Monday, July 26, 2010

plans for kindergarten

First, a note about how our year lays out. We will start our school year the first week of August. Right now it is looking like Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. Usually we start on a Monday, but we are going out of town this weekend and I know I'll need at least a day to recover from that trauma! :) I think I have found the perfect year-round schedule for us. This is my third year using it, and it is working well. We do three weeks of school and then have one catch-up week. Barring major family-wide illness and such, work during catch-up weeks should be minimal and we can also take some time to go on a nature walk, work on projects, etc. We will take a month off at Christmas, two weeks at Easter, and a month in the summer. This schedule makes for 11 three week mini-terms...that's 33 weeks of school. Our syllabi have 32 weeks of work in them. I use this extra free week by planning to do only two weeks worth of work during the first term of the year. This gives us extra time to get everything coordinated and all the kinks worked out of our new school year plans. Our syllabi have a four day week scheduled for most subjects...a couple of subjects call for five days in the older grades. In the past our light day has been Thursday because that was co-op day. This year, Monday is the new Thursday. Get this- now on Mondays, Jack has two hours of therapy, Kain has one hour of therapy, Kain has cub scouts, and Maria has dance class 45 minutes away. So,,,that's enough Monday fun. On the upside, our year otherwise looks pretty flexible. I have consciously (often painfully) purged our activities to a more sane level. Outside of the Monday madness, the three older kids will have PSR on Wednesday evenings, Jack has more therapy on Friday, and once a month Kain's cub scout meeting will be on Tuesday instead of Monday. This means that, outside of Jack's therapy, our non-Monday school days are free from interruption. I can chose to attend field trips and other social activities when things are sane, or stay home when things are not. Peachy!

So, my Jack-man is starting kindergarten. If he were going to public school I think I would be almost in mourning! But, since he will be at home, it really doesn't feel much different than what we've been doing. Here's the breakdown by subject, and notes on my Jack-tweaking.

I'm never sure how much is ok to post when discussing curriculum. I don't want to violate any copyright issues. But I don't think I'm giving any information that's not already available on the Mother of Divine Grace website. Anyway, most of the lessons, except when otherwise noted, come from their syllabi.

Religion- We will be narrating Old Testament Bible stories. This will be tricky for Jack. Narration is such a valuable teaching tool. Ideally, you read a story to the child (or an older child might read it themselves), and then they tell you about the story in their own words. You write it down for them, and they can illustrate the story when you're done. Narration teaches a child to hold onto a story, chronologically, in their memory, and retell it accurately. Using good literature feeds their imagination with beautiful images and lays the foundations for learning to write. The problem is that Jack has trouble expressing himself "on command" in this way. I'm not sure how he will do with this. My plan is to try and get him to tell me any little thing about the story and grab onto that. We can build from there. Also, Jack doesn't draw. His motor skills are on about the level of a 2 1/2 year old. He really still just scribbles with a crayon. I will probably have him "coach" me through drawing a picture for him and then let him color it as best he can. His motor skills are being worked on in therapy, so hopefully he will be able to do more as the year goes on.

Reading/writing- our curriculum calls for using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Jack, however, reads far too well already to bother with this. I have a set of the Little Angel readers and I'll have him read aloud to me out of those. We've been doing some of this over the summer, and it's a hoot. He has trouble getting the hang of reading aloud. Usually he will start off ok, but then his voice trails off to a whisper and disappears completely. He's reading to himself and has forgotten that he is reading aloud. So I'll say, "Jack, I can't hear you anymore." And then he'll start reading REALLY LOUDLY....but then his voice will slooooowly get softer and softer until he's reading silently again. hehe.

We are using different writing books than suggested in our syllabus, opting for using Handwriting Without Tears instead. It has a very simple script and the company also sells lots of helps for kids that struggle with writing, like these wooden letter pieces. Such props have not been necessary for the other children, but with Jack I'll take every help I can find. I've used this series for all three of my kids so far. The cursive script isn't beautiful, but it's simple and highly recommended for kids that struggle with writing. Of course, Jack isn't learning cursive yet! We are starting with the preschool book.

