Monday, December 31, 2012

Farewell, 2012!

Usually I am ready and willing to bid farewell to the old year and hoping that this new year is a better one.

This year, while I am ready to bid farewell to the old year, it is for a totally different reason.

I am ready and excited to see what this New Year has to offer.

2012 was a year of enormous change for me. There was loss. There was sadness. There was frustration. There was fear.

But there was also growth. More growth than I think I have ever experienced in one year. You can't have growth as a Christian without some of the bad stuff. At least that's what I think. There was some stuff in my heart that had to be purged. And it hurt. But I'm better off without it. I truly believe that.

My Word of the Year for 2012 has been Courage, and I think I lived up to it this year. I had to do a number of things that required a lot more courage than I have ever had before. I only did it through Jesus. Plain and simple. I simply do not have that kind of courage on my own.

Though this year was a painful one, I think the biggest thing I learned through it all was how to be dependent on God in everything I do. And while I still need daily practice, I have come so much further along than I was this time last year! So for that reason, I do not lament a single experience that occurred in 2012. They have shaped me and changed me for the better!

So I look back on 2012 and I am thankful. And I anticipate living out the story that God is writing in my life in 2013! He is the best author!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Just sayin...

"How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation's refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?" - NRA response statement to the Sandy Hook tragedy.

Having a mental illness is NOT A CRIME.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Going "Coast to Coast" to support families with Autism!

In honor of my 5th year of running, I decided to raise money through Train 4
Autism for Spectrum, our local autism support group. I set my goal race to run the Princess Half Marathon at
Disney World in February and my goal amount was $500. I wanted to be able to Pay
It Forward for when Austin and Reece attended Spectrum summer camp on scholarship a few years ago.

Well, today, I am happy to announce that I'm also going to be running a half
marathon at Disneyland in January, only 5 weeks before the Princess Half
Marathon! Run Disney calls this the Coast to Coast Challenge!

Now you may be wondering what this means for the fundraising I am doing for
Spectrum?! Well, I figure Double the Miles? Double the Races? Double the GOAL!!

Yep, instead of raising $500 to send two children with autism to Spectrum's
summer camp - I am shooting to raise $1000 to send FOUR children to summer camp!

If you would like to support my efforts, you can donate online through my
personal fundraising page\

Please feel free to share this link with your friends and family! I have already
raised $325 towards my goal! No amount is too small! Thank you in advance!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Just one word

We are nearing the end of 2012 and you know what that means...

It's almost time to pick a Word of the Year for 2013!

I first started doing this in 2008, and it has been a wonderful way to set a focus for the year without doing "resolutions" (which just aggravate me to no end). Also, it has been exciting to look back at the Word of the Year and see how it has played out.

This year's Word has been Courage. You can click the link above to read why! And I already have my Word picked for 2013... but I'm not gonna tell you what it is! :D

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Term 2 begins!

We have started Term 2 officially! It's always difficult to come back from a holiday and it has been no exception at the Black Pearl Academy! But we're pushing through!

The focus for the next 4 weeks for Austin and Riley is for them to take more responsibility for their schedules. They started this week in planning out their assignments and which days to do which assignments, and they will also be in charge of getting themselves out of bed in time to complete their work. I'll let you know how it works out! They seem to be happy with the scheduling independence - Austin calls it being in charge of his own destiny! LOL But we'll see how they like getting themselves out of bed! :)

For Reece, we're working on her reading more of her own lessons. She struggles with comprehension when she reads to herself but not when she is being read to. Unfortunately I simply don't have time to read everything to her. She does not like pre-recorded books, either, which is quite annoying. She struggled with comprehension of her literature book today, but gave me an amazing narration on a rather challenging section of her world history book! I don't think one is easier to read than another, or if it's related to ASD (Austin struggles with comprehension and enjoyment of fiction).

So those are our goals for the 4 weeks until Christmas break!! 4 short weeks! SQUEE!!!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Term 1 Reflections

This week we are taking the entire week off from lessons because we are finished with Term 1! I thought we could stand a nice long break - we have only taken a day off here and there since the end of August!

We definitely have some things to tweak in Term 2, but overall I think Term 1 went quite well.

Reece finished Junior Analytical Grammar and absolutely loved it! It is designed to be an 11 week program and then you're done with grammar until middle school, but she enjoys parsing and diagramming so much, I'm sure we'll keep up with some of her own sentences that she writes.

Riley has had a much calmer year so far this year and is nearly finished with Pre-Algebra and Latin. I have Algebra 1 and Henle Latin 1 ready for her to start probably after the New Year - her first official high school level courses! WOW!

Austin has had much more success with Algebra 1 recently. He has really gotten the handle of the slope-intercept form for graphing equations, and he seems to be retaining what he is learning. This in itself boosts his confidence and makes the next lesson that much easier! Biology is still a killer, but he is just doing his best to push through it!

The biggest change for Term 2 will be in scheduling and assignment sheets. Austin and Riley have requested the freedom to plan out their own weeks, and this was something that the neuropsych had recommended for Austin (and Reece, even) to start doing. So I think it's time to jump into it. I will give them each a list of work at the beginning of the week, and a blank assignment sheet. They will schedule their work (roughly) and I will look it over and point out any potential flaws. My only 2 requirements are that math and foreign language must be done every single day. After several weeks I will no longer require them to check their schedules in with me first, so long as they have all work completed by the end of the week! This way they can learn to manage their time better and decide for themselves which days they want to work harder or have a lighter day.

Also, in Term 2, I am going to add in some Latin for Reece, I think. I would also like to make sure she gets a few more hands-on, creative projects to extend her learning. She will enjoy it and she really does have plenty of time in her day, at least for right now.

For now, though, we're just going to enjoy our week off! We have all worked very hard and we deserve a little down-time!

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Changing Attitudes

If you thought from reading the title that this is going to be a post about homeschooling teenagers, you'd be right. But not for the reasons that you may be thinking.

The attitudes I am changing are my own.

Yeah. I'm guilty of having a bad attitude when it comes to homeschooling my teens. I'm also guilty of not trusting God with their futures. OUCH. Double-whammy.

My Bible study time this morning really whacked me upside the head with this reality.

"What I want instead is your true thanks to God;
     I want you to fulfill your vows to the Most High. 
Trust me in your times of trouble,
     and I will rescue you, 
     and you will give me glory."  - Psalms 50: 14-15

All God wants from me is genuine thanksgiving (praise) and trust in Him! Check out this other verse from today's readings. And these are not pre-chosen readings. I am just working my way through books of the Bible in a random order. But God takes the 'random' and uses them to His purpose.

"They look everywhere except to heaven, to the Most High." - Hosea 7:16a

How guilty I am of this one? I lament, I question, I complain - I rarely pray over it. I get a bad attitude with my kids and worry that they won't be productive adults. And I go on and on and on instead of praying and trusting and basically acting like the grown-up.

Yes, this is a huge responsibility. But worrying myself into a frenzy doesn't help. Telling myself that I never should have started homeschooling in the first place doesn't change the fact that we HAVE been homeschooling for 10 1/2 years and those plans do not appear to be changing. Comparing my kids to everyone else's kids like I have anything to prove to ANYONE is ridiculous and defeats the purpose of why I am homeschooling in the first place. Pushing pressure on my children to be a certain way is just my ego run wild. It's not really about the kids. It's about me. And that's not what I'm supposed to be doing.

This year's word is Courage. And instead of being courageous I am cowering in fear of the future which makes me have a bad attitude.

"I command you - be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." - Joshua 1:9 

 Pray. Trust. Praise.

I've got 2 1/2 years left of high school with Austin, and Riley will be beginning her high school next school year. Do I really want it to be this way for them?

Pray. Trust. Praise.

Friday, November 02, 2012

I just have to say it again!

If I post again about how much fun Reece is to homeschool right now, will you send me hate mail??

Well, send it on, then!

She is SO MUCH FUN right now! LOL

The most recent example was this week when we were learning about "Check Numbers" in math. I had been hearing all sorts of horror stories about them on the yahoogroup for RightStart Mathematics, so I purposely added some extra time into our schedule to allow for covering them.

To my surprise, I realized that I knew what they are already. My grandfather taught high school math, and he used to show me all sorts of wonderful things that numbers can do. I remember him calling them "magic numbers" but when I talked to my mom about it she didn't think he would have called them "magic" because he would have wanted to use the proper term. What we think likely happened is that he taught them to me and I probably said it was magic and the name stuck in my head! LOL

Anyway, Reece was frustrated with the lesson. It had her using a chart to find these "Check Numbers" and she wanted more. She wanted to know WHY. The next lesson was all about finding them for yourself so I went ahead and told her what they are and how you find them. If the number is 34, you add the digits 3+4 and get 7 and that is its check number!

