Monday, June 30, 2008

Final RDA (Sixth One)

The final session in our RDA went very smoothly today. Even though I did not follow-through on the exact plan we mapped out last time, Pamela managed to accomplish what we needed. While I did seek opportunities to practice the points, nods, and gestures, she managed to transfer these abilities into real-life situations like when we chatted about the princess dress. Our consultant was very impressed at how quickly Pamela takes responsibility for applying new skills in real life. She asked me how we do it and, honestly, I have no clue! Apparently, it typically involves a four-step process for most children to own a new skill. All I can think is that, between her struggles with speech and her desire to communicate, she latches onto every nonverbal thing we show her.

Our consultant gave me a broad vision of what we will be doing in the next month or two. We are hoping for Pamela to discover how to be more declarative in her communication rather than imperative. Since she finds nonverbal communication easier, we focused on gestures. We determined that most of the time her gestures are also imperative (because that is how we have always communicated with Pamela--she picked up what we have modeled for years).

We focused on receptive gestures first--gestures people use as listeners to let others know whether or not they are listening and understanding. Just about any website on body language lists what constitutes attentive body language. Pamela already gives attentive eye contact because she references our facial expressions and body language to improve her understanding. First, we worked on pointing, nodding, and head shaking to tell me she was receiving and processing my communications. We also established Pamela has no problem showing me her lack of interest by walking away or changing the subject!

Now, I need to assess in a non-sedentary situation how well she orients to me if I am turned away from her. Pamela already knows to tap me on the shoulder, but I am not sure what she will do if I do not automatically turn to her. After that, we will work on the posturing skills of an active listener: leaning forward, tilting head, or furrowed brow.

If Pamela does not automatically transfers these skills, I may need to let her know how much body language helps me know if she understands or is confused. We will role play to see if she can tell if I am listening or tuning her out. Think about how often autism spectrum children turn people off by their long monologues. Part of the issue could be ignoring the body language of someone who is not listening.

Once she masters these steps, we can move onto expressive imperative, which Pamela has already aced, the the final piece, expressive declarative, which has five major components which our consultant will cover in our July phone call.

In case you are wondering what an RDA is . . . The RDA is an assessment collaboration between a consultant and parents (and actually child, if the child is at a higher stage) to figure out where children and parents are in the various stages and objectives, to set up a program and working relationship between all parties, and to select an objective and break it down. Our consultant did not follow the usual plan for us because after the first two sessions she knew we had several major pieces in place (master-apprentice and co-regulation). She also reads my blog and knew that I have a working knowledge of RDI.

Before the RDA, our consultant collects background information through paper work and conversations with the parents to assess commitment to working with their child and understanding of RDI principles. Typically, consultants and parents proceed along this six-step path:

Session 1: Film each parent interacting with the child according to RDA-1, basically a set of playful activities under various frameworks (verbal, no words, etc.).

Session 2: Having viewed footage collected in session 1, the consultant develops hypotheses about the child's abilities and then tests them out during this session.

Session 3: The consultant debriefs the parents on the information gathered and explains guiding principles of RDI.

Session 4: The consultant coaches the parents in guiding the child to practice important components of the RDI lifestyle.

Session 5: The consultant and parents discuss goals, objectives and strategies for an RDI program, discuss how to implement and modify goals as needed, address any potential obstacles, and identify potential strategies to overcome them. They focus on the working relationship between the consultant and parents, too.

Session 6: The consultant coaches the parents in guiding the child on the specifics discussed in the previous session, so they can make any revisions. The consultant outlines the overarching goals for the next few months.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Princess Dress Diaries and Pretty Sandwiches

This is the first installment of the Princess Dress Diaries.

One thing I love about RDI is how you can turn almost anything into working on objectives. The key is how to frame the activity and figure out roles. . . .

Last Thursday, I blogged about how squeezed I am for time right now. One thing after another seems to be popping into my schedule, making me feel sandwiched between one deadline or another. I scheduled our sixth and final RDA for Monday and had no video to show for myself! I am also wrapping up my article for ChildLightUSA due on Tuesday.

Yesterday, before lunch, Pamela and I made a run to the formal dress shop in town--a new experience for Pamela as she has not worn a dress in about eight years! Pamela's cousin is getting married in September and hopes Pamela will enjoy playing a little part in her special day. Since being a member of the bridal party may be too much pressure, she can hand out brochures about the chapel to the visitors (a wonderful assembly line pattern to help Pamela stay regulated). She gets to pick out a dress, dubbed the princess dress to fire Pamela's imagination for the role. Like all of the bridesmaids, she can wear a grape-colored taffeta dress in a style of her choosing. The picture to the left shows the correct color and material. Pamela has many choices in style: straps or strapless, belt or beltess, and even length if it became a major issue for her. You can see the possibilities below!

