Sunday, September 25, 2011

Last Summer Hoorah

I considered this a fairly normal week.  It was rainy, as usual this time of year, so it was Thursday before we got outside for any extended length of time.  Our wooded trail was recently bush-hogged so we went for a hike on it and saw some interesting things.  A new baby turtle now resides in the terrarium, and is so cute!
Baby T in child's hand
DS and I were both freaking out with all the spider webs, so found long sticks to wave in front of our faces to avoid the unpleasantness.  It did help, and I'm sure we made quite the spectacle for any animals that were watching from their hidey-holes :)

I saw something I had never seen before, and would have missed it again if not for my eagle-eyed son.  It was a mama spider carrying her freshly-hatched babies on her back!  I didn't have my good camera, so no picture is available, but it was fascinating!  All the babies didn't fit, or maybe she moved because we surprised her, but we saw eensy-weensy spiders crawling on the forest floor, and mama spider about 6 inches away, blending in pretty well except for all the other eensy-weensies moving around on top of her. 

Later that day, we both started itching :(  I have over 100 bites of some sort, and he has probably 10-15.  I picked off Lord knows how many miniscule ticks (baby deer ticks, I believe) but many had already bitten.  No, I didn't wear repellant of any type!!  Lesson learned...again.  For some reason, I have a hard time learning this one in particular.  So, for a few days, I've been doped up on generic benadryl and using up prednisone, Renew bath oil, and generic Solarcain just to be able to sleep.  Needless to say, the weekend hasn't been very productive.

In addition to our last summer hoorah (which technically was the first day of Autumn), we started filming our Lego Education video.  They have a contest going on right now, and we hope to win some cool sets - maybe robotics?

Also, The Old Schoolhouse magazine is going all digital, and since I'm a subscriber of the print magazine, they offered lots of freebies from their advertisers to compensate (I suspect).  I spent one afternoon signing up for freebies and still haven't delved into them all yet.  However, my son loves KinderBach, so that deserves a mention.  It is geared towards preschoolers, so is a bit young for an almost-seven-year-old, but he zips through a week's lessons each day, enjoying playing on our small keyboard, using rhythm instruments and dancing to the songs.  We skip the accompanying work pages involving coloring, cutting and pasting - he just doesn't enjoy that sort of thing.  Just last week I started him on the basics of music using, so KinderBach has been good to go along with that more adult method of learning.

Other highlights this week....

One of the card structures he built this week
We finished Peter Pan (a free read for Ambleside Year 1) and have started Charlotte's Web.  He really pays attention well to the chapter books now.  I also added some Scholastic worksheets (a free special from Teacher's Express) for writing and math, intending to use them just 1-2 days a week to show him other ways to apply what he is learning.  As for phonics, I took a break from Progressive Phonics and am doing a bit of review using Tanglewood lessons (scroll down to Reading and click on the apple for free pdf).  We'll start PP's Advanced Book 5 next week, and continue it for at least 2 weeks.  The stories are getting harder and the books longer at the same time, so there will be no rushing through one in a week anymore.  Between books 4 and 5, we started reading Adventures in Science, a 1951 copyrighted early reader that used to be his great-grandma's.  I love old books!

For Bible, we stuck with the story of Joseph and his brothers all week.  Those are some long chapters in Genesis for a 6 year old to get through!  But we persevered and he narrated them just fine, as long as I stopped every paragraph (Genesis 42-45).

We continued memorizing scripture, and he finally selected a poem to memorize as well: "The Moon" by Robert Louis Stevenson.  It has some tough words, but I thought it appropriate for this time of year (Harvest Moon), and we are also doing a moon study that I made up.  I printed up a couple of blank calendar sheets and we are checking the sky each night, and drawing the moon (although so far its only been clouds!).  We've talked about phases, and I think it will really click once he draws it for a few weeks.  We'll get some moon books from the library as well, and see where it takes us.

Lastly, I finally showed him the concept of a time-line (would like to try this digital one as well), and where some of the stories we had read so far fit into it, as well as where creation and Jesus' birth and his own birth fell.  He was interested that the Twin Towers fell before he was born - for some reason, seeing it in the timeline made it more believable for him.  (I only included that because its the only modern-day history we've talked about thus far.)  As a side note, he just realized this week that the history stories we've been reading actually  happened - it blew his little mind!  Thank you, timeline!

