Friday, May 27, 2016

End-of-Year Interview ~ Dean Speaks ...

I conducted the kids' end-of-year interviews last week. You can read Anne's here. This interview with Dean was especially important to me, because he has been losing interest in school this year. He has seemed stunted in his academic achievements and generally withdrawn from his lessons. He also has not shown any growth in independence and relies heavily on me to participate in his school lessons. It seems like I am working harder to keep him on track than he is taking an interest in his own education. So, I chose to have extensive educational testing this year. He was tested for everything from IQ to learning challenges of all varieties. I will talk about the test results at the end of the interview.
Performing as a villager in The Jungle Book
Dean Speaks ~

What did you like best about this school year? I like learning guitar, when you read to us, and finally really learning cursive.

What was your least favorite subject? I really didn't like math. I do like Life of Fred, but the rest of math is boring or confusing (depending on the type).

What do you think helps you the most? I like it when you read to us, and I like when we do workbooks while listening to music.

What was your favorite academic subject and why? I like all of the history. Well, I hated Genevieve Foster books, but the rest of it was great. I like doing all the projects (21 Activities books). I like making historical food.

What do you want to stay the same next year? I like the length of the day and that we start with morning chores and CNN Student News. I like taking a long break at Christmas.

What would you like to see change? Quit lessons in chimes and bells, have more age appropriate school work (especially review items) and stop repeating yourself (this is a complaint he has about me in all things). I want to start high school.

Talk to me more about what age appropriate school is to you. I hate all the silly programs online with the dumb people dancing around. Learning is serious stuff. School is so boring. It's the same stuff over and over again. You repeat yourself so much!

Tell me a list of instruments you would like to learn. Saxophone, ukulele, and keyboard

What do you envision acting classes being like? Mature kids that are close to my age. Where people seriously want to learn. I liked how in youth group we got to write our own skits.

My Reflections ~ My thoughts are still a work in progress. The test results were very interesting. He doesn't have any learning disabilities or ADHD/ADD. He does, however, have debilitating sensory issues that continue to affect his daily life including his school work. Since Dean's biological mother used a variety of drugs during pregnancy and since Dean was born addicted to cocaine (crack), the psychologist felt that he is still coming into his own. The doctor says he has seen lots of cocaine babies not fully bloom until their teens. He suggested that Dean needed more time to develop and was on the cusp of a great neurological bloom. All that said, Dean came out with a 119 IQ with a visual spatial composite IQ score of 132. The visual spatial is in the extremely high range. We knew he was very good at puzzles and games like Q-Bitz. His fluid reasoning score was only average, which makes it somewhat difficult for Dean to use abstract reasoning that doesn't rely on past learning. This may only pose difficulties for him because all of the other parts of his IQ were in the superior range, so he is thinking faster than his fluid reasoning can keep up, which may make him feel dumb at times (to my very basic understanding). He also came out gifted in artistic ability and creativity. He had scattered results with academic achievement. He was a bit behind in some forms of math and spelling and way ahead in other areas.

The End Results ~ Dean is very bright. He needs tons of hands-on activities and internships during high school for maximum success. He is a bit on the bored side but does need some more work in basic math skills (just as I thought). However, the doctor stressed that his education should be as hands-on and real world as possible. Dean needs to know why he is learning things to really embrace learning. He suggested Dean only do partial 9th grade next year to allow me to find ways of making high school hands-on and to allow Dean's brain to develop more.
Trimming tree branches
What We Are Going to Do ~
  • We will be doing only three or four 9th grade classes next year. I think they will be Career Technology Education ~ Career Explorations (with a textbook and lots of career-based field trips), U.S. History I (with A History of Us by Joy Hakim) and Physical Science (Real Science 4 Kids: Physics, Chemistry, and Geology with lots and lots of science experiments and field trips).
  • I am going to try to change over as much of our learning into project based and visual learning as possible. 
  • He will be following a student planner and visual directions as opposed to me giving auditory directions. I will be trying to reduce auditory directions whenever possible. 
  • I hope to start Dean on the piano next fall. I learned to play the piano a little bit as a child, so I can get him started. We will look into lessons as needed.
  • I was going to put him back into Teaching Textbooks and continue with Life of Fred in the fall. However, with the need for hands-on math, I am not sure that Teaching Textbooks is the best fit. I will need to do more research. 
  • Dean will continue with dance in the fall. He loves performing.
  • I hope to find an acting class that is comfortable for him.
  • He will continue to do classes in literature, world history, and art with his sister (all of which will count for 8th grade).
  • My friend and I plan to start a Mindstorm Lego Club to help our sons learn about robotics. This may become a partial 9th grade credit. 
Wow! That was a lot to process. I am glad I have a few weeks before we start school again to get more of this figured out. 

