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Archive for April, 2013

I am so proud of Little Miss.  In her history readers, there were stories about life in the Colonial Days.  They spent a lot of time focusing on stories from the perspective of children.  Perfect for a young child just beginning to learn history.  It has drawn her interest as she hears what life was like for children in those days.  Learning that very young girls were taught early to knit stockings for the family surprised her the most.  She had never thought of that.  She wondered why they didn’t go to the store and buy socks like we do.  This led to a long discussion about the lack of stores and the need for all girls in the home to help clothe the family as well as make their own bedding.

Ever since learning how much knitting the young Colonial girls did, Little Miss asked me to teach her to crochet last autumn.  For the Christmas holiday, she crocheted a long chain to decorate our tree.  It made a fun first project and gave her plenty of practice in that first stitch.  On Saturday, I surprised Little Miss with a new small project that will teach her the single crochet stitch.  We have a 1 year old female cat named Flower.  Little Miss loves this cat and enjoys playing with her.  So, I combined this with a crochet project.  She is making cat toys!

The toy is a very simple one.  Using a single crochet stitch, she is making a 2 inch x 4 inch swatch.  Once she gets the swatch large enough, it will be folded in half to make a 2 inch square.  We will stuff a cotton ball inside as we sew up the sides.  This will make a nice little toy for Flower to bat around the floor.  You can add a bell inside if you want, but we are making them without.  If you tie a long length of yarn to the toy and attach it to a stick, you have a toy you can use to play with the cat also.

Little Miss is doing great making the toy.  She is excited that as she makes this, she is learning a stitch that she can use to make other things.  I have already thought of a next project that she will like.  If she makes about 6 single crochet 3-inch squares, I can show her how to sew them together with yarn to make a mini blanket for her Barbie dolls.  For her, the projects are just fun.  She loves to sit beside me and crochet on her project as I am working on my own.  As she makes these little projects, she is learning a skill that she can use throughout her life.  The small Barbie blanket project will be within her abilities, yet will teach the technique for making a patchwork afghan.  The only difference being the size of the projects.

I am still trying to learn to knit.  Once I do, Little Miss is already saying that she wants me to teach her.  She wants to make a pair of socks like the little girls in her history book.  Oh my!  Guess I better get busy learning to make them myself.  Thankfully I know how to crochet a very simple sock pattern that I can teach her once she masters the single crochet stitch!

We are going to include her learning to crochet in her Keepers of the Faith projects.  She loves that program.  It has been teaching her so much.  Not just in skills but academically.  I am so glad that we chose to get the Keepers’ book for her.

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Autism Awareness Month

We’ve reached the end of April and soon the focus on Autism Awareness will begin to subside for another year.  Families not touched by Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) often put the idea of autism on a back burner in their minds.  For those of us with a child on the spectrum, autism awareness isn’t only in April.  It is a constant part of our lives.

I have read emails from families who have a hard time finding local resources for their Asperger’s child, while we have a hard time finding resources for our son who has Classic Autism.  It is a regional thing, I guess.  In some parts of the nation, the therapists are trained more for the lower-functioning child, while in others such as where we live, there is nothing for low-functioning.  In our area, most training is for the moderate to high functioning childern.  Another words, if your child has Asperger’s or another moderate to high functioning autism, there is much available here.  However, if your child has a low-functioning form, such as our son does, then you are on your own.

As a parent, I take each day as it comes, yet keeping in mind our son’s future.  I grieved for the typical child that our son would never be.  Then, I realized that he isn’t abnormal at all.  He is normal for him.  Are any of us truly “normal” by society’s standards?  Each of us have a trait or personality quirk that sets us apart from most people around us.  With our son, the differences are simply a bit more obvious.

As a family, autism is a part of our lives.  When you have a child with autism, it is far more than that.  You have a family with autism.  It doesn’t affect only that one family member.  It impacts on everyone in the household as well as extended family.  Like with many autistics, our son has some dietary issues.  We, as a family, eat what he is able to eat.  This prevents him from wanting a food that he cannot have.  We don’t believe in making one type of food for him while the rest of the family eats something different.  For example, he has problems with certain dairy items. Hard cheeses and yogurt seem to be the only ones that don’t give him bowel problems.  So, lately when buying ice cream for the kids, I buy frozen yogurt instead.  We also eat a predominately meat-free diet.  Because of that, we have made changes, such as eating a lot of quinoa so that we get enough proteins.  Little Miss loves quinoa as well, so this works out very good.  We eat meat when Daddy is home, but sparingly.  Daddy eats vegetarian meals as well, but eating the meat is like a treat to the kids.

Little Miss and I have our quiet Momma/Daughter times.  I don’t want her to feel like Pookie got all of the attention at home.  I want her to grow up knowing that she is much more than the big sister of an autistic brother.  She is growing into quite a special young lady.  Having a brother with special needs has brought out her own nurturing side.  She is very compassionate towards others.  She truly has a heart for helping those around her.  She is very creative and loves to learn new skills.  I am so proud of her!  She is definitely her own person and finding her own identity in the family.

