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Archive for April, 2012

Geography Idea

I am so glad that we chose to homeschool year round. Little Miss is enjoying the curriculum so much that I would not want to take too long of a break over summer. Being that my husband is a truck driver, we plan our homeschooling around his schedule. During the weeks he is gone, we homeschool nearly every day. Sunday is the only guaranteed day that we don’t homeschool. When Daddy is home for his days off, we take a break from homeschool for the entire time he is home. The only exception being if we go to a museum or other educational location that becomes a field trip.

We got Little Miss a couple of books for the states. One is a children’s USA atlas book. It has maps of each state with a little information about them. She also has an activity workbook with a 2-page spread of activities and maps for each of the states. As Daddy travels with his trucking job, we choose a state he is driving in to be our state of the week. Whenever possible, he mails the kids postcards from the places he goes to. Cards with state maps, historical places, or the state’s vital statistics are among the most common ones he sends.

I received an Oriental Trading catalog recently that inspired me. The specific catalog that I received was their religious one that has Vacation Bible School supplies in it. One product that they have are passport books that the kids can use with stickers. It gave me an idea. Why not alter the idea of a passport book to be a “Passport Around the USA” book? Instead of having pages for foreign countries, designate one page for each state in the USA. The passport booklets that Oriental Trading sells come in a pack of 12. If I remove the staples and carefully cut the booklets down the center binding fold, I can add extra pages to a book. Using my comb binder, I can bind the book with the extra pages included. Using graphics from online, I can gather state flags, seals, state bird, flower, and map to make into small stamp-size pictures. These can be cut out and adhered onto the page for each state as we learn about it.

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Pookie is learning to use the incentive chart that I made very well. While he isn’t always keen on the idea at first, he is learning quickly that if he does the activity, the reward is given to him right away. Now that he is catching on to this concept, we can gently begin to make a bit of adjustments.

I found a picture of a cute Pom-Pom Numbers book that is a free download at Childcare Land. The pages are full size for each number. Printed on cardstock, then laminated, these can be used as play dough mats. I am taking it another step. After laminating, I will add a soft Velcro dot to each “dot” on the number pages. The rough Velcro dot can be placed onto buttons, pom poms or any other small items that you may have to use as the game pieces. At first, I can ask Pookie to place 1 game piece on a single dot and give him a token for his incentive chart. Gradually, I can have him complete one number page for each token.

In using these printables, an option that I am choosing to use is to scale down the page size for printing. When you go to print out the pages, which are in pdf format, find the “Page Sizing” option and click on “multiple”. Allow 4 pages per page and print in landscape orientation. You will end up with 4 pages per sheet that are postcard size. Use something rather flat as your game pieces, such as buttons or a laminated cardstock circle cut out with a circle punch. Stack the pages in order and bind with a comb binder along the top edge. An envelope made to look like a seed packet can be laminated and bound to the booklet also. Use Velcro dots as the envelope closure and you have a game piece pocket. The entire booklet can be stored in a 6×9 manila envelope or a quart size baggie.

I am learning to adapt the printables. Pookie has major texture issues and simply refuses to touch certain things on some days. Pom poms are a great example. On rare occasions, he will play with a bin of them that we have here at home. Other days he has a fearful response to them. The key is to know your child and work within their boundaries while gently easing them past their comfort zone. Look at worksheets and activities and think outside of the box. Be creative. Is there an alternative method to what the worksheet is designed for?

Little Miss has worksheets that involve cutting and pasting. Pookie doesn’t have the fine motor skills yet to be able to cut with scissors. To make a worksheet such as this more at Pookie’s ability level, I would laminate the worksheet and cut off the portion containing the cut outs. Next, cut out all of the pieces and add Velcro to the backs of the pieces and their positions on the worksheet. This turns it into a reusable hands-on activity that he can do multiple times. It takes much more preparation on my part, but the outcome is worth it.

I have realized that Pookie needs a LOT of repetition to learn new things. Once learned, he needs review on a regular basis to retain what he has learned. Having the manipulatives are critical, in my opinion. They not only are helping to teach him but are also working on his fine motor skills as well. They are multi-sensory in nature which aids his learning.

