Wednesday, October 29, 2008

First snowflakes of the season spotted...

Light snow is falling here--I tried to capture a picture of it for you, but the flakes are too tiny for the camera to pick up.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

First cursive (still more to share today!) / active roles and passive roles

After several attempts to begin the Peterson Handwriting Program today, I found, with some trial and error, something that is a great scaffold for a child who may be affected by both attention issues and movement/motor issues: I sat in the floor and my daughter sat in my lap, and she wrapped her hand around mine as I "air wrote" our first letter today. She was able to feel the motion through mine, and without my asking her to, she began to take the lead and move my hand through the motions. And her approximations of the cursive lowercase letter "t" began to resemble cursive lowercase "t's" instead of capital print upside down V's. (yeah!) The transformation of her letters was quite exciting once I figured out one way to help her "air write" and feel that movement.

Next time, I may sit in a chair and have her stand beside me in a way that she can grasp my hand/arm in order to join me in "air writing".

In the past, a lot of intervention with my daughter was done using what is referred to as "HAND OVER HAND", where the adult's hand is on TOP of the child's and guides the child's hand. "Hand-over-hand" is sometimes (often) used as a substitute for attention sharing when the child's ability to share attention with the adult is limited or developmentally delayed. "Hand-over-hand" puts the child in a passive role, letting someone do something *to* him.

What my girl and I did this morning was use my hand UNDER hers, where she could feel my movement, and as I put less effort into my movement, I gave her the opportunity to take responsibility for the movement, and I put her into an ACTIVE role, where she could feel herself taking an action, feel herself making the movements. When I removed my arm and hand from under hers, she was able to "air write" our first cursive letter herself.

The difference between "active role" and "passive role" is a BIG one--please don't miss the distinction.

Cutter's cramp

Is there such a thing as "cutter's cramp", similar to "writer's cramp"?

I began cutting the extremely sturdy letter tiles from the (way cool) All About Spelling curriculum, and *then* I realized that the tiles are just the beginning...I get to cut out the phonogram cards, next. ;)

I need one of those big paper cutters that schools and crafters use--I'd be done in a snap!

In the meantime, I'm pretty sure I have "cutter's cramp"...

Our first cursive lesson

We finally began working with the Peterson Handwriting Program. I received the materials a week-and-a-half ago, late on a Thursday, as I was preparing to leave for a Friday/Saturday conference. With church and small group on Sunday, vision check-up and grocery shopping on Tuesday, and playing catch-up the rest of the week, I spent some time over the past weekend familiarizing myself with the materials and planning a strategy on how I would begin with my daughter.

I discovered a presentation on-line that explains the Peterson Handwriting Program. It is approximately 20 minutes long and explains why Peterson Handwriting uses an exaggerated gross motor movement component and "air writing" that is different from other programs. Check out the internet presentation and take a look for yourself. I'm glad I discovered the presentation and took the time to watch it.

I hope the emphasis on movement as the early steps (and de-emphasis on making the letters wtih pencil and paper in the beginning) will provide both the framework and the scaffolding for my daughter to develop the foundations for cursive.

The lessons are supposed to be 10 minutes long--and, as we begin, ours are going to be shorter, *much* shorter. Ours are going to be approximately two minutes long, and we may sit down five times to get a 10 minute lesson. Over time, we'll do more and more "work" at one sitting.

My daughter's anxiety is our biggest obstacle--she, I suspect, is afraid that what I'm showing her will be too difficult for her. Her anxiety is a sign of stress--and who can actually LEARN when he/she is under stress? So, we will break the early sessions down, to allow her to discover for herself that a) the Peterson handwriting program is broken down into tiny managable steps and b) that she is competent to manage those steps. I know she can handle them, but she does not, and that's a discovery she will have to make for herself, and I must use myself as a trustworthy guide, not only in the instruction of the handwriting program, but also, as a guide to setting the stage so that she can make her own discovery. My challenge, today, is that she's got a sore, red throat, and her anxiety and resistance surface more quickly when she's not feeling her best.

The Rapid Strep Test is NEGATIVE...

We are blessed to have found a local family medicine doctor who has been very recently trained in the DAN! protocol. DAN! stands for "Defeat Autism Now," and the protocol addresses the many medical issues we see alongside a diagnosis of autism.

