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Archive for February, 2015

With our school term approaching its end in a couple of months, I am starting to go through all of our homeschool books and supplies.  Our homeschool convention is typically held the end of April and I am planning on buying new curriculum and supplies for the upcoming new term.  I cannot even consider buying anything though until I have purged the no longer needed items from our shelves.

I know that to some homeschool families, that is akin to blasphemy to say you are getting rid of anything homeschool related.  Alas, when living in a small home, you have little choice in the matter.  As many homeschoolers can attest to, the shelves can become quite overflowing in a very short time.

I started with one bookcase today and have bagged up 2 large paper grocery bags of books to be donated elsewhere.  There are still 2 more bookcases to go.  The smaller of the two is stocked with children’s books that Little Miss has outgrown and Pookie has no interest in.  I am going to be weeding through that one very soon.

The fact is, the curriculum that Little Miss uses comes complete with any readers needed for the school term.  She is also very keen on getting her own Kindle Paperwhite. With that, her book collection will greatly increase without needing extra storage.  She will still be keeping the books she loved the most, but there are many that she has simply outgrown.  Pookie likes to look at books with lots of colorful pictures, but is more picky about it.  There are some that he loves to look through and those will be kept.  Almost all the remaining books will be donated.

In the area of curriculum, there are materials that I have purchased and used for Little Miss that are still in like new condition.  I made sure that the teacher’s guides and readers were kept in great shape so that I could sell them when we were finished.  The money that we get from selling these materials will help cover the cost of buying new curricula for the kids.

As I go through the materials and supplies, I am taking note of inventory.  I have the list of what was purchased last year and am comparing it to what is still left over.  This will help me greatly when I go shopping this year.  I can preplan the purchases and take advantage of sales as they come along.  I am debating on whether I will purchase curriculum at the convention or not.  Last year, I was very disappointed to discover that many of the vendors did not bring product, but samples only.  If you wanted to buy from them, you had to place an order.  I am someone who likes to receive the purchase right away.  So, I am going to find out from the convention sponsors if they know what the vendors will be doing.  If I have to order the materials, then I may as well do it early and avoid the delays caused by the convention schedules.  When I go to the convention, my purchases would then be focused upon the “extras” needed to round out the lessons.

By far, the shelving that needs the most attention is Pookie’s OT shelves.  I have a shelving unit just for storing the various OT therapy activities for him.  These are things that mirror the activities he does during his weekly occupational therapy sessions.  I am going to be adding more activities to the shelves, as well as possible another shelving unit.  The activities are stored in containers according to the activity.  For example, I placed all the wooden lacing beads in a container along with several items to string the beads onto.  In this case, a wooden dowel with a wooden wheel glued on one end to act as a stopper, a length of clear plastic tubing, a pipe cleaner, and finally a shoelace.

I am converting a 10-drawer caddy into a basic supplies storage.  Each drawer will contain a different type of supply.  The hope is that this will make it easier to locate what we need easily.  I especially like that Little Miss will be able to be a bit more independent in this area.  It will also cut down on what she has to store in her 4-drawer storage tote.

If what I have already sorted out is an indicator, I will be cutting out supplies down by nearly 2/3’s of what we had.  It feels great.

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It is hard to believe that in a little over two months, our school year will have concluded.  One of the perks to homeschooling is that you can start your school year anytime you wish.  In our state, we are required to have homeschool 180 days per year.  There are no rules as to when that school year begins or ends, just as long as you complete the 180 days in a 12 month period.  So, our scheduled last day of school will be April 14th.

We homeschool year round.  Long breaks are not good for Pookie.  He needs the routine as well as the constant reinforcement of what he learns.  If we take too long of a break, he forgets what he has learned and we are back to square one again.   For Little Miss, the long breaks make it hard for her to get back into routine.  It takes her a few weeks to get back to the mindset of school work.  Once she finds her rhythm with her studies, she does really well and is becoming self-driven to complete the work on time.

