Sunday, June 19, 2016

Assessment 2016--Rose Red

Rose Red is a study in contrasts.  She is bright, vibrant, alive, passionate, and fabulous!  She also struggles to learn certain concepts, acts bored, is defiant, and flirts with danger.  I'm usually at my wit's end about how to be her mother, but every time I'm about to fall off that end, she shows me her tremendous worth and her sensitive heart, and I have hope for this precious girl again.

We're on a waiting list for learning disability assessments; the tests should take place by August, but it could be later than that.  Rose Red does fine with simple math calculations with whole numbers.  Throw in decimals, fractions, variables, formulas, or practical application of math skills (a.k.a word problems) and she's lost--utterly lost.  It took her 4 years to memorize the times tables, and we've now worked on decimals, fractions, and formulas for 2 years with little to no visible progress.  Variables and word problems have always been part of the game with no visible progress--no matter what curriculum (we've used 9+ over the years), what style, or what format the lessons take.

She is (sort of) functional at math:  she knows enough to understand pricing and change at a store (but not enough to check for mistakes--she could easily be cheated), how to follow a recipe in the kitchen (but not how to double it), how to budget money and time (but following that plan is a different story).

This year she worked on Math-U-See Epsilon and Zeta.   She also worked on a variety of online fraction programs and a pre-algebra course when we had a free trial offered to us.  She also worked on Calculus Without Tears volume 2.

She can do all of the work as long as I'm sitting right next to her reminding her of what she knows with leading questions.  The minute I walk away, and she has to organize her thinking herself, she's lost, and the next minute she's angry.  So she gets 100% for practice work and about 50% for tests.  That averages out to a solid C, but a C that does not indicate mastery of the subject matter.

I am very interested in finding out what the assessments reveal about our frustrated, overwhelmed, fearful girl.

Rose Red is another voracious reader.  She's a huge fan of dystopian novels, but she loves a good fantasy read as well.  Her school work this year included some real challenges--such as Plato's The Republic, and she can read and comprehend well as evidenced by her written narrations of all of her assigned reading.

Language Arts:
She's got a huge vocabulary, and she's a creative, insightful writer.  More than once I've finished reading one of her essays/narrations with a smile on my face at her wry commentary about what she's read.  Occasionally she writes with parenthetical asides that make me guffaw.  Her spelling and punctuation are very poor, but her general grasp of applied grammar is solid--just don't ask her to diagram a sentence.

We spent the whole school year working our way through the first several levels of All About Spelling.  During the lessons, her spelling is perfect.  I mean perfect!  Then she turns around and misspells the words in her writing assignments.  If she's writing about democracy, then she will spell the word "democracy" 4 different ways within a single paragraph.  But if I ask her to spell "democracy" separate from her writing assignment, she can do it exactly right.

She completed the first level of Vocabulary from Classical Roots.  She did quite well at the assignments, with only occasional careless mistakes with words that change form depending on their part of speech (i.e. vacant (adj) and vacancy (n)).

We did no formal grammar study this year.

She took a communications course via a local university's high school/college dual enrollment program.  It was a speech class, and she got one of the 2 A's that were earned that semester.  The A was based on written assignments, oral speeches, evaluations of other speeches, self-evaluations, and exams.  She did great work, and she's an engaging public speaker.

In addition to completing all of the LDSFamilySchool ancient history lessons with her sisters, she also read and responded in writing to the second half of The History of the Ancient World.  She participated in our family historical read aloud sessions, as well.  At the very end of the school year she completed a challenging reading/writing course of 3 books on the roots and background of American government.

After her happy success with Lifepac Health last year, we purchased Lifepac Science 9 this year.  We anticipated a similarly successful science experience, but that was not the case.  As she worked through the first text, it was clear that she could not understand the subject matter, and quite honestly, when I tried to help her with the assignments, I had a hard time understanding what was being asked and where in the text the answers were to be found.

When she failed the 3rd review assignment in a row, we dropped that course in favor of doing family Chemistry lessons out of God's Design for Chemistry--Properties of Matter (properties of matter being the subject of the first Lifepac Science 9 worktext).  Though the God's Design for Chemistry book is targeted to elementary and middle schoolers, it covered all of the subject matter in the Lifepac Science 9 worktext--just in a more approachable, hands-on manner. We also began reading aloud together from The Disappearing Spoon, a chemistry book all about the periodic table of the elements written as a series of historical/scientific anecdotes.

Christmas break knocked us for a loop, and we never resumed God's Design for Chemistry.  As a family we dropped The Disappearing Spoon, but Rose Red finished it on her own complete with written narrations of every section.  That, combined with our family reading of The Story of Science:  Newton at the Center, completed a solid historical and theoretical chemistry course.  I think she'd need to complete a few more chemistry experiments to get lab credit, though.

As part of her self-directed work, Rose Red studied medicinal plants.  She'd read about a plant, sketch it, write about it, and try to find it on her own in any local woods or fields.   Her study was seriously hampered by taking place during the winter. :)  Should she pick back up where she left off this summer, I'd encourage her to harvest some plants and make some of the remedies she's studied about.

Fine Arts:
Rose Red loves all things beautiful.  She is a creator at heart.

She earned a half credit for completing the art and music lessons in the LDSFamilySchool.

She's earned another half credit for countless hours of piano practice/performance.  She plays the piano by ear, picking out a familiar melody and creating a satisfying accompaniment.  She mostly plays current pop hits, but she also plays hymns and some classical music.  Just this week, I've been listening to her pick out Mozart's Rondo Alla Turca.  In order to give her a formal high school credit for her playing I told her she'd have to perform in public, and she did so in January of this year at our homeschool talent show.

