Sunday, April 30, 2006

April is Autism Awareness Month

Please check out the following links for more information on Autism and the other Pervasive Developmental Disorders:

Speaking on Quality of Life

Austim Society of America

Myths and Facts about Autism

My Best Friend Will This is a wonderful book I just found that explains in very simple terms how autism affects some children! It's a respectful and clear approach! I highly recommend this book!

P.S. I figured out a way to 'sticky' this at the top, so make sure to scroll down when you check back in at my blog for new posts! :)

The Great History Dilemma

Ok, since the clock is ticking and I really need to stop obsessing over this and make a decision, I'm going to talk through my thought processes with history, and maybe someone can give me some advice! Or maybe just talking it through will make the decision become obvious!

What I Like About SOTW/WTM way of history:
  1. I can use it from 1st-8th grades, adding in the extra reading and outlining, the timeline, and the advanced mapwork. They didn't get much out of SOTW the first time through anyway, so it won't be a big deal to do it again!
  2. It is inexpensive!
  3. It's chronological!

What I Don't Like About SOTW/WTM way of history:

  1. There is not any emphasis on American History, which my history buff husband feels is essential for American children!
  2. I'm not sure about using the same resource solely for our history study. I don't know enough about history to know if the way SOTW presents everything is accurate. Regardless, it doesn't hurt to have different viewpoints, esp. in the Logic Stage (5th-8th grades for you non-WTMers).
  3. There is no formal schedule tying readers and read-aloud books together! I'd have to find them all myself, and read them myself too!

What I like about the Sonlight way of history:

  1. Everything is all laid out. They have done the hard work of coordinating the readers, read-alouds, and history books.
  2. We started out with Sonlight when we first started homeschooling (this was before I found WTM) and I have such a special feeling towards them and their book selections! There are many books I never would have known about had it not been for Sonlight!
  3. They use a variety of books in their different years of study, and most of them are books I want to utilize (Hillyer's Child's History of the World, Landmark History of the American People, Hakim's History of US, and yes, even SOTW -- but they go through them twice as fast for older children).

What I don't like about the Sonlight way of history:

  1. It is very expensive!
  2. There is no writing involved in the history curriculum (writing narrations, outlining, etc).
  3. Scheduling all of the kids would get messy, because of the wide age difference. This mostly affects Reece, because Austin and Riley are academically performing at a similar level.

OK, now here is what I am afraid of missing if I choose one or the other:

  • If I use WTM and not Sonlight, I will miss out on the American History years and the studies of the history of Christianity and the Eastern Hemisphere.
  • If I use Sonlight and not WTM, I will miss out on the outlining process that I feel is very important for learning to organize information.
  • If I use WTM and not Sonlight, I will miss out on all of the great books that Sonlight schedules, as well as the Instructor's Notes that will help me sort through the information we're reading, as to accuracy.
  • If I use Sonlight and not WTM, I won't have the handy coloring pages that Riley enjoys so well while we're listening to our history lesson. Reece will like them too, I can already tell.
  • Not history exactly but: the Sonlight way of approaching Language Arts has ALWAYS appealed to me, but I can't seem to let go of the 'school' way that seems to be a safe way to make sure they know all of those grammar things!

OK, so there you have it! I can't seem to find a way to reconcile all of these issues in my little brain! I only have until Thursday to figure it out! Sooner would be better... so I can make a decent spreadsheet before convention! ;)

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Catching up... and only 5 more days until Convention!!!

I can't believe how busy it has been here at the Black Pearl Academy! I've barely had time to dwell on the convention coming up in less than a week! I need to finalize plans, finish and print out spreadsheets, and shop for some cute new jammies! :)

One big thing I've been waiting on will be here in just a couple of days: getting Austin's results from the Neuropsych Evaluation he had done in March! It seems like forever since that testing was done and I am really anxious to find out what the results show! I'm hoping it will give me a bit of a clue into how his brain works, and what sort of things I need to line up for next year! I have that appointment on Tuesday afternoon! My husband will have the children!

Now, on to the latest goings on...

The new approach to reading seems to be going well! Austin read nearly 3 books last week about our history topic, and he read a good bit of Smiling Hill Farm (the last Calvert 3rd grade book, which both he and I have enjoyed immensely!). Riley chose to tackle a picture book version of Don Quixote, as well as a book that's part of a series called "Brave Kids". (I got the title from Sonlight's reading lists) We'll see if this becomes part of our school on a permanent basis!

