Tuesday, January 25, 2011

In Case of an Urgency Plan

Yesterday, where do I begin? Yesterday was absolutely our worst day yet. Friday afternoon Riley decided that doing his PM assignments was out of the question. We were having company over and with that rattling through his brain he was not able to focus. Over the weekend I decided that YMCA soccer was enough for him to do and that we all needed and deserved a break. (so we did not make up Friday's missed work over the weekend) Monday comes along and he goes bonkers. All hell breaks lose. It took two hours just to get him to the table and 6 1/2 hours to complete his days reading and written assignments. Usually he can do this in about 3 hours. There was crying, screaming and nasty words all around. I felt so defeated and quite honestly devoured by a 7 year old. It was awful but the good news is, its over and today is a new day. 

Riley is the type of kid that just pushes your buttons just to see if it works. Lately I feel that he's really testing the waters to see how far he can push me. "If I push her far enough can I get out of my work?" I'm not the most patient person in the universe and I fully accept this. I've said from the beginning this is about me learning as much as it is about him learning. We're both a work in progress I suppose. He's made major, major improvements since the homeschool transition. He's wonderful and as a whole he's entirely a new person. A wonderful and delightful kid most of the time. Now that he's not as stressed out its like a miracle how loving and sweet he can be.  He is genuinely interested in  learning about things and he's willing and capable to change his behavior often by me simply telling him no. 

At times he makes up his mind that he will not do anything. These are the times  its quite honestly like arguing with myself. (Stubborn + stubborn = chaos) I continue to explain to him that working with me at home 4-5 hours a day is the alternative to having 8-9 hour days PLUS HOMEWORK.  (Not to mention the fact that he's treated like a person here. He can pee, eat and talk when he wants to.) His only responsibilities are to do his school work, clean up and be respectful. Most days so far we've had a pretty good time of it. We wake up, follow our routine and even though there is a good deal of the mental pushing and pulling everything works out. Some days Riley will not even write his name though. I kind of feel like as he's relaxed and acted more civilized I've been treating him more as an "equal". I really hate the fact that every time I give him an inch he walks all over me. I hate to refer to monkey behavior but quite honestly I feel as if my child demands to be treated like a monkey. I'd really like to know... why do we have to sling shit  every single morning just to establish that I am the dominant monkey? 

At what point will this no longer be a daily tug of war? After the storm calmed I really felt the urge to get out and about. Under normal circumstances I probably would have just said forget the arguing. We're going for a walk. I'd considered going to the store but we have limited resources and not only do we have no money to spend at the store, but I also have damaged tires we can not afford to replace right now. Seeing as its been 15 below, walking is not quite an option. We really need to come up with an in case of emergency plan. In case of an urgency to do something else....anything else but school work. Grab finger paints? ...mmm dirty, indoors? no way. Bake cookies? Thought about it but then I'd end up making them, eating them and having to clean up. I'd really like to develop and grow to a point where instead of having an anxiety attack there's a backup. A logical well planned solution. Anything but bickering.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why, Oh, Why? Sweet potato Pie! (The cycle of Pie)

Almost all first grade curriculum's and objective lists suggest teaching your first grader about plant growth and "processes". The most common I've seen in book after book is about the growth of a frog from tadpole to amphibian. There's one worksheet after another that instructs the child to label the example story in order of how it occurred from 1-5. Well that's no fun now is it? How about we take a story from our reading book and apply that  to the food cycle. How about to the cycle of pie! From plant to pie? Now that's a story I can dig my teeth into. 

Riley and I lately have been having the discussion of food and what happens to people who do not cook? Although adorable that he thinks he will "starve to death" without his momma to cook for him. I wanted to take this project a little further. We've been frequenting pick your owns for years pumpkins, strawberries, apples and blueberries are the staples in this house. He's seen me grow pumpkins (only to have the deer eat them), he's helped make jam too but he's never really fully grasped the concept of this was a seed a farmer planted, it became a plant and then produce that we purchased or picked. With this book Why, oh, Why? Sweet Potato Pie! By Anne Rockwell we were able to practice reading as well as have a hands on natural science project. We learned that sweet potatoes are grown, picked, cooked, and last but not least eaten. Although we are Northern folk and sweet potatoes are somewhat  foreign, Riley quickly warmed up to this project when he realized  that pie was involved. This project helped with the question "Where does my food come from". It also helped with his reading and his desire to... eat pie.

