Friday, June 28, 2013

Summer Week 5 ~ Swimming, Planning and Blessings

Another week of summer gone in a flash. Whoosh! The weeks go by so fast. This week was filled with blessings and fun.

Swimming ~ The girls finished off two weeks of swimming lessons at the pool. Goldilocks was promoted to level 5 at the beginning of this week. She seems to be holding her own. Little Red Riding Hood will have to stay in level 4 during the July session. Her strokes are great, but her confidence is poor. She becomes frightened in the middle of the deep end and generally refuses to go out there. We will be working on this before the next session.
Dive, Dive, Dive!

Camp ~ Tom Sawyer made it through camp with great success. We were pleased that he did so well even with two boys that are very difficult for him to deal with socially. (Those boys are best friends and tend to vacillate between including Tom Sawyer or being mean to him.) He learned a host of skills in camp this year.
  • clay work
  • painting
  • making a headpiece 
  • sanding and carving wood
  • patience
  • stage combat
  • aerial arts
  • self regulation
  • dealing with difficult personalities and social situations
  • negotiating
  • rules and regulations
  • 15 Mayan words and the Mayan alphabet
  • Mayan games (balance and fine motor/gross motor skills)
I hope he learned the importance of wearing sun screen. He has the worst sun burn I have ever seen on my boy.
He made the wooden club, headpiece and volcano

Blessings ~ We had many blessings this week. The first was going to the Special Olympics Gymnastics class picnic. The kids had a blast. I enjoyed talking to other parents who understand what it is like to live daily with special needs children. I have spent the better part of the last few years with parents of "normal" kids, and it has been lonely at times. Finding this new group of friends is like "coming home". 
Secondly, while the girls were in swimming lessons, I was talking with another mother at the pool who I also had seen at our dance studio. It turns out that she is a middle school special education math teacher. A math teacher who LOVES math, special needs kids and a challenge. Boy, do I have the kid for her! I asked her if she would be interested in tutoring Goldilocks and she said YES! She is going to use a real life hands-on math curriculum which sounds like it will be an entirely different approach. We went for a meet and greet at her house today. Goldilocks starts next week. I hope and pray this is the nudge she needs.

Last but not least, I was blessed by so many on my birthday. Several friends and family called and sang Happy Birthday to me, a friend left a lovely homemade vase of flowers at my door, and my kids had a fun birthday party planned for me. I also took the girls to an antique shop in our town and found a school bell. I was so excited and it was just the right price. It has a perfect sound. I will have fun ringing in the new school year with it.

On the Blog ~ I posted my shopping list for next school year here.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, June 27, 2013

My Shopping List

Ahh! It's that time of the year when my dream list for next year is being whittled down to a more realistic list. I am very blessed to have most of our literature and history curriculum already. Also, I have most of our language arts program and our music program as well. Now that my list is almost ready, I need to decide where to buy each item. I really like to shop locally whenever possible. However, we do not have a homeschool store or even a teacher supplies store in our city. We do have a chain book store and a few private new and used book stores in town. Then there are catalogs, Ebay and Amazon. Although Amazon is often the cheapest, I try not to buy everything from them. I like to support stores that have books I can touch and look at before buying. Maybe I am old fashioned in that way. Also, I always try to buy a few items from Rainbow Resource, because they really take the time to talk to you about their products. This year, I will also be buying some of our curriculum directly from publishers.

On with the list ~

We will be purchasing Teaching Textbooks Math 5. I will probably be purchasing this directly from the company.

We will also be purchasing Beyond Five in a Row Volume 3. This will probably be purchased at Amazon.

For science we are using Focus on Astronomy Middle School from Real Science 4 Kids. The best deal looks like it is at Rainbow Resource.
Focus On Astronomy Middle School Package (Hardcover)

We will need All About Spelling Level 3 which will also come from Rainbow Resource.All About Spelling Level 3 Teachers Manual & Student Material Packet Set
I need Explode the Code 4 and 5. They will be added on to my Rainbow Resource order.

We need to refill our art supplies cabinet. We are lacking in clay, clay tools, liquid water color paints, and good quality marking pens. I need to study our art curriculum to determine what else we need.