She was very impressed and excited. "This is SO MUCH FUN" she exclaimed after each problem! She didn't even use the chart anymore! LOL Riley told her to stop making them (she and Austin) look so bad! Hee hee

One day I promise to update on Austin and Riley's work. Honestly, Riley has mellowed out considerably this year and we make it through 90% of our days with no arguing. But her work habits are much different from mine (and Austin's... and Reece's... LOL) and it drives me BATTY! I need to work on letting that go and embracing who God made her to be, even if that's the sort of person who waits until the last minute and then rushes around to finish things like a chicken with her head cut off. ;)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A cause for celebration!

Austin scored a 100% on his Algebra 1 test yesterday!! I can't begin to describe how proud he was of himself. He even joked that he might want to frame it!

He has worked really hard and the study techniques we learned from his testing are helping quite a bit! YAY

I am so proud of him. And he is proud of himself and has a little more confidence in his ability to learn Algebra! :)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

School Year 2012-2013: Term 1 Update

Well, hello there! I'm still in the land of the living, though some days you may not be able to tell! LOL We are about 2/3 of the way through Term 1, so here is a little update for you!

This year of homeschooling has been really hard! The kids' behavior and attitudes have actually been phenomenal, it's just the amount of work we are trying to accomplish. It takes absolutely forever! And by the time I get everything graded and discussed (and narrations are falling by the wayside which bugs the heck out of me - they are the foundation and I slack off on them! @@) it's time to read the stuff for the next day's work. I am wiped out!!

I've switched back to MUS Algebra 1 for Austin. Jacob's Algebra didn't work for him for a number of reasons, which I recognized fairly quickly. Surprisingly enough, he seems to be doing a little bit better than he was with MUS before. One thing I am doing is making him write out everything, instead of being his scribe. I think, in this case, he needs the experience of writing it down. Also, I am helping him to create a set of "notes" for Algebra that includes definitions and formulas. He keeps these out during his work and can refer back to them for assistance. It seems to be helping, and he is gaining confidence which is awesome!

I taught the big kids an essay unit using "Teaching the Essay" by Robin Finley of Analytical Grammar. It was quite an experience! You can tell my kids aren't used to doing 'group' activities. They bickered with each other nearly the entire time! LOL But in the end, they learned how to write a 5 paragraph literary essay. It was a piece of cake for Riley, who is a natural writer. Austin struggled more, naturally. He needs more of the step-by-step process from Writing With Skill and he will continue that book. But at least he is familiar with the concept of the 5 paragraph essay and we can build on that if we decide to have him take the SAT.

Reece is a homeschool mama's dream come true. She LOVES her school work - though she does not love to DO it. But she is really doing well, and she takes joy in doing well. The only area where she is struggling is in Writing. This level of Writing With Ease requires her to read the selection herself instead of having it read to her. She is struggling with comprehension when she has to read to herself. It was extremely frustrating to her at first, but now that we're a few weeks in, she is getting better and not getting quite so frustrated. She really does not like to read to herself, and I assume that the reason why is that she comprehends better when she is read to. So we keep working on it!

I have to admit that I've been wondering if a switch to textbooks - and teacher's guides - would be better for me. If I could have something that would help me not have to read each and every thing my kids are reading, that would be so helpful. I just run out of time trying to get everything done and it's so darn frustrating! I feel like I'm letting my kids down and giving them a sub-par education because I cannot keep up with everything - and I've already combined Riley and Austin and switched to the 'Lite' version of Ambleside Year 9. I'm not sure what else there is to let go of and still maintain a "high school level" of work. So then I think that textbooks would be easier on me. But that feels like an even worse failure! LOL What I need are a few extra hours in the day! I wonder where I can order those from?! ;)

That's about it for today. I am going to try to get better about posting regularly again. I hesitate so much lately because I don't want to be a downer. With Austin fast-approaching 16 and a half, I have been on a roller coaster of emotions. I find myself wishing we had never homeschooled in the first place. When I mentioned that to my husband, though, he told me that of all the decisions we've made in our married lives, he believes that homeschooling has been the one that he never questions. That is encouraging to me for sure. But right now, my perspective is a little off. I've been praying about it, though. It just seems like it would be so much easier if we would have had my income all this time, and have had some more help navigating the world of special needs and transition to adulthood. But God loves my kids more than I do, so I am trying to trust in His plans... which seems to have included homeschooling in them. ;)

I appreciate any of you who have been sticking with me - and any of you who are jumping in for the first time!

Monday, October 01, 2012

7 Years Ago...

7 years ago yesterday (September 30, 2005), the word autism joined our family's vocabulary. In honor of this milestone, I'd like to announce that I will be running the Princess Half Marathon in 2013 with Train 4 Autism. This organization will help me raise money for Spectrum, our local autism support group that helped me so much when our kids were first diagnosed. I am hoping to raise $500 to help two children with autism attend a week of summer camp next year!
 Here is the link to my fundraising page:  Jennifer's Train for Autism page 
I thank you in advance for any donations! No amount is too small! :)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Third week just about done

It's been 3 weeks, but we are not settling into this new school year well at all. I'm going to give it a few more weeks - I am training for a triathlon in 2 weeks - and see how things settle in during October when I'm not so busy. Then I'll see if I still believe adjustments need to be made.

It feels like all I do all day long is rush everyone (including myself) around all day. And that's no good for any of us. We don't do "Rush Rush Rush" well. We need to find a good balance between academics and dance for Riley, and academics and the essential need for brain-recharging down-time for Austin and Reece. And I need to have some time where I'm not prepping for lessons, teaching lessons, grading lessons, cleaning the house, cooking meals, or training for something. I know that's the status quo for most families, but we learned early on in RDI that it simply doesn't work well for our family (unless we are at Disney, but we do crash hard mentally and physically when we get home LOL).

Already we're to the middle of September so we'll just need to survive through the end of the month and then hopefully we'll turn the corner into a better balance.

Friday, August 31, 2012

First week is in the bag!

I will post more details over the holiday weekend - but I wanted to let everyone know that our first week of lessons is complete. And it ended much better than it began! After Tuesday, I was just about ready to give up!

It has been a crazy busy week, but that's OK. It is what it is, and we will adjust. Everyone is already much more efficient than they were on Monday. We have a few more subjects to add, but I think we'll be OK.

As I said... more details will come soon.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Term One is all planned out!

I can't believe how fast that went! All of Term One is planned out, and most of the rest of the year is, too. Now I can start pre-reading and hopefully getting ahead of the kids before the school year starts!

I can't begin to describe how completely different this planning season has been! It's so nice not to be lamenting over everything. Of course, I look at these spreadsheets and wonder how on earth we're going to get it all done!!! And I've already thrown in the towel and purchased Apologia Biology instead of planning it out on my own. But one valuable lesson I have learned is that the stuff that gets done is better (even if it's not "perfect") than the perfect stuff that sits on my shelf because I can't get it planned out!

It's going to be a busy school year... but hopefully it will be an enjoyable one for all of us! 

Monday, August 13, 2012

And the planning begins...

10th grade:
8th grade:
5th grade:
A portion of Family Lessons:

Monday, August 06, 2012

Sunday, July 29, 2012

School's Out!!

We wrapped up our lessons on Friday and are ready to take a much-needed summer break!

I have ordered all of our books for the coming year and they should be arriving over the next week, but I will be setting them aside. For the next two weeks  plan to do nothing but hang out, do some pleasure reading, and get some much-needed work done around the house!

I survived the first year of high school (relatively intact), got a teenage girl (mostly) through puberty, and managed not to run off screaming into the night! LOL

I may be quiet for these 2 weeks, unless I'm inspired to post something amazing...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Book shock!

I stopped by our local used book store yesterday to see if they had any of the books from my shopping list. I love being able to support locally owned small businesses, plus I can take my used books to sell and they give me credit which allows me to buy any used book for half price. I came away yesterday with 4 books for $15 total!

But the books?? Oh my word!! They are HUGE.

I found Undaunted Courage, Rob Roy, and John Adams. These are some seriously thick books. I am quite nervous now. Yikes!! I may have to revisit my book lists and see if there are any books we can possibly skip or make as Free Reading.

We will give it a shot - who knows, it might work out just fine. But there was definitely some shock when I saw the books! LOL

Monday, July 23, 2012

School Year 2012-2013: Austin (10th grade)

The second year of high school! It doesn't seem possible in some ways! It's been a challenging year and it's been hard for Austin but he has done a pretty decent job of rising to the challenge. The coming year will be another step up, and I hope we all live through it! LOL

This list is based on Ambleside Online's Year 9 Lite.

