Math and English

We had been determined to wait until after Angelica’s learning evaluation in Denver at the end of January to start any form of tutoring to help her with math and English. However, I found a tutor who came recommended on a board by parents who have children with learning disorders. I decided to call her and get a feel for what she does. Ultimately we decided to go ahead and start the tutoring. Already this teacher is making some progress with Angelica. I’m sure it’ll be quite a while before we start seeing anything major, but it’s still really good to see her getting in there and learning something. This is a licensed teacher and she uses a special curricula and really works on the level of the child.

Angelica really likes her, as do Craig and I. I really hope that this works out well. We need help teaching her to read and do basic math. From there hopefully we can take it ourselves, but I want her to start building on these basics now. Science, History, and Bible are going absolutely wonderfully. Angelica is so smart and she’s so curious and there’s always something new to learn. I have bought her over 20 of those DK Discovery books and I have more on the way and even more I’m going to order in January. We have enough material to take us through for years. And of course there’s always more scripture to learn. We watch documentaries regularly.

I feel so blessed and privileged to be able to stay home and homeschool Angelica. It’s wonderful to see her learn new things and to let her pick what interest her for the day and start going over that material. It’s always a joy as a mother when you get to see your child happy. This time together is so special.

Homeschool Values

Why has our family chosen to homeschool? What values and priorities have led my husband and I to take on the vital, heavy job of educating our daughter ourselves? I have begun reading a wonderful book on homeschooling, and one of the first questions it poses is what our values are that have led us to make this choice.

Our values are numerous. Here are the top 5.

  1. We want to be able to customize our daughter’s education to provide her extra help in areas that she struggles, and to allow her to push forward at high speed in the areas in which she excels. The customization and endless possibilities of homeschooling really appeal to us. Homeschooling is a major task, but we are undertaking this task in the hopes of providing our daughter a better education.
  2. Faith. Obviously, public schools do not teach our Christian faith. We want to incorporate the Bible into our daily lessons. We do not want public schools teaching her things that are contrary to scripture. Incorporating our faith in God and our walk with Jesus into academic life is important to us. However, you might wonder why this isn’t number one on our list of why we homeschool. Well, if teaching the faith was our only issue or even the most predominant issue, we could send her to a Christian private school. One of the best benefits of homeschooling is being able to incorporate our religious beliefs into academic life, but it is not nearly the only reason. There are plenty of good Christian schools to send Angelica to. But homeschooling we think will offer her a better education and fit our family better. Although homeschooling is often thought of as a Christian thing, there are many secular parents who are choosing to homeschool their children. I think that that alone attests to the fact that there is a value in homeschooling beyond the religious.
  3. Homeschooling allows for travel. In September we took a two-week vacation. If our daughter was in school we couldn’t have decided to just take a two-week road trip around the Northwest in September. It would be the beginning of her school year and aside from the attendance policies the school would undoubtedly have, it would put her behind if we took a vacation in September. We went to New Mexico to visit my uncle for a few days in October. We are hoping to do Glacier, Yellowstone, and Yosemite national parks in the next year or two, and we don’t intend to go to every single one of those in the busy summer season. Homeschooling allows our family to travel when we want and for as long as we want. In exchange we have to do school year-round of course, but with plenty of breaks during the year to travel or spend time with family we have decided that that doesn’t matter. And if we take a really long trip at some point, we can make the choice to bring school on the road with us. Homeschooling is totally flexible and easy to tailor to our lifestyle.
  4. I really want to spend the time with my daughter, this year and every year until she grows up. I like a break just like any other mother does. I have a babysitter for a reason. But I don’t want to miss out on being with my daughter 5 days a week. I would rather share in the joy of discovery that is school with my daughter. Childhood is so short and I just don’t want to part with precious time. I want to have lots of memories of these years and to spend the extra time with Angelica. I am fortunate to be able to homeschool, and I want to make the most of that opportunity to be close to my daughter and make extra memories with her that I wouldn’t be able to make if she was out of the house 30 to 40 hours a week. Of course if I thought it was truly in my daughter’s best interest to spend those 30 or 40 hours a week away from home in a school, I would send her to school. But I don’t think that that would be in her best interest, so this is another one of my homeschooling values.
  5. Homeschooling really works with the military lifestyle. In the military you pack up and leave every two to three years. We’re hoping to be able to homestead at some point, but that is not guaranteed to happen. So every couple of years a military child switches school districts and ends up with a completely different curriculum in a new place with new people and new expectations. Sometimes the’ll wind up in a place with more opportunity, and sometimes they’ll end up in a place with less. This is true whether you send your child to public school or private school. By homeschooling her we ensure that her education doesn’t flip flop every couple of years. She will have continuity and I think that’s very valuable for a child. The content of her education will vary depending on her interests and skills, rather than on geography.

