Thursday, June 21, 2012

Therapy Thursday: Finger Warm-Ups

Each week I will post about some type of therapy we use, who recommended it, and the reason we are using it.  Remember, I am not a licensed therapist and I am sharing our experiences. We would also love to hear your stories. Please share in the comments!

Finger Warm-Ups

Ever have those days where you just can't get your fingers to cooperate?  Well, for our boys that is an everyday occurrence.  Their autism spectrum disorder and cerebral palsy we have to thank.  They all see an occupational therapist (and not the same one either).  Some of the tasks they work on are: daily living skills, handwriting, finger/wrist strengthening, integrating right and left sides of their body, and body awareness.  Who knew fastening a zipper or button could take months years of practice? 

Here is a great way to get those fingers warmed up before any fine motor activity or just for the day.  The boys' occupational therapists often have them do this activity at the beginning of a session.  All you need is a container of exercise putty and some pennies.  We have a 2 oz. container of the green (medium firm) putty.

I give the boys the container of putty with the pennies already mixed in.  They have to pry the putty out of the container then roll it out on the table.

Notice how Alex is really pushing here (straight elbows & in a standing position).  As they roll the putty out, the pennies become visible and they have to use their fingers to pry the pennies out.

I remind the boys that we are trying to make a long, skinny snake.  Notice here how Alex is rolling the putty all the way to his fingertips, pressing firmly.

Finally the boys get to "hide" the pennies for the next person.

What kind of activities do you have your children do to get ready for their day?  What other uses for the exercise putty can you think of ?


Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through one of those links it will not change the cost of the item, however it will help support our homeschool.  Thank you! 

Moments to Remember

Moments to Remember was developed as a simple way to look back on our week as homeschoolers and find photos that encompass the memories we want to remember. 
The week may have been tough, there may have been more bumps than smiles, but in the end these are the moments that keep us going, the ones we need to remember.

Celebrate Good Times
We've done quite a bit of celebrating lately.  First of all we are celebrating the fact that our pool heater is finally up and running!  No one likes to swim in 70 degree (or below) water.  The pool is comfortable enough now that everyone enjoys it!
Alex turned 10 (double digits!).  He chose a "Cars" cake, and for his birthday dinner we ate In-n-Out cheeseburgers and french fries.  We started a tradition of taking the birthday child shopping with just mom and dad to pick out their own birthday present.  The kids love it!  Alex chose a Beyblade battle set.
And then we celebrated Father's Day with my wonderful husband!  I think James celebrated a little too much.
And now we are celebrating our upcoming Disneyland vacation.  This will be a first-time for most of the family and will definitely be a moment to remember.
This has been a link-up with Homeschool Creations.
This blog has been nominated for the Top 25 Homeschooling Moms - 2012 list on Circle of Moms!  Would you consider voting?  Thank you so much!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

5 1/2 Hour Afghan, Or Is It?

I had been looking for a throw blanket to go on the couch in our front room for some time and couldn't find something that had just the right colors, so I decided to make one instead.  These are the colors I choose.  I ended up not using as many balls of yarn as indicated on the pattern (link above).

Well, suffice it to say that {for me} it took longer than 5 1/2 hours to make this afghan.  I usually have a lot of interruptions while I am crocheting/knitting so that is to be expected.

Close up of the finished afghan
I like the fact that you use all 3 strands of yarn at the same time, giving it the multi-colored look.  You crochet with hook size Q-19.  I had to go buy one because I had never used this large of a hook, but I liked using it because it was easier to hold and made the work go by much faster.  

Here is the finished room.  I was trying to blend the colors in the rug, chairs, candles, and couch.  I think I achieved it.  What do you think?  Is this a project that would interest you?  If you have made this pattern or decide to make it in the future, please e-mail me so I can provide a link to your blog.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Therapy Thursday: Backyard Obstacle Course


While I was setting up an obstacle course in our backyard for the boys using many of the activities I have observed the children participate in during their various therapies, it came to me.  I could share about this on my blog.  (Any of my fellow bloggers relate?)  And wouldn't it be fun to have a theme about Therapy Thursday?  Each week I will post about some type of therapy we use, who recommended it, and the reason we are using it.  Remember, I am not a licensed therapist and I am sharing our experiences.    

