Thursday, May 29, 2014

World War II ~France and Norway

We continued our studies of World War II with our exploration of how France and Norway were affected by war. We started off by reading The Journey that Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey. What a great story and wonderful introduction to how hard it was to escape from France, even if you had some money and resources. It was also a good introduction to the geography of France.

We also made a salt clay map of France and then painted the countries and bodies of water that touch France. The kids labeled the map. This activity was great and the kids really enjoyed it. I will definitely use this kind of hands-on approach again.

We also read The Grand Mosque of Paris. I had no idea that the Muslim community worked so hard in the underground to hide Jewish people. This was an interesting and adventurous book.

We completed our study with a fondue night at home and a lunch out at the local crepe shop. Both were fun and tasty.

Our study of Norway consisted of reading the book, Snow Treasure. I have been waiting since my children were infants and toddlers to read this book to them. I loved it when I read it to their older brother and now they enjoyed it also. What a fantastic story about a group of children in Norway carrying thousands of pounds of gold on their sleds right past the Germans and safely out of the country!

Next up ~ England!

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Alice in Wonderland

What a busy week! The children are in the midst of performing in six shows of Alice in Wonderland this week and next. I am working backstage most of the shows this year. Although my kids don't really need me backstage anymore, it is a great way to get free tickets for myself and dear husband. Backstage is running well and the stage manager this year is very organized.

In this year's spring performance, Little Red Riding Hood has two dances -- one as a flamingo and the other as one of Alice's teardrops in the Queen of Heart's croquet party.

Tom Sawyer is a frog messenger of the queen.

The kids always have a warm up with the entire company and a pre-show meeting.

Then they break off into little groups to quietly entertain themselves until they go on stage to perform. It usually runs very smoothly. This dance studio is 44 years old this year with the same original owners. They have it all down to an artistic science.

Little Red Riding Hood in the center with her rubberband rainbow loom.
The spring performance is always performed in the dance studios black box theater with the dancers so close you can almost touch them. The White Rabbit is one of the owners of the dance studio and also Tom Sawyer's teacher.

Here is Little Red Riding Hood as a teardrop. Their dance was really cute.

The tear drops crying. Little Red Riding Hood is on the left.
Tom Sawyer was very hard to catch on camera without too much blur, because it was so dark and the boys were moving a lot.

Tom  Sawyer is on the right with the knee brace.
Little Red Riding Hood's tween ballet class was the flamingos. These girls have improved so much this year with their form and precision.

Little Red Riding Hood is in the center on the floor.

As another year wraps up with this dance studio, I am pleased that my kids have had such wonderful experiences. The life lessons they have learned here are invaluable. Now I have to listen to complaints about when dance classes will start up again. They think dance classes should be year round.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

World War II Holland

Although we have continued our study of World War II, life got crazy and I have fallen behind in posting. I will be trying to catch up over the next few weeks. We have "travelled" through WWII by country. If you would like to see the countries we have already studied, their posts are listed below.
My post on Russia and Poland is here. 
My post about Germany.
My post about Austria and Hungary.

This post will be about Holland and Anne Frank. We decided to watch the movie, The Diary of Anne Frank, (1959 version) instead of reading the book. I didn't read the book until high school and it seemed like a bit too much for my crew. The movie was excellent. We also found the Anne Frank House museum website to be a wealth of information. We especially enjoyed the virtual tour of the rooms where her family hid for many months. In contrast to life in Amsterdam, we read the book, The Winged Watchman, to get a feel for WWII in the countryside of Holland. This was a very enjoyable book.

We also listened to the audio book, The Hiding Place. This wonderful story is about two Christian sisters in Holland who became part of the Underground Resistance and hid Jews who couldn't be moved out of the city because of their health or because they looked too Jewish to be disguised. Eventually, the sisters were captured and sent to a concentration camp in which one of them died. The people they hid survived the war.

We decided to make our own hiding place under our stairs. The kids added their snap circuit radio, pillows, water and a blanket.

Can you find the entrance to our hideout?
Oh, the entrance is behind the sofa and poster.
Here they are inside their hideout.
Next up is France and Norway. Once again, I'll be raiding the library for books!

