Saturday, July 31, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ First Week of School

From the Heart ~

I have had so many emotions this week:
  • relief that our first week of school went so well
  • sorrow that my oldest is really struggling with accepting himself for who he is and accepting the help that he needs so much to move forward with his hopes and dreams
  • strength to push forward using a new parenting approach with helping younger son correct his negative attitude
  • joy that my dd graduated from her braces to her retainer

On the Homefront ~

We are testing out a new way of doing chores with the new school year. With Timothy being away from home more, it is hard to assign him chores; and we are often out as well, making the routine of mid-day chores difficult to plan. Basically, if you are present for a meal, you are expected to do a chore. In the morning, I make a list of what needs to be done for the day and then assign these items throughout the day after meals. So far, everything that needs to get done is getting done. We will see what I think about it in a few weeks.

Also, Goldilocks got her retainer. She did a great job with her braces, and now we enter the new phase in fixing her teeth and bite. She will have to wear a retainer for about 4 years. I was amazed that the retainer comes in different colors and with pictures imprinted in them.  She picked a purple one with a unicorn...the special treatment kids get these days! (My Mom, who wore braces as a child, is just amazed at all the treats the orthodontist gives out and can only imagine the old metal retainer she wore as a child and the huge canker sores it gave her. She hasn't seen the unicorn one yet. lol)   It is so hard to raise unspoiled kids in this spoiled country of ours. However, I have been very pleased with the medical care Goldilocks has recieved. Her teeth look so much better, and she has no pain chewing food anymore. We are praying that the retainer will be enough and that she will not need braces again in her teen years, which we were told was a distinct possibility.

Learning Time ~

We had an excellent first week back to school. This may have been our best in several years. This year the little ones are studying language arts (4x a week), nature study (1x a week), science (2x a week), physical education (2x a week), health (1x a week), literature (5x a week), sign language and Latin (2x a week), reading lessons for the girls (4x a week), art (3x a week), music (2x a week), history (3x a week), geography (1x a week), math (4x a week) and Bible (1x a week).

Growing magic crystals

Living Frugally ~

We saved most of the money we were trying to save in the month of July. I saved almost enough to pay for our co-payment of Tom Sawyer's mouth surgery in August. Hooray! Now I have to try to do the same thing in August to pay for a repair that the van needs before September. Buying the groceries at the scratch and dent store is making a huge difference. Also, our relying on free entertainment for the summer has helped a great deal, too.

I had several pounds of meat and a big basket of apples left over from last week, so I kept the groceries to $75 this week!

In addition, making my own glass cleaner, hand soap, and laundry detergent saves a considerable amount of money. I am trying two different kinds of glass cleaner this month -- one that is only vinegar and water and another that is vinegar, water and rubbing alcohol. We will see which one I like the best.

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Day in the Life ~ July

This is our second day back to school. We are still fleshing out a routine and seeing what will work for us this year. The three littles are all working in early elementary grades, and Timothy has asked me to help him do some at-home college. He will be doing several Great Courses this year at home and some continuing ed courses at our local community college. None of these will count for real credit but will help him get the hang of college and what is expected. With his special needs, we are not even sure college is a possibility, but we want to give him the chance to expand his knowledge anyway he can, which he is eager to do.

8 am-  Shhhh! Two of the four kiddos are still asleep. This is a very rare event around here. The two that are awake are not the usual early risers either. Little Red Ridinghood has her computer time for 30 minutes and the kids start to stagger in to the library. We all have breakfast and do morning chores.

9 am -   We started our school day with Story of The World vol.2 (history). We read about Columbus and did the map work of the first explorers. This was a review for the kiddos. We then did Explode the Code (language arts) and listened to a chapter of The Mouse and the Motorcycle (literature). Next we read The Doorbell Rang (math) and worked out some math problems we made up from the book. We then made cookies and did lots of measuring. The kids then learned three new words in sign language.  They learned "Happy Birthday" and "cookie". We practiced the 25 sign language words they already knew (foreign language).

