How SimplyFun is Making Games Fun for Kids with Autism

If you have a child who would be considered “on the Spectrum”, you are probably feeling a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of homeschooling them.  Most homeschool resources are tailored for some other child – not yours – and you sometimes wonder if anyone out there understands what your homeschool day looks like…what your life looks like.

When SimplyFun contacted me about their Autism Initiative, I knew immediately I wanted to share what they were doing with all of you.

SimplyFun's Autism Initiative helps you choose games that capitalize on your Autistic child's strengths so you can play games the entire family can enjoy!

A lot of games aren’t particularly autism-friendly.  In fact, the idea of a Family Game Night can strike fear in the heart of a mom whose child has autism – no matter where they fall on the Spectrum.

SimplyFun wanted to change this.  They wanted to give you tools to help you choose games your ENTIRE family can enjoy!   They wanted to take the focus off what autistic children can’t do and find ways to capitalize on their strengths instead.

They gathered a team of experts to categorize many of their games by strengths autistic children may exhibit, so parents could find the right game for their child.

Click the Autism Tab on the description page of SimplyFun games to learn if the game is a good fit for your Autistic child.

The Autism tab on many of the SimplyFun game descriptions includes information on how the game might meet your child’s specific strengths and interests as well as information telling you if the game would need to be modified and how it fits with characteristics an autistic child might exhibit.  There is also a special Advanced Search to help you find the right game for your child by asking you a series of questions and then matching your needs to specific games!

SimplyFun wants to keep the fun in game-playing.  They want children to build their strengths and stretch their minds in new ways.  They want parents to feel like they are succeeding, and families to feel connected.

I’d encourage you to take a look at what SimplyFun has to offer.    Even if your child doesn’t have Autism, take a look around the site and find games that fit your family.  I’m a fan of their math-based games (probably because I’m not a fan of math, so playing a game makes math a lot more fun).  They have quite a few New Releases, and information on how you can join the SimplyFun team and get discounts on their games as a homeschool mom.

Kudos to SimplyFun for making learning fun for everyone!


Click here to see all the educational games SimplyFun has to offer!


See the Light Bible Story Set Giveaway!

(If you click the links below and purchase any of the See the Light products, our family will receive a small commission – thank you!)
See the Light | RaisingArrows.netI’ve been telling you for several years about my favorite homeschool art program – See the Light Art.  It is DVD-based and takes the guess work out of art for the homeschool family.  It was a huge relief finding such a great program!  Since that time, See the Light has come out with even more wonderful art programs that not only teach art concepts, but how to use them to minister to others!

Find all the See the Light Art products here.

Today, I am thrilled to be able to bring you a fantastic giveaway for the
ENTIRE BIBLE STORY SET!

Win the See the Light Bible Story Set on RaisingArrows.net

First, let me tell you a bit about this set:

The Bible Story Set includes 5 DVDs –
The CrossMaker – (great for Resurrection Sunday!)
God’s Special Surprise – (the story of Moses)
Gift of Love – (The Christmas Story)
Shipwrecked – (adventures with the Apostle Paul)
God’s Runaway – (the story of Jonah)

These DVDs include stories, special drawings, 3 art lessons, and ideas for sharing the Gospel with others.  This set would be a fantastic art program for your homeschool this year and for years to come!

I’d also really encourage you to sign up for See the Light’s brand new newsletter before the end of April!  You will receive a FREE Watercolor Butterfly project that is GORGEOUS!  (Click HERE, scroll down a bit to the box in the righthand sidebar, and don’t forget to tell them Raising Arrows sent you!)

Sign up for See the Light's newsletter and receive a  FREE Butterfly Watercolor project - tell them Raising Arrows sent you!You will also find tons of FREE resources in every newsletter!  This is one of my favorite newsletters to receive!  I will often forward them on to my artistically inclined daughter.

Ready for the Giveaway?  Use the widget below to enter the giveaway – if reading via email, click here and scroll down to find the giveaway on my blog!  (winner will be announced on Friday)

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2014-15 Homeschool Curriculum – Middle School & High School

Our Middle School & High School Homeschool Curriculum (2014-15) from RaisingArrows.net

This year, I have one child in high school and one in middle school.  My high schooler, Blake – age 16, will be finishing his “formal” schooling in December.  My daughter, Megan, is an 8th grader by traditional standards – something that doesn’t really fit her well at all.

Later this month, I’ll be writing about what Blake will be doing after he “graduates”, but for now, take a moment to read my post entitled, “True Education is Not About Making a Living“.  It will give you a little bit of a taste of the approach we are taking.

