Monday, May 31, 2010

The Shadow of a Doubt

Homeschooling. Run-ins with a bully's mom at the ballpark. Choosing what behavior to address and what to ignore, and worrying about what folks will think about what I choose (for now) to ignore (because it's not developmentally appropriate to address it without dealing with something foundational first).

I have doubts. Thanks, Scott Noelle, for this reminder.

:: The Shadow of a Doubt ::

If you're worried about what others think of your
parenting, consider this:

MAYBE they're judging you; maybe not. But *you* are
DEFINITELY judging yourself!

Your emotional reaction (worry) is the tip-off to your
self-judgment. If you were absolutely confident in
your parenting, you might be *aware* of others judging
you, and that would inform your choices, but it
wouldn't get under your skin.

This doesn't mean you should try to eliminate all
doubt. Uncertainty is a necessary part of any
leading-edge path. It makes you a better learner.

When you embrace doubt and practice being "confidently
uncertain," you'll stop needing others' approval.
Better yet, some of them will drop their judgments and
grow to appreciate or even emulate your ways!

Feel free to forward this message to your friends!
(Please include this paragraph and everything above.)
Copyright (c) 2010 by Scott Noelle

Memorial Day

I managed to tie reading to a holiday! (Yeah, me!)
I bought, "Red, White, and Blue" from Rainbow Resource at the homeschool convention, and my homeschooler and I read it over the weekend. With a couple of wars described in the book, it is appropriate for setting the stage for Memorial Day, when we remember those who served our country and protected our freedom.
My girl liked it so much that I purchased some related titles at the outlet mall bookstore, Saturday afternoon.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Resources and Activities - (List 2) RDI-able (guided participation)

I found a few items worth sharing, games with RDI-able value, and build thinking skills and mindfulness.

The Rush Hour board game.

Folding Circles -- I learned about Wholemovement at a homeschool convention. You'll need a big stack of flexible paper plates for this one.

Lokulus -- I found this game at a giant bookstore chain, and my eldest and I think it will be a good travel game for the interstate.

Doodle It books -- Glamour Girl, Creepy Critters, etc. In addition to those two, the warehouse club had a doodle book for boys, one for girls, one about fairies, too, priced around $8.50.

List 1 is HERE.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Simple Italian-Style Meat Sauce

I have food on the brain today.

I made Simple Italian-Style Meat Sauce this afternoon. I used two slices (they're small) of Udi's GF bread in place of the wheat bread, and I used 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of water to replace the milk in the recipe. I omitted the cheese. I made a pot of GF pasta and a pot of wheat pasta so that everyone could have some. I got three thumbs up out of five. ;) The sauce is delicious!

Gluten Free Strawberry Pie

From Living Without, a recipe for gluten free strawberry pie.

Click HERE for the recipe.

Grilled Bananas with Coconut-Caramel Sauce

Today's Free Press Food Section has quite a few recipes that happen to be naturally gluten free and casein free. (The Freep got it from the Miami Herald.) One of the recipes is Grilled Bananas with Coconut-Caramel Sauce. My girl stopped eating bananas a while ago. She doesn't like to look at them. She doesn't like to smell them. She doesn't like to be in the same house room with someone who is eating one.

She may have to just shut her eyes and pinch her nose shut, because this recipe for Grilled Bananas with Coconut-Caramel Sauce looks to yummy to avoid!

Grilled Bananas with Coconut-Caramel Sauce

1/2 cup palm sugar or light brown sugar

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

Oil for the grill grates

8 apple bananas or 4 conventional bananas

Flat bamboo skewers

Combine the sugar and coconut milk in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking to dissolve the sugar. Simmer briskly until thick, golden and very flavorful, about 5 minutes, whisking often. Remove the pan from the heat and let the sauce cool to room temperature. Place it in a deep bowl. (Can be prepared up to a day ahead and refrigerated, covered. Let the sauce return to room temperature before using.)

Heat the grill to high. Brush and oil the grill grate. Peel bananas and skewer them through one end. Grill the bananas until they are lightly browned and partially cooked, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Dip the bananas in the coconut-caramel sauce (or brush it on all sides) and return them to the grill. Continue to grill the bananas until they are darkly browned and sizzling, 1 to 3 minutes per side. A bamboo skewer should easily pierce the banana. Transfer to a platter or bowl. Spoon the remaining sauce on top and serve at once. Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from "Steven Raichlen's Planet Barbecue!" (Workman, $22.95). Tested by the Miami Herald. 309 calories (41% from fat), 15 grams fat (13 grams sat. fat), 47 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 17 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol, 2 grams fiber.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I'm on a mission. I want to accomplish some serious decluttering.

Today, I emptied my "Tupperware" cabinet, matched containers with lids, and threw a bunch of stuff away, and reorganized what items remain. YEAH ME!!!! (I have a 999 areas left to declutter, now.)

Is it weird that I struggle to send worn out items to the garbage when I have a memory attached to those items? I have a few containers that my mom brought food in when she and my dad came to visit, food she put up in the summer from her garden. I have items that were wedding gifts. I have items that were given to me by people I love who have died.

Decluttering is a chore in many ways, sorting through stuff is more than physical. Sorting through memories and emotions may be the bigger job.

Penny's 2009/2010 TOS Crew Review TOP TEN Favorites

I have been blessed to be a reviewer for The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew for two voyages. I began as an alternate for TOS Homeschool Crew in the fall of 2008 as a brand new homeschooler to a child on the autism spectrum. I was invited to stay on as a First Mate during our second voyage that began in the summer of 2009. And I'll be staying on a third year reviewing products for younger learners from a special needs perspective as we begin reviewing products again in July.

