Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Mini-Vacation ~ Richmond and Raleigh/Durham

We took Goldilocks to see a neurologist at Duke last week. The appointment was disappointing (as expected). They really didn't have much insight into what is going on with her. They did see that her heart rate changes rather drastically when she stands from a sitting position. They think that is what is causing her dizziness. I wish they had done an EEG to confirm that she is not having seizures, especially since many of her more alarming dizzy spells have come after standing for a little while. However, I am going to just let it go for now and know that I did what I could. I am starting to get the feeling that the medical world thinks she is faking. I don't think she is faking, but I do wonder about psychological issues affecting her physical state.

Raleigh and Durham
Since we thought this appointment might be a wild goose chase, we decided to make the trip into a little vacation so that it would not be a complete waste of time. We attended family night at the Nasher Museum which was free to Ronald McDonald House guests. It was lots of fun. The kids did crafts and toured the museum. We did a study on the art piece, "Scramble for Africa". I was very pleased how well the children were able to pick up the mood of each manikin by studying the body language.

Yinka Shonibare, MBE, Scramble for Africa, 2003. Fourteen life-size fiberglass mannequins, fourteen chairs, table, and Dutch wax printed cotton; overall: 52 x 192 1/8 x 110 1/4 inches (132.1 x 488 x 280 cm). The Pinnell Collection, Dallas, Texas. © Yinka Shonibare MBE. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2013.
We also made it to the homeschool store. This was a delight for me more than for the kids. LOL! They really thought we should hurry along to Pullen Park. We did visit Pullen Park and enjoyed the carousel and train rides.

We decide to drive a few more hours to visit my husband's sister and brother-in-law. We had never visited them in Richmond and it was great to see their home. They were wonderful hosts and really made us feel at home. I'm afraid the kids ate them out of house and home, but I think they enjoyed feeding a crowd. They have no children of their own and seemed to enjoy the excitement of a few kids cartwheeling around. We made several trips to the James River and the kids loved swimming with their uncle. We did not have any swim suits, so the kids just went in with their clothes on. We also visited the science museum. It was a great museum. Tom Sawyer loved the Robotics exhibit. We also saw the Imax movie, "The Hubble". What an amazing film.
David and his sister

Science is fun!
Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Swimming, Baseball and False Alarms

Making it through our summer bucket list has been challenging this year. The almost daily non-stop rain has put a real damper on outdoor plans. We are entering the last week of our summer vacation and we are trying harder to fit in activities around the raindrops. We never made it to the free movie camp at the theater or to a single library program. We had a good summer, anyway. The kids loved theater camp and they did two rounds of swimming lessons (two weeks each round). It has rained on them during lessons three times (no lighting). We are just about done with our Around the World in 80 Days summer unit study. It turned into primarily cooking and DVD documentaries over the last few weeks.

This week we ~

Baseball ~ The kids really wanted to see a baseball game at our local field. Our baseball team is a "Class A" team and are doing well this year. Many of their games have been cancelled and postponed due to rain, but we finally got to attend one Monday night. Baseball is my favorite spectator sport. I enjoy the atmosphere of the stadium and I actually understand what is going on most of the time. I also appreciate that baseball teaches patience to kids. Patience is one of those big character flaws lacking in American society so I am often on the look out for how to increase it in my crew. They scheduled a seven inning game because they are trying to do so many make up games. It was just the perfect length for my kids. Our team won; the weather was delightful for a change; and the kids got to stay up late (but not too late). It was a win-win evening.

Swimming ~ The water is much warmer this second round of swimming. That is a huge relief to the kids. Tom Sawyer is managing to stay in the pool for the whole hour. Due to his cerebral palsy, being able to stay in the water for the full lesson is a first for him. I love how much the physical therapy is helping him. He hates doing the exercises, but now that I know what is wrong with his musculature, it is easier to trick him into doing activities that help his core muscles. Goldilocks is doing really well in Level 5. The non-stop lap swimming is great for her. Helping her use up her energy is a big challenge for me every day. They are all making great progress this summer.

A Birthday Party ~ We attended a party for a nine year old friend, whom we have known since he was in diapers. There is nothing like a birthday party to remind you of the quick passage of time. I am so glad to have these years with my kids. I feel so blessed and privileged to be able to stay home with them. So many mom's actually are craving the sight of the yellow school bus right now. I am not one of them!

