Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Couple of Almost Free Days

We have been blessed with a couple of almost free, fun-filled days.  I am really trying to come up with family events that don't cost anything.  On Saturday we hit the jackpot for free fun stuff.  First, we went to Lowe's Build It With Kids' Club.  The kids got to make a hand-held ball game.  Personally, I think that Home Depot's kids' club has better thought out kits that last longer.  However, the point was a kid-friendly, free day.  Lowe's was also doing an event with GMC.  They were holding a test drive of GMC cars in return for a Lowe's $15 gift card.  My husband drove a pick-up truck and spent his gift card on a new garden hose.  He only went over the gift card by a few cents.  Yay! 

We then went to family free day at our regional nature center (which is more like a small zoo).  It was raining, so we had the place just about to ourselves.  We enjoyed playing in puddles and seeing all the new baby animals.  When my son got off work (he volunteers at the nature center), we went home and watched a new DVD that I had bought on clearance awhile back.  I was waiting for a rainy day to pull it out.

We also made it to the last free summer movie at the theater today.  It was Happy Feet and the kids enjoyed the music.  We packed our own soda, popcorn and $1.50 worth of candy from our neighborhood pharmacy.  So, except for gas, we only spent $1.50 on a lot of family fun in the last few days!

I hope you all are finding cheap fun this summer.  To get more ideas, go to Canadagirl.

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook


Outside my Window ~ The sun is just now coming up.  It looks like it is going to be a nice day.

I am thinking ~ We are entering two weeks of having appointments every single day.  I really have to stay focused so our days run as smoothly as possible.

I am thankful for ~ My dear husband, who worked hard this weekend so that I could get off to a good start on this hectic schedule.

From the kitchen ~ Just basic food preparation.

I am creating ~  Chemistry games to make my big teen's chemistry course more fun.

I am going ~ To take the big teen to his volunteer job and then pick him up later this afternoon.

I am wearing ~ Red and white checkered pants and a star shirt.

I am reading ~ Christy by Catherine Marshal (again).

I am hoping ~ That my dd (7) wakes up with a reasonable attitude.  She was a real pill all weekend.

I am hearing ~ The hum of the computer and my dog waking up.  Kids are still asleep.

Around the house ~ I need to clean up the back deck.

One of my favorite things ~ Listening to dd (4) tuck her baby dolls in at night.  She is such a tender little "mother".

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week 
My dd (7) starts another loop of Tomatis (Sensory Integration Dysfunction therapy), the last free summer movie, and ds (18) is helping out with day camp all week at his volunteer job.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing for you ~

To see more Simple Woman's Daybook, go to simple woman.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, July 25, 2008

Show and Tell


This is my first time doing Friday Show and Tell, and I am excited about joining in.  I am going to show how I control the toys in our home.  I have been using this system for only a month in my home and it is working great.  We don't have a playroom or family room so toys were stored wherever I could find a spot. We used to keep toys all over the place.  You had to walk all over to put things away.  It really wasn't working.  So I started exploring how others did it and discovered some people use a toy closet.  We have a strange little area in our kitchen, perhaps meant as a breakfast nook back in 1931. But it really isn't big enough for a table for our family and always seemed like wasted space.  I decided to turn it into our toy "closet". 

The new toy "closet".  We used our old computer cabinet and old tubs from the basement.

The inside of the old computer cabinet.  I managed to squeeze in all the toy tools, Legos, play food, Technics, Brio track and trains, marbles and tubes, doll house furniture, Play Mobil, army men, puppets, and Bay Blades (spinning tops game).  I still need to finish labeling everything.

Along the floor are tubs of blocks, Lincoln Logs, musical instruments, figurines and the kid's Matchbox car mountain.  When they want something, they get the tub out and then bring it all back in the same tub when they are done.  So far, they are doing a great job returning everything.

This is our table time cabinet (old pie safe).  The kids can get anything out of here and play with it at the dining room table.  This part of the system has been around for a long time.  In here we have Mr. Potato head, Lite Brite, Playdough, money play, puzzles, coloring books and sticker books, crayons, markers, pencils, and lots of small games or games one can play by oneself.

There are still some toys in each child's room.  However, those toys are supposed to stay in their rooms.  In their rooms are dolls, our rather large Fisher Price village, dress up and the My Little Pony collection.  We also have a lot of games, family puzzles, and art supplies in two closets that the kids cannot get into by themselves.  I am so pleased with how this new system is working.  It is about time my home does not look like a toy store all the time!  

To see more Show and Tell Friday entries, go to Canadagirl .

