Skip Counting with Learning Disabilities

It's Saturday and I'm homeschooling. It's the Saturday after Christmas and I'm homeschooling!! I wonder if there are any other homeschool moms doing this today. I'm sure there are some moms who are planning their homeschool lessons for the new year, but probably none who's kids are doing homeschool lessons.

Samantha was awfully quiet, so I went in her room to see what she was up to. You know, we need to wonder what they're up to when they're so quiet! Trust me, with twins, I've had my share of "Oh, no! What were you possibly thinking!" although I didn't actually say that. hahaha. At the time it wasn't so funny. But now as I think back on those moments, they're quite amusing. Now if Samantha is quiet, she's either eating some snacks she shouldn't be eating (last month she ate most of her Halloween candy in one sitting!) or she's on her bed or on the floor reading. And she always has a selection of books lined up around her.  I've told her so many times that she only needs to take out one book because she can only read one book at a time. I guess she just likes lining them up around her. So that's what I expected to see again. Instead, I found her playing on her iPad. It was a game app where she was applying make-up to a face....which is fine. Sometimes. (The internet is off on her iPad and she can't install apps without a password).

Anyway, I've got a bit of time on my hands today. So I decided to go through her iPad apps to separate what I call the fun learning games from the fun silly game. It'll be easier for her to find the learning games before doing the silly games. I included some brain games on the same screen with the learning games. She enjoys playing these brain games on the computer.  These games are good memory and logic practice, but they're also great hand to eye coordination exercises. So I found some for her iPad, as well.  We started going through some of the apps together and deleting those she either doesn't like or are too easy for her. Of course, to do this, she had to actually play some of them. As we were doing this, we found one of the math apps had skip counting. Now, I know we've done skip counting by 2's, 5's and 10's in her first grade homeschool curriculum. She scored very well on her quizzes and tests before we moved on to the next lessons. But as I watched her play the skip counting game, I learned she had forgotten her 2's and 3's.  Of course, this is not uncommon for Samantha because of her Down syndrome. I think most kids with learning disabilities have this challenge. We often have to go back to something she hasn't practiced in a while and do some review.

So after seeing her struggle as she tried to answer the questions, I decided to pull out some notebook paper. I wrote out the numbers from 0 through 100 and had her count by 2's and circle the numbers in red, then count by 3's and circle the numbers with a pencil.

Then I had her write the numbers in columns as she counted by 2's. I taught her to whisper the number she didn't write as she counted by 2's. This will help until she understands and memorizes it. Counting by 3's was a little different. You can see 3 lines under the 1, 2 and 3. She used those to count by 3's.
I lined up the columns on the notebook paper so she could see a pattern as she counts by 2's and 3's.  It's much easier to do when counting by 2's though.  As you can see from the picture to the right, it didn't work the same as she tried to skip count by 3's. So I turned the paper sideways and had her do the 3's this way.

The 3's were difficult for her no matter what we did.  But at least she was able to see a pattern. We'll have to do more skip counting repetition the next few days and then maybe once a week until I'm sure she's got it...and then, of course, come back to it to be sure she hasn't forgotten. I've already found some great ideas on Pinterest.  I'm not sure how important it is for her to learn to count by 3's, but I think it's possible for her to learn it. So we'll try.  I showed her with pennies why it's important to count by 2's. We counted the pennies by 1's. And then by 2's. And she recognized how much quicker it is to count them by 2's. Right away she said, "That's much faster!" It's almost like one of those comic book strips where the light bulb comes on over their heads. :)

As she was trying to write out the 3's skip-counting, I had to have her take a break. It's almost like she started to shut down. She couldn't even remember what number came after 77....78, 79...instead she was saying 90 comes after 77. She knows her numbers very well. She was getting frustrated, and so was I. So she was definitely due for a break. This is the beauty of homeschooling. We can do that. Heck, here we are homeschooling on a Saturday! But that rarely happens. ;)

During the break I'm writing this blog post while we also watch this live cam (Southwest Florida Eagle Cam) on another laptop.
We've been watching a couple of eagles and their little eaglets. One hatched yesterday and the other hatched today. So we've also been learning about eagles. It's so interesting how mom and dad both take turns with the eggs/eaglets. They also both bring back fish to the nest for feeding. We look forward to watching them grow over the next few weeks. I've got to search for more sites like these! But now to get back to math......

I had to come back to say that we went back to the Number Math app and she did great!! I'm so proud of her. She finished and walked away saying, "I love that app, mom" and "you're such a good teacher, mom."  Now that makes it all worth it!!!

Christmas At Our House

That vacation I told you about last week....well, I came home to a surprise from my husband. Kitchen renovation! This is a good thing and a bad thing. We've slowly been doing small renovations throughout the years. Well, not we; my husband.  He likes to do everything himself.  The only thing we've hired anyone for is refinishing our pool.  I'm actually proud of him and how he can do so much himself, even if he's learning as he's working. And the final project always looks great to me. It's also a good example for our sons. Our oldest is married and he's taken after his dad. He also likes to do most things himself. If he doesn't know how, he calls dad. And if dad doesn't know how, he goes to YouTube. :)

It also teaches our kids hard work. Hard work teaches good character. You see, my husband works long hours. This may take him longer than he'd planned or than he'd like it to take, but he still does a little bit of work when he comes home late and tired. And of course, even on weekends he's in the kitchen working to get it done. This is probably the one room with the most need for renovations. It's fairly small with a small entryway. Even with only two of us in the kitchen, it feels crowded and we're in each other's way. So my husband opened up the entryway by tearing down part of the wall. He also tore down a whole counter from one side of the kitchen and raised the drop-down ceiling. This makes the kitchen roomier, but it also opens up the rest of the house and makes it look a little bigger. This is a good thing. We've been wanting to get this done for years.

So what's the bad part? It's right before Christmas and our house is a mess. Our entire pantry, cookware and silverware....everything in our kitchen is now on our dining room table-slash-work table. Yes, that's where I work and that's where the kids do their school work. Oh, and it's also where we eat. Haha! Yes. My first thought of missing the table is schoolwork. That's a homeschool mom for you...and one that doesn't like to cook, even though I do it every night. Originally I told him I wouldn't be cooking until the kitchen was done. Well, that got expensive within just a few days....and I was only half teasing, anyway. So I'm back to cooking, and we're eating where we can. We're also doing schoolwork wherever we can. Here's a picture of Samantha doing her school work while I work on my laptop.  We've both found a spot in the living room. She's trying to get through her 4th grade Language Arts online homeschool curriculum so she can move on to her fifth grade curriculum

See our Christmas tree over there in the corner? We bought it last week and it stood outside until last night. We finally made a little space and brought it in today to decorate it. But we've had a busy day and it looks like it won't get done until Thursday. Today is Monday. My daughter insisted on the tree. I've been tempted to give it to a family in need. We just don't have the space for it. I know. Bah-humbug! No....I guess it'll be good for us. We need some festiveness around here. And besides, I need to wrap those Christmas presents I've been hiding and put them under the tree.
Oh, hey, the house across the street looks really nice. We have a great view every night. Look, doesn't it look nice? Every year they add something new to it.

And here's Samantha at the ballet. We went to see the Nutcracker.  
And today we went Christmas Caroling. We also have a Christmas party this week. See, we're trying to have Christmas spirit.
How about you? Are you feeling as unorganized at home as I am this Christmas? Or are you done with your shopping, have all your decorations up, and you've been baking those Christmas cookies? If you have, send some my, really. I'd love to hear how your December is going. Maybe give me some tips to getting an unorganized under renovations home looking a little more festive.

