Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Advocating for your child

CeeKay who blogs at My Two Cents has the next post in the series Learning Disability Awareness month

She says "A child with learning disabilities needs an advocate more than anyone else. Teachers and caretakers would just as easily recommend the child be pumped full of drugs to make him/her more manageable instead of putting in time and effort to manage his behavior. I am sorry for this harsh judgment because I know there are still many dedicated teachers and caretakers out there who wouldn't take this route. But it is because of those who take the easy way out instead of working with the child that I have formed this opinion"

She also references articles and puts an emphasis on being assertive to advocate for your child

Go over to read the entire text here.

To know more and to contribute to this ongoing event contact Kiran @ Karmic Kids

Friday, March 27, 2009

Earth Hour

Switch off your lights Saturday March 28th @ 8:30 PM for an hour and support the earth

Friday, March 20, 2009

Save the earth...and have fun

As middle class Indians, somewhere the concepts of thrift and of being kind to the planet were embedded into us right from the start. Whether it was little things like turning out the lights when you left a room or reusing dishwater to water your garden, or selling old newspapers and magazines to the kabadi wala, one was just intuitively geared towards reusing and recycling. One of the great joys of birthday party gifts was to slowly and ever-so-carefully peel off the cellotape and take the paper off and keep to away to be reused. I still wince when I watch TV shows where one of the characters rips the wrapping paper off and shucks it away.

Particularly now that I have kids, the need to make them responsible citizens is all the more critical. Luckily Chubbocks' school also has an environmental science program that starts from kindergarten and teaches kids about conservation. So this year, I got Chubbocks to make wrapping paper at home to wrap birthday gifts for his friends. It's recycling and it's creative. Plus it gives the kids something to keep them busy when they're revved up about a birthday party!

What we did was to dig out old white-coloured newspapers. I cut out a flower and a leaf from a potato and poured some water colour paint into plastic cups. Both kids were at it for hours and we ended up with a wrapping paper that looked pretty and original.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What you can do as a parent if your child has LD

Disclaimer: This post is compiled through online research. In no way does it claim to be comprehensive, exhaustive and put together by an authority on the topic. If you suspect your child has a learning disorder, please do consult a specialist on the topic immediately.
When Tharini of WinkiesWay came up with the Food Allergy Awareness Month, a few months ago, I thought this was a brilliant way to bring the blogosphere together to create awareness about topics that needed awareness spread about them and my immediate thought was that it would be wonderful if we had something on similiar lines for Learning Disabilities. I grapple with it on a daily basis albeit on a mild scale with my son. He has not been tested for Learning Disabilities, but he is definitely slow to pick up.
In this era of acute competition, with school syllabuses incredibly fast paced and unforgiving, what is a parent to do when his or her child is confronted with a system of learning that is beyond their abilities? Or if they are highly intelligent, yet unable to process specific information. I've tried to put together a guide to how you can work with your child at home, apart from the help your child should receive at school and a professional special educator if required.
First, if your child has been diagnosed with a learning disorder, learn as much as you can about it.
Figure out how your child learns best. What are their special skills, talents, and interests? This information can help you motivate and foster your child's learning. Be open to other ways of learning. The senses, movement, and listening are all ways of gathering information. What works best for your child?

Encourage your child to work on their special talent. When they can really shine in some area, it helps them feel like a success.

Give your child unconditional love and support.

Accept your own mistakes. Model for your child that mistakes do not equal failure! Show your child that mistakes can be useful and lead to solutions.

Help your child understand their learning problems and talk about them. Focus on coping skills.

Help your child stay strong in body and mind by providing good food, enough rest, play, and family outings.

If you're having trouble coping, get professional counseling. It can be tough handling difficult behavior from your child and difficult feelings of your own.

Join a support group for parents of kids with LDs. A support group can help you feel less alone, get information, and learn strategies from other parents.

Helping your child with his or her school education.
The first step is to get involved.
Involve your school with your child's learning issues. Speak to the teachers and the coordinators. Ask teachers how you can help provide consistency and how you can reinforce and expand on what's going on in the classroom.Talk with your child's teacher about both academics and behavior.Plan homework strategies with your child's class teacher.
Help your child with their homework to the best of your ability without applying too much pressure on your child.