He is not set up to take DAN! patients yet. But, as a family medicine doctor, he was available last night for a dreaded throat swab--and while my princess's behavior last week was a foreshadowing of the red throat, (something I never put together until we became homeschoolers) and while the throat is shockingly bright red, the rapid strep test is negative. We'll wait to hear from the one they sent to the lab.

My challenge when my girl is sick like this, when she needs more of her energy and attention on shutting out the pain and cruddy feeling of being sick, when she prefers to draw away to herself and shut everyone out, is to keep her engaged for short periods of time without pushing so far that she's frustrated with herself and with me.

Friday, we managed to abandon the Charlotte Mason philosophy entirely, and she did reading and copywork from a Toys R Us toy catalog. She's got quite the Christmas list going! ;)

I have two new curricula to begin with her this week, Peterson Handwriting and All About Spelling. We're going to start the handwriting program today. And since the spelling program arrived yesterday, I've got some reading and some set up (cutting out more than a few letters) to do in preparation for starting later in the week. I'll have to plan the most gentle of starts with both of them.

Now, we need to figure out why the throat thing keeps happening...and help her feel better!

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Visiting the science museum

Today was the last day we could use free passes to a nearby science museum, so we seized the opportunity. The last time we visited this museum was during the summer, and the place was crawling with kids from summer camps and day care facilities--which meant getting to spend time at any one exhibit or hands-on display was impossible.

Today, we took a leisurely stroll through all the exhibits and were able to pause where we wanted to and spend as much time in one place as we wanted to. The building was quiet, today, too.

A PS: My princess seemed a bit withdrawn today at the museum, and she was resistant to my taking her picture. (Her pictures lately have been GREAT, but today, she wasn't interested, which was odd.) When we got home, she pretended to lie down and sleep, and I decided to check her throat. She can't always tell that it's hurting. BRIGHT RED. OUCH. We are going to the doctor at 6 pm tonight.

The bat exhibit is fantastic!
Hi Stellaluna!
Posing with a giant shell.
One of the cool, hands-on displays:
A stuffed penguin in one of the displays
Dinosaur bones!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008


The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Freebie Directory is here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

More goodies arrived...

Spears Art Studio's K-8 art curriculum arrived today. I am looking at it right now, as I type, in another window. I am impressed with it, have already printed out a project to use w/ my daughter tomorrow, and am excited as I look at all the possibilities. The web site has some free lessons here. I'll have a formal review soon, after I've had a chance to use some of it, where I can talk about how we used materials and what modifications we made, if any, for a child on the autism spectrum.

The Peterson Handwriting Program arrived Thursday, and I will sit down with the materials for the first time tonight. (I attended an autism-related conference all day Friday and all day Saturday, and with church and small group on Sunday, appointments and and grocery shopping taking up most of Monday, I am still in a bit of a "catch up" mode today).

And I received part of the All About Spelling curriculum today. The box came damaged and rewrapped by the US Postal Service, so I will have to wait for the other parts to arrive before I can use with with my children. All About Spelling is based upon the Orton Gillingham approach to teaching spelling and I have heard many positive comments about it.

I am working through the lessons for beginning homeschoolers from Knowledge Quest and this morning I began the lesson that walks parents through determining the learning styles of their children. I am enjoying this e-class very much, and am taking my time with it (I *am* a relatively new homeschooler, after all). I very much like the reading recommendations for the parent and have taken the time to get a book recommended by the course developer. Within the lessons of this e-course are links to materials to support the suggestions and content--the course has provided quite a few links to short cuts already (and I have just begun). I sound like a broken record when I say I'm finding new materials that I never knew existed before I became a full-time homeschooler, but it's true!

Another new-to-me resource is the Homeschool Library Builder, an on-line bookstore with some HUGE bargains...check out the $1, $2, and $3 bins!

Copying vs Joining and autism (aka daughter pokes fun because mom is out of shape!)

I was folding clean clothes this morning, quite a lot of them. I gave my daughter the option of playing alongside me or helping me, and she chose to join me by playing alongside me for a while, and a few minutes later, she chose to join me by helping me as I folded the towels and washcloths.

(A side note: way back before we abandoned the discreet trial approach, I had our ABA consultant write a program for folding washcloths. I wanted to give my daughter a skill she could use to join us in something, anything. What I didn't understand was that sitting alongside us and using the copying skill of folding washclothes did not equal, or even come close to, joining us. This morning, as she was playing alongside me, she was joining me, and when she helped me accomplish my chore, she still was joining me, not copying, me.)

