Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Week at the Beach and Questions!

We had a nice break away at Ocean City, Maryland, this past week. The weather was lovely and the kids and husband had a blast. I had a fine time, too, although I am really not a beach person. The sand is sticky and sticks to everything ~ lol. However, we had a nice get away and spent some quality time with my Dad and stepmother. We even got to see a few other family members over one big dinner.
Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, ocean, child, sky, outdoor and water

Image may contain: one or more people, ocean, sky, outdoor, water and nature

Image may contain: one or more people, ocean, sky, outdoor, nature and water

Image may contain: one or more people, ocean, sky, outdoor, nature and water

The dancer had a blast trying out different poses with the ocean as her back drop. We also enjoyed miniature golf at night, going to an old time amusement park, riding on a speedboat and getting Henna tattoos that will wash off in a few weeks. 

May I ask all of you a question or two?

Our family is considering a move to another state. For multiple reasons, our current hometown in North Carolina is no longer a great fit. The cost of living is high here compared to the potential income growth, there is a lack of future jobs for our children (especially in their desired fields) so they will be forced to leave the area as adults, and, finally, we are just ready for a change. We have two challenges ~ finding a federal government job for dear husband and finding a homeschool-friendly state. We are finding that many states make it difficult to graduate from a homeschool and force homeschoolers to get a GED in order to go on to college or to get a job. I would love to hear from as many of you as possible in the comments. I should also add that we need an affordable place to live that still provides ample job opportunities for the future.

What state do you homeschool in and do you know any graduates? Did they get a GED plus a homeschool diploma?

Do the general public, school district or potential employers mistreat your homeschool students on a regular basis?

I would really love to hear any and all comments.

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, July 24, 2017

Review ~ Quik-Sculpting Kit

Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit
My children really enjoyed reviewing Rigid Wrap and Celluclay Quik-sculpting kit by ACTÍVA Products. The company also sent us a great ebook called ACTÍVA Products' Favorite Sculpture KIDS CRAFTS. The ebook comes with 12 great projects. The Quik-Sculpting kit comes with two rolls of Rigid Wrap and a nice size (8 oz) bag of celluclay. All we needed were some creative ideas and water. 
ACTÍVA Products

We are a family that really loves art. However, we sometimes shy away from messy projects because some of our family members have sensory issues. I thought this product was well worth trying out, even though it was likely to be messy on their hands. This product is so cool! It is a plaster covered gauze that is easy to use and very forgiving to new artists. My kids love trying out new mediums and this one did not disappoint. We made beads using the directions that were in the box and they came out great. My kids found the material easy to use. They liked that they could peel up the gauze in the first few minutes if they wanted to try to make it smoother. The below picture shows how much material remained after using for two projects.
After the beads, they moved on to making a Christmas tree. They used a cardboard frame and smoothed the gauze over it. Once again, it was easy to use. I was a bit skeptical how it would work around all of the sharp edges of the Christmas tree, but it smoothed over the edges with ease. The gauze dries within a few hours and my daughter was able to paint it the next morning. It was very easy to paint on with acrylic paints. One could even use the Celluclay to put over the rigid wrap and make it smoother if one wished. We were surprised how strong it was after it dried. The kids immediately thought of a pinata. They plan to make a small one very soon to celebrate the beginning of school. 
I was surprised how much rigid wrap came in the box and how much we were able to do with it. There was plenty for several small projects or one really large project, such as to make a volcano. This product is wonderful for art, but it also could be used for hands-on science and history projects. There are endless projects that could be created.
This product gets a thumbs-up from my family. Even though my students don't care for things that make their hands chalky or gooey, this produced such nice results that it was worth the effort. I like that the completed projects were so strong. To see what others had to say about the this craft product, click on the banner below.
Rigid Wrap and CelluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit {ACTÍVA Products Reviews}

