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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Reading, World Affairs and Planning

Reading: Capturing Boys waning interest in reviews, today we read a lengthy review of World of Warcraft's Burning Crusades expansion pack. By choosing something he is highly interested and motivated in I hoped to lessen his anxiety around school work and capture a generosity toward learning.

Boy is not a reader and has difficulty writing. Happy to read comics (Asterix is his comic of choice), the battle to get Boy into reading text and comprehending it, does my head in.

The use of graphics and social stories is well documented for children with Aspergers. In an effort to get boy to read a large amount of text that I knew would interest him, I copied it from the web site, enlarged it to 14 point font and added as many World of Warcraft pictures as I could. IT WORKED! Boy read on to understand what the next picture was about.

Boy and I took turns in reading paragraphs aloud to each other and then having a general chatty yarn around what the paragraph meant. He loved it. He became animated and eager to complete the rest of the mornings work so that he could take me to some discussed places in Burning Crusades. Oh the things I do for my child!!!!

World Affairs: Boy has a healthy general knowledge about worldly events, especially events from social history (my interest). What he doesn’t know a lot about though is American history and its significant social markers. I came across a neat, free calendar, from an American site (Parent Education) and printed it out to go through with Boy.

The date fields on the calendar contain interesting tidbits of history, nation days and gloriously useless bits of general knowledge: Things we love. We did an art and craft activity together to make the calendar look like the ones you buy in shops and have hung the calendar on the wall. Our school day will start with some brief research into the events mentioned on that day.

Today, thanks to Wikipedia, we learnt about Jackie Robinson and his involvement in Baseball and the civil rights movement. Boy had never heard of Wikipedia so that alone was a sparkling moment of learning.

Boy loved this activity and we have agreed that we will have a trivia quiz at the end of every month. The trivia will be gleaned from the daily calendar research and I will present Boy with 20 questions. Boy can re research the answers and 100% correct answers will win Boy the rest of the day off school. He thought this was a TERRIFIC idea.

Planning: To meet our home school registration requirements, our State Education Department demands a rough plan for the entire year. Together we broke our learning requirements into seven areas and decided upon some rough goals for each of our four school terms. While not set in concrete, they will provide a structure for us to work toward, even when we are gripped by obsessions and meltdowns.

Boy has set himself some hard tasks – he wants to learn French and Japanese. Does any body have any ideas of how I can do this for minimum cost?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Water Evaporated Rocky Road Review

Home school has begun. We are following Natural Learning tenets with some Math curricula from Queensland Education. Given Boy’s hatred of institutionalized education, we have been attempting to unschool in the most functional and productive way we know: don’t let Boy into our excitement of the teachable moments in any given situation.

Because Tuesdays are cheap movie days at our local cinema, we have agreed that going to the movies is included in his home school hours. In return for this compromise, Boy has to achieve some sort of movie review. What does a good home school Mum do – the research on what goes into a movie review. Would Boy play the game? No. He refuses to hand write and is slow on the key board (he said that all the numbers, letters and symbols confuse him). Searching for creative ways to review what he has seen, we have come up with a range of creative options for Boy to choose from on the days his Aspergers demands opposition.

After watching Arthur and the Invisibles (see Boy’s movie review, I think he did a great first job – he spoke, I typed.) Boy displayed a natural curiosity in water storage and irrigation. “Yes, it’s okay to make an aqueduct from straws,” I said. “That can be your movie review project. You’ll be showing us what you liked best from the movie and what your learning has been.” NO STRAWS in the drawer!!! Oh no, please don't have a melt down Boy.

Instead, we found a water evaporation project and Boy happily followed the simple instructions to a T. Boy has placed his two cups of water in the sun on the end of our pool diving board. One is covered with plastic wrap, the other open. Looking up at the dark clouds in the sky I think we might be in for a monsoonal down pour this afternoon and Boy will either have to start his experiment again or learn about water measurement. Either way, Arthur and the Incredibles has led to some fun water experiments and I have one very happy little boy who doesn’t realise the value he’s gained from sitting in the air conditioned cinema.

Our other home school project for the day is for Boy to teach me how to make Rocky Road. After the movie, we bought the ingredients and Boy was adamant in his choices of jelly lollies (snakes) and marshmallows (tiny wee things in every colour of the rainbow). He swears by the recipe made frequently by his stepmother and he’s sick of me asking him to get some Rocky Road when he goes out with his step Dad. Given Boys Aspergers and hatred of anything that smells or tastes like school, I figure that his cooking instruction to me can only be good for his self esteem and learning in home economics.

Love this home schooling. How come I was never afforded the privilege when I was a kid?

Movie Review: Arthur and the Invisibles.

Arthur and the Invisibles.

A movie review by Boy, age 11.
Arthur was the name of the main character and he was staying with his Grandmother in her big old country house and land in the country. One day some angry city people came to the house, said the Grandmother had to sign the documents to pay her house loan in full or the house would go and the land used to build apartments. Grandma was poor because Grandpa had disappeared and there was no one to work and pay bills. So, Arthur set out to find the Invisibles that had been mentioned in his Grandpa’s old journals. The Invisibles are tiny little people who are the size of a tooth and live in the earth beneath Arthur’s grandparent’s house and land.

