Friday, November 30, 2012

Homeschool and Holidays?

What do other homeschoolers do during the holidays? We pretty much homeschool year round, except for taking a month off in the summer, and a day here and there throughout the year. I'm thinking about taking a break in December, BUT instead of just not doing school work....we will probably just do things differently. I have learned that completely taking off from school results in a loss of routine and a lot of boredom for both kids but especially A~man. He does not do well with complete downtime. With all of the excitement that goes along with this time of year I need something to distract him in particular. 

I would love to hear what other homeschoolers do! I do know that we will take a break from our online curriculum, plan some local seasonal activities like looking at Christmas lights, visiting a gingerbread house display, making some gifts and crafts, maybe go caroling, and go to some special church services. We will also make some cookies, although with the stress of PWS we limit that activity quite a bit. 

Meanwhile, I will go on a search for some unit studies or maybe even a lapbook to do over the next month. Does anyone know of any good ones about winter or Christmas that they would share with me? I might also make some flashcards to practice some spelling words over our break.

For now though, I will go decorate our tree!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Homeschool writing

We had a nice Thanksgiving on Thursday. We went for a long walk, had an early dinner and then went to the movie "The Life of Pi". The movie was rated PG and it seemed like both kids did ok with it, even though there are a few scenes that are a bit disturbing. I think this is the first movie that A~man hasn't fallen asleep in.

The day after Thanksgiving ended up being one of the worst days I've had since becoming a parent. I'm still trying to figure out if I should post about it as I have major guilt despite the fact the "situation" that happened was out of our control and very unexpected. What happened also goes along with Prader-willi syndrome and autism so maybe if I write about it (when I'm ready) it might help another parent. 

For now I will talk about how we do writing in our homeschool. It's a loose approach that most likely we will need to do more formally next year, but for now it works for us. Both kids like to write letters to friends and family which is very rewarding as sometimes it results in them also getting mail. For whatever reason Z hasn't had a lot of luck with "penpals", (maybe people just email now instead of snail mail?) but both kids know that sending a letter to one of their grandmas or my sister will always get them a letter back. Several times a year Z~girl will also make a newspaper that basically updates our family, that live far away, on what our family has been up to.  Here's a few photos of past issues.

And we cannot forget the comics!

This year both kids are also working on some keyboarding skills. I really like the handwritten papers (and plan to keep them forever! :) but I'm hoping with each paper the kids will be typing more of the articles for the paper. Z~girl is the head editor, but A~man has contributed art so far. Hopefully with the next issue he will type something up as he has been working hard to use the keyboard the last few months. Making a newspaper for family has been a great creative writing help!

Oh, I almost forgot! This last month I was able to read and do a review for Lets Homeschool High School which is a new website that concentrates oh the High School levels of homeschooling. The book I read was called Grading with a Purple Crayon: A Developmental Approach to High School Composition for Homeschooling Families. I had thought about posting the review in my blog but thought adding a link would give anyone reading this the chance to also check out the new website. Let me know what you think!

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Such a simple word huh? Yet sometimes I know as a special needs parent I can take the stress of the week and focus on it, instead of finding things to be thankful about. I REALLY try during these stressful times to find something to be thankful for. I think taking the time to do this is a necessity when you are dealing with special needs learning and special needs parenting. 

Last week was not good. It started out with me waking up in the middle of the night with what must have been food poisoning. That same day A~man had a med check appointment to get new prescriptions on his meds. Unfortunately due to circumstances I'm still scratching my head about, the pharmacy would not fill one of the medicines (they said they were waiting for approval), which resulted in him missing two days worth of a particular med.

What is A~man like without medicine? He is like a squirrel that has drank espresso. I do not know any other way to describe it. He bounces here, he bounces there, and he talks a mile a minute. (and people that know him already think he talks a lot!) It. Is. Exhausting. The energy that it takes for the rest of us to keep up with that amount of energy is incomprehensible unless you experience it. Yet, when he gets like this he is hilarious!! We went to the mall to walk off some of that energy, as it was too cold outside, and guess who we saw?