Our Middle School & High School Homeschool Curriculum 2014 | RaisingArrows.net

It has been quite a privilege to watch these two grow up.  Blake is a natural-born leader and Megan is creative and artsy.  The two of them together make a great team!  We have tried to give them plenty of opportunities to work together on projects and hone their own individual skills.  You will see in our curriculum choices that same individuality.

{affiliate links included}

High School Homeschool Curriculum

Last year, I would have wholeheartedly endorsed Khan Academy as a standalone curriculum.  Changes that were made mid-year last year have me hesitant to recommend it the way I once did.  However, we are using it as a standalone for both our high schooler and middle schooler.  The changes that were made are not ones that compromise the education, but rather tend to frustrate the user.  That said, this FREE program has been very successful in teaching my children math concepts they were not understanding via any other curriculum.  Blake is finishing up Geometry this year, and he has a very good grasp of what he is learning, thus the reason we have stuck with it despite some frustrations with how the system is set up.

Blake is finishing up his Apologia Biology with Lab.

Biology

He has been dissecting all sorts of things!  This is something I never did in high school, so it has been fascinating to watch!  (Glad I’m past the morning sickness, though!)

Something new we added mid-year last year was Current Events.  Most of the time, Blake uses a Fox News app on the iPad, but we also have him check the stories via other news sources as well.  This teaches several things:  discernment, an understanding of the world and culture around him, and Biblical thinking skills.  He is our researcher, so it only made sense to have him “research” current events and keep the rest of the family abreast of what is going on in the world.

I do want to caution you on this topic – having your child read/watch Current Events from mainstream media sources requires your child be very mature and very discerning.  There is no way my 13 year old could handle a daily dose of current events.  It would be too overwhelming to her.

For our history, church history, geography, and literature, we are doing Tapestry of Grace – Year 3.

Tapestry of Grace Year 3 - part of our middle school and high school curriculum 2014 | RaisingArrows.netWe do not do Tapestry in the traditional sense, but use it as a backbone of our studies.  The curriculum is full of wisdom and information, and even though we don’t use 100% of it, the price was still well worth the information and guides contained within.

I use the Teacher’s Guides and the Weekly Assignments to create my own list of things the children need to do based on TOG’s suggestions.  Once a week, we use the discussions to dig deep into the era we are studying.  They children read selections from that week’s work, look up some of the geography to familiarize themselves with the area being studied, and do some of the projects listed, including their younger siblings in the fun.  Blake has all the history credits he needs, but he enjoys TOG so much, he doesn’t mind sitting in on another year.

For his composition credit, I am requiring him to write a research paper.  I give him a generalized idea of the time period to write on, and he chooses his topic and builds his paper.  Last year, was some aspect of the Revolutionary War (he chose to concentrate on George Washington’s command).  This year, will be some aspect of the Civil War.  He writes his paper in Google Docs so the two of us can work together on editing it.

As I’ve mentioned before, Blake runs a blog of his own – Airsoft Warrior.  Doing so has taught him many lessons!  His writing skills have improved, his videos are wonderfully edited, and he has honed his public speaking skills (although, public speaking has never been difficult for him).

He is also learning the ins and outs of money management as he works part-time as a Trapper (the person who throws the clays at a shooting sports lodge).  We have helped him walk through making wise purchases, saving, and tithing.  He is proving to be a great money manager – for that, I am very thankful!

He also works out nearly every day.  Last year, he dropped 60 pounds by tracking his food and exercising!

Middle School Homeschool Curriculum

Again, keep in mind this curriculum is highly tailored to my creative 13 year old.  If you need help learning how to tailor a curriculum to your child’s particular talents, the wonderful people at 10KtoTalent.com can help!

Megan is doing Khan Academy 8th Grade.  We took a break from it for a while, but it was very obvious to me that she learns very well using Khan.  When she is stumped and the hints on Khan aren’t helping, she will use MathIsFun.com to help her get through a particular issue.  (Note:  We have her computer set up with a School folder in the navigation bar to keep all of the websites she uses readily available so she isn’t randomly surfing the web.)

After taking a year off from Science, she is doing Apologia’s General Science this year.

Apologia General Science - part of our middle school homeschool curriculum 2014 | RaisingArrows.netThere have been a few rocky spots (the first two chapters are rather dry and she learned a valuable lesson in perseverance and diligence as she pushed through), but now she says she is enjoying it.