In non-homeschooling news, our county is starting a foster parent association, and I'm excited about the possibilities that holds.  I was a guest blogger at See Jamie Blog.  I had another United Way presentation to attend, and contacts to make.  Life is busy, and good!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Our Sixth Week of Homeschooling

As expected, it was a bit of a crazy week.  There was one day when DS said, "This is the craziest day of my life!" upon getting into the van yet again.

My husband is back from his mission trip to Nicaragua and had a good time.  Many people came to know Christ, and he learned how to work in a kitchen, understand a bit more Spanish, and help the vets handle the animals (mostly horses and cows).  I'll see if he will write a guest post for us soon!

On Monday, I went to TSC and merchandised their Montana Silver Smith jewelery case, as I do ever 6 weeks for Lawrence Merchandising.  I picked DS up from Ma's house afterwards, and then did school, went to all 3 local parks in search of worthy playmates, then to Cloverbuds (4-H for 5-8 year olds).

Cloverbud's coordination :)
Tuesday, we carpooled to Elizabethtown for a United Way meeting, during which he behaved beautifully.  I was assigned five locations in our county to present the annual campaign.  This does not come naturally to me, and I'm nervous about standing in front of strangers!  I made first contact with the locations and even presented the G.C. Alliance at one of the schools already (Wednesday afternoon).

Wednesday was another meeting for me, during which DS went to "work" with his uncle at Gamestation, collating dice sets for GameScience.  He enjoys that for about an hour, then plays computer games until I come get him.  We did school, sewing and dinner with the grandparents.

I decided to start teaching some music lessons, now that other things are becoming more and more routine.  Using, we spent just a few minutes going through the first lesson, which covered what is a staff, and the clefs.  The lessons are animated, short, and great for any beginner!  I plan on doing two new lessons a week, plus a review, and having him practice his ocarina at least twice a week.  Unfortunately, we haven't accomplished that in a few weeks now, mostly because I forgot to write it in my lesson plans, which means it never crossed my mind!

On Thursday, he enjoyed homeschool book discussion at the library, during which they did a couple of ocean related crafts to go along with The Magic School Bus ocean book.  He also had soccer practice and Lego club, and tried the bike again.  I pinched a nerve in my back that morning, so it was a long day for me :(

Friday morning, we went straight to the chiropractor to find some relief, then played at the park for almost 2 hours.  He was absolutely bursting with energy all day!  We got home, did Bible study, then he swung on the tire swing.  Back inside for another subject or two, then back out to run laps.  We eventually got everything done, then a friend came over and played for a while.

Saturday, I went back to the chiropractor and was feeling better - those muscles that had tensed up to help me stay half-hunched to avoid the nerve pain were still sort, but the pinch was gone.  So, we hauled chairs to the soccer field and I watched him play 2 games on the larger fields (he moved up an age bracket this fall).  He is more of a defensive than offensive player, but no matter what happens, he has a grand time running around!  Go Twisters! :) 
First pair of cleats!
After Heroes at the library, in which he donned mask and cape over his soccer uniform and had more fun, I helped him ride his bike one more time before taking him to Ma's house for the evening as requested.  I cleaned like a mad woman to get rid of the cat dander before hubby got home so his allergies wouldn't attack him.  Remember the new kitty that we named Kady?  Well, I took her in to be spayed, and she was a he!  So his name is now Jengo know, the bounty hunter from Star Wars?  Here's hoping he's a good mouse hunter, too!
Jengo Fett relaxing after being neutered

Saturday, September 10, 2011

How We Came to Be Foster Parents

I have always had a heart for children, and as I grew out of childhood, I continued to feel more comfortable around children than adults.  I was generally shy and introverted, loved animals and reading about animals.  I dreamed of growing up, getting married, having children and raising horses and puppies on a beautiful farm with white board fencing.

I did grow up, get married, and have a son, and I do live on a farm.  But instead of raising horses and puppies, my focus has changed to helping raise other people’s children.  Life happened :)

As a teenager, I became a camp counselor at the Girls in Action (GA) summer camps in Tennessee.  I absolutely loved those two summers.  It was hard work and I learned a lot about dealing with young girls.  The summer I turned 21, I took the job as a counselor at a dude ranch in Texas.  Other than the intense heat and a bit of homesickness, it was heaven.  I got to ride everyday and teach kids how to have some horse sense.  God was leading me, through my love of horses, to help children yet again.

