Friday Rampage of Appreciation

I’m feeling kinda in love with life today. It was the first day of the new homeschool co-op session. I am teaching a Lego class:

Seth preparing borrowed Lego, getting ready for the class (JACKPOT)!

It went well. We worked on two dimensional projects today. We’re going to slip in some architecture concepts, careers in Lego, and lots of challenges, but mostly it is just fun. Lego literally means “play well,” and I plan on sticking with that theme. I am getting a lot of ideas from Lego Quest Kids. I appreciate the website so much! If you have Lego lovers in your house I highly recommend it for ideas.

Seth's creation (MJ-because obsessions aren't just for Asperger's)

Hot Toddy has arranged his schedule so he can come to co-op most days

In the afternoon block, Riley is taking a puzzles and games class. They did some brain teasers, then moved onto a charades type of game, and in the middle of it, she dismissed me. She did the “come here” motion with her index finger and whispered in my ear,

“Mom. I don’t think I need you in here.”

It was awesome!

I let her go to a scrap booking class last session by herself (me out in the hall within earshot) because it was small. Just one other kid, and two instructors. This class had about eight kids. She did great, even getting up and doing the charades, and dealing with it when people weren’t guessing what she was acting out. I held my breath for a second…she was clearly feeling worried and on the spot, but she got through it on her own. It was after that, when she gloriously gave me the boot.

Also this week….Riley’s Spanish tutor is 70. She has taught homeless men, juvenile delinquents, those with dementia, and those with autism. She uses art and music. She told me she prayed for just the right client and here Riley is. This sweet woman stood in front of me and told me my child is the answer to her prayer. Any parent would love that, but this mom, who remembers her darling girl getting kicked out of preschool…it balms those wounds. We all want our kids to be included and loved.

We had homeschool book group this week. Such a great group of 8-10 year olds. We read Frindle, by Andrew Clements, about a boy who has the idea of inventing his own word. The kids were so enthusiastic and I have to say they stay on subject better than the adults in most of the books groups I have been in! Various moms take turns hosting at their houses (we don’t have it at our house because of cat allergies) and I lead the discussion. The best of both worlds for me. I get to lead the book group, which I love, but don’t have to clean for the occasion!

Speaking of “the best of both worlds,” this is the phrase I have coined for going to bed, backing up to Todd in a spoon position, stealing his body heat. He falls asleep while I read. We get to snuggle. I get to read. It’s “the best of both worlds.” One of life’s greatest blessings.

Okay, I’m gonna wrap it up before I make you gag if it’s not already too late.

May you have a beautiful and blessed weekend.

Lovingly yours,

MO’N

Talk Nerdy to Me

‘Cause I love having my mind blown…

And this is one reason why homeschooling does not scare me that much. We have no idea what world they will be living in or what we’re even preparing them for. We may like to think we do, but we don’t. It’s changing so fast. All I know is Riley, Seth (and I) are constantly, enthusiastically learning. We don’t know of boredom.

  • Mother
  • Spiritual growth enthusiast
  • Married to a great guy
  • Law of Attraction buff
  • Writer
  • Thinker
  • Traveler
  • Nature lover
  • Friend
  • Likes to help
  • Sets healthy boundaries
  • Autism resource
  • Choral singer
  • Yoga student

What words will appear on your shirt in the future?

*P.S. If you watch the video, wait ’til after the applause for a couple of questions and imagine how this technology might help those with autism and others with communication difficulties.

Homeschool Co-Op

This is Riley, (below right), enjoying a quiet lunch with two other girls at the homeschool co-op. The three of them decided to excuse themselves from the busy gym and eat in one of the classrooms.

“Mom, can I go eat with A & H please?”

Um, yeah. Why yes Riley, you may.

Friday was the last day of this session, (our second with the group) and it was sharing day where tables are set out and everyone can look at what the kids were working on in each class. I taught a class on dogs this time around.

We learned about service dogs.

And breeds.

Grooming (everyone got a turn brushing Jingle)

And lots of other things like canine body language vs. human body language, how dogs see, taste, hear, etc. Where dogs come from on the evolutionary scale, how they got to be domesticated, and on and on. You should have seen me pulling curriculum out of thin air! It was a stretch coming up with eight weeks of material, but mostly it was a success.

Children in the co-op sign up for two classes each, with an hour for lunch and recess in the middle. My kids were in the dog class for block A.

Jingle lives for co-op.

For block B, Riley enjoyed a scrap-booking class, not taught by me. Or assisted by me. Or requiring a single thing of me. The whole time.

