Saturday, June 21, 2014

First Half of June ~ Summer Fun!

This is going to be a bit of a photo dump, but I will try to make sense of our summer fun (so far)! It is a long post! You have been warned ....

One of the first things we did in June was make marshmallows from scratch. Making them yourself is the only way I know to get marshmallows without a trace of corn in them (which is necessary for Tom Sawyer). Tom Sawyer's dance teacher has been begging us for about two years to make him some homemade marshmallows, but I didn't have a powerful enough mixer until my in-laws gave me a KitchenAid for Christmas. Once, I killed a regular mixer by making marshmallows! I think Tom Sawyer's teacher loved the marshmallows even more than Tom Sawyer did!

We attended my husband's company party. It was a nice picnic. The highlight was that one of the staff had brought her sailboat and spent the afternoon giving rides on the lake. Little Red Riding Hood was the last one to get a ride before a thunderstorm rolled into the area. She loved it!

We visited the arboretum with grandparents. It was "Turtle Day" at the arboretum, and our adult son Tim worked a display table from the nature center. 

Tim is the one with the glasses.
We are attending the weekly library Lego club this summer. It is lots of fun and not too crowded.

Father's Day we went to a really amazing park in Tennessee. Our family membership was about to expire so we were glad to get back one more time. We all enjoyed the reptile show, planetarium show, and the boat ride. It was a lovely Father's Day.

Tom Sawyer attended a week of Viking camp at our dance studio. This all boy camp is an awesome experience every year. It is like a whole year of Boy Scouts (without the camping) rolled into a couple weeks. This year, we only had the funds for one week. However, it was such a great combination of boys and Tom Sawyer was learning so much that we asked if he could join the second week on a payment plan. The week was full, but the teacher said Tom Sawyer could come since he was so well behaved and encouraging to the younger kids. He even said Tom Sawyer was showing some nice leadership skills. I just loved hearing this about my boy! It has been a tough climb at times raising this boy into a young man. So he gets to attend one more week of Viking camp next week! What they have done so far ...
  • Made a wooden shield
  • Made a dull axe out of wood and metal
  • Learned stage combat
  • Learned stage deaths
  • Learned the Viking alphabet and wrote notes in it
  • Painted figurines
  • Made a model of a Viking landscape
  • Attended a Viking party on the last day in which they ate lots of food, went swimming, and put all of their training into action in epic battles all over the park
  • Learned javelin throwing
  • Learned some history of the Vikings

Little Red Riding Hood and I held our own "Mother and Daughter Camp" while Tom Sawyer was away all day. We did something frugal and fun each day.

Monday ~ We returned some pants that didn't fit to the store which had been sitting around for a few months. I gave the return card to Little Red Riding Hood and let her shop. She bought lots of rubber bands and spent the day creating.

Tuesday ~ We attended a $1 movie.

Wednesday ~ We got manicures done by the local cosmetology class at the local community college. They came out great and were less than half the price of going to a professional place.

Thursday ~ We bought candy at the general store downtown and Grandma gave us facials.

Friday ~ We went to Splashville and had brownies, Doritos, and bologna sandwiches.

Well, that wraps up all of our fun so far this summer. 

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, June 14, 2014

2014 - 2015 Curriculum Choices

I am busy planning our next school year which starts on July 14th. We have very limited funds to spend on curriculum this year. I am so fortunate that with a little bit of creative thinking and letting go of some of my ideals, I was able to find the majority of our books on my own shelves! We will be doing the majority of our lessons together next year since I have a 5th grader and a 6th grader. They learn in a similar way and both prefer math, science and listening to literature.

Literature ~ Literature is one place where I had to let go of some of my ideals. For instance, we will be reading some books that are not in chronological order or that I have been saving to read when I thought we would be traveling to that destination. However, they are all worthy books and will be enjoyed even if they are not  presented at the perfect time. I also have unit studies to go along with almost all of the books that cover language arts, art, music, science, history, geography and sociology. We will be using the lessons from these other disciplines that apply to our current studies.

  • The Saturdays
  • Neil Armstrong Young Flyer
  • The Cricket in Times Square
  • The Trumpet and the Swan
  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • The Great Gilly Hopkins
  • Julie of the Wolves
  • From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
  • The Year of Miss Agnes
  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963
  • A Long Way from Chicago
  • A Year Down Yonder
I also have a selection of books that I held aside for too long and are a bit on the junior side but are still worthy of enjoying. These may be used when things are crazy busy or we are reading intensive history books.
  • Yonder
  • The Big Orange Spot This is one of my favorite childhood books and the kids have heard it many times before. However, I want to share some of the fun art activities in the FIAR unit study with them.
  • Song and Dance Man
  • Angel Child, Dragon Child
  • A Chair for My Mother
  • Frank and Ernest
  • Rehema's Journey ~ A Visit to Tanzania
Science ~ Once again, I looked at what I had and what we had not yet covered instead of what my ideal would have been. We do have some good material and the kids will have a blast with what I dug up.