Backyard Obstacle Course

Here's how our obstacle course went:

1.  Scooter board on your belly across the deck.  

2.  Jump off the deck.  Then roll the large inflatable ball up the hill.

3.  Jump on the mini-trampoline while counting to 5.

4.  Crawl through the tunnel while pushing the basketball.

5.  Try to throw the frisbees inside the hula hoop.

6.  Walk across the balance discs.

7.  Go to the swing.  Lie on your belly and swing for a count of 5.  (Unless your name is Johnathan.  In that case you will spin for a count a 5.  Don't forget to also spin in the opposite direction for the same amount of time.)

8.  Place the purple stretchy sensory band around your ankles and jump over the sticks (with both feet together).  I laid out 4 sticks.

9.  Try to blow up a balloon.  This one was hilarious.  None of the kids were able to blow up the balloon, but it certainly wasn't for lack of trying.  Johnathan was concentrating so hard he had to sit down. *chuckle*


10.  Walk down the stairs and touch the cone.

The kids each did this a couple of times, then they helped clean up.  Most of the activities in this obstacle course were for balance and coordination, and also to help with sensory regulation.  Our boys all have sensory processing disorder, or SPD.  "A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks."   Read more here at the SPD Foundation.  Want to find out if your child has SPD?  Here is a checklist.  Our boys see Occupational Therapists (or OT's) twice a month.  The role of the OT is to improve the client's ability to perform tasks in their daily living and working environments.  We work closely with our boys' therapists so we can carry-over what they are working on at home.  The more practice, the better.

Has your child been in any type of therapy (occupational, physical, speech, behavior, social skills, etc.)?  Was it helpful?  Why or why not?

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through one of those links it will not change the cost of the item, however it will help support our homeschool.  Thank you!

Now it's your turn to share something helpful you have learned in therapy with your child.  Feel free to copy/paste the Therapy Thursday logo into your post.  I only ask that you provide a link back.  Have fun with it!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Easy Pizza Dough

Easy Pizza Dough
1/4 ounce pkg dry active yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2/3 cups water, warmed to 110-115 degrees (F)
1/4 cup canola oil
2 cups all-purpose flour

We made this in our Ninja Kitchen System we purchased from Costco.  We used the 40 oz. pitcher and dough blade.  We made 2 batches for our family and it made 7-8 individual pizzas.  Place the yeast, salt, sugar and water in the bowl.  Pulse on level 1 for 10 seconds.  Add the oil and flour, 1 cup at a time, pulsing on level 1 until the dough is smooth and no lumps remain.  Transfer the dough to a lightly-oiled bowl and cover.  Let rise for about 1 hour.  Spread the dough onto a pizza pan or baking sheet that has been lightly coated with cooking spray.  Add sauce and toppings as preferred and bake at 425 degrees (F) for 25-30 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned and the toppings and cheese are hot. I would start checking the pizza around 18 minutes depending on how your oven cooks.

Banana (Nut) Bread

This is a recipe I make quite often.  Our children prefer their bananas with no brown on them (including spots) so I usually have bananas that need to be used or tossed.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I prefer to use 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp oil (I use Canola)
1/3 cup milk (I have used cow's milk or almond milk without changing the flavor)
1 egg
1 1/4 cups mashed bananas (~3 medium)
(Walnuts optional) I prefer no nuts, but my husband likes nuts so I alternate.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease bottom of loaf pan.  Mix all ingredients and beat for 30 seconds.  Pour into pan.  Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (my oven takes 65 minutes).  Cool slightly.  Loosen sides of loaf from pan and remove.  Cool completely on cooling rack before slicing.  Store in airtight container for up to 1 week.

*I have also made this recipe into mini-muffins.  Follow same recipe but use mini-muffin pan and bake at 400 degrees for approx 13 minutes.  Makes a handy snack.    

Monday, June 11, 2012

Top Ten Favorite Read Alouds

I am joining the wonderful bloggers at iHomeschool Network for 10 in 10, Ten Weeks of Top Ten Lists.  This week's feature is:

1.  Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? By Bill Martin and Eric Carle

Product Details

An oldie but a goodie.  Because of the repetition in this story, it is an easy book for my non-readers to pick up on.  There are also so many activities you can use to go along with this book.  We love the M&M sorting mat (Making Learning Fun) and printable pack (1plus1plus1equals1).

2.  If You're Angry and You Know It! by Cecily Kaiser

Product Details

I am always looking for ways to teach social skills in a fun and interactive way.  This book can be sung to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It" while teaching children ways to resolve their anger.  We usually stand up and spread out so that we can also incorporate movement.

