Sunday, March 30, 2008

Week 24

Another week, another report. These do seem to get a little tedious and boring, but Jefferson would be disappointed if I didn't post at least some of his work. And it's a good way for me to work through some things on my mind sometimes. So again, we'll report.

I didn't feel like this was one of the best weeks we've felt more like I was focused on getting things checked off "The List." I noticed this when Jefferson struggled with one of his math lessons because we had to push it into the afternoon, when his brain wasn't quite fresh (hmmmm...rotten brain - quite tasty!). Instead of just letting it go until the next day, I got frustrated that "my" schedule would get messed up! Of all the things for my to think! As if I am the one in control here! I just thank the Lord that He is gracious to me and pray that He will keep my children's hearts soft when I am being selfish. He is always good to give us a new day!

We are chugging steadily through Spelling Workout B in conjunction with CCC B:3. I feel like phonics has been quite light and I think we need to focus a little more on it. One thing I think I am missing out on here is that I am not sure how to check Jefferson's comprehension in these areas. Every once in a while I got through his spelling notebook and have him write out some of the words which he seems to struggle with but is that enough? And as far as reinforcing the phonics rules, what should I do? Post them in his notebook or in a list on the wall as we learn/review them in our lessons? Hmmmm.

Another good week for reading - I still can't get over how exciting it is for me to see him read! He's choosing to work through about 3 chapters of the bible out loud daily and is really enjoying the 'boy' books we're reading to him - "Nate Saint -On a Wing and A Prayer" and "White Fang." DH and I got a babysitter and spent part of Sat in the bookstore, much to the detriment of our wallet. The peace and quiet was great but I couldn't help but buy Jefferson some great new 'boy' chapter books (.e. Encyclopedia Brown, Mary Pope Osbourne) and science books (DK Sharks and DK Snakes). I mean - it's like a candy store! With coffee! What could be better? But I digress.... I also got an order from Rod & Staff in the mail. Lots more books for either us to read aloud or Jefferson to read. It was like Christmas in March - books are the best! Missionary stories, Beatitudes, Proverbs, character training stories, all within Jefferson's reading level and some to stretch it. I wish we could read them all tomorrow!

As far as copywork goes, Jefferson is getting plenty of it. Sometimes it just feels like busywork though. I have to help him to concentrate on his penmanship as he is starting to write more quickly and sloppily. I wonder if he needs to be using smaller lined paper? Anyone know when one should move on from 1st grade sized paper (5/16) to 2nd grade (1/2)? Another hmmmm. Reagan is biting at the chomp to be writing. Every time I turn my back she's using the whiteboard to write her numerals and just loves our little times each week that she can trace and/or copy the numerals that I write. I wish that our CCC workbook was here so that I could continue her penmanship in a more focused way.

Math was uneventful but productive for each this week. I definitely noticed the difference in Jefferson's focus when we had to do the lesson in the afternoon's though. He wants to do it first in the morning but it's the one subject that requires no interruption for me - so Adam has to be sleeping or otherwise vegetated (uh, I mean 'occupied in a meaningful way'). I need to continue to play Addition War with Jefferson - I have slacked off here as he has moved to addition with higher decades. It's an easy game and such good practice - good family time too. Corners (pictured) is still his favorite! I have not ordered Reagan's math program yet. I thought that I would go with Semple math but have looked at it and don't think I like it. I wrote the RightStart designer with Reagan's learning strengths and weaknesses to see if her program would work for her. So we're going to start her with that - I just have to remind myself that this is not set in stone.

Science - sharks this week. What boy doesn't want to know more about these meat-eaters? Jefferson ate it up (notice the ample amounts of blood headed to the noses) and Reagan added her personal touch of pink to her drawing (as usual). There's no end to the info available on sharks! The DK level 3 reader I found at the bookstore was perfect for them! However, we only have 2 more weeks in Life Science so I need to make sure that my Human Body lessons are ready to go - yikes!

I'm a bit bored with history right now - don't know why. Maybe I just give it enough attention this week - Medes & Persians take over Mesopotamia. Maybe we'll go deeper next week.

Overall a productive week. I will say that I'm feeling the need for a break! I don't have one planned until May 5th! Sheesh - I don't think we can all make it that long and still remain sane. Maybe we'll trudge through 2 more weeks and then break? I'm ready for spring!!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Easter at Our House

Here are a few photos from Easter this year. It's taken me all week to recover and get the pics downloaded but better late than never!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

RightStart Mathematics - great for 1st grade!

I've mentioned our math curriculum a few times here and there and thought that I would expound upon it a little more for anyone who's thinking about math. I've enjoyed using RightStart Mathematics so much this year and so has Jefferson. I'll start by saying that this is not a comprehensive review of different math programs - I've only used one prior to this one! I've heard great things about Math U See, Saxon, Horizons Math - but I've never used them and won't be comparing them today. Also, if you don't have gallons of time on your hands to read all my blabberings here, just scroll down to the nitty-gritty (in italics) that RS themselves provide about the program.

