GUEST POST: Insanity Corner

By Mrs. Superdad

My Circus My MonkeysI have not really loved home schooling for the past few years, if I’m honest. In fact, neither have the kids. So instead of holding myself to having an official start date with my stack of materials and curricula ready to go this year, I decided to totally chuck it all and re-imagine the entire concept of school. When we began with Matt, now almost 19 yrs old, we spent our time going places, doing things, and reading. We all learned a lot and had a great time. I have missed those days for so many years. I took the whole summer off, traveled, and focused my attention on a non-profit instead…all the while with thoughts of school stress intruding my mind.

It’s odd the battles we have with ourselves sometimes, isn’t it? I have so many with myself on the topic of home schooling.  What should it look like? What should my kids be learning? What if they don’t learn everything they need to know? Why can’t they learn what I’m trying to teach them? Do we use textbooks? Enrichment classes? Tutors? Lessons?  AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!  I freak out, shut down convinced that I can’t do it, then go to sleep.  Then, after I am rested, I tackle things and come up with a plan of action.  But, my goodness, it is EXHAUSTING!

I’m tired, bored, stressed, bored, overwhelmed, bored, unhappy, bored, and borED, boRED, bORED, BORED!  That’s really the thing.  I’m bored.  I have no enthusiasm and just go thru the motions hoping the kids learn something.  I have systematically talked myself into a corner over the years and this girl is done being in the corner.

   (My youngest, who is 10, just asked me to help him with something and I told him I would as soon as I am done writing this.  He said, “I like to write too.”   Good, because I actually did not know that about him.  We had a short discussion about what he likes to write, which evidently is everything.)

Back to my corner.  Where I am standing, stressing, and being BORED.  I’m done. With what?  My whole ‘school-y’ thought process and all the unpleasantness it has caused.  So, we’re bustin’ out of this joint. Textbooks will become reference books for the real life we are going to run out and grab. I don’t want my kids to be like everyone else, to think like everyone else, and do what everyone else does just because everyone else thinks, says, or does it.  I want them to be true individuals.

Here’s my thought for the day: We home school for a reason.  We want something different for our kids, our families, and our futures.  How can it be different if all we do is re-create a traditional school in our homes?  Remember, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again expecting different results.  I have been living in my corner of insanity for far too long now.  How about you?

School

schoolMy kids have never been much for a traditional school experience and so getting them excited about school is not an easy process.  Add in the autism, dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, ADHD and you need to pull out all of the stops when it comes to how you approach education.  We’ve been homeschooling since MJ, who just graduated from high school, started school.  However, I don’t think these lessons are for homeschoolers only, but being solely responsible for the kids education means that we have to be in trenches.  Now before I go on I want to be clear that Mrs. Superdad does the vast majority of the schooling; although I have helped over the years, my work schedule has made it difficult to be consistent.  Yet, I have learned from her that certain tactics work pretty consistently regardless of the child.

  1. The carrot: Positive re-enforcement works much more consistently than negative in education. We want kids to love learning so we try to keep it positive. Several years ago my wife instituted the prize box. It is filled with a bunch or small/cheap items that would appeal to the kids.
  2. Focus on what they like: Obviously there are basic skills that every kid must learn, the 3 Rs, but the kids do better when they have a passion for what they are learning. Our kids really like to do science experiments and cook. So Mrs. Superdad tries to integrate them into the lessons whenever possible.
  3. Hands on: Most people learn better by doing than by listening or reading. Our kids are no exception. Over the years we have built models of the International Space Station out of 2 liter bottles, made homemade strawberry jam, built a model of the ear large enough for the kids to crawl thru, made pizza to look like several of Jupiter’s moons, and are planning to learn to pan for gold this year at the suggestion of CJ.

