Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hands on Math Game: Can I buy that?

In my recent review of Math Mammoth Money I shared how Gess was getting good at counting coins using dimes and pennies. To practice that skill we came up with a silly little game I called "Can I buy that?" I didn't even actually come up with the title or call it a game until we were playing it for awhile. However, it was something Gess enjoyed and now she will ask to play the game "Can I buy that?" whether we are doing school or not.

I got the idea from an online friend who also homeschools their child that has Down syndrome. She said they make up a store around the house and have the kids spend their play money there. So far in money all we had done was recognize coins and know how much each one was worth. Now that we began counting coins in math I decided to implement the shopping idea into our lesson. I wanted Gess to see counting coins in an every day life situation however, instead of just pretending to play store, we acted as if it were a game to see how many things we could buy with our money.

So first I had her fetch about 6 to 7 toys. Then I took little stickers and priced them all under a dollar in ways that would help her practice counting using only dimes and pennies. Once I had the stickers made I let Gess put them on the toys. I noticed she did it randomly, the toy that was cheapest in real life was priced much higher than her most expensive and favorite of all the toys. So as we play, we are also trying to teach her about value.

Now that the toys are priced I then place her coins out in a way that makes it easy for her to count them. We start by counting the coins to see how much money she has to begin with.

Then she makes her first purchase. We confirm that she can "buy that" with the amount of coins she has. Then she counts the coins out and pays me that much money. Of course eventually she discovers that no, she does not have enough money to buy that, which is an important lesson every kid needs to learn!

That's all there is to it. As we add more coins in our math work we will add those in our game. We will eventually get fancier and have the shopping cart and actual groceries and all that. I think she will love setting up the store herself. As I have mentioned before, I already try to make our grocery shopping educational and this just adds a whole new aspect to that. For now I figured I would share phase one of our little shopping game called "Can I buy that?"

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Easy Thanksgiving Crafts

Each year I am usually lucky enough to find this really cool craft book titled 175 Easy-To-Do Thanksgiving Crafts at the public library. I think someone else finally stumbled upon that gem so my easy thanksgiving crafts had to come from somewhere else. In googling easy crafts, I entered another site that I have used before; Kaboose. I love their craft section because they have a holiday section titled easy, and this craft certainly was. (I search for easy because I am not very crafty, it has nothing to do with Gess!) We went with the Spoon Pilgrims craft, though we made some Wampanoags too.

First you print the patterns and trace them on paper and then cut them out. They were simple and easy for Gess to cut by herself.

Then you glue the outfits on the spoons.

Then you glue on some eyes (we used marker to make hair too).

And there you have your spoon figures.

Now we can have a puppet show of the first Thanksgiving!

For other easy craft ideas you might visit my past blogs Thanksgiving 2008 where we made a Thanksgiving Turkey.

Or visit my Thanksgiving 2009 blog where we made a Pumpkin Pie Game and a Thanksgiving Wreath.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Overruled: Docudrama exposing dangers to parental rights

Overruled is a 35 minute docudrama that examines real cases in American courts in which parental rights were denied to parents.

Can you imagine having your child taken from your custody simply because you make them attend church 3 times a week? One judge in America did just that. He ordered that their child (who had already been taken from their custody) not be returned to the home unless the parents agreed to only take him to church once a week! A JUDGE decided how much church was too much church! An AMERICAN judge had the power to make that decision!

And parents of kids in school, did you know that you are checking your parental rights at the school door? Want your child opted out of sex education that might conflict with your personal views? A parent in this video was arrested for trying to opt his child out and the school never consented to do so!

Or what about medical information for your child? Do you know that you must sign for permission for medical treatment for your child and even must pay for that treatment but unless the child gives you permission you do not have the right to see the results of tests from that treatment!? Parents in this movie were denied access to the results of a drug test given to their son because of the new HIPPA laws we now have in place.

These are REAL cases that have happened in US courts. In the country where we thought we had the right to raise our children according to our own values, how could this be possible?

Here is the trailer to the Overruled Docudrama (in case you don't have time to watch the full movie now) and below that is the full version of Overruled. Please, make sure you make the time to watch the entire movie when you have a chance. Then please share it with everyone you know! This information needs to get out! We need to fight for our rights before they are long gone! Also, be sure to "like" the videos (if you agree of course) or comment below them.

Official Overruled Trailer

Overruled 35 Minute Docudrama

Visit Overruled Movie or to learn more of how you can help to protect parental rights.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

TOS Review: Time Timer

We had the opportunity this month to review the Time Timer which is a handy little tool for children with special needs, but has many other applications as well. The Time Timer can be used in education, business, special needs or every day life. Basically it's great for anytime you need to keep track of how much time is spent on a task.

