Sunday, September 28, 2014

Week 10 ~ Show and Tell

We finished our second five week unit this Friday. The kids prepared a show and tell for their Grandma and Dad. We decided to have a "pink" dinner in honor of the Pink Panther theme song by the composer Henry Mancini. We couldn't find that much natural pink food on short notice. However, we had pink lemonade, ham, watermelon and strawberry chocolate chip cookies. We listened to songs by Mancini while eating.

When dinner was completed, the kids started their presentations. Tom Sawyer started with his presentation on  Paddle to the Sea. He showed us the maps the kids made and narrated the story. He also told about his writing class that he is taking with about five other boys. He also read his book report on his favorite book in the last five weeks. He chose The Little House in the Big Woods. I was surprised that he wanted to read this book again, but he said it was one of his all-time favorites.

Little Red Riding Hood did her presentation of The Trumpet of the Swan. She narrated the story and showed us the diorama she had made. She went on to read her book report on A Spiderweb for Two. This was her favorite book this unit. She also told all about the therapy dogs that visit the hospital each week. She is on a first name basis with most of them.

The kids then showed their artwork. They learned about Louise Nevelson with Grandma and made sculptures in her style.

Lastly, the kids told about the Berlin Airlift and the chocolate pilot. They showed our authentic small piece of the Berlin Wall, and Grandma shared about the daring escape of a man she knew who got through the Berlin Wall. Then we moved downstairs to watch Christmas from the Heavens, a DVD about the candy bomber. The DVD is a wonderful performance put on by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir which concludes with the real chocolate pilot, Gail Halvorsen coming on stage. He was delightfully 92 years young. The kids loved seeing him alive and well.

We are really looking forward to our one week break. I really need to do some catch up on phone calls and appointments. Five weeks is just enough time between breaks to keep most of the balls in the air while teaching. However, more and more balls are falling now, and there is a lot of catch up that needs to be done with life. I am hoping to also catch up the blog this coming week. Hopefully, I will put on another update about Goldilocks (lots happening in her world) and our lessons plans for the next five weeks. We shall see how much I get to. Our computer died and I am using the old Samsung notebook that just keeps on going while the more powerful computers die. It is not really able to meet the demands of an active family and one has to wait in line for it or get up really early! It also is slow!

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My Day in the Life in Numbers

To write this blog for a Day in the Life, I decided it would be fun to look at my day in numbers rather than chronologically. Let me just give you a little background to provide some clarification. Right from the start, I woke up feeling behind. Late last night, I realized that an important package containing my son's supplements that we really need had not been delivered. However, according to its tracking number, it was delivered last Saturday. Yet it was no where to be found on my property. Also, I hadn't gotten to any laundry this weekend and it was really backed up! I really try to stick to the rule ~a load a day keeps the chaos away! Today was not typical, since I usually do not spend the day doing laundry.

30 ~ I was greeted early this morning with a very grouchy boy (12 years). He was beyond himself before he even got out of bed. I assumed that he wasn't feeling well; and after playing 21 questions with him, I finally discovered that he had about 30 mosquito bites that had kept him awake itching for hours. I treated them with Aloe Vera gel and gave him a large dose of infant Advil (a painkiller that has a minimum of corn in it).

41 ~ After breakfast, we headed out the door to drop off Tim at his day program for brain injured adults. These were the first of the 41 miles I would drive before the day was done.

92 ~ The kids had 92 minutes of media time today! That is 17 minutes more than they are supposed to have each day.

2.5 ~ The kids attended dance classes for 2.5 hours. Little Red Riding Hood and Tom Sawyer are in two of the same classes each week. Little Red Riding Hood is in two additional classes each week. They are already talking about the Nutcracker performance in December. Nutcracker mania will be underway in just a few weeks.

~ I managed to get five loads of laundry washed, dried, folded and put away. There are only two loads to go to get us caught up.

17 ~ The kids were only able to get through 17 minutes of chores today. They usually do 25 minutes of chores on weekdays.

3 ~ I cleaned up dog pee three times left by our 16 year old senile dog. Thank goodness for hardwood floors.

