Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dance Recital

My dd performed in her dance recital this past weekend. Her class this year was a combination of tap and pre-ballet. In the recital, her class performed two separate dances, one for tap and one for ballet. Little Red Riding Hood (5) did a pretty good job of remembering the steps and keeping a smile on her face. Last year it was hard to get her on stage, but this year she just pranced right out! She is really enjoying dance and can't wait to start her third year in the fall.  

The first pictures are of her in her tap routine. They did an original song called "This New Man" to the tune of "This Old Man He Played 10". Here she is in her tap dance outfit.

She much preferred her ballet costume because it looked like a fairy tale costume. She did not have the routine down as well in ballet but hit the different positions pretty well.

She is the one on the right who kept looking off stage at her teacher to see what to do next. This has been such a good experience for her. She really likes the teachers at our dance studio, and I like how they are so careful about keeping the kids modest. They are reminded weekly that they are dancing to glorify God, not to show off in any way. 

Now that the dance recital is over, we can begin summer break in earnest!  Yeah!!

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Homeschool Class of 2009!

Wow! On May 23 my son passed through the major milestone of high school graduation. We were surprised to find that there were so many ways to graduate as a homeschooled child. Many have private home celebrations and others graduate with their local homeschool group. We decided that our son would graduate with the state homeschool organization, because we wanted the official diploma and liked the idea of a traditional graduation. NCHE (North Carolina Home Education) Association put on a wonderful graduation at the convention in Winston-Salem last weekend. They were very well organized and everything went smoothly and easily. They ended up splitting the graduates into two different graduations, since there were so many of them (about 300 were there in person -- even more received their diplomas through the mail).

Since our son is now an adult, he will go by his real name on this blog for now on. Here is Timothy in his cap and gown waiting in the hallway to come into the graduation hall.

Isn't he HANDSOME?!

The way NCHE conducts their graduation is with an adult commencement speaker and then each set of parents are called forward to present the diploma to their graduate. It was lovely, warm and family friendly -- just as a homeschool graduation should be. 

Here dh is handing over the diploma.

My poor husband, David, got caught in the back. This picture does not depict what an important impact my husband has had on our homeschool. I am so grateful for his support and agreement that our children be homeschooled. It has been filled with sacrifice, lifestyle change/expectations, and two years that were particularly hard financially to keep me at home instead of in the workforce. However, he never wavered in his belief that we were doing what was best for Timothy (and later our other children). THANK YOU, DAVID! Here's to 12 more years of homeschooling and a great 10 years under our belts.

When the graduates were filing out of the hall, Timothy threw his cap to Tom Sawyer. Tom Sawyer was a very happy boy with the cap on. He is our most likely next graduate in 11 years. Goldilocks is supposed to go before him, but with her severe academic delays, she may be held back a year or more somewhere along the line.

A few family shots ~

Grandpa Dean, the photographer, was also in attendance but is always on the opposite side of the camera!

After graduation, we went to dinner at the Sweet Potatoes Well Shut My Mouth restaurant. It was delicious!

Hurray, Son! We are so proud of you!

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Next Year's Books

We are back from the homeschool convention in Winston-Salem. I have so much to tell and even more that I need to process in my thinking. What a unique weekend. I spent half of my time moving my teen through another step toward adulthood by way of the ritual of high school graduation and the other part of the weekend drooling shopping for all of next year's books. I will share about my son's fantastic graduation on Friday. I need to let all the thoughts and emotions of the day sink in a bit. Also, I did not get to take a single picture.  However, my Dad the photographer did take many photos. I just have to get him to give them to me in a form I can blog! LOL!

So for today's entry, I am focusing on books. In many ways, books explain the huge change that is taking place in my life. There will be no high school books next year! WOW! WOW!!! wow.... A new chapter in our life with books that is a great relief and a bit of a shock. Next year all of my homeschooled kids will be within a grade level or two of each other. And next year there will only be one severely delayed child to teach ....

Is this stack of crisp books not one of the most exciting things you have ever seen? LOL!  So filled with promise .... my head is thinking, "I made all the right choices in books for this coming year ...  there will be no tears over this or that. School is going to be GREAT!" Oh, how the mind plays tricks. I know there will be tears and that these books do not hold all the answers. However, I do think I have some great finds here!  There are some oldies but goodies, some changes and some additions.