Provide an organized home with time and a place for study.Ensure your child understands and values the need for a good academic record and works towards it.
Inculcate good study skills and independent studying habits.
According to research, children whose parents are involved in their education benefit all round with:
Better grades

Better attendance

Higher graduation rates

Better self-esteem

Less drug and alcohol use

Less violent behavior

Fix a daily study routine which makes study time an integral part of your child's day. Have a fixed spot for study.
Keeping tabs on kids’ after-school activities and making sure they are supervised.S

howing your kids you value learning, self-discipline, and hard work.

Setting realistic, but high goals and standards for your child.

Guide and supervise TV viewing, read aloud, take educational trips with your child, having books as an integral part of your child's life, and doing interesting activities that stimulate your child's mind.
Going to the school regularly, so your child will view home and school as being connected, and will view school as an important part of the family’s life.

Self Esteem issues can crop up with children who have learning Disabilities. It is your role as a parent to ensure that you reassure your child to develop a strong sense of self worth, by reassuring them, working with them and building on their unique talents and skills.

Tips for how children with learning disabilities can succeed at school

Ways to help a student with a learning disability succeed at school

Accommodations - these can be as simple as being seated in the front row, having extra time on tests, or can involve electronic equipment and auxiliary personnel

Compensatory strategies - ways to use their cognitive strengths to offset weaknesses. If they have poor auditory memory but strong visual memory, have them draw or write down the instructions

Special education - instruction taught by specially trained personnel in smaller classes which focuses on working on specific skills

Self-advocacy skills - empowering students to ask for what they need in order to learn in the most effective way. Motivate the child to ask questions if they don’t understand the instructions

Working with your child at home

When you work with your child at home on academic and life skills, you help them recognize their own strengths and increase their self-esteem. Examples of activities you can implement at home fall into several categories – accommodations, organization, critical thinking, and emotional support.

Ways to cope
Take frequent breaks when doing homework

Accommodate for the child’s primary learning style by allowing them to pace around, listen to background music, attach visual displays to the walls, or wear earplugs or headphones if distracted by noise

Provide a computer for written assignments if the child has difficulty writingOrganizationModel and teach them how to make “to do” lists and prioritize their homework

Set aside a regular time each week for organizing workspace, belongings, schoolwork, and activities; make a game of it or provide a reward

Give your child a task that requires organization: grocery shopping required for a recipe, planning a birthday party on a budget, using a map to figure out the route from one place to another

Critical thinking

Play games of strategy

Talk about current events and ideas with multiple points of view

Encourage all sorts of age-appropriate reading and writingEmotional supportPraise your child for the positive qualities they exhibit during the whole process of doing homework not just when they finish their homework

Engage them in social problem-solving: how to resolve conflicts with friends, teachers, and kids who may be bothering them at school

Encourage activities that your child enjoys and excels inKeep open lines of communication so your child feels comfortable discussing feelings with youLet your children know that you enjoy their company by playing and talking with them. It’s important not to ignore other children in the family. Many activities geared for learning disabled children can include and benefit children without disabilities as well
Set reasonable expectations

Try not to expect more than the child is capable of doing, but expect the best that he or she can produce, with and then without assistance. Many young children with learning disabilities have significant problems with visual-motor integration. Some do not know how to hold a pencil or draw the simplest figures. In these cases, an occupational therapist or specialist in learning disabilities may be needed. Parents can, however, assist by having children draw figures in sand, make designs with finger paint, etc.

Introduce mathematics as a meaningful, pleasurable activity, not a rote memory skill. While most parents play simple counting games and sing number songs (all of which are helpful), we also recommend activities which strengthen the language of mathematics and one-to-one correspondence. Some children with learning disabilities have difficulty counting systematically; others have difficulty with words such as more, less, few and other relational terms. Encourage children to help estimate, measure, pour water or milk, not only to learn some of the quantitative terms but to help them acquire certain visual- spatial-motor skills.Simple games with dominoes can be used to match quantities, to strengthen counting skills and one-to-one correspondence. When reading to children, have them note the numbers of the pages and say them. Some youngsters learn to count, but they do not learn how to read numerals.Seriation (ordering objects according to size) is an important aspect of mathematics which parents can encourage. When children are given pots and pans of various sizes to stack in order, they are learning the rudiments of seriation. When they stack various size rings on a peg they also learn about the smallest and largest figures.

Simple problem solving can begin with activities such as setting the table. How many more forks do we need? Do we have enough spoons? These same types of activities can be used when playing games-- Do we have enough players, cards? etc. Many simple board games with dice are excellent ways of teaching counting, one-to-one correspondence, and turn taking.
Above all, be an involved parent. You are the only person who can truly hone your child's potential to its maximum. And you are the rock your child will turn to for reassurance.