The kids used Storybook Art to do the art project that goes with The Doorbell Rang. They made paper cookies and decorated them and placed them on a fake cookie sheet.

10:30 - We took a break and everyone had free time.

11:20 - We went to the library and had a great time gathering new books for about an hour. We listened to Songschool Latin on the way to the library.

1:00 - We had lunch and read one of our new library books. We then finished up our school for the day by having reading lessons.

2 pm - The kids watched a Hello Kitty movie and played checkers and on bikes and with the parakeet.

It is now 5 pm and my dh has just arrived home. It is time to make dinner. Hopefully, we will get a little bit of time outside to play with Daddy and then watch a Waltons show before bedtime.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, July 23, 2010

Back to School Stuff

The kids and I waited all day for "The Brown Truck" (UPS) to bring us our Rainbow Resource Catalog order. It finally arrived at 6 pm! We tore into the box to see all of the fun goodies to add to our studies this year. It was like Christmas morning! They couldn't get the packages open fast enough to get down to learning.

I needed two more Explode the Code books and the Beyond Five In A Row for when we read The Boxcar Children. We also got lots of fun stuff to supplement our other courses ~ sign language cards, kits to make Indian villages, Quick Notes, and teaching paragraph writing. I also found some historical novels where the reader gets to control the story and change the endings. Do you remember those from our childhood? I already read one of them to the children, and they are great.

I also wanted some new "juice" for our math shelves.  I bought a second geoboard, pattern trays with blocks, centimeter cubes for the balance scale, skip counting activity book and the book, Apple Fractions.

This is one happy boy.  He played with the geoboard for a long time.

These trays and pattern blocks are so much fun. The possibilities are endless and the kids are learning every minute of it.

I wish I had these when I was a kid. They will make it so much easier for the little ones to learn how to read music.

I can't wait for Monday. The kids are ready, too. Next week will still be a little different with swimming lessons every morning. But we will start adding in courses and should have a nice routine worked out within a few weeks. Happy Schooling!

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Therapy Thursday

This is a special story that my Mom sent me... a timely reminder for those who are in the trenches with special needs or just happen upon them now and again. This is tender and so true!


Having four visiting family members, the wife was very busy, so I offered to go to the store for her to get some needed items, which included light bulbs, paper, towels, trash bags, detergent, and Clorox. So off I went.
I scurried around the store, gathered up my goodies, and headed for the checkout counter, only to be blocked in the narrow aisle by a young man who appeared to be about 16 years old. I wasn't in a hurry, so I patiently waited for the boy to realize that I was there. This was when he waved his hands excitedly in the air and declared in a loud voice, "Mommy, I'm over here." It was obvious now, he was mentally challenged, and also startled as he turned and saw me standing so close to him, waiting to squeeze by. His eyes widened and surprise exploded on his face as I said, "Hey Buddy, what's your name?"
"My name is Denny and I'm shopping with my mother," he responded proudly. "Wow," I said, "that's a cool name; I wish my name was Denny, but my name is Steve."
"Steve, like Stevarino?" he asked.  
"Yes," I answered. "How old are you, Denny?"
"How old am I now, Mommy?" he asked his mother as she slowly came over from the next aisle. "You're 15 years old, Denny; now be a good boy and let the man pass by."
I acknowledged her and continued to talk to Denny for several more minutes about summer, bicycles, and school. I watched his brown eyes dance with excitement because he was the center of someone's attention. He then abruptly turned and headed toward the toy section.  
Denny's mom had a puzzled look on her face and thanked me for taking the time to talk with her son. She told me that most people wouldn't even look at him, much less talk to him. I told her that it was my pleasure and then I said something I have no idea where it came from, other than by the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  
I told her that there are plenty of red, yellow, and pink roses in God's Garden; however, "Blue Roses" are very rare and should be appreciated for their beauty and distinctiveness. You see, Denny is a Blue Rose and if people don't stop and smell that rose with their heart and touch that rose with their kindness, then they've missed a blessing from God.
She was silent for a second, then with a tear in her eye she asked, "Who are you?"  
Without thinking I said, "Oh, I'm probably just a dandelion, but I sure love living in God's garden."
She reached out, squeezed my hand, and said, "God bless you!" and then I had tears in my eyes.  
May I suggest that the next time you see a BLUE ROSE, don't turn your head and walk off. Take the time to smile and say "Hello." Why? Because, by the grace of GOD, this mother or father could be you. This could be your child, grandchild, niece, or nephew. What a difference a moment can mean to that person or his/her family.
From an old dandelion!
Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God. People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Author unknown

