Monday, September 24, 2012

Homeschooling With One Child

When you think of homeschooling you often picture a fairly large family with a lot of activity, however that is not always the case.  There are some families in the homeschool community who, like mine, have only one child at home.  Gess actually has two older brothers, but they are much older and no longer live at the house.  The youngest of them graduated when she was only 4 years old.  So, while Gess is not an only child, she is the only one at home and incidentally is the only one I have ever homeschooled.

Homeschooling only one child has its advantages and disadvantages.  I believe the advantages are obvious.  How often have you heard people in public school complaining about class size and teacher to student ratios?  That's because the smaller the class size the better the student performs.  Well, it's hard to top a one to one student to teacher ratio!  What student wouldn't have an advantage being the only one in the classroom?  If the child is struggling with a topic you can take more time, if they grasp it quickly you can move on rather than bore them. There's no holding the other students back.  It also helps in choosing your curriculum, activities, field trips, projects and so on.  Tailoring them to your student's specific interests and challenges almost guarantees success.  Now add in that extra factor of educating a child with special needs and you can see how beneficial this can be.


It allows me make every part of our day about her educational and therapy needs.  I took the grand-kids shopping the other day and was reminded of how hard it is to do all your errands with the kids in tow.  Usually its just Gess and myself and therefore I try to make it a learning process.  When she was little we would talk about what I put in the cart so she could learn the name and product.  I would do things like have her find "fruit" and "vegetables."  As she started to read I would have her find a few things on the shelf for me.  If she got curious and wanted to browse we usually took the time to do that.  Now she has her own list and I follow her around.  She sure has come a long way. 


Of course there are also drawbacks as well.  Since the child is lacking playmates during the day you have to work extra hard to find some for them.  Gess is enrolled in many extra curricular activities that my boys never got to do.  That was partly because we couldn't afford it.  It's simply less expensive to enroll one child in an activity than it is two or more.  The other reason is because they didn't need it.  They had each other to play with when mom was busy, Gess does not.  Besides enrolling in things like ballet, gymnastics (and various other sports), and horseback riding lessons we also get involved in church activities, community events, library reading programs and so on.


We also have to fight a self-contentedness that it creates.  We really have to emphasize that life isn't all about Gess.  Part of that is due to the fact that her special needs require extra attention and part of that is being the only child at home.  That's just one more thing we address in our schooling.  We really emphasize respect, manners and putting others first.  Just last night we went to a homeschool party and there were over 100 people there and at that point Gess did perfectly fine.  Other than wanting to serve during volleyball more than her fair share, she was generally content and happy to play with the other kids.  In fact, I was quite impressed with how well all the children played together.  I think that was a testament to homeschooling no matter how many children you have at home.

I certainly think the positive outweighs the negative, especially in schooling Gess who has Down syndrome.  This is confirmed in many ways.  We recently went to her yearly Down syndrome appointment and each specialist commented on how well she was doing. She was described as "a friendly girl" who "maintained a very pleasant disposition" and was "very nicely social."  Yes, there are still times she wants to be at the front of the line, play with a certain toy, or not clean her room but what child doesn't have those moments?  What's important is that she understands those behaviors are not acceptable or tolerated.  Not getting away with it sure makes acting that way less desirable so they are not the norm.  So while homeschooling one child can have it's challenges, I think with a little work you can address those in such a way that it you hardly notice them at all.  In the end I know I will cherish every moment that Gess and I have spent one on one together.  For me I know that its the right choice.



If you want to see how other people are dealing with homeschooling the only child you can head on over the Schoolhouse Review Blog Cruise by clicking on the banner below.

