Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Day In the Life of Our Homeschool

I get asked all the time by strangers, family, friends and our doctors what it looks like to homeschool four children when three have special needs.  Well, the truth is every day looks different, just as it does for most of us who are on this remarkable journey.  I thought I would try to record one of our days. 

7:15 am ~ Got up.  This is late for me to get up.  Tom Sawyer usually wakes me up at 6:30 and my husband rises at 6 am.

8:30 am ~ Everyone is up, dressed, fed (mini-bagels with cream cheese and applesauce), and finishing up their chores.

8:30-9:30 am ~ The little ones do their copy work (thank you notes, spelling words, plus her full name for the youngest).  They also did a math sheet, calendar skills, and phonics songs.  The big teen checked on his biology experiments and recorded the needed data.  He also checked and responded to his email (creative writing).

9:30 am ~ Off to Tomatis/OT.  The Tomatis method of auditory stimulation is designed to reawaken the ear's natural ability to listen and thus ultimately stimulate the brain's desire to communicate.  My special needs children each have a one-on-one occupational therapist while they are listening to the music and sounds coming from the headphones.  They do many activities besides what are mentioned below, and the kids really enjoy going there.  This program is helpful for autism, sensory integration dysfunction disorders, pervasive developmental disorder , and learning disabilities.  My three oldest have one or more of these labels.  We have seen dramatic improvement in two of them and some mild improvement in the third.  We are so blessed to have this program within driving distance; there are only about seven such programs in the whole country!  It is also a reality check for me.  Yes, I have plenty on my plate (my children have 19 diagnoses between them), but seeing some of the other kids reminds me that it could be so much harder.  I am very blessed to have a supportive family, loving husband, great special children, and a strong faith.  There are days when I am completely overwhelmed trying to meet their special needs, but it is all worth it.

10:00-12:00 ~ We are fortunate that all three children got appointments for this loop (which lasts 10 days, every day except Sundays) at the same time.  Yippee!!!

Photos depict: Tom Sawyer and Goldilocks playing in rice and bean buckets, shaving cream on a mirror, microphone work with Tom Sawyer repeating the sounds that come through the headset, the big teen doing swing and balance work, and Little Red Ridinghood getting to play in one of the empty OT rooms.   She sometimes feels left out of the fun and says it's hard to be the normal one!

The big teen did about an hour of creative writing while at Tomatis today, too.  I consider all of Tomatis as school, but it is great when they get the big teen to do his course work with them!

12:00 pm ~ Lunch on the way home (Goldfish crackers, cranberry juice, and organic ham sandwiches).

1:00-2:00 pm ~ We made brownies and watched a Veggie Tales DVD.  Lots of hands-on math and life skills for the little ones.  The big teen read in his room.

2:00-2:30 pm ~ The little ones played outside, while the big teen played Oregon Trail on the computer.

2:30-4:00 pm ~  Everyone in their own room doing their own thing.  I took one child out at a time to do reading lessons with the little ones and math with my big teen (we are reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad for consumer math course at the moment).  I also talked to my Mom on the phone.  The big teen also read several articles for his current affairs course.

Well that about does it for us today.  The kids are now watching "Cheaper by the Dozen" and I am off to make dinner.  Later tonight, the big teen and I will watch a biology video, and we plan on looking at some pond scum under the microscope that we collected yesterday.  That will be all for today. 

I left out the two loads of laundry, the boy who wanted to make his own fish net and all of the trial around that, tending the strawberry garden and teaching a few kiddos how to roller skate a little bit better, not to mention kissing boo boos and all those other mothering things.  Sheesh!  No wonder I am tired by 5 pm!

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, April 28, 2008

We Have a 6 Year Old!

My little Tom Sawyer is 6 years old!  Where do the years go?!  As many of you know, my little guy loves anything artsy.  When it came to planning his party, there was no doubt that we were going to have an art-themed party.  The question was how to please the little guy and keep the cost reasonable.  He thought a fun event would be to paint the Sistine Chapel on our ceiling and make a cake with a Monet painted on it.  WHAT?!  He was serious, but that was a bit beyond my ability.  Luckily, he had a blast with what we came up with, and it was a fun party.  We made a pinata and it took the kids longer to break it than I thought it would.  Then they decorated cookies, made their own party hats, and painted pictures.  They also played outside a lot.  My little guy really likes some modern artists and agreed to let me make a Mondrian cake.  This artist is much closer to my ability.  LOL!