Last year for Kindergarten, we started Jefferson with Christ Centered Curriculum Math since we were using their phonics program. It was a very good program but I felt bogged down by the character training that was a heavy part of it and often didn't feel enthused about 'doing math.' I struggled to get easy concepts across to Jefferson or to be able to tell if he was understanding me. It came with manipulatives but I often didn't use them since the lessons ran too long with the character training aspects that were tied in.

So I bravely headed the C.H.A.P. homeschool convention to look for a new program. When I stopped to watch the volunteer at the RightStart table teach onlookers a few lessons, I was hooked! They say that the test of whether you really understand something is how well you can teach it - and I just didn't feel like I was cuttin' it. But as I watched her use the tools and abacus, it seemed sooo clear to me. I thought "If I can see this so clearly than I can teach it."

So here's the gist - the emphasis is on learning to group numbers in 5's and 10's and learning to visualize this through considerable use of manipulatives (primarily the abacus, as well as cubes, coins, cards, and games). So, rather than counting from 9 up to 13 when asked to add 9 plus 4, RightStart teaches the child to "complete the ten" by taking 1 from the four, giving it to the nine leaving the child with a 'picture' of 10 plus 3 in his head (much easier to add). After practice with the abacus, white board, and card games, this comes quickly to the student.

Also, the student is encouraged to use words to 'narrate back' in words the method they used to come to the answer. This helps the teacher to understand where the student is or isn't understanding a concept. Another "duh" moment for me, as I never used to ask how he figured something out since most of what was taught to him was by memory (ie. 9 plus 4 is 13, 9 plus 5 is 14, yadda, yadda...).

When the student learns to think of numbers in groups of fives and tens, then they can work more easily (and fearlessly, I've found with Jefferson) with larger numbers and this view of numbers becomes important to understanding procedures for doing arithmetic. Students (in the early grades) tend to confuse columns when taught traditionally (stacking numbers and carrying the ones to find the sum), so RS writes the equations horizontally (at first) and develops strength in different strategies (ie. complete the ten) for the student to do it in his head. What I am seeing here with Jefferson is that this builds a good foundation/understanding of what 1's, 10's, 100's really mean.

Worksheets are not used often since mental warmups and games are the primary source of practice. This is my favorite part of the curriculum! Jefferson will ask all day to play a card game from his math program - and that is what any teacher should want! His confidence is built up thus since the few worksheets that he does do are fairly easy after all the practice he's already done. He was so pleased when he could begin adding his own scores in his head!

The following is taken directly from the RS program:
RS General Thoughts on Teaching Mathematics

  1. Only 5% of mathematics should be learned by rote; 95% should be understood.
  2. Teaching with understanding depends upon building what the child already knows. Teaching by rote does not care.
  3. It is easier to understand a new model after you have made one yourself. For example, a child needs to construct graphs before attempting to read readymade graphs.
  4. Putting thoughts into words helps the learning process.
  5. "...the root of mathematical study is the creation of mental pictures in the imagination and manipulating those images and relationships using the power of reason and logic." (Mindy Holte)
  6. Informal mathematics should precede paper and pencil work. Long before a child learns how to add fractions with like denominators, he should be able to add one half and one fourth mentally.
13 Major Characteristics the Make RightStart Effective:

  1. Refers to quantities of up to 5 as a group; discourages counting individually.
  2. Uses fingers and tally sticks to show quantities up to 10; teaches quantities 6 to 10 as 5 plus a quantity, for example 6 = 5 + 1.
  3. Avoids counting procedures for finding sums and remainders. Teaches five- and ten-based strategies for the facts that are both visual and visualizable.
  4. Employs games, not flashcards, for practice.
  5. Once quantities 1 to 10 are known, proceeds to 10 as a unit. Uses the "math way" of naming numbers for several months; for example, "1 ten-1" for eleven, "1 ten-2" for twelve, "2-ten" for twenty, and "2-ten 5" for twenty-five.
  6. Uses expanded notation (overlapping) place-value cards for recording tens and ones; the ones card is placed on the zero of the tens card. Encourages a child to read numbers starting at the left and not backward by starting at the ones column.
  7. Proceeds rapidly to hundreds and thousands using manipulatives and place-value cards. Provided opportunities for trading between ones and tens, tens and hundreds, and hundreds and thousands with manipuatives.
  8. Only after the above work, about the fourth month of first grade, introduces the traditional English names for quantities 20 to 99 and then 11 to 19.
  9. Teaches mental computation. Investigates informal solutions, often through story problems, before learning procedures.
  10. Teaches four-digit addition on the abacus, letting the child discover the paper and pencil algorithm. This occurs in Level B [1st grade]. Four-digit subtraction is mastered in Level C [2nd grade].
  11. Introduces fractions with a linear visual model.
  12. Approaches geometry through drawing boards and tools.
  13. Teaches short division (where only the answer is written down) for single-digit divisors, before long division. Both are taught in Level E [4th grade].

