Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Homeschool Day in the Life with 14 and 15 Year Old Teens

This is a day in my life as a homeschool mom. It is not an extraordinary day. Each day is different in our little homeschool. There is a rhythm to our weeks and we get more accomplished some days than others. This is a typical Tuesday for the most part. My son got less done than some days because he had an emotional day and had to process for a while which took away from book work. However, my job as a teacher and a parent is to turn out the most well adjusted adults that I can. I consider learning how to manage life, relationships and feelings to be way more important than book work. We are a special needs family. Three of our four children have multiple conditions. One of our children is so high end needs (behavior-wise) that she doesn't live in our home anymore. Our days are filled with a need for grace, faith and patience. Usually our days run pretty smoothly (by my standards), but rough patches crop up almost every day.

6:00 am ~ I hear the dog (Boomer) scratching at my disabled adult son's (Tim) door. The wind is whipping this morning, and Boomer wants to go to the bathroom and snuggle in my bed for a bit. I oblige him, and we all go back to sleep for 25 minutes until my husband's alarm goes off. We slowly pull ourselves out of bed and get ready for our day. Dear husband is off to work by 7:10 am.

7:00 am ~ I am fully awake now and start what I call my work to begin a successful day. It involves cleaning all of the light switches, door knobs, cell/house phones, remotes, keyboards and so on with Clorox wipes, starting the diffusers with Thieves essential oil and starting the laundry. Next, I get the rabbit (Phillip) out of his cage and set him up in the dining/kitchen area. He spends most of his day out and about, since he is litter box trained and a very social guy. Luckily, he gets along great with the dog. I clean the cage so it will be ready for him to return to as needed during the day. Lastly, I make tea and breakfast. This morning we are having English muffins with jam, organic chicken sausage and oranges. The kids will toast their muffins and collect their food from the kitchen as they awake.

8:00 am ~ The children are still asleep which is not unusual. I make a second attempt to wake my adult son since he needs to leave the house to attend his day program for  brain injured adults. He gets up and I lay out second son's supplements for the day. He takes about eight pills in the morning to help with digestion and a B12 deficiency. The kids straggle in and collect their breakfast and head off for a bit of media. Anne (14) watches a Blue Bloods show, and Dean (15) watches comedy shows on YouTube. I get distracted by Facebook and make Tim's bag lunch. I also give Phillip the bunny his antibiotics for a runny nose.

9:00 am ~ This is my first driving hour of the day. I take Tim to his day program and return home. I then gather up Dean and take him to his art class on the other side of town and return home to do school with Anne.

10:00 am to 12:00 pm ~ Anne is busy working on her presentation for Culture Club. We are presenting about Mexico this month. She is doing her project on the Day of the Dead. She made a sugar skull yesterday and paints it today. She then moves on to writing her report. I do laundry, clean the kitchen and pack up three packages from recent sales on eBay. I then head out to pick up Dean from art class.

12 pm to 2:30 pm ~ Dean settled into playing his guitar while I made lunch. Anne finished working on her Day of the Dead paper. After grilled cheese sandwiches and apple slices, Anne went off to do math and do a chapter in her English book in fictional writing. Dean started his math page on converting percents to fractions and decimals. Unfortunately, this turned into a meltdown. He was still upset about an argument we had yesterday and was generally feeling bad about having special needs. He had to process his feelings for a long time. By the time he had pulled himself together, we were both spent and didn't want to move on to our Understanding Shakespeare video. I decided to close school for the afternoon with a promise from Dean that we would resume school after dinner. Somewhere  during that crisis, Anne also managed to finish sewing the alterations on her skirt for dance class. Both children wrapped up with their chores. Dean cleaned the counters and rotated the dishwasher. Anne rotated the laundry and cleared off projects left on the table. 

2:30 pm to 4:00 pm ~ The kids were free while I went off to pick up Tim. I do spend a fair amount of time in the car ~ LOL. Tim had a good day at the program. He attended book club, did speed walking in the gym, cooked in the kitchen and attended a goodbye party for one of the staff members. I dropped off Tim at home and picked up Anne to take her to dance. Dean enjoyed talking with his friend on Skype. 