The 2008/2009 review year boosted my confidence. I received a lot of products that showed me that I could be successful with my daughter, products that showed me how she learns. I loved that. I needed that.

The 2009/2010 review year has been different. Challenging. And not in a good way. The products I've received have shown me where my daughter's gaps and splinter skills are. Seeing how far behind she is in some areas is discouraging, and I have struggled to remain positive and upbeat at times. I needed to see her challenges clearly - and today, I have a much better picture of them. I am thankful for that. And I'm glad my first year had me feeling successful with her before a year of challenges.

From a mom who is homeschooling one (of three), and that one has unique learning needs and challenges, please know that I do have some favorites from the year. Like last year, my top ten list has more than ten items. ;) Allow me to spotlight them for you in no particular order:

All About Spelling Beehive Reader and What Am I? Reader: I think anything Marie Rippel develops is a winner. She thought of everything when she created her readers, and they can be used as a stand-alone or with All About Spelling.

Sarah's Wish: Jim Baumgardner took me to another place and another time with this book. I bought the next two in the series and didn't have time to read them during the Crew voyage. They're on my list for summer while I'm in between review voyages. I have to order the next book in the series, too (there's a new one out).

StudyPod Book Holder: I love this in the kitchen to hold my cookbook open while I'm cooking.

abcteach: I can always find something to use, and quickly. abcteach is a helpful time saver.

The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling: Deb Bell and Apologia gave me an incredible resource, for both research and direction and quick reference.

Family Mint: FREE service that works like a virtual bank to track allowance, saving, donation to charity. We have begun to use this more and my children like to see their allowance add up.

Virginia Soaps and Scents: VSS's soaps are fabulous - my eldest and I love them! We were able to stock up at a homeschool convention in April. Lemon verbena is my new favorite!

Schoolhouse Planner: Another incredible resource, and the first place I look when I need a particular form or chart. A time saver. I am kicking myself because I didn't buy the brand new one when it was $16 off.

Dollar Homeschool's Eclectic Education Series is giving me an education in how foundations for academics develop and emerge. In a year where I became cognizant of gaps in my child's development, EES gave me concrete ways to remediate those gaps. And it is something I wouldn't have known about without the Crew.

Madsen Method English For Life gave me hope that we will persevere and succeed. See, hear, do, say - and in a developmental fashion. Love it!

Grapevine Studies: Stick figure through the Bible? Who knew?!!! The kinesthetic component of stick figuring along with the lessons is brilliant for any learner, and especially for one who needs movement in order to learn.

Maestro Classics is a gentle, yet quality introduction into all things classical music, and is just fun to hear.

AVKO is another resource for me to educate ME about how to teach my girl.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Happy Birthday Twins

Eleven years ago today,
we went from a family of three
to a family of five.

We started celebrating early this year...

If you would like to see them just before they were born and just after, go HERE.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lobster Network, a TOS Crew Review

I own a few autism-related books, videos, and audio CDs. In the past, I have been generous to loan them to folks who needed them, and I've lost quite a few that way. Losing books has made me extremely reluctant to loan materials to friends. I rarely loan my materials these days.

I had no system in place to know what I loaned to whom. I have a good memory of what I've bought and what I've read, and when I want to re-read and re-research a topic, I know where to look, except when I've loaned a book to a friend and have forgotten which friend. Many times, I've sent e-mails and made phone calls trying to locate a particular book. How frustrating.

Lobster Network is a FREE service that addresses my problem. Members who register may create lists of their stuff, from homeschool resources to Nintendo games to autism materials to small appliances and electronics and everything in between. Members may keep lists private as an inventory or advertise items for loan or to give away.
The sign up process was simple. Lobster Network sent an e-manual to walk me through the data entry process. Lobster Network is open to suggestions for improvement; they listen to their users.

There are communities set up withing Lobster Network, so I am able to interact with people I know in real life or folks I know through groups online like TOS Crew. I control who sees my lists, and I am able to limit my loans to folks I know in real life if I choose to. I do like the idea of being able to give away materials to a family who is looking for what I want to get rid of. And I like being able to borrow or find materials that I need or would like to see more closely.

I'm not sure I'm ready to loan materials. I am still hesitant to do that. I would like to create a personal inventory. I have a big project ahead of me. Hopefully, I will accomplish some of it during the summer. I want to create a personal card catalog of sorts, to list my books about autism and my homeschool resources in my FREE account at Lobster Network. Maybe I'll loan items locally. And now, I'll have a place to record who borrowed what.

To read my Crewmates' reviews of Lobster Network, please click HERE.

As part of The Old Schoolhouse Crew of reviewers, I was asked to review a free account at Lobster Network. I am not compensated for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Different Drummers"

I sit and wait a couple of times a week while my daughter is in an autism therapy, and I like to have a book with me for those waiting times. More often than not, I have a serious book about autism to grow my knowledge.

Recently, I was given a book called, "Different Drummers," by Don Caron & Lyle Hatcher, and it became my autism-therapy-waiting-r0om-book-to-read.

