This blog is no longer kept.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Imaginif...Child Protection Became Serious Business

Home school is out for the day because...we've gone live with our new website: Imaginif...Child Protection Became Serious Business.

My poor Boy. He has had to endure a very tired mother, change of home school routine to fit around mother's pressing web site copy madness and a telephone that has constantly interrupted our together time.

Routine is important to kids with Aspergers and routine we have not had. The upside for Boy though is that the constant experiments I have set up for him (to create some time for me to test the web site) have captured his interest, and led him to read instructions that once he would never have read and to search on the internet for topics that once he would have relied on me to do.

The biggest natural learning for Boy has been in interactive web site development. He now uses terms like blog platform through wordpress, forum platform, and html. Already familiar with terms like child protection, child safety, protective behaviours and social justice, Boy appears to have grasped that these terms mean nothing unless they are put into action. He told me he knows that interactive means that individuals have to interact in child protection ways or kids will keep getting hurt.

I near cried when the above gem came out of his mouth. He's got it. He has, in simplistic terms, summarised what I teach to university students. Boy's understanding and integration of complex social definitions blew me away. I am so proud of him. Although he has Aspergers, he has grasped the shades of grey around behaviour and community participation in keeping kids safe. I just so wish that this post had been written to add to the most recent Carnival Against Child Abuse because Boy's juvenile understanding is future child protection in the making.

I love you Boy: all the way up to the stars, the moon and back again.

Grab a cuppa and come and have a look at our new home on the web. There are blogs by many different child safety focused writers, forums in which to talk about any child protection issue (sun safety, road safety, safe parenting, etc) and a protective play shop. If you chose to join our forum you receive a free 10 page protective play tutorial, jam packed with play and activity ideas to keep your kids safe. Use the ideas as home school study around personal safety.

Imaginif...child protection became serious business.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Melt and Mould Soap Making

Today we made soap as a home school activity. Boy does not prioritise personal hygiene and I'm sure that when he does bath, the soap remains dry! Not unusual for kids with Aspergers, personal hygiene is often far from their mind. We've tried the novelty of electric toothbrushes, very expensive gorgeous spelling soaps from Lush, shampoos of every variety and now we need a new trick to get Boy into the bath and washing the dirt and sweat off.

Trying the Melt and Mould soap kits that I've recently listed in my on-line protective behaviour shop, Boy and I made four different soaps (there's still enough base left to make another two soaps): two coloured and scented with Mango and two opaque, scented with Passionfruit. The opaque soap making was the hit.

Into the soap moulds we put two toys prior to poring (yes, it really is that easy: melt the soap base and pour it into a mould) the melted, clear soap liquid. One toy was a wooden key ring of Boys choice and the other - well, what can I say - I think I have a budding entrepreneur on my hands.

Boy chose a flashing LED soft plastic ring. Rather than submerging the ring and completely covering it with soap, Boy suggested that we make a soap ring. We carefully balanced the ring in the setting soap (so that the finger part was exposed) and waited for it to dry. Boy could not wait to try it out. He rather fancied the idea of wearing his soap like a ring and scrubbing himself without having to hold the slippery soap in his hand.

It struck me that Boy's slipping hygiene corresponded with the cessation of his youth worker hours. The youth worker spent ample time with Boy talking about hygiene being a social skill: if you are stinky, people get slinky. They slink off to get away from you. Now that Youth Worker is out of the picture, I guess that Boy fails to understand why he needs to smell clean. We expect cleanliness yet don't necessarily teach it. Today's activity provided me ample teachable moments to talk about the different types and styles of soap and how they often smell different depending on the chemistry of an individuals skin.

We're off to bathe now. Wonder if Boy will "ring me" from the bathroom?

An economical and fun home school activity, we've used the completely natural melt and mould glycerin soap kits from Renascent College. Now a retailer of their soap kits, we're never going to be short of creative ways to get Boy trialing our new soaps. It's not school work, it's Boy helping Mum to try new products (if only he knew the suds I sink to for encouraging his education!).

