Saturday, January 21, 2017

Mid-Year Ramblings ...

This seems to be the year that I need to remind myself over and over again that slow and steady wins the race. We are "schooling" every day, but progress is slow. I just keep reminding myself that we are blessed to homeschool, and we can choose our own pace. It was my choice to let Dean work on two different grade levels this year, and I knew he would not complete every course for 9th grade. Also, Dean is struggling with depression and teenage hormones. All of these things have made our year slow. However, it has been filled with quality and progress. That is the truly important thing.

What is working for us ~

Art ~ Art has been a blessing on several levels this year. It is a wonderful release for Dean as he struggles with his feelings. He is going to Miss Laura's home two times a week now to work on his art. He also does art several times a week at home. Anne has decided to drop out of art classes with Miss Laura for now. She would prefer to spend that time working on math and spelling (the two areas in which she lacks confidence).

Science with our homeschool friend ~ Science has been a blast this year with our friend S. I teach all three students for several hours one time a week and then assign homework or a project to work on during the week. We have concentrated on chemistry during the first half of our physical science course this year. This will count for Dean's ninth grade science credit and seventh grade science for the girls. We are moving on to geology, which will be part two of our physical science course in February.
Testing food for starches
English ~ English has evolved this year into a place we are comfortable. We are doing less literature than many years and more writing. The children, including our homeschool friend S, are slowly sloshing through the Cover Story program. I like the program. They think it is hard, but they admit they are learning. Each of them will have a magazine of their very own at the end of the course, which is really cool. They are also writing 500 word papers every month. We have read several books this year together, and most of them have been Newberry winners. We are currently reading The Twenty-One Balloons.

Field Trips ~ I thought we would be doing many more field trips this year. However, life hasn't taken that turn. However, we have done some decent ones and are planning several more for science and history. This week, all three students and I explored the Urban Trail that winds through our city. We only made it through half the trail, but it was a great history lesson. We plan on combining a tour of the home of Thomas Wolfe with a remainder of the Urban Trail in the next few weeks.
Dean, S, and Anne

Music ~ Music has been a blessing across the board this year. Anne has been learning a new song on the piano almost every week. She is still working her way through a Christmas carol book. Good thing we like Christmas music all year around here! Dean is starting guitar lessons again next week. He had about six months of group lessons last school year. This time he will be taking private lessons. He is also making tons of progress with the ukulele and his electric ukulele by watching lessons on YouTube.

Dance ~ Dance is a struggle every week for Dean. He loves it but is very disappointed in his lack of flexibility. The teachers are really encouraging and feel that he is doing well. He is caught in the teen cycle of comparing himself to everyone else, and then he often isn't pleased with his progress. Anne, on the other hand, is flying high and loving all things to with all kinds of dance. She is pushing her boundaries at every turn and pleased with where she is.

Life skills and home economics ~ This area is going well this year. The kids have learned skills for painting walls and furniture. They have improved their yard work skills and can both handle a lawn mower (although Anne needs it turned on for her). Dean can handle a small chainsaw with supervision. They can both do all tasks involving the laundry. I plan to get them back into cooking more in the second half of the year.

Subjects that are moving very slowly and need improvement ~  The below subjects are areas we are experiencing some difficulty in this year. We are plodding along, but I would like to see more accomplished.
  • Math
  • U.S. History I (Dean)
  • 7th grade History (Anne)
  • World History (Dean)
So, we are making slow and steady progress. I really can't complain.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, January 19, 2017

As a member of the Homeschool Review Crew, I was offered a yearly membership to Last year was my first year on the Homeschool Review Crew, and I wrote a detailed review that you can read here. It is even better with their new upgrades and additional classes.

