Monday, November 29, 2010

Review: My Animal Family


As a part of the Homeschool Crew this year, I received a copy of My Animal Family Nanuq, a picture book all about polar bears. My Animal Family has four picture books to choose from: Ella (elephants), Leo (lions), Korow (chimpanzee) and Nanuq (a baby polar bear). Designed for children ages 3 to 9, each hardback book is beautifully illustrated, with concise, well-written text that is very engaging for children. Along with the book, your child will enjoy a live-action DVD that features real video footage of the featured animal. In addition, My Animal Family has an activity website, which, upon purchasing the story book your child will gain access to. We were able to access the website once, and were pleased with the activities there, but when we tried to access it again, we were unable to log on despite multiple attempts. I am unsure as to whether this is a problem on my end or something with the company. Nevertheless, for $12.99, you are getting a good value even without the website portion.

Things we liked:

--the book has very pretty illustrations, and a good story line, which is both factual and brings the polar bears in the story alive for your child.

--the book and DVD, I found were both well thought out and fun for the children. The DVD features polar bear footage, a song about polar bears and polar bear fun facts (Did you know that a polar bears hair is actually clear, not white?).

--$12.99 is not a bad price for a hardback children's book and a DVD.

Things that were disappointing:

--Despite multiple attempts to access the web activities after our initial try, I was not able to do so, and although I sent in for a new password, I never received one.

My take: I personally really liked this book, and I am totally the type of person who would collect all four for my kids or as gifts. The DVD was really cute (narrated by Nanuq himself!)! ;) However, the fact that I could not access the website was disappointing for my children. I would contact the company personally to find out the reason behind this problem before deciding to purchase another from their series. Assuming they responded to me in a timely manner and with a good explanation, I would purchase more of these books.

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book for review purposes. No other compensation was given, and all opinions are mine.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Autistic Disorder

I never thought I'd ever have a reason to type those words on my blog, but alas, I do. We received a diagnosis for Little Bean a few days ago, and his scores are consistent with a diagnosis of Autistic Disorder--meaning, Autism. He was observed over two sessions by a clinical psychologist and she performed the ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Module 3) on him. He showed deficits in social interaction, communication, and imaginative play, and she observed self-stimulatory behavior during her time with him like spinning and repetitive speech.
Although I fully expected a diagnosis of Aspergers or PDD-NOS, I had not entertained the thought that he would get a diagnosis of Autism. It was very hard for me to hear those words being said about my little boy. His therapist is a wonderful woman though, and she made sure to point out several times that the things she was saying about him in no way presented the whole picture of who Little Bean is, and I was grateful that she pointed that out. Also, as she began to explains some of the things he did during their time together, I realized that the diagnosis of Autism is right for him.

We are at a major crossroads at this point. His therapist had three basic recommendations for him--that he get an IEP if he does end up in school, that he get into 1:1 therapy for social skills training, and that he get into a social skills group therapy situation. Also, she recommends an Occupational Therapy evaluation to address his sensory needs. Most of this will be covered by our current insurance plan, all except the social skills group. However, that therapy alone is going to cost us about $10,000 dollars a year (yes you read that right), since it's not covered. He is too high functioning, unfortunately to get funding from our state.

Also, there are rumors floating around my husband's work that the insurance plan is going to change. At that point, I have no idea what he will be able to have covered, if anything. And to add to that, we are looking at relocating to OK--in which case, we would have to switch plans anyway. The move is something that is really important to us for a variety of reasons, so we are still pursuing that route despite this new diagnosis.

Another option would be to put Little Bean in public school, try to get some therapy services that way. There are multiple problems we have with that, one of which is that we just don't feel public school is the best place for our children.

So we have a lot of prayerful considerations to make at this time. Top it off with the fact that both the kids and I have colds this weekend.

On this Thanksgiving, despite the uncertain future we face with this new diagnosis and the insurance/job situation, we have MUCH to be thankful for--friends and family who love us and support us in so many ways, a happy and healthy home, and especially a God who knows my son through and through and holds him in the palms of his mighty hands.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Upcoming Review and Giveaway!

Do you have a child who chews on his or her clothing, toys, or hands? I do. Little Bean, my five year old, still mouths and chews on everything, similar to how a toddler would. It's unsanitary for him and tedious for me to constantly be telling him to keep things out of his mouth. Yet, he seems to really crave and have a need for that oral stimulation. I had to find a more sanitary solution for him.

I contacted Kid Companions, a family-owned company that markets chewable necklaces for babies, toddlers and older children who have a need to chew. They have graciously agreed not only to send me one of their necklaces for review, but also to give one away to one of my readers! So stay tuned in the next couple of weeks for my review and giveaway, and in the mean time, go on over to their website and decide which necklace or fidget you want to win for that special person in your life!

Note: These chewable necklaces are great for children with Sensory Processing Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorders, or related issues.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Review: KB Teachers

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If you are into lapbooking, notebooking, unit study or find yourself scouring the Internet for printable worksheets, handouts, and charts for your students or kids, then let me tell you something--you need KB Teachers!

