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Archive for August, 2014

I have been wanting to share more detail in how I am adapting Pookie’s curriculum to be something he is able to accomplish. So, with that in mind, I am going to share a bit of what we are currently working on. I want to apologize for the lack of pictures. My smart phone crashed and the new one I am using temporarily doesn’t take good quality pictures.

I decided to make Pookie a homeschool binder, just as Little Miss has. Little Miss has her notebook divided up by subjects. Pookie, on the other hand, will have his divided up by unit studies with extra sections for Math skills and home therapy notes. The binder is a simple 3-ring binder that is about 2” thick. I will upgrade to a larger one later if necessary.

The My Father’s World Kindergarten program begins with a 2-week long unit study about the Creation story in the Bible. One of the activities in the unit is to make a Creation book using the supplied page elements. The items for each page are included in the curriculum for the kids to color, cut and paste into the book. Well, Pookie has difficulty coloring. Without aid, his grip on crayons is very loose and he has little control. Basically, it is a scribble at best. Most of the time, he doesn’t put enough pressure on the crayon to transfer the color to the paper. He also is still learning to cut and while he can close the scissors as he cuts, he cannot open them as well. Pasting is another exercise in motor control that he is having to learn. So, how are we doing his book project? We are scrapbooking!

Pookie loves to paint, so each day, he is painting a background that matches the theme for that day. For example, on the day that the trees were created, he will be making a tree. The tree itself is made by painting his forearm brown and pressing it to the paper. His hand will be painted green to make the leaves. This will also make a great activity to help with his sensory issues for things sticky!

I found additional hands-on activities by purchasing “And He Saw That It Was Good – A Unit Study on Creation” by Grace Bound Books. The owner of Grace Bound Books is a homeschooling mother of an autistic son. Finding this unit study was a great blessing. It added more activities and broke them up by school subject. Each day’s lessons were choke full of ideas to choose from. I may not use everything in the unit study, but if I chose to do so, the unit study is a stand alone thematic unit that needs no other additions. For now, I just used a few of the elements from the study, mostly the crafts.

There are some subjects in the MFW-K curriculum that he cannot do on account of his developmental delays. So, I am finding alternative ways to present them. One of the best I found for phonics is the Letter of the Week curriculum on the Confessions of a Homeschooler blog. Erica put a great curriculum together that is totally hands-on! Yippee!!!!! Something that Pookie can manage with little assistance. I am printing out the letters using the order given for the MFW-K curriculum. This way, he will be learning the letters in the same order, just using different materials that better fit his ability levels.

I am still doing the history and readers from Heart of Dakota’s Little Hearts for His Glory program. These are the readers for the 5-7 year age group. I want to introduce the stories to Pookie that are with this program. It is too convenient and easy to fall back onto the emergent readers. Instead, I want to expand his language base by reading the books to him that come with this program. The emergent readers will be fine for our other story times. For homeschool, I want to do something more challenging.

Eventually, Pookie will be able to do more of the Heart of Dakota program. For now though, the history and possibly science is all that he will do for this year. Certainly, he will be doing the program again next term and adding anything that matches where he developmental skills are at that time.

Wherever possible, we will be making some type of scrapbook page to add to his notebook. The pages will be for any of the subjects he is learning. For example, Little Miss is working on a Christopher Columbus unit. I had found a compass rose worksheet in both the basic 4 directions as well as another version that included 8 directions. I printed out both versions. Pookie cut out with assistance the names of the 4 primary directions and after I applied the glue stick to the paper, he placed the direction name labels in the correct spots. This will go in the section for his Christopher Columbus unit that he will be starting closer to Thanksgiving. We did it now since Little Miss was working on hers and he showed so much interest.

I know that to many, the way we are teaching Pookie may sound confusing and taking a lot of extra work. For me, it just is a part of our daily homeschool experience with Pookie. If he cannot learn one way, I have to find another. That is all that I am doing. Often in homeschooling families, if they are using a purchased curriculum, the curriculum gets tweaked. One subject materials are substituted with another. This is very common. I have simply done the same thing, but in a different manner.

