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Archive for July, 2012

I am not much for keeping strict schedules. I don’t even own a watch. Haven’t had a need for a watch in about 7 years. If I really need to track the time, I have my cell phone. Otherwise, I just prioritize my day. Up until lately, that has always worked. Now, my life is getting busier than it has been. I am homeschooling 2 children, including therapies for the youngest. Living off-grid to the degree that we do, requires much of my time also. All chores are done without electrical appliances or modern conveniences. We get teased often about living the “Little House” life. Guess we do in most people’s eyes. With that life, I see how important the routines are becoming.

I have been phasing into a routine. It is time to take it to the next step however. I need to set a definite routine with a time schedule. This is not only for my daily chores, but the kids’ schooling as well. Having the time schedule will allow me to gauge how well we are on track for when needs done that day. I am seeing that with everything that needs to be done each day, things may slip passed unless a schedule keeps us on track.

My first step is listing everything that needs to be done on a daily and weekly basis. Daily chores are a given, but the weekly ones are being split up throughout the week so that I don’t have too much going on a single day. On the kids’ part of the schedule, a listing of their school subjects and activities will be noted. Once I have the basics written down, I am having to set a time frame for each task or lesson.

Currently, this is a typical day’s routine. The schoolwork is always done best if started right after breakfast & their morning chores. Morning chores for the kids involve feeding the dog and cats, straightening their beds, and putting their breakfast dishes in the sink. Little Miss feeds and waters the cats while Pookie assists me in getting the dog food into the dog’s dish. After a quick washing of hands, it is time for school to start. As I get Pookie ready, Little Miss starts on her morning calendar notebook. Group lessons are done next. Bible devotional, and reading of a book related to the unit study are the first lessons completed. Little Miss then begins working on her workbox assignments. I have them set up so that she is able to work completely independent for the first few assignments. While she is doing them, I am working with Pookie on his workboxes. Pookie’s workboxes do not take him very long to go through. He has 4 of them, which for his age and developmental level is pretty good. He completes 2 workboxes, takes a break, then completes the remaining 2 workboxes. After lunch, both kids lay down for a 1 hour rest period. I don’t require naps, but feel the hour of reading or playing with a quiet toy in their bedroom is an important habit to develop. During that hour, I quickly do a larger chore, such as doing a washtub of laundry to hang on the line. I hand wash the laundry several times per week, so am always able to have it done and hanging on the line within a half hour. Sometimes, if there is an opportunity, I may even sit and read until the kids’ hour is up. The afternoon is spent doing the school assignments that are hands-on. Most of the time, Little Miss has a hands-on activity and Pookie will be right there watching and sometimes participating in the activity. Art projects are done together as well. After all the schooling is finished for the day, they have free time. They play outdoors or we may go on an outing. Supper is usually about 5:30 or 6:00pm with their bedtime at 7:30pm. That is when I finish the lighter cleaning that I hadn’t completed throughout the day. Then I have my “Momma Time” when I crochet, work on the computer, or do some more reading.

The routine is working, but if we spend too much time on any one thing, then the entire day is thrown off. So, now I am taking on the task of putting time limits on how long we should be spending on each thing. I am seeing so much waste in our time each day. While the thought of being on a structured schedule seems confining to me, I am hoping that it will be good for the kids. Everything I read talks about the importance of a routine in autistic children. We had had a routine, but the more structured one will be a change. Hopefully for the better. In this area, I can relate very well to my son. I don’t deal with changes very well either. Changes bring with them a feeling on insecurity in my surroundings and I have a hard time getting used to the changes.

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I love a challenge. It forces my creative side to the forefront. It also teaches Little Miss that you do not have to buy everything premade. With that in mind, I am challenging myself. For the next few weeks, I am going to start making a supply of TEACCH tasks for Pookie and a few things for Little Miss also. The idea is to have fun, skill building activities to add to their workboxes for next term. Here are a few ideas I am working on this week.