Family Legacy

We couldn't have asked for a better Thanksgiving. It seems like each year it just gets better. I have 5 brothers and sisters. Including my mom, her 6 kids, spouses, and grandkids we total 35. About 26 plus a couple of friends made it out to our Thanksgiving family reunion. We rented a huge 10-bedroom house for all of us to stay in together. The house had a theater, a pool and a game room.  Did I say a theater?!  I mean, we live in Florida anyway, so the pool was no biggie for my family. And the game room was fun for the kids.  But a theater?! That was exciting. My own personal theater. Well, at least when the kids were out or in the game room it was my own personal theater.  It was also a favorite with the teenagers. My son actually slept in there a couple of nights. But when they were in the game room, the theater was mine! :) No, seriously, we had a couple of nights we all chose a movie and watched together. It was very nice.
Even though we were staying near the Disney parks, we had plenty of entertainment right in the house. Some days some of the families visited the parks, went to football games, and went shopping, but most days we just hung out at home. The guys watched the football games on TV or went swimming with the kids. My favorite was when we played Monopoly Deal or Uno. There were times that we had several games going at once because to have too many players in one game just made the game slow. And with a dining room table that sat 20, we could have several games going. We also had a blast playing Charades. Kids and adults together.

Thanksgiving dinner was catered, so we didn't even have to cook. Can you tell I don't like to cook? We do have some cooks in the family, though. Every day someone baked cookies or made some deliciously sugar-filled dessert, like bread pudding. My husband loves making big breakfasts consisting of pancakes, bacon, eggs...the works. 
This is a picture of our Thanksgiving buffet. There is an inset picture of the back of the house. I cannot imagine having to clean a home this size. We like our small house. :)

I can only tell you that we all gained so much weight in just a few days. We have a few athletic or fitness-minded family members, so there were quite a number of daily walks around the neighborhood. We actually had a Thanksgiving Turkey Trot. And still we all gained a lot of weight.
Turkey Trot!  This is less than half of our group.

I'm the only one who homeschools my children.  So I thought my kids would not be able to get any schoolwork done. I was wrong, though. One of my sisters' kids are in private school, but they're very disciplined and did schoolwork each day. The house also had an office, so the kids and I would work in the office a couple of hours. Fortunately, I brought two of our laptops. So while I worked, Samantha also did her 4th grade curriculum online. It helped that my kids were not the only ones doing school and that I, too, had work to do so I could supervise them.

Even my teens got a little bit of schoolwork done. You can see Noah doing his homework while listening to music. I don't know how he does that!
And Amber is doing her math online. She's got a dry erase board where she does her math problems.

Isn't this an amazing chair?! We wanted to take it home. No-can-do. We looked it up online and it costs more than our couch!

All in all a great time was had by all. Most of us stayed up late and woke up early, trying to fit in as much time together as possible. Saying good-bye was difficult, but hopefully we'll do this again next year. Some live as far as Nebraska, Texas and Costa Rica. Only one of my sisters lives in Florida, but still a 4-hour drive.

We loved the time we had together and the legacy we're leaving our children of love for family.

Teaching Money

Samantha has most of my attention this year since her sister and brother are more independent with their college and high school homeschool. She's doing well with her third grade curriculum for science and social studies. Language Arts is her favorite subject, so she's moved up to the fourth grade. She loves to read. So between all the reading she does on her own, and her Language Arts curriculum, her comprehension is improving considerably.  She's been practicing cursive on an app we purchased on her iPad.  Cursive Writing Wizard.  She likes it because it's colorful and engaging. We haven't transitioned to cursive writing on paper yet.  She's enjoying the practice on the iPad.

It really helps that I'm able to tailor her curriculum to her needs.  She's in third and fourth grade levels in most subjects, but we're still pedaling along with math at first grade level. We've been having to do quite a bit of review for math. I don't know about other kids with Down syndrome, but math is so hard for her. It's a struggle. This week she was learning money on her online math curriculum. To make it more concrete, I layed out some coins for her. She had coins on the screen, but I thought it would help if she could also physically see the coins and handle them as she counted out the change as outlined in her lesson. She was still struggling. So I brought out some manipulatives that I had used with my older children.  I showed her how 10 cents is the same as 10 pennies. And a nickel is the same as 5 pennies. Using the blocks, the '10' block is the same as 10 single blocks (also known as 1 units). I did the same with the nickels and quarters. This took some time, but it really helped!  I know it clicked for her.  That's the good news. The bad news is that I know that if we don't continue to practice this every day, she will lose it. She'll forget.
While a 'typical' child can do these problems or repeat this concept for a few lessons before it becomes concrete, it will take Sami weeks and maybe months of repetition to make it concrete because of her Down syndrome. And if we miss a few days, it could set us back to point one.  Though she doesn't really like worksheets and workbooks, I'll throw some of those in every now and then. But since she likes her online lessons and those are more engaging and fun, she'll be doing that every day. One way she's been practicing is at the grocery store. When we're at the store, I let her pay for something that she wants for herself. Before we get to the register, I tell her how much it costs. I give her some coins and have her count it out. It takes her a few minutes, and I usually have to help her a little, but I think the more we practice like this, the more she will be able to grasp the concept.

This is homeschooling. Tailoring lessons, playing with different methods, making it part of our life, incorporating our lessons into our daily activities. It's a way of life. People who don't homeschool sometimes say to me, "I don't know how you do it," to which I respond, "If I can do it, so can you." It really is the most natural thing. You don't think you have the patience?  Neither did I...let me rephrase that...Neither DO I.  Sometimes I have to walk away and rethink 'how' I can help her understand. We're both learning and growing. We teach our children the alphabet and how to count to ten before they even start 'school' officially. So why can't we just continue to teach them everything else they need to learn?  The one-on-one attention we can give our children as we teach them is invaluable. I remember being nervous when I started, but only because I was afraid of the unknown. Homeschooling was a new adventure. Did you feel like that when you were considering homeschooling? Looking back, what would you say to yourself knowing what you know now?

Thanks for visiting and reading my blog. I'd love to know you were here. Let me know your thoughts, your experiences, and I'd even welcome any suggestions or tips! :)

Homeschool Vacation

It's pretty obvious that our homeschool is in full swing. I haven't blogged as much as I'd like.  We've been busy doing school....doing life, and even squeezing in a vacation. We were all able to take time off from work for a few days at the same time. I'm so thankful that my kids, who are now working part-time jobs, work for a company that is flexible enough to give them a week off at the same time. Yes, they both work for the same company.  And my husband, who's employer is not as flexible, was also able to take an entire week off. I, on the other hand, still managed to get my work in. But that's okay because I love my job. Besides, when does a mommy really get time off?! :) But I'm not complaining.

