Thursday, March 31, 2011

Exciting News!

I know you guys have noticed my absence lately, and I'm sorry! I've got some terrific, no great.... no stupendous news!

Were moving! I know I don't share this part with you all, but our current house is small... extremely small. As in, we can barely turn around and breathe in it small :) But we were recently able to find, and were accepted to rent a HUGE house, in the area that we (my husband and I) grew up in. It's a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, with a laundry room that is so big it's going to double as our new school room.

Were literally over the moon about this news. But it's this news that has also kept me away. It took a lot for me to be driving around town in search of a new home, viewing homes, turning in applications, and meeting owners. Now we pack!

We have 2 weeks to move from our current home, but were trying for only 1 week. I'm surprised at how much "stuff" we've accumulated over the last 6 years in living here. Our new house doesn't have a garage, or storage space, so we need to sort and get rid of a lot of clutter in our current garage. Then there's the daunting task of filling a house that size with furniture, when we have no where near that amount lol. Oh well, like the little train that could... "I think I can, I think I can!" We'll buy our furniture a little at a time, and maybe a yard sale will help give us a boost :)

Until we officially move into the new house, were on break from school. Hopefully it'll only last a week though. I have pictures ready and waiting of our progressive phonics books and system ready for the posting, just need to find the time. I'll be back up and running soon!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

The Homeschool Mother's Journal
I saw this on another blog and thought it would be fun to participate (click the picture to join in), so here goes!

In my life this week...  
 I've been struggling with some personal and family issues that are hitting me hard. At times they make it hard to concentrate on the things I need to focus on, but still I truck on. Sometimes I let them get the best of me, and I start to think/feel negatively, but I'm lucky to have a great husband, children, and friends who remind me that everything is going to be okay. 

My health is also starting to act up again, and I think it's time for another visit to the Dr.'s.

In our homeschool this week...
We've been pacing ourselves to get through our work. We don't want to finish too soon for a couple of reasons. The first being that we have state requirements to meet, in which my children need to attend 175 days of school, which we won't finish until mid June (if we continue to take weekends off). The second being that I haven't yet purchased all of our books for the next school year, and I only want to give the kids a weeks break for summer before starting back up.

Places we're going and people we're seeing...
The only places we've went this week is to gymnastics, and ballet. We did run a few errands, to pay for a capoeira class (for the boys) that will start in May, and to the dance store to buy new tap shoes. We have some field trips planned for this coming week, so that we can send our flat travelers home with some awesome pictures.
My favorite thing this week was...
Reading together. These are the little things that I took for granted when my kids went to public school. The book choices weren't ours, there was no enjoyment, and it was forced. Things are so much more enjoyable, exciting, and we actually look forward to it now.
What's working/not working for us...
Language Arts. My Babe just keeps questioning things that our Abeka books say, and it's no longer a fit for us. I want him to be more concerned with what the concepts are, and instead he's worried about what he's correcting. We are now leaning towards a more secular learning approach, which I think will be a better fit for our family. But I still wouldn't mind tossing some religious learning in (on the kids terms).
Homeschool questions/thoughts I have...
I still wonder how other families who are homeschooling multiple children juggle the financial aspect of it all. I know most are one income families (like us), but it takes us a while to purchase all of our books for the year. I've been laminating and/or putting sheets in page protectors, and having the children do their work using dry erase markers, so that I can re-use materials for the other children. My husband is concerned about me using this method, because we don't have samples of all of the work the boys do. Everything they do on paper I save, and I take a lot of pictures, but not of everything. Any suggestions on this would be amazing!
A photo, video, link, or quote to share...
My 3 year olds handwriting practice. She practices writing her name daily, and I'm very proud of the progress she's made since September (when all she did was scribble). She's still not getting the hang of the lower case a at the end, so it looks like she wrote Olivio instead of Olivia lol, but she'll get it :)

 I can't wait to see what everyone else is up to!


Rats of Nimh that is :) Seeing as how my children are kinesthetic and visual learners, and they needed to learn how to compare and contrast things to write papers; I thought it would be fun to start with movies. We started at the beginning of the month by watching the original version of Witch Mountain, then the newer version, and talking about the differences. I wrote down the differences on our white board, as the kids noted them. I used a simple Venn diagram to show the differences, and similarities.

