Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Monumental Little Things

I always say it's the little things in life that mean the most. And dealing with autism, that couldn't be more true. I say now, and I will always believe, that I am so blessed because I don't skip over all the little things with my son. With him, the little things for others are HUGE things!

With all of that said, today is a monumental little thing day. (side note: Monumental Mondays sounds kinda good....I may need to do that!) All he's been talking about the last few weeks has been a D30. For you non-gamers out there, a D30 is a 30 sided die. My son LOVES dice, and we like gaming. But none of us have had a D30. When my son found this out, it became an obsession. D30s are not exactly cheap, at least usually they aren't. But as luck would have it, we were blessed to find a set that had some rather rare dice for less than $8.00 shipped with 2 day shipping. Of course I order this on a non business day, so it took 4 days. 4 days of him watching for the mail man. 4 days of building excitement and non-stop dreaming about HIS D30!

The monumental day was today. Tracking confirmed the D30 was out for delivery. We waited so patiently (haha, yeah right!) and made our trip to the mailbox to discover NO PACKAGE! Say WHAT?! How could this be?! He cried. He was so upset! There was NO package, all that build up, gone. WHERE WAS IT????? I calm him down, and we check the tracking info. Silly mommy that I am, I thought it said USPS when it really said UPS.  We were back on! Queue phone call from the doctor that sent me out right then for some lab work (I'm ok, don't be alarmed!) and when we came back we just knew we'd find that much anticipated package. We checked on the side deck, No dice. We checked the back deck, No dice. Surely UPS would not place a package in the mailbox, so I came in to contact them. Of course it if says that it has been delivered, which is said it had, you have to contact the SELLER per UPS contact page. Sigh....where was the package of DICE?

As it turns out, it was in the mailbox all along. He's now been playing for the last 90 minutes with his D30. He's called his mamaw, he's been showing it off to friends....he's so happy with his $8.00 package of dice. And that, my friends, is being blessed by the little things. This is a day I'll never forget, and I'm sure he won't either!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

2015 Goals

Earlier, Lisa over at Golden Grasses issued a challenge to blog about our 2015 goals. 

I once read a motivational type article that said, instead of making resolutions of change, such as losing x amount of weight, to set more realistic goals like, "don't gain weight." So I've pretty much lived by that the last few years. There's only one problem with this. If you WANT change, you have to make a GOAL for CHANGE! Just simply setting a goal for no negative change doesn't really help matters. So,Lisa...Challenge accepted!

Here are my personal 2015 Goals:

Professional: 

I want to install a new scheduling software that will allow me to schedule photography clients, send out billing invoices, etc. 

I hope to have my studio up to par. I have a lot of great ideas planned out, and some will be put into effect in time for Valentine's Day!

I have a great program that will help tremendously! I can't wait to see it in use. I just need to make the time to learn it properly. I'll be scheduling Valentine mini sessions soon that will use all new props and backdrops. I'm so excited! If you'd like to see my work, check out my Facebook photography page.

Personal:

I want to make it to the gym at least 3-4 days each week. I hope to take more time for myself, which is something I rarely do. I want to focus on taking care of myself-inner health and outer appearance. I want to read my Bible more. 

I don't take nearly enough time to take care of myself, the way I should. I plan to change that this year. I have a membership already, and friends to go with me. I just need to find time for myself to go. Afterall, a happy mom is a happy family!


Planning: 

I hope to schedule more social activities/attend more social activities this year. Schedule blog posts, and have a routine to our days.

This is my character flaw. Sticking to plans. I'll need prayer and help with this. 

Organization:


2015 will be the year for de-cluttering and organization of my home! I am going to totally revamp the kitchen, dining room, bookshelves, closets, and all clutter catching areas! I AM GOING TO DO THIS!

We definitely live in this home. But, there's just a little too much life going on HAHA! It's time to part ways with the clutter! I see a HUGE yard sale in my future!

Homeschool:

I want a routine to our days, as stated above. I want to plan weekly lessons, and stick to them. I want a scheduled day where we have breakfast at the same time, lunch at the same time, and lessons in between. This will benefit us both greatly. I also want to include more outings and more hands on activities

Right now, I feel scatterbrained and unorganized. I don't like that. I don't feel like we are covering what I want covered, mostly because of too much outside stimuli. I plan to make a school days #1 priority in 2015. Things will be scheduled around school, instead of school being scheduled around other things. 

