Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Professionals Have Their Say

Today was filled with professionals and their opinions. First, we were sitting in a doctor's waiting room this morning when a woman commented that I had 3 beautiful children.  I thanked her and she said, "They are homeschooled, right?"  I said yes but was very confused as to how she could know that. She explained that she worked in the public school system and that my kids looked too "alive" for public school kids and could talk easily with people who were a different age than them. Well, she is right about that! I never get why people think you are going to pick up more social skills in school than the real world.

Then we saw Goldilocks' psychiatrist for a follow-up.  She has seen Goldilocks for years and we like her a lot. Today, she suggested that, because Goldilocks was falling so far behind her peers in reading, perhaps I should consider placing her in public school special educ!  Umm....NO!  She went on to say that the kids played so well together and that Goldilocks obviously enjoyed learning and was gleening many facts from her learning at home.  However, her younger sibs were leaving her behind, and it could cause emotional scarring.  Ummm....and 26 students leaving her behind would be no big deal? PLEASE... After we talked it out for awhile, she had to admit that with lower IQ kids the school system doesn't do much to help them, and they mostly get lost. I told her I was looking for a reading specialist, but frankly her being well adjusted and enjoying learning what she could get was more important to me. Also, who could better adapt lessons, watch over her progress, give one-on-one, and find other ways for her to shine -- her mother or an overburdened school system?  I had her there. Besides, when Goldilocks was diagnosed with FASD, the geneticist was so pleased that she is homeschooled and literally begged me never to send her to public school!

Lastly, we went to see Tom Sawyer's play therapist psychologist, where he is working on social skills and still working through his feelings associated with his near-death birth trauma. I was explaining some issues to her, and we were talking about the complications of raising several children with special needs and fitting their issues/personalities together. She said, "There is Parenting 101, which is the basics and many parents struggle with that and then there is high level, Very Advanced Parenting." She told me that was what I was doing with seemingly very little struggle. She went on to say that she was amazed by what my dh and I had been able to do for our children and that I was an extraordinary parent. She stood in amazement! (I stood in amazement at what she was saying.) She said God placed these children with us because we were a perfect family in His eyes ~ growing together. She agreed that my calling was to homeschool, love, and raise my beautiful children who were such special gifts. They were special children placed here on earth to get the rest of us to wake up and realize how blessed we are .... that they were here with their own special misssion, whatever that might be. WOW! I knew I liked this lady!!!  Of course, this made me feel really good and valued.

Anyhow, I did not write this to toot my horn but to remember it. I use the blog as my journal and want to keep the memories this way. When you are in the trenches all day every day, sometimes you forget that you really are doing a good job ... that all is well and to stand strong in faith. It will be okay, as long as I stick to my calling and raise these children to the best of my ability. God will provide the strength and skills that I need when I need them.


On another note entirely ~

The new popular sport in our home is wheelbarrow rides.

and wheelbarrow tipping...

and all-out crashes...

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Living Books with Science and Geography

Charlotte Mason advocated using living books in all of our studies. I love the idea and agree that our children should always read excellent books filled with creativity, challenging vocabulary, and firsthand accounts that will spark their imagination. So when it came time to introduce a new subject (geography) to my children this year, I started looking for a good living book to add into our curriculum. I discovered an entire series that can be added into geography and science by Holling. Most people have heard of Paddle to the Sea, but did you know that there are many great books by this same author? Each of these living books offer insight to life in a particular geographic area through the eyes of an animal or plant. The reader also learns the life cycle, history, and habits of each main character, which is weaved throughout the story.

We have the opportunity to go to the ocean this autumn for a week. This will only be the second time that my youngest three have ever seen the ocean and they were all under 4 the first time. So, we will be studying oceans, seashores, tide pools, sea life and shore life for two months before we go to the ocean. The Holling book, Pagoo, is a perfect living book to add to our studies. This book follows the life of a hermit crab as he travels along the seashore meeting many other sea creatures. Each page of this book is filled with little tidbits of information that will most likely spark the interests of my children and lead them on a quest to know more. I love it when a book makes my job easy, hehehe.... The pictures in the book are illustrated in a nature journal style, which will be a wonderful example for the kids when they are working on their own nature journals. 

Here is a list of five of Holling's books:

Paddle to the Sea - This book follows the journey of a canoe from Lake Superior to the Atlantic Ocean.

