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I had an article go live on my Home and School Mosaics magazine on Dec. 29. Well, I was still on Christmas break, so I couldn’t post it. Today, it is back to work, so it is my first task of the day to post this article. Getting back to work after the break isn’t easy, but I hope you enjoy my article about babies learning ASL making your first days back to a normal a little better. It seems many parents teach their babies ASL signs as well as Spanish or French numbers, colors, and basic words. I recently saw another story about a celebrity teaching her child ASL starting shortly after birth. It seems to be the thing to do. I got confused, though, when I met or consulted online with hearing parents with Deaf or DeafBlind children who were now afraid to teach their child ASL. The reasons were varied. I wanted to know if the reasons were valid or based on fear, so I did some research. This post is about what I learned and now want to recommend to all parents. Let me know what you think.

Don’t Throw Out the Baby with ASL 

http://homeschoolmosaics.com/dont-throw-out-the-baby-with-asl/

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I’ve learned lessons the hard way over the years, especially about education. Today, I share a few of those with you over at Home and School Mosaics. You may be an “expert” in education, a compassionate teacher, a parent of a unique student (they are all unique), or a struggling student like me, but I think my lessons learned the hard way might either rub you the wrong way or ring true as a bell. Regardless, with an open mind and heart, you might learn something or at leas see things in a different light. Read Experts Without Answers to find out.

 

http://homeschoolmosaics.com/experts-without-answers/

Today on Home and School Mosaics, I share some of my favorite things. These are things that have helped me to be more independent or confident in the Dark Silence. These are things that have just helped me do and feel more like a normal person from day to day. You might be surprised to find out that you can use some of these things, too, even if you aren’t deaf and blind. Some are just plain cool for anyone to use and love!

http://homeschoolmosaics.com/my-favorite-things/

I saw a blog post today from a friend that reviewed a book about Helen Keller. Because of my friend’s wonderfully worded description of the pictures I can tell you that the book is a great resource for understanding DeafBlindness. You might just start to “Get it” that DeafBlindness isn’t just adding deaf and blind. It is exponentially multiplied. So, I am going to give a little link love to my friend. Please check it out. There is no way, being DeafBlind, that I could have written a review with the descriptions of the illustrations and intent of this book so well. So, this post is to my friend at Mom’s Musings, http://hexwit.blogspot.com/2013/07/concept-building-and-coolest-book-on.html

My Homeschool Grades logo image with blocks with initials of the name and the full name written out beside the matching letter.

If you are like me, you must have a grade program. I don’t like figuring out the grades, and I need something to keep everything organized digitally because there is too much paper and too many things for a grade not on paper. There are a few homeschool programs out there which are fine, but none that are accessible. Some, though, are just public school oriented re-packaged for homeschoolers which makes them too complex for most homeschoolers to bother. We don’t need discipline logs, parent-teacher conference notes, lunchroom fee modules, and the like. We need something flexible in regards to assignment types, grading styles, and keeps transcripts. Some of us need attendance sections, too, along with simple lesson plan listings. Anyway, flexibility allowing uniqueness is hard to come by in grade programs because most think too much like regular schools. My Home School Grades does an excellent job, is constantly listening to their consumers adding and adjusting, and is accessible, too!

 

My Home School Grades’, an online program, main appeal is its simplicity. It has an uncluttered view even with numerous students or classes listed on the screen. Though simple and easy to use, the program has the features you need in the homeschooling world. You can have as many students as you need, and each can have as many classes as you like to provide. You can add activities that can include experiments, films, theater, field trips of every destination. That simplicity allows you to have your unique feel to your student’s academics and experiences. You can choose the curriculum descriptions of numerous popular publishers or list yours as custom. You can’t list your description, but if you’d like to suggest that the vendor add that feature or any feature, click support at the top right of the screens and suggest away. They are adding people’s suggestions all the time, so they make it very easy to suggest something to them. In fact, the company is working on including attendance now because consumers suggested it. This company is really listening, so ask away!

