A Short Update

Hello all! I have been in a season of foggy brain and feeling overwhelmed. The Lord is not through with me yet. Here are a few pictures of some highlights and I hope to be more on my feet and back to blogging again soon. When one is fighting depression, it is hard to blog. What would I say? :-) Obviously, life is full and lively here and it’s not all doom and gloom. And there’s so much I could write. But it’s not coming easily, so I’m going to turn around and fold my laundry instead.

Here’s a beautiful song that encourages me to believe God loves me, I’m not a failure and to keep trying and keep hoping:

Taking advantage of sun when we can...

Taking advantage of sun when we can…

This will be harder now that Jordan is out of school.

This will be harder now that Jordan is out of school.

Such big girls now!

Such big girls now!

Carolyn is getting close to two years old!

Carolyn is getting close to two years old!

Cutie patootie..... hmmm

Cutie patootie….. hmmm

She smeared GOBS of Vaseline in her hair.  I could not get it out.  Finally, I rubbed corn starch into her vaseline slick and it soaked it up.  She left corn starch smears all over the house, but it was better than straight petroleum jelly smears.  Oh dear... some days.

She smeared GOBS of Vaseline in her hair. I could not get it out. Finally, I rubbed corn starch into her vaseline slick and it soaked it up. She left corn starch smears all over the house, but it was better than straight petroleum jelly smears. Oh dear… some days.

A creative snack time.

A creative snack time.

Happy to be playing with toothpicks.

Happy to be playing with toothpicks.

Carolyn just got raisins.

Carolyn just got raisins.

Strawberry picking!

Strawberry picking!

My Dad!!!!  And little Noralie.

My Dad!!!! And little Noralie.

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After My First Year Homeschooling: How to Teach your Kids at Home

Warning: I am a linear thinker and had to think this out in exactly the process that I do things in. This is just what I did this year and so that’s exactly how I describe it to you.

Is this what homeschool looks like, Mom?

Is this what homeschool looks like, Mom?

This was my first year really being a homeschool parent. Being a grown-up homeschooler doesn’t count. And the previous year didn’t count either, what with doing just three 10-15 minute kindergarten blocks per day while surviving two moves, a new baby, and no sleep. This year counts, though. We tucked a true “core” curriculum under our belts and first grade was a success. Next year, my goal is to bring back the joy of learning.

Here’s a little tutorial of “How to Homeschool,” Rachel Davis style:

Hint – read step five first.

Step 5:
Lesson planning
1. Take the list from Step 1 of the subjects you decided are important and lay it out on a week-long schedule, adjusting until it looks feasible.
2. Rewrite the name of each subject (math, reading, writing, etc.) onto its own sheet of paper.
3. Write down what resources you have for working on each subject and what you need to purchase. (Writing: College ruled paper, pencils, list of poem styles, list of types of creative writing, how to write a letter, etc. Need: Wide-ruled paper, more erasers, examples of poem types, etc.)
4. Type up a weekly schedule/chart that shows which subjects you’re doing each day, Monday-Friday. Typing is important, so you can print one out each week without rewriting it. Leave a blank for the date at the top and leave room to scribble details about that week’s plans. For example, on Monday mine has Writing, but when I get ready for the week, I hand write it with things like “letter to Grandma” and “remember to check spelling.”
5. Ta-da! You are prepared!

Reading....

Reading….

STEP 1
Decide what to teach: (subjects)
1. Make a list of all subjects you can think of.
2. Look up your state’s list of all the subjects they want you to teach. This tells you what level they should be at also.
3. Get overwhelmed, because you can’t possibly do all that. Then realize that nobody can or does learn every one of those subjects in its entirety (am I the only one who tries to learn everything about every subject all at once?). Relax. Then, notice that you can do four subjects at once and accomplish more off that list than you thought. For example, Reading, Language Arts, Spelling, and Handwriting are incorporated into just about every other subject, be it science, history or whatever it is you want to learn about.
4. Make yourself another list: Make columns that show
-things that are absolutely important academically this year. (core)
-things that you really want to do but aren’t on the core list (extra curricular?)
-things that you will save for later
5.Now that you have all the must-haves listed, put the list away somewhere safe. Put it out of your mind. Because, you know what’s more important than academics? It’s a happy house where people are loving and respectful of each other and cheerfully help each other. Accomplishing everythign academically does not equal success. Love and joy and character are better measures and they do best in a home where academics are in their proper place. Loosen up. Put on some music and dance with the kids. Release your imagination and just learn something fun together with your kids. Now, bottle that feeling up! You want to pour that liberally into your school year.

