Friday, July 30, 2010

Too much?

I've got all the books for this coming school year divided neatly into terms, and those terms divided neatly into weeks - to give us a workload that is broken up fairly evenly.

But when I look at it all, it seems like there is so much I want to accomplish. I wonder if it's too much. And if so, what do I drop? Everything seems so important! LOL

I guess there's not much to do except to jump into it and see how it goes.

Now my next step is to determine what sort out output to require and how much of it. I know that this year Austin will do 3 written narrations per week, and Riley will do two. I also know that I want them both to do a time line of some sort, and I would really like to get a better grasp on a Book of Centuries. I really do not understand the nuances of the latter. The time line seems easy enough, and I found a template that I really, really love here. Scroll down to the end of the post for the links to the template. But Lindafay (the author of that site, formerly known as Higher Up and Further In) describes that as a book of centuries. Maybe they are the same thing?

As I mentioned in a previous post, determining how much to expect in terms of output is quite a challenge for me. I'm still not sure exactly how I'm going to handle it, but I do plan to talk to Austin especially about his expectations for himself when it comes to his narrations. I think he knows he can do a little more than he has been doing. But since we spent so much time learning summaries as narrations (which is the WTM/classical way) he may be thinking that 4-5 sentences is all that I am wanting, since that's what we did before. I also really want to stay on top of the oral narrations, and create a better dialogue with those. I've been too afraid to say much during narrations because of the admonition in CM circles to not interrupt or lecture, etc. But I am reading this book called Deconstructing Penguins about how to talk about books with kids, and I think it will provide a happy middle ground!

I have made good progress in planning this week but I'm still feeling overwhelmed and unprepared. I'll be taking some of the first term books with me next week to read during jury duty so maybe that will help my confidence, once I start into the books!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Planning season 2010-2011

The key here is not to panic!

That sure is a lot of books, isn't it? We can do this, can't we??

Monday, July 26, 2010

Another "YAY!" for RightStart Math!

Last night at the dinner table, our family got into a discussion about school. I mentioned that we all have strengths and weaknesses in academic subjects. When I was asked to tell them which subject they excelled at, I turned the question around and asked each of them to tell me which is the subject where they feel they do the best.

When it was Reece's turn she thought carefully for a minute and said, "I guess now it's math!"

I can't begin to describe how pleased I was to hear her say that! It makes all the difference in the world that she feels competent in math! What a huge blessing! :)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Last day of Sun and Fun!

Our summer school time has come to an end! I really feel like this was the best summer of Sun and Fun we've ever had!! :)

Austin read for 45 minutes each day, finished Key to Fractions Book 1, finished 3/4 of Key to Fractions Book 2, studied the first 12 roots in Vocabulary Vine, listened to the rest of Story of the World Volume 3 and The Mystery of the Periodic Table.

Riley completed her Singapore Primary Mathematics 5A workbook, read for 45 minutes a day (plus she listened to countless books on CD), reviewed her Latin vocabulary, and listened to the history and science book above.

Reece completed the first 20 lessons of Right Start B, read 10 minutes per day (20 minutes for the last week as she worked to earn extra suns), listened to more of the Burgess Bird Book, and listened to as much of Riley and Austin's history and science as she cared to.

The next two weeks will be spent with some much-needed down time for the kids, and planning and prep work for me! :)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Epiphany? Or: Still trying to teach an old dog new tricks

"I'm having a thought here, Barbossa..." - Captain Jack Sparrow

And so the pattern repeats itself.

I'm feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of a new school year and what I have to try to accomplish. I feel inadequate and incompetent. I panic.

I seek out security. I seek out the familiar. I flee to safety.

But then I don't feel safe. Instead, I feel like a failure. I still feel overwhelmed, but this time I feel overwhelmed AND like I'm copping out.

Tonight, I had an epiphany [Note: I reserve the right to be repeating something I've already said before, like from a previous epiphany. It takes me a really long time to learn some things]. It is as follows:

What if the reason I still feel overwhelmed and like a failure and like I'm copping out is because I'm, yet again, trying to control everything myself? What if the unending feelings of being overwhelmed are really a sign that I need not turn to a familiar homeschool curriculum guide or "better" lesson plans? What if they are instead a deep-rooted acknowledgment that I CANNOT do this. At least not on my own. At least not without relying on and trusting completely in God to be in charge and to guide me down this path.

