Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Could our vacation be ending SO soon? Not that we don't miss school - my daughter has asked almost every day if it's a school day - but sometimes it's nice to have a break and do, well, whatever. The kids have been busy creating Art (after they found a roll of fax paper), playing in PILES of newly fallen snow, enjoying their new Christmas toys, games and handicrafts, watching movies, going to basketball practices and having fun at scouts activities, and, yup, playing video games and watching TV. And I've been busy making changes to our curriculum and preparing for our 2nd half of the school year.

I snagged an AWESOME deal on Hooked on Phonics: Learn to Read Deluxe for S. All 5 levels with workbooks, LOTS of readers, flashcards, and audio cassettes for $22.99! (A newer USED version with CDs goes for $800+ on Amazon!) S and I tried out a borrowed Level 1 from the library this month, but it's a hot commodity and we couldn't have it for more than 3 weeks, so I'm excited to continue with it!

C will stop her The Complete Book of US History studies and begin working on History Pockets: Native Americans. Making a Trivia Game using this book hasn't been a hit with C and the information presented in the book isn't all that exciting really, so I'm having her switch to HPs again and we'll delve into it using a GAZILLION wonderful books right from the library. And the awesome part is that she's starting with the Inuits and S is doing a Snow/Winter lapbook so they can share most of the books! C can read aloud to S! (You should see the PILE of books I picked up from the library today! LOL)

I'm planning to add
in Winter Wednesdays nature studies and have the kids begin Nature Journals with drawings and information. I have been gathering up books and ideas from Harmony Art Mom's Blog.

And our first Composer Study is ready and waiting: Chopin. O'keefe is next for our Artist Study.

But! no changes to J's usual curriculum.

Here are some snippets of our vacation weeks:
(l.) S flinging snow from the driveway.
(r.) A leather coin purse that J made for
C from his Basic Leatherworking Kit

(l.) C listening to a book-on-tape with her new cassette player and working on her knotted fleece quilt.

(r.) The kids playing Mario Cart together on their DSi game systems.

(r.) C learned to play one of our new games - Phase 10.

(l. J playing C's new keyboard.

(l.) S and A building a Lego firetruck together.

(r.) C watching Christmas movies.

On Monday we'll be back to school! Our first week is already filled with Boy Scouts, basketball practices and games, and library storytime. I'm looking forward to our new curriculum changes and the 2nd half of our year!

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

I have shared this video with my Super S and his siblings to help them understand what SPD is and how it effects the person with it. It's a great video for a simple approach to understanding the complexities of SPD.

Click on the blue and white SPD Blogger's Network box on my left sidebar to read about other families and kids with SPD or to learn more information.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up: And We're Off!

Well, tomorrow we leave for the week to celebrate an "Early Christmas" with family. And I'm STILL deciding whether or not to bring school with us. Just the basics though. Some Language Arts, especially LOTS of books. Our Math texts and Discovery Channel's History of Us videos. And some educational-ish games. Should I or shouldn't I pack a box of school "stuff"? Hmmm...

...Anyway, over the weekend it POURED buckets! DEFINITELY weather to stay inside and read by (or watch the Patriots in snowy Chicago)! J was away at Merit Badge Weekend with the Boy Scouts, "roughing it" in a heated training center with electricity and bunk beds WITH mattresses. (Another troop had the rustic cabins...) Friday night was Girl's Night. C and I stayed up late and watched American Girl: Felicity and American Girl: Samantha (Warner Brothers) movies and made mini-root beer floats. Saturday night was S and Mom Night. We watched Ponyo, and S had a float, but I opted for Hot Cocoa. And C, S and I built train coach cars at Lowe's Build and Grow. (S is SUPER-EXCITED about finishing up his 3 piece train set next Saturday!) And we tackled a few deep-cleaning projects. I'm still wondering who spilled STICKY OJ all over the bottom of the frig...

