Thursday, February 26, 2009

That Time of Year

It seems to be the cold and flu season around here. Gess has been off and on antibiotics twice this last month, currently it is due to an ear infection. On top of her being ill I have had this chest cold that has taken my voice. I think I am finally getting it back, but needless to say, all this illness makes for challenging school days!

I realize that public schools allow sick days and there were a couple of days that we took off, but one thing I love about homeschooling is that there are ways to study while "resting" and not doing "school." That is one reason I have been emphasizing some of the things we do on the computer lately. Between those sites and some educational games like Jumpstart World, Gess is able to "play" on the computer while actually doing some review work. It's also a good time to bring out some educational videos. With Presidents day falling through all of this we managed to find some decent videos to watch about Washington and Lincoln too.

We actually did manage to do "studies" most of the time, though I chose to cover only the basics. Reading, Writing and Math. Social Studies and Science were done online via games and websites. We can catch up that sort of subject anytime. I think we are over that hump and on the road to getting well, so I should be bringing out the camera again soon and showing some more work in progress. I am actually thinking of making a video to show how well her reading and speech skills are coming along too. Until then know that we are on the road to recovery and that we are enjoying the times where we don't even have to get "dressed." See, even in PJ's, learning on the computer is fun!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Computer Time: Do 2 Learn

I was recently reminded about a website that was really beneficial in helping my daughter to comprehend vital safety rules. My daughter had a very hard time with boundaries and while she is doing a whole lot better, there are still some important safety guidelines that she has not yet grasped. Her main problem is wandering off. We had to install chain locks and/or alarms on all of our doors ever since she learned how to open them. It seemed very logical to her that if a door can open one must go through it. It has not been until recently that we have been able to leave the doors unlocked without her attempting to go outside. While this particular website does not specifically address staying in the house, it does address staying in the yard as well as street, mall and fire safety too.

The Do2Learn website is geared towards supporting special needs learners. It teaches basic life and educational skills by making them into fun, interactive learning games and songs. While there are many products you can purchase from the site, there are also several free areas which is all we have ever utilized.



The area that was the greatest benefit for us personally is "Songs and Games", but the Activities section has some great stuff too. Under Songs you will find all the safety videos. They are really great and I highly recommend them. They even give you an option to choose whether or not you live an area where they drive on the right or left side of the street so that the video corresponds to exactly what your child will face.



Once you choose the proper side of the street you are offered the choice for six different videos; Stay in the Yard, Walk on the Sidewalk, Crossing at the Driveway, Crossing at a Walk Signal, Crossing at a Traffic Light, and Crossing at a Crosswalk.



Each song has animation of what is and is not the proper thing to do and the words are on the screen so they can learn the song and sing a long.


They also have songs for Bus Safety, Fire Safety and Mall Safety. I apply the Mall Safety video to any shopping trip. One aspect of the song says to hold onto the one who brought you by holding onto to them in different ways, one of which is their finger. I have found that Gess finds this less restrictive and if she does not want to seem to hold my hand, she will hold one of my fingers. This seems to make her feel more independent.

Some of these videos also emphasize them being a "safety star" and you can even print some stars for yourself to use as awards. Those words became a good cue for Gess when we are in public. If she tried to wander off or does not want to hold on to my hand (which I now only require in the parking lot or when she is misbehaving inside) I would remind her she needed to be a "safety star" and she would usually respond to that by obeying.

There are also games that help them improve certain concepts needed for learning. One that I found especially helpful was the Time Sequence Game. Gess never seemed to be able to tell which picture happened first, second and last when I just showed her pictures of each event.



However, this game actually shows the activity in progress and then it shows each picture for them to place in order. For instance, putting on a shoe. It shoes a person sitting down and putting the shoe on, they tie the shoe and then they are done. Then you have three pictures that look exactly like what just took place.



Seeing the event prior to answering the question is a big plus for special needs learners. (Another thing my speech therapist recommended was taking picture of your kids themselves, like brushing their teeth or getting ready for bed. Seeing pictures of things they are used to doing makes it more relevant as well).

There are several other activities and games that help with all kinds of concepts. You will really want to check it out. For special needs learners whether they go to school or learn at home, Do2Learn is a great help!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Exploring Our Senses

Well, I have been doing my search on how to teach my daughter about her senses. Sure, she can tell you that you use your ears to hear and your eyes to see, etc., because that is how she was taught to respond. However, when you try to use the concepts in real life she gets confused about which sense does what which shows me that while she knows the "answer" she does not yet understand the concept. After much research and many great ideas from fellow homeschoolers I have decided that using food is a great place to start. After all, food is the only thing that allows her to use all of her senses including taste. I mean, she can "see" a dog, she can "feel" it, "hear" it and even "smell" it, but I sure do not want her tasting it! So what we have started doing is making a "life skills" lesson out of meal time preparation. Each day we not only learn to cook and prepare food but we explore each one of our senses while doing it. So far it seems to be working great and I think my daughter already has a better understanding of her senses.

