Cheap, Educational Stocking Stuffers for Kids

 I laugh when I see what stores tout as "cheap" stocking stuffers. Anything over $5 isn't "cheap" especially not for stocking presents which are typically filler gifts. If my child is getting three or four bigger, pricier gifts under the tree, I can't afford to spend big on the stocking, too. Having four kids to shop for, Christmas is crazy-expensive enough without the stockings. So I look for stocking stuffers that cost a buck or two (preferably less!) But being a teacher--I don't want to fill that sock with useless junk. I demand some educational bang for my holiday shopping buck. Here's a plan to fill a kid's stocking with brain-building gifts, for about $5.  Perfect for special needs kids. Includes lots of developmental toys for kids with perceptional disabilities. Read more

Helping Children Cope with Connecticut School Shootings

In the aftermath of the Connecticut school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, kids are going to need help coping. 26 souls perished including 20 children--most around age five. How do you even begin to explain to kids why someone shoots children? It's going to be especially hard for special needs kids, and those with emotional disabilities. Well, first, you can't explain. The killer's state of mind is known only to God. But you can help kids not to be afraid. You can comfort and support. Here's an article I wrote with resources for kids on the Arizona shootings. The advice applies. read more

Free Printable Christmas Countdown Coloring Book

Advent is the Christian season of preparation before Christmas. Advent is the equivalent of lent before Easter. Here is a free printable Advent countdown to Christmas book with coloring and Bible activities for each day. Celebrate the nativity, or birth of Jesus with this daily devotional booklet. read more

Free Printable Food Journals, Online Fitness Trackers

Obesity and sedentary lifestyles are two big problems special needs students face. Some disablities and handicaps spur weight gain and make exercise difficult. Obesity is a growing concern in the general education population, too. Health concerns long thought to in the adult domain only--diabetes, nutrition, obesity, fitness and general wellness--are cropping up with alarming frequency among juveniles. To combat this, several groups have developed health programs written at kid level. They offer free printable food journals, online fitness trackers and nutrition planning tools. Geared for elementary to high school age kids, these programs teach self-sufficiency and basic life skills related to health. Use these for special needs and general ed. classrooms. read more

Feeding the obese child: Food switches to improve nutrition

 In 25 years of teaching, I've noticed more kids tending toward obesity. Special needs kids are sometimes more prone to nutrition and health problems. Mentally handicapped kids tend to be overweight. They may have more sedentary lifestyles. Weight problems are one symptom of Down Syndrome. Disabled kids have difficulty getting proper exercise. What can we as parents do about it? Growing kids have to eat, right? Yes, but we can control what they eat. Obese kids are typically malnourished, not from eating too little but from eating the wrong things. Here are healthier food switches for kids' favorites. Feeding overweight kids--Food switches to improve nutrition

Free Printable Preschool Games, Crafts, Activities

Hands-on preschool games and activities help build developmental skills in early childhood. There's no need to spend money on lessons for preschoolers. You can find free printable games and interactive educational materials online. Many preschool printables are also cut and paste crafts that kids can make themselves. Here are free printable alphabet activities, reading and letter games, math worksheets and shapes lessons. These crafts are prefect for special needs classrooms, especially ECSE and preschool. Free Printable Preschool Games, Hands-on Activities, Lesson Plans

My Emotional Health Self-Help Books Bibliography

Whenever I need guidance, comfort, help or advice, I look to the book. The Bible is my guide for life, but it's  worlds beyond the ordinary book. I've found comfort and healing and emotional from ordinary authors, too. Are you struggling with emotional issues: fear, anger, shame, low self esteem, depression, death, loss, grief, compulsive behavior, abuse, addiction, betrayal? Here's my recommended reading list for survival. Each of these has helped me at some point in my life. I've written this list chronologically according where I was when I discovered the book. 10 Emotional Health Self-Help Books 

