Sunday, September 30, 2012

Teaching spelling

I have to admit. I have never used a formal spelling curriculum in our homeschool. The first couple of years I tried...yes I tried to follow the curriculum. I'm not even going to say the two I chose as it wasn't the fault of the curriculum that we were unable to use them. Instead I found other ways to teach it using whatever curriculum we used for other subjects.

Math for example. When they were young and learning their numbers they also learned how to spell the numbers. When my daughter learned to tell time she also learned how to write the time. When she learned shapes she learned how to write the name of the shapes.

My son has learning challenges so most subjects do not come easy for him. I have tried teaching him to read using sight words and phonetically, and although it is a slow process, using both works for him. He knows how to read a majority of Dolch-sight words and now I am working on him learning how to spell them. While he is reading if he comes upon a word that cannot be sounded out (for example know) I write it on a 4x5 card and throughout the day I work on him reading it and spelling it for me.

With my daughter she has been a naturally good speller and when she does writing is when we work on trouble words. There are also a lot of free activities online to help with spelling. Last year I really liked trying out Big IQ Kids spelling program and this year we are using a different site that even includes online spelling tests. What's great about spellingcity is that you can make your own lists or use the ones that are already made. The learning is done through playing fun games.

Learning how to spell really doesn't require a lot of money or a formal spelling curriculum. It can be learned little by little while doing other kinds of  subjects. How do your children learn how to spell?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Prader-willi syndrome awareness

The last 5 or so days have been a nightmare for my husband and I. Seriously. It's been a complete blur. I'm not even sure where to start. I have felt so weary...but today, as every other time of feeling powerless, God showed he was right there beside us.

A month ago A~man had to have a psychological evaluation done as it has been a couple of years and because he receives services through the state, and his yearly plan of care was coming up we were getting things in order. For reasons I still do not understand we did not get the results until last week. I was dumbstruck when I saw them. During the testing he was so cooperative for the 2-3 hours of testing, polite, and as appropriate as it is possible for him. We had thought that we were meeting the psychologist for the behavior part (this was more of an IQ/developmental test) at a later date. So to give the psychologist a heads up on some of the behaviors we experienced in the last couple of years he wrote them down as we do not like talking about them with A~man there. He is always listening and it cannot be good to hear a review of his past misbehavior. Especially since with PWS...some of them just cannot be helped! Also we filled out some types of questionnaire like tests based on his needs and behaviors.

As I said, for whatever reason we got the results last week when my husband went to fill out some paperwork at our service provider. They sat him down and told him. They told him that the psychologist recommended A~an be put in an institution. I am not in the least bit kidding. I have a few readers of my blog that know A~man and my family in person. Hopefully they will chime in and agree how utterly ridiculous this would be. This is something they did with children/adults with disabilities up until 30 years ago. Right before I was married I worked in an institution for a short time with the youngest they had and they ranged from 5-35. They were well cared for where I worked but to put my son and lock him away?

What was the Dr's reasoning? He said that he was a danger to my family. He has NEVER hurt his sister besides normal kid bickering and that is mutual and very mild. I have hurt myself a few times when I have had to restrain him. (disclaimer I am very trained! please never restrain your child without training.) In the past he has also slapped at me. That is spread out over the last few years and it's been over 6 months since that has happened. As a team my hubby and I have learned better ways to deescalate his behavior before it ever hits seismic proportions. We both work from home and we both share in the homeschooling and when one is weary the other steps in. It works for us. Evidently this Dr. hearing what we experienced came to the conclusion that we were merely treading water. Hogwash.

I won't say one of the particular behaviors that disturbed the Dr and our service provider. (unless you are a pws parent and want to know) The thing is the behavior can be common with PWS. PWSAUSA (Prader-Willi Syndrome Association USA) lists the problem on their resource page. The page I have linked is the basic facts wouldn't you think a psychologist and a service provider would KNOW this basic information?? Instead I feel like my husband was interrogated as if we had done something wrong. Fortunately we had been to his pediatrician at least twice for this issue and to another specialist to help with the underlying physical problem that caused the behavior. My husband ended up walking out in the middle of his meeting that day.

How did this affect us? We felt sick..and we were worried that the provider would call DSS thinking that we had caused his problem. I cannot remember the last time I heard my hubby sob like he did that night. Yes he sobbed! I do not remember the last time I have cried so much. We felt so helpless. What did we do? We gathered all of the information we could find about his issue at the PWSUSA website...and I found things in online medical journals. We became proactive and called his GAL (guardian ad litem) from when he was a foster child as she knows us well.(she became our advocate once again through this) We called his pediatricians and explained and got letters from them to give to the psychologist and service provider today. We got letters from a local merchant that knows our family well and from our pastor. Heck, we even called and talked to his old social worker from DSS! Just telling what they have observed from the A~man and what they observed from us as a family.

