Saturday, December 19, 2015


My son's passions run deep and bring him enormous joy.  My husband has often remarked that we'd all be lucky to feel that much joy about ANYTHING in our lives.  Liam's loves range from our cat, Jake, to countdown videos (his own and others) and, lately, all LED signs and displays, everywhere. 

When we travel, and there's a choice of going the street route or the highway, Liam will beg to go on the highway, just for the chance to see a roadwork LED sign, or a CALTRANS sign with timing/driving information.  "How many minutes to Downtown?"  I'll hear from the back seat.  "Fifteen!"

Imagine the delight when he saw that several, temporary sign boards had been erected to direct traffic around road construction related to the new Harry Potter attraction (coming soon to our neighbor at Universal).  Liam and his dad started to take walks to the signs and make videos.  "Let's do SIGN ACTION!"  Liam would beg.  It was fun, quality Dad-time.  Sign Action usually involved dancing around the signs, climbing them (they were off road on the sidewalks) and even hugging them.  Liam tends to think of them as alive - always waving "hi" to them as we drive by.

Last night, they returned from another "SIGN ACTION" foray without the usual rosy glow. 

"How was SIGN ACTION?"

"There was a problem," my husband answered.

"The signs are missing.  The signs DIED!"  my son chimed in.

My husband described how they'd gone to visit the signs, and finding them missing, went in search of others - ending up at Rite Aide, where Liam has always enjoyed the scrolling displays on the lottery ticket machines.  Reportedly, Liam took this to mean, "Sign Action turned into Machine Action."

When they got back, Liam retreated to his room and I thought I heard him mumbling about the signs through the closed door, but when I checked in on him I found him playing a video and I figured he was OK with it.

Later that night, he wandered out of bed, red-eyed and teary, repeating the refrain "There's no more sign action.  The signs are gone.  The signs DIED.  Will they be back tomorrow?"

I could hear sobbing and low talking as John explained that the signs wouldn't be back - not there anyway.  I was listening to the sounds of grieving.  It was heart wrenching to hear him cry out for his lost joy for nearly an hour, with my husband staying by to console him.  I wandered in later and Liam was ready to change direction, making a joke and holding my hand.

I've been worried lately about how we'll handle the end of his elderly friend, Jake the cat, who is now suffering from early stages of kidney disease.  I hadn't expected his first real grief experience to be for an inanimate (if animated) object. 

Fortunately, I had a surprise for him.  I decided to give him his Christmas present early.  I'd bought him a scrolling, programmable LED name badge.  I couldn't replace the beautiful, huggable displays, but I could give him a display that he could make his own. 

I installed the programming software on John's laptop last night and charged the badge, then left it scrolling it's first message, "H E L L O  L I A M,"  on the dining room table. 

I was glad to have it ready, since the first words out of his mouth this morning were, "Sign Action is over. . ." 

"I have a surprise for you."

He's been sitting there for an hour, programming in phrases and trying to figure out how to hack in and input new fonts. 

I know that he is feeling real grief and that he may bring up the road signs again, but now he has a wearable reminder that there are many signs to enjoy in the world and life goes on. 
Liam playing with his new, programmable LED badge.

Saturday, December 12, 2015


Liam loves his new science class at Urban Homeschoolers.  In his Natural Science class last week, Mr. Guest took the class out onto the play-yard and recited the 100 letter word from Finnegans Wake that signaled the beginning of creation.  The students all crushed together into a singularity, exploded into a universe and collapsed back into a singularity by the end of the word.  Liam liked the word so much, I had Mr. Guest record it.  Later, Liam animated the expansion and contraction of the word-as-universe over Mr. Guest's recitation.

It took Liam only seconds to assemble the images and to animate them.  As he was saving the file, I saw dozens of recent creations listed - explorations of different effects and subjects, all with incredibly descriptive and creative titles.  Liam loves language and languages, but he samples them, like he samples images and recombines them - using them in unexpected ways.  The workings of a singular mind.

There is a lot of lip-service paid to the idea of "thinking outside the box," while at the same time trying to get the very minds that are wired to do that, to conform to a predictable "box."  By allowing Liam to follow his passions, however different they may be from the box that we know,  his mind is exploding with ideas.

I recently saw a comparison between the structure of the human brain to the structure of the known universe.  Beautifully similar, aren't they?  Both are complex and can only be grasped by readjusting your expectations of what's possible.  We may never understand it fully, but we'll see far more by widening our lens and letting in more light than by a narrow focus on the expected.

