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Archive for January, 2015

Recently, Pookie did a new level of bead threading at his occupational therapy session.  He is now threading pony beads onto a pipe cleaner.  Huge step forward for someone who has to be taught to use his fingers due to no natural fine motor development.  Because of all the developmental delays that he is working through in the OT sessions, I have always tried to incorporate some of those activities into his homeschooling.

While out shopping today, I went to the Dollar Tree store.  I absolutely LOVE going there to get some of the craft supplies we use for OT at home.  This trip, I found pony beads and pipe cleaners in their craft dept.  A couple pipe cleaners and a dish of beads in a bowl will make a great Montessori-style activity to help with his fine motor development.

hearts

At the Valentine’s display area, I found a package of 50 plastic red hearts about 1/2 inch in size.  These are perfect to use on Valentine themed do-a-dot pictures.  Instead of using the markers, Pookie can place one red heart in each circle on the page.   The hearts can become a math manipulative as well as something to add to a sensory bin.  There were many other items that would make fun sensory bin additions or manipulatives.

The longer I homeschool Pookie, the more I am seeing how easily his OT activities can be used in a Montessori styled setting.  It is easy to recreate the OT activities and place them in baskets or bins for Pookie to work with throughout the week.   Soon, I will be restructuring Pookie’s homeschool area.  The workboxes were a good idea, but in practice, they were not as effective as they could have been.  For Pookie, out of sight is out of mind.  He didn’t like to open drawers to find his next activity or project.  So, this time I will be setting up shelves with open baskets and bins.  It will resemble a home Montessori arrangement.  The hope is that Pookie will see the activities and be a little more spontaneous in doing them.  Anything that brings about more independence in his world is the goal.

 

 

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Now that the New Year’s holiday has passed, it is time again for people in the US to begin thinking about tax season. How can this be important enough to post on a homeschool and autism blog?  Easily!  You see, we fall into the tax bracket that allows us to take a $1000 tax credit for each of our two minor children.  It also means it is time to start planning the purchases needed for next year’s curriculum.

My husband and I both feel that since we receive that credit due to having the kids, then that amount of the tax refund we receive should go towards their homeschooling.  This gives me a $1000 to spend per child.  On average, the curriculum for each child can cost about $500 when I include all the consumables and readers that go along with their curriculum.  The balance of the money is spent on other school related items.

I begin by evaluating the curriculum that we have been using.  Was it effective?  Were there any concerns?  Did it cover as much information as it should have or was it weak in some areas?  All of this is taken into consideration.  If there are any true concerns, I then start the process of finding something that will be a better fit.  As a part of this process, I take into account our children’s strengths and weaknesses.  What learning style do they respond to the best?  How can I use their natural talents and interests to help enhance their learning experience?

This year, I had to face a truth that I was not really wanting to.  Even though I would love to have both Little Miss and Pookie using the same publisher’s materials for the homeschooling, it just isn’t a good fit for them.  Little Miss and Pookie both thrive on hands-on activities in their education, but Pookie is far behind Little Miss when it comes to what he is able to do.  For Pookie, he needs and thrives on two things, Montessori approach and lapbooks.  He absolutely needs the hands-on activities to learn.  If it requires writing, then he cannot do it at this time.  He still lacks sufficient fine motor control to write.  He is capable of showing knowledge in others ways however.  That is where we focus at home.  Pookie also loves to look through books.  With that in mind, I have tried lapbooks with him.  He is receptive to it and likes to look through them later on.

For Pookie, we will be continuing the Letter of the Week curriculum written by Erica of Confessions of a Homeschooler.  This has been a blessing to have for Pookie.  I purchased the download version of the curriculum and love it. The activities are brightly colored and get his attention.  I print out the pages needed and laminate any puzzle or game pieces.  If a page is for drawing or writing on, I put it in a sheet protector to make a dry-erase page.  Some pages, like the do-a-dot activities, I print several copies since they are a fun activity as well as being good OT style activity in developing hand/eye coordination.

Pookie’s lapbooks are from free resources on Homeschool Share and also some purchased ones by Knowledge Box Central.  Both are excellent resources.  I am currently choosing lapbooks that match readers that we have.  These help to reinforce what he learns.  One item that I love to include is sequence cards or pictures to help him to recall the order in which things happened.  For now, I use them to retell a story, but eventually he will be able to put them in order on his own.