Yes, we saw the jolly man himself getting the mall ready for his visit after Thanksgiving. Now A~man loves Santa, well this Santa in particular (heehee I even found his picture with a google search ;) This Santa came to our house when the kids were toddlers, before bed, to visit on Christmas Eve. This Santa knows both kids by name every time we walk by him in the mall. Now Z~girl knows about Santa (although she still loves this guy) but I figured A~man would always believe in Santa. After A~man thoroughly chewed Santa out for setting up Christmas decor before Thanksgiving (he HATES that), he asked about the other Santa that is sometimes there when the real one needs a break. He asked him *snicker* if the other Santa was passed out. The hubby and I just looked at each other confused but I figured out he was asking if the other Santa had passed away. He explained, "that Santa last year looked awfully old!". The real Santa was trying to keep a straight face. As we walked off A~man said words I never thought I would hear him say- I wonder what that guy's real name is! It was one of those times you just really had to be there but it was hilarious...the whole Santa experience that day was a riot. 

There were plenty of not so funny moments last week too. With him being so keyed up he was on edge and close to a meltdown very easily. We also had to watch him more carefully as when he gets a certain look in his eye (that thankfully I haven't seen in months) he can do dangerous things. He will also go out of his way to do things to get in trouble. Yet, we trudged on and no one got hurt. LOL It broke my heart at the end of one day after an event (last week is a blur) he started crying. He was practically begging us to go to the pharmacy as he wanted his medicine! Fortunately we were able to get him it later that day.

He is back to his "normal" A~man self...well the version that has more self control, focus and is a little less bouncy. I miss the extreme humor he has with out med but he is much happier overall when he feels in control of himself.

Tonight we went to our second Thanksgiving Feast that was at our church. I do not think we would have been able to take him if we did not get his prescription refilled before the weekend. As always we told him we would get him a little bit of everything (I'm talking a tablespoon of many choices) plus a slice of pumpkin pie. It went so well. Following the meal was a talent show and I was surprised that it didn't bother him that there was food remaining on the tables while we watched the show. 

Z~girl played four songs on her violin.

This is A~man and his buddy T playing the Shofar . I am so thankful for this church. They are very accepting of differences. The variety of different kinds of people here is really neat. I have seen people (that I assume may have been homeless) come off the street to attend the service. It's the kind of church that you can just come as you are. 

Our Thanksgiving celebration at home is always very low key. We will take off Wed, Thurs, and Friday from "school work". (although we might fill up some of our down time with some learning activities. We have turkey and a few other special foods but we have learned keeping the meal part like any other meal at home helps the Prader-willi syndrome anxiety that can come with this holiday. We normally go for a hike after our meal and then go to the movies. 

I encourage anyone reading this to take the time during stressful circumstances and find something to smile about and find something to laugh about. I have found that humor makes it that much easier to find something to be thankful about.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Growing Up Wild-Review



What family wouldn't like to kick their homeschool adventure up a notch by living in the jungle? (ok there may be a few of you out there that might not like that) If given the opportunity that is something I would love to do for a short time.  A jungle environment would be rich in learning opportunities and cultural experiences!


Through the Old Schoolhouse Review crew we were able to meet a family that did just that! This family created the 5 volume Growing Up Wild educational DVD's that allows you to experience some of what the Wild family did while living in Papua, Indonesia. The videos show the whole process including all the prep work they had to do before going overseas.

What was the motive for this family to go so far away from their home in the United States to set up another home in Papua? They went to help the people there with basic medical care and more importantly to share their love of God. Also they went there to give them a written language so that they could read the Bible. They taught the native people of Papua and in return learned even more from them! 


The first video in the series included three sections: Home Sweet Hut, Supply Trip, and Sun and Water. It was fascinating to see how they built a round house and all of the furniture to go inside it. The planning to get all of the food supplies they would need for their stay, plus actually bringing it over by plane took an amazing amount of planning. They did have some modern furnishings like a refrigerator, sink, television, etc. Which brings up the the third section as their power was all solar and they piped the water down from the top of the mountain! 


