Monday, August 29, 2011

TOS Review: How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. For Your Kids

How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. For Your Kids from Apologia Educational Ministries is an inspiring book by a homeschooling mother named Rachael Carman. In the book Rachael shares how she struggles with the revelation that being a parent means that life is no longer all about yourself. She admits that she was actually excited when her son started school because she was more eager to get on with her own personal dreams and desires than she was being a parent. When circumstances suddenly forced her into homeschooling, an option she had never contemplated or considered, she was not eager for the task. Then one day she attended a seminar at a homeschool convention and it transformed her entire perspective. She was now convicted of the immense call and duty of parenting. She tells us "just like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, I got a new heart." Rachael then shares some biblical principles to help us learn how we can all have a heart for our kids.

While you may not have a similar story and feel you already have a heart for your children, you will still benefit greatly from this book. As Christian parents we must always be vigilant to be on our guard against the forces that would love to steal our children away from God. I was uplifted, inspired and encouraged every time I picked it up. You immediately get a sense that the author is personable and she has a great sense of humor. Seeing that she was able to laugh at her mistakes certainly put me at ease when I considered my own. It was an easy and enjoyable, yet spiritually challenging read.

Rachael Carman uses the acronym H.E.A.R.T to share with us the key components of having a heart for your kids. She breaks it down this way:

H - Have a Heart for the Things of God
E - Enrich Your Marriage
A - Accept Your Kids
R - Release Them to God
T - Teach Them the Truth

Each chapter offers a solid Scriptural foundation for its message. As Rachael puts it, "God did not place us on this earth without instructions, rules, or purpose. He placed us here for one primary reason: to bring glory to His name. And He tells us how to do this in His Word." With that foundation in mind she brings you through each chapter explaining how each principle is important for raising your children. I think the neatest thing about this book is that it is not a parenting book but rather it is a book about being a good parent. It's focus is therefore on our own personal walk with the Lord which is what we must do in order to be the parent God wants us to be. At the end of each section you will find questions to ponder that will help you apply what you just read to your own life.

I would highly recommend this book for any Christian parent, but particularly those who homeschool. I personally plan on recommending this book to everyone at my next local homeschool support group meeting. I think they will all appreciate this book as much as I have.

You can order the book How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. For Your Kids for $13 at the Apologia Educational Ministries website. You can see what others had to say about it by visiting the TOS Homeschool Crew or read a sample chapter for yourself.
Apologia not only offers books like How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. For Your Kids to encourage homeschooling parents, but they also offer a complete and comprehensive creation based Science curriculum, online courses and so much more.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received a free copy of this product in exchange for my review.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Simple Tip for Easing the Work Load

Gess still struggles with her writing. It is not only difficult physically for her, but it is also hard on her mentally since she has to focus so hard to do it. Think about it. Writing is multitasking. You not only have to focus on the correct answer to the problem, but you also have to focus on how to write that answer. For kids who do not already know how to write and actually struggle with that skill, writing can be quite stressful. When I find that Gess is stressed I immediately try to find a way to adapt.

One thing I do when I find Gess stressed, is I let her dictate the answers to me and write them down myself. You can see her workbook pages here where there were some sections I had her say the answer and I just wrote it down for her.

When her book gives her a list of multiple choice answers I will sometimes write them on the board and let her get up and just point out the answer to me (and I will write it down in her book). That not only eases her workload but gets her up and moving around.

I do not intentionally plan out these particular activities. I don't think to myself, on this workbook page I will let Gess take a break from writing or anything like that. Instead, I use these only when I see signs that Gess is getting tired of writing or when she expresses that to me herself. She will sometimes just say "you write it please" and that is OK with me. In some cases I only write one answer and then she will finish the rest. It may be that only that particular problem was causing her trouble. Other times I will write down a whole section for her. It just depends on the moment and the situation.

While we plan many other adaptable ways to do seat work this is what we do when we suddenly find that the work load is just a little too much. It's simple enough, but can make a world of difference in keeping a child engaged and enjoying learning.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Blog Hop with the TOS Crew

I am enjoying being a new member of the TOS Crew and I just found something new and exciting that they are doing. They are hosting a blog hop, and you do not have to be a part of the Crew to join in! Below are the guidelines for participation. So come hop, sail, or stroll along (or whatever type of moving gets your fancy) and join in the fun!

The Guidelines for participating in the TOS Crew blog hop are as follows:

1. Please grab the blog hop button to spread the word.

Crew Blog Hop

2. Please follow our wonderful hosts via Google Friend Connect.

3. Click on the blog hop button to be taken to the linky, and join in! (Please do not link up your giveaways, blog hops, etc. – These will be deleted.)

The linky goes live at 12:01 Friday morning, 8/19.

Link up your blog, then visit and follow the blogs that interest you.

Have fun getting to know the 2011-2012 TOS Crew as well as the other participating homeschoolers.

