Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Apples, Apples and More Apples

We are getting ready for what should be the greatest field trip yet. We are heading over to Greenbluff, WA this weekend to see what a Family Farm/Orchard looks like. Greenbluff is an area North of Spokane, WA where families have farmed the land for years. They are a community of Family owned Farms who have agreed to be a community of Farmer Markets. Anyone who lives over around there knows about Greenbluff. This is where I use to always go to get all my fruit and vegetables when my older children were at home. We would can upwards towards 50 jars of fresh fruit, jams, applesauce and pickles every year. We also froze all our vegetables for the year. This trip is also special because we are meeting up with Selena's brothers so the three of them can enjoy the fun of Harvest time in Greenbluff. The farm in particular that we are going to is Walters' Fruit Ranch.

In preparation for our trip I wanted to do a quick unit on Apples. I found these cute templates on line, sorry I don't remember where, and printed them off. They easily folded into nice little booklets. Using this site, along with a few other resources, we began putting our books together. I would read the description of each apple, and Selena had to color it. Then we learned something about each apple which was written inside, we also checked to see if each apple was grown on Walters' Fruit Farm. We will put all our books together with a ring, and Selena can take them with her.

Today I wanted to do a bit more with the apples, so we went to the store and bought 3 of the different apples we had studied. We chose Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Rome Beauty. Selena found it interesting that according to the information we learned that the Golden Delicious Apple did not turn brown when cut. I on the other hand found it interesting when they stated it was the BEST apple for baking and cooking. We were on a mission 1. for Selena to find out if it was true that the Golden Delicious would indeed not turn brown, and 2. I wanted to determine if their statement of it being the BEST apple for baking or cooking was a true statement, (first of all I use any apple I get my hand on to make applesauce or pie.)

Of course I wanted to get as much out of this experiment as I could, so I had Selena choose a few different items from the kitchen that we might use when cooking or baking apples. She chose baking soda, (I would have chosen salt, but remember this is about her mostly), vinegar, and lemon juice. We also had plain water, as well as plates for just slices of apples. Now before I go any further, I will say the vinegar and lemon juice was watered down, since I didn't have large quantities on hand, if I was to do this again I would not dilute them.

The first thing we did was to taste each apple. Selena announced that they all tasted good, some had a little harder texture, and a little more tart taste, but she loved them all. We also made our hypothesis on what each apple would do in the different situations.

I then sliced a piece of each apple to put in our cups and bowls of plain water, and plates. To keep track of what each type apple each slice was we placed our little booklets in front of the experiment, so we knew for sure.

Our observations after 15 minutes (with Selena's hypothesis)

Vinegar: Selena decided none of the apples would turn brown.
Results: Red Delicious has started to turn brown. Golden Delicious and Rome Beauty did not turn brown.
Lemon Juice: Selena decided None will turn brown.
Results: None turned brown.
Baking Soda: Selena decided None will turn brown.
Results: All were turning brown.
Water: Selena decided both Red Delicious and Rome Beauties would turn brown, the Golden Delicious would not.
Result: They were all starting to turn brown with the Red Delicious being more brown then the rest.
Slices on the plates, in the air: Selena decided Red Delicious and Rome Beauties would turn brown and Golden Delicious would not.
Result: Red Delicious and Rome Beauties turned brown, Golden Delicious did not again Red Delicious turned more brown then the rest.

At this point Selena got distracted, so our apples ended up sitting for an hour. What distracted her? Someone came up to clean the horse stalls, she had to go see if she could help.

Basically the results were, Vinegar all turned a slight brown. Lemon Juice, none turned brown. Baking Soda, they all were brown but the Rome Beauties was very brown. Water, Red Delicious was very brown, the other two slightly brown. Slices on the plates, were all brown with the Red Delicious the most brown.

While I can not dismiss the statement that the Golden Apples are great for baking and cooking, I feel strongly it depends upon what you are making, any apple will make great apple sauce. A firmer apple then the Red Delicious is better for apple pie, but you know what I will still use what ever apple I get my hands on to bake or cook with.

Sure I took lots of pictures of our results, but truly apples are apples, and yes, all apples under the right conditions will eventually turn brown when they are sliced. I guess you know that we will probably give you a good picture overload when we come home from our field trip, so look for that post the first of next week.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

No Book Days

Sometimes I will announce a no book day. Selena realizes that does not mean there won't be a lot of learning through the day, just that we are putting the books aside and learning a little differently. Last Thursday was one of those days. We usually start these days with one concept that we play with on the whiteboard. This particular day we or I should say I chose to work with fractions. We started with a paper plate, Selena was asked to represent 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, and 1/16. She easily cut the paper plate into the appropriate fractions. We took this a step further in adding fractions. Using the pieces and writing the equations on the board Selena quickly learned how to add fractions step by step to make a whole.

