Friday, October 28, 2016

Homeschooling a Special Needs Teen ~ November Goals

We have had to change our homeschool approach several times in the last year for our son. He used to love unit studies and lots of hands-on projects. As the years have gone by and the workload has become more intense, he has struggled and become more and more disinterested in school. This year I took a very child-led approach in the beginning. This break helped him to reconnect with his former love of learning. But I am aware that much of the way he used to learn is not having the level of retention that he needs. Therefore, we are trying some new learning approaches. 

As my son has grown into his teen years, he has really started to come into his own. However, the older he gets, the more I see some learning challenges that could potentially affect his future. Here are some of his personality traits.
  • He is very bright. 
  • He doesn't feel confident about his learning abilities.
  • He is obedient (if he truly understands what you expect from him). 
  • He NEEDS very clear visual directions. 
  • He is an extreme visual learner with a need for carefully picked hands-on projects that pull the lesson together.
  • He becomes fixated on learning certain things, and it is hard to keep him focused on the regular assignments.
  • He loves music and art and is creative in those areas.
  • He is very particular about words ~ they must be clear, used properly and be used few and far between (so instead use visual communication).
  • He is a concrete, black-and-white thinker, who struggles with gray areas (especially in social skills and how he feels others should meet his high standards of behavior).
  • He says what he thinks, even when it isn't nice (which is a poor social skill). 
  • His body, which is affected by cerebral palsy, gets in the way of his creativity and takes a lot of energy away from his day.

To try to find the best educational fit for him, I am trying to plan month-by-month what we will do. Of course, as always, I will try to meet his desires and encourage his love of learning, while establishing the basics as a strong foundation for his future. November is one of the most challenging months of the year for our family. It is when The Nutcracker and the Mouse King takes over our lives. Listed below are our goals for November and how I hope to implement them.
  • Math three times a week (if we are able to do more...great... but three times is a must).
  • He will read four times a week for personal reading time.
  • He will also read one  historical chapter book or biography and give some kind of a presentation on what he knows.
  • Science with our friend weekly (two to three hours).
  • Art ~ with Miss Laura weekly, with Grandma once, ArtAchieve and independently.
  • Write two 500 word essays ~ due dates ~ November 10 and November 23.
  • Start Cover Story with our homeschool friend two times a week.
  • For family read-aloud time, we will read Hitty Her First Hundred Years.
  • CNN Student News daily.
  • Practice musical instruments daily.
  • Read to him the book, Manners Made Easy for Teens.
  • Dance classes, extra weekend rehearsals, Tech Week for The Nutcracker and the Mouse King will total up to an estimated 40+ hours for the month (not including the four shows in December).

It seems like I may be missing something, and I am sure there will be educational opportunities that present themselves along the way, but this is the main plan. Most importantly, my goal is to provide a rich environment filled with love and peace. 

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Review of CrossTimber

Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews

Christmas is coming! Are you looking for a unique gift for someone? How about a Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse from CrossTimber? I was overjoyed to be picked to do this review. I decided to choose a personalized framed plaque for my daughter, Katherine. She is our very special needs daughter, who is currently living out of the home in a mental health facility. I am sure that this lovely picture will be a sweet addition to her room. She loves her name, and it is a big part of her identity. So this physical item to hold onto will be a nice keepsake for her.

From Teutonic
Pure in heart: Intuitive,
Insightful, One Who Sees from 
God's Perspective.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Mathew 5:8

The ordering process was very easy. I was able to do everything online. I first chose a frame and then chose a background. I decided to go with the artist's choice for the frame. I was very pleased with their selection. There are many background choices, with 23 different background subjects. Once you pick a subject, there are numerous possibilities. My daughter absolutely loves horses so I knew I had to pick from the horses and cowboys section. There are ten different backgrounds for horses alone. However, if you would prefer, there are flowers, leaves and trees, light houses and castles, musical instruments, scenic landscapes, faith and encouragement, butterflies and scenic landscapes -- just to name a few! There are 400 plus designs in all! Next, you write in the name you would like to have used. You can call their 1-800 number if you would like to know the meaning before ordering. When I called, I was greeted by a very kind and cheerful voice that was able to answer all of my questions. CrossTimber is a company run by a homeschool family that has been in the graphic arts business for 18 years.

Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews

Once my order shipped, it came in a matter of days. I was very pleased with the packaging and it arrived safe and sound. The frame is sturdy and well made. The graphics are lovely on the background and the name meaning is inspiring. I am sure my daughter will be very pleased with this product. The website has tons of other options if you would prefer to buy a name and meaning put on something else. For example, you can choose from mugs, music boxes, bookmarks and name cards. I also loved the idea of the adoption bracelets, since two of our children are adopted. There are so many wonderful reasons why one could order a lovely gift from this company ~ baptisms, confirmations, birthdays, Christmas. The list goes on and on.

The folks at CrossTimber are also offering a giftaway. Go enter to win. 
CrossTimber 2016 giveaway
We are completely satisfied with our product and interactions with CrossTimber. To see what others on the Homeschool Review Crew had to say, click on the link below.
Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews
Crew Disclaimer
Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}
My son decided that he would like to start learning a foreign language this year. We decided that Spanish would make the most sense with his current career desires.We were offered Middlebury Interactive Languages for review. We received one full semester of this online interactive program. We chose Spanish Middle School Year 1. Middlebury Interactive Languages offers German, French, Spanish and Chinese. All of these courses are online and need an Internet connection to work. 
This program retails for $119 per semester without teacher support.We reviewed semester 1 without teacher support. If you would like teacher support, the cost is $294. The student will be able to speak lots of common Spanish words, carry on a simple conversation and understand grammar patterns. They currently offer Spanish from elementary through high school. The course is self paced, but it is meant to be used three to four times a week. 
I feel that foreign language is one of the hardest courses to find a good fit for homeschoolers. Learning languages is much easier in a group setting, and it can be especially hard if the teacher doesn't know the language. In our family, I have only a rudimentary knowledge of Spanish, but my husband is semi-fluent. My son had very little exposure to Spanish before this program. He only knew a few words. 
How my son felt ~ He liked that the program had lots of variety. There are multiple games, presentation styles and videos. The curriculum concentrates on helping the student be able to read, listen, speak and write in Spanish. This is an immersion program and the "teacher" speaks in Spanish from the very beginning. My son found the program engaging. He also found the website very easy to move around. He liked the cultural information that he learned throughout the course. However, he felt like all of the information "was coming very fast and hard to understand". He was a bit intimidated by the format and intensity of the program. On one hand, he liked that it wasn't at all babyish, but he thought that it wasn't for his grade level. He asked me several times why I had gotten a program that was for adults. 
What I thought ~ First, I feel that it is only fair to state that my son has several learning challenges. He is 14 and straddling subjects in 8th and 9th grade this year. He is very bright but needs lots of external support and very clear-cut directions. My son is an extreme visual learner with a strong need for hands-on activities. He struggles with auditory processing disorder. To say that any foreign language is going to be hard for him to master is an understatement. It doesn't matter how it is presented; it is going to be hard. So even though my review of this product would say that it did not really work for my son, I haven't found any foreign language program that clicks with his special needs. 
So all of that aside, I thought the program was well presented. I agreed with him that it seemed very adult like and actually thought I should use it for myself to freshen up my Spanish. I liked the variety and ease of use. I appreciated all of the printouts. I strongly appreciated that throughout the course the speakers were easy to understand. Their accents were not overly strong, and I could clearly repeat the words. Our microphone turned out to be a bit wonky with the program and did not consistently work. This was more likely our fault than that of the company. However, since my husband can speak all of the words easily, he was able to correct our pronunciations.  We liked the program overall. 
Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}
To see what others on the homeschool review crew had to say, click on the banner below. 
Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}
Crew Disclaimer
Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Productive, Project-Based Homeschool Week

One of the things I love about homeschooling is the variety to our days. No two days or weeks are alike. We do have certain routines that happen daily and a flow to our weeks that are mostly dictated by dance classes, but we are not locked into a schedule that, over time, becomes drudgery.

