Taking the Scenic Route

I really didn’t fall off the face of the earth… (homeschool stuff)

28th January 2009

I really didn’t fall off the face of the earth… (homeschool stuff)

posted in Autistic Life, Homeschool |

I have been busy getting everything together for a new school year. What we were doing wasn’t really working well and then with the death last fall we really got totally off track. I have done a lot of problem solving to figure out a system that will be more successful, and proceeded to make lesson plans for the next few weeks (it needs to be a few weeks out so I can get the library books in time), and then a skeleton of what “themes” I will use each week through the rest of the year (in December, not typical “school year” year). There are a few blank spots, but we will need some breaks here and there anyway. I did notice that almost all of the major holidays seem to land on Saturday this year.

I have been burried in library books, with stacks of things teetering on my computer desk, across the loveseat, and on two kitchen chairs and the floor surrounding me. I also spent a lot of time pouring over the state’s dept. of education stuff to see what their requirements are for first graders to make sure I was either meeting them, or building skills to aim him that direction in areas he can’t manage yet. Some of the language arts recommendations are way beyond him because he isn’t at a high enough level of language acquisition to even begin the process of writing/journalling. He is hyperlexic…he can read several years above his grade level, but his comprehension is at, or just below, grade level. Language acquisition also interferes with some of the social sciences, but some of that can be mitigated with a lot of visual scaffolding. (although it will probably be a while before he can verbally express whether or not he understands concepts)

One of the main challenges was that he had begun to really hate math. He used to love it and is very good at it, so I was really at a loss trying to figure out what happened. It occurred to me that writing the answers is what he complains about the most and what precipitated the meltdowns, so I decided I would try and scribe all of his math (actually, scribe just about everything that is writing intensive).

After a few days back to school, I can already see him starting to get that light in his eyes again instead of being resistent when we start working on math. I can’t believe what a difference it makes to take the writing aspect out of the math for him. Suddenly he is able to give me answers to multiplication problems and shows me that he is understanding it at a much higher level than I was expecting. I realized I probably need to get him to do a typing program once the Headsprout stuff is complete so that he can write without working so hard on the physical aspects of it (which are so frustrating and exhausting to him).

I was resistant to scribing for him and refused to do it for much longer than my stubborn self should have because I mistakenly thought that it would help him learn to do it. I was wrong. It was taking away his love for learning and so not worth the price. He still doesn’t love doing the Handwriting Without Tears workbook, but it is, actually “without tears” now, although I insist on him doing it carefully, I also don’t try to do more than a page each day. (if he can’t seem to write the letter correctly, we take a step back and do it with the letter forms, chalkboard, and play-doh before returning to the paper). We will keep working on the motor skill aspect of handwriting. I think once the motor planning aspect of writing is in place and fairly well developed, I can start having him take over a lot of the writing. For the time being, it really isn’t fair to expect him to combine his two most challenging things (language + motor planning) and then get frustrated with him because he can’t pay attention to another thing on top of that.

What I have decided to do is this:
In the morning, before Speech Therapy, we will do enrichment activities and naturally weave in self-care skills and practice speech therapy stuff just in the process of living. I hope to hit each enrichment area at least once a week: Art, Science, Music, Something on the computer (Brainpop, Brainpopjr and Educational games), and Social Sciences. We will also read something every day. These things will be more free-flowing and likely fit into the “theme of the week”.

In the afternoon, after Speech Therapy, and hopefully during Zora’s nap (or after Zach gets home from work as a last ditch attempt), I will have “School” downstairs in the schoolroom to hit the skill based subjects: math, handwriting, and speech therapy (“Reading” and “Headsprout” are on his task board to do when he wants to). I have two maths I will use through the year (Miquon and Singapore, 1-2 pages a day) and Handwriting without Tears (page a day…we are still in the Kindy book). Under the umbrella of ‘Speech Therapy’ I have “Visualizing & Verbalizing” curriculum, “Social Skills” (social stories, RDI, floortime), “Words and Sentences” (vocabulary to help him with word retrieval, useful scripts, grammar, eventually things like idioms), a “Thinking Puzzle” (either a logic problem or a direction following activity). The catch-all for other stuff will be “Mystery Project” (because advertising is everything to a kid) I will only do one math at a time, and I don’t expect to hit every “Speech Therapy” thing each day, but always do at least one each day, and hit every aspect each week.

Trying to figure out what will work well is challenging when I have a boy who thrives on structure, and a mom who rebels against structure. I had to find a balance that would be enough to reduce his anxiety, but not make me feel like I was in prison. He also needs to have some say in how he spends his day, which is why I made the task board. I give him the tasks he needs to do, in a form that is easy for him to understand and manage, but he has some leeway as to when he chooses to do it. When we go to the schoolroom (non-negotiable), I made the plans short enough to hopefully accomplish them before Zora wakes up (it disturbs his brain when she is there and slows him down), but I let him chose the order we do it in (why I went back to individual cards instead of a concrete schedule). I think I have addressed all of stumbling blocks and so far, it is working fairly well. (you know, unless I sit here and blog too long…I need to go do stuff now)

Later, I will put a post together with all of the resources I used for other homeschoolers looking for what is working for us. (because lists like that have helped me a lot too)

This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 28th, 2009 at 8:12 PM and is filed under Autistic Life, Homeschool. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There is currently one response to “I really didn’t fall off the face of the earth… (homeschool stuff)”

  1. 1 On January 30th, 2009, Bianca said:

    I have so many questions for you. I know Zep and Zane struggle with different issues at times, but I also feel, when reading your posts, that many of the solutions are simple and the same. I think it is terrific that you are constantly evaluating and adjusting what works for you and him and are so flexible. I am really struggling with finding a good balance right now because Zep does not want to do any work. At all.
    I need help making a visual schedule and brainstorming ideas for encouraging him to work through the struggles we are having.
    also, that snow pic and the one of Zora and you, below, so great.

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