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Archive for August, 2012

It’s Getting Real

It is strange how things work.  I am perfectly okay with doing preschool and therapies with Pookie at home.  Today, he snuggled up onto my lap and I rocked him.  At one point, I asked him if he was ready to start doing school like his sister. He simply smiled and snuggled closer.

For nearly 3 years now, from the time we first suspected autism, I have been researching the various forms of therapies and teaching methods.  When I was expecting our daughter, my husband and I came to the decision that we would homeschool our children.  There was never any doubt in that.  At age 2, Little Miss asked me if she could “do school” and I began to preschool her soon after.  Homeschooling her has been fun on most days.  She loves to learn new things.  One of her favorite activities is reading books.  Mostly she is listening to me read to her & Pookie, but she now is reading books on her own also.  I never have second thoughts about whether to homeschool her.  She brings an excitement to learning that is charming to watch and experience.

Now, I am about to embark on a new phase.  I will not be preschooling Pookie any longer.  We will be doing Pre-K level lessons.  In our area, 4 yr olds go to a Pre-K class which is also referred to as K4.  It is a step in between preschool and kindergarten.

In teaching the Pre-K level to Pookie, I am completely ignoring the assessments that showed him to be years behind in his cognitive skills.  There are many times when Pookie will respond to something, or do an activity that is more age appropriate and makes us believe his actual cognitive age is much closer to his physical age than what was diagnosed.  The real set-back for Pookie is his lack of speech and fine motor skills.  I have been feeling the need to stretch his boundaries.  Yes, I need to meet him where he is to lay the foundation, but I have been doing that for 2 years now.  It is time to step it up a bit.

It is an odd moment to be in.  On one hand, I feel as prepared as I can be.  I have been doing preschool and therapies with him for 2 years now with good results.  He is learning and becoming more interactive with others.  On the other hand, it feels like we are taking a wild leap.  Preschool is not a daunting topic to me.  Homeschooling Pookie seems so much more.    It seems more real.

I know that I will be able to homeschool him.  That isn’t the issue.  I guess it is the enormity of the choice we have made.

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Grace Bound Books

When I went on a mini shopping spree at CurrClick, I stumbled upon a great resource. Grace Bound Books is a curriculum written by a homeschooling Mom, Tara Bertic. When you go to their store on CurrClick, you can read their story of learning about their son’s autism. The curriculum they sell is a direct result of their desire to homeschool their son. I was happy to see that they had a unit on the Creation story, “And God Saw That It Was Good.” I had purchased a Creation unit study for Little Miss that was more in depth than what she had done in the MFW-K curriculum. It was a blessing to find that Grace Bound Books had a unit that I could do with Pookie at the same time.

As an introduction to the unit, they list the unit’s objective: “To teach preschoolers & kindergartners the story of creation while they learn matching, basic readiness skills, sensory and social skills, language – communication skills, story sequencing, and work on fine motor development.”

I was happy to see that throughout the unit, the activities all list the specific objectives for the given activity. One fun activity that is listed is a gingerbread cookie baking project. The recipe is included, along with the listing of objectives met: Life Skills, Fine Motor Skills, Language – Communication,
and Spiritual Lessons. She goes into detail on exactly how each objective is met through the activity and gives suggestions for meeting the objectives.

With the understanding that all autistic children are different, the activities are still very much within the abilities of Pookie. I found only a couple that he would not be able to do at this time, but only because of his being nonverbal. That activity is the Bible verse memorization. In that activity, we will simple make it a daily focus point and I will show it to Pookie and read it to him each day. All other activities are ones that he can do with assistance.

The activities in the unit are very strong on the hands-on approach, which happens to be how Pookie learns the best. I am excited about finding this unit. We start schooling on Sept. 3rd, which is when I will be introducing the unit to him. I will post updates and a final review once we have completed the unit. Until then, I hope that this will help to introduce Grace Bound Books to those who may have not heard of them yet. As the unit objective states in the beginning of the unit – the materials are not solely for the use of autistic children. If you have a preschooler wanting to “do school” like their older siblings, these units would be a great resource to consider. You can find them on CurrClick at Grace Bound Books.

