Friday, June 28, 2013

Free Friday: Church Worship Notes for Kiddos

My Gess has been saved and really tries to participate in the church service.  One thing I want to do is teach her how to take notes and pay attention to the sermon and one day on Pinterest I saw this FREE Church Service Worship Notes for Kiddos from mmmcrafts.  It's really great!  Click on the image to get the full size PDF to print at the mmmcrafts website!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Still Making Home-Made Laundry Soap

I posted about our home-made laundry soap a little over a year ago.  It really does work well and saves you lots of money.  I did notice though that some of my whites were becoming a bit dingy so I did add some Oxyclean into the mix.  Now that we know we like it, we make a huge batch at once.  It should last us at least 6 months.  Here is the recipe:

1 Box Mule Team Borax (4lb 12oz box)
1 Box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (3lb box)
1 Box Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (4 lb box)
1 Container Oxyclean (1.3lb)
4 bars of Ivory Soap (Or Fels Naptha or any soap you prefer)

It is really easy to make the soap and not all that messy.  All you do is dump the box ingredients into your storage container.

Grate the bar soap in the food processor.

Then just mix it up.  Look at all that soap!  This means I won't have to make laundry soap for half a year!  Better yet I won't have to buy it.  I save so much money with very little time, effort or mess.  I love it!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Homeschooling With Special Needs Encouragment and Resources

I have been "officially" homeschooling Gess who has Down syndrome for almost 6 years now.  She is technically in the 5th grade although her skill level may vary in certain subjects.  I remember when she was born how we struggled with whether or not we could actually homeschool because of her special needs and I am here to tell you, yes you can!

I felt all alone when I first started.  Living in a small town I found that our homeschool support group was already small and there were not any other parents who had a child with special needs. I am also involved in a Down syndrome support group but none of those moms were homeschooling.  It is frightening to think you are doing this alone, especially since you don't know what to expect.  I had never homeschooled at all before so finding out that the child I intended to homeschool also had special needs made me really reconsider my options.

One of the major factors that changed my perspective was hearing the horror stories of what parents with kids in the public school system were going through.  It was then I realized that "professionals" do not always know what they are doing either and even when they do it doesn't mean that they alone can do it. Even when you have the greatest teachers and para in the world, they will never want more or better for your child than you do.  Sure we might miss a few things along the way, but you know what?  Every child does no matter where they go to school.  There is no perfect system or perfect people.  We work with what we have and what is best for us.

While I knew I was doing the right thing, I still felt all alone.  Then I stared this blog and wouldn't you know it, there were lots of other moms homeschooling their child with Down syndrome too, they just didn't live in my town.  So I started following their blogs and seeking more of them out.  It was not long before I was convinced that I could do it and I was absolutely not alone.  To help you realize that too I am sharing some of the great tools and groups that I found helpful.  As you look around my blog you will see how well things are going for us but these resources will help you see that it is not just me.  Many families are finding success in homeschooling a child with special needs.  It is not only possible for you to do, it is also one of the most rewarding and amazing journeys your family will take! 

I first joined a Yahoo group called Homeschooling and Down Syndrome.  I have been very active in that in the past and am still a member, though I must confess my time to keep up with it is limited.  As my blogging grows my time for other things diminishes.  I do tend to be more active in my Facebook groups which many of the members in the Yahoo group also belong to.  We recently just merged some Facebook groups together.  For Facebook I started a group titled Down Syndrome & Homeschooling Moms.

Of course there are other special needs resources that are not Down syndrome related but our needs are so specific that I try to stay mostly tied into those groups.  My favorite all around "special needs" resource is Special Needs Homeschooling. They offer many great helps on their website and also host a group on Facebook called Special Needs Homeschooling Group.

