Monday, December 17, 2012

Week 15: Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus...and when he comes I will be so happy!!!

It's Week 15 here at Varga school, and for those of you who wonder if trying to get children to homeschool during pre-Christmas week is as hard as getting them to do homework for public school - the answer is YES. Big, fat, definitely YES.

I'm having a hard enough time getting geared up for teaching this week. I'm not sure if it's because this is probably our last "Santa" Christmas at the house (having 8 and 10 year old boys, this is about time), or because I always miss Mom at Christmas, or because of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings last week or just because I'm an emotional basket case at random times anyway - but I've been miserable, horribly, painfully depressed for days now. So school has not been getting my full attention. Thank goodness I had a weekend to try to recuperate. 

So today, we started with ornament making. A little de-stress for me, a chance to catch up on the many Art projects we never got to this year and a reason to put off academics til after lunch. For whatever reason, we made awesome ornaments with clear plastic balls and acrylic paint and it worked for everyone. This afternoon I only attempted to do our daily spelling, math worksheets and weekly household chores  - and if it fails, I don't have the heart to be wicked, so my kids say...WHATEVER!! 

Take it easy, don't stress it, enjoy your kids every minute of every day and Happy Holidays, everyone!!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Little things are the biggest breakthroughs...

Homeschool days are long, but they are full of important moments. I don't remember what I did during the day when  my boys were in public school, but I do know it was easier on my nerves and completely unfulfilling compared to what I am doing now.

Today was destined to be a good day anyway, given the fact that I woke up without a headache. A first this week, so things were already looking up by the time I got my first cup of coffee. My shower happened before school started, so that meant I was already ahead by two things before I even started teaching. Got started only 15 minutes later than usual - good again. But nothing compared to what happened when we got to our writing lesson today.

I need to explain first that we are 5 weeks or so behind in our writing curriculum. I did some of this on purpose, because last year was such a fiasco with both our boy in writing, both in writing mechanics and process. I consciously "unschooled" them on writing when we started homeschool because I wanted to "start over" and undo some of the damage that had already happened. Danny need to relearn how to make his letters and numbers correctly in print before we moved forward at all. So the first month, we only did Handwriting without Tears. Benjamin also, as well as the fact that he held his pencil very awkwardly with all his fingertips. Last year at school they had started having him use a pencil grip, but that hadn't done much. So I worked for his first month just having him hold the pencil correctly and make his letters correctly with HWT.

Fast forward to week 13 of school this year. Danny's handwriting is amazingly better and he has a wonderful easy grip. His writing is legible for every assignment and he writes his letters correctly  - most of the time. Note to self: Need to remember to have him work on numbers now... :) Benjamin is holding his pencil correctly for the first time - EVER - without a pencil grip. His handwriting is still a work in progress because he's RElearning how to write, but it is really very good. I need to do more HWT on him for letter formation, but I'll go through some of that on our "off" days.

So, needless to say, actually "writing" was put aside until I could get the mechanics down. The last few weeks, I started to bring basic mechanics in, like noun/verb/adverb/adjective usage. (This always works because it gives us another chance to watch Schoolhouse Rock! lol) Everything went pretty smoothly and Danny even said "this is writing? it's easy!" I bit the bullet and pulled out some "real" writing. It worked out well when our LA writing assignment  was about Jamestown - and we are working on our Jamestown field trip scrapbook! We worked on some who/what/when/where questions and Danny gave some good, solid answers - but only in partial sentences. So last night I Googled for "rephrasing the question" and found TTQA - Turn The Question Around. Probably a very old teacher tool, but it was perfect for me and I created a personal worksheet for the boys for them to practice the concept. Once we did a few, I actually saw the the light dawn in Danny's eyes! He totally "got" the concept - and then he worked on his Jamestown piece. He took all his partial answers, created full sentences with the TTQA concept and finished a beautiful paragraph. When I showed him how good he did and he realized it WAS good, he started talking about how he can go back to school one day because he "can do the work like everyone else" because he misses his friends - especially Bryan. I was just flabbergasted! He hadn't mentioned going back to public school ONCE - and I now I realize it was because he KNEW he couldn't do the work. Just giving him the hope that he CAN do what the other kids can do and that he could join his friends again brought all that cheerful school attitude back that he had lost over the last two sad years. It was amazing!! So now we'll see if we can bring him up to speed and what grade he might "re-integrate"...what a change!

And what about Ben? He swears he'll "never go back to public school"...and he does have alot of anxiety issues that we'll need to work on. Plus, I realized he has a reading retention problem that was hidden because he was so quiet and shy. He's sure not quiet and shy at homeschool!! I'm sure we have years with him to see what develops - who knows?

Every day is a surprise - good and bad - at homeschool! :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Week 13: The beginning of the end (school year, that is...)

Last week completed Week 12 and today we officially enter into the 2nd third of our homeschool year - HURRAY! It is a weird feeling...we're no longer beginners...however we are still so far from the end of our first year. And yet, I have started thinking about how we will end this first year. 

Since my oldest child started kindergarten 22 years ago, the last day of school has been IT for my kids. A children's holy day, in so many ways. When I was a working mom, it was a bittersweet day for me, because it meant that we had survived yet another year of the public school rat race, but it meant another summer of "free days" that I would miss with my children- again.