It’s All About Science and Geography!

Since English and Math are a no go until we get a diagnosis and some professional help for Angelica, I’ve decided to take a different tack. Her curriculum did primarily just math and language arts (with a small smattering of social studies) for Kindergarten. They didn’t really do science and geography, or even history, until later grades. Angelica simply can’t do the math and language arts right now (see previous post). But I see no reason to waste time that could be used to give her a valuable education. To that end, I went out and bought two science books for kids and one geography book. All of them are full of amazing photos that interest Angelica. The two science books are picture encyclopedias of sorts, but they cover different subjects. These books give us so much to dive into and so far she really likes them. Angelica chose to start with her geography book. That book, although it covers continents and oceans and everything like that, also covers space and the magnetosphere and tectonic plates etc. We are starting at the very beginning of the book, which in fact is the very beginning – space. We have been reading about the order of the planets and watching documentaries on Mercury and Venus. I’m going to use these very engaging books and any videos I can find to teach her. When she gets a couple of grades ahead I want to get her the DK books. They have ones for history, art history, music,  and some for other subjects too. These books can be basic textbooks and supplemental materials until she gets older and needs to really dive in deep.

Hitting a Wall and Getting Help

We plugged away at BJU Press for as long as we could, but we just hit a wall. It’s actually a very good video curriculum taught by experienced teachers, and with accompanying review material. The problems we ran into were numerous. Angelica did not grasp phonics at all. They were teaching how to sound out basic words like sin and tin. Nothing worked. Phonics cards didn’t work. The teacher’s lessons didn’t work. Our explanations didn’t work. She wasn’t catching on and would cry with frustration.

Then there was the issue with math. She did finally count to ten by using this curriculum, which was great. But Angelica didn’t always connect numbers to actual objects, and getting higher than ten just wasn’t happening. Lesser and greater were difficult for her. And comparing ordinal and cardinal numbers, forget it. Tallying did not go well either.

We took her to a developmental pediatrician twice and what she determined is that Angelica probably has dyslexia and dyscalculia. She doesn’t handle those disorders though, so we have scheduled a full evaluation and diagnostic session at a literacy center in Denver. They were booked out until January. The Colorado Springs location, where we live, was booked out until April. The center will test for dyscalculia, dyslexia, and pretty much every other learning and developmental disorder. It’s expensive, but we need to do it. Something is clearly wrong, and we can’t seem to overcome it. We need to find out what Angelica has so we can learn how to teach her in a way she will understand. Hopefully we can also find a tutor with experience in whatever disorders she has who can come and do math and language arts lessons with her each week.

Housewifing

This morning we ran over to Home Depot. Craig was helping me choose wood for my newest creative adventure – watercolor on wood. When we got home I did a test run. The way the colors spread through the grain is lovely, and the colors stay so vibrant.

After we ate lunch, it was time for school. We did a lesson in reading. It was her first lesson in reading for the curriculum, so there were no actual words in her little reader for the day. It was just sort of an introduction to books, although coming from this house she doesn’t really need that! We fell on a review day for math today, so we will be doing some review, but went on ahead and did the next lesson.