The Montessori activities that i use for Pookie come from a couple of resources.  First, his OT therapist, Miss Amanda, is always a great sounding board for me to use in coming up with ideas.  I also pay close attention to what she does with Pookie at his sessions and try to incorporate those activities into his homeschooling.  The second resource in Pinterest.  A search for “Montessori preschool” gives you a wonderful selection of activities and websites that provide free activities to print out.  There are also websites which sell Montessori style activities as well.

For Little Miss, we will be returning to the My Father’s World curriculum.  She will be starting the Exploring Countries and Cultures program.  This program has a lot of hands-on activities to nurture her love of that style of learning as well as just enough writing to fulfill those goals.  She loves to read, so any reading required is never an issue.  She is really excited to start learning about other countries.  It is a great overview to prepare her for the subsequent four years in which she will be having a world history focusing on 4 time periods.  Each time period will be a curricular year long study.  The time periods are: Creation to the Greeks, Rome to the Reformation, Exploration to 1850, and finally, 1850 to Modern Times.  At the end of those years, she will repeat the Exploring Countries and Cultures on a deeper level in 8th grade before starting her high school courses the following term.

For Math and Language arts, both of which are courses not included in the ECC program, she will be using Christian Light Publishers materials.  After using Singapore for the past two years, I am liking what I have seen of the math program that Christian Light makes available.  Their language arts program is also a very sound one that will serve her well.

Once we purchase the curriculum materials for the kids, there is always funds left over.  I use the surplus to purchase a year’s supply of art supplies, paper, pencils, glue, scissors, and any other basic school supplies that they will need in the upcoming school year.  By the time I am finished, I always have fully stocked supply bin and don’t have to buy anything else for the entire school year.

I generally will take an inventory of the supplies on hand that are unused from the previous year.  Then, once I have purchased the curriculum, I look through the lessons to see what art supplies or other extras will be needed for the hands-on activities and lessons.  Using this information, I plan out my shopping list for the basic school supplies and extras needed.  This is a tremendous help to us later on during the school term.  I don’t have to rush out to buy something last minute.

Once those items are purchased, I use the remaining funds to purchase family season passes for places like the zoo or children’s museums within reasonable driving distance that will be fun for to take the kids to on multiple visits.

The pre-planning is always a help when this time of year comes along.  I already have my purchases planned out before homeschool conventions begin.  At convention, I am often able to purchase materials at a discount.  As soon as stores start their back to school sales, I am ready to shop and make the most of it.  This takes a lot of the stress off since we don’t have to worry about how we will be able to purchase everything.   Maybe it is an idea that will help others who homeschool as well.

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I have been wanting to make changes to how we are eating as a family for a while now.  For a long time, we were eating a nearly vegan diet, but life happens and we got off track.  In part, we had family members living with us while they worked to get settled here after moving from another state.  Then, my meat loving husband came home from the road and got a local job.  Soon, life became busy and I found it easier to just go back to the processed foods we gave up before.

Fast forward to today, I am not happy with my weight.  Nor am I happy with the way we are eating.  Thankfully, my husband is completely on board with me changing our diet back to a mostly vegetarian one.  The exception being that about once or twice a week, we might have some fish or other lean meat like grass fed beef.

With the way we had been eating, the kids were wanting to snack a lot.  Not because they didn’t have a good meal, but simply because we only ate the basic 3 meals a day.  With an average of 5-6 hours between meals, the kids got hungry.  This led to unhealthy snacking habits.  Instead of just wanting a little something to hold them over until the next meal, they would eat a much larger amount.  With the vegetarian diet, we eat 5-6 times a day.  It ends up with eating a small meal or healthy snack every three hours.  This allows us, including the kids, to not feel hungry from one meal to the next.  By having the meals and snacks scheduled, we have far less snacking issues.  They know that a snack or another small meal is coming, so are not fussing for anything.

One of the keys to making this work is that I am planning out all meals, including snacks for each day.  I am making healthy snacks to replace any unhealthy choices.  Where before the kids had a pantry shelf that contained a few snack options, they will now only have the one snack planned for that time.  This alone will help us out a lot.  Pookie is a kid who loves to graze between meals.  He goes into the pantry room and searches out something that he wants to eat.  It is frustrating at times.  Since the entry to that pantry doesn’t have a door, I sometimes want to buy a baby gate just for the pantry’s entryway.  I have raised older children and never had one who loves to eat the way Pookie does.  Think a teenage boy in a 6 year old body.  Funny thing is, he and Little Miss are thin like their Daddy’s side of the family.  I know that unless I can teach the kids to eat healthy now, there is a chance that the eating will become a problem later in life.

