Thursday, November 30, 2006

A good day for Reece

I had to call Reece's facilitator after preschool today to share what Reece did on the way out to the car. Almost as soon as we got out the door of the preschool, she started telling me about M and C (2 boys in her class) and that they were arguing with each other. It was such a neat thing! She never ever talks about preschool, and definitely doesn't talk about the other children. In fact, when we see the other children also walking out, she doesn't even acknowledge them. I was so excited that she shared with me her experiences at preschool! I was even more excited when Miss Amie told me that the episode had indeed happened! And to make it even better, the boys were arguing right next to where Reece was sitting, and they were being a little physical, but she didn't let it bother her! Miss Amie said she was waiting closeby to see if Reece was going to get upset, but she never did! :) She said Reece has had a great week this week!

Reece did much better at ballet this afternoon as well! She went right in (had a little trouble in the line when she wasn't line leader) and she participated better than she ever has! She was distressed once by some loud music and singing but she just put her hands over her ears and kept moving! That's a good improvement!

All in all, she's had a really good day!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

It's the post-break brain erase!

This week has been a big struggle for Austin. We took nearly the whole week off last week, and this week he seems to have forgotten everything (well, at least everything related to math!)! Add that to the fact that we are beginning multiplication of 2 digit by 2 digit numbers and his brain has shut down! I've tried to explain to him that this is another really complicated thing, involving multiple steps of multiplication and addition, but he is so easily frustrated! Because math has always been his best subject, he has high expectations for himself. He thinks he should always just get everything right away. (I guess that's a good sign that he forgot the 6 months we spent on addition and subtraction with regrouping lol). So we'll just move slowly again while he gets the hang of this. He understands the concepts behind it, it's just the processing that is giving him trouble. I've also figured out some interesting things about math curricula and the assumption of concept generalization... but that's going to have to be another post.

Easy Grammar is going well, so far. He has memorized the preposition list, or rather refreshed it from when he learned them in 2nd grade with First Language Lessons. He intuitively understood what a prepositional phrase is. Next week we'll see if he can identify them in sentences! :) That's usually where we get tripped up --- application!

Is it Christmas break yet? LOL

Saturday, November 25, 2006

3 drawings

Reece absolutely loves to draw! I have to give at least part of the credit to Riley, because I am not artsy, and Austin is not artsy. But Riley is artsy, and Reece has grown up watching Riley draw her wonderful pictures!

However, there has been a problem this last 6-9 months or so. Reece has drawn this same picture over and over. It's called "perseveration" in autism terms. Here is a scan of the picture, which I literally have hundreds of. The colors don't change. The order of the people don't change. She would draw 5-10 of these a day (I believe this one she drew at preschool):
Yesterday, my dh took the kids down to visit his mother while I worked on getting things cleared out of the kids' rooms for donating or giving away or throwing away! We just had to make room for the upcoming onslaught of Christmas toys! They were gone nearly all day long, but they were all very wound up! And in this time, Reece drew me the following 3 pictures, one after the other:

This one (above) is a picture of our van in the middle and all 5 of us in the van. I'm driving! If you look closely at the front of our van you will see the ray of light coming out from the headlight. That's because this is a drawing of driving home in the dark, in the rain. See the dots of rain and the dark rain clouds? Also, note the crescent moon! The 2 other vehicles were added after Reece showed me the picture the first time. She said she wanted to add other cars driving. Isn't it so cool?!

This picture (above) is Reece with her flower that she is growing in a pot. She told me that we were out of light blue, so she had to use dark blue and make it look light. Also, she made sure that I noticed that the flower that is drawn on the pot is the same flower that is growing in the pot! In the corners you can see what look like little 'framers'.

And this last picture (above again) is a picture of the flower before it went into the pot. You'll notice the dirt is brown and the grass is on top of it. Notice the black dot at the bottom of the stem? That is the seed! She told me she planted the seed in the ground and the flower grew up from the seed to make the flower. I asked her what flowers needed to grow and she said, "Sunshine and the rain!" Smart girl!

Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway) I am utterly tickled about these pictures! She put such thought into each one! Her brain, for however long it lasts, isn't stuck on the same picture! This alone gives me a very big reason to be Thankful! :)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

X marks the spot!

