Well fall is here, and for us that means that we get to have our "classroom" to ourselves again. Our classroom is a five acre field with a bike trail going through it. It's where we make model solar systems, hunt for insects, go swimming in summer, and mostly, pretend it's the African savannah and play games where our wagons are gazelles and cheetahs are out to get them. Summer time is great, but there's lots of other people out there, with their dogs, and, well, it's just nice to be able to concentrate on our lesson without th' distraction of explaining what we're doing. Fynn must be constantly moving if he wants to pay attention to anything, and of course he looks like he's not paying attention to anything at all.I tell people we're in school, learning about this or that. They see us playing chase with a wagon and a cheetah suit on. You see our dilemma here.
But now th' kids are all back in school, and th' field is our own. We come here twice a day, once in th' morning and once again in the evening. This year me and Beth both felt like Fynn needs to practice his reading and writng. We've come up with a few good ideas to help him, but he gets bored of most of them pretty quickly, and needs something new to keep him interested. We talked with him about improving his reading, and together came up with a plan. We are going to teach Bezzas (bee-zus, his wagon/gazelle) how to read.
So now, when we get to th' gazelle field, th' first thing we do is teach Bezzas a new word. Either me, Fynn, Rowan or Bezzas picks th' new word, and Fynn writes it with chalk on th' bike trail, then helps Bezzas read it. Bezzas reads th' word, usually wrong, and Fynn corrects him and tells him what it really says. It's a brilliant concept that i'm not sure that i would've come up with on my own. Once again, I wonder who is th' teacher here. In this picture Fynn is teaching Bezzas how to spell halloween. (Rowan wrote the O2, he is learning about oxygen.)
The other surprising lesson we've started learning about is degrees and angles. Fynn's favorite thing to do these days is ride his bike up and down hills. Any hill. Every hill. He names each one and we talk about how steep it is. He draws pictures of them.He gets on google earth and finds them and measures them. So we pulled out his old protractor. We got this for him years ago because he's always loved numbers and shapes. He's used it for all kinds of things, but never what it was made for.
Yet, all we had to do was give it to him again and tell him that he could measure the steepness of his hills with it, and he was hooked. Since then we've been riding around measuring the angle of every hill in town, as well as the distance from trough to crest, and what's th' safest speed you can possibly go down it on a bicycle. It's like hanging out on th' job with a surveyor.
I always wonder what are we going to discover next, and there is always something new.
Sorry it’s been more than a week chaps - we were in Yellowstone tracking wolves with Scub, pix to come soon.
so as many of you know we had a resident neuro-scientist with us here at new trails during the past two years, and she, plus several other brain specialists and educational psychologists have outlined for us what seems to be going on with horse boy approaches and why the results of reasoning and emotional regulation, as well as lessened anxiety appear so consistent.
It seems that what is going on is as follows:
How Fynn taught me to teach him how to read
A few years ago grandpa gave Fynn an old drum machine. It has 100 preset beats on it. Fynn also has a skunk puppet that he's loved for years. Fynn likes to turn on a beat, and dance around real silly like with th' skunk- he was totally stimming out, laughing hysterically th' whole time. Then he decided i needed to put on th' skunk puppet while he flopped around up in his bunk bed laughing hysterically. He calls it th' Skunk Movies. Often i thought, i'm encouraging his stimming. But it seemed to be harmless, and truth be told it was fun. Gave me a reason to dance around and be silly without feeling self-conscious about it. Like something you'd do when you're in th' house all by yourself and you know no one is looking. But that isn't all, part of what i had to do was make up a story for th' skunk to tell, and i had to rap it in time with th' beat. We did this every night for i don't know how long. Then one night fynn surprised me.
We've been homeschooling fynn since he was born. (What parent hasn't been?) For th' past few years fynn has been really into numbers. Numbers were his friends. He found a large 5 at hobby lobby one time and bought it with his allowance. That five became his friend. He played with it like other kids played with stuffed animals or dolls. He'd have conversations with 5, he'd go to 5's house. 5 would talk to his other friends, and to us. Anyway, he's always been comfortable with math, and numbers, but he's always been resistant to reading. We've really been feeling like it's time for him to learn how to read lately, and have been talking to him about all th' wonderful things he can do when he knows how to read, but we've sorta been at a loss as to how to actually go about teaching him how to read. But then two things came to us, one was our idea, and one was his.
Our idea: he watches videos on youtube. So we had him start typing in th' names of th' shows he wants to watch, or th' keywords of shows he wants to look up. We tell him how to spell them, all he does is type them in. Often times he remembers and types them in without our help. Sometimes he won't type them, so we just do it for him. No big deal, he's learning with every word he types, and we really want to go at his own pace. But his idea was a lot more fun.
So one night we get all set up for a skunk movie, lights turned off (because skunks are nocturnal), beat goin, me tryin to get into th' groove of th' beat, when fynn says, "ok skunk, teach me somethin new!" Yes! i think to myself. Ok, th' skunk says to fynn, S-K-U-N-K skunk, S-K-U-N-K skunk, repeat after me,... and he does, thinking it is so funny of course. That night we kept it real simple, spelling skunk, stunk, trunk, junk, and kerplunk, which he thought was th' funniest of all. And of course we still had to make up a story- I am a skunk and i really stunk, i live in a hollow trunk and i don't collect junk, when i jump into th' water i go kerplunk!
Th' next night we learned th' word movie. S-K-U-N-K skunk, M-O-V-I-E movie. Then we changed th' U to I on a few words. Skink, Stink, drink, think. Fynn asked me if skink was a real word. I told him yes, it's a type of lizard. So th' next day we got on the internet and looked up skinks, and learned a bit about them. Fynn really likes reptiles, amphibians, and nocturnal creatures, so that was of great interest to him.
We've been doing this for a while now, just taking it slow, keeping it silly and fun. And i want to tell you, it's not a miraculous leap in learning, just one step at a time, at his own pace. But he likes it, and it was his decision to learn. The other day, he got on th' computer and typed a paragraph about snakes. All by himself.
So, while other six year olds are already reading, i'm not worried about fynn, he's learning, and i know he's brilliant and will get there when he's ready. Besides, he's really good at other things high schoolers can't even do, and why do we all have to learn th' same things at th' same time anyway?
And one other thing this showed me clearly. When you join in your autistic loved ones stims, amazing things can happen. Just try it and see.
The long awaited sequel of the Horse Boy.