Pagoo - A study of tide pool life is introduced through the travels and life of a hermit crab.

Tree in the Trail - A cottonwood tree watches history in the making on the Santa Fe Trail.

Minn of the Mississippi - This story follows the journey of a turtle from the source of the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico.

Seabird - A carved ivory gull is the mascot of four generations of seafarers: a whaler,  a clipper ship, a steamer and an airplane.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Show and Tell Friday ~ Storm Damage

Well, we had a bit of excitement around here. We have had several intense thunderstorms this week. I really love storms so took all the kids out on the back porch for the most recent one. We were all bundled up in blankets, watching the rain and then it started to hail. I thought it was getting a bit too wild and started to tell the kids it was time to go in. Right as I began to speak, the wind kicked up like crazy and stuff was flying/spinning all around us. I screamed for the children to get in and most of the children got safely inside, but Little Red Riding Hood was all tangled in blankets and umbrellas in the rocking chair. I looked out and am pretty sure I saw a tiny tornado and our Step Two Super Coaster coming our way. I yanked her through the mess, and we ran to join the others in the basement. As we sat on the floor of the basement praying for Daddy who was on his way home in the storm, the basement door flew open and water poured into the already flooding basement. While I was trying to close the door against the wind, the power went out. Yikes! When the weather died down, we emerged to find Daddy just coming home safe and sound. He had been in traffic, sitting next to a transformer when it exploded, so he knew the electricity would be out when he got home. The backyard and back porch were a mess. The neighbor's tree came down into our yard, crushing the fence and covering some of our decorative trees and our peach tree was torn off at the top. The super coaster was lifted and carried about 15 feet across the yard!

My husband is using the axe to move brush.

The seesaw is covered by fallen tree.

The top of the peach tree. I won't need to find the ladder anymore to harvest the peaches.

The super coaster where it landed, still in one piece!

Tom Sawyer is standing next to one of the piles of limbs that is taller than he is. Guess what we are doing for chore time tomorrow? It certainly will be a big chore to clear this yard.

All around the neighborhood tonight, there are large limbs and power lines down. The church up the street lost a major tree, which fell right into the street, blocking traffic in both directions. 

We feel so blessed to be safe and sound and to have great neighbors who were out helping each other before the storm was even completely over. Even as I type this evening, neighbors are still out with chain saws cleaning up the roads. Thank goodness we are all safe and sound.

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Today my Goldilocks got her braces. It is somewhat unusual to put braces on an 8 year old with a mouthful of baby teeth, but she really needs them now. Her mouth is too small so her adult teeth are trapped up in her gums. She also has teeth that have come in sideways, twisted perpendicular to other teeth. A couple teeth actually lay down, and her mouth is not big enough for her tongue! The orthodontist said that these deformities are something genetic often seen in Appalachian as well as Chinese children. The orthodontist is going to have to guide her jaw to grow bigger and stretch things out so there will be some space in there. So today we embarked on a 6 to 7 year journey of braces, retainers, and then braces again. At the end of this, however, she will be able to eat properly and have nice straight teeth.

As I sat in the  parent's chair rubbing Goldilock's leg during her procedure this morning, several things flowed through my mind. One thing is that it is amazing to me how God gives the strengths that we need when we need them. None of my other children could have sat through that procedure with such grace and cooperativeness as my dd showed. She seemed almost unaffected by all the things going in and out of her mouth while the braces were being placed. I was also struck with the sense that this was another opportunity for Goldilocks to know our love and for us to grow into a higher level of bonding as mother and daughter. We are embarking on this trial together. Somewhere deep inside her, this must be another reminder that she is a forever child. As the woman working on her told her, not every child is so fortunate to have parents that get them braces (even when there is a medical need). While this is so, there are also many parents who would like to provide such things but cannot, either because of finances or where they live. I am pretty sure they don't have braces available in most of the Third World. Also, our finances are not awesome. We have the essentials, but we are not rolling in it. However, we are very blessed that, even though her insurance will not cover braces (even when medically necessary), her adoption assistance will cover most of the cost. In our state, children adopted from the foster care system have a small pocket of money that they can dip into each year for things that insurance does not cover. By timing carefully, we were able to spread the next 15 months of payments over 3 years. What a blessing! 

