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Archive for April, 2011

I love the workbox system.  It is nice to know that as I m homeschooling my daughter, I am also teaching her to become independent in her studies.  One of the points that Sue Patrick brings out in her book, “Sue Patrick’s Workbox System: A User’s Guide” is that often times, children become dependent on their teacher/parent to hand hold them each step of the way.  Using this system, our daughter is gaining independence from that.

In our home, we have small rooms.  A drawback to the workbox system is that the system takes space.  Homeschoolers learn quickly that space is a premium.  You have storybooks, reference books, curriculum, educational games & videos, etc. that all need to be stored in a manner that is easy to mnage and access.  We are just beginning and I already see the potential for storage problem issues.

At a bookstore that I go to each month, they have a large educational/teacher supply section.  In the back of that area, there is a teacher prep room where customers can photocopy and laminate their class materials.  Poster-size heat laminating machines cost only 25 cents per foot for the laminating.  I have been checking the sizes of our daughter’s workbooks.  Each one is smaller than the large catalog size manilla envelopes.  This is the beginning of my version of the workbox change-over.  Instead of workboxes I will start using work-pouches

I already have been making pouches fom the large manilla envelopes to hold learning center activities.  Each pouch is a separate activity to be completed.  The work-pouches will be similar in presentation.  Here are some possible methods that I am considering:

Option 1:  Decorate 12 pouches numbering them 1-12.  I will have my daughter help decorate them since so she can personalize them.  Once they are decorated, I will take the pouches to the bookstore and laminate them.  This will make them more durable.  I am considering having 3 baskets or containers.  One will hold the work-pouches to be completed, another will be the basket to place the work-pouches into as they are finished, and the third will hold over-sized items.  Crooked Creek Farm Girl’s blog inspired this method.

Option 2:  This method is one that I saw first on another blog, Homeschool Creations.  In her blog, she demonstates how to turn comb-bound portfolios into “work-folders” for the school assignments.  This method also has it’s advantages.  First, the system takes less space, yet is well-organized.  Second, it is portable for times when we are taking our homeschool to go. 

Option 3:  a method that I have heard of others using, but not seen pictures of is using the wall chart pockets.  These are the one designed to hold file folders.  In place of file folders, you put the child’s schoolwork in the pockets. 

Of the 3 methods, I am leaning more towards using the manila envelope pouches.  I haven’t decided yet.  If I can make enough space available to continue with the bins, then I will do so.   Lukily, I have a couple of months to decide.

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Traveling to New York

Well, we are about to embark on new territory – our first road trip with Micah. This will be an interesting opportunity.  We are traveling about 1500 miles from home in our car.  Yeah, we may be nuts.

My husband’s Dad has been dealing with cancer for 3 years, this past year being in stage 4.  He was doing fairly well until recently when he started having breathing problems.  The doctor says he is in the final stages, so we are heading out there to see him.

Joe is a truck driver and am going to drive about 300 miles to the location where his employer wants him to park the truck while he is gone.  Then, we will travel together the rest of the journey.  On the way home, he will be dropped off at the truck again before I continue on home.

This trip will be the first time the kids will meet their Grandpa in person.  While Abbie (age 5) is very excited about that, she also knows that he is very sick.  She is handling it as well as a child her age is expected to handle it.  Micah (age 3) is going to be a totally different situation. Having Autism Disorder, he is going to be struggling.  New places, new people, new family pets (they have 2 dogs), new stimuli, it can all become  massive issue for him.  So, how do I plan to ease the way?

The first thing was the decision to drive there.  Micah is familiar and comfortable with the car.  He usually travels very well.  I am packing his favorite blankets and a few toys so that he can have familiar items.  Some of his favorite snacks and foods can also help.  Beyond that, I can only pray for the best, have his snuggle blanket handy, and a bottle of Melatonin to help him rest at night.

Micah’s snuggle blanket is a cribsize thin blanket that I swaddle him in as I rock him when he has a massive meltdown.  It is the only thing that calms him. 

