Category: Learning Disabilities

A Day in the Life 19

My neck is out and my back aches. Sigh. We got a big snow and I shoveled even though my neck was twinging so my dad could get in the driveway. I only shoveled a little but it was too much and now. Sigh. I am off to spend several hours flat on my back playing Harvest Moon because I can’t sit up for long. Before I go I want to share a couple things:

This morning my “teaching himself to read” child called me over to the table where he sat eating animal crackers.

“Look Mom, this says low fat!”

“Did you read that yourself?”

“Yup.” He grinned and went on eating.

As I said he has been having me “read” a hymn book to him. He likes to help me read the words, which are divided into syllables so he can easily sound them out. He then helps me sing the songs. It is very sweet. (It had never occurred to me that all the old hymn books I collect from yard sales would make such great easy readers.)

My little boy has taught himself to read!

Also, all three kids are very into Edubuntu and are spending lots of time playing GCompris and and several other great educational games. The other cool thing about Edubuntu is that you can go to the Edubuntu site, download the isntaller and burn the image to a cd–which will allow you to run the whole thing off the cd without installing over your copy of Windows. We have two copies running though one of the machines still has Windows on it. It is amazing to see what they are learning from this wonderful program.

Doodle-a-Day:2-18-08 plus some thoughts on unschooling

When I was a kid I was fascinated with the outdoors. I would spend all summer outside,carrying a backpack full of essentials including my favorite doll, a Tupperware cup full of homemade lemonade, colored pencils, book, and notebook. I am sure I had a first aide kit of sorts in there as well as some natural books and other things that seemed necessary to being out in the woods.Read More

IF: Theory

The plan worked better in theory .

Loosely based on my kids who love building Rube Goldberg machines and often have slightly odd theories about how things work.  In this case instead of a Rube Goldberg machine I used my son’s ball track–which also often works better in theory than in actuality.   And this is one of my kids’ favorite way to do things, planning out outlandish activities then testing their theories.

I couldn’t decide between color and black and white–the color is just colored pencil because watercolors wouldn’t work with this paper.

Yes, I have been doing doodles each day but haven’t gotten them posted due to household issues–not only is Rachel less than great but my husband is in pain with an injured back and muscle spasms.  So much has been going on that I shipped the other two to Grandma’s house. 🙂

A Day in the Life 8: Deep Fried Brains

As mentioned I have been feeling “off”. In other words my hormones have been very confused, enough that I finally went to the doctor and now have a slew of tests to have done by next Thursday. (I, in general, don’t go to the doctor so this is a big deal–in fact I had to find a doctor to go to.)

Anyway, my brain has been fuzz for two weeks now. This means the kids have been doing more fending for themselves in the kitchen than usual. That’s fine–all three know how to make basic meals that are healthy and the older two both can follow recipes (well, at least try–dyslexia makes that interesting, I let them make mistakes becuase that is how I learned the difference between a cup and a Tablespoon, confectioners sugar and regular, flour and powdered sugar. Making mistakes in the kitchen is a great way to learn, especially when it doesn’t get you in trouble. )

So, this morning Rachel was making eggs. Usually they make fried eggs and destroy all my pans. However, all the skillets were in the running dishwasher and the kids are afraid of the dishwasher when it is turned on. 🙂 Issac suggested that she make hard boiled instead.

She came to me and asked how instead of consulting a cookbook. This is a bad idea. I can make many things but hardboiled eggs is not one of them. I wracked my brain for the times, remembered, and told her.

Ten minutes later I realized my mistake. I had given her the recipe for corn on the cob not hard boiled eggs! Start with cold water, bring to a boil, cover, turn off heat and let sit for 8 minutes. Gack!

I caught her and told her to bring the water back to a boil and let boil for 5 minutes more. Oops–those were soft boiled eggs. She decided to let the rest boil a little longer and let Esther eat the soft boiled one–she likes them that way.

Sigh. Yes, when it comes to eggs don’t ask me. I don’t eat eggs. I got sick of them when I was Rachel’s age and wasted tons of eggs while making mistakes.

