Saturday, February 26, 2011

Weekly Wrap Up ~ The Festival Of Knowledge


We had another busy and productive week. The highlight of the week was the children participating in The Festival of Knowledge held at the Nature Center each year. This was a great opportunity for the kids to make a project and show what they had learned to the public. They also had to go through an interview with judges.

(Photobucket will not let me take out the Red Eye today!)  The girls standing in front of their display.

They decided to do their project on the Cherokee Indians. Each child picked their favorite part to write about of the Cherokee field trip we took last fall. Tom Sawyer concentrated on the houses and clans. Goldilocks really liked the language and setting up the village. Little Red Ridinghood enjoyed the beadwork and pottery that the women made. She also did most of the painting of the landscape and made her own pinch pot.

I am very proud of them. They did all the work by themselves. On the day of the judging, each did great with the interview portion. They were all eager to tell what they had learned.

Unfortunately, someone decided to vandalize their project (first time in the history of Festival of Knowledge). Somebody smashed the clay houses and stole some of the figurines and Lincoln Logs. The kids were really disappointed. We rebuilt everything the best we could with double-stick tape and twigs. The head of the event told the judges that the display arrived in perfect condition, and the judges said they would not hold it against the kids. The children ended up taking First Place in the cultural history category. HURRAY!

Since we were at the Nature Center, we enjoyed seeing all of the animals. It was a fun-filled day. The peacock was really showing off.

Our oldest works at the Nature Center. I caught him cleaning the inside of a snake enclosure. I couldn't miss the opportunity to take his photo in a glass cage! Yes, there are snakes crawling around inside that cage with him. HEHEHE! Since he was a young child, he always wanted a snake for a pet, but we wouldn't allow it. I am so glad he gets his "snake fix" far away from my home. LOL!!


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Therapy Thursday ... A Calming DVD

Our local hands-on museum always has the DVD, The Way Things Go, playing.  Ever since my son was a little baby, he has been mesmerized by this show. This amazing show is a Rube Goldberg machine in action.  The creators use fire, water, chemistry and gravity to make an exciting chain reaction of events. This is a fun DVD for the scientist/theater artist in all of us. However, it has a special calming effect on some of our special little guys. My son has never been diagnosed with autism, but he does have severe sensory processing disorder, which we have been told often looks like autism. When I had the opportunity to buy this DVD recently, I was talking to the staff at the museum. They told me that other families with kids on the spectrum had found great success with this DVD. They had a few amazing stories.

It certainly has calmed our son whenever he has watched it. I have no idea why it works so well. As I have said in the past, calmness is our theme word this year. With that in mind, we decided to hire one of our son's favorite Tomatis workers. She will be coming into our home 2 to 3 hours a week to help us make a better sensory diet for him. On her first day with us yesterday, I got more ideas than in the past 20 years living with two children with sensory processing disorder. I am so excited about her coming and getting us on the road to a calmer lifestyle! She said we had tons of tools (trampoline, balls, balance board, putty...) in our home, so it is just a matter of learning how to use them to help him more. We will be taking a long break from Tomatis. I have not seen any major gains in the last few loops, and I think we need to explore some other options for awhile. I have a feeling that having this worker in my home is going to make huge gains for us. I will be posting what we learn.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Happy Presidents Day!

We started our day off with our traditional Presidents Day scavenger hunt.  My husband has a great pewter set from his childhood of the presidents.  He has all of them through Ford.  Every year, they are turned into educational tools and are hidden all over our house with a little fact about them.  This year we decided just to do a scavenger hunt with the most well-known presidents and what favorite food they enjoyed. 

Two of the foods were things my kids had never had or we were pretty sure they would not like.  They were dared to try them anyway.  Richard Nixon's favorite breakfast was cottage cheese with ketchup!!!  GROSS!

Only two of us were brave enough to try this one, Timothy and my Dh. They said it was worse to look at than to eat it.

Theodore Roosevelt drank a gallon of coffee everyday.  No wonder he was such an energetic person!