As for the "how to" types of resources I relied heavily on the Homeschool Legal Defense Association that offers information for Struggling Learners.  They give you information about what to keep track of and how to keep yourself legal but they also offer great information about all aspects of homeschooling.  They were great in providing resources to help us in doing our own speech therapy among other things.  They have three special needs consultants that are available by phone and they do help you out!  I know, I have used them!  You can also sign up for the monthly Struggling Learner Newsletter.  You will have to enter your email address in the first two steps then they will email you a link to set up what things you want emailed to you.  All you do is click on Struggling Learner and it will start arriving once a month.  I also encourage you to join HSLDA who will provide counsel if you are ever accused of educational neglect because you have decided to homeschool your child with special needs.  We have been members since Gess was in preschool.

 Homeschool conventions are also a great resource to help you not feel so alone.  Most conventions have workshops that cover special needs instruction.  The ones I have attended have been very helpful and it is where I met up with and hired our private speech pathologist.   While you are there you will also meet other moms of kids with special needs and hear about their experiences too.  It sure makes you feel less alone.  The conventions in my area are sponsored by some of the major support groups there.  HSLDA has a page to help you find a support group in your area.  Contact them or visit their website to find their conventions.  In Kansas I recommend the Midwest Parent Educators in the Kansas City area or the Teaching Parents Association of Wichita if you live near there.  I have been to both and found them most valuable.

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine which is an excellent resource for homeschoolers will always have an article for The Struggling Homeschooler which addresses many things children with special needs struggle with.

On my own blog I share resources that work for us, not because I am paid for it, but just to help you out.  I have tried to sort some of the major ones out by category: Math, Reading and Down Syndrome.  I hope to have my Therapy page done soon too. You will also find that the Schoolhouse Reviews that I do in exchange for products always mention whether I found them specifically helpful for special needs or not.

I am just one blog.  There are tons more out there. In fact this article is part of a linky of other moms who homeschool their children with special needs too so follow the links and read their words of encouragement.  I know it will inspire you.  I hope they will also convince you that not only can you homeschool, but you will find that you actually want to.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Schoolhouse Review: Moving Beyond the Page

Because I have a daughter with special needs I have yet to try a full curriculum package.  There is just so much I have to adapt and modify that I find it easier to choose each subject separately.  However, when I had the chance to review Moving Beyond the Page for the Schoolhouse Review Crew I was anxious to give it a try because it is not like your average curriculum.

Moving Beyond the Page does exactly what it's title says, it teaches students by moving beyond the page of the text.  This complete homeschooling curriculum has the best of all worlds when it comes to learning styles.  Its unit studies connect subjects like language arts, science and social studies together, offers project-based instruction for hands on learning, and teaches critical and creative thinking skills.  While they currently have products for ages 5-13 for the purpose of our review we were given the following two units from the 7 to 9 year old level. 

Tornado online language arts unit which also included a physical copy of the books Tornado and How the Turtle Got It's Shell

The Land science unit which also included the book Maps and Mapping

Generally the curriculum works so that the language arts unit corresponds to the science and social studies unit you are doing at the same time. That did not exactly work for us but it was not much of a problem and the lessons still went smoothly.

Each unit should only take 2 to 3 weeks.  I found that a bit intense for us due to my daughter's special needs.  Even though Gess is a little old for this unit it seemed to fit her perfect academically.  Each lesson had quite a bit to it and it does take a good amount of time each day but Gess didn't seem to mind.  In fact one Sunday afternoon I found her trying to do a lesson all on her own! 

So I helped get her started on her next mapping project for The Land.

Now let me tell you about each of the individual units.

Our language arts unit Tornado was about one of Gess' favorite novels.  My readers are well aware by now that my Gess wants to be a meteorologist when she grows up because she is fascinated by the weather and specifically tornadoes.  Well the story Tornado is about a family on a farm who are taking shelter from a tornado and to pass the time the farm hand tells them stories about his dog which was named Tornado. 

There were 14 days of activities for Tornado.  The table of contents specifies how many days each individual lesson will take.  There is also a corresponding vocabulary list and spelling activities that are words not necessarily related to the unit.  The introduction to each lesson gives the outline of what your child should learn and do as well as the materials you will need.  After the student has read the appropriate chapter they answer questions about it.  I loved how this was done right here on the computer.  From the teacher's page you can open up the question sheet and the child types in their answers.  While you can't save the answers in the system, once they are done you can print it off to keep.