"Different Drummers" is a wonderful story, well written, heartwarming. It is a story from Lyle Hatcher's childhood, of a child with attention challenges and hyperactivity during a time when the world did not understand those children. Lyle Hatcher happens to have been the first child to be prescribed Ritalin in Spokane, Washington, although this is not a story about that. It's a story about Lyle and his friendship with a boy who happens to be confined to a wheelchair due to muscular dystrophy. The story synopsis is HERE. Excerpts are available HERE.

The story touches me on many levels.

I was a child once. The authors take me inside Lyle's mind, and I understand him. I had classmates who were very much like Lyle. I had big dreams like Lyle. Lyle pulled off some of his grandiose ideas (and I did not-I wish I'd been more like him). I think anyone who has ever been a child will identify with Lyle. ;)

Lyle's friendship with David is precious. Lyle never sees David as disabled. Lyle simply loves his best friend; David loves Lyle, too. (I long for my daughter who is on the autism spectrum to have friendships like this one.) Everyone except the principal of the elementary school saw how important the two boy were to one another.

Lyle's mother is an inspiration to me. She understands her son and is an incredible advocate for him. "There is nothing wrong with you. Nothing at all. You just have a little extra. A little more than other people. You know what I mean. You need to channel it into something positive. Something good, that's all you really need to do." she tells Lyle when he has been grounded yet again.

I had the privilege of meeting Lyle Hatcher and Don Caron at a biomedical conference about treating autism. Seems AMAB founder Dr. Phillip DeMio was so impressed with the story that he invited the duo to speak at the conference.

The story is moving; the writers did an incredible job weaving Lyle's tale of ups and downs, keeping me interested and wondering what would happen next. The text is "clean", family-friendly, appropriate for children, too, with no cursing and no adult themes. It would make a great read-aloud. There are lots of opportunities for self-to-text comparisons. I felt uplifted when I finished the last page; I suspect you will, too.

Different Drummers is available in hardcopy for $23.95 plus shipping and handling and in e-book form for a Kindle for $12.95.
Lyle Hatcher and Don Caron gave me a copy of this book to review on my blog. I received no compensation in exchange for a review; I am not required to provide a positive review

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Definitions Journal: Entry #1

Our definitions journal has its first entry:

Dad, what's "etcetera"?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Ideal Curriculum, a TOS Crew Review

Ideal Curriculum offers a researched based pre-school curriculum for little ones or for older children who may need some experience and practice in pre-school foundations.

I don't have a pre-schooler (by age). I chose to send my children to a tuition based pre-school when they were little. (I'm one of the accidental homeschoolers.) My children loved pre-school. They got to do things there I could not do with them at home (like paint) while managing the chaos that happens with autism, trying to get through each day with very little sleep the first five years of that child's life. My daughter with an autism diagnosis attended an early intervention program as well. While we did a lot of work on pre-school skills at home during play, I never considered purchasing a pre-school curriculum and skipping a tuition based pre-school, probably because autism ruled our moments during that time in our lives and I didn't know a for-purchase pre-school curriculum for a home education setting exists.

It does exist at Ideal Curriculum. Click here to see the company product page. The nine monthly units, priced at $55 each, are meant to be purchased and used in order, contain everything you need to grow literacy, calendar skills, science, math, social studies, and oral language.
Crew members were given one unit, the unit on transportation. Other units cover different topics: Color, Weather, All About Me, A Healthy Life, Animals, People in my Community, Traditions in Our Country, and The World Around Us. Purchasers may buy the entire curriculum or parts (literacy or math & calendar or oral language & science) of the curriculum, and may choose between a printed version or a downloadable version. (The downloadable version is cheaper.)

The unit I received is very thorough. The homeschool page has a nice description of what's inside. I'll let you click through rather than duplicate that information here.

For my older elementary aged child who needs more practice in pre-school and kindergarten academic foundations, some of the activities are appropriate and some are not. (Most are not - which is interesting - I got a new snapshot of what we've accomplished with this review opportunity. After all the reviews that spotlighted gaps, this one has been refreshing.) We're in an odd spot, developmentally. The songs that come with Ideal Curriculum are too "babyish". She knows her phonics sounds. Other materials within the curriculum are useful in addressing some of the odd gaps I'm discovering (oral vocab, for one). While there are some parts that we could use at my house, I wouldn't pay $55 a month ($30 for the downloadable version) for nine months for a curriculum that I have to sort through to find applicable pieces.

I can't begin to imagine if I would have used something like this when my children were little had we not had to meet autism. Autism threw a monkey wrench into my plans, and that was a time when we simply existed. There was no time or energy available for a program like this one. And no extra money - our state doesn't require insurance companies to cover autism intervention.

My years with my pre-schoolers is probably atypical. If you have a pre-schooler and are considering programs, click through to the main Crew blog page to read what families with actual pre-schoolers have to say about Ideal Curriculum. To read my Crewmates' reviews of Ideal Curriculum, please click HERE.

As part of The Old Schoolhouse Crew of reviewers, I was given a complimentary month of Ideal Curriculum's research based preschool program . I am not compensated for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

To My Readers

First of all, THANK YOU for sharing my journey with me!

I recently began checking the stats of my blog. Stats give me a little bit of information about folks who cross my blog. I can tell the name of the internet provider you use and sometimes I can tell the location of that provider. I can tell how unique visitors found my blog. (The most popular search that brings people here is my post on how my neighbor helped me make a weighted vest from a denim jacket.) I know that I have readers from all over the world. And folks from some public school servers around the United States peek in sometimes. Only rarely do I get comments from readers.

