Kids These Days

I was in Walmart checking out the latest window gel clings (I use them for motivation with Beth…long story, autism, blah blah blah) and there was a grandparent two aisles down going on and on in a very loud voice, “NO! NO! NO! You can’t have that! You already got so much for Christmas! I swear it wasn’t like that years ago! Kids these days you get everything! I told your parents…” And it went on, and on, and on, and on. And on. I was on the verge of shouting: “Just say no and move on already! Even if the kids have tantrums we get it. Hold your ground!” And then I wanted to shout, “By the way, the relentless direct marketing to kids and amount of products available these days at eye level in the store is a lot different from when you were young!” But I wisely thought better of it. That frustrated grandparent is not alone in her rant. There is no end to the articles and discussion on social media (Now that we have the internet! Damn internet! Back in our day…).

Case in point, this gem of an article, based on an interview of Leonard Sax who is peddling his book “The Collapse of Parenting”:

http://www.sacbee.com/news/nation-world/national/article56473378.html

Everything in the article and in the book summary on Amazon is nothing new. It is like the author just took everything that has made the social media rounds and crammed it into a book. Also, everyone seems to be forgetting that there is no way to go back and compare kids of old to kids of new, which means the opinions presented in any “kids these days” piece are highly subjective and unscientific. In my view, these types of articles and books are low on balance and high on trashing parents to sell a book and increase readership. So, I would like to take the above article point by point and give it some balance. Because you know what, I am sick of the parent bashing for profit game. Starting from the top of the article and working my way down:

  1. The kid that told his mom to shut up and no correction was made, the author making the case it is the norm.  To be honest, I cannot think of a single parent I know who would put up with that. Hey Leonard, who comes to visit you in your office?  Oh. Right. Parents who have trouble being authoritative with their kids. That explains it.
  2. The example of the kid making the education decision even though the parent knew it was wrong. Well the point started out it is common to get to pick schools, but I don’t really think the example is common at all. Are your clients rich? Are they choosing from a variety of private schools. What the hell is behind this example?  Next…
  3. Cellphone in the bedroom, talking at 2 am. Guess what. This has been happening for a long time. It was the same when I was younger…I hid under the covers and I was on the phone at 2 am (sorry for this revelation Mom). The only difference is the phone was connected to the wall by a cord. But I guess his main point was we should limit devices. Duh. The American Academy of Pediatrics beat you to that earth shattering advice Leonard. And I think we all have heard it already.
  4. Family Dinner. Okay, good idea. But somehow the article works in several topics related to schools, extracurricular, college prep too young, etc. into a long confusing point. Here is a newsflash for you Leonard..extracurricular activities are the norm now. Gone are the days where kids just go out and play all evening (yes I agree that is sad). You can try that with your kid but they will likely be lonely…all the other kids are at extracurricular activities! I agree this is a problem, but you can see why parents feel they must do things in the evenings that are more organized these days. They have no choice. And it is not always about beefing up a resume, it is about social opportunities.
  5. No ear buds in the car. This section of the article talks about no ear buds, it is a time for family, and then Leonard says, “My 9-year-old daughter and I know the lyrics to almost every song from ‘Mary Poppins’. ” Um, so you don’t have a code of silence in the car. And you listen to music together while driving. You know what, most parents do that. At least until the kid and the parents hate each other’s music. Then they listen to different things and the earbuds get whipped out, which has been happening since the invention of the Walkman in 1979. So I am not even sure what point you are trying to make Leonard. We’ll be in our car listening to Adele and the new Wiggles, while you are in your car listening to Mary Poppins. What is the freaking difference?
  6. Teach humility. Okay I am 46 and I started going down the list of people without humility from my high school class and it was long. Very long. I get your point Leonard, but can you make the point without making parents feel like shit? Maybe if you wrote a book on the importance of handling disappointment and provided many examples of strategies to deal with disappointment, then maybe I would give you some expert cred and buy your book.

So, that is that. My critique of yet another “kids suck these days and their parents suck even more” article. Here is my advice. Stop reading the parent bashing articles. Rely on a variety of friends, family, and/or teachers for guidance, advice, and new ideas. Because, you know, that is what we used to do in the old days. Geez. Experts these days.

 

Update Post on Homeschooling. Goodbye Montessori, It’s Been Fun.

Sorry I have taken an absence from writing with absolutely no explanation. Beth can do a lot more work and fun things now, so we have been busy!  A few people have asked me how Montessori is going. The short answer is it isn’t. We hit the addition/subtraction boards with math and she hated them. I looked at the other math boards and went…whoa. This is not right for her. We got a motor planning and small attention boost from doing the Montessori program up to that point, but it was time to move on (I maintained the geography program, solid shapes, hundreds board, and bought other materials for maintenance of concepts). Here is what we are doing now:

Reading Anything and Everything Beth Will Read. 

