On Swim Lessons and Finding the Silver Lining

I pretty much went straight from watching my daughter in a swim meet to the hospital the night before my son was born.  He was born the summer my oldest started swimming on a swim team.  Less than a week after his birth, one of his first ventures out of the house was to another swim meet.  He’s spent a significant amount of time poolside watching his sisters swim, so I guess it should come as no surprise that he wants to swim just like they do.

This past spring my husband joined a gym, and with the membership came the privilege to swim at one of our local hotels in their indoor pool.  And he’s allowed to bring his family.  We essentially got the membership just for that.  The girls get extra practice time, while also having the chance to have fun in the water.  My husband and I swim laps for exercise, and our water baby jumps in the pool over and over again.

About two months ago, he started swimming underwater while still wearing his little floaties.  While we were on vacation, he wanted to try swimming without them, and to our surprise, he figured out very quickly how to put his little bum up to the top of the water, kick his legs, and move his body across the pool.

Since he recently turned four, he was old enough for town swim lessons.  I wanted someone else to teach him because, well, I teach everything else around here.  Also, other than watching my girls be coached by some great coaches over the past four years, I have no swim training other than my own mom teaching me the basics when I was a child.

So, not heeding my own advice about not putting him in situations that he was not ready for, I signed him up.

Unfortunately, he was a little TOO ready for these swim lessons.  This class was “Water Adjustment.”  Griffin is already well adjusted in the water, so while the lifeguard was trying to teach the rest of the class how to put their faces in the water and blow bubbles, he was jumping off the stairs and swimming underwater.  And in this class, the students are supposed to stay on the pool stairs.  The. Whole. Time.  Griffin didn’t understand this craziness as there was a whole pool to swim in.  He kept getting put in time out because he wouldn’t stop swimming underwater, which I was told later was completely unacceptable for this class.

On day two, the Head Lifeguard told me the class wasn’t a good fit for Griffin.  He was also too “advanced” for the next level, but the level he would fit in he is too young for.  My only option:  private swim lessons.

I get it.  Griffin’s continual swimming underwater was a safety concern for the class because the lifeguard had to take his eyes off the rest of the class to attend to him.  I get it.  I do.  But here’s my thing – he just wants to be included.  He wants to be with the other kids.  He wants to be doing what everyone else is doing, but at every turn, he’s finding out that he can’t.

And that’s what hurts my mama heart so much.

It’s my fault.  I want so badly to give him all the things I was able to give the girls, but even though I know there are things he’s just not ready for, I can’t stop myself from trying it out.   I did it with soccer this spring, too.  He wants to play.  He loves sports, and for a boy with his kind of activity level, sports are a great outlet.  But one hour of soccer each week was too much.  I cried in our driveway for a very long time after the first week.  By the last week I was beyond thankful it was over.

But here’s the silver lining:

My boy excels at something.

He does!  Despite all the things that he’s “delayed” in, at just over four years old, he CAN do something most other four-year-olds can’t.

So even with the aggravation that the whole swimming debacle caused this week, I am choosing to dwell on that happy thought.  So, thank you, Jesus for showing me that there is something good to find in every aggravation.

And thankfully we know a few good coaches and life guards who have already offered to give private lessons to our boy who excels at something.

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On Learning That Your Child Is Not “Normal”

DSCN3937I haven’t blogged in a year, but I’ve been writing blogs in my head for months.  These past few months have been difficult as we’ve tried to navigate getting help for our son.  I will try to write regularly again as we continue to work through the trials of having a “special needs” child.

I’ve known for awhile.  But like most parents with a child who does not have overtly obvious special needs, I tried to ignore it, tried to explain it away, tried to work around it.  But when Griffin turned three last year, I knew he wasn’t “normal.”  I knew he wasn’t like other three-year-olds, and I knew it just wasn’t because he was a very hyperactive boy.

On Sunday he turned four, the magical age when most children start really maturing.  My son isn’t there yet.  His emotional maturity is more on-par with typical 2-3 year olds.  He is also just now beginning to carry conversations, to tell us about his day, to tell us what he wants for his birthday.  Last night as he talked with a family friend, he excitedly told her what he got for his birthday.  That’s a big milestone for him, and I smiled as he recounted getting “Rescue Bot Dinosaurs” and riding on the train for vacation.  Last year he couldn’t do any of that.

After Griffin’s three-year-old physical, my pediatrician agreed that my concerns about him were valid, and so started our year-long struggle to get him services and care.  After hearing tests and a test to rule out seizures, we went to the school district.  As a homeschooler, the local school district can be a scary place.  Many teachers (and most administrators) just don’t understand why we would make the choice to educate our children at home.   Our first experience with the school district did not go well.  I think they thought I was overreacting.  After one person saw my son for a total of one hour, they decided he didn’t need services at all.

