Saturday, January 24, 2015

And All the Extras

Welcome to the last week of the 2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair hosted by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts and Minds and Lisa @ Golden Grasses.  The topic this final week is Seeking Beauty: the Arts and Everything that Brings Beauty to Our World. So, what brings beauty to our homeschool?

Unexpected Homeschool: And All the Extras
Succinctly, my child's smiling face, infectious laugh, and relief when we set a schedule to fit her abilities. But this is a curriculum fair, and not a philosophical discussion about beauty.   Unfortunately, we don't have much of a curriculum for this topic.  There are many ways wee seek out beauty, but very little (if any) includes formal curriculum.

Let's instead look at the items that make our girl smile and laugh? In the past she adored dance, looked forward to art classes at the local art / pottery store, her piano lessons and just about any activity with friends. Now there isn't energy for all of those activities. We did join a homeschool group with a co-op a little over a year ago and Amber loves every second of her time with this group. 

We choose to use the homeschool co-op for enrichment classes only, yet there is still plenty of topics to keep Amber busy there for the large part of one day each week. Last school year Amber started with an art class at the co-op which was fun at first, but lost its luster later in the semester.  Drama at the co-op, on the other hand, couldn't be a better experience. Last year she was a goblin in a small production of The Hobbit; for the Christmas just passed she was Mary in a pantomime; and now for the current spring production she is Susan in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Unexpected Homeschool: And All the Extras
Photo art class and homework picture-taking; knitting for fun, and at the symphony
Amber has returned to an artistic class with photography art this semester. It is a combination of photography instruction with art projects using photos they take each week. It's a great balance of learning and art.  Additionally, Amber takes a teen Bible study, which although it is taught non-denominationally, has given her a chance to enjoy being in God's word without the concentration level required for her regular confirmation class. 

Outside of the homeschool group Amber takes weekly flute lessons and intermittently plays in a band. This is after 6+ years of piano lessons too. There is nothing more beautiful than to listen to an earnest music student on the flute.  It is truly a lovely instrument.

Those are all structured classes that add beauty to our homeschool.  However, we spend a good deal of time crafting and simply creating on our own at home too.   Amber is particularly partial to knitting and other yarn crafts.  She also loves to doodle and simply create with the art supplies on hand.  We've recently signed up for a subscription to Doodle Crate and await our first delivery.  Amber is very excited to have craft projects delivered to our door once a month along with the promise to dedicate to the projects.

Unexpected Homeschool: And All the Extras
Amber as Mary, working on a craft project and practicing flute before a performance
We also enjoy attending the symphony and touring Broadway productions as a family.  We never expected Amber to so enjoy these events, but she looks forward to them possibly more than the adults.

That's how our family adds beauty to our homeschool and family life.  It's not perfect, but nothing in life ever is.  Thanks for joining us during the 2015 Curriculum Fair. We've had fun sharing and reading all the great ideas from other families.

Other Weeks from the 2015 Curriculum Fair
Unexpected Homeschool: A More Simplistic Approach to 7th Grade Language Arts Unexpected Homeschool: Logically Speaking: Math, Science, and Logic for 7th Grade Unexpected Homeschool: Classically Influenced, Project Strong, Adaptable Middle School History

Please check out how the other members of the 2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair are finding Beauty in their worlds.

If you'd like to join the fair this week, use the linky below.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Finding Balance

This week we officially began school for the second semester even though we'd been doing a few smaller things all month.  It wasn't full days of school, but we are re-establishing a schedule and working towards more formal school lessons each day.

For school this week Amber continued algebra and even took a test; we started the new science curriculum and made huge strides in history. I supposed you could say Amber worked on writing too since it is an intrinsic part of her history lessons. Next week I hope to add back in German, literature,  and her new language arts topics bringing us to a full load the first week of February. At least a full load for Amber.

Even though Fred was home on Monday we started school.  Amber said it felt good to be back to her formal lessons after such an extended break.  When questioned further she admitted she really likes her breaks, but it gets boring not having direction. That's our little girl. Neither her dad or I can stand to be inactive for long.