As part of her self-directed work, Rose Red spent quite a bit of time studying high fashion design and the history of fashion.  She also completed several dozen sketches of original fashion designs.  When she realized that her drawings would need to be translated into actual clothing for her to progress in this area of study, she lost interest.  Sewing is not one of her strengths.

Ummm, I can't think of any way to give her P.E. credit.  She does some body-sculpting workouts once in a while.  For a short time she would jog/walk with me in the mornings.  She's done a bit of study about good/poor eating habits.  But overall, I don't think she's done enough to merit even a half credit this year.  At least she completed health last year. :)

Rose Red completed her second year of early morning seminary with an "A" grade.   The subject matter was The Old Testament.  In addition to this, she participated in our family readings of Old and New Testament stories and memorizing half a dozen Old Testament scriptures.

Our Family Devotionals have focused on The Book of Mormon and memorizing The Family:  A Proclamation to the World.   Rose Red has participated in these activities.

She earned her Personal Progress medallion in October of 2015.

Rose Red is a study in contrasts when it comes to matters of faith.  One minute she is furious with God and claims she doesn't believe, and the next she is bearing a testimony of light and strength.  I believe she is more of a believer than she realizes, and once she makes up her mind, she will be a powerful witness of Christ.

At Home:
She's not a lover of the art of homemaking . . . as it applies to our messy, chaotic, huge family.  She loves beauty--craves it--and she wants to make a home that is physically beautiful.  At best our home can be described as . . . functional.  She is frustrated by caring for our brown slipcovers, stained carpets, and ringed bathtubs.  She wants to design and live in beautiful rooms.

I hope she gets to someday. :)

When I serve a meal, my goal is quantity in a timely and easy-to-clean-up manner.  When she serves a meal, it is usually late and served with a plethora of serving dishes because she has spent huge quantities of time arranging the food in a visually pleasing way.  The table is truly a thing of beauty when Rose Red is in charge.

Recipes hold no power over Rose Red.  If she's cooking, she wants to create something completely original.  This works just fine for soups, casseroles, salads, and sandwiches--not so well for baking. :)  She is frustrated by the fact that baking is governed by fairly rigid scientific rules; however, when she wants a sweet treat, she can force herself to follow the recipe so that her treat will turn out yummy.  And it does.

She's a capable care giver when required--able to keep children clean and safe and fed.  She may be able to walk past a cute baby with barely a glance, and she may not want to play board games with schoolchildren, but when she becomes a mother, I have every confidence that she will throw herself into her role with dedicated passion. 

Rose Red participated in her final year of our song/dance group.  She could stay with it, but she is mentally done and ready to move on to other activities.

She studied for and earned her driver's permit.  Driving does not come naturally to her, and she pulled away from practice after scaring herself (and her parents) a few times.  I hope she'll earn her license this summer.

At church, the girls sometimes have the opportunity to work in leadership positions among girls in their classes.  For a time this school year, Rose Red served as president of the Mia Maid class in the Young Women's program.  She exercised some good, Christ-like leadership skills in that capacity.

She got a job this year, too.  She's had unofficial jobs as babysitter and mother's helper, and she worked at the local minor league baseball stadium last summer at one of the snack shacks, but this is her first get-a-check-and-pay-taxes job.  She works as a runner for the buffet table at a (sort of) local restaurant.  She's proving to be a faithful and reliable employee.

In Summary:
Overall, Rose Red earned the following high school credits for her 10th grade year:
1.0--General Language Arts
1.0--Communications 110, College/High School dual enrollment
1.0--Ancient History
0.5--Foundations of American Government
0.5--Art/Music appreciation
0.5--Music:  Piano performance
1.0--General Science w/Chemistry focus
1.0--General Math with Calculus principles
0.5--Religion:  Book of Mormon studies and developing a personal testimony

(Rose Red refuses to let me give her a credit for her seminary experiences.  She says that public schooled kids don't count it, so she won't either.)

Rose Red is a terribly bright, creative, fun-loving, social young woman.  She has some learning hurdles that really trip her up, and she does not have any real sense of direction other than that she wants to be "successful."  This desire for success and the spiritual direction she has a tenuous hold of have helped her make good choices in tough emotional/social situations.  I believe that by continuing to put one foot in front of the other and by keeping her mind open to studying a variety of subjects, she'll open doors, find her way, and become the success of her dreams.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Assessment 2016--Pixie

Pixie suddenly became a young woman this year.  I look at her in absolute wonder almost every single day.  She is gracious, mature, sweet, responsible, and fun-loving.  I can see her moving off into the world as an adult, and I feel no sorrow--only joy that she has her life ahead of her.

But perhaps I feel that way because I know we still have 4 years of her at home before she'll truly leave for adulthood. :)

She completed Saxon 8/7 and Algebra 1/2 this year.  It was a monumental mistake to have her skip a Saxon year (based on how repetitive their scope and sequence is).  I quickly realized the mistake, but she was bound and determined to work her way through--and she did it.  But it took her almost two years to do it.  She's stopped somewhere near lesson 85 during the previous school year, and we didn't try to pick back up again.  Instead she went back to the start and worked her way quickly through the book, reviewing 2-3 lessons per day.  When she got into new territory, she slowed down and spent more time studying the lessons and working the problems.  This worked perfectly.