My mama gut knew differently, but I did check myself – over and over.  I kept asking friends, family members, and whoever Griffin came in contact with if they were seeing what I was seeing.  Is he just a very busy boy?  Am I expecting him to communicate like my girls did at that age, and boys just don’t do that?  Am I overreacting?  As we went to more and more playgroups and library story times, I became more and more convinced that this wasn’t “normal.”  He was not on par with his peers – girls OR boys.  As most parents were able to transition their 3-year-olds to traditional Sunday School, Children’s Church, and AWANA, we were not.  Griffin wasn’t ready for it, and I spent many a Sunday crying over what we were doing wrong as parents.  It took me this whole year to embrace the fact that he’s just not ready for some of the things that other kids his age are ready for.  He doesn’t have the communication skills or emotional maturity to handle it.

While his “issues” are relatively minor in comparison to some other children with severe disabilities, the realization that your child is not “normal” is a hard pill to swallow.

So we prayed, researched, and asked more questions.  I am so thankful for a few dear friends who had navigated the school systems for their children, and knew the right things to say, the right people to call, and the right steps to take.  It is all so overwhelming.  Griffin’s pediatrician agreed that more needed to be done, so we waited for an appointment with the Speech/Language Pathology department at our local children’s hospital.  It was there that we finally got a real diagnosis – Expressive/Receptive Language Processing Disorder.  We also were told that he likely has ADHD as well, but that he was too young for a formal diagnosis.  Bottom line, my son has a hard time expressing himself in conversations, and he does not process language well.  Meaning, you can talk to him until your blue in the face, but he’s not always understanding what you’re saying.  Throw in the attention problems, and you’ve got a kid with some major behavior issues because he can’t understand what you’re saying and can’t listen long enough to process it anyway.

To be honest, the diagnosis was a gift from God.  Although I want my child to be “normal,” knowing that there were actual issues that could be addressed felt like a weight had been lifted off me.  Not to mention, I felt validated as a mom.  I wasn’t crazy or overreacting – my son does have some special needs.  He needs help, and so do I.

Our insurance wouldn’t pay for the private speech therapy, so I was back at the school district armed with my diagnosis in the spring of this year.  I asked for a repeat of the testing and for someone to observe him in a playgroup or classroom setting.  After much debate, they finally agreed to speech therapy for the upcoming school year, but not preschool placement.  However, they recommended he go to preschool somewhere.

And we agree.  Yes, this homeschooler agrees that my son needs to go to a traditional preschool.  And I’m going to say something that’s a dirty word in homeschooling circles.  My son needs the socialization.  Yup, I said it.  He does.  He needs the interaction with his peers.  He needs to learn social cues.  He needs the help they will provide him.  What’s right for one child in a family is not always right for all of them.  And for right now, a traditional preschool is right for him.

That’s not to say that was an easy realization for me to come to.  My girls went to preschool and were traditionally schooled until my oldest finished 2nd and my middle finished kindergarten.  I was excited about the home-environment preschool I was going to supply for my son.  I had plans and visions of how that was going to look.  I even have some curricula.  But I need to put my hopes and dreams aside for what’s best for my son.  So, at the moment, we are waiting to hear back from several preschool options.  We are praying, knowing that God will open just the right door for our son.

Last night I sat in my car outside my friend’s church. They are holding their VBS this week, and my girls were excited about going there to see their friends.  Now that he’s four, Griffin can join in, but with his “special needs” I never know if he’s quite ready for some of these events.  I informed the teacher (who knew our family already) about ways to help Griffin, and told her I’d stay close by – just in case.  As I sat in my car, I watched him play games, eat snack, and do a craft.  He had no idea I was nearby and that was intentional.  I got tears in my eyes as I watched him.  Just last year, I wasn’t sure if this would be possible.  Was he perfect?  Absolutely not, but when I picked him up, the teacher said he did really well, and she was looking forward to seeing him the next night.  Just knowing he is welcome to back is a victory sometimes.  I know I took for granted the fact that I could drop my children off at Sunday School or VBS and have no worries.  I won’t do that again.  It’s a gift.  It really is.

Today my son had his four-year-old checkup.  His pediatrician is happy that he’ll be getting some therapy, but wants me to push for more help.  So, I will continue to be the Mama Bear, to be the Squeaky Wheel, to be the advocate Griffin needs me to be.  He sees what I see, a child who has great potential, but has a few “special needs.”  He’s delayed emotionally and with his communication skills, but he’s also smart and strong-willed.  He’s going to do great things some day.

Tonight my kids will go back to VBS, and my husband and I plan to go on a date while they’re occupied.  Tonight I won’t sit in my car and stalk my four-year-old.   But I will keep my phone on, because that’s what Mama Bears do.

