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About Manhattan_Mom

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    Hive Mind Worker Bee

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    Being outside with and reading to the children.
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    Cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

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  1. Great news. I was offered and accepted a PT scientific editing position working from home at the very institution where I currently work (a top NYC cancer hospital research institute). I'm still working out the details but I hope to complete the transition by the end of August. Current boss is very sad to see me go and trying various offers and deals to keep me, but I simply cannot turn this opportunity down. Working PT (20-25h/wk) from home in an intellectually stimulating role suits me perfectly right now. We can swing it and I am craving more bandwidth to provide more nurturing and support to the boys. I feel such relief and excitement.
  2. @lewelma "The Explosive Child" by Ross Greene saved my life about four years ago when my consequences-centric (aka lots of punishments and time outs) were failing to change my older's behavior. I read the book and immediately signed up for and took a two-day parent training bootcamp with Dr. Greene. I translated the CPS model into a PPT deck which I presented to his teachers and school psychologist at the school he was attending at the time. At the end of the day, properly administering the ALSUP, clearing the deck (ie using plan C for a lot of lower priority issues), carving out time for empathy step, invitation and brainstorming solutions was just too much to ask. The teachers found it interesting but the "sticker chart to motivate / consequences to dissuade" model of behavioral management is, frankly. simpler to implement. When we were looking at SN schools for older DS and we interviewed at his current school, the administration were familiar with Greene's model and implemented it 'in spirit.' That alone won me over to the school. At home I blend CPS with a gem from Alan Kazdin's parenting model, the 'positive opposite' ie identifying the positive opposite of undesirable behavior (yelling explosively --> stating in a calm voice) and, using labeled praise, rewarding the heck out if it when it occurs naturally. All of this takes a lot of 'thinking time' and vigilance. It is easier to take good behavior for granted and only react with punishment when there is a problem. ULTIMATELY I need to empower older DS to essentially apply CPS to himself when mom (or school) is not there to provide supports.
  3. At work but had to send a quick note of deeply grateful thanks for this incredibly helpful feedback. So much good, practical advice and support.
  4. Just to finish my thought about medication. I worry that we're not getting to the root cause of things if we medicate. And I feel like THAT is my job as mother, to be the one person in the world with the love and care enough to really get to the bottom of what makes DS 10 so irritable. I don't to just drug him (I realize that may sound obnoxious). I want to work with the 'raw' kid, and use what is left of his childhood to dig deep and find out why he behaves the way he does - and confront it and address it. He is not a wild boy, nor is he mean. He has always had friends at school who really want to be with him. He is incredibly imaginative, playful and loves to make (legos, magnatiles, tegus) and make-believe (he will still play waiter/chef and make/serve fake food). When he is triggered he becomes so explosive. He SCOWLS, his fist ball, his stomach tightens and horrible things will come out of his mouth. It has been an utterly exhausting decade, constantly digging into what went wrong, calming him, smoothing things over, helping him solve his issue, make amends, etc. Ironically he just came in demanding academic work (division, fractions) "so his brain won't soften up." Thanks for listening.