First day of school lessons, along with a heart rate check.  And some fun with a new game: My Little Pony Monopoly.  (I ended up with both The Crystal Empire and Canterlot... it's like Park Place and Boardwalk)

Amber and I also attended the local dysautonomia support group monthly meeting for the first time. This particular meeting emphasized the teens and their parents.  Amber especially enjoyed the breakout portion where the teens went to a different room with a facilitator to talk amongst themselves.  I have been an online member, for a while now, of this and other support groups specifically for parents of kids with dysautonomia. We've also been dealing with Amber's condition for some time, so the meeting was nice yet anticlimactic for me. I did enjoy meeting in person the people I talk with online. Amber however loved it and wants to go every month. Given that she is still talking about the kids there, we will attempt to make the monthly meetings a priority.

Amber began taking her newest medication, Midodrine, on Saturday. We had some apprehension over the possible side effects and the fact it could possibly do nothing for her after all the effort. I'm thrilled to report she hasn't experienced any noticeable side effects and it's doing some good. Only the neurologist will be able to decide if this dose is sufficient, however we are seeing an improvement. Amber's diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure has seen an increase of up to 20 points on occasion, putting it around 60-70. This is fantastic.  The systolic only increases roughly 10 points, but that puts it around 90-100.

The Midodrine and Florinef do not stop Amber from having orthostatic hypotension or tachycardia, but it does make it not as severe. She's having heart rates in the 150's upon standing when she's on the medication as opposed to the 170's and 180's. She can only take the medication when she will be active, otherwise it can cause high blood pressure (hypertension).  It also only works in 4 hour increments, so we have to give it to her multiple times a day. I'm learning how to manage that portion still. 

Working on school at McDonald's while waiting on my car to have it's state inspections next door.  At least Amber felt well enough to be goofy, even if we could only eat the french fries. 
That's another adjustment this week. I've finally admitted I can't do it all. See I can even type it. Actually this is my fourth attempt at a post addressing this topic. I guess I might not be so good at admitting my down falls after all. Earlier this week Amber and I had a long talk about my needs and hers. It is not her fault she needs me differently than I expected. Its not my fault I can't always meet her expectations. However, if I continue at this pace, not making time for my exercise, or my doctors, or even a decent diet for me, then I won't be doing her any good either.

I am currently typing this on my iPad while I work out. Amber is taking a shower upstairs, 2 floors away from me, with her dad listening for a problem. This is part of our new plan. I don't have to do it all.  It's going to be a gradual process in finding our new path as chronically ill child and less stressed parent. There is only so much I can give up because the child does need help and most of the day I'm the only parent here.

Amber agreed to allow me to turn down activities for her when I'm not up for it, even if she can manage it. I'm allowed to say "restaurant tonight" with understanding from my family when I'm too exhausted to make dinner. Actually, Fred always has understood. Amber was the sticking point on the restaurants. Unfortunately, lately a lot of our dinners have been cheese, crackers and fruit/veggie because I had no energy for dinner and Amber refused to go out. Additionally, Amber is going to try to pick up more of her chores again, while I make time in the schedule for chores without taking away rest periods.

Perhaps instead of considering Amazon Prime one of our biggest tools as even every day items come right to the door with little effort on my part, we should use it less and make the effort to get out and take a slow stroll through the grocery store. It will give us a change of scenery and a little more exercise.  I probably will spend less money that way too, without the magic "one-click" purchase button taunting me.

Amber being silly and playing.  She feels so much better on her new medications.  We even tried popped sorghum in place of popcorn.  It pretty much tastes the same, but is extremely tiny.  And... made by students in my co-op class: the St. Louis Arch made from sugar cubes and icing.
I'm definitely not volunteering for "little jobs" anymore.  I've got enough already and they keep me quite occupied. I'll probably even drop some of my volunteer items when my current commitment is up. Not all, because we need to not be so focused on ourselves every minute of the day.  I so love to teach at our homeschool co-op too. The kids are a joy and I'm able to give back to the community that has embraced and helped Amber in innumerable ways.

It's going to be a long road to finding a new rhythm here that balances Amber's needs with my own.  Thankfully, we understand each other and are willing to make concessions that benefit us all.

Happy Weekend!

Linking With:

Weekly Wrap-Up   photo purpFFBut_zps970d6cbe.png Homegrown Learners

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Classically Influenced, Project Strong, Adaptable Middle School History

Welcome to the third week of the 2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair  hosted by  Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts and Minds and Stacie @ Super Mommy to the Rescue. This week the topic is Exploring Our World: Social Studies and more Science.  For our homeschool, this topics relates directly to our history lessons.