 

On The One Who Would Be Five

(I haven’t blogged in forever, but we’ve been dealing with some other more important things.  But now I NEED to get back to blogging, and this has been in my brain for a few days.)

She would be five this week.  Our second baby in heaven, our 4th baby altogether, the one whose loss split me to the core, she would be five.

It amazes me to think that I would be planning for her kindergarten year, that I would be dressing her in her sisters’ dresses, that I’d be well finished with potty training and strollers and church nurseries by now.  But that’s what my life would be like if God had different plans for our family.

I still remember learning that I was pregnant with her.  She was a big surprise.  We were not planning another baby at that time.  Lorelei had just turned two, and while we hadn’t ruled out having another baby, we weren’t really pining for one either.  Until we knew she was coming.  As soon as we found out I was pregnant, we knew, WE KNEW our family was not complete.  God planned for us to be a family of five – and that knowledge propelled us and sometimes crushed us over the next three years.

 

Her loss was the hardest.  It was then that I learned true grief – not that I didn’t grieve over our first loss, but her loss was different.  I felt I had “paid my dues” by losing one baby – that can happen to anyone, but two babies, that wasn’t right, that wasn’t fair.  Certainly God had no idea what he was doing.  I had also made it to my second trimester, the time when everyone tells you to relax, everything’s going to turn out OK.  Except when it doesn’t.

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living. Psalm 27:13

I did lose heart.  My heart was broken – again.  My grief overtook me.  I was angry.  I was angry at all the other pregnant women around me (and there were a lot at that time).  I was angry at God.  Why?  Why me again?  It didn’t make sense.  My mom encouraged me to focus on Who my God is, to go through the Psalms and write down all the promises about who God is to us.   Our Shepherd.  Our Shield.  Our Fortress.  Our Good.  Psalm 27 is my favorite.  There’s so much truth there.

Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord! Psalm 27:14

And we did wait.  We went through another loss, another baby girl we never got to hold.  We went through doctor’s visits and small surgeries all to figure out why this was happening and if we would ever get to complete our family.

Then it happened.  I was pregnant again, and it felt we held our breath the whole nine months.  I was having a baby, and it was a BOY.  This was unexpected.  We truly didn’t believe we could make boys.  🙂   And he was going to be born in the summer.  I was getting my summer baby after all.  And he completed our family.

Tonight I tucked my sixth (and last) baby into bed.  He’s now nearly three years old and all boy – a welcome addition of testosterone to our family.

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I sometimes think of what life would be like if we hadn’t lost any babies.  But my heart catches a bit in my throat when I think of it. My friend Lindsay recently blogged about her life and if she would not have her son if an adoption a few years ago had not failed.  It reminded me again of my thoughts on this.  If any of those babies had lived, we would not have the family we have now.  Lorelei would not exist – likely Griffin would not either.  In fact, we wouldn’t have a boy at all.  I can’t imagine what that family looks like, and I don’t think I want to.

And I would be a completely different person.  Those losses changed me.  They changed our marriage.  They changed our family.  I understand now what it is to grieve.  It has no timetable.  It is different each time and for each person.  I understand how much of a miracle each life is, and how preciously it should be guarded.  I have a different relationship with God than I ever had before.

I also know without a shadow of a doubt that THIS family, this family of five God is allowing me to have, is His perfect plan for me.  These are the children God intended for us to raise.  And those girls in heaven are in the arms of Jesus, waiting for us to meet them someday.

Happy Would-Have-Been Birthday Baby Girl.   Dance with your sisters and Jesus for us today.

 

 

 

On Grace and Mexican Fiestas

Week six was much better.  I think we all enjoyed it more.  Nothing new happened.  Griffin didn’t suddenly become a perfect little toddler.  Lorelei didn’t become the hardest working person on the planet and Ainsley did not lose her 9-year-old know-it-all attitude.  What changed was me.  I gave them all more grace.

I started thinking about it at the beginning of last of week when I became frustrated with a situation.  Without boring you with all the details, we’re being made to pay the state of Connecticut more money on old taxes – money we don’t believe we owe.  It’s frustrating to know that even though we are law-abiding, tax-paying citizens and always have been that we are getting punished for a simple error – an error that we don’t even think we are guilty of.  Anyway… I was thinking we deserved some grace.

Then on Tuesday we were at the library.  Griffin goes to a class there for 2 to 6 year olds.  It’s good for him to go to these things, but he’s not a kid who loves sitting still and listening to stories.  It just so happens that this class is full of kids who can/will sit still and listen to stories, and Griffin is the one who tries to escape the classroom the whole time.  My goal is for him to make it through one of the classes this year, but we aren’t there yet.  I don’t let him disturb the class, but I still want him to be a part of it as much as he’s able at this age.  As Griffin made a mad dash out of the room again, a grandma in the room said loud enough for most people to hear, “I don’t know what is wrong with kids these days. My kids could always sit still and listen to a story.”  Of course she was sitting there with her perfect little angel grandson as well.