UPDATE: Big girl (21) tried out the ring soap. Her verdict, "WICKED!" When switched on, the LED flashes through the opaque soap. It is very, very cool and Boy has already had two baths.
Second update: Big girl's friends came around and thought the ring soap was "cack" (intonations and facial expressions suggested the translation was "cool"). Everyone in our house has very clean hands. This was GREAT for Boy's self-esteem.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Volcanoes in the Backyard

Our verandah table was washed away with bubbling lava and joyous laughter from three children (okay, one child, one 20 year old and one old[er]adult). Boy's kitchen science evolved into a more elaborate demonstration of the volcanic forces of vinegar and bicarbonate soda.

We made a plaster of paris mountain around a small plastic vial. Once the plaster was dry, Boy painted it to resemble hot lava flowing down and destroying trees in its path. Into the plastic vial we added vinegar (dyed pink with food colouring) and bicarb soda. The resultant eruption was pure bliss for Boy who kept adding bicarb until my box was empty!!!

A wonderful, easy and frugal home school experiment that encompassed chemical reactions and art, Boy has played with his new toy for hours. All you need is plaster of paris, water to mix, a small plastic vial/jar, a cardboard cone to place over the vial (we made one from a cereal box) and on which to plaster the plaster, and paint to decorate the plaster mountain. Add vinegar and baking soda to the vial, and watch your volcano spew its fury forth.

Hint for the volcano lava - add a drop of dish washing detergent and note the difference in the lava flow.

Boy's youth work hours on Mondays have been used up. Looking to replace this with another Monday group activity, Boy chose beading classes. At our first lesson, Boy produced a necklace that he hasn't taken off since (pictured). We plan to attend every Monday morning but I have had to place a monetary freeze at $10.00 per lesson.

Boy's eyes widened in glee as he surveyed the array of gem stone beads. While they are indeed beautiful, the cost of them falls well outside our weekly budget. And then...Boy spotted the leather thronging in all colors of the rainbow. Quiet impressive and double the price of jewellery wire it is! Even more impressive though was that Boy knew the names of most of the gem beads. Lapidary classes are paying off with overall learning.

In an effort to instill real life budgeting, Boy has to stay within the $10.00 limit. If he chooses to make a full necklace, he has to use budget beads. If he chooses to use leather thronging, he will need to sacrifice quantity of beads and rely upon a few well chosen beads separated with knots rather than spacer beads.
Eager to use the beautiful glass and gem stone beads that he was in awe of, Boy has been collecting loose change to add to his $10.00 limit. Without even meaning to teach financial skills, beading classes have opened up new teachable moments and probable presents for all the females in the family. My favourite colour is red, I keep telling him. He hasn't got it yet!

In our travels to find a Youth group replacement, we stumbled upon a supply of crystal flowers. At only $2.00 each, we purchased a bulk lot for Boy to play with and for me to use in my work with children. A most effective display of crystal growth, Boy has used so many already that I wonder if I'll have any left for work. Check it out: it's Christmas in July already!

And finally, new web site is almost ready. We are going live this Thursday, the 17th of May. For a sneak preview and to find out exactly why I've been so busy, have a look at Imaginif's new home. I hope you consider joining us in the forums and getting some good discussion going around child safety and protection.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Science in the Kitchen: the Bicarb Experiment

What happens when Bicarbonate of Soda (aka Baking Powder) is mixed with different pantry products?

What you need: Bicarbonate of soda, drinking glasses, teaspoon, a range of different pantry liquids.

Method: Boy set up five glasses and add an inch of the following products: one product per glass.

  • Malt vinegar

  • Balsamic Vinegar

  • Water

  • Mango Juice

  • Coca-Cola

Systematically, and one at a time, Boy added a teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda to the liquids.

Outcome: The different results were marked:

  • Malt vinegar fizzed

  • Balsamic Vinegar really fizzed up

  • Water did not fizz at all (this may change depending on the pH of your water supply)

  • Mango Juice did not fizz

  • Cocoa-Cola fizzed.

Variations: Add different amounts of Bicarb to five glasses of the same liquid. After the experiment was over, Boy added double the original amount of Bicarb to the malt vinegar. It produced a greater fizz and the bubbles crept up over the top of the glass and down the side to make a nice little fizzing mess on the bench!! Worked well though.