HISTORY: The Age of Revolution by Sir Winston Churchill; A History of the American People by Paul Johnson; World History: A Human Odyssey by Jackson Spielvogel; Original documents and speeches

GEOGRAPHY: Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose

BIOGRAPHY: Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin; Founding Father by Richard Brookhiser; John Adams by David McCullough

SCIENCE: The Way Life Works by Mahlon Hoagland; The Nature of Life: Readings in Biology by Great Books Foundation; Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments by Robert Bruce Thompson; The Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif  Apologia Biology (updated 8/17/12)

GOVERNMENT AND ECONOMICS: Are You Liberal, Conservative, or Confused? by Richard Maybury; Common Sense by Thomas Paine; The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine; Whatever Happened to Penny Candy by Richard Maybury

CITIZENSHIP: Ourselves by Charlotte Mason; An Essay on Man by Alexander Pope

LITERATURE: A British Literature Textbook for background; The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas; Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott; Gulliver's Travels by Johnathan Swift; A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens; Mr. Midshipman Hornblower by C.S. Forester; Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

LOGIC - Logic Liftoff; Orbiting With Logic; Brain Puzzles

VOCABULARY, COMPOSITION, SPELLING - Finish Writing with Skill Level 1; Writing the Essay; Words You Should Know in High School; Sequential Spelling for Adults (Finish Level 1, Begin Level 2)

BIBLE - A Praying Life by Paul Miller; Crazy Love by Francis Chan; A Young Man After God's Own Heart by Jim George

COPYWORK/RECITATION - passages from readings; Spelling Wisdom

SPANISH - Getting Started With Spanish

HEALTH - Total Healthy by Susan Boe

POETRY - Alexander Pope; William Cowper and Phyllis Wheatley; George Gordon and Lord Byron

MATH - Finish Key to Algebra  and Math U See Algebra 1 Jacob's Elementary Algebra (updated 8/17/12)

CURRENT EVENTS - World Magazine; a Secular news magazine (to be determined)

FREE READING - no list for him yet, not sure if he will have any free time! LOL

As you can see, we have quite a school year ahead of us. I will be able to make adjustments as necessary, but I would rather start out with a bang and pare down if it becomes necessary.

Thanks for reading our book lists! I covet your prayers for our upcoming school year! :)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

School Year 2012-2013: Riley (8th grade)

These grade levels are really killing me. This is Riley's last year as a "middle schooler" and then I'll have two high schoolers. Freaky!

I have some ambitious goals for her this year. Her history, geography, and literature will be nearly identical to Austin's. I think she can handle it, but we'll have to see. She is also dancing 8 hours a week this year, and her classes will run late into the evening. I may have to pare her schedule down to accommodate that. But I won't know until we get started. This list is inspired by Ambleside Online, Year 9 Lite. (Yeah, LITE - the regular one has MORE if you can believe it! LOL

HISTORY - The Age of Revolution by Sir Winston Churchill; A History of the American People by Paul Johnson; World History: A Human Odyssey by Jackson Spielvogel; Original Documents and Speeches pertaining to this time period (and there are a BUNCH!)

GEOGRAPHY - Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose

BIOGRAPHY - Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin; Founding Father by Richard Brookhiser; John Adams by David McCullough

SCIENCE - Finish Apologia General Science (Human Body modules); William Harvey and the Discovery of the Circulation of the Blood by Thomas Huxley; Selected Physical Science Chapters from Derek Owens' Physical Science course (Physics and Chemistry ones)

GOVERNMENT AND ECONOMICS - Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard Maybury; Whatever Happened to Justice? by Richard Maybury

CITIZENSHIP -  Ourselves by Charlotte Mason; An Essay on Man by Alexander Pope

LOGIC - The Art of Argument (there are so many jokes I can make about this LOL)

LITERATURE - A British Literature textbook for reference (looking at these at the Expo next weekend to see which one I like best and to see if I can get one used); The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas; Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott; Gulliver's Travels by Johnathan Swift; A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens; The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy; Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

POETRY - Alexander Pope; William Cowper; Phyllis Wheatley; George Gordon; Lord Byron

CURRENT EVENTS - World magazine (high school edition); a secular news magazine (still haven't decided which one)

DEVOTIONS - A Praying Life by Paul Miller; Do Hard Things by Alex Harris; A Young Woman After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George

VOCABULARY, GRAMMAR AND COMPOSITION - Finish Analytical Grammar; Writing the Essay; 100 Words Every High School Freshman Should Know

COPYWORK/TRANSCRIPTION/RECITATION - Spelling Wisdom; Passages from her reading

LATIN - Finish Getting Started With Latin; begin a High School level Latin curriculum (looking at these at convention)

GREEK - Elementary Greek, Level 1 (this is HER idea to do instead of completing another year of French - she's going to have to manage this one on her own LOL)

MATH - Finish Math U See Pre-Algebra, begin Life of Fred Algebra 1 to see if it's a better fit for her than MUS

FREE READING - don't have a list for her yet, I'm really not sure how she'll have any time left for free reading by the time she gets her lessons done and goes to dance class! ;)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

School Year 2012-2013: Reece (5th grade)

Before I begin Reece's book list for next year, can we all just pause a moment and take a deep breath while we notice that she is a 5th grader this school year?? 5th grade?? She'll be in middle school this time next year?!? My baby?!? What on earth?!?

::deep breath::

Wow. Time sure does fly, doesn't it?

We are going to be jumping ahead a little bit in history, mostly driven by the fact that Austin will be a 10th grader (shhh, I'm in denial) and we really haven't spent a lot of time focused on American History. We have done two complete rotations through the history of the world, and we've touched on American History, but not as in-depth as I would like. And since I would really like to take the kids to Washington, D.C. in the next few years, I decided to spend the next 3 years in the time period from the late 1600s to the present, skipping over the Middle Ages. This year we will touch on the late 1600s and dive into the 1700s, which will include the American and French Revolutions.

Most of the books we use can easily be found on amazon (or at your local library) so I won't include links. But if there is a book that I list in any of the kids' lists that you cannot locate, please leave a comment and I will post a link to it! This list is inspired by the Ambleside Online curriculum (Year 4).

HISTORY - Story of the World, Volume 3 by Susan Wise Bauer; The Landmark History of the American People by Daniel J. Boorstin; George Washington's World by Genevieve Foster.

GEOGRAPHY - Around the World in 100 Years by Jean Fritz; Marco Polo by Charles Graves

BIOGRAPHY - Poor Richard by James Daugherty; Abigail Adams by Natalie Bober 

SCIENCE - The Body Book: Easy to Make Hands-On Models That Teach by Donald Silver; Christian Liberty Press Nature Reader, Book 5

LITERATURE - Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe; Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson; The Incredible Journey by Sheila Bumford; The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving; Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving

POETRY - Alfred Lord Tennyson; Emily Dickinson; William Wordsworth. I like to use the Poetry for Young People series.

DEVOTIONS - This will be Reece's first year to read a devotional. I am planning to use A Girl After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George.

MATH - RightStart Mathematics, Level D. Why mess with success?! LOL

LATIN - Minimus Latin. She's been bugging me for awhile to learn Latin, and this is a gentle introduction.

FRENCH - First Start French. This is another thing she has been bugging me about learning French for a long time. Since I have a background in French, this will be easy for me to teach.

GRAMMAR and COMPOSITION -  Junior Analytical Grammar; Writing With Ease Level 3 or 4 (have to look at this at the expo next weekend. She finished level 2 this year but it quickly became very easy for her)

SPELLING - Rod and Staff, finish Grade 4 and begin Grade 5.

LOGIC - Gentle introduction using Mind Benders from the Critical Thinking Company and Logic Countdown if she sails through the Mind Benders books. 

FREE READING - Reece does not enjoy reading at all, though she loves being read to. I keep hoping that will change. Maybe this will be the year! Some of the books I will put in her Free Reading basket include Misty of Chincoteague; Frindle; Along Came a Dog; The Toothpaste Millionaire; Calico Captive; Johnny Tremain; The Reb and the Redcoats; On the Banks of Plum Creek; By the Shores of Silver Lake; Caddie Woodlawn; Alice in Wonderland

Typing it all out gives me somewhat of a panic attack! LOL And this is just the 5th grader. Wow, we're going to have a busy year!

Friday, July 20, 2012

School Year 2012-2013: Family Lessons

The book lists are DONE!! I cannot begin to describe how nice it is to have that weight off my shoulders! All of the hard decisions are made, and now I can start acquiring the materials and begin to work on scheduling and, hopefully for once, get ahead of the kids on reading! LOL

Like I have done in the past, I am going to share our plans for the upcoming year. I will begin first with Family Lessons. As you can probably guess from the name, these are the subjects we do together as a family. We break our year into 3 terms: Fall, Winter, and Spring. So when you see 3 things listed next to an item, that will mean there is one per term, for the most part. Also, please keep in mind that we do not do every single one of these subjects every day (except for Bible and Scripture Memory)!

