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You can find all of my articles including those on the now-closed Homeschool Mosaics site at Tactile View.org . The adventures of my life in the Dark Silence continues there with a few surprises, too. Follow along! I would love to see there.

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It is with great pride that we announce Wynfield Christian Academy’s Class of 2015’s Valedictorian and Salutatorian selections. These students are both high examples of integrity and academic excellence. They each are poised to do great service for their Lord, Jesus Christ, in whatever service He calls them.

Congratulations to each of these students. We at Wynfield Christian Academy are proud of them and salute their parents and them for a job well done.

Valedictorian: Nicholas Christian Ricks
Salutatorian: Kaitlin Rose LoForti

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/

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/

Classical Historian's Ancient History Go Fish Card Game DeckThere is a simple, but interesting way to commit to memory those often tedious bits of information in history like people, places, general chronology. The homeschooling parents of The Classical Historian have taken old card game formats and applied them as new tricks for a tired, old dog called flash cards.

These cards are really more than flash cards, but the analogy still holds. Each card contains the information covered in a chapter or more of a history book in a simple format for seeing and understanding while giving the freedom to do several game formats to spice up learning with fun and make remembering the facts easier.

The four card games that The Classical Historian brings to you with their set is Go Fish, Collect the Cards, Chronology, and Continents. With the simplest, Collect the Cards, the student will get familiar with pronouncing the name, repeat visually seeing the spelling, picture, and simple facts including category, and a time frame code. Simply asking for the names of cards to complete their set of four of a kind, the student is practicing memory skills. The other three games reinforces memory of facts, time, and place about each card in the deck. Two of the games which are played against a clock can even be played alone, if required, by trying to improve their own personal best at placing cards in the proper time order or under the correct continent the cards were found. Whether alone or in a group, the games are as fun as the original games, but teach even more now.

A Go Fish game card that has been overlaid with clear plastic sheet and brailled with the information on that card.

You may be wondering how I played such a game designed for typical people meaning hearing and sighted. Well, my husband told me in fingerspelling what was on each card and even where (I used to see, so I understand visual placement). Using that information, I brailled a piece of clear plastic for each card. I did this in using a regular braille slate and stylus. For example, I also used a larger sheet of plastic to braille a separate “card” using jumbo braille as some older or younger students might need. The sheets are bigger in jumbo braille, of course, but for a blind child or adult playing with children, it is still quite usable. Yes, it can take some time to braille all these cards in either size, but the joy of playing a game and especially a learning game is worth the effort. I have lots of games that I still play with my husband that we have tactiled in various ways. Sometimes, we may even have to modify play slightly, but it doesn’t prevent us from enjoying the game or our quality time together. Be open and creative. It is worth the effort.This is a clear plastic sheet broiled in jumbo braille all the information from a Classical Historian's Go Fish game card.

The Classical Historian sells the card games in three categories: Ancient History, Medieval History, and American History. You will also find on their website, classicalhistorian.com, A Memory game format covering these categories and other curriculum resources. The Go Fish card games are $11.95 each. You will find there is replay value (fun to play again and again) in the games, and the game cards are very durable which makes them worth the price.

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.

The Ultimate Planner System with the Student and Teen's planner on top and the Parent's Ultimate Planner on the bottom.

The Ultimate Planner System integrating the teacher’s Ultimate, The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students, and The Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens taming the chaos.

The Ultimate Planner System with the Student and Teen's planner on top and the Parent's Ultimate Planner on the bottom.

Planners? You may be wondering why I am reviewing planners when I can’t see to use them. Well, I love planners. I have to use computer planners now, but I used to love my Day Timer when I could see. My life was so full that if I lost my Day Timer I would have a heart attack. I came close once, and that was a lesson enough to always keep it handy. When I taught school, I had a lesson plan notebook. It did its job, but without flair and whimsy. I always searched for something that I felt showed my personality and gave me features that I wanted to use. I was never successful. Lesson plan books were so boring back then. Times change. Good things come to those who wait. As a homeschool teacher, I needed a Day Timer and lesson plan book combined and more. How do you put it all together to keep you together and your students on track. Apologia has some nice planners for homeschool students and teachers. I recently got to hold all three of their planners: The Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens, The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students, and The Ultimate Homeschool Planner. All three are designed by Debra Bell, author of The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling with many features allowing flexibility for your needs.