We each took a stack of towels and washcloths up two flights of stairs to the bathroom, and my princess dropped a bunch of hers on the way up. I told her we'd go back to get those in a minute, and when we got to the bathroom with what was left of our stacks of towels and washcloths, I was huffin' and puffin' from being out of shape. And my princess told me that I sounded just like a dog panting, and she put her hands in front of her like paws, dropped her tongue out of her mouth, and panted for me, poking fun at me. While I was putting away some of the towels, she said she'd go back for the items she dropped, (and in case you missed it, that's yet another marker of joining instead of copying) and when she came back, she set them down, looked at me with her little poking-fun-at-me-grin, and began to overexaggeratedly huff and puff, quite aware that huffin' and puffin' was not a rigid part of the routine, but a hilarious rendition of the evidence that mom needs to start exercising!

I asked her if she was making fun of me, and she said, YES!!!

Stinker! ;) (I love it!)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

TOS HOMESCHOOL CREW REVIEW: One2Believe Tales of Glory Nativity set

We found a surprise on the front porch today, and it is one of the items I will review for The Old Schoolhouse magazine's focus group.

It is a nativity set, a part of the Tales of Glory series from the company One2Believe. It retails for $24.95 and a google search yielded quite a few places that sell the toys. The set is adorable, there are enough pieces to tell and play out the entire story about the birth of Jesus. The set is attractive, big enough for little hands to grasp, and yet small enough to display on an end table or shelf. The pieces are not fragile and there is no danger of shattered glass from a dropped piece if the kids are moving the pieces around.

This set is recommended for children at least 3 years old, as there are several small parts, and, according to the description on the One2Believe web site, the parts are made from PVC, which may be dangerous to chewers, mouthers, people who need a lot of oral motor sensory input. Please do your research and make your own decision in this regard. (A google search yields quite a bit of information about PVC in toys.)

My daughter was excited to open the set and play with the pieces --and we spent over half an hour with it together, quite impressive for a toy to provide the opportunity of doing something together with mom for that long in one sitting for a child on the autism spectrum. She returned to it many times, too.

The learning opportunities are huge, from parallel play to cooperative play to making a Bible lesson come to life with kid-sized manipulatives. Over the next few months, I will plan Bible verses from the nativity story as copywork. The set reminds me that there are lots of new vocabulary words for us to talk about, from the shepherd's staff to the names of the gifts brought to the Christ Child.

The teensy story book that comes with the nativity tells a child-friendly version of the story that is just long enough to keep the attention and not too long or difficult for those whose habit of attention still needs some work. Charlotte Mason's approach will have us reading the story straight from the Bible, and these little characters will help create a visual to go along with the auditory information.

The nativity set would make a wonderful birthday or Christmas gift for a pre-schooler, or a fun addition to a Sunday School class, as would any of the Old Testament or New Testament based play sets from One2Believe.

We give this one a thumbs up for our family!

An oldie: The Young Man on the Bicycle

I wrote this several years ago--it's an oldie, and I'll post it here in case someone has not yet read it. It sums up part of my journey.

The Man on the Bicycle
by Penny Ray

I was at a busy intersection at rush hour, and I was the driver of the first car stopped at a red light in a left-turn lane. This intersection is always crazy, with people turning right on red from two different locations at the intersection. And drivers ignore red lights, and instead try to push two or three (or more!) cars past the red light in each cycle.

A driver in my left-turn position, can't immediately hit the gas pedal when the green turn arrow appears. Rigidly following rules and laws (The law is go on green, stop on red) don't apply here, where other drivers are ignoring the law and pushing through their red lights and ruining my “green means go” opportunity. I must try to determine the intentions of the other drivers by their speed as their side of the light shifts to yellow.

On this day at the chaotic intersection, my wait for a green turn arrow is complicated by something unexpected. A young man on a bicycle approached on the sidewalk to my right, and his bicycle wheels are pointed to cross in the street directly in front of me.

I watched him as he looked around in all directions, far up the road ahead to see how long the line of traffic turning into his projected path is. He looked at the line of cars turning directly in front of him. The button to prompt the light to change doesn’t seem to work when he presses it. He scanned the situation in all directions again, saw a possible window of opportunity, and he put one foot on a pedal, leaned forward in his seat. I knew that he was preparing to take a chance against the "don't walk" sign. Finally, he looked right at me; we made mindful, meaningful "eye contact" for a moment (except, it wasn't just "eye contact"). He knew that I saw him. That's important, because his safety is at stake. He doesn't want me turning left on my green arrow if he makes a dash across the road in front of me at that same time. In that brief moment, where our eyes touched, we shared an experience. He needed to know that I saw him, needed to know that I recognized his communicative intent to cross that street, because when our eyes touched, I acknowledged that I knew he might try to cross in front of me without regard to the "don't walk" signal.