Do we need a reason for a vacation at the beginning of our homeschool year? It's too early to be burned out or overwhelmed.  We're just starting to get adjusted to our new schedules, and yet here we are taking a vacation. And yet it's a perfect time for homeschoolers to take a vacation. When all the kids are in school and there are no long lines at the amusement parks. We've been taking this vacation for the last few years in celebration of Amber's birthday.  It's also at the same time as Rock the Universe, which are concerts of some of our favorite Christian rock bands all in one place: Universal Studios.  Amber and Noah saved their money and purchased park hopper passes so they could enjoy the rides at Islands of Adventure as well as Universal Studios.  We stayed at a timeshare resort with lots of amenities and activities, which Samantha, my husband and I enjoyed while the older kids were at the park. I think my favorite was the lazy river (pool). Samantha will tell you that her favorite was getting to sing Karaoke by the pool each evening.  I wish I had taken a picture of that. I didn't get many pictures of us at the parks or the resort, but I did take a ton of pictures at the Museum of Science, which are good keepsakes in our homeschool portfolios.

What's a vacation for a homeschooling family without getting in some educational fun? I wanted to find something else to do with my kids other than the amusement parks, and we hit the jackpot with our choice of the Science Museum. I think it was one of the most memorable times of the whole week. The first thing we walked up on was a giant chess board. My older kids didn't get past that until they played a game, which took them a good 40 minutes or so. In the meantime, Samantha and I visited every station that was close to the chess game. There were so many hands-on exhibits for all ages. None of us were bored. Samantha's favorite was the weather station where she got to be the weather reporter in front of a live camera.  She enjoyed watching herself on screen as she read the prompter and reported the weather.  Once done with the chess game, we moved on to other hands on activities, like the flight simulator and the race cars.

There was a Whisper Dish that held our attention for some time. This was a large dish that you would whisper into, and then across the room was another similar dish where you could hear what that person was whispering. We learned that before World War II, and before the invention of the radar, acoustic mirrors were used to detect incoming enemy aircraft by the sound of their engines.  My son found this most interesting.
My daughters were enthralled with the Laser Harp. No strings. Rather than plucking strings to produce sound, we plucked laser beams, which lit up in beautiful colors. Another favorite was the Anatomy Challenge, which was actually a giant Operation game. Remember those? You need to have a steady hand to remove the organs from the 'patient' without setting off the buzzer. This one got Samantha a bit frustrated, as she couldn't quite get it.  Amber, Noah and their friend Jeremy challenged each other on who would be the best surgeon.  It hasn't been that long since they did an online science program, which included anatomy, so they were familiar with the lessons in these exhibits. It was definitely a fun day and money well spent, teacher's discount and all.

Full Schedules, but never too full for......

It's August and school has started. If you're on social networks, like Facebook, you can see it by all the 'first day of school' pictures posted by parents. How about you homeschool mommies?  Did you take first day of school pictures, too?  I hope so. Why not?  It's a good way to see how the kids grow and change from year to year. We have a picture frame with a picture for each year of school. And it's so special to me because I can easily see their physical growth from the time they were five years old until their cap and gown graduation picture at eighteen years old. Yes, we have a homeschool graduation with cap and gown.  And they get to choose any color cap and gown that they want. Our daughter just graduated, and I'm surprised she didn't pick a tie-dye cap and gown. I'm telling you, she would've tie-dyed it herself, like she does with most of her T-shirts. She chose, instead, a pretty baby blue....although, I would've been fine with tie-dye. Homeschool graduations are far from boring, though, with our graduate slide shows and personal dedications.

So now my graduate has started college. Her plan is to stay home and attend our local college for her Associate in Arts degree. Then she plans to transfer to a university when she has a better idea of what she wants to do. Right now she's thinking of going into education or be a sign language interpreter, but that could change. This semester she's taking a sign language course, which may give her a better feel for that field. She's registered as a full time student this semester. She's also working part-time. And she now has a boyfriend. Yes, a boyfriend. If it were up to me, that would not be happening. Only because she will always be my little girl and it's a little hard to accept that she's growing up. Having said that, he's a really nice young man. Her mom and dad approve. ;)  We're really not concerned with her making a bad choice in that department. Dad doesn't have to put the fear of life into him. Instead, we trust we've raised her smart enough to be with someone who will honor and respect her. This week we got to see a lot less of her. She was either at school, at work, on a date with her boyfriend and friends, or with her nose in a book or computer. After a summer of just hanging out together at the beach, watching movies, going out for ice cream...or just hanging out at home, this is a new routine.  We will need to get used to her full schedule...but never too full for some family time here and there.

Moving right along to our next child still at home and homeschooling is our son in his last year of homeschool high school. He's got a full load as well. He's also working part time. He works with his sister, who is in a supervisory position at work and is the one who does the scheduling for all employees. This can be a benefit for both of them when they need a particular day off. It's also a benefit that they get to drive to work together or play tag with the car as one arrives to work while the other one is leaving work. Noah is also dual enrolled in high school at home and college. He's taking English 1101 at the same college as his sister. At home he's doing math, anatomy, pre-calculus, worldview, and a Literary course. He also meets with his local Sea Cadets on a weekly basis and serves in the children's worship team at our church. Full schedule for him, as well....but never too full for family time here and there.

Last but not least is our youngest, Samantha. We homeschool Samantha all year. Because of her Down syndrome, it's just best that we don't take time off from school for more than a week or two at a time. She did take a week off each summer month. Now that we're officially starting a new year, we're working on some lesson reviews. For math we're reviewing her first grade homeschool curriculum.  We use Time4Learning curriculum for Math, Language Arts, Science and Social studies.  In Language Arts we're reviewing 4th grade and then moving on to 5th grade. This is one of the things that I love about this curriculum. She can work at her own pace and at the grade level she is really at. She's not struggling to keep up or moving ahead before understanding a lesson.

We've added a P.E. day to her schedule this year, which she is really excited about. We have a homeschool sports organization that is simply amazing. There are about a hundred kids on each P.E. day meeting at different parks around the city. Kids are taught about almost every sport, including archery, which is a favorite. But most importantly, kids are taught to encourage and respect one another and work as a team. I'm also looking into adding a science day at the park with a group of kids from our homeschool support group. We did this a few year ago with a few families. The kids learned a lot from the park naturalist. It was nice to get out once a week and do school at the park.

As you can see, each of us has a pretty full schedule.  I don't know how people are still asking about homeschoolers and socialization. Looking at our homeschool support group's calendar, we're going to have a hard time saying no to a lot of events and activities planned for the year. Already this month we've registered for a field trip to the zoo.  Even my daughter in college is coming with us. We're excited about this field trip because it's been a long time since we've been to the zoo, it's been a long time since we'be been on a field trip with this group, and we'll be seeing lots of old friends we haven't seen in months. And we're happy to have a day planned ahead for family time.

What does your school year look like? What are you doing differently this year from last year?  Please comment below. I love new ideas or comments.

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I Can Let Go

I've been thinking today of moms whose kids have graduated high school this year and will be going off to college in the fall, just a few weeks away.  My daughter just graduated this year from our homeschool high school, but she is staying home. She'll be attending the local college and then transferring to a university in a year or two. My son, hopes to go away to college as soon as he's done with homeschool high school. And the reason I'm thinking of moms sending off their kids is because we just dropped Noah off for a two-week Recruit Training with the Sea Cadets. This is the longest he will be away from home.  It's only been three days and I miss him terribly. I think it's even harder for me because I cannot communicate with him. He cannot just pick up a phone and call.

