Archive for June, 2012

Little Miss is loving her workbox set-up that we are currently using. It has been such a joy this past week especially. I load up her workboxes each night after the kids are in bed. Because of my having the weekly work organized in hanging files, I just have to grab the current file and take out the day’s work from it. I am looking at how well this is working and excited to know that I will be starting out next term just as organized.

Previously, I had organized the thematic units in the hanging files as suggested by Marie Hazell of My Father’s World curricula. This proved to be a major factor in how easily the workbox system is going for us now. The only change is that I have added a math and word study curriculum from other resources, as well as the Little Keeper’s program to the weekly assignments. This is leading to slightly altering the organization for next term. Not too big of a change, but simply a minor adjustment to what is being done now.

I am finding that I love having each week’s assignments ready to go. In a single afternoon, I had the entire year’s assignments set up in file folders according to the thematic unit topic. I then placed the file folders in hanging files that were numbered 1-40, which is the number of weeks in a school year. The My Father’s World curriculum is very well planned in that it contains everything you would need for all subjects. The lesson plans included as well for the materials, including the additional materials not published by My Father’s World. This leads me to the slight change I am planning to make.

Currently, I am supplementing the curriculum with a math curriculum from Rod & Staff, a word study workbook from Spectrum, and the Little Keepers program. We also do lapbooks that are related to the weekly thematic unit or a book Little Miss is reading. I have a record sheet on which I keep record of the additional studies. What I lack is the organizing of the actual assignments in the weekly hanging files. It would be easy to add the extra assignments to each week’s file. Only drawback is that some workbooks are not set up to allow you to tear out pages. To get around that issue, I am using an assignment sheet to record the daily work in these extra subjects. These weekly assignment sheets are added to each week’s file along with the worksheets from the MFW materials. The workbooks are kept in the same workboxes, I only add a bookmark to the page to be completed. Little Miss knows to ask if she has any questions about what page(s) to do in each. Planning out her assignments ahead of time takes a bit more work, but it is very helpful in the long run. What took me a couple of days to both set up and record in a planner, now allows me to get her schoolwork organized in less than 5 minutes each night.

I am still trying to get a system set up for organizing Pookie’s workboxes. I need to come up with something before autumn however. I am going to be doing Pre-K with him using the MFW-Kindergarten materials. The primary issue is that I won’t be doing the curriculum exactly as laid out by MFW. Instead, I will be doing a lighter version to introduce him to the studies. The next time through, I will be going more deeply into it. The fact is, I don’t know yet what pace he will be able to handle. Because of the developmental delays and lack of speech, it is harder to gauge what he is learning. He is not able to write it out for you or tell you verbally. Everything is done through pointing or some other interactive method. It is a very slow process at this point.

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Just like nearly any child, Pookie loves to watch a video. I have found some really fun ones on YouTube that I download onto my netbook. I use a program called “Freemake Video Converter” to download as well as convert the YouTube videos into the format needed for his I-pod Touch. This has been a huge blessing!

His favorite videos currently are the Tarzan Series from the early 1990’s. These are the ones that starred Wolf Larsen and Lydie Denier. It is a fun show, especially for kids. Pookie loves watching these. As soon as he hears the theme music, he will come running into the room to watch. This gave me an idea.

Pookie’s loves watching Cheetah and will sometimes react to the chimp’s antics. While we watched the show, each time that Cheetah was the focus, I paused the video. I took Pookie’s hand and using the hand-over-hand method, taught him to sign “monkey.” He would have to do this sign for me to resume playing the video. This meant that sometimes the video was paused every couple of minutes, but the process was effective. Pookie learned quickly that if he wanted me to start playing the video again, he would have to sign “monkey” first. Overall, the exercise was a success. He doesn’t sign “monkey” exactly right, but he does it close enough to recognize what he as saying.

We went to the dealership on Wednesday to have some recall work done on our Jeep. While there, Pookie had his little sock monkey with him. The sock monkeys are the only type of monkey toy he will play with. He was carrying his monkey around everywhere he went. If he dropped it, I would sign to him “get monkey” and he would pick it up to bring to me.

