Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

Who are these big kids and what did they do with my babies?!?
 Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Sunday, December 08, 2013

A tough weekend for Austin

I think Austin would agree with me when I say that he has had a really awful weekend. :(

On Friday, I got home from Riley's classes and was getting ready to take the bike out for a ride at the park. He had asked if he could run up to a fast-food restaurant and get something to eat. I told him that was fine and he left.

A few minutes later he came in and told me he had wrecked the van. He was incredibly upset and I had a hard time making out what he was trying to tell me. I could hear something about a mailbox, so I assumed he ran into our mailbox or maybe the one across the street. So I went outside to look. No van.

I look to the right and see the van looking like this:

I'll skip all of the details, but know that Austin is completely OK physically. No other vehicles were involved and he/we are taking care of the damages inflicted when he lost control of the van while trying to get a spider away from him. :(

Mentally, he is very shaken up and upset, though. He is so hard on himself and he knows the ramifications of his mistake (money that he will have to repay us for the damages, and the fact that now he does not have a car available to him to drive). But I am hoping that he will also see that God's hand was all over this experience. He did not get hurt, despite some serious damage to the vehicle. Our neighbors are being very understanding. And no other vehicles or people were involved. He is doing better today thanks to the support of our extended family and his friends who are being so sweet to him. Lots of folks are sharing their own accidents as teens (or even not-so-teens) to let him know that he is really not alone. I hope and pray that he will learn valuable lessons from this difficult experience and that it will help him in his future life.

Then yesterday, the PSAT scores came in. They were, for the most part, as I expected. The one thing that surprised me was that Austin scored highest in the Writing Skills test. This shows me that he does understand the conventions of writing and what good, solid writing sounds like. (And I believe this is due to the quality literature he has been exposed to through classical education, as well as the sequential writing instruction he has had over the years). It is merely his learning problems that prevent him from coming up with the writing on his own! That's not his fault. :(

I don't think his PSAT scores are high enough to warrant having him take the SAT. I do think we will try the ACT this spring since that is more of a content-based test rather than a critical-thinking-based test. I have heard that kids on the spectrum do better with the ACT. And then we can opt out of the writing section. 

 Please keep Austin in your prayers! It's been a tough week for him and this time of year is hard enough as it is with all of the busy-ness and change in routine. Thanks!

Friday, November 29, 2013


I have so much to be thankful for this year!

Our trip to Disney World was fantastic (and I plan to blog about it in depth soon)! It wasn't the same as it has been in the past, but it was a new kind of awesome! My poor spreadsheet was the biggest casualty!

Austin did a fantastic job working at his dad's company and got his first paycheck! We are going to open a checking and savings account for him this coming week so he can start saving for his first vehicle!

Austin's first semester class (Speech) is over and we're awaiting his final grade. He will be taking Debate in the new year.

Riley's just about done with the first semester of her classes. One class is already done and we have her grade - an A! She has the last classes next week.

And on the way home from a family party on Tuesday, Reece outlined her life plan for me in great detail, so that's all set! LOL

I am feeling great physically and am happy to be able to keep up with my off-season base-building workouts! I am going to try a few new things in terms of record-keeping for school to see if that helps me keep up with everything. I'm hoping returning to more paper and pencil stuff will enable me to keep my head about water. And then I can transfer it all to digital when I have time.

SO thankful for these people! It's not easy loving and living with a Niffercoo! :D

I'm also thankful that you have taken the time to stick with me and reading my blog! I am thrilled to be able to share the ups and downs of homeschooling, and autism, and epilepsy, and all of the other random stuff I write about here! Please don't forget to LIKE my Black Pearl Academy Facebook page. I only need 4 more likes to "get access to insights about my activity" and doesn't that sound like something I need to know?? :D

I truly hope you're all having a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend (if you're in America)!

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Term #2 has begun...

... and now it's time for Fall Break! LOL

Yep, we just finished our first week of Term #2, which included starting some new books for literature (Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde for Austin, and Tom Sawyer for Reece - Riley is reading Cry, the Beloved Country for her outside literature class) and biography (Queen Victoria for Austin, Alexander Graham Bell for Reece). Austin also started his study of chemistry.

Everything went well, and I'm excited about this new term. I'm especially excited because it's finally time for a break week! This year we did not take a break week every 6 weeks like we usually do because the big kids both want to work a summer job, and in order to do that, they need to be done with school by May. And in order to do that, we have to limit our breaks. It has been challenging, to say the least. Mostly for me. I didn't realize how much I relied upon that break week to decompress and regroup. But I lived through it - and the kids really pushed through and worked hard! I'm proud of them!

And I'm very excited about this coming week! We're going to Disney World, the girls and I anyway! Austin doesn't like Disney! ;) Instead, HE is going to work with his dad and get some invaluable job experience! He is so excited and ready to work hard!

I've got so much I want to share, but just not enough time right now. Time is so limited and often I only have time to post a blurb on my Black Pearl Academy Facebook page. So please "like" that page so you can keep up with the little day-to-day things we're doing!

I hope everyone has a wonderful week! Can you believe it's almost the middle of November already??

Saturday, November 02, 2013

What a difference 6 years makes!

Halloween night - 2007 and 2013
I have been obsessed with this picture for the last 2 days. I simply cannot get over how much my children have changed in 6 short years. And that makes me fast forward in my mind 6 additional years.

Austin will be 23, Riley will be 20, and Reece will be 17.
The big kids will have graduated from high school, and Reece will be a third of the way through her Senior Year.

I might even be a grandma.

Six years seems like such a long time, but in reality - it's but an instant, a speck.

I've got to do a better job of taking in the moments and cherishing them!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

School Year 2013-2014: Term 1 Exam Week

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, exam week has been a lot of fun! These aren't the sort of exams that most of you are probably used to. Charlotte Mason-style exams are designed to allow the child the chance to tell what they KNOW, rather than what they don't know.

I hadn't really mentioned it to the kids in advance because I didn't want to stress them out with something new. So I brought it up casually last week. They were less than enthusiastic. But then on the first day, they started and just ran with it! It was so exciting! Their answers weren't quite as detailed as I was hoping, but maybe next term they will be a little more so because they will know what to expect over the term! Regardless, we had a lot of fun and the kids ended their exams feeling proud that they had learned SO much over the course of 12 weeks!

I shared the link to the Ambleside Online website Exam page that will give you an idea of the sort of questions we used. Reece is doing Year 5 and the big kids are doing Year 10 Lite. I did have to modify some of the lessons because I made some book substitutions. I thought I would share some of my own exam questions. Let me know what you think! I tried my best to model them after the AO suggestions!

Reece -

English Grammar
Parse and diagram the following sentence - “I see above me the snow-covered mountains.”

Describe the attributes of an atom. 
1. What fraction of a meter is 7 decimeters? Answer in hundredths and tenths)
2. Multiply twelve-thousand one hundred eight by seventy-six.
3. Write these fractions as decimals: 52 7/10, 11 6/100, 7/1000. 

Riley -
1. Solve: 5(x – 2) = 30
2. Solve: 8(x + 5) = 7(x - 7)
3. Give an example of the commutative property of addition.
4. What is the inverse operation of division?

1. Translate:

Christus est Rex Regum.
Christiani veritatem Christi laudant.
The leaders of the Romans are in Gaul.
The general sees the dangers of the war. 

Austin - 
1. Describe the Industrial Revolution.
2. How did the Louisiana Purchase change America?
3. Give an account of the last days in the life of Abraham Lincoln. 

1. Describe the following triangles: scalene, isosceles, equilateral.
2. Is an obtuse angle smaller or larger than 90 degrees?
3. A line is bisected by another line. Each segment is now _____ to the other.
4. If two lines are perpendicular, they form which kind of angle?

