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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mom's Daily Homeschool Schedule!

A lot of people having been asking me lately how I manage to get everything done now that I am homeschooling Jackson.  I think those closest to me worry that I have taken on too much and it will negatively impact me on a variety of levels.

Prior to pulling him out of public school around Halloween, I was substitute teaching on a regular basis and/or part-time teaching reading, but did have plenty of free days as well.  Now that I have J home everyday, I have rearranged a few things, but have found a nice rhythm that seems to meet all our needs, without adding unnecessary stress. So please don't worry about me - I have the best life and find plenty of time to take care of myself:)

I thought I'd write up schedule for a typical day for me and give you a behind the scenes look at how I keep it all running relatively smoothly and keep my sanity as well.  I found this blog entitled "What Kind of Mom are You?" and it is awesome! I am definitely a "Rountine Lover" which puts me at a personality type of A-, which is a perfect description of how I run both my personal life and our homeschool day!

7:30-8:00  Drink 2 cups of coffee, let the dog out, eat some yogurt, check email, news, Facebook, Twitter, etc...

8:00-8:30  Get Caroline up (not an easy task), make her breakfast and pack her lunch, make Jackson breakfast

8:30-8:45  Drive C to school (usually in my PJs and slippers)

8:45-9  Help J shower.  While he gets himself dressed, I get my yoga clothes on

9-9:30  J and I do yoga together, then read a Bible devotional book and do some out loud reading (we are currently reading a poem book).

9:30-9:45  Quickly change out of my yoga clothes and try to look presentable for the day

9:45-11  Shopping w/ shopping, cleaners, library, Target, CVS, Starbucks, car wash, etc...This gets easier everyday as he has more understanding of social expectations for behavior.  We usually have a great time just tooling around town! Once we get home, I have until 11 to unpack and organize anything we bought because at 11 on the dot...

11-11:30  We do a Math lesson & work

11:30-12   I make J's lunch which lately has been corn pasta and fruit and my lunch which is usually leftovers

12-12:30  While J is on the iPad, I prep his lessons for the afternoon and try to clean up from the whirlwind morning

12:30-1  J and I walk Duke, go for a short hike around the lake or play Wii Fit together

1-1:30  We do a Language Arts lesson & work

1:30-2  I teach J how to do daily chores which have included: filling and emptying the dishwasher, cleaning his room, vacuuming, sweeping, or picking up junk left strewn around the house.

2-2:30  We do a Social Studies or Science lesson & work

2:30-3  While J does an iPad reading lesson on the couch, I clean up the books, supplies and work from the school day and prep the lessons for the next morning

3-4  School day over!!  At this point I have 1 hour until C gets home, so I try to do NOTHING and just relax alone somewhere in the house.  I read a book, check the computer, watch TV, take a shower, workout, talk on the phone...whatever I want essentially:)

4-4:15  Pickup C from school

4:15-5  Hang out w/ C & help her w/ her homework

5-5:30  Paul gets home from work and we all get ready for whatever basketball event is going on that night: practice, games, Georgetown games, games on TV, etc...

5:30-6  Make snack or early dinner for Paul, C and I before they head out for basketball, make J dinner (special dietary needs)

6-7:30  Putter around house cleaning up, putting laundry away, doing dishes, etc...Occasionally workout if feeling motivated

7:30-8  Prep lessons for following day, answer emails, blog, tweet, etc... Paul and C usually come home during this time and heat up dinner leftovers if hungry

8  BEDTIME!!!  Paul handles these duties: vitamins, teeth, pray, and read while I finish cleaning up and then open a bottle of wine!

8-10:30  2 1/2 hours of blissfully uninterrupted time on the couch w/ Paul and no kids!  C comes downstairs occasionally to tell us something she deems urgent, but otherwise we just sit and talk, laugh, drink wine and relax from the day!

10:30-11ish  Bedtime...We can rarely stay up past 11 these days...but I sleep like a baby until...

7:30  Paul kisses me on the forehead when he leaves for work, and I roll out of bed to start the whole process over again...