When she finished the book, we discussed her options and decided that even though Saxon 8/7 includes pre-algebra, it would be a wise choice to go ahead and do Saxon Algebra 1/2 to really cement her skills before starting Algebra 1.

She finished Algebra 1/2 a couple of weeks into our summer, and she feels totally ready to move on this fall.

Pixie reads often--mostly fantasy.  She's particularly fond of books by Shannon Hale.  She's not a voracious or deep reader.  She loves to read the end of books first so that she knows where they're going, and her list of "I started it, but I just didn't bother finishing it" books is crazy long.

She participated in our LDSFamilySchool literature unit that included fairy tales, psalms, Little House in the Big Woods, Bambi, and A Comedy of Errors.  Her understanding was evident in her insightful comments during our discussion times. 

Pixie is not a lover of literature or literature study, but she did fall deeply in love with all things Jane Austen this year.  Movie-watching translated into reading Emma and Pride and Prejudice on her own.

She listened to historical fiction during our family read aloud times and she participated in the lessons in our LDSFamilySchool.  She says she hates history but she loves stories--which is funny because we do the vast majority of our history learning via stories.  Perhaps she just doesn't recognize the stories we read as history.  She will admit to loving family history in the form of learning stories about our ancestors.

This was an area of weakness this year that was not her own fault--rather mine.  The LDSFamilySchool lessons were weak on content.  We did do some wonderful science reading this year during family read aloud time, and a bit of hands on chemistry. 

Language Arts:
Though an avid journal-writer, Pixie hates writing for any other reason.  She's a weak speller, but her punctuation and grammar are reasonable.  She's asked me to help her focus on spelling during the upcoming school year.  She's been exposed to outstanding vocabulary via our reading, but she's more comfortable with her receptive vocabulary than she is with expressive skills.

She's become a confident and poised public speaker over the course of the year.

Fine Arts:
Pixie participated in our LDSFamilySchool art and music lessons, clearly enjoying them from start to finish.  She loves all things creative and has an easy time translating what she sees in her mind to what she should do with her hands.  She plays the recorder, violin and piano, often accompanying the hymn-singing during the Young Women's program.  She's been Nature Angel's and Little Princess's violin teacher this year. 

I need badly to budget in some proper lessons with a violin teacher for her.  She's really exhausted the self-taught books we have.

She participated fully in our singing/dance group Belle, has a charming stage presence.  The director of our group has recommended her for more dance training.  She's a natural dancer.

At Home:
Pixie hates to work in the kitchen, but she's made it a goal this year to get more comfortable, and she's achieved it.   I noticed the other day that she's really moving confidently through the kitchen, preparing and serving meals with alacrity.

She's good at handwork--embroidery, knitting, etc.  Belle made the first one, but Pixie fell so in love with a little knitted monster, that she picked up the knitting needles and made several more monsters for the littles in our family.

She's so good at caring for children that I often (jokingly) say, "If she could only open a checking account or get a driver's license she'd be ready for motherhood today."  All jokes aside, Pixie is a truly gifted caregiver.

When it comes time to selecting chores, she (like her great grandmother before her) often gets out of housework by taking care of the babies.  However, Pixie can clean a bathroom or organize the toy room without a problem.

Pixie has a gift for doing hair and nails.  She spends hours practicing gorgeous hairstyles and manicures on herself and her sisters, and the result is that our family has quite the reputation for being beautiful.  Men, women, and children comment on our appearance at church on Sundays, at dances, and in general.  Just last week a darling 16-year-old girl came up to Rose Red after an awards ceremony and said, "All of you are so beautiful.  As each of your names (the four oldest girls) was called I thought, "She's so beautiful . . . and she's so beautiful . . . and so is she . . . and so is she!  I want to come to your house and be beautiful with all of you!"  This is largely due to Pixie's work (and Rose Red's style influence--more on that to come).

Pixie has also served as our resident occupational therapist for Brother.  She is encouraging, flexible, and focused.  She serves him well.

Pixie has discovered the joys of jogging.  She joins me in the morning 3 days a week.  She's slow but steady.  She's also driven and competitive, always setting new goals for herself and pushing herself to reach them. 

She missed soccer this year and hopes we'll play next year.

Pixie realized she had unhealthy eating habits and set about to fix them this year.  She's worked on her goals slowly but surely, and in addition to eating lots of fruits and veggies and whole grains is currently close to being sugar-free.  Along the way she's lost well over 20 pounds, and she's lost them slowly and sensibly (she's been done growing for a couple of years now, and this weight loss is healthy).  She's now near the bottom of her healthy weight range for her height; she's gone down several clothing sizes; and she has tons of energy and confidence.

Pixie faithfully studies her scriptures on her own each day and participates actively in all family studies.  Her comments show factual understanding, development of personal testimony, and the ability to apply spiritual lessons to practical life.  She journals extensively every day.  She truly cares about developing Christ-like attributes, and it shows in her efforts to serve lovingly.

She completed her Personal Progress, and is working on her Honor Bee!

Overall, Pixie is a remarkably mature and focused young adult.  She's chosen to skip the worst of being a teenager and absorb the best of being young and bright with her future ahead of her.  She'll begin high school this fall, and her basic plans were outlined in a past post and will be the subject of a future post as we prepare to start the school year ahead.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Assessment 2016--Super Star

 (I couldn't choose between these two pictures--the first shows her cute, raw self, and the second shows how funny she is!)

It has been a tremenously tough year for Super Star.  She's battled a sense of failure in math, fears for the baby sister born to her birthmother (there are very good reasons her birthmother could not parent Super Star, and those reasons remain valid today), dealing with the regular hormonal changes that happen for all teen girls, and a strong sense of frustration about the newest members of our family.

