Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Not-Back-to-School Fun at LWM3B

Starting August 3, my favorite blog designer, Darcy, is hosting a Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop, over at Life With My 3 Boybarians.


Week 1: Curriculum Week

Week 2: School Room Week

Week 3: Student Photo Week

Week 4: Day-in-the-Life Week

What fun! I'm looking forward to seeing all the great ideas and celebrating the homeschool life. Darcy makes it clear that anyone who teaches their kids -- not just "official" homeschoolers -- are invited to participate. So I hope to see all of you there!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Summer Update

At least I think it is still summer. Hard to tell with the amazing weather we've had the last week. Temperatures have been 20-30 degrees lower than our typical July scorchers. Since I'm not a big fan of the heat, I'm loving the cooler weather. But last night we had an outdoor swim meet and it was downright cold. Everyone was bundled up in sweatshirts and blankets, wishing Starbucks delivered. And that was just the parents! The poor, wet swimmers couldn't speak through the chattering of their teeth!

Swim team has kept us busy this summer, but this time Ryne and Grace were able to join the fun. All three kids were on a summer swim team together, and Anna continued to swim for her year-round team as well. Yes, it's busy, but it really has been a great experience. I was very nervous how Ryne would do. He is not a strong swimmer and has a hard time following directions when in a group setting. The first day was pretty horrible, so I figured we might last a week at the most. But on the second day I had the coaches place him with a younger group of kids who were all beginning swimmers. Coaching this smaller group of kids were three high school boys, who led practices right in the water with the kids (for all the other groups the coaches stay on the side of the pool and give directions). When I explained to the teenage coaches that Ryne has autism (the head coaches already knew, but I wasn't sure if all the assistants did), one of the boys replied, "No problem, I have autism too. I understand what it's like." At that point I decided to stop worrying about how Ryne was going to do, because obviously God was a step ahead of me in watching out for Ryne.

Well, I didn't completely stop worrying because while the practices went pretty well after that (Ryne struggled to pay attention, but the coaches were understanding and helpful), we still had the actual meets to get through. I wasn't expecting the coaches to enter Ryne in a meet the first week, but they did even though he was still struggling to swim the length of the pool. Worse, Ryne's age group has to swim the length of the pool and then come back. None of this bothered Ryne -- he was so excited to swim in a meet. But it was not meant to be, at least not that night. While waiting for his event, he was horsing around with his sisters and accidentally got an elbow in the eye. He was in so much pain that we had to withdraw him from his event. In fact, his eye got so bad over the next 12 hours that I had to take him to the eye doctor where we found out he had an abrasion on his cornea. He had to stay out of the pool for a few days while his eye healed, so we asked the coaches to hold off another week before putting him in a meet.

Ryne did finally get to swim in some meets, and I learned to relax. We rejoiced at seeing him swim his heart out. It didn't matter if he got disqualified because he stopped in the middle of the race or because he started doing the wrong stroke. We celebrated when he finally got a time in his freestyle (meaning he didn't get disqualified) and then lowered that time twice! And we learned that it's okay to ask for help. Sometimes I feel like it comes across as an excuse when we explain to others that Ryne has autism, but I found that people genuinely want to help and are excited for him. It was heart-warming to hear everyone cheering for Ryne, and the officials who have to be so by-the-rule were wonderful in accommodating us as we helped him out of the pool early (normally the swimmers are required to stay in the pool until the next swimmer jumps off the block from above). If you have a child on the spectrum that struggles with group sports, swimming is something you might want to look into. Ryne is not the only kid with autism in our swim conference -- at least two other teams have similar success stories.

And Gracie? She had a ball. New friends...being in the water...getting ribbons...what fun! She's already asking if she can swim year-round like Anna. So is Ryne for that matter.

When we're not at the pool, we are keeping up with piano lessons and a little homeschooling. Everyone has been doing math, and Anna has been making progress with history and Latin in preparation for starting "away school" (thanks to Sharon for giving me a name for Anna's new education plan). In reading through SOTW 3, however, I am worried that it will be too difficult for Ryne and Grace this year. If Anna were still going to be with us full-time, it would be different -- they would just take in what they can. But now it seems like I should find something more developmentally appropriate, so I've been researching different options.

This time last year my planning was done and we were starting school, but I don't even have our new school year calendar completed, let alone the rest of the planning. I have a pretty good idea of what we're doing, but nothing is on paper yet (or even in the computer).

Speaking of computers...mine is dying a very slow, painful death. It's the reason why I haven't been blogging much lately. I'm so sad because I haven't even been able to post the pictures or video of Grace's ballet performance from June for my 90 year old grandmother to see. I can't access any of my pictures, and I can't even get any of my new pictures off the camera. The things my computer can still do take f-o-r-e-v-e-r. I can check email and search the internet, but it often freezes up on me. So if I leave a comment on your blog, know that I really wanted to comment because it sometimes takes me 10-15 minutes to write that little friendly note! The good news is that I will soon be getting a new computer. I'm just trying to wait for my state's sales tax holiday in August so I can save a few bucks. I hope my computer can make it that long, because about the only thing worse that a dying computer is a dead one. I'd have to start sneaking onto my husband's work laptop at night to check all my favorite blogs. Oh, I forgot, his company blocks access to Blogger (Sigh).

