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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Week 5 ~ Wrap Up of Unit One

We are done with our first five weeks of school! I am so pleased with our school year thus far. I have already seen some great improvements in areas. We are even still on schedule, although that does not completely matter. As with every year, there are subjects that haven't been covered as well as I expected, but they haven't been dropped completely...yet! We have only covered one lesson in our Bible study with Draw to Learn the Life of Jesus. That is okay. We will plug along slowly. We also did not start our foreign language studies yet. I do plan on starting Little Red Riding Hood in French during our next five week period.

We celebrated our first five weeks with a unit review. We invited Grandma over for dinner and showed her all that we are learning. It was a roaring success and we will do this at the end of each five weeks this year. We started the evening with everyone ordering their dinner choices at the Pig in the Blanket diner. The diner was created by the kids and modeled after the diner in the book we read called Frank and Ernest. The kids learned diner language and as each person placed their order the kids called it out to the short order cook (me) using diner terminology.

Here are a few of the choices in our diner ~
  • Hot Dogs ~ Bow Wows
  • Ketchup ~ Make it Bleed
  • Veggie Platter ~ Walk Through the Garden
  • Soda ~ Drink the Bubbles
  • Apple ~ Eve
  • Coffee ~ A Dark One
  • English Muffins ~ Burn the British 

After placing their orders, everyone sat down to listen to each child give a presentation on what they had learned through the previous five weeks. Tom Sawyer went first. He read his 460 word essay on Sadako and the One Thousand Cranes.  He told us a little bit about Hiroshima. He then showed us all of the origami he had made. He has really gotten into folding paper and made many little figures. Lastly, he told us about the Lego Club that both children will be continuing to attend this year. Little Red Riding Hood went second. She read her 462 word essay about the Melendy children from the story, The Four-Story Mistake. This book is second in the series of the Melendy Quartet (first in the series was The Saturdays). She then showed us many of the crafts she had made through the previous five weeks. Lastly, she talked about the Tar Heels Junior Historic Club that the kids are joining this year. 

We sat down to our diner meal and continued talking about all that we had learned. After dinner and a short outdoor break, the kids showed their geography skills which is a troubled spot for both of them. Little Red Riding Hood, in particular, has a lot of learning to do in this area. We will be working hard on writing and geography this year. I am happy to see the vast improvements that Little Red Riding Hood has made in writing in such a short time so far this year. We also did a very short multiplication drill and the kids went through their notebooks with Grandma.

We had one other grand accomplishment this week ~ we were able to bring down a dead tree at the end of our driveway. We had wanted this tree to come down. However, it was entangled with phone wires, and we could not afford the prices we had been quoted to chop it down. To our good fortune, our neighbors were having a tree chopped down this week. While they were out at the neighbor's home, the lumberjacks asked if we would like to have this dead tree come down. They offered to do it at a fraction of the cost that we had been told it might cost. So we had it done because, every time there's been a storm, we've worried about whose car might be crushed by the tree. What a relief!

We have a week break now to prepare for our next period of study. We are completely done with World War II, much to the kids' relief, and will be moving on to another time in history. I will be busy this coming week getting Goldilocks enrolled in public school. She will be attending an intensive mental health program in our public school system. I hope it gives her the support she needs. There are 18 kids to 8 adults so there should be plenty of line of sight. We shall see.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Week 4 ~ The Year of Miss Agnes and The Homefront during Word War II ...

We had a busy and productive week. We finished our unit study on The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill and our unit study on the United States during World War II. We also attended a birthday party, three physical/pool therapy appointments, an appointment to look at a school program for Goldilocks, and an art class. Whew! I am beat.

The Year of Miss Agnes ~ We really enjoyed this book that is set in Alaska just after World War II. It is a sweet story about a teacher from England who comes to a rural Alaskan village and brings the joy of learning to a one room school. A book right up my alley. We loosely followed a unit study from Here is a list of what we did:
  • We had a delicious fish dinner.
  • We wrote a story from a different point of view ~ both kids decided to write from our dog's point of view during bath time.
  • We read The House in the Mail by Rosemary Wells and drove through a neighborhood that has several Sears catalog houses.
  • Little Red Riding Hood learned to crochet at a crafts class.
  • We watched an Imax DVD about flight and airplanes.
  • We learned about biomes and studied Alaska's biome, which is an Alpine tundra.
  • We watched an Imax DVD on the world's greatest places and figured out the biome for each place.
  • Each child wrote a very short autobiography.
  • We made pictures within a margin.

