Wednesday, August 27, 2014

August 27, 2014

We have had a pretty fun, relaxing summer here this year.  The boys have been playing with friends a lot and I have been sneaking in some school here and there too, so they don't forget math facts and such.  Our neighborhood pool will be closing after this weekend I think.  It has been very hot here the past couple of weeks but, overall, we have had a lovely summer; much cooler than recent years.

We started back to full time school on the same day the local schools started back.  It will be two weeks tomorrow that we have been doing full time school and it is going better than ever before, which seems like a miracle.  It is really hard for me to believe because it is like night vs day, the way Nick is able to handle more work, especially more writing, longer days and is able to keep a more positive attitude.  I am so very thankful.

We have all settled into a nice routine, although the doctor's changing schedule does play a bit of havoc with it at times.  We are very appreciative of his new job though.  He really likes it a lot and is very pleased with the people he works with.  That is such a relief.  He is still on the FDA committee and will be heading back out to Washington D.C. in another week or so for another meeting.

The boys are both doing very well and growing like crazy.  Ben has always been and is still about an inch taller than Nick.  They both eat like there is no tomorrow.  Ben still loves his greens and frequently has a bowl of frozen peas or salad as a snack.  Nick likes frozen green beans as a snack.I am probably still the pickiest eater in our house, although I believe Nick would now come in second.  He has gotten a little pickier as he has gotten older but not much more really.

They will both soon be turning nine years old and we are planning to have a big birthday party for them this year, for the first time.  We have booked a place that brings laser tag to your own backyard so I think everyone will have a good time with that. This will be the first birthday party where the boys will be inviting friends, rather than just our normal family thing, so they are very excited.  After discussing it, we decided to pick a date between their birthdays and have one shared party because their birthdays are so close together.  Also Nick's birthday is a bit too close to Thanksgiving and I was really concerned that all of their friends would attend Ben's party and then very few would show up 6 weeks later for Nick's party.  They are happy with a joint party so hopefully that will work out OK.  We will still celebrate their individual birthdays with family on/around their actual birthdays.

For school, the boys are a little past half way through their 3rd grade year.  Over the summer, we started Latin and it is really going well now.  I have found that I need to be very careful on when to introduce a new subject or a new way of doing something.  Once they get into a routine, they don't like to change it up much.  They want to know exactly what they have to get done each day before they are free to play.  I plan out a schedule each week so we can all see what work we have to do for the week, although it is subject to change here and there.  We have been able to follow it pretty well though.

We have also started a new science curriculum and we are loving it.  Science is finally getting done around here on a regular basis.  We are using Science in the Beginning now, which was written by one of the guys who also wrote some of Apologia's science curriculum. We are using Getting Started With Latin for our Latin studies and both of these are very easy to use.  For Latin, we learn one new word or concept (such as direct objects) a day, which usually includes, listening to the pronunciation on my laptop, translating sentences from the book orally, and then the boys play the memory game using index cards with many of the words we have learned most recently.  They really enjoy playing the game and it really nails down the vocabulary so that is great. They have also finally learned to be good winners and losers most of the time, which is great.  We used to play games for school very seldom because it always ended up in a fight or someone getting angry or crying.

When we do school, we always do our 'together' work first, followed by the subjects they do more independently or with which they need one-on-one help....or they may do a subject separately because one is much faster at finishing than the other and it can be very frustrating for the one who is not quite as fast.

Our together subjects are spelling (we are still using All About Spelling and just finishing up Level 3), Latin and History/Science (we are still using Story of the World for History) and I read aloud to them (we just finished Johnny Tremain - our first book with a somewhat sad ending).  We do history on Mon and Wed and science on Tues and Thurs.

The subjects they do separately are math (we are still using CLE Math), grammar, writing and read-to-self (40 minutes).  We are still using IEW for writing, using their Bible Heroes book and we are about half way through.  We are now also using IEW for grammar, using their newly updated Fix It! Grammar and we are loving it.  Ben also practices the piano for 18 minutes.  Nick reads a little longer if he gets done first but Ben usually works a bit faster than Nick so they are normally done at about the same time.

I wanted to start school each day at 8:30 but we are getting started at 9:00, just like last year.  It seems to be working so far so I guess we will stick with it for now.  We work for about an hour and a half and then take a 30 minute break. We work for another hour, approximately, then break for lunch for an hour and a half, after which we work for another hour or hour and a half and then we are done for the day.  Most days we finish up around 3:30 but once in a while we finish closer to 3:00 or 4:00, depending on how diligent and punctual we have been.

