Friday, October 20, 2017

Week 9 ~ A Look at Where We are at the End of Quarter One

It is the end of the first quarter and time to see how we are doing. One would think that we have enough on our plate with each child working on 8 to 12 subjects (credits) for high school this year, but, no, we are adding three more. I have decided to add Health which is a half year subject (or half credit) for both children. I am adding Math II (applied geometry) and Home and Life Management for Dean which will be a whole credit each. This is in addition to adding Spanish two weeks ago for Dean. We are counting credits as complete with 144 hours and completion of goals. Some courses will go over 144 hours. So this is where it stands now.

Dean (High School)
  • English I ~ We are counting grammar, writing, literature-based films and reading independently middle school chapter books. (currently on week 13)
  • Math I ~ He is taking classes in pre-algebra and personal finance using Life of Fred books, as well as studying CTCMath online, hands-on math and any other sources that gets the job done. (currently on week 10)
  • Earth Science ~We are using a variety of hands-on experiments, TED-Ed videos, Netflix, articles and field trips. (currently on week 14)
  • U.S. History ~ We are using a host of resources from biographies to high school U.S. History textbooks with lots of field trips sprinkled in between. (currently on week 14)
  • Physical Education ~ He is doing or has done dance, Wandering Swordsman (boffing), swimming, bowling, miniature golf, physical therapy at-home program and hiking. (currently on week 19)
  • Visual Art I ~ (complete)
  • String Instruments ~ He is taking guitar lessons and teaching himself the ukulele. (currently on week 28)
  • English II ~ We are doing British Literature with an extensive reading list and movies. (currently on week 7)
  • Math II ~ This will be an applied geometry course beginning with basic geometry and real world geometry. We will see how far he is able to achieve. (currently in week 1)
  • Biology ~ We are using many experiments, a high school textbook and some Netflix documentaries. (currently in week 7)
  • CTE Career and Technology Education ~ Dean is receiving credit for his volunteer work at the Nature Center, doing chapters in a career textbook, documentaries on career related subjects, an engineering course online and future volunteer work. (currently at week 10)
  • World History ~ This will include CNN Student News, research papers on historical topics of interest, documentaries and biographies. We are counting five CNN Student News shows (one week's worth) as one hour of history. (currently at week 2)
  • Visual Arts II ~ Dean is taking classes with a homeschool co-op plus Roots and Wings teen art nights, Grandma and lessons he finds on lines. This course is mostly drawing. (currently on week 7)
  • Spanish I ~ He is doing Berlitz Basic Spanish with his Dad. (currently in week 2)
  • Health ~ He will be CPR trained, go through either the Red Cross Babysitting course or First Aid course and numerous TED-Ed and documentaries on health-related topics. (Will start next week)
  • Home and Life Management ~ This course will be a multi-disciplinary course that will prepare Dean for life as an adult. I feel that he needs more review and guidance than some students might need because of his special needs. Also, our public schools and sometimes our schools at home really miss the importance of teaching life skills. (Will start next week)
Dean is currently working on 14.5 credits toward his high school education. We lost some time with his depression and illness last year and some of these classes are carried over from last year. So far this school year, he is doing fine. 

Anne (8th Grade)

Anne is doing five credits for 8th grade. Our state doesn't require any particular subjects for 8th grade, so I decided to move history to 9th grade a few weeks ago. 

