Blog Archive

American History for Kids: The Montessori Way

I have found U.S. history to be the most challenging subject to teach in a Montessori setting.  My kiddos either love it or hate it.

If they do love it, their knowledge of history far surpasses that of their peers.  Prepared work doesn't provide enough of a challenge and they become bored easily.

Those who hate it despise the prepared work and tend to avoid it at all costs.

Then there's the fact that creating history printables for the shelves is extremely time consuming!

(This doesn't mean we won't continue to do so, it just means we will be very selective about what we create.)

Over the past month I've tried to really focus in on ways I can teach American History for Kids the Montessori Way, and engage all of my kiddos, no matter their interest in the subject or their ability to understand it.

American History for Kids: The Montessori Way

Today, after literally a month of planning and preparation, I unveiled my new plan.

In essence all of my kiddos were finally ready to transition from Montessori preschool style history work to Montessori elementary style work.

I had been waiting for quite a while for Bulldozer to develop the writing skills necessary to progress.

The kids went crazy over the new way of doing things.

Here's how it all works.

American History Writing Outline

I have created an American History Writing Outline to guide my kiddos through all of the important events in U.S. history.

American History Writing Outline (Free Printable)

This free 23 page printable pack will be used to introduce each new time period, whether it be a war, a movement etc.  The specifics of the time period will determine what pages from the printable pack are necessary.

The kiddos are expected to research the time period in American history and fill out all relevant information.  They may use books, documentaries, historically accurate movies, music, field trips etc. to obtain information.


The printable pack is open ended so that students can pick and choose what information they'd like to include under each section.  It is expected that completed printable packs will look different from each other.

The American History Writing Outline includes the following sections:
  • Event Overview
  • United States of America Point of View
  • United States of America Allies
  • Opposing Point of View
  • Opposing Forces
  • Important Battles/Events
  • Effects of Conflict
  • Role of Women
  • Important Women
  • Role of African Americans
  • Important African Americans
  • Role of Native Americans
  • Important Native Americans
  • U.S Military Information
  • Military Opposition Information
If we find a need or interest in adding more sections we will!  We hand out a U.S. History Writing Outline at the beginning of the month.


The American History Writing Outline is a Subscriber's Only Freebie.  To receive your free copy follow the directions at the bottom of the post.

American History Time Period Project

By the time kiddos have filled out their printable pack, they've done enough research to discover what aspects of the event they're interested in, and which ones they prefer not to learn more about.

At this point they decide on an American History Time Period Project to create and present to their peers in a class setting.

If a child loves art, they may choose to create and present a detailed, historically accurate masterpiece that depicts one aspect of the time period they enjoyed.

If a child loves writing, they may choose to create and present a written report, biography, poem, etc. that depicts one aspect of the time period they enjoyed.

If a child loves science, they may choose to develop a project that proves or explains one aspect of the time period they enjoyed.

If a child loves music, they may choose to compose a piece of music that portrays one aspect of the time period they enjoyed.

If a child loves math, they may choose to create a time line or present one other mathematical aspect of the time period they enjoyed.

If a child loves geography they may choose to create a map or flags to explain aspects of the time period they enjoyed.

The sky is the limit so long as the kiddos are making sure their projects are historically accurate and appropriate.

All projects should take an extended period of time to create after initial research has been done.  They are not to be rushed or thrown together last minute.

Kiddos will check in with an adult and show their proposed project plan before they begin the creation process.  A teacher can at that point give any support and guidance each child needs to ensure a successful project.

Projects will presented to the class at the end of the month.

How is this Montessori?

In the elementary classroom history lessons are given with the purpose of introducing a topic to students.  It is then that the teacher provides resources for further exploration and discovery.  Students are encouraged to find subtopics that interests them and dig deeper.

Elementary classrooms encourage independence in learning.  Teachers are encouraged to follow the child's lead and help them develop skills that are necessary for success as an adult.  

The American History Writing Outline guides children through initial lessons about historical events. It provides varying levels of support depending on the needs of the individual students.


Required research encourages children to explore history in a variety of ways.  Not every child learns history in the same way.

The American History Time Period Project encourages individual growth in every student.  It teaches so many skills including but not limited to planning, preparation, follow through and time management.  

The project also provides opportunity to work on public speaking skills, grace and courtesy (while others are presenting), and teaching others.


