Thursday, January 28, 2016

Opportunity is Knocking....


     So why is it, as homes school Moms, we wait until opportunity knocks to explore our shortcomings?  We all do it, there isn't one of us who can deny it.  That's where we're at here at "Aspie on the Corner" this morning.  I was approached with an unbelievably outstanding offer to help catapult Bug to a new level of where he wants to go in life and all that's weighing heavy on my mind is the things that I wanted him to know before he came into opportunities like this one.

     Let me explain a bit, Bug has wanted to be a chef for a long while now, and where becoming a chef is concerned he's done some pretty great things.  But in our house, we tend to run before walking, so while Bug is amazing at planning menus and putting together food combinations, he lacks basic culinary vocabulary, he lacks basic culinary skills, and most of all - in true Aspie fashion - Bug lacks focus in the kitchen.

     In Bug's eyes he's right up there with Gordon Ramsay and the whole cast of food Network and should immediately be signed on the the next airing season of Master Chef Junior - what Bug lacks to see is his lack of culinary vocabulary, the fact that he can barely follow a recipe, let along have the focus and follow through to plan and execute in a 45 minute (or less!) time period, or the fact that he's not quite sure about boiling water or using the stove independently yet.

     As a home schooling, special needs Mom you start to walk a fine line here.  You know you have to build up the basic foundation of their interest and passion so that it becomes a viable skill for them, you know you have to present that foundation in fun an innovative ways to hold that lack of focus and bay, and you know that you have to do it all while making them feel like adults and not children. You have to let him think he's ready for Master Chef Junior while your preparing him for the Culinary Technical School.

     It's a fine line to walk - Momma's - no lie!  In my case, I'm a little bit lucky, cooking and baking have always been things I love to do.  So Bug's interest in cooking plays off of my own hobbies.  That said, realistically speaking, baking and cooking with a strong willed child who thinks he's Gordon Ramsay is - well - beyond challenging.  So what's a Mom to do?  I'm going to share a few tips today that I use around here in conjunction with our culinary goals, however, keep in mind that with a little imagination and a few tweaks, these tips can be used for any passion your child might have.  Here goes:


  1. Read, read, read.  Doesn't matter how much you know about your child's passion, you can always learn something new and interesting, and that new thing you learn, could be just what happens to spark your child's creativity.
  2. The internet is your best friend. Understandably you can't trust everything you read on the internet, but just view it as a tool to gain insight into your child's passions.  Professional forums, articles, news sites, YouTube, whatever it takes, materials are out there if you search for them.
  3. Pull in the TV - screen time can be beneficial.  I'm not a huge supporter of screen time.  We watch more TV in my house than any other form of technology.   However, in defense of this, many times when we tune in it's an educational type show, a cooking show, or a tv show that was popular in the early 80's when hubby and I are kids.  With proper moderation, television can give you a peek into places where it would be impossible to physically go.
  4. Ask questions. My Gram used to have a favorite saying - "you'll never know until you ask." and it went hand in hand with her other favorite saying - "the worst they can do is say no".  And Gram's words really are true.  Ask questions of the people that know.  Find someone with a connection to your child's interest and ask, ask, ask.
  5. Be limited only by travel expense to the library.  With my son's passion - cooking - the study of ethnic food preparation is paramount.  I once watched an television cooking show in which one of the participants broke down crying because he was at a disadvantage from the other chef's because he didn't have the travel opportunities that they had and couldn't study ethnic cooking.  I remember looking at Bug at that point and telling him that I'd better never see him crying over his lack of ethnic cooking experience because we didn't have money to travel, when he only had to travel as far as the library.  There is so much information just waiting on the shelves.
  6. Adapt.  As if we haven't done enough adapting above?  What I really mean here is adapt curriculum or resources or whatever you may need.  Finding the perfect fit curriculum for a special needs child's interests or passions can be impossible (and on the other hand sometimes you hit it lucky with a perfect fit you didn't see coming).  Don't be afraid to take a curriculum that shows some promise and adapt to make it your own.
  7. Relax and enjoy the learning.  If your not relaxed and having fun, neither will your child.  And learning should be fun, it should be enjoyable, and it should be relaxed.  Learning is your time to enjoy the process, it shouldn't be a job or a chore at this point - that's for later when the learning is mastered.

     Wow!  This Momma was wordy today.  As we work through our opportunity that's come knocking I hope that you'll be able to use some of the advice above with your own children.  Until next time - keep the pieces together. 


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

We Interrupt These Blog Posts....