Sigh…

I wish I could say comments like that don’t bother me anymore.  They still do.  When Ainsley was a toddler and just about as crazy as Griffin, I would have left the library and cried.  Now, I don’t cry, but it does still bother me.  Of course, when the class was over, I was helping Ainsley with a question on an assignment and my little nuisance of a child hit her perfect little grandchild in the face with a train.  She then said, “Ma’am, you really need to be watching him closely.”  Another sigh…. I made Griffin apologize and I apologized to the child and to Grandma Critic.  Then I said that he just turned two, and he’s still learning.  And she gave me that look… you know the one…

And I longed for some grace, for me and for my child.

Then it hit me, I don’t deserve grace.  Neither does Griffin.   That’s the definition of grace:  Unmerited Favor.  I DO NOT deserve it.  It is given.  It is a gift.  (Ephesians 2:8,9)  And I’m so thankful that even when man fails to dole out a heaping bowl of grace.  My God has given me more than I ever deserve.

Then a bit of grace did come.  As we left the library, the Children’s Librarian said, “I hope you continue to bring him.   He’s doing a  really good job for as young as he is and how much energy he has.”  All I could think was, “Thank you Jesus, for this bit of grace in the midst of a crazy morning full of grace-less moments.”

So I made a conscious effort the rest of the week to give more grace to my children.    And it made a big difference.

As far as what we learned this week, we had a really good week academically.  I wrote last week about how Ainsley was struggling with the first chapter in her English curriculum.  She  took a test on Monday and got a 100.  She was so proud, and I was too.  She’s on a writing chapter now and enjoying that a lot.  She’s writing a narrative story about buying her hamster, Rocket.  Ainsley also got a 100 on her math test this week.

Lorelei flew through Lesson 6 in her math book and got a 100 on her test.   She started learning regrouping (carrying) this week, and understood the concept very quickly.  She is nearly finished with her narrative essay.  She chose to write about going to Six Flags.  Lorelei also finished all the American Girl books about Josefina this week.

We finished up our chapter on dogs by putting a picture of each “dog-like” animal on the map where they live.  We also did an experiment which I (sadly) forgot to take a picture of the kids doing.  We made orange jello and put it into small cups.  We put food coloring in half of the jello to make it red.  Homeschoolers sometimes have to be creative in the way they do their experiments.  So we took this experiment to church with us.  The girls were in two different rooms.  One of them had all of the orange colored jello and the other all of the red colored jello.  They had people smell the jello and then taste it to see if their perception of the of the jello would be changed by the color of it.  It worked! Most people thought the red colored jello tasted like strawberry even though it was orange flavored jello.

Our trip through Mexico finished with a Mexican fiesta.

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We made homemade tortillas for the first time. We used them for quesadillas for lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(So sad the picture is blurry!)  Grandma and Grandpa come over for our Mexican fiesta for dinner.  We decorated the room with some of the Mexican crafts we made.

 

 

 

 

 

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We made Mexican Paper Flowers and Papel Picado.

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Ainsley made the sign herself.

We had Mexican hot chocolate, which we all decided was better than any other hot chocolate, chips and guacamole, Spanish rice, baked chimichungas and tres leches cake.  It was a really good meal.  My in-laws have enjoyed coming to our two parties so far, and I hope to keep having these celebrations as we finish studying each country.

 

Now we are moving on to Week 7 and we are taking a break, of sorts.  Our country studies and science go in two week intervals, and we will be going on vacation after this week, so I don’t want to start something and then take a break in the middle of it.  So, we plan to take a break from our country and science studies this week and do some of the things we didn’t get to over the first six weeks, and of course, the three R’s.

 

 

So this is how Week 7 will go:

Bible:  I don’t know what I’m going to do here since our Bible/history/geography/science/etc.  all go together.  I will come up with some kind of Bible study for the week.

Math:  Ainsley is working on multiplying large numbers, multiplication word problems, etc.  Lorelei continues to learn about addition with regrouping.

Geography:  Videos, Geography Game, Geography worksheets

Science:  They are going to make a dog newsletter, watch some videos and do some of the worksheets we did not finish

English:  We will finish our final drafts on the narrative stories and (possibly) take a test.

Of course there will be reading and handwriting and spelling and art and…. you get the idea…

And something big will happen during Week 7.  This little girl who lost two teeth this week, will turn 7.  Happy Birthday to my brown-eyed girl.  I can’t wait to give you your BIG surprise.

