Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Week, Briefly (#31)

It has been a wretched week.

Too wretched to describe.

So I won't.

But I will say that Ladybug, Brother, Little Brother, and Lola visited their birth family this week.  I believe that having a relationship with the birth family should be a blessing, but our littles are too broken and too fragile for it right now.  We'll send updates to the birth family, and we'll try to keep lines of communication open, but we cannot have real contact until they are better healed from the years of trauma they've experienced.

Here's what we did for school:

Morning Meeting--same as last week.
Preschool--almost nothing.  We spent the days dealing with trauma.  We did, though play with rainbow rice on Friday afternoon.
The 4 preschoolers each got a rainbow array of rice in jars, some spoons, some scoops, and a big bowl.  They happily scooped and mixed colors for a full hour.
These two (and Little Princess) layered the colored rice into pretty bottles to make rice art, but then they got the idea to count how many grains of rice would fill a bottle.  They faithfully counted and recorded their findings for a couple of hours, but they only filled the jar 1/4" by the time they reached 1,000 grains. They did some estimating and got overwhelmed by how much counting there was to go, so they put it all away for later.

And we read stories.

And we played outside with bikes and sidewalk chalk.  These are some of the portraits Super Star made for our littles:

I'm pretty sure this is Little Princess.
LDS Family School--we finished our last music lessons, and that means we've also finished our year.

Math--Super Star and Belle are successfully sharing a math book.  Rose Red continues plugging through Calculus Without Tears volume 2--though it does make her want to cry.  Pixie is 3/4 way through Saxon Algebra 1/2.

We've decided to do double math lessons starting next week until Belle has finished her book.  She should do that before the end of May, and that will be the official end of our school year.  Rose Red and Super Star will simply stop where they are at that point.  Pixie, though, will keep plugging away until she's done--which might be only an extra week of work.

Learning to Read--
Mister Man finished Sonlight reader 1 and started reader 2.
Ladybug is sounding out 3 letter words, developing fluency with sight words, and spelling 3 letter words.  She's a good speller.

Baymax has been sick for days, which means the 6 youngest and I did not attend dance.  The older 6 did, though--3 hours worth of dancing and singing!!!  Only one rehearsal left until our spring shows.

Running--we're regularly running over 1.5 miles--sometimes closer to 2.  Adding in our walking warm up and cool down, and we're crossing the 2 mile mark daily.

Saturday morning was Uncle M--'s 5K cancer fundraiser that was organized by his principal (Uncle M-- is a 6th grade teacher).  The volunteers were all teachers at his school.  It was raining on the morning of the race, and that kept a lot of the would-be participants at home, but we and over 100 others showed up.  We got awesome Dr. Seuss-inspired t-shirts with an image of Sam-I-Am that read "I do not like cancer here or there.  I do not like cancer anywhere!"

My family showed up with a baby backpack and 4 strollers:
*Sir Walter Scott wore Baymax on his back and pushed Brother and Little Brother in the double stroller.   With that load, he walked 1/2 of the route, getting under cover just before the worst of the rain!
*I pushed Lola and ran the route.  Lola was a trouper, tolerating rain blowing under the cover and into her face the whole time.  I'd pause periodically to wipe her face off, but she stoically endured.
*Rose Red pushed Ladybug and walked--except for a little while when Ladybug ran and Rose Red chased her so as not to lose her.
*Pixie pushed Mister Man in the jogging stroller--which is why she was able to push someone so close to her own size.  She ran most of the route but kindly stopped to let Mister Man out to run for a little while and also to let one of our little cousins take a turn to push the stroller.
*Super Star and Belle ran the route free and clear and scored times of less than 30 minutes.
*Nature Angel and Little Princess ran, walked, and ran again, completing the whole route in about 45 minutes.

Uncle  M-- is currently cancer-free, but epithelioid sarcoma is agressive about coming back, so this is only a preparatory rest before the next battle.

Reading--we finished The Witches.  We're not sure what we're going to read next, but the kids vote for another light, fun read.  We're continuing to slowly work our way through Augustus Caesar's World.

