Thursday, April 30, 2009

This Reviewer's Reflections / My Year in Review

As an alternate on The Old Homeschool Crew of reviewers,


...was so honored and privileged to have been chosen!

...absolutely loved seeing another box on my front porch. :)

...admit that meeting deadlines takes some planning and organization!

...began the experience with a lot of self doubt. I had many questions. I was so new to homeschooling, that I didn't feel "real". And my homeschooler has such different needs from most children, I questioned how would I ever be a "real" homeschooler?

...*am* a real homeschooler! Yes I am! :)

...realized that I am not the only mom in the world who homeschools a child like mine.

...broadened my education about the concept of "developmentally appropriate" as it applies to my child.

...did not expect just how disappointed I would feel when not chosen to review some items.

...did not expect just how relieved I would feel when not chosen to review some items.

...did not expect that I would be given so many "just right" items.

...learned that breaking the rules is okay! Homeschoolers all over the world "break the rules" and adapt curricula, products and resources to meet their own needs. :)

...realized that my perception of "homeschooling" was really small and inaccurate. There are at least as many homeschooling styles as we had Crewmates this year.

...learned that not every product is appropriate for every family.

...learned that neither I nor my child is at fault if a product didn't "work" for us.

...learned something about me from every product.

...learned something about my daughter from every product.

...learned more about how to evaluate a potential product in terms of being a match for our family and meeting our unique needs.

...learned that some products are better in "e" format or digital


some products are *not*.

...was surprised that I *like" e-products and digital versions better in some cases!

...learned about quite a few products to keep on my "not now but for later" list.

...get a really big kick out of connecting folks to new resources! still growing into a homeschooling style. It's okay to be flexible.

...learned (via a professional assessment) that my daughter made more progress at home during the review period than she has ever made in a 6-month period.

...met the most incredible Crewmates! This Crew is composed of generous folks, authentic parents, quick to offer advice and prayer when asked and not afraid to share themselves. amazed at how quickly and tightly the Crew members bonded. Years ago, I studied how "real life" groups bond when I was doing grad level work, but never studied how a *cyber* group bonds. There were no cyber groups when I took some grad level courses! delighted to have met some of my Crewmates in real life!

...wonder how many products we Crewmates ordered from vendors after completing a review (a lot of us did!)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Top Ten Favorite TOS Homeschool Crew Review Products

Choosing a top ten is impossible. I've enjoyed every product I've been given, and I've learned something about ME and something about my daughter with every single one. Still, some of them hold a special place for me. Here are my favorites in alphabetical order from my year of product reviews:

1) ALL ABOUT SPELLING -- This product, based upon the Orton Gillingham method used in remediating dyslexia, is superb. It's one of my very top favorites! I'll say it's one of my top three! It is easy to use, the lessons are short, and it illuminated some issues that I had not yet recognized in my daughter that would contribute to reading and spelling challenges.

2) APOLOGIA'S textbook, Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day -- This book breaks down an in-depth, year long unit study into activities that are fun and meaningful, where we have lots of opportunities to use "academics" as a background for relationship development. I liked this so much that I bought two more textbooks in the series. Another of my top three.

3) ARTISTIC PURSUITS and 4) SPEARS ART STUDIO CD-- My biggest surprises were the two art programs I used and reviewed. I would never have considered an art curriculum. I don't know why, but I just wouldn't have. I was shortsided. I was surprised that they are so good. I was surprised that we would like them so much. Between-you-and-me, relationship development moments happen when we create art, and both of these programs are filled with art history, art how-to, and projects and activities. Now, I think everyone needs an art curriculum or two! The two of them create a three-way tie for one of my three in my top three. *grin*

5) BONNIE TERRY LEARNING, Five Minutes to Better Reading Skills -- gave me the tools to grow reading skills in short lessons that require no research and minimal preparation for me.

6) HEADS UP -- I didn't realize the Borings stock sooooo many products for children with special learning needs. Getting to try those tinted readers was a treat. Getting to hear Melinda and Scott in person in Cincinnati was a bonus. They "get" kids like my homeschooler. I enjoy her blog.

7) HOMESCHOOLING ABC's e-course. This course arrived with perfect timing, at the beginning of the review year, and each weekly lesson taught me and encouraged me. The freebies and samples that came with the course introduced me to even more resources. This course was really valuable to me as a new homeschooler, and I like being able to go back and refer to information in lessons I received months ago.

8) LITTLE MAN IN THE MAP - This book for children is a fun way to learn where the states are on the map.

9) MATH MAMMOTH - I had no idea that there was a company that sells math worksheets in packages the way Math Mammoth does. They sell quite a few configurations for any need. They're a download, so you can get 'em right when you need 'em. No waiting for them to arrive in the mail. The worksheets we reviewed gave me great ideas for working on math off the worksheets, too. I adore a product that is an idea generator!

10) MEMORIA PRESS-- I like both the Christian Studies Book I and the three copybooks we were given. They're meaty. Quality. Classical. Adaptable. They'll be great for summer activities.

Why stop at 10? *wink*

11) PETERSON DIRECTED HANDWRITING - Peterson educated me about the way students need to scribble first, how to encourage the kind of scribbling that will help a student in penmanship, and how gross motor movements play an important role in handwriting. I actually bought another program from Peterson after they sent me one to review. We're using their pencil grips and triangular shaped pencils (that I purchased), too.

12) RIME TO READ -- We enjoyed these on-line books for beginning readers. The way the books are developed gave my daughter practice paying attention as the stories grew more complicated.

13) SPELLQUIZZER SOFTWARE-- Our whole family uses this one for vocab and spelling. The kids like to make fun of my southern drawl when they listen to my voice on the playback. It makes spelling fun!

14) TRIGGER MEMORY SYSTEMS flip charts -- Families who have children with autism are very familiar with visual charts, icons, picture communication, etc. WHO KNEW that there is a company making visual flip charts and marketing them to homeschoolers?

and last alphabetically, but one of my top three:

15) WRITE SHOP STORY BUILDERS -- These little cards with story parts printed on them have been a lot of fun, and are a perfect "academic" background activity with a relationship development focus in the foreground. Definitely another top three. I'm watching for more of them to show up for purchase.

When I saw the TOS ad to recruit focus group members to use and review homeschool materials, I was reeeeeeeeally new to homeschooling one child who happens to be on the autism spectrum. Joining some yahoo groups focused on homeschooling made me feel inadequate. There were so many acronyms used, I often thought that I needed an interpreter to help me figure out what they were talking about! (That's so ironic, because we use a *lot* of acronyms when we talk about children in specialized education in the public school system, and lots more that pertain to autism.) Ultimately, I completed the application process and was absolutely delighted to have been chosen to serve as an alternate on the first ever TOS Homeschool Crew.

(An aside: the Schoolhouse Planner I was given to review as part of the application process has been a resource I've used several times thoughout this school year -- it has so much stuff in one place, it's the first place I look when I need a template or form of any sort.)

I wasn't sure I'd be able to USE anything that would be sent to me. My daughter's skills and abilities are all over the place, and her work in the old public school setting had been heavily adapted. I figured all homeschool products were developed for typically developing children. (I was wrong.)

