Barefoot in Suburbia

Homeschooling & Special Needs, Inspired by the Montessori Way

Week 2 in review June 21, 2012

Filed under: In the kitchen,Kindergarten,Lower Elementary,Preschool — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 9:22 am

Monkey has been working on decoding simple 3 letter words using All About Reading. Here, she’s making some rhyming ice cream cones with the new words she was learning.

Monkey continued to work on learning a new capital letter each day. When I asked her how she wanted to do her letter of the day sheet, she chose finger painting.

In history, Jedi made some whole grain porridge, based on a medieval Roman recipe.  This was his first time using the stove, and he really enjoyed it.  Now he insists he wants to cook all the time!

Bug decided to do some flower arranging all on her own. She picked some white flowers out of my flower garden, and then picked the orange flowers out of her own garden bed. Then she asked to make a centerpiece for the table, so I gave her a glass of water to arrange the flowers in. Now every day she picks new flowers and arranges them!

In health, we talked about the brain. First the kids learned some basic anatomy of the brain. Then they did a couple exercises to show how the brain works. They tried to identify objects from a mystery bag to show how the brain helps us use our senses. Here, Jedi’s attempting to brush his teeth left handed to show how the brain’s signals are different from the dominant side and the non-dominant side of the body.

One of the projects they did in art was to listen to music and move their colored pencils on the paper according to the movement of the music. Jedi chose the Star Wars theme song and needless to say, the drawings were very animated!

In math, Monkey was learning how to make 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 by adding 1-5 to 5 (so for example, 6 is 5 and 1, 7 is 5 and 2, etc.). We used the bead bars to illustrate the concept.

Unbelievably, Bug *loves* worksheets. Here she’s matching rhyming words.

Bug really loves working with her tools too! She uses the bolt boards almost every day. She’s finally able to tighten and losen the bolts now.

Bug is practicing the pincher grasp by putting clothespins on the side of the basket.

In science, Jedi learned about arthropods and insects. Here, he’s using the hand lens to observe the differences in the bodies of various insects in acrylic.


Results of the germs experiment! June 14, 2012

Filed under: Kindergarten,Lower Elementary,Preschool — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 6:43 pm

I posted Monday that we were culturing germs on petri dishes as part of our FIAR unit on Madeline.  The results are in!

All 4 of our petri dishes, about 4 days after we cultured them.

Starting on the top row–this one is the foot one. The cleanest quadrant was Monkey’s on the top, then next to it is mine, on the bottom quadrant is Jedi (who had the most colorful germs), and then Bug’s (she was on antibiotics at the time, so I’m surprised she had many at all. 🙂 )

The other top row culture is antibacterial cream vs none–as you can see, there are a couple colonies in the “dirty” side and the antibiotic side is clear.

Directly underneath that dish is the toothpaste vs no toothpaste dish–you can see a ton of little white circular colonies on the side without toothpaste, and the side with toothpaste is clear (you can see the white streaks of toothpaste though. FWIW, it’s Dora the Explorer Colgate toothpaste. 🙂 It apparently kills germs. )

The last dish is the one we had the kids touch the sample on one side before washing their hands and again after washing with soap. It looks like we need to work on their handwashing skills because both sides had quite a few colonies on them.


Geography–USA June 13, 2012

Last week, we began our North America continent study.  We decided to start with the United States, since clearly that would be a familiar topic for the kids. 😉  As part of our study, the kids planned an entire meal with foods common in the United States, and then they had to help prepare that meal.

Bug and Monkey chopping vegetables and preparing the salad.


Jedi flipping the corn on the cob & hamburgers on the grill.


The meal they chose–hamburgers, pickles, corn on the cob, applesauce, and vegetable salad.


And of course, one mustn’t forget dessert! Jedi chose to make Boston Cream Pie since he was born in Massachusetts. He did a really good job and only needed a little help!


The final result of Jedi’s cake baking! Not bad for 8 years old and only having minimal help! It was delicious…I think this kid has a future in the kitchen. 🙂



First week, in review

Last week was our first week back into the schoolroom.  The kids all transitioned back into the homeschooling routine really easily…thank goodness for shorter (but more frequent!) breaks than the traditional school year.  There was no summer brain drain, no problems getting them to do their work, etc.

