Just “Doing Something”: A Tale of Autism

 

I was half a mile from home when my cell phone rang. “Hello?”

“Hi Mom. Are towels made of cotton?” My 13-year old and his questions. Always, questions.

“Yes usually, why?” I replied.

“I was just wondering.”

“Are you done with your math yet?”

Silence.

“So you’re not done with your math?”

“Not really. No.” As if I didn’t already know the answer to that. “Well I’ll be home in 2 minutes so get to work.”

“OK Bye.”

Just "Doing Something": A Tale of Autism

I clicked off my speaker phone and made my way home. I walked in to discover my son in the laundry room.

OH. Cotton towels. He was moving them from the washer to the dryer. Isn’t it funny how often we jump to conclusions? I really had thought my son was just stalling on his schoolwork, which is NOT unusual for him, but he was doing something.

That makes it okay, right?

But he’s always just doing something. 

Just checking the mail. Just feeding the dogs. Just getting a pen for me (because he heard me say something about not having one in the kitchen.) Just….

Always just SOMETHING. And it’s always so he can avoid something else.

Here’s the thing. He has Autism. He is attentive to a fault. The boy cannot simply turn off input. Any input. He knows what is happening in the house at all times. He hears all conversations (and acts on them, even if he was not asked to.) Due to this, he is probably the most distractable kid I’ve ever had, and we had six. 

He’s a joy and a challenge, all bundled up in a tall (taller than me!) boy with a gentle disposition and sweet brown eyes. The boy who is so innocent he honestly still believed in Santa and the Easter bunny until just the past few months. (I’m off the hook! Wahoo!)

How do you teach a kid what he needs to know to graduate high school when he can’t keep his rear in a chair or his head on any one subject for more than five minutes? How do we bring this young man through these last few years, assigning credits and accumulating work that proves his transcript, when he is limited to keyboarding ALL written work?

Welcome to my world. But I know it can be done.

I know it will be done, by God’s grace and provision. I have never been so nervous about taking on a high schooler as I am with this boy, but God’s plans for him will beat mine every time.

April is Autism Awareness Month. Do you love someone with Autism?

The Momma Knows

Dawn (22 Posts)

Dawn is still happily homeschooling after 16 years. She teaches her two sons, 13 & 11, enjoying every minute of "the second time around". She lives in Eastern Washington with her husband, the youngest 2 of their 6 kids, and an assortment of barking, squeaking, and clucking critters. She writes at her homeschool/parenting blog The Momma Knows and her new chapter, Dawn Marie Perkins. You can also find her on Twitter @DawnMPerkins, , and Pinterest.


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Keyboard Classroom: Time Tested Techniques Taught at Home

Keyboard Classroom Review

Using patent-pending finger guides and traditional typing techniques, Keyboard Classroom creates proficient typists in 6 months.

I took my first typing class in junior high. I remember the electric typewriters being huge brown humming machines. Lined up in rows, these loud, clacking machines were almost as intimidating as my typing instructor. She would slowly walk up and down the rows of students, calling out letters one at a time, faster and faster, watching as we struggled to remember which finger to move.

I loved that class. My teacher scared me, but I loved that class. After more than 20 years, I am still one of the fastest typist I know, and I am certain it is because of proper finger positioning skills learned that year. They were no-fluff lessons that focused on repetitive motions to create muscle memory, and it worked beautifully. I may not remember what I fixed for dinner last night but my fingers still know the home keys and how to use them.

My husband, who skipped typing class and took a basic computer course instead, does the whole hunt-and-peck thing. He can type code pretty quickly, but full paragraphs take him awhile. Our children are hunters-and-peckers. It makes me bonkers, and it affects their spelling. Typing takes so long, that they take shortcuts and skip letters just to be done. They are happy to spend hours telling me every detail of their newest novel idea but writing or typing it out is a struggle. I am lucky to get a three sentence synopsis.

That is all about to change. Keyboard Classroom is turning my children into real typists, in just 15 minutes a day.

What is Keyboard Classroom?