The list of participating vendors emerged, and I began to look at those web sites. The world of homeschooling resources began to unfold before my eyes!!! I still had no idea if I'd be chosen to use and review any of the items, as an alternate.

(For every Crew product review, go here:

I could have been overwhelmed with products to use and review. But I was not. I received just enough to keep me busy but not enough to feel overwhelmed. I was suprised again and again by products that met our needs, products that taught me that we can indeed work on relationship development in the foreground and academics in the background, and build both. (Thank you, Lord for your plan for me in this year of reviews!)

FYI: Links to all of the companies who sent me products are in the side bar of my blog. Some of those companies have blogs, and those links are also in the sidebar of my blog.

HINT: Watch company blogs and sign up for their e-newsletters for discounts, sales, and freebies.

Stay tuned -- I am staying on the Crew for one more year, this time as a "First Mate". You can follow all 25 First Mates from the sidebar of my blog through the summer and as a new review year begins in the fall. I've enjoyed this review year and I hope that I've been an encouragement to you.

If you are considering the role of "accidental homeschooler" like I did, bringing a child home from public school because public school wasn't workin' for ya, I want to encourage you to give it a try. I am convinced that there is at least one resource for any need, and often, there are several resources for a need. So many of them are reasonably priced. There are resources that will work for you and your child, resources that public school staff never had access to. There are resources that will allow you and your child to be successful in many ways.



Memoria Press: A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

The last review of the maiden voyage of TOS Homeschool Crew is (drumroll, please), Memoria Press. I've written quite a bit lately about the difference between developmentally appropriate and age appropriate materials, and the subject of developmentally appropriate is an extremely high priority for us. Memoria Press encouraged me to try the Latin program, but I am not convinced that a Latin program is developmentally appropriate for us at this time. A child with delays in areas of communication needs to concentrate on one language, in my opinion.

After a very helpful phone consultation with Tanya at Memoria Press, we were sent the three copy books that make the Primary Copybook Set ($39.95) and both the student and teacher books for Christian Studies I. (The three sets, Christian Studies I, II and III student and teacher books plus the recommended Bible is offered for $119.95 at the Memoria Press web site.) A sample lesson from Christian Studies I is HERE.

from the Memoria Press web site:
What is Memoria Press? Memoria Press is a family-run publishing company that produces simple and easy to use classical Christian education materials for home and private schools. It was founded by Cheryl Lowe in 1994 to help promote and transmit the classical heritage of the Christian West through an emphasis on the liberal arts and the great works of the Western tradition. Memoria Press is currently developing a K-12 classical curriculum at Highlands Latin School in Louisville, Kentucky, where its popular Latin, logic, and classical studies courses are developed and field-tested.

The Christian Studies Bible Course

The Christian Studies Bible Course recommended (not required) a children's Bible that we do not own, so I headed to my local large chain bookstore with coupon in hand (after confirming that my local Christian bookstore did not have a copy to sell me) and I bought the Golden Children's Bible for around $15. "Students work through one third of The Golden Children’s Bible each year."

I do really like the Christian Studies first year study!!! The books are written in chronological order, thus users are encouraged to begin at the beginning with Book I. There are 30 lessons in each book. Each student lesson has a reading assignment (students may use any Bible or the Golden Children's Bible), followed by a facts to know section, a memory verse plus questions to answer, and a section of comprehension questions. After five lessons, there is a review lesson. The Memoria Press web site explains, "Maps, timelines, activities, and discussion questions offer the critical integration that is central to classical education."

The problem for us is that the student book will turn off my daughter quickly. The assignment of our reading a story together and then answering questions like the ones in the student book is a source of anxiety for her and will send her running. I won't do that to her.

But, what I *can* do is to read each lesson before I sit down with her, learning what the lesson intends to spotlight, and I can begin to spotlight those pieces of information for her. The workbook and q & a will wait until her comprehension, confidence and compentence grow.

Honestly, for she and I right now, the teacher manual is all that I need because of the way it frames each lesson in a way that I can use it with her, slowly, gently. It contains all the questions from the student book, plus the answers, plus a background and summary, teacher notes, vocabulary, and activity questions and answers. We are able to make the Golden Childrens Bible our focus (not the workbook, which would create resistance and anxiety), go at our own pace, and make adjustments for days that wiggles are high and attention is low. We're using a Charlotte Mason approach with a product written for classical education, I suppose.

My homeschooler's big sister, a typically developing 11-year-old, looked at the Christian Studies I book with excitement, and I offered it to her to "test". I gave her the option of using her Bible, or using the Bible I'd bought to go with the study. She chose to begin with the Golden Children's Bible, and she loves the pictures and the way it is written. (I predict she'll move to her Bible soon.) The studies are geared for children from 3rd - 7th grade. Each lesson has taken her approximately 15 minutes (she is a strong reader), and she has commented that the questions seem simple, but they really make her think. Checking her answers is easy for me with the Teacher Manual. She is enjoying the study. I'm glad -- I've been looking for a study like this one for my homeschooler's siblings. This will be a nice resource for summer and will give her an idea of what it might be like to be homeschooled, too. (NOTE TO SELF: order one for my son.)

I like that this product is NOT digital. I can take the Teacher Manual along to appointments while I wait for my daughter to have a class or a therapy. It's affordable. It requires exactly ONE book (a Bible) as an extra. And I can use the pieces that are developmentally appropriate for my homeschooler who is diagnosed w/ autism, and skip the rest for now. My 11-year-old asked about future studies, and I told her I will order the other two when she finishes the first book. She likes that idea. :)

The books are soft cover, sturdy, and do not have a spiral binding. A spiral binding would enable them to lie flat when open, and that would be a welcome adaptation to the books, in my opinion, especially for children who struggle with the motor planning needed to hold a book open and write in it at the same time.

The copybooks

Each of the three copybooks begins with a table of contents, an introduction that explains what copybook is and how they selected their Bible verses, followed by teaching guidelines outlined in seven steps. Next, a recommended schedule is offered. Line and Letter Practice is next. (I have to take issue with the sentence that says, "We have found that little instruction is necessary to teach basic letter strokes." I am guessing they are referring to children who are typically developing!) Each book in the series provides a page of student guidelines and several pages of practice pages that involve copying lines and letters. In Book I, the actual copywork begins on page 26; Book II, page 26; Book III, page 20. Book I is 96 total pages. Book II is 152 pages. Book III is 110 pages.

Each copybook page sits across from an illustration page. Students create an illustration of the verse they copy each day.

Verses in the beginning are short. The lines are big, words are scattered not-too-close-together in a way that keeps the pages from being visually overwhelming.

The verses are not limited to Bible verses. Students learn poems, books of the Bible, the twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve apostles, Doxology, and some entire chapters from the Bible.

Each copybook ends with blank copy pages that are reproducible. The rest of the book is copywrite protected, so families will need one book per student at home.