Link To The Neo-Homesteading.com Recipe 

Why, Oh, Why? Sweet Potato Pie! 
(By Anne Rockwell)
From everything I've seen this is totally out of print. I located it in a curriculum book we are borrowing from the public school. Below is the story. It can be sang or read. We started off reading it a few times and then sang it to a rhythm.

Pa picks sweet potatoes one by one.
Why, Oh, Why? Sweet potato pie!

Grandma bakes them till they're done.
Why, Oh, Why? Sweet potato Pie!

Gramps stops chopping.
Ma stops washing.
Tom stops swimming.
Why, Oh, Why?
Sis stops swinging. 
Bob starts singing.

Come and get my sweet potato pie!
Everybody coming one by one.
Why, Oh, Why?
Sweet Potato Pie!

Everybody eating till there's none.
My, Oh, My. 
Sweet Potato Pie!

Words to Practice- sweet, by, stop, oh, them, swing, eat, sing, why

Monday, January 17, 2011

Social Studies Vocabulary- Happiness

hap·pi·ness (noun)

1. good fortune : prosperity
a : a state of well-being and contentment : joy  
b : a pleasurable or satisfying experience 

This can be written or printed or you could simply ask your child the questions.

What is Happiness? 
Happiness "Senses"-
Happiness looks like: 
Happiness tastes like:
Happiness feels like: 
Happiness sounds like:
Happiness smells like: 

Riley's answers:
What is Happiness? Happiness is a feeling that makes you feel good. Happiness is when momma is silly. 
Happiness looks like: Connor 
Happiness tastes like: Hot dogs
Happiness feels like: Vibration (yes that's really what he said)
Happiness sounds like: Santa
Happiness smells like: Cookies

Riley's Synonyms or "Happy Feeling" words-
excited, sharing, smile, proud, silly

The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up. 
-Mark Twain

Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
- Abraham Lincoln

Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give. 
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Sing a Song-  
If your Happy and you Know it, lyrics and chords

Social Studies Vocabulary- Habitat

hab·i·tat (noun)

1: The place where something is commonly found
a : the place or environment where a plant or animal naturally or normally lives and grows  
b : the typical place of residence of a person or a group

For a hands on project I asked Riley to form a "habitat" of some sort. We discussed the vocabulary word and what it meant.  My initial "lesson plan" was that we would choose an animal. It sounded ideal at least. He had a plan of his own however, he came up with making an environment or habitat for his halo action figures. "Jorge and Emile like to be outside." So he developed a theory as to what their ideal habitat is. How does the weather effect their behavior? Do they have predators? etc. Although somewhat silly it helped him acknowledge the vocabulary word in a way that was fun and interesting to him. It was a hands on arts and craft project that introduced a new vocabulary word.  

What do they eat?
Where do they sleep?
How does the weather effect their Behavior? 
Do they Have predators? (If so what)

Other habitats might include- Barbie or Spongebob. Involving your childs favorite character or television personality is a way to teach them in a fun way.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Who needs Friday?

For a while now I've always found Friday nights to be "The Night" of every week that I can finally kick off my shoes and let down my hair so to speak. The chaos of Monday through Friday with toting Riley to the bus stop, coming home, fighting with homework, make supper, wake up. Rinse and repeat. Well it was exhausting but something I've come across now days is that homeschooling is exactly that, schooling at home. Go figure eh? I'm essentially Riley's 24/7 Encyclopedia, this switch has just gone off inside of him and the world is all brand new to him. While I'm loving that he's thriving again, a real living breathing boy! I'm exhausted, my husband predicted it pretty much exactly because he knows "everything". I have outdone myself and worn myself down. I'm burnt out. 

