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Squeker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have a new addition to our home and homeschool, and he is a rodent! His name is Squeker (not a misspelling) and he is a Golden Syrian hamster about 9 weeks old. He was not a sudden or spur-of-the-moment aquisition, either. My hubby said he wanted to see a one page typed paper explaining why Dana should have a hamster and how he would care for it. With a little help, that was accomplished.

Much research, thought and careful planning went into his choice. Dana researched online before announcing that he thought a hamster would not only be a good pet, but a neat 4-H project as well. So our first purchase was made at the county extension office, where we bought the two 4-H Pocket Pets Project books. After reading a lot, he decided that a Golden Syrian would be the best choice for him, and we were off to the pet store for equipment and supplies. That was a hefty dent in the pocketbook, but Dana has agreed to earn money to help pay for it and to buy future supplies. 4-H doesn’t start up until February, but he has a head start so there will be less pressure later to complete the project book and required activities.

(Photo above was taken by Dana on his 3DS.)
 
As a homeschooling project it is already paying off in learning (research, reading, record keeping, planning and writing). As a life skills learning opportunity it is also showing results already. He is learning some things that are very hard for an Aspie, like empathy, patience, responsibility, planning ahead, and more.
 
Maybe every prospective parent should be required to do all this with an animal before being allowed to have children!  I do know that no baby has ever been more wanted, prepared for and lovingly nurtured than Squeker.

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Our studies are moving along now, so we want to add some field trips and take advantage of learning activities around us. Fortunately, I have found three that look like fun educational opportunities for Dana.

The first one on the calendar is a science workshop provided free for 6-8 graders (homeschoolers welcome) by Kenyon College, which happens to be very near where we live. The LADS (Learning And Doing Science) session for boys will be from 9:00 am to 1:30 pm, Saturday, October 22. This free session called “Chemistry All Around You” will include”  “KABOOM! Come see the hidden powers of common household items. How can you tell if a liquid has enough acid in it to burn through a table? You don’t want to touch it to find out, but a food in your fridge can tell you. We’ll watch candy blow up, and make and eat delicious instant ice cream. Come learn how chemistry can be cool! Registration will be open from September 1 to October 14, 2011.” If this one goes well, we will also register him for one in February on light particles. For more information, if you are anywhere in Knox County, Ohio, go to: http://www.kenyon.edu/physicslads They already held the first session for girls, but another will come up in March (http://www.kenyon.edu/x58103.xml )

Then, on Saturday, November 5, from noon until 4:00 pm, we will be taking a “Walk In the Past” at Mohican Outdoor School in Butler, Ohio. This is a family event giving the opportunity to experience what life was like in Ohio in the 1800s costing only $5.00 for the whole family. Click here for more info and to download flyer:  http://www.mohicanoutdoorschool.org/events/view/56/169.html No registration required.

On Tuesday, November 15, Dana and his granddad will be attending Mohican’s Fall HOOT (Homeschool Opportunities for Outdoor Training).

The website says: “Join us for the Fall 2011 Session of HOOT!, from 10 am – 2 pm.  Let’s start digging – that is, digging in our mock archaeology dig site!  We will explore the geology of Hemlock Falls, and learn about archaeology during this HOOT! session.  Cost per child: $5.00.  No fee for parents.  Please bring a packed lunch for child and adult, something to drink, and outerwear appropriate for the weather, as we will be outside for most of the class times, rain or shine.  Pre-registration required.”
Click here to register online

Hopefully these will all be great experiences and are all either free or extremely inexpensive. If you don’t live in my neck of the woods, check your own area for great activities. Happy Fall homeschooling!

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With the influence of comments made by Dana’s psychiatrist and from reading the first few chapters of John Taylor Gatto’s book, “The Underground History of American Education” (online), I decided to make changes in our homeschool to not only allow Dana to follow his interests, but to make them the focus of his education. 

In particular, I was impressed by the psychiatrist suggesting that we should have different expectations of Dana than we would for other students and should encourage his strong computer, electronics and robotics interests and above average abilities in those areas. I was also affected by what Gatto said about reading, which is a strength of Dana’s that needs to be built on.

Gatto said: “Reading, and rigorous discussion of that reading in a way that obliges you to formulate a position and support it against objections, is an operational definition of education in its most fundamental civilized sense. No one can do this very well without learning ways of paying attention: from a knowledge of diction and syntax, figures of speech, etymology, and so on, to a sharp ability to separate the primary from the subordinate, understand allusion, master a range of modes of presentation, test truth, and penetrate beyond the obvious to the profound messages of text. Reading, analysis, and discussion are the way we develop reliable judgment, the principal way we come to penetrate covert movements behind the facade of public appearances. Without the ability to read and argue we’re just geese to be plucked.” –

Some of this is way beyond Dana at present, but we will try to lay the groundwork. Reading lessons on Time4Learning and grammar study address some of this, also, so we will likely return to that later.

