Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wish me luck

Monday night I got some incredibly bad news: Reece's BFF, who you may remember from her dance class and the forgiveness post, is moving to Minnesota. We're in Georgia. Minnesota is very, very far away.

Her mom told me so that I could tell Reece and prepare her. They are hoping to be moved by the middle-end of August.

Prepare Reece? How on earth do I do this? I don't WANT to do this. Reece is going to be crushed. My heart is already broken for her.

I'm not saying anything until after tomorrow - Reece's last day of "art camp" (another post altogether) through the local autism support group. I don't need to give her a reason to be distressed, or give her a new topic to perseverate on while she's away from me.

Why would God give her this experience, and then just take her BFF away after 4 months? It's not right.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Good Deal?

Today I went to the last used book/curriculum sale in our area (that I'm aware of). I've been quite discouraged that I haven't found ANY of the books I need for this coming school year on the used market. I'm trying to watch money very carefully this year, as I'm sure everyone is in this economy, and I was hoping beyond hope to find a few things. I will be going to the Southeast Homeschool Expo next month, and that will be my last chance to find some good deals before I have to click "place order" at amazon.

One thing I did find today was a set for Right Start Level C - the teacher's manual and the student workbook. They look brand new, and the price was only $20! I couldn't really believe it. I bought it, even though I'm not totally sure Right Start is the answer (and even though I would need to purchase Level B if we do go with it!). But brand new those two books are in the $80-$90 range, so it was a good deal. And I can always sell it at another sale.

I also bought a couple of other things: the answer books for the Key to... series that Austin is working in, the next level of Writing Strands for Riley, and an older edition of the Wordsmith writing program. I spent $30 total, including the Right Start materials.

I used to get so excited at book/curriculum sales. Today I just felt depressed. I'm so tired of feeling like I don't know what I'm doing. I'm so tired of feeling overwhelmed. I'm so tired of doubting my decisions. I want to be excited about the new school year coming up, like I used to be! I want to feel like what I'm doing is important, productive, and effective!

Friday, June 25, 2010

1000 posts

I can't believe I didn't notice this before... but this is post #1002 on my blog. It's hard to believe I've been blogging since 2005!

No Right Start lesson for Reece today. Friday is "Math Game Day" for her. I think that once we get into the Right Start Games, we'll be able to do those games together. Currently, we do Sum Swamp, card games, or Rainbow Rock (Singapore Primary Math 1-2 CDrom). I probably need to find out if a four-day week will work for Right Start, though.

Sun and Fun has gone very well the last two weeks. Reece has traded in her suns for screen time and a Littlest Pet Shop Pet so far. Riley has traded in suns for some music downloads. Austin hasn't used any of his suns. We won't have Sun and Fun next week because Reece has day camp. Riley is going to have a friend over to play, since that's something that is very hard to do when Reece is home.

The kids had VBS at our church this week in the evenings this past week. It began quite miserably but ended up being a great time for everyone! I was a crew leader for the first time and it was a lot of fun, but it also reminded me that I don't have the patience to work with other people's kids anymore. Spending all day, every day with my own kids has sapped it out of me! It sort of made me sad, since teaching was all I ever dreamed of doing.

Gracious, this is really why I should not attempt to blog in the evening. I am simply too tired to form coherent sentences! LOL Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Right Start B: Lesson 4

Sorry this is a late update! It was a busy day today!

The lesson went much better! She wasn't resistant, either, which makes such a difference. It was downright pleasant! At first she tried to count first the tally sticks, and then the beads on the abacus, but after I reminded her that she's supposed to picture the amounts in her head, she did it with no problem. It was great to see her be able to do that!

I really wish I had written this post this morning right after the lesson. Now I can't remember much of what I wanted to write! :) I guess bottom line is that it went much better than the last two days!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Right Start B: Lesson 3

Today went a little better. I was concerned because Reece went to VBS last night which ends 30 minutes after bedtime, so we didn't even get home until an hour past bedtime. She doesn't sleep much, and usually her best sleep comes between 8-12 at night, so I am pretty protective of bedtime for her.

We started on the number/amount "6" today, and used the abacus for the first time. She was very interested in the abacus and she actually just asked to get it back out again. She has always loved patterns and colors, though, so it doesn't surprise me. This abacus has red and white beads, grouped into sets of 5.

