Monday, March 31, 2014

April - Autism Awareness Month

It's not an epidemic.

It's not a disease.

It's not a death sentence. Nor even necessary a life sentence.

It is hard.

It is different.

It can even be scary at times.

But if you look deeper, there is amazing beauty.

I choose to focus on the beauty!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Tinkering School

This program is awesome. This should be part of regular school. This should be part of regular life!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Obstacle Awesomeness

There are certain things that only happen at the point when all the elements come together. Creating an in-house obstacle course was, for us, one of those things.

It sounds really easy. And is so awesome, everybody really should try it sometime. And I have been wanting to make a more large scale one for the kids for a long time. 

But in order for this to happen, the house has to be decently in order, the kids have to be relatively rested, I have to have a small surplus of energy because my kids are not at all self-sufficient at organizing this kind of thing yet, and vast amounts of coffee have to have already been consumed before we start. 

These are great rainy/snowy/step-outside-and-your-boogers-instantly-freeze day activities. 

Ours is highly sensory organized, but remember that a lot of kids are not really getting the real amount of sensory input that their bodies really need on a daily basis. My kids just literally fall apart if they don't, while the average child just might be a little extra grumpy or "hyper".


Kit got pretty upset with me at the very beginning because she just wanted to line all the animals up in the "river". And was overwhelmed at first by all the change of purpose in items she has set rules for. So she followed me around biting on her hands and asking me to hold her for most of the course and refused to participate in most of it. But! She didn't freak out and start yelling at the big kids as they did it, so that it a success!

I think if we were able to leave it out for several days and let her get used to it, she would be running the thing like an old pro in no time, but, alas, we have not nearly enough floor space as it is. And all that stuff all over the place for days would send Grandpa into major meltdown mode himself. In fact, I was entirely relieved that the entire time we had it up, he didn't come out of his room at all! Thankful for peace in all it's forms!

1 - Throw a ball from one basket into another then back as best you can! 
Sensory work: balance, hand eye coordination, gross motor cooperation

2 - Use tongs to pick up wooden blocks from one basket and transfer into the other.
Sensory work: Squeezing pressure, controlled fine motor coordination, hand-eye, cross body 

3 - Try to lasso Charlie!
Sensory: motor movement to swing and throw, hand-eye 

4 - Pull a passenger to the trampoline!
Sensory work: heavy work, proprioceptive

5 - Do ten full body jumps on trampoline, like tuck jumps, split jumps anything more than plain strait jumps.
Sensory work: vestibular, proprioceptive

6 - Crawl through the "bear cave" (tunnel filled with stuffed animals) without knocking any of them out!
Sensory work: crawling, full body engagement, tolerating unexpected sensation, tactile

7 - Stay inside hula hoop on the floor while tossing a scarf up with one hand and catching with the opposite hand, stand on one foot if it is too easy.
Sensory work: cross body movements, balance, hand eye

8 - Several times around on the sit-n-spin.
Sensory work: vestiubular, balance

9 - Three curl downs and curl ups.
Sensory work: balance, vestibular (upside down), 

10 - Walk the line.
Sensory work: balance, cross body with feet, foot-eye coordination

11 - Rescue 5 animals from the river without stepping out of the river.
Sensory work: Balance, hand-eye, vestibular (from bending down and up)

12 - Ten more full body jumps on the trampoline.
Sensory work: vestibular, balance

13 - Blanket pull to Charlie.
Sensory work: heavy work, proprioceptive

14 - Try to lasso Charlie again.
Sensory work: hand-eye, gross motor movement 

15 - Using tongs again, transfer blocks from one container to the other.
Sensory work: fine motor, squeezing, hand-eye, cross body

16- Toss ball from one basket to the other and back again.
Sensory work: motor cooperation, hand-eye, balance
(So glad Little Miss Grumpy Pants finally decided to join in!)

Repeat circuit as many times as desired. 
We ran ours forward and backward a couple of times!

