Friday, May 28, 2010

Summer is almost here!

We school year round here at the Black Pearl Academy, but those of you who have been reading my blog for the last few years know that we sort of shift focus in the summertime to what is known as "Sun and Fun". (Here is a post from last year where I shared in detail how it works!)

This year our plans will be a little more academic than they usually are, for a couple of reasons. The first one is that we didn't start our lessons last year until close to September. The second reason is that we took more days off than I had planned this year. And the third is that the kids are getting older and there are just more things that need to be accomplished.

I will finalize these plans within the next two weeks, but this is what I am planning so far:
  • Daily reading for Austin and Riley of 45 minutes each. Both of them are finished with their reading lists for the school year so they will be able to choose their reading, within reason. Reece will read for 10 minutes a day.
  • Math will be our regular math since we are not as far along as I would like us to be, especially for Austin. It is my goal for him to be finished with Pre-Algebra by the end of next summer so he can start Algebra 1 in 9th grade. He has half of the MUS Zeta book left, and then all of Pre-Algebra. We won't push things, but we will do our best to get to Algebra 1 on time.
  • Riley will work on her math book 2 days a week, multiplication/division drill 2 days a week, and then she will do Your Business Math on Fridays. She will continue Your Business Math on Friday through the next school year. I would love for Austin to do those as well, but I just don't see where we'll have the time.
  • Reece will do her regular math 3 days a week, and math games 2 days a week.
  • Latin review for the big kids (Austin has a few lessons to finish as well). They will work on the vocabulary they have learned this past year. Riley will have her recitation for Latin as well. I don't want to lose the progress we have made. And that includes me, since I'm learning along with them! LOL
  • I'd like them to do some sort of writing each day, but I do not know what that will look like yet.
Informally, we have a few books to finish up - Story of the World, Vol. 3 and Mystery of the Periodic Table. We can listen to SOTW on CD in the car on the way to the pool, and the other book won't take too much longer to finish. I feel like I'm forgetting something. Hmmm...

Anyway, we will do Sun and Fun starting the middle of June up through the last week of July. Then I will take 2 weeks to plan, and we'll jump into our new school year in early August!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A difficult decision

We came to a difficult decision this week. After 4 years (well, really 3.5 years since she took off a semester last year) of dance, Reece will not be returning to ballet in the fall. This was an especially hard thing for me to handle because it feels like a failure, even though I knew from the first day of her ballet class that this point was going to come eventually.

Dance class can be hard for a child with autism. There's music, and on top of the music is a teacher giving you auditory instruction. Then there are girls around you who might be talking. There is a big mirror that can be very distracting. And that's not even taking into consideration the ballet moves themselves which can be very challenging. I didn't realize exactly how challenging until I started ballet myself last fall.

Until this year, Reece was fairly oblivious to her differences. During her first two years of dance, I would often peek in through the window and find her licking the big wall mirror. It was horrific. I talked to her dance teacher about what we should do, and she said, "Stop looking in the window!" LOL

Last year during the move up from preschool ballet to the primary level, Reece struggled significantly. We ended up dropping out for a semester, but she re-joined her class after the Christmas holidays. It was a delightful year, and she absolutely loved the recital for the first time. But her teacher suggested having her repeat the same level of class the following year, since she was still having a really hard time with the barre work.

So we began in a new class, with new girls. And these girls hadn't grown up with Reece since they were 3-4 years old, and they were not very accepting of her differences. In fact, some of them were quite mean. Reece cried a lot. It was hard to bring her to class every week. But then the whole forgiveness thing happened with the girl who was causing the most trouble, and they became immediate "BFFs". Reece loved going to ballet again!

But the other aspects of the class were not getting any better. She looked completely out of place even among girls who are 2 years younger than she is. The time had finally arrived, and really only a year before the age where I knew she wouldn't be able to keep up. I've seen Riley progress through all these levels, so I know what is expected from the girls at each level.

Our recital is this weekend. I am extremely sad. Honestly, I just want it to be over. If I could go to sleep tonight and wake up on Monday and have it be over, I would do so in a heartbeat! I'm tired of everything being so hard for my kids. I'm going to be backstage mom again so I can be there to handle anything that might happen. I hate that I have to be.

One last picture of this year's costume... the photographer said, "One - two - three - say I'm a chicken!" and she replied, with the smile still on her face, "I am not a chicken." LOL Both her dance teacher and I were happy though because the first or second year of dance when the photographer tried to say something like that, she burst into tears.

She's definitely not a chicken... she's a very brave girl! She's going to be on stage on Sunday! :)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

OOPS.... I did it AGAIN! ;)

The Lord let me know, on the way to church, that I was doing it again. What is "it", you may ask?

Not TRUSTING and snatching things back.

I firmly believe that God gave me the direction for the kids' education. He will work out the details like the Renaissance Festival and Washington, D.C.