Although tired I'm also excited. Lately I'm baffled at how wonderful my kids truly are. I've always known how wonderful they are because frankly they're mine. Don't we all think our kids are great? I'm not the  momma who thinks "oh man my kid is perfect  and does no wrong," but I have to admit most kids really freak me out. I was never one of those girls who spent their entire lives dreaming of being a mommy and a wife. I was the whoops I guess this isn't so bad, I guess we can get married momma & wife. Its a learning experience, I still feel the urge to lysol other peoples children and I have my own kids somewhat "trained" not to touch things I haven't sterilized. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I've always loved my kids as-is.  I had no expectations of what was to be because I never really thought that far ahead.  There were so many days that Riley got himself in a world of trouble at school and I would cry just thinking to myself, how did this happen? why? What did I do wrong? Do I not love him enough? In the past few weeks I've not felt that way at all. It might sound selfish but as much as this was for Riley, now I feel loved too! I'm more scared and stressed but my wonderful little boy is back. Riley is becoming a whole new person. He has conversations with me and he says and does things just to be nice. 

Today was his first day of YMCA youth soccer and Riley did something he never ever did before... he acted shy. Riley has always been a strong and boisterous personality. He  demands attention and often gets it, but  not today. He was nervous and not aggressive or boisterous at all (ok well maybe a little). I'm not sure if its good or bad that he's turned in his wild card, but the fact that he's mellowing out is so relieving. All of these years the doctors and teachers have tried to force drugs on us and he's chilling out on his own! He still acts outrageous from time to time but overall he's so different. I've said it over and over but its so strange what just a month can do for a kid. With homeschooling, every day has become our Friday. Every morning we can wake up refreshed and happy just to be us. No shoes required.

Today was refreshing. It was the first day I felt like we were truly "off" since before Christmas. School is closed, ok? Yes, thanks. We had soccer, the grocery mart and then home. That was that. The week is over. I found the best off switch I could. A bath and some leftover Christmas Cookies. Everything was great until Connor found me. Which normally isn't too bad but this time... he learned how to turn on the shower and "blow bubbles" in the tub. (and I don't mean with his mouth) Better luck next time then maybe? Hopefully.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Homeschool Day in the Life (SimpleHomeschool.net)

Simple Homeschool: Q & A Friday Tell us About Your Homeschool Day
Today I came across a post on simplehomeschool.net that really excited me. As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts I've really been scratching my head wondering what most people do from day to day. I emailed some of the big ones on the homeschooling "blog scene", (soulemama,& pioneer woman) and so far there's been no response. I'm really honestly very curious not just about peoples curriculum but the real knitty gritty. What time do you get up? What's the "routine", is there a routine? Do you have a homeschooling room? How do you stay organized? So although I'm still a young blood I'd like to participate and make my first stab at a useful glimpse into the homeschoolling day in the life.

Today is actually our "12th" homeschooling day. Although we've been practicing since before the Christmas break its only been 12 days logged on our portfolio calendar. I do actually believe in the "un-schooling" philosophy that life itself should be a learning experience, however in addition to that I do also believe in  a somewhat classic structure. (Not only because I feel that kids need it, but also because of the homeschooling regulations in Pennsylvania.) Our homeschooling routine is still very sketchy and up in the air but we're working out the kinks  a little each day. Riley who is 7 is my "official homeschooler", he's a wild card. Some days he sits patiently and loves that he does not have to even get dressed. Other days he's fidgeting, staring at the ceiling and screaming that he's bored no matter what I offer up for him to do. Then there's Connor who is 2, he mostly just tags along on the average day. He patiently and willingly sits at our table coloring or staring at us and shoving cereal up his nose. Also he especially loves playing with my mason jars and blowing  raspberries. I'd like to think he's really dying to learn too, and sometimes I think he's trying but its really probably just because he wants to be where we are and doing what we do.

Yesterday was a very rewarding but full day for us.  It was THE BIG DAY. Yep this is it. We're officially homeschoolers.

