Friday, February 24, 2017

Week 24 - Starting Greek

We're heading out of the latest round of sickness finally! Amber has been congested most of the week, but she takes rather a long time to recover from these types of illnesses. Every time she gets a virus of this nature I worry about the length of her recovery time. Then every time she reminds me how long it took the previous illness. So I'm trying to be patient, and she is feeling much better than last weekend.

Monday Amber finally managed to keep a physical therapy appointment after missing two weeks in a row! It was an exciting and very positive appointment too. After making it her longest duration on the elliptical yet, Amber had a restful remainder of the session while her therapist took measurements to update her goals. Despite being sickly for several months and not being able to keep up her normal activity at home, Amber did not really lose any strength in her joints! This is amazing and a huge step forward.

There are some areas that still need strengthening and some spots where one side is stronger than the other. But she is in such better shape than before she started PT in 2015.  We discussed Amber's future needs and goals for physical therapy. Obviously, we don't want her to be in PT for the rest of her life, but we don't want to take her out before she is stable and able to make small corrections at home. Some parts of her body are always going to dislocate because there is only so much that can be done to train the muscles to do the work the connective tissue of her joints should be doing. However, Amber is well on her way to exiting PT - we've got her schedule set through July and by mid-March she should be ready for every-other week PT!!!  We've been striving for this for almost a year without success.

Cuddling Biscotti.  And find the Milori.
We've even managed to sync up her PT and OT weeks and days so that by April she is going one day, every other week to the hospital. That is significantly better than two different days a week, like she has now on the OT weeks. Of course, Amber is a little anxious about these changes. For her it is somewhat unnerving to dislocate something weekly, yet be told that you are just about at the best you can be. She's also a mildly concerned that she will need help if a joint becomes overly weak, but have trouble getting back in. Yet as a previous patient it won't be that hard to get on the schedule and we know exactly who to see.

I don't think Amber has quite realized what this change in her schedule means since she's been going to the hospital multiple times a week for so long. She is free to participate in more teen outings and can more easily schedule events with her friends. Not to mention that she won't be exhausted so many days a week and can actually enjoy the time out with her friends.  Of course, I'm thrilled we will have more time at home to accomplish her school lessons without creative scheduling. I'm also not a fan of driving 30 minutes on the interstate multiple days a week for her sessions.

School Update:

I let Amber have a couple of easy days early in the week since she was still recovering from her cold and honestly was having quite a problem with breathing. She actually didn't go to church or youth group on Sunday. Monday we spent a little more time after PT discussing her adjusted high school plans and decided to push chemistry off for another year. We're just having such trouble deciding what curriculum to use, while we knew what we were going to do for meteorology, astronomy, and archaeology. The simple solution was to push of chemistry another year, or until she finishes the other courses.

Actual school work in an array of subjects - oh, hi Rosie.
Amber was breathing much better by Wednesday and went to her flute lesson despite not having actually practiced all week due to her cold. Flute is one of those instruments that it is rather difficult to play when you can't breath through your nose. Who would have thought. :)  She had a good lesson and is ready to resume her practice schedule again.

We happily received Amber's Greek language curriculum on Saturday in the mail quite by surprise and I spent some of my free time preparing for Amber to start her Greek lessons (watch for a review coming up in April). The curriculum definitely is not an independent learning set, or at least it is not intended to be so. However it is also made so that parents who know nothing about Greek can teach it. I will say knowing fluent German helped me a great deal when Amber wanted to learn Latin, and my knowledge of German and the experience with Latin are making the Greek lessons much easier than I anticipated.

For her part, Amber is on cloud nine with her Greek lessons. She knows, and I reiterated it many times, that this is not going to be something she just picks up. So far she has been eager to do the work required for a good basis in the language. She can't wait for each new lesson, yet knows to take it slowly and complete the assignments diligently instead of just trying to get a check mark for that subject.

Kitty Update:

For those of you interested, Biscotti is still in a room away from the other cats. Since the incident almost three weeks ago where he got loose from his room, he has been nearly terrified of the other two cats. However, we are making more progress after that setback; he will play with the other two cats under the door, and will watch them through the open door crack again without running under the bed in the guest room where he has been staying. This is definite progress, although it is going much slower than anyone anticipated.

They were both having fun playing. Biscotti loves to smack people with his tail.
Biscotti is afraid to leave his sanctuary room though. When we put the other two cats safely away in Amber's room and open Biscotti's door, Biscotti will not venture forth without much encouragement and sometimes it requires carrying him out.  He then does not want to explore the house without me walking next to him. Usually after about half an hour, he runs back to his room and waits for me to shut the door. He is always looking around for the other cats. But just this morning he spent over an hour roaming about - mainly because I played musical rooms to juggle the other two into his room with the door shut. Still, he explored the whole house and ventured off from me a few times.