When Arthur found the Invisibles they asked him on a mission to help them to find the evil “M” and get rid of him. Arthur wanted to help the Invisibles but what Arthur was really wanting was to find his lost Grandpa and a pile of hidden rubies that Grandpa had set out to find before he disappeared. The rubies belonged to Grandpa. They were given to him by an African tribe of tall people, friends of the Invisibles. Grandpa had hidden them by burying them on his land, but could not remember where. Three years ago Grandpa had gone looking for the rubies so that he could pay for the house and stop the bank from making trouble all the time. Grandpa never came back.

Arthur found the Rubies and his Grandpa and tried to get Grandpa, Rubies and a Princess and Prince of the Invisible tribe back to the safe and good seven Kingdoms. They got back to the Invisibles land with savage water chasing them because the evil “M” knew that the Invisibles were afraid of water, could not swim and would drown. Evil “M’s: plan was to drown them all.

Arthur made it to the safe city before the water got in. The Invisibles, Arthur and Grandpa closed the solid protection gates just in time. Then it was time for Arthur and Grandpa to go back to real life. When Arthur got back above ground with his Grandpa, he knew where to dig in the garden to find the bowl of hidden rubies. He flooded the rubies to the surface and Grandpa paid the man from the bank that was there to repossess the house. One single ruby stopped their house and land being repossessed and turned into apartment blocks.

This movie is suitable for kids. It is a family movie. There is not really any violence in it. The music was good. The movie starts and ends with real actors but the Invisibles and all scenes of Grandpa and Arthur under the ground are animated.

I would go and see this movie again. I rate this movie five out of ten.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Home School Begins

Today is the first day of the new school year for Australian students. After seven weeks summer holiday, homes will be filled with moaning, sad children or kids bouncing with glee, happy to be going to school to learn and see their friends again.

In our house: Boy is enjoying his last morning of playing his computer games. I have built his youth hours support into our home school curricula. Whereas mornings are our nominated home school time, on Monday afternoons the youth work concentration on social skills and anger management is Boy’s learning for the day. The youth worker will be here at 3 PM.

Tuesdays (cheap movie day) Boy and I will go to watch a movie and he will do some sort of review on it. I had suggested that tomorrow we watch Miss Potter. Oh dear, did he complain bitterly. I have no idea how I will elicit a review from him but it will need to be as masculine and teenage as I can make it. He views Miss Potter as a movie for little kids and old parents – hardly a movie for him!

Today is the first day of our home school adventure and from here on in blogs will become more diary like with heavy contributions from Boy. While I remain mostly positive, I cannot deny the squelchy feeling of anticipation and fear creeping up my stomach. Am I doing the right thing, have I prepared enough, is this the best option for Boy?

Scared but determined I am…and I know I have a whole host of successful home schoolers behind me. Thank you to each of you.

Friday, January 26, 2007

It’s Australia Day Mate

Today is Australia Day and I am reposting this article from my Child Protection: Serious Business site. In the Australian state that I live in, Protective Behaviours are embedded into school curricula and across all key learning areas. Therefore, I have considered it appropriate to share this post with home school families who may be looking for some material on Protective Behaviours or Personal Safety. For some home school activities on protective behaviours visit Toys, Books and Games Protect Kids.

We Aussies celebrate Australia Day as a public holiday, have barbeques, go to the beach, watch or participate in sporting events or gather with family and mates and eat meat pies, lamingtons and pavlova. Australia is so much more than Meat Pies, great beaches and Kangaroos though. Australia is all about protecting our environment: including the environment of people and especially children.

On January 26, 1788 Captain Arthur Phillip took formal possession of the colony of New South Wales and became its first Governor. This day flagged the foundation day of the new colony, the new world, Australia.

Australia is a harsh land. The cruel sun and elements have made Aussies tough, survivors, resourceful and tenacious. Our isolation led to ingenuity and leadership. Although quick to cut down those Aussies that we consider, “tall poppies” we also pride ourselves on the concept of being a "true blue" mate.

Mateship is integral to the Aussie way of life. We look out for our mates and give them a hand when required. Is this the reason then that Australians have adopted, adapted and take seriously protective behaviours? We want to protect our mates.

Although the original protective behaviour program dealt specifically with child sexual abuse, Australia is responsible for widening the program to ensure that we look out for all community members needing protection from any element of harm. The Aussie way of life co-exists in many risk-taking situations: the beach with its sharks, crocodiles or surf, the outback with its snakes and spiders, the gum treed bush with its propensity to flood, drought and bush fire, and the cities with its pull of escaping to the wild colonial landscape. Add to this crime, fear of crime and the lessons we have learnt from other densely populated countries and my view is that Australia has got it right with their all encompassing protective behaviour programs and their views of looking out for our mates.

Happy Australia Day mate. How about you help us celebrate by enacting our mateship values. Look out for the people in your neighbourhood, apartment block or family. Engage in some protective behaviours and help keep the world’s children safe. Lend a child a hand, a smile, ring the authorities about that public playground equipment that needs fixing, report child abuse if you suspect it is happening.

