Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spring's Tender Starts

I've fallen off here again.  I apologize for my negligence.....not that there's a gargantuan crowd beating down my blog, but I'm indebted to those who do stop to read what I've put up.  I surmise this is mostly for my benefit, to see the progression they have made over the years, but for others who are searching for suggestions/answers.  I hope you'll find some nugget of truth you can take from here and run with to defend your optimism.

We've endured a long winter season and are happy to emerge to welcome Spring.  The kids are overjoyed to feel the warmth of the sunshine outdoors and see their swing set unearthed from the snow. 
We've been putting down roots here in our new location.  That in itself is a very satisfying feeling.    We've found a new psychologist who specializes in treating childhood anxiety.  She's not well versed in SM kids but I'm not concerned by her lack of knowledge. She still understands kids and family dynamics.   She graduated from a school that taught the Adlerian philosophy.  Adler believed that courage was the answer to many of life's problems.   There's a book she suggested too that I've enjoyed reading.  It's called Positive Discipline A-Z, 1001 solutions to everyday parenting problems.   I like it's approach and feel it's given me some insight.   
We continue to homeschool and have become relaxed about our schedule and curriculum since we school year round. We began reading aloud the Chronicles of Narnia series and they are so engrossed.  They beg me to read it to them.  If I may toot my own horn.  They're both reading at advanced levels for their age.  Yeah us!!!  I've not found a large variety of Co Ops in our area however there's a very large homeschooling mom's group I've found helpful.  They meet routinely through play dates, organize independent classes and share ideas on a social media website.  That's how we found and have been attending an art class on Friday mornings.  Friday afternoons are then spent meeting with friends or doing other educational things like going to the science museum, or botanical conservatory.   It's our girlie day out, have a restaurant lunch and socialize.
As far as the SM goes, they've made some progress.  No spontaneous speech on a continual basis, but they will answer multiple choice questions with strangers with a little prompting.  They've made strides when we practice being brave by saying "Please" and "Thank you" to whomever we're practicing with.  Our initial psychologist said names, please and thank yous are the hardest for SM kids.   So I'm thankful we've crossed a hurdle.  I believe it's evident the kids are feeling more comfortable in our new surroundings.  As we visit friends and family members more consistently, they continue to surprise me with their courage.  My sister in law, can get them to answer her questions (multiple choice) without any help from me.  On occasion we've let them spend the night there to spend time with their cousins and they follow the other kids giggling and playing with no apprehension.  They don't carry on conversations but will answer questions/talk with their cousins spontaneously. GINORMOUS! 
I recently stumbled across a research study on  I called to inquire and quickly decided it was not for us but it prompted me to do some thinking and research on my own.  I saw on Dr. Oz the benefits of using chamomile to treat anxiety.    This is the study I think Dr. Oz is referring to, not sure.   Here's another article I found explaining chamomile's benefits.  Chamomile has had a long history of treatment in a variety of ailments, it is even used to treat upset tummies in babies with no reported side effects.  In this article I read children only need a third of an adult dose.   The kids take a snack before bedtime and I'm planning on sneaking it in their smoothies.  Surely we'll reap the anti anxiety benediction and get some compliance in them falling asleep at a respectful hour!

I'm confident we're going to practice all these approaches and see if we see any more advancements.  I understand brain function enough to know a well worn path is not easily diverted from.  If we can foster the feelings of confidence and lessen the anxiety then the brain begins making new paths to travel upon and the old one get grown over.  That's cognitive behavioral therapy.  I'll post my findings when I notice a difference. 

Praying this Spring is the season of many new tender starts.
With God's Grace anything is possible. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

What a Summer!