Next we moved onto one of my childhood favorites: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

This time were reading a book first, before we watch the movie, so our compare and contrast will be more thought provoking. To make sure their paying attention, (but because I'm sneaky about it) I've been having them paint/draw/sketch their favorite part of the chapters that we read each day. It's working out great!

My Bunny is painting the rosebush that the rats live in.

 Orion is painting the rat carrying a black cord to the rosebush.

 Raymond is painting the rats carrying the cord to the rosebush.

Were halfway through the book now, and I have the movie "The secret of Nimh" (it's based on the book) ready to be sent out next week from netflix. The kids have been so captivated by this, and have been literally begging to read 3-4 chapters per day, so I've already lined up another book and movie after this one. I think I might keep this going using as many of my favorite childhood books as I can remember.

Our big science project that we've been working on lately, well.... hasn't really been much of a project.
We've been trying to grow crystals, emeralds to be exact, and it's just not working lol. I think I might have mixed it wrong, or maybe our water wasn't hot enough? Ugh, it's quite fustrating, especially when you have 3 children journaling the event and every time we check on it, it looks the same. I'm ready to toss in the towel, and label this one our first science fail :( I bought a backup project to start, but sadly when I went to gather our supplies, a cat who shall remain nameless *ahem* Ninja *ahem* had broken 2 of the clay pots I bought to plant flower seeds. I'll make a trip to the store next week and pick up some more to start then.

On a different note, the books I ordered for History next year (June for us) arrived, and the kids can't wait to get started. Orion poured through all of the books, and begged to start early. That made me so happy, because usually it's quite difficult to get him so interested in history... I think I made the right choice :) I'm still missing the story of the world activity guide though, so we'll wait till June to get started, since I buy our books a little at a time.

Other than that, we've been trucking on as normal around here. I'll be back in a few days to share a post about progressive phonics. I've been using the alphabetti series with Bunny for 3 weeks now, and she can read a few words, and sound things out on her own now. Orion is using the intermediate series, and I'm surprised at how well he's able to retain the sounds. He's doing so much better using these books than hooked on phonics, it must be the repetition and all the activities. But more on that later!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Flat Stanleys/travelers

I have to admit, that I've neglected geography this year. I don't know why I thought my kids were too young for young it, but after seeing all the fun things going on with geography over at confessions of a homeschooler, I know I'm wrong. And when I found out about a new facebook group just for swapping flat travelers and state boxes, I thought it would be the best way to teach my kids geography in fun creative way (and on the cheap). Were planning on working on the United States first, and then expanding to the rest of the world once were done.

The travelers go out once a month, for a week or two at a time (that's between you and your host family), and you must host as many travelers as you send out. What a great way to learn about America! I think my 3 year old is a bit too young to participate, so she won't be sending out her own traveler, but rather participating in our activities as a group. So we'll be sending out 2 per month, which means we can spend 2 weeks on each state were learning about. I know it's going to take a bit to get through all 50 states, but I'd rather go a bit more in depth. I plan on using random worksheets I find for free around the web, to make sure we keep costs down, but I will buy books, and check them out if we need them :)

 Here's an up close of the travelers my boys made. They wanted to make some that looked like mega man, so we did our best! I laminated them, and then gave them real felt capes that are loose (so they can fly on their adventures).

Here are the travelers with their paperwork. I sent each traveler with a record sheet, where each host family can record the date of arrival/departure, host names, and location. They also went off with a set of journal questions for their host families to fill out about their state. If anyone wants these forms, let me know and I'll put them in my printables section :) I didn't send the folders, because of the weight (don't want host families paying too much). When the forms come back, we'll go over them, and they'll get put into our folder in order that the states became a part of the United States. The record sheet won't be placed into the folder until it's full, but the other forms will be printed per state.

One of our travelers being tucked into his envelope with his paperwork, we'll miss you little guy!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Quick Update

I just wanted to do a quick update in pictures, showing what we've been doing. We hope you enjoy!

Eating lunch/ car schooling in between gymnastics and ballet. But only when it's really cold outside lol, otherwise it's a picnic lunch :)

Putting chopsticks in our hair at restaurants, while we wait patiently for lunch to arrive.

Making flat travelers to learn all about the geography of the U.S.

Making a lego maze/labyrinth for the lego quest  .

Finishing a 550 piece puzzle.

Taking a field trip to the natural science and history museum.

Playing at the park.