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It's Official

No more we suspect ... or there is a history of ... or most likely she has ....  Yesterday, the geneticist diagnosed my 7 year old daughter with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), and depending on a few measurements that need to be confirmed from her birth records, she may be upgraded to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).  There really is very little difference between the two; the latter has more facial anomalies.  We always had heard the stories that her birth mother was "falling down drunk" as we moved through different departments of the government, such as WIC and DSS, but it seemed strange to us and the doctors that Goldilock's younger brother (Tom Sawyer) showed no effects of alcohol; and just the opposite, he is very bright and growing like a weed (whereas FASD children have trouble growing).  Because of her brother's success, in the past the doctors felt that, although she may be labeled with FASD some day, it was more likely that her environment had been so poor and abusive in infancy.  They believed that once she was on the healing path from RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), her development, academics, and behavior would catch up.  She is considered to be somewhat healed from RAD; but her behavior is still very unpredictable, processing is very slow, and academics are coming out poor on tests (as if I didn't already know that).  Recently, she tested again with an IQ in the high 70's, and now her growth has slowed down a great deal.  She hasn't changed shoe sizes or clothing sizes in 2 years, but has grown a bit taller.  So we went back to the doctors for another evaluation.

In some ways, I feel relieved and in other ways devastated.  My little girl really is bonded to us and knows and wants us as her parents.  I figure it took her 5 years and so many hours of therapy to get her here.  This is great news.  However, FASD is permanent brain damage, and there is no recovering from or healing from it.  There is only learning how to live with it and helping her meet her full potential within it.  I knew in my heart that this was coming for a long time but it is still hard to digest.  This new diagnosis means that she most likely will qualify for CAP, a program that provides a one-on-one to help her with school, behavior management, and so on.  This is great since all mental health support is drying up rapidly in this state.  It also means more books to read and a new support group to join, which may afford me more tricks of the trade.

I am not at all new to raising complicated children and searching out and finding the gifts God has bestowed upon my little ones.  I have been raising complicated children for 18 years now.  My big teen is meeting his God-given potential and turning into a wonderful young man (who will always need support on the home front), despite dire predictions that he would only be able to function in a group home/institution.  So we embark on this new path with our Goldilocks.

Please pray that we will find the right support and answers to help our little girl ... that she will meet her fullest possible potential ... that we will continue to see her grow and develop ... that we will find her true gifts and figure out how to help her bring them to life.

A side note ~ The geneticist begged me to never put her into public school! She said that public school would destroy her fragile self-worth, which we have worked so hard to achieve. She said Goldilocks was so blessed to be homeschooled and that I should never give up and think that the school system could do better.  No worries there ....

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Week 1, Year 10 Complete!

Wow!  It still amazes me that we have been on this homeschool journey for 10 years now and love it more all the time!  How cool is that?!  Well, the little ones and I are using Story of the World (SOTW) this year and may I say we love, love, love it!  So far it is just what I wanted, with very few of my own additions.  In fact, looking over the first few months, there is very little I would add.  I actually own a lot of their extra reading suggestions, too.  We kicked off the new year with an archaeological dig in the sandbox.  I buried about 40 things and the kids all had their own section.  After they dug up the household items, they told me what they were used for and what it said about our family.  They loved this activity.

We then moved on to making hand prints out of Plaster of Paris to remind ourselves what our hands looked like in 2008 ~ another great way to understand history in a "hands-on" way.  LOL!

The kids also loved doing cave painting.  They really worked at it until they were pleased with the outcome.

The top one is done by my Tom Sawyer (6). 

The kids enjoy coloring the coloring pages that come with the SOTW workbook while I read to them and are also having fun with the map work.  We are starting a timeline so they can watch history go by (more on that in another post).  Reading and math are getting off the ground, too, and I hope to have circle time up and happening by next week.

The big teen is off to a good start with his studies.  However, the nature center that he interns at has asked him to work for an additional week as a camp counselor, so I guess we will have to school "light" for another week.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, July 11, 2008

Back to School ~ Part II

This post lists the plans for my three little ones.  We start school officially on Monday!

Double aack!!  My baby is a kindergartner this year!  So according to the government, my littles ones are in 2nd, 1st, and K this year.  However, as all of us who homeschool know, that doesn't mean that the grade level is the same as the kid's level.  In our case. the 2nd grader is on PreK/K level, depending on the topic; the brand new 1st grader is a very solid middle to late year 1st grader; and the kindergartner is a kindergartner.  I will be teaching them separately in the 3 R's and keeping them together for history, literature, Spanish, art, circle time and Five in a Row (FIAR) activities.  I really wanted to use Winter Promise this year but decided that it was cost prohibitive.  I already had a lot of great stuff and just needed to add a history program. 

