Thursday, July 30, 2009

Friday Show and Tell ~ Repurposing Rooms

We decided a few weeks ago that our main living area was not working well for us. Since the day we moved in (8 years ago), the living room has seemed too large in some ways yet there wasn't much wall space. There is also no coat or linen closet in the whole house. Oh, how I miss having a closet to put coats and the vacuum cleaner away. However, I do like my 1931 house and they did not have coat closets back then.  Up to this point, our living room was our family room. Consequently, everyone saw the toy "mess" from the front door and the room was being used for play, TV, computer, scrapbooking and storage. Our dining room was being used for schooling, school book storage, projects and eating. The dining room was getting more and more crowded, and there was never enough bookshelves. I often had to wander all over the house to find a book on a bookcase that was crammed into a corner somewhere. 

My Mom's been urging me to repurpose the dining room into the sitting/TV room. She did something similar in her house -- changing her large living room into her art studio and making a small bedroom become a sitting room. It turned out so well for her that we finally decided to try it, too. So we turned the dining room into a much smaller and more cozy sitting room. I was able to fit my few inherited antique mahogany furniture into the space to give it a more formal look. My Mother gave me her old loveseat (which didn't fit into her "new" sitting room) and slipcovered it for me. It fits in perfectly. 

My antique secretary fits into the corner and holds all of my scrapbooking materials.  My dh is going to make a shelf to go over the steam radiator so that the loveseat does not touch it and the CD houses can fit on top.

I still have to get valances up over the windows. 

My Grandfather's antique chair was finally rescued from one of the bedrooms. It needs to be reupholstered some day in the future, when the kids won't ruin it, so it just has a towel over its seat for now.  Another thing about a 1931 house is that there are very few three prong outlets. The yellow electrical cord is going to the A/C unit in the other room. Ugh! We hopefully will be making some upgrades to our electricity next month.

We then repurposed the living room into the library/school/eating area. We figured we spend most of our time with our books, games, puzzles and eating, so it makes sense to give those activities the biggest room.

We bought some cheap bookcases for about $40 each to make a library wall. Now, all the family books are in one room! The kids do have bookcases in their rooms for all of their story time and personal books. On the bottom shelf of the first tall bookcase you can see a blue bucket.  That is the overflow project bucket for when it is dinner time and the table needs to be cleared of unfinished school projects. 

The view from our front door. You can see the computer beyond the dining table. The ultimate goal in a year or two is to go to all laptops and be hard wired into the big teen's computer (or something like that ~ I am not a computer techie person). The house already has WiFi. Anyway, I would gain that desk for more school space for the kids to spread out. The cabinet beyond the computer holds all of the kids' table time activities: crafts, playdough, puzzles, etc.

The front wall of the house holds a partially empty bookcase (previously unheard of in our house)!!! There is also a calendar area, reading corner and another big bookcase for all of the books we will be using this year for school. I love that all of our school books are in one place. 

Well, there is a tour of our new rooms. We hope that it works better for us. So far everyone is really pleased. 

Side note ~ All the Legos went upstairs to bedrooms, and the kids can only bring down a bowl of Legos at a time. Also, we are still using a corner of the kitchen as our toy closet. It works well for us. The children bring out what they want and then have to put it away when done. With their sitting room play space being smaller, it is easier for them to find all the small parts and get them put away. YIPPIE!

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pirate Unit Study!

 It is time for another Thirsty Thursday!

Ahoy there, Matey!  We had lots of fun with our pirate unit study.
My children wanted to learn about pirates for all the normal reasons that little kids want to play pirates. I wanted them to learn the reality of pirates, why they are still found in modern times and, having been a sociology major in college, the sociological reasons behind it all. I did my best to create a balance including both ideas. 

We got a stack of pirate books out of the library and the kids enjoyed listening to stories while they colored lots of pirate pictures for their lap book. We also discussed all that was not good about pirates and why they are so dangerous today. 

They moved on to several crafts. They sewed a pirate foam doll (which someone snuck off with before I got a picture), and created a foam mosaic pirate ship and a ship out of modeling clay.
In almost every book we read, the author mentioned the horrible condition of the pirates' teeth. I decided we should study proper hygiene of teeth. I have a little pirate boy who hates brushing his teeth. We reviewed how to brush our teeth and then brushed them. Then I pulled out some little purple dye pills the orthodontist had given us to make sure Goldilocks was brushing well enough with her braces. Everyone chewed them up to see who won pirate status. (I should say everyone BUT Little Red Riding Hood. When she saw her siblings' teeth turn purple, she hid under the bed and would not come out!)Not too bad!!  Just a little purple in the back that the picture does not show.
Awe, my little pirate boy! I told you that you need to brush longer and keep the toothbrush inside your mouth while brushing! Timothy and I did it, as well. Tim had some issues in the back, and I had one tooth near the front that had some purple.  Hmmm! Interesting.

