You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2010.

You might be like many homeschool moms out there who have developed homeschool burnout. A case noted by a sink full of dishes, arts and crafts, textbooks, paper sprawled everywhere, and a haggard looking mom bent over the kitchen table full of research books, lesson plan books, and teacher editions trying to create that perfect lesson to spark the glow in her children’s eyes over bugs or pronouns. As the school year dwindles down to a close, you might be finding yourself in the description above. If so, Ideal Curriculum thinks they can help make your life easier if you have pre-schoolers and early learning students.

Ideal Curriculum is a curriculum program designed to fully cover the academic concepts of literacy, oral language, math, calendar, science, and social studies. The curriculum uses art, music, play, and movement to make learning fun. With literacy in mind, the activities cover letters and sound, phonological awareness, sight words, and concepts about print. Each unit includes a read-aloud text for each major concept, full-color flash cards, letter cards, sight word cards, and music files. Lesson plans are provided for each subject Literacy, Math, Science or Social Studies based on the monthly theme. In fact from start to finish, everything you need is provided along with every detail you need to implement it.

The monthly kits are available as print or downloadable .pdf files. Either of which can be made more accessible for either disabled students or parents with a few modifications. Low Vision can copy or print out the pages in larger print or blown up. The files are left open and accessible for copying to a braille translation program or read by Adobe’s text to speech reader. Letter cards can be made tactile with glue or tactile paint. Pictures can be recreated with objects if detailed, or if line art, they can be made tactile with glue or tactile paint. Tactile images such as letter cards or word cards are useful for the blind, deafblind, low vision, and learning disabled. Most of the activities are accessible or easy to modify as needed.

The monthly kits are $95.00 for print, and $30.00 for downloadable files. In the coming months, packages will be available that will combine parts of the curriculum and provide a savings for buying them together. The website also has a blog with interesting information about literacy and useful tips for teaching. Check out http://www.idealcurriculum.com for more information. With Ideal Curriculum, you can develop your children into strong readers and writers while teaching them to love to learn.

I was provided a downloadable copy of monthly kit 1 in order to write this review, but I was not compensated in any other way. The opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

Recently, a unique idea came across my virtual desktop. Lending and borrowing between friends, family, and neighbors is as old as the concepts of villages, towns, and neighbors, I guess. The arguments and feuds that go along with it are too. Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble had numerous hilarious blowouts that usually involved the taking back of all things borrowed as they yelled across the fence at each other. It is funny in the cartoons, but real life is a different story. The creators of Lobster Network might have just the thing for the real-life versions of Fred and Barney.

Lobster Network created by Optimized Consulting, Inc. can be used for many purposes. You might just simply use it as an offsite inventory database for your stuff. If you choose, you can advertise to friends, family, or even public members to lend, trade, or sell. You can also browse for things you want to borrow, trade, or buy. Regardless of your use, you control who sees your items. First off, you can register for a free account. You can list as many items as you wish and even include image files for your items up to 4 MB in size. To share your items, you can set up private or public communities. In private communities, you invite whomever you wish. In public communities, other members of the network can join your group for more items to search and browse. There is also a marketplace you can choose to advertise in that allows even non-members of the general public to browse. As part of privacy and security, the owners of the site only collect your email address and city in which you live. The less information on file about you personally, the less there is for someone to steal. That is a plus right there.

The site is easy to use and navigate for sighted individuals. The format is simple and non-distracting. The steps are easy to follow from registering to listing items to setting up public and private communities. There is also a FAQ page you can check before you register if you have questions. If your question isn’t there, you can easily submit your question for additional help.

For more information, go to http://www.lobsternetwork.com. This is a truly unique idea that even Fred and Barney might like. If you like the site, pass it on. The community will get better and better as more people find out about this networking utility.

I was given free access to the site. I was not compensated in any other way. The opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

I am straying a bit from my usual homeschool business to post something I wrote in the magazine that I am Associate Editor for, Good Cheer. It is about educating the public regarding issues that are near to my heart, DeafBlind accessibility issues.

