Monday, November 24, 2008

We have the prettiest snowfall happening right now...and in the background of my Christmas tree, it's breathtaking! The snow is the really thick, heavy kind that is piling tall on the tree limbs and branches, giving the trees a magical look. ;)

Thanksgiving Food For Thought

From a friend in a Bible study at church:

"Good thought from BSF lecture Tuesday:

'If tomorrow you only had what you thanked God for today, what would you have?'"

Sunday, November 23, 2008

TOS Homeschool Book Review: "The Little Man in the Map"

Schoolside Press brings us a book for children, The Little Man in the Map, $19.95 (with free shipping according to the web site today), written by E. Andrew Martonyi and illustrated by Ed Olson.

The Little Man in the Map is an adorable book written to help children identify the United States on a map. Martonyi sees a man in the map, wearing a hat, shirt, pants and boots, and it's this "Man Inside the Map," or "MIM", who takes readers across the pages to see the states as he sees them, in a journey to learn just where each state lives on the map.

Author E. Andrew Martonyi writes,

"'...Imagination is the magic key
To help unlock the clues you need
To learn geography.'"
(There is MIM video here, and Martonyi has a blog here. For teachers, there will soon be a crossword puzzle and a teacher's guide that will accompany the book.)
We've enjoyed this book at lot at our house! We have delighted in seeing the perspectives of Martonyi and Olson, looking at the shapes of the states the way they see them. (As we continue intervention with our child on the autism spectrum, this book will be an incredible resource in growing literacy skills and in taking the author's perspective!)
My 11-year-old raced through the book the day it arrived, smiling and giggling all the way through it, turning the book so that I could see illustrations she thought were especially clever. Several times, she said to me something like, "Mom, I never thought about that state being shaped like a ________!" And she said, "Mom, after reading this book, I will never, ever forget Lake Ontario now!" She says that the book "makes you think of connections you wouldn't otherwise think of, and they stick!" We raced through the book to find the state where I grew up and states where I have lived. We thought that a couple of the shapes that MIM sees in the states are a bit of a stretch for us, although they are still fun, and the elves in the western states are a tad on the creepy side, but overall, we enjoy this book and will continue to use it!

Monday, November 17, 2008

A walk in the snow

My younger princess wanted to walk in the snow today. She had lots to tell me and lots to show. At one point, she asked, "Remember yesterday? We stayed in the house ALL DAY LONG." I was at a conference after church yesterday, so I didn't know that after their dad brought the kids home from church, that they did not go outside. She shared something from her experience that I didn't yet know, allowed me to perspective take! She was glad to be outside in the snow today!
I have to find some better walking boots for snow walks--suggestions are welcome.
"Feels like we're in a blizzard, Mom!"
She told me, "it's WINTER in the FALL!"
She wanted to show how deep her feet were in the snow:
She caught some snowflakes on her tongue:
See the snow in the neighborhood?
"It's like the North Pole or Ice Age!" she told me.

TOS Crew Review: "The Missing Link: Found"

Felice Gerwitz's Media Angels sent us a copy of the first novel in The Truth Seekers Mystery Series, co-written by Felice and her daughter, Christina, who was just 12 years old when this book was penned. The book title is "The Missing Link: Found" and costs $8.99, and the book is described here.

>Felice explained to us that, "These books are meant to help your children to stand up for their faith, by supplying them with Christian role models that are also homeschool children."

This product is geared toward a more narrow audience than other products I've reviewed--this novel is written for older children and young teens. My 11-year-old dove into it with excitement! My 9-year-old son didn't care for it (I think he might like it in a couple of years), and my 9-year-old with some developmental delays and autism isn't ready for such wordy text, not even as a read-aloud.

I very much enjoyed reading about a family that talks about God, talks about the Bible, prays together, is God-centered in just about everything they do.

The story is not just entertaining, it is informative, too. There is an incredible amount of information regarding Carbon 14 dating woven into the mystery. I learned a lot.