  5. Incredibly helpful posts. I'm in tears. I'm craving some good advice from mothers with experience and wisdom. It has been a very lonely, isolating journey. DS 10 had a long period of aggressive behavior: as a toddler against his baby sibling (biting the baby's face and hands, leaving deep marks and bruises), as a preschooler against peers (biting and scratching, especially in the face), and in school against peers and occasionally the teacher (biting an arm, scratching, kicking and once poking in the arm with a pencil tip). I think the only reason why he managed to get into his current SN school is that I "reacted" to all of this drama by a) trying every therapeutic help I could get my hands on (ABA, CBT, OT, social skills classes, vision therapy, psychologist, psychiatrist) and b) becoming obsessed with books and reading to the boys. Some therapies were a disaster (ABA) most were somewhat helpful and some exceptionally helpful (CBT, OT) and the books - THE BOOKS - gave him a strength. Part of my motivation with academics is to keep giving DS something "good" that will counterbalance, at least a little, all that is problematic. Mercifully, last summer, all of that aggressive behavior "mellowed" into verbal outbursts with toxic words (he's an 'explosive' kid). For example, I will ask DS if he wants pot stickers for dinner. He will reply, "You are too lazy to make me something healthy so you try to feed me junk food! Well I REFUSE!" He takes 20 minutes to floss, brush, rinse. Any gently nudging to move it along will trigger a torrent of toxic words amounting to the nudger wants him to have rotten teeth and die and early death. He insists on a 10-step exercise routing that take another 20 minutes (and requires me to support him with counts), then he has to practice counting in Japanese. To 90,000 (slip counting by 10s, 100s, 1000s, 10,000s). He MUST do these things and takes whatever time he needs doing them or he will YELL that I am a lazy mother for not supporting him. He asks for academic work at camp (math, history and "physics" which is actually just using a x/y axis to "locale" things, Battleship style). It is a special needs camp and they report he yells at staff quite a bit and that is the behavior they are targeting for improvement. My husband, not a 'natural' parent, is withdrawn. It is all too much for him. (Digression: He is also mildly spectrum but he managed to be a good Catholic schoolboy and an excellent student and medical student. I met him when he had landed his first job and was having problems getting along with colleagues and his boss.. I provided a lot of job coaching and support, helped him navigate office politics, etc. He is now extremely successful, which gives him all the reason he needs to travel extensively for work and not be home much.) What I'm reading in your wonderful, deeply meaningful posts is that I need to really focus like a laser on the social skills. That he cannot go through life yelling at and blaming people when he hits a bump. We've started calling his explosions, 'pressured speech' (since it is wider scope than yelling) and have instituted a house rule banning pressured speech. We met with a psychiatrist who has not yet met him, but based upon his profile and case file things a SSRI might help. Will meet him next week or the following. I have been dead set against medication because I'm feel like it could be a chemical lobotomy. I also feel like it would mean I've failed to be a good mother. Kids back from playing on the deck.. gotta go for now...
  6. HI Ruth, I remember you too! Congratulations on your MIT bound DS! WOW! To answer your (good) question, I have several motivations. I need to respond to a clear need on the one hand, on the other hand, I have an urge to provide some element of their academic life that I feel is missing (e.g. character education, proof-based math). DS 10 absolutely needs an accelerated humanities/social science curriculum. He has a social justice warrior nature and seeks to understand why the world is the way it is (to put it simply). An early fascination with weapons and warfare (common among little boys, for better or for worse) had led to a deeper inquiry about how/why states (countries, empires) rise and fall. He is interested in advances in weaponry, strategic and tactical innovations (e.g. medieval Mongolian attack/retreat/ambush tactic) as well as the vision of heads of state (i.e. the decline of China's exploration efforts following Zheng He's voyages). He is especially concerned with global warming and environmental pollution and somehow figured out that militaries are significant sources of pollution. He wants to innovate "green weapons" (oh the irony). Like many social justice warrior types, he often becomes outraged, incensed and dogmatic (even militant) about how things SHOULD be. Among his rants: religion has done more harm than good in the world because religious leaders often use their power to manipulate the faithful for their own enrichment, to fortify their power or burnish their legacy. I want to help him grasp nuance and complexity as well as develop healthy skepticism (ie certify something is derived from primary source material, distinguish conjecture from grounded fact, evaluate claims, etc.). In the math domain, he needs support to stay on-grade. He has a terrible habit of doing things in his head (often correctly, but when things go wrong he cannot backtrack to error-detect). DS 8 had an early passion for puzzles and math that I feel guilty about not nurturing enough. I feel I need to play catch-up in that domain. On the upside, he has benefitted from exposure to the abundance of books we have in our apartment. He *would* play video games if I allowed that in the house. As I do not, he plays board games and reads graphic novels (e.g. Amulet) what I call "junior novels" ie chapter books with a drawing or cartoon-ish element at least every few pages. DS 8 would LOVE the world of math competitions (something I know that @lewelma knows quite a bit about). He's just put baby toes into it. We did a great math adaptive learning course for a year but the start-up that built it went bust. I'm waiting for Beast Academy Online (BAO) to launch. May have DS 8 work on that then segue to AoPS. I'm trying to wrap my head around what I should do for them given that I will be working with weekends, breaks and summers. The "lazy" part of me, wants a single curricular plan for both boys. As in, ok, here is a series (ie Joy Hakim's "The History of US"), lets work our way through it together, here is your Beast Academy Online login and password, do 20 mins per night, and some third thing (Latin? Music theory?). I think I should do at least some more tailored/individualized curriculum planning. I would like DS 10 to study heroes of nonviolent social justice warriors for example. Want to better support DS 8 in the world of math competitions. Any feedback or suggestions welcome.