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, July 21, 2017

Anne ~ End of Year Assessment

What a year of growth Anne (13) had. She is just shy of being 5' 4", which is the minimum height requirement for a ballerina. She hopes to squeeze out that last quarter of an inch this summer. She has also grown in maturity by leaps and bounds. She is blessed that puberty hasn't caused her any issues so far, and she is taking each new stage in stride. What a joy this child is! She is bright, beautiful, graceful, confident, compliant and kind.
Image may contain: one or more people, shoes and indoor
Anne is a self-confident and focused young lady. She knows what she wants and she works hard to achieve her goals. She is a dancer and her world revolves around dance. She loves ballet and pointe first and foremost, but she also enjoys hip hop, jazz, modern, tap and lyrical dance. This past year found her taking 10+ hours of dance lessons a week. Then she added on hours of practice, stretching and balancing exercises each week. She is a true athlete. Dance gives her endless joy. This summer she has started taking Cecchetti ballet lessons and loves them. She is studying for the level 4 exam to take place next spring. This fall she will be taking about 15 hours of dance lessons a week, divided between two dance studios. She also completed 40 hours of dance intensives over the last two weeks. She is a beautiful dancer and received the princess role in the spring production of The Little Mermaid this year.

Besides dance, Anne enjoys keeping her room and parts of our home organized. She loves things to be tidy and well organized. She has spent may hours helping keep our tiny eBay business going. Her packing skills are improving with each package. Ever since her toddler years, she has been a saver, who loves to organize and count her money. She can go many months without spending a dime. She voluntarily paid for the last two pairs of pointe shoes with her own earnings. Anne says it makes her feel good about herself to be able to pay for her own pointe shoes. I am proud of her work ethic and ability to prioritize and save. If she does spend money on fun, it is usually on a dance leotard, which she loves more than any other clothing. I think she has about 13 of them now. She has always loved to amass collections, which has worried me at times, but it seems to be more controlled as she matures. The days of her having more than 100 teddy bears or dolls seems to be waning.

Anne sees academics as important and a means to an end. She doesn't love learning for the sake of learning. She loves what being well educated can do for her future, so she works on her studies and suffers quietly through the lessons she doesn't care for. She wants her studies to be achieved in the most efficient way possible. She preferred workbooks, reading and short writing projects this year to more hands-on, large scale projects. She enjoyed lots of hands-on unit studies in her younger years, but now she believes it is time to focus on her life goals (which do not include history and science). She only took a short break from school and has already started working on her logic course for eighth grade.

I required Anne to learn a musical instrument this year. She decided on the piano. Anne has mixed feelings about the piano. She doesn't care much for formal lessons. However, she is more than happy to pick a popular song and find the music on the Internet with videos depicting finger positioning. She can read music slowly. She memorizes the pieces and then plays them. She is consistently using both hands.

Anne is a great helper around the house. She would love to increase her cooking and sewing skills. In her spare time, she likes to watch how-to shows on YouTube and often brings me a recipe she thinks we should try. She goes through passions and currently is into all things Harry Potter, so she has been searching our Harry Potter cookbook for fun ideas.

I do sometimes worry about Anne feeling pressured by being the only child in the family who doesn't have special needs. With questioning, she will admit that it is sometimes hard to be the "normal" one. She feels like she must always keep it together but admits that she has no interest in falling apart. It is just sometimes annoying making allowances for others' behaviors. In the final analysis, she realizes that she is afforded many opportunities and is treated fairly. She has never been a particularly nurturing child. However, I have seen lots of growth in this area recently. She loves her brothers and is learning to put their needs before hers at times, which will pay off dearly if she someday becomes a mother.

It is exciting to watch her grow into a lovely young woman.

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Review ~ Trust Fund

Trust Fund Movie

My daughter and I had a delightful time watching the movie Trust Fund by Mapelle  Films. We were excited to review this film that is a modern spin on the biblical story, the Prodigal Son. It did not disappoint at all. In fact, it far exceeded my expectations.