Motto/Scripture Verse: 



"I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13

Word of the Year:
 
"Can"  I don't believe we use the positive tense of the word Can enough. We are always saying Can't, but rarely say Can. I want to change that.




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If you want to work on your own 2015 Goals, here's a GREAT graphic Lisa created. This is the one I used for my own personal Goal Sheet! Thanks Lisa for the challenge! Don't forget to pop over to Golden Grasses and say "HI!" 



Friday, December 26, 2014

Homeschool expectations and Autism.

Homeschooling autism is a little different than homeschooling "typical." But does that mean that we expect less? I was talking to my mom about how I plan to change things up a little after the 1st, and that led me to think about the Board of Ed telling me they didn't expect him to have stellar written communication skills, so it was ok if he didn't accomplish that anytime soon. What some may see as a relief, or a help from the BOE, I see as a challenge. You see, he wasn't expected to speak, show emotion, or behave anything like a "typical child," yet he does. He has a fantastic vocabulary, has more emotion and empathy that anyone I know, and his behavior is spot on. When we see challenges, we tackle them head on. Autism is NOT a disability for us, it is a brick wall in the road to our full potential, and one that gets chipped away little by little.


That same boy who was never supposed to speak has spent the entire evening telling us about an elaborate city he has built using a city and railroad simulator program we bought him. The same one who was feared to never develop any sort of reading comprehension has a stack of 8 "Handy Answer" books that he LOVES reading, and then telling us all the fun facts he's learned from them.

Anytime we have been faced with adversity and challenges, I've devoted our days to that challenge. For example, he HATED the color green. I mean the aversion was so bad he'd actually vomit when he saw green in his little bubble world. So for an entire week his world was nothing but green. Green clothes, green toys, green eating utensils, green EVERYTHING. What is his favorite color now? GREEN! For this year, writing is really important to me. Both penmanship and communication, I've given extra work in both. He has to write out all of his answers, and if it is messy, he has to write it over and over until it's neat. He isn't to just do a quick response either, but a full "question restated" answer. "What is your favorite color?" "My favorite color is green." We still practice handwriting letters in block AND cursive. We have handwriting apps for iPad...the whole nine yards. We WILL tackle writing, and we will prevail!

The point is, don't feel relief from lack of expectations, instead feel challenged to set the bar even higher and surpass the "should have been" expectations! Set your goal. Have a solid plan and what you hope to accomplish, then except nothing less! That's what we intend to do!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!!

We hope you have a wonderfully blessed Christmas! May God bless you and yours today, and always! We are blessed beyond measure, and for that I am truly thankful. Again, Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Autism and the Holidays`


Autism doesn't necessarily make life harder, it just makes it different. It's during the Holiday Season that I feel this most. Everything seems to be a little different, not always bad....just different.

When he was still a tiny toddler, it was very important to me that he "get" the magic of Christmas. I was worried he'd never get the magic of the reindeer, Santa, elves, and everything that makes Christmas so wonderful for kids. During his days of early intervention, I asked all of his therapists who emphasize the magical aspects of Christmas in an attempt to "teach" him how to "get" it. And that is exactly what they did.

A few brought over various art projects, such as making a Rudolph head, or gluing cotton balls onto Santa to make his beard. But one very special speech therapist went above and beyond. Miss Jackie, as we called her, brought Santa to our house! Santa came, with his big bag of goodies, and delivered fruit and crayons. Then Santa sat down with my son, in his comfort zone, and colored for an hour with him. He spoke with him, and just spent time with him. For kids with Autism, a visit with Santa can be impossible sometimes. There's so much in the way of external stimuli that it is overstimulating at times, and right down scary. There are Sensitive Santa events, etc. But even those can throw off a schedule, or be hard depending on the location and time. I was so very grateful to her for bringing Santa into our little world, so that my son could have his own magic.

That is how we brought Holiday Magic to our autism filled lives. We taught the magic early on, so that the love of the magic would develop on its own. My son with autism is now 9. The magic of the holiday season is alive and well, and as strong as ever. Autism doesn't define us. Autism doesn't make things harder. Autism just makes things a little different, and sometimes even better than could have ever been with out it.

Here's how we handle the Holidays.

1.) Don't over do it. Yeah...easy said, right?  I typically host Thanksgiving dinner at my home. I always make sure to add in a few things my son will actually eat. One of the hardest things to deal with in terms of his autism is his picky diet. Thankfully, he will eat ham now. So he had ham and sweet potatoes, and he even tried a roll. This is a great time to try and introduce a new food, but don't push it. And don't sweat it if they simply don't want to take part. That was hard to deal with at first, for me. But now I take joy in the fact that I know he's enjoying himself, even if he's not at the dinner table.