 

Set up of your school information which is used for transcripts takes only a couple of minutes including setting up your name, address, and style of grade display which can be edited any time in the account area along with your password. Then you add your students and their classes in a matter of minutes even if you have several students. When you add a lesson, it is just as simple, and you can list ahead and add grades later or add them as the students complete them. There is nothing complicated here, and it is all easy to find and figure out on your own. But, if you have trouble or if you want to see how easy things are before you buy, check out their tutorials on the steps that are found on the front page of their web site.

 

You can also designate your classes as Advanced Placement (AP) or Honors which will automatically be given a higher GPA point value by default. You can list your grades by lesson plan for individual assignments and grades or by a single, final grade for the course. If your student is doing Dual Enrollment, you can designate that and list the college where the course is taken. You can adjust credit when applicable for .25, .5, .75, or even 1, 2, 3, or 4 credits depending on the type and schedule of course. You also have an option for non-credit if you just want to list the experience, but no credit is given. You can list  the course as full year, Spring, Fall, Summer, or 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Quarter.

 

Using your student and course data, transcripts are clear and professional showing school name, address, grading scale, course and credit list, total credits, and GPA. The transcript’s second page lists the activities the student has participated in during their academic career. You can export your transcript to a saved file or print for your records. The grading scale calculates the GPA by using 5 points for Honors courses down to 0 for 59 and below and 4 also given for classes you deem as Pass/Fail. I love the fact that Social Security numbers and graduation dates are not stored on the My Home School Gradesserver, but is entered each time you export transcript. You click the settings buttons on the Export Transcript screen and enter the Social Security Number and Graduation date and then hit print. You can print without that information if you desire. Settings options also allow you to hide certain grade levels and activities, if desired.

 

With these features, you will certainly find My Home School Gradessimple, but flexible and professional for use. In addition, the online program is fully accessible for low vision and screen readers and braille display. At this time of writing, it is the only homeschool grade tracking program that is accessible to my knowledge, and that knowledge is extensive though not complete. There are a few screen reader focus issues with My Home School Grades that hinder navigation slightly like when a pop up screen is present for adding/editing a student or lesson or course, the braille display advance command or the keyboard tab still advances on the back page for several places before finding the pop up page. This is an easy fix, but it needs to be addressed because a blind person will have no way of knowing that the button they clicked actually worked by popping up a screen. Again, it is easy to fix, and I am certain based on the knowledge of the vendors’ customer service reputation which is excellent that this will be handled in the near future. Despite this little hang up, the program is definitely usable by a low vision or blind user, and that makes this reviewer extremely happy.

 

To make it even better, My Home School Grades works well on most tablets and smartphones connected to the internet. On the iPhone, My Home School Grade’s web app through Safari is also completely accessible to Voice Over and a braille display compatible with Voice Over. You can keep up with activities and lessons while on the go which makes handling your homeschool even easier.

 

Now, it is your turn. You can check out My Home School Grades on their web site at https://myhomeschoolgrades.com. You can try it out for a 14 day free trial, see how the online program works with their tutorials on their home page, and get the facts on their “Learn More” page. The price is one of the best things about this program because you get a lifetime membership for just $49.99. With that, you are set for all of your students throughout their homeschool years.

 

 

I received a copy of the above product to facilitate the writing of a frank and honest review. A positive review is not guaranteed. All opinions are my own. Your results and opinions may vary.

Labels are words we use everywhere. We have labels in the educational world, the medical world, everyday living, and even among the DeafBlind. Some are good. Some are destructive. Check out my column today on Homeschool Mosaics to learn more about when labels are good and when they aren’t.

Words

For several years, I taught technology and computers in the public schools for upper elementary, middle school, and high school. Prior to that, I taught all subjects in middle school and high school including many special needs students. Of course, I had more vision during those years as I have Retinitis Pigmentosa. In the years that my boys were in scouting and I was Scoutmaster, the activities I did with them were often similar. Of all the things we did like building bridges out of paper and wood, making egg packages for safe drops, robots and other stuff, I have to admit building a life-size catapult with the scouts was my most memorable. Recently, I was sent a product from Pitsco, Inc. that brought back a lot of fun memories from those days. You see they sent members of the TOS Crew some projects to review. I received the trebechet and catapult kit or siege machines from one of my favorite periods in history, medieval times.