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Baby Love

From the Heart ~ We had fun taking care of my friend's sweet baby (8 months)  for the week while she and her husband went away to celebrate their wedding anniversary. It was easier to fit her into our lives than I thought it would be, especially since she slept through the night! The girls really enjoyed having a sweet baby to love on. One of them even suggested that we give our credit card to my friend so that we could adopt sweet baby. Oh, if adoption was only so easy and painless! (She is currently a foster baby so may not be for keeps even for my friend. However, it looks like she will get to adopt her.)

Summer Fun ~ We are almost done with our "summer". This coming week is our last week of break from school. This week we went to the nature center to see the butterfly exhibit, and we went back to Splashville at our local city park. Wow, talk about baby love! With all the pictures I took this week, hardly any of them are of my kiddos. They are mostly sweet baby and I can't show lots of them because they reveal too much of her identity.

Flat Stanley is doing the rounds so he will be ready to visit those of you who volunteered to host him. Get me your addresses. If you are interested and missed that post, let me know.

Sweet baby had no fears of the water. She learned quickly that she could put her hand in the water and splash the many girls who were fawning all over her.

Learning Time ~ Goldilocks and Little Red Riding Hood passed a major milestone this week. Both of them learned to ride a bike without training wheels. Little Red Riding Hood is about 60% there (she has trouble getting going and moving around obstacles) and Goldilocks is 100% there!! Now we just have to teach Tom Sawyer!

Living Frugally ~ I am really finding it pretty easy to keep our groceries under $100 a week thanks to our scratch and dent organic grocery store. Here are this week's purchases for $95. I still need a bag of ice, plus vinegar and mayo so it may come to a little over.

Menu ideas ~

Dinner - Spaghetti with ground turkey spaghetti sauce, mashed potatoes with cabbage and turkey bacon mixed in (an Irish dish), omelets, homemade salsa with nachos, chicken with rice dish, potato soup with rye bread, grilled cheese sandwiches and BLT's (with veggies from garden).

Lunch - Tuna fish sandwiches, mac and cheese, leftovers, biscuits with nitrite-free lunch meat, and tomato sandwiches.

Breakfast - Biscuits, cereal, fruit and hard-boiled eggs.

While the boys were in Tomatis the last two weeks, the girls and I hit all the consignment and thrift shops in that area. We only shopped from the clearance racks. I decided that we are going to try to only spend $2.50 or less for each item of clothing. I found some really great buys and really did well with the "stuff a bag for $10" corner. This is what I got for $17.89. Some of the clothes still have their tags on!

Most of these clothes will be saved for future years, and if they are out of style, my homeschooled children won't even know it. LOL

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Learning to Be Moneywise

Little Red Riding Hood's coins

For the first 20 years of parenting, I have stood by the same theory on allowance. Basically, I believe that kids should get a small allowance not tied to chores in which to learn how to manage money. I do not think that money should be tied to chores, because I have seen this backfire several times with friends. About a half dozen times I have seen preteens decide that they were not going to help with the family chores for pay or otherwise and instead go do the same chores for the neighbors who will pay more. I am not paid to serve my family. I serve my family first out of a love for them and a sense of responsibility to my family. When it comes to chores, we want out children to learn responsibility, teamwork, doing a job correctly with their whole heart and stewardship. This system worked very well for my oldest. He is responsible, frugal and serves his family first for free.