A couple of years ago he and his sister went to a church retreat, which was a few days. But they were together and we could communicate with each other.  This time he has no electronics. So that means no texting, phone calls or emails. Parents can send emails. The emails get printed and passed out to the recruits at the end of the day. He cannot email us back, though. He can only write to us.  I packed him a mailing kit...addressed and stamped the envelopes so all he had to do was write the letter. We just received our first letter from him. He must've been too tired to write because the letter was quite short. But it was clear that these first two days were pretty rough. I know the first day there, the cadets were awakened at 4:45 am and went on to do physical fitness training immediately after waking up...then breakfast.  So I can imagine that by the end of the day, the only thing he wants to do is just sleep.

You may be wondering what possessed me to send my son to recruit training! Well, it wasn't my choice. It was his. He is 17 years old now and he's been looking forward to this for a long time. He knew how hard it was going to be, and still he wanted to go. He has a desire to join the service some day. It's not a direction that we have been taking him in, but it's a desire that has grown in his heart. So I think this is a very good opportunity for him to get a small taste of what it would be like. I think these two weeks may be life-changing for him. It will certainly be character-building and teach him self discipline.  I'm happy he's learning time management and to set goals and remain focused. I've been told by parents of recruits from previous year that their sons went as young boys and came back as responsible young adults.
These are all good lessons he's learning, of course.  But I cannot help but then think of the near future when he goes away to college. I'm not even half way into the two week period and I'm missing him. I cried reading his letter and I tear up talking to my daughter about where he is and what he may be doing. So I cannot even imagine when he goes away to college...or if/when my daughter goes away to college. I still have a year or two to worry about that, but I'm also aware that time passes oh so quickly.  It seems like just yesterday I was trying to decide what elementary homeschool curriculum to use. I cannot forget I still have my youngest daughter, and she's a long way away from making plans about moving.

When I start thinking of my kids leaving home and what I'll be missing with them, it is so easy to fall into depression or sadness. I can't let myself stay there for long.  I've found that it helps to remember that I've not just been raising children, but I've been raising adults.  This was the goal.  To raise adults who are productive citizens in society and live out God's plan for their lives. I change my focus from what I'm losing (the past) to what my kids are gaining (their future).  I meditate on their bright futures and my future with my husband and the time we'll have together, rather than the past.  The past is beautiful, but it is past. It had its purpose. I treasure those moments, but they are just beautiful memories now. Instead, I want to get excited for the opportunities, the new experiences, the new life lessons and adventures they will have, and that my husband and I will have, and that we can share with each other.  We'll be able to have some very cool talks. In the meantime, they are all still home and my work as a homeschool mom is not finished.  I can work on friendships with my children, my soon-to-be adult children, by being intentional with our conversations and time together. I need to start counseling more than disciplining, releasing them, allowing them to make mistakes, and letting them fly. It helps to know that God is in control and I can let go.

Independence Day...lessons learned

Yes, here it is, Independence Day, 4th of July, and I'm blogging.  I'm so excited to share our day with you so far. It's three in the afternoon and it feels like I should be getting ready for bed and like my day should be over. I'll tell you why.  I'm not a morning person. It's one of the many benefits of being homeschoolers, in my humble opinion, that we get to set our own schedules and work at our own pace. We don't normally start our school until late morning. I'm not saying we wake up that late, but by the time we have breakfast (my favorite meal of the day), have our quiet time and do some chores, it's late morning or early afternoon before we actually start with our 'academics'.  Well, yesterday we made plans to go to the beach today. But more than that, my daughter suggested we wake up at 5am so we could get to the beach before sunrise!  We all joked about who would change their mind come 5am or who wouldn't be able to get out of bed. My husband said it would be easy for him because he's up early every morning for work anyway. But I questioned whether he'd be tempted to sleep in since he had the day off.  Our teenage son, Noah, who likes to sleep in and doesn't like the beach, said there was no way he was getting up. And I told him even if we had to carry him to the car, he was going. All in good fun, though. I was the first one up, and as I went to wake Amber up, her alarm went off. She loves the beach and it was her idea to begin with, so I had no doubt she'd be ready in no time.

Our original plan was to be up at 5 and be at the beach by 6:30, in time to see the sunrise. We should've gotten up a lot earlier because we didn't get out of the house and on our way until 6:30! So we got to see the sunrise on the way to the beach. It took longer than we had expected to get the kayak strapped to the top of our van. And to be quite honest, our family tends to be late more often than I care to admit. Our son Noah is the only one who is punctual. He's the one who wants to be a Marine. I'd like to simply grab some towels and the umbrella and just head to the beach. But some in my family, who will remained unnamed (cough*cough* hubby), want to pack like we're going camping. It was a little stressful just getting things together and trying to get out of the house and on our way. When we all (I) decided to just surrender the idea of getting to the beach before sunrise, and be happy with just the fact that we were going to spend the day together, whether we saw the sunrise outside our house or on the way to the beach, 'we' were able to just live in the moment and have joy. Lesson learned.

So we finally made it to the beach and with arms full of coolers, towels, bags, umbrellas, chairs, and, of course, the kayak, we found a nice spot on an empty beach. Sunrise is definitely a good time to arrive at the beach on a busy holiday. The water was perfect for kayaking. Amber bought this kayak several months ago. She's my adventurous child. Today was the first time we all got to use it. And and best of all, Samantha got to use it!! Samantha, for those of you new to our blog, is our daughter with Down syndrome. My husband and Amber gave her a few tips on how to turn the kayak in the direction she wanted it to go. It didn't take but a couple of minutes before she was off on her own and loving it! I was a bit scared of drifting out to the middle of the ocean, but once I saw her doing it and having such a great time, I knew I had to try it too.  We each had our turn kayaking. Kayaking out on the ocean, especially when the water is so calm, with no waves, is so relaxing. Of course, I didn't go out too far. And knowing my husband would swim out to rescue me if I needed him, was nice too.

We really had a great time together. At one point I saw something floating in the ocean. It kind of looked like a ball.  Amber thought it was a coconut, though there are no coconut trees on the beach. So she swam out to see (sea).  Haha.  I had to put that pun in there.  Sorry.  Anyway, would you believe it was a whole watermelon?!  I cannot imagine how that got out there...maybe it fell in the water from one of the boats we saw out there. Maybe even a cruise ship. We had a good laugh about that one. We wondered if it would be good to eat, but we just left it at the beach when we packed up to go home. On our drive home we talked about the meaning of Independence Day. And it was actually Samantha who started the conversation by asking what the holiday means. She's always so curious and eager to learn. We each shared what rights we personally think are most important to us and what a blessing it is to have been born in America and enjoy the freedom that we have, especially the freedom of religion.

We made it to the beach by 7am and back home by 1:30, just in time for the our teens to have lunch, shower and head out to work for a few hours. And now that we're home Samantha is playing some matching vocabulary games. She's getting ready and excited for our American Girl book club, which starts next week. Although I'm ready to just call it a day, it's far from over. The Colombia vs Brasil soccer game is starting soon.  Have I mentioned how much our family loves 'futbol'?   My husband's and my parents are Colombian, so this is one game we CANNOT miss! And then tonight, of course, we'll be going out to see the fireworks. Our kids will be home from work by 7, just in time to go out and meet our older son and his wife and baby at the park for the fireworks show and some more fun. I'm so glad that even with all these changes we're going through with our older kids growing more independent, that we can still make time to be together and enjoy each other. The many years of homeschooling have created a bond with each other. My kids are close. They are best friends. And even if one of us doesn't like the beach, we don't mind it so much, as long as we're together. We're thankful for the memories.

What about your family? What did you all do for the 4th of July weekend?  Any new lessons learned?


