Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vocabulary Cartoons- A TOS Review

I was given the opportunity to review Vocabulary Cartoons. This is an incredibly creative book to teach kids (or adults) new vocabulary. Each page has a new word with the dictionary definition. It then has a mnemonic to help you remember what the word means. In case you need a refresher course, a mnemonic is memory device of some kind to help you remember something. I remember them mostly from music..All Cars Eat Gas... or in spelling A Rat In The House May Eat The Ice Cheese.

But this is WAY more creative than that. Click HERE and you can see some samples. Go...go look.. I'll wait. You can click on the PDF to download a few more to your computer.

So can anyone guess how much we LOVED this book? It was by far Andrew's favorite thing we have reviewed. He devoured it. The pages are soiled, the binding creased. I often 'rate' products by how much free time it gives me. This book is $12.95 and provided not only HOURS of reading enjoyment for Andrew (= free time for me) but also a ton of learning. If you are the testing type, there are also 'reviews' / worksheets that can be done after every section.

I really just let Andrew to go town on this book but shortly after I received it we started a new objective in RDI. It was to work on non-verbal joint attention. We have found books to be a great framework to use for this objective. We will not know what is coming next, turn the page, and look at it together. We then give each other our reaction. This would be an excellent book to use this on.

Andrew is also a cartoon artist..mostly he makes plans for future video games he wants to design. The pictures gave him fabulous ideas to add to his cartoons, plans and adventures.

This book is ageless...enjoyed by any age that can read. Even a pre-reader could enjoy the pictures and get a jump start on words and vocabulary. I give this a hearty two thumbs up from Amy and Andrew.


As part of The Old Schoolhouse Crew of reviewers, I was given a complimentary copy of Vocabulary Cartoons. I am not compensated for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Captivating Women

We finished our Captivating group last evening. It was the right time to part company and we knew that but we lingered a bit, sad that it was over. God had brought us to a new place personally and collectively and we are truly blessed. You can read here how God brought us together.

I have not in a long time felt just a little sad when a group ended. I am typically thinking, "it's about time," or "I need a break." (Yes you can guess that I am a thinker and right on the edge of introvert/extrovert.) But I grieved a little. I think that God has brought me closer to Him and closer to my true self (who God made me vs. who the world has made me) through the study and through our company. We are planning on getting together for a movie and dinner over the school year and who knows what next summer's Bible study will bring.

You are beautiful, captivating, incredible women of God. You have blessed my heart and my life in ways you can't even imagine.

As a PS: I hesitated whether to send this personally to the women in the group or to blog it. I think I am blogging it because I want others to take a risk, put yourself out there, get with other women. It is only when you risk being your true self that you will find out who you really are and who God made you to be. (Hint: You are beautiful, captivating and made in the image of God.)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A New Sheet

I just listened to the podcast of Ravi Zacharias when he spoke at Woodside Church. You should still be able to download the podcast to RSS or itunes. In it he speaks of a poem. I found it here online.

He came to my desk with a quivering lip,
the lesson was done.
“Have you a new sheet for me, dear teacher?
I’ve spoiled this one.”
I took his sheet, all soiled and blotted
and gave him a new one all unspotted.
And into his tired heart I cried,
“Do better now, my child.”

I went came to the throne with a trembling heart;
the day was done.
“Have you a new day for me, dear Master?
I’ve spoiled this one.”
He took my day, all soiled and blotted
and gave me a new one all unspotted.
And into my tired heart he cried,
“Do better now, my child.”

Author anonymous, “A New Leaf,” James G. Lawson, compiler, The Best Loved Religious Poems (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1961).

Friday, September 17, 2010

Not in Vain

I posted this a couple of years ago. Love this poem. It spoke to me tonight.

Not in Vain by Amy Carmichael- missionary to India.

Not in vain, the tedious toil, On an unresponsive soil,
Travail, tears in secret shed, Over hopes that lay as dead.
All in vain, thy faint heart cries. Not in vain, thy Lord replies:
Nothing is to good to be; Then believe, believe to see.