Before leaving for the shop, I filmed us talking about the dresses. First, I hoped it would prepare her for the visit. Second, I wanted to collect some footage for our consultant. The funny thing is that, during the interaction, I felt a little frustrated because Pamela kept wanting to end the conversation before we had covered everything. I was NOT paying attention to all of her wonderful gestures, which was the WHOLE POINT of the activity. Pamela was getting frustrated with me about three minutes into the clip. A body language expert would pick up my annoyance when I crossed my arms. The wonderful thing is how Pamela realizes she must concentrate! WOW! I loved that insight into her understanding of a thinking process. That is why videotaping interactions can be so enlightening! The clip below shows our little chat:

After lunch, while I tapping out my thoughts on the computer, I took a phone call from someone from my church. An elderly gentleman in our church died last week and the food committee asked me to make ham and cheese and/or pimento cheese spread sandwiches for the funeral to be held Sunday. Why sandwiches? Well, I suspect my reputation as a culinary expert must have preceeded me! As I had not viewed our footage from the princess dress diaries and thought it lacking, I decided to film Pamela and I making two loaves of sandwiches for the funeral.

Today, we spent about twenty minutes today slapping together our contribution for the church. Whether or not we needed video for our consultant, I was so glad to have company while putting together the spread! By the way, I can already guess what my consultant is going to tell me . . .


Click here for next installment of the Princess Dress Diaries.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sweet Moments in the Midst of a Storm

A severe storm just blew through town. As the sun set, the cloud-covered sky became more grayish-green than usual. Suddenly, the wind blew through the trees and, before long, brilliant streaks of lightning lit up the sky. Crashing thunder and pelting raindrops disrupted Pamela's plans to watch DVDs in her room.

Rather than freaking out into meltdown city, Pamela walked into the office where we watch television (yes, lots of work gets done in the "office"--LOL). She sat down next to me and sadly told me she couldn't watch DVDs. I told her that we still have power and that her DVD player should work. She repeated that she couldn't watch DVDs. I asked why and she said, "It's the raindrops." I still didn't understand, and she said, "Too loud." I guess the storm was interrupting her viewing pleasure. Pamela did not ask me to fix anything or help her out; she was simply sharing her sadness.

Then, I told her about, and we checked the hour-by-hour weather report. We figured out that tomorrow morning will be the most storm-free time of the day. She stayed with me, and, as the storm began to let up, she started to cheer up, "It's almost over." I gave her my opinion as did David. I pointed out that we all agreed about the storm being almost over.

Pamela got up abruptly and left the room. She returned with a little toy of some cartoon duck unfamiliar to me. She came up to me, put it near my face, and asked, "What's this?" I said, "A duck. But, I don't know its name." She said, "It's a brown skating duck." I added, "How fun! It likes to skate."

She sat down on the floor and played with it. It was one of those windup toys that scoots along the floor. She got it going and, after it crashed, said, "Uh-oh, broken leg!" So, I played along, "Poor brown duck!" She did it again only this time she informed me that the duck scraped its knee.

I asked, "Can I kiss the duck?" Pamela stood up and kissed it. Then, I said, "I want to kiss the duck." She brought it over for me to kiss.

This whole interaction lasted about 10 minutes, much longer than her typical hit and run interactions!

P.S. Just now, Pamela returned to her spot next to me on the couch. She began channel surfing. She asked me about Independence Day, and I told her that it was a movie about spaceships and aliens. She shook her head and said, "No. The fourth." She chuckled when I explained, "I thought you were talking about the movie. You were talking about a holiday."

She tried to get me on the Pamela Express by saying, "Yo-yo!" I decided to misunderstand her intentionally and said, "That's what you call people who are being silly." She shook her head and I said, "If someone is silly, you can call them a yo-yo." She laughed.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Conference? What Conference?

Skip to the end if you want to know more about this flashback to the '70s!

You may be wondering how the Charlotte Mason Conference went because I have remained absolutely silent. It was FANTASTIC but I have had so little downtime I have not been able to blog about it. I will blog it as soon as I find time to process and reflect!

Why so busy? I returned Saturday night (June 14) and got up for church Sunday morning. I spent the rest of the day relaxing and catching up with David and Pamela.

While we Steve and I were gone, David was man of the house and took care of watering the yard, plants, ferns, and trees and feeding the pets. Pamela stayed with my parents who live across the street and furnished delicious meals for David. Where was Steve? He was supposed to leave for Ecuador on a business trip the same day I left for the conference (June 10). His flight was canceled, and he ended up attending the meeting via video conference. Rather than confuse Pamela with a last minute change of plans, they never told her that he was still home. Confused yet? He flew to Guatemala on Friday (June 13) for a niece's wedding (June 14) while I was still in Boiling Springs.

Both of my parents observed how much better Pamela processes what they say and how well she participates in back and forth exchanges. My mother shared a wonderful story about Pamela that spotlights the power of episodic memory. As you already know, she does not like changes in schedule and will fuss (hence the reason for staying mum on Steve's change of plans). If I promise to take her to the store and have to change the plan to another day, she sometimes fusses and tells me, "You broke a promise." My mother went to the dentist and had promised to take Pamela to Wal-Mart. The dentist visit turned out to be more draining than Mom had anticipated. Mom came home with a poochie cheek and mouth full of gauze. She told Pamela that they would go to Wal-Mart the next day.