Mapelle Films
In this movie, the prodigal child is a daughter named Reese to a wealthy book-publishing family. She runs away with a man and makes multiple life-altering mistakes that lead to danger and the loss of a large sum of money. This movie had us on the edge of our seats within minutes. It was exciting and dealt with some really important issues. There is suspense and a touch of romance. However, the movie is clean and appropriate for all ages. 
When I was a teenager, I performed in a retelling of the prodigal son at church camp and was curious to see how well the filmmakers would stick to the original story. I really appreciated that this telling of the prodigal son stuck to the most important facts of the biblical story even though it was set in modern times with multiple twists. This is a Christian film, but there is little to no references to Christianity. If you did not know the story of the prodigal son, you wouldn't realize any of the references. Honestly, I prefer this style, where the story just unfolds naturally. 
I wasn't sure what quality to expect from this film, since it is the first production of Mapelle Films. May I just say, it was beautifully done. The acting was excellently executed and filming was expertly accomplished. The scenery was lovely. This film seemed equal to any large production film you could see in the theaters. We enjoyed it from start to finish, and I look forward to sharing it with my other children. I also appreciated that the mistakes Reese made were very obvious to my daughter, and she pointed them out along the way. This is a great film to encourage discussions with your teens. 
We did not have the opportunity to review the book that goes with this movie, but I hear it is excellent, too. You can learn more about the book, Love Was Near, at the website.
Love Was Near Book
To see what others had to say about this film, click on the banner below.
Trust Fund Movie {Mapelle Films Reviews}
Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Dean ~ End of Year Assessment

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing, mountain, outdoor and nature
Dean(15) is a young man who is struggling to accept himself and find his way through the turbulence of growing up. He only sees his flaws and must be constantly reminded of his abundant amazing qualities. He is a sensitive soul and feels things exceedingly deeply. He reacts very strongly to his feelings and the world around him. He loves beauty. He is insightful and has always been a deep thinker. He hates injustice and dishonesty. He worries....his worries often consume him. He has a gorgeous smile but doubts his looks and often hides his smile. He is shy. He is passionate and strong willed. His heart is filled with love. He never intends to hurt anyone, but his words are often very judgmental and harsh. He is a really good young man with strong morals. When he fails his own expectations, there is no one harsher on him than himself. He is his own worst critic.

This year was a huge struggle for Dean. His emotions threatened to consume him and succeeded many days. He fought depression -- some days just getting out of bed and taking care of personal hygiene was all that could be managed. He was brave and he persevered. With the help of supplements, therapy and time, he is coming out stronger on the other side of that depression. There is still much work to do and challenges to confront, but I think we all feel that they can be accomplished. Recently, there have been more peaceful days than stressed-out days. He is winning his battle with his emotions. 

He received a medical diagnosis this year which he is struggling to accept. He would prefer that I don't share it, but I will say that it is due to his birth mother's irresponsibility during pregnancy.  It is not really a surprise to us but causes heartache none the less. It explains much, but it means that some of his challenges will not go away with a magic pill or surgery, which is a great sadness to him. He so wants to be a normal guy! Well, actually, he wants to be extraordinary but not from a special needs point of view. Sadly, as the doctors have examined him from head to toe, they saw other concerning things that may lead to a genetic diagnosis as well. When and if these come, we will meet them and triumph.

Dean is an artist and a photographer. He has an amazing eye for beauty and captures it well with his iPhone, pen and paper. He spends hours and hours drawing. He loves sunsets. He is forever trying to capture them. He had an opportunity to make a mural this year of his very own. It is now hanging on a building on a main street of our city. It was a great challenge for him. He is not a huge fan of painting because the brush is much harder to control than the pen. However, he pushed through and finished it, satisfied enough to let it be hung. 

Dean is doing well in his summer volunteer job at the nature center. It is a wonderful place of growth for him. It is working out even better than I had hoped. He is making new friends and gaining a little bit of independence and responsibility in a controlled, safe environment. 

Music ~ He is still very passionate about music and loves to visit the guitar store several days a week just to explore and play instruments. He owns three guitars and one ukulele. One can hear music coming from his room at all hours as he practices. His guitar teacher is very pleased with his progress.

History, Language Arts and Science ~ He completed all three of these courses without much difficulty. He especially enjoyed chemistry and earth science this year. History seemed boring to him, so we will change that up a bit next year.

