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Now that we have our curriculum chosen and ready to purchase for next term, I have been looking over our daily routine. What has worked? What areas need to be adjusted? Are there things that need to be omitted?

Our year started out with a very rigid schedule. After all, are we not told that kids who have autism thrive on structure? Well, one part of that equation is that I didn’t take into account our daughter, who is not on the spectrum. What works great for one child, didn’t always work well for the other. It really brought home to me just how different kids can be. I have homeschooled before. My two oldest sons, now in their 20’s, were homeschooled for about 6 years. I realized that they spoiled me. Both were on similar schedules and did well on it. I gave the younger one a daily assignment sheet to check off as he went through his assignments. The older son was given a weekly assignment sheet since he was old enough to not be intimidated by it.

With Little Miss and Pookie, the routines are very different. Pookie does best on a set routine. Little Miss is my free spirit. Some subjects need more structure than others. One thing that both have in common is that they love their outdoor breaks.

I have had to really relax the scheduling for Little Miss. The strict structuring just became a thorn in her side that wouldn’t let up. On some days, her focus on the harder subjects was best in the mornings. On other days, her focus was better in the afternoons. So, she needed a routine that would allow for that.

For Little Miss, I gave her a weekly assignments sheet. She could do the assignments in the order she wanted, yet knew what had to be done by week’s end. This worked out well. She loves to read and would get frustrated by the short daily readings. By letting her read the entire week’s assignments at one time, she was more content. She also likes to do her timeline and similar projects all at once. To her, it is tedious work that she doesn’t enjoy. So, I let her make all the entries at one time, if she chooses to do so. By giving her the week’s assignments, she is also learning a valuable skill. She is becoming better at time management. She knows, by experience, that once Wednesday rolls around, if her work isn’t being done, she has to work all the harder the rest of the week to get it completed on time. Yes, she has had a few times where her time management wasn’t up to par and when Saturday came around, she had to spend the day getting caught up. She learned from it though and has made major improvements since then.

Pookie is still on a set routine. We do a few activities, then he has a snack/lunch break and free time for about an hour. Giving him the time to play outdoors allows him to get the wiggles out of his system. He is able to come back to his work and focus better. Our school routine with Pookie goes like this. In the morning, he plays outside or gets an hour of video time if the weather is bad. Then we cuddle on the couch and do his lessons from the Memoria Press Simply Classical curriculum. Those lessons take us until lunch time. After his lunch break, we do Montessori style activities and arts & crafts. By 3pm, both kids are finished and have the rest of the afternoon to play or use their tablets.

By using this routine, both kids are getting their schooling done and the days go much smoother. Our son has all the structure he needs, while our daughter has the more relaxed routine that she thrives on. This is one of the things I love the most about homeschooling. We are able to tailor the school day to fit the needs of each child. By doing so, each is given the opportunity to progress at the pace that they need. Another benefit for Little Miss is that we have set into place time both in morning and afternoon for me to go over her work with her if she needs any help or explanations.

With this routine working well for the kids now, I will likely keep with it unless something comes up to change it. Little Miss will be using a different style curriculum next year, so adjustments may need to be made. Time will tell. Until then, we will keep on with what is working.

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Therapy Changes

Pookie is still going to the same therapy center he has attended now for 2.5 years.  He has 3 new therapists.  Two had changed jobs and the third had moved out of state.  It has definitely been a time of change for him.  He likes his new therapists.  They seem to be a good match.

This coming week, his new orthodic shoes will arrive.  Hopefully along with the new orthodic inserts, he will stop toe walking.  All this toe walking is causing his calves and tendons to tighten too much.  It also is leading to more pain when he is on his feet too much.

The OT also has ordered a couple of hand braces for him.  He is not using one hand, keeping it closed all the time.  The other hand, he is starting to keep his little finger tucked behind the others.  So, he will wear the braces part of the time to encourage him to extend the fingers.

I thank the Lord for therapists who take action on these things so effectively.  

The kids are over half way through their school year, so now is when I am actively looking for the materials that they will be using next term. Do we stay with the company we are currently using curriculum from or do we make changes? Here is the breakdown of what we have learned. I will start with Little Miss, then do Pookie’s curriculum.

Little Miss has been using the Adventure’s program from My Father’s World (MFW). We chose this because is said to give a good foundation in U.S. History. We also were using Christian Light for the Language Arts and Math courses.