Watching him, silently, from my car, I "read" all sorts of communicative intent in this young man's body language. We did not have a conversation with spoken words, but I clearly saw meaning in his movements; I clearly saw his intentions, and he saw mine: His body language told me that he knew the intersection is dangerously busy; that he was going to try to cross in front of me; and that he needed to know that I saw him. He knew that I wanted to turn left when I saw the green arrow.

(Interestingly, my two minutes were spent shifting attention between the young man and the traffic lights. I did not consciously think about the experience we shared until after I returned home and sat down to write about it. I didn’t encode the color of his bicycle or his clothing in my memory. Our children on the autism spectrum have difficulty with both attention shifting, which is also a piece of non-verbal communication and experience sharing, and they tend to overemphasize unimportant elements of communication.)

Ultimately, traffic never paused long enough for the young man to cross the street while I was there, and I made my left turn and went on my way. A lot of experience sharing, meaning making happened in a couple of minutes. And then he and I moved on to meet new meaning to make, new situations to experience and navigate in dynamic ways.

Before RDI®, we taught our child that communication is about things spoken: words, talk, length of utterance, mands, tacts. Until RDI®, I never thought about communication being described as experience sharing or meaning making. One of the core deficits of autism is experience sharing. I never considered just how much experience sharing we do that is non-verbal, that happens as we don’t consciously think about it as we’re processing it. But now, having a child with autism and learning about relationship development, I’m paying attention to aspects of communication I’ve previously taken for granted. And nowhere is this new awareness spotlighted like it is when I am behind the wheel of a car, where I richly share experiences with other drivers, but without the benefit of “talk”.

I think back to when we began intervening before she was two years old, and wonder, "What was I thinking?" When we began intervening at home with our child, one of the very first steps was "Look at me." for "eye contact". And then we did one of two bizarre things: We prompted her to complete a gross motor imitation (“Do this!”), or we gave her a visual field of three answers, asked her a question, and, to keep the data “clean”, we refused to look at the correct response with our faces, teaching her a) that communication is about looking and copying and b) that human faces do not share information.

How we must have confused my child. What was the point of teaching "Look at me?" I wonder, if we were going to discourage looking at me in situations where our child could actually practice referencing for communicative intent, for information? Look at me; then don’t look at me! Talk about a mixed message! And if non-verbal back-and-forth interactions are a prototype for dialogue and conversation, then is “Look at me” + “Do this” a prototype for echolalia?

We gave her words, phrases, sentences, skills upon skills, all without giving her any inkling of communication outside the one channel of talk. Often we told her, “GOOD JOB LOOKING!” as if eye contact and “looking” is an end in itself, and again, we reinforced that communication is not about experience sharing, not about meaning making, not about recognizing errors and breakdowns and making repairs. We failed to show her that there is meaning and communication in the direction a person faces when he speaks, that there is meaning to read from the eyes, faces, hands, gestures, pitch, volume and tone of voices of others.

We wondered why we saw so much echolalia in our daughter; wondered why she recalled bits and pieces of information that were so drastically different from the rest of us, like the color of a single object we’d seen instead of a broader memory of the fun and excitement in the experience we’d shared together. Could we possibly have taught her to communicate and encode experiences in the way she was demonstrating? (unfortunately, the answer to that is a disappointing "yes") And if so, could we give her a “do-over” in those areas and the other core deficit areas? The answer is an exciting YES!

I now know that an early part of typical infant and toddler emotional and social development is to practice what to do in uncertainty, which is watching Mom's and Dad's faces for information, clues, signals, experience sharing, meaning making which leads to active participation in interaction at a non-verbal level. It’s recognizing errors and breakdowns and making repairs. Part of a mind is understanding the perspective of another person based upon where that person looks and glances, based upon his actions; it's seeing the quiet wink that says "I love you" or a slight movement of exasperation with your eyes that lets me know you think the singers entertaining us at the fancy dinner are, well, horrible. Another part of a mind is understanding my half of that interaction.

