Friday, January 30, 2015

Week 24 ~ Bubble Gum, Lichtenstein, and Poetry!

We had a really good week. I love it when our learning just flows along at a nice and steady pace. Next week is our last week of this five week unit. I feel like it has gone much better with our shift to different priorities (more writing and science...a little less literature and history).

Bubble Gum Science ~ We had lots of fun with bubble gum science this week. We learned how gum was invented and the difference between chewing gum vs. bubble gum. We melted gum by boiling it. The kids studied the ingredients in chewing gum, organic chewing gum and bubble gum. We attempted to make bubble gum sink and then float with a combination of water and soda. This experiment failed, but was fun none the less. Tom Sawyer also learned how to blow his first bubble. He never gets bubble gum because it is filled with corn and there isn't an organic brand in the stores. We made an exception for this project and loaded him up with allergy reducing supplements. He turned some crazy shades of red, but didn't get any hives from the corn this time.

Art With Grandma ~ Grandma came over and taught us all about Roy Lichtenstein. Tom Sawyer is really into cartooning right now, so Lichtenstein was a great choice of artist this month. We started off by learning about Ben-Day Dots. We studied an old comic book from the library that had Ben-Day dots. Current comic books no longer use them.

We read WHAAM! The Art and Life of Roy Lichtenstein. The pictures were great inspiration for our own creations.

We then created our own works of art in Lichtenstein's style. This is always the most exciting part. It is fun to see what everyone creates. 
Clockwise from Crash ~ Twin 1, Love ~ Me, Nummy ~ Twins' Mom,
Boom ~ Little Red Riding Hood, Question ~ Twin 2, and French Fries ~ Tom Sawyer 
(Tom Sawyer spelled the word wrong on purpose because Lichtenstein often invented words.)

Lewis Carroll's Birthday and Poetry ~ We celebrated Lewis Carroll's birthday and learned about acrostic poetry. It was lots of fun. The kids are really enjoying learning different styles of poetry, and I am enjoying tricking them into writing more. LOL! You can read all about our Mad Hatter Tea here.

All the Rest ~ Timothy had a CT scan of the brain this morning and we had PT this afternoon. Everyone around here seems to be tired and a little bit under the weather. I can't pinpoint anything in particular wrong, so we will be boosting the vitamin C and resting up over the weekend. We studied The Tempest by Shakespeare today in anticipation of seeing the play next week. I can't wait, since I love Shakespeare. The kids are not quite so enthused.

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Happy Birthday, Lewis Carroll

"Always speak the truth, think before you speak, 
and write it down afterwards. "
Lewis Carroll

I must admit, I am always looking for fun. I am all about FUN. However, I am also all about learning. So, when I can combine the two, I am very happy. I decided to throw a breakfast Mad Hatter Tea Party for the kids this morning to celebrate Lewis Carroll's birthday.

We had to have cake and ice cream for breakfast. You can't get much more crazy than that! I know the frosting is crazy looking. I would like to tell you that I did that on purpose. The kids sure thought I did. Alas, the truth is I really struggle with homemade frosting. I can cook/bake all manner of things, but frosting and I just don't get along. We especially don't get along past 10:00 pm.

When the kids arrived for breakfast I instructed them to put on a hat. You have to wear a hat at proper tea parties and you have to wear a crazy hat to a Mad Hatter tea party.

After a delicious breakfast of cake, tea, and ice cream (in three flavors, no less), we played a good round or two of cards. We settled on Go Fish because it is fast.

We then moved on to the educational part of our birthday tea. We watched two videos on Lewis Carroll and Alice in Wonderland. They are here and here.  Then we watched the Disney's 1951 version of Alice and Wonderland, because my poor, deprived children had never seen it. 