  • We woke up around 9 or 10. We did our board time (weather and date) Then our AM school work, this is usually  his reading and English since thats what annoys Riley the most.
  • Went to his old public school picked up the books we are borrowing for his first grade school year. (They gave us a good deal of Reading and English and some math work books.)
  • Public Library- and picked up our library cards along with about 20 reference books (for history, science and health.) 
  • Grocery mart- While we were there Riley was our guidance through the store. He reminded me what coupons I had to use, he helped read the isle signs and most importantly his #1 job...He reminded me to not waste daddy's money.
  • Came home and did PM school work. This is usually Math and flash cards. 
  • I made supper, two suppers actually since Riley will not eat spicy foods.While I was making supper Riley and Connor played on the Wii.
  • I sort of, "kind of" cleaned up then we read a chapter for our history work and I played on the xbox with Riley for a bit. 
  • Computer time - Riley played math and typing games, and then I helped him with Gimp (the Linux equivalent to photoshop)
  • Last but not least by around midnight we finally tucked in for bed. 
Even while we were driving around town we talked about multiple things including the life and music of Johnny Cash (Riley's favorite). It was a good opportunity to discuss rhythm, morals and history. So it was a day packed with enrichment  even in the car he was curious and talkative. By the time its all said and done we went to bed too late and too tired. My house is a  total wreck, I'm a total wreck but it was a good day none the less, its been really satisfying learning about myself and my kids in a whole new way.

Winter Weather Gym: Wii Fit

This past week has brought lots of snow for us. Although we live in the Pocono mountains this was actually our first good snow for the year. With all of the snow and Riley's health problems (bronchitis and an ear infection) chasing him around outside in the snow was not an option. I'm not overly  heart broken that I don't get to fall and fumble in the freezing cold however Riley really did feel like he missed out. To really give him his "gym" for the week we started a routine of wii fit. We've had it for years and never really kept up with it. Its completely un-conventional I know, however Riley loves it. Its fun it gets him moving around in a constructive manner (he's not scaling the walls) and best yet...Connor LOVED it too! I really do think its a great way to get us all moving around together. Riley does have YMCA indoor soccer starting this weekend but that doesn't mean he shouldn't get to jump around in the mean time also. Somewhat pricey up front but well worth the investment if you've got kids that are "bored", snowed in and irritable.

There's also the free and comical bonus: Watching Momma fall over.

Happy Homeschooler Tip: Making Cents

Although each day I'm only picking up on a smidge of information that's actually useful, in the end the little tips and tricks seem to be adding up. Today we made pizza's and cookies, we watched some cartoons and although I do plan on reading and writing work after I peel myself away from the computer its not as full as yesterday, or even last weeks chaos with the ER, doctors, dentists and x-rays... ew! At least today I do not have to remove myself from the semi-warmth of my home.  Its a good day when I remember to chill out, the little tips and tricks are adding up each day. 

I'm reminded of those change jugs we all grew up with. Each day a handfull of change is added into the jug. Although the sum of each day may not amount to very much, or it may not seem like very much at least. After a while something that seemed so very small really begins to add up. Maybe these little tips will be a wealth of knowledge at some point. Each tip is another hand full tossed into the currently mostly empty jug.

Happy Homeschooler Tips: 
Kindergarten and First Grade Math,Using coins for Mathematics- 
Kids are able to learn counting by 1's, 5's, 10's, and even by 25 while also learning about money and monetary value. Having something physical to look at and touch engages the senses and helps some kids to really truly absorb the information. Perfect for those children who tend to be visual learners. (Useful for multiplication and division as well) 

For younger children such as Pre-schoolers Homeschooling for Dummies author Jennifer Kaufeld suggests using candies such as M&M's. Great to add, subtract...and eat.

YES, NO, Wait? Please! Can I pee alone?

Aside from being exhausted I'm really glad to see the progress Riley's made, even just emotionally. A child's emotional well-being is really, really important  but it seems to have become the secondary issue now days.  Public school really made him into a kid that was genuinely sad. He was volatile, grumpy, stressed out and aggressive...not to mention the education he learned from other kids. A whole new world of knowledge...let me tell you! (Ok I dare not explain) Frankly even if I'm struggling with teaching him adequately the "process" I feel is somewhat less significant than his overall well-being.

I don't feel that sending him to school taught him about real life or real responsibility at all. In the real world you do not have to ask to go to the bathroom (and be told no), you do not have only 20 minutes to eat, and hopefully your not only allowed speak when spoken too. Riley was so overwhelmed with stress from day to day and learning took a back seat. Not all children learn the same way or in the allotted time slot. I guess I just have to figure out the details as I go. I want to find out how this is actually going to happen for us. I wish it would just come to me like some sort of miracle. Unfortunately that's not so. As an adult I naturally over complicate things and getting it out of my head and into his just leaves us both baffled.