Some weeks, we spend a great deal of time on "seat work", other weeks are defined by field trips or a multitude of projects. This week was the latter. We began our week with Robotics Club. This club grew out of a Lego Club that we have belonged to for years. Then our little group of homeschoolers purchased an EV3 to share, so the four teens in our group are using books and videos to learn about it. Each month they alter the EV3 and then program it to do something new. This is a self-taught adventure for them. There is a nice combination of creativity and tech savvy between the teens and they keep coming up with new creations. Anne continues to enjoy Lego Club with the younger kids, because she isn't interested in the more intense learning environment of the Robotics Club.

We also had an especially exciting time with our science this week. We had our friend S over again, and we built model volcanoes. The kids said it was just as much art as science this week. It took them a good 2.5 hours to build and paint their volcanoes. Next week, we will be doing seven to eight different kinds of eruptions. It is going to be exciting! We have decided to stick with our original plan of making this year's science course be a physical science course, so we will be transitioning from chemistry to geology around Christmas.

We went on a fantastic field trip to see a performance of Twelfth Night. The performers did a wonderful job, and the all student audience was kept on the edge of their seats. There is no better way to study Shakespeare than actually attending a performance. It was the way it was intended to be experienced. We read a short synopsis before attending. 
Wow, my phone doesn't take very good pictures!

One of the kids' dance classes was held outside in a city park. The director of our dance studio feels it is important for the students to learn how to choreograph, improvise, and perform on the spot in front of strangers, so she occasionally takes the older ones outside and lets them create a piece and then perform it for whomever is passing by. 

Quick list of our learning this week:
  • 2 hours of math
  • Robotics Club
  • 3 hours of science, including making volcanoes
  • 3 hours of review items (mostly language arts and history)
  • Art with Miss Laura
  • ArtAchieve lesson 5 (dragonfly) with Grandma
  • Reading daily
  • CNN Student News daily
  • 10 hours of dance for Anne, 6.5 hours of dance for Dean
  • Twelfth Night live performance
  • 3 hours of music ~ Anne started using two hands on the piano
  • The Presidential Debate
A photo "just because" ~ isn't this vulture neat? We passed him eating a rabbit on the road. He showed off his wing span for us.

We also accomplished as a family ~
  • Two of the three of us who are eligible to vote, voted in our state's Early Voting. It was a long line for the first time in my voting life. We (kids included) listened to many interesting conversations in line. 
  • Dean and Anne got their flu shots.
  • Dean went to therapy.
  • We went through the winter clothing storage closet. Everyone has a winter jacket, although Dean's is barely adequate. Consequently, I am still on the hunt for something more suitable for him. Bring on the snow!
Last, but not least ~ If you are at all interested in reviewing homeschool products, go to this post and apply. We have really enjoyed being on the Homeschool Reivew Crew this year. It has been a great learning experience for all of us.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Homeschool Review Crew ~ The Familyman

The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection {The Familyman} Reviews
The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection {The Familyman} Reviews
Are you looking for some great stories to get your family into the Christmas mood? Here is a super idea for Christmas. We received the wonderful The Familyman's Christmas Treasury-Audio Collection from The Familyman. These are also available as Digital Downloads. There are eight stories in the digital downloads and each one is funny and exciting. 

We love audio books, so I jumped at the chance to get these Christmas stories. I was not disappointed. What a wonderful collection of stories that teach the true meaning of Christmas. Each story has a meaningful lesson that guides you to Jesus and his teachings. My kids enjoyed each and every one. They each had their favorites.
Anne especially liked Cootie McCay's Nativity. When the town nativity is run over by one of the oldest citizens of a small town, the citizens are desperate for a new one. Who will save the day? Shockingly, Cootie McCay, the strangest man in town, comes to the rescue. He makes all kinds of sculptures out of trash so the townfolk are very worried about what he will create. My daughter loved that Cootie was given a chance despite his being "super weird". She also loved that he was successful in this endeavor. 

