Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 Goals

Well, here they are, as promised - my goals for the New Year. I realize some of them are lofty (family game night??? ACK!), but I'm feeling up for a challenge!

Have a safe New Year's Eve, friends, and may the New Year be a blessed one for us all!

Edited to update the progress on my goals - last updated 5/31/10

2010 Goals

1. Physical

* Run the Princess Half Marathon in March (3/7/10)

* Bike 12 miles by end of year (4/25/10)

* Swim 10 laps (other side and back) by end of year (4/14/10 - not nonstop, will keep working on that part)

2. Financial

* Be debt free by end of February

* Have a fully funded Emergency Fund (RDF) by December (This one isn't going to happen)

* Have $500 in Christmas fund by end of November

3. Intellectual

* Complete Getting Started with Latin by the end of June and begin follow-up Latin program (this one didn't happen)

* Read and discuss all the books on the book club reading list
January - The Hound of the Baskervilles
February - Persuasion
March - Rebecca
April - The Scarlet Pimpernel
May - Northanger Abbey
June - The Old Man and the Sea
July - Gone With the Wind, Parts 1 and 2
August - Finish Gone With the Wind
September - The Great Gatsby

4. Family

* Have a family movie night at least once per month
January- Night at the Museum 2
February - G Force
March - Up!
April - Toy Story
May - Toy Story 2
June - Toy Story 3
July - Cats and Dogs
August - The Karate Kid (original)
September - Prince of Persia

* Have a family game night at least once per quarter
First Quarter - Sorry!
Second Quarter didn't happen
Third Quarter didn't happen

5. Career

* Read the entire Charlotte Mason Homeschooling series by the end of the year (I'm going to concede this one in the name of CM's mantra of slow readings! LOL)

* Read and discuss The RDI Book before the end of April (Nope, but I'm shooting for the end of June now - the last couple of chapters have been really intense)

* Read 2 more RDI-related books by the end of the year

6. Spiritual

* Complete the Horner Bible Reading System by the end of the year (not looking good)

* Complete the Living Beyond Yourself Bible Study by the end of the year (not looking good either)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Setting Goals

You may have figured out by reading my blog or by knowing me in real life (or online) that I am a goal-oriented person. I love having boxes to check, lists to mark off - heck, I like making lists just for the sake of making lists!

The other day while listening to my favorite financial guru, Dave Ramsey, the topic turned to setting goals (this time of year known as resolutions). I loved Dave's advice and wanted to share it here.

He lists 6 categories for goal-setting. I like this already... a list for making a list! Perfect!! The categories are: physical, financial, intellectual, family, career, and spiritual. Since I don't have a "career" per se, I'll include homeschooling and endeavors related to remediating autism in that category since that's my "job".

He also gives 4 key points to remember when designing a goal, and I was familiar with this concept from college when writing lesson plans. Goals must be specific, measurable, have a time frame, and should be written down.

So a goal of "Lose weight" doesn't count. A goal of "lose 10 pounds by my birthday" would count.

I've been working on my goals for 2010, and it's exciting! I'll post them on New Year's Eve! :) If you decide to write some goals/resolutions, I'd love to read them!

Monday, December 21, 2009

A very merry Christmas indeed

Christmas is not typically a good time of year for me. The stress of the season overwhelms me. The demands on our time really make it hard to enjoy anything - and of course, those demands are hard on Austin and Reece, which then makes things harder on me. So I have come to dread this time of year.

But something I desire to improve on in my life is maintaining my peace and joy regardless of what is going on in my life. There is a Bible verse on that, which I will be memorizing, but it seems to have slipped my mind at the present moment! Oops...

This season I want to focus on the many blessings in my life, and the many wonderful things we have accomplished as a family and as individuals. It is not always easy for me to do that, as I tend to be not the "Cup Half Empty" sort of person, but rather the "My cup is BROKEN and it's the END OF THE WORLD!" sort of person. ;) But God has blessed me, and I need to keep THAT in mind.

And He truly has allowed a number of rather large blessings to flow our way in the last several weeks. And here again is where I need to focus on keeping this feeling not from what is going on in my life (albeit good stuff), but that my God loves me, and will be here and will always be here... in ways that I can't see, don't always make sense much of the time, and don't fit my own time schedule. But He is here. And He does love me. :)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

I did it - again!

Final "Official" Word Count for 2009: 53,715!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Family Word Count - 11/17

Mom - 40, 018
Austin - 2,502 (GOAL ACHIEVED!!!)
Riley - 1,883
Reece - 2, 472

Monday, November 16, 2009

Family Word Count - 11/16

We're past the halfway point!!

Mom - 38,466
Austin - 2,435
Riley - 1, 686
Reece - 2, 236 (didn't have time to listen to her dictate today)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Family Word Count - 11/11

Mom - 23, 827
Austin - 2, 186
Riley - 1, 406
Reece - 2,236

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Family Word Count - 11/10

Tuesdays are our busiest days, and today we added an early morning field trip to the mix, too. So we didn't get much writing done at all!

Mom - 23, 200
Austin - 2,105
Riley - 1,254
Reece - 2, 057 (didn't write today)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Family Word Count - 11/9

Sorry for the lack of updated word count yesterday! We had a pretty busy day! Here are today's numbers:

Mom - 21, 748
Austin - 2,047
Riley - 1,175
Reece - 2,057

What I'll be doing in early March...

So I guess it'll be "Couch to Half-Marathon" in 16 months!!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Family Word Count - 11/7

Mom - 17,686
Austin - 1,792
Riley - 1,011
Reece - 1, 774 (didn't write today)

Friday, November 06, 2009

Family Word Count - 11/6

Mom - 15, 805
Austin - 1,639
Riley - 931
Reece - 1,774

Family Word Count - 11/5

Mom - 12, 125
Austin - 1,186
Riley - 826
Reece - 1,348

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Family Word Count - 11/4

Forgot to post this one before bed last night!

Mom - 10, 265
Austin - 940
Riley- 678
Reece - 1001

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Family Word Count - 11/3

Mom - 6,841
Austin - 765
Riley - 533
Reece - 489

Monday, November 02, 2009

Family Word Count - 11/2

Mom - 5,662
Austin - 565
Riley - 309
Reece - 155

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Word Count - November 1st

Mom - 2,506
Austin - 183
Riley - 146
Reece - 83

The first day of NaNoWriMo is nearly over, and we have all written much! I'm proud of all of the hard work the kids have put into this first day, especially considering that it's a Sunday. We had church, and Austin had one of his favorite Nascar races to watch, and Riley had choir rehearsal - and everyone still managed to write! Austin, Reece, and I each even met our first word count goals!

