Friday, March 29, 2019

Week 28 ~ Our Favorite Books and Resources this Year

I thought I would share the books and resources that we have found to be most useful this year.  I have never been a "curriculum in a box" person and have mostly built my own lessons based on living books for the past 20 years. I generally follow the Charlotte Mason philosophy with a bit of dabbling in unit studies. However, I have used workbooks during crisis years and months and some classical education curriculum. I guess we are pretty eclectic with a strong emphasis on Charlotte Mason philosophy. I have had to streamline our books this year. I am famous in my family for using more than a hundred books a year and several dozen per subject. Not this year. Anne's dance and work life takes a tremendous amount of her time, and she needs her education clear and direct without fluff and extras. I mourned this for a while and then got with the program. The blessing of homeschooling is meeting your children's needs. Anne's life is taking off, and it is my challenge to give her an excellent quality education without suppressing her opportunities. On the other hand, Dean needs a very hands-on education with a strong emphasis on life skills because of his special needs. For these reasons, our high school years are looking much more book poor than their early education. Regardless, I make sure that every book is high quality so it can have maximum value to their education.

Our Favorites this Year ~

Memoria Press Geography Vol. 1 and 2
This program really has been useful to Dean. He likes that each country only has one or two pages of reading and a map in the student text. Then he answers the questions and does the map work in the workbook. The information is clear and interesting without lots of extraneous material. As he has grown older, he has made it more and more clear that too many words really overwhelm him.

To Kill a Mockingbird and 24 More Videos 
I wish this book had an updated version with more recent movies because some of them are really hard to find. Luckily, we have a video rental store that has lots of rare films. We have enjoyed many of the movies over the years. Each movie has several worksheets, discussion questions and a general summary of the story and characters.

Living Mathematically: Living Within Your Means
We have two books  in the Living Mathematically series. This book takes the student through the life skills of getting a job, picking out an apartment, furnishing the apartment and having lots of unexpected expenses. I like that each lesson has a hands-on activity. In this Lesson, Dean enjoyed placing his furniture in the floor plan of his selected apartment. We plan to collect all of the books in this series.

The Who Was Series 
I challenged Dean at the beginning of the school year to read one of these books a week. He has maintained that challenge and has completed 28 books in the series so far. I place sticky notes at the end of each chapter with questions that he answers about each chapter. I love that these books are loaded with information and are larger print so that they are very easy to follow and read quickly. They are interesting and well written. They have done a world of good in building Dean's reading comprehension. He has always been a good reader in the respects of being able to read any word quickly but has struggled with recall and comprehension of deeper meaning in the text for most of his life. Anne has also used a few of these books when I felt that she needed a quick overview or review of a subject. She can read one of these books in about two hours which is good since she has mild dyslexia.

Survival Math Skills 
Dean and Anne used this workbook this year. It does an excellent job of covering the math we all have to cope with every day including purchasing a car, affording vacations, reading your pay stub, paying taxes, paying bills and so much more.

Learn Math Fast System 
Dean and Anne used different volumes of this series this year. Anne really likes this series and Dean thought it was "okay for a math program".  It does move at a very fast pace and Anne needed a break from the intensity after three volumes. For example, Volume Three goes from "What I X?" to "All Things Slopes" and covers pretty much all of Pre-Algebra and a good start in Algebra (at least according to what is called Algebra in two other curriculum books we have used) in 25 lessons.

The Story of the World 
I read the first two books in this series to my crew when they were in elementary school, while I was in my all things classical phase. I loved it as well as the accompanying activity book. I am sure they only got a little bit of knowledge from each book since these are incredibly rich with information.  However, they did enjoy listening, narrating and doing their map work pages. We used the third volume together in middle school when they were much more ready to store away the huge amount of information. This year Anne did Volume 4 on her own and narrated to me after each chapter. I love this program and have found that, with tweaking, it is useful for many grade levels.