Our kiddos are so thrilled about this new approach to history.  Dinomite, who is incredibly passionate about history right now, is so excited to share more about one of his favorite topics with peers.  His biggest challenge is narrowing down what he wants to focus his project on after the initial research.

Bulldozer is so elated to have a writing outline to guide him through his studies.  He is particularly excited when he knows an answer to a question before he takes the time to research.  The outline is that extra layer of support he needs to be successful in learning history.

Princess has never been a fan of history.  She has always avoided history work on our shelves.  The American History Writing Outline has helped her think about history in different ways, more than just an event that occurred a long time ago.

When she realized that she could research historical events in a variety of ways, she became excited to find resources that suited her individually.  These vary significantly from those her brothers prefer.  And the project that follows... Princess is so excited to create something that depicts an event in history.

I can't wait to share their projects at the end of the month!

Directions on How to Obtain Subscriber Only Freebies 

1. Click on the Subscriber's link at the bottom of this post.

2. Subscribe to our free newsletter.

3. Open the thank you message you receive after subscribing. (Be sure to check your spam folder, as sometimes it ends up there.)

4. You will be sent a confirmation e-mail. Be sure to click the link to confirm your subscription.

5. Once confirmed you will receive a "Thank You" Message.

6. The link to our Subscriber Only Freebies page as well as password to access it is in the "Thank You" message.

7. Click on link and type in password.

8. Find the printable pack you are looking for listed in alphabetical order, click on it, and viola!

We hope you enjoy your free printable.

Note: If you are already a newsletter subscriber, open your most recent newsletter. At the bottom you will find a link to the Subscriber Only Freebies page, along with the password in case you forgot it.


If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the resources below.
Montessori-inspired Native American History Printable Pack Montessori-inspired Explorers and Colonists Printable Pack The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown
American HIstory for Kids: The Montessori Way

Read More »

How to Help Your Autistic Child Play Board Games Successfully

If you would have told me, even three years ago, that my autistic children could one day play board games successfully, I probably would have laughed at you.

Playing board games goes on that list of things that ALL my autistic kids have REALLY struggled with.

And we’re not just talking minor issues here.

We’ve had games fly through the air.

People have been injured, and not just by game pieces.

Physical fights have broken out between players.

Screaming fits have taken place.

Meltdowns have occurred on almost every occasion.

For years, at least one person left the game room in tears, if not everyone.

How to Help Your Autistic Child Play Board Games Successfully

How do you help your autistic child play board games successfully?

After so many negative experiences, I was ready to throw in the towel, sell every board game we had, and surrender to the idea that board games just weren’t going to be possible.

Fortunately I’m me, and giving up is not in my nature.

I went through my 24 hours of sulking and then went to work.

There just had to be a way that I could help my autistic kiddos be successful at playing board games.

Knowing the method has always worked for me in the past, I took a Montessori approach to the situation.

Observe

My first step was to observe my autistic kids as they attempted to play board games and failed.

Thankfully, my husband was more than willing to play board games with them so that I could do this.

I learned so much from this exercise.

Dinomite struggled when unexpected events occurred while playing each game. His fear of the unknown and anxieties were really getting the best of him. When things didn’t go as he had hoped, he was devastated.

How to help your child struggling with board games

Bulldozer could not grasp the concept of chance. He was stuck in the “If I do this, then this will happen” mentality. When what was expected didn’t happen, he couldn’t handle it and wanted to try again. Once he discovered that he couldn’t fix things, he was devastated.

Sunshine struggled with multiple aspects of playing board games. She was still trying to understand taking turns. During her turn, she would become extremely frustrated if things didn’t go exactly as she wanted them to.

Sunshine learns at a slower pace than her peers and siblings. So much frustration comes from her inability to understand and perform at the level of her siblings. She does not like being corrected or given help if she doesn’t do something correctly.

Ask When Possible

After I observed each of my kiddos, I decided to just come out and ask them why they struggled so much when playing board games.

Dinomite expressed that no matter how hard he tries, no matter what “good stuff” happens, he always loses. It just becomes so frustrating that he doesn’t like trying anymore.

Bulldozer shared that he feels he’s made a bad choice when something negative happens on his turn, even when it was just luck of the draw, and especially when he loses.

Sunshine wasn’t able to express her feelings in words.