3.  Love You Forever  by Robert Munsch

Product Details             
"I'll love you forever
I'll like you for always
As long as I'm living
My baby you'll be."                                                                                                             

I have to admit the very first time I read this book I was an adult and it brought tears to my eyes.  Now that we also have four adopted children I feel very strongly that the message this book conveys is one that needs to be repeated over and over.  

4.  Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner
Product Details

This is one my husband reads to the kids.  Since he speaks fluent Spanish he is awesome at doing the voice with an accent.  I am not sure who enjoys it more, Daniel or the kids.

5.  Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Product Details
A humorous twist of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  Ever had one of those?  Maybe next time you do perhaps you should read this book.

6.  Personal Space Camp by Julia Cook
(Note: All of her books are must-haves for help in teaching social skills!)
Product Details

For our children with PDD-NOS (a form of autism), ADHD, SPD (sensory processing disorder), and any other acronym diagnosis this book is a helpful tool for teaching about "personal space".  It is a book you will want to read often if your children have a difficult time grasping that concept.  You can also do the activities with your children that the character in the book does.

7.  Flat Stanley Collection by Jeff Brown
The Flat Stanley Collection Box Set
This is about Stanley who was an average boy until the night his bulletin board fell on him and flattened him.  Oh the adventures he has!  You can make your own Flat Stanley and mail him just like in the story.  Check out some Flat Stanley ideas here.

8.  A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy
A to Z Mysteries Complete 26-Book Set (The Absent Author, The Bald Bandit, The Canary Caper, The Dea
When our oldest child (who is now 20) was in second grade he became hooked on this series.  Unfortunately the entire series was not even written yet.  He was so disappointed.  Fortunately for you, the series (A to Z) is now complete.  These are great as read alouds or for the kids to read to you!

9.  Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snickett
 The Complete Wreck (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Books 1-13)
While preparing to write this blog post I asked our older children which books were their favorite read-alouds from their homeschooling days.  They both picked this series.  There are thirteen books total, but before you go and buy them, check your local library!  These books may have you shaking your head while you are reading.

10. Chronicles of Narnia by C.S Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia Scholastic Box Set (Book One Through Book Seven)
I know, another box set.  These are classics.  Again, these are books we read with our older children.  (Although I only recall actually reading one book from this series.)  I enjoyed reading aloud so that we could have discussions throughout the book.  The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is now also a movie you may enjoy watching together.

What are some of your favorite read-alouds?  Do you prefer reading or listening to audiobooks?

This Top Ten Tuesday link-up is hosted by Angie from Many Little Blessings.


Thank you to everyone who has supported me by voting for this blog in the Circle of Moms Top 25 Homeschooling Blogs Contest!  Please continue voting daily here until June 27th.

This post contains affiliate links.  They don't change what you pay, but helps us purchase our homeschool supplies.  We thank you for any purchases you make through this blog! Rent Books or Audiobooks at Booksfree

Our 2012 High School Graduate

We are proud to announce the high school graduation of our daughter, Adriana.  She was in the second graduating class of Antelope High School, having the priviledge of attending the school on the very first day of it's opening.  She was very involved in the performing arts at AHS.  From dance to choir, she loved to perform.  We are extremely proud of her and all that she accomplished.  Next she will be attending a local community college, working on a degree in nursing.  She aspires to be a Pediatric RN.

Let's take a look back in time to the beginning of her school journey...

Kindergarten graduation (2000)
Adriana attended Cameron Ranch Elementary in Carmichael, CA for Kindergarten through 2nd grade.  We then made the decision to homeschool.  We chose to enroll both of our children (at the time) in a public charter school.  At that time, we felt that was a wise decision.  We were just starting out as homeschool parents and felt more comfortable with the extra support that was provided in the way of teaching assistance, record keeping, and funding.  We weren't sure if the kids would be re-entering the public school system in middle or high school so this seemed like the best option for us, at the time. 

I must say that Adriana has a completely different personality and learning style than I do and sometimes that made teaching her difficult.  She is a kinesthetic learner and learns best "by doing" through movement and song.  She is also a very social person (interpersonal), whereas I am more of a solitary person (intrapersonal) and I like to figure things out on my own.  How our brains process information is different.  