Today, I earned a bit of admiration and respect from Riley, which is honestly not the easiest thing to come by! Today I began her lessons in cross-stitching! She has longed for a mother with some artistic flair, a mother who could teach her to knit scarves and sweaters or sew dresses and blankets, even a mother who could identify the flowering plants and trees in our backyard! Alas, she got a mother whose only true skill is the ability to find patterns in numbers and who thinks taking a course on tax preparation sounds like alot of fun! :)

Here is her first completed X! The ones you see above it (closer to her) are the ones I did while I was teaching her!
She is concentrating very hard and really seems to enjoy it! :) She took to it very quickly, as she does most things! Maybe I'll get a new cross-stitch kit and we'll work on something cool side by side! :)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Look! It's Sirius Black!

Only 235 days until OOTP, according to Mugglenet! Wow, next summer, between Pirates 3 and Harry Potter 5, I am going to be living at the theater! Say it with me... GIFT CARDS! :)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

It's not supposed to be this hard?

I am watching the RDI DVD and I am just not believing my eyes! First, let me say a special thank you to my online friend Pam who so graciously sent this very expensive DVD to me to borrow free of charge! I'm only about a 1/3 of the way through it and I am already so impressed I can't stand it! I have read the foundational books that RDI is based upon, but seeing it in action is just amazing!

One thing that keeps striking me is how smoothly and easily the child and parent interact with each other! And how the child seems so relaxed and ready to have fun! There is so much that is wonderful to experience in the world and so often my kids who have the ASDs are too anxious to even realize it! One before/after video really hit home with me: in the before the mom was trying to engage the child and the child was smearing his spit on the two-way mirror. On Thursday when Reece had been asked to sit out of ballet, she spent the remaining time smearing her spit into the mirror. She didn't even care that she was missing the class. She didn't even seem to realize that anything had happened. The after portion of the video showed the dad and child playing a game together where the child had to look at the parent for non-verbal instruction before doing his part, and together they came to an understanding on when the action could happen, and then the last step was them doing it together. They were having SO much fun and they looked at each other with such engagement! Excuse me while I pout here a moment: I WANT THAT!!!! ::stomping and sticking my lower lip out::

My kids are smart and they talk well (Reece does now anyway, when she wants to lol) and they are overall really great kids! But Austin progressively becomes more anxious and controlling of his world so as to avoid anything 'different' and 'unexpected'. And Reece seems to be quickly following the same pattern. And I find myself working my butt off trying to keep their world controlled and 'same'. But that is nearly impossible, so when faced with the unexpected and different, they melt down. It's just not supposed to be this hard, and I see it now! It's been such a part of our everyday life forever, that I didn't fully appreciate how life is meant to be.

Well, I'll keep posting more about about the DVD as I continue to watch it... and Russ and I are going to be watching it together next week as well! I am so excited for him to see this stuff now! :)

The Reading List dilemma

This is a good dilemma to have! Remember the free reading lists I came up with for the kids before this school year started? If not,
this will help to refresh your memory!

Well, here we are towards the middle/end of November, and Riley informed me last Wednesday that she is starting her last book on the list. Didn't she get the memo that this list was for the entire year? Apparently not! LOL Now I have to search for more books for her! Oh the calamity! ;) (Also, she's going to finish her 2nd regular Pathways reading book for this year right before Christmas! Not sure what I'll do after that!)

Also, Austin only has 3 books left on his list, and then there are 2 more that he has requested to be added to the list after reading excerpts in his Bob Jones reading book! That is really impressive! His list is long, and the books are not short at all! :) So I guess I'll need to start looking for books for him as well!

And this has absolutely nothing to do with reading, but while I was looking for the reading list post I came across the post where we were deciding about choir for Riley. I really should say that I'm SO glad we chose to do this church choir instead! She has enjoyed herself SO much, and it's free! LOL I'm not sure she would have enjoyed herself as much if she had done the Atlanta Youth Choir at this age! :) It's nice to know we make the right decision now and then! LOL

Will this day ever come?

Will a day come where the first thought of the morning isn't about autism?

Where the last thought before bed isn't about autism?

Where I don't spend the wee hours of the morning reliving the day and chastizing myself for opportunities I missed?

Will a day ever come where I don't regret the way I reacted to some meltdown or other behavior of the children that they really can't control?