There are some things at Veritas Press to make a homeschool mom drool. However, I will try to stay under control and just order the next level of Leagues and Legends.
Legends & Leagues North Kit

Lastly, we are kicking off art this year with a 9 week course on architecture. We will be studying Frank Lloyd Wright and studying the many different types of architecture in our own city. A few years ago, I gave to several homeschoolers a coloring book about architecture in our city. Now I have decided to use it as the core of our architecture curriculum. So I went off to the visitor center to buy four copies of it for the kids and myself (I like to color, too). Yikes! They didn't sell it anymore! Next, I looked it up online and found one copy and ordered it from Ebay. The downer was discovering that the coloring book had been printed only once in 1987. It seemed that finding more copies was going to prove difficult. The girls and I hit the streets to look through used book stores in our area. A wonderful store clerk on our very first stop did not carry it, but had an idea. She called the publisher, which was our city's preservation society.  Our preservation society has one full-time employee who said he had a case of the coloring books in his supply closet. He would be happy to sell us copies for a great price. Score!! When I stopped by to pick them up, he asked why we wanted them. I explained that we were homeschoolers and that I was planning a unit study using the coloring books. He became excited and told me that he was looking for a way to start a class for homeschoolers! Can we say synchronicity?! He wanted to know what the homeschooling community's needs were. I talked to him about some great options. I look forward to seeing if he is able to get approval from the preservation board to start a homeschool historical field trip class. It sounds fantastic to me. I love to watch doors of opportunity open.

We start back to school the last week of July and I am getting excited! What is on your shopping list?

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Summer Week 4 ~ Bay Mountain Park, Party and Camp

This week has been filled to the brim with fun! The weekend started with a patient appreciation party at Goldilocks' orthodontist's office. They had tons of fun, from face paint to moon bounces. The doctor's office brought in a food truck where everyone could get free dinner and lots of junk food. I let Tom Sawyer have cotton candy because it did not have any allergens (except food coloring). Even so, he still seemed wild the next day. That was probably the first food coloring he has eaten in the last year. Daddy had several races with the kids through the moon bounce. Goldilocks was moving around so fast, I didn't get a single decent photo of her. LOL!

On your mark, Get Set, Go!
And the winner is?!

The next big event was Father's Day. We drove a few hours from our home to Bay Mountain Park. What an awesome park! We will definitely go back to this place. It had a planetarium, zip lines, boat ride, nature preserve, nature center, low and high ropes obstacle courses and miles of trails. We were very impressed. On this trip we saw a wonderful show at the planetarium about how to become an astronaut. The kids really enjoyed it. We also took the scenic barge ride and saw many wild deer and birds. It was a great tour of the lake. We enjoyed seeing the nature preserve and trying our luck at the low ropes course. I am not sure the ropes course was our forte! It was really hard. There were wild deer everywhere. The wild deer walked through the parking lot and ropes course within just feet of us. It was thrilling to see them so close up.

The rest of our week was filled with Tom Sawyer being at Mayan Boy Theater Camp. This week was the first of two weeks that he gets to enjoy this camp. He has swung on ropes (aerial arts), acted out Mayan battles, built a Mayan village out of clay complete with tiny figurines, played tons of games, and made tools and shields (just to name a few activities). Each week of camp has a giant Mayan feast and pool party on Friday. He has had a blast!! My job this week was to make certain he had enough safe food to eat at camp (he is still grain and nut free most of the time). I only managed to take pictures of two of his lunches for this week. They were basically made out of organic lunch meat around cheese sticks, chocolate pudding, grapes, chips, yogurt sticks, dried fruit and cucumbers. For the final feast, we contributed homemade, grain-free Mayan cinnamon brownies, Mayan quinoa black bean salad and a pound of rib-eye steak for the boys to roast over an open fire. Each family was supposed to contribute a hunk of meat and a side dish, so it was a huge feast and a great success.

The girls have had swimming lessons each day. They really loved the swimming even though it has been a bit chilly and it rained buckets on them one day while they were in the pool. They are doing well.

The rest of our week was consumed with electrical issues in our home. Our contractor friend was due to help us grade the yard this week (to stop the flooding in the basement) but ended up spending an entire day working on our electrical outlets (a few were arcing) and replacing some very poorly wired lights in the laundry room. We are glad to have a much safer home now. There will be a bit more work by an electrician over the next few days. I have always feared house fires and look forward to our home being as safe as it can be. Tom Sawyer built a house out of popsicle sticks and then burned it down. That is the only house fire I am up for witnessing!

