Friday, March 31, 2006

Heaven on Earth

My husband taught me something last night that will change my life forever! It's amazing! It's fulfilling! It's a little piece of heaven on earth! How have I lived my life before this day without knowing how to do this?

::get your mind of the gutter! PLEASE!!::

My wonderful husband showed me how to make a spreadsheet!!!! Oh, Microsoft Excel, where have you been all my life!?!?!

Since this incredible revelation I have made 5 new spreadsheets:
1. A general homeschool Scope & Sequence covering all 3 children in all subject areas through graduation, with a yellow highlighted cell for any areas where I need to make an immediate decision on curricula.

2. A plan for a history rotation utilizing Sonlight Curriculum, combining the children into no more than 2 concurrent Cores.

3. A plan for a history rotation utilizing the Well-Trained Mind methods, involving Story of the World, the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia, and Tapestry of Grace for high school.

4. A plan for a history rotation utilizing the My Father's World curriculum, not knowing what to use for high school.

5. A template for weekly menu planning.

And this is just the beginning!! The possibilities are truly endless!! It's just bliss! :)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Discouraged

If my blog had one of those emotions things, I would put 'discouraged' in it and have a little sad face next to it.

Austin had 8 hours of testing last week with strangers. He was polite, he was charming, he was together! He had a few times where he started to get upset, but apparently he used the tools we've practiced to get control over himself.

Today and yesterday? It's been tear-fest 2006. Everything is upsetting him it seems! EVERYTHING.

So, of course, I take a quick leap of logic and think that maybe he'd be better off at school. I remember what school was like for him in Kingergarten but that was a long ago. Maybe he would do better there and wouldn't cry.

It's just so frustrating. I can tell myself that he was especially 'on' because of the testing and that he is more comfortable with me so he lets go. But it doesn't help. And now I really wonder what the doctor is going to say about homeschooling. Here I went on and on about how he has a hard time maintaining control of his emotions, and he's mister cool for the testing. I wouldn't be surprised if she recommends sending him to public school. ::sigh::

OK, back to business... test prep for next month's ITBS.

Monday, March 27, 2006

This is exciting!

Austin finished geography today, and on Friday he will finish Mythology! We are FINISHING subjects!!! As in, we started something in August, and we will finish the same thing in the spring/summer! This is going to happen many times this year! I know it sounds fairly obvious, but with so much of the changing/tweaking I have done in previous years it hasn't happened often! I think about the only thing Austin has finished that he started, before now, was First Language Lessons! That's really sad when you think about it! Darn!

Anyway, I'm tickled... I'll make sure to post more as we finish other things! :)

If it ain't broke...

OK, I know I said we were going to be switching math programs around to avoid competition, etc. but there is just nothing I prefer to Calvert Math. I could (and started) using MUS with Austin and am not pleased with that approach to multiplication. And Calvert is working for both of the kids, at their own paces. So we're just going to stick with it! Yeah, it's expensive, but I am happy with it, it's working for both kids, and if it ain't broke... don't fix it. Imagine it... the kids having the same math 2 years in a row?? They might get scared lol!

I'm not totally sure how I'll handle the competition thing, except to just cross that bridge when/if we get there. I could move Riley over to Singapore as I'd planned, but then I have to make sure she's getting enough review since it's not built-in. I like Calvert Math! It's like Singapore but with review built-in.

