Friday, October 31, 2014

Week 14 ~ Halloween School

We had a fun week with a Halloween twist to our school time. We did the 3R's and our civil rights lessons (history) each day and then moved on with Halloween activities. Next week, I will be doing a special post about our studies of the Civil Rights Movement.

Science ~ We had fun with making slime and Eggsperiment (removing the shell from a raw egg with vinegar). The kids loved the hands-on science and were very pleased that I pulled off science three times in one week.
Slime is so much fun! We used Elmer's glue, liquid starch and liquid water colors.
This project takes a few days and has steps. The egg on the left was soaked in water and food coloring.
The egg on the right was soaked in corn syrup and food coloring.
Art ~  We carved pumpkins using a template this year.

We learned about Cubism and made portraits. We learned about Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, the two artists who founded the Cubism period of art. Grandma then taught us how to make a portrait, explaining the proportions of the face. We then colored the face in with lots of colors. Lastly, we cut up the pictures and pasted them down in unique ways. The kids really enjoyed this project. I think this has been one of their favorite art projects this year.

Tom Sawyer (12)
Little Red Riding Hood (11)
Music ~ We did the latest Squilt lesson from Homegrown Learners. It was a Halloween-themed selection. We loved Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.

History ~ We watched a documentary, The History of Halloween (, on Halloween. It is a five part series.

Field Trips ~ We attended our local homeschool Halloween party. The kids loved playing musical chairs. They played it over and over again, even though they were allowed to win only one prize. There were lots of craft tables, organic pizza, and donuts on a string. Some of the costumes were very creative.

Little Red Riding Hood as a witch, me as a 1950's girl, and Tom Sawyer as a steampunk character.
We also went trick or treating. There is one street in our town which closes down to motorized traffic. The people on that street really put on an amazing show. Some of the more memorable things this year were a man in a monkey costume who threw candy out of a tree, a bonfire in someone's yard to warm the Trick or Treaters, and a house that actually growled! It was very cold and rainy this Halloween, but we had a fantastic time. They are predicting snow overnight!!

My husband was the  "Son of Man," a surrealist painting by Rene Magritte.
Little Red Riding Hood decided to be a pirate because it was a warmer outfit than her witch costume.
Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Day in the Life ~ A Busy but Typical Day

Our days are filled with a mix of doctor appointments, homeschooling, and out-of-home classes. I try to make sure that our mornings are kept free for home learning. However, the orthodontist is right across the street from where Tim goes to the brain injury day program, so we do like to get that appointment out of the way when we drop him off. All in all, this is a pretty typical, out of home day.

6:30 ~ I get up and get ready for the day. I wash the left over dishes in the sink and lay them on a towel to dry. I am finding it easier than I expected to live without a dishwasher. This is good since it is not on the top three list of needs to achieve in the next six months. Once the morning chores are done, I sit down to blog and find YouTube videos for our poetry tea breakfast until the kids start arriving in the room.

8:00 ~ Everyone is awake and around the table for breakfast. I put on a short biography of Langston Hughes for the children. We have studied him before, but he is mentioned several times in some of our civil rights books. I am happy to review him, since he is one of my favorite poets. We begin our poetry tea (breakfast) while watching several YouTube videos of his poetry.
  • Mother to Son
  • I, Too
  • Merry Go Round
  • Let America be America Again
  • Thank You Ma'am
I find that a poetry tea is special if the food is different than usual. It does not have to be complicated. This morning we had cold homemade pizza, strawberries, applesauce and organic gummy bears.

8:50 ~ After our tea, Tom Sawyer brushes his teeth really well for the orthodontist. We take Tim to the day treatment program and arrive a few minutes early for the orthodontist. The orthodontist's waiting room is like a vacation for my kids. There are movies, iPads and video games for them to play with. They also have cookies and every kind of hot beverage imaginable. Tom Sawyer chooses green tea and settles down to a video game until his name is called. Once he is out of sight, Little Red Riding Hood and I sneak a cookie (Tom Sawyer can't eat them with his allergies). This appointment only takes a few minutes for them to adjust his hinge to the next level. They hope to have his jaw stretched enough to put braces on him by next March. He has been behaving awesomely through all of this, which is amazing, especially considering his extreme sensory issues.