Ultimately it is the parents that are responsible for a child’s education, homeschooled or traditional. I know some people try to outsource that responsibility, but that is unfair to both teachers and kids.  It is unreasonable to expect that a teacher with 20+ other kids in his/her class could tailor a class experience that meets every child’s individual needs.  They can provide a good general education in a wide range of subjects, but rarely are able to dig into the passion of a single child.  That means it is up to us.  If we want our kids to be everything they can be and to be happy we need to help them explore their passions.

We may have special needs kids, but they still have abilities and passions that as parents we need to foster. We are all born with a tremendous amount creativity and curiosity yet somewhere along the way so many of us lose that wonderful gift.  I believe we lose it because most of us never take the opportunity to explore our passions.  Both Mrs. Superdad and I strive to do our best to insure that AC and her siblings get the best education because being successful isn’t defined by your title or the size of your salary.  Being successful and happy is providing value to others and living your passion; that is what we want for our children and yours.

On to home and out of the rut

WiapioSo this past weekend we headed home after 3 weeks on the road. Although we were all sad to say goodbye to our family we were all ready to be home.  On our way home we visited with my mom and stepdad who had just moved back to Kentucky.  It was something that we had all been looking forward to and rounded out our trip.  Of course no trip would be complete without a little drama, such as pulling into the hotel at 11:45pm only to find out they didn’t receive the reservation.  However, taking it in stride we eventually made it to the room and in the grand scheme of things wasn’t a big deal.

After a long trip there is nothing as wonderful as arriving home. Everything always looks better than what you remember it, at least for a few minutes before luggage is carried in.  We made it home just before 6pm to find one attention starved cat.  We actually have two cats, but the other cat likes hide under the couch.  Unfortunately for the cat, AC knows this and I later found AC lifting up the couch trying to force the cat out; he was not happy and ran off to find a new hiding spot.  Later he did “allow” me to pet him, reluctantly, as he lay under my bed.  Cats are so moody.

The kids spent the remainder of the day reacquainting themselves with all their toys and activities that they hadn’t seen or done in the past 3 weeks…while Mrs. Superdad and I collapsed on the living room couch and chair. As I sat there wishing I could go to sleep, but knowing it wasn’t going to happen,  I started thinking about how far we had travelled and how much we had done.  Just to get to our destinations Mrs. Superdad and I travelled 11200 miles each, 2200 by car, in 3 weeks.  We had seen our families, hiked 2+ miles through a caldera, 4.2 miles at night to see an active lava flow (8.4 round trip), drove to the top of Mauna Kea,  looked through telescopes at Saturn and Mars, snorkeled, and got to visit several friends.  The kids got to spend a week with their aunt and cousin swimming, shopping, and going to the zoo; without mom and dad.  All in all I would call that a pretty good 3 week run of fun.

Now comes the really hard part, adjusting back to the normal day-to-day life. Our vacation already seems so long ago, but the recharge we got will hopefully carry us through the months to come.  It has helped me to take a step back and question some pre-conceived ideas.  It is easy to get stuck in a rut and so we need disruptions to periodically get us to sit up and take notice.  I’m sure some of these questions will lead to changes and that is a good thing.  I’ll talk more about these changes in future posts, but for now I’m just happy to be home.

“Awayacation”

HawaiiYou may have noticed I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks. Last week Mrs. Superdad and I did something that we haven’t done since we’ve had kids; take a vacation without the kids!  The 3rd of August was our 20th wedding anniversary and we decided a trip was long overdue.  We had been saving up for several years, but only decided on our destination a couple of months ago; the big island of Hawaii.  It was a wonderful time, but when we started planning the trip we were a bit nervous.  Going away on a trip and leaving your special needs kids with anyone requires a lot of planning.  The qualification for someone to watch your kids is more than just ensuring the person is responsible and trustworthy.  You must also consider how well they know the child and their needs, how they would respond to stressful and sometimes very public situations, and how does your child respond to them.  However, even after carefully considering all of these factors there are still no guarantees of success.  Lucky for us Mrs. Superdad’s sister (aka.  Superaunt) is the best candidate you could ever ask for and most importantly she was up for the challenge.  A couple of times AC and MC got to be a bit of a handful, but she managed them very well.  There were no major crises and the kids had a great time.  They got to go places and do things that we don’t normally do.  So, many thanks to Superaunt for allowing us to take a much needed vacation!