Monkey was very excited to get started, as it was going to be her first day of kindergarten!  Although, by the end of the first day, she was very disappointed that she did not learn to read full out chapter books on the first day…she only learned 4 words. 😉

Here are some pictures from the kids’ first week.  This year, I’ll probably just try to combine a sample from all three kids into the same post.  Occasionally, I’ll pull out one specific project and do a more in-depth post later on in the week.  I will probably separate out the Five in a Row stuff too, just so that all of the books have their projects in one area.  I just learned last year that it was too difficult keeping up with a weekly post about each child’s work.

The day before we started schooling for the year, I gave Jedi a project that would require him to think. He does really well after focusing on a project, like a big lego kit. I think that kind of concentration really helps clear his mind and regulate his body and mind. Since his latest obsession is Titanic, I got him a model of the ship to put together.


He did really well! It took him just over a day, and he put it together with very little adult help!


Bug working on a “parts of an insect” puzzle.


The three kids worked on “texture painting”. Because we were also studying the United States in geography, I gave them red and blue paint. The red paint had kosher salt mixed in and the blue paint had gold glitter mixed in!


Monkey working on her first 4 reading words. She’s matching the words with the pictures.


Bug with her drawing of me. 🙂 If you look really closely, she also independently wrote (and spelled!) “mom”!


Bug looking at the insects in acrylic


Bug working on the pink tower.


In science, Monkey’s working on classifying and using senses to make observations. Here, she was sorting pictures of beans from biggest to smallest.


Bug, proud of her pink tower!


Jedi working on a texture collage….using found materials and scraps to create a collage or picture.


Bug and Monkey trying to figure out how many number rods tall they are. 🙂 Monkey is the tallest plus the smallest rod tall. Bug is the 2nd to the tallest rod tall.


Arranging the number rods longest to shortest.


Bug using various magnets to pick up iron filings and little iron pellets.


Each of the kids asked for garden beds this year so that they could garden along with me. So, I built each of the three kids a raised bed garden. They chose what to put in the gardens (they also mixed the various soil components). Bug’s here watering her garden!


Monkey using popsicle sticks to create triangles and quadrilaterals.


Bug looking at insect x-rays on her light table.


Later this week, I’ll have a post up for Monkey’s first week using Five in a Row.  I’ll also have a geography post up.



Combustion & Volcanoes…AKA: Last day of school! April 27, 2012

Filed under: Lower Elementary — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 11:20 am
Tags: , , , ,

Today was our last official day of school for the 2011-2012 school year!  True to our family and style of homeschooling, we thought it best to explode stuff and start other things on fire. 😉

Jedi was learning about Pompeii in history the past week.  He read about it in his history book and watched a documentary on it.  So, to celebrate the last day of school, we decided to use a city lego minifigures and erupt a volcano, of course!

Jedi with his city of minifigures. There is an antacid tablet, some baking soda, and some dish soap in the chambers behind the volcano. In his hands is a measuring cup with white vinegar and red food coloring.


Poor minifigures.... 😉


We also had to finish up the last of our chemistry today…the lesson on combustion!  Now, Jedi is sort of the Mr. Krabs of the household…he loves money a lot.  He even has to pick up every penny he finds.  He was a little stressed out when I told him I was going to start some money on fire.  He was willing to try it because it was my own money and not his own. 😉

I filled a dish with 1/2 cup of 91% rubbing alcohol, 1/2 cup of water, and 1/4 tsp of salt.  Then I dropped the bills in the dish for about 5 minutes to soak.  During that time, I went to wash my hands (it’s VERY important that there is no trace of rubbing alcohol on your hands for this!)

After the soaking, I picked up the bills with metal tongs and lit it on fire!

Money on fire!


Jedi was very relieved to learn the following:

-Alcohol burns very fast–a couple seconds and it was over.

-The alcohol burns faster than the water evaporates, so the bill stays wet and safe.

-The bill is not paper–it’s cotton.  Therefore, the bill does not get damaged in the experiment.


