Monday, August 25, 2014

A Day in Our Homeschool Life (August 2014)

As part of the annual Not-Back-To-School blog hop, I've documented what one of our average school days has been like so far this year.  Amber has quite a few doctors' appointments because of the recently diagnosed dysautonomia, so we need to be flexible in our schedule at least once a week.  We are not yet incorporating all of Amber's subjects, and hope to build her stamina so that she tolerates more each day.  However, for right now this is a typical day.

Homeschooling 7th Grade:

Milori, our kitty with a heart condition
8:30 am:  My alarm goes off and I think about getting up.  I am NOT a morning person.  Nope. Not at all. But I hate how sleeping late causes loss of productivity, so every morning is a battle with myself as to how early I should get up.  I decide to go ahead and get ready.  I shower (I can't do anything before I shower), start laundry, check email and make sure the cats have fresh water and enough food.

9:15 am: I am forced to wake Amber because we have a morning appointment.  Normally, I let her sleep until she wakes - within reason.  She showers and gets her own breakfast.  I'm also not an "eat in the morning" person.

10:00 am: I start gathering Amber's hot weather kit (her body doesn't regulate it's temperature correctly, so we carry water and ice packs with us).  I fetch the cat carrier from the basement and Amber helps me collect Milori and Rosetta for their vet visit. We live less than 5 minutes from the vet.  Thankfully.  These two don't howl like Biscotti, but they quiver for the whole car ride even though they have each other.

10:30 - 11:30 am: At the vet for the two younger cats' annual checkup and shots.  Milori also gets x-rays because he still pants with exercise.  It does appear to be his heart, but it is hard to determine on an x-ray the extent of the issue.  He will need an ultrasound eventually with a vet cardiologist.  Sigh.  He's good for now, but will require medication eventually too.  Amber is not happy to hear that her favorite cat is also the sickly one.  But we already knew that, as we already had this checked once when he was a kitten and suspected the heart then.

11:30 am: Home and cats are all happy to be together again.  Amber goes over previous grammar assignment with me and takes her Analytical Grammar test.  I keep working on laundry and other household chores. I receive a brief call about the adoption process from our licensing worker.  We are in the process of switching from an international adoption to Missouri foster-adoption (yay.. which was our original intention).  Our international home study is entirely complete, but there is now additional paperwork and classes for the new type of adoption and new agency.  It's transitioning fairly smoothly though.

A little tired at lunch
12:00 pm: Amber works on her map assignment for history. She has been studying Charlemagne and the Carolingians.  Her map work is for Charlemagne's empire.  Can I just say that I love Map Trek.  We did switch over to mostly using Tapestry of Grace and I bought their Map Aids too, but they are almost identical to the complete set of Map Trek maps that we already had.   I'm still working on laundry, and other random household chores.  I'm a neat / clean freak, so I clean everything... all the time.

12:30 - 2:00 pm:  Amber wants to get out of the house. It has been horribly hot in Missouri (it still is), but she wants to brave the heat. She's feeling restless and upset about Milori still and requests to have lunch at McAlister's.  It's not that I mind going out; I love eating out and even with her food restrictions she can eat a baked potato at McAlister's.  However, the closest one is about a half hour drive and she knows it.  Amber offers to do school reading in the car, but I decide that we will just relax for a bit and talk about what is on her mind during the drive.  So, we had a good lunch and a good talk too.

2:00 - 3:00 pm: Home from lunch, but even with the cool kit Amber feels sickly now after the heat.  I check her vitals and her blood pressure is low, but heart rate is high (dysautonomia symptoms).  I send Amber to her room to rest for a bit and try to recouperate.  She reads her historical fiction assignment, Augustine Came to Kent, and actually finishes the book.  By the end of the book she is feeling a lot better and I give her a snack in her room.

SOS Missouri History
3:00 - 3:45 pm: We give Switched On Schoolhouse Missouri History a first try.  It's computer based lessons, which historically we are not fond of.  Still, it seemed like a good idea for sick days and it's just for Missouri history.  We will be able to do it at our own pace over the next few years.  It took a little while for us to get the hang of SOS, but eventually it worked out.  Amber does the first lesson while I sit next to her at my computer researching home exercise rowing machines. I eventually order one for Amber. 

3:45 - 4:15 pm: Amber reviews her German vocabulary and pronunciation.  I'm still working on laundry and playing with Biscotti a little bit.  He follows me everywhere in the house, kinda like a dog - only he's a cat.  An 18lb Maine Coon mix cat.

4:15 - 4:30 pm: Amber gears up for her first workout on her new exercise plan.  We have to get the heart rate monitor on her and trained, ensure that my recumbent exercise bike settings fit her, which they do since we are almost the same height.