A Day in the Life 7

Still feeling cruddy which means trying to find ways to keep the kids entertained that do not include me specifically so I can crawl off and read a book or watch a movie.

Yesterday we made a trip to the library and picked up 8 interesting educational movies–two IMAX and a pile of PBS. We are WQED around here and the library has tons of Pittsburgh made WQED movies including Kennywood Memories, Things that aren’t there anymore and the sequel. We also got Lewis and Clark and an Annie Oakley story for kids (Rachel’s choice.) Rachel also chose a book which she started reading as soon as we returned home–YEAH! Esther is usually the one who does the reading around here and insists on a book at the library. We had to cut back because she kept misplacing them. I swear that we pay at least one of the children’s librarians salary with our overdue fines.

I spent yesterday evening watching the Pittsburgh history movies as the kids wandered in and out. This morning I woke to find Rachel devouring Kennywood Memories. Later I put on Lewis and Clark and Esther spent the next few hours enthralled.

“So Esther, is this a good movie?”

Esther slowly shakes her head, eyes glittering, smile wide.

“Have you learned anything?”

“Wow Mom,” she looked up ginning, “they did all sorts of stuff. Did you know they found an antelope type creature with a hairy butt?”

“Um. Yeah. “

This morning all three cleaned their rooms then the girls cleaned the kitchen and folded laundry for me while Issac and I went shopping for our once a month groceries and daddy’s meds. While out Issac spent quite a bit of time in the pharmacy trying to read what was on the bottles–I had to redirect him a few times as Rite Aid keeps their feminine hygiene and intimacy products right by the pharmacy line. This meant it was time for “can you look on the other side of the aisle and find the medicine you take when your stomach hurts, etc.” in order to redirect his attention and keep him from sounding out T-r-o-j… and then asking what it was. He also helped me buy groceries, deciding how much of each item we needed to last us a month.

After we returned home the kids put the groceries away and made off with the boxes I had used to pack the groceries from Aldi. There were two boxes and they had to decide how to make those two boxes work amongst the three of them. After some battle they painted an ice cream truck and a race car and found another box for a train. Later I heard them upstairs playing burrito with a new twist. (Burrito is a family game inherited from their daddy and uncle. It consists of rolling one person inside of a blanket and pretending to eat them.) In this case the new twist had the filling of the burrito calling out for other ingredients–Simon Says style which the other players had to find and then say a rhyme to include. For instance tomato meant find something red, mustard find something yellow, etc.

They then decided to make carob candy. This meant a lesson in not burning carob when it is melting in the microwave. The second batch worked. They also made peanut butter filling for them and shaped them in silicone heart shaped ice cube trays. I guess they are good (I don’t eat carob, blech.)

Issac has been spending a lot of time trying to figure out the harder Hooked on Phonics books because he doesn’t feel like working through the work book. He will get back to it eventually or figure those big words out with all his trying.

Now they are all hyper and running around like loonies and it is cold and rainy and dark out so I can’t send them outside.

A Day in the Life 4(of some very busy kids)

One of the things I am going to attempt to do this year is make a weekly “Day in the Life” post. Knowing myself it will be rather random despite my intention but if I try to remember it will be a good way to remind myself of how much the kids are actually learning on a day to day basis.

I got Brain Age for my DS from my hubby for Christmas. I was mildly excited–not thrilled because I HATE math games (struggling with dyscalculia makes math NOT FUN, not even Soduko.) Anyway I tried it out and spent some time stuck at “walking speed ” doing math problem after math problem. Blech. Eventually, however, I figured out how to unlock new games, some of which were reading and spatial which are my areas of expertise.

The cool things is the kids saw me playing and wanted to try. Rachel and Esther both set up accounts and even attacked the 20 and 100 timed math problems and the reading aloud (which are taken from books I read in late high school and college–like The Turn of the Screw and The Warden.) Issac has even tackled the non-reading ones like number memory. This little game has done what I have struggled to do with the oldest two–both of whom struggle with dyslexia/dyscalculia. They are writing numbers as answers to timed math problems trying to beat their old times (yes you use the stylus to write the numbers and it misreads if you write the number backwards, meaning that Esther has FINALLY learned how to write her teens and higher numbers in the right order and Rachel has figured out the difference between 2 and 5 when writing.) Praise the Lord!

