Archive for August, 2011

Little miss is a girlie-girl. There is no way around it. How she managed that living as rural as we do, I don’t know. It is fun though to see her being so dainty.

Lately, she has been on a dress & apron kick. I am making her some clothes for winter on the treadle sewing machine. At her request, I found a simple dress with pinafore to make for her. She just adores the Little House books and wanted a dress like Laura Ingalls in the pictures. I got a pattern for it and am thrilled that the style of the dress is actually timeless and depending on the fabric used it can be either very plain or dressy. As I am making the dresses, she has been asking to learn to sew. How do you teach a 5 yr old to sew? By hand of course! I have a doll dress pattern that is prairie style, complete with apron & bloomers. This pattern is perfect to start her sewing education. I am tracing off the pattern for her onto the fabric and helping her cut it out. The actual sewing is something that she will do herself with guidance from me. She is very excited about this project and eager to get going on it.

Having her sew the doll dress herself will do more than teach her the beginning sewing techniques. In my limited understanding of the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education, Ms. Mason believed that children should learn skills, not just do frivolous crafting. Projects should take time to complete so that a child learns patience and to see a project through from beginning to end. A project like this one fits that criteria. Little miss won’t finish the doll dress in a day. It will take time.

Another project that she has been doing is weaving potholders on a loom. They are the simple ones made using the square plastic loom with pegs on all 4 sides to hold the ends of the loops you are weaving with. When I looked at the packaging the kids weaving kit came in, it showed that she is barely the recommended age. It challenges her to some extent. The first couple were difficult for her, but now she is doing them well. As with sewing the doll dress, it takes more than one sitting for her to complete a potholder. She is enjoying it though. She often picks up the box the supplies are stored in and works on it either during a free time break or after her schoolwork is completed for the day.

Coming up, little miss is wanting to learn to make cards to send to others in the mail. I am currently gathering some supplies together to have it ready for her. As I am wanting to make the Thanksgiving and Christmas cards this year, it will be fun to have her there making some along side me.

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Doing crafts with little man can be a bit different. How do you entice a sensory-sensitive child to want to do things that involve sticky glue, slimy paints, and other sensory nightmares? Well, I am finding my way slowly. It takes patience and persistence on your part, along with a bit of creativity.

Little man has a love-hate relationship with fingerpaints. One moment he can be having the time of his life smearing the paint onto paper. Then without warning it becomes a nightmare to him when he notices the paint on his hands. It just has him freaking out. Glue is another source of distress.

To help in making the painting ordeal easier for him to manage, I got a bag of various sized pom poms. I pour a bit of tempura paint onto a plastic tray and using hand-over-hand I guide him as he paints. His fine motor skills are not as strong as they should be, so the hand-over-hand method is necessary at this point. We pick up a pom pom, dip it in paint and then he dabs or smears the paint onto paper. He is seeming to enjoy it more this way. As he gets better with holding the pom poms and painting with them, I will start giving him only smaller sized ones.

Another way to get him to paint is to use the round foam “brushes” that are used to make dots or to pounce onto the paper. The handles are sturdy and easier to grasp. You can find them in a variety of sizes. Besides painting, we also are using the smallest one for applying glue. One reason that I love using these and the pom poms is that they are washable and easy for him to hold onto.

Little miss is going to be learning about apples as her science center theme for the week. She will be painting an apple tree and labeling it’s parts as well as labeling the parts of an apple. While she is painting her apple & tree, little man will be doing the same. A simple stroking of a pom pom in brown paint for the tree trunk, pouncing with a large pom pom in green to make the leaves, then pouncing with a small round foam brush to make the apples. Yes, I have to assist him in making it, but he will be taking part. Eventually, he will begin to do it on his own. This is only the beginning steps to help him learn how to do it for himself. Once he has learned to do it on his own, we will start adding other things to paint with.

Another idea on the same project would be to glue small red pom poms onto the tree for the apples. We could also use crumbled pieces of torn red paper. To make an autumn colored tree, crumbled tissue paper in autumn tones would make the leaves.

For now, my main goal is to find a way to help little man enjoy arts and crafts. In July, we had gone to a craft store and the kids participated in a free make-n-take craft class. Little man did some of it as he sat on my lap and allowed me to use hand-over-hand to help him. He seemed to enjoy feeling the texture of the modeling clay as well as the painting project. The painting project involved using a marker on a canvas, then pouncing it with a wet sea sponge to give it a watercolor look. He liked the sea sponge a lot, so I am going to be getting one for him to use at home. As he learns to do crafts, his fine motor skills will be improved as well as his sensitivity issues with textures.

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Laundry & library day. Since both usually involve time away from home, I decided to go ahead and combine the two. I go to a laundromat for do the week’s laundry and while there I am finding time to update my blog. Little man is so enthralled with watching the laundry in the front loading machines that he is in his own world for a time and it completely relaxes him. Little miss is happy to play with her dolls. Overall, it is a break for all of us.