Craig has been working all afternoon and he won’t be home until bedtime. So I am flying solo for the pm hours. And I’ve been trying hard to get things done! After Angelica’s school day was over, I started cleaning the house. I reorganized the homeschool supplies, cleared off the dining room table (which had become a storage space for school supplies and little toys that had been brought downstairs by little hands), reorganized the kitchen to the best of my ability (and I did a lot of organizing…took about two hours), did dishes, took out trash, took out recycling, cleaned out the refrigerator, and began organizing Angelica’s clothes for the trip. In between, I painted with Angelica, took her to the park for over an hour, helped her mail something to her grandparents, made her dinner, and after all that was through I took a hot shower. Now I have some laundry to do, some sweeping, and some mopping. I’d also like to put away my second, though small, round of clean dishes. I am really going to push myself.

Exhaustion is setting in though. I hate this overused analogy, but I only get so many spoons per day. I normally breakup my housework and activity into smaller, shorter chunks. I am just now sitting down after my shower. It is almost seven and I’ve been going at it since before noon. I guess that isn’t a lot, but it feels like it. The shower felt good, but even that took a spoon.

Truly, I love my job. I love being a housewife, and I love being a mom. And I get tremendous satisfaction from a good day of work.  I just run out of energy and stability….quickly a lot of the time. But I’m so glad I’ve done what I’ve done. The kitchen took the longest time. It was in need of a massive organize. We just have a lot of stuff. And I have more to do that I am really going to try to get done before bed.

Tomorrow is my sixth wedding anniversary. We celebrated last week by going to a little french restaurant, and hanging out just the two of us. Tomorrow I’ll be with Craig for our anniversary (and the holiday) in the morning, but he will be working all afternoon and evening. It will be just me and Angelica. I’m not sure what we are going to do – probably have a quiet day.

Okay, well that was my day so far. Now it is time to review Angelica’s speech therapy lesson with her, sweep up, mop, run laundry, and put away dishes!

BJU Press

We have decided to go another direction in our home schooling. I have ordered the BJU online curriculum. She will watch videos online everyday that cover math and language arts, and through the subject of language arts science and social studies will be studied as well. There are corresponding worksheets to do and little projects. I am excited to get started on this with her. We showed her a sample video of the kindergarten math and she seemed to like it and get into it.

I actually looked into this curriculum months ago. Actually years ago even, as I was beginning to ponder exactly how I was going to homeschool Angelica. I was worried that videos might bore her, and I wondered if she would need me teaching and if the videos would be too much of an easy way out. But as I have found out from having her do the Time4Learning Subscription Service, she loves videos. Or at the very least she loves those. And doing pure workbook assignments with nothing else to go with it, like we did with Christian Light Education, is something she hates. She likes to have audio and visual and colors and possibly to do a little kinesthetic movement. These videos seem to encourage some of that. And it’s a more well-rounded education than what we were using because kindergarten covers science and social studies, even if they don’t have their own videos devoted to those subjects. I watched a sample language arts video and was impressed. I hope that the worksheets are well designed and that Angelica really get something out of them. And I like the fact that each day I have to lay out her work for her and we follow along with the videos and then we do the work that’s assigned in the parent guide each day. I can enter grades for her online through the parent portal. Starting in fifth grade I think students take their tests and quizzes online, but until then I will be grading them, which I think I like just as well.

I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but I really think that at the very least this will go much better than the last curriculum. I will have so much more help teaching because it won’t be just me and my methodology. She’ll be watching an actual professional teacher teach the first time she hears the lesson and then I will just be reinforcing the lesson. Between laying out her work for her each day, pulling up the videos and being ready to stop them at the appropriate time for her to do activities, and grading her assignments, I will still be heavily involved in her education. But she will have the audio visual stimulation that seems to keep her interested in school, and I will have the assistance of having a professional teacher give her her lessons. So please dear Lord let this work out.

Time4Learning

A few weeks ago I signed Angelica up for a monthly subscription service called Time4Learning. It covers language arts and math, with an optional science curriculum.

It is kind of cool because it covers things that we hadn’t even thought to do, but are expected of Kindergartners now, like solid shapes, what an author and illustrator are, table of contents and other parts of a book etc. It reinforces other things, like letter sounds and prepositions. Today we reached a lesson with listening comprehension, and practicing that might be especially good for her receptive language issues, even if those issues make it harder for her to do the activities. It has begun teaching her rhyming, which we hadn’t gone over yet. So it is keeping her education well rounded and giving us ideas on what to teach outside the workbook curriculum. There are quizzes after every few lessons, and it keeps a record of grades that I can see at the parent portal. She actually asks to do these videos sometimes, whereas it has been awhile since she has asked to do the workbooks. She likes the interactivity of it I think. They aren’t the most compelling videos, but she likes having something to watch and listen to.