We are sticking with the next year of SOTW. We all loved it last year, and we are looking forward to the Middle Ages. (However, I do need to reopen school to complete the Romans for one week before we can crack the new books.)

I love this series of books!  They will make a great addition to SOTW. I have a few more to buy to cover some of the great people of this time period.

I am really excited about this little book. My ds has been demanding that I teach him Latin for the last few months. He got this notion from playing with other homeschool kids while waiting at his sister's ballet class. That's what I get for letting him hang out with homeschooled children. LOL!  Anyhow, I found this gentle program that just teaches some words and connections of Latin without getting into the grammar. Hopefully, this will satisfy him for another year while he gets older and I get braver.

Next, we have these lovely copy work books from Queens homeschool supply. I love Charlotte Mason's view on copy work but had trouble sticking with it last year. I'm hoping that the easy layout of these books will keep us on task. Also, copying down proper manners can't hurt any either!

We are switching to Horizon Math from Miquon Math. I am really looking forward to the switch. The kids for the most part tested in the middle of grades, and Horizon breaks their workbooks into semesters so you can start in the middle if you wish.

We are sticking with Explode the Code. These books are very popular in my home.

We also will be moving from to A Reason for Spelling ....  I really enjoyed this series with my big teen and will be returning to it for the little ones. I just can't keep focused on sending them to the computer. 

A little plug for Rainbow Resource -- I have loved this company for the past 10 years. They are always so helpful and inexpensive. Most recently, they saved me lots of money by figuring out that my teaching manuals from the big teen were not outdated and could be reused with new spelling workbooks. They were more than happy to call over to the warehouse and compare copyright dates and pages. 

We also intend to keep up with Five in a Row (FIAR) this year. I'm planning to start a FIAR field trip group in the fall. This should provide the socialization that my Tom Sawyer craves and be a safe, low-key environment for my two special needs kiddos (of which Tom Sawyer is one). 

Now to think about those Workboxes! Hmm!! Do I really want to add that into my homeschool?  I do want my Tom Sawyer to become independent as soon as he can because I know that he is going to need to separate much of his studies from his slower sisters in the near future. However, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I like most of the way we homeschool now. Hmm.  I also shy away from trends .... Is this a trendy new way of teaching or the answer to my prayer?  Much to ponder ...

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Algebra ~ High School Transcripts

I am recording the Big Teen's high school summaries. This one is for his algebra.

The Big Teen learned algebra in the 12th grade. For Algebra I, he used Teaching Textbooks. I really liked this program. It was very well laid out and helped him work somewhat independently. Certainly, a child without special needs would have no trouble using this program independently. 

In addition to Teaching Textbooks, we used several algebra computer games and drills on the Internet. He also enjoyed the Living Math book, A Gebra Named Al. He survived Algebra and learned enough to have a general understanding of the concepts. It was by far the toughest course for him to get through in his entire high school career. We are both so glad he is all done!

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Friday Show and Tell ~ Routine Chart

I have struggled for some time now to establish a schedule for our family. The main problem in doing this is that every day is different in our home. I kept getting stuck with the time thing. We can't do the same thing at 10 am every day because we are not in the same place at 10 am every day, or any other particular time either. We are not a family that has the luxury of staying home day after day. We have doctor/therapy appointments several days a week and, during Tomatis loops, every single day for hours on end. Then there are the extracurricular classes. This year each child had a choice of one class outside the home.  We often find ourselves struggling through a hectic day in which I have to force one of my children through many transitions. Did I mention that transitions are very, very difficult for two of my kiddos? I finally struck on a schedule chart that is working for us.

Each night I check the weather and calendar for the next day. Then I pull out the 36 cards that I have made so far and put them in order on our schedule for that day. During breakfast we review the plans for today. During the day, the kids can go back to check the chart. It is really helping them know what is coming next. It really helps to reduce reducing fussing about what they had thought up to do versus what we need to do. Everyone is much happier and things are going much more smoothly. 

I made them by using cardstock and putting Velcro on the back. This was so simple and cheap. I think it cost me $3.00 for everything.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

11th Grade Creative Writing

This was by far one of my son's least favorite subjects. Writing and typing come very hard to my dear son. Everything is difficult about it, from the thought process to the spelling to the cramps it gives his hands to write anything more than a sentence.  However, it is important to be able to put your thoughts to paper. Listed below are some of the ways we found to help him express himself through writing.   
  • Writing thank you notes
  • Small reports of famous people: Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Alexander Hamilton, and Jack the Ripper
  • Emailing friends
  • Filling out surveys for his volunteer work
  • Mini reports for Government and World History
  • 5 book reports
  • 8 Today in My Life reports
  • Maintaining his blog
He also completed the Apples to Apples Spelling and Handwriting without Tears - Cursive with his occupational therapist. 

