Friday, December 23, 2011

The Girls' Guide to Growing Up

Explaining menstruation and puberty and all of the changes that happen to a daughter with developmental delays is challenging. All of the books I have seen are written for typically developing girls, meaning with more words and text than I'd like, with visuals that are not as in-depth as I'd like for my visual learner.

Woodbine House sent me a review copy of The Girls' Guide to Growing Up, Choices & Changes in the Tween Years by Terri Couwenhoven, M.S.

The Girls' Guide to Growing Up is a 62 page paperback priced at $16.95. The book is written on a third-grade level, covers puberty, body changes, emotional changes, periods, hygiene, appropriate touch and what to do if someone touches you inappropriately. It talks about bras and shaving and pimples, sexual feelings, flirting.

The book is really well done. The page layouts are attractive and inviting with large print and not too many words on a page. (A page full of text looks daunting to my girl.) There are simple drawings of nude girls with labels and a task-analysis in photographs of what to do, step-by-step, when your period arrives.

The negative of the book, for me, is that I am not ready to discuss some of the topics with my daughter. Because her development is scattered, I am not sure she has thought about some of the topics in the book, and I don't want to put something into her head that is not there yet. Some of the content I'd like to avoid is important and necessary regardless of the fact that I'd like to be an ostrich and stick my head in the sand about it.

I will look at The Girls' Guide to Growing Up alongside my daughter in order to control what she sees and to be there to discuss the topics as she is ready for them. I do like having the topics available when she is ready for them so I don't have to go looking for them.

I am pleased to have been given this book, pleased to be able to share it with you. We own several 'growing up' type books and all of them are too wordy, too complex, for our situation at this time. The Girls' Guide to Growing Up presents topics simply, effectively, visually.

I am going to do something I have never done in a review. I am going to recommend another review item with this one. The Dot Girls Period Kit would be an excellent partner with The Girls' Guide to Growing Up for a young lady with developmental delays and intellectual disabilities.

Woodbine House sent me a copy of The Girls' Guide to Growing Up to review here. I get to keep the book. I was not paid for this review. I am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Unwrapping an ah-ha moment

As I wrap gifts, I much prefer wrapping paper with visual guidelines on the back of it to two-sided or paper with a plain, white backside. My gifts are prettier when I am able to judge the right size of gift wrap. My work is faster, and I waste less wrapping paper. I enjoy the task more when my gifts look pretty when I am finished.Simple modifications to include an extra visual element are "added value". Sometimes, we approach a school or teacher or professional on behalf of our child who needs that additional visual element (or sensory element etc) and we are met with resistance, yet so many of us adults work better and smarter when we have the extra visual piece.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Autism Discussion Page on facebook

A facebook page worth sharing with you. If you are on facebook, consider 'liking' or joining the Autism Discussion Page.

Status Update
By Autism Discussion Page
Non directive learning

Many therapies focus on prompting, directing, and trying to draw a response out of a child. This is very irritating for the child, creates performance anxiety, and the child often freezes, requiring repeated prompting. The response often becomes very prompt dependent, and is rote learning, with little functional meaning. When you set up a favorable activity, take the performance pressure off, and allow the child to "experience" without directing, the skills will come. What we need to do more of is create experiences (activities) that put the child is situations to invite the "responses" we want to see, without drilling/prompting them. That is how most children learn. Place the child in functional activities which tend to invite the responses, and participate in the activity with him/her. Focus on "shared participation" and enjoy sharing the experience. Focus on participation, rather than performance. Stop prompting and directing, and allow the activity to flow. By the child wanting to "engage" skills will come more naturally. No one wants to be prompted, directed, and corrected.

We have become so conditioned to teach by prompting, directing, correcting, etc. that we have forgotten how to simply play, have fun, and naturally learn.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The World's Greatest Stories, a TOS Crew Review

The Prophets. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Daniel. Elijah. Jonah. Powerful stories of faith and courage from the Old Testament. Beloved stories that take me straight back to Sunday School as a child.
Our family was given (to review) Volume 1, The Prophets, part of the CD series from The World's Greatest Stories.
I requested and was given the NIV version. I had no idea what to expect. The description explained that the stories are told straight from the NIV Bible. That could mean really, really good or just plain dry and boring.