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Managing Goals With Outcomes in the Spotlight


The Schoolhouse Review Crew has a Spotlight on the Crew segment where they have us crew mates share some of our experiences with you.  I am honored to be spotlighted this week.  I think it's a topic many of my readers might be interested in so I wanted to share it with you.  You can find my article article here: Homeschooling the Special Needs Child: Balancing Goals with Outcomes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: Homeschool Legacy - Weather on the Move

Having a daughter with Down syndrome has been a blessing and a joy.  It really has proven that children with Down syndrome are more alike other kids than they are different.  Each child has their own goals, dreams, desires, interests and talents and that includes children who have Down syndrome.  Gesserine's interests all seemed to be tied into science.  She loves studying anything about the weather and her dream is to one day be a storm chaser, but if that doesn't work out she will settle for being a meteorologist.  With this in mind you can see why we were thrilled to be able to review Weather on the Move from Homeschool Legacy.

Homeschool Legacy offers once-a-week unit studies in a variety of subjects that help make learning more intriguing and fun.  Once a week you get to ditch the text books, tests and other activities you had planned and instead do a unit study that hits all the main subjects while learning something really cool.  The unit is prepared in such a way that it takes little or no prep time to use it.  They have done all the work for you which is really nice!  It also incorporates activities that can be used for credit for Boy Scouts or American Heritage Girls so that's a really nice added bonus if your children participate in those.


Weather on the Move is a 7 week unit study for grades 2-12.  Each section has a devotional that focuses on God's creation and how incredible the systems work within it.  You also learn some vocabulary, history, read some classics (as well as weather books), make some crafts, do some experiments, graph the weather, and take some pictures among a many other things.  You then log all of this in the Weather Journal you make using a three ring binder.  They also have a family night where they recommend activities, games, or movies that go with the lesson as well as suggested field trips. I know it might sound pretty overwhelming for one day of study, but it's really not.  When they say they have done the work for you, they mean it. Having a child with special needs I am used to having to do some work to adapt the plans to fit Gess' needs but I didn't have to do that here.  It really was ready to use.  It was nice being able to just do the lessons for a change!

The unit covers the following subjects:

Week 1 – Meteorology
Week 2 – The Sun: Our Solar-Powered Weather Engine
Week 3 – The Atmosphere: An Ocean of Air
Week 4 – The Water Cycle
Week 5 – Frozen Precipitation
Week 6 – Clouds
Week 7 – Extreme Weather

It's as if this study was made with Gesserine in mind!  She has absolutely loved it.  The first week we got to learn about the history of meteorology, the next week explored the history of the thermometer and who contributed to it.  Those were things I didn't even know.  We then learned about the atmosphere and water cycle and I know she can't wait to get to the last week on extreme weather and I am looking forward to that too!

For your Weather Journal you need to keep track of the weather but it also provided a hurricane tracking chart.  We actually started this study the very week that Hurricane Isaac began it's trek towards the gulf coast so we began charting it right away. Now I spent many years in Texas and Florida and have been through a number of hurricanes, so hurricane tracking was nothing new to me.  However, Gess was only 2 when she went through them so I don't think she remembers them at all.  They provide you with a tracking chart to use but the numbers were so small I could barely read them myself so there was no way Gess could do it herself, but she did watch the weather channel a few times each day to keep updated on Isaac's movement while I filled in the coordinates.  We also went to the Hurricane Tracker at The Weather Channel website to see the path in action. Here is the chart she helped me with by giving me the coordinates when she saw the news.


It was funny, one day after our study on hurricanes she looked up in the sky and noticed the coulds looked like they were forming a circular motion.  She said, "look mommy, a hurricane."  You know, they weren't moving fast like a hurricane but they had that "look" to them!  I reminded her that hurricanes happen over water.  I am sure we will learn more about them in week 7!

There are several experiments each week for you to choose from.  You can do them all or none, it's up to you.  We did at least one from each unit and if Gess had her way we would do them all.  In Week 2 we were learning about the sun so we did an experiment to show why it is warmer around the equator by using a flash light, rubber band and tennis ball.  See how the sun is brighter around the rubber band (representing the equator)?



Then after learning about the water cycle in week 4 she got to make some rain!