I hope to be able to add pictures in the very near future. I know that there are some who would like to see a visual of what I am talking about. Early in this post, I mentioned that I am recording home therapy notes. In my next blog post, I will share what type of information I am tracking and how I do it.

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I have been wanting to share a listing of my favorite “go to” websites for homeschooling. These sites offer everything from free curriculum to record keeping forms. Whether you need to put together a curriculum or simply want something to give your child extra practice, you will find what you need among these sites.

One use that I have for the printables on these sites is worksheets or activities that fill in the gap on days when I am sick. It is worth it to print up some of the worksheets and keep in a folder just for that purpose, Then, on days when you are not feeling well or your family is extra busy, you already have a grab and go file of materials ready.  I love the fact that I can simply print out the pages I want and tuck them into the kids’ workboxes and have them ready to go.

I like to take pages, such as math drill sheets, and place them in a sheet protector. This makes a nice dry erase activity page to review topics such as multiplication tables. By using the dry erase marker, your child can use the same drill sheet many times. I place a sheet of plain cardstock behind the printable to make the page more sturdy.

Lapbooks, like the ones found on Homeschool Share, are a good way to give your child plenty of activities to do while still learning the topic. You can either assemble the lapbooks in a file folder as directed in the instructions or do notebooking pages

Before the holiday season is upon us, I like to find holiday themed lapbooks and printables to file away. Once the holiday season arrives and life gets busier than normal, I can pull these out of the files for the kids to do. You can find holiday themed curriculum for almost any subject.

Each of these websites are ones that I have used with our children. This list is by no means everything that is available. I am only sharing the ones that we have used ourselves in homeschooling. I hope that among the pages listed, there will be some that you find helpful as well.

http://www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com/my-printables
http://www.homeschoolcreations.net/2012/10/printables-from-a-to-z-from-homeschool-creations/
http://www.homeschool.com/printables/
http://www.ihomeschoolnetwork.com/category/printables/
http://thepeacefulmom.com/free-homeschool-resources/
http://www.schoolexpress.com/
http://www.1plus1plus1equals1.com/
http://allinonehomeschool.com/
http://fivejs.com/
http://creativelearningfun.com/
http://chapelhillsnippets.blogspot.com/
http://www.homeschooling-ideas.com/free-homeschooling-worksheets.html
http://www.sparklebox.co.uk/parents/
http://www.homeschool-curriculum-for-life.com/ free-homeschool-printables.html
http://www.homeschoolmath.net/worksheets
http://www.currclick.com/
http://www.thecraftyclassroom.com/HomeschoolPrintables.html
http://www.mathcafe.com/
http://www.moneysavingmom.com/ 2013/ 02/ a-huge-list-of-free-homeschool-curriculum-and-resources.html
http://dynamic2moms.webs.com/curriculumplanner.htm
http://www.crayola.com/
http://www.starfall.com

For Bible studies, here are some really good resources.

http://www.calvarywilliamsport.com/activity-pages.html
http://www.kidsbibleworksheets.com/
http://www.christianpreschoolprintables.com/Worksheets.html
http://www.gardenofpraise.com/blink4.htm
http://www.dltk-bible.com/
http://www.biblestoryprintables.com/BibleWorksheets.html
http://biblestudyplanet.com/bible-teaching-for-adults/bible-teaching-for-kids/childrens-bible-studies/
http://ministry-to-children.com/lessons/

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Homeschooling has already begun in our home. With each child doing very different curriculum, I had to come up with a record keeping system that works for us. I have tried various methods in the past. Free downloads of record keeping forms, purchased downloads, and even the lesson planners from the store. Nothing felt right for me. No matter what system you use, it has to fit into your routine and be easy to use. If it is labor intensive, then there is a good chance you won’t use the system for very long. Here is a list of what is in my binder.

