers, but such a gret story with great truth!

**BONUS**
Now, you’ve got the list of 12 awesome books, but there’s one more resource I want to share with you! I’m not an affiliate or anything, but my kiddos have enjoyed this so much, I simply had to share it with you! It’s the Clubhouse Jr. Magazine for Kids. It’s published by Focus on the Family and is such a fabulous resource. It contains stories, activities, coloring pages, snack ideas, and more for your kids! This magazine is created for kids ages 3-7, but there’s also another one for older kids called Clubhouse Magazine. We’ve only gotten the Jr. version but my boys love it! They definitely look forward to receiving it in the mail each month – and it’s a gift they receive all year long! I hope you’ll check it out!

I hope you’ve enjoyed these resources and are encouraged to check some of them out further. I’d also love to hear your thoughts. Comment below with your favorite from the list – or leave a comment and let me know other books that you love that teach Biblical truths – I’d love to check them out!

Featured Writing

Cashing In – Writing Grants For Your Classroom

November 20, 2017

Grants: How to Get One for Your Classroom

As an educator, it seems you can never have enough classroom funds! The money goes quickly when you are trying to fund a large project or obtain new instructional materials to help make learning come alive! I have even been able to use grant funding to attend an expensive week-long literacy training. Here are some tips for getting a grant no matter your desired need. I will make this information literacy oriented, of course, but there are plenty of aspects to grant writing in this post that apply to all subject areas.

Step One: Decide what you need. Seems obvious, but you need to wrap your head around what supplies you are needing or what project you would like to complete with your students first. Once you have a clear vision, you will help your donors or the grant committee understand the purpose of your requests. As tempting as it may be, you cannot just say “give us all the things.” You may have many items you would like to purchase for your classroom, but remember to streamline your needs into a cohesive, attainable project. Bonus points if the materials are reusable or the project can be sustained for consecutive years and/or with multiple classrooms.

Step Two: Find the right funding source. You will never be awarded a grant or extra classroom funding if you do not do your research and apply to the correct foundation, etc. Grants usually have specific guidelines about what types of materials they will fund and what they will not. For example, if I am wanting to purchase some more books for my classroom library, I probably do not need to apply for a STEAM based grant. Unless, of course, I am wanting to purchase STEAM related literature. There are loopholes like that in some grants, but I encourage you to read the fine print so you do not waste your or the foundation’s time in applying. For literacy grants I like to look locally, such as my local library system, my county’s reading coalition, or local businesses that support literacy. I highly recommend the Dollar General Foundation’s literacy grants for obtaining literacy based help for your school. Through funding Dollar General gave our state I helped a school win a $12,000 grant for a summer reading program. I also recently received $3000 for my own classroom to put towards intervention instruction. Ca-CHING! Thanks, Dollar General! My students and I are SO excited!

Step Three: Professionally submit your requests. No text talk here! Spend some time looking over the specifications of your grant application. Have others double check it to make sure your vision and story are clear. The better others understand the use of the materials you are requesting, the better your chances are of receiving a grant. Answer all questions fully and look for examples of winning requests. Remember, originality and creative ideas are a must to stand out from the crowd! Check with your school bookkeeper to learn if there are any stipulations on the school’s end for receiving grant funding. I know some school systems have phased out Donor’s Choose applications due to issues with final ownership over the teaching materials should the educator change schools. Also, by all means, if you are awarded a grant, be certain to thank the donors and to follow up with any necessary evidence or paperwork in a timely manner. You can bet you will not be selected again in the future if you fail to submit the proper documentation.

Step Four: Don’t give up. I can tell you that I have certainly written more grants than I have received. As disappointing as it is to put so much time into something and not receive anything from it, trying and failing is still an important step in the learning process. Maybe you can revise the grant and use it again next year? Try proposing the same idea with a different donor. Work on a team to write the grant. Did a deadline slip up on you? It happens all the time. Make a note far in advance to try for that grant next year. Usually, the first time I learn about a grant it is too late to apply for that year. I just put that grant down several months before it is due on my next year’s calendar and I think about ways to tackle the application in the meantime. I hope some grant funding falls your way in the future. It is so exciting to receive that “Congratulations” email or letter. However, this can never happen if you do not apply. I encourage you to take the first step today!