The field trips were my favorite part (I think Gess loved it all the same).  For one week they wanted you to go to a greenhouse but we opted to go to Science City instead.  They have Science on a Sphere there and we got to see the atmosphere up close and personal.


The sun was cool to look at too.


The best suggestion they had was going to visit your local news station and see if you can meet the meteorologist and ask them some questions related to the weather.  I would never have thought of doing that and was not even sure they would let us.  I was pleasantly surprised when they did.

We toured KOAM studios and Gess was so excited!  When we got the studio we met Doug Heady the chief meteorologist that Gess loves to watch on TV as well as another meteorologist on staff, Nick Kelly.  I made the question time a little easier by having her prepare her questions ahead of time.  She asked two questions that the curriculum wanted her to ask and two she came up with on her own. Because Gess still suffers from some speech intelligibility issues I had her type her questions so could she could read as she asked them and not be struggling for the words.  I also wrote them down on a note card and handed them to Doug Heady so he could see and hear the question as she asked it.  This way he was able to focus more on answering the questions, and less on trying to understand them.  I have to say he gave her some great answers and some pretty cool suggestions on how she can be predict the weather even now as a kid.  Then Gess started asking her own questions. Here she is listening intently as Nick explains how tornadoes form.


Then she got to see how they do the weather on television.  After that they let her try it out herself.  It was kind of tricky but she picked it up fairly quickly.  She was actually pointing to a blank green screen like this.



But on the television set it looked like this!


We have had so much fun with this study that when Gess was asked what her favorite book was she said that was it Weather on the Move!  The great part is we have really learned a lot about the weather.  (As I mentioned before even I have learned quite a bit.)  I really love how this brings the family together to explore, enjoy and praise God for the wonderful creation He has made!  It truly is incredible!

Weather on the Move sells for $19.95 and I think it is certainly worth the price. Homeschool Legacy also offers once-a-week unit studies on various other topics in both science and social studies.  The prices of each unit study varies and ranges anywhere from $15.95- $19.95.  If our experience is an example of how incredible the others are I know I will be purchasing more.  The Homeschool Review Crew members were given several different topics so if you want to see what else they have to offer you can visit those reviews by clicking on the banner the below.

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Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received the unit study Weather on the Move in PDF for giving my honest opinion and assessment of this product in my review.
Note: All pricing is current at the time of posting and is subject to change.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Time With Dad

Because I am the one who does all the teaching I am careful to make sure that dad is a part of our schooling process and knows what we are studying and doing.  There are certain areas, like science, where dad actually does some of the work with Gess but we also try to make sure that we make time to just have some fun together. 

During the Olympics Gess watched some tennis and fell in love with it, so we got some rackets and started playing that for exercise as well as family fun. We were really enjoying that until a few weeks back when my husband fell while attempting to jump over the puddle and get the ball, so tennis has had to be put aside.

Well this weekend I went off to a ladies retreat so daddy and Gess got to spend some real quality time together.  Since tennis was out (because of his leg) he found a good alternative.  Ping-Pong (aka table tennis)!



They also played some Yahtzee.



Then there was the science experiment they did together which was both fun and educational.  Gess just loves science!  They made it rain! (I'll share more about that later.)


It looks like they had quite a bit of fun while I was gone.  I am so blessed to have a husband who goes out of his way to make sure he spends time with his family.  There was one time he was busy doing something on his computer but he dropped everything when Gess came up and asked him to dance!  (The song "This Moment - Dance with Cinderella" was playing.)