I helped or led several Vacation Bible Schools as a teen and young adult.  I volunteered in the church nursery, and when I had my own child, I even ran the local MOPS group for a year.  Through these years, I worked full time (photo editing, Radio Shack management, property management, accounting, and more) and dreamed of the day we were financially stable enough for me to stay home with my son.

After working for the family business a while, I won a scholarship for an online university and earned my MBA in marketing (read about that here).  I continued to work, some from home, while earning my degree in one year and watching our then 3 year old boy after his half-day of preschool was over.  That was a rough time for the entire family…and to add to the stress we continued to try for another baby.  When it became apparent that it wasn’t going to happen easily, we started researching options and going to doctors.  The marriage was suffering for several reasons, and this didn’t improve matters.  After trying Clomid (hormone supplement) for awhile, I gave up.  I was depressed and tried to convince myself I didn’t care and didn’t really want more kids.  That didn’t work for long.

Our marriage came to a crisis point in 2009 and once we determined to make it work (after much prodding from the Holy Spirit), part of the solution was for me to quit working at the family business.  The fact that DH was going to be supportive of me not working for a while started to lift the cloud, and from then on things slowly started improving.

With my son now in full day preschool and the whole year already paid for, I had time on my hands.  After giving the house a thorough cleaning and generally nesting, I started thinking about what I really wanted out of life.  I looked into jobs at riding stables and camps nearby, but nothing stood out to me and opportunities were hard to come by (think - recession).  I decided I really do want more children, but maybe God had something other than more biological children in mind for us.  So I began looking at nearby foster care agencies, knowing we could never afford to do a private adoption and that my husband was not in a place where he was ready for that step.  (I'm not positive I am either, but I think it will happen for both of us when the time is right.)  I found out that foster parenting classes were beginning in early January, and told him that I thought this is where God was leading, and to my surprise, he agreed to go through the process!  The more classes we took, the more I wanted to help out these poor kids.  We went ahead and did concurrent planning, in case we are led towards adoption, but were listed as foster parents, not foster-to-adopt.

During that same time, I began doctor’s visits again to figure out why I couldn’t conceive.  An ultrasound confirmed I have PCOS, and another ultrasound showed possible cancer in my thyroid.  I had surgery (February 2010) to remove over half of my thyroid; it was biopsied and NOT cancer, thank God.  I then got on a different pill to shrink the ovarian cysts, which gave me severe stomach cramps, so that was not an option for me.  Birth control was the only other option to control the PCOS symptoms.  We completed foster parenting classes, physicals and the mountain of paperwork that goes with it all, and passed the home visit.  I was very excited, as was our son.  I think my husband was still leery, but trusted that I knew what I was getting us into.

About 3 months after we were officially approved, we got our first placement – a 2 yr old boy and 7 yr old girl.  It was a challenge, but so rewarding as well.  They were with us over six months.  (When they left, I started thinking more seriously about homeschooling.)  Three months to the day after they left, we got a second sibling group.  These sweethearts were challenging in a different way, but worth it.  At this time, they have been gone just a few weeks, and I’m jumping at every phone call, wondering if this is the one.

The journey is ongoing.  I’m still wrestling with whether adoption is the right route, and if so, if a baby or an older child is in store.  I am trusting that God will make it clear to all of us when the time comes.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Record Low Highs

The big news for the week was that we didn't see the sun until Friday.  This caused some very cool weather to envelope us and stick around for a while.  Recall that last week, we were breaking temperatures as well - over 100 degrees.  This week, we broke temperatures with record low high's. LOL.  The high's didn't surpass 70 until today, so it was cool, rainy, and not very much fun to be outside.  So did we stay inside?  Heck, no!

Saturday afternoon we went shopping then to Blazers Fun Zone, which is one of his favorite things to do. He absolutely wore himself out with the inflatables and mini-golf.  Sunday after church he stayed with his grandparents, so I read "The Help" and watched original Star Trek episodes with DH.  Monday began with the Labor Day Parade, so we now have a bowl full of candy.  I picked up his fair entries and prize ribbons, too! Tuesday was back to the routine, which was rougher on him than I expected, but the rest of the week went better.
loving his blue ribbons
Posing with nature collection, craft from kit and Lego creation
side view of Lego base
aerial view of base

He practiced his bike riding twice this week and played at the park.  We visited a friend in the hospital a couple of times, and gave him a get-well-soon picture of him lying in the hospital bed.  Not the most inspiring drawing, but sweet.  We went to the chiropractor, the library, and to Ma's for sewing lessons.  We built a wooden castle craft kit together - painted the parts, glued together, than were impressed with the castle we built.  He promptly topped it with Lego guys wielding machine guns and light sabers.  Next week we will build the catapult to go with it.