We then talked a bit about time using fractions. Selena enjoyed piping in and reminding me that I say we will do something in a half hour, oh brother now she watches the clock to make sure that we do it in that half hour. No more fudging on my part.

I then took out the play money and we refreshed our memory on the denomination of the bills and how fractions play a huge part in counting change. I then told Selena to go get all her play food and we would play store. You can see above that Selena worked real hard to set up her store and priced each table. Later she added a toy section where the toys were worth $100.00.

I gave her a certain amount of money and she had to go shopping. The goal was to stay within the amount she had without going over. Her first attempt was pretty funny as she picked something off each table or chair. When I informed her she was over her $1.00, she put the $1.00 item back, it wasn't as healthy anyway as it was chocolate milk. I changed the amount of money she had several times and she went shopping realizing after the first attempt she had to pay more attention to the prices and not the "I wants." We left our store up through the day, I thought it would be fun for her and her friend to play store that evening.

We did a lot of other things with fractions, using different mediums, even triangle shaped chips. We looked for different things in the house that could be broke into fractions, or the different ways we use fractions, like in cooking, baking, and quickly Selena realized we even use fractions in telling how much gas we have in the car, (one of her quirks is to worry about how much gas we have in our car when ever we go somewhere, and no we have never ran out of gas.)

With her friend coming over that evening, Selena chose to make meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy. Now the picture above is a first for Selena. She has never touched raw meat before. It has only been within the past couple months that she will even eat meat. She had so much fun mixing the meatloaf and did a very good job of it too.

When we picked J up (who we do babysit) she had homework to do. I normally do not assign homework for Selena but J asked if Selena had some math to do too. I obliged by giving Selena a page of math to work on while J worked on her homework. I got my first good taste of common core math and believe me I am so glad that I homeschool. After reading the problem twice, I was still so confused as to what they were asking. I finally stopped reading the story problem and just looked at the basic math shown which then gave me an understanding of what they wanted. My word, a full paragraph of information that no child even knows anything about just to figure out if there is x amount of females in a town, and the total population is y, how many males live in the town? (Silent Scream)

Yes, the girls had fun playing store, and sat up a Walmart for Papa and I to shop in. It was unlike any Walmart I had ever shopped in, every item in the Deli cost $30.00 and there was nothing under $10.00. Once that game was over and picked up and put away we sat around the table and played Apple to Apple Junior.

That night Papa went out side to discover a tree frog clinging to our door. We found the only thing we could and captured it. We had to wake Selena up to take a look at it. She has been hearing a frog and trying to figure out where it was for the past week. How could we not let her finally see it?

She loved the opportunity to look at the frog up close and named it Sam. After a good look, Papa took it out and released it. As I walked by the back door, I discovered Sam had returned.

Now perched on the sill of the window looking inside. I do believe this little fellow really would have loved for us to let him in where it was warm.

This is a look at what "No Book Days" look like in our homeschool. Still lots of learning going on just a break from anything that resembles a book or workbook.
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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Autistic Side

Remember in this post I talked about the gifted side, and when we began to know that Selena was gifted. Actually from the time Selena was born we suspected there was something not quite right, it wasn't horribly wrong, but she had quirks. Even as a new born she didn't like being swaddled, held to tight, formula dripping on her hand, chin, or clothing, but on the other hand she was so alert, and in tuned to the world around her. I remember at about 6 months old, Selena was laying on the floor, as I was watching a Tennis match on the TV, her little head shifted from right to left as her eyes were glued to that little tennis ball on the screen. She was a very rigid baby and did not like her schedule changing one bit, though she was not a fussy baby, always happy go lucky.

Her first experience in a nursery with other children, without us was before she was a year old. The look on her face as children began to appear was a look of fear, horror, and stress. She didn't whimper or cry but you could tell she did not like this situation one bit. On numerous occasions she would attempt to escape from the nursery, and as soon as we showed up to pick her up she would sob, laugh, cry, and run to our arms all at the same time.