Next week, autism awareness month will be over, but working with Pookie won’t stop.  I will still be working with him each day.  We will be homeschooling as well.  There will be one-on-one lessons with Pookie as well as teaching Little Miss.  Mix into that all of the little things that takes place each day.  Having to use a stroller or carry our son when we go somewhere that requires a lot of walking is a common occurance.  Taking his sports bottle with us everywhere we go since he is unable to drink from a regular cup or through a straw at this time.  Taking a small diaper bag with us with disposible training pants because of him not being potty trained yet.  In many ways, Pookie is more like a 2 year old in his physical delays.  Having to always have on hand a couple of sensory toys to calm him in stressful situations, such as certain stores we have to go to.  The list goes on and on.  Each item a reminder that he has autism.  Yet, he proves to us each day that he is much more than his autism diagnosis.  Each new skill learned, each smile or sign of being ornery, they show us a personality in him that is fun and precious.

Autism awareness for us isn’t just the month of April. but is every day of the year.

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I wanted to share a tip with you that we have tried and are enjoying.  Our children are using curriculum from the same resources.  This means that the books that our daughter is finished with are being saved for our son.  I wanted an organized way to store the materials on a bookcase that would make it easy to retrieve later.  We live on a dirt road which causes a big dust problem in the house in summer months, so the storage method needed to keep the materials clean as well.

I had been using the Sterilite brand plastic totes for our hanging files.  Our daughter’s work files (her version of workboxes) are each placed into a hanging file in one of these totes.  I prefer this method as it allows her to remove her file, yet the hanging file folders also will hold any items that do not fit in the manila ones.  I love using these plastic totes for the files as the lid locks down and has a handle.

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When the kids’ new curriculum for next term started showing up, I quickly knew that I would not want to store it in the boxes it arrived in.  I grabbed up one of my extra totes and started filling it with Little Miss’ curriculum materials.  It all fit very well into the tote.  I am doing the same with Pookie’s materials.  On the tote, I am placing some self-adhesive clear pockets that I had bought on clearance a year ago.  Tucked into the pocket is a card with the curriculum grade level written on it.

When Little Miss is done with her current materials, I will pack them up in the tote. Because she has already used the consumables from the curriculum, I will place a list inside the tote of the workbooks that need to be replaced.  Throughout the year, I will start replacing the workbooks so that by the time Pookie is ready to use that grade level, the curriculum will be complete again.  When placed on a shelf, with labels showing, it will be easy to find the materials that I need.

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One of the challenges that you face with a non-verbal child is teaching them phonics.  The question is always  present: “Do they understand the letter sounds?”  You cannot ask them what sound a letter makes.  They are unable to respond in that way.  So, what do you do?

In homeschooling Pookie, I am using 2 methods to teach him to read.  The first is sight words.  I bought a set of flashcards from a teaching supply store.  These cards are photographs, not drawings, of common things.  The name of each item is on the cards alongside of the picture.  I cut the words off and made a matching game.  I began with 2 pictures of items he recognises.  After he consistently labels them correctly, I add one more picture/word set to the game with no more than 6 sets at any given time.  You can make your own set easily.  Take pictures of things around our home.  Print the pictures and make labels for each.  In the beginning, you can use a duplicate set that has the word/label already with the picture so that your child can use it as reference.  Personalizing the pictures to what is relevent to your child makes the lessons more meaningful to them than generic pictures.

learning alphabet

The other way that I have been teaching Pookie is to use a letter chart.  I purchased the chart at a teacher supply store.  In teh picture above, you will notice that I have covered all but the actual letters we are working on.  This helps to prevent him from becoming confused or overwhelmed.  As I add a new letter to the lessons, I remove the cardstock covering the letter.  To use the chart, I name a letter or give a phonetic sound.  Pookie will then point to the answer on the chart.  This allows me to see if he in understanding the phonetics.  Once we reach the point of consonant blends, I will make a new chart of those.

I am sure that there are many other ways that you can teach a non-verbal child their alphabet and phonics.  These just happen to be the methods that we are finding effective for our son.

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I finally am getting the hang of this posting pictures idea on the blog.  So, I wanted to share a few from our recent trip to the zoo.

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One of Pookie’s favorite stops is the petting zoo in the Children’s Zoo area.  It is near the zoo entrance so is usually the first place we go.  He has already established a routine.  When we enter the petting zoo, he has to pet some of the goats before he will look at the other animals in that area.  When we are ready to leave, he has to pet some goats again.  I didn’t immediately take him back to pet some goats before leaving and he got a little upset and motioned towards them.  While he doesn’t speak, he sure made his thoughts clear.  Once he pet the goats a second time, he was happy to leave the petting zoo.    Little Miss also loves getting a chance to pet and get close to the animals.  The zoo is having an “I-Spy” event where kids have to find 4 special signs at animal enclosures.  Once they find them all, they have to remember which animals were on those signs.  If they report to guest relations which animals were on the signs that day, the kids win a free book.  Little Miss found all 4 signs in the Children’s Zoo area.  The zoo staff was really sweet and allowed Pookie to have a book also.

