Friends LearnTogether

Samantha had her first sleepover last night.  She's been so excited! This is a big deal for her because one of the challenges for her with her Down syndrome is friendships. Samantha can do just about anything a typical child can do, it just takes her a little longer to learn things. Her milestones are a little later than most typical children. She learned to walk when she was 19 months old, she was fully potty trained when she was 6 years old, she learned to read when she was 9 years old.  Samantha's speech is good, but a little difficult to understand.  Her therapists and our family are working with her on her communications skills.

Because of the Down syndrome, Samantha's cognitive development is considerably slower than the typical child. So over the years, as her friends are maturing at a typical rate, she is maturing at a slower rate cognitively. Samantha is 15 years old now, but she looks like a 10-year-old and cognitively is maybe like an 8-year-old in some ways, like reasoning or problem solving.  So naturally, the friends she had when she was chronologically 8 years old and are now 16 years old, do not have a lot in common with Samantha. The typical children that are Samantha's developmental or cognitive age, say between 8 and 10 years old, are friendly, but they have a little bit of a hard time understanding her. So she doesn't have any close typical friends.

There are a couple of girls with Down syndrome who are Samantha's age who live close to us.  We invited one of these girls to spend the night. They've both been so excited. They could hardly sleep, talking late into the night in Sam's room like two teenage girls. Her friend is also homeschooled. So this morning we did some elementary science. They had so much fun learning about syllables with Silly Bulls. They giggled through a video lesson on molecules and atoms with Molly Cule and a couple of Adams. They also learned about mixtures, recycling, and materials. They took turns answering questions and working through the online activities together.  They helped each other as they learned how to put science vocabulary in ABC order. Now we've moved on to some copy work from their favorite books. I've found some 2-player games that are educational for them. I've promised to take them out for some frozen yogurt or Starbucks after lunch. For the rest of the afternoon I might take them over to the science museum to complete our science day. :)
Samantha and her friend doing science and copy work.

What does your science day look like for you and your kids? Do you do science every day or just once or twice a week?

An Abstract Lesson on Snow in Florida

After my post on homeschooling in Florida winter last week, this week Samantha's science lesson was about weather.  She learned about the many ways we can describe weather and the effects of weather on people, animals and plants.  She also learned that weather can be observed, measured and recorded using our senses and tools.  There are so many instruments that are used.  I think the ones she probably understood best were thermometer or thermostat because we use those on a regular basis at home, and our own senses.  Again, because we use our senses daily. 

Some of other things that were covered in the lesson may not be things that she understood or retained, like how climate varies from place to place and is influenced by factors such as the proximity to bodies of water and the equator. Some concepts that are abstract are difficult for her to grasp. But the more we talk about it and the more we watch videos and visual explanations of it, the easier it will be for her.  So we will continue to read and talk about this for the next week. I'll be looking for some videos to watch together, like videos about weather balloons. I think she'll find them interesting.  

Another part of the lesson that is hard for her to grasp is the topic of snow.  She knows what really cold weather is now that we've been camping in 36-degree weather. What's the point of having such cold weather to sleep in if we don't have the snow to go with it and enjoy, right?  Haha. That's what my kids said that weekend after sleeping in that bitter cold weather. Anyway, I did find some short video clips, in addition to the ones in our lesson, that showed snow falling and how it's formed. I even found some suggestions on how to make fake snow using a clean disposable diaper, water and a bowl.  After cutting the diaper open, we shook the contents into a bowl.  Samantha added water a bit at a time until it started to look and feel a little like snow as the material absorbed the water. The directions also said to add salt if we wanted more of a drier snow rather than slushy snow and to put the bowl in the freezer for about 10 minutes to get more of a 'snow' feel to it.  Since Samantha hasn't seen or felt snow, she had nothing to compare it to. I, on the other hand, thought it was a poor imitation. But at least Sam got to do a little bit of a hands-on project and got a little bit of an idea of what it's like.  Oh, if you try this at home, do not flush this down the toilet or the drain. Dump it in the trash!  Not that we did either, but I thought I should mention it. 