Compiled by Karmickids.
(This article is compiled from online research)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Delay & Early Therapy for LD Awareness Month

Priya who blogs at PriyainSuburbia has the next post in the series Learning Disability Awareness month

She says "No one knows the cause of delays / disabilities in development. . . What we do know, is that earlier children are diagnosed and the earlier children are provided with appropriate help and therapy - the better their overall outlook for leading a normal life. Learning Disabilities usually span a spectrum. And really, a vast number of children are perfectly normal. However, if at all you suspect a problem, then its in the child’s best interest to get help as soon as possible. Here’s what to do and not do if you suspect an LD:"

She has very good points there to grapple with the fact, to get help and to deal with the situation.

Go over to read the entire text here.

To know more and to contribute to this ongoing event contact Kiran @ Karmic Kids

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Your Kid is Reading

Your child starts reading, now you better stop.

Your child has started reading, now she is reading books, she can read an entire book by herself, you are one proud Mom or Dad, you have a feeling of déjà vu BUT wait don't get too elated. There is a downside to this whole thing which might not have crossed your mind when you were desperately trying to teach her the difference between "C" in Cinderella and "C" in Cat.

Pros of Reading:

  • The child can read, reading is definitely a good habit, being a voracious reader myself I don't have enough words to say how reading can change one's life.
  • You no longer have to read your child a bed time story and so can utilize that time for better things like maybe blogging
  • If the older one reads, you might just get away reading a bed time story to the younger one. Yeah, delegate and so now the older one reads to the younger one. Yippeee!!!
  • Your child can now read road signs and give you directions from the back seat.

Cons of Reading (not to be taken seriously) :

  • You no longer can read whatever you want. If you are the kind of person who has hoity-toity coffee table books and cheap romantic trash in the bedroom, your life is doomed. You wouldn't like it if your 5 year old picks up one of those and reads a page aloud...ahem
  • You can no longer take her and roam freely through all aisles of the Super Store, you never know what might spring up. I suggest keep away from aisles labeled "Feminine Hygiene" and such
  • You can no longer write a blog where you exaggerate and basically write stuff which might not be exactly true to life, small deviations like "I made Chicken Curry yesterday" might make her comment, "No, you did not make it yesterday, it was 2 days back"
  • She peers over your shoulder while you type and suggests that you put her stuff on the blog too, so your personal space is no longer yours now.

Since Big Sis S started reading fluently a year back, I have to be more careful around her at home. More than her own books, she is interested in reading my e-mail or the bills or even Toys R Us fliers and at times my blog. She does read to her sis, which is a good thing though


We also used up our time last snow day by making a book, nothing fancy, something a child can do on her own. I cut up some of her old daily sheets (we reuse all such papers by using them for printing, drawing, writing etc.) and she made a book with a story and illustration. Served with some cookies she helped to make. Next on line, she wants to make a book about her little sis.

On another note, to get your kids interested in reading try these

  • Start early (as in once they recognize alphabets) and ask her to read out aloud and sound out letters when you are at the store, on the road where ever
  • Get those fridge letter magnets and form words with them which she can read. This can be done any time, all the time.
  • You need to read to at least initiate her interest. If you don't have any books at home or a reading atmosphere, and ask her to sit and read that won't help a whole lot. Once she is into it, go watch your TV
  • Go to the library or the bookstore and spend time browsing, borrowing, reading.
  • Ask her to read and write your grocery list to show how reading is incorporated in daily life. She will get a kick out of writing and reading simple words like Milk, Egg etc.
  • Ask her to read instructions of her new game, the card she has received, her school calendar which shows the "pizza day"
  • And again each child will read, write, do whatever at their own pace, don't rush and be patient.

Do you have any ideas to share about how to get kids interested in reading ?

Check out these posts on DMC for at home Snow/rainy day Activities

More on how reading can be exciting -- My work here is done

Happy Holi and Happy Reading !!!

Monday, March 9, 2009

An Intro..

Hello everyone,
This has been long due now. I became a member of this club around 2 weeks back and only getting to post this intro now. My name is Bhagyashri and my daughter will be 2 yrs old this May. To tell you something about S, she is a tremendously active child, so much so that she doesnt want to sleep or even lie down even when she is very very tired. Is there a 'touch wood' button here somewhere, because although it becomes a bit hectic for me, I want her to be active at the same time. More about her in subsequent posts.