Only Daddy and Tim drink coffee.  Today, Little Red Ridinghood tried it, and said she would stick to tea.

Some foods were much more to the kids' liking.  Their favorite food was introduced by Thomas Jefferson.  They could not wait to eat their mac and cheese. LOL

They were also very excited about Ronald Reagan's jelly beans, too.  Jelly beans for breakfast is a very fun treat.

They also enjoyed oranges with FDR!  We all had a hardy breakfast and learned some history at the same time.

Breakfast included ~
  • George Washington .... string beans
  • John Adams ... corn
  • Thomas Jefferson ... macaroni and cheese
  • John Q. Adams ... sliced apples
  • Abraham Lincoln .... cheese
  • Ulysses S. Grant ... rice pudding
  • Theodore Roosevelt ... coffee
  • Calvin Coolidge ... pickles
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt ... oranges
  • John F. Kennedy ... bacon
  • Richard Nixon ... cottage cheese with ketchup
  • Jimmy Carter ... peanuts
  • Ronald Reagan ... jelly beans

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Park Fun...Third Through Sixth

We did a lot of catching up on our goal of going to 52 parks this year.  The third park on our list was right in our neighborhood, but we had never been to it. It turned out to be really fun. The playground had several unique parts such as a Braille board, rolling slide and a swinging boat.

The fourth park we did not take any pictures at. It was one of our favorites and attached to the library.

The fifth park was in a neighborhood a few miles from us. It was a lovely day, and there was an amazing slide. Too bad we did not have any wax paper. The kids would have flown down the slide if they had sat on wax paper! However, our jackets did the trick.

What a neat swing set there, too.  Even my husband (in the black coat) got in on the action.  He went the highest by far.

The sixth park was a little out of the ordinary. We went to a large city cemetery. Some of you know I have a thing about graveyards. I really enjoy them. My husband and kids have learned to like them, too.

The girls really like tending the graves. Many of the flowers had blown over in the brisk wind.

The three kids loved running down the hills through the gravestones. I teach them to be calm and respectful if there is someone visiting their loved ones. However, today the graveyard was filled with joggers and us. So the kids were more free to run around, as long as they did not bump into headstones.

It looks like we are in for nice weather for a few more days. I hope to get to another park or two over this next week.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Teaching Left and Right

This is a fun way to reinforce the directions of left and right. First, you make two cards with left and right on them. Add arrows to help give the child a visual. Then write "heads" on one card and "tails" on the other.

Now take a quarter and head out on a walk.  At each intersection let a child flip the quarter.  If you get heads you go left, or tails you go right. 

Then off you go on an adventurous walk. Who knows where you will end up? Our neighborhood is filled with hills, so we got a real workout, besides reviewing our lefts and rights.

The kids loved the mystery of not knowing which way we would turn at each intersection. This was a great way to add some intrigue into the same old neighborhood walk.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Muffin Tin Monday...Hearts

Happy Valentine's Day!  What a perfect day to have a muffin tin.  This is the kids' breakfast muffin tin.

They had strawberry yogurt with sprinkles, red,white, and pink M&M's, strawberry tea, candy necklace (to make), strawberries, and heart shape peanut butter and Jelly sandwich.  What a fun way to start the day even though they are full of sugar now!

Follow the link to see more muffin tin Mondays.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Therapy Thursday...A Controversy

Our Goldilocks sleeps behind an alarmed door. She has since she was 4 years old. It is for her safety, as well as the safety of our whole family. She loves her alarm and so do we! It gives all of us peace of mind and precious sleep.
I have heard so many families in crisis with a RAD or FASD child who are advised to alarm their child's door and do not want to do so. They feel that it will be like putting their child in prison or will damage their self-esteem. They argue that it shows they do not trust their child (which rightfully they shouldn't because of the child's behavior). I have even heard that their child will not obey it, so what is the use. 

