Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What's Going On With Little Bean

My regular readers may have noticed that I've been pretty quiet lately. I have a ton of stuff going on in my personal life that has kept me busy and kept me from feeling like posting. One of the things we've been dealing with as a family has to do with Little Bean. I thought I'd share about it here, only because who knows, others may be dealing with similar challenges, and also just to record my thoughts during this unique time in our lives.

We have always known that Little Bean was...different. He has always been highly intelligent, learning to talk very early and possessing a truly mind-boggling memory. He has also always been an anxious little boy, prefering his routines and becoming easily frustrated with anything that he couldn't master immediately. While his behavior outside the home has always been fantastic, whenever it was just the family, he would often throw tantrums and just go off his rocker at the slightest thing. It's like he has two emotional switches--on and off, and nothing in between. In the past, we always attributed his great behavior in public as a side effect of being a shy person. But lately, we've been examining his challenging behavior a little more closely, and it's led us to speaking with our pediatrician.

After hearing about our concerns, she referred us to a psychologist. We had a really nice appointment with her, and she suggested that he be tested for Asperger's Syndrome. It was so ironic that she mentioned that because when we started thinking more about his different issues and challenges, I mentioned to my dh that his problems reminded me of the limited knowledge I had of Asperger's Sydrome. I even purchased a book on Aspergers prior to our appointment. He has a lot of the characteristics of Aspergers (basically, high-functioning autism) like sensory issues, problems making friends, problems reading non-verbal social cues, anxiety, etc. But other things don't really fit him, like he doesn't have any of the repetitive speech or movements, and though he has a special interest (which is a characteristic of those with autism), it's not one of the typical kinds of special interests that I've read about. We are moving forward with the testing, but aren't sure when it will happen or how long it will take. In the mean time, a wonderful friend from church, who actually happens to be his Sunday School teacher, and has a son with Aspergers/HFA, has loaned me some books on the subject, so I've been busy reading and learning as much as I can. She is such a blessing in this time, because as his teacher in Sunday School and with her knowledge of AS, she can let me know of anything different she notices while he is with her. It's the faithfulness of God, I tell ya!

The therapist also suggested that he attend anger classes. Outsiders would never guess Little Bean has an anger problem....and actually I don't think he has an anger problem per say, it's more that he lacks the necessary tools to help him keep calm, so he has frequent tantrums and emotional outbursts over what seem like very small things to most people. I also think he tends to "hold it all in" in public and then when he comes home the anxiety from the day just spills out in the form of anger. We start the classes at the end of October, and I'm hopeful that he will gain some tools to help him manage his frustration from this class.

So right now, everything is like one big question mark--does he have Aspergers? If yes, what services are available to him? Does he have to be a public school student to receive services through the state? If he doesn't have it, what else could be causing the anxiety and social problems? I'll actually be relieved once all the testing is done and we have a firm yes or no; I've known for a long time that something wasn't right, now I just want to know what it is and how we can help him be a happy, successful, little boy.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Papa Came to Town!

A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of hosting the kid's grandpa for a few days. The kids hadn't seen him in about a year, so it was quite a treat! They were both so excited to spend time with him and show him their toys and school work! We hope to see you again soon, Papa (and this time bring Grandma, will you!)!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Speaking of Trinkets...

Our neighborhood had their annual garage sale this past weekend, and I picked up three bags (yes, three!) of trinkety toys for the kids--insects, dinosaurs and lizards. There has to be over a hundred little figures in the bags, and all for 75 cents! Can't beat that, and the kids love them!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Miss O's Version of The Littlest Pet Shop!

I don't know about your kids, but mine love those little squishy plastic toys you can get from the 25 cent machines. My dear husband is a sucker too when it comes to buying trinkets for them. So they both have quite the collection. Miss O made this little Lego pet shop for her squishies the other day! Cute, huh? ;)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

TOS Review--Pyramath Card Game

Recently I was given the chance to review a math card game called Pyramath, made by a company called I See Cards. According to their website, Pyramath is "a comprehensive, interactive, arithmetic lesson that gives your child unlimited practice at their individual level".

Pyramath is a one or two player game in which each player competes to form a pyramid out of the cards using the four mathematical operations--addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Pryamath can be adapted for any grade level, by simply reducing the number of operations that are allowed when playing. For instance, with my 5 year old 1st grader, I adapted the game rules to include only addition facts. He was able to play the game using only addition facts and ignoring the other three operations. Just to get a true feel for the game, I played it with my husband, using the full set of rules and all four operations. It was entertaining even for us as adults, which shows just how adaptable this product can be for individual ability levels.

Things I liked about it:

--Pyramath is a game that teaches. My ds loves games, and a game that helps him memorize his math facts is ideal, since it's exciting.

--The cards are well made, and included a booklet of instructions for several variations on the game--not just reducing the number of operations, but also rule adaptions, like Pyramath "War" to make the game more enticing and interesting for students. Note: the website did not specify whether this booklet is standard with all the card games or not, but I did see that it was included in the Math Success Bundle, which includes all three card games for $18.95.

--The game is adaptable for all grade levels, so it will last for a long time.