The beginning copywork is simple. The verses and sentences are short (some are quotes, some are poems). Students are not expected to visually track from one page to another--they copy right below the example line. The spaces are large, creating fewer obstacles for a child who may struggle with fine motor skills.

In the teaching guidelines section at the front of each book, we are told, "The Copybook Lesson outlined below need not be done in one sitting, but may be broken up into two or more sessions. There are 7 skills or steps in each lesson." (Bible Story Time; Language Lesson; Memorization; Copying; Proofreading and Correction; Illustration; Review.)

The teaching guidelines sort of mention "developmentall appropriate" but only regarding typically developing children: "*Some Kindergarten students may not be able to completely copy verses at the beginning of the year. They should memorize and illustrate verses according to the schedule but work on alphabet pages for step 4 until they are ready to do copywork." Parents of children with developmental delays need, I give you permission to adapt and adjust this product in a way that might not be age appropriate, but will be developmentally appropriate! (Thus saith Penny. *grin*)

I would never in a million years purchased the copybooks. I have printed copywork from e-books and e-unit studies, and my daughter does not like them. She dislikes them so much that I stopped asking her to do copywork for several months.

So, guess who was surprised when her daughter attacked with enthusiasm the very first copybook in the series? (This is actually a page to trace, not copy, but STILL, she did not find it to be aversive.) She even drew a picture to go along with "And God said, Let there be light."

Wow. WOW!

So, we're using the copybooks, putting our own spin on them, sometimes doing one WORD at a sitting. I ordered some special triangular shaped pencils and a kindergarten/first grade writing program to help me guide my daughter on making those letter shapes as we copy. There are sample pages HERE.

Do I like these products? YES! Are they adaptable for a child with different learning needs? YES! This is one of those products that I like because it's solid plus I like the ease of adaptation.

For the reviews of these and other Memoria Press products by my Crewmates, please click HERE.

Wish I'd stayed...

I attended part of a presentation by Dr Guffanti at the Midwest Homeschool Convention. His sessions on ADHD and kinesthetic learners were at the very end of the convention, and my attention span was zapped at that point.

Here are the few notes I took -- they're interesting enough to make me want to know more. I thought I'd share them with you in case you want a new trail to follow.

Yes, he mentions autism.

All of his PowerPoint slides contained page references to his book, and as I slipped out of the session, I planned to buy his book to read when my mind had rested from two-and-a-half days of convention sessions. Unfortunately, the book was sold out in his vendor area.

I found part of the presentation online here if you'd like to listen:




He described kinesthetics as those who

1) make a big mess, leave things everywhere (laundry, keys for example)

2) learn big picture but ignore details

3) feel words often fail to describe

4) repeat a behavior for the feel of it

He says VIDEO GAMES provide PSEUDO MOTION. We need MOTION to LEARN and video games are not real motion.

He says about 5% of adhd kids are food allergic

Doctors can cure diseases, but for disorders, they suppress symptoms. Parents want a cure. A disorder is a group of symptoms that inconvenience someone's lifestyle.

MEDICINE IS BLIND TO THE KINESTHETIC LEARNING STYLE. You cannot diagnose what you cannot see.

and he said the ONLY two medicines that DO NOT destroy a boy's motivation center in the brain are Strattera and Welbutrin.

I wish he'd have presented these topics earlier in the weekend -- I was just too spent to stay, and I left. Now that I'm reading my notes, I wish I'd have stayed!


Presentations are available for purchase here: (search for the speaker's name) or here:

I found the book online (and a survey to screen whether your child has ADHD) at this web site:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Skating Lesson #10

The visualization and motor planning involved in learning to figure skate is wonderful practice for my princess. Proprioception is the name for one of our senses, and proprioception has to do with knowing where your body is in space. Individuals with a poor sense of proprioception usually compensate for not sensing where they are in space by using their eyes, their vision, to provide that information. But, in skating, looking down, at one's feet, throws off balance, and certain skills must happen with the head up, eyes forward, while the skater uses proprioception, visualization, motor planning to make those movements.

Today, my mind wandered to an exercise we used to do as part of vision therapy, where we taped the outline of a head and torso to the wall, and with my daughter facing the outline, we would touch a spot on her back, and she was asked to touch the corresponding part of the torso drawn in front of her. Figure skating lessons provide more experience in this area.

Here are a few video clips from today's session.

Coach tells me that skating in a circle is more challenging:

Skating in a circle in the other direction:

"Can I try again???"

I missed capturing an earlier practice at lifting one foot, but caught this one on video:

Monday, April 27, 2009

Priorities: The Whac-A-Mole Theory

"Whac-a-Mole" might just be the best psychological term I've ever heard in terms of how families deal with the stuff life throws at them.

In *my* opinion, "Whac-A-Mole" is a *better* phrase/cliche than "peeling the layers of an onion".

Twice in the same weekend (Cincinnati homeschool convention weekend), I heard two women use the term "Whac-A-Mole" in describing family situations, once from a mom of six children with autism and other issues in the mix, and once from convention presenter Melinda Boring (from in her session with her husband Scott, about the distractible adult.

And a conversation with our RDI(r) Program Certified Consultant last week brought it to my mind again, as we updated our consultant on the family, describing how different challenges are presenting in our lives and comparing those challenges to events in the past.

Seems like we are not the only family to get a handle on one challenge only to have another completely different but equally pressing challenge pop up. Math grows more difficult, and frustrations soar. Friends can be hurtful without meaning to. Helping one child over a hurdle may make another child feel left out. Now, I have a sore throat and painful cough. As my friend Julie says, "It's always something!"

"Whac-a-mole" -- what a great description!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Responsibility to Grow at Your Own Pace

I have had the privilege and pleasure to know several adults who are on the autism spectrum for many years. They have been wonderful teachers to me. They continue to remind us parents to be mindful of how we speak about our children in front of them and to be mindful of any unintended but negative non-verbal messages we may be sending to them.

Here's another reminder, and this one comes from a professional, and the message applies to all of our relationships.



Today's entry is a guest post from Communicating Partner's Dr. James MacDonald. Thank you, Dr. MacDonald, for allowing me to use your words here on my blog, to share with other parents. You are a great teacher. The source: a post on the yahoo group, "communicating".


"The problem, a huge, I see on this topic is that when we show a child we want from him things he cannot do he becomes to think that

That can pervade all he does.

I constantly tell parents and professionals who will listen that each behavior you consider a mistake or error or delay is just a developmental step.

The problem is that if you respond to behaviors as 'wrong" then the child will stop, feel wrong and do less.

I just met as little girl who has been diagnosed with several things like PDD, ASD, dd, etc.

Thanks to her parents, she doesn't seem to know this or think differently about herself.

So when you call a child delayed or slow, be very careful. No child is delayed or slow except in comparison to same a ged children.

I know many very able le people who have learned others think they are delayed or wrong and then when they begin to think that of themselves, they try less and do less.

I am sure each of you know someone, hopefully not yourself, who has felt wrong or not just right, and then they do in life much less than they really could do.

I hope you learn that taking the attitude that "my child is who she is, period." and not act as thought there is something wrong with her.