Did thy labor turn to dust? Suff’ring – did it eat like rust
Till the blade that once was keen, As a blunted tool is seen?
Dust and rust thy life’s reward? Slay the thought; believe thy Lord!
When thy soul is in distress, Think upon His faithfulness.

Though there be not fig nor vine, In thy stall there be no kine,
Flock be cut off from the fold, Not a single lamb be told,
And thy olive berry fall Yielding no sweet oil at all,
Pulse-seed wither in the pod – Still do thou rejoice in God.

But consider, was it vain, All the travail on the plain?
For the bud is on the bough; It is green where thou didst plow.
Listen, tramp of little feet, Call of little lambs that bleat;
Hearken to it. Verily, Nothing is too good to be.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pyramath I See Cards- a TOS review

I was given the opportunity to review Pyramath math cards. I just love these cards. They come with directions but when do I ever follow those? Honestly it is hard to know where to begin. Basically it is a card deck (not with the regular number of cards) and you add, subtract, multiply or divide to make a pyramid and turn over cards as you would for solitaire. They are highly visual colorful cards.

Here is a video from their website on the basics of how to play.

The video is not captioned so HERE (pdf) are the written directions. Actually I find it helpful to read the directions and then watch the video in action.

So those are the basics.. "Officially" you can play a five or seven card game and you can play an opponent or alone. There are so many ways you could 'scaffold' this by doing JUST addition or addition and subtraction. THIS page gives a variety of versions you can play. Scroll down to where it says Pyramath games.

Oh... you want to play it now?? GO HERE!! You can play the seven or five card versions online for free!

So how did WE like it? It is addictive. It is fun. Andrew hates strongly dislikes math. He saw the colors...saw math in the title..and fled. Then I said there was an online version. The problem is that although he is 10, we struggle (a lot) with math. I will definitely be using these this year. I know he will find them very fun after we have played awhile.

The decks are $6.95 plus shipping. Honestly I think that is a really good deal. The website has oodles of free stuff t0 investigate as well.

As part of The Old Schoolhouse Crew of reviewers, I was given a complimentary copy of Pyramath cards. I am not compensated for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What RDI is NOT

In RDI, our current objective is joint attention. There are many joint attention objectives but in this particular one we are basically looking for a triangle. In 'referencing,' one person looks to an object and then the other person does that too. ("Oh look! A bird!" And you both look.) In joint attention there is a triangle where you have something you are looking at together, but then you look back to the other person to share your 'observations.' ("Oh look! A bird!" .. then looking to each other.. "That was cool.") This can be done verbally or non verbally but in RDI we work mostly on the non-verbal.

In this video we were using taste as a framework/vehicle to work on our objective. I bought some fruit leather from Whole Foods and Andrew was tasting it for the first time. I wanted to post this because first, it is very short. Second, at the VERY beginning you will see some joint attention when he is interested in the fruit leather. However, I think it clearly shows some differences between RDI and other autism therapies. You can't TEACH joint can only INVITE and then wait. In this video, I was demanding joint attention by basically staring and waiting..almost too long. It is certainly a dance. Our RDI consultant wrote it this way:

We don't want him to feel a demand for joint attention--you are only in charge of providing the opportunities for joint attention--you do not want to create a demand for it, as then it is no longer experience sharing in nature.

We have been working on this objective with various frameworks for almost a month now. He cognitively understands that you want to share with another, but doesn't always do so. Again, I show this to demonstrate how you can teach something yet it can look very very unnatural. (Most of our videos do not look like this one.) I once saw a video of a child who had 'graduated' from another autism therapy.. it was question / answer.. (What school do you go to? Beverly. How old are you? 12. etc.. ) That is not 'natural.' This really isn't either but we are getting there. Maybe I will post some clips of some success stories we have had. We are going for our second RDA next week. Can't wait!

(I also wanted to try captioning again. You can caption on

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Church at Home

This morning we had "church at home" with Andrew's play action figures. Jumba was the preacher. There were some serious funnies and some questions from Andrew and myself.