Keyboard Classroom is a digitally downloaded software program that teaches typing, using proven techniques of building muscle memory, allowing students to more effortlessly put thought into print. Patent-pending finger guides easily attach to standard keyboards, helping students to keep their fingers in place. Low on fancy graphics, this program gets to the nuts and bolts of typing: muscle memory. By focusing on building muscle memory, students become more efficient at transferring thoughts into written word.

You can connect with them on their blog or their Facebook Page.

Why are Keyboarding Skills Important?

It seems nothing is handwritten anymore. My neighbor asked for a recipe yesterday, and instead of writing it on a notecard, she typed it into a notepad app on her phone. Kids are proficient at typing with their thumbs; but being able to type up full papers, letters, and presentations will require more than a phone keyboard. The ability to efficiently type on a full keyboard is a vital skill for today’s employees.

Will Keyboard Classroom Work For You?

  • Is your child easily distracted by cartoon-y and childish programs?
  • Would your child rather dictate an answer because writing or typing it out takes too long?
  • Do you have 15 minutes a day you can spend doing basic keystroke practices?
  • Do you prefer to have the games come after the work?

If you answered yes, then Keyboard Classroom will meet your needs! Fifteen minutes of diligent practice daily for 6 months and your child should be a proficient typist at 35 words per minute.

Is it Easy to Use?

Installing Keyboard Classroom required only a couple of moments and a restart of our computer. The finger guides went on easily once I figured out where to put them. My package did not have any diagram showing exactly where to stick the velcro, but a simple peek at the pictures on their site and we had them in place.

Setting up a new user was a simple as just typing a name. The start screen is shown below: Keyboard Classroom Start Page

On our first visit to the start page, we admittedly stopped and stared blankly at the screen, a bit unsure of what to click on first. I have, sadly, become accustomed to flashy arrows and sparkly .gif images to direct my next move and when presented with a classic interface that required me to decide what to do, I blanked. It really wasn’t complicated at all!

The first lesson is a simple letter practice exercise. They highlight which finger to use and where the key is found on the keyboard. Once I showed my daughter how to hold her hands on the home keys she was all set.

Keyboard Finger Trainer Practice

The next exercise worked typing the letters in order across the keyboard and utilizing the space bar.

Typing Words Practice Keyboard Classroom

Then you worked typing the letters in various combinations. I remember this being the tricky part for me in school, because the letters didn’t make actual words. This practice was no different!

Home Stretch Practice Keyboard Classroom

Our Fun With Keyboard Classroom

Houston, we found a problem; but we fixed it. After a couple of weeks of practicing, our computer crashed and had to be redone. All of the computers/laptops at our house, with the exception of mine, are Frankenstein machines built from parts being scrapped.  We are blessed to have so many, each with their own quirks and problems, so that when one fails, schoolwork can continue on something else. Unfortunately, this time, Sam lost all of her progress with Keyboard Classroom and had to start over. She didn’t seem to mind starting over; but she was upset to give up her finger guides.

The finger guides only fit correctly on standard keyboards. Laptop keyboards are too small. Samantha was so excited to see she could use the computer’s old keyboard (with the guides) via usb on her laptop. If you are like us, and use a laptop instead of a desktop pc, don’t fear. Basic style keyboards can be found as low as $15 new. I have even seen some at yard sales and thrift shops, just make sure they connect via usb.

Keyboard Classroom doesn’t let you skip ahead. I already type with ease,  and went looking for a way for me to practice more difficult exercises. I discovered that all typists, old and new, have to start from the beginning. I pouted for a bit, then realized that making everyone start at the beginning is brilliant! After doing a few of my daughter’s practices, it became apparent that my basic skills, my foundations of typing, needed refreshing. There was quite a bit of giggling every time Momma earned a little “X”.

How Can You Get It?

Keyboard Classroom can be ordered from their website and downloaded for immediate use. Finger guides will be shipped to you FREE. It is compatible with any Windows-based computer, or Macintosh running “Parallels” software. Intended for ages 8 and up.

