Reviving Motherhood

Learning on the Journey


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Homeschool Mother’s Journal 10-24-11

Linking up again this week.

In my life this week…

I was sick. What started as a killer headache went on and on and on the 3rd day I started running fever and aching all over. I have no idea what it was. No one else is sick, and I hope it stays that way.

In our homeschool this week…

I schooled from the couch a lot. On Friday I couldn’t even get up, but the kids were so sweet about coming to me and letting me supervise from bed. One downside is that when a homeschool mom gets sick there is no sub! I know I could take a day off if I really had to, but I prefer to save those days for great fun or real emergency.

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share…

You don’t always have to be at the kitchen table to have school. Have it where it makes the most sense. If it means teaching from the bed, from the rocking chair while you nurse a little one, listening to a reader while you wash dishes, or having a lesson outside, go for it. I am learning, finally, after so many years of burnout, that those veteran homeschoolers had it right when they said, “Don’t try to copy institutional school at home.” You’ll kill yourself.

I am inspired by…

Jessica at Teachable Moments. I have been reading her blog for awhile and it always encourages me.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

We continued swimming lessons this week. Since I was sick, that was about it. We didn’t even all make it to church. My 8-year-old did tag along to a football event with a friend Sunday, but this was a light week in the socialization department.

My favorite thing this week was…

Probably just loving on my little ones. I love that they are still little enough to love snuggling.

What’s working/not working for us…

We are successfully integrating language arts. The younger kids read to me daily, and they practice their handwriting independently. Otherwise, we have been doing group art/creative writing projects several times per week which they ADORE. For example, this week we made a list…something like a bucket list or “before I die” list…But I did not want to get that morbid with little ones. We called it “Some day I would like to…” and everyone made a list or poster about things they would like to do one day. We also illustrated our lists. Some of us had more illustration, while others had mostly writing, but everyone both wrote and drew something. I do these creative projects with them, which makes them happy. Clarice at Storybook Woods clued me into this when she once mentioned that children are far more likely to become engaged in an activity if they see you doing it too. I have found this to be true. They love it when I participate with them.

Elizabeth, my oldest, has been working on a story that takes place in the historical period she’s studying (ancient Rome). I have been noting misspelled words from her writing projects (and even her texts, haha) and making a list. Each day we have a “spelling bee” for 10 or 15 minutes. They are not competing against each other, only themselves. I give Elizabeth words she has missed and I give the younger kids age-appropriate words that they need to learn. I will probably start using a curriculum list to come up with these words. For each word they get right, they get a penny. I got this idea from Pioneer Woman. I think she gives her kids candy, but pennies work better for us.

What’s not working is my haphazard method of record keeping and grading. I do it, but not in a way that is as organized or consistent as it needs to be. It’s kind of like brushing my teeth, not my favorite thing, it’s just something that has to be done. I don’t feel upset about this, it’s just the next thing to work on and master.

Questions/thoughts I have…

How can I add more grammar to our language arts? They will learn most of it just by writing, but there are some things (like parts of speech) that have to be learned more from the book. I’m thinking through the best way to do this.

Things I’m working on…

Notes and letters. Catching up after being sick. Phone calls. Very mundane things. I need to upload pictures to send grandparents. I’m notoriously bad about this.

I’m reading…

I was going to re-read Mere Christianity this week, but I can’t find it. Maybe it ended up in my husband’s office? I need to track it down. It’s time for a dose of CS Lewis.

I’m cooking…

Hamburger steak, steamed cauliflower, and…not sure.

I’m grateful for…

Feeling better.

I’m praying for…

My children.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share…

Am I the last mom in the universe to know about this website? Brain Pop. Great educational stuff!!!


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This Week

I have resisted making this a “homeschool blog” because I want it to feel like a safe and inclusive place, and I know educational choices can be polarizing.  But the truth is that homeschooling does consume a huge amount of my life, more all the time.  So this week I’m joining The Homeschool Mother’s Journal.

In my life this week…

I feel like I’ve been barely staying afloat–or rather, dipping below the surface a few times!  It’s been a full week!

In our homeschool this week…

We are trying to find our rhythm.

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share…

Be a learner.  I learn from every mom I’m around and talk to.  I love to observe people, see what they are doing well, and adapt their methods to my own life.  It’s a lot better than winging it alone.

I am inspired by…

Right now, interest-led learning blogs.  Unschooling isn’t the right choice for our family for a number of reasons, but I see enthusiasm and a spark in unschoolers and relaxed homeschoolers that I don’t see in many other families.  And when I read homeschool blogs by hyper-organized moms with color coded binders, I want to cry.  When I read about relaxed schoolers, I think, “I can do this.  And it could even be fun.”

