Taking the Scenic Route

Learning new things

27th September 2010

Learning new things

Zach doing a lesson with Zane.

Zane suddenly developed an interest in chess. YAY!    He took the cheaper chess set (the “No Stress Chess Game”) and set it up next to his computer, ran a computer chess game that we have had on there for a while, mirroring the moves on the chessboard next to him.  After doing that for several hours, he asked his Dad to play a game with him.  Then Zora heard “play a game” and wanted to also join, so we went into storage and dug out our nice chess set, from Zach’s mom.  Zach ended up playing with both of them at once, Zane an actual game, and Zora a pretend game.

I am SO excited to see him be interested in chess.  When he gets a little better it would be a great social outlet for him, besides the obvious brain building benefits.

posted in Board/Card Games, Homeschool, Zach, Zane | Comments Off

19th July 2010

Taste it

Like a lot of homeschool families, we don’t take off in the summer.  It allows us to take off more when the parks/museums/zoo ect aren’t as crowded when all of the other kids are in school.  Both of the kids have been on a “body” kick, and we seem to find a large amount of material that has continued to interest them, so we just keep going.

This book, From Head to Toe: The Amazing Human Body and How It Works, has been a fun resource this summer. It has good illustrations, fun text, and a bunch of easy to do experiments in it to help explain the content. We were sad to send it back to the library.

This is the experiment on taste, which involved simply putting different foods (salt, lemon juice, sugar, cocoa) in cups, then using cotton swabs to touch them to the tongue and describe the taste. After the initial experiment, they also experimented with mixing the tastes and trying that too. Simple, effective, fun.

posted in Autistic Life, Homeschool, The Kids | Comments Off

18th June 2010


Exploration Place has some new exhibits that are a lot of fun.

Zane has been interested in studying the human body, so this was the most perfect exhibit possible for him.  It was really well done and kept both kids, but especially Zane, really engaged.  The animatronics did elicit some nervous giggles from Zora, who was a little freaked out by giant talking creatures.

“Gas Attack” pinball, with info on what causes gas.

The Urine game:  a video game where you learn which things the body leaves in the bloodstream and what gets sent into the urine.

Foreground:  Operation game with rubbery organs; Background:  Digestive tract playground…you walk in the mouth, slide down into the stomach and then past the intestines, and exit through the, well, let’s just say you exit onto a brown mat.  :laughn1:


There was also a “More Munsch” (author Robert Munsch)  exhibit that talked about creating stories.  It had a lot of neat literacy stations.

And, of course, the familiar exhibits that they always want to see.

Zora *needed* to stop by and play Veterinarian for a while with the other kids.

And the Tornado machine.  (yeah, you can tell these kids were raised in Kansas…they get less than concerned about high winds.)

In fact, Zane is nearly blissful.  He wants to do this over and over again.

In the flight room

An EP employee actually took the time to walk Zora through an entire flight sequence.  It was really neat.

And, in the corner of the flight room, an exhibit we had never stopped at before, but this time it captured the kids attention for quite a while.  It is an active beehive, with the hives inside plexiglass (or something like it) and an exit to the outdoors for the bees.  It was a lot of fun to watch.

It was a great trip.  He has been reading a lot about the human body, especially the digestive tract, and after leaving they both have wanted to know more about bees.  It was on a Friday, when the Zoo has their “wet & wild Fridays”, so the crowd was greatly reduced.  The perfect amount of people…enough that Zora could get some interaction, but Zane wasn’t overwhelmed.

posted in Autistic Life, Exploration Place, Homeschool, Zane, Zora | Comments Off

13th April 2010

Sequencing activities

Sequencing is an important language and pre-literacy skill.  We have done a lot of sequencing work with Zane, and now Zora needs help in that area too.  She was having problems with the sequencing activities using more abstract pictures, so we decided to take a step backwards and make it something that was very concrete for her by taking pictures of “real life” sequences that are relevant to her.  This is something that is easy to replicate by parents, so I thought I would share the concept.