  • Real Science-4-Kids Physics Level 1
  • Our Solar System and Space travel unit study ~ This will go nicely when we are studying this period in history.
  • Nature study ~ I plan on picking a place to study for the entire year and watch it change. I haven't decided where this place will be yet. It will probably be a pond, lake or wet lands in our area.
History/Geography ~ This is my favorite area of study and I am always trying to get my little crew to agree with me. As always, they say history is "okay", but "let's do more science"! This year we will be doing half of the year focused on history and half of the year on geography. Maybe they will like the map work and literature approach to geography.

  • We will be finishing World War II for the first five weeks of school ~ America, Japan, Pacific Theater and maybe Africa.
  • Unit study on the space race
  • Unit study on the Civil Rights Movement
  • All the rest ~ History of the 1960's to current (I will probably be only mentioning the Korean and Vietnam wars and come back to them when the kids are older. They are getting burned out on war.)
  • Geography Unit Study ~ Minn of the Mississippi, Seabird, Paddle to the Sea, and Tree in the Trail
Language Arts ~  I was really pleased to see what I had on the shelves and that my kids had "grown into" some of the materials I own. My main focus for language arts this year is writing -- reports, research papers, journals -- you name it. We also need more grammar work. The only thing I didn't already have is the next level of All About Spelling. I will be purchasing this in September. They are both halfway through their complete curriculum books and the rest of their independent workbooks will be focusing on writing, reading or grammar.

Tom Sawyer's independent work

Little Red Riding Hood's independent work

They will be doing some group language arts, too. Our spelling is done together. We will also be exploring together Grammar Ace and different forms of writing.

We will also be using the Language Arts Explorer Junior How to Write series. Our library has about 8 of the 24 in the series. They are easy to read and do a good job explaining in detail how to write things like lab reports, poems, a play, emails, ads, comic books and fractured fairy tales.

Math ~ I am going to have to buy our math program. We will continue with Teaching Textbooks. They both need level 5. We will also continue with Life of Fred books. I am going to borrow the next two books from a friend. The kids have done a wonderful job with this combination of math curriculum.

Art ~ My mother will continue to teach much of the art lessons next year. After searching my shelves, I found a few books about modern artists already on my shelves. I also found two masterpiece art coloring books and two anti -coloring books. These will be used for creative coloring and to review artists we have already studied. We hope to study two artists each five weeks and do one craft/art project that isn't related to a particular artist. We will learn about the artists below and others of my mother's choosing. There are many modern artists represented in the Getting to Know Great Artists series in our state's library system.

  • Alexander Calder
  • Rivera
  • O'Keefe
  • Edward Hopper
  • Andy Warhol
Music ~ Music is not my kiddos's favorite subject. They enjoy music when they are dancing, but they are not interested in singing or playing an instrument. We will only be doing music appreciation this year. I have one  music unit study left from years ago that we have not done. It is about Edward MacDowell. Otherwise, we will be exploring the birth of rock music and its growth into modern times.

Bible Studies ~  I know I have shown Draw to Learn the Life of Jesus as part of my curriculum before. However, we have only made it through about eight lessons. Every year something gets dropped and this is one of the things that has been dropped in past years. I hope we are able to stick with it this year. I really think it is a great program.

Life Skills and Health ~ Our health studies will mostly be around taking care of our changing bodies. My students are 10 and 12. It is time to learn about pimples, deodorant, and all the changes that boys and girls go through in their early teen years. For some time now, we have maintained open conversations about our family's courtship beliefs and what intimacy in relationships looks like. We will continue those conversations in gentle ways. In addition, Tom Sawyer, who has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, struggles at times with lots of social situations. For example, he does not always recognize when he is being bullied. We will continue to work on creating social stories that help him deal with more complicated issues within relationships.

  • What's Happening to Me
  • The New Social Story Book
  • Comic Converstations
  • American Girl Doll Health and Beauty Cards
Our life skills will be a continuation of perfecting chores and cooking skills. 

Wow, this turned out to be a long post! Thanks for hanging in there.