Tab 1

This is where I keep the information that I need ready access to. Included in this section are the following.

Attendance – the calendar that I chose for this was found on FiveJs.com. The 2014-2015 calendar that I am using begins with August and ends with September 2015. On this form, I am able to color code the dates for holiday breaks, days we are doing school, and field trips. It gives me a neatly prepared attendance record that will be a cinch to keep up with.

Homeschool Law for our state, which I printed out from HSLDA’s website

Curriculum Resources form from 2Dynamic Moms website. This form has space for up to 4 children. On it, I have listed all of the materials each of the kids will be using. I loved this form over many others because it also includes space for lapbooks, games, websites, and magazines. Often as homeschoolers, we use non-traditional resources for educating the children. This form allows me to list them well. I also like the fact that if I chose to do so, I could use 1 copy of the form per child. This option would allow me to list the materials used during each quarter of the school term.

Passwords Sheet – If you are like me, you may forget a password from time to time. I typed up on the word processor a list of the educational websites. Included for each site is the log in information. This is especially helpful if your spouse or children need to access the website.

Tab 2 Pookie’s Lesson plans

Pookie’s Unit Studies – Pookie is doing a curriculum that is unit study based. Each week he has a different theme around which all of the assignments are based. I made life simpler for me by printing out a copy of the Unit Study Planner.  I designed this one-page form that will give me a quick overview for the year. I don’t need a weekly view of the activities since his curriculum came with the lesson plans. I am going to be photocopying the lesson plans each month to add to this section.

The next 4 tabs are for Little Miss. Her lesson plans are set up by the quarters.

1st Quarter (2nd, 3rd, 4th quarters) Little Miss’ Lesson plans

I use the Weekly Plans form from Mama Jenn’s website to record Little Miss’ daily assignments. I love this
form as it includes 2 check off boxes for each subject. I am using this to record each day’s assignment. When she completes an assignment, I check off one box. The second box, I am using to record her grade. I also have added a reading log to each quarter. At the end of each quarter I have a grade form. On this, I will be able to have a ready reference to her grades for each subject.

I use the same forms for each of the 4 quarters.

Homeschool Share Lists

Under this tab, I have printed out pages such as the listing of lapbooks available from Homeschool Share. By having the master list of what is available, I can easily locate what I may need for each child. One of the most often used sections of Homeschool Share is the Workboxables. This listing contains everything from file folder games to flash cards. The list is divided up by subject.

There are a few empty tabs behind the ones listed above. Those are for anything else that I may come across that I would like to print out for quick reference.

Lastly, in the back of the binder, I have a manila envelope. This is used to store the paper receipts that the library prints when you check out books. It is yet another way to record the materials used/read throughout the year.

Well, that is it. This is the system that I am finding to be the most helpful with tracking our homeschooling. Hopefully, it will give others some ideas.

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When you become a Momma, you are filled with dreams. From the moment that you learn of your pregnancy, you start thinking about your child and the life they may have. If you already have children, you think about how the new baby will grow up with their siblings, building bonds that will last throughout their life. You think of the children playing together and at times conspiring together. Of course, being siblings they will experience the occasional rivalries or times of angst. But overall, the bond you dream for them will be strong enough to withstand what the world throws their way.

When your baby is born, you are ecstatic. You cuddle your little one close and continue to have dreams. Play dates and parties, along with the fun times you will have as a family and the children have with their friends drifts through your mind. You have friends who have children of their own. You talk and share in the joys and challenges of parenthood. Throughout it all, you feel the bond of friendship, a sisterhood, with them.

