Thursday, September 29, 2011

Green Halloween

Leslie from My Mama's Love sent me an email asking me if I'd let my readers know about this neat project.

Leslie wrote, "I am actually selling my Fixx My Lips lip balms in bulk for below-cost pricing. The idea is to give people looking for greener, healthier trick-or-treat alternatives a solution. Also, in the spirit of supporting Green Halloween, I am donating 10% of all October sales to Ecomom alliance---the non-profit behind Green Halloween."

My teen and I really like Leslie's lip balms.

You may read about Green Halloween and Leslie's offer here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Aletheia Writing Magazine

Aletheia Writing Magazine for Christian teens by teens is a full-color quarterly publication priced at $26 for U.S. subscribers that contains stories, poems, artwork, photographs, book reviews, interviews, and more. Some of my TOS Crewmates and I were given the Fall 2011 hard-copy and the Summer 2011 digital edition to review.

"Aletheia" is Greek for "truth" or "unveiling".

You may read the Spring 2011 digital issue here. Please, take a look.

I think I would have loved this magazine when I was a teen. I would have been disappointed that there were only four issues a year. I probably would have submitted a story or two.

The magazine accept submissions from and in terms of demographics, aims at the 13-19 year old age range. I think that the stories appeal more to the kids who are avid readers and writers than just teens in general. If you have several teens at home, there is likely something in the magazine to appeal to each of them.

This magazine is an aspiring teen writer's dream - it offers stories by kids just like them and if offers a platform to become a published author at a young age, to set the stage for a potential career in writing. Submission guidelines and writing tips/hints are available on the company web site. Aletheia's publishers are homeschoolers; they accept submissions from any teen as long as the work meets submission guidelines. I hope that when the crazy-busy marching band season is over, my school-building-schooler will submit a story.

The stories are quality; engaging; the magazine is solid. Story length ranges from a couple of pages to nine pages (w/ illustrations) in the print version. I enjoyed the stories, and I appreciate the insight into the teen experience. I might recommend it for a pre-teen who is an avid reader and writer, who is ahead of the norm in that area. For developmentally delayed teens, I would recommend a peek at the free edition online before you make a decision. The subject matter and vocab are way outside the range of what my pre-teen homeschooler w/ developmental delays is reading at the moment. The magazines are 40 pages in length counting the front and back covers and there are very few ads to get in the way of the reading.

Read my Crewmates' reviews of Aletheia Writing Magazine here.

I was given the print version of the Fall 2011 and the digital edition of the Summer 2011 Aletheia Writing Magazine. I was not paid for the review. I get to keep the magazines. I am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Free Unit Studies

The Curiosity Files™

Details here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Before Five In a Row

I wish I had known about Five In a Row and Before Five In a Row when we were starting our developmental, relationship based, autism remediation intervention. BFIAR and FIAR are two little gems that I learned about late in the game, after I became an accidental homeschooler.

Before Five In A Row is a learning readiness guide. I hesitate to call it a program. The BFIAR author uses the term "little lessons".

The actual book, pictured above left, is a 150 page paperback priced at $35 that uses a couple dozen familiar, beloved childen's books (you borrow those from the library or purchase them separately at the retailer of your choice) in ways that offer "...a happy introduction to books, provide an interesting, light introduction to many different topics, and to build intimacy between the reader and child." (from page 3).

The parent's job is to use a story to build relationship between parent and child and between child and books / reading. And author Jane Claire Lambert and BFIAR give the parent the background and ideas to do just that. BFIAR is organized in two parts. The first part covers the children's books and activities. The second part is called, "Parent's Treasury of Creative Ideas for Learning Readiness" and covers activities (talking, listening, reading, poetry, hand games, singing, dancing, making music, drama); coordination; large motor skills; small motor skills; bath time; kitchen; store; toys; the arts; perspective taking.

I call the book a "guide" because Lambert doesn't give you a checklist of "must-do's". She gives you ideas, ways to use a story and not stop at simply reading text and turning pages. The parent gets to decide what to use, how much to do, when to move to the next story, when to return to a story previously enjoyed.

"Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?"; "Goodnight Moon"; "Caps for Sale"; The Snowy Day; "We're Going on a Bear Hunt"; "Corduroy"; "The Carrot Seed" are some of the story titles.

BFIAR takes one story at a time and gives parents a summary, a Bible verse, insight about how to use the story with a language arts emphasis, within the context of building loving relationships. BFIAR spotlights for parents colors, patterns, and combinations; offers fine arts and drama ideas; provides titles that are complimentary. BFIAR provides background and how-to on poetry and art for each story; 'can you find' search ideas; recognizing patterns; order; details; games; related science topics; shapes; sequencing; games; comparisons; tracking; problem solving - the list is long and you'll have to trust me that author Jane Claire Lambert has a strong grasp on how to grow pre-reading foundations through relationship.

I really like the emphasis on short, fun interactions. With my reluctant (developmentally delayed) reader, I have a tendency to push too far, too long, which works against my goals. Short. Simple. Positive. Fun.

Lambert knows the importance of sensory and movement for young children and gives us ideas we can incorporate along the way.

From a developmental perspective (keep in mind I am not a professional; I am a laymom), children need to experience patterns in life. Sensing patterns, the "same" in a changing world is really important to developing competence with change. Children who don't sense the patterns tend to be rigid and tend to not deal with uncertainty and change well. Lambert takes a story and shows parents how to use it multiple ways, how to make associations to parts of the story (self-to-text comparisons, text-to-self comparisons, text-to-text comparisons). She helps parents create a rhythm to reading, books, pre-literacy skills over time; and she spotlights patterns within books. Using existing patterns and creating new patterns is important to child development and Lambert knows and uses this well.

"Resist the temptation to try to create two-year-old professors you can be proud of." (page 4) When we had a child who lost interaction skills, we took a different approach, a behavioral approach instead of a relational one, and we created a one-sided professorish child who was a one-sided word machine who could not interact. At my house, we pushed reading and comprehension BEFORE building intimacy between reader and child. My child regressed into autism; we worked around the lack of interaction by ignoring it and pushing academics outside of developmental order.

We continue to focus more closely on "between the reader and the child" than we do on the text. My child still carries an aversion to trying to read. This is one of the areas I'd like to go back and do differently in terms of our autism intervention. I wish I'd understood how development plays out back then.

Yes, this is more of an informational review than a product that we opened and used as is. My girl is too 'big' for a lot of the books and activities as they are written, although I do pick up BFIAR for ideas and direction as we continue to go back in development and get pieces we missed in the regression and behavioral intervention days. The ideas and idea generation for me are excellent.

Whether you have a typically developing toddler (BFIAR is aimed at two-to-four year old children) or a developmentally delayed child who is not a toddler by age, BFIAR is worth your serious consideration. The lessons are fabulous - tailormade for a toddler or for an older child with developmental delays. I said it before, and I'll say it again. I wish I'd known about this company, this product, eight or nine years ago.

Before Five in a Row is available at Rainbow Resource here.

To read my Crewmates' review of BFIAR, please go here.

I was given a copy of Before Five In a Row to review for you. I get to keep the book. I was not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Friday, September 16, 2011

You're Trying To Bust Me!!!!!!!!!

I have to watch 'Rella closely when she's on the computer. She has figured out how to sneak and watch cartoons that we forbid her to watch.

Like many parents of children on the autism spectrum, there is a part of me that celebrates when I catch her deceiving me. Takes a lot of perspective taking, theory of mind, joint attention to lie. She will open several windows so she can quickly close an offending window if I get too close. Little sneak!

Today, I tiptoed silently behind her to peek over her shoulder to see what windows she had open. All okay. (whew) But she noticed me and she knew what I was doing and she called me on it: "You're trying to BUST me!!!"

I love it! There was something in MY mind. And past experience. And context. And meaning in my actions. And without my saying a word, she used broadband communication to decipher meaning and respond, appropriately. I don't know what level of joint attention that is, but I do know we have come a long way!

AIMS Educational Foundation: Solve It!

I was given a math and science book/CD combo to review at home. AIMS Educational Foundation sent me Solve It!, a $24.95 workbook-slash-activity-book that covers problem solving concepts of 3rd grade math and science, using very hands-on, in-context, tactile and visual ways.