 

Many special needs parents have to face the very real possibility that their kids may have to live with them for most of their lives. When that happens the one-on-one time that most parents experience after raising their children never happens.  Yet a husband and wife must have time alone if they are going to have a healthy marriage.  I believe it is equally important for our children to have time away from their parents.  To provide our kids the best possible future we must allow them the opportunity to grow beyond us.  It is a challenge for both parents and kids, but in addition to strengthening marriage bonds it provides adventure and growth for our kids.  So start planning a family “awaycation” so that you can get to know your spouse and your kids can experience a special adventure.  It is OK if it takes you 20 years, but just get started!

Be consistent. B-E Consistent.

Green TAs you’ve seen in some of my earlier blogs, MC is my little actor. However, at times he can be a bit of a con-man.  I’m not sure if he is destined for Hollywood or Sing Sing in upstate New York.  He’ll, out of the blue,  just come up and tell you how much he loves you, give you a hug and a kiss, and then grab the keys and break in to my office and steal candy.  Here is the most recent exchange he had with Mrs. SuperDad:

Mrs. SD: MC why is your tongue green?

MC: Don’t ask me.

Mrs. SD: MC why is your tongue green?

MC: I’m not going to tell you.

Mrs. SD: MC why is your tongue green?

MC: Stop asking me questions.

Mrs. SD: Did you eat Shrek?

MC: Yes, I ate Shrek. He’s dead.

Mrs. SD: MC what did you eat?

MC: Candy.

Mrs. SD: From where?

MC: I got it from Dad’s office.

Mrs. SD: Did daddy give it to you?

MC: (Knows he is busted so he goes for forgiveness) I’m sorry.

Mrs. SD: Did you steal candy from Dad’s office again?

MC: (Try for that forgiveness again) I’m sorry.

Mrs. SD: You didn’t learn your lesson last time? Do I have to ground you from candy again?

I must admit I laughed when Mrs. SuperDad told me about this conversation; MC wasn’t around of course.  However, this highlights very real problem that exists with many ADHD and Autism kids: impulse control.  MC knows it is wrong and he had just come off being grounded because of a similar incident.  In my experience disciplining a child with impulse control issues isn’t usually as effective as we expect.  Now that of course does not excuse the action nor mean we let it pass.  As a parent we are responsible to help to teach them right from wrong.  It just means we have to be more diligent and patient.  MC doesn’t always get it the first time, but we’ve found if we are consistent it will eventually get through.  Being consistent isn’t always easy, but it is necessary so hang in there.

Road Trip

So the big day, actually two days, have come and gone. We have arrived at the grandparent’s and the kids are super excited.  This was the best road trip yet!  Mrs. Superdad gets better at trip planning every year.  AC got the backseat to herself; MC and CJ were in the middle seats.  Other than the expected “Are we there yet?” and the “I’m tired; can we stop at a hotel” there was very little complaining; mostly happy noises.  AC was having so much fun looking out the windows and naming all of the animals that might live in the woods and hills.  We had plenty of food and drinks packed so other than stopping for gas and to stretch our legs at some very nice rest areas, thank you Missouri we love your rest areas, we just motored on enjoying the scenery.  Of course a road trip just isn’t the same if you don’t find a way to have some fun.  So we listened to a 70’s music playlist, to which CJ informed us the 70’s are dead and should never come back.  We also cycled through our “Hawaii” and Beach Boys playlists.  Nothing like sitting in a traffic jam singing and doing the wave to “Help me Rhonda”.  Besides embarrassing the kids, I’m sure we entertained the folks around us.  Plus we were following a truck that had Knight Transportation on the back.  So we were all discussing whether KITT, from Knight Rider was in the back.  We gave them some room just in case KITT needed to go after some baddie. KnightRIder