We were also able to watch volume 4 which included three sections: Amazing World Around Us, Adventures in Culture, and Tribal Calling. Each section is about 15 minutes long. This showed them exploring nature and some of the creatures of the jungle, learning about the people and the culture of Papua, and learning about God's purposes. At the end of each section there are different activities suggested to go along with learning about the country and culture of Papua.

Our whole family watched the videos and I can honestly say we all loved them! My son in particular came up with dozens of questions about their life there, which could be a good motivator for us to learn more about this remote country. I also now know what country we will be presenting for Geography Club this year! Oh, and the solar energy section from the first voume really interested my husband as he and the kids are about to start working on a solar food dehydrator and a supplemental heater for our basement.  I'm sure we will be adding some of the other videos to our collection. Also, I forgot to mention there is also a teachers activity guide video that goes along with each video. 

I noticed they also have a Jungle Journal blog that I haven't checked out yet, but I know my daughter would love to keep up with.

The price for each video is 18.99 (plus shipping and tax) which I find a little high (at least for our budget) but I do think the information and activities make it worth that price.

Be sure and check out what the other crew members thought about the Growing Up Wild video series!


Disclaimer- As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received these DVD's in exchange for my honest review of the product. All opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thanksgiving Feast

One of the homeschool groups we belong to has an annual Thanksgiving feast. This event was through our Christian homeschool group. (we also belong to a group that has more of a diverse mix of beliefs) This thing is huge, I mean HUGE! Last year was our first year attending as...well...with Prader-willi Syndrome food issues, attending an event like this is no simple matter. But, in addition to the feast there were also lots of fun activities; making corn husk dolls, carriage rides, making butter, archery, gem mining, plus some I forgot. So even with all of the anxiety that comes with a food event we were also able to get A~man excited about the fun activities and also getting together with friends. I left my camera at home this time, but if I can figure out how to download pictures off of A~man's ipod I will post some later.

Some things that we always do that seems to help A~man during food events is to remind him before we go that-
  • only his dad or I can get him food.
  • this kind of goes along with the previous statement but he knows that he must ALWAYS ask us if someone offers him a treat. (he also has a peanut allergy) 
  •  we will pick him out a wide variety of yummy healthy foods.
  • no second servings (actually this is something we do at home too although on rare occasion he can have extra veggies)
  • we will pick him out an A~man size portion of yummy desert. 
Knowing in advance what he should expect cuts down tremendously on his anxiety of an upcoming event. Of course, he will repeat everything over and over (and over) up until the event which can cause anxiety for the rest of us! So to help with that we normally wait until the day before to tell him about a special event.

Aside from dropping his turkey on the ground (hubby went and got him some more) food wise the whole event went very well! 

He even was able to see one of his friends we met a couple of years ago that also is on the autism spectrum. They really like each other (sometimes other kids with autism have a hard time with A~man) but sometimes I do not think they really "get" what the other is talking about. It also reminded me I need to work on some context games. Sometimes I noticed him starting to get upset in a social situation as often A~man is not absolutely clear what the other person is saying.

Oh...and he has gotten into this bad habit of asking someone something, they will try and answer, and in the middle of them talking he will find someone else he wants to talk to and wander off. (I cannot tell you how this embarrasses me! ) Fortunately, most of the people that know him realize he isn't trying to be rude, but is easily distracted by interesting people! It's definitely something we are working to help him improve though.

I sort of got off on an A~man/PWS theme to this post but I cannot forget to mention Z~girl. She loved the event, especially hanging out with one of her best friends. People are encouraged to come dressed in a Thanksgiving theme dress and although the rest of us didn't, knowing how she still likes to dress up I bought her a new costume. She dressed as an indian and looked SO cute shooting a bow and arrow. 

It seems this is just the beginning of the holiday season that ends up being filled with food, which can cause great anxiety to people that have Prader-willi Syndrome. (AND their families!) I hope to share more in the next couple of months on ways our family takes the focus off food, to make it a more enjoyable and meaningful time of year.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Grace & Truth Books~ review


What books are A~man and I reading right now? As a member of the TOS review crew we were able to try out two books from The Boys Heritage Set, from Grace and Truth Books.