I first came across Desi Momz Club while browsing through some food blogs. After following the blog for quite some time I found quite a few posts exactly reflecting my feelings and thoughts about various topics including parenting, food & nutrition for kids etc.  I am sure there will be many more such contributions from members (& me too!) through which I will be able to answer a lot of my own questions regarding the upbringing of S. 

And most imporatantly, I feel that this is a place where I can meet other Moms and share the anxiety, anguish, tension and also the happiness, excitement & pride involved in being a parent, more so a Mom.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

We were discussing Spring and I was talking to Chintu about the different colored flowers we would get to see in Spring. This is my newly turned 3yr old's expression of Spring....well actually he forgot about Spring and named the first one 'tracks' and the second one 'forest'...

Here's wishing everybody a VERY HAPPY SPRING !!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Kids Libraries

If you are in Bangalore, India, Choxbox has some libraries researched for your kids via this link Citizen Matters

  • Out of The Box, J.P.Nagar
  • I-Cue, J.P.Nagar
  • MyMitra Children's Library, Jayanagar
  • Hippocampus, Koramangala
  • Easy Library, Koramangala
  • Mindgym, Off Sarjapur Road
If you are in India, please leave a comment with news and views about good libraries in your town/city/area/village

Types of learning disabilities

[This post is written by Tharini of Winkie's Way and crossposted there.]


Before reading further, please note that the info presented here is purely cursory information based on some online research. It is by no means conclusive and if you feel that your child exhibits one or more of these warning signs, it does not mean that he/she suffers from a learning disability! Thank you.

March has been dedicated to awareness of learning disabilities in children in our little slice of the blogosphere. To be frank, I have no experience or knowledge about learning disabilities. But that should not stop any of us from understanding more about what it is, because being educated is being empowered. And when Kiran gave us a list of topics to address I chose 2. Namely, types of learning disabilities and warning signs that parents and teachers need to watch out for.

But before we get into any of all that....let us first clarify our understanding of what learning disabilities in children really are about. Some individuals, despite having an average or above average level of intelligence, have real difficulty acquiring basic academic skills. These skills include those needed for successful reading, writing, listening, speaking and/or math. These difficulties might be the result of a learning disability. It is basically a condition when a child's achievement is substantially below what one might expect for that child. Learning disabilities do not include problems that are primarily the result of intellectual disabilities, emotional disturbance, or visual, hearing, emotional or intellectual disabilities.

Many children with LD have struggle with reading. The difficulties often begin with individual sounds, or phonemes. Students may have problems with rhyming, and pulling words apart into their individual sounds (segmenting) and putting individual sounds together to form words (blending). This makes it difficult to decode words accurately, which can lead to trouble with fluency and comprehension. As students move through the grades, more and more of the information they need to learn is presented in written (through textbooks) or oral (through lecture) form. This exacerbates the difficulties they have succeeding in school.

What are the types of learning disabilities (LDs)?

LD is a broad term. There are many different kinds of learning disabilities. Most often they fall into three broad categories:

Reading disabilities (often referred to as dyslexia)

Written language disabilities (often referred to as dysgraphia)

Math disabilities (often called dyscalsulia)

Other related categories include disabilities that affect memory, social skills, and executive functions such as deciding to begin a task.

Here is some general information on the more common forms of LD. We will not get into too much of detail, and restrict this to an overview understanding of the types of LDs.

Dyslexia (difficulty reading)

Dyslexia is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. Reading disabilities affect 2 to 8 % of elementary school children.

To read successfully, one must:

Focus attention on the printed symbols
Recognize the sounds associated with letters
Understand words and grammar
Build ideas and images
Compare new ideas to what you already know
Store ideas in memory

A person with dyslexia can have problems in any of the tasks involved in reading. Dyslexia is not due to either lack of intelligence or desire to learn; with appropriate teaching methods, dyslexics can learn successfully. Remedial reading specialists have developed techniques that can help many children with dyslexia acquire these skills.

However, there is more to reading than recognizing words. If the brain is unable to form images or relate new ideas to those stored in memory, the reader cannot understand or remember the new concepts. Other types of reading disabilities can appear in the upper grades when the focus of reading shifts from word identification to comprehension.

Dysgraphia (Writing difficulty)

Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing abilities. It can manifest itself as difficulties with spelling, poor handwriting and trouble putting thoughts on paper. Just having bad handwriting doesn't mean a person has dysgraphia. But if a person has trouble in any of the areas below, additional help may be beneficial.