We finished off with a treasure hunt. We made a map by pouring tea on paper and baking it in the oven at 200 degrees for about 15 minutes. Oh, we balled it up first and then flattened it back out so it would be wrinkled before we put the tea on it and baked it. Then I made a map and sent them out on their treasure hunt. It did not take them long! If only I had had a video camera instead of the camera when Tom Sawyer found the treasure box. He yelled gold over and over again at the top of his lungs.  Even the neighbors had to come see what those crazy homeschoolers were up to now.

Of course, after eating all of the chocolate coins we had to go brush our teeth again.  Awe ... I love forming better habits and calling it school.

Blessings,  Dawn

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Horseback Riding Lessons

Goldilocks got her dream come true this weekend! She started therapeutic horseback riding, and she loved it. She is taking therapeutic horseback riding because of her balance issues, need for semi-private lessons (her brother will be added to her class in a few weeks), learning and processing problems and access to highly-trained professionals who can work with her strengths and weaknesses. She will have two volunteers on either side of her horse, a leader and the teacher in the middle of the arena. Hopefully, in a few months, she will have some control over the horse and will one day be an independent rider. 

Here she is doing stretching exercises on the horse

Preparing to throw the ring over cones from her horse

Working on balance and trust while riding the horse like a sack of potatoes

Practicing stopping the horse

At the end of the lesson, Tom Sawyer and Little Red Riding Hood got a ride around the arena, too. That was a really nice touch and the kids loved it.
They are also going to help Goldilocks with her reading lessons. Every week, I can email her spelling words, and they will incorporate them into her lessons. I really hope this will be a blessing for Goldilocks and help her move forward. They say children with RAD do very well with therapeutic lessons. I hope that is the case. 

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Reading Corner

We homeschool year round but are gearing up for our new books right now. After we finish up our current fun pirate unit study, we will embark on a fresh school year with brand new books. I have written up the children's goals for the coming year which I will post soon. 

Today, I am going to share about a change for Goldilocks (8). She has many special needs including FASD and RAD. Because of FASD, reading comes very hard to her; and because of the RAD, she has no interest in trying anything that is hard. To make a long story short, we are stuck on the reading thing. Progress is SO SLOW!!!! Goldilocks very much likes the world to center around her, to be in control of all that is going on, and for others to do her bidding. She does not see why others cannot read for her for the rest of her life. She even suggested that her brother, Tom Sawyer, be assigned to read to her whatever she might need read (computer games, etc.). Up to this point, I have been gentle with her and taught her phonics for short periods of time each day.  Well, I am really tired of spinning our wheels! Also, I feel like she is beginning to accept that she will never read and does not really mind. She also sees it as an opportunity to have a conflict with me. I'm not one to believe that everyone must read at a particular age, but I do think there are windows of opportunity. I feel like Goldilocks is at that place where reading is becoming a ball and chain instead of a delight. 

This year Goldilocks has the goal of learning to read. It is her only goal outside of being a well-behaved family member (another BIG challenge). I decided to make her a reading corner with lots of fun phonics games, videos, self-correcting puzzles, and the Leap Pad. Having her own corner that she spends time in gives her the power to decide what she is going to do. I want her to understand that we are here to support her, but she has the power to make her reading time a successful experience. She will do one-on-one reading lessons with me for 20 to 30 minutes each day and then off to her reading corner for 45 to 60 minutes. She may invite someone to play a game with her, and I will stay close to make sure she doesn't just turn on and off the machines. She has already tried that!

I will be adding other things into her reading basket as we go along. I am still thinking about an award system of some sort. Award systems for her have been a disaster in the past, as is often the case with RAD children. Some people have suggested that, because of her learning differences and low IQ, I'm asking too much of her. (Yet others have suggested she be placed in public school so that she will start progressing!) Even Goldilocks saw this as a punishment when I introduced her to her corner. However, if she were in school she would start getting lots of special services this year. She is technically in 3rd grade, and our state's public school system starts learning resource in 3rd grade. She would be pulled out of her regular class for reading resource, speech, occupational therapy, and other help every day. She would be missing music, physical education, art and all the fun stuff. So this is not meant to be a punishment but simply the reality that if you are struggling in an area you must spend more time working in that area. She is starting to warm up to the idea. I hope I'll be able to report progress soon. Has anyone else found special techniques to help a struggling reader with a bad attitude?