We began to suspect that she might have dyslexia and approached the charter school about it.  Since we were homeschooling and already making accommodations for her, she was able to remain at grade level.  This was great, although it meant we would not receive any additional support from the charter school.  We read books aloud, learned math facts to songs, and went on many field trips.  

When she reached 7th grade she began expressing interest in returning to public school.  We had many family discussions regarding this.  We also became foster parents to three boys with special needs (& eventually adopt) so my time was much more spread thin.  We were aware of a brand new high school that would be opening her Freshman year, but felt it would be best if she returned to public school for 8th grade.  We were hoping she would make some new friends and get acclimated to "going" to school everyday.  She survived 8th grade!

8th Grade Graduation (2008)
It was now time for high school, in a brand new school.  Everyone was so excited!  My husband, Daniel, became a daily volunteer at the school and eventually one of the wrestling coaches.  Adriana made it through freshman year, then during sophomore year she began experiencing some medical issues.  We became foster parents again, this time to a newborn girl.  Adriana decided she would like to go back to homeschooling her junior year.  Her reasons were valid and we felt it would be beneficial.  Again we chose the charter school because we wanted her to have an "official" diploma.  We found out that homeschooling through the charter school was a lot more strict for high school because we still had to teach the same state standards as the public schools.  There was not as much freedom as we'd experienced during the elementary years.  School became more about what we had to get done before our next meeting with the teacher, and less time for the fun things.  

The one advantage the charter school afforded us was that when Adriana decided to return to public school for her senior year it was a smooth transition.  All of the necessary paperwork was in order.  She earned more than enough credits for that school year.  For her senior year she only had 2 required classes left and was able to take elective classes (dance and choir) and even have first period off.  Overall, it was a fun year for her and I am happy she was able to experience it.

High School Graduation (2012)
Do you know what your children's learning style is?  Click here to take a free online learning styles inventory.  Are you homeschooling through a charter school or privately?  Are you happy with your decision?


Thank you to everyone who has supported me by voting for this blog in the Circle of Moms Top 25 Homeschooling Blogs Contest!  Please continue voting daily here until June 27th.  Thank you!   

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Moments to Remember

Moments to remember

Moments to Remember was developed as a simple way to look back on our week as homeschoolers and find photos that encompass the memories we want to remember.
The week may have been tough, there may have been more bumps than smiles, but in the end these are the moments that keep us going, the ones we need to remember.

The Great Kitty Rescue

One day last week one of our cats did not come in at night.  The next day we realized our lost kitty was stuck in a tree in our backyard.  High up in the tree.  Of our two cats, this would be the one to get stuck in a tree.  He has a difficult time getting out of some of our smaller trees.

My husband retrieved his ladder and the pool skimmer, just trying to reach where the cat was hiding.  The problem was every time my husband would get close, the cat would climb higher in the tree.  

We tried to lure the cat with food, to no avail.  All of our kids came up with different ideas.  They even threw tennis balls up in the tree to try to help the kitty out.  The cat would not budge.  MEOW.  MEOW.  

On the third day, we were really getting concerned so we called the non-emergency fire department number to inquire as to whether the firefighters would do an animal rescue.  The fire truck showed up in front of our house, but the fireman informed my husband that they do not perform animal rescues and that the cat would eventually come down.

Our other cat even climbed up the tree concerned for his brother.  He stayed perched on that branch for a long time.  The lost kitty continued to meow.  Then the crows began circling the tree.  My husband knew that if he did not get the cat out of the tree the cat would die up there.  He did not want our children to have to go through that.  So, even with a pulled muscle in his back, he climbed up the ladder and into the tree then pulled the ladder into the tree with him.  He positioned the ladder precariously on one of the branches and climbed higher in the tree until he was face to face with the cat.

He was able to call the cat towards him, but when he tried to pick the cat up, his claws were digging into the bark of the tree.  That was one really scared cat.  My husband knew the only way to save to cat was to toss him to the ground, so he did.  The cat landed on his feet and was fine.  Daddy was our hero!!

Both cats are pictured here safe and sound, drinking water from the faucet.  And all is well in our world.


This post is a link-up with Homeschool Creations.

This blog has been nominated for the Top 25 Homeschooling Moms - 2012 list on Circle of Moms!  Would you consider voting?  Thank you so much!

Homeschool Helps: Equivalent Fractions FREEBIE

 I know it has been a while since I have posted. Life is crazy, as usual. We are back to homeschooling two of our children this year. Becaus...