And with that, Jedi now moves up to 3rd grade, Monkey moves up to kindergarten, and Bitty Bug moves up to preschool.  We’re taking all of May off school, and we’ll be back in the school room the first week of June!



2012-2013 Curriculum Choices! April 21, 2012

Filed under: Kindergarten,Lower Elementary,Preschool — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 8:06 pm

Our 2011-2012 school year is quickly winding down–this coming week is our last full week of school before the kids take a break until the first week of June.  As the year is winding down, I’m starting to gather next year’s curriculum supplies.  Tonight, I finished with the last few choices!  It looks like next year will look like the following:

Preschool–Bitty Bug

-Continue with New Child Montessori .  This is primarily what we used for Monkey, and now Bitty Bug will start 2 years of preschool with it.

All About Reading, Pre-1 (Both Bug and Monkey are currently working through it, so they’ll finish it up this year.)

Art for the Montessori Classroom

-A geography & culture curriculum I’m writing.


Five in a Row

Rightstart Math Level A

-A science curriculum I’m writing that incorporates all of the state standards (I could not find a solid science curriculum appropriate for Jedi and Monkey that had real solid science and a lot of hands-on activities, other than the one Jedi did this past year…and he finished all 3 levels in one year!)

-The above mentioned geography & culture curriculum.

All About Reading–Pre-1 and then Level 1 (once she starts Level 1, she’ll also do All About Spelling Level 1 )

Kindergarten Electives, as we have time for them

Art for the Montessori Classroom

Rosetta Stone, Vietnamese, along with some Vietnamese videos, books, & children’s songs

-Confession of a Homeschooler’s “World’s Greatest Artists

-Some beginning piano

-Confession of a Homeschooler’s “Road Trip USA

Third Grade–Jedi

Rightstart Math Level D

-The above mentioned science curriculum.

-The above mentioned geography & culture curriculum.

All About Spelling Level 3, and working with his intervention specialist

History Odyssey, Level 1 Middle Ages

Voyages in English, 3rd grade

Daily Warm Ups–Language Skills

Electives, as we have time for them

Art for the Montessori Classroom

Rosetta Stone, Vietnamese or Spanish, depending on which one he wants to learn

-Confession of a Homeschooler’s “World’s Greatest Artists

-Some beginning piano

-Confession of a Homeschooler’s “Road Trip USA


The kids will also all continue with their PSR (Catholic religious education) and Homeschool Co-Op classes.  Jedi will continue with Tang Soo Do three times a week and Monkey will be doing pre-competitive gymnastics (as well as Tang Soo Do if she still has time.  She also said she wants to do cheerleading, swimming, and girl scouts.  LOL!!  Not sure she’ll have time for all of that though. 😉 )

We also have some really awesome field trips lined up for next year too!


It sounds like it will be another busy year. 🙂


Apps for Mild/Moderate Special Needs March 28, 2012

Filed under: Lower Elementary — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 12:05 am
Tags: , , , ,

The kids took most of last week off to enjoy the beautiful 80 degree weather we were having in Central Ohio, so I don’t have a real Montessori Monday post.  We’re back in the schoolroom this week (hey, it’s back in the 40’s and 50’s…time for school. 😉 before taking next week off for spring break.  So, instead of the usual posts, I want to publish a few of the non-Montessori posts I’ve had swirling around in my head.

As I promised last week, I want to do two separate technology related posts–one for apps that are useful for homeschooling in general, and one about apps I’ve found useful for Jedi.  So, first up is my post on apps for mild/moderate special needs.

Most people in the autism field know about the go-to apps.  There has been a lot written about using iPads as communication devices and the fantastic apps that are allowing non-verbal children to speak.  Jedi doesn’t need a verbal communication device and he no longer uses apps for social stories, etc.  However, there are several fantastic apps that we do use every day to help him.  Many of these apps would be great for children with Asperger’s, Dyslexia, or other mild/moderate special needs.  Of course, children without diagnosed special needs may find some of these helpful as well. 🙂


All of these are available in the iTunes market and may or may not be available in the Android Market.  I have not been paid to review any of these apps–these are simply just apps I’ve found to be useful and I wanted to pass the information on.  As always, talk to your child’s service providers if you have questions about whether these would be appropriate choices for your child.

