Butterfly grew up with food intolerances and was diagnosed with ADHD, Asperger's
Syndrome, and learning difficulties. Now she struggles with OCDs.
This is the story of how we have faced these challenges.

Strategies for Learning

A classroom isn’t necessarily the best learning environment for any child. It’s just what the school system went with to get all the kids facing forward and hopefully listening all at once. But when dealing with one, two or a few youngsters, (your own) there are many more inspired environments that enhance learning.

The temptation for many new homeschooling parents is to simulate a classroom environment for their child. I even bought a school desk for Butterfly ~ a bright yellow used one. She loved it, and indeed, sometimes she sat at it in our livingroom to do exercises in language comprehension or math problems. But most often our learning was done in other places.

For helping Butterfly with her vowels, for instance, I made up cardboard cards, about 2 ½ or 3 inches square. (Those pieces of cardboard that come in pantihose are great for this if you have a couple of them, or of course you can always buy a piece of bristol board or carding. That way you can get different colours for different word games too.) Anyway, I wrote rhyming words on these in loud marker: ball, fall; dark, bark; room, broom; bin, fin; dish, fish; pen, ten; bun, fun; dirt, skirt; teen, been. These are starter words, of course. Later, you can throw in clean and bean, and neat, beat, just for stimulation, as well as other, longer, more complex words. (But stay away from doll at first, unless you want to explain what a moll is. #confusing)

Of course, you just mix the cards up, place them face down, and pick until you get a matching pair. Repeat until all the cards are matched up. I used the coffee table for this, because there was going to be bouncing around in this game when a certain hyperactive kid got a match, or especially when she beat Mommy at it. The couch was a good venue for this. ;o)

Another suggestion: don’t tell the child they are learning. No, they are playing a game. It’s amazing how much more receptive a kid is if it’s fun. That means they retain more too. Of course, as soon as the first game gets a little boring, it’s important to switch it up with bigger words and more cards. Start with about 6, for instance, and work your way up to 12 bigger, better, longer words. It not only helps kids with those vowels and with spelling, but it’s a great memory exercise as well. (For the parent too!)

I bought exercise books at the local department store that not only had school exercises, but also games that were fun as well. And the books often come with stickers for rewarding good work. Yes, these satisfied Butterfly when she was little. She loved getting her sticker after completing an exercise. She also loved playing the geography game. That’s where you take an unlabeled map out of the workbook, cut out the little pointers with place names on them that come with it for that purpose, and play “find the place on the map.” We had a blast, and it really helped her remember where different places are in the world. The globe helped with this too. On days when dry book work just wasn’t going to cut it, I’d get the globe to spinning and Butterfly would stick out her finger and stop it. Where ever her finger was, that’s the place we talked about, even if we had to look it up on enchantedlearning.com to find out more about it.

This was something else we relied on too. Enchanted Learning is chock full of educational information and materials, whether homework help for the kid in school or a resource for the homeschooling parent, it’s a must. There are animal and art colouring pages with info about animal habitats or the artists respectively, and toy templates for the young (how things are made). There’s information on animals, historical, odd, and usual art projects, space info, plate tectonics, and so very much more. There are maps for those school projects and quizzes ready to print up. Yes, there is a nominal fee, but well worth it for what you get. And no, I am not associated with this site. I just got so much out of it for Butterfly that I have to share. Check it out.  http://www.enchantedlearning.com/Home.html

And TV. You know, I get a bang out of those people who say kids shouldn’t watch more than an hour of TV a day. Poppycock! A generalization like that is nonsense! It depends entirely on what they’re watching. Are they watching educational TV, or commercial TV? The educational benefits of TV today are impressive, and for the first 10 years of her life, Butterfly was only allowed to watch educational TV. Magic School Bus was one of her favourite programs; one thing leading to another, this led us to interactive computer software that had her visiting other planets, the human cardiovascular system, the earth during dinosaur times, or a volcanic eruption, and more. Her interactive spelunking alone gave her a spooky knowledge of stalagmites and stalactites.

Moreover, the group dynamics played out in programs such as Arthur, as well as comic books like Archie and his pals, offered an opportunity to give Butterfly a social education that she often wasn’t getting anywhere else. Sure, she played on a community baseball team, which, yes, taught her about teamwork. She also took dance lessons and gym, but these didn’t work out very well for Butterfly and were short-lived. So, back into the world of Arthur where she learned that lying, stealing, bullying and such like are not good. Basic social values are important.

Butterfly watched far more than the recommended amount of TV, because Zooboomafoo, National Geographic for Kids, Popular Mechanics for Kids, the Science Guy, Art Attack, and more, were school classes in a box. No, the TV was not a babysitter. TVs don’t answer those immediate questions, provide art and science experiment supplies, bring healthy drinks and snacks, wipe runny noses, etc. The Mom did those things, ‘cause she was right there too.

Funny thing is, when we finally got satellite so we could get all those other programs that are apparently so bad for kids, Butterfly still chose the educational ones. They were what she was used to and what she liked. And there were no commercials. That’s right, all those years she sat in front of the TV to learn, there were no commercials to make her want stuff she didn’t need. Educational and public television ROCKS.

Then of course, there is the great outdoors. Who wants to sit around inside when there’s a warm breeze and a beach with neat rocks, birds and tadpoles? Or woods with mysterious pathways and all kinds of natural things just lyin’ around that are good for nature crafts. (And then, on those inclement days, there’s the crafts!) And there’s the nature site! In our case, it’s a marsh, with frogs, turtles, snakes, swans and a plethora of pathways to hike. And little birds too, that will land right on your thumb to peck some seed right out of your hand. And the historical site! Log buildings, people dressed in amazing costumes, longhouses, birchbark canoes, candle-dipping, writing with quill pens, making corn husk dolls, and more. There is something near you. Yes, there is. Look for it. Whether it’s an art gallery, a fort, a museum of any kind, a nature park or whatever, it’s an opportunity for a great outing with the kid(s) and for learning.

Then, back indoors, there’s the kitchen. Butterfly wasn’t going to memorize how high the highest mountain in Megastan is. But what she could remember was what they grew for crops, were famous for making, and what they ate. Yep, cooking is a great way to get a kid to take an interest in another culture. So is art and unique forms of design.

I know. All this stuff is pretty obvious, except, it isn’t when you’re bogged down in routine. The more we thought about it, the more we were able to turn any outing into an educational one. Even a trip to the bank or the grocery store (applied economics). Our mechanic got used to the fact that the girl would be with me and I’d want him to explain what he was doing and why. He even let Butterfly pull on the handle that made the car go up and down. And then there were the back-seat-quizzes as we drove to appointments, etc.

This isn’t just for parents wanting to homeschool though, nor just for parents of kids with special needs. It’s for parents who want to make sure their kids are really learning what they need to learn, in their schooling, and beyond. Once they fall behind, as many do, in one little thing, they are just sort of dragged along and they never catch up. So these suggestions and resources are to inspire ideas for you to help your child(ren) catch up to where they need to be and to spend fun, quality time with your child while doing it. Sometimes we have to be proactive in certain aspects of our lives. Health and education for our kids both spring to mind. Work with the teacher/school/tutor and be an active part of the team, or, if you are homeschooling, let go of the school room model (if you haven’t already) and run with it... or walk, hike, ride or climb.

Here's another resource that's just come to my attention for those thinking about homeschooling: http://www.specialneedshomeschool.com/

Here's an episode of Arthur featuring a kid with Asperger's:
Want to talk? Got ideas to share?  Comment below. Just be nice. :)

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