Going to football banquets, and earning a trophy :)

We've hit a wall

I know it's almost been a month since my last posting, but boy have we been super busy! I know, I know, that's no excuse.... honestly, it's lack of motivation all around. I feel like we've been hitting walls left and right, and loosing momentum, so we took a week off, while I brainstormed what the causes could be.

The first issue we were facing was the testing with the neurologist for dyslexia for Orion. I received a call from our insurance, stating that the neurologist was out of network. That means we would have a huge deductible to pay, and 50% of the services rendered. That's just not in our budget right now, so I've been having to call every child neurologist in our network. It's a slow process, because I call when I have time, and not every neurologist offers the testing. Orion also went for his yearly physical with his pediatrician, and is now officially diagnosed with ADHD, so that makes both boys. He's doing well with his weekly psychiatry visits, and we recently started including his siblings (family therapy) to help with his negative feelings/self esteem issues. Hopefully soon he'll have a better outlook on things, because I hate seeing my 7 year old so down about life :(

The next issue is boredom. Lately Raymond has been really bored with his schoolwork, and I think it's because it's become repetitive for him. We use math mammoth for math, and the concepts are getting harder, but it's boring to him since he's already mastered multiplication and division. He's just doing harder/longer problems, but he gets it. The same thing for his reading material (magic tree house/ diary of a wimpy kid), and language arts (Abeka). My thinking is that I can skip ahead a few chapters/lessons, and see if that helps; or skip him ahead a few months into 5th grade (since were year rounders). For now, I'm skipping a few lessons/chapters, finding more advanced reading material, and hoping that helps. If anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

The last issue is that some of our curriculum just doesn't fit anymore. We bought Abeka for science and history, and it was fine in the beginning of the year, not so much now. Orion's books were more pictures, than substance, and we flew through them because of that. Raymond's books were more in depth, but more about God (which is fine), but I want them to learn more about history and science in a history and science book. I think I just chose the wrong curriculum for us. So I set these books aside. Now were happy, because were just doing our thing with history and science, based on the kids interests, and making reports/projects/lap books out of them (pics and posts on them to come soon).

This part isn't an issue, but more of a "hey this is why we've been so super busy" section. We signed Olivia up for gymnastics and ballet again, and she just started back up. That's been keeping us on the go, running from class to class, and in April the boys start Capoeira, so even more running around! We also joined a facebook homeschool swapping group, where we get to exchange flat stanleys, and state boxes. We plan on using those to learn about U.S. geography, so look for posts about that soon. Were loving all the new friends were making though, and hope that with all these new changes, life will start settling into a bit of a schedule for us.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Catching up

Two weeks ago, the boys finished up their science unit on the earth, and they did a little presentation in front of my Grandma and Aunt. It was really great public speaking practice, not to mention their self esteem sky rocketed (they were so proud). I had them paint small styrofoam balls to look like the earth, then they made a salt dough stand for it, and a salt dough model of the 4 layers of the earth.

Babe's side is on the left, and Boo Boo's on the right. Ignore the lego men in the background lol, Boo Boo has a HUGE love for those things :)

I got all of the papers from their board online. Here are the links:
Earth writing paper
Earth book
The layers of the earth
And I also found this adorable rap about the 4 layers of the earth

Each of them wrote a small report about what they learned on the writing paper. The little earth book has question prompts, so they answered those. They labeled the 4 layers of the earth on the other paper, and answered some questions. In their presentations, they went into depth about the equator, the poles, the hemispheres, how the earth is a magnet, our rotation, the fact that we spin on an axis, and seasons. I was so proud! Boo Boo needed some prompting to get started, because he was a little nervous and didn't know where to start, but once he got started he was on a roll. Babe was so into this project, that he kept spouting out facts (like how long each layer was, and how far from the surface).

I'm glad I went with my gut, and let the kids explore with this one. Our earth section was only supposed to last a week, but the boys enjoyed it so much that we just kept adding stuff, until it turned into a project (like our butterfly one lol). I think next up will be buying some pots and seeds and seeing what we can grow :)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Grey skies are clearing up!

So after feeling like I failed my son (and the school district), I made him an appointment with his pediatrician. Since we live in California, and there are no clear laws concerning dyslexia, I didn't expect much. I've been through this before (with my older son), the school district says to take it up with your medical insurance, medical insurance says to take it up with the school district, and around the circle goes. It took 2 years of us jumping through hoops, meeting with different therapists/psychologists/psychiatrists to get Babe's diagnosis. What can I say, I'm a fighter!