Imaginif is about to launch the world’s biggest on-line child protection conversation and we hope that you will join us. The more mates we have, the quicker the world will understand that child protection IS serious business.

Some other blogs about Australia Day if you’re interested:
G’day Mate. Australia Day, true blue!
A nation of bonzer cringers?
Australia Day 2007
Google vs Microsoft on Australia Day
Australia Week. G’day LA and NYBest vacation destinations
The story of a great Australian woman.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Pain of Natural Learning.

All these natural learning experiences that we manipulate and facilitate for Boy are well and good. His home school rewards and excursions are something that he really looks forward to. However, he has now had yet another learning experience that we had not bargained for.

Boy has been limping since Monday. Yesterday his leg was swollen and painful so off we went to the Doctor.

Achilles tendonitis. Treatment is either steroids injected into the area (noooooo, Boy howled), physiotherapy or stay off your foot for 4 weeks – no laser tag, no jumping, no snorkeling, no bike riding, no cable skiing, NOTHING but a gentle daily swim and resting with his foot up.

We have opted for the latter option of being grounded. The Doctor suggested that the initial irritation might have occurred when Boy had a fall at Laser Tag and hurt his shoulder. It is probable that our huge day of snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef made it worse and that the cable skiing just finished it off.

Searching for teachable moments in this, I am planning to introduce reading and writing activities around the human body. Concentrating on the Achilles Tendonitis leads into some history and Greek mythology about the mighty Achilles. Without the lure of being able to go and play I hope Boy will write up some of his learning as blog entries. That is far more palatable to Boy that having to write and decorate a project book.

If anyone has some groovy and inventive ideas on how Boy can pass his learning onto others, I sure would be glad to hear them.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Analytical Thinking: A Joke.

A colleague parent of mine from Richard’s Educational Toys is also a parent of a child in recovery from Autism. A jolly fellow, Richard sent me some jokes (below). In the darkness of meltdown mania, they touched me like a fresh sea breeze. Thank you Richard.

When interviewing staff, I always conclude by asking the applicant if they could share a joke or riddle. I use this technique to assess whether they can think on their feet, have they taken into account political sensitivities (any sexual, racial or ageist jokes and they score low on the interview) and what degree of analytical thinking surfs their brain while they are under pressure. But....I can never remember the great jokes I've been told over the years!

Richard’s jokes have provided me child appropriate fodder for getting Boy to analyze language and sub text of meaning. Boy loves a joke but his Asperger’s sense of humour ensures that he either describes the sense behind the joke prior to him asking us the riddle, or he repeats the joke umpteen dozen times until it is no longer funny!!!!!

For our next English homeschool unschooling, I’m going to sit by the pool and ask Boy all of the below riddles. I hope that from this one fun exercise we will move into searching the internet to discover the semantics and history behind the questions and answers.

Analytical thinking: what a joke. I LOVE it.

I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger....Then it hit me.

Police were called to a daycare where a three-year-old was....resisting a rest.

Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He's all right now.

The roundest knight at King Arthur's round table was....Sir Cumference.

The butcher backed up into the meat grinder and got a.....little behind in his work.

To write with a broken pencil is.....pointless.

When fish are in schools they sometimes take.....debate.

The dwarf fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a.....small medium at large.

A thief who stole a calendar got.....twelve months.

A thief fell and broke his leg in wet cement. He became....a hardened criminal.

Thieves who steal corn from a garden could be charged with...stalking.

We'll never run out of math teachers because they will....always multiply.

What do you see when the smog lifts in Los Angeles.....U C L A.

The math professor went crazy with the blackboard. He did.....a number on it.

The professor discovered that her theory of earthquakes was.....on shaky ground.

The dead batteries were given of charge.

If you take a laptop computer for a run you could......jog your memory.

A dentist and a manicurist fought.....tooth and nail.

What's the definition of a will?.....It's a dead giveaway.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Nice shoes, Boy.

The business of asperger’s and anxiety is alive and well in our home today. Boy went cable skiing with stepfather yesterday and had a great time. However, as always seems to occur, he gets so tired from the over stimulation that he melts down like an ice cube beside a barbeque.

House inspection, creating a website, playing on-line games, obsessions about “what’s for dinner” (from breakfast until now at 3pm mind you) and a late afternoon meeting with his youth worker has been too much for him to process.

In preparation for his youth work hours, I ironed his favourite shirt. That was the trigger he needed. I should have known he wanted to wear the red shirt that was too small for him. Who says it’s too small? Who says it needs ironing? Who says you’re the boss? Oh dear! He’s gone off happily with his amazingly attentive youth worker and I’m left shaking in shock.

I take stock in knowing that families do survive Asperger’s. I enjoy knowing that we have recreated a life where we no longer sweat the small (or big) stuff. I take comfort in knowing that my son has a gifted and brilliant mind. It is my job as his parent to help him navigate this world that demands certain behaviours and social standards for those from the wrong planet.

He’s right you know. Who cares about his shirt? He left the house wearing my shoes!!!!!!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Meltdown Measure

Boy had a meltdown last night. He has been so busy of late, that it finally took its toll and he reached over stimulation point. The meltdown took a shorter form though (thank goodness). He yelled at me, displayed actions of impatience and immediacy and then settled. From his point, the meltdown was over in 10 minutes.

