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To make your dreams come true, it’s up to you…

dreams

“If it’s to be it’s up to me.”

I know that as a Christian this quote isn’t exactly right. But there’s a lot of truth in it. Other than the fact that indeed, we must line up our dreams and plans and goals with God’s purpose for our lives, no one is going to make sure we hit the mark but ourselves.

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Six years ago I decided to pursue two life-long dreams. To continue my college education and write books. Since then, neither of those dreams dissipated. And now I find myself in the middle of one of the hardest parts of the journey physically for me: student teaching and editing a book I’ve sold to ready it for publication.

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During my journey to today, no one ever asked me if I had my homework done or if I had written anything each day. No one pushed me out of bed in the mornings after staying up until two or three in the morning. No one made my tea or asked me if I was making my deadlines.

I had to learn to say no in order to say yes to my dreams. Saying no is hard for me. As a pastor’s wife, I’ve been conditioned to worry about what other people think. I’ve still not mastered the concept of forging ahead without a thought to others’ opinions, but I’m getting better. I mean, sometimes it’s good to hear other opinions about things. I’m still figuring out when to listen and when to tune out.

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The point is this. More than likely no one has a passion for your dream like you. No one wants it as bad as you do. And you’ve got to muster up all the courage you can to climb that mountain and reach the top. It’s called ambition. And its cohort is grit.

You can do this dream thing. But be prepared to encourage yourself a lot. Be prepared to forge ahead when others wish you’d just slow down and take a breather. When your friends look at you funny because you need to stay in and write or study instead of going to the game or out for a night on the town, you can have the backbone to know that you’re in a different season than they are. You’re in the season of mountain climbing, and you need to suck up all the oxygen you can.

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You can do this. Dreaming is a solitary thing. And sometimes, making dreams come true is solitary, too. But as Christians, we’re never alone. Isn’t that wonderful? Imagine having to do it alone. We don’t have to. We have the Great Teacher with us and in us. We have the mind of Christ. We have someone Who never leaves us nor forsakes us.

Give Him your dreams and He’ll help you carry them. He’ll even carry you when you’re too tired to take another step. Ask me how I know.

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Teaching kids to touch type

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If there’s one thing I am grateful for from my public school education in the 70s, it’s that I was able to take classes to learn how to touch type. I can still type about 93-102 words per minute (WPM), and believe me, it’s come in handy when writing books, blogging, and writing research papers! (Thanks, Mr. Geesik!) (I can still hear and see him wiggling his fingers and sing-song saying, “Type, type, type!”)

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Since I have special needs children, and taught many special needs kids in my cottage school, I was always on the lookout for unique ways to teach life skills. One of the coolest tools I discovered  were these ingenious typing gloves from a company called Touchtypers.

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From the website: “Touchtypers is a system that uses specially developed lettered gloves and simple exercises to make it easy for students to learn to touch-type on computer keyboards, using any typing system or word processing software.”

The gloves come with an instruction booklet, but I also used old-fashioned typing books to help my students practice.

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These gloves worked great! I like anything that helps children self-direct and teach themselves. The only thing you have to do is supervise a bit to make sure they’re actually using the correct fingers and not “cheating.”

I hope you like these gloves as much as I do/did. I don’t get any kind of kickback or anything from this company. But when I experience a great product, I want to tell everyone about it.

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Oh, and when you order the gloves, err on the smaller side because they stretch. Let me know how you like them!

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Please tweet: Teach your special needs kids to type!

Meet me in Iowa!

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Hi, Friends!

Just a wee update to let you know that I’ll be speaking at the Homeschool Iowa Conference next week!

Here are the topics I’ll be covering:

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Technology and Your Homeschool

Is technology really all that important? How should you use it in your homeschool? When should you not use it? Learn some creative ways to integrate technology in your homeschool and have your eyes opened about dangerous technological advances you and your family needs to know about.

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Homeschooling Children with Autism

Has God called you to teach your child with autism at home? Do you wonder what the most important skills are to teach? Get practical tips on coping with tantrums, learning social skills, and leading your child to God. As children with autism grow up, what life skills are important to teach them? What can a parent do about aggressive, oppositional behavior? Learn how Karla taught her own sons with autism. What were the most valuable lessons of all? Handouts include practical tips for parents, therapists and teachers.

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Homeschooling Typical Children and Children with Special Needs Using the Same Curriculum

Do you ever feel as if you’re in over your head? Worried that you aren’t qualified to teach your special needs child? Learn why you’re the expert on your child and their condition. Get practical tips on helping them succeed through finding the right resources, building a supportive network, and accessing the right therapies. Learn what therapies worked and didn’t when Karla taught her own children with autism, ADHD, intellectual disabilities, speech disabilities and dyslexia. Handouts include practical tips for parents, therapists and teachers.