Abbie is going to be the easy one.  She wants to take her Barbies, her teddy bear that she sleeps with, and has asked to take her homeschool workbooks with her.  She sees the trip as an adventure.

Beyond what I have planned, what do you do to prepare for a trip like this?  It is short notice.  We leave in 3 days.  How do you prepare to travel with a special needs child who struggles with unfamiliar surroundings and people?

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Family Garden

In days gone by, it was the norm for families to raise a large garden each year.  The garden would be planted in spring and most of the harvest would be preserved in some form to supply the family with food throughout the upcoming winter.  Families knew that if they did not do this, it would have a major affect on the family’s abilty to survive the winter.  Buying all of your food in a store was not always an option.  So, each family would grow all that they could to store away in the root cellar.

Today, we are facing hard economic times.  Some believe that this in only the beginning and that harder times are ahead.  Families who have not grown a garden in years are suddenly going back to gardening as a way to suppliment their family’s grocery budget.

We have had ( or at least attempted to have) a garden each year.  Some were better than others.  This year, with my oldest daughter, her husband, and my grandson living on the homestead we are working together to grow a large garden to support both families.

Having a large garden means that either you have to weed the garden daily to keep up with it or you have to take steps to reduce the amount of upkeep the garden will need.  We are going about it a smart way.  I bought several rolls of a weed barrier cloth that allows water to seep through but prevents weeds from growing.  The cloth is a dark charcoal color which prevents light from filtering through and stimulating weed growth.  I have used this cloth before with wonderful results.  You literally have to make a hole for your plant to grow through.  Unless there is a hole, nothing will grow.

The only things that are planted where no cloth is laid down is the garlic and onions which were already planted.  or everything else, I have to cut an X into the cloth and then transplant the plants in that hole.  For seeds I am going to be cutting a narrow strip where the row of seeds are to be planted.  By cutting out a narrow strip, the seeds will have enough of an opening to grow through.  There is still plenty of the cloth covering the soil to prevent the weed growth.

Another advantage to using the cloth is that the ground gets too warm for insects that commonly go after the plants.  I have had far less insects to worry about when using the weed barrier cloth.

I am looking forward to canning or dehydrating the harvest.   I am ordering a new canner this week in preparation.  My old waterbath canner got a leak in it.  I am replacing it with a steam canner.  These canners can only be used for fruits and tomatoes, just as the waterbath canners.  The advantage however is that you use far less water, which can save time.  The canner base can be used as a roaster pan and the top can be turned upside down and used as a large stockpot. 

Tomorrow is going to be a big day.  Going to get the rest of the garden prepared.  May even plant a fwe rows of seed.  I am looking forward to watching the garden grow & canning it all.  What a blessing it is to watch the pantry shelves fill up with enough food for winter!

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Workbox Ideas

I have been working on preparations for next school term.  We homeschool nearly year round, so our terms start earlier than public schools often do.  Having a special needs child, you learn quickly that breaks in their therapies or education can have a negative affect.  They find it harder to retain the knowledge.  There is also the issue that some children, like those with autism, do not adjust well to changes in their routines.  For this reason, we will continue his therapies and preschooling at home year round. 

In preparing for educating and doing therapies with Micah, I have been searching online for ideas and activities that would help.  In my search, I have found several ideas.  For those interested, I used the search terms  “TEACCH activities” to find resources.  TEACCH is the name of a therapy/education approach used with autistic children.  It is upon this therapy that Sue Patrick based her Workbox System.  One site in particular was of interest to me.  Autism Task Sets are thematic packages of about 10 activities per set.  Unlike higher priced sets that are fully reasy to use, these ones require that you laminate then put them together.  You work is minimal to prepare them for use.  The costs are lower however due to your having to put them together.   As I looked through the available sets, I began thinking of other ideas to incorporate into the workboxes.  Here are a few:

* Size sequencing:  The materials for this are the varied sized sets of cookie cutters.  You can find them at many stores today.  They are a single shape, such as a leaf in about 8 sizes.  The cookie cutters are nested inside each other.  The task is to have the child place all the cutters in order from largest to smallest.  This could also be done with paper diecuts.