First a funny. Andrew talking about all the people in the Bible. "Peter the desciple, Mary the mother of Jesus, and John... oh yea...John was a Baptist."

Andrew was trying to baptize the characters to forgive them of their sins. It ended up in an interesting and very good conversation about what baptism really is all isn't the water that forgives the sins. It is Jesus himself and his death on the cross. Once you believe in that you are saved. But you can publicaly declare your belief to all, which is an important part of the process, but not what saves you.

We sang some songs and also read from the Egermeier Story Bible. We read the parable of the seeds. To be honest, the rocky soil and the thorns I never quite get straight. I think we all operate in each of the areas from time to time with the hope to ever increase to the good soil.

The most interesting part to me was how they all started out together in the church. All were welcomed, but then they were partitioned out to their separate areas. The cars were in one area, babies and toddlers in another, animals in yet another. I asked him why he separated them and there were some answers (the babies might cry) but nothing specific.

Just yesterday I was commenting on Facebook regarding a friend's post of an upcoming 'inclusion seminar' that is being given by a church. Inclusion is all well and good...but why is a seminar in it needed? Love is not rocket science and it doesn't need a seminar. Another friend and I were chatting awhile back on how it was when we were growing up. That was in a time when special education was in it's own wing in the public school and NOT "included" but in church those with disabilities were just included with everyone else. It was no big deal. Yes the increase in autism has changed the landscape a bit but why? When those with special needs were included in the past there were accommodations made on both sides. The church had to bend a bit in some areas and so did the parents. That is what love is. I think sometimes we ask too much as parents of our kids.. and sometimes we don't ask enough.

One of the biggest changes over the past few decades is the separation of children during service. They attend kid church and we attend adult church. What about a family service where 'all are welcome?' We are going to try something new next week. There is a church that has a Saturday evening service. They do have the kids' service at the same time but I am going to take Andrew to the balcony for the regular service and load a backpack full of Bibles (and maybe his DSi). I don't know if it will work, but it is worth a try. I will probably check it out myself for the next few weeks to see if it might work..but if you want to join me let me know!!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

9/11...Where were you??

Kokonut Pundit just asked, "Where were you on 9/11?" I remember the moment well. It was right before our son was to be implanted with his cochlear implant. He was one year old and I was sitting in a dining room chair with him sleeping on my chest in a little blue sweater (him not me)..and watching an itty bitty TV. The news went on and on but I wanted to get to our deaf baby early intervention class. So off I went.

Most of the moms in the class were hearing. (95% of deaf babies are born to hearing parents.) But there were several Deaf parents in the class. When I got there the Deaf adults were not aware of what happened. The teacher signed to them the morning's news and the discussion in ASL lasted for quite some time. I learned quite a bit about how ASL works that day..the grammar and syntax. I already knew the story. But it was a defining moment for me and one I haven't thought about recently. I have re-written these next sentences several times already because I don't want it to sound like 'judgement.' These parents were wonderful and I enjoyed their company but between the missing of the news and the unfolding of the conversation I knew I wanted something different for my son. I know the internet has expanded greatly since then and phone options have allowed for some amazing technology for the Deaf and Hearing really wasn't about just that. It was just a defining moment.

So where were you? And did it define you in any way?

Week 2... 2010/2011

Most of this only a mother could love. Boring and dry. I put the more interesting stuff in bold italics. Don't think I'll do this every week but it was an interesting exercise to daily jot down some thoughts.


Monday: Labor day. And yes we labored. We started math...very very easy math. Stuff we know.. to build confidence. We are using RightStart and going back to level B which is approximately 2nd grade. He knows this stuff but I am using it to reintroduce the concepts in the way they present them. I need a refresher also.

We are doing 3 letters per day and lower case. Sometimes I will add on a sentence. We will increase from there.