9:40 ~ We are home again. We have a 20 minute free time while I make a few critical phone calls.

10:00 ~ We start school. I explain that we will be working until 12:00 and that we need to really concentrate this morning. We have less time than usual and we need to get through as much as possible. We do get through a fair amount. Of course, nothing is ever completely easy and a piece of Tom Sawyer's hinge falls back out of his mouth. I call the orthodontist who tells us to come right back to the office.
  • Two chapters of F.W. Woolworth Five and Ten Boy
  • Teaching Textbooks Math 5
  • Language arts workbook pages
  • Reading time
  • Journal
  • CNN Student News

12:00 ~  We run back to the orthodontist and get the piece put back on and tightened! Thankfully, they take us right back when we arrive. We return home.

12:25 ~ The kids do 10 minutes of chores (this is 20 minutes less than usual). They make the beds, dust the library and put away the dry dishes. I prepare a quick chef salad with biscuits for lunch. The kids have some free time while I make some more phone calls, rotate laundry and pack us up for an afternoon out on the road.

1:15 ~ We leave for an afternoon of out of the home classes. Our first stop is to Lego Club in the next town over about 25 minutes away. We only have Lego Club one time a month. I get the time mixed up and we arrive 20 minutes early instead of 10 minutes late. Thank goodness for a little grace.

2:00 ~ Little Red Riding Hood is one of the presenters today. She has her birthday Lego set with her and shows it to the group. The kids then receive their challenge for the month. They are to make a mosaic out of Lego pieces.

3:30 ~ We leave Lego Club to go to their dance classes. Thankfully, Grandma picks up Tim from his day treatment program so we don't have to squeeze picking him up into our travels.

4:00 ~ The kids are settled at the dance studio, and I head out for my power walk. I have my camera with me today, so I can combine exercise with two of my favorite hobbies ~ photography and exploring our city. I try to cover a few miles of walking during dance classes. I took pictures of a few interesting buildings on this outing.

The outline of this church in another building is curious to me.
I wonder what church this was and how it became part of this building?

I returned back from my walk in time to see the candy cane hoop dance. Nutcracker preparations are in full swing.

We returned home at 7:00 pm and had a quick dinner. An end to a great day.

Blessings, Dawn 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Week 12 ~ A Week of Birthdays and Learning

It was a birthday week around here. On Saturday Little Red Riding Hood attended a birthday party for one of the girls in our dance studio. It was a dance party complete with a DJ and 20 or so squealing girls. Little Red Riding Hood had a wonderful time!

Little Red Riding Hood is 11 ~ On Sunday my youngest turned 11! How the time does fly! She invited her three best friends to go roller skating with her. She also told Tom Sawyer he could invite one boy to "entertain him and keep him out of her girl business". It was a perfect amount of kids. Little Red Riding Hood wasn't really concerned with a theme this year so we went with balloons. We started out at home and had cake and presents and then went to the roller skating rink.

Sunday was a perfect day for roller skating. It wasn't at all crowded, which was excellent for our little group of challenged roller skaters. Shall I say that there was a great deal of falling, tripping and generally ending up in dog piles? Thankfully, no one got hurt or even very bruised. They had pizza and spent about 2.5 hours skating and falling before all agreed they were exhausted and ready to leave. Their party favors were lots of glow sticks. What a great way to keep track of kids. My crew was all glowing in the dark roller skating rink.

Monday ~ Daddy had the day off for Columbus Day. Unfortunately, Little Red Riding Hood woke up with almost no voice. She had the beginnings of a cold which plagued her the whole week. We spent most of the day resting and doing calm school activities. We did manage a lovely nature walk that I wrote about here.

