Friday, September 28, 2012

Week 9 ~ Report Cards and Camping

On My Mind ~  Being on the market is not nearly as hard as preparing to get on the market!!  We have had eight showings and two families asked questions about placing offers.  We were told that an offer may come in this weekend.  We are praying that it does and that it is a strong offer.  The lenders keep coming up with additional documentation that they require for our loan.  It is incredible how much information they need.  We are busy gathering the latest round of documents.  There was a shock this week about our new home ~ part of the side yard was separated during the previous owner's refinance a few years ago and that piece of land was not included in the foreclosure.  It is not a deal breaker for us, but we want that sliver of land so she does not sell it and we end up with neighbors very close on one side. We are considering how we might go about acquiring that land.  If we are able to get that land, we will have almost three-fourths of an acre.  We visited the house last weekend with the dogs.  Since our old dog is going blind, we tied the two dogs together while they explored the backyard and carport.  Boomer made a good seeing eye dog for Lady.
Family Fun ~  We went on a one night camping trip this week.  One night seems to be about how much we can handle.  With our special needs kids, it is fun to experience the great outdoors; but when the fun starts to end, we wrap it up and go home.  The kids especially enjoyed the fire, climbing trees and eating toasted marshmallows.  We decided to let Tom Sawyer have four marshmallows (despite corn being an ingredient) and he did react to them, but he did not get as sick as he would have a year ago.  He is having more tears and inflexibility than usual and his face is very splotchy.  We decided to go home the next morning when it was only 46 degrees.  The kids thought it was great to eat in the car and watch the wildlife while we broke camp.  I'm just happy the wild life consisted of many chipmunks, squirrels and a possum instead of a bear or coyote!
In Our Homeschool ~ Our last week of each quarter is devoted to a musical, our artist study, and our musician.  We spent the last 9 weeks listening to Wagner and enjoyed the CD one more time this week before returning it to the library.  The kids also enjoyed watching State Fair and learning some of the songs.  This musical went along perfectly with our own state fair experience earlier in the month.  The kids spent the quarter studying many works of art by the great children's book illustrator, N. C. Wyeth. This week they worked on their artist notebooks.  They did five artist studies each and learned about the life and work of N. C. Wyeth.  They also learned about his children and grandchildren who became artists.  Did you know that his children and grandchildren were homeschooled?  I always love finding modern examples of successful homeschoolers such as Andrew Wyeth and Jamie Wyeth.  We also did math, language arts, dance class, chess class, choir and lots of reading.  We are supposed to have a two week break now, but I think we are going to continue on since no one is worn out.  With the move and surgery, we will have to take an extended break later.

End of Quarter Report Cards ~ One of the things that the kids really wanted to continue from last year was report cards.  They were so excited that the day had finally come.  I determine their grades based on several factors.  The math is easy to grade, since it is graded for me on Teaching Textbooks. For the other subjects, I use goals for the kids and how much progress they have made toward those goals.  If they have achieved a goal and I need to write a new one, they get an A.  An example would be if a child needed to be able to remember to put a period at the end of a sentence and a capital at the beginning 100% of the time, as well as complete 50 workbook pages and they accomplished that, then they need a new goal.  A "B" means that they are doing well toward their goal and a "C" means that I may need to rethink why they are not meeting a goal.  I have seen a great deal more effort going into their studies since starting report cards.

Counting Blessings ~ The kids all are pulling together and doing a great job keeping the house super clean and uncluttered.  I am so glad the showings are going well and potential buyers like what they are seeing.  Now we just need a strong offer!  The doors keep "opening" on the other house with ease.  I am so glad that our curriculum is working well for us.  It is one less thing that I need to think about!

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Week 8 ~ A Test in Patience

On My Mind ~ This has been an emotional week for everyone.  We are physically and emotionally exhausted.  We have packed up a fourth of our house and staged it for being on the market.  We have also worked hard collecting all of the paperwork the bank lenders require.  There have been some real moments of panic ~ such as when we found out at 11:30 at night with papers due in the morning that Tom Sawyer's adoption decree was missing out of our fireproof box!  My husband and I had all of the "important" papers that represent our life all over the bed.  When that document went missing, we both hit a level of giggling hysteria (and chattering teeth for me). Buying a home these days (at least a foreclosed home with a VA loan) requires more paperwork than adopting two kids at the same time ~ CRAZY!

In Our Homeschool ~ Below is a list of what we are up to in our studies.
  • Grandma baked an apple pie with the kids.
  • We read How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World.
  • We also read Bloomers and Brother Eagle, Sister Sky .
  • We finished the audio book, Belle Prater's Boy.
  • The kids did Teaching Textbooks Math and Explode the Code every day.
  • Everyone made it to dance class and chess class.
  • We watched a video on Texas and found it on the map.  This was an activity left over from our study of Gullywasher.
  • We started listening to On The Shores of Silver Lake.
  • We very briefly stopped in on a library program at the library.  It was pirate school and the kids learned how to make maps.  We were in a huge rush, but the kids enjoyed the quick 15 minute lesson.  Our sweet librarian let us join in and pick which pirate school station we wanted to visit instead of going in order, since we had such limited time.

