How I teach my non-verbal son

Please notice the title of this post. I know that parents are often looking for “how to teach a non-verbal child” or “how to teach an autistic child with little language,” but I really cannot tell you how to do that. I can tell you what has worked for us with our own child, who does not have reliable verbal responses. Around kindergarten I think most parents of Autistic children start to panic if their Autistic child is not conversing and one of the reasons that they are panicking is that they cannot envision teaching their child history or long division without reliable spoken language. I completely understand that feeling, but I know now, more than ever, that spoken language is not a prerequisite for learning. Moreover, it is a grave injustice to deny a child a chance to learn. Can you imagine how bored you would be if your were “learning” the same things over and over again for years? This is what happens to many of our non-verbal children in school because it is assumed that if a child cannot communicate verbally what they know, they have not learned it and cannot learn it.

I have been teaching P at home for as long as I can remember, even before we officially “homeschooled” and we have recently begun to use Soma RPM (Rapid Prompting Method), and some of these ideas come from RPM, but this is not a “How to do RPM” post. We are just starting the program and although we love it so far, we still have so much to learn. I used these steps before we ever started RPM, but RPM has helped me understand WHY many of these things work and has given us a more solid path toward open ended communication in education.

1. PRESUME COMPETENCE

I believe that my child can learn, and that he can learn on grade level. I believe not only that he will “one day” lead a productive and happy life, but I believe that for this grade, today, right now. Have you heard of the “least dangerous assumption”? Not the theological one – that one has some problems:-) The autism one. What if I assume that P can understand me? How does that change my interaction with him? What if I assume he understands the things I say in front of him, about him? How does that change the way I treat him? What if my assumption is wrong? What if it is right? I assume he is competent and that he understands. Does that mean he is tuned in to everything I say? No, but then again, even typical kids tune mom out sometimes 🙂

2. USE HIS MOST ALERT SENSE

In RPM this is called the “open learning channel.” In P’s case, he is very, very visual, so I try to support just about everything I say with visuals. He is also easily distracted visually, so I have to stimulate the kinesthetic sense by using small movements to help him to keep his focus on the lesson. Even though I try to appeal to the visual sense, it is also important for him to develop his attention to auditory cues and spoken language since that is what most of the world uses to communicate information (not that he cannot understand spoken language, but it is hard for him to maintain focus on it), so I am constantly talking and explaining things to him while I am also presenting the information visually. If you are not sure what your child’s most alert sense is, ask yourself: What do they spend most of their time doing? What are their “stims”? That can help give you a place to start.

3. KEEP HIM TUNED IN

As I mentioned, I use tactile cues and movement to help him focus. It doesn’t have to be big movements. It can be handing him a pencil, asking him to write a key word, tracing a drawing that I am discussing. I also change thing up as much as I can. I change the tone and/or volume of my voice, I change the type of letters that I am writing with, I change my position or his position. In RPM we keep a constant pattern going of giving information and then asking what you just taught, so you may say, “Forests are full of plants.” and then ask, “Did I say that forests are full of plants or cars?” or I may ask “What would I see in a forest? Trees or desks?” The purpose of the questions is not because you don’t think the student understands the initial statement; it is to make sure they are still engaged. I have found that P is perfectly capable of understanding first grade language (he is in first grade), but he may not always be paying attention, so if I expect him to learn, he must be tuned in to the material.

4. ATTEMPT. OBSERVE. ADJUST…. ATTEMPT. OBSERVE. ADJUST…. ATTEMPT. OBSERVE. ADJUST…. ATTEMPT. OBSERVE. ADJUST….

Here is one of the latest examples of how we have adjusted (this one with the help of Erika at ACE Teaching and Consulting):

ATTEMPT: RPM starts out by having the student select between two written answers.

OBSERVE: P has a habit of repeating the last option and after he repeats it, for some reason he wants to choose it. If you take the verbal element out (if he does not repeat) he will choose the correct answer, but the repeating is not something he can just stop doing.

ADJUST: If we just write the two options after the question, he is much more successful. Instead of saying “Tree or Desks,” we say, “this or this” while we write out the options. Voila! He can now show what he learned without being distracted by repeating the last answer.

