Wednesday, May 23, 2012

LEGO Digital Designer

Crumpet comes to me with a lot of involved and complicated craft plans. He definitely tests my creativity. Once, he saw jousting on t.v. and instantly needed a lance, a horse, and a stable. I've had to learn to sew, , build, draw, paint , and use tape in a myriad of ways at a moments notice. If you present him with a simple craft project, the answer is either no, or yes, but...lets make it better like this. And it becomes very elaborate. And if it's not exactly as he imagined it would be, His Royal Highness is not pleased.
So... yesterday, he came to me and said "Hey Mom.! Could you find me something online where I can create anything I want and color it the way I want and move it around and ... and... and  there were many requirements. I thought "What? Oh no! How will I manage this one?" But guess what? LEGO has exactly what Crumpet was asking for, here:  And it's awesome.
Have fun!

Friday, May 18, 2012

2nd Grade School Plans

 I'm finally getting around to writing about next year's plans. I've changed my mind so many times, but I think I finally have a plan. At one point last month, I was about to hit the 'purchase' button and buy all of our books for second grade. Fortunately, I decided to wait til May rolled around so we could officially budget for the purchase. By the time May arrived, I'd completely changed course.
I was really happy with just about everything we used for our curriculum this year, so I was going to buy the second grade version of all of it. I'll mention what we used below, so that you can check it out if you are looking for curriculum ideas.
However, I'm going to relax things a lot here and drop most of our curriculum. I'd love to unschool, but I just can't make myself go there yet.  There are subjects I believe we have to cover, plus I have control issues! I have a stack of unschooling books next to the bed though, and essentially they all say "Relax, your child will learn." Crumpet saw them and said "Unschooling? Does that mean less school? Because I'm all about that!" So, we're headed that way, and I hope to let life learning take the lead here.
So, why the drastic change? I have 3 main reasons:
1) I really wish I had waited to start school with Crumpet. I wish I had let him be little for longer. I don't think I've pushed him too hard, really, but I wish I hadn't pushed at all. Now we're a year ahead of everyone his age, so we have some time to sit back and relax, and if we want to pick up with an actual curriculum next year, we'll still be on track.
2) Crumpet Sr. deployed on Tuesday, this time for a six month stint on the ship. The last time he deployed was a year and a half ago for 3 months. Crumpet did so badly with the change that I thought I would lose my mind. I don't want to have to fight with him about school this time, and instead want to just focus on surviving the 6 months. And the fact that he did so badly last time leads me to this:
3) We took Crumpet to a therapist last time around to find out why he was so angry and difficult, and to learn ways to help him. And what we got was an Asperger's diagnosis. Crumpet has Aspergers Syndrome, which is essentially High Functioning Autism. His deficits are mostly social - he has trouble knowing how to interact with people, and groups make him very stressed. He doesn't always understand other people's emotions. Change can be difficult for him.  He is also very sensitive to noise, light, and touch. And he has ADHD. He tends to react to stressors with tantrums, hitting, and total meltdowns. We are going through a LOT of therapy, working on his responses to things, and he is going to a social skills group with other kids with similar issues. It's all helping a lot. But in the meantime...
I'm very, very glad we homeschool. I keep reading news reports of very young children being arrested or abused for having tantrums in the classroom. A 6 year old was sent to jail in handcuffs.  A little boy was zipped into a gym bag and left screaming in the hallway. Many kids with Aspergers are expelled from school  in Hawaii, because the schools aren't able to provide appropriate support. A friend's son's teacher (not in Hawaii) called 911 and sent him to the children's hospital for throwing a tantrum. He is 7. No, tantrums aren't appropriate in school, but 911? Really? And that response is getting more and more common. School is too loud, too chaotic, and too frustrating for many of these kids.
Definitely for Crumpet. Crumpet can be very stubborn, and he's not a big fan of learning things he has no interest in. I know, no one is, but Aspies will fight it with everything they've got. And I'm tired of fighting. I'm ready to enjoy learning and life in general with him. It's believed that Thomas Jefferson, Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton probably had Aspergers. They learned what they were interested in, they learned it well, and they changed the world. So we're going to see where Crumpet-led learning takes us. He will never grow up and work in a field he hates, so why not let him learn the things he loves and let him put it to good use someday?
So here's our original plan, and the new plan.

Math: We used McRuffy first grade math, and were happy with it. I like the spiral approach, and the fact that they teach each topic in a variety of ways. We both enjoyed the use of manipulatives. My plan was to move on to McRuffy second grade math.
Instead, I've looked at their 2nd grade scope and sequence and hope to cover the main topics with games and manipulatives. A friend found some great resources here:    . Look under Resources to find entire books of math taught using life skills. I plan to try to adapt them to Crumpet's level.

Language: We used First Language Lessons, and again, I was happy with it. It's a nice gentle approach to the parts of speech, poem memorization and narration. I was going to buy book 2 and continue along this path.
Instead, we'll just read, read, read, practice narration, and possibly memorize some poems from Now We Are Six. I think the memorization is important for some of Crumpet's memory and focus issues.
Much of our literature will come from Ambleside's suggestions for first graders, and from the list of suggestions in A Thomas Jefferson Education.
Spelling: I continue to be a big fan of All About Spelling. We are half way through book 2, and we will finish the book, slowly, but surely. We're doing about 2 lessons a month, and that seems to be good for us. After that, I think we'll take a break and just use the spelling we've already mastered.

Science: We love Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding! I think we'll use this series for many years. It's a great introduction to basic scientific principles, and it leads into real life discussions of what we've learned during our day to day activities. This summer, I hope to find more experiments which reinforce the topics we covered this year.

Phonics: We used books 4-6 of Explode the Code. These have been good to teach some basic phonics rules, but I don't think we'll buy the last two books in the series. All About Spelling and daily reading should be enough phonics work for us.

Geography/Culture: We used Evan Moor's intro to geography, and we really liked it. Crumpet hates workbooks, but really enjoyed most of this. He learned some really good map reading skills, and got a basic idea of the biomes of the world. We'll use their 2nd grade book next year. I think learning to use a map is an important life skill that Crumpet will use.
We also used Expedition Earth from Confessions of a Homeschooler to travel the world and learn about different countries and cultures. We haven't quite finished - maybe this summer. We'll also start working through Reading Around the World, which I found here at Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns. Next year, I think we'll study the United States using the free resources mentioned here on Enchanted Homeschooling Mom, along with other things I can pull together.

History: We were planning to use The Story of the World, but found it too confusing to study world history while learning about modern countries around the world. We may or may not use it next year.
We will be doing some reading from Ambleside's history suggestions for first graders.
Handwriting: We tried using Handwriting Without Tears, but writing is really tough for Crumpet, as it is for many people with Aspergers. We'll keep practicing, but I think he'll start learning to type ASAP!

So, yes, I still have lots of plans, but I'm really not that worried about completing any of it this year. We'll be reading, exploring, and mostly having fun. We'll reevaluate in December when Crumpet Sr. comes home.