This year, the "end of school" will be a first-which is rare at my age, unless you count new age spots or new creaking joint pain. :) I have so many questions. 

  • When do we finish - when we are done our last subject assignment? This is difficult, because in some subjects we are "on target" for finishing in 36 weeks, but other subjects were started later and won't be "finished" by then. 
  • On a certain "day", because I can always stop when I feel we are are mostly "done"? 
  • Do we stop when it is good for our family and celebrate alone or have our last day with the public school children? This one is hard, because we already feel so separate from the public school schedule that it doesn't really affect us at all....but we're not completely separated from that entity that used to be "us". It helps that last year's "last day" was so completely and hideously painful for me that I almost RAN to get away...this year will be completely different!

Then it hits me - we'll be moving onto a second year before I know it. What will we keep? What will we change? It seems to be constantly changing, but refining greatly over time. I just developed a health and art curriculum that we can follow through the rest of the school year. It took this long to figure out how to do that! The downside of using a "canned" curriculum when I started - I only had to create curriculum for the subjects not covered by Sonlight...and I had no clue how to do that! Thank GOD for the internet! lol

So, here we are in Week 13 and I had more questions than when we started. I guess that's good, since that means we are learning what is right for us....right? One thing I do know...these questions are ones that *I* am asking and that *I* can find the answers to, not someone else. Yee-haw!!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Week 12: Homeschool is like Kauai - with noise...

How in the world could the world of homeschooling be like a tropical paradise vacation? It's not anything like I expected at first and the longer you are there, the more things you find to do!

This week we are in Week 12 of most lessons although I think technically we should be somewhere near Week 13, but only being a week behind in our core work makes me happy :) We are behind in Science because I switched curriculums (which I am SO happy I did and the happy little experiment on our kitchen counter is a good thing) and Writing because I consciously went at that very slowly to "unschool" them from things that were disasters at the end of last year. Danny still doesn't "like" to write, but since we have been doing Handwriting without Tears printing with both of them, both of their writing is MUCH more legible than the beginning of the year and Ben holds his pencil correctly SOME of the time now :) 

We have taken care of PE and Music with outside classes at the YMCA, church and the music store for cello lessons, but sadly, I haven't tackled Health yet. The last frontier. Not that it's hard, just that formal lessons weren't included with my curriculum and I have to piece this one together myself. Doing good and ready to start our first unit next week and then all the pieces will be in place.

Whew! It's alot of work, but truly I have to say how much I enjoy putting the lessons together and working with the boys - once they are on track. Most days we have some version of the "Abbott & Costello" show in our homeschool room, though. It's funny the first 5 minutes...then, you know what I mean. I have never yelled so much in my life as I have with these two boys. And it's not usually in anger! It's more like a referee - to get their attention! I know I'm ruining my voice, but until Santa brings me a referee's whistle for Christmas (wink, wink Honey....:) I've got no choice.

This weekend is our first big Homeschool Family LongDistance Field Trip with our second visit to Jamestown/Powhatan Village/Yorktown - and I'm very excited! Even though it comes at a busy time after Thanksgiving and my granddaughter Freya's birth last Friday, it comes at the tail end of our early colonial History unit and the boys will be able to see again the places we've been reading about for months - and now they have a context to see them in because Pocahantas, Captain John Smith and all the others are now "real" to them from the stories in the Sonlight collection. Really, really pleased with how Sonlight works good children's literature into their core study program. Aside from the History text we occasionally visit, all of our real learning about culture, vocabulary and geography come from the books and the boys get it without even knowing they are "learning"...:)

Well, lunch is over so back to finish our experiment and work on afternoon classes. Ciao!

P.S. By the way, have I said recently how LOUD BOYS ARE?!?! Argh...I'm hiding in my bedroom with the door shut and the TV playing classical musical and I can STILL here their conversation over lunch downstairs. *sigh*

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Week 9: Hurricane Sandy and Halloween....

...seriously, does this school week even count?! LOL...With all the panic about Hurricane Sandy this week, I didn't even bother to "school" on Monday and Tuesday. Although Danny DID buy a weather station at the Maryland Science Center at the Members' Halloween event, and he put it out both days. When he brought it in, we read it, talked about hurricanes and I followed that up with a great video about causes of tropical storms, cyclones and hurricanes on, so yes, it DOES count for science :)

Today was ALL about Halloween...we didn't even have time to  miss our traditional public school Halloween Parade, which I thought we would. It really helped when I found out their "old" school didn't have one as well with the rain being so soggy and all. So we spent all day making pumpkin shaped sugar cookies and decorating them with icing and sprinkles while we watched ALL the episodes of Schoolhouse Rock. That DEFINITELY counts...I can't remember a word of the Preamble to Constitution without singing it! :)

And we spent the rest of the afternoon - right up until the first doorbell rang - finishing up making foamboard swords and pickaxes to go with their Minecraft costumes. They really rock, if I do say so myself! Thank you SO much to the wiz who created the files on the internet so all I had to do was print them, glue them and cut them out. So VERY cool!

So, tomorrow we are already on Thursday and it will definitely feel like Monday in our homeschool doing "real" work. I know we "could" have done our schoolwork while the storm raged, but I've been busy as all getout for the last FOUR weekends, so I decided to call some "hurricane days" so I could get caught up on laundry, pulling out winter clothes and packing away giveways, Avon orders  and Cub Scout popcorn orders. Got a lot done! Now, to move onto Avon management duties and paying bills. Fun.