What is so neat about the Time Timer, is that unlike a typical timer, it has a visual element that highlights how much time is left. So rather than just ticking down and ringing when something is done, it slowly fades the red area to white. There is also an optional quiet beep that beeps twice when the time is all done.

With my daughter having Down syndrome, we were interested in utilizing this timer for special needs situations. See, if a child can not yet tell time, the Time Timer can help them to keep track of a segment of time for various purposes. While I was excited to get this product now, I think it would have been even more beneficial for us when Gess was younger, but it still has practical uses for many things.

When Gess was younger we had many frustrating issues in which time was a factor. Before she had a concept of time she used to constantly ask when something was going to happen. If she knew we were going somewhere she would constantly ask when, so we could have set the timer and she would be able to see how long before we left, etc. Maybe that would have kept her from being so aggravated or "buggy" about needing to know when something was going to happen.

I would have also used this to teach her manners. In the past when Gess would ask for something inappropriately we would set a watch for 3 minutes time and tell her to come back in that time to ask again, this time using her manners. Well, she hated wearing a watch and while the beeper helped, I think seeing that 3 minutes tick away would have been wonderful. Still, there are uses for the timer now.

One fun thing is when we cook together. Gess loves helping in the kitchen. Before she used to have to go look at the oven timer to see how long until something was done. Now, she can take the clock to the room where she is playing and visually see the time tick away until the cookies, pizza or whatever we are making is done.

The main thing I have used it for was her reading time. Gess is entered in the Book-It program, where you read for so many minutes a month and get a free pizza coupon if you make your goal. Well, keeping track of her minutes had been a struggle for me. I would set her to reading and go do something else. When I came back, she was not reading anymore and I was trying to figure out just how long she had read before she stopped. It wasn't even that she got tired of reading. If she finished a book, she figured she was done. She did not really understand reading for a set amount of time. The Time Timer has helped her to learn to focus on how long she read, rather than how much.

Now when she reads, I lay out several books and explain that she must read until the timer goes off. If she finishes a book, she must start another one. The timer has really helped her understand the concept of what we are doing in a visual way. When the timer goes off, I can reset it if she wants more time. This has certainly made it much easier for me to keep track of the time.

Another thing I used it for was independent study for school and computer time. I have some educational computer programs that I use for later in the day that help Gess review or learn concepts without supervision. Sometimes, however, I would find she had quit the game before she was supposed to. This timer was the perfect solution for that. Now, I sit the timer on the desk and she knows she has to play or do that particular educational task until the timer goes off. This assures me she is getting the amount of practice that she needs. (You could also use it to make sure they didn't play non-educational games too long.) Here she is playing one of the games with the timer set behind her.

There were a few things that we did not like about the timer, but I suppose some of it couldn't be helped. Well, part of it is that the child can simply adjust the timer themselves if they wanted to end the session sooner. Thankfully for me, Gess only did this to extend the time if she wanted to play or read longer! I just fear one day she will try to speed things up too.

The other problem is that the beeping on the timer is very soft. You can set the timer to either beep or be silent. I understand having a quiet beep is best for children with aversions to louder noises or if you are going to use the timer in an office setting or something like that. However, it was so quiet sometimes neither of us realized the time had expired. I wish it had options for silent, quiet and loud.

Otherwise I found it to be very practical and helpful in many situations. The timer is somewhat expensive, at least on my budget, but sometimes these helps are worth any price if they address a specific need your special child might have. If it fits your budget and your need, it certainly is a handy thing to have around.

The Time Timer comes in three sizes. The 3" timer is $30.00, the 8" timer is $35.00 and the 12" timer is $40.00. I can see the larger timers being beneficial for younger kids, children with vision problems or in a classroom setting. We had the 3" one though and it worked really well for us. It's also really portable. The timer has a solid plastic cover that protects the timer when not in use and doubles as a stand for when it is, so you can toss it in a bag for travel and not have to worry about it.

If you would like to learn more about the Time Timer visit their website or see what others from the TOS Homeschool Crew thought about it.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received a free 3" Time Timer for giving my honest opinion and assessment of this product in my review.

