Barefoot in Suburbia

Homeschooling & Special Needs, Inspired by the Montessori Way

Health curriculum April 24, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 9:41 am

After a lot of searching, I finally came across a health curriculum I want to use with the kids too.  As most of you know, our family has a lot of food allergies, requiring us to avoid a lot of mainstream food options.  We’ve also gone a bit further and cut out a lot of processed foods (except for, of course, peeps at Easter.  Those I can’t give up. LOL!).  We try to eat clean about 80% of the time.  Today I saw an ad for Nutrition 101: Choose Life! in a homeschool mailer and I’m pretty sure I’m ordering it for the kids.  It focuses on each of the body’s symptoms and the nutrients needed to help those systems work.  There appear to be a lot of hands-on activities aimed at getting kids to want to eat healthy.  They are anti-processed foods and pro-Omega 3’s and clean eating!  There is also quite a bit on the importance of de-stressing, exercise, and sleeping.  I look forward to actually getting it into my hands and see if it’s really as great as it looks!

So, I wanted to pass the info on to anyone else who is looking for a more clean eating slant on their health curriculum for the year:

Nutrition 101


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. 🙂


Almost set back up! April 20, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 9:52 am

I’m still tinkering around with some of the settings, but I’ve almost gotten everything moved back to this site! 🙂  There should be some new posts coming soon!

I added formatting for iPad and mobile devices, so if something’s not working correctly, let me know. 🙂


Montessori Monday (on Tuesday) April 3, 2012

We’re currently on spring break this week, but I wanted to post some of the Easter activities (and some of the other work) the kids worked on last week.  Because we start school in June, we are actually winding down our school year right now.  April will be fairly light as we tie up some loose ends, and then May will be off as we switch gears and prepare for the next year.  In June, Jedi will be starting his 3rd grade curriculum, Monkey will be doing kindergarten work, and Bug will “officially” be starting the preschool curriculum!


Here are a couple of pictures from last week!

I changed the sensory bin over from the fake snow to some straw, "dirt" (aquarium gravel), plants, and flower pots


Monkey using some Easter Bunny tongs to match plastic eggs. This work is also good for transferring the eggs from the tray to the egg carton.


Decorating the seasonal tree. This time I gave the kids pink tissue paper squares and they crumbled it to make apple blossoms.


Close-up of the blossoms


The completed tree!


Monkey reading her Bob Book


Bug working with the latch board


Transferring some bright colored glass pebbles from one bowl to the other



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.


Technology and Special Needs–"Isn't that keeping him from learning to do it himself?" March 21, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Barefoot in Suburbia @ 2:23 am
Tags: , ,

Jedi recently received an iPad and wireless keyboard to help him with handwriting and spelling issues.  Because of his asperger’s syndrome and dyslexia, he is several years behind in handwriting and spelling, to the point where being behind is actually causing a lot of problems.  Cognitively, he is way ahead of his writing and spelling skills.  So, this splintering of skills has made it very difficult for him.


Some of the questions we get about this (and the answers…. 🙂 ) are:


  • Don’t you think that’s spoiling him? 

This question always cracks me up.  He didn’t get an iPad to keep up with the jones’ or to be the “cool kid in school” or “because everyone else has one”.  He got it simply because it provides him with a way to compensate for a disability.  We actually were going to get him a laptop, but he’s a whopping 47 pounds…a laptop is quite cumbersome for him in size and weight.  An ipad is fairly light and very portable.  He can easily bring it to co-op, therapies, and field trips without straining himself.  It’s also lighter than most netbooks on the market.


  • Isn’t it keeping him from learning to do it by himself?

If a child had a broken leg, you’d get him some crutches or a wheelchair. A child who is blind learns braille.  Jedi has had YEARS of therapy focused on handwriting and he still can’t progress well enough to keep up with the requirements of 2nd grade.  So, we are teaching him to type (his IEP actually calls for a scribe…or someone to do it for him.  We think it’s more important for him to learn how to  compensate for his deficits in a socially acceptable way.  He is still doing handwriting and spelling practice without the use of technology, but he is also learning to type and use a spell check so that he can keep up with assignments.


One thing we notice about Jedi, and I believe this is also really common with other children with communication delays, is that requiring him to write an essay using good handwriting and good spelling is a recipe for disaster.  This child can churn out a multi-chapter book (a 2nd grade version of authoring a multi-chapter book of course!) in a couple hours when we don’t tell him to use good handwriting and fix his spelling.  But the second we put those two requirements on it, he’s so focused on it that it can take him over an hour to write one sentence.  So, we have to split what many children can do without thinking.  He has to separate spelling, handwriting, and composition into different lessons in order to allow him to focus on the particular skill being taught.  Most of school involves composition–creative writing or answering questions, so giving him a tool to alleviate the spelling and handwriting anxiety allows his brain to focus on the other tasks at hand.  Jedi even has apps that will dictate based on his own speech (so he can say his essay and the program will write what he says).


Will he continue to practice handwriting and spelling?  Absolutely.  Do we ever expect him to be proficient in it?  At this point, we don’t know if he will be able to catch up.  We certainly hope he will, but we also know that in 10-20 years, most people will be doing everything on their smart phones, tablets, computers, or whatever version of these exists.  We hope he will be able to write a shopping list or jot a note down  and we will continue to work with him to practice those skills.


  • Ok, so it helps him with typing and dictation…what else can it do for kids with special needs?
Lots!  The calendar app allows Jedi to know what’s coming each day.  He does a lot better if he knows what therapies or activities he’s going to so he can plan his time.  A common feature of autism spectrum disorders is lacking the ability to plan ahead, as well as an overwhelming anxiety when the child does not know what is coming that day.  Jedi’s calendar helps alleviate some of that.
Jedi also has multiple checklists set up.  While most kids would automatically know what steps to take to leave the house (get dressed, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, put your shoes on, grab your bag), Jedi has some difficulties with that.  He’s attempted to leave the house without shoes on several times simply because he forgot to put them on.  Having checklists set up for him lets him see what he needs to do each day, and allows him to do it independently, without being nagged at.
  • Isn’t the use of technology just making him dependent on technology?
Hey, I don’t think he’d be the only one!  I’m not sure what I’d do without my laptop, smartphone, and tablet. I use it from everything from blogging to socialization to keeping a shopping list to having my calendar beep and remind me where to go and when, to even having books on it to read. I’d wager that many Americans rely on technology.
Children with special needs often require several accommodations in order to function well.  The best part of having a tablet or laptop or ipod for children with special needs is that it allows them to complete tasks independently.  Instead of me having to walk Jedi through the process of getting ready to leave the house every day (at 8 1/2 years old), he can go down his checklist and get ready independently.  Instead of having a scribe write for him, he’s able to type his answers.  Monkey actually has an iPod that has a picture communication program on it, and when she is in public, she is able to utilize it to speak for her (she is selectively mute in public, although she has made huge strides and now participates in her co-op class without using a communication device!)
In the past, children with autism have had to rely on clunky electronic communication devices or cumbersome velcro and picture communication books.  The use of modern technology has streamlined these accommodations, and have even accomplished this in a socially acceptable way.  Many people wouldn’t even think twice about an older child carrying around a tablet or an iPod because it’s a “cool” thing to have.  It doesn’t single the child out or scream “disability”.  In fact, I’ve noticed that instead of kids asking questions about Jedi’s iPad, they’re drawn to it (it doesn’t help that he has some cool science apps on it…and of course, Angry Birds. 😉 )

2nd grade week in review

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.