Thursday, March 6, 2014

Guest Post from Homeschooling Hatters

And now for something completely different!

Okay, so not really.  It's only one difference, but sometimes it seems like a span of oceans.

For those who don't know me, I'm Care, the mama behind the sporadically-updated Homeschooling Hatters.  We really are all mad 'round here.  Anyhow, I'm Care, my husband is The Great Skeeve, and our son is Mad Natter.  Mad Natter is situated right between Mrs Warde's Early Bird and Builder Boy – about a half year or so older than Early Bird.  Mrs Warde has saved my sanity more times than I can count, as our boys keep reaching higher, and we're standing back gaping at them.

The thing that makes Mad Natter so very different from Early Bird, though, is that while both boys are leaps and bounds ahead of their age-peers in most respects, Mad Natter has Sensory Processing Disorder, along with a potential for additional letters that we haven't been able to assess yet.  What SPD means in our house, is that Mad Natter has some very extensive troubles with some of his Executive Function skills – namely things like planning and future thinking, as well as some issues with focus and impulse control, as well as a lot of excess energy.  It used to be that our days were fairly short, but extremely frustrating all around.

We would start our school days with Magic School Bus science, giving us some time to get in gear before we started our sitting down work.  Then we'd work on our subjects, one after the other, have a break, finish up, and play away the rest of the day.  When you're five, this seems like a pretty good plan, all in.  But, when you're five with sensory issues, that easy day turns sour very quickly.  First, there's a meltdown over which episode of Magic School Bus to watch.  The one we need to for our science work, or the random one we watched twelve times yesterday?  I think we can tell which of us wanted which video.  Once the video was watched, we'd move on to math.  You'd think math would be easy, as we were working on things with manipulatives – fun stuff!  Nope.  The manipulatives became cars, and a ten minute lesson would take an hour in redirection. Writing?  You can forget it. The shouting back and forth quickly hit legendary. The rest of our subjects quickly hit a boiling point as well.  He was frustrated with me, I was unhappy with him, and our days went poorly.  We didn't like each other very much – which is really sad!

Recently, though, we've gotten some long awaited sensory interventions.  All of a sudden, our days have done a complete 180*, and I couldn't be happier about it!  First, we've nixed the battle over Magic School Bus.  How? We watch two episodes.  A simple solution that neither of us saw at the time.  Then we have sensory brushing.  Now for those unfamiliar with sensory brushing, it means we take a Sensory Brush, and rub Mad Natter's arms, legs, and back with it.  This helps him calm his nervous system, allowing him more control over his own reactions, as well as helping with his need for motion.  Mad Natter needs to MOVE.  All the time. He runs, and runs, and runs, and runs, lap after lap around the house, and doesn't stop.  Brushing helps him get his senses reset so that need to run all the time is quelled, and he is able to sit calmly on his bumpy cushion and work.

Once we have our brushing done, we work on math. We're extremely informal about it.  This past week, Mad Natter has sat on my lap, and I wrote what he dictated onto the page.  No fighting, and suddenly the math that was taking us an hour... was back to taking us ten minutes.  After math, because it involves a lot of mental focus, we have a break.  I quickly check my email and the physical mail, and Mad Natter runs up to his room to jump on his trampoline.  Once he's had a good minute or two of purely physical exertion, he comes back down and we work on grammar and writing.  Now, these are boring subjects for an active little boy so once they're done, we take another break.  This time, it's a bathroom and snack break.  Then, once those are done, Mad Natter hops around the house in the same circuit he used to run.  First on one foot, then the other.  Truthfully, this usually ends up as more of a gallop than a hop, but the effect is the same – he gets to move and get his wiggles out.  Then we do some work on science projects and reading, and finally we work on spelling.  Spelling in and of itself is a much loved subject, especially now that I have a great board that's mounted on the wall!  It means he can stand and balance on his cushion while he spells, giving him the ability to keep on moving, and still keep his focus.  It's been a wonderful thing.

Now, by this point, it seems like our days are taking forever instead of just the hour and a half I plan for.  Truthfully, this isn't the case at all. Even adding in the time for all the jumping, bouncing, running off, and hopping around, schoolwork now takes less time than it did before. There's less fighting, less yelling, and a lot more work getting done, and while our days take two hours now instead of one and a half, they are so much more peaceful that it carries over into the rest of the day as well.

We've also implemented a partial workbox system.  I picked up a ten-drawer cart which we are now using to hold subjects.  Each subject is in a drawer, and we work systematically through the drawers until we reach the end.  There is more to workboxing than just this, but we're still working with our OT to get our full visual scheduling implemented.  Once we get our cards in from the OT, we'll put cards on each box, as well as number cards.  That way Mad Natter can see what subject is next (math, science, etc), as well as what number of subjects he has to work on that day.  We will also be able to visually schedule our breaks, so he can see when his next break is, what he will do for it, and if he wants to do something different, we can work together to get the scheduling in hand.

However, even without all the pieces in place, our days are more and more manageable, easier to handle with each other, and just more fun.  Dealing with gifted children can be trying on the best of days. Gifted children whose bodies need more for some reason, who don't understand why their bodies need these things, or how to appropriately get these things...  That's trying with a side of Hang On Tight, This is Gonna Be a Doozy of a Ride! -- ~Care

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