Friday, November 11, 2011

TOS Review: Math Mammoth

While Gess is an excellent reader, one area that she really struggles with is math, which is pretty typical for children with Down syndrome. Because of that I planned on tackling some life-skills math topics such as time, money and measurement this year. So when I saw I had the chance to review Math Mammoth I jumped at it. I was hoping to be able to review at least one of the topics mentioned above, but was pleasantly surprised when they allowed me to review all 3 of them! So what is Math Mammoth?
"Math Mammoth offers affordable, yet quality math worktexts and workbooks for grades 1-8, available as both downloads and printed books. These books concentrate on conceptual understanding and are strong in mental math. The directions in the worktexts are written directly to the student, and are often self-teaching, thus requiring little preparation and involvement from the teacher."
I can certainly vouch for the affordability, quality and ease of teacher preparation. Each of these books allowed us to jump right on in and begin learning. They are visually appealing, engaging, and offer some hands on work to make it perfect for special learners like Gess. As for affordability I would imagine you could not find a better deal anywhere. You can get the Math Mammoth books in a downloadable PDF format for under $5. The Money book is only $3.25, the Clock book is just $4.00 and Measuring 1 is still a bargain at $4.50. You can also purchase the printed book version for a little bit more if you truly want a text book in front of you.

Math Mammoth also offers a complete math curriculum titled the Math Mammoth Light Blue Series which is a full elementary mathematics curriculum for grades 1 -6. The supplemental materials, such as the ones I reviewed, are organized into categories by colors as well. The Green Series are worksheets by topic while the Golden Series offers worksheets by grade. The Blue Series are worktexts by topic and focus on a few specific topics (this is the series that my products came from). They also have a Making it Real Learning series that teaches you to solve problems from real life and States by Numbers that is basic practice using real life data.

So, what did we think and how did Gess like it? Well, I have only had them for about a month and since Gess moves slowly in math (and we had 3 topics to cover) we didn't get that far, but what I can say is that Gess has enjoyed and comprehended every lesson that we have done so far. Let's start by taking a quick look at each one.

Math Mammoth Money
"Math Mammoth Money is a worktext that covers U.S. money-related topics usually encountered during grades 1-3. The book contains both textbook explanations and exercises, and is designed to be very easy to teach from, requiring very little teacher preparation (you do need to find some practice coins before the lessons)."

On the Math Mammoth Money website you will find more information about what all it entails including the following sample pages: the table of contents, practicing with money, adding money amounts, counting change and quarters.

Here Gess is doing one of the hands on activities in the workbook. We have some plastic coins that came with a game we picked up for a buck one time. They work perfectly for this but any fake money or even real money will work. We started with dimes and pennies. Here Gess had to put the appropriate amount in each box. You can also draw them if you wish, but I think this is much better.

I was really impressed with how well she was able to count out money. Here she is counting out change using only dimes and pennies.

This week we added in nickels and she counted pretty well. We have been working on skip counting for quite some time and it has paid off. She has been able to transition from counting in tens (dimes) to fives (nickels) and then ones (pennies) to see how much money she has. There are still times she gets mixed up and tries to keep counting by tens when she hits nickels, so we are taking it slow. Still, this material has her moving along fairly well and I am pleased with it.

Math Mammoth Measuring 1

"Math Mammoth Measuring 1 is a worktext that covers measuring length, weight, volume, and temperature as they are typically covered during grades 1-3.

The book contains both textbook explanations and exercises, and is designed to be very easy to teach from, requiring fairly little teacher preparation; however in several lessons you need to find beforehand measuring equipment such as a ruler or a scale or measuring cups.

This book is NOT organized by grade-levels nor with increasing difficulty. Instead, I have grouped together first of all the lessons on measuring length, then measuring weight, then measuring volume, and lastly temperature."

The Math Mammoth Measuring Page tells you all the other information you need to know and has the entire equipment list needed for these lessons, most of which you have laying around the house anyway. It also offers sample pages of the contents, centimeters and millimeters, weight in pounds, using grams, volume, and measuring nearest 1/2 inch.

I really loved the opening lesson that helps explain to the student why a standard form of measurement is important. First we have the student try to measure the length of the table using a shoe (representing a foot). But what shoe do we use? Does it matter? Well, we found out that it did. Here is Gess measuring the table using a big shoe (mine) and a little shoe (hers).

We discovered that our little table was 3 big shoes in length and 4 little shoes. Now we have to see about measuring liquid. It wanted us to fill a bucket or something with cups of water. Again, we want to use a little cup and a big cup.

It took 20 little cups to fill that up! I wonder how many big coffee cups it will take.

It turned out it only took 6 of those! What a difference. Next we logged our answers. I had her fill this in on the board to really see what happened.

