Sunday, April 13, 2014

There is a Chicken Bathing in my Livingroom

It has been an interesting morning. Not many people can say they have a chicken bathing in their living-room. But Lucy is here being taken care of by a very attentive Z~girl.

We think she is egg-bound. Z~girl who keeps very careful count of how many eggs each hen lays (she has the exact count written in a book from when they first started laying) and she is pretty sure Lucy hasn't laid in a couple of days. She observed that she kept laying down and not wanting to walk around plus her comb and wattles are a very pale red which isn't normal for her. Surely we can count this as supplementary enrichment of our science curriculum? Haha!

Seriously though, the hands on care she provides for our chickens, rabbits, and dog will go a long way in learning so much more than any homeschool elementary or public school science education would. Both A and Z learn so much more with having so much hands on experiences in addition to their homeschool curriculum. I also think I will order some poultry 4-H curriculum for Z~girl so she can continue to learn more. 

I'll do an update later on how she is doing. Our chickens are more like pets than just "farm animals", as we would never eat any of our chickens. (or rabbits!) Let me just say that I am VERY thankful that we have wood floors in our livingroom.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Don't Compare

As I gear up for a busy week of Geography club, working on our matchbox swaps, and also doing our art curriculum I thought it would be the perfect time to revisit a blog post I did over at Time4Learning last year.

Most parents know not to compare their children to one another as each child is an individual with different challenges and different strengths. The same holds true with your own family's homeschool. There is not one correct way to homeschool in my opinion. Each child most likely has a different personality and learning style from their siblings and the parent/s that teach that child also have things that they are good at and things that are more difficult for them.

We have been homeschooling for 7+ years and I wish that I had known early on not to compare how we do things with other families. I guess the exception would be when asking input or advice of another family that may have gone through something similar. Both my husband and I have had a few people over the years make comments like "I'm sure you do a lot more with your children than we do." How would they know this? They don't. Somehow they have gotten a preconceived notion from observing us.

I've also gotten the comment many times, "I could never homeschool a child with special needs, I do not know how you do it." In reality, I think most people could do it if they thought it was the only way their child could get an appropriate education. Which was the case for us. They usually do not see the occasional bad days we have where we are just doing our best to deal with behaviors and doctor appointments. Honestly some days are survival mode, LOL. We pretty much homeschool year round for this very reason. This allows a day off from educational lessons when other special need issues arise, as they often can. It also allows for a spontaneous trip when we all need a break, rather than when most people take a break. (summer)

Yet, I have done the same thing comparing our homeschool to others! I will see a family with many children (I just have two) and I will think silently, that the mom must possess extra super powers that I do not have. I admit I have been a bit jealous of families that do not have to deal with special needs challenges even though I wouldn't trade it for the world. I'm also sometimes envious of some of my friends that are talented at teaching co-op classes, scout groups, and group activities in their home, as that is not where my talent is.

All of this is what makes homeschooling so ideal! We learn our children's learning styles and our own teaching styles. We are able to let our children actively pursue their own interests and talents without being burdened by typical public school hours. After awhile we figure out what works best for our own individual families and adapt when changes need to be made. When we are involved in group activities with friends we can combine our talents with other families and share our talents with them.

Has there ever been a time you have compared your homeschool to another family and not felt up to par?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Family Time Fitness – Fitness 4 Homeschool- Review

Family Time Fitness - Fitness For Homeschool

Growing up I attended a small public school from kindergarten all the way to high school graduation. I have vivid memories of P.E. some were positive and others were negative. I enjoyed the physical activity but situations like “choosing teams” made this gangly middle school girl who had two left feet, one of the last to be chosen for teams.  Physical exercise though is such an important part of life that I jumped at the opportunity for our family to try out Family Time Fitness-Fitness 4 Homeschool!

It was created and founded in 2010 by:
Mike Hanik, Professor of Kinesiology at Texas A&M & Youth Fitness Specialist
Jeremiah Knopp, Certified Fitness Trainer & Nutritionist
Darren Knopp, Technology and Business Management

There are so many kinds of curriculum available for numerous subjects but they found that the one that was missing for homeschoolers was for Physical Education. That’s a concerning thought when so much of the country has a weight problem.  It is so important to start a child thinking about fitness while they are young so it becomes incorporated into their daily lives as they mature.

How did it work for our family? Well, I decided to get my husband in on this review so let me hand the keyboard over to him!