It was a little easier for me to handle the manual today. I tried to take each section at a time, read the section and then try to talk it through with her. This means that there is a bit of down time in the lesson, but maybe that's some good processing time for her? It's so hard to get the teacher training out of my head - down time, teacher pausing - that was a negative as it interfered with the flow of the lesson.

I would like to find a good balance - there's simply too much in each lesson for me to memorize it all. Perhaps with experience I'll get better at grasping the teaching method and it will become more intuitive for me?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Right Start B: Lesson 2

It did not go as well today. She was very resistant from the moment we sat down. We started off reviewing number sets and when she laid the tally sticks (and a special thanks to Riley who walked by right at that time and said, "Those are popsicle sticks" @@) out she laid them out horizontally. I showed her how to lay them vertically, and she started to cry and said she can't do it perfectly. I told her that I wasn't expecting her to do it perfectly, just for them to be up and down. The next number, she did them up and down but put them right next to each other. It's hard during those times to know whether or not she is trying to provoke me. :( I showed her that they need to be apart from each other so we could see that it's not just one stick. She cried again.

She told me over and over again that she was bored. I told her that I knew this part seemed easy, but that it was very important that she be able to see the numbers without counting them. She didn't like it when it was time to practice showing the numbers I called out with her fingers - she said I was going too fast. Every new thing brought about more resistance and tears. But when I decided to stop and try again tomorrow, she got upset and said she didn't want to stop.

New things always bring about this sort of reaction from her, so I'm not surprised. It's just very annoying and unpleasant. Add that to the fact that I am not comfortable with reading from the manual yet, so I don't think it was a fun time for either of us.

Tomorrow we use the abacus for the first time. I'm anxious to see how that goes.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Key to Fractions: First Lesson with Austin

I decided to work based on time with Austin this summer as well. I am planning to do the same during the new school year as well, but we will have two math sessions a day: one to learn/practice a lesson and one to work on application, such as word problems or working on his store from Your Business Math.

This first book in the fractions series begins quite easily and basically, so I knew he would fly through. He did 7 pages in the 20 minutes I had allotted. He was a little grumbly, but I told him that there might be days where he completes not even an entire page in 20 minutes... and he is an 8th grader now after all! ;)

No surprises with Austin - he was compliant, as he almost always is. And he understood the concepts in these early pages. A nice way to start a Monday! :)

I won't bore you with a blog post of Riley's math lesson from her Singapore Primary Math book. LOL

Right Start B: First Lesson with Reece

I just did the first Right Start lesson with Reece and it went mostly as I expected, with one surprising thing thrown in. I thought I'd blog about the experience to help me remember as I make the decision on whether or not to purchase it. Right now I'm borrowing the set from a friend.

1. She did not like me calling the popsicle sticks "Tally Sticks". I knew that was coming! LOL I just told her that they are popsicle sticks, but when we use them for a math lesson we would call them tally sticks. Still, every time I asked her to show an amount with the tally sticks she would say, "They are popsicle sticks." I did my best to ignore that.

2. She told me she wasn't a baby. I knew that was coming also! ;) Right Start has a different approach and I needed to start at the beginning of level B, and I knew she would think the first couple of lessons were babyish. But it won't be like that for long. I told her that I didn't think she is a baby, but that I want to make sure she understands all of her math that has been tricky for her. She did not care for the "Yellow is the Sun" song, probably for the babyish factor.

3. She kept asking me why I was reading from the book. That's so funny how she picked up on that. And it pushes my buttons, too. You see, in my teacher education classes in college we were taught to NEVER, EVER read from the teacher's guide/manual. In fact, if we were being evaluated by our instructor during practicum teaching and we read from the teacher's book that was a HUGE deduction. I get very self-conscious to this day when I read from a teacher's book during a lesson! ;) You'd think after 16 years I would have gotten over it.

4. She was thrown when I rearranged a set of 3 objects. She knew the amount hadn't changed, but she said, "There isn't one here." and pointed to the middle. I had moved on to the top of the paper, rather than having them in a line. When I asked her how many there were now, she hesitated for a minute and said, "Three." but then she said, "There isn't one here." I piled all of them on top of each other and asked again and she didn't even hesitate that time. But I did think that was very interesting. It made me glad we started where we did with Right Start. I knew she had some "conservation of number" issues, but I assumed they were related to the use of the MUS blocks.