It's a wonder she's still standing.

But though I'd often like to trade her in for another model, I can see her potential as a truly beloved daughter of God . . . and my beloved daughter as well. 

Super Star started the school year continuing to fill in the math gaps from switching from Life of Fred to Lifepac Math.  She hit her Waterloo with Lifepac math, though, and after much deliberation, we decided to give Saxon math a try.  This meant she'd be behind her younger sister, and I was worried about the competition that might arise between them, but her success with Saxon has been so remarkable that the competition has been negligible, if any.

We put her right back at the start with Saxon Math 5/4, and let her race through the concepts by reading and then only working the practice problems of 3 lessons per day.  Her confidence grew by leaps and bounds as she completed this fast-paced review, and that made it much easier for her to start Saxon Math 6/5.  We slowed her down to 2 lessons per day doing odd or even problems as they matched the value of the lesson number--the same as Belle.  Every day she continued to understand until the entire book was finished. :)

She also started Saxon Math 7/6, working at the same pace as she did the 6/5 book.  She hasn't completed it yet, and she's not required to do any work from it this summer, but I'm encouraging her to work on a couple of lessons a week--whenever she's bored. 

She hasn't been bored yet, but some long, slow days are on the horizon.  There may be some summer math coming soon.

She hates Bedtime Math with a passion--mostly because we work together on it, and some of her sisters are faster computers than she is.  She shuts down in the face of math competition.  If I try to slow down and give her time, her feelings are hurt because she feels patronized.

I may have to excuse her from Bedtime Math.

Super Star is a voracious reader!  She's forever bringing home stacks of 10 and 20 books at a time and then complaining to me a few days later that she has nothing to read.  She's a total fan of fantasy.  I'll be encouraging her to branch out into more genres this summer and next school year.  She's had the privilege of watching the Lord of the Rings movies and is so enthralled with Orlando Bloom that she's gone ahead and read the series herself.

At least that's good quality fantasy.

She's good at bringing books to me that turn out to use foul language or be sexually explicit and saying, "This one needs to go back unread.  It's not what I thought it would be."  I'm glad I can trust her in that because I cannot keep up with reading everything she does--though I do try!

She also participated in our LDSFamilySchool literature unit.  It was a challenge for her to catch on to the system we used to highlight different aspects of the reading (e.g. blue for character, green for setting, etc.), but she worked at it and succeeded in understanding how to selectively highlight for review and understanding.  She was reticent in discussions, but when she did participate she showed understanding and insight.

She listened to historical fiction during our family read aloud times, and she participated in the lessons in our LDSFamilySchool.

This was an area of weakness this year that was not her own fault--rather mine.  The LDSFamilySchool lessons were weak on content.  We did do some wonderful science reading this year during family read aloud time, and a bit of hands-on chemistry.

Super Star is fascinated by all things shark.  I spent quite a bit of time tracking down college and graduate level textbooks via interlibrary loan for her to expand her study of sharks beyond what was available in our library system.  I'll be interested to see where this fascination takes her.

Language Arts:
Super Star loves to write.  I've fallen down on my job of editing and self-publishing the novels she writes that I promised to (a pregnancy one year, 5 new children the next kind of distracted me).  My unfaithfulness put a damper on her efforts, but recently she's begun keeping a notebook handy, and she's been talking about new plot ideas she wants to develop.

I've got some promises to keep.

She's a natural speller--spells everything correctly.  But she won't enter a spelling bee!

She needs work on formal grammar and punctuation, but her constant reading and writing really have helped her to be at least functional if not always accurate in these areas.

Public speaking scares her so badly she has to lock her knees to keep from falling down, but she presents herself quite well to those who do not know her.  She writes and delivers engaging, personal speeches that listeners respond to well.

Fine Arts:
Super Star loves music and hates drawing/sculpting/painting.  She struggled along with our art projects via LDSFamilySchool, then she thrived and grew during our music appreciation unit. 

She's partial to current pop songs, but I've seen her swoon over some lovely classical music.  She has a sweet, poignant singing voice that I'd love to hear her develop.  She sings in our church choir, so she gets some vocal direction there, but it's probably time to find her a teacher that can inspire her.

She picks up and puts down instruments often--she doesn't have the drive to practice the way her sisters do, even though she has more raw talent than any of them.  Perhaps she needs an inspiring teacher here, too.

She danced with the rest of the kids in our singing/dancing group, and she has a bouncy, fun stage presence.

At Home:
Though the kitchen was a place of great stress for Super Star a few years ago, she's practiced enough now to feel at home there now.  She still has difficult moments when she doesn't read a recipe all the way through and gets stuck on surprise steps/information as she works, but she can turn out some tasty food.  She's our official birthday cake baker now.

I don't see her knit, crochet, embroider, or sew, but this year she did spend time decoupaging some journals, so I know she's got a creative spirit that is searching for a medium in which it can be expressed successfully.   Making her hands do what her mind sees is a struggle.

She's our go-to girl when it is time for doing the dishes.  Over all of the other possible chores in the house, she chooses that one first.  I'm not complaining!  Often she even scours the sink after loading the dishwasher.  During Saturday chore time she works on other housekeeping skills, and she really knows how to tidy up a toilet!