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I wanted to remind folks to check out this incredible website. It is simply chock-full of amazing lessons from kindergarten thru 12th grade. They even have classes for homeschool moms. My daughter is in 7th grade and there are over hundreds of courses that are geared toward 7th graders alone! The website is simple to use. You can find your way around very easily. I am so glad I have this resource to use for the middle school and high school years. Go check it out!
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Blessings, Dawn

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Week of Adjustments

We started the week off with tons of ice left over from a snowstorm. My kids are very aware of public school snow days now, because so many of their friends attend public school and are texting them, wanting to hang out or communicate online. As they get older, I am finding it harder to follow my own schedule for their schooling. Monday, I persevered and followed our normal schedule. Tuesday, our first year homeschool friend who we are teaching two days a week, canceled because of the public school snow day. Then she promptly got sick and our Thursday cooperative homeschool day was canceled as well. A game day event with another friend had to be postponed because of the weather. Dance continued as usual. You can always count on dance to be a stable force in our lives. All of these and more led to a lot of adjustments this week.

Image may contain: sky, cloud, snow, outdoor and nature
Our road Monday morning which is on a hill

Since our Tuesday lessons were messed up, I decided to throw in the towel and have a fun homeschool day. Tuesday happens to be the discount day at the movie theater, so we went to see Hidden Figures. It was AWESOME! We got two hours of American history and had a fun time as well. I highly recommend this film. Homeschool scientist has a unit study, if you want to make it extra educational. 😄

I mentioned last week that my wall oven died. I still have a working stove top, so all is not lost. I decided that spending $1,000 or more for a new wall oven right now was a very uncomfortable thought. I really do not want to use that much of our savings, so I started researching alternatives. I have decided to purchase a new 4.5 quart crock pot and a roaster oven that can bake cakes and brownies as well as roast up to a 24 pound turkey. Thanks to some great sales, I paid $72 total for both units!! Now that is a savings. I will be able to do everything I could have done with a wall oven. Thank you, Mother, for teaching me to live frugally when I was young. I cannot wait to get my new setup going. 

I am also doing a lot of adjustments with Dean's math. He is working in the Kumon Pre-Algebra Workbook I. He was getting frustrated with the way the problems were set up and started to get several wrong answers each day. I decided to reduce the amount of problems and just write a few onto a separate piece of paper. He immediately began getting all of the problems correct. He also started using the book, Are You a Math Genius?, this week. He is doing one lesson a day and is enjoying it. I hope this plan continues to work. 

I am also reading Smart But Scattered Teens. This is an interesting book that guides parents on how to help their teens build executive skills. This can be a real area of struggle for Dean at times. It comes with the territory of his particular special needs. The more I read it, the more I think it is a great tool for any struggling teen, regardless of their diagnosis. 

Overall, it was a good week. We didn't get everything done that I had hoped for and the house still feels out of whack. However, we did have productive and mostly peaceful days.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Open-Ended Week

I sit here trying to think what to write as my wrap-up for the week and I don't know what to say. This week feels like it was filled with loose ends. From very small things to rather large ones, nothing feels completed.
  • The Christmas tree is down and on the curb, but the ornaments are all over the floor in the process of being packed up. 
  • Dean had a major 5 hour diagnostic medical appointment this week, but no confirmed results yet. 
  • Math, what am I going to do about math for Dean? He needs a hands-on, real world math curriculum for junior high/high school. Any one ever heard of that?!
  • My wonky wall oven died in flames of glory in the middle of a snowstorm yesterday. I had just turned it on to preheat it. I guess it really was ready to be retired. Too bad I am not ready to replace it. Where is the money going to come for that?!
  • We only partially reopened school this week due to many appointments, Dean having an earache and the aftereffects of Christmas and visitors disaster to the home.
  • One of our chromatography chemistry experiments failed and spilled all over the counter and floor overnight. I was left with a stained counter and floor. So far, I have partially removed the stain.
Lots of loose ends. As I look out on a morning of fresh, untouched snow, I am reminded of fresh starts. That is where I am at the end of this week. I am looking for a fresh start next week. 

One happy success we had this week was playing lots of math games. Thank goodness for games! They bring us together and help us learn when we are too tired or distracted to learn in more traditional ways. 

52 New Things ~ I am going to try something new. I want to keep a list of at least 52 new things that we do within our family this year. It could be a new game, going to a new place or learning a new skill. I will probably post this separately in the future, but since I am writing my Friday wrap-up post on Saturday, I will just include it here. This is the most I can manage this week.