We made it through about 1/2 in the public school common core materials I borrowed (Harcourt Trophies, first grade). Wow, the material ramped up quickly in terms of length of the stories, which is extremely frustrating for a kid who is reading the stories aloud and has expressive language issues. At that point I paused and did motivating readers to boost fluency.  The Tug the Pup series was her favorite fiction mini reader set and is worth checking out. http://www.amazon.com/Learn-Read-Tug-Pup-Friends/dp/0062266896. Beth has improved a lot using materials she likes.  Her fluency is better and she has less errors, better tracking (she is still using her finger to track and I just occasionally bump her finger back gently when she makes an error so she can try again), less guessing at words, and better ability to start on the far left and find the next line (dyspraxia, crossing mid-line issues, and atypical occulomotor apraxia, how we hate thee).

Language, Language, Language.

We spent several months this year working in this book:

51Ta5oOqZiL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_

I could write a very long post on this book, but I don’t have time so here is a quick summary. Bottom line is I recommend trying it.

Purpose: As the book descriptions says, “Upon successful completion of the program, children are able to understand and talk about: past, present, and future events in their home life, such as eating, playing, bathing, and dressing past, present, and future events in the outside world, such as visits to the supermarket, a trip to the zoo, and activities at school simple stories and other early literacy skills Mastery of these skills enables children to become more active participants in the world around them. The program may be implemented by a parent, teacher, therapist, or other dedicated adult. Who is the program for? The program is for children who meet the following criteria: In language—the ability to say at least two words in sequence, either spontaneously or through imitation, such as “go home,” “bye bye,” “want cookie.”

What you need: A lot of patience while you hunt down all the manipulatives for the program. The table in the book had useless links, so I suggest going with ebay loving family & you and me happy together dolls. The other manipulatives you can find on amazon (Toobs, etc).

What I learned and liked about the program: I learned that Beth likes models and they help her pay attention better. Screw flashcards, models are where it is at for her. I also learned to show Beth items and discuss them in view using present tense, then hide them under the table to talk about the items in past tense. I learned many other things, but these were the biggies. The author had extremely well thought out lesson plans that progressed very nicely. I have never seen anything this good in any system in terms of laying out speech lessons. Also, the generalization was very well thought out. And it made me realize why the VB-Mapp is total shit (but that is an angry rant for another time).

What made me scream in frustration: The author advised the teacher/parent to be business like and to restrain hands to get the kids to speak. I am sorry, but WTH? This is proof that old school Lovaas is alive and well in autism therapies.  I ignored that advice. I bought the previous book by the same author and it ended up in the trash (Spectacular Bond…more behavioral therapy gone bad). I bought the book after and didn’t find it to be that helpful. And yet, I am happy we did this book (sans the Lovaas crap). Also, although I liked that the author worked on motor planning (putting pictures in order, etc) before ever working on expressive language, when she asked my kid to remember things in order that I couldn’t even remember, I drew the line and moved on. It also would be better if the lessons were a bit more functional. Hug the doll…good to do. Hug a truck?  My kid looked at me like I was nuts and I agreed it was nuts and we just skipped it.

Did it work?: Yes a little. She definitely talks more. She is less frustrated when I asked her to tell a story with 3 part story cards. She more easily says whole sentences. She now has some ability to use past tense and suddenly started telling me where we were going when we were driving around (!). But getting her to want to speak like the book promised of her own volition hasn’t come yet. But I will keep applying the concepts with our speech therapist using play models.

There are language activities we are doing other than this book, notably positional /prepositional words. I have literally every game out there and I will try to write a summary post on these in the near future.

Lakeshore, Lakeshore, Lakeshore.

Basically, my house looks like a Lakeshore store. And now we have started buying the more expensive Lakeshore items. You get what you pay for, believe me!  Lakeshore is awesome and I am absolutely appalled that the school I pulled her from either didn’t allocate the money or had no knowledge of how wonderful their products are (and we have a flagship store nearby, so there is no excuse for that).

http://www.lakeshorelearning.com/

SuperDuper Publications Chipper Chat.

I have bought many Super Duper Publications products in the past and I was underwhelmed. But again, you get what you pay for!  Recently I bought the uber expensive Chipper Chat games and finally found the right products for us. There are other Chipper Chats, but we started with this and it is great:

http://www.amazon.com/Basic-Concepts-Chipper-Chat-Magnetic/dp/1607230860/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1453729817&sr=8-1&keywords=basic+chipper+chat

My kid just loves making the magnetic chips jump on the wand at clean up time. So I have been using these chips and wand for every bingo-like game we own now.

