Monday, August 26, 2013

Back To School (warning...possibly offensive to some)

I keep seeing this photo pop up on my Facebook with certain friends and relatives posting it as their children go back to school. I must say, I am not amused. While I must admit that I would very much enjoy an occasional break from my kids, I consider it an honor to stay home and teach them. In saying that I am not implying that my days are easy and that my children are perfectly behaved. Especially NOT Mondays. What is it about Mondays? Oh and mornings in general typically do not start well until after breakfast. 

How do my days start? EVERY morning the same questions. Mom, what are we doing for breakfast? These are the words I hear before my eyes even pop open from the A~man. It's as if one morning he thinks that perhaps we will not eat breakfast. I guess that's the Prader-Willi Syndrome talking. He doesn't just ask it once, he asks it over and over until he sees what we are having. I have thought about doing a menu calendar, (showing him what he is having the next day) but so far I am just not that organized!

Z~girl in the morning? Well she is following in her mama's footsteps as when I was her age, it was best just not to talk to me before 10 am....(sometimes that is how I am now...shhhhhh!)

But still, I feel blessed being able to have my children at home teaching them. Do I think everyone in the world should homeschool? Not at all. I do like that we live in a country that allows us the freedom to choose how we educate our children and I also know there are a lot of excellent schools out there. But to celebrate the fact that they are not with you just seems sort of sad to me. 

I know of a couple fellow homeschool mamas that have either finished up their last year of homeschooling or are starting their last year. I cannot even imagine what that must be like. It makes me want to slow down and even on the difficult days enjoy this time with my duo as the days pass by so fast.

I must confess, this morning I have gotten a late start to beginning our lessons. I consider this a perk of homeschooling though as in our home some of the best learning takes place after 10 AM. After this mama has had her second cup of coffee that is..... Our day today will be filled with lessons, Lego, and some free puzzle games. Oh and Coffee. Lots of coffee!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

TOS Review~Let’s Measure It Project Pack from In the Hands of a Child

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What is a lapbook? Generally a lapbook is an educational method that involves making "mini-books" about a subject that a child is learning about. Inside these books is space for a timeline, vocabulary words, pictures, graphs, drawings and sometimes places for the child to write about the subject. In our 7+ years of homeschooling I have only made a couple and it has been a few years since the last one I made. When I was given the chance to do a review on In the Hands of a Child's Let's Measure it Project Pack I thought it would be a fun refresher for me, plus measuring is something that my son who has special needs could use some refreshing on. This particular lapbook is for grades K-3 but even though my son is older it was very applicable for him.

Let's Measure It Curriculum

I am going to list some pros and cons I found while trying out this lapbook:

  • A very "hands on" way to learn, which would be great for a variety of learners.
  • The student can participate in creating the project.
  • You could use the same lapbook with various ages of kids making it a great "together" type project for your family.
  • Lapbooks are a great way to include a variety of subjects into one project.
  • The books would be a convenient  way to come back and review a subject in the future.
  • They could be kept and passed down to younger siblings in years to come.
  • Very portable. I can see them being an awesome way to bring learning along with you in the car!
  • In the Hands of a Child simplifies it as all you have to do is print it out. (well and then put it together)


  • Here is the main con I found. They take a LONG time to make, at least for me, haha. I did most of the cutting for this one and when I do another I will let (make) the kids do more of the cutting.
  • Depending on how you went about it lapbooks could be a bit expensive. (We are on a tight budget right now) I bought colored folders and colored paper and next time will probably do some laminating. I am sure they could be done less expensively but I love color and I know for my son especially it keeps things interesting to have the color contrast. So...I guess you could say if you did it the way I want to do them, it could be a little expensive. ;)

Will I make another lapbook again?

YES! I already have a state one that I am going to start making (with a little more child labor ;) before we go on a vacation to a state the kids and hubby have never been to. 