I should mention that I have spent years working on these things with them–I have tried doing daily practice, fighting with them about working, battling it out to get them to do a single worksheet. And along comes one little video game that keeps daily records, has them write and gives them incentives that they enjoy (persevering means that you get an extra large stamp and may be able to get your brainage lower (mine is down to 25 from the 80 I got when I started.) The girls are determined to get into first place against me and this stuff is NOT EASY.

What else have we been doing? Watching a Martha Stewart Baking video together because the kids picked it out at the library (we have a slew of new recipes to adapt!) Watching some of my childhood favorites (Goonies and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) and talking about the cultural significance of the films as well as all the historical characters that showed up in Bill and Ted. We have also watched the making of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure at Rachel’s request–she has been trying to figure out how they make movies and so wanted to watch the documentary. This also led to some great discussion on how we learn and how movies are made.

Rachel was feeling a bit icky again (teeth are coming in) and watched a cartoon they got for Christmas–Around the World in 80 Days. This lead to an hour long discussion and questioning about how they lost a day. She explained to me her theory (she knows her Narnia and thought that time went faster and slower in different places) and then we discussed how it worked for real using ball I drew a map on and then later watching some live web cams around the world to see what it looked like at our time. (Another thing I had already “taught ” but which obviously didn’t stick although now she really gets it.)

The kids also spent several hours playing that they were farmers (we got Harvest Moon so they decided to play it in “real life” pretend play–I would explain but it was way to elaborate and included using Magnetix to make plants that “grew” each day). They also spent several hours playing “school” in the school room–Rachel was teaching Esther and Issac reading and some other subjects (Esther for fun–she reads better than Rachel, Issac because he wants to learn and is trying o figure it out.) They also played outside in the snow for some time (which I later found out they were walking and sled riding to and from “school” and that that was all part of the big, elaborate game), cleaned the kitchen up for dinner, did laundry, and worked on Esther’s new paint-by-number. It has been a busy day and lots of learning without “teaching” has occurred. In fact, a lot of things that I had TRIED to teach them when they weren’t interested were learned a few minutes because they wanted to learn it. Very cool.

Update: Just after I posted this I went to read to the kids (we just finished the last Elyon book , Rachel has decided to make her own way through the next series by the same author and is on chapter 5 so we are instead rereading the Half-Magic books after our Bible reading each night.) The kids were being awfully quiet so I went to find them–I found Esther doing the math problems on Brain Age, again (btw those are addition, subtraction, multiplication 0-9), Rachel reading the book Esther is pictured with, and Issac taking a bath because he wanted to.

About the pictures:

The only non-Esther shot is Rachel in the car yesterday right after she discovered that she did, indeed, love Almonds (our favorite car food). The rest are Esther while she showed me some of the things they had been doing today as well as a bit later when I caught her playing the math part of Brain Age, again. The 3 table tent was their farm house. The rake was part rake, part horse. The book is a new favorite from the library: Miss Hunnicutt’s Hat. Oh, and the crazy falling shot was her falling onto the old papasan cushion that they decided to keep after the chair broke and which was where they were planting their “garden” today. Oh, and don’t mind the mess–they were playing dress up for the farmer thing which required that the dress-up box be dumped in order to find everything. 🙂

Chore Wars

I don’t usually talk about our family love of RPG gaming (roll playing games)–this being a Christian blog and many Christians being unsure about D&D (which is just one type–usually we just call them RPGs) and whether it is a Christian thing to do or not. I am married to the guy behind the Lord of the Rings turned D&D campaign comic, the RollercoasterTycoon + Bowling = Fun, Chainmail Bikini, not to mention several other geek humor items that have made him a slight celebrity in the geekosphere–so of course we have geek stuff going on in our house. I mean really, his blog is at –twenty sided being the dice used in RPG’s and the site itself started as a way to share the D&D campaign he wrote.