>Tight, awkward pencil grip and body position
>Illegible handwriting
>Avoiding writing or drawing tasks
>Tiring quickly while writing
>Saying words out loud while writing
>Unfinished or omitted words in sentences
>Difficulty organizing thoughts on paper
>Difficulty with syntax structure and grammar
>Large gap between written ideas and understanding demonstrated through speech.

Dyscalculia (Difficult in Math)

Dyscalculia is a term referring to a wide range of life-long learning disabilities involving math. There is no single form of math disability, and difficulties vary from person to person and affect people differently in school and throughout life.

Since math disabilities are varied, the signs that a person may have a difficulty in this area can be just as varied. If a person has trouble in any of the areas below, additional help may be beneficial.

>Good at speaking, reading, and writing, but slow to develop counting and math problem-solving skills
>Good memory for printed words, but difficulty reading numbers, or recalling numbers in sequence
>Good with general math concepts, but frustrated when specific computation and organization skills need to be used
>Trouble with the concept of time-chronically late, difficulty remembering schedules, trouble with approximating how long something will take
>Poor sense of direction, easily disoriented and easily confused by changes in routine
>Poor long term memory of concepts-can do math functions one day, but is unable to repeat them the next day
>Poor mental math ability-trouble estimating grocery costs or counting days until vacation
>Difficulty playing strategy games like chess, bridge or role-playing video games
>Difficulty keeping score when playing board and card games.

Other related conditions

Many aspects of speaking, listening, reading, writing, and arithmetic overlap and build on the same brain capabilities. It is not surprising that people can be diagnosed with more than one learning disability. There are many disabilities that are related to learning disabilities. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) makes it difficult for children to control their behavior and pay attention.

[This has been a very brief overview of LDs. More exhastive information can be found at http://www.ldonline.org/]


Warning signs may differ depending on whether it is a preschool child, or elementary school or secondary school.


* Slow development in speaking words or sentences
* Pronunciation problems
* Difficulty learning new words
* Difficulty following simple directions
* Difficulty understanding questions
* Difficulty expressing wants and desires
* Difficulty rhyming words
* Lack of interest in story telling

Motor Skills
* Clumsiness
* Poor balance
* Difficulty manipulating small objects
* Awkwardness with running, jumping, or climbing
* Trouble learning to tie shoes, button shirts, or perform other self-help activities
* Avoidance of drawing or tracing

* Trouble memorizing the alphabet or days of the week
* Poor memory for what should be routine (everyday) procedures
* Difficulty with cause and effect, sequencing, and counting
* Difficulty with basic concepts such as size, shape, color

* High distractibility
* Impulsive behavior
* Unusual restlessness (hyperactivity)
* Difficulty staying on task
* Difficulty changing activities
* Constant repetition of an idea, inability to move on to a new idea (perseveration)

Social Behavior
* Trouble interacting with others, playing alone
* Prone to sudden and extreme mood changes
* Easily frustrated
* Hard to manage, has temper tantrums


Slow learning of the correspondence of sound to letter.
Consistent errors in reading or spelling
Difficulty remembering basic sight words
Inability to retell a story in sequence
Trouble learning to tell time or count money
Confusion of math signs (+, -, x, /, =)
Transposition of number sequences
Trouble memorizing math facts
Trouble with place value
Difficulty remembering the steps of mathematic operations such as long division

Motor Skills
Poor coordination, or awkwardness
Difficulty copying from chalkboard
Difficulty aligning columns (math)
Poor handwriting

Difficulty concentrating or focusing on a task
Difficulty finishing work on time
Inability to follow multiple directions
Unusual sloppiness, carelessness
Poor concept of direction (left, right)
Rejection of new concepts, or changes in routine

Social Behavior
Difficulty understanding facial expressions or gestures
Difficulty understanding social situations
Tendency to misinterpret behavior of peers and/or adults
Apparent lack of "common sense"


Language/Mathematics/Social Studies
Avoidance of reading and writing
Tendency to misread information
Difficulty summarizing
Poor reading comprehension
Difficulty understanding subject area textbooks
Trouble with open-ended questions
Continued poor spelling
Poor grasp of abstract concepts
Poor skills in writing essays
Difficulty in learning foreign language
Poor ability to apply math skills

Difficulty staying organized
Trouble with test formats such as multiple choice
Slow work pace in class and in testing situations
Poor note taking skills
Poor ability to proofread or double check work

Social Behavior
Difficulty accepting criticism
Difficulty seeking or giving feedback
Problems negotiating or advocating for oneself
Difficulty resisting peer pressure
Difficulty understanding another person's perspectives

Draw it out!