8th Grade
  • Home Economics ~ Anne is concentrating on cooking and baking. However, she is also advancing her skills in refinishing furniture, sewing, car maintenance, child care and management of a home. (currently at week 10)
  • Math 8 ~ She is working on pre-algebra, using a host of sources that I have mentioned before. Currently at week 10
  • English 8 ~ This is primarily a writing course, which also includes literature-based movies and independent reading from our middle school reading list. (currently on week 11)
  • Performing Arts ~ Anne is getting credit for all dance classes that have to do with performances, performances that she dances in, piano pieces that she learns and three or four professional performances that she will see this year. (currently on week 12)
  • Physical Education ~ Anne is getting credit for all technical dance classes, such as Cecchetti, pointe and different forms of modern dance. (currently on week 20)
High School Credit
  • English I (British Literature) ~ We are studying British literature with an extensive reading list and movies. (currently on week 7)
  • Biology ~ We are using many experiments, a high school text book and some Netflix documentaries. (currently in week 7)
  • World History ~ She is watching CNN Student News and lots of documentaries, as well as reading a text book and biographies and writing research papers. (currently on week 9)
  • American Sign Language ~ Anne is learning songs in American Sign Language from watching the Internet and performing them for the family. Her signing is getting fast and very clear. She is learning both American Sign Language and Pidgen Signed English. The vocabulary is the same, but the syntax is different between the two languages. She will add other online courses or out-of-the-home classes as we find them. (currently on week 8)
  • CTE Career and Technology Education ~ She has started this course by documenting her Teacher Assistant job helping with a ballet III class. Other job/volunteer opportunities will be added as they arise. (currently on week 2)
  • Health ~ She will be CPR trained, go through the Red Cross Babysitting course or First aid course and watch numerous TED-Ed and documentaries on health-related topics. (Will start next week)
She will start high school credit physical education and Math I (Algebra) as she completes Math 8 and physical education 8.

We are on schedule or ahead of schedule for most of their subjects. I imagine some will fall behind as others intensify. We will certainly concentrate on the core subjects and their passions. I would assume that they will be completed first. I am hoping that Dean will have completed string instruments and Anne will have completed 8th grade physical education by the end of the next quarter.

Most importantly, both children are emotionally healthy, thriving, and growing strong characters.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Pencil Grip, Inc. ~ Review

We had the opportunity to review two products from the company, The Pencil Grip, Inc. We received The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors and The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit.

The Pencil Grip, Inc.
We tested The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit first. They say in the paperwork that these grips can be used by adults. That is how we decided to use them. We don't have any children in the house who are new writers, so we could only test them as adults. 
This three step transitional program helps children get the proper grip on the pencil or pen from the start. It can also help adults who never learned how to properly hold a writing utensil to improve their writing grip. This would come in handy if your hand cramps a lot while writing. Step 1 is called the Crossover Grip. This grip provides maximum structure and reinforcement of proper positioning. The grip has a cape covering the writer's fingers that makes it very comfortable and supportive. I liked it. 
The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit
The second stage is the Pinch Grip. This stage only has partial wings covering the writer's fingers so that he/she can have more freedom to move his/her fingers and helps the writer to be able to see the exact placement of their fingers.
The final stage is the graduation stage. This stage provides a lifetime of support and comfort. My son, who has had years of occupational therapy for cerebral palsy, has always been against using any kind of grip that an occupational therapist suggested. However, he didn't mind using the step 2 grip. He found it more comfortable than most.
The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit
The second product to review was the Ultra Safe Safety Scissors. Wow, there is no way to cut your fingers on these scissors! They would be perfect for a preschooler who is just developing their cutting skills. I used these myself, since I didn't have a young child handy. Once I got the hang of them, they were very easy to use. A preschooler may need some help sliding the paper into the channel the first few times, but they would get the hang of it quickly. The shield covers a sharp but completely safe blade that will cut several pieces of paper at once. I am impressed. I wish I had these for my kids when they were younger. They grew up with blunt scissors that were difficult to use. This product also has a flexible spring that automatically opens when the scissors are squeezed closed which makes it easier on weak hands. The spring can be flattened down and not used once the child's hands are stronger and the child wants to cut faster. I will definitely be storing these away for the at-home preschool my daughter and I plan to start her senior year. 
The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors
To see what others had to say on the review crew about these products, click on the banner below. 
Ultra Safe Safety Scissors & Pencil Grip Training Kit {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}
Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, October 14, 2017

A Solid Unschooling Week

I call it an unschooling week when we only do a small portion of book work lessons. Instead, we did lots of real world lessons. My husband was home this week on his staycation. We worked him rather hard, so I am not sure he would call it a vacation, but I digress.

