Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cute as a Bug

Riley's choir musical was this evening... her part was a "bug"! Specifically, she was a beetle! Wasn't she just the most adorable little bug you've ever seen?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Strawberry girls (and boy)

Today we hit the books early, and went to our favorite farm to pick strawberries! We do this every year about this time. These are the best strawberries I have ever tasted in my life!

Here are the girls in their row, just getting started:
Riley has learned that you really have to hunt in the middle of the rows for the best berries:
And Reece has learned to pick the RED berries, not the white ones, nor the flowers that will become berries:
Austin has become quite the expert at picking berries, too. He forgot to wear pants, though, so he had to do alot of stooping over:
Look at these berries! Don't they make your mouth water? My camera isn't the best, so you can't really see how wonderful they are. You'll have to trust me:
Riley shows off a big handful of juicy, ripe berries:
And here is our 'buckets are full' picture at the end of picking. It took less than 20 minutes to pick all of those. We will eat one bucket full, and I have the other bucket washed and cut and in the freezer to save for smoothies. I hope we can get back over to the farm again next week. I think I might like to try to make Strawberry Jam. I'm not sure if anyone would eat it, but it would be fun to try.
Reece couldn't wait to eat some berries! And if you look over to the left in the back of the picture...
... you'll see Riley couldn't even wait to get into the car before SHE started eating:
We were on our way home from the farm when we had a surprise in the road... 2 ducks (or they may be geese) and their babies: They are in the middle left of the picture, near the closer of the mailboxes (if you click on the picture to enlarge it, they are a bit easier to see):
Once they had safely crossed the road, we sped up to get a better picture, and to see where they were headed:
They were on their way to this little pond beside this house! We were so excited to see them. I had just read "Make Way for Ducklings" to Reece on Monday! She said she thought it was Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings! LOL

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

10 PM Ramblings

There are some days that I wonder if my children have been mis-diagnosed. So often, people are shocked when they find out that Austin and Reece have Autism/Asperger's. Sometimes they blend in very nicely. I wonder, sometimes, if they are just regular kids, albeit a little bit different. Maybe if I were a more effective parent? I was so glad at first to get the diagnosis, because it really seemed as if someone were saying, "Nope it's not your fault, there is something else going on."

I'm not sure what I'm trying to say. I'm in a rough place right now. There are enough times where I see the autism, or I think I'm seeing it. But even then I wonder if we were better parents, would it still be happening? If our kids were given to someone else, would they still have been diagnosed on the spectrum? If the kids had a mom who was more naturally 'dynamic' in her approach to life, would they be different?

I wonder if this is a common feeling when you have a child on the higher-functioning end of the spectrum. Some days and some situations go off without a hitch and I feel like I'm over-reacting. Some days, and the same situations, are a disaster. I haven't been telling people anymore about the autism because they look at me like I'm lying or making excuses. Maybe I am making excuses? Maybe we should stop making excuses and hold them to a higher standard? Are we over-indulgent?

I feel like I'm torn between worlds. And I don't know where I should be. Do we think of our children as children with autism, and make accommodations and focus on remediation? Or do we think of them as regular children, holding them to a standard, regardless of whether or not the 'issues' come into play?

I'm sorry if this doesn't make sense. It's a reflection of what I feel like inside. I feel lost. I feel totally alone. I feel like I don't fit in anywhere, not with homeschoolers, not with parents of children with autism, not with Christians, not with stay at home moms. I want to fit in. I'm trying to fit in, and it makes me feel even more out of place.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Inspiration meets Masterly Inactivity

We started listening to Prince Caspian for our lunchtime Read-Aloud last week. Riley commented that she loved Susan the best, because she's the biggest sister in her family, and she has an older brother, just like Riley herself. And Susan has a bow and arrows, and Riley loves bows and arrows. (That last part was news to me!)

After lunchtime we have a 60-90 minute rest time. Riley usually spends this time working on crafts because it's a safe time to do it without Reece's "help"! ;) After a while, she came to tell me she was excited and wanted me to see something. She had been having her rest time in the backyard, and this is what she had created:
She's a natural at the bow and arrow, isn't she? :)

It's times like these that make homeschooling feel worth it to me! It's definitely not easy most of the time. And I wonder if it is really worth all of the effort. But then we have little moments like this that make it seem so nice!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

She did it! :)

Tonight was Reece's spring program for choir. I have been so nervous all week long, wondering whether or not she would actually get up and sing in front of the entire church. It's hard to predict exactly how she'll react to new situations!

We had rehearsal in the church before the service. This was her first time on stage in this church, though she's seen her sister on stage here before. She did great during the rehearsal and I was very encouraged! I took her out for some 'wiggle time' before the service and then we went back in. She was still doing great so I left her and went to sit with my husband and the big kids.

Then her group went on stage, still before the service. She saw all the people and started to cry. The other teachers motioned for me to come up to the stage, where Reece was saying she wasn't going to sing and she wanted to go home. I kept trying to reassure her, and then it was decided that I should just stay up on stage with the other teachers. This was fine by me, and I had dressed for the occasion! :)

She did very, very well... though it was iffy there for awhile. She started rocking back and forth, and I was watching her, wondering if it was going to be worth it if it was going to take so much from her that she needed to rock. But the music started, she stood up, and everything went fine. She did keep asking how many more songs until we were done! LOL

Here is a video of my favorite song that they performed. Reece is on the end on the top row, in the short sleeve light pink shirt. At one point, she was on the big screens for the church so dh panned to that and you can see her a bit better.

We are very proud of her! She got to choose where she wanted to go for supper, and she chose McDonald's!

Surprise Saturday

Austin had some gift cards left over from his birthday last year, and he said it was time to use them! We couldn't use the gift cards online to purchase tickets to the Braves game, so we would have to go down to the stadium on game day and try our luck! This was going to require some flexible thinking!

We were wanting to see the Braves play the Dodgers! We arrived about 2.5 hours before game time (Austin had a game in the morning), parked in a different place than we usually do (because it would be fun to try it!), and went straight for the ticket window! Austin asked for 2 tickets on field level, and we were surprised to find out that they had 2 seats on the 3rd base line 15 rows from the field! It was perfect! Austin paid for the tickets and we went to call Daddy and Nana and tell them!
I had just dialed the phone to call Daddy, when we rounded the corner and this view greeted me:
JOHN SMOLTZ!!! He was giving an interview about 6 feet from where I was standing. I hung up on my husband (sorry, dear!) and whipped out the camera (which I only threw into my bag at the last minute!), and snapped some pictures! :) It was everything I could do not to go running up to him! Thankfully there was security and a barrier to protect him! LOL
It was Tom Glavine's scheduled day to pitch - you know, my favorite player ever?? But unfortunately, he went on the DL with a torn hamstring. That's OK! We still had a great time! And I WILL get to see Tommy in a Braves uniform this season! I WILL! :)
Look at the view from these seats! And really, my camera is so small that it doesn't show really how good the seats truly were! Austin used the last of his gift cards to buy us lunch, and then I treated for ice cream and peanuts!

Thanks, Austin, for such a lovely afternoon! I enjoyed spending some time alone with you! I'm glad you wanted to take me to the game with you! :)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Testing is done for another year!

Riley finished her ITBS today and we mailed it back to BJU Press at lunchtime!

Back to our regularly scheduled schoolwork next week!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

RDI 1st anniversary

It dawned on me that today marks the one-year anniversary of our journey into formal RDI with our consultant (and she has completed her training and is a full-fledged Consultant now! Congrats!). I guess that merits a reflection post, as well as an update to my blog header that still reads "9 months into our RDI program"! :)

It is no small leap to say that I am the one who has been most changed since we began RDI. It has required me to completely re-wire my life, my thinking, my nature, everything! It has been the hardest thing I've ever done. It's even harder than nursing Reece, and for those of you who knew me during those 2.5 years, you can appreciate the comparison! LOL I remember coming home from the first RDI parent training in tears and I cried for several days after that. I also can remember leaving our early RDI appointments and either crying or having my head hurt for hours afterward! If nothing else, I usually leave our RDI appointments these days with an overstuffed brain, but nothing that causes pain or heartache! :)

Since beginning RDI a year ago, I have been required to slow down, not talk so much, slow down some more, talk even less, keep myself calm in the face of meltdowns, be more expressive in my face, slow down even more, learn an entirely new vocabulary for RDI, stop talking altogether, not get wrapped up in behavioral goals, and did I mention SLOW DOWN? ;)

There is alot more to it than that, obviously. And most of the time I feel like I'm swimming upstream in the middle of the rapids. I still get confused about the terminology of RDI. I still forget to slow down and talk less. I still get very behavioristic with my children (I probably would have made an awesome ABA therapist! LOL ). I still lose sight of the forest for the trees.

I have been very pleased overall with the progress that we've made as a family with RDI. It's easy to get used to the new stages your children are at, and forget how far they have come. Reece is driving me crazy right now with certain behaviors, but I have to remember that this time last year she was highly inflexible and was still prone to melting down in the corner when things didn't go her way. If she couldn't control it, she didn't want any part of it. Now she is the one coming to me wanting to be a part of what I'm doing. That's not to say we don't have a LONG way to go, because we do... but she's made very good progress.

Austin, too, is doing very well. So many of the new challenges that are coming up with him are hard to tell if they are autism-related or pre-teen related. He's alot more relaxed as well. He just came up to me and was reading over my shoulder... I said that it was rude to read over someone's shoulder. He ducked down under my arm and said, "How about I read UNDER your shoulder?!" He chuckled, I tried to tickle him, and he walked away. I don't think it would have turned out like that last year. If I had told him he was doing something unacceptable he would have put himself in his room saying he's the worst. There are still lots of things that I wish would hurry up and happen -- at the nature hike last week he took much too long (IMO) to warm up to hanging out with the guys his age. But I'm sure that will come with time.

Our RDI money is going to be running out in the next few months, and that makes me a little nervous. I don't feel like I understand RDI as much as I would like to! I'm trying to make the most of the time I have with our consultant. I'm reading as many of the foundational books as I can fit into my schedule. In short, I'm doing what I can! :) I'm very fortunate that I have a great support group of other RDI families online that encourage me every step of the way! And I trust that the Lord is going to direct our paths and keep us moving in the right direction.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

We interrupt this testing week for an important announcement

I have to share what Reece has been doing the last few days because it is SO exciting!

She keeps reading stuff!! She's reading signs, reading parts of sentences on the Webkinz World website, words that she comes across when she's reading over my shoulder while I'm on the computer!

It started on Monday when she came to get me out of the living room and brought me to our bird poster (our nature study topic) and read "two legs, and two wings". Then this morning she had to interrupt Riley's testing to read to me a sentence that was on her Webkinz World page.

Maybe you're wondering what the big deal is? Or maybe you're thinking, "That's neat, but certainly not blog-worthy!"Oh but it is!! It IS for ME! Why?

Because I'm not using a phonics curriculum for Reece!! No Phonics Pathways, Abeka Handbook for Reading, Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading, Explode the Code. None of the things that I used in my attempts to teach Austin to read. Riley learned to read by accident. I was busy trying very hard to get Austin to understand phonics, and the poor child would SOB when we would move from 'oo' in book to 'oo' in food, "But you said it sounds like ____!" Meanwhile, Riley was begging me to teach her to read, too, but I was busy and she was only 4! So I showed her very hastily how to blend and handed her a stack of Bob books to look at, and went back to work with Austin. 18 months later, I sat down with her for her first phonics lesson, handed her the Abeka Phonics primer, she looked at it and read "The Abeka Phonics Program Handbook for Reading". Thus ended her phonics lessons! LOL I found out she was reading Little House on the Prairie in her bed at night, because during the day I was having her read the Calvert 1st grade reader and she was bored.

Goodness sakes, I'm so excited I can barely even sit still to type this out!! LOL

So with all of our new stuff going on RDI and CM-wise, I decided that I would try to teach Reece to read with real books, as naturally as possible, with the occasional "/ey/ can say a" to help her sound out a new word. We've been working very slowly through those Real Kids Phonics Readers. I want every lesson to end before she's tired out and frustrated. It means that I don't actually plan out her reading lessons. ::gasp:: I know?! Amazing, isn't it?

And I'm getting exactly what I wanted: I wanted reading to be something that she sees as life, not as school. Reading for MEANING! Reading because there are words all around us and they are telling us things. Reading because it unlocks exciting adventures, and because it's what you do when you are a 'big kid' like your siblings! Not reading because Mom is sitting me down here with these lists of words and workbook pages to do and it's so frustrating because the rules are all made to be broken. Oh what I wouldn't give to start back over with Austin!!! I would do it all so differently!

And I've been trying to decide if I would get Explode the Code for Reece to begin to help her see 'spelling'. And I don't think I'm going to! I'm going to keep plugging away at this natural method, and see if the results continue to accumulate! I'll focus on copywork for her next year: beautiful sentences from the great literature that I'm reading to her! :) And lots of real, meaningful reading!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Testing, testing....

It's standardized testing time again!

This week I will be giving Riley the ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills). I don't know why I'm so nervous! LOL

The main thing I'm nervous about with her is being able to stay focused to get the test done within the time limits. And, of course, there is that part of me that worries that she won't do well from an academic standpoint.

Wish us luck! :)

Update: She didn't have any trouble finishing the sections we did today within the time allowed! YAY!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Good Plan indeed?

Last night my husband was at a gig, which left me with lots of time alone after the kids went to bed. I have a hard time sleeping when I know he is on the road. This is a pretty new thing, too, as he was on the road full-time when we got married. I don't remember having any trouble sleeping back then. Maybe I was more used to it when it happened all the time? Maybe it's being in Atlanta and the crazy drivers here?

Anyway, while I was up with nothing better to do, I took a look at our plans for next year, and at the Scope and Sequence I've tentatively set up for the future. I played around with it a bit (you have to love Excel for the ability to do all of this so easily!), trying to see if there was any way we could stay on the same time period in history and still accomplish the goals I have set out for us. I played around with 4-year rotations, 5-year rotations, 6-year rotations. I played around with American History next year, Ancient History next year, on and on. I even entertained the idea of having Austin read from one of the many history encyclopedias we own, while Riley listens to/reads SOTW.

In the end, I came to the conclusion that what I have planned out for us really is the best way to accomplish our goals! No, we're not going to be studying one period of history as a family. That really does make me sad, since it has been my ideal for so many years. But we have an unusual set of circumstances at the BPA, and sometimes you have to give up your ideal for what is practical and works out best for each of the children that you have.

I do find it somewhat ironic that I've got our school plans for next year all figured out by the middle of April for the first time ever, and this is the ONE year that I'm NOT going to the homeschool convention the first week of May. Figures, doesn't it? LOL

Oh, well! It's reassuring that I've finally come up with a plan that I can't top at midnight on a Saturday! It will be nice to spend this summer getting organized, and reading up on Charlotte Mason's techniques and philosophy, which is really more important than the specific books we'll use anyway!

If you've started planning for next year, how is it coming?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Weekly Review: 4/7-4/11

This was spring break for the area schools, so all of our regular activities (dance classes, choir, baseball) were canceled! It was fantastic not to have to go anywhere! Monday and Tuesday we stayed home, and in the afternoon the neighborhood kids came over. Wednesday we had our neighbor's daughter over for most of the day while her parents went to a big OB appointment (they are having a baby boy in July). Also that day, the repairman came out to repair the refrigerator. Thursday we stayed home again, as I wasn't feeling very well. And Friday, as you read, was our nature hike.

Academically, we had a productive week overall. I spent last weekend figuring out exactly how to wrap up our school year. We usually school through June, take off July, and resume in August. This year, I'm feeling the need to have June and July off so I can read up more about CM and also attack this RDI reading list. I also want to get a good start on planning next school year. We are only required to have 180 days of school for the state, but we usually have that many days in late April or early May... so mostly I was trying to figure out if we'll finish what we need to. We will be able to wrap everything up, with the exception of Riley's new math book she recently started. I found us a good stopping point, and we'll just pick up where we left off. It's good to see the end of the road for this year --- it has been a year of change and learning and growth and struggle. And my brain is tired. My heart is pretty tired, too! :)

Riley continued to read Caddie Woodlawn this week. She doesn't seem too interested in it, but she was distracted by wanting to get outside and play with her friend who was home from school this week. In math she worked on adding and subtracting with linear measurements... both metric and standard.

Austin finished up The Princess and Curdie. This coming week he will begin reading Farmer Boy. In math, he got a B+ on his math test, and began a new lesson on roman numerals. I've decided that he will finish up Delta, and we will start Epsilon in August. Over the summer, he'll practice the long division that he worked so hard to learn so he doesn't forget it. But that will only be a problem or two per day.

Reece read another of her Real Kids Phonics Readers from the library. She continued to work on addition, and she's really good at it. She doesn't need to use the blocks to figure out the problems, which is amazing to me. She reminds me alot of Austin in this way... he has always been really quick to learn the math facts.

We started the Apologia Astronomy book. According to the recommended schedule, we are supposed to spend one week doing the readings and the following week doing the notebooking and activities. The readings for the first chapter were very interesting!

Next week will be a bit different. Riley has ITBS testing at home. Austin will do reading, copywork, and math on his own... and help keep Reece entertained so I can give Riley the quiet time she needs for testing. This is the first time I've had to do ITBS with Reece at home. The last 2 years, we did ITBS while Reece was at preschool.

I'm not testing Austin this year. It isn't required by state law (neither was last year's testing). I wanted to test everyone yearly, but with the changes we did focusing on RDI this year, I was really afraid that if there was a decrease in his test scores, it would make me regret spending time on RDI this year. He has to be tested at the end of next year according to the law, so I won't have a choice.

Hope everyone had a nice week! If you do a weekly review for your homeschool, I would love to read it! :) Please let me know where to find it by leaving a comment!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Take a hike

Today, I joined a 'new' homeschool group for their nature walk! I put new in parentheses because it may be a new group, but most of the members are old friends! It was like a trip down memory lane today, the only difference being the addition of new children and the old children are all so much bigger! There were 4 families, and 18 children ranging in age from 11-5 months.

Here are the members of the Black Pearl Academy, ready for the 2.2 mile walk. I packed our lunch, blanket, nature journals, binoculars, and field guides. I need a better system for this stuff. Does anyone have any suggestions? I don't want to pull a wagon, because then Reece thinks she should be able to ride! ;)
We found a little tiny turtle... can you see him in the middle of the picture?
Here's the turtle in the kids' hands! Riley begged me to take him home. I'm just not ready for a pet of any sort!
Then we saw a frog! He was a little bit bigger than the turtle. Nobody asked to take him home! LOL
Then the kids found another turtle while they were rolling down the hills!
It took nearly 3 hours to walk the 2 miles, but that was including stopping for a nice leisurely picnic lunch. For some reason, I am totally wiped out! :) It was a perfect day for a hike. The girls and I could have worn shorts, I think! I was wearing khaki capri pants and I was quite warm!

OK, off to rest up some more! I'll do the weekly review tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

"Hey, mom! This answer doesn't make sense!"

That is music to this homeschool mom's ears! :)

I've noticed recently that I've been hearing the above statement come out of Austin's mouth quite a bit! It is BEYOND exciting!

That simple statement shows so much growth:

1. He is thinking about what he's doing. He's not just going through the motions, writing the answer, and moving on. He is looking at the answer and asking himself if it makes sense in context.

2. He's asking for help. He doesn't expect himself to be perfect. He is looking to his guide (me) for support! Rather than having a meltdown over his lack of perfection, he is taking steps to figure it out.

3. He wants to collaborate with me. He isn't wanting me to come tell him the answer. He isn't just giving up and letting me tell him what to do. Sometimes, I come over to see what's up, only to have him tell me what's up while I stand there completely silent while he fixes it himself.

I need to remember these moments. There are still some of the meltdown moments, but they are fewer, for sure. And instead of provoking me to despair, they need to inspire me to figure out what has broken down. And I'd be willing to bet it has little to do with the actual work, and more to do with a lack of competence (probably from me not scaffolding the information/activity enough).

For now, I'll take a page from Tammy's book and Snoopy dance and victory lap, while we encode these positive episodic memories! ;)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Hmmm, I'm going about this all wrong

A friend of mine asked a question about copywork on a CM yahoogroup to which I didn't know the answer. So that got me googling. Yes, googling is a word... an action verb to be precise! :)

I came across this post from a blog that I have been reading since I became newly acquainted with Charlotte Mason. It describes copywork and dictation from a CM viewpoint, and I think now that I've not been doing either one correctly.

I've been using Spelling Wisdom from Simply Charlotte Mason, but I've been using the exercises as copywork first and then dictation. Apparently, that's just not how studied dictation is supposed to happen.

Okie dokie... I read Lindafay's (from the above referenced blog) description of a dictation lesson, and I've re-read the introduction to Spelling Wisdom, and I see now where I went astray. I've sort of missed the purpose of both copywork and dictation. I was really assuming that the "studied" part of dictation was when they copied it. Nope, not at all.

The "studied" part is the work that the child does to be able to picture the words they may have trouble with, to be able to recall the placement of capital letters, commas and other punctuation. Then you are also working on their attention by only repeating a segment/clause of the dictation one time. None of this "can you repeat that last part again, Mommy?"

And the copywork part is supposed to be different every day, from their school books, and the varied subjects. Or from the Bible. Or from Poetry. Or on and on. Varied. Interesting. And for the older children, it can be self-selected. They would LOVE that, and talk about owning their learning!

Ok, lots to ponder and re-work.

And in answer to the friend's question (because I know she reads here when she can): I believe you do copywork forever, but as the student becomes older it becomes more of a place for them to record quotes and quips that are meaningful to them. Sort of like a scrapbook of beautiful words.

Hope that helps! :)

Monday, April 07, 2008

Learning more about narration

Narration sounds like a simple thing, doesn't it? A child reads something to themselves (or you read it aloud to them), and then they tell it back to you. Not a problem!

Have you tried it yourself? I did. I was wondering why my children were having such trouble with narration. I was also wondering separately why I was having such trouble remembering the things I've been reading. I decided to follow Charlotte Mason's advice of "When you retell it, you know" (paraphrased by me), and I found that it wasn't nearly as easy as I assumed it was. There is much brainwork involved in narration!

My initial goals were just to get my children to narrate. This specifically was a goal for Austin, because he was terrified to narrate. I can't say I blame him. We've been trying narration since he was 6 and it was our first year of homeschooling. I was so frustrated that he couldn't narrate what I had just read to him! He couldn't remember any of the details! Unfortunately, I let my frustration and disappointment show, and he became afraid to even try. Yeah, there's just a little bit of guilt there. :) So when we started CM, my only goal was to leave everything open and just encourage narration.

It did work! Now I would like to begin to refine them. Austin's narrations are sparse. They are usually one or two sentences at the most. Riley's narrations are much longer for the most part, but lack organization and sequence. And they usually trail off into tangents. Riley is also starting to dread narrations, which is strange because she is a natural at it. She told me today that it ruins everything about reading. I will venture to guess it goes back to the brainpower thing I mentioned earlier... narration is hard work, and Riley is not one to really want to put her brain into things. The majority of her school work comes easy and she avoids things that don't come easy. It's like looking at myself when I was her age and that continued through college (which was not challenging at all). I'm hoping to nip that in the bud. Reece, being new to this whole thing, loves to narrate just because her older siblings do and everything they do must be cool! I don't require any narrations of her yet, and probably won't for awhile, though I will of course accept any narrating offered freely!

OK, on to the point of my post... I'm trying to learn more about the process of narration, how CM intended us to expand upon these moments, and how to make the transition into written narration. Tammy led me to a wonderful resource on the Childlight USA website: it's an audio seminar from last year's CM conference in North Carolina and it's about the developmentally appropriate use of narration.

I listened to it last night and took about 6 pages of notes. Over and over I kept wondering WHY I wasn't taught this in college. This is not specific to homeschoolers... in fact the lady who is giving the lecture is a classroom teacher in a private school! I will try to organize my notes, though I should try to narrate it first from the first listening, shouldn't I? LOL I am so excited about the way this information will change how I approach narration. If you would like a sneak peak while I try to figure it out, Tammy has posted about it on her blog.

The things that I'm most excited about are the ways that she uses graphic organizers as a tool for narration. I have been following Tammy's blog while she uses them and the GO chart with her daughter, but I have to admit I didn't really get the 'why' of this until I heard the lecture. I also like how she (Jennifer Spencer, the lecturer) emphasizes that this is a developmental process. At one point in the lecture, someone asks her what grade to start using the GO chart. She said she wouldn't put a grade level on it because it is a developmental thing. I've heard people say that sort of thing before, but they usually end it with, "But I'd say about 4th grade." She didn't do that, she really wants folks to focus on where their child is developmentally in this process. I need to hear that over and over again!

One of the most fascinating parts of the entire lecture, for me, was discussing the purpose of narration. I really thought the purpose of narration for for me to evaluate what the child has learned. If they didn't get the rote facts, then it's a bad narration. That is a total misconception. Ok, I dug out the notes at this point because this is really important: We can learn so much from child from their retelling, and from that, we can USE narration as part of instruction! We can learn how much a child remembers, what they consider important, how they sequence information, their ability to infer, and so on! It's awesome!

I will make sure to blog more about our adventures in narration as I get a better handle on it! Again, I still can't believe that I went through 4 years of college with a major in Early Childhood Education and a minor in Psychology (NOT including student teaching, that was extra in my program!), and I don't know this stuff already. It frustrates me to no end!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Belated Weekly Review : 3/31-4/4

This was the first week of our new modified schedule with everyone on their own history readings, and I learned something very important: we're gonna have to scale this back a bit and slow down! LOL The kids had no trouble doing history 4 days, and reading their own history when required. However, they had a much more difficult time with narration, and my head nearly exploded! ;)

So I made a few adjustments which I think will work well for us all. It will deviate us a bit more from the Ambleside schedules, but as it says on the AO website itself, Ambleside is not the only way to 'do' CM. We'll also slow the pace down.

I am consolidating the different elementary level history spines, and we're going to use the Story of the World series by Susan Wise Bauer. There are a few reasons for this change, but the most important ones are (1.) for simplicity, (2.) I already own all but the 4th one, and (3.) they cover a broader scope of world history than the books suggested in AO. I will use the 4 volumes over 6 years of the elementary/middle school grades, beginning in 3rd grade and ending with 8th grade. This also means we will not cover American History as a separate subject in elementary/middle school, but something has to give and I can add in more American History via assigned literature.

Austin will cover Volumes 3-4 over the next 3 years (6th-8th grades), with AO Years 4-6. Riley will start Volume 1 next year and do a 5 year rotation for her 4th-8th grade. Her plan doesn't like up as neatly with AO, but basically we'll try to focus on AO Year 2 along with additional reading from the WTM since she's already read so many of the AO books. And Reece won't start formal history until 3rd grade when she starts SOTW1/AO Year 1. I'm going to use good literature in the meantime and I will share the books as I find them. I know that I will read to her Boy of the Pyramids next year from Simply Charlotte Mason, before we go to see King Tut. I'm not sure what else I'll read to her, but the lists available are plentiful and I'm sure the only trouble will be picking which ones to read next.

I'm re-reading this and it sounds much more complicated than it is in reality. Basically, the AO Years remain intact except substituting SOTW for the history spines. And probably no Plutarch for a few more years! :)

As for high school, the plan is a 4 year rotation with a combination of book suggestions from the Well-Trained Mind and Ambleside's House of Education. It will look vastly different for each of the children, so you'll have to wait at least another 2 years before I'll be able to give more details. LOL I know, it's disappointing... me? Niffercoo? Not have a firm plan for High School yet? What's the world coming to? ;)

We will be doing our usual Friday artist study, composer study, and art history together. Also, next year I would like each child to share something with their siblings that they learned. I think that would be a good way to practice speaking and listening skills, including how to be a good audience. We will do science together for the rest of this year and all of next year, before Austin moves into the upper level Apologia textbooks.

Ok, this sounds more like a preview than a review, so let's get back to the topic:

Austin is getting close to finishing The Princess and Curdie. Riley just started Caddie Woodlawn. And Reece read another of the Real Kids Phonics Readers, called I Am Mad!

Austin was successful in mastering the latest lesson of his MUS book... he has one more review page and then the test. Riley started the metric system and thinks it's the coolest. Reece is still working on addition.

We finished reading Nim's Island and saw the movie on Friday morning. It wasn't exactly like the book, but very close. And we enjoyed it very much, though I thought the book was better. There is a sequel that was released last month, Nim at Sea. I have reserved that at the library, so we'll squeeze it in before we listen to Prince Caspian. That movie comes out on May 16th.

Austin started Subjects and Verbs in Grammar, and that leaves one more lesson (adverbs) to cover before the end of the year. We'll finish this book next year in 6th grade. Riley didn't do grammar this week because I'm still sort of up in the air about whether or not to have her spend time doing grammar or wait and have her do it in 5th/6th grades, as SCM recommends.

We introduced Astronomy this week with the Magic School Bus Lost in Space book. I have such a tender part in my heart for the Magic School Bus! I know they are geared for Reece's age, but all of the kids absolutely LOVE them. We'll begin Apologia Elementary Astronomy next week.

We didn't have our regular Friday subjects because we did the movie instead! We also had 5 dance classes, 2 choir classes, a musical rehearsal, an RDI appointment, and 2 baseball games this week. Maybe that's why my head nearly exploded? :)

Friday, April 04, 2008

A home run!

Austin hit his 2nd career home run in last night's baseball game! To quote his daddy, "He knocked the heck outta that ball!" ;)

I would love to be able to provide video, pictures, or even just a detailed description of the event... but the girls and I skipped the game because it was a late-starting one, and it was cold and damp outside. ::sigh::

Congratulations to Austin!! Way to be a hitter, buddy!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

April is Autism Awareness Month!

I was trying to come up with something eloquent to say about Autism Awareness Month, and I'm drawing a blank. My main purpose in being an advocate for Autism Awareness is not so you'll know that 2 of my children have autism and feel sorry for me or think I'm a supermom. My purpose is really two-fold.

The first reason is for parents. I myself had no idea what autism was, what it looked like, especially in higher-functioning children who, like my own children, did not display that marked regression that I thought was the hallmark of autism. I would just like other parents to know that there is more to autism than Rain Man, and there is more to autism than the child who is talking away until age 18 months -2 years and loses that ability. Yes, there are MANY children who have such a regression. But autism can also be present from birth, in children who talk (and keep on talking), and in children who hug you, and in children who like to be around other people. I want parents to be aware so they can get help for their children early.

The second reason is for the general public. That child you see who is screaming in the store, who is talking your ear off about the weather, who walks up to you and says that your face looks just like a Webkinz gorilla (yep, that happened on Saturday with Reece), that child may not be spoiled, rude, or self-centered. One thing that has come about as a result of my children's diagnoses is that I find myself much less judgmental when I see other children exhibiting "bad behavior" in public. I tend to give that mom or dad an understanding and sympathetic smile, rather than a look (or word) of condemnation. I have been subject to that condemnation so many times during my children's young lives, and it stings and cuts to the very heart of a parent. Of course not all children who are acting out in public have autism spectrum disorders, but regardless, I assume that the parent is doing his or her best job with the challenges facing them, and that I, as a stranger looking on, have NO IDEA what those challenges might be.

This wikipedia article on Aspergers is chock-full of information, including a breakdown in characteristics that is more thorough than a mere checklist. It is also helpful when considering High-Functioning Autism, as the Core Deficits are the same for all Autism Spectrum Disorders.

I'm not going to be leaving this up all month as I have in previous years, so bookmark this page if you want to come back to it! :)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Making some changes

After over a year of trying new things and stressing over it all, I've decided that I'm going back to something that is traditional and planned out. I'll be ordering today, and starting ASAP.

Here is Reece's 1st grade curriculum from Calvert:

Riley's 4th grade:
And Austin's 6th grade:
It will be very nice to get back to something that assures no gaps in their education. And it comes in one big box (per grade).

April Fools! ;)