The Homefront During World War II ~ We did several activities over the last few weeks. Some our favorites are listed below.
  • The kids made a meal from Molly's Cookbook: A Peek at Dining in the Past with Meals You can Cook Today (American Girls Pastimes).
  • We are taking good care of our victory garden and it is giving us a wonderful yield.
  • We watched the America Girl Doll movie about Molly.
  • We read Attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • We read So Far from the Sea by Eve Bunting.
  • We made Scottie dog bookmarks.
Bacon, Toad in a Hole, and Waldorf Salad.

Other Learning ~

Polymer clay monster key chains
Physical therapy in the pool -- working hard

We started our geography state pages this week. We are going to start with the nine states the kids have visited or lived in. I decided to cut the state shape out of a photograph of the kids at a North Carolina landmark. Then I decided I wasn't good at cutting out such complicated shapes ~ so assigned my mother to cut out the state. She did a super job. The kids then wrote a paper about a place they had visited in the state and cut up a map to make a collage. They came out great. We then read the book, T is for Tar Heel: A North Carolina Alphabet by Carol Crane. This is from a series of books for each state and Washington D.C. We wrapped it up with a meal from foods grown in North Carolina. We had blueberries, sweet potato fries and local grass fed cheese burgers. 

The picture is fuzzy, but you get the idea.

Well, that wraps up our week. I love homeschooling!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Week 3 ~ Milestones

This week was filled with milestones. 

Tim ~ Our son Timothy recently passed his first anniversary at the brain injury day program he attends four days a week. It has been such a blessing to him. This week the day program had a party to celebrate their fifth year serving our area. We are very glad they opened a program in our area. Timothy has the opportunity to have so many experiences in a safe and supportive environment.

Timothy and Tom Sawyer playing pool at the party.
The great staff that cares for all of the clients.
Tom Sawyer ~ Tom Sawyer finally started pool therapy in addition to continuing regular physical therapy. He is doing well, although they seem to find some new concern or weakness each time he is examined. He had a few small scares this week, but he seems to be really learning how to stop and take care of himself when he feels a strange pop of his muscles.

Little Red Riding Hood ~ Little Red Riding Hood went on her very first sleepover this week. She had a wonderful time. She loved every minute of it and can't wait to do it again someday. In addition to the sleepover, she attended a free crocheting class at the local craft store. In just one short lesson, she learned how to crochet. Before the day was out, she had made a hat for her stuffed bear.

Eating breakfast with the twins at the sleepover.

Goldilocks ~ I wish I could say that Goldilocks had passed a milestone. Well, she has been out of our home for a full four months now. I can't believe it has been this long. She is still in respite and we are still private paying. The system moves so slowly in getting her services and getting insurance to take on some of the cost. We have received a few scholarships and for those we are very grateful. Hopefully, we will finally get her established in the system this month. We only have about two more hoops to jump through. As for Goldilocks, she is enjoying a special needs camp very much. She becomes very distraught when she has to see us (which is only seeing me at psychological appointments) and wishes "to fade out of our family like the girl in Harry Potter" as she recently said. The therapist says this is because she is mentally unstable and cannot deal with all of the emotions of living and being loved by a family.

Highlights of Our School Week ~ We did all of the normal subjects and a bit of extra fun, too. The kids enjoyed a poetry tea with Longfellow. We listened to Paul Revere's Ride, The Village Blacksmith (my favorite), and The Children's Hour. We will be exploring Longfellow for the first ten weeks of school. We celebrated J. K. Rowling (and Harry Potter's) birthday (July 31) by reading a biography of J. K. Rowling and watching the movie, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. We also started the book, The Four Story Mistake, which we are enjoying just as much as The Saturdays. We barely started our next literature unit study, which is The Year of Miss Agnes. I will speak more on our unit study next week.

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, July 28, 2014

Week 2 ~ Bookmarks and Petit Fours

We had another good week. It was a great week academically for the kids, but I took on more than I could get through and was a bit overwrought by Friday. If only the world would just let me concentrate on my true love of teaching and not demand that I do so many other things. Alas, I have many more roles to fulfill besides teaching and I must find a good balance. This week did not seem very balanced from my perspective.

