Saturday, May 21, 2016

"My thoughts on high school"

On the last day of 8th grade yesterday, I asked Reece to write an informal essay of her thoughts on high school coming up. The result is classic Reece, and I have permission to share it with you - I am typing it the way she wrote it, no editing for spelling, punctuation, or anything:

I am soon going to be in high school and I, personally, think it's going to be interesting. And by interesting I mean terrible. Here's why:

I'm going to have to read a lot. If you know anything about me you know that I really don't like reading. Mainly because no matter what genre the book is in, no matter what the main demographic is, they're boring. No matter how hard the author tries to grab my interest, I will end up falling asleep. The only books I like that much are education books because at least I'm learning something. With novels, all of it's the same: protagonist is different and quirky. Protagonist gets in sticky situation with guy. Protagonist falls in love with guy. Protagonist alongside guy takes down government with their quirkiness or whatever. The End. It's all the same. And apparently high school is going to have a lot of reading. Yay!

Also, Math. Enough said. Unless it's Geometry. 

Well, I guess there might be some good experiences. Like making friends at Summit (well, trying to) and being able to get a job and drive a car. But not much else. 

In conclusion, high school is terrible. Bye.


Aren't we going to have so much fun together!?!?! LOL

Friday, April 22, 2016

My last high schooler!

In four short weeks, our school year will be over. We have been wrapping up subjects for the last couple of weeks and I am starting to think about plans for next year. It will be my first year since 2003 where I am only teaching one student. Riley will be taking all of her course work at the local college as a Dual Enrollment student. So that leaves me with Reece who will be a freshman in high school!

For the last few weeks, Riley has been working on a research paper for her English 1102 class about the importance of arts education in a society obsessed with STEM. She keeps sending me the sources she is using in her paper and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading/watching them. The entire process has served to refocus my plans for Reece's high school curriculum! 

Reece wants to pursue video game design and she is strong in math and weaker in reading comprehension. In fact, she pretty much despises reading, especially fiction. I've been pulling away from Ambleside and Charlotte Mason-inspire education for her due to this. I have been searching high and low for more accessible literature for her to read just to "get it done".

With the help of Riley's research, I have been able to remember why exactly we came to Charlotte Mason classical education in the first place. It was all about autism! Yes, autistic children tend to favor non-fiction. Yes, autistic children tend to struggle more with reading comprehension (as an offshoot of their struggle with LIFE comprehension).
But if I narrow her curriculum down to the things that she is comfortable with and the things that are easy for her, then I am doing a great disservice to her. My job as her teacher is to push her in traditional academic areas, of course, but it is also to expose her to those things that will touch her soul. She is a naturally curious individual who loves learning (she has been teaching herself Japanese for a year!) but like all of us, she prefers to focus on the things that she is comfortable with. I need to, for as long as I am able, slowly expose her to things that are just a little bit outside the comfort zone.

And maybe, just maybe, one day those things won't be so uncomfortable for her anymore. But even if they are and even if she never reads fiction on her own again, she will have been exposed to it for four more years!

(But how exactly did she get to be high school age already?!?!)

Friday, January 29, 2016

A poem by Reece

I already shared this poem directly on my Facebook page but it has gotten such a positive response, I decided to make a post to share it with a wider audience. 
This poem was completely unprompted - not even part of a school assignment to "write a poem". When I asked her how she was inspired to write it, she said she had a rhyme come into her head and thought that she could make it into a poem, so she did. 
She shared it with me by having me listen to a recording from her iPod of her reading the poem. I was so taken aback that I cried. So, with that in mind, you may want to have tissues handy. This is a poem written about autism by an almost 14 year old girl with autism.

