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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A measure of Martini for Art, Health and Physical Education.

I missed a day’s blog recording of Boy’s home school diary. Yesterday was a horror day for me in juggling the many needs of a part time social worker, full time Mum and home schooler. By the time I went to bed last night I swear I looked like the Mummy from Boy’s movie watching efforts over the weekend!!!

Spelling: Boy had an appointment at the Pediatrician’s yesterday. We managed to do our spelling list before we went to the Doctor’s and Boy did very poorly (pictured). He was highly anxious about going to the pediatricians and wanted to know was it the nice Doctor or the cranky one. I began to panic thinking that Boy would melt down on what was a VERY busy day for me. Interesting how the stress of change becomes overwhelming for Boy. There’s no stress today and when we redid spelling this morning he got 75% correct.

Health, Art and Physical Education: The day only improved yesterday. No meltdowns. Boy and the Pediatrician got along fine. They had jokes with each other and the Doctor always lets me know that I worry far too much about my Boy (Boy shaved a part of the side of his head and I was concerned about it).

Boy took his art set with him to the appointment because he was supposed to use our waiting time to make an Egyptian themed poster instead of doing a movie review about The Mummy. That wonderful Doctor spent time admiring Boy’s set and asked many educative questions about colours, blends, styles, chalks, etc. He then asked Boy if he would be willing to do a picture to hang on the Doctor’s wall. Boy jumped at the opportunity and was thrilled to be asked.

Boy produced a full page picture of ……a Martini glass half full of drink (pictured). This puzzled me. We are not big drinkers and I only ever drink champagne. Where Boy got his inspiration from perplexed me. Last night, when having a chat about the busy day, Boy said he saw a postcard on the Doctor’s wall. It was of a person on holiday holding a big Martini glass. The Doctor was talking to Boy about how great holidays are and the things they like when they are able to relax. Boy figured the Doctor must like Martinis.

The Pediatrician and I agreed that Boy’s anxiety and insomnia have become too intrusive. He is at the stage of almost non functioning because he is too tired and anxious. Although I have not wanted to go the medication route, I also appreciate the benefit of medication assisting. So, Boy now has a daily pill to help calm him and to help re-establish a sleep pattern. Boy and I went through the information sheet and discussed side effects of medication, abuse of medication and why medication can be helpful or unhelpful. It was a great discussion and an even better learning experience.

Math: Although we are following tenets of natural learning, I saw a math and English program that I was interested in. We tried it out yesterday and Boy did very, very well. He scored in the top 10%. The program from Kinetic is computer based and just brilliant in its telephone support and additional help. We have bought the program and Boy and stepfather are going to do Math that way as well as their natural ways of learning together. Boy’s first paper based assessment is pictured.

I teach part-time in Social Work at University (college). Lectures for the year begin today. Because I have to be away from home, stepfather and Boy have changed their math day Fridays to Wednesdays. This means that Boy doesn’t have to go to anyone else. He can stay in the familiarity of his own home.

And now I must away….my class awaits me.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Scarab Beetles, Winchester House and Social Understanding

Today is youth group day where Boy tackles issues of social skills, self-esteem and anger management. We usually count this as his home school for the day. However, Boy watched The Mummy over the weekend and is now obsessed with Scarab Beetles. Offering a wealth of teachable moments, we have maximized the learning and today’s extraneous home school centered on those dung-eating beetles.

We live in a part of the world that offers a host of insect variety, including Scarab Beetles. We have the regular old Rhinoceros Beetles (Dung eaters) and the most brilliant Emerald beetles that feed on Palm blossoms (yes, Palm trees flower). As much as we tried to find some beetles to take a picture, do you think they’d make our task easy this morning. No! Boy has vowed to catch the first Emerald Green Scarab that he comes across and take a photo to show you.

Spelling: With an interest in all things Egyptian, we had to capture the Scarab spellings. This week we will focus on the following words: Scarab, beetle, dung, bowel, vowel, ancient, Egypt, sacred, symbols, baboon. We’ve started with getting three words correct. Boy’s opinion that is that once he has spelt a word correctly there is no need to do it again. This causes a few arguments as I insist that he do the same spelling list the following day: all ten words. This morning he asked me not to say the words like I am a school teacher. I state the word for him to write, put it in a contextual sentence for comprehension and then repeat the word again. Given his hatred of anything that looks like school, I am willing to revise my process. I will do anything to make learning more palatable and to increase Boy’s ability to spell and read. Tips from others will be most welcome. I’m sure I’m not alone in my battle to spell success rather than conflict.

Reading: Sacred Symbols Ancient Egypt. Boy was given this book a long time ago but has never shown more than a general interest in it. Today however, it became the focal point of our home education. The writing is small and contains some difficult words but Boy and I battled through by reading together about the topics that took his interest. Boy was most interested in the Scarab beetle jewel encrusted artifacts and the variety of Gods.

Research: Winchester House. Watching The Mummy appeased Boy’s current obsession with guns. We awoke this morning to Boy and his book on the history of military firearms. His talk was incessant and focused on types of guns and caliber. Eager to further link his obsession to learning, I told Boy the story of the Winchester mystery. We looked at the site and learnt about why the Winchester heiress, Sarah Winchester, surrounded herself with the sound of building and hammers for 38 years.

Interested and eager for more, we spent a good deal of time poring over the site and looking at the photographs of the Winchester mystery house. I had to read almost every page to Boy, including the flashlight tours every Friday the 13th and on Halloween. Boy is keen to visit Winchester House, which suits me because I didn’t have time to visit it when I was in San Francisco.

If any readers live in the area, we would love a booklet or postcard of Winchester house. How cool would it be if home schoolers from around the world could share friendship packs of free advertising material from their hometown: a sort of Flat Stanley project for home schoolers. Our diversity offers so much learning, sharing and social understanding that we could help each other with thematic units of geography and Studies of society and environment.

We live on the Great Barrier Reef: where the rainforest kisses the golden sands of tropical and almost isolated sprawling beaches. If Boy and I prepare a couple of packs about our hometown, would anyone be interested in a friendship swap? We’ll send you our material, you send us yours.

Photo of Golden Scarabaeus courtesy of Claudmey at stock.xchng

Thursday, February 22, 2007

How to Make Your Own Lava Lamp (Science Experiment)

We loved this science experiment. Boy is 11, in Grade 6 and really got into all the learning about weights, density and changes. An easy experiment, my view is that it suitable for children in the very early years of school as well. Learning tips can be found on the website where we accessed this lava lamp experiment: ABC, Spark Experiments.

Make Your Own Lava Lamp

Oil and water don't mix -- oil always floats on top -- or does it?

What You Need :

  • clear plastic drink bottle
  • water
  • food colouring
  • cooking oil
  • salt
What To Do :

  • Pour water into the bottle until it is two thirds full.
  • Add a few drops of food colouring to the water.
  • Pour in a small quantity of oil, just enough to form a layer on top of the water.
  • Sprinkle a few pinches of salt onto the oil and watch what happens.
  • Keep adding salt to make your experiment last longer.

Whats Going On:

You’ve heard the saying -- "oil and water don't mix"?

A teaspoon of water is much denser than a teaspoon of oil -- in other words, it's heavier.

Density is a measurement that can be used to explain why things sink or float.

Oil makes a layer on the surface of the water because it is less dense, or lighter, than the water. When the salt is sprinkled into the bottle, it sinks to the bottom taking a glob of oil with it. The salt then dissolves in the water leaving the oil to float back up to the surface.

