Thursday, August 22, 2013

Best-Laid Plans

I can't believe the summer is coming to an end already.  We have one and half weeks and then we are off to Cape Cod, where we go yearly.  This year, we are going Labor Day weekend and the week after -- we are paying off-season rates and will enjoy emptier beaches and restaurants.  Yet another reason to homeschool!

We are going to start school the week we get back, so I am scrambling to get everything prepared.  Ever since we knew that Christopher would be coming home this summer, I started -- very slowly --  getting things ready because I knew desk work would be hard with a baby.  Good thing I did that because Christopher might just be my fussiest baby (and I thought it couldn't get worse than Olivia).  I simply cannot get Christopher to stop crying and arching his back lately.  Sitting at the computer with him around is almost impossible.

Last year, I would prep every Sunday for the entire week.  I am trying to get most of that out of the way this summer by prepping for the year now.  What I mean by prepping is putting all of my assignments into my online Olly homeschool organizer, reading skimming all the instructor guides, getting the supplies organized so we can grab them easily, and planning our schedule.

I don't really need to put all of the assignments into Olly because I use Sonlight, and their Instructor Guides plan out everything very nicely for us.  But, I think these guides are mostly helpful for the teacher, not for the students.  One of my biggest homeschool goals is for my kids to become independent and organized learners.  For instance, when I am working with the boys in the morning on their reading, I want Olivia to be able to come downstairs and open her weekly assignment folder and be able to start on her work that she can do without me (workbooks, reading, etc.)  Olly is fantastic for laying out a student's assignments.  Here is an example of one of Olivia's assignment sheets from last year:

click to enlarge

I am just now beginning to lay out 36 weeks of assignments, with a few weeks left blank because I know we will need them if we get off-track due to illness or whatever life throws at us.

I also laid out a weekly schedule for our family.  I got the template from the Busy Homeschool Mom.  This is really just a guideline for us because I know we won't follow it to the letter.  But it is a rough idea of what order we should do things in.  Kids seem to do better when they know what is next.  So do I.

click to enlarge

Our curriculum choices have not changed much from last year, except for math.  Also, we have added Ellie as an office "Tiger Academy" student.  She is so eager to learn and write her letters and numbers; just so cute.

Olivia (4th Grade):

Math:  Singapore Level 4   -- Additional work with a tutor.  We will supplement with Math-U-See
Delta and Beast Academy 4A

Language Arts:  Sonlight Core Language Arts E and Latin Bridge

History and English:  Sonlight Core E, American History Part 2 + Readers (with Nicholas)

Science:  Sonlight Science E, Electricity, Magnetism, and Light  (with Nicholas)

Foreign Language:  Mandarin lessons with tutor, supplement with Rosetta Stone CD-rom

Music:  Homeschool Choir, guitar lessons

Art:  Kiwi Crates (I know, this is pretty lame but I just can't in a full-blown art lesson)

Sports:  Water Polo, Fencing, Ice Skating (in the winter)

Nicholas (2nd Grade):

Math:  Singapore Level 2   -- Additional work with a tutor.  We will supplement with Math-U-See

Language Arts:  Sonlight Core Language Arts 2 + Readers

History and English:  Sonlight Core E, American History Part 2

Science:  Sonlight Science E, Electricity, Magnetism, and Light

Foreign Language:  Mandarin lessons with tutor, supplement with Rosetta Stone CD-rom

Art: Kiwi Crates

Sports:  Water Polo, Swim team, ice skating (winter)

Peter (1st Grade):

Math:  Singapore Level 1   -- Additional work with a tutor.  We will supplement with Math-U-See

Language Arts:  Sonlight Core Language Arts 1 + Readers (might jump to LA 2 because Peter is progressing rapidly in reading)

History and English:  Sonlight CoreB, Intro to World History

Science:  Sonlight Science B: Animals, Astronomy, and Physics

Foreign Language:  Mandarin lessons with tutor, supplement with Rosetta Stone CD-rom

Art:  Kiwi Crates

Sports:  swimming lessons, Swim team, ice skating (winter), possibly martial art of some kind

Ellie (Pre-K):

Math:  Math-U-See Primer

Language Arts:  Handwriting without Tears

History, English, and Science:  Sonlight Core Pre-K

Foreign Language:  Mandarin lessons with tutor

Sports:  swimming lessons, gymnastics

Music and Art:  stuff with Mom and Christopher, Kiwi Crates

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Catch Up Post

I haven't written lately because I have been kind of depressed.  And when I am depressed I don't talk much.  Apparently, I don't write either.