Number One New Thing ~ This week, we played a brand new board game. We received Harry Potter Clue for Christmas. It is similar to the original board game, Clue, but with some extra twists and turns. We are liking it better now that we are getting the hang of the new rules. We love anything Harry Potter around here. 

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Saying Goodbye to 2016

The pictures sprinkled through this post are all from this past week. We had my father and stepmother in town over Christmas. 
I know it looks like an insane amount of gifts. Many of them were very practical things that we needed. 
The year 2016 was a challenging year for our family. I wouldn't say it was the most challenging year of all, but it was a rough one at times. Early in the year, we nearly lost my father to brain fungus and cancer. It is one of those amazing blessings that he pulled through and is still here. Although he has a daily struggle to still battle the brain fungus and isn't out of the woods yet. There have been many other smaller struggles, but nothing that will be remembered forever like my Dad's struggles.
A nice lunch at a crepe shop in town.
There have been many positive things that have happened this year. One of the big ones happened just this past week. Our daughter Goldilocks, who lives out of the home in a mental health placement, turned 16. I have been waiting for her to turn 16 for a few years now. I know it is strange to wish your child's childhood away, but for our daughter there is potentially more help available now that she is 16. There are more doctors who are willing to diagnosis her with the disorders they believe that she has but that she has been too young to officially carry on her medical records. If she blows out of her current placement, there are more possibilities of where she could live, now that she is 16. So many programs do not accept kids until they are 16, so we have waited for this year for a long time. She is currently in a stable placement and we hope that she remains there; but if she doesn't, at least we have a few options now. While we are on the subject of Goldilocks ... I will give a brief update for those who have followed our journey for years. She had a very up and down year. She has struggled with her current house mom and placement a great deal this year. I have seen the tell-tale signs that her placement could be at risk. She is causing utter chaos in the home, and her caregiver is getting worn out. The school system is a sham and they are giving her an even more pitiful education than I could have imagined. They ignore her IEP and force us to check up constantly to see if they are doing their job. They ignore her low IQ and tell her to shoot for the stars. They have convinced her that she will be able to own a restaurant some day. They give her meaningless tasks to do so that they can let her grades look good and tell her the world is her oyster, which it certainly is not. She failed end of year testing for 9th grade but they passed her on anyway. In fact, she fails almost every test. She got very low scores on the ACT (American College Testing) test (similar to the SAT test). On two of the sections, she got a grade of zero. In all, she got about 20% of the test correct. She tells me constantly that she has no idea what she is doing in school. The doctors think that she has BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), as well RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) and FASD (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder). Her birth mother also has the diagnosis of BPD and it can be genetic, so it makes sense.

Oh dear, I reread the above paragraph and it seems like one of the negatives of 2016. So onto a move positive note!

For the rest of the family, there has been tremendous growth. Dean (14) and Anne (13) are really embracing their passions. Our home is filled with music, and they are taking a higher responsibility for their own education -- more than ever before. We all have loved adding a homeschool friend once a week into studies. She will be joining us two days a week starting in January. I am finding a measure of peace in making sure that our days are filled with quality and not worrying so much about how many hours we completed or in which subjects we are behind. I know they are learning and growing into awesome young adults.
Dean got an electric ukulele for Christmas!
I am so blessed that, although both of my youngest are experiencing the full bloom of puberty, they are still talking to us about their feelings and trials, and we remain a tight knit family. There have been plenty of bumps and new rules as they have expanded their boundaries, but it continues to be going well.
Anne really wanted to skate this year. This is her second time on skates and she did well. She is our natural born athlete.
Dear husband and I had a good year. We made progress on this old house and enjoyed making more memories. We are comfortable where we are in marriage, but always aware of the importance to not become lazy and neglectful of our relationship. 

Tim (our disabled adult son) had a challenging year. He hasn't felt well much of the last few months. The wildfires in our area contributed to that. He often doesn't go with us on trips but did attend our family trip to NYC. However, it exhausted him both mentally and physically. He also stretched himself and, for the first time, attended an away from home camp for brain injured adults. That was hard for him and seemed to stretch him a bit farther than he was up for. However, his heart and pacemaker are doing well, and we made it through the year without any major illnesses or hospitalizations!