Associated Home School Diary entry for this experiment: Smelly Science

Smelly Science

Boy loves Science and is always asking to do experiments. Boy is also gifted with a good sense of Aussie dunny (Aussie slanguage for toilet) humour. Combining the two loves, we today attacked smelly science.

Science Experiments: Cloud in a bottle and Make your own Lava Lamp.

Cloud in a bottle (an experiment about water vapour) was unsuccessful. Although Boy loved lighting matches and dropping them into an empty water bottle, we think we may have set the experiment up wrongly and used an unsuitable bottle. When we read the instructions again, Boy nominated two things that may have gone wrong: he didn’t drain the bottle well enough and he had used hot water to first rinse the bottle. My analysis is that the lid of the bottle wasn’t sealing properly and the smoke escaped leaving insufficient smoke for the water vapour to cling to and produce a cloud. Although we did it three times Boy was unable to persevere any longer, he wanted to get straight to the next experiment and to the game he knew was waiting to be played.

Make your own Lava Lamp was very successful. Boy loved it and now cannot wait for stepfather to come home so that he can do it again with an un-initiated onlooker. This is a measure of success: Boy wanting to repeat a learning sequence and educate another person. I’m going to post the whole experiment as a separate post to make it easy for other home schoolers to print out and replicate in their home.

Technology: The site that offered the two above experiments also has a neat online Fart Game. Boy was very eager to play it and I’m tipping it will become the latest obsession. The game concentrated on the power of farts to get things done (kill rats in a playground) and ways to reduce or improve the potency of farts. The aim was to kill 50 rats in as short a time as possible and to keep your health and fart potency levels up. Although not designed for math, it certainly assisted Boy in transferring raw scores to a ticking stop watch. What can I say? FUN,FUN,FUN and he played it a doxen times.

We also played an on-line fart quiz that includes history with a good deal of rot. Cool! you have any idea of how many different words and phrases are integhangable for "fart". I had no idea.

Reading: Boy and I had to read all of the information about farts, pheromones and other smells. The subject matter piked Boy’s interest and he laughed aplenty. Although I read the majority of the information to him, straight from the web site, he sat at my laptop and scrolled, changed pages and backspaced to again read bits of information that he wanted clarified.

Home economics: Well…the learning was for me today! Boy wanted to make soup. I tried to explain that Soup takes hours and that I didn’t have the right ingredients. Annoyed, Boy held up a can of soup. “I want to make this!” he scolded me.

“But darling, that’s not new cooking. You know how to make that sort of soup.” Boy knows how to make cup-a-soup (one of his staples) but had NEVER considered that soup from a can was an option for him. While searching in our cyclone box for the matches to complete the Cloud in a bottle experiment, Boy discovered the stockpile of emergency tin food.

What appeared to be an innocuous cop out and boring home school lesson actually surprised me with the immensity of teachable moments it produced. Boy knows how to use the microwave and kettle for making soup but soup in a saucepan on the hotplate is a new concept. He had to learn about temperature control and having the can, water and milk ready so that the condensed soup didn’t begin to boil before the milk and water went in.

Boy was unable to locate the instructions on the label. He claimed that the “lots of writing in different directions” confused him. Frustrated, I placed myself in his aspergers shoes and I agree that the label was overwhelming and placed me in sensory overload. This lead to a decent discussion about the importance of reading and why many illiterate people buy cans with the pictured ingredient on. They cannot read the contents so they rely solely on the picture to tell them what is in the can. Because advertising and colour set up is costly, the picture cans of food are generally more expensive. Illiterate people are often in a precarious financial position so buying expensive cans of food further traps them in the cycle of poverty. The cheaper brands generally have no pictures, just writing.

The biggest shock to me was the measuring: a third of a can of water and a third of a can of milk, mixed to produce two thirds of a can to add to the whole can of soup. Boy said he didn’t know what a third was. I drew a picture and he said, “Oh, like 33%, I get it.” Time to revisit the link between fractions and percentages. Are you reading this stepfather? This is your job please.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ned Kelly Infamous Bushranger and Our Rescuer

Studies of the Australian Society and Environment cannot be completed without a good history lesson on one of our most infamous Bush Rangers: Ned Kelly. Okay…that’s the rhetoric. The truth is that Boy is so obsessional about guns at the moment that I have struggled to find a lesson that I find acceptable and that he can relate his obsession to. Thank goodness for Ned Kelly and the book I bought last weekend is all I can say.

Boy is going through another period of insomnia. During the night he grabbed the new book about Ned Kelly and began to make a poster. This morning, as Art was on the agenda anyway, I suggested we finish it by drawing a picture of the famous bushranger (pictured).

Writing: I am amazed that Boy wrote unprompted. When I shared my excitement with partner, he suggested that we cannot use it as part of home school hours. “Rubbish,” was my reply. We are so eager to help Boy improve with his writing, spelling and reading that his unprompted attempt deserves celebrating. Without being asked, or knowing what was on the adult agenda, Boy has also fulfilled one of our short term home school goals: To reignite an interest in education as a worthwhile activity.

Boy’s unprompted attempt at writing is a sparkling moment for me. His single paper containing only two misspelt words and poor sentence structure is actually evidence of success and I am very proud of him.

Art: Along with the picture of Ned Kelly, Boy and I did some more Sculpey clay work together. Boy made a 2D pistol (obsession or what!) and together we worked on a figure of Ned Kelly. Boy whinged and whined about it being “too hard and it will take for the rest of my life,” but I calmly began and Boy became interested in all the mistakes I was making. While Boy rolled clay, picked colours he thought Ned’s coat and armour would have been and talked about what life must have been like for the Kelly gang, our Ned Kelly figure came to life in our hands. I reckon it’s great.

Reading: While I was putting the buttons on Ned Kelly’s coat, I asked Boy to find me a Ned Kelly Fact that I didn’t know. It worked!! Boy read me an entire page of Ned Kelly's family history. This was no mean feat – he attempted some big words and asked what they meant too. When I asked what he had learnt about Ned, Boy immediately responded, “he stuck up for his sisters. How dumb is that!”

Oh the joy of sibling rivalry. I hope that this means that Boy will not grow up to be a bushranger!

Such is life (these were the last words uttered by Ned Kelly before his hanging in 1880)!

Presidential Trivia for a Home School Carnival

The 60th Carnival of Home Schooling takes the Presidential race to new heights. Not only is it full of interesting and fun American Presidential trivia (e.g. Did you know that 17th President Andrew Johnson had no formal education? His wife taught him reading, writing and math) but it is also chockablock full of amazing posts from global home schoolers. Australia even gets a look in: Megan (me) at Home Schooling Aspergers has a delightful hack to help kids remember how to spell “family.”

If you don’t know what a carnival is, check this explanation out on my other site: How to Find Comments About Sexual Abuse Prevention and Action. The various carnivals are always looking for posts so if you have something to contribute, join the race. The next Carnival of Home Schooling is going to be hosted at at The Homeschool Cafe. Submission information can be found here at Why Homeschool.

Shannon at Homeschool Hacks has done such a great job with her Presidential trivia that it has inspired me to home educate Boy into a bit of Australian Politics and to look at who all of our Prime Ministers (we don’t have Presidents) have been.

We are currently getting to know our community (Studies of Society and Environment) and visits to our local politicians would be a great learning experience for Boy. Although my career has bought me into regular contact with our local politicians, I have not previously appreciated the potential learning value to my son. Even knowing where their office’s are and what types of issues the public take to politicians is of immense educational value.

There’s some Australian Politics lesson plans available at the Primary School site and on Minti, there’s an interesting post from a mother regarding Teaching your children about civic duty.