Homeschool break!

Homeschool!

STEP 2
How to get it done (weekly schedule):
I liked to pick certain things for each day. That way we don’t try to do everything in one day. And it seems to be about the right amount of structure to keep us working without being so inflexible that normal life can’t happen. Well, that’s the idea anyway. I do stop school and go do other stuff some days. I think of my weekly schedule as a goal list and it helps to motivate me to keep working on things.

Here’s our weekly schedule for last year (first grade) and the order we worked on things during the day:

Monday/Wednesday/Friday: Mom reads to the kids, Handwriting (snail mail Monday and Wednesday, copywork on Friday), Math workbook (I liked Horizons), workbook pages (like the Brain Quest workbook… these are usually a little easier, but provide some variety and practice)
Tuesday: Mom reads, we practice piano together, we do visual math (Cuisenaire Rods or Base 10 math or Math U See type stuff), a science experiment or project, workbook
Thursday: Mom reads, piano, visual math, Art or cooking together, workbook
On that same little calendar, I made a note of anything else that happens: AWANA club on Wednesdays, Bible time with Papa before bed, goal to visit a friend or park once per week.

Music appreciation?

Music appreciation?

STEP 3
How to get it done (daily schedule):
I had a hard time figuring out what was best for the daily schedule. Morning chores first or second or halfway through? Definitely, I found that the morning worked best for us. How to work in the one-on-one school with the little kids’ needs? How to read to the girls with a baby turning toddler climbing up and demanding things from you? What ended up working the best this year for us was generally this little process:
*Have breakfast, get dressed, do hair, do morning chores
*Sit and read with mommy – give toddler snack and pray you finish before she does
*Give the other kids snacks and pull out and show them their work for the day. (Anna had full school – first grade. Maggie had workbook pages… pre-K… her goal was to do at least one of the pages according to the instructions. She surprised me and often did the pages carefully.)
*Do school. In case of hard “I can’t do it!” days (the kids or myself), I encouraged kids to go out and get the chicken eggs, we ran around the house and played chase, we turned on music and boogied and just generally shook things up for 10 minutes as needed. It wasn’t all fun and games… mostly, we tried to put our nose to the grindstone and get some basic schoolwork done this year.

Building a volcano

Building a volcano

STEP 4
What books to use (curriculum)
You can do ANYTHING. What curriculum to use is a big question. For the primary grades at least, though,you can just make it up! Consult the list you made in step one. Can you think of things to do for the core list? What do you need help with? Is it scheduling that stresses you out or finding materials? I’m a “make my own” kind of person, but it still really appeals to me to purchase a kit with everything I need. I love the way a structured curriculum is laid out for you. I also don’t love that, because it makes for less flexibility.
Two curricula that I’ve heard great things about: My Father’s World and Sonlight
Sonlight costs more, but is a super comprehensive pack. It appeals to the organizer in me. Somebody really loved organizing the curriculum and did a good job. My Father’s World looks great on my friends’ kids and I expect I’d like it too. Next week, I get to go to a curriculum fair in Portland. I’ll pay $15 just to look at tables full of books, but for those books that I want to purchase, it is helpful and inspiring to preview books along with other homeschooling parents.

If it didn’t cost lots of money, I would probably be using one of these two, I think. Since it does cost money (several hundred dollars per year), I make up my own. I rather enjoy looking through the materials I have on hand and matching it up with the subjects they need to learn.

Always nice when there are smiles during school!  And pbj on your pages. :-)

Always nice when there are smiles during school! And pbj on your pages. :-)