How does this work: Bicarbonate of Soda reacts with acids, releasing carbon dioxide which bubbles up through the solution. The more acidic a liquid, the more fizz produced. But what about when cooking butter, sugar and Bicarb together? That creates a fizz yet there’s no acid in the ingredients? Sugar likes to oxidize so that’s why you get a fizz when you add bicarb to a mixture on the stove (like Anzac Biscuits).

Boy’s rating of this Science in the kitchen project: 5/5.

For more simple science experiments for early and middle school years, have a look at Deakin University’s Ideas for Teaching Science: Years P-8 Chemical Change

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Art of Learning

Boy likes art. Boy HATES anything that looks remotely like traditional school. Eager to expand his creative mind and burgeoning artistic talents we spend ample time on art projects and weaving unschooling principles into suggestions, presentation and home school work time. To achieve this I have had to unschool myself and treat Boy as my academic equal – as though he is one of my university students.

This morning he begged for art. He nominated a yearning for drawing mountains. Ummm, this did not fit my plan for reading and comprehension. How could I weave my requirements for overall learning with his need for creativity?

“No worries darling. I just have to put this book away. Actually, it’s got some great photos of mountains and volcanoes if you want to have a peek for inspiration.”

I was born and raised in Papua New Guinea: a mountainous place of constant earth tremors and erupting volcanoes. A friend, who also spent most of her early adult life in Papua New Guinea, gave us a coffee table book on Papua New Guinea as a present for our recent wedding. When handing it over she said it was to help new husband understand where and how I was raised and why I am the person I am.

I told Boy the story she told as she handed the book across at my hen’s party:

I met Megan when our biggest children were very little. The kids were attending a group and every week, Megan was huddled in a corner poring over books and writing notes. When curiosity got the better of me, I approached Megan and began a conversation. Megan said she was studying for another degree. After only 10 minutes of talking with her, I asked if she was a “territorial brat” (a white child raised in one of the Australian territories, Papua New Guinea). Territorial brats grew up thinking they owned the world, could do anything and allowed nothing to stop their thirst for knowledge, practical learning and artful navigation of life. Megan fitted the mould to a T. It is because of Megan that I decided to go to university. Now that I’ve gone back to do a Masters degree, would you believe that: that little territorial brat has become my lecturer!
Interested in my early life that turned me into a monster (his words, not mine!), Boy began flicking through the book and asking me questions. Enthralled by my animated stories of jumping out of bed in the middle of the night to stand under doorframes until the quake was over, Boy asked a myriad of questions around lava, poisonous gas and the weight of volcanic ash. While story telling, Boy began drawing a volcano (pictured with the inspirational book).

Even more interested in how to become a “territorial brat”,
Boy questioned how he also could rule the world.

“It’s all in the way you ask the questions and respond to people. Listening, responding and standing up for yourself are skills. You can them in a helpful way or a not so helpful way. That book club surprise you got last month is all about how to rule the world.”

Eager to capitalize upon the teachable moment, I hoped that I could find the book in Boy’s incredibly disorganized room. Bingo. It was right beside his bed.

“I read that. It’s boring,” Boy scoffed.

“Really? You must have just read the boring bits because check this out: "This book is all about how to deal with other people and get what you want from them, whether it’s a new bike, a fair deal, or a little respect” and “What to say to Grown-ups who treat you like a kid.”

After reading the first chapter together, Boy changed his mind about the book being boring. He completed the pop quiz that resulted in an analysis of:
“You have an okay idea of how to handle yourself, but you don’t always make the best decisions about what to say or do. Don’t worry – that’s where this book comes in! Read on to learn how to get through all kinds of sticky situations.”

How Aspergers does that analysis sound?! As I type, Boy is at the kitchen table drawing a picture of how to get me to stop treating him like a little kid. What an artful way of learning.

To learn more about the art of storytelling, have a look at
this article I wrote. Here is another one on being self-assertive. Both are useful ideas to teach to children and to use as home school lessons.

Finally, and just because I cannot fit them into anything else, here are some quilt squares I made for our
Wedding quilt. I had terrific fun telling Boy my story behind the quilt square symbols and listening to him embellish the stories beyond belief.

