Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Home Schooling My Crew Pt3

I am doing a series on home schooling my children.  Sharing what the Lord has shown me, what I have learned and things I have done with each child.  I felt led to share some things that have worked for each child.  I felt if I shared what a wonderful experience we have had and how God has been with us every step of the way, bringing the children so much farther than any doctor or professional ever thought they would go...  That it might encourage someone to consider home schooling as an option for educating their child/children.  To help them see down the road how beneficial it was for us and how close it has brought us together as a family.  That it really can be a happy, relaxing experience most of the time.  :)   So here is the link to Part 1 (home schooling Stephen, a very smart child that had trouble sitting still) and Part 2 (home schooling William, a bright, sweet, hard working child that was diagnosed with autism, audio processing disorder and dyslexia)

The next child I am going to share our experience with is Antonio.  Every parent loves their child and wants the best for them.  We all do our best in home schooling because we all want our children to go as far as they can.  Home schooling Antonio was very challenging at first.  As sadly, his prognosis and the expectations presented before us by professionals was very...lets say discouraging.  He was born a 23 week preemie and from that early, hard, start has many diagnosis and struggles.  Some of his diagnosis are Cerebral Palsy, hydrocephalus (he has a shunt for that in his head), lung disease, reactive airway, asthma, g-tube fed, reflux, scoliosis (has been fully rodded down his spine for that)  and moderate to severe learning disabilities.  There are many more but you get the idea.  No matter what anyone thought, I still wanted him to participate in schooling with the rest of my children.  To feel apart of the group.  To go as far as he could.  Feel happy every day in his learning and have successes he could be pleased with.
Home schooling him really taught me to relax and find many different ways for him to stay busy all day and learn at the same time.  We had no time line and the sky was the limit.  We just prayed, played and had fun.
He came to us when he was six and was cognitively at a three year old level.  He, having spastic cerebral palsy, had no use of his legs and no use of his left arm and hand at all.  He could not use his right arm very fluidly and his hand could only open and close with a lot of concentration.    So sitting and learning to write and do paperwork was not a possibility.  He could hold a marker and scribble a little with it if you placed it in his hand.  He did enjoy doing this, so whenever the other kids did any kind of paper work they all took turns changing out his marker and he would "work" at his project as well.  

We worked together on pre-school work books with little success as he could not pull out from his memory the answers, even when giving two choices or with prompting.  Flash cards were also a disaster.  Even just doing two over and over he would get confused.  It took me about a year to figure out all the ways that did and did not work in his learning.  Also what he actually could and could not do.  I started praying for ideas and came up, over time, with a schedule for him and many different things for him to do thru out the day, that he enjoyed, learned from and  show progress with. 
He had frequent shunt failures. Often after the surgery some of him was gone, just gone.  What he knew and had learned, gone and we never got it back.  It was so hard and sad to see.  He cannot memorize or give you answers to questions.  His recall is terrible.   If you ask him a point blank educational question he draws a blank.  If you ask him what letter this is, he can not recall it easily or at all sometimes.  If I hold up a card and say what color is this.  He cannot tell me.  Even with prompting or giving choices.   But thru living life and learning thru life circumstances we can be driving down the road and Antonio will say.  Mom…look at that green tractor and be absolutely correct!  If I ask what his favorite cookie is he can tell me, it just might take a while of him describing it to me first before the name comes to him.  :)   If he is using his knowledge in conversation or in daily living, he knows more than he could ever be out right tested to know. 

Things that did not work for his schooling was your standard school books, work sheets and flash cards.  Even at a pre-school level he could not comprehend what was being read to him or answer any questions asked to him.  We would still be doing them to this day!  

So for his schooling we used educational music.  He loves music and loves to sing with it if he knows it.  He learns the words quickly to catchy songs.  (Antonio singing I'll Fly Away, his favorite song, is precious!)   So we bought  CD's and DVD's of pre-school educational things set to music.  Song's of the months of the year and days of the week.  Counting songs and alphabet songs.  Listening to those CD's while coloring or playing with a few toys on his tray, he would be singing away inputing information he could use later.  We used so many different DVD's.  There is a ton of educational DVD's out there.  Of course you don't want your child in front of the TV all day so we broke it up.  We had to get in four hours a day so one of those hours was in front of the TV.  So those two things really helped him remember some of the things we could not teach him thru flash cards and workbooks.  He loved the Leap Frog series to be a form of learning his letters and phonics.  It took years of him watching the tapes almost daily for him to know his alphabet and letter sounds accurately.  But they helped so much.  God is so good.