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Field Trip ~ Baseball Field

We had a fun time going to Education Day at the Tourists Baseball Field. This small, mountain town, minor-league baseball team has a history to it, having hosted some of baseball's most influential stars. Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, Ty Cobb, Warren Spahn, and even Babe Ruth have graced this field with their prowess. Cal Ripken Jr. was a bat boy there in the early to mid 70s, while his father managed the Club. The famous American author, Thomas Wolfe (Look Homeward, Angel and You Can't Go Home Again), was a bat boy back in 1915. Portions of the classic film, "Bull Durham," starring Kevin Costner were filmed at this baseball field during two days in October 1987. 

I was unsure on how the kids would do at a baseball game with all the noise. Once they had the hang of what was going on and we moved to a calmer section, they enjoyed it. We were lucky to find a calmer section between a group of homeschoolers from a different county and a group from a nursing home. They were not nearly as wild as the public school kids were in the first section we sat in. Interestingly, the public school kids were being riled up by their teachers. I guess they were trying to wear them out or something.

I was surprised how hot it was in the stands. I had brought a picnic lunch of organic hot dogs, potato chips, and fruit, but I ended up buying a snow cone for them to share.

They liked meeting Teddy, the Tourists' mascot.

They also enjoyed hitting a few balls of their own. 

The little educational packets they handed out were pretty good. The packets were mostly math and were too hard to concentrate on there, but we did learn some from them. I was proud of them for making it through five innings and behaving themselves.

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, May 11, 2009

Muffin Tin Monday ~ Children's Literature Edition

It is time for another Muffin Tin Monday! The theme this week is building a muffin tin meal around a children's book. My kids love the book, If You Give a Pig a Pancake. 

Going clockwise ~ We had sausage, gluten-free pancakes, maple syrup, pineapple and strawberries, and even more gluten-free pancakes. A baby wipe is included for hand cleaning, because if you give a pig pancakes and syrup, they will have sticky little paws. It was pointed out to me by my teenager that eating pig (sausage) in our muffin tins was not very friendly to the storyline. LOL! I suppose he is right, but it rounded out the meal well. Luckily, none of the other kids caught on to that fact.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, May 8, 2009

Show and Tell Friday ~ He's DONE!

The Big Teen finished his last subject today and is officially done with high school!! You just cannot imagine my excitement and relief! We made it!! He will be having a big graduation ceremony with many other homeschoolers from around the state on May 23 at the homeschool convention. However, I just had to do something to celebrate tonight! We dropped the big teen off at his fencing class and scurried off to the store to buy a cake and some balloons. I used to drive my poor dear husband crazy doing  things impromptu like this, but he is used to me now. When we got home, we decorated a little and waited for the big teen to come back home. When he came through the door, we yelled SURPRISE! Boy, did we get him! He never saw this little party coming.  

After cake and ice cream (another cheat on the special diet), we went outside to get even with that boy for all the complaining over school assignments have a silly string war.

Get him children!

CONGRATULATIONS, SON! We are proud of you.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, May 7, 2009

World AIDS Orphans Day

Today is World AIDS Orphans Day. Did you know that there are 15 million children orphaned by AIDS who are living around the world right now? What a shocking number! It is estimated that in this year, 6,500 people will die from AIDS every single day. YES, EVERY DAY! Of those who die daily, 6,000 of them will leave children behind. Even worse is that AIDS is completely treatable now. A child diagnosed with HIV who receives treatment has the opportunity to live a full life. There are several organizations that help orphaned children of AIDS around the world. Two great ones are AHOPE and HARDTHAVEN.

To learn more about HIV+ children, please go see my blog friend, Erin. She is raising some darling HIV+ children and has written a wonderful post about World AIDS Orphans Day. If you can, please go learn about HIV+ people from her site and maybe make a donation. The stigma associated with AIDS is preventing care from getting to all those who need it. Imagine what this world will be like with 15 million children growing up without parents ... without guidance, a safe home, proper nutrition, education, and LOVE. 

