Sunday, January 21, 2018

Our 10th Grade Plans (Virtual Homeschool Fair 2018 - Week 3)

Welcome back for the third week of the Virtual Homeschool Fair, graciously hosted by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds. This week we are focusing on our homeschool curriculum, or in other words, how we cover it all.

I have rather detailed curriculum plans already up on my blog that cover the majority of our homeschooling years, including this school year for tenth grade. If you're interested in every piece of curriculum we're using this year, then follow the link to see Amber's tenth grade curricula. However, today I'm going to address how we help Amber pursue her passions and why we cover the subjects that we do (and don't).

Our 10th Grade Plans (Virtual Homeschool Fair 2018 - Week 3)

If you read last week's post about our homeschooling style, you saw that we have returned to a more eclectic style of homeschooling. As much as we would like to be classical, Amber learns differently for each of the wide array of subjects a high school student is expected to study. Oddly enough, one area that has remained fairly classical in study is language. 

Pursing Her Passions:

Amber loves language. She would study only language in some format all day, every day, if I let her. English grammar, expository writing, creative writing, literature, and foreign languages are what she enjoys best of all the subjects offered. In our minds, we have always thought she was skilled with languages too, although as her parents we could be biased. Then earlier this school year we had neuropsychology testing performed on Amber to help sort out her needed accommodations and learning issues. The test results clearly showed she is phenomenal with language, while math provides challenges her brain cannot comprehend.

Amber had already set a goal and has been going on the assumption she will major in English with a creative writing emphasis along with a minor in one or more foreign languages and possibly music. All of these use the language portion of her brain. When planning this school year, I had many discussions with Amber about her goals and the credits she needs to complete. The result of our conversations is a slightly modified high school plan. Our plans for tenth grade are fundamentally different than the well rounded approach we were trying to take in ninth grade.

The universities where Amber intends to apply do not require more than the state minimum requirements in math and science for their incoming English or language majors. We saw no need to force math and science on Amber when it is unnecessary for her future goals, hence she will be working towards only three credits of each. This gives her more time to pursue electives in creative writing and several foreign languages. While she still needs to get her social studies (history) credits and government credit, Amber does not find this task as frustrating as math and math based science.

Surviving Math:

Our 10th Grade Plans (Virtual Homeschool Fair 2018 - Week 3)

Besides giving permission for Amber to only attempt the bare minimum number of credits in math and science, I've also helped Amber find creative ways to earn those credits. 

Math truly is the bane of Amber's existence. As a younger student, Amber excelled in math and was far ahead of her peers. However, it was always inexplicably anxiety producing. We now know that she made her way through math by sheer force of will. She may have managed to excel, however she worked significantly harder than the average person to understand the concepts. She also does better with abstract concepts than concrete math numbers. Now, even with her dysautonomia fairly stable, the energy required for math is beyond her daily amount and the math anxiety is ever present. Testing showed she has significantly slowed cognitive responses to math; it's like her brain suddenly is going at a snail's pace. She can feel it happen and this results in increased anxiety.

After trying an array of math curriculum with very little positive results, the neuropsychology testing gave us such great insights as to why switching curriculum was not successful. Thankfully, Amber made it through algebra 2 by the midway point of ninth grade, which we counted that as her first math credit. Geometry has been attempted twice and both times were an utter failure, and now we finally understand why. Within the first month of tenth grade, we quickly switched Amber to consumer math. And although it has not been easy, she is making steady progress through consumer math. At least she sees a reason to do it and it doesn't matter if she is slow. In an effort limit the exhaustion that comes from her brain struggling with math, I often reduce the number of problems she needs to complete and sit with her for encouragement.

Amber will still need another credit of math after consumer math, however I expect she will need a total of three semesters to finish consumer math, which puts her at the midway point of eleventh grade. We're hoping she will find statistics a useful class and can complete it in the last three semester of high school. Honestly, if you have any ideas of another course that qualifies as a mathematics credit, we are happy to listen.

Science - Alternative Choices:

Unexpected Homeschool: High School Science Options

Unlike math, Amber enjoys science for the most part. Biological sciences are difficult for her and often trigger unpleasant psychosomatic responses. Seriously just looking at cell pictures causes problems. While she is interested in the broad topics covered by physical science, chemistry, and some physics, she is terrified of the math necessary. 

After struggling her way through physical science using a textbook series, I decided we needed to take a different path. Since then, her science has been more topical while covering the major high school science categories. I would love to give Amber high school credit for the physical science course that required so much effort, however she did the majority of the work in eighth grade and counting it as a credit is iffy.