My favorite part of school time is cuddling on the front porch swing with our reading materials, iPad (to listen to Librivox recordings) and occasionally flash cards.  The simple change of scenery does wonders for his attitude towards learning!  It also gives us a chance to spend time with the outdoor pets and watch the hummingbirds.  Today we had a talkative hummingbird - not sure if she was mad at us or just glad to have some good nectar available, but she would leave a while then come back and talk and drink some more!  Our new kitten, Kady, loves for us to be on the swing- that's when she gets to be the center of attention!  She tried to stalk the hummingbird from behind my potted ferns, but decided the grass was more within her grasp.

The busy fall schedule is on its way!  Here's a preview of the upcoming week.  Tonight - DH leaves for mission trip in Nicaragua.  Relaxing weekend.  And then the craziness begins!  Lion's Club. Soccer practice and soccer games.  Home school book club, Lego club and Heros at the library.  A United Way meeting.  A Grayson Co. Alliance meeting.  My garden club meeting. A merchandising job first thing Monday.  Oh, and home school Luke!  The good thing about DH being gone next week is that my handbell director will be with him and practice is cancelled this week :)

I know what you are thinking, and no, every week will NOT look like that - for some reason, the monthly, twice monthly, annual, bi-annual and every 6 week events all fell at the same time.  Wish me luck!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Our Fourth Week of Homeschooling

I think Week 4 was probably about as normal a week as we'll ever have in this household, so I just tried to enjoy it. :)  Who needs normal anyway - that's boring!

The beginning of the week was beautiful - both in his cooperation and the cooler weather (below 90).  Mid-week, the summer heat came back full force, and today (Saturday) there is a heat advisory in effect.  Luckily, his attitude, while it did rear its ugly head, did not bite us like it did in past weeks.

Sunday we had a family reunion (more time at the creek!) and a time at the lake (and baptism) with our church family which was lots of fun. Luke had his first taste of volleyball and a lot of time on the playground with the other children.
DS and a cousin playing Funny Face Yard Pool
DS and another cousin at Pine Knob
I decided we need to get more organized about physical education, and it was high time the boy had his own working bike (we had rusty yard sale ones but he never showed interest in learning).  So Monday we went to the local bike shop and found a shiny blue bike and helmet to fit (alas, twas not blue).  He was very excited and we went straight to the park, shot this picture and gave it a shot.  He isn't ready for me to let go yet, but I don't think it will take long.
For school, our character study was Kindness.  We read about the woodchuck (groundhog), while remembering the one that lived in our garden a couple years ago.  He found a dead crane fly and started an insect collection.  We read a poem, did copywork, and worked on Progressive Phonics Advanced Book 2 and some words from week 25 on  We did some Spanish (Salsa video), then read two Aesop's Fables.  And of course, there was math.  We also finished Beauty and the Beast from Lang's Blue Fairy book.  Disney's Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite movies, and after reading this original story, I think they did a decent job of it.  Better than Peter Pan, my husband thinks.  Peter Pan the movie leaves out too much of the death and mayhem!

Tuesday we read about Joseph's dream in Genesis 37, followed by Funnix math lesson 45.  We read Ch. 2 in the Burgess Bird Book, listened to the bird calls and looked at different photographs of them (sparrow and wren).  Another poem, then copywork, phonics, Spanish and Shakespeare.  I had forgotten to do artist study on Monday, so we looked at the Farmer's Children by Fragonard, and read a couple of stories from Fifty Favorite Stories Retold and he attempted narration of those, as we do with every story.  He doesn't like to narrate (or "tell it back"), but we're working on it!