Rich Stearns, President of World Vision, US said: "I believe that this could very well be looked back on as the sin of our generation. I look at my parents and ask, where were they during the civil rights movement? I look at my grandparents and ask, what were they doing when the holocaust in Europe was occurring with regard to the Jews, and why didn't they speak up? And when we think of our great, great, great-grandparents, we think how could they have sat by and allowed slavery to exist? And I believe that our children and their children, 40 or 50 years from now, are going to ask me, what did you do while 40 million children became orphans in Africa?"

This is for you, Mom! I have mailed out a donation in your name to Hardthaven (a home in Ghana that cares for children affected by AIDS). Happy belated birthday! You can follow this link to see the adorable children that you will be helping.

Blessings, Dawn


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

English III ~ U.S. and British Literature

The big teen studied lots of American and British literature for 11th grade. He enjoyed a large selection of books, some challenging for him and others more for enjoyment. Besides reading the books listed below, he also did narrations of the books. In addition, he used the Five in a Row Above and Beyond unit study with the book Hitty~Her First 100 Years. Surprisingly, he really enjoyed this unit study, even though it is based on the travels of a wooden doll. 

Here is a list of the other books he read:   
  • Marlfox - Brian Jacques
  • Tall Sails to Jamestown - Eugenia Stone
  • The Lottery - Anne Jackson
  • The Legend of Bagger Vance - Steven Prestfield
  • Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
  • The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne   
  • The Time Machine - H.G. Wells
  • The Stray - Betsy Wyeth
  • The Gift of The Magi - O. Henry
  • The Old Man and The Sea - Ernest Hemingway
  • Little Men - Louisa Mae Alcott
  • Woodswoman - Anne Bastille
  • The Legend of Luke - Brian Jacques
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin - Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • The Jungle - Upton Sinclair
  • Hamlet - William Shakespeare
  • Othello - William Shakespeare
  • Mountain Valor - Gloria Houston
  • Little Women - Louisa Mae Alcott
  • Life is So Good - George Dawson
  • The Bridge to Terabithia - Katherine Patterson
  • The Red Badge of Courage - Stephen Crane
  • The Dark Voyage - Alan Furst
  • Death Be Not Proud - John Gunther
Blessings, Dawn

11th Grade Theater Course

I am going to try to finish transferring our lesson plan books into a summary here over the next week. If you want to see the rest of his courses, click on high school transcripts. The big teen did a year of theater in the 11th grade. This course was an elective and allowed him to explore another one of his interests.

He had the opportunity to take acting classes with a theater director in our area, Ralph Redpath. He attended 78 hours of classes that ended with three nights of performances. In the classes, he learned to work in small teams and do monologues. He especially liked doing monologues.

In addition to the classes, he also logged 21 hours of rehearsals and performances doing different skits at church. These were all directed by church teachers and written/performed by the church youth group.

Besides performing in theater, he enjoyed attending three live performances, J.B., A Midsummer Night's Dream, and STOMP.  He also saw the following musicals, plays and operas in movie form: 
  • Chorus Line
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • Chicago
  • Cyrano
  • My Fair Lady
  • Fiddler on the Roof
  • Hello Dolly
  • Rent 
Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

High School Internship 11th and 12th Grade

The Big Teen is wrapping up his high school education this Friday! Whew! What a great journey it has been. I am going to try to finish transferring our lesson plan books into a summary here over the next week. 

One of the most rewarding things about homeschooling high school was watching the big teen develop his own interests and have time to follow them. It is even greater when you can count special interests as school. He has always been an animal lover and our local nature center has been a wonderful environment for the Big Teen to explore his interests.

The Big Teen has volunteered at the nature center for 6 years now. At the beginning of his 11th grade year, his boss suggested he write up a request for a high school internship. They had college interns but had never had a high school intern. The Big Teen wrote up why he thought a high school internship would be important and it was granted. He became the first high school intern and has learned so much under this title. 

He has logged more than 800 hours at the nature center over the last two years alone. His interests led him to wildlife rehabilitation, and he has trained aside the staff at the nature center. In the past year, he helped hot glue the skin back onto baby rabbits, washed snakes, glued shells back together on hurt turtles, cared for many types of baby birds that had fallen from trees, cared for numerous squirrels, rabbits, opossums, and all other manner of wildlife that people brought into the nature center. 