4:00 pm to 8:00 pm ~ I dropped Anne off at the dance studio. She will take three classes today and be a teacher assistant in a fourth class. Today she is taking modern, jazz and a rehearsal class for an upcoming performance. She is a teacher assistant in a Ballet III class. Dance is her life and she can be found at the studio for three to six hours each day, five to six days a week, depending on the day. I didn't get a picture of her today, so I am adding in one of our favorite shots taken this winter.
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While Anne was at dance, I took a 30 minute walk and then returned home to make dinner. Dear husband came home from work sick and went straight to bed. He made it through the day but looked positively green. I asked him to sleep in the guest room, so we could try to contain the germs. He slept through dinner and into the night. I served burritos tonight. After dinner, Dean and I resumed school. We started our next science experiment (a potato clock). We are comparing the energy of a potato clock and a lemon clock. Our lemon clock lasted an amazing 2 weeks and 2 days. We will see how long our potato clock provides energy to run the clock. Dean observed that the rods are more stable in the potato clock so that the clock doesn't turn on and off if you bump the counter, which happened a lot with the lemon. We also observed our long-term compost project and added more water to it.

Dean and I then watched a 25 minute video on the importance of Shakespeare. Dean was surprised to realize how many phrases and words he uses every day that can be attributed to Shakespeare. Dean went off to play with his rabbit and watch videos. I made a phone call to the caseworker for our 17 year old daughter who lives outside the home in a facility for special needs. I went off to the grocery store and to pick up Anne.

8:00 pm to 10:00 pm ~ When Anne and I returned home, Dean was waiting for us to watch a funny meme video he had found on YouTube. We watched it and then played our Scattergories board game for about an hour. I was beyond ready for bed by then. The kids took showers while I gave the bunny his last antibiotic and put him to bed for the night. Lastly, I started the dishwasher, checked in with adult son, checked on my sleeping husband and tucked the teens into bed with kisses and hugs all around. I like and need to be the last one into bed to know that all my crew is safe and sound. I read for a few minutes before falling asleep.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Blessings of Homeschooling

Let's be frank! Homeschooling is hard and it certainly isn't for everyone. Homeschooling takes over your house, is time consuming, costs money, takes away a second income for many and requires lots of sacrifice on the parents' part.

I am writing this morning next to a dining room table that is overflowing with papers, books, water bottles and stuff while holding a rabbit that needs his antibiotics and a to do list a mile long. I need a shower and the kids will be up any minute. Yet I stand here before you facing the end of our 19th year of homeschooling, and I feel so very blessed. I have spent the week listening to mothers talk about their fear of sending their children to school and facing school violence. I remember well the school violence I witnessed attending a large urban school and later working in schools in two states. I have attended a meeting to address the bullying situation that my teenage daughter is dealing with in public high school (Goldilocks who does not live with us). I have counseled a family in how to start an emergency homeschool after their middle school daughter made a suicide attempt partially because of public school issues. It has been a heart-wrenching week for our country; and although we are safe and free of school violence in our little homeschool, we are certainly not isolated from the crisis gripping our nation.

All that said, my post about what we did this week seems so trivial. We did school, we went to dance, art and therapy. Dean and Anne saw friends and enjoyed the spring weather we are having. The end of the school year is just a few months off, and I feel confident that we are going to make it with most of our goals achieved. Enough said....
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Dean's self portrait this week
So here are a few blessings from this week ~
  • I can let my kids sleep. Why have we avoided the flu so far? I don't know; it is all around us. I do think that my kids being able to sleep most days until they awake is of great benefit to their growing bodies. 
  • We can take advantage of the amazing weather we are having this week. We are not confined to a building, agenda or schedule.
  • My kids can follow their dreams and passions. Dean is making amazing strides in portrait drawing. Anne received her first ever payment for performing with the adult company recently. She even framed one dollar of the money. Anne is also falling more and more in love with sign language every day. Our adult son, Tim, completed orientation with the Humane Society this week so he will be able to perform volunteer tasks with dogs.
  • We can be the rock and foundation for our kids. I am here at all times to flush out concerns, help make important decisions, process social situations. My kids turn to me first. For that, I am so grateful.
  • We have the margin to reach out to others in need and lend support.
  • Anne and I attended an anti-gun rally. 
  • WE FEEL SAFE and can live most of our hours WITHOUT FEAR.
So that is all for this week. Just so we are clear, yes, I  think assault weapons should be banned. Yes, I think our mental health system stinks and needs a complete overhaul. Yes, I think it is more important that our children stop being killed than that people have the "right" to own military style weapons. My husband was a soldier for 13 years and wasn't allowed to take his M-16 home. It lived in the weapons room at work unless he was deployed to a war zone. Yes, I have a child with mental illness who cannot live in a family setting, because she is considered too dangerous to have around her family. However, the mental health system is going to drop her like a hot potato on her 18th birthday in just a few short months. Friendly comments welcome.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, February 16, 2018

Week 23 ~ Chugging Right Along

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We had one of those weeks that was not really all that picture worthy, but filled with lots of progress. I sure do like weeks that flow peacefully.