Featured

Kitchen RV Lessons

November 6, 2017

As you can imagine, I’ve learned quite a few lessons after living in an RV for several months. These lessons have simplified how I cook and shown me how insanely overwhelmed I was with what I had in my previous home’s kitchen. Who would have thought I’d be less stressed in such a small space?!

Minimizing Dishes = Minimizing Time
This is probably an easy one – If you cook with fewer dishes, you will spend less time washing them. And this is a really important thing when you’re living in an RV because everything must be hand washed. Talk about time-consuming! In our RV kitchen, we have just enough plates and bowls for foods that are too heavy for plastics. For water, we drink mostly bottled and sparkling water and for coffee, my husband and I each have one regular coffee cup and one travel thermos. My daughter has more dishes than anybody, but I suppose that just goes with the toddler life. Ha! Overall, using things we can toss or recycle saves us a ton of time on washing.

Work with What You’ve Got
There are certainly times that I plan a meal based off of cravings, but I generally try to plan meals around sales and cooking supplies we already have. This has been especially helpful when it comes to dishes. When we began to stock up our RV, we knew we’d be limited on kitchen space so we’d have to be selective with them. We decided on the following – a crockpot, one small pan, one larger pan, one medium sized pot, a muffin pan and a pizza pan. Aside from the crockpot, all of these dishes are able to fit into our oven for storage. (We don’t use the oven often enough to keep it empty.)

I’ve found that the easiest thing to do is plan a meal using the fewest dishes. For example, we might grill meat on the outdoor grill, cook “baked” potatoes in the microwave, and cook some vegetables on the stove. This leaves us with one or two cooking dishes to clean along with whatever plates or bowls we ate with. This has taken meal planning to a whole new, efficient level and I love it!

Break Out the Crockpot
My most recent favorite cooking tool is using a medium sized crockpot! It may take up some counter space, but the clean-up is WELL worth it! The best part – you can purchase crockpot liners that work WONDERS and take a huge chunk of cleaning time out of your evening!

I can’t end this without sharing my new favorite recipe! We tried this out just a few days ago and it was a major hit. As a bonus, it’s gluten-free and you would have never known!

Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce and Meatballs
1. Pour one large jar of spaghetti sauce into your crockpot, turned to low heat.
2. Add a McCormick’s Thick and Zesty sauce packet and stir.
3. Add about 12-24 frozen meatballs and make sure they’re covered with the sauce. (We used gluten-free meatballs and they were amazing!)

Let the sauce sit on low all day, stirring occasionally. When it’s time to eat, boil your spaghetti noodles (we used Ronzoni gluten-free noodles) and add your sauce! This is by far the easiest way to make spaghetti and our kitchen smelled amazing!! ENJOY!

Featured School Psychology Uncategorized

Mindfulness Vs. Meditation

October 7, 2017

Often these terms are grouped together, and while they are both positive strategies to better your well being they are very different.  These tools can be used in your personal life or you can incorporate them into your classroom.  Lately, I’ve seen several great ideas on how teachers and schools are using meditation and/or mindfulness during the school day.

So what is mindfulness?

This practice is all about living in the moment without judgment or worry.  It’s simply allowing yourself to experience the moment as it is, and then letting it float right away.  Practicing mindfulness can allow you to better enjoy your life without worrying about the future or focusing on the past.

A simple way to begin being more mindful is to quietly sit still for 5 minutes and just observe your surroundings.  What do you see?  What do you hear? What do you smell? Often we get caught up in our daily mindless routines, and instead of being in the moment we are stuck thinking in our minds.  This is a good opportunity to practice being more mindful.  When I’m on my way to work I try to enjoy the scenery or enjoy the feeling of the heat on my feet rather than worrying about a meeting I have that day or facing my to do list.