Normally, Pamela would cry and become flustered in a situation like that. However, she did not fuss; she did not complain; she did not talk back; she remained absolutely calm about this sudden and abrupt change of plans. I really think she reflected back to how miserable she was when she had her wisdom teeth removed a few years ago. Pamela took three weeks to get back to herself because she found it so traumatic. She still talks about the misery of it from time to time. I think she had sympathy for how my mother felt and let her desire to shop go without a peep.

So back to my crazy week! Sunday night (June 14), I wrote one lesson plan for VBS and spent three hours at church on Monday. I unpacked and managed a week's worth of laundry for the three of us for the rest of Monday. On Tuesday, the day Steve was supposed to come home, I spent only twenty minutes at jury duty because the defendants never appeared at traffic court. Steve called and alerted me to a sudden change of plans to fly to Chile for an important business meeting. He had no time to drive home and back, so I packed winter business clothes for him and Pamela and I drove the three hour round trip to the airport and watched Steve repack at baggage claim. Exciting, huh?

Tuesday night, a friend of a friend called to ask me about RDI (and I am happy to help any family get started on that journey) so I did not tackle Wednesday's VBS lesson plan until 10:30 Tuesday night. I apent another three hours at VBS and thoroughly enjoyed teaching the children on Wednesday then unpacked Steve's bags and did a week's worth of his laundry! I spent Thursday cleaning the house and meeting with the friend of a friend interested in RDI.

The kids and I finally got around to doing some academics on Friday when one of David's out-of-town friends came over to visit. Before I knew it, they sprung an impromptu sleepover on me, but I was fine with that. The next morning, I woke up at zero dark thirty to drive three hours one-way to a meeting with Dr. Gutstein, our consultant and other families--yes, it was worth the drive. Steve came home while I was out and, when I arrived home, I finally saw him after nearly two weeks apart! The next morning I woke up early to attend both services because our trio was singing Beautiful Savior. We relaxed but did squeeze in one of the RDI E-learning modules. Monday, we did some more academics, and I unpacked Steve's bag and cycled through more laundry (it is starting to sound monotonous).

Is this week any less busy? No, but I have great reasons why . . . my best friend from high school and her husband and 15 month-old daughter are vacationing in Charleston. We got together for typical touristy things like Fort Sumter and Cypress Gardens. I will blog more on that later . . . oh, yeah, and I am writing an article for ChildLightUSA's The Review due July 1 in between engagements.

P.S. Speaking of engagements, Pamela and I are going dress shopping for my niece's wedding. She wants all of her female cousins to play a role in the wedding, primarily bride's maids. As that would be too much for Pamela, she lovingly thought of a part for Pamela: hand out little brochures that explain the history of the beautiful, old chapel where the ceremony will take place. That way, Pamela can participate at a level that does not overwhelm her. She has not worn dresses in years so buying what I am calling a "Princess dress" is going to be quite an experience.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Another Twaddle-Free VBS Lesson

Wednesday (and last Monday), I shared another twaddle-free VBS lesson following the guidelines of Charlotte Mason. This time, I taught Jesus' parable of the unmerciful servant. I struggled with one dilemma for the older students in 3rd through 6th grade: do I leave out the ending, the uncomfortable verses in which the king sends the unmerciful servant to the torturers? If I left them out, I would not be telling the class the whole truth. If I kept them, I might place a huge burden on their hearts if they are struggling to forgive for any reason.

Fortunately, I had taught this same lesson to my adult Sunday school class a month ago and had already wrestled with these issues. I decided to share the whole truth and give the class insight on how Corrie Ten Boom handled having to forgive the unforgivable. Corrie's experience could reassure them that forgiveness from the heart is possible when we call on Jesus for help.

The lessons I wrote are below, and again the children made connections. One critical element of writing a lesson a la Charlotte Mason is to help them understand context. With both the older and younger classes, I focused them on the meaning of forgiveness in their lives by asking them if they ever made their parents angry more than three times a day, seven times a day, etc. Children came up with all kinds of numbers. Then, I explained that Peter wanted to know how many times we should forgive a person because rabbis were teaching that three is enough. But in the context of their lives, all of the children found three and even seven insufficient. Some thought that a thousand might work!

The other important element of the story is expressing the amount of forgiveness. With the older children, I explained that a denarius equals one day's worth of wages. To make the numbers easy, I told them I assumed that, by today's standards, a person could earn $100 a day. I told them one person in the parable owed 100 denarii, which equals $10,000 today. I even showed them a denarius from Jesus' day (the head on the coin is the emperor Tiberius who ruled Rome at this time in history).