A Quick Spell for Busy Home School Parents

Poor Boy. I've been so busy this last week, preparing the new web site, that he has done nothing more than Kinetic Math and English. Like a kid made to eat only cabbage, he is so sick of it and is screaming for diversity.

"How about you wash the floor for me? That's as diverse as you can get. In fact, it's probably a new skill for you!"

"You're boring Mum. Who votes Mum gets some new jokes?" ......and so the discourse proceeded.

Stretching into my inner creativity, I attempted to find interesting yet mother labour light educational activities for Boy. While staring into my wardrobe hoping that creativity would jump off a hanger and wrap itself around me, I spotted two bags of large wooden painted letters.

"Nah. He hates scrap booking and I have to be there with him to help." As I thought it, creativity swung its foot at me and caught me in the temple. As I stooped in pain, my hand latched onto the bags of letters. Before I even had a chance to consider how to spell concussion, bags, I and a fold up table were silently conversing in a lounge room strategy meeting: planning our spelling and word formation attack against Boy.

Letters piled atop the table, Boy walked past and asked what I was doing.

"Just taking a spell darling," (where did that hypnotic suggestion come from). "I was thinking that I would sell these on the website so just wanted to ensure they are all okay."

"Can I have them?"

"No! These are precious scrap booking supplies, not toys. Now go back and do another Math unit."

Gazing upon my time saving genius, I smiled wickedly to myself. "He's not going to be able to resist it," I thought evilly. "You're very clever Megan."

By the end of the home school day and without any prompting or help from me, Boy had formed as many words as he could. While I sat and prepared copy for the new website, Boy sought out additional, little chipboard letters from my art trolley. He discovered he needed more vowels to make words.

"What are you doing?" I asked innocently as he scavenged through the art trolley.

"Nothing," he replied in an excited tone. "Just taking a spell."

For a quick spell for the busy home school parent, buy some cheap chipboard letters from an art supply store and throw them on the table. Allow your child to formulate their own activity. Spelling, word shapes, spatial practice (putting two different letters on top of each other to form a different letter) and sentence construction, create yourself a time spell and put a little educational magic into your busy life.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Carnival of Australia: Number Two Cockatoo

Welcome to the May 9, 2007, second edition of the Carnival of Australia. Like a pair of Cockatoos this edition of the Carnival of Australia is making some noise about protecting our environment and keeping Australia (and Australians) safe.

Colin Campbell presents Camel Burger Anyone? posted at Adelaide Green Porridge Cafe. Colin humps us off by saying, "Interesting issues related to how to manage and productively use over a million wild camels." Buffalo burgers, crocodile burgers, and now camel burgers. It's interesting how we Aussies cope with our unwanted excess. Colin ponders whether beer or wine would suit camel. Either choice Colin, because we sure don't have excess water to wash the camel down with.

Michelle encourages us to bag plastic in Being Green posted at My New Shiny Shoes. “I am green and it’ll do fine, it’s beautiful! And I think it’s what I want to be.” Thanks Kermit, Michelle couldn’t have said it better herself!

Laurie Joyce, in the Curse of the Loner posted over at Sunrays and Saturdays - An ordinary life, discusses two early childhood incidents that shaped his existence. Like many Australian boys, mateship was Laurie's life. When the mateship was interrupted, Laurie found himself grieving the loss. Further, Laurie's Dad was a drinker and having mates around to play was all too difficult. Laurie coped by retreating to the safety of his shed: a habit that has become a solid part of the man he is today.

Gillian continues to fight poverty through education by blogging at the School of St Judes. In To capture hearts and minds, Gillian updates us on how Australian Media has taken to the cause of one of our own, Gemma Sisa. Gemma is home from Tanzania to tour her new book and to thank Aussies for being so supportive to those who have little. Go Aussie, go. We really are a nation of givers.

Sue over at Spasmodic Dysphonia has been faced with an act of disability discrimination from a large Australian banking institution: Dystonia and Commonly Held Perceptions. Far from happy and no longer feeling safe, Sue took the bank to task for suggesting that her intelligence and lack of voice was the real problem, rather than a banking system glitch. Since posting the article, Sue has informed me that a satisfactory outcome has been reached and an apology offered. Discrimination is NOT the Aussie way.

