Friday, August 17, 2018

Week 1 ~ Year 20 -- A Gentle Start

Yes, this is our 20th year of homeschooling. I am totally blown away that this is year 20 of our wonderful, amazing, blessed homeschool journey! I am so very thankful for this way of life. I am grateful that I have been able to stay home and shape my children for the last 20 years. What an incredible blessing it has been to all of us. As I watch my friends send their children back to school and start to hear the horror stories (especially from parents of special needs kids) pouring in and the hopelessness my friends feel to improve their children's situations, I am reminded of the awesome power my husband and I have as homeschooling parents. We are not trapped in a broken system and forced to bow to the will of others who often do not have our children's best interest at heart. We do not have to force our children to conform to something they are not or to ascertain facts in a way they do not learn. We can and do make all of the decisions for our children's well being and education. At the end of this journey, if there are failings and missed opportunities, we will have no one to blame but ourselves -- AND I am okay with that. I am content with the fact that I am doing my best every day and that my best is more than good enough. I love my children and am completely invested in their success, and I have the freedom and power to make alterations in their education to boost their chance for success. No public school can ever say that. There will always be missed opportunities and missteps in life. Picking yourself up and moving on is all part of learning and growing. Homeschooling doesn't have to be perfect every day or even every year. There is great learning in the imperfect. So we go on to learn and grow and I feel so blessed.

You would think after 20 years there wouldn't be much new to try, but there are always new opportunities. This year we tried something that many homeschoolers do every year -- a gentle start. We only added in a few subjects this week. I decided that since the kids are in high school now, we are counting hours (per subject), not weeks or days.  Thus, getting everything going at once did not matter in the least. So we started math, their daily grammar worksheet, group time (world history, health, biology/physics, depending on the day), and independent reading this week. That is it. I must admit one of the days felt overwhelmingly full, which was a bit scary considering that we haven't started yet the 16 hours a week of out of the home dance classes plus three other out of the home classes for art and sign language. We also still plan to add in a weekly English paper each week, plus literature and industrial arts for Dean. We will see if it can all be managed, and if it can't we will adjust.

Highlights from week one ~ 

Use It! Don't Lose It! is the perfect review of grammar. It is only taking the kids about 5 to 10 minutes a day do the assignment. Money Matters for Teens Workbook is also a great fit for Dean. He is doing consumer math this year.

Anne dived off the diving board for the first time.

We watched the 1954 version of 20 Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. Dean read Who Is Jules Verne? and gave us a review of the book before we watched the movie. We also found a chair for $40 at the thrift shop and it is in great shape (which Dean is sitting in). Now everyone has a seat in the living room during movie time.
We did several science experiments with solar print paper and popcorn on our quest to understand radiation uses and x-rays better.

We also managed to do every lesson we set out to do and a few extra. Everything is going well, even Algebra. Anne likes Teaching Textbooks but did struggle at the beginning of the week to remember how to do a few things. Maybe we shouldn't have put math away for the entire summer. By the end of the week she was getting back in the hang of it.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, August 10, 2018