When it came time for our next set of children to start getting an allowance, we put the same rules into practice. They were already doing chores, so the only addition was each getting $1 on Saturday. Also, for each thing they purchase, they have to get rid of something. That has been an ongoing rule, except for birthdays and Christmas. For the last year, my husband and I have watched them learn how to handle their money. In the last few months, we have started the hard work of training them in money-wise practices. It looks different for each child, because each is very different.

Goldilocks (9.5) ~
Even though Goldilocks is the oldest of this set of children, she is also the most challenged. One thing you read over and over again about FASD children is that they have NO money sense. Boy, does this ring true for this child! Money slips through her fingers like water. She almost can't stand to even have it. She must spend it the second she gets it. That is not to say that she does not want money!! She does not have the concept that, if she saves it, she can buy something that she really wants. Her mind thinks in the present moment and what can I buy with this 41 cents -- instead of what is it I want to buy and do I have enough? After a year, she still thinks of spending as if  she can walk into Walmart with 25 cents and find a toy on the shelves to buy -- it does not matter what it is, she just wants to spend that 25 cents. Lots of work to do here. Step 1- We will work on her saving money for two days at a time and trying to write out lists of things she would like to buy. She must have a list of ideas before going anywhere near a yard sale or store. 

Tom Sawyer (8) ~
Tom Sawyer understands and is capable of saving. Despite only getting $1 per week, he has saved up to $8 several times and often has a wishlist in his head. He can count large sums of money and figure out how much he will get back from the clerk. On the learning side of it, he can be a bit greedy and has been known to charge his older sister a quarter for him to stand on a chair to reach something she wanted in a closet. Having FASD, she willingly does it and pays him. He understands that one of the things that is good about money is spending it on others that are in need or for gifts for others. However, he whines no end about it and does not give of his own money with a very happy heart. Also, he is struggling with purchasing quality goods versus junk from the dollar store. He does not see why new things break so quickly when bought from the dollar store. The current goal for this child is working on being a smart shopper. Also, when pursuing his entrepreneurial interests, he needs to remember not to step on the little guy. Lastly, Tom Sawyer needs to learn that the usefulness of money is being able to meet your NEEDS, help others, and fulfill SOME of your wants.

Little Red Riding Hood (6.5) ~
This one is my natural saver. She hardly ever spends her money! She always has the most money of the younger set, even though they all get the same amount each week. She understands the value of money and is okay about giving to charity. However, she is a bit obsessed with money. She wants to talk about, count, change it into different denominations, and look at her money all the time! She's almost obsessed with the topic. Her goal is to remember that money itself does not bring one is what money can do for her and others that brings happiness. 

None of the goals for my children need to be or will be achieved immediately. However, they are things that I am thinking about and training into them all the time.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Let's Talk About Math

I am at a dilemma as to which math program to try next or whether to stick with what we already have. We have been using Horizon Math for about 18 months now. I like it (even though it is a textbook), and one of my children loves it and the other two could care less. The pages are bright with big print and not too many problems on each page. However, my learning-challenged child is not learning from this system. In fact, she has not touched her book in a few months. I have been playing games with her instead (with limited progress). What I don't like about Horizon is that it is abstract pencil to paper, and it is harder to make it concrete in my children's minds because it is not related to real life. This is especially a problem for the learning-challenged one, because she will not put forth any effort unless she sees that she needs it or it will benefit her. I also use living math books whenever I can. I love that way of teaching math, but it is not enough on its own to make things concrete for my kiddos. I have enough Horizon books to see us through a few more months. But, then what?

I am leaning towards Math on the Level, but it is out of my price range until at least January. I like how it appears to be real world and that you can teach the same concept to different age levels and abilities. I like the five problems a day reviews. I have heard lots of rave reviews about this program. Has anyone used it? Is there something else you like that is similar but less expensive? My husband and I want to give our children the best education possible but everyone likes a bargain. However, if Math on the Level is as good as it seems, it is a bargain, considering how many years it covers.

