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!