Find Out What Jen Finds

My journey on the spectrum of life … and the lessons I learn along the way …
You are currently browsing the about Perspective category

about Fun: fun trumps hard work

  • June 19, 2012 10:34 am

So yesterday I was informed by The Brothers that last year, Summer Homeschool was more fun than this year. Bummer.

Every summer, me and the boys do a little homeschooling in the mornings for 2 hours a few days a week. It keeps them structured, and it helps me work on skills they struggled with during the school year while reinforcing their other skills to reduce regression when the school year begins. This is particularly helpful because the transition is such a stressful time (for all of us) that their energy is freed up to only wig out about the socialization, instead of wigging out about that AND academic skills.

When we first started, these “academic” skills were more like OT – cutting/drawing on the line, gluing things together without a freak-out, yoga and calming-strategies, etc. But last summer, we actually worked on writing and reading and math, etc.

Sounds real fun doesn’t it? I like to think I made it fun since I’m pretty fun and all…

This past school year, their teachers had no suggestions on skills they needed to be working on. Not even social skills or anger management! #proudmama

So I thought I would make Summer Homeschool more “fun” this year (obviously only by my definition). We still write and read and do flashcards, but I added a Character Building unit. I got tools from various places and people, but have based it on the Fruit of the Spirit in Galations 5:22-23. The thing is that they have loved everything about the unit. The worksheets, the Bible study, the videos, the “crafts” (its just coloring and cutting – The Younger should teach the crafts portion. He has more artsy genes than all of us put together!), and especially the music! So I was really scratching my head on this one. We haven’t been as hard core on the writing and math this summer. As a matter of fact, I felt like I was too diligent last summer on academics and resolved to be a little more laid back this time around.

So what did I do differently last summer that was sooooo fun?

I found out that it wasn’t what we did during school hours that captivated them. It was what we did after we dismissed. We had a Cooking Class (that was code for “lunch”). They helped me make lunch and they would write down the recipes. Nothing fancy. Sandwiches, spaghetti, “good meat” and rice (will post that recipe another day). Some days, I would give them a “test” and they would have to make the rice all by themselves (rice + water + rice cooker).

I learned that it didn’t matter how much I drilled them last summer or how hard they worked to try to figure out that analog clock nonsense. What they remembered, and ultimately labeled the entire program, was the fun they had making a mess in the kitchen together. Therefore, this morning I announced that we would start school with Cooking Class today and they got to vote for what they wanted to learn to make.

The verdict…Breakfast Casserole…

This made me a little nervous because I “hide” good-for-you stuff in this recipe and secretly put onions in it even though they swear up and down they hate onions. But it worked out!  We had a nice brunch (with leftovers) and now we are off to the pool!

And so “fun” has been reinstated into the curriculum!  Maybe now I can pull out those flashcards without feeling like a math nazi.

how we made our Breakfast Casserole

20120619-103523.jpg

Allow me to translate…

20120619-103459.jpg20120619-103509.jpg

1. Fry 2-3 strips of turkey bacon and set aside.  (Since we use uncured turkey bacon, we have to add a little coconut oil to get it to brown and look like bacon and produce bacon grease.)

2, 3, 4. Finely chopped 1/2 an onion and saute in the bacon grease until translucent.

5. Add 2-3 cups hash brown potatoes and brown.

6. Cut the 3-4 bread slices to fit the bottom of a casserole dish. Ours is from Pamela’s gluten-free bread mix.
(The Elder added Step #7 in his notes: Eat Extra Bread).

8-12. In a bowl, beat 4-5 eggs with about 1/4 cup milk (we used unsweetened coconut milk), salt, garlic powder, and any dehydrated/powdered veggies you want to hide (today it was “spinach” – code for anything green).

13. Crumble bacon (we cut into strips with shears)

14. Layer the potato/onion mix on top of the bread.

15. Layer more veggies you want to hide.

16. Layer the crumbled bacon.

17. Pour the egg mix evenly over the entire dish.

18. Top with freshly ground pepper.

19. Bake in a preheated 375 degrees oven for 20 minutes.

20. Yeah, I was the only one washing dishes here…Oh but The Younger did wipe up spilled eggs off the kickstool!

21-22. Layer cheddar cheese on top and bake an additional 5 minutes. (we used Daiya Foods Cheddar Shreds)

23. Enjoy!


Me: Do you think you’ll know how to make this on your own now?

The Elder: Yeah, now that I have the list of ingredients and the steps.

20120619-103534.jpg

about Eye Contact: what I learned from my almost 7-year-old

  • June 12, 2012 2:51 pm

The Younger discovered an innovative way to get The Elder to make eye contact with him today.