Every day, Liam's singular mind explodes anew.  Or, in the "word" of James Joyce, "Bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!"
This image and an interesting article about studies showing how the universe functions like a brain can be found here:

Monday, November 30, 2015

Therein Lies the Truth

Liam waiting outside of his art class, Pastimes for a Lifetime
"Hey, have you noticed that Liam has started to lie?" I asked my husband as we waited for Liam to make one more "escape" from his room after bedtime.


"Isn't it great?"


Parents of neurotypical children don't often get excited when they catch their kids lying.  But parents of autistic kids know what a huge cognitive leap it is.  Lying is not literal statement of fact - it is a deliberate manipulation of another person, and although we teach most kids that it's "bad to lie," the TRUTH behind lies is that it's a necessary social skill.

As we grow up, we learn how to lie to protect ourselves and sometimes, in the case of "white lies" to protect the feelings of others.  Is there anyone who hasn't said that the overcooked, flavorless pork chops were "just fine" to protect the feelings of the host?  And then there's the famous, "do these pants make my butt look big?"  Please, lie to me about that one - ALWAYS.

Autistic kids, especially kids who have had extensive ABA therapy, have sometimes learned compliance to a dangerous degree - putting their own desires, and even safety aside in order to comply.  Although it can be a pain to have to argue about putting on socks, shutting down the computer or doing another level of math, it is a relief that, after a year off from ABA and the compliance-heavy school environment, Liam has found his voice and even posits logical arguments.

The other day, I accidentally gave him three gummy bear vitamins instead of two (they're sticky little buggers).  He noticed immediately.  I told him that it was OK that he had three that day, but that he's only supposed to have two, or he might get sick.  "I got three and am not sick," he replied.

For some parents, that would be "backtalk."  For me, it was watching a synapse fire.  Inside, I was doing a happy dance.

Another important factor of lying is the understanding of a social dynamic.  He's learning that telling us what we want to hear will make us happy and less likely to disrupt his interests.  He's long used a hug or cuddle as an escape from an uncomfortable situation.  Now he uses cuddles "proactively" to get what he wants: sliding in behind Dad at the keyboard for a hug is more likely to get him some keyboard time with Dad than a commando-style run at the keys.

Homeschooling Liam and allowing him the time to really dig into his own interests,  participating in outside classrooms where there is order, but not dogma, and honoring his autodidactic nature has let him shine. I think that kids, in general, need more time to play and discover on their own time, but for autistics, it is imperative.   As he's maturing, he's more interested in sharing his latest creation, asking for help or initiating games. 

Another wonderful development is a genuine interest in joining others outside of homeschool.  Urban Homeschoolers has given him the chance to learn in a structured, but less rigid environment.  He wants to practice the songs from choir and he mentions his science teacher by name.  Thinking "about" people and things that are not present was a rare event.  Now he'll let me know that his teacher or an idea are bubbling away in his brain. 
Liam visiting the local cat, Benny, outside of Urban Homeschoolers

A clay model built in his science class at Urban Homeschoolers, to show how Earth forces create land masses

The truth is, exactly one year ago, we walked away from all of the supports and institutions we had depended on since preschool.  We didn't know what to expect, but we knew we had to try something different.  By letting go, we've discovered more than we could have imagined.  And, in keeping with the season, I can say that I am truly thankful for lies.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Macbeth (or Menopause or My Cat) Hath Murdered Sleep!

The new bed
Like many families, especially those with autistic members, sleep, or the lack thereof, is an ongoing theme in our story.  My husband has always had trouble going to and staying asleep.  My son can't even begin to prepare to stay awake in bed for 2 - 3 hours until 9:30 PM and my night sweats and annoying geriatric cat conspire to wake me 2-3 times a night.  I miss sleep.  I really do.

During the hottest summer in all recorded history in LA, I took to sleeping on the couch, under an open window, every night.  My husband slept in the bedroom with the cat locked out and my son would stay (mostly) in his room, until about 6 AM, then he'd wander into the living room and say, "let's cuddle!"  I love it that my boy still wants to cuddle with me and, to be honest, he's too big for me to carry back to bed anyway, so we developed the "cuddle" habit in the morning.  We'd achieved a sort of sleep stasis.
Liam may take forever to get to sleep, but he's always happy in the morning!