Follow the Child

It’s no wonder board game experiences were as devastating as they were. Each autistic kiddo was struggling with something different. Add them all together and we had definitely created a recipe for disaster EVERY TIME.

Solution Option #1: Cooperative Board Games

Dinomite couldn’t handle losing one more time. He was always worried about what would happen on his next turn that would ruin things for him. Every time he felt that loss of control, he melted down.

To help Dinomite be successful we turned to cooperative board games like Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle Cooperative Deck Building Game, where he could feel more in control and always win when he worked together with his playmates.

He was still super intense as he played for a while, but over time he was able to relax and become a leader, helping his peers.

Solution Option #2: Strategy Board Games

Bulldozer loves video games. When I compared board games to video games, I could definitely see where he was struggling. In a video game, you can work hard and continue to try, try again, to master each level. No matter how many losses you face, if you stick with it, you will win the game. Most board games are not like this. With Bulldozer’s competitive nature, he and board games were not meshing.

In order to help Bulldozer, we knew our best bet was to introduce him to board games of strategy. Games of chance just weren’t going to work. Our first move was teaching him how to play chess. A grandparent had introduced the game to Bulldozer and he was very interested.

My husband read a “How to Play Chess” book aloud with Bulldozer so they could both learn the game. Then they started practicing. Bulldozer loved it. The two began playing on a regular basis.

When Grandpa Ron came to visit, they’d play for hours. With each game, Bulldozer seemed more and more confident with his ability to handle a game, even if he lost, because he knew he was doing his best and could try again. Eventually he even joined a chess club at our local library for a while.

How to help your autistic child learn how to play board games well

Solution Option #3: Junior Card Games

Trying to find board games that were fun and entertaining for Sunshine and at the cognitive level that she needed was very difficult. The vast majority of junior level board games were still too complicated for her. She had outgrown Candy Land and other games like it.

This is when we turned to junior level card games, like Five Crowns Junior. They were perfect for her! We purchased a card holder so she wouldn’t be frustrated with that aspect of the game. Then we made sure she had an adult partner to walk her through each turn, until she got the hang of the game.

The extra visuals that are provided in junior card games have proven very beneficial for Sunshine. Even if she doesn’t win, she can see that she’s worked hard and accomplished something.

Extra Supports

The final piece to our success has been the addition of extra supports while playing board games.

1. An adult is always present while a board game is being played.

2. Only two people play a board game together, unless an adult is playing also.

3. Sunshine has her own shelf of games. If Sunshine is playing a board game, she can only play games with others from her shelf.

Over time Dinomite has progressed to enjoying cooperative games as well as strategy and some chance games.

How to help autistic kids play board games

If Bulldozer can’t play video games, he wants to be playing board games. None of my other children love board games as much as Bulldozer. He’s transitioned from only strategy games to games of chance and cooperative games.

Sunshine enjoys her junior card games and has fun playing some junior board games now that she’s a little older

As you can tell, there’s no one fits all solution to helping an autistic child learn how to play board games successfully. It takes observation, communication, a willingness to try new things, and a desire to change.

Some kiddos may decide they don’t want to learn how to play board games successfully right now, and that’s okay. My autistic kiddos are 8, 11, and 12 and they’re barely mastering these skills, but only because they have a desire to do so, whereas before, they did not.

The best way you can support your child is to observe, listen, and follow their lead. Eventually the desire to learn how to play board games will come. When it does, you want to be ready!

If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy the posts below.

Must Have Fidget Toys 4 Steps to Managing Aggressive Behaviors When food is your child's enemy


Read More »

Anger Management for Kids: The Caregiver's Responsibility with FREE Printable

A special thank you to Sunshine for permission to share this experience.

I woke up this morning so energized and excited. Sunshine and I had been talking about her goals for the new year.

The first goal she mentioned was that she didn’t want to (physically) hurt people anymore.

Sunshine’s emotions have always been big. Whether she’s too excited, too anxious, too angry, or too sad, it’s as if her body is on fire and she can’t control herself. 

This issue is compounded by a very low frustration tolerance.

Sunshine’s go to response is fight which can become dangerous very quickly.

After Sunshine calms down and comes back to the present, she is absolutely shattered by her behaviors. 

She spirals downward into negative self-talk and at times self-injurious behaviors.

It is devastating and so painful to watch, especially as we’ve been working so much on self-regulation skills.

