Time 4 Learning Review

Last month I posted that we were starting to use the Time4Learning online program.  '

I had a lot of people ask me what I have thought about the program so I am writing a review to let you know what we are thinking of the program! 

First of all I would like to say that I have nothing bad to say about the program.  Both of our kiddos used it and enjoyed it. 

As you know, Calvin has high functioning autism.  For some reason it seems that every year after Christmas we are on a slippery slope of decline in his functioning in our classroom.  I am not sure if it is the season with no sun, or being off schedule for Christmas, or what.  So when I was banging my head against a wall trying to find a solution, Time4Learning was a godsend!

I was looking for something that I could give to Calvin to do on those days when all else has failed and I cannot get him to cooperate with schoolwork.  Or the days when you wake up and you know you just aren't feeling it enough to make a day successful in the homeschool realm...you know those days: when you grab the Pamprin and let Miss Frizzle sub for your class.  Those days. 

When I found Time4Learning it seemed amazing.  And I'm going to tell you it is!  Calvin LOVES Time4Learning.  The games on the level he is at (3rd grade) are really engaging and fun.  The only problem I have is that he likes to get every possible score on a test to see what the computer says, so I have to watch him to make sure he doesn't do that.  On the other hand if he does it I figure it is just reinforcing what he is learning so that's not bad, right? 

Calvin and Emma can do Time4Learning on our laptop, my ipad, phone, or on their tablets.  Each of our kids have their own tablets that we have them use for school.  So when we are going grocery shopping or somewhere they are bored out of their mind we can hop on wifi and they can get some learning done!  Content kiddos who are learning makes for one happy Momma for sure!  Win-win!

Another thing I have enjoyed (especially because Calvin is sneaky) is the ability to get on the teacher dashboard and see what he did and how he did at it.  That way when he tells me he did math I can know that he did his math. 

Time4Learning can be a whole curriculum, back up learning, homeschooling, after school learning, whatever you need.  It's not just for homeschooling.  And while we don't use it as a full curriculum there is Social Studies, Language Art, Reading, a place to just write for fun, art, science, and math!  There's so much that it is hard for the kids to get bored.  I love on days that the kids do school on there I don't hear "I'm bored!" 

Emma has been using Time4Learning too but has not been enjoying it as much.  Emma is very much our pencil and paper kind of gal.  She also has noticed that the older grades (she's using 6th grade) don't have as many fun games as her brother gets to do in the younger grade when he's playing next to her.  A lot of her work seems to be an explanation of what she is learning and then questions in a quiz, flash card kind of format on the computer.  She doesn't like this, I still like it because it is still a break from the same ol' same ol' of our every day so it can get her out of a rut when learning.  I would like to add though that a lot of what seems *boring* to her, I don't really know how you would make it gamey and fun.  It required a more lengthy explanation and I think they do a good job at explaining and engaging the student.

All in all, I would say that we love TIme4Learning and are excited to continue on with the program.  This summer we are traveling extensively and I am planning on taking their Nooks and having the program be the majority of school that we will do!  So super excited and so blessed to have found Time4Learning

*This review was entirely written by me, not the good folks at Time4Learning. I was compensated for my review, thoughts, and opinions*

Week 7 Recap of our No-Spend Challenge

Well this was the first week that I heard serious complaining about the no spend challenge. 

Emma was hilarious when she said "we had a good two months of this no spend challenge.  Now I think it's time to be done.  Let's order Chinese food." 

And believe me I was feeling the same way!  I was ready for Chinese food and not cooking too, but we didn't cave and had frozen pizzas instead. 

Can you picture me with my head hung low and pouting?  Because that's what I was looking like. 

Thankfully I am realizing that when one of us is weak and ready to give up (usually me) then there is the other person to stay strong and diligent (usually Nick). 

Valentine's Day was a bit hard with the no spend challenge. 

We are not huge spenders for Valentine's Day.  I've never gotten Diamond anything.  I do usually get roses.  But this year I knew I wouldn't be getting anything.  Still there was this TINY part of my brain that was just wishing and hoping that he would come home with something that I would act upset he spent money for but secretly was delighted he brought home. 

You know what I am talking about! 

But he didn't buy anything.  Well I take that back he did go to the store and bought crab and oysters to go with our beef tenderloin stay-in date meal. 

However I had had the same thought of a little surf with our turf and bought lobster tails. 

So it was a huge seafood feast. 

Nick also came home with an old fashioned love letter. 

It was my first one ever and it made me sob.  Big, ugly tears, sob.

It was perfect.  It helped me to realize that some of the most beautiful things in this world are free.  They don't cost money, they aren't big and flashy, but instead are simple and true words that mean the most. 

The days before Valentine's Day I was prepared that we wouldn't be buying the kids a ton of fun Valentine's stuff like we normally do. 

Valentine's Day on the No Spend Challenge

I had purchased Emma's Valentine's Day gift last year before we started the no-spend challenge.  So I purchased a small lego set for Calvin so he would have something soon. 

To make their special day a bit more special we made some sweet treats with things that we already had at home so they didn't cost a lot of money. 

Valentine's Day on the No Spend Challenge

We made cookies which was lots of fun! The kids took a cookie decorating class last year so I whipped up a batch of royal icing and we had fun decorating cookies for our friends and family (and for us, of course!)

Valentine's Day on the No Spend Challenge

We had fun breakfasts!  For this I made toast and used a cookie cutter to carve out a heart from the center.  I then put Peanut butter on the heart and strawberry jam around the outskirt of the toast.  We had strawberry milk because strawberry milk makes everything better.  And I love these napkins that I bought last year from Marshalls. 

