Thursday, February 28, 2019

Week 24 ~ Finding Our Way

We traveled up to Washington, D.C. last week to attend my Father's Memorial Service and help clean out his home a bit. He had a four room man cave that was and still is busting at the seams. It is going to take time to properly sort through all of it. The Memorial was amazing with about 200 people in attendance. Anne signed the Irish Blessing while I read it. One of the loveliest parts was that my Dad got his "last ride" on his motorcycle. One of his motorcycle buddies brought his ashes to the Memorial on the back of his motorcycle. My husband was so busy at the memorial either working or recording moments that he missed being in any picture I took. This was an all-around hard week, but there were glimmers of joy, too. I am so grateful that my mother and husband were able to come for the event. I am also happy that my stepmother has so many friends to support her through this difficult time in life. I got to see many relatives and old friends. Some of them I hadn't seen in over 20 years.
My Dad's motorcycle

My tall cousins and stepmother
We got home around dinnertime on Monday and immediately hit the ground running. Anne had a mandatory dance class and Dean just needed to get some energy out so went to his Live Action Role Play class with The Wandering Swordsman.

Tuesday ~ We all spent the day feeling sick and exhausted. We unloaded the minivan and trailer with tons of books to sell on eBay, as well as lots of memorabilia to assimilate into our home. I am a wanna be minimalist, and I am overwhelmed by the state of my basement activity room at the moment which is overrun with boxes and bags. Nothing is allowed to leave that area until it fully processed.

We spent the rest of the week trying to get back into the school groove. We have decided to just concentrate on completing two of three subjects until they are done. Then we will go on with other subjects. I am hoping this will stop the disjointed feeling we are having with some of our studies. For example, I am putting Conceptual Physics away for now (maybe even the rest of the year). Doing it one time a week was not a good way to get it to stick in the children's minds. On the bright side, I think Dean and Anne will both finish two or three credits by the middle or end of March. That gives me hope.

Our School Accomplishments ~
  • Dean completed nine World Geography lessons that included Italy, The Horn of Africa, Somali, The African Great Lakes, all episodes of Guns, Germs and Steel found on YouTube, plus our Yum, Yum subscription box from Universal Yums, which were snacks from Italy this month. 
  • Anne attended all of her dance classes except the one that we did not get back to town in time for. She even got to take a master class with a Russian-trained ballet teacher who is visiting our studio for the next month. 
  • They both read their literature books and had discussions with me about the books. They will be done with Treasure Island (Dean) and A Gathering of Days (Anne) next week.
  • Dean did six math lessons and Anne did three math lessons. 
  • Anne attended work one day this week.
  • Anne attended her sign language class.
  • They both played a host of games that don't fit into my lesson planners but do keep the mind engaged and learning. They played Magic, Timeline Inventions, Uno, Monopoly Deal, Blockus and Chess.
Universal Yums sent us a larger box of snacks this month to thanks us for being loyal costumers.

Anne has to do so many technical things for her Cecchetti exam and they have to be perfectly clean. She gets to perform a solo this year with props. She has a choice of two dances and will be picking it out soon with her teacher.

I wish I could say we were home for a while, but that is not the case. I am off to Duke Medical Center for Tim's cardiac care on Tuesday. I expect this appointment will lead to more since our local hospital saw some serious issues on his last echocardiogram. That will be an eight hour round trip (just driving) each time. There is also travel on the schedule for Anne's Cecchetti exam. All this means that we have a very hectic spring ahead of us and that I must guard our time and choices carefully. I am so thankful to homeschool. I don't know how we would get through this if they were in public school.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Week 23 ~ A Half Week

We are off to Washington, D.C. for my Dad's Memorial Service. We only did school three days this week. Thursday through Sunday will be consumed with lots of family activities in the Washington, D.C. area. Family is coming in from all over the East Coast, and it will be nice to see everyone. A tiny silver lining to a sad, dark rain cloud.

Accomplishments ~
  • Dean completed his Survival Math Skills book and is ready to move on to Living Mathematically: Living Within Your Means.
  • Anne got lots of excellent remarks for her Sign Language demonstration.
  • Dean completed two more countries on his African Studies in Geography (Libya and Sudan).
  • Anne made it to work two mornings this week.
  • Dean is half-way done with Treasure Island.
  • Anne is half-way done with A Gathering of Days.
  • Dean had a wonderful time on another art field trip (I will talk about this a bit at the end).
  • Anne attended all but one dance class. Cecchetti was canceled due to ice.
  • Dean attended 4 hours of The Wandering Swordsman classes.
  • Anne cleaned the floors of the dance studio in trade for taking adult classes for free.
Anne cleaning the floors
We completed another field trip. The focus of this field trip was to explore crafts that are useful in our home. Many people cannot afford to have beautiful artwork in their home. However, some of them can afford to have beautiful handmade utilitarian objects that provide beauty and are useful at the same time. We went to a gallery in the old Woolworth building, and I sent them off to find objects they would find useful to use in their homes. We found an extensive list of things. 
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Anne had to work so wasn't with us.
Lastly, we had lunch at the Woolworth lunch counter that has been preserved all of these years. We read about the student sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement that started in Greensboro, NC and spread through the South. We also learned that our city was one of the few cities where integration happened completely peacefully. I haven't gotten in most of my lesson plans for Black History month with all that is going on, but I am glad to squeeze in whatever I can.