I am relieved and pleased to report that storyteller and actor George W. Sarris gives five fantastic performances bringing the stories from the NIV Bible to life with different voices and accents that are quite entertaining. The stories are enhanced with music, sound effects and special effects. Interesting fact: In the FAQ of The World's Greatest Stories website, I learned that Mr Sarris memorizes the performance before he records it.

The stories range in length from 8-14 minutes. The CD we received has five stories, is available in King James or NIV versions, in cassette or CD, and is priced at $7.95.

The audio stories are very. well. done. I would have loved them as a child. I love them now. The stories take me there. The accents differentiate characters from one another in a way that I can keep track of who's who. Music is used effectively underneath the story to add to the emotional component of the stories. When I am listening to the stories, I am there. I hear the fire in the furnace crackling (the sound effects are perfect) and I can almost feel the heat. I hear the seagulls near Jonah; I can almost smell the sea air. I hear the fear in the minds of the men on the boat with Jonah. I see it all in my mind in a way that I have not before, despite reading these passages from the Bible many times over the years.


My big concern (and I chose not to allow my homeschooler hear this CD -yet- for this very reason) is the fact that these stories are scary. Hear me out. My homeschooler developed anxiety around going to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. 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.We had trouble getting her into the church building for a while - she was afraid. Until she is better able to put the pieces of the story into proper perspective, I am not ready to give her an audio story with men being thrown into a furnace or a man being thrown to the lions yet.

I would consider ordering two of the CDs for her. The Life of Christ seems (as I look at story titles) to have less of the scary stuff; Joseph & His Brothers is familiar (a sib was in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat a few years ago).

The pace of the story is faster than I'd like for my child. The speech therapist evaluating her believes she comprehends everything, but her auditory processing speed is slower than typical; she needs more pauses and processing time than the CD allows. She screeches in protest when we talk to fast for her to process. (I would love to see a slowed-down version of this for her. I don't know if that is possible.) If your child has auditory processing challenges, a sample on the World's Greatest Stories may help you evaluate whether these are appropriate for your situation.

As I consider how I could begin to use these CDs with my girl, I think that she would enjoy an audio story of a topic that she already knows well (and that has fewer scary moments). If your child is like mine, needs that strong visual component and has the auditory processing challenges, introducing a CD with very loved and familiar stories may be a successful first step into the world of audio stories.

If you have a child who insists on familiar pronunciations, you may find some of the pronunciations new or different. One is Darius - du RI us vs the familiar-to-me DAR ee us.

Thinking beyond special needs and ahead

The stories contain a lot of 'new' vocabulary, words and terms we don't use every day, words worth logging in a definitions journal.

The CD is something I'd pack in the car for a long or short ride. And it's something to pop in at home while coloring or playing with clay or play dough or building a marble run or with Lego. It's also something I'd consider buying to donate to a Sunday School class. And my nieces and nephews would adore them, I think.

The CD is something I'd consider for a Sunday morning at home. Every have a Sunday where you're snowed in or you're staying home w/ a sick child? This would make a neat home-church option on one of those Sundays.

Among my friends are folks who are from the Jewish faith and some who are atheists. This particular CD (and the other Old Testament stories) is appropriate for families who are not Christian.

Thumbs up - the stories are quite entertaining and a true to scripture. The price is right, too.

See what my Crewmates' think about The World's Greatest Stories here.
The World's Greatest Stories sent me a CD to review for you. I was not paid for this review (I get to keep the CD) and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gluten-Free Gingerbread House

Cardboard is gluten-free, right?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cupcake Central

Suggested Bake Time
23 - 22 minutes???

Pie for Christmas

Monday, December 12, 2011

My salad

I made this dressing again.

I used an orange champagne vinegar from Trader Joe's instead of the balsamic called for in the recipe. I added tangelo slices (from our marching band fundraiser), almonds, a goat cheese rolled in cranberries, some dried cherries to spinach. Delish.

Bookmark This (Allergen Free Recipes)

Horizons Developmental Remediation Center has a web page devoted to allergen free recipes. It is located here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

GFCF Christmas-y Snack idea

A stranger walked up to me at the checkout line at the warehouse club today and asks where I found the mini candy canes. (Right by the cash register, lady.)

