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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Reality

So, we have been doing the public school thing with Ellie and Alina since February. In some ways I am impressed, other ways not so much. I just do not think it is giving our girls all that I had hoped it would. Ellie needs SO much more individual attention to help her succeed and while her class size is small (10 other children) they can not sit with her every second. I want her to learn independence but right now she needs a lot of help getting use to a whole new world. Socialization? Well, that is ok for Alina, but for Ellie, she has gymnastics with one of the girls from her class and she has no idea. She sees this girl Monday-Friday in class, she sees her every Wednesday night at gymnastics, but she does not make the connection. For Ellie, it is just beyond her at this moment. The girls are certainly around other children alot. They are in Sunday school every Sunday, church choir every Wednesday night, gymnastics every Wednesday night, then they are both training for the Special Olympics. Ellie is doing track and Alina is doing swimming. It certainly keeps us busy!
Do I worry about them not having anyone invite them over if they do not go to school? No. In fact, tonight they will both be attending a birthday party for one of their friends from Gymnastics. (with Ellie I say friends very loosely as she has no concept of friends at this point)- it makes me very sad because I honestly believe that had she been adopted when she was a lot younger she would not be where she is today. Thankfully, we were able to get her out before she aged out. Unless I see big changes between now and the end of school year (for us school ends mid-June) then we will be homeschooling both of them when school starts back up in the fall).
As it is, we are in a sense still homeschooling both girls in addition to them attending public school. After chores are done for the day, and they have had a chance to play for a while, instead of jumping in front of the tv, we will work on workbooks, reading for Alina, pre-reading for Ellie, colors, shapes, numbers, and as much as we can think of.
Some things we work on at home with the kids are speech programs like Gemiini.  For reading we have programs like BrillKids, we also have educational songs the kids LOVE and beg for all the time for both phonics and math called Heidi Songs. For worksheets that are made pretty much just for kids with Down syndrome, and are from skill levels beginner to more advanced we LOVE Mrs. Brown and her So Happy to Learn at Home program!!

We are doing speech therapy for all four kids but decided unless the kids are doing an intensive PT session then we will not do PT for the rest of the year. Since I still want the kids to be challenged my amazing husband designed a playground for the kids that would help target some of those gross motor needs.






 
 So what is the reality of having four children with special needs? Some days it is wonderful, other days it isn't, some days everything just falls into place, other days everything is a struggle.... just like having non-special needs kids.
We try to be thankful every single day and one of the songs I sing at night to the kids is, "I thank God for this day, for the sun in the sky, for my mom and my dad, for my piece of apple pie, for my home on the ground, and the love that's all around. That's why we say thanks, every day. Because a thankful heart is a happy heart, I'm glad for what I have, that's an easy way to start for a God who cares and who listens to our prayers, that's why we say thanks for this day." - Veggie Tale song....
It may sound corny, but it is so true, no matter how much or how little we have, we should be thankful for whatever it is.
When I think of people in 3rd world countries, people who have so very little, and they can still find a reason in their day to smile, HOW can we NOT be thankful? When I think of children who have no families, people who are homeless, or people who are suffering and in terrible pain every day, how can we NOT be thankful?
Is life always easy for us? NO! No, it isn't, we have our share of struggles. But with the love and support of each other, and through the grace of God, we make it work. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Learning time and Learning favorites

When my oldest four kids were around one I started to focus on things like letters, numbers, rhyming, songs, counting, and writing. All my bio kids were reading by 4 and able to write their full name in print before they started kindergarten. At age 3 my oldest two girls were singing the ABCs in English and in Hebrew.  By age 24 months my now 18 year old could count to 20 before she turned 3 she could count to 100.
My oldest son (now 16) when he was 3.
Learning hand control for writing does not have to be hours and hours of holding pencils. We just tried to make it fun, we painted with brushes, used water colors, colored with crayons, used stencils, played with clay to build hand strength, and things like that. In 2012, when Veronika was 12 months old, and Gavyn was 10 months old we adopted them from Ukraine. Both of them have Down syndrome. While we fully understand that they have Down syndrome and would need things like, PT, OT, and Speech, it did not mean that we should treat them any differently when it came to learning.
Veronika (age 3) now counts to 15, and recognizes numbers 1-20, and also the numbers 25, 50, and 100. Gavyn recognizes numbers 1-10. Both Veronika and Gavyn know all basic shapes and many 3 dimensional shapes. Veronika can count objects then label them with the correct numeral. She can also see a numeral and then count objects to get to that numeral. (today we were working with buttons and she was able to look at numerals and count out the correct number of buttons to match.