He has also worked in the animal department, doing everything from cleaning cages to repairing animal habitats to basic care of the permanent animals. The Big Teen especially enjoyed babysitting the baby otter while it bonded to the adult otter. It was the Big Teen's job to break up the fights when things got out of hand. He also really enjoys working with the raccoons and Buzz, the vulture. Yes, my son thinks Buzz is cute! He also likes talking about helping with the bears and mountain lions. Mostly, he likes the big animals because it gives his Mama the willies. His real love is the reptile house, and he spends a great deal of his time there working with the public and teaching them about reptiles. 

Overall, this experience has taught the Big Teen so much. He would like to be hired by that nature center, and we hope that budget cuts will not get in the way of that. No matter what, he plans on staying with the nature center in one capacity or another for many years to come.

Here he is holding one of the many snakes at the nature center.

Aww -- a baby opossum!

Here the Big Teen is showing off the nature center's ground hog. They keep her back in the rehab area because she is not thrilled with crowds.

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, May 4, 2009

Reality Check

Living with an emotionally disturbed child is very hard at times. This past week Goldilocks has been really difficult. Once she was feeling better from her tonsils being removed, all of the emotional stuff surfaced. She had lied to the doctors about how often she got sore throats, saying she got many of them, which persuaded the doctors to move forward on this surgery. (I suspected this and had made the docs aware of such. However, there were enough other reasons to do the surgery, and I think they decided to believe her rather than me.) After consulting with her mental health team, we decided to proceed with the surgery because of the medical and speech benefits and deal with the fallout later. Hopefully, the surgery will improve her speech and cut down on her other medical issues that may have been associated with the adenoids. Also, it was very hard for her to be nurtured by me for so long. She generally resists being cared for and hates feeling vulnerable. The time has now come for the fallout.

So she has been getting harder to deal with all week and finally blew out completely on Sunday at Grandma's house. She did a very naughty and destructive thing that was not discovered until Monday. I will not say more about the act to protect her privacy, but it was shocking. Grandma is very upset and this will take time to resolve. 

This morning I talked to her about it, and she accused her brother of doing it. After we resolved that he had not done it (we knew he was not guilty but needed her to process it), she finally fessed up. This incident will require several steps to resolve. 

Step 1 ~ She will write a long sorry note to Grandma. She will do this during (instead) of her computer time today.

Step 2 ~ Since she accused him of the deed, her brother will be given her computer time today (a very big deal since they each only get computer time twice a week).

Step 3 ~ She will not be welcome in Grandma's home for several months.

Step 4 ~ When she is welcomed back, she will have to do a job for retribution.

I am writing this here for several reasons ~ this may very well be the first of many behavior plans that need to be written out while we get Goldilocks back on the road. I want to remember this plan so I can carry it out. Also, I think it is important to be somewhat transparent on my blog. Raising special needs kids is so worth it, but it is NOT easy. Sometimes those of us in the trenches can forget that we are not alone. I don't want to give other struggling parents the impression that I know all the answers/tricks and that raising these precious children is easy. This blog is my journal so that my children will have my stories of their childhoods someday. 

With that said ~ We love you, Goldilocks, and you are very much worth the extra effort!

Blessings, Dawn


Friday, May 1, 2009

Friday Show and Tell ~ Gotcha Day!

Today is "Gotcha Day" for my ds, Tom Sawyer. For those not familiar with adoption phrases, Gotcha Day is the day that your adopted child comes home. For our children, Gotcha Day is much more special than the day that their adoption was finalized (2 years + 2 months later), because they were so young they do not see the difference between being our foster children and being our adopted forever children. To them it is only important when they got to us and were safe. Seven years ago today, we got the call for our little guy. He was two days old and very sick. When the social worker arrived with him, I remarked about his coloring. I was sure something was wrong with him, but the social worker insisted that he was just a crack-addicted preemie. (He was diagnosed with polycythemia, brain bleeds and strokes a few days later due to birth trauma and too much blood flowing back into his body from the placenta remaining attached for many hours.) Here is one of the very first pictures of our little guy. The photo does not do that good of a job of showing how red he was. A funny note ~ we have told Tom Sawyer for years that he looked like a lobster when he was born. We, of course, meant his bright red color.  However, he was so disappointed when he realized today that he had not looked like a real lobster! LOL!

Here he is sitting next to his baby box. He really likes to see how much he has grown each year.

Today for "Gothcha Day" we will go through his baby book and the box I've saved of his baby clothing. He will also be allowed to pick his breakfast at McDonald's (forget the diet).


Blessings, Dawn