I really like this problem-solving set.

The text covers nine different solving problem strategies that include using manipulatives, writing a number sentence, drawing out the problem, guess & check, organizing info, looking for patterns, using logic, working backwards, and simplifying. Page 11 features a matrix that shows parents and teachers which activities provide experience with which solving-problem strategies.

The CD is a repeat of the printables in the book, which makes for easier photocopying pages that ask students to cut out figures to use as manipulatives, (although the book is a softcover and is almost the same size as copy paper, which means I can smash it pretty close to flat on a copy machine for the pages I need to copy). School staff may make up to 200 copies for educational purposes at a single school site.

There are a variety of activities that incorporate one or some of the problem solving strategies. I used my own mom's-pick-and-choose approach to choose activities based upon what areas my homeschooler needs experience and based upon her self-regulation level on a given day. I like that I can work out of order.

I haven't analyzed the difficulty of the activities. I don't know if some of the concepts are simpler than others, but I do know thatin terms of our use at home, the activities fall within three distinct categories: 1) activities that my daughter can understand and complete some of the activities with little help from me; 2) activities that she can complete some of them with scaffolding from me; and 3) activities that are too challenging right now that would require lots of adaptations and compensations on my part (we are saving them until later).

If she's having a rough day, I can pull an activity that she is capable of completing without me, something that feels easy to her. (I rarely have her work independently as we are still growing interdependence.) If your children are working independently, the activities can be completed independently and would be super workbox choices.

If she's having a good day, we can work on skills and strategies that she needs to grow and I can scaffold the learning.

The teacher instructions and the questions to the students associated with each set of activities scaffold the teaching and problem solving process - my job is simplified because of the instructions.

We are not a work-straight-through-the-workbook-from-beginning-to-end kind of family. My student's skills are too scattered to do that. I like that I can work out of order and choose activities based upon my child's needs. And I like the reminders of what problem solving skills we need to work on.

Depending upon how I choose to use an activity, we can work on our relationship work, too. In the pumpkin patch activity (mentioned on the web site with the book description and pictured here), we could have made same-size paper clip chain fences for each of us and done the activity together, side-by-side, having my daughter reference me for the next step. Or we could have used different sized paperclip chain fences to use for side-by-side comparisons for some perspective taking experience.

In the apple array activity, I could have printed two sets, a set for me and a set for my daughter, and worked through the activity together, side-by-side. For a child with a lot of anxiety, giving mom her own set of worksheets can reduce the child's anxiety and the parent can model the problem solving technique for the child, which can reduce performance anxiety and make room for learning.

While not as intense as Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment, I recognize some common ground with FIE among the activities, and that is a huge positive for me.

I like everything about this worktext. I like the teacher prep pages for me. I like the way the activities are presented to scaffold new discoveries of concepts. I like the way the activities appear inviting and fun. I like the fact that the activities are short while still packed with learning. I like being able to work out of order. I like having them for workboxes in the future as we move toward more independent work and I like their adaptability for interdependent work between child and parent.

ADDITIONAL COSTS: This is not a 'stand alone' product. You'll need a printer, toner, paper, or access to those items; you'll need scissors, crayons, typical schoolroom craft supplies; and you may need cardstock. In retrospect, I should have printed the apple array activity on cardstock.

To read what my Crewmates' think about this resource and other resources from AIMS Educational Foundation, please go here.

AIMS Educational Foundation sent me "Solve It!" to review on my blog. I get to keep the book. I was not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Have you "lost your voice" yet?

If you lost your voice for several days, could you and your child(ren) communicate actively and richly?

One of the most offered piece of advice from my own journey is "lose your voice". And not just to parents of kids w/ special needs.

Our kids with developmental delays and special needs often over-rely on words and "talk" and miss a lot of communication, because more of our interactions are NON-verbal than are verbal. When a child is not reading and responding to our non-verbal communication, we naturally tend to talk more to compensate.

The problem is that talking more does not give our kids more experience in non-verbaling. (Post about non-verbaling here.)

And they NEED experience non-verbaling. Not just reading (referencing) non-verbal communication. The "ing" in my made up term, "non-verbaling" implies doing something, too, an action, involves being an active participant responding, interacting.