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On Homeschooling Even When It’s Hard

I’m behind a week updating here.  Here’s why:  The past two weeks have been hard.  Really hard.  The workload has increased, along with the afterschool activities, plus my children have been… what’s the word… DIFFICULT.

Guess what, my children are not perfect.  Neither am I.  I also do not have the patience of a Saint.  If I had a dollar for every time some non-homeschooler told me they couldn’t homeschool because they don’t have the patience, I would be a very rich woman already, and I’ve only been doing this for a little over a year.  I am not a patient person, and these past two weeks have really tested my patience.

My toddler has been incredibly difficult lately.  He’s just over two years old, and he’s all boy.   We struggled to have this baby boy, and oh how we prayed and prayed for a third child.  I wouldn’t trade him for anything.  We love him immensely, but this parenting thing is HARD.  This child-training thing is HARD.  And this little man is an independent, willful, defiant ball of fire.  Constant discipline of a toddler while trying to homeschool two grade-schoolers makes for a very long day.  And at the end of the day, I’m exhausted – mentally and physically.

I’ve also been having some trouble with my middle child.  She is exceedingly bright, but also exceedingly lazy.  I lose my patience with her so easily because she gives up on things so easily.  My girls also lost out on the chance to go on a homeschool field trip this week because of the state of their bedroom.  It was beyond messy.  It was horrifying.  I spent about 8 hours this week emptying their room and cleaning it out.  I wanted to do it without their help so I could throw away as much as I wanted without them seeing and so I could see the extent of the devastation in there.  It was massive.  I was so disappointed in them, and how they have chosen to treat the things they have been blessed with.

Oh, and we’ve had some pretty big (for us) financial issues as well.  An unexpected $200 bill here, $300 bill there, etc.  Sigh… I’m so thankful I serve a God who provides, and who provides even when I worry that He won’t.  I just need to be patient and wait to see how He’ll do it.

I have raised my voice (ok, let’s be honest, yelled) at my kids more in the past two weeks than I care to admit.  And that’s keeping it real and honest.  Homeschooling isn’t always fun activities and experiments around the table.  This is hard work.    This is being around your offspring 24/7.  This is constant work on not only your children’s academics, but also their heart issues.

And consequently, my heart issues as well.

Because I have a lot to work in my own life, and my children make me painfully aware of all my failings.  Thankfully, I have a loving and merciful God whom I can pray to when I just can’t deal with one more tantrum, and a God I can ask forgiveness of when I fall short on a daily basis.   I can also humble myself and ask my children for forgiveness for the (many) times I lose my temper.

Besides dealing with lots of heart issues, I’ve also had to realize that it is OK to not get to it all.  That the curriculum is just a tool, and not a slavemaster.  I can move things, adjust things, change things, throw things out as I see fit.   My kids will still learn if I don’t do every single craft, worksheet or experiment.   They will survive… and so will I.

So, what have done in the past two weeks?

Let’s see…

My girls can now accurately put each of the 50 states on the map.  That’s right, they both got a 100 on their state quiz by accurately putting each correctly in its place.  I’m so proud of them because they barely knew where any of them were a few weeks ago.

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On September 11 we made thank you cards and brought cookies to our local police and fire departments.  The police dispatchers even invited us in and showed us where our call would go and what would happen if we ever needed to dial 911.

 

 

 

 

 

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On September 11 we also went to the beach because it was 90 degrees, and we hadn’t gone to the beach all summer.  What better way to celebrate our freedom, than to flaunt our homeschool freedom and go to the beach in the middle of the week, in the middle of the schoolday.

 

 

 

 

 

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We also did an experiment to show how animal’s camouflage works.  It failed miserably, but hopefully they got the point anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We finished out our last week of studying the United States by having an all-American cookout with my in-laws.  It was a nice way to finish our first four weeks of school.

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During our fifth week of school, we finally left the U.S.  Ok, not literally, but we started studying our first country outside our own.  We moved on to Mexico and the girls got their passports “stamped” and an airline ticket to Mexico City.  This fun website lets you print out a fake airline ticket (you can even pick whatever airline you want) to wherever you want.   I will try to remember to do this for every country we visit.

The study of Mexico includes reading lots of books about the country, its history and and its people.  We are also working on a lapbook about the country and watching some videos.  In addition, we’ve put aside our beloved read aloud Kingdom Tales so we can read the missionary biography about Cameron Townsend who brought the Bible to people in Spanish-speaking countries.

 

We began studying deserts and learned about how animals who live in deserts stay cool in the heat of the day.  We did an experiment to see how fast an ice cube melts in full sun, in the shade and buried in the ground.  Animals go in the shade or burrow in the ground to protect themselves from high desert temperatures.  It was a great idea… until we got carried away with other things and completely forgot to check our ice cubes.  I found a bowl of water in the cabinet (our “shady area”) when I went to make dinner that night.  See… we don’t have it all together.

