Sunday, July 31, 2011

Our Lovely, Lovely Books!

Please join the Not Back to School Blog Hop at Heart of the Matter.

It is the eve before starting our 13th year of homeschooling. Wow! Where did the years go? I am excited to see how all of our choices will work out this coming year. The kids are excited to see all of the new stuff (they get to open a box in the morning). We did not have much money to spend on new books this year, so I bought a lot at yard sales, used book sales and searching my own shelves. To understand more on how I plan our year, go here. Our students this year are 7, 9, and 10.

So on with the Show and Tell ~

Math ~ We are switching to Jump Math this year. I am still waiting for my son's math book to arrive so below is my two dd's books. We used Horizon the last two years; and although we liked it at first, the spiral approach is not a good match for my kids.

Language Arts ~ We are using an assortment of book reports, workbooks, and creative writing projects this year. Each child has a different assortment of books. They will all be doing Explode the Code. This is an example of my son's language arts program.

History ~ As I explained in this post, we will be doing one unit of history for an entire week each month. This is an example of our first week. We will be studying Lewis and Clark. We will be doing a lap book, making our own journals, and going on a wilderness expedition next weekend with my husband and oldest son (who has already graduated from our homeschool).

Science ~ We will be doing units on geology, earth science, chemistry, Thomas Edison and Clara Barton and the advancement of medical science this year. Our first unit will be geology. We will be using my rock tumbler from when I was a little girl! I am very excited to use it again. I am hoping that we will also knock out some Christmas presents.

Art ~ We will be studying artists from the 1800's with a heavy concentration on Impressionism (my favorite period). Below is an our first artist study.

Music ~ We will be doing units on musicians from the 1800's. First up is Stephen Foster. Some of the children will be returning to basic piano lessons with me (after a long break).

Foreign Language ~ By popular vote, we are doing Sign Language this year. We have some great books, a video tape of Signing Time shows recorded off PBS, and my rusty skills in signing from high school.

Literature ~ We have a great stack of chapter books for this year. I still need to buy A Cricket in Time Square and Stone Fox. Tea time is one of our favorite times of day. We all cuddle up with our tea cups, a snack and a good book.

Bible ~ This year we will be working our way through the New Testament. I am hoping to also start the program, Draw to Learn the Life of Jesus.

At-Home Speech and Vision Therapy ~ Our oldest dd will be in speech and vision therapy this year. I am on the look-out for games and activities that will reinforce these out-of-the-home therapies in our home. Here is what I made/found in the last week.

Coming of Age ~ On Friday nights my two sons will have an hour with Dad and the girls will have an hour with Mom to do some activities around puberty and growing into young men and women. Our oldest son will be doing this with his little brother, because he enjoys some of the things they will be doing. It is a good review for him (with his special needs, he is emotionally younger than his years). The girls and I will be working with the American Girl Head to Toe cards on manners, how our bodies change and taking care of our selves. The boys will be working on survival skills, science fun, and becoming a young man.

It should be a great year!


Friday, July 29, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up ... End of Summer and Lessons Learned

In about 72 hours our summer vacation will be over. It was a great summer. We got all of the fun things done off our summer wish list and most of the grown up desires, too. We never did make it to organizing the creepy-crawly, spider-infested, 1931 dug-out basement. Need I explain why?

Lesson 1 ~ Fill yourself up! I renewed myself with reading. I managed to read five books that were not related to food allergies, raising children or education! That is a major accomplishment for me (since I spend most of my reading time with non-fiction material). I enjoyed my time with Amish novels very much.

Lesson 2 ~ Swimming Lessons ... All the kids completed 18 swimming lessons. Goldilocks will be remaining in level 3 next summer. She did make some strides forward, but she is not yet confident enough to be moved to the next level. Little Red Ridinghood could advance to level 4 if she gets some experience in the pool this winter to keep her skills fresh (not sure that will happen). Tom Sawyer has all the skills to advance to level 5 but lacks the endurance for level 5. He should probably do level 4 one more time. I also learned that making the kids hair wet before swimming helped a lot with reducing chlorine damage to their hair.

Lesson 3 ~ Tennis is fun and HOT!  The kids all enjoyed their first experience with tennis. Tom Sawyer was a natural. I was approached by several teachers to discuss his natural and raw talent. Tom Sawyer loved hitting the ball but hated the heat. He struggled with the heat a great deal, and I doubt he would want to continue if it meant standing out in the heat. If we can afford it and it works with our schedule, we may try a fall clinic and see if he likes it even more. Goldilocks and Little Red Ridinghood had fun and enjoyed their social time with other kids more than playing the game.

Lesson 4 ~ Circle time is enough school time ...  We did about 25 minutes of circle time each day.  During that time, we did math pages, hand writing, library books and reading lessons. I don't think any ground was lost and everyone had plenty of free time. It felt like a real summer with just a bit of school.