For grades 5-12 with some extensions below if providing lots of help or group effort, the siege engine is sure to provide many hours of educational fun, if not chaos. The kit provides the parts for two projects: a trebuchet and a catapult with each being suitable to lay siege to any number of miniaturized castles or villages. The spiral-bound guide provides history, numerous historical trivia facts, safety guidelines, and activities teaching concepts from science, technology, engineering, and math. You will also find additional resources to supplement and enhance your study, as well as, all the national teaching standards covered by the activities. You are given just what you are needed to begin your exploration of the fun and learning of siege machines and even going beyond.

The projects were easy to assemble. From the easy-to-remove, pre-punched parts to gluing (specific type of glue is required and doesn’t come with the kit, but it is sold by Pitsco, Inc. and is easy to find at other online sites, inexpensively) to final construction, the steps were fairly easy to follow. The pictures were a bit dark, but they were ok. You will need a few tools, but they are inexpensive and found in most homes already or can be purchased at hardware stores.

As far as accessibility, hands-on projects are usually very good for a variety of special needs students including tactile learners, learning disabled, ASD students, and even blind and DeafBlind students. For those with reading issues and learning disabilities who have trouble following complex steps, I actually made a list of step by step instructions for each of the projects simplifying the steps into easier language and more manageable steps. For blind users and myself, I scanned in the instructions making sure that the document was scanned using the Optical Scanner Recognition (OCR) software and saved it as a .txt file easily used by a brailled display. Adobe .pdf files cannot be read by a braille display. On an Apple machine, a .pdf file can be read if it is a text file and not a picture or.jpg file. There is a template page for using to bend the metal clips into specific shapes for holding certain pieces together in specific ways. I used thin lines of puffy paint or plain white paint can be used, too. This allowed me to feel how the wire needed to be bent and let me do that part myself. Even as old as I am, I still like to do as much of a project myself as I can. I am sure most students are the same way. It isn’t very fun just watching someone else do everything. Even if a child can only hold a piece as it is glued or wire is inserted and clasped, the child really feels a part of the project and remembers more if allowed to do even the smallest of things to help. The details were not hard to follow and didn’t take that long to complete, but the sense of accomplishment even for me was empowering.

Hands-on and simple designs are truly a great way to explore the complex concepts of math, physics, engineering, problem solving, and history. Even these small versions are great ways to learn, but don’t be surprised if your students ask to build a life-size one. Well, I won’t tell you not to, since I loved throwing water balloons from the one we built, but I would say consult a Boy Scout first! Smile…

To check out the Siege Machines kit or any of the other Pitsco, Inc. projects, head to http://www.shop-pitsco.com. You find this kit in the Homeschool area for $21.95 . Price-wise. the kits are  good. I paid more money in the past for less quality materials or simply had to scrounge around for my own which was often difficult. The convenience and affordability will be pluses for your homeschool. Remember it is always best to learn by doing.

To read other reviews about this product and others from The Old SchoolHouse Crew, go to the TOS Crew blog.

Though I was provided a product to review for this blog, I have not been compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

As a Principal of a private Christian school, I see test scores for a lot of students whether they are enrolled in my school or not because we provide testing for all kinds of students not just our own. What I see most often is low math scores all the way from Kindergarten through the 12th grade and even on the SAT/ACT college entrance tests. It isn’t saddening to me because math is so important for our children. Why are the scores so low? It isn’t from lack of doing. I know that. Many of these students do lots of math every day. It isn’t lack of ability because many of these students have exceptionally high intelligence. It isn’t because the teacher whether parent or school teacher has difficulty in math themselves. It seems to come down to a lack of problem-solving strategies and true understanding of the processes of math. A little help seems to be on the way from AIMS Education Foundation’s Solve It! Series.