She is also doing Tapestry of Grace – Year 3 for her history, church history, geography, and literature.

As I mentioned in my Elementary Curriculum post, she and her younger sister go to Keepers of the Faith once a month.  I’ll be writing more about that in a later post.

Megan continues to take French via iTalki.com.  If you have a child who has a natural bent toward languages or who wants to pursue a career that would benefit from fluency in another language, I HIGHLY recommend iTalki.  Lessons are taught by live teachers via Skype on a schedule of your choosing.  We have been very pleased with the results.  (You can read my review of iTalki and explore the site for yourself!)

Additionally, Megan is taking American Sign Language.  A Deaf woman at a local church does free lessons a couple of times a year; however, we are planning on doing private lessons with her because Megan hopes to pursue her certification as an ASL Interpreter. For school, she reviews using ASLPro.com. (This site was recommended by her teacher as being legitimately ASL. You do have to be aware that not all sign language is ASL, so if you have a child interested in interpreting, it is better to avoid filling their memory banks with wrong information.)

One last thing I want to mention concerning Megan’s homeschooling is her photography.  Most of the photos you see on Raising Arrows are her work.  She has had a photography blog for many years as a hobby, but this year – thanks to 10ktoTalent, she’ll be getting more serious about building her portfolio and working toward her 10,000 hours.  She wants to start doing portraits and family photography and build from there.  We will be seeking out professional photographers to help mentor her through this process, as well as using online resources.  (One of her favorites is Digital Photography School.)

Phew!  These curriculum posts are harder to put together than I like to admit, but I hope you’ve enjoyed them!

2014-15 Homeschool Curriculum – Elementary

Our Elementary Homeschool Curriculum (2014-15) from RaisingArrows.netThis year, I have 2 in the elementary grades – age 8 and just-turned 10 (yesterday, as a matter of fact!).  They are only 16 months apart, but my 8 year old was non-verbal until he was 3, and struggled with speech issues until age 6.  We did not start formal schooling with him until he was 7 to give him time to mature verbally.  That said, he is doing really well with his work!

Keian

{affiliate links included}

Keian is finishing up Horizons Math 1 and will be moving into Horizons 2 very soon.  (Remember, we homeschool year round, so finishing books have very little to do with a calendar date.)

Horizons 2He is doing A Reason for Handwriting B.  He’s a lefty and his handwriting is absolutely beautiful!

2014-15 Elementary Homeschool Curriculum - A Reason for Handwriting B | RaisingArrows.net

He is near the end of the 1st grade level of Phonics Museum and doing amazing!  It does a mama’s heart good to hear a once non-verbal child actually read something! (Note:  there are 2 years to this program.  This will be our second time to go completely through the set.  You can read my review of Phonics Museum HERE).

phonics

We are once again doing Five in a Row with the 10 and under crowd.  I don’t do this full force, but more as a special supplement just for them.

FIAR

Feel free to visit my FIAR Pinterest Board for more ideas and resources to supplement Five in a Row!

Five in a Row Pinterest Board from Amy @ Raising ArrowsMelia, our barely 10 year old is also doing FIAR as well as a few other things…

Melia outside

She is finishing up Horizons Math 3 and will soon be leveling up like her brother.

Horizons 3She has struggled with getting her multiplication tables down, so we are using a free app on the iPad to help her.  It is a very simple program, but has done very well in “drilling” her facts.  The name of the app is Math Flash Cards, and she has to go through 2 rounds getting all of them right (10 problems) before starting her workbook lesson for the day.

I decided last year to go back to my traditional method of doing elementary science, which is to wait until each child is a fluent reader, then hand them an Apologia Elementary Science book and let them run with it!  Melia is doing Flying Creatures and having a wonderful time!  She loves to do all the experiments, and is constantly telling me what she has learned.  I doubt I’ll try any other method of elementary science from here on out!

Zoology

Melia just started her Cursive handwriting curriculum.  I couldn’t find a link and photo, but let me tell you something about cursive, and handwriting in general…

Choosing a handwriting curriculum is difficult.

You should have seen all of us mamas standing around the handwriting section of the Rainbow Resource booth at Teach Them Diligently discussing which curriculum to buy!  The name of the game really ends up being PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.  Give your children plenty of opportunities to write and practice the letters and concepts they are learning.

One way to do this is by notebooking.  I am using notebooking pages from the collection at NotebookingPages.com as well as creating my own using their software.  I have a Lifetime Membership there and LOVE it!  You can read more about how we do notebooking as a large family HERE).