And here's an Aussie Politicial Question to assess whether your kids are aware of contemporary global politics: Who is the Prime Minister of Australia?

Photo of Parliament House, Canberra, Australia, courtesy of paragen, SXC Photo Exchange.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Movie Review: Robin Hood Men in Tights

Robin Hood Men in Tights
Review by Boy, age 11

Robin Hood Men in Tights is a comedy movie. It is sort of about the real adventures of Robin Hood but there is lots of laughter, funny happenings, singing, make believe and take offs of serious things.

Robin has gone to fight in the crusades (Africa) and gets caught by the African guards. He is sent to jail. When he escapes, his friend asks him to go back to England and look for his only son. When Robin gets back to England, everything has changed. His family is dead. His dog is dead. His bird is dead. His goldfish is dead and his cat is dead from choking on the gold fish.

His house has been burnt down but Robin’s old servant Blinkin (a blind servant) is still alive and helps Robin on his quests to find the friend’s son. He finds his friends son Achoo (bless you) and Achoo helps Robin to take back his land from the evil king.

Robin finds two men: one really big guy who is really a coward and one really small guy who is actually a brave person. The big coward can’t swim and falls into a river (1 inch deep) and screams out, “I can’t swim.” Robin gets him out of the river (a trickle of water) and the big coward asks him to shoot an arrow at his friend. Now, his friend is very, very good with daggers. Robin Hood shoots the arrow at him and the dagger man chops it up with his daggers before it has a chance to pierce him. With the skills that they have: big and strong, good with daggers and Robin’s bravery, the three work together.

Robin got back his land and marries his love, Maid Marion (he even had to get her back from the evil King).

Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor. But in this comedy movie, the rich steal from the poor to give to only themselves.

I rate this six out of ten because it is a funny comedy. It is better than the real story of Robin Hood because it is take off from a classic story. It is rated Parental Guidance so it is fine for everyone who likes classic comedy. Even though it is PG my Mum didn’t watch it with me (note from Boy’s Mum…that would be because I’ve seen it 7, 000 000 times already).

I like this movie so much I’ve rented it lots of times from the video store.

Studies of Society: Homeless in Reno

Although I’m a home school Mum, my profession (Social Work) forms a frame work of values and worth around psychosocial education. Heavily influenced by the social structures that create poverty, misery and disempowerment I am keen to ensure that Boy develops empathy and commitment toward helping those less fortunate than himself.

Getting to the know the community has been embedded into our home school studies of Society and Environment. Partner is going to take Boy to view an anti-postcard exhibition: images that the tourist driven town of Cairns is keen to gloss over and that the rest of us try not to see.

The following news story on homelessness has just arrived in my inbox and I considered it a fantastic opportunity for like-minded home schoolers in the Reno area. If somebody goes, could you leave me a comment please and let me know your thoughts and the learning achieved for your child.
By Jaclyn O'Malley, Saturday, February 17, 2007, Reno Gazette-Journal
They filled their cameras with photos of homeless infants and families. Some captured the friendships among the homeless. For others, their film showed isolation and exclusion.

In a rare opportunity, 40 homeless Reno citizens this week were given disposable cameras to document their lives as part of a recent city-sponsored program.

And what the 15 who returned the cameras captured on film, along with their personal stories, will be presented to the Nevada Legislature during a Monday hearing in front of the Assembly Health and Human Services Committee.

At the hearing, lawmakers will discuss a bill introduced by Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, who is asking for $20 million for local governments to use for transitional housing and support services for the homeless in the next two years.

The photos -- depicting camaraderie, buildings where the homeless receive services and a life spent looking through fences -- will be on display all week in the foyer of the Legislative Building.

"They really depict what life is like in 2007 in Nevada for a homeless person," Leslie said of the photos. "It is not confined to the stereotypical drunk person on the street corner. These pictures tell the story better than anyone could."

Reno police officer Patrick O'Bryan came up with the camera idea after watching a documentary about eight children born in an Indian brothel who were given cameras to document their lives. The city of Reno chipped in about $240 from an administrative community block grant for the cameras and the film development.

O'Bryan, who is a member of the Reno Police Department's Crisis Intervention Team, will also be testifying Monday in front of the Legislature. The Crisis Intervention Team provides outreach to the homeless and mentally ill.

"This is the homeless telling their story," O'Bryan said. "From the pictures they took, you get the idea that they feel excluded from the world; that's what it's come down to."

The homeless photographers consisted of the mentally ill, developmentally disabled, a mother of four and middle-aged men. Mingling with the photos of empty liquor bottles and shots of the homeless shelter were pictures showing camaraderie among the homeless and the clouds in the sky. But some were of the ground or of random buildings taken through fences.

Ron Montavon, 56, has been homeless since September 2005. He took many pictures of places where he gets services. One picture he took was of a sign on an empty lot near the Reno Assistance Center homeless complex on Fourth Street, The sign says that phase of the project was supposed to be done last month.

But the city is $5 million short of the nearly $12 million needed to finish it. The city council talked of making one last appeal to Washoe County, casinos and developers for donations to build a three-story shelter for families with children that would offer a medical clinic, counseling and other services. The first floor of the men's drop-in shelter, now empty, would become a women's shelter and triage center for people who are mentally ill or have substance abuse problems.

"What can I say about being homeless?," Montavon said. "I feel like being forever stuck in the Bermuda Triangle of endless misery. ... I have no one to blame for my situation but myself, but the city can do better."

He currently is sleeping at an overflow shelter in some former office buildings in Reno.

"A lot of (homeless) complain and cough, but most don't realize how good this is," he said of staying at the shelter. "The showers are cleaned once a day, but it doesn't take long for them to get messed up again. It's not the best of health conditions."

Robyn Wright, 43, known on the streets as "River Mom" took photos, too. She became homeless recently after she had to quit her job due to a hospitalization and couldn't afford a motel. She said she had nowhere to go until she found a downtown shelter. Besides the struggle of trying to find work and not having a home, she said methamphetamine abuse also contributes to the vicious cycle of homelessness.

"I see people scrimping and scraping to get a buck, and they spend it all on meth," she said. "They use it for a painkiller if they don't have Social Security, and they use it to escape reality."

Montavon and Gordon Harris, 52, added that the city's 24-hour lifestyle also contributes to the homeless problem.

"Thirty-five percent of us are homeless because we don't have identifications, 10 percent of us are alcoholics, 20 percent of us are drug addicts and the rest are gamblers," said Harris, who just recently got a copy of his birth certificate that, he said, will allow him to work again.

Leslie's bill will allow local governments to target which homeless groups, such as veterans or youths, they need to serve. She said allowing the local officials to make the decision means they are solving specific problems in their areas. She said some thoughts in the state are to build transitional apartment complexes and to use vouchers to get apartments or motel rooms.

As the Washoe County Specialty Courts coordinator, Leslie said she got the idea for her bill from mental health court.

"The bill is not a Band-Aid, it's about developing a real solution to stop the cycle of homelessness by addressing their basic needs," she said. "This idea is based on what I have seen that works. You have to get them off the streets and in a safe environment and provide them support services to address the underlying reasons they are homeless.

Once they have a place to live, the rest of their issues will be easier to tackle, she said.

While Montavon hopes the photos and their stories will influence lawmakers to pass Leslie's bill, he said he wasn't sure it was enough.

"The only way to know about being homeless is to experience it," he said. "You will see things you won't believe."

