Barefoot in Suburbia

Homeschooling & Special Needs, Inspired by the Montessori Way

Montessori Monday December 5, 2011


This will be our last school related set of posts for 2011.  We start our school year in June and work through most of the summer and fall so that we can take an extended winter break.  We are actually leaving for a trip to Florida, Mexico, Honduras, and Belize–we are so excited to have the opportunity to do that!  And of course, we’ll take the holidays off school as well.  We may do a little bit between Christmas and New Years, but Jedi has 600 hours of school completed already for the year, so we’re well ahead of schedule.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we’re completely done with learning.  We started doing the Teach Your Child to Read In 100 Easy Lessons with Monkey–it seems to be working a lot better than the Montessori methods with her autism.  We do that every single day of the week, and so we’re going to continue it even while on vacation.  I also still have work on the shelves, so while we’re home, there is plenty that we can do together (I recently moved our school room up to our formal living room so that we’re not in the basement during the cold part of the year.  It’s actually nice to have the school shelves up on our main living levels because we can do even more schoolwork throughout the day.

Here are some pictures from Bug & Monkey’s week in the schoolroom.

This was Bug's favorite work of the week--decorating a mini tree!


She did this work for hours!


The girls painting


Monkey really enjoys working with numbers, so we pulled out this work for her.


Practicing her M and S writing


Bug working with the wooden nativity


The clothespins had sparkly pom poms on them. Bug used these to decorate the felt tree


Using tweezers to put yellow yarn (hay) into the toilet paper roll manger.


Adding the clothespin "baby Jesus"


Monkey working with the Christmas Story cards


Holy Family 3 part cards


Close-up of the cards


Lacing Snowman


Using a spoon to scoop stars from one cup to the other


Bug working with the Christmas Story character cards


Gluing pom pom decorations to the paper tree


Monkey working with the Teen Board


We also celebrated our 100th day at homeschool by making 100-piece-trailmix. Each kid put 10 pieces of 10 different foods in their snack bowl--banana slices, marshmellows, popcorn, raisins, fruit nuggets, pretzels, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, pumpkin seeds, and cereal


Jedi making his trail mix


We have 2 Christmas trees in our house--a big one that is our main tree and this little tiny tree we had one year while living in an apartment waiting for our house to be built. The kids have free reign over decorating the little tree


Monkey using the Fisher Price nativity


Montessori Monday October 11, 2011

This week and last week have been a whirlwind of Autumn field trips, so I’m a bit behind in posting.  I’ll attempt to catch up over the next few days, but we still have a couple more trips lined up.  It’s time to squeeze all of that “real life” homeschooling in before the wintery weather hits!

Here is the review of Bug & Monkey’s time on the school room last week! 🙂

I brought back out the girls' favorite work from last year--scrubbing the baby! I usually do this right before we go to the pumpkin patch so they can practice on something a lot cleaner than a pumpkin. Both girls love this work and always spend a lot of time making that baby clean.

Monkey using construction paper to learn how to weave


Bug working with a screwdriver


Bug still washing that baby! 😉


This week Monkey was working on writing, copying, and her address, so I made her two copies of a house--one had her name and address on it and the other was the one she copied her own onto.


Bug using dot paint for "D is for Dinosaur"


Bug pouring glass beads


Monkey snipping paper


Monkey pouring water with various containers. This was actually just a spontaneous work because Jedi was using those containers for one of his science labs. Bug decided to take them over and use them for pouring water. 🙂


Homeschooling & Autism August 24, 2011

I’m so excited to finally be able to get this post out.  The primary reason we have decided to homeschool is because Jedi & Monkey both have significant special needs.  Jedi has autism and sensory processing disorder, and Monkey has other special needs that will likely be reassessed as being somewhere on the autism spectrum in the next couple weeks.  However, when we started our homeschooling journey, we made the mistake of setting up the room like we would for any typical child–tables & chairs, assignments that I knew were going on but that Jedi had no way to know what was coming up, lots of things that required handwriting, etc.  Needless to say, Jedi was having a very difficult time concentrating and being able to make it through an entire school day without becoming overstimulated.  So, with the help of Jedi’s occupational therapist and primary psychologist, we’ve come up some accommodations to hopefully help to make things a bit easier for Jedi.

One of the things we did right was make sure that every piece of curriculum was as hands on as possible.  Jedi is neither an auditory learner nor a learner who can comprehend just from reading.  However, if he can create something with his hands, or manipulate objects in a meaningful way during the lesson, he can usually remember and process the lesson.  Some of our curriculum choices are:

Math: Rightstart, level C

Spelling: All About Spelling

Science: REAL Science Odyssey (Life, Earth, & Chemistry)

History: History Odyssey & Hands on History

Geography: Expedition Earth

Art: Artistic Pursuits

Handwriting: We use Handwriting Without Tears.  We also use the book “730 Journal Prompts” for daily journaling, and the book “Veggie Soup: I’m a Writer and Didn’t Even Know It” for random handwriting.

Typing: Typing Instructor for Kids

For Monkey, we also stray slightly from Montessori for things she has more difficulty in.  Right now, for letters, we are using Confession of a Homeschooler’s “Letter of the Week”, and also using a workbook that has a different mini-book for each letter of the alphabet.