Math- Jack will handle this subject well enough. He can already count well and recognize written numbers. We will use the Golden workbooks as recommended in the syllabus and see how it goes. Some people have told me that their kids just eat these fun workbooks up, but because of his issues with coloring and writing I don't think that's going to happen. We will probably just work through one page at a time. We'll practice counting and simple adding and subtracting with counting bears too.

Other fun stuff- We'll be memorizing short Robert Louis Stevenson poems and starting his own poetry notebook, something the kids add to every year through eighth grade. We will also do simple picture studies with art postcards.

That's it for our curriculum stuff...about 45 minutes of sit down work a day. I love this about our curriculum. It's very basic in the earliest grades, leaving lots of room for whatever you'd like to do.

Now for the fun stuff...because I can't leave well enough alone...we'll be dabbling in the Alphabet Path. I've been scavenging ideas from Elizabeth, who wrote the original plans, and Jessica, and Sue, and added some ideas of my own too. We will take two years to finish the path, spending three to four weeks on each letter. During our school weeks, we will have a simple tea time to kick off the letter we will be focusing on, and then we will just do read alouds from our Alphabet Path stack of picture books. Then during our catch up week we will spend some time doing, art, science, etc., maybe even a related field trip here and there.

Of course, as always, we will have regular nature walks and liturgical year activities. We are not doing the co-op this year. This is with some sadness, and also some relief. The kids love the co-op. But it is just too expensive to put all three in, and I just can't teach to earn their tuition with a toddler and baby in tow. So, maybe in another season. In the meantime, not attending co-op will free up time to do other activities with our homeschool groups. We are blessed to live in an area that has plenty to offer homeschoolers, and we are never lacking on opportunities to see friends.

Ok, that's it for the Jack-ster. Next up...plans for Kain!

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Another random thought posting...because that's all I can wrap my brain around!

---school, school, school. We start the first week in August. I'm planning and copying and futzing and tweaking. I know I promised more info on what we are doing with the other kids. I'll try to post more tonight or in the morning about that.

---Henry turned 3 months old yesterday! I can't post a recent picture just yet. I am *still* working on the living room and the camera cable is disconnected. Apparently not all of the ports work, and John is trying to figure out which one. But he is doing great, gaining well now, and just a sweet, sweet baby. He's trying to roll over, and he just smiles and coos at me all the time. I just love the way his face lights up when he catches my eyes.

Also about Henry...I don't remember if I posted this, but back when he was having trouble gaining weight the doctor had ordered some blood work and found his liver functions were elevated. She's been watching and retesting and they have still been high. Last week we were referred to a liver specialist at the children's hospital. They don't quite know what to make of him yet either. He seems very healthy otherwise, and has no jaundice or other signs of liver problems. They ran some more tests and did an ultrasound of his whole belly. We are still waiting for results. In the meantime, I'm having that whole "your life can change with a phone call" feeling.

Ok, I'd better run. We are going to swimming this afternoon. I have avoided the pool this summer. It's just too miserable to sit there all afternoon on the concrete with the baby. John has taken the kids a couple of times, and once I dropped Maria off with a friend, but there's been a grumbling lately of the lack of pool time, so I'm making an effort to go a couple of times before school starts.

Monday, July 12, 2010


"Soon I will be six years old and my baby teeth will fall out. Then I will get my MAN TEETH!"

A planning post- Henry and Tess

Our new school year is starting in a few weeks, and I've got my planning on.

I thought I'd write a few posts about our upcoming year, starting with the littlest students. Yes, I make actual plans for everyone, even the baby...not in a weird "create a baby genius" kind of way.....

Just notes of activities to try, read-alouds to do, rhymes to learn...

It might seem like a silly thing to plan. But trust me, it's easy to lose sight of what you want to do with the littlest people. You spend your days wrapped up in grammar and Shakespeare and long division and next thing you know you look up and the year is over and you spent precious little time making play dough food and marching with homemade maracas.