The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students is bright and colorful with blank monthly grids and undated weekly assignment pages to allow the planner to fit anyone’s school calendar. There are Scripture verses and trivia questions alternating across the tops of the calendar and assignment pages teaching lessons of life disguised as fun facts and musings. There are a few pages at the beginning that let the students fill out their favorite verses, music, best friends, colors, desires, and dreams to record a little snap shot of who they are in this one year. There is also a little guide to how to study to get the student started on a life-long process of organizing and learning to help them also love to learn. There are history timelines, a clear ruler, scientific method flow chart, geography features, math facts and more to help them have useful information handy. The student can keep up with their grades, reading list, physical exercise  plans, and activities all in one place to keep them on track. I love the little calendar stickers to highlight certain events in a fun way. These are all kept in a spiral-bound, durable book built to stand up to life’s happenings in a young student’s life.

The Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens is very similar, but dressed for the more mature. Knowing that college and career preparation is becoming more intense the Scripture and facts at the top of the pages are replaced with vocabulary words for SAT and other testing preparation. More space is allotted for more classes and a credit track guide is added to help the student get what is needed on that journey. There are also calendar pages for a few years into the future because teens have to look further ahead than when they were younger. There are still stickers because no one truly outgrows those. Though the cover is a little more mature, it is just as durable because this planner will probably go further than just the bedroom desk and floor.

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner is for the orchestra leader of all that is magical and necessary in the homeschooling lives of your family. It, too, is bright, cheerful, and durable for all the chaos in and out of the home where learning takes place including the kitchen with its soup and the dirty, wet bleachers of the soccer field. With similar features like Scripture and quotes from famous people, monthly and weekly grids, The Ultimate Homeschool Planner fits in nicely with the student and teen planners, but it goes further than that. The thing I love the most is that the three planners are actually part of a system helping you to orchestrate your homeschool and life activities coordinating with your students to keep everyone on the same page, but also learning organization skills and planning strategies for school and life now and into the future. With a user guide explaining the system and how to do yearly, monthly, and weekly planning for yourself and with your students (up to six students easily), and Monday Morning Tutorials (to help your students work in their planners) and Friday Afternoon Reviews to discuss the week and providing accountability, encouragement, and support, the planner system takes you easily through a year better able to handle the chaos that can come.You can set goals for each student, set up pre-planning guides to prioritize family needs and activities, set up resource lists needed for each student letting you know what to gather before it is needed. Another favorite feature of mine is The Lord’s Day which is the beginning of your weekly plan. You begin in a quiet place recounting God’s faithfulness during the prior week and committing to make God’s Word the key of your plan for peace. As you find areas that you are vulnerable in, you can create a battle plan to strengthen your resolve along with fighter verses you can write to refer to during the week to help you stay on track. There is even a list of these verses available free on DesiringGod.org. This along with your Friday Reviews with each student gets you started and ended in a better place each week and ready to tackle the next week. This really is one of the best designed programs I have seen and the first that truly makes the teacher and student planners coordinate and integrate for learning organizational skills and provide growth from year to year. Add the teaching tips and the year-end review helper, and you have a system that carries you forward.

As a former public school teacher, I could have used many of these features even for a classroom of forty students to keep my head in the game, and my spirit where it needed to be for my students despite these planners being focused for homeschoolers. As a homeschool teacher, I know that it fits the homeschool lifestyle to a tee with structure and flexibility to suit most families’ needs.

The prices also fit the need, too, as The Ultimate Homeschool Planner is $28.00 and The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students is $19.00, and The Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens is also $19.00. These are affordable prices for taming the chaos and imparting skills for growth. My only wish is I had these kind of features in a digital, non-visual based planner that I could use. Well, we can’t have everything we want, but it is nice to know that some things are taming the homeschool chaos.

Check them out on Apologia’s website.

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.