First of all, I have to tell you, that would never, ever have happened in Michigan. And what happened next would not have happened in Michigan, either:

And then she proceeds to tell me what she wanted the candy canes for. Dip a marshmallow in melted chocolate chips, roll them in crushed candy canes (which she crushes w/ a hammer, btw) - yummy Christmas-y snack. She had no idea she was giving me a super gluten free, dairy free, soy free etc etc etc recipe...

For All Those Going Through A Change...

Oh, the messages are bombarding me.

Here's another one.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Field Trip - Governor's Mansion

Our state's first lady has opened the governor's mansion for holiday tours. I signed my homeschooler and me up for a tour with some friends we met at art class. I'd never have considered this; I'm so glad our friends suggested it.

We came home with a unique Christmas ornament - a 24k gold plate sprig of pine needles that came from the grounds at the mansion. And we purchased a $2 booklet about the residence, which is a wonderful resource for a homeschooler in a new state. We have a lot to learn.

The tour was a perfect field trip for us. Free! :) The tour is self-guided and self-paced, which makes it very friendly to children with attention issues and the need to move around. The staff there do a *fantastic* job allowing people inside in a way that keeps the tour from being too crowded.

The CHRISTmas decorations are (of course) stunning.

The off-site parking is close to the mansion, very well organized, and buses are waiting to return you to that off site parking lot as soon as you are ready. The whole thing is very efficient. The set-up is so friendly to kids like mine who need a little more space and a little more time and the opportunity to explore on her timetable.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

That was fast...

Followup on previous post.

Positively Positive's facebook status:

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”—Leo Buscaglia

and, I phoned the ice arena to ask some questions. Lots of questions, actually. Some about my daughter who is typically developing and class options for her and some questions about what may better suit my daughter with an autism spectrum disorder. In the conversation with the sweet lady at the ice arena, she told me they want to start a Special Olympics figure skating program.

Stay tuned.


The move across the country back in the spring still affects me in a big way, and it affects me a lot more than I would like. And not in a good way.

I realized over the weekend that I am afraid in a big way. I'm afraid I won't find the right professionals, the right programs, the right opportunities to support our family as a family and to give my child w/ autism the practice and experience she needs to continue to progress and integrate into the community.

Combine my fears with the fact that we moved during a time of transition for my child - moving from elementary school age to middle school age and toward high school - and I feel a lot of uncertainty. And fear. And anger. Anger is the secondary emotion. Fear is behind it.

The progress my kid has made also creates a set of challenges. She is interacting a lot more with less support and assistance than ever before, but she's not experienced and ready for settings with same-age peers. She's not ready for big groups and classes. And she's doing a lot more communication-wise than a lot of special-needs peers, which means finding a good match for her to practice interaction is getting more challenging to find. (And the child is begging for friends.)

Keep adding - add to that the fact that my knowledge and experience bases have shifted from behavioral to developmental - well, finding good matches for her in terms of classes within the special needs community gets a little more challenging.

I began to scout our old location for opportunities and went about the business enrolling and trying them. At the same time, I was researching other potential opportunities. There are some wonderful programs back there. Having them made me feel secure.

And then we were transferred. We moved. We moved to a location without anything remotely like FAR Conservatory or Friendship Circle and Lifetown. No Judson Center, no Autism ASK, no Oakland University.

The opportunities here for the 12-18 crowd are minimal at best when I compare them to what we left behind.

And the fear (disguised as anger) hits me. Will I find what she needs?

Yes. I will. Slowly. In time.

Finding opportunities here is more challenging - there's no big calendar where all of the businesses and non-profits post classes and such.

But I will find them. Quit comparing there to here. Most will be different, but equally effective toward meeting goals and objectives. (Note to self: read this paragraph again and again because you need to remind yourself of that multiple times a day.)

And I will create new opportunities, tailor-made for my kid, in natural settings with natural supports, something we want to do, something that would have been harder to do back there because when you're involved in lots of programs for kids w/ special needs, there's less time to be creative with outside the box opportunities.

That's a huge shift in my thinking. A few years ago, my desire was to create opportunities for groups of kids like mine. (And I have the benefit of coming from a place where there were lots of new opportunities created during my time there. I have lots of connections to give me advice on what works, what doesn't, how they began, how they grew it, etc.)

Now, I don't have the connections here, the energy, or the time to invest in starting something big. And as I look around, I have not yet seen anything I want to support/join and help grow. Everything I've seen thus far feels like a few steps behind us, and I don't want to move backwards. Maybe I will find that something. (I'd love to help start a Special Olympics figure skating program here.)