Story Starters by Karen Andreola
We have just begun our enjoyment of this wonderful book. It comes with nearly 70 beautifully written and illustrated beginnings to stories that the student can then complete. There is also a section on polishing your writing and a section just of illustrations to encourage one's imagination into writing a story. Anne has taken nicely to this program and prefers it to my standard writing prompts. Dean struggles with using his imagination so doesn't care for this program as much as my "real world or everyday" writing prompts, but he will be doing a few each school year for the rest of his high school career. 

Poetry for Young People Series 
We have only pulled off a few poetry teas so far this year, but they are always a hit. I have about ten books from this series and we always enjoy them. They have a nice biography of the poet and many of the poet's most famous poems. We often read the poems and then listen to them a second time on YouTube.

National Geographic Documentaries
Dean just loves National Geographic and wants to be assigned at least one show a week if not more. He especially likes ones that are about nature, geography and foreign places.

We also enjoyed many classics this year. I think Anne ended up enjoying Jane Eye, Pride and Prejudice and The Midwife's Apprentice most. Dean really liked Treasure Island  and A Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musahi. We have a few more books to cover before the end of the year. I look forward to seeing which one's capture their interest.

I am sure I am missing something that we loved, and there were several other workbooks for math and language arts which we did not love, but did complete. I didn't cover the books we used for our introduction to physics, because that course never really got off the ground for us. I have put it away for the year. There was nothing wrong with what we were using, but our lives were just too crazy to give that course the attention and time it needed to be solid in my kids. We will revisit it next year and I may be changing it to Physical Science which is all that the local high school provides to the typical student. Since my crew is not bound for science careers, Physical Science would be enough science and allow for more Chemistry, which they love.

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Week 27 ~ Blessings Abound

We had a pretty good week. Anne is gearing up for a show next weekend, and rehearsals are keeping her busy. The video clip below is of an adult class that has nothing to do with a show. It is just a fun class to work on skills. One thing I love about our main dance studio is the way they encourage everyone to dance regardless of skill, age or body type. A prime example is this adult class. There are professionals, motivated teens and adults who are just starting out in their love of dance. They all love and support each other.

I took Dean and his homeschooled girlfriend on a field trip to a glass making studio. It was fascinating and the products they made were gorgeous. Check the link to see the finished products. Taking these two on art field trips is a wonderful way to finish up Dean's Visual Arts III credit and we live in the perfect town for field trips.

A real blessing to our family is games. I know I have said it before, but it really is true. Our family has started playing Dungeons and Dragons once a week as a family. This was a strong interest of our adult son, and as things go in our family, everyone tends to get into an activity in one way or another to support the interested party. We play this game in a very family-friendly style, so we all have fun. We are enjoying painting little figurines together and creating an imaginary world in which to search for treasure. It has proven to be educational, too, since it takes lots of research to figure out what each character can do. The kids are also working on teamwork, negotiations, pragmatic language skills, strategy, math skills and expanding their imaginations (my kids have always been much more on the side of logic and rules than imaginary play).

We also played Snake Oil, Say Anything and Munchkin this week. All are great games that expand imagination and encourage debate, teamwork and pragmatic language skills.

This week a blessing came in the way of a check. When my father died, he left me a small portion of his life insurance. I would rather have him, of course, but I will use this windfall to help our family as much as possible. My husband's car was really getting to be a danger to him and others. It was 19 years old. Most of its electrical system had failed and it apparently had become invisible, since he had been hit three times in the last 18 months. So the first order of business was to buy a "new to him" car. After much research and looking on the Internet, we saw one that looked perfect and went out to see if all our family would fit in it. It was perfect and beyond what we had hoped to be able to purchase. So now he has a 2014 Chevrolet Impala with low mileage! I am so happy that he is in a safe car again. We plan to take a trip and replace our roof with the remaining funds.

Next week, I hope to talk about where we are in our school year. We did get lots of academics done this week, and I can see the end in sight for a few credits. That is exciting!

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, March 15, 2019

Week 26 ~ Homeschooling a Special Needs Family

It was an exhausting but good week. I can feel energy, ideas and hope coming back into my life. It has been a hard winter, but spring is coming. I can feel it and I am so relieved. 