Will a day ever come where I can carry on a conversation with someone without talking about autism?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Fun Friday 11/17

Well, we had a slight change of plans for Fun Friday that was brought about by Austin throwing up late last night. He seems to be doing OK and has eaten today fine, but I didn't want to take him out running around today just in case.

I got out the Spin Art machine and we got busy with creation! Hands On Art! :) Imagine that!

We also finished reading our latest read-aloud, and we cleaned up (but the post hands-on art stuff pretty much took care of the cleaned up parts of the house! LOL).

So there you go, Fun Friday! LOL

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I left the house for THIS?

(Thanks to Sadie for the title of this post!)

Our HIGH today was 48. Low was 46. It's windy, which makes it feel like 41 degrees at the most! Reece had her Thanksgiving Feast at preschool (which I had promised to help with) and then she had ballet.

Well, come to find out this morning at preschool she spat in the face of another child, because he messed up her line of puppets.

Then at ballet, she was asked to sit out because she was being uncooperative and disruptive.

So, I repeat... I left the house for THIS?!

Time to light a fire. I need chocolate! And a Pibb.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Well, I signed on all gung-ho to blog, and now I haven't the foggiest idea what to blog about! LOL Let's see what's been going on at the Black Pearl Academy:

Grammar- Over the weekend, I purchased Easy Grammar for Austin. He was struggling so much with Rod & Staff that it just wasn't worth all the time we were spending on grammar anymore. R&S only gets harder, and I just couldn't see him ever really understanding and applying it. He's now into the 'memorizing the prepositions' part, which is fairly easy because he memorized them in 2nd grade for FLL. We just have to do a refresher course. Now, will he be able to understand what a prepositional phrase is, and be able to identify it in a sentence as to eliminate them? Well, that remains to be seen. If not? Then I think we'll be taking a break from formal grammar for a few years and see if he's ready for it when he's older.

Academics in General- Taking WAY longer every day that I would prefer. I'm not sure what can go, in order to make the day shorter and leave more time for reflection and spontaneity. Still working that out, but due to the way my children's brains work, it just may be that our days are long and there's nothing to change that. Riley is doing very well, still! Austin is struggling in some areas, but his attitude is generally much better than it has been previously. Reece is taking a break from formal academics right now.

Autim stuff- I went to a meeting of a support group in another county and enjoyed myself greatly. Their topic was "Working with Siblings of Children with Autism" and it was excellent. The speaker has a sibling with autism, so she was able to speak to us from the perspective of both a professional in the field of autism, and also as a NT sibling of an autistic individual. We're on the right track in how we deal with Riley and her needs, but we have a long way to go. She also gave me several really great ideas for the spectrum kids in our family. She emphasized how much the social functioning of an adult determines their success, not necessarily their academic performance (hmmm, whether they could master grammar in the 4th grade? LOL). So if my goals are fixed on academics, without regard to social functioning, I will not be doing my children justice. Side note: I did NOT agree with their training methods on working towards those social goals, but that's a topic for another blog.

That's about it for now! I can't believe it's nearly Thanksgiving already! Where has this year gone? It is flying by! Only 20 days until Dead Man's Chest comes out on DVD!

Look for my review of "Stranger Than Fiction" coming hopefully tonight! It's been ages since I've done any movie reviews! Well, it's hard to when I keep seeing POTC2 over again! :)

Friday, November 10, 2006

5 years of Book It

For the 5 years that we've been homeschooling, we have gone to Pizza Hut for Book It with my friend H's family! Back in my pre-homeschooling days, H homeschooled her son while Austin went to preschool and then Kindergarten. I honestly thought H must have chosen to do it because she couldn't get her son into preschool. They moved the same summer we bought our house, and it was hard to find a preschool that time of year. It would turn out that she would be my inspiration 2 years later to homeschool after a terrible experience in the public schools! Here are the kids during the first year we went to Pizza Hut for Book It, November 2002!

Here we are this year! We arranged everyone by age, so my Austin is the first one (he's third from the left on the top). Riley is the 3rd one in the picture below (she's the 2nd from the left in the above picture). The two little girls were sling babies when the 2002 picture was taken (Reece is 6th from the left in this picture below), and the little guy at the end was not even a thought yet!

