Dear readers, This October marked the 10th month of the STEAM Homeschool Group. From the first meet in January with 0 in attendance, oh, how our group has grown! I’m thrilled the share that this past group we had 60 participants! Can you believe it? I sure can’t! How exciting it is to see all the new members we have gained and the families who have been able to connect from this fabulous group! As you all know, this project is a passion of mine. I was a homeschooler, and I know how hard it is for families (especially with multiple children) to find inexpensive Homeschool Programs and resources. So naturally, I was beyond the moon excited to start this completely FREE program. Not only does this group provide a safe space for families and children to meet other homeschoolers within their community, at no charge, but we’re also able to provide free resources like: * Educational Textbooks * Interactive Workbooks * Leveled Reader Books * Pre-planned literacy training worksheets * Individually Created Honor Kits on various subjects (math, science, history, animals, plants, anatomy, weather, space, reading comprehension, poetry, biographies, language, etc) And much more! Every group meet I feel the same emotions. Gratitude, joy, overwhelming happiness. And inspiration! Tons of inspiration! To give you an idea of why I feel this way, I want to share some takeaways from what I saw during our group this past Monday. Things I witnessed as I looked around the room: * Creativity * Inventiveness * Curiosity * Kindness * Friendships forming * Teamwork * Problem-solving * Learning inspired by natural play * Engineering * Building * Kids thinking outside of the box to make something original, that brings them joy I saw 100% unadulterated pure exploration, and what a sight it was! And guess what? The kids weren't the only ones playing and having a good time. Parents were too! These parents are connecting with their kids, and other adults! Forming community and cultivating a network of friends. Using their imaginations to help build and create at our STEAM tables! What an absolute treasure this group has been. And what a pleasure it has been to see it grow and flourish! The feedback and love in this program has been astounding. I’m so grateful for all of our amazing participants of this group who help make it what it is. So, here are some fabulous pictures from our time together in October. Enjoy!
It’s been a little while since I’ve made a post. Here’s what I’ve been up to…
For the past few months I’ve been gathering information, doing research, attending webinars, and working vigorously toward starting a non-profit Homeschool Group for families in need in my community. And I’m happy to announce, it has been a great success!
I’m so excited to share this news with you, so let’s dive right in!
What is Homeschool Group?
Homeschool Group is a place where families can come together and socialize, and kids can engage in self-paced, hands-on learning in a relaxed and creative environment. Right now, my group is open to ages 7-10, but I may look at expanding those age brackets as time goes on and I get a better feel for the specific needs of my community.
Where and when is Homeschool Group hosted? How can I attend?
Great question! Homeschool Group is being hosted in the Hendersonville Public Library in Tennessee. This group is held on the first Monday of each month at 2 PM. Sign-up sheets can be found in the Children’s area. For other cool events we have going on, check out our Facebook page or Instagram feed for updates and calendar info!
My personal goal with Homeschool Group is to inspire creativity and encourage social emotional learning while exposing children to the five elements of STEAM education; science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.
Around the room I have activity tables set up for kids to visit, imagine, and explore the wonders of reading, science, building, writing, creating, socializing, inventing, and playing!
Each of our tables is inspired by STEAM concepts, and is designed to encourage creative thinking and problem solving, enhance motor skills and social-emotional learning, and inspire children to find connections and explore the realm of imagination in a safe and fun environment.
Throughout the building process of this project, I was able to get some fabulous inspiration and ideas from several webinars, a few that I will mention here.
The two that stood out among the rest were STEAM in the Public Library: Programs & Services for Children and Creative Spaces and Family Engagement in Libraries, both available on Webjunction. Now, for those of you who may not know this, in addition to being a children’s book writer, I am also a Children’s Librarian. And, being homeschooled for the majority of my childhood, I have extensive knowledge of what it’s like to be in that position. How hard it can be to make connections within the community. Finding the right resources. Finding places to go. And forget about costs! You can’t find a “cheap” homeschooling program or event to participate in, and free? Free is unheard of. Everything costs something, and most often, it’s a higher price than the average family is looking to spend. Especially when you have more than one child. And that’s not a slight at pricing. It’s very possible that the price is justified and appropriate for whatever services are being offered, but nonetheless, many families simply can’t afford it.