Then comes the day when you get the news. You learn that your precious little one has been diagnosed with Infantile Autism. Soon, there are therapy appointments, doctor visits, and home therapies that begin to take priority in your family’s life. There are meltdowns and seemingly irrational fears or distress from your little one that are painful to watch. But as Momma, you have to face it all with a steadiness that will provide a calming balm to your little one. You balance your time so that you not only give the little one all that they require, but time to the rest of your family as well. At times, it can feel like you are walking through an emotional minefield. All of your family needs your attention, each in their own way, and you pray that they allow you to take care of their needs one at a time. You carve out times for each child so that none feel slighted.

Your friends offer supportive comments when they see you out and about. At first, you take them seriously when they say, “If you ever need me – even just to talk – give me a call.” Your eyes get opened up pretty quickly though when you do reach out. Unanswered texts or unreturned calls are not unusual. You don’t reach out but rarely because you know that people without a special needs child have no understanding of what you are dealing with on a daily basis. They may mean well and can have compassion, but they just don’t get it. They have not lived with a child who is severely delayed in their development. They haven’t experienced first hand what it is like to have a child who screams or cries in frustration because they cannot communicate to you a need that they have. They haven’t tried to go to the store to do some necessary shopping, only to leave you cart behind because the stimuli in the store was more than your little one can endure. They don’t know how inadequate a parent can feel at those moments when their child is having a meltdown from over stimulation and others are less than compassionate towards you and your child. In the middle of all the chaos are the siblings who you also have to reassure. In the beginning, the reassurances are needed much more than later. Sadly, the siblings gain an acceptance that meltdowns can happen. In a way, it is a relief though when they make that realization.

The times of stress, when you are dealing with new behaviors or meltdowns are happening over new situations, you want to reach out. But to whom to you go? By this time, you have already learned that people want to hear that all is well and don’t want to hear about a difficult day. You have heard, “You are such a strong woman” so many times that it is no longer a comfort but another weight around your shoulders. You want to tell them that you are not strong enough to face these situations alone. No, not because you are suffering from depression . It is simply that people were created to be relational. We crave, by our own nature, the companionship of friends. Think of all the times when simply talking with a friend made a tough time a bit easier. They may not have eliminated the cause of your stress, but just being able to talk it out gave you relief. A Momma of a special needs child is no different. We have had to mourn the dreams of what could have been and accept what is. We have to develop new dreams for our child that are more in line with their true potential. That is painful! It puts an ache into your heart to go from a dream of college for your child to praying that they will one day be able to live in an assisted living home and not a full care nursing home.

There is no more times of meeting up with a friend for coffee. You find that suddenly everyone is too busy. Some of the people whom you always thought of as friends turn out to be the fair weather variety. They are there when all is well before you had your little one, but suddenly have too much going on once your special needs child came along. One of the things that I found is that these friends really don’t mean to stay away or ignore you. They really do have other things on their mind, For some, they may be uncomfortable with the realities of the special needs. They don’t understand it and so avoid it. Then there is a classic reason known as “out of sight, out of mind.” They don’t intend to alienate you, they just get so focused on their own life that they forget you are there until they see you again. It isn’t anything to put blame on. It is simply a reality. Just as the sun comes up in the east each morning, people will let you down.

One of the replies that has me mentally shaking my head is when people tell me, “Stay in prayer because the Lord will always give you strength.” Yes, that is true. But, let me ask this. What if the way the Lord helps to strengthen us in difficult days is the reaching out of a friend? A common saying in churches is that “we are the hands and feet of the Lord.” This meaning behind this being that it is through using us that the Lord can bring about blessings to others. What if, it is through you making a phone call that the Lord is able to help lift the spirits of someone having a bad day? What if, it is through just a simple text message or email that the Lord helps someone to not feel like they are walking the path alone? What if?

It is the little things that can make the rough days feel lighter. Yes, the special needs issues will always be there. Truly knowing deep down in your heart that you have a strong support system through your friendships can make it much easier to manage. It doesn’t take much. A simple card or postcard in the mail, a phone call, a text, or even a hug when you see the friend can lift the weight of the stress for that moment in time. The real gift then becomes the moment that you, the parent of a special needs child, have that peace in your heart. Placed there by the Lord through the love and compassion of people in your life that are genuine in their feelings. That is the gift. It is also one of the most rare jewels you will ever achieve in your life.