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, April 26, 2008

I Love Yard Saling!!

Did I mention that I love yard saling?  I really don't get to go very often, but today I got to go to a sale at a mega church that had an attached preschool!  I figured it would be a good place to find some great stuff.  I never imagined I would do so well.  Here is a list and photos of what I got.

(Photo 1: roller skates -- videos on the story of Moses and division -- a learning to tell time board game -- winter boots -- sight word cards -- play food -- Disney knee and elbow pads -- a sand shovel -- ballet shoes -- light fixtures -- eight pieces of clothes for the girls plus a skirt for me)

(Photo 2: six new workbooks -- a multiplication placemat -- tracing letter set -- three Bible workbooks)

(Photo 3: marble raceway toy)

Guess how much I paid for all of this?  I PAID ONLY $7.  Can you believe it?  I love yard sales!!

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Our Last Biology Dissection

We did the starfish the other day.  As usual this dissection was really to benefit the big teen since it is his course work, but everyone got in on the action.  I probably should have done the starfish first since it has such a simple system but, alas, I did not.  Photos depict (1) before we started the dissection, (2) studying the digestive system ... the mouth is for taking in food as well as removing waste, and (3) examining the reproductive system under the microscope to determine if we had a male or female (it was male). 

Everyone loves the microscope.  This brings us to the end of our dissections.  We were able to do a cow's heart, cow's eye, frog,  and a starfish.  I wanted to do a fetal pig, but time and funds didn't allow this time around.  The big teen is more than happy to watch a pig dissection on the Internet anyway.  My little ones will do all of these and more in about 8 more years, so we will get to do this all again. 

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, April 21, 2008

Do your children play games?

Computer games you ask?  No!  Do your children play board and card games?  Is this becoming a lost pastime in our modern world?  Should games be included in our academic time?  I have noticed among some of my friends that their children do not know how to play any non-computer games.  In some cases, they don't even own any board games in their homes.  However, I know many others that do have games and play them often.  I personally think that games have a valuable place in our homes.  They provide turn taking, cooperation skills, thinking skills, and dealing with being the winner or the loser, just to name a few.  I love games and taught my kids early to play them.  Favorites around here for the younger set are War, Go Fish, Candy Land, and Teddies on Tour.  The older of us never get tired of Apples to Apples, Scrabble, and Worst Case Scenario.  Today was a game day around here.  The little kids played lots of games after they had made it through reading and math and, yes, I counted it as school.  Here is a look at them in action.

Also, for my Mother's birthday we played Scrabble.  I just had to take a photo of this, because I managed to get rid of a Q and a Z on the same word!  I thought that was a super good feat.  LOL!

So here's the question ~ Do you play board games and which are your favorites?  I am always looking for new games to add to the shelves.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

We Had a Visitor Today

I thought only cats were known to bring little "gifts" to their owners.  However, our dog, Lady, brought us a "gift" today.  The kids were very pleased with the "gift" but -- me -- not so much!  She brought the snake to my youngest son, who promptly put it into a bug jar.  The kids then researched it on the Internet to decide what kind of snake it was.  A few years ago, my oldest son kept a nest of baby snakes in his room for an entire week BEFORE he figured out that they were Copperheads!  I have no desire for that to happen again!  (The Copperheads moved to our regional nature center.)  The kids couldn't figure out what kind of snake it was.  I know some of you are thinking, your son is an intern in the reptile section of the nature center ~ How does he not know what kind of snake it is?  That is a good question that I posed to him.  He says it is hard to tell when they are babies, but he was pretty sure it was a corn snake.  Pretty sure is just not good enough for me!  Bye-bye, Mr. or Ms. Snake.  The kids did enjoy drawing pictures of him/her, so I guess we at least got in a nature study.

The little snake was released to a vacant lot up the street from our house.  So do any of you let unknown critters live in your home, or do they have to go bye-bye?

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fun New Hobby

My big teen got a GPS reciever for his birthday, and he is having a lot of fun learning how to use it.  This weekend we decided to go on a geocaching hunt.  We had so much fun that it will probably become a fun family hobby.  Basically, you go to the web site in the link mentioned above and become a member for free.  You then find a geocache in your area that you want to find.  Then you lock in the coordinates and off you go on a quest.  The coordinates take you very close to the geocache (a box with little knick knacks in it) and then you have to search for it.  Some are easier to find than others.  