Loving Real Science 4 Kids. Last week I bought the study folder (lapbook) that goes along with the student text. I am letting Andrew make this his own. Truly a great purchase. We read the text together which actually works well with our RDI objectives. The text is short and interesting. The experiments are very easy and do-able and again, work well with RDI. The study folder is all his. I have a friend that has found that lapbooks work great with her son for RDI. For whatever reason, (probably Andrew being more artistic than me), they do not work well for guided participation. That's ok because he can do this 'work' independantly. He is doing it right now while I type this. I will be able to give him this to do at least once a week and it will be good for an hour of non screen time where he works alone (mostly).

Today in brain pop my sweetheart of a child looked for backaches. I have one. He wanted to help me feel better so he searched for it. There wasn't anything but I found it by going back thru the items he had watched. So sweet. For the record he watched videos today on the digestive system, robots, avian flu, sars, mars and the savanna. He also inadvertently worked on spelling because I saw he was searching for terms like elefant. It came up empty and so he had to think and re-spell. It doesn't pull up 'suggested' terms like search engines do.


Tuesday... I think this diary blog is more for mom will probably read it. (Hi mom!) And I suppose it is good for my records... Because this could get long...Maybe I'll color code and put 'life' stuff in one color and 'school' in the other- except they are inter-woven. Today was challenging. Andrew had one meltdown after another. I posted on facebook and many people said their kids were effected because of allergies. (I 'heart' facebook.) I broke down and gave Andrew some Claritin. It did calm him BUT, he was grasping for words.. my kid who speaks non stop. Still it did work 'for' us so will probably do that the next few days.

We did some more self esteem building in math. He did a few copywork letters, some language arts and of We finished up the bookwork in Chapter 2 of our chemistry and took the online quiz. Tomorrow we shall do the experiment. No OT tomorrow... Carol took a new job so it could get interesting as Andrew remembers we are not going to Carol on Wednesdays. (I am picturing Raymond in Rain Man saying...Carol..Carol on Wednesdays. He doesn't SAY stuff like that but I think he THINKS it regarding certain things.)

I did realize a cool thing while driving home from the park today.. we went by MD's and Andrew wanted french fries. I said not today.. no big deal. Wow.. there was a day when I'd drive a mile out of my way to not pass one because I didn't want a meltdown. Also, at the park, I was able to let Andrew a wee bit more out of my sight. And at one point, he looked back to ME and gave me a thumbs up. Some of you will 'get' how HUGE this is.

Oh and on Brainpop he watched lions, giraffes, baboons, elephants, rinos gazelles, crystals, dreams, imagination, fire, t.v. and natural disasters... the last one caused a meltdown.

It feels like it should be Friday...


Wednesday..Hump day.
No Carol today. She has been our OT for about a year. Loved her. But it was time to move on... but I wasn't sure. She quit her job at the private place for a position in public school. Guess I got my answer.

We did our 'usual' and Andrew asked for more schoolwork. Why? He was testing to see if he'd get some extra computer / Wii / DS time if he did his work. I let him play a TINY bit.

Had a really neat revelation this morning in my God time. Basically there is a section of Scripture I have known for a long time. God brought me a whole new meaning to it. What is it you ask?? Not gonna tell ya. Why? Because it isn't about the's about the process in getting there. God has a personal message for YOU... and although Facebook has a feature by that name.. having Him give it to you directly is so much sweeter. (I have used that feature before too. It is kind of cool. But there is nothing like quiet time. Make it happen.)


Thursday and Friday
I had a Skype with our RDI consultant today. In two weeks we go for an RDA. We haven't had one for a year. The morning started out poorly because Andrew is used to playing Mario in the morning but I wanted him to wait because I needed him to play Mario during the Skype. Lots of yelling going on...mostly by him.

We did manage to finish all our subjects. Cousin came over in the afternoon. They have fun together but little work gets done. Friday we played 'go to the dump' which is basically 'go fish' but we do "10 facts" to find a pair. So if you have a 7 you ask for a 3, if you have a 6 you ask for a 4 etc.. We are also doing a lapbook for autumn. More on that next week.