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This week, I am finishing up getting everything prepared for the new school term.  I was so thrilled to hear Little Miss express to me a couple of times now that she is ready to get back to homeschooling.  She is not too pleased that she has to wait another week, but this week off is needed.  I was able to cheer her up when I asked if she would like to help me get the workbox areas ready.

Last Friday, I had printed out and laminated all of the visual schedule cards and tags.  These ones were free a download from Homeschool Creations.  I also took some graphics that I found through a Google Images search and placed them on a blank page in my word processing program.  The added graphics were for things specific to my kids.  Board games and her Keepers at Home program emblem.  For Pookie, I have images of his favorite snacks and a activities such as his sensory bin.

Little Miss was excited to see all the cards and workbox tags.  She is going to help me to get them sorted and made ready.  We went to the library and brought home an armload of books on the subjects of autumn and autumn crafts to go along with the thematic unit she and Pookie will be doing.  As a special treat, I also got a few books on her personal favorite topic – fairies!   She loves anything to do with the little fairy themes.  These will provide yet another motivator.  A couple of them are craft books that show how to make fairy themed items, including a tiny fairy garden.

I know that once we get started, this week is going to fly by.  I am excited.  It is so rewarding to see our daughter get such excitement over homeschool.  We are truly blessed in that.

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Currclick – Oh My

I am hooked. I first heard of Currclick when another homeschool mom mentioned that they use it for some of their curriculum. That was about a year ago. More recently, when I attended the homeschool convention in Tulsa last spring, I visited their booth. The sign-up was free, so I went ahead and did so. Over the past few months, I have received email from them advertising sales. I have searched there for free lapbooks and unit studies and found a few that caught my interest.

On Friday, I checked out their website again. I wanted to find a couple of unit studies and lapbooks for the kids. While each works in very different levels, I wanted to have similar themed studies that I could use to teach both at the same time. I was so excited when I found exactly what I was looking for. Best part was I able to get everything on sale.

I chose 3 themes. Yeah, I know that sounds very industrious, but there is a reason for it. One is a Bible study. I found a Creation unit study for Little Miss that goes into more depth than the one she did last year. The lapbook cost under 50¢ to download. Another Creation-themed unit that I found to use with Pookie is one that was written by the mother of an autistic son. She wrote the unit specifically for him and was able address his other needs, such as fine motor development. The activities are ones that will challenge Pookie, but will be within his abilities to do with guidance.

The second theme is autumn. Again, I found one in each child’s academic level. The activities will be fun, yet very informative and challenging. I am added a couple of activities to each child’s autumn unit. I had previously downloaded a free unit about autumn that had very colorful & fun puzzles included. I printed out a couple of the puzzles for each of the children. These were laminated so that they will get a lot of use out of them.

The third unit is one about the state of Oklahoma. I found a very detailed unit as well as a mini lapbook unit. The kids will each be able to work on their own lapbooks, at their own levels, while still learning the same thing. I am so happy that I found these. Little Miss will be able to count the unit towards her Keepers’ program and receive a badge once the unit is completed.

I am excited. I hadn’t though about using Currclick as much as I am doing. I find that it is a great resource. I am especially thrilled to have found the units written by the mom of an autistic child. In reading over the unit I purchased today, I can see where she is incorporating the motor skills development into the unit.

In all, I got 13 downloads today for $10.34. I would have never found these materials in a store for that price. There will be more purchases from Currclick in our future. I love the prices as well as the convenience of the instant download of any materials purchased. I am also happy to find that by downloading the pdf files, I am able to print up as many copies as I need for the kids. It isn’t like buying a workbook for a unit or lapbook where you have to purchase a set of the materials for each child. I can print out multiple copies for the kids as well as printing the pages as they are needed.