RPG’s are not, in themselves evil. Just like anything else, roll playing games can and have in the past been taken to the extreme, just as much as music, books, movies, cards, and anything else that people do occasionally for entertainment. The cool thing about RPGs is that you choose the back story you are working with. There are Christian RPG’s out there and a variety of others–science fiction, fantasy, medieval, all sorts. The only thing that makes an RPG an RPG is that you get to play another character, have some type of stats for the character, and act on behalf of that character–like being in a play except that it is free form. Point is that just like anything else there are good and bad RPG’s and I just found an awesome one.

Chore Wars.


My husband and I have talked before about trying to develop some kind of D&D game that would let the kids play but learn good things while they were at it. Guess what, I found it, online, for free.

Instead of some fantasy or outer space setting with a big fancy story, the GM (Game Master, sometimes DM–the person in charge of the game) makes a list of chores that need done by the family. There are a variety of incentives that the parent sets and each person has their own login but can only choose which jobs to do–they have to have special permission to make more jobs.

The website allows you to set up chores for each individual room or however you like. You name the chore, choose the incentives (XP is based on time it should take instead of how hard it is, you choose how much each level will go up based on the type of chore it is, you choose how much GP (gold pieces–which can be used as a token system to “buy” whatever you like to use as a “big” incentive), the likelihood of treasure (percentage and what treasures–you can go classic D&D and give a + 4 golden mop or you can give something tangible–we went with the tangible by giving say a 20% chance of a treasure if you beat the monster–the treasure being a hug and kiss, a lollipop, a sticker just to keep it interesting), and the chance of meeting a monster–this is what keeps Rachel coming back she LOVES beating the monsters, plus you get to name them yourself–for instance the monsters in our campaign are all sin or vice related, like Mr. Complaining, Mr. Distraction, or silly–like when you get attacked by the laundry pile when you try to do the laundry. The kids are having fun with these and when they struggle to do a job instead of complaining they say they are being attacked by My. Complaining who is trying to get them to complain.


Another cool thing is the character sheets. They look like standard character sheets but they let you see what each person has in their inventory (and let the characters remove those they have “used” or spend their money, leaving a note where it went.) Also wonderful is that it gives you a list of the updates in what each person completed so all I have to do is look at the computer to make sure Issac did his homework (he can’t read them all but his sisters help him and he LOVES getting the rewards and fighting monsters.) Best of all is that it has an RSS feed so you can keep an eye on what is getting done in your feed reader (or can if you are like us and have more than one computer going at a time.)

chorewars2.jpg chorewars4.jpg


Yes, you may notice that “Daddy”, who chose to make a character that looks like Gandalf, is also “playing”–he keeps checking in and loves being able to check and see what everyone got done today. Since it is online if you are in the party you can check in from anywhere (which is great for my mom and brother since my brother lives half time at my dad’s.) I am not sure how long it will last in our household but even if it only lasts for today–Rachel has done 6 hours worth of work (granted she moved faster so she could do more sooner, must fix those XP levels), and Esther did 5 hours worth, and Issac did 2 hours worth–and I didn’t have to ask–they love fighting the monsters and are even earning things for each other and helping each other do the work so they can see what they can earn. My house is clean, I didn’t have to load the dishwasher (Esther volunteered and got extra XP for it), the socks are almost all sorted (I threw that in with some extra incentives since NO ONE likes to sort socks around here), the floors are swept, the junk is off the floor, and some of the laundry is done. All without a single real life battle–though there have been plenty of battles with Laundry Piles, Mr. Distraction, Greed, Mr. Complaining, Mr. Whinypants, and others–and I am sure Shamus battled more than once with “the big boss” and “Writers Block”.

The verdict–I recommend it. It is a fun way of keeping an eye on the house work and to get kids to volunteer to help each other–I am amazed at the loving spirit that has pervaded the household–aside from the fights that ensued when the girls tried to play games with their grumpy brother –a half an hour of educational games with siblings gets 30xp, though the book reading that went on was pretty awesome–did I mention that I didn’t even have to ask????