What is the price to buy a lapbook from In the Hands of a Child and what grades are they appropriate for? 
In the Hands of a Child has various lapbook and notepack options for all grades including high school and have over 450 different subjects to choose from. They are having a special right now for the month of August and many of their products, including Let's Measure It, are on sale for $5...which I think is an excellent price for the download we got. Check out the other reviews as there are several separate lapbooks that were reviewed by the Schoolhouse Review Crew!


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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Understanding Child Brain Development DVD from The Family Hope Center~TOS Review)

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 I was given the opportunity to watch a very interesting DVD recently called Understanding Child Brain Development from The Family Hope Center. The Family Hope Center is an international center that helps families that have children with special needs that include Autism, ADHD, Down Syndrome, and more. They do not believe in treating the disability but instead treating the part of the brain affected in a more holistic type of way instead of relying on medicine. I was especially intrigued with it as my son would be a strong candidate to be helped by an organization like this.

I think I have blogged about it before but we were blessed with my son at 4.5 months old as a foster baby. (he is almost 14 now) He was born with Prader-Willi Syndrome but over the years we have discovered he also has ADHD and is on the autism spectrum. Before he came to our home he spent much of the first 2-3 months in the hospital as he was also 9 weeks premature. Without going into too many details he was taken away from his biological parents due to medical neglect and other reasons. When he came to our home the back of his head was very flat (it actually still is), and his neck was atrophied to one side as he spent all of his time in a crib and most likely not held. 

One of the first comments we received from someone when he first came to live with us was "have they checked his brain waves" (what does that mean anyway, and who says that to a new parent?) as he was virtually non responsive. Well, until you tried to hold him. He did NOT like to be held but with help from awesome doctors, physical therapists, and occupational therapists (oh and I cannot leave out God!) we were given the support and guidance to help turn things around for A~man. We were told he might not live when we got him. Not easy for a couple that had been desperately waiting many years to become a parent. 

So getting the chance to watch these videos was fascinating! The first video I watched was Stories Of Family Hope which features families of children who have cerebral palsy, autism, seizures, and ADHD. (plus a brain injury) The stories were really well done portraying each family's situations whether detected at birth or later on. It also showed the children receiving intervention to help them. 

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The next video was Understanding Child Brain Development and it was more of a seminar. My husband texted me while I was watching it asking how it was and I told him "it was a little dry, but very interesting at the same time". LOL It reminded me of a refresher college course, but I mean that in a good way. I did need a cup of coffee halfway through BUT it had a lot of very good information on it that I had just not thought about. It talked about the different functions of the brain and how different physical activities can benefit the brain plus the value of nutrition.

I was happy to see that over the years we have done many of the things- no microwave, daily exercise, sunshine, not food coloring/preservatives, mostly organic but I was able to obtain some new info that I hope to try out with my son. I found the "crawling' information very interesting as my son never crawled! He just rolled from one place to the next. I'm not sure I can get him to do it but it's worth a try. I'm just going to tell him it is an exercise to make him strong. ;) 

The Newell's gave some practical advice for families to help their families have better health which included understanding the child and working together, nutrition (eliminating EMF's), structure work, basic sensory stimulation, neurologically based mobility programs, and consistency. (schedule, emotional and social support) 

To order the DVD you can call 610-397-1737 or you can order Understanding Child Brain Development from the Institute for Excellence in Writing for $19.00. The video is targeted for parents and adults.


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Monday, August 19, 2013

Over Sheltered?

This last week I ran into a new situation. Z~girl volunteers on a farm in the spring and fall, but this summer she did several times when other kids were not able to show up. (the farm reserves the summer for "school" kids and the other seasons for homeschoolers) Evidently the kids learn different things in the summer than she does. Anyway, the night after she had volunteered I could tell something was seriously wrong from my mama radar. So I asked her. Then she started to sob. The kind where you can't catch your breath which is unusual for her.

