Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mom's Summer School

As I mentioned in this post, I try to have the kids do something educational each day.  They have termed it "Mom's summer school".   My goal is just to keep them in the habit of doing school work and to keep their minds sharp.  We try to do this everyday, but some days we are busy with camps or they are playing with friends so I let them skip.

All I really want them to do is some math and reading.  I figure the social studies and science part of learning is something that gets snuck in without them ever knowing.  For example we discuss social studies when we talk about the presidential election, or the different cultures of the people we see.  I don't even have to plan this, I just wait for them to bring something up and then I turn it into an educational lesson.

As for science, I have a couple of science activities like a crystal making kit, or we play with magnets, or do some sort of experiment like making candles where we discuss solid, liquid and gas.  Science lessons require some planning but I never present it as part of our school work.  I just say, 'hey, let's make crystals today'.  Or they are already playing with magnets and I talk about polarity and we see what is magnetic and what's not.  I'll even get a book about the thing we're doing and read it to them so they can learn more about it.  I have a science degree so this stuff is fun for me.  Does that make me a nerd or what?

As for reading, both of the kids love to read so I don't even have to ask them to do this.  Sweetie Pie has been staying up late, like 10pm late, and reading book after book after book.  She loves the Rainbow Magic Fairy books, and we have quite a collection, plus we get more from the library.  She reads a couple of those a night.  The Spencinator likes to read too and can get quite engrossed in a book.  We went to the playground last week and he was really into a book and didn't want to put it down.

Now getting them to do their math work is another story, especially when it comes to motivating a kid with autism.

Sweetie Pie (who will be going into second grade) is the easy one because she pretty much does whatever I tell her and needs little to no motivation for doing it.  I have some math workbooks (that I picked up at a garage sale) and her teacher sent home a summer work packet at the end of school.  I let her choose to do a page from her math workbook or the summer work packet.  She usually does two or three pages just because she finds it to be so much fun.  If she ever does give me attitude about doing her work, I can usually motivate her by saying I'll read her a story afterward or she can earn a Pokemon card for doing a page of math.

Yes, I have my own collection of Pokemon cards (something I picked up at a garage sale - can you tell I love garage sales).  Ever since some school friends gave my kids Pokemon cards, they have been really into collecting them.  Every kid in the neighborhood has some so they are always trading and organizing their cards.  Right now, earning new ones is a strong motivator for them.  And when I find something to motivate the Spencinator, I will use it for all it's worth.  As with most kids on the autism spectrum, they have to be motivated to do non preferred activities.  And schoolwork, especially math, is a non preferred activity for him.  Along with giving him a reward for completing his work, I wait for him to tell me that he wants to do something like play a video game or play with a friend.  I then use that as an additional motivator.  I tell him that his school work needs to be done first.  All I'm asking for him to do is one page of a math worksheet or some flash cards with me, just to help him memorize simple math facts.  He knows he has to do math before the fun stuff and while he will argue about doing it, eventually he wants to do the fun stuff so much, he'll buckle down and get the math done.

So this is how things have been going so far, and it's working for us.
Do you have 'summer school' with your kids?
How do you motivate them?