Warning signs of dyslexia you may have overlooked

A very comprehensive site that gives us clues or warning signs of the possibility of dyslexia in loved ones will help you arm yourself with tools to remove learning obstacles in both children and adults.  This by no means is diagnostic, nor is a diagnosis a sentence of doom and gloom for one encountering problems.


Contrary to Jack Nicholson‘s famous line, “You can’t handle the truth!” from GI Jane starring Demi Moore, I have always found strength and reassurance in nothing less than the truth.  A problem becomes manageable when all aspects are brought to the forefront because energy no longer has to be spent in useless direction as the source is sought.


So think of this as empowering, not degrading, or even scary information.  Success is meant to be had by everyone, even those with dyslexia, any other learning disability, or unique brainwave patterns.  Follow up any warning signs with professional testing and personalized development exercises.


Symptoms of Dyslexia


Classical education: the Trivium, logic stage, 5-8 grade

Trivium —  3 stages of classical learning method including grammar (memorization of facts in all subjects), logic (explaining the why’s and how’s of a subject), and rhetoric (supporting ideas with facts and communicating them effectively).  Each stage maximizes the brain capacity and psychological stages of development in different childhood periods.


Everyone warns you about the terrible 2’s & puts the fear of God in you wondering what they’ll be up to as teenagers, but the logical stage is overlooked and understated in every parenting book I have read from psychological texts to Dr. Sears‘ attachment parenting philosophies.  Until now.  Having come across the invaluable source “The Well Trained Mind” by Susan Wise Bauer and Jennie Wise, they reference Dorothy Sayers‘ book “The Lost Tools of Learning” throughout, and this is what Ms. Sayers has to say about ages 10-13:

The Pert age…is characterized by contradicting, answering back, liking to “catch people out” (especially one’s elders); and by the propounding of conundrums.  Its nuisance-value is extremely high.


Both of my sons (ok, and yes, myself) had what amounts to rebellious meltdowns in our studies that crept up at age 10 & was flaming full force by age 11.  All 3 of us were bright, curious individuals with loads of potential, but quite frankly had learned so much that we had gotten a little big for our britches, and “just because” or “because I said so” wasn’t gonna cut it anymore.  Nor would learning that which dulled our senses beyond belief, because of course our imaginations alone were rich enough to sustain us.  I am sure that for 1 reason or another, bookworm or not, by age 11 almost every child begins to think they are miniature adults and therefore sufficient authority to decide everything for themselves.  Ha!  If they only knew….but that’s where we as parents come in, right?


  • step 1)  Breathe.  This, too, shall pass.
  • step 2)  Consistency is key.
  • step 3)  Then again, so is flexibility.  *agggh*, I know.  But it’s true.  Just know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run.  Kenny Rogers, folks…a mantra that will get you through many a trial & error.


Instead of focusing on the negative, focus of the positive side of your child’s newly developed discernment.  Like I mentioned before, it is truly ok if they learn more than you know about something.  Do not create ceilings for them just out of your own pride’s sake.  Instead take advantage of their knowledge by using it in your own life.  My oldest son became the family’s official tech guy around that age, and both kids enjoy cooking supervised meals.


Also do not let the disrespect slide.  They like to call you out?  Then calling them out will be equally effective — even more so in the presence of company.  I know, I’m cruel.  Hey, when your 10 year old disappears for 30 min. in a community center when you expected him to just go to the restroom, embarrassment can be your friend once you recover and realize he has not been kidnapped, afterall.


During this stage, your child should be fluent enough in reading, writing, and arithmetic to apply these tools into solving complex problems.  They should actually be able to evaluate the problem and figure out 1) what steps/tools/skills it takes to solve it and then 2) finish the task.  By nature, they should be doing more independent work and developing the skill to ask for help appropriately while also not relying on others too much.  Like everything, it is a delicate balance.


10 minutes of parental tutoring

for every 1 hour of independent study is typical.

Some subjects will involve more in-depth conversation (or lecture for those who’re really old school), but these are usually philosophical discussions that reach across every subject line.  Such as nutrition – involves math (weight, measurement, caloric needs, vitamin and mineral content and intake),  social studies (sustainable organic farming and local farmers’ market support v.s. mass-produced factory farms churning out GMO‘s at your Wal-Mart grocery), science (effects of organic nutrition v.s. pesticide &/or genetically modified products on the human immune system).  The reading, vocabulary, spelling, and grammar by example should be ample in articles, videos, etc…used as sources.