I ask a favor of you. If you have insight or a hint or direction that you think might help me as I continue to figure out the pieces to my daughter's remediation, recovery, and education, please drop me a comment. I adore short cuts in my research. I'd love to hear from your experience, maybe even host a guest blogger or three. ;)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Me again - Vocabulary, Language, Definitions, Etc Etc, Etc

Help! I'm blogging and I can't stop! ;)

Remember my discovery when beginning Madsen Method? I discovered that my daughter had a huge vocabulary of words she used for "talk" but she didn't understand all of the words, even though she can use them appropriately, in context. (For the full story, click on the Madsen Method link - it'll take you to that post.)

Two presentations in the online conference in the past couple of days shed light on this phenomenon for me. Andrew Pudewa from IEW and Kim Kautzer from Write Shop are two speakers who presented four different kinds of language/vocabulary for me in ways that I had not understood before. Can you imagine being able to use a term in context and not fully understand the concept of how that term fits into a developmental scheme? Ironic that I have an experience similar to my daughter's.

We have a listening vocabulary, a speaking vocabulary, a reading vocabulary and a writing vocabulary, and an individal can listen, speak, read, and write on four completely different levels. I know that my daughter's expressive and receptive vocab and comprehension differ, but I'd never thought of it more simply as listening and speaking. My guess is that individuals with different learning needs (autism, for example) can have more scattered levels than a typically developing individual. Based upon what I extrapolated from the presentations, I believe I was right to stop Madsen Method to allow some time to work on listening and speaking vocab. Pudewa and Kautzer bombarded me with practical ways to go about helping a child with scattered skills to grow the areas that are behind the others.

Here's some "Penny-ease" from what I am beginning to understand: I would add that children also have an experience bank or experience vocabulary that begins in the listening and speaking stages, and that children with autism often don't develop that experience bank to draw from. Children with autism are in the present, the here-and-now, and when taught in the land of splinter skills outside the course of development, require a lot of repetition to learn new skills. The repetition is required because of an empty experience bank. Listening and speaking, which involve interaction and reciprocity, are connected to that experience bank.

I want to hear those sessions again. I need those MP3 sessions *now*. (They're not going to be ready until May 31st.) I think the sessions are a bargain. The MP3 Expo To Go package offers all 28 sessions for $19.99. The company recording the big convention in Cincinnati in April sold 10 recordings on CD for $50. That was a good deal, I thought. I came home with a few CDs of sessions I didn't get to attend in person. (I do like that I can go to that company web site and order a CD from conventions all over the country if there's a topic or speaker I'd like to hear.)

A Definitions Journal

An online homeschool conference ended today. The Schoolhouse Expo featured three days of presentations covering all sorts of topics that have to do with home education.

I was not able to attend many of the sessions as they happened live.

I did get to hear part of Kim Kautzer's session. I was looking forward to hearing her. I had high expectations, because of my prior experience with her. She's part of Write Shop, and
I reviewed some of their Story Builders last year (*awesome*!) and participated briefly in a beta test of a product. And I won another Write Shop writing product from a blog contest. Write Shop's materials, resources, products are *excellent*. The Write Shop blog is a wealth of help and information. After today's presentation, Kim posted some of ideas there.

During her "Building Your Child's Writing Vocabulary" presentation today, Mrs. Kautzer offered so many great ideas that I could not keep up with them all. When the MP3 versions become available, I'll listen to that one again. And again. And maybe again. (The MP3 sessions from all three days are available for purchase as Expo To Go for $19.99 here.)

Kautzer made quite a few suggestions about different kinds of lists and journals.

I'm not sure why I didn't think of a "Definitions Journal" when my daughter began asking us to define things for her as I began Madsen Method with her.

I had a light bulb moment today.

I think we'll start a "Definitions Journal", now.

I did not intend for this blog entry to be an infomercial about Write Shop. They didn't ask me to blog about them. I don't get anything if you purchase from them because I blogged about them. I just wanted you to know that they're a great resource for all students, even one who learns a bit differently, like mine. They sell their products in downloadable e-book form, which means those of you not in the United States don't have to pay huge shipping fees for the resources. I wish someone had told me about them earlier in the game.

Be sure to check
Write Shop's virtual vendor booth HERE for discounts on their products.

Little Birds and the Cycle of Life

As we began our walk this morning, my daughter found an "egg" while she was waiting for me to grab a jacket. When I joined her outside, she showed me the egg shell, which gave us an opportunity to talk about birth.

I am excited that she had the desire, joint attention, and words to show and tell me about it. What a fun, fun moment for the two of us! :)

As we returned toward home from our walk, she saw a little baby bird on the sidewalk, no longer alive. She made sure I saw it, too. (I would not have seen it had she not shown it to me.) Another baby was in the yard, nearby. A tree limb had fallen during a recent storm, and the babies must have been flung from the tree. How sad. My girl was very concerned that the babies be picked up and buried. The neighbor who lived nearby told my girl she would do that. And my girl told her she'd need gloves or something. ;)

I rejoice in being able to have my girl share those moments with me, to want to share those moments with me. I waited a long time for that. ;)

Real World Parents from The B & B Media Group, Inc.

I sometimes have an assumption that I am the only parent on the face of the planet who thinks she is failing at a lot of aspects of parenting.

Mark Matlock understands me. He tells me to get over myself, that I am not the only parent who feels like a failure. He reminds me on page 10, "Nothing you read in this book will make God the Father love you and your family any more than He does right now, no matter what's going on with your family today."