So there, math is planned for next year! :)

Remaining left to plan:
1. Spelling for Austin (and for Riley since she has only 2 ETC books to go)
2. Grammar/Writing for Austin
3. History
4. Science
5. Artists to study for Picture Study

Decisions made for next year:
1. Math- Calvert
2. Latin - Prima Latina
3. Reading - Sonlight reading lists for Riley; Calvert 4th grade reading books for Austin that I already own, then to the Sonlight reading lists
4. Grammar/Writing for Riley - finishing First Language Lessons for the WTM
5. Music - studying Beethoven, Mozart, Vivaldi, and Gershwin

I think that's all! :) I will go into detail my choices that I'm debating among for each subject in other blog posts!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Slugger


Austin hit a homerun today in his ball game! We are all very excited for him! Here is a picture of him in the dugout after his big homer! :)

The Birthday Girl


In all of the craziness of testing, strep throat, car trouble, and the baseball season opener... it may appear that Riley's 7th birthday was overlooked! Rest assured it was not! I was just unable to post a picture of her in the little time that I had to blog Thursday and Friday. Here she is with one of her family presents at her birthday dinner!

Note to moms: Beware the Password Journal. It's been the bane of my existence since we bought it. It will not recognize her voice password! ARGH. It is a truly bad toy! LOL

Testing is over!

I am sorry I didn't get to update yesterday! Austin's testing went very well on Friday. He did an excellent job, and the testing team had nothing but great things to say about him and his personality! I understand he did have a few problems, but was able to get control over himself fairly quickly. I go back on May 2nd for the report detailing the results! (On a bad note, it doesn't appear that insurance is going to cover any of the testing, but we knew that was a possibility when we went in for this. I was just hoping they would cover something.)

Thanks to everyone for the prayers! :)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Are YOU talkin to ME??

Today we were at Reece's Speech Therapy... I hadn't taken any school work with us because I'm not doing book work this week of Austin's evaluation. A lady came in with her son and sat in the waiting room. She said "hello" and I said the same and then she said "No school today?" I recognized her from our appointments but wasn't sure if she knew we homeschooled so I said, "Oh, we homeschool!"

She said, "I know! I usually see you all in here with your books, and you don't have any today!" I explained to her that we weren't doing any work this week and why. Actually, Austin did alot of the explaining! LOL She replied back with the nicest thing!

"Your kids are so sweet and so smart! I can't help but listen in while I'm waiting to take him (her son) back. You're doing a great job homeschooling them!"

I was just so startled to have such a sweet comment passed my way! I blushed and told her "Thank you SO much!" and then she had to leave to go back with her son to his therapy!

It was just so nice to hear something positive for a change! :) She made my day!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

One down, one to go!

He did it! The first day of testing is complete, and Austin did very well! I don't have the results of the testing, obviously, but he was extremely cooperative (according to them) and didn't even cry once (according to him)! He had a great attitude and was very pleasant during the testing!

I sat out in the waiting room reading, and trying to work on some plans for school next year! The time went by really fast!

Now we go back on Friday for the rest of the testing! :) I won't be nearly as worried about it!

Monday, March 20, 2006

As ready as we'll ever be!

All the paperwork for Austin's testing is complete, and we head down tomorrow morning for the first day! I am admittedly quite nervous, especially since Austin is complaining of a sore throat today. He's not acting sick though, so I'm praying that he'll be fine and not have to be on any sort of medicine for his testing. We cannot reschedule this, so he's going to have to be fine!

The materials for his ITBS testing arrived today as well! I will have to look at those over the weekend though... not much time to look at it today!

Poor kid is going to be getting a crash course in testing over the next month! :)

Friday, March 17, 2006

A child of the 21st century!

Riley has been playing with her dolls this morning while we've been cleaning house. She told me it was her doll's birthday! She said she got her a present... off the internet, and it would be delivered by UPS today. She put it in a little box and left it by the door! It was a dress!

How cute is that?? She's such a 21st century girl, isn't she? I used to pretend to go to the mall and go shopping... my own daughter pretends to go online and have things delivered via UPS! :) I wonder what my grand-daughters will pretend!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

36 pages?

Really! That's how much information the doctor wants about Austin for his neuropsych evaluation next week! Is there 36 pages of stuff to tell about a child who isn't quite 10?? LOL I'm sure glad I didn't wait for Monday night to start working on this stuff!