America's Math Teacher - TOS review

I was given the opportunity to review America's Math Teacher. You can get this for $195/year. Unfortunately this is video based and is not accessible to the hearing impaired who need captioning. I viewed several lessons myself so I could see what they were like.

Andrew is at about 2nd grade math and much of this was above his level. Again, unfortunately, even that part at his level, was not captioned and this would not have worked for him. He can hear some videos but when trying to learn a new concept, I don't like to give the added pressure of having to concentrate so much on his listening. (For anyone who does not know, he has had a cochlear implant since he was a year old.) For me, it is a deal breaker just on principal to do captioning if I am going to purchase a product.

This program is meant to be a supplement any current math program and might work as such, especially with all the information in one location. This also might be more economical if you had many children and could utilize the program at various levels. You can move from level to level so you don't have to worry about signing up for the wrong one and you can easily use for multiple students.

There were also printed lessons but we did not use them because the videos were not accessible.

I did contact the company and they gave me this information regarding captioning. I really hope they do this!

We are going to continue to improve the site and add more features. We will be offering a Spanish version as well as including much more content. Captioning is something that we will be considering also. With so much happening during the initial phase, I am unable to provide an accurate timeline. We will be giving the topic serious consideration.

There were plenty of crew mates who also reviewed this item. If captioning isn't important, you can see their reviews by clicking on the banner above. I do suggest doing that because we were not able to truly test the product as I would have liked.

As part of The Old Schoolhouse Crew of reviewers, I was given a complimentary subscription to America's Math Teacher. I am not compensated for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Love actually....

I am sure you are mostly all aware of the 5 Love Languages. They are:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch

If you don't know about these, check your local library for one of the books or peek at the above website. The reason this comes to mind is that a friend was discussing it on Facebook. She asked..what is your giving love language and what is your receiving love language? I think you can only have a receiving love language and the GOAL is to GIVE in the language of the other person! That is the objective. I often misstep..and miss the mark. Thank the Lord for grace in that matter. What do you think? Is there a giving and receiving love language? I could be way off here.

For grins, I just had Andrew take the kids' love language quiz on the above link. It was very easy and he picked between two options for 20 questions. No huge surprise... Quality Time. (There was a bit of insight I gained however, on individual questions and I highly recommend taking a few minutes with your kids to do it.) Mine isn't quality time. Thus.. I'm pretty burnt out. But that's another blog post. Still, for him to FEEL loved, I must give him quality time. Mine are words of affirmation and acts of service. So if you read this, feel free to check the box marked 'cool' so that I can be affirmed and feel loved.

The world is built around showing love with gifts. Birthdays, Christmas, heck even Easter kids get gifts now days. I KNOW one of my love language is acts of service because when Andrew was born the one thing I remember was my friend Jodi coming over and doing every stitch of laundry I had in the house. God bless you Jodi. (I don't even keep in touch with her but I know she will get a double helping of blessing for that one! Since I haven't kept in touch with her you know I am more of a 'thinker' than a 'feeler' and quality time is not my love language.) I also got tons of real 'stuff' for gifts..but that is the ONE I remember. It makes no difference that I currently don't have contact with her... I still feel the love.

Andrew just had his birthday. I am trying so hard to get him to write thank you cards. We may settle on a thank you video. Because Andrew is on the spectrum, he often speaks 'the truth.' So we talked ahead of the party about what you do if 1) you don't like the present and 2) you already have it. Friends knew to bring gift receipts but still I was working towards being polite. Friend Brenda bought Andrew a couple of really cool books and one he already had. He said, "That's OK. It is good to have two copies of the same book sometimes in case you loose it." Win-win. Honestly I should be less concerned about such things. It is good to teach a child to be polite but he is who he is.. and if there is a mis-step by him while he is trying his best then they will still love him!

When you give a matter which language.. it needs to come from the heart or it isn't a gift at all. Of course this is the goal...something we strive to do.. and even that is impossible without God.

disclaimer: I am not a therapist and don't play one on TV. I could be way off but my first boss told me, "perception is reality" and this is the way I perceive it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A big high five and hand clap all around....



