Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Happy Birthday, Little Man!

Seven years ago on April 29th, my husband and I were anxiously awaiting being approved to be foster parents. We decided to foster to adopt as a way of expanding our family. We were daydreaming about what child we would get. DSS had told us that most likely we would get a toddler since we had requested under 4 years of age. We told them that, the younger the child was, the more special needs we would take. DSS said that not many babies had come in recently, but that you never know. Little did we know that our son was being born that very day into the most dangerous of situations. We got the call on May 1 in the late afternoon. We had been approved to be foster parents at 9 am that morning and already they had a possible placement for us. The social worker said that he was very small, crack addicted, and two days old. He had experienced severe birth trauma, was born at home, had other siblings already in custody. Biological mother was not doing anything on her list to get the others back so far. In other words ~ it didn't look good for him going home and he may very well become adoptable in the near future. We said YES, bring him right over. And so began our very long 2 year journey to adopting our sweet boy. He is loaded with special needs, but we are sooo blessed to have him. I stand in amazement all the time at how everything came together to bring him to us with God's perfect timing. Not only were we approved just that very morning, but DSS had called half a dozen foster parents before us who turned him down! We were the last call before he was placed out of the county. DSS supervisors had to have a meeting to decide if they would even call us with a crack baby as our first placement. They did not want to scare us off with such a high risk baby. We are so thankful to have another birthday with our sweet boy! So in keeping with our birthday tradition, here is the list of seven words to describe our son:   
  1. Smart   
  2. Curious   
  3. Imaginative   
  4. Sensitive   
  5. Tenacious   
  6. Strong-willed   
  7. Energetic 
Our little guy at 4 days of age

And him today 

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Show and Tell ~ What Season Is It?

A few days ago, the kids were complaining that "school" was out for the next month or so...  Yes, you read that right. Some of my kids have trouble with transitions. I do intend to do reading, tea time stories, and math for the next few weeks. However, the rest of the time is spring/summer fun for the Littles. Did they want this change in routine? Not a chance. However, they are coming around to my way of thinking ....

"Ahhh! Rest and relaxation.... This is the life, Mom!"

"Yeah, I can get into this hanging around the pool ... urr ... water table thing ...."

However, boys and girls do not agree on how to relax!

"Hey, What does this thing do?"

"Oh! Now this is the life!!! I love this thing!"

"Alright, I am going for a dip in my pool ... urr .... water table, but don't let that sprinkler water touch me!"

I hope you all have a blessed weekend. We will be outside! 

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tonsils, Adenoids, Earth Day ~ Oh My!!

We are 3 days into a unique week around here. Is any week not unique around here?

Monday ~ The Littles officially finished school. We have our 180 days  and it is time for a little rest and relaxation. RIGHT.... (These are the same children who beg for school every day of the week and don't believe in spring, winter, or summer breaks.)

Tuesday~ Little Goldilocks had her tonsils and adenoids removed. She was a brave little trooper and my other two little ones were beyond perfection in the waiting room for 6 hours! Goldilocks came home thinking she could party ~ the anesthesia had her flying high. It took a lot for us to keep her in bed. I was worried because the discharge papers have strict guidelines and she was trying to jump on the bed and demanding a chicken dinner. Of course, we kept her on a liquid diet as prescribed.

Today ~ Happy Earth Day, folks. Our little Goldilocks is not so happy this morning. She is in tons of pain and is having a really hard time getting any liquids down. She spit out the last dose of pain meds all over the floor. They sent her home on some really powerful meds and I didn't know how much had gotten down her throat, so I didn't dare give her more. She has to stay in bed until at least Saturday. I am taking full advantage of her being down and out. She is by far the one that has to be watched, corrected, and redirected the most. While I have all this extra time on my hands, the house is getting a good spring cleaning. So far today, I have put away all of the winter coats, hats, scarves and mittens, done four loads of laundry, collected another bag of give-away, and sorted school papers. 

To me, Earth Day is every day, because I think it is very important for us to be good stewards of the earth all of the time. So I will show you some of the things we normally do. Today, those of us who are allowed out of bed got more seeds planted in the garden. We now have onions, bush beans, carrots and cantaloupe planted. 

We also are sorting through all of the Big Teen's high school papers and deciding what we want to keep. The paper recycling bin is really filling up. Also, we finally got a nice sunny and breezy day, so I hung up two loads of clothes on the back porch. This has made a huge difference in our electric bill. We only air dry shirts, pants, dresses and kid's sleepers. The undergarments and towels still go into the dryer.