Behavior & IEP Apps

Behavior Tracker Pro –$29.99 .  This app is great for parents who are trained in behavior analysis or who are needing data on behaviors to provide to service providers or an IEP team.  This program can record the duration and frequency of behaviors, record video of the behavior, and chart behaviors.


iReward –$4.99 .  iReward is one of my favorite behavior modification tools.  You can set up various behaviors that you want to see happen (for example, having a clean room, using the restroom unassisted, or tasting a vegetable).  You can use your device’s camera to take a picture that acts as a visual prompt for the behavior.  Then, you input how many times the behavior needs to occur in order to receive a reward.  Each behavior can be linked to a separate reward (which you can also have a picture of).  Using the clean room example, the child can see that he needs to have a clean room for 5 nights before earning a popcorn and movie night.  Each night, the parent and child check the room and if it’s clean, they tap a star (or smiley face or check mark) in the “clean room” goal page.  The child can see how many positive marks he has and how many he needs to gain in order to earn the reward.  This app is fabulous for teaching independence in goal setting as well!

Behavior Status –$0.99.  Most children who have gone to school are aware of a behavior modification method that involves a traffic light–green light means the behavior is good, yellow is “caution, behavior is getting out of control”, and red means the behavior is flat out unacceptable.  Behavior Status is a similar concept and really resonates with Jedi.  When his light is green, he knows that his behavior is under control, but when I turn his light to yellow or red (or ask him to for additional impact), it gives him a visual reminder that he needs to gain control of his body, his words, or his emotions.  Sometimes, being told to calm down doesn’t resonate–but a visual aid like a traffic light seems to work really well for him!


Time Timer –$1.99.  One of the tools we’ve used for Jedi since he was first diagnosed with autism at age 2 was a Visual Timer .  It allowed Jedi to have a big red visual aid to show him how long he had until we could switch tasks or until he could get something he wanted.  After several years of very hard use, the timer broke.  As Jedi gets older, it’s also just not practical to have the timer carried around with us everywhere he needs it to be.  So, having the exact same timer on his iPad is fantastic because it allows him to really see how long he has to go before something happens.  This helps him a lot with transitions (we’ve also been using it for the girls too, because they really love the red timer! 🙂  )   This is a great tool for simple things like letting the kids know how long they have left to work on a subject or how long they have before lunch!


Written Communication/Spelling/Dyslexia

Dragon Dictation –FREE .  This app is fantastic for those children who, like Jedi, have spelling and handwriting difficulties that make it difficult to complete creative writing or essay assignments.  With Dragon Dictation, Jedi can just speak to his iPad and it changes his verbal speech to written text.  It is not 100% accurate, but it definitely gives us a good place to start.


Pages –$9.99 .  Pages is Apple’s answer to Microsoft Word.  It can read and write Word documents, so it works really well when Jedi and I pass documents back and forth.  Obviously, this app is designed for productivity and not special needs.  I included it in my list because this is actually *the* most used app on Jedi’s iPad.  Because of his dyslexia, he needs to type most of his written work.  Pages includes a spell check, which helps Jedi self-correct without a lot of extra frustration.


iFontMaker –$6.99 .  iFontMaker is a pretty unique addition to Jedi’s therapeutic aids.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, one of Jedi’s dyslexia symptoms involves the inability to do handwriting, or at least the inability to do it at any level that is appropriate for his age.  He has been working very hard in occupational therapy for several years, and still has a lot of difficulty with it.  However, sometimes, there is just an extra bit of pride that comes from seeing something in your own handwriting.  iFontMaker allows Jedi to write each letter as best as he can one time, and the program turns it into a font.  That way, Jedi can use his own handwriting, while typing!  Obviously, this is not a “need”, but it is a really nice thing to have in order for him to be able to have work that looks like it was written in his own writing, while allowing him to use his typing accommodations.


I have a lot of other apps to share too, but many of them fall really nicely into the homeschooling category, so I’ll just include them with my next post.