We began studying carnivores in our other science program.  The first carnivores we are studying are caniforms – or dog-like creatures.  We have been having fun watching videos about dogs and learning about how the different breeds came about from the one dog-kind animal God created.

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We made clay sun faces like the ones that are very popular in Mexico.  They dried over the weekend and will be painted this week.

In Week 5 Lorelei also started working on her first writing chapter in her English curriculum.  She is writing her first narrative story.  Ainsley continued to review in English where she struggles.  Likewise spelling is still a struggle.  Sigh…

 

 

 

 

What we’re learning in Week 6:

Bible: We will learn about Haiti in Window on the World.  We’ll learn about how Haitians worship and how we can pray for them.  We will continue reading through Matthew.  We are now reading chapters 4 and 5 where Jesus begins His ministry, calls his disciples and begins to give the Sermon on the Mount.

Math:  Lorelei will likely move quickly this week as it is a review of skip counting, which she has mastered.  Ainsley is learning about Roman Numerals this week – the curriculum is even making her add and subtract in Roman Numerals which I think is a bit odd.

Geography:  We will finish studying Mexico this week as we learn more about its people and customs. We will continue playing the Geography Game to learn the location of all the North American/Central American countries.  We plan to read Adelita, the Mexican version of Cinderella, and compare it to the version they already know.  I plan to do this with as many countries as possible.  We will make tissue paper flowers and we will make homemade tortillas.  On Friday we’ll have our own Mexican Fiesta!

Science:  We will continue to study deserts in our MFW curriculum and dogs  in our Apologia study.  We will do an experiment showing the power of the sense of smell.

English:  Lorelei will finish and (hopefully) publish her first narrative story.  Ainsley will take her first test and (hopefully) begin writing her story.

Spelling:  We’ll keep working on it…

Reading:  Lorelei is just about finished reading all the Josefina books.  After much discussion with Ainsley, she has decided to read the 39 Clues books.  The characters in that series move throughout the world on a giant scavenger hunt.  She is on Book 1 right now.

Read Aloud:  We will continue reading Cameron Townsend’s biography.

Thankfully Week 5 is over and Week 6 is just hours away.  Praying that it will be better than week 5, but even if it isn’t I know we can do this, because this is our job.  This is what God has us to do right now, and He will give us the strength to get through it.  I remember when I was first talking to a trusted friend about homeschooling a full year before we started.  She said to know for sure WHY you have chosen to homeschool because that is what you will cling to on the days (weeks) when you want to give up and flag down that big yellow school bus driving down the street.   By the grace of God that big yellow school bus is still flying by our home every weekday, and I haven’t flagged it down… yet…

 

 

 

On Trying To Fit It All In

Week three has come and gone and we are now two days into week 4.

Week three was exhausting for many reasons:

  • We added in all subjects (well, almost).
  • We switched Griffin from a crib to a big boy bed.
  • We had two sick kids during the week.

But we made it.

At the end of Week 2, we were supposed to make a world cake.   However, we were too busy making one last trip to the Six Flags water park to get it done.  We ended up waiting until Monday.

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We decided to make to halves of a globe.  Ainsley did the eastern half of the world and Lorelei did the western.  We made the cake from scratch together and then I gave them free reign on the decorating.  Yes, we used (gasp) canned frosting.  Don’t you just love the little guy poking his little head up there to see what was going on?  The next day he pulled the stool up to the counter and was poking his little fingers into the cakes.

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I love Lorelei’s face and hands all covered with frosting.  She even has some in her hair!   I’m not exactly sure what continents are what here…

And Ainsley wanted to show off her blue tongue.  Apparently, she had been taste-testing the frosting a bit while making her part of the world. Again, I don’t think I’d call those green globs continents, but it was fun anyway.

I think we may have found our groove a bit with scheduling.  We added in spelling and grammar in Week 3.  We start with Bible and then both girls do math.  I don’t “teach” math.  Ainsley does her lessons on the computer and Lorelei watches a DVD.  I just answer questions and make sure they understand.  So, while they do math, I play with Griffin and am available to answer questions.  When they are finished, one of the girls plays with Griffin while I do spelling and grammar with the other one.  Then we switch.  It has worked out well so far.  The girls then do reading and I play with Griffin and get some things done around the house.  When they are finished reading, we do the school subjects we do together:  Geography/History, Science, Read Alouds, Handwriting, Art.  I usually let Griffin watch a video through at least some of that part.  It keeps me sane.  We finish up the day with Spanish and keyboarding which are both done on the computer.