There is no peace for me and that's just not how it's supposed to be when you are living in Christ, right?

I have a feeling that, if I do this right, the one who is going to learn the most this year will be me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Some guidelines, please?

I'm trying to get a head start on my planning. And the thing that has me so perplexed, and wanting to run back for the security of the Well-Trained Mind, is that I am having a hard time determining what to expect from my children. I do know that I am not requiring enough from them. But I don't know what Charlotte Mason would deem as reasonable and not overkill.

Here is an example from the Ambleside Online Language Arts Scope and Sequence for Written Narrations, Grades 7-8:

"Written Narration. You will gradually be increasing the number and length of your children's written narrations during these years. You should also be helping your child perfect the mechanics of writing and begin learning to edit and correct their mistakes. Doing this with one narration per week is fine, and it will reinforce the grammar and punctuation that is being studied separately. "

It doesn't tell me how long the narrations should be at what grades, or how many narrations per week. What is the goal? One Written narration daily? One Written narration from each subject weekly? And how long are they in 7th grade? 8th grade? One paragraph? One page? Two pages?

This is where the Well-Trained Mind differs. In each grade, and for each subject, the output goal is explained in detail. I really need that information. I feel like I'm trying to plan a trip with an incomplete road map.

And for a personality such as mine, that is beyond frustrating.

I want to be able to incorporate as much CM methodology as I can, but I also have to be comfortable. I need to trust (there's that word!) that I'm doing all I need to be doing.

Right Start B: Lesson 18

Another good lesson today - more work with odds and evens. It's silly, I know, but it makes me feel better when we're doing lessons like these that are new material for her. I felt bad taking her back to what is basically the beginning when she's a 3rd grader. I'm glad she is quickly learning some new stuff.

She easily understood today's lesson, which meant she wanted to take over the games and make up her own rules. LOL I told her that I needed to teach her the lesson and play the games the way they are in the book first, but if we had time later, we could try to play the games the way she wanted. It worked. ;)

The last part of the lesson was to recognize the pattern of evens and odds for 1-10, and she did that instantly, while she was laying out the cards! Then she mentioned that we are counting even numbers when we count by 2s. I reminded her that we also count by 2s starting with the number 1, so then we were counting by odd numbers. She thought that was funny!

When I mentioned we were going to play one more game (the pattern dot cards with the place value cards) she said, "Go to the Dump!" I said that that game wasn't in the plan for today. She said sadly, "Oh." So I told her after the lesson we could play Go to the Dump and she brightened up. We played 3 rounds and it is safe to say she knows all the combinations for 10 now! :)

Just two more days of Sun and Fun before we take our summer break! I believe this is the most productive summer of Sun and Fun that we've ever had!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Right Start B: Lesson 17

Yesterday, we continued with the games in Lesson 16 that are designed to solidify the facts that add up to 10. I decided to move on to Lesson 17 today, knowing that we could continue to play the games and work on the 10s facts.

Today's lesson was quite short, and that was good. We had a really busy weekend, followed by a crazy busy Monday, and I knew that it would be a challenging day for Sun and Fun. I declared today "Triple Sun Tuesday" in an attempt to smooth over any troubles anyone might have with their motivation! ;)

Still, Reece was a bit difficult during the new parts of the lesson. We changed up the "comes after" game to include the days of the week instead of numbers, and she flung herself on the ground. I remained neutral. After she did a couple, I invited her to say some days for me and I would tell what "comes after" but she didn't want to. That's unusual because she likes to take a turn to play the teacher role.

We worked a little on the abacus, which is usually her favorite part, but she was resistant. No problem. We did what we needed to do and moved on.

There was a new game to introduce today, but I decided to have it be a one-sided game to begin... meaning that only she would play. I didn't think there was any need to add competition when she was already on edge. She competed against herself and had fun. She did more counting that I wanted her to do, but I also wasn't going to push it much.

