Sunday, November 30, 2008

Week 14 in Review

Whew! It is amazing we accomplished as much as we did between dentist appointments, a food co-op divide, a field trip to watch a musical version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and me coming down with a nasty cold! This review is almost a week late in coming, but better late than never, right?

Anna: Sometimes when I read about other homeschooler's days, I'm amazed at how independent many of the kids are with their school work. Mom can actually take a break to go fold some laundry or throw some dinner in the crock pot. We're not there yet -- I'm in motion non-stop, switching between the three kids, usually telling one of them, "I'll be there in a minute!" But I'm starting to see the light at the tunnel. Anna is slowly becoming more independent. Yet sometimes I struggle with how to let her work independently without giving her busywork. For example, she uses Rod & Staff for grammar, which we really like. But what we like about it (besides being thorough and easy to understand) is that we can work on it together orally and be done in 15 minutes. We read the lesson together and then go through the oral drill section and the review section (also orally). About the only time I have her write anything down is when we do sentence diagramming or when she takes the unit test. I could easily send her off to read the lesson and complete the work on paper, freeing me up to do other things, but I just don't see the point. She has a solid grasp of the materials and this way she is freed up to work on other things. But it is something I privately debate -- how much should we do together.

Ryne: Giving addition with regrouping another week was just what Beta Boy needed. By the end of the week he was doing great with Lesson 7. One day I was checking his paper and could not find where he wrote the work to solve a certain word problem. The answer was correct, but there was nothing to show how he got the answer. I asked him about it and he said he did it in his head! Anna and looked at each other in disbelief. If you're new to this blog, you might want to read some of Ryne's history with math. Every week I continue to be amazed at the progress he has made. But as exciting as it was, I did tell him he needed to show me his work for word problems. Ryne also finished the book Pilgrim Boy just in time for Thanksgiving. While we ate our Thanksgiving turkey he told us all about the story. Ryne and I both liked the story.

Grace: She too benefited from staying in the same math lesson for an extra week. Solving for the unknown was a tough concept for her. It really helped to have her read the equation out loud. She is so eager to move forward in math, but I think we will be moving at a slower pace in the weeks ahead. Because she is the youngest and wants to learn the things the big kids are learning, sometimes I forget to teach her the things she is supposed to be learning as a Kindergartner. Thankfully, Ryne remembers every detail of Kindergarten so he is often reminding me of things to teach her. For example, something I said to Ryne one day made him start humming a song he learned to remember the days of the week. Grace was still having trouble remembering the days in order, so this song was perfect.

(Sing to the tune of the Munsters theme song)

Days of the week, [snap, snap]
Days of the week, [snap, snap]
Days of the week, days of the week, days of the week. [snap, snap]

There's Sunday and there's Monday,
There's Tuesday and there's Wednesday,
There's Thursday and there's Friday,
and then there's Saturday.

Days of the week, [snap, snap]
Days of the week, [snap, snap]
Days of the week, days of the week, days of the week. [snap, snap]

Of course that brings up another thing we need to work on -- snapping!

Other: I have mentioned before that we love Song School Latin, so I thought I'd show you what it looks like in a real homeschool. Grace and Ryne are practicing a chant, asking each other, "How are you?"

Happy Homeschooling!

Friday, November 28, 2008

More RDI Resources

Since my last post on getting started with RDI, I've come across a couple more blogs that I think could really benefit newbies and veterans alike.

Remediating Autism

In case your not familiar with the term remediation, it is what most RDIers use in place of the term recovery. Remediation seems to fit a little better with the idea of giving the child a developmental "redo", whereas recovery is a term heavily used by those who believe that their child was snatched out of typical development and measures need to taken to bring them back. I personally think both terms have benefits and flaws and I don't think they have to be mutually exclusive, but now I'm digressing... The point is Remediating Autism is a new blog written by a woman who is both a RDI consultant and parent of a child on the spectrum. She seems particularly concerned that families who cannot afford a RDI consultant still be able to implement RDI techniques at home. She has already given some great suggestions, and I can't wait to see what she will write about in the future.