Today, I write about ASL interpreters, the heroes to me and many other Deaf and DeafBlind individuals. They train to provide the best interpretation of information in the form of words to the beautiful images found only on the hands and in the minds of those who understand the language of the hands. There are many kinds of heroes in this world. I share how ASL interpreters are true heroes to me. I hope you will read today’s post on Homeschool Mosaics and understand just how special these hard-working people are and how they contribute so much to many. http://homeschoolmosaics.com/interpreters-a-special-kind-of-hero/

Thinkwell is an online math education site. I have heard so much about it that I thought I would try it out. I wanted to see if it was accessible for the deaf, blind, and deafblind. I also wanted to see if the program would be suitable for an accredited umbrella program that required the parent-teacher to submit documentation such as copies of tests and grades for credit. I had heard from many that it covered several age levels from middle school through high school and Advanced Placement and college level, too. While educationally, it might not be a suitable option for everyone, the program is high quality and proves beneficial to many.

While, I may not be discussing the academic portions of this program, I will quickly describe it to you. There are numerous chapters in each course covering a full curriculum of objectives for each course. Each chapter has a video lecture followed by practice assignments, a quiz, and a chapter test. There are also interactive activities for added interest, practice, and enrichment. Along with that, you will also find printable worksheet type exercises for off-line practice, too.  A fellow contributing writer and co-founder of Homeschool Mosaics reviewed this site a few months ago following actually using the programs for two years with her own son. You can get her educated opinion by reading her review on Homeschool Mosaics here:  http://homeschoolmosaics.com/thinkwell-for-math/ .

Now, let me tell you what I found out in regards to accessibility and umbrella programs. Although, the site isn’t totally accessible to a braille display, I was impressed by how much the site developers did try to consider handicapped students. Their lecture videos which are the key to the program are closed captioned. You can turn them on from the buttons at the bottom of the video window. In addition, I was shocked to see that they had a complete print transcript of the video’s audio with detailed descriptions of the examples written on a chalkboard in the video. This would make it very easy for a hearing blind student to follow the video during play. It also would make it possible for a blind student to use a screen reader to read the transcript for the video to further understand the teacher’s lecture. A deaf student could also use the transcript to augment the closed captioning, if needed, since the problem examples are described well. In addition, the transcript file is a text .pdf making it accessible to a braille display, too, so a deafblind student could use this transcript to access the all-important teacher lecture. I highly commend the site developers for taking this much needed, but rare extra step to add accessibility to the site. Normally, the deafblind student would not have the ability to use a site at all even if a transcript is provided, since most provide image-based rather than text-based .pdf files. The practice worksheets, quizzes, and tests that I have mentioned that follow each video lecture are also available in two formats:  the online, computer checked format and the .pdf format. There is no audio connected with the practice tests, quizzes or tests, so a deaf student can easily take the on-line test to receive their results. A hearing blind student can possible do the on-line format with the screen reader. I can’t verify that because I am DeafBlind, so I am unsure if the screen reader is voicing the on-line version. Regardless, the .pdf format of the worksheets, quizzes, and tests are also text-based instead of image-based, so a braille display will be able to read these. To facilitate this use, open the on-line version and let the student orally answer or open .pdf version , print,  and use a braille and slate to record the answers for these assignments. The teacher can then use the on-line format to record the student’s answers for computer grading and record-keeping.  This is definitely an easy way to do the program for the blind and deafblind. There are some animated flash interactive activities that are not accessible for blind and deafblind and possibly not to the deaf for the ones that have audio that is needed for completing the task. However, these are enrichment activities that are not critically needed to ensure successful completion of the courses. Although the blind and deafblind can’t do the entire site independently, the quality of the education is high, and there is sufficient access along with a simple step for modification to make this program a beneficial choice to those students who are already good with using a computer with a screen reader and/or braille display. So, if you need or want an on-line choice for your student’s math curriculum, Thinkwell is a beneficial option to try.

In addition to usable access for the disabled, Thinkwell pleases me as Principal of an accredited homeschool umbrella program, too. Regardless to whether the program is a divided home/center program or a home only program such as mine for the most part, Thinkwell has the capability to fit your documentation and contact hour requirements. The courses cover objectives for each subject and level well with suitable instruction and practice for a typical school year. All assignments can be printed as blank assignments to be used for on-site observation, as needed. Completed on-line activities can be printed with answers to show correct/incorrect questions specifically, as well as, the overall grade on the assignment. In addition, there is a suitable number of activities to allow for the programs that meet one, two, or three days a week and allow for practice at home through practice worksheets and interactive activities, as needed. Since there are also courses that are Advanced Placement level, students in these programs have access to AP materials that can be difficult for some students to obtain easily or affordably. Some colleges also use Thinkwell to provide actual college courses for them, so that adds to the evidence that Thinkwell provides quality instruction with a high quality content level, too.

