Thursday, March 28, 2013

B is for Blocks

I think that blocks are a valuable investment for all families. Simple, safe blocks can be purchased for babies and more complicated can be purchased for the child in all of us! Pickles and Buddy love to play with blocks.  They are 9 and 10 years old and they still love to build.  We make towers, bridges, walls, buildings, etc.  They can exercise their engineering, math and science skills with the variety of blocks that we provide for them.  Beware, if your children are like mine, there may be block creations up in your living areas for days!

What are some of the brain benefits of playing with blocks?

Higher thinking math skills
Spatial skills
Problem solving
Cooperative play

What are some possible areas of benefit for a child with autism?

Social skills
Tactile stimulation
Visual stimulation
Cooperative play
Check out this Lego Therapy site

A few of our favorite blocks

good old fashioned wooden blocks, my mother in law found us a large set on Craigslist
Wooden Blocks

Legos  I prefer an assortment of Legos for more imaginative building, but my kids also like the modular sets like Lego City and Lego Friends

Bristle blocks--great tactile blocks

Blik blok--higher thinking skills, problem solving, natural material

Magna tiles not quite blocks, but they are a building toy and kids can experiment with magnetism

Water blocks--great for littler ones, but my kids still like to stick them in their creations

Cardboard blocks  We love this set.  They have become many things--restaurant, car, plane, stuffed animal house, cabin, Great Wall of China, etc.

Haba blocks sets--We have had the Little Amsterdam set for many years, the box is falling apart, but the blocks are holding up!

Wedgits  fun building toy, thinking skills, spatial skills

Kapla plank blocks  These blocks are wonderful!  We first played with them in a children's science museum and I had to add them to our collection.  The possibilities are really endless with these blocks.  Practice with gravity and balance. Natural pine material.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A is for Acting

A is for Acting

Acting has become a huge part of our lives.  My once very shy, Pickles, has become a budding actress.     She became interested through taking a co-op class a few years ago.  She was still bashful back then.  Last summer, she and Buddy did an acting camp at a local children's acting academy.  She caught the bug!  She has since enjoyed being a part of two semester long classes with plays performed at the end.  She also had a main part and solo in The Secret of Snowflake County, our church's Christmas musical.  This has also led to her taking tap dancing lessons and joining our church youth worship team and choir.  My laptop crashed, so I lost all pics, but found this tiny bow on Major Dad's computer.

We have obviously seen the benefits of acting when it comes to shyness.  It may not happen for every child, but Pickles has really blossomed.  Buddy was even able to perform the play for camp last summer.  He has high social anxiety and usually shuts down when it comes to speaking to anyone other than family.  I was so proud to see him up there on stage, delivering all of his lines on cue.  There are many other benefits to acting.  It can increase confidence, self esteem, reading skills, focus and attention.  It provides children with opportunity for socializing and teamwork.  Acting is valuable for teaching kids to problem solve and communicate effectively.

Perhaps you aren't interested in signing up for acting classes or doing a community play.  You can still enjoy acting in your own home!  My kids sometimes spend hours making up plays for us to watch.  They are exercising their imaginations and using up some of their extra energy.  Pickles and Buddy also enjoy putting on puppet shows.  If they are really into pretend play on a school day, I don't feel guilty about letting them go.  My couch cushions rarely stay in place!  I prefer letting them make up their own plays, using their imaginations or something we have studied.  It really helps get their creative writing juices flowing.  They are also big into improvisation.  You can also purchase/borrow books with plays written for you.  Reader's Theater books are great for squeezing in some school subjects like science or history!  The possibilities are endless.

We have also been able to enjoy Broadway shows and local productions of plays like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and The Thorn.  I believe that quality theater productions and movies are enriching to children's(and adults') lives.  

Christian Crafters  Christian plays, skits and puppetry
Puppet Resources  Christian puppet plays
Evan Moor Reader's Theater
Reading Lady free Reader's Theater scripts
On Stage

Monday, March 18, 2013

Enjoying the Warmer Weather

We had a few warmer days here in Colorado last week.  We had a picnic in the backyard and did a little reading aloud of The Sign of the Beaver.  Even the hamsters joined in!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Homeschooling with a Chronic Illness

I suffer from two different illnesses.  I have Crohn's Disease (a disease that affects the small intestine) and I also battle depression.  A lot of my days are difficult.  I am either really tired, achy or having stomach pains.  My kids understand, but it is hard to get back in the groove after I take a break from teaching.  I have learned to take better care of myself in order to be a better mom and teacher.  I try to eat right, exercise and sleep enough.  Our days go well when I get an afternoon nap.  I usually lie down around 2 and the kids play quietly.  I used to feel guilty about napping in the middle of the day, but it is a necessity for me.  If I take care of myself, I am a better mom and teacher to my kids.  Not to mention, a better wife!

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Sometimes we do schoolwork at night and that is okay.  Thankfully, we can school when it is convenient for our family.  Homeschools can look different from family to family. I also think that there is no shame in asking for outside help.  Maybe a relative or other homeschooling friend can take over a subject or two during a season.  Co-ops, enrichment classes, athletics, etc. have been helpful to me.  I know that my kids are still learning, but some of the burden is off of me.  I use this time to refresh myself by reading or doing something for myself while my kids are being instructed.  At times, we have had more outside activities than other times.  It is wonderful to be able to change how much or how little we do from season to season.

friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.  Proverbs 17:17

If you have a daily battle with your health and homeschooling, I encourage you to keep at it.  Don't let guilt creep into your conscience.  If God has called you to keep your children home, He will equip you and your children.  Pray and trust.  With God, nothing is impossible.(Luke 1:37)  Spend time in the Word and keep your spirit strong.  If our spirit is strong, we can soldier through the tough days.  Choose joy.  Never give up your hope for healing--God still performs miracles.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.  Psalm 103:2-5