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

The kids had swimming lessons last week.  The facility where they are taking lessons had a scheduling difficulty for after-school hours, so the swim coach offered to do daytime lessons just for us.  I’m so happy since this instructor pushes them harder and they are learning more than they would with a high school-age instructor.  We had yearbook pictures with our homeschool group, and a birthday party for everyone in the group who had birthdays recently.  We had friends over last Sunday afternoon and we ended up inviting them for supper too.  Fun!  Sweet friends had us to their home Monday for delicious Texas barbeq

My favorite thing this week was…

Seeing the kids learn to swim (and improve their skill, for those who already know how).  I love to see them learning things that kids their age in our culture need to learn.  There is a long story behind why I appreciate that, but it makes my heart smile.

What’s working/not working for us…

I’m mentally re-working the way we do language arts.  We are currently doing each subject separately (spelling, English, etc.) and I need a way to integrate them.  It’s taking too much time and no one is enjoying it.  We have tried some creative writing projects and I’m working on how to incorporate that while still teaching the kids what they need to know.  But seriously?  I think they have learned more from a few fun writing projects than from weeks of book work.

Questions/thoughts I have…

Will this be the year we hit our stride?

Things I’m working on…

Still plugging away at the kitchen, even though I’m not blogging about it.  All the cabinets need to be cleaned out and organized.

I’m reading…

Sadly, nothing except my Bible.  I should pick up a book.

I’m cooking…

Grilled chicken and veggies, chicken soup, and white beans.

I’m grateful for…

Beautiful, amazing fall weather.

I’m praying for…

An acquaintance who lost her son in an accident this week.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share…

How about a few?

A few words for overwhelmed mamas of little ones…

Encouragement on out-of-the-box kids

More from Sally, Discipleship is a choice that will cost you everything…about discipling our kids…


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Preschool Guilt

Let me begin by saying that this isn’t an anti-preschool post.  Our church has an amazing preschool with beautiful, gentle, dedicated teachers.  If I had a need for a preschool, there would be no place I’d rather put my little ones.  It is a wonderful place.  So I’m not against preschool.

However, I do believe that our culture has an over-emphasis on the need for structured learning at a very early age, and this can create some guilt and anxiety among moms (and I suppose, dads) whose babies just aren’t ready to be away from mom, or who aren’t interested in even the most basic of early education.  But we’ve been conditioned to think that preschool is essential for our childrens’ development.

Maybe I’m just simple, but when I think about it I realize that preschools have only been around for a very short amount of time.  Even most parents my age did not attend preschool.  Did you?  Did your parents?

Very early education is not resulting in better educated people.  Just talk to most elderly people you know.  They are better educated than many people of my generation, and they did not have preschool—or kindergarten, for that matter.  They learned to read and write and do basic math in first grade.  I imagine they learned things like shapes and colors at home.  Many of them had parents who read to them, and they had a lot of time for imaginative play.  And they turned out OK—in fact, many of them make up “The Greatest Generation.”

We just think about education differently these days.  I hear moms saying, “Johnny is turning 2, so she will be in preschool this year,” just as parents of previous generations said, “Johnny is turning 6 so he will be in first grade this year.”  It’s expected.  Other parents say, “Suzy is 2 [or 3] and she should not be around her younger sibling all day, she should be with kids her own age!”  Really?  An excellent public school teacher told me one time that the main purpose of preschool is socialization.  Yet, while I agree that socialization is very important, I don’t believe it’s that important in preschool.  Again, our grandparents did not attend preschool yet are very socially well-adjusted as a whole.

Some preschools do introduce academics early and there is nothing wrong with that.  If a child is ready and has an interest in learning to read at age 4, then go for it!  But I think this is another area where parents can fall prey to guilt.  If their child is not reading and writing in preschool, their child is now “behind.”  If I can be a broken record and hark back to previous generations again, well-educated people who came before us started formal learning at age 6 or 7 and were none the worse off for it.  Another one of my teacher friends, a very well-respected educator with a Master’s in education told me that regardless of when children start or when they are developmentally ready to begin formal learning, they all even out by middle school anyway.  A child who reads at 4 is unlikely to have an edge over one who learns to read at 7 in the long run, unless he’s a genius.

Some kids are just not ready for school at an early age.  One of mine was not interested in learning even the simplest letters and numbers when he was 4.  I was so worried that he’d be behind.  One of my wise preschool teacher friends told me, “Don’t stress so much.  Remember, he has only been alive for 4 years!”  Now he excels at math.  When he was ready to learn, everything clicked into place and he got it instantly.  All the early education in the world wouldn’t have forced learning.

Kids are all different, with different needs.  So are their families.  Many families have legitimate reasons for choosing preschool, but guilt should not  be one of them.

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Teaching Children to Write, Lesson 1

I realized recently that I needed to beef up our creative writing activities in our homeschool.  After some thought, I decided to use the same writing prompts I used as a kid.