TOUCH POINTS
By Renee Walker

As I get more involved in the DeafBlind community around me, I frequently get asked one important question: what do I feel is the most important thing that the DeafBlind need to be independent? That is a major question and needs plenty of thought and consideration. There are so many things to consider because the DeafBlind are scattered around the country and in any one place there are so few individual members. Their environments are drastically different, as well as, their individual hearing and vision issues. How can you answer that question where the most if not all of the people can be helped by the solution? That consideration has been what I have been trying to do before answering these people.

First, I need to derive the answer for myself, and then maybe, I can expand that answer to others. Communication for me is the biggest issue in general. I can now use ASL and braille, so that helps, but you have to have someone to sign with and have to have equipment to write braille or use it to connect with a computer. I set about finding people to interact with and getting the equipment to use braille for various purposes. Neither was easy, and still aren’t. Interpreters were the only ones I could find who were comfortable signing tactually, but there were very few of those. In fact, there was only one medically certified in the local area. The members of the Deaf community around me weren’t comfortable signing tactually either, so I wasn’t going to get any help from there. Equipment was too expensive for my budget, and for various reasons, the state wasn’t willing to give me an answer. The interpreter I found was kind enough to start a campaign of encouraging interpreters in the area to be willing to try tactual. She even brought a few around to meet me trying to encourage them to try. As far as equipment goes, I began putting away as much money as I could to buy my own equipment. In the three years that I have been working to improve my situation, I have managed to find three or four school level interpreters willing to help me for certain events such as work meetings and events such as graduation which I lead as school principal and at a few family events. Of these, none feel comfortable enough to work as a Support Service Provider (SSP) to take me shopping or help me pay bills or make phone calls. I did find one school level interpreter who is willing to do most anything I need. Other than medical interpreting, she is my primary SSP and interpreter who takes me shopping, helps me with personal and business finances, takes me to doctor appointments, and social events. This interpreter and the medical interpreter have worked hard to help the Deaf community in our area include me to some degree which has opened the door for me to have a little bit of a social life. The hearing interpreters still are the main communication point between me and any of the Deaf who still do not feel comfortable enough to actually allow much touch. They will try to “talk” with me and will let me touch for short messages like “hello” and “how are you?”, but will pull back and ask for an interpreter if more in depth conversation is desired. Many of the Deaf seem happy to have me come to the events, but they merely stand back and stare while never attempting to even say hello. I will take what I can get, and am hopeful that with time, it will improve. Other improvements come with the ability to spend about $2000.00 to get the APH Refreshabraille 18 braille display. I am learning to use this with the hearing family, co-workers, and friends in my life. I have a guide dog that helps me to maneuver somewhat independently within an environment. My skills working with my canine partner are considered to be excellent even after several years have passed since our initial training. I also have excellent cane skills, as well. I began using the cane and the dog with a bit more vision and hearing than I have now, but I continuously test my skills and improve them based on the ever-changing physical aspects. This helps me to stay as independent as possible, but I must say that as a totally DeafBlind person I must have some type of sighted or hearing/sighted help in the unknown environments that I find myself in following family, work, and social commitments. Transportation is the first aspect, of course, but to know what is happening around me and to be as safe as possible, I must have someone with me to explain the world around me. Having a small computer and braille display to communicate with hearing/sighted people directly certainly helps when the other person feels comfortable enough to use it, but there is still too much information that I miss out on without a trained SSP. Trained meaning they have been giving enough information about DeafBlindness and helping a DeafBlind person participate as independently as possible in the world that is dominated by sight and sound.