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

End-of-Year Interview ~ Anne Speaks ...

Every year I conduct an end-of-year interview with my kids. I love to hear what they have to say about their school year. Most of it isn't a surprise because I am with them all day, but I like to hear and record it anyway. It is one of the steps that I find important in the planning of their next school year. Since they are getting older, I decided to break up their posts this year so that I could reflect on their school year separately.
Raksha ~ Mother Wolf
What did you like about this school year? Dance, time used for personal growth (this is what I call time I've assigned her to do her stretching exercises, sign language and extra practice of cursive), cursive lessons, fictional story writing, and CNN Student News.

What was your least favorite subject? Spelling, although I like the way we are doing it now better than last year. I didn't like that we switched math around so much this year.

What do you feel helps you the most? I like "paper school."(Paper school refers to workbooks and writing activities.)  I need to write stuff down. I also like projects where we make things. Also, the geography games helped me learn this year.

What was your favorite subject this year? Dance! Dance! Dance! What else? I like home economics (especially painting, rearranging rooms and cooking) and geography.

What do you want to stay the same next year, as far as the order of our lessons during the day and the scheduling of our school breaks? I liked that we took very few breaks this year, so that when we took a break it was for a whole month. I really liked having a month off for Christmas. I felt like the flow of the school year went better without all of the starts and stops.

What would you like to see change? If we are going to stay on the TOS Review Crew, try harder to avoid online programs. I don't like most of them. I really prefer paper school. I also would like my own space to do school some of the time. I like learning at the table when it is group stuff, but I would rather be elsewhere when we are doing different things. The table gets too messy and noisy.

I was planning to move you to my antique desk in the hallway. Do you think that the lighting and dining room chair work for you? Yes, that works great.

Is there anything else you wish you could learn that you are not currently learning? Jazz dancing, how to read music better (but not necessarily with chimes teacher) and how to hand sew.
A village woman ~ she is pretending to sew
My reflections ~ 
  • Anne loved discovering the 10 Days series in board games. We currently own 10 Days in Asia and 10 days in the U.S.A. I hope to acquire more of the board games before next school year. 
  • She really was opposed to all of the online programs, with only two exceptions, Essential Skills Advantage and the Veritas Bible online (I will be reviewing both soon). I will be trying harder to get fewer online programs in the future. Dean doesn't care for online school, either.
  • Anne has been accepted to Junior Company at the dance studio next year. It is the highest level for teens. I hope they will be incorporating jazz dance into the program. One of her teachers says she has raw talent in that form of dance.
  • Spelling will stay the same, since I saw a huge improvement this year. We are using A Reason for Spelling
  • I noticed that Anne was much more unsure of herself during end-of-year testing this year in regards to math. She got many of the answers right (from my spot check), but she was uncomfortable. We are returning to Teaching Textbooks and keeping Life of Fred. I may work on Math U See Fractions for the first month of the new school year since that is a place of struggle for her. It seems like the more ways I hit it, the better. 
  • We are really going to have to buckle down and learn to hand sew better next year. We both struggle to fix costumes backstage during performances. It seems like there is always a hole that needs fixing just minutes before the show. 
  • The plan is to do school with few breaks next year. The kids didn't wear out this year at all. In fact, when I informed them that there were only a few days left of school, they were shocked. Dare I say, one of them was slightly disappointed!
  • There is no doubt that, at this point, dance is the most important thing to Anne. I find it unlikely that this will change since it has remained the same since she was three. She states that she wants to own a dance studio and talks often about what courses she will need in college to accomplish her goal. She also intends to work with children in several different capacities this summer to start learning more about teaching. 
A flower
Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, May 21, 2016

We Are Done!

We made it! We completed 38 weeks of school and more than 135 hours in all subjects. Additionally, we simply came to a good stopping place. I am ready for a change of pace. We will keep up with review items over the summer, but that will be less than an hour a day.

So, I took six photographs the entire week. That must be one of my all time lows. On top of that, half of the pictures were food!
We are having lots of garden fresh strawberries. I am not a green thumb. It is such a relief to have something thriving!
We celebrated the last day of school with homemade funnel cake!
This week was tech week for my two youngest. They just love performing. The Jungle Book opened last night to a sold-out crowd with people being turned away at the door. One show down ~ seven shows to go. Anne was very nervous about the quick costume changes (some are only two minutes long), but she made it on stage fully dressed every time. I am going to have to work hard to get photos of all three of her costumes. She doesn't spend that much time backstage killing time anymore. She is mostly changing, in the wings or on stage. Here is her flower costume. The two photos I took of Dean didn't come out. His eyes were closed. I will try again today.