Experiencing two different approaches to autism intervention (behavioral and developmental/relationship based) has taught me a lot about the kind of parent I want to be, and Matlock reminds me of that for all of my children: "What we don't want to generate are well-behaved kids who mindlessly follow our directions without ever fully owning the faith in Jesus that they see in us. In the long run, the goal of parenting isnot for our kids to be know for how well-behaved they are, but for how well they know and respond to God."

Real World Parents is a zoomed-out "big picture" book for parents. It's not a book to try to get you to start daily family devotions. ;) Matlock guides the reader to thoughtfully consider recent research, consider how we are storytelling via our life. Chapter Six, "Demonstrating Wisdom" spotlights the importance of a relationship approach, the stuff I've learned in autism intervention as "guided participation" and "mediated learning experience". " Chapter Seven gives me five steps for making great decisions and focuses on teaching decision making, and includes what I'd describe as verbalizing my own self-talk so that my kids can see my thinking process. Chapter Eight helps me redefine failure, and that includes resiliency and learning from failure. Each chapter ends with a few questions for the reader to think about and answer before moving to the next chapter.

In our autism intervention, we're zoomed in, looking closely at specific objectives within a developmental range. I often try to think about how to zoom out and apply basic principles to interaction outside of autism intervention, and Real World Parents is an excellent resource in helping me do that. It's not so much a "how to" book. It's a "why bother" book with some "how to" examples.

Real World Parents ($12.99) is 143 pages, and the type is not teeny, although I do need my readers for it. Matlock is engaging and provides practical illustrations and examples that hit his points home. I do like this one!

The B & B Media Group, Inc. sent me a complimentary review copy of "Real World Parents" by Mark Matlock. I received no financial compensation for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Specials at the Schoolhouse Expo Online Vendor Hall

FYI: The last day of the online homeschool conference, The Schoolhouse Expo, is today. The conference sold out, but folks interested in the topics may purchase the MP3 recordings of the sessions in a package. I haven't been able to attend much, so I'll be relying on those recordings when they are made available in a couple of weeks.

The line-up of speakers is here, if you'd like to see the list so you can consider the purchase of the recordings. Three days of presentations on MP3 is priced at $19.99.

If you're looking for resources, the Expo has an online vendor hall, with coupons, specials, discounts. Be sure to browse the aisles there. ;) Go HERE for the vendor hall.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"Andrea Carter and the Trouble With Treasure", from kregel publications, a TOS Crew Review

When I was a girl, I loved to read. My aunt would take my cousins and me to the library regularly. Fiction was my favorite, where I could lose myself in a story, go to the place I was reading about in my mind.

Autism keeps me busy these days, and most of my books are non-fiction and are autism related. I forget how much I need an escape.

"Andrea Carter and the Trouble with Treasure," by Susan K. Marlow, ($7.99 from kregel publications) is a book written for tweens, a little young for me, but entertaining, still, and a nice escape for me from autism for a little while. I could feel the heat of summer on my skin, imagine riding on horseback, see the water. Author Marlowe paints beautiful pictures with her words. Now that I'm finished with the book, I'm passing it along to my tween and my pre-teen who are reading at that level. I think they'll both enjoy it.

The story is set in the San Joaquin Valley in the summer of 1881. Andi, her brother, and two friends (one is visiting Andi from the Washington Territory) head off into the wilderness on horseback to camp, fish, and pan for gold for a couple of weeks before one of Andi's friends must head back home again. They pan for gold, run into a rattlesnake, one of them sustains a head injury, they find strangers in a cabin they believed was empty, are part of a gunfight, and are rescued from a frightening situation.

The story is "clean", no cursing, no teen puppy love, yet the book isn't preachy, either. There is a sample from chapter one HERE.

This book is written about a time when we had no telephones or cell phones -- I have to admit that I kept wondering what we did before cell phones and constant communication. I've forgotten what that's like.

The 141 page book is part of Susan K. Marlow's Circle C Adventures series for tweens about the adventures Andrea "Andi" Carter. A free unit study that accompanies the book, Andrea Carter and the Trouble with Treasure is located HERE. "Andi" and her horse, Taffy, blog here.

Read the reviews of this book by my Crewmates HERE.

As part of The Old Schoolhouse Crew of reviewers, I was given a complimentary copy of "Andrea Carter and the Trouble with Treasure" from kregel publications. I am not compensated for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

English for Life®-The Madsen Method®, a TOS Crew Review

"The Madsen Method is an evidence-based, non-consumable, four-part, cross-grade, do-it-yourself, fully scripted, complete, step-by-step, integrated, basic language arts program, founded on explicit phonics, taught via neurological response instruction." from page Intro 3 of The Madsen Method Part One, Sections 1-3.

# # #

Reviewing homeschool resources with a child on the autism spectrum has been an incredible journey, a roller coaster of ups and downs.

My first year of reviewing in 2008 began not long after I withdrew my daughter from public school, and, interestingly, we received many, many products that allowed me to feel successful with her. I learned that she can indeed learn and that there are products that can scaffold the teaching process for me, while at the same time, scaffold the learning process for my girl.

This year of reviewing, my second, ending this month, has been drastically different. At times, depressingly different. The products I've gotten this year have had a different theme for me. Instead of spotlighting areas of success, I'm learning where, exactly, the gaps in learning and development are, and what are my girl's splinter skills, in terms of communication and academics. Instead if feeling successful, I've spent a lot of this review year facing exactly how far behind we are. Sometimes, that information, while necessary, is difficult for me to face.