Only 9 days til my long-awaited (17 months) weekend away with my darling hubby. Not one night without the kiddiewinks in all that time and now that they are with me 24X7 with homeschool, I will appreciate every minute away even more! See ya next week when we get to double digit weeks!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Week 8: Flashes

Some days, regardless of the overwhelming turmoil of my life, I see flashes of what our new life can be - and is.

Today we didn't have school because the boys both had fevers last night, so I used it as a day to "catch up" as best I could. Not catching up with the overflowing laundry baskets (that seem to be in their breeding season these days), but catching up with my school planning. I took a long overdue solo lunch break at David's Natural Market with a Powerhouse sandwich (BEST sandwich EVER, I might add), and updated my week's lesson plan. I seem to be constantly tweaking it - and I think that might be the bumper sticker message of homeschooling. To homeschool is to tweak. Find a better subject curriculum. Move things around. Eliminate books/texts that aren't working for the boys. Find a writing method that works with their individual minds. Tweak, tweak, tweak! But I SO enjoy being able to do it. :) This wasn't today's flash, but this was the warm glow that replaces the anxiety panic that I've lived with lately (seems weekly these days) because my lesson plans were out of sync and not really working well and I hadn't had time to sit down with them and work on them. Nice lunch, nice time to breath and the unwinding happened...

My flash happened tonight. Not at Ben's first cello class, although that was nice. After I made it clear to the teacher that I am NOT that "competitive mom" type, we had a great class and I loved watching him relax and learn his first instrument. It also wasn't at the intro 4H meeting at the library afterwards, although the people were lovely and we got some good leads on specific 4H groups the boys will like. It was when we finally got home.

I had been running all day. When we finally got home after the 4H meeting, I was DONE. I wanted yoga pants, snacks and chilling out. But Ben was excited to show his new cello to Danny and George. Since Danny and Ben had a weekend apart (Danny at the Webelo-o-Ree and Ben with boring Mom at home :), they have really been enjoying each other. Not only have they disappeared twice today into the basement to play with Legos and trains, (which hasn't happened in forever), but tonight Danny got out his viola while Ben got out his cello and I sat and listened to my two boys play their viola and cello together. It wasn't Beethoven, but it was the most beautiful music I had ever heard. Maybe this would have happened if they were playing instruments at their old school and maybe it has nothing to do with their schooling, but somehow I think it's related. I feel relieved that the music curriculum is taken care, but also totally blessed that I get to hear it all. How did I miss all this before? It's the sweetest music in the world :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Week 6: Life is a highway...or at least zooms past like one!!

Even though we're running at full speed this week, we're starting to hit a stride here at Varga School. :) Six weeks into our schooling and I'm finally doing some "unschooling", as they call it. I'm finally starting to do more things in our "off" time that really count as schoolwork and work it in. 

For example, today I could NOT get out of bed. After a full week of school last week, a weekend with Cub Scouts camping, a full (9 hour) day field trip to DC in three Smithsonian museums on Monday, full day of school on Tuesday followed by two - count them, TWO - Den meetings on Tuesday night....and I was DONE this morning. When I finally came downstairs hours after my normal wakeup time, I told the boys, "You broke me!" So we did a more relaxed day after I finally got started but still got so much teaching done!

First, we printed off the Minecraft creations they had made in conjunction with our Reading/History unit on Jamestown and Pocahontas. Ben had made an Indian village and Danny had made an English ship. After we printed them, they wrote  sentences about their picture (writing and history). Next, we did our weekly ice skating at the Columbia Ice Rink (P.E.), followed by a run to the grocery store to pick up some things. While we were there, we discussed nutrition and had them compare labels for content and sugars (health class here :) After we picked up Shayla from kindergarten, we came home and they wrote a science journal entry about the experiment they brought back from Scouts last night and repeated to the squealing delight of Shayla and Piper today (writing and science). Brief description, it involved Alka-Seltzer, water and small plastic containers with caps. Fun little explosions

I thought we were done at this point. Had a nice visit with both daughters and granddaughters - a great excuse to skip my afternoon nap again. :) But after they left and I was browsing through the Netflix movies, I hit the motherlode! A National Geographic hour long special on Machu Pichu - the lost city of the Incas, which we just happen to also be studying!! Bingo! We ate dinner and watched this great show on our big HD tv and that, my friends, will count as our history class tomorrow :) Such wonderful timing because I knew our history book about the Incas/Aztecs/Mayans was a little long on words and short  on beautiful visuals and this was a Godsend. 

So, we had a full day of class and the boys really only had to sit and do writing for 45 minutes or so. It's starting to work, to make more sense, and fit in better with our boys' lives. Makes running into Danny's 4th grade teacher last night (while at the school for Cub Scouts) all the more gratifying. Go me :)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A new dawn, a new school day

Good day yesterday..and in general I'll call this week a success. I've started doing our days "backwards"...the curriculum as it is written from Sonlight starts with Bible, History/Geography, then Reading. Then I would follow with Spelling, Math, Handwriting without Tears and electives (Art, Music, PE, Health,etc). One day we started with science because of something we saw on the internet during breakfast ...and it worked out much better. The next day, we started with Math and had a great time talking and filling out the entire 1-12 multiplication table, so backwards again. Now, after prayer, the boys get to start out with something fun and interesting and we leave the quiet topics and reading to the end of the day. 