Before braces!

Look how much they had to put in her mouth!  What a brave little trooper!

Here she is with her new braces and bag of supplies! 

Of course, I know that with a child who has RAD and FASD, there will be some fallout in the next few days. I already see hints of food issues. There will be some angry moments because she feels all warm and fuzzy towards me at the moment, something that a RAD child absolutely hates to feel. (You see, it makes her feel out of control, to have depended on the comfort of my hand on her leg during the 1 1/2 hour procedure.) This is to be expected, and I am building some margin in my life to make the next few weeks easier.  But, for now, I am very proud of Goldilocks and am enjoying my own warm and fuzzy feelings towards her!

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Friday Show and Tell ~ Bird Sanctuary

We have had lots of nature experiences this week. We went to our local bird sanctuary. The kids love going to this park because of one particular climbing tree. They love to climb this tree to find the perfect place to watch the wildlife. 

It is a perfect place to hang out on a really hot summer day. The shade of the sanctuary must bring the temperature down by 10 degrees. Once the children stopped giggling and climbing and settled down, we started spotting some wildlife. We saw lots of turtles, squirrels, tadpoles, ducks, geese, and Cardinals. We also heard a bullfrog that was really making a ruckus. We never saw him but sure could hear him for about 10 minutes. 

The kids can't wait to go back later this summer to see if all the tadpoles are changing. I think they were bullfrog tadpoles which take a long time to change.

We also finished up our unit study on butterflies. The kids loved watching the stages of a butterfly's life cycle.

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Seasons of Homeschooling

I have seen lots of entries around blogdom lately on whether or not to homeschool year round. I thought I would weigh in with my opinion on the matter. For us, homeschooling year round in just natural, like breathing and sleeping. In our home, homeschooling is a lifestyle in which learning takes place all the time. However, it looks different from year to year and season to season. 

If you popped into my home in late summer to early fall, you would find us hard at work cracking the books. We would be in full swing with all of the fresh and new curriculum. I'd be covering all of the subjects we would be learning that year. There would be stacks of books everywhere. I would be busy getting everyone out the door to our out-of-the-home classes and field trips. We would look almost frantic in our quest for learning and exploring new subjects.

But, if you arrived in the heart of winter, you would find that not all of the classes will still be in full swing. Something would have been put aside, or wintered over until spring (my guess is that would be Latin and or music this year). We would be slipping deeper and longer into chapter books, arts and crafts and history projects. We would be baking and doing unit studies about Christmas. We'd  be picking and choosing our out-of-the-home activities based on how much sickness was going around our community. With our son Timothy, who is a high-end, medically-fragile person, keeping illness out and away from us is important. (Not easy when your dh works in a hospital!)

If you rolled through our home in the spring, you would find us wrapping up SOTW and FIAR for the year. We would be busy with nature studies, playing outside, preparing for end-of-the-year dance recitals and end-of-year testing. You'd probably hear some whining over math and copy work. Depending on their progress, those books would probably be shelved for a few weeks while we do outdoor math games and dabble more in living math books (a bit of a struggle for me, but I respect the idea a great deal). Assuming that no crisis had struck that year, we would be well done with our required 180 days of recorded school. But that does not mean the learning stops.

With the arrival of summer, you would find that we were still at the books. However, it would be different, lighter, and more limited in scope. We'd be covering the 3 R's in a gentle way for a little while each day (30 to 45 minutes). There would be no formal curriculum being used, much more of an unschooling style. The teacher would no longer be me, but the children would step in and take the lead on what we wanted to be learning. There would be hours of water fun outdoors, play dates with friends, messy arts and crafts, crazy science experiments that should only be done outdoors, lost mini-unit studies that had sat around on dusty shelves all year because they hadn't fit in, many caught and gently released critters, gardening and lots of eating straight from the plants harvesting going on. You'd find a Mother dabbling in mother culture (the education of the Mother), more than in the faster paced times of the year. You would also find me pouring over all the new curriculum, planning, dreaming, preparing for the next educational delight.

So do we homeschool year round? You bet! But that is because learning cannot be boxed into just sitting at a desk studying a textbook. There is a place and time for that, but it is far too limiting to say that education happens in one particular way. Learning goes on every second of every day. It is constant! So we have our structured times of year and our relaxed time of year. 