Which brings to mind something very important:  your source is crucial.  There is none more superior than a primary source.  (That’d be the “horse’s mouth,” so to speak.)  Secondary sources are acceptable as long as you do your best to know the motivation of who published it.  Are they sponsored?  By whom?  A front for propaganda agendas?  Literally being able to pick and choose the good from the slime of media sources is absolutely crucial, particularly in the digital age of immediate gratification and instant publication.


A big key to maintaining interest in subjects that you pick for child during the logic stage is to find some way, any way, for them to relate that topic to themselves.  Telling my current 11 year old to eat more is not enough.  Reiterating that his muscles must have protein to build, otherwise they waste away, makes him understand clearly that he cannot put off a good diet if he intends to hold on to those biceps he’s so proud of.


For an example schedule to help organize the what, when, & how much to learn during the logic phase, go here.

Create your own homeschool curriculum

So much to say & so many places to begin as we are all individuals with our own goals, past experience, interests, strengths, & weaknesses.  Logically then, the 1st place to begin is within ourselves.  There is no shame in admitting where we may fall short, only shame in denying ourselves the effort or opportunity.  Therefore, honesty with ourselves and others is paramount to progress.

After nearly a decade of homeschooling, I recently came across a wonderful used book for sale at an out-of-town library.  You see, used book sales of any variety are my weakness.  A borderline hoarder, I compete with the best of squirrels and bears as I constantly scan titles for current or future useful material whether it be for myself, my 2 sons, or now, our new expected son.  It turns out with alot of experience you can judge a book by its cover…well, almost.  I also do a quick scan of chapter titles along with vocabulary and syntax used by the author.  The older and more sophisticated the abilities of my kids, obviously the better versed I expect their “teachers,” unless it is a subject entirely new to them and then simple language and metaphors can be a breath of fresh air.

For $1.50 I procured “The Well Trained Mind:  A Guide to Classical Education at Home” by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise.  Hardcover and in excellent condition, it is the best $1.50 I’ve spent in years.  Not only does it reveal very structured guidelines (allowing plenty of variance in choice) for each grade level, but it came with an even bigger surprise:  validation.

Little did I know, not only does the classical method offer the strongest college prep foundation, but I had unwittingly been creating and following the patterns of the trivium ever since I pulled my 1st kindergartener out of public school & began teaching him scientific anatomical terms for skeletons and dinosaurs.  Yeah, I know….I laugh myself when I think of my expectations at the time, but seriously, it’s how it’s done and it works.

I based my own teaching theory on:  exposure, repetition, demonstration, verbal explanation, written explanation.  While I did veer away from memorizing facts for the sake of memorization, I did emphasize that those facts be drilled in every sensory aspect I could derive.

My tests for the majority have not been traditional multiple choice/fill-in-blank tests, but 1st- a verbal test.  If my child can verbally explain or teach me the concept they just absorbed, then we are halfway there.  For the record, I also do not grade papers, but I do check them for mistakes.  That means anything written should be spelled correctly for their age level and if not, it’s a new spelling word to be learned and rewritten several times.  If a math problem is incorrect (or not legible) then it is redone on the pages following.  If notes taken are not appropriately thorough for the age, topic, and content derived from then they are required to reread & add to them until I feel their personal best has been reached.  That, afterall, is an A student, and there is no sense in moving on to points 2, 3, or 4 if point 1 is fuzzy.

As they grew older, beginning around 3rd grade, I began asking for written explanations.  In general, 3rd grade should master the paragraph, 4th grade the 3-paragraph report, 5th grade the 5-6-paragraph essay, the 7th an 8+paragraph analysis, and 9th grade the multi-page research paper.  In truth, a paragraph, report, essay, analysis, and research paper are just growing extensions of the same thing:  putting rational thought onto paper as if having an intelligent verbal conversation.  Facts, details, conclusion, citing sources….It is merely the maturity level of the student that determines the appropriate length.