If you've not watched the Pixar short "One Man Band" lately, take a look at it and count the number of verbal interactions vs the number of non-verbal interactions.

Take a peek at it. I found the video here.

How important is reciprocity and interaction without words? Did you make a discovery while watching that short? I did.

Do you need to "lose your voice" for a few days to give your child some experience in "non-verbaling"? You will probably find more shared attention. Kids have to reference us more when we are not providing non-stop narrative, prompts, and play-by-play.

And if you're reading this and you do not have a child with special needs, you still may find that "losing your voice" can be a powerful strategy. After we began decreasing "verbaling" and increasing "non-verbaling" with our child w/ autism, I tried it while shopping with the sibs. They were experts at nagging, whining, begging for toys or candy while we were out, and my verbal response seemed to communicate to them that I was willing to negotiate. When I began giving them a sad expression and a head shake, "no", I realized that I could stop their negotiation. What a discovery.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Salmon Flavored Chewing Gum

'Rella and I are using the wacky Guinness Book of World Record writing prompt cards I found at Staples on clearance last week. (I blogged about them here.) Today I chose a picture card that featured the biggest bubble-gum bubble.

'Rella always wants to know the name of the person who holds the record. In this case, it is Chad Fell. (There's a photo the bottom of this page.)

One of the writing prompts (which we are talking through and not writing about yet) asked us if gum could change flavors and we could create gum to taste like an entire dinner, what flavors would we choose?

She chose salad, salmon patties, and cake.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Leftover Baked Potatoes

My children like baked potatoes. I usually bake more than we need for one meal, but my children complain that leftover, warmed-up baked potatoes are yucky and they refuse to eat them.

Today, I sliced cold, straight from the refrigerator leftover baked potatoes, drizzled them w/ oil, salt, and pepper (actually, hubby did that part), and wrapped them in parchment paper and reheated them on the bbq grill where we were grilling hamburgers and hot dogs.

Thumbs up! The 'recipe' is a KEEPER!

My photography skills need a bit of work. I quickly snapped a photo before the second potato disappeared, and it is a bit fuzzy.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Y'all...Role Modeling Works!

It happened this week.

One of my kids instinctively said, "y'all" instead of "you guys". *grin*

I knew they would.

I didn't know it would happen this soon. We just passed our five month mark in a southern state after 15 years in the Midwest.

I predicted it here.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"Wild & Bizarre"

Spotted on the clearance rack of an office supply store yesterday (for under $5):

Wild & Bizarre Guinness World Records Creative Writing Prompt cards.

I'd never seen anything quite like these before. Yeah, I bought them. I am not interested in focusing on creative writing prompts yet. We'll use them for experience sharing, attention sharing, creative composing aloud (and I may write down whatever my girl comes up with).

There were two smaller sets of fact cards on the clearance rack with the creative writing prompt cards. I opted to leave those on the shelf.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Roasted Salmon; Spiced & Smashed Sweet Potatoes; Roasted Broccoli

I stay on the hunt for recipes and meals that I can prepare for our entire family so that our kitchen less resembles a coney-island type restaurant.

I'm finding that old-timey cookbooks are better (because the recipes were written before the easy access to cans of cream-of-something soup and to cheeses); meat cookbooks are better; and whole-food and market style cookbooks are better for opportunities to find recipes that I can make as-is or easily convert to make for the whole family.

I've abandoned Taste of Home and Southern Living type magazines and recipe books that rely on shortcuts like starting with a can of croissant or biscuit dough or a lot of cream-of-something-soups and shredded cheeses and mix-a-bunch-of-foods-together casseroles and have exchanged them for Cook's Country and America's Test Kitchen and those type magazines and recipe books that rely on cooking from scratch and have a more whole-foods approach.

I spotted three recipes in an online newspaper that are either GFCF or are easy to convert, appear to be fairly simple to make, sound positively tasty to me, and are worth passing along to you in case you too are looking for something new to make:

Sunday, September 4, 2011

How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. For Your Kids

I opened How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. For Your Kids with a teeny bit of hesitation.***(see background, below)

There was no need for my hesitation.