For at least the next two weeks, and likely for a long time, we are going to try this experiment. Dana is to learn what he is interested in learning and do it the way he wants to do it. I discussed this with him and we came up with a curriculum that he agreed reflected this. If it turns out to be too much influenced by my expectations and uncomfortable for him, we will make adjustments. If he has over-estimated his readiness to learn scripting programming, I will provide more assistance or we will hold off for a while. 

The curriculum starts off with learning scripting because that is what Dana said he most wanted to learn right now. And since scripting, like other programming languages, requires at least basic math, we will cover it when he needs it, thus avoiding the usual battles.

Dana’s Curriculum beginning February, 2011

  1. Scripting on ROBLOX using the Lua 5.1 programming language, a simple scripting language that can be embedded into games or programs (parent applications). A scripting language is a programming language that allows control of one or more applications. John K. Ousterhunt, in “Scripting: Higher Level Programming for the 21st Century,” says, “Increases in computer speed and changes in the application mix are making scripting languages more and more important for applications of the future.” Roblox developers have added in functionality to Lua so that users can create interactive content. Lua tutorials are available on ROBLOX. One important feature that nearly all programming languages use is math. Lua uses basic math, variables, conditional statements, random numbers, and more. So math will be included in scripting lessons. Dana will mostly learn and apply on his own, with help as needed. He will share what he learns and applications he develops.
  2. Mechanical principles of physics applied to building robots and Power Funtions constructions, plus programming Lego robots. Dana will mostly build and explore on his own and will share with  me what mechanical principles he applied and demonstrate programs by running the robots.
  3. Reading for pleasure and sharing and discussing afterwards, beginning with “The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow” followed by other books of his choice.
  4. I will continue reading classic literature to him and discussing it as we go. We will finish reading “The Secret Garden” and then “read “Huckleberry Finn,” followed by many others.
  5. I will continue reading history to him, and discussing and referring to maps. We are finishing reading about explorers and will learn about pirates next before beginning the founding of the U.S. Dana will read the “Little House” books at the appropriate time in our study.
  6. Dana will observe and work with my husband and our handy man in work around the house and property to learn a variety of useful skills, get exercise and develop positive attitudes to work.
  7. Dana will continue to tutor a boy at karate as long as needed, as well as continue his karate lessons, daily practice and exercise.
  8. Dana will likely continue his membership in 4-H, complete a project and do community service with the group.
  9. Other lessons will be at his request only.

Comments are not only welcomed, but requested.

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Like many homeschoolers, I am tired of the old “socialization” issue coming up. Recently, it has been coming from Dana’s counselor and child psychiatrist wo are trying to help him deal with anxiety, behavioral issues and Asperger’s Syndrome in general. Because he often does not want to talk or interact much with them, they tend to assume that he is always like that, despite what I tell them.

I won’t go into the many excellent arguments and discussions concerning what “socialization” really means and the pros and cons of learning social skills in brick and mortar school versus in homeschool. There are many blogs and websites that cover this quite well. I am just going to share a recent page I made for his scrapbook/portfolio so that I have something to show them as proof that, yes, he does interact with kids his age, as well as adults, and yes, he gets along just fine with them, thank you, and even has a small circle of special long-time friends.

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Chemistry: Mysterious M&Ms


Scrapbook page

 

The cup on the left contains two M&Ms. The cup on the right contains two gumballs. We also experimented with colored light corn syrup. In all cases, the colors did not mix as Dana predicted, but formed a pretty clear line separating the colors. In several cases, one color pushed over the top of another color, but no mixing occured. Next we will investigate whether the temperature of the water affects how fast the colored coating dissolves from an M&M. We have to hurry and finish these experiments before we discover how fast we eat all of the M&Ms!

Dana is also reading “Investigating the Scientific Method with Max Axiom” and has done some related pages on Time4Learning.

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I have been concerned that while my 10 yo can read quite well, he doesn’t seem to read for pleasure and only reads stories when I put it on the schedule. He loves for me to read them to him, however.

Yesterday I went into his room to have a discussion with him about how to help him choose to read on his own. I couldn’t talk with him, though, because he was on his computer reading a detailed tutorial on how to add laser light shows to the fireworks displays on Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 and did not want to be interrupted.

LOL. I forgot that he actually prefers reading for information (reading to learn, not learning to read) and does it when there is something he wants to know. He tests his own comprehension by following the instructions or using what he learns in some unique way. And I had been worrying that he didn’t seem to be pursuing knowledge on his own lately! I just need to remember that what I want him to learn and what he wants to learn are not always the same, but may get him to the same point. For example, he is learning problem solving, logical thinking and physics while he is “playing” at designing and building robots.

Now I just need to figure out how to work enough math into his interest areas!

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