We are back in co-op this year and the boys are really excited about it.  We went for the first time last Friday and they had a great time seeing all of their friends again.  Their two best friends from co-op are also in their AWANA's class on Wednesday nights at our church.  The boys are taking four co-op classes this year, including a science lab, a literature class, a music class focusing on percussion (they love this!) and Spanish 2.  Ben said his favorite class is the science lab and Nick's is Spanish 2. It has been a year since they took the first Spanish class but the teacher has review in it so I think they will do fine and she makes it very fun and exciting.  They get to do a lot of pretending, like they are working in a shop, selling clothes or working in a cafe or going to a zoo, etc.  and they learn all of the vocabulary associated with those things.  They also make puppets and learn vocabulary associated with parts of the body.  Their teacher makes it very fun, actually all of the teachers do. I could never teach a class like this because I am just not that fun with a group of loud children but I think I do OK with just two....most of the time anyway:).  I am happy to help out though in any way I can, which makes the co-op situation work.  This co-op has really grown since we were in it year before last.  I think they have around 70 families now and it was closer to 25 or 30 before.  So we are meeting lots of new people which is fun too.

My garden has provided a lot of opportunities to learn what NOT to do (LOL).  We have had so many cherry tomatoes that we have gotten lazy about going out to pick they are hard to get to because the plants were not supported well enough.  The corn came in but the ears were eaten by worms before they were ready for us to pick them so I need to research that a bit more.  Also, I didn't plant enough corn for it to really be useful.  The larger tomatoes ended up with bottom rot, even though we sprayed them.  The strawberries in the same box did not get enough water and died. I think the watering system is messed up and the tomatoes were getting double water (hence, the bottom rot) and the strawberries were getting none.  The husband needs to work on that, since he set up the watering system.  The carrots never got very big and I am not sure why.  The boys still picked them and thought the tiny baby carrots were good to eat.  I am not sure what happened with them; more research required.  The green beans were good but there were not enough of them.  The lettuce didn't grow at all because I planted the cherry tomatoes next to them and they blocked the sun and eventually just spread out to cover many of the other plants.
Well, you get the idea.  Lots of learning going on here regarding gardening but not much edible food, other than tons of cherry tomatoes.  I'm sure we will try again next year and hopefully I will have learned a few things to do differently.

Dancer is now over 16 years old and went in for a teeth cleaning the other day.  He seems to be doing pretty well, although he is very thin.  He loves being outside.  Tinkerbell is still her chubby self (much like me:) and loves being out on the screened-in porch.  She is free to roam the house at night now days and she is usually very good about not waking us up.  She is a funny cat and loves to play but still hates having Dancer in the house.  Once in a while she gets these evil looking eyes and she goes after me or one of the other people living in our house.  She is very strange in this way and I have never had a cat like that before.  She might have a mental problem.  Fortunately it doesn't happen very often but she has bitten me very hard a couple of times, usually after we have returned from a long trip but also once in a great while when I am just petting her and she is purring like she is so happy and then, boom!, she attacks.  I am still hopeful she will grow out of it eventually.

I think that is about all that is new for us right now and I have to get back to teaching so must go.  Hope you are all doing well.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

May 27, 2014

We recently returned from a two week vacation to Washington D.C. and Virginia,  taking a northerly route eastward and a southerly route back home.  We got to see tons of sights and visit with friends of ours that moved to VA 5 years ago.  We had a lovely trip.  This was our second long car trip and we are enjoying them and looking forward to our next one.

We are having a hard time with getting back into school since we have returned.  I tried something different this time, thinking it might make the transition a little easier.  I thought we would ease into it by starting with just one subject a day and then adding more on as we went.  That has not helped at all and may have made things worse.  I would liken it to removing a very large and sticky bandaid a tiny bit at a time, versus taking it off quickly and getting it over with.

Ben recently had a staph infection on his skin so we had him on an antibiotic and he has had a very bad allergic reaction to it.  He has a bad rash and a swollen face in the mornings.  The rash is on his face, around his eyes and ears, on his cheeks and around his neck and here and there all over his arms and torso.  Just recently it looks as if it is spreading to his legs now.  It is very itchy and gets worse if he plays hard and gets sweaty.  This is the fourth day and it does look a bit better today.  I have been putting prescription level hydocortizon cream on it and he is taking various antihistimines.  He is having a miserable time of it though.  I did a search online and some people who had this suffered for weeks before it got better.  We have an appointment with an allergist tomorrow so maybe she will have some addition suggestions.

When you add the rash to trying to do school, you get no where:).  I have not even tried until today but I am going to have them do a couple of things today and they are both very unhappy about it and arguing with me about it.  I know they would be acting the same way even if he did not have the rash though and I can tell he is feeling better today.  I let them play video games all day yesterday and watch tv to take his mind off of the itching so now I have created a monster and that is all they want to do again today.