False Alarms ~ For the last few months we have been awoken by our smoke alarms going off between 2 am and 4 am. Sometimes it happens several times in a week and other weeks we get a break from the nuisance alarms. They are all wired together and it is really deafening when they go off. The electrician, our contractor, the power company and the fire chief have all been baffled. My Mother (who is a research queen) thinks it might be a condensation issue. Condensation buildup takes place mostly during the night. We know our home is too moist due to the endless rain and lack of air conditioning. In fact, the humidity in our house is almost unbearable as I sit here typing at 8 in the morning. With my Mom's suggestion, we ran a dehumidifier in the hallway all last night. It did improve the humidity, but put out a giant amount of heat and ran our sleeping areas up into the 90s!! That is not going to work to solve our problem. It did keep the smoke alarms from going off, though. I think we are going to have to break down and figure out where we can put an A/C unit or two (even if it is not the ideal location in the house). The ideal place for one to be located does not have adequate wiring to accommodate it, and it is not in the budget to make such wiring happen.

Last But Not Least ~ The kids all earned their books from the library and Barnes & Noble reading programs this week. They also started planning their goals for what they want to learn during the first month or two of school. Little Red Riding Hood wants to learn to cook breakfast food, so she made fried bread with eggs in the middle this week. Yum! Tim is really enjoying his day program for adults with brain injuries. He went four days this week and enjoyed three field trips with the program. I think we've finally found a good place for him.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Our Math Plans for 2013 - 2014

This year I have three students to teach. I will be taking a different approach with two of them. Little Red Riding Hood (4th grade) and Tom Sawyer (6th grade) will be using the same learning style. They will be using Teaching Textbooks Levels 4 and 5 this year. One is halfway done with Teaching Textbooks Level 4 while the other is almost done with that level. My kids really like Teaching Textbooks and look forward to doing math.

We will also be working our way through the last of the elementary Life of Fred books. We are currently reading Edgewood. These are a wonderful reinforcement of math skills and are very funny books. The kids love them.

We will also be doing many living math books. We will be doing some of the Sir Cumference series and the Warlord's series this year. The kids really enjoy hands-on activities and math makes more sense in the context of everyday life.

My plans for Goldilocks (supposed to be a 7th grader) is another story. If you are new here, Goldilocks has Reactive Attachment Disorder and Fetal Alcohol Disorder. She is also struggling mightily this year with adoption issues. She is not even sure she wants to live with us right now, because the structure of a family is so hard for her to handle. I am baffled when it comes to this child's education this year. I can't even decide what grade she belongs to. She can add most of the time, rarely subtract, barely multiple and kinda sorta divide. Remembering to borrow? Forget it... She is completely against my teaching her any subject. This year I am taking a hands-off approach with this child. She will still be learning ~ just not directly from me. She will be going to a math tutor one to two times a week as long as I see a benefit from it. She will also be working with free math sites around the Web. One site that I like, so far, is XtraMath.org. This site only takes 10 minutes a day and it emails a report to the parents once a week. 

I am joining this linkup:

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, July 12, 2013

Lots of Field Trips

This week Goldilocks was at Mayan Princess Day Camp. It was a fun adventure for her. She played many games that involved patience, teamwork and silence. She also learned more aerial arts and some gymnastics. She made a club, cape and headpiece. They did lots of mini acting skits and learned about Mayan culture. On the last day, they went to the camp director's home for a cookout and pool party. It was a busy week with loads of social skills work.  She did a good job. Now comes the tough part ~ will she fall apart over the next week? Sometimes the time after a big event is very hard on her.

Meanwhile, Tom Sawyer, Little Red Riding Hood and I had a field trip week.

Monday ~ We stood in a long line to sign up for free Red Cross swimming lessons (they start next week). We rewarded ourselves by going out to our favorite ice cream parlor (one that serves ice cream that has no high fructose corn syrup). We stayed awhile to enjoy their air conditioning and played PacMan.

Tuesday ~ We took a trolley ride around our city. You can read more about it here. This was a wonderful introduction to our study of architecture. We also enjoyed having lunch at our city's food truck gathering. Instead of hot dog stands, in our city we have a parking lot where a variety of vans are gathered together to sell ethnic food. They serve delicious, restaurant quality meals for a fraction of the cost (because they have such low overhead). Many of them have skilled chefs who cannot afford to open a restaurant.

Wednesday ~ We went to Splashville. This is a free waterpark right in front of city hall. It is a great place to cool off. We got there early and the kids had it all to themselves for about an hour.

