Posts Tagged ‘curriculum’

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.

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With a new school year comes a new chapter in our lives. Little Miss is becoming quite the young lady. She is such a sweet spirit and a joy to have in our family. I am already noticing a maturity in her this school term that hasn’t been there previously. Now, she has become much more independent in her studies. We have a morning meeting each day. In this meeting, I briefly go over her lesson schedule for the day, making note of what subjects she should come to me for further assistance. Once we conclude, she takes her assignment notebook, sits at her desk, and gets started.

We are still using the 10-drawer cart for her curriculum materials. We don’t follow the workbox system so much with her anymore. Instead, each subject has a permanent home in one of the drawers. She uses her assignment notebook and simply works her way down the list. I purposely scheduled her lessons so that those she needs the most assistance with are scheduled for a time of day when I am finished working with Little Man.

For Little Miss’ curriculum, we have chosen to use My Father’s World: Adventures in US History as the foundational theme for the year. Though designed for 3rd grade, we are beefing up the lessons to a 4th grade level. It is actually very easy to do when you consider that the curriculum only covers history, geography, and science. Those topics are easy to adjust to the 4th grade by increasing the reading assignments and what is expected in her weekly projects. The reason for this choice is that it will provide a good foundation before we begin studying world cultures next term, which will begin early summer, 2016, since we homeschool year round.

My Father’s World uses a cycle called “Investigate” from 4th grade through 8th grade. The cycle looks like this:

Exploring Countries and Cultures

Creation to the Greeks

Rome to the Reformation

Exploration to 1850

1850 to Modern Times

With us homeschooling year round, with very few breaks, by the time Little Miss is ready to start high school, she will have already completed all the levels of the above curriculum.

Here is a rundown of her curriculum for the year.

Bible My Father’s World

Language Arts English Christian Light Publishing

Spelling ACIS Spelling Workbook

Writing Cursive Handwriting workbook

History & Geography My Father’s World

Mathematics Christian Light Publishing

Science My Father’s World

Reading Unit Studies based upon literature read

Art I Can Do All Things, art curriculum

Foreign Language Sign Language

Music My Father’s World

We are loving the time doing US History this year. There is so much that she is going to be learning about each state, as well as the founding and establishing of our nation. It is a really good overview of our country’s history before tackling the world cultures next term, then world history the following 4 terms.

Little Man is starting a completely new adventure of his own. I will write about his curriculum in detail next post.

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After a really crazy spring, we are starting to settle in to a busy summer.  We were blessed with a LOT of rain.  Two tornadoes side swiped our home but left no damage.  We mainly got the rain, high winds, and hail.  The tornadoes passed within 4 miles of our home each time.  Four miles may seem a good distance, but can be awfully close when you are talking about tornadoes.  There were downed trees at neighbors near our home and other minor damage.  We were lucky.  We have had some flooding issues, but the house sits high enough on a hill that it was spared any damage from that as well.

Now, the weather is starting to warm up and it is beginning to feel more like summer.  Thankfully, the intense heat hasn’t come yet.  After all the rain, the humidity is high as the ground dries out.

Little Miss has finished her schooling for last term and has already (at her request) begun her next school term lessons.  She is wanting to school year round and take more breaks throughout the year.  We school on a 4-day per week schedule.  With Little Man having therapies one day a week, this works out well.  On therapy day, Little Miss does her reading assignments or takes another assignment with her to do while Little Man is in his Occupational, Physical, and Speech therapy sessions.

It makes for a busy week, but we are enjoying it.  We are keeping the weekends completely free so that we can enjoy family time while Daddy is home.  On Saturdays, we do the outdoor chores and have fun together.  This leaves Sundays free to travel to the city and attend church services.

I am looking at a new curriculum that Little Man’s Occupational therapist is excited about.  I found out that Memoria Press has a Special Needs curriculum and showed it to her.  This curriculum is designed to go by the developmental age of the child and works on specific developmental skills each level of the program.  I love that I was able to print out the list of skills each level works on.  Armed with this, I am able to work with his OT and come up with goals to work towards.  She can see at a glance what areas we are focusing on and use this information in preparing for her sessions with Little Man.

I am still incorporating elements of Montessori into Little Man’s schooling as well as using the Letter of the Week curriculum from Confessions of a Homeschooler.

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A short time ago, I posted that we were over-hauling the plans for next school term.  Well, I finally have all curriculum purchased and am awaiting delivery of the ordered supplies.  We made a couple of small changes to the plans.  One being that Little Miss is going to do a different program from My Father’s World instead of their ECC program.  Had we gone ahead with ECC, she would have repeated one year of it before going on to high school later on.  So, with that in mind, here is a rundown of what is planned for the kids.