The MFW program has a lot of reading and hands-on when compared to other curriculum. The problem lies in the fact that the written work is very minimal. This resulted in Little Miss not getting enough writing practice to help in spelling words, creative writing, or even journaling. Most writing is either a very short 2-3 sentences, copywork, or making a short notation on a timeline. This didn’t go over very well with us, so we ended up going to Mardel’s Christian Book store and buying both a handwriting workbook and a spelling course.

We chose to get her Language Arts and Math from Christian Light. We learned previously that the suggested Singapore math course was not a good choice. Singapore skips along too quickly on key math foundational skills that does not provide enough practice of skills being learned. By switching to Christian Light, her math skills have improved. She is getting the practice needed and is learning more than she had with Singapore. The Language Arts program is also a very well presented course. She has been making much more progress than she was before.

The reading schedules in MFW was disappointing. Little Miss loves to read and the 2-3 page reading assignments just frustrated her. She became discouraged to the point of not wanting to read the assigned pages at all. With MFW, there are no book reports. Either you write a few sentences about the day’s reading, or you talk about it. Little Miss began struggling with remembering what she read. She just wasn’t into it. So, I had to come up with ideas to help her remember what she was reading. I found a free printable brainstorming form online. It has a large oval in the center. Around this are several medium sized circles with lines connecting them to the large oval. For each circle, there are several smaller circles connected with lines as well. In the center, she wrote the topic of the reading assignment. In the medium circles, she wrote a fact or event about the main topic. The smaller circles were for supporting information. This helps her organize her thoughts better.

The backbone of the MFW program was its history course with science and geography tied in. The main focus in History was the formation of our country and each state, as it entered into the Union. I was disappointed to see that the notebook pages for the states were simply coloring pages. There was a space for a sticker of the state flag in an upper corner. The informational part of the page was a reading on the back. This was way too simple. It seemed more like something a much younger grade level would have done. It would have been so much better to have the reading with a notebook page on which she could record state vital information, draw the flag herself, and maybe a blank map of the US for her to color in where that state is located. It was disappointing that many of the basic fundamentals were missing. So, again, I had to supplement with more appropriate materials. By the time I purchased supplemental materials for the curriculum, I spent nearly double on her curriculum than I should have. The added expense was something we had not budgeted for. In the end of the day, I can honestly say that we won’t be using MFW again.

We have already chosen her curriculum for next term. I will be heading to a homeschool curriculum book store where I can look at the materials before making the final choice. Once the final decision is made, I will post about it sometime after convention.

Pookie’s curriculum has been a constantly evolving process. He truly is a child that cannot be placed into a specific curriculum group. In many ways, he is still extremely delayed in his development. Yet, he is very quick to learn in some areas. Because he is so “all over the place” in his development and ability to retain information, I have to use multiple approaches with him.

Pookie is using the Simply Classical curriculum from Memoria Press, the Letter of the Week program from Erika of the Confessions of a Homeschooler blog, and Montessori style activities. Each of these provides a specific need that he has in his academic and developmental growth.

Simply Classical is written to fit a developmental age, not a grade level. It is presented in a way that can be used with special needs children who are severely delayed. The first level, Level A, is for children with a developmental age of 2-3 years. Pookie’s occupational therapist tested him and he is rated at being 25 months of age developmentally. With that in mind, the skills taught in Level A are a good match for him. I love that the program’s lesson planner includes a detailed list of the developmental skills taught in the program. I provided this list to his therapists at the therapy center and they are able to see at a glance what he will be working on. They are also able to include some of those developmental skill goals into his therapies. Pookie loves the lessons from this program. They include a lot of time snuggled up with a book with Momma as I read the books to him and he points to various objects in the illustrations. He is learning the early math basics as well as phonics.

The Letter of the Week curriculum is fun. Erika did a great job putting this together. The lesson plans are very detailed and all worksheets are provided. You only have to print them out yourself. We use these worksheets as a method of not only reinforcing the lessons in the Simply Classical program, but also as a way to teach Pookie to work independently. I get him started, then am gradually fading back so that he is doing more and more without my aid.

The Montessori style activities are probably one of the things Pookie looks forward to the most. I have sensory bins for him to play in, fine motor activities, and puzzles. We also do some crafts as well.

These programs are going to be something we do for some time. As he gets further along, I will introduce more challenging materials, but this style of learning seems t fit him best at this time. I do not see us changing it too much. The only changes that I see ahead are buying the Level B program from Simply Classical and the Pre-K or Kindergarten program from Erika. The Montessori style activities will grow with him as well.

