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Hi! I have been away from my blog for far too long, I know. We have been busy, busy, busy (and I am lazy). Dana is currently starting a series of in-depth retesting and re-evaluation at Children’s Hospital in Columbus. We are still homeschooling and still struggling with his severe dysgraphia, which I worry will seriously impact any future academic study success. I am hoping they can help with that.

As we start into his high school years, I find myself balancing our plans between giving him a curriculum that will satisfy a college or technical school (should he decide to go) and providing him with the knowledge and skills that I know will be critical to him for the rest of his life. For some reason, thorough grounding in nutrition (even general health), sex education, and financial literacy seem to receive, at best, only a minor nod in high school requirements. Not to mention other life skills, like shopping, cleaning, etc.. To me, these are possibly the most critically important things for him to learn. Thankfully, since we homeschool, we can cover those. The problem is in finding material to use.

Each year I research online to hopefully identify text books and material that best meets his needs, interests and abilities. When I purchase regular textbooks, I buy them used on eBay or Amazon, usually. In some cases, though, there is just nothing available, or what is available is of low quality or is otherwise unsuitable, or needs to be supplemented. Fortunately, I have found material that is either low cost or free that we are going to try. In some cases, it is in pdf format and must either be used on the computer or Kindle, or be printed out and put in a notebook or bound some way. In some cases, you can actually receive free printed material through the mail and not even pay shipping! In some cases, books are available free as e-books. I will cite some examples which we will be using at some point in the next 4 years.

FREE BOOKS
Financial Literacy: Along with some little books from Bluestocking Press, that seem impressive, we will use some paper back books in a series called “Building Your Future” from The Actuarial Foundation. These 4 award-winning educational books, accompanied by teacher’s guides, are available free on request from the Actuarial Foundation.
(I also purchased “Life Prep for homeschooled teenagers” by Barbara Frank, on Amazon. This book covers a lot of basic skills, including financial)

FREE E-BOOKS
Sex Education:
(Acknowledging the fact that many do not approve of too detailed sex education,(a mistake in my opinion), I will caution you to check the content of these books before sharing them. Since they are free, this is easy to do.)
These books are available in several formats from CK12. I downloaded them to my Kindle, but also have the teacher guides in my computer in pdf format in case I want to print them, or portions of them. Titles include: “Your Changing Body”, “Human Biology- Sexuality”, “Human Biology-Reproduction.” These were written for middle school to high school ages.
Science and More: CK12 also has many more text books, particularly in the sciences, some of which we will likely use. Usually, teacher guides are also available, and sometimes student workbooks can be downloaded. They are all free.

FREE TEXT BOOKS IN PDF FORMAT
Physics – Electricity:
Due to Dana’s strong focus on computers and electricity, we will probably go a bit further than most in his study of those areas. I located a site where you can download free open-source textbooks written by an instructor who was disappointed in the textbooks available for his students, so wrote his own. They are for upper high school or beginning college level. Visit “Lessons in Electric Circuits” to download.
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There is a strong move toward providing college students with downloadable, free textbooks in e-book format. Sometimes these may also be suitable for upper level and/or advanced high school students as well. Check out “Open Access Textbooks“.

I have only scratched the surface here, I am sure. If you have a free resource for high school students, please post a comment to tell us about it!

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I am finally getting around to listing the many homeschool books and supplies that we no longer need on eBay. If you are looking for something, check out the list now and then by clicking HERE. If there is something you are looking for that you think I might have but haven’t yet listed, let me know. I f I have it, I will list it with both a bid and a buy it now price. I really need to clear out some stuff!!

