Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Art as an App

Many people feel strongly about tech.  Cell phones and tablets seem to bring out extreme responses in people.  The way we are focus on these devices so strongly and the way we have wired ourselves into these devices so quickly, integrating them into our lives so fast, is UN-nerving and it is changing how our society interacts. We have become brave new world writers, evident in the morphing languaging of texting and who knows where a universal dialog of text will next take us in this global economy.  So be it our dystopian culture pulling us to a new source of interaction or a simple haphazard turn of events that drags us along kicking and screaming, the tech is here to stay.  Why not embrace it?  At the least learn how to utilizes it to our advantage.  I have found art is one of those areas where we can ease into the transition of tech world.  It is fun and simple to master many of the apps out there for art.
One of the art apps I have fun with is CamVas.   It allows you to use your photo roll of your device, tablet or phone and manipulate your photos into different styles.  You can choose a traditional water color like style and then change the color values.  So your photos, their software, you become an instant fine arts master in moments.
Actual Photo

 In the original photo above of a blooming aloe plant in front of a fire cactus and plastic 3 gallon bucket, I tried to get a textural shot to show how you can manipulate style and color value to create app art.

Watercolored style version
Another tweaking of color and style
You can choose between several different stylizations of art and the manipulate each style by color values.  It really is a wonderful app.
This is the Van Gogh style with the colors tweaked out.
 It is possible to crop with this app but I decided to keep the bucket.  There are all kinds of other features and ways to manipulate your photos.
Here are a couple more style features.  You do get to where you can see the light of you photos and see where certain shots will lend themselves to this app as you get more masterful at operations.  It is a very intuitive app.
A Watercolor style with a little color change

This is a colored sketchbook book style.

The CamVas app is made by the company Auryn INC. You can use the company name to find what they offer. They keep changing the name of this app and I have a hard time looking it up but it is out there.  It was called Auryn Cam when I bought it but it has been renamed.  There is a on line community with the app where you can check out other artist albums.  They also have a pure version art for the purists of water coloring with no photos, just fine art with a finger called Auryn Ink. They also make book apps.


 They have an adorable version of The Little Mermaid and Van Gogh and the Sunflowers.  My son is past these sweet stories but I never will be.

I wanted to share my Pinterest Board of Art I created with this app.
My Art on Pinterest

I will add to this post as I am still wanting to add other art apps. Almost all the major museums now offer apps.  MOMA app  review and tutorial coming up.
MOMA link

Making Montessori Fit

I have been doing a very open form of Maria Montessori's educational method with my son.  I have many Montessori materials and albums with lessons.  I worked in a Montessori school which wasn't really wasn't a very traditional Montessori school, but I did learn a lot about what to do and what not to do.  We are not purist with Montessori at home.  I tend to try out the curriculum and adapt it to fit my son's needs.  Some parts of Montessori work for us some ideas do not.  I love the math materials and how the learner is followed and is hone to become self directed.  I do pay attention to scope and sequencing but do not follow it religiously as my son is far below his grade level due to his impairments.  We do what we can and try to stick to the over all philosophy, using the materials and lesson but doing things on a different time scale and adjusted my son's learning needs.
Some of the materials that have worked best for him are the math manipulatives.  He love the division board.  Not the beads and tubes long division work, but the lower lesson work.  He says it helps him understand and see it.  He also likes the hundred board and bead work with all the bead materials.  We do an eclectic self directed form of the 3 hour work time.  We take sensory breaks and recess and being as we are at home schooled sometimes my son's work lays our for days till he does it or not.  We recently added up all the squares and figured out how much they came too, also the cubes of our bead cabinet were added up.  If my son makes his own lesson up I follow.  He is learning when he plays with the Montessori Math materials.  I find my son will stay engaged with these materials for long stretches with fewer breaks.  They work interest him.  He needs encouragement and prompts but he is accurate and likes to line things up and index his toys so it makes sense that he would like Maria's materials that are methodical and progressive and follow a sequential pattern.  You get the concept with these manipaultives.  They have been teaching children all over the world for a long time.
division board and tiles with control
It's isn't just the stuff that makes me like Montessori, but it helps.  Sensorially enchanting, engaging neurological materials are useful for small motor work and development as well as cognitive comprehension.  I   love how they educate to a child's organic intelligence and never dumb it down.
We also use  all the other Montessori subjects as well often using  the three card lessons and 5 card lessons. These have helped my son so much with reading comprehension because he is interested in reading about this material. He loves non-fiction and the cards are perfect for his attention span.  He loves science lessons and the physical science materials. Also the geography research materials have motivated him to learn.  I read to him out-loud many of the ETC Montessori upper elementary cards as they are written far above his reading ability.  I am a firm believer and living proof that if you read to a child who cannot read for themselves at their comprehension level for whatever reason, they will eventual become readers themselves.  You fall in love with learning and then push yourself to read. Eventually you figure out decoding and become fluent or you learn about books on tape and libre vox and just soak it up another way. One of my favorite quotes is by Oliver Sacks who said at a conference I watched at MIT that- "We are hard wire to adapt."   I find it true and that we are innovative and resourceful in how we adapt and what we use for tools.  I am extremely dyslexic and am a vicarious reader. My Mother read to me for hours each night and for years.  She made me want to know what was in books.  I have a hard time reading small print these days as my visions even with new glasses is horrible for up close. I do it though, large print, computer aids, love listening to books on audio recordings too.
Measurement cards ETC Montessori.
The Pythagoras Board
The Pythagoras Board is one of Conor's favs.  It helps him nail those trick multiplication facts.  Something that is very hard to do.
Geometry Work

We still use the triangle materials for Geometry.  I bought a set of upper elementary advance geometry lessons and task cards and they will be a challenge for us for a while.
My favorite the study of the world and cultures.  He likes the science side of it more.  Below is Conor sorting through some more materials from ETC Montessori on Biomes.   We recently have purchased some materials for Biomes lessons from Waseca Montessori.  This company is a small non profit that makes some beautiful materials that I fill so blessed to get.  I will add a page on Biomes as we are about to go into this subject and stay in this unit for the rest of the school year and summer classes.
I have zoology and botany materials to feed into the biomes so it will tie it all together.  I'm really excited about this unit and how Conor will like it and be effected by it.  He is self directing to illustrate and make books of many of the cards we work with.  Creating his own materials is such a measure of learning it is thrilling for me as an educator.  Some Montessori teacher do not like the 3 and 5 part cards.    They work well for us.  I think there is a useful thing about picking up the cards and crossing over the medium of the brain in hand to hand cross cortex matching and organizing.  The trays that come with some cards help with the executive functioning skills of this work.  I do not have any trays like this but need some.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Science Fun

My son loves Science.  In this house we try and do some science every day.  I am able to create many experiences with the help of internet and buying curriculums with materials included.   One of our favorites is the Quirkles.   The Quirkles are characters in a series of books based on science. We read the books and do the experiments in the back of the books.  I also bought the curriculum package with a huge boxes of everything you need to do all kinds of other experiments.   This is a fun curriculum and has enough lessons and ideas to keep a student busy for a couple of years.
The Quirkles' Web Sight.

We also have used an online system called Super Charge Science.  This was a more intense and advanced series of lesson and we did not stick with it due to it being a bit over my son's head developmentally.  It's still very good and has so much to offer.  I had issues with loading the videos and also there was so much reading material that was far to advance for my student.  We may go back to this source in coming years.  It is very complete.
Sciencelearningspace/ Super Charged Science

Another venue we use is the Arizona Science Center's homeschool classes program.  These courses are taught by Mary Katherine Campbell a certified teacher.  At least once a month we attend a classes that can range in content from Simple Machines to Insects Study.  Last week was by far my son's favorite as it was a class on organs.  My son was able to dissect a cow's heart, lung and kidney.  Nothing like  project bases learning to give hands on synthesized experiences.  We watched as a Professor from ASU  hooked a shop vacuum up to a cow's respiratory system.  The lungs and trachea were all kept in a plastic bag to keep it neat and tidy.   So the teacher fit the hose of the vacuum on the trachea ( it fit perfectly) and the lungs filled up and the children got to see how and feel the process of full and empty lungs. The kids love it,  I could not help wondering how this experiment was conceived.  I picture grad students in a lab, late at night fooling around with a cow's lungs and the shop vacuum. Someone figured out the hose of a shop vacuum fit perfectly on a trachea.