I was debating deleting the previous post since I figured it was Sunday morning and most of my friends wouldn't have read it. But I decided to leave it up as an example of how quickly I forget to TRUST. It's embarrassing, but maybe it'll help someone else.

I'll leave you with the verse that God gave me a few weeks ago, and that I added to the title of my blog:

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


In all my excitement yesterday, I totally forgot some important things I had planned for us to do in the future that really necessitates us being on the same time period in history. One is the Renaissance Festival, and the other is a trip to the D.C. area in a few years.

Now, I realize that we don't have to be studying the same time period of history to enjoy a trip to either of those locations. Either one can be a preview for those who haven't started that time period, or a review for those who have recently done that time period.

But that's just not how I roll! LOL

So Austin and Riley will still do Modern, but they will still do it independently from each other. Reece? I'm not so sure. I have The American Story, so I'll have to look through it to see how the modern era stories play out. We could also do a geography emphasis because she adores the Holling C. Holling geography books!

Anyway, I'm going to have to go back to the drawing board, somewhat. I should have known it couldn't be that easy! ;)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The planning continues...

I've had a few moments of self-doubt in the 8 days since I wrote my last post on planning for the next school year. OK, who am I trying to kid? I've had TONS of self-doubt. I wouldn't be Niffercoo without the self-doubt, right? ;)

Anyway, through the doubt I've managed to come back to my original plans time and again, which is comforting. And unlike previous years, I've also managed not to "save" any of the crazy changing that I've done to my book lists! LOL So what I have been able to accomplish this last week is to pull together all the books that I need that I already own, and create a wish list on amazon for the ones I will need to purchase. My next step will be to make a handy-dandy spreadsheet organized by title and by last name to take with me to the various book sales and to the used book store this spring and summer, to see if I can get any of these books at a discount!

I'll be back to running three histories again next year, which will be challenging but I'll manage. I ran two programs this year, one with the big kids and one with Reece, and I survived. More and more this year, Austin does not like having to wait for Riley to get to listen to his history lesson, so I'll go ahead and separate them. I was going to separate them in 2011 anyway, since that will be Austin's first year of high school, so we'll just start that early.

Austin will be doing Modern history. Riley will be doing Modern history, too... but at a slower pace (finishing first term next year). Reece will be starting back over with history (more like middle ages), as both my husband and I agree with Susan Wise Bauer (author of the Story of the World series the big kids are wrapping up) that it's best to skip the modern age with one so young as Reece. Their programs follow Ambleside, with modifications thrown in as I see fit. I find it easier for me to start with the framework of Ambleside and replace individual components than to start from scratch. And besides, if I start looking at too many lists - trying to mesh them - I just end up overwhelmed and frustrated. We have thoroughly enjoyed Ambleside's selections, even though they can be quite challenging. When I come across one that I do not believe will work for one of the kids, I just replace it with something else. I know, I know... it sounds simple. But you wouldn't believe how long it took me to come to terms with that one! LOL

Right now, the only subject I have not decided upon is Logic. Riley will be finished with the MindBenders puzzles soon, and she wants to start on Logic Liftoff that Austin has been using this year. There are 2 more books in the series, but I'm not sure I want to keep going with them since they are just workbooks. I like the looks of Fallacy Detective and Thinking Toolbox, but Ambleside lists those for Year 10 and 11 respectively, so I am assuming it requires a more mature thinker. I'll have to keep thinking on that one.

I'm really getting excited about next year. It's too bad we can't just call this year good and start over fresh in August! LOL

Friday, May 07, 2010

Planning season has arrived!

My favorite time of year: Warm temperatures. Yellow pollen covering the cars (at least here in Georgia!). Trees blossoming and budding. The Sonlight catalog in my mailbox!

Planning season is yet again upon us! :)

I'm a compulsive planner... even when I was a little girl, I can remember making lists and planning things out months ahead of time. I come by it honestly, though. When we were planning my wedding, my mother made a spreadsheet for the guest list and to keep track of things we had to do. If I'm not mistaken, she still HAS that spreadsheet in a binder somewhere! When I was pregnant with Austin, she made another spreadsheet for all of the stuff we(SHE) had purchased for him. My dad makes spreadsheets for the fishing/camping trips he goes on with Austin and my husband. And any Disney trip is not complete without it's on spreadsheet. I enjoy the planning part nearly as much as the trip itself!!

So would it come as a surprise that I would enjoy planning for homeschooling as much as I do? ;)

I have had a love-hate relationship with homeschool planning over the years, though. It stems from a lack of confidence in my ability to know what is best for my children, and feeling like I need someone else to tell me what to do. It also stems from the "grass is greener" syndrome and my perfectionism run amok. But I'm much better at that now. One would hope so since next year will be our 9th year of homeschooling! LOL

That's not to say that I still don't second-guess myself. My last post was all about comparing myself to others... so, of course, that would relate to curriculum choices as well. But I'm trying to make a conscious effort to trust in the path that I have chosen and that ultimately I have felt God leading us to follow. On Wednesday, I spent the evening working on book lists for next year. I am still using Ambleside as our basis as it seems that our favorite books over the last couple of years have been from there. But I have had to make adjustments for our particular circumstances, so it becomes a little more involved than just copying and pasting the lists. So I spent a few hours making my selections, so I can begin figuring out which titles I already own and which I need to be looking for at sales and used book stores in the coming months.