The Saturdays ~ We finished the book and loved every minute of it. We can't wait to start the next in the series, The Four Story Mistake. I loosely followed Beyond Five in A Row with this book. We attempted to make petit fours. I must say, they did not come out at all like I imagined they would. I obviously didn't pick the right frosting. The kids loved them just the same and got lots of math and life skills out of the project. I will be keeping an eye out for petit fours in local bakeries.

The Lake ~ Like the children in The Saturdays, we also enjoyed a day at the "shore", otherwise known as our local lake with beach. Tom Sawyer made friends with another boy right away and had a great time. Little Red Riding Hood and dh spent much of the time swim racing across the swimming area.

Handicrafts ~ Our handicraft this week was making Scottie dog bookmarks for the twins' birthday. The kids traced a pattern, cut out the felt, and then used the blanket stitch for all of the edge work. Little Red Riding Hood did most of the blanket stitch part, since it was driving Tom Sawyer crazy. They came out really cute.

On the Blog ~ If you want to see what a typical day is like around here, I have our July post here.

All the Rest ~ Tom Sawyer and Little Red Riding Hood have been making improvements day by day in writing. They both wrote three paragraph book reports of The Saturdays and kept up with their journals daily. I am hoping to move them to longer paragraphs next week. I am pleased with Tom Sawyer's improvement in spelling. It really has been coming along in the last couple weeks. I am only finding a few mistakes in his work. Otherwise, we are hard at work with the multiplication tables. The eights are almost solid. Hopefully, we will have a better balance this coming week.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Day in the Life ~ July Edition

We are well into our second week of school. I am glad to see how quickly we are getting into our routine. I am not going to break our day down by the hour. That is just too exhausting. Instead, I will tell you that I started my day at 6:30 am and ended recording our day at 7:00 pm.

Early Morning ~ Dear husband had an interview this morning in another department at the hospital in which he works. I took a bit of time deliberating over ties with him and making sure his breakfast was extra special. Only minutes after he left, my Tom Sawyer (12) was by my side. He has always been an early riser. Thankfully, he is also a quiet morning person just like me. Tom Sawyer and I ate breakfast and listened to the alarm clocks going off for Little Red Riding hood (10) and Tim (our disabled adult son). They soon stumbled in and joined us for breakfast (or more sleep in Little Red Riding Hood's case). Tom Sawyer loves to get his independent work out of the way. He completed his journal, language arts workbooks, and math page.

The kids are allowed to be free until 8:50 am most mornings as long as they are not on the computer or watching television.

After breakfast, the kids wandered off to work on a video for YouTube. Little Red Riding Hood is busy trying to launch a mini rainbow rubber band business. Tom Sawyer video taped her while she made a bracelet tutorial.

School Time ~ Tim stayed home sick today from his brain injury day program. He has asthma and his lungs were really bothering him. He played chess with Tom Sawyer for a little while. Little Red Riding Hood completed her independent work (language arts workbooks, math page, and journal). We then started our group learning. I read the next chapter in The Saturdays to them (literature). We are just loving this book and only have one chapter to go. We then watched Molly An American Girl movie (history). We are almost done with World War II on the home front. The kids did their independent reading time (language arts). We concluded our core school time with how to write a condolence letter. We know a few people who have lost pets recently, and I thought this would be a good time to learn how to write that kind of letter. We studied our manner books and looked for phrases on a Hallmark website.

These two have always enjoyed chess.
Little Red Riding Hood addressing a card.
The phone rang off the hook during the morning. I am still dealing with so many calls in regards to our daughter Goldilocks (not pictured), who ran away and ended up in a psychiatric facility last spring. Her world is stabilizing in her placement out of the home, but there are many phone calls and piles of paperwork to fill out weekly to ensure that stability continues. Once we get the funding under control it should become easier. 

Our Afternoon ~ We had a rushed lunch because Little Red Riding Hood wanted to make it to the free art class at A.C. Moore. She is friends with the teacher and was allowed to use their rubber bands after completing the project. She loves making a few extra bracelets each week at no cost. 