Many curriculums cover the basic facts and concepts in regards to rules and definitions, but the lack in transferring the understanding of why something is done. The “whys” are really more important than the “hows”. If students do not understand why they perform certain operations they can’t learn to think mathematically. If students can’t learn to think mathematically, they won’t be able to apply their skills to more advanced concepts and problems. AIMS (Activities Integrating Math and Science) Education Foundation has created a series called Solve It! That does a really nice job presenting the problem-solving strategies and thinking skills to students. It is a workbook which some think is overdone and certainly can be, but this series will make a good complement to any textbook curriculum to help smooth out the presentation of these skills, give plenty of practice, and let students learn to love math. Learning to think mathematically actually can and does bring an element of fun and discovery to math. The activities are varied and diverse. They are well-designed and use manipulatives, art and craft creativity, charts, etc. All to keep the students actively focused as they explore the concepts and practice the skills. The teacher will find a chart detailing which problem-solving skill each activity develops. I only used the 3rd grade edition, but if the others are as well-done, I think the series deserves a close look.

There are other activity books and products in other subject areas available on the web site, too, including downloadable e-books. The prices range from $9.95 to $24.95 depending on the size of the activity book. To find out more, go to aimsedu.org.

To read other reviews about this product and others from The Old SchoolHouse Crew, go to the TOS Crew blog

Though I was provided a product to review for this blog, I have not been compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

Do you ever feel like running away? Do you feel like you just aren’t cutting it as your child’s teacher? Do you worry that your best isn’t going to give your children the future they should have? Well, you aren’t alone. Most homeschool teachers feel the same way all too often. It comes from loving our children so much that we want to do what is needed, but stress, lack of knowledge about one subject or another and the responsibilities of other aspects of our life as housewife, mother, maid, church member pressures us to worry. Resources, good curriculums, and teaching tips are great, but what many a homeschool mom needs is encouragement, the encouragement that comes from no other than the Word of God. Trying to find the time to study the Word is difficult, but a certain devotional Bible study might help get you started. Encouragement for Homeschool Moms from Deeper Roots Publications was written just for you by a homeschool mom who understands the daily struggles.

This little booklet is packed with encouraging and inspirational words that will lift your heart each day and help God’s words flow into your heart giving you the strength, courage, and peace that you need. There are thirty-one devotionals that can be used in many ways to refresh your mind and spirit as you carry out your homeschooling duties during the year. Each is centered on a theme with scripture as its foundation. The author, Bonnie Lisech, gives each theme and scripture a new perspective as she applies them to our homeschool duties and struggles. Then asking such thought-provoking questions to help us focus on God’s meaning for our own hearts and lives. There is also plenty of space and encouragement to journal our thoughts and insights.

When the doubts press in, push them away with refreshing time spent with your Father in Heaven each day. As you give so much of yourself to others, don’t forget to allow God to give to you, to refill your spirit with His love, strength, and guidance. With Deeper Roots publication, Encouragement for Home School Moms, that time of renewing can be easy to plug in to your busy schedule.

To find out more about Encouragement for Home School Moms or the many other products from Deeper Roots, go to DeeperRoots.com.

Though I was provided a product to review for this blog, I have not been compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

I was watching a popular Bible teacher this morning, Joyce Meyer. I enjoy her. I feel she is anointed by God even if I may not agree with everything she teaches or believes. Today, she was talking about not having to be perfect and not having to be constantly worried about whether we are doing right or wrong. God loves us even though we are imperfect. He is pleased with us despite of our imperfectness because we want to do right. We are trying to do right. He also uses us despite the fact that we aren’t perfect. She told a story about when she thought she was hearing from God to be a preacher or Bible Teacher. She wasn’t sure if that was really from God. Many of us struggle with knowing if we are hearing from God. Often times, we have acted on something and made a fool of ourselves because it wasn’t from God, so we become afraid to try to listen and act on God’s will for us. Joyce went on to say that she took a tiny step in faith to test it. She started teaching a Bible study in her home. God blessed it. People came. It grew, so she knew that her desire had been God speaking to her. That was interesting to me. I have learned to do the same thing in my life as I try to follow where God is leading me.

