Friday, January 12, 2018

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Expectations, A Mockingbird and Dissection

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Ice over the local stream

What a crazy title for this post, but it is a snapshot of our week. It was a good week with exploration, growth and learning for all.

Last Friday ~ We attended our literature movie club as well as art club. Both of these clubs are monthly and not usually on the same day. We saw To Kill a Mockingbird in movie club. The kids really enjoyed it. The movie addressed history, the injustice of racism and just enough suspense with the character of Boo (Arthur Radley). Dean said that he loves old movies that have a court scene in them. They fascinate him, but he doesn't want to be a lawyer. Trust me, the thought never crossed my mind!

Dean then went on to art club at another family's home. The teens have been paying $10 a month to go to an art club sponsored by a local studio. However, since they usually did not participate in that club's activity but chose instead to sit apart and draw, they decided they could accomplish the same thing on their own for less. This was their first meeting on their own and there was much planning and scheming. The host mother was very pleased with their dedication to art and to each other. Anne and I spent our evening wandering around the Goodwill in the small town near the host family's home and eating at IHOP. It was a fun evening for all.

The Weekend ~ It was unremarkable and peaceful. There were dance classes, chores, board games, grocery shopping, speed walking at the mall and frigid temps outside. We also took a walk at the botanical gardens on a very cold day and took lovely pictures of ice and water.
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Monday ~ We were supposed to be hit by an ice storm on Monday. All of the schools closed and morning dance was cancelled in anticipation. However, the ice never came. Considering the New Year's Eve ice storm surprise, I can't blame everyone for being so cautious. I did an experiment with the kids this week. I wrote out all of their assignments for the week and told them they could work at their own pace on independent activities. I was curious to see if they would take to the idea. Anne immediately took to the idea. Dean is less than thrilled and will probably continue with a daily schedule. The kids decided to watch the 2013 version of the film, Great Expectations, to get that out of the way. They really haven't enjoyed the book like I loved it as a teen. That is okay. We just sped up and read excerpts of the most important parts. We can move on to another, more pleasing piece of literature soon.

Tuesday ~ Rose came over for the morning and we had a class on dissection. We dissected a frog that had been injected with dyes so all of the organs were easier to identify. I did most of the dissecting, but they all helped a little bit and no one lost their breakfast. So it was a win. I am a bit worried how well they are going to do with the dissection of the fetal pig we will be doing this spring. They were all more squeamish than I thought they would be.

Dean spent the afternoon in art class with Miss Laura, and Anne and I did lessons at the local coffee shop.

Wednesday ~ I went to breakfast with a group of mothers of special needs kids. It was the first time I have made it since mt dear son got his latest diagnosis. I needed to share about it with women who would understand and could also guide me on how to make him more comfortable about it. In the last year or so, he has had to cope with being diagnosed with two permanent conditions. Both reveal why he has struggled with social situations, emotions, motivation and academics. The diagnoses also open doors to more supports if needed. However, he is totally unwilling to even hear about the upsides of the situation or to acknowledge how well he is doing under these difficult circumstances. He really is a remarkable kid who makes me so proud of all that he can do and has already accomplished. His future is still bright, but he has such huge aspirations that would be hard for anyone to accomplish.

The rest of the day went by in a blur of lessons, therapies and dance class.

Thursday ~ We stayed home most of the day and just plowed through school work. We went to dance in the evening and then the family enjoyed our new game, Mastermind. It is hard, in my opinion, but Dean loved it and found it almost easy. Of course, he did.

Personal goals ~ I have walked 10 miles since Sunday and kept up with my diet. I haven't weighed myself yet. I don't really see the need to check my weight constantly since changing my shape, increasing my strength and finding an eating style that is maintainable are my true goals. The house is also as tidy as it was on the first of January, which is an achievement for our whole family. We will keep working on not letting the chaos of papers and incomplete tasks be our undoing.

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

New Year, New Me

1) Resolutions or no resolutions ~ I like to have a few goals to work on, but I am not a slave to them. This year we are concentrating on really keeping the house tidy and comfortable. The hardest part is keeping surfaces cleared off. Paper seems to take over our home. I am also concentrating on my health and losing a few pounds. I plan to walk 12+ miles a week and do core work three times a week.

2) Love snow or no snow ~ I love snow, but only on the weekends or when it snows enough that it closes everything down. We live in the southern mountains and snowplows can take a long time to come by the house. Getting only a few inches makes it hard to get out if we need to go to doctor appointments, work, or dance classes.

