Saturday Morning Thoughts.

Good morning,

I’m sitting here munching stale gluten free chex oatmeal for breakfast because my doctor says my cholesterol is high and so…oatmeal.

Because… FIBER

I decided today is the day i get back to my blog and why not while I choke this stuff down?



It would be better if it weren’t over a year old.

Homeschool year 2015-2016 is DONE.

Paperwork is signed, sealed, and delivered.


I have a month to our summer school session to rest on my laurels.  (love that saying, but i imagine my niece with that name being sat on and thats no good)

Except actually I don’t because I have more school planning, our wedding to put together, kids to manage and that green stuff to try to earn.

Weddings are much more complicated than they should be.  So far we have clothing,  flowers, wedding party people, musicians, photographer, cake and catering sorted.


This leaves us with figuring out the ceremony, vows, what the musicians will actually play,  getting rings, printing programs, determining schedule day of, finishing booking hair and makeup, settling on what shots the photog (friend of the groom) will take, and countless endless other considerations most of which have fallen to me.  Mostly, to just me. It all involves talking to people, many of them strangers.


If I had a time machine I would travel back in time to 8 months ago and whisper to my sleeping self “justice of the peaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace. thats what you waaaaant”

(no I would not warn a conscious me, because I know me,  I would have stolen the time machine from me and would still be sorting out the headache of endless paradox)

I’m happy and grateful that both Kevin (fiance guy i keep mentioning) and I will have family and friends to share the day with. It’s just…


Anyway, my poor blog has just sat.


I’ve been thinking about the blog, and what direction I should take it.

I question what the point of this blog actually is,

To reach people? – only a handful of people read it. I just don’t have the traffic save for some extremely popular autism posts.

To develop my writing skills?  eerrr well, thats been sucking lately huh?

and what it is actually about

autism? homeschooling? nature? randomness?

People come here for my autism tagged posts but my subscribers are mostly home-schoolers.  I’m preaching to the choir concerning home learning and I don’t think any of my ideas concerning autism acceptance are new or all that groundbreaking.

Is it an autism parenting blog?

I hesitate to describe our lives in too much detail because bloggers (no matter how positively) who focus on their children or loved ones autism or other various struggles, leave me with a bad taste. There are some well known bloggers out there that are all about neurodiversity, acceptance, positivity, etc, who I feel put WAY to much information on the web that is a disservice to their child. Often the children do have a say concerning it, but I question if they fully realize what they are consenting to. It is a difficult line.

This is why it is rare for me to relate a personal anecdote and why I will never blog about a tantrum or private conversation, or even specific incident concerning them.


so yeah, I dunno.








Light (Elementary Unit Study)

Our last new science unit for the year was on light.

Introducing concepts/vocabulary:

  • reflect
  • refract
  • magnify
  • absorb
  • translucent
  • transparent
  • opaque
  • visible spectrum


Board Activities:

  • Discussing concepts
  • Brainstorming examples


Items the basket:

  • flashlight
  • mirror
  • prism
  • opaque, transparent, and translucent cups
  • fiber optic fiber
  • rainbow glasses
  • magnifying glasses



  • KidHaven Science Series: Light
  • Light: Shadows, Mirrors, and Rainbows by Natalie Rosinsky

Science Videos:

  • Physical Science for Kids: All About Light
  • Bill Nye the Science guy: Light and Color
  • The Magic School Bus: Gets a Bright Idea, Makes a Rainbow

Art/Social Studies tie in

DSCN0003 DSCN0005 DSCN9993






More hands on geometry – lines and angles (K-3)

Yesterday we had our annual gumdrop platonic solid activity.

Today we used KNEX to model points, lines, rays, line segments, acute angles, right angle, and obtuse angles.

Part one of the work is to create the items on the cards.

knex pieces reprensenting point, line, line segment, ray, acute angle, obtuse angle, right angle

point, line, line segment, ray, acute angle, obtuse angle, right angle

Part two is to place the obtuse and acute angles where they “fit” in relation to the right angle.

obtuse, right, and acute angles, modeled with knex aligned according to size.

comparing the angles

These could be made with gumdrops and toothpicks as well, but I wanted a work task for our shelves that wouldn’t be eaten in a day. If you don’t have knex handy,  toothpicks and clay should work just as well.

structured geometry task in a red plastic tray

already on the shelf for independent work time

Learning Resource: Differentiated Lessons for Every Learner

I adore projects and activities that can reflect, enhance, and extend learning.

Projects we’ve tackled over the years include:

  • Mind maps of social studies, science, and literature topics
  • Power point presentations
  • Timelines
  • Models and Kits
  • Lapbooks
  • Videos
  • Activities such as raising butterflies or creating closed terrariums to model the water cycle

It’s difficult though, coming up with projects and activities for the older student, especially in non-science areas.

Until now…

I am very excited to share with you a new resource for middle school:

 Differentiated Lessons for Every Learner


Differentiated Lessons for Every Learner: Standards- Based activities and Extensions for Middle School

I can plan YEARS worth of projects with this book!

