Christmas Book Advent Calendar

This post contains mentions of Christmas. And it’s not even Thanksgiving yet. Le gasp! You have been warned, proceed at your own risk.

Gratitude tree post reminded me of our favorite December tradition: book advent calendar! We have been doing a version of it for the past 5 years. Last year I added a spin on it – live broadcast on Facebook. It went fiiiiiine, everytbing went fiiiiiine 100% of the time…NOT!

A little about me. I’m hilarious online or in text messages, but very dull in person. I need that extra 20 seconds to process information and come up with something punny and witty. When I’m face to face with a real human, I turn into a walking awkward penguin meme. Talking to a live audience  is way out of my comfort zone and so much can (and does!!!!) go wrong. And that’s why I do it.

This year I’m adding one more detail to this tradition: a challenge! Broadcast live or record a video of you or your children reading a book and share it on social media with #ReadingSnowflakes. Be sure to tag:

@school_for_peculiar_children on Instagram

@School For Peculiar Children in Facebook

and like/share/follow my page:

By Christmas we will have collected dozens of fun read alouds (and a few of bloopers from me, no doubt!)

Who’s in?

Blog/page is still in its infancy and I’m trying to build up content and spread the word out. Thank you for your support and participation! It means more than words can express. ❤

New November tradition

It is so easy to fall into negative thought pattern!  Who hasn’t traveled down the “woe is me” road? 

It’s even more pronounced is gifted individuals  and/or those who have ADHD. With the awersome superpower comes great burden. When you hear, see and process more input than average person, the output sometimes comes in unexpected form. 

All-or-nothing attitudes, expectation of the worst case scenario, negative self-talk, jumping to conclusions, disqualifying the positive experiences: all these thoughts and experiences are  persistent, automatic and damaging. 

Having a gratitude journal is one of the  ways to employ mindfulness mindset. 

Recently grumpy attitudes have been widesoread with kids and grown ups in our house and all of us needed a daily visual reminder of how blessed we are. Simple Gratitude Tree is now a focal point of our living room. 

I started by sketching a tree trunk and branches on a large sheet of paper. 

*Note to self: do not use Sharpie marker on a thin paper next time. 

**Pro tip: to remove sharpie from ceramic tile, trace the stain with dry erase marker and wipe it off with a paper towel. 

Next step, I added painters tape to the back of the tree and attached my creation to a wall. It was not easy! One of my kids asked me why I was wrestling with an octopus.

After the octopus has been defeated and the tree was taped to the wall, I printed out some cute pinteresty leaves. Skip this step! I spent entirely too much time cutting out maple and oak leaf patterns.  Just free hand it! Improvise a là Edward Scissorhands. 

Evert day, we write something we are grateful for on a leaf and tape it to the tree. One by one, fun memories and blessings fill up the Gratitude Tree and our hearts. 

GAMES as an educational tool

November is here!!!! Yay! Two little Batmen hyped up on sugar, with Halloween hangover are going to LOVE strict schedule, worksheets and memorization drills!

Brb, dying laughing at my own joke. They most definitely would NOT love that. 

I expect today to be a complete chaos full of sensory overload, sugar and dyes aftermath: two silly boys and the dog bouncing of the walls, exhibiting all of their Dabrovsky’s overexcitabilities simultaneously. Day like this is perfect to start My Little Poppies’ Gameschool Mini-challenge. 31 days, 31 prompts, pictures, 31 ways to add more sneaky learning to our days.

We are eclectic and heavily influenced by unschooling. I often describe our homeschooling style as falling down the rabbit holes (read more about it here.) Games have always been a part of our day.  These are some of the reasons we enjoy gameschooling.

  1. Learning becomes more engaging experience. We get to travel through time and space, meet great inventors and create silly worlds, become engineers, scientists, artists or magicians. 
  2. I’m quick to point out that my 5 year old does not handle losing well, but let’s face it: losing sucks, regardless of the player’s age. Friendly (-ish) game night is perfect to practice teamwork and good sportsmanship for kids of all ages. 
  3. Kids enjoy challenge and find internal motivation to reach the goal. I recently noticed that when I try to encourage the boys by saying “Come on, this is easy!” they bristle up and refuse the work. However, when they sit down to play a videogame, I hear excited and proud shouts “That was hard, but I DID IT!!!” To my surprise, this tactic worked even for least preferred tasks (handwriting practice.)
  4. We put emphasis on problem solving in our house.  I don’t want to be a referee, judge and jury 24/7, so we encourage kids to work out problems and solve conflicts on their own.  Games are one of the resources that teaches them problem solving strategies.   
  5. While playing games, kids can improve their fluency, especially math and reading games. 

While games are great, we encountered a few difficulties along the way:

  • It can be hard to accurately assess the progress. 
  • Sometimes goals of games do not align with learning goals. ABC Mouse was a giant flop in this house! All kids cared about was collecting the tickets. They just randomly clicked on the screen, guessing answers.  
  • Family game night with kids  can be…challenging. Different personalities, ages and abilities don’t always mix well.  

    These tips and strategies emerged when Peculiar Kid #2 was born. They continue to change and evolve as family dynamic change. 

    1. House rules rule! 
    2. Whenever a new game appears at our house, kids ask me if the can “free play” it for a while:  familiarize themselves with the pieces, make guesses on what the rules may be, create elaborate backstories (I jot them down in the journal, Brave Writer style. Win/win!) This approach reduces anxiety and uncertainty that often affects perfectionistic, emotionally intense 2e kids. 
    3. “These rules are so clear and make so much sense. After reading them, I’m 100% confident I can play this game on the first try,” said no one ever. Watch play throughs!  Dice Tower and Table Top were game changers (pun intended) for our family.  
    4. I like to pair games with books, tea parties or subjects we currently study. Ancient Egypt with Pyramix, Nikola Tesla’s life and work with Circuit Maze, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang read aloud with Snakes and Ladders. 
    5. Create your own games! 
    6. Playing board games (or attempting any schoolwork) with toddlers around is hard! Families with older children can play after the littles go to bed. Letting our 2 year old in on the fun works best for our family.  While we play, he makes dice towers,  “keeps the score,” sorts cards or eats all the snacks. 
    7. Let some games be just for fun, with no learning agenda! As a homeschooling mom, I tend to turn everything into a learning opportunity. Real life example that may or may not have happened last week. “Oh, the tire pressure sensor is on! You know why? Let’s have a mini unit right here on the spot! Temperature dropped 30°F overnight, leading to decrease in tire pressure by about 3 psi (1 psi for every 10° drop. Insert long winded math discussion here,) that change triggered the sensor. Honey, are you awake?” What was I talking about? Oh, yeah, don’t turn everything you do into school project. Have some fun!!! 

    What are your tips to add more sneaky fun learning into your days? How do you keep family game night FUN for all participants? What challenges do you have and how donyou overcome them? What are your favorite games? Why am I asking so many questions?