A week ago, my husband announced that our old, rock-hard futon was finally, completely unsleepable. 
Liam lounging on the old futon
We were getting a new bed!  I left mattress selection up to him.  After all, I can fall asleep on anything, I may sweat on it, but passing out on it is no problem.  He settled on a plush IKEA mattress.  I went to the store to give it a "test-lay" and found it to be nice and cozy.

Dollars down and delivery made,  I washed the sheets and got ready to enjoy a really nice bed.  I slept a solid 5 hours before being annoyed awake by the cat.  I was satisfied.  My hubby was not.  He was uncomfortable.  I offered to put the cotton mattress topper back on the bed (it was bought as a last-ditch effort for the futon's end-of-days). 

Night two - Still great for me - and not so great for him.  "I want to try sleeping in the studio tonight, on the air mattress with the topper," he declared.  After two nights of no sleep, things were getting desperate.  I left our bedroom door open.  I was visited by the cat and my son during the night.  My husband was NOT visited by a good night's sleep. 

The next day, I went to Bed Bath & Beyond and bought a feather mattress topper.  My husband is very happy with his new feather pillow - I thought that adding this plushness might take the edge off the mattress.  This time, he went to bed early.  I wandered in a couple of hours later.  We left the air-mattress inflated in the studio, as a backup.

Liam tried to join us twice, but I still managed to finish a night in the bed.  Around 5, I got up, fed the cat and waited for Liam to join me on the couch.  That's when I noticed that the cat's paws smelled intensely of cat pee.  That only happens when he's peed on some squishy surface.  I ran to my son's room and was relieved to find it dry, then I remembered the air mattress.  Sure enough, the thick comforter, sheet, cotten mattress topper and mattress itself were soaked with cat pee. 

I doused everything in "Nature's Miracle," shoved the bedding into the washer, scrubbed and deflated the bed and took two Excedrin.  My husband awoke.  Well, I guess you can't awaken if you don't sleep.  This time he announced that he had been too hot, as soon as I came to bed.  He made his typical pot of strong-enough-to-walk-on-its-own coffee and I drank a cup - forgetting I had just taken two caffeine laced Excedrin. 

I was now a jittery wreck.  I decided to take a shower to relax.  While at Bed Bath and Beyond, getting the feather bed, I'd bought a plush, new bathroom rug. I snuggled my feet into the mat, as I waited for the water to get hot.  The rug was soaked.  With pee.  Cat pee. 

The most autistic brain in the house, by far, belongs to our cat.  New bed, new routine, new things - all were too much for Jake-Jake.  And now they were nearly too much for me.  The rug followed the mattress topper and bedding into the wash.  After I dried the rug, I put it into a bag in the closet.   In my mind, I said, "the day you die, cat, I am putting this thing back on the floor!" He's 14.  Shouldn't be long now. . .
A close-up of Jake, taken by Liam.  He is actually a much-loved member of the family.  No cats were harmed in the writing of this post.
The battle is not yet won.  My husband put a locking knob on the door and I loaded the bed with BOTH the cotton topper and the feather bed.  The cat is forbidden from entering our bedroom.  EVER AGAIN. 

And Liam?  He LOVES the new, big bed and while I was desperately trying to manage the a-pee-colypse, he learned several new skills on Minecraft, taught himself a new song on the piano and learned a new dance.  

Tomorrow after our class at Urban Homeschoolers,  I'll reward his patience with a return trip to his new favorite place - the pony rides in Griffith Park.  
The joy on his face makes it all better.  Tonight we will try again and see what dreams may come.

Thursday, October 29, 2015


Liam created this avatar of himself on Starfall, then went out to play with his scooter

I'm a voracious reader of other homeschooling blogs.  In part, I'm looking for some sense of community.  My blog is great for keeping track of our progress, but I want the chance to share ideas with other parents who have gone before (or are yet to come).  Last week, on Facebook, I read about a local homeschooling parents' involvement in Urban Homeschoolers.  A Google search and a phone call later and we were set to audit a couple of their classes in Atwater Village.

Urban Homeschoolers isn't a school, it's a resource center geared towards kids who are homeschooled or in a charter school and are looking for enrichment classes.  We asked to audit Natural Science, which promised to be very physical and Choir. 

Classes are grouped by age.  7-9 or 9-12 being Liam's range.  I decided to skew older, as the wee ones are a bit "zingy" with their energy and I was afraid Liam would have more trouble focusing.  It was a good call.  