To wrap up, we played "Go to the Dump" which has quickly become a new favorite. Her whole demeanor changed. Had I known it would have gotten that reception, we would have begun with it instead! LOL She wanted to include Austin but he was playing the role of the cranky teenager, so we just played together. The coolest part came when I asked for a 3. She said, "Go to the dump" and then added... that means you have a 7! And grinned at me! ;) So those facts sure are getting into her, but also she may be gaining a bit of game-playing strategy!

I can't remember if I mentioned that I was able to find a used Level B Lessons and Workbook from the RightStart yahoogroup! It came yesterday, just in time for me to return my friend's materials to her tonight at book club! :) I just have a couple of manipulatives left to order, and I'll be going through the Level B book this afternoon to see how much they are required, or if I can get away with not ordering them. Then I'll be able to place my final order and be ready for planning next week!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Right Start B: Lesson 15 and 16

Sorry that I didn't have time to blog about math yesterday. We had a very busy day, including a neurologist appointment for Austin so I didn't have any time. Unfortunately, that means that my recollections of yesterday are going to be vague at best. :(

Lesson 15 is the beginning of learning the facts that add up to 10. Reece does have experience with this from Singapore Math, and from working on her facts in MUS Alpha. But I know she spends a lot of time counting in her head with them, so I want to help her get past that with RightStart. We used the tally sticks and abacus to partition 10, and the whole/part charts to find the missing part. Then we played a matching game to find pairs of numbers that equal 10. I loved her reaction when I got out the cards and told her we were going to play a game. She said, "Well, that's new." Cracked me up!

Today we began a lesson for mastery of the 10s facts that indicates it can take 2 or 3 days. This one did just a brief stint with the abacus and whole/part charts, but jumped right into two new games. We just did one game today, a version of Go Fish where you are trying to match up two facts that equal 10. She loves Go Fish, so it was perfect! I'm planning to continue to play at least one of the card games with her to keep working on the 10s facts. It's not hard since she enjoys playing cards so much!

One funny note... when we were doing our lesson, Riley was in the kitchen. She said, "I wish I had learned math that like when I was little." Awwww! :)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Right Start B: Lesson 14

Well, if I wasn't sold on Right Start before, lesson 14 did it!

The first thing was that one of the lingering issues in the back of my mind was resolved. I have been worried about the use of the abacus, and Reece's color obsession. The first part of that was helped when we started the new, larger abacus yesterday and she didn't have trouble. But I was still worried about her inability to transfer what seemed like a rather static usage to other areas. See, the beads have always been on the right and moved to the left to show the amount - meaning that the same color always is the first five (for our new abacus that would be blue) and the other color makes 6-10 (yellow in our case). But, today, we worked on showing the beads on the right instead (which changes the color arrangement)! And then we also worked on showing the numbers on our fingers to each other, which makes them show up "backward"! I was tickled! I was even more tickled that she didn't have any trouble at all.

The second part was that this lesson involved partitioning through 5 using the coins, and there were six word problems. You may remember that the final straw with MUS was when I realized that she was simply plugging the numbers into the equation. Today, these problems would be oral (read to her) and she would use the partition chart to solve them. She could also have used the abacus if necessary but she didn't need it. The instructions said to read the first problem and then wait. I love how they keep up the reminders to wait. As this first problem was straightforward, she didn't need much processing time. "M had two cents. She puts in 3 more pennies. How much does she have now?" She answered it easily.

The second problem was different. "B had 7 cents. She gave away 5 cents. How much does she have now?" I watched as Reece wrote the 7 and the 5 into the spaces for the "parts", and I waited to see what would happen next. She said, "Can I write a minus sign between them?" I said, "No, the numbers all have to fit into the circles you are given." I was about to give her a little more help when she said, "Oh... so the 7 needs to go in the big circle." And she set about to fix her own problem!

It was AWESOME!!!!!