Yesterday was a very full day, but I did more creative teaching and it was definitely more fun. :) I may have trouble sticking to the curriculum! I started our Health units with Fire Safety and we went over the escape routes from the house and how we would handle different scenarious. I think that helped Ben's anxiety alot, because he always worries about things like that. We walked through the drill, then took the dogs for a walk. Next time, I'll just set off the alarm in the house and it will be a "surprise" drill. I also did our first Science activity on biotic/abiotic things from the text and the boys really enjoyed it. A quick Sequential Spelling drill and then we were off to ice skating. With their  new pedometers, the boys loved keeping track of their steps all day, too. It finally made obvious why all of Ben's jumping all day keeps him so skinny!

When we got back from skating, the grocery store (and a quick lesson on unit pricing :) and picking up Shayla from school, they still had to finish their school day with Math - but we had an interesting development. When I mentioned that if the lessons were too easy for Ben, he could skip ahead, he jumped at the offer. He immediately wanted to do the last lesson on his current CD lessons, skipping 15 lessons - and he got a 92% on it! I told him that if he can pass the quizzes on the chapters by over 90%, he can skip to the next one. If he can skip all the way to 5th grade math (which I have no doubt he can do), I can start giving them both 5th grade math work and do more interactive math with them. Because they are at 2 different levels, I've been relying on them doing their CD lectures individually, but I really enjoying do their lessons with them together!

So, more developments on the homeschool front, but it's very clear that is the "norm" for our school. And I love it! Off to find out what today will bring....:)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Homeschool Start - Take Two

Tonight it's only 11pm and everyone is asleep but me. Probably because I had my first caffeine in two weeks this afternoon  - ever since my first trip to the ER for my thankfully passed kidney stone. So now everyone is ready to start a new week and a new month tomorrow - and my mind is just racing with all the things I need to catch up on after a week holiday from schooling and a month of being ill.

First of all, thank you Lord for allowing me to work my schooling hours around my illness. As much as I feel guilty for putting the boys' work on hold last week and taking the whole week off, how wonderful was it to just concentrate on getting well and going to doctors and xray technicians and surgeons instead of trying to fit it in with a school schedule?! 

Second, I do have the guilt of not working with the boys last week, but I think they enjoyed their little "fall break". In fact, I toyed with the idea of schooling four weeks on/one week off year round - I'm sure they'll like that idea until summer starts next year! lol 

Third, this is sort of a fresh start, which is good because I used last week to think about alot of tweaks I'd like to do to the curriculum and think about where they are in their various subjects. Along with changing their science curriculum to the texts, I'm going to incorporate their church Religious Ed lessons into our Monday Bible lessons and I've started looking for a good writing curriculum to use that won't be like pulling teeth. I found one that got me started I have to work writing paragraphs into our daily curriculum that won't cause a mutiny. I know I can do it...I just have to be sneaky :) They've already gotten used to having a spelling test every single day (it's called Sequential Spelling and they correct it as they write each word, so they're actually teaching themselves the words, not getting tested on them each day :), so I know if I approach it right, we'll be okay. I just need to find a program I like and can stick with.

I realize I'm teaching myself how to be a teacher, but it's going pretty well. I just wish I could give myself more time for it, and since I've been sick since school started, I hope that I can now! I also have to catch up on a house that's gone to heck as far as housework, Cub Scout Popcorn issues and my parttime Avon job that has just gotten shoved as far back on the backburner as humanly possible. My poor customers have had so much patience with me this month, bless their hearts!

Oh, and I need to get myself back to the doctor for a follow-up - and we won't mention the appointments the pets and boys need at the vets, orthodontist, hair salon (although it will probably be Salon Mom again :) ...yikes! I SO need to be healthy to do all this - so no more kidney stores for another 5 years, Lord!

Guess I need my sleep, so off to bed. School starts in the morning - and now I'm decaffeinated. Lord help me!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Week 4 Pt 2: The honeymoon is over...

I always knew it would happen...after the first nervousness, then excitement and happiness at not being at the mercy of the HCPSS "machine", we would hit reality like a wall. 

Yeah, we are there.

Danny's rant yesterday? "You're saying the same things as the teachers at school! Why do I have to do work? I hate this!" LOL...yeah, under the frustration and careful patience and my response of "Because I'm the teacher and you have to do work.", I was laughing. Yeah, this is school, buckaroo, believe it or not!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Week 4: Nothing is like it seems...

Well, today we started Week 4 of our homeschool year - and nothing is like I expected. 

First of all, I am 18 days into feeling like complete crap. What started as nausea took weeks to bloom into a full grown kidney stone, which I am still struggling to "send on its way". So in the 22 days I've been homeschooling, I've felt awful  for 18 days of that. Not what I expected at ALL. I have moments of doubt that someone with chronic illness can actually homeschool fulltime. I knew I'd have bouts of flares with my autoimmune, but I never expected something like this and so painful so early in the school year. I guess this is as good a test as any.