And already, NaNoWriMo has accomplished so much! Austin wrote his words this evening while I was at choir with Riley. When I returned he was ready for a word count, and was thrilled to know he had written 183 words. He just told me, "You know - if I can write 183 words in just 10-15 minutes, a WHOLE page, then I know I can write a written narration that long, too." SO awesome! I'd been having trouble with him trying to turn in a one sentence written narration, and complaining that he couldn't write more than that. Now he sees that he CAN! WOOHOO

I'm finding my story a bit harder to get into than last year's story. I'm thinking of writing a little bit out of order - end of the story stuff - (yeah, I know, shocking, huh??) to see if that helps me get a feel for some of the earlier scenes. We'll see what tomorrow brings!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Word Count Goals - 2009

Last year, it was hard for the kids to estimate their word count goals, as they had never taken on a task like this one before! It was interesting to see them figure out their goals this time, and I think it's great that they wanted to push themselves just a little bit further than they did last year. Well, except for Reece... she picked a number that she heard in an episode of Wizards of Waverly Place! LOL

So here are our word count goals as a family for NaNoWriMo 2009:

Mom – 50,000 words
Austin – 2500 words
Riley – 4750 words
Reece – 528 words

The writing will officially begin in less than an hour, at least for mom! I'm not sure if the kids plan to begin tomorrow or if they will wait for Monday! :) I'll try to keep our updates going here regularly!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My first 10K

This morning I completed my first 10K race, one year and 3 days after I first began running! Here are a few pics from the event!

This race was timed using a "chip" that was looped through the shoelaces... very cool! Never had that before! Now I'll know exactly how long it took me, not including the time it took me to cross the finish line in the crowd!
My friend Sherry raced in the 5K, and she was waiting at the finish line of the 10K to take pictures!! Here I am in the green and black!
And here I am crossing the finish line... this isn't the chip time, just the gun time! But regardless, it's a great time! Even better than in my training runs!
Here am I post-race, and totally excited! I was so nervous, and I sort of still can't believe I did it!
The t-shirt they gave away is a "tech shirt" which means it's made out of wicking materials! It will be great for my upcoming training runs!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Weekly Review: 10/12-16

This week was a productive one, despite many struggles inherent to home educating 2 children on the autism spectrum. The struggles might be inherent to home educating 3 children 3 years apart in age in general, but since I only know how it works with autism, I'll have to leave it at that.

Austin's coming to the end of the first chapter of his math book and it's time for review before the test. He learned a few new concepts in this chapter including square roots and the order of operations. He did fairly well on the review, but I decided to add another day of review before the test.

He also had two other tests this week: General Science, Module 2 and Analytical Grammar, Pronouns. He did MUCH better on this science test than he did on the last one. He said the study techniques and note taking I taught him really helped. Most importantly, he recognized that those techniques helped him, and that's probably the greater lesson. The grammar test didn't go as well, so I think we'll review pronouns for the rest of this month's grammar sessions.

Riley thinks that decimals are fun, but not as fun as graphs. She had to take 2 spelling tests this week because she got behind last week, but she did fine on both of them. She got 100% on her second Latin quiz though I'm not sure how since she spends most of our Latin time rolling her eyes at me and asking why she has to study Latin (the answer, for the record, is "because I think it's important and I'm the mom").

She had her first composition exercise in English and it was like pulling teeth (as was her written narration this week). It's mind-boggling because she's a very natural writer. But she makes it so much harder because she wants it to "sound right". She is reading Island of the Blue Dolphins, which I know she comprehends. Not sure why she made it so hard to narrate. She thinks written narration is a tool for torturing her. ;)

Reece finished reading Hill of Fire and began reading Frog and Toad All Year. She is getting ready to start subtraction in math, but this week while they were "playing school", Riley taught her multiple digit addition with regrouping. I'm not exactly sure how well she understood it, but Ri was explaining it quite well.

The next two weeks we will be working on getting ready to write our novels for NaNoWriMo. The girls are quite excited and have been for awhile! I am absolutely amazed at how much Reece remembers from last year's pre-writing lessons! She was talking to me this week about main characters and supporting characters, using those terms and everything! I hope Austin will get into it a story this year... being a teenager apparently makes everything dull and completely boring. ;)

I'm excited to get started on my novel this year as well, though I'm a bit more nervous. I feel so much busier than I was last year. I will have to figure out how to block out some time for writing. Last year I wrote in the wee hours of the night, but this year I get up early to run, so I'm asleep much earlier! LOL I guess I'll have to figure it out... maybe I will run after lunch again since it's getting chillier in the morning! ;)

Hope your lessons are going well! I'd love to check in with other NaNoWriMo folks, so leave me a comment if you're participating this year!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I WON!!! I WON!!!

Ok, so it's just my age division... but that's still pretty cool, don't you think??

I was very surprised! I've never won anything remotely athletic in nature! :)
I even got a trophy!!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Weekly Review: 9/28-10/2

I came into this week extremely discouraged and full to the brim of fear. It had been building for a couple of weeks, and it completely took me over. As a result, we didn't accomplish much this week but the basics.

Riley finished reading Tales of Beetle the Bard. We are taking turns picking literature selections for her to read, and this was her turn. She originally chose the 7th Harry Potter book, Deathly Hallows, but I told her she couldn't pick something for lessons that she's already read several times! She chose the Harry Potter-inspired Beetle the Bard, and finished it this week. Her written narration on one of the short stories in the book was absolutely fantastic, with the glaring exception of the complete lack of capitalization. I think next week we're going to need to implement some copywork for a refresher course on the concept that "Every sentence begins with a capital letter." Austin is nearly done with Treasure Island. Reece finished Greg's Microscope, and began Hill of Fire, both of which are I Can Read! books.

Riley worked on review lessons in her math book. Austin continued in his new math book, and is doing quite well. Reece continued to enjoy her new math book, and played "Make 10s" with me a few too many times.

Austin continued in his Spelling book, but the girls had the week off from spelling. Everyone had the week off from Grammar and Science. Austin and Riley read the next sections in their history books.

The most important part of my week was not academic. It was when I heard about a new audio workshop available from Simply Charlotte Mason entitled, Looking Past the Fear. There was an introductory price for the download and I immediately purchased it. I am so glad I did! It was encouraging and changed my entire week! I highly recommend it for any homeschool mom who is struggling with fear in homeschooling!

Looking ahead in the month of October, we'll be working hard to balance our academics and the end of Austin's travel baseball season (and my running... I have 3 races in 4 Saturdays this month!). During the last half of the month, we'll be doing the prep work for the kids' novels. NaNoWriMo begins November 1st!!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

4 years ago

4 years ago today, at the age of3 and a half, Reece was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified, or PDD-NOS). I took the following video on her 3rd birthday to show our new pediatrician. I had just come to the realization around that time that "something" was going on with her development that couldn't be explained away by her being the baby of the family, everyone talking for her, or us spoiling her thus causing the 2 hour long tantrums.

I share this video today so everyone can see how far she has come!