Caring for little ones is a struggle for Super Star, but she can change a diaper, dress a toddler, and she is more fun to play with than anyone else in the family.  When she's on, she's really, really on!  I've watched her get involved with the littles and genuinely play with them.  It's a wonder to watch.  She's stressed out by the mundane childcare chores, though, and it bothers her that this is the case.  It makes for a vicious circle that means I'd prefer to take her with me to help me grocery shop than leave her at home to babysit.  The babysitters are happy with that arrangement. :)

Super Star is a good grocery shopper--she comes with me often, so she knows the layout of the stores we frequent, and she has become very helpful.

Super Star did some running with me for a month or two, but then she said her ankles hurt too much to continue.  She's an amazing runner, though.  I wrote that Belle is a good runner, but Super Star is even more a natural.  Her legs are really, really long, and while the rest of us are panting with effort, Super Star is loping easily along, hardly breaking a sweat.  I'm trying to convince her to join a track or cross country team, but I'm having no luck so far.

She enjoys doing workout videos at home.  Right now she's really into muscle toning workouts, and she's quite lean and strong.

She has about the sweetest testimony of Jesus Christ I've ever heard.  I think she's more faithful in her personal scripture study than she lets on, and I know she prays and receives answers to her prayers.  She is faithful in her church service, choir attendance, and youth group participation.  She cares very much about other people, and has a gift for making them feel loved and important.

She's working on her Personal Progress, and she's close to being finished!

Overall, Super Star is quite a talented young woman who doesn't see her own worth.  She's struggling to find her way, but when she does, she will just shine.  I'm quite happy with her academic, personal, social, and spiritual growth this year.

Assessment 2016--Belle

Belle is the child I think of as being academically gifted . . . but not academically driven.  She is quiet and content to read and reread her favorite books over and over again.  I often find her sitting alone doing nothing but listening to music; Sir Walter Scott says she's like him in that.

She has a good mind, though.  I think it is one of her God-given gifts, and I wonder how to stimulate her to recognize and use this gift.  She said one day recently to Pixie, "You're so lucky you know what you want to do and have a plan for how to do it.  I don't have any idea what to do."  She's only 12, so there's no hurry to firm up her life's ambitions, but it's hard to feel unfocused.  I'd like to help her find that area of study that truly brings her joy and motivates her to get working.

She completed Saxon 6/5 and 7/6 this year by doing 2 lessons a day, completing all of the odd numbered problem sets on the odd-numbered lessons and the even-numbered problem sets on the even-numbered lessons.  She's very, very good at math, and the only supervising I had to do was to make sure she checked and corrected her work--a task she felt was unnecessary because there was so little to correct.

She's also the math teacher for Mister Man and Ladybug.  Using Horizons Math K, she's teaching these two so well that they can hardly wait for their turn to do math each day.  She's learning about pacing and being flexible.  She's a natural at explaining the lessons in ways they can understand.  I always want to stop what I'm doing and watch her in action.

She finally broke free of the Warriors series this year.

(Thank goodness!)

I cannot enumerate the books she read on her own this year.  It is safe to say that she completed several hundred hours of personal reading in a variety of genres.

She participated in our LDSFamilySchool literature unit that included fairy tales, psalms, Little House in the Big Woods, Bambi, and A Comedy of Errors.  Her understanding was evident in her insightful comments during our discussion times.  When she takes the time to slow down to human pace, her read aloud skills are enchanting.

She listened to historical fiction during our family read aloud times and she participated in the lessons in our LDSFamilySchool.  She's a gifted memorizer and can rattle off dates and names easily.

This was an area of weakness this year that was not her own fault--rather mine.  The LDSFamilySchool lessons were weak on content.  We did do some wonderful science reading this year during family read aloud time, and a bit of hands on chemistry.  Belle would make a wonderful scientist as she is precise and deliberate in her thinking and actions.  I hope to wake up her curiosity in the year ahead.

Language Arts:
Belle is a natural speller and writer.  She also has an extensive vocabulary and a firm command of correct grammar.  Her weakness in Language Arts appears in applied punctuation practice.  I need to make a goal to have her write often next year and then rewrite with corrected punctuation.  But she's truly a gifted writer.  She also has truly beautiful penmanship and has spent a bit of time this year working on calligraphy skills with the beautiful set of pens she received for Christmas.

She memorizes poems with alacrity and performs them at our Poetry and Pie events with a charming sweetness.  Her performances are the highlight of each event for me.

Fine Arts:
Belle participated in our LDSFamilySchool art and music lessons, clearly enjoying them from start to finish.  She also has spent hours at the piano working on her ability to play hymns from the simplified hymn book. 

For her personal studies she chose at one point to draw our home.  She spent careful hours making as precise a drawing as she could.  When I mentioned the possibility of taking an art class, she said, "No, I don't enjoy drawing at all.  I just did that drawing to see what it was like.  I'm glad I'm done with it."

She participated fully in our singing/dance group and has a charming stage presence--kind of sparkly and happy and shiny.  People can't help noticing.

At Home:
Belle likes to work in the kitchen, and she's adept at following a recipe.  Good food is the result of any effort on her part.

She's good at handwork--embroidery, knitting, etc.  I can't find evidence that she worked on developing this skill this school year, but I have a special project for her in the school year ahead.

She's good at helping me care for the little ones.  She struggles with being patient with their difficult behaviors (like I do), but she genuinely loves the younger children and she's gentle by nature.  She's a natural teacher, and many of the words our babies can say and sign are the result of her patient teaching.

She's also good at any cleaning job she's assigned--again that attention to detail comes into play.  She may not like her assignment, but once she has it she does it right.

I think, though, that organization and time management may be a personal challenge for her.

Belle got to take a 6 week horseback riding class this year.