So far, Pookie is learning a new sign every 1-2 weeks. For him, that is great progress. It may seem silly to be teaching the word monkey to him, but it will enable him to ask for that video when he wants to watch it. Just as teaching him the sign for drink aids him in asking for a drink when he is thirsty. It is the exact same principle, just used in a different way.

I now know what I am making him for Christmas. Keepsakes Quilting sells a really cute kid’s quilt pattern featuring appliqued sock monkeys. I loved the quilt design when I first saw it, but haven’t bought the pattern yet. Now, I am inspired. His sock monkey is a great motivator to get him to work on his TEACCH tasks. Just as watching the Tarzan videos are. If he knows that he gets to watch a video or play with his monkey, then he is very cooperative in his tasks & therapy. Looks like I am now going to be on a “anything sock monkey” hunt.

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I have been working on teaching Pookie sign language over the past year. It has been very slow going. I have been wanting to teach Little Miss to sign also. It is much easier with her, as you can imagine. I am finding that she is very easy to teach, especially lately. I began teaching her using songs that she enjoys. Teaching them ASL version of sign language is the easiest form. In most music interpreting, ASL is used. The interpreter does not sign exactly each word. Instead, the important words needed to convey the message is signed while body language and facial expressions fill in the gaps. It is a very beautiful and flowing language. I love teaching Little Miss to sign. By teaching her more words first, she will be able to interpret for Pookie when they are at Grandma’s, Sunday School, or other times when I may not be right with them. Who knows? Maybe one day Little Miss will have the chance to serve as an interpreter herself.

By doing a search on YouTube, many videos can be found that show songs interpreted into signing. I began by looking up the names of songs that we sing at church. Some videos are better quality than others, but they all serve as a lesson. One video that I watched was done by someone very new to being an interpreter. She didn’t use facial expression and body language effectively. Another video by a more experienced interpreter gave a beautiful example of how to sign. Through these two videos, I not only learned what signs to use in the songs, but I saw the importance of using the facial expression & body language. The first video, the interpreter knew was very good in her signing, but the stiffness in her body language didn’t seem “right.” In the second video, the difference was amazing. The interpreter was so flowing in the signing that it was like a dance. Her movements were graceful and the body language & expressions matched the feeling in the song. It was an excellent reminder to me.

Years ago, when I was a teen, I did a bit of interpreting for some missionaries. They were teaching a deaf-mute couple and neither of the missionaries knew how to sign. My skills were very elementary at that time, but sufficient to be able to interpret. It helped that I knew the couple and had a friendship with them. They were the ones who had been very helpful in teaching me to sign. We understood each other well. That time in my life has always stuck with me in my heart. I loved being able to communicate with them through signing. I took a course in sign language years later, but never had opportunity to put that knowledge to use.

In teaching the kids to sign, the knowledge is coming back. I watch the videos and so much is familiar to me. I found a couple of books at the local library and they also are refreshing my memory. I have been wanting to add a couple of good books to our family library so that we can reference them as needed. The books that I am using are from the 1970’s. I am hoping to find updated editions so that they will include the signs for modern terms and technology. Beloved found a program that I am going to be able to use to record short videos for him. When I learn to use it, I will be able to record a video for him showing him the signs that the kids are learning. This will help him while on the truck. When he comes home, he will be able to understand the signing also. I already catch myself talking with my hands from time to time. My theory is that if we using signing as well as speaking at home, then Pookie will be able to pick up on both as we go along. It is a form of total immersion. It is so much better than simply teaching one sign at a time. Both kids will also be learning the signs in context instead of independently.

Using the songs that the kids enjoy listening to as a launching point, Little Miss is learning a wider vocabulary faster. Pookie loves doing fingerplay type songs, so this is just another form of it for him. He is very receptive to the lessons and doesn’t realize that it is therapy as well.

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It couldn’t have happened better. We have been studying about animal habitats. The first unit study was called “Nests.” Just outside Little Miss’ window at her desk a bird had made a nest in a box. Another bird has a nest at the top of a pillar on our front porch. It has provided her a wonderful opportunity to study the birds up close without disturbing them.

Of all of the aspects of Charlotte Mason’s methods and the My Father’s World curriculum, nature study is the kids’ favorite. Even Pookie is interested in watching the insects and such that we put into the observation jar. He spends more time watching them than I would have expected. We keep most insects along with a bit of greenery in the jar for a few hours before releasing them again. It gives them enough time to get a good look at them.

