Friday, November 27, 2015

Ready for the Christmas Season

Happy Day After Thanksgiving (if you're in the U.S., otherwise just happy Friday)!

We had a slow school week full of appointment prior to Thanksgiving. Amber completed all the skipped assignments, except science, from when she was sickly last week. She's got a test up next in science and we're having trouble finding a good time for it.

It's amazing, but we have stuck with a literature program longer than a couple of months. We are both still enjoy Illuminating Literature (we are alternating it with poetry). Amber made good progress through A Friendly Persuasion and most probably will finish it this coming week. However, I'll just be happy to have it finished prior to Christmas.

Literature in the car, lunch between appointments, and building her newest Star Wars LEGO set.
Thankfully, Amber has recovered from the virus itself, but it triggered an overall autonomic nervous system malfunction that is still going on. Not much is working correctly yet, so we've spent more time trying to support her body than anything else. 

We did have a nice Thanksgiving at my sister's house with special allergy food for three of the eight people. Then in the evening the kids put on another of their plays with paper puppets they made that afternoon. Amber had pretty much run out of steam by the play performance so it was a bit lackluster on her part. Of course it was still cute, especially with the sleepy four year old doing his own thing the whole time.

We were shopping for Christmas clothes, but found Stitch instead. She's loved Stitch almost her whole life. We couldn't pass it up.  And Thanksgiving fun with the cousins.
Today we are driving the almost 2 hours home in pouring rain trying to stay ahead of a freeze line that wasn't supposed to even exist according to the forecasts. Actually, Fred is driving while I'm being nervous and writing this post on my iPhone to distract myself. 

This weekend we will decorate our home for Christmas as is our tradition. Amber is giddy with anticipation and looks forward to this weekend each year. Although we don't have a new set to add to her LEGO Winter Village this year since LEGO decided to reissue the first set as this year's addition, Amber will still put out and play with the rest of her village over the month of December. 

My view on the drive home. Then lunch after making it safely back. Plus Amber's new jingly ring from her aunt and uncle.
I also must find time to bake and freeze safe food for Amber and plan out independent school lessons for next week. Tuesday is my awaited gallbladder removal surgery. I'm praying it truly can be done laparoscopically, otherwise I'm going to be out of commission a lot longer than planned. 

This weekend also marks the beginning of Advent and we are finally going to be prepared with our devotions and activities - for once! We will need to give ourselves a little grace for surgery day, but pick right back up the next day (or maybe two days) later.
Knitting and more knitting on gift projects. She finished the Minion hat for her cousin - this was her own made up pattern!

By now, you've probably figured out we did actually make it home through the raining drive without and it was without incident. There was even a tiny break in the rain and temperatures were still above freezing. Whew! The kitties survived 24 hours without us, but were not pleased with us for being gone. Amber and I have even managed to dust the entire house this afternoon in preparation for decorating tomorrow.

That's it for this week. Hopefully I'll have good news after the surgery for next week!

Happy Weekend!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Drive Time Schooling (Blogging Through the Alphabet - D)

Let's start by stating up front that this is not a complaint about how much I drive, because compared to my husband who drives to and from work in a busy metropolitan area every week day, I have it easy. Compared to people who live in rural areas and must drive significant distances to reach a decent size town, we are lucky living in the suburbs with everything we could want within an easy drive.

However, Amber and I do spend many hours in the car during an average week driving to her regular medical appointments where each round trip drive varies between 1 and 2 hours, plus our homeschool co-op classes that are between 40 and 50 minutes round trip (without traffic).  

Unexpected Homeschool: Drive time schooling
The ultimate in drive school: an 8 hour drive to the Mayo Clinic (history timeline).
Plus a regular visit to the local hospital (literature).
That is a crucial amount of our available school hours lost to drive time each week. At one point we thought to use the drive as rest time for Amber, but it didn't work well except when she was so totally exhausted as she could sleep anywhere. 

We found the best use of this drive time to be drive-schooling. While car-schooling often refers to school while waiting in the car for a sibling, we don't have that specific need but we do spend an inordinate amount of time in a moving car. Thankfully Amber does not get carsick and has no problem reading or writing in a moving car. 

When we first started homeschooling I was such a rigid and unbending homeschool parent. I wanted everything to fit in a neat little school area with structured hours. I've learned over the years of homeschooling, especially since Amber developed the chronic illnesses, to simply do what works best for our situation. In the beginning, drive-schooling (or car-schooling) was not something I would even have considered, ever. 

Unexpected Homeschool: Drive time schooling
More literature and history workbook.
Of course there are subjects that do not work well in the car for Amber, like science and math. For other subjects it greatly depends on the topic or assignment whether it is a good candidate to take on the go. Amber's preferred car assignments include:
  • Literature - Especially reading assignments, but also analysis work. 
  • History - Again reading and analysis, but also her timeline work and supplemental workbook lessons. 
  • German - Writing or workbook assignments. She doesn't like the audio portions in the car. 
  • Writing - This one heavily depends on the type of assignment. She can do planning and editing on the go, but finds the actual writing difficult. I don't blame her either. 