I was reflecting on this today, as I have often in the past. Tomorrow is the first day of school for public schools in Michigan. There are many reasons why we homeschool and some of them are because of failures in the public school system. I am sure there are 'good' and 'bad' teachers...just like there is good and bad in every profession but the TEACHERS are NOT the reason we left.

People will say to me, "I don't know how you do it..homeschool." Well, in public school teachers have to deal with kids like Andrew plus 20-30 other kids. Sure they can go home at the end of the day but many teachers are also moms (or dads) so they go home to more of kids..and the homework of kids.

Funding is low for resources and I experienced, in my limited time in public school, that the resources even on the IEP were often not met. That then left the teacher to deal with me, the upset parent. Of course some parents are not involved at all in the life of their special ed child (that is more the norm) and that saddens many a teacher who WANTS to get more services for the child but their hands, as a teacher, are tied without a parent's help.

I do wish the schools were not so focused on academics but alas, that is what most parents want and they have to be able to MEASURE what they are teaching. I have a whole blog post in my mind about how schools can and should teach dynamic thinking. But the teachers are left to 'teach to test' and then to deal with parents who may or may not be involved, who want their children to succeed. You are between a rock and a hard place.

I do wish there was a place in the public school system where I felt Andrew's needs would be met. But our lack of trying to find that place is not because of teachers. I just became discouraged with the system as a whole.

So high fives..and big hand claps. You go girls!! (and guys..)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Week 1.. 2010/2011

Don't expect these weekly but since it is our first week I thought I'd give an update. We started school September 1st because "you go to school in September." We actually started informally on Tuesday with some Skittle math and found out that no, Andrew really can't tolerate skittles. He can have them for a treat but they should be done after work and I should not expect much from him after eating.

Today was the funniest. I am doing a week trial of brainpop. So here is what we learned just TODAY: dogs, cats, animal classification, genetic mutations, spiders, parts of speech, St. Patrick, leap year, rainbows, bats and computer viruses. WHEW! Probably going to plop down the $80 for a year subscription.

While watching the animal classification, Andrew says, "If we are all mammals, why don't we feed our young milk?"
Mom: We do.
Andrew: Where does it come from?
A pause while Mom considers her options.
Mom: It's called breastfeeding.
Giggles all around.

I also learned that there is part of the animal classification system that is HIGHER than a kindgom. It is called a domain we are in the Eukarya domain. Who knew? Learned that on Brainpop.

We did handwriting. Andrew does not properly use capitals and lower case. He knows all about the "rules" of using capitals but we reviewed them so I could then have him complete copywork. He thought "L" was lower case and "l" was upper case. He wanted me to provide "proovadince" of that fact. (Prove+ Evidence=Proovadence.) I will say that I saw a very cool thing at that point. When he gets things wrong he typically argues and just will not admit he was wrong (because he thinks he is right) or will proceed with loud chants of, "I am stupid!" He did neither. He referenced me with a 'face' that said, "oh man!" I'm so happy about that.

We also started Real Science 4 Kids Chemistry Pre-Level I and I really like it.

It's going to be a good year. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Time4Writing- A TOS review

I was given the opportunity to review Time4Writing. This is an online writing course for kindergarten through high school. You do your work independently online and a cyber teacher grades your material. Some of the exercises were multiple choice and some you typed in and the teacher corrected. It states that each 8 week course is $99. You can also buy an 'extender' if you feel you would like additional weeks to complete the course. We decided on the basic grammar course.

