Monday, September 25, 2017

San Diego Short and Sweet!

we did a quick trip to San Diego for just 4 days.  It was intended to test Bubby's response to Legoland and all its stimulus and whether he was tolerating it better.  We also had some unfinished business there and activities that we missed doing the last time so we happily packed up and left on a Wednesday morning.

A vacation is often about food for this family.  Milkshakes almost never happen so this was a happy moment to lighten the drive there!

Bubby really did do fairly well.  It was obvious he remember the place and didn't resist too much.  We found his favorite spinning ride and he chose to go on about 5 times over the two days we went there.

The kids were obsessed with snails again!  They had to rescue them from the possibility of being trampled and collected as many empty shells as they could find.

Beautiful blossom everywhere

This girl is not to be outdone by her siblings.  Bubby on the other hand ran quickly away from anything resembling therapy!

Everything was decked out in pumpkins and so my little girl thought it was all for her!

Bubby cracked me up with how he'd wake up every morning and open the patio door and sit down to chill and look out on the view.

While there I chanced upon seeing what the GIA was right next to Legoland.  It's the Gem Insitiue of America which according to it website  had a small museum of gems and minerals that you could schedule to see.  Knowing the oldest two would enjoy it I sent them off with Kent.  We had no idea why the security was so tight both in getting on the campus let alone getting in but apparently it's where people come and learn how to cut the gemstones so there are vaults underground housing these cut and uncut stones.   All museum items are put in cases such that leaning on them (which Bug did in her more fatigue state) made the possibility of setting off alarms very real!  It was a very last minute thing for us since we were leaving the very next day.   I had called and left a message, they were gracious enough to shecudle us in and even give a tour guide without all the usual background check.

Carved from an elephant tusk, there are ivory balls that move within the globe on top, all carved from a single tusk, no breaks.  Pretty amazing stuff!

While they played Bubby and I hit the park for one last time.

Kent often swears I could live under the sea with my facination of sea life.  My kids have pick up on this as well and tide pooling was just the perfect activity.  The best find of the evening was a brittle star fish that Bug spotted.  It's snake like arms were fascinating to watch.  Pumpkin was right there with them loving the sea anemones which she just couldn't prounce so it became, " sea an-i-mal" that her not so gentle fingers poked and watched with delight as they curled up and disappeared.  Bud was on the hunt for a shark tooth but found plenty of polished rocks to add to his collection.

The highlight of the trip was the morning before we left we went to Balboa park.  The last time we were here we had wanted to enroll Isaac into a rock polishing class. For a $10 annual fee to join the association (it's really about insurance) and $1 for the class he'd have 2.5 hours to take a raw piece of rock, cut, shape and polish it.  I love this picture I caught of him, so intent on his work.  The results were rather good, especially for a first timer.  It's shaped was fairly smooth and he just wished he had time to finish the last of the polishing.  Sadly on the all out to the car he accidentally dropped it and chipped and cracked it.  He was crushed that all that work was for naught.  It just meant we would have to make another trip out again in the future and start looking for such fun in Phoenix.

It was an open house in the Spanish village and the girls made wind chimes.  Bug then went to a pottery class.  Since we wouldn't be able to come back after the clay went into the kiln she was given air dry clay that is excellent in quality.  She played with many of the tool for shaping and texturing and created this scene of all her vpfavorite animals sitting on a couch watching TV together.  Once it dried we painted it with acrylic at home.

The kids classes left Kent and I free with the littlest two which we took on a bike tour of the area.  Bubby wasn't too sure of the whole thing and cried until I got him an apple to crunch on.  Either Kent and I are  out of badly out of shape or the rickety bike impeded our efforts but rode until our thighs burned, electing to always take the easier path since a simple speed bump could have us  groaning like we were near death!  Pumpkin loved it though, she loved the sights of the street artists, all the dogs being walked, the birds and flowers.  It really was a fun way to spend time with the little ones and to come back to the older two who had learned new things and were highly satisfied with their work.

We only wished San Diego was closer so we could enjoy all it's educational opportunities more frequently.   We are grateful that we had the excuse for this small trip and for all the memories it affords us.  "Now this is why I love homeschooling!" Was Bud's firm statement.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Homeschool Coop Central

We've begun our homeschool coop and I must admit I was anxious as to how it would go having a possiblilty of 24 kids under the age of 8 plus their parent running around my house weekly.  Bud goes to the house of another mom who will be teaching them geography as well as a few other parents pulling in things such as bookclubs, music and science.  Technically Bug is eight but her eyes have struggled to converge properly so that she can read independantly so she lacks confidence in doing tasks on her own, particularly when her eyes fatigue so we've kept her here with me.

We start with a prayer, saying the pledge of allegiance, doing our calendar and then the 5-7 yr olds split up for a small informal lesson upstairs while the littles are free to roam the few stations we have inside and outside the home.  The first week was bubble wands, chalk, water balloon target and playdoh.  The second week was ice blocks with frozen plastic bugs and salt on the patio and diluted vinegar and baking soda in our sensory bin.

After the older group is done the younger ones head upstairs to do their lesson.  Then it's all about play, snacks and clean up. The moms have been wonderful to help vacuumed and clean as I take everyone to the front room and we do show and tell as well as learn some sign language and read a story.

my biggest concern was how Bubby would repond to so many people and so much noise.  Perhaps it's because is in our home, or maybe it's because his siblings are always nearby but I am pleased to say he has responded much better than expected.  He does retreat occasionally but now that we have a new respite worker I hope he can get out for a walk with her and that she can help engage him into observing and possibly playing with the other kids.