In the Kitchen ~ I am trying to find a balance between having homemade food and being ready to leave a super clean kitchen behind at any moment.  So far, I am trying to make one extra thing while cooking breakfast, since people usually look at houses later in the day.  We harvested our green peppers and yellow tomatoes this week.

Where We Are Going ~ It seems like the kids and I have been to every government agency in town this week (not really all of them).  However, we did need to collect paperwork from the courthouse, DSS, and Social Security.  My sheltered children were so excited about going through the metal detector at the courthouse, but they were a little disappointed that none of us beeped.  LOL!  We are also making a vacant church field near our home into our hangout when the house is being shown.  It is the perfect spot because we can see our home, but the people looking at the house can't easily see us.

Counting Blessings ~ We were able to get Tom Sawyer's adoption decree easily and quickly from the courthouse.  We got through all of the government agencies with really short wait times.  So far, everything is going pretty smoothly.  Goldilock's former one-on-one has a little bit of extra time and helped her process her feelings about the move for a few hours this week.  We got the house cleaned and staged, including painting door frames and baseboards.  We had two showings in the first 24 hours on the market this weekend.  They each spent almost an hour in the house.  I am thinking that must be a good sign.  My husband has the next week off.  I hope this will help our stress level reduce, since Daddy is such a good playmate when I am busy.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, September 14, 2012

Week 7 ~ Leap of Faith!

On My Mind ~ My mind is a whirlwind!  So much has changed in my life since last Friday.  I have felt for months that October was going to be a very busy month and that I needed to plan our homeschooling accordingly.  Since Tim needs a new pacemaker some time in the next few months, I thought my intuition was that Tim's pacemaker battery would run out in October and we would be told that he needed heart surgery.  However, that is not why October is going to be crazy busy.  To make this story short, because I am very short on time, we made an offer on a house and the offer was accepted!  A house that we have looked at and been interested in for more than 7 years!  A house that we have made offers on before and the owners have turned us down (two different owners).  A house that we are getting for $70,000 less than the previous owner's asking price because it is in foreclosure.  You know those statements you hear ~ "God is in the details" and "It's a God thing", I am totally seeing God's hand in all of this.  Everything is moving so fast and the "doors" are opening very easily so far.  I have much more to tell, but right how I need to do a few projects to list our current home for sale in the next few days and find a home inspector for our future home.  We close on our future home October 26; however Fannie Mae would like to close sooner if we can jump through all the hoops.  Our lender thinks a close date could be as soon as October 12!!!  Both dates hold significance for our family ~ the 12th is our DD's 9th birthday and the 26th is the anniversary of our oldest son's pacemaker surgery in infancy.  I am awestruck by all that is happening.

Photos: (1) The back of the house from about the middle of the back yard.  You can see there is lots of landscaping to do and ivy to pull off the house. (2) See that little outbuilding?  It is already wired for electricity and could be connected to utilities someday in the future.  Maybe it will become our one room school house or the beginnings of that homeschool store I dream of owning someday.

Places We Are Going ~ The kids started their dance and chess classes this week.  Everyone is excited to get our year underway.  Tom Sawyer and Little Red Riding Hood are taking chess this year.   The teacher assessed their skill level and was impressed.  He said they were both smart and that Little Red Riding Hood was a "math head".  They both came away very excited about going back next week.  Dance is going well.  Little Red Riding Hood has a very strict teacher this year.  She is going to really push the kids and demand a much higher level of professionalism than the kids have ever experienced.  I think it will be very good for her.  Little Red is not thrilled with how much bar work there is and how little "fun" (leaps and spins) they get to do.  However, she needs to discover what ballet is really about (practice), since she insists this is what she wants to do with her life.

In Our Homeschool ~ We are definitely in emergency mode around here.  I am so glad that I planned our school year with the expectation that we would be facing interruptions.  We still have to face surgery at some point, and with the move, it is going to be crazy.  Our realtor says we will be showing our current home many times in the first few weeks.  He thinks we will get a bid quickly because we are the only historic Dutch Colonial on the market and in a trendy up and coming neighborhood.  It was not trendy when we moved here almost 12 years ago, though.  From an academic standpoint, we did math, spelling, language arts, geography, literature and finished up our FIAR book, The Gullywasher.  For our FIAR project, we made cheese dip with different hot peppers in it for lunch and dipped bread in the cheese.  Wow -- some of them were really spicy!  We also read a few books about 9/11 and watched the YouTube documentary Boatlift.  This is a wonderful documentary about unsung heroes on 9/11.

From a life skills point of view ~ we are busy learning how to declutter, paint baseboards, learn the steps to buying/selling a house and listing a house for sale.  The kids are also processing feelings of excitement, fear and sadness all at the same time.  Some are more excited than others.  We are only moving about 5 miles, but it seems like a world apart to one child in particular.  They are learning to be appropriate with their behaviors in the midst of dealing with their feelings.
Counting Blessings ~ So many blessings this week ~ Big and Small.  The house is an obvious one.  I am also thankful that we have worked so hard to get out of debt.  It has made it possible to carry two mortgages for a short amount of time (while we sell the first house).  I am so glad we have a realtor and contractor we trust, as well as friends and family who have offered to help in different ways in the coming months.  Well this got longer than I thought.  I better get to work.

I am joining HomeGrown Learners.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Week 6 ~ Friday Wrap-Up

On My Mind ~ The week started out rough but ended on a happy note.  I ended up dropping most of our school plans and just stuck to the basics (math, spelling, great literature and journaling).  This week was an important reminder on the freedom of homeschooling and letting go when things aren't working.  You can read more on my thoughts here.

My Goldilocks ~ My girl had a hard week.  A neighborhood boy who has played at our house for about a year really turned on our dd recently.  He has been calling her names and slapped her across the face on Monday.  The attack was unprovoked (according to several neighborhood children) and left a hand print on her face.  Unfortunately, no adult witnessed the slap because I was inside giving a piano lesson to the boy's special needs adult brother and my husband was busy with another child.  I believe it will be a long time (if ever) before this boy (11 years old) is welcome anywhere near our kids again.  I am very impressed how well our dd has held up under all of this social chaos.  With her own special needs, she often misses social cues.  When something does go wrong in her world, her own behaviors fall apart for days at a time.  This time she is staying stable and remaining in control of herself.  As if this was not enough for one week, Goldilocks fell on the sidewalk the very next day and needed stitches right near her eye.

Places We Are Going ~ Our ER visit was filled with events that required lots of social explanation.  The most difficult situation was explaining why a woman was forcing herself to vomit, over and over again in the waiting room.  I am not sure I came up with an explanation that the kids truly accepted, but they did stop talking about it after a day or two.  Actually, I'm not sure why she was doing it herself.

On a much more fun note ~ We went to the Mountain State Fair!  The kids had so much fun and each went on two rides.  Tom Sawyer and Daddy went on a super scary upside down coaster.  Tom Sawyer loved the coaster ~ Daddy not so much.  He was a great support to Tom Sawyer!  Do  you see the smile on that boy's face!  The kids were excited to see their shoe box parade floats, even though they didn't win anything but the participation ribbon.  I think they did a great job on their projects.  What a great evening of fun!

Our Homeschool ~ We got all of the basics done this week.  We also started learning the bus system.  I am hoping that this will ease some of our difficulties with sharing one car.  The  bus ride was easy, and I hope Tim will be able to use it some evenings when I cannot get back to him.  In the photo, Tim is looking at me with disbelief that I am taking his photo on the bus.  LOL

I am joining homegrown learners ~ Friday Wrap -Up

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Freedom of Homeschooling

I generally plan our school weeks around a literature unit study.  I have a long list of books that we will be doing this year and a general outline of which book will be done in which month.  Last week, I looked at the list and decided The Gullywasher was the obvious choice, since I had found it at the library and had remembered to buy a variety of peppers.  I was so excited last Friday about our upcoming FIAR book.  Then reality struck.  Monday was Labor Day and meant that my husband was home.  That break in routine made schooling turn into the basics instead of a great intro to a new unit study.  Then a crisis developed with the neighborhood kids that will have a long-term effect on friendships.  By Tuesday, I had my doubts if I could do our unit study justice when I realized that we had two extra doctor appointments in the week.  Then round two of reality struck ~ stitches for Goldilocks.  After a long evening in the ER (more on our learning experiences there on my Friday Wrap-Up), I knew we were going to have to postpone The Gullywasher until next week.  It just wasn't the priority anymore.

This is the wonderful freedom of homeschooling.  I can change our plans midstream.  We are on a journey and learning every day.  What we learn is not necessarily what is in my lesson plans.  Once I surrendered my plans to the reality of life happening and changed up our lessons for the week, I felt so free and we were able to go forward peacefully.   Homeschooling allows us to step away from the artificial lesson plans (not that they are not valuable, just not always as relevant as what is going on in the "real" world).

We can do the three R's, listen to great stories, build loving relationships and build confidence in our children.  Often the real world provides many more lessons than I could ever think up.  This week we are doing hard things with grace and patience.  The kids are learning to persevere, be diligent, and strive for contentment and balance in the midst of adversity. They are learning how to negotiate difficult social situations, how to have grit, and how to be graceful and obedient when all they want to do is run away and scream.

These are the lessons I want for my children.  These are the lessons that will form them into adults who will go out into the world and be self reliant.  These are the lessons that teach self control.

My job this week is to reduce stress, smooth the path as much as possible, nurture hurt souls and bodies, and show by example how to live gracefully.  My role as a mother trumps my role as an academic teacher.  Of course a mother is a teacher ~ a child's first and most influential teacher. Since I do not consider myself an unschooler  and I need to be able to record a certain amount of academic lessons to count a day of school, I have a few tricks of the trade.  When everything goes wrong, I fall back on educational videos, books on tape, and educational board games.  We have very much enjoyed a few stories from the Your Story Hour series and played several games this week.  We even are managing math and spelling with our curriculum.

So here is to freedom ~ freedom to change plans, embrace life and let go.

Blessings, Dawn