The positives of the program are:

  • Feedback on how you are doing. You can do your work at any time. There is a teacher (actual person) there to help your student on a 24 hour feedback loop via 'email' in the classroom. This is not quite accurate if you want to do more than one assignment. In the beginning of the class we received 24 hour feedback. Later on in took longer and if we did more than one assignment only one was graded per day. Sometimes it did take longer than 24 hours.
  • There is audio instruction for the visually impaired but you will need help from another person to take the quizzes as they are not audio given. Or, if you can read the pages via various technologies for the visually impaired, you should be fine with the quizzes. (Hopefully I stated all this right- we don't deal with visual impairments here so I don't know the lingo but I did like that there was audio.)
  • If you have a lot of children this might prove useful to help take some of the burden off of teaching things yourself. In addition, in the higher grades it might prove beneficial to have the aid of an actual teacher help you figure out if what your child is doing is 'correct.'
  • The audio portion was excellent in following the written text and very clear. Andrew, a cochlear implant user since 1 year old, was able to clearly hear the audio even with the dishwasher and washing machine going.

Difficulties for us:

  • Andrew does not do well with grades and percentages. If he gets less than 100% he gets very upset. We have found this with two other programs that we use. This is a graded program. Some folks love this. (Thus the "difficulties for US" title.)
  • This particular program does not use very many videos; however, they are not closed captioned. All of the material was also available in written form on the same page but not 'captioned.' If you need captioning you will want to contact them first to see how many videos they may have in the program you are considering (either time4writing or time4learning.) I am speaking ONLY of the grammar lesson of Time4Writing. I do not know the details of the others but this is a question I would ask if it is important for you.
  • Andrew still needs direct 1:1 and so while he found this program 'interesting' and it was easy to use, I still had to be there to guide him or he would have ended up on a gaming site in about 60 seconds. It was interesting but not THAT interesting. It was still 'work' to him. (Kind of like I go to look for something on the internet and end up on Facebook...not that I do that or anything..)
  • If you wanted your child to be able to do this independently they will need to know how to grab text and cut and paste it into the work area and also change text to italics. They gave options such as 'type answer into box' instead of copying and pasting. On some of the pages, I would print out the exercise and have him do it on paper. On other ones, I would do the typing for him online. Some of the assignments I just corrected them because I wasn't going to retype the whole thing online since he did it on paper. The actual teacher then grades this work. With a bit of instruction Andrew could probably do this but I didn't see the need to address that at this point. We do so much of our work orally with me giving immediate feedback that the teacher was a bit redundant, but this could be very helpful for those in a large family whose child was an independent worker. These options (computer) are available earlier in the academic career than some of the other online and cd rom 'school' options which generally start in later elementary. These can start at kindergarten or first grade.
  • I felt that some of the beginning grammar lessons were not 'beginner.' When talking about adjectives (in the beginning course), they gave a quiz to identify adjectives. One example was "This pizza has peperoni." Andrew told me that "THIS" was not an adjetive and that it was a pronoun. I did write the teacher on Time4Writing and heard back very quickly. She indicated that "this, that these and those" are demonstrative adjectives. I looked it up (ie: googled it) and sure enough they are. Still, this is quite hard for a beginner (K-1 st grade) and I ended up asking quite a few adults who didn't know the answer. If you were brand new to grammar you might need additional helps. Others I spoke to doing this review thought that the lessons were too easy. (See banner at top to go to the link for more reviews.)
  • I disagreed with the teacher in more than one instance as to the answer on written exercises and quizzes. Her explanations did not convince me I was wrong, and this was beginning grammar. I will admit that I did some of the exercises (written and quizzes) myself because I did not feel it would work for Andrew but still wanted to 'trial' the program to give it a fair evaluation. My informal survey on Facebook (very scientific) of who was right ended up in my favor. To be honest, I don't mind disagreements, but you can't 'argue' with the teacher in this instance and for what it's worth, I don't know if I 'trust' the grades given. This is probably the same as in any program online though. One of the other reasons I like homeschooling is that Andrew can give me an answer that might not agree with mine but if the explanation is reasonable I can count it as right OR give further explanation as to why I am correct.
  • You are only allowed to do one graded assignment a day. This is one of the biggest reasons we love homeschooling; flexibility. I get why they do this. They have to when dealing with many kids papers to grade but for our school it would not work.