2.) Try to reduce external stimuli. We try to avoid the large shopping crowds by splitting up the shopping. One day I'll go, the next day his step-dad goes. If he wants to go, that's fine, but we are armed with ear plugs just in case.

3.) EAR PLUGS! They are fantastic.

4.) We start opening gifts early, and open gifts later on, too. He really enjoys his gifts, and opening them. But we soon found that he did not like opening them all at once. He would rather open one or two, and enjoy those, explore them, etc., then move on to another. He doesn't get gifts through out the year, just at Christmas time-so we tend to go overboard. He gets a few things for his birthday, and little treats here there for various holidays, but Christmas is our big time. I try to group things together-but not overwhelmingly so. so He may have a box with books in it, but not so many he gets overwhelmed.

5.) Take breaks and expect to change plans. There are times when we may have planned to go to visit friends and family, and we just can't due to "an autism" day. And that's ok. Explain your situation, they will understand.

6.) If you want the magic, you have to build the magic. We started off early teaching him all the magical things of Santa, elves, etc. We watch movies, we do crafts, etc. Many times, kids with autism have to be "taught" things that come naturally to other kids. So if you want the magic, you might have to "teach" the magic.

7.) Think outside the box for gifts. Who cares if "all the other boys" in the neighborhood are asking for the next big toy while yours only wants a kitchen timer? Don't buy gifts that YOU want, think about what truly makes them happy. One year, my son got a 3 pack of Viva paper towels. That's still one of his favorite gifts of all times! This year, he's getting a minimum/maximum thermometer and a digital kitchen timer! Remember, the gift is for them.

It is my hope that you find joy and happiness this Christmas. Don't sweat the small stuff, and just sit back and enjoy the magic of the season.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Schoolhouseteacher.com Yearly Membership Review

Schoolhouseteachers.com
Yearly Membership Review



For the past couple of weeks, I have been blessed to review a yearly membership
subscription for Schoolhouseteachers.com, for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and The Schoolhouse Review Crew.  You'll find great tips, information and ideas at both links.


About the product:

Schoolhouseteachers.com, a division of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, is an online based homeschool site with a great deal of resources from printable worksheets and workbooks to video courses. The courses are archived, so you can start at any time, or even take breaks. There are activities for pre-school all the way through high school, and many items that can be used for both younger grades as well as older grades. With over 100 courses available, there's something for everyone! So go on over and check out a Yearly Membership today!.




Now, on to my review:

If you are looking for an internet based homeschool resource, this is the one for you! The site is set up with tabs across the top of the page. These tabs break it down by grade level, and partially by type. There's a tab for all the grade level groups, one for Family, one for Resources, Dailies, and Course Offerings. These are the main navigational tools. After you choose your tab, you are able to navigate the assorted links and options under each. Since my son is mostly doing 4th grade work, we mainly used the Dailies tab and the Pre-K/Elem tab. We incorporated Schoolhouseteachers.com every day in our lessons, and used it as both the main ingredient and the supplement at times. I did find that I had some initial trouble with navigating the site at times, so I recommend taking a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the tabs and resources found under each one. Perhaps you could also use one of the planners found on the site under the Resources Tab, or you can use the Course Planner found under the parent's tab! The great thing about a computer based homeschool subscription is that what you need is always at your fingertips for easy printing. 

Here is a Screen Snip of the tabs: 

With my son having autism, I look for 4 main ingredients with any paid curriculum or subscription:

1.) Customization: Is it easily adaptable? Can we customize it to fit “us?” Can we modify or set our own schedule? Can we take breaks, jump ahead, or flat out skip?

The answer to all of these is YES with Schoolhouseteachers.com. The classes are not live, so you can start any time you want. There's a great deal of archived material, so you can go back, jump ahead, and even skip over what you don't wish to cover. This is exactly what we did. We used the Science courses, Dailies, French, Geography, Hands on History, Classic History, Literature, Literature Kits, and a few others. Each one was easily adaptable to meet our needs. Again, because it is an internet based homeschool resource, it is easy to change direction when needed. One way I adapted the site to fit us was to repurpose the copybook pages. I took a Christmas themed copywork page, printed it off, and used it as a writing assignment (Letter to Santa) that I had already planned. You could also print these in black and white, like I did, and have your child color the pictures.
Look over the mess handwriting, we're working on that!