My Made-up 1st Grade Curriculum:
Read-aloud time to kids: I have a long list of great early chapter books and I slowly worked my way through all of the Little House series and a bunch of the Magic Tree House books. I have a tallllllll stack of awesome books I want to read with the kids. I hope I get to.
Reading: For first readers, I like BOB books, the Hooked on Phonics first books, and Hop on Pop. After that… well, they kinda take off. Just go to the library often, consult reading lists, collect books at garage sales, etc.
Writing: I don’t have a program for this. Handwriting has still been pretty slow, so we didn’t need much. But we’ve worked on letter writing, a couple poems, and a first story. There are so many things to learn how to write… I am looking forward to her speed increasing so she can do more. Her imagination is fast already! (Fiction stories, non-fiction accounts, writing processes, writing a bigillion types of poems, letter-writing, formal-letter writing, speeches, and the list goes on. Google it.)
Math: I wanted a workbook for her basic math. I didn’t want to miss things now that we’ve moved beyond learning kindergarten math. I found Horizon math workbooks to fit the bill, but I’m sure there are many options. I wanted to do some more conceptual work with math, though to help the ideas stick better. So I got some Cuisenaire rods and I have some base ten rods and singles and I inherited some workbook pages for those and we build our math problems with them some days instead.
Workbooks: These probably aren’t necessary, but it gives Anna a chance to reinforce old concepts and introduce subjects we didn’t get to this year. I liked the BrainQuest one and she actually went three this year. At about $10 each, it wasn’t too expensive and the pages are usually a more colorful and slightly lower level than the rest of their school. It was a nice independent-work way to end the school days.
Music: I know how to play the piano, more or less, so I chose piano for Anna’s first music exposure beyond cds. I can teach her how to hold her hands, how to read the notes and encourage her to practice. She practiced with me for 10-30 minutes twice a week and that was all our relationship could handle. :-) Then I had her practice for 15 minutes a couple other days a week. Obviously, we didn’t get very far, but she is learning and it enriched our school experience.
Science: Formal science is what keeps falling out of our school experience. It is usually so messy and mom-intensive! My goal was to do one science experiment a week, even if it was a little one. We probably did 10 all year. But I tried to introduce the scientific process (observe, predict, uhh… observe, take notes, draw conclusions. Obviously, I need some work on this.) We have science notebooks and I encouraged them to write down what we did, what things looked like and so forth. Eventually, they will know how to track data and be able to reproduce things, which is important for an aspiring scientist. I have a new plan for next year.
Art & Cooking: Because these are messy and mom intensive, we did this once per week and we usually did it. Cooking is easier for me, because I can incorporate it into what I’m doing for the family anyway. We’re still just doing basic stuff, but it’s fun and they can make more elaborate things when Mom is there compared to when they craft on their own. Anna has made from scratch pudding quite a few times with me and cookies and some other stuff. Nothing like sugar for a motivator!
Field Trips: On my list of field trips, I put things like parks, friends houses, local museums, OMSI, etc. Basically, it was any out-of-the-house adventure. I didn’t include grocery trips. haha
Friends: Friends and input from other adults is important. We didn’t join a co-op this year, but we did go to a kid’s club once a week (AWANA) and also tried to see friends regularly. I’m hoping that as the kids get a little older, we are able to participate in 4-H and have more playdates.
Typing:
Spelling
: I added typing and spelling late in the year, using free online programs. I didn’t really like my spelling program, but I like BBC’s Dance Mat Typing as a typing coach.
There are other subjects… for example, I incorporated History into my “mom reading” time for the first half of the school year. Culture studies are still pretty easily worked into everyday life. I need some more language arts help in the next year or two as Anna takes off with writing. I would love to find a really amazing video history series that brings history to life.

Field trip...

Field trip…

What I want to do next year:
Writing this all out has me pretty excited to go through the steps again for second grade! I love the excitement that comes with preparing and the first weeks or months of school.
This year, Anna didn’t like school after a few weeks. It was just work for her. Although I don’t think we’ll overcome that, my number one goal for next year is to discover a joy of learning. Since Anna can read quite well now and the little ones are sleeping better now, I hope to be successful in this. My first “fun” learning project that we’ll do ongoing is to make a “Field Guide,” researching and documenting the different plants and animals and bugs and rocks we see at our home. I hope it works out!

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Dad is in the House

Dad holding his youngest grandchild for the first time.  (Melissa's little Noralie)

Dad holding his youngest grandchild for the first time. (Melissa’s little Noralie)

The welcoming committee!  Eight little people, all obediently not running into traffic.

The welcoming committee! Eight little people, all obediently not running into traffic.

This was soooooo funny to me.  Dad got here in the evening and after he ate, he tried to read to the girls at about 8pm.  After some 35ish hours of travel with just naps, he didn't even notice himself falling asleep or Maggie putting his hat on.  Anna kept jostling his arm and he somehow made it to the end of a book humorously titled, "Four Little Old Men."

This was soooooo funny to me. Dad got here in the evening and after he ate, he tried to read to the girls at about 8pm. After some 35ish hours of travel with just naps, he didn’t even notice himself falling asleep or Maggie putting his hat on. Anna kept jostling his arm and he somehow made it to the end of a book humorously titled, “Four Little Old Men.”

