FIRST FRC World Championships!

My son Ben is participating in the FIRST FRC Robotics competition in St. Louis Missouri in Team 973.

They had 10 matches today, and were the only team that was undefeated, with the highest number of ranking points! They were ranked 1st in our division. Woohoo!

I must take a moment to express my admiration for how hard all of the students are working. These are long tense days and the students are staying focused and hard working. The data collection, data entry, and interpretation is on going. Robot maintenance and practice is continuing. This team never stops!!!

Looking forward to the matches tomorrow!

Here’s a sample of the matches:

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Playing Ball with Special Needs Homeschool Students

The simple ball can be used as an imaginative tool when helping special needs children learn. Here are some ideas which you can use with your special needs homeschool students.

1. Roll the ball over the limbs of the child – This allows your special needs student to understand the texture of the material and the way the ball feels against their bare skin. Once you have showed them how to roll the ball give it to them to do it for themselves. Use a number of balls made of different material and different sizes to get the child familiar with them all.

2. Hide and seek – Get them to hunt for a ball in a specified area. You could use one of those balls with blinking lights so that they get a good visual sensory clue about where to begin hunting for the ball.

3. Dodge Ball – use soft fabric covered balls for this game. Make sure that they are told that the head and shoulders is off limits. Mark out a circle on the floor to ensure that they know where they have to stand. You can invite friends over to play as well. The activity and socialization process will both do wonders for the child.

4. Play nine pins – stack up empty bottles, or if you have pins use them and allow the homeschool student to knock them down. They will learn to control the ball with increasing skill as they practice rolling it to knock down the pins.

5. Slide down the slope – Mark out three distinct sections on a cardboard in different colour. Now lean it against a piece of furniture and form the slope. The children get to slide the ball from the top of the slope one at a time and the others have to guess which section of the slope it will come down from.

6. Hot potato – the ball is called a hot potato and must not stay in the hands of a single person for too long. As soon as the person catches it they must shout out the words hot potato and launch it in the air for the next person to catch.

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DIY Ideas for Homeschool Craft Projects

For the homeschool students who enjoy building things having recycling craft projects can be a huge hit. The child is guided by the homeschool parent to make something new out of something old lying around the house. Here are a couple of ideas for possible homeschhol craft projects that can be relatively easy for children to handle and can look really good when completed. Not to mention can be useful as well.

The Soda Bottle Candle Holders

If you have a number of used soda bottles in the same size lying around get them together and wash them. Now use a brush and some soap water to ensure that the labels are taken off completely. The adult will need to cut off the top of the bottles and smooth out the edges. Now fill the lower three inches of the bottle with pebbles. You can even paint the pebbles if the bottles are transparent and will show the colours. Now stick a long candle into the centre and you are done. If you want to hang them you can even punch holes in the top and string some wire or thick chord through them to hang them.

Tin Can Craft Material Storage Units  

Take six cans whose edges have been dulled and smoothed. Cans need to be washed thoroughly and dried before being taped together to form a pyramid. Three at the bottom, two in between and one on top. Ensure that the masking tape holds them all together well. Now use your craft supplies to decorate them. You can paint them over in one base colour and then add the detailing. Or you can simply cover each tin can in gift wrapping paper and stick them together. Do as much work as you want to on the recycling project. This set of containers can be used to store sketch pads, sketch pens, scissors, glue tubes, stickers and a whole lot more. Think of all those tiny supplies that you never know where to store? Now you have a built in place to look for them and keep them.


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Recycling and Homeschooling

Teaching your homeschool students to be responsible citizens of tomorrow includes teaching them how to maximize the use out of all the resources they own. Recycling of paper, plastic, metals and more around the house takes on a whole new light when you are homeschooling. Yes, you will teach them about bringing things to the recycling collection areas, but you will also be in the unique place to teach them how they can use recycling in their daily lives, specially in the homeschool classroom.

How do You Begin Recycling in the Homeschool Classroom?

Arts and crafts can be a great subject to teach recycling with. Take an old soda bottle and convert it into a pencil stand. Decorate it and pretty it up so that it’s a pleasure to behold and useful to boot. Take an old tire and refurbish it with some cotton stuffing and canvas material. Let the homeschool student paint it and you have a new stool to sit out in the porch. Cut out glass bottles and fit in a bulb to make novel lamp shades. Allow the bottles to be decorated by the children. Take old spoons and forks and string them up into a wind chime. There is literally no dearth of craft projects that can be initiated using the recycling principle.The idea is to take one old thing that you are no longer using for its intended purpose and then recycling it in to something that can be used by you and your family everyday.