She has a great daddy, doesn't she?!  Because he always makes time for us I try to make sure that we also make time for him.  How do you make time for dad?  You can see how other members of the Schoolhouse Blog Cruise are making time for dad by clicking on the banner below.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Family Time Fitness


You know an awful lot about my daughter who has Down syndrome and have shared in some of her struggles and have watched many of her successes.  What I do not usually talk about is me and don't worry, I won't bore you with that now, but I do want to share this one thing.  A few years ago I finally reached my weight loss goal!  That's right, from my highest weight I lost a total of 63 pounds and I have now kept it off for about 3 years.  Even though I have managed to keep the weight off I still struggle with getting enough exercise.   Therefore, when I was afforded the opportunity to review Family Time Fitness I thought, "how perfect!"  Usually I have to find time before or after "school" for my workout, but not anymore.  Now my daughter and I are both getting the exercise we need while spending some quality time together as well.  What could be better!?

Gesserine actually loves exercising way more than I do so we were both anxious get started when the Fitness 4 Homeschool curriculum arrived.


 They offer instructions for the parent/teacher on exactly how to preform each exercise but there are also video illustrations available for all of them which really helps!  (I am not really good at reading instructions for these types of activities. I do much better following an actual example.)  The program is structured so that you can do this 5 days a week all year round and there is plenty of variety so it never gets boring or old.  While some of these activities require equipment it's generally things any household with children will already have and if you don't have them you will find they are inexpensive or can be substituted easily.  Here is their recommended equipment list.

Recommended Equipment:

Bean Bags - An alternative to store bought bean bags could be tennis balls, any small ball, or even as simple as a pair of socks in a ball shape. (We used small bean bag animals.)
Jump Rope - An alternative to a store bought rope could be a project to use your own rope, and then you can make handles out of duct tape or electrical tape.
Hula Hoops (s) - Unfortunately there is no real alternative for a hula hoop. These can generally be picked up at a store for under $10 (We paid $3 for ours!)
Playground Balls - Alternatives for this can be a basketball, soccer ball, or volleyball (We never have a shortage of balls around here.)
Foam Balls – One option for indoor play is to use Foam Balls or a blow up beach ball
Cones - Alternative can be a box, a bucket, or even a rock
Measuring Tape - These can be bought for as little as $5 (My hubby had one.)
Stop Watch - You can use your watch, possibly your cell phone, or you can buy one at the store.
Exercise Mat- This is optional and each individual needs to assess the area in which they will be doing the activity to determine the need for this item.

You start your Family Time Fitness program by taking an assessment and measuring your child's ability in several activities such as jumping distances, squats, sit ups, push ups, and others.  This evaluation is done twice every 6-8 weeks.  After the initial assessment you are ready to begin.


 Each lesson has basically the same structure.  It begins by listing what skills are taught, what equipment is needed and what the suggested recovery times are.  Then you have a Warm Up, Activity / Game Time, Cool Down and Outdoor Activity.  This should give you 25-45 minutes of exercise before the Outdoor Activity which adds an additional 15-30 minutes for a total of at least 60 minutes per day. They actually recommend a lot of these be done outdoors but we mostly stayed inside because of the severe heat we had during the review.

At first I was worried these exercises would be too childish and wouldn't give me the quality workout I needed for my personal goals but I also realized that any additional exercise was better than nothing.  It turned out that I had nothing to worry about.  After just one day I can assure you my muscles were certainly noticing they were being worked again!  It really had been too long since I had done a full workout!  Sure, I would walk a little, or do simple things, but nothing that worked out all my muscle groups which is one thing I love about this program.  It gives you a full body workout each and every day.

Because this is a curriculum geared towards children some of the titles and activities are named to draw their interest. You have the Monster Walk, Lion Pose, Popcorn, Superman, Rocking Horse Series and so on.  But before you start wondering just how silly those things look remember, you are exercising and you look no more or less silly than you would doing any other exercise routine.  Besides, most of us homeschool moms quit worrying about silly a long time ago!  As I mentioned before, you really will increase your heart rate up and work your muscles if you follow the plan.  If you doubt me then try these Ankle Alphabets a time or two.  Yeah, that's right.  Ankle Alphabet sounds so simple, so childish and even mundane, but do it, I dare you!