Friday Wrap-Up ~ The House Edition

The past two weeks have found us home more than usual and it has been nice. The rain has been intense at time, but our city's rivers are staying in their banks for now. This entire summer, I have spent lots of time thinking more about how to make our home work better for us. We bought this home as a foreclosure almost six years ago. It was a mess when we got it, but we felt very blessed to move our family to a safer neighborhood where we could live in relative peace. The yard was completely overrun with weeds, vines, trees, bugs and snakes of all sorts. It was a real jungle, but the almost acre of space gave us breathing room from our neighbors and somewhere for our rather loud family (at the time) to run and squeal. The inside had faulty electricity, leaking windows, no fixtures, broken flooring, leaking windows, and plumbing issues galore. The new mortgage was bigger and stretched our budget so greatly that we could hardly afford to make necessary improvements. It was extremely overwhelming, to say the least, but there were five bedrooms and three separate common areas so that everyone could get away from each other when need be. With the high level of special needs in our family plus living with a child with mental illness, space and breathing room were absolutely necessary to keep everyone safe. We dug in and tried to find the diamond in the rough, feeling blessed all along the way that we were in a better place than before with our tight, antique, former home in the heart of a very crowded inner city environment (where drug dealers sold their wares on the corner and our children (especially our daughter, Goldilocks) befriended the neighborhood prostitute who would stand on the other side of our front fence. Yes, we were blessed to be able to move. But then, within just a year in a half, everything changed. Our daughter Goldilocks ran away from home, and the professionals agreed with us that we would not be safe if she were returned to the home. A big part of our move had been to protect her and protect us from the type of people she attracted to our door. She was the driving force behind our move and now she was gone, leaving us with a huge mortgage for more land and house than we now needed (not to mention the hundreds of dollars it costs every month to board her in a mental health facility). At the same time, the housing market went insane in our city, and our old neighborhood became very popular and much safer. We missed the beauty of our old 1930's Dutch Colonial. This 1950's rancher had never been the style of home my husband and I desired. I hate to admit it, but resentment set in. Here we were in an overwhelming house, with a huge, unmanageable yard; and because Goldilocks had left, we didn't need it anymore. I am a city girl. I love crowded, small and vibrant spaces. However, because of the market being so "hot," there is no way we can afford now to move. We probably can't even make a step-down move because everything is so ridiculously expensive. 

I do not like feeling resentful, knowing full well that we are truly blessed. So this summer, I have been working on falling back in love (or at least "like") with my home. We are blessed to have a safe home that, due to lots of work, has new windows, safe appliances and electricity. The front yard is welcoming and manageable. The back and side yards are coming along. We spent the better part of the first four years in this home ripping out unwelcome plant life from the yard. Thanks to my Mom and an Aunt, we now have some nice plantings that we have added to the yard. Recently, we bought a ride on lawnmower, so the grass part of the yard can be done quickly. That way, we can get back to fighting the creeping vines.
Inside the house, I have employed the same policy this summer that we used to improve the outside of the house -- get rid of anything that isn't needed and/or makes my heart sing. It is a huge work in progress! We are by no means done getting rid of stuff and painting/recovering/replacing the dated walls, floors, counters and ceilings. However, I did make lots of progress this summer, and I am ready to start the school year with a fresh sense of gratefulness for our home. It is much less overwhelming than it used to be!
BEFORE -- former owner took drawers, doors, and hardware with her
We touched up all of the paint and moved furniture in the living room to make it work better. We still need to find one more chair for the corner by the lamp, but otherwise it is working well. I got the little tea cart (circa World War II) for my birthday and it makes the perfect side table.

We finally decided what to do with Goldilock's room. We had made it into a guest room/eBay office area, but it really was a constant disaster. I decided that it would make a good guest room for grandparents and for when the kids have sleepovers. I am so much happier with the space.

Well, I hope this doesn't come across as a whiny post. I really am glad to be a homeowner in this very desirable city in the mountains. So many of my friends are trapped in rentals or have been forced to move far outside the town or even had to move away entirely because the cost of living here is so difficult. Also, I get annoyed when people complain about money when they have so much. I get that, and we have been blessed to be able to make adjustments to our mortgage to make our month to month budget easier. Also, we were blessed with a small inheritance which we have used to do the traveling we accomplished this year. We are indeed very blessed.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

First Day ~ August

The first day of August in photos ... it is a slow rainy day.
Wise words that spoke to my photographer heart.

Walking my buddy while waiting for daughter to get out of dance.

My view from the parking lot outside of Anne's Cecchetti classes.

Bourree across the room
New pointe shoes

weaking a Nerf gun


Tim's night to make dinner ~ it was a spicy one!

A fun game

Making progress ~ maybe I will get a real shower soon!
Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Anne's Transcript ~ English I ~ 9th Grade

English I is a combination of great literature and literature-based movies. Anne completed all of her assignments, participated in all field trips to see plays, listened to all family read-aloud books and joined our monthly literature movie club. She put effort into her assignments and produced several short writing assignments drawing comparisons between movies and books. She received an 89% for this course. She completed the course with 144 hours.