Foreign Language
1. Name the 4 definite articles in Spanish (these tell “THE”)

2. Name the 4 indefinite articles in Spanish (these tell “A/AN”)
3. What are the subject pronoun for “I”, “you (familiar)”, “you (formal)”, “he”, “she”, and “they”?


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

She's a Deep Thinker!

Well, it's safe to say that Exam Week was a huge success! I am so excited, and I plan to do a more detailed post about Exam Week tomorrow. But this evening I want to focus on Reece! She is showing some new levels of thinking, or perhaps the thinking has always been there, and she's just now able to express it? I'm not sure, but it's got us all completely amazed!

The first thing happened during our first day of Exams. Since we do Bible together, I decided to have the kids do their Bible Exam together. The question was "Describe the Fruits of the Spirit and what they mean to you personally." We had just finished the book of Galatians so I figured this would be something they would be able to answer with ease, especially since we had memorized the Fruits of the Spirit verse a long time ago.

I began with Austin and then we moved in order of age. The big kids' answers were nice and thoughtful. Then I turned to Reece:

"I think of the Fruits of the Spirit as being like a puzzle. You really need to have all of them in place working together. If you are struggling with one of the pieces, then you really can't get the whole picture of who you are in Christ."


::jaw drop::

Riley was the first to speak. "Just get out of here, Reece. You make the rest of us look bad!" LOL

The other thing happened later that evening after dance. Her teacher came out to tell me that Reece had had a problem during the class. Apparently the girls weren't very focused. It's costume week, and that is very common - the kids are all dressed up and it's Halloween week and it's a little crazy! So the teacher got serious with the girls. Reece does NOT do well with any sort of correction (even if it's not directed towards her) and she takes a small raising of the voice and a serious tone to be "yelling".

On the way home, I talked to her about the class and what happened. She had remained very upset for a good 30 minutes after the class.

She said, "I don't know why adults think that yelling works with kids. All it does is show that the adult is as out-of-control as the kids!"

Wow. Color me convicted. I DO yell, unfortunately. Way more than I want to. It's something I have been working on and praying about. And she's absolutely right! It's just me being completely out-of-control!

She really is amazing me each and every day! She thinks so deeply and is so full of emotion and love for others. I wonder if she would like a diary to write down her thoughts?!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Our first Exam Week!

We finished Week 12 last week so that means this week we will wrap up Term 1 with our first official Exam Week! I began by using the Exams listed on the Ambleside Online website that coincide with the years plans we are using, but then I had to modify them a bit to account for the materials I have switched out. Regardless they gave me a great starting point! I was a bit unsure what sort of things to expect for a Charlotte Mason-style exam, so this was very appreciated!

Since this will be our first time doing exams, I think it will probably be a little rocky this time around. My main goals are for this week to be a fun time of reflection on what we have learned this year so far, and also to get the kids to focus on retaining a little better what they have been working on. Of course, they may surprise me by retaining more than I am thinking!

I will be sure to keep everyone posted on the results! Most of the exams will be oral this time around but I'm hoping to record at least some of them for posterity!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Post-PSAT Report!

Yesterday was the big day for Austin! In case you don't have Facebook and/or a teenager, then you may not have realized that yesterday was the PSAT day in the US! I signed up Austin to take the test at a local private school that offered a whole room for homeschoolers to take the test! It's very kind of them, and I greatly appreciate this service.

Austin has spent the last couple of months using a Kaplan PSAT prep book and taking practice tests. I decided not to get accommodations for Austin for the PSAT. One reason was that I figured it was unlikely the private school would be able to hold a special arrangement just for him. That would leave our option being testing at a local high school and those are all huge around here, and I figured that would be more intimidating. But really, the bottom line for not getting accommodations is that they really weren't going to help anyway. In Austin's case, extra time or a quite place to take the test wouldn't affect his scores dramatically. This sort of test does not really match up with how his brain works. There is nothing that they can offer in the way of test situation accommodations that will help that.

One thing I've got to remember is that God has a plan for Austin's life, and no test that man can make is going to affect that. God will make a way for him! It's hard to keep that perspective because we have all been trained to believe that these tests are the be-all/end-all for the future of our children, but there is nothing that God cannot do. And nothing that He does not control. So with that in mind, I told Austin to relax and do the best he can and to play the PSAT game.

So yesterday Austin had to wake up at 6:15 and be at the school at 7:20. This is crazy early for this homeschooled teenage boy! But, like always, he rose to the occasion! I was running around like a mad woman trying to find a working pencil sharpener for his #2 pencils and couldn't find a single one! So we left early and stopped at the grocery store so I could get a pencil sharpener! Crazy!

We got to the school and he showed his official ID and went into the room. I sort of watched him for a second as he walked in. Amazing what that kid has accomplished and persevered through! He's amazing!

I had 3 hours to kill so I decided to go over to the park and ride my bike. My bright idea being that I would ride my bike and that would distract me from thinking about him taking the test. In reality, I got 90 minutes of peace and quiet to fret and worry. @@ Then I went home to clean up and get the girls started on their work. Time was flying and I could pick up my boy!

They were running late and I waited patiently. Hee hee. Finally, I saw all of the kids come out - including the kids from the school. Austin was talking to a couple of guys that he knew, which was cool. I wish I could have gotten a picture of him! He didn't see the car right away, but then he found me. I did get a picture of that! :)

He seemed happy and not overwhelmed, which was the important thing to me. It was a fairly positive experience (as much as any 3 hour standardized test can be! LOL). And now, it's done!

Well, not ALL done... the ACT is coming up in the spring! :D

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Amazing Reece

So, I hinted about the class Reece took on Monday - and now I've got the time finally to do a fitting blog post. She was simply amazing, and I'm not sure if I can express it properly. But I will try!

This is the first class of this type that I have ever signed her up for. But the older kids had taken a class from this group last year, and I wanted to give it a shot. She has made such great progress this year!

I was a bit nervous when I got the schedule and realized that her class was in the afternoon. So we would have to take the big kids, wait around and have lunch, and then she could go to her class. Yeah, I probably could have Austin drive him and Riley but going to the mall is a little far, and well, just not ready for that! LOL

So we got there and took the big kids to their class. Then Reece and I went to Starbucks with some other moms and she drank a hot chocolate. She also rode the carousel and texted with my Mom! LOL

Then we picked up the big kids and came back to the food court for lunch where she ate Subway! YUM!

At last, it was time. We got back to the room (inside Bass Pro Shop) with PLENTY of time, and then 3 minutes before it was time to start class, she tells me she has to go to the bathroom! WHAT?!?!? NO!!! Not NOW!! So we run over to the restroom.

And she goes. And goes. And goes. And I'm checking my phone for the time. Riley comes in and says, "Class has already started! I told them there was one in the bathroom!" OMG I get into a panic - she's walking in to a full classroom and the class has probably already started.

This is NOT GOOD. Yikes.

So she walks in and it's completely crowded. I had volunteered to stay in the room so I snuck in the back. She sits down at the table in the back by herself and the class starts. The teacher apparently didn't have much experience with little kids. It was a bit rough and I was afraid that Reece was going to get upset. But she started raising her hand hesitantly.

Not too sure of herself!
She answered the questions that she was called on to answer correctly, and that inspired her! Soon she was raising her hand confidently! The teacher asked her her name - and then went on to misunderstand it 3 times. This is a BIG deal to Reece and I was freaking out completely. I just knew that Reece was going to flip out - she hates people messing up her name. She finally spelled it out for her, and I may have said her name, too. I don't really remember - I was too busy plotting our escape! LOL But that ended, and she turned around and looked at me and rolled her eyes about the teacher! WOW!!

One time the teacher asked a question, and the teacher said, "Does anyone besides Reece know the answer??" That cracked her up!