The activities often use worksheets which are related to the topic.  Unlike most worksheet activities I felt these were visually appealing, interesting, and sometimes even hands on.  Gess had just learned about writing paragraphs and still struggles with content. Their Hamburger Paragraph Organizer really seemed to help.  The first time she did it she just wrote one word in each section so I helped her take those words and put them into sentences to make a paragraph.  Keep in mind that this is an area she really struggles with because of her special needs.  I think it was a pretty good effort for a first paragraph!  It is about her pet fish.

It read like this:

My pet is a fish.  He is swimming.  He is floating.  He is breathing.  A fish is a good pet.

Many of the worksheets included some hands on aspect to it.  You could cut out and match the vocabulary words and definitions together and play a game they call Think Tac Toe.  I thought the plot diagram was a really great way to help the child learn not only the sequence of events but where they fell into the actual plot from the problem to the climax to the final resolution.

You also keep a journal through the course of your study and there is a craft project, card game and other fun activities that truly do take you beyond the page.

Our science unit was The Land.  This was actually a really fun unit for both of us.  It starts out teaching the child about where they live from their galaxy, planet, continent, country, state, region, town, neighborhood, street, address right down to the very room they are sitting in. This helps them realize where they are physically located in the universe.  After that they study map reading, natural resources, conservation, the environment of the U.S, farming in the U.S and then their own environment which studies the seasons and temperatures.  In the last lesson they get to make their own island.

Gess had a lot of fun with all the lessons.  The conservation study was good because we just finally ended a severe drought where we live so she was familiar with the idea that conservation is important.  Gess also enjoyed mapping.  As I mentioned above I found her trying to do some of that on her own.  The book Maps and Mapping was a nice addition.  It was very beautifully illustrated, the font was nice and large and the activities were helpful.

The unit on farming and where our food comes from was the most enjoyable I think, probably because it had some really neat projects.  First we focused on where milk comes from.  Here Gess had to draw some products that come from milk.

Then we made our own butter!  The directions were in the book.  It was fairly simple.  The only problem I had was finding heavy cream.  All I could find was heavy whipping cream which worked but it wasn't as solid as I think it would have been otherwise.  This was more like whipped butter.

The funnest part was visiting an actual dairy farm and seeing how it all worked.  Since this study Gess loves to talk about "milk products" and the very next time she made herself a bowl of cereal and poured in the milk she asked me, "does this come from a cow?"  Of course I answered yes.  It sure is more exciting to eat food once you see where it comes from!

There were many more great activities and projects to do in this book. This was just from one chapter in the book and even in that chapter there was so much more to learn and do. We were really pleased with the unit.

Moving Beyond the Page is definitely an entire curriculum that covers all the subjects.  They have a typical day sample plan that shows it will take close to 5 hours to complete all the subject material.  They say the minimum requirements are:

- Approximately 3 hours on science, social studies, and language arts lessons.
- 1 hour on a math curriculum of your choice.  (They do have 3 products they recommend that can purchased from their website.)
- 15-20 minutes reviewing vocabulary and spelling words.
- 30 minutes of physical activity - anything from playing at the park, jumping rope, to organized sports.

They also have suggestions to extend the day for further study.  The units really will take that long, lasting about an hour for each subject.  We only did the two units and we spent about an hour on each one, sometimes even more if needed.  Of course some of the activities were really fun and didn't seem like work, so that certainly helped!

I do want to note that while Moving Beyond the Page is a secular curriculum, as a Christian I did not find any objectionable or controversial content in either of the books that I reviewed.  There were no references as to when or how the earth was created or anything like that. They will eventually get into the age of the earth but not until 6th or 7th grade. You can find more information about how they handle these types of topics on their Secular Homeschool Curriculum page.

From a special needs perspective Moving Beyond the Page is very compatible and adaptable, at least to our specific needs.  Since it offers so many hands on projects, it really helps enhance the learning.  They also offer two options for many of the worksheets, one more advanced than another so you can choose the best one for your student.  However, if you were to use this as an entire curriculum package the pace would be pretty intense unless you skipped some activities.  As a supplement though it would be a great resource.  I can see us using these occasionally to supplement what we are doing.  I love unit studies for that purpose and these are definitely ones that Gess both learns from and enjoys.