And Kit decided to end it by riding Charlie off into the sunset...sort of. :)

Can't wait ti do it again!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What Does it Mean to be Brave?

I don't listen to the radio very often. But I did the other day. So it was the first time I heard this song. I almost switched the station, but the first line caught me, then the rest took me by storm and left me in tears. 

But maybe not in the way one might think. It actually made me think of all the empty words that we  "let fall out", and how much damage has been done by these words. I am no exception. I have stabbed others with words myself. I have forgotten too many times that shouted words often fall on shut-down ears and hurt hearts.

And it made me think about the real meaning of bravery. Those whose courage I admire. I'm not talking about stupidity - the kind of brave where you try to see how long you can hold your hand over a flame or teasing an alligator. 

I mean real bravery. 

The kind that most of us don't actually see because it takes place quietly in the shadows. Or after everyone else has left. Or when all eyes are busy looking at the glitter of the girl in the fancy outfit and miss the one who slaves every day for less pay than we spend on one fast food meal. Those that continue to walk out their door everyday into a world that misunderstands them and even hates them. Those who feel another's pain as their own. Those who speak for those who can't. Those who speak when others won't. And those who remain silent in order to protect.

They are brave.

The millions of mothers who never stop giving and rarely ask for anything in return. The amazing fathers who do the same. The grandparents raising grand-babies for any number of reasons. The foster families. The women who keep their babies instead of abort. The women who give their beloved babies up so those children may have a chance at a better life. The families that adopt. The women who love others' babies without the gift of having their own.

They are brave.

Anyone who takes something they have earned and gives it to those who need it more. Anyone who turns the other cheek, again.  Anyone who sincerely apologizes. Anyone who sincerely forgives.  Anyone who stands between a victim and the venom stemming from a bully's pain. Anyone who stands up and faces the individual(s) who stole dignity and innocence from them. People who tell the truth despite the pain and rejection. Those who remain awash in the wake of tragedy but keep struggling to reach the surface for the occasional gulp of air. And so many more.

That is what it means to be brave.

Running away is sometimes brave as well. A retreat that preserves life and dignity is no dishonor or weakness. And sometimes silence rather than "empty words" is the course of wisdom. Even the right words at the wrong time can be explosive. Hopefully these words I write prove to soothe rather than burn.

You never know how strong
you are until being strong is 
your only option

All of us will falter. All of us will cause others pain. All of us will have pain inflicted by others. All of us will get knocked down. 

It's the getting back up that matters the most.

It may be popular in Japan, but it is originally Hebrew.

"Let your words be anything but empty,
Why don't you tell them the truth?" 

These are important words, powerful and can be a force for good. But never forget, not everyone is deserving of our words, because some will only use them as weapons against us. So, may we all learn the more important skill...that of learning to listen. Even, and perhaps especially, when others are not saying a single word.

How big is our brave?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Bowl Me Over

We went bowling.

It went much smoother than the last time which ended in tears and leaving early.

Zak beat us all both games in a row!

Kit only tried to run down the lanes a couple of times. But she LOVED the dinosaur thing to use as a slide when she wasn't using it to help get her ball to the pins! Between that and lining up the balls as they came back, she was mostly content to stick close by and not bolt as much as before. Her squeals of joy when she pushed the ball down the lane could have shattered glass, but were so crazy happy! And she was the best cheerleader! Clapping and telling everybody, "Great job!!"

Grace is the cutest thing ever bowling, but we can't laugh out loud at her adorableness because she gets embarrassed and mad. Which I totally understand. So we quietly chuckled to ourselves at her undeniable style and flare! Which is what makes her her!

And to everyone's surprise, Grandpa not only enjoyed watching, but asked to play! And even picked up a spare! I'm sure he'll be asking for days when we are going again. :)

And we definitely figured out that we have a one game limit. We want to be able to play two games, but right now we just can't handle it. There was a lot of crying, disorganization, and short tempers for the remainder of the evening after two games. And that was just me! 