Truly, the biggest hurdle is presuming competence. Once you believe your child can learn, it is just a matter of figuring out how to do it. If P has not learned something appropriate for his grade, it is only because of my incompetence as a teacher, not his inability to learn. Notice that I did not say “act like any other first grader.” I said “learn.” Pablo is autistic. It is no great tragedy, but it is a great difference and his communication will be different than that of a neurotypical child, but that does not mean that he cannot understand and analyze information and develop higher order thinking skills, just as any other child does. Who knows what that unique brain of his will come up with, if he is given a chance to be educated.

If you are looking for some inspiration or confirmation that your child really can learn, consider these:

Carly was assumed to have a low IQ and thought to not understand the world around her, until she finally found a way to communicate. Now she is a successful college student.

Ido was depressed and angry because he could not show that he knew what he was being “taught” and thought that he would be trapped forever in silence while no one knew.

Emma knew much more than anyone imagined, but could not express it until recently.

There are so many more! These are NOT isolated cases and notice that they did not suddenly start speaking. They learned to communicate in other ways. As one of the main participants in the movie “Wretches and Jabbers” says, (I am paraphrasing) “Communication is a basic human desire, not a special talent.” (Watch that documentary for several more examples of non-speaking communicators.)

If you want to know more about Soma RPM:

HALO (in Texas)

ACE Teaching and Consulting (in Wisconsin)

SomaMukhopadhyay’s books on RPM

Check out this page at Emma’s Hope Book for more Autistics that communicate without relying on spoken language.

And PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE (pretty please) read “Ido in Autismland.” It should be required reading for anyone that works with the Autism community or who has any Autistic friends or family members.

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Starting Homeschool: Getting Connected/ Online Classes

This is the last post in the series, “Starting Homeschool.”  You may download the entire Starting Homeschool Guide here.

One of the classic concerns about homeschooling is the issue of socialization.  If you homeschool already, you are probably either laughing hysterically or getting very annoyed by that last statement.  Most of us know that there are more than enough ways to get connected if you homeschool your child(ren) both for them and for you.  If you are just getting started, here are some ideas for you.

Discussion Groups (ONLINE)

The Well Trained Mind

www.welltrainedmind.com
forums.welltrainedmind.com
Info/Forum for “Classical Method” of Homeschooling (very helpful for curriculum suggestions)

Facebook Groups

Search for what you are looking for: Special Needs Homeschool, Christian Homeschool, [your area] Homeschool, etc.

Yahoo Groups

groups.yahoo.com
Some local groups here for outings
Discussion groups for special interests/special needs

Meetup Groups – meetup.com (IN PERSON):

www.meetup.com

There are a more homeschool meetup groups than you can count including Christian, secular and special interest groups.  It is easy to search for one in your area or start one yourself!.

  • field trip groups
  • Co-ops (Most co-op sign-ups usually begin in about March/April)
  • parent groups

Another common concern is, “What will I do for high school?”  Many of us barely remember what we learned in high school chemistry or trigonometry.  How will we teach it to our kids?  What if my high school student is interested in things that I know nothing about?  Luckily, many community colleges allow high school students to take classes (called dual-enrollment) and there are also many online class options.  Sometimes a group of families will even hire a teacher or form a co-op for certain subjects.

Colleges Offering Free Classes for Your High School Student (or for you!)

These are not for college credit, but can still be a good option if you are not necessarily looking for the credit, but want to find an appropriate class for your older student.  There are actully many more available, but here are some ideas to get you started.  When seeking out classes like this, look for “open” courses, sometimes called “OpenCourseWare.”

Institution: Link:
Berkeley http://ocw.berkeley.edu/
Carnegie Mellon http://oli.cmu.edu/
Duke http://web.law.duke.edu/cspd/lectures/
Johns Hopkins School of Public Heath http://ocw.jhsph.edu/
MIT http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm
Notre Dame http://ocw.nd.edu/
Stanford (Engineering) http://see.stanford.edu/
Tufts University http://ocw.tufts.edu/
UC Irvine http://ocw.uci.edu/
University of Massachusetts, Boston http://ocw.umb.edu/
University of WI – Eau Claire http://open.uwec.edu/
Utah State http://ocw.usu.edu/front-page
Yale http://oyc.yale.edu/
Various available on iTunes U* http://www.apple.com/education/ipad/itunes-u/

*There are many  colleges and universities that have lectures and some downloadable print content available on iTunes U.  I have listened to many of these lectures myself because, yes, I am just weird like that.