My question to them is ~ how do they sleep at night? I will not go into all of her behaviors as a young child to protect her privacy. However, I will say that it was dangerous for everyone involved to have her loose in the house in the middle of the night. I was one sleep-deprived Mommy sleeping with one eye open all the time. When we were advised by her therapist to get an alarm, we went out and got one that very day. Over naptime, we made a game out of training her to stay in her room and not open the door. The 200 decibel alarm was enough to convince her to keep her door closed. She only opened it three times that first day. She has only opened it a handful of times in the past 6 years. Most of those times have been a mistake that were followed by an immediate apology. 

I think one of the most important factors in making Goldilocks comfortable with the alarm was to tell her it was to give her peace of mind. In her birth home, she never knew what scary person would come into her room and what they would do to her. We told her that only we knew how to get into her room without the alarm going off. She was finally safe in her own room. NO ONE could come in and hurt her. In addition, we told her that we needed to know that she was safe so that we could all get a good night's sleep. People who have lots of sleep have more fun during the day. We have always told her that in an emergency she can come out, and she should not worry about setting off the alarm if she needs help, such as vomiting or there is a fire. The alarm is truly a comfort to her, and she reminds us if she does not hear the beep of it being set when we close her door at night. 

I sometimes wonder how long we will keep the alarm. Will I still be setting it when she is 15, 16, 18.... She is indeed much younger than her age of 10. That is a result of FASD. We do not know how far she will mature. What I do know is that I am so grateful that we introduced it to her as a gift we were giving her and that she appreciates it. Although I do think there will be a time when she does not need the alarm anymore for behavior's sake, she may  always "need" it for her sense of security.


Monday, February 7, 2011

A Day In The Life ~ February Edition

Last week was filled with illness and high fevers around here. Everyone but me got sick. Now everyone is much better, but they are filled with grumpy moods. I think they feel like they can do more than their recovering bodies can do, which is causing frustration. So when I randomly decided that this would be our Day in the Life for February, I did not know that kids would be recovering and grouchy. It made for a day that required my utmost patience. However, it turned out to be a good, productive day. With all that said, here is a look at our day.

8 am ~ The kids woke up (about an hour later than usual). They collected their hygiene checklists and did their morning chores. Then they played with the dog and ate breakfast.

9 am ~ The kids changed all of the pet cages in the house. They are getting so much better at doing this on their own. They changed the bird, rat, and gerbil.

9 :30 am ~ We got down to school. First the kids did Explode The Code and then we did a page in Draw Write Now. They made the "Don't tread on me" snake, and we discussed how the segments of the snake represent the 13 colonies.  The kids then took turns copying the sentences under the snake. An occupational therapist told me about this neat way to help kids struggling with space between words. You have the child put a finger print in between their words to give them a visual of proper spacing. I am noticing an improvement after only a week. Tom Sawyer, who had a very rough sensory day, would have nothing to do with the ink pad. You can see his middle sentences are running together much more than the girls.

10 am ~ I tried to get some sensory time in for Tom Sawyer. Sometimes catching a weighted ball while balancing on a balance board helps him. It was marginal help today. We moved on and did a guided picture study using A Child's Book of Art Discovering Great Paintings. We studied The Death of Major Peirson by John Copley and Portrait of the Marquise de Pompadour by Boucher. The kids love this book and would have looked at more if the timer had not rang telling us it was time to get ready to leave.

11 am ~ We arrived at speech therapy for Tom Sawyer. The kids all made adorable 3D hearts at the Art for Life table while waiting for the speech therapist.  The girls played in the waiting room and did two pages of Horizon Math. They also ate our packed lunch.

12:30 pm ~ Tim and Goldilocks got their hair cut.

1:30 pm ~  When we got back home, Timothy and the kids all took turns playing a Lego computer game.

2 pm ~ I had a long phone call with my mother while the kids watched two Liberty Kids shows which ties in perfectly with our history lessons.

3 pm ~  I played Sequence, the board game, with the kids. What a fun game. It was my first time playing with them.

