Homeschooling in the dining room and more!
This week is the “kick off” week for our 2013 homeschool year! Since Classical Conversations doesn’t start until next week, we are using this time to sink into our new routine.
I have to say that Sunday night I was full of the jitters. It’s been a busy few weeks with the extra work I did to pay off some bills. I don’t think I can mentally prepare anymore but I still feel unprepared.
Last year was quite the experience that you can read about here…you’ll see why I gave up and why I am starting again. If you are new to the blog, I would read this.
I truly feel that things will be different this year but that doesn’t change my worry…thankfully I have put this in God’s hands to take care of and I feel that God is holding my hand through the whole process.
Our first three days have gone very well. We’ve even been able to stick to our schedule for the most part…We haven’t been following it exactly but it has been a very good guide. Just having something written as a general plan seems to have subdued some of my daughter’s previous blowouts.
On our schedule there are things that are specifically defined as “independent”….this isn’t quite happening because the kids are enjoying being at the table. I suspect that as things get more difficult, my daughter will need to be separated from the rest of the world. She likes to sing when she is irritated or frustrated. Yeah…not gonna work when there are others trying to learn too.
We also haven’t gotten started quite on time either – my fault! Thankfully, with doing homeschool in the dining room, I can make a healthy breakfast while starting the morning routine. We have been using the folding calendar display I showed in, Homeschooling without a Schoolroom, and saying an exaggerated “Good morning” to everyone else…it has been setting the happy mood.
I haven’t gotten up early enough to shower before school starts so today I was able to work the schedule so there was an extended break at 10am. The kids each had “assignments” and allotted break time while I was away. We finished up school after a quick lunch. So far, so good.
We have recently adopted a minilop rabbit that, Tee, is calling Lulu. Tee gets to go out and cuddle during her breaks and lunch…other than Tee being extremely territorial with it, the rabbit has proven to be quite useful. Lulu has worked well as a reward system when Tee is all done with her assignments. It seems to be very therapeutic for her. As for Lulu….I hope she lasts through the week…she’s been handled quite a bit.
As for behaviors….
My oldest daughter has done awesome! We have only had a few mild meltdowns. And with those meltdowns, I have been able to lesson the intensity by recognizing triggers and signs of escalation. It’s kind of interesting that I am using the techniques I was taught at work when managing aggressive behaviors in the ER….ha ha.
Also, learning what stimming is has helped me recognize when we are getting to a certain level. Here is a very short and sweet article on stimming. The comments also have more on the subject.
As for Tee, she has an “angry ear”…I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true! Her left ear gets red, hot, and swollen when she is getting upset. She also gets very mildly red around the eyes and will just stare at you when you are trying to talk to her. She may change her posture and tap her pencil. Her biggest indicators are when she starts to hum or sing. At times she will slightly flick her fingers at her sides. When you’ve really gotten her to a frustrated place you may even get a little rocking motion. These are just a few of my observations and they evolve to new things frequently.
If you have a child with special needs, I suggest you learn real quick what sets them off and the mild subtleties that signal their frustrations are growing. I am all for pushing them to gain new skill or knowledge but catching these behaviors early will allow you change your approach.
At the ANW house, even just changing my tone of voice, playing with her hair, and acting very very happy (even when I’m not) has been able to curb some of her possible tantrums. I am not sure saying things like “it seems you are getting frustrated” really helps…it just invites her to complain incessantly. I am still trying to learn a way to acknowledge her frustrations without setting her off further.
Besides changing your teaching approaches during this tense moments, the big thing is to NOT ENGAGE in their poor behavior. This was something that I failed at last year. For children with autism/Asperger’s, you will just feed their little negative fires. Last year I would try to tell her to go to her room when she was in mega-meltdown mode…to the point that I would have to drag her to her room when she absolutely refused.
This doesn’t work.
Instead, walk away. WALK. AWAY.
Tee had a couple of borderline moments but I was able to nip it in the rear-end pretty quick. She gets overwhelmed easily, especially with english and math. I am a stubborn person and I don’t want her to get away with not doing her work and nor do I want her to manipulate the system. When her poor behavior started to emerge this week, I asked if she would go to her desk to work. I told her it seemed she was getting upset.
Of course, she refuses every time. So….we left the room. It was seriously only a couple of minutes before she was asking for help and was in a much better state of mind. With that said, this is a huge grey area and will not work for everyone or every time. But I think this one piece of advice, which was given to me by her therapist, has been a life saver. At other instances, I just had to have my firm mommy voice (that I am trying to soften) and tell her how it needs to be. I am thankful for that darn rabbit because I have a bargaining chip now.
As for my 5-year-old son, who most likely has auditory processing and sensory issues (I don’t think autism), things have been better too! Last year I could not get him to speak, listen, or sit in his chair at all….for five weeks worth of school we had nothing to show for! This was so disheartening.
This year he is much more mature and has been able to sit in his chair (mostly) and hold a pencil and actually complete some work. I still truly feel that there is some kind of sensory thing going on but I have been putting off the evals…I’ve been dreading this process.
Last year I couldn’t get him to draw, play with the math manipulatives, or even sing. This year he is excited to learn and participate.
We have had some mild behavioral things with him as well but he is much easier to guide back to reality. I’ve pulled out his chair with him sitting in it and stuck it in the corner when he refused to stop picking on Tee and would not get down from the table for a time out. This fixed the problem for the rest of the day.
I don’t allow any TV until break time or after school and chores are done….this seems to be helping. When he gets to watch TV during “break” it is because I am needing more one on one with Tee.
My husband is also around a lot during the week and has been able to interject when the need arises with my little man. Sometimes all we need is daddy to put things back in order.
Overall things have been good. I am so grateful. I feel thoroughly exhausted and a bit overstimulated but things are good. I am so excited to see what this year has brings!
I am thinking about doing a weekly homeschool update…let me know what you think.
Also, who else has a special needs kiddo? What kind of tricks to you have up your sleeve to make things go smoother?