And then I remember how my life would be if the boys were in public school right now. Yes, I would be able to lay in bed and rest for 5-6 hours each day while they were in school - HOWEVER - I would probably be killing myself to get up and do housework anyway, so not sure how much rest I would actually get. PLUS, I would have to get up early, get the boys to school on time each morning and make sure they did homework each evening. That is SO not happening right now. My mornings and evenings are both tough and at least my boys get my "good hours" during the daytime. And I am blessed my husband does the evening shift and was also able to take care of the boys during the day when I had to recover from my late-night ER run last week. I can't imagine if the boys were in public school - I usually didn't have to beg for understanding and apologies until much later in the school year!! LOL

Secondly, I am realizing I will be making some curriculum changes already this year. I felt comfortable taking out some parts of my pre-packaged curriculum because they didn't feel right with my boys, but today when I myself was also confused by the boys' Biology I book, I realized I needed to look elsewhere. Found a wonderful online Science page that has downloadable (FREE!) Science texts and Parents guides that I will start using as a supplement tomorrow. Because I know if the boys have questions and I can't answer them using the curriculum I have - then it's not for us. Great to know and great to have the ability to be this flexible!

So - first week for big learnings as a homeschool mom. In between drugged naps from pain meds, I will definitely try to be thankful for my ability to work around my life, not in spite of it.   Oh, and Happy Rosh Hashana :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Day 12: Giddy as a Schoolgirl!

Pardon me, Facebook friends, I may bore you by repeating my statuses today - but I am absolutely giddy with happiness today!

After a "late" start (although there is no early or late in homeschool if you don't have any other appointments! lol) around 11am this morning, we had a lovely, full, engaged day in our school until 4pm. We had reading time on the couch with the boys' heads in my lap. Heaven. We had spelling time with Ben shouting out every word - correctly - instead of whining in the corner with boredom. We had Danny writing his Handwriting Without Tears pages beautifully. And the fun of teaching the biology lesson this afternoon and writing HUGE scientific words on the white board that even I couldn't pronounce.

But while I was happy, fulfilled and satisfied at the end of our school day, I was not giddy yet.

We had a lovely evening taking the boys to their separate den meetings for Cub Scouts. I didn't want to go to Ben's meeting at their old public school. I was scared. Flat out nervous. I hadn't gone near the building since their last day of school in June. I was afraid to run into a teacher - or administrator - who would NOT want to see me. So I "put on my big girl panties" and went. Surprise - the building didn't feel evil. The other parents didn't treat me like a pariah. In fact, I got the distinct impression they had so many worries of their own that they didn't even know about my problem. Imagine that! lol Even the vice principal walked by going into the office and asked how "his buddy" was doing - my oldest son. I just smiled a big grin and gave him a huge "thumbs up" and said it was going great. It is. But that didn't make me giddy.

On the ride home, I told Ben I thought I heard him telling the other boys that he hated that school - and he admitted it. "Why?" I asked him. I said we didn't hate the school, it just wasn't the right place for us. He said that if some of the people who worked there got fired, it would be good. I giggled and agreed with him and we both talked about some of the people who worked and taught there that we did like. I said that if he wanted to go back to public school after this year, we would find the right school for him, even if it wasn't his old school. And he surprised the heck out of me by saying "I don't want to go back!". Just two weeks ago he said he wanted to go back next year. What changed, I asked? He said, "Because I didn't know how awesome homeschool was yet!". 

THAT is what made me giddy. :) 

I can't stop smiling. :)))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

Monday, September 10, 2012

Day 11: The only thing that is change

Well, another day, another meltdown by Danny. And while I'm grateful it's not happening at school, I'm sure these type meltdowns are only happening at home. Lay down, full out crying, "I won't move" stubborn fits that are classic...are growing very old for me. 

I thought today would be an "easy" day since I REALLY need to catch up on housework, Cub Scout popcorn duties and Avon paperwork...and thought I'd take advantage of the flexibility of homeschool. I will NOT make this mistake again. Although Danny loves his new school, he is NOT a fan of change. And since I started the school from day one with the suggested order of my homeschool curriculum and did full days of work from the onset...any change to that is setting Danny off. Thank the Lord he got used to a full day of real work and is using that as his standard! Can you imagine if I'd started off slow and kept adding to get up to speed? Goodness! I guess I do need to look at this as a blessing :)

So, short story, I didn't get an easy day. Believe it or not, Danny melted down because I wanted him to watch a TV show! Granted, it was on the History Channel, but it was a great show on "How the States Got Their Shapes" that I was sure they would love and would kill time in a "good" way rather than some of the cartoon movies the kids watched at school when the teachers needed some "time off". No luck for me! I did get caught up on the dishes and a couple loads of laundry done before I went out for my doctor's appointment and to pickup my granddaughter from school...but not much else. 

And because I needed to get popcorn order forms ready for the boys' den meetings tomorrow night, I've been upstairs all evening getting things ready - and setting off another of Ben's anxiety/self-rage sessions because he couldn't use my computer to play his games. I can hardly begin to fathom where to start on Ben's issues, although I am working on him just as much each school day. We're in our third school week and Ben has settled down into a comfortable work area on the floor with his lapdesk - which is fine, since I bought them with him in mind - and he seems to be happier since last Friday or so. Except for his explosion tonight, I actually saw him smile more than frown the last few days. I saw shades of my happy, not just "good",  little boy. A real improvement! 