  7. I joined this board 6 years ago with high aspirations to afterschool (and possibly full-on homeschool) my two boys. I'm reintroducing myself and looking for feedback and suggestions on how to regain momentum after much tumult. DS 10 has special needs which have led us down a twisting, turning path, educationally and therapeutically. He is a classic Aspie with a lot of strengths in the verbal domain, particularly reading comprehension and vocabulary. WISC-V vocabulary (99%), information (98%), block design (98%), figure weights (91%) with other subtests esp. in working memory in <2% which is thought to be anxiety-related (he is not medicated). He is a massive reader: non-fiction, sci-fi and popular MG, and YA books. His special interests are anything science-related especially space exploration and extra-planetary colonization. He is also interested in history and economics. HIs main challenge is using calm, civil words to advocate for himself. He often perceives social injustices (against himself, against others) and if not adequately addressed (from his POV), he quickly escalates with harsh words, volume and threatening body language. After being asked to leave three different mainstream school environments (Montessori, charter, public) he was placed into a special needs school for bright kids with social and emotional challenges where he completed his first year (3rd grade). He is loved by the teachers and staff who 'get' him and work with him on his areas of challenge. The school is 3hr bus commute round trip (he reads on the bus) - a big downside. He receives cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), occupational therapy (OT), math tutoring (mathnasium) and takes a private 1:1 class with a local mathematician doing fun stuff like 3d printing and mucking with circuits. He is currently attending a special needs summer camp. He is in it through the first week of August. DS 8 is a sporty, energetic, socially typical boy with some math giftedness (high honors on the CTY test) and verbal giftedness (ERB-ECAA similarities (99%), vocabulary (99%), information (99%) comprehension (99%) or VECI 99.8%and NVI 94%. He attends a private school for gifted kids (just finished 2nd grade) and is in CTY for six weeks this summer taking a science class followed by a history class. So far, he finds the class less compelling than school, but we're only in week 1. He wants to be a math professor and takes a private 1:1 class with the same local mathematician (math and Scratch coding). He is a happy, sunny, "easy" kid and strong student (his Achille's heel is being social with classmates during instruction time). He is often frustrated with his brother. He is annoyed that his brother commands so much attention and exasperated by the degree to which our family life is organized around DS 10's needs. He has spent hundreds (literally) of hours with me in waiting rooms of CBT, OT, Speech, social skills class, psychologist's offices over the course of.. well.. since as far back as he can remember. We pass the time playing games, chess on a mini-board with magnetic pieces, cards, tick-tac-toe.. He LOVES games; he is currently into playing the classic board game RISK (not one for a waiting room). I wok full time as a program manager in a top-tier cancer laboratory in a cancer institute here in NYC. I have a STEM PhD. My husband is a tenured medical professor who travels extensively for work. I do most of the childcare and all of the thinking and planning re the boys' academics. I think it makes the most sense for the boys to stay in their respective schools as each provides something important in their lives. For DS 10, that includes built-in therapeutic support (OT, speech, social skills training), friends who are just as quirky as he is and a forgiving but "real world" environment that does not know him as I do, and "forces" him to confront - and learn to civilly cope - with the kinds of everyday ordinary challenges he will need to navigate to be successful in life if/when (!) he becomes independent. For DS 8, that includes a totally DS 10-free world where he can be himself, form social bonds with peers, and access an accelerated curriculum. That leaves me with