Based upon these experiences, I think I can answer this most important question for myself and expand it to others. My situation being toward the end of the spectrum as severely compromised in the hearing/sighted world by total DeafBlindness and the complexities caused by the simple, rural environment could easily be used as an initial model to understand the needs for a huge population of DeafBlind people with varying physical abilities and environmental settings. Although equipment to support communication, work settings, access to the internet and computer is vitally important to provide more independence and less isolation of DeafBlind individuals, the question is really what resource is needed the most and for the most individuals. The answer to me is fairly clear. Support Service Providers that are well-trained and provided by a well-organized agency to recruit the largest amount of individuals, train in the best methods and give the best information of the needs of DeafBlind individuals, scheduled efficiently to give the most access to as many DeafBlind as need that resource. From rural areas to towns to major metropolises, transportation is an issue from various perspectives. From not having any infrastructure for transportation to having major bus, train, subway features, the DeafBlind often need help in some way to get safely from one place to another. An SSP could provide that from an actual vehicle to guidance in safely using the transportation system of a major city. Equipment such as braille displays, TTY’s, Videophones often still require a DeafBlind person to use a sighted person to help access some web sites, programs, relay centers, etc. An SSP could provide some of that help. The agency set up to provide SSP’s in a general area would continually canvas its DeafBlind population and determine the varying needs and recruit individuals that could help serve these needs and provide the additional training that is specific for supporting a DeafBlind individual.

As I gain the equipment and communication skills I need for accessing the world, I realize that none of these can get me into the world or even accessing the world from this room in which I live completely on my own. I find too many times where I need a physical person to help me access people, things, and situations. At my current state of total DeafBlindness despite my determination and abilities to compensate well, I need a good bit of help from a person, especially when I leave this room and venture into the outside world. When I had a bit more vision and hearing, I needed other people less, but I still needed them if for nothing more than transportation. It is a fact that I don’t apologize for or regret. All people need other people. As a DeafBlind individual, I need other people more. I specifically need people who understand my needs and have the skills to meet my needs.

In advocating for one’s needs, you also have to anticipate certain questions. There is at least one more question that would come to someone’s mind if they didn’t understand my needs or if they had to justify why they should have to accommodate my needs, in this case for a trained SSP. Why can’t I just use family and/or friends? Why does someone specifically need to have some type of training in order to help me? I have family and friends who help me all the time. I appreciate what they are willing to do for me. Problems arise though when I have no one, but family or friends to call on when I need them. First, they are busy with their own lives. They can only give me small amounts of their time and at their convenience. I often miss deadlines or have schedule conflicts that can’t be resolved because there is no one available to help me at the exact times I need them. Careful planning done in advance can help alleviate some of the issues, but all too often there is no help available. Secondly, friends and family do not always know how to help me. My needs are often very unique. I have to be tapped and told using tactual ASL that someone is present and who that someone is. I have to be guided by either grasping the person’s elbow, so I can detect their not so distinct and sudden movements; or I have to command my dog to follow them. Without sight and sound, I cannot negotiate intersections safely even with a guide dog who is trained to protect me, but should not be relied upon to decide when it is safe to cross a street. A sighted person is needed to inform me of the traffic flows and when it is best to cross. I also am particular about the way I want certain things done, and I want to make decisions for myself based on full details of the situation and/or the environment that I am in. I don’t want things done for me. I want to do them after I have been fully apprised of all information. Friends and family mean well, but often help too much, or help too little because they don’t know what to do and are afraid of making a mistake. Either way, they mean well, but they can cause problems for me. One of the biggest problems is that friends and families do not understand how much and what kind of information about the surroundings and the situation that they need to give me. They don’t realize that I want to know not only the important and obvious details like how many people are present and who they are, but also, describing the setting of a room and in general, the tones of voices and body language clues given. Most people use this information daily to decide how to react to a given situation, but aren’t even aware of the fact that they are using all of those details and wouldn’t be able to describe them to a DeafBlind individual who just like them need the information to better understand what is going on around them and decide how they wish to respond. A trained SSP has been given knowledge that helps them know better about what is needed, and although the needs of individual DeafBlind vary, has been given tools to help them quickly ask and evaluate what is needed. This training doesn’t go to the extent of a certified interpreter, of course, but does give skills that better help a DeafBlind individual access the world around them. Overall, the main goal of a trained SSP is to communicate in the DeafBlind individual’s primary mode of communication all the aspects of the surroundings and let the DeafBlind make decisions and interact with the world as independently as possible for that individual. That takes a lot of skill that is best derived by the services offered by a trained SSP. Trained SSP’s just can’t be replaced by caring friends and family no matter how hard they try.

