Disclosure: I received a free copy of Temple Talks from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.
TEMPLE TALKS. . . about Autism and Sensory Issues by Temple Grandin
If you’ve always wanted to read a book by Temple Grandin but just haven’t had time to sit down and read one, Temple Talks is a great book to start with! This book is short, only a little over 120 pages, and is full of information about autism and sensory issues. In the first part of the book, Temple shares about her life, including how her brain is visibly different from a normal brain, some of the struggles she had growing up and how she overcame them, and various therapies and her thoughts on them. The second part is full of questions Temple gets from parents and teachers and her responses to them.
This book, while small, is packed with information that is both fascinating and insightful. Temple’s answers to the questions gave me new ideas and validated some of the things I’m already doing. Her explanations of how a person with autism thinks helped me to understand more about the people in my life who have autism. I already know they don’t process and think about things the same way I do, but they’re not always able to express what they’re experiencing. Reading Temple Grandin’s helps a lot.
If you’re on the fence about reading Temple Grandin’s work, I highly recommend starting with Temple Talks. It’s packed with great information and will probably inspire you to read some of her other books so that you can learn even more from this amazing woman.
5 Must-Read Articles for the Special Needs Homeschooling Mom
If you’re homeschooling a child with special needs, or thinking about starting this journey, you’re probably riding a roller coaster of emotion, with thoughts that don’t stop even after you fall into bed exhausted each night. Sometimes you just need some encouragement that you’re on the right track, that you can do this, that this is a good decision for your family and your child. If that’s you, reading these articles may give you the boost you need to keep going. Enjoy!
Home-schooling Does Not Hamper Socialization – This article by Dr. Laura makes my list because it addresses the socialization question, which I hate and which still comes up far more often than you would think. (The funny thing is that no one ever asks me about socialization until they find out my children are homeschooled. Until that point, they seem to think that my children are well-socialized. Go figure.) In the last paragraph, she also addresses homeschooling’s success with children who don’t learn well in traditional classroom situations.
Hip Homeschool Moms’ 100 Awesome Things About Homeschooling is a list for homeschooling families in general, but everything on it goes double for families homeschooling a child with special needs. It will definitely remind you of some of the whys behind your decision to homeschool.
Homeschooling a Child with Special Needs at Lemon Lime Adventures is not exactly an article, but it’s worth your time. It contains a link to the recording of iHomeschool Network’s panel discussion Homeschooling Special Needs Students. Real homeschool moms discuss what it’s really like to homeschool children with special needs.
Lara Molettiere’s Taking It Slow: The Power of Yet contains powerful encouragement for the days when you’re lamenting your child’s lack of (or extremely slow) progress and wondering if a public or private school could do this education thing better.
If you’re looking for more inspiration and encouragement for homeschooling moms, check out the “must-read” lists other iHomeschool Network bloggers have compiled for you. (Goes live on Monday, September 28, 2015 at 6:00 am ET.)
Disclosure: I received a complimentary subscription to Here to Help Learning. I was not required to review or write about this product, and I certainly wasn’t expected to write positively about it. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.
Teaching Writing in Our Homeschool: A Writer’s Struggle
I began to see myself as a writer in the first grade. Writing is a lifelong passion, and as someone who loves words and spends hours crafting them for fun, I want my children to have the same passion and desire for word play, both for fun and for academic pursuits.
Unfortunately, they don’t. It’s not that I haven’t tried. Believe me, I have! They just don’t have the same passion for putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard that I do. If I go for too long without writing, I feel like a part of me is missing. They act like I’m torturing them when I assign a piece of writing as part of their lessons.
What’s a homeschool mom to do? I tried different curriculums. I tried assigning some of the more popular assignments that I used when I taught in the public school classroom. I tried allowing them to dictate their assignments to me. I tried breaking the assignments down into very small pieces, showing them how to do each one. Nothing worked well, or any positive effects didn’t last long.
Then, last year, I found the Here to Help Learning booth in a homeschool convention vendor hall. What impressed me about this booth was the friendliness of the owner, Beth Mora, and the fun that kids were having there! (They had a green screen, and kids were stopping by to play and were having a ball.) I stopped long enough to get a full-color brochure detailing the program, and I listened to Beth’s claims that parents of kids with special needs were telling her it was a great program for those kids as well as for those without additional struggles.