We recently bought a trampoline.  The doctor-dad had been against them and did not want to get one for the boys but pretty much everyone in the neighborhood but us has one.  He had no problem with the boys jumping on other people's trampolines so, after rethinking it through, he decided it was probably ok for us to have one too.  The boys are very excited and love it, especially Nick.

The boys are just finishing up a season of baseball and they have really enjoy it and improved quite a bit.   They have had some really good coaching and have really learned a lot.  Ben is definitely ready for it to be over but I think Nick is still enjoying it.

Ben is still taking piano lessons and he is fine with practicing on school days because it is part of our routine and everyone is busy doing something.  He has a really hard time practicing on non-school days because everyone else gets to do whatever they want and he wants to also.  He is only required to practice 18 minutes but it feels like a long time to him.  I think once he sits down and starts practicing he really enjoys it though.  I have told him he can quit whenever he wants but he is really torn about what to do because sometimes he loves it.  I try to encourage him but not sure how much longer he will keep with it.  Our rule was that they had to take music lessons for two years but they could quit after that time if they wanted.  Nick quit right away:).  He has a very hard time making himself do something that he does not feel like doing and I already have to butt heads with him at times for schoolwork, so I don't also want to have to fight with him over practicing the piano every day.  We'll see how long Ben keeps with it.

Both boys are still taking swimming lessons, although they are on a two week break right now.  They will start back next week.  Neither of them are very excited about swim lessons these days and I think they would quit if we let them.  But they are both at level 5 now and very close to being able to try out for swim team, which we thought they might really enjoy.  So we wanted them to at least try it.  So we are making them stick with it at least that long.  I have mixed feelings about this really (for selfish reasons of we would have more time without the swimming) but we are very close so I guess it might be worth it.  One of them might just decide he really likes it and I think they could make some really good friends that way.

We are planning to join our co-op again in August and they are offering some interesting classes so I think the boys will enjoy it.  They went to a birthday party recently and saw a bunch of the kids from co-op and I think they really missed it so we will all be looking forward to that.

We have planned a trip to Disney World in Florida for January.  It is unusual for us to take two big vacations so close together, as we are usually doing good to get in one per year.  But we ended up getting a special deal on the hotel and it was good enough we decided we should go now.  We had been discussing when to take the boys because we really wanted to take them before they got too much older so it seems the time is right.  We will be flying though because we will have less time.  The boys don't seem too excited yet.  I think it is too far away for them to get excited this soon.  I'm sure they will be around Christmas time though.  I'm excited:).  It has been a long time since I have been so I am really looking forward to it and it will be fun to see it through their eyes.  They are both around 8.5 years old now, in case anyone is wondering:).

We have gotten / are getting a lot of rain here in the past couple of days and today and boy did we need it.  I am welcoming it with open arms, although it is very humid these days, but I am ok with that as long as we get the rain.

We have been discussing what kinds of things we might be able to get involved with to serve others as a family.  At some point, we would really like to do some mission trips as a family but, in the mean time, I would like to find something we can do locally.  I am going to start researching this.  If you have any ideas, please let me know.

I finally planted a garden this year.  I'm a novice so I am not sure how much of it will produce but I planted a little bit of a lot of veggies.  I am excited to see what grows and what doesn't.

Our community pool is open, as of this past weekend, although it is a bit too cool right now.  We have had days when it got up to around 90 degrees and I am sure, once this rain moves off, it will probably get very hot again and the boys will be excited about going swimming (they like swimming, just not having to go to the lessons while they could be playing with friends:).

The boys have a very good friend who lives two houses down the block and they play together quite a bit.  His family is getting ready to move to Houston so they are really going to miss him a lot.  We still have the sweet neighbors that live next door with the 4 and 2 year olds and the boys enjoy playing with them also.  There is a new house being built next door to them and they will have boys around Ben's and Nick's age so we will look forward to them moving in.  Also, someone has already bought the house of the family moving to Houston so I am hopeful they might have young children also.

Well, that is about it for now.  I need to get back to schooling with the boys, or at least try:).

Friday, February 14, 2014

February 14, 2014

We have had a great week of homeschooling this week.  Actually, I would say that this might have been one of our best weeks ever.  No bad attitudes, no major issues with any of the assignments, we all got along well and the boys both got their work done with no major complaints.  This was our third week of homeschooling since the boys tried public school for a week.

Our first day or two back at homeschooling, after the public school trial, was surprisingly extremely bad.  I had a new perspective so I handled it very calmly and matter-of-factly but that first day was a real bad one.  We got through it though and through the second day, which was a little better but still bad and then the rest of that week was pretty good.  The first day of the second week was also a very bad day, although not nearly as bad as the first day of the first week.  Since then, things have steadily improved, thankfully.  I was pleasantly surprised that this week was so great. Hopefully we will have more weeks like this going forward.