So what is meditation? The biggest different is meditation is about calming your mind and taking a break from what is going on around you while with mindfulness you are taking in everything in the current moment with acceptance.  Meditation helps you quiet your worries and thoughts and just be with yourself in a calm state. You can individualize your experience.  Some people may like to mediate standing outside in a garden while some may like to sit inside in their favorite chair.  It’s finding a quiet and private place you can be comfortable in.  There are many types of meditation, and it can be done in 10 minutes or you can mediate for an hour.  There are no strict rules.

Often meditation involves a body scan of any tension or pain with deep breathing to help relax and center yourself.  The goal of meditation is not to stop thinking but it’s to guide your thinking.  Positive affirmations can be used during meditation where you repeat a positive phrase about yourself.  You can find apps or videos with guided meditation practices that can be helpful for beginners.

With anything that’s new it takes time and practice so be patient and kind with yourself if you give meditation or mindfulness a try.

How can mindfulness and meditation impact students?

Similar to the positive benefits for adults, children can experience decreased anxiety and increased self-awareness.  These practices can help us better understand our thoughts and give us a positive coping strategy to use when we are upset.  It can lead to a better ability to focus, decrease attention problems, increase social skills, and help overall well-being.

The internet has lots of great ideas for incorporating mindfulness and mediation at school.  You can even use the apps or videos with guided meditation practices.  You can listen to calming music and have children focus on their breathing or take a mindfulness walk where children observe certain things in nature.  Blowing bubbles or balloons can help children focus on their breathing and be in the moment.  It’s important to explain the purpose of the task in a developmentally appropriate way so they will learn how to more effectively use it.

I hope this brief introduction to mindfulness and meditation will help improve your well-being as well as your students’.

Back to School Featured

School Year Meal Planning

October 2, 2017

Congratulations! You survived Back-to-School! While this is certainly an accomplishment, it probably doesn’t look like things are going to slow down anytime soon. Sometimes we get into the habit of eating out a lot (or not eating at all) during this busy time of the year. But this doesn’t need to be a year-long habit! Today I want to share with you my biggest tips on how to make meal planning as stress-free as possible.

Leftovers Are a Teacher’s Best Friend

Happy Fall, y’all! This weather is perfect and so is Fall food for meal planning! This time is full of great comfort food recipes for soups, pastas, crockpot meals and casseroles (if you’re Southern like me!) and all of them are so easy to change batch sizes. My best tip for you? Pick a couple of your favorites, make a huge batch of each on Sunday afternoon, and prep them for dinners and lunches throughout that week. My absolute favorite Fall (or ANYtime) recipe is taco soup! There are a million variations online, but mine was truly a throw-all-the-cans-in-the-pot kind of recipe. So don’t be afraid to mix up your own!

Taco Soup Recipe

1lb ground beef or turkey

1 can of Rotel

2 cans of diced tomatoes (I love the salsa-ready tomatoes)

1 can of tomato sauce

2 cans of black beans

2 cans of corn

1 packet of taco seasoning

1 packet of Ranch seasoning

  1. Brown your ground beef or turkey in a large pot. Once it’s almost completely cooked, add the packets of taco and Ranch seasonings. Continue to brown the meat until fully cooked.
  2. Add ALL of your cans (I don’t drain any of them) to the pot of meat and BOOM. Taco Soup.

 Y’all. This is seriously the easiest recipe I’ve ever made and it is SUCH a crowd pleaser. Every time we have a family get-together or church function, this soup is requested! In addition to being ridiculously easy, this recipe makes a HUGE pot of soup. My husband and I could eat 2 bowls each on Sunday and still have enough left over for us to each have it a couple of times for lunch or dinner the following week. When it’s time to eat, all you have to do is put it back on the stove or in the microwave and add your favorite toppings! (Mine are sour cream and shredded cheese, but I bet avocado slices would be amazing too!)

Grab and Go!