We can do one longer game, all sharing a lane, with snack breaks. And that's it for now. 

But that is good. 

And we all can still have a fun time. 

Without major meltdowns. 


So now we have an even better plan!


Friday, March 7, 2014

This Week in Science

Our little break from the old routine seems to have had a positive effect.

Both the kids have been much more excited about rekindling some of our previous subjects and focusing more attention on them once again. They were especially giddy about science this week. And conducted several projects.

Here's a sampling of the "coolest" stuff.

Zak found some swimming creatures in a puddle and captured a few for study.

He looked them up online on the suspicion that they were most likely mosquito larvae. They were indeed. So we allowed him to keep them and observe their transformation.

He had caught twelve. And after about four days, he insisted on releasing the six surviving adults. I told him only outside. He agreed. It was 34 degrees outside. No, I did not feel sorry for them. They are mosquitoes!

Later in the week Grace wanted to do "fun" science. I wanted to avoid a huge mess.

"Want to play with the food coloring in water?"


So, she made a rainbow. With cotton ball clouds dyed a delicate sky blue.

It was beautiful!

Zak decided he also wanted to do "fun" science.

He made a mini-lava lamp in his test tube out of vegetable oil and food coloring.

Very cool!

I never did any of these things in school. Not that I wasn't exposed to science or science projects. But it wasn't often interest-led by me. I remember a couple of meal worm jars in elementary. And my 7th grade science teacher insisted on dissecting a mother goat who had died before her triplets were born (I spent most of that period in the library crying for the mom and her babies). 

The science fair was scary for an introverted kid like me. I didn't even like solo recitals, and I was decently good at the violin, and those did not involve being judged! The whole scenario was always terrifying to me and took all the fun out of science. Not to mention the fact that there was always going to be someone there who had thought of something more clever, or at the very least more expensive. 

My most pleasant science memory from those years was creating a new musical instrument for the Invention Convention in eighth grade. My Papa (grandpa) helped me mold metal tubing into the shape I wanted. And helped find just the right size smaller tubing to slide in and out trombone style. I then took rubber bands of varying thickness and strung them over the tubing. The idea was to  strum and pick the "strings", and then use the slide to pull the bands tighter to change the tones. 

It never made great music, after all it was only my first prototype. I didn't place anywhere special at the convention. And I didn't care. It was the first time that I was able to present myself and my project with any measure of confidence and excitement! My interest and the fact that it was something I came up with resulted in me not caring what others did as their projects, or how fancy they were. For the most part anyway. Mine was practically free minus the cost of the poster board, and maybe we actually bought a bag of extra long rubber bands, the fact that I had managed to "invent" and be resourceful also made me proud. 

I think I can honestly say that it was after that that I really began to say out loud that I liked science. And that I was good at it. And that is sad. All those years of enjoying that I could have had if I hadn't felt such pressure to "perform". And that pressure came purely from my school environment. My mom had always encouraged me to enjoy it, and my siblings before me had always enjoyed it so much. But the weight of displaying that enjoyment in school was so heavy on me that for a good several years, I chose to hide my secret scientist self, rather than have my teachers identify me as a potential Science Fair candidate.

Should I have felt that way? That's irrelevant. I did. I lost out because of a system based on a single standard for achievement and living by other peoples expectations instead of my own. And I liked school and went to good schools!

I completely believe in teaching kids to do things that are hard. And to learn to deal with uncomfortable situations. But I also believe that each kid is ready for their own personal challenges at their own unique time. And I hope that I am somewhat striking the balance between the two for my kids. Only time will tell perhaps.