Tuesday Through Thursday ~ We spent the bulk of the week doing school at home. We canceled about half of our out-of-the-home activities because of Little Red Riding Hood's cold. Here is a list of our accomplishments:
  • Teaching Textbooks 5 times this week
  • Tom Sawyer went to his writing class
  • Reading time 5 times this week
  • Creative writing every day.
  • Finished These Happy Golden Years  by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Lots of Language arts workbook pages ~Little Red Riding Hood finished one workbook
  • CNN Student News 5 times this week
  • Watched The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (This is an excellent documentary about an African-American woman who is 110 years old during the Civil Rights Movement. However, it is very graphic at times with a lynching, beatings, and slavery whippings.)
  • We learned about desegregation of southern schools and read The Story of the Little Rock Nine and School Desegregation in Photographs and Little Rock Girl 1957: How a Photograph Changed the Fight for Integration.
  • We learned about integrating the buses in the South during the Civil Rights Movement and read A Picture Book of Rosa Parks and The American Story: 100 True Tales from American History (The Walking City, The Montgomery Bus Boycott).
  • Leaf Science ~ The kids separated the fall colors from leaves with rubbing alcohol and watched several videos on YouTube about why leaves change color. They also started making glycerin leaves.
  • One Bible lesson and one spelling lesson

Friday ~ My husband turned 43 on Friday. What he really wanted to accomplish for his birthday and day off was going to an attorney to have a will drawn up. Previously, we only had a rudimentary Internet will. So we spent the morning in a lawyer's office drawing up a sweetheart will (which means you leave everything to your spouse). For dinner we had a surf and turf meal followed by a cake with a lot of butter and coffee in it. My husband was delighted.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Nature Study and the Great Outdoors

“It is infinitely well worth the mother’s while to take some pains every day to secure, in the first place, that her children spend hours daily amongst rural and natural objects; and, in the second place, to infuse into them, or rather, to cherish in them, the love of investigation..." Charlotte Mason

Have you noticed that children are playing and exploring the outdoors less and less these days? According to the American Camp Association, "Today’s youth are experiencing less free and unstructured outdoor playtime in nature than previous generations — devoting an average of just four to seven minutes a day in unstructured play time versus an average of seven and one-half hours each day in front of electronic media." What a shocking statistic!

There are so many reasons why children should spend ample time outdoors each day in a variety of weather conditions. Breathing fresh outdoor air is so good for children (and grownups). Once they are outdoors, they begin running, jumping and stretching their limbs. After a time, they start to investigate their surroundings. They find bugs, spiderwebs, flowers and new mushrooms to look at.

One easy way to encourage outdoor time is nature study. Doing nature study can be as simple as going on a nature walk to keeping a nature journal and conducting science experiments with what is found on a walk. We are very fortunate to live in a small city surrounded by mountains. Nature is a major attraction to our living environment. I realize it may not be so easy for those who live in large urban cities or dangerous neighborhoods. However, even a neighborhood walk or urbanized park can produce great finds.

Being outdoors helps children to realize that there is so much going on in the world besides media and having the latest gadget. Nature is always filled with new changes and things to see. There is plenty of excitement right outside the back door. Watching ants working can become an engrossing activity that is humbling. Who can complain about sweeping the floor or rotating the laundry after watching an ant drag a piece of food larger than itself for 30 minutes?

I love to watch my children wander in the woods within sight of a marked trail (I am a city girl born and bred)! Getting out into the woods away from all people noise is calming. I love the hustle and bustle of a city, but being in nature is a great rest to the eardrums. Sometimes we just stand still and close our eyes and talk about what we hear. I remember once as a child being at Indian camp and walking arm in arm blindfolded at night across a field. We heard so much that we wouldn't have noticed if we had been giggling and playing with our flashlights.

I hope you have the chance to get out into nature this fall and spend some time with your loved ones.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Week 11 ~ A New Blog and Fall Fun

I had to change my blog this week because I couldn't separate myself from the wrong gmail address. It was crazy. Someone had control over my blog without even knowing it. DH tried to fix it for weeks and finally we just decided to start fresh. We moved my entire blog over to here <>.

Please make note of the change if you wish to follow me.

Roller Skates ~ 
Little Red Riding Hood got new skates for her birthday. They came a little early so she has been practicing for her upcoming skating birthday party.