I do not talk about the specifics of my son's special needs very often because he has not come to accept them. They still cause him much heartache and frustration. Many of the books and professionals say being diagnosed in the teen years gives the young person understanding and relief, but that has not been the case for our son. Dean came to us at 2 days of age. His birth mother had given birth to him at home and after she put him through an extreme and painful trial, the police finally found him and got him to a small community hospital. The hospital released him into Social Services' custody within hours, even though he was a preemie struggling with crack withdrawal and polycythemia. To say the least, we received a very sick little baby that afternoon as our very first foster child. I had no idea of all the struggles and scary diagnoses that were to come when that precious baby was put into my arms. I just knew that I loved him with all that I had and that he was mine (even though I wouldn't be able to say legally he was mine for two more years). He was hospitalized again within three days with brain bleeds and a stroke. The next six months was a perilous journey to keep him alive. We have spent many years helping him to move forward in his skills and abilities.

Fast forward to his teen years and he has made extraordinary progress. He is a rock star in my eyes, but sometimes others don't realize that he is an amazing wonder and still thinks that he needs to grow up faster. They do not see his hidden disabilities. I guess that is why I feel the need to share his labels this one time. I hope that they will give others hope that they, too, can be marvelous and be whole despite their labels. Dean has been labeled with Cerebral Palsy, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Integration Disorder and Autism. That is a weighty list to deal with, but if you break it down, you will realize that each label has a spectrum of challenges from mild to severe. Realizing that does make it a little bit easier to manage. I have no doubt that my son will have a full life; it is just going to take him longer to achieve his goals than some others.

I have decided to start reading one chapter a day of a selection of special needs books, so I can try to pick up a few extra tips and encouragement. This week I read Trying Differently Rather than Harder. I read this book years ago, but with our daughter Katie (formally Goldilocks) in mind. Dean did not get most of his diagnoses until his teen years. This second time through, I got a bit more encouragement that my style of educating our son is correct and perhaps should be made even more kinesthetic based. I also feel more encouraged that time and repetition will help him to keep moving forward as long as he has a loving, understanding and educationally-rich environment. 

This week ~ 

Eureka Crate ~ Our Eureka Crate arrived and it is wonderful. Dean loved the Tinker Crate from this company for years but grew out of it. He has always had a mechanical mind that I really need to encourage more. It took him about one and one-half hours to put it together. There are 25 pages of instructions, but he zoomed through them all. I was very impressed. This crate is all about kinesthetic learning, conquering small challenges, following directions and a sequence of steps to achieve a successful outcome. These are all invaluable skills.

TimeLine (card game) ~ I stumbled upon the card game, TimeLine, recently and knew it would be an excellent fit for our family. There are several different decks and they can be mixed together. We have Inventions, Classic and Historical Events. This game is a quick pick-up game that is all about placing the cards in the correct order. One side of the card (the one you can see all of the time) has a picture and an event on it. The other side has the picture, event and date. The challenge is to figure out where the card goes in the line up of other cards before looking at the date. Once again, we are working on sequencing, understanding of when things occurred in history, decoding, memory recall and deductive reasoning. 

Equate and Chess ~ These two math games have been played several times this week. They are great for reinforcement. They also encourage sportsmanship, abstract reasoning, strategic and creative thinking and calmness under pressure. Mastering small challenges leads to success with larger challenges.

The Lasagna Fundraiser ~ Our dance studio had a fundraiser last weekend. It was a lasagna contest. Before the eating and judging took place, there was a small show. Anne was asked to dance a duo in it and Dean was asked to help with the sound and lighting. They both did an awesome job. There are more opportunities coming for Dean to do lighting and sound, which I don't think he is completely thrilled about because he is stressed that he will make a mistake. However, he did a great job this time. We just take it one step at a time dealing with opportunities in the outside world. As always, Anne loved dancing and performing.
Anne loved this guest dance teacher. The feeling was mutual. She wanted to take Anne back to Mexico with her.
The Great Outdoors ~ I am bringing back a weekly walk/hike with the kids. I walk every week, but we fell out of the habit of walking together. This week we only had about 25 minutes and Anne was feeling ill, but we squeezed out a short river walk on the nicest day of the week. Walking in nature clears the mind, reduces stress, helps with memory and recollection and tones the body (my son doesn't think walking can tone the body, however...ha!).