Our daughter-in-law is starting to homeschool our 4-year-old granddaughter.  She's very excited and eager to start to homeschool preschool.  Today we both searched through my shelves of books and materials for things that she could use to teach the baby to read.  I know.  At four years old she's not a baby, but it's a hard habit to break. She's still the baby in the family.   So we started pulling out the books I used with my own babies.  I showed her how I used each one, even sampling one with the baby.  Just like our kids have different learning styles, we have different teaching styles.  So I wanted her to take a look at each one and choose which would be best for her.  For our older kids we used Alpha-Phonics, and with our youngest we used Phono-Graphix. We've homeschooled for thirteen years and have made many changes over the years. We've used so many different resources.  I have my favorites.  And actually, there are some books and resources that I may have a hard time surrendering, even after I'm done homeschooling all our kids.  But I'm happy that our daughter-in-law is homeschooling and we'll be keeping my favorite ones in the family.  So I'll be sharing with her,  and hopefully someday sharing them with our other kids if they homeschool.  Of course, as I say this, I'm reminded that  there's always new homeschool curriculum coming out.  Our youngest uses Time4Learning, and that wasn't around when our older ones were little. They would've loved it!

We've used so many different things over the years. Some have stayed with us and some haven't lasted more than a few weeks.  Through our elementary years we're more eclectic.  I'll use a little of this and a little of that, even getting creative with materials at times.  When our kids reach high school, it gets a little more structured, as we're more concerned with the credits needed for high school transcripts.  I just don't want to take a chance that I may mess them up if they want to take their education further. So structure equals less freedom and more discipline with our schedules.  It means more responsibilities. Especially once they're dual enrolled in college.  If they want to dual enroll, we start with one college class to be sure they can handle it.  If they're registered for a college class and homeschool writing courses, they know that the college class takes priority over any other course, extra-curricular activity or job.  The college course grade is one that will be on their record and affect their gpa, not just for high school, but also for college. For example, one of our kids took an online college class. That was not a good idea for this particular child.  The idea was that the online class would allow more flexibility, but instead, our student often forgot to check in for assignments and tests. Of course, our student got a less than acceptable grade. That was one lesson learned by our student and by us! 

This year two of our kids became drivers, started college classes and part-time jobs.  The changes have meant we've had to adjust in different ways.  We've had to be more mindful of our schedules.  We've had less freedom to take spontaneous trips or vacations.  Also, family dinners have always been important.   However, with additional activities, classes, jobs, friends and schedules, there have been fewer family dinners.  At times I'll cook a meal for six, and it'll end up being just three of us.  Sometimes the kids have been at work, in class, or even out at an event or with friends.  Sometimes they've planned to be home, and their schedule changes when they get called in to work. This summer they didn't take college classes, so it's meant more time to be together.  We're having some sweet times together.  At times we've had to intentionally plan it, and other times it's been spontaneous.  Either way, it's always fun to have time together, whether it be a planned trip to the beach for the day, the library for a few hours, or a game or movie at home for the evening.  Even if it's only for a few minutes, they'll take time to play two-player games with Sami.  The World Cup has also afforded us more time together, since our family loves soccer. We've watched games together either at our oldest son's place or at our home.  It's been fun cheering for our favorite teams together.  Also, our kids are making new friends at work, and we've had more opportunities to be intentional to invite them over more often to get to know them.

What about your family?  Some of you may just be starting out, but some may have older kids.  What brings your family together, if you have older ones?  And if you have little ones, what traditions are you starting in your family?  

Learning Games for Preschoolers

Our son married a wonderful girl last month. I now have a new daughter....and I also have a new granddaughter.  She has a soon-to-be 4-year-old daughter, and she's a sweetheart. I know you may think I'm biased, but believe me when I tell you that she is super smart, kind, considerate, lovable....this is the moment when a mom of a toddler is reading this and she says, "Sure she is. She's your granddaughter." or "Sure she is. She doesn't live with you." You're right on both counts. Her mom and I agree. We do agree she's got her moments, like most toddlers. I've actually seen her when she's had a tantrum. And I'm so impressed with how gentle and patient my daughter-in-law is with her. Perhaps that's why baby is so tenderhearted and sweet.

Well, my daughter-in-law has decided to homeschool. She was homeschooled through the last half of her school years. So she has experience and knows the benefits of homeschooling.  Can I say that I'm happy that they're choosing to homeschool?!  I hope all my babies will be homeschooled. Baby is only 4 years old, but mom is eager to get started. And baby is also excited to do 'schoolwork'. It's been a long time since I've had a little one. She's stayed with us a few times while they go out on a date or when mom needs to run errands. We have tea parties and dress-up parties. We play with puppets and have puppet shows.  She's such a little actress.  She's been taking ballet and loves to put on little dance shows.

There's lots of learning going on through play when she stays with us.  Sam loves to play with her.  She's a wonderful auntie.  She loves playing on the computer, too. We've found some fun learning games for preschoolers.  We've installed some fun educational apps on our iPad that she enjoys playing. When my kids were little, our greatest resource was the library.  We spent a lot of time at different libraries, children's museums, the park. And I look forward to doing that with Sam and baby, too.  Our library has fun Story Time scheduled several times a week, which includes a craft. 

The internet is a great resource today. I have a Pinterest account and I'm finding loads of hands-on learning activities there.  I also found a fun program at our local humane society for young readers.  They've joined with the libraries to create a program called Wags & Tales Reading Program.  Kids can read a short story of their choice to a therapy dog. This helps boost kids' confidence in reading, plus it's fun for them. So I'm starting to put together some fun activities for the summer because our granddaughter, who lives in North Carolina, will also be visiting us this summer.  Of course, we'll be doing days at the beach or the waterpark here in Florida, but I also want some fun things to do at home besides swimming in the pool or baking cookies.  So if you have any fun activities or suggestions, please comment below and let me know. 

Getting Ready to Meet Felicity and Kaya

Samantha has been invited to an American Girl summer book club.  She is so excited. This is the first personal invitation she's received to be part of a group or club. She's especially excited because it's a book club, since she loves to read, and it's an American Girl book club, since she loves and has American Girl dolls. She needs to read two books, Meet Felicity and Meet Kaya, before the end of next week. She's almost done with the first book.  To prepare, I've gone through the book and picked out words that she's not familiar with, like fret, ginger, harness, scoundrel, breeches, tannery, to help her with word meaning and comprehension. I wanted to create my own list at SpellingCity, but then as I did a search for Meet Felicity, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were a number of lists already created by other members, which we can use. These word games give a boost to her reading comprehension. While some of these may be words that most girls her age would know, they're not words that we use in our everyday conversations or that she may have read too often in other books. Also, Samantha has Down syndrome, so her vocabulary knowledge is not as extensive as a typical child her age. Which is why I'm so glad that she is an avid reader. The more she reads, the more her vocabulary will grow and the more her comprehension will improve.
She reads every opportunity she gets.
To be sure she's understanding what she's reading, after she's read a few pages, I ask her what she's read. If she doesn't have a good understanding of it or if she cannot answer some of my questions, I'll read it with her again. It's okay if we read the book repeatedly. The important thing is that she read the book from beginning to end and that she understands the flow of the story, the problem in the story and the solution in the story. We also talk about lessons to take away from each story, the characters and what she thinks of each character. Sam and I haven't done a book club before. So I look forward to her being a part of this with other girls and their moms. It'll give her an opportunity to hear the girls discuss the books and to have some input into conversations. This is an area that Samantha really needs practice in, and this will be the perfect setting for her. She'll be with friends who know her and care about her, and she'll be familiar with the topic of conversation. I'll tell you more later about our book club experience. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your experience with book clubs. Maybe share with us some ideas we can bring to share with our friends.

