Thursday, April 30, 2015

Presentations and Pictures

We are quickly approaching the end of our school year.  We follow a year-round school calendar with 1 week intersessions every six weeks (plus the typical breaks for holidays).  That being said, we have been schooling since July 21st!  Today was our 164th day to be exact - only 16 to go!

We love our classroom.

We love learning with one another.

We love our teacher… (hehehehe, that would be moi).  :)


We have three weeks left and it is going by fast and slow all at the same time.  For an end-of- year project the kids each gave a presentation (their choice of topic).  They have been working on this project on and off for about three weeks.  I decided to keep the guidelines very loose.  I felt it was more important for them to organize their thoughts and enjoy the project as opposed to being bogged down with detailed directions.  

They were beyond adorable while rehearsing each presentation.  They were so detailed with the information they felt was most important to include.  I smiled as I watched them back up and start over or make adjustments while rehearsing.  We also went over audience etiquette; something I think is just as important as learning to speak about a topic.  

After my husband got home from work, they proudly and ever so carefully gave their presentations.  My oldest said he even felt a bit nervous.  When our youngest son raised his hand to ask a question our oldest politely asked him to hold his questions until the end.  Each of the kids did an outstanding job.  This was such a big deal to them and you could see how important they felt.  We clapped for each individual and everyone took turns asking questions (at the end of course).  :)  My husband and I exchanged several glances and winks while they spoke.  Their small errors in words or their witty expressions were beyond adorable.

Before the presentations I did get a chance to snap a few pictures in the backyard.  What mom can resist  pictures when her children are dressed in nice clothes?  They were so sweet to just let me click away until we ran inside escaping what seemed like a million mosquitoes.

Topic:  Animals of the Ice Age
Seriously, how old is he?  I can't take it!

He has learned it is just easier to let me snap away with the camera. :)  I can get him to agree to just about any picture and he always lets me pick the pose. 

What he absolutely refuses to do is unbutton the top bottom of his shirt… :)

Topic:  Spiders and Caves
This child with his blond hair, blue eyes, and dimples will wonder one day why there are very few pictures of him.  He has been in the "don't take my picture" phase for almost two years.  It is killing me!  His wife will probably think he was left out because he was a middle child.  I have to basically stand on my head or make some crude comment having to do with bodily functions in order to get a true smile.  Please pray for me…I need pictures of this kiddo! :)

Topic: Dogs - German Shepards, Huskies, and Tinkers (a.k.a. Beagles - named after our neighbor's dog)
Yes, those are her plastic Sleeping Beauty slippers...

Brown eyes and sun kissed skin - melts my heart.

Just like her oldest brother she is always willing to take the picture, however, don't even think about suggesting a pose.  :)

I am very proud of my kiddos.  They worked so hard on their projects and did a fantastic job.  Most importantly though, my heart is warm after watching them support one another during their big evening.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Blessing of a Little Desk

See the little desk in the picture above.  That little desk was given to my oldest son when he was barely walking.  It was a Christmas present from my parents.  I remember my mom researching and shopping endlessly for the perfect desk.  Over the years, each of my kids have had their time with the desk.  My oldest ate breakfast in it for the longest time.  He refused to eat breakfast at the table but was very content in his desk.  Our youngest son used it every day during his Pre-K year which was our first year home schooling.  I specifically remember him writing his name for the very first time while sitting in that desk.  Then our daughter (the only one that can still fit in it) has used it in our homeschool classroom every day during calendar time.  I could go on and on but the point is that little desk holds so many memories for this mama. I have been struggling with the decision to get rid of it but the thought just hurt my heart.  However, our classroom has become quite crowded and I am trying to clean out.  I decided to put a picture of the desk on our home school co-op Facebook page (wow that is a mouth full) and see if anyone could use it.  Immediately one of my dear friends responded back.  I was surprised to hear from her because all of her kids are too old for a desk that size.  However, she said it was for her neighbor's son.  She mentioned that he is two years old and diagnosed with autism.  Tears came to my eyes as I read her message and my heart was warm with the thought of giving him the desk. I took the time to really get the desk nice and clean.  Structurally it was in excellent condition, however, after three kids it did show some signs of "love" (in the form of Crayola markers).  We loaded up the desk and I took one last picture (sappy, I know).  My friend sat the desk on the little boys's porch and then texted his mom. Later in the day, I received a message from my friend. She said his mom was crying because the desk meant so much to them.  She had been wanting to get him something he could call his own but things just hadn't worked out.  He is currently in three different types of therapy and from what I understand one of the goals is to get him to sit down in one place for an activity.  I also cried as I looked at the picture she sent me.  He was sitting nice and tall in his new desk playing with his iPad (so proud).  He is a nonverbal autistic child and his iPad is his way of communicating. This little desk that came into our home 10 years ago has moved onto another family.  God saw a need and used our little desk and a great friend to bless an amazing little boy.