BIBLE - Mark/Matthew/Genesis. Last year we were able to do a chapter per day, which left us with a lot of leftover days. I will keep moving on if we have that same issue arise this year.

SCRIPTURE MEMORY - Going to get more organized this year and use the "verse packs" from Simply Charlotte Mason. I am going to begin with packs 1 and 2 and see how many new verses we find in there. If necessary, I will go on to pack 3.

HYMN STUDY - We finished our WOW! Worship set after 3 years, so now it's time to move on to something else. Since we are now familiar with the music and lyrics for many classic hymns, I'd like for us to learn the background of these songs. We will do that using the book Then Sings My Soul, Volume 1.

ART HISTORY - A Child's History of Art, Architechture. This is the final book in this series that we've been working on the last few years.

ARTIST STUDY - Michelangelo/Rembrandt/Durer. For the first time this year, we will be using the picture study portfolios from Simply Charlotte Mason. 

COMPOSER STUDY - Hayden/Mendelssohn/Wagner. We love the series of CDs called The Story of _____ in Words and Music and I found a bunch of them at the used curriculum sale a few weeks ago. I think we're set for composer study for awhile.

SHAKESPEARE - Henry IV, Part 1/Henry IV, Part 2/Henry V. We will use the No Fear Shakespeare editions after we familiarize ourselves with the story by watching it performed.

PLUTARCH - Brutus/Dion/Pericles. I'm going to shoot for 3 of Plutarch's Lives again, but we only made it through one last year (so if the names Brutus and Dion sound familiar, they are - those are the two I planned for us to do last year that we never got to). Plutarch is hard, so if we make it through only one or two, I won't be too upset. Better to get through it and understand than to rush and have no comprehension.

My goal for this year is to make sure that the Family Lessons don't get pushed aside. It is easy to see them as the "extras" but really they are what makes education exciting and enjoyable (OK, maybe not Plutarch LOL). These are the subjects that touch the heart and soul and set it on fire! That is every bit as important as knowing our history and mathematics!!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Raising the next generation of grammar geeks

During Reece's grammar lesson today (yes we are STILL plugging away at the 2011-2012 school year @@), she noticed something that amazed me.

She is reviewing all the concepts from this year's book, and today she had to identify the prepositional phrases in a sentence, get rid of them (by drawing a box around them), and then diagram the rest of the sentence.

She loves diagramming and is quite good at it, so I leave her to do most of these by herself. Today she called me to her because she wanted to show me something. She noticed that the prepositional phrase that she had to put a box around could be easily moved to the beginning or to the end of the sentence and it would still make sense (in the given sentence, it was in the middle). I was so excited that she noticed this so I took the opportunity to explain to her something she will learn in next year's grammar - when you have a prepositional phrase that can be "moved", it means that it modifies the verb in the sentence.

She said, "Really?? Wow, that is so cool!"

Oh my gosh, she is SO MUCH FUN to home school! :D

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Summer School/Summer Planning

Why is it always so much more fun to plan for the next year than it is to wrap up the current year?? LOL Ah, whatever the reason, it's one of the great truths of homeschooling.

I gave the kids each a listing of what needs to be finished before July 27th. It's up to them to work on it each morning before they can have screen time. When they are done, they are done. As soon as Austin's new swim trunks arrive from Lands End, we will start hitting the pool in the afternoons! I can't believe it's July and we haven't even been to the pool once. Unreal.

I've started some planning for next year already. It has been such a joyful experience this time around, having the encouragement from the kids' testing fresh in my mind. I feel like I can trust my decision-making and the suggestions from the doctor give me an added marker to look for when I am choosing materials. It's a life-changer for sure! I'll post details when I have more time.

I'm so eager for the new school year to begin - I wish we could just skip the rest of this current one! LOL

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Today in Reece's spelling book, she had to fill in spelling words that talked about the story of Naomi and Ruth and gleaning in the fields. Because she didn't have the adequate background knowledge (and mom hadn't taken the time to look in the book to prepare for it @@), she couldn't finish the assignment.

So we talked about what gleaning meant, and how it worked.

Immediately she replied, "So, it's a symbiotic relationship, then??"

Yep, baby girl... totally symbiotic! ;)

(Full disclosure: she learned about symbiotic relationships by watching Wild Kratts on PBS. But, hey, she applied it to something else, right? LOL)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

And the results are in...

You may remember that I had the kids' neuropsych testing done a couple of weeks ago. Well, I got the results back on Friday - and had what is without a doubt the best appointment with a medical professional that I have ever had!!

The doctor had nothing but nice things to say about both of the children. About Reece she said that she had never interacted with a child of Reece's diagnosis where she had to focus herself back on the job of testing. "I just wanted to talk to her - she's magnetic!" was how the doctor described her. I think most people who have met her would tend to agree!

The doctor went on to say that it was clear that I know my children very well. She said the way I described their strengths and weaknesses in all of the paperwork that I was required to turn in at the first appointment prepared them for what they might see in the kids - and that was exactly what they saw. That made me feel really good. Sometimes, with Reece especially, I don't feel like I 'know' her as well because she's the youngest and I've always been so busy with the others.

We discussed Reece's results first. This was her first testing and my purpose was to get a baseline for her. She is the same age that Austin was when he had his first testing. I wanted a starting point for her to compare her to because it was around this level of work where Austin really started to show evidence that he was struggling. Also, I wanted a heads-up if there was some sort of underlying issue or LD that I needed to know about. Her results were not surprising at all. She is average on everything except math where she tests low-average. Considering that she is just finishing up what is considered the "second grade" book in RightStart Math and she only tests low-average as a rising fifth grader, I am not displeased at all! She does exhibit the executive functioning problems that are common for children on the autism spectrum, and I was given some suggestions for going ahead and working on those areas now. Mostly it was stuff I have planned to do with Austin, but she thinks I should go ahead and get a start on them with Reece. She said that Reece (and Austin) learns best in the context of story (YAY! CHARLOTTE MASON) and that she does not learn best through rote and drill. She recommended that her math program require her to explain how and why she gets answers - which is exactly what RS math does! It was very encouraging to know that I am already doing many of the things that the doctor recommends for Reece!

Austin's results were a little more complex. During the parent interview, I told the doctor that I am most concerned about Austin's loss of language at times. He will completely lose words. It is frustrating to him and to me. Also, he can wake up some mornings and have lost learning that he had known for a few weeks or months. Quite often it is 'back' the next day, but he is growing concerned over it. What she learned through his testing and comparing it with his previous testing is that there is something going on in the area of his brain where his seizures happen - the frontal lobe. This area controls language and executive function. AHA!! Now, whether the seizures damaged this part of the brain (since we don't know how long he may have been having them before he finally had a big enough one to cause him to lose consciousness) or whether there was something going on in that area of the brain itself that resulted in the seizures we won't be able to determine. But we do know that there is a REASON for the struggles he is having. She even added a new diagnosis to his list called "Cognitive Disorder Not Otherwise Specified." That basically means he has a loss of brain function due to a physiological issue - namely, the seizures. She said that all things considered he is performing marvelously academically, much higher than one would expect if you just look at his test results!! Then she went on to say, "You can take credit for that! Homeschooling is obviously working for him and for Reece!"

She had many practical suggestions for Austin, including some of the same things that were suggested for Reece - for instance, he learns best through story and that he does not work well with rote learning. I learned that what I have been expecting from him with his science program is not appropriate for how his brain works. This is valuable information because he has struggled so much with science and I wasn't sure why. Now I know, and I won't use the same sort of program again next year!! Perhaps the most interesting thing was when she showed me one particular test that he took. He was required to replicate a picture that was made up of various shapes and lines. The picture was right in front of him the entire time. They watched not only the final result but how he went about drawing it. It was fascinating! His planning was completely disorganized! He didn't see the big picture and just saw random lines - no shapes to give it meaning. It is amazing insight into how his brain works!! I'm so glad she shared that with me!

She also included some accommodations in his report that would assist him if he chooses to make an attempt at college. Also, she moved his primary diagnosis to Epilepsy instead of Asperger's. She said that, right now, the effects of the seizures are what is causing him the most trouble. So his diagnoses in order of importance are Epilepsy - Asperger's - Cognitive Disorder NOS. She said that he will be able to get services in college through an Office of Disability Services. She thinks he will be able to attend college under the right circumstances: determining what he wants to do (that doesn't require much math LOL), and finding a college that is small and willing to work with him.