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Pookie found a new obsession this week. He loves buttons. I was making a little incentive chart for him, using large flat buttons as the tokens. Luckily, the buttons are kept in a baggie. After pulling out the buttons that I needed, I closed the baggie and set it aside on the table. Pookie spent the next little while playing with the buttons through the baggie. He would push and poke at them through the baggie, looking at various ones as he moved them around. It turned into a very sensory driven activity for him. I am going to start keeping a look out for unique buttons of as many different textures that I can find. I would like to put together a small sensory bin of buttons for him. My current stash of buttons are recycled ones that I bought at a yard sale years ago. An elderly lady had removed buttons from worn out clothing to be used on other clothing.

We began the Sun unit this week. It is great timing as we are getting things ready for our garden. It will be a raised bed garden this year. One really neat idea that we found on YouTube was recycling old wooden pallets to make the raised beds. I love the idea! One slight change I want to make in the design however is to cut the upright pallets in half for 2 of the raised beds. This will make 2 raised beds that are just the right height for the children to plant a few veggies in. I bought the kids some cherry tomato plants this week which they will be transplanting into their own garden boxes. Both Little Miss and Tank love to snack on tomatoes, so that was an easy choice to make. Little Miss is planning to grow Strawberry popcorn which has red kernels on a 3″ long strawberry shaped ear. Tank is planning to grow some Sweet Corn in his garden. They will be planting their corn/popcorn in separate boxes since you have to plant a square of it to get good pollination. In regards to the Sun unit, the kids are learning how important the sun and light are to growing a garden. One fun experiment is to take 2 identical small plants and place one in a dark cabinet and the other in a location where it gets plenty of light. After a couple of weeks, the kids should see a good change by then.

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One of the foundational skills needed when teaching a child with autism is a visual schedule. At first I was resistant to the idea. Not due to the idea itself, but because no one I asked (including therapists with the Early Intervention program) would explain to me how to begin using one with Pookie. Their reply was consistently “Just make one and use it.” What I needed to know was how to implement the use of a visual schedule with a child who had no understanding of what was being asked of him. When reading Sue Patrick’s book about her workbox system, it was evident that the TEACCH method utilizes the visual schedules as an important component in working with an autistic child. The schedule not only helps to prepare them for what is expected of them that day, but it can be used as an incentive program to get the child to complete their schoolwork or other tasks. It is no different than having a chores chart for a typical child. The difference is only in that a special needs child uses the schedule much as we may use a daily planner to keep ourselves on track with our day. It requires even more effort to train an autistic child to use the schedule. Unlike a typical child who catches on very quickly to the concept, an autistic child has to be slowly trained. They not only have to be trained in how to use the schedule, but what the little picture cards represent. One example being that a picture of a place setting means it is time to eat.

I am learning that one of the major challenges that we have as parents of an autistic child is that of teaching them to interact on demand. By nature, an autistic child prefers to be in their own little world, “Pookie Land” as we call it. It is understandable. When you see how the stimuli around them will often frighten them or trigger a meltdown, why wouldn’t they prefer that safe place within themselves. that is where the challenge lies. We have to find a way to pull them out of that place and get them to respond to us in a way that shows they understand what we are asking of them. But how do you accomplish this? With Pookie it is easier than I first believed. I learned from observing him and taking my own mental notes of what captures his attention the most consistently. There are 3 things that are nearly always able to draw him out: favorite snacks, his I-pod, his V-Tech Reader, or watching episodes of Tarzan (his favorite TV show) on my netbook. Once I knew that, the next step is in training him to follow instructions as given.

In the beginning of the process, I only wanted to use a simple incentive chart. I had a piece of colored cardstock that was already laminated. I placed 5 soft Velcro coins across the bottom. These would be used for his incentive tokens. For tokens, I used large flat buttons. I placed a rough Velcro coin on the back of each. The reward he was working towards was placed on the table within his sight, but out of his reach. Eventually, I will use laminated pictures instead of having the item on the table. This will come when he is working more independently.