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The Lorikeets were a really fun experience.  These birds drink a nectar from a tiny cup.  If they see you with a cup of nectar, they will land on you.  Little Miss was a bit nervous to have the birds land on her, so I held the cup.  A Lorikeet quickly landed on my hand and started drinking the nectar.  I slowly placed the cup on Pookie’s hand.  Amazingly, he held that hand very still and watched the bird.  He never fussed or became frightened.  Once the bird flew off, Pookie started laughing.  I love these moments of sheer joy that he expresses.  Even Little Miss was laughing and sharing in his joy.

 

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Before leaving the zoo, we went to the giraffe’s area.  If you arrive at specified times, you can help feed them.  That day, a male, his mate, and their young male were all very interested in the romaine lettuce we were given to feed them.  I held Pookie since he was too little to reach the giraffe, not to mention I was really pushing a boundry in having him so close to a very large animal.  It was so cute.  As I aided him in holding the lettuce leaves, he giggled when the giraffe reached out with it’s very long tongue to get the lettuce.  When feeding the last one, the giraffe’s lips gently brushed Pookie’s fingers and really got him laughing.  I think this will end up being a regular event when we go in the future.

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I love this picture of Little Miss feeding the large male giraffe.  She was a bit timid but had a load of fun feeding him.  Just look at the size of him!  His head is almost as big as she is.  LOL   After going to the zoo and learning that they take donations of pumpkins in the autumn to feed the animals, Little Miss is determined to grow a nice pumpkin patch just to have a load of them to take to the zoo.  Knowing her, she will do it too!  We already have the seeds.  We will be planting the seeds into little plant pots to give them a start before putting them into the garden.  Looks like there may be no problem with surplus pumpkins if her plants do well.

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I purchased this book from Amazon.  It is a full season of pumpkin related activities and lessons.  It begins with choosing seeds & preparing the garden area all the way until enjoying the harvest.  Little Miss will be using this book throughout the growing season as she grows her pumpkin patch.  It will bring another level of experiences into the project.  There are lessons in the book including one about the pumpkin family tree, arts & crafts projects, garden projects, and recipes.  She is really excited to get started on it.

We can hardly wait until our next trip to the zoo.  We are planning to go at least once a month.  Watching the kids as they are so enthralled by the animals is like seeing nature for the first time all over again.

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After watching the kids thoroughly enjoy themselves at the zoo last autumn, we decided to get a family pass for this year.  We plan on going to the zoo as often as possible so that the kids are able to experience the animals and continue to learn about them.

After going to the zoo last week, I designed 2 printables that I will be taking for the kids next trip.  The first is a Zoo Scavenger Hunt page with pictures of many of the zoo’s aniumals.  I am printing it our on cardstock then laminating the page so that the kids can use dry erase markers to mark off each animal that they find.

The second sheet is a Zoo Wildlife Match worksheet for Little Miss.  In one column are the animal pictures.  The second column has the animal names.  She will draw a line from the animal picture to it’s name.  I chose to design this one so that it will help her practice her reading.

I have tried something new this time and uploaded the worksheets in PDF format.  If you click on the links above, you should be able to download them.  It is the first time I have made homeschool worksheets to share.   I hope that they will benefit someone.  I made the worksheets using pictures that I found on the Internet of the wildlife that I remembered seeing at the zoo last week.  To my knowledge the pictures are not copyrighted, but please use the worksheets for your own use and not to distribute or post on your own blogs.  If you would like to share them, please refer people to this blog so that they can download them from here.

Enjoy!

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My son always amazes me.  Often, he seems to be in his own little world.  He doesn’t always watch what you are doing, yet he does take note of details.

Today, Pookie was playing with some plastic eggs left over from Easter.  It was a task that I had available to help with his fine motor skills.  He picked up each egg, look it over carefully, then tap it on the couch before opening it. Once opened, he would lightly shake each half before setting them down.  Consistently, he did this with each egg.  I put the eggs back together for him and he went through the entire process again.

Until now, I hadn’t realized just how much he paid attention to me when I cook with eggs.  I always check the eggs over to be sure there are no cracks in the shell, thus causing the egg to spoil.  Once I look the egg over, I tap it to crack the shell before pulling the 2 halves apart.  Once I pour the egg yolk into the bowl, I lightly shake it to get every bit of egg white out of the shell.  In his play, Pookie mimiced my routine for cracking eggs.  This shows a great deal of attention and focus on details.  It demonstrated a deeper awareness of what goes on around him – even when he seems completely unaware.

It proves my belief that in reading to him aloud and getting him involved as I do the cooking  and other household tasks, he is learning.  He may be stimming and walking in circles, cut he does absorb what is going on around him.

 

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