I am very excited to share with you their NEW PRICING OPTIONS! A single user license plus FREE finger guides is $39.95 and can be reused by other students once the first student is done. You simply erase their data and start a new data file. Carrie Shaw, the creator of Keyboard Classroom, has created a new purchasing option just for families! Now you can get a family license with FREE finger guides for $49.95 that allows you to have up to FIVE users simultaneously! Now you don’t have to draw straws (like we did) to see who would get to learn first.

New Keyboard Classroom Homeschool Pricing for Families

The ability to communicate effectively is a necessity. Because so much communication today, is done digitally, the ability to efficiently put thoughts and ideas into written word is a much-needed skill. Motor skills, such as those honed in general computer and video game play, is not the same as typing proficiency. The ability to type quickly and correctly enhances school performance and eventually work place productivity.

Did you take formal typing lessons as a kid? Do you still remember to use your home-row?

 

Lisa Baldwin (59 Posts)

Disciple of Christ, Wife, Mother of Four, Homeschooler, Crafter, Designer (Graphics and CSS/HTML), Blogger. I share too much, laugh at the wrong things, and fall on my backside regularly. Thank goodness Jesus ignores all of that and loves me anyway.


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Apprenticeship In Your Home School

Apprenticeship in Your Homeschool @selftaughtkids @hsbapost

*Apprentice:

1. One bound by legal agreement to work for another for a specific amount of time in return for instruction in a trade, art, or business.
2. One who is learning a trade or occupation, especially as a member of a labor union.
3. A beginner; a learner.
tr.v.ap·pren·ticedap·pren·tic·ingap·pren·tic·es
To place or take on as a beginner or learner.

*Source: The Free Dictionary

Most of us are familiar with the idea of an apprentice (and no, I’m not referring to the popular TV reality show!), but what relevance can it have for us today and what role can it play in our home school?

The system of apprenticeship was developed in the later Middle Ages and was a mechanism for training young men (and even young women) for a specific trade or craft. Formal apprenticeships still exist today, but are not usually available for young people under the age of 17. What value, if any, could an informal apprenticeship provide your homeschooled tween or teen?

This month, my oldest (14 in November), will begin a sort of apprenticeship to a local horse trainer. He discovered an interest in horses this summer, and recently asked for the opportunity to work for this individual in exchange for riding lessons.

An apprenticeship can be a great opportunity to learn useful skills while allowing a young person a safe place to stretch his or her wings and become more independent. At our house, we are big believers in life-learning, and the chance to incorporate work that will require responsibility and accountability is as important as learning history or algebra, in some cases, perhaps more.

If the work is purely volunteer, it’s important that there be a fair exchange, for instance, the above mentioned help around the stables in exchange for riding lessons. Some other ideas for apprenticeships could be: assisting an artist or art teacher in exchange for lessons, learning computer programming or other technical skill in exchange for office help, assisting a carpenter in exchange for the chance to learn how to build. Anything that your child is interested in can be turned into an occasion for developing a new skill under the guidance of a professional. Often, just asking someone you know if they would be willing to take on a young apprentice in exchange for some help in their business is the best way to get your little worker out into the world.

As homeschoolers we often have a unique set of circumstances which allow us to structure our days a little differently. Be open to giving your older homeschooled student a little freedom when choosing how they spend their time, remembering that important life skills and lessons can be learned outside the home as well as inside.

Of course, our children have been apprenticed to us — perhaps (and hopefully) we are training the next generation of homeschool parents!

I’ll leave you with a quote that I saw earlier this week that reminded me of the importance of becoming more than we think we can be. I guess I’m still a work in progress, as we all undoubtedly are. It’s nice to know we’re not finished yet, isn’t it?

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. — Robert Heinlein

Angela (23 Posts)

Angela is co-founder of Mosaic Freeschool and a homeschooling mom to two never-been-to school kids. Born in Southern California and raised on the East Coast, Angela had a bit of an unconventional education, but did not consider homeschooling seriously until her first child was born. Believing that young children learn best from those that love them most, Angela and her husband John chose homeschooling for their two boys. She is dedicated to the advancement of alternative education choices, creating the web-site Raising Autodidacts in 2011 to further explore the idea of fostering the self-taught individual. In June of 2013, she started an instructional writing service called Gathering Ink .


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