The school year is upon me! We don’t stop schoolin’ in the summer. As unschoolers we neither stop nor start the whole “formal learning” gig, but keep about the same non-pace throughout the year. However, when the conventional schools are in session, I try to get a little more nudge-schooly in my approach. I like the kids to do something measurably academic each day, and if they don’t do so themselves I nudge them into it. Hence, nudgeschooling.

I’m definitely going with Teaching Textbooks for Faith’s math. She wants to stay at grade level for math and not fall behind her friends who are schooled, and she really enjoyed the website preview for Math 4. When we can afford it we’ll be getting it, probably early October.

Abby liked it as well, but she’s a little behind Faith in math. She likes Miquon and hasn’t yet finished the whole set of books so that’s probably going to be her thing this year.

Everyone else will just tag along and do what they do with no formal plan. We’re still working through the Sonlight Core 1+2 we started in February, so I’ll pick back up with that. We all love it since it’s reading together and discussing stuff as a family. I kind of forget it’s “school”, frankly! It feels like we’re cheating. Abby’s favorite thing to do for dinner conversation is “Let’s everyone tell about the book they’re reading, and why you like it.” Love me some Sonlight.

Bede has been wearing clothes (!!) I’m still processing. I told Tabitha now he won’t be the weird naked kid, he’ll be the weird kid who wears men’s trousers belted and rolled up at the cuffs. An improvement!

midsummer, math musings

I love midsummer. The cicadas are crooning in their robotic way, the air is viscous with heat, the days are long.

I don’t like my electric bill, which was obscenely high. I mean, it was bad. I have not been as good about hanging laundry as I could be – mostly days where it “looked cloudy” – but even accounting for that it was awful. I’ve renewed my dedication to not using the dryer and we’ll see if August’s bill is less than July’s. Dude.

In other news I’ve been geeking out over Doctor Who, listening to indie rock, and planning our school year. I’m leaning toward Teaching Textbooks for math since it’s self-taught and on the computer, both things Faith and Abby appreciate. It is a bit pricey though.

We’ve become sort of Charlotte Mason unschoolers. I coined the term “nudgeschooling” and it seems to fit. As always, it’s a journey.

How are you?

cookie coma

Bede asked me to bake cookies yesterday, so that’s what we did today. He asked me by placing a storebought cookie on a baking sheet and declaring “make cookies HOT!”

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (Large Family Edition)
Makes About 100 Cookies

4 sticks butter, room temp
4 eggs, room temp
3 cups brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 cups all-purpose flour
6 cups oatmeal
1 package chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Mix butter and sugar, then eggs and vanilla. Add flour and baking soda, mix well. Add cinnamon and oatmeal, oatmeal in two parts. Rest your hands from all the stirring to make sure the cookie sheets are clean cause at my house they never are, they’re on the stove still dirty from the garlic toast. Finally, add the chocolate chips. Drop rounded spoonfuls on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 9 minutes. They’ll be lovely and flat and chewy with crispy edges. Then eat so many you pass out.

They taste the best if you have a little autistic boy capering about chortling and saying “cookies HOT! ee hee hee hee hmmhnn!” but I understand that may not be possible, pity.

What was that book…?

I read the What was that book? community at Livejournal. Anyone can post what they remember of a book they can’t remember the title of, and anyone can post what book they think it is. It’s the sort of thing the Internet excells at, you know? There’s an unspoken informal competition going on to be the first to correctly identify a book*, and I’ve had several where I knew the book instantly but was not the first to post, consarn it.

But today I got my first FOUND!

Yay me!

It’s the little things that make a day, you know.

*Having worked in a bookstore really gives one an edge, but mine is dulled by the intervening years – I haven’t kept up with genres I don’t habitually read.

a few new things

I’ve started a new blog for our homeschool stuff. It’s at and you’re welcome to wander by, but it’s mostly notes for me. I was inspired by Melissa Wiley’s Bonny Glen Up Close.

Also, I debated whether or not to add a political allegiance button to the blog and as you can see, decided yes, I would. I hope my more liberal friends remain with me, and I promise I won’t blog about politics!

I think that’s all for now.

power low, then out, then back

Our circuit breaker box made a loud fzt! sound yesterday afternoon and our stove stopped working. And our air conditioner and clothes dryer and hot water heater, but we didn’t really notice them til this morning. After flipping all the appropriate switches and scratching his head and squinting manfully at the fuse box, Sean called an electrician we’ve used before, TJ.