We had a GREAT week! Here are our accomplishments:

  • completed his timeline for World History 1000-1200 AD
  • finished Wordly Wise 3000 Level 6 Lesson 12 and started lesson 13
  • designed December's issue of Pond Press and typed in 2 articles
  • completed 4 lessons of Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra
  • finished 7 mini books for Apologia General Science Module 5 and got a 91% on his test and started Module 6, completing 6 mini books
  • completed 12 activities at The Teacher's Cafe on prepositions and pronouns
  • wrote "On a dark and stormy night" creative composition
  • read The Time Machine by H. G. Wells and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • started her Spelling City List 1 words (from misspelled words in her writing) by playing games and learning the words in Sign Language
  • reviewed plural regular and irregular nouns with her Grammar and Writing Handbook
  • played Plural Play on The Teacher's Cafe
  • completed her Primates Taxonomy chart and chapter 6 in Apologia Zoology II: Land Animals
  • finished up Saxon 54 practice sets and supplemental sets through lesson 45 and got a 95% on her test
  • read Pocahontas: Girl of Jamestown by Kate Jassem and In their Own Words: Davy Crockett by George Sullivan
  • made LOTS of paper 6-sided snowflakes
  • reviewed -at and -an word families and learned -ap word family and read 2 readers from Hooked on Phonics: Learn to Read (Level 1)
  • played Road to Reading phonics games at Literactive
  • completed 4 Cars and Trucks Dot-to-Dots and 2 Kumon Mazes (for visual tracking exercises)
  • learned place value through 10s, reviewed addition, 5s skip counting and read bar graphs in Horizons Math
  • played the calendar game on Star Fall
  • listened to Christmas on the Island by Gail Gibbons, A Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and Go Away, Big Grean Monster! by Ed Emberley
  • drew a Santa and his reindeer, including Rudolph
  • played Boggle Jr, using CVC short a word cards and spelling the words with cubes
One of our highlights this week was finishing our study of Claude Monet. Thanks to Harmony Art Mom, we filled out some AWESOME notebooking pages using library books about Monet. Check out Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists: Monet by Mike Venezia for a simple, interesting book to read aloud. The kids created their own Impressionist paintings using Tempera paints, paintbrushes and Q-tips. Did you know that the term "Impressionist" comes from Monet's painting titled Impression: Sunset? Check out J, C and S's paintings here!

J also got in some Home Economics. He cooked ricotta and mozzarella cheese and spinach stuffed jumbo shells with Italian sausage chunky vegetable tomato sauce and garlic bread and tossed salad for dinner Wednesday. What could top that? Not only did *I* not have to cook, but I didn't have to clean up either! Score! LOL

On Monday we made gingerbread trees and decorated them with M&Ms, chocolate chips, mini marshmallows and strips of strawberry Twizzlers, and played lots of Skip-bo. On Tuesday the kids cleaned out the van in preparation for our trip. C had basketball practice and J had Boy Scouts. On Wednesday we spent the day with Grandparents, decorating 120 Christmas sugar cookies and creating a gingerbread house. We played Apples to Apples, Boggle Jr, Rummikub, and pool. On Thursday B came over to play in the afternoon. And today J had basketball practice. A quiet week!

Now, off to pack up for our trip. And I think I'll skip school for this trip! Vacation!

Check out more Weekly Wrap-ups at
Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers!

((bump)) One of THOSE ((thump)) Mornings ((crash))

((bump)) ((bump)) ((bump)) ((giggle)) S is sitting on a HUGE brown stuffed bear and riding it down the stairs. Again. It's DEFINITELY a sensory-seeking day! ((bump)) ((thump)) ((giggle))

I go and check out what he's doing. I'm a little anxious about him sliding down the stairs on a stuffed animal, but he's piled u
p a small mountain of other stuffed animals at the bottom to crash into.

But where are his clothes? He says he's hot. It's 63 degrees inside and colder upstairs.

It's been a challenging day for S, one that started out with a meltdown over breakfast. He wanted scrambled eggs and toast. And his brother and sister wouldn't make it for him. He did get his eggs and toast, but not as soon as he wanted. When S is hungry, he's H-U-N-G-R-Y!

And then it was time for school...