A month or so later, Beth and I really connected via an email introduction from a mutual friend of ours. We began discussing the features of Here to Help Learning in more detail, and I agreed to give it a try and let her know what I thought about it—and its benefits for struggling learners. In the time since, both of my kids have used (and enjoy) the program, and I was inspired to write an ongoing series of posts about teaching homeschool writing using Here to Help Learning.
For now, I’ll share the features I like best, those that seem to help my children engage in the lessons and begin to develop an appreciation (if not passion) for writing:
The video lessons are fun, and they do a great job of explaining each part of the assignment so the girls can understand.
There are different “flights” or assignment paths you can take, which means you can use this curriculum for multiple years and across multiple grade levels.
Beth (Mrs. Mora) explains the writing process in a way that is both understandable and memorable, using multisensory methods of helping the kids remember each step.
As they work through the assignments, kids are exposed to paragraph and essay writing as well as different types of writing (how-to essays, descriptive writing, etc.).
The writing warm-ups, games, and assignment explanations include skits with both Mrs. Mora and Captain Knucklehead that make my kids laugh while they’re learning.
The lessons are well-paced, breaking assignments down into manageable pieces that keep my kids from feeling overwhelmed.
The program is set up so that you complete a lesson in two days a week to finish an entire flight in a school year. This is perfect for us because we add this to our regular language arts curriculum and couldn’t commit to something that required a daily lesson.
Here to Help Learning is a great addition to our homeschool curriculum, and it is definitely helping my children to develop an excitement about writing. I’m looking forward to sharing more from time to time about how we’re using it in our homeschool!
Disclosure: As an Odyssey Adventure Club blogger, my family enjoys a complimentary membership to the Odyssey Adventure Club. (We have listened to and loved Odyssey for years, so this was a great opportunity for us.)
Most people can think of one or two figures whose love and life example had a great impact on the formation of their spiritual foundation. It might be a coach, a Sunday school teacher or a parent or grandparent. Whatever the role, it’s hard to put a value on the investment these people make on a daily basis. In an effort to bring honor to these countless, quiet heroes, Adventures in Odyssey announces the John Avery Whitaker Award. Named after Odyssey’s resident leader and the namesake of Odyssey’s most famous attraction, Whit’s End, the award will be bestowed annually on one deserving mentor.
Like the Adventures in Odyssey character John Avery Whitaker, or “Whit” as he’s known by fans of the show, the person should be someone who is passionate about innovatively teaching children the truths expressed in the Bible. Those who create Adventures in Odyssey know that while Whit might be a fictitious character, there are thousands of real people just like him. “Our hope is that by bringing those people into the light, others will be inspired to follow their example,” says Dave Arnold, the executive producer of Adventures in Odyssey. “If we can spur mature believers in Christ to mentor and influence a generation being barraged with messages of compromise, we can turn the tide and encourage revival in our youth.”
Nominations are being accepted now through October 31 for the “Whits” out there in the world. Beginning on November 1, one nominee will be selected daily and awarded with a prize package including Adventures in Odyssey’s latest album, Taking the Plunge, and a DVD of the movie Beyond the Mask. One grand prize winner will be chosen and announced on November 20. This worthy recipient will receive more than $500 worth of Focus on the Family resources, including an Odyssey Adventure Club (OAC) membership. The OAC offers 24/7, on-the-go access to more than 800 episodes of Adventures in Odyssey, as well as a new, members-only episode every month. It is a safe, fun environment where the whole family can explore, create and imagine, all while learning biblical truth.
The Day I Thought I Had It All Together and Was Proved Wrong
We were early in our homeschooling journey when it happened. The morning was progressing smoothly in preparation for starting our homeschool lessons. I was feeling pretty good about everything—being a stay-at-home mom, figuring out this homeschooling thing (it had been harder than I thought despite being a certified teacher), keeping my toddler daughter occupied while I helped my older daughter with her pre-K/K lessons, and staying on top of meal preparations, dishes, and laundry. I could do this.