Through out the years we questioned her quirks as a Sensory Processing Disorder. We watched for all sorts of signs, was she sensitive to noise, light, particular textures or odors. The more we watched the more often Autism or Spectrum Disorder would come into the discussion. We took her to Occupational Therapists to have her assessed for sensory issues only to be told that she did not meet the criteria for Sensory Processing Disorder.

She was the one in a group of kids who would take the leader roll and it was not always a pleasant site to see, it could be very embarrassing as she lead the other children astray from what they were suppose to be doing. Yet, she was such a quick learner and even when it seemed she wasn't paying attention she could come home and tell you every single word the instructor or adult had said.

It wasn't until we moved when Selena was 4 that we began to see the full scale changes taking place. She loved the new house, but she missed the old house so bad that she sat and cried for hours. This was the time when the meltdowns began. For a child who never threw a fit in her tender first years, she could sure poor them on at age 4. We had so many different opinions being thrown at us from ADHD, Bipolar, Anxiety Disorder, until finally we heard PDD-NOS Autism, which was the one opinion we could clearly except. Autism was the one we questioned all the time, could she have it? It was the one who fit the puzzle.

Colleen at Raising Lifelong Learners, has an excellent post that discusses the twice exceptional child. I encourage you to go take the time to familiar yourself with her knowledge in this area. I am going to be spending a lot of time writing about what we have learned, how we deal, and how being both gifted and Autistic affects everything in our daily lives, as well as Selena's learning curve.
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Monday, September 22, 2014

The Gifted Side

I am often asked when we first new Selena was gifted. I had my suspicions for quite awhile even when she was a year old. She had a way of seeing her world unlike most children her age. She could enter a room, and memorize everything in that room. When we returned to that room the next time the first thing she would point out was anything that was not in the same place or anything that had changed. Her abilities for details were just unreal. At age 2 she was reading very simple books, ABC and 123 books with ease, at this point I figured she had them memorized, since they were her favorite books after all. Then at age 3, she came to me with a Dr. Sues Book and read it word for word, from front to cover. I grabbed another book, "Green Eggs and Ham" again without missing a word or a page she read it from front to cover.

It was also at this same time that I had volunteered to work as an AWANA leader with the understanding that Selena would have to be in one of the lower groups. They did not have a Puggles group, so we put her in the Cubbies group. With in the first week she had memorized every Bible verse in her handbook, and we were ordering the second handbook. She did not like the slow pace, and quickly began to have problems with being bossy to the other children, she couldn't comprehend why they were not learning at the same rate as her.

It was also about this time that Selena was moved to an upper Sunday School class, she just wasn't happy in the nursery anymore. She was so excited yet nervous, the night before, that she informed me she couldn't go in pull ups. I informed her that in order to go without pull ups she had to be able to use the big potty. She worked very hard that first night and potty trained herself, not only for daytime but night time as well. She never wore another pull up or diaper after that.

We also seen some deficits though, one of the first thing we noticed was her inability to say her own name. Within a week of having her name wrote on a board and breaking it down by syllables, she finally had her name down, not only that but she recognized it when needed. The other thing we noticed was her lack of fine motor skill, not that we expected a 3 year old to be writing, but it was more the lack of wanting to use her hands. She refused to get dirty, she detested touching her food, though she was quite on her way to using utensils. The muscle tone in her hands was just not there, so we had to do a lot of exercises and exposing her to different situations where she had no choice but get her hands dirty.

Her vocabulary and reading just exploded, she talked constantly about science, and used terms like hypothesis, everywhere she went. Her knowledge base just continued to grow, she could name all the dinosaurs, as well as understanding kinetic energy and any insect she came across. She absorbed very complex phonic concepts which only improved her reading and ability to sound out any word she was presented with. She actually learned and understood fractions before she understood simple math facts.

She had many quirks, sensitivities, and a STRONG need for everything to happen within her internal clock. She ate breakfast at exactly the same time every morning, had lunch at the same exact time everyday and couldn't handle it if we were not home for her to be in bed by 8:00 every night. She didn't like her clothes getting dirty or wet.

Come back, I will be sharing when we realized that her sensitivities were more extreme and began to seek professional advice as to the other piece in this puzzle.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Look Into The Day With A Twice Exceptional Child

What is a Twice Exceptional Child? If you caught my post here, you will quickly discover the definition, to put it in laymen terms, this is a child who is Gifted, but has a learning disability. In our home this means a Gifted child with Autism. The Autism brings a lot more then just anxieties, behavioral issues, but also deficits in her learning. I am sure Selena is dyslexic, which is the greatest struggle for her with her handwriting and lack of desire to color and do art.