Monday, April 20, 2015

So Thankful for This Past Week

I am very lucky to have been in great company over the past week.  Often times I get an overwhelming feeling of gratitude towards God for the people He has placed in my life.  Twice during this past week I found myself in the company of amazing women. Early in the week I was able to go out of town with three other home school moms.  We have been planning a trip to a home school curriculum warehouse in Houston.  While planning a couple of months ago we figured as long as we were in Houston we might as well visit The Cheesecake Factory and The Container Store.  :)  The morning we were to leave, a horrible storm moved through our area.  We managed to get everyone in my car but then had to wait an hour while the worst of the storm passed.  We decided the safest place to wait was Starbucks...  I am glad you agree! :)  When things seem to settle down we got back in the car and started our journey to Houston.  The first hour of the trip we continued to discuss if we should cancel and go home or push through.  Lets just say we were four moms with some serious determination to continue our girls trip.  We fought the rain ( heavy, heavy rain) the entire 3 1/2 hours to our destination.  Once we got to the home school warehouse the weather cleared and the rest of the day was fantastic.  Throughout the trip I found myself repeatedly thanking God for placing these women in my life.  I loved every moment of sharing stories, comparing notes, and fellowship.  We laughed, and laughed, and laughed.  It was a stressful day due to the weather but the wonderful moments made it all worth it. Over the weekend, my mother, mother-in-law, daughter, cousin, and her daughter (plus myself) traveled 7 hours to Kilgore, Texas.  When I was in college I had the once in a life time opportunity to be a Kilgore College Rangerette.  This year the organization celebrated its 75th anniversary.  We decided in early February that we would make the road trip to see the annual spring performance, Revels.  Again, we had horrible weather the night before.  My husband and I were up until 1am and then I had to get up at 4:30am to make the seven hour trip.  Regardless of being tired, I repeatedly thanked God for giving me the opportunity to make these memories with women I hold so dear to my heart.  We had a fantastic time and the performance was incredible.  I was able to show my daughter so many new things and expose her to a caliber of dance that just isn't found where we live.  She loved every second of the weekend.  I was able to see some of my college room mates and relive some of the most amazing memories of my life.  It was a very special weekend shared with very special people. I just can't help but thank God for placing so many wonderful people in my life.  Regardless if I have known them my whole life or just recently, He has blessed me with so many wonderful relationships.  I woke up this morning feeling like I had been hit by a truck but also feeling incredibly lucky.  The past week has provided memories I will keep with me for a lifetime.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Taking Control of Our Children's Education