I read in Sue Patrick’s book about workboxes that she has her children “clock in and clock out” of homeschool each day. The thought being that it set the child into the “it is time to do homeschool” mode. For Little Miss, I haven’t done this….yet. For Pookie, I am seeing it as a positive. It goes right along with the idea of activities having a clear beginning and end. By “clocking in” he is establishing the beginning of his time to work on his tasks. “Clocking out” will establish an end. TEACCH tasks are all about a child seeing a definite beginning and end to their individual activities. Having him clock in and out will establish this also on a larger scale. I have some library card envelopes that will easily make the pockets for his card. The card itself can be something very simple. A card with his name or picture on it works. Later when he is used to the system, we could change it out into something more personalized. The “clock in” pocket says “Time for Preschool” on it and is made in a colorful paper. The “clock out” pocket says “All Done” and is also made of a colorful paper.

The first step was taking him to the clock in/clock out card. Using the hand-over-hand method, I helped him pull the card out of the “clock out” pocket and move it to the “clock in” pocket. As we do this, I am telling him, “It is time to start preschool. Let’s move your card to show me you are ready.”

We sit at the table with his clipboard to his left and the reward in the center of the table out of his reach. I set up his activity. It was a really easy one that he knows how to do. I took 5 of his plastic sorting bears and had them setting next to an small empty dish. I asked him to put 1 bear in the dish. Hand over hand method was required to show him what I wanted him to do on the first couple of tries. When he placed the bear into the dish, I handed him a token and helped him put it on his incentive chart. We repeated this same activity until he had all 5 tokens. I then guided him into handing me the incentive chart to exchange for his reward. After he plays with his reward for a little while, I give him back the incentive chart with tokens removed in exchange for the reward. We repeat the bears activity again to earn more play time with his reward. If he is working for a favorite snack, such as M&Ms, then I only give him 1 for each token earned. If he wants more, then he has to earn them again. I never repeated the activity more than 3 times per session. This kept him from getting bored or frustrated. When the session is finished, he “clocked out” which signaled to him that he could go play.

Each child is different in how quickly they will pick up on the system. When deciding a reward, I pre-plan a choice of 3 items. He picks out one and I set it aside for him while the others are put away out of his sight. By planning ahead his choices, I can avoid the M&Ms being his choice every time. He does have a sweet tooth and so that was used initially because it was guaranteed incentive that would work.

One note that I would like to make is that I am finding that if I work with Pookie 3 sessions a day on our regular homeschool days, he does really well. Eventually, you work in more activities instead of repeating the same one throughout the session. As the child becomes more adept at it, you can increase the tasks completed per session. Use your child as a guide. They will let you know how much they can do without reaching a frustration point causing a meltdown. For Pookie, some days he can handle 3 different activities per session. Other days, you are lucky to get him to do 1. It depends on the difficulty level of the activity and more importantly what stimuli issues he may be having that day. The main thing is to do a little each day to get them into the routine.

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If you have a child who is picky about eating vegetables, here is a solution that worked with our family. I started making fritters using shredded or grated vegetables. The second solution was to alter a zucchini or banana bread recipe and add a variety of shredded veggies to it.

Veggie Fritters
(Makes about 30 fritters)

The fritters are a no-measuring style of recipe, one of my favorite types! I take an assortment of vegetables and shred them. One of our favorite combination of veggies is 2 zucchini, 2 yellow squash, 1 large sweet potato, 1 medium onion, and 3-4 carrots. Shred all of the veggies into a large bowl. Stir well to blend them. Stir in enough flour to lightly coat all of the vegetables. Add enough eggs to moisten the vegetables. For the amount of veggies that I listed here, I used about 3/4 cup of flour and 5 eggs. The amount will vary depending on the volume of vegetables that you have.

Heat a skillet and spritz with a non-stick spray. Drop mixture by spoonfuls onto the hot skillet and flatten slightly. Reduce heat to about medium low. Cook on one side until the fritter is very firm and golden brown. Flip over and repeat with other side. Cooking over a medium low heat will allow the inside of the fritter to fully cook before the outside becomes browned.

If you wanted, you can add a bit of protein powder to the mixture along with the flour. Milled flax seed is another option to add also. These will increase the nutritional value of the fritters even more. Having picky eaters, this is one area that I try to address daily.

Veggie Cake

I really have no true “recipe” for this. It is simply an alteration of your favorite zucchini or banana bread. Make the bread batter as you typically would. Next add a good sized handful of the shredded vegetables you have on hand. Some really good ones to include are a variety of squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots. I mix in enough that the batter looks like more vegetables than the actual flour batter mixture. Bake according to your recipe’s directions.