The thing that I need to grasp and accept is that because of the hard work we've done, we can begin to integrate 'Rella into more 'typical' experiences - and she NEEDS that - it requires a different kind of work on my part. She's not ready for just anything, though, and finding the "just right" experiences for her is a new job for me, one that I am unfamiliar with, and one that a lot of individual homeschoolers seem to be doing really well here. In the past, I learned volumes from disability-group leaders. Now I see a new set of teachers in the less visible homeschool families with children w/ unique needs.

For now, for right now, I must let go of the fear and enjoy our progress and continue to seek natural opportunities in real settings with natural supports. They are out there waiting for me to find them.

GFCF Kitchen Classroom Webinar, Friday

I'm all about passing along great resources and here is an excellent one:

Chef and Autism Mom Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer is hosting a gluten-free-dairy-free-in-the-kitchen-w/-you- kids webinar, Friday morning. Go here to register and here to read about The Kitchen Classroom.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Re-enactment

I wish I'd had the camera with the larger zoom. See the blue lights of the police escort in the distance? They're escorting a group of Civil War re-enactors this week, helping us to remember an important battle, blood that was shed, lives that were lost, impacting the United States we live in today.

Dear Jolesch Photography

Dear Jolesch Photography,

I do not like your sales tactics.

You are the official photographer of Music for All's Band's of America Grand Nationals in Indianapolis.

As soon as our band's prelim performance was complete, the students were ushered to the stands for some group photos. One 'formal'; one, silly. Then they were ushered just outside the stadium for individual and small group (sections) pictures.

At the same time, we had a schedule to keep. We were in a hurry. Our students had to return instruments and uniforms to buses and trucks waiting in the parking lot. Our buses and trucks had to be off the lot at a specified time, so that other bands could enter in order to perform in prelims.

So, during the hurry to complete the individual and section photos, someone from Jolesch handed our students, most of them minors, a little form to fill out, and were told it was to give your parents a discount. A lot of our kids hurriedly completed one in the rush.

A couple of days ago, I received a bill from you for not one, but TWO 10x18 panoramic photos. The fine print tells me that I need to complete the order by paying for them. I called to cancel them, and to complain about the sales tactics.

My guess is that the little form you shoved at the kids in such a hurry did explain that they are indeed ordering two photos, but the kids had no time to read the form. They barely had time to complete it. My child's name is spelled wrong on my "bill"; the rep said they had trouble reading a lot of the handwriting. I'm sure you did. The kids were in a hurry, polite to comply with your request. My child can certainly spell her own name and her handwriting is neat, and if she'd had the time to write clearly, she'd have had time to read the fine print and realize you were trying to get her money.

You probably make a lot of money this way. That's why you do it. Because it works for you. People pay that "bill" without looking at it too closely.

I want you to know that the tactic infuriates me. I don't like the fact that you used the tactic with minors. Children. The tactic is sleazy and underhanded. If you are the chosen photographer at BOA events next year, I hope BOA restricts you from using this sales technique in the official photographer contract.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Autistics Get Sick, Too

I often blog about slowing down and giving processing time so that my child can process communication and take her own action in reply. The professionals guiding us in the beginning taught us that reply speed is important and they pushed us to increase response time. I regret listening to them. We've spent the last seven years working on slowing down.

On the topic of slowing down, I came across an article that explains the concept so clearly. A facebook friend posted a link to this blog post by a person on the autism spectrum about going to the doctor that is a must share.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What I like about marching band.

This post is not about homeschooling. Or autism.

This post is about something I did not get to do when I was in high school.

This post is about what I like about marching band in general and about our marching band. The points are in no particular order. I typed them out as I thought of them. (I am not sure why I numbered them.)

1) Music. Music affects the brain. Hearing it. Playing it. Especially playing it. The math involved in playing music keeps the brain active and growing. Music can uplift you when you're down or dragging.

2) Neurological multi-tasking. Marching and playing at the same time is challenging. And it grows neurons that you'll use later for multi-tasking through college and in the workplace, for multi-tasking as a parent.

3) Discipline. Yes, the rehearsals are hard work. You must memorize music. You must memorize drill. A lot of the work is repetitive and boring. The discipline you experience and practice is a foundation for discipline later, through college, in the workplace, as a parent. The discipline of being a part of a team like a marching band is experience that you'll take with you through life.