Then we did the really educational part of our tea and learned to write acrostic poetry. Lewis Carroll hid a few acrostic poems in his literary works. The kids then wrote their own. I will leave you with mine ~


Happy are we
Only us three
Mom as the teacher
Education our plan
Success and good spirits
Care in every detail
Home is our rock
Opportunities are at hand
Out and about we explore
Learning happens everywhere

Happy Birthday, Lewis Carroll!

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Wrap-Up ~ Week 23

We had another busy and productive week. There were a few bumps, but overall it was a good week.

Monday ~ We usually do something special for Martin Luther King Day, but this year we had several appointments. We took Tim (our adult son) to meet his new neurologist. Like so many doctors have before, the new neurologist was amazed how well Tim is doing. Although he is very disabled and challenged, people with all of his diagnoses usually do not function as well as he does. We are so very blessed that he is doing this well! The doctor said he would follow him on a semi-yearly basis. He ordered a new CT scan of his brain, since his having a pacemaker precludes getting an MRI. He also put him on a memory medication to try to improve his processing.

We also had Lego Club and dance classes. In her spare time, Little Red Riding Hood worked hard on her rubber band purses. She is hoping to start selling them on Etsy soon.

Tuesday ~  We woke up to our second day without water. My dear husband tried to replace the utility sink in our laundry room and unfortunately found out that the piping was archaic. We had no way of turning the water back on to the house until it was upgraded by a plumber. A few years ago I turned the water off to the house for 24 hours in an attempt to guide the children's hearts towards charity. You can read about it here.  If you want a few laughs and giggles ~ go read it. They learned a lot from that experience and we got through this one just fine. I took the opportunity to review with them some videos from YouTube about how scarce water is in some parts of the world and left a few notes on the gallons of water around the house. Just as in the 2011 experiment, the kids struggled most with not being able to flush the toilet. Luckily for them, we had several opportunities to be out of the house and used public facilities. A friend sent a reasonably-priced plumber our way, and we had water by the end of Tuesday!

It says ~ We are so blessed.
Wednesday ~ Finally, a really good school day. We got a full day of school done and a bit extra to make up for half days on Monday and Tuesday. The highlight of the day was dance classes for the kids. They are working on preparing for a tween showcase soon.

Working on pirouettes
Thursday ~ On the way to our homeschool tutorial classes, we dropped off all of the archaic pipes at the metal yard. We scored 16 dollars! I am always looking for little ways to make some cash. This was a great way to make some money and it only took me three minutes. We completed our classes and stopped to pick up the free kids meal deal held on Thursdays at our local health food store. We also picked up some cupcakes to celebrate Little Red Riding Hood having completed all eight books of Explode the Code.

There were small pieces of brass and copper in this box.
Over the last few months, we have been learning about which metals will bring in the higher cash  amounts. 

Tom Sawyer has been hiding from the camera lately! I hope this is a short-lived phase.
I  was very sneaky getting this picture of him playing ping pong after homeschool co-op classes.
Friday ~ We had another great school day. The kids and I started the day with a poetry tea. We studied Haiku and wrote a few of our own. We also watched The Hideaways, a movie based on The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The 1973 version is great. We got math and language arts done, too.

Our tea ~ apricots, three kinds of toast, cinnamon tea, and German blintz pancakes.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, January 16, 2015

Week 22 ~ Blessings and Trials

Life is filled with blessings and trials. We are faced with each daily. Some blessings and trials are huge and others much smaller. I always try to focus on the blessings, but often get bogged down with the trials. It is the struggle of life ... at least, my life.

Games ~ Games have been a great blessing and gift to our family. The activity of playing games together is one of the things that makes up the culture of our family. I posted an entry about games here. I would love to hear what your favorite games are. Please jump over there and let me know.

This girl of mine loves games -- especially ones that involve money and organizing. In the picture she was pleased as punch that she needed two cars to hold her "family". She wants lots of children and having them in the game was a delight to her.

