Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Pancakes for supper sounded soooooooo yummy to me tonight. Since I have a King Authur gluten free flour mix, I chose a recipe from King Arthur (here). Without any milk-substitute, I used water.  The taste did not satisfy my craving for pancakes - something was missing.  Toward the end of the batch of batter, I dumped in a couple of tablespoons of syrup and that improved the taste considerably. My GFCF+++++F girl has eaten quite a few of them.  I'm glad she likes them!
Next time, maybe I'll try adding apple sauce (as per THIS recipe).
I very much miss a gas cooktop. This house came with a brand new glass cooktop and in 19 months, I still haven't figured out the temperature controls on the eyes - they do not seem consistent to me and I am frustrated almost every time I cook on them. Wish gas stoves were more common here. (Yeah, I know. First world problem. I am blessed to have such servants as an indoor, electric stove and I know that.)

Monday, November 26, 2012


Teaching math to my daughter continues to challenge me. In August, I purchased MathUSee Delta at a consignment sale. As I watched the Delta video, I realized that my daughter's shaky foundations need to be strengthened, and I ordered Alpha directly from MathUSee. We have been working our way through Alpha together. A couple of weeks ago, while I was gone for a long weekend chaperoning a marching band event of my high schooler, my homeschooler took her MathUSee workbook to her bedroom and worked through the whole thing. Arg.

Interestingly, I see her strengths and weaknesses by what she got right and by what she skipped and by what she attempted but got wrong.  Makes my job a bit more difficult sorting through it all.  Working through the workbook in order would have been easier for me than sorting through to find the concepts that need practice.

The ironic thing is that if I'd asked her to work through the workbook, she would have resisted, screamed, screeched, protested, thrown a big fit. When working through it is her idea, she's fine with it.  I do understand that a lot of her resistance is about working alongside me, that she is anxious that I will move too quickly, expect too much and that she will feel incompetent.  So, moving forward, we will work toward my being a good guide, someone "possible" for her, as we tackle the concepts of math that need practice.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Freebie Alert: Write Shop

Write Shop has a free writing game available now, along with a 20% off coupon for purchases. Go here for more info.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Scholastic Warehouse Sale

Now is the time to find a Scholastic Warehouse Book Sale near you and register. You qualify to attend a warehouse sale if you volunteer at Scholastic book fairs at your child's school, if you are a teacher or librarian or school staff or if you are a homeschooler.

Click here for more information.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Learning from a Master

Today, I am a featured columnist at Homeschool Mosaics

Today's blog post is titled,

Friday, November 9, 2012

Try Reading Again

My homeschooler with an autism spectrum disorder is one of many children with ASD who find reading a challenge.  We continue to work hard to close the gap for her.

I opened a package from Woodbine House recently that is a fun surprise:  Try Reading Again, How to Motivate and Teach Older Beginners, Age 10 and Up by DeAnna Horstmeier, Ph.D. The book is a 297 page, easy-to-photocopy paperback of how-to and activities that includes a CD-ROM of additional resources, all aimed beginning readers who are older.

The author's approach is three-pronged, a triangle approach, that focuses on phonics and fluency on a base of language experience stories.  

The book is more than reading; Horstmeier gives us direction on creating "language experience stories" with our children as well.  We learn about phonics and vocabulary, too.  The gems for me are the structured stories and the back part of the book, the appendices of lists and flash cards games and activities that are beginner reader friendly.  We need to work on prefixes and suffixes here, and contractions, too and there are pages that guide me through that as well. I realize I've never taught her about digraphs.  We have work to do.

Try Reading Again is a thorough resource that covers a broader range of development than I thought on first glance.  My first flip-through impression was that it is too beginner for us, as my child can rhyme, knows letter sounds (her phonemic awareness is quite good), knows beginner sight words, etc., but as I look more closely, I see more advanced activities for my girl and as I look over topics and activities, I recognize more gaps that we need to address to make her reading experience more full, less challenging.

The activities and exercises are arranged developmentally, building foundations and growing them.  If I had to choose a favorite thing inside, it would be the structured stories.   Or maybe my favorite thing would be the companion CD-rom that gives me forms, worksheets, more stories.