It's been a summer I won't soon forget.  Can't believe it's over already,  (with a sigh of relief) I'm glad it is.  We as a family have finally hit a few "life goals."  My husband changed jobs and we've moved to another state.   We now live in the same state as most of my family resides in so the girls have had plenty of opportunities to see relatives.  I thought the girls might regress in their bravery after the move, but they haven't, which I'm so pleased to report.  We had a huge family reunion in August and there were so many cousins their age I couldn't count them all.  By the end of the day the girls were playing in different directions from one another and were answering yes and no questions and laughing out loud with those around them, which is so out of the box for them.   One step closer to our dream.  We found an old farm house with a little land out in the country and are striving to become more "self sustainable."   I've noticed the girls being just as comfortable in our new house as they were in our old and when asked, if they want to move back, I get a resounding "NO!"  They love being able to roam the backyard, hideout in their clubhouse and play under the pine trees.  We've collected shells at the beach, feathers wherever we can find them and are soon to start our leaf ID collection.  We've hiked my old stomping grounds, the woods,  I grew up in as a child and I'm also starting to introduce them to sewing.  We've watched a moth change from a fuzzy yellow caterpillar to a Virgina Tiger moth, I even have to admit that was a pretty cool!   We're planning for spring already,  with growing a garden and starting a 4-H compliant project raising chickens in our backyard. 
I have to report, we've switched curricula.  Another homeschool mom I love and respect, suggested Sonlight and so I looked into it and was impressed.   The girls and I Love LOVE Love books.  I lean toward a more eclectic/Charlotte Mason with a touch of unschooling thrown in kind of teaching style.   In my opinion, Sonight so far, is a much better fit for us.  
We've plugged into our local library and we started attending the same church my family goes to.  The church has been a tremendous resource for us and we're meeting other homeschool families around the area.  One family we've met lives right around the corner from us on 6 acres.  They also homeschool and are into homesteading.  My husband and our newly found friends are talking about joining forces to dive into aquaponics together in the neighbor's pole barn. I find it refreshing that there's an abundance of  people who share our values and ideas about how we think life should be lived close by.
I hope to impart upon my children a sense of community and being responsible for themselves as well as the Earth they've been blessed with.  My hope for them is that they grow braver everyday being surrounded by a close knit group of folks they can look up to and count on.  "It takes a village to raise a child."  I'm so happy to say after a long road around the world, we've finally found our very own village to plant some roots in.  Plants some roots and watch the children grow.   
 Praise be to Him , for God and Life IS so good! 

I hope you have had a splendid summer as well.  May your children be blessed and feel secure in the love and care you're giving to them.  Furthermore, if you're here seeking support or advice about your SM children, I hope they're blessed with a big brave bold voice, one small or gigantic step at a time.  Don't give up!  May God bless and keep you all.

  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.      Deuteronomy 6:5-7

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Foundation of Words

  A few little milestones to report, the girls and I practiced yesterday talking on the phone.  When the second daughter got on the phone she said "hello" spontaneously before I even did.  My heart leaped for joy!  Same said child also told me she loved me first the other night at bedtime.  It's always me saying I love them and then they in turn tell me.  That was the first spontaneous "I love you Mommy" ever and I'm taking  note.  They've also as of late are more apt to speak in a room of more than one person when all eyes are on them.  It still takes some coaxing but it's coming and they're doing it nonetheless. 
Little steps are the foundation to a house not built on sand.  Patience, time and perseverance will prevail but keep your actions and words kind.  Come from a place of love and not one of annoyance or shame.  I know many times I've wanted to push them so that other people could see the bright sweet children that I know them to be.  Putting that expectation on them is unfair of me because they only want to please me and if I push them faster than their mutism is willing to go at the time then I create the anxiety.   We need to ask them kindly and lovingly but firmly to be brave consistently!  I still believe by them being homeschooled and learning in real life environments it has helped us tackle the hurdles a day may pose. Consistency creates the opportunity to make the connections they need to learn that more people are kind and don't expect much out of a conversation other than the very art itself.   

I had heard the following quote in a lesson by Pastor Alistair Begg on Truth for Life the other morning and it really stirred by heart.

Just Suppose;
 If all that we say in a single day, 
with never a word left out, 
were painted each night in clear black and white, 
it would prove queer reading no doubt.
 And then just suppose, 
ere our eyes we would close, 
we must read the whole record through. 
Then wouldn’t we sigh, 
and wouldn’t we try,
 a great deal less talking to do? 
And I more than half think that many a kink, 
would be smoother in life’s tangled thread, 
if half that we say in a single day, 
were left forever unsaid.

 ~ Author Unknown

Not only hitting close to home for me, I also then turned it toward my girls.  Don't you wish we could harness the effects of being selectively mute some days, what a gift it would be?!  
    Proverbs 23:9
Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words.
Or  Proverbs 18:6 says A fool's lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.

I've been so outspoken on many occasion that a little self restraint or tongue tied-ness might have done me a world of good!

James 1: 19 says Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.

