Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Skunk Movies


 How Fynn taught me to teach him how to read

A few years ago grandpa gave Fynn an old drum machine. It has 100 preset beats on it. Fynn also has a skunk puppet that he's loved for years. Fynn used to turn on a beat, and dance around real silly like with th' skunk- he was totally stimming out, laughing hysterically th' whole time. Then he decided i needed to put on th' skunk puppet while he flopped around up in his bunk bed laughing hysterically. He calls it th' Skunk Movies. Often i thought, i'm encouraging his stimming. But it seemed to be harmless, and truth be told it was fun. Gave me a reason to dance around and be silly without feeling self-conscious about it. Like something you'd do when you're in th' house all by yourself and you know no one is looking. But that isn't all, part of what i had to do was make up a story for th' skunk to tell, and i had to rap it in time with th' beat. We did this every night for i don't know how long. Then one night fynn surprised me. 

We've been homeschooling fynn since he was born. (What parent hasn't been?) For th' past few years fynn has been really into numbers. Numbers were his friends. He found a large 5 at hobby lobby one time and bought it with his allowance. That five became his friend. He played with it like other kids played with stuffed animals or dolls. He'd have conversations with 5, he'd go to 5's house. 5 would talk to his other friends, and to us. Anyway, he's always been comfortable with math, and numbers, but he's always been resistant to reading. We've really been feeling like it's time for him to learn how to read lately, and have been talking to him about all th' wonderful things he can do when he knows how to read, but we've sorta been at a loss as to how to actually go about teaching him how to read. But then two things came to us, one was our idea, and one was his. 

Our idea: he watches videos on youtube. So we had him start typing in th' names of th' shows he wants to watch, or th' keywords of shows he wants to look up. We tell him how to spell them, all he does is type them in. Often times he remembers and types them in without our help. Sometimes he won't type them, so we just do it for him. No big deal, he's learning with every word he types, and we really want to go at his own pace. But his idea was a lot more fun. 

So one night we get all set up for a skunk movie, lights turned off (because skunks are nocturnal), beat goin, me tryin to get into th' groove of th' beat, when fynn says, "ok skunk, teach me somethin new!" Yes! i think to myself. Ok, th' skunk says to fynn, S-K-U-N-K skunk, S-K-U-N-K skunk, repeat after me,... and he does, thinking it is so funny of course. That night we kept it real simple, spelling skunk, stunk, trunk, junk, and kerplunk, which he thought was th' funniest of all. And of course we still had to make up a story- I am a skunk and i really stunk, i live in a hollow trunk and i don't collect junk, when i jump into th' water i go kerplunk! 

Th' next night we learned th' word movie. S-K-U-N-K skunk, M-O-V-I-E movie. Then we changed th' U to I on a few words. Skink, Stink, drink, think. Fynn asked me if skink was a real word. I told him yes, it's a type of lizard. So th' next day we got on the internet and looked up skinks, and learned a bit about them. Fynn really likes reptiles, amphibians, and nocturnal creatures, so that was of great interest to him. 

We've been doing this for a while now, just taking it slow, keeping it silly and fun. And i want to tell you, it's not a miraculous leap in learning, just one step at a time, at his own pace. But he likes it, and it was his decision to learn. The other day, he got on th' computer and typed a paragraph about snakes. All by himself. 

So, while other six year olds are already reading, i'm not worried about fynn, he's learning, and i know he's brilliant and will get there when he's ready. Besides, he's really good at other things high schoolers can't even do, and why do we all have to learn th' same things at th' same time anyway?
And one other thing this showed me clearly. When you join in your autistic loved ones stims, amazing things can happen. Just try it and see.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Experimental Art!

 I've recently started a nanny-ing job, and I get to take the kids with me.  We usually do a lot of fun crafts at home together anyway, but now I've been experimenting with even more crafts & home-made art supplies to make sure there will be plenty of fun to have with the other kids as well.  That means my kids get to experiment with me, so you can imagine the super-fun mess we've been making! Our kitchen is now completely taken over by science and art experiments! Here are just a few of the experiments we're starting out with:

 The first project we experimented with was homemade sidewalk chalk ~just water, tempera paint, and plaster of paris in a yogurt cup!

  They were so excited to try them out.  They work great and we love them more than the store bought kind!

I just put a little water in a cup, then squirted in the paint and the kids stirred it up real good.  Then I spooned in the plaster and had them stir it again. When it sets, just pop it out of the cup to let it dry the rest of the way. (Could take a few sunny hot days do dry completely) And that's it!

Here, we're making another batch to take to our friend's birthday party.  We threw in some glitter this time!

A lot of paint is the trick to get brighter colors, because when it dries, it always turns whiter than it was when wet.  But the more paint you use, the longer it will take to dry.

 Rowan and I tried to make paint with corn starch.  It was very interesting. We put it in the freezer then took it out and let it melt on the patio.  This is what happened.  Hmmm what could we do with this in the future?

Later on it dried into a pretty green powder.  Maybe could use as colored "sand" bottle art? Any ideas?  By the way, if you want to make a pretty green like this, use a lot of yellow and only a little bit of green (food coloring).  It really makes the difference.

Rowan and I decided to experiment with rain pictures.  We colored with markers on paper, then put them out in the rain. We left them out a little long, though, 'cause when we came back to get them, they were completely blank!

 For our next experiment we made 2 really awesome paints that we will certainly make again and again:  Salt Watercolor Paint and Cocoa Paint!

Both these paints were super easy to make.  Just put the water on to boil.  For the salt paint, just fill the bottoms of 6 muffin tin wells.  Add desired food coloring to each (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple).  Add hot water, and stir.  Salt paint makes a beautiful sparkly textured wash.

For the cocoa paint, just fill the well with a couple teaspoons cocoa powder, stir in the hot water.  Chocolatey smelling paint with a smooth texture! We loved it!

Fynn made this Plesiosaur with cocoa paint, swimming in a salty blue ocean.

And he also made these sunset beautiful sunset clouds.  Really, they wanted to eat this paint as much as paint with it.  My kids love to taste salt, and be like whales, as you'll read in another post.

This one is more of a science exploration than an art project ~ a Dino Dig with "moon sand".  They both absolutely loved this one too.

"Moon sand" is similar to "cloud dough" which is basically 8 parts flour to one part vegetable oil with some essential oil, and I threw in a pinch of glitter to give a little extra texture and sandy sparkle.  We could've used real sand, but didn't have any available, and "moon sand" feels so soft and nice, it's a great sensory experience.  It looks and feels like soft, moist, white sand, and is just as moldable.

I just put some rocks, shells, fossils, and toy dinos we had around the house into a salad tub and buried them with the moon sand.  Gave the kids shovels (plastic spoons) and rakes (forks) and brushes to clean off the fossils with.  They just wanted to do it over and over!

Next came the flour paint. That turned out awesome!  It made vibrant colors, almost the consistency of "regular" paint, except for being a little grainy and watery, but not enough to be a problem.
We just put a little water in 6 cupcake tin wells (not a lot), and stirred in our food coloring.  Then added about 3 spoons of flour to each and stirred that in.  It helped to fill some extra wells with water for brush cleaning.

They were super-fun to paint with, and the finished product was beautiful!  It did make the paper crinkly, but texture is a good thing too... when you're exploring the world with curious little ones!

Notice Rowan's face.  If they know something's edible, they want to just taste every color and have a hard time focusing on painting!
Fynn's finished flour painting. (above)
And Rowan's finished flour painting. (above)

More to come!