Pookie is going to be doing Preschool/PreK next term.  As I mentioned in a previous post, his developmental age is that of a 2 year old.  With that in mind, I have chosen a curriculum that is based upon his developmental age, not his physical age.  I have to be certain that he is understanding and retaining the knowledge for this level before going forward.  Here is a listing of what he will be using.  Most of the materials that Pookie will be using are hands-on and will have a Montessori style adaptation to challenge his fine motor development.

Letter of the Week curriculum by Erica of Confessions of a Homeschooler.  This curriculum teaches through hands-on activities that focus on the letter recognition, sounds, number recognition, counting, basic math skills, pre-writing practice, as well as giving fine motor skill practice that will help prepare for Kindergarten.

K4 Curriculum, also by Erica.  This is a very well designed full Kindergarten curriculum that can easily be used along with the Letter of the Week phonics lessons for review.  The lessons in this program include all the basics that you would need including math, reading, writing, motor skills, sight words, art, music, and much more.   I love that I will be able to use materials from both of these curricula to give Pookie a great assortment of educational activities.  Both of these programs are available as a download or can be purchased on CD.

Knowledge Box Central has a large selection of lapbooks that can give deeper understanding to books read.  You can find lapbooks and activities for kids of all ages by searching according to age, subject, or other categories.  One of my favorite products that they offer are the sorting pockets.  They are very similar to a Montessori style activity and can be assembled in a file folder to make a game.

Homeschool Share has a huge assortment of lapbooks and unit studies available for free.  If you look at the “Index” tab, you can find listings of all the materials organized by age group.  Level one contains preschool (age 2-4) resources that include unit studies, file folder games, and lapbooks.  Level two is designed for PreK – Kindergarten (age 4-6) and contains Unit studies, Kindergarten units, and Lapbooks.  There are also levels for older children as well for the older siblings.

Little Miss will be using curriculum from My Father’s World and Christian Light Publications.

Adventures in U.S. History will be the backbone of her curriculum.  The program includes the following subjects:  Bible, US History and Geography, Science, Art, and Music.

Language Arts 300 series by Christian Light Publications teaches grammar, spelling, and penmanship.  It goes into the parts of speech, sentence diagramming, and other basics to help her gain a good foundation in creative writing and the English language.

Math, 300 series by Christian Light Publications teaches not only the basic math operations, but will also be teaching her the metric system along side of the US measurement system.

We also have a couple of workbooks that we found at Mardel’s Christian book store in their education department that will further give her lessons in spelling and cursive writing.

One subject that I have been looking at is foreign language.  For this, I am going to teach Little Miss to use sign language.  It is vital that she learns to be fluent in signing due to it being taught to Pookie to aid him in communication.  Not only will it help her to be able to communicate with him, but she can also serve as an interpreter if needed.


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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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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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The past few weeks have been a blast. I have been doing a more relaxed homeschooling with the kids and they are thriving on it. I haven’t written too much about it due to not knowing if I would continue with this method. To my surprise and enjoyment, both kids are having fun and learning much.

We are still following the curriculum that we chose earlier, but are more informal is how we use it. For example, the math curriculum that we initially chose turns out to not be a very good fit. While I am sure that many love the Singapore math, I find that after a year of using it, Little Miss’ lessons still are not covering topics that we feel she should have done. We do a lot of hands-on math and she loves it. Having had a break from the workbooks, she goes to them eagerly now when we do a lesson from them. In between, I am teaching her other math topics that I feel the curriculum passed over too quickly. A couple of examples being skip counting and multiplication tables. Halfway through her 2nd year in Singapore and they still haven’t tackled those topics yet. Definitely will be choosing a different curriculum for math soon.

We focus more on Little Miss’ lesson plans and bring Pookie into it. He has his own workbox activities, but the topics of his lessons run along the lines of Little Miss’ daily work. It has been a much more effective way to go. He sits and listens to the daily reading assignments as well as sitting in as Little Miss and I discuss what was read. We include him in any projects that we do and he seems to enjoy that. I know that he is absorbing the information presented at least in part.

After Little Miss’ lessons are done, we all play with Pookie and work together to help him with his workboxes. One task that he likes to do is the pattern block pictures. He sits and does his puzzle while Little Miss sits beside him playing with her own pattern block puzzles. Art projects, science experiments and other activities are also done with Pookie taking part in what Little Miss is doing.

