In Which We Introduce Ourselves – July 29, 2014
I am a mom. My son is 24 and he has autism. He is non-verbal. This blog is about our learning-at-home program.
About 9 years ago, while working with an experienced educational consultant, I was asked, “what facts does your son know?” Seriously? I couldn’t think of any facts that he might know. Every night I read little Disney books to him and nursery rhymes, but facts? I didn’t think my son was either interested in facts or capable of understanding facts. The stunned look on my face provoked the consultant to say, “Your son wants to know facts! Here, read aloud the first two paragraphs of this!”. She handed me an old science textbook, and turned to a page on dinosaurs. I took a look, gulped, and thought, “well now she will see – here comes an epic fail”.
Here is what happened: My son and I sat next to each other as I began to read the dry material. Within seconds, my son was glued to my side, pouring over the page, drinking in the information. Two paragraphs were not enough for him, I had to read more and more, and the implication was sobering – I had been depriving a curious mind. My son wanted to learn facts! This was our start.
What this had evolved into: every night, my son and I set up our STORIES AND STUDIES center on his big bed. We have comfortable back supporting pillows and we place a sleek, portable desktop over his legs and we get to work. The first thing that happens is that he squeals with delight for about 3 minutes, and then we are off!
Our nightly plan –
we learn new things
we read novels
we read poems
we listen to music (mostly classical)
Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
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In Which We Explain Our “Stories and Studies” Nightly Agenda
We Write – this takes so many different forms. Sometimes I ask my son about something we learned the night before. Sometimes I set up math problems. Sometimes I ask him about somebody in the family. Sometimes I ask him how he is feeling. Sometimes he selects our classical music program for the evening. Sometimes we practice handwriting. We work with pen and paper and we also use a wonderful app on our iPad. This is the time slot where I have taught him how to take a true/false test, a multiple-choice test, a matching test.
We Learn New Things – we set aside the desk top and open the books. We usually have two academic subjects going on. Each academic unit lasts about two weeks. We supplement the books with our iPad and a big globe
We Read Novels – we usually have two novels going. I read aloud. If the book doesn’t hold our attention, we stop reading it. If we love the book, we may let a year go by and then we enjoy it again.
We Read Poems – well, this is pretty self explanatory.
We Listen to Music – most of our study units last about 2 weeks, and this is what I thought would happen with our classical music unit. But this subject has proved so interesting that we have been on it for almost 3 years.
Background story – I had purchased a booklet that included posters of 16 classical composers. By day two, it occurred to me that it was ridiculous to read about composers without listening to their music, so I learned how to research music, purchase it, download it into an iTunes file, and then transfer it to my iPod. We have now listened to just under 500 compositions.
We listen to three compositions every night, and every night of the week has a music theme: composer spotlight, dance and march music, virtuoso night, etc. We might have a theme night, like “clocks” and then listen to music of different classical periods that have titles that refer to clocks (Haydn’s “The Clock” Symphony, Bizet’s “Carillon” from L’Arlesienne, LeRoy Anderson’s “Syncopated Clock”). Here is what we don’t do: listen to music in chronological order. What is the fun in that?
Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane B
Our support system is 2 COOL 4 SCHOOL! – July 10, 2017
(They are trying to come across as cool, but are having difficulty holding back the grins.)
It is time to acknowledge our extreme support system (a great dad, a great sister, a great brother, a great grandmother AKA “The Peach”, and a great treasured family friend), AND to celebrate my 100th post on this blog site! To mark the occasion, I am going to pretend that one of my skeptical relatives (certainly NOT one of the above) is grilling me about “Jane’s Cool School”:
1) Do you really do this study thing EVERY night? Yes!
– If my son didn’t like what we are doing, he would firmly escort me out of the room, and that would be the end of that.
– My son’s daytime regimented agenda keeps him content and occupied, but offers no intellectual growth. I am not sure I could be okay with this. I want him to have an opportunity for intellectual growth EVERY DAY.
2) Have you and your son read every book, listened to every piece of music, and worked through every story problem that has been posted in the blog? YES!
3) The story problems are a riot. Where do you get them? You are too kind. I create them myself – usually based upon something I am currently dealing with at home.
4) You seem to flit from topic to topic. How can your son master anything this way? Good question! I am not going for mastery, I am going for awareness.
5) You don’t spend much time writing about your son’s autism, treatment, or behaviors. Good observation! It is a good thing that there are many websites and blogs dedicated to autism behaviors, treatment, and research. I write about what we are doing to make a happy experience out of trying circumstances.
6) What has been the biggest surprise revealed in your nightly study time? It has been surprising – nay, alarming – to see that ever so much of what I learned in school is incorrect, incomplete, or WAY out-of-date (for starters, think solar system).
7) Do you think that parents of special needs children should run a program like yours? Only if they love it – otherwise it would be difficult to keep this up night after night.
8) Regarding fiction selections, I notice that you avoid “coming of age” books. Why? A lot of “coming of age” issues involve themes of “man’s inhumanity toward man”. I think my son has enough to deal with without finding out that there is a significant percentage of people who are mean.
9) Do you like reading out loud? I LOVE IT! It is not so much the act of reading out loud that I like, it is the joy of sharing a learning experience together.
10) How long does it take you to write a blog post from start to finish? Three afternoons, at a minimum.
11) Do you get feedback? Yes! The story problems and the classical music selections get the most reaction. ALSO, I have heard from a few authors of books that I have written about – HUGE THRILL!
12) So, why are you doing this blog? This blog is a scrapbook for my son; something to document our study time together. Every so often I look over the list of topics we’ve tackled, and it cheers me to acknowledge I am doing something worthy with my time.
13) What are you and your son are learning from this week?
– “The Extreme Life of the Sea” by Stephen R. Palumbi (A+)
– “Maphead” by Ken Jennings (A+)
– “The Not Just Anybody Family” by Betsy Byars (A+)
– we have been listening to recordings of harpsichord virtuoso, Trevor Pinnock (A+)
Well, here we are – my son and I – 2 Cool 4 School!
Welcome to the best part of my day! Happy 100th Posting from “Jane’s Cool School”!
– Jane BH