What also helped this week was writing the schedule on the white board.  It helped the girls stay on task and let them know where we are in the school day.  I don’t get asked anymore, “How much more school is there?”.  Ainsley likes to check things off, so she liked being able to check off things as we finish them.  We had a dentist appointment and a doctor’s appointment in the middle of two days last week, so showing them where those kinds of things fit into our day really helped.

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We did start our Apologia Science this week, but we also continued some of the science that was already included in our study.  We are studying forests as North American is full of them.  We spent some time outside sketching trees and labeling their parts.  I had to scold Ainsley because she hurried through her sketch so she could make her own bow and arrow.  She wants to be like Princess Merida from the movie Brave.

107_0391A few weeks ago we read the book “How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World.”  Then we made an apple pie.  Since we are now studying North America, with an emphasis on the USA, we read “How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the USA.”  Both are really fun books, and I highly recommend them.  Of course, since we read that book, we had to make a cherry pie, too.  Here are the girls all ready for soccer practice with the very pretty cherry pie we made.

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Although we studied the states all year last year, my girls were still having major trouble remembering where they all were on the map.  Last week, the Kindle Fire version of the app Stack the States was released.  The girls LOVE IT!  Score one for technology.  They already know where just about every state is now.  Which is good because at the end of this week, they are supposed to take a quiz on where everything is.  I found these really cool white boards in the dollar section at Target.  It has the states on one side and the continents and oceans on the other so they can practice labeling everything.  It has been a great find and wonderful practice for them.

So, did we fit it all in this past week?  Not really.  Spanish got thrown by the wayside because after months of not using Rosetta Stone, our headset no longer works.  I need to contact the company to find out if I can just get any old headset from the store (likely) will do or do I need their special headset to make it work.  And guess who hasn’t gotten on the phone and made that call….

One more thing about this week:  We love “Kingdom Tales.”  I seriously have never read anything like it before.  The girls are just eating it up in big giant spoonfuls of truth.  Here’s an excerpt that had me crying this week.  It’s from the chapter called A Girl Named Dirty.

“Mercie took the girl’s hand, “Let me tell you a wonderful secret,” she said.  “All the people of the Kingdom know it.  It is one of the first lessons they must learn.  The King does not have to come in order for us to see him. He is always present.”

Dirty stopped crying. She looked at Mercie.  “I don’t understand what you mean.” 

“Listen,” said Mercie.  She held her finger to her mouth for silence.  “Listen and you will hear him speak.  Be still.  He has something to say to you.”  

Dirty wiped her tears.  She closed her eyes and listened as hard as she could.  Yes, there was something.  She could hear someone speaking.  It was the voice of the King.  He was saying, come, come with me.  Be my special guest at the banquet table.

Dirty kept her eyes closed.  She could feel something pouring  over her.  It flowed down through her, starting with her head, then behind her eyes, all through the knots and gnarls of her insides.  It was warm. It was gentle.  It was fluid.

Mercie Whispered, “It’s kingslove, Dirty. Kingslove.”

Dirty heard music.  [She] wanted to dance.  She wanted to sing and shout.  She turned to Mercie, “The King does love me!  I’m clean!  The King has made me clean!” – From Kingdom Tales by David and Karen Mains

Oh my goodness gracious.  I love it.   What a beautiful picture of God’s love and what He has done for us.

What We’re Learning in Week 4:

Bible:  We finally starting to read the book of Matthew.  We’re starting at the beginning, so we’ll read about Jesus’ lineage and birth.  Our Memory Verse is Matthew 1:23.  We are also reading about Harriet Tubman in Hero Tales.

Math:  Lorelei is moving on to estimating and Ainsley continues to do some review on large number place value, regrouping, etc.

Spelling;  Going back and reviewing was a good choice.  We still struggle here, and I really want them to understand how words go together, but this is really hard for a mama who naturally “gets” spelling.

Grammar:  They will have their first test this week, so we will see how they do.  It has been hard for Ainsley especially since she hasn’t had a lot of grammar and we are doing a program that is moving quickly through what would be review for most students, but a lot of it is new to her.

Reading:  Lorelei is moving quickly through the Josefina American Girl books.  Ainsley has bounced around a bit, not really getting excited about any of the books I picked out.  She’s finally settled on a Betsy and Tacy book.  I think it is a bit below her level, but this is a battle I’m not picking right now.

Geography:  We stay in North America and finish our study of the United States.  We’ll move on to Mexico and finally start using our passports in Week 5.  This week we’ll continue studying American symbols, the different regions and physical features of the countries and where all the states are on the map.  This Friday we’ll have an all-American cookout to finish our study of our country.

Science:  We continue to study forests, learning about deciduous and coniferous forests, the trees in them, where they are found, etc.  We will also finish our introduction chapter in the Land Animals book from Apologia.  My animal-loving girls enjoyed reading all the different careers you could have working with animals.