 What if You Have No Ideas?

Not everyone is highly creative and can come up with the innovative recycling craft projects we have been discussing. That’s where the internet can really come in handy. Something as simple as the term “DIY home recycling ideas” typed into a search engine will give you a plethora of possible projects. The best part is that bloggers usually share all the steps they took while making their projects. All you need to do is take a look at the raw material available at home and hone in on a recycling project from these search results. It does not have to be exactly the same either, as you can take a basic idea and modify it to suit your purpose.

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Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty for Setting Homeschool Students Chores

Most chores around the house are handled by the homeschooling parent. The spouse may lend a hand when possible but the bulk of the work is handled by the one who stays back home. There is considerable debate about making homeschool students do chores around the house. Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t feel guilty about setting chores for homeschool students to complete in addition to their school work.

What Doing the Laundry Teaches Your Homeschool Student

Washing clothes is not really getting an education, you would think, but you will be surprised how much a young one can learn when taught how to do the laundry the right way. They learn categorization when they separate the whites from the coloured clothing. They boost their literacy by reading and following the instructions on the care tags, the detergent box, the washer and dryer. They learn sequencing in the right manner to get the job done with the least amount of fuss and mess, which they learn to responsibly clean up on their own. They even learn how to measure out the detergent required for each load based on brushing up their maths skills. So the next time you wonder if you should be teaching your child to run the washing machine, think of the number of favours you are actually doing them. Plus they gain a helpful life skill forever.

Getting them to Cook a Meal or Two

If you thought that cooking had to be the adult’s job only, you couldn’t be more wrong. Not only is the kitchen a place where your homeschool students can be taught a number of skills that they will find useful later on in life, it is also a place where they can showcase their creative selves. So help them read recipe books and expand their vocabulary. Teach them how to organize their material so that they can sequence events with ease as they follow the instructions. Have them articulate what they are doing and describe each step along with the reason why they need to follow that particular step. They even get a taste of problem solving when things don’t go exactly as planned in the kitchen.

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4th Annual SLO MakerSpace Expo

We are excited to invite you to take part in the 4th Annual SLO MakerSpace Expo

taking place May 7th, 2016 at Mission Plaza from 11am­3pm, and followed by an Open

House at SLO MakerSpace from 5­8pm.

The SLO MakerSpace Expo is a celebration of the amazing work of all kinds and ages

of artists, crafters, builders, and innovators — anyone who is embracing the

do­it­yourself (or do­it­together) spirit and wants to share their accomplishments with an

appreciative audience. Children and adults alike are captivated by the technological,

robotic, artistic, and inventive designs on display during this event. Some booths feature

hands­on events, others are demonstrations of new or improved technologies.

The SLO Makerspace Expo is an event for the entire family ­ all makers, inventors,

dabblers, and dreamers are welcome! During last spring’s highly successful event, more

than 2,500 people from throughout the Central Coast came to see and experience more

than 40 exhibits.


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Possible Additions to Your Sensory Room

A special needs homeschool student can learn a number of skills in a sensory room. While you can start out with simple tools for specific learning purposes, you are at liberty to add new items to your sensory room as your budget allows it. Here are some popular choices for sensory rooms that could become these possible additions. The list is indicative and you can add whatever you want and makes more sense to your child’s needs.

A Small Trampoline – This allows your hyperactive special needs child to expend excess energy in a controlled and relatively stress free manner for the parent. You let them jump and release energy in a safe manner multiple times during the day. The promise of this particular treat can be used constructive during learning in other areas of the special needs child.

A Bolster Swing – Now this helps with expending energy as well as teaching the child how maintain balance while playing on the swing. A nice double benefit which helps increase motor skill levels. You will have to practically beg them to come off the swing and in for a meal.

A Ball Pit – I’m not sure why but the numerous balls somehow are absolutely fascinating to children. They may throw them about, or begin to learn colour recognition by taking out balls of a specific colour and arranging them on the floor. They even enjoy making different patterns on the ground with the balls that they pull out of the pit. Plus they absolutely love to dunk themselves in the ball pit.

A Barrel Roll – You may not even need to buy this one. You can actually construct a semi -decent one using old tires and good cushioning. Children love climbing in through one end and down the little tunnel to the other exit. Some just like to sit inside the tunnel and play peek a boo.