However, a lesson I did learn pretty quickly was that scheduling specific daily lesson plans months or even a full week ahead of time and expecting that schedule to be followed prudently made very little sense if 1) my real priority was comprehension and not thoughtless parroting and 2) I were ever to acknowledge that kids learn best about what they are truly interested in.  Of course there are always some things that may just be flat boring that are still absolutely necessary, but if we just change our perspective of say…math and grammar…changing them from rule-filled doldrums to number riddles, symbolic messages, and creative tools, then voila! our attitudes will follow along with the ability to grasp, retain, and use the vast amounts of knowledge.

Another priority of mine was to be able to think critically — to examine a topic from all angles, brainstorming solutions or descriptive details until I had wrung my options dry.  Assuming nothing and researching everything, I sought to find correlations amongst topics that crossed subject boundaries.  To this day, my sons marvel aloud sometimes when a conversation leads from 1 tangent to another, crossing the realms of math, science, social studies, and English.  Usually we find ways to throw art and music in there too.  Literally ANY interest can be picked apart in this manner.

My final priority is interest and innate talent.  Curiosity does lead a vast majority of our school days, which is the exact reason (coupled with speed of grasping a topic) why scheduled, strict lesson plans have never worked for us.  Knowing what direction we are headed in is uber crucial.  In what manner we get there, however, is not so much.  Innate talent should be encouraged ad nauseum — as long as the child is interested.  When or if you see interest waning, reassess are you seriously cramming it down their throat, or are you reminding them of their skill and actively encouraging development of that.  Usually it means the parent/teacher/tutor needs to just chill and make sure that there is as much if not MORE praise regarding the talent than criticism, even if it is constructive criticism.  It may also mean that they are simply just lonely,  having found themselves isolated in their talent, and simply want you to join them even if you well, suck at it.

So exactly WHAT is the trivium, and how does it compare to my own intuitive methods?  Catch it here.

What subjects and how long should I expect my child to study each day?  Well, here’s a start.

President Obama & First Lady Michelle Obama Video Message about Bullies

The timing of this video release was impeccable for my own family. My two sons who homeschool (with bullying being the initial culprit in my decision to do so) had to deal with this very issue in a prominent youth social group over the past several months.

The problem had climaxed to the point that I stepped in and addressed the officials leading the group, and immediately gained their support to stop the matter in its tracks. I was also impressed with how they counseled the children to:

1) recognize it, 2) confront it, and 3) report it promptly.

I think the kids really appreciated hearing from adults that supporting each other without fear of also approaching an adult was crucial to their well-being.

This message from President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama reaffirmed to my boys that they could handle any further issues, and that no, Mama’s not just being over-protective. 🙂

Go now to see President Obama talking to kids about bullying, and to gain more support and information for parents and kids including live video conferencing and chat.

If you hurry, you can catch LIVE today at 10:30am EST the 1st ever White House conference on bullying prevention.

~ One Love ~

The Infamous FRIK n’ FRAK

Essential Oils for Common Ailments

Leptospermum scoparium (Tea-tree)

Image by Arthur Chapman via Flickr

Disclaimer:  Chart is for information purposes about traditional uses of essential oils.   