For the first time in 4 years, I didn't wake up crying on this day.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Weekly review: 9/21-25

Edited to add Riley's spelling argument below!

This week brought new math curricula for Austin and for Reece. Reece never liked Math-U-See for reasons only known to her. I resisted changing for probably too long because I felt that I needed to use it because of her autism, and I couldn't find a program that I really liked that I thought would work better for her. I love Singapore Primary Math that I use for Riley, but was afraid there wouldn't be enough review for Reece. In the end, I decided to just go with Singapore Primary math, as no program is going to be able to be used as written for her anyway and I like the way Primary math approaches topics. I also own all of the CD-roms so I can use those for reinforcement when needed and she has enjoyed the first one for years. I started her at the beginning with 1A, and she was thrilled! She actually sat down this week and did the first 10 exercises in the workbook!

Austin's new math is Basic College Mathematics. It is a remedial college textbook that comes highly recommended on the WTM board for Pre-Algebra. We can use this book for however long it takes us, and then move into Algebra 1. He is very excited about getting ready for Algebra and he appreciates the more adult tone of this text. Several of the examples for word problems have included the history channel or baseball game statistics. There are usually 90 problems per lesson, so obviously he's only doing a fraction of those. But it has worked to be an advantage. When he struggled with one lesson, I was able to assign him more problems of that specific kind to work on the next day. And he handled that quite well! He told me that he feels nervous when we change things, but that he is going to be OK with it. I love it when he can recognize how he's feeling within himself!

Overall, however, this was a pretty challenging week. I'm feeling overwhelmed with all of the different 'teacher hats' I have to wear (7th grade, 5th grade, 2nd grade). It's hard to keep on top of where each child is individually, making sure they get the sort of education they need. I don't feel like I'm doing a good job of that part, especially. This was my main concern when we started a CM style education, and I get frustrated with myself that I don't seem to have enough hours in the day.

I'll just keep plugging away.

Quotes from Riley-
Riley got rather aggravated at this week's spelling lesson in which she learned the rule for doubling a consonant to keep a short vowel sound. She said, "Why do I have to learn this? How will it make a difference when I'm a dancer/actress/artist?" I told her that she would need to make sure her resume is full of correct spelling so she wouldn't look careless and uneducated. She didn't miss a beat. "The director is NEVER going to ask me why I doubled that consonant before I added the suffix."

Strong-willed child? Maybe?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Weekly Review: 9/14-18

We had a productive week this week, which says a lot considering we had such a busy weekend. The aftermath of a busy week/weekend usually negatively affects the ability to get work done, but this week it was better.

Austin had his first science test for Apologia General Science. It did not go well. But like I told him, we learned a lot from the process. He has never learned with a textbook before (except math, which is a different kind of textbook) and we'll have to work a little more on how you learn from a textbook. That will be our first step, and then we'll see where we go from there. It could be that the readings need to be broken down even more and we need to take more than one year for this book.

I reintroduced spelling workbooks for the kids this week, and dealt with the resulting guilt. Spelling was just not getting done with studied dictation, and now it's getting done. I have continued to allot a space for dictation in our schedule, and maybe one day we can drop the workbooks. But for now, this is just how it has to get done.

I also added grammar back in for Riley, but feel no guilt about it at all. We're going through the book mostly orally which serves to serve both educational and "love language" purposes for her.

We resumed Latin and Spanish this week. Both went well for everyone!

The kids completed Week 1 of the Couch to 5K running program! So proud of them, especially considering the amount of rain we've had. Today we did our running in the drizzle!

We wrapped up the week with a field trip to see Queen Glitter do storytime at the library! Reece got all dressed up and was SO excited, as you can see in the pictures:

I was really proud of her behavior during the storytime. There were lots of kids all around her. And the program was very interactive. She raised her hand a number of times and was called on once or twice, but she was never called up to the front with Queen Glitter and BOTH of her friends were chosen. This is usually a HUGE problem in group settings. But today, she handled it all like a true princess! She didn't whine, argue, pout, or meltdown! When I spotlighted her excellent behavior, she said, "You realize this means I'm becoming a mature Christian! AND a big girl! " Cracked me up completely! ;)

You know, I just realized why it's so much better to blog on a weekly review: you get a better perspective. The day-to-day this week was a big challenge, and some days were much harder. But knowing it's over now, and we lived through it, it's easier to reflect on the good things that happened overall.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The best homeschool moment ever!

The girls have always enjoyed "writing books" - getting a stack of paper, stapling it together, and then, depending on their ages, illustrating a book while I write in the words or writing the story themselves. And since we did NaNoWriMo last year, the story writing has only intensified. Very often Reece will point out the building action in a story I'm reading to her, or one she's reading, or even in a movie and say, "We're going up the roller coaster!" (The concept of a story as a roller coaster was taught in the Young Writer's materials found on the NaNoWriMo website... will try to get a link up to those).

Reece has been working on her newest story, The Father's Day Gift, off and on since, well, Father's Day! It's completely self-directed... she brings it to me when she wants to work on it. She wants to write it all herself, so she needs help with the spelling.

Now that she's begun grammar lessons using First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, I wanted to reinforce those lessons in her copywork and other writing. I also wanted to be able to point out punctuation that she sees in her own reading. As I was showing her how her quotation marks need to go and how Father's Day is capitalized because it's a proper noun, Reece said, "You know, it's very good that I'm learning my grammar, because it helps me when I'm writing my book!"

Now if that isn't music to a homeschool mama's ears, I don't know what is! :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Weekly review : 9/7-9/14

We have had quite an adventure-filled week at the Black Pearl Academy!

Reece started learning how to ride a two-wheeler! She does pretty good, but still needs help getting started and needs to practice turning! I wish we lived in a more flat area, because going uphill is still quite a challenge for her, as it was for her siblings!
Reece's baseball season has come to and end and here she is with her trophy! She played baseball through a special populations program and it was fantastic! (You can't see on here, but her trophy has a ponytail sticking out the hat, just like hers does!!)
Austin had his first tournament for his travel baseball team, and they got trampled. Some of these boys for the other teams look like they needed to be tested for steroids or growth hormones or something! LOL
And this morning the kids began the Couch to 5K beginner running program! I'm excited to introduce them to running, as it's been so wonderful for me!
And one last little thing... I started an adult beginner ballet class, taught by Reece's dance teacher! It is SO much fun! I've never taken dance before ever, not even as a little girl! I've wanted to do this for years!! I get to wear ballet shoes! Maybe one day I'll be brave enough to wear a leotard! :)

And yeah, we did some lessons in there, too!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Weekly Review: 8/31-9/4

Again this week, I shall let the home educated children speak for themselves!

Reece: "My favorite thing in this week in school was the math games. We played Sum Swamp. Mama won first, and then I won second."

