Friday, September 19, 2014

Project Learning

This has been a week of learning through projects and a small amount of book work. Even last year that would have bothered me terribly. But after a change in our entire school style to accommodate Amber's chronic illness, I'm actually mentally okay with this week's progress.  Amber still thinks she needs to be doing more book work, and can't handle when her work isn't perfect. We are working on helping her adjust to the new style and expectations.

Monday was mostly a sick day because Amber had a food reaction to a small of amount of garlic eaten last week. We ended up doing an intestinal cleanse Sunday. Amber's brain was just so slow on Monday. She slept quite late and couldn't get it in gear all day. That was ok. We did some grammar, a little German, and the rest was project work. Oh, and errands (with some fun shopping too).

The child LOVES My Little Pony.  See how many MLP items you can spot this week.  LOL.
(LEFT) MLP top, pants and socks.  This was her co-op day outfit this week.
(RIGHT-TOP) Playing games with Dad... in her MLP hat.
(RIGHT-BOTTOM) Dinner at our favorite McAlister's after co-op.  One exhausted, but happy child.

Wednesday was another non-school day. Amber had her tilt table test which left her not quite as sick as expected, but also didn't go as anticipated. In actuality there was a set of smaller tests scheduled to go with the tilt test. The smaller respiratory tests were a little difficult, but overall were some of the simplest medical tests Amber has completed.

When it came time to do the tilt portion, it was explained that while adults are usual put at a 70 degree angle for 45 minutes, since Amber is a child she would only be in that position 25 minutes. The wonderfully kind technician requested that Amber let her know of any symptoms and tell us how she felt the whole time. If she felt like she couldn't continue the test would stop, but she really needed to go the full time, if possible. 

Any guesses on how long she lasted? Amber was not verbal during most of the test. She answered questions but did not offer any feedback spontaneously. At the 7 minute mark the technician abruptly told us it was complete. Amber's vitals indicated she was about to lose consciousness.  Her heart rate, which had elevated 40 points immediately after Amber was raised, started soaring even higher her and blood pressure was bottoming out.  The graph from the data stream was quite startling. Even though it was a short test, they do have quite enough data. Her POTS was already diagnosed, but if there was any question about it the test confirmed she has severe POTS (dysautonomia). The next step is to get the blood test for the rare autoimmune disease that is a possible cause of Amber's POTS.

(LEFT) During her 7 minutes tilted.
(TOP-RIGHT) Reading her Bible study assignment for the next day.  Appropriate for on her way to the tilt test.
(BOTTOM-RIGHT) Waiting for the test with her beloved "Spooky".  He's an older Halloween Webkinz.

So Wednesday was a day off from formal school, but we learned a lot more about POTS during the testing.  Amber did have confirmation class that evening too. She was exhausted, but made it through and passed her weekly test. Wouldn't you know that the assignment and memory work for this week are significantly easier.

For our project learning this week, Amber worked on making a Viking longship.  It was a fun evening project, because mornings have been pretty awful this week. Amber told me all about the different parts of the ships and how the Vikings used their longships to raid.  She did also write a summary of the Viking religion, however that was an easy assignment since she is quite interested in Viking mythology. It was a well written piece and I can see how Writing With Skill, even though it is still unfinished, helped her writing. We are aiming to complete WWS, but in our own time. We probably will not go on to level two and instead use the writing aids from Tapestry of Grace.

Working on her Viking Longship!

Amber again helped with the project for my co-op 50 states class. I am using the same curriculum I used with Amber immediately after removing her from parochial school.  Except we never did the projects at home. Now Amber gets to finally make the projects from her states study 3 years ago. This week it was a skipjack boat.  Amber had no idea what it was so she got a quick lesson before creating my sample. 

There has been lots of cross stitch projects this week too. Amber finished her first one and started another, while I finished a small bead cat project and started a bead Christmas angel. I'm still ecstatic that Amber is enjoying needlework more.