Planning for the future:
Rose Red and I had a heart to heart about what she can truly accomplish in the next 2 years.  2 years ago, she asked me to create a rigorous high school plan designed to get her to her dream university at age 18.  I did so, but it was a plan that could not and did not work for our girl.  She's matured enough to see the flaws in the previous plan and be ready to discuss other options.

I do, however, think she considers the other options second best, and that makes me sad because she still doesn't see her wonderful strengths--only her personal flaws. 

Our discussion got us to this plan:
*Continue to read and study a variety of subjects in order to broaden her knowledge base and develop critical thinking skills.
*Accept her difficulties in math as a part of who she is, letting go of lofty goals of higher level mathematics and focus on developing practical math skills that will enable her to function as an independent adult.
*Continue to develop communication skills (effective writing) that will open doors to study and work and problem solving for the rest of her life.
*Plan and prepare for becoming a wife and mother, but also plan and prepare to be able to support herself or her family should life circumstances be less than ideal.  This means figuring out what work might be a joy to her to pursue and the course of study she'll need to complete to be qualified to do that work.
*Work toward high school graduation (12 credits to go), followed by a season at a local community college.  We need to study the offerings of the local CC campuses and perhaps have her take a class or two not-this-year-but-next in some subject areas she might enjoy studying.
*She will not take the SAT or ACT which will highlight her academic weaknesses rather than her strengths.   We recognize that many scholarships require SAT/ACT scores, but we will focus on trying to acquire those that do not.
*Get serious about studying a foreign language because one of her real dreams is to be able to study abroad as a young adult.

I feel like I, as her mother, can finally breathe again now that she's let go of the go-straight-to-a-4-year-school plan.  She's a delightful person with many talents, but rigorous academic study isn't one of them, and I was having to ride her so hard while she fought back even harder.  She's felt like a failure, and I've felt like a failure, and I'm grateful, grateful, grateful to get out of that ugly cycle.  I love my eldest daughter, and I hope the next 2 years will be joyful.

Pixie will begin high school this fall, so we've had a couple of heart-to-heart talks, too.  Her plan is more tentative than Rose Red's because she has more time ahead of her, but she's also more goal-driven.  Her plans are:
*Prepare to be a wife and mother, and should circumstances prove less than ideal, she'd like to be able to support herself as a free-lance photographer.  Even under ideal circumstances, she'd like to have a part-time photography business just because taking pictures brings her joy.
*Work toward high school graduation with the goal of simultaneously earning a cosmetology license.  She's got quite a knack for doing hair, make-up, and nails, and she could work her way through college by working in a salon.
(And the two skills can really complement one another.)
*After graduating from high school, attend a 2-year college with a focus on business/accounting so that she will be prepared to run a photography business (she's interviewed a professional photographer, and he says his work is 10% picture taking, 90% business).
*Keep her options open about pursuing a higher-level degree someday.
*Develop her photography skills with independent classes, community classes, and mentoring with local professional photographers.
*Enter as many photography contests as she can.
*In a couple of years seek work/apprenticeship as a photographer's assistant.

She's only 14, so her dreams could change, but they feel bright and happy, and they play to her strengths, so I feel they are entirely achievable for her.

We welcome the month of May with open arms--the closing down of one season and the opening up of a new one!

(Linking here)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Week, Briefly (#30)

I feel as if we've hit some sort of milestone . . . week 30!  I guess it's time to start thinking about how to wrap up our school year.  In our state, we have to reach a goal number of hours rather than days or weeks, and we so easily reach that goal that I rarely think about it any more.  The defining boundaries of our school years depend more on us than on legislation.

I'm grateful for that.

Our Morning Meetings continued much the same as last week with one addition:  now the older girls and I are doing some brain teaser puzzles together using this book that I picked up at a second hand curriculum sale last Saturday morning.  Pixie and Belle love it; Rose Red and Super Star not so much.  We definitely get thinking each morning!

We've studied Mosiah chapters 19-21 this week, and we're finally getting the hang of The Family Proclamation paragraph 6.