I got a slow start into the book, as the first couple of chapters are, well, overflowing with descriptions of all kinds, so much that at first I thought the adjectives were used as foreshadowing, and later, I realized they were descriptions that painted an incredibly visual mental image for me to see what the author saw as I progressed through the story. For me, those descriptions were a bit distracting and overwhelming at first, and the vivid imagry through words calmed down for me as I got deeper into the story. The mystery kept me captivated, had me picking up the book whenever I had a few minutes, to see how the story would play out.

In the end, I liked the story, despite my rough start with it, and I would recommend it to parents of children in that middle school/early high school age range. I hope you like it, also!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I won something!

With a group of women from my church, I participated in a First Place 4 Health event today to learn about the new-and-improved FP4H program. My name was drawn for a prize! Woo hoo! :)
I won a beautiful Hope Angel from GARDEN SMILES by Carruth, LLC. (I've been looking at the web site for a few minutes--there are some beautiful items there.) She's so beautiful, I want you to see her, too. She's too heavy to display on a wall or shelf indoors, so I'll wait until spring to find a place for her in the yard.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hello, Cupcake! by Karen Tack & Alan Richardson

I found the cutest book about decorating cupcakes at the book fair tonight. Check out the blog about it here.

Something new to us: Time4Learning dot com

Time4Learning is a web site for on-line learning that includes language arts, math, science and social studies. We are using it as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew's focus group.

I am not a fan of computer-based learning--we are working on experiences in relationship development, and that is impossible on a computer. HOWEVER, the timing of Time4Learning has given me a new perspective on computer-based learning, one that recognizes that an on-line program can fit nicely in our day when it supports what we're doing off the computer!

Time4Learning walked me through an easy registration and set-up process where I answered questions about my child's current understanding of concepts. I gave her a user name and password and we were good to go!

Interestingly, we began All About Spelling just before we began Time4Learning, and the Time4Learning language arts activities have my younger princess practicing exactly the same concepts that we address in the spelling program, reinforcing in activities and games the concepts we are addressing during other times of our day. Watching my daughter "play" on Time4Learning lets me see how she is generalizing our spelling lessons. I have already bumped up her language arts level once--I like the feature that allows a parent to do that.

My princess likes the science lessons, too. She worked her way through an activity that talked about living or not living and plant or animal, and later, at lunch, told me about why something was an animal and not a plant.

Time4Learning is another one of those resources I would not have known about if I hadn't begun homeschooling. As we use more of it and get to know the product better, I'll post more. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 10, 2008

A peek outside our window this morning:

My homeschooled kidlet says that we need to report to everyone that the snow looks just like ICE CREAM!
(the gluten free, casein free, soy free etc etc etc kind, of course!)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Show and Tell

I took the camera outside -- we have another GLORIOUS day, with temps predicted to hit 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and my princess said we could do "show and tell" on the blog.
Flowers from my children for Mother's Day are still hangin' in there!
The REDS are as gorgeous as the YELLOWS are vibrant!
Yellow leaves on an autumn tree in our back yard:
And, now the dandelion is ready to blow.
(I still can't believe there are dandelions in our yard in November.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

TOS Homeschool Crew REVIEW: Homeschooling ABC's e-Class

Homeschooling ABC's is a six month long, e-class of weekly lessons, that is priced at $10 a month.

I withdrew an 8-year-old child from public school not quite 10 months ago, which (I believe) allows me to qualify for the still-new-to-homeschooling club. I still feel new to it! As I made the gigantic leap with this child who happens to have a diagnosis of autism, I anticipated that we would not be "typical" homeschoolers, although I admit, I didn't know what a "typical" homeschooler looked like. And, while I knew our work at home would have as it's centerpiece the concept of Rogoff and Dewey's "guided participation" via Gutstein & Sheely's Relationship Development Intervention, I had no idea how anything else would play out for us in the homeschool setting. In fact, I did not even know how to think about thinking about the how-to in homeschooling.

A few of months ago, The Old Schoolhouse magazine created a focus group of 100 parents from around the world. Focus group members would work with participating vendors to use and review products and resources in their homes. I was chosen as an alternate in this program. One of the first products I was given is this e-course written by Terri Johnson called Homeschooling ABC's.