Dean is really embracing the workbook style of learning right now. The lessons are quick, clear and to the point. Just the way he likes it. He is moving through his lessons with a speed I haven't seen in about two years. He has very few complaints, too. He is using history worksheets from this site. He is also using Spectrum workbooks and homemade workbook sheets for earth science, math and English (writing skills). He is also doing a few different long-term experiments right now. We have a lemon clock going. Everyone made a guess on how long it would run before the lemon energy ran out. It has now exceeded everyone's estimation. The clock has been running for five days now. Once it dies, we will test the energy of a potato and compare.

His compost study is coming along well, too. He is two weeks into the observation and the banana peel is very hard to find because of its color but otherwise seems solid and unchanged. The potato chip is moldy and breaking down; the orange peel is starting to get mold on it; and the carrot is showing no change. Dean is most surprised by the potato chip. He thought it would be last to change because of the chemical changes it underwent during the process of being fried.
Anne is working so hard on all of her subjects. She seems to be on fire right now. Each lesson completed fires her up to complete the next. She can see the end in sight for several subjects, and it is really motivating her forward. She also got one of her top two desired positions in the upcoming performance of Alice in Wonderland. She is the caterpillar, which is a solo role that combines acrobats, aerial arts and dance. She also will do multiple group dances. Lastly, she got her date set for her level 4 Cecchetti exam this Spring. She will take the test on Memorial Day. She is one excited, busy young lady right now. 

We enjoyed a spring-like walk at Biltmore this week. The weather was amazing. Dean was in his element, setting up one photo shoot pose after another. Unfortunately, he erased lots of pictures, because he felt they were "meh". He is such an artist in that way. Nonetheless, it was fun to see his creative energy unfolding. The pictures below are my photos of him creating his shoots.
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Lastly, we took the family to the mall on Valentine's Day and tried Dragon's Breath, which is liquid nitrogen-infused puff cereal. We felt a bit crazy putting them into our mouths. However, it was totally fun blowing smoke through our noses!

Well that is a wrap for this week. We plan on getting as many lessons done today, so that we can possibly do a field trip with Daddy on Monday for Presidents Day.


Friday, February 9, 2018

Week 22 ~ A Week of Real Life Lessons

We had  a strong week filled with learning. This week the real world lessons will stick in my children's minds much more than anything we learned from a book. We had some reminders of just how blessed we are and were thankful for how far we have come.

We have been looking for a pet rabbit for a little while now. We wanted a therapy rabbit of sorts who would sit in my son's lap and reduce his anxiety while he was doing school work. A bunny was offered on the Yahoo Freecycle group with all of his belongings. We went out to meet him and he had the personality we were looking for. We brought him home and he is transitioning well into our family. He is even getting along great with our dog! We kept the name his previous family had given him and then added our own middle name. Meet Phillip Teaberry.

On Monday we had tickets to see a professional rendition of Hamlet. This is by no means my favorite Shakespeare play, but the production was fantastic. There is really no better way to study Shakespeare than seeing it live in the form in which it was intended.

After the play, we joined up with another family to go out to lunch and try a new pizza place. We found the prices a bit high, but decided to eat there anyway. As the food started to arrive, my friend commented quietly to me that she was surprised by how small the portions were for the cost. We were sitting in a hallway right next to the bathroom. There was a person standing behind us who we thought was waiting for the bathroom. He turned out to be the owner and verbally attacked my friend. He slammed his hands down on our table, startling us, and suggested we go elsewhere if we didn't like his food. When our dessert was ready, he brought it, slamming the plate down on the table and scaring us all. He then told all the other customers in the restaurant about us, referring to as with rude language and ranting for the next 10 minutes. We got out of there as soon as we could and left negative reviews on Yelp. It turns out others who were in the restaurant also left negative reviews after witnessing his outrageous display toward us. The children were very shaken but received a host of life lessons (such as not to engage with a ranting person) that they won't soon forget!