If you want your child to do more, then join her world and show her how. Too often professionals are pushing our children to do things they are not developmentally ready for and then when the therapy or school fails, the child is blamed.

Everyone has a responsibility to grow at his own pace. COMPARISONS ARE HATEFUL, because you can never be someone else and if you try you will be unhappy and unsuccessful.

Dr. Jim"

Thursday, April 23, 2009

"It's my pleasure!"

Since Cincinnati is over four hours away by car, I stayed in a hotel for last weekend's convention. At the hotel, I heard one phrase over and over from the staff, and hearing it made me smile.

"It's my pleasure!"

I waited in a very long line (45 minutes long, probably a couple hundred people in line ahead of me) to check-in at this hotel. There were two groups arriving at the same time, a Church of Christ ladies retreat (as evidenced by the signs pointing out where their sessions were being held) and the gi-normous homeschool convention. I was glad to have arrived when I did, because the line grew longer, and I saw many families getting in line waaaaay past the point where I joined the back of that line.

When I finally got my turn at the check-in counter, I wondered if the employees there would be grumpy or short with those of us in front of them.

When I thanked the man who handed me my room "key" (more like a credit card), he answered with a smile, "Oh, it's MY pleasure!" And he sounded like he meant it.

During my stay, I called to the front desk several times, once to set up a wake up call that never came, and each time, when I thanked the employee for their time, they answered with, "It's my pleasure!" and I could hear a smile in their voices. They couldn't see me, but I was smiling back!

Simple phrase. Important message about serving. Lots to think about.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

More of my convention finds

I was interrupted while creating the post of photos of items I brought home from the homeschool convention in Cincinnati.

Here are a few more items that came home with me.

We gave one of our children a name that we thought was rare and special and we gave the name an unusal spelling as well. Little did we know that the name would become popular, and that the spelling we chose would be impossible to find on a pre-printed pencil or mug or doo-dad. Cross Timber Gift Shop offers personalized personalization (is that redundant?) and I had them make a bookmark for each family member.

I bought my girls bracelets from Generations of Virtue.

And, on the recommendation of a whoooooole bunch of moms, including a few who are moms to children on the autism spectrum, I bought an audio CD from storyteller Jim Weiss from Greathall Productions.

Discrimination against homeschoolers

If you are a board member of a non-profit organization that offers grants and scholarships to individuals with disabilities, please remember that homeschoolers will not have a current IEP for documentation. Please include other forms of documentation that are acceptable in order to confirm a diagnosis.

Non-profit organizations that offer scholarships to children on the autism spectrum and require either a current IEP (from the public school system) or MORE documentation than a public schooler would have to provide are DISCRIMINATORY against homeschoolers. You may not *intend* to be discriminatory. I suspect that many board members may not know families who homeschool children who would qualify for an IEP if those children were in public school.

One local non-profit's grant application process requires, "Proof of a diagnosis of Autism, Asperger's or PDD-NOS is required at the time of application and must be within the last three years." A homeschooler isn't going to keep taking a child for re-diagnosis. A public schooler will have IEPs updated at least yearly (usually more often).

The one I applied to most recently, a different organization, states:

"Applicants must provide (name-of-organization) verification of diagnosis from treating physician/s or current IEP (Individualized Education Plan)."

I suspect we're the first homeschooling family to apply.

I provided a verification of diagnosis from my child's treating physician, and was asked for more documentation, a recent report, for example. Autism is considered a lifelong condition. Once a child has been diagnosed with autism, families don’t usually have their children re-diagnosed. (Our most recent documentation, an ADOS and RDA in February of 2009, comes from our RDI® Program Certified Consultant, and that consultant is not a physician, and that does not meet the criteria.) Homeschoolers will not have a current IEP.

Please, board members, broaden your documentation criteria of diagnosis or disability for families who are homeschooling.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Figure Skating: A test and a BADGE!!

Today's figure skating session was a test of basic skills, and my girl passed! :)

After the test, the lessons continued and she continued learning to lift one foot:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Convention: What I bought

Convention speakers

I had two big delays on the road to Cincinnati, Thursday, which almost caused me to miss the first of three Thursday night sessions. Fortunately, I slid into a seat in Susan Wise Bauer's first session just a few minutes late despite the delays combined with a 45 minute wait in line to check into the hotel.

Dr. Bauer, who is in her 40's, was homeschooled with her siblings as a child, and now, she is homeschooling her children. Think "The Well Trained Mind". In the session I attended, Dr Bauer talked about things her parents did right, and things that they've learned from. Also on Thursday night, I attended a session with Carol Barnier about what to do on days when you fall off your lesson plan and one with Scott and Melinda Boring on the topic of the distractible adult.

Another homeschool mom on the Crew introduced me to Carol Barnier a couple of months ago (thank you, April!). Carol Barnier has a new book that is packed with ideas and strategies, and I bought it. You can find Carol Barnier on the internet in three places, Open Gifts, SizzleBop, and Carol's Web Corner.

I attended one session that was familiar to me -- the others were new-to-me speakers.

I've known about Melinda Boring for several years, I've read her book (parts of it several times)and I was thrilled to finally get to see her and meet her in person. She and her husband, Scott, have a humorous and useful presentation on how to live together when one is organized and one is distractible. Their business sells all sorts of tools and doo-dads to assist children with special learning needs, from pencil grips to chair cushions to readers to visual timers (and everything in between).

I did not enter the vendor hall, Thursday night. I could see it from the second floor windows -- it was huge.

Friday morning, sessions began bright and early at (yawn) 8 am. I attended my first session with Mark Hamby of Lamplighter Publishing. Some of Mark Hamby's presentations are here. WOW. I was not familiar with Lamplighter Publishing -- if you're not familiar with it, please check it out. (Make sure you don't miss the Rare Collector Series.)

When I first began to look over the session choices, a couple of weeks ago, my choices were purely based on the idea of homeschooling a child with special needs. Mark Hamby's topics caught my eye, though, and I began to ask on the internet about him, and the responses I received from people who've seen him in person were very enthusiastic. So, I reconsidered some of my selections, and I am soooooo glad I did. I needed to hear Hamby's message.

He talks about parenting, sharing deeply from his own experience, his own mistakes and successes. His message is not about changing the child. His message is about changing ourSELVES, taking the focus off of changing our children. His message is about reconciliation. His presentations were packed -- he is an engaging and popular speaker. His message is touching and sends you looking deep inside yourself.

Then I headed to hear Karen "Spunky" Braun talk about blogging. She's a mini-celebrity, you know. :)

And then, I lost myself in the vendor hall. I thought the vendor hall at my first (state) convention last year was overwhelming. I had no idea. I completely missed a session because I lost track of time in that big vendor hall, Friday. The experience was a little bit like being in Las Vegas, where there are no windows and no clocks. (Stay tuned to my blog-- I'll write later about some of my finds in the vendor hall.)

After I found myself again, I gathered my wits about me and returned to my game plan. I'd spent a lot of time on my plan of which sessions I'd attend, and I was a little bit upset with myself for getting off track.