Remember how I started this post with school being out for the little ones? Well, they are already sniffing around the learning corner to see what I am setting up for summer. One child complained that we missed doing our family math problem yesterday, so we had to make up two days now and another child just asked when she could do her reading lesson. Sheesh ~ so much for a week off! I'll post our spring/summer plans soon. I'm still trying to figure it all out myself. LOL! We will be doing a small amount of math and reading every day and a few other fun things.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Biltmore Estate

We had a great field trip this week. It was Homeschool Day at the Biltmore Estate. The Estate does a great job of making this day fun, affordable and educational for homeschool families. I highly recommend it should you ever have the chance to go. They do Homeschool Day in the spring and also in the fall, with a different theme each time. The theme this time was how the Biltmore uses science and math in the Estate's everyday life. We started off the morning at the education booths. The kids learned about erosion, forestry, orienteering, birds of prey, quilting, butter making, honeybees, and water power. They were given thick workbooks with loads of info and things to do at home, based on what they learned today. We will have fun with the workbooks over the coming days. 

Tom Sawyer loved quilt planning. He could have stayed at that display for a long time.

The kids got to make their own compass. We didn't get too lost while we tried to find the proper coordinates. LOL! 

Churning butter is always fun for a little while. We were surprised to learn that old-fashioned churning took about 5 hours. Yikes!

When we were done with the booths, we moved onto a picnic lunch and the barn animals. One of the cool things about Biltmore is that it has always strived to be a fully sustainable Estate. To this day, they are fully private and receive no federal funding. (Some members of the Vanderbilt family still live in a closed-off part of the home.) The kids loved playing with all of the baby animals.

After the barn, we headed for the house. The kids couldn't imagine how big the house was going to be. They were amazed when it came into view.

To my relief, the children behaved well in the house. We saw 55 of the rooms in Biltmore. There are many more rooms that are not open for viewing! The kids were given I Spy Maps to search for things throughout the rooms. What a great idea! They loved it and found almost everything. My children really liked the bowling alley, observatory and pool inside the house! What I liked was the huge library. I think it was as big as one of the floors of my home ... at least. I need that library attached to my house!

After we had a nice snack in the Biltmore courtyard and toured the gift shops, we were off to the extensive gardens. They were lovely. There was a sea of tulips as far as you could see. 

We did not do the winery, since we do not drink alcohol in our family and don't want to encourage it for our children. It was truly a lovely day. I had really worried and planned on how my Sensory Processing Disorder boy, Tom Sawyer, was going to survive the day. He did a great job. I didn't have to use even half of the OT/sensory stuff I had packed in the car. He only needed his weighted blanket for about 5 minutes. Woo whoo! It was really a successful and pleasant day.

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ancient China Round Up

We are just about finished with our ancient China unit study. We had tons of fun and learned a load of new stuff. We made ink from a Chinese ink stick. The stick is hard and decorated with little animals.

We then took the ink stick and rubbed it in water.

After much rubbing, we had a dark black ink that worked just like our modern ink.

It looks like the stick was hardly used. I will probably still have some when we are all done homeschooling in 12 years. LOL!

We also had a tea party with green tea. My kids are used to herb teas and black teas but not green. The girls liked green tea with lemon but not Tom Sawyer.

He was not impressed at all .... LOL! However, he liked examining and comparing the leaves of black tea and green tea.

Our rabbit trail for this study ended up being pandas. The kids loved watching baby panda videos on YouTube. They saw pandas a few years ago at the National Zoo, but they don't really remember them. We read lots of books on pandas and made little clay pandas. They came out really cute. Tom Sawyer made the one with the Samurai sword.

We also really enjoyed the Warlord's series of books. 

This book was a great introduction to why and how to use an abacus. The kids counted by 10's, 5's and 2's on the abacus my Mom gave them several years ago.

We also enjoyed learning about how kites were used in war during ancient Chinese times. This book told a great story about how two children saved their town from attackers with kites. It also snuck in some math measuring skills. Haha!

Of course, we just had to go fly a kite after this story. The wind was almost perfect today, so we gave it a try. 

Little Red Riding Hood got her first kite into the air for about 3 minutes.

Fun was had by all and some well needed energy was expended. We just have a few more days left of school (that need to be counted) for the Littles! I think we will just wrap up a few workbooks. The Littles usually ask for school SEVEN days a week, so there will be lots more educating, I'm sure.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, April 10, 2009

Happy Birthday, Big Teen!

A few days ago, my oldest turned 19!! I was thinking about where we started and where we are now. What an amazing journey it has been! I think from the very beginning, long before homeschooling entered my mind, I wanted him to be a well-rounded Renaissance Man when he grew up. 

I had pretty lofty hopes and plans for my baby, considering that he was lying in the neonatal intensive care unit close to death, and I was a single teenage mother who had not yet finished high school! But I did have a  very supportive family and a whole lot of faith. So I laid my hopes and dreams in God's hands and went about the daily life of keeping my little fella alive, loved and well fed and getting myself through high school and college. 