Plays Attended ~ 
  • Macbeth
  • The Christmas Carol
  • Hamlet
  • Phantom of the Opera
Poems Studied ~ 
  • The Idylls of the King ~ Tennyson
  • The Village Blacksmith ~ Longfellow
  • The Children's Hour ~ Longfellow
  • Paul Revere's Ride ~ Longfellow
Books ~ 
  • The Boy's King Arthur ~ Sidney Lanier
  • Silas Marner ~ George Eliot
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Speckled Band ~ Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Hound of Baskervilles ~ Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Great Expectations ~ Charles Dickens
  • The Westing Game ~ Ellen Raskin
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ~ J.K. Rawling
  • A Year Down Yonder ~ Richard Peck
  • Little Women ~ Louisa May Alcott
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • She Never Looked Back ~ Sam Epstein
  • The Great Stone Face ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne
Movies ~ 
  • Wonder
  • Poirot ~ Three Act Tragedy
  • The Birds
  • Holes
  • Psycho
  • Gone With the Wind
  • Rear Window
  • Alice Through the Looking Glass
  • The Crooked House
  • The Black Stallion
  • The Black Stallion Returns
  • Silas Marner
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde
  • The Bohemia Mystery
  • Frankenstein (1931)
  • Emma
  • The Great Gatsby (both 2013 and 1974)
  • Murder on the Orient Express
  • Great Expectations (2013)
  • Tale of Two Cities
  • Goodbye Christopher Robin
Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Our Week ~ The Bathroom Debacle, Baseball and Going Green

We had a good week, but a complicated week. It didn't go as I had planned, but life rarely does. I am in the final stages of planning our next school year. We have two weeks to go before we start, so I better hurry up. I also need to write transcripts for three more courses the kids completed. 

Our latest Universal Yum box arrived. It was Taiwan and we didn't like the snacks very much. They were all pretty weird. We did have a delightful time daring each other to try different bites and combinations. I liked the bubble tea popcorn. Everyone else thought I was crazy and let me have the whole bag.

I am continuing to try to live a more green and chemical-free lifestyle. We are taking baby steps. If it isn't easy, I know that once the school year gets underway all could be lost in the business of life. However, these are small steps. We gave up plastic straws last month and changed over to paper straws (for when we are out on the road and stop for a sweet tea). These are very unpopular with the kids, so I am going to order metal straws soon. We also switched to waxpaper lunch bags or Tupperware for dear husband and adult son's lunch. That is going great. Lastly, as our supplies run out, I am switching each item to a product that is more natural. I am keeping Chlorox wipes, as well as Tide for really dirty clothes, but otherwise, we are going natural. A few weeks ago, I ran out of dishwasher powder. I made a baking soda and salt mix. You add a few drops of dish soap to the mix as you start the machine. I am pleased with it so far but may try more complicated mixes when this one runs out.

Dishwasher detergent
We had our dear friend, Josephine, over for two more days this week. These three teens are just delightful together. They really enjoyed playing checkers at a downtown store. They played for about an hour while I relaxed in a rocking chair. Then we all picked out a few pieces of candy from the barrels. This is a treat that my kids adore.

Image result for mast general store asheville nc

We also went to a local minor league baseball game, since it was Goodwill night. We each brought three pieces of gently used clothing to donate and then each got a free ticket to the game. It wasn't the best game and our team lost, but everyone had tons of fun talking, watching the game, sharing snacks, watching the bats fly across the full moon overhead and eating french fries. The kids even caught one of the freebies (a bag of muffins) that was shot from the cannons. 

We went mall walking and tried rolled ice cream. I bought just one cup so everyone could try a small taste. They loved it and want to try another flavor next time.