Riley: "My favorite thing was probably the critical thinking thing, because it's fun. I love a good challenge." (She's referring to beginning the Mind Benders series)

Austin: "My favorite thing in school this week was grammar because of the thing with the articles and adjectives." (He was in the middle of a Wii game, so I guess that's all I'm gonna get! LOL)

At least it beats "nothing" from last week! LOL

Monday, August 31, 2009

Blue October, an Obsessive Fangirl, and Autism/Epilepsy

I posted last fall about my new favorite band, Blue October. In that post I had described how the kids and I had been listening to the band, and how Austin had developed an interest in them as well. I had actually forgotten about that until I came to my blog and did a search to make sure I hadn't already posted about the Blue October concert. So I'll address Austin's development as it relates to Blue October and music after I relate my concert experience!

As I related in the other post, I found Blue October last August as a part of the Twilight experience. I was needing some new music at that time. I have such a terribly eclectic taste and find it hard to find music that satisfies me. Blue October was exactly what I needed! It is raw, emotional, hard, creative... I could go on and on. No two songs are alike, yet there is an overall feel to their music.

A new album, Approaching Normal, came out in March of this year, and it was phenomenal! The band would be touring in support of the new album, but not in Georgia. The closest date was a Saturday night in Myrtle Beach, SC. I just could not work it out logistically. I was crushed. Then, in the spring, a new concert was announced... the Crazy Making tour! It would cover not just the new album, but older stuff as well. And they were coming to Atlanta!!! I immediately called Sherry, who I had sucked into the world of Blue October, and asked if she'd go with me! I bought tickets the minute they were available, which was at something like 1 AM! LOL

All summer Sherry and I had eagerly anticipated this concert. But I hadn't been to a rock concert in well over 15 years! I agonized over what to wear. I dragged my poor husband shopping with me one night and made him help me find something cool - who knew he was such a fashion guru! ;)

Finally, the night of the concert came... so many things conspired to hinder us from getting to the concert. I'll spare the details! But over the course of the summer, I had turned from fan into "obsessive fangirl", as Lisa likes to call it! While listening to Blue October on my mp3 player during my runs, I'd have these conversations in my head of what I would say to Justin (the lead singer and main songwriter) if I met him. I'd tell him how much his music has helped me in the last year, with the emotions tied up in autism, and then with our new "journey" into epilepsy that began a year ago. I'd tell him that his music has touch my heart and soul. I even warned Sherry I'd be talking the man's ear off!

Sherry and I got off to the concert well... and here are a few pictures. Here we are in our new outfits!:
Here is a great shot I got of Justin. You might agree that he's looking right at me. Or maybe that's the obsessive fangirl thing?
Here's a great shot of the stage! I wish we could have been closer to the stage, but overall I guess our spot wasn't too bad for general admission! We were around some pretty cool folks who made the concert a lot of fun! Except for the teen girls standing right in front of me who didn't seem to know any of the music except for a few tunes. But, I didn't let them ruin my fun! ;)
After the incredible concert that ran nearly 90 minutes of AWESOME entertainment, Sherry and I waited out by the front of the venue where the buses were located. I had read on a Blue October site that the guys will often come out and meet their fans. We had already gotten autographs (in the front cover of the Crazy Making book, a compilation of all the lyrics from all the Blue October albums with notes and pictures) from Jeremy (the drummer), Ryan (the fiddle/mandolin/piano player), and Matt (the bass player). Sherry noticed Justin coming around the back corner and pulled me toward where he was signing autographs and doing pictures.

Here was my chance, right? All those rehearsed conversations? Everything I wanted to say?

Um, not so much. LOLOL I froze up. Obsessive fangirl becomes shy, silent type. I managed about 8 words, 2 of which were "thanks" and "hi". He did sign my book and let me take a picture with him. But did I say ANY of what I wanted to say? Nope. @@ I could just kick myself!
Great picture, huh? I look totally starstruck! LOL Did I mention it was raining while we were waiting? That's why my hair is plastered to my head. Plus I'd been jumping around singing and dancing (lost my voice for several days afterward!). I do have to say I've never met a nicer bunch of musicians than the guys in Blue October. They were out in the rain signing autographs and taking pictures for a long time. Everyone who was waiting got to talk to them, and it wasn't a hurried rush, either. They spent time talking to everyone (at least, those who were able to actually SPEAK, unlike some of us @@). They thanked everyone for supporting them and for coming out to the concert! I was very impressed! I am eagerly looking forward to another tour!

Now back to Austin... yes, he's still a fan of Blue October, and he wanted to go to the concert, but I was afraid this wasn't the proper venue for it, and I was right. We were really crammed in there, and there was no seating. That's OK... maybe another time. But that's not the point. The point is that Austin told me a few weeks ago that he was tired of listening to Blue in the car all the time. He likes the music, but he prefers classic rock and heavy metal from the 80s.

WOW. That's some pretty dynamic thinking going on there. 1. He realizes he can like more than one thing at a time. 2. He realizes he can like things in various degrees. 3. He realizes he doesn't have to like something as much as I do just because I like it. 4. He realizes he can tell me he doesn't like something as much as I do. And 5. He can tell me that he's tired of something I'm doing and it's just part of having a discussion. Who knows, maybe those are all wrapped up in one sort of area within guided-participation/RDI. But that's OK! I still think it's pretty cool... along with the fact that he's constantly telling me (and his sisters) that I'm embarrassing him! LOL Sounds like a teen thing to do! ;)

If you made it this far, you are either my mom, a great friend, or bored out of your mind and had nothing better to do! LOL

Friday, August 28, 2009

Week in review: 8/24-8/28

I'm glad I didn't have to write this at the beginning of the week, because it wouldn't have been very much fun. It certainly took everyone a couple of days to get back into the groove! Reece actually did the best of everyone, only crying one time on the first day of lessons. :)

Since we're just getting started, instead of focusing on the specifics of what we did, I'll ask the kids what their favorite parts of this week were!

Austin's favorite thing: "Working on my own in my room. So I don't have to listen to the girls make noise in the kitchen."

Riley's favorite thing: "Nothing. HA HA HA. Um.... I think I liked spelling the most, this week."

Reece's favorite thing: "Nothing. (And no she wasn't in the room when Riley said that). My favorite part is when you read to me. That's all."