All of this wonderful and valuable information is only part of what I got from this appointment. I also got much-needed validation and encouragement. She told me what a great job I am doing and how pleasant my children are to be around. When I told her that I was nervous that she would see two homeschooled children who are "behind" and assume that we don't work hard on our lessons. She said that nothing could be further from the truth - they never once thought that. She said that she looked into RDI and is impressed with it and suggested that we continue. She did suggest that I look into the Epilepsy Foundation of Georgia which is something I hadn't really considered. Since we have achieved good seizure control, I have sort of felt like we didn't really qualify for needing a support group. But I think I will look into it now.

For the first time since the word "autism" entered our vocabulary, I left a doctor's appointment for one of my children feeling encouraged and supported. I am excited that the path that we were led to several years ago with Charlotte Mason is the right one for my children - it's scientifically and medically documented! LOL Most importantly, I no longer feel like I am doing the kids a disservice by homeschooling them. I have always been afraid that they would be better off at school with a professional who is trained to work with them. But it appears that in trusting God and prayerfully considering the best approaches year-to-year, that I have been able to give them what they need! That's all I ever wanted - to give them what they need! And now I have the confidence to move forward and that feels SO AMAZING!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

VBX Success!

My family has participated in a "VBX" (fancy name for Vacation Bible School) at a local church for the last 13 years. This isn't even our home church! Austin attended for the first time as a four year old when a friend of his from playgroup (who was a member at this church) invited him. He attended until he was a rising 6th grader, which is the oldest age. Riley started attended when she was 4 and on up until 6th grade, and the last two years she has volunteered in the music department. Reece also started when she was 4. This is the same church where she attended preschool, so they were familiar with her needs.

But it was hard for her! This VBX usually has around 250 children in attendance and it can get loud and sort of crazy. It was hard on her sensory system. They started offering a Special Needs class several years ago and it was an answer to prayer. And she found a special young lady who has always volunteered to be her special helper. This young lady has always been so patient with Reece, but has determined to try to integrate Reece into the 'typical' activities as much as possible. I remember one year she and Reece sat in the balcony of the sanctuary during the closing ceremonies every day because the noise and people didn't bother her as much up there.

This year is Reece's second-to-last year that she can attend VBX as a kid. The rising 6th graders -which she will be next year (GASP!) - spend each day doing service projects in the community. I have been wondering how that might work. And I got the greatest news from her helper! She and Reece are going to go together with the 6th graders next year and do the projects! I couldn't be more excited - not only because they want to include her, and they think she's ready - but that this young lady has already been thinking of it! She even told me on the last day that she thinks Reece could have done the regular class this year, with her assistance - which wouldn't have looked odd at all because there are tons of youth helpers in every class! I can't begin to describe how excited I was, and so proud of Reece for how far she has come. Her helper said several times during the week how different she is this year.

It is so awesome to know how much my girls are loved and wanted at this church. The lady who is in charge of the music - who just so happens to be the mother of Reece's helper - told me they tried to take Riley from her and put her into another area to help, but she told them they couldn't have her! LOL It's nice to feel like Riley is wanted, despite (or maybe because of) her exuberant personality. And it's nice that they are so welcoming to Reece and want to do whatever they can to make sure she has fun, while also getting her as integrated as possible. I really hope that one day, when everyone is a bit older, I am able to do the same sort of thing at our home church!

My VBX girls!

I love that Riley loves to give back her time! She did this for 3 hours in the morning, then in the evenings went to our own church and led the music at VBS there, too!

Look, Reece is right up at the front and doing all the dance moves!! Her sweet helper is right there with her!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

The roads will never be the same!

Sorry for disappearing this last week but we've had a crazy busy time! It was VBX week for Reece and Riley, and VBS week for Riley and Austin. More on that in another post coming tomorrow. This post is all about what Austin and I did this week while the girls were out of the house having fun!

Austin got his learner's permit!!

I took him a week ago Friday to take the written test, which has two parts: a road rules test and a road signs test. Honestly, I was just planning for this first time to be a "trial run". I was hoping he would see the process, get experience taking the computer-based test (he hates using the computer), and get accustomed to the sensory overload that is the Department of Driver Services in Georgia. I was determined that this needed to be his show. He was going to have to do "his own appraisal and thinking" to borrow some RDI terms. We walked in the building and his first task was to tell the receptionist what he was there for, and to get the paperwork and a number. Not fun to find out there were 22 people ahead of us just to get permits. Yikes, this was going to be a long day. We sat down in the very hard chairs and he took a look at the paperwork to fill out. I'm pretty sure this was his first time to fill out a form! It was slow going, but that wasn't a problem considering the wait we had ahead of us.

While he was filling out the form, I did look over it to make sure he was doing it correctly. Some of the questions were new to him... but I looked around me and saw lots of parents assisting with the paperwork so I felt a little freedom to help out a bit. I'm sure he wasn't the only one filling out his first form that day. When he got to the question asking if he ever had seizures, etc. he got upset and said we should just leave. @@ I said that we could do that if he wanted to, but he said no. He checked the "yes" box and filled in the required information about his last episode and his doctor's name. The paperwork was complete and we still had 15 numbers ahead of us. (For the record they never even mentioned the seizures part!)

The sensory overload was bad, even for me. There was the noise of people talking. There was the noise of the numbers being called out by a computerized voice: "Now serving number D624 at counter number 3." The florescent light behind us was making a hideous buzz. I kept reminding myself that this was just a practice run and tried to stay light-hearted. But I was getting concerned as I could see Austin's anxiety level increasing.

Then God sent us a little relief. Austin said, "Hey! Look who's here!" I turned around and there was Austin's drum teacher/mentor standing at the reception desk. We went over to say hello and asked him to come sit with us. He was there to renew his license, so we talked for a few minutes. When he realized the wait was going to be longer than he could be away at work, he decided to leave and come back another time and as we said goodbye, Austin's number was called.

It was so hard at the counter to let this be Austin's job. I kept wanting to say, "Austin are you paying attention?" or to answer for him when the guy was asking him questions. I could have used a muzzle and straight jacket! LOL When he told Austin which computer station to go to, I wanted to say, "Did you pay attention? Do you remember what number? Do you know how to find it?" but I just kept quiet. If Austin forgot the number or didn't know how to find it, he would have to step up and ask. 

He took off for the computer room and I sat down and tried to read. That didn't work. So I started to pray. LOL All I wanted was for this to remain a positive experience for Austin. I already knew we would come back the following week. I just didn't want him to be overwhelmed and bomb everything and be discouraged. Imagine my surprise when he passed the road rules test with an 85% but failed the road signs test by only one question. Then I was in even more surprise when the guy said that he would only have to retake the one test when we came back in! Austin was thrilled and I was proud of him. He wasn't showing any signs of stress. In fact, he was laughing because he felt that he could have passed the test but he clicked a wrong button on one question and didn't realize he could go back and change the answer. And enough of his friends didn't pass the first time to where he didn't feel like a failure. He took it all in stride.

Fast forward to this past Thursday. We dropped the girls off at VBS and went straight to DDS. This time he walked in like he owned the place. There were only 5 numbers ahead of his this time and we didn't have nearly as long of a wait. He was called up and was at a computer before long. I went over to buy a transmitter to use the toll lanes going into and out of Atlanta to use the next two weeks while Riley has a summer intensive at Atlanta Ballet. I got up from doing that and took a seat to wait for Austin. I turned on my Kindle to try to read, and I looked up and saw Austin back in line. I was worried because it hadn't been long enough. What could be wrong?!

When I walked up to see what was going on, the worker said, "I think that was a record time!" I said, "Did you pass?" and Austin beamed, "100%!"  I was shocked! Way to go, Coop! I told him how proud I was of him for studying hard this week and really learning the signs. He got his paper permit (the hard copy will come in a few weeks), and we set out to a church parking lot to practice for the first time. About 5 minutes later he said, "Mom, I need to tell you something. I didn't study at all." @@ Figures.

So here we are at the church parking lot... and my not-so-little-boy in the driver's seat:
He was so excited to drive for the first time!
I kept calm, as I always do:
Honestly, he did a very good job for his first time. The hardest part was that it felt like he was FLYING down the road and when I told him to slow down he said, "Mom, we're only going 10 mile an hour!" ROFL Oops. It sure felt a lot faster from the passenger seat! ;)

He had a second lesson yesterday in the same parking lot and as I type this he is out driving in the neighborhood with his dad in the truck. I won't pretend I'm not nervous... that truck is a monster and I don't think it's easy to drive! LOL We have been holding on to the van for Austin to drive, but haven't had the chance to get the air conditioning fixed yet. Once we get that fixed then he can drive the van most of the time. I'm also going to call a driving school to get him signed up for official lessons. I have no doubt that Russ and I could teach him how to drive just fine, but because of his 'issues' I would like a professional opinion about his ability to drive. I think it will be worth the high cost of the class.