TJ showed up a few hours later with fresh bakery danishes from Ingrid’s Kitchen, now that is the kind of electrician I like to have, I tell you what. “Figured you guys would enjoy these so I picked some up, what will all these little ones running around” he said. He and Sean went to examine the fuse box some more.

Turns out it wasn’t the fuse box, it was the cable leading from the electric meter to the house. Both men were outside when I heard the fzzt! again and then “Wow!” and “Good Lord, look at that!” I wandered over to see as well and was told that it emitted many sparks and much smoke (it still smelled acrid) and was basically completely burned up and frankly it was a wonder that we weren’t dead. Well, ok, nobody said that last part, but I was thinking it. But the electrician said it was OG+E’s box so they’d fix it, and he left.

When OG+E came, they too were impressed with the level of destruction inside the box, so much so in fact that they said we had to have all the power shut off. And furthermore they couldn’t fix it, it wasn’t their wire, call an electrician. Bede was completely freaked out by the power outage. He asked me every question he could think of in an effort to get things back to normal. “Want see fix it your Dell computer? Want see fix it the television? Want see Daddy come fix it lights?” and so on, until he was reduced to a puddle of boy in my lap, sobbing pitifully. It was awful.

So Sean went off to the hardware store to get what he could to try to fix it himself. On his way out the door he ran into our friend Chet and his son Aden, here to pick up milk for baby Emma, and Chet insisted that Sean take his cell phone so we would have a phone to use. I have awesome friends. Sean came home and was squinting manfully some more when the OG+E guy came back to give us a part they supply for free. Sean got him to come look at what he was doing and he stayed for two hours helping! Sean tried to pay him and he flat out refused. Wow. My mother was also heroic at this time, showing up with a package of cookies and many extra flashlights and batteries. With this many kids one or two flashlights is not going to do it, you know?

The wiring done, Sean called OG+E to get them to turn us back on. The guy who helped said they’d be quick, and we’d be back on tonight! Yay! So the turn-it-back-on OG+E guy comes and the final round of squinting is done, this time tinged with suspicion.

“I cain’t turn it back on if it ain’t been inspected by the City,” he said.

Sean pleaded, “But… but… we… but!” and finally TIBO OG+E guy relented.

“Well, if you promise to get it inspected in five days or less, I reckon I can turn it on tonight.”

Sean assured him we would and then… drumroll please… POWER!

Air conditioning has never felt so good.

Sound bite

Everything is Trixie’s. “Hey! At’s MINE dolly!” “Hey! At’s MINE chair!” And my personal favorite, when she sees another kid in my lap if she has recently vacated it, “Hey! At’s MINE holdyou!”

Gloria is commando crawling everywhere. And very interested in food.

Gilbert is reading, thank you Starfall.

Faith is very indecisive about her Halloween costume and has become interested in costume design.

Abby is writing adventure stories, mostly fantasy, and some poetry.

Bede is watching old television station IDs and movie studio IDs on YouTube. Like this, I mean. For hours.

And that brings you to now.

Scarves for Special Olympians!

Coats and Clark is trying to get enough scarves for every Special Olympian in the 2009 Winter Games, and you can help! The scarves can be any design, knit or crochet, but must be in delft blue (885) and white (311) Red Heart Super Saver yarn. More information can be found at the Coats and Clark website.

I think we can manage at least one, with three knitters in the house – Abby learned too!

place value update!

First of all, thanks for all the comments on that. It was great to get everyone’s different ideas and tips.

Here’s what we did.

I printed out the graph paper I mentioned in the first post. I cut out ten single squares, ten ten-square strips and ten hundred-square squares. After I put bandages on my blistered hands (ha ha, it was a lot of cutting!) I sat down with Abby the next morning, equipped with my bits of paper and a Magna Doodle.

She was intrigued and got it almost immediately. We counted ten single squares and lay them down on the ten strip. She saw that it was indeed ten ones long. Then we lay ten ten strips on the hundred square, showing that it was equivalent to ten tens. Then I said “How many do I have?” and lay down 3 tens and 4 ones. “Thirty-four!” came the cry. I wrote 3 over the word tens and 4 over the word ones and lay the papers under the words. I asked “How many tens do I have? How many ones?”

I swear you could see the lightbulb appear over her head.

It was nothing then to extend it to hundreds as well, and we played with them for a few minutes more before she lit off with a gleam in her eyes, paper in her fists and headed for the markers.

So that’s that!

unschooling, graph paper and place value

As most regular readers of this blog know, I am an unschooler. I think children learn best when allowed to follow their interests. I still feel that way – completely – yet I am asking the girls to do enough math drill daily so that they stay approximately at grade level. It ends up being about ten or fifteen minutes a day. They don’t mind it, and have asked for their “school math” before too.

It’s not that I think they wouldn’t learn it on their own given time. I do think that. But I worry that some Family Court judge wouldn’t feel that way, and the more weird things you have going for you the worse it gets. And I’m pretty weird, I reckon. I know I’m paranoid, but we’ve had an unfounded run-in with CPS before and I know what they ask. Is it legal for them to ask my kids “What’s thirty four minus twelve?” No, it is not. Will that fact keep my kids from foster care if some social worker determines on the fly that they are educationally neglected? No, it will not. Hence the math drill. I also want them to be able to enter school at grade level if they ever had to because of some family crisis.

Everywhere else they stay on grade level. We have subscriptions to Ranger Rick and National Geographic Kids; both magazines are devoured the moment they hit the mailbox. They read whatever they want in the kid fiction department, and read Newberry books or quality nonfiction with Sean at night. We have a subscription to Brain Pop as well, which has hundreds of short videos on every topic you can imagine. They write and draw stories and type on the computer constantly. So they stay in the ballpark (schoolyard?) for everything but mathematics. I know they’d get it on their own if I gave them time. I freely admit that this is all me.

I have officially outed myself as an incomplete unschooler! But not really, do you see? If there was no external timeline I wouldn’t be doing this. It’s all fear based, and I’m okay with that. I hope my unschooler friends don’t hate me now. I know the ones who are really my friends will understand.

So after all that, my point. Ahem.

Abby is having a tough time with place value right now. I just printed out some graph paper to see if that will help, to see that ten ones make ten, and ten tens make one hundred, etc. I looked into buying some Cuisenaire rods but they just look like expensive choking hazards, frankly. Lakeshore Learning has some cute little manipulatives that are the same way.

So what have you done to help your kids “get” place value? That didn’t involve teeny killer plastic or wooden bits, I mean.

vaccines do not cause autism. autism causes autism.

I am 100% sure that Bede’s autism was not caused by vaccines. Because he hasn’t had any. I don’t think vaccines cause autism. I could believe that they make autistic-like symptoms appear in kids who have underlying metabolic problems, but I don’t think that happens very often. I think that vaccines in this country (the US) are ridiculously overwhelming to young bodies. I’m not stopping to look it up, but I have read that Japan has a later start to immunizations and does fewer than we do. Sounds good.

I myself was vaccinated. I was born in 1974 and I received injections for tetanus, diptheria and pertussis, measles, mumps and rubella, and was given an oral polio vaccine. That’s it.

I’m trying to find a doctor who is willing to work with me on getting those vaccines for my kids – although I do want even less than that. I’d like to go with the Td shot – just tetanus and diptheria – because the pertussis vaccine isn’t particularly effective and is pretty toxic.

I’m okay with the vaccine for measles and mumps, but the rubella is a no-go because it’s derived from human fetal cells, which translates to “made from an aborted baby.” So those need to be given separately instead of as the MMR.

The oral polio vaccine is no longer used in this country because it causes polio, so they’d be getting the injected polio vax – which is sometimes made from human fetal cells and sometimes not. If I can find the one that is not they’ll get that (it’s Sanofi Pasteur’s IPOL.)

I’m kind of tired of reading these angst-ridden posts on message boards that say “I vaccinated my child! She’s autistic! It’s all my fault!” I want to say NO! Vaccines do not cause autism. No studies have EVER shown a link between vaccines and autism. EVER. If you really want to think it’s your “fault,” blame your genes in the sense that they’re your genes that made the kid and her genes made her autistic. But really, that’s silly.

As far as autistic kids seeming to respond to biomedical interventions to reduce the toxins in their bodies by becoming less autistic, well, I’m not convinced. Bede has had no interventions. He has constant access to a computer and to his two loving parents (especially his mother) and to his five siblings. ANd you know what? He’s talking more, playing with us more, learning and growing. If he had been taking supplements they’d get the credit. But it’s just time and life.

And it’s a pretty good life, at that.


spectrum sibling

Faith is so wonderful. As I type, Bede is laying on top of her legs while she lies on her stomach (she is trying to watch TV) and he says “Dah B says…?” and Faith replies “The B says buh!” and so on (now they are up to S.)

She could be shoving him off. She could be ignoring him. She could be complaining to me. But no, she is smiling and happy because she loves her strange little brother.

laptop for Bede – done! 2go pc ftw!

Last week I mentioned that I’d be buying Bede a laptop with his SSI back pay money. I was leaning towards the ASUS eee, but instead I went with the 2go PC, the second generation of the Intel Classmate. It’s designed especially for kids to use and abuse (it can withstand a 6-foot [1.8m] drop, for one thing) and it looks like just what we need. The eee seemed too flimsy for the likes of a 5 year old autistic boy who likes to balance things on his feet while he lies on his back.

Laptopmag’s blog has a pretty good review of it, with a video to show how small it is. It’s about the size of a trade paperback and weighs less than 3 pounds, and it gets around 3 hours of use per charge.

I’m very excited.

the week in review

So let’s see here.

Gloria rolled over several times and looks like a little airplane on her belly. She holds up her arms and her legs with just her tummy touching the floor and just looks so pleased with herself.

I got approved to use Bede’s SSI back pay to purchase his laptop. This is a big deal because the back pay can only be used for medical and therapeutic costs, so I had to demonstrate that he needed it, not just that he wanted it. Now I get to shop in earnest, as the money should be in his account later this week. ANyone have any recommendations? I’m looking at the ASUS Eee because it is small, lightweight and fairly shockproof, but I want to wait to buy the 9 inch screen, I think, so Bede won’t have to scroll as much. If I buy that one I’ll buy two of them so if one gets crushed I’ll have the other. Hell, maybe I should buy 3. It’s like buying him a voice, after all, and three of them cost as much as one midrange Dell. Hmm.

Faith is thrilled with your comments! I’ll post a detailed version of how to make your own screencaps for kids later. SHort version is, get the screen to look like you want to modify and press the Print Screen key on the keyboard. Open Paint and choose Edit – Paste. Use the select tool to pick the area you want to modify. Choose Edit – Copy. Open a new instance of Paint (i.e., open Paint again.)  Then choose Edit – Paste again in your new Paint and go to town. If you mess up more than Undo can help you, go back to the first Paint you opened and select the part you want to edit again.

And now I have tarried long enough.

Package Mapping

I just ordered some stuff from Dharma Trading and I was wondering where it was. So I checked the email they sent me when it shipped, logged in to the UPS website and saw it was last seen in San Pablo CA. I wondered where that was, and then had an idea: what if I could track the package on a map?

This being the internet and all, of course someone has already thought of that, and here they are. Yay, internets! The kids ask me all the time where things are on their way to us, I can’t believe I didn’t think of this sooner…


Thinking of getting one of these for Bede when his SSI payment comes in. It gets great reviews. He uses the computer to communicate more and more and it would be great to have something portable for him that’s his. We have a laptop but it’s quite fragile, and the ASUS is marketed as shock proof.


I also like the name. Bede warbles and hums as he runs about in the house, and that sounds like him: “Asus! EEE!”

A math problem

I got this in an email:

This is great…

This is a 5th grade math problem. If you can’t stand word math problems,
Just delete now. If you can open the spreadsheet, you’ll see it’s a very
Small list of people who have gotten the correct number. THIS IS NOT A
This is a real math problem so don’t say that a bus has no legs.
The bus driver is not part of the equation.

There are 7 girls in a bus.
Each girl has 7 backpacks.
In each backpack, there are 7 big cats.
For every big cat, there are 7 little cats.


The number of legs is the password to unlock the Excel sheet.
If you open it, add your name and send it on to see who else can unlock it.

Good Luck! It Works.

I’m not an Excel user, so I had to download Microsoft’s Excel Viewer thingy. I got the correct answer, but I don’t like email forwards (tho this one is clever.) But I did enjoy it – and I got it right.

So, here’s my plan: If you think you know the correct answer, enter it as the password here and leave a comment.

Meow! Get to it!

a summation

Boy it’s been busy here. Not in the accomplishing big things sort of way, but in the constantly putting out small fires way. Whew.

In the last few days, Trixie turned 2. What an amazing thing that is. She’s so cute. If you haven’t read the story of her very exciting entrance into the world two years ago, please go read it. It’s entirely un-squicky too, no blood, I promise. She’ll be fêted properly on Friday, when she, my father (March 1) and I (March 2) will have a big ol Leap Day Birthdays Party. Whee!

Bede has been Mr. Sensory Seeker for the last week or so, which usually indicates that he’ll be making a huge leap in language, and he did. He correctly filled out some of the ‘tests’ in this book (like this one, only more complex) totally on his own. I had given him the book and said “Here! Fun! Words!” but no directions. He read the directions and filled out the tests, which I only discovered when I looked at it later. Wow.

Faith has been keeping a journal, which she let me read yesterday. I don’t know what I was expecting but it says things like “Today I held Gloria and she smiled at me! With Joy! She is so soft and I love her so much!” I’m still cleaning the spot where I melted right into the floor. Sigh.

Gilbert is marginally less whine-prone, for which we all are grateful. He enjoins us throughout the day to play fairy-tale games with him, mostly Jack and the Beanstalk and The Tortoise and the Hare. Mostly that means running around and pretending to sleep, for either tale. I’m usually the Giant or the Tortoise.

Abby has been on a crafting binge and has been writing how-to books. When she finishes I’ll transcribe them so you can learn from her technique. Topics include making tissue paper flowers, various peanut butter based treats, and sock dolls.

Someone with improper security clearance is in the bathroom. I must fly!

Unschooling and the Gleesons

We are unschoolers – that is, we have no formal curriculum or planned guidelines to what the children learn and when they learn it. I have some friends who have expressed interest in ‘how we do it,’ and while I don’t really have time today to write it all out, I can at least give you some sites to explore. Mostly we just live our lives and when we get interested in something we find out more about it.

Unschooling in general:

Learner-led academics highly kid-approved:

  • – Free. Complete learn to read lessons, from letter recognition to fluent reading.
  • BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr – Subscription. Short cartoons on almost any subject. We only subscribe to Jr now, but we’ll get the full version in a few years.
  • Cyberchase – Free. Companion to the PBS show and a great math ‘numeracy’ site.

Books we use frequently:

  • World Book Childcraft – we have a complete set of these that Sean and the girls read from daily. Ours are an older edition (1980, I think) and came from a thrift store (thanks Uncle Troy!) I recommend eBay if you don’t feel like dropping $350 on a new set.
  • John Holt books – these are for the grown-ups.

And finally, online and local support groups. To find one local to you, try searching on Yahoo! Groups for “unschooling YourStateName” (if that doesn’t get you any initial hits, try “homeschooling YourStateName”) and ask on those lists for other unschooling groups the members like.

  • FYI-OKC – our local Oklahoma City unschoolers group. Love.
  • Always Unschooled – national unschooling list. I don’t read this one anymore, but it’s a great place to start.

I’ve kept the computer long enough. I’ll try to flesh out this skeletal list later.

jump start book, chocolate pretzels

We are participating in the MDC Holiday Helper this year, and Bede is enjoying one of the anonymous gifts we received (because he saw me open it and glomped on it immediately, silly me!)

It’s a preK phonics workbook, and he looks so cute sitting at the table doing all the little activities. He’s gotten much better at following instructions lately, and if I demonstrate the first one, he grins and happily imitates, then looks at me as he finishes each one.

Thank you, Holiday Helper! One happy little hyperlexic boy here!

Today Faith and Abby made the easiest chocolate treats, as follows: one Hershey’s Kiss atop one pretzel. Bake at 350 for 3 minutes. Place m&m atop both, squish.

It might be even better with another pretzel instead of an m&m. And I just remembered that Faith used to call pretzels pencils. Ha!

Floortime, all the time

This is a post for my favorite special needs support forum, to answer the question “How much Floortime do you do with your autistic child?”

Our day looks something like this:

  • 8AM: Wake up, usually by Bede crawling into bed with me.
  • 8AM-8:20: Bede and I Floortime play in the bedroom together while the other kids eat breakfast with Sean.
  • 8:20-9AM: Bede and I make our way downstairs to join the others and eat.
  • 9AM-12PM: Sean works upstairs in his office and I do householdy chores like dishes and laundry while playing with the kids, checking my email, etc. Sometime in there is…
  • 10AM-10:20: More Floortime with Bede.
  • 12PM-1PM: If Sean isn’t teaching an afternoon class, he comes downstairs and fixes lunch for everyone.
  • 1PM-5PM: Trixie and sometimes Gilbert nap for an hour or more. If the big girls are gone (on Wednesdays) I play with just the littles, and have 2 Floortime sessions with Bede. Also do more household stuff.
  • 5PM-7PM: Dinner is planned, cooked and eaten.
  • 7PM-10PM: Children are bathed as needed, if I’m lucky I might get to watch some PBS or knit for a while. Bedtime is at 10 or so. Bede loves bathtime Floortime, and we do that.
  • 10PM-11PM: Winding Bede and Trixie down – they are the real night owls – and 20 minutes more of Floortime where we usually play on a free font site or wander through Google Images.
  • 11PM-??: I attempt to stay awake. Hardly ever happens.

So we end up with something like 2-3 hours of focused Floortime every day, and lots of smaller Floortime-style interactions throughout the day. It works really well with our ‘lifestyle’ such as it is.