**If you follow our blogs and leave a comment, we will always follow you back!**

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Yahtzee - Making Math Practice Adaptable and Fun

Gess loves playing Yahtzee but up until recently all she really did was roll the dice and keep what we told her to. This year though we have tried to make her part of the game. A big help in doing that was finding a large print Yahtzee score card. It is hard enough for me to read that small card so I never bother to really let Gess try. So, I decided to look for a large print Yahtzee score card and found one on the BoardGameGeek website. It really makes it easy for a kid with special needs to see what they need, how much it is worth and it gives them plenty of room to write it all down! It's great for people with vision problems too. It makes the card 2 pages instead of 1, but that is alright by me. Here is what it looks like.

We used Yahtzee a lot over the summer to help Gess practice her math skills. Near the end of last year Gess learned her doubles math facts. She can add up to 9+9 from memory. Yahtzee is a great way to practice doubles (at least up to 6). What we would do is divide her dice up into any doubles she had, add those, and then use her counting on skill to add any remaining dice if needed. Here she is putting a 28 on her 4 of a kind. Note how we had 2 sets of 6+6 and then "counted on" from 24 to 28. (I just told her 12+12 was 24 since she did not already know that one.)

Of course sometimes she got a Yahtzee. (I think she got more than one in this game!) We loved it when she got it with her 5's because that helped her practice her skip counting skill. (We did this with 2s too of course). I think all of her Yahtzee's were with 5s this game, but I could be wrong!

Another skill that she worked on was calculator work. In the book Teaching Math to children with Down Syndrome, they recommend teaching them to use a calculator early on. Therefore, at least one day a week I do something to let Gess learn the skill. From using something fun like the pumpkin pie game to just letting her answer problems on a worksheet, she has learned how to use a calculator rather well. So, at the end of the Yahtzee game, Gess gets to add up her own score.

And of course, as with any game there are other skills you learn like waiting for your turn...

and taking the results well.

Of course that was easy this time because she won!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

School Starts Tomorrow!

Well, tomorrow will be our first day of school. Gess is really looking forward to getting started again. So am I. I am always anxious for the summer break, but then we get so busy over the summer that I am ready to get back to a normal routine.

Our school schedule looks pretty hefty this year. There is just so much I feel we need to cover. Below is our tentative schedule and the curriculum I have chosen for each one.

Bible - Various devotionals based off of Bible passages. We will start by learning the 10 commandments

Math AM - I plan on separating Math into morning and afternoon. In the Morning we will continue with Math-U-See Alpha. (We only got about half way through it last year.)

English - We will be using the Preparing to Build series from Rod and Staff Publishers.


Science - We will continue working through Real Science for Kids Pre-Level 1 Chemistry unit.

Social Studies - This year we are using the Understanding Your Community 3rd Grade Curriculum from Rod and Staff.


Reading - This also is from Rod and Staff. We are using the Grade 2 Stories About God's People set. Gess is probably ready for Grade 3 but since we are switching to a new curriculum I didn't want her to miss out on the bible stories and lessons in Grade 2. If I find it too easy I may move on ahead, or we might just work through it faster.

Life Skills Math - This is when we will work more on her urgent life skills math lessons like telling time and counting money. This will be very hands on and hopefully fun for her.

Therapy - Here we will focus on speech and motor skills activities.

Writing - I am mostly doing copy work and reviewing our letters and basics we learned from Grade 1 in Handwriting Without Tears. Her journal entries will take place here as well.

Activities - This is where I give her credit for her extra curricular activities such as horseback riding lessons, gymnastics and Awana. We also go to the library once week.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Swimming Lessons 2011- A Huge Success!

While Gesserine has always loved to get in the pool and take baths, she has not been a fan of getting splashed or even letting her face get wet. Showers were not something she was willing to do and getting her to lay her head back in the tub so you could wash her hair was a chore. That was, until now.

We had so many other issues to deal with, and since we had very little opportunity to get in the water, swimming lessons were a low priority for us for many years. But as Gess got older I felt water safety was very important. Two years ago we attempted swimming lessons at a local pool. It did not go very well. Gess was 7 and not very familiar with public pools. Generally the only time we had been swimming was when we were staying at a hotel with a pool.

There were several people in Gesserine's class and it was one of about five classes taking place at the same time. There was just too much to distract Gess. The staff was kind enough to place an assistant specifically assigned to Gess. That was great, but it pretty much turned in to a babysitting job. The poor girl just followed Gess where ever she went (she never stayed with her group for very long) and Gess learned absolutely nothing about swimming. I did not complain though, for what kind of training do you want for $12.50 a week?

So last year I was determined to find something better, preferably private lessons where Gess would not be distracted with other stuff going on in the pool. Thankfully my son began dating a girl who had been on a swim team, whose mother had taught special-needs kids to swim in the past and who had access to a private pool. I talked to her about it and she was willing to do it!