I hope everyone has a blessed 2017!

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Break ~ The Learning Creeps In

Homeschooling truly becomes a lifestyle. For those that are new to the homeschool journey and come from a public school background, there may be a sharper divide between "homeschool" and "home". But for most of us, homeschooling quickly becomes a lifestyle. Whenever we take a break from our normal studies and the learning continues to flow, I am reminded of this precious fact. Learning never stops. If our days are filled with quality, then we learn.

This week my husband had his "at-home working vacation". He likes to take one week of vacation each year that is reserved for making progress on home repairs. This week with the help of the children, he has painted Anne's room and completed an accent wall with trim work in Dean's room. My kids have gotten multiple hours of home economics for painting this school year. They are learning valuable skills for their adulthood. A penny saved is a penny earned and every job you can complete yourself saves you from paying someone else. 

Anne and Tim also had a sewing lesson with Grandma on the sewing machine. They got some last minute presents made and Anne learned how to run the sewing machine, change out the bobbin, thread the needle and do a simple craft. I say that is pretty good for a first lesson. It was all review for Tim, but still handy skills to freshen up on.

Anne has embarked on a 1000 piece puzzle. It is a winter themed puzzle featuring a polar bear and Coca-Cola. She is finding it challenging but loves puzzles, so she is attracted to stop and do a bit more throughout the day.

They both spent hours this week playing their beloved musical instruments.

Anne has almost entirely taken over our Christmas wrapping. She loves it and has even wrapped some gifts for herself (that she had seen me buy). She loves it and wants to wrap more ~ lol. 

We have also been binge watching Call the Midwife, if you can call watching one to two shows a day binge watching. 

On Tuesday they had school time with their homeschool friend, S. We learned the difference between Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic. We then learned that soap has a hydrophobic and a hydrophilic side on each of its molecules which makes it unique and a good cleaner. Of course, we had to follow that up with a science "experiment". We made our own bubble solution and compared them to touchable bubbles which have polymers in them. Fun was had by all.

The kids also wrote a story based on one of my favorite Norman Rockwell pictures, The Discovery.

Today there is cleaning to do, a party for Anne, special one-on-one time with Dean, a few last presents to wrap, Montgomery pies to make and a tree to chainsaw. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and some of the out-of-town relatives arrive. The kids are performing at church. There will be a homemade feast on Christmas, but for Christmas Eve it is pizza on paper plates! Have a blessed season everyone.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, December 16, 2016

A Pleasant Week

Our homeschool is on December break. We are only doing school on Tuesdays. This week was busy and pleasant. We are almost ready for Christmas. As usual, the budget was tight this year; but thanks to lots of great coupons, shopping carefully and making homemade gifts, we have been able to keep to our goals. This Advent season, we have kept to the home more than in other years. We really needed the rest and have focused on the wonderment of the season from a quieter perspective. We only did one out and about Christmas activity this week. We went to the National Gingerbread Display at the Grove Park Inn. We always delight in the amazing creativity of the gingerbread builders. Here are a few of our favorites.

What we did for Tuesday school ~
  • Art ~ Painted our wooden snowman and gave him a new hat. Now he is ready to grace our front yard.
  • History ~ Reviewed the Berlin Airlift and watched our Mormon Tabernacle Choir DVD about the "candy bomber". We looked at our authentic piece of the Berlin wall.
  • Science ~ Made borax crystals and rock candy. We learned about heterogeneous and homogeneous solutions. 
  • English ~ Did lesson 8 in Cover Story.

Dean spent several hours at Miss Laura's house this week, working on painting a portrait. He has also been drawing a great deal this week. Below is one of his creations.

Anne needed a new pair of pointe shoes. Over the last five months, she saved up the entire $101 needed to purchase them. She saved all of her allowance, earned money doing chores at Grandma's house and worked a few extra jobs around here as well. She showed real dedication and was very pleased to be able to purchase them all by herself. I am so happy to see the lovely young lady she is turning into.

Lastly, my favorite picture of the week ~ 

Blessings, Dawn