(I wish I could give her more lessons.)

She's also begun to run with me 3 days a week.  She's fast!  She has long legs and lopes along easily.  She says she doesn't want to join the cross country team though because she runs just to enjoy it--not to compete.  :)

Belle faithfully studies her scriptures on her own each day and participates actively in all family studies.  Her comments show factual understanding, development of personal testimony, and the ability to apply spiritual lessons to practical life.  She journals actively every day and memorizes scriptures faster than I can offer them.  Perhaps I should challenge her to memorize more on her own.

She's working on her Personal Progress.

Overall Belle is a beautiful, sweet, smart, loving girl who is growing and learning now and has unlimited potential for growing and learning ahead.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Assessment 2016--Nature Angel

This sweet girl is an angel in too many ways to describe.

She's also a completely self-motivated learner.  As long as there are books, craft materials, and time to spend out of doors, this girl is learning, learning, learning.

My favorite of her personal projects has been her nature notebooks.  She takes a blank journal, decorates it, then fills it with copywork from books about natural subjects (animals, plants, ecology, etc.).  She adds in pictures that she cuts from magazines or pamphlets we pick up at nature centers.  She also includes sketches of her own observations, and if she can, she includes actual found items (feathers, leaves, flower petals, etc.).

She has created 3 or 4 of these over the course of this school year.

She's discovered fantasy novels (how could she not with her older sisters raving about them constantly?).  Her recent favorite is Jinx.  She's also spent quite a bit of time getting to know the American Girl series and a few quality novels for younger children like Little House in the Big Woods, My Father's Dragon, and The Hundred Dresses.

I think she's an artist.  It's hard for me to judge my own children's work compared to that of other children--I do feel a certain bias, after all--but Nature Angel is my 5th 9-year-old, and along the way I've gotten to know a lot of 9-year-olds in my time, and I think it is safe to say she has a gift that should be nurtured.  Thus far we've only borrowed learn-to-draw books from the library, and she's faithfully worked on various drawing skills.  It may be time to find her a mentor.

Like Little Princess, she worked with the older girls at the LDSFamilySchool lessons.  She was able to keep up with the reading and written work, but it wasn't a joyful experience--it was stressful for her to try to keep up with her teen and pre-teen sisters.  So, like Little Princess, I released her from those lessons and spent one-on-one time with her doing lessons from The Good and the Beautiful.  She loved the art studies and (oddly) the grammar lessons. :)  We worked slowly, skipping lessons on days she was particularly self-motivated to read/draw/write on her own, so we have not finished the entire 3rd grade curriculum.  We're working on it off and on this summer.  My plans for her in the year ahead are still in flux.

She worked on basketball skills--dribbling, shooting, passing--this year.  Just at home in the driveway with a sibling or two, not with a team.  She also taught herself how to do back bends, the splits, and cartwheels.  She's an avid jump-roper and hula-hooper.  This summer, while we're at the lake, she's spending lots of time figuring out how to improve her swimming skills.

She's had few, if any, formal math lessons.  Nonetheless, as the research I've read has shown, she's learned all of the math concepts typical for K-3 students just by living life.  She's also participated in Bedtime Math during our Morning Meetings.  I am confident she's ready to move into a formal math program in the upcoming school year without struggling.

Participating in our singing/dance group has really helped her develop a confident presence in front of an audience.  She may be shaking in her boots, but she looks calm and confident on the outside.  She's a joyful dancer and happy singer.

She is faithful in her study of the gospel and in her personal prayers.

She is kind.
She is gentle.
She is gracious.

Really, she's an angel on earth. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Assessment 2016--Little Princess

We started the year including Little Princess in our LDSFamilySchool lessons, and she was happy to be a part of them.  As the first weeks passed I became disenchanted with the program because I struggled to ramp the lessons up enough for the older girls while keeping them simple enough for 6-year-old Little Princess.  I felt pulled in too many directions helping her take notes or printing out her coloring pages.  She wanted to truly be part of the lessons instead of just a hanger-on.

And I felt sympathetic to that.

One of the blessings that took place with her as an active participant of our FamilySchool was how her reading skills skyrocketed.  At the first of the year she could just barely follow along with the reading, and do a bit of the reading herself with some help.  Well before Christmastime, she was reading fluently and even correcting mistakes that the rest of us made.

We used the year .5 Flower Fairies stories to create a language arts main lesson book for her because though she was reading, her letter formation was wobbly.  We'd read the stories cuddled together and then we'd draw the pictures and letters at the table with Nature Angel (who couldn't help joining in for drawing time).  Though she didn't need more phonics work, the act of drawing really helped improve her writing skills.

I purchased the first grade Math By Hand curriculum (just the teacher stuff--not the extras) for her and spent quite a bit of time on form drawings and creating a lovely math main lesson book, but then we kind of pooped out.  I found Bedtime Math, and was happy to let the formal lessons slide in favor of a family math adventure around the dining room table.

Along the way I discovered The Good and The Beautiful curriculum, and I was quickly sold.  I excused Little Princess from lessons with the older girls, instead choosing to hold her on my lap as we did a little bit of one-on-one work each day.  She continued to participate in Morning Meeting and Evening Read Aloud, which rounded out her religion, math, science, and history exposure.

She's also Nature Angel's "right hand man."  Whatever Nature Angel suggests, Little Princess is there, ready and willing to learn.  Together they have kept nature notebooks, written stories, built animal habitats, learned to play the piano (rudimentary skills), run a preschool for their younger siblings, worked on their babysitting skills, learned to clean a bathroom, and cooked several meals. 