4:30 pm ~  Tom Sawyer went to all-boy Dance and Theater Class, and Tim went to advanced Fencing and Saber. Tom Sawyer is very excited about his next performance. He will have a solider part in Beauty and the Beast. The girls and I ran a few errands and had dinner. Everyone but Tim was home by 6:30. -Tim will be home soon from his two hour class.

6:30 pm ~ After the boys had dinner, there was more board games with Dad. Then story time and bed time rituals. I did chores and worked on this blog entry. Little Red Ridinghood and I did her vision therapy. After watching her struggle to learn how to read, I suspected a vision problem.  Sure enough, she is losing her focus on objects every three to five seconds. The hope is that, after 21 weeks of therapy, she will have normal focusing issues and will find reading much easier. She also has very poor peripheral vision, which will be corrected as well.

Another day of homeschooling complete.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Fun in the Parks...January Review

One of our family goals for 2011 is to explore 52 parks in our area.  There are close to 100 in our county so this should be a fun exploration. The idea is to see a different park every week. Due to the weather and illness, we only explored two parks in January. I am sure we will catch up in the coming weeks.

Park 1

We went for a snowy walk at our local botanical garden. This is a favorite place of ours. We had never seen it snow covered and loved the peaceful quiet in the heart of the city. It was a familiar but very beautiful walk. We saw many birds and a chipmunk who did not let me take his picture.

Park 2

What a difference two weeks makes! The weather was balmy for our second park day. We explored a park that was about 20 miles from our home. It had muddy nature trails between several playgrounds.  A perfect park for our family. Timothy (our oldest son) was satisfied with the swampy nature experience, and the kids were delighted with the different playgrounds. Mom and Dad were relieved to feel the sun on our faces without a biting wind.

I love the saying ~ Never leave a child indoors.  Happy exploring.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February...So Many Holidays, So Little Time

This is a fun month filled with all kinds of activities and holidays. We just love holidays!! Tomorrow is Groundhog Day. We will be talking about some funny traditions for Groundhog Day. I am pretty sure most of us can look outside and see that winter is not over. The Chinese New Year is on Thursday. We will be watching a library DVD on how families live in China. We will also have Chinese food and make lanterns that I found on clearance. I am going to put their breakfasts into the fun Chinese boxes below.

Then comes Valentine's Day. We will be reading lots of Valentine's Day books from the library and learning more about the significance of the day. I am looking around for lots of fun crafts to do that day.  We already decorated the front door with hearts.  I also plan on serving lots of red, white, and pink food for lunch.

I thought I would try a Montessori-inspired sensory box this month. Through the whole month of February we will be doing some fun activities with our sensory box. The kids will find spelling tiles in the box and put our special spelling word in order. This week's special word is February. Also, we will play I Spy, Operation (picking out certain things with tweezers or spoon), and do some graphing charts with the contents of the box. 

Toward the end of the month we will be joining the Festival of Knowledge (a statewide competition held in our area every year for school-aged kids). This is an opportunity for the kids to make a project revolving around the Cherokee Indians and do some public speaking. I was going to drop this activity, but then the kids were looking at what we had done and I realized we were halfway there. So we are going to take one day and finish as much as we can, and I will drop my perfectionist ways and be happy with the results. LOL!

For history this month, we are doing a different pivotal person during Colonial times each week. We did Ben Franklin for the last week of January. This week we are doing Paul Revere. Then we will do Thomas Jefferson for week two and George Washington for week three. I think we will then do a week on the Revolutionary War before moving to John Adams, Betsy Ross, Daniel Boone, Benjamin Banneker and a few others. I think only Betsy Ross will get a week to herself from the remaining pivotal characters.

Then February 21 is President's Day! We will be doing our traditional trivia scavenger hunt with my husband's childhood bronze presidents. The kids just loved this activity last year and got excited when they saw it on the calendar.  

(George Washington's hiding place last year -- his teeth were very important to him)

In addition to all of the above, we have two classes at the art and science museums which are always tons of fun. I am also trying to nail down a field trip to our local organic grocery store. FUN, FUN, FUN!!!