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Archive for April, 2012

Teaching Compassion

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We have been expanding a little on the MFW curriculum. As mentioned previously, the kids are making lapbooks to go with each unit study. That has been a hit with them. They enjoy making the various mini books and other components to add to their lapbooks. Another addition that we have made is a tweaking of the Alphabet book that MFW suggests. I had purchased The Master Planner homeschool record keeping system. Among the forms I found an ABC Book. I printed out 2 copies of the book for the kids and bound it on my comb binder at home. As we go through the units, we will be taking the picture cards for each letter and adhering them to the book pages along with pictures from old magazines. The numbers are being done on cards. I have the children write the numeral and the numeral word on one half of the card. On the other half they are adding enough little stickers to add up to the numeral of the day. These cards are strung onto a hinged binder ring.

As I work with the MFW curriculum, I am seeing many options that I will be able to use with Pookie as he becomes ready. The importance of multi-sensory learning is being reinforced daily. My grandson, aka Tank, has some learning difficulties in part due to problems with his hearing. He needs the multi-sensory approach to learn and remember new concepts. Little Miss is benefiting from this approach even though she doesn’t have learning difficulties. The approach simply adds another layer in her studies. I see the multi-sensory approach as an onion. Each activity is another layer that builds upon the others. Taken separately, a child may or may not fully understand or remember what you have taught them. In layering on more activities that support what you are teaching them, utilizing as many of the senses as possible, the child is able to learn and recall the information.

Pookie will greatly benefit from this approach. I am already finding ways that I can adapt the curriculum to fit his current needs. I am planning on purchasing the MFW Preschool curriculum materials at the homeschool convention in a few weeks. The activities in that package will easily add to the hands-on approach when he is ready to begin Kindergarten. In the meantime, I am taking notes of ideas for customizing the MFW Kindergarten curriculum to fit the TEACCH approach. Currently, he is gaining much through simply being around us as we read to the older children or listening as we do the studies. Adding into the experience his painting or doing activities similar to the older kids’ hands-on projects and we are doing a version of Kindergarten with Pookie already. This year is an introductory year. I will do a more structured Pre-K with him this autumn. In total, I will be actually working on the Kindergarten curriculum with him 2 years in a row. The 1st as a Pre-K with a simplified approach and the 2nd year with a bit more activities involved. Each year matching the activities to his developmental level at that time.

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One of the more difficult aspects of having a child with Autism Disorder are outings. It never seems to matter if it is a quick outing or one that takes all day. At some point, Pookie will have a meltdown. It is a combination of things which can bring the meltdown on. Routine changes, new sensory stimuli at the stores, library, or other location also play a part. It doesn’t matter that he may enjoy getting out away from home for a bit. Sometimes, the stimuli just reaches that point where enough is enough.

I recently have found a new way of circumventing most of the stimuli issues. Thanks to a dear friend, Ashley, who gave Pookie a miniature maraca that is about 6 inches long. She gave him the maraca at a block party our church had the day before Easter. The party was a lot more stimuli than Pookie is used to, but he kept shaking the maraca and handled the stimuli very well. The only meltdown happening when he dropped it and we couldn’t find it for a while. Another church member gave him a balloon to play with and that kept him focused and diverted the meltdown until that maraca was found.

I took Pookie to the library and grocery store. This time he had a small spinner toy with him. The toy has a button that when pressed will cause the spinner inside a clear ball to spin and light up. You can see the spinning lights and feel a vibration in the handle. Pookie carried the spinner with him throughout the outing. If he became stressed, we would press the button to activate the spinner. After a few moments, he would calm down and be fine again.

I am gathering a few small sensory toys to carry in my bag whenever Pookie goes on an outing with me. The advantages are great. Not only do they provide entertainment, but I am seeing the benefits of diverting one of Pookie’s meltdowns. For him, it changes the focus from whatever stimuli is upsetting him to the more pleasing stimuli of the toy.

Pookie craves certain stimuli. By having sensory toys or items that are based on the stimuli he enjoys, I am able to help in eliminating high stress issues. They provide yet another coping method. If he has something enjoyable to divert his attention from upsetting stimuli, he will be able to gradually go to more places without it becoming a bad experience for him.

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One of the joys of homeschooling is those days when the Lord’s creations provide the lessons. Christy, my eldest daughter, found a large caterpillar just starting to spin it’s cocoon on Sunday. She broke off the little twig in the tree that it was resting on and placed it into the bug observation jar that we have. Over the past couple of days, the children have been watching the progress of the caterpillar. At times, they can even watch it at work. The unit study for butterflies is not for several months yet. There is where the blessing of homeschooling comes in. I have a couple of children’s science workbooks with great printables about butterflies and moths. I am going to go ahead and copy them and add these to what we are already doing. It will make a little more schoolwork for Little Miss and our grandson, “Tank.” I don’t want to miss a golden opportunity though. Right now the kids are very excited about the caterpillar. We are going to calendar when it finishes the cocoon and see how many days it takes before the moth hatches out. We are trying to take pictures of the process to add to a later lapbook project when we do the butterfly unit. It seems that more life cycle projects are for butterflies than moths. This will be a nice way to incorporate a comparison between moths and butterflies in the butterfly unit’s lapbook.

With spring in full swing, what lessons in nature are you finding in your backyard?

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We finished up our Creation Introductory unit in the MFW Kindergarten curriculum last week. Only thing left is taking a few minutes to finish assembly of the Creation Lapbook that we had added to the unit. The kids have really enjoyed the past couple of weeks. We are able to get through the curricula without any frustrations. In fact, the kids would willingly do 2 days of lessons at once if we chose to do so. My eldest daughter has teased her son, asking him if he wants to do more schoolwork. It was so fun to hear him very enthusiastically say “Yes!” He was especially frustrated with the curriculum he used previously.

One of the things that we are doing that I have mentioned before is adding a lapbook to each unit. This adds another dimension to the multi-sensory approach. It also reinforces what they are learning in the MFW curriculum. We find free lapbook resources online at websites such as Homeschool Share. A Google search for “free (insert topic) lapbook” usually will generate a good listing of resources available. You can also search for free printables for the unit topic. Thus far, I have found free resources for nearly every unit in the curriculum. If you cannot find a lapbook for a specific animal, like the zebra for example, you can use the components from another animal to design your own lapbook.

I went to the library and brought home 26 children’s books for the next 2 units. We are blessed to be able to go to a library 40 miles from home that allows us to checkout up to 60 books at a time. Among the books that I brought home were very factual ones that are more informational than entertaining. These will be lapbook resource material. The rest of the books are fun stories that are based on the unit theme.

The lapbooks that we are making are a part of a pocket portfolio. In simplest terms, you assemble the lapbook base as usual. Before adding all the inner components, I use rubber cement to glue the back cover of the lapbook to the inside front cover of the pocket portfolio. This allows us plenty of space for the lapbook items as well as an extra pocket to place worksheets or other larger items that don’t fit in the lapbook.

I am so thrilled with the way the homeschooling is going now. No more struggles to get a day’s lessons done. Happy kids enjoying their lessons so much that they don’t realize just how much they are actually learning. I am so glad that we changed over to MFW. It is blessing our family in more ways that we could have imagined.

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