I have been really sad about Elijah.  You know, that stomach-sinking feeling of disappointment.  And also confusion.  Because I  -- for some really illogical reason -- really believed it would all work out with his adoption.  I would talk the talk, and tell anyone who asked that I knew it was unlikely etc. etc., but I was really just biding my time until my miracle happened.

At the same time, my good friend lost her father.  I feel so sad for her, as I remember her talking about him in college with such love.  I know that this 'loss' of Elijah is not much as compared to the profound loss that she is experiencing, so I am trying not to be so sad but instead to appreciate all I have  right now, which includes 2 healthy parents.

So, I have been grappling with these feelings, and not writing very much.

I read a post from one of my favorite blogs about God being able to do the impossible, and I have been praying for that continually.  My agency told me they would keep an eye out for Elijah on the Shared List "in case anything crazy happens"  -- that little phrase stuck in my mind and I am still holding onto a sliver of hope:

"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us -- whatever we ask -- we know that we have what we asked of him." -- 1 John 5:14-15

But life around here does not slow down for depression.  We have been keeping busy.  Here are some pictures from our summer:

Mommy and Olivia day out
Day at the Shore
The boys love the beach

Ellie posing with our beautiful hydrangeas
Bike rides/walks with Nicholas are a daily pleasure

Recently, I took Christopher to see a plastic surgeon and she recommended surgery on his feet.  As I have mentioned, he has clefts in his feet, but it doesn't seem to affect his walking or moving around in any way.  I assumed we wouldn't do anything in terms of medical intervention since there was no functional problem.  But our doctor explained that the clefts in his feet will probably widen as his feet grow, making it hard for him to fit into shoes as he grows older.  She showed me some 'after' photos of surgeries she has done (on kids whose feet look remarkably similar to Christopher's) and it was really amazing how good the post-surgery feet looked.  They looked like 'typical' feet, except only 2 toes instead of 5.

We are getting a second opinion, but all of the feedback I have received from the ectrodactyly support group (on Facebook) seemed to concur that surgery, while young, is the way to go.  So, we are preparing for this surgery, probably in October.

At the same time, the surgeon will probably remove a finger that is attached to Christopher's fingers, but is not attached to the hand.  It is a non-functioning finger and there is not much they can do to 'save' it.  I am not looking forward to this -- watching your child scared and in pain is never fun, especially with the little ones who can't communicate their fears or discomforts.

Also, Nicholas is in the midst of getting his palate expanded by an orthodontist in preparation for his bone-graft surgery in which two gaps in his palate will be "filled in." This is considered to be one of the bigger surgeries in the cleft palate protocol, mostly because of the bone extraction and the healing that that involves.  Again, I am not looking forward to this, but at least I can explain everything to Nicholas and calm him down when he gets nervous.

So we have a bunch of pre-ops, hospital stays, and post-ops in our future.

Christopher met with an Early Intervention team for an evaluation last week.  He was really shy at first (when he is shy or overwhelmed he holds his hand over his eyes like a visor -- and he did this for the first hour), but he warmed up eventually.  He definitely qualifies for services, all 3 in fact: OT, PT, and speech.   But I am really not surprised or worried.  Christopher is doing fine for a kid who didn't have much stimulation or get out of his crib much for 13 months.  And the therapists were really impressed with his social and cognitive skills.  Those two -- to me -- seem to be so much more foundational and also so much harder to address with typical therapy, so I am glad that the therapists agreed with me that he is on target in those areas.

In other news, I am busy planning the coming school year.  I love this part:  the planning.  The implementation is always so much messier.  So I am putting my data into my digital school curriculum planner ( I use Olly), organizing books, buying school supplies, and getting the kids signed up for co-op classes and activities.  We also hired a nanny for 10 hours per week -- I was inspired by this post.  She seems great, and -- get this! -- she was homeschooled as a kid and is one of 7 kids.  What a find!  To have someone in the house who understands, at least partially, the madness of my life will be so nice.