The lesson took less than 15 minutes which was good because I noticed her attention starting to fade toward the end. I'm intending to stick with time/attention with her math lessons and not with making sure the lesson gets done. It's going to be VERY hard for me to do that. Also, I need to remember next time to make sure the tinkertoys are put away, because she kept wanting to play with them! :)

It's also going to be hard for me not to have a worksheet for every day's lesson. But perhaps if I'm seeing the growth in her math understanding, that will help me get over it!

Off to start working in Key to Fractions with Austin.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Math Mess

To say that math for my kids on the spectrum is anything less than a mess would be lying. I will accept the blame, in part, because I switched programs so frequently with Austin in an attempt to find something that would work for him. Since we didn't know what we were dealing with back when he was little, I was left to assume there was a problem with the curriculum and the way he learned. Once we learned that we were dealing with autism spectrum disorder (along with the alphabet soup of labels he also received during that time), I got Math U See and did my best to stick with it, despite a lack of confidence in the techniques.

Well, this week for Sun and Fun, as Austin reaches another point in his math where he is struggling, I decided to give him a placement test for Saxon Math, just to see how the work he has done in MUS translates to another curriculum. It was much, much worse than I imagined.

He placed into the 4th grade level book as a rising 8th grader. The results sent me reeling, as you can well imagine. I had already planned to spend some time supplementing with the "Key to..." series (Fractions, Decimals, and Percents) so I went ahead and ordered those. But my plans for the future with math are all up in the air now. We simply cannot move forward into higher level math when he does not have a firm grasp on arithmetic and its applications. I don't know what to do. We'll work through the Key to... books, and then, I just don't know.

As for Reece, my friend Laura has lent me her Right Start math materials to look through. I know I do not want to use Math U See with Reece, judging from the results I have seen with Austin. I started looking at Right Start materials today (she has levels B and C... I would place Reece in level B). It's completely overwhelming to consider. It seems very involved, which is hard to contemplate since I have two older children whose lessons require much from me. It is also quite a financial investment.

But I can't help but wonder if it would be "the answer" for her. I have tried every other major math program out there. That's not an exaggeration... Austin was my guinea pig for math programs. Yet, I'm willing to invest the money if it means that she understands math. And I will invest the time as well. It's very important to me that the children have a firm foundation in the basics. I feel like I have failed in that area with Austin. I'm afraid that in my vain attempts to keep him "at grade level" I have sacrificed making sure he truly understands and is able to apply what he knows. I'm afraid I've figured that out too late.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Let the Sun and Fun Begin!

The kids have come up with their rewards for Sun and Fun, and it's interesting to see how their desires have changed since we started Sun and Fun a few years ago. For instance, this year Riley wanted "laptop computer" as one of her rewards. I'm thinking, "Not!" LOL Here is a list of what they have chosen for 2010 rewards:

30 min. screen time
2 suns

Bruster's Ice Cream
5 suns

Sonic Ice Cream
5 suns

$5 Publix gift card
5 suns

$5 Walmart gift card
5 suns

Video Game Rental
7 suns

12 pack soda
10 suns

Pizza Hut Pizza
10 suns

Gwinnett Braves ticket 15 suns

30 min. screen time
2 suns

Silly Bands
5 suns

$5 Hobby Lobby trip
5 suns

Bruster's Ice Cream
5 suns

5 songs from 5 suns

Justice shopping, less than $10 7 suns

New Jammies, less than $15 15 suns

Gwinnett Braves ticket 15 suns

Bowling or Skating with mom or dad 20 suns

Build-a-Bear Bear
25 suns

30 min. screen time
2 suns

Littlest Pet Shop Pet
3 suns

A new book from Borders 4 suns

Bruster's Ice Cream
5 suns

New Tobies
5 suns

Movie/Game rental
7 suns

$10 toy shopping at Walmart 10 suns

Dress from Justice
20 suns

Pillow Pet

25 suns

Looks like it should be a fun summer for all of us! :)

In case you're wondering on Reece's list what a 'Toby' is, I included a link. They are little balls that you get for party favors. Her OT had her carry them when she was little to help regulate her, and they did such a phenomenal job. She carried them everywhere. In our family portrait one year, you can see a pink one and a purple one in her hand! She loves them in all sizes, but the small ones are easier to carry around. Unfortunately, they are also easier to lose! She said she'd like to have some new ones!

Saturday, June 05, 2010


I'm not sure who was more excited when we closed our books yesterday: the kids, or me! We haven't taken a significant break since early March and we are all weary!

We'll be off completely for a week, and then we'll begin Sun and Fun! :)