We had to go to the school to return some of their things and pick up some of ours.  Everyone there was so friendly and sweet to us. I was so impressed.  They had the boys go back to their classrooms and tell their classmates goodbye.  Nick's teacher came out and gave me a big hug and talked to us for a short time.  She wanted to know what curriculum we were using and was just so sweet about everything.  They all said they would miss the boys and told them to come back to visit.  Really just the greatest group of people and it is so nice to know they are there if we ever decide to go that direction.

We are back to using our tried and true spelling and grammar curriculum and I am glad we switched back.  I think they are better programs and we enjoy the interaction together, although I think Ben thinks it goes a bit slower than he would prefer to go (I told him he could switch back to the curriculum he could do on his own but he didn't want to).  He is a speedster on everything he does though so it is probably good for him to be forced to slow down a bit once in a while.  You should hear how fast he plays the songs he is assigned to practice on the piano.  He plays everything in double-time.  His piano teacher gets such a kick out of him at times.

Our writing program is coming along quite well so far.  I am taking it slow but I am pleased on how well the boys are doing with it and excited to see how far they will have come by summer break.  We are enjoying the same history program that we have always used, along with checking out library books about the topics we are covering.  We are still working to finish up Little Lord Fauntleroy as our read aloud.  We are all enjoying it so much but it seems we are having trouble fitting in time to finish it.  (We have had a lot of sickness in our house lately.)  Nick just finished a book called Flight of the Fugitives and today he started reading Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to himself.  Ben is towards the end of Trumpet of the Swan, which is one of my all time favorites.  The husband has been teaching chemistry to the boys and all three of them are enjoying it.  Math is moving along and they have almost finished 2nd grade math and will be moving into 3rd grade math sometime in March.  They have just started learning multiplication and are working on multiplying by 0, 1, 2 and 10 and will soon be adding 5.  They are really picking up the multiplication very well.  I am sure this is thanks to all of the skip counting their math requires them to practice.

The husband is applying for a couple of jobs that would bring him much closer to home, which is what we have been wanting for a long time now.  He took a job that we thought would be ideal but it turns out that it was not quite what it was sold as.  But he has found two opportunities that both sound promising so we are hopeful and prayerful that one of them will work out well.

We are having a beautiful week here this week and boy did we need it.  In the past three weeks, Nick and Ben both got some sort of virus that had them up in the middle of the night vomiting and then fever all the next day.  The strange thing was that Nick had it first and then Ben had it about a week and a half after Nick was over it.  I think we might have been passing it back and forth between us and the neighbor kids or something.  Then Ben had a cold and I caught it and ended up eventually having to take antibiotics for a sinus infection and then Nick caught the cold from me.  Just when we thought he was recovering, he took a turn for the worse and spiked a temperature of 104.3.  I was so shocked because I thought he was getting better.  We thought he might have pneumonia or the flu but he didn't have either.  He has two more days of antibiotics for upper respiratory infection.  I think we might all be well now.  From what I have heard from talking to neighbors, people at church and doctor-husband is that there are a lot of viruses going around right now, in addition to the flu.  Oh, and the throw up virus was running rampant at the public school when the boys were there so we are pretty sure that is where Nick picked that one up.

It is wonderful to finally all be well again.  I can't remember a time when we had so much sickness come through our house in such a short period of time.  I think it has a lot to do with the extremely cold temps we have had over the past couple of months and how it keeps everyone confined.  So this warmer weather could not have come at a better time.

I am planning my raised-bed garden and am very hopeful that we will finally be able to put it in this year.  I would like to plant two blueberry bushes and have two separate 2x4 foot garden boxes for strawberries so we could plant one this year and one next year, since they take a year to get going and they usually only last for 2 to 3 years before you have to replant new plants.  That way we could always have strawberries going in one box or the other.

In addition to these, I would like to start with three 4x4 foot boxes for veggies.  That is what I am hoping for but reality might be different.  If I could just get part of that in this year, I would be happy.  Hopefully we can make that happen.  I am dependent on the husband to finish fixing the watering system, which includes some digging and laying some pipes, and also to build the boxes.  I had bought some pre-made boxes but they were very cheaply built and it was obvious they would not last long so he wants to build sturdier ones.  He bought the wood to start building the boxes yesterday. We are suppose to have beautiful weather for the next week or so I am hopeful he might be able to get this done in time.  We were in the low 60's yesterday, mid 50's today but very windy so it felt colder and tomorrow we are suppose to be close to 70 I think.  I think we are suppose to have several close to 70 days coming up and we are all very excited about it.  I am so ready for spring...and so done with winter.