Math-U-See

We started over with math, because the common core Go Math from the school district was getting ridiculously busy in terms of page layout, and just ridiculously stupid in general. We are using Math-U-See, a homeschooling curriculum…what a breath of fresh air! The entire very long first book is a “don’t have to master” book. They introduce a wide range of K and 1st grade topics to give the kids a good overview of 1-100, counting, adding, subtracting, skip counting, etc. The idea is to expose and promote good feelings about math (what a concept, take that common core). The program has great manipulatives too. We finished the very long intro Primer book and we are moving on to the next book (Alpha).

http://www.mathusee.com/

Writing

After about a year of just letting Beth write sloppy, I finally tried to improve her penmanship. I am happy to report she is starting to get the “neatness” concept a little. A small but important step. She can practice with the dry erase board products and finally has enough control that she doesn’t fly outside the lines with abandon! Go us!

I am sure I am forgetting something very important, but I hope this helps someone out there. The important thing is to keep trying new things and keep flipping homeschool supplies on ebay to cover the expense.

The “Right” Fidgets

This has been a big summer for us. It is the summer we finally found fidgets that work for Beth. They were not the standard variety though. I want my money back for all the sensory balls, toys, weighted this or that, and junk I have bought over the years (if you are reading this post and think, I wonder if she tried…the answer is yes). Finally, we found two things that actually work:

1. Bead Necklaces to Reduce Flapping on Outings

Why do I care about flapping on outings? Because she flaps and looks at her hands and does not tune into her surroundings when we are out. She can’t safely cross a street or learn about her surroundings and communicate with others when she flaps and looks at her hands so often. Why does she flap?  As far as I can tell it is many reasons…happiness, anxiety (often due to noise), frustration, and boredom seem to be common triggers. Flapping in cooler weather was not an issue because coats seem to calm the flap (see http://wp.me/p2OomI-1gf). But when the coats came off in spring and summer, nothing I tried to give her or distract her with would calm the flap.

Then, while visiting Beth’s grandparents, Beth put this seed pod necklace on:

Bead pod necklace

Seed pod necklace (search for “seed pod necklace” on etsy or ebay)

I noticed she played with in instead of flapping as much. All I had to do was remind her to put it on before we left the car (she takes the necklace off and flaps and rocks out to music in the car for fun) and it was like magic. Flapping on outings was greatly reduced overall and she was able to tune into her surroundings. But soon Beth started to put the necklace in her mouth, bite on it, and rub it across her teeth. Since I was worried about Beth damaging her teeth, I went on a hunt for an alternative.

I tried some silicone necklaces that are worn by moms and used as a nursing focus tool and/or teething option for their babies (food grade silicone, for example…http://www.amazon.com/Sassy-Baby-Beads%C2%AE-Silicone-Teething/dp/B00JT0DCJS/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1441192857&sr=8-5&keywords=nursing+necklaces+sassy). She did not like the single pendant version (which is similar to autism chewelry) and the beaded necklace was too big and heavy.

Nursing Mother Silicone Bead Necklace

Nursing Mother / Teething Silicone Bead Necklace

It seemed Beth preferred smaller lightweight beads. I found 9mm food grade silicone beads (on etsy, ebay, amazon, just type in “9 mm silicone beads”) and sometimes added something bigger at the bottom of the necklace. I used these sets to make her necklaces: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00U6XXW60/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=31MEQ0C8W2TBH&coliid=I1C4Z3NY21VMVQ and http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00OXIBKP4/ref=s9_dcbhz_bw_d54_g201_i2_ps). These work very well for her, and they are stylish too! Note the necklace is most effective when it is long enough so that Beth doesn’t have to raise her hands up much to use it. I like the safety pop away clasps that came with the kit I bought -I just tied a simple knot on each half of the clasp and popped it together (here is a close up of the clasp, separate string and clasp link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ZQ66DKY/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_S_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=31MEQ0C8W2TBH&coliid=I2CP4OHA679GI3). The clasp does not come apart easily, so even when she pulls on it it doesn’t break. I noticed the beads tend to tangle in Beth’s hair in the back, so I left beads off the upper portion of the necklace.