Road trips can be a bit of a gamble. There is construction, traffic jams, accidents, and of course the risk of a flat tire or mechanical problem.  However, I have no control over any of these events so why waste energy and time worrying about them.  Yet that is exactly what we do in so many areas in our life.  How much more enjoyable and fun is life when we look at the possibilities instead of just focusing on the risks.  With that I’m off to visit the family.  Thanks all! Have a great weekend!

Packing

20160728_202929[1]We are just days away from a 1,000+ mile road trip to visit our extended family and there is a buzz of excitement in the house. There are a lot of things to do before we leave not the least of which is packing.  I’ll be honest,  when it comes to our family trips I don’t do much packing.  I leave that to Mrs. SuperDad who enjoys the process of planning and organizing trips.  Now I do a bit of business travel and I have a very simple formula:

# days * (shirt + pants + socks + underwear) + (deodorant + toothbrush + toothpaste + PJs) = Packed bag

If it is winter I’ll grab a jacket. A week’s worth of clothes in a carryon is no problem.  However, packing for a family is much more complicated.  The family travel equation looks more like this:

# kids * (snacks + (entertainment * attention span factor) + full travel meal and drink plan + pillow + blanket + tennis shoes + sandals + (9 days * (short + pants + socks + underwear) + (deodorant + toothbrush + toothpaste + PJs) + additional child requirements)) + clothes for parents in whatever space is left = packed van

Now AC is our packing machine. You mention the word trip and she is packing.  Sometimes she randomly packs a suitcase just to be ready in case we go somewhere.  The only issue is her suitcases are normally heavy on toys and light on clothes.  However, this time she actually packed a suitcase full of CLOTHES!  She packed her toys in a duffle bag.  Right now she only has two bags so the next test is will it stay that way.

All of us are looking forward to the trip. Sure the mini-van will be packed so full that the kids will need to climb over stuff to get out and I’ll feel like I’m in an episode of Hoarders, but we’ll get some quality time together.  It is one of the few times a year where Mrs. SuperDad and I actually get more than an hour to sit and talk.  We’ll have a goodtime visiting the family, but it is during these times I’m reminded that the journey is just as important as the destination.  I hope all of you enjoy your journeys as much as I do.  Be safe!

Trash Boat

Balloon SealAlthough AC is verbal we still sometimes have difficulty figuring out what she is trying to tell us. This past weekend AC asked me to make her balloon animals.  Sadly I’m a bit lacking in the fine art of making balloon animals. So the first order of business was to set the expectations low; really low.  My first dog didn’t look much like a dog; more like a piece of modern art.  However, AC seemed fine with my attempt.  Next was an elephant, yeah right, I managed to create some limbs and told her it was a seal.  Again AC accepted my balloon creation; obviously her imagination is better than mine.  After that Mrs. SuperDad and I took turns creating balloon animals for AC.  However, a bit later in the evening AC began asking us to make her a “trash boat”.  Neither Mrs. SuperDad nor I had any clue what she meant by a “trash boat”.  We assumed she wasn’t talking about an actual trash barge so we asked if she could show us.  About 30 seconds later she comes back with a book called “Our Century in Pictures” and turned to a page showing an illustration of the Titanic sinking.  So “trash boat” means the Titanic.    Unfortunately, knowing what “trash boat” meant didn’t give me or Mrs. SuperDad the magical ability to make a balloon recreation of the Titanic.