(These are not homemade maracas.)
A little planning reminds me which books I wanted, and which of those books need to be checked out from which library, that I need to have foil pie tins and dried beans on hand, that kind of thing.

Planning also helps with the timing of seasonal crafts. I'm not likely to remember the St. Patrick's Day craft I wanted to do when March rolls around unless I write it down. The easier I can make the activities to do once our school year is underway, the more likely they are to actually get done.

Most of my ideas for my little bees come from the "A Year of Fun" series and "Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready". Tess is also starting to use some Montessori ideas that I've mostly gotten from this book.

Last year was a survival year. I found out in mid-August that I was expecting Henry. It was a year of morning sickness and midwife visits. This year I want to have a full, fun year.

I plan to spend about an hour first thing in the morning playing with my littlest guys while the older three do their workboxes.

Stay tuned...the big kids are next!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Henry's birth story.....


So, let's travel back to April was a Friday, and I was over a week overdue. I had a midwife appointment that morning, and as expected, she told me it was time to try some castor oil. I had tried castor oil with was super gross and didn't work at all. I swore I'd never do it again. But I had been having contractions for *weeks*, real ones that seemed like they could "take" at any time, but nothing more would ever happen. My back and hip were aching all day, every day. And when my midwife did a nonstress test, the baby's movements were almost nonexistent, though his heartrate was good. I was looking at an OB/hospital birth referral. I was feeling all kinds of desperate and decided it was worth a try.

I swung (swinged? swang?) by the store on the way home and bought a bottle. My midwife's instructions were to drink one ounce every hour. The bottle contained six ounces. Ugh. I decided to get started as soon as I arrived back home. My labors are always days long, so I knew that even if I managed to get labor going I'd have plenty of time to finish getting ready. I had already looked on the internet for ideas on making this task easier, but in the end I just decided to chug it. With Jack, I had mixed the oil with OJ. This didn't work at all, because guess what? oil and water don't mix!!! So what you would get is a couple of swallows of OJ and then thick, gloppy oil all by itself at the end. This time I decided on a shot of castor oil (literally...I used a shot glass) followed by an OJ chaser. It was still horrifying beyond all reason. My stomach is lurching now just thinking about it. If you ever do this, imagine swallowing a big ole heaping spoonful of vaseline. A couple of saltines afterwards help remove the oily ook from your mouth. Blech.

John happened to be home from work that day. He was actually supposed to work and had been sent home. So, I took my shot and we started puttering around, getting ready just in case this actually did anything. An hour later I took another shot,,,barely. It nearly came back on me, and I was trying not to think about taking four more of these. Another hour passed, and I took another shot, and I'm serious, it very nearly didn't stay down, and I told John that was it, there was just no way on earth I was going to be able to take anymore of it. At this point it was almost 6pm...getting late, and I was looking at being up all night with other "returns" from the castor oil, if you know what I mean. I sat down to check my email, and right in the middle of an email, no lie, there was this sudden "clunk" on my pelvic bone. It felt like something had...slipped, or something. And then I had a *strong* contraction. I went to the bathroom to kind of see what was what, and my water broke! And then another *strong* contraction. Hrmmm...interesting, I thought, and maybe I should start getting ready in earnest, we might be leaving sometime tomorrow. I went upstairs and started gathering up things for me, John, and Tess, and I told Maria to do the same for the boys and herself. I called my mom and told her to keep her cell phone nearby just in case things moved faster than usual and we needed to leave during the night, but that surely she would just get an update in the morning. Because, like I said, my labors are *days* long.