We're really enjoying this science curriculum.  Whether it's kindergarten science , first or second grade, this is a wonderful interactive program for the kids to practice science. Especially if you don't like doing messy science projects. And if you do, you can always add something simple like I did. :)  

Homeschooling in Florida Winter

Sometimes I feel a little guilty about enjoying the beautiful weather we're having here in Florida.  My sister and her family just moved here from Montana.  Yes, Montana! My sister was born and raised here in Florida.  I have no idea what came over them to move to Montana. The cost of living was a little lower and the kids were in better schools.  She doesn't homeschool.  But as soon as her oldest kids graduated, they left Montana. One is back here in Florida. So last year they decided to pack up and move back to Florida.  They're loving it!!!  Just about every day they're posting pictures of their outings here in Florida. Today my brother's-in-law post said that 49 out of 50 states are under snow, Florida being the one state where there is no snow.  I can't imagine.  I love snow, but I think I'm fine with just seeing it in pictures. I don't like the cold.

Right now it's 67 degrees and very sunny.  I'm wearing sweat pants, a warm sweater and fuzzy socks, because I'm cold.  Don't laugh at me.  I know you'd probably be out in the pool right now.  By the way, the water is ice cold.  Or you'd be in shorts and a T-shirt.  It does help that it's sunny out. Yesterday it was cloudy and felt much colder....okay, a little colder.  It's funny because up until just  few days ago it was in the mid-80s. But that's Florida for you.  Maybe that's why I'm sick right now.  My body is not used to the sudden weather change.  Last week the weather was so nice that I was able to take Samantha to the park to meet with some other families.  We looked for bugs and learned about the different kind of bugs there are.  We also covered a little bit about earth history. And it also went well with Samantha's second grade homeschool science.

What does school look like for those of you that are snowed in?  Although I'm sure since you all may have been raised experiencing cold winters, you're probably used to it and enjoy the time outside making snowmen and tossing snowballs.

Winter Camping in Florida....includes fun learning lessons

I'm thankful that my teen kids have flexible jobs that allow them to take the time off when we want to take a mini-vacation.  And because we homeschool high school, it makes it easier to take the time off from schoolwork, too.  So we went camping last weekend.  I know in most parts of the country you wouldn't even think of sleeping outside in a tent! Well, if it weren't because we had already planned this a few weeks ago with several other families, I may have chosen to stay home because it was soooo cold!! But my husband had already requested the time off work and he couldn't change it.  Oh, and have I mentioned we live in Florida?! Yes, I've lived here all my life.  So anything below 65 degrees is too cold for me. Well, it was as low as 34 degrees sleeping in our tent. Ahhhh!  It was not easy getting a full night's rest.  Even snuggled up close to my hubby, and with the kids' sleeping bags zipped up completely, we were freezing.  I think each of us slept with multiple pairs of socks on, gloves, and hats to keep our heads warm, and still we were cold.

I gotta tell you, though, we had soooo much fun. We went on hikes (yes, on flat ground), made s'mores, some went canoeing, and we took lots of pictures. My daughter and her cousin enjoy photography.  So they had fun taking some creative photographs on railroad tracks, abandoned boxcars, and some old shacks they found. They really impressed me with some of the photos they took.  My niece actually entered a photography contest with some of them and won several awards.

Some of my friends tease me that I love camping so much. I really love being out in nature. I love the night sky most of all.  We live in the city, so we don't get a nice open view of all the stars at home. One night one of the guys went to the store and purchased night sky lanterns for all the kids.  We had nine kids between all the families.  It was a little scary when after releasing one of the sky lanterns we noticed a hole on the side of it.  We were praying it would keep rising and not fall in the trees. Of course we had a lesson on the laws of physics, hot air being lighter than cold air and what makes the lanterns rise.  Well, thankfully all went well! The kids loved watching them rise together and separate in their soared in their own directions out of view.  The night sky was absolutely gorgeous.

Another reason I love camping is because the guys do everything! When we arrive at the campground, dad and the kids put the tents up.
Once the tent is up, I set up everything inside because I like to be organized and be able to find things easily. My son Noah is in charge of the fire and the husbands are in charge of the meals. Sometimes I wash the dishes, but this time the guys did that, too.  So it's really a vacation, especially from one of the things I like to do the least: cooking!  I also enjoy the little hikes we take through the trails. Samantha and I took several, just the two of us.  We talked about facts about animals we saw on the trails, like the alligators.  The week before we left her online science lessons online were on change in matter.  So every time she or I noticed a physical change in matter, we would point it out, like when my son was chopping wood, or when we made biscuits on a stick.
Noah chopping wood

Biscuits on a stick

Learning is just part of everyday life, isn't it?  I can't wait to go camping again!