I'm not condoning bullying by any means or my children not being able to stand up for themselves although there's value to learning that there are others out there who use words to seek out weakness.    It's my responsibility to teach my daughters there is a balance somewhere in the middle  To help them recognize and avoid the type of person who would take advantage and that they need to trust God that He has made them in His image and to listen to the Holy Spirit in such cases.
I read this morning in my devotional "Thank God for the difficulties in your life, since they provide protection from the idolatry of self-reliance."  
We can not heal ourselves or our children without the plight of God's hand no matter what we do.  It's been hard for me to trust in His good plan for them and their lives.  He has blessed them with this condition for a reason and has entrusted them to my husband and I so that we too learn a valuable lesson, to pray and trust in His reason. 
I would never intentionally keep my children from progressing away from the anxiety that they feel when out in public, however I wonder if their mutism might be an advantage one day in certain situations?
Being a parent of sometimes solemn children leads me to worry for their lives.  We as parents don't want our children to experience all the pain the world has to offer.  Of course being a parent of any child means we only want good things for their lives and so the vicious cycle repeats;  trust God.
Isn't that the greatest gift we can give to our children is the belief in Jesus and that all things are possible through Him?  

I pray that those of you who come to this page be blessed by God's plan for you and yours.  Choose your words wisely and learn to trust Him in your life and the life of your child/children.  Trusting in Him doesn't solely mean that we sit back and rely on Him to do the work He has planned for us.  It means that we ask for His guidance and trust in the fact that through our work and consistent perseverance we can get our children to a place where they can trust the voice within at all times.

 May God bless you one and all. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Abdonded Ship

We did it.  We've got one year of homeschooling under our belts and I've already switched curricula.  I very much believe in Charlotte Mason's style of learning/teaching.  I quote ""In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mothers first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet and growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it for the most part spent out in the fresh air."  I agree with a gentle approach to my children's childhood, Affording them time to be a child and exploring their world.  I find it important to instill a love of the outdoors and nature for them.  I want them to be able to foster their own curiosity and seek out information on their own one day.   That's when we known we've succeeded as a teacher, when the student is capable of teaching themselves.
We used My Father's World for first grade and I really appreciated the approach in the way they lay out their lesson plans.  I do liked their planning and putting together a curriculum that teaches the Bible, but in my opinion they failed in a few key areas for 1st grade.  I didn't like their phonics program or their math.  Phonics really lacked any true rhyme or reason for the way they presented the sounds and there were no rules as to why.  As for their complete book of math, it's for grades 1-3 and also didn't seem to follow any sort of reason.  It had no real lessons, only work pages in the book to be completed.  Now in MFW defense, I have noticed they've upgraded their 1st grade phonics program, but not the math.  I have a friend that utilizes it for later grades and has nothing but good things to say so maybe I'll try it again some day.  Not sure.  I debated last year, when starting to homeschool,  using Sonlight but shied away from it due to the high price.  Little did I know they had a payment plan.  That's a really nice option.  I looked at it again for our second year and knew I was going to do something different no matter the cost.  Our first year wasn't a total waste, it was a great learning curve for them and for me.  We pounded out basics of learning to tell time, got the calendar down, we worked a lot of character building.  I also spent many days with them outside collecting leaves, bugs, feathers and pine cones.  We walked off Noah's Ark in the backyard, that was a pretty good sized boat and the science projects they suggested were easy and fun.  After pouring over many homeschool reviews I still kept coming back to Sonlight.  I caved and ordered Core B with the first grade readers on a 4 day lesson plan.  I also ordered All About Spelling because they needed a spelling program this year and also because I've heard so many good things about it abilities to teach phonics too.  A little tip, we took the back of a white board ( white board was purchased at Lowes for around $30) and I painted the back of the white board with magnetic paint.  It's perfect for what we need!
For math Sonlight suggests  Saxon Math, but I went with Math Mammoth.   It uses the heuristic approach,  which refers to experience-based techniques for problem solving, learning, and discovery and it was very affordable.  Probably the cheapest part of our year so far!
The Sonlight box came the other day and the kids were so excited.  They pulled everything out, we put it all together and I got everything ready to go for our first day of school.  Our first day came and after we did our seat work part of the day,.......math, writing, spelling, we moved to the couch with a snack and read all the required reading for the day.  It was such a nice change of pace, being in our jammies on the couch reading about people of the world doing a few devotionals and reading aloud Charlotte's Web.  The kids also brought something out to play with on the living room floor when they couldn't sit still on the couch any longer and I actually think they participated more freely because they were not stuck to a chair behind the kitchen table.  There are questions Sonlight poses for thought after you've read  the stories and I've been amazed by my little ones answers.  They're intelligent thought out responses and sometimes very poignant.   My little girls!
As for them talking in public, we're still working very hard on being brave.  They're asking more often when we go out on errands if they can be brave.  They still are earning "be brave" cards during the week and once they've hit their quota for the week they're allowed to turn them in for a reward.  They do get instant gratification rewards too when we're out, the very first time we stop somewhere they need to 'be brave' and they'll get a Hershey's Kiss when we get back into the car.  Then the rest of the day is for working toward their cards.  I've been doing more of the hand over techniques that one person on here suggested, but still not getting any spontaneous speech on their own, however they aren't nearly as shy about handing over their gum, money or whatever I hand them to give to said person.  They have taken huge strides in the past year which I can not dismiss so easily.  They are much more apt to make eye contact.  They hardly ever hide behind me anymore and I don't have to coax them near as much as I used to to get them to speak.  They will readily answer forced choice questions without much difficulty and I can even get them to parrot back a whole sentence like "Have a good weekend" to complete strangers!  I'm really pleased and proud of their progress. 