3) Name a new place you want to go this year ~ Hmm, I don't have anywhere in mind. We do hope to take some kind of fun vacation this year. Life is meant to be enjoyed.

4) Would you rather have a new hair cut or a new hair color? ~ A new haircut. I am not interested in putting chemicals on my hair.

5) Name one special thing you want to do for yourself this year ~ I want to stick with my walking/exercise plan, which means walking a minimum of 12 miles a week and lifting weights three times a week.

6) Least favorite thing about January ~ The grey, dead look that the southern mountains seem to have during winter.

7) Most favorite thing about January ~ There are still lots of fun holidays (New Year's Day, Three Kings Day and MLK Day). We celebrate them all!

8) When do you take down your holiday decorations? ~ We take them down on January 6 (Three Kings Day).

9) Do you diet in January? ~ Not usually. I am trying to change my diet right now but plan to do it throughout the year.

10) What area of your home do you want to organize the most? ~ I need to get the laundry room/work area section of the basement under control.

11) Favorite winter comfort food ~ Potato soup

12) Favorite guilty pleasure ~ Chocolate chip cookies

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, January 5, 2018

Weekly Wrap Up ~ Baby, It's Cold Outside!

The weather is playing havoc on the East Coast this week; and here in the mountains, we are experiencing extreme cold, crazy 40+ mph winds, and a freak ice storm. It has been an adventure, but nothing like people closer to the coast are experiencing.

New Year's Eve ~ It was a drizzly day filled with errands. My last errand was a haircut for Anne across town. On our way back, weather conditions unexpectedly changed in minutes, and we found ourselves miles from home on sheets of ice. Everyone who hadn't already slid off the road was crawling at 5 miles an hour. We decided to pick up Grandma and the pizza that had already been called in. We slid a few times but never left our lane or went through any stop signs. I was very grateful for the lessons my northern mother and my professional military driving husband had taught me about driving in snow/ice. When I wasn't praying, I was talking my daughter through all that I was doing to keep the car in the lane. By the end of our journey, she certainly understood the importance of driving extremely slowly, avoiding using the brake if at all possible and coasting over bridges. The rest of New Year's Eve was uneventful for us. We watched movies, played games and ate fun food. Grandma stayed over that night.

New Year's Day ~ We decided to kick off the new year with a small dinner and game party. Each family member was allowed to invite one family for dinner and games. Due to illness and weather conditions still not being optimal, two families canceled out; but three families came and we had a nice time. We had a baked potato bar with all the trimmings and the kids played lots of games while the adults talked. It was a nice start to our goal to socialize more with our current friends and make new friends.

Tuesday thru Thursday ~ We slowly got back into the groove this week. The kids struggled to go to bed by 10 pm and get up before 9 am. We had some appointments, including a lengthy cardiology appointment for our oldest (adult) son who lives with us. He had a good check up but needs a specialized stress test and an echocardiogram. His multiple congenital birth defects and repairs often cause issues in people in their thirties and forties, so they need a baseline now while he's in his twenties. They think his pacemaker will hold out a few more years and maybe long enough for some new cutting edge technology to be approved by the FDA that would make the replacement of his leads less dangerous. I also made a lot of phone calls to fix a snafu with Goldilocks' paperwork for services. The problems aren't resolved yet, but at least the system is hearing from me.

School ~ We did three math lessons, three earth science lessons, and two biology lessons. Dean did two art lessons, plus hours of music practice, while Anne did tons of stretching, dancing, choreography and sign language. We also read several chapters from Great Expectations. We decided that we are probably going to read the most important and memorable chapters from Great Expectations and then watch the movie instead of reading the whole book. Unlike my oldest son, these two kids just aren't academically inclined and don't want careers that require tons of academics. I find that when academics are in smaller chunks, their attitudes are better and in turn they learn better. Even without reading the entire book, they are still experiencing the richness of Charles Dickens' language.

Today ~ I need to make more phone calls and each child needs to do one science lesson. We have plans to go to literature/movie club and see To Kill A Mockingbird later today. Tonight, Dean has art club with his friends. I am sure there will be another game or two played as well.

Homeschool Coffee Break

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Goodbye 2017!

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We had a lovely Christmas, filled with joy, peace and abundance. Anne thought the tree with all of the gifts was embarrassing because we had so much for just six people plus a few extra gifts for visitors throughout the week. I am glad that she feels grateful and knows that the main focus of Christmas isn't receiving tons of gifts. I did point out to her that much of the gifts were simple things such as soaps, candles and clothes to enjoy throughout the year.

