Tuesday, July 28, 2015

2014-15 Officially Closed

Whew!  I have officially closed our school "year" by completing E15's 9th grade course descriptions and transcript.  Out of all of the options out there, I decided to use HSLDA's fillable form

So easy.

But the course descriptions, grades, grading standards, etc., were hard and long.

They're done now, and we are free to look ahead as soon as I finish this final assessment of our year.

I3 counts accurately to 20, knows the alphabet in both upper-case and lower-case, sounds out C-V-C words, cuts on straight and simple curved lines, knows shapes and colors, climbs, builds, imagines, plays and is a happy, delightful 3 year old.  We never did finish the alphabet quilt we started last fall, but after a break at "J" we picked it back up and worked our way to "Q."  He's taking another break at the moment, but we can happily pick back up during the coming school year.

H5 finished her Sonlight K language arts program, worked her way through an entire all-in-one 1st grade workbook, and generally kept very busy being curious about the world in general.  She's often found trying to sound out words in books and magazines, and she loves to write letters to people she loves.   She's done a good bit of finger-knitting and sewing this year, and just last month she used the circle loom to make a hat for our girl Baby L (no new names yet!) to wear this coming winter.

A8 (aka Nature Angel) is a marvel of self-education.  She daily reads the scriptures and works on her nature notebook--copying maps, text, and drawings.  She is artistically talented . . . actually she's talented at whatever she tries.  I never stop being amazed at her.  I did not help her finish any of the official school books--math, spelling, copywork, reading, science--she started this school year, but we finished a good bit of them--enough to count a successful 2nd grade school year.  In addition, she stayed up at night with the big girls to listen to me read aloud, getting in quite a solid year of American history and literature.

J11 is an academic whiz.  She raced through Saxon Math 5/4 and 6/5 this year--completing them both with near perfect accuracy.  She reads for hours each day.  She writes with style and humor.  Her penmanship is almost calligraphy.  She knits, sews (by hand), and cooks easily and well.  She is faithful in her personal scripture study and prayers. 

S12 loves reading, writing, and arguing.  I need to find a debate club to teach her the art of arguing. :)  She completed a 10,000 word book that I have yet to edit and print (as promised) and is working on another one.  Math has been a struggle for her both academically and emotionally.  She completed one remedial level of math (to fill in some gaps left by Life of Fred), only to be defeated by the next level.  Her goal was to complete both levels in one year, but we paused to work on memorizing the times tables  for the third time.  She is faithful and a hard worker, but the times tables keep falling out of her memory in spite of her best efforts.  She's also showing the same signs of struggling with fractions as E15 has.  Her tenacity is tremendous, though.  Cooking and handicrafts don't come easy to her, but she tries and tries again and does succeed.  She loves her rainbow loom and coloring detailed pictures.  She cares deeply about her spiritual development and works often, if sporadically, on personal scripture study and prayers.

M13 loves no part of school, but she applies herself faithfully to what she is assigned.  We made the monumental mistake of skipping her forward too far in Saxon math, but she persisted and is winning.  She did not finish the entire 8/7 course this year, but she'll finish it shortly and begin Algebra 1/2.  She loves reading, hates writing, and considers penmanship an utter waste of time.  She crafts and creates at the drop of a hat but prefers not to be asked to cook (which I do anyway).  Spelling rules make no sense to her, but she's memorizing how words need to be spelled in spite of her struggle.  She is mature beyond her years.  She faithfully nurtures her personal spiritual development, demonstrating both simple testimony and a desire to understand complex questions.

E15 started the year off with higher than high ambitions.  It has been a humbling year.   We worked together to set, refine, redefine, and re-set goals over and over again.  Via much research I am convinced she has subtle learning disabilities, and via testing we know she is gifted--which makes for quite the dramatic school experience.  For math, fractions and decimals were our original focus.  Fractions took over completely.  We are accepting defeat at this time.  She found success with the Calculus Without Tears program that we will continue next year.  She worked hard at spelling, and is again accepting defeat, but I think I see some progress in her practical application of spelling.  It is a nebulous thing that I cannot prove, but I am sure I see better spelling than I used to.   She is an avid reader, mostly loving fantasy and dystopic novels, but she'll read any genre as long as she hears it is interesting.  Writing is (I believe) an actually painful task for her that is mechanically impossibly tangled, but she has a wry and astute sense of language that comes through the tangle nonetheless.  She claims no interest in science, but cannot help being out of doors and building animal habitats.  She catches, keeps for a time, and releases all sorts of creatures, and managed to successfully raise hundreds of miniature frogs from some eggs she found and brought home.  She hides her spiritual development most of the time, but lets it flash through in moments of brilliance that take my breath away.   

