Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Week, Briefly (2015-16 Final Week)

Well, we'll be tying up loose ends into the summer, but this was our final official week of the school year.

Monday was a little bit off because after Morning Meeting we spent 2 hours on house cleaning to make up for the fact that we weren't home for Saturday chores on Saturday.  The littles helped wash windows and pick up toys; the middles cleaned their rooms and scrubbed bathtubs; the oldest mowed, dusted, folded, washed, tidied, organized, swept, and vacuumed.  In 2 hours, we did not get everything done, but we made a grand dent in the waiting work.

We sat down to lunch with a sigh of satisfaction.

After lunch:
Pixie did OT with Brother
Belle did math with Ladybug and Mister Man
I helped Nature Angel through a grammar lesson and Little Princess through a spelling lesson
I listened to Mister Man read
Belle, Pixie, and Super Star all completed a minimum of 2 math lessons
Rose Red continued to work through The Republic and Roots of American Order (She finished The Bronze Bow and Mainspring of Human Progress last week).
I helped Rose Red review some math concepts she'd forgotten this year

Then we grocery shopped.

Mister Man leads Ladybug in a reading lesson.
 For our evening reading, we're getting to the exciting parts of The Castle in the Attic--an old favorite that the middles had yet to hear.  The older girls are loving hearing it again.

Tuesday morning was sunny and clear all the way to 6:30 am when Belle and I stepped out the door to go running.  We were half a block from home when we heard the first grumblings of thunder.  We continued our walking warm up while we debated continuing on versus going home when we heard the next grumblings.  We turned reluctantly around, but I was still trying to come up with a small loop near the house that we could use to do laps so that we were near enough to run home for shelter but that still allowed us an outdoor run.  Then the lightning came hard and fast followed almost immediately by a powerful crack of thunder.

We ran straight home. :)

And we did a walking video while the thunderstorm raged outside.

As we were able to successfully sing "All God's Creatures Got a Place in the Choir" in the car on our trip to the camping site last week, we decided that we know it well enough put it away and start learning a new son during Morning Meeting.  We chose this darling "Peanut Butter and Jelly" song.

It was out last official day of school for the 2015-16 school year.  Congratulations to Belle for finishing 2 full Saxon math texts in a single year!

Nature Angel and I did some grammar, reading comprehension, and geography.

Little Princess did some art appreciation, spelling, and reading.

She chose to trace and color a Grandma Moses painting.
 Mister Man and Ladybug were so completely engrossed with Little Brother in their game of  "Princess, Knight, and Dragon" that I never pulled them away to do formal school.  That kind of make believe is my favorite sort of preschool "school."  I could not lead them in any better exercise of their minds than the hours-long story-spinning they were working on that also included lots and lots of critical thinking skills as they organized costuming, props, and how to fairly trade roles around.

I love that Little Brother is the princess and Ladybug is the knight!  We all laughed so hard when we saw him.
Then, of course, Mister Man wanted a turn in the limelight.
Brother went to therapy and then helped Sir Walter Scott shop at Costco, so he was gone much of the day.

Then Sir Walter Scott raced Nature Angel off to her final dermatology visit for the alopecia issue we've been fighting since last summer.  She's done with her treatment and has lots of new hair now.  It is our job to simply watch to see that the hair keeps growing.

Rose Red and I are stumped for what do do about math. For our last day of math for a while, we reviewed another set of skills that were utterly lost to her--even though we've reviewed them regularly this year.  It is quite clear that there is organic damage to her brain where certain math skills would/should be stored.  Part of me wants to keep doing math over the summer so that she stands a chance at forming new neural pathways and can finally hold on to what she's learning, but the other part of me realizes that she needs a break--badly--from the work and confusion and sense of shame she feels over not being able to do what the average 6th grader can.

I have a friend who teaches math in the public school system to kids just like my girl.  I've picked her brain once before, but I think I need to turn to her yet again.

We had the missionaries over for dinner, and they treated us to an inspiring message about seeking the wisdom of the Lord.

Inspired by a homeschool blog, we celebrated our first day of "summer" with a trip to a strawberry farm.  We picked well over 40 lbs of strawberries and ate about 10 of those pounds that very day.  They were indescribably better than grocery store berries!

We had our Morning Meeting in the van on the way to the farm.  I love it when we all sing and recite together when we're on the road.

It was rather muddy.

I wish we had one of these!
In the afternoon we read stories and played in the wading pools.