At the photo print kiosk, print out 2 copies of a family photo enlarging it to a 5×7 print. Adhere one photo onto a 6×9 clasp envelope. Laminate the envelope and the second copy of the photo. Cut the photo into about 5 strips to make a simple puzzle. With a sharp knife, carefully cut a slit in the envelope to open the “pocket”. Store the puzzle pieces in the envelope. When using the puzzle, place the envelope into the workbox if needed to give a young child a reference to look at while completing the puzzle. To make this project using only what I have on hand, I am using packing tape to laminate the puzzle pieces. I already had some duplicate prints of pictures from my scrapbooking days.

This next activity is to teach sorting skills. I have a 3-sectioned container like those you would carry a lunch in. Using my 1-inch circle punch, I cut out 11 circles each from 2 different colors of cardstock. One circle of each color is adhered to the inside of a small section of the container. I use packing tape for this so that I can change it out later if I need to. The remaining circles are placed into the larger section. This same activity can be used many ways. Cutting pictures from magazines, you can sort types of animals, plants, etc. The ideas for categories are endless.

For a child learning to read, here is an easy activity. Find pictures in magazines or through Google Image search that correspond the words they are learning. Make a poster adhering the pictures to a small sheet of poster board or the inside of an opened file folder. Write the name for each picture on a strip of cardstock or index card. This matching game will help to test the knowledge of the child as they have to read the word and place it on it’s picture. This can also be done with shapes, colors, and numbers.

A quick idea for teaching a child a new poem or Bible verse – print out the poem to be memorized onto paper. Cut it apart at the end of each stanza. Have the child place them in proper order. For a Bible verse, you can do the same, except to cut apart phrases or each word for the child to place in order.

For a science center activity – Little Miss had learned the 3 types of leaves (simple, complex, and needle) as a part of her Leaf unit study in MFW-K. I made 3 pockets, like the library card type, and on index cards am placing pictures of various leaves from trees and other plants. The pockets are adhered onto the inside of a file folder. She takes the index cards and places them in the appropriate pocket to sort the leaves by type. You can also do this with various species of wildlife to be categorized as one that goes through simple or complete metamorphosis.

There are so many types of activities that you can easily make for your kids. Whether you homeschool or not, the activities can benefit them. For those who’s children are enrolled in a public or private school, the homemade activities can help to reinforce academics that your child is struggling to learn or to remember.

As I do more, I will be posting ideas and hopefully more pictures.

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I am not one to enjoy strict schedules, but am coming to terms with my need of one.  Living off-grid, my daily chores are done without the convenience of electrical appliances, laundry included.  Add on to of that the homeschooling and working with Pookie on his therapy, my days are getting busy.  So, I am now working on a daily schedule.

I am finding it to alternate between being a reasonable decision and being a pain in the keester. 

I am starting listing all of the daily chores.  I am dividing them so that I don’t have more that 1 large job to do each day.  Some will be done throughout the day, others after the kids are in bed at night.

The kids’ school work is set up so that Little Miss’ is working independently while I work with Pookie.  Some work will be done together, most with be independent.

As I get closer to having a finished schedule, I am feeling better about it.  Now, the hard part…getting us used to following the routine schedule.

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Today I took Pookie to the library in town. It is a small city library. Normally, I have Pookie in his stroller as he always stresses out while there.  This time, I had only Pookie with me. We left the stroller in the car.  He went to the children’s area and played with a toy there.  He was very content and played for nearly a half hour.  There was no meltdown, no stress.  This was the best library trip we have had. 

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One of my most frustrating moments is when we run out of something we need for a homeschool assignment.  To help decrease the chance of that happening, I take advantage of the back to school sales. 

Today, I found at one store the 24 count boxes of Crayola crayons for 50¢ each.  They also had colored pencils for the same price.  I bought enough to get us through the upcoming school term.  The same will be done with all other school supplies. I am dedicating a bookcase just for storing the supplies. By the time we begin the new school term, we will have everything we need for the year.