4.25 ~ We worked our way through school from 9 am to 1 pm and then 2:30 pm to 2:45 pm and got through all of our lessons.
  • Bella's Mystery Deck (logic)
  • CNN Student News (current events)
  • The Trumpet of The Swan (literature)
  • Independent reading 
  • Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot (history)
  • Multiplication worksheets (math)
  • Draw the Life of Jesus (Bible)
  • The Story of the World Vol. 4 The Marshal Plan (history)
  • Christmas from Heaven DVD The Berlin Airlift (history)
  • Language arts workbook pages (language arts)
  • Journal time (language arts)

Little Red Riding Hood was so excited about holding a piece of the Berlin Wall!
I'm so glad I bought a piece shortly after it fell in 1989!

It was a full day. There were moments of stress and tension. However, most of the day was smooth and successful.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, September 19, 2014

Week 9 ~ The Great Lakes and Pirate Day!

We had another great week. I am glad that our routine is going so well. Just one more week until our next break. I can't believe we have nine weeks under our belts already!

Paddle To The Sea ~ We finished our study of Paddle to The Sea with the creation of a salt dough map of the Great Lakes. It came out really nice and was much easier this time then our salt dough map of France last year. We plan to make a salt dough map for geography every 10 weeks this year.

Other School ~ The kids are doing really well completing their work each day. I feel like we are getting so much more done each day than we did in past years. The kids are especially enjoying Bella Mysteries this week. They are fun little cards that give a mystery to solve. The kids have to use logic and prior knowledge to figure out the clues. They are also really enjoying our latest literature book, The Trumpet of the Swan. They are sick and tired of math workbooks and can't wait for Teaching Textbooks to arrive. I earned enough money on Ebay this month to buy the next in the series. We also enjoyed the latest Squilt freebie from Mary. You have to check it out! I can't wait for the next volume to be released. Lastly, the kids made salt dough Christmas Ornaments for their dance teachers with the left over map dough.  We are already gathering things for Christmas. YIKES!

Out and About ~ In addition to dance and writing classes, we had Lego Club this week. The kids love going to monthly Lego Club. The "Challenge" this week was to make a famous landmark. Both my kids decided to make the statue of Liberty.

Tom Sawyer's Statue of Liberty
We finished off the week with a very special outing! Friday was Speak Like a Pirate Day, and Krispy Kreme gave out a free dozen doughnuts to anyone who dressed up as a pirate. We couldn't miss that! Tom Sawyer is doing so much better with his food allergies. He took an activated charcoal capsule before eating THREE doughnuts. He did well afterward, with no hives, wheezing or redness!

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Wrap-Up ~ Week 8

It has been an exhausting week. However, it was a good week. This was our first week with our full dance schedule included into our normal schedule. So far, that is going smoothly. Little Red Riding Hood has dance lessons for 2.5 hours twice a week. She is in the dance studio's Tween Company. Tom Sawyer is taking 2.5 hours per week and is considered to be a part-time student in the Tween Company. They are in classes at the same time so everything is streamlined. The only appointments that are causing me stress right now are the ones at 1pm or in the mornings. I am not ready to be done teaching school and feeding lunches in time to be on the road for 1 pm appointments. Luckily, we only have one day each week that we have a standing 1 pm appointment. I am really struggling to keep the infrequent appointments to later in the day. Goldilocks' school is not on board with my plans at all. Without consulting me, the school keeps making appointments for the middle of the morning. I told them I am trying to educate in the mornings, but they don't take my homeschooling seriously. Hopefully, if I cancel/reschedule enough appointments, they will figure it out.

Chinese Dinner ~ We made egg rolls for the first time this week. They were much easier than I expected them to be and came out nicely. We had some wrappers left over and made apple fritters the next day. Yum! Our Chinese dinner was our last activity with the book, The Cricket in Times Square.

What happens when your family's tooth fairy is a scientist? Little Red Riding Hood lost four teeth in the past few weeks. The tooth fairy has been working overtime around here. She is a science minded tooth fairy that doesn't want to miss any educational opportunities. So she set up a science experiment for the children. What happens when you soak baby teeth in containers of either water, orange juice, vinegar, or soda? It isn't pretty, folks.

Day One

Day three ~ coke tooth very discolored and vinegar tooth kind of chalky
Day 5 ~ vinegar tooth has no more enamel and coke tooth very discolored

We decided to see if mouth wash would clean up the teeth. In just 5 hours our baby teeth looked like this. I was amazed at how improved they were. I still would not advice soaking your teeth in any soda or vinegar!