We decided to go with The Story of the World, starting with Volume I.  I am  so excited about this program.  The activity book that you can buy with the book is just great.  I look forward to making the history very hands on for my kiddos.

For the 3 R's, I will be using Teach your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons for the kindergartner; Museum Phonics for the 1st grader; and many, many games, Explode the Code, etc. for the 2nd grader, with 100 Easy Lessons being the backbone.  With her brain damage issues, she needs heavy repetition but in a unique way.  Everything must be kept fresh, new and exciting.  For math, we will continue with Miquon Math, which they are all enjoying.  I hope to add in more living math books this year, as well.

For literature, we will continue with FIAR.  I have about 12 books lined up already.  They are all organized in their large zip locked bags complete with lap booking material, instructions, shopping lists, worksheets and anything else that relates to the book.  I plan on taking a break from our history program every few weeks and doing some FIAR books.  In this way, we can go back and forth and not overwhelm Mommy!  When we are not doing FIAR, we will be reading chapter books together each afternoon.  I have lined up What Would Jesus Do?, Five Little Peppers and How they Grew, and Charlotte's Web.  (The photos show what my FIAR packs look like.)

I also bought some big workbooks for those days that are just too crazy for anything else.  We do indeed have those days with our many, many doctor/therapy appointments.  My kids enjoy workbooks a lot, as long as they are not an everyday thing.  I find workbooks good for review and reinforcement.

We will be covering Spanish (word of the day), calendar skills, character training, sensory activity, and family prayer in circle time each morning.  Art, music, and science will be covered when they come up in the Story of the World and FIAR books.  Also, those of you who follow this blog know that my Tom Sawyer won't let a day go by without art or science happening! 


I plan on breaking up the day with morning circle time and the 3 R's.  After lunch, we'll have "fun school" ~ special activity, FIAR, Story of the World, or other events.  The big teen will work near/with me in the morning after the kids are done with the 3 R's and again in late afternoon/evenings.  Later next week, I will post a part III, which will be about our outside activities, special plans, and special things that help my special kids cope better.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Back to School~Part I

I know it is only July, but we have plans to take most of October off for several special events, so it is time for us to buckle back down to the books.  We will officially start school on Monday!  This entry will be about my big teen's course work and part II will be about the little ones' education.  Aack!!  My big teen is entering his Senior year~12th grade could it really be?!?  This year he will be doing course work in~ U.S. Government, World Literature, World Religions, Algebra I, Career Prep (work skills), Community Service, and Chemistry/Physics (survey course ~ one semester each).  Yes, my head is spinning about helping him get through all of this material, but I have faith that I have picked good books and that will make all the difference.

For Algebra we will be using Teaching Textbooks.  I have heard so many great things about these textbooks; I hope they will not disappoint.

For U.S. Government, we are using Exploring Government by Notgrass.  I love the layout of this book, and my big teen has already been sneaking to read this text.  Hee Hee Hee!!!

World Literature will be covered by reading a variety of stories, poetry and essays from two Norton Anthology texts.

World Religions will be covered in part by me and in part by the retired college professor who taught his homeschool world history class last year.  I plan on having him listen to the Bible on CD once more, reading Quiet Rebels (a story of Quakerism in America which is our family heritage and how I was raised), and a large selection of DVDs from Blockbusters Online that explore several faiths that I really don't know much about.  He also would like to visit a few different faiths to see them in action on Sundays.  His teacher will be giving a historical explanation of how all of the world religions formed and explore why they are so often at war with each other.  We feel that it is important that our son understand different faiths so he can stand on solid ground in defense of his own.  We also feel that understanding those that are different than you helps break down walls of fear and create tolerance.

For Chemistry and Physics, I will be using Real Science 4 Kids.  Now this is an elementary text, but my son's learning differences are so severe that this will be appropriate for him.  In teaching this course, I will concentrate heavily in lab experiments, many from additional books.  He will also be reading some famous scientist biographies and watching some DVDs.  I still have to make a big order from a science catalog, so we will not get around to this course for a few weeks.

For Career Prep, he will be counting his internship at the regional nature center and several DVDs on interviewing skills, work ethics, etc.  He will also be working on his resume (many hours are already logged in this course).

For Community Service, many hours are already logged.  He does a lot of community service with our church, extra service with the nature center, family activities, and work with the food bank.

He will do about 100 hours per course. 

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Unplug Your Kids Project ~ Sky

This week's assignment at unplug your kids is SKY.  We have been enjoying our new book, Little Cloud, by Eric Carle, so I built my theme around that.  I also found some Klutz Eric Carle collage paper hidden away.  I decided to have the children explore collage while doing a sky theme.  First, we read our book and discussed all the things that clouds can look like.  Then we talked about all the things you can see in the sky during the day and night.  I then pulled out our collage materials and let the creative bug take over.