Me? I sat outside of the class and worked on material for my next week’s dog class. Like it was nothing! Just another mom, not having to be in her kid’s class with her. That’s right baby, check me out!

Seth took a class called Discovering your Artist’s Eye. He learned about positive and negative space, drawing using different sides of the brain by turning objects upside down and sideways. Using grids to ensure correct proportion. That kind of thing.

Other classes offered included Spanish.

Oragami

There was even a class on “How to be a knight,” which was adorable. A bunch of rambunctious little boys learning how to be chivalrous, all while using homemade swords they helped saw, and shields they cut out themselves. They even sewed their silver knight costumes!

There were other classes too, one on theatrical and other games, there is a Girl Scout troup that meets during Block B. A nursery for the little ones and a class for preschool age kids. I’m probably forgetting something. Classes change up every session and parents are expected to teach or assist or help out with set-up/clean-up. There are between 40 and 60 kids in this co-op at any given session. I’ve so enjoyed meeting all the parents.

It has truly been a blessing to us. (HT got verklempt the first session, seeing Riley sitting in a small classroom, relaxed, engaged, learning without intense anxiety and fear).

On the way home Friday, in the van, I said, “Riley, I am so glad you have Asperger’s. There was so much about school that didn’t make sense for any of us, but if you’d not been such a sensitive person we never would have realized it. It’s because of you that we are homeschooling, and we get to go to co-op, and do so many other amazing and fun things together, and spend time with so many nice people. I appreciate you.”

She’s taken us down a different path and many gifts have come with it. She is such a blessing.

She thought about this for a minute, then said,

“And I couldn’t do all the things we get to do without your support. I appreciate you, Mom.”

Imagine, from where we’ve been, to this?

A sense of calm came over me. We’re okay. Rolling along, I felt all doubt melt away. We are where we need to be right now.

Things have a way of working out.

Appreciation Saturday

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While the guy is painting our living room downstairs, Riley, Seth, Jingle, Yippee, the cats, and I are piled into the bedroom. The kids are watching TV while I type away. Seriously, why don’t we do this every day? So cozy and fun! I am in love with technology. How is it I can sit here wireless, writing under a big down comforter? It is still such a miracle to me. How is it we have electricity? Phones? Cell phones? Plumbing? It is all so amazing. Someone figured it all out, and I didn’t have to. I don’t have to do everything! I can just come along and reap the rewards. The Universe is abundant, I tell ‘ya. People who invented these things, wherever you are…I appreciate you. I love brilliant minds. I love learning.

Did you know there is a website called Khan Academy where you can learn just about anything?

I am really loving the whole learning at home thing lately. I admit we did it out of necessity initially, but more and more it makes sense for our family. And cue sunshine and rainbows please….we recently were approved for the Ohio Autism Scholarship for Riley which will allow us to have a tutor come to our home during the week to teach her(at no cost to us). I cannot tell you how much this will help our family. This is the best case scenario. She gets to be home, but we don’t have to bear the full responsibility of teaching her. We don’t have to do everything! This will afford us more one-on-one with Seth, and allow me to get things done around the house while the tutor is here.

I used to joke, “I’d love for her to be homeschooled; I just wish someone else would do it.”

Dreams do come true.

I’ll never forget the relief I felt in her pre-kindergarten year, when the wonderful private teacher we hired said, “I’d like to take care of the educational piece, so you can just be her mom.” She was a special needs parent too, so she knew. For so long I’ve had to be everything. Doctor, advocate, attorney, teacher, nutritionist, coach, you name it. I am feeling sweet relief.

We are finding now that Riley doesn’t have to keep it together 35 hours a week at school, (with homework on top of that) she is much more sociable. She is starting conversations (in small groups). She is joyful. She can follow a conversation through lots of twists and turns. We belong to a co-op which meets on Fridays and has anywhere between 40-60 kids each session. There are very small classes. Each child picks two classes and there is an hour long recess in between where children can eat and play. At first she stuck with her brother like glue but the last couple of weeks she’s been hanging with the girls her age. An outsider looking in would never be able to pick her out of the crowd as “the kid with autism.” She is more relaxed. Part of it has to do with the company.

This is what I’ll tell you about the homeschooled kids we have met.

-They are polite.
-They are kind.
-They do not feel “entitled” and are respectful not just of adults but of other children.
-They are not particularly competitive.
-They are creative.
-They seem to nurture each other.
-They happily eat nutritious food.
-They are accepting.
-They are happy with a big long thick rope, playing tug of war. Piling on. Dragging each other around, all over the gym, for as long as we let them.
-They are enthusiastic learners.