Eye Contact

Standing about a foot away from him (and at the top of his lungs I might add), Y was calling his E’s name over and over (and over and over) to get his attention to show him his favorite part of the skit at VBS (Visual Basic Script). When E continued to appear to give the Lego Minifigure more attention than to Y, Y sighed heavily, regrouped, and then persuasively (imagine him dangling a carrot chocolate chip cookie in E’s face) said,

“It has pictures…”

That did it! The Younger had The Elder’s undivided attention after that! Of course, there were no pictures, just a visual component to the communication.

All I know is that I get exhausted saying his name over and over again trying to get his attention (Thank goodness his name is only 2 syllables!). I know he’s listening even if he’s not looking, or even if he’s in a different room or level of the house. I understand that he actually can hear me better if he doesn’t make eye contact. And sometimes he will even respond by saying “I’m listening” before I get to the 10th iteration of his name. An improvement. But who likes sharing something with someone who has his attention split? No matter how skilled he is at processing multiple streams of data with no eye contact, my neurotypical brain has a hard time adjusting to that fact and still needs to see his eyes to feel like I was heard. Whether I’m sharing a heart-warming story or if I’m asking a question or if I’m announcing what day it is. It’s a validation. Some days I forego it. Other days I remind myself that I’m not the only one who needs a little validation – he will encounter many who will appreciate his eye contact. I’m actually impressed at the level of patience The Younger exhibited (a rarity) to come up with such a creative strategy (creativity comes very naturally to him).

carrot

That leads me to some points to ponder about The Elder’s perspective. So just saying you’re trying to “show him something” doesn’t work – maybe too general or vague?? Perhaps “It has pictures” with the corresponding persuasive come-and-get-it intonation (maybe… then again, maybe not. I bet monotone would get his attention faster) generates enough interest and curiosity for him to actually look to see. Any other thoughts? How do you handle lack of eye contact? Better yet, if you struggle with eye contact, what other insights can you offer?

Well, I’m totally stealing The Younger’s strategy. Thank you, Son!

about Excuses: Reasons to Celebrate!

  • May 24, 2010 9:52 pm

I recently started a list on my phone called ‘Phrases that totally worked.’ I add to it whenever something surprisingly effective comes out of my mouth for the first time without my having a whole lot of forethought. Most are in the Parenting category. When I see it has ‘worked,’ I often go through shock & awe, and then pat myself on the back and pray it works the next time. Here is my favorite so far:

“Stop making excuses and follow my directions.”

This resulted in immediate compliance with NO lingering foul mood. I know! I had to inconspicuously pick my jaw off the floor and replace the ‘I’ve Had It’ adult-whine posture with a more confident ‘That’s Right…I’m the Boss…and I Totally Plan to Say Smart Stuff Like that all the Time cause I’m Smart and all’ stance.

I realized The Elder had reached a developmental milestone!

“…children master a variety of alternative strategies for resolving conflict. They can cajole the adversary, use bargaining, suggest compromise or cooperation (like turn-taking), and redirect conflict through humor.”

The School Years: Psychosocial Development – Social Problem-Solving Skills. The Developing Person Through The Life Span – (Berger)

So what’s the big deal? All 1st graders have mastered the art of manipulation, right? Yes! It’s ‘normal’! Yay! I haven’t decided if I’m more excited about his being developmentally on track or about his finally catching up with his nonverbal abilities!

For so long The Elder didnt say anything longer than 2-3 word phrases and only when prompted (and re-prompted). If he needed to initiate communication, it was physical and completely unrelated to his desire or need. For example, instead of pointing to a drink if he was thirsty, he would strip naked or throw his glasses across the room. It was as if he was fed up that no one was attending to his mental request after repeatedly thinking it. ‘Come on, people! If I’ve telepathically tried to connect with you once, I’ve done it a thousand times. It goes in my ear and out your ear! What do I have to do to get heard around here? Sheesh.’

When he was finally verbal, I heavily relied on listening to everything he would say in order to fully understand his triggers. And after some super-sleuthing, it would often fill in the gaps of why past meltdowns occurred. It was fascinating to finally learn the Reasons for his behaviors.

“How children think is as important as what they know.”

The School Years: Cognitive Development – The Legacy of Piaget. The Developing Person Through The Life Span – (Berger)


His Reasons were always literal (raw is more accurate) and logical (tho not obviously connected). While the former is to be expected, his logic far surpasses his age level. When he was 3 he tested beyond Kindergarten (he actually beat the test because it ran out of questions). At 4, his age equivalence was 11 years, 9 months. Because of this, I think there were a lot of unfair expectations for him to be more pragmatically mature. That discrepancy has been hard to parent, especially before awareness, but I imagine it is even harder to have.

Because of early intervention and inclusion, I think that gap is closing as he practices conversational skills. I noticed that his barrage of Reasons became Excuses when I, The Mom, couldn’t find an underlying connection between his words, body language, and past experiences. The usual and oh-so-confusing ‘complacent’ or ‘defiant’ reactions would then be displayed with integrity.

Do you know how freeing that feels? My brain gets to put the magnifying glass down more often…at least until adolescence…knock on wood…