While it can be expensive and unhealthy to get into the habit of eating out ALL the time, let’s be real. Teaching and parenting is EXHAUSTING. Sometimes you desperately need to sit on the couch with tacos or pizza on paper plates that you can just throw away. When it comes to making good choices for eating on the go, my biggest tip is to plan this out as well. On a budget? Find your favorite fast food places with “value” menus. Want to watch what you eat? Locate healthier options close to work or home.

While I was teaching one of my favorite lunch ideas was to grab a footlong sub from Subway, eat one half that day, and ask them to avoid dressing or tomatoes on the other half so I could save it in my mini fridge for the next day. It saved me so much time and money, and I had a yummy sandwich to look forward to!

Save Time and Money

Taking time out of your already hectic week to plan meals might not sound like it’s worth it. But I promise, you will save so much time, money and sanity if you get you an idea of your meals for the week.

Is this something you do? Do you have favorite recipes/tricks you’d like to share? This busy momma would LOVE to hear from you!

Featured School Psychology

Actions Over Attitude

August 29, 2017

We all want to be confident in ourselves and in our actions.  However, in certain situations this can be difficult.  This can negatively impact our assertiveness and decrease our chances of doing and saying what we want to.  My hope is the following information and strategies can help you next time you need a little confidence boost to be assertive.

Confidence is more about your actions than your attitude.  You are confident when you take action to get yourself closer to your desires even though you might be fearful or anxious about taking that step.  I like to make myself more confident by making sure I am wearing clothes I feel comfortable and beautiful in.  If you’ve ever accidentally over or under dressed to an event you can probably remember how that drained your confidence.  Also, by purposely paying attention to your physical stance you can boost your confidence.  When I am slouched over with my arms crossed, I likely don’t feel or look very confident.  But if I stand up tall with my arms at my sides and my head high I will likely start to feel and appear confident.  You can even practice in front of a mirror to see what a difference this visually makes.  Mentally, it helps me to remember a time where I was truly confident and the day went well this helps put me at ease and increases my current confidence.

While confidence and assertiveness are similar, they are both different.  You need confidence to assert your thoughts, wants, needs, and ideas.  It can be easy at first to be passive and go along with others, but this also makes it easier for someone to take advantage of you.  Of course there is a time and place for everything and some situations are more important or intense than others.  These suggestions are meant to help you be more assertive in the situations where you give in to being passive when you really want to voice your own opinions.

Sometimes I think being a female from the south you are taught to be respectful and polite.  However, you can still voice your thoughts and needs while still being respectful of others.  One way to do this is to just simply state your need.  Don’t add a lot of detail or explanation just directly and calmly make it known.  For example, “I have a doctor’s appointment today and need to leave at 3 p.m.”

If a compromise needs to happen suggest your solution but also be empathetic and include the other person’s perspective or dilemma.  For example, “I know you were really looking forward to a relaxing night, but I really need to work on this project that is due tomorrow.  What if we go see that new movie you’ve been talking about tomorrow night?”

If there was a previously agreed upon decision but new information is contradictory, you can simply state it was your previous understanding that ABC was XYZ so now you need it to be clarified so all can move forward. For example, “From my understanding, you wanted to go to dinner on Thursday but now you are saying we need to meet Wednesday morning.  I can’t rearrange my schedule at this time so we need to discuss a convenient time for us both in the future.”

If you’ve ever attended counseling, especially pre-marital counseling you’ve probably learned about “I statements.”  These statements can be useful when you have negative or hurt feelings towards someone.  Instead of saying “You really hurt my feelings when you interrupted me.” you can say, “I felt like my thoughts weren’t important when you started talking in the middle of my story.”  You can add on to your statement with a suggestion on how they can handle the situation in the future.  For example, “Next time please let me finish my thought before you speak.”  These statements help take the blame off of the other person and really get the point of how you are feeling.  The focuses shifts from someone doing wrong to two people planning on how to fix the issue for the future.