For now I will continue with what I have. However, in a few months, I will have to move on and would love to hear what has worked for you.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Geography with Flat Stanley

I decided to have some fun with geography this coming school year. We are going to be sending out a half dozen Flat Stanley's to places unknown to us. Then when they return, we will learn more about some new areas and track where he went on a world or U.S. map (depending on where he goes). 

Here is where you all come in! Would you like to receive a Flat Stanley? The idea is a Flat Stanley will be sent to your home in August. You then can take him to a neat landmark or two in your area (God made or man made) and take his picture with it. The landmarks do not need to be famous...just what makes your area special or unique. Fill out a very short one page journal and send him, the pictures, and journal back by November 15th. If you really want to have fun with him, you can send some brochures from your local visitors center. You may add whatever you like to his adventure.

Basically, we are looking for a few families who live outside of Western North Carolina. However, we have visited Nashville, TN; Montgomery, AL; Washington, D.C.; Myrtle Beach, SC; and Gatlinburg, TN. So we would like to learn about some new areas other than those.

There is fun in it for you, too. Flat Stanley will arrive at your house with some brochures and pictures from our area as well. So you can learn about a new area, too. 

Please leave a comment if you are interested and say what area you live in. We cannot wait to find out where we will be learning about this year!

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Our History Program

We are getting ready to start our new school year. I have almost all of our subjects planned out and ready to go. I tend to start planning around the subject of history, since it is the spine to our academics. I love history and find that far too many ignore it. It is shocking to me that, as we speak, the school systems of this nation are throwing Thomas Jefferson and others out of textbooks and rewriting history! This is because, as you probably know, the Texas School Board has decided that Thomas Jefferson will be removed from all textbooks. My Aunt Deb, who is a textbook writer for elementary and junior high grades, says all textbook publishing companies follow whatever the Texas School Board wants, as they order the most textbooks. Why the heck does one school board get to decide how children in this nation are educated?

"A morsel of genuine history is a thing so rare as to be always valuable." - Thomas Jefferson

What is our country thinking?! How bad are the school systems going to get?! If we don't teach our children about their nation's and the world's past, who will?

"A nation that forgets its past can function no better than an individual with amnesia." - David McCullough

Anyway, I will get off my soapbox and just say that I am so glad that I am able to be home and give my children as even-handed, non-biased and broad education as I am able.

This year we will continue with Story of the World (SOTW) Vol. 2 and Vol. 3 as our spine with about 55 additional picture books and numerous hands-on projects. (We only have about eight chapters left in Vol. 2). We plan on "traveling" through history from about 1500 to 1850. Yes, I am a bit daunted by the task of covering that many years of world and American history. Thankfully, I am not required to make it all the way through to 1850, as I can set my own rules for the curriculum. If we need to slow down, we will. I would rather they learn from the past and make the connections necessary to understand the present. I am really excited about this next year. We finally get to America, and we get to cover this year some of my favorite people in history.

We hope to take some field trips to some great historical sights. I won't tell them yet, since they are still in the early stages of thought and planning.

I organize the books I already own with a post-it that shows which chapter in SOTW it will go with. In my SOTW activity book, I have post-its of which books are in the library that I may wish to check out.  I try to add in as many biographies as possible. We will continue with our timeline that is coming along nicely. I am using little figures that I make from templates found at the website Making Friends.
Here are the first three I have made for this year (Martin Luther, Shakespeare, and Queen Elizabeth). I just have about 20 more to go!

Well, there you have a really long peek ahead into what we will be doing for history.

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Happy 4th of July

From the Heart ~

We are gearing up for our last 3 weeks of summer break. They are going to be busy weeks. This coming week, the boys will be in their Tomatis loop (8 days of auditory therapy to help with sensory issues). The week after that, we will also be caring for my friend's baby, 24/7 for 5 days. The final week before school starts is filled with doctor appointments and, hopefully, more free swimming lessons. I am excited about starting our next adventurous year. I just have one more order to place for the last of our school supplies. The kids are starting to crave a more stable routine, as well.