So naturally, coming from a place of understanding, I wanted to offer a service to these families that wouldn’t dip into their pockets. And after some well thought out planning and a trial run, we were finally up and running!
Back to the wonderful Webinars I was able to enjoy. Here are a few of the notes I took from Creative Spaces and Family Engagement in Libraries, that really made me think about why art is such an important role in a child’s life.
The arts are not just expressive and effective. They are deeply cognitive. The arts develop essential thinking tools:
Pattern recognition and development.
Mental representations of the observed/imagined.
Symbolic and metaphorical representations.
Abstraction from complexity.
Cross wiring of brain areas.
Engagement with an art trains the brain to FOCUS, improving learning
* Interest in an art form leads to sustained attention when practicing that art form.
* Engaging in art involves resolving conflicts among competing possible responses.
* The ability to resolve conflict among competing responses is also a crucial aspect of attention training.
Arts integration improves learning
Studies consistently show:
* Greater emotional investment in classes.
* Work more diligently and learn from each other.
* Parents become more involved.
* Teachers collaborate more.
* Increased cross-curricular learning.
* Curriculum becomes more authentic, hands-on and project-based.https://learn.webjunction.org/mod/page/view.php?id=448
Whew! That was a lot to type up. But, well worth it. In fact, I loved it so much, I printed it all out and laminated copies for personal inspiration and reminders as I plan each group.
A few other points I took from this seminar that I really appreciated; I want to share with you below.
Art is a form of self-expression.
Art experiences should not invite sameness. Art should not require an instruction sheet. Art should not have a deadline. Art should encourage creativity, not conformity.
Think of setting up an art experience in the same way you would think of setting up a science experiment.
Encourage tinkering. Invite inventiveness.
Art is not a team sport.
Most often, artistic creation is solitary. Group art WILL leave some kids feeling rushed and compared.https://learn.webjunction.org/mod/page/view.php?id=448
Yes, yes, YES, to all of the above! If you don’t believe this to be true, I suggest taking a look at my book, ADHD and Me. Yep, shameless self-promo. But I wouldn’t try to sell you if I didn’t think it’s true. And I happen to know it is because it was inspired by a real young lady, who went through the same everyday challenges as Malory. Who was that young lady? Me.
About the book: ADHD and Me is an SEL (social-emotional learning) book about a young girl named Malory who has ADHD. Throughout her neurodiverse journey, she is encouraged to express herself using art, by her art teacher Ms. Julie, who was diagnosed as a young girl with Autism. With the help of her fabulous support system, including friends and family, Malory is able to find the joys in life and embrace her differences.
Now for my notes on STEAM in the Public Library: Programs & Services for Children with guest speaker Amy Koester and blogger, “THE SHOW ME LIBRARIAN.”
A little bit about Amy. Amy is a Learning Experiences Manager of a Public Library. She serves as a vice president of ASLC, and she’s a big supporter of her library and community. To see more about her click here.
Amy is a kindred spirit and fellow supporter of all things STEAM. And, her blog is simply AMAZING. Here is a link to visit her blog, THE SHOW ME LIBRARIAN.
So, a few things that I took away from this webinar are listed below.
- American children are lagging behind other countries when it comes to creative thinking.
- School and life success isn’t just about reading.
- Creativity is a top work skill. Today, big companies are looking for outside-of-the box thinkers and problem solvers. It is a highly valued and sought after trait in today’s workforce. And understandably so. Children who are adept learners and creative problem solvers statistically fair better in all avenues of life.
Now, a few of the suggestions that Amy gives are:
- Set up activity stations (check!)
- Observation station (check-check!)
- Sensory lights (FUN!)
- Sand (PERFECT!)
- Rocks (LOVE!)