Wow, that's inspiring and encouraging. @@

Monday, August 24, 2009

First Day 2009-2010

Austin - 7th grade
Riley - 5th grade
Reece - 2nd grade
The students of the Black Pearl Academy

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Academic Year 2009-2010

It's been a really challenging summer. I've had to come to terms with many things over the course of the summer, and it's not been very easy. I think I can safely say this has been the most intimidating year in terms of planning. I guess we'll see next spring how the implementation went! :)

Austin - 7th grade
History - Early Modern History (using an Out-of-Print version of the Kingfisher Illustrated Encyclopedia of World History)
Grammar - Analytical Grammar
Writing - One written narration per week in Term 1, Two per week in Term 2
Spelling - Studied Dictation (using Spelling Wisdom - the key here will be in following through!)
Math - finish up MUS Epsilon, begin MUS Zeta
Science - Apologia General Science
Geography - Sailing Around the World Alone (found this book on the Simply Charlotte Mason site and it looks VERY COOL!)
Latin - Getting Started With Latin
Critical Thinking - Logic Countdown

Riley - 5th grade

History - Early Modern History (using Story of the World, Volume 3)
Grammar - Incidental learning during narrations and dictation
Writing - One written narration per week, all year
Spelling - Studied Dictation (using Spelling Wisdom - again, following through is necessary!!)
Math - Singapore Primary Math 4B & 5A, Challenging Word Problems 3
Science - Intro to Chemistry using living books and an experiments kit
Geography - Minn of the Mississippi
Latin - Latina Christiana I (first half)
Critical Thinking - Mindbenders

Reece - 2nd grade (decided to go ahead and call her 2nd instead of 1st since most of her friends will be moving up to 2nd and she is very aware of this)
History - Early Modern History (using living books)
Grammar - First Language Lessons, Level 1
Writing - Copywork, might start cursive as she's very interested
Spelling - incidental through copywork
Math - finish up Math U See Alpha, begin Beta
Science - nature studies using living books
Geography - Paddle to the Sea

Family Studies
Spanish - La Clase Divertida, Level 2
Composer Study
Hymn Study
Artist Study
Character Building
Nature Study
Scripture Memory Work, and Individual Bible Reading (still don't know how to implement this last part)

You may notice that I didn't list Literature selections. That's because this year, I'm taking a new approach and not doing a formal list for each of the kids. I have tons of lists (of course! LOL) of great literature and I'm going to be a little more flexible this year. I will start the year with a particular book I think each child will like, and then we'll just go from there! :)

So there we go! I will try to go into more detail with our daily schedule tomorrow... wish I could figure out how to turn a spreadsheet into a picture! ;)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fear vs. Faith

It's been a rough summer at the Black Pearl Academy, at least for the teacher. The first day of lessons has been approaching and with it has come ever-increasing amounts of dread. This will be our 8th year of homeschooling... what should I be so scared about THIS particular year? I've not been able to put my finger on it, no matter how deeply I've searched.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Sherry gave me an article from our state homeschool association's magazine about Fear vs. Faith, written by Jeannie Fulbright, a CM homeschooler and author of the elementary Apologia science courses. I found her article here on her blog, and thought I would share it.

The entire article resonated with me, but this one particular quote struck me the most:

"Fear is the opposite of faith, but it is actually similar to faith. You "believe" the fear, much the same way that you should rather believe God. Therefore, fear is an expression of faith. You have faith in the thing you fear, rather than in the Truth."

I looked up the definition of faith - belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See Synonyms at belief, trust.

So, basically we're back to an issue of TRUST, huh? Figures.

Guess I will work on memorizing Psalm 91....

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Not Missing in Action!

I haven't disappeared off the face of the Earth! What happened was the county decided that it doesn't have enough money to open the county pools at noon after public school resumes (like they have for the last umpteen years). This year was the first year I'd planned to start our lessons after Labor Day and take advantage of the nearly empty pools!

Since there won't be anything else for us to do in the August heat in Georgia, I decided to resume our lessons 3 weeks earlier... on August 17th. Which means I've had to kick everything into high gear, leaving me little time to blog, or email, or do anything much besides updating my Facebook status! :)

And today, I didn't even have time to do that because we went to Six Flags with some free passes a friend of the family gave us! We were there from 10:30 AM until 8:30 PM, plus the hour drive there and home! It all went wonderfully, and Reece was the best-behaved of the bunch! She rode her first roller coasters... including one that goes upside down!

Will update as I have time over the next 2 weeks! :)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Being strong and courageous

As I sat yet again with my school plans before me this morning, a verse that I had memorized for a Bible study a few years ago came to mind:

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

I thought that was pretty interesting, considering it was the word terrified that I used in my last blog post.

So I'm going to print that out, along with a couple of other helpful verses (suggestions anyone?), and put them in the front of my notebook. And I'm going to try to be strong and courageous and just move on with the plan that I felt led to develop for our coming school year. And I need to trust that if there are changes that need to be made as we go along, God will reveal them to me (if I stop trying to control everything and listen to Him).

Yes, it's still scary. And yes, I'm still worried that I don't have what it takes to do it well. And yes, I'm afraid of messing up the kids. But until I really give it my best effort, I won't know.

And it's not like I'm off to battle the Philistines or something. I've just got to educate my kids.

(OK, this funny picture just popped into my head of me standing on a hill with books in hand and my kids are standing on the other hill glaring at me! LOL)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Shaking in my Crocs sandals

I'm looking at my nearly completed plans for this coming school year and I'm scared to death.


I'm worried about how I'm going to keep up with everything! Three kids doing everything individually... that's a LOT of reading I have to keep up on.

I'm worried about trying to teach spelling with studied dictation - last year, I ended up skipping it because we'd run out of time.

I'm worried about not teaching Riley grammar this year, and about not starting Reece in grammar.

I just don't think that I have what it takes to really implement a CM education effectively.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A system or a method?

Last week I read what is perhaps the greatest article about homeschooling that I have read in my 7 years of homeschooling: A System or a Method? from Simply Charlotte Mason. I especially chuckled at this quote:
"We want the 283 easy steps to an educated child. "

Yep, that's exactly what I want! LOL

Yet, I know in my heart that it's just not possible, especially with children who have special needs.

I get very wrapped up in following a system... because I feel like if I follow it, it'll be the "283 easy steps to an educated child." I don't like to deviate, even when I feel uncomfortable, for fear of messing up the steps.

But in the end, it's the methods that really make the difference. Ambleside... Well-Trained Mind... Simply Charlotte Mason... they are all systems. They are all good systems, but I can't be so ingrained in them that I forget that I'm teaching children. Real people who don't always fit into systems. And that's OK! It's the methods that matter in the end!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Harry Potter at midnight!

My mom and I took Riley to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for the midnight showing on Tuesday night!

Great movie! Will do a review soon!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Masterly Inactivity

Yesterday, because of the storms in the area, we couldn't go to the pool. So Riley got out her sewing bag and began to stitch. She ended up making this beautiful pillow with her name on it!

Today, we were faced with more storms. Reece was lamenting the fact that she doesn't have any clothes for Knuffle Bunny! Riley asked for my sewing box, and got to work. When she was finished, Knuffle Bunny had a beautiful new dress!
She even sewed on velcro closures in the back!
She even sewed on velcro closures in the back!
A very happy little sister holding beautiful Knuffle Bunny who is wearing her new dress!

Friday, July 03, 2009

A family rhapsody

Yesterday was a really great day with the big kids while Reece was at her last day of art camp. And speaking of art camp, her picture was featured on the front page of our local newspaper when they did an article about the camp. You can read the article and see her picture here. Austin and Riley and I went to IHOP for brunch, and then went to the bowling alley to use our free game coupons from I decided to bowl with the kids, which no longer made it a cheap event, but was a lot of fun!

I was amazed at the differences in Austin since the last time I took him bowling. He doesn't like to use the bumpers, because he thinks that's too young for him. But that means that he gets some gutter balls. And that used to provoke tantrum behaviors, which is pretty embarrassing when it's a kid whose voice while having the tantrum is deeper than mom's voice. It was stressful, to say the least.

But yesterday, he handled his gutter balls with ease, and when he knocked down all pins but one for the 3rd time in a row, he didn't lose control... but joked that he must be cursed! I claimed that the pin must have glue on it, because it was the same pin each time. Finally, towards the end of our 2nd game, he finally knocked them all down! He was pleased, especially since Riley and I had already had strikes ourselves! Bowling was fun, relaxing, and enjoyable... like it's supposed to be with a 10 year old and a 13 year old!

Then he continued to shock me while we were in line to pick up Reece from camp. We like to listen to classic rock in the car. Austin's a huge fan of the music that I listened to as a young girl, and even the stuff that his Nana and Papa listened to. One of our favorites, is Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. It takes all sorts of twists and turns, or like I always say: it takes you on a musical journey. As the song began, I quickly whipped out whatever I could find to use as microphones (drinking straws, a toothbrush, a hairbrush - not sure what some of those were doing in my van but oh well! LOL), and we all started jamming along.

Including Austin. The guy who doesn't like to sing was singing at the top of his lungs! The guy who usually claims embarrassment when Riley and I break into random song was having a blast with both of us! It was pretty exciting not only from an autism standpoint but from a teenager standpoint! ;) How many teen boys do you know who wouldn't mind jamming in public with their mom and younger sister?

I told the kids that we needed to video ourselves doing it and putting it on YouTube! Maybe we'll work on that next week! For now, I leave you with the real version from Queen! :) Rock on!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Our Academic Plans 2009-2010

I've agonized over this post for much of the last two weeks. That's why I've been quiet on my blog - didn't feel the need to put those of you who are nice enough to read my blog through my waffling! :) In the end, however, I decided to stick with the plan I originally designed a couple of months ago, which is Charlotte Mason/Ambleside inspired.

Austin will be using a modified Year 4/5, which will cover the early modern time period up through about the Civil War. His literature reading will include Treasure Island, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Captains Courageous. His biography reading will include Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, Johnny Tremain, and Of Courage Undaunted. Science biographies will be Isaac Newton, Alexander Graham Bell, and George Washington Carver. Geography will be reading A Child's Geography of the World by Hillyer, and then comparing the locations on modern maps and the globe. For science, he will use Apologia's General Science curriculum. He will begin Analytical Grammar. In math, he will finish Math U See Epsilon and work in Zeta at his pace. For a fun introduction to logic, he will use Logic Countdown. Copywork, Dictation, and Oral and Written narration will round out Language Arts.

Riley will be using a modified Year 4, which will cover the colonial/revolutionary period of American History. Her literature reading will include Robinson Crusoe, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Sleepy Hollow, and Rip Van Winkle. Her biography reading will include Poor Richard and Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution. She will read the same science biographies as Austin. Geography will include reading Minn of the Mississippi, and using maps and the globe. For science, she will learn about chemistry through reading Exploring the World of Chemistry and The Mystery of the Periodic Table. She will also complete experiments using a middle grades experiment kit. In math, she will complete Singapore Math 4B/5A, and perhaps begin 5B. She'll begin critical thinking using Mindbenders puzzles. Copywork, Dictation, and Oral and Written narration will round out Language Arts.

Reece will be using Year 1 as written, but I will adjust the pace to meet her needs. Her focus will be on biographies and famous legends. I will read all of her literature aloud. For reading, she will read from the Sonlight readers lists, Pathways readers, and anything else she wants to. For math, we will continue to work through Math U See Alpha and hopefully will begin Beta. Copywork will round out her language arts.

We will still do several subjects as a family. Our composer study will include Handel, Mozart, and Beethoven. Our artist study is driven by the local art museum, and will include Monet, DaVinci, and Michaelangelo. I plan to supplement artist study with readings from A History of Art: Painting by Hillyer. Our nature study will focus on reptiles, fish/amphibians, and mammals. Hymn study will continue by working through the WOW! Hymns CD. Character building will be with the book Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends. Poetry will use the book Favorite Poems Old and New for the big kids, and A Child's Garden of Verses/Favorite Poems of Childhood for Reece.

I am planning to begin our study of Plutarch's Lives, using a children's version. And we will tackle Shakespeare through Reece's readings in Tales from Shakespeare. I will also read aloud a more difficult book from Riley's year called Age of Fable, which includes tales from mythology (a favorite in our home!).

We will continue in our Latin studies, though I haven't finalized those plans yet.

I think I covered it all! Leave a comment if I've left something off! :)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Deep thoughts for a summer day!

It's a dangerous thing indeed when I begin to discuss autism remediation theory. It's also dangerous when I attempt to discuss theology. Today, I'm going to attempt to do both, which might prove to be highly embarrassing or completely hysterical, or both! But what the heck! Come along for the ride!

On Sunday, our pastor continued his sermon series titled, Armed and Dangerous. This week he was teaching about the Full Armor of God, and specifically the "breastplate of righteousness". One point he made about the righteousness of the believer is that it does not come from ourselves. He referenced Matthew 5:20 "But I warn you - unless you obey God better than the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees do, you can't enter the Kingdom of Heaven at all!" Pastor Bob went on to explain how the members of those two groups had lots of rules for doing all the "right" things. They were extremely focused on outward behaviors. But that is not where our righteousness comes from. It comes from that inner life change, which then produces the behaviors. The behaviors are absolutely meaningless without the inner life change, without Jesus!

At that point, a little light bulb went off in my head, and I heard a DING DING DING DING DING!

Autism. The most popular therapies focus on outward behaviors: eye contact, sitting still in class, good grades, articulation, etc. There are lists of behaviors that are deemed to be crucial for autistic children to learn. And that's all well and good. But it's all meaningless unless you get to the bottom of it all and work on what's inside (in this case, the brain). You can teach eye contact and rote social skills, but unless there is motivation to interact fed by positive episodic memories of interactions with others, and the development of competence in those interactions, it's meaningless.

I've been reflecting on this for a day or two, and it has been wonderful to dwell on the comparisons. The struggles I deal with in faith mirror the struggles I deal with in autism remediation. Being a good Christian? Great! Tell me what I need to do! Pray? OK, how do I do that? Is there a list? What sort of schedule do I keep? Prayer journal! I can do that! Read the Bible? Excellent! I can google all sorts of reading schedules for my Bible reading! Check that box off!! Trust in the Lord? How? Is there a list for that? No? Hmmm...

Remediate autism? I'm all over it! Read this book? Check! Watch that DVD? Sure! Slow down my pace? Hmmm, that's tricky but I think I can do it. Less language? OK! I can do that... painfully! Interact without having a "performance goal" in mind for the kids? Whoa.

What God wants is to have a real relationship with us. He doesn't care about our behaviors unless they are a reflection of our real and genuine desire to have a relationship with Him! And what we want for our children with autism is to have a real relationship with us and with others, and with God as well!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Last week's busy week in pictures

4 All-Star games... 3 trips to the pool... visit from Nana... fishing/camping trip for the guys... girls weekend at home...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What a couple of days!!

I love to blog experiences like we've had the last couple of days! I like to note these developmental milestones, and it's encouraging to read it when the days get hard!

Yesterday we went to the pool with some friends. That's not unusual for this time of year, but this was the pool where Austin had his first seizure last summer. And we haven't been back there since. And we hadn't seen these particular friends since that day, either. Austin was a little apprehensive. He'd also had a big night the day before (back-to-back games in the All Star tournament!) and we hadn't gotten home until 11:30 PM. He did hang out by himself a good bit, but that was OK. Riley kept the other "big kid" sufficiently busy! And Austin did play the "shark" in the game of Shark.

When it was almost time to go, the other family invited us to get Frosty's from Wendy's with them. I had already mentioned to Austin that we could stay for 30 more minutes. But the girls wanted to leave now and get Frosty's. Over a couple of minutes, Riley and Austin worked out a compromise of 15 more minutes of swim and then Frosty's. No meltdowns... lots of flexibility!

Then as we were walking into Wendy's, Austin says, "You know, Mom, I don't actually like Frosty's." I was shocked! For one thing, I get us Frosty's all the time because they are cheap! No wonder Austin never finishes his!! LOL And for another thing... my gosh, he told me that he didn't like something! I told him he could always get something else. "Fries?" he asks. "Sure," I reply, "Want a Dr. Pepper to go with that?" He did!! I was SO proud of him!!

Today, as if all the excitment of yesterday wasn't enough, Austin decided to surprise us again: he asked to go to Youth Group!!! He went, and he had a blast! They played Whiffle Ball, and his first at-bat he hit a homerun over the Youth Pastor's house!!

Not to be outdone, Reece had a great day at the pool yesterday, too. The little sister in the family we met is only a few weeks younger than Reece, but she's incredibly advanced socially/academically. She's always been very kind to Reece, but she's had to do most of the work. Yesterday, Reece really stayed "with" her at this noisy water-park-like pool, for at least 90 minutes. I watched with glee as Reece and F enjoyed a snack together and talked to each other. And then I was positively giddy when the girls were going back into the pool. Reece ran in once, and came back when she realized that F hadn't followed. This happened 2 more times - F was having goggles issues. Then as they were finally going in, Reece wanted to show F the geysers and how fun they are. But F didn't like the geysers and motioned to come on. (It's so loud there that talking doesn't do much good! LOL) Reece was fascinated with the geysers, but left them to go play with F again!! And thankfully F's mom has listened to me talk about RDI enough so she "got" the significance! It wasn't until the last 20 minues or so that the other girl had a harder time getting Reece to respond. But I think that was really good, considering the outside sensory stimuli that was surrounding her!

It's so nice to get a couple of days like these! It also serves as a reminder to me to be actively looking for these moments!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Sun and Fun

While I was finishing getting things ready for Sun and Fun for the coming months, I thought I'd take a few pictures and explain with a little more detail what we do!

Here are the kids' folders for Sun and Fun. These list their requirements to earn a Sun, and on what they can spend their Suns:
The big kids each have to read for at least 30 minutes. Reece has to read with me. Austin has to do a page in his Math U See Epsilon book that he didn't finish during the school year. Riley has to do a math drill or math slip (See Below). Reece has to play a math game with one of us.

Here are our Suns:
Aren't they as cute as can be? My mom traced, cut, and drew the faces on them! She made well over 100 of them! If you don't happen to have a "Super Nana", you can do what I did before she made them: I found Sun stickers at the teacher supply store and put them on a calendar page printed from

Here is an example of Riley's "math slips". It consists of problems printed using the Math U See worksheet generator (cut into lines of 2 or 3) in addition to a word problem taken from the Singapore Math Challenging Word Problem book in the level BELOW the level she just finished.
I staple them together and she pulls one out of the envelope. Austin did this last year and it was very effective:
Or she can choose a drill sheet of 100 multiplication or division problems:
This particular page is from when we used Calvert Math, but there are drill sheet generators all over the internet! This one is my particular favorite.

Here is a sampling of the prizes the kids can earn:
30 min. computer time 2 suns
Bruster's Ice Cream
5 suns
$5 Publix gift card
5 suns
Video Game Rental
7 suns
Gwinnett Braves ticket 15 suns
"Get out of lessons" pass 20 suns
Littlest Pet Shop Pet
3 suns
A new book from Borders 4 suns
Bowling or Skating with mom or dad 15 suns
$5 Hobby Lobby trip
5 suns

Email me if you're interested in the full lists!

So that's basically Sun and Fun! This is our 5th year doing it, and it's changed a little as the kids have gotten older, but basically it's math and reading. One year we also wrote in journals, which was fun, too. If you have any questions, please leave a comment!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

"What is your purpose here?"

That's the question that Davy Jones asked Will Turner when he was found to be "neither dead nor dying" aboard a ship that the Flying Dutchman had overtaken in POTC: Dead Man's Chest. "What is your purpose here?"
And that is a question I have been asking myself repeatedly over the last several months. I'm trying to mindfully plan our home learning for the next 12-month period rather than just following a pre-made plan blindly. It's a challenge for me, because I find myself torn between philosophies that are equally compelling, and honestly... equally effective. Which leaves me to find the answer to that infamous question: What is your purpose here?

It should be simple. It probably is for most people. The problem lies within. And it comes from two distinct deficiencies in my character. The first one has long been a problem, but only fully manifested itself once I became a parent. In fact, my kindergarten teacher warned my mother: "You've got to make Jennifer come to a decision and live with the results! You can't keep letting her have both options." She was ineffective! LOL But I was always a very decisive person, until parenting came along and the ramifications of the decisions took on a new (maybe perceived) importance. The second one stems from the first one, I suppose: feeling inadequate no matter which decision I make (from the perceived ramifications).

We wrapped up this year of academics and I found myself frustrated. I look back and see that we dropped into a very static pattern of learning as the year went on. And things that were critically important (narration, copywork, and dictation), I allowed to slide. Narration I allowed to slide because Austin and Riley were becoming increasingly antagonistic with each other. It was unpleasant to say the least, and cemented my decision that they will be separated in all academic areas. I feel like I've given it my full effort, but for the sake of Austin's self-esteem, it's time to part ways. I was continuing to keep them together this year in an effort to help teach Riley compassion and understanding... but that will have to come in a different venue. Austin shuts down whenever she opens her mouth. Dictation (as a method for spelling and natural writing instruction) is continually frustrating me. So instead of working through it, I just avoided it! LOL Incompetence will do that to even the most typically-developing!

So as I look forward to next year, I decided to go back to spelling workbooks. It is easier. But that beckons the question: What is your purpose here? Is it to get spelling "done" every day? Or is it to learn how to spell so that you can write effectively and not look uneducated?

I also bought a typical grammar curriculum for Riley, even though toward the end of this year she was frustrated with repeating things she already knew. How much grammar does a child her age need? What is your purpose here? I ask myself. She is an eloquent writer already, but does she need more predicate nominatives and diagramming exercises? Will it help her write better?

I could continue but I am certain that I've made my point clearly. I've got to really focus on my purpose. And in likelihood, my purpose will be different from yours... or even from my favorite bloggers! My purpose is to ignite a love for learning in my children, and as much as I can, prepare them to follow the plan that God has for them. Because of the nature of 2 of my children's special needs, I need to be able to keep this process as real and relevant as I possibly can. They are excellent static/instrumental learners, as their mother before them! ;) I can see Riley falling into that same pattern... do the lessons to be done, not really putting your whole heart/attention into it, because you have learned to do the least amount of work necessary. My purpose is to change all of that!! :)

My comfort lies in textbooks, workbooks, doing the next lesson, and planning it all out into neat little boxes. It's a fall sense of control and completeness. It's a longing for sameness, for competence, for the perfect curriculum. I loved the classes in school where we just read the textbook and answered the questions. I was good at that! I remember one class in junior high where we were given packets of worksheets to complete at our own pace. It was heaven for a child like me!!! As an adult (and a homeschool mom) I realized quite quickly that I was great at finding the answers that people wanted, but terrible at really thinking.

What is your purpose here? My purpose is education. Education is an atmosphere, a discpline, a life. I've got to step out of my comfort zone. I've got to trust and stop fretting. I've got to jump in and do it, even when I feel incompetent. I've got to focus on my purpose.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Our last full week!!

This was our last full week of this school year! We wrapped up our Spanish lessons and our history book. Riley finished her math book as well!

Now we move on to "Sun and Fun"! Each day this summer that the kids don't have a camp/VBS, they are responsible for reading and math. Austin and Riley each have a literature book to wrap up as well. Each day they get a "sun" for doing their work, and they can trade in the suns for various things. Last year it was Webkins and Littlest Pet Shop for the Reece, Ice Cream and Earrings for Riley, and 12 packs of Soda for Austin! I'm not sure what will be on the list for this summer yet, but I will spend next week working on that!

Next week, Austin has day camp for middle schoolers through the local Autism support group. He's never done this before, and I'm a little nervous about it. The girls have VBS at the church where Reece went to preschool (where our family has done VBS for the last 9 years). I'll have my mornings to myself! I wonder what I'll do with my time?! :)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Reece's narration

After Reece read a story from her reading book today, I asked for a narration. She turned the tables on me and asked me if I could type it out for her while she narrated. This is something she's seen me do with Austin and Riley a bunch, so I guess it doesn't surprise me that she would want to do it!

Unlike Austin and Riley, Reece has had the benefit of my better understanding of the narration process. With the big kids, I treated narration as a "test" of their comprehension. If they didn't give me the facts from the passage, I would prompt them and interrupt them until they gave me what I wanted to hear. As a result, narration ceased being an enjoyable time of sharing and became and anxiety-ridden experience. It was miserable for all of us. And it has taken a couple of years to overcome those memories, especially for Austin. He is not as hesitant with narration, but it doesn't flow out of him like when he's narrating a Nascar race or a baseball game (examples I use to show him how great of a narrator he is, when he is criticizing his lack of remembering what he thinks I want him to remember).

I wanted to share Reece's first narration that she had me type for her! It's very flowing, and not only does it hit the facts of the story, she ties it in to her own personal life! (And she added the last line with a huge grin on her face... she thinks she's quite funny! She said it sounds like she's an audiobook!)

“We want a dog.” from Days Go By.

The story that was called “We want a dog” was just like Riley. She wants a dog so badly. Days Go By is a good story. There was one story where Rachel wasn’t getting along with Susan. And the next story is called “Just one dog.” I wonder what that’s going to be like. I hope it’s very, very good.

So the story about them is this: All of them want a different kind of dog. Peter wanted a big dog that will pull his wagon and him. Andrew wanted a small dog that will play with him. And Rachel wanted a dog that is brown and white that will walk to her in the house. But their dad said, “Just one dog,” which is the next story.

And here are the other words: Peter said in the story, “I can have a big dog that will pull my wagon and me. And Andrew can have a little dog that can play with him.” I’m the narration girl and my name is Reece. Thank you for listening to this.

Personally, I think it's pretty special! :) I may be biased!

Monday, May 25, 2009

The last week of May!

It's hard to believe this month is nearly over! And with it, the majority of our lessons will be over for the year! We have one more chapter of history and one more Spanish lesson. We are taking a hiatus from Latin and will resume it in the fall. Riley finished her science book last week, but Austin still has another couple of lessons before he is done with his. Riley will finish her math book tomorrow, and she'll work on math application for the summer. Austin and Reece will continue to work through their math books this summer - Austin has 6-7 lessons left (each take a week or so, depending on how he understands the material), and Reece has a lot of lessons left in hers, but that's OK.

During the summer, we will continue reading and math. I've already explained our plans for math. For reading, Riley is finishing up Black Beauty, and then I will allow her to pick her summer reading (within reason LOL). Austin just started a version of King Arthur written by Roger Lancelyn Green, and I expect that to take him awhile to complete. Reece is reading in her Pathways Reader, but I will also get some easy reading books out for her.

June will be filled with camps and VBS, and All-Stars for Austin. Austin is also going on a fishing trip with daddy, papa, and a friend and his dad in June. July is much more relaxed! The only thing we have planned is VBS at our own church, but that will take place in the evenings. I'm hoping we'll spend July and August at the pool!

I'm considering making our first "official" day of lessons this year to be in September. With June as busy as it is, and the pools being open and nearly empty in August after the schools start back, it doesn't make sense to start in August like we usually do! But that totally goes against the grain... against the norm... can I do it?? :)

I guess that remains to be seen! LOL It's been hard enough to plan next year's lessons going against the grain... I'm too much of an 'in the box' thinker! I'm working hard on that, though!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Recital Weekend

See you on the flip side! :)