Raising Jake-a-Roo

This is written by a mom who has been doing RDI for 2 years with her son, Jake, who is now six. Jake has done very well with RDI, and they are already on Stage 5 (to put this in perspective, it is not uncommon for some kids to spend a year or more in Stage 1). I can personally attest that this family is great at implementing RDI. Carla, the mom, is the same mom who helped me a bunch last year when we were first starting RDI. I have been to an intro RDI presentation offered by her consultant and got to see some amazing video footage of their family doing RDI. Carla has been blogging for a while, but just recently made her blog public. If you want some encouragement and motivation or just want to see what RDI can do for a kid then head over to Carla's blog.

Aut-2B-Home In Carolina

I should have included this blog in my last post, but I forgot. This mom started RDI with her daughter about the same time we started, I think. But she has a much better grasp of RDI than I do! She has lots of video clips on her blog so you can see RDI in action. One of the best things about this family's story is that their daughter is defying the notion that autism interventions are not as effective as the child gets older. I know the media is trying to help, but I get so tired of constantly hearing that early intervention is the key to treating autism and that there is a small window of opportunity to help these kids. I can't remember how old the girl in this blog is, but I'm pretty sure she's 18 years or older. Amazing and also highly encouraging!

I don't know what I would do without all the wonderful blogs I read (not just RDI). I have learned so much, so I just want to be sure you know about them too!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Am Thankful

For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies,

For the beauty of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flow'r,
sun and moon and stars of light,

For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild,

For each perfect gift of thine
to our race so freely giv'n
graces human and divine,
flow'rs of earth and buds of heav'n,

Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

Folliot S. Pierpoint, 1864

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Please pass the tissues...

What's the best way to cure a blog addiction? Get a cold! But as soon as my head stops spinning I hope to be back in action. Now I'm off to dose up on my favorite cold treatment, olive leaf extract (I've used several different kinds and they all work, but the liquid versions seem to work the best).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Week 13 in Review

Monday was not our best day of homeschooling -- one of those days when you wonder, "Why am I doing this?!" Thankfully, the rest of the week was much better. Anna even made a comment yesterday that this whole homeschooling thing is going pretty well. That's the first time in our almost three years of homeschooling that she has said that, so it was pretty good to hear.

Anna: I managed to squeeze in 30-60 minutes of private reading time for her each morning and she still got everything done, but she did complain that she didn't have any breaks in the morning. But we also started school late almost every day this week, so if I can just stop staying up late to read everyone's great blogs and wake up on time we shouldn't have any problems with our new schedule! Anna's pick of the week from her reading time was The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green.

The Mind Benders logic games continue to be her favorite activity. She did finally get stumped on one Wednesday and the two of us worked at it for way too long with no success. We finally gave up and decided to try it again Thursday. The next day we both took one look at it and had it figured out within 30 seconds. This just highlights one of the areas I struggle with in homeschooling. I have a hard time putting something aside if we're struggling. Clearly a short break can give one a fresh perspective and eliminates lots of frustration. Like all homeschool moms, I'm a work in progress.

Ryne: I have a link to StartWrite on my sidebar, but I don't think I've blogged about it. I love this software! It enables you to make you own handwriting worksheets in a variety of fonts, including the Handwriting Without Tears style. Every morning I just type up a quick page for Ryne's copywork alternating between Bible verses and passages from various books we're reading. Ryne has had such an obsession with the HWT series that I was afraid how he'd react once we started phasing out handwriting as a separate subject. These copywork exercises have been the perfect solution.
Ryne also started multiple digit addition with regrouping and had a little trouble, so we postponed the test. By Thursday he seemed to be getting it, so I don't think we'll have to spend too much more time on this lesson.

Grace: She is cruising along with her reading lessons and having a ball with it! Math was a different story this week. Her lesson introduced solving for the unknown and she struggled with the concept all week. So after I finish writing this I need to check the archives of the MUS yahoo group because I know this has been a topic several times before. She will be sad that she doesn't get to watch a new Mr. Demme video tomorrow, so we'll probably watch last week's over again.