We found two on Saturday and stuck to easy ones, since we were wandering around with the little kids.  The first box was a tiny plastic container that we never would have found without the GPS and clues, even though it was right on a major road.  The second was on a park trail and was in plain view with the coordinates.  It was an ammo-box and had lots of little toys in it.  The kids traded in marbles and magnets for a Matchbox car and My Little Pony brush.  I forgot to take a picture of the second one.  

This was a fun activity for everyone but for different reasons.  My big teen loved wandering around in the woods and playing with the GPS.  My dh loved the new gadget, and the littles loved trading in old trinkets for new ones.  Of course, I loved seeing my family have fun, but now I have a new secret desire! These geocaches are like my new Goodwill.  I can get rid of all kinds of little things (like McDonald toys) in these boxes!  My kids won't even notice if we put more in the boxes than we take out.  So, actually, geocaching can be another way of getting rid of stuff!!  Yippee!  The last box even had kid videos and CDs in it.  Now I know where to put those videos I don't want anymore.  LOL!!  

What's more, they have Flat Stanley boxes in our area, and a friend told me that her family's Flat Stanley made it all the way to a geocache in Canada.  How cool is that?  We plan on doing a Flat Stanley next school year, and I was wondering how to make him travel.  Anyway, if you don't know what I am talking about, go check out -- it really is fun.  

Here are some photos.  I have no idea why Tom Sawyer looks so grouchy, because he really did have fun.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I Love This New Chore System

We started using Managers of Their Chores almost two weeks ago and so far, so good.  The kids were already doing chores but not always to the standard I wanted, and the house was not really organized.  I usually just looked around and saw what needed to be done and barked out orders to do it or got fed up with the state of the house and canceled school for the day to clean.  With this system, I was forced to sit down and figure out what really had to happen in a day and who was up to doing it.  Now everything that has to be done is done before little ones go to bed, and I have more time to get extra stuff done.  I also have more time to (gasp) rest in the evening. 

What's more, the kids are doing an average of two more chores a day than before, and most of them are loving it.  Tom Sawyer has never been much for chores and needs lots of training around doing his chores with a happy heart.  However, even he is stepping up to the plate and getting it done.  So what is so different about this system than others?  Well, I think one big mistake I was making was doing "sweeps" instead of the same list of chores.  Somehow nothing was ever completed.  Also, this program really helps the challenged housekeeper, like me, really break down the chores into smaller segments.  I used to tell my teen ~ "Go clean the kitchen,"  instead of breaking it down into separate jobs, such as, clean the stove and frig, fill the dishwasher, etc.  Breaking everything down has really helped all my kiddos do a better job.  The other thing I love is adding in some personal chores, like getting dressed and coming out of your room with a good attitude.  My Goldilocks' first card has a smiley face on it to reminder her that I expect a good attitude out of her.

That brings me to the chore cards.  Instead of the chores being posted somewhere, the kids wear their chores in little packets that clip onto their clothes.  Their chores are with them so that they can check and see what to do next.  This gives them excellent accountability and saves a lot of yelling up and down the stairs about what to do next.  My non-readers have picture cards that tell them what to do.  Also, I love how I can rotate the cards to meet each day's needs.  All the cards are numbered so they know the order to work through them, so I have a lot of cards with the number 6 on them.  That way I can rotate the six chores each day, and we get some of those weekly things taken care of.

There have been some problems, of course.  I had to rework the cards twice because of "traffic jams" or kids waiting for others to get something done so that they could do their particular chore.  Also, about 5 days into it, the work got a bit sloppy; and I had to go back and do a better job checking their chores.  Plus, Tom Sawyer doesn't like wearing his and has managed to lose it twice.  But because the house is so much more put together, I found it quickly.  Anyway, I am super-excited about this routine.  Hey, my dh asked me to make him a chore pack to wear around, too.  Can you believe it?!