When I saw the eyes widen in amazement, I explained talents. I asked them if billion dollar bills existed. They shook their heads no, so I told them a talent was like that. It was a number so big that it was a calculation, not a coin. A talent equals 15 years of work, so the other person owed 10,000 talents, which equals $6,000,000,000,000. Then, their eyes became really wide. Some whistled, while one student said the person could never pay it back while another said Bill Gates. I loved all of these comments because it told me that they were thinking and their minds were prepared to hear the parable.

After I read the entire parable to the older children, I asked them what they thought of the part about the torturers. They were pretty quiet. Then, I explained that sometimes it feels impossible to forgive someone who has something very terrible. But, we are not alone and we can turn to Jesus for help. I read to them the following excerpt from Tramp for the Lord.
It was in a church in Munich that I saw him, a balding heavy-set man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. . .

And that's when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister's frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent. ...

"You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk," he was saying. "I was a guard in there." No, he did not remember me.

"But since that time," he went on, "I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, . . ." his hand came out, . . . "will you forgive me?"

And I stood there — I whose sins had every day to be forgiven — and could not. Betsie had died in that place — could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

For I had to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. "If you do not forgive men their trespasses," Jesus says, "neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses. . ."

And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion — I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. "Jesus, help me!" I prayed silently. "I can lift my hand, I can do that much. You supply the feeling."

And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

"I forgive you, brother!" I cried. "With all my heart!"

For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then.

The children were very thoughtful as they left the room. One child asked me if there was a movie about this. I recommended The Hiding Place to her. I was chatting with the 3rd-4th grade teacher who has them after the scripture reading. She told me that they always know all of the answers to follow-up questions she has about what they learned. How exciting to know that living stories really do stick with them!

With the younger children, I scaffolded them even more because they were probably not ready to absorb big numbers and foreign money, much less familiar money. So, I showed them the grid below (about 9" x 7" in area) and told them that I would need 100 copies of the grid below to express the amount of forgiveness the king gave the first servant. As I talked about the king forgiving the debt, I ripped up the grid and threw it in the trash. Then, when I talked about the debt of the second servant, I showed that teeny tiny little block in the bottom, right corner of the picture below. It was hard to see and all of the little ones crowded around because they had to see how tiny it was. I did leave out the last two verses because of their age. I believe many got the concrete illustration I used because they said they thought the king would be sad because the servant did not forgive the other servant for the teeny, tiny debt.

As always the little ones were wiggly, but that does not bother me. Children that age ought to be enjoying the outdoor life, so I figure what ever attention they can spare is good enough for me. One child, the grandson of a friend, surprised his grandmother with what he remembered. Now, every time he gets angry at her, he says aloud, "Uh-oh, I know I need to forgive you. Where's a piece of paper?" Then, he rips up the paper and tells her, "I forgive you!" It just goes to show that living stories make an impact on children, regardless of how much they wiggle and waggle.

Subject: Literature and History
Time: 15 minutes

1. Interest the children in Jesus’ parable about the unmerciful servant so that they may not forget it.
2. Inspire the children to think about how much Jesus wanted us to forgive.
3. Let them know that asking the Holy Spirit for help is the key to forgiveness.

Material (Thank You Google Image Search):
1. Photographs of a denarius and stained glass windows depicting two scenes
2. Picture of a woodcarving of a third scene
3. Representation of money owed (pieces of paper)
4. Two strips representing the two amounts of money
5. Grid with six thousand tiny squares
6. One tiny square

Lesson for 3rd-4th and 5th-6th Grades:
Step 1. Explain to the children the two kinds of money mentioned. Show and pass out the picture of the denarius and today's equivalent. Pass out the strip representing talents.

Step 2. Ask the children how often they make their parents angry. Is forgiving three times enough? Seven times? Tell them what Peter learned about forgiveness from the other teachers.

Step 3. Hand out the pictures to children. Ask them to form small groups, one picture per group. Let them study the pictures and talk about them for a minute.

Step 4. Before reading the Bible, tell the children that they are to pass the picture just described when I pause. Read Matthew 18:21-35, pausing for the scenes in each picture.

Step 5. Wait for them to comment and ask thoughtful questions, feeding off their comments.

Step 6. Ask them what they thought of the part about the jailer. Read the passages written by Corrie Ten Boom about how the Holy Spirit helped her forgive the concentration camp guard.

Lesson for K-3/4/5 and 1st-2nd Grades:
Step 1. Ask the children how often they make their parents angry. Is forgiving three times enough? Seven times? Tell them what Peter learned about forgiveness from the other teachers.

Step 2. Explain to them that Jesus loved stories. One day Peter wanted to know how many times we should forgive a person. He told His answer through a story.

Step 3. Orally narrate Matthew 18:21-24. Tell them about the king and the servant and show them the grid with 6,000 tiny squares. Tell them that if I had a hundred copies of the grid that is how much the King needed forgive the servant. What could the servant do to be forgiven?

Step 4. Orally narrate Matthew 18:25-27. Rip up the paper and throw it in the trash to signify the canceled debt.

Step 5. Tell them about the servant and his friend who needed to be forgiven. Show them the tiny block paper which represents how much forgiveness he needed. Should the servant forgive the friend?