I went to bed with his yelling in my ears. I was hurt and thinking selfish thoughts of my own (“how could you treat me like that after everything I do for you”). I had allowed myself to become seduced by the recent weeks of high functioning and coping behaviour. I forgot that he is a child with Asperger’s, special needs, and that he cannot be forced to act in a way that we want, when we want.

I reflected on my somewhat co-dependent thoughts of, “poor me”, and have this morning accepted that the only reason I knew that last night was a meltdown was because his behaviour and coping has been so very, very acceptable of late. You know, it's the reality of the maxim: You cannot see the light unless there's a dark to hang it in. With this in mind, I need to celebrate the mini meltdown as a way of measuring how far he has come. One little meltdown isn’t go to send him back to the days when we had screaming for four hours solid (or on one occasion, eight hours until he fell asleep exhausted). One little meltdown is not going to send me scurrying back to the privacy of my pillow so that I can wash it with my tears.

That one little meltdown is this morning going to create a discussion on how far he’s come with learning and practicing social skills. That one little meltdown reminder is resulting in a privileged visit to a place Boy has been longing to go to for ages: Cable Skiing.

That one little meltdown has reminded me that I forgot to reward Boy for his excellent anger management and social control of late. If he’s trying hard, so too must I.

I went back and read a creative plea of help I wrote some time ago, Living with Autism. How well I remember my intense pain the day I wrote that. How far I have come too. Perhaps we require a double celebration: Cable Skiing for Boy and a big fat chocolate for me!

Photo is courtesy of dkg at sxc photo exchange.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Hand Writing Family Education Journals

Always on the look out for free learning activities, I have subscribed to Family The site offers a range of projects and printables for age groups: 0-6, 7-11, 12-18.

An American site, I guess that many home school families will already be aware of it. However, on the off chance that you have not yet discovered it, I share it now as a learning source that we use.

Boy HATES writing. The Asperger’s specialist suggested that we do not wear ourselves, and him, out by insisting that he develop the skill of writing because he is already a dab hand on the laptop and his future will involve word processing documents, not hand writing them. I understand her reasoning and I do not want to create Aspergic meltdown opportunities for Boy.

However, I want Boy to experience the joy of handwriting. I want him to know the etiquette of hand written thank you notes, I want him to value a loved one’s handwriting, particularly once they are deceased as hand written notes can be such a treasure and comfort to look at, feel, and hold close to your heart after a loved one has died. So, rather than creating a scene and making an academic argument of handwriting importance, I have done what I have been doing as a child therapist for years. I provided Boy a special journal.

Family Education includes journal writing in their Social and Personal Skill building section for the 7-11 age group. I was pleased to note that instructions included making the journal sacred: no parental reading. It is so important for children to have some private space. It helps them to develop separately from their family and allows them to move along the accepted tasks of their developmental age. Despite the psychology behind keeping journals, I am just so happy that Boy chooses to lie in bed and hand write things of importance to him.

Do you have a home schooled child that hates writing? How do you get them to do it?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Burning Crusades Hatched in Australia.

World of Warcraft: the Burning Crusades was launched in Australia at midnight. Boy attended our local EB store and was the first in Cairns to receive his pre ordered expansion pack. Delighted he was. He didn’t get to bed until 3A.M and he only had a wee sleep in. He is now happily doing what kids do on the game – battling, leveling, learning and enjoying.

This morning he excitedly told me that he had made some friends. While waiting in line to receive his coveted game pack, he began chatting to other children. This stretching toward real time friendship pleased me. For a child with Aspergers he has spanned both the over stimulation of waiting in line for an hour and the difficulties in understanding how to make friends. Well done Boy. We are very proud of you.

Starving after his very late night, Boy still chatted merrily about Burning Crusades, his character, the job training he picked for his character and how to collect food. The topic of jobs and food led to some serious teachable moments that I just couldn’t let escape.

While cracking his four eggs to fry, Boy commented to me that he had a quad yolker. We tried to hatch as many words that started with quad as we could. If I had presented this as either an English or Math lesson, Boy would have disengaged and hidden for the rest of the day.

Once again, World of Warcraft has proven to be an acceptable medium through which Boy can learn. Using what I can, I am on a Burning Crusade to home school my child who cannot learn in a traditional classroom setting.

Thanks Burning Crusade. We’re supposed to be doing something around Australian animals to celebrate Australia Week but the prefix quad, sustainable food and employment choices has instead featured heavily in our home school this morning. I’m pretty happy with that!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Gray Center SUN (Social Understanding Network) Newsletter

The Gray Centre promotes Social Understanding. After yesterday blogging about Australia Week and our desire to promote social understanding between global home school families, I today received my SUN newsletter from the Gray Center. Imagine my astonishment to find that the topic was promoting social understanding in the homes of children with autism (Boy has Asperger's - that's one of the reasons we home school).

I am so impressed with their simplicity of understanding around traditions that I am sharing it with you:

There is a well-known tale (with numerous creative and humorous variations) of a mother being scrutinized by her young child as she prepares a ham dinner. The child questions why Mom cuts the end off the ham before she cooks it. Mom pauses, and admits that she does it because that’s the way her mother always did it. Together they decide to ask Grandma why she always cuts the end off the ham before she cooks it. Grandma seems surprised by the question, as she replies, “I cut the end off because I’ve never had a pan large enough to accommodate the whole ham!”