I’ll be recording our experiences as we follow each prompt.  “The pen,” Napoleon said, “is mightier than the sword.”  I believe that it’s important for our children to learn to write well, and any parent can do simple creative writing exercises with their kids, whether they homeschool them or not.  If you desire for your child to be a good writer but are unsatisfied with the instruction they are receiving at school, you can teach them to write at home!  It’s fun!

Today Elizabeth, my 10 year old, and I did “Free Writing.”  I find that when the teacher does the exercises as well, it’s a lot more fun and less intimidating for the child.  During free writing, you simply write whatever comes into your head for 5 minutes.  It’s a great exercise for overcoming writer’s block.  At the end of 5 minutes, you finish your sentence and then read what you wrote to everyone else.  As much as I hated this part as a kid, it really helps build confidence.

My E is not as insecure as I was at that age. She loved it.  She jumped straight into fantasy land with the story that was going through her mind. I was completely amazed at the poetic story-like description that she came up with in an unstructured, unplanned 5 minute block of time, without much prior experience.

I have heard that good readers make good writers; that the best way to learn to write is to read.  My girl reads A LOT.  In fact, she’s a gifted speed reader and can race through many chapter books a day with perfect retention.  I wasn’t that fast as a kid, but I did love to read.  Even if you have a reluctant reader, they can be exposed to good writing if you read aloud to them.  It’s an important component in the writing process.  This is what experienced writers have told me, and I believe them.

So that’s our experience with our first writing lesson.  Look for a report on Lesson 2 soon!


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Caring for High Functioning Autism by Samantha Driscole

I recently found this excellent article on the forums of Wrong Planet, a web site for people with autism and their families.  Asperger’s Syndrome is another name for high functioning autism.  According to the thread on WP, Samantha Driscole allows this article to be shared, which is why I’m including it in its entirety.  I believe that understanding these things can be helpful to just about everyone, because most of us have friends (big and little) with autism.  I think it’s important to seek to understand others, and this article makes so many wonderful points.  Perhaps it will also be helpful for parents of mildly autistic children or those whose children exhibit some traits of Asperger’s.

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Many people have asked how I know so much about high functioning autism when I have a severely autistic son. The reason I know so much is because when I was 14 my mother died and I was sent to live with my aunt Jess her husband and her kids Elizabeth who was 14 as well and Alyssa who was only 7 at the time. Alyssa has high functioning autism. Elizabeth and I would babysit her together when Aunt Jess and Uncle Luke went out shopping. I would also babysit another cousin of mine his name was Christan, he also had high functioning autism, and I babysat him until I was 19 when the family moved across the country.

Everyone knows that having a severely autistic child is extremely challenging and stressful. However many people take for granted what it is like to raise a child with high functioning autism. They often assume that because these children can talk and many do so quite well that it is just like raising any other child and that these children have no REAL impairment except for the fact they are a bit “Socially awkward.” Some may even assume the kids will “Grow out of it,” or even worse that the kid is really just a spoiled brat.

WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There are MANY challenges faced by high functioning autistics and their families. Some autistic individuals may learn better coping skills and social skills but they will NEVER grow out of it, nor will a “better parenting system,” change it unless the current parents are completely neglecting their kids. I know several families with high function autistic children as well some high functioning adults. This is for them to bring awareness to some of the challenges they face every day!

Self Care deficits

Even though individuals with high functioning autism are physically able to take care of themselves, they often have some self-care deficits. These deficits are NOT because they don’t know how or from being lazy, but rather these deficits are often due to the fact that they don’t THINK to do them. This is often believed to be because it doesn’t register with them the way it does with you or me. We naturally feel the need to shower, brush our hair and our teeth on a regular basis. But for someone with high functioning autism, unless it is part of their own routine, it will not occur to them to do these tasks on a regular basis. It is also common for them to get so involved in their special interest they forget everything else. One common self-care deficit, I have noticed, is those individuals will wear the exact same outfit every day. This is very common and I believe it has to do with the need for sameness. Another common deficit is they won’t dress appropriately for the weather or special occasions. This may be due to both sensory issues as well as wanting to wear a certain outfit or not seeing the point of changing the way they are dressed.

Another reason for self-care deficits in people with high functioning autism is sensory issues. Many people on the spectrum have mild to severe sensory issues. These can easily get in the way of self-care. Some people on the spectrum hate the feel of water on their skin or the feel or sound of a toothbrush scraping against their teeth. The flavor and texture of toothpaste may also cause some individuals discomfort. Some people on the spectrum hate having their hair brushed or cut because of sensory issue as well as an aversion to change.