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If you are looking for resources for teaching that don’t cost an arm and a leg and will work for your kids and meet their special interests, I want to share some great freebies I downloaded recently. Just about everyone knows about the many great videos online, like Khan Academy for math, science and more. Here are some links you may or may not know about.
The first two I found through http://www.homeschoolfreebie.wholesomechildhood.com/ If you don’t belong to this free site, you should.
KISS Grammar grades 1-12: student workbooks and teacher’s guides: http://home.pct.edu/~evavra/KISS.htm
Lessons in electronics (high school-early college level books) http://openbookproject.net//electricCircuits/
( I have found several great teaching/learning texts like the two above that were written by very knowledgeable and experienced teachers/instructors/professors who were so frustrated at the lack of availability of good texts that they ended up writing their own and making them available for free. The two above have since been tested and edited.
Long ago, I purchased the great SuperCharged Science kit with materials and videos on CD. My boy fell in love with the videos and projects/experiments. This freebie will give you a taste of it for summer science fun.
Science Activity Manual and Video collection from Aurora Lipper: http://www.superchargedscience.com/lnc512-1b.htm  (available for a limited time)
I also download lots of free e-books to my Kindle for reading to my boy or having him read. Most are for pleasure reading, but some are history or science. The CK-12 science texts are good. I recently got “Logic to the Rescue” and “Castles and Chemistry” that are stories which encourage and teach thinking skills and the use of logic in an entertaining way. I also got “Charles Dickens’ Children Stories”, “Thomas Alva Edison: American Wizard,”  and a number of classics. Not only are they free, but my boy can also download them to his iPod Touch as well as having them on my Kindle Fire, and both are in color. Even the pdf files from other freebies are readable on these devices. 
Finding freebies requires the same judgment on quality of materials, suitability for learning level, learning style and interests that you should apply when purchasing materials, but at least, if it doesn’t work, you haven’t lost any money (except for the ink and paper you may have used to print. I printed the grammar book and spiral bound it.) I have never been one to purchase “school in a box” curricula, but “pick and choose” can be expensive, too. I am spending a lot less these days and getting some great stuff!

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Out of the Mouths of Homeschoolers


The other night I was trying to read to my boy at bedtime. Although the story was getting very exciting and the main characters were being attacked by pirates, he was squirming around, crawling under the covers, interrupting every few words joking about the unusual names of places and things. Finally, I said,”Look, I can’t read to you if you don’t listen. Tell me what is happening in the story right now, or I will stop reading.” He pulled the covers over his head and said,” I wish there were more kids in this class, so you wouldn’t ask me all the questions.”

It was so unexpected and surprising that I cracked up, then forgave him and kept reading (when I could keep from chuckling).

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“My child hates lessons!” “My child can’t write (hates math, can’t read, all of the above)!” “Homeschool is a constant battle.” “I am frustrated and worried to the point of tears.”

I am seeing many posts like this on the e-mail lists I belong to lately. I read them and think, “Yes, been there, done that.” I am so glad that things are changing for us lately. But can I tell these parents how to change things for their student? Maybe not. Each child is different. Yours may or may not have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum or some other learning difference. Each parent/grandparent is different,too. But I can share what is working for us, and I can try to provide some hope. I hope something I say here will at least let you know that you are not a bad parent or a poor homeschooler.

First, I want to make three confessions: 1. It took us a long time to get this far. 2. It may all change for the worse tomorrow. We can only take it a day at a time. 3. Not everyday is a good day. Some days still s…!

Tip number one is that it takes more than a schedule and the right curriculum to turn things around. For my 11 year-old boy it took the right diagnosis and medication at the right dosage to help him control his behavior and thinking ability. It also helps that he has a case manager/ counselor who visits him for an hour once a week. We also use the Total Transformation approach with him (it works). Sometimes there are therapies or therapeutic programs you can use that will help your child.

Next, my boy needs activities in and outside the home, including play dates at least once a week, when possible. Occasional classes and field trips provide variety, enrich his learning, spark interests, and give him a chance to interact with others outside the home, both authority figures and peers.

 Exercise does a lot to help him with self-discipline and focus, as well as being good for his health. In warm weather he loves swimming and he has year-round karate classes twice weekly, with daily practice. He is very proud that he is so close to attaining his junior black belt. Karate also teaches him many positive attitudes like respect, responsibility, self-control, and confidence.

Consistency in discipline, schedule, and expectations is the hardest for me to provide. But I am getting better at it. Some days I feel lazy, too. Having him help make what few rules we have, helps, too.