(TOP) Working on the Skipjack boat for my co-op class
(BOTTOM-LEFT) Finished cross stitch
(BOTTOM-RIGHT) Surveying the goodies in the Frozen art kit.  She did play around with it Wednesday afternoon.
Fred and Amber have been playing a lot of Star Wars: Commander on the iPads and iPhones. This is a new addiction for Amber, but Fred had already been playing the very similar Clash of Clans. It was sweet to listen to him explain tactics to Amber and help her make good decisions in designating her base. She loves to attack other players, and has only lost twice!  It's humorous to watch her antics during an attack. She gets a little nervous. 

CNN student news is still a favorite of Amber's and she has even started watching it on my iPhone on the days when we are not home a lot. She finds the host humorous and enjoys being a big kid learning about world events. 

On tap this weekend is more outside maintenance, baking / freezer cooking for Amber, and sorting the remainder of Amber's clothes. She outgrew almost everything we've tried so far.  It means a bigger clothing bill than last year, but that's okay because she grew!

And if you were keeping count... that was 3 MLP shirts, 2 pairs of MLP pants (admittedly I cropped the pics and you can't see the one pair, but hat day went with the other MLP pants), 3 pairs of MLP socks (because if you wear the shirt you gotta wear the socks), 1 MLP hat, and 1 MLP watch.  I think that's it.  Oh.. and the 4th shirt today that's not in any of the pictures.  Sigh.

Happy Weekend!

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Ahh.. Break Week

Woot, Woot... it's been a fantastic break week.  I think this might be our best homeschool schedule yet.  We've tried matching Amber's old parochial school schedule (so that was silly, but we had just abruptly removed her 3 weeks into second semester of 4th grade).  There was four day school weeks, which just cost us a day every week, but we still needed longer breaks throughout the year.  Then we did six weeks on, one week off.  That was mostly successful, however it seemed REALLY long between breaks. 

This year we are trying five weeks on, one week off.  Last year the sixth week was always fairly low energy and seemed endless.  I'm hoping to cut off the poor attitude and performance that last week with a slightly earlier break each session.  However, it does mean that we can take fewer days off when it's not our break.  We need to schedule as many doctors' appointments and special days during our break as possible.

Even though we were on break, Amber had quite a few logged learning hours.  I was able to convince her to complete a little German to stay ahead of my co-op class.  However, I've determined it will really be doing those kids a disservice to go as fast as planned.  I need to just bulk out the single set of books to qualify them for a full year credit of German because they are not going to be able to keep the planned pace with only an hour of class meeting time a week.

(top-left) playing American Girl dolls while watching Netflix on her iPad.  (top-right) Reading a new book Daddy bought her during a Dad / Amber trip to the bookstore. (bottom-left) A new light-up MLP watch.  (bottom-right) It got down right cold here, but we still managed a trip to the Disney store.

Amber loved her co-op classes last week and this week.  She actually had homework in chess class.  There's a couple of books for the class and assignments.  I'm impressed with it so far and Amber adores it.  The Teen Bible study that Amber started in co-op this week also has optional homework and tests for those wanting to turn it into high school credit (1/2 credit).   Honestly, Amber doesn't need that yet, being in 7th grade, and has quite a bit of homework in confirmation already.  Therein lies a point of contention between me and Amber.  She doesn't really want to do the homework, but most of the other kids say they are going to do it.   I told Amber she doesn't really have time because her confirmation and other studies take up quite a bit of her functional time.  Amber is positive she can't participate correctly if she doesn't complete the extensive homework.  Remember they are trying to beef up a one hour weekly (28 weeks) class to earn 1/2 credit = 65 hours.  Aghhh!

There are other confirmation students in the class too, so I'm curious to see if they actually do the work or not.  The confirmation assignment this week is fairly extensive too.  They are quizzed at the beginning of each class over the previous assignment. Failed quizzes must be retaken privately until they are passed.  I'd rather Amber devote her time to confirmation homework than the co-op Teen Bible study optional homework. 

Amber also, finally, learned how to cross stitch this week.  I had taught her a while back, but she didn't take to it and really didn't enjoy it or even finish her basic project.  This week she tried a beginner's kit and loved it.  Whew.  I adore cross stitch and so hoped Amber would some day change her mind.  She spent many hours this week resting, watching movies, and cross stitching on her project.