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DIY Art Supplies

It is that time of year again when families are getting sticker shock at the prices of Back to School supplies for their kids.  Just like those in public or private schools, children who are homeschooled go through a LOT of supplies each school term.  One thing that I notice in homeschooling Little Miss and Pookie is that we go through more supplies than when my older kids were in public school.  Items like paper and pencils are about the same as when the older children went to school, but art supplies is a whole different matter.

It is amazing how much paint and other basic art supplies we go through.  I like to encourage the kids to be creative in their play as well as art.  In order to do this, I sometimes have to be a bit creative myself when it comes to obtaining supplies.  The best thing I ever did was search for recipes to make homemade supplies.

Now, I know that children who are not homeschooled wouldn’t be able to take the homemade art supplies to school.  They can use them at home for their fun projects.  For families who homeschool, the homemade versions of art supplies can be a huge blessing to the budget.  We also see it as a great way to teach our children to be more frugal.  By making the supplies at home, we are able to get the supplies much cheaper.  In winter months, it is especially helpful to have the recipes so that I am not having to travel to the city to buy supplies we have run out of.  If we run out of a specific color of watercolor paint on a pallet, then I can make more of that one color instead of having to buy a whole new set of paints.

There are two resources that are my “go-to” places to find recipes.  I strongly suggest that you test a few out.  One recipe may work better than another, depending on the type of project you are doing.  I finally began recording the recipes which gave me the best results in a small notebook for quick reference offline.  Some recipes seem to work better than others.  It all comes down to your own preferences.

The first site that I recommend is Make, Create, and Do.  This page has some very good recipes for the basics that a young child or preschooler would use.  I have used several of them with good results.

The second site, Artists Helping Children, has a larger number of recipes to choose from, included some that are better suited for older children.  Overall, they have a wide range of supplies that you can make which would benefit children of any age.

I know that there are many more websites with recipes for art supplies.  Of all that I have looked at and tested recipes from, the two listed above have been the best.  If you know of another website that has recipes that you have tried and had good results with, I would love to know about them.

 

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Ever feel like you are homeschooling multiple age groups in spite of the fact you are only dealing with one child at that time?  Welcome to my world.

Little Miss is easy to homeschool.  She is a bright and articulate little girl who works at her age level or above, depending on the subject.  I can prepare her lessons and place them in her workboxes at night and she can move through the lessons with minimal assistance from me.  Not because the work is too easy, but because she is capable of reading instructions and following them.  Not so with Pookie.  He needs constant guidance.  I not only am teaching him, but I also serve as a motivator in keeping him on task.

One aspect of homeschooling a severely autistic child that no one seems to talk about is the multi-level teaching that you have to do.  Let me explain.  Pookie is 6 years old.  He is very smart and picks up new information very quickly.  One case in point being when I taught him the sign for the word “eat”.  Pookie was grunting and pointing at a snack that he wanted.  I knew what he was wanting, but chose to take this as a teaching moment.  I asked if he was hungry, using sign language as well as speech.  He smiled and I asked if he wanted to eat.  Again, I used both speech and signing.  He watched me and then got upset.  I think he realized that the grunt & point technique was not working anymore.  I took his hand and using a hand-over-hand method showed him the sign for eat.  He got mad and pointed again, this time with a stronger grunt that was on the verge of becoming a screech.  I told him to stop fussing and show me that he wanted to eat.  He then immediately did an approximated sign language gesture that closely mimics the gesture for “eat”.  At that point, I gave him his snack.

Seeing how quickly Pookie can learn, I know that he is a smart kid.  It took only a couple of his workbox assignments for him to do the visual schedule very well in working through the remaining workboxes.  Often, I have noticed that if being taught something that is never changing, such as North America’s location on a world map  always being the same continent, he learns very quickly.  Abstract and conceptual learning are tough however.  Those things are much more difficult for him to grasp.