Unexpected Homeschool: Classically Influenced, Project Strong, Adaptable Middle School History

Having followed the classical education methods from the Well Trained Mind for 6th grade, I was all set to do the same in 7th grade.   Amber had somewhat been happy with our study of Ancient history in 6th grade, even if it seemed a bit boring a rigid.  She preferred it to text books and their associated workbooks.

However, towards the end of 6th grade Amber started having a lot more trouble with her chronic illness which equated to trouble making sense of her history readings.  We won't even discuss how hard the writing portion of history, as set forth in the Classical Education model, was for Amber during some of her sick days.   Unfortunately, we don't have the luxury of skipping school on Amber's sick days as they are frequent and she is symptomatic every single day.

I needed to find a way to adapt our subjects to suit Amber's fluctuating abilities.  After scouring blogs for various styles of education and talking with Amber about them, we decided that more hands on learning was needed for her especially difficult days. I set about finding ways to become more project based in our learning.

In addition to making history more do-able for Amber, we also were faced with needing to reduce the number of subjects she had to complete each week.  There just isn't time in the day for her to sleep, eat, complete the myriad of school lessons, and have any down time. We decided to remove writing and vocabulary as individual subjects and work with those topics across the subjects with history taking the brunt of the load.
Unexpected Homeschool: Classically Influenced, Project Strong, Adaptable Middle School History
A Viking Longship project from Homeschool in the Woods
I spent months, literally, putting together resources to create a medieval and renaissance history course for 7th grade that correlated with our literature study too. I pulled reading resources from many locations, but the most used is Heritage History.  I found project ideas in the Project Passport products by Homeschool In The Woods.  I found major topic points and some discussion ideas in History Odyssey.  We have been using Map Trek for years to include geography in our history, and planned to continue this year too.  I scoured Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and my favorite blogs for video ideas.  It took forever, but finally we had history lessons that allowed for sick days and more coherent times.

Heritage History provides for us the reliable and time tested history reading that we need to study Medieval and Renaissance times.  There are also a few other extras included, but mostly we are interested in the books.  The two Project Passport products I purchased have brief history readings, a plethora of project ideas, Amber's favorite timeline ever, and newspaper writing assignments.  History Odyssey, besides giving me the backbone schedule, also turned out to be a great source for additional writing and outlining assignments.  I could not have been happier with all the resources.   But if you are a curriculum junkie like me, you keep looking anyway.

What I found after 7th grade had already started was something I had heard of for years, but had not cared enough to investigate.  Silly me.  It was Tapestry of Grace.  Do you know what I spent months doing?  I recreated, with shocking similarity, Tapestry of Grace.  I kid you not.  Similar reading assignments, project ideas, writing assignments, and even their Map Aids are done by the people who make Map Trek.  It was all to ridiculous.  I had a little moment of hysteria when I realized this all.

Unexpected Homeschool: Classically Influenced, Project Strong, Adaptable Middle School History
History projects and writing assignments.

After a week of waffling, I went ahead and purchased the Tapestry of Grace year plan correlating to our current studies (year 2).  I know I had my own plans already created, but Tapestry of Grace has so much more than I had ready.  It has discussion points for various age levels, additional readings, a lot more writing help than I could manage to put together, and even has projects and discussion questions for the items we planned to study in literature.  Then on the TOG Loom there are links to websites and other alternative ways to encourage learning.  We've taken advantage of many of those links already.

We've had great success this year using my plans along with a little structure from Tapestry of Grace.  Amber does not do every possible assignment, project, or multimedia option I've located for every topic, however we do have the option to switch gears and use various modes of learning depending on her abilities on any given day.  We already plan to use Tapestry of Grace for the foreseeable future, and thus save me from the months of research.   If you'd like to see a more detailed list of our history resources, check out my complete 7th Grade Curricula Page.

Come back next week to see the beauty in our homeschool.

Other Weeks from the 2015 Curriculum Fair
Unexpected Homeschool: A More Simplistic Approach to 7th Grade Language Arts Unexpected Homeschool: Logically Speaking: Math, Science, and Logic for 7th Grade Unexpected Homeschool: And All the Extras

Please check out how the other members of the 2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair are Exploring Our World with their children. 

If you'd like to join the fair this week, use the linky below.

Some graphics created using elements from StoryRock