Working on her cross stitch project and (top-left) a visit to the cross stitch store in the historic district.   Amber loves the store, even if it is just to pet the owner's two doggies.  Amber loves animals and they love her.

Amber had a great visit with the dietician this week.  We don't go back for three months!!!  Amber has grown another quarter of an inch and gained 1.5 pounds.  Even though Amber's diet is still so limited, the dietician is pleased with the variety of dishes we are able to give her using those few ingredients and the way we give her as many nutrients as possible from foods instead of vitamins (which she does take too).  The dietician said that even though Amber's diet is strictly limited she eats healthier than the majority of people because there is almost no processed food in Amber's diet.   The dietician even asked for some of my recipes (which are simply altered recipes written by other people).  Still, she wants to be able to provide them to other parents of children like Amber because many people have trouble finding foods their children tolerate.

We had a field trip planned to the St. Louis Art Museum with my mom this week, but that morning Amber work up feeling off and her vitals were not ... good.  Amber was hopelessly disappointed, but I postponed the field trip.  Amber tries so hard to handle everything, so when she voices a sadness or disappointment we know it was quite upsetting for her.   The Art Museum trip was such a situation.  Because Amber was so upset, we decided to still meet my mom for lunch and try a couple of stores in the local historic district that Amber likes.  It was a rough day, but easier than the museum and Amber had a nice time. 

Taking her bp and pulse.  Regular occurrence now.  Two different days this week.  That was not after exercise either.  It was morning.  (top - Friday, bottom- Tuesday)

We have numerous outings and field trips on the schedule with our homeschool group over the next few months too.  I normally would not like to be away from home that much, but Amber desperately needs to feel included right now.  Her condition is making her feel isolated even when she is with a group.  I've signed us for events that I think she can handle and aren't scheduled on busy days for Amber.  The homeschool group has really grown since it started last summer and is an extremely active group for all ages.   There are activities, field trips, get togethers, and co-op classes for pretty much every age and interest.  We are so fortunate to have this great group.

Next week Amber has her tilt table test and we expect that to be a fairly awful day.  The nature of the test is such that she will be ill during the test and for some time afterwards.  It also falls on confirmation day, so I just hope Amber is recovered prior to the evening otherwise she will be scheduling a private makeup class. 

(top-left) Bridge struts for my 50 States class' project.  (top-right) The suspension bridge project for class.  (Bottom-left) Amber working on yarn packets for each child in my class.  She is such a huge help.  She actually made most of my sample bridge and a good deal of the bridge struts.  (Bottom-Right) Amazon came through again; it arrived on release day and we promptly watched it, again.
 I've been extremely proud of Amber this week in how she has started to listen to her body over her desires.  It's terribly difficult to be an exuberant 12 1/2 year old girl, yet be so limited in life.  I am thankful for all of Amber's understanding and supportive friends, especially this week.


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Friday, September 5, 2014

Co-op Classes Started ... Let the Rejoicing Begin!

This week can be summarized simply as "Co-op started!"  We only have co-op classes one day a week, but Amber spent the days preceding in anticipation and the day after (today) exhausted.

Amber is taking a chess class and drama at the co-op, but I took her up a little early so that she could have lunch with her friends during the all co-op lunch break.   The day went well, including the classes I am teaching.  I was a bit nervous about them considering I have two very different subjects and age groups, but everything seems to have worked out well this week.

Off to first day of co-op classes (a little secret... those are compression socks)
Amber did successfully petition her dad to allow an 11 am co-op class, even though we had decided last week that it would make the day too long.  Amber's beloved band class was scheduled at 11 am, but we could not take the plunge and commit to that weekly.  However, Amber was successful in her bid to take Teen Bible at 11 am.  The instructor is one of the pastors, and since the co-op meets at our church, that means the instructor is one of OUR pastors. Most importantly, Amber does not have to attend Bible class weekly, which would be almost necessary for band.

I assume Amber's desire to be in Teen Bible relates to seeing her friends, as she has confirmation on Wednesday evenings at OUR church with ... wait for it... that same pastor. But whatever her reason, Amber is also taking an additional Bible class at co-op now, if she can handle the long days. 