Free & Affordable Notebooking Pages

We had to abandon our old spelling program with Melia because it just wasn’t working.  Her spelling is not very good and the old curriculum was frustrating her terribly.  We tried several apps with equal results, but when I ended up with a coupon code to try All About Spelling, I decided to snag it for her and my 8 year old to see what would happen.

What has impressed me the most is how important the multi-sensory approach is to her learning.  This is definitely a parent-led program, but the time spent has been well worth it.  I have also seen where our Mother-Daughter Journals have helped her spelling as well.  There again, is that PRACTICE factor!

We will also be continuing our See the Light Art lessons.  We do not take a rigorous approach to art, but rather a slow and steady approach.  I want my children to enjoy art, and have found using these DVDs as a “treat” rather than a to-do on a checklist has accomplished that nicely.  (You can read my review of See the Light Art Curriculum to learn more!)

See the Light

For corporate Bible/Devotions in the mornings, we read a section of Scripture and discuss and then read from Apologia’s Worldview curriculum – Who is God?

Who is God?  Apologia Worldview Curriculum, part of our Elementary Homeschool Curriculum | RaisingArrows.net

 

Everyone from littles to bigs listens in, but honestly, this curriculum is best for the elementary and middle school years.  My older kids need something a little deeper and a lot of what we read goes over the heads of my little ones, but I think everyone is getting something from the teaching in the book, so I’ve chosen to have everyone stay together during this time.  In addition to our corporate Bible time, everyone who can read is required to spend time reading the Bible on their own following Morning Chores.

Melia and Megan are also doing Keepers of the Faith once a month.  I’m hoping to post more about this soon.  Keian is currently a Cub Scout and scouting as a Lone Scout (which means he does everything from home, rather than as part of a Pack).  Note:  Remaining with the Boy Scouts of America was not a decision we took lightly, and I do not wish to get into a debate here on the blog over Scouts.  Thank you!

For more homeschooling info,
be sure to check out my
Homeschooling Page
here on Raising Arrows!

2014-15 Homeschool Curriculum – Preschool & Kindergarten

Our Homeschool Preschool & Kindergarten Curriculum choices for 2014-15 | RaisingArrows.netCurrently, I have one preschooler and one kindergartner in our homeschool.  Garin will turn 4 at the end of the month and Micah is 5.  We are not doing a lot with the preschooler, other than having him sit in on cooperative subjects and letting him listen in on lessons, but I’ll include what we will be doing with him because I suspect we’ll add him sometime mid-year.

Preschool Homeschool Curriculum

As with all my younguns, we will start out with Rod & Staff’s ABC Series:

Rod & Staff ABC Series

We are still working through these with our Kindergartner as well.  They are simply a fun way to learn school-type skills, and not something we stress over “getting done.”

Don’t forget to give your preschoolers plenty of time to play and explore!  This is the best preschool curriculum!

2014-15 Preschool Curriculum from Amy @ RaisingArrows.net

Kindergarten Homeschool Curriculum

All of my younger crowd will be doing Five in a Row.

Screen Shot 2013-08-03 at 1.01.26 AM

We will be starting the year out with How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World.  I am beyond excited about sharing this book with my children, and this is the perfect time of year to do so!  (Check out my FIAR Pinterest board for links and resources to supplement Five in a Row.)

Five in a Row Pinterest Board from Amy @ Raising Arrows

About mid-year last year, I noticed Micah was ready to learn to read, so we pulled out Phonics Museum (we have been using this curriculum for several years – you can read my review of it HERE).
phonics

If you are wondering how I knew he was ready to learn to read, here are the things I noticed:

1.  He was mimicking his big brother’s phonics lessons.
2.  He was asking me to tell him what certain words said.
3.  He was “pretending” to sound out words.
4.  He was sitting down to “read” books more and more.

As I mentioned above, Micah is still working through the Rod & Staff ABC workbooks, with particular emphasis on his numbers.  He’s a great little reader, but numbers are more difficult for him to retain.  We work a lot on the side counting and helping him recognize numbers in every day life.

Micah

As you’ll notice, the early years of homeschooling in our home are pared down and simple.  As I mention in my ebook, Large Family Homeschooling, we believe the Trickle-Down Effect of the one-room schoolhouses of yesteryear really do work, creating less of a need for academic rigor when children are very young.

To learn more about how we homeschool the early years
and what a typical homeschool day looks like,
be sure to check out my
Homeschooling page
here on Raising Arrows!