My word, how everyone has grown so much! I know I talk about how fast everyone is growing up, but this is just picture perfect evidence! Five short years ago, these kids were so little and look at them now! It's amazing! We can't even fit everyone on the bench anymore! LOL

We had a wonderful time, as we always do, and afterward we went to the park to play and explore. It's near 80 day! What a way to spend Fun Friday! :)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A moment of (somewhat unclear) clarity.

There has been a very interesting thread from my local autism support group email list going on the last day or two. I have to be snooty here for a moment and admit I don't really feel this group has alot to offer me because I appear to be the only homeschooler, and most of the discussion centers around public school special ed. But a particular response to this thread about frustrations with a high-functioning autistic (HFA) 9 year old boy really grabbed me and gave me much to think about.

The original poster in the thread was complaining about her son's lack of ability to remember to do things like take his lunch money to school, or to remember to wash himself when he showers, or how he is now falling behind academically. He is mainstreamed and she didn't mention if he has any special supports or anything.

The reply that really caught my attention came from a mom who has a 16 year old son who has HFA. This is part of the reply that just made me stop in my tracks:

"The more I adjusted my expectations of him to something that I knew that he could handle and then praised him to death with that (and his teachers at school did as well) then he became more acceptable to learn new things and adjust to new situations.

But let me blunt here. If your child has highfunctioning autism he is NEVER going to act like a neurotypical child/teen/adult. Period."

It just hit me like a bolt of lightning. I'm trying to act like Austin doesn't have HFA. Or maybe I'm just forgetting that that is a HUGE part of who is he and how he processes things. She went on to add:

"It has nothing to do with really with his being defiant or something like that. It is just that he has a different way of processing information than other individuals. Not good or bad,.... different."

I guess there is a part of me that thinks that just because we homeschool, that eliminates ALL of the interferences that the HFA/Aspergers presents with learning. Sure, we can eliminate the noisy, chaotic environment (somewhat lol). I can present information at the pace he needs. Well, I guess that doesn't always get through to my brain. I'm still very fixated on what level he is at. And I sometimes push him through things forgetting that it just takes him longer. He gets things, it just takes him longer. The neuropsych emphasized as much.

I don't even know if I'm making sense here! LOL I've been so very focused on the fact that I'm not going to let autism/Aspergers stop him from doing what everyone else does, that I've forgotten that he's not like everyone else. But that doesn't have to be a negative thing.

Hmmm, lots to think about now.

Friday, November 03, 2006

A great pic and a sick mom

Here is Reece's picture from preschool! They had a professional photographer come in at the beginning of October to do individual pictures! I wasn't holding out much hope because Reece is notoriously hard to get a good picture of, and her class has outdoor playtime first thing in the morning so I was sure her hair would be a complete mess by picture time! But look!! Isn't it a great picture?? I can't believe they got her to stand by a tree, sort of look at the camera, and smile! :) It's my favorite picture of her ever!!

Now on to the not so good stuff: I am still sick. This is so disappointing. I've had to modify Fun Friday today to exclude anything that requires me to use my voice. I am so congested, and my throat is so scratchy. I sound terrible. I was thinking of taking the kids to a new museum here in our county today, but I guess that will have to wait for another Friday.

Let's see, any other BPA news? Oh yeah...I handed out report cards on Wednesday for the first time! It went pretty well. The kids compared, somewhat, but it wasn't too bad. They asked for report cards, or I wouldn't be doing it at all! LOL Silly kids!
The kids are struggling a bit in their attitudes, but I am chalking that up to 3 weeks in a row where someone has been sick. I am aching to get back into our regular routine and good habits! We have been accomplishing the bare basics (grammar, math, reading, writing) these last 3 weeks, but the rest has been hit or miss. We had History Day last Friday where we got caught up on our history reading, but again this week that's been pushed aside. Hard for me to read History when I have no voice! LOL (This is when using SOTW would be handy, because I could pop in a CD! LOL) Science, too, has been pushed aside while I await our science book I purchased off ebay. Latin is going well because of the CD and flashcards. I am just ready to be feeling better for more than a few days at a time!!! WAH!
Ok, enough whining or I'll be forced to make myself walk the plank! ;) Have a lovely weekend, and Keep to the Code! :)