I didn't go today as I had to watch the kids but hubby went and he went fully armed. That includes a massive amount of prayer warriors and God was obviously right there beside him. What was there reaction? The service provider admitted he did not know hardly anything about PWS. I'm guessing all he knew about was the weight issues which isn't the main issue with the A~man. The psychologist also did a whole lot of back pedaling even though he said he KNEW PWS. We will not be using his report (we will find a different psychologist) but in the meeting he said that he didn't mean that A~man should leave our home. It was written down. Hubby left the 2+ hour meeting in peace...and brought that peace home to me.

I REALLY want to somehow make sure this doesn't happen to another PWS parent. Thankfully I knew that the particular behavior my son was having was pretty common because I was able to talk to a few wonderful fellow PWS parents on Facebook. I shudder to think what could have happened if my husband and I were not fully educated on the other issues that go along with Prader-Willi Syndrome. We would not have been able to advocate for him!

 Have I mentioned I LOVE my A~man???!!!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Homeschool geography club

For several years our family has participated in a local home school geography club. Each month throughout the year every family chooses a country to study about, and then present to the rest of the group. We have gotten so much out of this as not only do we learn about the country we choose, but we also learn from the other countries that the other families have been studying about.

Last year we chose Denmark! I had recently discovered a cousin online that still lives in the country that my paternal great grandmother came from. I have had so much fun getting to know my cousin and she was so helpful in helping us learn about the country of Denmark. She sent us lots of goody packages of a book about the country, a cookbook, flags, and the most amazing licorice I have ever tasted! I also must add that they have the cutest greeting cards I have ever seen.  They are like little cut-outs in pop up book fashion! Below is an example of a card similar to what we have received.

I gave both children certain things to work on that they would present at our club meeting. This has been a great way to work on public speaking! Surprisingly A~man, who is normally very talkative, tends to get nervous like his mama when it comes to talking in front of a group. Z~girl on the other hand is pretty confident speaking. It is so good for both of them though! 

Here they are talking about how one of our favorite toys, Lego, which originated in Denmark.

We also often play games with our friends (that originate from the country) and make food to share. When we presented on Denmark I made some Danish meatballs and also a type of mashed potatoes.

Brændende Kærlighed
This fulfilling traditional Danish meal was a very popular amongst poor Danish farmers for the simple reason that it is cheap, quick to make and very satisfying. We recommend you try it.
Serves 4
  • 1 pound potatoes
  • 2 onions
  • 2 teaspoons chives or parsley
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Danish butter
  • ½ pound Danish Bacon

  • Peal or scrub potatoes, and boil them for 20-25 minutes in unsalted water or until tender enough to mash
  • Cut bacon in small cubes
  • Fry bacon on frying pan, and place on platter with paper towel when done
  • Chop onions, and fry them in the bacon grease
  • Mash the potatoes and mix with butter and salt
  • Serve the mashed potatoes with a mix of onions and bacon on top
  • Sprinkle the dish with chives or parsley before serving
Tip: To make this Danish dish even better, serve with pickled beets on the side.

With today's technology there are so many different ways to learn about other countries without traveling. (although I would LOVE to go to Denmark one day!) Without technology I would most likely have never met my cousin from over seas. On the web you can learn through geography games , web searches, and we have found lots of useful information and videos at country specific travel sites.

There are so many different opportunities when you become involved in a home school group such as the geography club we belong to. Learning how to home school  goes way beyond sitting down at a table or desk. Becoming actively involved in the research about the country has really helped my kids retain it better.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

This school year is off to a great start!

Just this last week it dawned on me that after this next year we will be halfway through our homeschool journey. How can that be? Our first year started when A~man was halfway through his kindergarten year and we realized that homeschooling would be a better solution to me having the teachers call me to come pick him up everyday. Not to mention the three hour time out he had in his final classroom. Yes, a child with ADHD, autism and Prader-Willi was put in timeout for 3 hours. Z~girl joined our homeschool that following fall as she attended a preschool the spring that we started homeschooling. Homeschooling a child with learning disabilities has not for the faint of heart but I honestly would not have changed a thing!