All in all, it was a good year for academics, spiritual growth, and family development.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Adoption Update

It was with heavy hearts that we informed the Children's Division that we can not adopt little Jaybird.  I wrote a formal letter describing his behaviors and needs in detail--both the good and the bad.  The Children's Division thanked us for our efforts and agreed that for Jaybird to be thrive he'd need another placement.

The miracle is that after the initial sadness, we feel complete peace.

This is not the end of our relationship with him.

This is all part of a greater plan orchestrated by a loving Father in Heaven.
The court order for the younger 4 children that was supposed to come through no later than Monday is still not here as of Friday.  Dad and I are off to meet them tonight at their foster home.  After we meet them we have to make a decision on their behalf--to either move them to our house cold turkey or to organize a series of progressively longer visits until they just stay with us.

Both systems are terribly traumatic for the children.

The CASAs want them moved ASAP.
Other members of the team want them moved more slowly.

So it is left to us.

And God.

We are asking Him, in his infinite wisdom, what would be best.

And waiting for an answer.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Housekeeping: 2014-15 Reading List

Complete for the school year and transferred from the side bar:

Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards
Fudge-A-Mania by Judy Blume
The Tempest for Kids by Lois Burdett
The Littles Go Exploring by John Peterson
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling
The 101 Dalmations by Dodie Smith
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
James Herriot's Treasury of Inspirational Stories for Children
Mary on Horseback by Rosemary Wells
Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Tales from the Brothers Grimm compiled by Cooper Edens
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
The Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke
Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
Princess Stories compiled by Cooper Edens
The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson
The Story of Dr. Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
The Landmark History of the American People by Daniel J Boorstin
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary
The Greatest Story Ever Told by Fulton Oursler
Emily's Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary
All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
In Grandma's Attic by Arleta Richardson
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart
A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter
In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord
Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter
Mountain Born by Elizabeth Yates
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Laddie by Gene Stratton Porter

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Week, Briefly (Lessons in Forgiveness and Love)

The homeschool lessons of the past week have been about love, acceptance, and forgiveness.

They are hard lessons to learn.

The hardest.

They are worthwhile lessons.

But, oh, they are so hard!

We've had "Jaybird" visiting us.  He's 6 years old.  His needs are huge. 

He's to go back to his foster home today.  He's so ready.  It's been his home for half of his life, and he's homesick after spending 5 days with a bunch of strangers who are utterly different from him.

We are ready to breathe deeply after holding our breath first in anticipation then in fear.

We've spent 5 days in fear.

His needs are severe enough that our children have been hurt.

We've had to look our children in the eyes and say, "We choose you.  We will not sacrifice you in order to save him."

It is quite likely that he needs another family.

He's such a little boy. 
He sucks his thumb.
He plays with cars.
He dresses dollies.
He collects toy lizards in his pockets.
He likes warm milk with cinnamon before he goes to bed.

I want to help him.  I feel myself learning to love him.  But I may love him best by not being his mama.

His worst attacks have been on our A8 (who wants to be known henceforth as "Naturegirl").

Interestingly she has forgiven the most readily.

She is a miracle of peace and Christ-like love.

We've committed to prayer to seek the Lord's will.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Whooo Boy!

I knew it would be hard.

I didn't know it would be THIS HARD.

Neither did the kids.

I have the perspective to know that progress is possible.

The kids don't.

We are praying, reciting scriptures (for encouragement), hugging, crying, putting out fires (figuratively), and squaring our shoulders.

And only one is here for the time being.

No time or energy to write more details here.

It's really, really, really HARD.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

We're Growing!

image credit

Last March I alluded to a possible change for our family. 

Then I never mentioned it again.

That's because the possibility came and went, ebbed and flowed over and over again.

But it always came back.

And now it is official.

We have been selected to adopt a sibling set of 5 children out of our local foster care system.

The CASA attorney filed a motion for the younger 4 children to be moved to our house immediately (which means 10 days or less) because their current foster placement isn't good for them.  The oldest will join us more gently as his needs preclude sudden change.

We are diving into the deep end of the special needs pool with emotional trauma, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Reactive Attachment Disorder, speech delays, and some as-yet-not-understood cognitive delays.

I'm not sure how to identify the children here--all of the boys are J, and the girls are both L . . . :)  That means we have J6, J3, and J2 joining us along with L4 and another Baby L.

Clearly I need some new internet names for our crew.

I don't know how much or how little I'll be blogging in the coming weeks--I might never write, or I might write too much.

We'll see.

In the mean time, we're reorganizing bedrooms and hunting down car seat sales and pulling clothing boxes out of the garage.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Week, Briefly (#27)

Technically it's time for me to end this school year and begin anew--at least according to our state's start-stop dates for school years.

But as we began school in August, and we have a full 365 days to complete our school year, I'm going to keep going until we get done with our math books;  our math books being my arbitrary guide to a complete school year.

J11 finished her math book this week!  Hurrah for J11!