The English for Life®-The Madsen Method® is one of the resources that quickly illuminated some gaps. I am deeply indebted to Joe and Sharon Madsen for that.

I listened to several borrowed audio CDs on the drive to the Midwest Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati in April of 2009. One of them was a presentation by Sharon Madsen about English for Life®-The Madsen Method®. I knew then that Madsen Method was on the potential list of vendors for the fall Crew voyage and that I might possibly have a chance to review the program. When I heard her talking about the method our forefathers used, I have to admit, my first thought was with a scrunched-up nose kind of "old-fashioned". We've learned a lot since the time of our forefathers, I thought. Surely we have better methods, now.

(I was wrong. In fact, the more I see the approach our forefathers used, the more I want to learn from the materials we have from that time. In fact, sometimes I wish I had access to a one-room schoolhouse for my homeschooler, where she could interact with children of all ages and grades and work at her own level.)

Guide every student to connect his


He SPEAKS; He HEARS what he said; He DOES what he heard; He SEES what he did!

Crew members were asked to view video lectures prior to speaking with Joe Madsen as we made a decision to review this product. I wondered to myself, have we given my daughter enough opportunities for interaction and reciprocity to begin something like this? Developmentally, she's a lot like a four-year-old, although her words and vocabulary are much older than that. After talking on the phone with Mr. Madsen for nearly an hour about my daughter's challenges, I was ready to give English for Life®-The Madsen Method® a try. Mr. Madsen walked me through some sample lessons during our conversation, and he answered a lot of my questions about using the program with a child who has the attention challenges that we continue to remediate as part of an autism intervention. He told me it might not be easy in our situation.

He told me about his and Sharon Madsen's experiences using the program with special needs learners, with students who were considered unteachable. He sent me stories to read. He gave me hope. I'm inspired by the stories of children who not only were able to learn, but excel, when they were not expected to be able to learn. He encouraged me to believe in myself and my child. He believes in my child. That's important to me.

The Madsens offer quite a bit of "hand holding" for purchasers. Okay, most of you call that "support". For me, it's "hand holding". I like how they supply the teacher with all of the tools and are standing by to offer support, too.

At this point, I have to modify most of what we do together. We use a lot of hands-on learning, math and reading in while cooking and baking in the kitchen, writing to-do lists, etc. Sitting down at a table sends my daughter's anxiety sky high, and she begins to itch and scratch, and shriek, resist, and protest. Games on the floor and hands-on learning are better for us. Madsen Method is a sit down at the table activity.

So, we sat down with the first lesson - and I immediately encountered a problem. I saw a developmental gap. And modifying the lesson wasn't going to work in this case. We had some work to do before we could get to the part that I can modify.

I'm not sure I can accurately define the issue. Here's one attempt: We'd never defined terms with her. Mr. Madsen told me up front that we'd have to describe and define words and terms using language she'd understand. But I'd never done that before. I assumed she completely grasped meaning with use of words and terms.

Did you know it's possible for a child to use words and terms appropriately and in context and not fully grasp what they mean, that use of words can be a splinter skill with no foundation?

I didn't. And apparently the staff at the public school systems we left behind didn't know, either. Or if they did, they never explained that to me.

So, not understanding any of this stuff about definitions of words and terms, working knowledge of words and terms, I led us in the first lesson about the five mental muscles, trying to define them, describe them in terms she'd understand. My girl was an awesome student for this sit down at the table lesson (she usually balks because the table is too schoolish)! I wasn't sure I'd done a good job.

As we ended the lesson, and I looked ahead in the book, I realized that we'd not explicitly defined words and terms for her before. Overwhelmed. I felt over overwhelmed. How on earth would I teach her definitions in a way she'd understand without shutting her down? I decided at that moment to allow the two of us to spend several days on each lesson, so I could spotlight these definitions and terms over the period of several days, and wait to make sure she understood them before moving forward.

An aside: Before I give you the wrong impression, Madsen Method is not a program about definitions, although being able to define and explain new terms and concepts is necessary within the program. And it is that defining of concepts that seemed to be my hurdle.

In the next day or two, my entire plan changed. Why? My girl began to do something I'd never ever seen her do before, and she began this new something with intensity. She began to ask, "What do _______ mean, Mom?" (Yes, I know what needs to be corrected in that sentence. We'll get there.)

And it was with her increased curiosity and questioning that I gave up the plan to complete one Madsen Method lesson every few days. I decided to set aside those lessons until we'd had some time to practice and experience defining terms and words, allowing her many opportunities to ask her dad and me, "What do _________ mean?" and allowing me opportunities to ask her to define or describe terms to me.

Several months have passed and we have not done another Madsen Method lesson, although it is Madsen Method that opened up a *whole new world* for us. My girl is still asking me to define terms daily as they arise, in context. I know she's paying attention by her questions. Her curiosity has grown by leaps and bounds. Her ability to describe what she means has slowly and obviously begun to expand.

"What do 'unusual' mean?" she asked a couple of days ago. We talk about, discuss, define something new every day! I'm getting practice describing concepts in ways she can understand them - a pre-requisite for Madsen Method. And she's learning to define concepts and words for me and for herself, too, when I turn the question around on her and ask her, "What do you think _______ means?"