Getting a driver's license will make such a difference in Austin's ability to be independent as an adult. This permit is good for 2 years, so even if it takes quite a while for him to be comfortable driving, he has plenty of time! I feel like we are one step closer to independence for Austin! :)

***Edited to add: They just got back! Russ took him out of the neighborhood and onto the roads near our neighborhood! ACK!! LOL Austin said that he doesn't like driving the truck as well... can't say that I blame him!)

Sunday, June 03, 2012

The End of an Era

The year was 2004. Austin was 7, almost 8 years old. And Austin wanted to play baseball. We didn't want him playing at the local park where they are known for yelling and screaming at the kids, so we signed him up for baseball through the megachurch in our area. And thus we became a baseball family. He looked so little out on the field! But he liked it and wanted to keep going.
Austin didn't play especially well at first, be he has a daddy who really loves baseball - and loves his son - and they would go to the ball fields and practice every spare minute they had. Sometimes, Austin would come home from these sessions in tears, and I have to admit I was mad. But we didn't know what we were dealing with at the time, and Russ did what he thought was best, just like I did. So we both made mistakes. Luckily, Austin has forgiven us for those mistakes. Surprisingly enough, Austin continued to want to play ball anyway. LOL Russ would be "Dugout Dad" whenever he could.
The age cutoff was really weird back then. You had to play in the spring (March-May) on a team based on the age you would be on August 15th (2 months after the season ended). And the fall league (August-October) played on a team based on how old you would be in August of the following year. So that meant that in Austin's second season, when he had turned 8 only 2 months before, he had to play on a team with 9-10 year olds. That's a huge difference. And it was a pitching league, and quite honestly, 9 year old boys don't have a lot of control. So Austin got hit - a lot. He still didn't want to quit.

After a season or two more (my husband can tell you not only precisely how many seasons it was, but which particular team it was and every team in between), Russ came to me to propose something very serious. He wanted to coach Austin's team. He believed that Austin was really developing well as a player, but that his strange behavior (which we still didn't know was Aspergers) was making the coaches not take him seriously. So he was at the end of the batting order and he was out in right field (baseball no-mans'-land for little boys) if he played at all. Russ wanted to coach JUST ONE SEASON so he could play Austin in the proper places and see if he could shine. The reason this was so serious was because we had a 3 year old Reece and a 6 year old Riley at the time - and Reece did not do well at the ball field. She still doesn't. My husband and I used to take turns watching the girls at the games. With Russ coaching, I would no longer be able to watch any of the games. But it was JUST ONE SEASON, and then he promised me he would take care of Reece for every single game the following season so I could watch. I agreed.

That season was so different for Austin. He started hitting the ball. He started pitching, and was really good, though he would get easily stressed out on the mound. Russ could calm him down with some words or motions, or even a look. It worked out so great and Austin's self-esteem grew. The new season rolled around and Austin said, "Dad, will you be my coach again??" What's a mom to do? It would be 2011 before I got to sit down and watch a game in peace and quiet! LOL Oh well, I have to say it was worth it.

Austin's development as a baseball player was amazing. He isn't a big guy but he has some power behind his bat and he can read the ball very well. When he is 'on' he is really on. He has hit several home runs in his career and has been selected for the All-Star Team many times. He even tried a season of "travel ball" but it was too stressful for any of us to want to continue.

A few years ago, the age cutoff changed in Austin's favor. Now you played on a team with the age you were on April 30th. That means that Austin got to be the oldest, even in the first year in a new league. If the league was 11-12 year olds, he was almost 12 by the time the season started, and the next spring, he would be almost 13 but would still be in that league. It was absolutely PERFECT for a smaller kid who is a little developmentally behind the other guys.

But all good things must come to an end.

Austin has been playing in the 13-15 year old league now for several years, and he just turned 16. Sometimes the church fields a 16-18 year old league, but Austin decided that he is going to hang up his cleats. He is still such a small guy and he doesn't have as much velocity on his pitches as he would like to be successful. And he wants to focus on his drumming and his music now.

I attended as many games as I was able to this year, with Riley at home babysitting Reece. The girls each came to see Austin play one last time this season. But mostly I was selfish and left them home so I could enjoy watching having the most fun of his life. That's not to say that this season was easy, either. The team started out 0-5. One of the boys lost his father to cancer, and the day after the funeral, this amazing young man pitched a complete game and won for his dad - and let me assure you there was not a dry eye anywhere at the ball fields that day! Austin told me it was his honor to be a part of that day and he would remember it forever. I know I won't soon forget.

The boys came back at the end of the season and finished with a .500 record. But mostly, they had a blast. One of the young men who Russ coached 2 years ago came back and coached with Russ this year! (You see, my husband is one HECK of an amazing coach and he touches so many lives - as evidenced by how many of his former players are his friends on FB and send him messages keeping him updated on their baseball careers playing high school ball).

Here is a picture of Coach Dad and Coop (Austin's nickname on the ball field) from right before the last game:
Austin pitched his last game in his second-to-last game. They were playing a double-header so here is Austin saying goodbye to the pitching mound.
Here is a picture of Austin's last at-bat. The reason it is so fuzzy is that I saw this pitch coming and I knew he was going to crush it, so I was already jumping up and down. I had promised Coop $100 if he hit a home run, and I really thought I'd be paying out. Alas, it was "only" a triple. Many folks suggested that I should pay out $75, but I do not prorate! ;)
The last game was incredible. So much fun for everyone involved, and it was hard to be sad. I was expecting to be bawling like a baby, but it had just been so wonderful. I couldn't have asked for a better time for my boys!

The team ended their season with a party at the Gwinnett Braves minor league game. The boys really enjoyed some fun time together, and it was the perfect end to a season to remember.
If I could have asked for a way for baseball to end for Austin, I could not have written the script so perfectly. Austin has been such a blessing for Austin, as well as a gift. It gave him something that he could feel good about. It gave him a social outlet, too. And when you're a good ball player on your team, the kids like you and they will forgive some of your social faux pas! LOL He also learned a lot about losing with a good attitude, winning with grace and compassion, and how to persevere on the pitcher's mound when you want to give up. It gave Russ a way to initiate an "apprentice" relationship with Austin so we could work on some RDI goals without it seeming like therapy (which Austin has never been keen on). It has given Austin a full arsenal of "epsodic memories" to refer to when he needs to encourage himself to press on.

I sure will miss the baseball field each spring and fall (well, maybe after a year or two... I have to admit to being a little excited about not losing my boys for 6 months each year as they headed to the field and I managed getting the girls to their activities! LOL). Austin has indicated that he would enjoy coaching some younger boys, with his Dad, of course. I think that would be a wonderful way for them to give back to the sport that has given our family so much! So I don't think our family will be gone from baseball for long anyway... Coach Russ and Coach Coop are as inevitable on a ball field as "hotdogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet"! And Double Bubble bubble gum.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Test time again!

We just wrapped up two days of intensive neuropsych testing for Austin and Reece. Last year, when they had their end-of-the-year testing, the evaluator had told me that she could see there were things going on with Austin that were beyond the scope of her ability to test for. Austin's neurologist wanted him to have neuropsych testing done in 2010 but our insurance company wouldn't pay, and it costs $3000 to have it done (per child). So I have been praying that if the testing is important and it needs to be done, that God would provide the money.

And He did. In a completely crazy way that only God can do! ;)

I have been so absolutely beaten down by medical/autism professionals in the past that I had determined that I wasn't going to let them get to me again. I was telling people left and right how I was going to go in there and tell them that if they couldn't be unbiased towards homeschooling then I would simply walk out. And yadda yadda yadda...

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, my eyes were opened and I realized that what I needed to do was to take a few steps back, and stop trying to be in control. That God provided the money for this testing and I needed to continue to let this stay in His hands and under His control. Because, honestly, when I try to take control of a situation, I typically screw it up royally.

So I've been praying and asking folks to pray that everything would just go smoothly. And I am so pleased with how smoothly it went. Reece was first yesterday and she charmed everyone in sight. She worked hard and didn't have any meltdowns (though she told me a few times she felt like crying because things were hard). Today was Austin's turn and despite having a baseball double-header last night and not getting home until after 10PM and having to get up at 6:15 this morning, he also did very well. I really like the doctor we saw (completely random doctor because you just get who you get if you want to get in quickly like I did). She is a mom and she was very attentive and not judgmental at all - at least not to my face! LOL She asked me about our homeschooling curriculum and I explained to her how Charlotte Mason's philosophy lined up perfectly with the Vygotsky (who I'm sure she's heard of LOL) principles which underlie RDI. I explained to her that she might see an area like writing and think my kids are behind, but if she can look at their 'story recall' scores from last year (which were off the charts) she would see that they have the skill of oral composition down. And we are working on the sequential steps necessary to take that to the written level. I explained that we do it very slowly and methodically and while it may not reflect the public school or standardized testing world, I believe it more accurately reflects developmental levels in my children. She said, "That makes perfect sense to me." She really listed to me and took copious notes both days.