S12 has hit a learning wall.  I'm actually NOT going to make her finish her math book.  Instead we've gone back to daily multiplication drills.  These important facts keep falling out of her head, so she's really struggling . . . struggling emotionally most of all.  I've packed the books away and have assigned her 30 minutes in front of the computer each day working her times tables.  She's happier; I'm happier; we're all happier. 

M13 is working like a demon each day on her math book.  She got halfway through it before Baby L arrived, and then after our break we decided together that it would be a really good idea for her to go back to the beginning and review everything.  Yes, Saxon has built in review, but what we chose to do was have her re-read and only work the practice set for each chapter.  It was such a good plan for us!  She's flown through 3 chapters a day of review and gotten a major sense of accomplishment seeing that she really did learn.  Now she's doggedly working through 3 chapters a day of new material (still just the practice sets)--spending upwards of 2 hours a day on math.  She's feeling strong and capable and totally determined to finish her book by the end of the month.

E15 is so close to finishing her books that I can practically taste it, but she can't.  She's trying to dodge her work, but at the same time she's asking me to make big plans for the year to come--a lot like last summer.  I'm refusing (having learned my lesson!).  Instead I'm making very simple plans and encouraging her to "please join me" while reminding her that she could be done and having a break in 2 weeks if she'd focus and work now.

A8 and H5 aren't working on any formal math.  Instead A8 is daily keeping up her super-cool science notebook.  She's asked me several times about "doing school."  I keep pointing out that there's no need to do school when she's actively working so hard at something she's so passionate about.  Her reading and writing skills are growing exponentially, and not a day goes by that she doesn't start a sentence with , "Hey, Mom!  Did you know . . . ?" 

H5 wants to learn to knit.  That means I am learning to knit.  My knitting has inspired a wave of knitting in the family.  (M13 is making a sampler afghan--3 blocks done.)  Yes, M13 could be assigned to be her teacher, but H5 and I need special ways to spend time together.  I don't know that her little fingers are ready for actual knitting yet, though, so I'm on the hunt for the circle looms that I know are somewhere around here.  I bought some lovely wool for her to make winter hats for us.

I finally discovered the creek that runs through our yard (We've lived her a year and a half!  But in my defense I was pregnant last summer).  It is a joy.  I am utterly determined to get outside and down to the creek every single day (or close to that) in order to inspire the rest of the kids to get outside every single day. 

I3 made our family night treat--that's almost a full pound of m&ms on the top of that cake!

I3 is really into puzzles these days.

Baby L continues to be a favorite prop for accessories and games with the big girls.

We've been doing a lot of dancing.

Mama and triplets in our yard!  We've seen them several days in a row.  Their tracks and scat are all over our woods.

The tree that went down in the storm a few weeks ago continues to be a great place to play.

A8 exploring down our creek.

A8 and H5 exploring up the creek.

I3 looking for a cool rock.

It's hard to see, but that blue smudge is a darning needle that landed on A8's hand.  It flew off before I could get a better picture.

This mama wolf spider protecting her egg sac is a full 3" across . . . and maybe even 4".  She was quite the surprise to me when I tried to roll a stump over so I could sit down to watch the kids play.

No words needed about what this picture does to my heart.

We got an art book from the library.  A8 spent a happy hour doing one of the projects.

We also got a LEGO book from the library.  I3 love, love, loves it.

How cool is a heart shaped rock that also has fossils embedded in it?!?!?

Here is M13 with Baby L in the hammock.  She inspired me to spend an hour in the same location on the 4th of July.  Best idea ever!  I need to spend more time in the hammock. :)

Monday, July 6, 2015

Thankful . . . Now!

As I nursed Baby L in the blue rocking chair in the corner, I picked up a library book to re-read.  It's a very sweet book that I think I might purchase because it gently feeds my spirit.

This morning it opened a door to inspiration.

Gratitude.  I so want to nurture a spirit of gratitude in our family.

Baby L fell asleep and I knew I needed to take action immediately.  I put him in bed with a flannel blanket (it is oddly cool today) tucked around his sweet fat legs before I turned to the paper drawer.

I made this:

It is simple--not beautiful at all to look at.  Printer paper, scotch tape, yarn, a ball point pen, some stickers.  It is not a work of art, not Pinterest-worthy.

But if I waited to make a beautiful work of art, it would probably never be done . . . or I would worry about it being ruined.

I hope the beauty comes in the thoughts that are written there.  I hope that as I set the example of jotting down my thankful thoughts as they come, the rest of the family will follow.  I hope that the littlest ones will scribble on it and that the slightly older ones will creatively spell their happy words.  I hope the oldest ones will sometimes be silly and sometimes be sincere.

I hope, over time, the plain old paper will become a treasure of inestimable worth.

 PS--it's been a few days since I put it up, and everyone loves it!  We all pause to jot a note or two at random times in the day.  My heart is so very fully as I see the silly and tender thoughts of my precious, precious family.

I am so thankful!