My only true academic goals for this week were to do math every day and continue co-op classes with our friend, Rose. We accomplished all of that and so much more. Their accomplishments are listed below.
  • Dean did five math lessons in Life of Fred Fractions and Zillions of Practice Problems Fractions.
  • Dean did three lessons in geometry on CTCMath and made two 3-D shapes.
  • Both kids did a biology lesson on osmosis and cell membranes.
  • Both kids watched parts of the movie, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. (I decided that some of it wasn't appropriate.)
  • Dean attended his art class and guitar class.
  • Anne attended 15 hours of dance classes and helped as a teacher assistant for one additional hour.
  • Anne painted her bed a lovely ivory for home economics.
  • Anne learned eight songs in American Sign Language and performed each one of them for school credit.
  • We began reading A Gebra Named Al as a family.
  • Both kids watched the documentary, Born in China.
  • Dean completed two lessons in Spanish.
  • Anne started writing a comparison paper on the movie versus the book, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
  • Dean did four science experiments on water purification for earth science.
We also got lots of projects done. Four of us got flu shots and all five of us got all of our paperwork and photos submitted for passports. I am not sure when we will get to use them, but it will be nice to have them ready. My husband also did everything from balancing fans in the house to steam cleaning floors. 

The most exciting part of the week was celebrating Anne's 14th birthday. I can't believe my baby is growing up so fast. She is responsible, grateful, smart, caring, focused and friendly. Her devotion to her education and dance is impressive. What a lovely young lady she is becoming! The first celebration of her birthday was going out to the Chicken Salad Chick restaurant with two of her dear friends and family. She got lots of dance gear and a few jigsaw puzzles. This weekend, we will be having another dear friend of hers over to go to dance class and out for a formal afternoon tea. I will post pictures of that next week.
Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, living room, shoes and indoor

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Review ~ CTCMath


We were given the opportunity to review CTCMath's Single Membership. Homeschoolers can try it for 60% off + 6 bonus months. CTCMath is an online course that teaches math for kindergartners all the way through high school students taking trigonometry. You can pick a family membership for multiple students or a single membership for one student. Once you receive your membership, you have access to all of the grade levels so that you can decide where your child needs to be working. For instance, my son was able to move around between lessons. He mostly worked in the Basic Math and Pre-Algebra sections, which have four parts and more than 100 lessons. He was able to work through lessons on decimals and then skip areas that he understood and then pick up with lessons about the Pythagoras theorem, which he knew nothing about. I was very impressed with the flexibility allowed throughout this program. My son has a significant math phobia and experiences instant stress when he doesn't understand a concept. The ease at which we were allowed to move around and give him lessons that were bite size was extremely helpful. Also, if you have a special needs child who isn't working on grade level, this flexibility is very helpful. My son felt encouraged by being able to sit down and do his math without constantly being reminded of the grade level. Instead, the assignment just stated what lesson he was doing, such as order of operations. My son really liked the teacher on the video. He liked the calm voice that he thought had a "British" accent but is actually Australian. He felt that the "lessons were as clear as math ever could be," which was clearer than he often experiences math. My son also liked that he could see the answers instantly, so he could get help if he was doing an assignment incorrectly instead of making many mistakes on the whole page. 

Each lesson starts off with a video lesson and then goes on to interactive questions with instant feedback. If your child prefers pen to paper math rather than working on the computer as mine does, you can print out the worksheets and let him or her do the lessons that way. 

This program is very user-friendly for the teacher. I appreciated that there is a placement test to help the teacher decide exactly where to place the student. Also, the program does an excellent job with record keeping. It is easy to know how your student is progressing on the parent/teacher dashboard or from the progress reports that are emailed to you weekly. 

