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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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Back to School 2014

My plans to homeschool through the Summer did not work out as I planned. We took the Summer off and enjoyed being a family. While learning certainly did not stop in our home, we did put the books away and focused on exploring our world and having fun. We have had a very nice summer for a change so the opportunity to be outdoors, and actually enjoy warmer then normal temperatures was quite delightful.

Some of Selena's highlights of the Summer was having friends around all the time, and even meeting some new friends.

We had the pleasure of babysitting a friend of Selena's from the time she was a baby. We have had a lot of fun and have enjoyed having her here every day. We enjoyed going to the park, playing and more playing. We will continue to babysit but with some changes to the hours we will be together as school starts.

Selena enjoys going out almost everyday and visiting the horses here on our property, so I guess you know she was pretty overjoyed when they had pony rides at our local block party this year. She has such a passion for animals, horses especially and has began her own collection of "My Little Ponies." She even received a surprise gift from my best friend's daughter and granddaughter.

The highlights of my Summer was of course enjoying it with my family! I was able to see two dear daughters of my best friend, which I haven't seen in years. I traveled to Spokane on a "Girl Trip!"

Brought home lots of gifts for Selena, but I think her favorite gift was this sign that now hangs above her bed.
Before we start school here in our home though I have one more trip to take to Spokane for a baby shower. Selena is a little disappointed that she doesn't get to go with me, but we have a planned field trip in October to Spokane, and will meet up with her brothers at Greenbluff to have fun in the Orchards.

We are waiting for a few new pieces of curriculum to come in, after last year we decided to change a few things, our Spelling and English material, the rest will remain the same. Since we did not school through the Summer we still have a little bit of 2nd grade to finish up, then we will be off to 3rd grade. Our expected back to school date is around September 8th, after I get back from my trip. We have a lot of fun things planned, field trips, experiments, and plain joy in learning.
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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Science Lives On

We use every opportunity we get to discover the science around us. This summer was no different, especially when we discovered this:

If you look closely, possibly click on the picture to enlarge it you will see a hornet nest hanging from the rafter about center screen. Now to give you an idea how large this hornet nest was, we could observe it from the safety of our kitchen window. We watched as the hornets went in and out working all day long, at times we got a little closer then we should have to observe the action. Fun! Well, yes, but we also knew we still needed to keep our distance, and approached very quietly.

At night this nest was sprayed, a total of three times, then left alone to make sure all the hornets were dead and gone. Finally today Selena asked when it would be taken down. Of course since we had seen no hornet action we obliged her request, with a rake we began the process of removing this nest.

Selena was a little nervous over this procedure, especially when she spied the first few hornets to fall from the nest. Upon a closer look though she soon discovered that they were all dead. She thought it was interesting how the nest itself looked like wrapped up newspaper, yet very hollow inside. I know she had asked all summer when she could see the honey, so I think she truly expected to find some sort of honey like substance inside.

Now for the real fun part, seeing the eggs that had been laid. Selena couldn't believe her eyes. I must admit it was pretty interesting for me as well, I have seen many hornet nests removed, but never had such a close up view, or the opportunity to truly examine inside.

Since I really didn't want to bring this into my house, we took a small piece to feel, and examine while we researched hornets and hornet nests.

 Selena learned that her observations were pretty close to being spot on. She first observed that the nest looked like rolled up newspaper. She said it had the the texture of paper, but rough. As we researched she discovered that the Queen wasp makes the nest out of tree bark. Wait a minute the light bulb went off, as Selena announced, "Wait paper is made from wood!" Yes, that is right the  hornet actually uses the bark from trees and makes probably the most natural form of paper that can be made to make their nest out of. She also learned that most colony of hornets consist of one Queen and as many as 700 workers. As for the eggs, the fertilized eggs will be females, or more Queens, and the unfertilized eggs will be male, meaning more workers.

Now Selena can say she has pretty much watched the entire cycle of a hornet, nest making and actually got to dissect and  investigate the nest at the end. We do love science!
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Thursday, August 14, 2014


Starting on Tuesday morning our weather really took a change. We woke to quite a thunder storm moving through our area. By that evening this system had moved across the Cascades to Central Washington. Because of our dry hot summer we witnessed an event that is not normally seen in our State. The first pictures of what was happening were very eerie, and made us grateful that we were not on the road, considering I had just drove through this area over the weekend.

A Haboob, or as we refer to this as a dust storm, the Arabic word is haboob. Yesterday morning Selena sat out to discover what caused this and why. She has heard and seen images of huge dust storms with her Uncle TJ living in Arizona, but has never witnessed one in her own State. After looking through all the images we could find, and mapping out the areas affected by this storm, she quickly went to work researching, learning all that she could learn. This research took us on various paths, what is atmospheric gravity, how is a thunder storm created, and what is the difference between warm fronts and cold fronts.

We spent most of the day discussing all that we were learning, then came the time to summarize our understanding. Selena learned that first of all these haboobs happen in very dry areas, such as deserts. Due to lack of rain in our State, it created a perfect place for this occurrence. She also learned that the air or winds from the warm front were traveling in the opposite direction of the incoming cold front or storm cells. All clouds have moisture in them, so while we maybe did not see or feel rain from the clouds on the ground, non the less when the two systems interceded, it did cause rain from the clouds. This rain quickly started disturbing and cooling the warm front, causing the winds to disperse out and change directions. The friction of these two systems caused an atmospheric gravitational pull which began to pull the dry soil up into the sky, the winds became very gusty due to the unsuitability of the two systems interacting with each other. With the soil being pulled up and wind gusts of up to 70+ mph a huge wall of dust formed, which was pushed along by the winds. This storm engulfed many areas in Central to Southeastern Washington.

Maybe we didn't explain it like a true scientist would have but we did learn a lot and had fun doing so. I leave you with one last picture of what this storm looked like.

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Friday, July 25, 2014


I know it has been a while since I posted, we are enjoying Summer! We have had fun playing, going to parks, going on walks, and just spending time with friends and each other. We've actually had very decent summer weather after such a wet Spring, so there has been a lot of outdoor days.

Our big news is the welcoming of our new grandson, and Selena's first nephew. He arrived early but was healthy and beautiful. We just wish he wasn't so far away in Arizona.

Born July 3, 2014

Our son has made us so proud, the way he has taken to being a Daddy. Jaxon's Mommy is a very special Daughter-in-Law, I couldn't imagine a sweeter wife for my son, mother for my grandson! 

Selena has been having so much fun since we started babysitting J. We have known J since Selena was a wee baby. She is such a sweet girl, and though she is a couple years older then Selena, they have a blast together! If they are not running around outside they are playing house, taking selfies, making videos, laughing, and having pure joy fun!

I am preparing to take a vacation in a couple weeks with my best friend. We will be heading over to Spokane, and will meet up with another sweet friend that we have in common. Selena is a little nervous that she will miss me a lot while I am gone, but I know her and Papa will have a lot of fun together. I am looking forward to a weekend with good friends and no children!

Once I return, we will be settling in to start school. I have so much I want to share and catch you all up on. I just don't know at this point how much I want to share. Selena will have a say in what we share, or what we don't share. She is getting to be a big girl now, and does have her opinion over everything. I sure hope the rest of you are enjoying your Summer!
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