In the meantime, however, I am thoroughly enjoying watching them follow their curiosities and turn them into investigations and experiments of their own. I don't feel the need to drill them in scientific process and how to form a hypothesis. Kids seem to be at one with that process naturally. I have very little actual teaching to do. In fact, I learn new things from them nearly everyday. Really cool things. Like what mosquito larvae look like and that food coloring will not mix with oil. And that rainbows look amazing atop baby blue cotton ball clouds.

I recommend doing "fun" science with your kiddos today!

Check out what other homeschoolers have been up to this week at weird unsocialized homeschoolers!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Miracles do Happen!

Below is a very blurry, very zoomed in picture of my baby.

I took it from the door without going in the room.

I almost didn't take it at all for fear of waking her just by being there!

Today, for the first time ever, on purpose, for me, she fell asleep all by herself for a nap on a day that Daddy is at work. Without nursing. And without me in the room!

After lunch and a fresh diaper. I took her to the room.

We read If You Give a Pig a Party.

Then I asked her if she wanted to read books or lay down and I sing her a song.

She wanted to lay down. I gave her the option of putting her blanket on or putting pants on. After several attemps she wouldn't cooperate. So I told her, 'no pants, no song.'

She still refused. So I gave her stack of books and told her to stay in her bed, "first, look at books. Then, lay down and rest."

When I came to check on her later, much to my astonishment, she was asleep!

Totally doing the silent happy dance!!!!

She definitely gets a lollipop when she gets up!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Growing Good Readers

I love libraries!

I distinctly remember the first library I went to. I was little, three or four. It was a tiny room with a single desk for the librarian, inside the community center, but it was huge to me. The bookshelves towered over me, seeming to touch the ceiling. Someone, probably my mom or oldest sister showed me the children's section. Instant love!

I remember every library I've visited since,  from my grandfather's den which smelled like leather and always felt chilly, to drinking coffee with my middle school librarian (the first of, sadly, very few men whom I have met in that profession) who saw me nearly everyday for two years and still couldn't believe that that was my favorite place in the entire school (even beating out the orchestra room!).

Victor loves to tell the story of when we were in high school together and I wouldn't let him borrow my library card when he forgot his because, gasp!, he might incur late fees on my card! (And I will admit that even after 13 years of marriage, it is still hard to hand it over, even when we are together!)

Yes, we are a library family! 

We like bookstores also, but somehow putting a price tag on it closes doors instead of opening them.

We have several of our own libraries here at home. But we make regular use of our public libraries wherever we happen to be/live/visit. 

We visit weekly, and while we do often max out our movie limit each visit, we also leave with armfuls of books! A very large portion from non-fiction sections in fact. And every night the kids have an hour to read and/or draw in their beds before lights out. 

They read so much we've had to ban library books from the table and bathroom because the risk of damaging them is too great! 

 Of course we each have our favorite libraries! And this is one of my new favorites! 

Our very own Littlest Library! 

I love having somewhere I can take books that we are finished with, but in great shape and pass them on to other reading families! And getting a few fresh ones in return!

Both Victor and I do a large amount of reading via electronic media. Our phones are definitely our primary source of news, weather, and research. Even casual reading, after all, blogs only come in electronic form! In fact we get the newspaper delivered to our house every day for Grandpa, but neither of us actually read it very often, (though that is in major part because getting any part of it from Grandpa is such an ordeal it's rarely worth it).

But nothing, and I mean nothing, beats curling up under a blanket with a cup of something warm, and breathing in the distinctive smell of a good ole' ink and paper, cardboard covers, glue (And then staying there for hours because you just have to read one...more...chapter!)

Happy Reading Friends! 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Just a Little Home School Awesomeness

Here are just a couple gems of awesomeness that I ran across this week via a couple of other awesome blogs. Thanks Penelope Trunk and Deb for sharing these!

This is amazing and a huge boost in confidence for all of us homeschoolers!

Homeschooled: How American Homeschoolers Measure Up

And check out this amazing article about what modern day public education should be moving toward, starting right now! (Hint, it looks a lot like what many homeschooler's educations already is!)