2nd grade week in review March 21, 2012

The past several days have been standardized testing days around here.  Most homeschoolers around us seem to choose the portfolio review option (Ohio gives three options for homeschoolers: A nationally normed standardized test, a portfolio review by a certified teacher, or another assessment agreed upon by the school district and parents).  Because Jedi has a form of autism and is on an IEP, I wanted some solid data about what he has learned and what he still needs to learn, so we chose to do the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.  We get our results in 2 weeks or so, and I’m looking forward to seeing where his strengths are (I’m already going to guess science and social studies are going to be strengths) and where he might need additional help (I’m guessing spelling, listening, and math since those things are all affected by his dyslexia and auditory processing issues).  Not only will the tests give me a starting point for next year, but it gives us some solid data for his IEP team.

Now most everyone who knows me might be very surprised–I am fairly anti-standardized testing…or rather, against how standardized testing is usually done.  I don’t believe that teaching to the test and using test scores for school funding are good uses of the test.  But, to get data on how to help a child or to tailor their education to accentuate strengths and intervene with weaknesses seems to be a good way to use the test.  We did not teach to the test this year and Jedi didn’t even take a practice test or any “test prep” materials.  Jedi didn’t even know he was taking the test until a couple days before.

He took the test by himself, allowing him to concentrate on his test instead of having to face anxiety about the proctor going too fast for him or not understanding something.  His IEP has several other accommodations for  testing that he didn’t even have to make use of.  I’m really proud of how well Jedi seemed to do and how seriously he took the test.  And it didn’t hurt that he got to go outside and play after each sub-test. 🙂  It was pretty laid back and relaxed–20 minutes of testing, then an hour of playing outside to refocus him. 😀


Here are some pictures of Jedi’s week before he started the tests…


Jedi, working on his new ipad. He now uses an ipad and wireless computer for worksheets (using an app designed for writing on PDFs) and all writing assignments. This helps Jedi a lot because he has so much trouble with handwriting and spelling. (Stay tuned for a post in a few days about educational apps for the ipad, as well as apps for special needs students!)


Jedi doing a painting about light and dark contrast. He put down some masking tape and then painted over the whole paper. Then after it was dry, he pulled up the tape to reveal the light spaces.

Working on his Ancient Greece history pocket. He did a lot of learning about ancient Greece, the Trojan War, and Greek Mythology.

In science, Jedi worked on observing seeds. He dissected a dicot (bean seed) and labeled the parts, and then labeled the parts on a monocot (corn seed).


Coloring some pages on the Trojan War


Learning about minerals and crystal formation. He is looking at dry epsom salt here. After this, he mixed it with water and then poured the mixture onto a cookie sheet with some black construction paper. We put it under a desk lamp for a couple days to dry.


After it dried, it formed a crystal that looked like etched glass.


Jedi also did an art project where he made a stamp out of cardboard and foam.


Using his handmade ink stamp.




2nd grade week in review March 5, 2012

In addition to Monkey’s busy week in sports, Jedi had a big week too!  We traveled to the World Tang Soo Do Association’s Region 22 Championships in Dubois, Pennsylvania recently with our Tang Soo Do school.  Jedi and I both competed.  Jedi won the silver medal for his age/rank division in open handed forms, and the bronze medal in sparring!

Jedi & I at the competition


Our medals and belts with the official championship shirt.


Jedi was also having a rough week and we’re still not quite sure what went on.  During his co-op, he had a major meltdown, resulting in him running away from the class and having a meltdown in a closet.  During the Tang Soo Do competition, he also had another meltdown.  And then in his religious education class, he had to leave after having another meltdown.  It’s been a really long time since Jedi’s had such a high intensity level of difficulty due to his autism within such a short period of time.  He seems to have shaken whatever it was and had a really good week after it.  But it’s always a reminder that no matter how much progress he seems to be making, there are still those days, weeks, or months where we can’t figure out what we need to do to get him on the right path.