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Our plans to homeschool year round was a great idea…..in theory. In practice, it is not so easy. Kids more interested in playing outside than in doing their schoolwork is a constant issue we deal with. In the cold months, it is much easier to get kids excited about schooling. In warm months, the lure of playing outdoors in the pool is too great a temptation.

I have found a happy medium in getting Little Miss excited to learn. The first is to not fight her natural tendency to want to be outdoors. Summer months are the perfect time to explore nature. She loves to catch new insects to place into the observation jar. Even Pookie becomes very interested in watching the insects. The magnifying lid makes it easy for them to really get a good look at the insects.. We generally release them again by nightfall. We have been collecting books about birds, reptiles, and other critters that are from our area. Teaching Little Miss to access these books to find the critter she is observing is a valuable skill. Not only is she learning to look them up in these books, but there is another critical skill involved. In order to find the critter in these books, she must pay close attention to detail. Some things, like a bird, require her to be very observant. The females especially are a challenge as they all possess the trait of being varied shades of brown to blend in to their surroundings when nesting. Some have very subtle differences from one species to another.
Learning to focus on these details is a skill that will serve her well throughout her life.

Another “blah buster” is to use the outdoors as a classroom when doing science experiments. This is the perfect opportunity to do the messy ones. We always seem to come across fun science activities that cannot be done indoors. One such experiment is the geyser made from a 2-liter bottle of soda and a package of Mentos candy. Building and setting off a volcano is another one. You can help them build & set of a small homemade rocket. Another great activity is using solar ovens to make a simple lunch. Why not give an older child a science experiment utilizing solar power? One such experiment that my husband did when he was in school was to build a small solar water heating system. The idea was to see who could get the water to heat up the hottest. In his experiment, he found that he could heat water very hot by simply doing 3 things – paint the water bottle black, place it in wet sand, and to place it all into a box with a glass lid. The black bottle will absorb the heat best. Wet sand also absorbs the heat very well. Placing it in a box with a glass/plexiglass lid has a greenhouse effect to draw more heat. Let the kids experiment with various ways to get the water heated. What works best?

Setting up a sensory table with messy items, such as water, is good for younger children. Pookie loves to play in a dishpan of water. Another favorite is to let them fingerpaint outdoors before getting into the pool to cool off – and rinse off the fingerpaints! Gather leaves and make castings of them with plaster of paris. Place a sheet of paper on a tree trunk and do a crayon or pencil rubbing to make a texture design of the tree trunk. Compare the rubbings from various trees. Which ones are more smooth?

If you have a garden, consider teaching the children what plants or insects are great natural repellents for the insects that like to eat your garden plants. A very helpful gardening experiment is to teach how plants affect each other. I remember one year when my Mom had planted hot peppers along side of her bell peppers. The bell peppers took on the “heat” of the hot peppers! The same thing happened with her tomatoes that were on the other side of the hot peppers. What caused this to occur? Can the kids figure it out?

There is so much that you can do to make the summer months of schooling fun. You end up thinking outside of the box, but it is worth it. The fun that you can have as a family will make learning more enjoyable for all.

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Happy Dance Time!!!

Saturday I was awaken in the very early hours of morning by Pookie. He was tugging on my hand and saying, “Jink.” He wanted me to get him a drink! This was a first. In the afternoon, he came over to me and said, “change butt” to let me know he needed a fresh pull-up. If that wasn’t enough, he came up to me in the evening and said “want jink.” I am so happy for him!!! My non-verbal son is beginning to talk with purpose. It is a huge step forward for him. It gives us so much hope that he will one day be talking enough to be considered verbal.

The Lord is blessing Pookie daily. Most days, it is in the very tiniest of ways that we only see in hindsight. Once in a while, however, we have a day like today. It reaffirms in me the belief that I have that our son is a walking example of the Lord’s grace and blessing.

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