Michigan School Elects Special Needs Homecoming King

Fall in high school means one thing perhaps more than others: football. And with football comes the ritual homecoming king and queen selections. In Linden, Michigan, a small rural community located between Flint, Michigan, and Detroit, it's no different. Linden is just an average small town, but in quality of life and paying it forward, it's a world leader, particularly at the local high school. Students at Linden High School elected a special needs boy, Danny Leideker, as their homecoming king. Kuduos to the kids, but more importantly, kuduos to you, Danny. Or should I say, HRH! Well done. Read more Michigan School Elects Special Needs Homecoming King

Montessori Mom--Preschool Science Learning Center

From 27 years in Montessori and special education, I've developed a learning center approach to parenting. From the time our kids were toddlers, I arranged their play area with learning stations. When I home schooled, I did the same with the school room. If you've got preschool age kids or are homeschooling, I highly recommend at-home learning centers. Here's how this Montessori mom set up a science learning center.  Montessori Mom--at Home Preschool Science Learning Center

Free Printable Native American Lesson Plans--Multisensory, Interactive


Thanksgiving is the time in the school year when many schools and grades are exploring Native Americans and American Indian cultures. Understanding American Indian history helps us understand all history better. Native American tribes have a varied wealth of knowledge, culture and technology. We learn about language, nature, life science, economics, self-government and so much more as we familiarize ourselves with native cultures. If you are exploring Native Americans in your classroom, here are hands-on, multisensory free printable Native American lesson plans to help (great for ECSC and special needs learners).

Teachers Pay Teachers--Sell Your Lesson Plans and Earn $

Looking for more great lesson plans? Try Teachers Pay Teachers. As a freelancer, I've learned to generate multiple steams of income. Teachers Pay Teachers is a great place to earn residuals on user-created lesson plans. I've been at Teachers Pay Teachers since 2007. TPT is easy to navigate, profitable and user-friendly. I've only got 6 products (one is the complimentary free download) but I've sold over 100 copies of these items. TPT is Here's my teacher store link. Store: Marilisa-Sachteleben-9 - TeachersPayTeachers.com. If you join TPT, will you use my referral link? Many thanks. Here it is Marilisa's TPT Referral 

Online study aids, Homework Help, Calendar Apps for Special Education

Back to school--three words kids hate and parents (let's admit it) look forward to. Too much unstructured summer vacation gets old. But no parent looks forward to school homework battles. Got a "reluctant learner" (or in parent-speak--"lazy kid")? Or maybe your child has special needs that make school difficult. Good study skills (and school success) rely on organization, time management and accessing appropriate resources. Here are free online study aids, homework planners, homework help and calendar apps to do those things. These apps motivate the reluctant learner, kick start lazy kids learner and help struggling students. The penny pincher in me loves that these apps cost nothing and so save money on school supplies.  Back-to-school: Online study aids and apps to motivate reluctant learners


Best Books for EI, ADHD Special Needs Teen Boys

As a teacher and homeschool parent, reading for research and pleasure is elemental to me. Each person in my family, male and female is a passionate bibliophile. I'm surprised when parents say that their kids, especially the boys, don't like to read. I suggest that this is less a distaste for reading, as that they haven't found books that engage them.

This is particularly true for boys identified with special needs, like EI, CI, ADHD, Asperger Syndrome and mild autism. Because they struggle with other issues, reading often becomes just another way they learn failure. Yes, I said learn failure. Success and failure are states of mind learned from the attitudes, expectations and behavior of others. When a child perceives that others expect him to fail, he obliges. He believes himself incapable and beyond help. He avoids challenge. Happily that trend works in the reverse. Kids who are encouraged learn success and make better choices.