They finally got into the experiments (the 'cool' part of chemistry for kids LOL) and Reece got to help by answering a question correctly! She really enjoyed that!
Reece, the helper!
There were other experiments and demonstrations and then the class was over. She LOVED it! And she was engaged and really participated. I hadn't had to intervene - or tell anyone she had special needs. She was truly 'mainstreamed' and it was incredible!

So that alone would have been amazing, right??

But wait - there's more!!

She had dance class that evening - 3 HOURS worth of dance. Only an hour or so of rest before she had to get ready. And she didn't have a meltdown or anything during dance! After such a crazy busy day! Absolutely, positively incredible!

But wait - there's more!!

Later that evening, after dance, we were waiting for Riley to finish dance and I was bragging on Reece to the Studio Director. I was telling the part about the experiments, and I said, "I was thinking to myself, 'You better choose Reece - she answered all your questions!'" and Reece interrupted and said, "But Mom, I would have understood if they didn't pick me. They may have wanted to give someone else a chance to participate!!"

I looked over at her - MIND BLOWN! She just took someone else's perspective!! WOW WOW WOW!!

But wait - there's more!!

The icing on the cake to this whole experience - Monday was the 8 year anniversary of Reece's diagnosis of Autism. 8 years to the day that I was told of the MANY things she would NEVER be able to accomplish.

And look at her now! 

Selfie for Nana

Monday, September 30, 2013

Reece, the chemist?

I don't have much time or I'd do a huge blog post about this day, but I have to take the girls to dance in a little less than an hour, so you'll have to be satisfied with a simple picture!

Today Reece took her first "homeschool class" - a one day seminar about chemistry! This class was taught by students at Georgia State. Reece not only participated by answering questions (raising her hand and waiting to be called on) but she also got chosen to come up to help with an experiment (by answering this question correctly: "What can be said about a gas regarding its shape and size?" )

Chemistry Girl!
More to come either tonight or tomorrow!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Somewhat of a rant

This has been bugging me for a couple of weeks now and I decided I would take a little bit of time to blog about it. It may seem like a rant, so feel free to skip if you're not in the mood for a rant.

You may remember that Austin got his driver's license a couple of weeks ago. For the record, I am finally calming down a little bit when he is gone. I no longer stand by the window or pace around outside. He texts when he gets to his destination and when he is leaving to come home, so I can pretty much determine when to expect him (Side note: how did anyone let their teens drive before cell phones and/or texting?????). He has driven in the dark and he has driven in the rain. He hasn't gone very far from home yet, and that's all right by me. But he goes where he needs to and that's convenient. He hasn't driven his sisters anywhere alone. Not sure when I'll be OK with that! LOL

OK, so back to the point of the story. I called the insurance company the day he got his license to add him to our policy. The agent asked if he had Driver's Ed, which he does, and that saves some money. Then she asked if he has a B average to qualify for the Good Student discount. He does not. She said, "Well, tell him to work hard and pull up those grades so he can get the discount. It is significant." I muttered something about him being a hard worker, and we talked about something else for a minute.

THEN she went BACK to the Good Student Discount thing and told me exactly how much the policy would go down if he had the discount. And said something AGAIN about telling him to "work harder"!

I didn't say anything at the time, but I was LIVID. Why is it the assumption that a child who doesn't have a B average doesn't work hard? Austin works VERY hard. He still doesn't have a B average.

Then this past Monday we went to a new neurologist, a regular one, not a pediatric one. We liked him well enough, but he asked me what Austin's GPA is. WHY? Did he not look at the report I just gave him that indicated that he has a diagnosed Cognitive Disorder?? Is it not enough to say he works hard but struggles??

Why is there such a focus on academics in our culture? Why is that the ONLY way we value someone? Is there not a "Good Citizen" discount? Austin is volunteering his time to coach younger boys this season, paying back for all the time that people invested in him when he was a young baseball player. Today he babysat his sister, supervised her school work, and made her lunch so I could volunteer where his other sister takes classes. He is a nice kid, works hard, doesn't give up, and has battled so many trials in his young life. But that doesn't count.

And you know what? I'm a homeschool mom. I could GIVE him Bs if I wanted to. I could GIVE him As if I wanted to. But he and I want his grades to be an accurate reflection of his abilities. He's not stupid. He knows he doesn't get As (except from his drum teacher who is in charge of assigning that grade). We are not into grade inflation at the Black Pearl Academy.

OK, I'm done ranting. I think. I may come back to this later. :)

I'm curious - if you're a teacher (homeschool, private, public), what makes a "Good Student" to you??

Sunday, September 15, 2013

I can't believe I missed it!!!

I had been really looking forward to writing my 1200th post! It was going to be mind-blowing and deep and meaningful. You were going to laugh, cry, smile, frown - and it was going to go viral in its awesomeness.

And then I forgot.

Turns out post #1200 was the one about Austin's school plans. Yeah, yawn. I think I even fell asleep writing it, it was so boring. It wasn't even the post about getting his driver's license, which would have been kind of cool it itself.

And I wonder why I only have 10 followers! ;)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Just what we need!

Today it's Friday, and this year, it means that Riley spends the better part of her day at her outside classes: Biology and Graphic Art.

But this week, we had a special surprise! You see, Riley has an hour between her two classes and she has spent that time in "Study Hall" which is literally in the hallway. Last week after class, Riley excitedly asked me if she could take more classes this year. Unfortunately, that just isn't possible this year. Next year, when Austin is no longer taking an outside class, I will have more funds for her to take more classes, but this year it's just not possible. So imagine my surprise when I received an email from the teacher of the World Literature class that means during Riley's free hour offering for her to come take the class - and that the tuition has been covered!!

Of course, I assumed my mom did this - but she didn't. So I asked Riley if she mentioned during class last week wanting to take more classes but not being able to afford it, but she didn't. So I'm not sure where this blessing comes from, but it is fantastic!

And after today's classes, where Riley spent the entire drive home showing me and reading from her Biology notes. She also talked about how nice and smart the Literature teacher is and how they got off topic but talked about movies and books made into movies and how much fun she had. And how they are creating a logo for themselves in art class! It's so nice to see her excited and energized about learning!

I think this might be exactly what we need for this year - and for the remainder of high school for Riley. I am so very busy with Austin's school work. He needs my one-on-one time for every single subject. It's always been this way, but in high school, everything takes so much longer. And then Reece also needs a lot of one-on-one time, though she is much more independent than Austin because she doesn't have any additional cognitive challenges to her autism like he does.

So that leaves Riley on her own. And for a child like her, who is easily distracted and energized by social situations, it isn't ideal. In fact, I prayed often this summer if it was time to put her in public school. But with her dance schedule, the public school hours are not ideal - and he didn't WANT to go to public school. I even asked her again last week after she said she wanted to take more classes. She said she wants to take more classes, just not every day! LOL

This is like the best of both worlds. Riley gets the classroom setting with energetic teachers and interaction with other teens, and I get a lighter workload!! I get to serve as "mom" instead of "teacher" for some of the subjects that I am weakest on!

Next year, I will continue having her take science and literature outside of the home, and I would like to add Latin and Math to the mix as well. Latin because I only have the time to learn at one of the girls' paces and that has to be Reece's. And Math because, even though I really love it and feel comfortable teaching it, it is not an area of strength for Riley and she gets frustrated at me. Of course, when I mention these plans, she said, "What will I still be doing at home then?" LOL History! :D

My one regret is that her education has drifted incredibly far from being a Charlotte Mason education. But this is what we have to do to make it work right now. I can only do what I can do!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sweet Dreams

Officially licensed driver in the state of Georgia!

Driving himself to his Speech/Debate class! :)

After all these years of hoping and praying that Austin would be able to drive a car, he got his driver's license yesterday! I am so proud of him for all of his hard work and determination! He really is quite a careful driver. He got a 100% on his driver's ed written test and a 90% on the actual road test for his license. He was mad that he didn't get a 100% on that, too! @@

I have been experiencing just about every emotion known to mankind in the last couple of days. All of these years I have prayed that he COULD drive, and now, my prayers become even more fervent as I pray for his safety while he is out driving! LOL

Friday, September 06, 2013

School Year 2013-2014: Austin, 11th grade

11th grade?? What the heck?!? Who gave him permission to be grown up?! I guess none of them ask, do they?