Thank you, Joy for the introduction. Our son has Prader-Willi Syndrome and burns calories slower than other children. On top of that he has low muscle tone and is always hungry even after he eats. When one is homeschooling a child with special needs daily exercise is especially important. Our son enjoys walking, basketball and baseball but what to do on those rainy days? We have been using Family Time Fitness 4 Homeschool and have had a fun time with it.

We started on a rainy day. My daughter 12, and son 14 were bored and looking for an activity. I suggested we exercise with Family Time Fitness 4 Homeschool. The two children accepted the challenge and we began watching a video demonstration of the exercises. I like that there is a video showing how to do each physical activity. Many physical education programs are boring as the event is read off of a sheet of paper. This is not so with this program. The video of each activity shows different age and ability levels from a very young child to the parent doing exercises. The videos make it encouraging and fun to participate.

The age levels are from K-8th (5-13) and start with warm up exercises, then activity/game play, cool down and an outdoor activity.

There is minimal equipment needed and each section describes what skill set will be worked on for each group of activities. An example would be lesson 143 which teaches: mobility, balance, coordination, flexibility, strength, agility, jumping reacting, rhythm, throwing and catching. There are 3 warm up activities for this lesson one of which is my children’s favorite…popcorn. With popcorn everyone starts on their back looking up at the ceiling (make sure there is plenty of room between people) Arms are extended over the head. The legs are bent up to the chest and the arms hold the legs. The position is held for 10 seconds the child “Pops Out” to the original position. This one caused a lot of giggles in anticipation of the “pop out”.  The giggles were encouraging for me as I could tell this was not a trudge through lesson but that it was actually fun for the kids.

Each lesson is designed to give 25-45 minutes of physical activity with a follow up outdoor activity of 15-30 minutes of activity. The goals of the program help improve health, promote a sense of well being, develop sensory motor skills and enhance self and social awareness.

I would recommend this program to anyone to assist with maintaining a healthy lifestyle and feeling good through exercise.

The price for the program we tried out was 67$ and it is digital. You can check out their homeschool webpage to see the other programs available and the prices for them. There is even a program available to be used for a high school credit!

Disclaimer- We were not paid to do this review but were given the product in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Prader-Willi Syndrome Monster

It is time for me to tell anyone reading this and curious, what actually happened a couple of weeks back...well at least one of the things. The other one I had hinted about a few blogs back but I've decided to drop that one out of my mind for now as it really makes me mad. (dealing with insensitivity)

Z~girl is in Girl Scouts and honestly, Cookie time is NOT a happy time in our house despite the yummy goodness of the cookie itself. It means A~man has cookies on his mind constantly as we try to get Z out to sell them to friends, neighbors and have her do an occasional cookie booth. Sometimes this isn't an easy task combined with the kids sports, music lessons and doing our daily schooling of basic things like alphabetical order worksheets and learning fractions. THEN the cookies have to come to our home so we can deliver them. This year Z~girl sold a LOT more than previous years and we tried our darndest to get them where they needed to go as fast as we could. In years past a box would "disappear" here and there. This year I was going to send some boxes to some friends of ours that live in a different state. I procrastinated but they were safely hidden in her room.

Finally I decided I had better mail them so I put five boxes in a bigger box to mail them and addressed the box. I planned on mailing them on Monday and had it ready to go on Friday safely in my room. (or so I thought) Well...we have been cleaning and decluttering our bedroom/closet which has been no simple feat. I distinctly remember my hubby saying on Sunday morning "here's an empty cookie box I can use." (the kind that hold numerous individual cookie boxes) My ears perked up as I knew the only box in there, should have cookies in it!

The box was empty which led to a search of A~man's room and the discovery of 5 empty cookie boxes. Yes 5! This was in addition to his regular daily meals and snacks. I felt like I had been punched in the gut for several days. Things like this just do not happen often in our house. THIS was one of the worst discoveries. He ate 5 boxes of cookies in....probably 24 hours....not sure if it was all at once. It does explain that the day before the discovery he was saying his back hurt and his head hurt. He hardly ever complains of pain which is common with PWS.

TMI but right before this discovery we realized he was constipated. This is also very common with PWS and it is something A~man struggles with always. He has to take Miralax twice a day with some Milk of Magnesia a couple times a week. So Monday resulted in a clean out which his GI doctor has us do with him periodically. All liquids plus juice popsicles, Miralax and Exlax. (FYI don't do this with your child unless it is advised by their doctor) Needless to say it all worked itself out and his tummy is fine. But that is a very real situation of PWS!!