Lesson 5 ~ Tim had lots of time with friends ...  All of the children had several play dates this summer. However, seeing Tim take over coordinating gatherings for his Amtguard club was great. He also really enjoyed fencing, which was more free form this summer. Some of the adult students continued to oversee the class while the teacher was out of the country.

Lesson 6 ~ The Library Reading Program and Barnes and Noble Program ...  I was really disappointed in the summer library program this year. About half of the programs we attended were poorly thought out. In addition, the books that the kids earned were pitiful. Not only were they twaddle, but several of them were Japanese graphic novels that read from back to front and right to left! Talk about confusing for a learning disabled and dyslexic child .... Why don't the librarians use this as an oppotunity to present children with some meaningful books?! I will be talking more about the summer program with our librarians. I liked the Barnes and Noble book list better. 

  Signing a card for Books for Africa at a library program

Lesson 7 ~ Water Balloon Fights Are Good for Everyone ... When you can't beat the heat and your kids are starting to get on your nerves, it is time to pull out the bag of 100 balloons. Yes, we filled 94 balloons with water and had a blast pelting each other. Everyone had fun and everyone released some built up tension. What a great way to release a bit of irritation without hurting anyone's feelings.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day in the Life ... July Edition

Wow! I can hardly believe our summer is almost over. We start school on Monday! It has been a great summer. I believe it is our most successful one ever. I found just the right balance between free time and structured time. I only heard that dreaded phrase, "I'm Bored," about 10 times!! I will also be recording our food for the day for those who are interested in what we eat on our son's diet (which is free of gluten, oats, corn, yeast, casein, eggs, soy, rice, chocolate, and peanuts). Here is a look at our day.

The morning was nice and calm with lots of free play. I like the days that start off gently. Playmobil was the first activity of the day.

Playmobil turned into Brio play. I love it when they play so nicely together. We had nearly two hours of peaceful play this morning.

We had a short break from play to eat breakfast. The kids had refried beans, chips, cherries and gingerbread tea.

  All of the children then moved on to a Lego game that kept them busy until it was time for chores.

Lego alarm clock made by Tom Sawyer

The kids emptied the dishwasher, folded a load of laundry, cleaned the bathroom and put away their toys. Tim took all the trash out and cleaned the kitchen. Before chore time, he spent the morning reading and training his dog. I did laundry and swept the floors in several rooms. After chore time, we had circle time. This morning was a quick circle time. We talked about upcoming activities for the day, read several library books and did Mad Libs. Then we headed out to do two errands on the way to swimming lessons.

Learning to dive

Water safety practice

After swimming lessons, we returned home for lunch. The kids had a choice of tuna burgers or salmon burgers for lunch today. They also had spinach salad, strawberry and spinach smoothies, clementines,
and chips.

By now it was close to 1 pm. The girls danced and Tom Sawyer read his book until it was time to leave for our playdate at a friend's house.

When we got to Kristie's home, Tom Sawyer disappeared to the basement to play with her oldest on the Wii. Since the rest of her kids were playing with the Wii, the girls decided to do some extra chores for Kristie. She was offering two dollars a piece, so the girls eagerly did chores for her.

We then returned home to have dinner and hurry out the door to Boomer's puppy class. We had trail mix, cucumbers, carrots, pickles and hamburger-black bean mix.

It was a great day and a great summer. We are excited to start school next week.


Friday, July 22, 2011

How I Plan Our School Year ... Part I

Have you ever done this exercise? You are told to write down everything you would like for your children in the coming year. Then you are told that you may only have one of those things for your children. After you've chosen that, you are allowed to pick one more thing. With careful consideration, you are then allowed one more thing. This goes round and round until you have a manageable list of goals. I really like this exercise and it is something I like to do each year.

I used to be surprised that academics were rarely at the top of my list, if even on it at all. This is not to say that I do not care about my children's education. Anyone who has read this blog for long knows how much I love to impart my knowledge to my kids. However, in the end I want much more for my kids than to be bright fountains of knowledge.

If you are new here ~ All of our children have some type of special needs, so our goals may seem different than you would expect for their grade levels.

Here is this year's goals in no particular order.

(All Children)
  • Healthy, strong sibling relationships ~ This will be achieved through continued child training, teamwork activities, game playing, family time and great literature.

  • Know how blessed they are ~ This will be achieved through working on charities and great literature.

  • Put forth their best effort ~ This will be achieved by editing their school work and chores and having them redo the work until their best effort shines through. Also, we will be grading their work this year, at the children's request.

  • Have obedient spirits ~ This is achieved through child training and consequences for digressions.

  • Work with a happy heart ~ If you have any hints on this one, I would love to hear it! I have been struggling to teach them this for quite some time now.