To remedy fear-of-failure in reading, I've created a list of books and authors guaranteed to inspire the teen boy reluctant readers. The books are challenging. The authors don't pretty up their stories. Most of these books have some mature content and that's one reason boys love them so much. They feel respected and not talked down to. I recommend reading these stories with kids.  Best books, authors to ignite a passion for reading in tween boys 

Always-texting parents disconnect from kids

"Where are you going, my little one? Turn around and you're two, turn around and you're four. Turn around and you're a young maid going out of the door." Harry Belafonte poignantly reminds us how quickly kids grow. I can't believe I'm the mom of three adults and a teen when only yesterday that they were babes in arm. I didn't always have my priorities straight and there's lots I'd do differently parenting. One mistake I'm glad I avoided was spending lots of time on the phone. I'm concerned that always-texting parents (or those that always play on the computer) are missing much of their kid's childhood. Excess texting is particularly dangerous, physically and emotionally, with parents of special needs kids. Here's how.  Always-texting parents disconnect from kids

Free Printable Lessons on NASA's Mars Rover Curiosity, Back to School Lesson Plans

Houston, the eagle (well, rover) has landed. NASA's Mars rover "Curiosity" set foot on the red planet August 5, 2012, says ABC News. Here are free printable Mars rover Curiosity lesson plans. Educators, why not go back to school with a Mars party? Use these Mars Curiosity rover lessons to create inspiring, engaging science fun. These hands on activities are perfect for special needs learners. Read more Free Printable Lessons on NASA's Mars Rover Curiosity

Free Printable Handwriting Worksheets--Manuscript, Cursive Worksheets for Penmanship

One of the lessons that often gets lost in a teacher's busy school day is the teaching of hand writing skills. Arguably, handwriting is less important with the advent of computers, word processors and keyboarding . Certainly, legible handwriting is not nearly as prized as it was prior to 1990 or so, when students began to work more on computers. I can remember spending hours practicing manuscript and cursive writing. And look at handwriting of women schooled in the 1960s and earlier; they have beautiful script.

I'm not offering a debate over the validity of teaching handwriting skills. As a teacher, I'm looking for neatness and quality in work. Is penmanship necessary? If you want to help children practice hand writing, or if you feel the need to brush up on your own handwriting skills, here are links for free printable handwriting practice worksheets. You can print manuscript or print practice pages. You can also print cursive practice pages.  Free Printable Handwriting Worksheets 

Free Printable Math, Fractions, Geometry Games and Puzzles

As a 25-year teacher and 10-year homeschooler, I understand the need to get quality educational materials into kids' hands. My focus, as a certified special needs teacher, is hands-on learning activities. No subject, it seems, requires interactive lessons so much as math. Math concepts are often very difficult for kids to visualize. Many are abstract which means kids have to "think outside the box." with no frame of reference. To that end, I'm pleased to share links for these free printable math games.  Free Printable Math, Fractions, Geometry Games and Puzzles 

Free Printable Cut and Paste Crafts Projects

Summer is an excellent time to explore the wonderful world of free printable projects and activities. Cut and paste activities are perfect for day care, kids at home, road trips, rainy day fun and summer craft camps. During the summer, teachers and homeschoolers have an opportunity to make educational games and activities for their classrooms. Free printable activities are the perfect resource for educational games. Hands-on games and educational activities work especially well for tactile special needs learners. Be sure to laminate your free printable activities to reuse them.   Free Printable Educational Cut and Paste Projects and Activities

Free Printable Kids Car Games, Activities, Puzzles


"Are we there yet?" This has to be the most oft-asked question from kids on car trips or vacations. When these questions start, it can make for a very long, tedious ride. If non-handicapped kids have difficulty on car rides, special needs kids have even more trouble. They tend to get bored faster and have more trouble  finding acceptable ways to occupy themselves. They find it harder to get uncomfortable more quickly.

That's why smart parents plan ahead in order to circumvent the complaints on car trips. Games make good boredom-busters and whining-stoppers. Here are free printable car games to stave off ennui and keep kids happily occupied on road trips. Your kids will love these engaging activities and you'll get a peaceful journey Click here at  Free Printable Children's Car Games, Activities, Puzzles 

Free Printable Early American History Lesson Plans

Most elementary school curriculum contains a unit on American history. In 4th grade, many states require teachers to study pioneer, settler and early American history in their classrooms. Here are free printable lesson plans for social studies and American history. These lessons have been developed by teachers for teachers. Some have been designed by local history museums and historical societies. Use these in public school and homeschool. Age levels are set out for individual lessons but these are flexible. Many will work with special needs classrooms, also. Free Printable Hands On Early American History Lesson Plans 