Sheeeesh! So there it is - my opinion and some info straight from the RS teacher's manual (Level B). Please feel free to ask questions if you want info on our experience or just head to the RS site. So far we plan on continuing through this program with Jefferson. As far as Reagan, we haven't yet decided to go with this or with the Semple Math that was recommended by her evaluator. More research to be done for her.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose. But you can't pick your friend's nose!

(You gotta love sibling love! This one is an oldy but goody! Adam was 18m and Reagan was 4)
For more Wordless Wednesday check out 5 Minutes for Mom!

Monday, March 24, 2008

...the mouths of babes!

Here's what the silly kids were saying this week:

Reagan (5): I can see both my pipes if I open my mouth!
(After a visit to the dr office where she observed a 3-D cross-section of the head that showed our "pipes")
Jefferson (6.5): These are soooo good! (burgers)
Me: But they aren't very good for us at all, are they?
Jefferson: Then how do they make them taste soooo good?
(Good question - as I sit here chompin' on some not so tasty, yet very healthy carrot sticks!)
Adam (2 and not yet talking): dedow...dedow (pointing to the yellow balloon)!!
Me: Yes that's yellow! (excited at having translated a new word)
Adam: dedow...dedow (pointing to the red balloon)!!
Me: Uhhhh... (totally clueless once again - he's not saying yellow)

Took quite a little bit to figure out that he DID want to know the color, which is why he pointed to each balloon separately, over and over until I got it. I'm hoping that he'll eventually be taking part in TTT!

For silly sayings, head over to Mary at Not Before 7:

Friday, March 21, 2008

Week 23

I love it when a week comes together! We seem to all be healthy (even kept Adam out of church this past Sunday just so I could have a peaceful week) for once - is it too much to hope for more health? ;-)

We are just running through the Christ Centered Curriculum B:3 with Jefferson. I'm not really doing an entire lesson (which would take about 1/2 hour) since he's reading and we're using to review phonics rules he knows. This also is helping concrete some spelling rules for him. He still runs for his bible when we finish, so he can look up the lesson's verse.

I'm excited about Reagan's readiness to be 'doing school' (as she says)! We are still reviewing the CCC alphabet flashcards, which begin with short and then long vowels, and the Noah Vowel song. Waiting for the work book to get here so we can start actual lessons. Of course these will be kept as short as possible!

She also started using her new "Earobics Home: Sound Foundations for Reading and Spelling" Step 1 software by Cognitive Concepts. This was recommended for her to help improve phonological processing. Here's why: "One of the most compelling and well-established reading research finding is the important relationship between phonemic awareness and reading acquisition." (Kame'enui, et. al., 1997)

Phonemic awareness is not phonics - it is auditory and does not involve words in print (check out this site for more info). Now - maybe you all knew this, but again, I'm just figuring it out as Reagan is becoming kindergarten ready. I have seen recently, that although she can say the sounds of the vowels and consonants to which I point, she can't really 'hear' the sounds well enough to pick out a rhyme or vowel in a blend. So we will be spending 10-20 mins per day on her 'game' in order to improve this skill before stepping too heavily into basic phonics. And the best part is that she finaly has her own computer game - not one that Jefferson can hog!

Jefferson is finaly starting to take off with his reading and it's exciting to watch! He has been interested in using his bible recently, since he can read and is learning the order of the books. We can tell he is happy to have his own bible. So when he read somewhere about a kid getting a nickel for each chapter he read, he thought it was a great idea. I thought that the small size and vast amount of words on each page might deter him. But no! He has not only jumped right into the Word, but he is reading at least 3 chapters each day. I am amazed at how he sounds out the longer words and usually only asks for help with the weird Hebrew names. Not only that, but he is counting the coins daily (actually, almost hourly due to the excitement of having his own money) and keeps telling me how many they would be if they were dimes or quarters. And how many chapters he'd need to read to earn a "whole dollar!" Yes folks - we are covering reading, math, finances, and bible all in one place! You gotta love real-life lessons!

We are moving steadily through First Language Lessons and are working on verbs and memory pieces. I hope that he is understanding the concepts of nouns, pronouns, and verbs but I guess he will get plenty more reinforcement later if not. Also, our memory work has been a little too lax, I think. I tend to forget to have him review the piece on which he's working. I need a better system - maybe I'll try using an index card file tabbed for the days of the weeks. I think this is what the Charlotte Mason site recommends in their Scripture Memory System (which we haven't yet implemented - oops) so I'll let you know when we get that going, if it improves our memory work.

Jefferson really likes math - and that makes me soooo happy! I always felt like I struggled with math (even though my grades were good I wasn't sure that I was really getting it) so I have been nervous that he might also. But this Right Start (by Activities for Learning) has been just what both of us needed this year. Fun for him and easier for me to teach. Heck - I'm even getting quicker at adding in my head as I equip him with different methods to add! Because I like this program so much, I'll be posting about it later for those looking around. This week he learned how to add two numbers by breaking them into two 5's or by 'completing' the 10 (i.e. giving 2 from one number to an 8 to make it ten). And we talked about congruent shapes and symmetry using our geogrids (and rubber bands). He was quite pleased when he realized that he can now skip count by 1's, 2's, 5's, 8's, 9's, and 10's (he's been asking when we would learn to skip count).