Each of the problems was just slightly different - either by the usage of the name of the coin or the amount, or by it being a subtraction or addition problem. She really had to use her head. There were only 6 problems altogether, just enough to practice without overkill. She did need me to repeat a couple of the problems (mostly the amounts), but I wonder if that was because she was using most of her mental energy to attack the problem, so the actual amounts went by the wayside? She usually has great auditory memory. I wouldn't have a problem with her neglecting the static details if she was trying to focus on what the problem MEANT! :)

Now I find myself wishing we had done this a year or two ago. But I'll try to take comfort in the fact that maybe she wouldn't have been developmentally ready a couple of years ago.

Oh, and yet again she was being ornery while we were reviewing the coins. She thinks it's too funny to say "3 coins" so I'll make a funny face at her. @@

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Right Start B: Lesson 13

Now that I've decided to use Right Start, I wonder if I should continue with these posts. ;)

Today was the "dreaded" first money lesson. And to complicate matters even more, yesterday I received a box in the mail from a friend on the WTM message boards. She offered me her Level A materials for the cost of shipping. She said it would at least save me money on some of the manipulatives and card games. Oh, boy, did it! I am now basically able to buy the A-to-B Add on Kit! There are a couple of things I'm going to look ahead in the B manual I'm still borrowing to see if their use warrants purchase, but I'm going to end up saving about $30 at least.

But, her set came with an abacus that is much different than ours, larger and with different color beads. I really like it, but I wondered what Reece would think. I showed it to her yesterday and we got out my friend's abacus and talked about them being the mommy abacus and the baby. She said she likes the little one better, but she would say that because it's different.

So today we sit down for the lesson (she asked for math first, by the way)! And we did some review and then we started on the money. My goodness she was being ornery!! When I would ask her for the "amount" of money she would grin at me and say "3 coins" or "3 pennies" instead of "3 cents." Overall, I felt like she understood the lesson quite well. I was pleasantly surprised!

I would also like to admit that I'm pleased with myself that I'm not obsessing over the lack of daily worksheets! I was afraid that I would be! Maybe there is hope for me yet?!

One small step...

Yesterday, I ordered the bulk of the books I need for the 2010-2011 school year. I still have to get math for Reece, but I have everything else. This was a huge step because I've been so uneasy about plans for this year. I know, that's not surprising. But this year it's been on a deeper level because it really involves trusting the Lord more than myself. There are things I want to do (keep the kids together in the same history time period), things I feel we should do (usually those things that more closely resemble a traditional school curriculum), and things that really frighten me (keeping up with all these books with all three kids).

But ultimately I figured that I don't do a good job with trusting myself anyway. And every step along the way, from even before we got the diagnoses for first Reece and then Austin, the Lord has put people in my path who use both RDI and Charlotte Mason's philosophies. I mean, I was taking local workshops about the CM methods given by a nice lady named Sonya right at the time Reece was diagnosed. It was Sonya who invited me to her home and told me about RDI. This same Sonya who would begin Simply Charlotte Mason soon afterward. Then I learned more about CM by reading Tammy Glaser's site and blog and have become online friends with her (and hopefully one day we'll get to meet if I ever get back to SC to see my parents at THEIR house LOL). Since I don't hold much stock in coincidences, the only logical explanation is that the Lord has been leading me to embrace both RDI and CM. I guess it's a good thing He knows how stubborn and incompetent I would feel about both of these areas - He placed these people in my life before I even knew how much I would need them! :)

We've been using Charlotte Mason's methods now for almost 3 years. Well, I guess it's more reasonable to say that this will be our 4th year of using CM methods. As I have learned more about her methods I've been able to implement them more effectively and change what I was previously doing. Sometimes I'm more successful at these tasks than others! LOL Everything in me wants to revert back to more traditional methods. It made it so hard to order books this year because I have been fighting within myself.

So what made the difference? Why did I decide to go ahead and order the books and take the proverbial plunge?

Jury Duty.