So here is Austin's line up for his Junior year of high school:

First of all, he is taking his first outside-the-home class this year. He is taking Speech and Debate with other homeschoolers at the home of a veteran homeschool mom/educator. She has graduated 3 homeschoolers herself and she does consulting, testing, and teaching now. He has 10 kids total in his class and he is really enjoying it - much to my surprise, and his. One thing I have to say about his class that also pleases me is that it is racially diverse, which is unusual in the homeschooling community, which is mostly white and Christian in our area. Half of his class are racial minorities. I do not know about their religious backgrounds. But I was pleased to see this diversity and glad he gets a chance to work with kids who are not just like him. So anyway, that is one credit - Speech/Debate.

And to get it out of the way - we are using Geometry by Harold Jacobs for Austin's Geometry credit. This book is phenomenal. He does use a lot of humor which sometimes goes over Austin's head. But the book is well-done and we are going to go as far as we can with it! We do it pretty interactively.

Austin's English credit this year involves a literature and poetry list that very closely resembles Ambleside Online Year 10 Lite - fiction, poetry, and short stories. We are working through Jensen's Format Writing and, so far, it seems to be clicking with him. He is also doing a grammar review from Analytical Grammar. Spelling is Spelling Wisdom though I'm just about ready to give up on him ever being a decent speller! LOL If I could have all the money back that I've spent over the years on Spelling curricula for him - I could enter several Disney races next year! LOL I am having him read The Well-Educated Mind this term and will probably have him read The Elements of Style as well.

Science is still up in the air. I have a free high school Earth Science textbook on the Kindle that is really good, but I am thinking he should be exposed to Chemistry. I hesitate with it because of the math required for Chemistry, but I could help him with the math, like I do with math. Currently, the time he would be spending in Science is being spent working through a PSAT prep book. He takes the PSAT next month! We are not going to seek accommodations. He doesn't need extra time, and that is the most common accommodation as far as I can tell. He has proven that he can work in a room full of other kids.

Foreign language? Yeah, it cracks me up that this kid for whom English is basically a foreign language has to take 2 years of a different language, but here we go! He chose Spanish - and I chose the Breaking the Barrier program. I debated between Latin and Spanish, and in the end he told me he preferred Spanish so that's where we went. Thankfully he has a strong grammar background which makes things easier.

History is the 1800s using World History and American History textbooks, just like Riley. Geography/Biography are just regular books, finding locations on the maps, and also a focused map study of states and countries. He is also beginning to work on his Economics credit. He is starting out with Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? and will finish the year out with Economics in One Lesson.

He is continuing his private drum lessons and that will be a credit as well - Intermediate Percussion.

I feel like I'm forgetting something, but my notebook is in the other room and it's Friday night and I'm too lazy to get it! LOL

Thursday, September 05, 2013

School Year 2013-2014: Riley, 9th grade

Riley's first year of high school! It's so hard to believe! When I started this blog back in January 2005, Riley was a Kindergartener! It's amazing how quickly time flies by.

You already know that Riley is going to a homeschool co-op sort of place for Biology and Graphic Art this year. I say "sort of place" because we do have to pay for the classes, but at the same time we have to volunteer a certain amount of times per session - so it's not a co-op in the strictest sense of the term. Biology uses the Apologia textbook and her Graphic Art class is designed by the teacher, who is a professional artist.

For math, we are starting over with Algebra 1. She is using Elementary Mathematics by Harold Jacobs, and I really like it. She likes it better than Math U See, and anything that gets her to like math better is a good thing in my book. She wasn't thrilled about starting over at the beginning, but she'll be OK.

For Latin, we are continuing with Henle Latin 1. This has been really slow going and I'm not overly thrilled with it. She isn't, either, and she wants to do First Form Latin with Reece. However, we have to think about high school credits here (I'd like her to have 3 credits of Latin by the time she graduates - Latin 1 over 9th/10th, Latin 2 in 11th, and Latin 3 in 12th) and First Form/Second Form do not cover the amount of material that would make up a high school Latin 1 course. She also decided to add Greek into her schedule this year, finally. Since I see Greek as an 'extra' she is using the Elementary Greek, Level 1 program. There are 3 level to this program and when she finishes all 3, I plan to give her a half or whole credit for the entire series. I'll have to check the website for the curriculum to see what they suggest is appropriate.

Her English credit this year will consist of a number of components. The biggest component is Introduction to Literary Analysis using two programs from the Institute for Excellence in Writing: Teaching the Classics and Windows to the World. I am using a set of lesson plans that combines these two resources and adds in a few novels and a Shakespeare play for an entire year's curriculum. She will be reviewing grammar using the Analytical Grammar review books. I purchased Spelling Wisdom, Level 4, to use with her but we haven't figured out how to get it into the schedule yet. The literary analysis curriculum includes writing so we don't have a separate curriculum for that. She is also reading some poetry this year and I will include that in her English credit.

For a Health and Physical Education credit, we are using a textbook called Total Health. I used this with Austin and he enjoyed it. It's very straightforward - read the chapter, answer the questions, get the credit! For PE, I am planning to count her jazz, tap, and modern classes for the year into a half credit of PE. I am unsure if I will have ballet be its own credit or not - she takes 4.5 hours a week so it could count if I want it to. This is one of those areas where I'm unsure if it should go on the transcript or on the resume as an extra-curricular activity.

History gets a little more complicated when it comes to assigning credits. In the end of high school, she will have 1 World History, 1 American History, 1/2 Government, 1/2 Economics, and then an elective (right now I'm leaning towards History of Dance). However, we have always studied history chronologically and incorporate American History as we go. I have used books with Austin and she has read them as well, so technically she could have her American and World History credits complete by the end of next year. The World History text is high school level and the American History text is college level, so I don't think there is a problem in assigning her credit for reading and narrating the material. That would leave her available to do Econ and Government in her Junior year and Dance History in her senior year. Austin has been doing Econ and Government in bits and pieces since his freshman year but Riley has not. I also incorporate Biographies into history so those book will be included in the credits as well.

So she has a busy schedule, but it's not overwhelming, I don't think. She does struggle with attention, which I take responsibility for. In the years when I should have been training her in the habit of attention, I was busy with her siblings. There is nothing I can do about that except pray that it's not too late to develop this habit. In fact, I am sitting at the kitchen table with her now and she's been working on Algebra and History - trying to help her stay focused. She asked me to do this. She knows that this year is important and I know she wants to do better. Attention is a challenge for a child who is so creative!

Tomorrow I will post about Austin's busy year!

Monday, September 02, 2013

School Year 2013-2014: Reece, 6th grade

Since we are starting our 5th week of school, I figured it is probably time to do my annual posts detailing what we're doing for lessons this year! :D I'm going to start with Reece since hers is the most straight-forward, and she's the one who is the most fun to teach! LOL

Her History, Geography, Biography, Science Biography, and Poetry are based on Ambleside Online's Year 5. I used to list these books out, but Ambleside wants users to direct folks to their website when discussing their curriculum, so I will do that!

I have changed her Literature plans mostly because there are a couple of books that are listed for Free Reading that I would prefer to have her read for school. Reading is an area where Reece struggles and she doesn't enjoy it as a result, so if I want to make sure she reads a book, I need to assign it to her. For 1st term, she is reading a version of King Arthur by Roger Lancelyn Green. I am reading Age of Fable out loud to her which is really enjoyable because she already knows so much about Greek and Roman Mythology that the advanced language doesn't hinder her understanding of the material. In Term 2, I would like her to read Alice in Wonderland and Tom Sawyer; and in Term 3, I would like her to read Little Women and Anne of Green Gables. Whichever ones we aren't able to get to will go on her summer reading list for next year!