Safety

Concerns about the safety of a loved one with high functioning autism keep many parents and families awake at night often haunting their dreams. This may seem odd to you, “These kids can talk and are often very intelligent, Thus their parents and families should have no more worry than any other parent right? WRONG! Even though these individuals are considered high functioning personal safety if VERY OFTEN mildly to severely impaired. One reason for this is that these individual often have no REAL sense of danger. This varies from individual to individual. When I say no REAL sense of danger, I am not saying they are not afraid of thing or they don’t see anything as dangerous, I mean they often don’t recognize or more likely process a dangerous situation. One example of this is an individual who is terrified to go on an escalator at the mall, yet the same individual may bolt right out into the street an hour later. In cases like this, it is that their brains don’t make a connection or register the immediate and very really present danger.

Past the age of ten or so parents often, don’t really worry about the dangers of other people outside of their child falling in with the “wrong group.” This is NOT the case for parents of children with high functioning autism. This is because these individuals can’t read body language, are often very trusting and don’t really register or understand what are and are not appropriate boundaries in relationships with other people. These individuals are far more likely to become victims of a crime. They are also prime targets for sexual predators.

Their inability to read people makes it a lot easier for people to deceive them. Often times these individuals can be convinced to do something they might not want to do or comply with out really understand they can say no or why they should say no. This may also be because they are taught to comply from a young age. Some individuals may end up being hurt or used by a “friend,” but they continue to spend time with them and communicate with them regularly often baffling parents’ family and friends. This is often for several reasons, not understanding appropriate boundaries, not understanding why what they are being asked to do is wrong or thinking it is what you are supposed to do. They still care about the friend and they don’t think it will happen again. They may also feel that if they don’t communicate with this friend and do as they are asked they are being a bad friend. A great deal of individuals on the spectrum love and forgive unconditionally. This will also cause them to be used or abused repeatedly.

Some individuals don’t register that strangers may not always have good intentions and may wish to deceive them. This goes back to being unable to read people and often being unconditionally trusting. So if a stranger offered to show them something of their special interest they would likely go with them. YES I am saying some individual might fall for “I have my puppy in my car if you would like to come see her, she is really friendly,” or “ Can you help me get home I don’t feel so well/need help with my bags,”

Other safety concerns might be that if lost scared or injured many individuals may hide or runaway, they might not recognize the police or emergency responder’s uniforms. Some individuals may become unable to speak when under a lot of stress or afraid. Another safety issue is that some individuals might be forgetful. This becomes a safety issue when they light a candle or put the stove on to cook something. Then they start doing something else, like reading about their special interest, going online, or watching TV; and forgetting what they were doing a few minutes ago, they may decide to go out because they forgot about the lit candle or the food cooking. Some people may have adverse reactions to fire alarms or again when concentrating on one thing they might block them out all together. Some individuals might ignore pains or injuries that need attention and go on with the day as they normally would.

Wandering

97% of individuals with autism wander. Wandering can be very dangerous. Many people with autism are drawn to water sources, have a love for water, and will go right into a lake or river. They don’t have the sense of danger to tell them that this can be dangerous. Not so shocking, the number one cause of death among individuals who do wander is drowning. Being drawn to things like train track or small places is also common and can be deadly as well. When you have an autistic child that wanders, you need to be vigilant 100 percent of the time. Many families live in “the house of locks,” locking both inside and outside the house in a desperate attempt to keep their loved one inside and safe. When your child is a wanderer, looking away for even a moment is dangerous. It only takes a moment for a child to slip away and when they do, you don’t know if you will find them and if you do, if they will be alive, when you find them. These are only a few common safety concerns.

Changes in routine

Individuals on all ends of the spectrum have their own little routines and ways they expect things to be. When plans change and their routines are interrupted, they are at best unpleasant to be around. ”Oh come on, everyone gets upset when it come to unexpected change that’s no big deal,” WRONG AGAIN! For individuals on the spectrum unexpected changes or unwanted ones can throw them off completely. Best-case scenario, they are upset and angry for a few hours or worst-case scenario, they may stop functioning all together. Often when a routine is disturbed, the person will shut down completely and not be able to continue with their day normally. Unexpected change will also commonly trigger a meltdown in varying degrees.