So, I started checking around.  Pookie is a carb fiend. He loves them.  Doesn’t matter what it is, bread or potato, he loves them.  I decided that the best choice that will fit the entire family is to do carb cycling.  We will be alternating between a day of having low/no carbs and a day of moderate/high carbs.  With this in our meal plan, along with eating smaller meals more often each day, it is a great way of eating for all of us.  The more frequent, smaller meal is something that is often recommended to those who are diabetic.  It keeps their blood sugar levels more consistent.  Both of my mother’s parents were diabetic, so that is always going to be a concern to watch out for.  With me wanting to lose some weight, the meals/snacks will help keep my metabolism at a good rate as well.  The one part that will take more effort for me is the high protein portion of the eating plan.  Some days, I will be using quinoa as a protein source.  On low carb days, I will be making a low carb protein bar, protein shake, or eggs to provide the protein that day.  The kids love the protein balls that I make using peanut butter.  I will be making a batch of those soon as well.

Something funny that happened with the kids today was that Little Miss was eating a chunk of lettuce as I was putting together our salads for lunch.  Pookie started following her around the room as though she were the Pied Piper and gesturing to her to give him a bite of the lettuce.  Such a good indicator that the kids will enjoy this new way of eating.  On a different note, I have been thinking about all the belly issues that kids like Pookie often have.  In blogs and autism related websites, I often read that kids with gluten issues will often crave them.  Pookie has never been diagnosed as having gluten intolerance or other problems by a doctor.  I have often noticed that he becomes very gassy when he eats too many carbs that are gluten based.  Too many is a relative term.  For him, it means that he can get gassy just from eating a plate of spaghetti.  I tested my theory once by making him spaghetti squash with the exact same spaghetti sauce as I typically use.  On that day, he did not get gassy.  Yet, when I made spaghetti with pasta, he did get a gassy belly.  For that reason, I think that the carb cycling will benefit him as well.  When he does get carbs, they will primarily be from sources that do not include gluten based flour or grains. If this helps him with his belly, then that is just one more plus to the decision.

I have been looking on Pinterest for healthy snack and lunch ideas.  The Bento lunches are a great idea for our meal plan.  You can always find ideas that use foods other than a sandwich.  I love how versatile the ideas are.  A Bento with rice can be made with quinoa or brown rice in place of the more starchy option of white rice.  Sure, you may not be able to make the cute shapes with it, but it is much healthier.

The best part is that you can get your kids involved.  At the store, give them some healthy options and let them choose what snacks sound good to them.  Once home, allow them to help measure out and pack the snacks into their baggies or containers.  Getting kids involved will help them to be less picky about eating the healthier snacks.

One idea that keeps popping up for me is to get some small serving size containers and fill them with fresh fruit or other snack item.  These can be stored in the refrigerator or on the pantry shelf, depending on the item.  Preparing the snacks ahead of time can be as simple as getting a box of the snack size baggies and filling them,  A snack size baggie will hold about 1/2 cup of food.  This is a typical serving size.  If what you are preparing has a 1 cup serving size, just use the sandwich baggies.  Here is a partial list of what we can put into our snack size baggies.

Trail mix
Homemade granola bar
Grapes or berries
Cut up fresh fruit such as a melon
Homemade Gorp
Pretzels (gluten free)
Homemade baked corn chips
bite size pieces of cheese
veggie crisps (see recipe below)

Homemade Veggie Crisps

These are one of our favorite snacks of all time. The instructions for the various vegetables are very similar. Just start checking them after 1 1/2 hours to test to see if they are crisp enough for your tastes.  This is a basic recipes that I have seen on so many websites that it is hard to know who originated the recipe.

Bag of frozen green beans, thawed and dry
Olive Oil
Sea salt

Toss the green beans in a bowl with just enough olive oil to coat them. Spread the green beans onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.

Place the baking sheet into a preheated 225*F oven. Bake until crisp, about 4 hours.

For veggies like very thinly sliced zucchini, sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets, sprinkle the sliced veggies with a very small amount of salt to draw out any water (carrots won’t need this step). Let set for 10-15 minutes. Blot off the water and place the veggies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Lightly brush the veggies with olive oil. If using seasoning, add it sparingly. They won’t need salt since you already salted them in the earlier step. Just remember that dried vegetables will shrink, which will intensify the flavor of the seasoning. Place into preheated oven and let bake about 2 hours or until as crisp as you want them.

Enjoy!

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