I have been working on the curriculum choices for the kids.  Some changes are being made as to who we purchase the materials from.  This has been a bit on the bittersweet side for me.  This year has been the school year when I faced facts a bit more realistically where Pookie is concerned.  I came to realize that the curriculum I had purchased for him last year was not going to work.  It was not something he was ready for.  So, part way through the school term, I had to regroup and find something better for him that was closer to his developmental age and ability.  That answer came after his Occupational therapist, Miss Amanda, told me that Pookie’s developmental age was now that of a 2 year old.  This was up from a developmental age of about 10-12 months just a year earlier when he began going to the therapy center.  Still, I looked hard at just what Pookie was able to do and had to figure out what would be best for him.  I began altering his curriculum to be more of a preschool level again.  He did better with this, but was not progressing well enough that I feel he has mastered any of it.  Pookie is still learning his colors and shapes, for example, which he must have mastered before advancing to Kindergarten.

Little Miss is also getting an overhaul on her curriculum.  While we love the Heart of Dakota curriculum, she was not happy about the assignments at all.  It has been a struggle some days to get her to do the writing.  Reading the assigned pages was never a problem.  She loves to read and was able to go through the readers quite quickly.  The notebooking was a strain though.  She hated it and we just couldn’t find a middle ground.  So, I went back to the drawing board to find ways for her to learn the material and do some writing, but not the volume that the lesson manual suggested.  Another problem that came up this year was that the suggested math curriculum was far to generous with the visual aids in the workbooks. She never had to memorize anything since the pictures were right there.  In example, she never had to memorize her addition drills because each problem had a picture to go with it.  To figure out the answers, she only had to look at the pictures and count the items.

So, with all that in mind, I now have a new game plan for next term.  Here is a rundown of what we will be doing.  Pookie will be doing a combination of things.  The main focus of his lessons will be the Letter of the Week curriculum by Erika of Confessions of a Homeschooler.  The curriculum is designed for 26 weeks of lessons, one letter of the alphabet being the focus of each week.  Because Pookie needs longer than that, I am going to be doing the lessons as a 2-weeks per letter plan.  The curriculum comes complete with a weekly lesson plan.  There are about 10 activities per day as scheduled in the planner pages.  To make it a 2-week schedule, Pookie will do half of the activities each day.  Because he loves to listen to books being read, I am finding lapbooks that fit the lesson plans of the Letter of the Week curriculum.  Some lapbooks are free at Homeschool Share and others will be purchased from Knowledge Box Central.  I love the lapbooks from Knowledge Box.  You can buy them either in book form, with all the components ready to cut out and assemble in your lapbook or in PDF format to print out yourself.  I get the PDF format so that I can print out more than one copy of some page elements if needed.  Both the Letter of the Week curriculum and the Lapbooks will offer Pookie fine motor skill development activities along with teaching him.  Many of the activities can easily be considered Montessori in the approach.  To round out his daily activities, I will be adding into the routine some additional Montessori style activities for him to do.  These will mainly be things that address an area that needs more attention.

Little Miss will be doing the My Father’s World – Exploring Countries and Cultures curriculum as the base of her studies.  For Language Arts and Math, we have chosen to use Christian Light Publications Light Units Programs.  Basically, the year’s entire curriculum is broken down into 10 workbooks which they refer to as Light Units.  For her reading program, we are going to be using more extensive lapbooks.  These are not the simple file folder variety, but are printed worksheets that I am currently printing and binding into workbooks.  Each chapter of the books read will have some activity or worksheet to correspond with it.  One great example of this is the set of notebooking pages for the book, Pagoo, by Holling C. Holling, on Homeschool Share.  Another great resource is the Knowledge Box Central.