Sensory issues

Many individuals on the autism spectrum also have sensory issues no matter where they are on the spectrum. They maybe hypersensitive to touch, colors, tastes, smells, sounds, lights and textured. Many individuals are sensitive to many things within varying degrees. This will cause them to avoid certain foods, materials and places. Often these individuals become overwhelmed in public and experience sensory overload causing a meltdown. With many individuals, sensory information comes in unfiltered. This means they get hit with all the smells, sights, sounds and sensation at once. That combines with heightened senses can make a busy area overwhelming. As I said before certain toothpastes, tags and textures can really bother them and may even be painful to these individuals

Meltdowns

Meltdowns are NOT the same thing as a temper tantrum. There are distinct differences. A meltdown is when individuals loose all control of themselves. They may throw things or fall to the ground kicking and screaming, or they may hit their head repeatedly. Often time they may appear to have lost their temper and are yelling. Meltdowns might take the form of inconsolable crying. Some individuals may engage in self-injurious behaviors during such as head banging, biting themselves, or punching themselves repeatedly. Meltdowns are often caused by an accumulation of factors such as frustration, verbal over load (being given too many verbal instructions at once), sensory over load, unexpected change routine, and/or trouble understanding or communicating something. It is important to remember these behaviors are not in the individual’s control. Meltdowns often come in varying degrees from very mild where they may seem moody to extreme where they shut down completely or scream yell and cry. Individuals may say things they don’t really mean during meltdowns as well. The degree of the meltdown often varies on the events of the day. Lack of sleep has been shown to increase the likelihood of meltdowns. No one enjoys going through a meltdown especially those going through it. Many people stare and criticize. This doesn’t help.

Things that don’t help with meltdowns

* Yelling
* Criticism
* Staring
* Whispering
* Your judging

When a meltdown happens, you need to let it run it’s coarse till the individual regains control. If there is SIB (self-injurious behavior), try to stop it and move things to keep them safe during a meltdown. They don’t consider others or their own safety! Don’t judge and move on with life. Remember meltdowns happen; it is not the end of the world! YES, adults have them too. Many people don’t know how to react to them when adults have them, because it is “normal” for kids to have meltdowns but autistic adults have them too and it is just as normal!

Obsessions

Individuals on the spectrum usually become obsessed with a particular object or subject. This is what is referred to as their special interest. So how is this a challenge? Simple, you come home to your kids and they talk about 30 different things. They tell you about their day, their friends and about social dramas. When your child has high functioning autism, it is not this way. You come home and hear about 1 thing, their special interest. This will dominate 99 percent of your conversations. Within a week, you will know everything they know about the subject. They will peruse this interest to the exclusion of everything else. If their interest is a show or a movie, you will see it over and over again until the name of it makes you want to rip out your hair! They have a great deal of trouble talking outside their interests.

Communication

Just because they are high functioning, it doesn’t mean they are without communication deficits! People with high functioning autism can’t read body language and often don’t produce it or produce very little of it. This varies from person to person as to how much they can read and produce. However, for what they can read and produce they are very limited. They may have a flat or blunted affect (showing little to no emotions on their face)

Often times the body language they do produce does not match how they are actually feeling. Laughing when confused or frustrated is one example. Often time they may not have control of their voice; it may be too high or too low. They also don’t have much if any control over the tone and the tone won’t always reflect their actual mood or feelings. They may seem rude while not trying to be and may even be in a great mood.

They often have trouble understand figures of speech, because they tend to be very literal thinkers; but may learn to use them as they get older. This also means you need to be clear in your directions, instead of saying “shut the car door,” you need to say “get in or out of the car and shut the door.” They may be too honest and not filter their responses.

Being unable to read nonverbal cues and body language means they don’t realize when they are boring or have offended someone. This also means they can’t tell when someone is lying to them or wants to deceive them. This causes safety issues. Often when it comes to communicating one on one, high functioning adult can do very well but in a group they may shut down. Meltdowns may also cause communication issues as some individuals will become nonverbal during a severe meltdown and when under distress. This again creates another safety issue.

Age appropriate interests or lack there of

Many high functioning autistics don’t relate to their own age group. They may prefer the company of adults as kids, and/or have immature interests as adults. Many high functioning autistics still have and like buying toys especially if they relate to their special interest. They may like watching shows they are “too old for” and often may be mentally younger or older than their chronological age. Often it varies and in some ways they can be younger and in others they are mentally older than their age. They might not be interested in things kids their age are. A 20 plus year old might be happier receiving toys, books, and items of their obsession, than things others their age would want.

Sleep

Many autistic individuals at all ends of the spectrum have sleep issues. They may be up late into the night and wake up within a few hours. Another common issue is they will wake up several times in the middle of the night. The lack of adequate sleep increases likelihood of meltdowns and they become frustrated easier. This also means the parents get less sleep. Waking in the night can be a safety hazard if they decide to try to cook something and fall back to sleep while it is cooking.

Diet

Many individuals on the spectrum have very limited diet and may have specific routines surrounding their diets. They may only eat certain foods with a certain side on a certain day. Only want to eat one or two foods all the time for every meal. Still, others may need a bland diet, not being able to handle the sensation or spice of foods. (Due to concurring digestive issues with a large portion (but not all) of the individuals on the spectrum) individuals may be on and need to stick to a special diet like the GFCF diet. Many times, it is a struggle to get someone on the spectrum to try any new foods at all. Others on the spectrum may not want to eat at all or are hungry on rare occasions.