4) Teamwork. Every part of a team is important. Every part contributes. There is amazing satisfaction in coming together with a team, working hard alongside/with a team, to accomplish a show. And the teamwork is very different from that of a sports team, where the goal is to defeat opponents in games. In sports, teams try to go after an opponent's weakness and to shut down an opponent's strong scorer. The teamwork in marching band is about self-improvement and group-self-improvement, competing with self, comparing results with self over time.

5) Camaraderie.

6) Time management. Yes, from July through November, a good chunk of your time will be consumed by rehearsals, football games, and contests. You give up a lot of computer time, video game time, free time during those months. Yes, the time management experience will serve you well throughout life.

7) Sacrifice. You get an opportunity to see the benefits of sacrificing what you want to do (computer chats, shopping, goofing off) for the good of the team.

8) Resilience. Students mess up. They keep going. Judges make mistakes or make calls we don't agree with. The kids keep going.

9) Flexibility combined with creative problem solving. Our band staff takes judges commentaries very seriously. Instead of insisting that the show they put together back in July is perfect, they have taken constructive criticism seriously and made adjustments where needed. Our staff model flexibility and creative problem solving for the students; the students practice flexibility in tweaking the show until the show is the way the directors want it.

10) Manners. Our band is taught to be respectful in all situations, from rehearsals to football games to competitions. The kids remain perfectly still in situations where we all know they wanted to dance and scream. (Interestingly, our kids were the only band at a recent competition to remove their shakos for the national anthem.)

11) Generosity. Our kids applaud other bands at competition. Our parents applaud other bands at competitions. Applauding another band takes nothing away from our own band.

12) Education and history. The fine arts camp my daughter attended during two summer vacations names cabins after composers. Imagine our delight to make the connection that she stayed in the cabin called Bizet and is now playing tunes from Carmen with the marching band.

13) Proprioception. That body awareness thang. Marching backwards, marching sideways while facing straight ahead without checking your neighbors' locations requires you have a good sense of where you are in space and helps students experience and grow in this area.

14) Trust. When you're marching backwards, or sideways, you must trust that your bandmates are doing what they're supposed to do so that you don't crash into them on a trek across the football field during your precision marching.

15) Lots of practice hours. In his book Outliars, Malcolm Gladwell tells us that 10,000 hours of practice at anything = success. During marching season, marching band students get many more hours of playing music than most non-marching students.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Joint Attention in Children

If you are studying joint attention in terms of autism intervention, here is a nice blog post about joint attention with some how-to ideas.

I have a note of caution of my own to add:
We made the mistake of checking off "pointing" on the ABLLS when we taught
pointing as a one-sided mand to request an item. Pointing is so much more than a
mand. Pointing is part of rich non-verbal interaction and joint attention.
Please don't make the mistake of teaching pointing as simply a mand and checking
it off your to-teach list.

Friday, November 18, 2011

One Minute Reader; a TOS Crew Review

My homeschooler, whom I affectionately nicknamed, 'Rella, and I have been reviewing a reading resource called One Minute Reader from Read Naturally.


I'll tell you up front - this is a product that I intend to stick with if it fits within my budget as we go along. (Read Naturally offers affordable options.)

The program is research based. The concept and implementation are easy and uncomplicated. And it is created by a former special education teacher and her husband.
The product package = a book, an audio CD, a timer, a pencil that is blue on one end and red on the other.

The how-to: The book contains audio stories from the book read aloud. Play the CD, read along with the CD, read alone with the timer, mark errors with the pencil, calculate score. Students are to read along with the voice on the CD at least three times, then alone in a timed reading. (Stories are read aloud on the CD three times, so you pop in the CD, locate the first track of the story, hit play, and let it run. No backing up and restarting a track.) The actual steps are here. The stories are non-fiction and come with a page of questions to check comprehension (something we still struggle with at my house) and games and support activities.

The lessons are short, which is a bonus for a child with attention challenges. The recommended half-hour lesson is a bit much for my child with attention issues, although she tends to get to 15 minutes pretty easily. The pattern of reading along with the CD and then reading alone becomes familiar, quickly, also a bonus to a child who doesn't always sense patterns and who needs structure. The stories change; the pattern of the lesson stays the same. Same but different, different but same. There is a sample book available here.