The testing is next Tuesday and Friday... 4 hours per day with a lunch break, and any little breaks he may need along the way. No school work from mom next week, though we are counting the days towards our required days of school. I don't feel the least bit guilty about that either! He's going to be working hard!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Reading

Austin is just tickling me to death right now with reading Smiling Hill Farm. This is the last reading assignment in the Calvert 3rd grade. It's not a basal, like the other 2 books for 3rd grade. It is a very long book written back inthe 40s about a family who lives on "Smiling Hill Farm". The instructions in the manual have been to read it to the student first, discuss it, then have the student read it to himself later on in the day. That works really well for Austin! But the last 2 days, Austin has gone ahead and read the assigned pages to himself before I even get a chance! And he can tell me all about it! Today he even came in and asked me what "switching" is (the children got a switching from the teacher for bad behavior). It seems like some things are starting to click with him! He is reading something that is long and involved a few pages at a time without panicking! He is stopping to think about what he reads enough to know that he doesn't understand something, then he is coming to ask me about what he doesn't understand. I know that sounds obvious, but until we recently started working on this task, he would just read words and not really try to think about what they meant, or if he knew what was going on. And then he is following the story enough to be able to tell it back to me! This is big to me! I'm very proud of him!

Oh, but Riley was upset today! Apparently, she has been listening in to Smiling Hill Farm and is sad that we haven't read it out loud the last 2 days so she can find out what's going on! LOL! I told her she can read it to herself when we're finished with it! :)

Multiplication and more

Austin started learning about multiplication today via Math U See Gamma. He was a little uneasy about the change, but when the DVD started he was relieved to see that Mr. Demme was going to be talking about something Austin already knew! We had just been learning about the area of a rectangle in our Calvert Math lessons, so that was familiar. However, they hadn't introduced the concept of multiplication... instead you just counted the squares inside the rectangle. So Austin was more confident about this lesson... we watched the DVD, did a worksheet, he explained it back to me and took the first test and scored a 100%! We'll move on to the next lesson which is multiplying by 0 and 1 and I expect this will also be a one day lesson! I don't expect much trouble with the multiplication facts until we get into the bigger numbers.

Riley only has about 25 lessons left of Calvert 1st grade math. If I have it timed correctly, she should finish right about the time of the convention, so I shouldn't need to order anything for her. If she should finish earlier (she's been doing 2 of these measurement lessons a day because they are so simple), then I'll work on subtraction facts with her! She's got a great command of the addition facts, but her recall of subtraction is a little slower. I remember the same thing with Austin, so I am not worried about it, but it's something we can work on if I need to. I also have the Singapore Challenging Word Problems level 1 book that we can work through to fill in the time! We may do that anyway... I was looking at it (and level 2) over the weekend and I just LOVE those word problems! Each one is like a fun little puzzle! :)

I just love math! LOL

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A good week, and a good quote

Despite the girls being sick this week, I'd have to chalk this up as a good week for homeschooling! We didn't leave the house until Friday, except to take Reece to the doctor, and we got everyone done that I had planned for us (funny how often those two traits coincide... staying home and getting all our work done! lol). I also got some general planning done for the rest of the year, and it's nice to see everything coming down to the home stretch! I can't even tell you how rewarding it is to actually be finishing things this year that we started! :)

Now, for the good quote! I am reading a really excellent book I picked up last weekend called "Overcoming Autism: Finding the Answers, Strategies, and Hope That Can Transform a Child's Life" by Lynn Keogel and Claire LaZebnik. Lynn Keogel is an expert in the field of autism, and was featured on one of those nanny shows (I'm not sure which one... I only watched it b/c it was about autism!). Claire LaZebnik is a mother of a boy with autism who is now 12 I believe.