IMG_6353[1] IMG_6404[1] IMG_6455[1] IMG_6548[1]

2. Window Gel Clings for Desk Work

Beth LOVES gel clings like these: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=window+gel+clings . She loves getting new ones, their stickiness, their oily smell (ewww), and, unfortunately, she loves to rip them apart. Because she rips them, I got stuck on the idea that we should limit them and use them only as a reward for work. But she got very frustrated during work when I told her she would have wait for the gel clings, so eventually I gave in and let her keep the gel clings with her at the table. And just like that, the key to getting her to sit at the table for long periods of time was found. Sure we have gel clings all over the place and I am forever on the hunt for gel cling deals (CVS, Target, Jo-Ann Fabrics, ebay, craft stores are the best places to find good deals, especially at end of season). But who cares. It helps her sit happily and work for long periods of times without stress (when she is writing, I have her hold a gel cling in her left hand and it is surprisingly not distracting). Here is our “first day of first grade” pic, with gel clings all over the place.

IMG_6138[1]

I guess the upshot is this. Observe your child and she/he will lead you to the best fidget. Also, tread carefully when trying to use a sensory item as a “reward.”  With the gel clings it actually backfired and made her less focused. It wasn’t a reward, it was a sensory tool she needed to use WHILE she worked.

Adventures with Montessori and Autism: Geography

Traditional Montessori geography is a hands-on system with a globe, a continents of the world flat map puzzle, six countries within continents puzzles, and a flags puzzle. To learn the names of continents and countries, there are control maps separate from the puzzles. Here is a pictorial summary (products can be purchased relatively cheaply from ebay):

continentsglobe

                 World Globe

Montessori Geography Puzzles

        Continent/Country Puzzles

United States Puzzle

                United States Puzzle

North America Control Map

North America Control Map

World Map with Flags

                     World Map with Flags

As with most things Montessori, I had to alter the curriculum for Beth. She has significant language delays and memorizing new material is not easy for her, so I don’t need her to know every country of the world and their flags at this point. For now we are focusing on connecting the globe to the flat world map, continent names, our country name and flag (United States), and familiar states (those she lives in or has traveled to). The control maps didn’t work for her, so we resorted to using trimmed post it notes so she could easily stick the names of continents and countries directly on the globe and puzzles. To cut costs, I am using a magnetic united states map and I made a little flag from dollar store flag stickers stuck to a tooth pick and just used play-doh as the anchor on the North America Puzzle. Connecting the continents, countries, and states to things Beth can see and experience is the only way I truly see Beth understanding geography. So I am using a combination of direct experience, videos, and toys to help her make the connection between real world and geography globes and maps. Here is a summary of our current program:

Globe and World Flat Map

            Globe and World Flat Map Puzzle

World Map with Sticky Note Labels

                      World Map Puzzle

In addition to the above globe, map, and trimmed sticky notes with continent labels, this was a great video to introduce Beth to world geography and help her memorize the continents:

Also, Beth and I watch a lot of nature videos, which is helping her connect what a continent looks like to the animals and people who inhabit it. In addition, we periodically read these books and play with this puzzle:

Books about Continents (Scholastic Rookie Read About Geography)

Books about Continents (Scholastic Rookie Read About Geography)

World Map with Animals

World Map with Animals (ebay screen shot because I am lazy, http://www.ebay.com/itm/World-Continent-National-Flag-Animal-Building-Educational-Puzzle-Montessori-/181335225815?var=&hash=item2a386bf5d7)

North America Puzzle

                North America Puzzle

North America Puzzle with United States Flag

North America Puzzle with United States Flag (dollar store stickers, toothpick, play doh…saved a mint on a fancy Montessori flag map)

United States Magnetic Map

United States Magnetic Map (Imaginetics brand)

Along with the magnetic United States map above, Beth loves this app:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/kids-maps-u.s.-map-puzzle/id445921010?mt=8

Short of renting an RV and hitting the road, I was trying to figure out how to “show” Beth America and associate landmarks, monuments, and animals to each state. This series looks promising, so it is next up on our geography journey:

http://www.smithsonianchannel.com/shows/aerial-america/701

Adventures with Montessori and Autism: Counting

Beth gets distracted while counting and has trouble coordinating counting during hands-on activities or while pointing due to motor planning issues. The simple, distraction-free classic Montessori toys (and some modern off-shoots) were great to build up her skills and fill in gaps. Many of the products are errorless or have easy, obvious placement for the manipulatives. This post highlights products we used to improved her counting (some of these fall under period 4 or higher in the book I am following, 1):

Tumble Down Box

Available From:

https://store.tagtoys.com/tumble-down-counting-pegs-p181.aspx

Purpose and advantages:

-Errorless counting: placement obvious and exact number of openings in each wood plate (1-10)

-Has a recessed number that child can trace with fingers as a pre-writing activity

-Good for working on coordinating expressive language counting with moving manipulatives (note I wrote previously about a unique problem my child had with emphasis…it is important to teach a child with prosody problems to emphasize http://wp.me/p2OomI-1ju)

-Some children will love pulling the lever out and watching the pegs disappear, hearing them tumble down (although the noise was too much for Beth, I had to put a piece of foam in the lower portion to dampen the sound)