I did a quick google search of other reviews of this product and I wanted to note that many people are very happy with this program when you get to the middle and high school years. I just think that the earlier grades probably need a more 'hands on' teacher my opinion..which this is..since it is a review :) I can see the potential desire for this later on in Andrew's academic career at a higher level. And again, if you have a larger family you might find this very useful. You can see other's reviews of this product by clicking on the banner at the top of the blog!

As part of The Old Schoolhouse Crew of reviewers, I was given a complimentary subscription to Time4Writing. I am not compensated for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My name is Amy....

I was thinking in the shower (where all great thinking happens) that perhaps, since I have some new readers you may not know our history. Since joining The Old Schoolhouse Crew, many people have began to peek at the blog for reviews. I often put next to my link "special needs." So for those of you who are is our history.

The Reader's Digest Condensed Version:

We deal with hearing impairment, autism, adhd and sensory needs.

Somewhat Expanded Version:

Andrew was born profoundly deaf. At 13 months of age he received a cochlear implant and we decided to proceed with AVT (Auditory Verbal Therapy.) Spoken English is his first (and currently only) language. In the area of speech and language Andrew was slow to develop compared to his peer. Now, at the age of 10, he is understood by pretty much anyone and has incredible language skills. We knew early on there was "something else" in addition to the hearing impairment.

We were in a zero-three program within the public schools. It was wonderful. At age three Andrew transferred to a outstanding oral hearing impaired preschool. If all classrooms were like that, and if the other services would have stepped up to do their job, I might still be in public school, but alas, I got a taste for the way the IEP played out IRL, and I also got a peek at what Andrew's future would be in the district we are in and we decided to homeschool.

During those preschool years it became clear that Andrew had 'other' issues. When we did the IEP we decided on 'autism' because with a wink and a nod it fit, and we needed additional services. If you look at DSMIV he doesn't really fit. If you look at the 'core deficits' as defined in the RDI program (which we now do), he does fit. He has sensory needs (sensory seeking) and also adhd (either as part of the autism or in addition to it.)

So when it became time for Andrew to transfer out of the preschool, I looked at our options and we began to homeschool. Truthfully, we'd been homeschooling since birth. Even those who know me from preschool years know my heart was never REALLY in the school stuff and we didn't take him full time (which was 9:00-2:00 five days a week.) Our options were:

  • Hearing impaired elementary school: It became apparent that Andrew was much higher in 'skill' for any of the academics in this program. Although we struggle with some of the same subjects now that we did then, I felt he would be extremely bored in this environment. I wanted co-operative type of education and this program seemed restrictive. The HI elementary program has since moved districts. Our old preschool teacher is going to teach kindergarten next year...bummer. I am guessing it is better now.

  • Autism classroom: In one classroom I visited, I was left alone with another parent with the students. The para had left for an early lunch and one of the kids became a 'runner.' The teacher went to catch him..and there we were. In another classroom the kids were on the floor licking toys. (Andrew does lick toys but this is not what I would 'show' as my best day to people.)

  • "Inclusion": Forgive me while I laugh. I visited a classroom with an autistic child "Billy." It was Billy's birthday and the teacher said while I was there, "everyone tell Billy happy birthday." She then said, "see, he's included." In another classroom there was direct instruction going on. The autistic girl had an aid sitting next to her. The person giving the tour said, "you'd never know she was autistic if she didn't have the aid." NO one was doing anything in the could you tell? She was also on the wrong page while the teacher was talking and the aid was not helping in any way. I always thought one polished their shoes for a 'tour'..and if this was their BEST..I was concerned.

So... we homeschool. We began doing RDI formally about a year ago. Andrew is 'high functioning / Aspergerian. He reads very very well..and like many kids on the spectrum has fine tuned his brain connections with non-fiction. We are working toward more fiction this year. Math is..a struggle. He does understand conceptually but facts are difficult. He spells better than his mama. His writing is very much like a preschooler. We are very eclectic and I will write about our curriculum in another post.

That is the semi-expanded version of who we are and how we ended uphere. Andrew is now 10. He is a joy and a challenge. I have grown to 'heart' my kid over the past year. That too is another post.

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