Other (paid) options to consider:
Many high school students take college classes online or at their local community college (known as dual enrollment), but I am not aware of any that are free.  Dual enrollment  can help your student get a jump start on college credits and can help them “prove” their ability as they apply for colleges after high school.

Starting Homeschool: Where to find what you need

Some of the best learning is not from a book!

Some of the best learning is not from a book!

This is the third of four parts in the “Starting Homeschool” series.  You can download the entire printable guide here: Starting Homeschool Guide.

We have talked about finding your philosophy/method of learning here, and we talked about some of the best known publishers of homeschool curriculum here.  Now we have a list that I could only call “Other Resources.”  There are online “stores” here as well as blogs from people that develop homeschool supplements, online classes, sites that direct you to free resources, video supplements for certain topics, and more.

If you have any other places that you love to use, feel free to add them in the comments so I can check it out.

Other Homeschool Resources

ABC Ya
abcya.com
educational games

All Kids Network
http://www.allkidsnetwork.com
lots of free worksheets and ideas

Amazon (of course)
http://www.amazon.com
new and used curriculum/supplements

Ambleside Online
http://www.amblesideonline.org
Totally free complete curriculum (yes, really), Charlotte Mason-style, Christian

BrainPop
brainpop.com (for 3rd grade & up)
brainpopjr.com (for K-3rd)
We use this free through our school district, but I did have a subscription at one time.  It is another expensive one, but it really has so many topics and the companion activities are good.  Here is a list of the BrainPopJr topics (K-3rd) http://www.brainpop.com/educators/community/bp-jr-topic/?brainpop-subject=all
sometimes on sale at Homeschool Buyers Co-op

Christian Book Distributors (CBD)
http://www.christianbook.com
Traditional Curriculum/Book Sellers (usually have some downloadable/pdf versions, but mainly hardcopy).  Look for sales and free shipping specials.

Code
http://www.code.org
free code/programming lessons

Code Academy
http://www.codecademy.com/learn
free code/programming lessons

Code Monster
http://www.crunchzilla.com/code-monster
free code/programming lessons

Confessions of a Homeschooler
http://www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com
Blog by a homeschool mom who creates curriculum – very good and affordable for complete preschool program and supplements (music, literature and others) for older elementary students

CurrClick
http://www.currclick.com
Downloadable curriculum and supplements and online classes

Deep Space Sparkle
http://www.deepspacesparkle.com
Really great art class ideas

Easy Peasy
allinonehomeschool.com
Totally free complete curriculum (yes, really), Christian

Ebay (of course)
http://www.ebay.com
new and used curriculum/supplements

Education.com
http://www.education.com
printable supplements (lots)

Educents
http://www.educents.com
Hardcopy and downloadable curriculum and supplements

Enchanted Learning
http://www.enchantedlearning.com
some free, LOTs of printables with subscription

Evan Moor Teacher File Box
http://www.evan-moor.com/t/teacher-file-box
subscription-based, access to their workbooks, must be printed from their site, cannot download pdfs, sometimes on sale at Homeschool Buyers Co-op

Exodus Books
http://www.exodusbooks.com
Traditional Curriculum/Book Sellers (usually have some downloadable/pdf versions, but mainly hardcopy)  New and used available

Free Homeschool Deals
http://www.freehomeschooldeals.com
Alerts you to free and very cheap resources (great site!)

Freely Educate
http://www.freelyeducate.com/
Blog with GREAT free resources (sometimes they repeat)

Homeschool Buyers Co-op
http://www.homeschoolbuyersco-op.org
Group discounts on curriculum/supplements (deals are rotated throughout the year), Free homeschool ID too!