This is a drawing that Winkie did when he was angry. Very angry. Great big angry gashes across the page in circular motion helped him expend some of that negative energy building inside, and when he was emptied, what started off as morose, unhappy expressions turned into downright goofy, happy ones. All in a space of 2 minutes. What a metamorphosis huh??? I agree. And I wouldn't have known to give him a paper and pen to express himself if I hadn't read the book. At first, I had tried accepting his feelings with those simple monosyllabic replies, but that only seemed to incite him further. He seemed to want more of a reaction from me. Then suddenly this idea struck and I took a chance. He looked puzzled with the invitation to draw...and threw me a suspicious look, but I looked dead earnest. And he said...yes, he would like to draw and show me HOW angry he was!

I also invited him to draw how his face would have looked so angry, and he did. And in just under 30 seconds, his countenance calmed, his breathing became more regular and the muscles on his face relaxed, and struggle as he did, he could not stop that smile from escaping. Pretty soon, he openly acknowledged it and smiley faces began to appear on paper too. And we were both laughing together like a merry lot, and it didn't seem like only minutes before, we had a potential disaster waiting to happen.

But of course, the success of each technique is not set in stone. What might work today, is bound to flop miserably tomorrow, and we once again have to rely on our own creative instincts to diffuse an intense situation. But while it works, what it does achieve, in addition to effective result, is that it creates more trust and understanding. Smiles that are shared deepen the goodwill and a value of a light moment is never to be underestimated, right? :) For me, it just gave me some faith as a mother. I felt more capable when my son responded to me. I felt wonderful about keeping my dignity and grace intact, which is usually the first thing to go in a confrontation, at least in my case!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

One year of home-delivered milk...

When you live abroad, one of the things you surely miss about India is having milk delivered daily to your doorstep. When I found out this farm in Maryland, you can only imagine the excitement I felt. All I do is order the quantities online and manage my account. Bottles of milk right outside my doorstep every Monday by 11 am. I am simply loving this arrangement. One of those life's little pleasures, isn't it? It's worked out great the last one year. I also love the fact that they use glass bottles instead of plastic. It's a once-in-a-week delivery. They also offer eggs, bread and butter. You pay the same price for a gallon of organic milk at your store. The only extra amount is is the delivery fee and that's $3.25 per week.

Back in India, last summer, when the sabjiwalla brought veggies to my mother's doorstep, I certainly saw old-fashioned ways of living in a very different, refershing light. I started thinking about how the food system operates in the US. I thought about how dependent our lives on the giant corporates and the price of oil to meet even our basic services such as milk, bread and eggs. Farmers' markets are nice, but they operate seasonally except of course if you live in a warm place like CA.

We have been very fortunate to have access something like this here in our neighborhood.(Touch wood!) Pretty soon, they will start delivering locallygrown/organic (you never know!) vegetables and fruit - again once a week delivery in small/medium/large sized boxes. Delivery starts in early June. During winter months, they are lining up some greenhouse farmers in the area for the winter supply of produce. I normally hate going to the stores in any weather. Particularly, having to run behind a toddler (who simply wouldn't want to be tied to a cart) that likes to be chased from one aisle to another in a huge grocery store that is the size of the planet is certainly not fun. :-) Well, I am sure you hear my woe! :-)

On a slightly different note, leaving you with this eyecandy of a cart filled with little saplings/plants - a mobile nursery - that was parked outside my mom's home in Chennai last summer. My girls standing beside me helped me choose the plants for my mother & my mother-in-law - who are neighbors! How wonderful the whole experience felt! Not to forget the delightful conversation I had with the seller. Truly one of my fondest summertime experiences of recent memory.

The classical class clash!

[This post is written by Tharini of Winkie's Way and crossposted there.]

Last year, I enrolled Winkie for a couple of classes a week. It was at the local community center and I enrolled him for Karate and a keyboard class called Kinderkeys. I thought long and hard about which classes he should go to and how many per week. Asking him doesn't yield any real answers, because he says yes to everything at first, or no to everything at first and only later does he actually figure out which one he likes and which one he doesn't. So I figured, something that gave him a physical outlet for his energy and something which nurtured his artistic side. So a little bit of each world neatly packed into 1 hour classes, once a week. It turned out to be good decisions, because he enjoyed both of them. But beyond my own initial enthusiasm, I began to bristle under the effort to chauffeur him those evenings on cold winter nights and manning a hyper Thambi for 60 minutes. Add to that the need to get him to practice his keyboard lessons. Eventually, it boiled down to too much of work for my lazy self. After the winter break, I did not enroll him because of our coming India trip and what a lovely breather that was. Now the spring session enrollments have begun and my stress level is once again peaking.