Teaching anger management to kids can be so difficult.  It's hard to navigate the caregiver's responsibility.

Anger Management for Kids: The Caregiver's Respnsibility

Implement an Emotional Regulation System

Sunshine does really well with the emotional regulation system we’ve implemented at home and school.

She can identify her emotions.

She follows the steps we’ve implemented to calm down.

But when she’s on fire, nothing seems to work.

Prepare for the Fire

So as I was saying, this morning I was excited. Sunshine and I had talked about her behaviors during these “fire” moments and come up with safe physical alternatives to match the harmful behaviors she displays. We had even started putting some of them together.

She has such a strong desire to NOT hurt others, even in her worst moments.

Instead of throwing breakable, hard objects, we gathered a bunch of her small stuffed animals that are safe to throw and put them in a special place for when they’re needed. They have no glass eyes or button noses. None of them are filled with beans or anything but stuffing.

We identified a wall in her bedroom that was safe to throw things at. The two of us practiced throwing the stuffed animals so she would understand what to do during those “fire” moments.

Instead of screaming in people’s faces, we talked about grabbing a pillow and screaming her guts out into it.

Instead of biting people, we talked about biting toys that were meant for biting and could provide the sensory input she needs.

Instead of hitting, punching and kicking people and objects, we talked about getting a punching bag for her to use.

Instead of hurting people, use punching bag-Anger Management for Kids: The Caregiver's Responsibility

Sunshine was so excited about these options. My husband and I were thrilled by her excitement.

At this point we know as much as we try, there’s no way to stop the behaviors from occurring. There’s a sensory component to them that she craves. We just need to provide safe alternatives.

Brace Yourself for Life's Unexpected Events

Today’s afternoon plan was to pick up some more of the items we needed to help Sunshine.

We would also take Sunshine to go see Frozen II a few days earlier than planned, in hopes to avoid any major “fire” episodes and the self-defeating behaviors that come after.

Sunshine desperately wants to see Frozen II.  After unsafe post-Christmas behaviors we made the mistake of telling her she needed to have several good behavior days in a row in order to go to the movie theater.

We were worried about unsafe behaviors while traveling to the theater, while in the theater, and especially the transition home, when it hits Sunshine that all of the fun and excitement has ended.

The anxiety and excitement about going to see the movie has been increasing daily for Sunshine. Every morning she’s been telling me how many more days are left until Saturday (the day we had planned to go). She has been holding in negative emotions to be “good.” By this morning, I could tell she was ready to blow.

Sunshine was overjoyed when we revealed our plan to see Frozen II a couple days early. We expressed to her that we saw how hard she was trying to earn the movie, but we noticed the anxiety and excitement were a bit much and we wanted to help.

We got in the van, ran a couple of errands, realized we forgot Sunshine’s medications, and started back to our home before making the hour drive to the nearest theater playing Frozen II. It was during that drive home that we realized something was wrong with our van.

We prepped Sunshine as best we could for devastating news that we probably wouldn’t make it to the theater today. I reminded her that it was okay to feel big emotions, she just needed to be safe when doing so.

Daddy dropped us off at home and headed to the car repair shop. No preparation would help with the flood of emotions that came when Daddy returned and said that we would not be going anywhere.

The van had to be repaired and couldn’t be fixed until tomorrow at the earliest.

We tried to help Sunshine with her emotions.

Instead of screaming at people, scream into a pillow-Anger Management: The Caregiver's Responsibility

I asked if she wanted a pillow to scream into or if she wanted to go hug Stitch, her favorite stuffed animal.

Daddy asked if she wanted to go throw stuffed animals.

Instead of throwing unsafe objects, throw stuffed animals: Anger Management for Kids: The Caregiver's Responsibility

She refused, screaming back at us in anger.

And that was it.

She was on fire, and all we could do was brace ourselves for the unsafe behaviors that followed.

Have a Safety Plan in Place

Life happens.

Sometimes it really stinks.

This situation was absolutely no one’s fault.

But, the emotions were too strong for Sunshine to bear.

For the 45 minutes that followed, my husband and I followed our usual family safety plan, taking turns switching out every five minutes, to ensure both of us were physically safe and could keep our own emotions under control.

Process Your Own Emotions

I won’t lie. We were pretty discouraged.