The grumbles started immediately. Focusing on his school work was too much when his energy was going into making his sensory system calm and his body feel good. And *I* should have realized this, but we plunged ahead anyway.

He worked through his Kumon maze with reluctance. And got his dot-to-dot car completed and colored. "What's a station wagon, Mom?" A sign of the times, huh? He turned it into a fire truck instead. And half of his Math until he got to addition. "I can't do this!" He can, but it requires more attention; attention he doesn't have to spare this morning. Meltdown!

HE sits himself in his wooden chair in the darkened, quiet kitchen corner by himself. ((bounce)) ((bounce)) ((bang)) ((bounce)) A few minutes later he crawls into the livingroom where I'm folding laundry. "I'm ready, Mom."

So, I try something else. Reading. We snuggle under covers on the sofa and read "A Very Hungry Caterpillar" and "Go Away, Big Green Monster!". He's calmer now
and ready to get his addition finished. He also did his Hooked on Phonics: Learn to Read Cat reader.

But, he's not g
oing to do his CVC words on the computer. It hurts his eyes. It hurts his head. I need another plan...Boggle Jr.!

THIS he settles down for. Using cubes and picture cards, he builds short A CVC words, flipping the flap covering the letters to see if he's correctly made the word. Building is his "thing" even if it's to learn to sound out words!

Phew! Schools over. And S (with C and the dog) hurry into coats, boots and mittens and head outside. They decide to go on an "adventure" and "hike" through the icy backyard, balancing on fallen trees, searching for "treasure". S comes in with rosy cheeks and a happy smile. He NEEDED that romp!

But he's not quite done. ((bump)) ((thump)) Another ride down the stairs. ((giggle)) Oh! I'm wrong! He just walked past me. With clothes on! He's climbing the counter, pulling out the 64 oz container of peanut butter and a box of Wheat Thins. (Yes, 64 oz! LOL) He's calm. And hungry. Again.

Click on the SPD Blogger's Network box on my sidebar to read more about "sensational kids".

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Art Study: Claude Monet

Art hasn't been a big part of our homeschooling adventure. We've tried different programs, but nothing has clicked or lasted long. C and I enjoy doing crafts, but J not so much and S is just starting to enjoy drawing. So, when I found Harmony Art Mom's free Art and Music Appreciation notebooking pages, I decided to give it another try. We LOVE notebooking!

We read the books
Claude Monet: First Impressions by Ann Waldron and Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists: Monet by Mike Venezia, looked at Impressionist
paintings in an out-dated wall calendar my mother-in-law gave me, and filled out our notebooking pages.

Here are J's (on the left) and C's (on the right) completed notebooking pages. We LOVED these! Simple, but thorough enough for a beginning Artist Study.

And, after I FINALLY purchased some Tempera paints, the kids, including S, created their own Impressionist-inspired paintings. J and C's notebooking pages are glued to the backs of their paintings and put in plastic page protectors and stored in their 2010-2011 portfolios. Photos: Right: C. Left: J. Bottom: S.

We wrapped up our study of Monet by spending time discussing what Monet painted (i.e. water and the "natural environment"), how his paintings were detailed with colors and various brush strokes, but not sharp, contrasting lines, compared them to various other paintings in different styles, and how to use shading and colors to create a "mood". (Not too bad for someone - ME! - who doesn't know much about this stuff, huh? LOL)

The kids had a
BLAST learning about Monet and creating their own works of Art! This was DEFINITELY a wonderful hands-on learning experience for them. Next, Georgia O'Keefe!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

You Tube - Fourteen Days of Homeschool Christmas

Hope & Help Sensory Processing Disorder Calendar

The 2011 Hope & Help Calendar brings Awareness to Sensory Processing Disorder and are available now.
At Sensory Planet, we have identified two organizations that are mission-aligned with the work that we do. Net proceeds from the 2011 calendar will be donated to the SPD Foundation [www.spdfoundation.net] and The Children’s Institute for Learning Differences (“CHILD”) [www.childrensinstitute.com]
Join the dozens of families who donated their time and generously opened their hearts to give a glimpse into the lives of a child with SPD. We are committed to breaking barriers and educating our communities that this invisible disorder is REAL, not behavioral and not parental. We're helping to make “sense” of the world! Join us today!