 

I’m amazed when I think about how differently AC sees the world. In her world the Titanic is a broken (aka. trash) boat.  Obviously, she doesn’t understand the terrible loss of life that occurred she simply understands that broken things are trash.  In my opinion it is this “different” thinking that may someday allow us to solve problems where our more “conventional” thinking has failed.  Imagine a world where autistic adults are sought  for their unique way of solving problems. Perhaps diseases such as cancer or AIDS could be cured.  Honestly I don’t know, but I do know that we have a lot of autistic children that can and want to be participating members of society.  If we are just going to write them off or limit them based on our preconceived ideas not only are we doing them a disservice, but humanity.  So my question to everyone is if we can imagine this world can’t we make it a reality?

The making of a commercial

Making of a commercialCrazy stuff happens when Superdad is at the office. This morning CJ, acting on my advice, decided to enlist MC as an actor for a commercial she would like to produce.  So in the first scene CJ directed MC to run.  MC ran very dramatically kicking his heels all the way to his bum and in his excitement managed to kick himself a bit harder than planned.  He spent the next 15 minutes walking around rubbing his bruised bum telling Mrs. SuperDad to take him to the hospital and blaming CJ because he was only doing what she told him to do.  CJ finally gave up and moved on.  End scene.

A few minutes later the sounds of a very loud electronic bird, CJ yelling, Pingu blaring from the iPad, and AC yelling “just a minute” were cause for Mrs. SuperDad to investigate.  Upon passing the stairs,  MC appeared on the landing looking guilty and pretending to have lost his arm (it was tucked inside his shirt). Mrs. SuperDad stopped in her tracks and summoned MC the rest of the way down the stairs.  It was a very short conversation:

 

Mrs. SD: “MC, what is on your face?”

MC:  “Blood.”  (He pulls the missing ‘bloody’ arm out of his shirt)

Mrs. SD: (Noticing he also has ‘blood’ on his chest)  “What do you mean blood?”

MC: “I like blood.”

Mrs. SD: (*crickets chirping*) “Is that washable marker?”

MC: “Yes.”

Mrs. SD: “Carry on. Just take a bath and wash it off when you’re done.”

Based on this report from Mrs. SuperDad I’m getting the not so subtle hint that putting all the video games away (see “Video Games Be Gone” post) has unleashed a tidal wave of creative energy that can sometimes be destructive. I’m a little bit concerned about MC’s fascination with the blood and willingness to follow his siblings’ direction given AC’s recent exposure to the flying guillotine (see “Be careful what you watch post”).  I better go check medical insurance and make sure there is no exclusion clause for injuries by flying guillotine or self-inflicted bum injuries.

On the other hand, Mrs. Superdad thinks I’m looking at it all wrong. Her suggestion is that we buy MC a case of squibs, a helmet, and let him grow beyond his sister’s commercials to be the stunt man he is so clearly destined to be.

Maybe she’s right, but I’m still checking the insurance policy.

Siblings

20160722_203047It is a well-known fact that brothers and sisters get some perverse pleasure from annoying each other. Sometimes these exchanges are downright funny.  Special needs kids are no different.  When you sprinkle some autism, auditory processing, and ADHD into the cocktail and you get some downright hilarious situations.  Here was the exchange from a couple of days ago:

MC: “AC you are annoying; get out.” (Pushes her out of the room)

AC: “MC let me in.” (Loud, but not yet screaming)

MC: “No!” (Loudly)

AC: “MC, too loud!” (Loudly, right back at him)

MC: “I’m not saying it loud.” (Getting louder as he says it)

AC: “Mom, MC is making bad choices.” (Yells across the house)

MC: “I’m not making bad choices.” (Yelling across the house to Mom)

AC: “MC, calm down you’ll be OK.”

MC: “I’m not saying it loud.” (Louder than the first time)

AC: (repeats) “MC, calm down you’ll be OK.”

(MC getting super agitated at this point)

MC: “I’m not saying it loud!” (Screaming)

(AC then looks at MC)

AC: “Cuckoo”

(MC slams the door; Mom and Dad can’t help laughing)

 

When life hands you gems like that just take them!

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