  • Patience ~ Oh, this one is so hard for some of mine. I plan to help them develop some patience by working on it with things that they do not desperately want but still holds their interest ... such as stopping a chapter at its climax, doing a puzzle over a period of days, and knowing that an event is coming and waiting for it. (Before, we've tended to keep our kids in the dark about most events.)

  • Be charitable ~ We will be doing charity work each week for 52 weeks.

  • Completion of tasks ~ Ugh! Does anyone else's kids drop stuff everywhere and neglect to put one project away before getting into the next? I guess Mama just has to hound them until they get it.

  • Be prayerful ~ I want the children to be more comfortable with prayer and talk more freely to God. Sometimes they are very repetitive and brief in their praying.

  • Concrete learning ~ I want them to be solid in what they know. I think I sometimes overwhelm them with info because I love learning so much. I will be teaching less and going more slowly, so that it can be more concrete.

Goldilocks (5th grade)

  • Correct her vision ~ Start vision therapy

  • Become a strong reader ~Much of this will be achieved by completing vision therapy.  She is currently unable to cross her eyes or track (which is important in reading). We will be working through many lovely books.

  • Speak clearly and in proper tenses ~ She will be in speech therapy this year and using SPEECHercise level 2 at home.

  • Make a friend ~ Goldilocks is desperate to have a friend of her own. Unfortunately, her recent attempts have failed. With her special needs, she tends to smother people and generally drive them away with all of her demands and controlling ways, so she has never had a friend. We will be working on social skills and reading lots of books on friendships. I am keeping an eye out for appropriate friends. I would welcome any suggestions of books on friendships or how to be a good friend.

  • Work on becoming a lady ~ We will be learning about her changing body and how to conduct yourself at the onset of puberty. We will be doing the Head to Toe Care Cards for Girls from American Girl.

Tom Sawyer (4th grade)

  • Reduce food reactions and improve his health ~ We are working hard to find the right supplements and food to help Tom Sawyer. He will be doing lots of cooking with me to have more ownership over his diet. Food does not have to be scary, hard and limiting.

  • Rekindle his love of learning ~ I really saw a decline in his enjoyment of school last year. I am hoping that some of it was his declining health but suspect that it is more complicated than that. We will be attempting a balance between what I see as important and what he wants to learn (which is non-stop science).

  • Express self through writing ~ He will be concentrating on writing in language arts this year. He will be keeping a journal, doing some book reports, and different writing styles.

  • Speak with a gentle tongue ~ Sometimes Tom Sawyer's tone and words are sharp and hurtful. We will continue this learning through child training, role modeling, and listening to proper tones and proper expression of emotions as heard on books on tapes of great literature.

Little Red Ridinghood (2nd grade)

  • Enjoy reading ~ She has not caught the "love of books bug" yet. We will be reading lots of stories and picture books around her interests. We will also be working through more Five In A Row books.

  • Explore her interest in music ~ Finally, I have a child who shows an interest in my love for music. We will be restarting at home piano lessons (I started lessons too early with the kiddos and ended up dropping it).  Also, we will be continuing with dance and performing arts classes for all the kids. She will be in Ballet II.

  • Work on becoming a lady ~ She will be doing the same program as her sister. (The boys will be working through the book, 101 Things To Do Before You Grow Up, with their Dad.) Little Red Ridinghood will also be working on speaking up for herself and holding her own when dealing with her very bossy sister.

  • Continue improving visual ability ~ Now that she has graduated from vision therapy, we will continue with lots of tracking and eye exercise games at home. She will be doing lots of tangrams, Magic Eye books, and other visual games.

Tim (21)

  • Increase self-confidence ~ through training his dog, Boomer. He will continue with classes at Pet Smart to train Boomer. He hopes to take him all the way through to the Companion Level.

  • Increase independence skills ~ He will be away from home and us for a minimum of 20 hours a week. This will be achieved through his volunteer work at the nature center, dog classes, continuing-ed classes at the community college and fencing lessons.

  • Maintain friendships ~ He will continue spending time with his friends playing Amtgard, board games club, going to the movies, and talking to them on the phone (all new activities for him in the past year). He is really overcoming his shyness! 

  • Continue feeling more comfortable in different social settings ~ Practice, practice, practice all of the above.

All the children will be doing language arts, math, great literature, history (1800's), science, sign language, music, art (Impressionism) and geography (Flat Stanley and make a U.S. states book).


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Goldilocks and Sugar ... A Prayer

Cooking class - sugar 1

My daughter is addicted to sugar. She wants it all the time. When Goldilocks was brought to us at the tender age of 20 months, she was severely malnourished by her birth parents. We were told by social workers that, instead of baby formula, she had been given Mountain Dew through the bottle since infancy and was never given any baby food. She had a serious Pica Disorder, eating wood, metal, and many other non-food items. In our home, she would eat only a very limited diet. Basically, she ate green beans, peanut butter, and candy. It took time, but slowly we started building her appetite to a more well-rounded diet.