One note of interest: to my knowledge, the Simply Classical program is the only curriculum available that is set up according to developmental ability or age. If there are other special needs curricula out there, I have not yet found them. Typically, a special education class will use preschool materials as a starting point. This program addresses a need prior to a child being able to use the skills necessary to do preschool work, which is comprised of a lot of coloring, cutting, and pasting.

Back from a Hiatus

Have taken a break from blogging.  Lots of changes happened and I just didn’t have the time or focus to blog as I had been hoping to do.

I am back to a better routine now and ready to take blogging on again.

I’m writing a blog post tonight that I will upload tomorrow.  Blogging from the phone app is just not as convenient as I had hoped.  Especially when writing longer ones.

A month ago, Little Miss sent out her flat traveler to another homeschooling family in DeMotte, Indiana.

On Saturday, the traveler returned with wonderful tales about her visit with the Purdy family. Little Miss was so excited when she checked the mailbox. She came running back to me, “I got a package Momma! I haven’t got a package in the mail in ever so long.” (Can you tell from her wording that she loves reading the Anne of Green Gables story? LOL)

Her traveler was one of the many free printable paper dolls found on the MakingFriends.com website. This site is one that girl scouts use for making crafts. They also have a large selection of paper dolls that you can print out, along with a large selection of clothes to choose from. You can make boy or girl dolls. The clothing comes separately so that you can cut out what you want to dress the dolls anyway you wish. There are even uniforms and clothing for various careers, costumes for holidays, and even religious dolls, such as outfits to make a paper doll Nativity set.

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Little Miss was so excited at the return of her traveler that she was dancing around and hugging the traveler. Out of many sent out over the past couple of years, this is the second one she has had return.

The Purdy family had a lot of fun with the little traveler. They went on outings, such as the Nutcracker Ballet, a candy factory, and a small dairy goat farm. During the visit, the Purdy family had their first heavy snow of the season and took the traveler sledding.

Little Miss was touched so much by how careful the Purdy’s 4 year old daughter took such great care to dress the traveler warmly in doll clothes and tuck her into a doll bed to sleep at night. After Thanksgiving, the family put up their Christmas tree and the traveler was given the honor of being an ornament on the tree for a time.

In the package the traveler returned in, there was a lengthy letter telling about all of the adventures that the traveler got to participate in. They also included some information about Indiana, including maps showing where the traveler had visited. On a very sweet note, the Purdy’s also included a cardinal Christmas ornament, some candy and a brochure from the candy factory, and a jar of Orville Redenbacher popcorn. We learned that Orville Redenbacher was from a county in Indiana not far from the Purdy’s home. Lastly, there was a very special gift bag in the box. It contained a Mickey Mouse door magnet and a pair of pirate earrings that were gifts from the cruise.

Little Miss is thrilled. She loved looking through and reading everything that was sent. In the letter, there were a lot of pictures taken with the traveler. What a fun adventure the traveler had. We are so grateful to them for hosting her.

Therapy Changes

One of the things that I love about the therapy center that Little Man goes to each week is that all of the therapies are done in one day.  On therapy day, he has 1  hour of occupational therapy, 45 minutes of physical therapy (working him up to having a full hour soon), and then after a lunch break, he has speech therapy.  It has been a blessing to have it all in one place on one day.  We travel 79 miles from home to get the therapies.

On the downside, he has had a very inconsistent year over the past 12 months.  A year ago, in December, his physical therapist went on maternity leave until about mid-late January.  Immediately after her return, his occupational therapist went on her maternity leave for a month.  Within a couple of months after that, the physical therapist quit her job so that she could have more time at home with her baby.  The new physical therapist worked with Little Man for a short time before having back surgery.

It was shortly after this time that hubby changed jobs and started driving truck for an OTR trucking company.  This meant that Daddy went from being home every night to him being away from home for at least 4 weeks at a time.

Little Man’s physical therapist recovered from her surgery and finally returned.  Everything seemed to calm down for a couple of months until this past autumn.  His occupational therapist let me know that she was moving out of state in October.  A week after she moved, his physical therapist changed jobs as well.  So, here we are with a new occupational therapist and physical therapist.  Both seem to be a good fit for him and he is working well with each of them.

I am just looking forward to him having some continuity in his therapies so that he can progress better.  Those with autism have a really difficult time dealing with changes in routine.  This past year has been a testing time for Little Man.  He has come through it pretty well, all things considered.  Here is to praying that this next year is more settled in his therapies than the past year has been!

