Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Homeschool Preparations

Hard to believe that the new school term is nearly upon us.  Abbie will be starting Pre-K (called K4 at the local schools) in a few weeks.   With all of the preparations for Beloved to start his new job in August, I am waiting until after he has left to begin homeschooling Abbie.  We have been talking a lot about the homeschooling and decided to choose a method that would benefit both Abbie and Micah.
A highly recommended method for special needs children, that also works great with typical children, is the Charlotte Mason approach.  It is a literature-based curriculum.  We are adapting that method to suit both of the children.  Charlotte Mason believed in encouraging young children to explore the nature around them.  She also encouraged parents to utilize a child's natural curiosity as a learning tool.  Classic literature and living, whole books are used as the basis for learning about history and science.  Living books, as I understand it, are non-fiction.  Whole books are simply the unabridged versions.  Classic literature for Abbie's age would be books like Beatrix Potter's Tales of Peter Rabbit, Aesop's Fables, and the like.  The books are chosen for their wholesome qualities. 
I am incorporating into the curriculum, the use of file folder games and lapbooks.  Hands-on activities are an important method to use when teaching autistic children.  It is also a great way to reinforce to children the lessons they are learning.  In some states where a portfolio is required of homeschooling families, lapbooks also can provide documentation of lessons learned.  With Beloved going to be away from home so much with his new job, the lapbooks will be a way that the children can share with Daddy what they have learned while he has been away.
I found Ambleside Online, a website where you can access book lists and curriculum information using the Charlotte Mason approach.  Their detailed explanation of the Charlotte Mason approach is one of the best that I have found.  On the site, you can find curriculum suggestions such as schedules, year by year guidelines of what to teach, a suggested book list for each grade level, and more. Whether you use the Charlotte Mason approach or not, the book lists are a great resource.
Lapbook Lessons is a site that has free lapbooks complete with the printable components.  There is also a members forum where you can share lapbook ideas with others.  The lapbooks on the site are very helpful.  The photos of a completed lapbook are detailed enough to give even a novice the idea of how they are put together.  The printables give you the option of black & white or full color on many of the sheets.  You can find a wide array of ideas and templates to use in creating your own lapbooks.
If you are interested in learning about Charlotte Mason's approach to learning, you can do so at Heart of Wisdom's website.  They are a business, but there is a good selection of free materials and information.  They have free downloads available of their Heart of Wisdom book.  I found the excerpts to be quite helpful.  Two of my favorites were the one on Bible Study and the one on Notebooking.  Notebooking utilizes scrapbooking in a similar way as lapbooks do.  The student makes a scrapbook page that illustrates a lesson learned.  There is also a wonderful explanation of using a Timeline notebook to help a child learn how each event, discovery, and historic moment in history relates to others happening at that same time period.  Instead of learning the events as being separate, the student sees a bigger picture of what was happening worldwide.
A free homeschool record keeping software that I found is called Homeschool Tracker.  The basic version is a fully functioning program available for free download.  They have a premium version that is available for sale.  In reviewing the program, I found that the basic version will serve our needs very well.  The program allows you to keep record of assignments, grades, attendance, curriculum resources, field trips, and more.  A great feature is that you can print out quarterly reports if your state requires you to provide them. 
Positively Autism is a blessing to have found.  If you are homeschooling a special needs child, this site may be of help.  There are ideas and free teaching helps available on this site.  One of the freebies that they offer is printable file folder games.  Though they are designed for special needs children, I find that Abbie has been enjoying and learning from them as a preschooler.  One file folder game that Abbie enjoys is the addition game with 1's and 2's.  The game board has pieces attached to the inside of a file folder with the equation answers on them.  The game pieces are the actual equations.  To play, the child matches the equation with it's answer. 
There are many free resources available.  These are just a few of the ones I am utilizing with Abbie and Micah.  Though Micah is young, I include him as often as possible.  I read to him as well as Abbie and give him the opportunity to finger paint and do other crafts that are at his ability level.  Though he is not ready to homeschool, I am trying to fill his mind with books and as many experiences as he enjoys.  I am convinced that this is essential to him.  By reading to him, he hears more words that one day he will remember and use.  Already, we have heard him in the past say things that we had no idea he knew.  This comes in large part to reading stories to him and talking to him as though he were a typical child.  Offering him the chance to do tactile activities with Abbie expands his knowledge and experiences also.  I work with him in a low-key fashion at this point.  I want to expose him to these things without overwhelming him.
It still amazes me that we are preparing to take this journey.  I would never have thought that at 47 years of age, I would be starting to homeschool a pre-K age and a toddler.  The Lord always has His surprises that we are blessed with in life.  Thankfully, life here is never dull.  There is always a new opportunity to bless and be blessed around the bend.
May the Lord's blessings be with thee,
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