Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

My homesick sister who is working abroad asked for Halloween pictures, so here they are! We were a little rushed putting things together, so I think I should have added more straw to Gracie's costume, and I've discovered that I have no talent as a makeup artist. They are all out trick-or-treating right now, having a ball!

Anna as a Mime


Gracie as a Scarecrow


Ryne as a Pirate

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Lazy or Wise?

We enjoyed our week off from school last week. Apparently a little too much, because we ended up taking this week off as well. It was a hard decision, because I didn't want to appear lazy to my kids and give them the impression that if we don't feel like doing something we just won't do it. But I decided my motives were pure and taking an additional week was not going to put us drastically behind. I did not get everything done I needed to do last week, including some planning items for our schooling. And it wasn't because I was lazy. There was just a lot to do. If we had started school again this week with those things undone I was going to be one stressed-out momma, so I figured out how we could take one more week off and not get too far off schedule. It was actually quite easy to come up with a new plan. I originally scheduled a whole week off for Thanksgiving, but it turns out we're staying home and no one is coming to visit. So we can easily add a couple of days in that week. We will add the remaining days in at the beginning of our Christmas break. Judging by the amount of work I've completed yesterday and today, I think I made a wise decision. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: flexibility is one of the beautiful things about homeschooling!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Attitude of Gratitude

Anna and I had a fun Saturday morning. Her swim team participated in a swim clinic led by Olympians Josh Davis (1996, 2000) and Larsen Jensen (2004, 2008). I was a bad mom and forgot the camera, but they had a photographer there so maybe later I can update this post with a picture of her wearing three Olympic gold medals, standing between Davis and Jensen. She learned a lot about technique, but even more impressive was listening to the two athletes talk. And something Josh Davis said really impacted me.

"How loud are you saying 'thank you' with your life?"

He told a neat story of getting to know a soldier badly injured in the Iraq war and how this soldier said he was not sad about all the things he couldn't do anymore, but rather was thankful to be alive and have a loving family. Josh challenged the group to live their lives in a manner that reflects that level of thankfulness. A few moments later he briefly shared his faith in Christ, so clearly there were some spiritual undertones to his whole talk.

This message is not new to me. We attend a church in which we are frequently reminded that our good deeds are how we show gratitude for what Christ did on the cross. But for some reason (maybe I was just star struck) today it really hit me. Am I displaying an attitude of gratitude in my daily life as a homeschool mom and wife, or am I just trying to survive another day? Just by posing the question I think you can guess the answer.

After the clinic Anna and I had lunch at my favorite place, Panera, and she said she had to fight back tears at that same point in Davis' talk. She was excited that he talked about his faith. I was excited that this is what I was getting to talk about with my daughter over lunch.

So maybe by putting this in print I will be reminded all week to let my actions shout THANK YOU!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

RDI: How to Get Started

A while ago I wrote about how we have started using a program called Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) with Ryne. I explained how we didn't really know what we were getting into when we started, and how it took a lot of parent education hours to really understand what RDI is about. I don't feel like I did the best job explaining the nuts and bolts of RDI, but apparently I'm not alone. Even the RDI folks are trying to find better ways of explaining the program. They are planning a redesign of the RDI Connect website and have been conducting a survey to find out how to make the website more informative and user-friendly. Right now there is a lot of information on the website, but you often end up leaving with more questions than answers.

We are approaching our first anniversary of doing RDI, and I think if I had to do it all over again I would pretty much do the same things, but in a different order. Instead of going into it blindly, I would try to learn more about the program first. The great thing is that you don't have to spend a fortune to do this. I hear the RDI workshops are a wonderful place to learn about the program, but they can be costly, especially if you have to travel far to get there. So how about starting right at home? If you want to learn more about RDI, I suggest the following resources:

  1. "Going to the Heart of Autism" DVD. The DVD is a 5+ hour explanation of the program, including clips of actual families doing RDI. The DVD costs $150, but before you shell out the money, ask around and see if you could borrow one from another RDI family. We had a local family let us borrow their DVD when we first started, and now just recently I was loaned a copy again from another friend.

  2. Jacob's Journey. This is a homeschool mother's blog whose son made tremendous progress through RDI. We had already been doing RDI for several months when I first started reading it, and I have yet to find anyone who explains RDI better than her. I recently had Marc read through her post on declarative language, and he agreed that she is easy to understand and gives practical information. Their family has "graduated" from RDI, meaning they have made RDI a part of their lifestyle and they no longer have to work with a consultant to progress in RDI. As a result she stopped writing in this blog and now documents her family's journey in her homeschool blog. In a way this is nice, because you can read their experience almost like you would a book from start to finish. Just go to the archives and start at the beginning (July 2006) and read a little every night for a week or so, and you will have a pretty good understanding of the RDI program.