We started back with official "school" in August and having a morning routine has helped the behaviors of both kids so much. We are pretty flexible/eclectic homeschoolers in the afternoon but having the morning planned out seems to equal us having a good start to the day. This year we have started using SpellingCity a lot more and I recently discovered a teaching resource page with all kinds of teaching ideas I plan on utilizing!

This is the 4th  year that we have been in a geography club, although I'm not sure what country we are going to do yet. Each month a family does a presentation on a selected country. In the past we have done Australia, Madagascar, and Dennark. It's a fun learning event plus great fun socializing with friends! We also have violin, P.E., soccer, special needs baseball, and a possible running club forming. Last year we were in a 4H lego club but we are trying to decide on remaining in that club. Oh and have I mentioned? Tomorrow we are getting a chicken coop! I have wanted chickens FOREVER. Phew...we have a lot going on and hopefully we won't have to weed any of the activities out but we may if it proves to be too busy. I treasure our times at home most of all.

What extra activities do you all participate in?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Always picked last...

I think everyone MUST at one time or another know what it is like as a kid to be picked last. (heck sometimes it happens in different situations with adults) There were many years that I experienced that as a kid. I was unusually tall for my age, skinny, and had two left feet. I remember standing there in PE just knowing...dreading being the last choice when kids had to choose team mates for a game. 

Today the hubby took both kids to a PE class that one of the homeschool groups we belong to has. Although I did hear from hubby that the teams were unfair, it sounded as if both kids had fun. But ever since getting home something was bothering Z. I just thought she was tired and a bit sunburned...but I also noticed tears every once in awhile.

After A~man was in bed she came to me and asked- Why is A~man always picked last??? Her heart was just crumpled. She then said - I was so glad that we got to be on the same team! My daughter has a heart of gold. She loves her brother deeply. Yes, there are times he completely pushes beyond her patience threshold and they do fight but they have such a deep connection. What does a mama say when asked that question?

I know it's just something that happens. Kids want the fastest, quickest thinking, athletic, and easiest to get along kid to be on their team. It's human nature to want to win. I get that. I told Z that I thought one of the many reasons God put A~man here is to teach others to be more compassionate, kind, empathetic, caring and patient towards others that are different. I really doubt he noticed that he was the last picked. Sometimes it is painful for even me to see (or should I say especially for me to see) that peers avoid him like the plague. Hopefully though, they will come out a lot better person in the end by the things they learn from being around someone with differences. Differences that make a child say things they shouldn't, do things without thinking,not know exactly the right way to interact, and not completely understanding a game.

I truly believe that people, kids included, can and will learn more from my son then they can ever imagine. Somehow in his uniqueness he is the teacher despite his challenges. Oh, and his sister? Part of what makes both of them such awesome little people (ok I can't call them little for much longer ;) is the result of what they have gotten from being such close siblings and friends. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Desire to Learn

“We destroy the love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards, gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A's on report cards, or honor rolls, or dean's lists, or Phi Beta Kappa keys, in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else.” ― John Holt

I posted this poem on Facebook this week and one of my dearest friends (who I consider a sister really) posted this comment, "Only problem is, when everyone is special, no one is." Needless to say my friend is not a homeschooler so her thoughts are coming from a completely different point of view. I'm not sure if I hit a sensitive spot as she was always the top of her class, on the honor roll, a very talented musician, and I'm proud to say she is a very successful doctor.

I wish I could say I was on the honor roll...I had my times on it...but it was a struggle. We both went to the same school for part of grade school and high school and I will say at times the education at that school was less than adequate. I can in all honesty say I did not get taught history in high school and learned most of what I know in college. (which was DIFFICULT) Part of the difference between her and I was she had/has a huge drive to succeed. It wasn't that I did not want to succeed but...well, I don't know, our personalities were just different. I do remember the importance of getting good grades so my parents would be proud. It felt like grades were not necessarily the proof that I had learned something though, but instead a way to make my parents happy.

With homeschooling our children we do not ever do "grades" or "scores" and only the yearly mandatory standardized tests or the occasional test of skills with lessons like our online math when there are quizzes. In fact, (and I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not ;) when people ask what grade A & Z are in they look at me! We do not pay a whole lot of attention to what grade they are in...we just continue on learning the next progressive step after they master a certain educational goal.

 My response to my friend was- I don't think that is what the quote is least that's not what I get from it. More so, that innately I believe kids want to learn new things in a discovery sort of way, with the motive of wanting knowledge because they are curious about something. This rather than wanting to please someone else (like a parent) or do better than someone else. (like a peer or sibling) It does seem to go away when learning becomes all about a test, which does become necessary eventually if someone wants to get a college degree. 