I sat in on Bonnie Simon's sesson about the importance of learning to listen. She has a really wonderful and creative product, called Maestro Classics, and I suspect these audio CDs might be effective with students on the autism spectrum. She talked about development of musical intelligence and the importance of music in childhood, especially early childhood. She is passionate about bringing music to children, and she does, indeed, make classical music very child-friendly.

After the Bonnie Simon's session, I headed back to the vendor area, and watched the time so that I would not miss a 4 pm session with Mark Hamby on the topic of Building Character One Story at a Time.

And I spent the remainder of the evening, two sessions in a row, with Carol Barnier, as she offered Part 1 and Part 2 of how to teach a distractible child. As soon as her sessions were over, I headed back downstairs to the vendor hall and purchased her new book, "The Big What Now Book of Learning Styles", which has more ideas than she was able to share with us in two hours. I am tickled to say that I got there in time to buy one before they sold out, *and* Carol autographed my copy.

Saturday morning, I started my day with Dr Larry Schweirkart presenting on the topic of why we all need a patriot's history of the United States. (Note to self: Check the library for Dr Schweikart's books.)

Next, I joined a packed room to hear Mark Hamby, again, and had the pleasure of sitting with my cyber friend, Becky, and then to lunch with Becky.

...and (there's a theme here, do you see it?) another session with Carol Barnier. Her presentation about seeing the gifts of your children was very encouraging.

...and I had planned to spend my last two sessions with Dr Stephen Guffanti, on the topic of ADHD and kinesthetic learners, and I did try, but my mind was too tired to concentrate, and I slipped out and made a mental note to get his book via interlibrary loan (he was sold out downstairs) because he kept pointing out which on pages of his book we could find this information or that information.

Saturday night, I began to read one of the books that I bought from Lamplighter Publishing. I would read for a while and then take a break, and was driven to pick it back up again, because I wanted to know what happened next. I finished the book in one evening.

I bought some audio CDs of sessions I missed and listened to several of them on the drive home Sunday.

I learned a lot. I feel encouraged. I'm glad to be home.

What's Up With That? (The things I think)

The homeschool convention offered no child care for children. There was a teen track, and children 12 and above were able to attend sessions on their own. So, the sessions I attended had more than a few children (and lots of itty bitty babies) sitting in as well. The children were absolutely wonderful.


There were a good number of families there whose dress told me that they are probably Amish or Mennonite. The women and girls wore their hair up in a pretty bun, and over the bun, the women wore a white net cap. (I'm sure there is an official name for this cap, but I have no idea what it might be.) In quite a few sessions, I happened to be sitting behind some of these women. THOSE CAPS ARE ALWAYS PRISTINE. No marks or stains or smudges. Some of these women had babies with them. My babies were always getting my clothes smudged somehow. How do they manage to always have a spotless cap? That's what I was wondering...
I still consider myself a newcomer to homeschooling, so I'm thinking maybe I haven't seen very much in terms of who is represented. Last weekend's convention in Cincinnati was my second convention. Overwhelmingly, the attendees are Caucasian. Where's the diversity? What's up with that?

I'm glad to be home

I am so glad to be home again, to be close to my family, where hugs and kisses are always within reach!

This morning, I am glad to be home for my husband's coffee. His coffee is better than mine. He has a knack for getting the right amount of ground coffee and water in the pot. I don't. And the stuff I made in the hotel was waaaay under par.

I'm composing a post about the speakers I heard, and in my head, I'm tossing around another post about what I bought and what I considered in the vendor area.

Stay tuned.

Right now, I have some coffee to sip.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

I'm back from Cincinnati and the convention!

Heidi from the blog, Clatter and Chatter and Things That Matter has access to a button maker machine, and she made buttons for Crew Mates attending the homeschool convention in Cincinnati. Here's mine:

We Crew Mates managed to meet for a photo. Here's Heidi, me (Penny), Candace, Christy and Regenia (Angela showed up a little late for the photo):

And our "official" pinning of the button ceremony:

(okay, I just made that up about the "official" ceremony!)


I was overwhelmed by the vendor area.

This is just *one* end of it -- multiply this photo by about four:

Another extra special moment was meeting another friend whom I've known only on the internet. Becky is really special to me, because one of her children is on the autism spectrum, she and her husband are RDIers, too, they are Christians, and she has been an incredible friend and support to me and many others via the internet. Meeting her in person was an absolute treat!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tapestry of Grace: A TOS Homeschool Crew Review

I have been curious about the classical approach to homeschooling. I know several homeschooling families who use a classical approach. (They do not have any children with developmental delays or special learning challenges, so I have no idea how to compare my situation to theirs.)

When Crew members were given a unit of Tapestry of Grace from Lampstand Press in the form of a digital edition to review, I got my opportunity to look at, feel, use, a curriculum from a classical approach.

I had not experienced a curriculum this broad, and did not know what to expect. I had assumed (incorrectly) that it would arrive with everything I would need to begin, right out of the box.

What is Tapestry of Grace? Lampstand Press offers a summary in “The Loom,” in the digital edition on-line:

“Tapestry of Grace is a humanities curriculum, written for four levels of stud in three major subjects: History, Fine Arts, and English (including Writing and Literature). It includes elective studies (at age-appropriate levels) in Geography, Church History, and the History of Philosophy, as well as an emphasis on the history of missions and a focus on unreached people groups. You could use t his curriculum for all subjects except Phonics, formal English Grammar (though recommendations for this are included in the Writing Component), Mathematics, Foreign Languages, traditional science studies (for h igh school, these include General Science, Biology, Chemistry and Physics).”

The web site excerpt from “The Loom” continues:

“What is a curriculum? It is a plan of study. This is a curriculum, not a textbook. You will need to use many resources besides this plan in order to educate your child(ren), many of which are now available through our online bookstore, The Bookshelf. We hope this plan and our bookstore will make finding resources, planning your family’s school work, and teaching lessons easier than ever before. “

And this excerpt from the Tapestry of Grace web site elaborates:

“From Grades K-12, all students cycle through world history every four years, with all ages studying the same slice of history each week, each at their own learning level. Detailed lesson plans and discussion outlines enable parents to be their children's primary teachers and mentors and shape their students' biblical worldviews.”

Crew members were given a choice of units and I chose to begin at the beginning, with Year 1 Unit 1, The Books of Moses. My daughter has an interest in Egypt, and I thought we might be able to build upon one of her interests.

Downloading the curriculum and LockLizard took a few minutes. Soon, I was looking at the files that make up Year 1 Unit 1, The Books of Moses.

It’s HUGE. Comprehensive. Detailed. I was overwhelmed by the amount of information available to me. I opened several windows and loaded different sections of Year 1 Unit 1 on my monitor and began toggling among them. Each “GI-normous” unit is only $45 (there are four units per year for four years).

I found yahoo groups that focus on Tapestry of Grace. The support from other families who love the program is phenomenal.

If I could go back in time and BE a homeschooled student, Tapestry of Grace is what is *I’d* like to study! I can imagine that this material is as exciting for the homeschooling parent as it is for the children!

Before I had a child diagnosed with autism and I imagined what homeschooling looked like, this type of program was what I imagined.