The Michigan Department of Education words it this way in the English Language Arts Vision Statement, from Standard 7. Skills and Processes: Effective communication depends upon our ability to recognize when attempts to construct and convey meaning work well and when they have broken down. We must monitor, reflect, and adjust our communication processes for clarity, correctness, purpose, and audience. We need multiple strategies for constructing and conveying meaning in written, spoken and visual texts. Our literacy development depends upon on-going, personal-self-regulated assessment.

Dr. Gutstein defines communication “…as the desire to determine the relationship between what is in your mind and what is in my mind…”. Before RDI®, I always assumed that communication is mostly about spoken words and rules of grammar, syntax, social rules. I realized at that intersection that I use a lot of meaning making, experience sharing that has nothing to do with talking, words, length of utterance, social skills, and all in a matter of a minute or two. The many channels of communication serve me for this dynamic moment, and are then forgotten as I encounter a new moment to appraise, a new experience to share. We want nothing less for our children.

A relationship approach has made an incredible difference, and has given me new hope. I love moments when I’m searching in the pantry for something and my daughter walks into the kitchen and asks, “Mom, what are you looking for?” or when I’m getting ready to go somewhere, and she asks, “Mom, where are you going?” She’s seeing intent in my actions, seeing my perspective!

When the eyes of the young man on the bicycle met mine, we were not engaging in social skills, and we were not just making eye contact for the sake of making eye contact. A rote rule from a social skills course would fall short in this situation. We did not have a "Look at me!" moment. Instead, we "danced" briefly; we exchanged important meaning non-verbally, with gestures and facial expression and body language, which, at that moment, impacted his safety.

I want all of my children to experience that kind of "dancing", including my child on the autism spectrum, an active participant with others and herself, at all levels, and RDI® is providing the "do-over" pathway, teaching us to dance.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Dietary Changes--looking back at the GFCF diet

That GFCF diet--it certainly *is* a controversy in the world of autism, and thousands of parents have seen successes with it. We're one of them. Our DAN! doctor often says that "the child is the test tube", meaning that sometimes we go with what makes *her* feel better, not with what's been proven with science. Some interventions are too new to have gone through rigorous scientific testing--that doesn't mean that these interventions don't work! On the other hand, "the child is the test tube" does NOT mean we experiment wildly on her! The GFCF diet was one of those interventions that we tried, mainly to rule it out. We wound up ruling it IN.

My child was almost 22 months old when we removed gluten, and she was very locked into her own agenda, climbing anything in front of her, running, dumping anything she could dump, like a mini-tornado with no "off" switch, except when she would find a hair of mine that had fallen out of my head, and she'd take that hair to a corner and sit and string the strand between her fingers for long periods of time. She didn't seem to be able to "see" us or "hear" us at all, although I knew she could see and hear, because she'd hear something familiar on TV and come running, and she'd stand in the same spot in front of the TV and watch it out of her peripheral vision. She had quit turning her head to look for us when we spoke her name.

We saw no changes for three full weeks. At the 3.5 week point on the diet, she woke up a completely different child, able to "see" us and "hear" us again. I can remember my tears running down my cheeks the first time spoke her name and she turned all the way around to look at me to see what I wanted. And I didn't wait the recommended three months to remove casein from her diet--I did it right then.

Several professionals told me there was no science behind it, including the pediatrician, and my ABA person, who brought me articles explaining how there's no proof that it works. *eyeball roll*.

We're the ones who saw her eat ONE cheerio and completely regress for FOUR long days. We became very serious about the diet (and the ABA person who witnessed it with us finally shut up and quit bringing me articles about how there's no proof).

Okay, seven-and-a-half years have passed, and over the years we've experimented with digestive enzymes that help digest gluten and casein so that she could eat restaurant food and enjoy things her classmates at school ate (back when she was in public school), etc. At first, we used them for rare deliberate infractions, and then we began using the enzymes more often. Our daughter has struggled with severe eczema. And illness. Strep throat has been a frequent visitor. And her BEHAVIOR has become something we've had to deal with, because it was slowing intervention.

In the spring of this year, we had another round of bloodwork done, and the allergy testing gave us new information: She is reacting to a lot of foods, some I suspected, and some that just flat out surprised me. So, in July, we went back to strict GFCF again, plus soy free, plus a few more that showed up as "biggies" on her food panel as contributing to delayed food reactions. I am cooking a lot from scratch to avoid the stuff she needs to avoid, and her eczema has cleared up, her behavior has improved dramatically, and she's moving forward again. She's been healthier, too.

