Friday, September 13, 2019

Where There Is Love

This week was filled with so many emotions -- sadness, loss, grief, confusion, anger, hope, courage, perseverance and tiny moments of joy. Some days it was just enough for Dean to live and other days had hours that almost felt normal and had some accomplishments. But for now, we are caught in a time of struggle and so we will grow and stretch. Sometimes it is really hard to be grateful for the struggles. We are definitely in a tempest, but where there is love there is hope, peace and courage. We push onward to happier days.

One of our main missions this week was to keep Dean busy. This is a hard accomplishment when he has felt so lethargic. We arrived home from our trip to a crisis within 12 hours and school, work and Anne's dance classes starting within two days. Yep, it was crazy to say the least. But this week felt more doable. I am just trying to stay in the moment as much as possible.

Dear Husband and I took Dean to the pinball museum. He as been very interested in pinball machines since making one with his Eureka Kit. They had more than 40 pinball machines and some classic arcade games, too. We were allowed to play all of them as many times as we wished for a one-time fee. We had fun for a little while and Dean enjoyed the simpler machines from the 1970's.

We also took several nature walks and Dean made it to the Wandering Swordsman classes twice this week. Exercise is so good when you are depressed.

Our favorite school things this week ~ School is fully underway for Anne and about 25% to 50% for Dean depending on day.

Dean made an electric pencil sharpener and a lamp with his Eureka Kits. He makes these wonderful working kits faster and faster with fewer mistakes each time.

We finally did two of our science experiments for our Physical Science course. We are using Mel Science as one of our supplements this year. We made carbon snakes and foaming eruption.

Anne is really enjoying geometry through Khan Academy. She likes to have Dad nearby while she works but is building confidence every day.

Two September goals that I missed mentioning last week started this week. Anne is starting Driver's Ed this week. She is doing the online classroom part of the course for the next month. Then we will pay for private lessons for the required eight hours of school road driving before getting her learner's permit. We could do it through the school for less money, but I just hate the way they run the program that within two hours of driving, the school has brand new drivers on the highway (we live near one of the deadliest sections of highway in our state). Crazy! I am not meeting the requirements that way.

Dean also is enjoying his new art book. It is called Charlotte Mason Homeschooling Study of Art and History ~ Picturing the Past. He is working through the section on Renoir this week. This book has really high quality pictures. I am impressed with the printing.

Lastly, we tried to get Dean to go to the state fair. He just wasn't up to it and Dad ended up staying home with him. Tim, Anne and I enjoyed ourselves for two hours, but we all agreed that it really is too expensive to go without discount coupons. We shared two fair foods ~ funnel cake and ribbon fries and the kids went on two rides together. Anne and I went on the Skylift, which goes over the entire park. We saw animals, walked through the expo building and visited mommy cows with their newborn calves. It was fun to be there at night for the first time.


The goal today is to clean the house, get Dean out and about, start Driver's Ed, do math and watch Moby Dick.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Our Amazing Trip ~ Part 4: American Stonehenge and Maine Beaches

Our last non-travel day was full of nature. We started off at America's Stonehenge in Salem, New Hampshire. This site in the forest is believed to be over 4,000 years old and is likely the oldest man-made construction in the United States. We didn't get to enjoy this part of our trip as much as I had hoped we would. Unfortunately, we were pressed for time, we had a very unhappy young man with us (who, by this point, just wanted to go home), and we were being attacked by many mosquitoes, despite having covered ourselves with tons of repellent. It was an interesting site even with all of our challenges. The site is an astronomical calendar that lines up precisely with England's Stonehenge. It was and can still be used to figure our lunar and solar events. Hieroglyphics of several ancient languages have been found on the stones, including some from Iberia (peninsula between Spain and Portugal).

We then moved on to the beaches of York, Maine. There are three different beaches in this town (some rocky and some sandy). This was supposed to be Dean's special event, but he was just too sad to enjoy it. We tried our best to enjoy the beaches for a few hours. They were beautiful and different from what we are used to. We wrapped up our day by moving to a New Hampshire beach that had a boardwalk and enjoyed beach night life. We played miniature golf and had fish for dinner. 

Reflections ~ The most exciting accomplishment of our trip is that we got to visit four more states and add them to our scratch-off map! We visited Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts. My kids have now visited 22 states ~ 44% of America! We had four travel days and four vacation days. The travel days were miserable, and I have no interest in repeating them anytime soon. Jumping hotels constantly was very hard. The traffic was horrific both ways and added hours to our anticipated travel times. I had hoped to break up our travel days with a little light fun along the way, but we either got to the fun destinations too late because of traffic or the destination was way, way more crowded than I could have ever imagined. For instance, we went to Hershey Chocolate World on our way to the New England region. It is really a glorified visitor's center with many free activities. It was open until 11 pm and we arrived at 9:30 pm on a Saturday night. It was an absolute mob scene. It reminded me of the crowds leaving the park at night at Disney World! It was not what my stressed-out family needed. The next day, I had planned to do lunch in Hartford, Connecticut and stand outside of Mark Twain's home and talk about our favorite Mark Twain books. It was long past lunch time, and we had already eaten by the time we saw the exit sign for Hartford. We skipped it. On the way home we did stop, but no one wanted to get out of the car because they just wanted to go home, plus it was in a sketchy part of town. I rerouted us through lots of tolls to speed up our trip home and that was a wise choice. We did get home a bit sooner than expected, considering how much traffic we hit. Nonetheless, I am glad we went and that is off our bucket list, but if I could go back in time, I would take the train up and rent a car once there. I would probably have narrowed how many states we visited, too. Live and learn.
Blessings, Dawn

Friday, September 6, 2019

September Goals

I have two more posts coming about our vacation, but it is past time to post our September goals. I will return to our vacation posts tomorrow.