Instead we began ninth grade with a semester of botany that included lab work and earned her 1/2 credit of a biological science. Then, I taught forensic science at our homeschool co-op specifically for Amber. Again it was a lab course, and actually covered biology, chemistry, and physics. If I had to categorize it, I would place it half under chemistry and half under biology.

Unexpected Homeschool: High School Forensic Science Resources

Tenth grade began with a review of Apologia's Marine Biology course, and Amber found it interesting if she was allowed to skip the labs and a few rather disturbing (to her) chapters. She stuck with it past the review period and will eventually earn herself a half credit of biology just from the book work. Way to go kiddo.

At Amber's request, I also taught meteorology with labs at our homeschool co-op first semester of tenth grade. I would probably place that class under physics if forced to give it a category, as well as the astronomy that I am teaching this semester at co-op. This means Amber will have 2.5 credits of science by the end of tenth grade and two credits are from laboratory classes. Therefore, she has exceeded the minimum requirement of one lab course, and meets the occasional request for two lab courses.

Unexpected Homeschool: High School Meteorology Course Resources

Amber is intrigued by chemistry, but has come to realize there is so much math in it, that anything at the high school level will not be to her liking. Instead we have decided to go with the Survey of Science History & Concepts course from Master Books for the last part of Amber's science credits. I'm still unsure if she will earn a full credit or half credit for Survey of Science. It does cover biology, chemistry, physics and math, however if we drop any of those topics she definitely can only earn half a credit.

At any rate, the Survey of Science course will be enough work to complete the last portion of her science credits. Amber has even opted to work on it over the upcoming summer, so she can be completely finished with science before she starts eleventh grade, thus giving her additional time for her languages. 

Staying Well Rounded

If you've taken a peek at Amber's tenth grade curricula, you saw she also takes quite a few electives at our homeschool co-op besides the science classes I've been teaching. Even though her education may be focused on her natural ability and love of languages, Amber still seeks out and enjoys many other topics, especially in the fine arts. There are no worries about neglecting the arts and elective portion of her education.

Next week is the final week of the 2018 Virtual Homeschool Fair, during which I'll be talking about how we fit in all of the fun electives and extras that are not part of her academic life at home.

Unexpected Homeschool:Our 10th Grade Plans (Virtual Homeschool Fair 2018 - Week 3)

This his how we have been able to cover all the necessary high school credits with our daughter. Please take a look at how the other participants addressed their homeschool curriculum.
Note: all posts will be live after 8 am EST.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Resuming for Second Semester (Week 18 - 10th)

It's back to the full time lessons! Actually, we were back last week, but it was too crazy for me to get a weekly wrap-up post written. To be honest, last week was one of the most productive school weeks we've had in a long time. We were both awake on time, started school before lunch, and finished everything scheduled. It was impressive.

We've tried this week. Truly. It hasn't been bad, while it also hasn't been spectacular. Life stacked the cards against us this week anyway. So, I'm feeling rather proud of us to get as much done as we did.

Sunday before it all went wrong. Milori was coherent for a short while to watch Amber play her new video game.

The Details:

Starting with last week, excepting Friday, Amber followed our planned school schedule perfectly. All lessons on the appropriate days. Well, I guess that's not true. We had not yet started back up for co-op, so I put our Friday schedule onto the co-op day. Otherwise, it was a perfectly completed week. 

Amber's 16th birthday was last Friday and Daddy even took off from work. We had a fun family time, since Amber's party was back in December. The day was terribly cold and we had gotten a little snow/ice the night before. The three of us met my mom for lunch on our way to one of the remaining local malls. I had devised a treasure hunt for Amber by giving her written clues and gift cards. She had to guess the location from the clue before we could go to that store for her present. Amber absolutely loves these types of activities. And it was a fun day all around. 

LEGO store and birthday cake with Galadriel's circlet she receive as a present.
We took Monday of this week off since Daddy was home for MLK. We also took Thursday off except for flute lesson, because by the time it came around everyone was exhausted to the point of illness. Tuesday we were gone for roughly third of the day for my neurology checkup. Amber did take half of her assigned school work along and completed everything she took, then continued to work at home until we were called to pick up Milori.

This week our brand-new co-op had its first day of classes!! I'm not sure why, but it felt brand new too. It probably shouldn't since we meet in the same location as our old co-op, and we have many of the same people. However, procedures were different - more streamlined, and the atmosphere was just more peaceful. Amber enjoyed her classes immensely and very much appreciated the smaller sized co-op. I enjoyed the classes I lead and was happy to meet a few new students who had not been members of our old co-op. Despite all the fun, we were utterly wiped at the end of the day.