Emily from World Grows Wide is having a slight Hiatus. Fulfilling the young Aussie rite of passage, Emily is off to holiday in England. Stay safe Emily. Our best wishes go with you.

Boy from Home Schooling Aspergers finally got through the hoards of Japanese tourists to get up close and personal with Australia's favourite animal. In How Much can a Koala Bear? Boy and his mother took a home school excursion to the tropical zoo in the middle of their home town, Cairns. Great photography Mum.

Speaking of home schooling, the crew at Schola are having a great time deciding whether instructions are useful or not. In Projects, mother home schooler decides that, "Instructions are always optional." Have a look at their paper model of the Pharos at Alexandria and their magnificent crystal tree.

And finally there's me. What is Megan up to over at Child Protection: Serious Business? Super busy with creating a new web site, I've put a call out for child safety blog writers: Imaginif...Child Protection Became Serious Business. Australia leads the field again with our aim to be the biggest on-line child protection conversation in the world.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of the Carnival of Australia (hosted at Adelaide Green Porridge Cafe on May 23) using our carnival submission form. We look forward to submissions from many new Aussie bloggers. Come on Aussie, c'mon, c'mon. What's a carnival without blog seekers?

Past posts and future hosts for the Carnival of Australia can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Scratch and Sniff, Beer and Skittles.

"How much?" I asked aghast. "For two tubes of ointment?!!"

Boy's health has cost me a small fortune this week. High temperatures, nausea, aching muscles, splitting headaches, Asperger's obsessions and fatigue finally drove us to the pediatrician.

Not only did Boy have a regular child hood virus this week, he has also scratched the midgy bites on his legs and they are nicely infected. Our efforts at ensuring a balanced home education program for Boy have cost us greatly.

Boy went fishing with his mentor last Sunday and then the following day, Boy bush walked with his youth worker. Both highly prized activities and designed to ensure socialization outside of our family, Boy has gladly suffered the pain on his spotty legs. I, on the other hand, have not gladly suffered the pain on my purse.

A tendency toward obsessive compulsions, Boy continually scratched his legs whenever he was still. This was more than scratching an itch, he obsessively scratched until he had blood running down his legs. Once he began, he found it difficult to stop and I caught him scratching all manner of things, wooden table included. Desperate to intervene in the compulsion, I attempted to engage Boy in cognitive refocus on anything that did not look like schoolwork. Reading. What unusual books could I offer him that would refocus his mind and require the use of his hands?

Combining Boy's scratching obsession with a glossy women's magazine, I provided Boy with a two page scratch and sniff advertisement for Mother's Day. Cringing at the thought of holding a girl's magazine, Boy could not resist the temptation to scratch. He smelt the first perfume and interested, moved on the next. We had a hit. Boy fully engaged with scratching, sniffing, reading what the smell was and laughing at the RRP of the featured products (there goes my chance of new perfume for Mother's Day!).

Seizing the teachable moment, I suggested we play a scratch and smell game. Blind folded, I led Boy to a scratch and smell table spread with fruit, vegetable and saucers of condiments and liquids. He guessed some of the vegetables by touch but he had a great time scratching, sniffing AND munching on some of the others.

One of the saucers was filled with the Aussie standard: beer. Boy loved involving this forbidden fruit in a game and it has started a new obsession: Beer box kicking. Rescuing beer boxes from the recycling spot, Boy has been busy making towers, forts and people. Once erected, they get kicked down like skittles. A great game that has kept him interested, active and hand busy so that the dreaded leg scratching ritual is interrupted.

But...the head on the brew was Boy's reading of every word on the beer box! Who would have guessed that a scratch and smell beer sample would have led to obsession interruption and voluntary reading! Go, this home school freedom. No matter what it costs me, or what I have to use, the capital gain in Boy's learning is worth it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Sick Day

Boy and I are both crook (Aussie slanguage for unwell) today and have done zero home school learning. While I understand this is boring to you, I am just recording it here for home school diary purposes.

We are like a pair of Blue Tongue Lizards, dragging ourselves around and sticking our blue tongues out to taste the health of the air around us. still tastes rotten so we'll see you all tomorrow or the next day.

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