2.) Value: Is it long lasting? Will it cover multiple grade ranges? Are you locked in to one specific grade level? Are there hidden fees?

This subscription is a GREAT value.  Membership is only $139.00 for the year, or $12.95/month. Right now, there is a Christmas Special, so if you sign up before 11:59pm (EST) on Dec. 25, 2014 you will get 40% off the monthly plan (making it $7.77/month) or 50% off the yearly membership ($64.26.) And the best part is, you will get to keep this special price for as long as you maintain your membership!  The price is per family, not per student, and you are not locked into a single grade level at all. Instead, you have the ability to pick and choose from anything on the site. There are NO
hidden fees. Your membership fee covers everything for the full year. Of top of that, there's a LOT of material and resources here! Here's a screen shot of the French PDF to show you just how large the
resource is. It was over 89MB!

You can try it out for free for 30 days, or if you want to get a sample you can visit their Site Directory to get samples of the classes. Click the banner below to take advantage of the fantastic Christmas sale!

SchoolhouseTeachers.com Review
3.) Attention span: Is it boring? Is it engaging? Is it varied enough for ADHD? Does it last too long?

The courses on Schoolhouseteachers.com are not boring at all. The lessons are not too short, but they are not long either. The worksheet printables for the elementary levels are long enough to cover the material, but not so long that a child has to spend a great deal of time going over them. My son could complete a worksheet in 5-10 minutes, give or take his desire to work on it. The courses are engaging, and he really enjoyed the lessons. We utilized the video lessons with the science, and Mr. Science's videos are around 1 minute each. They cover the experiment, yet are short enough to maintain a youngster's attention. There are also experiment sheets one can download so that you can do your own. Classic History also had some really fun activities and color sheets. Here's a sample of one of the coloring sheets:



 The math isn't your run of the mill math, either. Skip counting is much more than just 5, 10, 15. Here's a selection from one of the skip counting worksheets:


Most of the math worksheets I printed off had the answers, in a very small box, on the front of the sheet. So you may need to cover this with another sheet of paper, or cut it out. This was my only fault with any of the printable resources. Here's a photo to show you what I mean: 

Another thing I appreciate is the variety. We have done a lot of worksheets that cover Synonyms and Antonyms. How many times can a kid connect large and big, small and little, etc. The words on these worksheets are a lot different. Close and shut for example, or happy and joyful.


4.) Does it tie into other things we already have.
The answer is again, YES! I noticed a lot of tie-in possibilities, but I'll highlight two. Classical History ties into Classical Conversations, if you are a part of that. There are selected readings from CC books, as well as activities, such as making a clay tablet with Cuneiform writing. The Literature covers well known books that many probably already have in your home libraries. I was very excited to see that December's Literature course was on The Magician's Nephew, as we've started reading that. And the lessons cover a wide range of lessons such as plot, setting, theme, conflict, etc.


Overall:
Overall, I love the subscription and plan to use it a LOT. I have a lot of things planned out now, and a lot of fun activities on the schedule. I highly recommend you check it out, and try it out for yourself.  You won't be disappointed!



For more greatness from The Old Schoolhouse's Schoolhouse Teachers, check them out on Facebook and Pinterest!


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Monday, December 15, 2014

The Old Schoolhouse Christmas Party

Hey everyone! I just wanted to drop a quick note to let you know about the GREAT online Christmas party that will be happening tomorrow (TUESDAY December 16, 2014) on Facebook! The Old Schoolhouse Magazine will be hosting this party, with prizes AND gifts! So check it out here: TOS Christmas Party !!

During the party, they will be giving away 3 tablets! Yes, you read correctly THREE TABLETS! You can find more information here: Kindle Fire with 3 winners!

So, stop what you're doing, go register to win, and RSVP to the party! HAVE FUN and GOOD LUCK!!!!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Autism Rollercoaster

Free Clip-art thanks to a Google search



    I always said my son was like a human rollercoaster: Up and Down and Up an Down and all over the place with his behavior, mood, actions, and autism. Fortunately, it has generally been a 1 step back 2 steps forward process, and I realize how blessed we are for that.

    Recent days have been no exception. To say our days have been difficult lately is an understatement, but we overcame as we always do. That is the main thing, to always remember that the bad will soon be only a memory, replaced by the good.