Anxiety

A surprisingly large number of individuals on the spectrum also have a high rate of anxiety that may manifest as odd or unusual phobias. Some individuals will suffer from severe separation anxiety. Stranger anxiety is also common among individuals the spectrum. No matter what form the anxiety takes it can be very challenging to deal with.

Isolation

Parents of individuals on all ends of the spectrum may feel isolated and alone. They often don’t know where to turn for help and may become increasingly frustrated. They feel as though they have to deal with this alone. Individuals on the spectrum are often socially isolated and have few if any friends. Some may not even want friends. While others want friends but struggle to make and keep them. Often time parent have said their kids friends out grew them.

Stimming

Stimming is short for self-stimulatory behaviors. These are a series of repetitive behaviors such as rocking, pacing, head banding, hand flapping, chewing, object watching, objects spinning or spinning one self. These are only a few examples. This is done to help regulate oneself during times of extreme emotions or over stimulation.

“They SEEM so Normal!” Finding acceptance and compaction

Acceptance is often a MAJOR struggle for high functioning individuals. Parents, family members, advocates, close friends and the individuals themselves have to fight everyday for acceptance and understanding. There are many reasons for this. One reason is that people assume that high functioning autism means that these children and adults are without any REAL challenges. They assume that the kid’s only REAL challenge is they are just a bit socially awkward or shy.

Another common issue is that people won’t believe the child/ individual is autistic at all! People can’t see that your child has autism because they are verbal and in many cases very verbal. People will see your child acting “oddly,” or having a meltdown and they will judge you and your child.

They make assumptions, stare and whisper nasty remarks. There are also people who will make rude comments to your face. Some people have actually accused these parents of making excuses for their “poor parenting and badly behaving children,” They have no idea the daily struggles these families face.

What is most baffling is how people will often say “you/he/she doesn’t LOOK autistic.” This is because autism doesn’t have any obvious physical abnormalities. You can’t tell if someone is autistic JUST by looking at them, especially if they are on a higher end of the spectrum.

Regression

Regression is often said to be rare in individual with high functioning autism after age 3, but I have not found this to be the case. Regression is actually somewhat common. Many things may cause an individual to regress or appear to regress, changes in health– if you see regression, get a check up; there could be a health issue that has gone undetected– major change such as transitioning schools, or moving; or several majors changes within a year can all contribute to regression. Trauma can also cause regression.

REMEMBER

It is important to remember that autism affects everyone differently. No two people are exactly the same in their deficits, and the severity will also differ from individual to individual. It is also important to remember that as the child grows older their special interest, routine, sensory issues and sensory needs will often change. A child who stimmed mildly but was very sensitive to tags and such, may become used to them but still need to stim a lot more. Individuals present the characteristic of their autism differently! When you have met one person with autism, you have only met ONE person with autism and have only seen one form it can take!

Even though they are high functioning, their functioning level can shift from day to day. Some days they may seem to be functioning higher than others!


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Calling

I’m often asked, “Why do you homeschool?”  (or “Why do you continue to homeschool?”)

I’m not a homeschool zealot, so my answer is pretty straightforward: calling.  At this point, we know we are called to homeschool our kids.  We aren’t so arrogant as to believe that this is for everyone, that no one can teach our kids as well as we can, or that our calling may not change one day.  But for now, homeschooling is a matter of obedience to God.

That carries me through on those tough days.  And yes, in spite of the fact that some homeschoolers seem to leave the impression that every day is filled with learning delight, we all have bad days.  We have days when we are weary, when all the kids do is fight, days filled with interruptions, days when we wonder if we are doing a good enough job.

Obedience (whether in this area or any other) is an opportunity to learn to lean on Jesus.  Such lofty words!  That’s easier said than done.  This summer I’ve had debilitating physical and mental fatigue, brought on by a combination of factors.  I felt unprepared.  I was up all night with the toddler the night before school started this year.  With each passing hour of darkness, the flicker of hope I had for a perfect first day of school faded.  I prayed all night long, “Jesus, help me to lean on you,” alternating with, “Help me to be kind and gentle with the kids tomorrow.” I know myself so well.  I like a plan, and I like to force things.  When things don’t go according to plan I get frustrated, and it’s easy to take out frustration on those closest to me.

God was gracious enough to answer those prayers and I slogged through the day with breathed sentence prayers.  My words were (mostly) sweet.  In spite of all that went wrong, it was still a good, if imperfect, first day of school.

I couldn’t have done that on my own, and I certainly couldn’t have done it without a sense of calling.

Some days I fail to lean on Jesus.  One day, perhaps, I’ll be mature enough that I can lean on Him without an entire night of asking for His help—it will just come naturally.  In the meantime, I’m grateful that He leads us gently and helps us be obedient to all the things He’s called us to do.


