As frequent readers of my blog know, Joe and I plan to homeschool Abigail and Micah. I have been doing preschool with Abbie for a year now in a relaxed manner. She loves it. Last winter, Abbie started talking more about wanting to "do school" and seemed eager to get started. We went to Mardel's Christian Book Store in Oklahoma City and bought a couple of workbooks to get her started. She has loved it! This is giving her the chance to get into the habit of doing schoolwork 4 days per week. We also are doing hands-on activities, such as making homemade play dough in primary colors to mix together and make secondary colors.
One of her favorite times of "schooling" is when we are outdoors and looking at the changes in the plants & trees on our property. Abbie has excitedly watched over the spring as the shrubs grew new branches, found tight little leaf buds, and the changes as those leaf buds opened up to reveal their leaves. The apple tree's blossoms have delighted her. Today, she was fascinated to find that we now have walnut-sized apples growing on the tree. She has learned about how bees carry pollen from one flower to another. Best yet, was when she helped plant the family garden. She had a little sand pail with a handful for English pea seeds in it and carefully planted a row of seeds. She has her own tomato plant that she has been tending. It is so fun to watch her excitement and delight in the nature that the Lord has created.
We are, in part, following the Charlotte Mason method of teaching. At her young age and Micah's autism, this method makes the most sense. It is very hands-on and utilizes the child's natural curiosity to help lead the child into learning. We do use workbooks for teaching her to write her letters, numbers, reading readiness, and early math concepts. Very thing else however is taught through hands-on, talking to her, or reading to her.
A new teaching tool that I am using with Abbie is file folder games. If you search online, you can find a multitude of websites with free printables for the games. One website that I found is called Positively Autism. It has many printables that you can use as a teaching aid for children with learning challenges. I am finding that the games are great for teaching Abbie also. One such game is a simple math game. The game pieces are heart shaped. One set of hearts has math problems such as 1+1= and the second set of hearts are the answers. The answer game pieces are adhered to the inside of the file folder. You then laminate the folder and the math problem game pieces. To play the game, the child places the math problem game piece on it's correct answer. For teaching a young child, you can have a bowl of beans or other counting aid handy to help them find the answer to the calculation. You can find games such as this for many different course subjects.
There may be those who feel that we are starting Abbie off too early in her schooling. We don't agree. She was very excited to start and we followed her enthusiasm. She loves learning new things and is doing great with it. Micah will learn through hearing what we tell Abbie and being with us as we walk outside and expose him to nature also. I show him the same changes in nature that Abbie finds. While he may not be acknowledging it yet in the way that Abbie does, I know how important it is to expose him to these things.
Micah's therapy is a form of homeschooling. When I work with him and label things, he is learning to associate a word with the item or concept. I nearly always name the item I am handing him or see him playing with. For example, when I see him playing with a little truck I ask him, "Is that your truck?" Later, I will add the color of the truck. We look at books and as I point to items in the pictures, I name them. If he points to something, I tell him what it is. Micah has an aversion to his hands, feet, or face being touched. I made a game of it by doing a tickling motion and barely touching his hands while saying "fingers." I then did the same with his toes. I go back and forth - finger, then toes - saying what I am tickling. He now will hold out his hands or feet for me to tickle. When he plays with a door, I say "open" or "closed" to name the position he has placed the door in. Front & behind, over & under, in & out, are all concepts that I am naming as we play together. Sounds pretty basic, but it is working. Now, when playing with a door he will open it when I say "open" and shut the door when I say to "close." While he may not repeat the words to me, he is showing through his actions that he is learning the concepts.
I am keeping Micah's therapy in the form of play or activities that he enjoys. This is what works best with him. By keeping it fun, he is getting excited about the "game" and it shows in his ability to remember and try to anticipate what I am going to do next. I vary it just enough that it won't get boring or too predictable. He giggles when there is an unexpected result, such as in the "finger & toes" tickling game when I suddenly tickle his neck or chin instead of the anticipated finger or toes.
This week, Micah made a new milestone. He was getting overwhelmed as he was playing one day with Abbie. His eyes began to get a stressed look and his fingers were flapping very rapidly. He began to meltdown, but then walked over to me and laid his head against my leg. He immediately stopped the meltdown as I stroked his hair. Now, I notice that he comes to me more often and lays his head against me to cuddle up to me and have his hair stroked. He is getting frustrated less often. He now is actively seeking me out for comfort instead of simply melting down and crying when overwhelmed. He has found a way to settle down without tears. Next step is to help him to learn how to do this on his own in case I am not right there and available, such as when he is visiting his Grandparents.