I love asking Colleen from Raising Lifelong Learners questions, and chatting with her over the answers. She has a way of being informative, yet helping me to think outside the box as to how our school days can be just right for Selena. One of the latest questions I asked her was, "Does she struggle with a child who excels in a subject, yet struggles with the simple concepts?" She directed me to her post on Asynchronous Abilities. I read this post once before, but had forgot it's content. It was great to refresh my memory.

I thought I would share just what a day looks like in our home, homeschooling a Twice Exceptional Child.

 It is not unusual to find Selena in the mornings before school begins cuddled in blankets reading all my resource books. I keep science, and history reference or text books out and available for her to read anytime she desires. These are not children books, but most are my college text books, or reference books I have picked up at used curriculum sales. This is the best way I know to get her learning juices flowing, and spark questions for extra curriculum studies.

 By 9:00 is independent study. I am still working with her on Math and Penmanship, remember, I feel strongly that Selena is Dyslexic, so I kind of hover over these two areas, to try to train her to make her circles in the right direction, and to slow down and think about how she is forming her letters and numbers. Another reason I hover over math, is that while Selena can figure out a lot of hard math problems, and story problems, she has yet been able to memorize her math facts.

We have two sets of phonics, one that covers the basic phonics, because here again while she is a very advanced reader don't dare ask her to give you a rhyming word for CAT. Then we have our more grade leveled phonics where she is right at home in working with more complex phonics concepts. I loved the fact that she did not like the fact that the book called a raccoon just a coon, and had to write raccoon instead of coon. I know she missed a "c" in the word, but hey this was independent work, and she spelled it the way it sounded to her.

After all her independent work is finished, and we have done our together reading it is break time for lunch and for Selena a little nap. Yes, she still takes a nap, in part due to her medication, and also because she doesn't sleep well at night. At this point she is usually ready for an hour or hour and half nap, or a time to just shut off.

 I usually ask her to draw and dictate a story all on her own. I will write the dictation for her. She prefers to do this on the white board rather then on paper, which is perfectly fine with me. She puts a lot of imagination into this and it is fun. In the picture above she drew an alien with an alien duck that came to Earth from Saturn.

Remember this picture? 

Now it is time to research what she read from my reference books. On this day she chose to research the Monarch Butterfly. We do a journal page for her Science scrap book, among other fun coloring or what coloring I can get, and diagrams. We also use a lot of YouTube to reinforce the information she is learning. 

Sometimes we play games or do a lot of hands on learning. One of Selena's favorite games is Scrabble, we also like to use the letters just to practice making words, phonics, practice spelling besides always finishing up with a good game of Scrabble. 

Homeschool wouldn't be complete without life skills. Selena is a great helper when it comes to shopping. She will make the grocery list, help me find the items in the store, check prices, and also thinks it is fun when the clerk allows her to help scan the items at check out. She loves to help me in the kitchen, rather it be stirring, chopping, or cleaning. Some days she vacuums or dusts for me. We definitely have a full day, but of course we always make time for play. 

As you can see, I am challenged to meet two ends of her learning curve, the one that she has deficits in, as well as the one that she excels in. Is homeschooling tough at times, oh yes, you bet it is, but she definitely would not get this attention in a public school. 

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Gifted with Autism

I wanted to take some time here to address something that I haven't had the words to address, but after much time to think about things I feel ready. When I first announced that Selena had some problems, issues, quirks, the Autism word, I received many comments of "Poor Girl" "Why?" "Treatment Options." Many began to see Selena in a different light, feeling sorry for her, hoping her the best, hoping something would help, my inbox was swamped with questions of what now?

This diagnosis of Autism has in no way changed a thing for Selena, not one bit, it is just another piece of the puzzle of who she is. Is she Gifted or is she Autistic? The answer to that question is that she is both, yes, Autistic is not a disability that affects their learning, but it does bring about behaviors or quirks that left untreated can affect learning. What?