A twelve month subscription to Thinkwell is $125-$150 for full year, full credit course, but there are many places that provide discount codes if you look for them. Either way, it isn’t too bad for a high quality program that is accessible and suitable for many accredited umbrella programs, too. You can find out more at http://www.thinkwellhomeschool.com/.

 

I was not asked by Thinkwell or anyone else to review this program. I chose it to review to provide options for disabled students and students involved in umbrella programs. I did use their advertised free trial to gain access to the program as any consumer can do. I have not and will not be compensated in any way for this review. The review expresses my honest opinion of this program.

Have you ever been told or said that you can’t do something because of limitations or even disabilities? Well, let me share with you what I have learned through my own limitations and disabilities. Check out my post for this month on Homeschool Mosaics and then stick and around and check out all the other great and wonderful writers found all in this one terrific place!

http://homeschoolmosaics.com/i-can-teach-just-differently/

Renée K. Walker—Foreign Languages—Winter 2010/11

American Sign Language

By Renée K. Walker

Foreign language credit for high schoolers can be a nightmare for many homeschooling parents and students. Many public and private school students feel they are lucky when their state does not require it for high school graduation. Homeschoolers also often try to avoid it, but many find that colleges will not accept students without it. However, foreign language should not be overlooked as an essential part of a child’s curriculum. Like art and music instruction, foreign language study enhances intellectual growth in the student. It can also improve public speaking skills and self-confidence.

Foreign language instruction isn’t complicated if you shop around for the best curriculum to suit your needs. The biggest decision you have to make is the first one, though: Which language do you want your students to learn? While there are many, in the homeschool world most choose French, Spanish, German, or Latin. There is another choice that many overlook, but it has a great potential to do good in the community around you.

Why Study American Sign Language?

As the third most-used language in the United States, accepted as a true language by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1989, and acceptable for study in most public and secondary schools for foreign language credit, American Sign Language (ASL) is an excellent choice for study. Some foreign language teachers question the validity of ASL as a true language, but linguistics experts do not question it, because it has its own system of grammar and syntax and is constantly changing as it grows within its culture and community of speakers. ASL is now accepted in most states for foreign language credit for high school graduation, and most colleges recognize it as well. Many colleges are even beginning to offer ASL instruction, with more and more offering interpreting programs in order to help address the certified interpreter shortage across the country.

High schoolers and families learning ASL have the potential of bringing light into a dim world for many Deaf people, especially DeafBlind people. You and your students’ lives can be enriched by the love and support of the Deaf community, which is indeed a culture of its own.

The study of ASL cannot be carried out successfully without a study of the culture and its history. Deaf and DeafBlind people are at a disadvantage in the hearing and sighted world. Communication issues prevent full access to many of life’s activities that most of society need and enjoy. If more people in the hearing world would take the time to learn ASL, a bridge could be built that would allow three cultural groups to meet, and new and exciting relationships could be developed. A Deaf person could easily ask a salesperson for help in the department store or order a meal at the restaurant or merely chat with a hearing person in the long line at the grocery store. A DeafBlind person could more easily find an assistant to help her write out bills or call a repairman to fix a broken window or simply have a visitor to share the afternoon with, dispelling the boredom for a while. Anything you can do in communicating with the Deaf or DeafBlind will be such a joy to a person who is sidelined from the hearing world due to communication issues.

If you find that you truly love American Sign Language and the Deaf culture, consider becoming a certified interpreter. There is a shortage of interpreters across the country. Trained interpreters are needed to help Deaf and DeafBlind people thoroughly understand what is happening in legal and medical situations. Their health or legal status could be in danger if they do not fully understand what is happening in those situations. Mastery of ASL is also a key to careers in Deaf Education and DeafBlind Studies. Learning ASL has the potential to help in so many ways, and no matter how big or small, the help is so very needed and appreciated.

Resources

If the question now is, “Okay, I want to teach ASL, but how can I go about teaching a language that is so different?” the help is out there, and finding it is easy. Many colleges and area agencies for the Deaf offer fairly inexpensive community classes, which are excellent choices. There are free options as well. The best free options are found on the Internet. The website http://www.lifeprint.com, created and operated by Dr. Bill Vicars, a Deaf ASL native and certified ASL teacher, is highly recommended by many Deaf agencies and by the Helen Keller National Center For Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults. You also can register with Lifeprint and submit lesson work and videotapes that are accepted for full credit in many places.