     I call his rollercoaster the good times and the bad/down times. If someone asks how he is and I say, "We are in a down time right now," they know exactly what I mean. It means that he's stimming (spinning, bouncing, running, shaking his head, banging his head, squealing....etc,) or he's having some other autism related issue. If I say, "We're in an upswing right now," then they understand he's acting pretty typical for a kid his age. There will be lengths of time when I get so worried and so concerned that he's regressing that I get myself worked into a tizzy trying to figure out the trigger. I scrutinize and analyze everything from his meals to his clothing. Then suddenly one day comes, he wakes up and he's progresses by leaps and bounds in just a week or so. This is how it has always been. For example, we spent YEARS trying to get him to speak, then one day he just wakes up and says, "I'm hungry. Let's go downstairs." After being non-verbal!

    My son isn't on his age level in some ways, but I know he will get there. He WILL meet all of his milestones, even if it takes him a little longer. This has always been our underlying moto. Better late than never, I suppose. He may not be able to tie his shoes, but he can build intricate road and track systems. He may not be writing award winning paragraphs, but he can read, AND understand what he's read, on a college level. He may not be doing long division, but he can convert miles to kilometers in his head. It is important, with all kids, to build up their strengths while always practicing their weaknesses to build those up. If all I did was focus on the things he's not yet able to do I would pass over all of the wonderful things he can do, and has mastered! We just have to stay on the rollercoaster long enough to get there.

   


    

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Wonderful World of Excuses

My son has a unique ability to make everything life threatening. It's remarkable really. He can't do his chores because his legs are weak, and if his legs get weak and he has to make an epic journey to the land upstairs via the staircase,well that's just dangerous now-So of course he can't do his chores, because his legs will get weak, and then he will be forced to crawl up the steps or risk his life. He says all of this in one breath, in that whiny voice every mother just LOVES to hear, while looking over the huge mess in the family room that he (and his legs) had no problems creating. Poor thing, he says he's about to fall over. But he had no problems 5 minutes ago when he was making tornadoes with the couch throw and the guts from a most unfortunate pillow pet.

So how do you deal with excuses? What are some good excuses your kids have come up with to get out of doing what has been asked of them? And how have you handled it?








PSA: This post was supposed to have been published on 12/7/14, but a wonky mouse prevented it from being published.

Ever have one of THOSE months?

So...I wrote a blog post a few days ago. I couldn't figure out why there were no posts views. I waited....checked again....no post views. This goes on for a while until I realize. I write the post sure enough, but I clicked on SAVE instead of PUBLISH! I had been dealing with a wonky mouse, and it didn't click properly!  GEESH!


So anyway, what do you do with scheduling? I would LOVE to stick to a schedule, but I find it nearly impossible to do. Especially around the holidays. It always seems like I'm being pulled in a bazillion different directions!

The past week, I've accomplished so little! Between doctor's appointments for myself, my son, my niece having finals in college, my step dad being hospitalized, and the holidays on top of it all....Let's just say I need a nap. So I plan to take the next few days, try to get caught up on what we've not gotten accomplished, and I'll be back in a few days!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Penny's Ancestors....



Autism has given us the blessings of innocence and enlightenment. The other day my son came to me with his little hand full of pennies. He was so excited! "Mommy! Look! A 2013 penny and its ancestors!" He then proceeded to name each penny, making a list as he went. He ran out of names that he could think of, and this ultimately led to a "Baby Names" book that should be delivered today. The things we do for our kids, right?!

Anyway, this got me to thinking. How often do we let the little things slip by, never giving them their rightful attention. How many times have we tossed those pennies in a jar, or tried to get rid of them in "exact change" payments, never thinking about their journey. I looked into his little hand, and thought about that. Wow! Can you imagine the stories that could be told by those pennies, if they could talk. Think about it. This tiny little circular piece of copper from 1925 has survived wars, the Great Depression, changing climates, countless trips. I wonder what countries it has been in. I wonder if a soldier carried it in his pocket in Germany, Korea or Vietnam, his only memento of home. I wonder if any of the pennies we have here have once been in the hands of a President, or rock star?! Could you imagine the stories they could tell?! Think about it. We never really know where the money has been that is in our pockets, but if we could for a minute just imagine the amazing journeys these little pieces of metal and paper have been we could come up with some great stories!

The next time you toss the pocket change you hold into a jar, think about the journey and the stories each of those coins has "lived." For just a minute I have to wonder, what would it be like to be a penny?!