They read voraciously.

Little Princess leans toward Rainbow Fairies and Pet Shop Mysteries (urgh!) right now, but she also spent a long time this school year devouring some American Girl books.  She reads picture books aloud to the littler ones, and she knows how to log onto the library website and request her own book holds.

Little Princess is a joyful and confident 6-year-old.

It is a joy to learn at her side.

Assessment 2016--Ladybug

Ladybug began this school year in school--a special preschool for victims of abuse and trauma.  She had a terrific teacher and a wonderful team of specialists that truly gave her the best of themselves.  However, Ladybug doesn't handle transitions well, and it quickly became apparent that getting on the bus to go to school, getting off the bus at school, getting on the bus to ride home, and getting off the bus at home were taking their toll.  Her total time on the bus each day was totaling well over 2 hours.

And the rest of the family was spending time together every day while she was away.

We petitioned to keep her at home. 

Our petition was granted.  Ladybug came home full time in November 2015.

The transition was rocky . . . as was expected.

Over time, though, we've watched Ladybug just blossom, and I've not regretted the decision to bring her home even once.

Ladybug is both fierce and fragile. 

She's strongly competitive and driven to succeed.  Mister Man's ease at learning makes her crazy, but it also drives her to work hard.  Even when her brain was not ready to connect sounds into words, she was daily memorizing the shapes of words and working to read a Dick and Jane reader.  Along the way, her ability to work with phonics clicked, and she's now successfully reading CVC words in addition to the two dozen or so sight words she's mastered.  She's doing math lessons with Belle, and she really likes completing the workbook pages.  Being competent at schoolwork is a major component of her feeling that she has power.

She's been powerless for too long.

She is easily set back emotionally.  For every 3 steps forward, she takes 2 steps back, and it is hard work to move forward again.  Tantrums, stealing, lying, breaking other people's possessions are part of almost every day with her.  Her emotional triggers are many and subtle.  We're working hard to give her a safe place without triggers so that she has time and space to heal before facing challenges, but I'm starting to believe that might not be possible--she may just have to heal the best she can while we do the best we can to keep her safe enough.

She is utterly dependent on others to think of what to do.  She wants to be directed in all things (very much like children are directed all day in school).  My main goal for her this year was for her to learn how to direct her own activities--even for an hour or so.  She's come a long way in that she can now ask, "May I play ____________ ?" if she's emotionally sound enough to think clearly, and sometimes she even gets toys out on her own and invites others to play with her.

She strongly dislikes nature walks and days spent freely out of doors.  The joy the boys (and I) feel at the lake is countered by how difficult those same days are for her.  She's learning to cope, though, and I'm seeing growth in her as I insist that nature and freedom to explore be a part of her world.  On nature walks I hold her hand and engage her in conversation to help her keep from coming unglued.  At the lake I've introduced her to being buried in the sand--a sensory experience that relaxes and grounds her.

She's learned to ride a bike and how to jump rope this year. 

She has beautiful penmanship (for a 5-year-old).

Using her hands to create (sewing, cutting, pasting, drawing) is clearly a joy for her, and I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm going to have to take a deep breath, put aside my dislike of cooking with small children, and give her some one on one time in the kitchen.

She has a loving, giving heart that amazes me often.

Those who have known Ladybug over the course of the past school year are astonished at her growth; she's doing great!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Assessment 2016--Mister Man

We started this year, when he was still 3, just dabbling about with some preschool activities.  Like Brother, this little guy isn't due to start kindergarten until the 2017-18 school year.  However, something in his brain clicked, and soon we were doing an academic (and playful) preK program.  Then that stuff all clicked into place and we were doing an academic K curriculum.  Then that stuff all clicked into place, and he's half way through a set of first grade readers.

He memorizes scriptures and songs easily.

As an answer to my personal prayers regarding this small boy, I started him with Belle as his teacher in a K-level math program.  And he loves it.

He reads science books on his own.

He cuts, glues, colors, writes, and draws.

He's quite capable of dressing/undressing himself and doing simple chores around the house.

So what does that leave for us to do during this preK year ahead?

He's still a 4-year old boy, and he has much to learn about managing his emotions and making good choices.  He can work on sharing.  He can work on his gross motor skills by bike riding, climbing, swinging, and jumping.  He can build with Legos, listen to stories, write his own stories, and learn to keep a nature journal.  I think he needs piano lessons.  We try to send him on outings with Sir Walter Scott whenever possible.

And this summer he's going with us to the lake beach . . . where he builds sand and driftwood constructions that are decorated with the feathers he finds on the beach.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Assessment 2016--Brother

Brother is a gentle soul who is confused by the world around him.  Even if Sensory Processing Disorder were officially recognized, I don't think he'd qualify for a diagnosis, but, like Little Brother, I believe he has sensitivities that make it hard for him to cope; specifically I think he finds sounds over stimulating, and I think he is kinesthetically sensory-craving.

I also believe he has some cognitive processing issues--this is supported by the Beyond ACEs clinic evaluation he had in April of this year.

And then there are the emotional traumas he's still trying to heal from.

That's an awful lot for one 4-year old, less-than-40-lb boy to deal with.

As with Little Brother, we set no academic goals for Brother because:

A.  he's a very, very little boy who needs to grow and play
B.  our primary goal was healing and family integration
C.  I needed time to observe and get to know him before setting any goals.

How is Brother doing?

He's doing incredibly well.