We spent the day having two lovely meals, playing board games, and with Dean building his gift (a new wardrobe from Ikea) in under three hours almost completely by himself! I am so pleased that he was able to do such an important life skill so easily. Christmas Day was wrapped up with the new season Christmas special of Call the Midwife. Anne and I couldn't be happier. We love that show so much!

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The rest of the week had tons of free time for all -- it was spent reading, dreaming, playing lots of board games, and staying in pajamas most, if not all, of the day. Our favorite new games are Cashflow for Kids and Asheville-oply.

I was amazed this week how much "school" happened without direction. Anne decided what she was going to do for her solo in the Junior Company Showcase in March. She plans to dance to a poem with no music. This involved planning, research, listening to tons of poems and then starting the choreography for the piece. There were also many math games played this week and also Dean's building project. Dean spent hours writing a new guitar piece and recording it. It was a great week! I am trying to decide if we are starting back to school half-time, full-time or not at all next week. I still feel like I need a break and the kids are doing okay with so much free time. I read three books this week and would like to get some projects done in the house next week. I think we will most likely start back to school with two or three subjects a day that I will write down in the lesson plan books, but not count as full school days. I just need a few more days off.

We are having a small party on Monday with a few friends. We plan on having a baked potato bar for dinner and a few board games. It should be fun. I plan to get us socializing with a larger variety of people in the new year. Anne's dance is so demanding of her/our time, and she hasn't found a very good friend base at our main studio. The girls just aren't interested in having her as a friend outside of the studio. I think they are just too busy and don't have the time or interest to have friends outside of school. Also, Dean has made some new friends this year, and we would like to get to know their families better. Hopefully, it will go well. I will post about how we pulled it off next week.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Last Week of lessons for 2017

This last week of 2017 was pretty quiet. The kids finished up their lessons, and I planned out the next two months of lessons. Dean has just two hours of work at his art gallery internship today and then we have completed every planned lesson. We are ready for a well deserved break.

The only pictures on my camera this week are food. Anne has really embraced baking and cooking. She made three dozens of muffins from scratch, cranberry sauce, and helped to make dog bones and gingerbread cookies. Dean decorated the cookies in the photo below.

Other than wrapping up school, dance and lots of baking, there isn't too much to report. We did take a quick day trip to Ikea to purchase Dean's main Christmas present. He picked out an armoire that he has wanted for more than a year. He plans to assemble it all by himself over Christmas break. We will see how that goes! He does have amazing visual-spatial abilities and has always been able to put together the most complicated Lego sets, so maybe it will be a piece of cake for him.
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Now it is Friday. I plan to defrost the freezer, which has been emptied, so I can prepare it for being restocked in the coming year. I empty the freezer for meals each year in December. It saves us tons of money on groceries, so I can use that money toward Christmas and it ensures that we always have fresh food in the freezer. I will have to pack some things better next year. Bread that had been tossed into the freezer in its original packaging turned out to be hard or damp when it was thawed. Also, some of the meat needed to be packed better or stacked in a way that the plastic wrap didn't rip and cause freezer burn. It was all edible, just not as delicious as it could have been.

May all of you have a blessed and peaceful Christmas and holiday weekend.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Our Plans for January and February

I love planning our educational journey. It doesn't always pan out the way I plan it, but it feels good to have a structure to fall back on. This week, I am preparing for our lessons in January and February. I am glad to have this done before Christmas break. So here are some of the highlights.

British Literature ~ Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (for both students)
We will be reading the book as a family and drawing from two unit studies, one by Progeny Press and the other from Lighting, Lit and Comp. This is one of my favorite books from one of my favorite authors. We will be taking a full eight weeks to complete this book and study.