What interested me more, though, was what she said next. Joyce Meyer said she taught that class in short shorts and smoking cigarettes. She smoked so many cigarettes, she said, that smoke filled the room where she and her guests couldn’t see each other. I thought to myself that I know some people who would have tried to shut her down if it was a church sponsored or advertised event or at the very least they would have stopped going and told everyone they knew about that woman who was disrespecting God by reading scriptures while dressed so inappropriately and smoking like a “choo choo”. I know in my own life that I have had people criticize me and tell me to stop doing something that I felt God was leading me to do because I wasn’t perfect. I had sin in my life. I sometimes sinned while I was doing what God wanted me to do. I wasn’t necessarily meaning to sin. I just did. I sometimes have a temper. I sometimes get passionate about something or angry and use certain colorful expressions or even profanity. I was trying to do right. I often failed, but I was trying. I wanted to be good at what I was doing for my Lord, though, so I kept trying. Doing it in the face of harsh criticism was very difficult at times, but I kept trying.

It is obvious though that God wasn’t disrespected. He wasn’t offended or angered. God was pleased with Joyce Meyer. She was doing what He wanted her to do which was teach His word to others. God was pleased with her even though she wasn’t doing it in perfectly the right way. He blessed her efforts and brought her more students and increased her borders of influence. God is still doing that today. God anointed her though she was imperfect because she wanted to do His will. That was enough. Along the way, God helped her to learn how to do His work in better ways. Eventually, He used her husband to point out that she really should dress more appropriately. Eventually, God showed her that she should stop abusing His temple, her body, by smoking and helped her to stop.

In the same way, God was pleased with me. My teaching improved. He sent me to various places to teach that were difficult in many ways, but honed my skills even more. God showed me patterns in some of the students I taught that were more of a challenge and helped me to develop better ways to teach them. When I was better prepared, God gave me the desire and life situations to confirm the desire was from Him to prompt me to begin teaching first just a few students out of my home to now a growing, accredited school that helps all kinds of students including some with needs that other schools haven’t been able to reach. God is helping us to reach those students’ needs successfully. He is even now using my more recent situation of being Deaf and blind to help me to understand even more the needs of people like myself and giving me the desire and resources to begin helping others like myself become more independent. Along the way, he has helped me with my temper to learn more how to control it when it isn’t appropriate, but given me the courage to use it to help fight what is wrong. I am still not perfect in so many ways, but God is pleased with me, and He is anointing me to do the work He has for me.

The criticism is often still there from those I don’t know to even those very close to me. It can still be difficult at times, but I have learned that it is more often the work of Satan in those voices and in the voices in my own mind trying to lessen my impact and weaken my spirit. I have to focus on the lessons I have learned.

From that knowledge that God is pleased with me and blessing my efforts of doing His will for me, I am learning a new lesson that I also see Paul teaching in 1 Corinthians 4:3-5.

3But [as for me personally] it matters very little to me that I should be put on trial by you [on this point], and that you or any other human tribunal should investigate and question and cross-question me. I do not even put myself on trial and judge myself.  4I am not conscious of anything against myself, and I feel blameless; but I am not vindicated and acquitted before God on that account. It is the Lord [Himself] Who examines and judges me. 5So do not make any hasty or premature judgments before the time when the Lord comes [again], for He will both bring to light the secret things that are [now hidden] in darkness and disclose and expose the [secret] aims (motives and purposes) of hearts. Then every man will receive his [due] commendation from God. Amplified Bible (AMP)

I am learning to let go of the worry about my mistakes and the fear that I will displeased God with my mistakes. That is true freedom found in knowing Christ as Savior and Lord. God is pleased with me in spite of my mistakes. He already knows my flaws and what mistakes I will make. He knows we aren’t perfect. He knows what we are going to do wrong before we even do it. He also sent His Son, Jesus, to live like us. Jesus understands what we go through. He didn’t sin, and He can help us to learn how to live right. We find these promises in Jeremiah 1:4-5 and Hebrews 4:14-16. He is pleased with me simply because I have chosen to love His Son and chosen to try to do what is right with the help of Jesus. I can be free because I am confident that God loves me and is pleased with me. I can be free because I am confident that because I am trying to follow that God will lead me in His way and bless my efforts.

This freedom can be found by everyone. It is found by choosing Christ and wanting to do right and allowing Christ to help us learn while we are also being used to reach others in spite of our imperfections. Part of that means we also have to learn that we can be blessed by others who are imperfect, but anointed, too

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