  3. RDI Yahoo groups. I know -- just what you need, another Yahoo group. But this really is one of the best places to learn what RDI looks like in everyday life. Here are a couple I mostly lurk on: Autism-remediation-for-our-children@yahoogroups.com and HS-RDI@yahoogroups.com. Be sure to check out the Files sections for both groups.

  4. Visit with an RDI family. The same mom who lent me her DVD when we were starting invited me over and let me ask a million questions. She also gave me a quick tutorial of the RDIOS on her laptop. I was so grateful for that visit.

If you follow these 4 steps you will have a good understanding of RDI with out having to pay a lot of money. While lots of families rely on these steps and various books (available on the RDI website) alone and still make good progress, I think most agree that it is best to eventually work with a certified RDI consultant. But tackling some of the parent education beforehand enables you to determine if RDI is right for your family and makes the early steps with your consultant all the more productive. I don't regret the way we did things, because the important thing is we got here and we're doing RDI. But the autism adventure is tough enough as it is, so hopefully these tips will make the road a little smoother for anyone considering RDI.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Week 11 in Review

I'm still pretty new to this blogging thing, even just reading blogs. The last couple of weeks I have stumbled upon a bunch of homeschooling blogs, and I've been staying up way too late reading them all! But one thing I've seen in these new-to-me blogs (as well as a couple I had already been reading) are weekly reviews. I imagine some people might not find weekly reviews as interesting to read as other posts (I myself really enjoy them), but I think the main benefits are having a record of what we have done and keeping myself accountable. Because of state law, I do have keep records of how many hours we homeschool (grumble), and I check things off in my planner as we complete them, but this is a much more interesting way to keep track of our progress. I don't plan to report on every single thing we do in the week -- just the highlights and struggles that will bring my record keeping to life when I look back on what we've done. So here we go, starting with week eleven!

Grace: After having taken a short break from The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading, we dove back in this week, completing Lessons 62-64 with great results. Previously she had been getting a little frustrated because the lessons seemed long and difficult (she really struggled with 'th'), so we did some review with some Christian Liberty Press early readers we had left-over from Anna's kindergarten days. It seems to have been a good strategy because she felt more competent this week and breezed through her lessons. Normally we would do 4 lessons in a week, but the next lesson starts long vowels, and I didn't want to start that right before our week-long break.

Ryne: I'm still amazed at Ryne's progress in math. We've nicknamed him Beta Boy because he loves his new level in MUS (although he's already asking when he can start Gamma). He completed Lesson 4 this week. So far I've been sticking with our typical one lesson per week, but he could have easily moved more quickly through these first four lessons. Even though he is "behind" in math I feel no rush to speed through these lessons just for the sake of catching up. He is enjoying math right now and is doing well, so I think we will continue at this pace for now. Perhaps he will really need the extra time once we progress in the book.

We continue to struggle with control in some areas. This is common with children on the autism spectrum, the desire to control their environment. Ryne expresses this need for control in peculiar ways and especially in his favorite subject, handwriting. For instance, he sometimes writes his numbers in cursive and always wants to connect punctuation marks to words.

Our RDI consultant said we need to put a stop to this, so I received some grumbling this week when I made him erase connected periods and commas.

Anna: It felt almost like the end of a school year for Anna this week. She finished her MUS Epsilon book, Latin for Children Primer A, and Mind Benders A3. Here she is with her Epsilon certificate of completion:


At the end of the LFC A book is the Apostles Creed in Latin, and you can listen to it on the CD. She decided she wanted to memorize this as a surprise for our pastor who is leaving for a new church at the end of the month. She worked hard and on Wednesday night at her Catechism class she recited the entire creed for him and the class. Our pastor has an excellent background in Latin, Greek and other languages, so he was quite pleased with Anna's effort.

Speaking of Catechism, I've been pleasantly surprised at how much Anna is enjoying this. Fifth grade is the year children at our church start catechism education, so she has weekly Q&A's from the Heidelberg to memorize and a chapter to read from The Church in History and corresponding worksheet to complete (in addition to her weekly Sunday School verse and reading). Since starting Catechism she has completely taken the initiative in getting her work done, sometimes choosing to work on her memory work in bed instead of reading (she loves to read at night, so it's a pretty big deal for her to give up reading for something else). This is the first year I haven't had to sit down with her for memory work, which is nice since it frees me up to spend a little more time with her siblings.

Song School Latin: Ryne and Grace are doing this together and LOVE it! I love it too. The songs are very creative and helpful. Anna is jealous SSL wasn't available when she started Latin. I'm trying to take this book slow, because I don't plan for either of them to start LFC next year.