Reagan had a fun couple of math lessons. She discovered a dry-erase book I used to use with Jefferson and just dove in to tracing the numbers. I had to ask her to wait for my instruction so that she wouldn't be practicing them incorrectly. Today I pulled out the pizza tray and filled it with sand so that she could practice drawing numbers. Wow - was this a hit for her senses! She was just so excited! Thanks to my bloggy friend Jennifer at Doing the Next Thing for this simple and great idea!

Another fun lesson this week - Jefferson (and Reagan too) loves to learn about animals. He could sit with the Animal Encyclopedia for hours! This week we learned about Clown Fish. Check this post to see his awesome work!

We're continuing through Story of the World (Vol 1) and learned more about Greece this week. Wanted to make a war helmet from a box but didn't have time. Maybe this weekend?

Kinda long! Haven't done a report in a couple weeks and I'm starting to add Reagan in a little at a time. Don't have enough time for photos this week either so the pretty little clown fish will have to do! Until next time!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

So Proud of My Big Boy!

Today I got another dose of "Oh my goodness, I love Homeschooling!" I am so proud of Jefferson and the progress that he's been making in this, his first official year of school. It's so nice to be able to see how far he has come since just September! The Lord is good to send little blessings of encouragement along the way!

So I'm all excited about life science this time. We started the lessons (plans available here) late this year and haven't been able to spend a lot of time on expounding upon these lessons. Usually we read Kingfisher, answers questions on a printout (provided by Trivium Academy), draw a picture of the animal, and look more info on the internet. Every once in a while we find a library book on the animal too. I know that Jefferson loves learning about animals but wasn't sure if he was really getting enough understanding of those that we have chosen to learn about.

But today, he came home from his homeschool co-op (I usually go with, just not today) with a stuffed paper clown fish that he made all by himself! Why is this so cool, you may ask? Because that fish is what we learned about yesterday at home! He was quite interested in the striped pattern and how to draw it correctly. I gave him an example which he copied very well on his narration paper. He tells me that the assignment at co-op was to make a fish with a pattern - so of course he choose the one that he learned about. Connection made here that I, his teacher, was blessed to observe!

"No one else did a clown fish, Mommy!," he said. He was glowing by the time I was done letting him know how excited I was that he used the information he learned in science for another project!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

33 Random Things about this Mom24

As another birthday arrives, I thought it would be a good time to post a light little 'get to know me' list for anyone interested. There's doesn't seem to be too much special about turning 33 per se, but I will say that I am grateful to be here - the Lord has blessed me so abundantly that I can't even begin to thank Him.

So here goes!
  1. I grew was born in Denver (Colorado) and now I live in Denver (PA) - weird, huh?
  2. I love to organize things. This does NOT mean that I am organized however. It just gets the serotonin flowin' when things are in order in my household. It's better than chocolate - seriously!
  3. I have a thing for dimpled cheeks (blame my sweet and funny hubby). My only disappointment in my children is that, in four tries, we only got one dimple!
  4. I was a band fish in high school - played the clarinet, marched and went to band camp. LOL! Can you say 'dorky'?
  5. I went to college for Structural Engineering because my dad was an engineer and wanted his goodie two shoes daughter to be one too (hey, who cares whether it's the right fit or not!). I don't like it when people label me an 'engineer.'
  6. I pick all the green M&M's out and eat them first. They seriously do taste better!
  7. The other M&M's must be eaten in rainbow color order (yes - I know. It's a sickness really).
  8. I would love to garden - I love the smell of the earth and the sound of the outdoors. It hasn't fit into my life so far though - keep having babies!
  9. I got married the year before I graduated from college. People told me I should wait 'til graduating but my grades went up and I got to be with my best friend!
  10. I graduated from college in 1998. Wow - that's starting to seem farther and farther away!
  11. Pilates is my absolute favorite workout. It's does amazing things to that post baby 'tire.' Helps to actually do the workouts though!:-0
  12. I really want to earn a black belt in karate. How safe would you feel in the city then (okay forgetting about guns and all that)?
  13. Speaking of cities, I was mugged my freshman year at Drexel. The next day, my barely an acquaintance yet, computer geeky friend (now my dh) came up behind me and pretended to put a gun to my back. Needless to say, if it hadn't been for those dimples, I wouldn't have found his joke so funny! LOL!
  14. I wish that I could quilt - I love handmade quilts that are hand quilted. Must be the Amish influence around here.
  15. I wish I could have 10 kids - in another life where we had acres to run on and a farm on which to raise them. Oh ... and only if I didn't have to carry each one for 9 1/2 months!
  16. I love spanish and can't wait to teach it to my kids so that I can learn it too.
  17. Camping is one of my favorite things to do with my family.
  18. Board games is another - but dh doesn't like them so much. Ever played MadGab?
  19. I have a 'little' brother who is 6' 5" tall. I am already nervous about my 3 boys getting so huge that I have to raise my own cattle in order to feed them if they have the 'tall' gene!
  20. I was baptised along with dh in 1999. I don't think this sat well with my Lutheran parents.
  21. I do NOT like odd numbers. If we are leaving at 9:07 instead of 9:00 or 9:10 it makes me crazy (regardless of the fact that we were supposed to leave at 8:30)! Yes my head is wierd this way.
  22. I have a 'little' sister who is also taller than I. She just got married and that makes me feel kinda old!
  23. Our family room is decorated in the southwest style ( well as it can be with me having no good sense of interior decorating). I love the warm colors and geometrical patterns.
  24. I am shy and struggle at social events. This is why dh is so perfect for me - he is extroverted and funny. Blogging is nice because I don't have to make eye contact.
  25. I was NOT in a sorority in college (due to note number 24).
  26. I do like to be around people, though. They are fun to observe!
  27. I had my fourth baby at home. It took 3 1/2 hours. It was an awesome experience!
  28. I don't do well with lots of noise or chaos (hhhmmmm...wonder where Reagan gets this?).
  29. I love, love, love to scrapbook. Don't have time for that either. Bummer.
  30. I don't have a great memory. Lists work well for this little problem (which has only been compounded by the addition of four children to my life).
  31. I can never get a cliche out of my head properly - dh finds this highly amusing. For example, "Hit the nail on the head" usually comes out "Hit the hammer on the nail" or "Hit the problem with the hammer."
  32. I love all kinds of music except for jazz and rap. However, I've gotten to the clueless point already about pop culture music. Maroon who? ;-)
  33. I love working with various colors, whether it's fabric, paper, photos - I just love the colors God created!