I've confessed in other posts that the idea of buying a e-book or e-class, sight unseen, is especially daunting to me. Plunking down money for an unknown could be wasteful. The e-product might not be quality, might not be anything I can use.

And, I wondered, just *who* is Terri Johnson? I grabbed my Summer, 2008, copy of The Old Schoolhouse magazine to see if she had written any articles for that issue, and was rewarded with an article called, "International Schoolhouse Neighbor to the North, Canada". I located an article here in a free sample back issue of TOS's digital magazine. And I found a blog, here. And Knowledge Quest, a company that provides "historical outline maps and timelines designed for the interactive study of world history and geography." Getting familiar with Johnson through articles and the internet helped my comfort level with her as a teacher of an e-class.

The classes are sent to members once a week, and focus group members were given the option to review several at once. I opted to go through them slowly, to give myself time to reflect upon what was offered in each class, to give myself opportunities to make little changes along the way and really integrate the material.

And so I opened the first e-class session with interest, wondering, would there be anything inside for me, homeschooling a child with unique needs?

What I've found, incredibly, is that Johnson takes a role that is similar to my RDI(r) Program Certified Consultant, where she is a guide and I am the apprentice. Johnson breaks down the concept and act of beginning homeschooling into small, manageable steps, spotlighting one aspect per week of teaching your children at home. I find myself nodding in agreement as I read her words each week, thinking to myself, "I can do that!" In one of the early lessons, Johnson makes the recommendation to purchase an inexpensive book about the three R's, and I did order that book from an on-line bookstore, and the book has been very helpful for me as I frame for myself how we'll get the academics done and not sacrifice "guided participation" in the process. In other lessons, she describes different homeschooling philosophies, different learning styles of children, how to choose a curriculum, how to find support groups (I learned about even more yahoo groups to add to my "collection"!), organization at home, a home library, and hands on learning, just for starters.

One feature of the e-class that I especially like is Johnson's inclusion of links or attachment of products that directly support the material. Instead of suggesting a planner, or a Bible Study curriculum, or telling you that being organized is a good thing, Johnson provides samples or links to products she's found useful, which saves me time surfing the internet or going to the bookstore for those items. The supporting information through links and files has been quite good, and she consistently takes me right to the supporting information I need. Each week, I've been introduced to new people, new resources, new information that have been really useful in my journey to define our style of homeschooling.

Keeping up with a bunch of e-lessons can be confusing, and Johnson reduces that confusion with a handy section of links to all the materials in previous lessons at the end of each lesson.

The e-class, so far, has covered a lot of ground. Sometimes, in a new situation, you're so new that you don't even know what questions to ask. Johnson has given me answers to questions that I didn't know that I had, and she's given me food for thought so that I'm asking myself questions about where we are now and where we are headed.

I was curious to know if Johnson is available for questions, if she has a yahoo group or other internet support group for her class members, and I sent her an e-mail, and received a quick reply. Yes, she is available to her class students. No yahoo group, yet, but she'd like to do something like that in the future. And, she told me, one of the future lessons will focus on children with special needs.

Of all of the items that I have reviewed up to this point, this e-class is probably the one I needed the most, and like other e-products and products on CD, is one that I would likely have not purchased because I'd have been skeptical about its worth.

For me, a newbie at homeschooling, this e-class has been very positive, with just enough information and "homework" to keep me interested and looking forward to seeing the next lesson, but not overwhelmed. I look foward to future lessons as we continue to settle into homeschooling. ;)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Outdoor beauty today

The yellows are so vibrant this year...
The pool left a butt-print where it sat in our yard.
Tiny mushrooms found under the leaves
And we found a dandelion hiding in the leaves

TOS Homeschool Crew PRE-Review: We began our spelling program today...

DRUMROLL PLEASE! I am proud to announce that I finished cutting out all of the cards and tiles for Level 1 in the All About Spelling program. I made a trip to the department store last night to buy a big magnetic dry erase board and a recipe/file box, and my princess (one of them, anyway) and I began All About Spelling this morning. (I should have taken some pictures, darn it!)