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Teaching Charity

One of the activities that Little Miss and I are working on together in the Keepers of the Faith program is their “Write Upon My Heart” series. The series focuses on the Godly traits that Christians should be developing. The one we have been working on is the character trait of Charity. The booklet contains stories that show examples of charity from the Bible as well as stories that show charity in action. Each story has questions for her to answer. The final portion of the book is a 30-day journal where she answers more charity related questions based upon her behavior that day. As a parent, I love the journaling portion. While most charitable acts should be done in private so that you do not become boastful, this section is a wonderful way to draw attention to what is or is not charitable acts. One of the questions asks if there was a opportunity to give charity to another that was ignored. If so, then what was the reason for not being charitable. This gives the child the chance to begin examining their own behavior. They learn to recognize those moments when they choose something for themselves instead of thinking of another first. Another reason for loving the journaling portion is the 30-day time frame that they are working in. The month long study is essential. Habits take time to develop. By having the study and journaling take a month to complete, the child is working on developing a habit.

Though she is only 6 years old, Little Miss is developing quite a wonderful conscientiousness of her own behavior and the choices that she makes. Working on the Godly character traits at such a young age will be a foundation building experience for her. It is so much easier to teach these traits to young ones than to wait until they are teenagers!

If you haven’t heard of the Keepers of the Faith program, of which this series is a part of, you can find it at their website. They have a catalog online as well as offering a free printed catalog through the mail.

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Recently, I had posted a blog describing how I am adapting curriculum to fit our son’s ability level.  I have been receiving emails asking for pictures to be posted.  With that in mind, I took pictures of a few of the worksheets & activities.  I will continue posting more in future blog posts as I get more made.  This will give you an idea of how I am doing it.

The easiest and quickest way to adapt a worksheet is to place it into a sheet.  Using a dry erase pen, the child can reuse that same worksheet as often as necessary.  If it is a paper that you know your child will be doing repeatedly, such as a penmanship practice page or math drills, you may consider laminating the page instead.  It gives you the same dry-erase capability, but the sheet protector does not slip around.  The pages that I make into dry-erase pages are any assignments that require the child to write.  Some pages that call for the child to write the answers can be adapted in another way.  If there are other options in how to complete the page, I use another method.

A favorite method of mine is to make interactive pages.  Pookie is able to write his name, but struggles to write anything else.  He has never used scissors and refuses to attempt it.  Many assignments in the younger grades require that the child do cut & paste worksheets.  Below is a sample of a cut & paste worksheet from a workbook that I have for ages 3-5 years.   The worksheet is a sorting/classification assignment.  Instead of skipping over this or frustrating my son by demanding that he use scissors when he is unable to do so, I adapted the page.  I cut out the pieces to be glued to the worksheet and the portion the sorting pieces were to be glued to.  Using rubber cement (more effective than a glue stick) I glued the worksheet title and “game board” to a sheet of sketch paper.  I repeated the process with the game pieces on a second sheet of sketch paper.  These will be laminated to make the game more durable.  The fuzzy part of a Velcro dot is placed in the center of each game board square.  The rough portion of Velcro dots are placed onto the back of the game pieces.  The worksheet is now an interactive game that can be used numerous times.   Pookie will be able to do the same activity as many times as necessary to learn and review the information.


The next adaptation is a basic visual discrimination activity using bulletin board accents.  I bought a package of car themed accents.  It contained 12 each in red, blue, and yellow.  On a sheet of sketch paper, I traced an outline of the car twice.  I then cut 3 cars, one of each color, in half.  I placed one half on the outlines and drew the line down the middle of each.  This puzzle can be used in 3 ways.  First, you can add 1 car front to the top outline and a different color car back to the second outline.  You can switch the layout so that the back of the car is on top with the front in the second outline.  The third way to use the puzzle pieces is to omit the outlines and simply have the child put together all 3 cars.  Once the child is good at that, you can take the pieces and cut each in half again to make each car be in 4 portions.

Either of the interactive activities can be made into file folder games.  Simply open up a file folder and use it as a game board to add the activity to.  Add an envelope for a game piece pocket and you are all set.