Valentine's Day on the No Spend Challenge

And of course we had fun lunches!  The kids' favorite lunch is a muffin tin lunch.  I bought these sweet 6 cup muffin tins from the Dollar Store, and then I put fun things in them!  For this lunch I gave them strawberry flavored string cheese, vanilla yogurt with sprinkles, strawberrys, grape tomatoes, more strawberry milk, and some heart shaped sweet tarts. 

I love giving them fun lunches, it really helps to break up the homeschool day and make things more exciting. 

Valentine's Day on the No Spend Challenge

A special part of Valentine's Day was someone sending me a gift!  I love colored pens and someone sent these to me with a sweet Homeschooling Momma card.  I have no idea who sent these to me but it was just the sweetest thing! So if you are reading this and it was you, thank you!

All in all it was a great Valentine's Day and week. 

It was really nice when it was all said and done to not have the guilt that I spent too much on the kids or spoiled them more than I should have.  It was a great day and we loved spending time with one another which is the best part of Valentine's Day! 

I hope you all had a great Valentine's week.  Please let me know how you are doing on your own no-spend challenges. 

Love to you all! 

The Hard Autism Days

I wrote this last week, enjoy:

Today was a bad day. 

Don't get me wrong, we've had worse.  But this was definitely one of our dark days. 

For those of you who may be new here, our son Calvin has Autism.  At times it is high functioning, "I never would have known he was autistic!" Autism, but nevertheless, Autism.  If you're interested in reading more about our story, you can read an article in the Family Magazine about us here.

For the past few months I've been in more or less a fairyland.  We've been doing great as a family in terms of dealing with one another.  I was feeling like we had accomplished some major social feats and we were making great strides in the world of autism. 

In fact at our last appointment with Cal's "special doctor"  I had explained it somehow like this: "He's been doing so great...do you think he even has autism?"

I'm pretty sure if she had been drinking soda it would have come out of her nose, "yeah, he still has autism" our doctor reported. 

And today, our carriage turned back into a pumpkin and I was transformed out of fairy tale land. 

The reality is this: I can plan a day of fun like we did today and then I can watch it fall apart when Cal can't handle whatever it is he can't handle.  Our reality is that frequently autistic kids have very concrete things that push them over the edge but Cal many times has lots that are inconsistent.  And when these days happen he goes non-verbal, so there's not a lot of communication that occurs to help us help him. 

Today, MLK Jr. Day we went to Indianapolis on a road trip to go to a ton of activities that were free today.  Chaching!  You know this Momma likes to save some money!  I even had contacted a friend from youth group and was so excited at the idea of being able to meet up for a quick chat and hug! But after the first stop (to the Children's Museum which I thought he would LOVE!) I could tell that this was going to be a no good, very bad day. 

To some it would seem like we should just pack up and go home.  I mean, if we know that the kid is having a bad day why stay there and continue to make a mess of the day?  Well friends, there is this one little girl who is our daughter and she was very excited to be going to these things. 

It's always a catch 22 with being a parent of an autistic child.  I've come to see that through Emma's eyes, she gets the short end of the stick so many times.  I'll say that again, so.many.times. 

So we stayed and tried to make the best of the day. 

The more momming I do I find that I struggle with writing these posts.  As Cal gets older I don't want to embarrass him or make him feel awkward.  But I write these to show you: 1) it's not all fun and games over here like so many people think it is (how you would ever think that is beyond me!) and 2) I want to encourage other Momma's that are in the midst of this.  I think we need all of the encouragement we can get!

There was once a season of my motherhood that regrettably, I made autism all about me...how I was not cut out to be the mom of a special needs son, how hard my life was, how unfair all of this is.  How life sucks sometimes. Pity party, pity party.

This starts to put me back in the same feeling.  I feel like I want to just pout about how this ruined our day and how we're going to backslide.

But I'm not going to. 

Because ever so slowly I'm learning to recognize a bad day for just that and not a bad life. 

And if Cal makes me have a hard day then that means he's having an even harder day than I am. 

Surviving those Hard Autism Days.  Super Busy at Home

We have great days too and I need to remember those.  Cling to those.  Hope for those. Expect those.  I was blessed to have a photo shoot with the renown photographer, Katie Whitcomb.  She captured some really beautiful moments of our life together as a family.  When things seem bleak these photos help me to remember that a bad day is just a bad 24 hours.

God has put me on this path to be this sweet boy's Momma.  I say "sweet boy" now and repeat it because those are the words that are hard to come to me as he's smashing his skull against my face while I try to comfort him...

The Lord has put me in this path to comfort you that, if you are in the season I've passed through, where it seems like life is against you, the cards are stacked in someone else's favor, it's never going to get better, I can tell you, it's just a bad day, week, season, month, year, whatever. 

It's going to be get better. 

It doesn't have to be forever. 

So I am sure if I wake up tomorrow thinking it's going to be another bad day then it is in fact going to be another bad day.  But I know that the Bible tells us His Mercies are New Every Morning.  Meaning, I get a fresh start! 

So I am choosing to chalk this off as one of those bad days, I probably had WAY too high of expectations for today anyway. So I will choose to wake up expecting nothing but the best from myself, my son, and from our God. 

Because Hard Autism Days are just that...hard. Autism.days.

And even though that's my reality, I wouldn't trade that for anyone else's fairy tale for anything.