Sunday, June 29, 2008

And the planning begins...

Yesterday, my wonderful husband took the children down to visit his mother, thus providing me with 8 hours of "alone time" in my newly repainted (and still clean) home! I decided it was time for planning for 2008-2009 to begin! Our first day of school at the BPA will be Wednesday, August 6th. Public school resumes on August 11th, which will be our 7th annual "Not Going Back to School" party at Chuck E Cheese!

I began with history. I took out the IG for Sonlight Core 6, and looked at the 24 weeks of schedule that we're going to complete this coming year. I compared the schedule to the number/length of chapters in the books assigned. For the first semester we will only need to drop one reader, and for the second semester we will need to move one reader to a read-aloud. That is MUCH better than I assumed it would be when I first glanced at the materials! I was certain we would have to drop much more to enable us to keep an acceptable pace. We will be listening to Story of the World on Audio CD, and I will be reading the Read-Alouds outloud (which seems obvious lol). The kids will be reading the Genevieve Foster history books, and the historical fiction readers themselves. Reece will get her history through listening to SOTW and I'll be reading some age-appropriate historical fiction out loud to her.

I moved on to scheduling math, which is fairly straight-forward. Austin will be using Math U See Epsilon (focus on fractions), and that's sort of difficult to schedule since I don't know how quickly he'll master a lesson. Riley will continue with Singapore Primary Math, which is pretty easy to schedule. Reece will sort of be using Math U See Alpha, but I'm also going to add some other things in with it, because I think it's a little boring for a 6 year old to do nothing but work on memorizing math facts.

Next I worked on grammar. Riley will finish First Language Lessons 3. We didn't finish last year because I kept going back and forth on whether or not she "needed" it. In the end, I decided she it won't hurt anything to finish it, before we take a couple of years off from grammar. FLL is very gentle, and takes a short time. Austin will finish Junior Analytical Grammar this year. Reece won't start grammar until next year when I begin First Language Lessons 1/2 with her. She is a first grader in name/social activities only. Academically I consider her to be doing "Transition" or "K6" this year. It's a little confusing!

I moved on to spelling. Riley has requested to go back to a traditional spelling program this year, so she will be using Rod & Staff spelling again. Austin will continue to use studied dictation via Spelling Wisdom. Reece won't do spelling, per se. She will be using the Explode the Code phonics workbooks that were so successful with Austin and Riley.

From there I tackled composition. I have purchased Writing Strands 3 for Austin as a gentle formal introduction to writing sentences and paragraphs. There aren't very many lessons in the book, so I believe we'll be able to cover the book gently over the course of the year. I also want to begin the process of written narrations. I am considering using "50 Famous Stories Retold" for this purpose. This is an Ambleside Year 1 book, and the stories are very short. I thought they would be easy to orally narrate, and thus make it easy to start writing those down. This will be a work in progress, as next year for 7th grade is the year I'm going to devote to proceed into written narration (since we won't be doing formal grammar). Riley won't do formal composition/
written narration this year, aside from the foundations we're laying through oral narration.

I began working on our foreign language plans, and quickly realized that French is going to have wait until Riley can work on it more independently, maybe in middle school. It is important for us to learn Spanish as a family, as the majority of our neighbors speak only Spanish, and our area is quickly becoming quite hispanic. I would like for us to be able to communicate, even if it's very basic. I was not able to start planning Latin yet, so that remains on the "to do" list!

I was able to nail down our hymn, composer, artists, nature, and poet study topics, which is a good start. I think we're going to skip Shakespeare and Plutarch this year, as I adjust to having to include Reece daily (and we all readjust our focus more towards academics, while still balancing our therapy goals). I was able to get the Free Reading lists typed out for Austin and Riley, using Ambleside as a starting point!