The bathroom debacle happened Sunday night. It started with the soap dish falling off the wall. We noticed that the wall behind was wet and spongy. So we ripped off more tiles with  our bare hands (they were that loose) and started ripping out the wall and wet insulation behind it. We think the grout had worn out and caused moisture to get behind the tile. This shouldn't be a big surprise, considering the bathroom hasn't been renovated since the sixties. I thought we were going to have to take it all down and replace all of the tile and wall, which would have cost a small fortune and ruined my travel dreams for the coming school year. Mind you, I hate that yellow tile, but not enough to give up our hope of traveling to a new state or two. We started thinking how to repair the wall instead. I scrubbed all of the grout off of the tiles and cleaned them up and my husband and Dean cleaned up the area and bought new waterproof wall board and tile grout. However, by the end of the week, my husband decided that this was over his head and we called in my Mom's handyman. He will do the rest of the job for $100, using our supplies in the next week or two. For now, we are washing our hair in the sink and taking very shallow baths.

Last but not least ~ Rosie is growing bigger all the time and is turning into a sweet cat. She loves all kinds of balls and is very partial to my wool dryer ball.

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Dean's Transcript ~ Career Education

This course is designed to give Dean the opportunity to experience several different work environments and develop skills that will help him in the workforce in years to come. He volunteered in three different environments. He worked for 151 hours.

Nature Center Junior Naturalist Program ~ Dean worked 37 hours at our local nature center during their summer Junior Naturalist Program. He worked in three different stations each day during his four hour shift. He worked in the nature lab, Appalachian station and the barn. He cleaned a lot, took care of the goats, taught the public how to touch the turtles, answered the public's questions about animals, and gave out basic information about the nature center. He helped with research, bird count and maintenance of the Appalachian Station. He always had a teammate and practiced social skills and sometimes needed to encourage his teammate to do her portion of the job. The nature center was pleased with his service and said he was welcome back.

ZaPow Art Gallery ~ Dean volunteered for six shifts of two hours each at ZaPow. This was an opportunity provided by his art teacher in which he learned about how the gallery store is maintained on a daily basis. He swept, recycled, hung new art work for sale, straightened paintings on the wall, painted and spackled walls for new art layouts, sorted bins to put away misplaced art and did general cleaning of the staff back room. His boss, Laura Harkrider Sheridan, said that he did a wonderful job.

ACDT's Mayan Adventures Camp Counselor ~ Dean worked for three weeks as a volunteer head counselor at Mayan Adventure camp. The campers were ages 8-12 and were mostly boys. Different campers were there each week. He worked a total of 90 hours.  He refereed games, helped with the clay table, led campers on long hikes and games in the woods, taught stage combat, watched campers at the pool, and taught hand sewing and woodworking skills. He also learned to work with a junior counselor who didn't pull his weight, was rude to campers and generally needed lots of redirection. He spoke to his boss about the junior counselor and followed his advice in dealing with him. His boss, Giles Collard, said that he did a wonderful job and was welcome to come back next year.

Documentaries and Life Lessons ~ 
  • Innovator's Tribe ~ An engineering course online to teach about what a career in engineering would be like.
  • Movie ~ Minimalist ~ This movie talked about the importance of doing what you love and creating a lifestyle where you do not need tons of material objects so that you can be happy and do your dream job instead of chasing the newest flashy thing that society acts like we all need. 
  • Movie ~ Happy ~ This movie talks about how happiness comes from hard work, a loving community and pride in a job well done and caring for others first. 
Dean achieved an A for this course. He conquered some of his uncomfortable feelings of working with the public and was complimented by all of his bosses. He loved the camp counseling job the best. 

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Our Week in 200 words!

I planned to just touch up the kitchen paint, but the new gallon of paint wasn't a perfect match, so I ended up repainting the entire kitchen this week. I am even more pleased with the slightly darker blue, so it is all good.

There was a great deal of water play this week, both at the pool and in the yard. We had Anne's best friend every afternoon this week, and wherever Josephine is, there is always tons of laughter. Along with Dean, these three get along so well that it is always a delight to have her over.

They also played Monopoly Deal for hours. It is a much faster version of Monopoly, and they played game after game.

We also had Dean's girlfriend over for miniature golf, which was filled with hysteria and laughter. Let's just say none of the four are ready to become professionals.

The girls also did week two of the dance intensive at the studio. The end of the week performance was wonderful. I know Anne is not totally in love with belly dancing, but she is an absolute natural at it, and her performance was a delight to watch. I wish I could get the video to load here.

Blessings, Dawn