Pumpkin and Bug love it!  There's always something new to explore each week as we rotate between the families who bring and implement different activities.  Then there are all the friends (which is what Pumpkin calls them since she can't seem to remember names well) that make it fun and social learning can be practiced.  I must admit I am rather tired after the day but it is satisfying to be a part of a community working and learning together!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Courage and the Means

I love how flexible homeschooling is for us.  Some days you do just need to grab an apple and relax in bed!

Admittedly there have been plenty who have openly questioned whether or not I ought to homeschool Bubby.  I was hesitant myself initially but somehow when God speaks to your heart you know what is right and He gives you the courage and means to do it.  It has been just over a year since we began this with Bubby.  He went from being withdrawn into his own little world with no verbalizations to being happy, engaged and learning everything from his ABCs and his numbers through to 5.  He glows in so many undescribable ways.

Bubby with our latest respite worker, Stephanie.  Stephanie was actually his very first babysitter and she had to endure his cries and retreats into bed as soon as she came.  He's a LONG, LONG way from what it was so many years ago.  She was wonderful and caught on to tasks so quickly with him.

This was fairly recent.  It took me some time to slow down and give him the time to make the sounds for all the letters.  Previously he was moving his lips but that was all and one day he surprised us by doing nearly the whole alphabet.  My favorite is when he tries for W. (bubble-oo) This is now something he insists on singing with us daily and he is so proud of himself.  The delay in speaking lessens as we practice it and along with our Elmo ABC app I have confidence he will be writing a reading sooner than anyone thought possible a year ago.

Therapy was always intended to be the education of the caregiver while working with the individual with the vision of the care continuing in the home long after the therapist is gone.  Our music therapist, Ms Caroline put it so well, "You are his primary teacher, no matter what others may come in his life.  You are who we strive to support and when we do it right it carries to the individual's community."

Bubby's community and his security is his family.  With the security he's returned with a willingness to engage.  This isn't any 'structured' activity, it's what we do as we live.  It's the exchanges first thing in the morning as we greet each other and wrestle and snuggle in our bed.  Sometimes it's when we play, and yes, it's even when we fight!  These two have such a love hate relationship.  Pumpkin insists that he play with her.  She is at his level in so many ways and the competition between them helps.  She models so much for him and I would never have guessed so many years ago how much we needed her.

With our flexible schedule I can put in tons of sensory activities.  Sometimes we swing,do the trampoline,  an hour in the pool happens daily, spinning or dancing, jumping into bean bags - So much of this helps him out of his defense mode and puts him in a place to learn.  He surprised me the other day at therapies when he correctly identified his shapes, something we haven't worked on in ages.  He was taking in so much more than we realized.  There are times we've realized he likes to pretend he doesn't understand and it gets him giggling as we jump through figurative hoops to do what we want.  I think we need to award this kid with a psych degree!

Education is more than being on 'track' or meeting goals, it's really about understanding our world and finding a way to be a part of it.  We're so glad we're on this journey together!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Camping Adventure for Everyone

The years Kent spent as scoutmaster had fueled romantic images of camping in my children's minds.  I was able to avoid most trips either due to pregnancy of having a young enough child that would cry at unseemly hours and keep the neighbors and all of nature awake.  When our initial plans to visit friends in Vegas fell through the kids pushed for the first whole family campout.  Annually our congregation has a campout in the cool near Flagstaff.  I grudgingly agreed and proceeded to borrow the needed materials.  We told ourselves it would be an opportunity to see how Bubby would do in a totally new environment.  With that thought I think my adrenaline levels were in the red before we even arrived.

Autistic individuals crave routine and familiarity.  With the unknown there are so many possible sensory sources that could put them on the defensive and withdraw into their own world.  This video really helps explain it and is one of the many reasons we've chosen to homeschool Bubby.

We had been entertaining thoughts of purchasing a pop-up tent trailer to provide that familiarity while being able to travel on a budget but had yet to see what the little man might do when only nature surrounded him.  As soon as we arrived he was running off through the trees and up steep hills, only to beg us to carry him when he tired out.  Setting up camp and feeding kiddos happened as Kent and I alternated watching for this adventurous little guy.  The other three happily hung out with their peers  and enjoyed hikes, pine ball and all things in nature - sticks, bugs and squirrels.

Safely observing the fire that would not produce enough smores for this little girl to eat!

Once the tents were set up Bubby spent a considerable amount of time inside ours doing those things that were familiar and brought him comfort.  I napped by the door way, glad for some time to just sit.  Once he was rested he was at it again but was more anxious, hitting and gnawing on anything he could get his hands on.

I opted to sleep in a separate tent with Bubby so that the others might get a good night's sleep.  It was not the most comfortable arrangement but when he began his whimpering in his sleep, I was there to comfort him. We had considerable rain and at one point I  had to shift us so that the drops of rain wouldn't land like water torture on my forehead for the whole of the night.  I don't think that this 42yr old body can survive another night like that and I promptly informed Kent of it the next morning.   Bubby emerged with many sighs when he saw he wasn't magically transported back to the comfort of home but he took it all in stride.

Pumpkin had found a new 'best friend'!

Everyone did have some fun in the end, but it is clear to everyone that both Bubby and I won't come again until we have something more solid, familiar and comfortable to sleep in.  Given time I'm sure Bubby will adjust to a tent trailer but my body is much too use to the comforts of home!