Ankle Alphabet - Sit on the ground. Raise your right leg off the ground, and draw the alphabet with your right foot. Do the same thing with your left foot.

That's right.  Draw all 26 letters of the alphabet!  No simple twist your ankle for a count of 10.  Nope!  Draw 26 complete letters.  Man my calves were feeling it the next day!  But remember, that's what we want!  It's good to use your body and work out those areas that get neglected.

The program is actually geared for grades K-8 (not us parents) and they did a really good job making it fun for them.  Gess absolutely loved it.  I think it's a great way to instill healthy exercise habits and make sure your child (and everyone else in your family) is getting the exercise they need.  It's also a great way to make sure that we are spending some "fun" time together.  We can get so bogged down with school, chores, activities and so forth sometimes we just don't get enough family fun in.  This is one way to assure that you do. We won't get these years back, so instead of just sitting on the side lines while your child plays, this allows you to get right on in there with all of them!  There were times when Gess didn't want it to end and asked me to "play" more. I really love that!  Here are a few examples of Gess participating in Family Time Fitness.

Frog Squats were fun!


How about some Hula?


Gess was even better at using the Hula Hoop than I was!  Actually you use the Hula Hoop for lots of things.  Sometimes you held it while doing some squats and other times you might dribble a ball in it. There was one we liked where you would stand inside of it and then lift it over your head, then place it on the floor in front of you, step in it and start over again.  You would do this back and forth across the room. They call this Hula Hoop Walks.


There were lots of things to do with balls as well.  We loved Freezemania where you toss the ball back and forth and after 10 complete catches race to do jumping jacks. Here Gess is playing Partner Turn and Pass with me. 


And here she is doing the Ball Crawl.



Family Time Fitness is an actual full fledged PE Curriculum and is really about good health.  I think the activities are well rounded, provide a good overall full body workout and are explained and demonstrated well to make sure that your family does them safely and correctly.  They provide detail explanations with each lesson but also have 1 page summaries to make it easier to print up and take out with you.  Besides the assessment instructions and charts there are also several extra tools available such as an activity tracking calendar for each month, meal planner, grocery list, daily food diary and nutrition log.  That way your family can work on eating right, not just exercise.

The Fitness for Homeschool Core 1 Curriculum for grades K-8 sells for $57 and comes with lifetime access to program updates and revisions.  That's pretty good considering a gym membership costs a whole lot more and while some of the exercises may seem sillier than your typical workout video (where you do the same routine over and over and over again) these are actually more fun and give your body the same benefit.  If as a parent you don't want to stick your tongue out and roar like a lion doing the Lion Pose, I understand but when you look over at your kids doing it and enjoying it, remember that's what this is really all about.  If you want to learn more about Family Time Fitness visit their website or why not see what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought about it by clicking on the banner below.

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Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received the full Fitness for Homeschool Core 1 Curriculum K-8 for giving my honest opinion and assessment of this product in my review.
Note: All pricing is current at the time of posting and is subject to change.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Rotation and Revolution

Yes, I am talking about the planets and specifically earth as it rotates on its axis and revolves around the sun.  I have used balls in my hands and had Gess watch videos to explain this, but then my curriculum used a technique that really just clinched it for Gess and I just had to share.  It's so simple I don't know why I never thought of this before.  Well actually yes I do.  I am not very creative.  That's the hardest part of teaching for me.  However, while I am not so great at thinking outside the box  I am very good at research and adapting methods once the idea has been started.  Joining the Schoolhouse Review Crew has also been helpful as I have found some excellent resources I might not have otherwise tried before and that's exactly where these helpful tools came from!

You might remember the review I did for Christian Kids Explore Science: Earth & Space last April.  I told you how I jumped ahead in that book for the purpose of my review to follow along with our current study of the weather.  Well, we loved the curriculum so much I was anxious to start back at the beginning but since it was so late in the school year I figured I would start that this year.  So here we are starting to learn about the earth.