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Nature Hike

I haven't had much time to blog this week. We are repurposing the main living area which means moving most of the furniture between two rooms. On top of that, we are into our pirate study which I can already see is going to take more than a week to complete. Right now everything seems a bit chaotic around me, but I can see that it is all going to be for the better soon. One of the things I am trying to do is to create a library wall. If you don't hear from me again, you can google for news stories about the Mother of 4 who was crushed under thousands of books! LOL!  No really, I hope to be mostly done in the next 3 or 4 days and post my big reveal. 

A few days ago we had a very peaceful hike along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was nice to get out in nature and enjoy ourselves in the peace of the woods. 

Bringing up the rear

Daddy telling us how to figure out the age of this tree

Digging in an old dead tree

Everybody (but me) on a little wooden bridge

This last picture was taken by my son, Timothy. I love this picture and it reminds me of my favorite poem.

The Road Not Taken ~ Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Friday Show and Tell ~ Eating Like Ancient Romans

We are finishing up our studies on Ancient Rome. We decided to have a Roman meal in the traditional fashion of laying down as they did at parties. I must admit that the kids were not impressed with laying down while eating. I heard all kinds of comments about how the Ancient Romans must have choked all the time and were lazy. However, they played along to appease their silly mother. 

We ate sausage, corn, olives, peppers and tomatoes, flat rice bread with honey (because we are gluten free) and warm grape juice (to represent wine). One of the many interesting facts that we learned about the food ate by Romans is that they always drank their wine diluted and warm. 

We tried several different ways of reclining while eating and found that none of the ways were very easy. It was a fun cultural lesson.

Hopefully, we will get to make our aqueduct on Friday, and I will get to post it. However, I have a nasty summer cold and would rather lay about and rest. We will see what is to come. We start learning about pirates next week!

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Thirsty Thursday ~ Socialization

I had to laugh when I saw that the topic was Socialization at Thirsty Thursdays. I am trying to set the schedule for next year right now and am struggling to find a balance between being home enough to keep the house running, child training and completing our schoolwork and getting out to socialize with others. I think it is important to say that many people think socialization is the act of hanging out with other people. This is true in part, but not the whole picture. I have four children and three of them have special needs. One of my children has severe sensory problems to the point of appearing at times to have Asperger's Syndrome. I have another child (adopted) with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. My oldest son was born with a damaged brain (Dandy Walker Cyst Syndrome) and severe shyness and anxiety (mostly from his years in public school). All of these children, because of their special needs, struggle with social skills. We spend loads of time working on social skills in our home. So, while I think it is important to go out into the world and meet with other human beings, I also need time at home to teach proper behavior again and again. In other words, my children are socialized at home, practice their skills at home and then practice their skills in public. 

My oldest son, who graduated from homeschooling this past May, is a great example of a homeschooled kid. He was homeschooled for 10 years. Even with his special needs, he is adored at the nature center where he has volunteered for the past seven years. His boss and other staffers have used the following words to describe him: invaluable, team worker, good with the public, eager to help, delightful, knowledgeable, and someone they really enjoy being around. He took a few homeschool history classes with a retired college professor during his last two years of homeschooling. She said he is funny, knowledgeable, always contributes in class and is fun to be around. We also have heard the same from church, fencing and drama classes in the last few years. People often say that my little ones play well together, are conversational with others, and share well with strangers (toys in doctor offices, etc.). 

With all that said, I am very careful about what activities we do outside the home. My kiddos can't just go into any situation and be successful. They need lots of prep work for simple things like the library or standing in lines. Boy, do they have a hard time standing in lines! I try to find classes that are small, calm, and with good role models. This is our current plan for the next school year.   
  • Mondays ~ Homeschool co-op (everyone) and ballet (Little Red Ridinghood)    
  • Tuesdays ~ Play therapy and swimming (Tom Sawyer)    
  • Wednesdays ~ Home    
  • Thursdays ~ Home    
  • Fridays ~ Speech (Goldilocks) and Fencing (Tim)
I am also starting a Five in a Row (FIAR) field trip club for special needs kids to be held on the second Wednesday of the month. We are going to try the local art museum's art class for my younger three on the 2nd Tuesday of the month. We also have Tomatis (sensory integration/occupational therapy) in September. and December for 8 day loops. I am also trying to figure out if therapeutic horseback riding lessons will work out for Goldilocks or if she will take dancing instead. 

That is more than enough socialization for us! 

