Skip to content

A Thinking Love Posts

Washington Homeschool Organization Conference Notes: Kieran O’Mahony – Ignite Your Children’s Learning With A Neural Lens

Basic overview of the brain

The amygdala controls defense (fight, flight, react)

Boredom results in shutting down and can move us into the defense mode. If a child doesn’t feel safe they can’t learn.

We can move the brain to use the prefrontal cortex and restore calm.

Learning Components

  • Physical Movement – BDNF (brain-derived neurtrophic factor)
  • Choice and Prediction – we all hate being told what to do (can cause us to be reactive)
    • when we are predicting we can not be functioning from the amygdala
  • Fun and Laughter – releases feel-good neurotransmitters, makes the brain “talk”
    • serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin
  • Human Interaction – also releases feel-good neurotransmitters
    • a lack of human interaction releases cortisol
  • Sense of Discovery – prefrontal cortex –> curiosity, imagination, creation
    • discover the answers vs being told them
    • we are hardwired to learn
    • boredom activates the amygdala

Dandelion vs Orchid Children

Serotonin Transport Gene – short, long.

  • Dandelions: long/long
  • Orchid: short/short
  • can be a combination (short/long)

Dandelions are resilient kids who thrive in any environment. Orchids need to be greenhoused – very sensitive children. 23andme can show the results of this. You’ll know if you have an orchid.

Always teach towards the orchid, dandelions flourish wherever they are.

The Environment

Also important for learning:

  • Safety (obviously)
  • Sleep (regular routine, 7 days a week – practice good sleep hygiene)
  • Low cluttered spaces keeps working memory open

Working Memory

1950s – Miller’s Law –> 4+/- 2

The Finger/Palm Game

Engaged a lot of learning components

Anticipation is often greater than the reward


Keep lessons short, end on success

The younger the child, the more activities are needed

Kieran’s Websites:

Kieran has a book coming out this fall (IIRC) as well.

Leave a Comment

Washington Homeschool Organization Conference Notes: Dale McGowan – The Four Parenting Styles

Special note: even though Dale writes about parenting from a non-religious point of view, his talks were not from any pro or anti-religion point of view. The two books of his I’ve linked at the end of the post were not referenced in his talks (The Altruistic Personality was), but are included as a small sample of his work.

  • Parenting guidance in the 1920s:
    • John Watson
      • Little Albert and conditioned response
      • Holding babies will spoil them
  • Parenting guidance in the 1950s:
    • John Bowlby
      • attachment theory
  • Parenting guidance in the 1960s:
    • Harry Harlow
      • cloth and wire monkey experiment
    • Diana Baumrind
      • discipline
      • warmth
      • communication
      • expectations
  • Four Parenting Styles:
    • authoritarian
    • authoritative
    • permissive
    • uninvolved (added by Martin)


  • Permissive Parents can be:
    • affectionate
    • anxious to please
    • can’t say no and stick to it
    • easily manipulated
  • Permissive parenting outcomes in kids:
    • demanding and whiny
    • easily frustrated
    • lacking empathy and kindness
    • poor to average student
    • a follower
  • Uninvolved parents can be:
    • emotionally removed
    • unpredictable
    • inconsistent
  • Uninvolved parenting outcomes in kids:
    • clingy and needy
    • rude
    • troublemakers
    • poor students
    • a follower
  • Authoritarian parents can be:
    • emotionally aloof
    • “because I said so”
    • emphasize differential in power and rights
    • physical punishment and/or verbal insults
    • dismisses a child’s feelings (eg: “that’s not something to cry over!”)
  • Authoritarian parenting outcomes in kids:
    • well behaved
    • average to good student
    • moody and anxious
    • a follower
  • Authoritative parents can be:
    • affectionate and engaged
    • set limits and enforce consequences
    • use reason, logic, and appropriate negotiation
    • empower decision making
  • Authoritative parenting outcomes in kids:
    • happy and kind
    • good at problem solving
    • a leader
    • a good student
    • cooperative and responsible


  • How to parent authoritatively
    • listen repsonsively
    • validate emotions
    • establish clear rules with clear reasons
    • positive incentives
    • logical, proportional consequences
    • allow small choices from an early age (but beware the paradox of choice)
    • balance freedom and responsibility
    • encourage self-discipline by always moving toward autonomy and allowing mistakes

The following book links are Amazon affiliates, meaning I get a small commission if you use these links to purchase. Thank you for your support.

A book recommended by Dale: The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Germany
Some of Dale’s books:

Dale’s Website

Leave a Comment

Washington Homeschool Organization Conference Notes: Ed Zaccaro – 8 Components of Quality Math Education


Math is typically taught as “all scales, no music”. By tuning into our children’s passions, we can help them achieve excellence.

It is important to include real life math investigations – helps eliminate the “I’ll never use X” thought.

Make math interesting, challenging, and important.

Example: Dr. Alice Stewart used math (statistics) to show that X-rays of pregnant women had a valid result of an increase in childhood leukemia in the 1950s.