Out-of-the-home classes...making it all work! ~ I've been working hard on our schedule. I really wanted my days to be spent much more at home than in the past few years. We have been running from one appointment to another for years. All the interruptions in the middle of the day have made staying on track extra difficult. I decided that as long as we were all home by 7 pm for family time, it was worth switching appointments to the evening. Luckily, the medical staff and therapists have been receptive to my plan this time, and we now have all day at home Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. Wednesday we are on a short waiting list for a 4 pm slot for PT. Our Physical Therapist thinks we will make the move to 4 pm in a few weeks. That will make four days at home!!

Thursdays are our homeschool tutorial day with other homeschoolers. Tom Sawyer is continuing writing class and has added a drama class. Little Red Riding Hood started a math class this week. She enjoyed her first class. She was worried that she would be behind ~ silly girl. She was not and the teacher said she was an asset to the class. Tom Sawyer thought that the drama class was a little dull and girl heavy (there was only one other boy). He already has 14 girls to contend with in dance classes. It is only the first class and the teacher felt that more boys would be joining over the next week or two.

The kids will continue dance classes in the afternoons. We will also continue with Lego Club and Culture Club once a month. Our afternoon/evenings are very busy now. However, I think it will be a positive change.

The trial of another school meeting for Goldilocks ~ I attended another school meeting for Goldilocks (14) this week and have one more coming up next week. She is transitioning from day treatment to regular middle school (with an IEP in place). It means a school transfer, bus change and a lot more freedom. The mental health team is expecting her to have a full meltdown and fall on her face within a month. However, the school/day treatment team thinks she is a sweet delight and her main problem is that she was homeschooled for her entire life until this year and needs school experience to be "normal". They take every opportunity to say she has poor social skills, poor coping skills, poor organizational skills, and can't stand noise, cursing, chaos, etc. -- because she was homeschooled. I am sick and tired of their nonsense. I have defended homeschooling a little bit but am not going to struggle endlessly with ignorant people. They spend their time in these meetings contradicting themselves. On the one hand, they talk about how she can't do her multiplication tables, is a poor reader and struggles all day long with the academics. On the other hand, they asked her if she wanted to try out for early college because, as they said, now that she's out of homeschool, "the world is her oyster" and placed her on AB Honor Roll because she is getting A's and B's doing 4th grade work in 8th grade. REALLY! They seem to be completely ignoring that she is diagnosed with a host of mental health conditions and obviously has learning challenges. Since she was a preschooler, she has repeatedly tested with a low IQ.

I can't predict what the next month will bring. She has shocked us for the better part of the last year. Nothing that we think will happen seems to happen or at least not in the way we suspect. Two things are for sure! One ~ she loves school and, whether she admits to it or not, she is relieved that she ran away from home and has a new life. She told everyone that her new life is really good (living with mental health workers and being an only child). Two ~ I know that homeschooling is the best thing for our family and I have no doubts that my kiddos at home are getting a stellar education in comparison to our local public school's offerings (especially considering my children's special needs).

The homeschool front ~ 

We are loving science again. I will be posting about our studies in a separate post soon. We are busy learning/reviewing about atoms, molecules and the effects of heat and water on walls of plant cells. I am so glad we are enjoying science again. There is a lot of other learning going on around here:
  • Independent reading every day
  • Research papers started on an artist of choice
  • Writing papers on Ted Shawn, the father of modern dance
  • The Mixed Up Files of Basil E. Frankweiler with Veritas worksheets
  • Many grammar worksheets
  • Placement spelling tests for our new spelling curriculum 
  • CNN Student News daily
  • An Elephant in the Garden ~ almost done
  • Teaching Textbooks daily ~ bonus lessons for Tom Sawyer, who wanted to earn extra media time
  • Life of Fred Ice Cream (5 chapters)
  • Geography ~ The Scrambled United States ~ played this game numerous times
  • Music ~ started unit study on Edward MacDowell
  • Homeschool math class for Little Red Riding Hood
  • Homeschool drama and writing classes for Tom Sawyer
Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Our Favorite Board Games

When winter arrives, board games become a favorite pastime around here. We spend most evenings playing a game. Our cabinet is full to the brim, and yet there are a dozen more games on my wish list. The wonderful thing about games is that the kids are learning while playing and having good quality family time. It is a win-win pastime. Here is a peek into out cabinet and a look at some of our current favorites.