He does not like being alone though and desperately attempts to keep us in the room with him at all times. He very much needs to be out and enjoying his companion cats again, but we need to ensure their relationships are all healed.  We've tried making all the experiences with the other cats as positive as can be for Biscotti and the others. Milori seems to cause the most fear in Biscotti, which makes sense as he was the aggressor when Biscotti escaped his room. Rosetta is a little wisp of a cat, yet she still causes some fear.  We continue to be patient and encourage all three of them.

Linking With:

Weekly Wrap-Up  Homeschool Coffee Break

Monday, February 20, 2017

{Review} Ancient Greece Project Based Learning

If you've read here very much at all, you know that Amber has thrived over the years using various Home School in the Woods products. Although we usually employ their history sets as supplements, they have given us the most consistently positive results of any history curriculum.

Even though Amber's primary history course for this school year focuses on American history, she is taking a Greek mythology course at our homeschool co-op. We decided including Home School in the Woods as a supplemental Ancient Greece study would be the perfect way to round out the co-op course. Thankfully, we were offered the chance to review the brand new HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Greece.

Review of Home School in the Woods project based learning for Ancient Greece.

If you are new to Home School in the Woods products, let me give you a little introduction. The majority of their curriculum are history related and emphasize project based learning. This does not mean it is all hands-on work, but that there is a wide array of learning methods supported by their curriculum. And as a side note, the artwork in all of their products is fantastic!

HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Greece

During the review period we were using the newest installment in the HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study series. Yes, the title is a mouthful, but that series is our absolute favorite history curriculum ever.  The idea behind the Project Passport series is that you and your student are taking a trip through the time period in question. You will receive an itinerary (teacher's notes and instructions) for each of the 25 Stops (lessons) during your trip. The student has the opportunity to create a passport and luggage folder to track their travels and store their souvenirs.

Review of Home School in the Woods project based learning for Ancient Greece.
We print the timeline figures on whole label sheets for easy use.
While there are a great many projects to be created throughout the stops of your trip, each stop also has a Guide Book Text portion that explains the historical information to be learned at this stop. The stops (or lessons) all have themes to keep your trip organized.  The Ancient Greece Project Passport starts out learning about Greek government and Sparta before delving into everyday life, education, literature, philosophy, and religion of the Ancient Greek people.

Throughout the stops there is also an occasional audio tour, where we are able to listen in on a time-traveling tour that has gone back to Ancient Greece. This time we were able to visit Troy, Sparta, and speak with Archimedes, but had to take a detour at Thermopylae.

The Project Passport curriculum is available as a download, as we received it, or can be purchased on CD. Either way the curriculum includes a web-based menu system that links all of the stops (lessons) along with the teacher's instructions and Guide Book Text. Any project files to be printed are linked directly through the information for the associated stop. However, all of the files are also available either in your download directory or on the CD in PDF format. This makes it much easier to print if you already know which files you need.

Review of Home School in the Woods project based learning for Ancient Greece.
Listening to an audio tour and working on her timline.
The audio tours can be launched directly from the web interface, or you can also copy the MP3 files for the tours to any device that supports an MP3. We always choose to copy the MP3 files over to one of our iPhones or to Amber's iPad for use during class time. We often try to listen to the audio tours in the car to make the most of our drive times, but also because I'm usually too busy at home to sit and listen and I want in on the audio tour fun too.

This Ancient Greece study is recommended for students in 3rd through 8th grades and if used as a primary curriculum can take between 8 and 12 weeks to complete.  Amber is halfway finished with her 9th grade year, and so is not in the ideal target range for the curriculum. However, given the broad range of projects and learning styles supported by the study, I still feel it is a very valid curriculum to use even for high schoolers. We definitely learned from it!

Review of Home School in the Woods project based learning for Ancient Greece.
The maps are actually complete, but she wrote in pencil.
We chose to skip over the projects that were essentially cutting and pasting or character coloring. While those projects are great reinforcement for younger students, it was not entirely applicable for my high school student. Instead, we focused on the timeline work, which uses the ever popular Home School in the Woods timeline figures, maps, and writing assignments.

Amber has always loved the newspaper style writing assignments in the Project Passport series. We print out the provided newspaper templates on parchment colored paper to make it a little more fun. Each article already has a title created and there are partially completed advertisement spaces. Nearly each Stop has an associated newspaper assignment.  At the end of the study, we have a lovely collection of articles and advertisements demonstrating Amber's knowledge of the time period.

Review of Home School in the Woods project based learning for Ancient Greece.
She still has a few more lessons to complete
The majority of the stops also have timeline assignments and map work to complete, which along with the Guide Book Text and the Greek Weekly writing assignments made the Project Passport Ancient Greece study the perfect addition to her new co-op class this semester. Amber definitely prefers using Home School in the Woods timeline figures to handwriting her timeline, especially since I print out the timeline figures on full label sheets. All she has to do is cut out the the figures and stick them on the timeline at the appropriate dates.