Either of these ideas are fully adaptable to whatever you may have on hand. If you garden, then you have a ready supply of fresh produce to choose from. If the kids get to help pick out garden seeds and grow them, often they will be more likely to try eating them. As for our family, hiding the veggies in things like the cake or making them into fritters will get the kids more than willing to eat their veggies.

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This past week, I learned about a really great project that the kids can do each day. The Daily Calendar Notebook found on the 1+1+1=1 blog is where I downloaded my free printables. If you check out the blog link, it will take you to the actual blog entry where she explains the notebook and how they use it. All printables that you need for the morning calendar board and the notebook are there.

I printed out the notebook pages for the both Little Miss and Tank. I am seeing quickly a benefit to the notebook. As the kids work on the pages, I am able to finish last minute preps on the day’s lessons. The kids loved the notebooks. I was pleased with how well they did them. My next step is to design and make the actual morning routine board and have it laminated next trip to the Mardel’s store.

On another blog entry, she has the little Tot Time Notebook that she did for her little one. The pages are a good activity for Pookie to learn to accomplish. As with the Daily Calendar notebook, the Tot Time notebook pages were downloaded to be printed out. Next time at a library, I will get Pookie’s binder made for him.

I am excited about this. I wish I had thought to do it sooner.

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One of the lessons that I am learning through homeschooling the children is that reading for my own enjoyment is critical. Luckily, my husband and I both enjoy books. I am a voracious reader when given the opportunity. It is not unusual for me to read an entire book within 2 days during the winter or the hottest months of summer when our homestead life slows down a notch or two. I love reading books about how things were done in the “old days” prior to electricity being common in homes. Overall, my book choices are very eclectic. Since being given a Kindle One filled with 140 e-books, I read that quite often also. I am careful though to make certain that the children see me reading actual books often. We believe that if a child observes their parent enjoying reading, the child has a much better chance of sharing that enjoyment. I am really blessed to have a husband who loves books and often has audio books on the truck to listen to. My daughter, Christy, and her husband also read each evening. The kids in our home are surrounded by adults who love reading.

One goal that my husband and I have is to stock bookcases with quality children’s books that the kids will enjoy. One favorite store is the 1/2 Price book store in Oklahoma City. It is quite a trip to go there, but we always find books to add to our collection. Some are used, but in very good condition. Other books are new and discounted in price. We buy old classic stories such as the works of Hans Christian Anderson, Beatrix Potter, Children’s poems & verses, Little House series, Little Critter, Berenstein Bears, and any others that have a good message within the story. We feel that if you want a child to learn good values, then you should surround them with examples of those values.

One part of the MFW curriculum that I love is the book basket idea. Each unit study has a specific theme/topic that is focused upon. We find books at the library that fit that theme and put them into the book basket. Throughout the unit, we read from those books. We include in the basket other books that the children will enjoy during the free reading times. Each day, the children are read to. When reading a book with familiar words in them, we let them read the words that they know.

Reading to the children has had an added benefit. Pookie is learning also. While he may not be participating in the older kids’ lessons, he is hearing the stories and lessons. In recent weeks, Pookie has actually sat quietly on my lap to be read to. One story had only a small black & white picture, yet he sat there for the entire story. When finished, he turned to me and smiled. He loves to be read to. I know in my heart that he is gaining knowledge through listening to me teaching the older kids and the reading of stories.

If Pookie is having a rough morning with his sensory issues, I simply use a netting bath puff and rub his hands over it. Another option is to have his rubber ball that has a lot of texture to it. If he has that ball to touch, he will sit very well to listen to the book being read. I find that even if he is having trouble settling down, he is calm by the time I am done reading.

Reading to the kids will help them to learn about new places, hear examples of good character traits, and reinforce lessons being studied in their homeschool lessons. If we can help the kids to develop a love of reading, there is no limit to the things they can study throughout their life. The time for setting the stage to learn is now while the kids are young. Set the example and read for yourself. Provide wholesome books and stories for the kids to read or listen to. Make reading a part of each day, not only for the kids, but for yourself as well.

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