I got a summons last week that requires me to report the week of August 2nd. This is the deferral I received from back in March when I was supposed to have Jury Duty but begged off under the homeschooling parent clause. I was really hoping they would have forgotten about me! :( Anyway, that particular week is the second week of my planning period. We start lessons the middle of the second week of August! And we have Sun and Fun up until the third week of July, then I plan the last week of July and first week of August. Well, apparently not this summer! LOL

There's just no more time for doubting. No more time for wondering if I'm doing the right thing. No more time for worrying if I'm making huge mistakes that will cost my children their future. I just have to go with the plan and pray that it works out in the way that it's supposed to. So the books are all ordered (except math which I hope to be able to order in the next two weeks), and they should be arriving right in time to begin planning!

Since I don't really have any confidence in myself right now, it's time to go back to my verse for 2010:

But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. (Jeremiah 17:7 NLT)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Right Start B: Lessons 11 & 12

These two lessons involved partitioning 5. I wasn't surprised that Reece understood this concept and that she knew all of these facts already. I decided to combine both lessons so she wouldn't get frustrated. I did make her show some of the problems on the abacus just so she would have practice with the concept of partitioning and how it looks and feels to do it with the abacus.

At the end of the lesson I told her that we'll be doing pennies and nickels tomorrow. She immediately balked - "I don't know which ones those are!" I smiled and said, "That's why there is a lesson on it. You're not supposed to know how to do it." It cracks me up. Riley is the same way: so frustrated and upset over a concept that I am preparing to teach, because she doesn't know it. Strange! LOL

As I was putting materials away, Reece said, "Wait! I know what a penny is - and it's worth one cent." "You're exactly right," I assured her. Then she walked away while muttering, "At least I know half of it!" ;)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Key to Fractions: Beginning Book 2

Austin completed Book 1 of the Key to Fractions series on Thursday. The last two pages were a "practice test" that I had him complete on his own. He missed 4 of the problems - all of the errors were due to language processing issues (not being able to understand what the problem was asking). I sat with him and asked him to re-read the problems slowly and out loud. It took him a little while, but he finally figured out what they were asking, and then he was able to answer the problems easily.

We began Book 2 yesterday, and I began our new approach to his lessons. I had read a book in called That Crumpled Paper was Due Last Week: Helping Disorganized and Distracted Boys Succeed in School and Life. While Austin is not distracted, he is disorganized, and this book was recommended on the WTM Special Needs message board and our library had it so I thought it couldn't hurt. In the book they profile different types of disorganized boys (and girls, btw, as I found Riley in the profiles - since she is BOTH disorganized and distracted! LOL). Austin fit the profile of the true struggling learner... a child who wants to desperately to do well, who works hard and tries his best and still falls short. The recommendations were mostly applicable to a traditional school setting, but one in particular resonated with me. Unfortunately I didn't write it down in detail (or narrate it immediately after reading) so you'll have to bear with my recollections. This may be hit or miss and any errors in interpretation are mine alone! :)

The suggestion was to make sure your struggling learner learns how to work independently. I am guilty of sitting with Austin for the majority of his work, to help "interpret" the language for him. As we approach high school, and with his goal of college and work, I simply cannot allow myself to sit with him and interpret everything. I notice quite a bit that he will simply tell me that he doesn't know, without even really trying, so that I will give him the answer. I'm doing too much of the thinking for him. And while my intentions were honorable, I'm afraid that I'm teaching him that he can't think for himself... that it's all too hard for him. And that is simply not true. But he does have to try, and I need to teach him some techniques that will assist him. (I have to say that readings in the RightStart teacher's manual and in Vol. 6 of Charlotte Mason's homeschool series helped to trigger what I remembered reading in this book. It was one of those "AHA!" moments!)

I began this approach yesterday. Usually, I will read the instructions to Austin. Today I asked him to read the instructions and he balked, as I knew he would, because it's different and he thinks he can't. So I said I would read them first, and then he could read them out loud. (This was something I read about on the RightStart site when I was researching the Intermediate Mathematics level for Austin). We did this and I asked him to tell me what he learned and what the instructions were asking. It was 4 sentences long. He said he didn't know. I asked him what he thought he needed to do since he read the instructions once and didn't understand. He just looked and me and shrugged. I said, "I'd probably read them again." He gave me a thoroughly teen glare! LOL He read it again and said it didn't make any sense at all. Nope, we're not giving up son. I suggested he read the first sentence. And then I asked him to tell me what he learned. When there were instructions for the lesson, he looked down at the first example and completed the task.