Sometimes we get nervous and lose confidence by trying to hide something we are embarrassed of like being anxious about giving a presentation.  If you’re like me you might start to sweat, cheeks turn rosy, and your voice might quiver.   When I worry about this it takes a lot of mental energy so instead of keeping it inside my head I can be assertive and make a simple statement acknowledging my feelings and reactions to others.  This can help me move on more quickly and gain confidence.

You might need to start small and with close family and friends with your new found confidence and assertiveness.  You can also role-play with a trusted person to practice your assertiveness skills and statements. The more you practice it the easier it will be to do at work, with new people, and in more intense situations.  Also, don’t forget when you are revealing your ideas and thoughts you are opening up for others to do the same.  This can start a more intense conversation but should end in a more agreeable solution for all.

Featured School Psychology

Long-Term Retrieval

August 19, 2017

When I think of a Labrador retriever I picture a black lab running fast through the wilderness diving into the water and retrieving a duck.  I also think of my own yellow lab flinching when a tennis ball lands close to her, and then slowly walking towards it and sniffing it.  This shows how two animals of the same species and breed can exhibit two very different speeds of retrieval.  However, both dogs ultimately get to the item they are supposed to be retrieving.

Long-Term Retrieval

This brings us to our next cognitive processing area, long-term retrieval.  This processing area relates to the ability to take information in, store it, and retrieve it quickly in the future.  This can be confusing because this ability is not about what is stored in your long-term memory but the process of remembering and retrieving that knowledge.  So for some of us we are the black lab quickly and efficiently getting to our target while others of us might be my dear lab, Clover, who gets a little confused and needs a little more time to get to the tennis ball.

If Clover were a human child she might have some academic difficulties.  In reading, she could struggle with remembering names of objects or categories.  For example, she might struggle to compare and contrast.  In math, Clover might have difficulty recalling basic math facts, especially when these calculations are within a larger math problem.  While she might understand conceptually the math word problem, she may not be able to quickly retrieve the answer to a multiplication problem.  If my Clover could write, her fluency might be negatively impacted.  This is because it’s going to take her longer to retrieve her knowledge.  Clover might be trying to think of a particular word or name and search for it for a long time before she finally gets it.

So how can we help our Clovers in the classroom?

We need to activate prior knowledge to increase a child’s ability to understand a new skill or concept.  You can do this by remembering to:

  1. Ask questions about the topic
  2. Share personal experiences about the topic
  3. Help students brainstorm everything they know about the topic
  4. Ask students what they think they still need to learn about it
  5. Use opinion statements to start a discussion about the new topic with students

You can use other strategies in the classroom, including, reviewing information at the beginning of a lesson and using spaced practice.  Students can even struggle to recall rote information so don’t forget to include it in your reviews.  Help students to break information into parts instead of a long list.  In addition, to reviewing information before the lesson it can also be helpful to review the meaning of a text immediately after completing it.

Students who struggle with long-term retrieval will love using mnemonic devices! Any opportunity for a student to problem solve using a new concept or skill will help them with retrieving the information later.  Visuals like models and graphic organizers can help support retrieval.

I hope you can quickly retrieve these strategies to use with your students to support long-term learning!

 

Featured School Psychology

Autism Awareness

August 10, 2017

Maybe this year you had John in your classroom, and he has autism.  John struggled to express his emotions, screamed when the class schedule changed, flapped his hands when he was excited or nervous, and only ate fruit snacks at lunch.  Next year you might meet Sally, a little girl who has been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.  Sally loves all the Toy Story movies and often repeats dialogue verbatim.  When other students come up to Sally she only talks to them about Toy Story and ignores them when they bring up other topics.  When you go up to help Sally she does not look you in the eyes and when you touched her hand she quickly drew it in and screamed “that hurt!” Thinking back into your childhood your remember David who came in during reading class but never spoke, and he often rocked back and forth in his chair.  David always had a toy car with him. He often spun the wheels over and over next to his eyes.