Step 6. Orally narrate Matthew 18:28-33. Ask them how they think the king felt about the servant who could not forgive.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Charlotte Mason WORKS

Late Saturday night, I made it home from the Charlotte Mason Conference and have had not had anytime to breathe, much less blog. Why? My church asked me to be the "storyteller" for Vacation Bible School today and Wednesday. The program they selected is Beach Party: Surfin' through the Scriptures. When I previewed the lesson from the Bible Storyteller Book, my stomach lurched because it included a script with actors, props, and sound effects--definitely not my cup of tea! I called the VBS coordinator, and she told me all we had time for was the simplified story version in the back of the manual. Hmmm . . . I have to do a short lesson from a living book . . .

Suddenly, the rebellious, subversive part of the brain that told me to homeschool my kids and do whacko things like the gluten-free, casein-free diet kicked in. The Bible is the most popular living book of all time! I decided to be brave and write a lesson plan using the actual text of Judges 6:36-7:21 as my guideline. Yes, a bona fide lesson plan in the spirit of Charlotte Mason, keeping in mind the daily narration lesson design "Is Sequencing and Ordering the Curriculum Important for Scaffolding Learning?" covered in the article in the Winter 2007 issue of The Review.

The first thing I did was consult the sample lessons in Appendix V of School Education by Charlotte Mason and Carroll Smith's ideas on how to scaffold a lesson. I turned to Volume 3 pages 238 through 239 for the Old Testament example. The first challenge was that I was planning a lesson for four different classes and would have to scaffold each one differently: K-3/4/5, 1st-2nd grades, 3rd-4th grades, and 5th-6th grades. While I lacked a shared understanding with the class, I tried to imagine what children in each age group might already know. I also had to keep in mind that children take time to adjust to oral narration so I decided to find other ways to reproduce what they are learning. If I taught these children year-round, my goal would be to teach them to narrate. I have enough sense to know two days does not a narrator make.

How did it go? TERRIFIC! Charlotte Mason WORKS!!!!!

The oldest class made wonderful connections such as the 300 remaining men made them think of 300, which is an R-rated movie based on the wonderful story of Leonidas and his 300 Spartans guarding the pass at Thermopylae to slow down the Persian army. They also chuckled at the chain link fence in the picture that represented the dry fleece. I thanked them for pointing it out because I knew that meant they were thinking. The 3rd-4th graders noted that trusting God helps you to obey Him. The 1st-2nd graders could not believe that Gideon's army won even though they only had trumpets and jars. Five or six told me that the story of Gideon was great--they just loved it--I could see it in their bright, eager eyes. Even the rowdiest bunch, the youngest class, gave thoughtful responses that we should obey God just like we should obey our mothers, fathers, and grandparents.

Here is my lesson plan:

Subject: History
Time: 15 minutes

1. Interest the children in the story of Gideon and his trumpet so that they may not forget it.
2. Give them an admiration for Gideon as one who trusted in God and obeyed Him.

Material (Thank You Google Image Search):
1. 8" x 10" photographs of a shorn sheep and fleece
2. 8" x 10" printed pictures from the story of Gideon

Lesson for 3rd-4th and 5th-6th Grades:
Step 1. Ask the children if they know what fleece is. Respond to their answers and show this photograph of a shorn sheep.

Step 2. Since most children know the story of David and Goliath, emphasize the physical weakness of Gideon's character. Point out that Gideon lived before David was born and had no knowledge of that story to give him courage. Let them know the reason for Gideon's fleece test was that he did not understand why God picked a weak person to lead the army.

Step 3. Briefly describe the situation with the opposing forces, the Midians. Point to the camp represented in the mural on the classroom wall and the rocks surrounding it.

Step 4. Hand out the five pictures to children. Ask them to form small groups, one picture per group. Let them study the pictures and talk about them for a minute.

Step 5. Before reading the Bible, tell the children that they are to pass the picture just described when I pause. Read Judges 6:36-7:21, pausing for the scenes in each picture. Point to the mural for the scenes involving the camp.

Step 6. Have the children tell what the theme obedience has to do with the story of Gideon.

Lesson for K-3/4/5 and 1st-2nd Grades:
Step 1. (K-3/4/5 Only: Lead the children in singing "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and have them stop at "its fleece was white as snow.") Ask the children if they know what fleece is. Respond to their answers and show this photograph of a shorn sheep and the fleece.

Step 2. Since most children know the story of David and Goliath, emphasize the physical weakness of Gideon's character. Point out that Gideon lived before David was born and had no knowledge of that story to give him courage. Let them know the reason for Gideon's fleece test was that he did not understand why God picked a weak person to lead the army.

Step 3. Briefly describe the situation with the opposing forces, the Midians. Point to the camp represented in the mural on the classroom wall and the rocks surrounding it.