     For a day of crafting.  Unfortunately not the fun kind of creative crafting (not today anyway), but for crafting some new resources for our Culinary Arts program - stay tuned and we'll share some of what we learned.

     Until next time - keep the pieces together.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Family Tug-of-War....

Hi, sorry for the short posting vacation yesterday, Monday is "Mom Day", that is, Bug and I drop Belle off at the bus stop and then meet my Mom to go and run errands.  It's a day just for me and Mom to do whatever we need to get done and to have a little fun for ourselves.  Mom buys lunch on the off weeks and when Hubby gets paid I buy and we usually do our errands and then walk through the mall or something similar.

Bug tags along and gets a day of socialization and life skills - it's a win/win for us all.

Today I wanted to talk a little bit about the "Family-Tug-of War", it's mostly my own internal struggle about things that are going on in my family.  Today's struggle just happens to be delegating.

I picked up a book this weekend called "Accountable Kids: Raising Accountable Kids One Step at a Time" and it's by Scott W. Heaton, LMFT and Traci S. Heaton.  I haven't really got into the meatier parts of the book yet, but I've seen enough to know that my kids have NO accountability.  And you know what?  It's not all their fault.  My kids don't do household chores - required or otherwise - they aren't responsible for much of anything - AND it's because of ME.

I have a really hard time delegating.  Not so much because of the fact that they don't do things right, or that they don't complete things by my standards, but more so because I just don't have the energy to keep after them to get things done.  

I don't know about your house, but my Aspie babies are completely unmotivated when it comes to any non-preferred task.  So simply getting them to make their bed or clean their rooms becomes a down-right meltdown that usually ends up with the kids and I in tears and my husband mad.  It isn't that the kids can't do their chores, or even that I can't accept the way they do them, its simply because - in my mind - it's not worth the fight it takes to get things accomplished.

I do feel that over the next few weeks something is going to have to give and my kids are going to have to learn to become more accountable.  I'll share how it's going along the way.  And if you happen to have an accountable kid story of your own please share it with me in the comments, it'd be great to know I'm not alone in this battle.  

Until next time - keep the pieces together.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Let's Talk About Home School, Shall We?...

     Thanks for reading yesterday.  Are you ready to talk some home school?  I bet a lot of you are since that's what I'll be sharing (probably) the most about.  Ready?  Then here we go...

How long have you been homeschooling?  Have any of your kids ever attended any regular school?

     This year will be our second year of "official" homeschooling, though my kids used to go through what we called "Mom School" every summer they attended regular school.  We just did fun learning activities and Summer Bridge workbooks to keep the summer learning slide at bay.

    Both of my kids attended public school and Miss Belle still does.  Bug attended public school through 3rd grade and Belle is currently in 3rd grade with no plans to homeschool in the future.

What made you decide to homeschool?  Have you been happy with the decision?

     We made the decision to homeschool Bug for a lot of different reasons, some good, some bad, but I think that our real focus was that teachers need to teach to the classes, not necessarily the individual child, and I get that.  However, Bug needed something a little different than the other kids in the class and just couldn't follow along.  Classes didn't engage his interests so they became dull and boring to him and he just simply zoned out leaving his teacher frustrated and annoyed.  He was offered Special Education classes but even those failed to engage him.  It was more repetition that he was willing to commit to and they left him feeling dumb and singled out.

     Belle never wanted to homeschool.  She was a whiz in the classroom.  She had friends.  She was set, and she hasn't turned back since.

     We are very happy with our decision to homeschool.  I think Bug is getting used to a new and relaxed routine where he doesn't have to rush and his thought process can sway as far as he wants.  We still have hard days, to be sure, but we've been able to temper those distractions with modifications or make up days and homeschool has worked well for us this far.

What style of homeschooling would you classify yourself as?  Do you have a philosophy about homeschooling?

     Though I am a reader and a writer, I'm not at all a philosopher.  I can't say that I have a philosophy about anything, including homeschooling.  We do however have a quote that is printed on any and all of our homeschool apparel, etc.  and that is :

                    Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn.

    The quote is by Benjamin Franklin, if your not familiar, and it's a good rule of thumb for our style of homeschooling.  Whatever our current interest or passion might be we involve ourselves in it in any way possible.  I've mentioned before that Bug has a passion to become a Chef and is inspired by Gordon Ramsay, so we use cooking as a jump off point and learn math and science in the kitchen.  This past year we've found a used culinary arts textbook and we're learning about restaurants and cooking techniques.  We've written letters to Chefs, we've toured vendor's facilities and restaurants, we've visited farm markets and tried new ingredients, we've turned my dining room and kitchen into a (practice)  restaurant and we've lived Bug's passion.  And likewise, come summer when Belle is off from school, we scoop poop, ride horses, and investigate animals.  We learn animal first aid and shadow at Vet clinics.  We study biology and the sciences.  We hike and identify wild animals and bugs.  We involve ourselves in both of the kids passions and let the learning come naturally.