I did some research, and the word neurological kept coming up. Texas even has a law passed where they test, and treat dyslexics free of charge! So at our pediatricians office I mentioned how horribly the school district testing went, and that we needed help getting another test done. He started mumbling about it being an educational issue, but when I brought up "couldn't insurance cover the testing if we classify it as a neurological issue?" , he jumped on board and gave me the number to a pediatric neurologist. As soon as I got home I called the number, and was told they don't specialize in that type of testing and couldn't help me, but gave me the number to another pediatric neurologist. This one knew exactly what I was talking about, and we set an appointment. Oh happy days!

Valentines Day is our testing date, and it's kind of far from us, but worth the drive. I'm also in the process of writing a letter stressing the importance of early intervention for dyslexics and our situation, which will be mailed/emailed to our local congressman, mayor, school district, and whom ever else I feel is important. Oh, I'll also be attaching a copy of the grievance I'm going to file with the school district, once we finish this test :)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

There's a flaw in the testing system

I had butterflies in my stomach, and couldn't sleep Sunday night. I had an appointment early yesterday morning to receive the results of Orion's learning disability tests. They performed quite a few tests, and I knew it could go one of 2 ways. Keep in mind, that we had a VERY horribly experience with this school district last year, which is the main reason I pulled my children from public school in the first place. Let me give you a brief rundown of our history with the district. Since my oldest is an Aspie with ADHD, and ODD being their main concern, we HAD to medicate him in order for them to be able to handle him in the classroom.  We've switched between 2 schools, and I spent a year (the year I was pregnant with my daughter), walking back and forth to the school to talk my son down from social situations. He was made aware that he even had any of these "disorders" by a substitute, and was constantly in trouble. Orion has always been Mr. Popular, but when he started picking fights, I knew something was wrong. His first grade teacher kept insisting he was so smart, but wanted to hold him back a year (in first grade). Homework was never sent home, because they both did it in an afterschool program and were able to leave it at school. Orion was then sexually assaulted by another little boy, during recess in the boys bathroom. Because of their age, only a police report was filed. I was mortified that they still expected my son to share a classroom with this other child, and was told by the school psychologist that he would "get over it", and to just not mention it. I pulled my boys out of school the next day.

Fast forward to present day. As soon as I started working with my son, I noticed that there was a problem. He can not spell, sound out, and struggles reading. Yes he is very bright, but needs a lot of help with his work. Dyslexia runs in my husbands family, so I looked up the warning signs and he exhibits about 3/4 of them. Sitting in the meeting yesterday, and hearing the word average keep coming up upset me. They showed me the questions Orion was asked, and his answers. They showed me what he scored, and I'm appalled that scoring below your grade level is deemed "average". Shouldn't these tests let them see the students who are struggling and intervene? I was so angry, I stood up and told them how all I wanted was help for my son, and all they've done is destroy his self esteem, and deny me any type of help. I'll spare you the longer version of what else I told them, but I went into details about how I'm glad were now homeschooling, and how I should have never trusted any of those people with any of my childrens well being or education because it's clear why their there, and it isn't to help children.

I'll now be seeking out a diagnosis out of our own pocket, because sadly our state does not have clear dyslexia laws, and medical insurance does not cover educational issues :(

Friday, January 28, 2011

The year long story

A friend of mine on facebook started a story today, and had her friends add on to it throughout the course of the day. It was fun, and it got pretty long. Of course this got my wheels turning. My boys HATE writing! But, they are very imaginative, and come up with some pretty entertaining things. So, I have this idea of a notebook called the year long story.

Basically, I will start each day off with 2 sentences in the notebook (or the night before lol), and each boy will also add 2 sentences to add to the story. Each boy will have their own notebook, so 2 separate stories will be going on. The story will continue until December, with 4 sentences being added daily (2 by me, 2 by one of each boy). I'm hoping it will stir their creative juices, motivating them to get interested in writing, work on penmanship/grammar, and be something that's just between me and that boy (like an inside joke).

What are your thoughts on this? Good idea, bad idea? Or have any improvements I can make to it?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Yes, I'm about 2 years late into the game lol. In my defense though, this is our first year homeschooling, so I just found out about them... HA!