So nothing too fancy or even really that interesting. But hey, as long as dh loves these things about me (or can at least live with these things) that's enough for me. Since there will be no cake this year (uh, hello - white sugar, white flour, hydrogenated oil, etc, etc...) I will just sing a little birthday song to me :

Feliz cumpleanos a ti

Feliz cumpleanos a ti......

Wordless Wednesday

My SIL let me borrow this after my sides split with laughter! Poor little niece! She's just 1yo but she's fine. Only a little dirt to spit out!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Figuring out our Dear Daughter - Part 2

So after so much time spent praying and trying to figure out how we could better reach and then teach Reagan, we received a large chunk of wisdom from her psychologist. She sat with us this past week to explain what she observed in our dd. We were nervous to hear what she had to say but also ready to learn something that would clear things up for us and help us determine our next course of action with Reagan. So what did the psychologist tell us about our daughter? Well, first of all, she didn't diagnose her with Asperger's Autism. This was our greatest relief as this would have been something she would have to live with her entire life.

Her actual diagnosis:
Developmental Articulation Disorder (slight speech difficulties)
Post-Otitis Auditory Disorder (see below)
Lateral Dominance - MIXED

So here are the tests Reagan was given:

Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence-III -> This showed us that she is extremely intelligent (92% verbal i.q.) but is weak in complex comprehension. The educational implications of these results are as follows:

  • she has very good long-term memory; can respond to specific, detail-oriented questions
  • she has good visual perception of essential details; she has talent in art
  • she experiences subtle difficulty comprehending language - keep verbal directions short and specific, present visual demo's if possible
  • she evidences difficulty following directions, understanding what she hears, or grasping key concepts - slow down with presenting information
  • her answers improve when she is encouraged to think about the question for a little while - she may need hints or props to better develop her thoughts
  • she shows very good vocabulary but needs additional 'wait-time' to formulate her thoughts for speaking
  • she needs readiness skills to help her perceive numbers as symbolically representing quantities
  • she is likely to have good mechanical constructive ability - she will do well in hands-on learning situations
  • she has fast visual tracking speed along lines of print -it's unlikely that she has any vision systems problem
  • she has difficulty with auditory processing - she can hear well but does not fully understand or easily misunderstands things which are presented in a verbal format

Lateral Dominance Examination -> this showed her to be right-hand dominant and left-eye dominant (mixed - not commom, most of us are left or right not mixed); mixed-dominant learners often reverse letters, numbers and sequences and may have diffuculty with the mechanics of writing; mixed-dominants may also display various characteristics that are problematic in the conventional classroom setting (impulsive behavior, forgetfulness, messiness, difficulty following directions)

Wechsler Individual Achievement Test - II -> this showed her to be right where she needs to be academically; it looks for learning disabilities and found that she has mild articulation errors and requires 'wait-time' to formulate thoughts

These are the tests which I can most accurately portray here. There were others done but the info is overwhelming and draws similar conclusions. So what does this all mean? How to we help her to change and grow for the better? How do I teach her so as not to frustrate her (and me for that matter)?

The difficulties Reagan has with formuating words to communicate and with language comprehension seem to be related to the 'Post-Otitis Auditory Dysfunction.' This is apparantly from episodes of middle ear fluid (from ear infections - of which she's had many) build up which causes phases of intermittent and unpredicatable hearing loss during the critical early years of language development. Although she can hear well now, this can interfere with aquisition of basic oral language skills and cause deficiencies in auditory perception and development and the ability to recognize the sounds that make up a word.