She also really liked The Bishop's Dream. In this story we meet Bishop Nicholas, who has a dream and sees the future. He turns out to be Saint Nicholas and is shocked to discover that in the future Santa Claus has taken center stage away from Jesus. My daughter liked this one, since we do not celebrate Santa Claus and talk a lot about how Christmas has become far too commercialized. 
My son, Dean, really liked The Stranger. This story is about a homeless man who seeks help and is turned away many times. Early on in the story, my son guessed that the homeless man was really Jesus. Dean has a heart for the homeless and this story really resonated with him.

My son also really liked The Secret of the Snow Village. He loves lots of details and enjoys looking at villages and model train displays. This story had plenty of descriptions so that he was able to imagine being inside the village. The story leads you on a journey of understanding the true meaning of Christmas.

There are four more great stories in the digital collection, but I don't want to give any more away. Trust me, the stories are all wonderful and told by a master story teller. My kids can sometimes be particular about audio books. They want them to be very clear with good voice acting. They thought this series of stories was top notch. I loved all of the lessons and discussions that stemmed from these stories. We had many conversations about what it truly means to be a Christian and to care for humankind. I have a feeling these stories will be listened to many times before Christmas rolls around. 

To see what other Homeschool Review Crew members thought of these stories, click on the banner below.
The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection {The Familyman} Reviews
Crew Disclaimer

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Homeschool Review Crew ~ Educeri.......Educeri a division of DataWORKS

Educeri Lesson Subscription Service Reviews

We received Educeri Lesson Subscription Service from Educeri.......Educeri a division of DataWORKS. This is an online service that is geared toward teacher use in the public school, but could be adapted to a homeschool and a single student. The company has over 1,000 lessons for K thru 12th grade. All of the lessons meet Common Core standards.
  • Math ~ 413 lessons
  • Language Arts ~ 525 lessons
  • History ~ 26 lessons
  • Science ~ 22 lessons
  • Art, Music and P.E. ~ a few lessons
Educeri Lesson Subscription Service Reviews
This is a different online service than ones I have reviewed in the past. The services before were intended for the student to work through on their own. This service is intended for the teacher to teach the class, using the prepared slides and lessons. Then the teacher may print out the student handouts and allow the student to practice the lesson. If you need any assistance, there is a chat box available at all times. Also, they offer a tutorial. I found it all very easy to use and did not need any help. 
Educeri Lesson Subscription Service Reviews

How We Used It ~ My daughter and I explored the site together. My daughter was hoping for history, but we found that there weren't any history lessons covering our current area of study (the Rennaisance). However, they did have a lesson called Describe the Origins of Christianity. We decided to explore this lesson together. As you go through each slide, you are able to fill the answers into the blank areas with the click of the mouse. In this way, you can move through the lesson and have discussion before filling in the answers. There were no handouts for this lesson.
Educeri Lesson Subscription Service Reviews
I told Anne that I would like her to test out a few more lessons and that she could choose from any grade levels. She decided to review Use Commas and Quotation Marks in Dialogue. This was a total review for her. She thought it was well explained and presented in a clear cut way. However, she felt all of the lessons she looked over were boring, and she preferred the more hands on and learning within context approach that we generally use. She did like that each of the lessons she looked at in the language arts section had handouts.
The company advertises that it is geared toward the stressed out teacher, who is still struggling to get lessons together at 1 am. While I doubt that many homeschool teachers are stressing over creating lesson plans in the middle of the night, I do think having lessons readily available when your family is going though a crisis is helpful. As a special needs family we have had our fair share of crisis periods, and I do find prepared lessons help during those difficult times. However, I generally rely on review workbooks during crisis periods rather than introducing new material.

Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew reviewed different grades and lessons. To see what they had to say, click on the banner below. 
Educeri Lesson Subscription Service>

Crew Disclaimer

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, October 14, 2016

Homeschooling Isn't a Race -- It's a Journey!