Homeschool Classifieds
http://www.homeschoolclassifieds.com
Used curriculum (anything and everything)

Homeschool Freebie of the Day
http://www.homeschoolfreebie.wholesomechildhood.com
They will send you an email once a week with a free downloadable resource for each day of the coming week.  I usually don’t download them, but every once in a while there is something good.  Christian, very conservative

Howard Hughes Medical Institute
http://www.hhmi.org/educational-materials
FREE educational materials.  They don’t even charge you for shipping!  High quality dvds and other materials (all from a secular perspective).  Middles school and up.

Internet 4 Classrooms
http://www.internet4classrooms.com
Online activities to supplement your learning

Khan Academy
http://www.khanacademy.com
Free online learning.  Main emphasis is math, but also science lessons also.

Learning A to Z
learninga-z.com
Free trial.  Basically, these are leveled readers.  This is by far the most expensive resource we use, but we can use it for all three kids for Reading, Social Studies and Spanish.  We also added the vocabulary one, which creates a vocabulary lesson for many of the books.  We use probably well over 100 books a year from this site, so it is worth it for me. My review is coming.

Muzzy
Muzzy Languages
Free through our library.  Online language learning.

PBS
pbslearningmedia.org
A ton of classroom ideas for PBS documentaries, some ready-made lesson plans that can be adapted for homeschool.  Sign up to get access.

Rainbow Resource
http://www.rainbowresource.com
Traditional Curriculum/Book Sellers (usually have some downloadable/pdf versions, but mainly hardcopy)
(new and used)  They also have a free GIGANTIC catalog they will send you if you request it.

Saylor Foundation
saylor.org
Free online classes (K-12 classes launched in 2013)

Scholastic
http://printables.scholastic.com/printables/home
subscription based, large variety of subjects/grades

Spectrum (Carson Dellosa) workbooks
http://www.carsondellosa.com/cd2/searchcatalog.aspx?k=brand:Spectrum
good for review or extra practice, not teaching concepts in detail

Starfall
http://www.starfall.com
Lots of free early learning activities (Preschool-1st grade)

Super Teacher Worksheets
http://www.superteacherworksheets.com
subscription-based, printable worksheets/supplements (lots)

Teachers Pay Teachers
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com
printables created by teachers
Newsletter sends you 10 free each week

Time 4 Learning
http://www.time4learning.com
Free two week trial.  We have used parts of this site for different subjects.  In my opinion, it’s better for the younger years (Pre-K, K, 1st) but the kids usually love it.  You can cancel at any time. Sometimes I have used it over the summer as a review.

TumbleBooks
http://www.tumblebooks.com
Online books (mostly little kids) Read to them or read on their own.  Pairs fiction with non-fiction.  We use this free thorough the school district and the library also has a free subscription.

Vocabulary Spelling City
http://www.spellingcity.com
Subscription-based spelling and vocabulary activities.  Some activities are free.

Well Trained Mind
forums.welltrainedmind.com/classifieds/
Used curriculum – mostly classical education

Youth Digital
http://www.youthdigital.com/
computer classes/video game design (expensive but very good)
sometimes on sale at Homeschool Buyers Co-op

Starting Homeschool: First Steps

Spring is coming (although there is little evidence of that here) and every year the homeschooling groups get a sudden influx of parents who are realizing that they are unhappy with the way this school year went and are now considering homeschool.  This is especially true of the special needs groups, as IEP meetings happen and parents are not satisfied with where their child’s education is going.  For all of you who are considering homeschool or have already decided in that direction, I have put together some resources to help you get started.  We’ll start with some general information and I will include more detailed information in the weeks to come.

R having fun

Where to start:

1.  Research the requirements in your state.
Do you need to do standardized testing?  Are you required to register somewhere?  Here is a good starting point: http://www.hslda.org/laws/

2.  Learn about on the different homeschool methods (brief chart below).
There are books about most of them, but you can also read some of the many homeschool blogs that will tell you why they love their particular style of homeschooling.  Be sure to read many different perspectives so that you get a complete picture of the pros and cons of each, although most people don’t stick to one strictly.

3.  Look at the curriculum available.
Many places will send you catalogs and you can see samples online.  If you attend a homeschool convention you can also see them in person.  Some maybe available at teacher’s supply stores, but most are not.