For a few years, I didn't think that much about how he was going to become that Renaissance Man of my dreams. I took him places, answered his questions, took him to church, read him books and let him explore the world. My Mom bought him every developmental toy under the sun. And he seemed happy and very curious to learn. I come from a family, both on my Mom's and Dad's side, who love learning. I do, too, and expected that my son would continue with his quest for knowledge.

Then, sadly, I put him in public school. He went into the special education public school preschool for disabled children when he was only 2 years old. What a nightmare! All of a sudden his dreams and love of learning were dying, and it seemed my dreams for his future were dying again, just as they had seemed to do so many times before as he lay in hospital bed after hospital bed, with more and more dire predictions. By my little boy's 3rd grade year, I had graduated college and was married to my wonderful dh. After I spent a traumatic year as a remedial reading and math teacher in a public school, we began to actively research homeschooling. Then my dh and I pulled him out and once again began our journey towards making that Renaissance Man.

So where are we now? Well, the doctors were partly right. He is severely learning disabled and will probably live with us for many years to come. But he is in much better condition than many with Velo-Cardio Facial Syndrome, although his case is extreme. Plus, he was hit with having another congenital disorder, Dandy Walker Cyst Syndrome, with which many children don't survive past infancy. He is alive, very bright and an interesting person to spend time with. I decided to start a new tradition that I saw on another blog. I am going to list 19 descriptive words about the Big Teen for the 19 years he has been on earth. He is   
  • cultured
  • loyal
  • loving
  • talkative
  • witty
  • imaginative
  • a naturalist
  • caring
  • a bibliophile
  • strong-willed
  • helpful
  • resilient
  • sensitive
  • inventive
  • respectable
  • straight-forward
  • humane
  • passionate
  • well-rounded
So I think in the end he came out with many of the qualities I had hoped for. I had hoped that his journey would be easier and that his future was a bit brighter and without obstacles.  Of course, I had hoped that he could be fully independent and be free of health concerns. However, this is not his path. He has touched so many lives and continues to touch lives every day. I am so thankful for God's blessings in his life.

As for Renaissance Man, he has a natural talent for archery and is currently loving his fencing classes. Until he turned 15, he would only listen to classical music, by his choice. His $6 per week allowance goes entirely to books from the used bookstore. He loves to read Machiavelli and just bought a biography of a philosopher. He loves art history and ancient history, comparative religions and all kinds of literature. As soon as he graduates, he is going to start studying philosophy. He has a great passion for social justice and ardently seeks the Truth about all things.

Ok, if you are still here ~ I will leave you with some photos of his birthday.

His choice for dinner out was the Red Lobster. Yes, we broke the diet for that one night. I pumped lots of Vitamin C into the kids to help with allergy breakouts and it worked pretty well.

Blessings, Dawn 

Spring in Our Homeschool

Ahhh ... spring is here! I love this time of year when we get to see the earth waking up after a long winter. Of course, we have exciting things going on in our learning, too. The kids were very excited to find a new package on the front steps the other day. Inside was all of this fun springtime loot.

Yes, we will soon be hatching 75 to 200 praying mantis and 5 or so butterflies! The kids are very anxious to see the transformations occur. 

Here is our praying mantis cage all set up. Now we just need to keep the house warm enough for 3 weeks.

I also love to see my little guy building muscles and work ethic in the garden. Here he is with his Dad, turning the soil so that we can start planting.

We also are pulling out all of our books on bunnies. We have about nine books on rabbits. I have two children who are very much in love with rabbits, so I'm planning a mini-unit study for science on bunnies. I think I will add in a bit of bunny math, too. I plan on laying down a chalk number line outside and having them hop on it. If you hop to the number 3 and then hop four more, what number are you on? You get the idea. Our favorite bunny book is The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes. We do not teach that the Easter Bunny is real, of course. They understand that the bunny in this story is a fairytale. However, I love how this book teaches about family togetherness, work ethics, doing your chores with a cheerful heart and perseverance. I like to read this book before we do a day of sorting and spring cleaning.

The kids dyed eggs today and are hoping to blow eggs and dye more next week. I was thinking of maybe trying some candle wax to jazz them up a bit.

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, April 5, 2009

I could never do this!

Everyone has talents that help them stand out in his or her family. One of our Little Red Riding Hood's talents is that she is incredibly flexible. She can do a complete split anywhere on demand. She learned the split when she was 4 years old. She saw another child at a park do it, and she taught herself in a few days of practicing. Now at 5 she does a split up to 10 times a day just for the fun of it. None of the rest of us can do them, so we're always impressed. She said she would teach me for my birthday. I think I had better stick to my very crooked cartwheels. LOL!

Blessings, Dawn