I go back in 3 weeks to get the results, which is wonderful! When Austin has his initial neuropsych testing we had to wait 2 months! This will be perfect timing since I'll have several months until the start of our new school year to try to implement suggestions. The homeschool conference is at the end of July so I'll be able to get what I need at that point, having all of this information.

I am eagerly awaiting these results and hope that they will provide some answers and guidance for the last 3 years of Austin's homeschooling - and the next 8 years of Reece's!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Reece's words of wisdom about spelling

Today during dictation, Reece had to spell the word 'allowed'. I wasn't sure if she could spell this one on her own, but I decided to wait and see how she did before I offered my input. I'm getting better at that! LOL She spelled it with no trouble, and then she checked with me to see if it was right. When I told her it was she said, "I've seen that word many times in books." Then she thought for a moment and added,

"So you see, Mama, books not only help you with your reading, they also help you with your spelling!"

She's my little Charlotte Mason poster-child! LOL

Monday, May 14, 2012

Breaking News

My 13 year old daughter actually let me TEACH her something today. She had made some mistakes on her grammar test from last week and I wanted to make sure that she understood before we moved on to the next lesson. So I sat down with her at the table and talked her through it. She asked me a couple of questions and I answered and she actually said, "Wow, that makes so much sense!"

Did you hear the choir of angels?  I sure did! LOL

I then pressed my luck by saying, "You know, dear child of mine, this is how homeschooling is supposed to work with you and me. There is a lesson. And you let me teach it to you without rolling your eyes or arguing with me. Then you try some on your own. If you make mistakes, I help to clarify where you are confused.  I don't point out your mistakes to belittle you or try to make you feel badly about yourself. You listen without screaming at me that I hate you. I make sure that you understand what might be puzzling you, not because I think you are stupid (quite the contrary) or because I'm trying to ruin your life, but because I don't want it to puzzle you any longer. Then you attain a level of understanding and we move on. See how nice it is?"

She rolled her eyes and walked away.

But she didn't yell. More choir of angels.

I'll take what I can get! :)

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

She is listening intently!

This term's literature read-aloud for Reece is The Hobbit, in preparation for the movies coming soon! Today, I was preparing us for the beginning of the next chapter, and as usual, I asked Reece to tell me what she remembers from the chapter we just finished.

She told me that Bilbo and the dwarves escaped from the trolls. I asked if she remembered what the trolls turned into. She sad, "I think it was dirt." I said, "Hmm, I thought I remembered that they turned to stone." Reece replied back, thoughtfully, "No, it said that they went back to the stuff the mountains are made of." The phrasing that she used piqued my attention, so I opened the book to the previous chapter and found the correct passage:

"William never spoke for he stood turned to stone as he stooped; and Bert and Tome were stuck like rocks as they looked at him. And there they stand to this day, all alone, unless the birds perch on them; for trolls, as you probably know, must be underground before dawn, or they go back to the stuff of the mountains they are made of, and never move again."

I was literally speechless.

I read the passage out loud to her and said, "It looks like we're both right." She was a little confused about how a mountain can be made of stone. I told her that I think it must be referring to mountains that you mine for jewels. She seemed to think that made sense. ;)

I am truly astonished that she remembered the phrasing of that sentence! I know that she comprehends well, and most of the time, more than she can get back out. But this time she completely exceeded my expectations! Have I mentioned lately how much I ::heart::: Charlotte Mason??? LOL

Monday, April 30, 2012

Reece and Lego-Man!

One of my fondest memories of our trip came on the very first day. But first, you might need a little background information. Reece does not like costumed characters. At all. Not even a little bit. She does fine with Disney Princesses and Mary Poppins... the ones that look like people. But the ones in full costumes? Like Pooh, Tigger, the Chick-Fil-A cow?? No way. We learned this the hard way last year when we did the Character Breakfast at the Grand Floridian! LOL

So, we were at Legoland on Monday and as we're walking around in the afternoon, having already done most of everything there was to do, I feel a tap on my side. I look around and it's Reece. She is pointing at something  - the Lego Man walking by. She smiled big and I smiled back. She looked at him again and then looked at me with anticipation. I smiled and nodded and she ran over to him.

He opened his arms wide and she just sort of stood there. My mom snapped a couple of pictures.

Notice how her arms are close in to her body? She really did not want to hug him or be open to him at all, did she? LOL But she stood there with him, very obviously excited, while my mom took the pictures. And then she came back to me.

All without saying a word. And still a week later she won't talk about it. If you try to talk to her about it, she ignores you and pretends she didn't hear you, but I know she did because one time after I asked her about the Lego Man she looked away and smiled. But that's OK. Maybe one day she will want to talk about it! :)

Not only was it special to me that she wanted to have her picture taken with the Lego Man, but it was also the way she went about it that was so cool. The entire thing took place non-verbally! This wouldn't have been possible a few years ago, before RDI! She just didn't 'get' nonverbal communication at all! I still can remember her screaming, "TALK TO ME!" when I was nodding yes in response to a question! Wow, things sure do change, don't they?!

I think I love the Lego-Man! :D

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Spring Break Report

I just returned home yesterday from 6 days in Florida! The girls and I were treated by my mother to a birthday trip that included Legoland, Universal Studios, and Disney World! To say we are spoiled is an understatement. I have several really exciting stories to share about Reece, but I want to be able to add pictures that my mom took so you can get a better feel for everything.

All in all, she did very well. We stayed in 3 different hotels which was the first big challenge, and then we did not take our mid-day rest breaks like we always do. That proved to be the hardest part, and by the end of the week Reece was getting noticeably more distant and withdrawn. But in the car on the way home last night she was already starting to perk back up and become more interactive again.

Riley was the epitome of a helpful big sister. She loves being able to take charge and do things just the two of them. Our resort at Disney hosts movies on an outdoor inflatable screen in the courtyard right outside our room and she took Reece down to watch the movie the first two nights we were there. They only bickered occasionally, which was nice. LOL

So stay tuned for some reports coming in the next few days... or whenever my mom has time to sort through the 1300 pictures she took! ;)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Advice from a Veteran Homeschooler?

This year has been our 10th year of homeschooling.

I can remember going to homeschool group meetings back when I was first braving the waters of home education with my little ones and meeting moms who had been homeschooling for 10 years. Oh, I envied them because I figured they simply MUST know it ALL!

I'll let that soak in for a minute.

Are you laughing yet?

Ok, I'm sure there are probably plenty of veteran homeschoolers who do have it all together and know what they are doing. I do not count myself among them. The one bit of advice I could give homeschoolers starting out right now is not to bounce around with curricula. Just pick something and stick with it, especially with math. Do not succumb to the "grass is greener" variety of curriculum envy.

Oh, and make sure to do all the field trips and park days and stuff when they are little. When they are older, there simply isn't as much time to go out and do things. The workload increases so much, and if you have some kids with special needs who require extra assistance, your workload as a teacher will also increase (instead of decrease as is the case with most kids as they get older). Or at least it has for me.

So I guess I have 2 pieces of advice then! LOL

Friday, April 06, 2012

The Joy of Homeschooling (Reece)

I have been meaning to post so many things recently about Reece and our adventures in home education, but I keep running out of time. It seems like my motivation to sit down and compose my thoughts has waned, but I know I will want to be able to look back and reflect on this time later. So I need to get better at writing out my thoughts and observations.

Basically, Reece is an absolute joy to homeschool right now! It's absolutely wonderful to watch her make connections and really apply the things we are working on together. She is enthusiastic and anxious to learn and it's so delightful! (I think it's also magnified by the fact that her siblings are completely the opposite in every way right now, but I digress)

Math is going beautifully. After the drawing lessons concluded, we jumped head-long into subtraction with regrouping. I was nervous about this because it is an area where I personally struggled, and where Austin struggled as well, back in the day. And RightStart teaches subtraction with regrouping (or you may have grown up calling it "borrowing" - but don't get me started on THAT) in a much different way than I'd ever seen before. In fact, I once again debated whether or not to teach her the RightStart way or the traditional way. But I decided to trust in their approach that has worked so well with her this far - and I was not disappointed. In fact, I think if I had been taught this way I would never have been so confused myself!!!