I am realizing that maybe instead of Christian Light Education workbooks, or in addition to them since they are so inexpensive, I probably should have gone with my instincts and paid for the video series put out by BJU. Videos seem to be her thing. I think there are still workbooks that go with it, which is good since she needs to practice writing. But maybe she would rather watch a video than listen to me teach the whole time. I am going to look into a computer game curriculum. I don’t know if there are any, but something engaging like that with lots of teaching and clicking might be good for her. Every one has their own learning style, and on top of that she is not exactly a traditional learner. So anything I can find that she can at least mostly follow along with, will enjoy, and will hold her attention is worth investigating.

Homeschool Victory

This morning I was able to teach Angelica to count objects as high as five. I am waiting to see if she will retain it, but I did several exercises with counting to 2, 3, 4, and 5.   She did wonderfully well on them.

We haven’t been keeping up with our math side of the curriculum. We are supposed to be on 9, but that just isn’t possible at this point.  But the fact she got up to five was amazing. She has been struggling with 2. I am hoping that it has finally clicked for the lower numbers and she will retain what she learned. Sometimes she seems to have difficulty retaining what she has learned. I did not want to push her too hard though. Angelica made such good progress in the short time we have worked so far today that I wanted to quit before she got frustrated with anything, so that she could have her first positive memory/experience with school this week. She has gotten to where she is reluctant to do school anymore because it is difficult for her. But today she was beaming because she was getting almost everything right.  I am so happy for her!

We are reviewing old lessons in the workbook. I’ve decided to backtrack. I don’t think she has truly mastered the material we have covered, so we are going to do review and activities. I am just so proud of her, and so overjoyed for her as well. I recognize we are still behind the curve, but progress is progress. And this was some tremendous progress. Now to pray that it is retained…

Disorder

It is only a general diagnosis, but today we received Angelica’s evaluation from the speech therapist. Angelica has expressive and receptive language disorder. She is delayed. On the bell curve there are three categories of delay. Mild, moderate, and severe. She is moderately delayed. She is in about the 6th percentile for her age.

Angelica will begin speech therapy next Wednesday morning. I really hope it helps her. Last year speech therapy didn’t seem to make a lasting impact. At first it didn’t seem to help at all. Then it seems like it helped a little bit maybe. And then as soon as I had to pull her out of speech for our move, the progress was immediately lost. Overall I would say it just didn’t help her. But this speech therapist is hopefully going to do different things, and she’s going to be focusing on language rather than pronunciation, so hopefully we will see some results.

Angelica is very bright. She loves to talk to people and she loves it when I read her stories. She is actively engaged with everything around her and interested in so many things. Angelica is highly creative, compassionate, and communicative. But she just has a hard time with certain elements of communication. I have suspected that something was wrong for a while. Hence the fact I had her in speech therapy for a year back in Virginia. This confirms what I had feared. But hopefully she will get a lot of help from the speech therapist and maybe she can make great strides this year.

We also have appointments set up with a developmental pediatrician for an evaluation, and we are being referred to an OT.

Officially having it in writing that she is delayed and by how much has giving me mixed feelings. It confirms my fears, which gives me a sinking feeling. At the same time now maybe we can get people to help her and we will see some improvements. But her diagnosis is really a general diagnosis and not specific. The problem with that is that when we look up how to teach her to read or how to teach her to do math we don’t know what to put in the search engines to tell us how to teach her. If she has auditory processing disorder teaching is difficult but there are some things you can do to help. For a variety of other delays and disorders there are different things you can do to teach your child and improve their odds at a positive outcome. But without knowing what specifically it is it’s very hard to determine what to do. Hopefully the developmental pediatrician will be able to shed some light on that issue and give us a direction to go in. Homeschooling is not going well. It’s still early so I’m holding out hope, but she is definitely having a hard time and not catching on. Language arts is her strong suit, but even there she is not doing as well as I had hoped. And math is an absolute no-go.