History: We've slowed down with SOTW 2 the last several weeks. It started with the Viking chapters (14 & 15) because we found so many great literature selections. So this week we worked on chapters 18 (Crusades) and 19 (King Richard, King John and Robin Hood), but we will complete our literature selections this coming week.

Other: Thursday night I had the honor of leading Ryne's Cub Scout den meeting. I volunteered for this particular week because they were supposed to learn how to play marbles. I inherited my grandmother's box of marbles, but never got around to learning how to play and thought this would be a good excuse to learn. What fun! We will definitely be doing this at home now.

The kids have a new favorite CD to listen to in the car. Beethoven's Wig is fantastic. When Googling for a link I found out there is now a Beethoven's Wig collection -- I think I know what the kids are getting for Christmas.




Friday we had a great field trip to a nearby pumpkin farm with a group of homeschoolers. It almost didn't happen. I was up until 3am the night before finishing up the work on the blog once we went live with the new design, and then we had a round of storms come through in the morning. I assumed the trip would get canceled, so I was still in my PJs when an email came saying it was still on! Somehow we got there just in time. I'm not usually one to be late for things, but for some reason every time we go on a field trip with this group I'm either late or arrive just in the nick of time. By the time we got there the storms had passed and we had beautiful weather. Our family has gone to this particular farm every fall for years, so Marc decided to take off early from work and join us. I was glad he got to meet some of our fellow homeschoolers. Gracie was excited because she met a cow named Gracie. It was a fun end to the week.







Now we have a week off from school to recharge our batteries!






Friday, October 17, 2008

I'm So Blue (and I love it!)

I can't stop staring at it! I'm so in love with my new blog! All week long I've been dying for you see what I've been watching unfold.

Darcy is a genius. I want to be her when I grow up. She oozes talent and creativity and can read my mind better than I can. I told her I wanted a place that would evoke images of the perfect homeschool day (a peaceful day of living, learning, and loving with my kids) and to inspire me on the days that are not so perfect. The result has exceeded my expectations. She even came up with the cute Touched By Autism picture in the sidebar, which I just love.

Plus, she's extremely patient (must be from mothering her 3 boybarians). I know so little about computers, blogging, and well, just about anything electronic, but Darcy just kept answering one dumb question after another. The first time she let me see the new look I thought it looked wonderful, but all I could see was the lighter blue background and not the blue siding behind it. She finally figured out that I wasn't seeing what she was seeing and kindly explained to me that my monitor settings needed to be at least 1200 pixels wide or I wouldn't be able to see any of the background. In her words, I was "missing a whole world of graphic design!"

By the way, for anyone who hasn't read my intro posts, you might not realize that the blue siding in the background and the gingerbread trim throughout the blog design are from the real life Blue House Academy, our home.

So if you're in the mood for a new look for your blog, please head over to Graphically Designing and check out all the other beautiful blogs she has designed. I am not her only happy client. Thank you, Darcy!

P.S. Thanks, Dad, for the birthday money -- it was well-spent!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Stay Tuned...

Darcy at Graphically Designing is hard at work on a blog makeover for Blue House Academy. I can't wait for you to see it!


When Kids Love Math

No math program is going to work for every kid, but there sure are a lot of happy Math U See families out there. I've already blogged a bit about our success with the program (see the sidebar). All three of our kids are doing great with it. Anna had been doing fine with Saxon before switching, but after seeing Ryne and Grace playing with blocks and watching DVDs, she asked if she could switch too. So we are just one of the many families in love with MUS, but I thought you might like to see what a true, die-hard MUS fan looks like. Take a peek at this post on the MUS blog:


If only all our kids loved math that much!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fall Into Reading Challenge

I was visiting some new blogs today (an addiction in the making), and I stumbled across this:



You can read more about the challenge at Callapidder Days.

I keep a basket next to my bed to hold all my reading material, and it's getting pretty full. Many of the books are half-read, and others have been sitting there untouched for more than a couple of years. Some of them I really need to read so I can be a better autism mom. Others to be a better homeschool mom or a better Christian. What is always lacking in my reading basket is just plain pleasure reading. I love fiction, but struggle with the selection process. One book that has helped me in choosing books for my kids is Honey for a Child's Heart, so last year I bought Honey for a Woman's Heart. It is full of great fiction and non-fiction suggestions, and the first book I read based on her recommendation became one of my all-time favorites (The Heaven Tree Trilogy by Edith Pargeter). But since then I just have not made much time to read something "just because."