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So You’re Thinking of Homeschooling

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I’ve had this feeling over the past few weeks that I need to do a post on homeschooling.  I have no idea why; it seems like an odd time of year to do that.  However, maybe there’s somebody out there who’s contemplating whether or not to homeschool in the coming months or next year.  I’ll scratch out a few thoughts if that’s you.

First, I’ll reiterate that this isn’t a homeschool blog and I’m not one of those people who believes homeschooling is the answer to the world’s problems.  Jesus is the answer to the world’s problems and there are many good schools out there, along with dedicated parents who are doing a great job with their children in a traditional school setting.

1.  Homeschooling is a matter of calling, and to my mind, that’s what you need to settle first if you’re a Christian parent who’s thinking of homeschooling your children.  Has God called you to this?  Because I’ll be honest, while homeschooling is a great joy, there are plenty of challenges.  If you haven’t settled in your heart that you are truly called you’ll become discouraged and want to throw in the towel at the first bump in the road.

2.  Is your husband on board? You can’t do it without his support.  If he’s against it, don’t even consider it until you’re on the same page.  If you’re convinced that’s what you need to be doing, pray until you come to a place of unity.  Don’t nag.

3.  Don’t be excessively idealistic. I think many of us parents come into homeschooling expecting a cozy one-room schoolhouse setting with our little students joyfully looking forward to all the lessons we’ve spent so many hours preparing.  It’s not always like that.  While homeschooling does provide the opportunity to tailor education to each child’s specific needs, and even to his particular interests, there will likely be something at some point that your child just is not happy about.  Homeschooled children have learning and behavioral needs just like other children.  Students and teacher in a homeschool have bad days just like people in traditional school.  Again, homeschooling is immensely rewarding.  It’s so exciting to me to see my kids have those lightbulb moments when they get something.  I’d miss that if they weren’t with me.  But every moment is not like that.

4.  Allow for an adjustment period. My children have never even been to traditional school and we had an adjustment period after we began this school year.  Although we were dedicated and consistent, the first couple months of this school year were challenging.  It’s only started getting fun, and easier, over the past couple weeks.  I’ll be honest, there were times during those first months when I wondered, “Is this really worth it?”  Now I’m happy we stuck it out.  We’re seeing the rewards.

5.  Don’t copy traditional school. I’ve heard this advice from many veteran homeschoolers, and since they don’t often clarify I wasn’t really sure what they meant.  Does this mean that we should not have high educational standards?  NO!  It does mean that homeschooling by its very nature will look different from traditional schooling.  For one thing, a homeschooled student can often finish his daily work in just a few hours because homeschooling is more time efficient.  No waiting for the period to be over, no changing classes or busy work.  In my opinion, it’s important for homeschooled students to be disciplined and organized in how they approach learning, but this does not mean that they have to sit at their desks from 8 till 3.  (I’ll add that I have friends who have taken a very relaxed approach to learning and still turned out brilliant children who earned scholarships, did great in college, and have successful careers.)

6.  Don’t become overwhelmed by all the choices. When my mom started homeschooling, 25 years ago, there were only a couple of curriculum companies who would sell to homeschoolers.  Today there are so many choices it will make your head swim.  Rainbow Resource, which carries most educational materials for homeschoolers, is as big as the Dallas yellow pages.  Personally, I have purposefully stayed away from homeschool book fairs and other venues where I will be overwhelmed by too much stuff.  I’ve tried to stick to a few choices that are working for us and changing only if necessary.  Too much can be distracting to me.  On the other hand, if you are the kind of person who can look at a wide variety of materials and make a decision without feeling overwhelmed, a book fair might be really helpful.

7.  Homeschooling doesn’t have to cost a lot. Even buying most curriculum new, I have never spent more than $300 a year on curriculum and supplies.  That’s one month of private school.  It’s probably as much as most parents spend on uniforms and supplies for a child in public school.  But it’s possible to even spend a lot less than that, if you buy a few “spine” resources and take advantage of the library and other free/cheap resources.

8.  Get support. Whether it’s a formal homeschool group or an unofficial circle of homeschooling friends, you need the support of others who are traveling the same path.  Otherwise you and your children end up feeling very isolated and it doesn’t work well for anyone.

9.  Don’t worry about socialization. The myth persists, even though most homeschool families I know have calendars packed with social and extracurricular activities.  I know a lot of homeschoolers, and those I’d consider antisocial usually had antisocial parents…  Antisocial parents who were not homeschooled.  Raising a socially well-rounded child has more to do with parents than school, in my opinion.

10.  BOOKS! Fill your home with books.  Find used book sales that sell books for 10 cents to $1 each and create a home library.  If our kids read every book in our home, they would have a completely well-rounded education, with the possible exception of a little bit of math and science.  When books are important in your home, it creates and atmosphere of learning, both in official school hours and outside them.