Photobucket The first book we read was called Gerrit and His Dog, which also includes the story The Royal Law. When we first started reading Gerrit and His Dog I admittedly became irritated. You see, Gerrit is a young orphan boy that has some type of cognitive disability. Of course this isn't the part that irritated me but the language that was used to describe the young boy did. (words like feeble minded) This caused me to do some detective work. (Joy remember to read the back of the book BEFORE reading the inside!)

Gerrit and His Dog (recommended for ages 10-14) is a story that has been reprinted and was originally printed in the early 1900's. So that explained why the language was very politically incorrect! That aside, this book very tenderly shows how a small town took this young boy under their wings to ensure he was safe, loved, and that his best friend Brownie was returned to his side.

It really was a sweet story that demonstrated a group of people coming together to show a young boy God's compassionate love.

The second story in the book was The Royal Law. It was also about a young boy that was in need of compassion. Hans Wiggens and his family were poor, and traveled from town to town selling things off of their wagon. Food and acceptance were scarce until his family learns about God's unconditional love.

A Faithful Boy's Influence

The other book we were given to read and review was A Faithful Boy's Influence. (recommended for ages 6-12) This title was originally published in the 1800's. The purpose of both of these books are to help influence a boy to have a Christian character, and this book demonstrated just that! Charlie Clement was visiting his relatives in Meedville and demonstrated to all around him a deep respect for the church and for the local pastor.

Up until Charlie Clement came to visit the town the local parishioners did not know what to think of the extremely quiet pastor who kept to himself. Charlie was able to befriend the man and also draw other people to get to know him. The young boy demonstrated a quality of respect and honor that was sorely missing from the children and adults of the community.

What did my son think of these books? With his learning challenges the reading level was too high for him BUT the content of the book was perfect for him! Because it was written so long ago some of the wording wasn't what he was used to but we used that opportunity to learn some new words and phrases. It also gave us a great chance to have some conversations about the Godly qualities demonstrated in the books. He loves dogs so his favorite story by far was Gerrit and His Dog. I would highly recommend these books and hope to order a few more to read aloud to both of my children.

The price for Gerrit and His Dog is 5.50 and the for A Faithful Boy's Influence is 6.25. This is a great price I think for these character building titles!

The Crew did reviews on numerous books by this company and I encourage you to check out all of the other Grace & Truth reviews!

Click to read Crew Reviews

Disclaimer-I received my copies of the books from Grace and Truth Books in exchange for an honest review of their products. All opinions are mine. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Blackberry Applesauce

While the weather was so horrible last week, we spent a lot more time inside. One of the things we did each afternoon after we had finished our online curriculum and playing hangman with our vocabulary words, is to make applesauce. We made it the same way we did last month when we made crockpot applesauce, but this time it was different. We added blackberries that we had picked this summer that were in our freezer.

I didn't really measure ingredients exactly. (do not add cinnamon and nutmeg) The kids peeled enough apples to fit, almost overflowing in the crockpot and I did use about 3 cups of frozen berries. 

Next I cooked the berries over low heat to liquefy the frozen berries.

Then, because I really did not want the seeds in the applesauce I strained all of them out of the pulp and was just left with blackberry juice.

I added just the juice to the already cooked applesauce,cooked it for an additional hour, and then I canned it in mason jars.

It resulted in such a pretty shade of red!

Of course I couldn't stop at blackberry applesauce, hahaha! Throughout the week, with the A~man and Z~girls help, I made strawberry applesauce and blueberry applesauce! (the fourth jar is the traditional cinnamon version)  Strawberry and blueberry were even easier to make as I just let the frozen berries thaw and then added them to the applesauce that was almost done, to cook for another hour. They all turned out VERY yummy but I believe blackberry was my absolute favorite. Not only did they taste delicious, but with only fruit, (no extra sugar was added) it is a very nutritious treat!

What's next? I have at least enough apples to try out another batch using CRANBERRIES! I'll let you know who it turns out.