     Then on the other hand there is the book work too, and we embrace that, with modifications, and do the best we can with it.  Bug doesn't like to write papers or take notes, but he's happy to lapbook or watch documentaries and orally summarize the main points of his learning - I think mostly in our homeschool we adapt learning - however that might look for us that day.

Are you the primary "teacher" or does your spouse get involved with the homeschooling?

    My knee jerk reaction to this question is - of course not - my spouse does the outside work (brings home the paycheck) and I do the teaching.  That really isn't fair, nor is it true.  My spouse takes on a good part of the teaching workload without really ever knowing that he's doing so.  It's my spouse that takes Bug aside during a building project and teaches him how to measure and cut (something I'm terrible at!), my spouse takes him aside an teaches him to mow grass, to landscape the yard, to trim the tree branches, to fix whatever may need fixing - these are things that I'm not skilled at.  My spouse takes Bug aside and teaches him to check the oil in the car, to change a tire, to put gas in the tank - and many times neither of us sees how, without really thinking about it, my spouse teaches woodshop, auto mechanics and more.

What do you love the most about homeschooling, and what do you like the least about it?

     I'll answer this question in a bit, but I'd like to take a moment, if your reading this series to ask you to answer this question yourself in the comments?  It's my belief that by hearing what other's love or dislike about homeschooling I can better provide posts that deal with your loves and issues.

     What I love most about homeschooling is the flexibility.  As all parents of kids with special needs know, we have good days, we have bad days, and sometimes we have great days.  Homeschooling allows me to adjust the workload to the type of day we're having.  I also love the things we're able to do as homeschoolers - the truly amazing field trips that we can take any time our budgets allow (no red tape from administrators or school boards), being able to take our classroom  literally anywhere at all that life takes us (teaching at the library because they have air and we don't, or teaching a class on wildlife while walking a local hiking trail, spending the month of October in the cemetery - more on this later, I promise), and being able to do work and cover information that's meaningful to us.

     What do I like the least about homeschooling - MATH - I wasn't any good at it when I attended public school (back in the days of the dinosaur if you talk with Bug and Belle) and I'm not good at it now either.  I can - thankfully - make change, use a calculator, and count my fingers and toes - glory be!  Alright, to be honest, the thing I like least about homeschooling is the feeling of failure.  The uncertainty of knowing if I can do this and if I can do it well enough.  It's gotten better over the last two years but there are still days when it nags at the back of my mind.

What is your son studying now, what are his plans for the future?

     In my state students are required to take standardized tests in 3rd and 5th grade, which puts Bug at need for testing this year.  Sadly, some of our time is being spent readying  him for these tests (and a lot of time is spent praying that he's going to do alright on them).  That being said, we still have time to learn about some of his interests as well. 

     As for learning about Bug's interests we'll be doing a lot of cooking and baking.  We're also learning about the restaurant business, and brushing up on our grammar, interview, and reporting skills because Noah would like to (with the help of his dad) begin producing a show on his own YouTube channel.  If all goes well, he hopes to air his first episode this fall.

     Thank you so much for reading!  I hope you've learned a little about me and my style and I hope, if my style fits your thinking, that you'll follow along.  Stay tuned next week for more great posts about life here with Aspie on the Corner.  Until then - Keep the pieces together.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Moving Right Along...

     Thanks to all the wonderful friends from near and far who suggested my blog to their friends.  Not only is having a blog to write a much missed and truly rewarding experience, but the thought of connecting with friends from around the globe is truly and amazing adventure - one that I can't wait to get started on.  What else could you possibly want to know about the completely uneventful (huh, some days I wish uneventful) life that I lead, bet your wondering - what are the special needs (you know you are, your just too polite to ask)?  Well let's get moving right along and I'll tell you all about them.

When did you find out your child had special needs?