- Glow in the dark (Who doesn’t love glow in the dark stuff?)
- Grow plants (Check!)
- Root gardens (Fantastic idea)
- Incorporate living things (100%)
- Butterflies/ant farms- and tie in books that fit your experiment! (yes!) While we are on that topic, see if you can sprinkle in non-fiction books too!
- Snails/worms (yes)
- Use recyclables (ALWAYS!)
A few other helpful tips to make your programming fun and engaging for your young participants:
Encourage them to make something.
Get your hands dirty!
Include things that will involve motor skills.
Make STEAM displays fun: one suggestion Amy gave was a globe! A globe is great because kids can both look at it AND play with it. It spins!
And last but not least, give children the tools to succeed!
Building up a child’s inner confidence is part of our job as parents, caregivers, and educators. In order to properly do this, there are several things we need to be mindful of and a few things we should avoid.
I will start with the top three things we SHOULD do.
- Focus on the positive
- Use kind speech
- Be ready to forgive
Focusing on the positive is first on the list of things to do to help boost your child’s self-esteem.
*Note: focusing on the positive does not AND should not mean that you can never express the negative. In life, there will consistently be both. However, if you follow these simple guidelines, it will make this process much simpler to understand and apply in to your everyday routine. So, how can we focus on the positive? What exactly does that mean? Let’s discuss a few ways.
Focusing on the positive goes hand-in-hand with positive affirmations. Why is positive affirmation so important? When a person receives a compliment, the brain, in turn, gets a “rise in dopamine.” As brought out in the linked article: “dopamine is associated with motivation, focus, and positivity.” These are all great things for children and people in general to have.
Example of using a positive affirmation/compliment to boost self-esteem: Mom is going to the grocery store. While she is buckling Hannah into her car seat, she notices that her older son, John, is buckling himself into the car without being helped. What does she do? Mom responds. “I noticed that you remembered to buckle your seatbelt all by yourself when we got into the car. That was very responsible. Good job!”
Why is this notable? Rather than taking John’s seemingly simple/small accomplishment for granted, Mom chose to capitalize on this opportunity to offer positive commendation/affirmation. By taking the initiative to reward John with praise for his task, mom has actually provided him with something crucial to his development. What is it? You guessed it- dopamine.
By taking active initiative to provide her child with this commendation, she has just given him the needed encouragement to repeat this action. What is the end result? Mom has done an excellent job in creating an incentive for John to continue practicing a healthy/positive habit.
*Now, as mentioned before, there will be times when there will be good and bad things to mention. But how you go about expressing the negative aspects without harming your child’s self-esteem is the key. So, how can you do that?
That brings us to kind speech.
As you’re probably familiar with from the working world, delivering “bad” or “unpleasant” news is often best when you accompany it with good news. Sometimes, this is not an option. But most of the time, there is something you can use to your advantage. Let’s discuss a few examples.
Example of an educator in an art room, using kind speech to both commend and correct:
Mr. Mark is hosting a creative painting class. A young student has made a beautiful portrait, but also a massive mess! There is paint splattered on the floor as well as the walls. How will Mr. Mark respond?
Mr. Mark assesses the situation. He approaches the student privately and in a soft tone. “You’ve done a wonderful job using color to express yourself on this page. I’m proud of you. But, now that we’ve painted, we will need to clean up the spots that missed the page and landed on the floors and walls.”
What do we take away from this example?
Firstly, Mr. Mark spoke to the student directly instead of broadcasting the situation in front of the entire classroom.
Next, he spoke in a “soft tone.” If you’re a parent with a teenager, or if you’ve ever been a teenager, it’s likely that you’ve heard the expression before: “It’s not what you said it’s how you said it.” This truly applies in this setting. How you say something can deeply affect both the meaning as well as how a child will respond to it.