So, it is going well.

And of course, one of the very best things about being home is the ample time the kids get to spend with their animals.

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Some days are more challenging than others, but today is a good day, and it deserves a mention. Good coffee. Good kids. Good dogs. Good computer. Comfy bed.

Date night tonight with Hot Toddy. We’re seeing The King’s Speech.

Life is good, yo.

For real.

Love.

Unique business cards and other things….

Check out these unique business cards at WebDesignerWall.com.

Very clever.

I love clever.

I love so many things. I love Seth in the next room singing Michael Jackson’s PYT. I love how I slept really late today. I’m not even gonna tell you how late; it’s embarrassingly decadent.

HT works the evening tonight and he snuck out of our room this morning…turning the fan on high…to block out all noise for me. We take turns doing this for each other every chance we get. If you can’t have two partners well rested, one parent well rested is good. Better than both tired. We can hold each other up.

You know what else is clever? This:, Life lessons from 40 movies.

Off to the homeschool co-op, where I am teaching a class on dogs. Today we’re contrasting and comparing human body language, and canine body language. There will be role playing. There will be demos on personal space.

The public school was concerned kids might be terrified of Jingle. And a few might have been, but what an opportunity for them to have learned not all dogs are scary. It doesn’t get much less threatening than Ms. Jingle.

Che sarà sarà.

Things have a way of working out,

exactly as they’re supposed to.

When I stop trying to force things

and just let go.

~
Maybe I’ll make some new business cards this weekend.

Michelle O’Neil
She does her best to goes with the flow
www.fullsoulahead.com

Because we’re all important enough to have our own cards, right?

Organic Learning

Riley woke up this morning with two questions:

1) Does my hair look like a rat’s nest?

2) Do rats really have nests?

And so we’re studying the habitats of rats today.

And Riley is writing more of her graphic novel.

And Seth is playing. As in…he’s conceptualizing a play, involving Harry Potter characters dressed in Star Wars costumes. There are lasers and catapults and hang gliders and crashes.

After lunch we’re off to homeschool music class, for rhythms and dance. It’s a “typical” class, in a room that’s kind of like a small auditorium. Last week was the first week, and ten years into this game, I got to sit in the audience, like all the other moms. I didn’t have to be “room mom.” Code for one on one aide.

Riley had one anxious moment, but she asked to “pass” on her turn, and then got right back in. I didn’t have to intervene. Both kids had so much fun.

The better it gets, the better it gets.

We learn, learn, learn as we go.

Riley and Mommy’s Excellent Freaky Cat Adventure

It started out so well…

 

Then it got a little out of hand.

Riley expressed being overwhelmed. It was overwhelming even for me.

And it didn’t help that these guys weren’t de-clawed.

This the look of a cat, that’s fixin’ to hook it’s nails into me and climb up my skirt. Ouch!

I offered to leave but Riley decided to stay. I was glad because we’d risked life and limb in a snow storm to drive an hour to get there. Seriously, I saw a salt truck jack-knifed on the highway, and a couple of other cars off the road, and a blue car spun around in a circle and almost smacked into our side at one point. Riley sat all Mr. Magoo in the backseat, completely oblivious to the danger all around. Thank God.

Anyway…we stayed and saw so many cute cats!

Some were very friendly.

 Some, were totally unimpressed by us.

Some didn’t even bother to wake up.

Hello? You have company! Whatever.

A lot of the cats just hung around on the rafters. Like this these.

When we first came in, I noticed a grey cat up in the rafters with a funky looking eye. He was minding his own business, not bothering anyone. Riley has a thing against funky eyes, so I dodged a bullet and drew her attention elsewhere. She didn’t see it.

Until the shelter worker lady came in. She went right for the funky eyed cat, with some drops to put in his eye. But the funky eyed cat did not mean to be caught. He’s sick of people messing with his eye, and he’s scrappy too. In all the commotion, the jig was up. Riley knew a funky eye was in the room. Then, when the lady tried to pull the funky eyed cat off its perch, it sunk it’s claws into her arm deep, gashing her good, drawing big dark red splatting drops of blood the size of nickels, which dropped on the tile floor as she went out the door. No matter that they cleaned it up within seconds.   

We were done.

Funky eye, blood, and Riley. A recipe for disaster.

The good news is, she lowered her head, and went for the door but did not scream. We just did what we needed to do and left, and by the time she got to the van she was okay.