That is is, thus far.  I am wanting to pursue the Keepers of the Faith program for both kids where possible.  We let that go back burner for a time, but I am wanting to get back into that.  The award pins that the kids earned previously really was a great incentive.  I love that the program is both for academic achievements and other skills.  Definitely worth doing with them.  One of the things that Little Miss is most proud of is her banner of award pins.  Pookie also has one with a few pins on it.  I will always remember when he got his first one.  He carried it around, looking at it and smiling.  It meant so much to him.  I have made a point ever since to buy pins for places we have gone.  One that he likes is when he got a badge from the zoo after feeding the giraffes.  Most museums and attractions have some type of badge or pin that you can buy at the gift shops.  Taking that little step of getting the award pins and badges has really been a source of pride and achievement for both kids.  It is something that we will be continuing through the next term.

 

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As you can tell, I am on a Montessori theme lately.  One of the adventures that we have been undertaking with Pookie is to incorporate activities that he does in Occupational therapy into his homeschooling experience. It seems a natural fit. Any parent who has a special needs child can tell you that the more practice their child gets at home, the better the progress in their therapy and development. One of the things that I quickly noticed is that many of the activities that he is doing at his OT sessions can be adapted into a Montessori style activities.

Marie Montessori’s methods of teaching a child involved allowing the child to experience the world around them without a lot of interference with adults telling them what to do. She felt that the child’s natural curiosity would lead them in their learning. Having an autistic child, I know that leaving him to follow his own interests without guidance would be a disaster. Pookie gets bored way too easily and honestly doesn’t seem to have the natural ability to look at a toy or activity and start using it. Put him in a room full of toys and he will either sit down to do nothing or he will wander in circles. He doesn’t interact with toys the way a neuro-typical child would. He never has. You have to literally teach him over time how to play with a toy or do an activity. This is why I refer to what we are doing as Montessori-style homeschooling.

In a typical Montessori learning environment, a child is given a selection of activities to choose from. The child then picks and chooses what activities interest them. It gives them the opportunity to explore what draws their attention. The problem is, Pookie would likely not learn anything that way.

I love the hands-on nature of the Montessori activities. That is a good fit for the way Pookie learns. He is also very tactile driven and will seek out things that have an interesting texture or feature. Items that have movement, such as a puzzle board with hinges, are another interest of his. Cause and effect puzzles are especially helpful in teaching Pookie. A favorite at his OT appointments is when he is putting together a Melissa and Doug puzzle with sound. Each piece of these puzzles makes a noise that corresponds to the puzzle piece. Exploring his world through the activities provided will help Pookie to learn as well as simply have fun while building his fine motor development.

In our home, I am making activities available for him just as a Montessori learning center would have. The only difference is that because of the nature of his autism, I also have to provide a visual schedule to guide him through the activities. This is where the Montessori style becomes more like a TEACCH environment. In TEACCH, the child follows a visual schedule as they move from task to task. In the homeschool setting, the routine and structure of following the visual schedule is a necessity for Pookie to be able to function. It gives him a sense of beginning and end to each activity as well as being an aid in transitioning from one activity to another.

So, with all of that in mind, I have been planning out Pookie’s work station or what Montessori would call a learning center. I am on the hunt for a child size table that will be adjustable in height so that it will grown with him and serve as a school desk later on. I am also looking at options for shelves to organize his daily tasks on. I thought about using trays, but may use shallow, plastic bins instead.

I am designing a communication board to place on the wall. I have been debating on whether to continue will using Velcro to attach the PECS pictures to the board or maybe use magnet tape instead. I finally decided that I am not going to get Velcro anymore. The cost is definitely a factor. So, I am going to get him a magnetic white board to use as his communication board. On this, I can arrange his daily schedule. Self-adhesive magnet tape will work well on the backs of the laminated PECS pictures. This will be an experiment to see how well he does with them. He is really getting good at using PECS and does well with them at his speech therapy sessions.

Unlike the more traditional Montessori setup, Pookie will have 10 -12 activities each day to work on. Some may be as simple as a puzzle, while others will be more challenging. The key idea for me is to give him activities that will help him with his fine motor development as well as teaching him. Offering a variety of things to do will go far in helping him to progress.

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