The introduction is located here for folks who'd like to look before they buy.

Students on the autism spectrum often have such scattered skills that we see the splinter skills without recognizing shaky foundations beneath them.  I am digging in with enthusiasm as we strengthen foundations and move forward in all things reading. The activities and ideas are practical and provide in-context learning opportunities - and the activities are short yet packed with practice and experience.  We need work on stories. 

The book is priced at $24.95, on sale at the moment (check the web page for current pricing).  A keeper, for sure.

Woodbine House sent me a review copy of this book at no charge to me. I am not paid for reviews and am not obligated to provide a positive review.  RE: Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Social Skills and Adaptive Behavior in Learners with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Brookes Publishing sent me a review copy of Social Skills and Adaptive Behavior in Learners with Autism Spectrum Disorders by Peter F Gerhardt and Daniel Cummings. (Web site info here.) The book is a compilation of research that may or may not be helpful in determining an intervention pathway for a particular child.  It is a 308 page paperback featuring multiple authors on a wide variety of topics that fall within the umbrellas of social skills and adaptive behavior.

Behaviorists and medical types, I predict, will *love*  it.  Behaviorists and medical types love anything that has a completed scientific study behind it, and this book is full of research.  Any intervention that is in the process of gathering research as it applies to autism is labeled "pseudoscientific".

The danger in a book like this one is that parents and professionals stick with approaches "proven" by science while refusing to consider what this book calls "pseudoscience" and those parents and professionals risk what we experienced, a behavioral program that was considered successful by the fact that my child learned everything we taught her, except we taught her out of developmental sequence and created a long list of bizarre splinter skills that translated into NON-success in a traditional classroom.  We are still unraveling some of the damage we did by well-meaning behaviorists who understood the "science" but did not understand development.

If you want to see what research is and is not available, here's your book.  Personally, I would not spend $35 on it. I wasted too much valuable time and money on interventions "backed by science" and did not get in return what was promised. I got prompt-dependent and robotic, lots of words without comprehension or conversation.  Mom-to-mom, read this information with a grain of salt.  Absence of proof is not absolute proof.

The value in the book for me is on page 293, at the very end, where the discussion turns to the fact that "The research in this volume demonstrates that we have made significant gains along several dimensions and are moving in a number of positive directions:" that include a shift to a focus on social competence and the role of joint attention in the social piece and cites the need for more research.

Brookes Publishing sent me this book free of charge to review for you here. I am not paid for reviews and am not obligated to provide a positive review. RE: Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bands of America Grand Nationals, here we come!

The kids began the season with fundamentals in a hot gymnasium...

...have had an amazing marching season with not one, but two championships...

...and finish this weekend at Lucas Oil Stadium!


PS: A photo from last year is here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Teens Drive Smart

In the whirlwind of high school marching band season and homeschooling siblings, we parents forced an opportunity upon our eldest child recently. Teens Drive Smart offers a driving experience for teen drivers that combines sit-down classroom time with real-life driving experiences in a controlled environment. If you are in the United States, go to and get yourself on the email list to be notified of the schedule for 2013.  Teens Drive Smart has a facebook page and twitter page as well.

The audience was polled at the beginning of the session and we learned that none of the students came to the event voluntarily.  All of the parents made the kids go.  ;)   I still got a few looks from my kid that indicated that she was not happy to be there - until she got into a car.

Hard for mom to watch: the pavement was flooded and the kids were taught how to navigate skidding *in a BMW*.  The students got a second opportunity to drive a BMW during another driving portion of the program where they activated the anti-lock braking system and swerved to avoid an object at high speed. (Lookie-loos in vehicles on the highway beside us were stopping to watch this.)

A course of cones to navigate on golf carts gave students the ability to see the wheels and how a turn from the steering wheel affects what the back wheels do. The course was designed to be quite tight and we saw quite a few cones taken out. During this part of the course, we learned proper steering wheel techniques (something new to me!) and the kids were asked to navigate the course once while texting, something that was both hilarious and sobering, all at the same time. Not only did they knock over cones, but they ran the stop signs on the course as well.