Read Alouds:  We will finish up “Stone Fox” and continue reading from Kingdom Tales.

The days may be long some times, but I am continually reminded that I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.  This is definitely where God wants me and my children right now.

On Week 2 and Trying to Find Our Groove

We’ve made it through two weeks of year two of our homeschool journey.  I’m already tired.  It already feels like we’ve been back at this schooling thing for much longer than two weeks.

The girls continued to do well.  We added in our actual math curriculum this week.  So far Ainsley is liking her switch to Teaching Textbooks, and Lorelei is fine with continuing with Math-U-See.

We also added in our read aloud and handwriting this week.  My girls hate handwriting, but they also have horrible penmanship.  So, they MUST do it.  To make handwriting not as much of a chore, I usually try to schedule our read loud time while they are doing it.  This has worked well for us.  This year we are using the Draw Write Now books.  The books have handwriting practice with a sentence or paragraph about something specific and then it shows you how to draw that object.  I chose the books that are about animals of the world.   So, as we go through our countries of the world they will be drawing and writing about the animals in that country.  So far, this has been a hit.

The read aloud has been from Kingdom Tales, which I explained last week was an allegory along the lines of Pilgrim’s Progress.  The girls are eating it up.  They love the story line and are easily understanding what the stories are trying to teach them.

This week we continued learn about the world’s major religions.  We also spent some time talking about how one day all people who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ will live together in heaven.

We finished our overview of world geography by studying more about maps and how to use them.  We learned about latitude an longitude and how to find certain places on a map using those coordinates.  We talked about the oceans and labeled them on a map.   Did you know there are now five oceans???  Yeah.  I totally did not know that in 2000 they added another ocean – the Southern Ocean.

We are continuing to slog through Properties of Ecosystems, but our Apologia Zoology 3 books arrived on Friday.  I am so excited to make our science study more interesting with those books.  I’ll continue to hit the high points of POE, but it can’t be our main science text.  We will all be bored to tears.

We did one fun thing with our science study this week, we made an ocean diorama. I found this e-book in the Scholastic $1 sale.  It is all about habitats.  This one is about what lives at the top and bottom of the ocean.

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And as we finished our study of how maps work, we made a map from our house to the town library.  We live in walking distance of the library, so it’s pretty simple to show how to get there, but it gave the girls an idea of how mapmaking works.

Thursday marked our first co-op of the year.  I am so thankful that we have a great co-op filled with friends for the girls.  They have a great time and learn a lot each time we go.

As for the little man… he got a bit better this week.  I found stickers and play-doh to be some things that he enjoyed for a few minutes at least.  And yes, he continued to watch TV when he got too distracting.  (But I got him to watch one Leap Frog video, so at least it was educational!)

Now that we are about to enter week 3, we are adding in all subjects.  Yikes!   I was going through everything last night and it looks like A LOT!  I have an idea in my head of how I’m going to schedule it, but it still feels like we’re making a big jump this week.  This is also the week when we begin specific continent/country studies.

So, here’s what we’ll try to get accomplished:

Bible:  We will begin our study of the book of Matthew with just an overview of who Matthew was. We will also begin reading Hero Tales which are short stories about heroes of the faith.  This week we will learn about D.L. Moody.  Each story focuses on a specific character trait, and the girls will keep a journal of all the character traits we learn through the year.

Math:  Ainsley is doing a review of large number place values and Lorelei is doing a review of number sequencing and place value.

Geography:  We start our study of North America with an overview of the 50 states.  We’ll do a few worksheets, learn the the latitude and longitude of the Great Lakes, visit National Parks via Youtube and  make a scrimshaw and log cabin in art.  We focused on American history all last year, so we won’t really touch on much of that.

Science:  We will learn about forests and the animals that live there.  We will take a nature walk and sketch and label the part of a tree.  We will also do the first chapter in our Apologia study.  This chapter is an introduction and talks about predators, prey, habitats and careers working with animals.

English: This will be the first week we start our English lessons.  The first chapter is review for both girls.  Ainsley will be reviewing the types of sentences and Lorelei will be reviewing how sentence is formed.

Spelling:  The girls were in the middle of Level 3 and Level 5 of All About Spelling when we took a break, so I plan to just go back to the beginning and start those levels over again.   It will be good review for both of them.

Reading:  Lorelei is reading the American Girl series about Josefina.  Ainsley is reading some of the American Girl mysteries right now.  Since we are learning about North America, these are a good fit.  I hope to find books about the area we are studying for them to read as we go throughout the year.

I also want to get them back into Spanish and Keyboarding this week, but that may be too much. We’ll see…

On to week three we go!