I know in the next couple of years I will probably start keeping track of scores more as Z will need more thorough records for her high school years as she does plan on going to college. For now though, I want to continue to encourage their natural curiosity to learn because they WANT to discover or find the answer. Yes, there are subjects they are learning that are mandatory, but beyond that is where our eclectic bordering on unschooling kicks in.  For now we will continue to explore the world around us and keep that curiosity going as long as we can!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Reading Kingdom~Schoolhouse Crew Review


Reading for my son has always been a three steps forward, two steps back sort of thing. With his developmental delays that is just the way it is. He is almost 13 (*gasp* I can't believe it!) but reads at about a second grade level. Fortunately though, when asked what his favorite thing about "school" is he will say reading. Despite the challenges he still LOVES to read and be read to.

As a part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I was given the chance to try Reading Kingdom. It is an online program that-
  • Most kids can use the program on their own after just a few lessons.
  • It's fun so children think they're playing a game and want to practice.
  • It was created by Dr. Marion Blank, Director of the Light on Learning Program at Columbia University and one of the world's top experts in reading.
  • It works with any other curriculum a child may be using.
  • It's the only program to offer customized online reading instruction for each child.
  • And, it's the only system that teaches all 6 skills needed for reading & writing success!


They base their program on a six patented skills program to achieve reading success: sequencing, motor skills, phonics, meaning, grammar and reading comprehension. The program is beneficial for preschool children all the way up to third grade, or kids with special needs that are on that level. Initially there is a test the child does to determine where the child will start in the program.


The learning is done through games and commands that provide instant feedback to the child.

A~man has thoroughly enjoyed the program! It seems like the program started at a much easier level than I would have thought he needed, but the review has been good for him. After going up a level I LOVE to see the look on his face when he realizes he is starting something new! We haven't completed all of the levels as there is no rush. It advances at his own pace. Sometimes he will do two sessions a day and other times just one. One thing I really like about this is that he is able to do it with no help from me. Most of A~man's schoolwork has to be done with me sitting directly beside him. With this program he is able to be very independent which I can tell he really likes!

Before I became a parent I worked with children with autism and I really wish this resource was available back then. It would be an excellent tool in teaching a young child with autism reading and writing skills.

You can try out the program for 30 days risk free. If it works for your family a monthly subscription is $19.99 a month or a yearly subscription is $199.99 for your first reader. An additional reader is $9.99 per month and 99.99 a year. You can also buy books in the Reading Kingdom online store.

I encourage you to click on the banner below to read other reviews on this product from the Schoolhouse Review Crew!


Reading Kingdom Review :: Homeschool Review Crew :: Finding Beauty

Disclaimer-I received a subscription to this program in exchange for my honest review of the product. The opinions I expressed are completely my own. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Apple Sauce

I love this time of year in North Carolina. APPLES! This week we went to an apple orchard and bought a huge bag of "seconds". These are apples that are either too small, have fallen off of the tree or have an imperfection. They are really reasonably priced this way and I have yet to find a rotten one.  My kids eat applesauce almost daily so I plan on making a LOT for this next winter. Here's what I do- first I wash them of course and then I use one of these handy dandy peelers that I have had for years.

It is so easy to use and also easy to clean. I also use my crockpot. I cut up enough apples to completely fill it up to the lid! Then I sprinkle it with cinnamon and nutmeg. I'm trying to get away from using a lot of white sugar so the batches I have been making have been sugar free except for the natural sugars. When making applesauce it is best to use a mix of sweet apples. I used Fuji, Gala, and Honey Crisp. After that I turn it on and let it cook for about 4-6 hours stirring only occasionally.

I LOVE making applesauce like this as after throwing the ingredients in the pot, I virtually do not have to do a thing until it is done! This leaves time to work on the kids online spelling lessons or on their grammar as currently we are working on dividing root words.

After it is cooked I have done it two ways. For chunky applesauce all I have done is use a spoon and a potato masher. This makes a really chunky applesauce. Last night I decided to do a smooth version and put it in my blender. I'm still trying to figure out which way I like best as both versions are so good!

Next I have been putting my applesauce in mason jars and use a water bath canner. It would also work to freeze the applesauce and thaw it as you need it. Making applesauce this way is so easy and the sauce is so much healthier than the store bought as the only ingredients are apples, cinnamon, and nutmeg!

Next week Z~girl and I will be making apple butter which is just as easy, it just has to cook a lot longer.