The photos show Little Red Ridinghood and Goldilocks clearing the table, cleaning off plates and putting away dishes from the dishwasher.  You've got to love Tom Sawyer's attempt at a happy smile while doing laundry.  LOL

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tightwad Tuesday ~ Home Depot Kids Club

This may be a regional post, but if you have a Home Depot around you, their kids club is great.  Every month they hold a building club on Saturdays for kids to come and build with a parent.  The club is FREE and they get to build something new each month.  In our area you do not even need to register beforehand.  This has become a great daddy and son activity in my family that both my dh and younger son look forward to doing.  If you have a Home Depot in your area, check it out.  Here is what "Tom Sawyer" has made in the past month -- a planter, castle money bank, race car and stool.  He loves his apron almost as much as his projects.  The orange car he made blends into the orange apron, so you'll have to look closely.

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, April 7, 2008

Could it really be?

Could it really be that my firstborn is 18 years old today?!  Happy Birthday, my amazing son!  I can hardly believe it.  What a long road it has been getting you here safe and sound, son.  When you were placed in my arms 18 years ago, as every Mother, I had great dreams for my sweet little bundle.  You were so tiny but very quickly we realized that you were very sick and might not stay long on this earth with us.  What a crushing blow that information was!  While other Mothers left the hospital dreaming of their little bundles' potential, I was on my knees begging praying to God that you would get to see your crib, first home, a sunrise; hear the ocean; and feel the grass under your cute BIG feet.  There was so much I wanted for you and the time seemed so short.  However, through God's grace, your path was to stay on earth and for that I will be forever grateful.  In the early years, I never could have dreamed that you would grow so tall, strong, and witty ... that you would indeed feel the grass under your still BIG feet and not just hear the ocean but swim in it ... that you would climb mountains to see God's glory and become a naturalist who has a wonderful gift with animals.  Happy Birthday, son! 

After the big teen's three cardiac arrests in his first 5 months of life, he had open heart surgery at 6 months of age.  The surgery turned out to be so complicated that he could not be moved from the RECOVERY room for more than a week. Then he spent another week in Intensive Care before needing to return to the operating room for yet more surgery!

But look at him now...the birthday boy!!

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Our Lapbook on Stellaluna

We had a great time reading and doing a mini-unit study on Stellaluna.  For math the little ones learned about pairs, counted by two's, and practiced counting past 50.  They also tested their senses by smelling fruit with their eyes closed to see if they could figure out what it was.  Also, for science they learned about carnivores, omnivores, and herbivores as well as the anatomy of bats.  They learned more about continents as they traced fruit bats around the world.  The kids really liked working on their second lapbook for copy work.  I love the way lapbooks reinforce what the kids have learned and give them a permanent record in a nice book that they can look back at.  Here is a look at our latest lapbook.

We are doing The Grouchy Ladybug next week.  I can't wait to see that lapbook!

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Biology and Dissecting a Frog

If dissecting is gross to you, just skip this entry.  We finally got around to dissecting the frog.  The little ones wanted in on the big teen project, so we made it a family event.   Everyone, even Grandma, got in on the act.  Well everyone except Dad and Goldilocks.  They have no interest in such things.  We ended up with a boy frog.  I was amazed how much Tom Sawyer and Little Red Ridinghood were interested, and they even dissected the muscles in the legs.  The big teen did most of the cutting and he managed to find most of the organs.  Photos are shown of the dissecting crew.

The line of the day ~ You know you are homeschooling when you come back into the room and everyone is under the table looking for the missing frog eyeball.  LOL

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tightwad Tuesday

I am very excited about joining my first Tightwad Tuesday hosted by Canadagirl.

Sometimes you get lucky and find something that will make a real difference in your homeschool PLUS save lots of money.  This is what happened to me last week.  I found five Great Museums of The World art books at a library sale.  They were filled with almost 100 prints each.  I paid $3.00 for each book.  I then took the books and cut out all the prints that were bigger than 4" x 6", appropriate for all ages in my home, and famous by artist or painting.  I then glued the prints to old 8x10 card stock that was laying around the house and pasted the name of artist, year, and name of painting to the back of the card stock.  The result is that I now have 76 prints for my children to do Charlotte Mason picture studies.  I have wanted to buy some prints for a long time now but they are very costly and often small.  For the cost of $15 dollars and a few hours of effort I have more prints than I could ever have afforded!  Hurray!!  There are still many prints left in the books that can be used for other projects in the future.  

Since this is Tightwad Tuesday, I would love to ask you all a tightwad question.  My younger ds turns 6 this month and wants an art themed birthday party.  Any ideas on cheap art projects for eight kids who are 3 to 7 years of age?  I would love to hear your ideas.

Blessings, Dawn