Tumble Down Box

Tumble Down Box

Spindle Boxes

Available from: Montessori suppliers, eBay, Amazon

Purposes and advantages:

-Although not errorless, the spindle boxes are a great simple beginning counting activity

-Gives a sense of number based on volume, which is rather unique for counting toys; includes a zero box for teaching none

-You just throw the rods into the box and they fall into place easily…reduces distraction caused by manipulating and perfecting placement of counters

-The numbers are very obvious and upright-good for kids who forget what they are counting up to or who have trouble with visual attention

-For kids who like to throw things, it can be motivating because you literally throw them into the wells

-For kids who like sounds, it has a pleasant sound when you throw the rods in the wells (although for a super sound stimmer, it may be distracting…they may not want to stop throwing them in and hyper-focus on the sound instead of the number they are counting to…yes, we struggled with that a bit)

 

Spindle Box Set-Up

Spindle Box Set-Up

Spindle Box - Completed Acitivity

Spindle Box – Completed Acitivity

Number and Counter Match-Up Puzzle

Available from: Montessori suppliers, Ebay, Amazon

Purposes and advantages:

-Errorless

-To teach kids to match number to number of counters (number sense)

-Distraction free red dots that are big enough to easily motor plan

Drawbacks:

-Hyper-focus on just matching the squiggled cuts can distract from the counting activity. We definitely had that problem and I had to encourage her to focus on the numbers and counters instead. Worksheets actually worked better for what this toy was trying to accomplish.

-Most K kids are only required to match 1-5 to groups of 1-5 in random format. Beyond 5, 10 frames or similar structured formats are used. I even had trouble matching the 6, 7, 8, 9 because of inconsistent formatting in this toy.

Because of the drawbacks above, I ended up laying out 1-5 and 10 for the counter portion, and encouraged her to guess the match:

Number Match-Up

Number Match-Up Puzzle

Number Match-Up, 1-5 and 10

Number Match-Up, 1-5 and 10

Montessori Cards and Counters

Available from: Montessori suppliers, eBay, Amazon

Purposes and advantages:

-Great beginning counting toy (but I suggest doing the errorless toys mentioned above first)

-Distraction free counters (same on front and back). Beth really has trouble with all the “cute” counters sets out there (apples, penguins, etc), because she obsessively orients them. So this simple counter set really worked to help her focus on the task of counting.

Montessori Wood Cards and Counters (With mats made from scrap material to help Beth know where to place the counters)

Montessori Wood Cards and Counters (With mats made from scrap material to help Beth know where to place the counters)

Montessori Hundred Board

Available from: Montessori suppliers, other versions from Amazon

Purposes and advantages:

-Great for working on expressive language while counting and number recognition. It can also be used to teach skip counting.

-Low distraction, grid helps guide placement

Semi-Drawback:

Don’t forget to also work on numbers in isolation.  Just because a child can create this whole board does not mean that he/she can read numbers in isolation. I was given that false sense of security until I realized I also had to work on scanning and reading individual numbers with Beth (discussed in this post http://wp.me/p2OomI-1ju).  One activity that addresses this issue is to randomly remove some numbers from a completed hundred board and have the child work on scanning and replacing the missing tiles while speaking the numbers.

Montessori Hundred Board: We use little containers of 10 and take lots of breaks. It is a demanding activity!  Teaching her to point to the next square and predict rather than scan the available tiles was the turning point.

Montessori Hundred Board: We use little containers of 10 and take lots of breaks. It is a demanding activity! Teaching her to point to the next square and predict rather than scan the available tiles was the turning point.

Picture/ Number Sequencing Puzzles

Available from: Lakeshore Learning

http://www.lakeshorelearning.com/

Purposes and advantages:

-Like 1-10 or 1-20 on Montessori Hundred Board, but you create a picture, which is more engaging for some children (Beth did not seem to care for creating the picture though)

1-10

 

monkey

1-20 Monkey Puzzle (I put the 2 next to 12, 3 next to 13, and so on to help with scanning and impulsivity issues)

1-20 Monkey Puzzle (I put the 2 next to 12, 3 next to 13, and so on to help with scanning and impulsivity issues)

Next up for us will be place value. That will be a topic of another post!