A child’s interest and passions are NOT always their areas of giftedness. Don’t squelch them.

Use math to solve real world problems:

Example: the gold kangaroo coin for $100 that is absolutely tiny because the advertisers used mm to show the diameter.

Example: whalers would promise 1/200 of profits, some hired men would DEMAND 1/300 of the profits not knowing they were getting ripped off.

A way of making math interesting: take boring worksheets and turn them into a game, ie “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”



We can benefit from our mistakes. Some math mistakes in media:

Wizard of Oz: the scarecrow doesn’t properly quote the Pythagorean Theorem after he gets his brain

Proposition 203 in Arizona (cigarette tax)

Help kids develop GRIT

When working work variables, try the 2-10 method. Example:

Tom paints n cars in t hours. How many cars does he paint in an hour?
Tom paints 2 cars in 10 hours. How many cars does he paint in an hour? (5, t/n)


Introduce various subjects like math, history, science, analogy, etc. Dinner time trivia is a good painless way to do so.


Example: marble jar

You don’t need to be a math superstar in order to teach math.


Example: Level 1, 2, 3, and Einstein level of math problems.

Kids in primary grades can do much harder math problems than we expect (intuitive learning)


Keep learning basic facts

Teach thinking, not rote


This forces a thorough understanding of place value

Base 2, 5, 10, etc

Some of Ed’s Books:
The following links are Amazon affiliates, meaning I get a small commission if you use these links to purchase. Thank you for your support.

Leave a Comment

Book Notes for: Rewiring Education

Title: Rewiring Education: How Technology Can Unlock Every Student’s Potential
Publisher: BenBella Books, Inc
Authors: John D. Couch, Apple Inc’s First Vice President of Education and Jason Towne, research fellow at Harvard University

Why I read this book: I’m always interested in how technology and education fuse and I’m especially interested in challenging educational norms. I’m a product of the public school system and while a lot has changed since I went through it; a lot has still stayed the same.

The premise: our current educational models are in dire need of reform. The traditional public school system was designed to produce workers, not thinkers. In a technological age we are in need of thinkers. Before we can revolutionize education we must first understand aspects of learning such as potential, motivation, and even the learning environments. After we’ve understood that, how can we harness and utilize technology – and encourage our kids to become creators, not consumers? How can we use the technology our kids know and love to transform their education, to enable them to solve problems – but more importantly; how to think.

Interesting to note: David Thornburg (an educational futurist) talks about three learning spaces – the campground, the watering hole, and the cave. Couch and Towne add the mountain. Campground is one to many (think stories around the campfire), the watering hole is peer to peer (think of workers in the office or a group project in school), and the cave is one to one (reflective assimilation of what you’ve learned). The mountain is the environment where mistakes are encouraged and supported (like climbing a mountain, you’re going to slip and stumble from time to time).

Examples: Mythbusters, Sal Khan, Wifi on Wheels, Apple Camps, The Primary School, Ad Astra School, Minecraft

Worth Googling: challenge-based learning, Health Without Borders, blended learning

Overall take-home message: Technology can be the great equalizer in terms of giving every child access to a watering hole. An online course for coding can link children all across the United States regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds, geographical locations, or schooling choice. Provide access, opportunities to build things, and teach your kids to code. Coding teaches kids to THINK – even if they never go on to be computer programmers. Technology is just like any other tool – used well and it can do great things for us, used poorly and it can be extremely detrimental. Therefore, it’s important to look at psychology long before we look at technology; so we can make sure we are using technology appropriately.

Recommended for: people interested in the intersection of technology and education, people looking for an outside the box approach to education, people who need some positive information about technology and kids, homeschoolers or afterschoolers who are tired of the same old approach to learning that they experienced

Leave a Comment

Grades 2,4, and 6: Wildwood Curriculum

After lots of thought and research, I’ve decided not write my own curricula this school year. While I thoroughly enjoy writing my own, this is not the season for me to do so. Some factors that weighed in my decision:

  • the newly diagnosed learning disabilities
  • the number of appointments each week for therapies + regular checkups (vision, dental, medical)
  • my health
  • my goals for the kids for the upcoming school year
  • what worked and what didn’t work from the previous school year
  • where the kids are at in terms of age
  • what I’m expecting the upcoming year to be like
  • and so on

I decided to definitely go with Wildwood Curriculum as much as possible, substituting books that we already have read as needed. I’m not expecting too much modification, except for my 9 year old who isn’t quite ready for Form 2 but has done most of their Form 1 readings. For him I’ll be making a combination Form 1/Form 2 transition year.

Now that I have my bearings for all the kids, the fun part begins: selecting books and writing out the weekly plans!

Leave a Comment

Pre-K: Blossom and Root Early Years

While I figure out what I’m doing with the older kids, I figured I could at least write out the general plan for my younger kids. The toddler will continue to blow through life as usual, although he is starting to be more and more interested in listening to stories be read to him.

My next youngest, who turns five this summer; has been itching to learn how to read and write. She isn’t quite ready for formal lessons or learning the basics of reading, but she’s not content to listen from the sidelines or play when the older kids are doing school.