Weeks like this remind me that homeschooling is a journey, not a race to the finish line. Sometimes we as homeschoolers get caught up in To Do lists, comparing ourselves to each other and worrying that we aren't doing enough. This has been one of those kind of weeks around here. I have been homeschooling for 18 years and still fall into that trap now and again.

Really, it wasn't a horrible week. We had a lovely birthday celebration for Anne. I am now officially a mother to three teens and a young adult. Our home is filled with hormones and emotions. With that comes more arguing, more tears, more apologies and lots of highs and lows. This week we were at a place where working on relationships was much more important than getting through our academic To Do list.
I love seeing the relationship grow between these two brothers.
School did happen, of course, but it just wasn't my highest priority. Homeschooling is a lifestyle. Some weeks are going to be stellar and some aren't. That is life. I record our days, because it is very encouraging to look back and see all of the valuable things we accomplished, even when I think nothing much happened.

Below is a list of what we did accomplish academically ~ 
  • Chemistry with our homeschool friend
  • Art class
  • Reviewing sign language
  • We Will Rise ~ Documentary on girls being educated around the world
  • Completed our October puzzle
  • Anne wrote a 500 word paper on Queen Elizabeth I and fashion during her reign.
  • Dean wrote a 500 word paper on our New York City trip.
  • Each child did two hours of math.
  • Anne finished Alice in Wonderland.
  • Dean continued reading his chapter book.
  • They both attended dance ~ 10 hours for Anne and 6.5 hours for Dean.
  • CNN Student News daily
  • Anne worked on coloring intricate Queen Elizabeth I paper dolls
  • Chemistry homework ~ writing about assigned element
  • At least 30 minutes of music practice each day
  • A Scandal in Bohemia, a Sherlock Holmes Story
  • Language arts work books -- one hour
  • Some work with review products

It is a blessing to homeschool, even more on the weeks that are hard than the weeks that run smoothly. We have time to work through issues, support our interests and just love each other. It is such a gift to be able to adapt our schooling to our current needs. I hope that next week goes more smoothly, but I am glad for every day with my crew, hard knocks and all.

Blessings, Dawn

Homeschool Coffee Break

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Homeschool Review Crew ~ Online Christian Filmmakers Academy

Online Christian Filmmakers Academy {Family Gravity Media}
My daughter is very interested in filmmaking and photography. She was so excited to receive for review Online Christian Filmmakers Academy from Family Gravity Media, a Division of Families for Christ Ministries, Inc.

Online Christian Filmmakers Academy {Family Gravity Media}

What is it? ~ This online program is an offspring of Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp. It provides the opportunity for many more students to be able to benefit from this father and son team of filmmakers without having to attend camp in person. They teach an in-depth course that has five modules covering everything you need to know to get into filmmaking. 
  • Module 1 ~ Camera
  • Module 2 ~ Cinematography 
  • Module 3 ~ Sound
  • Module 4 ~ Pre-Production
  • Module 5 ~ Production
This course will teach your teen everything they need to know to make a high quality film. The teachers stress making films for the glory of God. It is obvious that the teachers are very skilled and passionate about all aspects of film production.

How we used it ~ We used this course as part of Anne's art elective. She took to this program very quickly. Each lesson is only a few minutes long but explains the subject matter very clearly. The student is encouraged to watch the videos as many times as needed to understand the content. My daughter got out all of the cameras in the family and began exploring them. She learned how to remove and put back on the lenses, about how to take care of the lens, how to use our two tripods better, and much more. She thought she had a strong understanding of both of our Nikon cameras, but she learned much more about them from this course. She really liked that she could use her own equipment. She also really liked the hands-on nature of this course. There are small quizzes at the end of each section, but they are not overwhelming. Anne also picked up lots of tips on how to film while using indoor and outdoor lighting to her advantage. She completed the first two modules and is currently working her way through module three ~ Sound. Through this course, she discovered that, although she really likes making little stop motion videos for YouTube, she felt a bit overwhelmed by how much there was to learn to make a larger production. She realized that, although this is a strong interest of hers, she would rather spend her spare time on dance. In all fairness, she has been accepted into Junior Company at the dance studio she attends and the demands are much higher than they were last year.