Most of our son's struggles are more related to routines, asking a lot of repetitive questions, and obsessing over things. Yes he loves to eat but he is normally more concerned about WHEN he is going to eat. For me it was very easy to internally beat myself up that I allowed my son the opportunity to get that much food and eat it. His stomach could have burst, despite the fact he is average weight for his age. Seriously. I cannot describe the stress and guilt of that in sufficient words. But I am only a human...doing my best and have to keep on keeping on. I have learned I have to forgive myself and just learn from my mistakes...and understand that accidents happen. The stress I felt on top of the other situation was indescribable. 

We have an online friend Vanessa who is an adult with PWS and she often describes Prader-Willi Syndrome as her monster. Something that is trying to make her do what she knows she shouldn't and making her miserable at times. Being a parent to someone with PWS is a challenge, but I cannot imagine the physical and mental pain that this monster of sorts has on our sweet loved ones. Simply put, they can't just stop the urge to eat if given the opportunity. With that often comes grief from our son. I didn't notice it this time but in the past he has sobbed...apologizing. Thankfully he knows that he will not get fussed for it, (although I am sure I did a handful of times when he was little and I didn't get it) so he will tell us what he did when he is discovered. 

I think that I have mentioned that I finally got my hubby to start blogging. I've been nagging him for years as he LOVES to write and I think he is a very good writer. He recently did a blog entry on another aspect of the Prader-Willi Syndrome Monster....Impulse Control, so check him out too! 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Keep On, Keepin' On

I think we will definitely be trying a do over spring break although I am not sure it will be this week because...well it's supposed to SNOW! I haven't told the kids yet but I am hoping we can go to one of their favorite indoor waterparks for a night or two in the next couple of weeks.

Z~girl took a week off from her online curriculum but that never keeps her from pursuing the things that interest her and trying to learn more about them. Still, we will start back with our sit down school work on Monday as the routine of it is definitely good for A~man. (as well as the learning itself) We slept in a bit more last week (even for homeschoolers haha) and that just does not work for him and his need to differentiate between breakfast/lunch/dinner. Too many days of "brunch"....even though the food amounts are the same for the day, do not work for him.

Last night was a super fun event in our week though! We went to see a play of Charlotte's Web locally and it was awesome! (although The Little Prince we saw awhile back is still my all time favorite play!) I love to combine actually reading literature with seeing plays and movies based on the classics. This really helps A~man as his reading level is not high enough to read a book like Charlotte's Web but with the movie or play he is able to understand what is going on.  I know including literature from various sources such as plays and movies must also help with his reading comprehension. (Plus we just did a matchbox literature exchange based on Charlotte's Webb....can't remember if I shared pictures yet? I may have to add later)

I will share what happened previous to our unfortunate day. Big PWS drama doesn't happen that often thankfully...but hopefully our experiences can help others.

OH and we are very much still doing our 40 Bags in 40 Days...the awesome thing is everyone is helping me out too! Sometimes it feels like a slow progress and my living room looks like a garage sale right now but we have come so far!! If I am brave maybe I will post all we have gotten rid of! 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Yeah...this an instance in our life, and I do not mean a good one!

It's been an awful week and that is an understatement. Still not sure whether to share what precipitated it but I might soon...when I figure it out myself. It is no secret being a special needs parent is a challenge, but when other stuff gets piled in on top it can send a special needs child...and their family into a whirlwind.

I will share how this residual stress can affect (or is it effect?) a child with special needs even when they are not "aware" of why their mama and daddy are stressed. They feel it despite not understanding it. The typical sibling may understand part of it, be stressed by it and understandably aggravated by their special needs sibling's behavior.

This photo was actually taken a month before, there are blooms on the trees now, but I was in no mood to take photos this week.

It was a bright and sunny day today, a much needed reprieve from some rainy cold days, so we went for a hike at one of our favorite close hiking spots that happens to be a goat farm. It started off with A~man trying to find the goat that was grumpy with him last time. Honestly the very tame (and many were pregnant) goats must have sensed something as they made a bee line as far away from the A~man as they could get. I've never seen this as they are very docile goats.

Then he started reading one of their collars to figure out the name. He said "This one's name is Kawtee"...Z~corrected him and said nicely (well... the first time) no it is KATIE. This caused both of them to butt heads and A~man to spiral into a spot of no return. It escalated into "what's for lunch?" We had just eaten a big brunch. Then he started to scream and hit his dad.