She said "While I was there today I got fussed at!" Evidently she had read some feeding directions wrong and almost gave a goat the wrong amount of food. It made me realize that one had ever fussed at her before besides her dad and I. In preschool she had never gotten in trouble (she saved it for us ;) and when she has went to Sunday school she is normally so quiet she couldn't possibly get in trouble, LOL.

It just seems odd to get to 12 and never be fussed at by an outside person. I was a pretty compliant kid in school but I know that I got fussed at plenty through my school years. It makes me wonder if that could indicate that she has been over sheltered a bit? How does one get a little "tough" if not exposed to certain things?

The only thing that really bothered me about her getting fussed at is a comment the supervising woman said that was very inappropriate I think. She said "I know you must know how to read!" Who says that to a kid? Plus, would she have said that to a regularly schooled child? :( I must say Z did say the woman came back later and apologized as evidently this task wasn't even something she had regularly done. And gosh. She's only 12! So I'm not sure if the reason she was SO upset was the reading comment. She reads probably 4 hours a least. hahah! I think it really insulted her.

This picture shows one of the many reasons I love homeschooling. (I need to take more photos like this) Whenever Z is done with her online curriculum in the morning or has finished an online writing tutorial she goes into unschooling mode. We have several gaming systems she could play, hundreds of movies, and netflix but more often than not what she chooses is educational. She prefers to read, crochet, draw or take care of her pets rather than TV and games. I like that. :)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Reading Kingdom ~Schoolhouse Review

Reading Kingdom logo

Reading Kingdom is an online reading program developed for children ages 4 - 10 or roughly those children that are at a PreK to a 3rd grade reading level. Dr. Marion Blank, a co-founder, spent more than 40 years studying how children learn to read.
Dr. Blank has devoted her life to helping children learn to read, and she has used her innovative methods to help literally thousands of kids. Now with her groundbreaking new reading program, The Reading Kingdom, she is making her system available to every parent.

We were fortunate to be able to try this curriculum out for a second time through the Old Schoolhouse Review crew. Although my son is 13, due to his special needs he is somewhere around a 2nd grade level for reading. For him reading has always been 3 steps forward and 2 steps back. In fact, that is how it is with most of his learning. Reading Kingdom can be customized to the level your child needs. It works on six skills -sequencing, motor skills, phonics, meaning, grammar and reading comprehension. Last year I had him use Reading Kingdom as his primary reading program and he got almost 3/4 of the way through the program. So this time due to the fact he needed some reviewing after we took July off, I had them set his levels at level 3. The customer service is quick and they are able to adjust your child's levels if needed.

The really cool thing about Reading Kingdom is that it goes way beyond just reading. It includes spelling and typing! With my son having Prader-Willi Syndrome he has problems with an extremely short attention span and short-term auditory memory. He is very distracted by everything around him including a car driving down the street....and forget it if anyone is outside mowing...he cannot work. Yet he has an unusually good long-term memory. (a whole lot better than mine!) The program uses a LOT of repetition and presenting the words in different forms and in different ways. I believe this is why the program has worked so well for my son! They hear the word, they type the word and then they read it in a sentence. I can honestly say A~man has made the most progress in his reading and spelling since using Reading Kingdom the last year.

someone needs to clean off their computer monitor...

If you are just doing one session a day it takes approximately 20 minutes. (of course this would depend on your child) We normally do two sessions though and between them I get him to do some chores around the house for about 10 minutes. Then we do another session. The graphics are a little young but since he is at a younger developmental level he doesn't seem to mind. He genuinely enjoys the program and I have had little to no resistance to him doing it daily. (we usually do school 6 short days a week) He was able to do the tasks completely on his own!

I HIGHLY recommend this program to other parents, especially other families that have a child with a disability. I think this would also work well for children who have autism. (my son has both autism and PWS) It would even be beneficial for families that do not homeschool as the sessions take less than a half hour. 

They have a 30 Day Free Trial and after that it is $19.99 a month or a one-time payment of $199.99 a year. They have a special offer going on right now for 25% if you sign up and start your billing right away. That would be $14.99 a month or $149.00 a year for a one-time payment. I think that is well worth this product!