Grace takes ballet on Tuesdays, and this week was "Bring Your Parents to Class" week. Let me just say I now have a lot more respect for what she does in that class -- it's not as easy as it looks! We had lots of fun and it's motivated me to add in an afternoon stretching time in our school schedule. We all loved it and Ryne and Grace both succeeded in making "bridges" (gymnastics stretch) for the first time. I'll have to take pictures and post tomorrow.

History: We finished SOTW chapters 22 (Marco Polo) and 23 (The First Russians). I was kind of disappointed in the literature suggestions for this week, especially for the chapter on the Russians. We still are waiting for a couple of books at the library that didn't come in on time, so hopefully those will be better.

Science: We started a new unit on the hydrosphere in Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space. We are really enjoying this book and the subject material in general. CKE gives literature suggestions much like SOTW, and we found a real treasure this week. Paddle to the Sea by Holling Clancy Holling more than made up for the so-so history read-alouds.

Other: Thursday I led Ryne's Cub Scout den meeting. I think this will be my last time to lead for the year (sigh of relief). We discussed American folk lore and played a fun matching game I adapted from the manual. Mostly as a note to myself for SOTW 3 & 4, I found some great resources on American folk lore and folk songs (click on picture for more info).

Friday we went on a fun field trip with a group of homeschoolers to a couple of museums. We had a great time, as we always do with this group. Most of these homeschoolers are in a co-op together, which we've been invited to join. I don't know what to do, so I will probably blog about it soon!

Happy Homeschooling!

Friday, November 14, 2008

An Evening I Won't Soon Forget

My girls were all excited to curl up in front of the TV with some popcorn to watch the American Girl movie that was in theaters last summer. Both of them are big fans of anything American Girl, so I knew they would not be disappointed. As good as the movie was, this post has very little to do with the movie, nor even anything girlish. Tonight was all about my little boy and autism's weakening grip on him.

I wasn't sure if Ryne would even be interested in the movie, because -- you know -- it's a girl movie. But there was no way he was going to miss out on staying up late and eating popcorn, so he was the first one down in the basement to watch the movie. I figured he'd last 15-20 minutes and then he'd be off to another part of the room playing Lego or Knex or just pacing around the basement. This has been the routine for years. His attention span has increased greatly over the years, but when he's watching something that lasts more than 30 minutes and actually has a plot, he rarely makes it through the whole movie (unless we're at a movie theater where it's a little harder to escape).

I guess you can tell where I'm going with this. Yes, he sat through the whole movie. While that is good news, it's probably not blog worthy, so here is the rest of the story. The movie is set in the Great Depression and follows the story of a girl named Kit whose father loses his job and leaves home for Chicago to find work. Kit and her mother are left behind in Cleveland to try and make ends meet. During the scene where Kit's dad says good-bye I glanced at Ryne and noticed he was wiping his eye. My boy was crying! Not just red eyes, but real tears. He lamented, "Why can't they all move to Chicago?" And then to remind me that he is still 100% boy, he wiped his nose on his shirt sleeve. Another time in the movie, he spoke again through tears and sniffles, "Why can't there always be happy endings?" Of course, it is Hollywood and a movie for kids, so at the end of the movie Ryne said, "There is a happy ending!"

I was snuggled up close to him the whole time, marveling at every tear and sniffle. I know I have a lot to be grateful for when it comes to Ryne and the progress he's made over the years. Every night I get to hear my son tell me he loves me and ask to rub noses with me (and for you RDI folks, he does the latter non-verbally). A lot of parents in the world of autism are still waiting for that moment. So sometimes I feel pretty content with where we are. And sometimes I feel guilty for wanting more.

But there is more. I want him to understand that real sadness has nothing to do with not getting to play another video game, but missing a loved one who's passed away. I want him to have the joy that comes from realizing we have a great and awesome God.