The kids had a session that taught them about the car, the engine, how to change the oil, how to check tire pressure, how to properly adjust a seat for driving.

The four hour experience was positive, well-organized, the instructors were upbeat and enthusiastic. I met a number of parents who were back with a younger child, having completed a similar program with an older child in past years. I learned something new about steering and we parents were reminded to be good role models for our kids while driving.

The kids left with lots of swag that included a jump drive that contains video of them in the cars, a t-shirt and cap, a lanyard, a water bottle, and a car kit that includes jumper cables and gloves but (oddly) no tire pressure gauge.

I wasn't asked to blog about our experience. I'm simply a mom who wants to pass along to you what was a super opportunity for us.  Participate at your own risk (you'll have to sign waivers upon check-in).  All of the rules and information are available on the Teens Drive Smart web site.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Boys' Guide to Growing Up

Do you wonder how you will explain puberty to your pre-teen or teen who has developmental delays and/or is on the autism spectrum? I have a new resource to share with you. Woodbine House sent me a review copy of "The Boys' Guide to Growing Up, Choices and Changes during Puberty", by Terri Couwenhoven, M.S.
Books written for typically developing kids about puberty can be too complex for an introduction with a child who has developmental delays.  The Boys' Guide to Growing Up is a solid resource to bridge the gap between where your child is in terms of his physical development and what he needs to know cognitively if he is delayed in areas of comprehension and understanding.  The text is written at a third grade level while the information is geared for boys going through the changes that happen between the ages of 11 and 15 according to the book (the web site gives an expanded recommendation for boys age 9 to 16). The illustrations are clear and simple.

The book is divided into sections about the basics of puberty; outside changes; inside changes (includes voice, feelings, sexual feelings); a section about the penis; then sections that are more 'social skills' in nature that describes safe touch and what is appropriate to share and what is appropriate to keep private.

The books is paperback, 64 pages, with the right amount of text and illustration on each page.  It is priced at $16.95 and is on sale at the Woodbine House web site at the moment.  It is inviting to read.  Better yet, the content is written in a way that is matter of fact, reminds boys that everything they're going through is *normal*, and it tackles a subject that can be difficult for kids whose bodies are ahead of their comprehension.  Having it in book form means we parents can pick up the book again and again and reread it with our kids or revisit parts of it as we need to.

Woodbine House gave me a copy of this book to review for you on my blog. I was not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.  Re: Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Sparkle Box review and *giveaway*

The Sparkle Box is a new story book for families to illustrate the joy in doing for others, especially as we approach CHRISTmastime.

Written by Jill Hardie and illustrated by Christine Kornacki, The Sparkle Box tells the story of a child named Sam who eagerly anticipates the arrival of CHRISTmas and gift-opening.  The story is one that most children will identify with in a big way.

Hardie's story is one of perspective taking, looking for ways to help others - both near and far - in need. When Sam's family helps someone, they write down how they helped one a slip of paper and put that slip of paper in the Sparkle Box. On CHRISTmas Day, they open the box and read the gifts they gave to Jesus as they were the hands and feet of Jesus to people in need.

The back cover of the book contains a Sparkle Box ready to assemble and sit on your mantle. Kornacki's illustrations are rich and warm, beautiful. In terms of working with a delayed reader, the font is quite big, and while some pages have quite a bit of text, the text did not overwhelm my child and she tends to resist anything that looks like too much on a page.  The balance of pictures and text is good in terms of a beginner reader who is anxious about reading.

Children with autism sometimes struggle to perspective-take.  The Sparkle Box gives me an avenue to practice perspective taking and helping by active participation with a child on the spectrum.  The book makes the concept of helping someone in need more concrete for children who need that.

Take a peek:

The list price is $19.99.  The book is adorable.

I received a copy of this book at no charge to me to review on this blog. I am not paid for reviews and not obligated to provide a positive review. RE: Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Propeller is generously offering a copy for one of my readers.  IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ENTER TO WIN A COPY OF THIS BOOK, SIMPLY COMMENT BELOW.  I'll choose a winner a week from today, Nov 12th.  Enter by midnight CST on Nov 11th.

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