Our Games ~ 

Staxis, Apples to Apples Junior, Blokus, PicWits!, Sequence, Guess Who?, Frank Lloyd Wright blocks (in wood box), Take-Out, Art Shark, Q-bitz, Borderline, Chess, Swish, Spot It!, and Quiddler.

Clue, Bubble Talk, Game of Life, The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Game, Battleship, Pay Day, Imaginiff, Man Bites Dog, Yahtzee, Travel Memory Game, and Where Art Thou? (an art game).

Gobblet, Uno, Simon Swipe, Sudoku, Squint, Snap Circuits Jr., and The Scrambled States of America.

Games not shown because they are stored down in the basement ~ Scrabble (played often but too big to fit in the cabinet), Risk, GeoDice, Backgammon, and Buzzword.

Our Most Popular Games Currently ~

Swish ~ I bought this game to help with Little Red Riding Hood's vision problems. It is a fun way to get vision therapy into our day. The kids are really very good at this game. I can hardly get any matches while playing with them. Maybe I am the one who needs some vision therapy. Ha!

Gobblet ~ This is a form of tic-tac-toe for smarties. It requires strategy and memory to win the game. I like that it has really quick rounds and can be played a few times in less than 10 minutes. However, I will never win this game if I keep playing it with Tom Sawyer!

The Scrambled United States ~ I finally found a geography game that the kids really like. This is another fast paced game which relies on the players being able to read and find states on the map quickly.

Bubble Talk ~ This is a fun game that is a spin-off from Apples to Apples (which is an all-time favorite around here). Some of the pictures are hilarious.

Blokus ~ This game is also a favorite here. The kids have developed such wonderful spatial relation skills from playing this game.

Squint ~ This is another game that helps with spatial relations and seeing how things can be made in your mind. This game is still hard for us, but we enjoy it.

What are your favorite board games? I am always looking for new ones to add to my wish list!

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, January 9, 2015

Week 21 ~ New Start and New Goals

This is our first week back to school in the New Year, and it is also the first week of the second half of our school year. There is a mouthful! I did a lot of evaluating and thinking over the break. I knew we needed to make some changes. I love literature and history. I can easily take us on a long journey into learning with a literature-related unit study. There is nothing wrong with that except that my children need more of the basic academics. They can read, write and do math, but not extremely easily and well. Tom Sawyer can read very well and far above grade level, but his writing skills are poor. He is a little bit behind in math but catching up fast. Although Little Red Riding Hood has come leaps and bounds in reading over the last year, she is still a struggling reader. She is starting to show a desire to read on her own time, which is a huge part of the battle. Her writing skills are better than Tom Sawyer's, but her spelling is scary. She is right on target when it comes to math.

Our theory for years now has been slow and steady wins the race.

With middle school on the horizon for one and the other already there ~ slow and steady needs an upgrade!

So...we are spending the rest of the year really concentrating on the basics. 
  • That means math two or three times a day!
  • That means a new spelling program for Little Red Riding Hood ~ I am going back to using A Reason for Spelling.
  • That means more time spent reading.
  • That means several essays a week.
  • That means a co-op class in math for Little Red Riding Hood (to encourage her to love what she is already good at) and a co-op class in writing for Tom Sawyer (to encourage competition and motivation to persevere). 
  • That means each child finishing about eight grammar, spelling, comprehension, and creative writing workbooks by the end of the year.
I know they are capable of the workload. I also know that our family is coming back from the brink of a full emotional breakdown ~ some of us fell all the way into the emotional breakdown. We are a family that is exhausted, distracted by some large real life problems, still very stressed, and unsure of what the future holds for our daughter (Goldilocks) and therefore for ourselves. So I am not going to turn into a slave driver. However, I am going to make sure that the above list is the priority. I have made plans for only one literature study this five week unit. History is being reviewed through books that Daddy reads to the kids at night and watching CNN Student News each day. Science is still being determined, but it will not be the physics course we have been doing. I hope to announce science next week. 