________________________

(1) This will be a quick and poorly edited series because things are happening fast and I just want to write it all down. My daughter is almost 7 years old and we are starting the Montessori program from the beginning using this book, you tube videos, and common sense alterations. We homeschool and do other standard K activities. Montessori is an attempt to fill in developmental gaps and increase independence. See this fellow blogger’s post on the division of the work into periods as outlined in David Gettman’s book: http://thehometeacher.org/2009/03/sequencing-your-activities-more-on-montessori.html. We are starting with period 1 activities (taken from the book), with adjustments of course:

montessori book

Period Two

  1. Practical- pouring water from a jug, medium difficulty dressing frames, simple braiding, setting table, polishing surfaces, washing hands, washing cloths, scrubbing a table top, sweeping sawdust, brushing clothes, folding clothes, hanging clothes on a hanger, handling a book, scissors exchange, greeting people, kindness to visitors, being silent
  2. Sensorial- advanced cylinder blocks exercises, brown stair, red rods, boxes 2 and 3 of color tablets, geometric cabinet exercises 1-4, binomial cube, blindfold, tactile tablets, stereognostic bags exercises, sorting grains, sound boxes, preliminary presentation of bells, three stage lessons and the names of Sensorial qualities
  3. Language- classified picture exercises 3 and 4, stage 4 of I Spy, exercise 1 of single letter sandpaper letters, metal insets, frequent speech questioning
  4. Math- none
  5. Culture- Land and water exercises, first maps, places classified pictures, preliminary work for classification by leaf.

Period Three

  1. Practical- pouring water from a jug and funnel, difficult dressing (bows and laces), advanced braiding, tying a tie, simple cooking chores, ironing, making beds
  2. Sensorial- Geometric Cabinet exercises, constructive triangles, square of pythagoras, trinomial cube, fabrics, thermic bottles, baric tablets, presentation of bells
  3. Language- double letter sandpaper letters, advanced I spy, exercise 2 with all sandpaper letters
  4. Math- Number rod exercise 1
  5. Culture- all maps, places picture folders, past and present, stories about the past, air, water, magnetism, classifying animals, classification by leaf, parts of animals, parts of plants

Period Four

  1. Practical- responsibility for certain daily care of environment, helping and advising younger ones in a group
  2. Sensorial- Geometric cabinet exercises 9 and 10, thermic tablets, mystery bag, visual work with blindfolds, bell exercises 1-3, tasting cups, smelling boxes
  3. Language- movable alphabet, writing individual letters, writing families of letters, positioning letters on lines, sandpaper Capitals, box 1 and 2 of object boxes, action cards, reading folders exercise 1
  4. Math- number rods exercise 2, sandpaper numbers, number tablets, spindles, numbers and counters, memory play, limited bead material, number cards, function of the decimal system, fractions
  5. Culture- gravity, sound, optics, places artifacts

 

Coin Identification and Sorting

Beth and I have been working on coin identification all year. We have tried everything and we are very close to mastery, so I thought I would share all that we have tried in hopes that some of these things will work for other struggling learners out there. The first step for Beth (and for any kid) was to find out an association that she could make to each coin (1). For Beth, pennies are brown, dimes are small, quarters are big, and nickels have a smooth thick edge works for her (smooth and thick are concepts we covered at length in Montessori). But still the expressive language for coin names does not automatically pop out of her mouth even though she understands their characteristics, so she needed lots of practice and exposure to coins (and their variations which is maddening in the U.S. -nickles have two different heads, pennies have all sorts of backs). Ideally, the activities would be something she can do mostly or all on her own to minimize frustration. Of course we also work on “give me a penny” and “what is this?” But it is so much better if Beth can practice on her own with the types of activities shown below.

Coin Sorting Mats

The first thing we tried was coin collection mats. Unfortunately to Beth a circle is a circle and she thought throwing a penny in a nickel or quarter circle was a match. So this did not work very well for her.

 

Coin Sorting on Mats

Coin Sorting on Mats

Coin Sorting Using Coin Collection Folders and Tubes

My next attempt was to change the mats into something with recessions so that she understood we were sorting by size, not just shape. I bought some used Whitman coin collecting folders (https://www.whitman.com/store/Inventory/Browse/Whitman-Folders) on ebay, cut out one panel for each coin, blocked out the writing with a black marker, and wrote the coin name on top. I was a little disappointed that the coins did not easily slip into the recessions, even after I pounded in several coins with a hammer!  But Beth did not seem to mind…she just set them in the recesses and did not obsess about pressing them in (I can see this really bothering some children though). These worked okay, but trying to get her to say the coin name for each coin was hard because she had to keep reading the name at the top and her focus was on the array of coins and not on the overall category.

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Coin Folder Sorting

 

Close up of two coin folders

Close up of two coin folders

Beth Hard at Work

Beth Hard at Work

We also tried coin tubes (http://www.air-tites.com/coin_tubes.htm#.VWhFxflVhHw), which I bought on ebay. I carved out a holder for each tube in a foam board. This worked better than the folders because there was no array of coins to steal her attention and the focus was on the coin name. But it was a little hard to judge the size of the clear tube relative to the coin size for say the dime versus the penny. Of course I still had to prompt her many times to carefully look at the coin in her hand and say the coin name before she became more independent. At first it worked better to just use two tubes at a time, so I had to remove and block the names of the other tubes.