It may have just been a movie that made my son cry tonight, but I'm hopeful that there are more tears to come. And more happy endings.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Miss Smarty Pants

Grace started getting silly during her reading lesson today, and I made the mistake of saying I should get her on video. So after lunch she appeared with her hair in a bun and wearing a pair of old glasses, ready to be filmed reciting her short vowel/long vowel pairs. I'm frightened thrilled thinking of what the drama-filled teenage years will be like with Miss Smarty Pants.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Our School Room

I've just discovered Heart of the Matter (remember, new blogger here!) and was excited to see they recently invited homeschoolers to show where they do their schooling. I loved looking through all the posts and saw some great ideas. So even though I'm almost a week late, here's our school room -- my favorite room in the house. It is truly a multi-purpose room: guest room, office, school room, and craft room. The room is over our garage and separated from the rest of the house, and this arrangement has served us well. Last year we hosted an art class in our school room and I never had to worry if the rest of the house was clean!

This is your first view of our school room when you enter. Those of you with hyperactive kids know what the trampoline is for! I bought the table years ago for a craft table with intentions of painting it. Just one of the many projects waiting to happen.
The bed is where we do all our read-alouds, Bible memory work, and DVD/VHS watching. It can be a little too comfortable when the sun is shining through the window, but I've only fallen asleep a few times.
This TV with the tiny screen is across from the bed. So far the DVD player has not fallen off, but clearly we need a new setup here. Ignore the awful popcorn ceiling.
Here is where most of the written work gets done. I bought the desks cheap from a former homeschooler at my church and the chairs from Biz Chair. The rolling cart is used to hold extra supplies and hanging files that keep everything from completed assignments to catalogs. We have very little usable wall space in this room, so hubby installed a great bulletin board above the desks -- great spot for our timeline and other helps.
When we first started homeschooling I thought this book case would be sufficient for our homeschool books. Is that laughing I hear?
Thankfully, we already had two larger book cases around the corner. Now five of the ten shelves have been taken over with homeschooling materials.
This was one of my smarter ideas this school year. The bin holds our library books in the order we plan to use them, divided by subject. As you can tell, we are due for a trip to the library -- usually it is stuffed to capacity.
Here are two of my favorite things in our school room -- our view and sentence diagrams written in window marker. It's really scary that sentence diagramming gives me such pleasure.
The artist in action. Below Anna is the state quarter collection that is still missing Hawaii. Has anyone seen a Hawaiian quarter yet?
And this is one of the strangest things about our school room. The previous owners used this room for a home-based business and therefore needed lots and lots of outlets, some in very strange spots. This room boasts 21 electrical outlets and 7 phone jacks (including 2 in the bathroom)! How crazy is that!

I hope you enjoyed the tour of the Blue House Academy school room.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Week 12 in Review

We're back in the swing of things after a two week break!

Anna: I was expecting her first lesson in MUS Zeta to be lengthy since that is what we experienced with Ryne and Grace a few weeks ago in their new books. But she completed the entire Lesson 1 on Monday with no problems. At first I figured we'd just start with Lesson 2 on Tuesday, but she asked if she could catch up on her reading list instead, and I reluctantly agreed.

This brings up a problem we've run into lately. I typically don't give the kids private reading time during the day as suggested in The Well Trained Mind, because they have always loved doing this at night and I am having a hard enough time fitting in everything I need to during the day. For years it has worked wonderfully. Marc and I do read-alouds with the kids then they are free to read in bed. Anna has read hundreds of books in this manner. Especially in the summer months I will often catch her still reading at 11:00 at night. She has even said that she prefers to read at night rather than during the daytime (although does read during the daytime as well).

The problem is that her schedule is much different this year and it's wearing her down. She swims 4 days a week instead of 2-3, and the practices are longer now. For Saturday meets (once or twice a month) we often have to get up at 5:30 am to get to warm-ups on time. Plus, as I mentioned in my previous review, she has started taking Catechism class at our church and she often practices her memory work once she's in bed. The result is a sleepy kid who has not read many books lately. So it's time for me to change the routine. I'm going to have to devote some of our school time for private reading and insist she do her memory work during the daytime as well. I'm going to play with our schedule this weekend to figure out how to fit all this in. There must be a way!