The flood waters this winter have brought so much sand up onto the stairs.
Sewing ~ Anne found a strapless dress in a thrift store that she loved, but it made her uncomfortable because it was strapless. She removed the belt and turned it into straps. Now she has a 100% wool dress that she loves and fits her like a charm. She usually wears a top under it.

An Ethiopian Restaurant ~ To wrap up our studies on Africa, we went to an Ethiopian restaurant. The kids really didn't care for this meal. However, they did try a variety of foods on the menu. They liked the spiced hard boiled eggs the best. The adults thought it was okay, but not our favorite.

They much preferred Pi day in which Grandma provided the family with Chicken Pot Pie from one of our favorite restaurants. Plus, she brought a store-bought strawberry-rhubarb pie for dessert. Yum!

The Rest ~ 
  • Anne is reading an illustrated version of Jane Eyre.
  • Dean is reading The Five Rings of Miyamoto.
  • They each did math worksheets and games daily.
  • Anne wrote a creative writing paper.
  • Dean is halfway through a mini-unit study on the Boston Tea Party.
  • Anne completed six more blocks of sign language.
  • Dean completed the unit test on Africa for world geography.

Blessings, Dawn

Homeschool Coffee Break

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Anne's Transcript ~ Career Education

This course was designed to help Anne explore her options in future careers. She explored three different careers and environments. She completed this course with 164 hours.

Teacher Assistant ~ Anne was a teacher assistant for a Ballet III class. She modeled moves for the students, helped them prepare to go on stage and occasionally substitute taught the class on her own. She completed 34 hours. This job gave Anne the opportunity to see what teaching is like.

Dance Apprenticeship ~ Anne received an apprenticeship to dance with the ACDT Adult Company. This opportunity is ongoing and only a few hours are reflected in this course. She is taking one of the ACDT dance classes. She proved that she was capable of keeping up with the complicated choreography and executing it with beauty. She is truly committed to dance and was granted a role as an understudy in the 40th  anniversary of (ACDT) show that will be performed this coming summer. Her rehearsal hours are reflected in her Performing Arts course. She received 38 hours for apprenticeship with this course, but she continues to be an apprentice with the ACDT Adult Company.

Employee at a Consignment Shop ~ Anne interviewed and received a job working at a consignment shop. She works two mornings a week for a total of eight hours a week. She tags clothing, puts clothing and toys on the store racks and shelving, changes the display windows, dresses mannequins, and pulls outdated clothes. Her employer is very pleased with her work so far and she loves the job. She will continue with this job for the foreseeable future. This course records her first 92 hours of work at the consignment shop.

She received an A for this course.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Anne's Transcript ~ Physical Education

I am still trying to transfer Anne's credits from last year to our blog records from my lesson planners. Hopefully, I will be all caught up by early next week.

Physical Education ~ Anne is a very passionate dancer and spends much more time dancing than is recorded here. However, I recorded her structured classes for the  majority of one calendar school year. Her summer dance intensives and lots of extra rehearsals and practice times are not recorded. All performances are listed under her Performing Arts credit.

Ballet ~ During this course, Anne took three forms of ballet and danced at two different studios. She took Pointe, Russian Ballet and Cecchetti Ballet. She took 107 hours of ballet classes. She took the Cecchetti Exam for level 4 and passed with honors.

Contemporary Dance ~ Anne also took five different classes in contemporary dance. Modern and Jazz were weekly classes for the entire school year. She also did a workshop class that rotated throughout the school year with mini-intensives in Hip Hop, West Coast Swing and Salsa. She attended 91 hours of contemporary dance classes.

She received an A for this course and completed 198 hours of classes. She passed her Cecchetti exam with honors and received excellent marks in all of her dance classes, including lead roles in performances and acceptance as an apprentice to the studio's Adult Dance Company for the next school year.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Week 25 ~ Good News for Tim's Heart

I almost didn't write a wrap-up this week. There doesn't seem like that much of interest for me to report, at least on the homeschool front. I also really didn't get any decent pictures to share. We are plugging along and made good progress this week in the assigned subjects. That is a relief.