     We first found out about Bug's special needs when he was 8 years old, right about the middle of first grade.  He was at a small community public school with a lovely teacher who absolutely couldn't understand his quirks.  Please don't take this as me lashing out at the poor woman, in fact, in a lot of ways, I agreed with her frustrations.
     Bug's needs became apparent in the fact that he simply could not focus.  Not for any great length of time, that is, unless it was a preferred subject that he was completely transfixed by.  We went back and forth for a few months as to whether the culprit was ADHD or Aspergers, and to be truthful, to this day, I believe it is a mixture of the two.  His official diagnosis though, is Aspergers and Anxiety.
     Belle was a bit more of a puzzle.  We'd suspected something was going on when she started having emotional outburst and screamed and cried, as if in pain, at some of the slightest sounds, like the toaster or the hair dryer.  With Belle, I learned quickly to dry my hair naturally or 3 houses away behind a locked bathroom door and her Dad would literally have to drive her around the block while I vacuumed the floors.  Still with all of these things going on we were told repeatedly that it was Anxiety Disorder NOS and that she was attention seeking.  She would have tantrums, and scream, and cry, and yell at everyone around her and then suddenly blink and act as if she didn't remember any of it and noises were the absolute worst.  We live in a small city and Belle spent the majority of her summers inside the house because she couldn't stand the sound of an ambulance siren several blocks away or the sound of a loud truck or motorcycle on the highway a block away from our house.  She showed no signs of any of this reaction to her therapists or her school teachers but whenever she was home with us the reactions were horrible.
     Finally about a year in she was officially diagnosed with Aspergers as well as Anxiety.  She truly shows more Anxiety traits that Aspergers traits at times, but the older she gets the more we're able to see both.  She undiagnosed but I also strongly suspect she suffers from sensory processing disorder and ADHD, again, just a hunch.

What was the first thing you did when you found out about your child's diagnosis?

     Bug's diagnosis was devastating to me and Belle's was just a relief. 

     Please don't take that wrong, it's not that I didn't feel angry, and bitter, and devastated by both diagnosis or that Belle being on the spectrum was something I wanted.  I think that mothers have a natural tendency to see their child's lives flash before their eyes in one fell swoop.  I never just saw Bug as my rugged little man or Belle as my Disney princess.  When your a mom and you look into your child's eyes you see more than yesterday, more than tomorrow, you see a clear view of your hopes and expectations for each child from cradle to grave.  Aspergers wasn't in my vision.  And in that same thought, Aspergers has a unique ability to cloud your vision about what your child is capable of.  I no longer saw Bug as the husband and father that I thought he'd one day be.  I worried about whether he'd have the social skills to meet a woman who would someday become his wife or if he'd even have the social skills to date a woman.  And would he have the ability to hold a job that would support a family?  And Belle, though she's always been the more socially outright of the two, didn't give me that same feeling.  Belle was born with an independence that, from the get go, let me know she didn't really need me to worry about her.  When she was diagnosed it was a relief that we finally had a name for the beast that caused her to have so many problems with sound and making friends, and expressing her feelings and emotions.

     The older the kids got the easier it was to see that Aspergers didn't define what they could or couldn't do.  They have their own hopes and dreams and passions and most days they dazzle and amaze me with their sheer tenacity to get what they want.  You'll more than likely hear more than you ever wanted to know about this from me.  Bug is striving to become a Chef (he likens himself to the famous and acclaimed Gordon Ramsay, his inspiration) and he's well on his way - proud mom moment - my boy can cook!  Belle wants to become a Veterinarian, and again - proud mom moment - she's kicking butt with that.

What's the most important thing you've learned from your special needs children?

     My special needs children are literally SO special that they teach me something everyday.  One of my biggest pet peeves is when I'm out in public and someone says "Oh, you've got two with Autism, I'm so sorry, I'll pray for you."  - lol, by all means, pray for my soul because I'm sure it needs it, but don't pray for my pain and suffering as a mom of kids on the spectrum, I don't.  I embrace the complex world that God has privileged me to live in and try to learn from it as much as I can.

     That being said, let me answer the question as it was actually intended.  I've learned from my special needs kids to never give up on my dreams (or theirs).  I've learned that when I have a desire to know something or to do something, to speak up and ask someone to help me get it.  By doing this both of my children have been afforded opportunities that I'd have only dreamed of at that age (and by the grace of God above, I've got to tag along with them).  I've learned that when you think you can't do something, it's just a matter of thinking outside the box and finding a way to do it anyhow - a different format, a different style, or a simple modification.  I've grown as a person and learned about the importance of routine, scheduling, and clutter management - and you know, my home and my life has become more simplistic and better for it, and on the other end of the coin, I've learned that if the cleaning, and the filing, and the junk piling up flies out the window for weeks or days or months, it doesn't really matter either. 

     We're far from perfect in this house.  But we're growing and we're learning and it's ok to be us.