Cupcakes and Dance ~ 
Little Red Riding Hood made cupcakes to take to her friends at dance. She and another girl share the same birthday at the studio. It was fun to have some cupcakes between classes. The studio also announced the kids' parts in the Nutcracker. Little Red Riding Hood and Tom Sawyer are both going to be party goers (opening scene) that dance the polka as well as hula hooping candy canes in the candy scene. They are both very excited about having the role of party goers in the performance. It is like a rite of passage (so I am told).

Learning this week ~ 
  • Literature ~ These Happy Golden Years
  • History ~ Wonderworks VHS "The Children will Lead" (Civil Rights), CNN Student News, and several stories from American Stories (setting the mood for the Civil Rights Movement)
  • Geography and Culture Club Preparation ~ YouTube "Secrets of the Dead - Terracotta Warriors", The Emperor's Silent Army, written reports, and creation of a picture display. They attended Culture Club most of Friday. 
  • Math ~ Give lessons from Teaching Textbooks 5. They are very happy to be back to teaching textbooks.
  • Language Arts and Writing ~ Two lessons in "All About Spelling"; Tom Sawyer finished Wordly Wise Book 2; Little Red Riding Hood worked in Flash Kids Reading Comprehension; Journal writing daily; and both completed chapter books.
  • Life Skills ~ Making cupcakes, washing dishes correctly (our dishwasher died), packing Ebay, making veggie wonton dumplings and proper nail clipping of toenails.
  • Music ~ Learned about the important African-American singer Marian Anderson and listened to several of her concerts.
It was a light week. We missed several subjects this week.

A Corn Maze Adventure ~ 
Grandma treated us to a great adventure. We have lived in this area for 13 years and finally made it to our area's largest corn maze. They had a choice of two 1/4 mile trails, a 1 mile trail or an almost 3 mile trail. We started off on the 1 mile trail and some how ended up on the 3 mile trail. That will teach us to follow Tom Sawyer! He wanted to be on the long trail all the time and somehow managed to get his way. LOL! In addition to the corn maze, we went on a hay ride, played in the corn box, went down the slide and spent a long time at the corn cob cannons. I think Tom Sawyer could have stayed at the cannons for the whole day. He loved them. Indeed, they were impressive. We were very lucky for the pleasant weather and that it wasn't crowded, so the kids were able to spend hours doing whatever they wanted.

Where are we going, brother?

Grandma and Little Red Riding Hood

Do you see the corn cob in the upper left hand corner?

Tom Sawyer loved the corn box. He used to have a bad reaction if he simply touched corn.
I am so glad he is healing from his allergies -- slowly, but surely!

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, October 3, 2014

Our Week in Numbers

It has been a good week off! We ran around like crazy trying to get many things off the To Do list. We accomplished about 60% of the list, which isn't bad, considering the length of the list. I am not going to start posting my life in numbers on a regular basis. However, it seems to be the way my brain is working lately. So, here we go.

16 ~ We are constantly asked how we survive on our income and do as much as we do. One way we do so much is by regularly sharing! We went to the Greek Festival this past weekend and bought two plates of main course food and a plate of dessert. The total cost for our group of five was $16. This way, we each got a bite of dessert and had a hardy snack. For example, one of our group doesn't eat meat which allowed one meatball for each of the rest. As we sat down under a tree to share our plates, I noticed that others had bought a plate of food for each person in their group -- in essence, the same amount of food that we had shared among five. Figuring that a plate of food cost a minimum of $8, that means that a group of five people would have paid $40 just for lunch. Since we could not have afforded to spend that much money, we chose to each get a small taste of the various delicious Greek foods. This is just one example how we make it and have FUN on a smaller income.

168 ~ I drove 168 miles this week. Crazy! I wish I could get control of the miles I end up driving each week. This was more miles than usual, but still it is too much each week.

4 ~ The basement/laundry room was driving me crazy. It was a total disaster. It took me just over four hours to clean it up. It makes me happy each time I enter the room.


87 ~ Eighty-seven items left my house this week!
  • 42 to Goodwill
  • 3 sold on Ebay
  • 8 food items to the food bank
  • 34 items to consignment shops
100 ~ It took 100 minutes of waiting to get Goldilocks' medical records from the hospital. We decided to eat a hardy snack in the cafeteria to kill time. Do you see the trend? We tend to eat hardy snacks instead of full meals when we are out and about. We rediscovered how good the food was in the hospital cafeteria. Seriously, the food is really good! I do not usually think hospital food is good or worthy of a destination for a date, but my husband and I used to have dates in the cafeteria when he was an employee of this particular hospital. LOL!