Because of a great deal of illness this semester we didn't get to any of the larger hands-on projects yet, although there were a few that Amber was rather interesting in completing. She has always enjoyed creating dioramas of buildings, but doesn't necessarily like trying out recipes from the era we are studying.  Even though we skip some of the projects, the curriculum is packed full of so many options that I can chose only those that suit Amber's learning styles and interests without worrying that we are missing out on important learning opportunities.

Review of Home School in the Woods project based learning for Ancient Greece.

In my opinion Home School in the Woods provides some of the most versatile history curriculum available. Their studies can be adjusted to almost any age student and support, in some way, every learning style. We can't imagine homeschooling without their history curriculum, even at the high school level.

(We can't wait for the Ancient Rome Project Passport due out in 2018!)


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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Making Changes

It's the year of the plagues here!

Again this week Amber had to miss her physical therapy appointment on Monday due to illness. She had a sore throat all day Sunday that she thought was nothing, but she went to bed Sunday evening with a fever. Monday we cancelled physical therapy and instead went to the pediatrician. Co-op classes are too important to Amber to risk being infectious on that day, so we went right away for a rapid strep test and antibiotic if needed. It wasn't strep (yay!) and since it was likely viral we pushed fluids and rest and more rest. It's all that we seem to do lately.

Of course, my symptoms of the same virus showed up on Monday, which meant I could verify it was definitely more than just a random sore throat.

Normally I expect Amber to complete the majority of her co-op homework over the weekend so it does not interfere with our regular home lessons. However, this past weekend we were resting and doing things as a family so I made time in Amber's school schedule for the week to do her co-op homework. Then sickness hit and she did no school work on Monday at all and eeked out the bare minimum of her co-op homework on Tuesday afternoon. We spent the rest of that afternoon sitting in the guest bedroom with Biscotti (yes, he's still sequestered) watching movies on the laptop.

With all of this down time due to illness, I have had the chance to re-evaluate how well Amber's high school plans have met her needs. While we would not say that it has been our best year, things have gone moderately well. However we still feel behind quite often and that is no way to spend your high school years.  To me that says I need to adjust facets  of Amber's high school courses or even the actual courses themselves.

Lots of streaming while we've been sick: A new movie called Non-Transferable, and the most recent episode of Murdoch Mysteries.
Amber and I have spent a good deal of time this week discussing her future plans and changes we think will still give her a well-rounded preparation for college while reducing her course load. Although Amber still would like to complete the rather ambitious course she set for herself before ninth grade started, realistically it is not attainable in the four years of high school for a student with chronic illnesses. We knew this to be true and it was the obvious flaw in her plan, yet we allowed Amber the opportunity to reach as far as she could.

Now that we know those plans are not feasible, instead of allowing Amber to feel disheartened that she will not be able to complete every subject in her planned high school course, we decided to revise her entire high school plan. Her courses will now be tailored more specifically to her intended college major while still looking to provide a well-rounded education, within reason.

For example, mathematics.  Amber is actually rather gifted in math, but despises the subject all the same.  She needs a single college math course for her intended degree program. Therefore, we have decided that attempting to complete calculus in high school is not a realistic or needed goal. Instead, Amber need only complete the two remaining math classes through pre-calculus. She can take as much time as needed over the next three-plus years to finish those math classes. This will keep her from losing her math skills, while still reducing her course load and stress.

A few bright spots: We finally saw the Lego Batman movie, but we had to take a picture with the Lego Ninjago sign! She's not in the least excited about Ninjago. Nope.
 Plus, we had lunch at a new bbq place on the way to OT.
Amber will focus the majority of her school time on English language courses, including creative writing, as well all of the foreign languages in which she is interested. Of course, she will need to complete science, history, and the standard electives still. However they will all take a back seat to her preferred subjects. Thankfully, we already have a fairly decent handle on science topics that will interest Amber while not causing undue stress or anxiety.

Since Amber takes quite a few enrichment classes at our homeschool co-op each semester, we will attempt to focus those into the credits needed instead of creating an excess of elective courses. These classes are the largest variable, honestly. Since it is a true co-op, the classes offered are entirely dependent on the willingness of parents to teach the classes. For example, this semester there is no middle school / high school art class, while there is an overabundance of high school level content courses (history, science, health, foreign language, etc).

If you can't tell from this vague description of our upcoming changes, it also means that we are going to need to become more eclectic homeschoolers again and give up classical homeschooling. Although we may feel like classical homeschoolers in our minds, it is not the best education style for Amber in every subject.  (Which means I doubt we will use Tapestry of Grace next year, but it is my backup if a suitable history replacement is not found.)

Look what unexpectedly arrived early! Amber is anxious to start this week. Look for the review in April.
My forced relaxation time with Biscotti over the next few weeks will be spent organizing a more manageable high school course load for Amber while also finding more suitable curriculum for her current learning style.  And if you have any feedback on the curriculum we were considering for a few specific subjects from this post, it is all still under consideration. So comment away.

That is the biggest news of our week. We accomplished little school, but made a lot of decisions.

Linking With:

Weekly Wrap-Up  Homeschool Coffee Break
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