The book was sent to me free as a part of Library Thing’s early reviewer program. I became impressed and flooded with ideas within a few moments of thumbing through it. It will be useful for my middle school aged daughter next year,  as well  as an good springboard for ideas with her younger and older siblings.

It offers lesson descriptions that are aligned to “depth of knowledge” levels, as well as Common Core Standards and  National Curriculum standards.  As a home-school teacher, I am not required to follow either, but they can be helpful in planning to meet certain goals as well as end of year paperwork for the state.

Depth of Knowledge

Depth of Knowledge is a leveled way to evaluate learning which “categorizes tasks according to the complexity of thinking required to successfully complete them.” (1)

webbs depth of knowledge

The book provides lessons in English, Math, Science, Social Studies and “special subjects” like Art and foreign language.  The idea is to plan activities and extensions based on the student’s current level of knowledge and ability.

Sample Lesson

For example, in lesson 3:19 “Discovery and Colonization” a level one activity is to “create a series of diary entries of a famous explorer.”  A level two activity is to “Design a mural depicting several aspects of life in a specific colony.”  Level three is to investigate the positives and negatives of exploring and colonization. Level four asks the question, “Do we own what we discover?”

Is it really for every learner?

The writers assume a writing ability my son with a classic autism diagnosis just does not have. I cannot think of a means, even with extra support that could assist him in completing most of these assignments.   Using the lesson mentioned above as an example, asking him to write a diary entry would be too much. I think that students with impairments in language processing, writing, and reading would have similar issues.  However if the student is working at a middle school writing level, the tasks are workable. I do think it would be possible to design more visual, less writing reliant activities using this book as a guide.

These ideas are excellent. As I integrate these ideas into our school day, I’ll get back to you on how they are in actual practice.



Fossil Hunting at Calvert Cliffs

the shorline

the shoreline

We’ve been focusing on Earth Science the last few months, and most recently, learning about fossils.

Friday we drove down to Chesapeake beach to fossil hunt near the cliffs. Fossilized shark teeth are a common find.

some random dude and a view of the cliffs -miocene formation in southern Maryland

some random dude and a view of the cliffs -miocene formation in southern Maryland

The cliffs are off limits for digging as officials are worried about landslides and injury, but people comb the beach at the low tide looking to see what fossils may have been washed free.



Pete sifts the sand looking for fossilized shark teeth

Pete sifts the sand looking for fossilized shark teeth




We sifted and dug and searched for two hours and found one small fragment of fossilized shell.

Lily gives it a go

Lily gives it a go

While it was disappointing the kids enjoyed the search. We want to go back on another warm day in April or May.



Tessa exploring

Tessa explores

Following the Fossil Evidence (Early Elementary Science)

Happy Friday all!

It’s slowly getting to be Spring.

I cannot wait!

We need to get outside.

Just like last year on this date, I have some spring learning plans percolating in my brain.

Till then, we continue to cover Earth and Physical Science topics.

Continental Drift

Late January into February  we studied the layers of the earth, the crust, and platectonics.


This continental drift puzzle from LabAids shows how fossil and sedimentary rock are evidence that the continents used to be one.

This study flowed rather easily to the study of fossils as evidence of the past, as well as dinosaurs and past eras of life.

Concepts and Themes

  • Definition of a fossil,
  • Types and examples of fossils
  • Fossils as evidence of the past
  • Eras of the Earth
  • Decay
  • Petrification, imprints, molds and casts
  • Dinosaur extinction
  • Types of dinosaurs and other extinct prehistoric animals (traits, comparison)
  • Evidence over opinion and myth

Fossil Activities

We made our own dinosaur tracks


We also looked up photos of real dinosaur tracks.

With these activities from the American Geosciences Institute,

we made a petrified sponge “bone,”

DSCN0043 DSCN9990


and plaster cast/mold “fossils”




We also looked at a piece of petrified wood.

For videos we watched the Bill Nye the science guy episodes  “Fossils” and “Dinosaurs”
and the Magic School Bus episode “Busasaurus”

Books we read were:

DK Eyewonder “Dinosaurs”
How Big Were Dinosaurs?

The littles have also been binge watching Dinosaur Train on Netflix.

Next week we’ll take advantage of the warmer weather to go Fossil Hunting at Calvert Cliffs.


Frozen eggs, nuclear forces, true love and the white food theory

Morning! I hope all of my U.S readers are staying warm and safe today.

This week we discovered that someone’s been messing with the fridge temp thingy again.


a frozen egg

Beyond that one should not mess with the thingy, the children learned that when you drop two items of differing mass, absent differences in wind resistance, they’ll still hit the ground at the same time. Yay Galileo!


We dropped many things, many times. We should have tried frozen eggs, but it didn’t occur to me.

Enough things were dropped enough times to get my fiance (working in the basement) to come upstairs to figure out what the hell was going on.