Please join me at the not back to school hop ~ Not back to school hop
Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Reflections on Our School Year ~ My Perspective

I could have never imagined at the beginning of this school year that there would be such a huge change in our homeschool and family. When Goldilocks ran away from home at the end of March, she changed the course of her life and the life of our family. I began the year homeschooling three children and ended the year with only two. Goldilocks is still with our therapeutic respite care provider. We are currently private paying for where she is and when we run out of money (which will be by mid July) she will have to move if her caregiver's license has not come through or a scholarship hasn't been found to offset the cost. If Goldilocks is able to stay where she is, she will be attending the public school system next year in one of their most intensive programs. There is also concern that she may blowout of her current placement because she is so challenging to care for that it may be too much for one person. If she has to move, she could end up in a PRTF (Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility) anywhere in the country where she most likely would be educated at the facility. She has already been rejected from most of the PRTFs in our state because she is considered too challenging. There are still many unknowns when it comes to Goldilocks' future.

Goldilocks (13)
 As for my reflections on how Goldilocks' year went ~ although this change has been shocking, horrible, distressing, and has filled our lives with worry for her future, it has also been a blessing. Goldilocks was not coping in our home. She just is not able at this time to live in a family setting. Our family was hanging on by our fingernails and the daily stress was taking a huge toll on all of us. So it is good that she is getting help elsewhere. It is just hard giving up control and releasing her to the unknown. What did she learn this year before running away the end of March? She learned to love audio books, tolerate a math tutor, speak to a multitude of professionals about her feelings, be responsible for library books with limited prompts, and write decent, third grade level paragraphs. Her end of year testing is not back yet, but I expect the results to be very poor. She took the test two grades behind and her caregiver said that most of the problems that she spot checked were wrong. I pray that next year will help us find the key to helping Goldilocks thrive!

Tom Sawyer (12)
Tom Sawyer did very well this year. His ability to focus on his school work and get it done improved a great deal. He also complained much less about writing and language arts. He still has lots of room for improvement in writing and that will be a major focus in his education next year. Using workbooks at the beginning of the day and then moving on to our projects was a good fit for Tom Sawyer. He really likes routine and did well knowing what would come next. I think it was also helpful to him to see the workbooks filling up and knowing that he was making progress towards completion of a goal. I think one of the most important things we did this year was 20 minutes of uninterrupted writing several times a week. I would like to see this happen daily next year. At the beginning of the year, I stated that I wasn't sure which grade Tom Sawyer was in (5th or 6th), but by mid-year I had decided that he fit better into 5th grade. Tom Sawyer performed beautifully through three trials this year. He lost a sister (at least for now), started the process of having braces and received a Herbst Appliance (which is a huge sensory trial for him), and has been very brave through his knee injury. I am so pleased with how much maturity he has shown through these challenges. He is working hard in physical therapy and will continue doing it two times a week through the summer and perhaps beyond. He rocked his end of year testing with CAT! He received well above average in almost all categories with one even higher.

Little Red Riding Hood (10)
This year I watched Little Red Riding Hood come into her own. She now enjoys reading, which is a huge accomplishment. In the past few weeks she has read a whole chapter book almost every day. They are a little bit below her reading level, but she is devouring them. The importance of being able to read and enjoy reading is paramount. I am so relieved that this goal is happening for my girl. I am also very impressed with her research skills and her ability to follow the tutorials on YouTube to make her rubberband creations. She is always hard at work creating something new. She also enjoyed doing workbooks first in the morning. I have never been a huge fan of workbooks, but they seem to work very well for my kids. I also saw an improvement in dealing with mistakes. This girl is a perfectionist and often can crumble into tears if she thinks she has the wrong answer. She is coping much better with errors and going on with her studies. "We learn from our mistakes" is a statement heard frequently around here. Little Red Riding Hood did an excellent job in Tween Company at our dance studio this year. She dealt well with the increased pressure and thrived under her teachers's tutelage. One teacher told me that she had all of the components to have a long dancing/dance teacher career, if she wishes. That has been Little Red Riding Hood's dream since she was a preschooler. I don't know if she will choose a career in dance, but I imagine dance will play a role in her life for a long time to come. Little Red Riding Hood did a marvelous job on her end of year testing, too. She got well above average or even higher in all of the categories.

Overall I plan on conducting our homeschool in the same way next year. We will be changing our schedule to five weeks on with one week off. This seems to work better for all of our doctor appointments and keeping the house afloat. I will be posting very soon our plans for next year. I was able to find most of our curriculum right on my book shelves!

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, June 7, 2014

World War II ~ England

We had a great time studying how World War II affected England. We kicked off our study of England by watching 1940's House. This is an awesome PBS special. From the show, we were able to decide on the things we wanted to learn the most about England.