Frederick Law Olmsted and Central Park ~ I do love Central Park and New York City in general. I hope I get to share it with my children during their childhoods. Tim has been to NYC twice, once as a baby and the other when he  was granted the trip by a wish organization for medically-fragile kids. Hopefully, we will get there in the next five years. Between the Melendy series (The Saturdays) and The Cricket in Times Square, we have talked a lot about NYC. I decided to do a mini study on Frederick Law Olmsted and Central Park. I found the official website for Central Park to be helpful, and there are lots of documentaries on YouTube about Olmsted. We also have a Cobblestone magazine about Olmsted. After looking over all of our resources and watching clips of people enjoying Central Park, we decided to design our own dream park. Each of the children designed a park that would have enough activities that one could spend the entire day there. I couldn't help but get in on the action, too. We had a grand time day dreaming about all that we would include ~ wave pools, duck ponds, statue gardens, beaches, fruit forests and on and on.

September 11 ~ We did not watch any documentaries to commemorate the event this year. Part of my overall plan for this year is to keep trauma and drama to a minimum. Our family needs to heal and feel more secure. We did, however, read the sweet book, The Little Chapel That Stood. This book covers the topic in a gentle way.

Physics ~ We covered lesson two in our physics program, Real Science-4-Kids. We learned about force, energy and work. We conducted a fun experiment with a slinky and some fruit to see how force and energy create work. We wrote down a hypothesis of which fruit would do the most work. Then we weighed our fruit. Next, we tested how much work each fruit did by how far it pulled down a few rings of a slinky.

Frugal Living ~ I really needed a new pair of sneakers and hadn't purchased a pair of shoes of any kind in nearly two years. Since I want to start walking during the kids' dance classes, a new pair of shoes was a must. So I found a pair on sale that was comfortable and then noticed that there was a mark on one of the sneakers. It was a small mark, like spilled oil or grease from the factory. Normally, I wouldn't care at all about such a thing. However, I asked for a discount, since it was damaged, and am so glad I did. They knocked an additional $10 off the sale price. What a sweet deal!

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Update On Goldilocks

If only this smile was a real reflection of how Goldilocks feels about us.

My husband and I attended back to school night this week. It was a hard night all around for us. We have been devoted homeschool parents for 16 years. To say we felt uncomfortable in the classroom of a day treatment program in the public school would be an understatement. However, for the most part we were treated kindly by the staff. When it comes to raising Goldilocks, all of our expectations, hopes and dreams as parents and knowledge about how to raise kids has been dashed.
Nothing...NOTHING that we have tried has worked with this child. It was disheartening and exhausting to hear this new brand of professionals carrying on about how they were "going to teach her the tools to help her come home and be kind and respectful to her family". Really?! Do they think she hasn't been taught those tools since she was two years old by her family, friends, Sunday school teachers, therapists, one-on-one workers, psychiatrists, caseworkers, and so many more? They also told us that she was doing well and was a delight in class. I know that this is what most parents dream to hear, but it broke our hearts. You see, when we were living with Goldilocks and she was abusing us and acting out with so many negative behaviors, we thought she couldn't help it. We thought she was unable to pull herself together and behave. We thought that there was something so wrong in her brain that she was unable to be calm and kind. Now, it has been over five months since she ran away from home. She is doing well in her out of home placement, did fairly well at camp and now is being successful at day treatment. Yes, all of these environments are incredibly therapeutic and have very small adult-to-child ratios. In fact, the ratio of adult to student is smaller in day treatment than my homeschool classroom was when she was here. BUT it is still a shock to realize that she (in some ways) chose to treat us the way she did. She has even told her caregivers that she could have behaved better -- if she had wanted to.

As for us ~ her family ... Now that we have escaped the chaos, screaming, taunting, hitting, pinching, biting, growling, death threats, destruction of property, stealing, sneaking, and hatred that Goldilocks treated us to everyday, we don't want to live that way anymore. Who could blame us? For ELEVEN years we did everything professionals told us to do and for ELEVEN years she treated us like that. We have discovered what it is like to breathe, relax, take a mid-day catnap without worrying about anyone's safety, and just enjoy each other. All of the children, including our adult son, have begged us to never let her come back. This whole situation is so heartbreaking. We can't make any promises to them. The state certainly expects to put her back someday. Even Goldilocks says she plans to come home someday (when she is ready but she's clear she doesn't want to come home at this time). Don't get me wrong -- we all love Goldilocks. We want what is best for her. We will fight for a long time into the future to give her the best opportunities we can. However, I totally can't imagine LIVING IN THE SAME HOUSE with her again. Our hearts are bleeding, and we are being stretched in ways that are so painful.