I cannot imagine using this program prior to giving my daughter lots of experience apprenticing her dad and me, as she learns to share attention with us and her world around her.

For RDIers, All About Spelling is a example of a background activity in the form of a spelling program to provide more relationship experience between teacher (parent) and student (child). And before I understood the core deficits of autism, I would never have looked at a spelling program from this perspective.

All About Spelling frames and scaffolds the process of spelling (and reading, actually) for the parent/teacher/guide, so that taking a child/student through the process happens in a developmental order, building a foundation and growing it.

We went through two lessons this morning. Interestingly, they seem quite short to me. I always think that I need to be sitting longer, pushing more, as if longer lessons make add up to more learning. (The Peterson Handwriting Program recommends short lessons, too.) We finished two lessons, with a little frustration in the second lesson, and we stopped at a place of competence, with something to build upon next time. Sounds like just the framing and scaffoldling I need to remind me not to push and push and push. Short lessons are okay! :)

I think I may like this one! Stay tuned...

TOS Homeschool Crew REVIEW: Homeschool Library Builder dot com (free shipping)

I am so enjoying learning about new resources because I am a part of a review crew. I was recently introduced to the Homeschool Library Builder. You don't have to be a homeschooler to enjoy this internet bookstore! They have a little bit of everything, including some out-of-print and hard-to-find books. Every time I browse the website, I find books I think I need! ;) I always click on the clearance section first!

An fyi for families like mine who are using some wordless books (because words can be an obstacle to comprehension), the "picture books" category does not = "wordless".

I have not placed an order yet, so I can't vouch for how their descriptions match the actual product, and I can't vouch for their customer service or shipping, either. I'll post here when I complete an order.

Right now, they are offering free shipping:

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Update, reviews in progress, products in waiting

As a recent, "full-time" homeschooler to one of my children, I continue to be amazed at the variety of resources marketed to homeschoolers.

An observation: The on-line "e" products have been more user friendly, ready to use, with little preparation required on my part, and in contrast, the in-home products that arrived in a box or envelope have required some additional purchases and some time on my part to learn how to use myself as a guide in each program. One program has had me cutting and cutting and cutting (and as we move forward, there will be *more* to cut!), too. (The Kinderbach program, an on-line program, is one exception to my observation, that requires a keyboard that we do not have.) Some of the on-line products remove the need for an adult guide, though, and as we remediate the core deficits of autism here, we have a focus on healthy interdependence before independence,, something the "from a box" or "from an envelope" products seem to possess.

In case you're interested in any of the products we have on our calendar to review, I'm writing this blog entry to update y'all:

My daughter and I are using this handwriting program, and we're working on cursive for the first time.

I am taking a beginner homeschooling e-class.

We're getting ready to begin this Orton Gillingham based spelling program (our materials arrived later than most of the TOS crew, and illness this week gave us a really slow start. The materials are fabulous.)

Remember the flip charts I mentioned in an early blog entry that interested me (but haven't actually SEEN and was considering buying?)? I learned today that I am going to review a flip chart and a help with multiplication facts from here.

I will be using/reviewing something from (not sure what, yet) and I just learned that I'll get to revew an on-line math program: and this program for beginning readers. I finished reading and am preparing to write my review for a mystery novel for young teens by We're getting something from, not sure what, just yet.

Stay tuned!

TOS Homeschool Crew Pre-REVIEW: Introducing Rime to Read

Here's a peek into what we're up to: I currently am using several brand-new-to-me products with one of my children, and one of the products is a computer-based program for beginning readers called Rime to Read, a "color coded, beginning reading program based on rimes (word families)". If you've got a beginning reader, check it out!--there is a free book offer on the Rime to Read web site. I'll write a review in a few weeks after some hands-on practice with the program.

Review: The Schoolhouse Planner November Module: AMUSING MATHEMATICS

Amusing Mathematics is the latest unit study by the folks who bring us The Schoolhouse Planner. For $7.95, it is a 48-page e-book that provides a wide range of games, activities, fact sheets, even a couple of worksheets that make math fun. This module contains materials to appeal to youngsters and to older students, and the material includes addition and multiplication, currency/money, telling time. There are magic tricks, games like sudoku, tangrams and pattern blocks, riddles, vocab, shapes, a word search, coloring pages, quotes for copywork, practice sheets for learning to write numerals, and recipes. The links provided by the authors that take you to more games and resources are helpful.

Buying an e-module, sight unseen, is something that is difficult for me. I like to go to the bookstore and flip through the pages of a book or workbook before I purchase, and sometimes, I like to borrow a book from the library before I decide whether it's worth the money to purchase.

I've had the privilege of reviewing four e-modules from the Planner, and I have used something from each module, and my trust in the products associated with the Planner grows each time I experience a new module. I probably would not buy every module available, but would base purchases on the topic of any given month, depending on what areas I need support, or perhaps based upon a special interest at home. The products are packed with practical ideas, good information, shortcuts, and links to more resources, and many of the ideas don't require special purchases or unique materials, and are very "user friendly". I like that concept a lot.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

TOS Homeschool Crew Review: Spears Art Studio

Spears Art Studio

SPEARS ART STUDIO K-8 CHRISTIAN ART CURRICULUM, A TEACHER'S MANUAL© CD-Rom in PDFfull color pages in PDF booklets$44.95 shipping included

Comprehensive and Customizable—they’re two words I used to describe another recent item, and yet, these words summarize the Spears Art Studio as well.

Perhaps I am more shortsighted than most homeschooling parents, (I *am* quite new to homeschooling, after all) but researching and purchasing an art curriculum was not high on my list of needs or wants at home. (What was I thinking?) I consider myself a bit on the “artistic-impaired” side, never quite feeling competent at art. I was curious about an art curriculum when I was offered the opportunity to use and review the Spears Art Studio K-8 Christian Art Curriculum that is developed by artist Diane Shields Spears, EdD.

And I am impressed! (Sample lessons are here, if you'd like to take a look.)

The CD is quite comprehensive, providing support to a parent and/or teacher so that a quality art curriculum can be delivered to students who fit a wide range of ages and developmental stages, and the curriculum can be used for several years to teach students as they develop. The CD is also customizable, so that the parent or teacher can use all of it, from the year-long project, to the art history, to the “how-to’s”, to the activities and assignments, or the parent/teacher may take a bit from here and a bit from there as it fits into an existing educational framework or into your art budget in any particular week or month.

Anything that would save me time and research, it seems, Spears has provided here, including supply lists; background and supplemental resource recommendations; scripture tie-ins; science; artwork as a writing prompt; vocabulary, art, academic and theme objectives. Spears recommends a wide variety of materials and media and she lists needed supplies each month so parents and teachers can be prepared for the projects ahead. Spears’ recommended images from your local library from the art history section each month remind me of the importance that Charlotte Mason placed on picture studies, and here, in one place, Spears gives us all that we need to experience and expand upon picture studies.

As hesitant as I’ve been to move to e-books, e-classes, and materials on CD-Rom, I have enjoyed the ease and speed of scrolling through the monthly table of contents to look for activities that fit our current homeschool objectives, and Spears has given me many ideas for broadening the scope of what we do at home. (I have put off starting a picture study, not quite feeling competent to begin, and now I know that I have the resources for a meaningful picture study!) I also like the fact that the small CD takes up less room than a bunch of books!

Working at home with a child on the autism spectrum, in addition to gaining inspiration for picture studies, ideas for copywork from scripture related to the art projects, I have found many useful projects and activities that can be used as background activities for relationship objectives. The way Spears creatively uses what RDIers refer to as “same but different” (variations on a theme) is very useful for us. I am always looking for activities and projects that are appealing to all my children as something we can do together, and this CD is packed with those kinds of ideas. There are projects that provide fine motor work, projects that require the coordination of two people together (co-regulating and coordinating) some to do alone (more of a parallel play type project).

When I think of all of the arts and crafts books I’ve purchased over the years, not one contains all of the components that Spears combines into this one product. Because the program is customizable, it is very versatile. And all of the work (short of buying the needed supplies) has been done for me. For $45, Spears gives us a great value!
OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

Created by OnePlusYou -

Stat Counter