Another indication that it was time to close up school is a glance at our school shelves. They are pretty bare. During the school year, these shelves are bursting with books. Now, there is just a few remnants left behind.

We finished out the school year with our end-of-year interviews. I will be posting them early next week. This coming week will be consumed with house cleaning, gardening and Jungle Book shows. I am looking forward to it!

Also, I posted two reviews this week if you are interested. You can learn more about Traditional Logic or Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization by clicking the links.

Update ~ My Dad is home again and has a visiting nurse visiting him every day. We are glad he is back in the comfort of his home. He came home with several medical procedures that need to be completed every day. Thank you for keeping him in your thoughts and prayers.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Our Week in Pictures

It has been a good and bad week around here. My Father is still fighting for his life. I don't mean to sound so dramatic, but it really is a very challenging situation that is unfolding. He is not in pain and is able to move around his hospital room and the hospital hallways. However, fighting the fungus in his brain is cutting edge technology, and no one knows exactly what to do and what will work. Please pray for him.

I am flowing through our days, trying to stay present in the moment. Here is a peek at what we experienced this week.
We have been doing lots of spring cleaning and cooking/baking.
  • Anne completed the CAT test and it has been mailed back to the testing facility.
  • I finished the parent surveys for Dean's very comprehensive educational testing and emailed them back. We should be called in for results soon.
Elijah played the guitar on Youth Sunday and wrote a skit about forgiveness and getting into heaven.
  • We finished Life of Fred and math workbooks for the year.
  • The kids finished homeschool co-op and performed in the co-op showcase. The videos are too long to load here, sigh.
Mama bear is a frequent visitor to our yard this week.
  • We wrapped up two reviews this week. You can read my reviews about ARTistic Pursuits, Inc.  and a new music appreciation program by Zeezok by clicking on the links.
  • The last of the kids' regular dance classes finished this week. Next week is tech week and two weekends filled with eight performances.
  • I attended a meeting for Goldilocks that was positive. Everyone on her team is pleased with the most recent psych eval. This is the second time in two weeks that I have seen her cry when tears would be expected. She is showing more appropriate emotion currently. 
  • I also attended Goldilocks' six month check up with the pediatrician. She seems to be almost done growing and will likely be no more than 5'4" (and that is if she can gain a bit more height). For some unknown reason, this is a disappointment to her.

My Iris garden is starting to bloom.
  • We accomplished art, music and poetry.
  • The kids are almost done with Science Shepherd Introductory Science. This is a review item, and we quickly realized that it was far too simple for my crew. They completed over 100 workbook pages this week. They decided to skip the videos and just fill out the workbook as a "test" of their knowledge. We also are not young earth creationists, which is taught by Shepherd, so this led us to an extensive discussion about old earth vs. young earth creationists. That discussion then led us on to the differences in intelligent design versus evolution. 
Our strawberry garden is really starting to produce.
  • Most importantly, the week started off with a bang of tension, stress, too much to do, and just plain grouchy attitudes. Thankfully, the week came to an end with peace and resilience. For that, I am grateful.
Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Homeschool Myth Debunked

"I love homeschooling so much! I never want it to stop. It is a lifestyle, after all, and we really homeschool year round!" said one enthusiastic homeschool mom to another.

Yeah, whatever! Personally, I am ready for the school year to end! Last week I had to curb my obsession with counting hours and the rising panic in myself that I would not meet my own goals. Now, I am hanging on by my fingernails for the end of the "homeschool year." We have eight days to go. EIGHT DAYS!!