As a part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a subscription to KB Teachers, a website that offers all kinds of printable tools and materials for teachers and homeschool moms alike. The website offers a huge selection of high quality printable resources for several content areas, and is extremely well organized. In fact, KB Teachers is so well organized that they don't even have a search function on their website. Everything is so clearly laid out, that you know exactly where to find what you need! I was dubious about the lack of a search option at first, but the folks at KB Teachers have proven me wrong--a website can actually be that organized that a search function isn't necessary!

Geared toward Preschool through 8th grade, KB Teachers offers some free printables, and allows you full access to view the premium material at no cost. Simply upgrade for a fee of $29 dollars a year or $49 dollars for two years to be able to print anything on the site. There is no "per download" fee and no limit to how much you can print from the site when you access the premium features. There is really nothing at all to lose and much to gain when you visit KB Teachers--you have total access for free to browse the material and see if it's something you think is worth subscribing to. So there is no risk in purchasing a membership because you know exactly what you are getting before you buy.

In addition to plenty of ready-made printables, KB Teachers also offers customizable worksheets that you can preview and change to your liking before printing. I was particularly impressed with the science and social studies printables. There are loads of worksheets and informational printables on an array of interesting subjects like dinosaurs, the solar system, marine biology, the human body, plants. These are not your run of the mill worksheets, either. They are all very well made and purposeful (they lack that 'busy-work' feel, for sure!). The sheer volume of quality material is exciting to me! My mind is already churning with lapbooking/notebooking ideas for Little Bean. And frankly, I'm super excited that I don't have to waste precious time scouring the Internet for printables relevant to our current area of interest. Everything I need is organized right there in front of me and waiting for me to print it out!

And for your youngers, KB Teachers has plenty of basic skills worksheets, customizable handwriting worksheets, early math and reading worksheets and seasonal materials. KB Teachers also has a bunch of craft ideas with full printable instructions which are categorized by grade level. In addition, KB Teachers offers over 600 jpeg unlicensed images to download for personal use on your own worksheets, your blog, hand-outs etc.

If you have been considering joining a printable site, you really can't go wrong with KB Teachers. I was and am very impressed with the website itself in terms of content and organization and I think for the price, especially for those who do a lot of printable stuff or spend copious amounts of time making their own worksheets, KB Teachers can be a real asset and convenience.

Disclaimer: I was given this product in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine and I was not compensated in any way for my review.

Monday, November 15, 2010

TOS Review: Tomahawk Kit

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I was excited to receive a Tomahawk craft kit from Corps of Re-Discovery as a part of the TOS Crew. Both of my kids really enjoy putting together crafts like the ones available from Corps of Re-Discovery, and the fact that these crafts can tie into our history lessons is a bonus.

Corps of Re-Discovery is a family owned and run business that seeks to help young people "re-discover" history through high quality projects that enhance the child's study of American Indians, Pioneer and Colonial times and Frontiersmen.

Corps of Re-Discovery has a range of products from Tomahawk and Moccasin kits to candle dipping and clothespin doll kits, and are very reasonably priced. The Tomahawk kit is only $5.50, and if you are currently studying American Indians, can really enhance the learning experience and make it fun for your child.

The Tomahawk kit comes with a soft leather blade, making it safe for children to play with, a wooden handle and leather lace to assemble it. The materials are very sturdy. Children can also decorate the handle to their liking with paints (not included).

Overall, my kids really enjoyed putting this kit together. It was a bit simplistic since they chose not to decorate the handle at all, but the enjoyment was still there. Also several of the other kits on their site seemed like they would be fun for my kids as well.

If you are interested in these types of products, visit their website and check out what they have to offer!

Disclaimer: I received this product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated in any way and all opinions are mine.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Asperger's Update

Remember I mentioned that Little Bean is being evaluated for Asperger's Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum Disorder? Well we are done with the evaluation process, now we are just waiting to go back and discuss the results with the specialist.

Little Bean spent about and hour and a half with the specialist where she performed some tests on him for autism spectrum disorder. Boy would I have liked to be a fly on the wall during that time! Then she spent another hour and a half with us interviewing us about his behavior at home and our concerns for him in terms of his development. The entire process was very eye opening. I felt like she got a pretty good sense of what we are seeing at home and also that she was able to explain some things to us that I had not really thought of or paid attention to in the past.

One of the things that I realized Little Bean really lacks is eye contact. He doesn't totally avoid it, but his eye contact is very fleeting and he doesn't have joint attention at all. He often shares things with me that he finds interesting or exciting, but he doesn't ever LOOK at me when he is sharing. For all he knows I could be reading a book and he wouldn't notice if I were paying attention or not because he doesn't actually look at me to see. Lacking joint attention is a red flag for autism spectrum disorder. An infant of about 15 months should be able to engage in joint attention.

Another area I had not really understood fully is his social functioning. He has always been shy and seemed apart from the other kids in group settings. Last night we dropped him off at Awanas and we watched him playing with the other kids through the gym window. It's amazing to me that I didn't pay attention to this earlier. He was comepletely out of sync with the other kids. While he did WANT to join in, he was just different. It's hard to explain, but to see it made it clear to me that he was not like the other kids. This went beyond being shy or hesitant, which is what I had always thought he was.