Check out these links as well:

Homeschooling in Louisiana

How to Feed a Brain

Homeschooling Heresies

 

(This wonky wordpress spacing is driving me crazy!  Sorry!)


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Good Books for Boys and Girls

children reading poster2 jwsmith

Recently my friend Joni asked about good books for little boys.  Oh my, this is a favorite subject!  I have thought about doing a whole post just on how to shop for used books!  I’m addicted.

I have been scratching out a short list of favorite books for boys and girls.  Of course there is a lot of overlap.  Girls will probably enjoy most books on the boy list, and boys will undoubtedly enjoy many books on the girl list.  But this is roughly divided into “boy” and “girl” books.

I’ve loosely listed them by age, starting with easy readers and moving to read-alouds (if your children are young or not proficient readers).  This is just a sampling of some of our favorite books.  I will add to the list as I think of more.  Sorry, I didn’t have time to look up every author or link to a place to buy each book.  Google for more info.

NOTE: This does not include preschool books, necessarily.  That would be a whole different post!

Books for Boys

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Snipp Snapp and Snurr series by Maj Lindham

Books by Thornton W. Burgess

Eddie books by Caroline Haywood

Peter and Penny books by Caroline Haywood

Hank the Cowdog series

Non-fiction books about ships, animals, tractors, military, sports, historical eras, cowboys, Scout guides…even if they are not in scouts…whatever.  A popular one here is Great Disasters of the World…go figure…My 6 year old would rather read about real-life stuff than fiction any day.

Dinosaur books, especially those from the Answers in Genesis

Books by EB White, especially Stuart Little and Trumpet of the Swan

Owls in the Family by Farley Mowatt

The Cricket in Times Square

Dangerous Book for Boys

The Sign of the Beaver

Ivan series by Myrna Grant (about a Christian family in Russia under communism…out of print…look on Amazon)

Little Britches series (These contain some mild cussing I think, and possibly some slightly more mature themes.  Pre-reading recommended.)

Johnny Tremaine by Esther Forbes

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein (and for older boys, The Lord of the Rings trilogy)

I believe the old Hardy Boys books are OK…someone correct me if I’m wrong

I have heard great things about GA Henty’s historical novels for boys, but I have never read them myself.

Missionary biographies (Brother Andrew, Nate Saint, Hudson Taylor, etc.)  These are typically adventurous and so character-building!

Biographies of great Americans (Sower series, If You Grew Up With series and others)

Books for Girls

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Flicka Ricka and Dicka series (picture books with engaging text) by Maj Lindham

Five Little Peppers series

Happy Little Family series by Rebecca Caudill  (LOVE these!)

Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Bobbsey Twins series

Betsy series by Caroline Haywood

American Girl books (pre-reading recommended)

Anne of Green Gables

The Secret Garden

A Little Princess

Missionary Biographies (Gladys Ayleward, Amy Carmichael, Elisabeth Elliot and others)

Biographies of historical figures


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Back to School Tips, Anyone?

children-playing-school

It’s back to school time and I have a question for you!

What makes your family’s school days go better, whether your children attend traditional school or whether they are homeschooled?  Do you have any mom tips to share?

I started our new homeschool year with a lot of apprehension, but God has been very good and we had the best first days of school that I can remember (either as a student or now as a teacher).

A couple things helped.  One is simply throwing myself on the mercy of God, knowing that I can’t do this on my own.  I am not super organized or particularly gifted, and teaching my children is more a matter of obedience to God and personal calling than of being a homeschool devotee.  That said, I do want them to have a happy childhood and a good education, so I’m so thankful for God’s help to enable it go better and better.  The longer I parent (admittedly not very long yet) the more I realize that I just can’t get it right on my own; I have to have Jesus.

Secondly, I made a realistic schedule, something like this one (but tailored to our family). This was not my first go-round with a schedule, not by a long way.  I have typed countless ones over the years, all of which have failed…until this year.  I gave myself a bit more grace, which mainly means I didn’t put things on there that I knew would probably not get done anyway (getting up for a 4am workout, for example…if you do this please don’t tell me).  I also alerted the kids to my expectations in advance, which has helped.  I don’t say this to brag, but rather to encourage you that if schooling/routine/child training have seemed almost impossible, hang in there and it will get better!  All these years of rocky starts are finally paying off for me!

Third, for a couple weeks now I’ve been preparing for the next day the night before…lay out clothes for everyone, make any necessary advanced breakfast prep, make sure I know what’s for supper the following night, check the calendar for appointments, and scratch out a quick to-do.  (I have this written into the schedule so I don’t forget, because I WOULD forget.)  This 10 minutes of preparation  makes the mornings go SOOOO much better.

So what about you?  I can’t wait to hear!