Coin Tube Sorting

Coin Tube Sorting

Coin Sorting with Boxes

In order to keep the focus on the coin name and not the array, and because the tubes and folders still did not give the ideal prompt for size, I started experimenting with boxes. First I tried just throwing the coins in a box with a card label on top. Of course this was not errorless and she made many errors with this approach.

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Box/Card Coin Sorting

 

 

Beth, Hard at Work Yet Again

Beth Hard at Work (Yet Again)

Finally, I got to the semi-errorless, size-based, focus-on-coin-name approach that worked best for Beth! I bought stiff cardboard craft boxes from a craft store and put my X-acto knife to work (just make the slit a little smaller than the coin, then force the coin through and move it around in the opening to enlarge it to the exact size of each coin). Then I pasted cards on top. These worked the best because the coin name is right near the slot and you can’t fit the quarter in anything but the quarter box and the nickel and penny are partially errorless. Because the coin name was right in front, it prompted her to say the name better than all the other arrangements above.

Coin Sorting Boxes

Coin Sorting Boxes

Close-up of 2 Coin Sorting Boxes

Close-up of 2 Coin Sorting Boxes

Other Coin Identification Ideas

This cash register says the name of each coin when you put them in the slot on the left. It was helpful to get us part way to receptive identification (http://www.amazon.com/Learning-Resources-Pretend-Teaching-Register/dp/B0006N8X3M/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1432898380&sr=8-3&keywords=cash+register).

Learning Resources Pretend & Play Teaching Cash Register

Learning Resources Pretend & Play Teaching Cash Register

These types of search and find worksheets are all over the web. I like this site for easy worksheets:

http://www.math-salamanders.com/kindergarten-money-worksheets.html

free-math-money-worksheets-find-the-nickels-1

There are other tools out there I am sure, but we are sticking with the boxes, the cash register, and worksheets for our final stretch of coin identification. Good luck and I hope the above helps someone out there!

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(1) Try to find an association that makes the most sense for each child. I suggest a lot of observation…sometimes kids associate more with the back or certain characteristics of coins rather than size. For us, size seems to work fairly well so far.

 

 

Adventures with Montessori and Autism: Practical Activities

We are all over the map with Montessori right now. According to the book I am following (1), Beth is in period 4 for Math and writing, and a mixture of period 2, 3, 4 for everything else. At this point it makes the most sense to write about each area of the curriculum (e.g., math, practical, or sensorial) in a post rather than talk about periods. One thing is for sure, trying to put a kid who is all over the developmental map into a typical development program is a challenge! We usually muddle through the lower levels and I push her to master the tasks as well as possible, but sometimes we move on a little prematurely before she dies of boredom and hates the work. I know, really scientific and rigorous, but sometimes you have to use common sense!

In this post, I will summarize our experiences with practical activities (chores, self-care, manners) in periods 2-4. This type of work is on my mind at the moment, due to this article popping up in our autism feeds: https://www.autismspeaks.org/science/science-news/autism-study-associates-self-care-skills-success-adulthood . Hopefully schools will finally realize it is not life skills OR academics. It must be a mixture for our kids.

Here is a summary of Montessori practical from periods 2, 3, 4: pouring water from a jug, medium difficulty dressing frames, simple braiding, setting table, polishing surfaces, washing hands, washing cloths, scrubbing a table top, sweeping sawdust, brushing clothes, folding clothes, hanging clothes on a hanger, handling a book, scissors exchange, greeting people, kindness to visitors, being silent, pouring water from a jug and funnel, difficult dressing (bows and laces), advanced braiding, tying a tie, simple cooking chores, ironing, making beds,  responsibility for certain daily care of environment, helping and advising younger ones in a group.

As you can see, there are a lot of chores and preparation for later household duties.  Rather than getting wrapped up in the details, I just had Beth help me in useful ways around our house. I can’t tell you the last time I made a bed, polished anything, or ironed, so those are not a priority in our household. Instead of sweeping up saw dust with a small brush, we used her little broom and it was nice to see she can finally do the sweeping motion after years of trying. We completed all dressing frames except tying bows, and I am trying to figure out the best way to teach her how to tie. To maintain dressing skills over the summer, I have Beth do a dressing vest once a week. The one thing on the list that cracks me up is pouring…if I leave Beth alone in the kitchen for 2 seconds she pours obsessively. Yeah, we don’t need to encourage her to do that more, but thanks for the idea! Ha! As for the being silent goal, sitting and being with ones thoughts, blah, blah. Isn’t that the definition of autism? Yeah, ignoring that one too. We work on please, thank you, and greetings every day, so we have that covered. Our brand of “kindness to visitors” is, hey Beth, you must not run away when visitors come, okay?