(Link to the pbslearning resource we used for our activities)



Just as with magnetism and electricity studies, we listed the four fundamental forces of nature. I’m not tackling strong and weak nuclear forces with lower elementary kids, but they aren’t too young to learn they are fundamental forces.  We’ll dive into atoms more next year.  We also read books and watched more programs about Galileo and gravity, as well as learned about ancient people’s beliefs/uses for the night sky.

There was also a rather long documentary on Stone Henge that lost everyone’s save little bee’s attention about 45 minutes in.

I love listening to that man talk, but not even Donald Sutherland narrating could make it interesting.


Aidan is learning about and making tessellations in his math curriculum, which uses his strong point, geometry and trigonometry to review middle school arithmetic, which has been a long struggle for him. He’s hoping that next year he can use geometry to learn algebra. I do think its possible, but am still looking for the best direction/resources .

A nice coincidental thing occurred.

Little bee got her latest lab kit and it is also about gravity.


She made this fun little game on Wednesday.

Its also been snowing a bit.

These two pictures are the difference twelve hours and blizzard conditions make.

We’re in for possibly another foot today.

fridayevening sat. morning

We had to go to the store on Thursday in order to prepare for this.


This was the store.

Not only were the milk, toilet paper, and bread loaves nearly gone, but customers had also almost cleaned out the whip topping, sour cream, and eggs.  Kevin (fiance person I keep mentioning)shared a theory he read that it wasn’t just milk, toilet paper, and what not that sold, but white things in general.

Perhaps when the milks gone, people start reaching for things that look similar.

“Darn it! No milk! Sour cream? close enough.”

We shopped, got all the way to the checkout still living and then,  THEN I realized, I left my card at home.


Kevin was left waiting in the magazine aisle for forty minutes while I went to retrieve it.

That, is love.

And that’s it.

Stay warm.




A “Table ready” Tale of Two Autistics (How Montessori kicks ass)

Morning people.

As I was sitting last night researching what kind of hands on activities I could use while we learn about the moon next week, I thought about how the boys learn best, and the concept of being “table ready.”

I thought about ten years ago…

When my son with a classic autism diagnosis was in early intervention,  his therapists (skills, speech, and OT) worked with him on the floor. Or well, they tried to. Most of the sessions consisted of chasing him around the room trying to get him to attend. I suggested that if he were sitting they might have an easier time, but they insisted it wasn’t conducive to natural learning.

Pete would sit, rather happily, at meals strapped in to his booster seat. It looked like this:

Keekaroo Cafe Booster Seat_Chocolate_4322818_01

He insisted. If he wasn’t buckled, he stressed about it. One day after breakfast while he was still at the table I pulled out a puzzle and worked on it with him. I mimicked the language his therapists used. He not only did the puzzle, but he was engaged. I then added another two activities (like song games, shape sorter, story books) and then more. We got up to a half hour, then 45 minutes.  He loved it.

I learned about structured work tasks and how to use visual cues and schedules to show when work began and ended. We went from a “work” and “finished” basket to visual work schedule with velcro  numbers and a “finished” pocket for the numbers.  We covered fine motor, academics like counting and colors, sorting, stacking, matching and joint attention tasks.  He learned to point, but I never bothered with eye contact, its not really necessary for joint attention.  I bought some tasks, but usually made my own. As he aged and rapidly learned I had trouble finding /making materials with visual /hands on components and clear beginning and end of task that met his more complex learning needs.

Then he went to a small Montessori class run by our old church.  He was engaged, and fairly independent, though still in need of help staying on task and choosing work. The materials engaged him.  I began buying Montessori materials, teaching myself  and then him to use them, and then using them during his structured work time. They are wonderful.


Peter works on long division with “the stamp game”


I still fashion Peter’s learning activities into structured tasks, with written checklists to show completion. He doesnt mind working on the floor anymore. Here he is using a snap circuit to test conductivity.

He eventually started kindergarten in public school and my activities and materials ended up in storage.

My youngest son on the spectrum has a pdd-nos diagnosis and is much Pete’s opposite in some ways. His teachers would complain he wasn’t “table ready.”  They insisted in order to learn he had to be sitting straight in a chair at a desk or table.  This rarely happened. I refused to allow him to be restrained against his will, and refused when they mentioned trying to puppy train him into a chair using m&m rewards.  He also was best engaged when working with manipulatives, and balked at the pencil and paper activities that replaced the hands on work of his preschool years.

When the boys came home to learn, we went back to Montessori.  It still offers the structured tasks Peter needs, as well as hands on tactile activities for older students that keep Patrick engaged sans chocolate treats.

montessori grammar symbols, nouns, verbs, and articles

montessori grammar symbols, nouns, verbs, and articles

PLUS  Montessorians have nothing whatever against working on the floor.  Learning can happen anywhere, and the need to spread out, to move, to wiggle, doesn’t impede it.  Patrick still does school work mostly on the floor, but as he ages he also is ok with sitting at a little table from time to time as well.

Patrick using grammar symbols, on the floor of all places

Patrick using grammar symbols to identify parts of speech, on the floor of all places.