Math ~ This subject is his least favorite and gives him much sorrow. He wants to be successful, but the concepts just elude him. He seems to be stuck. We tried five different programs this year and all were very stressful for him. I have suggested time and time again that we just start doing real world consumer math and put hard things like algebra aside, but he is against that at the moment. So he plods along.

Dance ~ Dance has been a huge part of his life for years. He loves performing, but the classes stress him out. He struggles with flexibility due to cerebral palsy. He feels like a constant failure in dance. His teachers all think he is doing great and love seeing all of his progress. Dean just sees his flaws. He is a perfectionist through and through. He finally made full Junior Company starting next year, an honor he has desired for years. However, just in the last week he has suddenly suggested maybe forgoing some or all of his dance classes! I respect his decision. We shall see what he feels closer to the start of the new year. He is trying to find a way to take care of himself and feel better. I am proud of him for working so hard.

His goal for the coming year is to feel confident and content. I think he is well on the way to healing.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Review ~ Fascinating Biology

Fascinating Education
We are not usually huge fans of online programs, but we were very excited to receive for review Fascinating Biology from Fascinating Education. This is an online high school science curriculum. You can choose from physics, chemistry, biology or medicine. My son (15) received Fascinating Biology. We also received the Chemistry Pre-Course for Biology, which is a good refresher and also teaches the chemistry that will make the biology course more clear.

Fascinating  Physics

What my son thought ~

There are 18 biology lessons that make a complete high school course. My son really likes this curriculum. He is a visual learner and loves all of the slides. They are simple to understand and are colorful (which makes them easier for him to read). Each lesson has a script you can print out and a slide show you can watch and listen to. The student can stop and start the program and review as many times as they need to understand a concept. There is a test at the end of each lesson. One thing that my son really likes about this program is the ability to take each test online or print out the pdf test and take it with pen and paper. The online test contains hints if the student is really confused. We mostly had my son print out the test and take it pen and paper style. He is finding the course material to be challenging although also interesting. He often things that science curriculum is too dumbed down. However, he finds this course to be excellent and it builds nicely on his prior knowledge.

Is this program creation or evolution based?

I would call this curriculum a secular program, which is a plus for me. As far as I can tell, it just avoids the topics of creation and evolution. I figure my son already has his own strong convictions and will not be swayed by any disagreement in philosophy that he may have with Dr. Margulies, the writer of the program. According to the website, "Religious views and scientific views differ, and Dr. Margulies does not see his role with these curricula to argue in favor of one or the other. His role is to describe the forces in the universe and how they play out in our everyday lives without addressing how those forces came into being or whether forces are being manipulated by God in some way."

What I thought ~

I like everything that this program has to offer. I appreciate the Chemistry Pre-Course for Biology, but think my son would have been fine without it. The program is well written and explains in very clear details. It covers everything you would expect in a biology course. The only flaw or limitation I saw in this program was that there are no labs for biology. I do feel that dissection in high school biology in very important. My kids also love science experiments so we will need to add this to our learning. Also, as a teacher, you need to print out the test scores and keep track of your child's learning. This program does not keep scores or records for you. That is fine with me, since I am a very hands-on teacher anyway.

This program gets a thumbs up from me. I was about to buy a biology text book for my kids, but with this program, I no longer need to do so. It has everything we need. To see what others had to say, click on the banner below. The Homeschool Review Crew reviewed different courses.

Biology, Chemistry & Physics {Fascinating Education Reviews}
Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Weekly Wrap Up ~ The Week of Contrasts

This week was different each day. One day we spent the morning at the hospital while my Mom had surgery. She did well and is home recovering now. Another day found us visiting a local hiking trail and yet another was spent at home most of the day.  It was a nice week overall.

We are trying to do more family hikes this year. We had a lovely time on a hike over the weekend. The climb to the top of the mountain wasn't too bad and the views were great.

We stayed home for the 4th of July and did our own fireworks. It was a quiet day of hanging around the house, eating tasty food. 