Our family hit a very rough patch right before vacation. Our dear son's girlfriend of more than two years broke up with him. She said it was temporary, but those of us who have lived through these things know that is unlikely. She said and still says she wants to be friends. We were all caught off guard and didn't see this coming at all. Dean is in total shock and deep, deep despair. He made it through the trip with tons of support, but barely enjoyed any of it. We could see him slipping further and further into depression. Everything came to a head after we got home. Without going into details, we had to reach out to emergency professional help soon after reaching home. Our world is now filled with self-care, medications, therapy and safety plans to help Dean reach out to us when he is too low (luckily he is a rule follower and follows his self-care safety plan). I say all this to explain the uncertainty, worry and exhaustion that is currently enveloping our family life as we try to fill the huge hole left by his girlfriend. My goals and lesson plans definitely take a back seat to his well-being at this time.

That said, here are our goals.

Both ~
  • Finish The Scarlet Letter ~ We are halfway through.
  • Start Physical Science ~ I ordered Mel Science and our first kit arrived last night. We will start with it and continue with some other light and fun science experiments when I can fit them in to our days.
  • Watch two or three literature based movies ~ We are watching A Raisin in the Sun this week with discussion.
Anne ~  In addition to the above, Anne will be working mostly independently this year. Her schedule is jampacked with work, dance, sign language class and at-home schoolwork.
  • Language Arts and Literature ~ She is concentrating on writing this month and will be using Language Lessons for the High School Student. She will also be reading The Prince and the Pauper and finishing her cursive for teens book. She wrote the Gettysburg address in cursive this week as well as a few shorter excerpts from great literature.
  • Earth Science ~ Anne will continue working through the workbook I created for her and do accompanying experiments. 
  • Geometry ~ She is using Khan Academy and so far loves it.
  • World History ~ She is using World History Detective Ancient and Medieval Civilizations and CNN10 (student news).
  • Sign Language III and dance are accomplished outside the home.

Dean ~ With Dean's processing and sensory disorders and damaged self-esteem, this setback is huge and is going to take more time than what might be expected for an average recovery. I am posting his resources for this month but don't know which I will use or if I will pull entirely different books from my shelves. This is my best guess for what he will be able to handle this month.
  • English ~ Critical Thinking Detective (He got every single case right before this nightmare started...this week he got both that he did wrong, so I am setting it aside for a few weeks.) He will be using Reading Detective RX for comprehension work.
  • Math III ~ Bargain Life Skills Math ~ He has done two pages and did them quickly and accurately without complaint. I have four books in this series and will probably stick with them until we are through this crisis.
  • The Dangerous Book For Boys ~ I think this book may entice him and it is loaded with history, life skills and science. 
  • Physical Science and Industrial Arts ~ Eureka Kits from Kiwi -- He really enjoys these most of the time, and they all count for industrial arts. Some of them have physics in them, too. He made an articulated working lamp this week. 
  • Zoology ~ This is just for an extra science credit because he loves National Geographic and animals (especially wild and endangered). I have started pulling some zoology workbook pages from the Internet, and he is watching lots of National Geographic. We also hope to visit about a dozen zoos, aquariums and nature centers for this course over the year. 
  • Physical Education III ~ Part of his self-care plan is to increase his exercise since it brings him some relief from depression and stress. He already goes to the Wandering Swordsman for LARP (live action role play) twice a week. We also are considering a gentle form of Martial Arts, exploring exercise equipment at local parks and starting a weight-lifting program at home.

I feel like I am missing something. Oh well, this is a good start, nonetheless. I am disappointed to be starting our 21st year of homeschooling in crisis. It seems like at least half of our homeschooling years have been filled to the brim with one crisis or another. I guess that means I am at least an old pro at it. Such is life with three of our four kids being high-end special needs. 

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Our Amazing Trip ~ Part 3: Mount Washington, NH

This was my very favorite day of the trip. We traveled to a small town about 45 minutes from Mount Washington the night before and stayed in a nice little motel. We had reserved tickets for the Cog Railway to take us to the top of Mount Washington weeks in advance. They often sell out for a group as large as ours.

The Cog Railway in Mount Washington is the first rack and pinion mountain climbing railway in the world and is the second steepest with a 25% to 33% grade. The only steeper mountain climbing rack railway is in Switzerland.
This is the way the wheel in the center of the train grips the track.
Mount Washington is known to have some of the most extreme weather in the world, so we were eager to get to the top and see what it was like on that particular day. The weather can change by the hour, and it isn't unusual to have sustained winds of 40 miles per hour and snow falling in the middle of summer. The winds can reach 200 plus miles an hour during the winter -- in fact, one-third of the year, there are hurricane force winds on top of this mountain!