Then I looked up to see my very independent older daughter lugging a half-gallon of apple juice across the kitchen. I offered to help, but she assured me she could do it herself. Rather than putting the apple juice on the table to take the lid off and pour it, she hugged the bottle to herself. She finally worked the lid off, and then, while she was trying to get the bottle into place to pour the juice, it slipped through her arms.
I saw it happening, but my brain wouldn’t communicate to my body fast enough for me to do anything about it. The bottle hit the linoleum floor, bounced once (thank goodness for plastic!), and a half-gallon of apple juice spilled out into the kitchen.
By the time I was able to move, there was nothing left to do but figure out a way to clean up the mess. After an unfortunate childhood incident involving a full bag of sugar, I already knew that there was going to be a lot of stickiness involved and that I had to be careful how I approached my current situation. What I didn’t consider as carefully was my approach to dealing with my daughter. Fortunately, that worked itself out. I learned a lot about parenting in the process, and I’m glad I learned it fairly early in our journey.
What a Half-Gallon of Apple Juice Taught Me About Parenting
Staying calm really works. You always hear that it’s important to stay calm in tense situations. The look on my daughter’s face when she realized what her independent streak had created this time revealed that she knew this was a pivotal moment in our relationship. I wanted to raise my voice, ask her why she wouldn’t let me help, and cry (and I have done all of those things at one time or another both before and since this incident), but I didn’t. I don’t know if it’s because she looked as horrified as I felt, but I stayed calm. I talked her away from the huge puddle spreading across our kitchen and began laying out a plan of action for cleaning it up. She followed my calm lead, listened to my directions carefully, and responded quickly.
Crisis moments are “teachable” too. I am always on the lookout for teachable moments with my daughter, and this one proved to be one of the biggest I had encountered so far. I modeled (this time, at least) how to respond to a stressful situation gracefully. She learned how to take big projects one step at a time, how using teamwork allows you to finish those projects more quickly, how to take responsibility for your actions and clean up your messes, and that making mistakes doesn’t cost you the love and affection of those who are important to you.
It’s good to laugh in stressful situations. I don’t know why I thought that laughing would keep my kids from seeing the gravity of a situation, but having a half-gallon of apple juice on the kitchen floor showed me that’s not true. Somewhere in the middle of cleaning up that big mess, we both ended up laughing. It didn’t change the enormity of the task in front of us, and my daughter still realized that she had made a big mistake. But laughter did lighten the mood considerably and helped us get through the rest of the clean-up without falling apart.
Your plans for the day are not what’s most important. I know we were already homeschooling then, so there were lessons on that day’s agenda, but I don’t remember one thing I taught her after we left the kitchen that morning. What I do remember is the apple juice incident. It was a good reminder that my agenda needs to be secondary to my relationship with my children. The relationship will be there long after they have become adults and moved on with their lives. I want us to have relationships with one another based on mutual love, respect, and real affection for one another, and that only happens when I take the time to handle each situation in a way that fosters that. Which means….
I have to parent intentionally. I have to live my days deliberately, being proactive instead of reactive as life happens. My kids are watching. They are not only looking to see how I interact with them and respond to life’s frustrations, but they’re also looking to see how I interact with other people. Am I also kind to strangers, practicing both planned and random acts of kindness regularly? Do I serve in our community in ways that make a difference, whether small or large?
Parenting is a lot more complicated than I thought. This situation turned out fairly well, but I was reminded that parenting is complex and hard and beautiful and wonderful—but I do NOT have it all figured out. I learned lessons that day that I still need, almost eight years later.
What lessons have difficult situations taught you about parenting?
Note: I received a free copy of Sensitive Sam Visits the Dentist from the publisher for review purposes. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.
Sensitive Sam Visits the Dentist by Marla Roth-Fisch
Sensitive Sam Visits the Dentist, like Sensitive Sam, addresses the challenges that children with sensory issues face. While the story is directed at children, explaining to them what will happen at the dentist office during both a regular exam and having a cavity filled, it provides a lot of tips for parents from the author and recognized experts in Sensory Processing Disorder, as well as some parents (including me – so exciting!).
All of this information makes it a great book for children, parents, dentists and orthodontists, and anyone else who wants to understand what concerns and struggles a child with Sensory Processing Disorder may have when visiting the dentist.