 With reading, we started sight words and labeling words at about 18months or so. We started with words like eat, sofa, more, yes, please, no, help, go, mommy, daddy, (and all names of siblings). We haven't worked on those in a while but we do a lot of flash cards.
Our kids LOVE flashcard time. I make it fun, it goes FAST, you do NOT spend a lot of time on it. Make it memorable. We are learning about famous paintings, organs of the body, countries, and polygons currently. For example, with the famous paintings I try to be silly and make it fun so they WANT to learn. Take the painting of the Mona Lisa Leonardo da Vinci, I would ask them if they can sit up and smile like she is smiling, or the Sunflowers by Van Gogh, I would pretend like I am smelling them. The idea is that you do not spend a lot of time on any flash cards, you flash them say what is on the card and move on quickly to the next card. If your child seems to be losing focus or attention, liven it up by making it funny or silly.

 I remember when I was teaching my preschool class (ages 3-5) it was around the time of the summer Olympics (years and years ago) and we made flags for every country who was participating. The flags of the countries the kids remembered easiest was Hungary and Turkey, because when I would get to those flags, I would hold Hungary and say...... "Mmmmm, I am SOOOO Hungary....I think I want to eat.... TURKEY!!!" Then I would hold the flag of Turkey and say.... No no don't eat me, and I would have the flash card of Hungary chase Turkey and pretend to eat the card. The kids would laugh and laugh and they had fun learning. As long as you can make learning fun, what is wrong with teaching a child? All my kids in my class also learned to identify different cloud types. I would talk about how the cirrus looked like someone had taken a paintbrush and gently swept it across the sky, or how the cumulus looked like big puffy cotton balls in the sky.

We are pretty careful about what our kids watch and we try to make sure things they do watch are educational. One of our favorites is Sparkabilities You can look them up on YouTube and some video previews.
An all time favorite is Signing Time.
I am always on the look out for flash cards. For me, flash cards must have certain qualities, they must be sturdy, they must be pleasing to the eyes, and they must present only the info I want. For example, some flash cards show a blue ball and it is trying to teach a new learner about the color blue. If I am trying to teach colors, the easiest way to do that is to buy construction paper and laminate it. Of course you can also just use your natural environment. Talk about what color your child is wearing each day, what color is their tooth brush, what color is the grass, the bark on the tree, their bedroom walls, etc. My favorite flash cards are Eric Carle flash cards, they have a numbers one, and an animal one that has animals on one side and letters on the other. When working on letters, we always say the letter and the letter sounds. You can find them both on Amazon. The flash cards we are using in the video are called BIT cards, and can be found at The Gentle Revolution Press.
One of our newest discoveries is BrillKids. We love it! We are currently just on the free trial part, but it is keeping both of our three year olds very engaged. (we are using the app on our tablet with BrillKids)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Exciting Times!!

February has been an exciting month for our family. After careful consideration, with different speech therapy times, and different times for all kinds of appointments, I decided back in October that it would be in our two 13 year old girls best interest (adopted from Eastern Europe - both have Down syndrome) to attend public school. This month both girls started attending and are loving it!
Gavyn, who has Down syndrome and is nonverbal has up until this point been unable to share all that he knows with us. Imagine our surprise when we found out he could do all this....









The app that Gavyn is using for the reading is called BrillKids. Gavyn has only been using this program for one week, but has always loved books and we have been doing flash cards on and off since he was 18 months old.

Veronika continues to work hard on counting now that she knows her numbers


We are trying to keep changing our sensory bin, this month it is pink and white rice with scoopers and little heart shaped boxes for them to play with. One thing we noticed is that Veronika does not have very strong hands. We are going to be buying some therapy puddy which is able to be washed again and again. She used some with her speech therapist and loved it so hopefully that will help with working on her hand strength.
In other news, potty training is happening. It has been happening for a while but now we are having a lot more successful bathroom trips and Veronika telling us when she needs to go.
That is our news for now!!

Monday, January 26, 2015

January 2015

Can you believe it is 2015 already?
Time is just flying by!
In December the kids were all in our church's Christmas pageant. Alina had a narrator part, which is a pretty big deal when you have only just started learning English. Ellie and Veronika were angels. And Gavyn was the cutest cow ever!

  
  
  
We ended up taking a mini family vacation to the Great Wolf Lodge, thanks to Grandma and Grandpa for the amazing Christmas gift!! Nothing like a fun vacation to get you ready to get back to work. 

Veronika is doing very well with her reading.  Here she is at age 3, reading some high frequency words.


Here she is working with some of her shapes.


Will be updating more on Alina, Ellie, and Gavyn soon!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Learning time with Veronika and Alina.

Alina has only been working on her English (her native language is Latvian) for a few months! She is learning at such an amazing pace!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Our Newest Homeschoolers

 Alina working on reading comprehension

Ellie working on colors and shapes

Veronika has been hard at work too!!

 
Veronika working on positioning (the scarecrow goes on/in/under/beside/above/between) 



We do hand over hand with tracing letters

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Numbers and Homework



Veronika and Gavyn worked on decorating their pumpkin for their preschool class using glue, glitter, and sequins. 

Veronika has been working on her numbers and has mastered 1-10



I decided a new challenge was in order, so I got these cards last week and today was the first time I ever asked her to tell me which was which on the number words and dots. She blew me away!! I am not sure if she is counting the dots or reading the words, but she is doing amazing!!