I decided to use Blossom and Root’s Early Years curriculum for her. I like its approach: gentle, interesting, varied topics of learning, affordable, and actually implementable. I don’t follow it to the tee, but I use it as a backbone for the week. Amazingly, my library has a lot of the books used in Volume 1 (which is what we’re working through now), so I can just pick them up when I’m in that area. She’s enjoying the activities, and nothing we’ve run into thus far seems to be “too young” for her.

It scratches the itch for her to “do school” and I don’t have to really stress or worry about what I should be doing with her. Print off the plans, open it up to the correct place, pick out our activities, and sprinkle them throughout the week. It reduces my decision fatigue, and that’s always a help. (If I’m especially on top of things, I’ll have the library reserve 2-3 books from the plans for me so I can just go for 3 weeks before I have to go back to the library for the next batch of books.)

We aren’t too far into Volume 1 but right now it’s definitely a great fit for my daughter.

Leave a Comment

DIY Curriculum or Someone Else’s?

It’s hard to believe that my oldest will be in sixth grade this fall. I’m busy thinking and researching about what exactly to do with her. I’m also trying to keep an eye on the overall picture – what will our upcoming school year look like with regards to appointments (autism therapies plus standard human maintenance, 4H, etc)? When will we take vacations? Are there any places we can visit to supplement our history learning?

This last school year, I transitioned from using a pre-written curriculum to writing my own. It worked well, although it was a lot of work for me. This year, I had intended to continue with writing our own curriculum, but given the state of Everything right now; I’m wondering if I should go back to using a pre-written curriculum and adjusting as needed (which is still work, but less).

My oldest had a look at Wildwood Curriculum’s Form 2 curriculum. She was impressed with Form 2A upper using Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for a reading selection. I’m not entirely convinced she’s ready for 2A upper though, and would probably put her in 2A lower to start with. If it proves to be not enough challenge for her, I can always move her up as needed.

This past school year was probably the hardest I’ve ever schooled through – a variety of new diagnoses, new therapies, new changes in routine, a death in the family, health issues, a surgery, Never-Ending Winter, and more. Before I figure out which path to take, I need to take stock of what our goals are for the next school year, where we are now, what we can expect in terms of life, and how can we “reset” in terms of atmosphere and as a family?

Leave a Comment

Knitting All the Dishrags

Back in March, I decided to learn how to knit. Using Youtube videos and online tutorials, I’ve had some fun (and not so much fun) learning.

Dishrags was suggested to me on Instagram as a Thing To Knit. I found the classic “granny’s favorite” pattern and went to work. And it’s been a lot of fun.

Four knit dishrags
Some dishrags for my aunties, with a couple still needing their ends woven in

I also purchased a book I saw in a craft store called “Knit Stitch Guide” by Rita Weiss. It’s full of different stitches to try, and clear instructions on how to do each stitch. There’s also cabling, colorwork, and more! I figured when I need a simple project, I can learn a new stitch from the Knit Stitch Guide and make a dishrag out of it.

The next project I want to do is this simple striped blanket from the Lion Brand Yarns website. I’m having problems finding the Sphinx yarn locally (and not wanting to shell out $$$ for it online), so I may substitute a different cake in that spot.

Leave a Comment

It’s Planning Season!

With the end of the school year just two weeks away, it’s time to start planning the next school year. This upcoming school year will be VERY interesting as we navigate the new-to-us world of learning disabilities. Additionally, I’ll be adding my fourth child to the homeschool in a pre-K/K level.

In order to keep everything straight, I plan on using the following:

  • A scope and sequence from the Charlotte Mason Institute (PDF link here). As we interact with a wide variety of autism-related professionals on a daily basis, sometimes they want or need to know what we’re doing in our school. This scope and sequence from CMI is the best thing I’ve come across to “translate” what we’re doing in a way that is accessible and familiar to non-CM people. It’s helpful for me to have a roadmap of sorts, especially as we get into the middle and high school years for my oldest.
  • Forms 1 and 2 planning guides from the Charlotte Mason Plenary. I love these guides so much, because I don’t feel overwhelmed with the plethora of subjects that each grade has. It’s easy to use, thorough, and it just makes sense to me.
  • Notebooks. So many notebooks.
  • Binders. One for each grade, to house what I’m writing in the notebooks.
  • Pens. I like the Pilot G-2s, smooth ink and smear-proof for my left-handed ways.

My overall planning process is shaping up to be much more streamlined than in years past:

  • Use the appropriate planning guide to select subjects for each grade
  • Use the Plenary’s resource page, the SCM Bookfinder, various CM groups on social media, Googling, and the Internet in general to find books, movies, apps, and other resources for each subject
  • Figure out our schedules (term > weekly > daily)
  • Finalize booklists after sitting on it for a while, finding books in the library, etc
  • Buy said books!

Typically I try to start planning in February, but this year has been so weird that I couldn’t handle planning in February. I’m looking forward to getting back into planning mode!

Leave a Comment