Fluorescent Lighting – Dark light and white light can be used creatively to give great contrasts in a sensory room. You will just have to set up additional points for the bulbs to go in so that you can switch between the two experiences for the special needs child in your care.

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Building a Sensory Room on a Budget

While companies like Experia and Fun and Function offer ready made solutions to setting up a sensory room in your home for your child with special needs, these options can often be a bit expensive. Constructing a sensory room on your own may be time consuming and tedious but you will be able to save considerable money and with a little help from family and friends it can actually be a great exercise in bonding.

Make the sensory room fit your budget

You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars building a sensory room, even a few hundred is enough to get you started. You can always add more features and equipment to the room at a later date based on how your special needs homeschool student progresses with the interactive room. Take a look at the ready made tools and equipment and get creative about adapting them into your sensory room by making the parts yourself. Get your more artistically inclined family members and friends to help.

Improvise with material already available at home

You don’t have to buy everything you will be using. In any home there is a considerable junk pile in the garage or in the attic that can be reworked into good equipment for a sensory room. Old mattresses, quilts, pillows, wooden doors, and just about anything that you have lying around can be used in the remodelling for the sensory room. New fabric to cover up the old tears and a few coats of paint can truly transform your waste material into something useful again.

Lighting can change everything

Have different types of lights installed in the sensory room. This will allow you to switch the purpose of the room as well. For an action room get the nice bright tube lights and place all the play equipment in the centre of the room. To convert it into a calm room just clear out the equipment to the side walls and convert the lighting to something softer and diffused. Supervise the actual building of the room and you will be surprised at how many ideas come up even as you begin constructing the room.


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Sensory Room for Special Needs Homeschool Students

If you expect your special needs children to sit in a homeschool classroom and focus on their lessons as per your schedule, you are not going to have an easy time corralling them. However using a sensory room can become a great way to let them learn on their own pace with minimal effort on your part as the teacher, that is after you set it up initially of course.A sensory room is a specially designated space with equipment that helps in teaching special needs children.  Here’s some question to ask yourself before you get set creating the sensory room.

What is the primary purpose of the sensory room?

Is it going to be an action room where your homeschool student with special needs will be blowing off steam. Such a room is well suited to hyperactive children who find it difficult to sit still. Is it going to be a calm room where the special needs child can go to sit in peace and quiet? Even the parents can use the calm room to regain peace of mind. As you can imagine the basic purpose that the room is going to be used for will determine how you go about setting it up and the equipment that you will be installing in it. So spend some time on this and come up with  a workable list of things that you need to get.

Can you allocate a space for the sensory room?

Very often it can be difficult to set aside a full room for the explicit purpose of a sensory room. You will in most cases be looking at setting aside a space in one of the less commonly used rooms in your home. Remember is has to be an interactive space that encourages the child with special needs to explore, so think about what the rest of the room is currently being utilized for and how it will fit into the theme of the sensory room. A number of skills such as vocalisation, gross motor skills, colour recognition and tracking can be taught in the room effectively if done right.

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Special Needs Children and Homeschooling

Regular schools are often ill equipped to handle students with special needs. Even if they do have dedicated teachers for special needs students it can be rough on the children as the attrition rate for such teachers is pretty high. It can be very frustrating for a child to get used to one teacher and then have to cope with a new teacher the subsequent academic year. By homeschooling your special needs child you can help counter this high turn over for teachers by making sure that the only teacher you child has to ever deal with is you.

Taking this decision is a biggie

A large number of factors need to be considered before taking the decision to homeschool your special needs child. Ask yourself if you are really willing to take on this commitment which is going to last year, with no day off?  Remember not only are you the primary care giver, you will also become parent cum teacher for the child. Can you take on this responsibility, with almost no breaks from the child’s needs? Both personal as well as academic?

Take a look at your support system

While you will be doing the lion’s share of the work, your spouse and the rest of the family, including other children, and grandparents should be supportive of your plans. Remember you will not be getting much recognition or appreciation for all the effort that you will be putting into the education and care of your special needs child. You are going to find it difficult to go out and make new friends, so do you have an existing circle of people who care for you?

The legalities and paperwork

Homeschooling has different rules in different states. With a special needs child you may have additional guidelines that you may be required to follow. Find a trusted source who can guide you on exactly what all you will be facing legally. Get professional help for the paperwork if required. That way you are sure to get things right the first time and not waste time and effort redoing it again and again. The learning curve is high in the beginning, but if you are willing to stick it out, your child will reap the benefits.

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