We took Luke's fair projects by and entered them, then practiced the bike riding some more.  We found a fantastic HUGE moth, called a polyphemus moth.  He looked so fat he couldn't' fly but maybe he was sick.   I wasn't sure, so we left him at the park under a tree.  I need to start carrying "kill jars" around in the van to take advantage of our random discoveries.
Wednesday we read about the boy Jesus going to the temple from Luke 2 (along with scripture memorization and prayer, as always), followed by Funnix lesson 46.  Poem, copywork, phonics and flashcards.  Sewing this week was cancelled due to the fair and my MIL's obligations there (judging quilts and clothing, basically being in charge of the Lion's Club concession booth), so we did some extra reading - finished Soccer from the library, and started Cinderella early, in case it was long like Beauty and the Beast.  We also did extra science - "What is a scientist?" from Lesson Pathways.  We talked about the different types of scientists, how we all can be scientists and played some great games that LP had linked- BBC Science Clips and Dragonfly TV.   We listened to Mozart's Symphony #25 and took some library books back before practicing the bike again.  I got my hair chopped off and donated to Locks of Love.  After my handbell rehearsal, we played Ticket to Ride as a family and had a lot of fun.  DS beat us both!!

Thursday was when it really got hot, so we stayed inside (for the most part) until time for the fair.  Today we read Psalm 23 and added it to the scripture memory box, did Funnix lesson 47 and got to read Moses the Kitten from James Herriot's Treasury for Children.  I was really looking forward to this book, as I read all of his other books when I was in high school and loved them!  DS enjoyed it as well.  We moved on to the third phonics book and did a word find puzzle, which is starting to come easier to him, and listened to our folk song and hymn.  Then we enjoyed the air-conditioning and watched the hummingbirds through our picture window during our Ticket to Ride rematch.  I won.. :)  At the fair, he had a blast...and I got sweaty with sore feet!

There was no public school on Friday - I think because of the Co. Fair or something.  I didn't tell DS that, and we did school as usual, LOL.  We watched our DVD Bible story, which happened to be the Psalm of David this week- interesting since had just finished our fourth Thursday reading Psalm 23.  He particularly enjoyed the song that went with it.  After math, poem, copywork, phonics and Spanish, we finished Cinderella.  We played checkers, drew in our nature notebooks and rested up before heading back to the fairgrounds, this time to work.  I helped in the Lion's Club booth, serving up pizza, hot dogs, and burgers.  It was actually sort of fun!  DS helped put together popcorn boxes, then went to help his Pa and uncle at the fast-pitch baseball booth.

I plan on posting something weekly, but unless I change something from our usual schedule, I will be leaving out the minutia as it is getting repetitive now that we've settled into a routine.  I'm looking forward to the cooler weather that AccuWeather has promised me!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Why I Home School

Back when I was thinking about starting the homeschooling adventure, I said I would come back and try to explain it more thoroughly, so here it goes.

It boils down to the fact that I hold a different philosophy of education than what the public education system holds (thank you, John Taylor Gatto for opening my eyes).  I don't believe children are meant to go through the educational machine and come out the other end molded for society.  I believe that God created them each as whole, separate beings with great plans in store for their lives, just waiting to be discovered (Jeremiah 29:11).  To this end, I have created a list of goals, one for "education" and the other for "social" - so he can understand and function in this day and age, but not be conformed to it (Romans 12:2).

Educational Goals

-to have a right relationship with God
-to love sincerely: love, respect, sensitivity
-to adopt a healthy lifestyle: mind and body
-to work responsibly: use time efficiently, appreciate productive labor
-to communicate clearly: listening, speaking, reading, writing
-to enjoy beauty: see and receive satisfaction from it, create it, share it
-to reason perceptively: clear understanding, good logic and creative application
-to conduct personal business prudently: earn responsibly, invest wisely, spend effectively, plan carefully
-to relate intelligently to the environment: understanding natural resources
-to understand our country and how it relates to the rest of the world
-to love learning and possess intellectual curiosity: retain an eagerness for life-long learning

Social Development Goals

  1. Social graces – courtesy and good manners
  2. Ability to make and enjoy friends
  3. Respect for authority – parents, adults, government, Creator
  4. Sensitivity to needs and feelings of others
  5. Conversation and correspondence skills
  6. Ability to give and take in normal relationships; grace to cooperate when things don’t go one’s way
  7. Skill in defusing tense situations – with cheerfulness and sensitivity
  8. Prudence in developing relationships – avoiding misunderstanding and proper precautions from dishonesty in business relationships
  9. Leadership development, including good follower-ship
These ideas were drawn (mostly) from The Home School Manual by Theodore E. Wade, Jr. (I did edit them and boil them down to what fits for my family.)  As you can see, only some of these goals are covered in other schools, and much of that elusive love of learning is too easily stamped out as the children try to fit into the cookie cutters like the system expects them to do.  I only have once chance to raise him "right", and I don't want to miss it!