We have many traditions, rules, and routines in our homes, schools, and workplaces. They exist for many reasons, including safety, pleasure, efficiency, custom, organization, etc. Often those with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are the first to question the existence of these traditions, rules, and routines. Frequently, their questions of “why” are met with, “Because I said so,” or “Because that’s the way we do it,” or even, “Because that’s the rule!” While their questioning may appear impertinent, often they are not trying to be difficult, but genuinely desire more information as they struggle to make sense of their social environment. As we pause while seeking to provide a truthful response to their request, we may discover a valid explanation that satisfies both of us, or we may find, as the mother in the example of the ham dinner did, that we do not have a good reason for adhering to a particular tradition, rule, or routine.

Social understanding is not simply about getting others to understand what we want them to do. Sometimes it’s more about looking at ourselves and understanding why we do what we do, and whether it makes sense to do it that way. Sometimes our rather rigid means of carrying out tasks or responsibilities has more to do with the way we were taught (or our own learning style and what worked best for us) than it does about a true need to accomplish the task in a prescribed manner. Recognizing this may help us put the focus back on the end goal rather than struggling to control the process which gets us there. The resulting flexibility may open doors to greater creativity and productivity!

Best wishes as you continue to promote true social understanding!

Laurel Hoekman, Executive Director
The Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding

We would love to hear of your traditions. They will be a great learning experience for Boy.

Note: Photo is of some local Aboriginal children performing corroboree during Child Protection Week 2006. Credit to Asta Naden from RAATSICC.

Monday, January 15, 2007

G’day Mate. Australia Week in the USA.

It’s Australia Week, so G’day LA and NY. If you wonder what I’m talking about have a look here and in Grandma’s blog, here.

In celebration of all things Australian, Boy is keen to do some blogs about Australian animals. But…he wants to hear from you first. What sort of Aussie animals are you interested in knowing about?

Already Boy has written up some of his home school Australian animal research in the Tawny Frog Mouth Owl and Turtle Facts. These blogs were a great way to get Boy to remain active in his learning. Hating ANYTHING to do with schoolwork, the blogs are working well as a way for Boy to record his learning in an on-line journal. So please help him out further by asking for some 11 year old focused learning about Kangaroos, Koalas, Goannas or any other Aussie icon that takes your fancy.

Last year I guest blogged Aussie Slanguage on a home school channel at Here’s a fun home school work sheet that I posted for kids to work out what the heck we crazy Aussies are on about when we speak in our Aussie Slanguage.

Australia Week is a fantastic way to promote Social Understanding and that is what we intend to do for you this week. I hope that you will also help us to understand where you live and what you do. Leave a quick comment so that we can visit your site and learn about your home school day.

Hooray Mate. Time for smoko. (Translation: Goodbye my friend. It's time to have afternoon tea.)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Children’s Art: FREE Lesson Activity Book (4 – 10 years).

The Queensland Art Gallery has officially opened a new Art Centre for Children. What a shame we don’t live in Brisbane because I’d be there everyday as part of our home schooling curriculum and lesson plans!

The largest ever Kids’ Asia Pacific Triennial launched the Art Centre for Children on December 2 2006. As part of their launch package they provided children with a FREE Lesson Activity book featuring Scoots the green turtle. The book arrived too late for us to use in our study of marine life (Boy could have checked his Turtle Facts against the information) but I thought I would post it here to share with you.

Always on the look out for novel ideas to include in our home school day, I particularly like that the Art Centre for Children encourages children’s participation in collaborative story telling, tattooing, manuscript drawing and creating electronic music.

For a child with Asperger’s, who HATES school, these interactive ways of learning suit Boy perfectly because they are fun, not really academic at all. Or so he thinks! Although we cannot visit the Art Centre for Children until next we are in Brisbane, I could practice what I preach and really get Boy into the collaborative Art of Storytelling.

Again inspired by story telling as art, I’m going to ask boy to write a short creative story about a rainforest (our next unit of study) and we’ll act it out at our impending wedding (I’m marrying Boy’s step-father, not Boy). How much fun would that be? Have any other home schoolers done anything like this and how did it go?

The Queensland Art Gallery web site has some groovy online art games for kids if you’re interested:
Kusama's World of Dots
The Call of the Wild

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Internet Games or Educational Resources

Boy (he does not ever want his real name used on the internet) loves internet games. His favorite is World of Warcraft. Skeptical at first, partner and I spent considerable time researching and evaluating the educational resource value of it. Happy that it provided a degree of learning and internet skills to an already socially impaired child, we bought it, and a lap top for Boy.

Eager to instill self-performance evaluation, I have asked Boy to tell us all what is educational about playing World of Warcraft and what he has learnt. This is his analysis in his own words:

  1. It’s got math and reading and spelling in it. I write words and when I don’t know a word I ask you. (Note from Boy’s Mum: HUGE leaning has happened here.)