Rounding out her language arts for this year, she is using Analytical Grammar. I can't even begin to describe how excited she is to be doing Grammar again this year - and she absolutely adores the Analytical Grammar curriculum! She's my little Grammar nerd! For writing, we are finishing up Writing With Ease, Level 3 and will proceed to Level 4 when we are done. This has been such a challenge for her, but I think the time we are spending will be worth it, especially as I am reflecting on Austin's narration/comprehension struggles and comparing them to hers (so similar so I am assuming it's an autism spectrum issue). I think this curriculum will teach her how to organize her thoughts for narration (and written composition in the future). I am planning to use Spelling Wisdom with her for Spelling, but right now, I am having a hard time fitting it in, so I am incorporating spelling as it comes along in the dictation in Writing With Ease.

I decided to try some official Latin this year, since she read through Minimus Latin informally last year and really enjoyed it. I purchased First Form Latin for her from Memoria Press, and when I got it, I was really overwhelmed by it. I didn't think she would understand it at all. I almost went back and ordered Latina Christiana instead, but decided to go ahead with First Form and cut back on the pace. I am so glad I did, because she is doing surprisingly well with it. In fact, I think we may be able to go ahead and take it at a regular pace.

She is also starting Logic this year with informal logic found in puzzles and games. Once again, I am using the Logic Countdown series that I used with the older kids! She really enjoys it, too, which is nice for me.

Math continues to be RightStart Mathematics. We are going to complete Level E this year, and then we are moving on instead of using the Level G Geometry program. My plan has been to use the Key to Fractions/Decimals/Percents books but, so far, she seems to be understanding it all really well, so that may not be necessary. In that case, I will have her work through the Singapore Math Word Problems books that I bought before they went out of print! :D

Finally, for science, we are taking one last year to do some informal science before jumping into Apologia next year. This year, Reece is going to read through the Elementary Physical Science book from the Calvert School. This is an out-of-print book that is small and boils down all of the typical Physical Science topics down into simple words and easy-to-understand information. Riley loved it when she read it, and Reece is enjoying it as well.

One of the very best things about teaching Reece is that I have done this all before. In fact, I have read most of these books out loud to the big kids - so my workload is pretty low for her, which is good. I have very little prep work and the hardest part is that many of her lessons directly involve me, so she has to wait for time with me to free up so she can get her work done. Truly, I need a clone. Or two.

As for extra-curriculars, Reece added two hours of dance this year. Her ballet class remains and hour, but jazz and tap each extend to an hour. She also added a modern dance class this year, which is on a separate night. We've only had 2 weeks so far, but she is doing great and loving every minute!

First Day of Dance! My big middle school girl is growing up so quickly!

So far, middle school is progressing nicely. I think there is a lot to be said for being the youngest homeschooler! She gets the more relaxed and experienced version of the homeschool mom! Lucky girl!!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Week 4 in the books!

Week 4 of this school year is complete - and if the rest of the year goes by as quickly as these 4 weeks have gone, it will be done in a flash!

I think we are all settling into understanding that our school work is simply going to take all day long. I suppose it's not surprising considering that we don't have "homework" in the evenings. Having 6-7 hours of lessons plus an hour break in the middle of the day might be reasonable for high schoolers who don't have to come home and do more work (and a middle schooler that sometimes has to wait around for me to finish with her brother).

Could they finish more quickly? Riley - absolutely! I'm not sure why she dawdles so much and then rushes to finish when it's time to run out to dance class. She says she loves to work under pressure, and I definitely don't, so maybe we'll just have to agree not to understand each other!

Today Riley had her first outside class. She is taking two - Biology (my idea) and Art (her idea). Today she only had Biology because her Art teacher is on vacation. She has to be up very early to get there after a very late night at dance on Thursday. But this morning when I went to wake her up she was already up! I'm not sure she'll do that every week, or if this was just the excitement of the first day, but it sure was nice!

All ready for class!!
She loved her class and asked if she could take more! I don't have the money to do that this year, but I really wish I could. It was nice to see her so pumped up and excited. She was even excited about what the teacher talked about! I hope she continues to enjoy it as the year progresses!

I took her out for lunch after class, just like I did for Austin's first day of class. While we were eating and talking and laughing, she asked, "Why can't you always be like this??" When I asked what she meant, she replied, "Happy and relaxed and having fun. I hate it that you're always stressed out."

Ugh. Wow. That shot me through the heart.

I am trying. I would love to be more relaxed and having fun. I did hint that perhaps the above-mentioned scenario of waiting until the last minute to finish lessons and then rushing around like a crazy person might contribute to my "stressed out" feelings, but I'm not sure if that will change anything! :)

I hope we are getting into our groove now. Dance has resumed and the outside classes are in full swing. I can't think of anything else that we have to add to our schedules. So if we can just keep plugging away at our work, I think we'll be in good shape!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Halfway there...

This week - despite the raging hormones of two of our number - has been a lot better. I think we are all just accepting the fact that lessons are going to take a long time. I still hope that we will get into a better groove once we are all used to the schedule.

HOPE. Word of the Year. :D

We have already ditched Plutarch again. Poor Plutarch. Well, maybe one of these days we'll be able to fit him back in!

We have already ditched Art History, but not Artist Study. I may have Riley read the Art History book because it really is a good book - but I won't be reading it aloud.

I also ditched my attempt to use Churchill and Johnson for history textbooks. Spielvogel and Tindall are not strictly Ambleside selections, but they are books written by one author, so they will have to work for us because the language is more easily accessible to my kids. And sometimes, I just need that. I was considering trying a complete curriculum for history but I kept getting the feeling that I need to stick with what we've already got and not try to bring something else new into the mix.

Bible - Bible Memory Work - Poetry Memorization - those are staying come heck or high water! I will fight hard to keep those! And I am working hard on making sure that narration - written and oral - is a daily thing. These are IMPORTANT. They are the foundation of everything else.

We are still on a full schedule, and I'm working on that balance of work on the days where Austin has his class and Riley will have hers. That is strictly trial and error.

2 more days this week and then we get a 3 day weekend!! WOOHOOO!!!

And I got this today from my aunt -
Beautiful new dryer!
Already I am learning how much time I was spending hanging up wet clothes all around my house - didn't realize it took that long but it did ! This will save me so much time and right now anything that gives me even a few extra minutes in my day it a huge blessing!

Still hoping to post individually about the kiddos - since there is a 3 day weekend, the chances are pretty good!

Everyone have a great Thursday and Friday!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

We survived the first week back to activities!

But just barely!

Well, that was a busy week.

Dance classes resumed.
Austin had his first week of class..
I had dental work done.
Reece had a dentist appointment.
I went to the first meeting for my homeschool group.
I spent 3 hours at the laundromat because our dryer is dead and I needed to wash sheets and Riley's laundry. 
Riley and I attended orientation for her outside classes.

And we did lessons.

I won't judge how the remainder of the year will go based upon the first week! LOL It wasn't easy, but I'm starting to think nothing is going to be easy in the next couple of years.

 The week ended with Riley getting a cold - probably from being in close quarters again in dance class. This new week begins with me feeling like I'm catching her cold. We have another busy week ahead of us, and "ain't nobody got time for that!" :D

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Austin takes a class!

Austin started his first outside class today - Speech/Debate! I have been so excited for him about this class. He was appropriately nervous but excited!

Yesterday, he got his binder set up as per the instructions from the teacher!

He came out with his survival backpack! Um, no.

This is a much better look for the first day of class! 
There are 10 kids in the class, all homeschooled high schoolers. Today for class they had to prepare a short 2-3 minute speech about themselves.