SUMMERS, BREAKS and WEEKENDS. This summer is already planned out and "outsourced" to camps, for better or for worse. The only consistent homeschool-y thing I am currently doing with the boys is a nightly reading (slowly at 2-5 pages a pop) through the "Medieval and Early Modern World" books series published by Oxford University Press. My main goals for the boys are: DS 8 - Get him comfortable with the world of math competitions and allow him to do some coding at home, perhaps under the direction of his private teacher. He has tried Math Kangaroo and Noetic math but did not do well relative to ability- a bit above average if I recall. He was completely unfamiliar with the format of the questions. Are there math circle-y books I could get to work with him? DS 10 - Wow. I don't know where to begin. Study individuals who have eloquently deployed nonviolent means to forward social justice (Gandhi, MLK, Mandela?), work on foundational stuff in physics (Six Easy Pieces)? Or should I do life-skills stuff like cooking? Or let him choose? I forget to mention S10 decided he wants to learn Japanese, tried and rejected Duo Lingo and is now using "Japanese from Zero." He can count up to nine thousand (skip counting 10s, 100s and 1,000s) after a few months of study. I dream of several areas of study with BOTH boys: working our way through Euclid's "Elements" (we did this waaaaay back before DS 10's life became complicated and loaded with therapy sessions and got through the first 30 proofs together), studying Latin, reading classics in literature and philosophy together... Should I plan to "do" homeschooling next summer? I can take a few months of leave from my job. Should I start small and carve out 2-3 hrs with them each weekend and just dive into something now? Apologies for the incredibly long post but I'm eager for fresh thinking or suggestions from this great community. Thanks for reading my saga.
  8. Bradbury is a good suggestion. He loved Ender's Game. Ender's Shadow was a bit to fraught (early chapters feature gangs of starving children).
  9. My 9yo is interested in "hard" science fiction, that is, science fiction that features real or realistic (not fantastic) scientific concepts and accuracy, e.g. Andy Weir's The Martian, Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park. Anything with scientific illustrations a plus (e.g. Dinotopia although that's fantasy not hard science fiction). I'd love suggestions for hard science fiction books that do not contain mature material (sex, drugs, violence). Off-color language fine (The Martin was peppered with it!) he knows it's inappropriate and never copies it. There are many lists on the internet of "best hard scifi books" but many contain mature themes. Thanks in advance for your suggestions. This group always has such great ones.
  10. Geronimo Stilton (there are a zillion books if the characters and style hook him) Dodsworth series by Tim Egan is great fun for that age (London, Tokyo, Rome, Paris, NY..) Francis series by Russel Hoban Oliver and Amanda series by Jean Van Leeuwen (very sweet) Anything by Arnold Lobel
  11. They recently(ish) opened a branch here in Manhattan, and we visited it a few weeks back. The classes are very large - 17-23 kids. I also saw a lot of disorderliness during transitions. One kid was flipping a light switch on and off and the teacher threatened, "I'll give your homework a B- if you keep doing that!" We had my 8yo assessed and the assessment was very perfunctory. Overall we were turned off. I was expecting smaller classes and an overall calmer atmosphere. Maybe other centers are more well run. I know it is very popular in Boston (from where it originated).
  12. Posting here because I have an 8yo with a very advanced vocabulary and a strong aversion to writing. I'm looking for a strong curriculum that will provide a thorough, rigorous foundation in the basics of spelling, grammar and writing. We can spend an hour or so per day on this. A text with a good workbook would be ideal. I'm especially interested in anything that is part of a series (so we can continue into essay writing). We did Explode the Code for phonics and loved it. Many thanks!
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