We also went on a field trip to the Serpentarium of Magic. It was a warehouse filled with snakes collected from all over the world. It is run by a local snake enthusiast who loved showing off all of his snakes. The snakes were more active than I usually see at zoos or nature centers. An albino cobra repeatedly struck the glass when he saw me. I sure am glad he was in a cage!
A two headed corn snake

Pretty and poisonous

We got hopelessly lost on the way to the snake place. Google maps on my phone started taking me in circles at one point. When we finally arrived, I realized that we were also almost to a beautiful waterfall. I decided to stop there on the way back from the serpentarium. Since changing the plan is often stressful for my special needs sons, I bribed them with ice cream, then took them to the waterfall. Tim had a really bad asthma attack while we were in the national forest near the falls. He hadn't had one this bad in two years or so. It went on and on. Thankfully, he recovered and we headed home. By the time we got home, I was worn out!

Next week is filled with a dance intensive for Anne and Mom and Son time with Dean. It should be fun.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, July 7, 2017

How My Kids Want to Learn -- Providing a Streamlined Education

I struggle every year with planning way to much for my kids too learn in a single school year. You might say, I am a bit of an over-achiever and a Charlotte Mason enthusiast. I love to read great books to them and then reinforce the concept with a few projects. My kids loved this style when they were younger, but now they want to get on with their own passions. They want to learn what I think they need to know in the fastest, simplest way. They do want to learn and be educated. However, they want to spend huge swaths of time on their passions and much less time on math, science, literature and history. Their passions are valid courses of study. Their passions may well lead to careers. Dean wants to draw, dance and play string instruments. Anne wants to dance until her feet fall off. When her feet do fall off, she will stretch and do core exercises for an hour or so more. They are good at their crafts. This year I am committed to making an excellent educational experience for them in a more streamlined way. We really want to avoid overwhelming ourselves. Trust me, our out-of-the-home schedule would overwhelm anyone.

What my kids want to learn and accomplish this year ~

Anne (13) in 8th grade wants to
  • To read the entire Harry Potter series. (She has seen the movies but never read the books.)
  • To explore ways to make money and help with our family's small eBay business so there is more money for dance classes. 
  • To learn to sew with the sewing machine and clean up her hand sewing so it is "prettier".
  • To add more meals to her cooking repertoire so she won't "starve" when she is a grown up. She would like to use the Harry Potter cookbook, as well as learn more family recipes. (I am thinking of having her start her own cookbook in which she adds her favorite dishes.)
  • To complete a logic course that has a concentration in deductive reasoning and puzzles.
  • To learn the math she needs for junior high/high school, but in the fastest way possible that will stick in her brain. 
  • To DANCE, DANCE, DANCE, and do forms of exercise that support dance, such as Pilates, Yoga and Tai Chi.
(You will notice there is no mention of history, literature, science, or writing. Math only made the list because she didn't get as high a score as she got last year on end-of-year testing. Her score was still in the high 80's but not the 90's like last year, so she wants to do better.)

Dean (15) in 9th/10th grade wants to
  • He wants to continue improving his drawing skills and take classes with his art teacher, Miss Laura.
  • He wants to improve his flexibility so that he can enjoy dance more. (He loves dance but often feels like a failure at it because he isn't performing to what he feels is good enough, so we are looking into trying Tai Chi.)
  • He wants to dance with the Junior Company this fall. He was accepted to Junior Company but may not take a full load of classes, pending what the physical therapist advises.
  • Dean wants to continue his study in guitar, electric guitar and ukulele. 
  • He wants to increase his math knowledge. (However, he said it would probably drive him crazy.)
  • He wants to continue working on healing from depression and anxiety. Dean really wants to feel confident and content. (In fact, those were his exact words to his doctor yesterday ~ "I want to feel confident and content." I thought that was very well spoken. Sometimes, he really amazes me.)
(Please note that Dean also did not mention literature, history or science. He does worry about his math skills and wants to improve them so he won't feel so stressed out.)

This is all good food for thought. I will be posting this weekend their books and courses for next year.

Blessings, Dawn