We then raced back home to pick up Tom Sawyer who had been enjoying his media time. We picked him up and took him to his physical therapy appointment at our local children's hospital. The Arts for Life table was running crafts for kids in the waiting room. Little Red Riding Hood was delighted to see her favorite volunteer was running the table and babysitting the kids. In addition, a therapy dog was visiting, so Little Red Riding Hood was set with activities to do while I talked with the physical therapist and watched some of Tom Sawyer's therapy session. His therapist was almost apologetic that it looks like he will need PT for much longer than we originally suspected. His left knee almost dislocated last week and healing of his right knee still has a ways to go. Then there are the growth spurts in his future that will affect his bone and muscle growth differently than kids who don't have cerebral palsy. Actually, I was more relieved than disturbed that he will need more PT, because it is a relief to have a professional watching over him and trying to help him from dislocating again. I would hate to see him in so much pain again.

Our Evening ~ We returned home just minutes before Daddy. I started dinner, assembled Tim's nebulizer so that he could get medication into his lungs, and called my Mother. The kids went off to play on the Wii. After dinner the kids went outside to play with Daddy and I worked on Ebay, Amazon and this post. Before long it was bath/shower time for all. 

Another day done! This was a crafty day for Little Red Riding Hood. Crafts and dancing make her world go around so she was very satisfied with her day. Tom Sawyer would have preferred no PT and a play date with one of his friends. However, he thought the day went well, too. I, for one, am relieved that they are getting back into the groove of homeschooling so quickly after our crazy, bumpy spring and very short summer break.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Back to School 2014-2015 ~F Week One

We started back to school this week. The kids adjusted to our new schedule with minimum complaints. I explained to them that we would be focusing on writing and grammar this year. They did very well on end of year testing last year, but the testing does not look at writing. I know they are struggling in this area and I want them to become more fluent and prolific in writing so that everything else will be easier. This goal was not met with thrilled cheers.

It is our tradition to have Box Day on the first day of school and look at all of our new loot. This year our financial situation is tighter than ever, so I mostly collected things from the art cabinet or my gift giving box for the first day. The kids did not realize that most of these things had been found around the house forgotten on shelves! I do plan on buying one or two things to present at the beginning of each five week unit (we plan to do five weeks on, one week off this year). I still need to buy our Math Teaching Textbooks, the next spelling level, and a few other miscellaneous books. We talked about each item on the table and what subject it represents.
  • Foot bath, peppermint soak and nail brush ~ All of these items will be used in our coming-of-age lesson plans. We will be focusing on hygiene and self care. Our motto is the three R's of being a preteen ~ "Responsible, Respectful and Refined".
  • A lap loom and a hand spinner for making yarn ~ We are introducing handicrafts back into our curriculum this year. Little Red Riding Hood was over the moon about the loom.
  • The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook ~ One of our goals for life skills this year will be doing lots of cooking, and I am hoping that both kids will be making complete dinners a few times a month. Tom Sawyer loves anything about Harry Potter and often checks all kinds of cookbooks out from the library, so I couldn't resist this combination when I saw it at the bookstore. We will be working through this book for the next few months.
  • J. K. Rowling biography ~ The kids will be reading and writing a report on one biography a month this year. 
  • Cube Bot ~ The little purple box holds a cube bot. This represents the kind of quiet toy that the kids can fiddle with during literature time when I am reading to them.
  • Quick Pix and multiplication workbooks ~ The Quick Pix game is supposed to be very fun and help increase a child's recall speed. Multiplication is the only math we are doing for the next five weeks in multiplication. I want to be able to shake them in their sleep and get the right answer to a math problem ~ LOL.
  • Composition books ~ The composition books are for their morning journal time. These journals are to be filled with all things happy and positive so that they can look back on many happy memories at the end of the year.

This week we started a Beyond Five in a Row unit study on The Saturdays. We love the story so far. What a great book. We will be doing lots of FIAR activities associated with the book next week. We also completed Attack on Pearl Harbor and listened to all of the radio recordings of WWII in our book, We Interrupt This Broadcast. We did at least one writing activity every day and lots of language arts workbook pages. This week I assigned a certain number of workbook pages but noticed that Tom Sawyer took the lazy way out by doing only the easiest pages in the workbook. Some things never change it seems. Next week, I will be assigning specific pages!

We could not resist these pens at Sam's. We are kind of pen snobs around here.