Tuesday through Thursday were relatively normal days. We had dance, art and lots of workbook-style school. We also completed the projects for our Culture Club. We are learning about the United Kingdom this month with our friends. Dean wrote a report about Charles Darwin, and Anne wrote about Queen Elizabeth II and her first major challenge as queen (the Great London Smog of 1952).

There was lots of Home Economics this week. Anne is three-fourths of the way through her home economics class. Her goals for home economics were flexible. As long as she was learning/perfecting skills that were new to her, I wasn't a stickler to what she learned. As the course is winding up, I see that there have been four main areas of learning (bulk cooking, painting/refinishing furniture, serving those less fortunate and hand sewing). She has done lots of what we call "dance hand sewing" which entails sewing her pointe shoes, repairing leotards, and small adjustments to costumes. This week she sewed her eighth pair of pointe shoes in record time. They are very neatly done and clearly show how much she has improved. She also started painting her last piece of bedroom furniture. The big reveal will come soon. Lastly, we visited a friend who is going through a very hard time right now. Her young daughter had a complete mental breakdown and is in the psychiatric hospital. My oldest daughter was in that very institution four years ago, so we were able to talk on common ground about this experience. We took the mother some flowers, cards and treats. Anne showed beautiful compassion to the mother and is growing beautifully into the role of a compassionate caregiver.

On Friday we had Culture Club with our twin friends. After club we had art class with Grandma. Our friend Rose joined us. We had a quick English tea. It wasn't our prettiest display, but everything tasted good. We learned about Faith Ringgold. We reviewed Black History Month and how Faith Ringgold's art focuses on black history and breaks down stereotypes. The kids then did a picture of their own in her style. They made collage boarders with a hand-drawn picture in the center to simulate one of her story quilts.

Creating is messy!

The finished products



Blessings, Dawn

Friday, February 2, 2018

Week 21 ~ A Better Week

Thankfully, I can feel our "normal" coming back. Last week was rough, but this week went more smoothly. My To Do List is still long, and some of the things on it are so frustrating, because I have been trying to resolve them for months. However, the day to day flow of our weeks is back on track.

The weekend was consumed with more performances with the adult dancers at our studio. They persevered through rain, wind and cold temps. Thankfully, no  one got really sick. Anne does have the sniffles. Here are a few more shots of the fun.

We got back on track school wise this week. Both kids did math daily. Dean is concentrating on consumer math and word problems. He is experiencing success in math right now, which is a relief. Anne still has several weeks to go for 8th grade credit, but she is ready to start algebra which will count for 9th grade. I may be wrapping up her 8th grade with games and drill sheets. I will be ordering Teaching Textbooks Algebra, as soon as I finish earning the money on eBay (hopefully in two weeks).

We did lots of science this week. We started a compost kit by Nancy B's Science Club. The book has a host of experiments in it and we are enjoying watching the decomposition of a orange peel, banana peel, carrot and potato chip. This kit will help Dean learn more about helping the environment for his earth science credit.
Day 1

Day 5

Day 5

Day 1

The biggest change so far is with the banana peel. It has turned completely brown.

We also watched David Attenborough's show, Madagascar. It was fantastic and had Dean spellbound. He loves anything narrated by David Attenborough.  The show explained more about evolution and how animals and birds came to be on the island. We spent one morning at the greenhouses on the Biltmore Estate. Following our mini study of Madagascar, we loved seeing all of the unusual tropical plants . The warm humidity sure was nice, too.

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We had several cancellations because the flu is hitting our area so hard right now. Anne's Cecchetti Ballet Studio was closed all week, because so many students were down with the flu. We decided to cancel our international event with friends because we both had kids who were feeling run down. Art Club and Literature/Movie Club were also canceled due to illness. Hopefully, flu season will slow down soon and we can see more of our friends. 

We rented the video and watched Goodbye, Christopher Robin but were really not that thrilled with it. We enjoyed learning a bit more about A. L. Milne, but the PTSD and war scenes stressed out my kids. I am glad we didn't pay to see it in the theater.
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Dean made it to art class this week. He has been doing some lovely portrait sketches lately.

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We are flowing along well. Anne is on track to finish both 8th and most of 9th grade this year (but she won't complete her CTE and algebra credits). Dean looks like he will finish all of 9th grade and half of 10th, unless he decides to really push harder. I am going to talk to them about graduating together and allowing Dean to work at the pace that really makes him feel more comfortable. That would mean that Dean would graduate at barely 19 and Anne at 17. I have a feeling that Dean would actually like to finish this chapter in his life with his best friend (sister). 

Blessings, Dawn