Besides dealing with Sunshine’s behaviors and emotions, we had just found out our van (our one and only vehicle) needed costly repairs.

We had made the horrible mistake of setting a behavioral expectation followed by a reward which we know does NOT work well. (I blame my poor decision making on the holiday break, but still I’m kicking myself for being so stupid.)

All the excitement from the morning about our plan had been smashed to pieces when Sunshine refused it.

Was it even worth it to invest in more equipment if she already refused to use what we had at home?

How do you help a child with emotional regulation and anger management skills when they refuse it?

Children only become bigger and stronger.

Consequences for their actions only become worse.

The Caregiver's Responsibility

That’s when my husband and I had to remind ourselves, that ultimately Sunshine makes her own choices.

All of her choices have consequences.

Our job is to do the best we can to teach her the skills she needs to be successful in life.

These include emotional regulation and anger management.

If she refuses to learn, that’s on her.

Understanding consequences to choices may be the very best lesson we can teach.

I would much prefer she learn and experience them now, when she’s young, and there’s still time to change, than when she’s older and those consequences have long-term effects on her life.

If she’s not capable, all we can do is do our best with the time that we’re given.

But no matter what…

We as parents can’t give up.

We can’t lose hope.

We need to believe our kids can get better, especially when they can’t believe in themselves.

We need to love unconditionally… not matter what.

And in those moments when our kids are on fire…

We can model appropriate behavior.

We can invite them to do the right thing.

We can set safe boundaries and enforce them.

We can help put out the fire.

My husband and I will move forward with our plan to help Sunshine manage her emotions when she feels like she's on fire.  To help with this process we've created a printable to provide the visuals she'll need to memorize and practice what to do.

FREE Anger Management for Kids Printable: When I'm on fire I can...

You too can enjoy this resource as a Subscriber Only Freebie.  To download your own copy, follow the directions below.

Directions on How to Obtain Subscriber Only Freebies 

1. Click on the Subscriber's link at the bottom of this post.

2. Subscribe to our free newsletter.

3. Open the thank you message you receive after subscribing. (Be sure to check your spam folder, as sometimes it ends up there.)

4. You will be sent a confirmation e-mail. Be sure to click the link to confirm your subscription.

5. Once confirmed you will receive a "Thank You" Message.

6. The link to our Subscriber Only Freebies page as well as password to access it is in the "Thank You" message.

7. Click on link and type in password.

8. Find the printable pack you are looking for listed in alphabetical order, click on it, and viola!

We hope you enjoy your free printable.

Note: If you are already a newsletter subscriber, open your most recent newsletter. At the bottom you will find a link to the Subscriber Only Freebies page, along with the password in case you forgot it.


Update:  Sunshine continues to practice expressing anger in safe ways.  She may not be successful every time, but each time she is we celebrate.  The day after I wrote this post Sunshine had three incidents where she was on fire.  During one of those incidents she was able to put part of our plan into action and did great! 

I'm so glad we didn't give up.  Our hope is that over time (months or years) she will be able to choose safe ways to express anger every time with lots of support and practice.
 

Note: If your child exhibits the behaviors discussed in this post beyond the toddler years it is very important that you discuss them with your child's pediatrician.  

Sunshine is monitored by her pediatrician and psychiatrist, as well as teachers, behavioralist, and therapist at her day program. Respite workers help out in the home.  All behaviors are documented and reported to specialists.  If she is unable to be safe, law enforcement has been and will continue to be involved.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the resources below.

4 Steps to Managing Aggressive Behaviors One Sure Way to Help Your Child Work Through Emotions Four Prompts to Encourage Mindfulness in Children A Safety Plan for Mental Health Our Pediatric Mental Health Crisis From the Mother of a Bully
Anger Management for Kids: The Caregiver's Responsibility

Read More »

9 Ways to Practice Multiplication Facts with Montessori Math Bead Bars

One of our co-op friends has really struggled to learn multiplication facts over the years while attending public school.  This has led to extreme anxiety and a lack of progress in math.

After six months of learning with us, our friend is finally ready and willing to work on multiplication facts the Montessori way to learn them once and for all.  

Knowing Montessori is still new to our friend, I wanted to create as many resources as possible to provide all of the support he may need to succeed in his endeavor.  

Let me present to you 9 Ways to Practice Multiplication Facts with Montessori Math Bead Bars.