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Summer Week 3 ~ Spain

This week was better than last week. Goldilocks spent three days in respite care and then returned to an even more structured household than we usually run. We are keeping her world very tight right now, and it is helping to make our world move more smoothly. We had several doctor appointments this week, including an entire day in the local children's hospital for Tom Sawyer's MRI and his physical therapy (more on that later). We did not get as much done on our studies of Spain as I had wanted. I am reminding myself to be flexible. It is summer, after all. Here is what we did educationally this week.
  • Teaching Textbooks every day
  • Time4Learning for Goldilocks
  • The Story of Ferdinand (I have loved this story since I was a child)
  • The Nancy Drew Notebooks #1
  • The Littles
  • Big Nate books 1- 3
  • Painted pottery at the local pottery craft store, Claying Around
  • Finished the DVD, Around the World in 80 days 1956 version
  • Started the DVD, Around the World in 80 days with Michael Palin
  • Charted Phileas Fogg's journey around the world on the globe and map with string
  • Learned how to chop down a tree
  • Made a Spanish rice dish
  • Played Travel Memory
  • Wed read five chapters of Life of Fred Edgewood
  • Created with clay at the art table run by volunteers at the hospital
In addition, we had a great two hour play date with some friends and did lots of chores inside and out.

The MRI ~ Tom Sawyer has been complaining off and on of blurry vision around the outside of his vision. An ophthalmologist appointment didn't reveal anything wrong. So I took him to a neurologist, who wanted to check out that the arachnoid cyst in his brain wasn't growing. The MRI went very well. The technician offered him a variety of music for listening to while he was inside the MRI machine. She showed him how the MRI would work on a small wooden one in the lobby. He was confident after her explanations and went in all by himself. The results came back normal and the arachnoid cyst was stable with no change. We don't know why he is having some vision problems, but at least his brain is doing well.

Comic Relief ~ We needed some comic relief around here after the last few weeks. The kids and Dad decided to make a mud slide and play on it. This is not the way I would get some comic relief, but the kids sure were delighted. I am very blessed to have a powerful washing machine. Take a look at the end result.
I wish I could see a smile like that on my girl more often.
Timothy ~ Timothy is really enjoying his new day program for brain injured people. He is going two days a week right now. This week they went on a field trip to an animal shelter, played basketball, practiced handwriting, learned how to cook a stir fry, learned about alternative proteins (besides meat) and generally got to know the other clients. I hope that all the paperwork goes through and he is permanently accepted into this program. I think it will help him so much with his confidence and social anxiety, as well as help him develop a purpose for his life. Speaking of paperwork ~ I have piles and piles of it to fill out for services, doctors, camp ... I better get back to it.

Lastly, I will leave you with a quote ~ The man who moves a mountain, begins by carrying away small stones. Confucius

That quote speaks to me this week.

Homegrown Learners
Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Summer Week 2 ~ France

On My Mind ~ This week has been filled with highs and lows. There have been tears shed and shouts of joy (sometimes within hours of each other). Such a roller coaster life is sometimes! One of the lows I am experiencing is the realization that I have "grown out" of a group of friends that I have had for a long time. I had the opportunity to go out with them after a very hard day this week, and I just didn't want to. I came to the realization that I needed gal pals that I could share the intense issues I am dealing with, and many of this group of women just wouldn't get it. They have adopted as well, but their kids are normal. I would just be a downer on their fun girls' night out or would have to fake how much fun I was having when I really just wanted to cry on a good friend's shoulder. Actually, this has occurred to me the last few times I have had the opportunity to go out with them. The majority of these women are fair weather friends, not rainy day friends. (Kristi, you are not included in this rant! You are a lovely any weather friend.) So, it is time for me to move on and stop pretending that I can make myself fit into this circle of ladies. They are nice women, but they are not what I need in my life right now. The upside is that I have been forming a friendship with a new woman who is a mother of two special needs kids. She is a wealth of information, a homeschool mom and she "gets it". I don't have to pretend at all with her. Also, our kids get along well. Happily, when one door closes...another door opens.

Happy Anniversary! My husband and I had a wonderful anniversary this year. We had a special dessert and watched The Hobbit late into the night on the actual day. What a long movie. Then we went out to dinner last night. We went to a Mexican Caribbean place and had a delicious dinner. The arrangement of food on the plates was really impressive. I wish I had taken the camera. We then took a walk in the rain (my practical husband had an umbrella with him) around our small city and enjoyed the night life. Then we went to the Chocolate Lounge and had chocolate macaroons and Chocolate Stout Cake. We finished our date at Walmart. LOL! (We had to go back into our parent roles and get a few essentials before morning.)

Summer Learning ~ On our journey "around the world," the kids and I visited France this week. We started watching the 1956 version of Around the World in 80 Days. So far, it is a great movie. We also watched a YouTube documentary on Paris and a documentary on the Louvre. We did lap booking pages and located France on the map. Below is the list of books we read.
  • The Secret Cave Discovering Lascaux
  • The Glorious Flight Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot
  • Mirette on the High Wire
  • The Daring Nellie Bly
  • Next Stop France
  • Katie Meets the Impressionists
  • The Louvre All The Paintings
We also made crepes, French apple pie and French lentil soup. Almost everyone loved the soup.

The kids completed several more lessons in math, and Goldilocks finished Time4Learning, first grade. I am pleased that she stuck with it and completed one grade so quickly.

A New Adventure ~ We started attending gymnastics with the Special Olympics this week. Tom Sawyer and Goldilocks will probably qualify to compete. Little Red Riding Hood will not qualify to compete since she is "normal", but as a sibling, she is allowed to practice with the team throughout the year. Tom Sawyer and Little Red Riding Hood loved the gymnastics. They had so much fun. They even got to run and learn how to vault. I am sure Goldilocks will enjoy it when she gets to attend (she is in respite care this weekend).

Special Needs Parenting ~ This was a rough week in many ways. Goldilocks had a hard time maintaining herself and even did some unsafe things, including throwing hot tea on her brother. Thankfully, it did not burn him. However, it was obvious that she was in need of respite for a few days and, fortunately, she was able to be removed to a therapeutic respite care provider who has worked with us for years. We are becoming desperate to find some more intensive help for her. It is imperative that our home be a safe place for everyone who lives here. Also, Timothy is having some trouble with a teacher at college in his Traumatic Brain Injury program. She is picking on him for not appearing disabled enough! Individuals with hidden disabilities are often misunderstood, but I didn't expect this to be a problem in a program that specializes in individuals like him. We are really feeling the stress in the parenting realm right now. It is such a challenge to get everyone the help and support they need (including support for Mom and Dad). We just have to keep pushing forward with faith and love.

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cooking with Children

Inviting kids into the kitchen is a real adventure. I have heard so many reasons to keep kids OUT of the kitchen. Yes, it gets messy and crazy and loud with multiple children in the kitchen. Yes, I sometimes think I am going to go crazy cooking with the kids. However, teaching kids to cook and enjoy working in the kitchen are invaluable skills. After all, they will have to eat when they grow up and move out. My children reminded me in their end of the year interviews that they have not been spending lots of time in the kitchen. I must admit this is true. With a house on the market, the move, and renovations, I had to quickly make meals and do so with very little mess for months. Then we just fell out of the habit. Well, the kids are back in the kitchen and, boy, are things heating up!!

My advice for cooking with kids is simple. Take a deep breath and plunge in.

Step one is hygiene. Teach kids about washing hands, washing the tops of cans, not licking the spoon and bowl until they are done, and using separate cutting boards for veggies and meat.

Step two is to start them young. Young children (two or three) can wash fruit, sort fruit, stir a bowl of food, wash cans, hold the cookbook and many other things that don't involve the stove or dangerous appliances.

Step three is to get a few step-by-step, kid-friendly cookbooks. There are dozens of them and most libraries have a great variety. Let older children look through the books and choose a recipe. Then let them plan a shopping trip and get the ingredients that they need. Don't worry if it is something that you think is a bit hard or they may not like. Kids will often eat things that they made themselves, even though they wouldn't eat it if you had made it.

Step four is to dig in and get messy. Cooking is fun and messy. Don't worry so much about the mess. It is a learning process and, in time, the messes will be less. Besides, most food spills clean up pretty easily.

Step five is to introduce the more dangerous parts of cooking. Once kids are good listeners and have some self control, they are ready for mixers, using the stove top and knives. We have not had a major injury yet. The kids have gotten a tiny burn here and there but nothing that some cold water couldn't fix. In the beginning (maybe for years), you will be working right next to them and making sure that they are working safely.

Then all of a sudden, like magic, they will be able to cook! They will be able to plan and make meals. You can sit back and watch from afar while they put a complete meal on the table. 

The final step is to teach them to clean up after themselves. It may not be the best part of cooking, but it is a very necessary part. You will be much happier letting them into the kitchen next time, too.

My kids love to cook. They are passionate about all parts of cooking. My youngest son loves to decorate the table and make up his own recipes. A few times a month, I try to let him be really creative (within reason). We have this ongoing discussion about the importance of learning which ingredients go together. We just don't agree on how to learn which ingredients go together. He thinks he should be allowed to create to his heart's content until he makes something edible. I think he should follow recipes until he understands what flavors work together. We usually meet somewhere in the middle. For instance, tonight he made a salad by washing the greens, mushrooms, and bell peppers. But he wanted to experiment by not cutting them into bite-size pieces. So he placed large hunks of veggies into the bowl. His Grandmother, who was here for dinner, called it a "Do It Yourself Salad," because we had to take the greens, mushrooms, and bell peppers out of the salad bowl and slice them ourselves onto our plates. It is an adventure to let kids cook, but I am so glad I do. Give it a try!

Blessings, Dawn