Overall, we were delighted with this program. I think it was our favorite math program that we have reviewed. It was so easy to use for teacher and student. The lessons are clear. The record keeping is great and the flexibility is awesome. My son intends to use this program for applied geometry over the next few months.  Don't forget to check out their awesome deal going on until November 15, 2017. To see what others had to say, click on the banner below. 

CTCMath Online Math Tutoring {Reviews}
Blessings, Dawn

Friday, October 6, 2017

Counting Blessings!

Some weeks are just unremarkable in our little homeschool. The work gets done, but there is nothing noteworthy to report. Some weeks are overshadowed by world events. This week was one of those. It was good and unremarkable at home and shocking and devastating beyond our door. The destruction of Puerto Rico and our government's slow response in helping our fellow Americans, as well as the mass shooting in Las Vegas leaves me speechless -- almost. These world events remind me that while academics are one thing, teaching our children to walk the road of kindness and to use common sense are the true lessons. This is my real reason for guiding my children to adulthood at home. It is an awesome responsibility and one I do not take lightly. The most important moments this week were unremarkable but wonderful little blessings. With all the heartache there is in the world, I would like to list a few blessings my family has experienced this week.

I love paths.
We went to an apple orchard and a pumpkin patch this week. We got tons of apples, ate apple treats, picked out pumpkins and found our way out of a corn maze. Blessings.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling
These two precious children bring so much joy to my days. I am so blessed to have them, and they are so blessed to have each other.

They are blessed with a strong relationship. I think the trial of  living with a mentally ill sibling and then losing her  3 1/2 years ago really strengthened their relationship. She was so abusive to them, and her mental illness permeated our home. Then she was gone in a blink (she ran away and, even though my husband and I  have contact with her, they do not). They have had to work hard to build their trust in each other and know that they will always be there for each other. I see them growing closer in friendship all the time. That is a blessing to last a lifetime. 

Dean (15) is blessed to be out of his depression. Last year was very hard. This year he has a core group of friends, more confidence, a love of music and art, and is gaining strength from his family. He smiles, whistles and enjoys his surroundings again. For that, we are so blessed! 

Anne (14) is sailing through school this year. She seems to have boundless energy to handle all that is on her plate. She has a passion that makes her soar -- literally. She can do some amazing leaps in dance. She is such a blessing to all who meet her.

Tim (our adult disabled son, who lives with us) is doing well right now. He was the slowest to show healing after his sister ran away. But he has so much more calmness in him now. He has learned to trust that a family outing doesn't have to include chaos. He is spending more and more time going out and about with the family. It is a blessing to have him engaged with the family and enjoying family time again. 

So blessings abound. I am ever so grateful!

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, September 29, 2017

Week 6 ~ Hitting the Mark

It is usually around week six that I look around our little homeschool and see where we are. It is a period that sometimes involves a bit of despair if things are going awry and then I spend hours searching homeschool catalogs and Amazon for what will fix my little homeschool. This year is different. Everything is flowing along well. The house is afloat, the kids are learning and enjoying their studies, there are few arguments, the schedule is working and doesn't feel hectic (even though it kinda is), and we are eating home cooked meals most days. What's more, the eBay and consignment business that helps finance dance classes is hitting the financial goal almost every month. So what is different this year? I would like to say it is that I have been homeschooling for 18 years and I got this! Ha! But that would be a lie. Things are constantly evolving, and what my homeschool needed 18 years ago or six years ago or three years ago isn't what it needs now. However, I am doing one major thing differently this year. If a program, book, or technique doesn't work, it is out the door immediately. I am not giving more than a week trial of tweaking. If it is causing stress, we are not using it. Enough said! In the past, I have hung in there with programs for six weeks to a whole semester before giving up on them. One of the blessings of homeschooling is being your own boss and crafting your own little homeschool, so I do not have to do that. That said, I do not advocate throwing out all that you are using, just because you are having a rough week. You know your family. But for us, this technique is working. Also, after 18 years of homeschooling, my home is filled with alternative programs. It is not like I am breaking the bank making changes.