The most important part of our week was getting Timothy (adult son) to the Congenital Heart Defect Clinic at Duke Medical Center. I am so glad we made the switch. It was like coming home to return to Duke. They just know what they are doing. They were so pleased that we had transferred Tim on our own instead of waiting for the local hospital to transfer him, since historically local hospitals usually wait until the heart is in such bad shape that there are less options for treatment. Instead, they felt that there was lots they could do for Timothy and that they would have him in better shape within 6 months to a year. He will be starting on one medication and eventually end up on a cocktail of cardiac medications which will help his heart. There is a host of possibilities on why he has entered the earliest stages of heart failure (which can be reversed), and they will be exploring what the cause is over the next few months. The most likely one is that he has had a pacemaker for 28 years and that has allowed his heart to get lazy. This happens to anyone who has a pacemaker for more than 15 years. However, he needs a pacemaker to live since he has been in full heart block since he was 6 months old. He may need a more advanced pacemaker in the coming year or so. I can deal with all of that. The trip is an exhausting one and will have to be done several times over the next year, but we are so blessed to have Duke. I am so grateful to live in a place and time that can keep my son with us.

The rest of the week was simply a balance of rest, out-of-the-home classes, schoolwork and housework. I am trying very hard to get my family rested and back on track after a long, hard winter.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Biology ~ Dean's Transcript

I am playing a bit of catch-up. Dean finished this course months ago. We used lots of different resources to accomplish 144 hours of his Biology course. He did all assignments and participated in all field trips and dissections. He received a 96% for this course. Below is a list of the resources we used.

The textbook that was our spine for this course was Biology by Prentice Hall. We also used Charles Darwin for Kids with 21 Activities.

Field Trips ~
  • Serpentarium Magic ~ We learned about and saw 200 snakes.
  • He did a year-long study of the Biltmore Gardens and Greenhouses. We went 11 times.
  • Our class visited The Global Wildlife Safari in Louisiana.
  • Our class visited The Great Smokey Mountain National Park and saw lots of wildlife.
  • We visited Kiawah Island and saw conchs, egrets, deer, Eastern Brown Pelicans, horseshoe crabs, jellyfish and other fish.
  • We visited Charleston Tea Plantation and learned about the genetic building blocks of tea.
  • He visited the Hendersonville Aquarium and saw baby sharks and lots of coral.
  • He visited the local arboretum and learned how biology plays a role in making perfume.
Online Courses ~ 
  • Fascinating Biology ~ He did most of the course.
  • Crash Course Biology ~ Our class used this when we were stuck on  several concepts.
  • TED Talks ~ He watched 21 of them.
Movies and Netflix ~ 
  • Life by the BBC
  • Born in China
  • Bill Nye Saves the World
  • Wild Alaska
  • Inside the Human Body
  • In the Womb
Science Experiments ~ 
  • Using 60 pre-made slides, he did lots of microscope work.
  • He learned to use a stereoscope and used it ten times.
  • Our class made slides of pumpkin parts, bacteria, and onions.
  • He performed a potato shrinking experiment to show the process of osmosis.
  • He made his own agar Petri dishes and collected bacteria to grow in 20 Petri dishes.
  • He participated in dissecting a frog.
  • He took part in our dissection of a sheep's heart.
  • He participated in dissecting a fetal pig.
  • He made DNA strands out of candy.
Essays ~ 
  • He wrote about William Harvey, who described and studied the circulatory system.
  • He wrote about how waste water is treated.
  • He wrote about Charles Darwin.
  • He did a descriptive paper on the stomach and how it functions.
Blessings, Dawn

Biology ~ Anne's Transcript

I am playing a bit of catch up. Anne finished this course months ago. We used lots of different resources to accomplish 144 hours of her Biology course. She did all assignments and participated in all field trips and dissections. She received a 95% for this course. Below is a list of the resources we used.