Autism - by Reece Cooper
You can't escape it, 
You can't run away.
You have to face it,
Every single day.
Every moment is a struggle
And while you want to snuggle
I want to simply be in your presences
Don't be mad, it's not anger you sense
Nor is it irritation, frustration, or isolation.
It's merely contentedness
I don't want to hug you but that doesn't mean I don't love you.
I do not think I'm above you
And it's not that I'm sick of you
For it is you that I adore
And for every tear you shed, I shed 10,000 more.
That is simply the way it is.
I have so many things to say
But they're just not things I can convey
That is simply the way it is.
I may not be able to communicate by any means
But I am more than I seem
I am not some idiot who can't speak
I am a person who is unique.
I'm not some dunce who can't grasp the simplest of jokes
And no, I did not mean "the log walked on the dog" I meant "the dog walked on the log" sorry I misspoke.
Let us enjoy the thing we enjoy
So what if we like fnaf or minecraft? It gives us joy!
Please stop using our names as insults.
Instead why don't you act like adults
It's immature and lazy to do such a thing
And it's not like people are going say "wow you're so amazing!"
That being said, I understand where you're coming from
There are times in which we act dumb
But you need to look past that and see
That we're not what we appear to be
We are intelligent and kind
Well, that last one is hard to be with you constantly on our hind
"Do this, do that," "don't be like this, be like that"
I will be how I'm meant to be
And if you don't like that you don't have to be friends with me
I try my hardest to please you
So don't be cross with me, it's the best I can do
There's only so much a person can control, my antics are not one of them
So please, have patience. With me, with my kin, and with autism.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Word of the Year 2016

I have not had a lot of time lately to really ponder my Word of the Year for 2016. But one concept keeps coming back to me over and over - and that is how I want/need to be more "Intentional" in my life.

I first came across the word and concept of Intentional over 10 years ago when I attended a seminar by Simply Charlotte Mason founder, Sonya Shafer. At the time she also had a blog about being an Intentional Parent/Homeschool Mom and I found it fascinating! However, since we were in the beginning of our autism journey, the concept of being "intentional" was overwhelming to me. I did the best I could, as everyone does!

2016 is going to be different for me, though. My almost 17 year old is going to be getting her driver's license in a matter of days. This will take me from driving 500-600 miles per week to having to drive a fraction of that! Then she will be taking all of her classes next fall at the college through Dual Enrollment and I will only have one student to educate next year - the"baby" will be a high school freshman. I can only imagine how these changes will affect my life!

Free time? More triathlon training? Reading a book that isn't related to homeschooling?

Figuring out what on earth I am going to do after I retire from being a homeschool teacher?

The options are endless! But unless I'm Intentional about my life, it could end up being wasted time. And that's not good!

And there are things that God wants me to be Intentional about, too. So many of the questions above could probably be answered if I was being more Intentional about my Walk with Him. The last year (and the last 6 months in particular) has been more about "just keep swimming" to keep my head above the water.

I am looking forward to the change! And that's a new feeling for me since change usually overwhelms and frightens me. But I trust God enough to know that He will take me on this journey and it will be amazing, no matter where it leads! And I don't want to just let life unfold while I hold on for dear life!

I want to be INTENTIONAL!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Welcome to 2016

Hello out there! Anyone still checking here?!


Things have been so incredibly busy here in Tortuga! And not all in a bad way, just in the way that happens when you have older teenagers! But the big news is that my older girl is going to be getting her driver's license soon and that means one important thing: FREEDOM! Well, freedom for me anyway. And I'll trade all of the driving time for time spent on my knees praying for her safety! :D But really, she just finished up driver's ed and they told me that she is ready to get her license! Now I just have to be ready to trust that she will be OK! That's the hard part.

The first semester also went very well! My Dual Enrollment girl loved her first college experience and took home an "A" in her class. This semester she is taking two classes. I seriously under-estimated how hard it would be for her to take some classes on campus, some classes at home, and one class at a homeschool cooperative. Unfortunately, it will be much easier next year when she takes all of her classes at the college.