Thursday ~ We had a calm morning at home to catch up on chores and phone calls. The kids also did lots of reading for their reading logs as well as some writing. Then in the afternoon, the kids loved having some friends over for a double play date.

Friday ~ Since the weather was finally behaving, we got to go to the pool. We had a lovely time for about 1.5 hours before Tom Sawyer was worn out and it was time to go. In the evening, we went to Chick-Fil-A dressed up as cows for our free dinner. Everyone enjoyed this one ~ even Daddy.

The Weather ~ While we saw some daytime sun this past week, we got lots more rain almost every night. The flooding in our area is bad and some of it is in different places than usual, so there is more damage than in the past. Many people have needed to be rescued from their homes, and a few homes have slid down the slopes. There have been dozens of mudslides. We have sink holes all over the county. One of our fire stations was caught up in a flash flood when a river came over its banks. No one was hurt, but lots of equipment was ruined. It amazes me that all of this is going on within 6 miles of us. We are blessed to be mostly unaffected right where we live.
This is a local park completely under water.
Blessings, Dawn

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Easing into Our New School Year with a Field Trip

There has been much planning going on around here. I am filled with thoughts for next school year, but I am not completely ready to share them just yet. One thing felt certain as I started firming up our plans...we had too much to do! I decided that we needed to start one subject early and asked Tom Sawyer and Little Red Riding Hood which they would like to concentrate on first. They wanted to start with art. Our first quarter of art this year will be concentrated on architecture. We will be touring our own downtown and studying the many historic buildings. We are blessed to have coloring books of many of the more famous buildings in our little city that was put out many years ago by our preservation society. Plus, we will be studying Frank Lloyd Wright, because he is of great interest to my budding architect. Tom Sawyer. Since Goldilocks is at day camp this week and will not be doing the same lessons as Little Red Riding Hood and Tom Sawyer, it was an ideal day for a field trip.

We decided to take the historic trolley tour in our city to have an overview of all of the great architecture. We had never done the tour before and it far exceeded our expectations. A huge part of the tour was all about architecture. What a perfect introduction to our art lessons! Of course, we have seen these buildings and homes many times but didn't know much of the history behind them. I had trouble catching good pictures in a moving trolley so forgive me ~

We saw a row of Sears Roebuck kit homes.

Then there were the lovely Queen Anne homes in our most historic neighborhood. Our city became known as an ideal location to heal from tuberculosis and by the 1920's boasted 25 clinics that specialized in healing patients. Many homes in this historic neighborhood were converted into boarding homes to accommodate the families of patients at the clinics.
Wright Inn and Carriage House

We learned about the first skyscraper in our city (and still the second tallest building). The neoclassical Jackson Building comes complete with gargoyles. I've been in the law office at the top of this building and the views are stunning. It is also considered the most haunted building in our city, because 13 men jumped from this building when the Great Depression started. Much to our horror, we learned that, when the brickwork was redone years ago, a bull's eye was placed to mark the spot where the men fell. I think that is a bit sick and gross. I copied the picture of the bull's eye from another website.

We also saw a modern building designed by the internationally famous architect, I. M. Pei. When this huge building was built in our city square, many residents were upset. However, it gained popularity when everyone realized that the famous Jackson Building was reflected in its windows (as you can see in the picture). The windows reflect the sky and remind visitors that our city is nicknamed the "Land of the Sky".

The beautiful home shown below was once part of the Highland Mental Health Hospital complex. Tragically, Zelda, known as the Jazz Age High Priestess and wife to F. Scott Fitzgerald, plus eight other women were killed in a fire that engulfed the hospital in 1948.    

We rode past several examples of French chateaus. The photo below once was a very large private home but is now many condominiums.

We also saw one of the two "castles" that our fair city claims. This one was built by the owner of that famous insane asylum I mentioned above.

The tour guide told us about different kinds of building materials used in the various buildings. I hadn't heard before about pebbledash, which consists of plaster mixed with either pebbles, sand, gravel or shells. The photo below depicts a pebbledash building.

The tour also went by the famous Grove Park Inn. This hotel was fashioned after a western hunting lodge and has hosted many well-known people. While I had heard of the many important people, including presidents, who have stayed at this inn, our informative tour guide told us of two people that the children and I hadn't hard about -- Al Capone and Albert Einstein.

The kids learned lots and enjoyed their first day of art. We will be going back to study these buildings again, plus many more over the next few weeks. There are so many wonderful details to discover!

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, July 5, 2013

Peering Through Doors

I am feeling like I'm at the beginning of several new things this week. I think they are going to be great things, but it is just too soon to know for sure. You know how it is when you are peeking through a door and can only see a tiny portion of a room? It might look amazing from your vantage point, but then you open the door wide and are sorely disappointed.  So, this week I am cautiously optimistic that we are finding some great new resources.

Goldilocks attended two sessions of math tutoring with her new tutor this week. I really think this may be an amazing opportunity for my girl. So far, she is working on factors (not that we haven't worked on this for years), but she is eager to learn and perform well for her tutor at the moment. As her tutor said, "I am a novelty right now."  She and I wonder how long that will last. She also said Goldilocks was making so many mistakes, because she was guessing at her work since she was suffering from "know it all syndrome" (my words). She suffers from this syndrome in all walks of her life! Her tutor didn't see any severe learning challenges that would get in the way of her learning. I love to hear this from a special education math teacher!! Basically, my girl has a huge chip on her shoulder (no surprise there) and doesn't want to be bothered with working hard.

We also attended the summer picnic of a special needs support group this week. Being a newcomer, it was a little hard to break into the tight circles of conversation. However, the monthly meeting is usually a topic presentation, Q&A, and social time for the parents. The kids break off with child care providers and do lots of fun activities. There were lots of kids and parents at the meeting. My first peek into this group looks like it will be a good thing, but time will tell!

Timothy is having many medical tests over the next few weeks to try and figure out what is going on with his energy level, general feeling of illness, and overwhelming stress level. We are assessing him from many different directions and pray that we find an answer soon. I am hoping this year is a turning point in his mood and overall sense of well being.

I am sifting through all of our options for next year. There are so many things to do and only so many hours in a day. This is my plan right now.

Goldilocks (12 years)
  • Math tutoring 1 to 2 times a week
  • Special needs gymnastics
  • Reading/writing tutoring once a week
  • Neurofeedback one hour a week
I am considering "Girls on the Run," which is a nationwide program and consists of a 12 week course in running and character training for girls 8 to 13 years old. I am also waiting to find out about a co-op that may provide more academics for her one day a week. I'm looking at free computer learning for her, since we both agree that I will not be teaching her next year (and I found out that she is cheating on Time4Learning). I'll be keeping her home, but I'm done dealing with her sassy, angry, know-it-all attitude. I can only present her with learning opportunities, but if she refuses to learn from them ~ not my problem! I know that may seem wrong to some, but she needs to take responsibility for her actions. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. I am also looking for an attachment therapist to help guide her/us through puberty.

Tom Sawyer (11 years)
  • Continue taking the all boys dance and theater class
  • Physical therapy
  • Special needs gymnastics
  • Neurofeedback one hour a week
I am looking for a robotics class for Tom Sawyer. If I can't find anything, we will buy some small robotics kits. I want to be sure to honor this interest about which he has been asking to learn for some time now. 

Little Red Riding Hood (9 years)
  • Begin classes with the Tween Company at the dance studio. Because of her dedication to dance, she was invited to join this group that involves between 5 to 7 hours of commitment each week (not including practice). This encompasses classes in ballet, modern, and mini workshops in other forms of dance.
  • Special needs gymnastics (She does not need this class but is allowed to take it since her siblings have special needs.)
I am considering having a physical therapy evaluation done on her. I think her foot is still turning in too much and her balance is still a bit unstable. Since her first dance classes years ago, she has said she plans to make a career out of dance. I want to make sure her body can support her desire. I'll see what the dance studio thinks when classes resume.

Tim (23 years) 

Our adult special needs son
  • Brain Injury Day Program ~ three to four days a week 
  • Volunteer at the nature center one day a week
  • Fencing ~one class a week
  • Neurofeedback one hour a week
He plans to leave the traumatic brain injury program at our community college this summer. It just is not a good fit for him right now. We are hopeful that the brain injury day program will be the fit he needs right now. He looks forward to going, which is a vast improvement over the college program. This new program also sat down with us and made a great set of goals for him to work on over the next few months.

Here are some pictures of our very wet July 4th. We had another family over for dinner and enjoyed putting off our own fireworks display between the downpours of rain. We have had 5 inches of rain in the last 3 days and are 20 inches ahead for the year. Where are you, Sun!?

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Homegrown Learners

Blessings, Dawn