A couple of months ago, I learned of a program that Memoria Press has for special needs children. To my knowledge this is the first of its kind. When Little Man was first diagnosed to have autism with very significant developmental delays, I began a 3 year search for a school or homeschool curriculum that was designed for special needs children. Again and again, the answers were always the same when I spoke to the publishing companies. Either they suggested preschool materials or they knew of nothing that was available. The problem was (and continues to be) that Little Man is not capable of doing a preschool curriculum as it is written for typical children. Preschool curriculum usually is designed to include a lot of tracing, cutting with scissors, pasting, coloring, counting, and other early academic skills. Many special needs children are unable to do those things, which leads back to the original question. What do we use to teach a child with significant developmental or physical delays?

As I looked through various homeschool catalogs that arrived in our mail, I noticed that Memoria Press has a program called, Simply Classical. The program levels are as follows:

Level A – for age 2-3 years

Level B – for age 3-4 years

Level C – for age 4-5 years

Level 1 – for age 5 years

The ages given are not looked upon as only the child’s physical age. The program is designed to match the child’s levels in cognitive, language, and motor skill development. In our case, Little Man is testing at the developmental age of 25 months by his occupational therapist. So, the program’s Level A is perfect for him. It will given him just enough challenge in the fine motor skills area to help him progress, yet not be overwhelming.

One of the things that has drawn me to using this curriculum with Little Man is that they have a list for each level of program levels A, B, and C, of the developmental skills that are addressed and taught in that particular level. I was able to print out a copy of the list and give it to Little Man’s OT and now, she is able to include many of these things into the therapy sessions. As she looked through the list, she found them to be on target for what she was planning to work towards. A few of the skills, he is just beginning to learn, but most are ones we will be teaching him as we go along through the curriculum.

The curriculum is based upon a 4-day week schedule. This perfectly matches up with Little Miss’ curriculum from My Father’s World. Being that we have one day each week devoted to traveling 79 miles from home to take Little Man to his therapies, the 4-day week works out perfectly. On the 5th day, we go on an outing or do extra activities that blend in with the lessons of the week.

On the website, I was able to print out a Supply List for the Level A program. Much of what I saw on the list are basic art supplies. I already have nearly everything on the list. They went to the effort to offer options for many of the items. For drawing paper, in example, they list two different brands that are highly recommended. Play dough is another item that they include, but they also provide a recipe to make your own. At the end of the list, there is a special section listing items recommended for fine motor skill development, gross motor, sensory play, and problem solving.

When the order arrived, I was thrilled to see a box filled with colorful board books. Little Man loves these. While he is able to handle paper books without tearing them, the board books are going to be even better in the long run. Often, they have more vibrant colors, which he enjoys. I have often noticed that the more colorful a book is, the more time he spends looking through it. This is one reason why he spends long periods of time looking through photo albums.

The lesson plans are very simple to follow. Everything is very detailed on one page. It is in grid format without extra pages to flip through. For record keeping purposes, I am making a photocopy of the lesson plan pages, which I will have in a binder. When opened, the lesson plan grid will be on the page to the left of the binding and a lined page for notes will be on the right. This will allow me to make notes about his progress as we go along. If there are any activities which he has difficulty in doing, I can make a notation. At the end of the year, I will have a detailed portfolio of his daily work. Another reason for the lined page is to give me space to list Montessori activities, Letter of the Week pages, or any other projects that we work on each day. One advantage of having the copy for my records is that I can reuse the same lesson manual as often as necessary until the skills being focused upon are achieved.

I am still at a big of a quandary in the academic part of things. Little Man is firmly at a developmental age of 25 months where his fine motor skills and some cognitive skills are concerned. However, he is also able to learn things that a 25 month old would not be able to do. So, I am still using Montessori activities and the Letter of the Week curriculum from Confessions of a Homeschooler. Both will also help his fine motor development. They will also be providing more academic learning than Simply Classical Level A program will give.

I have learned over the summer, that taking break from the homeschool routine does not work with him. He lost momentum over the summer as well as now having to relearn some of the things he had done last school term. This is not unusual. Even typical kids can lose a bit of ground. They get out of the routine and habits that they were using in the previous school term. So, in the beginning of a new school year, the habits have to be reestablished. With some special needs children, this issue can be more problematic. Some kids simply cannot take that long break without it having negative affects. Little Man is one of those kids. He has to stay on the routine of homeschooling year round to make the best amount of progress.