My 8th grade girl is doing the "teenage sleeping dead" routine that is so common at this age. I swear she sleeps 12 hours a night and then wakes up half an inch taller! Autism has been a bit more of a struggle this semester as well, but I do suspect that's related to all the sleeping and growing. One of the hardest parts of dealing with this particular young autistic lady is that she has a great sense of logic. And so she tries to argue with you/me - and her logic ends up being SOUND. And then I am completely stumped.

I am looking forward to having more time to work one on one with my little bit when I'm not driving her big sister all over creation. I do not think she is looking forward to it very much! ;) She likes it better when I just let her sleep! LOL

It's hard to believe that we're nearly done with January already! It's going to be the end of the school year before I even realize it! Hope you're all enjoying 2016 so far!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Halfway through the first term? Already??

We are almost halfway through the first term of this school year already! I'm not sure when my life was switched to "Time Warp Mode" but even the girls are starting to comment about how quickly time is flying by! Since I have an hour or so before I have to be anywhere, I figured I would continue to neglect my housework an post an update for anyone who may still have the patience to wait for me to post.

All in all, things are still going very, very well! The 2nd week was harder than the 1st week, but that was to be expected with Reece's dance classes resuming and Riley's chemistry class starting up as well. Also in the 2nd week, Reece decided that she wasn't going to do any of her school work while I was not at home. And since I'm not at home very much on Tuesdays and Thursdays - well, you can imagine. However, once she was reminded of the rule: "No dance if your school work isn't done." that quickly became a non-issue.

We are on a full academic schedule now and are mostly managing to get everything done. Some days and weeks are better than others - this week was one that was harder to get everything done. This coming week will be similar with a couple of appointments. I protect our Mondays and Wednesdays as much as possible because we are actually home those two days until mid-afternoon, but those are the days that have to be used for appointments. So it's very hard. There is more school work going on late in the evenings and on weekends than ever before simply because we're home.

Riley has been doing a phenomenal job with all of her new responsibilities! She loves her college class (dual enrollment) and is doing a really excellent job! She is teaching a Modern dance class this year to 9-11 year olds and loves that as well! She is not yet enjoying her Chemistry class, but she is still glad she didn't take it at college. She has also been spending her Sundays taking the classroom portion of her Driver's Education class which has made for busy weekends for her- but she only has 2 more classes and then the 3 in-car driving classes and then she's done with that. The driving portion we will do closer to time for her to get her license. But it's better to get the classroom part done now while her weekends are not filled with Nutcracker rehearsals, plus one of her best friends is taking the classes so they can go together. 6 hours of driver's ed class alone is monotonous! Riley also had her choreography chosen for the upcoming Emerging Choreographer's Showcase in 2 weeks! Such a busy late summer for my big girl!

Reece has been doing very well with her lessons. She is at that age where she wants to sleep all the time, but she also has lots of dance, so she has to learn to manage her time. And she will. I just have to learn not to freak out over it! Algebra 1 is going even better than I expected, and I hope it continues! Dance classes are also going well, even though she added lots of hours to her schedule! It's long and hard work but she is rising to the challenge!

Our favorite graduate is also doing well! He has a new job that is during the days in an office. It's brain work but he is learning valuable skills that will help him in the future! And we actually get to see him now and he actually has a life! It's super! Due to his mother being crazy busy, we haven't completed his application for the music school. It's my goal for this coming week! But, again, I have to be home to help him! LOL

So that brings me to the teacher - me. Everything is still going well with the academics and the school work. The girls are being cooperative and are both working hard for me! I'm able to keep up with the planning and that always makes me feel good. But all the driving is wearing me out completely. I'm driving 500-600 miles a week, all in town, stop-and-go, type traffic. It's exhausting and I am really, really tired of being in the car. Riley is eligible to get her license in January, so we are going to move forward with that, and then figure out a way that she will be able to use a vehicle to drive herself even a few days a week. That will make my life so much easier. I had her drive pretty much everywhere this past week and she did quite well. Atlanta traffic is not easy at all - so many impatient drivers! :( Thankfully this year she goes to dance earlier and misses the bulk of the rush hour craziness that we drove in last year. I'm not sure her driving will make it immediately easier for me because I'll be so worried, but in the long run it will be a major help!