Teaching kids healthy communication, interpersonal skills by modeling

Have you ever observed a parent shouting at a child to settle down? It would be funny if it wasn't so sad. The only thing this child is learning is that mommy yells, so yelling must be the right way to communicate. Hypocritical behavior like this not only jeopardizes the parent's relationship with the child, but the child's ability to form healthy relationships. These habits doom other relationships, too. This is just one troublesome parenting communication fail. Here are some others, along with healthier ways to help kids learn to get along. Teaching kids healthy communication, interpersonal skills by modeling

Free Printable Coloring Mini Books for Children

Educator Jonathon Holt says children learn best when they are actively involved.  Anytime a child can interact with material, he understands it better. This is particularly true for special needs kids. Here are free printable mini booklets for children to color. Subject include letters, words, seasons, animals, science, Bible, holidays and lots more. These books make excellent classroom, homeschool and supplemental lessons for ages 4-7 years (grades preschool through second). These free printable activities are especially good for special needs children.
Free Printable Coloring Mini Books for Children


Beach Toys, Gardening Toys from Recycled Plastic Milk Jugs

That ubiquitous plastic milk jug--what to do with them all? Instead of landfill fodder, why not recycle into sand toys for the beach and gardening tools? Make a set of eight tools. Perfect for Earth Day, on April 22. These lessons work for preschool, special needs education, elementary school, scout troop, 4H group, camp and day care. Perfect small hands and young gardeners. Reuse or recycle when play is finished. Here are easy, printable instructions Beach Toys, Sand Toys and Gardening Tools from Recycled Plastic Milk Jugs

Autism Insurance Reform Passes Michigan Legislature

 A package of three bills aimed at reforming Michigan health care insurance for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has passed the Michigan House of Representatives and is expected to move on to Gov. Rick Snyder for approval, says the Associated Press. A previous version of the bill failed in 2010, but autism coverage has stronger state support now. Here are details. Autism Insurance Reform Passes Michigan Legislature 

Identifying Special Education and Mainstream Students

Comparison is a dangerous word to use with students. It's not a good idea generally to compare kids' skills; it's doubly important to be cautious about measuring students with disabilities with the same stick that we use to measure general education students. It is the old "apples to oranges" scenario. What we can do is to examine all students and decide whether a disability exists and if so, how we can remediate. Read more at Comparing Special Education and Mainstream Students

Free Printable Adult Education Lesson Plans--Dr Seuss Oh the Places You'll Go

On March 2, we celebrate the 108th birthday of Dr. Seuss, or Theodor Seuss Geisel. One of the best Seuss legacies is the National Education Association's "Read Across America." Another is his book "Oh the Places You'll Go." It should be required reading for everyone, from one to 112. This book is especially good for special needs and adult education students. Read more at Dr. Seuss's 'Oh the Places You'll Go' Should Be Required Reading 

9-Year-Old Shoots Classmate--Wakeup Call for Parents, Educators

A third-grader faces criminal charges for accidentally shooting 8-year-old Amina Kocer-Bowman, a fellow student at Armin Jahr Elementary School in Bremerton, Wash. His dad, Jason Cochran said the boy "made a mistake," reports AP. The court is trying to decide if the child understood what he was doing. Once again, two children's lives are disfigured by the foolish choices of adults. It's a wake-up call about parenting, kids and guns. It's about kids falling through the cracks in our educational system. It's about kids living in horrific danger and not knowing how to cope. Read more at School Shooting by 9-Year-Old: a Gun Control Wake-up Call