Graduate Slideshow

Well, I've been talking about it for weeks and graduation day came and passed. It was a beautiful ceremony. We have a lot of homeschoolers in our church. So we have our own Graduation and Promotion Homeschool Ceremony.  We had five high school graduates and 3 kindergarten graduates. All girls. And we had approximately 35 kids promoted from one grade to the next. Our main focus in our graduation and promotion is character. Each child is given a certificate highlighting a character or two that they have shown growth in throughout the school year. Mom and Dad will have written out a short blurb regarding their child and their growth in these areas, and this is added to the certificate.

We invited all our family to the event. It was a big day for our daughter! We are the only homeschoolers in our family and this was everyone's first time at a homeschool graduation and promotion. I've participated and been in the audience of many graduations, and let's be honest. We wait and wait for our graduate to make it to the stage for his or her diploma. And once that's done, we can't wait for it all to be over.  At least the graduations I've been to have been a long drawn-out event where we just listened to names we don't know being called out.  A homeschool graduation and promotion is different. And maybe I'm a bit biased, but it was fun and interesting listening to each character trait being read for each student.  And to watch the expressions on the kids' faces and their reactions was priceless. Our family was impressed with the sweetness of the whole ceremony. And I even had one of my nieces ask me questions on how to homeschool her babies. The audience cheered and applauded each student as their character trait was read. The kids were eager to hear what their parents had written. And the parents were filled with joy to celebrate the end of another school year. In this case, the parents have played a major part in the character building of their children through much daily prayer and discipline, through highs and lows, through moment by moment opportunities to teach academics and good character. Of course, academics are important, but academics will only get you so far without good character. Wouldn't you agree?

The best part of the whole celebration were the much anticipated slide shows. Each homeschool high school graduate had a slide show for all to view, followed by the parents saying something to their graduate, and the graduate honoring and thanking their parents. It's safe to say that there wasn't a dry eye in the house. My daughter's slide show was a complete surprise for her because mom put it all together for her.  Well, actually, I selected the pictures and the songs, but my nephew did an amazing job of putting the whole thing together. And still, once I saw the finished work or art, I had to acknowledge that it was God who produced, directed and edited the whole thing...not just the slide show, but her life. In the end, all I could say to my daughter is this is the end of just one chapter of her life and I eagerly await to see what God will continue to do in her life.

Summer Courses and Summer Lessons

My daughter's homeschool graduation ceremony and party are both this weekend.  I'm looking forward to this week being over because it will mean some free time for me. Finally!  The kids are done with school and have had a lot of free time...too much free time, if you ask me.  So I've registered my son for a couple of courses.  He just started an online HTML Basics For Beginners course that can take him three weeks to complete if he does one lesson a day.  He can work at his own pace. I'm thinking it will take him a little longer since there are days that he works and may be too tired for a lesson or he may take a day off here and there. He has asked for more hours at work during the summer, and that's fine with us. He needs to start saving money for a car now that he has a driver's license.  I've also signed him up for an online course on creative writing help.  This is an online course with a certified teacher. I'm thinking it will be like a writing tutor. I've been wanting to try this writing course out for him and summer is the perfect time for it.

Our youngest daughter we always school year-round because to homeschool Down syndrome means we cannot take too long of a break. In addition to her online curriculum, we also continue with copy work and dictation. She also loves to read.  Her greatest motivator is music and watching a movie like Frozen. So if she wants to listen to music or watch a movie, her schoolwork must come first. She hardly ever fusses about doing her school work, though. 

As homeschoolers, though, you know that learning happens naturally, even when we don't plan on it. For example, Memorial Day my husband had the day off, which doesn't happen too often. The kids also made sure to request the day off from work so we could spend the day together. We slept in a little that morning, but around noon, we headed out to a beach an hour away. We hadn't been to this beach before and wanted to check it out. Well, as we were about 5 miles from our exit on the highway, we heard a loud pop. Sure enough, a flat tire. I had just finished asking my husband a few minutes earlier if he had taught our daughter how to change a tire. What a coincidence, huh?  Apparently it was a screw that was already in the tire and popped out, creating an instant flat tire. I'm just so glad this happened while my husband was with us, because we didn't even have a spare tire in the van! Fortunately, a friend lives close to where we were stuck and he came and gave my husband a ride to the tire store to get the tire plugged.  My son took the tire off, and my daughter put the tire back on.  We were on our way to the beach soon enough and had a fantastic afternoon. Who would've thought we'd have a lesson that afternoon, not just in changing a tire, but in patience and God's provision.
What will your summer look like?  Do you homeschool year-round?  

Our First Homeschool Graduation...and all that's involved

We're excited about our trip tomorrow.  We're heading to Orlando for the Florida Parent Educators Association annual homeschool convention. That was a mouthful! It's the FPEA, for short. Two of my kids will be traveling with me.  They're excited to meet up with friends who don't live close to us.  They'll have some free time to hang out by the pool or play some sports. As I've mentioned before, we have our first graduate from homeschool this year. Although the FPEA has a graduation ceremony and prom for the graduates, my daughter has chosen not to participate because she really won't know any of the other students. Instead she will be participating in our own graduation and promotion ceremony with our church.  Most of the families in our church homeschool and we've been at this church for the last 8 years.  So she's grown up with these kids all through her middle school and high school years. As a matter of fact, there will be five graduates this year. All girls. All good friends.

We've planned a big graduation party for the girls.  It's a party for the girls and their immediate family members and their friends.  Each graduate got twenty invitations, and since most of them share the same friends, it was easy to keep it to under a hundred. All the families will have a separate private party or dinner for relatives and friends not attending this party. The girls have done a great job at doing most of the planning themselves. They created their own Graduation board on Pinterest where we're all adding pins of things we like for either the graduation pictures, like poses, or decorations for the party or ceremony.  We've had a few meetings throughout the year to plan both the ceremony and the graduation.  We'd also like to plan a graduation trip for the girls with the moms, but we're still working on that one. 

As part of the graduation ceremony we've agreed each graduate will have their own table where they can display pictures and other things that represent who they are, their interests, or their schoolwork throughout the year. They will all have a couple of things in common. One is an 8x10 framed picture in their graduation gowns at the center of the table. This will identify whose table it is. Each table will also have their own individual journal for friends and family to write notes of encouragement or congratulations. For our daughter, we decided to have some of her horseback riding trophies, her writing notebook of stories and essays that she started when she was seven years old, a photo album of pictures from kindergarten and including her graduation pictures, and a poster of pictures we've taken throughout high school with friends.  Some of the pictures we'll have are of her riding events, public speaking competitions, summer camps, and yearbook club. I also have a frame that has a picture her for each school year, beginning in kindergarten and ending with her graduation picture in the center of the frame.
I also need to create her diploma using a free template I found on one of my favorite high school homeschool websites, which I use for other resources. Most homeschoolers create their own diplomas.  There are some homeschoolers who use umbrella schools and they get their diplomas from them. Lastly, each graduate will have a five-minute slide show. Yes, that's mom's job. I should've had that done already, but I've had a full schedule the last couple of months.  And I'll have to admit that because I've never done one before, I may have procrastinated just a tad. Thankfully, my nephew has agreed to help me this weekend, and my son will watch so he can learn, also. I want to add messages to the slideshow from her dad and from me, and from her brothers and sisters. The other option would be to have a song playing in the background and say something to her in person on stage. But I'm afraid I may start crying if I choose the second option. The first option is safest, although it may not be easier. We'll see. 