If you would like to order a calendar, please click on this
link for more information. Thanks for your support!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Super S's Sensory Story

Crash! Bump! Bang! S runs by the computer desk and down the hall into the foyer with our Golden Retriever hot on his heels, again. He doesn’t quite make the corner to the livingroom, bouncing off the wall, but unhurt, giggling. He launches himself onto the sectional sofa, momentarily doing a headstand in the cushions, then rolls onto the carpeted floor before popping up and starting the whole “obstacle course” again. There are lots of nights, particularly in the long Maine winter months, that S runs a this course.

Oh, and did I mention that he’s wearing ONLY loose-fitting PJ shorts? It’s 64.2 degrees inside our house tonight. Being just a little bit overheated makes his “skin feel yucky”, so off goes his clothing and, most importantly, HIS socks. I think one went behind the sectional…Socks have a short life span on his feet!

Only 4 circuits completed before he’s feeling calm again! He’s back to sitting happily and contentedly on the livingroom floor, building with his Magnetix and conversing with his older brother, J, and his older sister, C. Our dog settles down beside me and falls asleep. Running with Super S is hard work!

Super S was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder just before he turned 4. His Dad and I knew something was just a little “off” with S long before the diagnosis. We always thought it was ADHD as he was ALWAYS in perpetual motion – I don’t even remember him WALKING that much! – but ADHD just didn’t quite fit his behaviors. When he wanted to focus on something, like his Matchbox cars, he could…lying full-body on the floor. And Autism never really explained everything either. Super S craved super cuddles, a lot.

Toddlerhood was a rough road for all of us as his behavior became difficult to manage, frustrating and life-limiting. S had SEVERE meltdowns. (Those of you with kids with SPD know what kind of meltdowns I’m talking about.) Having dinner at a restaurant or enjoying a magic show at the library as a family became impossible experiences for us. S would pinch, pull hair, knock his head into us, roll on the floor, kick chairs, and yell BEFORE dinner was ordered or the show started! Loud, unexpected noises – motorcycles, kitchen timers and flushing toilets – would send him fleeing in panic! Sometimes he reacted to bright sunshine (or sun reflecting off snow) with wails of pain. When my oldest son said sadly one day, “We can’t do anything anymore because of S!” I knew we had to get some help. But what kind of help?

When a friend with an Autistic daughter mentioned that S’s behaviors sounded “sensory”, I went on a research quest. And I found the missing piece of our puzzle! It turned out S had sensory-seeking vestibular and proprioceptve behaviors, auditory defensiveness, bilateral coordination dysfunction, visual tracking difficulties, and some tactile defensiveness. It all added up to a little boy dealing with a confusing, exhausting and scary world!

He started OT and Developmental Preschool 2 months after his diagnosis. What a terrible (and disappointing) experience! I knew within a few weeks S was not getting the therapy he needed. When I was able to see his OT, it was nothing like I had expected! S had his “individualized OT” with 4 other kids! And worse yet – ALL those OTs barely interacted with the kids! No one smiled. Everyone looked bored. How could any of this be beneficial? We (im)patiently waited until June, the end of the school year, and pulled S from both preschool AND OT. I had my hands full with an EXTREMELY anxious, overwhelmed, unhappy, and angry little boy. We spent the summer dealing with intense meltdowns and defiant behavior, wondering what our next step should be.

But! then we found Ms. H at another pediatric center in late August who reevaluated S. And last October S started OT and Listening Therapy with Ms. E. What a life saver! She’s THE best OT for S! S has been seeing her for 14 months now and he’s made INCREDIBLE progress! And she encourages me to ask questions and includes me in his therapy. I’m SO much better prepared to help S at home and out-and-about now! And S is much better able to handle the world!