My question now is when to pick up Madsen Method and start again. How much experience defining terms and words does my girl need before we begin again? What knowledge and experience does a typically developing child have prior to beginning a program like this one? Has the practice we've done in the past few months laid a foundation that will allow us to begin English for Life® with fewer (or no) modifications on my part? I have lots of questions. I spent about 45 minutes on the phone with Joe Madsen a couple of weeks ago as he coached me through some techniques I can use now, even if I postpone formal lessons for another few weeks. We're practicing saying, seeing, hearing, doing together, away from the table and formal lessons, to introduce this routine before we begin again, formally. Mr. Madsen's "hand holding" is fabulous, and he "gets" the needs of learners like my daughter. He prayed for me before we ended our call, how precious that is to me.

So, you've probably gathered that this review turned out instead to be a pre-review, an opportunity for a discovery, and an opportunity to begin to fill in a developmental gap. Stay tuned. I will to continue to blog about English for Life®-The Madsen Method®, because we are still in the very beginning stages of it. If you have a struggling learner, I encourage you to take a serious look at this program that combines hearing, seeing, saying, doing in short lessons that are completely scripted for the parent in developmental order.

Part One of English for Life®-The Madsen Method® retails for $299.95 (Home Educators receive a 30% discount) with a money back guarantee.

The web site explains that "Part One is the first portion of our complete, ungraded language arts curriculum. It introduces the first elements of English what a student must know to be proficient in English, regardless of his age. In a graded classroom setting, Part One can be implemented as the complete English language arts curriculum for K-1, or it is the first part of a remedial program for an older student. Students completing our program are independently proficient in all language arts skills and content at 1915 literacy standards."

As part of The Old Schoolhouse Crew of reviewers, Madsen Method English for Life sent me a complimentary copy of English for Life®-The Madsen Method® Part One to use at home and review for you on my blog. I am not compensated for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Bible Study for Young Children (Convention Find)

Nestled within my MidWest Homeschool Convention packet at Cincinnati in April was a small booklet, an ad for The Good Book Company. One night that weekend after a long day of conventioning, I peeked at this little booklet, and decided to find the vendor booth for a look-see.

I've struggled to find a way to undo the damage that Bible stories have done to my daughter with autism. Sunday School and Vacation Bible School have been disasters for her. Lessons and activities delivered at a pace faster than she can process, words and concepts she did not understand, too-loud music, crafts and activities using foods she can't eat, peers who move and speak too quickly for her don't exactly make for a fun setting a child would look forward to. She needed some accommodations that did not happen. And acceptance from her peers that didn't happen. No wonder we had to drag coax her into the church building from the parking lot.

She's verbalized her dislike for God more than once. (I think she doesn't understand Him.)

Her memories are of stories at SS and VBS about Esther, where the king wanted to kill all of her people, or about pounding nails into the hands and feet of Jesus. Scary stuff to a young child or an older child with developmental delays.

And Bible study at home looks too much like "school" to her, which is a source of anxiety.

God is invisible to her, a concept, and anything not visible and concrete is a challenge for a child on the autism spectrum.

Church has failed her. I feel like a failure as a parent in this area.

I've purchased Bible study books for pre-schoolers from a Christian book store, but nothing was quite right in terms of the regulatory pattern and simplicity that I wanted.

So, I continued to seek. The brochure in my convention packet in April came at a good time.

I am impressed with "Beginning with God", so much that I purchased it at the convention. (I bought studies for older youth for the sibs, too, and one for the whole family.)

In Beginning with God, the student completes the same steps each day, a prayer, a story (the Good Book folks recommend The Beginners Bible, or other Bible for children, which is an additional purchase), a statement of truth, questions about the story and a prayer. The focus and lesson change each day, providing variations within a theme, a same-but-different, different-but-same kind of thing. There's an accompanying sticker to place within each story, too. And there are optional extras tucked into the back of the book for each lesson.

If you're looking for a way to begin again with a child w/ developmental delays, consider a study for preschoolers like this one. I like the layout of it, the simplicity without skimping, allowing me to expand when I can, or use the stand alone when we need that due to the circumstances of the day.

Monday, May 10, 2010

$5 Dinner: Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken

When you choose a casein free substitute for the butter,
this recipe is GFCF:

Berry Well from Beeyoutiful, a TOS Crew Review

Nine years ago, when I was introduced to the biomedical issues that are common in autism, I began looking into natural ways to boost our immune systems. There are a lot of products on the market. Some are in pill form and are difficult to dose for children. Some are foul tasting liquids.

Berry Well arrived after the horrible cold and flu season at my house this year. I would have liked to have had it earlier to try during our rough spots. We were introduced to H1N1 flu a few months ago up close and personal (ugh). One of the speakers at a homeschool convention mentioned some herbs that have been proven to work against H1N1 and Berry Well contains some of those herbs. (I've got some more research to do. I have to check out for myself what that speaker said.)

I'm not against traditional medicine, but I'd rather use something natural as a first step and avoid a prescription if I can. Organic is even better - and Berry Well is an organic elderberry syrup. The 16-serving bottle is priced at $18.

Berry Well is a brightly colored syrup, in the deep red/purple family. How do I describe the taste to you? Hmmm. It's very "berry" tasting. With honey. A little sweet, a little tart. Some syrups are foul tasting to me, and can trigger or near-trigger my gag reflex. Berry Well does NOT do that to me. I think it's pleasant tasting, although it is strong, like medicine.

I tried it first. I drank it straight out of a medicine spoon. I thought my children might like it better mixed with something, so I added it to the juice of my children. It adds an ice pop flavor. My homeschooler drank it in her diluted juice the first time in a dark cup, and she drank every bit and made no comment about a change in flavor. When I used a clear cup and she could see the color change in her diluted juice, she refused to drink it. If I want her to take it, I'll have to hide it in a dark cup.