Now that we know how important it is to have a standard method of measurement we went on to learning to measure things. So far we are measuring by inches. Gess is really getting handy with a ruler and can tell you to the inch how many inches long something is.

This past week they introduced the 1/2 inch to her. That may take some thinking but I am sure she will get it. I love how the pages are so easy for her to read and use. Just look at the measuring to the nearest half-inch page for an example.

Math Mammoth Clock

"Math Mammoth Clock is a worktext that covers telling time and reading the clock, telling time intervals, and understanding the calendar. It is suitable for grades 1, 2, and 3.

The book contains both textbook explanations and exercises, and is designed to be very easy to teach from, requiring very little teacher preparation...

You will need a practice clock, such as an alarm clock, where the child can turn the clock hands."

The Clock page also has more information and sample pages covering the contents, whole and half hours, half and quarter hours, how many minutes pass, and using the calendar.

I had already purchased a practice clock at a homeschool convention awhile back so we were prepared and ready to start.

Gess also was already familiar with the hands on the clock and could tell time to the hour. What I loved about this book is how it explains more about what the hour means at least relative to other time. For example this week we not only worked on how to tell the time on the clock now but then we had to find one hour or a half hour later and write that time down too. I think it really helped Gess to watch the time pass on the clock.

First I had her set the clock to what the problem called for which for this problem was 6:30.

Once she finds 6:30 we can do the problem. Now it wants us to find a 1/2 hour later. She finds and writes down 7:00. But we are not done yet. Now we have to find yet another 1/2 hour later.

Ok, now we look at the clock and see what time another 1/2 hour later is.

Then we write it down on the worksheet.

Here you have the final answer. Another 1/2 hour later is 7:30.

Eventually you will do it without the clock, but it has been extremely helpful for Gess to see it and move the hands herself.

As I mentioned above Math Mammoth offers many other math topics including a full curriculum for grades 1 through 6. This supplemental material has worked really well for us. To learn more about Math Mammoth visit their website or see what other TOS Homeschool Crew members have to say about it.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received a free digital PDF copy of the Math Mammoth Clock, Money and Measuring1 books for giving my honest opinion and assessment of this product in my review.

Monday, November 7, 2011

TOS Review: Keyboard Town PALS

We had the opportunity to review Keyboard Town PALS this last month and I have to tell you, I am absolutely amazed with the results! Keyboard Town PALS is a program for teaching children to type and it worked really well for us! Typing is a skill that I feared would take Gess (who has Down syndrome) forever to learn. In fact, we had tried other typing programs and teaching her myself, but it never seemed to take. So Gess has been doing what many kids (and some adults) do; hunt and peck.

Gess has been on the computer enough to where she actually knows where most (if not all) of the letters are. It's her motor skills that were the most challenging. So the first time we logged on to Keyboard Town PALS I couldn't believe how easily she picked it up! This program is so child friendly and very helpful for kids with special needs like Gess!

Here is how it works. You are guided through "Keyboard Town" by a fun and bubbly character named Sunny (OK, my husband said she was sort of creepy, but Gess liked her well enough).

She maps out the neighborhood by naming the three streets you will visit; Home-key Street, Uptown and Downtown.

Then she introduces you to some adorable puppet friends who make up the town. Each letter has a character to help you remember where the key is located. You immediately begin typing with each character that is introduced and by lesson 3 you are typing actual words! Here is Amy teaching how to type the letter a. Notice how you type underneath the video as it prompts you. The backspace and delete keys don't work so there is no correcting, which sometimes frustrated Gess. However, I actually like that it doesn't focus on perfection. It just wants you to practice as you go.

Now the program claims that it can teach you in just one hour, and for many kids that is probably so. I can certainly see how that would be possible. However, I intentionally took it much slower with Gess. Each lesson focuses on all the letters you type with that finger and I did not want Gess getting confused by doing too many lessons together. So each day we only did one lesson and I repeated each lesson one time before going on. Since there are 8 lessons that means it took us 16 days to complete them all twice. Still, learning to type in 3 weeks for a kid who has special needs and specifically motor skill issues is pretty amazing to me, especially since each lesson is not very long (I would say 5 to 6 minutes on average). Next we plan on trying to do them all together, or at least one hand of keys at a time to review and practice what she learned.

Even though the pace was much slower for Gess, with the motor skill issues she has I was absolutely amazed at how easily she picked it up! She was typing right away! Just look at her go!

Granted I would stand over her and make sure her hands were in the right place. In fact sometimes I caught her cheating by using the wrong finger. There are definitely muscles she would rather not use! But most of the time she did just fine.