I have put aside some pics that I am going to load a little later to give a picture update.  The boys are really getting big.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

January 26, 2014

The verdict is in: 1 week was how long it took for us all to decide we like homeschooling better.  Tomorrow we start home schooling again:).  All of us have learned a lot from this experience.  I will try to explain a few of the lessons we learned.  Get your cup of coffee and get comfortable because this will likely be long.

One of the things that we disliked the most was (what seemed to us) the small amount of time we had to spend with the boys every day.  AND there were so many things to be squeezed into that small amount of time.

The bus picked the boys up at 8:25-8:30.  We had a very cold week last week so they were waiting outside in 12 to 16 degree weather, and that is not counting the wind chill factor.  The boys were dropped off just after 4:00 most days (except Monday, when it was later).  So they were gone for 7.5 hours.  When they came home, they wanted to play for a while because they actually got to do very little of that at school, much to their surprise and disappointment.

They had one short recess after lunch but Nick's teacher kept the boys in for 2 days in a row because some of the boys were not behaving (he was pretty upset about this, especially after the second day).  They could not go outside because it was too cold.  I'm not sure why (too many kids maybe?) but they did not let them go to the gym to play either.  They played in the 2nd grade classrooms and their 'pod'.  This school has what they call pods which are groups of classrooms surrounding a large middle room. It really is a very well designed school and the architect won awards for the design.  Anyway, there are four second grade classrooms surrounding a large middle room so they played in that area.  They only have P.E. every third day so if it is too cold to go outside and it is not a P.E. day, they end up with no physical exercise, other than walking from the class to lunch and stuff like that.

So they were wanting to play for a while when they got home from school, although I did try to talk with them a bit first and see how their day went, normally while they had a quick snack.  Then they went to play, sometimes with a neighbor, if they were home.  While they were playing, I went through their backpacks and tried to make sense of the papers that were sent home.  I found it pretty confusing at times as to which papers were to be completed and sent back and which were not, but that's another story.

Each evening Nick had to do at least 30 minutes of homework and sometimes more. Ben could normally get his done a bit faster so probably 20 to 30 for him.  We tried doing homework before dinner, after 30 minutes of play, and we tried it after dinner.  We did not feel that either approach was ideal.  Actually, it didn't seem like any homework was ideal since they had been gone for so many hours of the day, although I do understand why the schools need to assign homework.

I must admit that I personally hated, HATED, the homework.  They both needed adult help with some of it.  When they did it before dinner, then I had to work it around trying to make dinner.  When they did it after, we were cleaning up from dinner and we were all tired, since it was the end of the day.

Basically our evenings seemed very cut short and hectic for all of us and mornings seemed more hectic also.  Neither Paul nor I cared for this and we did not like how it affected our family life overall, especially considering we had much less time with the boys also.  We had less time and it was of lower quality.

The other big issue was that they were not going to be learning much of anything for the rest of this year.  Neither Paul nor I realized how much this would bother us, although this was one of the things that the boys said was good about going to school, that it was easy.

When the boys were tested by the school counselor for placement, they scored in the middle of 7th grade for reading fluency, the middle of 5th grade for word recognition and beginning to end of 3rd grade for every else except spelling, where they scored right on target (mid-2nd grade).  The counselor debated putting them into 3rd grade and we discussed it and both agreed it could possibly be too stressful, as they so some important testing in 3rd and they would have missed half of a year in 3rd grade.  Even though they scored high, we had been using all 2nd grade materials at home, except for math where we are still finishing up 1st grade.  I thought it would be pretty risky to dump them into a class half way through 3rd grade at this point, especially knowing that a lot more writing would be expected from them in 3rd and I felt Nick would already have a challenge with that in 2nd.  Also, the boys had never been to school and had to learn the ins and outs of school life. So, considering all of that, we decided it would be best to keep them in 2nd grade and the counselor predicted they would be bored but I thought that was better than having them feeling like failures.

But then we saw them bringing home Level 2 readers and Nick had to spend one evening doing tons of writing that was basically busy work but he had not finished it during class so it was sent home and added to the rest of his homework.  He had a good attitude about it and was trying hard to get it done but it was way too much writing for him and it was busy work, in my humble opinion.  He cried, not angry tears but sad tears, because he was trying so hard to get it done but it was taking so long.  He woke up the next morning and started on it again without me saying anything to him about it.  He was not able to finish it before he had to leave for school.