Doing workbooks in the car while waiting for the orthodontist.

I am really proud of the kids this week. They haven't rebelled at all and are taking all of the changes in stride. I think they understand that I am making them work harder on the basics now so that next year will be smoother.

This is what we did this week ~ 
  •  We did five chapters in Life of Fred Ice Cream.
  • We read three chapters in our unit study From The Mixed -Up Files on Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
  • We completed all of the Veritas Press worksheets that go with the chapters we read in our unit study.
  • We are halfway through An Elephant in the Garden ~ A true story that takes place in Germany during World War II.
  • Tom Sawyer did 13 Teaching Textbook math lessons this week and one quiz.
  • Little Red Riding Hood did five Teaching Textbook math lessons.
  • Many workbook pages were done in grammar and spelling.
  • Tom Sawyer took five spelling tests with 100% accuracy. 
  • The kids completed a 150 word essay for their dance class on Fred Astaire.
  • The kids completed their presentation on Madagascar ring-tailed lemurs for Culture Club.
  • They will present their paper and artwork at Culture Club later today.
  • We listened to CNN Student News every day.
  • Little Red Riding Hood finished a chapter book, Sister 8 Jackie's Jokes.
Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Our Christmas Break

We had a great break! It was a nice mix of rest, play and getting some long overdue projects done. We also had a wonderful time making some new foods. I've been exploring The Pioneer Woman recipes and cooking up some of her recipes.

Cooking Up a Storm ~ I have made a variety of soups and muffins as staples for back to school. We also explored making homemade tater tots and cinnamon rolls. I better eat a lot of salad with all of this feasting.

Homemade tater tots

Homemade cinnamon rolls

Ham and pineapple for Christmas
Christmas Fun ~ We had a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas. It was a really nice day. The kids jumped up and down about some of the board games and books. They were really happy to get the next two books in the Life of Fred series. The most popular new board game is Gobblet. They have played about 50 rounds in the last few weeks. My husband was most excited about the steam cleaner that my parents gave us and I got a nice stack of books and clothes.

Little Red Riding Hood got lots and lots of Rainbow Loom rubber bands.
Tim and Tom Sawyer love Basher books.
The kids got a vintage Pachinko machine (Japanese arcade game) dating from the 1970s. Their aunt and uncle gave it to them and they love it.
We also had fun sneaking a secret Santa gift to a family in our neighborhood. We made them a box of treats and mixes they could bake up for a little Christmas or New Year's party.

Goldilocks Turns 14! ~ Goldilocks turned 14 Christmas week. We (the parents only no siblings) took her out to an Asian buffet and then to a local park to feed the geese. We had a calm time and it went fairly well on the surface. We learned later that she was actually pretty upset about a few things we had talked about and had started having looping thoughts. As usual, she covered those feelings while with us because she doesn't trust us. During the visit, she told us two conflicting things -- (1) she would like to come home but can't yet because we are too hard to live with and (2) she wishes her mental health foster mother would keep her forever (she is an only child in that home).

Projects and Building ~ We moved around the furniture to make the family room work better and put all of the Lego blocks in one corner. The kids have spent lots of time building with K'nex and Lego during the break. I also got through a few other projects listed below.

Now that's a lot of Lego blocks!
  • Touched up the kitchen cabinets
  • Put fresh caulk around the bath tubs
  • Put in new light bulbs
  • Cleaned out the closet under the stairs and put in moisture barrier
One More Picture ~ 

Boomer looking so cute with his bow on!

Blessings, Dawn