Other than curriculum changes we have more on the horizon, but I'll post more on that later.
   Please know we're praying for your success with the little ones that you love who are affected by Selective Mustism too.
If you have any questions for me or comments then please leave them below.

God Bless.  

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ad Meliora "towards better things"

  I just love when I can be of help to someone else who was standing where I was years ago.  Knowing there's something wrong with your child but not having a word other than "painfully shy" but your gut tells you, there's got to be something more to it than that.  When I got those first few words "pragmatic speech" talking to the girls first speech therapist, I couldn't get home fast enough to Google search them.  It finally gave me a direction. 

We're hoping to move soon.  I've been networking with moms in our new local area and I connected with another mom on a social media forum.  Something provoked her after reading those couple of words "Selective Mutism" to do a Google search and came upon a resounding certainty her child has SM too.   She sent me a message and asked, "Now what do I do?  Where do I go from here?" 

 I wrote back to her and said,

First let me tell you there's hope!  Lots of it.  I would say start with your primary care MD and get a referral to see a child psychologist who specializes in Selective Mustism. 
I'd start with  There is a lot of information on there.  If there's no one available in your state, try to find a psychologist who is good at treating anxiety disorders, especially social anxieties.  Kids need cognitive behavioral therapy to start working a "fear hierarchy ladder."  CBT will help them mimic movements first and then works up to blowing air and taking another step to making sounds like "P" or "B" at first and then working on yes or no and so on.   SM kids are usually perfectionists   (My one is moreso than the other but we'll work on OCD issues later.)    Approach is the key with helping these kids.  You HAVE to know this condition isn't something of their choosing.  They don't choose to remain silent and it's not that they're shy and will grow out of it.  They won't, they'll only retreat further into themselves if left untreated!  If caught early enough this condition is completely reversible.  I've heard so many positive stories and tho my two still don't spontaneously speak they've made huge strides since preschool. 
As someone had shared with me in an earlier post she suggested making the kids do "hand overs" to help instigate initializing spontaneous speech.  Since I've read that suggestion, we've been doing it every chance we can get.  At first they didn't want anything to do with handing over their candy bar or gum to the cashier or their books to the librarian.  Since doing so, they've gotten less and less hesitant.  Body language in these kids shout moreso than being vocal.  Like I told the new mom I met today.  It's a long road, but persistence will in the end pay off.  Stay consistent, be gentle and understanding but firm. 
I took the kids out for hot chocolate and a doughnut last Saturday (it was a reward for them for doing their chores and earning "be brave" cards.)  They were able to with me helping them (I ask them multiple choice questions and then they answer having them look at the person behind the counter) order their own doughnut.  Last summer when we went out with the Dr. to the same place for the first time it took them almost 45 mins before they could order.  We were in and out last Sat in under 45 mins.  That's what I call progress! 

God bless the souls who's hearts are stirred and head out in a direction for our children.  That's what being a parent is about isn't it?  Moving Heaven and Earth.  With God's guidance, start right here on Earth moving one rock at a time.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


This year has been an exploratory one.  I as a new homeschooling mom have learned great lessons about patience, curriculum, children's read aloud books, science approaches and I'm even a better 'drawer' than I ever thought possible.  Most importantly, I've learned to trust God in this whole process.  I've got to be a witness to my children relaxing in life, being comfortable in their own skin.  Friends and family have noticed the change as well.  It's been evident in the way they carry themselves when around people they are and are not familiar with.  They tend not to curl into themselves so much anymore when being somewhere new or slightly familiar.  They often times ask to 'be brave' when we go out to run errands.  They like to work on their responsibilities to earn their rewards. 

I think the homeschool Co Op has been a huge success for all of us.  I've enjoyed making new friends and getting to be a sponge around some of those ol' homeschool mom veterans.  They have accepted us with no strings attached and have been so accommodating to the girls situation. 
Our old public school as well has been such a joy.  They've opened their arms into helping meet our needs when it come to the girls attending extra curricular classes and letting us have access to speech class and their therapist.  The therapist has made great strides with them by getting them to speak outside of her office.  She's been pushing them into other areas of the school such as hallways and the library but has not succeeded in getting them to talk inside a classrooms full of kids.