I talked to the school about testing Nick for his fine motor skill issues and told them about the occupational therapy he has been receiving for the past 6 months or so (that he could not continue while in school because they don't have appointments late enough).  The lady was going to talk to his teacher on Friday to discuss it with her and see what accommodations they could make for him but they would not test him until they saw whether these accommodations they put in place would help him enough or not.  The accommodations were things like using a special grip on this pencil (which he has always used at home), possibly cutting the amount of writing required by him and a few other things that we have been doing at home for a while now.  I don't think this would be enough and I think he would continue to struggle with writing unless his grades got so low they finally decided they had to test him.  I strongly felt this would be an issue and he would end up feeling less confident about his abilities and his intelligence.  He also has 'tracking' issues, which I have a hard time explaining, but it makes it very hard for him to do copy work and he was really having a hard time reading music notes and seeing when they went up a step or two steps.  He would work on a favorite piece all week and it sounded great to us and then at his lesson his teacher would show him where he had been playing the wrong note in several places all week.  That didn't make him feel very good.  At one point last week he asked his teacher what time it was because the clock didn't have numbers on it and he was having a hard time reading it (he can tell time in math problems just fine). His teacher said, "Don't you know how to tell time yet?", which made him feel bad.  I told the special services lady that she need to let the teacher know he had fine motor skill issues and, if he asks for help tying his shoe, she is not to ask him, "Don't you know how to tie your shoes yet?!"

Ben's teacher was clearly very organized.  I was very impressed with the structure she had around her classroom and Ben really liked her.  Nick's teacher was clearly not very organized and I got the feeling her classroom was a bit chaotic at times.  The night he brought home so much homework he had been distracted during school that day and not gotten much done.  She was also a yeller.  Nick talked about this a couple of times and Ben commented on it also because apparently he heard her several times too and he could not believe how much she yelled because his teacher didn't yell at all.  This was definitely not the right kind of environment for Nick, as he has trouble focusing when there is too much going on around him.

So, we have less quality and quantity family time + homework every evening + work is too easy (which is ironic considering the homework issue) + fine motor skill issues for Nick + I don't know when we would ever fit in anything else in the evenings, such as swimming lessons, piano lessons, AWANA, read alouds, baths.  (How do families do this?)

I also had a lot of time to contemplate our homeschooling experience and reflect on it in light of the new information of the testing scores (we had never had the boys tested before).  In retrospect, I think I was probably pushing them a little too hard in some areas.  I had also made some changes to our curriculum line up and, in retrospect, I think these were bad changes, especially for Nick.

We had been using interactive spelling and English curriculum and I switch them to a more workbook formatted curriculum that they could do mostly without my help.  I was adding a new writing program and also Latin and I knew these would require more one on one time with me so I switched to a workbook style with spelling and English so it would free me up to work with one of them on writing or Latin while the other worked alone.  I think they both enjoyed the curriculum we had been using for spelling and English so we are going to go back to using those, I am going to hold off on Latin until at least half way through 3rd grade and possible the beginning of 4th.  I am getting rid of this reading program I had added (and was having trouble fitting in) because they don't need it and the other methods we are using are clearly working already.  They were enjoying their computer class at school so I loaded a typing program that I happened to get for free and it looks fun for kids.  I let them try it out today and they were enjoying it so it might be a fun addition to our school day.

I need to quit stressing if we don't get everything done every single day and just enjoy the journey with them.  They are doing great, our methods are working and I need to quit worrying about if I am doing enough and just keep doing what we were doing, instead of thinking that they need to do a lot more for 3rd grade.

Their favorite parts of the day were riding the bus, eating lunch and recess.  I asked them if they were getting to play with others a lot more now that they were in school and they both said no.  When I asked them who they play with at recess they said they play with each other.  They knew plenty of kids, since there are kids in their class from our neighborhood, our church and also from when they were in cub scouts last year.  They were excited to see kids that they knew but they still played with each other at recess.

They really had mixed feelings about school all week.  They talked about things they liked and things they didn't like.  I think they really liked that they got to experience it, although Nick was showing definite signs of stress.  When we told them we had decided to go back to homeschooling, they both reacted about the same, which was kind of a really? OK and why? but not much more than that.  Surprisingly Ben was the one who expressed some mixed feelings about what he would miss, after telling us every single day that he did not want to go to public school and wanted to go back to homeschooling.  Nick never really said anything about what he would miss and I think he was secretly relieved, and in the end both of them ended up saying they were really glad we had decided to go back to homeschooling.

I know that we will still have our challenges but the next time I see that both boys are pushing back and having a bad attitude, I am going to take some time to review what we are doing and try to figure out what it is that is not working for them.  I will make an effort to find a co-op that works for us also because I think they really enjoyed the one we were in last year and they miss it.  They had P.E., art, Spanish and a drama class there and we all ate lunch together also, so they really felt like part of the group.  When I told Nick we were going to go back to homeschooling, he asked if we could join a co-op again. So I definitely have to look into this.