Most of the kids and I really enjoyed this project.  They made rain clouds over flowers, a sunrise, a fireworks display, and a bunny hiding from the sun.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Photos and Stories From Our Trip

We have been home for about 2 weeks and I am just now getting around to posting about our trip to Northern Virginia and Washington, DC.  The point of this trip was to see my Dad and Stepmother and get some sightseeing in.  My dh was not able to make this trip, but blessedly, my Mother was able to come along.  Having her along made the trip much easier.  We were also blessed that my Dad paid for the gas and my parents' next door neighbor (and close friend) moved out of her house and into my Dad's house, so that we could have her home for our stay.  That was so very kind and made our trip much easier.  It takes a lot of planning to travel with four kids, especially when three of them have special needs.  Even with all the planning, the travel part of the trip was pretty rough this time.

Day 1 ~ The first day of our stay we went to the Natural History Museum.  I grew up in the area and knew all about the museums so I had gotten the kids excited about seeing certain exhibits.  Unfortunately, the giant blue whale was in storage, so my dd who loves anything ocean missed out on that.  Anyhow, that day at the Natural History Musuem was the hardest day by far.  I forgot how overwhelming that museum is (loud and crowded), and the kids were very overwhelmed.  They are used to small hands-on museums in our small city and, with their special issues, just could not get a lot out of it (actually, I am surprised how much they've mentioned about what they remember now that we're home).  I think the first picture says it all.

As you can see, I am like "take the picture!", Goldilocks has her tongue out of her mouth and her shirt is wet from her chewing on it (common for FAS/PDD kids), Little Red Ridinghood is making a break for it, and the boys had already escaped.

The day was saved by eating popsicles from an ice cream truck and sitting at the statue garden fountain for a nice cool off.

Day 2 ~ We went back downtown to the National Gallery of Art, where both my Dad and Stepmother work.  This day was special for my boys, who both really like art.  My stepmother took us behind the scenes, and we were able to see a Leonardo Da Vinci up close and personal.  We also got to see my Dad's Photography Lab and how the matting machine, "nicknamed Roberta," works.  "She" messed up some of the mats for the day, and they were given to Tom Sawyer so he could do art with them.  They look flawless to us....  I grew up in that museum and it brought back pleasant memories, as always.  We also had lunch at the gallery, shopped in the gallery kid's gift shop, and saw a few great exhibits.  At lunch, the kids played Ring Around the Rosy in front of the wall fountain.

Day3 ~ found us at a Virginia water park.  Oh boy, was this fun!!  There was a lazy river, lots of slides for all ages, obstacle courses and lots of shallow water to play in.  The kids had a blast, and the adults could have stayed on the lazy river forever.

Day 4 ~ My 36th BIRTHDAY!  We were able to see lots of extended family on this day.  It was nice to catch up and for the kids to play with their cousins.  The day was finished off with a Baskin Robbin's ice cream cake and driveway fireworks!  We all fell into bed very late!

Day 5 ~ Time to head home.  I just had to take a few pics of my parents' neighborhood before heading out.  You know how they say, "You can't go home"...?  Wow! Every time we go up there, it is different.  In recent years, folks have been buying up the older homes in my parents' neighborhood and building "McMansions".  They just look absolutely ridiculous next to the modest homes!!  They tend to have okay sized front yards, but the houses have 15 feet wide side yards and 15 feet back yards.  The last photos are a glance at what they are doing.  The houses look so out of place in these small, rambler-style neighborhoods!

Many of these homes are now foreclosures and are vacant monstrosities.  In Northern Virginia, people aren't just keeping up with the Jones's -- they are trying to outdo them all the time and it often doesn't pay off. Every time my dh and I go up there, we are so relieved we picked a slower-paced lifestyle that concentrates on our children instead of our belongings.

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Mulch Pile

Well, we have lots of mulch now!  My dh wanted to mulch the playground, swing set, and front gardens properly for once, so he did the math and ordered a truckful.  Oh, my!  My dh's math is not good.  He claims that he only has a public school education, but I think he was sleeping through class.  I did go to college with him, after all.   This is what is LEFT....

He only needs about 1/4 of what we have left for the playground and then we are going to be inviting the neighbors over.  In the meantime, my children have transformed it into a hill to storm, a fort, and the latest entertainment ~ the dare-devil jumping pile.

The last photo is the picture you all have been waiting for.  Yes, I got permission from my dh before posting it.  LOL!

My dh just had to jump, too!

Blessings, Dawn