As you can see, the pictures aren’t all great quality, but it is functional, is working, and it is easy.  Take a series of pictures, print them up (doesn’t have to be on photopaper for this), cut them into individual cards, and have her put them in order and “tell the story”.  I took longer series of photos that allows for growth.  The first time she does this, just use 3 from each batch, and later you can build the sequence by adding more photos from the set.  When taking pictures, try to take pictures that have some clues in them to help her determine the sequence.

(click on pictures if you want to see bigger images)

Drawing a picture

Making a PB sandwich a note here: with a super literal autistic kiddo, I would have been more precise…use a proper plate, the most used brand of PB, etc, because you are inadvertently setting “rules” in place when you do stuff like this with a child who is super literal.  I didn’t bother with Zora because she doesn’t think like that (although she is amused by the lack of a plate).  I also wouldn’t have taken pictures of her destroying the sandwich afterward because then it would have permanently been part of the sequence, but, again, she doesn’t think that way and it amuses her, so it is actually more effective for her (because it is engaging), but would be a real problem for Zane.

Swimming Lessons

Brushing Teeth

So, you can see the pictures aren’t fabulous or anything (and you could easily use even a phone camera), but it is simple to do, very cheap (especially compared to the board games/puzzles that target this skill) and effective.  Going back to concrete pictures is good because you can teach them how to look for “clues” within the pictures to determine the order, and that skill can be generalized as the sequences get more abstract.

posted in Autistic Life, Homeschool, Language Development, ST | Comments Off

22nd February 2010


Idioms and autism can be a frustrating mix.  All kids have hilarious interpretations of idioms, but neurotypical kids are usually able to learn or infer what the meaning is without explicit instruction.  Because Zane does not learn this way I am always looking for resources to help with issues like this that engage him.  Last week’s library trip yielded a big success and I thought I would share.  (it took about two days of “strewing it in his path” before he picked it up, but once he did, his nose was in the book for a while every day since which is ALWAYS more successful than presenting it in a “schooly” way) I even learned a few things from the book.  Zora keeps wanting me to read the pages with the spiders and bugs on them.  (and, by the way, it isn’t an easy book to “read”, it is more of a “sit down and study” type thing because there isn’t a narrative)

A few randomly chosen pages:

And the link at Amazon (there are both hard and softcover versions):  There’s a Frog in My Throat: 440 Animal Sayings a Little Bird Told Me

posted in Autistic Life, Books, Homeschool, Language Development | 1 Comment

16th February 2010

Schooly update

Since I was on the couch for the week, Zach took over the homeschooling stuff.  Zane finally seems to be seeking out learning again, after the disaster that was K12 Virtual Academy.  It took a few months of de-schooling and a lot of patience on my part not to push, but we seem to be back on track.

Zach and Zane decided it would be fun to do some math, so they pulled out the Miquon books and did a bunch of stuff on “time”.   They had a ball drawing different shaped clocks, square, triangle, amoeba (and a “no boundaries” clock) and drawing the hands as appropriate.

Then they talked about using the time to describe placement, like on a dinner plate, like this:

Zach drew a big clock on the chalkboard and wrote the problem on the board (Zane loves working on the chalkboard).  After he wrote out the problem, he had Zane draw it.  Mr. Literal Boy drew the contents on the plate in lines, in the shape of the clock arms.  :roflrly:

In other weirdness, Zach reviewed addition and subtraction concepts in a way only a guy would think of.  He drew people in a house, had people outside and did different word problems.  Many of the problems involved things like “if 3 people are struck by lightening, and 4 people run into the house, how many are left outside”.  There were also story lines about a “pit”, people falling into the pit, the smart people who built a bridge, the boulders that came down the hill running over people.  I could hear them laughing and giggling like crazy from upstairs and was amused to find out why.

posted in Autistic Life, Giggle, Homeschool, Zane | Comments Off

19th November 2009

Ditching the K12 Curriculm

I finally came to the realization that K12 was really not working for us. I can see how it would be a lot better for Zora, but it takes so much work for a language delayed kid to really “get” the lessons, that it ended up being far more work than the individualized targeted stuff I was doing with him before. Plus, there was just plain too much busy work for Zane’s learning style. Considering he tests at and above grade level, I was obviously doing something right before, so I am going back to that.