You can purchase these products by visiting the Moving Beyond the Page website.

Tornado sells for $24.97 for the physical package and $20.91 for the online version which is the one I received for my review. Once you activate the program you have 95 days to complete it.  After that you lose access to it unless you request more time.  Since most units take less than 20 days it is plenty of time to complete the unit, but I do think you should know that you don't get to download or keep it indefinitely.

The Land sells for $24.98 for the physical package which is the one I reviewed or $20.92 for the online version.

They have many other options for purchase as well.  You can buy an entire full year of everything, a full year by subject or simply buy individual units.  There are many other units and grade levels available.  Our Schoolhouse Review Crew received a very large variety of products so you will want to be sure to check out the other reviews by clicking on the image below. 


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Friday, June 21, 2013

Free Friday: Country Activity Books

The Voice of the Martyrs Kids of Courage website offers 31 Bold Believer Activity Books that cover different countries and topics.  You will find cultural information, activities, games, recipes, stories and more.  Visit their website to view a free sample and download your FREE Bold Believer Activity Books.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Happy Birthday To Me!

I turned 46 on Friday.  It was actually a pretty interesting birthday.  The morning started off at Jr. High Church Camp.  I was there as a counselor, not a student of course.  Gess stayed home with daddy as her camp is next week.  The day before my birthday our team dressed me up as their mascot.  We were the Blue Flaming Pandas.  What a way to spend your last day at 45! 

We left camp after lunch so my husband planned a very special dinner for me that evening.  I love watching Gordon Ramsay cooking shows and ever since I first saw the dish Beef Wellington I just had to try it. Well we found Gordon's recipe online and my hubby made it for me!  Here is Gordon making a special holiday version, but we left out the chestnuts and made individual ones instead of one big one.

They turned out lovely and were very delicious!

While it was fun to get away and hang out with the teenagers I was very glad to get back home to my wonderful husband.  He takes such great care of me and our daughter!  They seemed to do just fine while mommy was away.  That's my girl, trying to lay exactly like daddy!  I can't say that I blame her, he's a pretty amazing guy so who wouldn't want to be like him? 

It was one of my best birthdays ever!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Summer Reading - Cows

As I mentioned in my previous Summer Reading post, we are studying about animals and where things come from.  To follow up on our lesson, Hooray for Dairy Farming we actually visited one.  We first read these two books that told us exactly how the milk gets from the cow to the store.

Then we visited an actual dairy farm.  It was really cool to see what we saw pictured in the book actually happening in real life.

First they bring the cows to the milking barn, or whatever you call that building.  They must be milked twice a day or the udder will become sore and swollen.

Then they bring the cows into the milking area.

They hook them up to a milking machine.  The pump sucks the milk through the rubber-lined cups.  Once they reach a certain amount of milk they automatically pop off. It actually doesn't take very long.  

Gess thought it was pretty cool.

The milking machine is connected to a large tank in another room which is where they store the milk from all the cows.

A truck will then arrive and transfer the milk to a local bottling plant where it will be standardized, pasteurized, homogenized, packaged and shipped to the store.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Free Friday: Free Homeschool Forms

123Homeschool4Me is offering a set of FREE homeschool annual organization forms which includes:
  • Withdraw from Public School Letter
  • Intent to Homeschool Form
  • Daily Schedule
  • Curriculum Planning
  • Field trip Planning
  • Extra Curricular Activities Planning
  • Weekly, Bi-Weekly, and Monthly Lesson Planners
  • Preschool / FIAR Planning Sheet
  • Annual Attendance Sheet
  • K12 Grades Tracker
Follow the link above to find these FREE homeschooling forms to help you get organized.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Chickens and Goats

Some of our summer school has us learning about animals and we had a very dear friend invite us out to see their chickens and goats.  We had a great day and Gess really got see how goats run by running right along with them.  She absolutely loved it.

The chickens were interesting too but she didn't get to run around with them.


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