     I hope you've enjoyed this second Q & A session.  As always, please feel free to leave a comment with any questions you'd like answered and I'll certainly work those into the next post.  Tomorrow I'd like to give you a quick look into our home school world and show you a bit of how we do it around here.  Then moving along, we can start sharing ideas.

     Until next time - Keep the pieces together.

Friday, January 22, 2016

So Ya Gotta Start Somewhere...

     Isn't that just the truth, but most of the time, I find myself asking "where do I start?", and it's been no different with getting this blog up off the ground.  So many amazing things happen in my everyday life that I kind of want to share them all, but who has the time?  So I decided today, to start with the hardest p
art (well, for me anyway), I'd like to introduce you to me and my family.  Don't worry, it won't be as painful as Aunt Sally's vacation picture slide shows, I'll start slow and answer a few questions at a time.  AND....if I happen to say something that sparks a question from you, or even better, tell you something that you just wanna hear more about, please take a moment to leave a comment and I'll try to answer those  along the way too.  Here goes:

Can you tell our readers about yourself and your blog?

     I'm Melanie, from small-town Pennsylvania.  There aren't a lot of fun and interesting things to tell you because, well, I'm kinda a plain ole gal.  I can tell you that I am married to my high school crush.  He is most days my best friend and he's a wonderful dad and husband.  We have two great kids together, for the purpose of this blog I'm going to refer to them as Bug and Belle (Bug has to keep his identity a HUGE secret due to an upcoming project that's in the planning stages - I'll fill you in on more later).

     Both of my kids are on the Autism Spectrum, which can make my crazy life a whole lot crazier at times!  Bug is my oldest, and will be turning 12, his autism issues fall more toward the educational side of things with a little bit of social skills problems thrown in the mix.  Belle, who is 9, is more on the social/emotional side of the spectrum.  You can read that as "we've been dealing with a 20 year old since she was two!"  She's my sensory kiddo and we're just finally able to start using modern conveniences like the toaster and hair dryer around her.  Both kiddos are also diagnosed with Anxiety, however, it's a lot worse for Belle.  She internalizes her feelings and then explodes in emotional tantrums.

     I actually started "Aspie on the Corner" back in 2014 but didn't pay much attention to it after I created it.  The blog name is kind of a fun fact, I have two aspies and our house is on the corner of 2 streets - thus, the name was born.  Originally, I wanted to name the blog "Aspie on the Right" because Bug is a right-brained, visual learner, and I've done extensive reading on the subject.  We try to employ a lot of right-brained learning in his home school routine.

Describe how you first started blogging.

     I'm actually a blogger from way back.  I ran a craft blog in 2007-2008 where I highlighted a lot of my scrapbooking and cardmaking projects.  When Bug was diagnosed with Aspergers in 2008 I just couldn't see crafting or blogging as a priority any longer.  I lost a lot of myself that year.  That one diagnosis really clouded my vision and I couldn't see past anything but the bum deal we'd been given.  Belle's diagnosis came later on in 2012 and it was a slightly softer blow.  We kind of knew by that time that something was going on with her and we were pretty much relieved at that point that someone else was seeing it too.

How would you describe your blogging style?  What can I expect as a reader of "Aspie on the Corner"?

     My blogging style is casual and (I hope) educational.  I'm not going to take the time to blog about the perfect life I lead, because, well, sometimes it's just not that pretty - actually it can get pretty ugly pretty quick around here.  If you wanted to read about my perfect educational strategies, my perfectly organized (and spotlessly clean) house, and my perfectly behaved children I'd have to send you to another blog - I'm just not that good at photo altering.

     What I hope that you can expect as a reader of "Aspie on the Corner" is laughs, encouragement, ideas, and solutions.  I hope to put myself out there so that you can laugh at the crazy stuff we do, but also cry with us, stress out with us, and peek into a normal everyday life with us.  I think blogging is pretty dull without feeling so, around here, I hope to wear our feelings on our blog and let you see and read about the real us.  I hope that you can use some of my ideas and solutions to everyday problems and apply them to your own situations and come away with a new perspective.  That being said, I want to remind you that I'm no expert.  I might be a mom-of-all trades but it doesn't mean that I have a degree or any scientific groundwork to back it up.  Sometimes we do some pretty innovative things around here and sometimes we simply exist.  I hope to share it all with you, the entire journey and more.

     Ok, enough for one post?  I hope so.  If your still reading along and haven't run screaming, I hope you'll join me again tomorrow (and next week) for some more Q & A.  Again, please, if I've sparked a question or said something your dying to know more about, please, post a comment with your question or suggestion and I'll work it in to next week's posts.

     Until next time - Keep the Pieces Together.