While Little Miss is doing the curriculum at her level, Pookie is getting the exposure to it at a level that matches his abilities. I am so excited. It is a much more peaceful way to learn for all involved. I can’t wait to see just how this works in the long term.

Some of the long term projects that the kids are doing include Flat Travelers.  I mentioned these in a previous post.  The kids made their travelers using the free paper dolls available at the Making Friends website.  Along with little journals, these travelers have been mailed out to other states and even countries.  Each new destination becomes a geography lesson for Little Miss.  She is keeping a binder of her traveler’s adventures and for Pookie, I am putting together a scrapbook as well.  He loves to look through the pictures and items that they receive with their travelers. In some cases, the items received can be added to a sensory bin for him.  One good example was a sweet friend of our went on vacation to a beach and brought back shells, sand, dried sea weed, and other items that she found at the beach.  Pookie loves to pick up the shells and star fish to look at them and feel their textures.  What a great learning experience for him!  For Little Miss, she enjoys the items but also loves reading the journal entries about the travelers’ adventures.

It is so rewarding to see the excitement that the kids have towards learning.  Little Miss is now learning to use our old Netbook to type up emails to friends and family.  This gives her keyboarding practice as well.  Soon, we will be adding some educational software to the Netbook so that the kids can play the games.

The workboxes are still a major part of our homeschooling.  We use them for keeping lessons organized as well as to store materials for each day’s projects.  I love the convenience of being able to load the workboxes in the evening and have them ready for the next day.  It makes for a much more efficient and productive experience as well.

Little Miss has been enjoying the more laid back approach.  She gets far more accomplished this way.  Pookie is still much more structured in how we approach his schooling.  Being autistic, he needs the routine far more than a typical child.  In fact, we have noticed lately that he is requiring even more structure than a year ago.  It works out well.  In between lessons that he can take part in, I have him doing other Montessori style activities to build on his fine motor development.

With the upcoming holiday season upon us, we will be incorporating the history of the holidays into our lessons.  Already, I am planning out the holiday themed art projects that the kids will be doing.  Handmade gifts and ornaments are among the activities.  As we work on the various projects, we talk about the lessons of the day.  An example of this is the first Thanksgiving story.  We are learning about how it was celebrated.  What foods did they eat?  If possible, we will be trying out some of those foods as a part of our own celebration.

There are many ways to homeschool.  We have only begun to learn the possibilities of how we can make learning an exciting adventure for our whole family.


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At some point in every homeschool family, you will have a moment where something in the curriculum just doesn’t click. You can be going along very well, then suddenly, you hit a snag. What do you do?

We recently hit two such snags. Our daughter doesn’t like to write……at all. It is a real struggle some days just to get her to do the minimal amount of writing. So, what do you do when the curriculum your child otherwise enjoys just happens to be heavy on the writing? Here is what we have started doing.

The first thing is to go ahead with the lessons of the curriculum but to do them lapbook style instead of notebooking. She still has to do some writing, but it is far less than before. I am also considering allowing her to use my laptop to type some of her lessons. For example, instead of having to copy a poem by hand, she will type it up. This will also give her keyboarding practice.

Even though she may not be doing as much actual writing, she is still learning. The longer that I homeschool Little Miss, the more I realize that the same techniques that work on Pookie are the ones that help her learn best as well. She thrives on hands-on projects as well as being a visual learner. This is one aspect of homeschooling that I love. As I recognize a learning style that is needed, I can make adjustments that a school setting would not have the freedom to do.

The second snag we hit is in math. The program she is using alternates from being too slow to being fast. We hit a fast stretch in which a new math concept was taught. She hit a wall rather quickly with that. So, we have set aside the math workbook and are teaching the lessons through hands-on. For example, when learning fractions, instead of focusing only on the workbook assignments, she is using measuring cups or fraction puzzle pieces to see how they all fit together. We also can use the puzzle pieces to teach adding and subtracting of fractions.

She is still on track as far as keeping up with her curriculum, we just do it using a different approach. As we go along, she is learning far easier and retaining the information much better than previously.

As for her writing? Well, we are doing a Flat Traveler project to help with that. She has a set of forms to fill out about the area her traveler goes to. She also hand writes the letters that are mailed with the traveler. I have bought her a journal to start keeping as well. This will give her the writing practice that she needs each day.

Each child learns differently. As home educators, it is our job to learn how each child best is able to learn the lessons before them and to present the information in a way that reaches the child best. Gradually, we begin increasing the assignments that the child has difficulty with, but only after they have mastered each new level. Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. That is how each of us learns best. One step at a time. Steadily moving forward until we reach the highest level obtainable to us.

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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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