View Joclyn's blog with more pictures

The Home School Year Planner

In my usual whole of bench and floor space filing system, I have run out of space for visual reminders of what we are doing, why we are doing it and what the doing looks like. Plus, I need my white board back for other activities.

While attempting to sort and create space in my overused filing cabinet, I realised that I hadn't formally recorded our years home school plan. Just in case I lose it (anything is possible in this phase of wedding preparation mayhem) I am posting it here as well.

Term 1 Spelling
Term 2 Writing
Term 3 Making posters
Term 4 Comprehension

Term 1 Long and Short division
Term 2 Algebra
Term 3 Scientific calculators and Spreadsheets
Term 4 Budgeting

Term 1 Know your community
Term 2 The Geography and cultural melting pot of Australia
Term 3 Indigenous history
Term 4 Cultural and religious celebrations

Term 1 Environmental factors
Term 2 Chemical reactions
Term 3 Geology
Term 4 Chemistry

Term 1 Human Body, Swimming
Term 2 Laser Tag, Survival skills
Term 3 Cardiovascular system
Term 4 Swimming, Anger Management, Tennis, Self esteem

Term 1 World of Warcraft (WoW) reach Level 40, Excel
Term 2 World of Warcraft (WoW) reach Level 50, Keyboard skills
Term 3 World of Warcraft (WoW) reach Level 60, Set up simple website
Term 4 World of Warcraft (WoW) reach Level 70, Graphics packages

Term 1 Home made gifts : Sculpting.
Term 2 Water colours, Aboriginal art
Term 3 Artists: famous painters and their styles
Term 4 Christmas presents (difference between making and purchasing)

Term 1 Japanese
Term 2 French, Japanese
Term 3 French, Japanese
Term 4 French

The above areas act as a guide so we know what we need to concentrate on. Each subject area has rich tasks attached to it that Boy is required to meet by the end of the term.

Our major concentrations are on establishing a calmness in Boy so that he is able to sleep and enjoy learning.

Excursions and socialisation are built into most of the core subjects, for example, SOSE (Studies of Society and Environment) will encompass overnight learning trips to Cooktown, Charters Towers and Laura.

Monday's are dedicated Health and Physical Education day, Tuesday's are movie review days for English, and Friday's are reserved for step father to teach Math. The other core subjects are woven into the remainder of the days, including weekends. Because we are following natural learning tenets we seize every teachable moment that we can. Although Boy has a structured home school time table that is supposed to run from 9am to 1 pm (SUPPOSED TO are the operative words here!!!!) he is of the view that anything outside those hours is his time. He has no idea that we have arranged our lives to capitalise upon the most fantastic learning opportunities that we can manipulate for him.

I love home schooling but I now need a personal assistant to do all of the administrative functions! Any takers???

Monday, February 19, 2007

Chinese New Year: A Multicultural Learning Idiom.

Boy had the opportunity to attend the Chinese New Year Celebration and to sleep overnight at a trusted friend’s house.

Eager to capture the teachable moment, Boy and I had a look to see which animal is represented in the 2007 Chinese New Year calendar: it is the year of the Pig. Boy was happy to also discover that he was born in the year of the Pig (1995). This new knowledge appeared to provide Boy a framework of specialness to the celebration and some dissonance to explain why his bedroom remains such a mess..."It's a pig sty," he exclaimed. "I'm a pig, what do you expect."

However…Boy is also on a current obsession about guns. While shopping, I spotted a book about the history of military guns. I purchased it as a sure fire way to get Boy to read.

Off he went to the friends house with his treasured book under his arm. The friend’s mother later reported that the book was a huge hit with her three sons as well and that when they all attended Chinese New Year celebrations the boys seemed to forget the book: they all eagerly collected as many wooden chopsticks as they could.

When again home, the four boys became creative with the chopsticks: no, not for the eating but for the gun making!!!! The boy’s created elaborate rubber band guns based on pictures in the book and used nothing but chopsticks and rubber bands.

Hardly my idea of a peace loving, multicultural learning experience but at least Boy got out of the house, lost himself in a book and learnt something about Chinese New Year. Three home school goals met.

Today at our home school by the pool, I’m going to explain to Boy the idiom, “To kill a pig.” I can only hope that within an acceptable amount of time, he will stop pointing his chopstick gun at imaginary animals while he announces, “Sweet and sour pork for tea!"

Friday, February 16, 2007

Math Friday - A Subset of the Home School Week

Friday is Math day (and mother's day off). Following a spritely wake up, bath, eggs on toast and teeth, boy and step father proceeded to the world of subsets.

Choose one topic out of food, plants and people? Boy chooses food (no surprises there) and has a quizzical look on his face as if to say, “What has this got to do with maths and commerce."

The topic of the day is sets and subsets and with the help of a compass, ruler, calculator and quite a bit of mental arithmetic, boy determined that breads made up around 20% of all foodstuffs and milks made up around 2%. Boy suggested that whilst lollies do not make up the biggest percentage, they are the most important. Again, no surprises there!!

Step father mixed the math with a healthy dose of nutritional analysis (that Mum is much better at) and boy was able to contribute enthusiastically showing a good working knowledge of the food pyramid.

Given that breads and milks made up 22% of all foodstuffs (subsets of food), boy and step father proceeded to account for the other 78% using some fairly big assumptions as to the ratio between meats, fruits, sweets and other stuff.

Boy grasped entirely that once all the subsets had been accounted for, THERE WAS NO FOOD LEFT, and this made both teacher and student very sad.

Next up we divided boy’s life on earth so far into eleven full years and two part years, further use of the subset concept and just as an aside, worked out that he has been alive for 4133 days.

A solid effort: watch this space for next week’s commercial and chemical analysis of dry ice.

Photo courtersey of verzerk at stock.xchng

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Are you cold? Is Uranus Blue?

“The gas from Uranus turned its face blue! Poohey,” he said as he waved his hand in front of his nose. Yes, we finally managed to tackle the planets of our solar system and Uranus was his favourite. At least he’s going to remember it.

Science: Working through Teaching Treasures ,Planet worksheet, Boy made up a little book, each page containing cut and pasted information about one of the nine corresponding planets.

Using a fun site called COSMOS4KIDS we together read interplanetary biographies and played a couple of groovy quizzes. Rather than write facts about each planet, I agreed that Boy could cut and paste from COSMOS4KIDS. I just don’t see the sense of needlessly stressing him by making him write beyond his tolerance level.

Writing: The first task on the above worksheet was to place the planets in order of distance from the sun. Boy drew the sun and then a descending vertical line of nine circles. After working through the distance hints provided by Teaching Treasures, Boy wrote the names of each planet beside the correct circle. He did well, got them all right and even attempted to sound the planet names out without asking me to spell them for him.

Once he had completed, I shared with him a memory aid that I learnt when I was in Grade 3: My Very Elderly Mother Just Sat Up Near Pluto. I have never forgotten it and I still mentally recite the statement when I am trying to locate planet order. Boy didn’t appear overly keen on it. Rather, he wanted to repeat “Uranus” in a record number of times per minute.

Technology: Rather than use Word to cut and paste into, today I showed Boy what he has in accessories. He used Notepad and we both decided we didn’t like it. Hence, Word will be used from now on.

Need I say anything about World of Warcraft!!!! He’s still on a bender to level.

Spelling: Fifty percent today so we’re on the rise.