9 Ways to Practice Multiplication Facts Using Montessori Math Bead Bars

Montessori Skip Counting and Multiplication Bundle


All of the printables in this post are from our Montessori Skip Counting and Multiplication Bundle.

Now through December 31, 2019 this bundle is available for 75% OFF at only $14.99.

The printables provide extra controls for those who may need them and work fabulously well for those who are just beginning their multiplication fact journey.  When used in its entirety you have everything you need to help every child learn their multiplication facts.

Montessori Skip Counting and Multiplication Bundle from Every Star Is Different

When teaching multiplication the Montessori way math bead bars are almost always used.  For our activities presented here they are always used.  

I highly recommend the deconomial box with beads in order to receive the maximum benefit from these printables for lessons and extensions.

If you are unable to afford or obtain access to Montessori Math Bead Bars, the Montessori Skip Counting and Multiplication Bundle provides you with a much less expensive alternative.  

You won't be able to experience the hands on aspect of the work, but you will have Montessori bead cards.

9 Ways to Practice Multiplication Facts the Montessori Way

Now let's view all of the ways these fabulous printables can be used!

9 Ways to Practice Multiplication Facts with Montessori Math Bead Bars


1. Match up word cards with answer cards
The example reads, "two taken twelve times."  Note the matching beads beside the card.  Beads on and beside the top card read horizontally.  The bottom card is the answer.  Notice gold beads are used to create the number.  The answer reads vertically.

2. Match up multiplication problem cards with word cards.
Is your child trying to understand what a multiplication problem is? This is the perfect match up activity to progress from "six taken seven times" to 6x7.  Notice the purple beads below the cards.  If you would prefer the activity in nomenclature form, cards without lines are provided in all sets.

3. Match up answer cards.
How many ways can a number be created using the math bead bars?  When skip counting or introducing multiplication, numbers are created one way.  When creating an answer, numbers are created another way.

4. Match multiplication problem cards with horizontal bead answer cards.
Perhaps your child isn't quite ready to create numbers using the gold bead bars or they're not available?  Or maybe your child needs an extra level of control.  This is the perfect way to reinforce multiplication lessons taught to your child.

5. Use horizontal bead answer cards as skip counting cards.
Organize your cards in order from smallest to largest, placing the correct number of corresponding beads below.

6. Use multiplication problem cards and horizontal bead answer cards as nomenclature cards.
As mentioned previously, nomenclature style cards with and without lines are included in this bundle for every type of card.  I only printed out the lined cards, based on how we would use them in our classroom.  Choose the ones you prefer and viola!

7. Mix and match bead cards and word strips.
If your child is capable and confident with the other work ideas presented here you can always combine one or more activities.

8. Use multiplication fact clip cards with horizontal bead answer cards as a control.
Once your child has learned to read multiplication problems and can skip count, the multiplication fact clip cards are the perfect resource for practice, especially when a child can check their own answers with the answer cards.

9. Match up multiplication cards with vertical answer cards.
If your child is comfortable with multiplication problems, skip counting, and creating whole numbers using the math bead bars, this is a perfect activity to solidify multiplication skills.

As you can tell there are several ways to practice multiplication facts.  It's always so nice to have a variety of activities to ensure mastery on every level.  The multiplication cards from the Montessori Skip Counting and Multiplication Bundle are such a huge help!

If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy the following resources.

Montessori Math Bead Bar Printable Pack in Print Montessori Math Bead Bar Printable Pack in Cursive Montessori-inspired Math Bead Bar Play Dough Mats Bundle Montessori Multiplication and Division Bundle

9 Ways to Practice Multiplication Facts with Montessori Math Bead Bars

Read More »

Happy Holidays!

It’s been quite a year (or two) here in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

Picture taken December 2018


We have finally settled into our new lives after a tumultuous transition in 2018. Experiences that made us stronger include: 
  • The loss of Jason’s emergency mental health job (2/1/18)
  • Several delays in the closing of our new home (finally closed (7/18)
  • Sunshine’s nine day stay in the pediatric psychiatric ward (5/18) followed by a lot of intensive in-home therapy and…
  • Sunshine’s enrollment into a full-time day program (6/18)
  • Princess’ enrollment into public school (9/18)
  • Flooding and loss of several items stored in cellar (10/18)
  • Renae’s abnormally high white blood cell count (discovered 11/18)

We’re happy to report that 2019 has been a year of progress and healing for everyone. Our home is now fully furnished and decorated. Renae and Jason’s blog/business is skyrocketing. We’ve even started a Montessori co-op.