So I've already ordered the announcements, sent out invitations for the graduation party, the ceremony, and our own family gathering at our home after the ceremony. One other thing I've been doing the last week is printing pictures. How many of you do what I do and have hundreds of pictures sitting in our hard drives and in our SD cards?  Well, I've printed over a hundred pictures, and it was so easy to do!  Why don't I do this more often?!  Sending the pictures to print was the easy part. And with the use of coupons, it was not expensive at all. The tedious part was looking through all our files of pictures and SD cards. But it was fun. My sisters and nieces had fun as I texted old pictures to them. We have a 'family chat' where we all can communicate with each other in one place. We had fun reminiscing together for a couple of hours last night through text. A few months ago I started filing my pictures by month and year. That should make it easier for my other kids when it's time for their graduations.  Part of me wants graduation to come and go already because of all the work, but another part of me is saying, "Time is going by too fast. Please slow down." Anybody else with me?

Exhibit Hall Expedition

So remember that consistent practice I talked about last week?  Well, it's been a challenge this week.  Yes, the high school prom and the used curriculum sale have come and gone.  Our oldest son's wedding and all the planning and activities that came with that are over, but now my daughter graduates in two weeks and there is so much to do.  Our homeschool conference is also next week. Our kids look forward to the time away because they get to hang out with all their friends who also attend. I have a few days before and after the convention to get some pictures together for a slide show of my graduating daughter. In addition to that, I need to record a message from each of my kids and from us (her parents, slash, teachers) that will make it a memorable occasion for her.  I'm thankful for the option to record the messages because I'd probably break down in tears on stage. I know I'll be crying looking through old photographs!  Actually, today we attended the graduation of some of their friends at a local homeschool program, and I was crying through those slide shows! Our kids have grown up together, we parents have taught each others' kids in co-ops. These are all of 'our' kids. And time seems to pass so fast. It was bittersweet, indeed.

With all that's going on, we're able to still stay on task with Sam's handwriting practice.  I mentioned last week that I wanted to transition from the RediSpace notebook paper she's been using, which has dividers between letters, to regular notebook paper. As you can see from the picture, her handwriting still looks pretty good.  That RediSpace notebook paper has made all the difference.

The one thing I didn't anticipate is that it took her twice as long to finish her copy work using the regular notebook paper. She was being so careful to write neatly.  But I know that with more consistent practice (there it is again), she'll get more comfortable and confident, and her writing will become more fluent. At this point I don't think she'll need the RediSpace paper any longer. I'm glad we tried this now, before the convention. I won't need to buy it anymore. Now I'll be exploring the convention's exhibit hall in search for new things that will benefit her.
I've heard new homeschoolers say that the homeschool convention is so overwhelming.  I don't think they're talking about the speakers or workshops, but rather the exhibit hall.  There are so many options available to us, that one can get easily overwhelmed, especially someone who is new to homeschooling. There really are so many curricula to choose from, and so many resources....for our typical kids. For families with children who have special needs, who have learning or developmental challenges, it's like trying to find a needle in a haystack. For years I tried to use curricula with Sami that I had used with my other children or that were the most popular only to become frustrated trying to adapt it to her needs, making additional copies for more practice and adding to them to help her understand concepts. I realize there is no such thing as an all encompassing curriculum, but even more so if it's a struggle to homeschool central auditory processing disorder because your child doesn't process information like most typical children do, or to homeschool a child with Down syndrome who needs lots of repetition, or a child with ADHD who is very intelligent but cannot sit at a table writing in workbooks for an extended period of time.

So now I look forward to the homeschool convention in the hopes of finding a new resource to add to our homeschool, especially for math. Math is still a struggle for Sami. I discovered some new things this week as I was teaching her to count money. But more on that on my next blog entry. ;)  I'm always open to new ideas and look forward to my Exhibit Hall Expedition!

Handwriting Secrets

This week we were still recovering from our last week and weekend. We were very busy last week with last-minute wedding arrangements, the wedding rehearsal, bachelorette and bachelor getaways, a used curriculum sale, and finally the wedding, which was on Saturday.  It was beautiful. It was an outdoor wedding and the weather was perfect.  The party followed indoors where everyone enjoyed good music and had a blast taking pictures in the photo booth.  I'm so happy to have a new daughter...and a new granddaughter, as she has a sweet 3-yo baby girl.  They are wonderful additions to our family.  Our son's mother-in-law lives a few blocks away from me and we are best friends. We work out together and go on walks together.  And her younger daughter is good friends with our daughter and our other son.  So our families have already blended well together.

I am so thankful for the homeschool curriculum we finally found for Samantha.  I don't have to worry about planning the lessons for the week.  It's been such a crazy few weeks, but she's been able to work independently when I've needed her to. Sam needs so much repetition and consistency that to miss a whole week of school work would set us back weeks.  It would be like taking 2 steps forward only to take 10 steps back. We homeschool her year-round. If you have a child with special needs, then you understand that not all curricula works in homeschooling special needs. And we tried MANY!

For the entire last week she did not do any copy work or writing, so this week we needed to catch up and get some student writing practice in. We use Mead Transitional notebook paper, which has been so helpful for Samantha.  She's learning to space her letters appropriately. Before finding this paper at the homeschool convention, it was frustrating her as she had to focus on the size of her letters, the distance of her letters, as well as punctuation and capitalization.  It's been so much easier to have a guide that helps her keep the letters within spaces. We've been using this paper all year.  If you look closely at this picture, you'll notice the blocks for each letter. It trains her to space her letters correctly. It also trains her where to start and stop so she doesn't try to go too far off the page.
I think she'll be ready soon to write without it. If she still has trouble writing without it, I'll have her write at least once a week on regular notebook paper as we slowly make the transition.

Something else I'd like to start teaching Sam is to write short paragraphs. This will be our new goal. I don't yet know how I'm going to handle teaching her the types of sentences or when to place commas in a sentence, but I don't think it's necessary to teach Sam things like comma rules or the complex details of grammar.  Yes, I taught my other children all these things, but I don't think Samantha will need to know these things. My main focus with Sam is that she would learn to communicate as clearly and effectively as is possible for her, whether orally or in writing. So for now, I'll need to keep this as basic as possible.

You see, while it takes a typical child a few months of handwriting practice to develop good handwriting skills, it takes a child with Down syndrome a little longer.  It may take Sam a few months longer, or maybe even a year or two longer, but she will get it. She learned to read when she was 9 years old, but she is an avid reader now and would rather sit in bed and read than sit and watch TV. Progress may be slow, but there's progress. Consistent practice makes better learning.