Cooking: Boy has been wanting to include some home economics into his home school hours. Whereas I’m happy with the general meal preparation that he often helps me with, he wanted to do something structured for school work. At 9AM this morning, we made a double load of jelly (jello in the U.S). While this alone is no great feat, I did have the opportunity to talk to Boy about my experiences of food preparation difference between a cold and a hot climate. In the tropics the cook does not put the stated amount of water with the jelly crystals because it just won’t set and hold. We also had a fun discussion about when I lived in Alaska and was always in trouble for putting the butter in the fridge. Here our butter is straight back into the fridge as soon as it is spread on bread. Left on the table or bench, we end up with a yellow pool of something that looks quite disgusting. Putting the butter in the cupboard sounds so funny to us and we had a good joke about our bugs, ants or cockroaches dieing from cholesterol rather than a squirt of Mortein.

Math: Valentine's Day saw the culmination of a fund raiser we were helping the Abused Child Trust with. Boy helped me to count how much money we raised ($158.15). As we sat together and counted our respective piles, Boy counted aloud and I had to restart about 15,000,000 times.

The picture is Boy’s collective schoolwork for the day. He’s done well for someone with a very short attention span for anything but World of Warcraft.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Foul Smell of Methane.

Boy awoke in a foul mood. He considers that he is not moving fast enough through levels of Burning Crusade. Given that we had written leveling into our home school tasks for technology (Level 40 by end of term 1 at Easter), Boy felt compelled to argue from a home school perspective. “I have to do it. It’s written on the white board.”

Photo of Misty Chimney-Stalks courtsey of superdecor at stock.xchng.

While I felt like yelling at him, I calmly reminded him that he still has six weeks in which to reach level 40 (he’s currently at level 38). Not good enough…he wanted to level IMMEDIATELY. Damn that Asperger’s immediacy and obsession. I so want to pack if off on holidays some days.

Taking an educators stance mixed with the manipulative tactics used by parents world over, I agreed that the exciting science we had for the day could be cancelled but that technology would also have to be cancelled. Instead, we could together go wedding shopping and go back to Spotlight to buy some more craft reserves. It worked. Boy said, “Alright. Let’s just get the school work over with.”

Science/Environment/Geography and Technology: We tackled Greenhouse Gas, emissions and Global Warming. Using some standard definitions from Energy Kids Page we went through the following terms: Global Warming, Greenhouse Effect, Greenhouse Emissions and Greenhouse Gases. Best of all, the site has links to Energy Information Administration for us grown ups to learn more than the kids think they already know. I really need this to stay one step ahead of Boy and his appetite for interesting knowledge.

We completed two environmental science worksheets, both from Teaching Treasures, and an online crossword puzzle. Boy particularly enjoyed the cross word puzzle because he got the answers quicker than I did. The worksheets involved a range of skills (writing, thinking, drawing, and research). Boy’s memory and ability to enter quality discussion while working amazed me. He remembered that he had visited a wind farm twice – once with me and once with his Dad. The practical learning that he received on those visits has stayed with him.

In preparation for tomorrow’s lesson on Planets, we had a quick look at some photos from NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day. Boy was not keen to do this and suggested that they could take a picture of his bum. Seriously, I looked him in the eye and said, “they already have photos of Uranus.” What a crack up (pun intended)! Boy laughed and stomped and kept repeating it. He got the joke and happily moved to the computer to see Uranus. What made this even funnier was that when we were learning about Methane Gas, farting was nominated as a human contribution to global warming because it is a greenhouse emission.

Boys and their smelly toilet humour! I don’t care – it’s whatever works for my delightfully hilarious child. At least he's going to remember the NASA site and one way that Methane Gas is produced.

Spelling: Not a crash hot effort today (must have been all the methane effecting his brain). Although Boy got family correct, he still can’t fathom funeral, cremation, pioneer and eulogy. Does any body have any memory aids to suggest for these words?

Movie Review: Hoodwinked

Review by Boy
(age 11)

Hoodwinked is a movie about Little Red Riding Hood. It is animated into clay configurations. (note from Boy’s mother – I kid you not – these are the exact words that Boy said!!) Every character in the movie is up to evil no good, except for Red.

Red (Little Red Riding Hood) – makes and delivers cookies to her Grandma.

Grandma – lies to everyone and pretends to be a loving Grandma when she really wants to live life to the full, the way she did when she was much younger. She skates everywhere and causes avalanches with bombs.

The Wolf - Spies on people to find out information about the stolen cookie recipes.

The Woodcutter – Cuts down trees and makes greenhouse omissions (carbon dioxide) and also crushes cars with the fallen trees.

The Squirrel – Takes photos of everyone and drinks too much caffeine. He runs everywhere and gets into trouble.

The Bunny – Hires people and gets them to steal all the cookie recipes. He makes the recipes himself, sells the cookies and raises money to make his own theme park.

The above characters get together and find the Bunny with the Cookie recipes. The Bunny gets sent to jail and Red, Grandma, Wolf, Woodcutter and Squirrel become friends.

My favorite part of the movie was the whole movie.

The movie is a family comedy, is rated “G” and can be seen again and again.

I rate this movie five out of ten.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

How to Spell F.A.M.I.L.Y

It’s Tuesday, Movie Review Day, but I managed to get a new spelling word in. The movies at the theatre were not greatly pleasing to Boy so he chose to get a family video from the store. After watching it, he decided he wanted to play and think about what he is going to put in his movie review later on this afternoon.

“Do you know how to spell family?” I casually enquired of Boy while he was entrenched in a Burning Crusade.

“Yep. F.A.M.L.Y.” I smiled as he turned around for my assurance that he was correct. “Well, how do you spell it then?” he asked dejected.

I printed out a memory aid that had just been received in my inbox and handed it to him.


Although he found it hilarious, I can almost guarantee that it hit the spot and he will spell FAMILY correctly next time.

To read the full story around FAMILY = (F)ATHER (A)ND (M)OTHER (I) (L)OVE (Y)OU, have a look at what I’ve posted on Child Protection: Serious Business. The story was so poignant that I thought it worthy of sharing.

Resources I am using to help me help Boy with his spelling:

Ten Tips for Better Spelling

Strategies For Better Spelling

Monday, February 12, 2007

Death in Home School Study.

Today Boy and I attended the cremation service of one of my past students. Although there is controversy around whether children attend funerals or not, my take is that death is a part of life and that children require answers, information and knowledge about all aspects of life.

Using the funeral as a teachable moment we did some research on cremations and burials. Boy (and I) learnt about the history of cremations and that in Australia, the Catholic Church lifted the ban on cremations for Catholics in 1960. The Cemeteries and Crematoria Association of NSW (CCANSW) states that “there are approximately 125,000 deaths each year in Australia and around 65,000 cremations take place. The overall average for Australia is just over 50% but in areas where cremation facilities are more readily available the rate approaches 70%.”

Getting to know your community: I had overlooked cemeteries as parts of our community for Boy to know about. This is strange, as when we visit other places, I like to have a look through their cemeteries to gain a snapshot of that town’s demographics and potential sad past. Epidemics, tragedies and types of graves can quickly inform the trauma that any given community may be living with. Certainly, when we were visiting my oldest son in Ingham recently, we visited the cemetery. A town of Italian settlement (sugar cane farms), the state of the crypts told a story of those Italian/Australian descendants who still live in the town and tend their relatives resting places and those who have moved away from the area leaving the crypts to become dilapidated and rain damaged. Similarly the finishings and decorations of the crypts told of the polarised socio economic status of the town's Italian population.

Our city has three cemeteries – a lawn cemetery and cremation garden, a large cemetery divided into Catholic and Non Catholic sections and a historical “pioneers” cemetery. Today we visited all three. Although now off crutches, Boy’s leg is still sore so we didn’t venture far. We talked though about why the cemeteries were in the positions they are, town planning, population growth and real estate.