So when dh and I would require her to obey us (immediately - as we did with Jefferson), we often didn't understand why on earth she didn't understand us! When we pulled her aside to train her or discipline her, she couldn't answer us quickly enough or formulate words to let us know why she was upset, why she disobeyed, or that she didn't understand in the first place - and in an instant we would have world war 3 on our hands with no ability to calm her down or speak to her at all. Now we know the 'why' on this behavior and can deal with it! We have seen marked improvement in her controlling these tantrums by just giving her time to respond and teaching her how to respond (telling her what words to use to explain emotion or needs). We can now tell when she understands us and she accepts her discipline better due to this better comprehension. Hugging also seems to diffuse her anxiety and allows her to relax enough to formulate words. Well, duh! But really - we didn't realize how affective something so simple could be or that it was so important to this particular child.

And when she snuck another tube of toothpaste to smoosh into her bedroom carpet, after already being punished for 5 similar incidents that very week, we scratched our heads as to why she would deliberately disobey us again. It took us months to understand that she loves to touch and feel things in order to learn about them - something these tests also confirm and something which will be so valuable to understand when homeschooling her. I know now to use playdough, manipulatives, and visuals to reach her!

I can't tell you how eye-opening this POAD information and evaluation has been for us! The psychologist gave us gallons of recommendations of books, computer programs, and curriculi to use in order to teach to her strengths and to train her weaknesses. We are so glad to have somewhere to go from here and to have resources from which to pull. I will discuss the specifics of the recommendations in another post for anyone who has similar learning styles in their children.

For now we are also going to have Reagan evaluated through IU13 for any services that we can get that will help. The psychologist told us that for these particular issues, when they are caught before the age of 10, they can be fixed! This is another time that I am particularly thankful that we will be able to teach her at home and teach specifically to her needs! What great news! We will be planning her lessons this summer after using the resources provided and the knowledge gained. And did I mention enough times that we've already seen improvement? God is so faithful! He not just provides for us but also builds my confidence in the job that He has given me by guiding us to the right tools to educate and develop our kids.

I hope that this can be an encouragement for those moms out there with questions about a particular child with whom they may be struggling. Remember that God is in control - He has given us these beautiful, unique children and He will give us the means to raise them. He knows what they need because He has formed them! :-) And He will guide you!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Figuring out our Dear Daughter - Part 1

I've been wanting to post about our dd, Reagan, (who just turned five) and the troubles we've had in understanding her. I hadn't wanted to write without knowing what was going on with her, but we've just gotten the results from her psychological evaluation this week so there is much on my mind.

Here is a little bit of her history:
  • Full-term, healthy pregnancy and delivery
  • Happy, healthy, easy baby
  • 9-months - she starts throwing physical tantrums (shocking us since our 1st was compliant)
  • 12-months - learns to walk and talk (earlier than Jefferson did) but we've discovered a VERY strong will
  • By 2 years we have a monster on our hands -we haven't spanked or trained her much due to a subconscious understanding on our part that it will be a difficult task with this one (not that we thought it was ok to wait, we just foolishly allowed her to rule the roost)
  • Read "To Train Up A Child" and began training her and instilling consistant discipline
  • By 3 years, she still ruled the roost and often we thought that she just didn't understand or hear us when we trained and disciplined. Physical tantrums still her normal mode of rebelling. I was often embarrassed by her behavior as I knew it reflected on my parenting.
  • By 4 years, she is still not potty trained and we are at our witts end about it. We're frustrated, she's frustrated. We don't want to go out or leave her in someone's care for fear of the tantrums which involve high-pitched screams, scratching her own skin and pulling her hair. We try ignoring her during these fits. We can't spank her due to our own anger and frustration at her behavior. We can't touch her if she is angry or else she explodes. However, when she repents, her heart truly turns. She loves physical affection. She gets into toothpaste, flour, and starts destroying things. I begin to think that she may be a sensory learning - not audio. We don't get why she doesn't understand our simple instructions. How is it that we aren't getting through to her yet she seems to have the things we say to her memorized? She seem so smart yet so much like a baby in some ways. We put her in 2-day preschool to get a teacher's perspective on her behavior. The teacher loves her (thank God for this woman!) and works with her to help her use words instead of her body to express feelings.
  • This past January, dh and I seek advise from a family counselor on how to improve our parenting since what we are doing is obviously not working or achieving improvement. Reagan's tantrums have become so long and drawn out that they continually interupt Jefferson's lessons, daily life, and also cause Adam to copy the behavior. She throws her entire body on the ground and screams and kicks and rants and raves. She misunderstands us about almost everything and refuses to control herself. Reagan is whiny and fussy and easily upset (however, she is smart and very willing to play happily on her own, interested in learning and reading, can be sweet as cotton candy). I am in the bathroom in tears almost daily with no idea how to be the parent that she needs. Other parents don't understand (especially believers who seem to all act as if they have parenting figured out) - I can't explain her behavior w/o feeling judgement (perceived or real - I admit I don't know) about my parenting.
  • Counselor (January) sees 'red flags' for Asperger Autism behaviors and recommends that we see a psychologist for a full evaluation!! Our jaws drop is shock and I end up in tears at home at this prospect. I know that it's still unknown but this is what really kicks my rear into gear about the truth - God has made her different, unique. People say this, I've know this but here is when I really realize the truth of this fact. I am able from this point on (by God's strength only) to show Reagan much greater patience and kindness and grace. She starts to respond positively almost immediately. We schedule an appt for an eval and watch her behavior like hawks so that we can clearly represent her to the dr. We decide not to discuss the process with anyone since we don't have any info to give. No blogging, or sharing this stress with anyone was quite difficult for me as it lay so heavily on my heart. Amazingly, this is a turning point for our family!
  • February - Food allergies are taken out of her diet. Her skin stops itching and we see marked improvement in her ability to control herself instead of heading straight into rages. She listens better and is getting better at using words to explain her needs/wants/feelings (after much coaching from us and her teacher). We all hug more and practice holding her close to diffuse anger. When she has a major fit (only 2-3x per week instead of per day anymore) she understands the spankings she will receive and her heart turns more quickly to repentance than it used to. She submits more readily and school lessons aren't interupted as often. She is markedly happier and there is more joy in the home. I am not crying so often!