The best way I know how to answer this is to break it down. A true gifted child is one who comes by something naturally. For Selena it was reading and the passion for words. By the time she started talking she was using words far beyond her peers. She absorbed the English language. By age 1 she was looking at other 1 year olds, and realizing "I am different." She would surround herself with 5 year olds who had more of the same vocabulary as she did. By age 2 her language skills just continued to advance, but also her knowledge of the world around her began to explode. She knew more about things like plants, dinosaurs, and the English language then even adults knew. She had what such a deep passion for learning something new everyday, far beyond what most 2 year olds have. Play for her was more about what can I learn today then how much fun can I have. At age 3 she picked up her first book and read it to me front to cover, word for word, and she hadn't even had a single reading or phonic lesson. She chose books from the library that she could read independently. Her thirst for learning had us sitting down by 3 1/2 years old and giving her what her mind wanted, more learning. She needed that part of her brain fed, quenched, just like we need to eat or drink.

Talk to any parent raising a true gifted child, and they will all tell you about quirks, sensitivities, OCD, ADHD, anxieties, the list goes on and on. So what causes a lot of children to fall into the Spectrum? Well, the answer is so easy, it depends on the intensity of these sensitivities or quirks. Selena falls in the Spectrum of Autism because her anxieties were taking up much of her life, it affected everything from what we could read, to what she could allow herself to eat. Anxiety itself was beginning to interfere with her ability to learn.

We tried Occupational Therapy to be told that she truly was not a child with Sensory Processing Disorder, so there was not much they could help her with. We tried psychologists, but Selena would process the information differently and out think the therapist, until the therapist just did not know how to direct us to help her. We tried dietary changes, but her OCD would not allow her to eat the foods we wished her to try. Because everything was so intense for her, the diagnosis of PDD NOS was made. We chose in order to help her have a better quality of life, to medicate her. We tried several small doses of different medications until we found the right ones for her. Now her anxieties are in check, sure she still gets anxious and has her fears, but they no longer control her. She has increased her diet and will eat or at least try everything I fix and put in front of her. There are still things that she can not bring herself to do, such as read Little House on the Prairie books, as they talk about dirt floors, living in wagons, and camping on the banks of a creek. She still can not go inside the barn, and still has problems getting dirty. These things make her who she is, these are her quirks.

Back to my title: "Is Selena gifted?" Yes, very much so! "Is Selena Autistic?" Yes, very much so! Does she have a good quality of life? You bet she does. While maybe she still struggles in group activities, in no way means she doesn't have friends, doesn't run and play, it just means she is more selective to how she obtains these friendships and fulfills the need for others in her life. Truly it is no different then a person who doesn't like crowds. She handles then when necessary but it is not something she prefers to do on a daily basis.

Will she go to the extreme to educate someone on something she knows, you bet she will. Just a week ago she educated one of my Doctors all about haboobs. It wasn't long before they were kind of arguing the origin of the word. Selena grabbed my phone, looked the word up, and proved that she was 100% correct it's origin was from the Arabic Language. Of course he got an education of what a haboob is, and how it occurs. If you are feeling lost you can check out what a habood is here. Selena still has a passion to learn, she does see the world differently then her peers, but she is no different then any other child, she still plays, laughs, and enjoys the simple things.
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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

First Day of School

We had our official first day of school today. Selena had fought going back to school, but got more excited about her first day over the past week as the rest of our new curriculum rolled in. I took a mini break and went to Spokane for my Nieces baby shower, all I heard when I called home was how we would start school first thing Monday morning. While I explained I would be too tired to do school on Monday, Selena was happy to just help me figure out our school schedule for the week, and to get her first peak into her new books.

The first thing you will notice is that Selena's hair is different, while I was gone she took the scissors and proceeded to cut herself bangs, thankfully she left them long enough that we could trim them up no problem. No we did not cut the rest of her hair, as it appears, she just has a short layer in front that has always been there but is more pronounced now with the bangs.

We worked on Math, Spelling, Phonics, Penmanship, and Science today. Then this afternoon we made a map to show Oceans, Lakes, and Rivers, we also discussed the difference in man made lakes and natural lakes. We had a very good first day of school and I am hopeful the rest of our days will be the same. Tomorrow we begin American Heritage Girls, Selena is excited and this being her first time ever, is a bit curious as to what all they do.

After school we went shopping and bought several outfits for Selena, the above is her favorite outfit she picked out. The rest of the day was spent helping me do laundry and clean house. She fell into a terrible habit of thinking she didn't have to pick up anything or put anything away, so today was getting back on track and realizing everything does indeed have a place of its own, and does not belong in the living room. She also vacuumed and helped with the dusting. She is now asking for an allowance and has her eyes on a particular toy, but she is learning in order to get paid an allowance she has to put some sort of work into chores.

I can hardly believe how big she is getting to be, but I am enjoying watching and helping her grow into a fine young lady.
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