Thursday, October 25, 2018

Reflecting on Home Educating Special Needs Students. .. The Road Less Traveled.

Some of you know I had two students graduate last year. One is Autistic and currently in a work program and the other is gifted and is going to MIT. Two very different wonderful experiences in parenting and home education. I wanted to share my biggest take-aways from home educating each. Hopefully they are helpful to you and all who take the road less traveled.

What I have learned home educating a student with special needs. 
I still remember the day. I was wondering what I was going to do with our oldest son and schooling. He had been diagnosed with autism and multiple other issues. I knew he would not make it in kindergarten and the special needs preschool was not going particularly well. I remember trying to get him on the bus for preschool and he would lock himself in the bathroom. He would lock the door as I would unlock it. I knew elementary school would not work for him. I was praying and the thought hit me. . . I could home educate him. So I began the path of learning about home education and how to make that happen at my house.

Currently my son is in a work program called Project Search that meets at Children’s Hospital. He enjoys it greatly, and loves being there. I feel our home education help prepared him for this. Here are a few things I have gleaned along the way.

1. Time spent on Life Skills is time well spent!

I am so glad I took the time to teach life skills! Emptying the dishwasher, laundry, cooking, greeting people, pleasantness etc. It is easy to get wrapped up in the skills of school which are important, but at the expense of life skills. Those are the skills his job program appreciates. Those are the skills that help him now.

2. Sometimes it is easier to do it yourself than to depend on others.

I am glad I put my time and energy in my child rather than trying to get others to do their job. For me this was very freeing! Home educating was a good fit.  

3. On the flip side. . . I was able to use the autism scholarship to get help.

I was able to use the autism scholarship in Ohio to get  help  for my son. An OT, tutor and special education coordinator who shared my philosophy of education worked with my son. They listened to me and were on my team. He was able to be at home in a less stressful environment. It gave me a time to be with my other six kids. I am glad I reached out for help and did the necessary paperwork.

4. You get more done at home than they do at school even if it does not feel that way.

When my son went back to school his last 2 years of high school, I was surprised how well he was doing. He was doing well and could keep up. At one point they told me he was ahead. The principal nicely told me that the standards were not as high as they used to be.

5. I am so glad we went at our own pace and learned for mastery.

I would sometimes worry we were behind. Were we doing as much as they were doing at school? Would he be able to get back in school if needed? At some point I gave that up, and I am so glad I did. Right now I am glad for the mastery of skills he has, glad we did our own thing.

6. I wish I had worried less. Really.

Looking back, I am thankful for the moments I enjoyed my time with my student. I also probably worried too much about what they were doing at "school". He did not need more school, he needed more life. I was not school and could do amazing things the school could not do. I had chosen a different path. I was glad I did. 

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Next:  Reflections on Home Educating a Gifted Student

Thursday, October 18, 2018

US Presidential Scholar

Our son was a United States Presidential Scholar for 2018.  He was one of 161 high school students from across the United States.  We attended the ceremony in Washington DC.  It was an incredible experience.   

Nathan nominated me as his favorite teacher.  So I am now a US Presidential Scholar Distinguished Teacher.    Though I am not sure if my other children are that impressed.  I am adding it to my credentials.  

There was an article about us in a Chinese newspaper.    I do not speak Chinese, but my sister in-law who is Chinese said it was a very nice article.  

Here is Nathan with Mick Zais from the department of education receiving his medal.   

The certificate we received from the Ohio Board of Education. 

It said . . . Nathan's achievement exemplifies the best aspects of  Ohio's Education system and made our state proud.   For some reason that made me smile.

Happy Friday!  You never know where homeschooling will take you! 

Friday, October 12, 2018

Updated Post: Vocabulary: mapping a better future.

I enjoy reading to my children and listening to them read.  It is wonderful to see them engaging in text.  I have been listening to children read through my entire teaching career (over 28 years).  I often begin with the incorrect assumption that children know all words presented to them.  I have to remember to ask them if they know what certain words mean. 

I am trying to make more of a focused effort on expanding your students vocabulary.  I wanted to share some of the strategies that are currently helping.   Some familiar methods would be telling your student what a word means, looking it up in the dictionary, and trying to guess what a word means from reading it in a sentence.

Another strategy that is helpful for visual learners is Semantic mapping or word maps.  Here is a nice article that tells more. Basically, a word map is a visual organizer that promotes vocabulary.  I find it helpful to use in science or social studies, and with beginning readers.

Download this for Free on Teachers Pay Teachers
This is nice map for older elementary and middle school readers.   Here is another one that would be excellent for science for older students. This is an article that shares how to use mapping with students.   Lastly, here is one more article that discusses using this with older students up to high school.

For younger students I like this map.   It is very basic and easy to follow.  You could also just take a piece of paper and fold it in fourths to have the same vocabulary  map. 

I would recommend trying to do this 2-3 times per month as a realistic goal.  Try to focus on science and social studies for older learners and read-alouds for younger students.

There are many other methods, but hopefully these help your student to expand their vocabulary. 


Thursday, October 04, 2018

Cozy, Snowy, Cuddles illustrated by Fransesca Pesci

Winter is an exciting fun time of year for little ones, and Cozy, Snowy Cuddles Touch and Feel will help children thank God for all His wonderful wintry gifts. The soft art, touch-and-feel elements, and sweet message will appeal to the cuddliest little ones, making this the perfect holiday gift!
Little polar bear spreads joy and cheer to all the winter animals. He shares his thankful spirit with all he meets and leaves smiles and cuddles behind him. Cozy, Snowy Cuddles Touch and Feel is a great way to enjoy all the coziest aspects of winter with your little one—and thank God for the beauty and fun of winter.
My Review
Cozy, Snowy, Cuddles is a children’s board book filled with animals that live in the arctic who each meet our new friend the polar bear.   The book is written in A. B, C, B rhyming meter and has new vocabulary in upper-case, bold, colorful print on each page.  The book is a touch and feel book with different colored fuzzy material for each animal.  The book is intended for children in preschool and up.  I would say more specifically ages 3 to 6. 

First, for full disclosure, I have to tell you that I love polar bears and actually collect figurines.  I realize that is not a typical item to collect, but I do. So, a sweet board book that features a cuddly polar bear is a dream book for me. 

This book has beautiful illustrations with the sweetest, friendliest looking artic animal that I have ever seen. The cover is sparkly and appealing, and the touch and feel of the fur added nicely to this book for children.  This is especially fun for children in this age group who love to touch everything.  I felt like the text in Cozy, Snowy, Cuddles was excellent.  It was descriptive and would do an excellent job building vocabulary for 3 to 6 year-olds. 

I highly recommend this book for children ages 3-6.  It would make an excellent gift around the holidays, or a great “just because I love you” book. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”