So here we are, feeling thankful to the Lord that He has lead us in so many ways through the process of figuring out who He gave us for a daughter and happy to have something difinitive to help us to develop Reagan into the best that she can be. I will post more specifics on the results of her evaluation and our plan for her education and character growth tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Reagan, our only sweet girl, is five years old tomorrow! We are so thankful for her!

Friday, March 7, 2008

...the mouths of babes!

In our house, any type of cream or lotion for healing (vasoline, daiper rash cream, Eucerin) is called "goopies." (If you're prone to blushing, just scroll on past!)

Jefferson comes to dh from our bedroom and says: "What's that goopies you have next to your bed?"
DH: "What? Where?"
J: "In the drawer that you don't use. By your side of the bed - it's always hidden there."
DH: "Uh.....that's just lotion - not for you!"

(Yikes! I guess we're going to have to get a little more clever about hiding our personal "goopies"!)

We've been watching Veggie Tales around here and have gotten the "If it Doesn't Have a Tail, It's Not a Monkey, It's an Ape" silly song from Larry in our heads for days!

Me: "Rae, you don't have a tail - you must be an ape!"
Reagan (5): "No, Mommy. I'm a kid!
Me: "How do you know?"
Reagan: "Because I have arms and legs!"

(Uh - what do you call the apendages on an ape?)
Reagan (5) to Adam (2) as he screams and throws a toy: "You're not making a very good choice!"

(So it's NOT just going in one ear and out the other!)

For more silly silliness visit Not Before 7:

Week 21 - a Hit!

I love a great week of homeschooling! Jefferson and Reagan both learned so much this week - Reagan had the "Reptile Man" come to her preschool and I found some great books at the library to tie into what Jefferson has learned about ancient Mesopotamia (I think that these need to be on my shelf for sure).

We have been reviewing with Christ Centered Curriculum for a couple of weeks. The easiness of this is building Jefferson's confidence - we're ready to skip ahead to the workbook that challenges him a little more. This will cover character lessons, spelling and phonics. I am so glad the Lord guided us to these lessons! Each one has a verse and picture (from the flashcards which we used lasted) and Jefferson is always anxious to get the lesson finished so that he can look up the verse in his own bible. Oh, how this warms my heart! He is learning so much in bible basics (book, verse, chapter, basic stories) and is excited that he can read the Word on his own now!

I have been reviewing the CCC alphabet flashcards with Reagan for about 3 weeks now. She is our "memorizer" for sure and already knows which ones are vowels and what every letter sounds like. She is so ready to learn to read - I have just not put enough time into her since we had the baby this year. But now is the time for me to buckle down! She's also ready to write so I need to order the workbook for these flashcards before she picks up bad writing habits. She gets a tiny sticker on the calendar for each time we complete our flashcards. Funny how such a tiny little thing can motivate a kid, huh?

We completed Spelling Workout A (our 2nd time through the 2nd half) and since I know the CCC will cover spelling, I may just pick and choose through SWA B. We'll wait until 2nd grade to use a new spelling book. Thanks so much to all who dropped by and gave me some guidance here - it's been very helpful in our planning for next year!

We are about where we need to be in First Language Lessons. Jefferson understand nouns, pronouns, and action verbs so far. Not sure how well he really gets this yet but I'm not concerned, knowing how much he will learn from copywork and repetition in the grammar years. This week he got to draw pictures of people doing "action verbs." I love his funny little stick people!

This is my favorite area right now. I don't have to hold Jefferson's hand any more - just have to be within earshot in order to help with tough words or listen for mistakes. He spells out anything he can't read and I can help him to get better cadence (according to puntuation - which he learns more from reading than even from copywork). He almost grabs the book out of my hand when Adam brings one to me to read! So cute when they jump on the couch next to him to listen! We also finished reading "Prince Caspian" this week - just wishing the movie was out already!