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Creative Writing in the Homeschool

Have a gifted writer in the family? Learn from published author, Karla Akins, how to foster that gift with practical tips and creative writing ideas. She will also share the climate of publishing today, and a brief introduction to self-publishing in today’s market.

I can’t wait to meet you!

By the way I’m giving away goodies in a drawing while there, too!

  • O Canada Her Story (print) — Autographed
  • Sacagawea (ebook) – Autographed coupon
  • Jacques Cartier (ebook) – Autographed coupon
  • What Really Happened in the Middle Ages (print) — Autographed
  • What Really Happened in Colonial Times (print)– Autographed
  • Scented wax warmer
  • The Pastor’s Wife Wears Biker Boots (print) — Autographed

And those are the just the goodies I’m giving away in the overall conference. My table will also have a beautiful gift package drawing you can enter, too.

See you in Iowa!

If I were coming to your state, what would you like me to speak on?  Check here for a list of topics! And let me know in the comments below!

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Sometimes Mama Bear needs to back off

The Bear Family Stand Up

I’m subbing at the high school this week in a special education classroom. That means that my twin sons who take life skills classes are in my department. This is great fun for them. But today my Mama Grizzly showed a bit when a staff member (not a teacher, a support staff) rudely snapped at one of them, first thing in the morning. No hello. Nothing. Just a bark.

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The reason she snapped at my son was valid. It was how she handled it that wasn’t. He’d left his backpack in front of a locked classroom door, and while waiting for someone to unlock it, he slipped into my room to visit with me.

When the staff member arrived, she flew into my classroom and barked, “Whose stuff is that in the hall in front of Mrs. —‘s door?”

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Isaiah, who is almost always cheerful and sweet, and wouldn’t do anything wrong on purpose to inconvenience someone, jumped up from his chair and headed toward the hall door, “Oh, that’s mine.”

To which she responded with a great scowl and angry voice, “Well then move it, it’s in the way.” (Or some such phrase of which I don’t remember the exact words.) All I know, is that I never talk to students that way, and especially not special needs students.

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It’s all in how you say it. And I realize that teachers and staff have bad mornings. But bad mornings should be left at the schoolhouse door. Being a grouch doesn’t model appropriate behavior to students who need it more than anyone. I dare say that teens with autism need it more than elementary-aged children (although they all do desperately need it).

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I did complain to their teacher about her, but as I was doing so, I felt petty. It’s impossible for me to protect them from all the rude people on earth. Especially now that they are adults. (They are 19 but still in school until they are 21.) Still, as an educator myself, I feel that all students should be treated with respect. Tone of voice speaks volumes.

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As I shared in my post on my philosophy of education, school may be one of the only places some kids have that’s a safe place to fall. If they are to feel valued, school personnel must treat them with respect. It doesn’t matter what a child’s label is, they are still deserving of politeness.

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Maybe the snarky  staff member works with hard behavior cases. I don’t know. But I do know that children will act the way you expect them to most of the time. I know this because I’ve worked with some very, very difficult students. No one should ever be valued less because of their limitations or emotional struggles.

i-believe-in-youThis Mama Grizzly is learning which battles to fight. It’s not easy. There will be many more instances, I’m sure, when I won’t know whether to bite my tongue or take up the torch on behalf of my sons. It’s because of their vulnerability and inability to know if an offense is truly something they should be reprimanded for, or an honest, un-meant mistake. A student with autism isn’t always going to process that a book bag in front of the door might be in someone’s way.

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This frustration at the world for not understanding autism is part of what parenting these kids is so difficult. We want people to understand them, and frankly, most people aren’t even going to care. It’s something I’m learning to accept. Even 19 years later.

autismbI think as long as I live, the Mama Grizzly side of me, will always wrestle with the teacher in me, to teach the world how to get it about autism, kindness, and respect. Thankfully, the kind side of me won today, and I didn’t go toe to toe with the staff member. A part of me wishes I hadn’t complained to the teacher.

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Sometimes I feel I should wear a sign that says, “If you think I’m opinionated, you should know how much I want to say and don’t!” There’s so much inside of me that feels like it’s going to blow at times when people are rude to my children or other people with disabilities.

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Only with God’s help am I able to model appropriate behavior when I’m feeling protective. Since my gift is words, it’s also my weakness, and I know I need to temper my opinions with grace.

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Have you ever felt the need to stand up for your children? How did you handle it? What do you think I should have done? Should I have said something or not?