He has a gentle, supportive play therapist who just loves him.  In return, he loves his weekly therapy appointment.  He plays therapist with his siblings; my favorite line from his game is, "Welcome to therapy.  May I give you a hug?"

He's learned how to play and build.  He could not put 2 Legos together or 2 pieces of wooden train track together without crying in frustration when he first arrived.  Now, less than a year later, he is capable of spending well over an hour building complicated train tracks without crying (as long as a baby doesn't come in the room and mess up his project).   I've banned most Lego use because I caught him throwing Legos around the room one too many times, but under supervision, I see him successfully putting pieces together in patterns that satisfy him.

He plays pretend games.  He's the least likely of the children to engage in dress-up-in-a-costume-and-act-out-a-story play, but he does take our Megablox toys and give them names and drive them around the living room in dump trucks, so he's learning to create stories in his mind.

He could not listen all the way through a single picture book when he first arrived, but he can now sit through 3 or 4 of them and ask for more.

He's learning how to control his rough-and-tumble play so that he's not crashing into and breaking everything in sight.  He still struggles with this, but he accepts and acts on reminders that playing is not destroying.

The OT that evaluated him in April said that his fine motor skills were very, very poor, but he's far more coordinated than Little Brother (he is a year older, so that may be the reason).  He can dress and undress himself, button his own buttons (dress shirt buttons are no easy feat), and cut a straight line with scissors and some guidance.  He cannot hold a crayon very well, and manipulating playdough is hard work instead of fun for him.  He does love to string large wooden beads (over 1" diameter) on a string, and he can make the whole alphabet in sign language (J, K, P, and I are hard).

He's a loving little fellow.  He's like Super Star in his ability to sympathize with someone who's been hurt.  He doesn't always recognize cues for who wants his hugs and kisses and who doesn't, but the very fact that he offers them is a blessing to us all.

He'll turn 5 this year, but he's not kindergarten age in our state until the 2017-18 school year.  I've been thinking and praying quite a bit about him, and I've changed my mind about my original plans for this pre-K year ahead.

My original plan was to follow the advice I received in the Beyond ACEs clinic which corresponds to the generally accepted theory that early intervention is best for children with delays.  I was going to begin a gentle academic pre-K program so that he could have a few years of repeating the same basic skills during these earliest years when studies say the brain is at its most receptive.

But I'm not going to do that.

I've been reading and praying a lot of late, and I'm not convinced that early intervention is actually the key.  I'm becoming more and more led to play as the best learning tool for littles--even littles with learning issues--and I'm feeling powerfully drawn to activities that will stimulate and satisfy his senses.  This fits well with the A Year of Playing Skillfully preschool curriculum I bought several months ago, and that I quite like.  So far we've worked on activities from September, March, and April.  They're delightful.  I've put it away for the summer; we'll start over with September this fall and work our way though the whole manual (I hope).  In addition to that we'll do activities out of Growing an In-Sync Child, read lots of stories, go on nature walks, sing songs, learn scripture stories, and give his brain time to develop in healthy ways.

This summer I bought a family pass to the local lake beach.  We're going there 3-5 times a week, and the sand, water, sticks, rocks, feathers, and other flotsam and jetsam are sensory experiences that cannot be beat for my small boy.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Assessment 2016--Little Brother

Little Brother turned 3 years old this school year.  We set no academic goals for him because

A.  he's a very, very little boy who needs to grow and play
B.  our primary goal was healing and family integration
C.  I needed time to observe and get to know him before setting any goals.

How is Little Brother doing?

He's healing:  he's got lots of big, scary feelings in his small body, and they come out in bursts of crazy, out-of-control temper.  However, he's learning how to control that temper, and his outbursts are fewer and of shorter duration than they used to be.  We use the cues, "Quiet hands.  Quiet feet.  Quiet mouth," and those cues seem to be working.  He does better if his quiet place is outside rather than inside (which is great in spring and autumn, not so great in winter or full summer).

His gross motor skills are awesome!

His fine motor skills are truly delayed, so are his critical thinking skills.  He can neither dress nor undress himself; he struggles to feed himself with anything other than his hands; he can barely keep a crayon in his hands to scribble a few marks on a page, and he struggles mightily to solve problems such as how to fix a train track that has been disassembled by one of the babies.

He can learn processes as long as they are explicitly laid out and demonstrated for him.  For example, he's potty training right now, and as he approaches the toilet he'll stand there motionless until I ask, "What do you do first?"  He'll smile and say, "Take off my pants." Then I'll cue him to do that, followed by, "What's next?"  And so forth and so on.

Sometimes we have to skip it all, and I just help him . . . there's only so much waiting a 3 year old boy can do when he has to go potty!
I've been doing lots of reading about sensory processing disorders. It was a comment by the OT who assessed him recently that got my brain going in this direction. I'm starting to think that some of Little Brother 's behaviors are due to bring a sensory craving kind of kid. He's certainly not extreme, but I see too many signs to ignore.
What does this mean practically?

We will let Little Brother continue to be a little boy who plays, runs, jumps, builds, digs, climbs, and explores as much as possible. In addition we will work on self care skills--taking off and putting on clothes, using a spoon and fork to eat, cleaning up toys, using words rather than tantrums to express himself, expanding his vocabulary so that he has words to use, and potty training.  We'll read stories and provide lots of sensory experiences (i.e. sand play, water play, playdough, rough and tumble play, etc.).  We'll also start some fine motor work with him, but nothing he'd think of as work; mostly we'll just play with Legos and Bristle Blocks and provide opportunities to hold crayons in his hands whenever summer thunderstorms keep us indoors.