Confirmation began Wednesday, so now Amber has assignments and memory work to complete for confirmation each week.  Our church requires one parent, at least, to remain in class with their student every week.  It is part of their Christian education philosophy.    I find it ironic that as the life long Lutheran I am also the parent basically retaking confirmation with Amber.  Fred did the "adult weekend class" at a previous congregation; one day from non-Lutheran to Lutheran.   I foresee my patience running thin with the cramped room and parents who can't stop their own conversations long enough to listen.

Various school work at home and dinner at McAlister's before confirmation

As for the home school part, this week we finally started back up with science.  It went well, but there was no experiment this week.  That was a bummer, but it just happens to be where we left off with this curriculum in May.  Hopefully in two weeks, after our break, there will be a fun experiment to kickstart science again.

We also began watching daily CNN Student News during our lunch time instead of in the morning.  We are definitely not morning people and we do not eat breakfast together.  I'm not in the mood for current events first thing in the morning and Amber is not either.  Actually, this is the first time I've really done any current events with Amber other than to explain extremely important events that might be occurring. 

As part of the plan to consolidate more of Amber's subjects and lessen the amount of time needed for school each day, we eliminated formal spelling / vocabulary lessons this year.  However, I do have Amber keep a journal of unknown or confusing words that she runs across in any reading she does.  Then, about once a week (depending on how many words she has listed) I have her look the words up in the dictionary, write out their definitions, and use each in a sentence.  This process seems to be going well and Amber is learning words that she truly does not know as opposed to getting A's for spelling words she already knew.

German lessons are moving right along and Amber is ready for her first test, unfortunately our break week has come and we did not yet get that test in.  I am hoping I can convince Amber to do a little bit of German during her break so that she stays ahead of my German co-op class.  Since the language is still fun and new I might be able to get her to do it just this once.   I expect by next break week she will look at me like I am daffy.

Watching CNN Student News, playing Webkinz (which she still likes at times), my NEW laminater.  You better believe that I've laminated the whole house by now. And two kitties, just hanging out with Amber. 

Amber is still studying the Vikings in history and again this week completed no lessons from Writing With Skill, instead I assigned all of her writing work in history and science.   I am also entirely still enamored with Tapestry of Grace, but just wish I had found it before mostly recreating it on my own.  Amber likes their Map Aids better than Map Trek, which is just silly because they are both from Knowledge Quest and nearly identical.

Amber has been having a lot of trouble in the mornings this week.  I supposed she has had weeks like this before, I just didn't know what was happening and chalked it up to other issues.  Now that I know to check her heart rate and blood pressure, it can be a bit unnerving.  I still cannot convince the child that she has to be calm when I am not around to remind her.  I caught her playing bump-the-volleyball with a group of kids yesterday at the tail end of co-op lunch.  Sure enough, her heart rate was sky high, she didn't look too good and she had yet to attend a class for the day - it was just lunch.  This is such a learning experience for us all.  She doesn't want to be sedate and I don't want to be the bad guy.

One of these readings is not a post-shower and getting ready reading for Amber (bottom-right).  She had already cooled down after those three readings and her heart rate was still high.  The fourth reading was when she felt poorly... the blood pressure is a little low.

Next week is our official first break week of the year, but Amber still has flute lesson, confirmation, and co-op classes.  It will just be our home studies that are on break, and that's okay. Even with the away from home classes we have a rest and can enjoy some relaxing time together. 

As this is Missouri, our weather is still horridly hot here today (100+ degree heat index) but will take an immediate nose-dive this weekend where the temps will not be out of the 70's (and some days 60's) for the foreseeable future.  Fall officially starts tomorrow in Missouri. No preamble or easing into it. That means we will start the winterizing process of our house and yard this weekend too because winter comes to Missouri in pretty much the same way.

I finally made pasta for Amber last weekend.  Entirely by hand, with ingredients she tolerates (no wheat, soy, or brown rice).  I promptly used the pasta to make Pasta Carbonara.  Amber savored every bite. 
I also tried a new vanilla swirl bread recipe which is heavenly with cream cheese. And our best batch yet of "Texas Roadhouse" rolls, sans the honey butter because... well, have you seen the fructose content in honey?

Happy Weekend!

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