Wednesday, July 23, 2014

School Time

I had a big, organized plan for school time during the summer.  Things haven't gone quite according to plan.  My idea was to do reading, writing, and math every day with both Micah and Luke.  Only thing is that I can't do both boys simultaneously since neither one can work independently very well (or kind of at all.)  So Micah hasn't done nearly as much as I planned because Luke is the bigger priority.  I feel terrible writing that.  I don't mean AT ALL that Luke is more important.  It's just that I feel like Micah has more time to develop skills before I need to worry.  Plus, I can target his individual needs after Luke is back in school, whereas Luke needs to build his foundation and strengthen skills NOW.

The other big kink in my Micah plan is that Micah doesn't have some of the foundational skills that he needed for my plan, and I hadn't realized that.  I meant to begin the "Handwriting Without Tears" program with him.  This starts out with really basic writing skills, like drawing vertical and horizontal lines and then moving onto diagonal lines and THEN beginning letter formation.  But Micah couldn't hold a pencil.  He just hadn't developed that kind of grasp yet, and I didn't know!  So we backed up to the very bottom foundation.  I got some tongs and we have been doing activities to help him learn to hold a pencil.  This is a great activity that I learned from Luke's OT a few years ago.  Here are a few photos of the boys picking up pasta and putting it into bowls.

Something else I've done with Micah is break his crayons really short so that he HAS to hold it with just 2 or 3 fingers.  A fist grasp can't fit on the crayon.  Micah is working on letter and sound recognition, counting to 30 (goal is to reach 50), and recognizing and naming coins.

Work with Luke is actually going well.  Before our vacation we were targeting all areas almost every day.  During vacation things were very lax, but we are now back on a school schedule.  I am excited about his writing.  I made him a journal with 100 pages like this:

He knows the format really well by now.  (We've actually been using this format for about a year.  I first saw it at an autism conference where I took a class on strengthening literacy skills.  I tweaked it just a little and we have used it periodically since then.  And now we are using it a lot.)  Luke usually gets to pick the topic.  Then he has to write 2 things about the topic and draw a picture.   For the entry shown he ran out of room for a picture.  We are still working on letter size.  I will translate in case you can't read what it says.  The topic is Pool, and he wrote (spelling corrected,) "I can put my head under the water.  I can jump off the first step."  He comes up with his own sentences and obviously does his own spelling.  But I still have to be right beside him saying, "Great.  Keep going."  Or, "What else can you tell me about the pool?"

Luke has been reading mostly non-fiction this summer.  I have found that it holds his attention better than most fiction easy-readers.  His very favorites are from the National Geographic series.

I don't have any math pictures.  We have been doing addition flash cards (been on 2s for awhile now!) and also working on place value.  Luke can write any 3 digit number and explain the place of each number, even a number like 305 which is kind of tricky.  He can also build the number using base 10 blocks.  We are also working on addition problems such as 12 + 5.  The goal is for him to put 12 in his head and then count up 5 more.  So the second number is always 10 or less for now.  I just want him to have the basic skill of starting with one number and counting up from there.  I also want him to know how to use his fingers.  I had 4th graders who couldn't do that!

I'm very proud of my super smart boys!

Fire Station Tour

During the first week of summer vacation our play group went to the Katy Fire Station for a tour.  We were the first ones to arrive, and the boys loved playing with Katy, the fire dog, while we waited for everyone else to get there.

First we went into the training/ conference room for a fire safety presentation.  The kids all got these cute hats.

Then one of the firemen dressed up in his gear so the kids could see what he looked like.  They stressed that he was wearing his helper clothes and that even though he looked funny, he was a good guy.  So if there was ever a fire the kids should run TO him, not away from him.

Then we got to go outside to see the trucks.  Every child got a chance to spray the fire hose.

And climb aboard one of the fire trucks.

These pictures make it look like my boys were great little participants the whole time.  The truth is that doing the outside presentation, the boys spent the ENTIRE time--minus their turn to spray the water-- trying to sneak away to see the air conditioners.  So after the tour when I asked them what their favorite part was, I wasn't surprised to hear them answer, "Air Conditioners!"  For anyone who is interested-- MY favorite part was SEEING THE FIRE TRUCK!!!