She moved up to her new Spelling book and she continues to really love it. And, despite the fact that I'm not really fond of spelling workbooks in general, she seems to be applying what she is learning in it to her other writing! She is also devouring history right now and is so disappointed when there is no history listed on her schedule. I promised her that we will do history every single day in 5th grade! LOL

One thing that has impressed me this term is her comprehension of a rather difficult book that I'm reading aloud. The book is called The Children of the New Forest by Frederick Marryat and because it was published in 1847 it has fallen into Public Domain and is available for free if you click on that link. I had purchased it several years ago to read to the big kids when we were doing that year of Ambleside Online but put it aside because it was very challenging and I just didn't have enough time. I picked it up this year for Reece sort of by accident because we aren't in that time period at all. But I decided not to worry about it and we kept going. The language is very complex and challenging and sometimes I wondered if she was getting the story, but she really is. In fact, she stopped me at a very exciting part involving some robbers attacking the cottage and she explained how SHE would handle that situation - and it was a remarkably clever idea! We're nearing the end of the story, and I am so glad that I took the time to share this book with her.

I have been debating introducing French and/or Latin for Reece. She seems to be ready for it as evidenced by her ability to apply her grammar lessons to her own writing (and in everyday life). And she has been asking for both for a long time now, so I know she's motivated. The big question is do I have time to add anything else to my plate right now? As I alluded to earlier, lessons are not going nearly as well with the big kids, and it's been very draining and exhausting for me. Truly, I understand now why so many people put their kids back in school for middle/high school. It is a LOT of work to homeschool the upper grades, especially if you don't use a packaged curriculum or tutors. And that's before you even factor in the whole "teenage angst/hormone" drama that occurs! LOL I will never again judge when a homeschool mom tells me that she is putting her teenager back in school for middle school or high school. But that's a post for another day! :)

So there's a little update on the joy that is homeschooling Reece right now! I find myself wondering if it's because she's the one who has had the benefit of a Charlotte Mason-style education her entire life? Or if it's because I'm more relaxed with her due to my own experience with the older kids? Or if it's her age or personality? Or maybe a little bit of all of that - or maybe God is simply blessing me right now for putting up with two teenagers?! ;) Whatever the reason may be, I will take it and enjoy it for as long as it lasts!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Flippin' Burgers - A Rant by Niffercoo

"You don't want to be flippin' burgers all your life, do you?"

"Well, the world still needs ditch diggers." 

I can't tell you how many times I've heard these phrases. And I never gave much thought about it. The first comment is meant to inspire a young person to buckle down, get a good (read: 4 year university) education, so you can have a "decent" job. The second comment is to assign those jobs that "we" wouldn't ever want to do to "someone else" - not us, and definitely not our children - to someone who is obviously very beneath "us". No big deal, right?


You see, I have a child (or two) who will very likely end working this kind of job. I have a child (or two) who may not be able to go to handle the academic demands of college. Since a degree from a 4-year university seems to be the requirement for even the most entry-level job these days, that means my children's job prospects are going to be limited. I don't think this is fair - but that's another blog post for another day. Today's rant is about the attitude that there are certain jobs that are sub-par, and the individuals who hold those jobs are inferior to other individuals based solely upon the fact that they hold those jobs.

I have had the displeasure of watching my son absorb these inferences from the media and from people around us and apply them to himself. You know, this would be one of the times where I would love for the autism to come into play so he wouldn't understand these subtleties. But it's not. He is starting to realize that he may not be able to handle college, and it distresses him greatly. You see, the world makes it seem that, for those without a college education, there is nothing ahead for him besides being "poor" and in a "dead-end job" and "unable to support a family". (Those are quotes from a commercial for a for-profit college with locations across the country). It makes him sad. It makes him worried.

Since when did doing an honest-day's work for an honest-day's pay not count for something?? Why do we have to look down on someone who is working hard for a living? Why do we have to make someone feel like they are aren't as good as we are because they are a "blue-collar" worker?

I am trying my best to help Austin concentrate on what it is that God wants him to do in his life. And to remember that whatever he does end up doing, that he does it to the glory of God.

And I'm also making sure that I don't perpetuate that sort of attitude in my own life! I vow to treat everyone with the same basic human respect regardless of what sort of job they may do! Because it's not what we do, or how much money we make, that defines the sort of person we ARE inside.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A "normal girl"

Just a warning that the next two posts I'm working on are going to be leaning a bit more toward the "rant" side of things. If you're not into that right now, please feel free to skip. I'll also try to get to a Weekly Recap this weekend if I can, which won't be so rant-filled.

On Wednesday evening, I picked Reece up from church. My husband usually takes her and brings her home since he is there anyway for the evening service and praise band rehearsal. I had been going with them back before Christmas, but it has turned into a 2 hour respite for me. Riley is at dance company rehearsal, Austin is at church as well... thus giving me 2 quiet hours in my home alone. Yeah, I spend the time cleaning and watching a chick flick, but it's 2 hours in my home. Alone. Homeschool moms understand why that's important. But this week, rehearsal was going to run long because of Easter preparations, so I picked Reece up on my way to get Riley from dance company rehearsal. We are finding that about 2 hours of dynamic social interaction in the late evening is about all she can manage without a meltdown, and we're trying hard to avoid the meltdowns.

The group was coming in from outside (lovely weather here lately in Georgia), and she was crying. I took her quickly to the car, and tried to ascertain what was the cause of this vexation. It soon became apparent that it was the change of plans/change of routine that had thrown her off. She was saying it was because she didn't get a turn, but when she explained further, it seemed that the turn-taking was not actually part of what was happening. It was just the unexpected turn of events that had her upset. And, as most meltdowns lately, it started morphing. I put on my calm face and tried to steer her out of it.

She moved onto the next thing that had her upset: "The Fifth Grade Writing Test". This is a big deal in our state, and apparently lots of public school kids are talking about it. I think it was last week or the week before. She was upset that she didn't know why it was so important. Then she was upset that she doesn't have to take it. Then she was upset that homeschoolers don't learn as much as public schoolers.

I'm keeping the calm face/calm voice thing going. This was one of the best things I learned in RDI, but one of the hardest. It seems to work so well when I can manage it... and we were nearly to the end of the meltdown and she was coming around.

Then she started talking about autism. She asked me if I cried when I learned that she had "high-functioning autism". I don't use that term so I don't know where she heard it, but anyway, I told her, "Nope, I sure didn't." (Liar, liar, pants on fire.... Oh, well!). I went on to tell her that she wasn't always so high-functioning, but through her hard work and lots of therapy, she has become high-functioning and she should be proud of herself.

Her eyes lit up and she got SO excited. "Is there a therapy that will make me a 'normal girl', Mama??" I didn't know what to say. I just said, "Well, no," and her whole body just crumbled into the seat. She was so sad. And I was so sad. I told her what we always tell her, "God made you just the way you are - autism and and all. He has a plan for your life! A plan for good and not for disaster." She said, "Yes, I know. But it doesn't help."

She's right, you know. It doesn't help. I mean, it does. But it doesn't. It helps because we do have hope and we trust that God - who loves my children more than I ever possibly could - does have a plan for their lives and that we will see it unfold in time. But it doesn't help in the moment. When my girl just wants to be like everyone else. When she doesn't have to work so darn hard all day long just to BE in this world!

And here's where the rant comes in for a moment. I see you. I see you roll your eyes at her and I see the looks you give me. She's not a brat. She's not spoiled (well, her Nana spoils her with toys and Disney trips, but that's a Nana's prerogative - she's not spoiled in her heart towards other people). She doesn't need a "good spanking". She doesn't need to "just go to school" - because in case you haven't noticed, there are autistic kids who have gone to school since they were toddlers and they are still autistic! But just know that you don't fool me. I won't say anything to you for a number of reasons, but don't think you're getting anything by on me. I'm not stupid, and I've been doing this special-needs/autism mama thing for a very long time. You're really missing out if you don't care to try to appreciate Reece for who she is, because she's an awesome kid! Yes, I know she cries a lot. Do you have any idea how hard she has to work to keep it together?! She doesn't cry because she's spoiled. She cries because she's overwhelmed and probably a bit confused, and then she's crying more because she's embarrassed. Because she just wants to be a 'normal girl'. Like yours.

Ok, rant over. For now. It felt good to get that out! :)

My heart has been raw since Wednesday night. I want to fix everything for her. I wish she could understand how far she has come! Last Saturday, we spent the WHOLE DAY out and about. We spent about 3 hours at a baseball stadium for Fan Fest where she ran around and played. And then we spent another 4-5 hours over at a friend's house, which is something we haven't done in YEARS because she simply couldn't handle it then! Not a meltdown all day (though it appeared there might be one when we first got to the ball field and she couldn't throw and catch as well as she expected herself to be able to do). There are things that we simply stopped doing as a family because she couldn't handle it that we could probably do now if we wanted to! But she doesn't realize that. She just realizes that she's not a "normal girl" in her own eyes. You know, it might have been easier on my heart back when she didn't know that she was any different.

Please God, help her to feel good about herself and about the person You have made her to be. Help me to guide her to see herself through Your eyes.