Chelsie Ports began teaching Gesserine last summer when she was 8. Gess was as a total beginner, not really knowing anything about how to swim, or even stay afloat. We decided to go with shorter 30 minute lessons for two weeks rather than hour long lessons for one. She did pretty good that first week, but by the second she was starting to shut down. Chelsie did great and made some progress getting Gess comfortable in the water. This demonstrated itself well in the fact that Gess would finally (after 8 years) lay her head back in the tub without propping herself up on her elbows! She was still shy of showers and splashing, even though we took her to our new pool with a cool splash section in it. Still, for Gess it was great. I doubted she would ever be much of a swimmer, but I do want her to know how to be safe around water. So when the summer came this year, I was eager to begin again.

My biggest goal was for Gess to let her face get wet. I mean, seriously, she would not even put her face in the water, let alone put her whole head under it. I did not know what to expect, but it really was not much. Needless to say, when I found out that Gess went totally under water on her very first lesson, I was shocked! I do not know how Chelsie did it, but she got Gesserine to go under! By the end of the week, Gess would sit on the bottom of the 3 foot section and dive down for rings!

We went to the pool about ten times this year and Gess began to really feel at home there. She goes under water all of her own accord now. She loves going under and grabbing your knee, or your hand. She will dive for rings, etc. She actually won't swim yet, not under the water or on top, but she will go under and come back up as long as she knows she can put her feet down when she is done. I think she COULD swim if she tried, but she still thinks she can't. Still, she sure has made tremendous leaps and bounds from last year! Oh and she showers now and will let the big bucket dump on her head in the splash park at the pool! It is truly amazing what a difference a year can make! Thanks Chelsie for all your hard work!

Below are some pictures we took this weekend at a party. Here are Chelsie and Gess enjoying some fun after all that hard work!

Enjoying the water safe in Chelsie's arms.

Not sure where they headed but they are obviously on a mission!

Practicing with the noodle.

Look who is under the water! She went all the way down!

Coming back up for air! She always has to rub the water (and hair) out of her eyes.

I can't really swim but I want to go off the diving board!

There she goes!!!

She landed right on top of her swimming instructor! Kids (and adults) don't try this at home!! What brave girls they are!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

"How To" Life Skills Videos

As Gess is getting older we are really working on teaching her important life skills to foster her independence by focusing on things from household work like washing dishes and making her bed to personal hygiene, which not only includes things like brushing her teeth, but how to shower and wash her own hair. Yes, children with special needs have trouble doing these basic things.

With Gess being a visual learner I have discovered a really neat resource for helping her learn some of these skills. It's called YouTube. We all know about YouTube and when we think of that website we generally think of silly videos that get thousands of hits, or consider it a place to catch the latest music video or clip from a TV show. Well, I have found a better purpose for this site: learning life skills!

Gess was really struggling making her bed. I showed her how to do it, but every time she had to make her bed, she would shut down and say "I can't." I do not remember what prompted me to look up a video but one day I just googled "how to make your bed video" and there it was!

How to Make a Bed -- powered by ehow

So Gess came and watched the video with me, and suddenly she was anxious to try it on her own. Each day, when it was time to make her bed we would watch the video, then she would try. Eventually she got really good at it. The only thing she did wrong was put her blanket sideways, but she is still small enough to fit under it anyway, so we just left it (though now she even does that right sometimes). After a few weeks I quit letting her watch the video (even though she begged to watch it first) and she still did great . I am not sure why watching ME make my bed every day was not enough, but hey, if this entices her to do it, I am all about that.

Our most recent issue has been showering alone. Gess has really had issues with splashing water and never liked the feel of a shower nor did she care to put her head in the water to wash her hair when taking a bath. It was a struggle to get her to let me do it, there was no way she was doing it alone. However, this year she made some great progress with her swimming lessons (thanks to her absolutely wonderful instructor Chelsie Ports). Now she not only lets water splash on her but she enjoys going under the water and does it all of her own accord! So I am using that to my advantage and teaching Gess how to shower.

The biggest problem with her bathing independently has been washing her hair. Part of it is her lack of motor skills, she just doesn't rub shampoo in very well but she also has trouble getting the back of her head done as well. So I thought, maybe "seeing" someone wash their hair might help. So back to Google I went and I found a video for "how to wash your hair." I really emphasized how she puts her whole head under the water. The video was also great for teaching her how much shampoo to use and exactly how to rub her head, etc. (Warning! I only recommend this video for girls, as it shows a woman in a silky nightgown preparing to shower and there shots of her bare-back etc.)

I am sure there are many other great videos out there as well. Between EHow and Howcast they have about 10,000 videos!

Of course to teach younger kids more basic skills there are better, less grown up resources. I have previously blogged about Crawford the Cat whose videos helped Gess to learn to wash her hands, brush her teeth, put her toys away, exercise, and use table manners among other things. These also have coloring pages to go with them.

There must be tons of resources for helping older, special needs kids learn necessary life skills. These are just some that Gess has really enjoyed. They may look silly to me, but she just loves them and the best part is, they work!


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