I originally thought I would make "breakfast" the lesson of the day. We would get up and fix breakfast all the while exploring our senses while we prepared, cooked and ate the meal. The problem is I am not much of a morning person and I just couldn't get motivated enough to make such messy and large breakfasts! Therefore we typically leave breakfast fun for Saturday. Instead we have been focusing more on lunch.

For lunchtime we do will do several different things. One is to have my daughter help actually prepare the food. Of course we learn about measuring, mixing, etc. But while we are doing it I will comment on how it smells, feels, and looks, and so forth. Our meals very from a full out cooked lunch to more simple things like making her own sandwich or lunchable type meal.

Another way we do lunch is referred to as a "Muffin Tin Meal." Some of the ladies in my Myspace Homeschool group shared this idea with me and I fell in love with it. All you do is prepare the food and present it in a muffin tin. It makes the meal very appealing and fun to make. The first one Gess made was simple but she had fun doing it. It was still close enough to Christmas, so we cut bread in the shape of a Christmas Tree and made a PB&J out if it and we added a few things to make it a meal. Here is what it looked like.



Don't you think that would look appealing to a child? It certainly did to Gess. I think she had almost as fun eating it as she did making it.



We have also baked food in the Muffin Tins. For one of them we took a 12 muffin tin and lined 6 cups with corn beef hash and cracked an egg on top of each one. In the other 6 cups we put some strawberry muffin mix in it and had an entire meal for each of us for breakfast all in one pan! (That's a Saturday morning special!)

Another thing we do with the tins is to make a game out of fixing it. I will have her look for something "crunchy" and then something "cold" or look for a "fruit" or a "vegetable" etc. We are learning so much more than our senses with these! However, learning our senses was our main goal so we also have another game we use the Muffin tins for.

This idea came from another homeschooler friend in my Myspace group. She mentioned blindfolding my daughter or having her sit on her hands to learn that she can use different senses to figure out what things were. So we decided to incorporate that idea with the Muffin Tin Meals. Here is what we do. First I make the tin with various foods while she is out of the room. Today this is what we had.


The next thing I do is blindfold my daughter and bring her into the room. Then I start letting her explore the food with her hands.



She has to feel it with her hands and then guess what it is. Then she has to taste it and then guess again. She is pretty good at guessing them right after the "touch" test but its always fun for her confirm if she is right by tasting it. Today the only ones that failed the touch test were peanut butter, pudding, and radishes. The only one that failed both tests were the radishes which was the only thing she had not eaten before. After the game we take the blind fold off and let her enjoy the food.


Remember, whether we are using a Muffin Tin, cooking an entire meal or simply making a sandwich we talk about our senses while doing it. How does it feel? Did you hear the egg crack or the bacon sizzle? Can you smell the cookies as they bake in the oven? Which grape is bigger, is the cheese hard or soft and so and on and on. The point is to teach her in an every day practical situation how her senses work and what they are for. She uses them all the time, this is to help her understand how. This is not something we are doing for a week, or month or any time frame at all. Like I said, it is a "life skill" lesson that offers teaching in so many areas from nutrition to math that it is something we now "do" now.

For more Muffin Tin ideas try this link which shares lots of Muffin Tin Meals. Many blogs also share their ideas on what they call "Muffin Tin Mondays." (Guess I should have posted this yesterday on a Monday huh?) One that I follow is "Her Cup Overfloweth" She has some awesome Muffin Tin ideas! This is just one way to make a meal into an fun, educational, and delicious lesson, but it is one that is working really well for us.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Computer Time: Starfall.com

One thing my daughter loves to do (like most other kids) is spend time on the computer. One of our favorite websites is Starfall.com. It is a free educational sight that not only teaches reading but the kids really seem to enjoy it. It is geared towards preschool to 2nd grade and is a great tool for learning early reading skills. It helps to teach phonics but can also enhance sight vocabulary as well.



The ABC's section is for early reading and it lets you explore your letters and their phonetic sounds. There are great songs for each of the short vowel sounds and for each consonant there is a short activity which explores the letters sound and teaches you some words that start with each letter.


Once children know their letters (and even before that) there are stories that you can read. If you click on each word it not only says the word for you, but it sounds it out phonetically, teaching you to do the same.



There are lots of other fun activities too. I think it is one of the best early educational sights out there. It can benefit any child, including those with special needs. Everyone I know that tries it says their child absolutely loves it and learns a great deal from it. I really think it benefited my daughter greatly for it went right along with what she was learning at home. My daughter has not only learned to read, she has learned to love to read.

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