But then yesterday morning, 12 hours or so after all this work was completed, while I was out running, I heard doubts creep into my head. "It's just a lot of reading and narrating. Shouldn't there be something more? Shouldn't there be something else? Austin's nearly in high school." I recognize this voice so well by now. I pushed it to the back of my mind.

And then I signed on to Facebook and at the top of my news feed was this link from a friend: A College Instructor's Advice to Parents of Middle and High Schoolers. In this article, she outlines the things she feels are most crucial for future success both in college and in the workplace - reading and summarizing, thinking about, and writing about what you've read (aka narration). I couldn't help but smile! :)

So the majority of next year's curriculum decisions have been made! My next step is to acquire all of these treasures. And then finally to use the information I learned in Planning Your Charlotte Mason Education from Simply Charlotte Mason to get it all organized for our school year!

But that third step will have to come in the summer... since we're still wrapping up THIS year's academics! LOL

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Reflections on a Saturday afternoon

It's been one heck of a year for me. I've learned so much about myself through my running (and now biking and swimming as well). I posted a couple of weeks ago about learning lessons about myself in my running, and today I posted about an identity crisis I've been experiencing. As I experience both of these situations, attack them, make my way through them - whatever is the best description - I'm finding that I have parallel issues in my parenting/homeschooling journey.

One of the reasons I loved running so much when I started was the control I was able to have. If my schedule said that I was going to run 20 minutes in a row, I did it. The only thing that could stop me was myself. I didn't allow outside circumstances to hinder me... not rain, sleet, snow, bitterly cold weather (for GA LOL), nasty hot weather. It didn't matter! I ran. I made my goals and I met my goals. It felt great. Home educating children on the autism spectrum - or rather, home educating MY children on the autism spectrum was not that simple. I would make goals, and I wasn't able to meet them. It wasn't up to me. The outside circumstances - autism and its related issues, epilepsy and its related issues, puberty and its related issues - were beyond my control. It was horrible for a goal-oriented box-checker such as me.

But lately in running, I've been comparing myself to others around me. And it's not been a good thing. It has resulted in that same feeling that I have had with home education: yet again, I fail to measure up.

As I reflect on this problem, I find the key factor is that I'm comparing myself to others, both in home education and now in running. (I recognize this is a big problem for me in home education because I have to avoid reading certain message boards because they make me feel inadequate.) I remember reading in one of the books by my favorite running author, John "The Penguin" Bingham, that you have to accept the runner there are certain things (like your genetics) that are beyond your control.

Perhaps if I can learn this lesson in running - to accept that I am doing the best that I can do with what I have, no matter what someone else's "best" looks like - then I can apply this lesson to home education. Austin got a shirt for Christmas that says, "Whatever your 100% looks like, give it." Our 100% at the Black Pearl Academy isn't going to look like someone else's 100%, even compared to other families dealing with autism and/or epilepsy and/or puberty. We all have different stuff we're dealing with. And this is especially true when I try to compare us with folks who have NT kids, which is where I get the most discouraged.

I need to get this under control within myself, so I can help Austin get it under control. He told us on Thursday that he has no future. His words. I told him that wasn't true, that the Bible promises him a future, and a good one (Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. NLT). We were on our way to the unveiling of the art exhibit that I mentioned in this post, and Riley and Reece were talking about what they wanted to be when they grew up. They asked Austin and he replied that it didn't matter since he doesn't have a future anyway. It absolutely breaks my heart to hear him talking this way. He's comparing himself to others, to Riley for sure. Academics are incredibly hard for him. It's not his fault, and I know for a fact that he gives me his 100%! He is such a hard-working guy, and if he will keep that up, it will serve him so well in his adult life. I think that will be my biggest goal for him next year - to help him identify his own strengths, and to help him start to figure out how he can use those strengths to accomplish the future that God as in store for him.

If I'm going to be able to continue to home educate my children, I've got to stop comparing us to everyone else. The resulting feelings of inadequacy are more than I can handle. I do not think it's God trying to call us away from home education, either, though that has crossed my mind on more than one occasion. Instead, I think it's a combination of my spiritual immaturity (so frustrating after 12 years of being a Christian) that makes it hard to TRUST in the Lord like I'm supposed to, and my difficulty in properly reflecting on situations (assessing things as they truly are, not as they seem or feel).

As I begin to plan for our next school year, I hope I can keep this in the front of my mind!