Helpful tips for using “Little Hands to Heaven” with your child with autism!

From Our House to Yours

Helpful tips for using “Little Hands to Heaven” with your child with autism!

Recently, I’ve had many homeschool moms beginning Heart of Dakota’s preschool with children with autism. I thought that it might be helpful to share about this topic, as we do have many families with autistic children who enjoy using HOD. Why, you ask? Well, the guides are predictable. Work takes relatively the same amount of time each day. Furthermore, the boxed format of the guide appeals to autistic students. So, the same organizational things many families enjoy about Heart of Dakota, children with autism enjoy as well! Below you will find my answers to questions from a fellow homeschool mom beginning preschool with her son with autism. She found it helpful, so I thought I’d share it here in case it may be an encouragement to other homeschool moms with children with autism!

Complete the guide in a predictable way with picture cues, so progress can be easily seen.

Completing the guide in a predictable, routine order is important for children with autism. You can make this clearer by having a picture for each part of the plans. Your son can then put a sticky note over the picture, or if you want to make photocopies of the pictures, he could put a sticker over each thing as he completes it.

This can be as simple as putting a picture of the Bible for the “Bible Story” box, a picture of hands for the “Fingerplay” box, a picture of a “Cross” for Bible Activity, and so on, all on one sheet of paper, preferably in black and white. This need not be beautiful, but if he can see visual images of the boxes he needs to complete and either cover them up with a sticky note or put a sticker on them as he completes them, he can see the progress he is making and when he will be done.

Do the boxes of plans in a routine order, in a routine place as free of distractions as possible.

Likewise, doing the boxes of plans in a routine order, in a routine place that is as free of distractions as possible is so helpful for children with autism. For example, you can first read the Bible for Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH) in a quiet area together, like on a couch not right by any windows (to avoid bright light/over-stimulation), sitting next to one another side by side (so as to not require direct eye contact). Maybe next you would do the Fingerplay together, then the Bible Activity. These 3 things could all be done in the living room area, preferably not near doors, bright windows, or loud stimuli. They could all be done at 9 AM, in the same place, in the same order.

Put sticky notes or a stickers on the visual representation of each box of plans to celebrate completing the work.

You could then go to the kitchen table and have him put a sticky note or a sticker on the visual representation of it. Maybe then you could have a snack to celebrate his completing half the work. You can let him know he is half done! Hooray! You can try listening to the Music as you have your snack, not super loud, but to enjoy it. Then, he can put a sticky note/sticker on the ‘music’ image to show he’s done with that!

Then, after the snack/music, you can do the letter activity at the same place, the kitchen table. Give him time to process (6 second rule, give at least 6 seconds before repeating an instruction). This works so well with children with autism! Be direct/concrete in directions, and calmly give time to quietly process what you’ve said. Then, he can put a sticky note/sticker on the image of the ‘letter’ image. Finally, you can do the bottom rotating box of the plans.  Then, you can celebrate being done by letting him choose a free time activity/award he likes.

You can always break the day into two 15 minute sessions as well. 

These are just ideas, of course! However, seeing simple images of what needs to be done, covering them up/putting stickers on them as boxes of plans are completed, planning a routine way/place to do the boxes, choosing quiet/less bright/less noisy areas, giving extra processing time and then efficiently moving on to the next task, and giving a planned break/snack, are all ways to help your child with autism enjoy his 25-30 minutes of predictable time in LHTH each day. You can always try to break his day into two (15 minute) sessions as well.  I hope this helps, but let me know if you have further questions!!!  Just give it time, and you will see such progress!!!

In Closing

Carrie and I both taught in the public school setting prior to us having our own children to homeschool (Carrie for 11 years, and me for 7 years). The school we taught at was designated as a school to integrate children with special needs, primarily in the classroom setting. Our last year we co-taught and had 11 out of 28 students with special needs. We had multiple students with autism over the years, and we loved them all dearly! However, I just want to encourage you that the home setting is much more suited to children with autism than the classroom environment.

How we wished we could work with children with autism alone!  So much more could have been successfully and happily accomplished! ( I have found the same to be true with my own sons I homeschool as well.) I am so glad you have chosen to homeschool your son, and I know the two of you will have an amazing homeschool journey together with Heart of Dakota! God bless!

In Christ,

Julie

Spend 1-2 Years in Little Hands to Heaven

From Our House to Yours

Spend 1 Year in Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH)

Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH) is Heart of Dakota’s preschool guide written for children ages 2-5. I have used this guide with all three of my sons at different ages and paces. My oldest son, Wyatt, used LHTH when he was 4 years old back in 2003. This was the first year LHTH was published! He used it 5 days a week, finished it in 1 year, and then he moved into Little Hearts for His Glory.