This is a list of what we are doing this year to keep our homeschool running smoothly ~
  • Keep it simple, sister. ~ If my crew can learn the same information from a workbook, textbook or graphic novel instead of a full curriculum with lots of fluff, we pick the workbook.
  • Learn how to get the information you need. ~ Instead of having my kids memorize everything about every subject they are learning this year, we are focusing on knowing the basics of each subject and how to delve more deeply when they need to know more. 
  • Consider priorities and how to accomplish them in the simplest fashion. ~ We are really concentrating on getting the most important things out of the way each week before any projects or fluff. The fluff is great, but it comes second.
  • Just say NO! in a nice way. ~ For us, this means saying no to things that might become commitments that are hard to break should it become necessary. For example, three families asked me to homeschool their children one to two days a week this year in addition to Rose, who I already homeschool one day a week. All of these were kids that had never been homeschooled until recently, and all these students really need to "de-school" and fill in the gaps in their education. Every day counts for my crew, so I can't slow down and fill in gaps for others. However, I am doing  all I can to help these families from a consulting point of view. 
  • Rely on services that help your home life. ~ I don't mean a maid. That would be nice but I do not have the budget for such things. However, I am relying heavily on Walmart groceries this year. Their service is free. I order online and pick up the food when it is ready without ever entering the store. Love it. I need to see what other stores have this service. We are spending less, too, because there are't many distractions. I am also buying things from online more and more. I really like to keep my local shops afloat, but this year buying local just isn't what I need to keep us afloat. 
  • Get rid of excess. ~ We started this summer really getting rid of stuff in our home. We started this partly because of thoughts of moving (who wants to haul all of that stuff?), but mostly because everything that we see in our home needs to be maintained and I don't have the time to maintain it. So we are working on reducing. I am really starting to see a difference. There is tons more to go and I think we will really be in good shape by the end of this school year. 
  • Take care of yourself. ~ We have a cut-off time at night where there is no more work to be done -- no matter what! We are focusing on getting sleep, nutrition and laughter into our days.
Well, that is enough talking for this week. Here are a few pictures of our week.

Home Economics ~ 

Science (Biology and Earth) ~ 
Making red onion slides

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Review ~ Captain Bayley's Heir

Captain Bayley's Heir

Heirloom Audio Productions has done it again with the release of Captain Bayley's Heir. We were so excited to receive this latest audio production and study guide for review. There are many ways to learn history, and one of the most exciting ways is through story telling. Heirloom Audio Productions certainly knows how to capture the imagination of everyone who listens to one of their Extraordinary Adventures of G. A. Henty.  Did you know that G. A. Henty was a real Englishman who lived from 1832 to 1902 and wrote more than 100 books?

Heirloom Audio Productions
This is an audio book that is 2.5 hours long and comes on two CDs. With the purchase of the audio production, you are granted access to the study guide and Heirloom Audio's Live the Adventure Club. All of these features make for a complete educational package.

Captain Bayley's Heir is a very exciting story about Frank, who is falsely accused of a crime while at university in his homeland of England. He feels like he can't return home, so he flees to America and quickly finds himself traveling on a wagon train. He makes a few really decent friends and they decide to seek their fortunes in California during the Gold Rush. He experiences many trials and comes very close to death. The story is filled with twists and turns and some really big surprises. Our favorite part was finding out who Captain Bayley's true heir was and how he came into the family.  Frank is a wonderful role model. He is strong, brave, caring and looks out for his fellow man. While he struggles with his faith, he learns throughout all of his trials that God is there for him and what God's grace truly means. I don't want to give too much away, but it is a great motivational story that teaches God's grace, honoring parents or guardians, finding your way in the world and being an honest person during adversity. It also teaches about the journey of becoming a Christian. All these moral lessons are delivered through an action packed story.