Right now, spelling is one of his major sources of difficulty.  He seemed to be doing ok with All About Spelling, and each lesson, he gets almost all of the words right.  But we noticed that after that lesson was over, he retained under 10% of what he was taught.  His spelling is still on the level of a kindergartner, even after all of the work we’ve done.  He’s in the process of officially having a dyslexia diagnosis tacked on to his autism diagnosis (they tend to go hand-in-hand).  While he is an excellent reader, he has a lot of trouble with handwriting and spelling, and tends to reverse numbers in math.  We do have several things coming up that should be helpful–we are in the process of securing a tutor that specializes in these issues with special needs child.  He is also in the process of getting funding for an ipad 3 and wireless keyboard that will allow him to type everything and use a spell check/word processor to reduce his anxiety and frustration with writing assignments.  He will, of course, continue to have to write and to practice his areas of deficit, but he also needs to be able to move on to his level in the other subjects, and the spelling/handwriting issues tend to hold him back.

Anyhow…  Here are some pictures from Jedi’s last two weeks in the schoolroom.  He’s done much more than this, but I don’t often have the camera with me. 🙂

Last Monday, we celebrated John Glenn's orbit around the earth. We watched the live twitter feed that Ohio State University was hosting. This allowed Jedi to see the timing of each part of the orbit. OSU provided audio, video, pictures, and news articles in the feed! We also watched When We Left Earth, which is a wonderful documentary on the history of space travel.


Some of the audio recordings we listened to.


Jedi using the ink and brayer on foam to create a space-themed print. After spreading ink on the foam, he put a piece of paper on it to transfer the image.


The final product!


Reading about the Persians


Making a print with tempura paint and vegetables


His vegetable painting!


Learning the parts of a flower


Dissecting a flower


We found these wonderful dry erase books. Jedi wanted to learn cursive writing (it seems somewhat easier than printing for him) and loves working with these books!


Finally getting to use a calculator--he's wanted to learn how to use one all year! After we practiced making change, he got to use a calculator to check his work.


Watching animated videos on how to type knots. One of his assignments this past week in his co-op nature survival class is knot tying.


Jedi has a really really really hard time with watercolor painting. If the colors blend, he melts down about it (food can not blend, paint can not's just the way he thinks). So, we got him to try it again this week, and that took a lot of effort for him. He was practicing a cloud-making technique where you painted the blue, and then blotted it with a dry paper towel to make clouds.


Working on his subtraction table.


Doing some simple subtraction facts.


In science, Jedi learned how to float an egg using a whole lot of salt in some water. This also lead to a discussion about the Dead Sea. Jedi now wants to take a field trip there...not sure that's in the lesson plans. 😉





2nd Grade Week in Review February 21, 2012

Filed under: Lower Elementary — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 4:34 am
Tags: , , , ,

Last week, all three kids started back up at their homeschool co-op classes.  Jedi said he LOVED his classes!  He goes once a week and takes a class on weather, gym, art around the world, and nature survival.  Co-op means one less day of work at home though, so there will likely be fewer pictures–in part because of that one less day, and in part because we worked even harder to get all of the work done the rest of the week, so I didn’t always have the camera with me.

Jedi’s also been practicing his Tang Soo Do even more the past couple weeks.  This weekend, he and I compete in the Region 22 Championships.  Jedi is once again competing in forms and sparring.  Last year, he tied for 3rd in the region for forms. 🙂

Here are some pictures from Jedi’s week in review…

I did manage to get quite a few pictures of his art lessons this week. He learned two different ways of print making. The first way was to spread ink with a brayer onto waxed paper.....


...then he drew a picture onto the ink with a blunt object (he used a child's chopstick).


After that, he put a sheet of paper onto the ink and pressed it down.


Finally, Jedi peeled the paper off the ink. Here's Jedi's picture of a tie fighter.


For history, Jedi learned about the rise and fall of Babylon.


Jedi also drew what he thinks the Hanging Gardens of Babylon looked like.


Jedi's 2nd print-making activity. This time, he spread the ink on the wax paper with the brayer. Then he put some paper on top of the ink and drew on the back of the paper.


Jedi's monoprint!


In math, Jedi learned to count money up to $1.00. He also learned how to make change.


Jedi also continued working on journaling and spelling–he finished All About Spelling Level 2!  We do need to go back and review to make sure he remembers it all though–he does have a hard time remembering the concept even he can spell the word correctly the day we study it.  (All About Spelling isn’t like a typical spelling curriculum that has a list of spelling words they study for a week.  AAS teaches concepts instead.)