Spend 1 1/2 Years in Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH)

My middle son, Riley, used Heart of Dakota’s LHTH when he was 3 1/2 years old. He used it 3-4 days a week. This worked perfectly, as it gave me extra time to focus on my oldest son’s school and my newborn baby! Riley finished LHTH in about a year and a half, and then he moved into Little Hearts for His Glory.

Spend 2 Years in Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH)

My youngest son, Emmett, used LHTH when he was 2 1/2 years old. He saw me homeschooling his older brothers and just couldn’t wait to start! I decided to go half-speed using both Bibles. I read from the easier Bible first, did the Fingerplay, the letter activity, and the Bible activity the first day. Then the second day, I read from the harder Bible, repeated the Fingerplay, reviewed the letter flashcard, and then did the remaining boxes (music and the rotating box). This really filled a need I had back then! I had mommy time with my little guy, but it didn’t add much time to my already busy day. Using both Bibles kept it fresh each day, and doing the Fingerplay and the letter flashcards both days helped him really remember his letters and sounds. I think he was an early reader because of this!

One other way to spend 2 years in LHTH is to use the 2/3 LHTH Package the first year. Then, the second year, use the 4/5 LHTH Package. With this plan, you go through the guide twice, but you use different Bibles and different devotionals each time.

Combining a 2 1/2 and a 5 Year-Old in Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH)

One other way to spend your time in LHTH is to (for example) combine a 2 1/2 and 5 year-old in it. In this combining scenario, the 5 year-old must get the most out of it. So, I’d choose the 4/5 LHTH Package with the 5 year-old in mind, and whatever the 2 1/2 year-old got out of it would be a bonus!  Then, the following year, the then 6 year-old would move into Little Hearts, while the then 3 1/2 year-old would use LHTH with the 2/3 Package, spreading it out over 1  1/2 years. This works well if you have a 5 year-old that still needs to learn letters and sounds.

Combining a 3 1/2 and a 5 1/2 Year-Old in Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH)

Another way to spend your time in LHTH is to combine a 3 1/2 and 5 1/2 year-old. Either the 3/4 or the 4/5 LHTH Package could be used, based on which devotional you prefer. You’d spend about 1 1/2 years in LHTH, doing it 3-4 days each week. For the 5 1/2 year -old, you’d add any kindergarten language arts/math from Little Hearts, based on whatever you feel the 5 1/2 year-old needs. Kindergarten fine motor skills (Do It Carefully and Finding the Answers), handwriting (A Reason for Handwriting K or Italic A), phonics (The Reading Lesson or Reading Made Easy), and math (Essentials A and B) could all be added to beef up LHTH for a 5 1/2 year-old.

After 1 1/2 years in LHTH together, the children would be 5 and 7 1/2 years old when starting Little Hearts for His Glory. The 5 year-old would use the K options, and the 7 1/2 year-old would use the 1st grade options. Perfect!

Hope you enjoy these different ways you can spend your time with your little ones in LHTH!

In Christ,

Julie

Don’t overthink it! Just dive into Little Hands to Heaven!

Heart of Dakota Life

Don’t overthink it!  Just dive into Little Hands to Heaven!

I started Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH) when my boys were 3 1/2 years old. I homeschooled 4 days a week, and this worked so well, I planned on doing the same with my youngest son, Emmett. However, the dynamics had changed in our homeschooling. Though only 2 1/2, little Emmett was well aware I was homeschooling his two older brothers. They each had me to themselves and were having such fun. No surprise Emmett wanted that too! Oh, it wasn’t like I forgot Emmett! (Who can EVER forget a 2-year-old?!?) I had lists of ideas! Read his Bible. Do a puzzle. Color something. Throw a ball. Sing the alphabet. However, the end of the day came, and somehow I’d failed to do ANY of those things. I felt so guilty! Over 10 years ago, I realized I needed to stop overthinking it and just dive into LHTH!

My “Dive-In” Moment with LHTH Over 10 Years Ago

From a post I wrote on October 5, 2009:  I was overseeing the semi-independent parts of Beyond and CTC today, and my little one was hopping all over wanting my attention. He was doing his “patty-cake” and “head and shoulders” rhymes (getting about every other word right), and I thought, “What am I waiting for? He’s dying to do LHTH. Why not dive in and do it?

A Happy “Dive-In” Day with My Little Emmett

So, I pulled LHTH out and did half of Day 1. He LOVED it! Before I knew it, he was strutting around shouting, “A, A, Adam” and doing all of the animals from the fingerplay, having a great time. He kept shouting, “Emmie do more school, mom!!!!” It was just too cute. I was going to start when he was 3 1/2, but I don’t think either of us can wait that long. Why oh why have I been overthinking this? I just needed to dive in and begin!