We used this approach for each sentence. In one sentence was an underlined word and I explained the significance of that (which he did remember for our brief attempt at Apologia General Science). In this case, the actual work page wasn't nearly as important as the lessons he was hopefully learning: how to help himself learn, how to actively engage his mind while he is working on a lesson, and that he is capable to do these things for himself. I'm really ashamed that it's taken me until he's an 8th grader to realize that I've neglected these areas, and that I have allowed him to feel like he's not a capable learner, despite his challenges.

But I think if I can help him overcome these problems this year, that will make high school much, much easier! I don't think it's too late at all!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Right Start B: Lesson 10

It's another one of those evening posts. I will do my very best and try to make it sound coherent! :)

Today we worked on problem solving. This was something very important to me, as one of the last straws with MUS Alpha was realizing that she was just putting the numbers in the blanks on the word problems to come up with the correct answers. She wasn't problem solving at ALL. Most of the time, she wasn't even reading the problems!! She was just finding the numbers and putting then in the equation!! @@

Today we used the tally sticks and the beloved abacus to solve simple problems. Then we also used the partition chart from yesterday to show in written representation what the problem feels like. This was GREAT!! I know from my experiences with Austin that the language processing problems my children on the spectrum have make problem solving very challenging. An example of that today was a problem where we started with a 2 and got to 5. With the way the sentence was worded, she wanted to add the 5 to the problem. I had to read the sentence 4 times before she finally processed what it meant. But she DID figure it out. And that was the important part. We're going to work on some more of those another time because it is that important to me that she understand it thoroughly. But at the same time, I don't want it to become static so that she starts to "plug and chug" again!!

She was a little more resistant today, but I think that was because we had a fun, busy day planned! She didn't really want to work when there was so much to look forward to! LOL When I let her know that we wouldn't be leaving to start our "FUN" until the work part of "SUN" was complete, she settled right down! ;)

On a sad note, I got outbid on the RightStart materials. Bummer. Now I need to decide if I want to just go ahead and order the set new from CBD or if I want to be patient and wait for another ebay auction.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Right Start B: Lessons 8 & 9

Lesson 8 was supposed to take 2-3 days, but we only spent about 5 minutes on it. I'm wondering if that is because she is older and has math experience. I certainly hope it's not something where I'm missing the point of the lesson and it will come back to bite me later. I'm looking at the objectives for the lessons and she seems to understand it all already - translating between written symbols and other representations of quantities. There are a couple of card games for reading quantities, and we can play those anytime we need to. She seems to be very good at reading the quantities, though. But we all love playing games together so that will be fun regardless.

So we moved on to Lesson 9 which is partitioning numbers. This is also something she has experience with through the Singapore Math program's Number Bonds (even though she didn't use the workbooks for long, she plays the CDrom which explores this concept with a game called "Super Number Cruncher"). She enjoyed it quite a bit, and understood it easily... filling in new partitions without even needing to work them out with the tally sticks first. And she was disappointed that we didn't use the abacus today! :)

I've decided to go with the RightStart program for Reece for this coming year. She seems to enjoy it, and it is not overly time-intensive. The price factor is a concern, but I'm bidding on the Level B materials on ebay and I bought an abacus and some of the card games from the WTM boards. And then I have the Level C materials for the next year. I figure I can at least go that far and see how it works!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Right Start B: Lessons 6 & 7

While I was going over the lesson this morning before teaching it to Reece, I realized that Lesson 6 and 7 were going to be fairly easy for her. I decided to attempt to combine them. I figured if I saw signs of a problem, I'd stop and pick up where we left off tomorrow.

But she had no troubles at all. Today's concepts were the quantities of 9 and 10, building 'stairs' on the abacus and discussing ordinal numbers, and the concepts of more and less.

Two things I thought were very interesting: First was the instruction to encourage the child to guess (when asking them how they thought a 10 would be shown with the tally sticks - which she got with no problem), and second, the instruction to pause for 3 seconds after turning the abacus upside down and noticing that the 'stairs' were different. Both of those things felt very "RDI-ish" to me, and I had made a mental note to allow our typical 30-40 seconds of processing rather than 3 seconds.