While she now eats a well-balanced diet, she has never escaped her need for sugar. Now that she is older and has more freedom, this has become a growing problem in our home. She sneaks sugar, whether it be five scoops put in her tea whenever I'm not looking or sneaking handfuls of mints into her room to suck on at night. She comes up with illnesses to try to convince me that she needs cough medicine and begs for cough drops (even spicy Halls). Once, when she was around four years old, she downed a whole bottle of infant Tylenol. When she was younger, we were actually on a first name basis with Poison Control!

Goldilocks' most recent exploit is sneaking her brother's chewable digestive enzymes. She ate about 30 pills in the last few days. This most recent desire for sugar seems scarier to me than past sneaks. For one thing, these enzymes are MEDICATION that was not meant for her. She wanted the sugar so badly that it was worth the risk of taking a medication that was not for her and that she did not know how much she could safely take!

Furthermore, it worries my Mother's heart. How many more years do we have before her addictive personality will choose alcohol or drugs (as her birth mother did) instead of sugar? Even if that is not her future, diabetes may well be. She was diagnosed pre-diabetic when we got her as a 20 month old.

My prayer for Goldilocks is that she will grow strong and healthy...that she will overcome her body and mind's desire for sugar...that her addictive ways will lead her to nothing more alarming. My prayer is to see my little girl grow up to be all that she can be. Sometimes it feels like I am battling against her for her very own existence. She does so many foolish and impulsive things that she could kill herself one day with her choices.

Dear God, please protect her and guide me in how to raise this very complicated child.


Friday, July 15, 2011

The Homeschool Mother's Journal...Lovin' Summer

In My Life ~

For years I have only had one or two friends that lived near me and shared similar values to mine in parenting. This summer is different. I have made several new friends that homeschool and raise their children in a similar fashion to myself. It has been a very nice experience and an end to a long and sometimes lonely period in my life. It has been a nice time for my children, too. For the first time, they have more play dates than they ever expected.

In Our Homeschool ~

I have almost all of our lesson plans in order for the first few months of school. The excitement is building around here. Our math books arrived and they look good. We are trying Jump Math this year. However, the math looks too simple for Tom Sawyer so I will have to order the next level. We are enjoying the library summer program this year. This week we went to two programs, one on cats and one about Bangladesh. The second was really presented poorly, although the kids liked playing the stick game outside the library building.

My Favorite Thing This Week ~

We had a wonderful time going with friends to a mountain park with both a playground and a stream going through it. We all spent about an hour walking upstream in the creek to a little swimming hole.  The kids did their best to catch three lizards but they got away. While swimming under the water, Little Red Ridinghood came face to face with a school of fish. She got out real fast! LOL...  After playing in the stream, we enjoyed the playground. Tom Sawyer made it all the way across the swinging monkey bars for the first time.

Thoughts I have for this week ~

Tom Sawyer saw his doctor this week, and we talked a lot about how to keep him from losing weight.  He has lost two pounds on his special diet, and he didn't have a lot to spare in the first place. He also has had two extreme breakouts of hives in the last two weeks. We are trying to figure out what else he is allergic to. Right now we are adding grapeseed oil and pumpkin to the ever growing allergy list. He is still covered in hives from the incident three days ago. The doctor says there is a more extensive food test we can do that insurance doesn't pay for. We plan to do that. She also switched him to a stronger digestive enzyme, new multi-vitamin and more vitamin C.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Thoughts On Our Upcoming School Year

We are having a fun and busy summer. Everyone has suntans and many things on our summer wish list are completed. However, as the kids rack up bee stings and the heat index climbs, our thoughts are turning to being near the A/C and a good stack of books. We will be starting back to school the first week of August. I am busy planning an overview of our year, as well as lesson plans for the first three months. I'm trying something new this year ~ instead of teaching all of the subjects each week, we will have themed weeks. Each month we will do one week of History, one week of Science, one week of Art and one week of Music and Geography. I think doing a concentrated five days in a row of a subject will help it stick more in the minds of my children. It will also make it easier on me to complete mini units. Here is an example of how I think a month will work ... History -- Civil War; Science -- Florence Nightingale, Clara Barton, human body and advancements in medical science; Music -- John Philip Sousa (Marching band music); Art -- Civil War photography (Mathew Brady) and Winslow Homer, who started his career making sketches of Civil War photographs for the newspaper.

We will do Language Arts, Math and Literature each week. I am still thinking about how to fit in Sign Language and piano lessons. It seems like both of these lessons need to be done on a regular basis. I will be revealing our new books in a week or so. I am still waiting for our math books to arrive. We have everything else we need. There is still a wish list from which I want to order .. but there always is that. LOL! I will probably make a small order off our wish list before school starts.
I hope you are all enjoying your summer.