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

My New Teaching Style: Less Talky More Laughy

Math has always come easily to Jackson.  He is not a numbers genius or anything, in fact, I find it offensive that some people think all kids with autism have some weird super-math brain.  He is just a like any other kid with a normal aptitude for math, but since he struggles so profoundly with language-based subjects, he excels in math by comparison.

However, teaching math to Jackson has not always come easily.  Traditional classroom educators relay so heavily on verbal instruction that any student who struggles with audio-processing is going to get frustrated very easily.  I found this to be true with Jackson during our first month of homeschooling.

When we pulled him out of Poe Middle School, after 8 weeks of being there, he had done "zero academic work".  So I had to go all the way back to May of 2011 to get a sense of where to start with him.  I decided to start him at the beginning of 3rd grade math just to sort out his strengths and weaknesses.  I quickly discovered that his math skills were extremely unbalanced.  He accelerated in telling time, counting money and basic computation skills, but had no concept of greater than/less than, rounding, estimating, or measurement.  And while he could add, subtract and multiply well, he could not do any of them at an advanced level (i.e. regrouping or multiple digits).

I based his early math curriculum around a cool online resource by Education Creations called Morning Math.  These 1 page sheets provided me with a succinct overview of his skills.  I spent about 2 weeks evaluating him with these worksheets. During this time, I discovered that he was very resistant to me giving him math "lessons",  almost to the point where I could not say anything out loud for fear of getting a pencil thrown at my head.  He preferred to just do the work in silence and ask me questions as they arose.  He needed to be in control of the volume and tone of the educational experience.  This spoke to me of a deep sensory processing issue that was probably just seen as disobedience and defiance in the public school setting... "i.e. he is just being a pain in the a**" type observation by his teachers. This thought still makes me sick to my stomach just writing it down now...

At this point, I took a step back and tried to think about how I was going to teach him higher level math concepts without speaking out loud!  That's right, you read that correctly...I had to figure out how to teach without talking.  I guarantee no traditional university has an educational class on that!  But I knew that was THE roadblock preventing him from progressing and instead of trying to change his learning style, I needed to change my teaching style to meet his learning needs.

I tried using other methods geared towards the visual/kinesthetic learner, but those still relied heavily on the teacher's verbal cues.  And although Jackson's language skills are significantly delayed, he does not need a picture-card system to explain things.  He can read and communicate well enough that those are a bit patronizing from both his and my perspective.  So that left me at another dead end.

So I went to the only area I knew he responded to and that was humor.  He loves to laugh and he loves when people think he is funny. How in the world would I use that to teach him subtraction regrouping!?!  Well it all came together one afternoon when in December when Caroline suggested that I try using boxes to illustrate borrowing.  I wrote a problem on the white board and walked him through it, without talking, but just quietly drew boxes around the numbers that needed to be regrouped and for whatever reason, he thought that was hilarious...he kept talking about Spongebob's box and started to immediately draw his own boxes around the numbers and while he rambled on and on about Spongebob, he began to subtract quickly and accurately.  I just smiled and kept writing problems on the board and we walked through them together, him jibber-jabbering away and me laughing hysterically at his jokes.

And that is how in the last 2 months I have been able to bring Jackson all the way through 3rd grade math and into 4th early grade having learned such things as:

4 digit subtraction regrouping
Advanced addition
2 digit multiplication
Division up to 10
Addition & subtraction of fractions
Equivalent fractions
Greater/less than
Rounding & estimating

Notice I did not say that I taught him these subjects, because I have not. He has learned them through the slow and methodical building of skills by repetition and reinforcement with a non-stop string of jokes pouring out of his mouth.  I do not laugh at him, but have learned to appreciate his sense of humor and laugh with him so he feels understood and appreciated in a way I don't think he ever has before.  By creating an environment of acceptance and recognition, he has been able to absorb the information and process it in a way that fit his learning style - which I now call "Laughter-Processing".

To quote Jackson:

"Now that is funny, and I know funny." 

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