Spelling: Today’s circumstances led to a new list of spelling words - Cemetery, funeral, cremation, urn, coffin, casket, death, pioneer, pyre, eulogy.

Some of these words required defining. Using the dictionary and Google, Boy managed to retain at least a working understanding of the words urn, pioneer, pyre and eulogy.

Writing and Technology: Rather than going through the trauma of hand writing, Boy word processed a work sheet requiring him to define his spelling words. This proved beneficial for Boy to learn how to cut and paste and how to work across several open internet tabs.

Reading: The children’s book that I published last year has a chapter where the main character’s mother dies. The characters are Australian animals and I had used strong Indigenous symbolism in the chapter. Even though I wrote the book and have read the chapter many times at book readings and author talks, I still got a lump in my throat as Boy and I read paragraph a turn. I thought Boy may be bored with the story (he’s heard it many times) but given the circumstance of the day, the chapter appeared to hold new meaning and learning for him.

Phew….a rough day over.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Was it Friday the 13th?

Some days are naturally glorious: smooth, bright and filled with love. Other days are opposite: bumpy, dark and hateful. Yesterday was one of those days and poor Boy missed his organised home school lessons.

Friday is Math day. Step father takes Boy for the morning and they work through a couple of pages of a text, plus, this amazing step father designs learning connected to real life events that capture Boy’s interest. Yesterday they intended to do sub sets, drawn in the sand at the beach and illustrated with shells, sticks and beads. Then the phone rang…..

My ex husband (my two oldest children’s father) was diagnosed with Prostate and Spine cancer. It was a shock to me and the kids needed my support. Despite our differences of opinions over the years and totally different philosophies on life, I do get on okay with my ex husband. He has stayed with us a number of times and whenever he is visiting the kids, we always catch up. He is neither a bad person nor a person that I would wish any harm to come to him. The kids are devastated and I feel helpless and just plain shocked.

I spent some time talking with him on the telephone and have offered our support in what ever form he needs it. I cried, I laughed and I shared…and I went to bed very sad.

Just after my daughter rang to tell me the bad news about her Dad, pathology rang to ask me to come and get my ex-foster daughter (although she is now out of care, she still lives with us). She has been sick for weeks and went back for some follow up tests. While there, she became very ill and could not drive home. My darling partner went to pick her up because I had my hands full with supporting my oldest son.

Partner had to spend the entire morning at the Doctors with our foster daughter because she really was too ill to move. She was put on a saline drip and told that if we weren’t available to help her then she would be hospitalized. We await the results of her tests to find out what is going on.

Another call: A student of mine died. A mature aged student (45), she had been battling cancer for some time. I spoke with her at Christmas and she said that the tumors had shrunk and she was heading toward being cancer free. I believed her. She had exploratory surgery yesterday and did not come out of the anesthetic.

A friend popped in on the off chance I was available. She burst into tears and told me about how depressed and confused she was. I spent some time with her and made a couple of therapeutic suggestions for her to follow up. As a friend I cannot play therapist, it is unethical. Instead, my friendship manifests as care and wanting to ensure she gets the most appropriate treatment and assistance in her hours of great need. At this time, her need is huge and I would never not help someone. One of my favorite sayings, and life philosophy, comes from Mary McKillop: Never see a need without doing something about it.

And finally, at 8.30pm after I had consumed two glasses of wine, I had a call from a young family friend. He was either as high as a kite or had consumed waaaaaayyyy too much alcohol. He wanted me to drop everything and go and pick him up. He was after a bed for the night and early morning transportation back to an outer Cairns beach. I said “NO WAY!!!!!!!”

Boy had a vicarious lesson in supporting other people in their hour of need and practical experience of how some days, life transpires against the best laid plans of home schooling mothers and step fathers. Happy to be getting out of Math, we instead all sat, overwhelmed, around the table and kneaded our own therapy. Using that marvelous clay, Sculpey, we began producing more frogs and Platypode (plural of Platypus) as wedding favors for our Rainforest Wedding on March 31. That’s them pictured.

How good our beds were last night…and Boy is still sleeping at 9am Saturday morning. Today is a perfect day, the rain has stopped and the sun is shining. I am grateful that I can see and appreciate such a glorious day but my heart is heavy for my children, my ex husband and my friends. Life is short, precious and a gift. Math can be caught up any old day of the week.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Sculpey Clay Makes A Ten Out Of Ten Day

Boy child amazes me. Today we tackled arts and crafts. As my partner left this morning, he gave me a kiss and wished me all the best for what we predicted would be a disastrous day. Boy says he despises arts and crafts, that it is stupid to make things and couldn’t he just play World of Warcraft.

When I told Boy our home school hours would include a trip to our local Spotlight store to decide on an art project and purchase the required supplies, I wished I was in partners place: leaving for the day! Did Boy carry on! Boy HATES going out and particularly HATES Spotlight.

After some serious bribing with offers of MacDonald’s for lunch, we managed to get to the store without meltdown. I spent the short drive time wondering aloud about the projects we could tackle. I put the obviously unacceptable one’s first: knitting, crocheting, scrapbooking, candle making, wood craft, clay. “Clay?’ he said. “Can we do some clay work as part of home school? Cool!”

What a pleasure the day turned into. I had hit upon Boy’s preferred medium of artistic expression and turned something stupid into something enjoyable for both of us. Boy chose some brightly coloured clays that cure in a home oven in a very short time span. He decided he wanted to make Rainforest frogs in a variety of colours. His first one is magnificent (pictured).

I was so impressed with the clay that I looked up their website. Oh my gosh! It is as wonderful as their product. has hundreds of lesson plans, tips for teachers, tutorials and a section on using Sculpey clay with children who have special needs. I have book marked the site and it will be one of those that we visit every art and craft day.

When I worked as a child therapist, my first session would be assessment only. I would observe the child as they delved into my fully laid out therapy room: a treasure island of every therapeutic resource and art based beckoner that you could imagine. I would note the resource that they were naturally drawn to again and again, and I would then mould my therapeutic interventions around whatever their learning medium appeared to be. Duh!!!! Of course I’ve never thought to do that with my own child (How I worry myself sometimes!)

Boy made a painted clay Dragon prior to Christmas that everyone has congratulated him on. He is very proud of it and it has taken up residence in a prime location in our home. Clay is obviously his medium of expression. It is acceptable to him as an artsy type project and he talks, talks, talks as he rolls, shapes and gives life to his masterpieces. How have I missed this!!!!!!!!!!

And….to top the day off. Boy got nine out of nine for his spelling words today. What a great end to a constipated start to the day.

Megan’s highlight of the day: Boy learnt how to turn the fan forced oven and timer on. Hehe, guess what I’m now planning?

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Movie Review: Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day
(starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell)
1993 Columbia Pictures

Review by Boy (Age 11)

Groundhog Day (the movie) is about the history of Groundhog Day and a man who gets stuck on Groundhog Day. In the real and historical Groundhog Day, if the Groundhog comes out of hiding without seeing a shadow, there will be an early spring. If it sees the shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter.

In this movie, the reporter who goes to report on Groundhog day in Pennsylvania, gets stuck on the same day (February 2nd). Every morning when he wakes up it’s February the 2nd again. After a long time of reliving February 2nd, he tries to kill himself but he wakes up the next day (same day) alive and hearing, seeing and doing the same things as he did the day before (February 2nd). It’s like it is a winter that goes on for ever, not just for an extra six weeks. Every day is the long winter of February 2nd, Groundhog Day.