4.  Do some planning.
What do you want your kids to learn this year?  Here is how I planned P’s first grade year https://hupostasis.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/planning-first-grade-homeschool and here is our fifth grade plan for D https://hupostasis.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/on-to-fifth-grade.  You don’t have to be as detailed as I am, but it is a good idea to figure out where you are going so that you can evaluate which are the correct tools to get you there.  It helps you avoid the mid-year feeling of “Why did I waste so much time on that?”

5.  Jump in!
Start with some things that are light and fun to get used to the idea of learning at home.  Use summer break to do some fun science experiments or projects.  I would strongly advise against spending a lot of money your first year because you will find that what you thought would be great may not work as well as you thought for your kids.  If you really want to try something that is a little expensive, try getting it used.

6.  BE FLEXIBLE! 
Changing your plan is not a sign of failure!  Don’t feel bad if you need to scrap something you thought would be great and go in another direction.  Homeschool in real life is usually nothing like what you imagined in your head.

Method Description More info:
Classical Based on The Trivium – Little ones are in the “Grammar Stage” (learning basics to build on), the “Logic Stage” at about middle school (learning the way things fit together, more analytical), High School is ” Rhetoric Stage” where students perfect their skills and learn to communicate their now more sophisticated knowledge well.  Four year cycles of learning, most also learn Latin. The Well Trained Mind (by Susan Wise Bauer)
Charlotte Mason Heavy emphasis on the Humanities, especially literature.  Uses narration and copywork, many CM homeschoolers do a lot of unit studies. Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series
Unschooling Following the child’s lead in what he/she wants to learn, not requiring anything in particular, but encouraging their own curiosity. The Underground History of American Education (by John Taylor Gatto)
Eclectic A mix of different methods This describes most homeschoolers that I know.
Traditional Based on what children usually do in public schools a traditional school environment
Unit Study Integrating all subjects into areas of study.  A study of the rainforest might include a science study of what plants/animals live in the rainforest, literature based on someone’s life in the rainforest, math problems adding up jungle animals and geography lessons locating rainforests on a map. Usually a mix of unschooling ideas (follow what they love) and Charlotte Mason.  It is also a way to teach children in different grades with the same content but different assignments for each child.
Delayed Academics Young children simply explore their world (like unschooling), with no pressure to read, write and do academics until they show interest. Better Late than Early (by Raymond and Dorothy Moore)
Literature-Based All areas (except math usually) are explored through literature.  Biographies and historical fiction are used for social studies and math. Sonlight is probably the most well known curriculum that uses this method.  Charlotte Mason is often literature-based.

Homeschool Curriculum Review: Math-U-See

I have read many homeschool curriculum reviews and while it is nice to hear that people like or don’t like a certain program, I need to know WHY because my kids are probably different than your kids.  After all, that is one of the reasons most of us homeschool, right?

One of the most debated curriculum choices is Math-U-See.  People either love it or hate it or only love it for certain grades.  The people that don’t love it usually fell that way because they believe that it is not rigorous enough and to be honest, I felt that may be true in the past (although not anymore).

The first thing you must know about Math U See, is that it teaches in a linear way and concepts are taught to mastery.  Many math programs are a mile wide and an inch deep.  In first grade they touch on rote counting, counting objects, more than/less than, place value, adding, subtracting, time, measurement, fractions, skip counting, writing numbers, shapes, 2D and 3D, and other concepts.  Because there is so much ground to cover, the curriculum skips around a lot.  Two weeks on one subject and then two weeks on something unrelated, which really does not help the student retain the information.

Math U See’s Alpha book (usually done in first grade) focuses on single digit addition and subtraction.  Period.  Now, in truth, it does teach many of the subjects mentioned above, but it is all within the context of single digit addition and subtraction.  So, skip counting is covered, but might be approached as 5+5+5 when first introduced.  The concepts build on one another and follow a logical order.  When D was younger, I worried about this because I thought that he may have difficulty if he returned to public school because Math U See may not cover some of those things until later (when they fall logically).  However, I came to realize that because math curriculum in schools tended to skip around so much, most of the information had to be covered again the next year and maybe a third year after that before the students actually mastered it!  If he had to take a standardized test, he would have probably missed a few, but who cares?  I have no absolutely desire to teach to a test.  By the time he takes the SAT or ACT, it will be covered!