4:30 - 5:15 pm: Pre-month 1, Day 1 of Amber's exercise plan.  I stay close by her and keep time for the different portions of the exercise.  I also help track Amber's heart rate. To keep busy, because I have to, I clean the area where Amber's rowing machine will go.  It is all part of the great basement cleanout of 2014.

5:15 - 6:00 pm: Amber rests down in the basement while I continue to clean because she is too exhausted to make it up the steps.  She is still wearing the heart rate monitor so that I can keep track of her.

6:00 - 6:45 pm: Back upstairs and Amber rests more.  Going up the stairs caused her heart rate to jump back to 175, so she needs some calming time with a cuddly cat.  I start dinner. We are having chicken quesadillas for the first time in almost a year.  I finally made from scratch and froze some gluten free multigrain tortillas that are safe for Amber to eat.  None of the store bought gluten free brands are made with ingredients that are entirely safe for Amber.

6:45 pm: Fred is home and we eat dinner!  The quesadillas are yummy.  After dinner I do the dishes while Amber practices her flute and works on her music theory assignment. She takes private lessons once a week, and tries to practice every day - it doesn't always happen. But she also plays for almost an hour every time she plays.  Overall each week she gets at least 4-5 hours of practice; some weeks a lot more.
Yum! GF and fructose free quesadillas!
8:00 pm: We all sit down to watch Beowulf on Netflix.  Amber is studying Beowulf in literature and we decided to watch a movie version to compare.  We pause often though because Fred starts receiving a bunch of work phone calls and he eventually has to go work upstairs.  I actually also hop up occasionally to switch the last of the laundry and put the clothes away.

9:00 pm: Amber and I pause to get a snack to eat during the movie and then keep watching.

9:45 pm: Amber begins getting ready for bed and I do my nighttime cat routine: litter boxes, food / water, transdermal medicine for Biscotti, and treat for all the cats. Biscotti gets a treat for willingly taking his medicine and the other cats get a treat for leaving him alone during the process.  We didn't quite finish Beowulf, but will finish the next night.  Amber requires a lot of sleep because she is often exhausted from the racing heart.  I can't let her stay up to finish the movie if I want her awake before Noon the next day.

10:00 pm: Amber in bed and settling down for sleep.  We have our bedtime talk about whatever might be on her mind.  It helps with Amber's anxiety to talk every night.

Afternoon rest and snack
10:15 pm: I change to my workout clothes and head to the basement for my workout on the exercise bike.  I like to watch movies on my iPad, read books, or goof off on the Internet while I work out. It keeps me distracted from how tired I get.  That night I was able to concentrate enough on a book.

11:15 pm: I'm back upstairs from my workout and cooling down.  Fred is still working on an "issue"... actually he's not working on it. He's telling others to work on it, as best I can gather from what he does. 

11:45 pm: Bedtime for me, but Fred is still awake waiting on work status updates.  I do one last check on Amber, locate all the cats to ensure nobody is stuck behind a closed door (with three cats, that happens often enough), and I'm off.  Night Night.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Schedule Tweaking, Again

As I'm looking back over Amber's accomplishments for the week it appears in the log to be a lot more productive than it felt each day.  I did not even schedule lessons for Thursday or Friday and just let the incomplete items from the earlier part of the week fill those days.  Alas, this type of scheduling will not get us through the year with the needed hours.

Amber did complete some unscheduled lessons the first three days of the week.  I decided to purchase the Switched on Schoolhouse Missouri History for us to use over the next few years.  We had already done a pretty detailed Missouri History in fourth grade, but as our public school kids have to pass a Missouri Constitution test prior to high school graduation (and there are some other strange Missouri history study requirements for the public schools) I decided it couldn't hurt to slowly work through Missouri history again. 

The nature of the SOS Missouri History makes it somewhat ideal for Amber's sick days.  It is computer based lessons and, excepting for the few projects, are all read and answer the question style lessons.  This means if Amber is having a bad day and is unable to complete writing assignments or math she can still probably get through a lesson of Missouri History.   So, if I tell you that she did Missouri history Monday through Wednesday this week does that give you any idea how the days were going?

See... Actual school work: SOS Missouri History, Art (card making), Analytical Grammar, and math (with a kitty).

Actually Monday wasn't too bad.  We chose to try out the SOS Missouri History on that day because we were both thinking well enough for our first time using Switched on Schoolhouse, ever. It wasn't as easy to use as one would hope, but we have the hang of it now.. maybe.  The automatic grading is weird and actually is marking correct answers as incorrect occasionally.   Questions verbatim from the reading are marked wrong.  I verified it. So, this isn't as simple for me as checking Amber's scores through the parent login.  She leaves me notes when she thinks something was actually right and I have to go check the question.  It's a pain.