And Pixie did a chapter of her math--Saxon Algebra 1/2.  She has 14 lessons to go to finish her book, so she's plugging away in spite of the summer break.

We stayed home and had a "boring" day on Thursday.  Ladybug, Brother, and Little Brother were clearly unsettled by our field trip (even though they liked it), and their coping skills were low.  We had Morning Meeting at home around the dining table, as usual, played with trains, read stories, had reading lessons, and generally acted as if it were February instead of May.

I am grateful to say that even though there were many tantrums and melt downs, they were shorter in duration than they used to be.  Their coping skills are improving!

Because I didn't have to supervise lessons with the older kids, I had time to start filing away completed school work for the year.  And, lest I give an untrue impression of myself, let me explain that my "filing" consists of labeling a box with the school year and dumping whatever papers I can find into the box.

I still find it tiring and frustrating.

Organizing stuff does not come naturally to me.

We finished The Castle in the Attic and started Mother Carey's Chickens for our Evening Read-Aloud session.  I'm not sure how I feel about Mother Carey--she's one of those too-good-to-be-true mothers that makes me feel inadequate, but there might be just enough joy and truth to cut the sap and make this book a good experience.

Friday dawned clear and crisp after the rainstorms of the previous day.  Feeling a strong need to maintain the routines that make our young ones feel safe, we started another "boring" day:

Basket Duty
Morning Meeting
   Opening Song
   Primary Scripture
   Scripture Mastery
   Paragraph 7 of the Family Proclamation (we're getting it!)
   Alma 1 (we finished Mosiah this week!)
   Family Chant (as taught to us by one of our therapists)
   Poetry memorization ("Come Out to Play" --Mother Goose)
   Sing the "Peanut Butter and Jelly" song
   Bedtime Math

Pixie tried introducing the piano to Brother for OT but quickly found out that pressing the keys individually is way, way, way beyond his current skills.  We'll return to play dough, cutting practice,  beads, and finger spelling as our focus for a season.

I called and got Rose Red on the waiting list for a learning disability assessment.  We've never bothered because we don't need labels to make adjustments at home, but she's only a couple of years away from college now, and we need an official label in order to qualify for accommodations in college that will help her succeed (e.g. untimed tests).

Sir Walter Scott took the 4 oldest off to participate in a camp fundraiser while I worked with the littles at home.

Mister Man and Ladybug enjoyed reading with me.

But then Nature Angel revealed what she'd been working on all week in the basement:  She's crafted, planned, and organized a 4 day preschool for the week the older girls will be gone at camp!  She asked if she could give the kids a preview, and I said, "Yes!"  She--at 9 years old--organized and taught and entertained the younger crew for over an hour!

So I focused on the babies, "filing" more school stuff, and making lunch.

After lunch we went outside to play (little kids) and do some yard work (Sir Walter Scott, me, and the older kids).  Pixie did a couple of math lessons (only 10 to go to finish her book!).  Rose Red worked on Roots of American Order and The Republic.  I think Super Star did one of her math lessons, too.

Then Sir Walter Scott and I left the littles in the capable hands of our older girls and headed out the door to run errands and have dinner together.  We ate a picnic dinner at a park and laughed together.

I love him.

We came home in time to tuck small people into bed and read a few more chapters of Mother Carey's Chickens with the not-as-small people.

Saturday was the day we put in the garden.

We're at least a month late.

But I'm in better-late-than-never mode.

We are tired . . . good tired . . . for most of us anyway.  Our fragile 3 are tantruming and not coping well with the field trip earlier this week coupled with a full day of hard outdoor work that is different from the usual.  In spite of my best efforts to get them outdoors regularly and encourage active play, they still struggle with the fact that the day was different. 

I am praying sincerely for a rest and renewal tomorrow.

Linking here.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Week, Briefly (#34)

Monday was a dreadful start to our week--complete with temper tantrums by the children (both younger and older!) and a lack of self control on my part.  The better part of the morning was spent dealing with Little Brother's behaviors and dealing with my own inadequacies, faults, and character flaws.

However, I eventually took Little Brother into my lap in the blue rocking chair and just held him until he, at least, felt better.

For my part, I am praying hard and putting together an anger-management-for-mom study program.  I've already got this book, and I've ordered this one.  I also have the scriptures.  I've been working on this life skill for well over a decade now.  It seems it is a much harder skill to learn than canning pickles or teaching a child to read.