Research-based One-Minute Reader is meant for support at home. In other words, it's not a product marketed specifically to homeschoolers.

The readings are intended to be completed independently; however, I have to sit with my girl when she completes hers. I like to see her reading along with the recordings. My child reads much too fast and I did not realize that until we received this product. The pleasant voice on the recording sets the pace that 'Rella must follow, and I like how 'Rella must slow down for it.

We were given a Level 1 book/CD and a Level 3 book/CD. We began with Level 1. Placement is important. We haven't attempted Level 3 yet. I don't think my girl is ready for it.

IMPORTANT (at my house) NOTE: There is no giant "LEVEL 1" or "FIRST GRADE" printed on the materials. The level number is printed in a rather small font and I had to look for it. My child often balks at working on material clearly labeled for a much younger grade level. If your developmentally delayed reader is sensitive about reading material meant for lower/younger grades, this product is sensitive to those children.

Because the stories are non-fiction, we learn about people, places, things when we read. I had no idea that Big Ben is a bell, not a clock. (Am I the only one?)

I have experimented with the multiple choice q & a that follows each one-minute story. 'Rella can answer the questions with more success an hour or a few hours AFTER she completes the exercise. She needs the processing time. We have also been working on some narration of the stories instead of the q & a.

Short. Sweet. Developmentally appropriate. Research based. Geography, science, famous people, animals, plants, places - the short stories cover a wide range of topics, some that have prompted questions that require a little digging to answer, that gave us an interest to chase. I hope my girl improves her comprehension and reading as we continue to use this resource.

The OMR provides a framework that we have not had before. The brief story is packed with interesting tidbits of information without a lot of 'flowery' or excessive descriptive language. It's nuts-and-bolts, yet interesting. The Level 1 is "just enough" for 'Rella right now - she is growing competence at several levels/layers. I'd like to continue with it. The big concern: I have some questions in my mind about buying the big kits - I hate to waste $ if she moves up a level before we are finished with a set.

The Starter Kit comes with a instructional CD, a book and CD, a timer, a pencil in a binder, priced at $24.95. You may buy the entire level in a bundle for $99.95 (save 14%) or individual book/CDs for $12.95.

Read Naturally has a blog here and a facebook page here.

To read my Crewmates' review of Read Naturally or One Minute Reader, please click here.

Read Naturally sent me a review copy of One Minute Reader at no charge to me. I get to keep the product. I was not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bands of America Grand Nationals

Here is a picture of 'our' kids in the tunnel at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis last weekend. As soon as the band on the field performs, our kids are on. This is our view from the tunnel:

I watched three competitions as a spectator earlier in the season this year. This was my first as a chaperone. The experiences are very different. Spectators get to see a lot of marching bands. Chaperones are with the students 'backstage' and witness the preparation and warmups and an occasional last minute crisis or two. Watching the day unfold backstage was magical. We were on buses at 6:15 am headed to a freezing-cold outdoor warm-up at sunrise at a nearby high school; then to the stadium to dress and head to a physical warm-up space and then a musical warm-up space and finally to the field to perform. (Exactly 30-minutes prior to our performance, a sax neck cracked and sent the chaperones into a tizzy looking for the volunteer we knew could do something about it.)

Our band had the best performance of the entire season. The kids didn't even appear nervous as they headed out to perform.The experience was amazing and surreal - I think every kid should get an experience like that one. (Our scores - the most disappointing piece of the entire weekend. I shouldn't say this, but I'm going to. I'm disappointed with the judges. We were victims of the "Marian-Catholic effect" this year, in my opinion. Note: That is my opinion. I have no idea what our band staff think. We had higher scores at a BOA regional competition mid-season with a run with lots of musical and visual mistakes. Doesn't make sense to me and it stinks for the kids.) We finished in the top half of competing bands when I suspect we should have finished in or near the top third.

My opinion: The top 12 finalists from last year and repeat finalists should perform during prelims before a break to give the judges an opportunity to give the following band a fresh mind and fairer opportunity, to try to lower what blogger Paul Katula calls "scoring sequence bias." My opinion doesn't count for much. I'm disillusioned. I'd hoped for a better representation on the score sheets. (I know it sounds like sour grapes. But based on past BOA's, our scores could be nearly 20% lower than if we hadn't followed a repeat finalist.)