The reporter learns that he has to see his shadow side (his nice side because he’s usually rude and horrible) to break the spell on him. The girl in the movie helps him to develop his shadow side (the nice side). He is in love with her and tries to make her fall in love with him. Only when he stops pretending and really does good things to all people does the girl fall in love with him and they wake up to a new day: not the same radio program or happenings in the street as people rush off to the Groundhog Day celebration.

This DVD was funny. I rate it five out of ten. It is a movie suitable for everyone in the family, but only with parental guidance because of the kissing scenes.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Too Much Latitude Leads to Cancer

Geography: After the latitude that Boy was afforded yesterday and the day before, it seemed reasonable to study latitude and longitude today. Over dinner last night, and by pure coincidence, the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn were discussed. I suggested that if the Tropic of Capricorn ran through Rockhampton (a town in our state of Queensland) then it must also run through several African countries in the southern end of the continent. The boys scratched their heads. Without either a map or globe in front of them, they were unable to visualize what the line ran through. Mashed potatoes and garlic and herb sausages were pushed aside to make room for the globe. Mum won!!!!!! Without even realizing that he was learning, Boy walked away from the dinner table with a full stomach and new knowledge in his head. But...even more pleasing, Boy made a joke that we all laughed at: If you go to the Tropic of Cancer you might get Cancer. After our difficulties with comprehending jokes and riddles last week, Boy's humour was a welcome display of understanding puns and word meanings.

Map Math: Partner asked me to do some research on a tiny little town that he is working in. While searching the requested information I came upon a neat site that provided data on how the town’s name was decided and map grid points of that town. How perfect for extending our discussion from last night and marrying learning with a teachable moment. Because partner has been planning on going to this tiny isolated town again this week, Boy and I have been watching weather reports to ensure that he wouldn’t get stuck between two flooded rivers. Looking at the latitude and longitude of the town is a natural corollary of our unschooling discussions about step dad's movements during cyclone season. How could we pass this opportunity up. Although Boy knew that this was part of school for today, he was also highly interested because his step dad has offered to pay for the research of value pertaining to the job he is currently doing. Beautiful. Boy is doing work experience now too!

To consolidate the reasons behind why we were looking at the town’s positioning and climatic demographics, I googled and used a couple of groovy general Latitude/Longitude resources for Boy:

Latitude and Longitude - FREE worksheets at Tony’s Web Work

Short and funky movie and quiz on Latitude and Longitude (Boy LOVED this and retained the information presented).

Spelling: According to ongoing assessments through the Education System, Boy is way behind with his spelling and reading. While this is of major concern to us, he does appear to be improving. Today’s trek into geography has revealed spelling words of excitement and relevance. The list we have today begun to learn comprises: Latitude, Longitude, Equator, Tropic, Cancer, Capricorn, Rockhampton (Tropic of Capricorn crosses), Taiwan (Tropic of Cancer crosses), and Laura (the little town partner has been working in).

Reading: I had intended for Boy to read the serendipitous story I posted last week about a little girl with autism: They don't walk in your shoes ... Click, Click, Click!. Oh…did he react adversely to reading a story about a GIRL! Thankfully, I had at hand a story about a boy his age: Cipher in the Snow. A very sad story, and a story used in Sociology classes at University, it worked a treat. Boy was interested and learnt a new word: Cipher (nothing, zilch, nil, zero). Although much longer and harder, we took turns in reading paragraphs.

Monday, February 5, 2007

The Over Stimulating Start of the Wet Season.

It is pouring here. The monsoons (wet season) have finally set in. Steam is rising from the roads as heat is released and I forgot to switch our solar hot water to electricity booster. Rainy days equals cold water for the showering!!!

Children with Asperger's often don’t cope well with change. Our endlessly wet days are a change that Boy is struggling with. He has slept badly over the weekend. The smells, sounds and colours from outside are different. Although his favorite past time is his computer (an inside activity), the wild electrical storms have at times mandated everything being unplugged from the walls.

Oh dear oh me: The changes that the rest of us take for granted and just live with! Boy has awoken, late, in a weird mood. He is as jumpy as a cat and his eyes are darting around the place ensuring that at least the inside of his home has remained the same.

Monday is the day Boy spends with his youth worker. These hours are counted as home schooling because Boy and Youth Worker concentrate on elements of emotional intelligence and life skills. Unfortunately the Youth Worker has had to change his times for this afternoon. Although Boy is aware of the change and understands the reasons behind it, he keeps seeking reassurance of the new pick-up time.

Thank goodness, I don’t have to serve Boy up a plateful of learning this morning. I have a sense that he is a thunderstorm waiting to erupt because he has gone into stimulus overload.

On this point, what do you other home schoolers do on days where you know that learning retention is likely to be low? Do you remain dogmatic in your endeavors to school or do you just allow some days to float by? My preference is for the latter but I don’t want Boy to think that he can force a “sick day” by displaying overload.

Note: Just for those who may not know, in our far north part of Australia we have only two seasons: the wet and the dry.

Photo courtesy of supajem at SXC Photo Exchange.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

They don't walk in your shoes ... Click, Click, Click!

This morning I received an email from a male Social Work colleague. He sent me a story he thought I may appreciate and perhaps be able to find some solitude from. Regular readers will know of my advance in not sweating the small (or big) stuff and also my ongoing dilemmas about Boy wearing my shoes!!

I loved the story in my inbox. I contacted the author and asked her permission to post on this blog. Thank you for saying "yes" Pauline, and thank you for writing this beautiful story about your daughter with autism and her ability to dance through the mundane chores of grocery shopping.
We're going to use this story in Monday's home school lessons to read, think, comprehend and discuss empathy. FANTASTIC.

They don't walk in your shoes ... Click, Click, Click!
Author Pauline Fraser

We ducked into the dimly lit thrift shop to get out of the rain. Like so many things since our daughter's birth, I hadn't planned on a trip to this place. But I figured we'd see what they had since we were there.

'Hi, today is stuff a bag day. Would you like one?' the clerk asked.

'What is stuff a bag day?'

'You take a bag and stuff it with what ever you want and it's only $3. Best deal in town.'

'Okay, sounds great,' I said, despite the fact I hadn't planned on buying anything.

I took my six-year-old daughter's hand and we started to wander around. Suddenly there was a tug on my hand and my attention was being directed to the shoe section. She shares my weakness for shoes, so we stopped for a minute to look. I let go of her hand and she reached out to touch a pair of shiny black shoes with a strap and silver buckle.

'Buy me?' she inquires.

'Oh, Sweetie, they are tap shoes. You aren't taking tap.'

'Buy me?' she repeats.

'Well, let's try them on.'

She sits on the floor and removes her bright pink rain boots, with Barbie on the sides, and easily slides the new shoes on. A perfect fit. When she stands up she hears 'click.' She takes a step. Click, Click. Slowly recognition dawns, as she makes the connection between the shoes and her moving feet. Click, Click, Click.

'Buy me?' with a hopeful look in her eyes. Again, 'Buy me, peas?'

'Okay Sweetie, take them off and put them in the bag.'

We look around some more and get a few t-shirts, pants, books and games and a naked baby doll.

Well, it's stuff a bag day - might as well get my money's worth, I think to myself.

The sun has come back out as we emerge from our little side trip and we continue on our way. As we near the car, Amara reaches for the bag. As she climbs into the back seat, I give her the bag wondering what treasure she is looking for. The shoes, of course. She is my daughter after all.

'My wear.'