We did get through school with an hour to spare before dinner, so I left the older girls in charge of slicing bread, warming up soup, and watching the babies while I took the 6 middle-littles to the park to play in the pouring rain.

Once the kids were good and wet, the slides were like water slides--sending Little Brother airborne off the end every time!  It was hilarious!  Ladybug explored an 8 inch deep puddle; we got slightly acquainted with Mr. and Mrs. Mallard who were resting in the park stream; and the kids played Polar Bears and Penguins all over the playground.

I guess we'll have to have a geography lesson about the North and South Poles, but for now the game was terribly fun.

We came home wet to the skin in spite of our many layers protecting us against the unseasonable cold, and we ate freshly popped popcorn, warm soup, and buttered french bread in our jammies.

The day that did not start lovingly at least ended lovingly.

Sometime during the day, we had some academic lessons--here is Nature Angel exploring the concept of hemispheres and seasons of the earth.

Little Princess has been on a Beatrix Potter kick.
 We finally got to the library on Tuesday afternoon (it was closed last Tuesday), but we'd lost many of our books that were on hold.  It was a disappointment.  The books we did get are a joy, and everyone from little to big spent quite a bit of time reading a little bit of everything from science to science fiction.

Grocery shopping, therapy appointments, and caring for grumpy babies dominated the rest of that day.  We did have our Morning Meeting, and 3 of the big girls completed some math, but that was it for school until bedtime when Ladybug and Mister Man each got a turn to read for me.

Oh!  I forgot!  Actually Ladybug and Mister Man had a reading session in the afternoon, too.  They pulled out A Fly Went By and Ladybug tried to read it while Mister Man sat next to her and helped her.  I was enchanted to watch their interaction.  My favorite moment was when Ladybug reached the word "with" for the second time, and got stuck.  Mister Man sweetly pointed out, "It's the same as that word right there," as he pointed to the first word "with" he'd already helped her read on the page.

I hope I never forget their cute cooperation.

The littles discovered and observed a ladybug.  I give our Ladybug, Brother, and Little Brother a lot of credit for not stomping on it--they wanted to, badly.  It is clear that they were taught, in their life before joining our family, that all insects are pests.  Notice how Brother is hanging back--he's quite nervous around animals and insects, but he, and the others, are learning that nature observations are very interesting.
In the evening Dad took the 4 oldest off to the temple along with other youth from our ward to do temple baptisms.  One of the ward members provided many of her own family names, and one of the names was exactly Rose Red's real name.  She made sure that Rose Red got to stand in for that particular ancestor.

Sir Walter Scott said it caused more than one person to look up in surprise.

Wednesday and Thursday were two of a kind--kind of long, dragging days with behavior challenges with Ladybug, Brother, and Little Brother, but also good days filled with acts of kindness by various family members . . . especially Pixie, who has been my right-hand-"man" almost constantly.

(I'd like very much to give her a break and a reward.) 

We maintained our routines of Morning Meeting, double math, outdoor play, storytime for preschoolers, and evening reading.

The babies keep us on our toes.
 We were also flexible about school because I brought home from the library a book about sewing monsters.  Coupled with the fabric that a church member gave to us, Nature Angel and Little Princess have been in heaven.  Between the reading, the measuring, the cutting, the sewing, the following of directions, the designing, and the focus, I couldn't ask for a better educational experience for them.  They've made a dozen monsters so far--for themselves, for their siblings, and for their friends.  Belle even spent much of Thursday afternoon with Ladybug on her lap, helping Ladybug sew a monster of her own . . . such a therapeutic activity!

Pixie continues to develop as our resident Occupational Therapist.  She researches ideas with me and then implements them.  We spent some time together on Thursday figuring out just what was reasonable and what was not reasonable for a 4-year-old to be able to do by giving various OT tasks to the other littles in our home and recording our findings.

One day for preschool we made rainbows.
I learned a lot about how Brother's brain works, and I will strive to help him overcome his academic weaknesses by teaching to his strengths.

Oh!  And we filled out our homeschool yearbook questionnaires.  It took quite a while to get 10 questionnaires filled out and submitted, but some of the answers were hilarious--quite worthy of appearing in the yearbook.  Pixie spent time looking up pictures that can serve as portraits, and I now have 8 days left to upload photos and design our personal pages.

Guess I'll be rather busy for a while.

Friday and Saturday were the homeschool campout!!!!!