The Science teacher, Mr. Guest,  is an experienced Waldorf teacher and he masterfully led the class through exploration of plant vs human life, ending with an indoor/outdoor encounter with ferns and designing and building their own fern plant out of paper. 

Liam was allowed to join in and seemed to be enjoying the tactile nature of the class.  At one point, he drifted to the chalk board, and I was afraid he was going to start drawing fonts or numbers, but instead, he started to write the key words that Mr. Guest was saying.  It was his way of connecting to the language.  Nobody seemed to mind in the least.

The next day we attended Choir with some seriously talented singers.  John and I were repeatedly impressed with the kindness, openness and easy, yet attentive manner of the kids we met.  At the end of Choir, I asked to register Liam for the rest of the semester.

This evening, I heard Liam say (out of nowhere), "I had fun with Mr. Guest."  As he rarely comments on anyone who isn't immediately present, that made me very happy. 

This afternoon, we returned to Riverside Drive to Coding Class, which Liam loves. 

I feel like we're finally creating a balance between Liam's amazing self-directed skills and connection to an outside network.  Outside we have: Tuesday nights - art, Wednesday morning - choir, Thursday afternoon - computer coding, Friday afternoon, natural science.  At home we have ST Math, BrainPop science and ESL, Mandarin, animation, and now Piano. 

I'll leave you with Liam's latest attempt at the Tetris theme.  

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Gift of Time

"It's HARD!"  I heard a lot of that over the past couple of weeks as we worked through the lessons on Area and Perimeter.  He'd get it, then lose it, then get it again.

What I love about ST Math is the ability to see the mistakes and keep working on it.  He's developed a lot of independence.  So much so, that he finished a level and went straight to the quiz, on his own.  While I hoped more had stuck, he only managed 40% on this level - an all-time low.  Since he got 80% on the pre-quiz, it also shows that he probably wasn't as careful with the language and making sure he really worked through all of the answers before making a choice - something I still have to remind him to do.   So he took the initiative, but rushed to finish and missed a lot.

In ST Math there is a little self-evaluation section where the student can rate how difficult, interesting or educational the unit was.  I watched him correctly assess that it was "Very Difficult,"  "Boring (he says that when it's hard and not moving forward)" and that he learned "A Little."

Fortunately, with a class of ONE, we can stay here a while, until he REALLY gets it.  Once more around the perimeter and through the area!

Monday, October 12, 2015


Autodidactic: a person who has learned a subject without the benefit of a teacher or formal education; a self-taught person. Origin of autodidact Expand. Greek. 1525-1535. 1525-35; < Greek autodídaktos self-taught; see auto-1, didactic.

One of the reasons we decided to homeschool was that Liam showed a remarkable ability to teach himself in his strongest areas of interest.  The videos he's made were made on programs he taught himself.  We showed him THAT he had PowerPoint on his machine when he was about 4, but he was the one who figured out how to do not only graphic layouts, but play with it in innovative ways to create mini-videos (it's what inspired me to show him stop-motion).

A few years ago, we hired a talented and flexible piano teacher, and while Liam learned quickly, he showed no interest in practicing.  We took a break from formal piano lessons to focus on something he does non-stop, art.

 Lately though, he's found a program called "Synthesia," which is a piano training program (  

He started by searching for tunes he liked, watching them on YouTube, then going to the piano and playing what he remembered.  Then he took his iPad with him, setting it up as sheet music on the piano and followed along with the program.  

Recently, he's been playing songs on his desktop, and tapping on the screen - not to make the notes, but to match the left and right hands, something he's working towards, slowly.

Although my husband is a classical pianist and composer, and I am an artist, Liam shows no interest in learning from either of us, when he can find it on his own.  The best part is that, even though he wants to find and practice it on his own, he is asking us to come and watch him more and more.  He's feeling the need to share.  

Amazing what he can do, if we just get out of his way!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

On The Road Again

When I was putting together a plan for this year's lessons, I decided to get us out of the house as much as possible.  Fortunately, there are plenty of great opportunities for exploration around Los Angeles.  And our new home is very near a Metro station, so I try to take advantage of it as much as possible.

Maybe, someday, Liam will have the focus to learn to drive a car, but at the moment, he's easily distracted by his favorite things, numbers and fonts!  So we take trips on the train (which he loves - more fonts and digital displays), and I take him through the process of loading the card, tapping it at the gate, looking for the right platform and getting off at the right station.