By the way, I did not address the changes in life: new baby, job change, house move, surgery, other health issues, aging parents and all else that life throws at us. All of these also offer many opportunities for learning.

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, June 7, 2009

No, Not Me Monday

Welcome to "Not Me" Monday! In an attempt to release a bit of my silly, witty side, I am joining "Not Me" Monday. This is a fun meme in which the point is to reveal some of the funny things you and your family did during the past week and keep it REAL on your blog. Please go see some other "Not Me" Monday's at My Charming Kids.

I did not take 15 shots and make my dd jump again (when she wanted to move on to other things) so that I could get this sequence of three pictures...no, not me!

I did not encourage my children to have as much "messy fun" as they wanted with the chocolate fountain, so that I could get these shots for my blog ... no, not me!

Furthermore, I am not so crazy as to have bathed the children and put them in clean sleepers before having them "play" with the chocolate fountain ... no, not me! I never do such ridiculous things. I always plan everything out in a very organized way.

Also, my oldest dd (8) did not go sit on her bed and mutter for several minutes about how horrible my anniversary gift was from my dh. He gave me dirt to fill a really large raised bed. It is just what I wanted. She did not suggest that I demand a horse or diamonds instead ... no, not her! I did not then worry about whether or not I am raising a girl to become a high maintenance young woman ... no, not me!

I did not give my children spice cake for breakfast this morning and tell them it was spice bread ... no, not me!

I did not let my children do extra chores this morning so that our home would be baby proof for my friend's baby ...  even after I learned that said baby was not coming over ... no, not me!

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Our Summer Plans

Our summer plans for $70 or less -- I want to find as much free fun this summer as possible so that we can quickly clear our credit card again. After 2 years of having no credit card debt, several situations all at once forced us to end up with close to $1000 on our credit card. I want it gone by September! We will be cutting corners all over the place to make this happen. So we will be having fun as cheaply as possible this summer. Why $70 you say? That is what came in a check of forgotten earned money last week. So here is my overall plan.

First, we will continue learning time and tea time each day. For learning time, the kids will be working in their summer workbooks (I tore up old workbooks and put them in a three ring binder in accordance with each child's weaknesses), play lots of learning games and continue reading lessons.

Please do ignore the chocolate on dd's face. We worked on writing our address in chocolate soy whipped cream right after breakfast!

I picked up most of these games from back-to-school sales at Walmart last year. The kids love them.

We will also be doing a one day unit study for Flag Day, a study of butterflies vs. moths, and whatever other rabbit trails my kiddos lead me down. LOL!

For tea time we are reading ~

Our next book will be  Five Little Peppers and How They Grew.

We will also be playing outside a lot doing this ~

and catching things like this to study ~

I have a long list of out of the home activities ~  
      • library programs   
      • adoption play group, which will be meeting at parks in our area    
      • our local lake with beach ~ $20 for one month unlimited admittance    
      • art museum on free day (first Wednesday of the month)   
      • nature center ~ free to us since Timothy volunteers there    
      • North Carolina Arboretum ~ free on Tuesdays    
      • Fun Depot ~ an arcade and fun center ~ I have a great coupon for $10 free play time when you spend $10.    
      • free Red Cross swimming lessons for Goldilocks at the end of June    
      • Botanical Gardens with awesome stream to play in ~ free    
      • hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway    
      • ice Cream out at night ~ when it is dark~ my kids love dark summer night activities ~ $15    
      • Fourth of July downtown ~ free    
      • fireflies and toasted marshmallows    
      •  free movie camp ~ we can make it to most of the 8 weeks of movies.  
      • Children's Museum on free day    
      • berry picking ~ only cost is the price of the berries    
      • Chuck e Cheese ~ just for the games and rides ~ I'll watch for a great coupon on the Internet that will make it an afternoon of fun for $10 (we'll do this only if our adoption group goes there one day).   
      • Montreat Park which the kids call the waterfall playground because it is surrounded by mini waterfalls.
      • movie night at home once a week with movies from library or Redbox ~ $1 to free
Lastly, we will be concentrating on the garden and doing chores with a happy spirit! This is more challenging for one than for the others. They will all have good work ethic by the time they are grown up -- even if it kills me!

So what are you all doing this summer?

Blessings, Dawn