The majority of the day Friday was spent cleaning and packing.

Oh. My. Goodness.

Have you ever taken 14 people camping?

It's not something I'll be in a hurry to do again any time soon.

But I'm glad we went because I learned that we can successfully take the new children away from their home routines . . . at least for overnight.

We climbed trees, kayaked, swam in the lake, dug in the sand, sculpted with kid-harvested clay, followed bugs, explored hiking trails, made new friends, and listened to night sounds.

I didn't take a single picture because my hands were busy every single minute.  But some friends did:

They found a frog!
I hope to receive a few more photos in the coming weeks.

Until then, Belle is doing triple and quadruple math every day, and estimates that our school year will officially end on Tuesday of next week.  As a result I've been working on a summer routine that will allow our littles to feel safely ensconced in familiarity, but allow us the freedom to breathe and explore and enjoy a summer that feels like summer.

(Linking here)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Week, Briefly (#33)

I'm ready for school to be over.

Which is funny because that means very little in this home of ours where firm routines are necessary to happy functioning and where we'll just keep on doing what we're doing now even though we'll call it summer time.

I'm working on a summer schedule . . . and I'm dreaming of a vacation.

I guess that's what I really want. :)

But I these two (Sir Walter Scott and Pixie) . . . 

gave me a morning off in the kitchen on Mother's Day.  :)
We had a solid school day on Monday--lots of math, reading, grammar, writing, geography, singing, OT, etc.

Our Morning Meeting looks much the same as it did last week.  I do think I forgot to mention that we're learning to sing "All God's Creatures Got a Place in the Choir."  We printed lyrics and sing along with this video.

Too fun!!!

Rose Red hit her waterloo in Calculus Without Tears.  Even though we decided that her math goals will be practical skills, we were continuing in CWT because she was learning to work with decimals, developing graphing skills, and coping with formulas--all in a manner that was working for her.  But we hit a section that caused me to have to think twice, and because I was not confident, she panicked.

"If you can't even do it, how am I supposed to do it?" she cried.

"I need to study it for a few minutes to make sure I can explain it to you clearly," I answered.

"No!  No!  I can't do this anymore!  You're not explaining it so that I can understand, and you're lost, and I'm lost, and I need to do another kind of math!" she exploded.

So we put it away and pulled out Math-U-See Zeta for some review of concepts she'd forgotten since January.

Mister Man, Brother and Little Brother each got a turn on my lap to narrate their memories of going to the temple as a family back in March.  I used the professional pictures we'd had taken that day to jog their memories (I should have done this right away, but I didn't.)

I still need to sit with Ladybug and do the same.

We tried to go to the library on Tuesday, but it was closed for a staff development meeting.  So we filled the book drop with the books we were returning and ran errands instead.  Now Baymax and Little Brother have the requisite black pants to wear in the dance shows this week.

We did have Morning Meeting, and Rose Red did a full day's worth of school assignments.  Belle faithfully did math lessons with Mister Man and Ladybug, and then she did her own double math assignment.  Super Star and Pixie got their double math done, too.

Sir Walter Scott and I got Brother and Ladybug to their various therapy meetings while Pixie and Super Star got out the hose and the sunscreen and babysat the rest of the littles outside in the sunshine.

(All photos are by Pixie.)

Mister Man insisted on applying his own sunscreen, and he has a whopping sunburn.

("He's 4 years old.  He cannot put on his own sunscreen yet," I said when I saw his raw shoulders.  Pixie was very, very apologetic.)

Sir Walter Scott installed 2 ceiling fans and wired another room for a central light/fan by dinnertime.  Then he helped me get the littles ready for bed and took the 6 oldest off to the church for activities.

I drove the seminary carpool Wednesday morning in the crazy thunderstorms that kept us company all morning.  Since I couldn't safely go running, I spent my wait time ordering library books for the summer and planning reading lists for Rose Red's and Pixie's next school year.  They won't get through half of what I have, but they certainly have options!

I came home to peace and order because of Pixie's and Belle's hard work.  They even had the little boys dressed and the dishwasher loaded!  I scarfed down some cereal before calling everyone to Morning Meeting.