I was sneaky and got a picture of him walking in! :)
Today I stayed, but mostly because it was storming and I didn't feel like going back and forth in the pouring rain. This location is near our house and I could get back and get about an hour of work done with the girls before I had to leave again. And hopefully, Austin will have his license soon and can drive himself there! :D

This Friday we have orientation for Riley's first outside academic classes for high school which begin next week!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

When the calm isn't so calm.

So this past week of school was supposed to be the "calm before the storm." It wasn't the crazy busy first week that we had (that was a ton of fun, but was still crazy). And our dance classes and outside classes begin this coming week. So it was going to be perfect, right? Calm. Lots of work getting done. Right?



I'm not exactly sure what went wrong but everything fell apart last week. Monday was busy with dance open house and a baby shower for the girls' dance teacher, but after that it just went kapput. I can't pinpoint what started it, but I suspect it was the fact that we had nonstop busy-ness from Thursday until Monday and though I thought Tuesday-Friday would be relaxing, it ended up being a mental meltdown.

I can't even say it was the kids' fault, though they have had a hard time getting back into the groove of lessons. It was mostly on me. I fell apart last week, completely. I am having such a hard time keeping up with everyone's work. And our lessons are taking all day long, which isn't surprising when you have older kids. What is different for our circumstance is that Austin has learning disabilities, and for him to be able to complete as close to a high school level curriculum as possible requires me to be available to work one-on-one with him. And that is less time available for the girls, or their work gets pushed back until I'm done with him. And before we know it, it's dinner time - or this week - dance class time. And then I still have to read/prepare lessons for the next day. And quite frankly, by that point, the last thing I want to do is more school work.

I am considering making some curriculum changes to relieve some of my work load. Each of the kids reads an average 8 books per term - 22 books (since Austin and Riley read the same history and biography books) is a lot to keep up with, in addition to relearning high school math so I can teach it. This is so hard for me and I'm trying to delay the decision a little while to pray about it, and not make a knee-jerk reaction while I'm under stress.

The main point behind this need to relieve my stress is directly related to the age of the kids. And not just for academic reasons. But mostly because on Wednesday, Riley texted my mom and told her that she was worried about me because I was so upset. And Reece told me that it upset her that I was crying. I do NOT want that to be their memories of their mother when they grow up! Homeschooling for us is as much about living as a family and making memories and building character and growing young people into adults who love the Lord and each other as it is about preparing them academically for their futures.

Please pray for us this coming week as we work to find our balance while our schedule gets crazier. Austin begins his first outside class and he already has an assignment to finish. We have a couple of dentist appointments as well. The "calm before the storm" wasn't so calm. But I pray that we will be able to find the calm within the storm of busy-ness.

Friday, August 09, 2013

First Week is DONE! :)

Yeah, I know I disappeared, but this has been a really crazy week! Not only did we start back to school but we had so much going ON! It was nuts! Here is the first day of school picture:

9th, 6th, and 11th grades!
Monday and Tuesday were regular school days - on a somewhat lighter work load. The Wednesday, the first day of our local public schools, we took off from school and celebrated our 12th annual Not Back to School Day! We have always gone to Chuck E Cheese, but this year the kids decided they were too old for that. It happened that the new Percy Jackson movie came out that day and so the girls and I went to see a morning matinee (Austin stayed home - movies in the theater are not his thing due to the noise and sensory issues).

Popcorn and Icees and Candy - Oh MY!!
Then yesterday our new homeschool group hosted a Back to School Beach Party at the lake at the State Park near our home.

They tell me this is a 'small' turnout for this group - there are over 100 children in the group overall!
As we were pulling out of the park, I got a message from my friend Penny saying that she and her family were in Atlanta and could we have lunch together? So the kids and I swung by the house and freshened up a bit and went straight on down to Atlanta to enjoy an Atlanta tradition of greasy fast food - The Varsity!

Look at these adorable kids!!
Penny and I rocked the Varsity hats! 
So we got home 7 hours after we left the house that morning, and we were all completely wiped out. And we hadn't done the school work I had planned for us! So today we had to get two days worth of work done.

But did I mention that Austin had his first in-car driving lesson today at 11:00?? LOL (He did great, by the way!) So after a very, very, very long day... we completed our first week of the 2013-2014 school year. Well, almost. Riley forgot about her Latin quiz so she's finishing that up right now (at 8:30 PM).

Overall, the week went very well. There was no crying or yelling... today Reece was pretty easily frustrated, but that is to be expected after yesterday's busy-ness. It was very, very nice and a little unexpected. And everyone noticed the difference. That's one thing that each of the kids has commented on - the fact that there wasn't any yelling (between me and Riley, mostly - sad, huh?).

This coming week is the calm before the storm. We won't have any of our activities or outside classes yet, but we will be doing our full academic schedule. I really want to see how long our work takes us before we add the classes and the dance craziness!

Now I'm looking forward to the weekend. I am implementing a "rest day" for myself each week on Saturday. Usually I use Saturday and Sunday to work on preparing for the upcoming week. But the problem with that is then I have no days to refresh and rejuvenate. And I get burned out really quickly. So this year, I am going to try to have a planned "rest day" each week and see if that helps my burnout level! :)

If you've started your school year already, I hope you're having a successful time! And if you're starting back again soon, I hope it's going to be lovely for you and your family! Hopefully this coming week I'll be able to update more during the week!

Saturday, August 03, 2013

TWO days!!

I wish I could say that I've spent the last two weeks working diligently to prepare for the first day of school, but that would be a lie, and I try to be honest on my blog. When I feel overwhelmed, I tend to put my head in the sand - as if that will help!

So now I'm facing school starting the day after tomorrow and I have a lot of work to accomplish this weekend. This weekend that also happens to be the peak of my triathlon training. Someone didn't plan this out very well, did she? LOL

To top it all off, this "First Week of School" has added several non-schooly things to interfere with the workload: our homeschool group is having a Back to School party and Austin has his first in-car driving lesson. (Did I mention here that he scored a 100% on his driver's ed final exam??) Instead of throwing in the towel, we're going to have to learn to work around life - just like the kids will have to do when they are older and are in college and/or have jobs. You have to figure out how to get the work done in the hours that you have. Austin's trying to use the excuse "I have work to do" to get out of going to the Back to School party, but I really want him to go. I can't promise him that he'll have a good time, but he's not going to know until he tries. And he's not going to get to know the other teens in the group until he goes to some of the activities and gets to know them - and more importantly, allow THEM to get to know HIM. The real him. Not the guy who walks around with scowl on his face.

So this evening and tomorrow I'll finish getting everything ready. And these first few weeks, we'll see how it goes - if it's too much (like it usually is, since I tend to over-plan), I'll have to prioritize. If it's not enough, then I am certain I can find more for us to do! LOL

Your prayers are always appreciated! Two high schoolers and a middle schooler = Intimidating!

Monday, July 22, 2013

A shameless plug!

My post today has the sole purpose of reminding you that I have a page on Facebook now for this blog! You can see every time I post a new entry, and sometimes I'll just post pictures or tidbits about our day directly over there!

Please click HERE to be taken directly to the Facebook page so you can "Like" the Black Pearl Academy!


2 weeks left until the first day of school!!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

This is more like it..

Today's productivity was much better!

1. Printed off all the maps we need for geography - my kids aren't going to graduate until they can correctly identify the 50 states! LOL Actually we're doing the Western Hemisphere this year and maybe Europe if they are quick studies!

2. Printed off the first 20 or so exercises for each kid in Spelling Wisdom, which will be our Spelling/Penmanship/Dictation/Vocabulary curriculum from here on out. Each of the kids will be working in a different level book.

3. Printed off the Ambleside Online guide for Plutarch's Life of Publicola/Poplicola. Plutarch is always the first thing to go when the schedule gets crazy. Hopefully this won't happen again this year. It would be so nice to make it through a whole life!