  2. I learn tactics. I level up after I’ve learnt good tactics.
  3. I have friends that I play with. I like meeting and battling with them. Some of them I know from school. I can meet up with real people in World of Warcraft. When I see them in real life, we talk about leveling.
  4. I have to be patient when the patches are downloading. I go and play a different game then. (Note from Boy’s Mum: For a child with Asperger’s, developing patience is HUGE learning.)

Canvassing our friends, I was amazed to discover that far more Mums than Dads play World of Warcraft. Their reasons for playing were similar to our concerns about child safety and educational resource value. The Mums appear to have been proactive in actually trialing the game with their kids, became hooked themselves, and now battle on in-between school, work, caring, and housework. Good for them! I know they are also looking out for Boy.

We have had two difficulties with dubious players. Sorry guys. You picked the wrong Mum to pull that stuff on. Congratulations to World of Warcraft for being on it immediately.

World of Warcraft is here to stay and will be an educational resource for our home schooling curriculum and a social skill trainer for our child with Asperger's.

A few external reviews on World of Warcraft:

World of Warcraft - Do You Know What PvP is?
Gamespot World of Warcraft review.
Blizzard of GLBT gaming policy questions.

What sort of internet games do you use as an educational resource?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Home Schooling Curriculum

Home Schooling Curriculum is again confusing me. Writing up our registration application for home school is doing my head in!

The Home Schooling Curriculum we have chosen to follow is Natural Learning (unschooling) with a small mix of other curricula.

Can any other home educators help me please? I am eager to share ideas on how to write up home schooling curricula for home school unschooling.

Here’s a previous post on our teaching philosophy to give insight into our personal values.

Boy…I almost need a Law degree to sort this out with our Education Department! Just on that point, are there any law firms that specialize in home school?

I look forward to hearing from somebody.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Where the Rainforest Meets the Sea. Cape Tribulation.

Rainforest learning is the next unit of home school natural learning. Over dinner last night, while discussing where Green Island got its English name from, the conversation moved to the differences in island and coastal rainforest.

Cape Tribulation wove its way into our family talk and Boy mentioned that he had never been there. WHAT!!!! How did I overlook this? We neighbour Cape Tribulation and I have never taken my child there.

A place of spectacular beauty, Cape Tribulation was named by Captain James Cook (“because here begun all our troubles"). Boy’s last project at traditional school was on explorers so he knew this fact plus the tourism appeal of Cape Tribulation.

Cape Tribulation is Rainforest that kisses the beach. Given our unit of marine study it is a natural corollary to now study the amorous rainforest of our area. So, next weekend we are planning a trip of educational brilliance.

Apart from Enchanted Learning, can anyone point me to any other sites that offer free curricula or worksheets on Rainforests?

Related article on our recent stay in a Rainforest Nature Refuge:
Protective Behaviours at Wait-a-While Nature Refuge

Monday, January 8, 2007

Great Barrier Reef: Ocean of Information

Boy’s learning on Marine life has finished with a trip to Green Island on the Great Barrier Reef (picture 1 ). In Boy’s words, “It was the best day of my life.”

Green Island is a small Coral Cay, 30 kilometers east of our hometown, Cairns. The island is tiny in size (12 hectares) but it sits like an emereld solitaire amid 710 hectares of magnificent coral reef and azure ocean.

Six thousand years ago, the island began to develop. Waves swept loose debris from the surrounding reefs into a large pile. As the pile grew and emerged from the water, bird droppings fertilized the debris mound with tropical seeds and vegetation that could survive the fierce elements of sun and salt water.

When the debris mound became solid ground, the young island became a sacred initiation place for the males of a local Aboriginal tribe: the Gungandji people. These people called the island “Wunyami”: place of haunted spirits.

In 1770, explorer, Captain James Cook, christened the island “Green Island.” Named after Mr. Charles Green (astronomer onboard the Endeavour) the island lives up to its name as a haven of green vegetation, green fish, green coral and green tourism.

Boy took to snorkeling on the reef immediately. He spent hours snorkeling to view fish, coral and sea grass (that’s him pictured). I was his snorkeling buddy and was amazed at his concentration, responsible actions and eagerness to see more.

The different varieties of sea cucumber and feather stars were amazing and Boy fully appreciated already having done some study on these amazing reef creatures. His knowledge was enhanced by enacting with these creatures; he touched them, swam around them, and excitedly told other snorkelers what he knew about them.

And…did we find Nemo? Yes we did. Nemo’s entire extended family paid us a visit. Their colourful aquatic dancing was unsurpassed by the animation of the film. In their natural environment, those little Clown fish were the highlight of my day.

Our visit to Green Island and the opportunity to snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef was a home school excursion that provided real time learning unable to compare to text learning. Our preparation with text learning made the experience more meaningful and hopefully has whet Boy’s appetite for ensuring a degree of research prior to any other excursions we undertake.

Read our other articles on Marine Learning (two of them were written by Boy):
2007 Year of the Home School Adventure
Starfish are Echinoderms
Turtle Facts.
Places to visit in Australia
Sun Safety

Friday, January 5, 2007

Social Interaction Concerns of Non Home Schoolers.

Ensuring social interaction appears to be a concern only for those who do not home school. Many well meaning people have counseled us on the perils of Boy never having company because he is home schooled.