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Our 4th of July Weekend

We had a great 3 day weekend. We spent Friday trying to get some home improvement projects done and then we decided to camp in the backyard. The kids have been begging for a year or two to sleep in a tent. Since the weather was perfect, we decided to make this the little ones' very first campout! 

The little ones loved everything about camping, from setting up the tent to going to sleep under firefly "stars". The kids caught a huge jar of fireflies and, with Dad's permission, released them inside the tent. I am not the camping type but did enjoy myself more than I thought I would. (Having a clean toliet inside the house and sofa cushions brought from inside the house to sleep on helped.) We are hoping to camp in the backyard a few times this summer and next summer try a park within an hour of home. We have to work ourselves into these things. LOL

Another first for the kids was s'mores. Don't let the smiles deceive you. We heard several complaints about how the marshmallows were sticky, drippy and melting on their fingers. I think only Little Red Riding Hood would want to eat another one anytime soon. 

On Saturday, we went to Home Depot and the children made a picnic caddy. Home Depot was also doing face painting for free. We spent the rest of the day working on projects, reading 4th of July books, and playing outside. At about 8 o'clock, we headed downtown to see the fireworks. Our town had lots of bouncy rides for the kids to go on for free. The kids got to go on three of them before it was time to settle down and have snacks and wait for the fireworks. The fireworks were lovely, but we didn't get home until almost 11 o'clock with all of the traffic. 

Today, we got a late start and mostly bummed around the house. I made colored rice with the children. I saw this great recipe at unplug your kids. I couldn't wait to try it out with the kids.

First, we mixed the food coloring, rice and rubbing alcohol together.

Then we dried the rice in the oven at 200 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Then off to the real fun! They mixed several of the colors up in the water table and had a blast. I highly advise this activity be done outside ... especially if the belt on your vacuum cleaner is broken once AGAIN! My dh says I am a vacuum cleaner killer, and I must admit that I think we have gone through five in our eleven years of marriage. 

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend, too.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Thirsty Thursday ~ Gathering Books

This week the theme at Thirsty Thursday is where/how do you gather your school books cheaply.

I buy some books brand new and some books used. I bought a stack of brand new books this year from the state's homeschool convention. Most of the books are workbooks, math curriculum, and a few FIAR books that I wanted as keepers. When I am buying brand new books, I also use (orders over $25 ship for free) and Rainbow Resource. Rainbow Resource is very helpful on the phone. I have been pleased with their services over the last 11 years, and they have competitive prices.

We use history as our spine in our homeschool. All of our subjects (except language arts and math) build off of what is going on in the period of time that is being studied in history. For example we study the artists, scientists, musicians, and mathematicians from that time period as well. This makes my job very easy in the respects of knowing what is coming next. I can then start gathering materials that will help us in future studies. I watch for items at yard sales, used book sales, consignment shops, clearance areas in art stores, etc. If it will fit, I put everything in a large, 2 gallon Ziplock bag. If I have large/bulky items, they go into my closet of future supplies. By using this system, I can gather items very cheaply months or even years before I need them. 

Here is an example of a few bags ~

This is our July/August unit study on Earthquakes and Volcanoes. This bag is incomplete because we are currently using it. We are reading stories about Mt. Vesuvius and its effect on Pompeii. Also, in the next week I will be gathering the books for the unit studies (free at homeschoolshare ) from the library. The science experiment materials will be gathered and placed in the bag as well. 

Here is a FIAR bag based on Owl Moon. I've been gathering the materials for this bag for about 6 months. It has lots of clock work materials, index cards with lessons I want to do, a library list, Lap book pages, dried owl vomit to dissect, workbook pages, recipes to make owl nests and owl face cupcakes. We will be doing this literature unit study in September with our Five In a Row support group which will include a field trip to the local nature center for an owl show.

Above is a photo of a unit study that we are starting in two weeks. Pirates ~ arghh! I was going to hold off on pirates until we made it to their heyday in history, but I have some very anxious little ones that want to start it sooner. Since we learned last week that Julius Caesar was kidnapped by pirates for a few months and there has been so much talk about modern pirates, we decided to do it now. As you can see, we have lots of crafts and more unit studies from Homeschool Share. However, there is a lack of books.  Since pirates are not my thing, we own very few books on them. I will be getting a big stack of pirate books from the library this week.

As a side note ~ Another way I save money is to check out lots of books from the library on subjects that are coming up in the next year during the summer. I can preview them to decide if I "need" them as keepers or if I can put them on the library list of books for when we come to that topic.   

Blessings, Dawn