It's been a year of many great discoveries.  I've learned there are more mundane days than good days, but I've chalked it up to a disenchantment with the curriculum we're using.  We're bored and I just don't like the approach it uses in teaching some certain fundamentals.  I've heard and read, these are the 'gentle years' so I'm not stressing it but am definitely looking into a new curriculum and a new approach for next year.  Find a good curriculum fair to go to if you can.  They are a great place to put your hands on things and decide what might be right for your family.
I have been reading some fun (read aloud) books this year.  The girls and I devour chapter books.  Many "Life according to Humprey" books,  Winnie the Pooh, The Worst Witch series and Dear Hound .   Which is why I'm looking into the Sonlight curriculum for next year.  The kids have progressed in reading and their writing skills are adequate.  They've learned how to tell time, count money and they know basic addition.  But I'm thinking there must be a better way out there.  We've learned bible stories and drew pictures.  Their memorization of memory verses has blown me away!  They memorize so easily.  This one little piece of fact gives me great hope.  They've spent a lot of time playing, making things and getting into trouble this school year.  I've watched them become a better friend to one another and value the importance of being a family.  
It's been a 'gentle year' indeed.  I thank God for all the opportunity He's given us and the means by which they all became possible.

I meet a lady at Co Op who told me she had a niece who also was diagnosed with SM and that her parents found out in preschool, got her the needed therapy and now at age 11, you would have never known she had SM.  What a great uplifting story!!!  I certainly hope we will also be able to tell this same story one day in the not so distant future. 

I pray I can impart onto you inspiration to not give up hope on your little ones who desire so desperately for their loved ones not to forsake them.  Take a huge breath in and a step backward to celebrate and admire the little milestones your child has conquered and praise them at every chance for being brave. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Blessed With Yet Another Year

The holidays have come and gone.  We are trying to get back in an educational and productive groove.  OH my it's been a hard pill to bear!  Much more difficult then when I just had to put the kids on the bus after summer break.
I'm bored with the curriculum and what's far worse is having the kids look at me with that "deer in the headlights" look when we're talking about the special sounds some vowels make.  I suppose we'll finish eventually, but wow, I'm definitely going to look for something with a little more interest next year.  I had a fear of not being able to teach the right things and so I opted for a curriculum that I didn't have to put together myself.  Now that I've got a little experience under my belt, I won't be intimidated so easily this year.
The holidays didn't afford us much opportunity for a lot of social interaction.  We visited with family overnight and so it wasn't a whole lot of warm up time, however the girls were playing with their cousins by the end of Christmas night.  Not talking but playing along side them and following them around.  Again.  I call it progress.
I think I'm going to follow a commenter, Dianne's, advice and try the hand over/take over method in helping them to progress into more relaxed exchanges with people.
Here is her comment:

Hi Deanna,
I was just researching homeschooling children with SM, when I came across your blog. I have a 9-yr old with Selective Mutism and she's been making great strides.
You were curious about how to get your girls to spontaneously speak to people they encounter, but I was thinking about how "far along" something like that is for a child with SM. My daughter started to communicate socially first by doing hand over/take over. It's a more gradual step to social communication; like steps one would take reduce a phobia. I would take my daughter out and she would hand money/credit card/menu/keys whatever to the cashier or waiter and the person would hand them back. This really helps... then there are other steps to take as your child gets more comfortable just handing things to people. (Like you giving two choices on a menu in front of a waiter and asking your child to point to one. When she gets comfortable with pointing, you might move on to a verbal reply.) Initiating speech is one of the last steps. My daughter has been initiating in some cases now! We have had to follow these other steps first to get here, though. I'd be happy to give you more info and the name of the SMart center, where they specialize in SM. It seems like you're doing a great job and maybe you already even do some of the social communication steps that we've learned, but I couldn't help sharing because they are so crucial to helping my daughter (as well as my other 4 kids who have varying degrees of Social Anxiety.) I'm off to read some of the earlier entries on your blog :) Wishing you the best. -Dianna P.

The therapist we go to has really never suggested this before, we've always just jumped to nodding yes or no when we're around others.  However this is how they started out with her when we first started seeing her in her office.  So it seems a very natural place to start with others.  Thank you so much for sharing Dianna.

I'm always interested in what others with SM kids have to say.  I invite you to leave your comments if you are a parent to one of these kids.

Much success in your own 2013 journeys everyone.