I found as the semester wore on, homeschooling became a huge chore. It just sucked all the joy out of it, plus I was dropping all sorts of fun things in an attempt to mark the little boxes “done” on their program. Taking all the interesting and fun stuff out and having him start crying (and me feeling like crying) every time I said it was time for school seems very counter productive. The final straw was when my kids who loves to read was refusing to read and saying he didn’t like it. Reading is supposed to be fun, and I will do everything I can to cultivate a love of reading, and this, obviously, was not it.

Today I called up a friend who does Lego Mindstorm stuff with her older kids in KC and browsed the web for local groups. I even got brave and emailed somebody and will post later on the homeschooling list to see what is already going on locally (first I have to find my password again. lol). I am also going to start going to more homeschool meet-ups again (instead of “no, we need to get school done first”, which was another big mark against using the curriculum for us).

posted in Homeschool, Zane | Comments Off

20th October 2009

Number Lines & Math Facts

He was getting bored and hating reviewing adding and subtracting with number lines, so we took it outside. The ability to change things up like this is one of the reasons I like homeschool.

I ended up writing a prompt for him to get him to quit responding to the equation with “Is it ___?” instead of just stating the answer. It did seem to help.

posted in Autistic Life, Homeschool, Zane | Comments Off

22nd September 2009

Homeschool goofyness

After working on the math lesson (which, frankly, isn’t challenging enough for Zane and is causing issues of him trying to make a game of it to make it more interesting for him), Zane grabbed the Cuisianaire rods and played for a bit. I am not terribly impressed with K12 math so far. It takes simple concepts and puts in under layers of manipulatives that actually complicate it IMO. The “ten frames” are annoying and actually cause more issues than it solves. I think the biggest part of the problem is that he is too far past this, he already understands the underlying concepts, so making it a multiple step process to add two numbers together is just annoying.

He wants to make a game with spelling too. Instead of just writing the word, he draws a little picture to illustrate the word in some way. Like the word “dock”: he drew a little dock, put water underneath it, then wrote the word “dock” on the dock. He shows through the drawings that he understands the word meaning, which is very, very important for a language delayed kid, and this is the visual equivalent of “use the word in a sentence”, so I am not going to stop it, but it takes what should be a 5-10 minute subject and turns it into a 30-40 minute subject. lol. I do love seeing the creativity though.

Some other examples: (some of these you had to be there and see how they were drawn to understand what he is saying)
“shop” is in the sign of a shop, “far” is on a hill in the distance

“which” on an intersection (which way do you want to go)

“from” (from here to there)

This one he did on his own after we were done. Enough to make a mama’s heart melt, isn’t it.

Here is was instructed to draw a place. He drew a house (and, apparently, we need to add “house” to the spelling list)

And, finally, a self portrait.

Is it bad that I was surprised he included pants and shoes? :o

posted in Autistic Life, Homeschool, Zane | 2 Comments

1st September 2009

Catch-Up: Sept.1 – First Day of School

Today is Zora’s first day of school ever. She is going to preschool where Zane went. She will go as a peer model, and if her speech doesn’t improve, she will be as a ST student next semester, but she has already made huge leaps, so that doesn’t seem as likely now as it did at the beginning of summer. Zane also had his first day of school as a 2nd grader.

We took an insane number of photos, naturally.

At school

Zane & Daddy waiting for mom to finish dropping Zora off

Chillin’ with new friends after school.

Some faces you will probably see again because I am good friends with the mom of the girl and grandma of the boy (grandma is raising him) from the autism support group we go to.

posted in Homeschool, School, Zane, Zora | Comments Off

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