I know that his brain is always operating on two tracks at once.  During the trip, he's giving a running narrative of the fonts on every sign, with special notice paid to the number and type of digital displays.  After the trip, he remembers which train we rode and where.  I still need to remind him to board the train immediately, when the doors open, instead of reading the signs in the window, but he's getting the hang of it.  He's often the first one to notice the distinctive decor of each station.  I hope that the unique look of each stop will help him recognize them for future travel.

Last week, we visited the California Science Center to cap off our unit on body systems. 
They have a wonderful, permanent exhibit that shows how bodies function, including a show starring a 50 foot animatronic woman named "Tess."

  They also have exhibits which allow kids to pump blood and see how the respiratory system works in several different animals.  The best part is, the main part of the Science Center is always free, and with exhibits on habitat, space (including a retired Space Shuttle) and more, it's a fantastic place to visit in pieces, again and again.

Back at home, Liam has been enjoying his Chinese lessons.  This week, he learned a traditional poem.  After his teacher left, he somehow found a translation of it online (by himself) and we recorded him reading it in Mandarin and English.  He's a little excited.

Some days start out slowly, but later on, I'll find him on one of his educational sites, of his own volition.  I know he learns best when he can rewind and take things in pieces, even if it seems like he's just messing around.   If he's having fun, he'll play longer and more likely take more information in.

This learning experience is like a good road trip.  Have a plan, but be prepared to let it go and just enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

All Things Being Equal

Liam chose to pose with his ST Math program and make this face.  Such a boy.

The current math lesson is fractional equivalants.  What started out as a slog has finally clicked and Liam is zooming through the level.  It's a metaphor for how things are going lately.

The BrainPop science lessons were a great jumping-off point for the marine biology lessons that led to the filed trip to the Aquarium of the Pacific last week.  This week though, we moved on to human body systems and suddenly BrainPop was not my friend.  The movies are still cute, but the terminology was so technical and advanced, I could see his eyes glazing over a few seconds into the first clip.

So I scoured our bookshelves and jumped online, looking for a few different sources to cover the next few topics I had chosen in the BrainPop Health/Science series.

What would be meaningful?

When we took Jake in for his checkup this year, I brought Liam along.  He loved listening to the cat's heartbeat through the stethoscope.  To make the connection, I found this video online:  (it has the recorded sound of a cat purring along with it's heartbeat and a cute, kitten slideshow).

Liam loved it.

 BrainPop Jr. has a similar series of videos, that are a little easier to digest than the material on BrainPop.

I also found this great series of animated videos from  Liam liked it so much that after watching the video on the Circulatory System, he moved on to the Digestive System all on his own.  It also comes with quizzes and activity sheets.

As Liam would say, "SCORE!"

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Going Skyward

With temps in the triple digits, cabin "fever" set in quickly.  A sudden failing of my prescription sunglass frames was a good excuse to make a run to the mall.  Burbank mall has indoor bungee jumping and Liam loves it.  He was yelling, "I'm going skyward!"

Otherwise, school is cooking along nicely.  Our weekly schedule includes daily math, science and language arts and weekly art and Chinese.  Art is actually a daily event, since Liam will revert to art at every given break, but he's enjoying his private lesson as well.

In the middle of his stop motion camp we made a field trip to the movies, to see "Shaun the Sheep."  He loved this classic claymation with no dialogue.
On the way out of the movies, Liam stopped to play in this ad for "The Good Dinosaur."

Afterward we got to run around Universal Citywalk and play in the fountains.
We've built a set and characters and will soon storyboard an episode of "The Spiffyman Show."  We can use it to work on storytelling and build on his growing animation skills.

Yesterday, after two weeks of study in marine biology, we attended the special homeschool day at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.

It was amazing to watch Liam enter the main hall, take in the full-size replica of a blue whale suspended from the cieling and shout, "Oh MY GOD!"  He also enjoyed petting the sharks.  Whenever he managed to feel one passing by, he'd say, "SCORE."  And he had fun providing a sound track for this shark tank (until the incredibly timed, but way-too-loud ending - see video). 

I enjoyed planning out the lessons on Brainpop  leading up to this field-trip. But the best part was watching the unplanned interactions.  Moving on to how bodies work and the next field trip to the California Science Center.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Spiffyman Show, Episode 1 (Behind the Scenes)

Today, we finally made the armature (skeleton) for a claymation puppet.  I knew Liam would want to make a puppet of his character, Spiffyman.