Step 4. Orally narrate Judges 6:36-7:9. After telling the wet fleece versus dry ground, ask them if they would have obeyed God. Then, have them anticipate the next test by telling it is the opposite of the first. Have them anticipate whether or not God wants a bigger or smaller army. Have them stand up and act out the downsizing of the army by having the children on the green rug represent the terrified soldiers and all but three sit down after the water test.

Step 5. Orally narrate Judges 7:15-7:21. Before telling the final scene, set the stage by pointing to the mural and showing where the Gideon's army will be standing. Have them anticipate what kind of weapons they will need. Surprise them with the answer trumpets and jars. Wrap up the scene with Gideon's tactic and have them anticipate how the Midian army reacted.

Step 6. Have the children tell what the theme obedience has to do with the story of Gideon.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

RDA 5: Broadening the Frame

Blogging to you from Boiling Springs, NC, the day of the kick-off to the Charlotte Mason Conference . . .

Monday, we did the fifth RDA appointment (think assessment) with our consultant by phone. In fourth RDA appointment, we identified our objective, "Use pointing, nods, and head shakes to share what Pamela sees." We hope Pamela will discover that she has valuable observations to share with us, like the crunchy magnolia leaf from last week's walk. For her to make that discovery, we built a very tight frame around the activity, nature walks. The frame had to be tight enough to help her feel competent in her role as the initiator of communication between us. I think we started out with a tight enough frame because Pamela knew exactly what to do and showed much confidence on our walks. I also think the objective was not too easy because, whenever we walked home from the park, we would take turns pointing out anything to each other. Without a frame, Pamela did not know what she should share and waited for me to slow down my pace or shut down and then wildly pointed to anything that would make me happy.

Now that Pamela is ready for more challenge we can loosen up the frame of the walk. We started out with choosing very concrete things to spot: trees, cars, birds, flowers, chimneys, etc. Everything we chose were nouns because Pamela's first words were mainly nouns. In this phase of the plan, we will focus on attributes: colors, sounds (loud or quiet), size, silly things, things that fly, etc.

We will increase the level of thinking too. Before, we used to make a list of what we might see before we left the house. Now, we will make the list as we go! If Pamela struggles with the transition to attributes instead of nouns, I can always tight up this part of the frame by making a list before we leave. I think she will be able to handle this variation. Once Pamela masters this phase, we will pick more nebulous attributes like weird, unusual, interesting, etc. In real life, we do not call joint attention to every little thing, but to something unique and different.

Some elements of our walks will not change. She will be the observer, and I will be the recorder of what we observe. We will still spotlight the importance of our work through math lessons the next day.

Then, our consultant asked me if Pamela found anything so interesting that she would enjoy being the initiator of communications. Pamela's interest in sorting and bagging pictures came to mind. This admission may shatter any credibility I have with my scrapbooking friends, but I am one of those people with tons and tons of disorganized photos in shoeboxes. Chin up! I have a feeling Pamela force me into getting a scrapbook makeover as we work on episodic memory. Let me bask in chaos a little longer . . .

We came up with the idea of picture sorts. Pamela will grab a fistful of photos and I will too. Then we will each pull out some that interest us. Pamela, who loves geography, might pick photos from our two years in the Shumagin Islands, while I might pick pictures of Steve. When finished sorting, we can go through Pamela's selections and she can point to what caught her attention. Then I can show her my photos and point out what caught my eye.

The other big tip which our consultant tells all of her families . . .





Ahhh . . . the sound of silence . . .

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Red Discovery Book

I have a cute story about Pamela that illustrates two things: how her challenges with word retrieval still crop up and how delayed delayed echolalia can be. Pamela comes running downstairs, ranting about her missing red discovery book.

She fusses and asks, "Where's my red discovery book?"

I ask back, "Do you mean the atlas?"

She answers, "No. Somebody stole it. Thief!" When her younger brother David misplaced things as a little boy, he would complain loudly about thieves stealing his stuff. Personally, I think he got it from Gollum when he lost his precious ring. Of course, David stopped saying that about TWO YEARS AGO!!!

I ask her, "Did you look in David's room?"

She says emphatically, "I searched everywhere!" More delayed echolalia. When David was on his thief rant TWO YEARS AGO, I would ask him about all the places where the lost (not stolen) item could be. He has the same gene as my father and my husband that prevents him from finding stuff right in front of his face. My mother had this saying, "If it had been a snake, you'd be dead right now!" I use that line often!

I began to wonder if the red discovery book could be our beat-up, very much used and abused Merriam-Webster Dictionary. First, I checked the homeschool room, then David's bookshelves, desk, and finally drawers. I found the dictionary and asked, "Is this your red discovery book?"

Bingo! She beamed! I did not explain to her that it was a dictionary. She knows that word and has known it for years. It was not at the tip of her tongue at that moment because of her aphasia. Besides, I like "red discovery book" better.

This was another opportunity to practice self-regulation. What is self-regulation? Well, self-regulation is when you are writing the third and final presentation due next week and you do not let loose colorful words out of your mouth after realizing that you deleted half of the second to write the third and saved it BEFORE you renamed it!

Clunk! (The sound of my jaw dropping.)