Beeyoutiful was very helpful in assisting me as I checked ingredients against the list of food sensivities we have; the ingredients are GFCF and more. There is a small amount of alcohol as an ingredient. Berry Well contains organic elderberry syrup with propolis, raw honey, and echinacea. The full list of ingredients is available on the product page.

I do like a pleasant tasting liquid that I can measure in doses for children. My children are old enough and weigh enough to take the liquid. If they were younger, I'd do some research on dosage, and I would not use a product with raw honey with a child under a year old. I am not a doctor and I do not play one on this blog. This is not medical advice.

FYI: The bottle does not have a childproof cap.

For the reviews of my Crewmates about this product and others from Beeyoutiful, please go HERE.

As part of The Old Schoolhouse Crew of reviewers, I was given a complimentary Berry Well from BEEYOUTIFUL. I am not compensated for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Gluten free May - Turkey Burgers

I'm craving pizza. And a sandwich on a highly processed wheat bun. Yet, today is May 9th, and I've managed to avoid gluten since May 1st as part of the Gluten Free Challenge for Gluten Awareness Month. I've reduced casein (the protein in milk) but have not eliminated it. My daughter avoids gluten and casein, which means a lot of the recipes I make are GFCF so that she can eat them.

I've eaten a lot of breadless deli-meat roll-ups and hamburger steaks (aka bunless burgers). More salads and fruit. I was craving chocolate and made eggless brownies with a mix from Trader Joe's.

Over the weekend, I made my version of turkey burgers. The original recipe is in this file. I tweaked it to replace apples (my daughter seems to be sensitive to them) and to make theItalic recipe in a pan on the stove top. Adding the sauce ingredients TO the meat mixture keeps the meat moist, and the honey mustard and maple syrup add a hint of sweetness that isn't too much.

Here's *my* GFCF version of it. The sauce makes a nice dressing for lunchmeat and salads, too.


1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons real maple syrup

1 tablespoon Boar's Head honey mustard

To make the sauce, in a small bowl combine the mayonnaise, maple syrup and Dijon mustard; set the sauce aside.


1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons real maple syrup

1 tablespoon Boar's Head honey mustard

1 1/2 pounds ground turkey breast

1/2 cup pear sauce

1/4 cup real bacon bits

1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

safflower oil

shredded lettuce or cooked rice

To make the burgers, in a medium bowl mix together the mayo, honey mustard, maple syrup, turkey, pear sauce, bacon bits, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper.

Form the mixture into small patties that are slider size (or sausage size).

Brown the burgers in several tablespoons of safflower oil on both sides and transfer to an oven-safe dish. Cook at 350 degrees Fahrenheit approximately half an hour until the meat is cooked through. Serve on shredded lettuce or rice topped with the honey-mustard maple sauce.

A Special Mother's Day Wish

I want to tell you about a Mother's Day gift I received a couple of years ago.

It came in the form of a card, from a neighbor in my subdivision. This woman is a member of a church where I've attended two workshops for including people with disabilities in worship settings--she always helps with the breakfast and lunch set up and clean up for those of us who attend the workshops.

She made a donation to the NetWorkers Malaria Prevention Program in Africa in my honor for Mother's Day, and she wrote a little note that said she wanted to "express appreciation for all that you do as a mother of special children," (I'm about to cry again just typing it), "one of whom is uniquely challenged. May you be blessed in all that you are and do!"

Her gesture has touched me very deeply and I am so humbled.

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

God Uses Ordinary People

"God doesn't give children with special needs to strong people; He gives children with special needs to ordinary people and then gives them strength. Raising a child with special needs doesn't take a special family, it makes a special family."
from the facebook status of a friend

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Scratch & Solve Puzzles + baseball

I always find fun concepts in the book section of the warehouse club. Last week, I found something new to me: Scratch & Solve Puzzles. Priced at $4.99, I bought two versions of Hangman and a Yahtzee Scratch & Play book.

The publisher is Puzzle Wright Press at Type "Scratch & Solve" in the search box.

I pulled them out for the girls tonight as we tried to watch my son's baseball game from a very poor position in the parking lot. My younger daughter wanted to head straight for the playscape at the ball park, but I wasn't comfortable with her doing that. The playscape was too crowded tonight. Too many kids. Not enough parents watching them. And I knew my younger daughter would make a scene if we got out and tried to watch the game. So, we stayed put. And I waited for her to calm and quit asking to go to the playscape. I wanted to leave while she was calm --and she needed time to do that-- and without going to the playscape.

I could see little more than third base. That's my husband coaching third base with my son on third. We had absolultely lovely seats. (That's sarcasm, in case you can't tell.)

My homeschooler calmed herself. (WOW) She watched her big sister play one round of Scratch & Solve Hangman and picked up her own book and began to play her own game. The two of them figured out quite a few puzzles, too! At one point, she commented to her sister that the puzzle books were more fun than the playground. (I'm not sure I believed her, but she did say it.)

Thank goodness for a zoom on the camera.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"This is Jack"

Having a child on the autism spectrum means I get to meet some wonderful parents. Marie is one of those parents. I "know" her online and I follow her blog (check the side bar of my blog in the long list of blogs that I follow.)

You must read Marie's article, This is Jack, about her son with Apert Syndrome:

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