So I hereby commit to read the following books by December 20th:

RDI Books

Solving the Relationship Puzzle by Steven Gutstein
You would think that I would have read the intro RDI book by now, but I've been told by several people that it is too outdated since RDI has undergone several revisions. Nevertheless, I now think it would be a good idea for me to read it now to brush up on the basics. I have a fairly good general understanding of RDI now, so I should be able to recognize what has been updated.

Awakening Children's Minds by Laura Berk
I am actually already two-thirds through this book. I had originally checked it out from the library and ran out of renewals by the time I really started to get into it. Despite my slow start, I now understand why it is considered an RDI must-read.

Homeschooling Books

Drawing With Children by Mona Brookes
I'm the daughter of a former art teacher. I have shelves of high quality art supplies inherited from my mom, not to mention dozens of incredible art books and curricula. So what subject am I failing as a homeschool mom? Hopefully this book will start me on a better path.

Deconstructing Penguins by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone
I just learned about this book from
Smooth Stones Academy. I like this quote from the back cover, "Children often engage in passive reading, simply speeding through a book in order to check it off an assignment list. Yet kids become successful lifelong readers only when they delve into what a book means." ( finished 10/21)


Books on Christianity

Knowing Scripture by R.C. Sproul
This is a short book, but I think it will teach me volumes on how to really study my Bible.

Evangelicalism Divided by Iain Murray
I confess, I would never have picked this book out on my own. My pastor loaned it to me more than two years ago, so I could understand the events that have led to the decline in doctrinal education in the church. It is a dry read, but I have learned much from this book. I still have about 200 pages to go, and I don't have until December to finish it. My pastor has accepted a call at another church and will leave at the end of this month, so I need to return it to him before he leaves. We'll see if I actually get this one done!

A Call to Spiritual Reformation by Don Carson
Sharon at
Equip Academy invited others to read this book with her. I was just telling my ladies Bible study at church this week how many prayer life has not been so great lately, so maybe this book will help me refocus.

Just Because Books

A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Elliot
I love biographies, and I love Elisabeth Elliot (if you have not read her books on her first husband, Jim Elliot, you must!). This book is the story of Amy Carmichael, a missionary to India and a poet. This book has been sitting in my basket for way too long.

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
Anna has read all the Narnia books, a few of them twice, and this is her favorite. I, on the other hand, have only read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (as a read-a-loud with her several years ago). I feel so deprived, so I am committing to Prince Caspian for now, but hopefully I will keep going after that. (finished 11/22)

The biggest challenge facing me is not the list of books to read, but rather figuring out how to balance this with my new blog addiction. Based on all the wonderful books I see in the sidebars of homeschool moms' blogs, it must be possible to keep up with both. If you have any tips, let me know!


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mt. Minumus Erupts

The model volcano. Isn't it some sort of homeschooling rite of passage? You can't be an official homeschool family until your children have "ooo'ed" and "ahh'ed" at pretend lava spewing out of their homemade creation,right? Well, somebody mail me my membership certificate, because we finally did it!

In my humble opinion, we get an A+ for artistry. I opted to go with a papier-mache model, thinking the kids would love making a mess and have fun painting it. Most of the instructions I found recommended constructing a frame from wire, but one website I found said you could make a frame using masking tape. Don't believe that website! The tape was a pain to work with because it kept sagging, causing the base to curl up once everything dried. Nevertheless, the kids had a great time and it turned out beautifully. They named it Mt. Minimus and imagined it being an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.


Before:


After:


Apparently Mt. Minimus is home to some scary alien-like monsters that like to hang out by the beach. No wonder the island is otherwise uninhabited!


While we excelled in artistry, our technical merit score could have been higher. I'd give us a B-. Just about every lava "recipe" I looked at was slightly different, so I did some tweaking and combining. Maybe that wasn't a good idea. Although I kept explaining to the kids the volcano was not going to shoot lava 3 feet into the sky, I did not expect Mt. Minimus to be so mellow. Below is the most exciting part of the "explosion," after I edited out 10 minutes of very minimal action.
video

So then, all you pros out there, is this how your volcano explosions looked? Mt. Minimus dried out nicely, so we can try again. Do you have a favorite lava recipe you'd like to share? Just leave it in the comments section and help all the other homeschoolers who have yet to experience the joy of making their very own volcano.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Why Parents Are Tired

Anna had a Swim-a-Thon fundraiser on Saturday. The swimmers were allowed to swim for a maximum of two hours or 200 lengths, whichever came first. She finished her 200 lengths with 20 seconds to spare. Almost all breast stoke. No kick board to help, and she only used the fins for about a dozen laps. As I watched these kids swim that hard for that long I thought, "No wonder I'm tired! There is just no way this 30-something mom can match that level of energy!" And she's the least energetic of my three. Maybe I need to start reading this blog.