For the next couple of months we’re going to keep pushing through as we are and reviewing the lessons in our curriculum. I’m going to do my best to teach her and encourage her to keep trying even though it is difficult. The receptive language issue is really holding her back. In a couple of months if we see no progress, we will likely hire a tutor when we get back from vacation. And hopefully by then too we will have the evaluation results from the developmental pediatrician and we’ll have more to go on in figuring out how to help Angelica. So we can maybe get a tutor who can help her and we may have some new tools in our toolbox to help her ourselves as well.

Shopping, Books, Creativity

Today I went shopping for regular size clothes. I got to go shopping at Macy’s briefly with my mother and I found a dress that day that fit, so I hoped I could do a whole shopping trip and find clothes in the regular Department that fit me. I went to dressbarn, tried on about 15 dresses, and all of them except for one fit, and that one didn’t fit over my bust. I was wearing 14s and 16s. Then I went over to Marshalls next door and I found Calvin Klein dresses in size 14 and size large. They all fit me and they look great on me! I am so happy! I have a long way to go but it feels so good to finally be able to shop in the regular sections of the department stores. There’s so much more to pick from and it’s so much more flattering. I am trying not to spend too much money on clothing since I’m hoping to keep losing weight and I don’t want to run out and spend hundreds of dollars only to have the clothes not fit in 2 months. Plus, having too much clothing stresses me out. It’s just too much laundry and too much organizing, so anything that cannot fit in the three drawers that are mine in the chest of drawers does not get kept. So in order to keep these dresses I’m getting rid of some of the other ones that don’t fit. I’m going to keep one or two to paint in since I don’t want to ruin these nice dresses, but some other stuff has to go.

I have been reading everywhere lately. I’m still working my way through the wonderful new books that arrived while I was in Virginia. And on top of that I have been downloading books on Google Play books and on Kindle and reading those too. I am even getting into some contemporary fiction, which I almost never do. One of the books I’m currently reading is very surreal and it’s about being a woman and about the body. There’s one very creepy story in there about a woman with a green ribbon around her neck. And I’m finding books about painting and books about walking in faith and Christian women throughout history. So much good stuff. And of course, poetry as always. The white piano is really good. I keep going back to that one. And I am absolutely drowning in sci-fi and horror to read. It’s such a pleasure!

Many of the books that I like to read cannot be bought for an e-reader or phone. Most poetry only comes in book format. But for the books I’m finding online that do come in an e-reader format, I’m debating downloading more often than ordering a physical book. I will always prefer the wonderful weight of a book in my hands and the fresh smell of the paper, and I will never stop ordering flesh and Bone books. But at least sometimes it might be a good idea to get digital copies because our library is filling up so fast. Truthfully it’s already overflowing. Craig and I own so many books. The library spills into rooms and pretty soon, and fax now since we have so many books to resell to get digital copies because our library is filling up so fast. Truthfully it’s already overflowing. Craig and I own so many books. The library spills into rooms and pretty soon, and fax now since we have so many books to shelve that are new, we need more bookshelves. Plus there’s something nice about having at least some of your books be portable and come with you without having to pack anything. That way I can read at the mall or in a parking lot or waiting in line at Taco Bell or anywhere.

Today I tried to do a little bit of schooling with Angelica. The babysitter had already done some with her. Our wonderful babysitter does educational activities every time she comes. But I decided to help Angelica work on the letter b this afternoon. She made some progress but handwriting is slow going. She seems to pick up on the handwriting quicker than she remembers the sounds that the letters make though. For some reason she remembers what sound the letter Z makes and it always makes her happy, but the other letters she doesn’t really remember yet so we’re going to keep working with the flash cards. And I’m going to keep letting her play her little educational games on my phone. Maybe she is like me. I have always adored the letter z.

Her curriculum should be here in the next couple of weeks and then we will get started in earnest.

I am downloading as many textures and creative programs as I can to create little collages and digital pages. The one in this post is one I just made tonight. I borrow the photography from all over and use different frames and filters and borders and textures to create something that describes my mood or something else in my life. I think the one tonight is pretty fitting.