After the cow lung and vacuum experience we move on to the organs.  Conor was skilled and curious.  He had several tools but preferred the little sharp scissors.  I am squeamish and not the best lab partner on dissecting day but I dealt with it and helped.  Conor was amazing and he rocked.  I kept my self together.  It was a good day with guts.  We go back again this year for pig's eye and rattle snake dissecting classes.

Cow's heart

Cow's Lung

Cow's Kidney

Another science homeschooling resource for us is Mr. Q. at  He covers K-8 in Life, Earth, Chemistry and Physical Science.  Eh also has some advance studies for High schooler's in Biology, Anatomy and Physiology.

All our favorite links to cool free things.


National Science Foundation resources K-12 programming with blocks

Nasa Mission

BBC UK schools resource link

Maker's Camp Google + community

We also watch TED Talks and many You Tube videos on science.  There is so much out there for free if you google search for it and are curious.
My Pinterest board for Science has some fun stuff on it as well.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Accidental Bystander goes Beyond Curriculum

I always struggle with staying on track with curriculums. Keeping to the structure of a one size fits all education plan of anything is difficult for any educator. Trying to make a neurotypical geared curriculum fit my child's needs educational always takes adaption and innovation.  I have not had the best of luck with the big curriculum packages that are sold as special need's curriculums.  Often they are pricey and not that workable for my child.  I like bits and pieces of different programs but to just go with one whole package never seems to work for my learner.
 For one thing these bundled curriculums that are sold specifically for special need's students do not take into account that cognitively no two neurologically diversed students are on the same level developmentally.  There is vast spaces on the spectrum of autism alone not to mention the many other cognitive impairments that effect learning.  Just because children have the same diagnosis and are in the same grade doesn't mean they can function of the same level intellectually.   The one size fits all plan of education for all students is not a plan, it is sales tactic, driven by marketing and commerce.  Following someone's designed plan as how to educate my child is hard for me to just blindly accept especially when I have never met the creator of the program and they have never assessed my child.  I compare it to allowing a stranger to buy clothes for your child, who has never seen your kid and bases their purchase on your child's age or grade. It basically comes down to someone forcing their consciousness and agenda your child.  Maybe it fits, maybe it doesn't.  Who is writing the curriculum is as important as what is in it.  Common core or state standards, it doesn't matter, the question ultimately is where are they taking my child?  How are they preparing him for his future. So why do we blindly follow these so called experts?

The Assessment

Defining the students needs requires some assessment.  I look at what we need academically as:
 A. What we need now?
B. Where are we going next? - What we will need at the next developmental level?
C. Big Picture-where we are going in the big picture?
D.What does my child want to learn and How do I best teach to how his brain learns it?

At this point my son is young and needs more guidance at learning the basic core concepts of how to learn and what is considered a primary education.  He will grow into a more self designing learner as he finds his own way. As he has a harder time assessing his own needs at this time, I have to observe and assess more for him and make adaptations in the classroom, so he can eventually self educate as a life long learner.   He does lead and I do follow his needs and desires.  How he learns and the flow of his thoughts is how I gear his lesson's or focus the lens on what I am going to bring to him, to engage and sequence his learning.  To me learning is thinking.  If I am the source of what he will learn and how,  I need to constantly reassess his needs and I must create a rhythmical flow of his needs based on my observation of them.
Considering the end needs is crucial in evaluating the whole picture.  Ultimately marketable skills fall into necessity.  We must pay the rent and eat.
Along the way to living authentically independent lives comes the desire to do meaningful work.
Satisfaction with oneself is paramount and I focus on the intention to teach/mentor to all my kids the way to a skill or skills where they can develop the ability to be creative.
The emotional intellegence skills of being adaptive, resilient and able are equally as important.  You need a boat load of faith to get by and you need confidence and the discipline to keep going and bounce back in a world that will knock you down.


I have a visual learner with high functioning ability to spatially size things up.  My learners is creative and artistic, can work for long times at what interest him.  Amazingly ability to detail he works best alone. Another strength is his an acute senses and fine tuned sensory perception.   He is interested in science, art, designing, gaming, engineering, some math, geometry and algebra.  He likes nature and animals.  He is social and likes people but struggles with social skills. Almost photographic visual memory and universal pitch in music.

Child's Wants

Ultimately this rules.  We only learn what we want to well so why not embrace it and bring the lesson into the perimeters of the students interest. Make it interesting,  Make it something they want to learn. If it isn't change it into something they are interested in.  The individual's educational plan is all about what the child is willing to learn.


I refuse to think in this way. Limits can be strengths. It all depends on your thinking and thoughts.

Instruction and materials.

I am a firm believer in using whatever it takes to teach. One hundred different tools or the one, the tools can be homemade or specifically geared for what ever you are wanting to learn and teach with it.  I like open ended questions and materials.  I am educating a problem solver, I am instructing a life long learner and i want to cultivate that longing to know, I am educating a whole person and I do not know what his life will be or where he will go as he makes his way and finds his own purpose as to why he is here on our planet living.  My hope is to have the wisdom to prepare him for his purpose whatever that will be.  My favorite question for my learner is: WHAT DO YOU WANT TO LEARN TODAY.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Finding Our Way Back from Winter Break

Back to school after the holidays is always a challenge for me.  Getting back in the groove, finding the pace, re-adjusting to the the classroom and my mid winter classroom overhauls.  I find being present in the moment and living authentically requires planing and strategy.
We are settling into this 2nd semester with more emphasis on physical science and language arts.


I have been sorting and organizing for weeks the Montessori grammar language cards that I got from ETC Montessori.

It has taken me a while to figure out how to sort it for one, but since I did not buy the traditional montessori many colored rectangular boxes for speech I had a hard time figuring out how to present the materials in a functional way.  I did get it figured out with my friend/mentor Liza.  She suggested the little drawers you get at hardware stores for screws and bolt organizing.  It worked beautiful and now I can pull out a couple of lesson's at a time and rotate the material in and out till he masters it.  It is the early years of elementary education for language arts but I am baffled that this material is introduced so young in the Montessori system.  Seems to me very few children of 6-9 can understand language taught at this level.  Perhaps a few super students but for the masses I consider the approach too advance for most children of this age. Try thinking of how to explain and definite and indefinite article to a 6 year old?  I was taught the parts of speech in this detail in Jr. high and really it did not sink in until college how language all comes together.  I learned Spanish as a 2nd language with a similar approach with emphasis on the part of speech rather than conversational organic learning.  The organizing of the mass of manipulative cards that came with the bundle is done now and I am able to use them to teach.  My student can now go and select a lesson and self direct his learning.  My son rarely chooses language art anything so I usually pull it out and present it to get him to engaged in learning it.  The work we are working here is the grammar boxes, where we use language cards to identify parts of speech.
Parts of Speech Symbols

Grammar Box Cards

Language Shelf


We have been using the ETC Montessori materials for physical science too.  Here are cards and materials on light.  He looks at theses cards, matches up label and pictures to definitions and then writes the definitions down in a journal.  Sometimes we make our own little books of the cards.


I am also teaching Conor how to read music on the piano.  I have been trying to do this process for several years.  He resisted music lessons and after years of music therapy he was non compliant on participating in any form of music, be it lesson or therapy.  One of the issues we face with my son is due to all the years of multiple therapies and the influx of professionals who have worked with him with music, occupational, speech, behavior and habilitation therapies is, he is sick of people telling him what to do.  Who would like all these professionals coming in who you have no relationship with really, that you do not know and don't know you, who come in and have him jump through their hoops, having him do the task, many of which are pointless and ineffective.  We have had some great therapist and we have had some real stinkers too.  After ten years of therapy he has learned some tricks to asserting his will over theirs.  So my challenge in teaching him anything is getting him to see the worth and advantage in learning the particular skill.   He doesn't want to learn to read music or play the piano so I have to make him.  Just like any neurotypical child I have to force him to play and practice.  Just like my Mother did to me.  In the last post about Waldorf I lied and said I would not force him to practice but sometimes I do make him play and practice. It would be great to figure out a way to get him to want to but I haven't yet.