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Wrap Up ~ Swimming Along

The Process of Grief ~ Seven weeks have passed since Goldilocks (13) ran away and left our family. In the weeks that have followed we have experienced shock wave after shock wave. It is hard to explain all of the emotions our family has been through and will keep going through for some time now. The doctors, counselors and caseworkers compare our loss to divorce. Goldilocks has divorced us in a way. Whether she is cable of understanding that or not is another matter entirely. She shows little interest in having interactions with us and when we do talk, the conversations are very superficial. She has had no contact with her siblings since she left and there are no plans for a visit in the near future. In the last week, she was allowed to send each of them a card. Each child had a different reaction to the card. One was pleased but stated that he was glad she did not live at home right now because he felt so much safer, another was indifferent and the third child received a letter that was a bit bossy and it caused the child to become upset. Goldilocks is doing much better in her soon to be licensed intensive mental health foster home. However, she is still hearing voices, having dissociative events, processing information in very confused ways and generally being tormented by her emotions. Most of the professionals say (off the record) that she likely will never be able to live at home again, but we will be able to retain custody, have visits and advocate for her. They have to say "off the record" because the system will try everything possible to place her back in the home at some point. As more and more alarming information has come in from the mental hospital and therapy appointments, I have to agree with the experts. We really had no idea how much danger our family was in! This story could have ended in a much more tragic way (and still could). I will continue to share about Goldilocks and her journey. However, I will probably not share about her every single week. Although I will continue to have contact with Goldilocks during her weekly therapy sessions and we love her very much, it is time to refocus on our family's healing. Part of that healing is embracing all that is good and not dwelling so much on all of the pain. Please know that we appreciate all of the prayers that many of you have blessed our family with during this difficult journey.

My typical breakfast these days.
It feels good to get a jumpstart on eating all of the fruits and veggies we should eat each day.

Mother's Day ~ This was the calmest Mother's Day I have had in 12 years. On Mother's Days 12 years ago, I was sitting in the hospital with the newborn foster baby we had just received, Tom Sawyer. He was a really sick little guy. From that year forward, our Goldilocks always had a very hard time with Mother's Day. It is a big trigger day for kids with trauma. What a difference it was this year. The family planted our "pizza garden" (tomatoes, peppers, onions, basil and eggplant). We also planted potatoes and a pumpkin plant. We went to church and then Little Red Riding Hood and I went out to lunch with my Mom. It was a nice, peaceful day.

My little guy was not really feeling up to helping with the garden.

Little Red Riding Hood ~ has been reading a new series of books. She has been reading a book a day. I love to see her enjoying reading so much!

Poetry Tea with Shel Silverstein ~ We finally got around to having another poetry tea. Grandma read the children many poems from Where the Sidewalk Ends. The kids loved having a poetry tea with Grandma while I was away at a meeting.

Our Favorite Thing in Homeschool this week ~ We all are really enjoying reviewing some musicians we learned about earlier in the year with the book Legends, Icons, and Rebels: Music that Changed the World. The book does a short, two page spread of 28 musicians and then has a CD that plays one of the songs for each musician that made him or her famous. We have been reading about each musician and then watching some of the songs mentioned on YouTube. This week we studied Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.

Tom Sawyer ~ Tom Sawyer received his J-Brace and attended another session with his physical therapist. The swelling is dramatically reduced and he is starting to feel much better. His therapist said that he will have to do lots of strength building of all of the muscles in his legs. His joints are very loose, and the only way to control them is to have strong and long muscles, which does not come naturally to those who have cerebral palsy.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, May 9, 2014

Friday Wrap Up ~ The Week of Doctors

Tom Sawyer ~ Doctor appointments have once again taken over my world. We saw the orthopedist early in the week. He felt that Tom Sawyer needed an MRI to determine the extent of his injury. The MRI revealed that he had dislocated his patellar and now has patellar instability which is a fancy way of saying... he really messed up his knee. After the MRI, we returned to the doctor to see what was next and were told that Tom Sawyer will need physical therapy twice a week for a few months. He also got fitted for a J-Brace which is being made for him to wear for some period of time. He will be allowed to dance in Alice and Wonderland (provided the choreographer adapts the dance to his needs). He cannot jump, skip, hop, lift another person, run or be thrown (in dance) for a very long time. Consequently, Tom Sawyer is out of the Special Olympics competition for sure. He is disappointed and feeling blue. I would even say he is dazed by the whole situation. He has spent much of the week asleep.
My Irises are blooming in the front yard.
Homeschooling Decision ~ All of these trials mean that school has been scaled back. Ever since Goldilocks left, we have been completing only three good days of school each week. This crisis has meant so many hours of my being on the phone or in meetings instead of having time to educate my kiddos. This means that we are almost done with week 34. We were supposed to be done next week, but our state requires 36 weeks, so we have at least two weeks more to go. Next year, I will go to a 40 week school year because of our kids' special needs. The need to do a bit of remedial or reteaching is even more obvious now that Goldilocks is out of the home. I thought the kids were struggling because of their own learning challenges. I now see that a big part of their struggle with learning was due to their being stressed out by the never ending chaos their sister was providing. They seem to be retaining their learning more easily now (not that they don't still have learning challenges). I now realize that if I reteach a few things they may get them quickly this time around.
Homemade donuts make everything better.
We will continue school until mid-June. I am sure we will complete 37 to 38 weeks by then. We will then take a four to six week break and resume school by the end of July. I plan to go back to a "5 week on, 1 week off" schedule next year. That was our favorite schedule for years. It works well for a family with tons of appointments. I can usually tell a doctor that we are available every six weeks and fit many appointments into our breaks. It also allows me to catch up on housework, projects and lesson plans every five weeks.