I’ve decided to join up with the SPD Bloggers Network, a network of Moms and Dads with their own “sensational children”. My hope is to share Super S’s Sensory Story with others so that they can see the ups and downs of raising a child with SPD. So, as Super S now spins circles in the kitchen on his knees, giggling, join in and read about our wonderful kids who just happen to have a neurological dysfunction call Sensory Processing Disorder.

Weekly Wrap-up: Frozen!

Brrrrrr! Winter is DEFINITELY upon us in Maine despite only a few patches of dry, icy snow under the evergreens. It's a frigid 23.9 degrees this afternoon - our HIGH for the day - but there's a crockpot full of vegetable beef stew cooking on the counter for dinner this evening to warm us up after our out-and-about activities.

It's been ANOTHER Crazy Busy Week for us! Aren't they all? LOL

Over the weekend, a dry, fine snow fell, covering the trees until the sun started shining again, melting most of "white stuff". C, S and I went into town to Home Depot for their building workshop. The kids made wooden picture frames. And then we headed across the street to Lowe's for THEIR building workshop. S was SO excited to make a caboose! He LOVES trains! (Check out Lowe's and Home Depot for their free building workshops for kids!) Would you believe that the rest of the weekend was UNSCHEDULED? LOL I was able to make homemade English Muffins finally!

On Monday the kids completed a regular day of assignments in Language Arts, Math, Science, and History with a smidgen of Arts and Crafts. (We have HUGE paper snowflakes decorating the walls now! LOL) C had a Brownie meeting in the afternoon where they learned about healthy eating, making paper-and-crayon Vegetable People, and sang Christmas carols.

Tiring Tuesday! Tuesday just happens to be our busiest day right now! The kids did a GREAT job getting most of their assignments completed in the morning before we were off to S's OT and "Astronaut Training". ("Astronaut Training" has A LOT of spinning which S's vestibular system CRAVES and it's supposed to help with his visual tracking.) He also started a new Listening Therapy CD called "Gearshifters" (Mozart) to help with calming his body. (Perhaps he'll begin sleeping better...) After OT, we were off to the city library where we returned 4 stuffed backpacks of books and videos and refilled them. And, even though it was only in the low 20s, the kids wanted to run around the playground for 20 minutes. (That was how long it took for the kids to complain, "It's TOO cold," and run BACK to the van! LOL) C also had a basketball practice that night and J got a ride with a friend to Boy Scouts (since I couldn't be at 2 places at the same time.)

Fortunately Wednesday was a BIT slower. I was able to borrow Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read: Level 1 from the library and S and I sat down to do the first couple of lessons. It's too early to tell if this is a "keeper", but so far, so good. (And the library has all 5 sets to borrow!) In the afternoon the kids had 4H and made Christmas cards for veterans in a nearby hospital. They had a GREAT time using ink and stampers, especially S! (Will his clothing ever be the same? LOL) We headed to the gym afterward for C's first basketball game of the season. A picked up J and S on his way home from work so I could have some Mom Socializing-on-the-Sidelines Time. And, although Team Yellow didn't win, C played wonderfully and has the distinction of being the first girl on her team to get a foul this season...and she didn't even REALIZE it!

On Thursday, J headed off for his Not Math Math class on Parabolas which he is QUITE enjoying. (He's even been doing some of these on his own at home!) C finished up her daily assignments, including working on her American History Trivia Game and Apologia Zoo III primates taxonomy chart. S and I did a "Getting Salt Out of Saltwater" evaporation experiment and another called "Float or Sink" from Homeschool Share and filled out mini-books for his Ocean Lapbook. The kids played with friends the ENTIRE afternoon (at their house) and in the evening we went to PJ Storytime and decorated gingerbread cookies.

After some work in our core subjects - S finished up his Ocean lapbook! - our week wrapped up on Friday with Brownie Caroling at the retirement home where the girls sang and played boardgames with some of the residents, and J had a short basketball practice before heading off for a weekend of Boy Scout camping. Yup! Camping! But, they do stay in a wood-heated cabin some of the time! LOL

Phew! How was your week? Check out other Weekly Wrap-ups at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers!