Friday, January 30, 2009

Weekly Review: 1/26-1/30

Wow, the last week of January already! That happened fast!

We took the first two days of the week off, after a busy weekend! It was worth it to have a couple of mental health days! :)

Austin completed lesson 13 in MUS Epsilon, and took the test. He scored a 98% and I'm so proud of him for it! These lessons on factoring and reducing fractions require a lot of steps and they are not easy for him. He started lesson 14 today. Riley has started her new math book: Singapore Primary 4A, and so far the lessons have been easy. I looked ahead and SHE is getting ready to start factoring, too, so apparently I am not allowed to get away from it! LOL Reece has been working on her +2 facts and she's got those down pretty well, so she will do the test next week.

Riley was supposed to begin reading Anne of Green Gables this week, but a few pages into it and she was complaining about all the words she didn't understand. So I have ordered the CDs from the library and she'll be able to listen and follow along. Instead, she has read her two Chrissa books (from the American Girl author signing last week), and started an Elsie Dinsmore book that was recommended to her by a girl from her dance class. Reece is making good progress with her reading, and should finish the Bob books next week! I'm not sure where we will go from there... back to the next level of Real Kids Phonics readers, the Sonlight readers (which begins with Dr. Suess and Little Bear), or Pathways. Austin continued to listen to Robinson Crusoe, and he tells me he really likes it, but it's just too long! LOL

Copywork and Dictation went well, even though the kids had only 2 days to prepare their dictations! They really worked on it diligently, and I'm proud of them!

They each read in their science books, but they asked to listen to history together. Apparently everyone loves the SOTW CDs and listening to them aloud. Go figure. I'm not going to worry about it.

We completed Lesson 8 in Spanish, but no Latin was completed this week! I just couldn't face it! LOL

That's all that sticks out at me... we will start a new hymn and character trait next week, and that's always fun!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Little signs amidst chaos

We're having a difficult week at the Black Pearl Academy. DH just took a position at a new church, and the children are adjusting not only to a new church, but adjusting to attending church at all. We haven't been attending for the last year because our old church was so far away and there was really no place for Reece or Austin. They are both doing very well, considering... but there is an cost, and it's reflected in generally disorganized behavior this whole week.

But today, there were two small signs - two lights in the midst of the struggles! And they both happened around Reece's dance class today.

The first was Reece. We got to dance and the other girls, who have already been dancing for the last hour in tap and jazz, were changing into ballet shoes and grabbing a quick snack. Their teacher was growing impatient with them, and said that she was going to start the class. Two of the girls were still eating and in tap shoes. The teacher led the other girls in, and Reece stood by the two girls still in the hallway, saying she didn't want to go inside the room without them. Then she heard her teacher giving instructions to the other girls, and she ran to the doorway and burst into tears. "Don't start without them! Please don't start without them!" She didn't want her friends to miss out!! I loved that!

Next was Austin's turn. He is friends with a big brother of one of the girls in class. This boy is a year younger than Austin, brilliant kid (as all of Austin's friends seem to be!!), and very kind and patient. Today, Austin brought his football and PSP to dance with him. He only brought in the football though, once he saw that his friend was there. The two boys spent most of the hour outside playing football together! He could have easily brought in the PSP, and his friend would have watched him play it, as has happened before. But today, Austin wanted to interact, and he knows his friend likes football!

It's little things like this that you have to make note of and cling to when other things seem difficult!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009 Ticker
Free Disney Tickers

This time... a product!!

Riley finished knitting her first hat today! She got a Knifty Knitter for Christmas. Nana got her started, because I just cannot look at pictures of steps and figure out how to make that work in real life! She put it up for a little while, but I guess she was in a crafty mood today because she finished it! Doesn't it look great?

I'm so impressed that she is able to do these crafts! She certainly doesn't get it from her mama! LOL

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Process, not product

Oops, I (almost) did it again...

It is amazing how quickly I can slip back into old habits again! I found myself adding "stuff" to our day that wasn't really necessary, because of my worries about standardized test scores. Because my mind was focusing on the product, the end results, rather than the process.

In my opinion, a Charlotte Mason education focuses on processes, on relationships (between people, between a child and his lessons, between a child and nature), and on the whole person (the child is a person). This is developmentally what my children (all of them, not just the ones on the spectrum) need and deserve in their education. I don't want to educate them to prepare them for jobs. I want to spark a fire of excitement about the world around them, so that they want to learn more about it, want to participate as fully in that world as they possibly can, and want to share that excitement with others!

Yet, it is such a hard concept for one like me, who is naturally drawn to results, box-checking, and the end product. I have to constantly remind myself what my goals TRULY are. And so I did! I put away Writing With Ease for now... we are still doing our narration, copywork, and dictation, of course, but I went back to the Scope and Sequence for language arts in the CM framework, and realized I was putting the cart ahead of the horse, and concerning myself more with the product (those pretty typed up 3 sentence narrations for their notebooks).

Austin and Riley are each narrating tomorrow on a book they are finishing up (Riley on Pollyanna, Austin on Poor Richard), and I'm anxious to hear them. Austin commented that he's "not very good with narrations" so I have a lot of work with him to get him back to understanding that he's really become a good narrator. He comes to me on his own to narrate these days, but I wonder if he even realizes that he's narrating. He probably thinks he's just telling me something interesting about what he's read. Which is... VOILA! Narration! LOL

We'll get to written narration next year... and composition in a few years. No need to panic. No need to rush to add something more until the opportune moment! ;)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An historic day!

The children and I watched the 44th President of the United States take the oath of office today! Austin and Riley had used the Oath for their copywork today so they would be familiar with it, and they were excited to recognize the words.

The big kids were very excited about watching this part of history. I wonder how much they really understand about the significance. For the first time ever, our country has an African-American president! We talked about how 50 years ago, in many parts of this same country, races were not allowed to dine in the same restaurants or drink from the same water fountains! It all seems like a make-believe world to them!

We will be praying for our new President as he takes on the challenges facing him in these difficult times.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Weekly Review: 1/12-16

I am surprised that I haven't updated my blog all week. It's been a good, productive week and we've completed our lessons, gone to dance classes, had a doctor appointment, and even had a field trip. Plus I've exercised every day, except for yesterday! And I've been reading two books! So there's not much time left for blog updated and changing (like I had planned), but I will have more time this weekend to work on it!

Austin continued to listen to/follow along with Robinson Crusoe and to read Poor Richard. Riley continued to read her abridged Pollyanna. Reece read 4 new Bob Books this week, which is double her pace. She's also been carrying around a collection of Hans Christian Andersen tales that she is "practicing to read" for when she's older. That means she looks at the pages for words she can read! :) It's cute!

Austin completed lesson 12 in MUS Epsilon, scoring an 89 on the test. Riley has one review lesson done and she'll be finished with Singapore 3B. Reece completed lesson 6 in MUS Alpha, scoring a 100 on the test.

Austin and Riley each took the Year 3 evaluation for Writing With Ease. Riley is ready to move on with narration, but needs some more dictation practice at this level. Austin needs some more practice in both areas before he moves on to Year 4 work.

Austin listened to a little more than one chapter of history, and Riley listened to 2 chapters. I had to separate them out again because of mean comments Riley was making towards Austin. It's really a shame, because it was fun to all be learning about the same thing. But the achievement gap between them is widening, and I've got to protect Austin's self-esteem as much as I can. He's doing very well, and working very hard. Things just come so much easier and more quickly to Riley.

We only got one day of science done because of the doctor appointment on Thursday, and it was another of the experiments and it ended again with me wondering why on EARTH I thought this would be fun! LOL We'll try again next week and see what happens.

In Spanish, we completed Lesson 6 in La Clase Divertida, Level 1, and made the Mexican Wedding Cookies to go along with the lesson. That was messy, and the cookies weren't very good! But the kids had fun!

We did hymn study, composer study, character study, poetry, and read our storybook Bible. We continued practicing Latin, but it's not coming along well. I think I may have to pick a different curriculum, unfortunately, and use Minimus as a supplement. I'm going to give it another chapter or two before I decide though.

This morning we took a field trip to the post office and it was very enjoyable and informative! We've never done a trip there before, so it was new to all of us!

I think we've all settled very nicely into a groove, and it's super! We're going to work pretty much nonstop until we have Spring Break the 2nd week of March, when Riley and I go to Disneyworld with my mom. We'll take Reece's birthday off the first week of March, and we have a couple of field trips planned. But other than that, we're going to put in some hard work for the remainder of this winter!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

My new header!

Sadie made me the fancy new header! Isn't she talented?? I'm going to be playing around with my template and trying to update a little bit... so don't be surprised if things look different soon!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Weekly review: 1/5-9

We had a very productive week filled with learning, and we all got back into the groove quite quickly. I will admit to being completely and utterly exhausted right now though! :) But in a good way!

I'm going to try to hit the highlights, but it's late and I have to be up early tomorrow, so I may forget some things!

Austin continued to read Poor Richard, and he moved to listening to Robinson Crusoe on CD while following along in the book. Our library has an unabridged version read by a man with a delightful English accent, which is much better than mom stumbling over the language! Plus it frees up my time. Riley began reading an abridged version of Pollyanna, having completed her entire reading list for 4th grade already. ::sigh:: I'm sort of letting her pick what she wants to read next, and I think she has determined to read Anne of Green Gables since I told her how much I liked it. Reece read 4 new Bob Book, beginning the 2nd level of them, and doing pretty well.

Reece learned her +1 facts, Riley learned about area and perimeter, and Austin finally figured out factoring!! HOORAY!

Austin reviewed Pattern 1 and 2 sentences with Jr. Analytical Grammar (Basic sentences with and without direct objects) and I was pleased to see that he didn't lose all of that over Christmas! Riley did some oral language lessons (lie/lay and sit/set).

Austin and Riley did narration and dictation this week, each doing famously in both areas. Writing With Ease was probably the best investment I made this year! I wish the next level would be ready this summer!

We reviewed Chapter 1 and 2 in Minimus Latin (yes, only the first two chapters... UGH!). It's such slow going and so frustrating for me. I don't think we'll be finishing this book this year. Spanish went much better, and we now have a 3rd active participant in our Spanish lessons! Reece now runs in the room for Spanish rather than crying and hiding! I don't know what prompted the change! We completed lesson 5, and I think we'll be able to move right along!

We listened to 2 history chapters and did map work about Charlemagne and the Frankish Empire. Science was magnets because I wanted a little more hands-on to start 2009 --- 5 minutes into it with the complaining and bickering, I wondered WHY I wanted more hands-on?

Character Trait is Diligence, Hymn is "Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus"(I picked that one for me! LOL), Composer is Vivaldi, Artist is Van Gogh, and Poet is Emily Dickinson.

I know there are things I'm leaving out but I'm really sleepy! If I think of them tomorrow, I will come update! :)

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A great ballet class!

I'd like to drag this out, but I'm too pleased to do so - Reece's ballet class went wonderfully today! In fact, I'd probably say that it couldn't have gone any better. We arrived about 5 minutes early, which finds her class in tap (they have already finished jazz). We decided to surprise them, so we hid in the prop room until they ran by to change into ballet shoes.

Reece popped around the corner, and told the girls, "I'm here!" They were all very happy to see her, but I don't think they were nearly as excited as she wanted them to be. She had brought her new pink princess mirror to show them, and they were very excited about THAT, so she seemed to be OK!

Class started, and I honestly couldn't bear to watch. I peeked in one time to see how she was doing at the barre, because that was the part that used to upset her so badly before. She was fine, so I went back to the other waiting room and talked Twilight with the moms. I sent Austin to peek in on her, and later on I sent Riley to look in on her, too! Each report was that she was fine.

Class was over, and still I couldn't bear to go ask how it went. So I was surprised when Reece popped up behind me ALL SMILES! She was so excited! In all the jumping around, I noticed that she had a stamp on her hand. Not one time in her ENTIRE life, including the 2+ years of dance she has taken, has she EVER allowed anyone to put a stamp on her hand!! She won't even accept stickers at the doctor's office! I was speechless!

Her teacher came to find me and told me that everything went fabulous! The only small thing Reece got upset about was when her teacher asked a question and called on someone else. Reece got upset because she knew the answer! LOL Her teacher explained to Reece she can't always call on her, even if she does know the answers.

It was wonderful, and I'm so happy for her! It gives me great encouragement that I know her well enough to know when to let her back off, and allow her to gain the confidence needed to participate again when she's ready!!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Back to the books...

We resumed our lessons on Monday, and I am surprised at how smoothly everything has gone. With the exception of us all just being plain tired from having slept in so much over the break, and the brain drain from a 2 week break, it's actually going quite well.

Monday was the hardest day for getting up, for all of us. I had made blueberry muffins, and not even the smell of warm muffins could lure the kids from their beds. They all sat around the table at 9:30 with their heads down. We didn't even begin our lessons until after 10 AM. That is highly unusual for us, and by the time we had lunch and rest time, we were not done with lessons until 4:30. Nobody was pleased with that!

Tuesday morning everyone was up bright and early, and it was only Mom who had a hard time getting up! Everyone was, for the most part, cooperative. It was nothing like I was expecting.

Today was the same story! And the brain cells seemed to have perked up today, too, which is always refreshing! I got an absolutely fantastic narration of a story from 50 Famous Stories Retold, which was encouraging!

I also got some surprising good news: Reece wants to go back to ballet class! As I was taking Riley to her class on Monday, Reece announced she wanted to dance again. I was unsure, because the costumes for the recital have usually been ordered by now... but I spoke to her teacher and the costumes were NOT ordered yet! So Reece will go back to ballet tomorrow! I'm nervous for her. She says she will try hard and not get upset, but she's been crying easily recently. I'm going to let her give it a shot! She enjoyed seeing her friends at the Parent Watch Day back in December (we visited her class to say hi), and the little girls greeted her most warmly! Her teacher is also thrilled to have her back!

It's a huge relief that she wants to return. I have frequently doubted the decision to let her drop ballet. Soon after she stopped going, a post came through on an autism loop I belong to, asking about homeschooling. Someone replied that it's the worst thing for autistic children because it allows them to withdraw and avoid interaction. So I've been worried I allowed Reece to do just that. I know it wasn't a positive interaction at the time she left, and I like to think I know my kids well enough, but there's always that lingering doubt. So when SHE announced that she was ready to go back and that she wouldn't get upset when things got hard... it was a wonderful feeling for me! I hope it goes smoothly for her and is an enjoyable experience! And I hope her friends greet her as enthusiastically as they did before!

I'll try to update tomorrow when we get back!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Ask and you just might receive...

As we entered our Christmas Break a couple of weeks ago, I knew it was time to plan for the upcoming Term. As usual, I've been feeling uneasy recently - wondering if my decision to follow a Charlotte Mason style was still a good decision. "Feelings aren't easily trusted," a wise friend has told me repeatedly.

So I decided to pray, and ask God to show me in some way if I should stay the course or if I should make some adjustments. I wasn't expecting such a clear-cut answer.

1. On the way home from getting the ham and turkey for Christmas, we were leaving the shopping center and it was paved with bricks. Austin said, "This is a lot like Ancient Rome, and how the roads were paved."

2. On Christmas Eve, we did our traditional Waffle House meal. Reece wanted to sit up at the counter with Riley in the "high chairs." She ate all of her food quickly, and asked for more hash browns (as did Austin). The restaurant had become very busy, and we had to wait quite awhile to get the extra orders. Everyone else had finished eating and was getting anxious to leave. Austin said we could go ahead and go home. I told Reece it was going to be a little bit longer. She replied, "I'm OK. I'm having patience - waiting with a happy spirit!" (That's one of our Character Traits we've been studying that she seems oblivious to!)

3. Later on Christmas Eve, Reece came to my mom and asked, "Cual es tu color favorito?" which just happens to be one of the questions from our recent Spanish lessons, which she usually cries about when I turn on the DVD. I helped Nana figure out how to reply, and then I helped her ask Reece, who then replied.

4. A couple of days after Christmas, we were all watching Indiana Jones 4, and we were near the end when Mac betrays Indy for the 3rd time. Out of nowhere, Austin remarked, "I bet he feels like Julius Caesar. Et tu, Mac?" We all laughed at his cleverness.

5. And just today, Reece asked me, "What is miercoles?" I replied, "That's Wednesday in Spanish." She walked away humming the Days of the Week song in Spanish (from the DVDs she doesn't like!). Then she came back and said, "Today is sabado, right?"

I think it's safe to say that I got my answers loud and clear. The kids aren't just learning facts and dates. They are making connections and they are thinking about what they have learned, and applying it in new situations!

Reece is trying to sound out new words, and she's usually unsuccessful. She'll tell me, "I'm the worst ever." but then she grins at me slyly, and I tickle her. She knows I don't like it when she says that. And I know that she doesn't really believe what she's saying! She's not feeling like a failure because I'm keeping her in the Zone.

I haven't commented much about Riley here, and I don't mean to slight her, but I know that she will be successful no matter what style of homeschooling we use. What convinced me of Charlotte Mason with her back in November was reading her NaNoWriMo novel. She has never had a lesson in writing. She's never had anything except exposure to lots of great literature, copywork, dictation, narration, and some beginning grammar. Yet, her novel was full of dialogue that she punctuated correctly, interesting and varied vocabulary, and a wonderful style! Austin's novel was very good, too, don't get me wrong! He surprised me by adding more description that I would have expected! But through Riley it's easier to see what is supposed to flow naturally from a CM education!

So, we're staying the course! And I'm thankful for the glimpses of the results of all of the hard work we've put in!

Thursday, January 01, 2009


Last year, I chose a word for the year: TRUST. While contemplating choosing a new word for 2009, I decided that there was no better word for me than TRUST. It continues to be a struggle every single day. So I'm going to focus on it one more time!! :)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT)

Reading Challenge

Last year (2008), I decided to take part in the 8-8-8 Reading Challenge: read 8 books across 8 categories in 2008. Well, I didn't complete the challenge, but I did manage to read 33 books in 2008 (and some of those books, namely the Twilight Saga, were read more than once). To the best of my knowledge, that is the most books I've read in one year as an adult!

So even though I know I probably won't complete the list this year either, I went ahead and made a 9-9-9 list. It will help to keep me focused, and hopefully keep me motivated. One mistake I made last year was in putting too much non-fictional autism-related stuff on my list. This year I made more of a fun list, and I left blank spaces open for the books that will be recommended by my friends as the year progresses!

Niffercoo's 9-9-9 list!

For my book club: Bella's Bookshelf Selections

1. Animal Farm.

2. Kidnapped

3. Oliver Twist

4. Brave New World

5. Little Women

6. The Prince and the Pauper

7. Jane Eyre

8. To Kill a Mockingbird

9. Dracula

Improving my mind through extensive reading: Jane Austen written/related

1. Northanger Abbey

2. Unpublished (for now) JA-inspired novel written by my friend

3. Darcy's Story

4. Seducing Mr. Darcy

5. Sense & Sensibility

6. Mansfield Park

7. Emma

8. Twilight

9. Persuasion

Just for the Fun of It: Modern Fun Fiction

1. Confessions of a Shopaholic

2. Ella Minnow Pea

3. New Moon

4. Breaking Dawn






Enjoying Stories with the Kids: School Books/Read-Alouds

1. The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson #5 - May 1st)

2. Inkheart

3. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

4. Bedknob and Broomstick

5. Swallows and Amazons

6. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey

7. A Wrinkle in Time



To Be Continued: My favorite series

1. Plum Spooky

2. Finger-Lickin' Fifteen

3. Twilight Saga Official Guide

4. Drums of Autumn

5. The Fiery Cross

6. A Breath of Snow and Ashes

7. An Echo in the Bone

8. Eclipse (1-1-09)

9. Anne of Avonlea

Maintaining my "Certification": Professional Development

1. When Children Love to Learn

2. Seizures and Epilepsy in Childhood

3. Original Homeschool Series, Vol. 3

4. Original Homeschool Series, Vol. 6

5. Apprenticeship in Thinking

6. Shepherding Your Child's Heart

7. Emotional Development: The Organization of Emotional Life In Early Years

8. Developing Through Relationships: Origins of Communication, Self and Culture

9. Lost at School

Receving my Acceptance to Hogwarts: Harry

1. Sorcerer's Stone

2. Chamber of Secrets

3. Prisoner of Azkaban

4. Goblet of Fire

5. Order of the Phoenix

6. Half-Blood Prince

7. Deathly Hallows

8. Tales of Beedle the Bard

9. Harry, a History

Nurturing my Faith: Religious Books

1. Believing God

2. Jesus, the One and Only

3. Finding God in Autism

4. Simply Christian






Entering the Wardrobe: Narnia

1. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

2. The Horse and His Boy

3. Prince Caspian

4. Voyage of the Dawn Treader

5. The Silver Chair

6. The Last Battle

7. The Magician's Nephew

8. Further Up and Further In

9. The Keys to the Chronicles