Star Wars Day ~ Sunday was supposed to be a run away from home day. However, that was impossible with Tom Sawyer's injury. We made the best of it by celebrating Star Wars Day. We watched Star Wars The New Hope and read some great Star Wars books. The kids made an origami Yoda and a friend dropped off a small Star Wars Lego set for Tom Sawyer.

Education Day at the Baseball Field ~ We went to the Education day at our local baseball field. It was fun and HOT! We only stayed through the 5th inning because Tom Sawyer's leg was hurting so much. But it is one of our end of school year traditions and we were glad to be out and about for awhile.

Little Red Riding Hood made a baseball bracelet for the occasion.

I am joining ~

Homegrown Learners

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Two Celebrations, A Trial and An Update

Update ~ Goldilocks' therapeutic caregiver has decided to go through the extensive training (which she already has but needs to take the classes anyway) and licensing to be a very specialized mental health foster parent. She will be only the fifth in our county with this training. This means that Goldilocks can stay where she is for many months before stepping down to a less restrictive form of care. This is great news. The bad news is it all takes time and will cost us thousands of dollars in the next two to three months while we wait for licensing. Then we will have to pay a substantial room and board fee monthly to the mental health agency. However, the overall picture is good news and we will just have to wait and see how the finances will work out.

Tom Sawyer Turns 12 ~ We had a wonderful birthday celebration for Tom Sawyer. He decided to have a very small birthday party this year with just four boys invited. He just wanted to embrace calmness. We are all craving that around here. We kicked off his birthday with dry ice fun. We used long 1 1/2 inch diameter PVC pipe with an end cap. Then the boys added warm water, dry ice and food coloring. My dh supervised this fun activity.

The result is colorful smoke. The kids then added dish soap, which made bubbles.

The general theme of the party was Minecraft, but Tom Sawyer really only wanted Minecraft decorations.

Tom Sawyer loved the organic soda with the label that said "potion of healing". I think that was his favorite decoration of all! Our party favors were Mad Libs which were popular. It was a happy birthday for our boy!

The Special Olympics Qualifier ~ Tom Sawyer attended the qualifier for our county this past week. He did really well and performed his routine in front of a judge on all of the apparatuses. He got really nice scores and took a first place ribbon in five events for Level 1!

A Trial ~ Tom Sawyer fell off of a chair while changing a light bulb last night. He instantly started screaming and was in intense pain. After applying ice and seeing that his knee was swelling up like a grapefruit, we took him to the ER. Through x-rays and a CT scan they found that he had a patellar avulsion fracture (a fracture of the underside of his knee cap). We do not know yet what all of this will mean for the Special Olympics, his dance classes, his performing in the upcoming Alice and Wonderland or any other sport activities in the near future. For now, he is in a leg brace and on crutches. He is sleeping through the day on high doses of Advil. He will see an orthopedist early next week to determine what care he is going to need and how long it will take to heal.

Your prayers for our family are so appreciated. Thank you!

Blessings, Dawn

Homegrown Learners>

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A is for Art with Grandma!

We have really enjoyed learning art with Grandma this year. We have studied a variety of artists and art mediums. Our artist studies are set up with an introduction to the artist. Grandma does the research and presents a small introduction which often includes a video she has found on YouTube and or a picture book about the artist. Once we have surveyed the time period, artist and what type of art the artist created, we move on to the hands-on project. Our goal is to create art using the style of the artist so we can better understand more about that kind of art.  Here is a review of what we have done so far.

Piet Mondrian ~ 

Supplies used ~ Sharpies, rulers, poster paint and good quality drawing paper

This was the children's first introduction to abstract work. It was one of my favorite projects this year. However, I am partial to Piet Mondrian. I find his work very calming.

Frida Kahlo ~ 

The kids' artwork

This is my attempt.

Supplies ~ oil pastel crayons and good quality drawing paper

One thing that has been really enjoyable through these classes is that the adults have gotten in on the action. The other mother whose children are attending the classes and I have had fun learning, too. Because Frida Kahlo had pet parrots, we all included a parrot in our drawings.

Frank Lloyd Wright ~ 

Supplies ~ clear contact paper, matte frames, Sharpies and tissue paper

This project was hard and we were thankful for a three adult to five kid ratio. We made windows similar to the bubble windows that Frank Lloyd Wright created out of stained glass. The pictures really do not give them justice.

Grant Wood ~

Supplies ~ Photo of the house used to paint "American Gothic" without any people in the front (found on the Internet), markers and copy paper

This was one of the kids' favorite projects so far. They learned about Regional painting and about parodies. The children loved looking at all the funny parodies that have been made of the "American Gothic" painting and then made their own.

Elijah Pierce ~ 

Supplies ~ clay, plastic plates, acrylic paint and clear glitter

The children listened to a 20 minute video in which the famous folk artist spoke about his life and his wood carvings. We carved clay rather than wood and later painted our creations. This project took two weeks for our little group to complete. We had to wait for our clay to air dry before we could paint it.

Ben and Me

Blessings, Dawn