History is also going well. It's amazing to me how much more smoothly SOTW Vol. 3 is going now that everyone is a bit older! We seem to be able to discuss things without there being a major blowup of "But I was going to say that!"

Math is going well, also! Riley will finish her math the week after next, and I'll have her work through the Singapore Challenging Math Problems book. She is very excited because, as she says, "I LOVE Math Problems!" Austin will work in his book through the rest of the summer, and I plan to just start the 4th grade book in August when our new year starts. I have looked at most of the remaining lessons, chosen the ones I feel are the most important, and we'll skip the rest! Riley will start 2nd grade math in August as well.

Riley is nearly finished with her Explode the Code book and with First Language Lessons. She will do the last two ETC books next year, as well as finishing the FLL book. I really hope the next volume of FLL is ready in time for her 3rd grade year! Austin's almost done with the review of FLL that I've written up for him, and I'm not sure what to do next for him. I guess we'll just drop it until the fall, when I plan to use Rod and Staff English with him. He resumed Sequential Spelling, modified for his perfectionism. We'll continue that next year. (I probably should add this is all contingent upon getting his results back... there may be some clue about something that I should focus on instead, or teach differently).

Science has fallen by the wayside, except for informal nature study! But we sure are enjoying watching Georgia bloom into Spring! :) I'm leaning towards My World Science for next year!

I still want to tackle Latin next year, but again, we'll have to make sure that is a good idea with the other things that Austin might need instead.

I've got a plan for picture study and music (composers) for next year, but I would like to find some resources for the lives of the composers and artists we plan to study!

As far as History next year... I still am torn between SOTW/WTM and Sonlight. Sonlight just seems so much easier since it is all planned out and coordinated. And it gives the focus on American History that my husband insists upon. But it is much more expensive. I know I can reuse it later... so that does help! The hardest part of making this decision is what I'm going to have to give up by making the choice. Either way will be a really good option. But it means I have to say no to something else! :) I've never been good at these sort of decisions! I want to have my cake and eat it too!

Stay tuned this week for more "Pre Convention Rambling"!! I'll also post Austin's test results when I get them on Tuesday!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

New reading approach

Tomorrow I'm going to try something a little different with the kids' reading! Actually, this is more for Austin's benefit than Riley's! Riley loves to read and spends some of her free time reading, especially before bed.

Instead of assigning books, chapters, or pages, Austin and Riley will have a book basket. They will have a minimum number of minutes to read, but they can choose any book that is in the book basket.

This requires alot of restraint on my part. In fact, I nearly chickened-out tonight! LOL I have a strong desire to have Austin moving forward in reading, but he still doesn't like to read, and he never chooses to do it. And lately, even during his free reading, he is picking a non-fiction book and just looking at the pictures. His favorites are the DK Eyewitness books that discuss one topic per book... like Cars, Baseball, Hurricanes & Tornadoes, Airplanes.

Anyway, I'm hoping he will find some satisfaction in choosing some of his own books, from a selection that I've laid out. And I hope that he will progress into finding books that he wants to add to the book basket... and one day, maybe just picking up a book to read for no reason! :)

I'll keep you posted on how it goes!

Saturday, April 22, 2006


We are done! It is finished! WOOHOO! I don't have to look at ITBS for another 2 years (when Riley hits 3rd grade! LOL!)

We'll mail it off on Tuesday and await the results in 4-8 weeks!

Edited to add:
Austin told me on the way to his ball game that he had so much fun this week with the testing that he wishes we could do it every year! ROFL

Thursday, April 20, 2006

ITBS Day 2

Didn't go as smoothly as Day 1, but not a complete disaster!

Austin started marking his answers in the wrong section. I tried to explain to him that it happens, very common, NOT a big deal. To him it WAS a big deal. I tried to tell him that the directions include a section on how to handle this very problem, so other kids MUST do it too. He insisted they were coming to get him to take him to jail! I tried to tell him to calm down, there was no need to cry and get so upset. He said it was the worst day in the world. I thought about telling him that that wasn't true... there would surely be many more days worse than this one!

HEE HEE! I didn't say that! I promise! :)

He worked at a quick pace again! Did fairly well on the math concepts section... bombed the data interpretation! I didn't look closely at the other sections. Two more sections left for Saturday morning, and we are DONE until 6th grade!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Very interesting link!

I just came across this excellent Link about PDD !

This is probably the clearest explanation of the Pervasive Developmental Disorders (of which autism and PDDNOS are a part) that I have ever read!