And then another contraction. And another. Consistently very strong, and coming 5 minutes apart. Very weird. I went downstairs and proceeded to hem and haw with great anxiety. My gut said it was TIME, NOW, and my brain said, "Puh-leez, do we have to go through this with every labor, you KNOW your labors always take FOREVER!" And after a couple of more contractions, I was convinced. This one was different. And I felt strongly that we should leave NOW. The birthing center was almost two hours away. I called my mom and told her to meet us at the center. I swear I could practically hear her eyes rolling. Because I just don't *have* fast labors, and I always think things are happening faster than they are. I ran around in a vague panic, trying to get everything together and having a really hard time because I couldn't concentrate well at all. It seemed to take an eternity to get everyone loaded up and get on the road, although really we were on the road shortly after 6pm, and the whole time I was trying to picture the logistics of having the baby on the side of the road, mostly worried about how badly that would freak out Jack. The whole scene was like the ones I've always made fun of on television, the ones where the woman grabs her stomach and says, "Honey, it's time", and they all run around like lunatics trying to get to the hospital.

Once in the car, I removed the rosary from the rearview mirror and started praying with the contractions. It went something like this, "Hail Mary full of gracetheLordiswiththeeblessedARTTHOUAMONGWOMENARGGGHHHAILMARYHAILMARY,(pant,pant,pant).......and the kids going, "Are you ok?" and me going, "Umhmm, oh yeah, I'm fine, I'm ok, it's just hard work you know, tralala!" We arrived at the birthing center just before 8pm. My parents were there waiting in the dark parking lot, and I think they were surprised to see me lurch out of the van panting and working hard, rosary clenched in my sweaty fist. I left John and my parents to deal with the stuff and the kids and lumbered into the front door, pausing for another contraction on the way. Once inside, I undressed and flopped down to be checked, waiting for the news that the baby was immenent. "You're only about three centimeter dilated, hon," she told me. I nearly fell apart. I had *hours and hours* to go, how could I work this hard for that long? John came in and we started to work, but this labor was so different. With Tess and Jack, being on my feet helped tremendously, but with this one I just couldn't bear it and I was rapidly becoming truly hysterical as the contractions were literally one on top of the other. How could I possibly keep doing this for hours? I decided I needed to do something different. I lay down and positioned myself all Bradley-method like, propped up with pillows, John rubbing my back, eyes closed, breathing deeply. This was *much* better. The contractions were still just as fast and hard, but I felt more in control, more able to focus. I disappeared inside the work, and I distantly heard John say, "I think she's sleeping!", but I wasn't, the contractions were still rocking and rolling, and I would surface with them to pant and breathe. At some point my midwife wanted to check the baby's heart rate and I had to roll over. I cried to her that I just couldn't see how it was possible that I had so far to go and I really couldn't do this for hours and hours. She tried to check my cervix and I just couldn't get in position for her to check. The contractions at this point were literally just one after another with no break at all in between. She urged me to get onto the birthing chair, but I just couldn't see how I could move with no time at all between contractions. I muttered that I would try after the next one. The next one finished, I started to sit up, and another hit so I flopped back against John and said I just couldn't get up, no way. Suddenly I felt that familiar full and burning pain and yelled that the baby was coming, right now! Maria and my mom, waiting just outside the door, came running in just in time to see his head come out. Another contraction, and he was out completely, and I was laying there gasping like a fish out of water, still flopped back against John from when I was trying to scooch off the bed. It was 9:34, an hour and half from when we arrived at the center 3 centimeters dilated, about six hours from when I took the first dose of castor oil.

And that was that. Henry Robert was born. John picked the name Henry and I picked Robert for my sweet Grandaddy. He had died when Jack was a newborn, and I had decided then that if I ever had another boy I would name it after him. 10 pounds, 10 ounces, 22 1/2 inches long. My dad and the other kids had just arrived back at my parents house. If we'd had any idea it would be so quick they could have stuck around, but I never in a million years imagined I'd deliver so quickly! And I marveled at God's providence that John had been sent home from work that day. If he had been at work, I probably still would have started the castor oil because the midwife really wanted me to start right awya, and John was off that weekend and I never would have guessed it would have worked so fast. I don't know how he ever would have gotten out of his hospital shift and home on such short notice...he probably wouldn't have! Anyway, we got cleaned up, I ate something and recovered a bit, and we were back home around 2am. In less than 12 hours I'd gone from not being in labor at all to being back home with a newborn. Still unbelievable to me.