I came across this quote last night and it really summed up a good deal of the confusion and frustration I feel sometimes:

"That's the thing about having a kid with autism - you never know when a bad habit is a normal part of growing up or something that has to be clamped down upon immediately. Okay, maybe that's not entirely accurate- I mean, some bad behaviors you do know for sure about, like head-banging or biting- but the weird little things, like making hand puppets in the air, lining shoes up in neat, obsessive rows, or sucking in your lower lip obsessively (all of which Andrew did) fall into the Will-someone-please-tell-us-if-this-is-okay-or-not? category.

When a typically developing kid picks her nose, you figure it's normal - you try to get her not to do it in front of other people, of course, but you don't read too much into it. When a kid with autism does it, it's self-stim. Or is it? Maybe you should cut her some slack. Then again, maybe you shouldn't. Everyone has bad habits now and then... but is THIS a bad habit or a symptom of the autism?

It's enough to make you crazy."

Oh my gosh! It's like she's reading my mind or something! That quote is from the mom of the boy with autism (Andrew). Reading quotes like that are so reassuring that at least part of what I'm experiencing is fairly typical! That the wonders and the doubts and the confusion might just be par for the course. I can handle that!

Now Lynn Keogel does go on to try to help clarify the differences between the stims to worry about and the other habits, and how to help decrease the negative effect of the stims. This is one of the few books I've found on autism that really give a number of clear suggestions for doing these things! I also like that she's divided the book into chapters based upon the behaviors in question, so I could skip to the first chapters that were most important to me for Austin (meltdowns and stims) and Reece (language and stims).

Anyway, I just thought I'd share what I've been reading! This is a truly excellent book!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Sometimes, I come up with a good idea or two!

Austin has struggled with writing on the back of his paper. I'm not sure why, but he breaks down in tears when he has to write something on the back. Or he will write the last line or two really, really, really tiny so as to squeeze it all in on the front of the paper. It drives me nuts, and it's also very disruptive to our learning processes.

Today, though, I was inspired!! (At this point it is important to inform you that Austin is absolutely crazy about the new game show "Deal or No Deal" on NBC. Actually, we're all pretty much in love with it! OK, keep that filed for future reference!)

Today, Austin had a good bit of copywork... his AWANA section for this week is quite long, and is 2 verses. He looked at it and knew it would go onto the back of the paper! So he started his "I'm going to lose it" routine. I had just read in my new autism book last night about this very thing! The chapter was on tantrums, tears, meltdowns and self-injurious behavior! My brain clicked into action!

"Austin, the banker has offered you 25 cents if you can write on the back of the paper without crying. Now it's up to you. Deal.... or No Deal?" (Imagine that sounding just like Howie Mandell on the show! LOL)

Austin's eyes lit up!! He shouted out "DEAL!" and shook my hand! It was THAT easy! He did the copywork, called me in to check it. I even pointed out errors and omissions and he didn't flip out! Then I presented him with his quarter!

It was so easy! I was so proud of myself! I was so proud of him! He was so proud of himself, too! It was a good feeling for both of us!

10 reasons to be excited that Reece is Four

I started thinking over the weekend that FOUR is the beginning of one of my favorite ages for children! I mean, my degree IS in Early Childhood Ed so there must be something there that I enjoy, right? LOL And actually, the next 2 years or so are going to be filled with alot of neat things in Reece's life! So I'm going to list them here, for my future reference! :)

1. She will learn to read!
2. She will learn to write!
3. She will learn to add and subtract!
4. She will learn to ride a real bike, with or without training wheels!
5. She will take ballet classes!
6. She will learn to pump her legs on the swings!
7. She will go to VBS for the first time!
8. She will "start school" (PreK at preschool next year and Kindergarten at home the following year!)
9. She will have her first REAL birthday party when she is FIVE!
10. She will learn to tie her shoes (probably!)

See? There's alot of big stuff in there over the next couple of years! I will try to keep that in mind, and not focus on the fact that she's my baby and she's growing up too fast! ;)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Can you sense it??

It's March! The trees are starting to blossom (at least here in GA!). The weather is starting to show signs of warming up. Austin has started back to baseball practice! That means... SPRING is near!

And it's also time to start counting down to one of my favorite events of the spring: The GHEA Homeschool Convention!!!!!! WOOOOOHOOOOOO!!!

It's catalog season!! Pretty soon my mailbox will be full of the latest and greatest the homeschool world has to offer! This old school year is getting rusty and dusty and it's nearly time to plan for a brand spanking shiny new school year!!

Oh I get goosebumps just thinking about it!! :)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The assimilation is complete!

Those of you (and you KNOW who you are) who got me started on this 'eat more naturally, organically, from scratch' thing will be very pleased to know that your work is virtually complete!

Last night while I was at Walmart, I came across Pirates of the Caribbean cereal and fruit snacks! Captain Jack is on the box!!!! Lisa had been telling me about them for months but I had still never seen them! Immediately, I snatched up a box of each and brought them home! I was giggling as I showed them to Russ last night! The fruit snacks have the shape of a piece of Aztec Gold in them!" You don't know what this is, do yeh? It's AZTEC GOLD! One of eight hundred and eighty-two identical pieces... " Oops, sorry about that! It happens sometimes! ;)

So Russ just got home from church and was looking for something for lunch! He asked "Did you have any of this cereal yet??" Huh?? Eat that junk?? Are you kidding me? "It's nothing but sugar, and food dye, and preservatives! I'm not going to eat that! I only bought it because Captain Jack is on the box!"

It was at that moment that I realized I have been assimilated completely! :) And for the record, Russ DID eat the cereal... he said I can keep the empty box for my collection!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Emotional? Who? Me??

Nah, it couldn't be! LOL

Anyway, I should be in bed, but I drank a Mr. Pibb about 10 PM so I could stay awake long enough to make cookies, and it hasn't quite worn off yet! So now I'll spend a few minutes typing and that will help me get ready for bed!

Random thoughts at 12:10 AM, March 2nd, 2006:

1. I am so lucky to have such good friends! H, D, and S met me last night for the first of many Mom's Night Out events in 2006! J wanted to come, but she wasn't able to! I am so lucky to have this group of homeschooling moms to lean on for support, to laugh with, to talk about curriculum with, to discuss movies with! They are all SO great!! I love you guys! :) MNO will happen again in a few weeks!

2. I am so sad that Reece is turning 4. Not sad, sad... oh it's hard to explain. PMS isn't helping, I'm sure. 4 seems so big! She's not big! She's little, and while she's made such great progress this last year, she still needs lots of help! And she's my youngest one! 4 years old already?! Impossible!

3. I bought enough food for the snack/birthday at preschool tomorrow to feed a small army. The class will be having goldfish crackers, mini blueberry muffins (the reason I have to be up at 6 in the morning!), frosted cookies that have a purple 4 on them (the reason I'm still awake now!), and a little bottle of water.

4. In the afternoon, Russ and I are meeting with the psychologist who will be doing Austin's testing at the end of the month. H has so graciously offered to keep all of my children for me so that Russ can go with me! This is alot of money we're going to be spending on the testing, so I want Russ to be able to go and ask his own questions and get a feel for the procedure!

5. Did I mention that Reece is turning 4 in just a couple of days? 4. As in, F-O-U-R! 1-2-3-4! Next year, she could go to the free, full-day Pre-K program that's offered in my state! Austin had a gymnastics party when he turned 4. Riley had a Chuck E Cheese party! Reece would be overwhelmed by both, so she's just having an at-home party! Next year when she's 5 she can have a fun party!

6. Baseball starts up again this weekend! I am ready, and I am not! LOL

OK, I think the Pibb is starting to wear off! I just rememered one thing I have to print off for tomorrow, and then I'm off to bed! :)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Hmmm.. geography workbook or a picnic?

It's March 1st, and today it is sunny and a beautiful 72 degrees! I told the kids to put away the school books and head outside!! :)

This is the beauty of homeschooling!!