We stayed to watch finals - the top 12 marching bands in the nation (yes, one of the repeat finalists performed before we did in prelims) and the show was FANtastic! WOW! I am so glad I was able to be there!

Marching band season is over for the year. So is fall baseball. I'm not sure what we will do with all of our free time. (The girls are begging to get back on the ice to skate.)

Math Mammoth, a TOS Crew Review

Math Mammoth offers affordable math workbooks and worktexts in both hard copy and downloadable formats.

I have reviewed several Math Mammoth products over the years and have gotten a couple more products in freebie offers. I've seen enough and used enough of Math Mammoth products that Math Mammoth is my priority go-to company when one of my children needs support in math. I like the fact that I can download a specific worktext immediately at an affordable price and go to work with it right then and there. I don't have to buy an entire math textbook or curriculum to work on one area. And while I can choose to purchase a printed product and wait for it to arrive, I don't have to with the downloadable options. Bottom line: Math Mammoth is convenient and saves me time and money.


This time around, I reviewed our first Make it Real Learning worktext:

Make it Real Learning is the kind of math we are moving to, are using more often at my house. This worktext uses word problems that take real-life objects and experiences to practice concepts of mathematics. This particular worktext, priced at just $$4.99, is geared for grades 3-6, which means we didn't use all of it yet, as my homeschooler is working close to grade 3 work.

"The Make It Real Learning Arithmetic I workbook focuses on real-world situations that may be effectively analyzed using arithmetic concepts such as addition, subtraction, estimation, division, bar graphs, and place value with large numbers."

Read about this worktext and what it covers here. A sample from this worktext is available here. Math Mammoth offers a packet of freebies here.

I like the real-life examples and the examples help me create other activities to cover the same concepts. Who doesn't love working with objects we can eat when we are finished with our math?

Math Mammoth's Maria Miller has a wonderful blog, here.

Read about my Crewmates' experiences with Math Mammoth products here.

Math Mammoth gave me a copy of Make It Real Learning (Arithmetic) to review. I was not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Biggest Marching Band Event Of Our Year

We are on our way to our biggest marching band competition ever.
We're leaving later today.
The band performs in the morning before lunch, Friday.

Prayers for calm, peace, confidence appreciated,
that these students would represent Christ
(and the school)
in a positive way.


Readers, I'll 'see' you next week!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

75% off sale

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine has a 75% off sale on some bundles. It's worth checking out. Go here. And no, I don't benefit should you choose to take advantage of this sale.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ooka Island Adventure, a TOS Crew Review

Ooka Island Adventure is an online learn-to-read program for ages 3-7. Ooka Island uses online games that are fun for children in that age group or developmental range to teach pre-reading and reading skills. This is a product that I'd recommend for parents and teachers of older children with developmental delays because the computer games are inviting and they don't look like "school" or "work", which lessens anxiety in students who freeze at the sight of anything that looks like "school".

If you're curious about whether Ooka Island is a good fit for your child, consider the free 14-day trial.

The graphics and games are inviting and my homeschooler, a developmentally delayed pre-teen, was happy to dive in. She enjoys computer games and if your child likes and plays computer games, I predict that they will have no problems playing this one.

My child is reading on what I think is a first grade level and I had hoped that the games would help fill in any foundational gaps for her to help her move forward. As she played, the games and tasks were too easy for her and her willingness to play quickly disappeared. If you are not sure about your child's developmental range, utilize the free trial to get a feel for what kind of match Ooka Island is for your child. It might be perfect!

My girl has been sounding out unfamiliar words with more accuracy (she has amazed me several times in recent weeks) and I do think that Ooka Island has played a part in that.

Sometimes, we get a product with a recommended age range that seems too young or too mature for what the company recommends. In this case, I think that the Ooka Island folks are spot on - this is for children who are between 3 and 7 or who are developmentally within that age range. (And I suspect my girl is reading a little bit above where I think she is.)

My one caution is to please check the system requirements against your computer. The download /setup is big and took longer than most downloads.
Ooka Island offers a 30% discount at the moment:
And Ooka Island makes my job easy with this cool graphic that tells you about the pricing:

To read my Crewmates' reviews of Ooka Island, please go here.

We were given access to Ooka Island in a six-month subscription to use and review here. I was not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.
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