Our kids see everything we do and this was a great example of self-regulation modeled for them. David overheard me say, "Oh, no!" when I realized my stupid mistake.

"What?" he asked worriedly.

"You're not going to believe what I just did."

"What?" he asked again.

After I explained to him my dilemma, he knew what a monumental blunder I had just made and he started gasping for my sake.

Self-regulation is staying calm and dignified because you recognize that you still have the whole weekend to work . . . Relief flooding into your body when you remember that you already have all the wording in a handout that is still saved and ready for cutting and pasting. . . Perspiration ceasing when you take the print out of the last draft of the presentation of the trash can next to the desk.

Once I started breathing again, I told him very calmly and without four-letter words I might add, "Don't worry! I still have time plus I can copy the wording from my handout. And, I have a print out of all the slides right here!"


Yep, there really is a silver lining in every cloud . . .

Saturday, June 07, 2008

How Our Walks Are Working Out

You may be wondering how our walks that address declarative gestures are working out. Then again, you may have better things to do with your time on a Saturday night . . . Obviously, I don't! *Ahem*

Our objective was to expand the function of three gestures that Pamela already uses from only imperative communication (telling me what she wants) to declarative communication (showing me something she observes). We hope she will discover that she can share what she notices and that I am interested in finding out what she observes. Because Pamela is more relaxed with nonverbal communication, we thought she would make this discovery more easily with gestures. In time, we hope she will start doing this verbally, too. We focused on three common gestures:

Pointing - Draws my attention to whatever she is sharing with me.

Nodding - Tells me I verbally identified what she is seeing.

Shaking her head - Tells me I am on the wrong track in what she is seeing.

The other evening, we counted the varieties of trees in our yard! Steve filmed the walk and provided some uncertainty. The walk lasted about 15 minutes. Pamela seems to enjoy our walks, except on very hot days. I noticed near the end Pamela was tiring because our little early bird tuckers out sooner than the rest of us. You can get an idea of how this works in the following clip.

I try to make sure Pamela has many responsibilities that she can handle. She picks the subject and, if necessary, I help her narrow it down. She gives me a list of attributes (in this case, the names of the trees she thinks will be in the yard) and I make a list before we leave. When we walk, she points things out to me. If she forgets, I vary my indirect cue. Sometimes I will say to her, "You're in charge," or I will slow my pace or come to a halt.

To liven things up, we add productive uncertainty. Sometimes, I say something very silly like, "A bicycle tree?" Steve pointed out the watermelons, which were definitely not trees. I walked to the telephone pole and asked about a telephone tree. That was near the end of our walk, and she was too tired to laugh uproariously.

The walks also offer opportunities to solve problems. For example, she pointed to the thicket in our neighbor's yard. I did not want to count all that mess and, after all, they were not even in our yard. I also wanted her to process and think about what we should do, so I told her, "The thicket is in Cathy's yard. Should we count Cathy's yard?" She did not want to count them either. WHEW!

I still have to work very hard at encouraging declarative pointing when we are not walking with a purpose. She is getting a tad better with this. Yesterday, Pamela volunteered that magnolia leaves are crunchy (stepped on one and said, "Crunch"). I responded to her by talking about how magnolias are different because they drop leaves in the spring. Then, we took turns searching for a fallen leaf to step on and crunch. By responding so warmly and excitedly to Pamela's observation, I spotlighted my interest in what she showed me.

Most of the time I'm having to slow my pace which she knows means I'm waiting for her to point out something--anything. The more tired she is, the more slowly she reacts. During the day, I try to spend time in the same room (or porch) as her to give her more opportunities to share something she notices.

As I have said before, the beauty of homeschooling is how we can work our walks into her math lesson the next day!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Household Ways

Charlotte Mason viewed the natural conditions of the home and household ways as valuable opportunities for learning.
We all know the natural conditions under which a child should live; how he shares household ways with his mother, romps with his father, is teased by his brothers and petted by his sisters; is taught by his tumbles; learns self-denial by the baby's needs, the delightfulness of furniture by playing at battle and siege with sofa and table; learns veneration for the old by the visits of his great-grandmother; how to live with his equals by the chums he gathers round him; learns intimacy with animals from his dog and cat; delight in the fields where the buttercups grow and greater delight in the blackberry hedges (page 96).
One reason why I love RDI is because it focuses parents on lifestyle as a target-rich environment for framing objectives. Before lunch yesterday, Pamela and I sat on the rocking chairs on the back porch, working on her math. We watched my dad trim the pecan tree over the garage. Then, Pamela and I carried the limbs to the curb and cleaned up for him. I thought it would be a great opportunity to work on upper body because some the limbs were awkward to carry. She helped me haul all of that debris to the curb for trash pickup!

We are continuing to do our daily walks, timing them for the coolest time of the day on oppressively hot ones! The thermometer nearly hit 100 yesterday, and it sure felt like it! We have learned so many interesting things about our neighborhood and met Treebeard. David told me that the hardware store a block from the house sells these things. Pamela calls it the talking tree and you can bet her imagination is flying back to Middle Earth and Narnia (Pamela loved Prince Caspian by the way). The day after our walk, I write up a math problem sheet so Pamela can see how math is part of every day life (click the picture to see it enlarged).