Take a look at the first three weeks of the very unit we have been using:

Whether you are seriously considering Tapestry of Grace or are mildly curious about it, I recommend that you spend some time with the three-week sample and “test drive” it for yourself. The three week trial will give you enough experience to know if it’s a fit for your family.

If you consider yourself a classical homeschooler, I think you might like Tapestry of Grace.

If you have at home a modern day one-room schoolhouse with students spanning ages and grades, I suspect you’ll appreciate Tapestry of Grace, because you will be able to teach all of your students with one curriculum, and effectively individualize to each student’s developmental and educational level. For a family homeschooling several children, Tapestry of Grace is both cost-and-time-effective.

If you have a child who, developmentally, is “all over the place”, with scattered skills, who is working at different levels in different subjects, you will appreciate Tapestry of Grace, because you get all of the levels for each unit in one purchase Tapestry of Grace appears to me to be easy to customize for an individual student with unique learning needs, as long as they are at least comprehending the world (humanities, history) at a lower grammar level.

If you are homeschooling an Aspie who loves facts, is driven by learning more and more about a subject, I suspect that you will like Tapestry of Grace. Tapestry of Grace provides a recommended weekly schedule, a routine, and individuals on the autism spectrum thrive on routine.

I really like the concept of traveling through the same material every four years, and each trip through the material is a new journey using the same curriculum as a framework with new books, activities and assignments for new levels.

Browsing the digital edition

The opening page offers users a “How to use Tapestry DE” button, an “About Tapestry of Grace” button, and a “Free Tapestry Samples” button. From this page, users may also enter the units they have purchased, and users may enter The Loom. The Loom is considered the framework of the Tapestry year plan.

In The Loom, I opened a document called, “Scheduling Advice by Dana Cawood”. Even though my daughter is “upper grammar” by age, her auditory processing challenges and developmental delays have us still building and shoring-up some pre-school foundations right now. There is not a pre-school section in Tapestry of Grace. So, I peeked at the section written for “lower grammar” students. I could see from the get-go that using Tapestry of Grace at this particular time in our homeschooling would be a lot of work for me as I modify for a 9 year old who is, in my opinion and that of our RDI® Program Certified Consultant, not ready for content delivery for the sake of content delivery and heavy-duty academics. The 9 am – noon block of time on the suggested schedule is crammed with too many items and activities for a child with learning challenges. I am trying to guard against my tendency to push my daughter into frustration mode. We’re deliberately trying to work on short lessons with long breaks, growing trust in me as a teacher, and giving her opportunities for her to experience being a learner. I saw more problems: The read alouds and memory work and recitation scheduled by Cawood are not developmentally appropriate for us. I knew I’d be doing a lot of modification (in terms of paring down) in order to get to know this resource with my daughter.

There are two schools of thought in terms of teaching a child on the autism spectrum. One is to try to support and compensate for weaknesses and push the strengths, and that perspective often has students studying heavily modified age-appropriate material with same age peers. Another is to avoid over-growing the strengths while remediating issues that are considered developmental delays or weaknesses, and that perspective encourages the use of developmentally appropriate materials.

One of the reasons I withdrew my daughter from public school was the emphasis that the public school staff placed on the belief that children with special learning needs should be doing as much age appropriate work with same-age peers as possible. I’m all for inclusion, but some learners are hindered when they are able to tackle age-appropriate materials that are not developmentally appropriate.

Developmentally, we are still working on the experiences that broaden a pre-reader’s self-to-text and text-to-self comparisons.

I know that I can teach my daughter facts. Memorization is skill for many individuals on the autism spectrum. But memorization of static facts in autism often turns into one-sided attempts at interaction and conversation that is a turn-off for the other party involved in that interaction. We are trying NOT to reinforce recitation of facts in place of conversation right now. My challenge in using Tapestry of Grace has been using it in a developmentally appropriate fashion and to guard against memorization for the sake of memorization.

Getting started

Tapestry of Grace took a lot of preparation in order to begin. I needed a lot of time to figure it all out. There’s no way I could have purchased this product in July and been ready to hit the ground running in August. If you’re going to use Tapestry of Grace, buy it at least a month before you plan to begin in order to give yourself the time you need to locate the recommended reading material.

The digital edition was bothersome to me. Magazines and articles in digital format are fine for me, now. I’m growing to like them. But this gigantic curriculum is too big for me to manage while I’m sitting at the computer monitor.

My daughter has several therapies and lessons during the week, where I sit and wait for her. I don’t have access to a laptop to use during those therapies. A hard copy would have been transportable for me to use during wait time. I could have chosen to print the digital edition, but I chose not to spend the money to print the curriculum in order to be able to carry it with me.

The materials are set up for a family with several students of different ages, and the set up would be really useful for a family like that. I’m homeschooling just one child, and I don’t want to see the other levels. If I’d had an option to print ONLY the lower grammar materials, I might have printed a hard copy, but I did not want to waste toner and paper on pages and pages that outline an entire lesson for first through twelfth grades.

I opened the book list in one window and my local library web site in another, and began searching for recommended books. My library and the bigger library system offered very few of the titles. I opened another window, accessing an even larger library system, to continue my search.

I managed to find five or six of the recommended books, and only one was available immediately. I put holds on the others and waited. One did not arrive for nearly eight weeks. By then, I’d had to return the other books, because I’d renewed them to the limit.

I finally drove to my home library and checked out all the books that I could find (not many) about Egypt for young children. None are on the recommended reading list, but that was the best I could do.

Dana Cawood has a trip to the library scheduled on Friday in the suggested schedule for the week, for getting books for next week’s lessons. Unless you have an incredible library, you are not going to be able to rely on it for having the books you need when you need them. You may need to consider purchasing the recommended reading.

The Verdict

My biggest problem about using the materials for writing a review is related to the situation that my daughter is still growing developmental foundations for much of what Tapestry of Grace offers. While I am pleased with the amount of materials the curriculum offers (it’s HUGE), I found that we did not use very much of it because most of the lower grammar levels were developmentally inappropriate at this time. We spent our time laying foundations, setting the stage to begin Tapestry of Grace, much like a family would do with a typically developing three or four year old who are using the program with older children in that one-room schoolhouse in a homeschool setting. YES, Tapestry of Grace is incredibly versatile, completely customizable, and yet, it was too much material for me to go through in order to plan for one child who is not quite ready for the first level (lower grammar). I used very little of the material compared to what is available in the unit, and the time I spent way too much time to read and consider what to use and what to set aside in our situation.

I wanted SO MUCH to be able to USE Tapestry of Grace. Despite the frustrations with the “gi-normous” digital edition and locating the recommended reading material, I see that it is a well-planned and beautiful program. We just happen to not be developmentally ready for this program at the moment. We WILL get there – and when the time is right, we have our digital edition waiting for us.

To read reviews about Tapestry of Grace, including other units, please click HERE.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Skating Lesson #8


She worked on more snowplow stops today:

My Blog, My Reviews, My Experience, My Opinion

Yesterday, I was made aware of an ABC News internet article entitled, "Parenting Blogs May Be Held Liable for Product Reviews".

In light of that article, I want to make sure my readers understand the intent of my blog.

One of my children is a 9-year-old girl who was diagnosed on the autism spectrum just after her second birthday. We began intervening a few months before the official diagnosis.

Early intervention is expensive. We paid for most of it out of pocket, because insurance covers very little and our public school district offered a measley 2.5 hours a WEEK in group intervention. Even when we used the public school system for a child on the autism spectrum, we were still purchasing products to use at home in order to supplement what the school system was doing.

I never thought to look at resources marketed to homeschoolers until I withdrew my daughter from public school.

When I did begin to consider homeschooling resources, I discovered, to my delight, that there is a resource for pretty much every need. In fact, there are so many resources, I felt overwhelmed. At the same time, I was thrilled to see that many of the products were similar to more expensive products sold in catalogs of products marketed to individuals who work with people with special needs.

Enter TOS Homeschool Crew. A focus group. Viral marketing. In order to participate, I agreed to accept free products to use at home with my daughter and write an accurate review of the product and my experience (which are not always positive) for a medium like a blog. When I applied to be a part of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I applied with two goals in mind. One was to figure out how to teach my own daughter and to do it affordably. The other was to share what I was given with others in a way that they could see resources that are available and maybe find something that works for them, too.

The ABC article makes a point about word-of-mouth marketing being very effective. They're right. I'll buy a product on the recommendation of another parent before I'll buy it based upon a TV commercial or magazine ad.

Families who have children with special needs like autism have a unique and unspoken bond. We all spend a lot of money out of pocket on therapies and intervention. If we find a product that is AWESOME, we TELL one another about it! And I trust another parent's recommendation before the recommendation of a professional or a company or vendor.

From the beginning of t his blog, I have been very clear about which reviews are about products I bought and which reviews are about products I was given as part of the Crew. One *is* a form of advertising. One is not.

To be perfectly clear: Reviews marked "A TOS Homeschool Crew Review" (or something similar) are a form of advertisement because they are products that I accepted (free of charge) in order to use at home and review on my blog.

My motive is not to sell products for a vendor, but to introduce families to products, to tell the story of how we were or were not able to use them, and to give families a starting point for research. If the product works for us, I try to explain why and how -- I want the reader to get a sense of whether it is worth buying for the reader's individual situation.

If the company offering a product for review has free samples, I always share that information, and I expect that interested readers will try the free samples before they buy. I expect readers to read my opinion, my experience, and seek out other opinions and experiences. You as a reader have the obligation to check out for yourself anything I write about a product before buying that product for your family.

My pocketbook is not affected if you buy a product that I have reviewed. I receive no monetary compensation for my reviews, nor any monetary compensation for products that folks buy after they've read one of my reviews. I have no financial interest in your purchasing products that I've been given to review.

When my daughter and I began homeschooling, I could not find a resource like my blog, and I wanted to be that resource for other families.

I hope that's exactly what I'm doing.

HERE is my disclosure policy.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Resource from Ruth Graham

As homeschool convention season approaches, I thought I'd share with you a resource I bought a year ago, (half price!), at the Zondervan booth in the exhibit hall.

Last year, at my very first homeschool convention, I bought a book called, "Step into the Bible, 100 Bible Stories for Family Devotions," by Ruth Graham.

It's good enough to share with you!

Maybe you're looking for a "between-you-and-me" resource to use with a child who is developmentally delayed, or with your family, or with young children. This one meets those needs.

Peek inside HERE.

Each devotional retells a Bible story on two pages, with one page for the story and another page for follow-up questions and a memory verse. Each story takes about 10 minutes--perfect for a child learning to build attention and listening skills. The photographs inside are absolutely beautiful.

Three Good Reminders from Dr James MacDonald

Today's blog entry is published with permission from Communicating Partners' Dr. James MacDonald.


Developmental age is much more important for learning than his chronological age. WHY?

How old is your child? And what should he be doing now?

You need to know that your child has several developmental ages.

You will be successful when you fit your goals to his developmental ages.

A developmental age is the one he does a task at. For example: Even if Sammy is 6 in years (chronologically) , he may run like he’s five. Draw like he’s four. Understand you like he’s three. Talk like he’s two, and cry like he’s one. Even when he is actually six years old. The point is that you need to teach him at each developmental age so he can learn with you. Teaching or expecting six year old Sammy to talk or understand llike a six-year-old will just spell failure for each of you.



More of what he has already done and just a little more of what he is already doing! When you expect too much of your child, you often do more than he can do. When you expect too much, he learns he cannot succeed with you. When you expect too much he is unlikely to spend much learning time with you.

What to Do?

Every child can do a little more than he is now by expecting a little more action, sound, or word. You will help by showing him a little next step. When you do this, he will succeed and he will stay to learn more with you. If you do too much he may think he is a failure.Your child will do more when you expect and show him one step above.


WAIT FOR A SURPRISE Your child can do much more than you think! When I wait for a child she often surprises me by doing something I did not think she could do! You may think you know your child well. I find that children know much more than we expect. The more you wait silently the more your child will DO things you did not know she could do, SAY things you did not know she could say. Let you know her better. Allow you to get closer to her world, interact with you more. Learn that she can have successes with you.

Wait and let your child surprise you with what he can do.

Communicating Partners 2009

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter from our family to yours!!!!

He is risen!!!!!!!
Ready for church this morning:

Would you believe my kids had never dyed Easter eggs? Last night was a first:

We made egg shaped sugar cookies last night, too (gluten free, casein free, soy free etc):

Saturday, we went to a major league baseball game. Our seats were three rows from the top of the statium, in the shade, 53ish degrees, cool wind blowing. We froze.

Eventually, we gave up on trying to stay warm in our seats, and found some picnic tables in the sunshine.

We were near the fountain that sprays when we score. I somehow managed to capture this:

My children:

Photos of the game and the scenery around the ball park:

my girls

Trying to stay warm:

Friday, April 10, 2009

Delayed food allergy testing, before and after photos

I am prompted by a discussion on a Yahoo group to post some before and after photos of my daughter. I sometimes post photos of her, simply skim my archives to see her now.

Our GFCF diet anniversary is next week: EIGHT years. We slid for several years, staying *mostly* GFCF, but using digestive enzymes to allow occasional, deliberate infractions for pizza or a sandwich on wheat bread. We've struggled on-and-off w/ eczema. I have it, too. The eczema became a family member for a while, and I wasn't sure what was contributing to it. My baby girl's face showed evidence that something was affecting her skin, but what? (Double click on the photos below for a close-up of the rash on her face.)

A "Food-Specific IgG Antibody Assessment" from US BioTek Laboratories revealed delayed food allergies to gluten, casein, soy, and several other foods, including pineapple. When we saw the lab results, we immediately returned to strict GFCF again, also removing soy. We switched to a pineapple-free enzyme, too.

My daughter's skin improved within a few days of changing the diet. I thought you might like to see the photos.