And finally, I’ve saved the best for last. Did you notice how Mr. Mark began the conversation with his student? He did not start by reprimanding the mess. Instead, he began with praise. This is a good tactic to remember for pretty much every relationship in life... but an especially good one to remember when dealing with children. Keep in mind: children are fragile. Their brains, emotions, and bodies are still growing. So, be patient, be gentle, and always be kind.
The third item on our agenda to boost children’s self-esteem is being ready to forgive.
What does that mean? That means mentally preparing and coming to terms with the definite knowledge that your child or student WILL make mistakes. They will do things that upset, hurt, frustrate you. But, how you respond to this can either make or break the situation- and child’s self-esteem.
So, how can you keep your cool when dealing with a potentially frustrating situation? There are a lot of suggestions out there. But the one that works best for me is very simple. Before responding in a fit of blazing anger or exasperation, I take a moment and imagine that I am that child. How would I want someone to respond to me? Was this error made with malicious intent, or was it made by pure accident?
Each circumstance will be different from the next, which is why putting yourself into the headspace of that child is crucial to gauging how to respond correctly.
*Admittedly, we will have moments where we make mistakes too. Maybe one of those mistakes will even be responding to a situation in a way we wish we hadn’t. So, it’s important to remember to be ready to forgive not only your children or students but yourself too. Forgiveness is a two-way street. And in order to keep that balance maintained, it takes work. Keep this question in mind: How can we offer forgiveness to others when we can’t show ourselves that same courtesy?
- Be honest in both commendation and correction. Children can sense sincerity, and a way to show respect for them is by treating them with the dignity of honesty.
- Be specific; avoid blanket statements.
Examples of using positive affirmations in a home or school setting.
#1: “I appreciate what you’ve done.”
#2: "Your participation/comments/thoughts is/are valuable to us."
Now for the NO-NO’sWe have gone over the things to be mindful of, and now it’s time to jump into the things we should avoid. These are known as the “NO-NO’s.”
Avoid comparisons between children/students. No two children are the same, so it is, therefore, unreasonable to compare them to each other. Additionally, comparisons can lead to many harmful mental complexes down the road. So, do your child/student a favor and keep comparisons at bay. Remember: the only person a person should ever be compared to is the person they were yesterday. Self-reflective comparisons can actually be a very beneficial tool in helping to gauge healthy success and reach goals.
We have danced around this topic but haven’t directly addressed it yet. So, for no-no #2, we have: AVOID FOCUSING ON THE NEGATIVES FIRST. As was brought out earlier, this does not mean that you cannot tell your child when they have made a mistake. That would be an unbalanced overcorrection, which would lead to unrealistic and unhealthy habits down the road. Remember: wherever possible, practice directing your attention first to positive aspects before delivering critique or correction.
If you work to incorporate these three keys, you will be amazed at how these changes will help benefit your child’s mental health and boost their self-esteem!
For a suggested article on why to give compliments click here.
If you live in Hendersonville, TN, or a surrounding area, we warmly welcome you to attend our upcoming mental health event! This event will be held on November 20th, 2021, from 10:00, am- 12:00 pm.
Join us on Saturday, November 20th, 2021, at the Hendersonville TN Public Library in celebrating our differences and supporting those around us in the community who are dealing with mental health problems.
Our speakers will be sharing a little bit of hope, comfort, and understanding, as well as providing resources to help aid children and families.
Local children’s book authors Chelsea Radojcic-DiCicco and Mary Elizabeth Jackson will be sharing topics on how to empower your children today as well as how to help children in school and within the family.
Chelsea’s picture book entitled ADHD and Me follows eight-year-old Malory, who has ADHD and shows life through her eyes. It describes her daily interactions with her family and tells her perceptions of school life from the teachers, students, and herself. Throughout the story, Malory shared her observations of others around her while also navigating her own feelings.
Mary’s *newly released* middle-grade book, Cheers From Heaven, navigates the emotions of five students who bullied a boy with cancer. After his death, the five students befriend one another and journey to find the boy’s notes that he left behind. This story handles grief, forgiveness, and healing.