Readiness and interest are very crucial to learning and willingness to learn! Probably my boy’s change in attitude and effort on lessons is due in large part to changes he is going through naturally as he approaches adolescence. Focusing on and valuing what he truly wants to learn about is also very important. Another blogger quotes, “Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If he’s not interested, it’s like throwing marshmallows at his head and calling it eating.” ~ Katrina Gutleben

Finally, finding out how he learns best (learning style) and which materials really work for him took a long time, but I think we are there! The curriculum that I outlined in my blog post titled “Our New Year” seems to be a good match for him – at last! We are still following it and haven’t dropped a thing, so far. We are getting ready to add back in lessons on programming in Visual Basic. I am very pleased with the materials we are using because he likes them and is learning willingly (for the most part), but as they say, “Your mileage may vary.”. For details see “Our New Year,” If you are an unschooler, and it is working, ignore this. We definitely do not do “school at home,” though, and he still likes for me to be beside him or working with him.

Schedule:  We spend from 2 to 3 hours daily, mostly 5 days a week on lessons or learning activities. Because we are both natural night owls, we start late, and sometimes wait until afternoon, when he seems to do better. I also remind him to practice karate daily. He is asked to help with a few basic chores or lend a hand now and then. Otherwise, he is free to play Roblox, Algodoo, etc., build with Lego robotics, mess around with electronics, or whatever he is currently interested in. He also watches a few cartoons on TV and plays games on his 3DS. Since many of these activities are also educational and he especially loves them, we have no real limits on them, except to get to bed reasonably on time, where I still read to him nightly.

As you can see, I take what Tracey on the “All Kinds of Learners” list calls a bottom-up approach. In other words, there are fundamental needs that must be addressed first before curriculum matters at all. If they are not, even the best materials will not work, the child will not learn and no one will be happy. I believe in working with the whole child as an individual with individual needs. I don’t care what the schools or even the psychologists/psychiatrists say, the child is the only expert on him/herself.

Disclaimer: I speak as a grandmother raising one particular child with mild Aspergers. I have learned from many other homeschoolers and have researched, read and tried many things. This is where I am now, but my advice might be different a year from now (or even next week!). Who knows? If what I say helps you, that is great. If it doesn’t, feel free to ignore it or leave contradictory comments. One of the best things about being homeschoolers is that we are constantly learning, expanding our understanding, reshaping our philosophy, and changing our behavior. And remember, children are fortunately quite resilient! Challenging and exciting, isn’t it?

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(Since my Reviews page is a bit full, I will start posting them here. That way, each review will be available as a separate page, also.)

  A Personal Experience Perspective 

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that my 11-year-old grandson has mild Aspergers and is a right-brained learner. He seems to learn best with visual and hands-on material. He also has developed a strong dislike of mathematics because he can’t memorize math facts, no matter how many times we try with different approaches and materials. I finally decided to just move on and trust that he would pick up more of them as he used them. Besides, he understands concepts and can always use a math chart or a calculator. Actually, he often uses other tricks to figure it out.

I have also read comments saying that many children like him actually do better with higher mathematics than with arithmetic. So in the hopes of convincing him that he is not bad at mathematics, I decided to try “Hands-On Equations” (HOE) and jump right into an introduction to algebra.

We started this past summer and are finishing the third, and last, level now. It worked magic! He now likes doing math and even asks if we can do it before other subjects. He is doing well with it, too.

The program includes a DVD, which we tried in the beginning, but he did not like it, so we stopped using it. However, he loves the use of the flat “scale”, which teaches the concept of equality and reinforces the idea that “legal moves” must be performed on both sides to keep the equation balanced. The two-colored markers for unknowns and numbered cubes for positive and negative numbers have helped him to quickly visualize solutions. Sometimes he simply tells me the solution and I have to go through the steps, or ask him to “explain it” to me so I can check him.

The lessons are short and illustrated in color in the book, then a class worksheet is provided for each lesson, with review problems included. The word problems are numerous and he is working word problems that a few moths ago would have totally confused him. I think he is ready to zip through pre-algebra, at least.

Oh, yes, he usually is able to do the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division required in his head, one way or another. Those he has trouble with are just minor problems, not failure experiences anymore.  And his math confidence is restored! (Perfectionism is good in math, but not the effect it can have on self-confidence and attitude towards math.) I highly recommend “Hands-On Equations”!

 Check out the website here. Or see it on Amazon.com.

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