So that's what the last month or so has been like at the Black Pearl Academy! All good! Very busy!

I'm planning a post for this coming week that talks about how our Charlotte Mason education has prepared Riley so well for her college class! It's very exciting! Please check back!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

School Year 2015-2016: Reflections on the first week

I am a bit hesitant to write this post. You'll see why in a few moments, I'm sure. Hopefully I'll be able to get all of these emotions out of my head and onto the page/screen and they will reflect what I'm feeling in my heart.

We started the 2015-2016 school year this week. With Austin's graduation this past spring, the Black Pearl Academy has now become an exclusive All-Girls' School! It was so weird to take the First Day of School pictures and not include Austin. But he has worked hard these last 13 years and he has completed his journey! Now he moves on to the world of adulthood, and his sisters are quickly following in his footsteps. 

We took Monday off because it was the first day of public school and that is "Not Back to School Day" for us and has been since that very first day in 2002! Tuesday we began our lessons, and Riley started back to her dance classes. We had a few appointments to fit in for everyone this week but we worked Tuesday-Friday and then we were done for the week. With a few exceptions, everything that I wanted to get done this week we were able to get done. 

Friday afternoon rolled around and I realized something: I had not cried one time this whole week! 

Does that surprise you? Have I ever mentioned that I have cried at least once during the first week of school every single year? We are up to 14 "first weeks of school" and for the first time ever I didn't cry! 

I simply had NO IDEA how hard it's been on me to homeschool Austin all these years. It wasn't his fault! Please do not get me wrong! It's the nature of his cognitive disorder and the seizures that affect his frontal lobe and the autism. Austin has always worked very hard and done his very, very best! I am very blessed that he is the kind of kid that he is - and very fortunate. I can only imagine how many more tears would have been shed if he had also been resistant to learning. 

But what I am realizing for myself is how much stress I have been living under all these years. For the first few years, until he was diagnosed, I assumed the problem orginated in my teaching or the curriculum I was using. After that, I fretted over his future job and college prospects. And in more recent years, I lamented that he had to deal with this frustration, especially when his baby sister would ask if she could give Austin the answer to the question I was asking him. :(

So many tears. So much anxiety and so much stress. No wonder I haven't enjoyed homeschooling. 

And it didn't stop there. All the time I had to spend one-on-one with Austin meant there was less time to work with the girls in the same way. I was always rushing around trying to give everyone time and I never had enough of it. I was always having to tell Reece to "wait just a minute" until I was done with Austin. Most of the time I was able to get everything done. But it took a toll that I'm not sure I realized until this week when I no longer had to do it. After all, it has always been this way... I didn't know any different!

This week, I not only didn't cry once - but I also had mental and emotional energy left to make dinner (the one night I was home at dinner time LOL) and to do my housework! I can't tell you the last time I didn't feel utterly drained and completely spent at the end of a day of homeschooling. 

I think I'm finally seeing why people actually LIKE homeschooling and why they would WANT to do it! I have been feeling like I HAD to because God called me to do it and my special needs kids needed it. 

I guess my point in sharing this is to let you know that if you're teaching a child with special needs and you're feeling stressed out and like it's not very much fun - you're right! You ARE stressed out and it's NOT very much fun. I encourage you to try to find the joy and happiness in what you're doing and not cause yourself so much stress. With all of the mistakes I have made with Austin, he has turned out to be a really kind, responsible, and mature young adult. Will he go to college? No. Will he live independently? If he can make enough money in a job, he has the ability to live on his own for sure. Does it matter? Only as much as he's wants to be like everyone else and be independent. Did putting myself under so much stress all the time change anything? No. 

Was it worth it? Yes. I just wish I had not worked myself up so much. I wish I had allowed myself to enjoy it more. I'm going to make a point to do that for the remaining 5 years I have left to homeschool my girls! :)