Sometimes it takes...

your child to open up your eyes to what God wants to say to you. I've had a rough couple of weeks. Starting school up after a month break, getting sick, my own medicine changes, yada yada yada. I have just gotten behind with EVERYTHING. Add in the fact I need to start planning in our vacation that will be this fall. 

Today at the grocery store I saw him. Who is he? It's the minister of a church that my father in law went to a couple of years before he passed away of cancer. It is a simple (I mean that in a good way) and small church. The minister has a heart of gold and his mission is to help people in need. People that need food. I mean actual food. I will say he is very obese and in a wheelchair. I am not saying this to discriminate about people that are obese or in a wheel chair but something about seeing him strikes home in correlation with PWS. His desire is to make sure people have food. Can you see the connection?

 Anyway A~man, even though he was 5 when his pop-pop passed away remembers Pastor M...he is drawn to him as Pastor M seriously has a heart of gold. You can feel God's love surrounding this man. But sometimes when we go to the grocery store we want to get what we need and go home. Our days, even the good ones, are exhausting at times, dealing with special needs and normal life issues. So...I see Pastor M before A~man does and I try to avoid those I want to hurry and get home. (Yes, I have my not so nice moments) But no. God has other plans.

We meet up in an aisle. A~man (who also has a heart of gold) sees him in his wheelchair and is instantly drawn to pastor M. At that moment I once again realize how truly holy and pure my son is, so much more than I could ever hope to be. You see, he takes the time to go over to him, ask how his wife and daughter are, and how HE is. Which in itself forces hubby and I to go over there and converse. How wondrous it is that a child that in societies eyes is disabled... is so much more compassionate and caring than I am. I am selfish, I want to go home and rest. A~man? He genuinely wants to know how pastor M is and his family. I strive to be more like that!!

I read things about trying to "cure" autism, cure whatever disability. I wonder if my son's many disabilities were "cured" would it take away this caring spirit also? I am probably in the minority...but as my blog implies...I learn so much from my son who has special needs. Sometimes it seems he is closer to God than I am. Does that make sense? 

Oh, and get this. Would you like to know what yada, yada, yada's various meanings are?  Sharing love, sharing mercy, acting justly and something to be known. Sometimes it takes a child to teach us all that.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Walk the walk...

Oh...and I am not referring to idiom games this time! This fall our family for the second time will be participating in a local Prader-Willi Syndrome walk which is the same month as our son's birthday. (he's going to be 14...eeek! :) With PWS we have to watch everything he eats, everything. Fortunately he has never been overweight but if he was not monitored it could happen easily and quickly. Individuals with PWS never feel hungry. They spend a lot of time thinking about food and when their next meal or snack will be. They also (I know it's a fact in my son's case) think about opportunities to forage food when it is available and no one is looking. Can you even imagine what it would be like to always be thinking about food? I know people are often humored by the fact that 75% of my son's conversations involve food or come around to the topic of food. People do not mean any harm in thinking it's funny, and I truthfully am not offended but seriously...can any of us really imagine what it is like to be THAT HUNGRY? 

I've mentioned our adult friend that has PWS (V) on here before. I remember quite awhile back on Facebook her posting on a Prader-Willi board saying that she wished her mom would lock food up. I think the reasoning it wasn't locked up was that she was so high functioning that the mom thought it would be wrong to lock up the food. At least that was my take on it. But, that is when we started making sure food was secured, and that we had an alarm for when he walked out of his room. Ever since then he has been sleeping through almost every night (he was getting up multiple times every night) and WE are sleeping better too. Yes, he has still manages to sneak food in the day time but it has gotten so much better. He actually reminds and thanks us when we set our hallway alarm.