All the Rest ~ We had an amazing amount of play dates this week. One of the downfalls of starting school before everyone else does is that our friends still want to play. We squeezed in four play dates this week because everyone's schedules seemed to finally work out this week to get together. So we did school in the morning and played in the afternoon. My To Do list is really long for next week. I have some catch-up to do. We also had a break from physical therapy this week because the therapist was away. It turned out not to be a good thing, since Tom Sawyer's other knee popped out (but not all the way out). He has been in pain every day for the last few days. Apparently, cerebral palsy and puberty are just a bad combination. His already very tight and stiff muscles just can't keep up with his bone growth. I am hoping that they can find a way to prevent his other knee from going out. They may need to brace both knees. He will be starting aquatic therapy in the next few weeks on top of PT.

When do you all start school?

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Exploring Eastern Kentucky

We were able to get away for a few days to explore Eastern Kentucky. This was the first time any of our family had visited Kentucky. I don't consider that one has visited a state unless they get off the highway and do at least one activity in the state. This is the ninth state that Tom Sawyer and Little Red Riding Hood have explored. Timothy (24) decided to stay home and stick with his schedule at the day treatment program for brain injured adults that he attends. He is more comfortable with the routine they provide. Grandma came along with us on our adventure.

We started our adventure in Lexington. We stopped at the visitors center and got our bearings. They suggested that we visit the Lexington Cemetery to stretch our legs. Well, I guess everyone knows by now that I love cemeteries. Lexington Cemetery has won many awards and is considered one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the country. It did not disappoint. I saw headstone styles I haven't seen anywhere else. It was a great mixture of old and new. We also enjoyed the three ponds and wildlife spread throughout the cemetery.

I had never seen stained glass in a headstone before.
When we came to the Jewish section, we reviewed the Jewish custom of leaving stones at the grave instead of flowers. We visited the Star of Remembrance, which commemorates the 1.5 million children who lost their lives during the holocaust. There was a dish of stones to pick from and place on the memorial, and the children picked out a special stone to place. May we never have such a horrible repeat of history!

We settled into our motel and the kids burned off the rest of their energy at the pool. This became a nightly tradition.

The next day we explored the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill. This 1800s Shaker community was the largest community in the nation. The buildings have been nicely redone, but there really were not enough interpreters. We really felt like we didn't learn very much new about the Shakers. The kids did enjoy getting to work with the carpenter on the wood turning lathe. Little Red Riding Hood also enjoyed the weaving area. She just loves all things crafty. We also had a nice game of croquet, although I don't think we were following the rules very well.

There are many limestone buildings in Kentucky.

In the same area as the Shaker Village, there was a riverboat ride. This was a gentle ride down the river and back. The kids hoped to see an abundance of wildlife, but we only saw a few turtles. It was relaxing all the same. 

The river was lined with cliffs of limestone. There was limestone all the way down to the water's edge.

We finished the evening off with a Kentucky Fried Chicken dinner eaten poolside and a trip to the Joseph-Beth bookstore, which is supposed to be one of the best in the nation. It was nicely laid out and the staff was very helpful. However, they didn't have any of the six mainstream books that I had circled in my copy of the Rainbow Resource catalog (tsk-tsk). However, I found a few treats to put in our first day of school box.

The next morning we decided to move onto another city. We decided to explore a free horse statue park before bidding farewell to Lexington.

What Characters!

We headed south to Corbin, Kentucky. This is the home of Colonel Sanders KFC. We did not eat at that original restaurant but drove by it on the way to our hotel. We spent the afternoon at Cumberland Falls State Park. I didn't get many pictures because we discovered that the battery was dead in my camera. My dear husband stood in the bathroom at an outlet recharging my camera for a few minutes so we could squeeze out a few photos. This was a really nice state park. The falls were lovely and the kids had a great time mining for gems.

Our last day we went to Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area to see the abandoned Blue Heron coal mining town. We took the Big South Fork Scenic Railway  on a 14 mile round trip through the gorge into Blue Heron. It had a 1.5 layover  in which we were able to see the displays. Of course, my favorite was the schoolhouse. I also enjoyed walking on the trestle.

We had a great time and could have stayed at the park for longer. However, it was time to go home. We had a great getaway and now it is time to get back to the books. Yep, tomorrow starts our 2014-2015 school year!!

Blessings, Dawn