Common Ailments Essential Oils to Use Method of Application
Aches and Pains basil, benzoin, black pepper, chamomile, cinamon, clove, cypress, ginger, juniper, lavender, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, ylang ylang massage, compress, bath
Acne basil, bergamot, cedarwood, cypress, geranium, grapefruit, lavender,palmarosa, rose, tea tree bath, massage
Asthma chamomile, frankincense, myrtle, myrrh, pine bath, massage, vaporization, inhalation
Athlete’s foot lavender, lemon, myrrh, tea tree bath, neat application
Chest Problems benzoin, frankincense, myrtle, myrrh, niaouli, pine, rosemary, tea tree, thyme bath, massage, vaporization, inhalation
Chilblains benzoin, black pepper, cedarwood, ginger, juniper, marjoram, thyme massage, bath, compress
Colds and Flu basil, benzoin, black pepper, cinnamon, eucalyptus, ginger, lavender, lemon, myrtle, niaouli, peppermint, pine, tea tree, thyme bath, massage, vaporization, inhalation
Constipation black pepper, clary sage, cypress, eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary massage, bath, compress
Cramp chamomile, lavender, marjoram, sandalwood, vetiver massage, bath, compress
Cystitis chamomile, lavender, tea tree, geranium, pine, sandalwood massage, bath, compress
Dandruff cedarwood, lavender, lemongrass, sandalwood scalp message, rinse
Diarrhea chamomile, lavender, rose, neroli massage, bath, compress
Eczema benzoin, chamomile, lavender, myrrh, sandalwood, vetiver massage, bath
Fluid Retention black pepper, cypress, juniper massage, bath
Hay Fever bergamot, cedarwood, chamomile, eucalyptus, geranium, lavender, lemongrass, myrtle, pine, rose, rosemary, rosewood, ylang ylang bath, massage, vaporization, inhalation
Headaches chamomile, lavender, lemongrass, peppermint, rosewood bath, massage, vaporization, inhalation
Headlice bergamot, eucalyptus, geranium, lavender, lemon, tea tree scalp massage, rinse
Herpes Chamomile, lavender, myrrh, tea tree bath, massage, compress, neat application
High Blood Pressure bergamot, chamomile, fennel, frankincense, lavender, mandarin, marjoram, neroli, rose, sandalwood, vetiver, ylang ylang massage, bath, vaporization, inhalation
Indigestion dill, fennel, parsley, peppermint, mandarin massage, inhalation
Nausea bergamot, black pepper, chamomile, fennel, ginger, grapefruit, lavender, mandarin, orange, peppermint, rosewood bath, inhalation, vaporization
Sinusitis chamomile, lavender, eucalyptus, lemon, lemongrass, myrtle, niaouli, peppermint, pine, tea tree massage, bath, vaporization, inhalation
Sprains chamomile, lavender massage, bath, compress
Throat Infections basil, benzoin, black pepper, cinnamon, eucalyptus, lavender, lemon, myrtle, niaouli, peppermint, pine, sandalwood, tea tree massage, bath, compress, inhalation, vaporization


Wild Chamomile flower image ©2010 jennifer o'neal simmons

Wild Chamomile ©2010 jennifer o'neal simmons

A campside reunion with philosophy

Our family just returned from our first camping trip together in 9 years.  My, what a long time to have let pass before returning to the roots of our childhood and courtship.  Our last journey had been on a private island on an offshoot of the Catawba River.  It was my style of primitive enjoyment with available water and sufficient toilets.  However, 9 years ago, we were proudly parenting a toddler and an infant, and camping was just asking for mishaps and mayhem.  One child had never stopped us, we thought, so why should two?  Turns out, there are a lot of reasons.  And a lot of reasons that kept us sidetracked even once they had grown up a bit.  

Then, it dawned on me.  It was past due.  They are now 13 & 9, and camping afforded us the great excuse to log off, unplug, and tune in to each other once again.  This time, we chose the 2nd oldest river in the world – New River.  Here, is my weekend of observations:

  • Organization really is your friend.  So is fire and a giant all metal pot that can sit directly on one.
  • An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.  All natural bug repellant made of essential oils kept us bite free, sunscreen kept us pliant, and 2 rolls of toilet paper save a lot of late night and early morning walking.  This attitude applies to dishes too — the dirties we doused into a big stock pot of boiling water over the fire to help cut grease and dissolve food prior to scrubbing.
  • Choose heavy-duty and versatile over convenience or decorative trend.  Our cast iron, enamel ware, and mason jars were brilliant during an onslaught of wind gusts stirred up on the outer perimeter of a hurricane passing off the coast.  The mason jars served to boil water and make tea and coffee, but was kept padded by a large towel inside a large lidded enamel pot when not in use.  The smaller the container, the faster the water will heat 😉  Also…glass absorbs heat faster than metal, & metal faster than ceramic…but will lose heat at that rate (obviously) as well.
  • Focus on the little things.  Start with your 5 senses, eventually sinking into your 6th.  Record random thoughts – especially creative ideas of any sort, whether they involve business strategy, teaching topics, discussion notes, or soap ingredients.
  • There’s an energetic pool of wellness that exists in healthy nature.  Nature in balance tends to balance you.  Choose grass or gravel over concrete and asphalt.  Lean upon a tree before a handrail.  Listen to the insects, not the traffic.  Applied reflexology and polarity therapy can take this further by opening up our own energy meridians inside our bodies and realigning energetic fields for optimal functioning.  Awareness comes before all else. 

Let the wind fill you,

Expanding your thoughts along with your lungs.

Allow the ground to ground you

 beneath your bare feet,

The strength of roots will permeate

as you traverse an awkward path.

“Let the Wind”  © 2010  jennifer o’neal simmons

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