A funny thing about turning the abacus upside down: she did not like that ONE BIT! LOL I asked the question about what was different about the stairs, and she said, "Why don't we just turn it back the way it's supposed to go, ok?" in a very sweet teacher-ish sort of voice. I said, "I think the stairs look neat and different this way. Let's look at them for a bit longer." Then I did the pause, and prompted finally. She did say that they looked different, finally, though she didn't seem happy about it at all! It cracked me up! She did acknowledge that there were no beads on the top wire and we talked about the quantity of zero, which she already knew about.

And she was happy to turn the abacus back around when we were done with the lessons! ;) A few years ago, the upside-down abacus would have prompted a meltdown! And that reminds me, the last two days I've used the frog manipulatives for the lessons and she hasn't insisted they be in rainbow order! She did try to get me to use only the purple, but I told her that I thought using the same color all the time was terribly boring. LOL That's encouraging as well!

Tomorrow we begin using place value cards!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Right Start B: Lesson 5

I was apprehensive about today's lesson, since we haven't done math in a week and a half, and Reece has had a pretty rough week. My expectations were such that if new material could not be taught today, we would at least play around with tally sticks, fingers, and the abacus to review what we had done before.

I was very pleased with how much she has retained. I did have to remind her during her first try with the tally sticks to not count them, but to see the quantity in her head and set them up that way. And I also had to remind her when we used the abacus for the first time. But I don't think that's all that unusual.

Today's quantity was 8, and it went very well. We also did a new thing where I set up quantities behind a folder and removed the folder for a second or two for her to see it quickly - basically where she wouldn't have time to count. I was afraid this would tip her frustration, but it didn't. She was able to tell the quantities easily!

The next part was a bit harder. They do something called "taps" which is to hear quantities auditorily. I knew this would be harder with her auditory processing challenges. But they work them in patterns where it's tap-tap-tap-tap-TAP so that 5 is easily identifiable. And then if you're doing more, there is a slight pause and then tap-tap, etc. Once she figured out that the louder tap was 5, it was a piece of cake!

I love it when I'm pleasantly surprised!! :)

That was easy!

Yesterday I finally broke the news to Reece about her BFF moving away. She took it much better than I expected! I had been waiting for a "good time" to tell her. Last week didn't work because of art camp, and I didn't want her perserverating over it during camp. Then my mom was here over the weekend for Austin's "Nana Birthday" and to watch Reece on Sunday morning while I ran in a 4th of July race. That was a lot of commotion to process right after camp, plus she doesn't sleep well while my mom is here. Then yesterday was no better because she was out of sorts all day for some reason.

But I was running out of time. We would be seeing her BFF in the evening while the big sisters had a dance class together!

Finally, about an hour before we had to leave I just called her to me and told her that we needed to talk. I told her it was sad news, but that she was old enough to be told about things so she could have time to accept them. Then I asked her to think about Lake Superior - she loves Lake Superior from our study of Paddle-to-the-Sea. I asked her if she remembered a state near Lake Superior called Minnesota and she said yes.

Then I said that her BFF and their family was moving to that state. Big tears filled her eyes. She asked me why and I said that their daddy got a job there. But that we should be happy for them because they will be back near their grandparents again! And we can write letters to them and be pen pals.

She cried for just a few minutes and said that she wasn't happy about it, and I agreed that I wasn't happy, either. And I hugged her, and said that we needed to get ready to go play with her friend in just a little while. And she was OK.

On the way to the dance studio she asked me if I could bring a camera to take a picture of her with her BFF so she can keep it in her room. What a great idea! I'll bring my camera next week, and then I can print out a picture of the two girls together, stick it in a frame, and Reece can give it to her to take with her - and Reece can have a copy at home. Reece also wants to have her over for a playdate. They live really far from our house, but maybe we can arrange that... or their mom suggested a playdate at their house (which is larger and has more room to play than ours does! LOL). But they are very busy in the next couple of weeks trying to get everything ready to go, and flying up to find a new house.