In Math news, Super Star finished her Saxon 6/5 book!  This is big news for our math phobic, math struggling girl!  Belle isn't quite finished with Saxon 7/6 yet, but we don't want Super Star to stagnate, so they're going to share for a season.

We'll see how that works out. :)

We finished 4 more music history/appreciation lessons in our LDS Family School.  I continue to be delighted by these lessons.  We listen to great music and talk about great composers and elements of music.  I just wish the assignments were better--we're skipping them in favor of listening to more music.

Nature Angel did minimal formal school, but she's been reading American Girl books voraciously--Josephina this week.  She's also been inspired by Belle's drawing of our house to work on drawing interior views of our house.  Her work is both lovely and precise.

Little Princess is also reading American Girl books--Molly has been her focus.  She's also spent lots of time playing with our American Girl dolls with Nature Angel and Ladybug.  They spend hours setting up elaborate play scenes and acting out stories.  In addition she read about Aesop and a few fables in The Good and Beautiful.

Ladybug read some books this week!

Mister Man gave his Sonlight reader a break in favor of reading and re-reading A Fly Went By--one of my favorites from when I was a little girl.

In preschool we went on a nature walk that turned into a wild rain dance at the end, worked on our color books, experimented with yellow and blue to make green via water color paint on coffee filters, and read stories.
I just loved this ensemble--snow boots, shorts, and a hoodie.  :)

Dance practices just keep getting longer, and now we're organizing costumes.  We're doing 3 spring shows next month, and the show dates are looming large.

We're still running every morning.  It's doing me a great deal of good.
For our evening reading we completed a few more chapters of Augustus Caesar's World, finished and returned The Story of Science to the library, and began The Witches.  The older girls have read and re-read it, but the littler girls haven't heard it, and it was time for some light fun in our evening reading.

One afternoon Super Star and Belle took the littles to the field to fly the kites the kids won at our county's Family of the Year dinner/carnival (yes we were nominated . . . and we won!  Go figure).  There wasn't any wind, so the kids had to run and run and run to keep the kites up, but they weren't bothered a bit by that.

At the ACEs clinic follow up for Brother, we found out that he has a visual processing impairment--his vision is good, but he has a hard time correlating what he sees to what he should do.  They also said his strength is auditory learning.  Too funny given that we thought he had an auditory processing issue.  I'm not completely sold that he doesn't.  But this is a start, and we'll see what happens in the coming months and years.  He also needs OT, scoring in only the 5th percentile for small motor skills for his age group.  He's too young to be diagnosed with Non-Verbal Learning Disorder, but they gave me materials to study about it because he has many of the hallmarks of that diagnosis.  He's also been diagnosed with Adjustment Disorder.

What does all of this mean for us?

Just keep doing what we're doing--read aloud, sing songs, have him work with his hands, provide safety and structure, let him be a little boy.

And make a few changes--work lots of puzzles and go ahead and start some simple academics (letter recognition, letter sound recognition, etc--he's going to need lots and lots and lots of repetition to learn); Pixie is going to run simple OT sessions with him (picking up and gluing beans, cutting paper, working with Legos, etc.)

On Friday most of us attended a homeschool convention--Little Princess and Nature Angel had a blast at the kids' convention.  I got to attend a few good classes and browse the vendor hall.  I'm past the point of needing to make many purchases, and I got out of there with only $39 worth of history books.

Pixie, Super Star, and Belle attended a class on courtship vs dating.  They said it gave them lots to think about for the years ahead of them.

Rose Red had to work, so no convention for her.

Dad kept Mister Man, Ladybug, Brother, and Little Brother for the day.  They had pizza for lunch and went to the zoo.  It was a fine day for them. :)

The weekend was so full of events that we didn't get to complete all of our Saturday chores.  And when Sir Walter Scott and I looked at the calendar we realized that we don't even have time to breathe for some weeks to come.  There's a lot going on!

That doesn't make us unique--just part of our crazy culture.

I've begun to dream of down time.

I guess that's part of reaching that week 30 milestone. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

A Week, Briefly (#29)

I took my daughters and got out the door for a jog/walk every morning this week.  It has made a tremendous difference in my ability to see clearly and handle the vicissitudes of life.