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Countdown Begins

I am taking this week to finalize the homeschool preps. The schooling resumes in less than 2 weeks. I seem to keep collecting homeschool record keeping forms to use. When I sit down to start putting my binder together, I often find that the forms don’t quite work as well as I had hoped. So, I finally found a set of forms that I can work with. New Bee Homeschooler has a free printable lesson planner available that I love. Admittedly, as with other free lesson planners, there are pages that I likely won’t need. Overall, I love the planner pages. On their website, they walk you through the process of creating your own planner with page options available so that you can customize it to fit your tastes and needs. I especially am loving their Unit Study planner, which is 8 pages long and the most thorough set of planning pages that I have found. Along with that, I added their year long unit study planner which gives me a quick reference to the unit studies coming up throughout the school year. I love it! I now can see quickly what is coming up so that I can start putting in library hold orders for books to use in upcoming units.

I wrote out on a lesson plan page the curriculum schedule. In essence, this is simply used as a frequency form so that I can assign specific subjects to each day. Our homeschool week is a bit different than most families. Monday and Tuesday are full schedule. Wednesday, Little Miss has a lighter load due to her spending the day with her grandparents. They pick her up about 10am, so she has a couple of hours to get a little work done before leaving. Pookie has nearly a full schedule, but does activities that are not as time consuming. While Little Miss is at her grandparents, Pookie and I go out for the early afternoon. Thursdays are full schedules for both children. Friday is errand day and often we go to the library also. Saturday is a nearly a full course load, but mostly involving hands-on activities. Daddy comes home that day each week. He plans to oversee the science experiments each week as well as give Little Miss an oral quiz on her work. Having the kids busy with schooling on Saturday is going to be a benefit. Not only to get that 5th day a week of schooling worked in, but it will also keep them busy until Daddy gets home. Some weeks, he is home early while others it is late in the day. The schoolwork will keep them (Little Miss especially) busy so that the time will pass by quicker for her.

After writing out the curriculum schedule, I wrote out my goals for each of the kids. Little Miss’ academic goals for each subject are pretty straight forward. I used a typical 1st grade level scope & sequence as a reference in this. She also asked to do more of the Keepers of the Faith program as a portion of her homeschooling. We are including it under life skills. For the young girls, the program focuses not only on academics but homemaking skills and crafts. Another course we are adding is sign language. With Pookie needing to learn it to give him a means of communication, we are turning it into a homeschool course for our family. There are many wonderful books on teaching ASL to children as well as books for adults which depict how each sign is made. On YouTube, you can find videos showing how to sign children’s songs as well. We will be utilizing many of these as a way to learn. Little Miss will be learning short phrases/sentences that address specific needs, such as “I am hungry.” Pookie will learn single key words at first, such as “hungry” to express a need. Once he is learning to use the single words, we will introduce other words to make a short sentence.

The goals for Pookie are more along the lines of an IEP form. There are basic academic goals for him, but it also includes PT and OT goals. One goal is to have him using a visual schedule properly by the end of the year. Hopefully, it won’t take that long, but he is very resistant to changes, so I am expecting it to take longer. There are fine motor development goals, such as feeding himself finger foods, that are included. Among the OT goals, I am hoping to have him at least assisting more in dressing himself. He refuses to hold the fabric in his hands when being dressed. I am hoping that by using sensory bins and activities involving touch, I can desensitize him enough to get him to dress himself as much as possible. Academically, I am setting the goals for Pookie according to the benchmarks in a Preschool Assessment. Some areas will be more challenging than others, but it gives us something to work towards.

With the date set for our 1st day of school, I am planning to have a homeschool kick-off party while there Daddy is home the weekend before we get started. Last year I made Little Miss and Pookie each a Schultüte. The schultüte is a back-to-school tradition in Germany, usually given to a child entering the 1st grade. Here in the US, many families who like the idea of making a special gift for their children to commemorate the 1st day of school, are making these each school year. Little Miss had one last year and loved it. This will be Pookie’s first year getting one. The schultüte is a large paper cone filled with a few school supplies as well as a treat and special little item to make the first day of school fun. I saw the tutorial on how to make them in a blog entry at Alphamom in August, 2011.