16 years old! And her traditional birthday celebration at Texas Roadhouse.
However, the over-arching theme of this week has been Milori, one of our cats. I became distracted last week with preparations for and then Amber's actual birthday. It did not dawn on me that Milori was acting a bit strange. It really wasn't until Saturday afternoon that I decided he was maybe not using the litter box as he should. Sunday I was positive he was not using it at all and he had become lethargic. Monday morning at 8:00 am I was rushing him to our vet to confirm and treat his blocked bladder. He spent the whole of Monday with them including overnight and most of Tuesday. We brought him home and followed the medications prescribed, however he had an unusual reaction to an appetite stimulant. It's like the poor cat was on speed, or something. He couldn't stop moving long enough to even eat a single kibble.

Milori: Tuesday evening when we brought him home he was so drugged up he fell asleep on the water bowl. A few hours later he went crazy after the appetite stimulant. The other pictures are from Thursday evening. Every pic I have he is blurred because he can't be still.
By Wednesday mid-afternoon Milori still was not using a litter box, which meant I ran him back to the vet as soon as I was finished teaching at our new co-op. Thankfully, he was not blocked again, yet he was still unwilling to attempt litter box usage. The vet added an anti-nausea drug to see if it would help him eat, since he was not eating or drinking either. That did the trick for the eating and drinking, along with the advice to try tuna water and even the tuna itself. Milori can't get enough of the tuna.

Unfortunately, he was still acting crazy and weird by this morning. He continues to twitch while awake and during the five minutes he sleeps at a time. It looked like serotonin syndrome, and although rare the appetite stimulant can cause it and the other medications exacerbate it. At 8:00 am this morning I had him back at the vet, and he's being treated for serotonin syndrome since they saw the symptoms too, especially the twitching. He should have been well past any side effects of the appetite stimulant. He also won't even attempt to empty his bladder. We're still waiting to hear how he is doing, on the antidote for serotonin syndrome, but I was at the vet until about 11:30 this morning and I know he is in good hands.

Update: I've picked Milori up from the vet (Friday evening), and it has been all figured out. It was his Prozac that was started on Dec. 29th. He is one of the rare ones that can't tolerate it and it caused urinary retention. Then, with the other meds he did end up with serotonin syndrome. He is hypersensitive to the entire class of medication and can't have any of them. He's on the antidote and we're weaning him from the Prozac, because even though he's been on it for only 3 weeks he still needs to wean to prevent further problems. Whew. He was / is one sick kitty with a strange body chemistry.

I'm still learning to relax. I am doing two Crochet-A-Longs(CALs). The Moogly CAL (left) just released the first block of the year yesterday. The Elements CAL (right) started in November and I'm catching up. I'm still on the second week and the seventh week is out. I'll get there if I ever sleep enough to make sense of the pattern.
Since I slept a grand total of three hours last night due to worrying about Milori and then getting up early to get him to the vet, Amber is only doing school lessons today that are independent of me. I'm fairly worthless in this state. She is also, understandably, very concerned about her beloved Milori. He's her little guy and this week has been very hard on her.

Lessons Completed:

  • History - 6 lessons + 3 hours watched today of Victoria and Albert
  • U.S. Government - 5 lessons
  • Grammar - 12 lessons
  • Writing (IEW & Creative writing) - 9 sessions (including her essay class at co-op)
  • Literature - One lesson, with an assignment given to complete the reading of the play. Due next week. She's been working on that reading in her free time.
  • Greek - 5 lessons
  • German - 3 sessions, 5 lessons.
  • Consumer Math - 2 lessons (yes... we skipped the days she should have had math this week)
  • Astronomy - 1 lesson day at co-op, homework to be completed still.
  • Art & Drama - 3 hours of classes at co-op
If you didn't notice, Amber had 10+ inches cut off last week. She had it layered, so it varies between 10 and 13 inches off of her previous length.
Hopefully we see improvement in Milori over the weekend, assuming he comes home tonight (he did). Amber and I need to work on homework and lesson prep for next week's co-op classes, and we all need to sleep. We are all very short on sleep because of Milori.

Linking With:

Weekly Wrap-Up  Homeschool Coffee Break homeschool

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Finding Our Homeschool Method (Virtual Homeschool Fair 2018 - Week 2)

Welcome back for the second week of the Virtual Homeschool Fair, graciously hosted by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds. This week we are all talking about how we homeschool. This covers a broad range of topics from schooling methods to organization. I'm going to talk about how we came our homeschool method.