The textbook that was our spine for this course was Biology by Prentice Hall. We also used Charles Darwin for Kids with 21 Activities.

Field Trips ~
  • Serpentarium Magic ~ We learned about and saw 200 snakes.
  • She did a year-long study of the Biltmore Gardens and Greenhouses. We went 11 times.
  • Our class visited The Global Wildlife Safari in Louisiana.
  • Our class visited The Great Smokey Mountain National Park and saw lots of wildlife.
  • We visited Kiawah Island and saw conches, egrets, deer, Eastern Brown Pelicans, horseshoe crabs, jellyfish and other fish.
  • We visited Charleston Tea Plantation and learned about the genetic building blocks of tea.
  • She visited the Hendersonville Aquarium and saw baby sharks and lots of coral.
  • She visited the local arboretum and learned how biology plays a role in making perfume.
Online Courses ~ 
  • Fascinating Biology ~ She did most of the course.
  • Crash Course Biology ~ Our class used this when we were stuck on a several concepts.
  • TED Talks ~ She watched 21 of them.
Movies and Netflix ~ 
  • Life by the BBC
  • Born in China
  • Bill Nye Saves the World
  • Wild Alaska
  • Inside the Human Body
  • In the Womb
Science Experiments ~ 
  • Using 60 pre-made slides, she did lots of microscope work.
  • She learned to use a stereoscope and used it ten times.
  • Our class made slides of pumpkin parts, bacteria, and onions.
  • She performed a potato shrinking experiment to show the process of osmosis.
  • She made her own agar Petri dishes and collected bacteria to grow in 20 Petri dishes.
  • She participated in dissecting a frog.
  • She took part in our dissection of a sheep's heart.
  • She participated in dissecting a fetal pig.
  • She made DNA strands out of candy.
Biology Papers ~ 
  • Louis Pasteur
  • Food Waste and What to Do About It
  • An Essay on the Esophagus
  • George Mendel: The Father of Genetics
Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, March 3, 2019

B Is for Homeschool Budget ~ Blogging through the Alphabet

I have gotten lots of questions over the last 20 years of homeschooling about how much it costs to homeschool. That is a question that has a different answer for every homeschooling family. There are many factors involved. We started homeschooling only one child and at our height were homeschooling four children, including a high school student. Now, we are homeschooling two high school students (one with special needs). Our yearly budget for homeschooling has been as high as $3,000 and as low as $500 depending on what the needs were in a given year and what our finances allowed. Generally, we have budgeted $500 per child, per year with a little bit more allowed for the teen years. We do not include sports fees and extracurricular activities (such as dance), educational vacations and weekend travel expenses, because we would provide these things even if our kids attended school.

This year our budget was $ 1,400 for two high school students. Here is how we did.
  • Co-Op Classes ~ Sign Language II for the entire school year and one semester of Photography plus Art Exploration classes ~ $492
  • Field Trips not including food purchased ~ $100
  • Subscription Boxes ~ We are trying three months of Eureka Crates from Kiwi Crates and have been doing Universal Yums boxes this entire school year ~ $202. These supplement Dean's Industrial Arts, Math and World Geography credits. 
  • Math Curriculum ~ I bought three this year! Math had some bumpy mistakes and missteps this year, but we are on even footing now ~ $309.
  • Other Curriculum ~ I was able to pull from my own shelves for the most part this year. I did order several World Geography books from Memoria Press and bought Geography through Art from a used book store. I also bought Learning Language Arts through Literature (The Gold Book), Story Starters by Karen Andreola, and The Story of Science: Newton at the Center ~ $108.
  • Science Kits ~ $68.
  • Other Books ~ I buy books throughout the year from used book stores, Amazon and library sales to supplement our studies and reading programs ~ $53.
Total ~ $1,332.00

We are currently on target and I am dripping in curriculum and books that will more than sustain us through the rest of the year. Dear daughter does want me to purchase a Latin program for her. She wants it desperately. We found one from Memoria Press that she likes and I plan to buy it for her as a reward when she completes two more credits...giggle, giggle. That will top us off at just over $1,400 for the year.


Blessings, Dawn