There are still a few things that remain to be planned:
  1. Science: I have Sonlight Science 4, and I need to decide if I want to use it over one school year or 18 months. Reece's science will focus on nature study, and whatever she gets out of what the big kids are learning.
  2. Latin: Still have to plan out how we're going to study Minimus Latin. Latin is only a moderate priority for Austin and Reece, and while I would love Riley to follow a rigorous Latin curriculum I just don't think this is the year I'll be able to accomplish that. Minimus should be fun and hopefully it will be more like a living book than Latina Christiana.
  3. Scripture memory work - Sonlight has scripture passages scheduled, which would be simple enough to follow. Also, Simply Charlotte Mason has Bible verse packs for the scripture memory box. I'll probably start with Sonlight and see how it goes.
I'm sure there is more, but I just can't recall it right now! As you can see, I managed to accomplish quite a bit yesterday! I am getting very excited about beginning our new school year, but I'm also nervous. The weight of Austin being a "middle schooler" is heavy on my shoulders. And now Reece is a formal homeschooler in the eyes of the state of Georgia, which is a little overwhelming to me! LOL And there is my 4th grader, Riley, who I want to ensure gets a solid education as well! Whew, that sure feels like a lot. We just have to take it one day at a time!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Reece, Graduation Girl

Kindergarten graduation is a tradition at the Black Pearl Academy, and last Friday, we graduated our last Kindergartener. ::sniff, sniff::

Here is a picture of Reece in her cap and gown, the same one her sister wore 3 years ago:
Here is a picture of Reece's teacher (aka ME!) giving a speech about all Reece has accomplished during her Kindergarten year. Reece was so dramatic and acted out everything I told about!
Here is the graduation girl with her diploma. She opened it up and declared, "I have no idea what this means!" ROFL
And here is the graduation girl with one of her presents, her very own "Fancy Nancy" book!
No celebration would be complete without cake! We ordered a cake from Publix (YUM!) with pink and purple flowers, in honor of our girl!
Reece will be an official homeschooler in August when I send the paperwork in to our county! It's hard to believe that she will be official... when we first started homeschooling, her brother was the 6 year old, and she was just 5 months old (Riley was 3)! Time really does fly!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Riley's drama camp

Riley attended drama camp last week, and on Friday they did a show for the parents. I was especially pleased with this camp, because it was taught by college students who are majoring in drama! Riley is now determined to be a "Triple Threat" (someone who can act, sing, AND dance)! This camp was for 5 days, 3.5 hours per day, and the kids were rising 1-6th graders.

First they all did a song, "Do-Re-Mi" from the Sound of Music!
After the singing, the teacher played some of the games that she had done with the girls all week. These games were used to teach the children how to improvise, project their voices, and mime. It was AMAZING!

After the games were over, there were 2 drama performances. Riley had won the part of "narrator" for her play. She was extremely excited, because that was the part she wanted! She had many lines to memorize, and we didn't get the script until Thursday night! She worked so hard Thursday night to have her lines memorized by Friday morning! Here is a picture of her... sorry her eyes are closed!
Here is a picture of the stage during Riley's group's play. Riley was on the left as narrator.
After the plays were over, it was time for the dancing. The girls did a dance to "All For One" from High School Musical 2! I'm sure you can imagine that Riley was THRILLED with that choice!
Here is a shot of the stage at the end of the dance! It was a great group of girls, and Riley had a wonderful week!
Now she has a couple of weeks off before it's time for Art Camp! :)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The pictures!

Here we go!!

Here is a "before" shot of the kitchen. You can't really see it from this picture, but the yellow went up to the window, and then there was a yellow and blue floral wallpaper border. Above that was white, and that white went into the living room. There was also a matching yellow and blue floral valance.
Here is the kitchen now... it's the same color as the house throughout. I'm hoping to get a better shot of the color when the sun goes down a bit!
Here is a picture of the living room from last month when Austin got his Wii.
And here is the living room now... it's fuzzy but you can get the idea! I'm going to try to get a better picture tonight!
Here is the girls' new bedding and curtains.
Here are a couple of shelves we put up for the girls, we already had all of them. Also, you'll see the little lamp my mom bought them that matches their new bedding and curtains! :)
Here is Austin's new light fixture. Apparently, it's very cool. LOL
Here is what we put up on Austin's walls. Over the door is a picture from a Mustang rally. In the middle of the picture are my mom, her older brother, and her younger sister, with my uncle's Mustang. It's really neat! The picture was taken in 2001. Over to the right is a shelf that is the front of a Mustang. I'll try to get a better picture of it!
Here are some of my new bathroom fixtures. You can see the new towel rack over the commode, as well as the new light fixture, and faucet.
Here is the other new towel rack, and if you look carefully, you can see the new pulls for the drawers.
This is the new curved shower curtain rod! I think this is so neat... there is much more space in the shower as a result of the curved shower!

I will take some better pictures as the week goes on! I am too wiped out to even try to pick up the camera! LOL

Be sure to check back later this week for pictures from Riley's drama camp performance, and Reece's kindergarten graduation ceremony!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Covered in paint!

I don't have much time... painted for about 12 hours today! I got the kitchen done, the wall facing the living room from the kitchen, the wall over the fireplace, and both little hallways. With the encouragement of my mother, I decided to go from all white to a color. I absolutely LOVE it and I can't wait until it's done and I can put pictures up!

My parents also brought many surprises with them: new hardware for the bathroom I just redid (faucet, towel racks, shower curtain rod, light fixture, handles); new blinds for all of the windows in the house; new bedding and curtains for the girls' room, and a light fixture for Austin's bedroom!!! I was shocked beyond belief that they would buy all of this stuff for our house!

Mom and I went out to get paint last night, and since I decided to do a color in the living room rather than just yellow, I decided to do the kitchen at the same time (because the wall from the living room comes into the kitchen/dining room/school room. I found a great valance and curtain rod at Target, and used that as a basis for the color. It turned out so wonderfully!

So now, we have a completely remade house except for the master bedroom and bathroom! LOL Outside of the house, dh laid out some pine straw and trimmed many of our overgrown bushes and trees. Everything looks so nice!

Now I need to rest so dad and I can finish the painting tomorrow! I'll try to get the pictures up tomorrow night! :)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

More home remodeling

Ok, so this one isn't so much remodeling as it is maintenance! I rented a carpet cleaner today and cleaned the carpets in the house. I can't say that they are perfect - after all, these are the original carpets from when the house was built 15 years ago. But they are cleanER, and everything smells very fresh!

I'm not adding pictures, because, as I mentioned... it's 15 year old carpet! LOL It's still icky!

But it's cleaner! :) And I feel much better about it!

What is wrong with me??

My brain cells are not working right anymore!

Yesterday at the post office, I frantically yelled at Austin, "Quick! Where is your sister? Find her!" He looked at me strangely and said, "OK. There." And he pointed right next to me.

Then this morning before taking Riley to drama camp, I couldn't find my wedding rings. I looked all over. I called my dh in tears asking if he'd seen them and put them somewhere. I tore apart the rooms. I asked the kids repeatedly if they'd touched them, promising amnesty for admitting their transgression. I gave up when I had to leave to take Riley. I went to get my mp3 player to toss it into my purse... and there were my rings. UNDER the mp3 player. UNDER it???

Then a little while ago I was telling everyone to hurry up and eat lunch, we had to get Riley soon! Come on, don't dawdle, eat up, we're leaving in 10 minutes! Austin looked at me, confused yet again and asked, "Mom, doesn't camp end at 1?" (It was about 12 PM when all this was going on) "Oh, yeah. Thanks!"

I'm completely losing my mind! What's going on with me???

Monday, June 16, 2008

Bathroom pictures plus Austin's cubby

I finished the bathroom over the weekend! I have to get some new towel racks put up, but other than that it's completely done! This is the hall bathroom between the kids' rooms, and it's the one people use when they come to visit. This bathroom used to be sponge painted a dark blue, with a yellow and blue floral shower curtain and blue rugs.
Here is a picture of the lower part of the bathroom. I would love to replace the flooring in here at some point. Actually I want to replace the flooring in the entire house, but I don't know how to do that! LOL
Here is Austin's cubby! I'm so thrilled with how both of these cubbies turned out! And the kids are finding it so easy to put their toys away now and everything is staying nice and organized!
Here's the corner of Austin's room. I think we will be able to put a writing desk in his room still, like I wanted to. I don't know how much longer we'll keep the air hockey table. I would really like to be able to move Austin into his room for his school work this year if I can!

I'm just about done with the remodeling now! This weekend my dad is coming to help me paint the living room because we have really high ceilings. And at some point soon I'd like to re-do the kitchen paint. But my budget needs a breather to recover! LOL

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Clearing up Ambleside Misunderstandings

A few people have commented to me via email about being very shocked that I'm leaving Ambleside in favor of Sonlight. I really want to clear up everything so that nobody is confused. I'm not giving up the CM flavor or focus of our homeschool. Rather, I'm just using a different history schedule/rotation. It doesn't feel as dramatic of a change as it probably sounds.

It made sense to me to purchase the schedule for Core 6 because I was already in the process of replacing some of the history spines with AO to use SOTW. SOTW covers a wider base of world history, and I do already own them. Having us all in one time period of history is going to make it easier on me. I will only be reading aloud the "read-aloud" historical fiction (and anything else that appears to be more difficult). Austin and Riley will be reading the other readings on their own and narrating them to me, as they have with AO! I will have the Instructor's Guide to help me when I don't have time to read everything. I could have kept us in one AO year together, but I was struggling to keep up with the reading. And I was unable to really develop narration with either of the children when I hadn't read the books myself!

I will be reading a Child's History of the World to Reece, slowly over these next 3 years, as I would have had we used AO. Her plans are really changing the least right now. I wasn't planning to start AO with her until 3rd grade anyway!

One AO influence that will remain is the slower reading of the books, which is the reason that we're using these 2 Cores over 3 years. It will break down to 3 days worth of "Core work" spread over our 5 day school week. I don't think we could use Sonlight at the scheduled pace. Well, we could, but I'm not sure if any of us would get much out of it! LOL

Science will be the most different. We like to DO our science, rather than read it. And I tried so hard to enjoy the Apologia Elementary books, and I just didn't. It's very personal for me, so please don't feel that I'm saying Apologia Elementary Science is a bad curriculum, because it definitely isn't. I have a number of friends who LOVE it. It's just not right for our family. The Sonlight Science year I selected will cover magnetism, electricity, and astronomy. I'm not sure of the pacing we will need, since I haven't used SL science in a long time, but I'm experienced enough as a homeschooler now that I feel free to adjust as needed.

I'm very glad that we used Ambleside this year. It helped me to have some guidance while I learned more about CM methods. I give all the credit in the world to AO (and the wonderful AO yahoogroups) for helping me during this transition! I'm so excited about our coming school year, and I'm looking forward to becoming more comfortable with our CM homeschool!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Vacation Bible School details

We don't usually do two weeks of VBS in a summer, but the church where the girls do choir, Austin plays/Daddy coaches ball, and all 3 children attend respite was offering a free VBS with free lunch! Since this was Austin's last year of eligibility for VBS, and the church offered special needs classes, I decided to give it a shot. Now, this church is a huge mega-church, which is why they are able to offer all of these wonderful opportunities, but it also presents great challenges, which you will soon read about.

Drop-off and pick up were in the worship center. I decided we would go early so that there would be fewer children, less noise, and I'd have a chance to talk to Reece's teacher. I already knew Austin and Riley's teachers, so I wasn't worried about them. We pulled up to the church to find that everyone had the same idea and it was already quite busy. The entire worship center was full of people! (I had guessed 1000 children, but the final total was closer to 2100 with 600 adult and youth volunteers)

I dropped Riley and Austin off first, then headed to find Reece's group. As soon as I introduced Reece to her teacher, I knew we had a problem. Her teacher promptly dropped to one knee, got in Reece's face, and started firing off the questions. The light bulb went off over my head: she doesn't know Reece has autism! I asked her if she knew and she said no. I asked how much help she had in the classroom and she told me her SIL was helping her. How many children? 25! It was at this point that I burst into tears for the first time that morning. I took Reece by the hand and went to find someone in charge. I had assumed that writing "High Functioning Autism" on her registration form would be enough to get her placed in either a special needs class, or to get her some help in being in the regular class.

I took Reece over to the other building, where the special needs ministry is located. During this walk, Reece was confused and wondering where we were going. She saw all the fun stuff like inflatables, bubble tents, sidewalk chalk, and a video was starting in the worship center when we left and she was afraid to miss it. I waited around the other building for a few minutes before I found the director. She took one look at me, then down to Reece, and said, "I had no idea you were coming!" Long story short, there was no correlation between the registration and the special needs ministry. I cried again. She asked me if I wanted Reece in a special needs class, but by that time Reece was crying that she was missing the video. I told the director that Reece just needed someone to attend the regular class with her. She assured me she would get on it, so I took Reece back to the worship center.

The video was over, it was twice as loud, and Reece refused to go back inside. Again... I cried. I'm not a pretty crier either, my face gets all red and blotchy. Everyone knew I was crying. I was trying to be strong for Reece, but I was thinking it was time to take Reece home with me. The classes dismissed, and so Reece and I walked with her class to the next station which was back in the other building in the gym. Reece found her friend, Hannah, and they took each other's hand and I followed behind. One teacher was leading holding a sign, and the other teacher was bringing up the rear, and the line of 25 rising first-graders was following like ducklings. No way on earth could Reece do that without someone holding her hand and making sure she stayed with her group. There were other classes criss-crossing our class going in different directions. CHAOS!

We got to the gym and there were 5 inflatable things to bounce and slide on. I perked up, knowing she would have fun. Until the teacher said, "Take off your shoes... have fun!" and let the kids run off with the other 4-5 classes of 25-30 children! ACK! Reece could run out the door and nobody would know any different. I just hung out because I could not leave her there alone, and her helper had not arrived yet. The teachers came over to me again and asked how they could make it work. I told them it was beyond their control with that many children and this much noise and people around. Twice I had to stop talking to the teachers to go help Reece in a situation. She was so overwhelmed by noise and commotion! It was time to stop playing in the gym, and it had been an hour since the director had told me she was getting help. I decided to follow Reece's class to the next station (arts and crafts) to get her settled in, and go downstairs to find the director.

I walked back inside the building, and found a friendly face: Reece's teacher from respite. She asked, "Where's Reece?" and I gave her the 2 minute version (started crying again). She said, "OH! Director's name just took my son to go help a Kindergartener... I didn't realize that was Reece! We need to catch her, and send my daughter instead! Reece like girls better!" So we chased down the director, sent the respite teacher's son back to the special needs class, and went to the arts and crafts area to find Reece and take the respite teacher's daughter to her.

Reece was thrilled to see her friend from respite, and I was very relieved! I felt like I could leave, and I did.

However, when it was time to pick up the kids, Reece wasn't with her class. Her teacher told me that the girl took her to special needs because she kept crying. I felt like crying again myself, but I gathered up Austin and Riley and went to get Reece. I asked Austin's teacher if there was a problem with Austin and he said Austin did great. This teacher works in the special needs ministry (he's a young adult male and a great guy), so he knows Austin. But more on Austin later...

Over in the special needs room, the respite teacher said that they had to bring Reece back to them because there were transitions every 30 minutes to a new station and she would break down each time. And the noise level in the rooms was too much for her to handle. I was so sad! It's hard to explain, but I guess it is because of her not being able to handle being in a regular group. They asked me to bring her directly to special needs on Tuesday. I didn't sleep well Monday night. I felt guilty for taking her to special needs, that she wouldn't have fun. I wanted her to be with everyone else, doing what they were doing. I felt like I was selfish because I wanted to be alone to get my stuff done. I decided that if she didn't have fun on Tuesday, I wouldn't take her back again.

Tuesday morning we dropped the big kids off at the worship center and started walking to special needs. Reece stopped me and said, "I don't want to be in there! I want to be in my special needs class!" I figured she had just heard me talking about that, so I asked her where the special needs class was. She said, "It's in my respite room!!" That made me feel a lot better! We walked into the other building and Reece said, "Ahhh, it's so quiet in here, Mommy! Do you hear it? Just a few voices!" She went in with a smile on her face, hugged her youth helpers, and I left.

When I picked her up, I was thrilled to find out that she had done as many of the activities as possible, and some different ones when the other activities weren't possible! She got to bounce in the gym, but just with the special needs class so it was quiet. She got to do arts and crafts! She had snacks and lunch! And best of all... she was happy! She was all smiles when I picked her up, and was anxious to get back to her class each morning! So it may not have been exactly what everyone else was doing, but she had fun anyway! And that's all that really matters. I really appreciate those workers in the special needs ministry... they loved on her all week and made sure she had fun. (Of course, maybe they were afraid I'd start crying again! LOL)

Back to Austin... as soon as I picked him up on Monday, he made it abundantly clear that he had been having to hold everything in all morning long! He started being very hateful to me and his sisters, saying terribly mean things. He was all upset that Reece was in a special needs class and said that she needed to just deal with it and not be a baby. It was very unlike him. I finally asked him to stop talking, and once he calmed down, we would discuss everything at home. He glared around, but was quiet.

Once he had some time to settle down (which was hard b/c his room was all a shambles because I was painting it!), we talked about the morning, and the noise and commotion. I asked him if he realized what he was feeling, and why he had been so angry and mean. He didn't, so I explained further that he was having to hold in his feelings and his behavior to be part of the group. I told him I expected that he would have to "let it all out" afterwards, but that he could not be so mean to use in the process. We want to help him, but we won't be attacked and hurt with his words. He seemed to settle down so much after that. I asked him if he would prefer to be in the special needs class with Reece, but he said no. His buddy from the fishing trip was in the class with him, and he liked spending time with him. Then he added, "Being with Austin (the other boy, same name) makes me more confident for some reason!" What a totally wonderful thing to hear! I told him that he could stay in the regular class if he wanted to, but he should plan to have some quiet time to himself when we get home so that he wouldn't be so upset and mean to us. He agreed, and the rest of the week went smoothly!

I couldn't help but think about how we would go through that every single day if he went to school. It's no wonder to me that sometimes folks who have kids with autism don't enjoy their children. Is this all they see of their children? This angry, mean person who is so overstimulated they can't even think straight? It only lasted about 10 minutes that one day, but he was so not the pleasant young man that I'm used to! That would be very hard to deal with, especially if you're having to get homework done during that time! I shudder just thinking about it! LOL

I haven't told much about Riley, so in the interest of fairness, I will give you a brief synopsis: she loved every minute of it! It was noisy, fast-paced, tons of kids, nonstop running around, busy, busy, busy! She made new friends, played with friends from choir and dance, and had a generally fantastic time! She would come home every day still full of energy and excitement! LOL She hadn't really wanted to go the first day, and ended up being so sad that it was over!

So that's the last VBS of the summer! Austin and Reece are done with their summer classes. Riley has drama camp next week, and art camp in July. We weren't able to let her do that last summer b/c of learning RDI, so I promised her she could do it this summer! She's very excited!

It's already been a really nice summer! I think we're going to try to go swimming this coming week!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Austin's room, so far (plus the girls' toy box)

I present to you: Austin's room, freshly repainted and with new "teen room" bedding!

Here is the view when you walk into Austin's room. This room used to be a light denim blue! Yeah, he has an air hockey table! It used to be covered with junk, which you'll see in a picture to come!
OK, see all that stuff in the corner? That was on the air hockey table, except not in the storage cubes! DH will put together Austin's storage cubby tonight, so I'll be able to put it all away! Austin and Reece have already played 3 games of air hockey... imagine that! ;)
This is the other corner of Austin's room, with his weight bench and closet door.
And this is the corner with the door to his room and the dresser with his trophies from baseball (they get one for participating each season! LOL). The bag hanging down holds his soda bottle top collection, which needs a container (the trash can sounds like the perfect solution, but Austin disagrees!).
Here is the girls' storage cube! I think it looks fantastic! The girls have already played with the toys, and even managed to put them back! WOOHOO! Austin's is exactly the same, except it's the natural color like his bed and dresser, and his cubes are navy, red, and green (need to get him one more navy one).

I'm going to work on the bathroom next (between the 2 kids rooms!). I hope to get it mostly finished this weekend, except I want to replace the towel bars and I won't be able to do that until the next paycheck! LOL

I am tired and sore, but feeling very good about all I have accomplished! Today was the last day of Vacation Bible Camp, and I'll post some details about that later tonight or tomorrow! It's hard to believe that Austin won't be going to VBS as a student ever again! ::sniff sniff::

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Girls' room, so far

I finished painting Austin's room this morning, and started putting the girls' room back together! Here are a few pictures of what it looks like so far. Here is the far corner of the room, where the bed/trundle are. This is where Reece's bed used to be. That's the extra box spring, which I'll hopefully be able to get rid of this weekend. The girls want bunk beds, which I will start saving for as soon as I'm done with this remodeling project and the never-ending money it requires!

This is the other corner of the room, where Riley's bed used to be. This toybox holds the dress-up clothes. Next to that is the empty space where the new toy storage/bookcase unit is going to go. The girls currently each have a Little Tykes bookshelf/toybox, but it takes up too much space so I'm going to sell them in the consignment sale this August. By the way, do you like the purple walls? I am going to try to hunt down 'before' pics of the room! LOL I rarely took pics in there because it was so nasty. Maybe I can find something from before it got so bad. This is the other corner, by the girls' bed. That's the closet door and Reece's OT swing from IKEA. As an aside, if you need a swing for OT, this one is excellent and cheap! I highly recommend it! You'll also see the girls' dresser. This piece will need to be replaced at some point. It got warped from someone leaving drinks of water on it. For now, it will hold clothes and the dolls. I'm going to replace the knobs for the time being.
And then this is the door/final corner of the room. That's the side of the room where the new storage thing is going. The one in the link is maple, and that's the one I'm getting for Austin's room. The girls' will be white. If you scroll down on the link, you'll see the fabric drawers that go inside. I still need to check the IKEA website, but I'm pretty sure I'm just going to go with that from Target.
I'm so excited! I think it looks very nice! It really is amazing how much a little paint can help make a room just come alive! Tomorrow I should be able to post some pictures of Austin's room when I get it back together!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Painting Ponderings

While the kids have been at VBS this week and last, I've had time to myself! I've spent most of the time painting the kids rooms, which is a peaceful and quiet activity that provides lots of time to reflect and think about things. One of those things that I always tend to think about this time of year would be our plans for the next school year. And while I was thinking, one thing became abundantly clear:

I can't do all I had planned for next year. (3 separate complete plans, one for each child, and very few with any sort of direction as far as teacher helps)

So I've been pondering as I paint, trying to figure out what to do. And this evening after I finished painting the girls' room, I came up with a very workable plan (with the help of a friend!).
I'm going to use Sonlight again, using a core over a year and a half. Basically speaking, I'll be using their Core 6 and 7 (which is world history) over 3 years, which will take me up to high school for Austin. Just typing that out freaks me out a little bit!

Many of the SL books are in the various CM friendly book lists, but by using SL I will have an Instructor's Guide with summaries of the books, as well as a schedule/framework to assist me in planning. SL Core 6 and 7 use the Story of the World series as one of the spines, which will allow Reece to sit in on as much as she can, but I'm not really concerned about how much history she comprehends at this age!

I went ahead and placed my order this evening, so I wouldn't be tempted to think this to death, or to be swayed by reading too many comments! It sort of feels like coming home to be using Sonlight again. We used it when we first began homeschooling, but I switched away from it (and back to it) several times because I didn't think it was "enough" to just read and talk about books. With what I have learned from CM, I know that it will be more than enough!

I am going to have the children reading more of their books than Sonlight would suggest, because I do believe that is important, and the slower pace will allow for that! Also, Austin and Riley will be sharing readers, but they will be doing that on their own as well and narrating to me independently.

I'm really excited about our new school year now! I think this plan is much more workable than what I had originally decided upon! There are only so many hours in the day!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Ukulele

Reece came to me today and said she wanted to "make something" with me. I couldn't resist such a pleasant invitation! She suggested we walk around the house and look for things to use. I found a shoebox, and she said she could make a ukulele. The VBX theme was a beach theme, and apparently a ukulele was featured (because daddy plays many instruments, but that isn't one of them! LOL).

We made the ukulele out of a shoebox and paper towel tube. She wanted to paint it blue, so I got out the real paints (not just watercolors). Those of you who know me well know how much I do not like "artsy craftsy" sort of things. But she really wanted to, and I needed to keep the kids quiet so daddy could sleep off a gig that took him to South Carolina and back yesterday!

We mixed the paint for a light blue, and she painted it herself. It was hard waiting for it to dry, but she was very patient! Then Riley helped her put the strings on. Imagine my surprise when she says she wants to go outside with a cup, "to play for people and they will put money in my cup!" Riley took her outside and this is what I saw when I looked outside to check on them:
Of course, I ran for the camera, and ran around telling everyone to come look! We all ran for our wallets, too!

Check out this outfit... that's pieces of about 4 different outfits! LOL But she wanted to dress for the occasion!
Daddy insisted that he be allowed to put in the first coins!
Then he sat down and listened to Reece sing a song for him, that she composed. It was called, "I love my family!" She came inside and sang it for me later, while I was cooking supper! :)
What a special day this was for all of us! I'm so glad I followed her lead on this and let her creativity flow! :)

Saturday, June 07, 2008

VBX 2008

VBX stands for "Vacation Bible eXperience", which is where the children of the BPA spent every morning last week! This is at the church where Reece attended preschool, and the kids have been going to this particular VBS for the last 7 years! It's a wonderful program, and we are very grateful they offer it to the community!

Here is a group picture from the closing ceremony on Friday! There were around 275 children in attendance each day, not including teachers, youth helpers, and behind-the-scenes staff! I don't think that includes the workers babies and toddlers in the nursery!
Here is Reece with her youth helper, Alex. This church integrates special needs kids into their regular classes. I usually ask for an additional youth helper who loves little girls to help keep Reece where she needs to be during transitions, and to help if she gets overwhelmed by noise. This year we got not only that, but an exceptionally patient and wonderful teacher who really seemed to enjoy having Reece in her class. She had something great to tell me about Reece each day, even on Monday which was the hardest day for Reece.
Here is Riley with two new friends she made in her class! I can always count on Riley to come away from a week like this with a whole group of new "best friends!" She had a great time! She's running around singing the new songs she learned!
This was Austin's last year for VBX, and they have a wonderful program for the rising 6th graders. They do service projects 4 of the days, and one day they do a prayer walk to the top of Stone Mountain. Austin doesn't require any extra assistance in his class, just an understanding teacher who can give him some advance notice and a little bit of space when he needs it. This year the service projects involved cleaning the church busses, gardening at a homeless shelter, stocking shelves and preparing birthday boxes at the local foodbank, and making prayer quilts for the hospital. He absolutely loved every single day, and Riley was so jealous and now she can't wait to be a 6th grader so she can do the service projects as well!

Here is a picture of Austin's group (Austin is in the blue shirt and khaki shorts) gardening at the homeless shelter:
Here is Austin's group with their youth helpers on top of Stone Mountain. Austin is 4th from the left in the 2nd row (striped shirt, blue ball cap), right in the middle of the mix, which of course made me very pleased! Austin's teacher gave each family a CD with all the pictures she took of the 6th graders during the week! I love her for that! :)
Austin's already talking about being a youth helper next year! We'll have to see how that plays out! He loves little kids, but he is pretty easily distracted! I might decide to volunteer with him next year, so I can guide him as he is a youth helper. We'll see!

The kids are very tired from all of the excitement of the week! They only have a day or two to rest, because they have another busy week starting on Monday! ;)

Monday, June 02, 2008

This is what I call progress!

Ok, first things first... please excuse my lack of makeup, and the fact that I start singing at one point! I wasn't planning to be sharing this with the world at large! LOL This segment came at the end of one of our planned RDI sessions, and it was so exciting!! I had to share it with our consultant, and with everyone!

This segment came at the end of about 10 minutes of "work" in which Reece and I looked at some art pictures together. We are working on having her understand that other people have a different opinion about something than she does. She really was not in the mood, but I really needed to video something for an upcoming appointment. So she was totally done.

But do you notice it? She didn't leave! She didn't run off! When I offered a bit of resistance, she didn't have a meltdown! A year ago, if I had tried to do this, it would have been a disaster. She either would have already run off, or she would have pitched a huge fit when I didn't get up immediately! I have hours of video of me sitting waiting out a meltdown, or me sitting alone waiting for her to come back to a small square of fabric that we used as a visual boundary.

I know it's not perfect, from an RDI standpoint. I still talk too much. And I still ask too many questions. But, despite all of that, Reece wants to be with me. She wants to be together with me, and she doesn't want to leave unless I leave with her. I wasn't going to get her something afterward. I hadn't promised her a treat when our RDI time was over. There was no reinforcer, except sharing time with me!

Progress comes in ways that are hard to measure, unless you accidentally catch them like this! :)