I'm not sure if it went well because she doesn't really understand what's going on, or if she is just accepting it. Regardless, it wasn't as bad telling her as I was afraid it would be! :)

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Summer Camp Frustrations

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that Reece is an artist. She loves to draw, paint, and create. She gets this from her older sister, without a doubt. It's also a gift that God has given her. Since I'm not at all artistic, I try to nurture this gift as well as I can, but it's not easy. I try the best I can to find outlets and fun classes for their artistic gifts, but it is trickier for Reece. For several years, Riley went to a wonderful art camp through the local United Methodist Church. In this 4.5 hour day camp, they learned about the world of art through God's perspective. They learned new techniques, and they also learned about artists. It was great!

But it wasn't a good fit for Reece. First, it was held outdoors at the UMC campground, right next to a 2-lane highway. Reece has a tendency to wander still, though it's not so bad as it used to be, it would make me nervous for her to be at a camp so near a busy road. Second, Reece has issues with bugs. If there were bugs flying around, and if they came near to her, she would have a meltdown. And last, she still has those random meltdowns in group situations that makes it a challenge for her to participate successfully.

Last year, I was thrilled when the local autism support group offered an art camp. I signed Reece up right away. She had a couple of rough days at the beginning, as she usually does. And she lamented the lack of girls that is always a problem with autism-specific activities. But she had a good time overall, and even made the cover of the local newspaper when they did a feature on the camp.

This year I signed her up again, without fully considering the changes she has undergone with regards to her development. She was eager to attend camp, too, which pleased me. The first day went poorly. This year's camp was in a new location, and though I knew I had prepared her in advance for that prospect, she was not prepared inside. This year her teachers were familiar with her from last year, so we didn't get the comments about homeschooling again, which was nice. She was upset when I picked her up... complaining about the lack of "real art" that she was doing. She cried that she wanted to learn how to make her art realistic, and nobody would tell her how.

In her bag, there was a note that the next day would be "water play" and we were to send a swim suit, towel, etc. This was disappointing. I remembered that last year they had water play, but if I remembered correctly it was only one day. Then when I dropped her off on Tuesday, the teacher also said that the therapy dogs were coming. So during the 4 hours, they would have water play, therapy dogs, snack, lunch - not much time for art, huh? When I picked up my happy girl on Tuesday, she told me they had done "free draw" (crayons and paper).

Wednesday she was eager to go to camp again. It was another water play day. And when I picked up my happy girl, she told me that they were supposed to make bag puppets but that she didn't want to do that so they let her do "free draw" again.

Thursday repeated the same thing. My very happy girl was disappointed that camp was over but was excited to show me her art (and yes, they had water play again!). I was very disappointed to see 3 projects in her bag, all of which were more appropriate for a 2-3 year old preschool class, not a class for middle elementary aged children. Now this might have been ideal for a classroom full of children with high-functioning autism, but not not so much for mine who has a very artistic mind. I mean, the same child who chose to imitate Monet's Japanese Bridge with Water Lilies for the art exhibit brought home a paper plate lion head with drawn-on eyes, and glued strips of paper for the mane!! It was ridiculous! I spent $150 for 4 days of that???

Yet again, I can't find a working solution for my child with autism. What I need is a real art class/camp that will accept an 8 year old child who has difficulty in group settings, but who has a real passion for authentic art. She is highly capable! One of her favorite things to do is to take our current art study picture and copy it using crayons or colored pencils. She showed her latest one to my mother yesterday when she came to visit and she told her, "I included lots of the details!"

Next year, when she's 9, I'm going to see if I can get her into the art camp through the UMC church. It's no longer at the campground, rather it's in the church building now. And they are very accommodating of her needs during their VBS program. Reece has experienced such growth this year, perhaps next summer will find her able to manage group activities much more easily? Also, I could pay Riley to attend the camp with her as a shadow if she needs it. Even if I paid her $50, the camp costs $50 for five 4.5 hour days, so I'm still looking at $50 less than the art camp through the autism support group.

It's so frustrating when your kids don't fit in anywhere. :(