I know homeschool is doing good for the boys. I can see the problems are just growing pains. I'm just hoping I can survive until we're all running smoothly!

P.S. Day 10 was our field trip to the USS Constellation at the Inner Harbor yesterday. I thought I'd be waxing nostalgic about that today, but Nooooooooo....:)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Day 9: Reality Check

It's 11.30am and we are having our second major Danny meltdown of the day. Danny's teachers owe me not only an apology for the way they treated me, but a complete thank you for taking this off their  hands!

Meltdown #1/10:30am: After we had calendar, prayer and Bible, I called a 5 minute break for water and bathroom. Danny headed to the TV room to watch TV and I very nicely and firmly said we didn't do that until the school day was over. Flood of tears. Completely unhinged. We finished break and I decided to switch to math, which Danny loves, rather than do more reading or oral work. He still didn't snap out of it, so I set the timer for 5 minutes and said if he hadn't started his math when the timer went off, the laptop would go to Ben for his math. That worked. After his math, the boys swapped and Ben went to use the laptop for math and Danny came back to me for handwriting. 

Meltdown #2/11:25am: Danny gets started on writing and seems fine - for about 5 minutes. After I show him the new material and he is working on his handwriting sheet, I start to play a kids CD on our school player - and offer him a choice of two CDs to listen to. Wrong idea. He wants a CD that is out in my car in the garage, not right in the room. I say 'no'. Wrong answer. Tears, crumpling into his seat, complete shut down. I guess it's another break. He can't get started for another 30 minutes.

I got them through until 1pm and then we shut down for the day. Thank the Lord. 

Two weeks into school and our theme has been "Beginnings":

  • Studied the beginning of the Biblical world in Genesis
  • Studied the beginning of Christianity in the New Testament/Luke
  • Studied the beginning of the New World in History/Geography
  • Studied the beginning of life in Biology  - cells and their structure
  • Studied the beginning of making letters and numbers correctly in Handwriting without Tears
  • Studied the beginnings of Math (addition, subtraction, place, dates) as review
  • Studied the beginning of spelling - including the word "beginning" lol
Next the beginning of how I can actually keep my dishes done and floors cleaned while I homeschool. This may be harder than anything I teach the kids! :) SEEEeee ya - L

Day 8 - a Day Late

Trying to remember yesterday is like trying to grab raindrops...but I'll try since I was so exhausted after a work meeting last night that I fell asleep right after bedtime reading last night. Wish me luck!

So...nothing really went as planned yesterday except for PE class:

Mommy was still sickly, so she could NOT get up...Zzzzzzzz...and school started WAY late...again....

We did "hard" subjects first in the morning because we had PE class at the Y yesterday afternoon and had to leave at 1pm, so Science came first and I was little embarrassed that the components of a cell didn't "come back" to my memory as fast as I expected. Although I have to give myself a break - I'm a chemistry, not biology, girl. Got all the way through AP Chemistry but can't really guarantee I had Biology class myself after middle school - no wait, I remember 9th grade Biology now! Wow, I really blocked that Really, though, it's fun to learn it "again" and 5th grade Biology class comes back in all it's glory. I'm just REALLY glad we won't be doing frog dissection in MY school though...I will never forget that and really, when have I EVER needed to know frog anatomy since?!?!

After prayer and science class, I thought I'd give fidgetty Ben a break and call a quick "house run" before the next subject. Ten quick laps around the first floor. Ben loved it. It almost killed Danny. And afterwards, Ben was ready for the next subject and Danny was ready for a coronary. I know he's out of shape, but that surprised me. And after the "fun run", Danny headed straight for his first meltdown of the day. He had already had breakfast and water before we started school, so I know it wasn't blood sugar, but it must have made him feel rotten anyway because he was not a happy camper during Spelling at all and by the end of the spelling list he was in full meltdown mode, crying and all. I tried to move him onto Math hoping that would cheer him up because he loves his computer Math Class (Teaching Textbooks), but he went right to face-down crying-in-the-sofa meltdown mode. When he gets that way, I know he just has to work his way out of it and deal with himself, so I left him alone and concentrated on Ben's handwriting work and eventually, he pulled himself together.

In the meantime, I realized both Ben and Danny's Math CDs weren't all. And realized the laptop was mucked up again - probably by something one of the boys downloaded - again. SO - now we only have a few minutes until we have to leave for PE, so I give up and bag it. We'll have to do double Math lessons on Friday. Yea.

Thankfully, PE class was a joy. Yes, it's true my boys were half the class and I didn't expect that, but the teachers were great and it was nice that there was another 8 year old boy in the class (plus a 12 year old girl), because Ben was getting all anxious about being the youngest. He did a fist pump when he realized the other boy was his age! And they played Danny's favorite game - kickball - and a round of handball, which was cool to watch for the first time. Both boys got ALOT of good running in and really liked it - they want to go back! Yea!

Since I had a 3pm meeting yesterday, I had to call an end to school after PE class and hope we finish the rest on our "catch up" day - today. And since we're supposed to start in 30 minutes, I better get going. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Day 7/Week 2 - What Day Is It Again?