PE for my girls; anti-depressant for me.


Morning Meeting this week included:

*A family celebration song taught to me by the parent educator at Ladybug's therapy office.  We're singing about one family member each day.
*Article of Faith #3
*I Lived in Heaven
*Isaiah 5:20
*Paragraph 6 of The Family Proclamation
*Mosiah chapters 17-18
*The Clock--a Mother Goose poem
*Bedtime Math

We spent the whole week reading about Joseph--from his coat of many colors to bringing his whole family to Egypt--during Bible story time.

The preschoolers started making homemade books about colors, worked on knowing where their bodies are in space by weaving themselves through this "web," had a sensory experience with colored shaving cream, played on the water table, played in the sandbox, rode their bikes, listened to stories, built with wooden blocks, and made believe all week long.

Working together on a block construction.

Mister Man continued to read our Sonlight reader 1.  He participated in all preschool activities, too.

Ladybug is starting to understand phonics with All About Spelling and The Good and Beautiful level K.  She really gets the concept of word families.  She has to start all over each day with sounding out the initial word family sounds, but once she gets the first one, the rest of them just flow.  She's super-de-duper proud of herself for what she's doing, and it is making a world of difference in her general behavior.  And she loves to do preschool with her brothers.

Little Princess is reading American Girl books--the Molly series this week.  She's done a little bit of grammar and writing via The Good and Beautiful grade 1.  She's getting violin lessons from Pixie, and she was so, so, so excited to get to start actually playing the violin this week!

Nature Angel is also reading American Girl books--Felicity has been her focus.  She's also done some grammar, writing, and spelling via The Good and Beautiful grade 3.  Pixie reports that she's remembering lots from her previous violin lessons, and is flying well through the review work.  She's constantly drawing and crafting, too.

Our music unit in The Family School focused on Beethoven all week with side trips into Arturo Toscanini, Luigi Boccherini, Paul Dukas, and Gioachino Rossini.  We've listened to great music by the hour, and I love it--so do the girls.

Rose Red worked a lot this week!  She's learning how to stay focused and get her school work done.  She's having to do a lot of it alone because she's gone when we're having family school time.

Pixie has been my right-hand-man all week long.  In addition to violin lessons, she's read stories, watched the babies, taken pictures, and helped me set up preschool activities.  She's continued to practice beautiful hairstyles, make-up techniques, and manicures, and we had a conversation this week about cosmetology school . . . she's thinking about it.

Super Star chose to read the Anne of Green Gables series for her independent study this week.  I love it!  Such a nice change from the fantasy novels she's usually immersed in.  I love fantasy, too, but I'm so glad she's spending time with one of my trusted literary "friends."  She's also doing muscle sculpting exercises with Belle most days.

Belle continued to work on her drawing of our house, exercised with Super Star, was a willing model for Pixie's hair and nail practice, did some manicure practice of her own on her littler sisters, and read a contemporary series of books called The Daughters.  I've read the series alongside her, and I'm not impressed.  I asked her why she likes the series so much--especially given the level of bad language (not terribly high but more than enough) and rampant materialism throughout.  We had some good discussions about choosing appropriate reading material, but it turns out she liked seeing how the conflicts between parents and daughters were worked out.  She freely admitted they are not terribly well written.

Pixie, Super Star, and Belle rotated turns babysitting and joining me for daily running.  The ones who get up to babysit get to watch Studio C; the ones who join me have reported increased energy and better spirits.

Now that we're one month away from our spring dance shows, rehearsals have been extended by half an hour.  We're starting to be excited.

We're just about done with The Story of Science: Newton at the Center, and we're continuing to work our way through Augustus Caesar's World in our evening reading.