Another great week for Jefferson! With our card game and weight balance, he reinforced the parts which make up 5, 10, 15, and 20 (i.e. 7+8,9+6 for 15) so that he could score the game in his head. He got better at adding by 15 with this game also. He learned to add by 9's this week - the Right Start curriculum is really good at teaching with the abacus and practicing the process until it comes easily out of their head (rather than rote memory or flashcards). By taking 1 from the number and giving it to the 9, he can add 9 to anything! And then he even realized (w/o my help) that this method of getting the numbers to be in terms of 10's and/or 5's, he can add 8, 7, 6 to anything. I love that this isn't something we had to spend much time on and that he looks forward to this lesson each day!

It's also time to start teaching him about how to manage his finances. We have not given our kids an allowance to date, but he is aware of and interested in money and now has the capacity to learn how to use it. We may start here but I have to look into it further.

Reagan has not started anything formal yet for math. I'm pretty sure that I will order her the AL Right Start K pack instead of CCC that I used with Jason. She's been getting a little math at preschool and home but again, it's time to focus her learning now that she seems ready.

We learned about snakes this week - Jefferson was most interested in the King Cobra (typical boy, huh?), so we followed that one in the most detail. One could spend forever on the different types of snakes! Our Animal Encyclopedia has great pictures and lots of unusual info for certain species as well as world locations. I like being able to give the kids a better sense of the globe in any way possible.

Jefferson was adamant about drawing a lump of 'food' in the cobra's body and thought it was neat that this snake is a 'snake-eater.' We were able to find great info online also (and videos, of course are fun too).

The pink snake is obviously Reagan's. She was pleased to find a picture of a garter snake which had a bit of pink in it's scales. I couldn't believe how much she remembered from her preschool "Reptile Man" visit about reptiles and snakes. These lessons are easy enough for me to include her when she shows interest and she loves to be included!


SOTW 1 this week took us to early Crete. Jefferson thought the bulljumpers were dangerous and I don't think he understands why people would do such a dangerous thing! Kids perspectives are always so cute! Ancient Greece should go quickly since we began the year here while waiting for SOTW to arrive.

I found some great DK Eyewitness books at the library. Jefferson really likes the pictures and I can tell that he's making some connections with all that we covered already. We only looked over the "Eyewitness Mesopotamia" so far but will look over the Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece next couple of weeks. I really must have these for our library!
I am so thankful for the week that we had. I am glad that God provides me with joy in this journey of educating these kids! Until next time...

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Reagan's Aunt B knows how to use my camera better than I and was playing with close ups of her beautiful baby blues!

For more Wordless Wednesday, check out 5 Minutes for Mom!

Monday, March 3, 2008

...the mouths of babes!

We stayed at a hotel one night this past weekend:
Jefferson (6): Daddy, why is it called 'Homewood Suites'?
DH: Because they want it to feel like home, I guess.
Jefferson: Well it doesn't. First of all, there's no nightlight. And when the lights are all out, there is still light that comes in and keeps me from sleeping!

(Hey, make up your mind kid - do you want light or not?)

Join Not Before 7 for more Tiny Talk Tuesday!

Week 20

With the kind of week we had, it should be no surprise that I'm not posting the weekly report until now. (Even now, I should be headed to bed instead to get a better start to week 21!) Last Sunday a miracle occurred - our entire family was healthy enough to all head to church. This is a rare occurance due to Adam's weak immune system and the time of year. And, true to form, Tuesday morning arrived with no less than three-101 fevers and a strange gurgling of my own g.i tract. Dh stayed home while we all 4 sacked ourselves on the couch and watched tv. Not only is this wretchedly boring (I mean, how many times in a row can a person watch Madagascar?), but in the back of my mind I couldn't stop worrying about how we could possibly get our lessons in for the week.

So since we had to head to my parents house for Sunday and Monday, dh and I turned Sat into school/work day and doubled up some lessons on Friday in order to pull week 20 together! Amazing how short lessons make the days so flexible. We only ended up losing 2 days of reading time and this week's science lesson (although the "Mommy-I think the hermit crab's dead" scare might count)!

We continued steadily in phonics, spelling, copywork, and grammar (pronouns still). Jefferson really enjoyed math this week since we learned a new card game. It's called Connect and requires that you line up 4 cards, edge to edge, in order to make sums for 5, 10, 15, or 20. He had to add his score in his head and then tally his total score in his head or on the abacas. Amazing how playing this game for a few days shows rapid improvement in learning how to add by 15 (i.e. add 10 and then 5)! I am still so happy with the AL Right Start Math (a program recommended on the Charlotte Mason site) and will definitely continue with it as well as starting Reagan with it next year. The manipulatives work wonders and the teacher book really helps me to teach Jefferson to run things through his head in different ways in order to come to the same solution.

So - short and sweet this time. Hopefully this week will be a little more productive and less stressful. Nothing major is planned but it's always the unplanned things, huh? Until next time!
(b.t.w the hermit crab is NOT dead - he just decided to stare at us for a very, very, very long time!)