The home school concept for people who attend traditional educational institutions is difficult to grasp. It was for me too. I knew a little about home schooling (okay, I knew the propaganda) and wrongly thought that home schoolers did it for isolation or religious and philosophical reasons.

Until I researched what home school is and obtained a balanced view of education, I was running away screaming, saying, “Ahhhhhhh, never for me thanks.”

Boy has difficulty with social interactions and rules. He has struggled in the classroom since pre-school. He has had very few good friends and the anxiety of organised school social functions would send him into meltdown. He spent more days at home than at school. Having to cancel my work, because Boy was home, left me cranky and in punitive moods. Boy was banished to his bedroom and there were no social interactions.

Boy missed social interactions because he was attending an educational institution and I was one stressed out mother. Since making the decision to home school, Boy has had a better social life than I ever had and he's ever had before. We did not send him to school to socialize but here he is, now learning and socializing at the same time.

My turning point in home school decision making was interacting with a home school blogger at Valorie Delp’s words: “If you send your child to school to socialize then leave him there,” resonated through me and firmed my decision that to home educate a highly anxious child with Asperger’s was the best thing I could do for him. At home, in a constant learning environment, he has the far greatest chance of socializing and learning.

Focused on natural learning, we seize every moment and turn it into a home school experience. These moments mostly include social interactions with other people, including multitudes of children. We are fortunate to be surrounded by many people who are expert and passionate in their fields. They love sharing their knowledge with Boy and he has been invited to numerous initiatives that he would be unable to attend if he was at an institutional nine to three school.

Even though it is Christmas School holidays in Australia, Boy is attending a three-day summer program, starting today and offered a day per week over the next three weeks. Today he is meeting some of the Taipan players who are coaching the kids in basketball. Tomorrow we are visiting the Great Barrier Reef – something that we would not have forced ourselves to do if we weren’t learning about marine life as a home school project.

Do you make special efforts to ensure your home schooled children get social interactions or does it just happen as part of your home school curricula?

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Starfish are Echinoderms

In response to his Grandmother's questions about starfish, Boy has prepared the following interesting facts about starfish:

* Sea Stars, Sea urchins, Sea Cucumbers and Crinoids (feathering looking creatures with many more than 5 arms) are called Echinoderms (scientific name).

* Sea stars (starfish) don’t send their food to their stomachs. They send their stomachs to their food. Their insides come out and cover over their food to digest it.

* Starfish come in all sorts of bright and pale colours: red, blue, yellow, orange and pink. Some starfish are just the one colour and some have spots and blobs of different colours.

* If a starfish gets a broken arm, its arm will grow back. The broken off piece of arm can also grow into a starfish.

* Starfish are known as the vacuum cleaners of the ocean. They live on the bottom of the ocean floor and vacuum it clean. Many starfish means a good clean carpet. I asked the man at the Aquarium if I could have two to keep in my bedroom.

* A Starfish mouth is on their under belly and they have an eye on the end of each of their fingers.

* Sea Cucumbers are cool. If you cut a Sea Cucumber in halves, you would see the shape of a star. Some people eat Sea Cucumbers. In Asia the people love them.

* Sea Cucumbers filter the food from the sand. They suck sand and food in one end and they squirt clean sand out the other.

Related article that started us on our current marine life learning:
Some very interesting Boy information about Turtles: Turtle Facts.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Turtle Facts.

What I learnt about Turtles
during my recent visit to Reef HQ Aquarium.
By Boy, age 11

Turtles can grow to be very big and live for approximately 150 years.

There are seven different types of Turtle species. The Green Turtle is the largest turtle species and baby green Turtles are white. The Great Barrier Reef houses six species of Turtles and all of them are threatened.

Turtles do not lay eggs until they are between 30 and 50 years old and you do not know if a Turtle is male or female until it lays eggs.

Turtles lay their eggs on land and the hatched Turtles have to find their own way to the ocean (Pic 2 and 3 are of a suspected Turtle nest spot on the Strand at Townsville). Birds and other animals eat most of the hatched Turtles and only one out of a thousand survive.

Turtles breathe air and have to surface to take breaths. They can hold their breath for up to approximately 90 minutes if they are sleeping or resting.

Turtles are protected. There are many Turtles on the Great Barrier Reef but there used to be many more. Their numbers are getting smaller every year. Destroying the reef by throwing rubbish into the water or not looking after the environment is
killing our Turtle population.

Because our environment is changing, we do not know what the future effect on Turtles is going to be. Their long life span has made it hard to do long studies on Turtles.

Note from Boy’s mother. The Reef HQ Aquarium web site has a range of teaching units that home schoolers can down load. Although the units are designed specifically for Reef HQ programs run at the Aquarium, the information, activity suggestions, curriculum links and outcomes are an invaluable help for those doing a unit on marine life study.

Related blog about our trip to the Aquarium: 2007 Year of the Home School Adventure.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Mungalli Falls for a Home Schooled Marriage Proposal

Partner proposed to me! We’re getting married in March. I am so happy. For my birthday, the boys arranged a weekend of delightful surprises that culminated with a marriage proposal on the beach at Palm Cove.