I was relieved and pleasantly surprised to have been given a book that is encouraging, written by a mom who is authentic and not at all holier-than-thou, whose words do not make me feel criticized for not homeschooling all of my children, who offers rich wisdom and advice not about changing them, but about changing ME, about using myself differently, better, with the goal to grow not only my own, but also my children's character, and more importantly, spiritually, in Christ.

H.E.A.R.T. in the title stands for the topics of the five main chapters of the book:
H - Have a heart for the things of God
E - Enrich your marriage
A - Accept your kids
R - Release them to God
T - Teach them the truth
How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. For Your Kids is a huge encouragement to me. Carman reminds me to establish and keep a regular Bible study time (so challenging some years; autism sucked away a lot of focus); she reminds me that my marriage is important; the chapter on accepting my kids is an especially good one for me, as each of my children are very different from one another, and sometimes they compare themselves to one another. I want to make sure I don't compare them and that I spotlight their differences in a positive way for each of them. Carman reminds me that my kids aren't mine; they're on loan from God. The "T" chapter reminds me of the most important thing: truth.

Parents - homeschoolers or not - of children with or without special needs - this is a wonderful book for reminding us how we use ourselves with our children is important, that how we use ourselves in good times, in times of stress, in times that require discipline - how we use ourselves as parents is important as we teach and guide, because we are always models.

How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. For Your Kids is a 205 page hardback, small in size (slightly larger than my hand), priced at $13. It would be a wonderful gift for a new mother, for church libraries, for women's ministries, for a book club.

There is a section in the "T" chapter that sums up the "why bother" for me: "Somewhere, as a young woman, I had adopted the notion that we all grow up and mature to a certain point --somewhere in our thirties and forties--and then we coast the rest of the way....Then they got to set the auto-pilot and coast in....Boy, was I wrong. There's no coasting this side of heaven."

I will be working on me for the rest of my life.

I'm blessed to have been given a copy to review. The timing is good for me as we are beginning to settle after our spring move across the country, and I need the gentle kick in the pants encouragement to refocus (again) on what is most important.

I highly recommend this book.

A sample chapter is here. The table of contents is here. Sometimes, Carman blogs here and here.

To read my Crewmates' reviews of this book, go here.

I was given a copy of How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. For Your Kids to review. I get to keep the book. I was not financially compensated for the review. I am not obligated to provide positive comments.

# # #

***BACKGROUND (a ): I began reading How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. For Your Kids and wondered if it was for me, the mother of one homeschooler with autism and a list of special learning needs and two public schoolers. Author Rachael Carman begins the book by sharing her journey into homeschooling (we have something in common; she is an accidental homeschooler, too).

I wondered if Rachael Carman's message is for me, the mom of a child w/ autism and all the baggage that comes with autism, when Carman has seven children who (from what I can gather from their story) are neurotypically developing.

Sometimes, I feel the most judged by Christians. A lot of "do this" and "how to" books about parenting or homeschooling a) have zero understanding or perspective of how challenging having a child w/ autism is and assumes that parents of kids w/ the behaviors we tend to see in autism are all bad parents and b) come across holier-than-thou.

I'm much better now (than I used to be) about setting down a book that comes across holier-than-thou knowing the author has not walked in my shoes and that the author doesn't understand all the compensations we make to make our family function with a child w/ special needs. We are doing the best we can; homeschooling one of my children is a challenge and I don't know how I could meet academic needs of the other two amidst all the therapies and remediation for all-things-autism. (I would love to have homeschooled all of my kids from the beginning, but during the sleepless, poop-smearing years, that was simply not something I could have done.)

I think that sometimes, homeschoolers think that if you public-school, that you are completely removed from teaching and guiding your children, that you are uninvolved and aloof and unengaged, and that simply is not true. (On the flip side, there are a lot of misconceptions, assumptions, stereotypes and generalization about homeschoolers that are simply not true as well.) I think that homeschooling and homeschooling conferences have heightened my awareness of what I want to focus on at home with all of my children, while we utilize a school-building school for the academics for some of them, and I deeply appreciate the guidance Carman gives me in this book, reminding me to ma
ke the important thing the important thing.
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