All this said, I would still tell anyone around here that our local elementary down the street is an excellent school (depending on which teacher you get, of course, but that is true of any school).  I was very impressed with much of what I read that Ben's teacher sent home.  It is one of the best schools in the area and I could definitely see why.

And that is where I need to end this book because I am getting very sleepy and we have school tomorrow!
  Please excuse any typos.  I am so sleepy tonight.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

January 22, 2014

The day got off to a cold start.  The boys waited outside in 16 degree windy weather for the bus to come for about 15 or 20 minutes and it never showed up.  Nick went from being upset with me that I would not let him go outside earlier to coming in-out, in-out, trying to keep warm.  We finally gave up and the dad took the boys to the school, which is about a 5 minute drive from our house.  They were disappointed because they were really excited about riding the big yellow school bus.

I had a short list of things I wanted to get done while they were at school.  I started off by doing some cleaning and then took a shower.  By the time I had finished getting ready for the day, my cold was hitting me hard and all I wanted to do was rest, which I did for the rest of the day:).

The boys came home on the bus.  School lets out at 3:30 and they were suppose to arrive home around 3:40.  It was well after 4:00 when they showed up but I was not surprised because I had called after they left for school with the dad and I found out there was a substitute bus driver so I suppose he didn't know the routine or something.  Anyway, I had just-out-of-the-oven cookies waiting for them when they arrived.  We sat at the kitchen island eating hot cookies and they told me about their day. 

They both had a good day.  Nick got to have P.E. and I think Ben had music but he didn't mention that so not entirely sure.  They enjoyed their lunch and they get to go to lunch together, even though they are in separate classes.  I heard snippets and bits about different parts of their day but did not really get a full picture (what did you do first, and then what?)  They would have been too impatient to do the question and answer thing so I just listened as they spilled out what they remembered.

Nick was not happy about his teacher keeping all of the boys in for recess because one boy kept talking and interrupting her during class.  I agree that I don't think that is fair and I'm not sure what she hopes to accomplish by punishing all boys for one boy's wrong doings.  When I was young, if they did this, they might have hoped the other children would say something the one who was not behaving and kind of get him in line.  Today, that would be considered bullying so I am not sure what she was hoping to accomplish with that one.

Ben was not happy that, while he was eating his afternoon snack (they are allowed to bring something for afternoon snack in their classroom) other kids kept asking him to give it to them.  He did not like that at all.

Nick also said he asked his teacher what time it was at one point during the day and he did not like that she asked him, somewhat increduously, if he did not know how to tell time.  He does know to tell time but I guess the clock did not have numbers on it or something....something was different about the clock that threw him off.

Other than those small negative points, they both seemed to have had a good day.  They played for a while and then we ate dinner and then it was time to do some homework.  They were NOT at all happy about having to do the homework, even though we had talked about this being a requirement many many times.  They both were whining and throwing quite the fit (Nick's is always worse and longer though).  Ben got with it and got his done quickly.  Nick took longer and had to wad up his paper and complain and complain instead of writing his spelling words.  He finally got with it and then it didn't take very long.  Just like with home school, it takes him longer to finish fit-throwing and start working.

After home work, all was right with the world again and they played happily until bedtime.

I am wondering how long it will take for the honeymoon to wear off.  Anyone want to guess?  I was thinking 2 to 3 weeks but it may take longer.  I suspect it will take longer for Nick than it will for Ben.  Ben still has very mixed feelings about going to school.

We shall see but I will definitely document this journey, for them and for me.  I am going to start a Bible study for myself and I have started working through The Well Educated Mind.  As soon as I can get to the used bookstore, I am going to purchase Don Quixote and start reading.  I missed out on pretty much all of the classics when I was in school so I am going to do some self-educating during this time I have to myself.  I am also going to try to plant a garden this spring and I might do some painting in our house but I'm not sure about that one...we'll see if I have the energy for that after I get over this cold.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

January 16, 2014

The boys and I ran errands this morning to prepare for them to start public school tomorrow.  They were both due for eye examines so we did that and Nick had to have an updated script (as expected) and Ben's eyes are 20/15.  We picked out new glasses for Nick.  He can't wait to wear contacts but I think he was pretty happy with the ones he got.  This was the first time he really picked them out by himself.  I think they look really sharp.

After ordering Nick's glasses, we went to the bank to retrieve the boys' OK birth certificates from our safety deposit box.  Then we headed to the school administration building to register.  It didn't take long at all because we had all of the paperwork we needed.  She gave us a contact number to call at the local elementary so I called and set up a tour for this afternoon.