Anna also started Latin for Children Primer B this week and it looks like the DVDs and CD have not been revised like Primer A. That means they are back to teaching at the kitchen table and Dr. Perrin chants a mile a minute. As I said in my review of LFC A, I missed the homeschool feel to the revised edition, so we're happy. And now that we both know our Latin better, his rate of chanting is easier to keep up with.

Ryne: Math went great, again! This week Beta Boy started multiple digit addition with numbers other than zero in the units and tens place. I can see such a difference in Ryne when he is getting a concept -- he is much more focused. He finished his test very quickly and scored 100%. Looking ahead, I think we will skip Lesson 6 because it covers skip counting by 2. Ryne mastered that long ago, and if I can digress for just a moment, I have a funny story to share. We used to take Ryne to a chiropractor and often during the adjustment she would ask him to count to 100 or some other number to keep him occupied. Ryne, being too smart for his own good, would count by 2's, 5's, or 10's in an effort to speed her up! I also have some good things to report on Ryne with RDI activities, but I'm going to share that for a post next week.

Grace: This girl couldn't have been more proud of herself for finally starting her long vowel sounds! I told her learning her long vowels was going to open up a whole new world of reading for her, so she was excited to get started. I was pleased to see that The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading used shorter lessons in introducing this concept as opposed to the lessons on consonant blends and digraphs.

One area of frustration right now is handwriting. Grace does well when we do specific handwriting exercises, but it does not seem to be transferring to other writing opportunities. I often catch her during math forming in numbers incorrectly (sometimes even bizarrely). Same with her phonics worksheets. She even said to me this week she only has to do her writing a certain way when she is actually working on handwriting. I've hardly had to do anything as far as actually teaching handwriting to the other two, so I guess now I'm going to have to pay my dues!

History: We covered the Diaspora and the Mongol invasion of China. Here are our favorite read-alouds for the chapters (click image for details):

Bible: This week we started the book Discovering Jesus in Genesis, and all three kids seem to be enjoying it. I'm not sure yet. The content is great, but I'm not sure how well they are grasping it. I think I have some ideas for activities (some are also suggested throughout the book) to help them understand though, so we'll see how it goes next week.

We're actually not officially done with our school week yet. Studying about China made us all hungry for Chinese food, so we talked Daddy into bringing some home for dinner tonight. And we are finishing up our science chapter on rock types by making an edible sedimentary rock. Yum!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Feast Fit for a ...

... well, no one wanted to eat it, but it sure was pretty to look at. Chef Anna and her assistant, Gracie, were hard at work last week putting together this beautiful meal.

The first course (above) was tossed greens in a homemade clay dish (even the spoon was made out of the clay that my husband is always battling with in an effort to get grass to grow). The salad was topped with some walnuts (shell on - crunchy!). The main course of wild mushrooms followed.

The meal concluded with a sampling of our local fruit -- pears and some unidentifiable berries.

To wash it all down, a nice cup of tea was offered. I like how they worked so hard at presentation with all the place mats, and even a flower.

The tea itself was simple to brew. Just let several of the whole walnuts sit in some water and voila -- instant tea!

The girls even provided company for the meal. This fuzzy little caterpillar was not very sociable however.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Grace is Six!

My baby is growing up! In honor of the big occasion here are six things I love about Grace:

6. She is such a daddy's girl. She even asks to help him take his shoes off when he comes home from work.

5. Grace always has a song to sing. She especially loves to make up her own songs, often about Jesus and God -- it is precious!

4. She loves to be outdoors. I don't have to fight the tv battle with her, since she is always begging to go outside.

3. She's adventurous. She went parasailing shortly after she turned four (her idea) -- need I say more?

2. She is extremely animated. Every word and gesture is larger than life with her. She gets it from her daddy, so it's like a glimpse of what he must have been like as a child.

1. She is fearfully and wonderfully made in God's image.

Happy Birthday, Gracie!