Lenten Rice Bowl Devotional and Lesson Planner

Looking for a simple, yet effective way to teach special needs kids about Lent and charitable giving? Catholic Relief Services is the single largest non-governmental relief agency in the world. Each year at Lent CRS initiates what is called 'Operation Rice Bowl'. Operation Rice Bowl is a program which focuses our attention on the cardinal aims of the Lenten season: prayer, fasting and alms-giving. The Rice Bowl project consists of a cardboard box which when assembled, looks very much like the take out boxes that rice comes in. The Rice Bowl is a box which families set up in their homes during Lent to collect loose change and offerings for the poor and hungry of the world. Operation Rice bowl also includes a Lenten prayer calendar with devotional activities, feast days and stations of the cross. Each calendar day has a prayer focus. Specific information about world poverty statistics and needs from around the world are listed also. Great for social studies. Read more at Lenten Rice Bowl Devotional and Lesson Planner

Free Printable Valentines Day Countdown Calendar

Countdown calendars are becoming very popular to help children count down the days to special events and holidays. Here is a free printable countdown to Valentine's Day calendar. This cute cut and paste craft works well for preschool, elementary classrooms, homeschool and Girl Scout troop activities. It's perfect for special needs kids to learn telling time and calendar skills. Great for preschoolers, too.

This craft comes from those very creative folks at Family Fun. To begin making your free printable countdown to Valentine's Day calendar, print the Valentine candy box here. Cut out the candy box pattern. To make a reusable Valentine calendar, laminate the Valentine candy box using a home laminating kit or contact paper. You can make this countdown calender reusable by attaching it to a recycled piece of cardboard from a cereal box, also. Use it as a file folder game by taping it to the inside of a blank manila file folder. For printables, read on at Free Printable Valentine's Day Countdown Calendar

Free Printable Color Coding Phonics, Spelling Rules Chart

Free Printable Color Coding Phonics and Spelling Rules Chart I'm a trained special education teacher. Every lesson I create focuses on hands-on, interactive instruction. Here is a free printable phonics and spelling chart I developed to teach all of the basic phonics sounds, syllable and spelling patterns, using a color 'code'. When teaching Montessori, I developed this color coding system to teach spelling and phonics. I've used color coding very successfully with adult education students also. Read on

Best Books for Chinese New Year and Oriental Culture for Upper Elementary and Middle School Students

 Chinese New Year celebrates the culture of the Orient. What better way to explore oriental culture in your classroom than with literature? Here is a collection of children's books of oriental wisdom for parents, teachers and homeschoolers. Pearl S. Buck: a missionary to China and early winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Miss Buck writes with compassion and verve about her beloved China. "The House of Earth"," The Mother","The Big Wave and Other Gods" are just a few of the many tales that Pearl S. Buck has written for English speaking people about the ways of the Orient. Miss Buck's stories are written in the simplicity of Chinese language. Buck's books are just a few of the stories listed in this article for children. There are poetry collections, historical fiction, coming-of-age, fantasy and more. I've focused on kids in grades 3-6, but these books would work great for any age special needs student as read-alouds or independent readers. Best Books for Chinese New Year, Asia for Middle School

Free Printable Calendars, Checkbook Registers, Business Templates for Life Skills

I write a great deal about free printable items and am known for being able to find just about any kind of printable imaginable. Consequently, I get requests for specific internet printables. Several months ago, I was asked by a reader if I could find free printable BB gun targets. This was the most challenging request I'd had and at the time, I wasn't able to find much for him. Generally free printables websites are limited to coloring pages, crafts or business forms. I've recently stumbled upon a free printable clearinghouse that covers just about every imaginable kind of free printable document, craft activity, or template you could ask for. For special needs kids, there are printable calendars, planners, checkbook registers and business forms. I recommend using these for math, life skills, practical life and personal organization. The calendars are particularly helpful for new year's planning. Read on

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Freelance writer, Top 100 Yahoo! Voices, Yahoo! News, Shine, Michigan, Detroit), blogger, teacher, mom of 4, happily married 25 years. Graduated GVSU 1986, psychology/general education and special education. continuing ed up to present. Certified MI teacher. Writing Michigan history mystery, children's Gothic fantasy. Areas of expertise: education, relationships, mental health, nutrition, history, world cultures. Passions: faith, Catholic church, sustainable living, interfaith initiatives, living simply that others might simply live. Working on MA in EI education. 

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