Because both of the kids need a lot of gross motor sensory input, we have transformed our entire finished basement into a 1000 sq ft learning space–a quarter of it is our main classroom, with another quarter being the office (with the computer).  The other half is split between a small art room, and a large indoor gymnastics area with a balance beam, mini trampoline, thick mats, and  a gymnastics bar.  Not only does it help get some gross motor “wiggle breaks” in, but gymnastics has been a form of therapy for Monkey since she was 11 months old.  It is her out, and when things aren’t going well for her, all it takes is some time on the mats to turn things around.  We also use FitDeck exercise cards randomly throughout the day to give the kids a brief wiggle break.  Frequent breaks for exercise often help to calm, focus, and ground the kids.

One of the things I've frequently posted about was Jedi's extreme difficulty with handwriting and spelling. One of the things that helps a lot with that is allowing Jedi to type all assignments that are more than a couple sentences in length. It makes it much easier for him to concentrate on the actual subject matter. It also makes it much easier for him to correct his spelling. With his auditory processing issues, he hears words differently than most people, and as such, phonetic spelling is extremely difficult for him. Without a way of even knowing what sounds are in the word, looking things up in the dictionary is impossible. But, when typing into a word processor, the program will notice misspelled words and give options for correct spellings--Jedi can, with 100% accuracy, pick out the correct word that he intended. We are currently working on fixing my old laptop for Jedi to use, but in the meantime, Jedi is doing his typing lessons and typing work on the family desktop computer.


We also noticed that Jedi always had to have something in his hands, especially during verbal lessons, or he just couldn't concentrate. So now, on the corner of his work table is a basket of various fidgets that he can keep in his hands. We made sure that each fidget had a different texture and size so that he can choose exactly what he needs at the time. We've also put pencil grips on all of his pencils to increase the sensory input he receives while writing.


We've noticed that Jedi has a *lot* of trouble sitting at chairs. His core muscle weakness makes it very difficult for him to maintain the upright position for long periods of time (if you've noticed, he's almost always holding his head while writing). I've noticed that instead of concentrating on the lesson, he's concentrating on his posture. So, we bought a huge beanbag, and filled it up 3/4 of the way with the foam beads. Not filling it up all the way makes him sink into it some, which gives him more sensory input. The beanbag can be used for any seated work he chooses, with the exception of art (since he should be seated at a table for painting, clay work, scissors, etc.)


Jedi also has the choice to use the indoor swing for working as well. We have the Rainy Day Indoor Playground. It has a sling swing, net swing, platform swing, and rope ladder. Jedi is allowed to use the net swing or platform swing for seated work (again, not the art stuff. LOL!)


We have started using a Workbox System as well. This helps Jedi know exactly what is coming up so that he does not have to spend energy and time worrying about how much left he has to do, or what subjects he will be doing for the day. For a normal day, we have 12 workboxes. For a half day (due to therapies), he has 6 workboxes.


One of the other things we’re working on is getting Ipod Touches for both Jedi & Monkey.  This should help a lot with social, behavior, emotional regulation, and academic subjects that they might be having more difficulty in.  Hopefully soon, we’ll have the money saved up for them and I can post my review of some autism-friendly apps. 🙂

For those of you homeschooling special needs kids, what things have you personally found helpful in your homeschooling journey?  As we know, it’s often different than the experience of homeschooling typical kids–not only are your work days often interrupted by daily therapy sessions, but there are often accommodations that need to be made to help learning be effective.


Montessori Monday (a little bit early) July 24, 2011

Monkey is 4 years 5 months old

Since we’ll be out again Monday & Tuesday, I’m getting this week’s posts out a little early. 🙂


The "A" tray--I have the sandpaper letters, some pipe cleaner letters, an apple, and a worksheet. I just wanted to see what things Monkey liked--she loved the worksheet (but didn't really seem to understand what to do even after I explained it to her), but the rest of it she didn't really get into. So, this lasted about a day with her. 🙂


Playing a card game where you match the capital and lower case letters.


She's so proud of her matches!


Painting with watercolors. This was her all time favorite activity of the week--she did it for several hours this week!


Practicing her writing


Using the mini peg board


Stringing large buttons on a shoestring


Using the spindle box...Monkey's getting very good at this!


Bug & Monkey making strawberry & blackberry skewers for dinner


Bug helping to make strawberry cake


Monkey, Jedi, & Bug all helping to bake the cake.


Using the sandpaper numbers & beads.


As always, comments are welcome, either here or on our facebook page.  Let me know you’re reading along!


Montessori Monday February 14, 2011

Monkey is 4 years old

This week, it seems like Monkey finally got back into the homeschooling routine.  She’s been a bit reluctant to come down to the schoolroom and work for the past couple weeks…we’re not sure why.  I think it’s just been a bit of a hard transition off the holidays, and then Jedi was home from school a couple days because of bad weather.  But she’s back in the swing of things this week!

Here is a review of some of the things she’s done…

A little Valentine's Day twist to the handwriting work. I have her name card out, some paper, a pencil, and added a little Valentine's Day mailbox

Working on the sandpaper letters and beginning sounds for M,A,S,O,T, and C

Using tongs to move the eggs from the basket to the pan

We're working on number recognition and counting a lot this week as well.

Doing more counting, this time with the bead bars

The bead bars and control card

matching the shape to the card

I found these cool little dusting mits awhile back, and I put them on the practical life shelf for Bug and Monkey to use

Shell matching