Drive time schooling has become such second nature to Amber that she often grabs something to do even on errands around our suburb. While not ideal, this type of schooling lets us more efficiently use all of her functional hours.


Please visit our Blogging Through the Alphabet hosts to read more interesting A to Z topics!
Cristi @ Through the Calm and Through the Storm & Meg @ Adventures with Jude 

Unexpected Homeschool: Middle School Reading List Addendum

Friday, November 20, 2015

We Really Aren't Unschoolers (I Think)

It's been a busy appointment and activity filled week, topped off with Amber and me catching a mild virus. It wasn't a terribly productive book-work week, but much was accomplished:
  • Many, many hours on her co-op knitting class project that is doubling as a Christmas gift for a family member.  
  • The last of her handmade Christmas present projects planned.
  • Art class and at-home sketching.
  • Hours of German, multiple IEW writing lessons, and grammar.
  • History reading
  • More learning about connective tissue and how it affects the spine.
  • Flute practice
I know, I know. It's beginning to look even more unschoolish - but we really aren't unschoolers. It's just been a difficult few weeks.

Fred stayed home Monday with Amber so I could go to a much anticipated medical appointment that had nothing to do with my upcoming gallbladder surgery. Thankfully this appears to be the last appointment dealing with that concern and I've been cleared for now. Back to concentrating on my upcoming surgery without any other issues lurking about. I'm also quite thankful my gallbladder is causing less pain at the moment and allowing me to eat a little bit of fat.

Ready for the Wild West themed event where she played flute. It was a fun night for us all!
Knitting, knitting, knitting and a lunch out between appointments.
The majority of the book work Amber did complete this week was while I was out on Monday at the doctor's office. That was one hectic day. We also had her regular PT session where we both learned more about how the spine is supported and should be curved. The therapist even used a flexible spine model during our impromptu lesson. Turns out Amber's connective tissue around her spine is not exactly holding it in place properly, so she naturally compensates with muscles that have tightened around the spine. The result is fairly common in EDS: she has kyphosis in her upper back (rounds out too much) and lordosis in her lower back (goes in too much) and a small amount of scoliosis in her lower back. 

Amber actually startled the therapist since her back measurements had not been taken before. A simple stretch where Amber was asked to arch her back and then lower it while on all fours began this latest EDS learning experience. Amber had way too much arch and a lot of movement, but barely gets to neutral with her back. She can't even begin to do inward curve on all fours. Now Amber is working on stretching out those muscles to help with the curvature problems. Thank goodness for knowledgeable physical therapists. 

We also had the much awaited veterinary specialist appointment for Biscotti (our Maine Coon mix cat). We have a plan of action after five hours at the vet (plus an hour round trip driving) during which my poor traumatized kitty had to be knocked out for many additional tests to be run and his belly shaved for yet another ultrasound.

At physical therapy. This is as close to neutral as she can get her back. Can you believe this girl was once a dancer? We learn more about EDS every week.
For now he's on the same antibiotic for another continuous three weeks because it looks like this medication does actually work on his UTI but could not kill all of the bacteria in only 10 days. The short break between each of the previous three antibiotic courses was long enough to let the bacteria take hold again. The hope is to eradicate the bacteria entirely this time. The vet also took away Biscotti's treats (pure bites freeze dried meat) until further notice for fear they were triggering food hypersensitivity. Poor guy, he had the longest car drive plus the most traumatic vet visit in his life and then no evening treats with his medication. He still loves us though.

Homeschool co-op classes were busy and fun, as usual. Only two more class periods of this semester, then after Christmas break Amber will have almost all new classes next semester. The only class continuing is embroidery, which is ironic because it's one of the things I can easily teach Amber. Still, she loves embroidery and it provides w nice relaxing hour in the middle of her hectic co-op days. We haven't registered yet, but we think Amber will also be taking the yearbook class, art, and improv drama - all which are topics I can't teach her. Yay for enrichment co-op courses.

Look at everything we have to be thankful for!
Now today we are relaxing and enjoying our only day at home this week. We've declared it our November Amber and Mom Day, so no school work is allowed. We will even kill a few brain cells playing Star Wars Battlefront on the PS4 for hours on end. I'm excited to have no appointments or responsibilities today short of keeping Amber hydrated and watching over my kitties.

Next week we have more medical appointments than normal for Amber plus a few other necessary non-medical appointments. We won't be taking any time off of school before Thanksgiving, but with the numerous appointments there won't be time for full days of school either. I'm hoping to simply complete the left over lessons from this week prior to Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving! (to those of you in the United States)