--The price! $6.95, need I say more? ;)

Things I think could be improved:

--The main issue I had with this game was that although it technically is adaptable for all levels by reducing the number of operations used to win the game, if you reduce the game to only addition, you end up going through the deck flipping card after card that can't be used. To explain: the game is set up with a row of 5 or 7 cards which form the base of your pyramid. The goal is to find a card from the draw pile that equals the sum of two adjacent cards. So if you choose a 5 card game, you have four possible sums to look for. This means that you end up flipping several cards before finding the one you need to move on. When you get to the next row, you have only three possible sums, and then two, and so on. So with each move your options get smaller and smaller when using only the addition rules. This is not an issue when playing the full game.

Also along the same line, when I played this with Little Bean, he actually couldn't win because we went through the whole deck and saw that we had used up all of the particular sum that he needed. If you were playing with all the operations, this would not likely happen because each pair of cards has four possible options, but if you adapt the game this is more likely.

--Finally, this game is kind of long for a 5 year old. Little Bean has a good attention span, but it took us about 30 minutes to play the game once he had the rules down because he had trouble keeping all the sums he was looking for in his mind at once, so each turn he had to go through and figure out if he had drawn a card that could be played or not. That being said, he ended up really enjoying this game despite it's length and says he would play it again. Not all 5 year olds have an attention span like his though.

The details:

Each Pyramath deck includes 54 game cards that are clearly labeled not just with traditional numerals, but also in four languages--English, Chinese, Spanish, and Arabic and French and Roman numeral translations. You can order a deck here for only $6.95! Also be sure to check out their other games--Fractazmic and Prime Bomb!



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Friday, September 3, 2010

Time 4 Learning Review

As a member of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew this year, I was given the opportunity to review a computer-based learning program called Time 4 Learning. I ended up using this subscription with Miss O, my 4 year old because I was assigned the Preschool/Pre K version for this review.



Time 4 Learning is a flexible, online program that can be used for homeschoolers as a part of their curriculum, or for supplementation for after-school or summer use. It includes Language Arts, Math, Social Studies and Science for grades Preschool through 8th grade, and costs $19.95 per month for the first child and $14.95 for subsequent children. For that price, your child can access the site as much or as little as they like, can move between 3 grade levels in the different subjects instantly, and can track their progress with Time 4 Learning's detailed progress reports.


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The preschool version of the program is unique in that your child will have access to two levels--Pre K 1, which consists of a variety of subjects such as shapes, colors, numbers, patterns, and the alphabet (plus much more), and Pre K 2, which has the same subjects, but more difficult concepts are introduced. For example, in Pre K 1, your child may review his basic colors. In Pre K 2, he would learn about color mixing or recall information about colors from a story that is read outloud to him (by the computer of course).

Pros:

--Time 4 Learning is FUN! Both my kiddos really loved the computer time and the games that each subject offered.

--Time 4 Learning provided them with keyboarding and mousing practice that usually isn't a high priority in our house. I was really impressed with how easily Miss O was able to learn to use the mouse, and I think the wide mouse ranges Time 4 Learning builds in made it that much easier for her.

--Time 4 Learning is ad-free. Time 4 Learning is a safe place for your child where you know they will not be exposed to ads that you prefer they not see.

--For each subject, the child works through a series of different types of games, then at the end, Time 4 Learning has an idea button. When you click it, you are sent to a page that gives you ideas to extend the learning for your student outside of playing on the computer. I really liked this feature!

Cons:

--There were some stories or games that I felt were either a) lacking value or b) didn't provide enough feedback to the child. There were some games where the student has to choose between several options and each time they get answer wrong, that choice is eliminated. The only way to figure out the answer if the child truly did not know the information is by process of elimination. Then, even if they didn't get the answer until the very last choice, that game is marked at completed, even though if you are sitting with your child it is clear that the child did not understand the information.

--If you are really picky about how your child learns something (like reading or math), then Time 4 Learning may not be for you. The curriculum is not individualized, and you do not have a choice in how your child is learning the information. That being said, I would caution anyone who thinks that Time 4 Learning alone will teach their child all that they need to know; it is designed to enhance and supplement the education your child is already getting either at home, in preschool or both.

--Because Time 4 Learning is computer-based, there is a loss of "face time" with your child. Even if the both of you sit down and do it together, there is still less personal contact than if you were playing education games together rather than on the computer. That's not to say that there isn't value in letting preschoolers use the computer, but just to point out that one must moderate time spent on the computer with more personal face-to-face time with an adult or with other children.

Other than that, I thought Time 4 Learning was a really fun product! I know my kids would love to have a regular subscription to this site. I would be interested to see how the site works for older children, since my 1st grader was particularly motivated to learn whenever I suggested spending time on Time 4 Learning.

If you are interested in using Time 4 Learning with your preschooler, I encourage you to hop on over to their site and see what it's all about. There are demo lessons you can look over as well as an extensive FAQ page.


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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Warm and Cool Colors

Yup, we are still working on the color lapbook, and it's been so much fun! Here is a little project the kiddos did to learn about warm and cool colors.

First we got some fabric scraps from my mom, making sure to choose fairly solid colors and a variety of both warm and cool colors. We talked about warm and cool colors--what colors made them feel warm and cozy like the sun? What colors made them feel cool like ice and snow and winter mornings? They seemed to understand this intuitively. I made a lapbook tri-fold book to go along with this project since this obviously wouldn't be going into our lapbook.

Next, I cut out a big rectangle of contact paper and labeled the two sides warm and cool. The kids each had a pile of fabric scraps and sorted the fabric into the two catgories. These turned out really pretty and pleasing to the eye!
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