First we had to break out the supplies.  A couple of weeks ago, we went to Michaels, and I bought oil-based clay, 20 gauge wire and a wire cutter kit with other tools. We got a cool Minion-themed cardboard treasure box to keep it all in.  It is his "animation box."

It was my first time building an armature, and I made it a little too long with wire a bit too soft.  Later we made him a back-brace!  Then it was time to add the clay.  I showed Liam how to build it up a little at a time.

Here's the finished puppet, with a 12 guage backbrace.  We need shorter puppets or stronger wire next time!

After he built the star of the show, we needed a background to shoot against.  Liam chose what he calls, "Spiffyman yellow."
Lights, Camera - ACTION

I left the room and this is what he created.  He says that the characters are all speaking English, but in reverse.  Here is Liam's first stop motion with an armatured puppet (and friends):

The assignment from his camp was to animate a face.  We'll save the puppet and work on adding additional movement for episode 2.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Speaking of Language

Despite having difficulty in producing flowing, expressive language in English, Liam's fascination with the alphabet and number systems has led him to discover dozens of languages.  His ear is exceptional - native speakers hearing him rattle off the alphabet or count in Hebrew, Arabic, Japanese, Dutch and more, have remarked on how good his accent is.

He's taught himself a few words in Japanese and Spanish, but that's as far as it's gone.  We briefly took an after-school Spanish class, but it had become very popular and the class size didn't work out for him.

So I was intrigued when I saw a posting on our local "Nextdoor" site.  A young woman from China had just moved to the neighborhood to pursue an acting career and was offering her services as a personal assistant, translator and Chinese tudor.  I am an accent reduction coach.  Why not trade?  It turns out she had a double major in Psychology and Theater and had worked with kids on the spectrum before.  We set a date.

I can honestly say that this woman is wonderful.  She has great energy and Liam was really having fun.  She was surprised by how quickly he memorized (he only needs to hear or see something once).  She got through twice the normal lesson with him.  It was great to bring something and someONE new into the mix.

It looks like the beginning of something wonderful.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

When I Wasn't Looking

Liam teaches himself new things daily.  Part of the goal of home schooling is to help him take his mad skills and learn to apply them to challenges set by other people.  The stop motion camp gives him specific challenges to meet, and that takes him out of his usual comfort zone.  But he still manages to use the skills on his own.  I was looking for an older stop-motion video to add to his page and found one he'd made totally on his own.  Yes, it's another countdown video, but the animation is really, really GOOD!

The graphite drawing class went well this week, so we'll continue to have an "away class" at Pastimes for a Lifetime studio.  And I chanced upon a Chinese tudor online who might make a nice addition to Liam's studies.  Sometimes other languages help us tune in more closely to our own.  And Chinese is a really cool language with an amazing writing system.

Liam built a short PowerPoint presentation each day, on the science topic we studied.  We start with a BrainPop movie (these are all from the "Diversity of Life" unit).  After the movie, we reviewed some of the fun questions and went online to find out more about a detail that interested him.

Here are the slides from this week's lessons (the font choices did not translate into the still slides - they're actually much cooler looking than this):
I like how he played with the word "amphibians"

Even though the language is a little advanced, it gives us a chance to look up words and do more research on concepts he doesn't get.  By reviewing the presentations every day, he has more chances to think about it.

We Google images to go with each presentation. Part of the fun is seeing which image he'll use to illustrate the slides

For reptiles, we focused on a reptile he'd actually met.  Mr. Scales was an albino ball python that came to the annual  Spring Faire at Liam's old school.  Kids could pet the snakes and they were up for adoption.  Liam really likes snakes.  I like them too, but I don't think I have the stomach to feed them cute, furry mice.  There was a lot of information on pet websites about ball pythons.

We made more presentations, but my favorite is the one on Mammals.  Mammals are differentiated by how they give birth - placenta, birth/developed in pouch or eggs.  Since Liam found my pregnancy and sonogram pictures so fascinating, this was a really fun presentation to put together.  I didn't have any songram pics of him to add, but we definitely spent some time talking about them.  And now - Mammals:

The "Birds" presentation was fun, just to see the juxtaposition of the world's smallest and largest birds:

Once again, it was fun to tie in the field trip to the text.  My apologies for the completely random way the formatting gets scrambled when turning the PPT into pics.  I'm sure Liam will solve this problem on his own very soon - when I'm not looking.