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Showing posts from 2011

Unexpected Reading Breakthroughs

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I am going to be a guest blogger on Hip Homeschool Moms this week and I decided to write about a minor-miracle we had with Jackson's reading last week.  In addition to that big breakthrough, we also had another big "ah-ha" moment.  I wanted to write about it here also and just link the 2 blog posts together so you could get the big picture.  So, if you've already read Part 1 of this blog on Hip Homeschool Moms, just skip over it to Part 2.

Part 1

My son Jackson, has always struggled with reading.  He does not like to read independently nor does he always understand what he is reading.  Comprehension has been the biggest road block to his advancement in a number of areas.  His special education teachers spent hours on the who, what, when, where, why questions with limited success.  They communicated that he refused to read out loud and when asked to answer simple questions about a passage, he would often have an outburst of some kind that involved kicking, spitting or y…

Yoga + Autism = Natural Calm

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Jackson was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (autism) in October of 2002, in Fayetteville, NC while Paul was stationed at Ft. Bragg.  He left for Afghanistan 6 weeks later.  I have a very vivid memory of a moment between Caroline and I in the kitchen of our home.  I was loading the dishwasher while Jackson was running around, screaming and destroying the house and Caroline, who was only 14 months at the time, was promptly unloading all the dirty utensils I had just finished putting into the dishwasher.  I turned to her with a dead serious face and said, "if we are going to survive the next year, you have got to help me." Sweet thing looked right back at me, slowly put the forks back into the rack and sat on the floor quietly until I was finished.  I was at my breaking point and we clearly both knew it.  The next day, I ordered a yoga DVD and set off on a journey to learn to manage my stress during this very challenging time in my life.  Now, I am bringing Jackson on that journey with …

Freedom from Four White Walls

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The best part about homeschooling Jackson has been the freedom we have regarding "out of the classroom" activities. We are not limited to 2 field trips a year or 1 CBI (Community Based Instruction) per month. We go out and about every single day. We go shopping, walk the dog, visit parks, libraries, and monuments. We meet all kinds of interesting people and ask a zillion random questions. We learn new life skills and practice, practice, practice social interactions.

Children with special needs have many developmental obstacles to overcome. Being stuck inside a classroom all day limits their ability to practice many of the critical life skills that they will need once they become adults and are expected to integrate into a "neurotypical" society. So Jackson and I take every opportunity to head outside of our dining room table-top classroom and explore the world around us. I categorize our excursions into 3 main groups with each one having it's own set of …

Team Teaching Autism with Caroline

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One of the unexpected benefits of homeschooling Jackson has been the educational collaboration I've been able to do with Caroline. She has taken a keen interest not only in what I am teaching Jackson, but in how his actual academic progress is coming along. This has spilled over into non-school related situations as well. While opening her birthday presents on Saturday, she asked Jackson to read all of her cards and encouraged him to cut all the ribbons.  This was a sweet moment for Paul and I as parents of both these remarkable children.

Caroline is an unusual child in many ways, but it is her heart that makes her the most unique 10 year old I have ever met. She is extremely selfless and more intuitive than any adult I know. She is very aware of Jackson's strengths and weaknesses and knows how and when to challenge him or support him as the situation dictates.  Likewise, Jackson responds to her amazingly well.  He trusts her and looks to her for encouragement and reinforceme…

The Awesome iPad

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Jackson has always been a techno geek. By age 2, he was adding Spanish subtitles to every TV he could get his sticky little fingers on. When Paul was in Afghanistan, it was a 3 yr old Jackson, who could barely talk, that had to help me set up Skype so we could video chat. He taught himself to read at age 4 so he could hack into our computer and access Veggie Tales websites. I could spend hours listing all the crazy ways this kid has been years ahead of his peers in his understanding and use of technology. He's had an ear bud hanging out of his head since he could walk, using those old school MP3 and portable CD players to access audio stimulation on the go. Many people thought we were crazy to buy a young and irresponsible autistic child an expensive iPod and give him the freedom to use it however and whenever he desired. But it wasn't until the iPad that his use of technology radically changed.


Before iPad: For the past 10 years, Jackson has used his knowledge of techn…

Daily Schedule

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Jackson requires a very detailed schedule in order to prepare himself for both the work and transitions of a "typical" school day. It does not matter if he is being taught at home or in an institutional environment, he REQUIRES a detailed schedule for success. One of the failures of the public school was their inability to provide him with this information. I create his schedule every night and keep it on a clip board. He is allowed to bring it anywhere he wants so he can frequently refer to it throughout the day. This helps him understand the expectations for his time and academic efforts.


Here is our actual schedule from Friday, November 11th.

8-8:30 Watch News & Eat Breakfast
8:30 Get Dressed, Deodorant, Vitamins, Brush Teeth
8:45-9:30 *Morning Work*
- Daily Work: 1 worksheet
- Handwriting: 1 worksheet
- Read Chapter 3 in Big Nate
- Yoga
9:30-11 …

Quick Victories

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I am taking my own advice and writing a quick blog to get something accomplished before I get bogged down even more and never write one again. I believe very strongly in the need for quick victories to keep excitement and motivation up for challenging tasks. For example, when we changed J's diet for the first time I was only able to persevere because we saw some immediate and rapid gains in his eye contact and language. The same is true for all the hard things in life, a win right off the bat is important to keep you moving forward with confidence. These wins can be small and relatively insignificant, but they must be quick to be effective. I've been fortunate to have had a few quick victories with Jackson this week that have kept me excited about homeschooling.

1. Lower Case Handwriting - He has NEVER written in lower case letters. He writes in all uppercase, and even those are too big and usually pretty sloppy. Last week I decided to try adding a "penmenship&qu…

Lessons from Week #1

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Paul and Caroline have left for Friday night basketball and Jackson is outside playing football. This is my time to steal a few minutes with a glass of wine and get my thoughts about this week down in print before they become forever lost in the chaos of my mind. I plan on writing about why we decided to homeschool Jackson at some point, but not today. The reasons why make me sad and since this was one of the best weeks I've had in a long time, I prefer to dwell on my blessings and not my hardships. So here are my 5 main lessons from this week's adventure.



Lesson #1: The best way to learn how to teach Jackson is to listen to how he wants to be taught: Jackson has very low academic self-confidence. Even though he has "passed advanced" all his SOL's and been on honor roll countless times, he still needs a tremendous amount of encouragement that the work he is doing is correct and of good quality. So I learned very quickly to heap on the praise literally afte…