Earth Science ~ (Dean)
Earth Science was carried over from last year for Dean, and it is proving difficult to complete or even get to most weeks. I realize that part of the issue is neither student nor teacher really cares for the topic and that Dean already has a working knowledge of the basics from his elementary/middle school years and doesn't have a desire to know more. So we will be moving to an experiment and field trip rich study of earth science, with only a tiny smattering of workbook pages presented. We will be concentrating on weather, environment, alternative energy and botany. We will be conducting nature studies of the greenhouses at Biltmore Estate. Here are our experiment plans for the first week back to school, taken from the book, Try This Extreme.
  • Drippy Stalactites
  • Freezing In Time
  • Orange Oil Lamp
  • That Sinking Feeling
  • Instant Slush

Biology ~ (both students)
Biology got a bit derailed with the changes created by our homeschool friend who was taking the course with us. She has completely dropped out of biology now, so we can move on at our own pace, using our own choices and materials. We are weeks behind and need to do some real catching up.  For the next two months, I am switching over to an anatomy course with Guest Hollow. We will be concentrating on the human body and organs with lots of hands-on experiments. We will also be doing dissections of a sheep's brain and kidney. I then plan to move into dissection of other planned specimens from the beginning of  the year that we did not get to do. I am very comfortable with this subject, so I am not at all concerned about catching up.

History ~ Anne will be starting a long study of Queen Elizabeth II which with be completed with a five to eight page research paper. She will be watching most of the episodes of season I and II of The Crown on Netflix. She will not be watching one of the episodes, however, because its portrayals of physical intimacy in group settings is inappropriate for her age (in my view) and not necessary to her study. She will also be reading a variety of books about Queen Elizabeth II.

Dean will continue with his Early American studies. He will be adding in another book, American History Vol. I Art History Disguised as Fun. I like the way this book will incorporate Dean's love of art into his history lessons.

Health ~ (both students)
The kids will be using TED Talks videos and the Scholastic Choices Magazine to continue their health lessons. I am also looking into CPR classes, but think I may wait until spring to have them take these.
If you are interested in the Scholastic Magazines, ask for the Homeschool Special. 
They give you the Teacher's Edition and it is much more affordable.

Career and Technology Education ~ Dean is earning credit by interning at an art gallery, and Anne is earning credit as a teacher's assistant for a ballet class of younger students.

Math ~ They are both in a pretty good place right now, considering that they both dislike math. Dean will continue with hands-on math through Scholastic Math Magazine, Life of Fred, and real world math for math that we experience in daily life. Anne will continue with her math book, Everything You Need To Ace Math In One Big Fat Notebook, and complete workbook pages to reinforce any concepts that need more practice.

We will be adding the board game, CashFlow for Kids. The teens will be learning about investing and financial literacy through this game as well as a small list of books. I will be sharing more on how we use games to increase math skills in a later post.

I am not making any changes to Physical Education, Performing Arts, Visual Arts II, or English. They will continue unchanged into the next semester.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Week Full of Cookies, Advent Fun, Snow and Learning

Our week started off with a blanket of 11 inches of snow on the ground. It was very beautiful, and there is still snow on the ground in the shaded areas. Snow lasting the whole week is pretty unusual in our area.
Our back yard and old shed
We keep adding to our 1800's tree. Anne added an orange with cloves and little empty packages all wrapped in brown paper under the tree. We also put our fruit basket under the tree. Our family is  having so much fun making homemade ornaments. In fact, we are thinking of adding even more next week.
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Our 1800's tree

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We did a unit study on The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens in November, so we were excited to see the movie, The Man Who Invented Christmas. It is about Charles Dickens and it was only showing in one theater in our area. Does anyone else find that the movies that may be considered a bit educational don't show up in most of the theaters? We thought the film was great and enjoyed seeing it on the big screen.
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Our baking day this week was calmer than last week and I got two pictures. We made more than 120 Chocolate Kiss Surprises. They already are almost gone.

Late in this semester, we decided to purchase a subscription to Scholastic Classroom Magazines. We purchased three of them -- Choice (the health magazine), Scope (the language arts magazine) and Scholastic Math. We only have started using the math magazines, but we are enjoying them very much. They are a perfect fit with Dean's need for real world and hands-on math.

The children and I went on a wonderful field trip to see a display of 250 nativities from 60 countries. A local church in our area has hosted this exhibit a few times and I love it. I love the creative touches each culture brings to their nativity and how the nativities bring all of us together in love and peace.
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Native American

We are now at the end of the week. It was a great week, although not without its trials. The mini-van died in a parking lot from a failing alternator. We hope to get it back in a few hours and are bummed about this huge surprise cost so close to Christmas. However, we are blessed that it died in a parking lot, no one was stranded for long, and we have savings to cover the cost of the repair. All blessings that do not go unnoticed.

We have just one more week to go before our week or so break for Christmas. I will do an update next week on where we are in our lessons, since we will be at the almost halfway point (17 weeks) for our school year.

Blessings, Dawn