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Colors of Health

Little Miss asked me a very good question earlier this week. We were eating dinner and we had a veggie melody that included veggies of nearly every color. When asked why we had the various veggies, I started telling her how each color family of fruits & veggies gave us specific nutrients that our bodies need. In this case it was carrots being good for our eyes. This lead to her question. What do we get from each of the colors? It is such questions that lead a homeschool parent to get excited.

I remembered that a past issue of Vegetarian Times had a short article with color diagram explaining some of the nutritional benefits of the various colors. It is found on pages 18-`19 of the March, 2011, issue. This diagram lead me to the idea of making a poster of the color families and their benefits to our health. From this, Little Miss then asked about the herbal teas we drink. Woo Hoo!!! Momma was in heaven now! A second chart is being planned out just for teas. Little Miss and I both love drinking herbal teas in cold months. We have quite a selection of tea varieties. I am using that as inspiration.

The produce chart is a simple project. Using the diagram in the VT magazine as a guide, we will make a large color wheel. On the border edge of each color we will label the nutrients that color provides. Little Miss will be finding in old garden seed catalogs some pictures of various fruits & vegetables that are a part of each color family. The pictures will be cut out and glued onto their color section.

The herbal tea chart is simpler yet. We will make a chart/graph for the common ailments that a 6 yr old may be interested in. The labels from the tea packaging will be added to the chart in it’s appropriate space. In example, mint tea helps sooth a belly ache while a honey & lemon tea soothes a sore throat. The chart will also include the teas that help to prevent colds, etc.

When I agreed to add this to her curriculum, Little Miss was thrilled. She is quite excited. I am enjoying this. I have been learning about various herbal teas to both prevent and to treat common ailments. Seeing my daughter get interested in it at her young age is amazing. She is already asking if we can plant an herbal tea garden in the spring. She wants to grow her own teas. Of course, I am game for that!

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One of the joys of living in a rural area is that I can utilize nature so often into our studies.  I have been checking online for ideas to use in autumn themed studies.  The one that I linked to in my last post has some really neat activities. I got to thinking about how to further those ideas into activities that Little Miss would enjoy also.  Here are a few that I came up with.

Using some air-dry clay, flatten the clay to about 1/4 inch thick and about 6 inches square.  Next, take some leaves found on your trees and make leaf prints into the clay.  Press the vein side down into the clay to get a good imprint of the veining.  Once dry, allow the kids to paint the clay with a light wash of color.  Having the leaf print a different color than the rest of the clay would be great!  Let dry.  Write onto strips of index cards the names of the trees the leaves came from.  Let the kids match up the name with it’s leaf print.

Take little baggies of plaster of paris (snack size baggies work great) with you on a nature walk.  As you come along an animal track, carefully pour some plaster into the track print.  Using a stick as a marker, leave the plaster to dry.  Within 20 minutes, the plaster will be dry enough to carefully lift off of the track.  This gives you a plaster casting of the track to take home and later have the children help you to identify.

Using a digital camera, let the kids each find 5 new plants. trees or wildlife to take a picture of.  Print out the pictures and identify what is in each picture.  The pictures also make a great reference for them to use in drawing pictures in their nature journal once they get home.

Using fallen pine cones, suet, and birdseed, begin making bird feeders to hang from the trees.  Place in trees near house windows so that the kids can observe them easily as the weather gets cooler.  It may be fun to add sunflower seeds to some, millet to others, and so on.  The kids can then observe what birds seem to favor each type of birdseed.  You can also make a bird feeder by taking a small length of tree bark found on the ground and hanging it from a tree.  Hang from the short ends to form a tray.  Then fill with seeds.

Make a leaf print cover for your nature journal.  Using leaves and paints, make the prints in a variety of autumn colors.

There is so much more to do.  These ideas will maybe give you a start.

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