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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Next Steps: Planning for Spring

I'm starting to feel a bit more confident about my planning abilities... though there's still SO MUCH to learn. A few ideas:

Tom's a very concrete thinker, and we need to spend some time on colonial America/Native Americans. These are fairly concrete topics, but a little "heady" so I'm combining the two into one six week program of study. I'm trying to focus on what/where/when content as opposed to "what is religious freedom" content (though getting a little bit in there) :

  • maps/geography (from Enchanted Learning),
  • readings with comprehension questions and writing prompts (from Edhelper),
  • hands-on activities (indian weaving; colonial crafts);
  • a few field trips (Plimoth Plantation, and probably Sturbridge Village).
  • The plan is to go to the Wampanoag Pow-wow in the summer.

We've already attended a presentation by a Wampanoag educator at the local children's museum (though quite honestly I think Tom got almost nothing out of the experience; I think it was too "talky" and there were too few hands-on opportunities).

For math, we're just continuing with Touchmath, and adding in some hands-on activities and the like that I've picked up from various sources. Right now we're working through the second grade curriculum: word problems and multiplication. I'm also supplementing with pages of add/subtract problems.

Reading will continue with novels of interest; just finished James and the Giant Peach, and we're about to start Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I'm hoping we can do a Laura Ingalls book as well (he doesn't know the story, but it fits in so well with American history!).

For writing, I think it's time to get more serious about organizing thoughts. I've downloaded a trial version of Kidspiration Software (concept mapping), and we'll see if that helps. If not, we can try more basic outlining... need to get him to move from stream of consciousness to the idea of real communication, and that's going to be a real process. If we can get there, though, it'll be WELL worth it!

For arts: continuing with clarinet and piano (I'm looking for simplified versions of sheet music for selections from Little Einsteins -- found Fur Elise, but that's the only one so far!). He and his Dad visited the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and I'm guessing we'll go back for a program. And... we are planning our very own homeschool art show! (wish us luck...)

Science will get serious with units upcoming on The Human Body (also health, of course), and Oceans -- later in the spring.

What do you guys think? Thoughts/suggestions welcome!

Biography Fair!

We learned through the web that our local homeschool community was going to have a "biography fair," and it sounded like a great way to exercise Tom's special interest in certain picture book authors. His favorites are Eric Carle and Ezra Jack Keats -- but his most favorite EVER picture book writer is Robert McCloskey (Make Way for Ducklings, Blueberries for Sal, etc.).

The fair was a simple concept: each kid picks a person and creates a trifold poster about that person. Then they turn up, set up the poster, and wander around.

We spent a lot of time on the web finding pix of book covers, info about McCloskey, and more pix of the ducklings at Boston Garden; the swan boats; blueberries. We "recreated" the cover of the book Time of Wonder, and Peter and I constructed a moving sailboat (Tom made the sailboat, we did the engineering). It is SO tough to have a kid do all the work, especially when it's going to be a presentation, and truth is... we just didn't have the whatever it is we needed to stand back and just watch...

Hopefully, that's ok?!

Toughest part of the project was writing about McCloskey himself, and about his books. Tom's inclination at this point is to tell everything he knows about anything he's asked about. As a result, you get an entire retelling of each story (no "main idea"), and long narrative about watching a video about McCloskey, and going to Maine, and going to the top of a mountain and looking at the islands, and you could see this and that... I had him narrate, and helped him organize his thoughts - but I know a lot of the process was outside his capabilities at this point.

Anyway - went to the fair, and he did a WONDERFUL job telling folks about his work, looking at others work, and passing out the Valentine's candies we'd brought. We even got a certificate for being a part of the event.

Best, of all, a photographer was there -- and Tom got his picture taken for the local news website!

Monday, February 11, 2008

What Makes a Friend?

A while back, I noted that Tommy had really connected with the two boys with whom he was taking a mediocre writing/math homeschool class. Well, I think I was wrong.

It's not that he actively DISlikes the kids. But both have their issues (on is fairly severely autistic), and I have a bad feeling that they remind him of the kids in his old class. The boy with autism has gone through a lot of ABA, and he is bound and determined to make Tommy his friend by tellin him what to do and how to do it. Tommy, who always appears more "autistic" among other folks with autism, climbs into his shell and simply pretends he's not there.

After the class, he'll say the boy is his friend. Well, that's what he said about all the kids in his class. It took ages to get out of him that he frankly didn't like several of them - and had no great love for ANY of them!

Last week, we went out to lunch after class - and happened to meet up with the more typical boy and his mom. Tom, who is usually the first to open his menu and choose a meal, seemed incapable of handling or reading a menu... unable to carry on even a basic back and forth dialog... or speaking intelligibly to the waiter.

It was like he'd lost five years of skills.

Of course, he was fine shortly after. But what was THAT all about?! Peter says he thinks this little group is dragging Tommy backwards. I'm afraid he's quite right.