If you have time, and are curious, I highly recommend this article!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

First day of ITBS

It went SO well! I am really proud of Austin! He didn't cry one time, and had a really great attitude about the testing! I was a bit nervous because when I went in to wake him up this morning he greeted me with, "No... I don't want this day to start!" But he ended up surprising me! Daddy called this morning with some words of encouragement, and I prayed for us last night that everything would just go smoothly!

Now, I couldn't resist looking at his answers, and he is performing as I expected! BUT he is surprising me by not needing all of the allotted time. So I thought I'd better take a look and make sure he wasn't just coloring in all the circles in a pretty pattern! LOL He wasn't! He was just working quickly, and the errors I was seeing in his testing were consistent with the sorts of errors he makes daily (and also with some careless work @@). He bombed the Reading Comprehension part, but I was expecting that! So really, no surprises!

I'm so relieved! I'm no longer worried about the next two days of testing we have left!

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Austin is getting his first taste of the ITBS this week! We are testing on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. The testing is only being done because it is required by our state law! :) He is asking lots of questions, and I'm trying to keep it low-key! I know he will be nervous, but I want him to try not to worry about it! (Yeah, I know I'm talking about Austin here, but we can hope right?)

In the meantime, I've read through the instructions, made up a schedule for us in spreadsheet format, and have the #2 pencils sharpened! :) We are about to enter the world of standardized testing!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Easter Party

Reece had an Easter Party today at preschool, and the big kids and I went to be the party helpers! We had such a wonderful time! The big kids were 'on' as far as their behavior, and I was so proud of them! They helped with the craft, and passed out snacks, and hid the eggs for the egg hunt! Austin finished up the day by reading a book to the class! It was alot of fun! Here is a picture of the kids at the party. (Nope, nobody looked at the camera! lol)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

We are finishing things!

Two more things finished: Austin's geography and mythology (these were both parts of his Calvert curriculum). He will finish Smiling Hill Farm the week after next (next week he's got ITBS testing so I won't require additional school work of him). I can't even describe the sense of accomplishment I have over finishing these things! Riley will be finishing up her math by the end of the month as well! Austin took a slower pace so he won't be done until the summertime.

Also, Austin started back with Sequential Spelling. I had dropped it because it was bringing him to tears daily, and then in turn I'd end up in tears. I did some copywork/dictation type of spelling while I decided what to do next. I looked into Spelling Power. I own Spelling Workout (what he used to use). But in the end, I decided that I really do like SS and I think that method will end up giving us the best results in the long run. So instead, I applied the "Spelling Power for Perfectionists" information I got off of Paula's Archives to Sequential Spelling! It's only been 2 days, but it's working so far! I am also very proud of myself for not rushing out to buy new things, and instead thinking things through, and trying to figure out how to make the curriculum I have work for my child! :)

I think I'm starting to get the hang of this homeschooling thing! ;)

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Let the homeschool planning season commence!

Today I received 2 of the most important pieces of mail that a homeschool mother could hope to get: a new Sonlight Curriculum catalog, and the admission materials for my state homeschool convention next month!!

Now, the real planning can begin! :)

And the purchasing! lol

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Happy Birthday to me!

After a delicious breakfast in bed of eggs and toast made by Austin and Riley, I was greeted to this lovely sign that they all made me last night while I was out! It was taped across the blinds to our big kitchen window! Isn't it beautiful!?! They worked so hard on it! I'm not going to want to take it down when my birthday is over! LOL!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Reece and the unicorns

I just took this picture of Reece! You know, the way she lines up her toys like this really upsets me. It just seems so 'autistic'. But, it's also...well, it's just her! So here is my Reepie, doing what makes her happy! :)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

New Spreadsheets

1. List of books and other materials I want to purchase at convention next month, their list prices, and the prices at my favorite discount retailers.

2. A master list of all of the books we own, The XXXXXX Family Library, listed by title, author, subject, year published, series (if any), "year" (WTM 4 year rotation), and location. Location will be for eventually when I have enough bookshelves and I can label them by letter or number or subject. I can then find them on the correct shelf at a glance! OK, this sounds a little more OCD than it really is! LOL So far I have 155 books on it, and I am not even 1/3 of the way through!

3. I'm in process of putting our budget on a spreadsheet. Right now, it's on a piece of paper in my budget notebook!

4. I did a schedule sheet to list the subjects we'll do on which days next year, noting that one day will likely be a light day for therapy!

That's all so far! :) Have a mentioned that I really love spreadsheets?