If you’re looking for a book that will give your child (sensory issues or not) a step-by-step understanding of what is involved in a trip to the dentist in a way that is kid-friendly and not intimidating or scary, you’ll want to get a copy of Sensitive Sam Visits the Dentist to keep handy! I received this book just before my daughter had a dentist appointment, and she enjoyed the story and pictures that helped to explain each step. She went to that appointment with very little anxiety about the process, and I recommended the book to our dentist.
5 Tips to Help You Homeschool When Your World Falls Apart
I don’t know what brought you to this place. Maybe it was a death, divorce, separation, job loss, or catastrophic accident or illness. Something big happened that resulted in a move, a need to find immediate work outside the home, or a period when you were unable to care for your family. Whatever brought you here, your world has fallen apart, and you’re supposed to be homeschooling. What do you do now?
I am walking this path myself, and I’m using a few different strategies to get through this difficult time and keep our homeschool on track:
Keep going. Although we haven’t felt like doing our lessons every day, keeping the routine has been good for all of us. Studying has given us something else to think about besides our immediate situation and has given us a sense of continuity as we work on lessons every day, just like always. (Some days we’re working different hours than we used to, but knowing what to expect each day has been helpful.)
Take a break. There are some days that homeschooling just isn’t a good option. Emotions may be running too high, it may be more important to catch up on sleep, or you may need time to breathe in the middle of whatever you’re going through. We have taken a break on a day that we planned to do school, and it wasn’t wasted. We rested, and the girls did lots of educational activities that day while we were hanging out together. Play and experiencing life together are educational in many ways, even though they may not be part of your regularly scheduled school day.
Ease up. If it’s a difficult day but you don’t want to quit on school completely, consider crossing a subject or two off the list, just for that day. Instead of a full science lesson from your regular curriculum, find a documentary on a related topic on Netflix or Curiosity Stream to watch together. You may find if you ease up just a bit, you feel better and can do more than you thought.
Change your schedule. When your world is already crashing in around you and circumstances are vastly different from when you began your school year, take a look at your schedule. Make arrangements when needed. Do you need to school on Saturdays now to make up for not being able to school on Tuesdays anymore? Do you need to switch from studying in the mornings to evenings? Flexibility is one of homeschooling’s huge benefits! Use it to your advantage now while you and your children navigate your way through your current struggles.
Accept help. Accept help where you need it from friends, neighbors, your faith community, family members, and even your children. Working together as a team with others makes burdens feel lighter and will give you a little breathing room to focus on your kids and their lessons.
You’re going through a rough time. Don’t give up on homeschooling. Make some adjustments each day that will help you get through the day. Then do the same thing the next day, and the next. Before you know it, you’ll have another year under your belt.
What strategies has your family used to homeschool during difficult times?
Disclosure: I received a free copy of I Believe in You from the author for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.
I Believe in You by Michele Gianetti
I Believe in You: A Mother and Daughter’s Special Journey is about Michele’s experience with her second child, who has Sensory Processing Disorder and dyspraxia. While she doesn’t idealize the situation, she presents the difficulties her family faced with love and grace. I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened next, what happened when her daughter was certain ages, what therapies they tried, and what their experiences were with various specialists. I was not disappointed. Michele covers all that and more, but this is a book to aid others either by education and understanding or in helping parents in similar situations to feel that they’re not alone, not a book that elicits pity from the reader.
I appreciated Michele’s sensitive handling of her daughter’s challenges, the way she explained the steps they took to make progress, the celebration of every victory (no matter how small), and her honesty about her feelings through it all. There was so much I could identify with in her story. This book will go on my list of recommended reads for parents who are struggling with their children’s Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, or dyspraxia diagnoses. And I’m in good company. Lucy Jane Miller of STAR Center endorsed I Believe in You too. (I almost squealed when I saw her name on the back cover!)
Disclosure: I received a free copy of Building Bridges Through Sensory Integration from Sensory World for review purposes. I received no other compensation. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.
Building Bridges Through Sensory Integration
Building Bridges Through Sensory Integration, Third Edition by Ellen Yack, BSc, MEd, OT and Paula Aquilla, BSc, OT and Shirley Sutton, BSc, OT is a book I wish I’d had when my daughter was first diagnosed with high-functioning autism and Sensory Processing Disorder. It contains good information for parents, teachers, therapists, and anyone else who spends time with children who have autism or sensory integration challenges.