And then, we had an accidental infraction. (Most families don't have to plan deliberate infractions to "challenge" their dietary restrictions--accidental infractions pop up on their own!) On a recent Sunday, she snuck a piece of pizza--I heard her shutting the pizza box lid from the other room, and caught her with just the crust left, and I quickly gave her enzymes to try to minimize any damage. Well, a delayed food allergy can show up as long as FOUR DAYS later, and guess what? She's became sick, snotty nose etc, and Wednesday and Thursday, she was more resistant and defiant, less regulated, more easily distracted, with an extreeeeeeemely *short* fuse, and was exhausted from her behavior. Her face developed the outline of that rash again--and I think it's the pizza, that contains, I'm guessing FOUR of the big delayed food allergies on her list (I don't have an ingredient list for the pizza).

I've always believed in the connection between food and behavior, and yet, I grew tired of all the special diet stuff and used the enzymes to be lazy with it, not realizing the full effect of the impact on her system. CLEARLY, our issues are not JUST gluten and casein, and for folks who say they tried the diet and it didn't work, I would caution you to not rule it out until you consider some delayed food allergy testing. We had some done by US Biotek that gave me some information about my daughter that really surprised me in terms of the foods she's reacting to. Some professionals say the delayed food reaction testing is poppycock, but I've watched changes in my daughter over the past couple of months in her affect, in how she feels, in what she chooses to do with her time -- food is related to functioning and behavior, and I suspect our children on the autism spectrum are more sensitive than others.

And having typed all of that, there are certain things that my child does that prompt me to grab the flashlight and look at her throat to check it for strep. One behavior is a sudden drawing away from everyone, another is that short fuse and disregulation -- and it's just not what you think you're gonna see with strep throat. But it's been consistent w/ strep. Anecdote: I talked to a friend of mine a few weeks ago, and she mentioned being puzzled because her child was regressing, exhibiting some behaviors they haven't seen in a while, including obsessively stacking videotapes. I suggested checking her throat for strep, my friend politely dismissed the idea. She called me a few days later, laughing, to tell me I was right, even if she did think I'd lost my mind when I said it. (lol) They have a new DAN! doc, and when she told the DAN ! doc about the regressive behavior, he sent her for a throat swab and it was positive. (google "PANDAS" + autism for more info)

I've known for a LONG time that all behavior is communication, and yet, in some ways, I've missed the idea that some behavior is communication about a food allergy or an illness, not just "non-compliance".

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Math Dice

There is a new store at the mall that sells games, games and more games. The sales clerk told me it's a seasonal store and they'll be open through the new year. I bought a set of MATH DICE for around five dollars. There are 3 six-sided dice with dots and 2 twelve-sided dice with numerals 1-12 on the sides.

The math dice come with a little drawstring bag, and I put them in my purse before a doctor's visit, and my daughter and I played with them while we were waiting for the doctor to arrive.

We made up our own games, actually, aimed at our having fun together and not focused on having her add, subtract, multiply or divide. In one game, I had the dice w/ the dots and she had the dice with numerals and we rolled them to see which one rolled a higher number. I did all the addition for us both with no demands on her to perform. In another game, we added the sum of all five dice.

I think I'll keep the math dice in my purse for those times when we're waiting with not much else to do, and I thought I'd pass along the idea. I need some other ideas for those times, too--what do you use? Please post--I'd love to hear from you!

An e-class to get me started homeschooling

The first official resource I have received to try at home and review is an e-class that walks me through the first year of homeschooling! As I approach my first anniversary as an official homeschooler, I am excited by the timing of the arrival of this product.

The If you want to look over the web site, click here and stay tuned as I blog about my experience and post a review. ;)

The first lesson reminds me of the "guided participation" (a Barbara Rogoff term) that our RDI (r) Program Certified Consultant uses to move us forward in remediating the core deficits of autism at home in the parent/child relationship, where we are given small assignments that lay foundations and build upon them, so that we grow gently and solidly in competence.

Learning to homeschool via "guided participation". Who knew? I like the concept! :)

Friday, October 10, 2008

E-books vs "real" books

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to review a planner that is a for-purchase download from the internet. Last week, the company sent three e-modules as a thank-you for participating in the review of the planner. And last night, I received details about an e-class that I will review over the next few weeks.