Finding Your Child’s Reading “ON” Button

Finding Your Child's Reading "ON" Button | RaisingArrows.netA lot of homeschool parents find themselves stumped by teaching their child to read.  Often, they will get through all the phonics lessons in a choice curriculum, only to realize their child still doesn’t read fluently.  Sometimes a child does quite well with learning to read, but fails to find enjoyment in reading anything they don’t have to.

The fact of the matter is this happens even in public and parochial schooling as well.  You’ve probably heard of the Accelerated Reader Program widely used in public schools to encourage students to achieve higher reading levels via monitoring software and incentives.  While this program can be helpful, it misses the heart of why we teach reading, and often causes more problems by encouraging kids to avoid books that are not AR approved because they will not receive “points” for those books.

The key to reading success is finding your child’s reading “ON” button.  This happens when everything you have taught them clicks and their reading begins to soar.  But you might be a little stumped about how to find that button and flip the switch.  Let me share with how you can guide your child toward fluent and voracious reading with a few simple tactics you can start implementing today.

{affiliate links included}

Study your child

Be a student of your child

First and foremost, you must know your child.  In particular, you need to know what subjects interest them.  This is easy to see in some children, but harder to figure out in others.

For instance, my 9 year loves all things domestic.  She’s a fan of cooking, hosting parties, keeping house, and is especially drawn to frontier living.  I know she’ll enjoy books like the Little House on the Prairie series or Life with Lilly series.

But what about my son who would prefer to fill his days with airsofting and hunting?  Currently, he is reading hunting magazines and Army field manuals, but we originally found his “ON” button via books about World War II.  He is looking for books that offer strategy and intrigue.  He is looking for books that are rarely found in the children’s section of the local library.  We had to think outside the box with him, and I am certain the AR program would not have met his reading needs in a useful way.

Finding Your Child's Reading "ON" Button | RaisingArrows.net

Be purposeful in choosing reading material for your home

Once you begin to study and know your child, look for ways to bring purposeful reading material into your home.  Don’t limit yourself to the exact interest your child has, but rather dig deeper into the WHY.

Suppose you have a child who seems to prefer playing video games to just about any other activity.  Consider the games that are his favorites.  Why are they favorites?  Do they involve cars?  Consider piquing his interest with books about cars.  Maybe he likes games that involve treasure hunting.  Look into archeology books or books about pirates.

Be purposeful about the books you choose and where you choose to keep them in your home.  You want to spark imagination and light a fire that motivates your child to hunger for more information.

And don’t forget magazines, ebooks, and blogs as useful ways to get your child reading!  {You can check out my son’s airsoft blog HERE!}

books

Visit the library and look for specific topics

Don’t forget to utilize your local library.  Go to the library with purpose.  It is not uncommon for our children to head to the library with topics in mind.  One son really enjoys learning about knights.  We look specifically for books on knights.  And remember my son who enjoys airsofting?  He spends most of his time in the adult non-fiction section, looking for books on battles and military tactics.

Don’t limit yourself to the children’s section of the library.  In fact, I’ve been rather disappointed in the teen section of our local library and prefer my older children look in the adult section of the library for books that are meatier.

reading

Don’t be afraid to start with twaddle
{but don’t stay there}

Some people will tell you to avoid twaddle at all costs, but if you have a struggling reader you may need to start with the easy stuff and work your way up.  A comic book here and there may be just what your child needs to get them interested in reading.  My only caution would be to avoid feeding an appetite for “easy” reading.  You want your child’s reading abilities to grow.

Finding Your Child's Reading "ON" Button

Now, what do you do with all these books you’ve acquired that are supposed to lead your child to proficient reading?  Here are some quick tips and ideas to get you started on the right path:

  • Leave books laying out in obvious places.
  • Have your child read aloud to you in small increments, building up as you go.
  • Have your child read a page and draw a picture, act out a scene, build something from it with blocks or Legos.  Get their mind and body working together and learning from the material.
  • Have a movie night after a book that has a corresponding movie has been read.  Ask them about differences and if they liked the book or movie better (you might be surprised!).
  • Explore things in books or magazines further.  Is there a website listed?  Check it out!  Want to know more about how something was made?  Look it up!  Encourage your child to keep digging for information based on what they learned in the reading material.

Ultimately, you are looking to foster your child’s drive to learn.  Reading is still one of the best ways to gather information and a skill every child needs to acquire and become adept at.  Be your child’s best encourager and keep looking for that reading “ON” button!

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Want to know more about the Life with Lily series my 9 year old daughter enjoys?
Click the button below:

Life with Lily