* Pompom sorting:  Get a bag of colorful pompoms in various colors.  Using an egg carton or an old muffin tin, sort the pompoms by color.  To make this easier,  place a colored circle of paper in each “cup” of your container so the child knows which color to put in each cup.  To increase fine motor skills, use a large plastic set of tweezers from a craft store to pick up each pom pom.

* Paint a paper towel roll or a similar length of PVC pipe to decorate it.  Let the child play by rolling a ping pong ball through the pipe. The child gets fine motor skills in playing this game as well as having to figure out what happens to the ball as it dissappears from one end and then appears in the other.

* No-mess fingerpainting:  make a batch of homemade “slime” from a recipe found online.  Place the slime in a quart or gallon sized ziploc baggie.  I recommend the freeer bags as they are more sturdy.  After removing the excess air and sealing the bag apply tape over the end to prevent the child from opening it up again.  Lay it flat on the table and using your hand, even out the slime throughout the bag.  The child can then draw on the bag and it will leave the finger stroke marks, but a sensory sensitive child won’t be getting their hands sticky or dirty.

* Shape matching:  Using pictures of common items, have the child sort the pictures according to their shape.  This helps the child to recognise the shapes in everyday items.  Example: a slice of pizza as a triangle, a stop sign as a hexagon, a plate as a circle, a slice of bread is a square, a glass is a cylinder, and a ball is a sphere.  You get the idea.

I feel like my head is swimming with ideas.  I am keeping a notebook to write the ideas into.  I will share more as I go along.  There are so many ways to teach our children.  So many opportunities each day that are given to us.  It is a challenge to teach a child who are visual learners.  It is a fun challenge though.  One that I am enjoying each step of the way.

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This week has been a busy one.  The weather here has turned warm enough that we are getting work done on the garden.  The onions sets that I had put out are already growing tall green leaves that average anywhere from 1-4 inches tall. 

We planted the tomato plants – nearly 2 dozen of them!  A few looked a bit wilted when I bought them, but all are growing very well now that they are in the ground.

The kids have been watching some sugar peas and sweet corn seeds sprout in the window.  We soaked the seeds overnight to soften them.  The next day, a damp paper napkin was placed in a baggie.  On the napkin, a few of each seed variety was placed before sealing the bag.  We taped these up in a window.  Over the next few days, the kids were able to watch as each seed sprouted.  They were able to see the growth of roots and stem.  It was interesting to see the reaction when they noticed that the seed split in two.  These seeds are being planted in little cups until they are big enough to transplant into their own little garden space.

I have been thinking on how to best approach teaching Micah.  I bought him a small i-pod to use for the educational apps only.  He loves playing with the apps on his speech therapist’s i-phone, so this ended up being a good choice. In recognition of April being Autism Awareness month, the ABA apps by Kindergarten.com are being offered for free.  I don’t know how much these would cost normally, but we have 22 of them currently that we downloaded free.  Some of these are flashcards that use actual photos instead of the drawn pictures or clipart.

I am getting next term organized already.  We are going to our first homeschool convention in a couple of weeks.  I am planning out what I am wanting to teach the kids so that I can plan accordingly for when I buy the curriculum.

I decided to combine 2 ways of record keeping.  I found a binder record keeping system online called The Master Planner.  It is available in 3 formats: a pdf download, a CD-rom, and in a hard copy of one master copy of each form that you can make additional copies of.  For tracking the workboxes, I found free charts online.  The second is the free basic version of the computer program Homeschool Tracker.  The binder will be my daily working copy and the computer program will be my more permanent record.  I will explain more on why I am doing it this way in a later post.

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In a couple of weeks, I am going to my 1st homeschool convention. I am really hoping that I will come away with lots of and resources for teaching the kids. I have been searching online for materials used to teach special needs children. With our son learning through multi-sensory methods the best, I am going to focus on those first. I am so glad that I am starting to look for materials this early! It is going to take some planning to get it all together.

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