"I am sorry we just don't have any teachers willing to teach your son." "We will have a hearing regarding your son's placement." "When a school wants to get rid of a student, there are ways to do it." "We don't believe he needs modifications or a 504." (comment made by a principal even after showing our diagnosis from a doctor) All three of the horrible comments were made to us (by school officials) regarding our son and his education. Two years ago we went down an unexpected path.  Life felt as if it was unraveling at a rapid pace.  Everything seemed out of control.  I have mentioned many times that our oldest son deals with ADHD, ODD, and anxiety on a daily basis.  These words and acronyms are highly misunderstood, often times in the public school setting.  I think mainly because these are not "quiet" issues.  My son's anxiety was not quietly crying in the corner or being nervous.  His anxiety would come out as full rage and anger - unable to express himself properly, all while being completely misunderstood.  As life seemed to be coming apart at the seams, my husband and I had to make major life decisions at a very fast rate. After being told the school was trying to remove him to SLGC (an alternative school typically used for older children involved in gangs, drugs, fighting, etc) we made the decision to pull him from the second grade.  That is right, he was going to be sent to a place that mainly deals with the above because this was going to be the "most helpful" with his struggles.  No, the truth is this was the best thing for that principal and that school.  Within about a 48 hour period I quit my ten years of teaching high school dance and began to home school our son.  Our other two children were still in daycare at the time so we pulled them to save money.  We went from a 10 year marriage of two incomes to one within a couple of days.  It was at that moment that we had to hold onto God and just TRUST.  At the time, I remember feeling so calm about the trusting part and like a crazy momma bear with everything else.  I don't think I had the option not to trust.  God was the only thing stable. My intentions for this post are not to complain about public school but I felt I needed to give a little back story as to how we fell (literally) into homeschooling.  We tried another public school the next year and the outcome was similar.  However, at the second school the principal and counselor were working their tails off to help us but the teachers for his grade level would "not allow" him into their classrooms.  My child was made out to be a monster.  We also began to experience some pretty heavy bullying at the second school.  There was a group of boys that would corner him in the bathroom.  My son (then third grade) said they would do it in the bathroom because there weren't any security cameras around.  His teacher did not believe him.  I think she didn't believe him because he had made a target for himself as the "bad kid".  Isn't that crazy, it still just blows my mind.  By Thanksgiving of that year we pulled him again.  When a child feels he is not good enough for school, that he is not allowed at school, the hurt runs deep…so, very deep. My husband and I made the decision to home school our three kids and not to give public school another chance for the time being.  We just couldn't put him through feeling as though he wasn't good enough for school a third time.  I cannot tell you the difference we have seen.  He has grown leaps and bounds.  He still deals with ADHD, ODD, and anxiety on a daily basis.  But when those moments come up he is home, he is safe, and he does not feel like an outcast.  Our other two children would have been perfectly successful in the public school setting.  However, they are also doing amazingly well at home.  Homeschooling gives us the perfect opportunity to move ahead in areas of excellence and slow down in areas of struggle.  It has given us more family time and taken the edge off life.  It is a ton of work (on my part) but the growth and bond I have seen in my kiddos makes it all worth it. I feel like God is using our crazy story to spread the word about homeschooling.  It is my deepest desire for parents to feel like they have the right to take control of their child's education.  There is nothing wrong with a traditional education when it is a good fit for the child.  However, when it isn't the right match then other options should be looked at. We often get the "socializing" concerns from others.  So many people feel that home schoolers are not socialized.  That could not be farther from the truth.  We meet once a week at an amazing co-op.  My kids have the opportunities to socialize with kids of all ages.  Not to mention they socialize at church and during their extra-curricular activities.  Plus there are so many opportunities for home schooled kids.  The high schoolers even have dances, homecomings, sports, cheerleading, graduation ceremonies, lettermen jackets, the list goes on and on.  Homeschooling has come a long way. It is a God given desire of mine that parents understand they have control of their child's education and that education does not have to fit the traditional standards.  God gave your children to you not to another parent. You are in control, not the school.  You are the one that is to guide and raise up your child.  If your children succeed in public school that is fantastic but those are not the parents I am talking to.  I am wanting to reach the parent who goes to bed every night with their own anxiety, worries all day about the well being of their child, gets told by school officials that they "just can't teach their child.  Please, please, please if that is you prayerfully consider other options and take control.  You can do it! One more thing, homeschooling is not just for kids that struggle in public school.  Many homeschooling families pick this type of education from the get go.  Home schooled children are happy, thriving kids, they just aren't taking what society considers the traditional path. :) When it comes down to it, my kids are happy and they are learning and that is really all that matters. If you are curious, God took care of us in more ways than one.  Remember when I said we went from two incomes to one in a matter of days.  We weren't sure if we would be able to afford our home, cars, etc.  But God made it possible.  He opened doors that allowed us to pay off our cars and stay in our home.  We have a very tight budget every month but honestly we don't' miss the extra income.  It is truly amazing that when you trust Him fully He will make all things possible.  I believe it because I have witnessed it with my own eyes.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Fun with Organs

We finished our organ project!  A few weeks back we visited our local science and history museum.  They were giving kids the opportunity to color worksheets of various organs.  Then the child could have someone trace an outline of his or her body on butcher paper and glue on each organ.  We really didn't have the time to do the activity at the museum, however, the volunteers allowed us to take the worksheets home. Each day we would discuss, color, and cut out an organ.  My kids are ages 10, 7, and 5.  I would say this assignment was perfect (age and grade level) for my 7 year old.  However, all three kids enjoyed it so we did it together.  I have found it is pretty easy to beef things up or tone them down depending on the age of the child.  It is so much easier (on me) when we can find an activity or assignment that everyone can do together.  Plus, the kids seem to really enjoy working with one another. If you remember, while working on this project, we also had a fantastic lesson on a cow heart and liver (See Here).   After coloring and cutting out all of the organs,  I traced each child's outline on white butcher paper.  Then we referenced an organ chart to make sure we were placing each organ in the correct spot.  The funny party was that my five year old is quite a bit smaller than her brothers.  Her organs did not fit in her tiny body outline as well as theirs did.  We were laughing because her organs kept "falling out". :)
The kids were able to color the organs however they wished.  However, they pretty much stayed with red, pink, brown.

There was a bit of frustration when organs did match up with one another, especially the stomach and intestines.  I kept reminding the kids that because it was on paper organs would have to overlap and lay on top of one another.

She was insistent that her heart is that far to the left…we decided just to go with it. :)

His bladder is yellow because he said it was "full"… You just gotta love boys. 

Ginger was an issue because we were on the floor.  The kids kept yelling, "Ginger keeps stepping on my ______________" (fill int the blank with just about every organ).

This was a success and super fun activity!