The Very Old Houses

So a little over a month ago, there was a fire at our church.  Well, outside the church actually.  One of the electric transformers right outside the church caught on fire.  We were all evacuated from primary, not really knowing why.  It was kind of exciting standing outside with our class watching the smoke billow up into the sky-- only because we knew that everyone and our building weren't in any real danger.  All the same, the rest of church was cancelled.  A ruined transformer = no power.  No power = no air conditioning.  No air conditioning in Houston = Spirit of Contention.  So home we all went.  And on the way I noticed a sign that said the houses in Heritage park were open that day.  I thought it would be cool to tour the old houses so we went over.

The tours are given by senior citizen men and women and are not suitable for 2 rambunctious and highly curious boys.  It was a bit of a disaster.  I was expecting more of an "open to explore" environment.  All the same we got to see a lot of cool things.  The first house was set up like a museum with random old artifacts from Katy.  There was an old barber chair and perm machine and a big soda counter and fountain from an old pharmacy.  There were also a lot of old toys and misc. knick knacks.  The kitchen was maintained like a regular kitchen from the 40s or 50s.  

The next house was set up as it would have looked during the 1920s.  They had old clothes and furniture.  The houses themselves were both built in 1898, so even in the 20s they had a few decades behind them.  Luke mostly wanted to know about the fans and air conditioners.  He couldn't believe there were no fans!  There was an air conditioner, obviously added much later (probably when the houses were moved to Heritage Park.)  He kept running to various windows to look for the air conditioner.  Our tour guide remarked several times about how much he liked them-- in a tone of complete surprise and bafflement.  At the end of the tour Jared summed up the experience, "We blew those people's minds!"  That we did.

Luke was fascinated to learn that the houses we toured were 116 years old.  There was another house that was 104, but we couldn't go inside that one.  We also conjectured that the air conditioners were 11 years old because that's when the houses were moved to Heritage park.  I'm not sure if it was before (and that's why it came up) or right after (and this experience started it) but Luke is now completely OBSESSED with how old things are.  He asks everyone about how old their house is, car is, toys are.  Everything.  Every time we get in the car Luke makes us all guess how old the road is that we are driving on.  Every store we go into-- same thing.  Restaurant.  Museum.  Literally EVERYTHING.  Truth be told, it drives me crazy.  I need to look online and see if there is a website somewhere that lists the age of every road in Katy and Houston.

So... houses were cool.  The result of our visit...not so much.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Little Gym Showcase

On the very last day of classes-- almost 2 months ago now!--the little gymnasts got to show off their skills.  Here are a few pictures from the boys' showcases.

Luke doing a forward roll

Front support
(into a front flip)

Receiving his medal.
I LOVE that smile.


And with his teacher, Ms. Harley


I am really, REALLY glad that Luke did The Little Gym last year.  It was good for him to have a structured activity that was both active and social.  He improved in his ability to listen to and follow directions, and I think his motor planning and gross motor skills also improved.  He had fun and felt proud of himself.  So it was a good experience.

Micah had a good experience with The Little Gym also.  He began in a parent/child class, but he moved to an independent class after a few months.  He struggled in the independent class.  He was clearly the one who struggled most listening and following direction.  And staying on task.  And keeping his hands to himself.  Okay, he was the naughty kid!  But his teachers were very understanding, and despite his challenges, they really liked Micah.  And though he was a handful, he did make a lot of progress throughout the year.  Here are some of the pictures from his showcase:

Jumping over a stick with 2 feet

Stopping to smile!

Lifting up to a front support--
Gotta brag.  He was the only kid who could sustain the front support!

With his medal

And with his class and teacher, Ms. Tasha

For all we had a great experience last year, I'm not sure if we will be returning to The Little Gym.  Luke REALLY loved swimming lessons (more on swimming later!) and decided that he'd rather continue swimming year round.  Micah will be switching preschools to one with slightly longer hours, so I think he will only do school next year.  We put him into tumbling for a social activity, but he will get plenty of socialization at school.  All the same, if you are looking for a good tumbling school, I would DEFINITELY recommend The Little Gym.