My children have already studied the Gold Rush, wagon trains and American Indians. This was still a fresh approach for them, because they got to "live" all of these experiences through Frank's eyes. They were right there with him through his ups and downs. I like how they got to experience Frank being accepted by other miners and how they made a "family". We so often learn about how rough and unlawful the gold fields were, but there was civility laced through the fields as well. They experienced the intensity of an American Indian attack and the sorrow and survival of taking someone's life in self defense. They were reminded of the reasons American Indians would feel pushed to attack. The story is very intense at times, but isn't real life?

We enjoyed the study guide as we always do. The study guide is 38 pages long and can be read on the website or printed off. I read it off the website this time.  My kids' only disappointment was that there was no recipe included in the study guide this time. They love cooking. We may make some cowboy baked beans on our own. The study guide did include in each chapter the following:
  • Listening Well ~ Questions to ask your children to help them with comprehension and listening skills
  • Thinking Further ~ Helps children pick parts from the story and think about them or research them
  • Defining Words ~ Vocabulary that will help them build their knowledge of the story
Many of the chapters also have a section called Expand Your Learning. This section delves more deeply into things that make the story richer, such as understanding Victorian Money. Understanding the value of money and how much things were worth during Victorian times makes this story come to life even more.

This is radio theater at its best. To see what other review crew members had to say, click on the banner below.
Captain Bayley's Heir {Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews}
Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Vacation in Rochester, New York!

We spent the week in Rochester, New York. We have only been back for a matter of hours, but I really want to get my weekend post up. My brain is still swimming with all that we did. It was a very big adventure for our family. We are strongly considering moving to Rochester in the next year, if my husband can get a federal government job there. This trip was part vacation, part research and part visiting family that lives in the area. It was a tremendous undertaking for us to travel 11+ hours from our home, while managing a family filled with special needs, including taking the 75+ pound dog, Grandma and one teen boy who is relatively devastated by the idea of moving. However, we made it and there was lots of fun along the way. So this is going to just be a snapshot post of our adventure.

Hamlin Beach ~ Lake Ontario

We were not able to see Canada, but it is on the other side of Lake Ontario. What a gorgeous place!

Lake Ontario (Hamlin Beach)

Running like the wind...

Garbage Plate with White Hots (a Rochester Food Tradition)

It was actually good. There was enough food in one serving to feed an army (lol). The kids weren't brave enough to try it. 

Niagara Falls and the Cave of the Winds

Amazing, stunning, humbling! Niagara Falls is not to be missed and is only a little over an hour from Rochester. We went on the walking trail called the Cave of the Winds that winds through the falls. Anne, Dean and I braved the hurricane deck and were pelted by 60 mile an hour winds and droplets of water that hurt a bit. We got drenched and it was awesome!

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing, sky and outdoor

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing, mountain, sky, outdoor and nature

George Eastman's Home

Since we are a family of photographers, we had to see George Eastman's home and photography museum. He is the Father of Amateur Photography, bringing cameras and photography to the common person. Some members of our family have worked their whole lives at Kodak. My uncle is still an engineer with what is left of Kodak. I hope Kodak survives and rises again to glory. It was a lovely combination of photography galleries and how his home looked at the time of his death in 1932. 

High Falls 

Did you know there are falls right in the center of downtown Rochester? We were a little worried about losing the beauty of the mountains if we move to Rochester. It looks like the beauty we will lose of the mountains will be replaced by so many water features. 

Genesse Country Village and Museum

Wow! This is where I want to work when the kids grow up! This living museum has 68 historic buildings to investigate. There are costumed interpreters all throughout the village. This was fantastic!


One of our missions was to check out the many varying neighborhoods in Rochester. We wanted to see the difference between city living and village living. We will have to research more and digest all that we saw. It made the possibility of moving much more real in our minds. Would we prefer  the heart of the city or a village on the Erie canal with in 20 minutes? Choices...choices. 

Only God knows what the future holds...

Blessings, Dawn