Pictures taken January 2019

In 2019 we were able to take two wonderful family vacations, the first to Universal Studios in January 2019.

Pictures taken January 2019

 The second trip was to Williamsburg for a week in July.

Pictures taken July 2019

Jason loves his job at home creating Montessori printables and being Renae’s business partner. When he’s not at the computer he’s cooking, cleaning, and/or caring for kids while Renae fits her work time in. At church he serves as an advisor to the twelve to fourteen-year-old boys.

For Renae, 2019 has been a bit more challenging. She met with a hematologist/cancer specialist in the spring after three blood tests with higher and higher white blood cell counts. There were four hypotheses as to why her counts were off.

1. Severe iron deficiency
2. Inflammation caused by worsening asthma
3. Inflammation caused by trauma
4. A form of blood cancer

Renae decided it was time to work on self-care in big ways. Over the past 8 months she has received an iron injection that sent her into anaphylaxis (and led to a trip to the ER), increased iron intake through diet, received a steroid injection, and increased the dosage of her asthma medication.

She has embraced minimalism more than ever, eliminated stress wherever possible, addressed her anxiety and secondary PTSD (a result of raising two children with trauma), taken mini getaways, practiced meditation, and created a village to help with Sunshine.

Renae’s white blood cell count numbers are FINALLY starting to go down as of her last appointment this month. She can’t wait to see them return to a normal range with continued work in all areas. Self-care is HARD but so important.

Dinomite, 12, is now as tall as Renae and continues to grow. His passion for history, specifically military vehicles and weapons is unmatched. In March he went to Washington D.C. for the first time with Renae (and Bulldozer) visiting all of the memorials and a couple of the Smithsonian museums. It was such a fantastic experience!

Pictures taken March 2019

Dinomite loves music, LEGO, reading, playing video games, and working for the family business to earn money. He continues to homeschool and has thoroughly enjoyed having friends join us a couple times each week.

Bulldozer, 11, is Marvel’s biggest fan. Whether it’s discussing the movies, the music, or the LEGO sets, he knows everything. When he’s not eating, breathing, and sleeping Marvel, he loves playing video games, wrestling with his older brother, making new play lists on Amazon Music Unlimited, and learning all about roller coasters, which is yet another passion.

Pictures taken November 2019

The highlight of Bulldozer’s year was a trip to Universal Studios and Sea World with Renae in November.

Pictures taken November 2019

 Bulldozer lives for theme parks (just like his mom) and finally made the life-long dream of meeting an orca whale up close and personal come true. He communicated with, fed, and played with Shamu.

Pictures taken November 2019

Princess, 10, is homeschooling again. She is doing significantly better without the anxieties associated with peer and teacher relations. We can’t believe how relaxed and content she is at home and just how close she’s become with Renae. Princess loves reading, LEGO, art, and singing. She’s recently shown a huge interest in embroidery and other crafts.

Pictures taken May 2019

At the end of May, Princess and Renae went on a mini vacation to Walt Disney World where they had the time of their lives going on rides, meeting Princesses, eating delicious foods, and watching nighttime movies about the royal family of England.

Sunshine, 8, continues to struggle with managing emotions and at times requires police intervention, but still she is doing the best she’s ever done.

Pictures taken August, September, and October of 2019

Though the events of 2018 were the most traumatic our family has ever gone through, the blessings that have come as a result have been countless. We’ve been so excited to welcome so many wonderful people into our lives who love Sunshine. Just like us, they want her to be the best she can be. These people include her new pediatrician, new psychiatrist, school transport driver, teachers, therapists, respite workers, and more.

Pictures taken December 2019

Sunshine loves stuffed animals, barbies, My Little Pony, LEGO, music, and playing outside. At the beginning of this month the entire family (and respite worker) joined Sunshine for her mini vacation of choice to Great Wolf Lodge and Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. Everyone had a wonderful time.

We hope that you have had a wonderful 2019 and that 2020 is even better! We love you and think of you often.

With love,
Jason, Renae, Dinomite, Bulldozer, Princess, and Sunshine
Read More »