Now I have answered the question for myself and expanded it to a generalized population of DeafBlind individuals and even given some basic arguments to support the justification to those who might require it. I can more confidently answer the people who ask me. Now I ask that you, my readers, do the same. Address this question to yourself and based on your experiences even expand the issue to the wider DeafBlind population as to what might be the most needed resource provided for all DeafBlind individuals. Once done, with confidence, you can speak out on your behalf and other DeafBlind. Take this advocacy seriously, and write, call, or email your government representatives both on the state and federal level. Put your thoughts out there in internet blogs or letters to family, friends, businesses, etc. Let’s educate everyone on what we need now to be more productive citizens as independently as we each can be. We not only should be active participants of our world, but we can be with the right resources.

If you would like to know more about SSP’s, you can visit the American Association for the Deaf-Blind’s website, http://www.aadb.org. If you would like to express your thoughts or questions to me regarding this article, you may contact me at rkwalker@wynfieldca.org, or you may write me at 143 Williamson Dr., Macon, GA 31210. You can also follow my blog at http://www.deafblindhope.wordpress.com.

As Homeschoolers braving the forests of educating our children ourselves, there are often dark, scary areas where our children need help such as learning disabilities, deafblindness, attention problems, and speech problems to name a few. All too often we can’t afford the help provided by private groups and public schools may have less than stellar departments or reluctant to help despite special education guidelines mandating them to offer such services. A few specialists in certain fields now are offering their expertise to homeschoolers seeing an untouched market waiting to be tapped. One specialist in the field of speech and language pathology, Deborah Lott has developed a tool to help parents assess their children’s speech and language development, as well as, help for minor issues that can be done by the parent at home. The result is Super Star Speech: Speech Therapy Made Simple.

To begin with, Ms Lott stated accurately who this book is for: children with just a few minor articulation issues. The book was not intended for children with major language delays or language problems such as stuttering or for children with a physical problem such as hearing impairment, cleft palate, or cerebral palsy. For those children, Ms. Lott highly recommends diagnosis and remediation be done by a trained speech-language pathologist. The program is begun with an articulation assessment that is easy to administer and evaluate. The tools are simple and easy to see without having distracting elements. During analysis of the initial test, complete instructions are given that are easy to follow in order for you to identify the specific sounds your child has difficulty. Therapy plans are also well described and easy to develop including day to day lesson plans that are individual for each child. There are no specific lesson plans for you to follow. You have to develop them for your individual child because every child’s needs are different; however, Ms. Lott’s detailed steps of instruction make the process easy to follow. She provides specific sound instructions including the correct way to make the sound with proper placement of the tongue, movement of the lips, etc. Steps are given to help you teach the child to perform the necessary movements to produce the sound correctly. There is a word list for each sound to allow for thorough and appropriate practice. Games and activities have also been provided to make the learning fun.

Super Star Speech seems to be a good tool for helping children with minor articulation issues. The printed book costs $22.95 for 3-ring binder, $18.95 for a spiral bound, and $12.95 for an E-book version. For a limited time, my readers can get readers a 20% discount on this or any of the other books from www.superstarspeech.com. The discount code, which will be good until June 30, is “TOS.” The peace of mind for many parents will make the cost of the program more than worth it.

I received a free copy of the spiral bound book, Super Star Speech: Speech Therapy Made Easy, to evaluate and write this review. I received no other compensation, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

If you like looking for natural products, check out Beeyoutiful on the web at http://www.beeyoutiful.com. All of their products are natural, and many are produced using bee propolis, honey, and pollens which many claim to have wonderful benefits.