I've lost track of time and days - some of which is being home every day, but especially today because I've got some kind of internal infection that's got me feeling wobbly and lousy. I try to have a "starting time" for the boys in the morning but it's almost impossible on days like this. This should be a "sick day" for me, but like most moms, there are no sick days. :)

Because we had our Homeschooling Ice Skating session today from 12-2pm today, we needed to do a little swapping and creative schooling today. To get the "hardcore" subjects in before we leave, I flipped the subjects and make sure we finished math, science and spelling (along with our daily calendar and prayer) before we leave. Had a great first skate and love having almost the whole rink to ourselves on such a beautiful day. The employees were so friendly and just glad to have someone to talk to, I think. Along with watching my boys enjoy being on the ice, I got to see some other lovely people doing lunchtime skating, from lunchtime sashaying to obvious hockey practice :)

On the way back from skating, I realized I really needed to call the doctor when we got back. I felt worse and obviously was imagining the worse as well. At least we had done all our schoolwork, including PE class, so I didn't feel at all guilty just getting one more book read when we got home and then heading out to the doctor's after leaving them with my oldest daughter, Erin. 

Even though I'm armed with some medicine (and laying in bed) now, I know tomorrow will be another "flexible" day because I know I won't be 100%. But I thank God I can do that now! :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Day 6/Week 2: Where the Rubber Meets the Road we saw our first hurdle. Not with the boys - with me.

For those of you who don't know me, along with being an older mom, I have two significant health issues: UCTD (an autoimmune disease - undifferentiated connective tissue disease - that is one  marker away from a Lupus diagnosis) and a slipped L4/L5 vertebrae that was treated 2 years ago with a very successful spinal fusion to stabilize, not correct, the slippage. my issues intersected with my boys'. I am in a full blown flare. That means that my symptoms from my UCTD have kicked into high gear and right now, I am in bed with total brain fog, extreme exhaustion and worrisome other symptoms that I am watching to see if I should call my rheumatologist.

I bring these up to you because this is a part of my need/want to homeschool. There are days I cannot possibly get my kids ready for a public school day, drive them, and handle their afternoon pickup and homework. So - I am now figuring out how to adapt our homeschool to handle these days and we have hit one right away. This doesn't surprise me as the extreme stress of getting set up for school, worry before I started and 5 hours in "teacher mode" a day last week most certainly set it off and it wasn't totally unexpected.

Here's how I made the mods for it on my first "sick" day:

  • Feeling it start over the long weekend, I let my boys know last night that today's school would be a "take it slow day" and ask for their help in making it a success. Danny wanted to make sure we didn't to it "too" slow-he wants it to go fast! lol
  • Last night, I also decided to start using their own interests in their schoolwork. They are currently infatuated with the computer building game Minecraft, so I thought of a way they could construct a science "project" in their game right in line with our science unit on animals and taxonomy and figured that would be their afternoon in school today.
  • I did get up, showered and dressed to feel somewhat "normal" and finished our morning classes of Bible reading/history/geography right away since they need me to read aloud. 
  • Had one boy do his computer math class while I worked with the other boy on handwriting and worksheets, then switched.
  • Had a nice break for lunch and to visit with my daughter Kelly who came for a while, then did our Read Aloud while I was still upright.
  • Took lots of breaks when I needed them
  • Went over their science unit, then sent the boys off to do their "project" on the computer in their Minecraft creator - and got into bed.
So far, so good. I got to rest and try to get back on track and the boys think this is the most awesome school day ever because they got to use their game and count it as schoolwork. Win-win, I think. :)

Now, off to stare at the ceiling and hope the total bedrest gets me on my feet for another great day at the Varga homeschool. I truly love that the only one I am accountable to - is me!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Day 5: First week success!

Today is Friday and we have finished our first week of homeschool! 

I am exhausted, my voice is gone and I have a headache. But I'm very, very happy. :) 

To start our first year, I chose a pre-made literature and reading curriculum from Sonlight that I LOVE and chose the 4-Day option. This  means most of our work is completed Mon-Thursday and I can use Friday as an optional "catch-up" day to finish any work on go over anything I need to with the boys. Today we just needed to catch up on some reading, but since we were encouraged to not rush and even take 2 weeks to finish our first week of classes, I think we are doing great!

Two reasons I wanted to do our "Fridays off" option are 1) because my husband works from home or is off work every Friday and 2) I still have a part time job  that I need time to keep up with and do daytime deliveries. Luckily, today is Friday but my husband is actually at a training class today so we had the house to ourselves to do a small school session. We only worked for about 1 1/2 hours to finish up and then I set the boys loose! They are SO happy. They worked hard this week, were at the playground 2 hours yesterday and 1 hour on a neighbor's trampoline last night, and are still adjusting to video withdrawal after a summer of TV, video and PC games galore. They have the whole afternoon off to veg out and I have an nice quiet afternoon to catch up on my cleaning and office work.

