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.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Control and Anxiety

I am on the list of parents who will chaperone a band trip at the end of the week.

I have not traveled with a group on a bus on a schedule without my own transportation in a very long time.

I am getting a refresher course into what creates anxiety for my girl.

In recent years, with mostly trips to Mom and Dad's or to see our autism consultant, I tend to be a last minute packer. I know that if I forget anything, I can go to a department store and pick up what I need.

On our trip this week, I will not have that option. My mind is busy making lists of things I need to make sure I pack.

In fact, I have decided to pack today to make sure I have the jeans I want for the weekend.

Me? Pack four days early? Unheard of.

The marching band booster group is unbelievably organized. They have always communicated clearly and well in advance of football games, camps, competitions.

I am waiting for the e-mail from them with details of this trip. I've never chaperoned a band trip before. Will chaperones get a separate e-mail? Or will we 'wing it'? I have no idea. Where will I stay? With whom? What will my responsibilities be? I know I'll do more than count heads and sit and watch performances. Chaperones will haul equipment, too.

The parent who is in charge of all things equipment and travel has been doing her job for a while and she is good at it. I know that. I've seen her work. She gets it done. We chaperones will be able to jump in and perform the individual jobs because of her organization and preparation.

But I still want to know details ahead of time. Why? Because it lessens the amount of UNproductive uncertainty for me and increases PROductive uncertainty.

Sometimes, too often, lately, I think my girl should be able to roll with new events. This week, I am getting an up-close-and-personal lesson in the value of previews and information ahead of time.

Go band!

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Person I Marry -- Bower Books, a TOS Crew Review

I knew I'd love this book. We already own a Gary Bower book. My school-building school kids met him when he was a featured author at their school a few years ago. I wasn't able to attend his presentation at a homeschool convention in person, so I purchased and listened to the audio recording of it on the way home from the convention. The Bower's, Gary and Jan, rank pretty high on my list of treasured authors and illustrators.

From the Bright Future Series, which includes There's a Party in Heaven and What Do Heroes Wear, the Bowers bring us, The Person I Marry.

My family members were given a digital version of "The Person I Marry" to enjoy and review. The book (like all of the others by the Bowers) is beautiful. My homeschooler is asking about growing up and getting married and being a mom. This book came at a good time. It is full of descriptions (aka vocabulary words) of what makes a good mate, for starters, approachable; tender; gentle; kind; courteous; tactful; gracious.

You're going to want one for your family. The book would make a lovely gift to a family with young children or to a church library or Sunday School classroom.

Please take a peek inside:

The Person I Marry from Bower Books on Vimeo.

The Person I Marry is a hardback gorgeous enough for the coffee table priced at $11.99.

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

Bower Books gave me a digital copy of The Person I Marry to review. I was not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Katz Gluten Free One Day Sale

Schmully the Katz Man tells me that Katz Gluten Free has a ONE DAY SALE - today until midnight:

coupon code OneTime (all one word) save $3 off an order @ katzglutenfree.com

Katz has the most amazing bakery products! I can vouch for them. Their chocolate chip cookies and rugelech are so good - it's hard to believe they're gluten free.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tweaking and Regrouping

I took my homeschooler for a 'try-out' for a research study that, if she is chosen, would give her free sensory-based speech and language therapy for several months at a respected institution.

The 'try-out' was the administration of a standardized test, one that is mostly non-verbal.

I watched through a one-way window/mirror.

I was amazed at how far my girl got into the test. I know that she has to miss so many in a row before the administrator stops the test - and I've never seen my girl go sooooo far in a standardized test. I want to see the official results - the results will help me tweak and regroup.

I noticed a couple of things from my position across the glass. My girl tends to answer questions very quickly with "I don't know." I think I do that a lot and I have to stop modeling that for her. She knows a LOT and she needs practice slowing herself down to make that discovery. There were a couple of vocabulary words I thought she should have known, as well.

I have new insight as we tweak and regroup. And we start a new therapy in a couple of weeks, too.

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