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Late Spring 2014

So much keeps happening and I haven’t updated! There have been many special things and some real lows, but we are sleeping alright (YAY!) so we just keep on keeping on! I have some looooong lists that are stressing me out, but my desk is clean and the laundry is mostly caught up, so hopefully life will just keep sorting itself out like it has a tendency to do. Brian’s allergies have started and Maggie had a fever and sore throat last night, so I may be making another strep throat test trip this morning. I hope it doesn’t go around with everybody!

So without further ado, I want to share those “special things” I mentioned at the beginning. These are the parts of life where we were making memories of the good sort:

Most recent:
Tamera (Brian’s Mom) came and stayed overnight – just her. It was a real treat! It was the first time we’ve done this except for when a baby was born and it was a sweet time of connecting and the kids making memories. We went to the Children’s Museum together for Anna’s birthday and Grammy made desserts (chocolate rice krispies with ice cream and chocolate sauce….. SO GOOD!) and then we went to church together the next morning. There was a horrible bloody nose by Jordan at the museum (speaking of lows) that was scary for Jordan, traumatic for Mommy and caused momentary panic and havoc. Note to self and other SN parents: since holding/restraining the bleeding child causes more screaming and spraying of blood, it can be better to quickly find something to stuff into nostrils to stop the leaking and then be more hands off while the bleeding resolves (so that they can calm down). Church together was special, evening talk time was sweet, kids loving grammy was precious and… I took pictures with my eyes and left the camera away. Sorry. :-)

Ok – now starting from the oldest bloggable news:

AWANA awards night with Grammy while my Mom was still here.

We took the back row due to the presence of hooligans in our family.

We took the back row due to the presence of hooligans in our family.

Proud girl.

Proud girl.

Sweet girl and her Grammy.

Sweet girl and her Grammy.

Wiggly boy being very good despite wanting to run.

Wiggly boy being very good despite wanting to run.

Getting her first book award.

Getting her first book award.

Showing!

Showing!

Coming back with elation after receiving her second book award!

Coming back with elation after receiving her second book award!

So proud to be a big girl.

So proud to be a big girl.

Carolyn was an adorable, escaping stinker.

Carolyn was an adorable, escaping stinker.

There was a special Mother’s Day out with my sister, her baby Noralie and my Mom. We had a real special time of just spending time together. I miss my mom a lot… but I am so happy she is “home” with my dad now. Six weeks is a long time to be apart. Dad gets to visit us soon… so that will be another 3 weeks apart for them. But it’s going to be pretty cool for us to have him here!

Frequent sight: Mom reading to the girls before bedtime.

Frequent sight: Mom reading to the girls before bedtime.

Smoke got a bad haircut.  A couple days later I made it better and he doesn't have a lion's mane any more.

Smoke got a bad haircut. A couple days later I made it better and he doesn’t have a lion’s mane any more.

We got to go to a parade!

Parade time!

Parade time!

We have never been to a parade before as a family.

We have never been to a parade before as a family.

Jordan did great - he loved the bands.

Jordan did great – he loved the bands.

Too bad he doesn't like candy!

Too bad he doesn’t like candy!

There was a lot of candy, even for the kids slow to grab it.

There was a lot of candy, even for the kids slow to grab it.

The lineup where we were.

The lineup where we were.

Pretty horses!

Pretty horses!

Caaaaaaaandy!

Caaaaaaaandy!

It was great fun the whole time!

It was great fun the whole time!

Farewell to Mom and so proud of you!

Carolyn ran right up to "Ga-ga" and gave her hugs.

Carolyn ran right up to “Ga-ga” and gave her hugs.

Mom wanted last pictures of grandchildren... we wanted last pictures of Mom.  It worked out.

Mom wanted last pictures of grandchildren… we wanted last pictures of Mom. It worked out.

Mom's clan except my bro.  Nobody crying at mom's request.

Mom’s clan except my bro. Nobody crying at mom’s request.

The girls.

The girls.

Some sunny days!

Sunshine!

Sunshine!

I got to go on a tromp with just Anna and Maggie to the back of the property where it's wooded and steep and has a creek at the bottom.

I got to go on a tromp with just Anna and Maggie to the back of the property where it’s wooded and steep and has a creek at the bottom.

Sweet girls.

Sweet girls.

Exploring sisters.

Exploring sisters.

Fishing!

Fishing!

Big millipede!