What To Do With Homechool Used Curriculum

When we go to homeschool conferences, we lug around a suitcase on wheels to carry all the books we purchase. And when my kids were little, we'd receive a delivery of our new curriculum in the mail and we'd excitedly open the box to browse through our new material, and sometimes that excitement would wane as we realized it wasn't a good fit for us.  I have one history program I purchased about 4 years ago, which was pretty expensive, and it's still in a box because it was just too overwhelming for us. So over the years I have accumulated a lot of books and curriculum. For several reasons, I have decided to sort through all our materials and books, and gather them all for our used curriculum sale this week. Well, it's not 'our' used curriculum sale. It's our homeschool support group's used curriculum sale. If it were mine, I would've scheduled it at a later date, since Saturday is my oldest son's wedding. Yes, as if I don't have enough to do, I add this to my to-do list, right? Well, to tell you the truth, I wasn't given an option. You see, I've had some boxes of books sitting in the garage (my husband's man cave) and my husband said I need to do something with these boxes.  

Normally I take things I don't use or need to the local Goodwill store or give it away to friends, but what to do with used curriculum?  We have several support groups in our area that have used curriculum sales, so that's one option. If you'd like to find one in your area, this is a good site to start your search for a homeschool support group.  Most support groups hold a used curriculum sale just before the homeschool conventions, which are usually in May. This way families have had a chance to sell old materials and now have money to purchase new. Also, families have had the chance to look for books and used curriculum that we need for the coming year and can be ready to purchase what we have not found at the homeschool conference.

Another option, which is what I'll do with whatever doesn't sell, is to post them for sale online. There are several websites that I've used in the past for purchases and for selling. Like I said, most of our curriculum is now online. Even our books are online.  The only exception to that is my youngest daughter. Although most of her curriculum is online, she loves her books.  She likes to look through her book shelves, pick a book, and curl up in her bed or the sofa and just read.  And she reads out loud for everyone to hear. Right now she's playing hangman online using the word list from the book she's been reading this week. 

I don't know what I'll do if I come back home with all these boxes.  I don't think my husband will let me take them out of the car and back in the house. I wish we had a homeschool curriculum library where I could donate them.  We don't have that in our area.  Well, before my mind starts to wander to the thought of starting a lending library for homeschoolers, I'll close now and go pack those boxes into my van for tomorrow's sale! But I'd love to hear what you all do with your used curriculum!

Breaking the Mold

It’s getting closer to homeschool graduation day for my oldest daughter.  It’s a bitter-sweet time. One of our friends is a photographer, so last week we went to a local park/beach and she took pictures in her graduation gown, with her best friends, and some pictures doing the things she loves most, which is soccer and long-boarding. Some of the pictures were near the beach because she loves the beach so much.  As I posted some of the pictures on Facebook, some of my friends who don’t homeschool commented on how different her pictures were from the average graduation pictures they’ve seen. And each of the girls were wearing different colored graduation gowns.  I explained that as homeschoolers, we think outside the box and break the mold.

Our homeschool support group has a graduation and promotion ceremony every year. As a matter of fact, we also have a yearbook.  For the graduation we have the option of standing with our graduate and speaking or pre-recording a message to her.  I’m going to opt for the pre-recorded message because I’m afraid I’ll start crying.  I realize I’m done with her academic education.  And I’m closing that chapter of our lives. That doesn’t mean she’s done with her own education, though. Whether she chooses to continue with college and university immediately, later, or not at all, she will continue to learn and grow in so many ways. She is just beginning a new chapter in her life, but learning will never end.  I am excited for her and I am looking forward to this new phase in our lives and in our relationship.

As homeschoolers, we realize that education does not need to be confined to what we learn within four walls. Whether you’re homeschooling, roadschooling, worldschooling or unschooling, there is a vast amount of information to soak in.  As our kids are growing, the trick is to foster a love for reading and learning, to encourage the inquisitive minds kids have and to get excited to learn new things with them.  Show them by example how to get excited about new things. We’ve made and are continuing to make beautiful memories learning together.

My son and his friends had a blast this week with their science experiments.  I didn’t mean to make a pun there.  There were no explosions, but it was fun.  In his Chemistry course he was learning about Kinetics and Catalysts. He was so excited as he took videos and pictures of the different reactions to the mixtures.
In one experiment he and his friends mixed Hydrogen peroxide using yeast as the catalyst. They also used different concentrations of hydrogen peroxide. They added soap and watched the reaction of the oxygen being released as the process was sped up by the yeast and the oxygen escaped into soapy bubbles. The soap was used to make the release of the oxygen observable.

These are the kinds of memories I will always treasure. Our curiosity spills over into learning as we research, experiment and have adventures together.  Homeschooling is more than a way to educate my children. It’s  a way of life for us. It’s natural learning. And when it’s graduation day and you put a slide show together,  it’ll be so much fun to have all those pictures that reflect the fun, the memories and who your children are. Like our daughter’s graduation pictures reflect who she is and the many things she enjoys doing. 

The Universe in Perspective

After having spent time last week on a study of the universe with Sam, I knew that it was something we would need to review. My husband brought home a movie about astronauts in outer space. He didn't know about our science lesson from last week and that Sam had some trouble understanding some of it. So it wasn't something he planned, but the timing was perfect.  Sam got to watch the movie with us and she observed some of the things that were in the book she read in her lesson on Exploring the Universe. She was able to see what an astronaut wears in space. She watched a girl putting on a space suit and noticed that the suit is bulky, heavy and thick. In one of the scenes the astronauts were in trouble as they were running out of oxygen, so she understood that the space mask supplied the oxygen for the astronauts, which helped them to breathe. She saw that they didn't need to wear their space suits or masks if they were in the shuttle. And she also noticed items floating around in the space shuttle, like a clipboard and a pencil, just as her lesson had spoken of last week.

In addition to watching the movie about space, the shuttle, and the astronauts, this week we had a lunar eclipse, or what's been described as the blood moon. Sam didn't stay up to watch it at three in the morning, but we talked in simple terms about what an eclipse means. I showed her videos and pictures how the moon looked to help her understand, since she is a visual spacial learner.  Some of the pictures showed planet Mars and the star Spica near the moon.  Sam recognized that a star and a planet look the same to us from this distance.  So together we looked up how to tell the difference between a star and a planet. I've never liked just giving my kids an answer.  When they ask a question, we look it up.  I guess it's the researcher in me.  I love looking up things.  So Sam learned that planets revolve around the sun and they almost never twinkle. She said, "Like the song, twinkle, twinkle little star?"  Exactly!  So Sam got to learn a little more than we had bargained for or than her lesson of the universe covers, thanks to the eclipse.

As I looked up pictures and videos for her, my thirst to learn more got the best of me. I mean, it's not every day we have a blood moon. So as Sam repeated the lesson from last week and moved forward a little more with it, I continued some research of my own. Her online lessons free me up to do things like this sometimes. She also likes the feeling of being able to work independently at times, while having me close enough to observe her or help her if needed.  Some of the things I found in my research were so interesting. Certainly more than I could share with Sam, but they were things that I could talk to my high schoolers about. Homeschooling my kids has give me such a thirst for learning. I've never enjoyed reading, writing and learning as much as I have the last 15 years. I wish I'd had more freedom as a kid and a teenager to discover the world of learning, but my years in school consisted of rushing to get homework done and sticking to the curriculum placed before me. Homeschooling is more natural learning, at least in our home it is. Foster a love of reading, and the world is your oyster. I have to add that I think it is so cool that I didn't plan to rent that movie my husband brought home, nor did I plan a lunar eclipse, yet it helped Sam to understand the very lessons she was having trouble with last week. This just confirms for us that homeschooling is God's plan for our family.