Crisis Counselor Jason Scruggs will be addressing the acknowledgment, assessment, and addressing of your child’s emotional well-being.
And Cary Massey, President of Next-Level Consulting, will be discussing how to build healthy relationships. If you’re in the area, stop by! We would love to have you.
GUEST SPEAKERS & DISCUSSION TITLES:
Mary Elizabeth Jackson
Empowering Our Kids Today
Helping Children at School and Within the Family
Acknowledging, Assessing, & Addressing the Emotional Well-Being of Your Child
Building Healthy Relationships
The Mental Health Matters Event inside of Gallatin Public Library was featured this afternoon on Special Needs TV, hosted by Bridgetti Lim Banda, and was streamed live from Cape Town, South Africa. Bridgetti interviewed participants of the event, Mary Elizabeth Jackson, (Chelsea Radojcic-DiCicco) Chelsea’s World of Books, and Jason Scruggs, on who they are and why they came out today.
The presenters’ common goal in joining together today was to provide mental health aid and support to the community, families, children, and educators. Despite the heavy rains, the group was able to band together and find creative ways to reach their audiences at home. Thanks to Mary’s quick thinking and resourcefulness, she was able to get ahold of her co-host of her Special Needs TV show, and Bridgetti, the show producer, was gracious enough to bring us on live to share our message with viewers.
The rainclouds were filled with silver linings today! Thank you to everyone who came out to support the effort, and if you weren’t able to make it out, you can see our our interviews on Facebook > Special Needs TV > Mental Health Awareness EXPO > posted 09/18/2021.
Thank you for visiting! 🙂
This event theme will be surrounding children’s education, empowerment, mental health and well-being.
Join us for our special Children’s Learning Event in Gallatin Public Library! Guest speakers in attendance: Children’s Book Author, Chelsea Radojcic-Dicicco, Author and Autism Advocate, Mary Elizabeth Jackson, and Children’s Crisis Counselor, Jason Scruggs.
- 10 AM : “Neurodiverse Learning” (given by guest speaker, Chelsea Radojcic-DiCicco)
- 11 AM : “Acknowledging, Assessing and Addressing the Emotional Well-Being of Your Child” (given by guest speaker, Jason Scruggs)
- 12 PM : “Empowering Our Kids Today” (given by guest speaker, Mary Jackson)
This event will be hosted at no charge, and open to the public. We encourage parents, and educators to come in and visit! We have lots of fun freebies and resources to offer, so if you’re in the area, stop by and say hello. We look forward to seeing you there!
Who is this event for?
If you are a #elementaryschoolteacher PLEASE stop by and pick up your FREE LESSON PLANS, GRADES K-3RD GRADE.
ABOUT THE GUEST SPEAKERS
The first guest speaker, Children’s Literature Author, Ms. Chelsea Radojcic-DiCicco, will be discussing the topic ‘NEURODIVERSE LEARNING’ at 10:00 AM. Afterward, she will be participating in an author signing of her book, ADHD and Me. (Available for purchase on Amazon, iTunes, Lulu Bookstore, and Kindle.)
Resources, Free Stuff, and Merchandise
- Informative banner will be displayed at the booth, featuring the topics: SUPPORT SYSTEM, LEARNING DIFFERENCES, and MESSAGE TO PARENTS, CAREGIVERS, AND EDUCATORS.
There will also be:
- Promotional bookmarks
- Spiral-lined “embrace your differences” school notebooks
- Inspirational Stickers
And last but certainly not least, there will be:
- FREE INTERACTIVE LESSON PLANS
Lesson plans will be made available for educators or homeschoolers in attendance, grades K-3rd. The curriculum includes games, projects, and learning examples designed for a group or in the classroom. Hurry in and get your free copies while supplies last!
For anyone interested in author interviews, having an in-person or virtual reading, or Q&A with the author, there will be a signup sheet provided at her booth.