I've read Sue Patrick's book, and looked at so many different blogs and workbox pictures it isn't funny, and I'm convinced I NEED to use this system. It's just the thing I need to help my kids work independently and stop them from day dreaming or getting bored. We currently use a folder system like the one Jolanthe uses at homeschool creations, and it works... but not the way it should. The kids constantly complain and whine, about how much work is left, they day dream, they need me to sit there and hover to make sure it gets done, and it takes them forever to finish. I think it's just because my kids need constant breaks, and it's just not fun.

With the original system, Sue suggests using 12 boxes so that you can put your main subjects in them and break them up, then fill in the rest of the boxes with games/puzzles, review work or file folder games. I think this will work better for my kids, because even though it's essentially more work, the games provide motivation for them to work through their schoolwork.

So does anyone have any good websites with workbox activities, labels, and such for me to get more ideas of what else to put in their boxes? Oh, and I haven't exactly bought the boxes yet lol. Were waiting for payday, since I'm not sure exactly of the costs of everything for the 3 children. So stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Earth and the space center museum

Lately we've been really caught up in Orion's learning disability testing (the school district is really cutting it close). They have until January 30 to hold the final meeting, and we just finished testing last week. I still don't have a date for the final meeting, and I'm getting antsy.

Besides that, we've been diligently studying the Earth. Our unit on the earth was only supposed to last a week, but the boys have enjoyed it so much. We kept going more in depth, and adding different projects to our unit too. Now our earth unit has turned into a presentation, that the boys are excited about presenting to Daddy, and then again to my Grandma and Aunt. Bonus points for this project getting in some public speaking practice :)

Last week I took them on a field trip to the Columbia Space Center, and they had such a blast! They really enjoyed learning different space related things. I was hoping they would have more on the earth, but that's okay, they had fun anyway and it was educational.
Posing with a real astronaut suit. You can actually climb into the back and take pictures in the suit, it was really neat.

Flight simulator, taking turns landing our shuttle back on earth. Orion was the only one who didn't crash us, even with me taking a turn lol.

Catching parachuting shuttles and men. This was to show them the different types of parachutes used to slow down the shuttles as they come to earth.
Dropping marbles in and watching them spin around the giant funnel thing. It's supposed to simulate how the planets orbit around in space, and there were different sized marbles to try it with. We stood at this station for half an hour lol.
The boys launching pressurized 2 liter bottles. I'm glad the museum was kind of empty, or there would have been a line for this!
Lego robots that you program with a computer. The boys loved this!
Orion programming his robot for the next mission. I am now looking into finding a robot building club for the boys, since they enjoyed this so much :)

I'll be back in a few days with how the presentations went, and of course pictures!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy New Year!

And a Merry late Christmas. How was everyone's Christmas and New Year's? Our Christmas was really nice, and filled with lots of family... and of course gifts. I was really sick the week of Christmas, with a flu and vomiting. I thought I was better, and felt well enough to visit with family. I was wrong lol, boy was I wrong! I was a trooper though, and stuck it out for my kids (who were having too much fun with their cousins).

The week before new years I was still getting over my flu, and was so stuffy. I went to blow my nose, and had a terrible pain in my left ear. It brought me to my knees, and had me in tears. I had to call my husband home early from work to take me to the hospital. Turns out, I blew out my ear (literally)! I have a perforated ear drum in my left ear, and still can't hear a thing. They gave me some antibiotics, and pain killers, and instructions to schedule a follow up appointment with my Dr. My doctor said that my hearing should resume as my eardrum heals, but I might need surgery to repair that :(

I didn't let that put a damper on how we brought in the new year though! We went to watch the Pasadena rose parade. It's kind of a big thing around here, so we were excited to have great seats and be able to go. My husband's company had reserved parking, and bleacher seating for us, complete with our own bathroom (no waiting an hour in line for us). They even had free food (my kids favorite part), so of course my kids helped themselves to a breakfast of champions (hot dogs, popcorn, hot chocolate, and nachos).
This is before the parade started. You can see people still lining up :)
Boo Boo enjoying the parade, and all bundled up!
My Babe acting silly.
Bunny loves her photo ops, and she really loved the horses in the parade.

These were our favorite floats in the parade. Bunny is really into the Tangled movie (we've seen it too many times already lol), and thought the first float was Rapunzel's castle with Maximus the horse in front :) And the boys (husband included) are really into medieval stuff, and loved the jousting float that had knights on horses following it.
We've been keeping up with our school studies, I just haven't been keeping up with pictures and blogging. But, tis' a new year and I can always fix that! I'll be back in a few days with some more pictures of what we've been up to, and what I've been working on.