Oh I should add this is also a beautiful location for photography and there was a sweet mama, her 3-4 year old little miss dressed up all fancy, and a photographer. Yep they, (and others) were right there to witness my 14 year old kicking his dad and swearing. (okay his swearing amounts to the word damn...shit....stuff like that but I still do not like it) My husband had to restrain him. ---disclaimer...we are trained yearly in this...I do not recommend anyone restraining someone...especially with Prader-willi syndrome, unless they are trained in how to do it appropriately. 

Me? Hubby whispers that I may need to go talk to the people. Yep. uh-huh. This will be fun. I turned around to go towards them and by gosh...maybe they were afraid of me?  I was like " m'am...excuse me" ( I do live in the "south" even though I am a transplant) with them walking rapidly away. By this time I am so embarrassed. Not by my son but I tend to be pretty quiet and reserved and approaching a stranger is NOT COMFORTABLE for me. Finally I stop and say- " My son has special needs and I just wanted to make sure you know we are not hurting him. He has Prader-willi syndrome and autism and is having a very difficult time right now. " I did catch them by surprise but they said something to the effect of "It's okay, we figured out he must be autistic".

I should note...I am not a crier. (well this week is an exception) I was crying when I said it, and sobbing as I walked away. *please tell me I will never see these people again* My poor Z~girl who knows I rarely cry asked me several times throughout the rest of the day- "Why did you cry mama?"

Meanwhile hubby was assisting A~man to a place away from people and was sitting on a rock...he was trying to calm himself down. (I'm talking about A~man...hubby was doing just fine...LOL) Both Z and I settled for awhile and I tried to distract A~man with the cat sunning itself just inside the barn as he LOVES that cat. Nope. A~man seemingly heard someone sneeze nearby and exclaimed...loudly- "Bless you....CREEP!!" I mouthed to hubby "WE NEED TO LEAVE QUICK", and that we did.

I should mention..this week is our spring break...I demand a DO OVER! Our good days/weeks far exceed the bad ones but I am absolutely exhausted, yet unable to sleep. Sometimes I am hesitant to tell others about our bad days but in doing so I hope I can show other parents of children with special needs that they are not alone. Seriously, you are NOT ALONE!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Importance of Life Skills

 This is a post I shared awhile back over at on the community forum but I thought it might be a good idea to show what other things we do in our homeschool in addition to the 3 R's and homeschool socialstudies!

Lets face it. Life skills are something that is important for everyone to learn. I personally think they are especially important though, for children who have special needs. I have a teenage son who has multiple special needs and I will admit, when he was younger it was sometimes much easier (and faster!) at times, to do too much for him. When he was younger we had numerous doctor and therapy appointments and spent a lot of our time in the car. Add in the fact that I was tired with two children close in age, so in order to make it to the appointments on time I just did a lot of it myself.

As the appointments decreased we had more time, and with the help of my son's physical and occupational therapist, I was on the way to helping my son become more independent. I will NEVER forget the day my son learned to tie his shoes! We were in our car on the way home from a weekend trip and I had both kids in the backseat practicing. (obviously my husband was driving) Amazingly, they both learned to tie their shoes on that trip. Now, there was some frustration at first as he could not do it the "typical way". So...I taught both of them to tie a bow using the bunny ears method and that is still how they do it! Sometimes skills must be modified specifically to your child's individual needs.

I guess the key is finding out what is reasonable to expect from them because having them get overly frustrated is a good way for them to completely shut down and not want to try. Talking to your child's occupational or physical therapist is a good way or talking to other parents of special needs children that have been through it before. So many big skills have little skills before them, that need to be achieved first.

My son will very likely need to have some degree of care for his entire life. This can at times be a daunting thought but a proactive way of dealing with it is to help him develop as much independence as possible. With all of our children, whether they have extra challenges or not, we want to assist them in achieving their own personal best. I believe that homeschooling is the ideal environment to help a child with extra needs do just that!

I found a great lifeskills chart on Pinterest that lists by age level different appropriate skills for a child to learn. As any special needs parent can tell you our kids do not necessarily learn these skills at the same time as a typically developing child. Still, it is a good list to tailor to your own child. Other skills might not be appropriate too. My son has Prader-Willi Syndrome and some of the food related skills have to be limited or highly supervised. I truly think you are an expert on your own child though, so as your child matures you will be able to determine what skills they need to learn to achieve their personal best.