A Half-Speed Plan to Try

I think I’ll go half-speed. I have both Bibles, so I think I’ll read from the easier Bible first, do the Fingerplay, the letter activity, and the Bible activity the first day (that’s what we did today). Then the second day, I’ll read from the harder Bible, repeat the Fingerplay and review the letter flashcard, and then do the remaining boxes (music and rotating box) I haven’t done yet. I can tell this is going to fill a need I’m having right now. I’ll still have him do the Lakeshore boxes and Kumon books for fun the other mommy time I have planned, but I can see he’s going to flourish with LHTH. It was just such a great day – I had to share it with you all!

In Closing

I know lots of you are moms of many. You might be feeling the same way I as feeling 10 years ago. If so, I just want to encourage you, dive in! Give LHTH a try, even if it’s just half-speed. Don’t overthink it! Just begin. LHTH is easy to add to your day. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say adding LHTH for your little one(s) makes your day easier. Little ones demand attention, and we know they deserve it. However, we are pulled many ways as moms of multiple children. Simply doing LHTH with little ones helps them be happier, helps us feel better as moms, and teaches them some important skills along the way.  If you are on the fence, dive in! Your little ones will thank you.

In Christ,
Julie

 

 

Setting Up for Little Hands to Heaven

From Our House to Yours

Setting Up for Little Hands to Heaven

So, you’ve placed your children properly. You’ve had your ‘box day‘ after ordering from Heart of Dakota! But, what happens next? Well, you get ready for your homeschool year by setting up your guide! So, let’s do this together in this ‘From Our House to Yours’ series, starting with Little Hands to Heaven!

Start with the Nuts and Bolts of the Guide

To get where you want to go, you need to know how you are going to get there! So, when setting up for a guide, I always start by reading the nuts and bolts of the guide. For me, that is the Introduction, the Appendix, and the first week or month of the plans. I do this every year, even if I’ve done the guide previously. Why? Well, it sets the course for us for the year, and I can clearly see the purpose of each part of the plans. Each guide also includes options for ways of doing things (i.e. using one large binder or several smaller binders, using index cards or notebooks, etc.). I like to note the options I choose in the margin of the Introduction of the guide. That way, I can easily make my shopping list based on my notes for what options I preferred.

Setting Up the Front of My “Little Hands to Heaven” Binder

First, I photocopy the cover of my  guide in color and insert it in my binder. If you don’t have a color copier, a black and white cover looks nice as well! Second, I print the Introduction of the guide off the Internet (click here). I use the Table of Contents that is part of the Introduction as my attendance record. Next to each ‘Unit,’ I write the dates we completed it (i.e. Unit 1:  Sept. 2-6, 2019). Third, I print the first week of plans (click here). This is just a nice overview of what the guide includes. If your state requires you to turn in your student’s completed portfolio, to meet with a principal, or to be under the guidance of an umbrella school, the Introduction and first week of plans give an excellent overview of what is covered in the guide.

Label Tab Dividers Inside My LHTH Binder

Next, I label tab dividers for my binder. My goals are to show what my child did and how he progressed in skills. So, I label my first tab “BIBLE.” Since the history chronologically covered in LHTH is Bible History, anything my child does in response to the Bible reading can be placed here. Usually, I put Bible Activities and Art Activities behind this tab. Next, I label my second tab “LETTERS.” Mostly, I put Letter Activity projects and Hide and Seek letter pages behind this tab. Then, I label my third tab “MATH.” Behind this tab, I put any completed Math Activities and Count on Me pages. (I know the Count on Me pages are in the Bible Activities box, but I feel they show my child’s math progress nicely.) Last, I label my fourth tab “COLORS”and put any completed Colors pages (i.e. the “Yellow is…” colors page).

Extra Tab(s) for Those Who Take Pictures and Actually Print Them

If you are a super mom who not only takes pictures but also prints them, you can include one more tab called “HANDS-ON.” Behind this tab, you can place printed action photos of the Fingerplays, Active Exploration activities, Dramatic Play activities, and/or the Corresponding Music singing. Or, you can label the tab “OTHER” and put pictures of anything special, like you reading the Bible or Devotional to your child. However, ask me how many times I have gotten that done in three trips through LHTH. Zero. So, if you don’t get this done, no worries! I DO have many pictures taken, and I DID have them on a slideshow in a photoframe for awhile. So, if you don’t have the time, don’t do this. Your binder without any of these extra tabs will still be amazing!

Make Photocopies for the Year

I usually make all my photocopies at the start of the year. (Keep in mind, you can always skip this step and just make copies as they come up in the plans.) For LHTH, I first photocopy the Letter Flashcards from the Appendix. I cut them, fold them, and put them in order in a large ziplock bag. Next, I photocopy 35 “Count on Me” pages from the Appendix (33 copies are needed, but a few extra are always nice). Finally, I copy the “Hide and Seek,” “Number,” and “Color” pages.