I'm really wearing out fast most days, I need to find some sort of balance for my own sanity. Being a stay at home mother all of these years I've been heavily involved, I try to cook from scratch and really embrace living sustainably but while he was at school I did have some slack. I could watch PBS with Connor, work on cooking or blogging, and in general I had a bit of time to be a selfish individual. Lately I feel like I don't even have the time to sit down to go to the bathroom! I'm the 24/7 Encyclopedia not to mention chef, diaper changer, player with-er, and cleaner-upper. I'm going insane. I don't want to curb his desire to learn however I'd like to go to the bathroom alone, or even watch just one television show without having to change a diaper, fill a bottle, or answeri 400 questions. I know everyone says it gets easier,  and although we've made great progress and things are making sense I'd like to hope that at some point I don't feel like I have to tip toe off to the bathroom to sneak a peak at my twitter (sadly its really become my only grasp at the outside adult world). Hopefully soon we'll find our homeschooling mojo, hopefully someday soon I can pee alone. (like really alone, totally alone... without someone knocking on the door "starving to death", or "really needing to know something") Although I harp on the overwhelming feeling, more significantly I'm feeling absolutely blessed lately. My kids are wonderful and I'm so proud of what we've set out to accomplish together. It might be a steep incline right now but it can't rain all the time right?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Walk the line

Another chaotic day today. Its almost 3:30 am and im patiently awaiting for Rileys ear drops from the pharmacy. He has an outer ear infection on top of everything else. All of that aside the little soldier proudly told all of the ER nurses that his momma homeschools and that he cant wait to learn now! My heart melted. Even though im sure my hair is falling out from the stress of it all its so reassuring that at the end of the day he doesnt resent that im making him work. It is stressful at times but im so very glad that he seems to genuinely be happier.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Lots of sick, with some progress

This week was a little rougher than I'd anticipated. Although we are getting the hang of this all and have set out a fairly stable routine. Its laughable  to say "routine" when life gets thrown at you. We've all had a real nasty cold since before Christmas, I got it Christmas Eve actually. The usual case of Holiday cheer as always.  We're always sick for the holidays it seems. The other day we ended up at the pediatrician and radiologist for x-rays. Riley's lungs are filled with a good deal of fluid and he's at risk for pneumonia if this bronchitis and all does not go away. The icing on the ick cake is the fact that Connor, Stephen & myself are all kind of ew as well. Hopefully the antibiotics shake this off ASAP. Although I avoid prescriptions and doctors like the plague I actually shuffled myself in there for this one. I'm pretty miserable but as a momma there's no time to complain when I'm waist deep in snot and such.

The work we did set out to work on this week I feel we made a great improvement with. In just six days of homeschooling Riley's made a lot of improvement on a few things. He can now count change really well, when we started he was struggling. He can tell time on a clock and he's genuinely interested in a variety of other things. He's more inquisitive and for the most part more patient. His behavior is incomparable to old him. Although he's still a bit of a head job and runs around crazy his overall demeanor is more kind and loving. Don't get me wrong he wasn't bad per say but now he seems relaxed and less stressed out. I really think part of his behavior is anxiety. He's become much less volatile,  he's much more protective and nurturing to his brother and generally speaking he's just happier. Over all he's consistently calmer we still bicker with each other and he still bounces off the walls and runs around but its not too bad (most days). 

Schooling wise At this point I'm really struggling with reading.  Well he's struggling with it, I'm just baffled. I can not get him to cooperate, I've got no money to spend on resources and I'm not sure how I can teach him phonics without him just freaking out at me. With him being hearing impaired the sounds and phonics seem to really frustrate him. I feel kind of like he'll be ready when he's ready but I don't want to let up too much because I'm afraid he wont ever become ambitious.
On a final note the public school seems to be kind of pushing me around about the books. In Pennsylvania homeschooling is heavily regulated as a result the department of education states that the public schools here should allow homeschoolers to borrow books. Which is really useful, I really do need all the help I can get. I've worked with the school guidance counselor and she's been real nice about it but the principal and assistant superintendent seem to not agree on where I'm supposed to get the books I need to borrow so I'm kind of in limbo for now. Hopefully next week will be our first "easier" week. No doctors,  no throw up, maybe we'll get our books... did I mention no doctors?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Its official we're homeschoolers!