This is where we reach the idea of teaching multi-level developmental stages.  On one hand, I am teaching Kindergarten to a child who is academically able to do most of the work.  In fine motor skills, this same child is only two years old in his developmental stage.  Mixed in between his developmental age and his chronological age, you have various levels of his development in all areas.  This has a profound affect on how I have to teach him.  It is like teaching several age levels all at the same time, in the same child.  Does any of this sound familiar to you parents who have a special needs child?

So, the big question becomes, how do I teach a child whose developmental and academic levels are all over the place?  Start by learning what teaching style your child needs.  Are they visual learners?  In the case of autistic children, many are able to learn best if taught using visual techniques.  Others may do best with hands-on or through listening to you read a story.  Pookie is a mixture.  In some areas, Pookie needs constant repetition, such as when learning phonics or other subjects that require a lot of memorization.  The question for me was what technique works best in providing that repetition.  I use two simple approaches in teaching Pookie.  The first is to provide as many hands-on or tactile projects as possible.  The second is the use of visual aids.

Let’s say that I want to teach a child about the continents and oceans.  One method would be to point to the map and slowly name each one, repeating the process until he can accurately locate them upon request.  Another is to provide several activities that each teach the same information but in different ways.  Again using the oceans and continents as an example, you could:

Print 2 maps, cutting out the continents and oceans from one of the maps. Have the child match the pieces on the other map.

Make labels of the names of the continents and oceans. Have him place the labels on the correct places on a map.

Make a match game using pictures of each continent and it’s name label.

Point out each continent or ocean out on a map and keep repeating the names until the child can accurately point to each as it is named.

Print out a worksheet or two that teach the names for the child to complete.

Using a tray of salt, have the child draw a continent with their finger.

Make a 3-dimensional map using air-dry clay

All of these methods, and many more than I didn’t mention, can teach a child the same information in various ways that maintain the child’s interest.  Including as many forms of sensory input will also help the child to retain the information.

In Pookie’s situation, the varied methods also address his developmental skills.  He receives sensory input that is very important for him.  He is able to practice many of the OT styled tasks that are similar to what his therapist does during his therapy sessions each week.  Each separate activity brings with it a new, fun way to learn as well as demonstrate knowledge.

Often, I will have 2-3 activities in one day that all teach the same information, but in different ways.  For example, in one workbox, I may have a matching game.   In a second workbox, a tracing activity.  In the third workbox, I might place a puzzle.  Three very different activities that all teach one topic.

It is a challenge sometimes to come up with new ideas for teaching Pookie.  It is worth every moment of planning though.  The progress that I see in him makes the time and effort well worth it.

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One of Little Miss’ favorite books is “Pagoo” by Holling C. Holling.  Pagoo is the story of a little Hermit Crab, told from his perspective.  The story starts at the very beginning of his life.  Pagoo is guided by a character known as Old Man.  Old Man is best described as the inner voice of Pagoo’s instincts.

pagoo

One of the aspects of the story that I love is that it is detailed in what life in the tide pools is like.  We learn about the various life forms.  The pictures in the book are outstanding in their detail.  On one page, you have very colorful drawn scenes from the tide pool.  On the facing page, there are sketches of various life forms in the color picture that are drawn in detail and labeled so children can identify what each life form is.

We found a very thorough unit study on Homeschool Share.  This free printable unit study comes complete with notebooking pages for each of the 19 chapters.  There are also pages for General information, Mid-book Review, and a Book Report.

We are repeating the story this term.  Little Miss had read it last term, but this time will be doing the pages to go with it.  She truly enjoyed this story and learned much from it.  Each time she reads it or looks at the illustrations, she finds something new.  It is fun to watch a child be so excited about books!  In that, we have been very blessed.

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