Numerous print resources are available for the study of American Sign Language and Deaf culture. A curriculum that gives a thorough study of vocabulary, grammar, and syntax is a series titled American Sign Language Green Books by Dennis Cokely and Charlotte Baker-Shenk. This series is published by Gallaudet University Press, a division of the first school for the Deaf and Deaf College, Gallaudet University. The Everything Sign Language Book: American Sign Language Made Easy by Irene Duke is a good choice for finding a lot of information in one place. The American Sign Language Phrase Book by Lou Fant, The American Sign Language Handshape Dictionary with optional flash card sets, and The Gallaudet Dictionary of American Sign Language are excellent resources, all of which can be purchased at http://www.amazon.com.

"Fingerspelling Chart ABC copyright by Lifeprint.com"

"Fingerspelling Chart ABC copyright by Lifeprint.com"

Find and use a chart of the American Manual Alphabet for fingerspelling. Twenty-six handshapes correspond to each letter of the alphabet. The Manual Alphabet is used in only a limited fashion in ASL, but fingerspelling and the handshapes play important roles. The Lifeprint website offers an alphabet chart, and most ASL resources will include one.

Regardless of the particular American Sign Language curriculum you choose, find a mentor—an interpreter, ASL teacher, fluent signer, or native speaker, who can make sure you are learning the signs properly and using them correctly. It is difficult to learn a sign using only a picture or even a video presentation. If possible, find a mentor in the Deaf community. He or she will help you not only to properly apply the skills learned in the curriculum, but also to enrich your vocabulary. You can form lasting bonds that not only will enrich the class but will enrich your lives as well.

A Few Considerations

Before you begin your study of American Sign Language, there are a few things that need to be considered. Many hearing individuals have the misconception that ASL is an easy or a simple language. That is probably derived from a misunderstanding of how the grammar and syntax works or from a direct translation that sounds similar to baby talk, but isn’t. ASL is a rich visual language that actually paints pictures with more detail than any verbal language does. The grammar and syntax is more like Japanese or Navajo than English. Learning any foreign language can be a challenging task, and learning American Sign Language is no exception. Consider this when choosing the language of study for your student.

Another aspect to consider is that some students who may have been overlooked for foreign language study due to learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, or auditory /visual processing disorders may be capable of learning and actually benefiting from acquisition of a visual language rather than a verbal one. Also, many hearing people think that any form of communication done with signs is sign language or ASL. However, many modes of communication use the hands to facilitate interaction and teaching of English to the Deaf. Signed Exact English (SEE) is one in which every English word is signed. It uses ASL signs and SEE signs, i.e., signs made to cover signs not found in ASL, because ASL doesn’t use the same syntax as English.

Pidgin Signed English, also known as Contact Language, is another tool that is used to bridge the gap between the hearing and the Deaf. It uses mostly American Sign Language signs, but in English word order. It is similar to ASL in that you don’t sign the forms of “be” or every single word.

All of these approaches are ways to communicate with the Deaf and may be beneficial if communication is the motivation or if used as a bridge to teach English skills to the Deaf. However, these approaches are not foreign languages, because they do not have a syntax or grammatical system of their own. They merely represent English words formed with the hands in a visual manner. For this reason, study of these approaches does not qualify for foreign language credit at the high school or college level.

When you choose a curriculum, ASL must be listed as the language of study. A listing of “sign language” is not enough to identify the subject as American Sign Language. Finally, ASL study must include a study of its history and culture of the Deaf community. In no other language have the creation and evolution of a language been so obviously impacted by the history and culture of its speakers as with ASL. Your study will enhance your understanding not only of the language but of the lives of members of the Deaf community as well. Their struggles and progress have united them uniquely as a community.

With all this good information from reputable sources, there are no excuses to not learn American Sign Language, a tremendous skill that can be acquired and enjoyed by you and your students. Do yourself a favor and after checking with your colleges of interest and/or your state requirements regarding foreign language credit, seriously consider American Sign Language for your students’ foreign language credit. The choice can bring joy to your family and the life of many Deaf and DeafBlind people.

 

First published by The Old SchoolHouse Magazine, Winter 2010/11.

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