In the van she expressed concern about possibly hurting the lady’s feelings for leaving so quickly. We were only there about 1/2 hour. I told her I’d already talked to the lady (which I had) and she was fine with us leaving. I emphasized taking care of herself was the priority, and applauded her for doing an excellent job.

On the way home in an attempt to lighten it up a bit, I dubbed the day, Riley and Mommy’s Excellent Freaky Cat Adventure. Riley beamed. 

We didn’t get to learn much about how the cat sanctuary works. All I can say is the people were very nice and the cats well taken care of. If you live in NE Ohio and you want a cat, you should adopt from them.

Here are some more furry faces.

Meow!

  

Caroline’s Kids Cat Sanctuary.

Little Women

“Beth was too bashful to go to school; it had been tried, but she suffered so much that it was given up, and she did her lessons at home…”

Last week, Riley and I were at the library, and in a valiant effort to restrain myself from choosing for her, I asked what book she would like to read as part of her homeschooling. She thought about it for a moment and said, “I’d like to read Little Women.”

My heart leapt with joy. I wasn’t aware Little Women was even on her radar! My mind blanked in all the excitement and I said out loud, “Let me think of the author….”

Riley said, “Louisa May Alcott.”

I stood back and let her find it on the shelf, something I would normally do for her because we’ve always been rushed for time. I’m doing a lot of that these days, and Riley beams with pride over her new sense of independence.

Everyday, we snuggle in her bed, (the comfiest bed in the whole house BTW), and we read Little Women out loud, and we stop after each chapter and discuss it.

And Riley’s eyes sparkle.

And Jingle sighs.

And I feel certain we’re doing the right thing.

When Animals Talk Jane Goodall

Every week we take out a bunch of educational videos from the library. Riley can pick anything that interests her. Once or twice a week, we snuggle together on the couch and watch one. Today we watched When Animals Talk featuring Dr. Jane Goodall. It was one of the most interesting films I have seen in a long time.

In it, there is a man who stands in the ocean and plays harmonica for wild killer whales. They come to him curious and open. These whales would just as soon eat a sea lion, but they let this man touch them.

There is a part about rats trained to help clear land mines in Africa.

There is a part about the 2004 Tsunami, and how the animals all knew it was coming.

There is a part about elephants, and how they communicate over miles and miles of terrain. The open minded scientist who figured out how they do it is featured in the film.

There is a heart wrenching part about a search and rescue dog in NYC who was one of the first responders, and worked 18 hour days after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. When everyone around him was reeling in horror, the dog stayed calm. He had a job to do and he did it.

If you ever get a chance to rent this film, or borrow it from the library, do. Or you can buy it on Amazon. It’s not expensive.

You don’t have to be an animal lover to find it fascinating. The film leaves you basking in the notion there is more going on in this world than we understand.   

I just love that.  

*For more sensitive viewers, there is one short scene of sea lions being attacked by killer whales. It isn’t close up, or gory, but Riley had to bury her head in my shoulder for that part.  

 

Riley + Dad = Whiz

Yesterday, we picked Seth up at school, on our way to the next activity. In the car, Riley and Seth chitter-chattered about their respective days. I’ve learned not to ask. I get a lot more info just listening.

Seth talked about what went on in the lunch room.

Riley talked about math.

In school math was a constant trigger. It was a big problem. It wasn’t that she isn’t capable. She just had so much anxiety around it, which resulted in meltdowns, which resulted in constantly being pulled from class which resulted in a fear of falling behind, which resulted in more meltdowns. 

For homeschool math, we got the Life of Fred Fractions book recommended by Kyra. Fred Fractions is a funny book. It keeps Riley in stitches and she can’t wait to tell Seth what Fred did each day. The book picked up almost exactly where Riley left off in school. In the first couple of weeks we caught some major blocks. She wasn’t solid on subtracting three digit numbers, but the class had already moved on to division. A fundamental building block was on shaky ground. We worked subtraction ’til she knew it inside and out.

In the last two weeks, Todd has pretty much taken over math. He’s home in the mornings and it’s just worked out that way. Man are they are cooking! He has a degree in chemistry, and a degree in pharmacy. He uses math all day every day. He’s patient. He’s smart, and he loves her. When she starts to flip, he says, “Riley, it’s just you and me, and I don’t care if you don’t know it. There is no one to compete with. We’ve got no time frame. Let’s figure it out.”

They’ve been figuring it out.

We are in week four of homeschooling and Riley has completed nine chapters of math curriculum. She’s solid. No shaky ground.

So in the car yesterday, after hearing about Seth’s lunch and recess, Riley said,

“Math was really fun today.”