4. Ordered a Picture Study Portfolio from Simply Charlotte Mason. I usually pull that all together myself but I wanted to see if it was worth the $15 not to have to! I ordered the one one of Turner, partially because he fits in our time period, and partially because I'm going to have a blast calling him "MISter TURner" all term! :)

5. Finally opened up the Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization that I got in IEW's big half price sale last year to see how complicated it will be to implement. It won't be at all, so that will be an "open and go" sort of thing. No planning required! YAY! I did not get the CDs so I will have to read it all aloud. The poems are somewhat juvenile - at least in Level 1- so we'll see what Austin and Riley think of them.

6. Reworked our calendar. I've been thinking about our schedule that I was so excited about a few weeks ago and I think it will all have to be changed. Riley and Austin both want to work next summer, and Riley loves to volunteer for VBS and do ballet intensives. That will be easier if they don't have a full load of school work still in June. So I took out some of our break weeks, and we'll finish up at the end of May. It's a little nerve-wracking to think about it, but we're going to have to do it next year anyway so Austin can graduate in May with our homeschool group! I guess this will be good practice! I will finish tweaking the schedule this evening and maybe tomorrow.

So that was my productive day! Tomorrow I would really like to get working on a new format assignment sheet for the kids, something that they can start to fill in themselves as they take ownership of their planning and schedules! I am just not that adept at designing things.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Productivity slump

Today, instead of actually doing anything productive, I have done the following:

1. Watched "The Help" after having read the book this summer. It was fantastic. I sobbed!

2. Took the kids to the pool for 4 hours - lots of sun finally and beautiful day for the pool. I am developing a sunburn.

3. Getting ready to watch the All Star Game on TV!

Yesterday could be counted as slightly productive because Austin's new math books came and I first talked myself down off the cliff and then talked him down when he saw them. And I learned that I have to buy a protractor and compass and a scientific calculator for him to use with this. @@

Tomorrow, I will be productive! School starts in less than 3 weeks and I REALLY want that week off before we start!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

"You purchased ANOTHER math curriculum?"

Yeah, you probably guessed it... that's a reference to a line from a movie. Can anyone guess what it is? Well, anyone except my husband, since there's no way he doesn't know!

And the answer would be "Yes. Yes, I did." (That part is not from the movie LOL).

As much as I was determined to stick with Math U See for high school, I changed my mind. It started innocently enough when Austin's ITED (the high school version of ITBS) results came back and the kid scored highest on math - practically on grade level despite the fact that he is only finishing up MUS Algebra 1. Is MUS to credit for that? I'm not sure, and I'll reserve judgement. Austin has been through way too many math curricula to level credit or blame on any one curricula. Poor kid.

Then I decided that this will be the last year that I teach Riley math at home. Despite my love of math, and the fact that she and I have done a much better job this year with getting along, it's time for her to move on. There is an amazing math teacher in Atlanta who is used by many of my friends, and you can take his classes online. I think that is a valuable skill to learn in this day and age as many of my friends' kids who are taking college classes (and even some high school classes) are doing so online. This is just the nature of 21st century education. A friend familiar with these classes told me that MUS Algebra 1 doesn't cover everything that is covered in the Derek Owens Algebra 1 classes, so I may want to have her get a copy of another Algebra 1 book and fill in the gaps. Well, I have the Jacobs Elementary Algebra book that I like so much and gave up on with Austin. So that should work.

Then I looked at what Geometry text Derek Owens requires and it's the Jacobs book, which is no longer easily obtained online. I was able to find a copy of the text and the teacher's book on ebay so I purchased it - not cheap, but not overpriced. Amazon's copies were in the THOUSANDS of dollars, and even Alibiris was listing copies in the $200-$300 range. No way!

When the book arrives, I will take a look at it and see if I'll have Austin complete it this year instead of MUS Geometry. One thing I've learned with Austin is that ANY curriculum is going to be challenging for him, but he does seem to be capable of learning with the hard work that he has given to his Algebra the last year. So if it's going to be hard anyway, and I have the book I need for Riley for next year anyway, I may as well just use what I have. Saving money and all, right?

I'll be sure to update when I get the book and get a chance to look at it! Now I need to decide if Riley will finish MUS Algebra 1 or if I'll go ahead and have her work through Jacobs Algebra this year instead of just having her go through it to fill in the gaps. She is about 1/3 of the way through MUS and that's most of the graphing section, which is a lot of work. I guess I should get out the Algebra book and take a look at it again.

Oh, and guess what?? Austin will finally finish Algebra 1 tomorrow!!! I think I may take us out for ice cream or something! It's been a long two years! :)

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Smarter Scheduling!

Austin had his wisdom teeth out on Monday (he's doing really great - the sensory part has been worse than the actual physical recovery) so we've been staying close to home this week. Also, the weather has been horrible with heavy, heavy rain and some thunderstorms. So I've been making good use of this time at home to get lots of our scheduling done.

What I mean by scheduling is dividing the books and curriculum that we are using into weekly chunks. It can be as simple as taking the number of chapters or pages and dividing by 36, if it's a resource we're using for the entire year, or dividing by 12 if it's a resource we're using for a single term.

But this year, I'm finally doing some smarter scheduling.

First off, I am going to implement end-of-term exams for all of the kids this year. We did it once or twice in the last couple of years, but this year I have scheduled exam weeks into our school year. So this means it will be more critical to finish each term at a natural ending point - the end of a book or  the end of a chapter or a unit in curricula that is divided that way.

Also, since I have broken our school year into weeks on, exam weeks, break weeks, etc. and I don't know which days exactly we may take off for an event with our new homeschool group, I need to build in some "catch-up" time this school year. I too often find that we're at the end of the school year and we've gotten behind, but the end of the year is the craziest time with standardized testing (which I built into our schedule as well) and recital (built in time off for that as well!). So instead of building a schedule that's full and crazy, I've built a schedule that allows for some catch-up time if we need it. And if we don't, then we'll end up with a lighter schedule come the end of each term.

Knowing that we have this catch-up time scheduled helps me to feel a little easier about all we have to accomplish this coming year. Granted, we will be doing school from early August until June, but we'll have nice, week-long breaks every 6 weeks or so, and I think that's going to be much nicer in the long run. And the exam weeks will be busy mornings, but not all day long events each day. And having a full 36 weeks of lessons, plus the 3 exam weeks, allows us to have slightly less busy days because we have MORE days. Normally we would have "Sun and Fun", but I think with the kids' ages and the more intense nature of their work, I think this is going to be a better way to approach our year now. But if it doesn't live up to my expectations, I'll change it around next year! (And I'll have to change it up a little bit next year for Austin anyway so he's done by graduation - ACK! Graduation??? Next school year?? NOOOOOOO!!! LOL).

I am finding myself really looking forward to this school year for the first time in several years! We got our first book order yesterday, and tomorrow I'm going to place a few more orders! If I keep working this way, I'll definitely be done planning in time to take a nice break for myself before the first day of school! :)

Monday, July 01, 2013

Give Me Liberty...

Yesterday at church, our pastor was talking about Patrick Henry. He said that most people know who he is, but that the younger people had probably never heard of him.

Riley made eye contact with me (she sits one section over from us, with other kids in the youth group) and she winked and nodded.

Of course she knows who Patrick Henry is. I read his "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" speech out loud to everyone this school year. (Or I tried to... these older speeches are not easy! LOL)

It made me proud that she acknowledged that she did indeed know who Patrick Henry is. I hope that helps her realize just how unique and special is this classical education she is receiving!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Sun and "Fun"

So this week, I came to a realization about our Sun and Fun program. It hasn't been too much "Fun" for me. I've been harping on the kids to get their stuff done - no, really, just the girls. Austin wants his gift cards so badly it wouldn't surprise me to see him working on the weekend! The girls want their rewards, too, so I'm not sure what the problem is, but it's annoying me.