The babies make us laugh with their toddler antics every day--it is such a blessing to have babies at home!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Week, Briefly (#28)

We had a nice academic start to our week.  On Monday we began with our usual routine of basket duty, a breakfast Bible story, and then Morning Meeting.  Right now we're working on:

Article of Faith #3
I Lived in Heaven
Isaiah 5:20
Paragraph 5 in The Family Proclamation
Studying Mosiah chapters 15-16
God Bless the USA (for our dance troupe)
"The Clock" by Mother Goose
Bedtime Math

The older girls and I dove back into our music appreciation unit with a review of the 5 musical eras we're studying and an in depth look at Bach's life and compositions.  We had a grand time listening to a whole bunch of his music

I worked with Nature Angel on some grammar and spelling.  She drew a gorgeous Swallowtail Butterfly and did a whole bunch of sewing on her own.

This isn't the swallowtail, but it IS one of her many chalk drawings.

This became a little purse, complete with strap and reinforced bottom.

The littles and I made music with a bunch of glass bottles with varying amounts of water in them.

Then they did some water play.

I listened to Mister Man read aloud to me out of our trusty Sonlight reader 1.

Ladybug read and colored in her "Rr" book.

Little Princess and I read about Johnny Town-Mouse by Beatrix Potter and used it as a platform to discuss the difference between main events and details.  We also did some story sequencing.  On her own, she's reading lots and lots of American Girl books.

Rose Red has begun some coursework that I have yet to give a title.  Her daily reading includes:

The Bronze Bow
The Republic
The Mainspring of Human Progress
The Roots of American Order

She's also begun working in Calculus Without Tears volume 2.

The other big girls worked in their individual Saxon Math levels, and Pixie gave Little Princess and Nature Angel each a violin lesson.  Belle perched herself in the tree house and spent an hour drawing our house.

In the evening we continued reading from The Story of Science, and after finishing The Great Brain this weekend, we started Augustus Caesar's World.

Tuesday was such a full day!!

Brother had his intake appointment with the victims of trauma developmental and behavioral clinic  at the children's hospital.  He and I hit the road at 7:30 am and got home at noon.  He underwent a battery of tests by a team of 6 while I answered questions posed by that same team for 3 1/2 straight hours.

While we were gone, Sir Walter Scott handled basket duty, breakfast, and morning meeting.  Then he let the kids put on a movie (Anne of Avonlea) while he did some electrical work in our playroom.

Brother and I ate lunch, then he left with Sir Walter Scott for his therapy appointment while I nursed Baymax, cuddled Lola (aka Little Sister-- now that we know her better, Lola is such a perfect name for her!!), and did school with various littles:

Nature Angel--spelling and geography
Little Princess--grammar (verb tenses)
Ladybug--reading lesson with words "work" and "play" from Dick and Jane
Mister Man--reading lesson with Sonlight I Can Read It book 1

In the evening, Sir Walter Scott brought the missionaries home with him, so we included them in our dinner.  One of the missionaries smiled as I passed him the lettuce for his taco salad and said, "I feel like I'm in a movie--like Cheaper by the Dozen."  We all grinned and got talking about family sizes and family traditions. It was a delightful meal.

After dinner everyone ages 5-and-up headed off to the church for activities or to play in the gym while I stayed home with the 4-and-under crowd.  It was a difficult evening as the babies were very, very fussy, but eventually I was able to do a word search with Mister Man before tucking him into bed (an hour late).  Points to him for his sweet long-suffering.

On Wednesday Rose Red had a morning shift at work, so we had school without her; she had to make up the work herself once she got home.  It was an uncomfortable change for us all, and she has requested evening shifts from here on.  However, we found a church dance on the calendar for next week on a night she'd usually work, so if she wants to go, she'll have to work another morning shift.

Growing pains.

We're having them.

At least they're not awful.

After basket duty, a breakfast Bible story (Jacob, Leah, and Rachel), and Morning Meeting, we settled into another day of music appreciation with Bach.  We particularly enjoyed his Toccata and Fugue in D minor.

While the big girls (the ones who were home) did math, I did Lego patterns with the little boys.  Our preschool curriculum had "Lego literacy" scheduled, but when I looked up the ideas I knew they were way beyond Brother and Little Brother's skill levels, so I made some much simpler cars (with index cards and crayons) that helped these little boys practice following a plan.  They built simple brick towers.

It was a challenge!

But it was a challenge they could handle with some guidance, and soon we had success.