The boys will officially start tomorrow.  Since they have been homeschooled up to now, they will have to take some tests to determine their grade level.  I hope they do OK, as they have never taken any formal tests before.  The only testing they have done were small math or spelling tests with me.  Just before our Christmas break, they had finished our 2nd grade curriculum in everything except math, but they were almost finished with it also.  So hopefully they will have no problem testing into the second grade.  (yes, I'm a little nervous, since it reflects on me....prayers people, I need prayers!:).

Nick is very excited and can't wait.  Ben, not so much.  I think there is a part of Ben that is excited but the other part of him really does not want to go to public school and that part tends to be more vocal.  I know he will do very well though and I suspect that he will end up really liking it.  I think Nick will love the social aspect of it and may thrive on the academic competition in that environment (as opposed to competing with his brother) but I think he will have a hard time with the required writing.

They are both most likely behind in writing, from the school's perspective, because we had a different philosophy on how to approach writing than the school uses.  Even then, N has always had issues with writing and fine motor skills and that is why he has been in occupational therapy for the past 6 months or so.  We are hoping that maybe they will take that over within the school but we shall see.  Our insurance doesn't cover it and it is very expensive so it would be nice if they did, plus it would save me a weekly trip into to the city and they would make allowances for Nick's writing difficulties.  They will test him and I will hope and pray they agree he has fine motor issues and will take it on.

Some are probably wondering how it has come to this point, that we are putting them in public school.  Basically I believe that Nick had made up his mind that this is what he wanted and he has been refusing to work for me and, really, both boys have had a bad attitude about school for a while now but one's is incredibly bad.  I have tried everything I know to try and I fear it is impacting our relationships, which I do not want.  So the husband and I discussed it (he has seen the problem behavior in action) and we both agreed that it was time they spent a semester at public school to see what it is like and see if they like it better.  I figure they will either like/love it, want to continue and will be more willing to work hard with a good attitude for their teachers, or they will dislike/hate it and want to come back home, hopefully with a new appreciation of what they have here.  Either way, I think it will likely be a win for us, compared to what we have been having.  The difficult thing is that I do not want to do both.  I don't want to homeschool one while the other is at public school because it just adds a lot more work and responsibility to my plate in various ways.  So it will be difficult if one wants to stay in public school and one wants to come home.  I suppose we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

Some may also be wondering how I feel about this.  In a word, heartbroken.  But I am trying very hard not to show it and to keep a very positive attitude about public school, while also setting expectations by comparing pros and cons between homeschool and public school.  I also feel a bit of a failure.  I tend to be a type A personality, a get-it-done kind of person and I don't naturally joke around a lot or tease.  Maybe if I had tried a little harder to make it more fun they would have enjoyed it more. 

I have always felt that teaching them was a privilege and I really enjoyed it a lot.  I enjoyed seeing their faces light up when something they had been working on finally clicked or they learned something interesting (I loved teaching them to read), I enjoyed reading lots of interesting library books to them and also all of the classics we have read together and loved and still make reference to at times.  I enjoyed the research, trying to determine which curriculum might work best for us.  I really loved it all, even though it was a lot of work.  But most of all, I loved spending lots of time with them and I will miss them during the 6 or 7 hours they are gone each day (school is from 9:00-3:30 plus 30 minutes before and after, taking the bus).

It is also very hard to give up the control of directing their education.  I felt we were on a path to a better education than the school could provide so I am kind of mourning that also.  It will be a huge adjustment for me to let someone else take over this responsibility, a responsibility that I always took very seriously and made an effort to provide the best I could.

Fortunately we have a very good school in our neighborhood, close to our house.  It is newly built and is really a very lovely building and many of the neighborhood kids that the boys play with go there.  I am sure we will all adjust and I will eventually find lots of things to fill up the empty hours of my day (I have already thought of several possibilities).

So, big changes in the Pisarik household. The husband is also making career choices/changes so please keep us all in your prayers.  This is a tumultuous time for us.

p.s.  We took the school tour and met lots of very nice, friendly staff.  The boys also saw several boys they knew, which was encouraging to them.  They were more excited after the tour.  We also saw the lunch menu and we are all pretty impressed with it.  Nick was complaining that he wouldn't like anything they serve and wanted to take his lunch but now he wants to eat there.

Tomorrow morning at 9:00 we start testing.  One will test from 9-10 and the other from 10-11 (please be praying for us during this time if you can).  Then they will be able to assign them to a class and the boys will eat lunch there, have recess and spend the rest of the day with their class.  They are out on Monday for MLK day but will hopefully be able to hit the ground running on Tuesday morning, knowing where to go and already having a desk, etc.

I am doing great in front of people I don't know, but every time I run into a fellow homeschooler and it comes up, I can not hardly keep it together.  I know it is going to turn out fine and it takes a while to adjust.  In the meantime I feel as if I am mourning a loss and it is hard at times.

Your prayers are greatly appreciated during this time.