Two very important facts that we learn is how the earth revolves around the sun giving us our seasons and how it rotates on its axis giving us our days and nights.  Here is a demonstration the book suggested to show the kids what that actually means.  This was very hands on and now Gess not only remembers the definitions but now she also comprehends what they mean!

First we learned about the difference between revolving and rotation. To do that they simply have you put a chair in the middle of the room and have the child walk around it.  Now tell the student "you are revolving around the chair."



Ok, then have them stand in place and spin in a circle.  Now explain that they are "rotating."  At this point you also make them stop facing the chair and again facing away from the chair and note how the sun would be actually be shining (or not shining) on it at that time giving us day and night.



Then I had another great curriculum Weather on the Move which expanded on the rotation concept and showed why the equator gets more sun than the poles do they have another activity to try.  Here you use a tennis ball, rubber band, and a flashlight.  You are supposed to do it holding the ball in one hand and the flashlight in the other but instead I just propped the flash light up to hit the center of the ball and did it on the floor so Gess could manipulate it better.  Now you see how the earth is actually moving rather than the sun (no rising or setting going on) and why the earth is warmer around the equator (the rubber band) and colder on the poles.



Science is Gesserine's favorite subject but it never was mine, however I am finding that I like it more and more as I see see it through the eyes of a child discovering it for the very first time!  It's also helpful when I am able to find materials that are geared towards hands on activities, experiments and projects. 



Sunday, September 2, 2012

Field Trip to Science City

Gess had a check up at the hospital which we live over 2 hours away from.  Since we just started back to school and I needed some science field trips for my curriculum I thought we might as well find something fun to do while we were in the "big city."  I was actually amazed to find that Union Station had a Science City section and it was only about 5 minutes from where her appointment was.  Since Science City covered just about every aspect of science, I figured it would be the perfect place to go.

As you are heading down the hall to get to the entrance they had a really fun display of the evolution of the roller coaster rides at Worlds of Fun.  Here is Gess checking out the one from the 80's. She has never been to a theme park, with some of her issues with loud noises, crowds and lines I have been afraid to spend the money only to find out she can't handle it.  Now that she is older I think she will do just fine so we may have to try that out next year.


The first thing you come to when you enter Science City is the Melody Park.  Here is Gess making some music.  She is actually starting piano lessons on Tuesday but I never pictured her playing piano quite like this!



Next we headed to the Astronaut Training Center where she tested her physical strength.


She also got to go in a simulator and land the Space Shuttle.  She was usually unsuccessful but we did it together one time and had a success (though they mentioned it was a rough landing).


They had some of the rooms to look like a mock shuttle.  She found this one to be humorous.


They also had a Crime Lab where she got to use the computer to make a sketch of the suspect.  


We then took a tour inside the human body.  


The City Park was also fun.  We had to place the walls to make the tunnel for the boat to go all the way through and then test it to see if it worked.  We had a success!


The part she seems to talk about and remember the most was the Dino Lab where she not only got to check out some fossils...


...she got to dig for some too!


The KC Rail Experience was pretty neat as well.  You got to enter boxcars and trains and even act as if you were the engineer.  Here is Gess operating the train.  They really had it sound and feel as if it were moving!


The science curriculum we are studying actually had to do with the weather and unfortunately the extreme weather display was closed!  She still got to make a cloud.  Every time you pushed this down a puff of cloud was released.  (The camera didn't really capture that.)


We also went to the Science on a Sphere (that you can see in the background above) which not only let her view the earth, the sun, and the other planets but she got to see the atmosphere so I counted that as part of our weather study.  Sometimes it just displayed the image but they also had movies on the various topics as well, but Gess only had patience for one of those. The first picture is her looking at the sun, the other is the atmosphere.



We had a great time at Science City.  It was very hands on which made it worth the time and the money.  We will most likely go again sometime, after the weather display opens back up of course!


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