From reading this you can probably tell that all three students struggle with social skills, sensory input, communication, repetitive movements or restricted interests.  However, the way these similar characteristics are displayed varied greatly between John, Sally, and David.  This is why it is referred for as a spectrum.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, is used to diagnose several conditions, including Autism Spectrum.  The DSM-5 notes that individuals with autism spectrum will have deficits in social communication, social interaction, and repetitive behaviors and/or restricted interests.  The definition expands on specific ways these deficits can present in an individual.  For example, an individual with autism may have repetitive motor movements, difficulty with changes in routine, fixated areas of interest, or over or under reactions to sensory stimuli.  BUT someone with autism does not have to display all of those weaknesses.

We can see this by remembering John, Sally, and David.  All three struggled with communicating but both John and Sally could use words while David only had nonverbal communication abilities.  Sally is fixed on Toy Story while David rocks back and forth and enjoys repetitively spinning his car’s wheels.  John is experiencing difficulty with sensory input causing him to only eat fruit snacks at lunch while Sally is very sensitive to touch.

Many signs of autism are present between 2 and 3 years of age, and early identification and intervention are vital.  The CDC has estimated that around 1 in 68 children have autism with males being more affected than females.  Since it is on a spectrum some individuals with autism are nonverbal or have an intellectual disability.  However, some individuals on the autism spectrum after an average or higher IQ and can verbally communicate with a vast vocabulary.

The exact cause of autism is unknown, but research indicates there are genetic and environmental factors.  It does run in families indicating genetics can increase a risk.  Some environmental factors include older parents, pregnancy or birth complications, or pregnancies that are within a year of each other.  The majority of scientific research does not support that vaccines are linked with causing autism.  Sometimes when a child is diagnosed with autism they also received vaccinations around the same time.

It is important for all people who are around children to know early warning signs.  Around 6 months of age if your child is not smiling or displaying positive expressions towards others.  They should also be making eye contact with others.  Around 12 months of age a child who is not babbling, does not attempt to use gestures to communicate, and does not respond to their name is showing indicators.  Around 24 months if your child does not use at least two-word phrases or has lost any speech, social skills, or communication abilities they are exhibiting possible signs of autism.  Even though there are many early warning signs sometimes children enter school who have not been diagnosed or even evaluated for autism.  This is why it is important for educators to continue to look for warning signs to be advocates for children.

If you are working with a child who you think may have autism spectrum please follow your schools referral process for identification of students who may have a disability.  Often this means reaching out to the school psychologist, a special education teacher, or a school administrator.  If a child you are working with already has a diagnosis make sure you work with their parents and school team members to ensure they are receiving appropriate interventions and accommodations as necessary.  Since autism is on a spectrum the amount of support and intervention will vary for each student as it should be individualized.

There is still so much more to learn about the characteristics and strengths and weaknesses related to autism.  This post is meant to raise awareness and inspire readers to learn more about autism.  John, Sally, and David are meant to help bring an actual child’s life to mind and not to offend or upset anyone.

Featured New Teacher

Building a Teacher Wardrobe

August 5, 2017

If you are starting your student teaching experience or starting your first teaching job you may be thinking about what you will wear to work every day. In my experience I have found that elementary schools can be quite casual…so no need to buy a suit! But sadly my college uniform of leggings and sorority t shirts wasn’t going to cut it anymore. When building up my teacher wardrobe I wanted to purchase a variety of easy to wear pieces that didn’t break the budget. But I still wanted to make sure that I looked young and fun!

As a teacher I knew that I would be on my feet, sitting on the ground, and that my clothes would need to be somewhat modest. Therefore most of my work wardrobe consists of bright colored pants, lightweight layers, and fun dresses.

Pants

When shopping for dress pants I found that they were either super expensive or made me look super old. My favorite pants are from Old Navy and Loft. Both stores offer amazing discounts and coupons and come in a variety of bright colors and patterns. When starting off I reccomend buying a few pairs of black pants, another neutral like navy or grey, and to mix it up with a bright color or pattern…they look great with neutral tops.