So that's what we've been up to. We have lots more fun coming up...someone is turning 10 years old next week! And he says he wants a harpsichord for his birthday. Do they sell those at Target?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Changes at BHA

A couple of years ago I had the pleasure to get to know another homeschool family in our area who have a daughter in high school. We met their daughter first because she and Anna were in an oil painting class together. This young lady is a perfect model of what I would hope for my daughters: first and foremost she is a Christian whose faith shines through all she does. She's also kind, intelligent, modest, artistic, and a joy to be around. We met her when we were just six months into our homeschool adventure and because of her I dared to dream that I might be able to homeschool my children through high school as well. Before that, when asked of our future homeschooling plans, my standard reply was, "We're taking it one year at a time." I've learned over the years to never forget that God is in control and knows much better than I what the future holds for our homeschooling.

Nevertheless, I also believe it is foolish not to be prepared. If I am called to homeschool my children today then I also need to be forward-looking, choosing a course of study that will build over time and prepare my children to fulfill God's purposes for them. That's why when I found a great deal on some used books a few months ago I snapped them up, even though I knew we wouldn't need them for two more years. That's why I've already read through the portions of The Well-Trained Mind that deal with the Rhetoric stage, twice. That's why I'm always asking questions of homeschoolers who have high school students.

Where is this post leading? Marc and I have decided that God is leading us down a slightly different path in our homeschool journey. Anna will be attending a brick-and-mortar school this fall. This option was not even on our radar three months ago, yet through prayer and careful research we have decided this is the best decision for all our children. If you are surprised at this news, you cannot possibly be more surprised than Marc and I are, not to mention Anna (although I should add, pleasantly surprised).

For some, the natural reaction will be to assume that we were dissatisfied with homeschooling or we were struggling. Dissatisfied? Never! Struggles? Show me a homeschool family that doesn't have struggles! I have struggled with juggling the demands of teaching a beginning Logic stage child, who reads twice as fast as I do and needs greater and greater challenge, with two younger students (one age wise and the other developmentally speaking) who need a much less structured environment that will allow for more opportunities for dynamic learning. I have also written about our struggles to find a co-op or other gathering that will provide my children opportunities to build friendships. Every year our homeschooling goes better and better, but these two challenges having been weighing my heart for some time. Even so, I never considered that sending Anna to school was the answer.

God started to reveal this new path in the spring through two events: Anna running track and the announcement that Anna's best friend would be going to a new school in the fall. The track team was made up of some homeschool students, but mostly students who attend a Christian classical school in our area. I have never met a nicer group of parents and coaches, and I made a mental note that this reflected very nicely on the school. And then my dear friend, mother of Anna's best friend, told me she was pulling her three daughters out of public school to attend this same school. The more she told me about the school, the more I was intrigued.

We've done the Christian school thing before --Anna attended one in Chicago and one here, Ryne just attended the one here with Anna. And while Christian schooling offers many benefits, Marc and I felt homeschooling fit our family's needs better. But I believe the school we've now decided on will also be good fit. For one thing, the school matches our values and beliefs because it embraces the Reformed faith. It uses Classical methodology and employs University-Model Schooling (UMS). Practically speaking, with UMS a student attends classes at the school on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but on Tuesday and Thursday she will be at home. Parents are then required to be partners with the school, guiding their children on those days at home.

With this system I will still be involved in Anna's formal education, but I will also be freed up to tailor our homeschooling to better meet Ryne and Grace's needs. Anna will receive the challenge she needs and be given the opportunity to make new friends as well as further develop her friendship with her best friend. We've been impressed with all the faculty and administrators we've met. I've also had a close look at the six grade curriculum, and it is excellent. It looks like there will be 15-18 kids in her class, and her classroom is quite spacious and tastefully decorated.

There are a few downsides: while they will be covering all the same subjects we have done at home, each uses a different curriculum. LOL, all those hours of research I spent trying to find the "best" seem to have washed down the drain. Instead of the Latin for Children series, they use the Canon Press series (for 6th grade they will use Latin Grammar I). Instead of our beloved Math U See, it will be back to Saxon. Of course, I know plenty of homeschoolers love these curricula, so I need to not be too bothered by this. Probably most disappointing is that they will be covering year four in the history rotation, 1815 to present, meaning Anna will miss the third year in the rotation. Well, sort of. This week she and I started going through Story of the World 3 at an accelerated pace. We will finish reading through it before school starts in August, as well as a few extra literary works, and try to cover a few key memorization items. It's not ideal, but will have to do. We're also having to do a crash course in Latin since we were only about two-thirds the way through Primer B and according to the school's schedule she should have completed three years of Latin by now. But we have been reassured that she will be fine because they accommodate for students coming with no Latin background at all.

So that is the big change. I am excited, but also a little sad. It's hard to fight the temptation to think that I might have failed by not being able to do it all. But ultimately I know that Marc and I will still be the primary influences in her educational and spiritual development. We would not have chosen a school that undermined this authority. So even if someday, assuming she graduates from this school, her diploma has another school's name, I know in my heart she will really be a graduate of Blue House Academy.