(Pic is of a Cassawary: a rainforest bird that lives in the surrounds of Mungali Falls. the magical place we are getting married.)

What does a marriage proposal have to do with home school? Everything. The teachable moments connected to this event are huge. Although Boy was involved in his father's wedding many years ago, he was too young to draw lasting learning from the whole wedding and marriage experience.

This time Boy has already learnt about:

1) Surprises: Boy and partner had arranged the proposal between each other, weeks prior to my birthday. We don’t do secrets in our house and Boy had the ultimate learning in the importance between a secret and a surprise. I still cannot believe that he managed to keep his mouth shut!!!!

Apparently, Partner consulted Boy on everything (including asking permission of Boy). The degree of responsibility enhanced his self esteem and taught him the importance of family sharing, decision making and togetherness: a huge learning for a child with Aspergers.

2) Word of the day: Boy is going to be the best man and has responsibility for organising the bucks party. A term he has never heard before, Boy was most interested in what a Buck's Party and Hen's Party is. The history of the traditions associated with weddings have caused a great deal of learning for boy and he has some new words that he can now talk around.

Following many discussions with us about what works, what’s legal, what’s appropriate, etc, Boy has chosen to hold a Laser Tag Bucks Party. What a wonderful idea he came up with. Not wishing to be left out, the Hen’s Party will be the girls against the boys.

3) Decision making: Boy has been included in every decision to date. His and my first choice of place to get married was Paronella Park: a place steeped in history, conservation and teachable moments just waiting to be grabbed. Unfortunately, Paronella Park can only accommodate small weddings and will therefore not suit us.

Back to the drawing board, Boy and I decided upon another place that we love: Mungalli Falls Student Village and Wilderness Retreat. Boy has been longing to horse ride and do archery at Mungalli falls but we have never had sufficient time. So, the wedding will be a lunch time wedding, leaving sufficient afternoon time for Boy to capitalise upon the activities that he likes

We know the owners of Mungalli Falls Student Village and they are very decent and caring people. They offer a superb service in the most divine location, have home schooled one of their children, and are focused on the developmental needs of children. I love them and I love Mungalli Falls. Boy, partner and I are very proud to be able to celebrate our most precious family day with them and we thank the Trout family from the bottom of our hearts.

4) Preparations: We attempt to remain child focused. Boy and his needs remains our concern. Therefore, the wedding will become a child focused overnight camp. Boy is in favor of a picnic lunch, games and face painting for all the kids, platypus and glow worm viewing, a campfire and singing that evening, horse riding the following day and archery too please.

While we are on school holidays and before home school starts, Boy and I are in preparation mode.

Our wedding is a home school experience that cannot be paralleled by other teachable moments. This is an experience that Boy is immersed in, has some ownership over and will produce learning that he has never before experienced.

Now I just have to have faith that Boy will not have an Aspergers melt down on the day of the wedding. Any tips from other parents of children with Aspergers in risk managing and minimizing the likelihood of meltdown in an over stimulating environment?

Monday, January 1, 2007

2007 Year of the Home School Adventure

Our New Year, 2007, begins our serious adventure into Home School.

We have had a great holiday. While in Townsville, Boy’s highlights were visiting the Reef HQ Aquarium (first picture), going to an omnimax theatre (I got seriously motion sick!!) and a day trip to Charters Towers (last picture).

We stayed with friends (Boy camped in their back yard, his tent is pictured.) and playing with the family’s kids was such a bonus for Boy. Boy was well behaved, no aspergers melt downs and removed himself from situations when he was feeling overloaded.

While at the aquarium Boy requested that, we build excursions into home schooling. Although we had already intended to do this, Boy took some ownership of his educational needs and began a planning process of learning. He is keen to visit the Aquarium again and asked to visit the Great Barrier Reef to see the fish and sea creatures in their natural habitat fulfilling their environmental roles. Our first two excursions will be just that: we will visit Green Island in the next couple of weeks and will head back to Townsville before the end of January.

I sense a unit of marine study coming on. Boy’s interest will make my job as facilitating educator easy to capture his curiosity and fully capitalize upon it. I am grateful that we live in a part of the world where we can easily experience everything that the Great Barrier Reef has to offer. A unit of Marine learning will not be book based but practical, interactive and based in natural learning tenets within its own environment.

Boy’s learning happened vicariously at the Aquarium. We spent the entire day there and took every tour and lecture on offer. Boy asked the presenters many questions and was always first up with his hand to show off the knowledge he had. Other visitors commented on his knowledge and boosted Boy’s self-esteem like a shot of vitamins.

The next few home schooling aspergers blogs will be Boy based. I will ask him to word process some of his learning to help others learn. His blogs will become part of his home school diary, evaluation and will aid the English program I am designing.

Please, if you have time, would you ask boy a question about his trip to the Aquarium so that it assists in consolidating his comprehension and learning, aides his memory and recall and further builds his belief in himself and home schooling.

Happy New Year to you. I have an inkling that 2007 and our start of full time home schooling is going to make for a very good year for us.

Related article on Supporting 2007 Children to Have a Happy New Year.

This blog is no longer kept. I am instead blogging only to Imaginif Child Protection became Serious Business