A few more changes and facts ~
  • Our private caregiver's license has finally come through. Goldilocks should be authorized for this service in a matter of days. All this means that we should be done with the phase of private paying within a week. Thank goodness. We are totally out of money and she was going to have to move, possibly out of the state in a matter of days. We look forward to only paying the co-pay which is still many hundreds of dollars every month. However, hundreds of dollars is better than thousands of dollars every month, and while we are struggling financially, we will find a way to cope.   
  • She should be able to stay in day treatment for six to nine months. 
  • We are hoping that she can stay in intensive therapeutic foster care for at least a year ~ hopefully longer.
  • Goldilocks and the rest of the kids saw each other at the state fair last week. Her class was on a field trip and we ran into them. It was the first time the kids had seen each other since that fateful night that Goldilocks ran away. Everyone was really stressed by the encounter, even though it was peaceful.
I just keep saying, "God is in control". This experience is way too big for me to deal with alone.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, September 5, 2014

Week 7 ~ When Learning Doesn't Include Books

What a busy week we had. When I looked at all that was on the schedule for this week, I knew it was going to be a tough week and that we were going to have to adapt and tweak our usual style of schooling to make it through. Obviously, we were going to have to rely heavily on the workbooks! While workbooks are not my favorite style of learning, they do work when life gets in the way of my Charlotte Mason unit study approach.

Long Weekend ~ We enjoyed an extra day with Daddy home this week, thanks to Labor Day. We managed to pull out and try on all of the out of season clothes. Tom Sawyer fit into about three items. He is just growing like crazy right now. He skipped a whole size! All the clothes that didn't fit him were organized and taken to the consignment shop or put on Ebay. I am really into reducing our belongings even more than usual. We also enjoyed apple picking with Dad. The kids shared the first caramel apple they have had since Tom Sawyer was diagnosed with so many food allergies. He did have some reactions but not as bad as in the past.

Our School This Week ~ We did lots of workbook pages this week for language arts and math. We also were able to finish listening to The Cricket in Times Square. We still have a few activities to do before we are done with our unit study on The Cricket in Times Square which we will get to next week. We also managed to complete three more chapters from the book, Paddle to the Sea, and the map work for those chapters. That is about all that we accomplished this week when it comes to book learning.

Real Life ~ Our lessons came more from real life this week. We attended psychotherapy, physical therapy, and dentist and doctor appointments. All of these appointments took lots of time but each had a lesson to be learned. We learned more about how to properly stretch Tom Sawyer, better ways to floss the dreadful hinge in Tom Sawyer's mouth and that Tim was having a terrible reaction to his asthma medications. The medications were making him emotionally distraught. His doctor removed him from all asthma medications. He has been on asthma medications for most of his life on a daily basis. We knew that they made him very uncomfortable and jittery. However, we did not know that other side effects are irritability and anxiety. Timothy is feeling much better. The last few days have been almost like having our old son back. We are hoping that he continues to feel better emotionally over the next few days as the medications leave his system completely. Now we must learn more natural ways of protecting him without medications. We also attended the special needs support group this week. We always learn something at these meetings. Lastly, Tom Sawyer attended his writing class and Little Red Riding Hood attended her first day of dance for this school year. Many lessons don't come from books but from living a very full (bursting at the seams) and active life.

The State Fair ~ We attended our state fair. It is always free for students on the first day. We went with some friends and had a lovely time. As always, the animals and vegetables were a real hit. Tom Sawyer loves to examine all of the winning vegetables. The kids also were able to choose one ride. They all picked the bumper cars. We completed our fun with a wood turning class. They were each allowed to make a spinning top, honey stick, or a bottle topper with cork. My kids each picked the spinning top. The volunteers that helped them use the lathe were great. There was no end to hands-on learning at the fair.

Blessings, Dawn