Building Bridges begins by explaining sensory integration, sensory systems, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and occupational therapy in language that is easy to understand. The authors also provide anecdotes and examples to illustrate the information and make it even easier to comprehend.
The second part of the book is filled with very practical information to help caregivers provide children with interactions and assistance that will help with sensory integration in every setting. The chapter titles for Part 2 are:
Identifying Problems with Sensory Integration
Strategies for Challenging Behaviors
Ideas for Self-care skills
Adapting Home, School, and Childcare Settings
Equipment and Resources
The information in these chapters is organized well, is easy to scan (lots of bullet points and white space on each page), and is useful and easy to apply. The authors have also provided links to PDF downloads of forms and activity cards to print so you don’t have to mess up your book trying to get to the forms!
This book is a great reference for me now, even after my daughter has spent years in occupational therapy. But if I had had it years ago, what a difference it would have made in empowering me to provide her with a better sensory diet at home and in knowing exactly what to do to manage inappropriate behaviors and to help her learn coping skills earlier! I highly recommend this book to parents whose children are just receiving diagnoses and to the people who help to care for and provide services for them.
Disclosure: I received a free subscription to Reading Portfolio for my family. I was compensated for my time. All opinions are honest, and I was not required to write a positive review.
Independent Reading in Our Homeschool
My older daughter spends a lot of time reading. Almost every day, I can record “independent reading” beside her name in my lesson plans. She usually has several books going at once, and I work to keep her accountable for what she’s reading. As she enters her junior high and high school years, it’s especially important to me that she read books that will expand her exposure to literature and give her a range of genres, authors, and themes to draw from in her writing and thinking. To encourage this, I work to hold her accountable for her reading choices.
Accountability for Independent Reading
Some ways I have found to hold my daughter accountable for both her reading and the titles she chooses are:
Read along with her. As my daughter begins tackling titles with more mature themes, I have started reading the book right along with her. We don’t always read the same chapter at the same time, but reading simultaneously refreshes my memory of details I may have forgotten and gives me the opportunity to discuss things with her that she might find confusing or disturbing.
Discuss books. Whether I’m reading along with her or not, my daughter and I have a long history of discussing books we’re reading. She often follows me around while I do household chores, chattering about the book she’s reading. I ask questions, trying to tease out the themes and understand the storyline (and checking her comprehension). She likes to read fantasy, which is not my favorite genre, so I thoroughly test her understanding of the text (and her patience, I’m sure) as I try to comprehend the new world she has landed in. She asks about the books I’m reading too, and we discuss them in the same way. Sometimes I tell her something that sparks her interest, and she adds a book to her “to read” list. Usually the new title is one that she probably wouldn’t have picked up on her own, but the discussion leads her to explore new titles.
Create a reading portfolio. I recently discovered a tool called Reading Portfolio that helps me keep track of what my daughter reads and holds her accountable for comprehension and critical thinking about the text. As she has gotten older, her reading curriculum takes only a semester to complete instead of two, and she spends a lot of time doing independent reading. With Reading Portfolio, I can assign her an amount of points to earn for each semester (more for the semester with no reading coursework, and fewer for the semester that she’s completing her class).
Reading Portfolio’s list of books includes a lot of books that she normally wouldn’t choose for herself, so that certainly helps me to encourage her to expand her choices. The questions are not impossibly difficult but make sure that you’ve read the text. (I took a test on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe myself, and I was surprised that I had to think about some of the answers, even after having read the book several times!) Best of all . . .
the quizzes are already written,
quizzes are automatically scored,
scores are recorded and credited to my daughter’s portfolio immediately with no extra work on my part.
When my daughter is ready to apply for college, she will have an extensive reading portfolio to present in her college applications.
The cost for a one-year subscription is $15.95.
A ten-year subscription is just $24.95.
The site is open for students 13 years and older, so it’s perfect for junior high and high school students.
The more books they read and quizzes they pass, the higher their Reading Portfolio score will be. Higher scores will show colleges that students are well-read and may help with the application process.