I have a secret to admit: I like "real" books and "real" courses, the ones that I can hold in my hands, flip through, books that are tangible, and are something *known*. I would not have bought an unknown planner or unseen e-module and I would not have registered/paid for information from an e-class with little-to-no information about it. (The planner and the e-modules are very well done, I must say, and I have used bits and pieces from all of them, which is a trust-builder for me in terms of items offered by the schoolhouse store. I'll have to let you know about the e-class as it unfolds.)

I have a tendency to collect books, and it's a tendency I have to fight, for both financial reasons and lack of space at home. There is no end to the books about autism, and I'm discovering now that there is no end to the books about homeschooling, too. My strategy for choosing books about autism will work for books about homeschooling, I thought, until I became aware of all these "e-" opportunities.

When I am researching a particular topic that reaches into autism, I start with a couple of web sites open, side by side, and one is my local library, and the other is a major bookseller. A subject search yields a list on each web page, and I can begin digging from there. The bookseller offers a table of contents and some sample passages, and suggestions on titles with similar subject matter. I have the option to click on a link that will show me what other people bought with this selection. The library gives me a list of reference categories that this book falls within. Using all of those tools, I'm able to expand my search until I narrow my selection. Before I buy a book, I want to look at it, hold it in my hands, ask myself if it is something to read once or something to keep at home as a reference. And if my library doesn't own a copy, I have them find it for me using interlibrary loan. If I'm in a hurry, I can drive to a bookstore and hold the book in my hands, preview it up close and in person, as I decide if it will be helpful at home.

An e-book, e-module, e-class, on the other hand, is a complete unknown, and I must hand over my money before I can peek inside, without knowing the quality of the information inside, without knowing whether it is information I've already researched, without knowing whether it fits our situation. Often, I am familiar with the authors of books, and that familiarity gives me a bit of trust. On the other hand, many of the e-book authors are complete unknowns to me, and I don't yet have that trust in the unknown product. I am completely dependent upon the writer of the description of the e-whatever to give me enough information to make a decision, and if that description falls short or is cheerfully deceptive, I may skip an item that I should have purchased or buy one that I should not have.

Maybe I'm just being resistant to change and need to be more flexible? Obviously, my method of research must change as I consider e-selections. I'm just not sure what my new method will be...

PS: Thanks to Heidi for spotlighting this article as I am musing the concept of e-books:

Thursday, October 9, 2008


I had a scare this afternoon. I wanted a nature study template from The Schoolhouse Planner that I had downloaded and saved in August, and when I tried to find/open my copy of the Planner, it was GONE. Poof! I couldn't find it. *silent gasp*

I replayed the past couple of months in my mind. In late July, the laptop was wiped out and reconfigured, and in September, the hard drive on the PC crashed and I had to start from scratch w/ a new hard drive. I figured that my Planner had disappeared with the computer changes.

Fortunately, with some encouragement, I dug a little deeper and somehow managed to find the Planner on the laptop.

It was a scare big enough to remind me to BACK UP, BACK UP, BACK UP! Always back up my files!!!


We are beginning to follow (more and more) Charlotte Mason's philosophy about education, (Mason's ideas and RDI are similar in many ways) and copywork is part of that. Here's one web site that explains who Charlotte Mason is (was) and her take on education:

Copywork can be inexpensive--you need paper and pencil and a quote or Bible verse, and you're good to go! "There's no place like home!" was our quote the day we got a Dorothy doll in a kids meal from a fast food restaurant. (Not sure that one is pure Charlotte Mason, though.)

Students with issues tracking items visually can struggle with the glancing from one source to copy into another, so we devised a bit of a compensation. My daughter cut out the quote and I taped it into her tablet:

I like Mead's "Learn to Letter" activity sheets with raised ruling (in a tablet that I found at Wal-Mart during all the back-to-school promotions in August) for copywork. The raised lines give my daughter a firm boundary for the tops and bottoms of her letters as she discovers how far to stretch her hand and fingers when she writes.

And, today, if you're wondering, we're using a quote from one e-module from The Old Schoolhouse store for our copywork. The e-modules contain a wide variety of resources that happen to include copywork, and they're one of the resources I didn't know about when I was a part-time homeschooler, supplementing at home what the public school special ed program was doing. There are so many resources I could have been using back then, but I didn't know about them until I went to a homeschool convention!

Note to self: I need to check my camera settings BEFORE I take pictures--these pics are a bit grainy when I click on them to enlarge them, and I realized too late that the camera was still set on the nighttime mode I used to capture memories at the Disney on Ice field trip.

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