I put these in order of use in 3 different manila file folders. If your copier leaves a slight gray edge on any copies, just trim the edge, if it bothers you. Please know, Carrie, HOD’s author, gives permission for these pages to be copied, as well as the Introduction and First Week of Plans. However, any other photocopies (i.e. of daily plans) would be a copyright infringement.

Label Sticky Tabs to Mark Places in the Guide

Next, I label sticky tabs to mark places in the LHTH guide. I label the first sticky tab “DAILY PLANS.” Then, I label the next tab “FINGERPLAYS.” If you decided to make your photocopies as you move through the plans rather than all at the start of the year, you may also want to labels in the Appendix for “COUNT ON ME” and “FLASHCARDS.” 

Shopping for Supplies

Since Carrie’s plans use readily available household supplies and many options are suggested, the guide does not have a supplies list. For example, the plans may call for either a bean bag and a basket, or a rolled up pair of socks and a plastic bin. Or, the plans may call for a scarf, a jump rope, or a long belt. Going out and buying bean bags, scarves, and jump ropes will not be necessary! So, embrace the beauty and savings of using what you have on hand on any given day instead of trying to make an exhaustive shopping list of supplies.

Instead, plan on stocking up on usual art supplies, such as colors, markers, glue, scissors, construction paper, tape, playdough, fingerpaints/paints/paintbrushes, cotton balls/yarn, etc. Also plan on stocking up on masking tape, index cards of different sizes, clear page protectors, and a few catalogs or magazines your child can cut pictures from.

In Christ,
Julie

Should I start Little Hands if my son doesn’t comprehend its Bible well?

Dear Carrie

Should I begin Little Hands to Heaven if my son doesn’t seem ready to comprehend the children’s Bible in it well?

I lurk on the Heart of Dakota Message Board! I’ve gotten a lot of great insight there! My daughter is using Little Hearts, and she also used Little Hands, which we loved. My question is about my son. He’s 4, and he knows all his letters, sounds, shapes, etc. However, he struggles with listening. I haven’t started Little Hands (LHTH) for this very reason. I tried out the Bible from LHTH for his evening devotions. He really struggled to answer any questions after the reading. I think it is partly a disciplinary issue as well. After all, he can sit and listen attentively to a Thomas the Train book! I’d like to get him started in LHTH, but I’m concerned about his (lack of) listening and comprehension. So, should I begin Little Hands to Heaven if my son doesn’t seem ready to comprehend the children’s Bible in it well?

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help Me Choose When to Start Little Hands”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me Choose When to Start Little Hands,”

I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed Heart of Dakota with your daughter and will now begin it with your son! I just want to encourage you that it isn’t uncommon for young boys to struggle a bit with listening to Bible stories at first. This is because Bible stories have a harder vocabulary, have a much less predictable storyline, and do not have as many repetitive words or characters as stories like Thomas the Tank Engine do. So, listening to a Bible story is actually an exercise in higher level listening for a little child.

Comprehension can be influenced by the time of day.

How well a child comprehends a Bible story reading will also differ depending on what time of day the little one is asked to listen to the story. By bedtime, little ones are often weary, both physically and mentally. So, trying to process something new at that time is more work. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read aloud Bible stories at bedtime. It just means that we can expect less comprehension at that time of day as opposed to when the child is fresher, earlier in the day.

Children develop the skills to listen to Bible stories, which are more difficult read alouds, in LHTH.

Listening to more difficult read alouds, like Bible stories, is a skill that takes time to develop. The beauty of LHTH is that you will actually be able to see this skill develop as you travel through the guide. Since your son is 4, I’d lean toward starting LHTH, doing it 4 days a week. At age 4, he would likely be able to handle a day of LHTH in a day, since it takes 30 minutes or less.

Children may struggle for awhile, but soon they begin to answer the Bible questions better and better.

You can expect that he will struggle to answer the questions from the Bible stories for awhile (and this is not exclusive to little boys)! My sisters and I were talking awhile back about how surprising it was when our little ones finally began to answer some of the Bible questions in LHTH (and my older sister has little girls).

You can reread the line of the story with the answer to help your child answer the question if need be.

Until your little one is able to answer the questions, after asking the question if no answer is forthcoming, you could reread the line of the story with the answer in it to help prod your little one. Then, if the answer still isn’t coming, just tell the answer in a questioning type way. For example, if the question is, “Who did Abraham marry?”, and if your little one doesn’t know, reread the line of the story that says the answer. If your little one still can’t answer, then say, “Did Abraham marry Sarah?” In this way, the child can still answer, “Yes” at least (giving the guise of answering the question).

I hope you enjoy Little Hands to Heaven with your son as much as we did with each of our sons!

Blessings,

Carrie