This week was a good first week. Although it was supposed to be "time off" we weren't really up to much of anything else. Stephen is back to work tomorrow after a weeks vacation, so I figured it would be a great opportunity to ease Riley into the homeschooling routine while everyone was around and it was fairly relaxed. We had what I would consider 3 full days where he did a good amount of work. We had a few total knock down drag out meltdowns. He really has no interest most of the time and it really gets to me. He fidgets, he squirms, he says he's bored and he flat out messes around with me.  (how to you spell where? Riley: POTATO POTATO POTATO POTATO") I know he's bored with worksheets but I'm in the middle of figuring this all out, I'm learning just as much as he is right now. I want him to pass state standards but then  again I  also don't really give a crap. Who are they to say where he should or shouldn't be? With Pennsylvania being a state that regulates homeschooling I'm concerned that they'll cause trouble for us in the long run. You rarely hear of cases  where the state steps in but I'm not sure if its because it doesn't happen or it just doesn't get talked about.

Among the chaos this week was Riley's age 7 physical. For the third year in a row the physicians basically tried throwing ritalin at us. Every single time Riley goes to the doctor it happens. I'd be lying if I said I don't actually consider it sometimes but ultimately I know it doesn't feel right. The little questionnaire just blows my mind. Some of the questions just sound so absurd! "Does your child lose interest and not finish things he starts?" Um yeah, and so does my husband there 's a garage full of coulda, shoulda, woulda's. You want to drug him too? For that matter I do it too, are there people who don't? It always makes me feel terrible and it really makes me feel like a total failure. I know he's about the most wilful and energetic kid I've ever met,  and I know better than anyone else that he's difficult but who's to say he won't naturally grow out of it? Drugging him up doesn't give him the opportunity to solve his own problems himself  it teaches him to take a pill to fix it.

I'm taking this into my own hands by schooling him at home and making his behavior my issue, no one elses. Although I may be sacrificing my sanity in the process I don't feel that my child deserves to be drugged to make my life easier. Now I know that's a controversial statement but that's how I feel. We also denied the flu shot, in general we avoid most medications and that's that. If its not necessary we really do try to avoid it.  Why is it that ritalin flows like candy anyway? Our doctors are always nice enough but it just saddens me. This medical revolution is just  genuinely baffling.  Instead of focusing on better health we're creating pills for pills. You take a pill to cure something then take another pill to get rid of the side affects pill #1 gave you ,and so on and so forth .  Now I'm not a wing nut (not entirely at least). I'm not  anti-medicine at all I just think its over utilized. What did people do with difficult kids before they started drugging them? I'm constantly second guessing myself and over analyzing what I did wrong, but I know ultimately I love my family, Eff the doctors. I truly want nothing but the best for both my kids, why is it  so weird that I'm not doping them up and shipping them off to be dealt with by someone else? Its just so discouraging that society in general seems to outcast anything that's not perfect , cookie cutter, or just the same as everything else.

Aside from breaking in the routine today was my appointment at the superintendents office. It turns out that the woman I made my appointment with was not even in the office today. I got the paperwork filled out though, that is what really matters. Riley's guidance counselor from school called  in response to my phone call about borrowing books for the rest of the year. She said that the principal basically referred me to the superintendent's office. (Its actually the same woman I talked to already) I was told specifically that I'm to deal with the school directly, and that's why I called them in the first place. It almost sounds as if the principal is being douchey for the sake of her own ego. I've read a lot of people have issue's with their schools trying to be forceful just for the fun of it but eventually they acknowledge the actual law and cave in. I was really hoping that it wouldn't be difficult but I'm not exactly surprised seeing how the administration behaved when my child was actually enrolled there.  Seeing as we pay taxes for the public school books and live in a state that's heavily regulated I seem to think that them fighting with me too long would be a really bad idea. Its specified on the Department of Education's website that the school should cooperate but we'll see. All in all, we're coming along. Riley's behavior and reading has already really made improvements, it is what it is. I'm trying and trying to figure this out as I go. I know I shouldn't be so hard on myself but if all the answers were to just magically come to me I'd be thrilled. Yeah that'd be great.