Something else I believe the Lord led us to was the Vtech V-smile system.   For him, this system was perfect.   He could actually hold the over sized joy stick knob and control it!  We bought every preschool educational game they made for it.  He loved it and quickly learned to maneuver thru the games getting better at them all the time.  It was another form for him to learn from and reinforce what he was learning on the Cd's and DVD's.  Oh yeah, something else very important he learned thru using this system was cause and effect.  That if you push the joystick to the right Pooh Bear goes to the right.  If you push the joystick to the left the character goes to the left.   I think this system is excellent for any parent trying to teach their young child how to drive a power chair. 

He also loves to have children's short stories read to him.  But can not answer any of the questions, to this day, about the story we just read.  So we read them for fun and to break up his day some.  He likes to try to find things in the pictures I ask him to point to.  If I ask him who the story was about he can not do it.  If I ask him to point to the main character (say mickey mouse) in the picture he can do it.  I have found that he learns best in a fun, learning, interactive way.  Or thru us actually doing something like going to the zoo where we can point out the animals and explain things about them while there.   We have always done a lot of educational field trips.  Even the few vacations we have had we have done educational things on them for the kids.

We did do science and history with him.  He got his science and history thru DVD’s and pre-school books.  There are a lot of science books for young children at the Public Library.   Also I found all kinds of DVD's for young children (or that young children would enjoy) that we borrowed from the library or just bought out right like Blue Planet or Animal Planet for science.   Same with history.  He enjoyed watching things like a short educational tape on Abe Lincolns life or Helen Keller.  He loves the Schoolhouse Rock series and singing those songs.  Ahhh...brought back a lot of memories from my childhood on Saturday mornings while watching cartoons.  :)  Anyways there are a lot of short history books out there on one little subject like Betsy Ross and making the flag and such.  I don't know how much he got out of them but enjoyed them none the less and my other kids loved hearing them as well. 

There are some projects that I let him do where one of my other kids are his hands and he tells them what to do.  Like building a ginger bread house.  William will build it as Antonio tells him what to do and where to put all the pieces of candy.  He enjoys that one on one so much and feels as if it was all his own project.  

Something I thought was very important for him to learn was his address and phone number in case we ever got separated.  So every day we went over his address and his phone number.  I actually did this every day at the lunch table with all my kids sitting together, right before we did Bible reading.  We also went over my name and his dads name.  His full name and how to spell it. As of today he knows his address and phone number.  How to spell his own first and last name and how to spell Williams name for some reason. :)  He knows the days of the week and uses them appropriately.  He almost always knows what day it is and knows what day is the next day but can't think what the name of the day before today was.  He can say the months of the year but does not know how they relate to time. 

There are some things we worked hard at and were never able to teach him like the names of different money pieces or their worth.  How to  tell time or at least know about what time things happen.  He could not grasp it. 

He can categorize things like what animals are on a farm and which ones might be in a zoo.  Or what item we might find in a kitchen or a bedroom.  What clothing one would wear in summer or winter.  We kept it simple but fun.  As educating him was simply a requirement and we were going to be happy with however far he got or could go.  But we tried not to take it so seriously that I made him or us frustrated in the process.   It was a very good experience over all. He was always a happy, joyous eager student.  :)
Antonio's cake from his graduation party!

Even though he is 18 and technically graduated, he still to this day, all day long, does those same educational things he always did.  He loves to do them.  They keep him busy and his mind going.  They re-enforce what he knows, so he does not regress.  He recently saved most of the money he needed for an I-pad and my dad gifted him the rest he needed.  Thank you dad!  :)  Antonio loves his I-pad.  It has been an incredible tool for him for having independence and choosing what he wants to be doing while using it.  It keeps him very busy and entertained as there are so many educational games out there at the pre-schooler level. If he gets tired playing one he can actually go back to the home page on his own and choose something else.  This is huge to a child that can not move them self or choose anything they want to do independently in life at all.
After all these years he has the cognition of about a five year old child.  We all love him so very much and feel he is very smart and can do and knows so much.  He is a huge conversationalist.  Talks, sings or prays all day long.  A very happy soul all the way down to the bottom of his tender God loving heart.  He is such a blessing and I enjoyed praying for him and educating him.  God is so good and all the glory to Him for everything that was and is and will be done……to be continued…….