Big millipede!

This one is naked every chance she gets.... all the time?

This one is naked every chance she gets…. all the time?

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OHSU Down Syndrome Clinic

SAM_7212 (Large)

Jordan’s been home 2 1/2 years and is 5 years old later this month. We have often been counseled to go visit the Down Syndrome Clinic at OHSU (Oregon Health and Science University). However, the appointment is a team evaluation approach that takes some four hours in a clinic setting with lots of sitting and waiting and no actual therapy or medical services happen. So, we put it off. However, last month we finally went up there to see what gaps they could find in Jordan’s care and I’m glad we did. No, I doubt it will be worth going annually as they suggest, but I think every few years they will be a fantastic resource for us in getting a more comprehensive overview of Jordan’s care needs.

The first thing they do is a hearing evaluation. Jordan thinks sound booths noises are very boring, so it was pretty inconclusive. However, he was responding at some 20 decibels, which is more responsive than he was a year and a half ago when we were getting his first set of tubes. Anyway, I’m not currently concerned about his hearing, since he had a good ABR test and has new long-term tubes in now.

Next, we saw Dr. Pinter, who is a pediatric neurologist. You know, I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I know he specializes in treating/advising people with Down Syndrome. We liked Dr. Pinter and were impressed that he gave us his email address. I love doctors that you can contact without trying to get through a gauntlet of receptionists.

Dr. Pinter asked pretty early in our consultation if we had considered whether Jordan has autism. Can I just tell you what a weight rolled off me when he asked that? I don’t think we even realized we were carrying a burden by not having an official diagnosis of autism, but Dr. Pinter was able to arrange for Jordan to have an ADOS (observation test) performed by the physical therapist and occupational therapist instead of their regular evaluation… because the autism clinic and the DS clinic share space and the right people were there that day. Anyway, it was interesting to watch them administer the ADOS and I was impressed with both the PT and OT. (Basically, they play with Jordan for awhile, but they did it so well! Hard to explain!)

It had been 3 hours at this point and Jordan had been AMAZING. No crying! He is scared of doctor visits, so this was a gracious answer to prayer. We saw the PT last and I was so glad to overhear their observations about Jordan as they observed him and helped him play in the therapy room. We have never gotten as complete a description of how Jordan’s body is working and I really appreciated that. They also suggested we get a different kind of orthotic for his feet next time (Sure Step) as they would help him use his toes a little more. They also suggested spending some time without the orthotics. I am looking forward to getting their official report in the mail so I can review it and make suggestions to his team at school.

Jordan also had some standard labs drawn while we were there and the lab techs were fantastic. It was the fastest, most painless blood draw you can imagine doing for a scared little boy… he didn’t like it, but it was not at all traumatic.

At the end, Dr. Pinter came in and reviewed the ADOS with us, saying that Jordan does fit the mold for having autism. Again, we were surprised with the level of emotional response we had to this. We have known since early on that Jordan experiences more than Down Syndrome. We’ve called it institutional autism for a long time. Hey, maybe it is institutional autism, but just calling it autism and accepting it as a more permanent and real part of Jordan’s experience and hearing a professional confirm for us that he is not experiencing life as a typical kid with autism has really made a difference for us.

- I feel a little sad to acknowledge that the struggles Jordan has related to autism are a real part of his life that is going to stick around for awhile – perhaps his whole life. Some autism stuff is just really hard.
- I feel relieved that I didn’t cause the autism. I know, I knew that… but sometimes you wonder if you weren’t doing something he needed in order to develop. I didn’t cause this autism.
- I have looked up a little about autism and learning from mainstream autism literature has given me great insight into how Jordan experiences the world! I have so much more understanding and a great deal more empathy. I know it’s a spectrum and that all people with autism experience it differently, but it was still really helpful. Family members and close friends… will you please check out this easy-read book from the library and read a little bit of it? “The Reason I Jump” by Naoki Higashida It has helped me to relate with Jordan and to understand him a bit more.

So after all that, we headed home! I wish I had brought some food for Jordan since it was suppertime and we were stuck in rush hour traffic for quite awhile, but it all worked out and Jordan didn’t melt down. We also walked away with a referral to a sleep clinic and to a feeding clinic. All in all, I felt like I got a better “big picture” idea of Jordan’s needs and the diagnoses and referrals and labs I needed to make sure we’re doing a good job. I don’t plan on going back in 12 months, but I will remember them when I get to a point of needing a care review again.

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