I am not sure why this year I am struggling more than most years with the need for the end to come. I certainly have been that enthusiastic homeschool mom in the not-so-distant past. Wait a minute -- could it be that there are too many fires burning at the moment, such as:
  • There is my Father's health to worry and pray about. He is back in the hospital again. I really would appreciate prayers for my father. The Fungus in his brain is growing and the medications that may stop it are very lethal and take constant monitoring. He will probably be in the hospital another week.
  • The neighborhood mama bear who keeps visiting my yard keeps us all on guard and a little nervous.
  • I need to get my kids to Friday's homeschool co-op show and make sure they make it on stage.
  • Next week is tech week for the dance studio's Jungle Book show.
  • There are eight Jungle Book performances to make sure that my kids get to on time, with all of their costumes and supplies in tow. And I will be helping backstage for some of these shows.
  • I need to keep making money by selling items on Ebay in order to make money for the dance classes. This means posting auctions, communicating with buyers, packaging, and shipping the items. 
  • I am also busily reviewing products as a member of the TOS review crew.
  • There is all of that paperwork to fill out -- with three special needs kids, there is ALWAYS paperwork.
  • There are the homeschool yearbook survey, family page, kid pages to do -- now when is that deadline?!
  • There is my 12 year old daughter's budding business to help her launch -- everyone is trying to make money for dance around here.
  • I have another daughter placed in a mental health home. I need to decipher and digest her most recent psych eval that just arrived. Every psych eval brings heartache. My girl has huge challenges that seem insurmountable. There are meetings to attend to analyze and determine the next course of action for her, based on this most recent psychological evaluation. 
  • There are doctor appointments to attend and pacemaker call-ins to make for my oldest son.
  • There is the phrase in my brain that spills out of my mouth all day long, "Is your retainer in your mouth?" Two-thirds of the time, the answer is "no" and not just because he was eating. 
I am sure there is more that I am supposed to be doing, but I just can't remember. Oh, yeah, and there is laundry to do and apparently everyone needs three meals a day. Well, actually, Dean needs seven meals a day.

Perhaps the most honest reason that I am having a harder time this year is my deep concern about my Father, coupled with dismay and disillusionment about my mentally ill daughter. 

So excuse me if we are going to go crawl into a hole and do art, watch Bill Nye the Science Guy videos, do only online school, and review products for the rest of the year. Because there are eight days left -- just EIGHT days. I will survive!

Don't worry, I will be totally in love with homeschooling again in about three weeks. I am already having to fight to keep my thoughts in the present instead of crawling into bed with a notebook and piles of books and catalogs to plan the next school year.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, May 6, 2016

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Week 36 Almost Done!

I had to face the facts on Monday that I was losing sight of my ultimate goal for this year. My goal was to keep it calm and help the children heal and grow. My goal was that everything we do be of value to my children and myself. I realized that I had become obsessed with counting the hours to completion of the school year and I had started to panic over some of our courses. Just as I was in my own school and college years, I was too focused on grades and completion of hours and not enough on what was truly important -- LEARNING. I am not required to count hours or even show what courses we have completed in our state. The goals for my children this year were mine alone and they are very close to achieving said goals. However, not close enough in math and science that they will make it unless I push them to extremes. Well, I am not going to do that.

Sometimes the best thing about your birthday is a good old Silly String war. Dean really got his sister!

So, I had to take a big breath and step back. I needed to get back to my goals and not drive myself  or them crazy. We had a good week and everything we did was valuable and worth the effort.

What we accomplished this week (Saturday to Thursday) ~ 
  • Dean had a wonderful birthday overnight with his best friend. We went to a trampoline park and had a wonderful time. 
  • Dean had two cavities filled that were hidden behind his braces. 
  • Anne attended seven hours of dance classes.
  • Dean attended four hours of dance classes.
  • Anne completed her spelling curriculum for the year.
  • Dean attended an extra rehearsal to prepare for Youth Group Sunday (when the youth take over the entire service).
  • Dean attended guitar class.
  • Anne attended sign language class and video taped the Star Spangled Banner in sign language for the end-of-year show.
  • We attended our monthly special needs support group and dinner.
  • Dean finished testing. This was extensive testing, including IQ, end of year testing, gifted and talented assessment, sensory testing, ADD/ADHD testing, and learning challenges. Hopefully, in the next week or so we will have some answers on why Dean is struggling to become an independent student. I decided to have him tested across the board so that we would be able to start him on the right path with the best support during his homeschool high school years.
  • Anne started the CAT test. She will finish it today or Monday.
  • Both kids completed over four hours in science and three hours in math.
  • Both kids are done with language arts (except review items).
  • Both kids accomplished some goals in their independent history lessons.
  • I went with Goldilocks to her post-surgery appointment. She has a staph infection and it was somewhat traumatic for her.
Looking forward to a busy Friday and weekend ~ Today, we plan to wrap up our literature by seeing the movie, Jungle Book. The kids are performing in the Jungle Book on stage later this month, and we read  parts of the book months ago. We are also attending a special needs support group lunch today which is being held at an Indian restaurant. The Jungle Book takes place in India and we have been studying India as our focus country this year.  These two events will round out the year nicely. We will also watch a short documentary on India and Anne will do a few sections of the CAT test today.
My Indian Meal.

This weekend is jam-packed with events. May is a whirlwind in our family. I hope you all have a wonderful Mother's Day.

Blessings, Dawn