 Here are the “primary” levels available:
Primer – This is an optional kindergarten level math.  It is the least “linear” of all the levels and introduces a variety of subjects.  This is the only level where you are “allowed” to move on even if your student does not totally “get” the concept.
Alpha – Single-digit addition and subtraction
Beta – Multi-digit addition and subtraction
Gamma – Single and multiple digit multiplication
Delta – Single and multiple digit division
Epsilon – Fractions
Zeta – Decimals
These are considered “secondary math”:
Pre-Algebra
Algebra 1
Geometry
Algebra 2
Pre-Calculus
Calculus

There is also a consumer math class called “Stewardship.”

If you are wondering where they introduce time or square roots or some other subject, you can take a look at the scope and sequence at the mathusee.com site.  It is all in there, but it is taught where it should be taught logically, not just to check a box for some state standards checklist.  For example, D is finishing up Epsilon right now.  The area of a circle is taught with Pi as 22/7 because Epsilon is all about fractions.  They also teach prime numbers here because you need to find factors for fractions.

How it works:

Each lesson (30 lessons per book) has a DVD of Steve Demme (creator of MUS) teaching the lesson.  He is teaching kids, so they have some of the same (right and wrong) responses that your kids may have.  He explains the concept and shows it visually with the blocks and usually gives several examples.  The parent should watch the DVD lesson and LATER either watch it with their child, so that they can do the block activities along with them and check for comprehension or the parent can just teach it to the student.  To be honest, I just let D watch it now that he is older and then I watch it over his shoulder so that I can help him.  For P, I watch but don’t show him the video.  I teach it to him all myself.

Some good things:

  • Concepts are taught in logical order.  Retention is better because lesson build on one anther
  • It is multi-sensory.  It is especially visual, which works really well for my boys and for many kids on the spectrum (and others who are not).
  • You know what to expect.  Each lesson has six pages and a test.  The first three are “Lesson Practice,” which focus on the concept just taught.  The last three are “Systematic Review,” which starts with problems from the current lesson and then gives many review problems.  Because you know what is coming, you can tailor it to your student.  If D gets every problem correct on page one, he can skip one of the lesson review pages.  If he gets 100% correct on the first Systematic Review page, he can skip to the test.  This keeps you from wasting time.
  •  Steve Demme is a very good teacher!  I actually like math, but I am not very good at teaching it.  Usually it just kind of makes sense to me, so it can be hard for me to explain it.  Even though I do enjoy math, I have understood it better after watching the videos.  (Isn’t that true for most homeschool subjects though?)
  •  The program is thorough.  In the beginning I had my doubts, but I have now heard from many, many parents that used MUS all the way through Calculus that did very well (often better than their peers) when they got to the college level.
  •  It seems easy!  I think  this is one of the reasons that some people doubt that it is rigorous enough.  Concepts are added slowly, one at a time, so that it seems very easy.  Many of us think, “I don’t remember math being this simple!”
  •  There are many used copies for sale (especially of the DVDs, Teacher’s Manuals and the Test Booklets).  There are the Spiral Bound versions, the 2004 versions, the 2009 versions and the new 2012 versions.  However, they all work together!  The old DVD with the new workbook is fine.  They don’t change the lessons.  This has been great because I usually buy everything used easily except the student workbook, which I buy almost always have to buy new (comes with the test booklet).

Some possible drawbacks:

  • It CAN be hard to switch to MUS if you have already done a few years in another curriculum.
    One reason for that is that MUS expects you to MASTER the skill taught that year.  After Gamma, the student should be able to do, for example, 8,758 x 6,241.  Some curriculums may not go that far.  They may teach only to the hundreds or thousands times tens.  MUS advises you to go back and fill in the gaps because math should be sequential and you should not move on until one skill is mastered.  I started doing the Beta book with D in second grade.  By the end of October I decided that homeschooling was not a good idea for that year and ended up sending him to public school.  At the end of the year, I decided to homeschool again, so I thought we would do a quick review of Beta over the summer.  Well, it turned out that although he did well in school, he did not know everything in the Beta book, so we just started where we left off and ended up finishing Beta about half way through third grade.  Then we moved on to Gamma.  I hated the idea of being “behind,” but I knew that it was better for him to really know the material.  Now we are ahead because working through the summer worked so well, that we have kept it up every year.  We move less quickly in the summer – usually just one page a day, one unit every two weeks, but we never totally stop. 
  •  It can be expensive.  Once you get the Teacher’s Pack (Teacher’s Manual and DVD) and the Student Pack (Workbook and Test Booklet), if you buy it new every year it is expensive.  You also have to buy the blocks, but that is pretty much it for the manipulative until you reach Gamma, so they will last you several years.
  •  Some things are not done the way you remember them (the way we used to do them in school), so you do need to watch the videos, even if you are good at math.
  •  Some people find it the predictability monotonous.

Personally, I HIGHLY recommend MUS, especially for learners that are not primarily auditory learners.  After using Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon, I think I have a pretty good picture of the program.  It is worth the money for us (even on our limited budget) and I can’t imagine ever switching to another curriculum for math.

Here are some MUS-related links to help you make your decision:
www.Mathusee.com (official website)
Math U See’s YouTube channel (a great resource for FAQ and demos!)
Math U See’s Facebook page https://facebook.com/mathusee
Math U See related yahoo groups (not officially sponsored by MUS):
http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/MUSSwap/info (for people wanting to buy or sell used MUS materials)

Workbox Wonders!

Now that the school year is in full swing we are busy, very, very busy.  R is in preschool for a couple of hours a day and having a blast.  P (1st grade) is going to school for language/literacy work for a short time in the morning and then for PE for 25 minutes in the afternoon and D (5th grade) is taking PE, Music and Art in our local public school.  Apart from that we doing all the academic subjects for P and D at home, so we have a really crazy schedule this year (even crazier than I anticipated because D’s 5th grade “specials” schedule was changed).  I have to print out our schedule daily to see who has to be where and at what time.  It all seems to be working out, but since we have so much going on, I have to be extra organized with the homeschool subjects.photo 4

(Cue the music….) Workboxes to the rescue!  The “Workbox System” is a homeschool organization system that was invented by Sue Patrick for teaching her autistic son.  Since then, many, many homeschoolers have used it (special needs or completely typical kids) and there are a million variations on it.  Google “Homeschool Workboxes” and you can see thousand of ideas to inspire you (if not more).

I “tried” workboxes for a while last year, but I used a hanging file system and it really did not help that much since space was very limited for each subject.  This year, we actually bought two shelving units from IKEA (Trofast) and put an old closet door between them as a desk.  What a difference!  The biggest advantages are:

1. For D, he can be more independent.  He has a list with a number by each subject and he can go to the corresponding drawer to find everything he needs.  Subjects that he needs me for are marked “with mom.”

2.  I don’t lose P’s attention while I am gathering the materials for our next assignment.  Last year, by the time I found the iPad, the crayons or whatever I needed, he was gone doing something else and wanting to go back to that for the next ten minutes.  Now it is so fast that we just move to the next thing without losing attention.

I was afraid that I would have to spend hours preparing the workboxes the night before, but honestly it only takes ten minutes or less.  Plus, all completed work gets put in the “All Done” bin and we are not searching around the house for D’s math test, or essay that has disappeared.  Raquel even has her own bin for when she wants to do “homework.”  I do not know why we did not do this sooner!

photo 1photo 5photo 6

On to Fifth Grade

A few weeks ago I shared what we did for D’s fourth grade year and mentioned some of what we were doing next year, but here is our actual “official” fifth grade plan including our goals.  Is is basically just Language Arts, Math, Spanish and Typing, but as you can see, it is still a lot because included in Language Arts are: Spelling, Vocabulary, Literature, Writing, Grammar and Punctuation. D will be in public school for Science, Social Studies and “specials.”

Charts often do not do well on the web.  If the chart does not look right on your PC, click on the link to the pdf, directly above the chart.