Tops

I don’t know if it is just me but my classroom was constantly changing temperature. Some days it was super warm, somedays it was super cold! I coped by making sure that I wore layers on most days. I don’t love blouses because I find them hard to move around in so I would typically wear tshirts or sweaters and dress them up with a statement necklace, colorful scarf or add a pop of color with a puffy vest.

Dresses

In the cold Michigan winter dresses with leggings were my saving grace! Not only are dresses comfortable, getting to wear leggings made me feel like I was lounging around but I still looked professional. The key to wearing dresses at school is making sure they are long enough when you bend down to work with students. I would always make sure to ask a trusted friend if it was “kid appropriate” before wearing a dress to school. My go to rule is at the knee or barely above to make sure that you aren’t showing off anything you don’t want to.


Still not sure what to wear? Here are a few of my favorite looks to wear in the classroom.

 

Featured Motherhood

Mornings Matter

June 27, 2017

When I was in the classroom, I was that teacher who didn’t leave until everything was ready for the next day. All copies were made and placed in their appropriate drawer, the classroom was tidy, and morning work was written on the board or laid out on students’ desks. I knew the value of an organized morning, so you would assume that I’m the kind of mom that wakes up well before the baby to have a head start. Right?

NOPE.

I love productivity as much as the next Type A “teacher/mom”. But the truth is, I love sleep a whole lot more. (Can I get an “AMEN”?!) Most mornings I sleep until Baby Girl wakes up. This comes with several good and bad consequences.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The good thing about sleeping in with the baby means I’m not missing out on much-needed sleep. I’m not too proud to admit that I’m a much nicer person if I’m not sleep deprived. After exclusively pumping around the clock for 10+months, I cherish the nights that my daughter sleeps straight through. This still doesn’t happen every night, though, so sleeping until she wakes up allows me to catch up when we have rough nights.

The bad thing about sleeping in is that I’m hitting the ground running as soon as she wakes up. I’m rushing to get her a bottle and breakfast while trying to make coffee and handle the dogs’ needs, all while I’m still not fully awake. I try to start unloading the dishwasher while Baby Girl is eating breakfast, and then immediately worry about getting other tasks completed around the house. This leads to the “ugly” consequence.

In the last several months, my now 16mo kiddo has figured out how to REALLY play. I’m talking about the good kind of play where she’s pretending and trying to have conversations with me and isn’t very interested in keeping herself busy anymore. She wants my companionship, and completely deserves it! But the more I focus on housework, the more lonely she becomes and fussier she gets. This makes for a tough morning for both of us and can lead to a tough day period.

Slow It Down

Today, however, we had a very different kind of morning and it completely changed our day. I woke up feeling like we needed some “us” time and I believe we have found our new morning groove.

As soon as I got Baby Girl out of bed, I gave her breakfast and turned on our favorite music. To no surprise, she lit up and boogied in her seat while she ate her whole breakfast, giving me a chance to make a pot of coffee and enjoy her company. We sang and “talked” until it was time for her to get down. Then, instead of opening my laptop and trying to sneak in some work, I sat with her and enjoyed my coffee as WE played together. I could see a completely different demeanor in her from most mornings. She wasn’t following me around pulling at me to play, or fussing when she was annoyed with her toys. Whether she played with me or next to me, she seemed so pleased just to have me near her giving her my full attention. This broke and blessed my heart at the same time.

Why Are You Home?

In the beginning of my time as a stay-at-home mom, I used to stress so badly over things around the house that didn’t get done. Before Baby Girl was born, I had a million ideas of how I’d be the best housewife/mother and truthfully they were all focused around my productivity. One day my husband made the wisest, most encouraging statement. “We’ve made sacrifices so you can spend the day with our daughter, not so you can be our housekeeper.” I want to cry just remembering that because it’s so true. It’s easy to get caught up in “things” instead of focusing on what’s important.

Whether you’re a SAHM, you’re home for the summer with your kiddos, or you finally have a day “off” to be at home with your family, ask yourself – why are you home? What is your purpose and what do you mean to your family? I promise if you shift your focus to your “who” instead of your “what”, your days will be completely changed for the better!