It's not a question, so I took the tag off and helped her with the buckle. Our next stop was the grocery store and these shoes were made to make noise, especially on my little girl's feet. This could be interesting...

Click, Click, Click - people turn to look as we enter the store.

Click, click, click. I can feel the disapproving stares of the proper people. People who would never allow their daughter to wear tap shoes to the grocery store. I hold my head up with pride.

The click, click, click is music to my ears.

'Excuse me dear. Is your daughter in tap this year?' 'No.' I replied.

'Well why on earth would you allow her to wear tap shoes, here, of all places? They make such a noise.'

'Yes, isn't it wonderful?'

'Wonderful? My dear, this is not the place to wear those shoes.'

'Oh, I think this is the perfect place to wear them. You see she asked for them.'

'Just because she asked for them, doesn't mean you have to get them for her.'

'You don't understand,' I said.

'When she was a baby, we were told she would never walk or talk. It has taken a lot of hard work and patience but she asked for the shoes and the click, click, click says that she can walk.' My daughter, who is always on the move, is 18 now and will graduate from grade 12 in June. It has not always been easy, but it has all been worthwhile. She has taught me that it doesn't matter what others think. They don't walk in your shoes.

And just like the ladies in the purple hats*, sometimes you simply have to wear tap shoes to the grocery store - if for nothing else, just for the sheer joy of hearing the click, click, click.

* Ladies in purple hats are groups of women who have reached a certain age and now can allow themselves to enjoy life without fear of what others think.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Pauline was born and raised in Nova Scotia and now calls British Columbia home. She is married and has three children, including a daughter with autism. Raising a special needs child was not how she had planned to spend her life, but now that she has, she wouldn't change a thing. Her daughter has taught her so much about life and living that she can't imagine how empty life would be without her. You can contact Pauline via email at:

If you get something positive from this story, please either contact Pauline directly or leave her a comment below. Authors don't often get feedback, mothers of children with Autism get even less.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Division, sub division and lots of blocks of land.

Boy and step father spent the day on mathematics and commerce. Following a trip to the educational supply shop to purchase the required curriculum: texts, compass, set squares and the like, they commenced the days work with a blank whiteboard and a clean writing pad.

Looking for a teachable moment of tangible interest to Boy, step father found the perfect learning to attach today's lesson to: sub division of a piece of Australian outback. Last weekend, we all visited a friend’s property located on the Cairns side of Mareeba, 350 or so acres upon which at some time, a sub division is proposed.

Boy and step father commenced with some of the rationale behind why it is important to be able to divide, such things as fair distribution and the need to work out whether or not there is enough of something (dinner / sports uniforms, etc) to cover what you might be trying to achieve.

LONG story SHORT, after drawing a map of the property with 350 acres written within the map, boy and step father proceeded to determine how many blocks of a particular size would be available for sale after considering the property the owner wishes to keep for personal use and the amount of property that needs to be set aside for roads, parks, paths, drainage and services.

Some assumptions had to be made and boy demonstrated a reasonable ability to grasp not only the concepts behind why there are matters that affect the amount of land for sale, but importantly, the process behind how they determined how many blocks will be available.

Good and focused work with a solid result. Well done Boy. I wish my math was as good as yours!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Home School Activity: Can you tell a good joke?

The history of joking around: Joking is sometimes said to have been invented by Palamedes, the hero of Greek legend who outwitted Odysseus on the eve of the Trojan War. But since this ingenious fellow is also credited with inventing numbers, the alphabet, lighthouses, dice, and the practice of eating meals at regular intervals, the claim should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt.

In the Athens of Demosthenes, there was a comedians’ club called the Group of Sixty, which met in the temple of Heracles to trade wisecracks, and it is said that Philip of Macedon paid handsomely to have their jokes written down; but the volume, if it ever existed, has been lost.

On the Roman side, Plautus refers to jestbooks in a couple of his plays, while Suetonius tells us that Melissus, a favorite professor of the Emperor Augustus, compiled no fewer than a hundred and fifty joke anthologies.

Despite this, only a single jokebook survives from ancient times: the Philogelos, or “Laughter-Lover,” a collection in Greek that was probably put together in the fourth or fifth century A.D. It contains two hundred and sixty-four items, several of which appear twice, in slightly different form. This suggests that the volume is not one jokebook but two combined, a hunch borne out by the fact that it is attributed to two authors, Hierocles and Philagrius, although joint authorship was rare at the time. Virtually nothing is known about either man; there is some scholarly speculation that the Hierocles in question was a fifth-century Alexandrian philosopher of that name who was once publicly flogged in Constantinople for paganism, which, as one classicist has observed, “might have given him a taste for mordant wit.”

The difference between a joke and a riddle: Whereas jokes have a humorous punch line usually revealed by the teller (the teller doesn’t ask the listener a question), riddles are meant to be solved by the listener. The teller asks the listener a tricky question.

Both jokes and riddles help people to think analytically (think deeper than the words they are hearing) and to problem solve a whacky situation or question. Therefore, jokes and riddles can be a good learning tool.

Can you show the difference by giving an example of a joke and a riddle?



What do these jokes mean?

You can either answer the question by writing your answer, or,
Talk your answer onto a tape.
I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger....Then it hit me.

Remainder of jokes can be found at Analytical Thinking: A Joke.

Where'd the Library Go?

Boy did not sleep last night. He came and woke me at 2 AM claiming he had not yet been to sleep and could he get up and play World of War Craft …NO…grrrrrrr! Needless to say we had a bad start to home school this morning as his bed was far more enticing that my table covered with tasks for the day.

Research Skills: After the yelling abated (him at me) Boy settled into getting school over and done with as quickly as possible. He even went to the calendar himself and chose to research about Robinson Crusoe Day. He Googled it while I prepared his breakfast and attempted to read aloud. He had entered a site way too difficult for him but I helped himout by reading and explaining the big words. My gosh, I had never even heard of Robinsoe Crusoe Day, nor did I know the potential factual base to Defoe’s story.

Analytical Thinking: What a fizzer. I prepared a lesson sheet based on the history and functionality of jokes (the ones I posted last week). Given that people with Asperges are so literal in their receiving of information I had hoped to assist Boy develop some empathy toward understanding other people’s jokes. Oh no!!!!! He REALLY didn’t get half the jokes and I spent a long time helping him to understand humour, puns, jokes and riddles. This was great learning though and I even managed to get Boy to write down some answers (pictured). I will post the lesson sheet I prepared as a second blog because the history of jokes stemming from Greek legends is fascinating. Boy really enjoyed learning about it and was able to identify some of the Greek figures.

Studies of Science and Environment: This term we have a rich task focus on getting to know Boy’s community. Because of his anxiety and obsessions, we spend far too much time at home. When we go out, it is usually to places Boy is familiar with. He dislikes new and different things and I dislike the resultant meltdowns. So, trying to marry Robinson Crusoe Day with reading, we went to a small, satellite library in our suburb to get Robinson Crusoe. Boy is totally freaked out by our large city library and I didn’t want to force him to go to it but alas, our satellite library has been replaced with a construction site for a daycare centre. He gingerly agreed to go to the city library, but it was not a fun experience for either of us. We spent 10 minutes there, there were no copies of Robinson Crusoe or Daltora Quest (his request) and he had no patience for browsing, reading notices or engaging in chit chat. This was not a successful day for helping Boy to know his community!

Boy and his step dad do Math tomorrow…which means I get the day off. I’m going to town to have coffee with the girlfriends and then I’ll be going wedding shopping. Life is hard home schooling Asperger’s but life is also so damn good – I love it.

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