On the Homefront  ~

I am busy, busy, busy organizing everything in sight. The book shelves, art shelves, my closet and kitchen are done. I am also trying to do a little bit of baby proofing for my friend's sweet baby. She is just about to start  crawling so should not be too much of a handful. LOL!

Learning Time ~

The kids are getting restless without school projects, so I started adding in some science this week. The favorite project was waking up the dinosaur plant. This prehistoric plant can lay dormant for up to 50 years without water. All you do is lay it on some lava rocks and add water. It turns from looking dead to fully alive and growing in just 3 hours. We have had this plant for 10 years, and we wake it up every 3 or 4 years.

Also, the children are making real progress with Little Red Riding Hood's bird. She was not hand-raised, so we have had our work cut out for us when it comes to socializing her. She is now much easier to handle and is biting less often during her flight time.

Living Frugally ~

This week's groceries came up to $98. Not shown in the photos are a package of nitrate-free hot dogs, ranch dressing, earth-friendly charcoal, organic soda (six pack), organic corn chips and 1 pound organic ground beef.

Menu ideas ~

Dinners - Turkey sausage with noodles and veggies, chicken noodle soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, ground chicken meat balls with rice/bean dish, chicken salad, and chef salad (with chicken and eggs crumbled on top)

Lunches - Peanut butter sandwiches, salads, organic mac and cheese, leftovers, and corn chips with homemade salsa

Breakfast - Oatmeal or gluten-free cereal, raisin toast, watermelon, fruit, apple slices spread with peanut butter, hard-boiled eggs

Snacks - Organic fruit rollups, watermelon, pretzels, banana bread and homemade popsicles

4th of July - Hamburger cookout with chips and watermelon. For the downtown fireworks, we will take organic soda, mini M&M's, and cold hot dogs. That should save us loads at the food stands.

Summer Fun ~

We will be going to the fireworks downtown tonight. They have a nice display of fireworks and free moon bounces for the kids' entertainment. Also, just getting to stay up that late for our kiddos is a real treat and a bit of a trial. We have found that taking protein to the event helps them make it through those long extra hours. Our kids go to bed at 7:30 most nights so 10:00 pm fireworks and then walking back to the car is pushing it. The kids wanted to camp again, so we set up the tents in the back yard to fall into when we get home. LOL

Tom Sawyer wanted to make his own t-shirt for the 4th. Didn't it come out great?!

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Therapy Thursday ~ The Great Outdoors

My kiddos do so much better outdoors than indoors. When Timothy was just an infant and cried almost every waking hour (cardiologists said he was doing this to keep his damaged heart pumping), one of the only ways to calm him was to take him out on the apartment balcony and let him feel the breeze and see the trees. To this day, Timothy prefers the outdoors. He says it isn't noisy outside. Tom Sawyer was the same way about the outdoors as a baby ... well, as long as you didn't try to put his bare feet down in the grass. Then he would pedal his feet and scream until you picked him back up. Tom Sawyer also calms down if we go on a walk or he swings on the swing set.

This past 2 weeks all of the kids have been squabbling endlessly. On a normal day, they squabble way too much for my only-child self. But the past 2 weeks have been worse than usual. The heat has also been unbearable, so there has been very little time outdoors. But today the weather is wonderful. The sun is shining and there is a perfect breeze. For the better part of the last 5 hours, the kids have been outdoors playing TOGETHER. It is such a nice sight to see. I am glad that we are home together to be able to spend this time building relationships. I asked Tom Sawyer, my Sensory Integration Dysfunction child, what he likes about the outdoors. He said it is fun. I pressed him to tell me more and he said he liked how soft the sounds were outside. Also, he likes the breeze. I pointed out that he hates the fan indoors. He said the breeze is different.

Here's to breezy, sunny days where my kids can be at peace in their tree house. It is so nice to see them enjoying themselves and to see my Tom Sawyer actually being a flexible child in his play. Often, much of the trouble in this threesome is Tom Sawyer being a very bossy playmate.

These two are often at odds.  Here they are reading a book together.

Blessings, Dawn