We ended up getting to the library at the perfect time. There were no other children there. Little man was content to play for nearly 2.5 hours while little miss was on the children’s computers playing educational games. It was terrific! Typically, if there are very many children there, little man will get very over stimulated & prone to either melting down or running off to get away from all the noise and commotion. Having so much time to play on his own, he actually tried playing with the puzzles and other toys. Later, when a couple of young children were there, he accepted their presence and still remained playing. He never ran off or because over-stimulated. He only ran from me once and that was when we were looking for a book and he saw a fan a few feet away. Fans are always a magnet for him! All in all, the library trip was a success for each of us. Little miss got a long time to play computer games, little man had fun playing, and I was able to work on my netbook. I am going to start making library trips at the same time each week and see if it continues to go this well.

I am starting the winter season preps at home. There is the typical tasks like getting the plastic for the windows and making sure there are no small gaps in the caulking around the windows and doors. I am also looking towards the winter chores. I am considering the laundry and other tasks that need to be done, but once winter temps hit I won’t be outdoors doing them no more. I am clearing an area in the house to set up for doing laundry. We used to have an electric washer & dryer in that space. The drain is still there. We are going to put a pair of metal wash tubs on a stand along that same wall. The drain hoses for the tubs will be placed at the old drain. The old water line that went to the electric water heater is there also. It won’t be hard to put in a faucet for filling the wash tubs with cold water. A couple of metal buckets to heat water on the wood stove and we will be all set! I am checking prices on drying racks. I have a small one that I found at a thrift store a couple of winters ago. It was sized just right to fit over the wood stove in the front room. I am now looking for another one, possibly a larger one that I can set up in the laundry room where it will get the heat from the heater to help dry the laundry. It is still uncertain if we will have the kerosene or a propane heater for that area.

We made the decision this year to switch over to propane heat. We will have the old wood cook stove in the kitchen, but are wanting something easier for me in the winter. Our goal is to build/buy an outdoor wood furnace to use as our main source of heat with the propane heaters as a back-up. Living in an old home with wood heat only, you often come home to a very cold house on days when you have errands to take care of. We also are having to set the alarm clock to wake up every couple of hours to tend the stove to make sure the kids’ bedroom stays warm. An outdoor wood burning furnace will have a much larger firebox that can handle larger amounts of wood. This means I can fill it once, maybe twice, and have plenty of heat for the home. If it should ever run low and the house temp drop while we are away or even overnight, the propane heaters will come on.

Replacing oil lamp chimneys and other items that we need are another area of focus. Luckily Lehman’s also carries lamp parts at a great price. I am preparing a “wish list” with top priority items marked. As we are able, I am going to be placing orders to get what we need. This also includes things like the supplies I need to make laundry soap and my cleaners. I don’t want to have to drive in the winter any more than absolutely necessary. Thus, I am finding affordable mail order resources for as many things as possible. In some cases, the cost of shipping is less than the fuel costs for me to load up the kids and drive to a city to get what we need. It also makes it safer in that I am not traveling so far with the kids and possibly getting caught in an unexpected storm.

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Another busy week. Homeschooling is going well. Our daughter is getting the hang of using the workboxes and is managing her time a little better each day. She had 2 days where she twaddled too much and had work left over, but after having that work added to the next day’s she is back on track and not taking so many breaks after each box. LOL A harsh lesson, but a quick way to instill a bit more self discipline. This week we had a fun opportunity to observe a preying mantis up close. I looked on our screen door and a large one was clinging to the screen. I took our canister that has a large magnifying lid on it and caught the praying mantis since our daughter was too scared to do it. We brought it indoors and both she and our son were fascinated by it. Both watched it for a long time as I pointed out the parts of it’s body, talked about their life cycle & what they eat. The canister has no air holes, so we released the praying mantis rather soon after the impromptu science lesson. This is one of my favorite things about homeschooling. You can take opportunities as they present themselves and teach a lesson from them. Our daughter is still talking about that praying mantis! Next comes completing a scrapbook page for her science notebook once we go to the library and get copies of some pictures printed out.

Our son had Speech and OT this week. We travel to Tulsa every other week for the therapies. He did really well. He is becoming more interactive with the OT as they played together with a few toys. With his Speech therapist, he made his wishes known when they played with a balloon. She would blow it up and hold the open end and wait until he indicated that he wanted her to let it go. The first time she let it fly across the room, he was startled but didn’t freak out. After that, he began to smile and laugh. It was so much fun to watch.

While so close to the health food store, I drove there and placed an order for 2 cases of almond milk. It is so great to have a Whole Foods store that will special order and hold it for you. I am going to start doing this each time I go. I will special order any of our bulk supplies and then they will have it all ready for me to pick up when I go back 2 weeks later. I bought a few cartons of the milk off the shelf and saw that the 365* brand is much less expensive and that section of shelving is nearly always empty. That is the brand that we use and we love it.