I'm homeschooling our only child, Amber, who is now at the midway point of 10th grade. We've tried several educational methods over the years before coming to what we use now. I guess the broad term for our educational style now is eclectic. A more detailed term might be: classical wannabe, adaptable, language heavy, eclectic education.

How did we get to where we are?

When we first started homeschooling in January of fourth grade, we basically were doing school at home out of necessity. It was a rather quick decision to pull Amber from her parochial school, and we were not entirely prepared. However, I did have a copy of all of her current fourth grade text books, which made a great place to start. It didn't take long to start replacing curriculum and doing things are own way. Still, for that first semester it more fit the school at home style than anything else.

School at Home to Eclectic
By the time Amber had started fifth grade, I had done more research and felt like I could branch out a little bit in our method. We never used a complete box set, but I did use quite a few resources from BJU. It suited us for the moment. Eventually during fifth grade we began moving to a more eclectic style, as I learned how Amber best learned. We tweaked constantly, or at least it seemed that way.

Classical Education
During fifth grade I read The Well Trained Mind and decided this definitely suited me and I thought Amber would do well with it too. We began migrating over to a classical style of education for sixth grade. Although it had more work to it, the style definitely worked better for Amber and I enjoyed it more as well. Unfortunately, it was during this time period that Amber's dysautonomia worsened / became a visible problem.

The rigors of a classical education were honestly too much for Amber in her frequent dysautonomia and EDS flares. Once it became clear that Amber could not keep up with our prescribed lessons, I had to adapt her schooling method once again. This was heartbreaking for me, because I was so invested in the classical method. Amber had enjoyed the classical style, but mostly she felt sick and didn't really care what we were doing. I decided to lessen her load some and go with a mostly-classical style, or classically influenced style.

Project Based
We even tried adding project-based learning with the classical style, which sorta worked for a while. Amber enjoyed some of the projects, however her energy levels did not allow for her to be project based all the time. Many days we would do her limited reading assignment and skip the project, even if I had purchased all of the supplies. You simply cannot conjure the energy or enthusiasm for a project when there is barely energy to sit upright.

After a year of trying to make the classically influenced style / project-based classical work for Amber, I finally had a realization that we were doing the classical method for me. It is how I learn best. It may have been a great method for Amber at one point, but not any more. Amber was also back in occupational therapy for her sensory processing disorder, and all of the other issues she has as a result of EDS and dysautonomia. Her therapist is a wonderfully patient lady, who truly works with us as a family to find the ways for Amber to best function, including educational methods.

Adaptable, Eclectic Education
Through information provided to us at occupational therapy and neuropsychology, I began to see Amber's needs more clearly. No one method is going to work for Amber in all subjects. She is extraordinarily gifted in languages, but has slowed cognitive processing in mathematics. Science is interesting to her, but the math will hold her back every time. Anxiety over slowed cognitive responses plays a huge factor in Amber's daily lessons too. Reading on electronic devices is a no-go for Amber; she needs a more tactile experience in order to retain and comprehend what she reads. Reading for information also drains her body of physical and mental energy, so huge amounts of reading for multiple subjects is not going to be successful.

In time, I've learned Amber needs a highly individualized and adaptable approach to each subject. She loves to study languages and we are rather fond of Memoria Press for the classical languages of Greek and Latin. In fact, Amber loves their curriculum. For math we've had to leave main stream topics after algebra 2, and it requires that I am very hands on with Amber for every lesson. I shorten the assignments and almost always have to re-word the lessons in terms that make sense to her. We've deviated from the standard science path to special topics that interest Amber, without using more than simple math. History has gone back to a textbook with chapter questions and the occasional project. Amber's daily focus, though, is on English writing, literature, grammar, and foreign languages.

Where we are now

Now we are back to almost where we started, a highly eclectic method using curriculum that can be adapted to abilities that change with her health. However, this time it is based on my student's rather diverse needs instead of indecision on a method, or choosing what looks shiny and pretty in the moment. It took time, nevertheless I finally learned how to evaluate curriculum based on Amber's rather fluid cognitive needs, rather than on how I learn or even teach best.

Unexpected Homeschool: Our Ever Evolving Homeschool Story (Virtual Homeschool Fair - Week 1)

That's how we found our current homeschool method. Please take a look at how the other participants homeschool their students. 
Note: all posts will be live after 8 am EST.

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