So much will happen in the next five days. I know it is going to be a whirlwind of emotions. Until next time ~ Peace.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Week 22 ~ Highlights of Our Week

In my last post, I talked about homeschooling high school through a crisis. A question was posed about reporting requirements in our state. Here in North Carolina, we are required to do a standardized end of year test, record attendance and maintain vaccination records in the home. We are considered a small private school and have to follow the rules for private schools in our state. All of the course work and credits for high school graduation are recommendations instead of requirements and are up to the discretion of the school principal 9 (my husband). We follow the credit requirements of our local high school but create our own course work and determine what we feel our children need to learn for each subject. Our local high school requires 22 credits including 3 math credits (4 if university bound), 4 English Credits, 3 science credits, 4 history credits and a concentration in something for 4 years. Our daughter's concentration is dance and theater and our son's concentration is fine art. Both of our children will be graduating with more credits than required because of our personal requirements and their interests. All this makes it possible for our family to follow our style of recording.

Accomplishments this Week ~

Anne attended 17.5 hours of dance classes and rehearsals this week. She is really feeling good about her classes in Cecchetti ballet and feels almost ready for the Level 5 exam in June. She also was cast in the spring show, The Mystery of the Seahorse (based on the book, The Sign of the Seahorse) as Pearl Trout. She is very excited to have this role. Lastly, she was cast as an understudy in the 40th anniversary show by the dance studio's Adult Company that the dance studio is putting on in June. She was told that she would most likely dance at least one dance in the show. She is delighted.

Anne is rapidly reading A Gathering of Days by Joan Blos and is working her way through the math book, Life of Fred Decimals and Percents. She was feeling a bit shaky on percents and needed a quick review.

Both kids spent two hours on their Conceptual Physics course this week. We used our standard textbook and videos and were still a bit confused by the math involved with the law of inertia. We watched the first physics lesson in the crash course series and got a bit more understanding. I have a feeling that physics (even Conceptual Physics) isn't really going to be my children's thing and that is okay as long as they have exposure and a general understanding.

Dean is one page away from being done with his current consumer math book. I resisted bribing him with a soda or some other treat to finish the book today. He did three pages and will finish the book on Monday. For his next book, he decided to stick with Robert Louis Stevenson and started reading Treasure Island. So far, he likes it even better than Kidnapped.

Dean completed three more countries (Egypt, Morocco, and Algeria) in his geography books and read most of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa.

Anne did lots of sign language practice. I can't tell you how delighted she was when her teacher gave her a pop-up book, The Little Mermaid, to translate into sign language to sign to the class next week. It is fun to see teens delight in a children's book. She also gave another tutoring session to her ballet teacher in sign language. She is doing very well and enjoying the process of tutoring.

Anne also just adores her job at the consignment shop. She comes bouncing out to the car each day with a new story to tell about a customer or a cute kid that came in or how you have to rip the arms off the mannequins to change their clothes.

I took Dean and his girlfriend on what I hope will turn into a bi-monthly art field trip. This week we planned to go to a glassworks artist studio and watch a demonstration, but when we arrived we found out that they were closed this week for maintenance. We will have to go another week. Luckily, we live in a very artsy town and there are dozens of galleries. We went to ZaPow! that was right around the corner. It is a graphic art and illustration gallery that hosts dozens of artists. I told the kids to find two booths that they especially liked and give me a talk about why they liked it and what kind of art was displayed. I also told them about my two favorite booths. They had a wonderful time and didn't want to leave after an hour.

I am sure there were more accomplishments and they are written in my handy lesson planners, but I can't currently tell you what they were.

Valentine's Day ~ We kept this day very simple this year to save money. We need all our pennies and dimes for traveling right now. I made my husband homemade Biscotti, and he bought me a little brass school bell from a thrift shop for my bell collection. We bought the family the board game, Code Names...Harry Potter Edition.

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The little bell is the new one.
Blessings, Dawn

Friday, February 8, 2019

Week 21 ~ How We Maintain School Through a Crisis

We worked hard this week on just a few subjects. I think I mentioned before that we concentrate on completion of credits more than completion of hours/days/grade levels in high school. This means that I am currently overseeing three lesson planners for each child (9th-11th for Anne and 10th-12th for Dean). It also means that some credits carry year to year while they are slowly filled in and others follow a more daily schedule and are completed in one school year or less. I am using Anne's planners as my example because they don't have her name on them. I use my children's middle names on this blog. I will be able to put away one of Anne's lesson planners in just a few weeks. She only needs to complete her Career and Technology credit, and then her 9th grade credits will be complete. Meanwhile, she is almost done with English II (10th grade) and is making steady progress in her seven credits for 10th grade. So far, she is only working on two credits in her 11th grade lesson planner. This way of completing credits works so much better for our family than a more traditional format. I used this technique years ago for our oldest special needs adult son. I must admit, though, that I panicked in the middle of his 11th grade year when I realized that I was still filling in four planners, but in the end, they all were finished and he graduated with 24 credits. I am not at all panicked this time when I see that Conceptual Physics is moving at a slower than a snail pace and that other credits, such as Industrial Arts, for Dean have gone weeks without having anything added to it.
Anne's current planners
Almost done ~ just need to complete CTE