Since he was referred for testing, I've been paying a lot more attention to some of the signs that are markers for autism. Where before I thought he was just a quirky kid, now I'm seeing where there is a strong possibility that he is on the spectrum. Either way, the label doesn't matter so much as getting him the therapy and help that he needs, and that is why we have gone down this path. I'm all over the place in terms of how I am feeling about it all. I am glad we are addressing it now and getting him the help he needs. I'm upset that our pediatrician never asked us important questions about his development in these areas or showed concern about it. I wish there were simple screenings that could have been done earlier. There are times I'm upset with myself for not noticing the signs earlier, and there are times that I feel comepletely inadequete as a parent. I have always thought I was a really good parent--in the sense that I spent a lot of time and effort trying to raise them right--and I thought he was such a good kid because of my efforts. One of the things I'm realizing is that developmentally he was missing some of those important milestones that cause the difficult behavior--social reciprocity mainly. He has always been very willing to play on his own for long periods of time--even hours when he was a baby (like 12 to 24 mo). He would sit and read alone, not bringing things to show me or asking for help with things. Also since I really would like another child, it worries me because statiscally if you have one child with ASD the chances are higher that the next child will have it. Miss O doesn't seem to though she is shy, she does have joint attention and is very social and intuitive when it comes to socializing and fitting in. I'm also tired of being in limbo, so to speak, not knowing whether he has it or not, and if he doesn't what IS going on with him.

If would like to see some interesting videos comparing typical children with those at risk for ASD, please go to Autismspeaks.org and sign up to see them. There are some really good ones on joint attention and repetitive behaviors/speech (which Little Bean does have after all). Also, I am participating in Autism Speaks Walk for Autism in Southern California this weekend on November 13th. If you live nearby and would like to walk with us, you can join our team here. Or, if you would like to donate, please visit my personal page here and see how you can help fund more research for Autism Spectrum Disorders like Asperger's Syndrome. Learn more about Autism Speaks here.

Anyway, sorry for the rambling! We go on Tues to speak again to the autism specialist, so probably will know for sure by then.

Color Lapbook--Finally Finished


Well the color lapbook I started with Miss O ages ago is finally finished and I'm finally ready to post about it! I ended making my own pieces for a lot of this lapbook, but I am not familiar with how to share files via my blog, so if you personally want any pieces, please contact me and I can send you the ones I've made. Others I did get from off the web and have resourced those at the bottom of this post.


This lapbook was a lot of fun for everyone, including me! We did a lot of projects to suppliment the learning and also checked out some books from the library about art and color concepts. We did the warms and cool colors collage, the primary colors quilt, experimented with making secondary colors and we did some work with constrasting colors. Click the links to see our projects!


Here is the inside of our lapbook--on the left we have a basic colors mini-book, below that a book about mixing colors, and below that our constrasting colors project. In the middle we have the color wheels I made, and a color wheel resourced at the bottom of this post. On the right, another printable, check below for resources.
This is the ABC colors book, I made this myself, where we tried to think of a color name for every letter in the alphabet.

Here we used this printable (see below for resource) to do shades of colors.
This skin tones one I made myself.
And then here we have warm and cool colors, earth tones and neutral tones, all of these I made myself.

Color Mixing Mini book: http://www.tooter4kids.com/Light_Color/colorsallaroundus.htm

RoyGBiv Printable:
http://lapbooksbycarisa.homestead.com/roygbiv.with_colored_letters.pdf

Color Wheel: http://www.kidzone.ws/science/colorwheel.htm

Shades of color printable: http://confessionsofahomeschooler.blogspot.com/2009/11/my-printables.html

Cover Rainbow: http://www.homeschoolhelperonline.com/worksheets/pre_school/rainbow.htm

Color Wheel pie activity: http://desktoppub.about.com/od/howcolorworks/ss/Color-Basics-Desktop-Publishing.htm

What Color Do You See? http://www.thebestcompanyever.com/Site/Mini_Books_files/Mini%20Book-Colors%20%28I%20see%29.pdf

Color Wheel Book: www.enchantedlearning.com

I am an artist book: http://files.homeschoolshare.com/docs54478/I_am_artist/art%20book.pdf

Monday, November 8, 2010

Gooblek Recipe

Here's an easy recipe for some Gooblek! This recipe came from Science Play. 1 and 1/4 cup cornstarch to 3/4 water. Mix in a pan and cornstarch until the mixture is thick enough to form a ball with your hands. This is a messy one, but my dd LOVED it! Since cornstarch does not dissolve in water the way other powders do, Gooblek acts like both a solid and a liquid at once. If you move the mixture slowly, it's very liquidy. If you move it fast, it's quite solid! Gooblek will clog your drain, so I washed her hands off outside and then you can throw it away in the trash or compost it. OR, save it and let the water dissolve. You'll have just the cornstarch left and can add water the next time you want to play!
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