This is going to be a rambling post so please bear with me. Here I am questioning so many things...is it necessary for him to go to these classes? I guess NO, not really. And yet, the answer is a resounding yes. Its not purely the peer group or competitive angle....it boils down to something simple. As parents we want to guide our children to be exposed to a wide range of social situations, and also give them an extra curricular avenue to round their personalities. Right?? Now I know I would love to provide my son with the opportunity to learn music, because it is a soul thing. It gives sooo much of joy. And a physical sport builds physical confidence, no denying that. You make more friends, you have fun. Right? So based on this, maybe my reasons for him to go to class are valid enough.

Now the next crucial question. How many classes? What classes? There is sooo... much of choice out there to dazzle the mind. I look at the brochures and the my greedy mind jumps to each one of them and says...I want this! And THIS! And THIS! There's chess, and playacting, and gymnastics, and soccer and taek won do and painting and swimming and chess and ....! Phew! Just to navigate through these array of activities and calm your mind down and decide on a select feasible few is in itself a task. Forget about the driving around and dropping off and practice sessions. Come summer, and the dynamic is that much more complex with all the varied outdoor activities and camps. Oh my God! Makes me just want to curl up under a blanket and go to sleep like a weary child, never to wake up and decide!

But wake up I must and decide I will have to, because I can't settle for a no-class life too, and be at peace with it. *shudder* No classes????? Blasphemy!!! So at least with that sorted out, I have decided on what I would like for him to be involved in this coming session. He needs to continue with the karate, because we have already invested in the uniform!! He has to continue with the Kinderkeys class, because we already paid for the next book! He needs to start off on swimming because he wants to go for swimming, and everyone must know how to swim. Right??? And I want him to learn carnatic music, because our families are very involved with it, and any offspring of mine will have to live up to that innate expectation. And perhaps, one more sport thrown in?? Maybe soccer, so he'll learn team spirit etc etc???

So those are my picks and my reasons for the picks. I realise that I sound ridiculous, stressed, hypocritical and downright unsound in most of the logic....but you know how it works!! Tell me now...how you, as a parent feel about all these classes and how do you make the best choices possible? What are the pitfalls to avoid? And are we all going down the right path in giving our children opportunities to explore all of this? Will it really round their personalities? Will they feel grateful for this later in their lives? I just need to find a balance in my own perspective...and your inputs will help.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

How to talk so kids will listen!

[This post is written by Tharini of Winkie's Way and crossposted there.]

Some months back, I had the good fortune to come across a book that held the promise of revolutionising my life as a mother and a parent. Any book that starts with the words...I knew all about parenting....until I became a mother....is bound to be something you can reckon with.

But the way a book works is...when you read it, you are filled with all its goodness, you are inspired beyond words to practice the tactics and become an empowered parent, gracious under pressure and modelling beautifully, and feeling good about yourself. But even this inspiration comes with an expiry date and it lasts for a few days, maybe a few weeks and if you are lucky...a few months post the reading. Thereafter, the dark shadows of old habits take over, good intentions once again die premature deaths, and vicious cycles are reestablished. At least this has been so in our case.

So its essential to get recharges from time to time, and reread the book, cumbersome as it seems, because you have to immerse yourself fully into the climate of the book to benefit from it. So I have placed yet another hold for this book in my library which is a hot moving item, for its never checked in!!! But I do remember the first chapter of this book, which left a huge impact on my mind, and its something that has stayed with me even beyond the immediate aftermath of the book. Let me share that today.

Imagine this scenario...

Winkie comes to me and says....Amma, I don't like Thambi. I just don't like him.

A typical, immediate response which I have been oft too guilty of repeating is...Awwww. But why? You should not say that kanamma...its not nice.

If I had known any better, there would have been warning bells going all around pointing me to my blunder. For I had made the typical mistake of not accepting his feelings. And by responding the way I did, I am conveying that he was wrong to have the feelings he did. Which in turn creates poor self esteem that he was wrong to have those feelings. For face it...feelings are feelings. They do not follow logic and justifications. They are simple and complex and just there. And if I kept up this sort of religious response time after time, I am causing him more frustration in never having his feelings acknowledged and accepted, but instead always judged and corrected. It seems like an obvious thing really for a parent to know....but is it? I know it wasn't to me, and until I read the book, I never really had a chance to hear myself and the way I came across to my son. No wonder he got frustrated many times.