And our school day began--mostly a regular day for everyone, but the littles and I ran to the grocery store to but a rainbow for lunch.
Oops!  Forgot to show the beets we had that were purple!
 In the afternoon we all spent quite a bit of time organizing costumes for Thursday's double nursing home performances.  I discovered that Ladybug didn't have a base costume (white collared shirt, black slacks) because she didn't join the group until January of this year.  I freaked out a little tiny bit.  However, I found that by raiding my stash of extra clothes, I could move Mister Man up a size, give his slacks to her, and she could wear his white polo shirt out of which I'd just successfully removed the red sidewalk chalk stains from earlier this week.

During evening reading Rose Red doubled over in abdominal pain all of a sudden.  I checked her out and decided she was being melodramatic.

Thursday was show day!!

We got everyone dressed, groomed and out the door by 8:15--right on time.  We also had the coolers packed and every single costume piece checked off the list.

The little boys--corralled (for the moment) and waiting for their turn to go on stage.

Pre-tantrum and quite cute.

Singing together to warm up their voices.

Whiling away the time by watching what happens to paper in front of a fan.
We took a large group photo for our director who is retiring after 10 years of volunteer service.  I loved catching these two--over 10 years apart in age--communing with one another.
Our finale this year was "God Bless the USA."  Here are the littles lined up and ready to join the big kids on "stage."
 Show 1 was fun--other than the fact that Ladybug utterly melted down into a tantrum 2 minutes before she was supposed to go on stage.  We had to line up the littles without her, but at the last second Dad was able to bring her to join us.  A quick swipe at the tears on her face had to suffice because it was show time!

All of the littles were darling--lots of happy sighs, giggles, and smiles from the nursing home residents.

The older kids did such a good job!

We paused for a picnic lunch with some of our dance friends and then we were off to show 2.

By this time Brother and Little Brother were melting down.  I pulled them (and the rest of the littles) out of the dressing room to stand at the back of the performance room to watch the other dancers.  This was a big help, and when their turn to dance came, they were all smiles.

However, Rose Red was getting quite pale and nauseous.  She said the abdominal pain of the night before was back and that she felt terrible.

Uh oh.

She carried on for the duration of the show, but Dad took her directly to urgent care (who sent her to the ER) as soon as the show was over.

I headed home with the other 11 kids to make scrambled eggs for supper and get them to bed EARLY.

Ladybug couldn't handle the stressful day and tried to take her seatbelt off while we were driving home.  By the time we were home, she'd torn her tights up and had that look in her eye that told me we were in for it.

However, the simple supper and familiarity of home helped settle her down.  Pixie, Super Star, and Belle were extra helpful, and we got all of the littles tucked in by 6:00 pm.  We had a quiet evening hanging out on the back deck and reading together and waiting for updates on Rose Red's condition.

Lots of tests were run.

All of them negative.

She's a perfectly healthy (if melodramatic) teen.

The best the docs could suggest was a muscle strain.

Most of us woke up Friday morning wanting a day off to rest and relax, but our littles can't handle non-routine days, so we stuck to the routine.  We had lots of odd and difficult behaviors from our fragile ones, but in the end the routines provided comfort, and the day was good enough.

We did all of our school except Ladybug's reading lesson because she flatly refused.

No problem; I'm in no hurry to push her through school.

Preschool consisted of chalking the little boys' initials on the sidewalk and jumping from letter to letter to learn the letter names and sounds.

Nature Angel practiced the art skill of finding and developing a focal point for her pictures.

Little Princess and I snuggled into the overstuffed armchair for some quality time with Beatrix Potter.

Brother, Little Brother, and Ladybug joined me on the porch swing with a stack of read alouds.

Pixie gave Nature Angel and Little Princess each a violin lesson.

Brother did OT with Pixie, too.

Belle is learning how to adjust math lessons to Ladybug's and Mister Man's individual needs.

The older girls did their double math lessons, and Rose Red completed a full school day list of assignments before leaving for work.

I took the 8 youngest to the zoo park in the afternoon--Pixie decided to come along to help me.  Thank you, Pixie!!!!!

We tucked everyone into bed fairly early again in preparation for our final dance performance of the school year on Saturday afternoon.

All of the littles woke up with plenty of energy on Saturday morning, but it was Dad and the oldest 4 who headed out the door by 7:30 am to represent our family at our turn to help clean the church.

I stayed home to feed the littles and organize costumes.

We got an hour or so of housework done, an hour or so of yard work (Sir Walter Scott did more like 4 hours outside) and then we got ready to go.

The show was a delight all the way around.  I'm hoping to get some photos to share eventually.  Our dance year is over . . . we own our Thursdays again.  It will be both lovely and lonely.

(linking here)