So - how did our first week go with homeschooling? Awesome! Behavior-wise, they both did great. Danny is 100% onboard and loves to sit at his homeschool "desk" (although he doesn't have to) which is actually a dining room chair and wooden TV tray. :) I can't believe how attentive he is, how much is actually understand and retains and how smart he is! I do see how much trouble he has writing, so I am ecstatic that most of our work is reading/listening/oral questions. The boys both have math class using Teaching Textbooks, which uses a virtual CD lecture/practice/problem/quiz format that is perfect for Danny. He can whip through tons of lectures and problems in no time - with no less than an 85% on any of them! - but can't get a single page of written problems done in 30 minutes. I am really seeing where his disabilities come into play. The process of calculating the answer in his mind, then transferring to paper is agony for him. He can do it, and it is correct, but I can see how truly difficult it is for him. Thank goodness he really likes the Handwriting Without Tears program we are doing because I'm sure that will help eventually. In the meantime, I am so grateful I can let him continue to learn visually and answer all his questions on the computer while his writing abilities catch up. I feel so blessed!

Benjamin is still an enigma. He is a true puzzle and I am still figuring him out. He has always been extremely bright and has a lightning fast mind with math. But he was always SO anxious as school and had a perfectionist phobia that kept him totally on edge all day at public school - and subsequently kept his mind focused, out of worry. Within the last year or two, he had also begun to friend the outgoing - and sometimes troublemaking - boys in the classroom, which I'm sure was because he was used to rowdy Danny and because their outgoing behavior offset his own shyness and insecurity. At home he has none of this. 

I am watching Ben trying to figure out what to do with himself now. He has always been quiet, shy and a follower, but with only 2 students in our classroom, he really has to pull his own weight when we are doing reading and discussion. When he is quiet, I know he is daydreaming and even though that worked before in a large classroom, it doesn't work now and I realize how much he is NOT retaining. I also realize how much he really doesn't understand about what is being read or said, but doesn't say anything. And I'm thinking it's because he has so much stuff going on in his head. Today when he was having trouble focusing, I let him draw an illustration of the book while we were reading to keep his mind focused. It helped a little, but I have a long way to go with him. It amazes me that even though Danny's learning issues started our journey on homeschooling, it is actually Benjamin who really needs more help at this point!

Well, off to get rid of this headache and do work on the rest of my life. Monday is a holiday here and public school is off, so we are taking off a school day as well, so I'll see you all again on Tuesday :) 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Day 4

My son ate dried seaweed today.

This is big. Let me explain.

Today was day 4 of our new homeschool. It went better than any day before and probably because not only are we getting used to the routine, but we didn't stop for anything until after 1pm. Since we didn't start school until after 10am, that's not a big deal and the kids definitely didn't need food until then. So that let us finish ALL our subject, reading included, except for Danny's science. The day just flew by, and after getting through Ben's rolling on the floor boredom fit at the beginning of the day, we all had a blast. 

When we were ready to break, we packed our lunch and headed over to our biggest park nearby to meet a friend and her three girls who also homeschool. Amy was actually a big support when I was deciding to do this because she made it seem so...not simple... Although she's actually a former neighbor who is my daughter's age, she is great fun and wonderful mom so I love hanging out with her. When we got to the park, THEN the boys realized we didn't have their helmets. Well....we are NOT turning around to go the 30 minute round trip to get them. So the boys struggle with the news that we will only be having a picnic lunch and playing on the HUGE playground. I'm glad to say they adjusted pretty well and they played with Amy's girls for two hours. Here's where the seaweed comes in.

My oldest son, Danny, is 10 years old and has ADD and PDD/NOS. He has lots of sensory issues and a result of that is that he only eats about 10 foods and is very picky about what he eats or even tries. The texture, smell, or color of food is enough to give most food a very polite "No thank you" most days. Today Amy brought dried seaweed (this is nori, right?) as a snack for her girls, since they are pretty full-on Paleo these days. I wanted to try it and did a lipsmacking yum which peaked Danny's interest. I think I tried to convince him it tasted like flattened popcorn, and he surprised me by smelling and then eating a whole bite! He didn't wince or gag or anything. When I asked him what it tasted like, he said "it tastes like the air at the Aquarium smells"!! Right on, son, right on. It does :)

So today's PE class was 2 hours of rock wall and playground climbing at the park and then an hour on a neighbor's trampoline after dinner. And we ate seaweed. Nuf said. :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Day 3 and Counting

August 29, 2012

Well, we're finished our third day of our first time homeschooling - and we are doing it! I realized with the days going so quickly, I'll need a place to keep track of our progress and log what we do all year - for ourselves and for the state! :)

Today's achievements:
  •  After a night of no A/C due to a broken air conditioner, we started school at 10:30am with a sigh of relief we didn't have to rush out the door to public school :)
  • Now that I had done 2 days "by the book", I decided to reverse class order and do science and math in the morning and really sit and work with them. Setting them off to do their own math via the CD and science book with the worksheets seemed as impersonal as what they used to do in public school, so I really wanted to work with them. It was great! Exactly what both they and I needed. We may not get every subject done every day, but that's the point, right?
  • We tried our first "offsite" class with the local ice rink homeschoolers session - and found the ice rink closed due to a broken humidifier. :( Bonus: they gave us free admission coupons for next visit!
Today's issues:

  • Danny Meltdowns: Day 1 - 0, Day 2 - 1, Day 3 - 2. So a pattern is emerging. They happen when he is 1) hungry or wants a different food, 2) around 12:30pm and 3) he is out of the school room.
    • This is quite an awareness. I knew his PDD-NOS diagnosis was going to be the major issue we can help by having him home, so everytime he melts down, I am so glad he is at home and not at school where they don't have a clue.
  • Exhaustion. So....later. :)