And quite frankly, the purpose of Sun and Fun is for them to keep their skills up while I get the planning done for the upcoming school year. This I cannot do when I'm having to follow them around to make sure they do their stuff. And you know what? They are too old for me to be doing this.

So yesterday I told them that there were going to have to take the initiative with Sun and Fun. If they are going to do the work that day, they will do it and mark it off. Writing needs to be emailed to me, or written and turned in. If assistance is required with math, arrangements must be made before lunch time. To verify that all work has been done, the sheet should be handed to me to sign off.

All of this ties right in to my goals for the kids to be understanding and working with deadlines and turning in work in a timely manner without reminders. I think they will find this necessary during their outside classes, so maybe this summer experience will help.

It is my intention to do much more detailed planning this summer, and in order to do that, I need time. I have 5 weeks until we begin our new school year, and really that's just 4 weeks because I'd like to take the week before school off from planning. This is definitely do-able but it's going to require some serious work on my part. But I think it will help me in the long run and free me up during our 'break weeks' to actually be able to enjoy some down time.

5 weeks until the first day of school? YIKES!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Planning is in full swing!

This is my favorite part of homeschooling! :)
I have completed and printed out the book lists for our School Year 2013-2014! And not only that, but I also planned out the dates for school next year! I am on on the ball this summer!

Trying a different approach to planning our weeks on and off! 
Next week I hope to begin ordering the books we need! :)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sun and Fun 2013

Today the kids and I begin Sun and Fun! We have done this just about every year since we began homeschooling, but this is truly something we would do even if the kids went to a classroom school. Taking off of academics for an extended period of time just isn't a good idea! We could do a more traditional form of year-round schooling, but I think we all enjoy a little bit of fun in the summer.

Typically, the kids have had to do some reading, writing, and math each day and they would earn a "sun". Here is a post outlining how we did it in the past. But this year, each of the kids has something specific they are working towards. So I made a paper for each of the kids.
They each have to read 30 minutes a day, and they have a reading list of 2-3 books each. If they finish these books before the end of Sun and Fun, they can pick what they want to read from the public library or from our extensive personal library. They each have to pick a topic from the narration jar and write according to their age and abilities. And they each have to complete a math worksheet from their regular math programs. They have to do this 20 times before the end of July, which works out to be 3-4 days per week, or 4 straight weeks, whichever they prefer.

Austin wants gift cards for Pizza Hut and Bojangles. Isn't that such a teenage boy thing? Riley wants tickets to see a concert in September (so her reading list is a bit more extensive). And Reece wants the paid version of Minecraft for her laptop. Once they have completed their Sun and Fun, they will get their rewards!

I've made myself a couple of summer reading lists as well! I have been really slack about reading for enjoyment in the last couple of years because of trying to keep up with all of the kids' reading.

Mom's Summer Fun Reading

The first book, Blue Like Jazz, is one that my friend Laura lent me a long, long time ago about Christianity and faith and I can't wait to read it (and get it back to her!). The next book is Every Woman's Guide to Cycling, because that's my triathlon focus this year. The third book is Amplifying Our Witness, about teaching and reaching teenagers with developmental disabilities. And the fourth book is Simply Classical, a book about using classical education methods with special needs kids. I also have a book on my Kindle from the library called The Help, which I'm sure just about everyone has heard of. That will actually be the first book I read because it goes back this weekend.

Mom's Teacher In-Service Reading
The second group of books are my Summer Teacher Prep books, For the Children's Sake and Towards a Philosophy of Education (Vol. 6 of the Charlotte Mason series. These two books I read every single summer to refocus on our educational philosophy before the new year begins. Since I have been doing this, I have not experienced the panic and obsession with school choices. This summer I'm also going to read The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer to see if this might be a better choice for Austin to read over the next two years instead of How to Read a Book (which is a much denser read).

I've also got to work on lesson planning, but I'll focus on that more later in July! For now, I just want to get back into a habit of reading again. I really miss it!

What are you reading this summer?

Monday, June 17, 2013

"This isn't what I thought it was going to be like"

Austin said this to me the other day and while I took a little bit of time to talk with him about it in the moment, I've really been pondering his comment ever since.

He was talking about cat ownership. He was talking about  how much our kitty, Sebastian, has changed in temperament in the 6 months that we have had him.

Sebastian on his 6 month "home-aversary" on June 12th
And he is right. When Sebastian first followed us home, he spent most of his time snuggled up in our laps. He would go from one lap to the next and would purr and snuggle. Over time, he spent less time on our laps but would still hang out next to us or near us. And when he wants some time alone, he will go under one of the beds. Austin tends to follow him around, even under the bed, to be with him - and he is usually met with a typical kitty "leave me alone" reaction.

In April, we went on a trip and left Sebastian here at the house while our neighbor came to take care of him. As soon as we got back, we packed up the entire contents of the house, moved it out to a storage pod, and completely redid the interior of the house from the floors to the furniture to the bedding. Sebastian spent the night of the flooring at a friend's house. That is a lot for a cat, I think. Regardless, it seemed to be a lot for our cat. He started hissing at us anytime we came near him. He spent most of his time under the bed in the girls' room. He also started doing his business on the floor in the bathroom sometimes instead of in the litter box. It has upset all of us, I think, to have him react this way... but I think it's upset Austin the most.

I did a little research on "hissing" in cats and learned that it's not always an aggressive thing. So instead of trying to correct him for it, I have started speaking to him in a calm voice to reassure him that he's OK and that we love him. And when we try to pick him up and he hisses, then we just don't pick him up (unless we're picking him up for a reason where we have no choice). We're trying to help him to feel comfortable, and loved, and respected.

So when Austin said what he did to me last week, I asked him why he was feeling that way. He said that he sees pictures of his friends and their cats and they are snuggling and they don't hiss at their owners and they can pick them up anytime they want to. I said to Austin, "Does it matter?" I asked him if he thought we should love Sebastian any less because he doesn't act like all the other cats. Of course, he said no. I told him that was good. That our job was to love Sebastian and take care of him and help him be the happiest cat that he can be, in whatever way that looks like for  him. Austin agreed and he hasn't mentioned it again, though I wonder if he's thinking it.

Now, if you've been reading carefully, you may have already picked up on the parallel that hit me like a ton of bricks in the hours and days after this short conversation with Austin.

It's just the way I have so often felt since autism and epilepsy have come into our lives.

"This isn't the way I thought it was going to be like." I wasn't expecting to parent two special needs kids. I wasn't expecting to have a child who struggles with learning. I look at my other friends and their kids and I see what they are doing with such ease and it hurts my heart that, if my kids can do it at all, they have to work so hard to manage it and then they have to spend so much time and energy to recover. The things that other people take for granted with their children growing up and moving on, I don't get to do that.

But as I intimated with Austin in our brief interaction, "Does it matter?" It's been a long, hard road to get to the point where I can say with honesty, "No, it doesn't matter." Last week during one of my runs, I really felt like God was telling me, "Look - success is going to be different for Austin. It's NOT going to look like your friends' kids, but it will be success for him. It's not any less of an effort just because it doesn't match what the world views as success. And it's not any less important. But if you're looking for the approval of the world, you're not going to find it. You're only going to find sadness and frustration." The reason I know it's from God is because it's the truth. And it's not something that I'm likely to have understood on my own. Yet, I understood and felt the peace that came with that. ("Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7 NLT)

There isn't much in life that turns out to be what you think it's going to be. And despite all of the platitudes going around on Facebook that tell us we're supposed to "take the lemons and make lemonade", it's not always that easy when you're getting lemons thrown at you from all directions. But sometimes, illumination comes from being able to look at the same situation from the safety of the outside looking in. And then, suddenly, it all makes sense.

It's funny how much having a cat around can teach you...