Then smiling, she added, arms ticking away with excitement,

“I’m kind of a whiz at math.”

And so it is.

Homeschooling One

“Sweet ride, man.”

“That’s right, eat your hearts out suckers.”

“Uh. I mean, thanks.”

One of the cool things about our neighborhood is in the winter, you can pull your kid home from school on a sled.

That is, if your kid isn’t doing her school work at the kitchen table.

*

I hadn’t thought about the effects homeschooling Riley would have on Seth but they are profound. No longer does he have to listen to his sister scream all evening over homework. They can enjoy each other in the evenings and have fun playing together. No longer does he have to deal with an exasperated parent, glaring at him and shooing him from the room during his sister’s homework, because he is distracting, and said parent is at the end of their rope.

And mornings! Mornings are so easy now! I’m not kidding. Getting one neurotypical kid off to school is a piece of cake. Mornings are unrushed and peaceful and Seth goes to school joyfully.  

HT is home most mornings, so he is downstairs working with Riley on math as I type this. He supports me fully in getting time to myself. God forbid I couldn’t “get my blog on.”

So far so good.

 

*Not enough has been made of Jingle’s cute paws. Riley is a big fan of her colorful pads.

Off to a good start

Day one of homeschooling and the Universe provided us with this sweet bounty! Cauliflower, broccoli, celery, parsley, peppers, cucumber, carrots, kale, sweet potatos, cherry tomatoes, lemons, oranges, granny smiths. All organic baby! I got myself invited into an organic food co-op by a neighbor who homeschools. I walk two houses down and pick up the goods. Twenty five bucks for all of this. It would cost so much more at the store. Life is good!

We did academics in the morning, and in the afternoon we made soup. Creamy cauliflower soup. That’s my baby eating soup, full of carrots and onions (ground to a pulp in the food processor)and parsley and cauliflower and celery and all good things. Who woulda’ ever thunk it? The open bottle of wine was purely for cooking purposes. And don’t mind the sharp knife. I’m sick of coddling this kid. She loses a digit, she’s got nine more.

I have not seen Riley as relaxed and happy as she was today, probably ever. 

Join me as I exhale, won’t you?

I wish you could try our soup.

The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child

The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child: Your Complete Guide to Getting Off to the Right Start

Tomorrow we “officially” begin homeschooling. Since we made the decision, the Universe keeps sending little messages to assure us we are doing the right thing.

1) A notice in the mail stating the school day is going to be lengthened by a half hour. This, for a child who was barely holding it together as it was.

2) A notice from the school stating it is failing miserably in the mandated standardized tests. Now, don’t get me wrong. I know this means nothing. We live in a very economically diverse area, where some parents for various reasons don’t help kids with school work. Kids aren’t going to do well if parents aren’t involved. They aren’t going to do well if they aren’t getting sleep, or good food, etc. and the school can’t solve all the problems, but what this will mean is more “teaching to the test,” which has little to do with true learning in my humble opinion. 

3) A video sent to me by a friend, (up on my dog page) with the message: When you let go of how you think things are supposed to go, you make room for even better possibilities. When I watched this, I got teary. It is exactly what we have been thinking regarding Riley. Todd had the same verklempt reaction when he saw it. Our girl just might be too cool for school.  

4) A connection made with Linda Dobson, author of the book pictured above. She is a veteran homeschooler and has a wonderful blog full of valuable info. She personally e-mailed me after I left a comment on her blog, and then took the time to answer a question I had.  She’s just revamped her website, Parent at the Helm and I put it on my blog roll should you want to check it out. 

5) I went to check out the Unity church here today. It is within walking distance to our house, but we had not been. We loved the Unity church we attended in Virginia, but since we moved here, things just weren’t clicking in a way for us to attend. Riley was so exhausted all the time, and Sundays were the only day of the week where we didn’t ask anything of her. Sundays were for staying in pajamas and gathering her energy. She needed that like she needed oxygen.

Well, let me tell you, church today was awesome. One of my friends from chorus is the music director there and the church service is soooo musically infused, it left me feeling I’d been presented with a precious gift, just by being there. And, the church has a children’s choir, should mine choose to partake.     

Before, we used to think homeschooling would be too taxing on us. We didn’t think about the energy which was being depleted, by trying to force Riley into a box that didn’t fit.

We didn’t feel like we were qualified teachers, but what a farce that is. Riley has been the teacher all along, leading us down a path we never expected, but are so glad to have taken.

It will be an adjustment, but it’s going to be good.

There is always so much to learn.