I would highly recommend this for any family who has a child with special needs but I am sure it would work great for any child. Typing is one of those things I wondered if Gess would ever be able to do well. I certainly thought it was going to be much harder than this to teach her, especially when other methods had failed. I have to give a big thumbs up to this program and I am certainly recommending it to everyone in our local Down syndrome support group too!

Keyboard Town PALS is available on a CDRom for $35.00 or as a web based program for $30.00 and it is available in English, French or Spanish. There are also options to get a card game and stickers to go along with it. If you want an easy way to teach your child how to type I suggest you give it a try! For more information visit their website or why not see what other TOS Homeschool Crew Members had to say.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received a 30 day subscription to Keyboard Town PALS for giving my honest opinion and assessment of this product in my review.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Allergy Medications and Behavior Problems

Were any of you aware that allergy medication has the potential to affect a child's behavior? I had read about Singulair some time ago so when Gess was suffering with allergy problems I refused to give her Singulair because of it. According to their own website the potential Behavioral side effects of taking Singulair are:
Behavior and mood-related changes have been reported. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you or your child have any of these symptoms while taking SINGULAIR:
  • agitation including aggressive behavior or hostility
  • bad or vivid dreams
  • depression
  • disorientation (confusion)
  • feeling anxious
  • hallucination (seeing or hearing things that are not really there)
  • irritability
  • restlessness
  • sleepwalking
  • suicidal thoughts and actions (including suicide)
  • tremor
  • trouble sleeping
Well, what I didn't realize is that ANY allergy medication has the potential to affect a child's behavior! Do you recall last year when I blogged about some behavioral issues my daughter was having? She seemed to suddenly just turn into a very obstinate and rebellious child and I was trying to help her through it. Well, over the course of this last year we figured out what the problem was. It was not Gess going through a "phase" it was her allergy medication!

See, when Gess had her tonsils out we had to take her off medications before her surgery. She got sick for some time after and she ended up off the medication for awhile. We noticed that as she healed her behavior was much better! We thought, maybe the whole problem was her breathing issues and not resting well and that the surgery helped that out. Then, her allergies began to act up so we had to place her back on her meds. Then the behavioral issues suddenly reappeared! It was like turning on a switch. Within a week we were back to aggressive and defiant behavior again.

I spoke to my doctor and mentioned my concern so we switched her medication and tried something else. We had the same problem. We even tried Singulair since they ALL seemed to have the potential to affect behavior. It too changed her mood. We finally settled to just use over the counter medications using Benadryl at night and Sudafed during the day. Do you know we even get some behavior adjustment with just those? It's not as severe as some of the prescription medications but there still is an apparent change.

You know I expected behavioral medications to affect children this way. Medications for ADHD, Depression, Anxiety, and those types of conditions all have a risk of making children (and adults) experience the side effects mentioned above. I had no clue, however, that an allergy medication could do the same thing!

So I have to get the word out, especially to parents of children with DS. If your child is having behavioral issues AND is on allergy medication, you might look to see if there is a correlation. It very well could be the case, and if it is, we need to start letting our health professionals know!

I read in the American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report of Health Supervision for Children with Down syndrome that there is some evidence that children with Down syndrome are more sensitive to behavioral medication than their peers. The report states:

"The use of medication for behavioral management should be discussed between the primary care physician and specialists involved in the child's care, because children with Down syndrome may be more sensitive to certain medications. Although there has been little research to directly address the use of psychotropic medications among children with Down syndrome, anecdotal reports indicate that such children may differ in their response to medications."

It seems to me that if our children may respond differently to psychotropic drugs and since allergy medications have the same potential to affect behavior as psychotropic drugs do, then our children may be more sensitive to allergy medications as well. I certainly wish they would do more studies to see just how prevalent this might be.

So please, if you have a child with behavioral issues and they are on a regular dose of allergy medication, try and find out if it is related. If your child only takes allergy medication as needed, watch their behavior and see if you have any issues as well.

I only offer this to you to inform you of the risk. Maybe Gess is some strange case which makes her more sensitive than most, I just do not know. What I do know is that parents should be told of the risk of side effects no matter what! Until I brought this up, I had no idea that her allergy medication had the potential to do that. According to our doctor ALL allergy medications can do that. If nothing else, we need to be told that! We need to know what these drugs might do to our kids and so now you know. Please share this information with others who might need to know too. It's a scary thing to watch your child transform before your eyes, knowing it's a drug that is supposed to help is downright frightening.


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