About two months after we returned to a strict GFCF diet plus soy free and a few other foods, my daughter ate a slice of pizza. I caught her with the crust in her hand. Wheat, milk (mozarrella was one of the biggies on her delayed food allergy test), and probably soy were in that slice. I gave her digestive enzymes (a bromelain-free enzyme) and crossed my fingers, hoped for the best. For two days, I saw no changes. On the third day, she was veeeeery easily frustrated, screeching more protests at me, resisting joining me in anything. On the fourth day after the dietary infraction, she was much worse, behaviorally, melting down (or as HANDLE says, "flaring up") with self-regulation decreasing. US Biotek's paperwork says that the delayed food allergy REACTION can be observed up to FOUR days later. Well, guess what? On the FIFTH day, the eczema returned to her face and legs.The pizza infraction was an eye opener for me. Having her at home with me in a homeschool setting has allowed me to see a lot more. I was missing a lot when she was in public school.

When we saw our DAN! doctor again in person several months later (we were there for one of many strep tests), he walked into the exam room and stopped in his tracks, his jaw dropped for a moment, and he turned his whole body around to look at me, asking with loud excitement, "WHAT DID YOU DO???? WHAT DID YOU DO????" I was caught off guard -- I had no idea what he was referring to (we had not seen him in a few months and I had forgotten that he had not yet witnessed the improvement in the eczema). He was amazed that we were not using any cream or ointment or anything on it. We just changed her diet.

Here's a BEFORE food allergy testing revealed some delayed food allergies that we didn't know about:

And here's an after (these photos are taken a year apart)

Another BEFORE

And another AFTER

Skating Lesson 7

I wasn't sure about today's lesson. We skipped Tuesday morning's lesson, because a sibling was sick w/ strep throat. On Tuesday mornings, we have the place to ourselves, and there are no other skaters on the ice to distract my princess. The afternoons are different, and the ice was more crowded, more chaotic, louder today, because this week is spring break for all of the public schools in our entire county.

My princess has been, let's say, grumpy, the past two days, and I wasn't sure how she'd handle the demands of a lesson. She managed. (!!!)

Coach has been scaffolding a snowplow stop by allowing my princess to work at the boards, holding onto the rail for balance. Today, she coached my princess through a snowplow stop away from the boards. Impressive, eh?

Here's a clip that illustrates some of the distractions:

I didn't get as much video footage today--trust me that she and Coach had a FANtastic lesson!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Flying creatures hatching in Kentucky

My mom, 600+ miles away from us, found this surprise in a bush near her garage today - thought you might enjoy!

Gotta love the internet for a moment like this one...she saw it, snapped a pic, and sent it over 600 miles in minutes!

Apologia: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day, a TOS Homeschool Crew Review

I brought her home. Now what? How will I teach a precious child with unique learning challenges?

I don't have room for all of the questions I have when I think about homeschooling.

I really want a homeschool curriculum-product-materials-and-resource FAIRY to drop all of the right things in my lap.

Being on this year's Crew has given me, in a sense, that fairy. I'm an alternate on this year's Crew, and overwhelmingly, I've been given products that I am able to use with my learner at home.

Recently, the "fairy" dropped this one on my front porch: "Exploring Creatures with Zoology 1, Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day," ($35.00) by Jeannie Fulbright, from Apologia's Young Explorer Series.

"Apologia provides fun and challenging K-12 creation-based science curriculum specifically designed for the home school."

This textbook, like the others in the series, are written in a Charlotte Mason style and are meant to be used for a school year, and is an in-depth study of one subject. It covers, birds, bats, flying reptiles, insects, beetles, flies, and true bugs, butterflies and moths. There are 14 lessons in this book, with each lesson taking approximately two weeks to complete. The other books in this series cover astronomy, botany and more zoology. Click on "elementary science" from the Apologia home page to take a look. (An aside: my daughter is sitting with me as I type this review, and as I look at the page containing the elementary series, she asked me to order "Land Animals of the Sixth Day". She did not know that there are other books in the series!)

As soon as the textbook arrived and I opened it, my daughter snatched it from my hand and looked at it for a long time. I like to follow her interests, and she enjoys looking at books about animals. I suspected this would be a wonderful fit for us at home.

This textbook is *beautiful*. OMGoodness, the color photographs are gorgeous!!! You see this book, you immediately want to pick it up and look through it. I want to order the other books in the series just to *have* them, even though we won't get to the next one in the series for another year!

The author suggests that students work through the first lesson in the book first, and after that, families may skip around. I love that we are given "permission" up front to skip around, go out of order! We know we're going to skip around! :)

There's a "Need Help?" page at the front of the book, so parents know where to go for support if it's needed. An introduction explains how to use the book, including use of narration, notebooks, projects and experiments, and how to pace your family study. And then, there's a materials section that tells parents up front what items are needed to complete each lesson. Most of the items are common household or homeschool items.

I always scan lists for items that are off-limits at our house. Most of the items on this list are non-food items, and families with children with allergies to consider will find plenty non-food projects and experiments to complete. (Note for those w/ peanut allergies: Lesson two lists crunchy peanut butter in a recipe for suet. I am wondering what, if anything, we could use that is not a nut or seed butter for that particular project.)

There is an egg candling experiment in "Lesson 6, Matching and Hatching," that we will do as we dye Easter eggs later this week.

We're still addressing auditory processing issues and challenges in reading comprehension, so read-alouds with narration and reading alone are not activities we use (--YET. We're getting there, and we will get there!) And still, there is an incredible amount of "meat" in this book that I am able to use.

I've said many times in my reviews that relationship development is my priority with my daughter who is on the autism spectrum. I look for resources that scaffold the teaching process for me so that I can scaffold learning for my daughter. Academic activities can be a background piece, but relationship development must be primary.

THIS TEXTBOOK DELIVERS. Don't let my review lead you to think you must do everything with your child(ren). The experiments and projects can be completed by older children without much assistance, and, the same experiments and projects can be used as background activities for relationship development. In many of the experiments, perspective taking and comparison is built in as families monitor preferences of winged creatures in their own back yards. I love the two-fers that deliver guided participation / relationship development with thinking skills.

My daughter likes to look at this book. I find that for us, looking at the book together and my following the lead of my daughter works nicely. She and I need more experience with shared reading, and this book works for us. I read aloud parts that pertain to the photographs she views, condensing the material. Sometimes, she tries to read parts of it aloud to herself, and I stay close by, assisting gently. I try to use the terms from the book later, in context, when we're outdoors.

We have a science museum nearby with an incredible bat exhibit, and we will visit it when we get to the lesson about bats. I'd like to erect a bat house in our back yard.

Last fall, I bought a butterfly house kit at a charity book sale for a few cents, and as temps warm here, we'll paint it and put it up in the back yard, find some flowers that attract butterflies to plant nearby, and we'll focus on the lesson about the order Leridoptera.

We're probably not using the text in the way that most families are, but we are learning differently than most families. We've really enjoyed this item, and plan to continue to work from it. Apologia offers a money back guarantee if you are not satisfied. I am satisfied!

To read reviews about this and other Apologia products by my Crewmates, click HERE.

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