What I liked about this course ~ As Anne's mother and primary teacher, I thought this course was excellent. I think she may choose to go back to it during school breaks when there are less demands on her time. I felt that the teachers were very clear and interesting. Learning through videos is a wonderful platform for teens, and this father-son team did a superb job catching the attention of my daughter. She never once said the course was boring or redundant. She often thinks that people repeat themselves and teach things "into the ground" (exhaustingly). However, with this course, she felt that she learned a little bit more with each lesson (sometimes a great deal more). I liked that the lessons are taught in a broad enough way that allows the student to use their own camera regardless of the make and style. This really made the course much more enjoyable for Anne. I also appreciated the strong suggestion to keep the content of one's films clean and morally grounded. Although this is not an issue for Anne, I feel that so many YouTube "stars" are more concerned with keeping their audience shocked and "coming back for more" than creating something meaningful.
If you want to purchase this product. Use coupon code ~ FALLCREW16 to get $100 off through November 30th!

This program gets a thumbs up from us. It is a wonderful introduction to the world of cinematography. To see what other Homeschool Review Crew members had to say, click on the banner below.
Online Christian Filmmakers Academy {Family Gravity Media}
Crew Disclaimer
Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Homeschool Review ~ Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}
It is October and we are already deep into Nutcracker rehearsals on top of our intense dance schedule. Thankfully, I received Freezer Meal Plan Membership from MyFreezEasy. Now, we have home-cooked meals every night even if I am not home to make them. My husband simply removes a meal from the freezer when he gets home and follows the instructions to rewarm it. 
I have always wanted to try freezer meals but never knew where to start. Using this membership made the entire process so easy. I visited the site and was amazed with the variety of meals. Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}
You pick a plan or you can even make your own plan by going through the recipes and adding them to your recipe folder. Then you can print out up to five different meals. You are allowed to change each meal to the amount of people in your family and the website will change the recipe to match your needs. The website also gives you a single meal plan and doubles each meal so that you can decide to make only one meal or two. For example, if you are making taco meat for tonight, you can double the recipe and freeze thee second meal for another night. You can also opt to make up to five meals that can be doubled to make ten meals at one time. 
My first experience with MyFreezEasy meals was to create my own meal plan. We have tons of dietary issues in our family and live on a very tight budget, so the create-your-own plan was the best bet. I picked Beef & Bean Taco Meat, Green Pepper Chili, Minestrone Soup, Sloppy-Beany Joes, and Slow Cooker Italian & Potatoes. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to make ten meals to store in the freezer all at once. The task really did seem daunting. However, thanks to the meal printouts, it couldn't have been easier. I was given the option of using the grocery list by grocery store section or by recipe. I chose using the grocery list by section and went shopping. After purchasing all of the ingredients, we got down to business. We spread everything out on the table and began cooking the meat. My children (12 and 14) took on the responsibility of chopping all of the vegetables and opening all of the cans. We then followed the directions and started combining the ingredients. Before we knew it, we had meals stacking up in the freezer. It took us a little longer than predicted the first time (about 2 hours). However, it felt so good to have all of those meals stashed away in the freezer. Everything we tried was delicious. 
The next time, I decided to try the clean eats plan. It went faster and we had even more meals stashed away in about 2 hours. However, I did find the cost to be a bit high for our family. So the next time, I tried just doubling two or three meals at a time. This proved to be much more affordable for our budget. 
I love this program and will probably continue to use it. There is very little to complain about. However, I do wish there were more vegetarian meals offered. We live on a very tight budget and one of my cost saving steps is to use very little meat in our meals. We also eat mostly organic because of our son's allergies. He needs very clean food that isn't filled with GMO's. These criteria mean that we need to eat limited meat and as many seasonal fruits and vegetables as possible. We try to keep our meals totaling $5 for a family of five. I found this nearly impossible to do when I followed the recipes exactly. All that said, this gets a thumbs up from our family. 
To see what others on the Homeschool Review Crew had to say, click on the banner below. Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}
Crew Disclaimer
Blessings, Dawn