She is only working on credits for Health and Sign Language II in her 11th Grade Planner.
Considering the state of our lives right now with so many important life events and lots of travel on our schedule to get proper medical care for our adult son and support my Stepmother through the loss of my Dad, this homeschooling format is perfect for us. If we were following a traditional format, we would have to either close school down or compromise our studies for a curriculum that was less desirable but more travel worthy. I am so thankful for the freedom of homeschooling so that I can maintain the standard of learning that our children need while still dealing with real life. We simply work on the credits that work well with our current situation. Math travels well and can be done anywhere, so it is popular on our schedule right now. Conceptual Physics needs several hours set aside to do it the way we wish, and we don't have several hours back to back right now, so it is only happening currently about once a week.

Our Week ~ 
  • Finished Pride and Prejudice (BBC 6 episodes) and loved it
  • Each teen did 8 to 12 math lessons.
  • Dean started Guns, Germs and Steel National Geographic Documentary.
  • Anne worked two mornings at the consignment shop, earning her 8 hours of CTE credit.
  • Dean completed a unit study on Fredrick Douglass. (Anne is almost done with the same unit study.)
  • They both completed three hours of Conceptual Physics.
  • Anne attended 15.5 hours of dance classes and rehearsals.
  • Anne attended sign language class and picked up a job tutoring one of her dance teachers in sign language two times a month. 
  • Dean completed 8 hours of World Geography and Cultures (mostly Africa).
  • Dean finished Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson.
  • Both teens cooked a meal.
Chili and rolls is a family favorite
Our Tension Busters this Week ~ In this time of crisis, it is important to find tension busters. The normal hiccups of life such as a broken retainer and broken down car (both realities in our world this week) seem so much larger when our emotional resources are already stretched. I am always looking for ways to reduce stress and increase joy and laughter in our home. Helping neurotypical people through crisis is hard enough, but dragging several brain injured people through crisis is a huge feat. Such is the life of a mom of special needs children.
  • A walk around the lake while Anne was in dance
  • A round of mini golf 
  • Our delightful pets who cuddle and do so many funny things all day long and bring giggles into our home
  • Friends over for dinner
  • When Calls the Heart season 5 on Netflix for Me

Our cat thinks she is a prairie dog

Today will be consumed with more math (see a theme here?), a doctor appointment, looking for memorial clothes for oldest son and house cleaning.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, February 1, 2019

Week 20 ~ Best Laid Plans

Wow, I feel like every week recently I am saying it was a hard week. I guess we are just in a hard season. This week we were struck with illness on Sunday and we were sick the entire week. Dean was hit the hardest with a fever over 103 degrees that proved very difficult to keep down. He basically slept through the first half of the week. Anne missed 1.5 days worth of dance classes and still has a cough but is mostly back to normal. If that wasn't enough, we got a call from our disabled adult son's cardiologist. Tim is a tetrology of Fallot survivor who had open heart surgery and a pacemaker implanted in infancy. Tim's echocardiogram showed that his heart's pumping ability has reduced to just 35% ejection fraction. That is considered to be in the early stages of heart failure. We haven't been in this bad a place since he was an infant, and it is a scary place to be. Furthermore, I am concerned about staying with his current cardiac practice now that there is a new problem, because they are not associated with the best hospital that our state has to offer. I think we will be moving him back to Duke Medical Center, which is a four hour drive from home. They have several cardiologists who specialize in adults with congenital birth defects. The way the medical world takes care of a repaired heart from birth defects versus a damaged heart from our lifestyle choices is very different. Most cardiologists are not trained to take care of adults who were born with congenital defects. It is a new field since the life saving surgeries for these really complicated cases are only 20 to 30 years old and there is still a relatively small pool of adult survivors.  We are praying for guidance as we try to figure out the best course of action. I do have faith that, with medicine and proper intensive medical care, we will get him back in good shape.

Highlights from the Week ~ 

We had a lovely evening with friends last Friday. The kids had lots of fun using up the rest of our Christmas Crackers and playing board games.

Anne got to use her debit card to purchase a piece of clothing. This was one of the first times using her card. It is exciting to be a working young lady and making an income. She saves 90% of it for dance classes, but gets to spend a tiny bit on shopping.

After several weeks of the kids not cooking, we finally got our act back together this week. Dean made chili and Anne made pancakes with bacon. I love to have someone else doing the cooking some nights.

Illness in our house means "Movie School". We watched Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, four of the five episodes from Pride and Prejudice and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Dean also watched four National Geographic documentaries on Africa for geography. Anne made it out to dance some days and to work both days she was assigned. They both did some reading. That was about all we were up to this week.

Blessings, Dawn