7 ~ We now have seven pumpkins between our garden and a fun trip to a local church pumpkin patch. I managed to get out of the church pumpkin patch for $10 and 100% of the money was going to help children in Haiti.

8 ~ It took about eight hours of research and planning to gather my lesson plans for the next five weeks. That is a little bit longer than it took for the last two units. I am not using any box curriculum this time except math and physics. 

21 ~ I am ready to restart school next week. This will be our third five week unit study. We will be concentrating on the Civil Rights Movement. I have 21 books lined up and two more on hold at the library. I love to have lots of resources. I am really excited about this unit! We have some great projects planned in addition to a marvelous field trip.

1 ~ We managed to squeeze in one play date with another family that goes to a charter school and was on break at the same time as us. We went to Chuck E. Cheese and had a great time. I wonder when my kids will grow out of that place?!

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, October 2, 2014

September Update on Goldilocks

We have attended two major meetings about Goldilocks in the past few weeks. The first one was an IEP/Child Family Team meeting with Day Treatment at the public school. There are so many things to say about this meeting. However, I am not going to go on for hours (I have already done that with my face to face friends...LOL). One thing that really sticks out from the meeting is that one of the teachers was trying to comfort Goldilocks about her very poor math skills. The teacher told a story about how she herself had FAILED three years of high school math and had to retake them all. Despite obviously not being gifted in math, she went on to become an eighth grade math teacher! Why do we wonder about the failure of our educational system in our country with information like that? By the way, no one else in the room seemed at all shocked by this story -- except for me.

Another thing about the meeting that surprised me was Goldilocks' honest candor. She told them that she needed to have very strict rules and permission for everything or "my brain and I will do bad things". She said she did not want to be empowered to make even the simplest decisions. For instance, she wants to wait to be told to start eating at school, whereas the teacher wants her to be self-empowered. She said she would do many bad things if she was returned home. She said that there were too many "openings" (opportunities to be up to no good) when she lived at home and that she would make bad choices at home. She mentioned to them that she had put poisonous substances on her brother's toothbrush. She told them that as soon as there are openings she will make bad choices! They asked her how much control she had over her brain on a scale of 0 (no control) to 10 (total control). She said a 2 or 3 but even a lower number when living at home. Her honesty really left them scratching their heads.

A few days later we attended another meeting. This one was a Child Family Team meeting to welcome her into the IAFT program (mental health foster care) and at the same time to simultaneously start the process to discharge her from IAFT. Yes, right from that very first meeting, they began to figure out how quickly they will be able to discharge her. Goldilocks did not attend this meeting, but an interview with her was read aloud to the group. In this interview she explained that what made home unacceptable was that there were holidays, noise, busy schedules, and sometimes things did not go as planned. On top of all that, her very annoying brother lives there. One example given in the interview was "Mom will say we have four errands to run or five items to get at the store and we will end up going on more errands or getting more or less things at the store than she said." Also, she said that her family could not help her calm down in a crisis. A crisis could be as small as her brother needing new shoes but she doesn't need any so doesn't get anything purchased for her. Another was the possibility of a store not having (insert item) that Mom said she was going to purchase. For Goldilocks, such everyday occurrences are catastrophes. She stated that getting in trouble or having consequences for her actions did not help her deal with the crisis. Consequently, no amount of good parenting helps this child resolve her issues. She is screaming for help! But she clearly states that she cannot or will not accept it from her family.

Lastly, despite the school stating that she is working on a third to fourth grade level but is currently enrolled in the eighth grade, they gave her three A's and one B on her report card. This includes an A in English, even though she spells very poorly and doesn't use punctuation or proper sentence structure. When I questioned the grades, the school stated, "We are not in the business of failing students," and "We are trying to raise her self esteem." I guess they are not in the business of educating students, either! Apparently, if you have a special education label, you get a free ride with no real education. I am just beyond frustrated.

Blessings, Dawn