Diego 5th Grade Plan and Goals

Subject Area

Learning Goals:

Materials/Methods:

Spelling

Decode unfamiliar multi-syllable wordsRecognize misspelled words and correct in writing Spelling Box (box with index cards of words spelled incorrectly)Seeing Stars WorkbookSeeing Stars Flashcards (I make these)

Vocabulary

Identify unknown words in readingFind meaning of unknown words through context/word roots and affixes Vocabulary BoxVocabulary Exercises in Novel Discussion GuidesRed Hot Root Words Workbook

Literature

Engage with text through visualizingIdentify literary elements: plot, subplot, characters, setting, themeIdentify rising action and falling action/resolutionIdentify point of view in narrative (e.g. first person)Understand figurative languageIdentify types/purpose: fiction/nonfiction narrative, persuasive, expositoryPoetry: identify types of poems and their meaning Visualizing and Verbalizing Workbook7 Novels (below) with vocabulary and comprehension guidesSpectrum Reading Workbook10 Poems

Writing

Organize and write independently:Persuasive: Five Paragraph EssayResponse to literature (paragraph and essay)Narrative (Fiction/Non-Fiction)Edit own writing for better style, punctuation, grammar, spellingWrite research report in steps with guidance SWI-A (Finish)Medieval History Writing Lessons

Language Arts

Review Parts of Speech/Grammar- identify incorrect and correct in writingReview punctuation rules (esp. comma use, quotation marks, capitalization) and correct in writing Spectrum Language Arts Workbook Daily Paragraph Corrections

Math

Review previous learned skillsFractionsDecimals Finish Math U See EpsilonDo Math U See Zeta

Spanish

Learn correct conjugation of ser, estar, ir, and regular -ar verbsIncrease dialog in SpanishIncrease vocabulary in Spanish Weekly paragraph assignmentsDaily dialog practiceSpanish Workbook

Keyboarding

Place hands correctly on the keyboardBecome more familiar with the location of the keys on the keyboard Dance Mat TypingOther keyboarding games

Novels for 5th Grade

 

GRADE LEVEL

LEXILE

GUIDED READING

DRA

PAGES

INTEREST

Double Fudge

4.5

450L

R

40

213

3-5

A Wrinkle in Time

4.7

740L

W

60

232

6-8

The Outsiders

5.1

750L

Z

70

192

6-8

Johnny Tremain

5.3

840L

Z

70

320

6-8

Esperanza Rising

5.5

750L

V

50

262

6-8

Island of the Blue Dolphins

5.5

1000

V

184

6-8

Tuck Everlasting

5.9

720L

V

50

160

3-5

Weekly Schedule D 5th Grade (For those of you who think we are crazy, we do what works for us.  Fifteen minutes every day is usually more effective FOR US than 40 minutes twice a week.  That is just what we have found for our particular situation.)

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Math

DVD/Page A Page B/C Page D/E Page F Unit Test

Language Arts

Daily Paragraph
2 pgs Workbook
Daily Paragraph Daily Paragraph
2 pgs Workbook
Daily Paragraph Daily Paragraph

Spelling

Spelling Box
Flashcards
Spelling Box
1 pg Seeing Stars
Spelling Box
1 pg Seeing Stars
Spelling Box
Flashcards
Spelling Box
1 pg Seeing Stars

Spanish

Spanish Box
Verb Practice
Spanish Box
2 pgs Workbook
Spanish Box
Paragraph
Spanish Box
Verb Practice
Spanish Box
2 pgs Workbook

Writing

IEW assignment IEW assignment IEW assignment IEW assignment IEW assignment

Literature

V/V Workbook Literature Cycle Literature Cycle Literature Cycle Literature Cycle

Vocabulary

Vocabulary Box Vocabulary Box
Workbook
Vocabulary Box Vocabulary BoxWorkbook Vocabulary Box

36 Weeks

Writing (IEW assignments):Aug through Nov: SWI-ADay 1: DVD (if needed) and KW OutlineDay 2: DraftDay 3: FinalDec through June:Ancient History-Based Writing Lessons(22 lessons, one per week) Literature Cycle (Tues through Fri):Week 1&2: Novel with activitiesWeek 3&4: 2 short story passages/dayWeek 5: Other assignments (poetry, short books, others)