Their Winter 2010 contains vitamins, minerals, enzymes, essential oils, lotions, hair and skin products, etc. There are also books on various topics such as chronic pain, breast cancer, prostate cancer, menopause, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, aromatherapy, and more. Prices are reasonable with no individual mineral, vitamin, oil, etc. found in this catalog to be over $32.00. They had many combining packages that increased your savings, too. Books were $20.00 or less.

The catalog is also filled with reader stories, funny anecdotes, articles from the staff and other contributing authors. You will find it a delightful read, as well as informative. Not all, but most of their products can be ordered online on their website.  You will also find even more health articles there.

Though the FDA has not evaluated the products, and I will not personally recommend you try any of these products. Some of their products may contain small amounts of grain alcohol, or other ingredients you may not like to use. By all means, do your research and send the proprietors an email. I am sure they will be glad to answer any questions and address any concerns you might have. Again, if you like these kinds of supplements and natural products check out the Beeyoutiful website.



Castles, knights, dragons, chivalry, and all the elements of a fantasy attract children of all ages. Many of these elements are harmless entertainment, but there are some elements which many parents wish to keep from their children. Young readers are attracted to the good examples of the genre, but some are lured to the few that might be attempts to lead them into things much worse. The few Christian books in the genre have not always been on the mark of good reading. In attempting to eliminate the negative, they often ruined the positives of action and the thrill of being part of something bigger than yourself. Author Ed Dunlop has created a world that brings all the positives to life in a very real way and includes no magic or witchcraft. Through this world though, Mr. Dunlop weaves biblical truths and life lessons that can affect a young person’s heart, soul, and mind in an enriching way seldom found elsewhere.

Terrestria is a place filled with evil battling to control its citizens and lure them away from King Emmanuel. Two books from the series Tales from Terrestria came my way recently for me to write this review. The first was called The Quest for Thunder Mountain. This story reminds me a little of Pilgrim’s Progress in the sense that the character embarks on a journey and learns a lot about himself, life, and God along the way. This is a fresh story though with the quest being to find King Emanuel’s will for the character’s life. The struggle along the way is to find out if he really wants to know and if he will believe King Emanuel’s Word against all others that it will be the greatest joy to know and do the King’s will.

The Tales of the second book I read, fourth in the series though the books are more of a stand-alone tale where order doesn’t matter, The Tale of the Dragons ventures into other life lessons such as respecting your parents and staying away from temptations. The young character is this story is lured to an island not far from home by the need to fit in and have friends, but the friends are not true friends and only wish him harm. The young man learns to heed his father’s words too late and finds himself a slave in a foreign land far from the safety of home. His father sells everything precious to him and risks his life more than once to find the wayward son and bring him home.

These lessons are brought to life so vividly and the stories were so captivating that it was hard to put down. Several children and I went through these two together. I think the lessons made an impact on us all including me. Ed Dunlop’s heart is truly seen when he states that, “If just one young person reads this book and realizes the wisdom of bonding with his or her parents and avoiding the deadly dragons of our treacherous society, it will have been worth every hour I spent in the writing of this book”. I wish I had found this kind of book when I was young. I think at least some of the bad I got into might have been avoided.

Mr. Dunlop has not made any versions of his books accessible for special needs except possibly a few groups by the use of e-books for a select number of his free works. That would allow some learning disabled students and hearing blind to use the Adobe Reader text to speech option. However, I hope to encourage him here to consider using http://www.bookshare.org and/or the National Braille Press to offer his wonderful books to various special needs populations. Either or both of these organizations will respect his rights as author, but allow special needs students including deaf, blind, and deafblind as well as learning disabled and other special needs populations to benefit from his skills of bringing faith lessons to all.

To learn more about this series and the companion series, Terrestria Chronicles, go to http://www.talesofcastles.com. Each of the books is available for $7.99 which is a great price for a quality paperback book. Ed Dunlop also has some free e-books he wrote available for download on the web site.

I received two books free in order to write this review, but I was not compensated in any other way. The opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

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