Since she is doing different operations with fractions, I have been writing up sheets that focus on how we use fractions in real life, too.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Fourth Annual Charlotte Mason Conference!

Five more days until I leave for the Charlotte Mason Conference in Boiling Springs, NC!

Two Presentations Done and One to Go!!!!! Yahoo!!!!!!!!

Details here!

Come on! It will renew your mind!

Enjoy the pictures I uploaded into my presentation called "Moving from Behaviorism to Relationships"!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Life Alert!

Without trust, relationships falter. Somewhere along the way, Pamela learned to trust me as her guide and I learned to trust her feelings of incompetence. As we put together a program for her sensory under responsivity (SUR), which I have been studying in the book Sensational Kids, trust comes to the forefront.

For years, sensory integration techniques helped Pamela calm down and gave her enjoyment, especially vestibular (spinning stuff). I also knew how to protect her from overwhelming situations and guide her through the ones we could not avoid. However, I did not realize Pamela's gentle passive nature might have a sensory connection. As I was reading the profile of the SUR child Tam in the book Sensational Kids, I saw Pamela in nearly every sentence. For example, she was such a good baby; she never cried; people in restaurants and airplanes complimented us because she was so quiet. Too quiet!

Trust is at the heart of a program we are developing to address Pamela's SUR. I cannot find playgrounds with full-blown swings and merry-go-rounds that could truly match Pamela's love of everything that stimulates her vestibular system. I think America's affection for lawsuits have made it much harder for thrill-seeking kids. I did find this spinning wheel thing from which a child can hang. The problem is that Pamela wanted nothing to do with it at first, even though her feet would only be about six inches off the ground. On Tuesday, she would not try it at first, even though I said I would hold onto her. While it is good to encourage a person to try new sensory things, forcing the issue can backfire. So, I demonstrated it a couple of times and she tried it once after she made me promise to hang onto her, which I did. Because she trusted that I would keep my promise, Pamela tried it and had a big smile on her face when her feet hit the air!

Since she was so hesitant, I backed off and we only did one sensory thing that day. Less is often more, and leaving someone wanting more can build interest for the next trip. Yesterday, we arrived at the park after our walk and I sat down to read. I usually let Pamela do what she wants and then I work on the sensory stuff. Suddenly, I hear, "Help me!" I was delighted to see Pamela at the spinning wheel! This time, she tried it twice and I spotlighted her accomplishment.

I had hoped she would try one more thing, so I headed her over to this climbing thing. I did not realize it was so wobbly and bobbly. When Pamela began climbing, the thing zoomed into a new position and she cried out for help. So, I ran over to rescue her. We tried it one more time and embued the experience with imagination. I became the rescuer and Pamela became the person needing help. As the climbing thing swung wildly, she yelled, "Life Alert!" from the infamous ad. I played along with that connection, and she loved it! Again, Pamela left the park laughing and feeling competent.

I made two big discoveries in these short interactions. I was trying to figure out why she was so hesitant because she does not have gravitational insecurity. She swings as high as she possibly can on a typical swing. She adores rocking chairs, slides and merry-go-rounds. In all three situations, she is seated. I suspect she might not have confidence in her upper body strength. I also think that letting our imaginations run wild as we explore may leave her wanting more. Charlotte Mason and Lev Vygotsky both valued pretend play as crucial to the development of children.

I have come up with a list of vestibular activities to rev up her system: independing rocking chairs, synchronized rocking chairs, swinging at the neighbors, exercise ball, and everything I can find at the park, which will also build her upper body muscle strength. To build up muscle tone in her legs, we take walks and she is building up to thirty minutes on the elliptical trainer. In the role of coach, I handle music (letting her guide me with nonverbals) and water, letting her drink through a straw. When I get back from the conference, I plan to figure out a program with exercise bands.

I am adding alerting textures and smells to Pamela's self-care routines. I picked out a hairbrush with stimulating, but not painful plastic bristles and a very nubby handle. She does not enjoy brushing her hair. I found a sponge on a stick for those hard to reach places and fresh-scented body wash. We added a vibrating toothbrush and strong-smelling noxema pads for her face a few months ago. The key is to find things that alert without overwhelming her.

Pamela loves very sour foods like salad with vinegar, pickles, and handsqueezed lemonade (she does it herself). I suspect she has already figured out that strong foods wake up her taste buds. Drinking through straws, which she does anyway, wakes up the mouth, too. I am also seeking things to alert her when she is doing schoolwork: active music on the radio from our favorite music station, minty or fresh smelling candles, minty gum, etc.

I have a list of things to buy when the price is right: hammock, mini-trampoline, weighted vest (maybe a pretty women's fishing vest with modeling clay weights), etc. Here are pictures of some of the elements we are exploring right now: