Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Autism Service Dog

Over the past month, our family has been making a change that has had a profound impact on our 8yr old son.  We now have a service dog, Kiki. 

We found Kiki at a local animal shelter.  She is a German Shepherd/Pyrenees mix with a sweet personality.  She was 5 months old when we found her.  Our son has loved her from the beginning.

The day that we brought her home, we stopped at a PetsMart store to buy a few supplies for her.  She walked in on a leash with our son helping to hold her leash.  Typically, Little Man gets easily overwhelmed by stimuli at stores.  On this day, he was so focused on Kiki that he had no meltdowns or overstimulation issues.  What a huge improvement!

I began obedience training Kiki right away.  Her primary tasks are to 1) comfort Little Man to prevent meltdowns and 2) prevent him from running off.  Kiki had already learned to lay down when we stop walking in a store or other setting away from home.  By doing so, Little Man is unable to wander off.  I hold on to her leash while Little Man does as well.  We have a short leash that connects Little Man to Kiki's harness.  Once laying down, Kiki is too heavy for Little Man to move.  This is how she prevents him from wandering.

We took a trial run with Kiki at a grocery store yesterday.  She performed great.  She was very obedient and her presence made it possible for Little Man to walk through the store without any issues.  He stayed by her side and had no upset from the stimuli.

At home, we have already witnessed a difference in Little Man as well.  He is much calmer, having fewer meltdowns, and has become more vocal.  He is still nonverbal, but he is vocalising in his own way with greater frequency.  He has even begun to echo a word now and then. 

The training of Kiki is continuing daily. We know that it takes time to fully train a service dog.  I've trained dogs in the past, so am well versed in what needs to be taught.  I also know trainers that I can call upon if needed to help, should there be a need.

In the short time that Kiki has been in our home, she has made a profound difference in our son's life.  I am so excited for him and cannot wait to see what the future holds for him and Kiki.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Homeschool Preps

It's that time of year again.  Where did the summer vacation go? Seems it went by so fast this time.

I've been looking at the upcoming school term and planning out the curriculum for this year.  I also have been designing a bullet journal layout to use as a lesson planner.  I haven't decided on a layout yet, but am going with a weekly format.  To keep things simple, the kids' lessons will be color coded.  One color for Little Miss and a second color will be used for Little Man.

I am also starting a journal for our puppy's training.  This will help me track what the dog has learned as we go along. Later on, when we are working with a dog trainer, the trainer will be able to see the progress and better understand what is still needed.  The puppy is a 5 month old German Shepherd/Pyrenees mix.  She is going to be trained to be our son's service animal.  Kiki is already displaying a natural instinct to do the exact tasks that is needed for Little Man.  This is going to make the training all the easier as we go along.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Bullet Journaling

Well, thanks to author, Stacey Shannon, I have been bitten by the Bullet Journaling bug.  I have been playing around with various layouts that I found on Pinterest.  I love that I can finally custom design the layouts to fit my needs.  Store bought planners rarely meet the demands that I require.  They either have features that I don't use or lack ones that would be beneficial to me.

Bullet journals are basically an analog system for organizing your life.  You set the parameters and design the layouts in a way that makes sense to you.

Some people keep very basic pages while others get very artistic in decorating their pages.  It is totally up to what you find works for you.

Once I get my pages worked out, I plan to start posting them to share with others.

Have you tried bullet journaling? How did it work out for you?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Homestead Simplicity Has an Etsy Store

I am so excited to announce that I now have an Etsy store called Homestead Simplicity.  Currently, I have a few beaded items and will be adding more very soon.  This new venture is really important to me.  I am looking at ways to earn the money needed to get a dog to train to be our autistic son's service animal.  This will enable me to make and sell handmade items from home.

Here are a couple of the items listed so far.

Autism Awareness charm that can be used on a Vape Pen, cell phone, zipper pull, backpack, hang from a day planner, or placed onto a keyring.

Silver tone metal bookmark about 5 inches long.  The 4-leaf clover design was chosen after thinking about a friend who's children are in 4-H.

Another approximately 5 inches long metal, silver toned bookmark.  This one has a dainty angel charm on it with the word "faith" inscribed on the front.

I will be adding items as I get them made to add to the Etsy shop.  I am currently awaiting the supplies to make cancer survivor/awareness charms,   

Friday, April 8, 2016

They Grow Up Too Fast

Times are changing for our Little Miss. She is seeing the teenage years coming up on her horizons. It is interesting to watch. She has hit that “woman-child” stage in her life. A part of her still likes the fun little girl things. On the other hand, the young woman is showing signs of wanting to come to the forefront.

Lately, she has been telling me that she is ready to donate all of her toys, with the exception of a few special dolls and a couple of stuffed animals. The stuffed animals are 3-4 that her Daddy gave to her. She has two that she especially cuddles when she is missing her Daddy while he is gone on the truck.

Of her own accord, she is bagging up all of her other toys to donate to a thrift store that is run by a church's outreach program. I am leaving it completely up to her, what she keeps and what she gives away. She really hasn't played with the toys for quite some time now. It is good to see her choose to let others have them.

Our little girl now spends more time reading than playing. Like me, she loves to read and can devour a book in no time. We are going to be purchasing an “out of area” library card from the library near where Pookie gets his therapies in the city. That library system is much larger than the ones we have here. We go there nearly every week, either during lunch break between therapies or before heading home when the therapies are done for the day. We can check out up to 50 books at a time. The DVDs and CDs, just like the books, have a generous 2-week loan. This opens up a lot of possibilities for the kids. With homeschooling, we have always loved utilizing the library. We are a family who loves to read. Hubby even has been known to take audio books out on the truck with him so that he can listen as he drives.

At home, Little Miss is starting to want to learn more of the old handcrafts. She wants to crochet and do artistic activities. I love it. Encouraging creativity in kids helps them in their schooling as well as teaching them to think outside of the box. She is also spending more time wanting to help around the house and with me when I am cooking.

While it is a delight to see her grow and blossom, I look at her and a part of me is sad. My baby girl is starting to become a young lady. I am not sure that I am ready for that. I already have 3 children who are now adults. I also have 10 grandchildren, with another soon to be born. The years just seem to have flown by since they were all little. It happens way too soon.  

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Curriculum for Special Needs Children

One of the hardest parts of homeschooling a special needs child that has significant delays in their development is finding a curriculum.  When Pookie was first diagnosed as having Infantile Autism with significant delays, I began the search for a homeschool curriculum to fit his needs.  For three years, I searched online as well as calling nearly every curriculum publisher that I could to learn what they had available.  Even the larger companies that publish materials for the public schools were contacted.  I was gobsmacked that even these larger companies were telling me that they had nothing to offer.  Time and time again, it was suggested that I start at preschool level.  Problem was, Pookie lacked the fine motor skills for even that.  In addition to the Infantile Autism, he was diagnosed with Hypotonia, which means that he had no fine motor skills at all at that time,  He couldn't (and still cannot) hold a crayon or pencil to draw or color without someone hold his hand to keep the grip on the crayon.  He was unable to use scissors.  When you look at preschool activities, they typically require these skills for nearly every activity the child does.  When I mentioned the level of developmental delay, I was repeatedly told that there was nothing that the companies could suggest.

I began putting my own materials together, making hands-on activities that would be within his physical ability to do.  These supported the activities that the occupational therapist was working on at his sessions.  I still wanted something more.  I wanted a guide to use in teaching him that would not only address his needs, but would be a launchpad to learning.  Last year, I discovered a hidden gem.

Memoria Press is a well respected curriculum provider in the homeschool community.  They teach a true classical education that surpasses many of the options available to homeschool families.  I happened to receive one of their catalogs in the mail and inside found that they have a curriculum for special needs called, Simply Classical.  This curriculum is designed around a child's developmental age.  Beginning with Level A, for those who are in the 2-3 year age range, the child is taught the very basics in a gentle manner.  It is not overwhelming or requires skills that are above that age level.  The curriculum can also be used by homeschooling families who want to preschool their children at home.

The levels of Simply Classical are:
Level A for the 2-3 year old age range (developmental or physical age)
Level B for the 3-4 year old age range
Level C for the 4-5 year old age range
Level 1 for the 5-6 year old age range

Pookie is developmentally a 25 month old at this time.  This set him right at the Level A curriculum.  I was thrilled when I saw the resources that we received.

The materials in the package consisted of the lesson plan manual and all the books needed for the year.  Most of the books were board books, which Pookie loves.  They have bright colors and hold his interest.  The lesson plan takes only a short time each day.  Being at a 2 year old developmental age, Pookie doesn't do well with long drawn out school days.  Short and sweet always works best.

The real bonus for me was that on the Simply Classical webpage (link above) Memoria Press has include free PDF downloads of the skills developed using that particular program.  This is available for all the levels.  I was able to print out the skills list to give to Pookie's Occupational therapist, which she now can use in her session goals for him.  You can also find downloads of a sample lesson plan, supply list, and a readiness checklist.

In working with Pookie using this program, I have seen progress that we haven't made before,  Due to the nature of his disabilities, it is slow going, but we do see progress.  He has learned to use scissors and is slowly mastering the use of his hands for coloring.  He recognizes colors by name and his abilities in the area of visual discrimination have improved greatly.

It warms my heart to see him go to the book basket and choose a few of the books to just sit and look through.  This is another area that is a completely new development.  He is always eager to cuddle up on the couch beside me for the story times.  Gradually, his ability to do the curriculum in one sitting is increasing.  He seems to actually look forward to his "school time" each day.

Prior to finding Simply Classical, teaching Pookie was often a test of wills.  I wanted him to learn the skills and he fought it.  The gentle approach of Simply Classical opened the doors in ways that have been a huge blessing for our family.  Most especially for Pookie in giving him the desire to learn.  I am so grateful to have stumbled upon this wonderful resource.  It is my desire that others may learn of it and be blessed as well.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Power Outage Survival Basics

Weather can bring on a power outage at any time. Doesn't matter what time of year it is. From a winter ice storm to a severe thunderstorm, if you have electricity, you can expect the power to go out at least once a year. Depending on where you live, it can happen far more often. So, what do you do if the power is out for an extended time? You have 4 immediate concerns with a power outage: food/water supply, heat in winter months, cooking, and lighting.

Food Supply: If it is winter, put your perishables into plastic totes or similar containers and place them in your garage or other protected area near your home. If placed on a porch, make sure it is a shaded area so that the food can stay as cold as possible. If the temperatures are not quite cold enough, make sure the food items are in airtight containers and fill your tote with cold water. Allow the water to trickle into the tote. This will help prevent the water from freezing and will also keep a steady supply of icy water keeping the food cold. This method is similar to the old fashioned spring houses that people used for generations. The Old Order Amish in some areas still use this method. The cold water will keep the food very cold and prevent spoilage. The important thing is to make sure it is in a shaded area. Use your most temperature sensitive foods first, such as eggs, milk, and meat.

If the power outage happens in warm weather, use coolers with dry ice if possible. Dry ice is colder and lasts longer if you are not constantly opening the cooler up. If you don't have a cooler large enough, get two cardboard boxes, a produce box with lid and one a little smaller to fit inside with about a 2 inch gap around the sides. Place foam or a thick layer of blanket insulation in the bottom of the larger box. The smaller box goes inside. Put more foam or insulation around the sides between the two boxes. Place dry ice in the bottom of the smaller box, cover it with a sheet of thin cardboard, then place your food items on top. If using fiberglass insulation, cut a piece to fit like a lid on the box. Place it inside a plastic trash bag so it will not come into contact with the food items. Place it on top of the box, then add the produce box lid. This will keep your food cold for several days.

It is always a good idea to have a couple of cases of bottled water on hand in your pantry or garage for emergencies. Rotate the supply to keep it as fresh as possible. If you don't have bottled water, and your water supply is still safe, fill up containers with water right away. You never know what will happen over a period of time. In winter, the pipes can freeze and leave you without water.

Heat in the winter can be tricky. If your home only has electric heat, then get a back-up heat source before you need it. Too often, people will use a charcoal grill or similar method for heat in desperation, only to die from the lack of ventilation. We have 3 heat sources for our home. A propane heater, a kerosene heater, and the wood stoves. Each has their benefits and drawbacks. Propane is nice but without the blower, which requires electricity, the heater is not as efficient. Kerosene stoves are great. You can put them anywhere and they put out a lot of heat. You do need a good supply of kerosene on hand though if they are used long term. My favorite heat source is the wood stove. We have a functioning, antique wood cookstove in the kitchen and a boxwood stove in the front room. I am able to heat the front rooms with only the boxwood stove. An advantage to both of these stoves is that not only do they provide heat, but I am able to cook on them as well. This leads me into the next area, cooking.

Cooking without electricity can be a problem for many. The two primary types of stoves used in kitchens today in our country are electric and gas. The problem with an electric stove is obvious. No electricity means no cooking. The gas stoves are a bit surprising to many. Because of regulations in the industry now, most newer gas stoves have an electric ignition that requires electricity. Some are not even able to be lit using a match. It is a safety design that prevents the gas from leaking, from what I have been told at an appliance store. When we bought our gas stove, we had to special order one from Lowes that has a battery operated ignition. This is also one reason why I love my wood stoves. Because I can cook on either one, I am able to not only prepare meals while heating the home, I am conserving fuel in case we are unable to buy more right away. It is also reliable. I always have firewood on hand, so there is never an issue of going without. If I run out of firewood for some reason, we live on enough acreage that I can always go into the woods and forage for downed branches that I can cut up. I also keep the supplies for making fire starters on hand. Here is how I make a really simple one that lasts long enough to light your kindling.

Materials: cotton balls and petroleum jelly

Take a cotton ball and coat it, completely saturating it, with petroleum jelly. It should be so coated that you cannot work any more of the petroleum jelly into the cotton ball. You only need one or two in order to light the kindling. They light quickly and it takes time to burn all the petroleum jelly out of the cotton balls.

If you have a BBQ grill that you can set up outdoors, that is another cooking resource, though it make take longer in winter. One other option is to use a rocket stove. I haven't used one very often, but a YouTube search will provide a lot of different styles. I made mine using cinder blocks that we had on hand. The fire provided more than enough heat to cook a meal.. I was even able to do some waterbath canning using the rocket stove. A benefit with a rocket stove is that you don't need a lot of wood to use the stove.

Lighting is the last area that I will address for now. We have used oil lamps as our light source longer than we have been off-grid. It has always been our preferred method. It provides more light than a candle. It is also less costly than candles. We started off using the quart size bottles of lamp oil. Since then, we have found a resource for kerosene at a fuel station. We are able to buy kerosene for $5.29 per gallon at the fuel pump. A quart of lamp oil costs $4.00 per bottle, which means we would be paying $16.00 per gallon for the lamp oil.

Another light source we have used was the camp lanterns. These are very bright and actually are comparable to electric lighting. The problem we had was that you either have to stock up on a lot of the small, one use, propane tanks or have a supply of the cans of lantern fuel on hand. It got costly very quickly for long term use, but in an emergency situation, would probably work out fine. One caution that I would give is that if you buy a dual-fuel lantern, use only the lantern fuel in it. They are also supposed to be able to use gasoline, but when we did, the regulator went out in the lantern rather quickly. From those I spoke to, if you use only the lantern fuel, the regulator lasts along time.

For our kids, we wanted a safe lighting option. We have found that the mini, battery operated, camp lanterns sold at Walmart works great. They are LED lights with 2-settings. The lanterns use 3 AA batteries, which last quite a while under normal use.

I hope that this helps to give ideas on how to manage power outages. There are likely many more tips that people can offer, but I wanted to limit it to the ones we have actually used ourselves.