Mister Man and Ladybug enjoyed the simple patterns, too.
 Mister Man read another Sonlight lesson.
Ladybug did some more sight word work.
Both of them completed another Rainbow Roll writing page.
Nature Angel did some spelling, writing, and art appreciation.
Little Princess read some more American Girl books.

The big treat was that Sir Walter Scott was up in the attic working on wiring, so he pulled out the American Girl bin--a huge tub full of beautiful clothes and accessories that we keep for occasional play.

We had some happy, happy girls all afternoon.

I printed out a simple nature scavenger hunt and took the 8 youngest on a brief walk with me.  We happily watched ants and clouds and rubbed tree bark until we got home.  Then the little boys worked for a few hours on conquering our fallen tree.

I found it by googling "nature scavenger hunt," but I couldn't get to the original site.  However, the credit at the bottom of the page reads

I could barely take my eyes off them as they climbed and lifted and pulled and pushed the branches of that tree.  They truly believed they were men conquering nature.

At the end of the day these exhausted little men ate heartily and slept deeply.

Thursday was a bad day to be my child.

The morning started off okay--our normal routine followed by music appreciation focusing on Handel.  We sang "The Messiah" along with The Mormon Tabernacle Choir twice.

That part was great!

I did Lego patterns with Brother and Little Brother.
The little girls played American Girl dolls for a few hours.
I made lunch, and we got ready to leave for dance.

Somewhere in there I died.

Every normal issue that came up felt like the end of the world.

Rose Red almost cried as she tried to do her math because I kept sighing when she had questions.
I sent Ladybug crying from the table because she kept trying to play dumb (and she really was just pretending--it's an attention-getting ploy that she often utilizes) instead of just ignoring her.
I put Brother and Little Brother on time out for dumb reasons.
I made Mister Man cry.
The babies cried and refused to nap for hours--probably picking up on my negative vibe.

I won't recount the whole horrible day here.

Thank goodness for the help of my older girls who saved bedtime, making it pleasant for the small children who were going to sleep.

I hope everyone slept well.

I cried myself to sleep.

I walked through Friday like the living dead.  We did all of the things we were supposed to do:

Basket Duty
Breakfast Scriptures
Morning Meeting
Music Appreciation with the older girls
Individual reading lessons and a handwriting sheet with Ladybug and Mister Man
Letter sounds--J, R, L--with magnet letters on our (cold) woodburning stove for Brother and Little Brother
Grammar with Little Princess

Nature Angel spent long, long periods of time with tracing paper, pencil, and a map of the world making perfect, gorgeous copies of South America and Africa.  This was self-motivated on her part.  I figured I didn't need to stick my hand in and give her another assignment.  She also spent an hour or so with pencil and sketch pad in hand drawing the blossoms on our apple tree.

Rose Red's written narrations have been falling short of the mark, so she and I went first head-to-head (not so successful) and then heart-to-heart (better) about doing hard things and doing them well in spite of the fact that they're hard.

Pixie has been busy giving Nature Angel and Little Princess violin lessons.  She also has continued to create beautiful hairstyles for her sisters.  She's really quite good!

Belle has been developing her piano skills and drawing a picture of the back of our house (which sounds odd, but really isn't as the back of our house is rather picturesque).

In the afternoon I took the kids outside to run and climb and bicycle.  Sir Walter Scott got home from his church duties and took over kidwatch so I could make dinner.

We had our evening reading.

The girls watched Pan, but I went to bed.

In order to survive day-to-day--to get healed from this blackness--I've carved out space (with much help from husband and teen daughters) to go running.  And that's how Saturday began; Belle came with me at 6:30 am while Pixie babysat.

It makes a world of difference.


At least the day was only gray in my head.

My mom is a therapist.  I spent some time on the phone with her.  It was valuable time.

After chores we headed to a local nursery--bought $30 worth of flowers and spent the afternoon planting them.

Gardening is another spirit-lifter.  And it counts for school hours, so even though it was Saturday, I'm including it. :)

Oh those muddy shoes!!!!  Fortunately they cleaned up quite well because he has to wear them to church on Sunday!!