Here are some snapshots of our brand of practical work:

Laundry time! Just don't eat the soap!

Laundry time! Just don’t eat the soap!

Putting toilet paper away-the hardest part is opening the package due to sensory issues.

Putting toilet paper away-the hardest part is opening the package due to sensory issues (the sound of the plastic and tearing with fingers).

Working on her knees...this took years for her to do. Transitions from sitting to standing, bending, etc make chores challenging.

Working on her knees…this took years for her to do. Transitions from sitting to standing, bending, etc make chores challenging.

Emptying in the dishwasher (we started with silverware, and have added plastics and pans). The hardest part is the noise...she hates clanging pans and silverware. When I work with her I have to keep the sensory issues in mind and work quietly.

Emptying in the dishwasher (she started with silverware sorted into just three compartments [spoons, knives, forks] and recently she has started putting away plastics and pans). The hardest part is the noise…she hates clanging pans and silverware. When I work with her I have to keep the sensory issues in mind and work quietly.

Putting away silverware

Putting away silverware

Working outside is hard due to distractions and her desire to go for a car ride. So we only go for small goals outside.

Working outside is hard due to distractions and her desire to go for a car ride. So we only go for small goals outside.

Encourage her to pour....ha!

Encourage her to pour….ha!

Making toast

Making toast

Look Mom!  I made my own cereal while you were in the shower!  Points for independence. I need to buy more dish rags.

Look Mom! I made my own cereal while you were in the shower! Points for independence, but I need to buy more dish rags.

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(1) This will be a quick and poorly edited series because things are happening fast and I just want to write it all down. My daughter is almost 7 years old and we are starting the Montessori program from the beginning using this book, you tube videos, and common sense alterations. We homeschool and do other standard K activities. Montessori is an attempt to fill in developmental gaps and increase independence. See this fellow blogger’s post on the division of the work into periods as outlined in David Gettman’s book: http://thehometeacher.org/2009/03/sequencing-your-activities-more-on-montessori.html. We are starting with period 1 activities (taken from the book), with adjustments of course:

montessori book

Period Two

  1. Practical- pouring water from a jug, medium difficulty dressing frames, simple braiding, setting table, polishing surfaces, washing hands, washing cloths, scrubbing a table top, sweeping sawdust, brushing clothes, folding clothes, hanging clothes on a hanger, handling a book, scissors exchange, greeting people, kindness to visitors, being silent
  2. Sensorial- advanced cylinder blocks exercises, brown stair, red rods, boxes 2 and 3 of color tablets, geometric cabinet exercises 1-4, binomial cube, blindfold, tactile tablets, stereognostic bags exercises, sorting grains, sound boxes, preliminary presentation of bells, three stage lessons and the names of Sensorial qualities
  3. Language- classified picture exercises 3 and 4, stage 4 of I Spy, exercise 1 of single letter sandpaper letters, metal insets, frequent speech questioning
  4. Math- none
  5. Culture- Land and water exercises, first maps, places classified pictures, preliminary work for classification by leaf.

Period Three

  1. Practical- pouring water from a jug and funnel, difficult dressing (bows and laces), advanced braiding, tying a tie, simple cooking chores, ironing, making beds
  2. Sensorial- Geometric Cabinet exercises, constructive triangles, square of pythagoras, trinomial cube, fabrics, thermic bottles, baric tablets, presentation of bells
  3. Language- double letter sandpaper letters, advanced I spy, exercise 2 with all sandpaper letters
  4. Math- Number rod exercise 1
  5. Culture- all maps, places picture folders, past and present, stories about the past, air, water, magnetism, classifying animals, classification by leaf, parts of animals, parts of plants

Period Four

  1. Practical- responsibility for certain daily care of environment, helping and advising younger ones in a group
  2. Sensorial- Geometric cabinet exercises 9 and 10, thermic tablets, mystery bag, visual work with blindfolds, bell exercises 1-3, tasting cups, smelling boxes
  3. Language- movable alphabet, writing individual letters, writing families of letters, positioning letters on lines, sandpaper Capitals, box 1 and 2 of object boxes, action cards, reading folders exercise 1
  4. Math- number rods exercise 2, sandpaper numbers, number tablets, spindles, numbers and counters, memory play, limited bead material, number cards, function of the decimal system, fractions
  5. Culture- gravity, sound, optics, places artifacts