One thing that fascinated the kids was incendiary bombs. It is hard to imagine that everyone was trained how to remove them from their homes and workplace in the event of one crashing through the roof. We studied how they removed the incendiary bomb and put it out. Then, we replicated this lesson using a smoke bomb. The kids found it much harder to pick up than they expected it to be. Realizing that the real thing would have caught on fire within a minute or two was a frightening thought!

We then practiced using a fire extinguisher. I had one that had been left outside in very cold temperatures this winter. I just didn't feel confident that it would still work properly and figured it was better to practice with it instead of just throwing it away. The kids enjoyed this activity. Sure hope they never have to use one for real!

We also learned about some of the games and activities people did during World War II to pass the time. We tried our hands at Tiddlywinks. This game is much harder than it looks (at least for those of us who lack eye hand coordination). We only learned the simple rules which is to take a squidger and propel the winks into a cup before your opponent squops your winks. I just love English words. They crack me up!

We also tried SPAM. Yes, I managed to get to 41 years of age without having had it. But Spam was a real lifesaver to the British during the war years. It was a popular food during the ration years and even up to current times. We fried our Spam and ate it with noodles. It was salty and I will probably not race out to buy it again. However, it was not at all as bad as I expected it to be. But it sure isn't the grass-fed meat we usually put into our mouths.

We also made a model of an Anderson bomb shelter in lieu of the real thing. I just wasn't willing to dig a deep hole in the back yard. What kind of a homeschool mother am I anyway? LOL!! This was a much easier way to learn about how a shelter was constructed and then we bombed it with rocks. The kids had a fun time bombing it while it lasted.

We are done with school for five weeks so I will pick up on our studies of World War II when we return to school. We still have the home front (America) and Japan to go. I also may do a bit more with the African countries that were involved. So far, we only listened to an audio tape that was set in Africa. 

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Summer Plans

We are in the last few days of school and my mind is thinking about summer fun. This year it is vital that our summer fun be very low cost. We also do not have A/C and I am thinking about places to cool off. We are only taking a five week break this year. I am switching to a five week on, one week off schedule next school year. To make the breaks work with Christmas and other important dates, I need to restart school on July 14th.

So here are our Summer 2014 plans ~

Out and About
  • Movie days for $1 Regal movie theaters Tuesdays and Wednesdays 10 am.
  • Library Summer Fun programs ~ We are planning on attending three of them.
  • Library Lego Club every week.
  • $1 dip days at our local pool ~ There will be four days this year!
  • Splashville ~ a free water fountain park in our city center.
  • Play dates and sleep overs.
  • Groovin' on Grovemont ~ free music festival at a nearby lake.
  • A day at the mall ~ We will turn in our Barnes and Noble reading journals for a free book and have a snack in the food court. Maybe some friends can join us in the cool A/C and play board games in the food court.
Parties and Picnics 
  • Patient Appreciation party at our orthodontist ~ This is always a fun party with lots of activities and food.
  • Company picnic ~ My husband's work picnic is at the lake this year.
  • The kids are currently invited to one birthday party in June.
  • Family Support Network Picnic ~ Our special needs support group picnic sounds like it is going to be a wet blast this year.
  • 4th of July downtown festival

Backyard Fun
  • We are hard at work finishing up the transformation of our backyard to a tween/teen friendly hangout. Before long cool swings will be joining our existing trampoline and slack line. We will be unveiling the new yard soon.
  • Water wars 
  • Silly string
  • Bubble gun play
  • Slip and Slide
  • Backyard Campout
Science and Art Fun
  • Tonic Ice Cube Arch
  • Sharpie T-Shirts
  • Still thinking of some other activities that are best done outside.

Tom Sawyer's camp and Little Red Riding Hood's mom/daughter day out ~
  • Tom Sawyer will be attending one week of camp this year at our dance studio. The theme this year is Vikings. He earned some money for camp plus received money for his birthday that will go toward the week's cost. That leaves only about $25 left for me to pay towards his camp week. 
  • Little Red Riding Hood decided to forgo camp and to use the money she has earned for a mom/daughter day out. We will get our nails done, eat brownies, see a $1 movie and go out to lunch at Panda Express.
Family Vacation 
  • Dare I even entertain the idea? We are hoping to go to Kentucky this summer. We have a long list of places we could visit from 3 hours away to 6 hours away. Whether we get one overnight or three overnights will depend on several financial factors over the next few weeks. However, we plan to get to a new state that we haven't seen before, and Kentucky is the goal. I am sure what ever we manage will be delightful.

So what are your plans?

Blessings, Dawn