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Our New Homeschool Year

We began homeschooling last week.  The workboxes are a hit!  Our daughter loves them.  She began with 8 and is gradually increasing them as she gets used to the new curriculum.  We began with the core curriculum and in the upcoming week will be adding Science and History.   Those 2 subjects will be primarily done in centers activities.  I am planning to approach these using the same methods as is found on Heart of Wisdom’s website.  In teaching history, I will also be including the science of that time period.  It will make more sense. 

Our son is doing good with his sensory and activity boxes.  It is taking time to get used to doing them, but he is coming along.  He now has learned the routine that when I get a box out for him to do, it is time to work on it and not run around.  It is my goal to help him gain the routine of using the boxes so that when it is time to start homeschooling, he will already have the routine and it won’t be a dramatic change for him.

The homeschool room is now set up and I am so glad that I got it done.  The kids each have their own area to work at without becoming a distraction to each other. 

Today, we are at a library and I am gathering information for the history & science lessons next week.  It is such a blessing that I came today.  When we arrived, there was a small group of homeschool moms having a meeting.  I was able to meet them and am looking forward to joining the group.  It sounds as though they are very busy with field trips and other activities.  They also have other families with autistic children.  This is exactly what we have been looking for to give the kids another way to be with peers and make friends.

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Modified Lapbook

One of the homeschool ideas that I love is the lapbook. It is a great visual tool that once made, the children can go back and review each time they bring it out to share with others. The lapbook consists of everything from graphics, artwork, copywork, and various little books that give details about the lapbook topic. While I see the benefits of it, I was not happy with the overall project. There is so much more I wanted to have in them. My answer was to modify the lapbooks available for free online.

This week, we began the Little House on the Prairie book series. On Homeschool Share’s website, you can find free lapbooks for this series and many other children’s books. I downloaded and printed out all of the pdf files for the first book in the series and organized them in order. The lapbook download has 3 pages of the daily reading & suggested activities. Using that as a guideline, I put the activity sheets in order and added a few blank pages in place for the days when the activity was something that was 3-dimensional and I could add pictures to the page. This further gave me the idea to expand the book even more by adding as many hands-on projects as I could. The last one being the big one of making homemade cheese like Ma Ingalls does in the book. For that day, there will be pictures of the cheese being made and a step by step instructions (simplified in a child’s way) of how we made it. Once I added the extra pages that would become scrapbook layouts of the activities, I had a nice sized book ready to be bound using my comb binder.

I like the overall look of the activity book. It will make a nice portfolio as well as being much easier to store. There is still much for our daughter to do to make the book, but I no longer have loose pages to store until they are added to the lapbook. Little books are removed from the binding and assembled then attached to the blank page provided. There is even extra room for her to add drawings or stickers to further decorate the page.

After seeing how this turned out, I am planning to do the same with future lapbooks. We have to drive to an office supply or library to print out all the worksheets and pdf files. I am now able to print them all at once, assemble the book and bind it right away. No more lost or damaged papers! It is such a time saver for me overall to have it done ahead of time. Now, at her Literature center, I place the book and all of the supplies needed to complete that day’s activity.

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Homeschool has begun for our family. Our first day was on Monday. Daddy’s Princess was thrilled to get started. She awoke early that morning and was excited to get busy. I love seeing the enthusiasm she has towards homeschooling. After using the workboxes for a few days, we are seeing the blessings of this method. I do see where we will have to have a modified system for days when we are away from home. There are some days when we have library outings 45 miles from home. Other times, we have to travel about 75 miles to take Little Man to his occupational and speech therapies. On these days, I would love to have a smaller, modified workbox system in place to take a few worksheets or other activity that can be done away from home. I am considering making my own pocket portfolio using my comb binder. It would be an easy thing to cut one pocket portfolio in half to become a front and back cover. Take as many pocket portfolios as you need and open them so that they are closed with the pockets facing outward (inside out) and stack them. Place the covers in place and punch the holes along the edge to be bound and attach the comb binding. I have seen these at office supply stores, but it is so much cheaper to make my own. To make them a bit fancier, you can use the slightly larger decorative portfolios for the cover and the plain ones in the middle. This is a benefit also in that the decorative ones are more sturdy. This will make a nice portable way to have homeschool-to-go for those busy days.

Little Man is starting to do a new activity. After our last speech therapy appointment, I came home with a list of words that we are going to work on. I went to a school supply store and bought 2 sets of Picture Word flash cards. The sets have several categories in each that cover the words on my list and much more. The pictures are actual photos and not the drawn graphics that can be confusing at times. I am starting out with a couple of the cards and showing him the cards and naming them. The idea is for him to memorize the cards so that if I ask him to point to the ball, for example, he will be able to do so. If he begins to say the word, that would be awesome. At any rate, he will be able to recognize the names of the objects.

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