Our next guest speaker, Children’s Crisis Counselor, Mr. Jason Scruggs, will be delivering his discourse on the topic ‘ACKNOWLEDGING, ASSESSING, AND ADDRESSING THE EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING OF YOUR CHILD’ at 11:00 AM. Mr. Scruggs’s wealth of experience and knowledge is invaluable, and we look forward with great anticipation to his presentation! He will also have a table set up with information for families and will be available to meet and greet patrons and answer questions throughout the day. Scruggs is an educator, professor, and counselor with two Master’s Degrees and works for the Children’s Crisis Stabilization Unit in Bowling Green, KY.
Our final guest speaker, Special Needs Advocate, Author, and Autism Ambassador, Ms. Mary Jackson, will be delivering her talk on ‘EMPOWERING OUR KIDS TODAY’ at 12:00 PM. Ms. Jackson will also be participating in a book signing at her booth and will have other resources and pamphlets from local branches from our learning community with her as well.
Ms. Jackson is the co-author of Poolicious book series, as well as the co-founder and co-host of The Writers Corner Live TV Show and the Special Needs TV Show on Facebook and YouTube. To find out more about Ms. Jackson, please visit her website at www.maryejackson.com. We are looking forward with deep enthusiasm to seeing you all!
Saturday morning, faces shined as we gathered into the Hendersonville Public Library of Sumner county for a special event: The Awareness and Support Expo “for families and friends caring for individuals with special concerns.” To mention a few among the groups that joined were The Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Borderless Arts Tennessee, Rainbow Mosho, Mary Elizabeth Jackson, Susan Bailey Moss, and myself, Chelsea Radojcic-DiCicco.
Families and children cozied up in the warmth of this charming library while the piano played in the background. Also hosted on May 8th was a book sale. Usually this is held semi-annually, however, due to covid precautions and safety guidelines for the state and protection of patrons, the library had held off on hosting over the past year. Both events were put together by the Director of the Library, Diane Johnson, as well as the rest of the Library staff members.
ABOUT THE ATTENDEES
Borderless Arts Tennessee is a non-profit organization run by the state of Tennessee, committed to presenting programs for individuals with disabilities. Through the aids it provides, it adds to the enjoyment and empowerment of the community. For more information, visit their website here.
The Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities has a Facebook page, hosted by the DIDD Communications Department. Their mission is to support all people statewide in “living the lives they envision for themselves.” Their page aims to promote an informative and community-focused online experience.
Mary Elizabeth Jackson is an author and advocate for Autism TN. She co-hosted the interview conducted on Amazon Live with Bridgetti Lim Banda, May 8th 2021, on Autism and special needs.
Rainbow Mosho is a twelve-year-old artist and author with Autism, working her way towards empowering other children and families with special needs through her inspirational work. Her goal is to “give hope to all the kids in the world” with her book and words.
Chelsea Radojcic-DiCicco is a local children’s author living just outside of Nashville TN, currently seeking representation. Her memoir, ADHD and Me, was inspired by events in her own childhood and deals with the day-to-day challenges and triumphs as seen through the eyes of an eight-year-old little girl named Malory.
Throughout the story, “Malory” expresses her feelings and observations towards others around her and describes the challenges presented not only for herself, but for her parents and teachers as they strive to best care for her needs. The story lightly touches on real life topics such as trips to the Principal’s office as well as the decision whether or not to take medication. Malory identifies her support system, consisting of her family and one particularly gifted art teacher by the name of Ms. Julie. Ms. Julie, diagnosed with Autism at a young age, “understands what it’s like to do things a little bit differently,” and now uses art to help guide children like Malory to find their own inner calm. The story ends on a positive note of hope that “maybe one day” her story will be read by someone else who struggles with something and it will “help them and remind them that they too are beautiful and loved.” The closing line reads, “Your differences are precious gifts… embrace them.” ADHD and Me is a beautiful celebration of neurodiverse learning. It is currently being hosted for free download on NetGalley. For more about the author, please check out the ABOUT THE AUTHOR tab of this website.
CLICK HERE to watch live interviews with the authors recorded on May 8th 2021.