On our one hour trip to the top, we were invited to try to stand up and walk up the aisle to take photos from the open front of the car. This was not an easy accomplishment. To everyone's relief, the ride up was less scary than we thought it might be. The tracks run in the middle of the mountain avoiding cliffs. Instead of wrapping around a mountain while slowly climbing upward like most trains, this one climbs straight up so the angle is challenging at times. Mount Washington’s weather is notoriously extremeIn winter, Mount Washington experiences sub-zero temperatures, hurricane-force winds, snow and ice that essentially turn the peak into an Arctic outpost. As we rode the railway, we noticed that the trees got shorter and shorter until they were just tiny bushes, even though they were at full maturity. Then they disappeared completely. There are only rocks at the top of Mount Washington, which allows the winds to become even stronger. 

We started at the base (2,700 feet elevation) with blue skies and temperatures in the low 70's. This area is called the Mixed Forest ecozone. A mix of temperate hardwoods, including maple, beech, and yellow birch, as well as hobblebush and wild raspberry bushes grow in the fertile, well-drained soil. At 3,000 feet, we rode through the Boreal ecozone, consisting mainly of conifers, such as spruce and fir, with paper birch in the lower to mid-range of this ecozone. There are few bushes growing, with  wildflowers, mosses, and ferns being the dominant ground cover. Tree lichens are also common. After 1,000 feet, we were at 4,000 feet elevation. This subarctic climate is home to the Krummholz, which is is a type of stunted, deformed vegetation encountered in subarctic and subalpine tree line landscapes, shaped by continual exposure to fierce, freezing winds. Under these conditions, trees can only survive where they are sheltered by rock formations or snow cover. Out of the open windows on the train, we saw misshapen fir and black spruce and subalpine plants, such as Labrador tea and blueberries. Finally, at 4,400 feet, the trees disappeared. Ground covers are the same as in the Arctic Circle, including mountain cranberries, diapensia, mountain sandwort, various alpine sedges, grasses, and rushes. Mount Washington's summit is at 6,288 elevation. 
Once at the summit, we were told we could stay only for one hour before our train left again. One hour was barely enough for me. We had a rare clear day at the summit. It was gorgeous!! The wind was a steady 34 miles an hour and the windchill was 46 degrees. We loved it, although the storm lover in me would have been just as happy with snow and fog. The clouds were stunning and took my breath away. We headed straight for the line to take a photograph at the summit (6,288 ft).

There were several museums on the summit. There is a U.S. Post Office at the top and we were able to mail postcards. That was very cool. We visited the Tip Top House, which was one of the first lodges at the summit, but we skipped the extreme weather museum because we didn't have enough time. We just wanted to be outside enjoying the elements and the views.


Before we knew it, our train had arrived and it was time to return to the base. What an experience of a lifetime!

Next up ~ The beaches of Maine and American Stonehenge.

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, September 2, 2019

Our Amazing Trip ~ Part 2: Salem, Massachusetts

We spent the second non-travel day of our vacation exploring Salem. A couple years ago, Anne became very interested in the Salem witch trials and wondered what would cause such mass hysteria to whip through a community. I had heard that Salem was a bit of a tourist trap with lots of silly witch stuff. However, I was pleasantly surprised that there were plenty of serious learning opportunities if one looked just a bit. Apparently, Salem is interested in preserving their history and keeping cheesy tourism under control.

We visited the burying ground first thing to study the gravestones. Many of them were from the mid-1700s or even older. We couldn't find the one young woman who was buried in this burial ground and had been accused and hung for being a "witch". However, we very much enjoyed studying the different graves.

We then moved on to The Witch History Museum. We chose this museum because it was supposed to be historically accurate and didn't sensationalize this tragic event in history. It was very well done. The museum started off with a small lecture and them moved through the story of the witch trials while walking past wax displays.

We also visited the Salem Wax Museum, which told all about pirates, maritime history and the witch trials. It was old and a bit outdated, but interesting.

We saved the best for last. We toured the House of the Seven Gables, made famous by American author Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1851 novel, The House of the Seven Gables. It is a 1668 colonial mansion in Salem, Massachusetts, named for its many gables. Hawthorne was a relative of the family who inherited this home and was entertained in this house. Later, he wrote a novel about it. We all found this tour to be fascinating. I always learn something new when touring a historic home. I learned about the water bucket fire brigade and how each home had their own leather buckets with their street address stamped on them, so that everyone would know who showed up (or didn't show up) to put out a fire. It was a good way of shaming everyone into getting the job done when there was a house fire. The kids loved all the hidden passages and the hidden stairwell in the chimney.
This bed and its textiles comprised one-third of the family's wealth and was right in a room where they entertained.
The door has 500 nails in it to show the wealth of the family. (Nails came from England and were expensive.) 

Leather fire buckets

One more fun picture, just because ~ 

Next up ~ Mount Washington, New Hampshire!

Blessings, Dawn