This chapter of the book teaches you to accept those feelings, without any judgements from your side. It teaches you simple techniques to be a simple listener and a passive observer of the situation, so that it gives the child room to express, without fear of being told how he should be feeling. One of the strategies was to simply listen while offering monosyllabic replies. Like...Oh, Uh huh, hmmm, okay etc while setting aside whatever it is that we are doing and listening to the child with full attention. With such neutral responses, the child feels more able to open up on his own and come out with his true feelings. In Winkie's case, I would have been able to glean that Thambi tapped him hard on the head with a train engine, and left his brother furious, and led him to make that statement. I wouldn't like the person too, who rapped on my head, at least not for a little while, until I had a chance to come out of the heat of that moment. Thus being a good listener, helps them to talk, and at times even be forthcoming with their own solutions.

Of course, this doesn't always work with Winkie, as in he doesn't figure out what to do to make things better on his own, but it does give him a fair hearing, which is always a good thing. But there is one other strategy that worked rather well with Winkie. And I shall share that in my next post!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My work here is done

To think, just a short while ago I wondered where we had gone wrong and whether Chubbocks would ever be motivated to read on his own. Right from the beginning, Chubbocks has been exposed to lots of books – as I may have mentioned before we have a home library of over 5000 books, and with A's and my noses always in a book, I figured he'd find out pretty early that books were 'in' in our household. But though he had learnt to read quite some time back, the only things he wanted to make an effort to read were books much below his reading level from his class library. Though he had received some Enid Blytons as gifts, he never seemed to want to read them on his own.
It was pretty disheartening for a while. I felt I had failed as a parent ( yup, my idea of parenting is teaching them to read). And then one day he came home with a Scholastic book list from school. Scholastic often offers books at discounted rates to his school and so far A and I had been selecting the books along with him. This time A and I were busy so before we knew it, Chubbocks had ticked off three books and sent away for them, demanding a cool Rs. 300 or so. And one day they arrived. Chubbocks got down from the school bus clutching his precious new books to his chest, beaming from ear to ear. As soon as he tumbled down from the bus he opened the one he was most excited about and started reading 'Silly Poems' (poyums). He was so distracted he went about his washing up and post school meal in a kind of daze and by six that evening, he'd finished the book – about a 100 pages long.
Now he's reading it a second time, selecting his favourites to read over and again and I can see his reading gene kicking in. Whether he's at the breakfast table or at a friend's place, he's constantly reading – books, magazines, titles from newspapers, labels on food packaging…He's always happy to entertain the Puddi by reading a short story out to her. He's even gotten excited about the Secret Seven which is his bedtime reading along with dad. And when I jokingly told him his birthday gift this year from us would be two books, his face lit up!
Cross-posted on Rainbow Days

What Impacts a Child's Self Esteem

The first in the line of articles for learning Disability Awareness by Laks of Emotionally HighStrung. Her article is on the topic --

Learning Disabilities and it's impact on a child's self esteem

"A child's self esteem is related to the degree of success experienced by the child. It can be as simple as learning to tie his shoe-lace or as hard as solving complex math problems, depending on the child's age. Each child has his/her own pace at which he/she learns. As a parent we need to understand this very clearly and try not to push the child to achieve things the child is not yet ready to. If the child finds himself not doing things his parents are expecting him to, he translates that as a failure and it is devastating for the child. This translation of success/failure related to self esteem is an internal process. The child will stop believing in himself due to any lack of success he's having at doing things and his self esteem takes a huge blow."

Read the whole article here

If you want to contribute To this awareness campaign please contact Kiran @ Karmic Kids

Monday, March 2, 2009

March is Learning Disabilities Awareness Month...

...on the Mommy Blogosphere.

Through this month, earnest Mommy Bloggers will research and put up posts relating to Learning Disabilities and issues relating to these that affect children.
Do stop by whereever you see our badge up for posts on this topic. (Thank you Dotmom for the lovely badge!)

Desi Momz Club will have an end of the month round up of all these posts. The first one is already up at Emotionallyhighstrung.
The second is up here at Winkiesways
As more posts come up, I will add the links right here. Do read, comment and spread the word.
(Posted by karmickids)