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My philosophy of education

I’m at that point in my degree program where I have to submit a philosophy of education to my portfolio. I thought I’d share it with you here and I’m eager to hear your thoughts!

Karla Akins
Western Governors University
Bachelor of Arts Special Education K-12 and Elementary K-6 Licensure Track

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I come from a long line of educators. My father was a high school teacher and my ancestors built one of the first school houses in Pennsylvania, where it still stands in Halifax. My formal experience in teaching began when I was a twelve-year-old teacher’s aide in a preschool classroom. “Busy Bees” had a loving, nurturing teacher named Mrs. Reed. By watching her I learned kindness, and what it felt like to see a child go from “not knowing” to “knowing.”

busy_bee-399x411I also formed my philosophy from the good and bad teachers I had as a child. My bad teachers taught me the importance of compassion. My good teachers taught me to look for the reasons behind a child’s behavior. I was fidgety in school, and until my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Strecker, discovered that boredom was the reason for my disruptiveness, I was often in trouble. Instead of punishing or embarrassing me, she kept me meaningfully engaged.

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Because I’m the parent of three children on the autism spectrum who struggled with academics, I’m a firm believer in searching for an open window into a child’s understanding. I enjoy the challenge of discovering the key that unlocks concepts for students. I’m also drawn to children with difficult behavior. I believe that behavior is communication, and I relish in decoding what challenging students are trying to say.

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I believe that lessons in the classroom should be meaningful and engaging for all students. If they aren’t, it’s a recipe for undesirable conduct. I have a tongue-in-cheek motto: “You can’t teach a moving target.” Most young people have a fascination with something that will keep them engaged. Using that fascination, I believe, is the key to keeping their attention and motivating them to participate with success.

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Regardless of ability, all students have gifts inside them that I, as a teacher, am responsible for unwrapping. A good teacher will focus on abilities and gifts of a student to enhance and strengthen weak areas. This goes hand in hand with using a child’s fascinations and obsessions to motivate them to learn. When children experience success, they gain the courage and esteem to try new things and practice skills they are weak in.

thegiftedMy passion as a teacher is to be an enthusiastic encourager. By focusing on strengths, cheering students on through positive reinforcement, I’m able to build trusting relationships with my students, who then develop the confidence to navigate their academic careers. In this way students reach their full potential.

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While firmness is important, I also realize that a teacher’s patient attention and presence in a student’s life may be the only soft place in the world for that child to fall. Teachers now, more than ever, need to realize they are a hero in the life of their students, and may be the only hope some kids have for feeling as if they matter.

For a child who lives with hazards in their neighborhood, or perhaps, poverty, teaching a child what they can do to change their world is a powerful way for the student to accept responsibility and appreciate the power they possess as an individual. Every community has its own challenges and culture. Therefore, I believe, teaching methods should change based upon the needs of the child, their families and their culture.

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I’m a teacher who believes in teaching to the individual needs of the child. I respect my students as fellow learners and hope to motivate them to find answers for themselves. By teaching in a way that piques a child’s interest to the point they beg for answers, I have accomplished the main goal of my philosophy, which is, to guide students toward success not only in school, but in life.

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Let’s hear it for special education teachers!

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Breakfast!

I’m subbing for a special education teacher this week. She’s a first year teacher and do you know what my first clue was?

The only break she has all day is 30 minutes for lunch.

So the next time someone tells me that teachers only work 6 hours a day and that they are overpaid, I want you to walk in this woman’s shoes. She is on the run from the time that first bell rings. If she’s not teaching she’s running from one class to another all over this building.

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Special education teachers are often overworked. Their hearts are big and they put the needs of kids first. Today several children have arrived hungry. One of my students is eating crackers and milk in my room right now. It’s hard to learn on an empty stomach.

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A few of the children aren’t bathed. Their hair isn’t combed. It’s heartbreaking. There has been no nurturing for these sweet kids. They live hard lives.

I love filling in for this teacher for three days but I’m worried that she’s not getting enough time to recharge. Special Ed teachers want to fix things. But we can only do so much. That frustration alone is weighty.

Battery Recharger 1Do you think public school teachers have it too easy? Have you thanked your child’s teacher today?

If you’re a homeschool mom reading this, give yourself some encouragement and take some time to be refreshed. When I was homeschooling my kids, I took one hour each day to myself. I relished that hour. I trained my children to sit on their beds and read if they didn’t want to nap. They were not to disturb me unless it was blood or fire. I’d love to have that hour today!

Even Jesus took time to himself. And last time I checked, none of us are perfect like He is. If He needed it, we do, too.

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