The thing is I need to lose weight. No, I am not extremely overweight but I am overweight and it has been a gradual process since becoming a mom. I eat pretty healthy and we walk daily but I need to lose weight. How can I say anything about what my son eats if I am the one that needs to lose weight and he is the one that is a healthy weight? Before kids I was underweight...I do NOT want to go back to that at all! I like having curves. ;) But I have made it my goal to lose 20 pounds before the first of November. I know my body will feel better AND I feel I will be a better example to both kids if I walk the walk...literally. This is the first I have shared it in my blog but I started the first of August and have lost 3 I am on my way and hope to share good results.

On a homeschool note our first week is done! It wasn't smooth and we tried our best to squeeze a couple night vacation into it...but got rained out. Thankfully we were able to get half our money back and we will try to go camping again if it ever stops raining. It was a really good week though and we celebrated Z~girl's 12th *gulp* birthday. I do admit we did some school on Saturday too with little complaint...OK A~man did a little but he is especially liking his online science curriculum and learning about magnets for kids. Tomorrow Z~girl is going to start her end of summer newspaper edition so I hope to share that soon!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Review~ Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura (Legacy Documentaries)

Some of my favorite books when I was a child were the "Little House on the Prairie" series. I was so happy when my daughter was old enough to pass them along to her. Our whole family also has enjoyed the same TV series, based on the books, from when my husband and I were children. Through the Schoolhouse Review Crew I was able to do a review on Almanzo Wilder:Life Before Laura which is a documentary made together with the Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder Association in Burke, NY. 

Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura

The same voice from the TV series Almanzo, Dean Butler, narrates this documentary that takes place on the Wilder Homestead which is located in northern New York State. The documentary shows the restored homestead and recreations that were shot on the location based on events that happened in the book "Farmer Boy" which is the second book in the Little House series of books.

Almanzo Wilder:Life Before Laura would be a very nice educational tool to go along with a unit study about the Little House book series and it also shows what life growing up in the mid 1800's was like. The video takes you into where Almanzo grew up and shows you what life was like on a horse farm and about his family life on the farm before meeting Laura. It also shows you the big economic differences between the Wilder family and the Ingalls family. 

The DVD, Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura, was very well made and is available at the Legacy Documentaries website for $21.95 plus shipping. It would be appropriate for all ages to watch. My husband, daughter and I especially liked it but it didn't hold my son's interest for long despite the fact he loves the TV series. I would highly recommend it to others that love the series as much as my daughter and I do! 

Some other members of the Review Crew were able to to watch The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder so make sure to check out their reviews also!

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Back To School!

Homeschool that is! Have I gotten all of my lesson plans done? No. Goals for the first 9 weeks? No, well...not written down on paper. I started last week out so strong but did not get everything done I wanted. My house isn't spotless like I wanted. (you would think by now I would have learned my lesson with that one!)

Still....tomorrow is the day. I have pretty much all of the curriculum I need and the teacher resources ready to go so the kids are ready and the the planning can be done in time. My Z~girl needs a real boost in math this year and I was so proud of her that she found some curriculum in our basement (a division workbook) and started that up on her own last week. I internally giggled and smiled with pride that she is realizing that it isn't a negative thing to need help in a subject. She tends to be a perfectionist and most things come super easy for her, her pride was hurt I think when she came to realize that math was not going to come easy. BUT it seems like she is now going to tackle it head on! She also started the new year on her own last week with her Time4learning program.

While my Z~girl is very self motivated my son isn't. BUT he is also ready to start up again as he thrives for routine. He has been a bit bored in July, lol. Once his routine is in place I know he will not be saying that he is bored and we will have fewer behavior issues. I'm especially excited about the science education class he is going to begin this week. Mainly for science we tend to take the unschool method. This allows for a lot of exploration but I think trying something out more formal with him is going to be a lot of fun. 

Oh, and this week Z~girl will be turning 12...sniff sniff. So a couple days this week we will be taking school outside as we are going to go camping. She would much rather go camping than have a birthday party. (she takes after her mama with that) So we are all looking forward to a fun week!