In the My Father’s World curriculum, some of the pages that are cut & paste happen to be double sided.  With Little Miss, that hasn’t been a problem.  The area cut off is far enough above the written work on the opposite side that it doesn’t remove any of her work.  For Pookie, I will be purchasing 2 copies of the student pack.  While I may be able to make a single student pack work, the second one will make the process easier.

I hope that this explains it better.  Feel free to contact me with any questions.

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I am finally getting the tour posted!  It has been a while getting it set up.  As I have posted previously, I wanted a system that would work for both kids.  One of the issues that I have been working with is how to set the area up so that each of the children can work without unnecessary distraction.  Our set-up is temporarily set up in our front room.  We have a spare room that we will be remodeling with the intent to turn it into the homeschool room.  For now, the current set-up is suiting our needs.

Both children have a TEACCH inspired workstation as their desk area.  Each has a set of work/task boxes that contain their independent work.  Little Miss is using a simple, inexpensive corrugated paper letter box that contains 6 shelves.  As you can see in the picture, the labels are on the side of the box facing the desk.  I adhered the numbers with a glue stick, then covered them with a strip of clear packing tape to make them last longer.  Beside the numbers are 2 of the fuzzy portion of Velcro dots.  One is for the subject label and the second is for the “Mom’s Help” label that indicates to her that she is to bring the assignment to me for explanation.  The cart below her workboxes contains her school supplies that are not used daily.  Watercolor paints, extra ream of writing paper, extra pencils, erasers, etc. are all stored there.  I prefer this as it keeps all of her supplies near her work area.  She doesn’t have to ask me to help her find them.  If she needs something, it is handy and she can get it for herself.  It is yet another way to foster independency in her schooling.  One thing that we are utilizing this year is the “Help” tags that are placed onto the left edge of her desk with Velcro.  She has 3 of these tags.  The tags are turned in to me each time she has to ask me to help her with her schoolwork that does not already have a “Mom’s Help” tag with it.  This is eliminating the habit of her wanting me to micromanage her studies.  She only has 3 opportunities to get additional help.  If she keeps asking for help on things that I know she can do without assistance, then she squanders her opportunities.  Once she has used her last “Help” tag, she has to complete all remaining work without my assistance.  The only exception is work that has the “Mom’s Help” tag.


Pookie’s workstation is closer to a typical TEACCH arrangement.  It still lacks a full visual schedule, but that is still in the works.  To the left of his desk, Pookie has a small bookcase.  Currently, he is doing 4 workboxes per day.  I placed the fuzzy Velcro dots in a vertical column along the left edge of his desk.  Each of his Sterilite totes contains 2 fuzzy Velcro dots also.  I chose to use laminated cardstock in 4 different colors as his tags.  In first implementing the TEACCH style system to a child who does not read, using various colored tags can help ease the way.  I used a 1” circle punch to make his tags.  There are 2 tags of each color.  I place one tag on each tote.  The second set of tags as placed in order on the Velcro dots on his desk.  Pookie removes the first tag off of the vertical row on his desk and matches it to the tote containing the same colored tag.  He places the tag onto the second fuzzy Velcro dot on the tote.  The tote is placed on his desk and he completes the enclosed activity.  He replaces the lid onto the tote and places the tote on the top shelf of the bookcase.  He repeats this process with each tote, taking the colored tags in order from top to bottom.

Here is a look at what was in Pookie’s totes today.  The Sort & Stack game and the rubber puzzle are both manufactured by Lauri and were purchased from My Father’s World.


The Shapes activity is one that I made from a free printable that I found online.  I printed out 2 copies, cut out the shapes from one and used Velcro to keep the game pieces from sliding off the base.


The final activity is a simple stringing beads activity that I modified for Pookie.  He lacks fine motor development and cannot use the cords that are typically used for stringing the wooden beads.  I bought a small pack of wooden dowels and a package of the wooden wheels.  I glued a wheel onto the end of each dowel to make a much easier method of stringing beads.  Pookie still struggles to thread the beads onto the dowel, but the wheel at the bottom prevents the beads from sliding off the end.  He can also stand the dowel up with the wheel as a base, then hold the wheel portion down while threading on the beads.

I hope that this helps to explain how we are organizing our homeschool area.  There will be changes as we go along in our home remodeling project.


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