We made great strides in German this week, but we are still only using the Prima curriculum. My co-op German class also uses Prima and I want to get as far in it with Amber as possible before the co-op classes start in two weeks.  I think Amber will always be able to stay far enough ahead of the class so that any activities or lessons that totally bomb will be worked out with Amber.   She is actually enjoying German still.  I must say that it definitely helped her to have taken 2.5 years of Latin.  She already understood the purpose of a conjugation chart and knew what to do with it.  I think I have it much easier with Amber than I will with my class because of the Latin.

(LEFT-TOP) Impromptu lunch at McAlister's. Amber desperately needed to get out even though she was exhausted.
(LEFT-BOTTOM) Goofing off with a "personal strengths test".  It pegged Amber (ehem...natural leader. Aka, bossy).
(RIGHT-TOP) German!
(RIGHT-BOTTOM) Cuddly kitties with a sickly Amber.  Biscotti loves to sit on Amber's vanity and look in the mirror.  We joke and tell him he's a "pretty kitty" when he does that. 

Analytical Grammar has been going great, but it definitely assumes a certain amount of previous knowledge, which Amber thankfully has.  It seems like it would be pretty difficult if one's prior grammar experience had been lacking.  Still, Amber likes it, especially because she knows there is only 8 more weeks of Grammar for the year.

We didn't make a lot of progress with literature this week except to watch Beowulf.  Amber found the changes in the story to be unappealing and preferred the original story to the screen writer's interpretation.  She will get a chance to explain why to me in a few weeks when she compares two written versions with the movie.  We did have an impromptu discussion about it and about what literary elements were missing from the movie.

Amber's supine exercise program started this week.  She has aerobic exercise Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with weight training Tuesday and Thursday.  The description makes it sound like more than it is.  Amber is actually only in pre-month 1 of the training plan.  Which means her aerobic exercise includes 5-10 minute warmup, 3 minute base pace (heart rate of 170), 2 minute recovery, 3 minute base pace, and 5-10 minute cool down.  The weight training cannot be free weights and Amber is not strong enough to use the suggested machines yet, so we are doing floor exercises together for a while. Let me tell you, all of this is extremely difficult for her to achieve too.  It's a good thing we have equipment at home because it would take an hour or more after each workout to be able to get her to the car from the gym.

We learned on Wednesday that morning exercise is not even remotely successful for Amber.  The exercise on Monday afternoon was difficult, but she felt pretty good after a little rest.  Wednesday morning she felt sick the whole time she was on the bike and then nearly passed out afterwards. She remained puny and sickly the rest of the day.  I've read that mornings are not always good for people with dysautonomia and apparently Amber agrees with that assessment.

(LEFT-TOP) Amber was testing her workout heart rate monitor with the blood pressure machine
(TOP-RIGHT) Successful workout day
(BOTTOM) Unsuccessful workout day
I'm having trouble meshing our school schedule with the exercise schedule.  I need to ensure that Amber meets her exercise goals each day, but they often prevent any formal learning happening afterwards.  There's also the fact that we will have to go to the gym for some of the exercise when she tolerates the weight machines and for the weekly aerobic kickboard swimming.   Add to this that Amber is exhausted much of the time and works slower than she used to on school lessons.  The numbers just don't add up for getting enough school hours completed this year if we can't figure out the exercise on school days. 

It's been horribly hot and humid here this week; we are paying dearly for the unseasonably cool weather in the earlier part of the summer.   Our homeschool group's back to school picnic was even postponed because of a heat advisory.  That wasn't a huge issue for us because Amber could not have attended in that heat.  She is severely heat intolerant and even her cooling vest would have done little for her with the 100+ heat index.  We are praying for more pleasant and tolerable weather on the rescheduled day.

(TOP-LEFT) Amber's new personal fan and her favorite compression socks. 
(TOP-RIGHT) Amber's cooling vest!
(BOTTOM) Rosetta.  She loves to be near Amber

Next week we have numerous appointments scheduled and little hope of a full school day at all for the entire week.  I'm wondering if we need to just take our first break now instead of in a couple of weeks. However, that will make it a much longer time before the next break and I'm not sure Amber can go 7 weeks without a rest.   This is really a year of figuring out a new rhythm for our life and school.

I know it sounds like it was a pretty gloom and doom type of week, but not really.  Our cats have been super cuddly and friendly all week, we had a great confirmation orientation for Amber at church, Amber had a great time at Rally Day on Sunday for the new church education year, I baked a ton of food for Amber over the weekend including new recipes,  I received many packages from Amazon (which always makes me smile), Amber's home rowing machine arrived, adoption paperwork was less this week but progress was made, and I found time to start my workouts again.

(TOP-LEFT) My 20 cups of gluten free multi grain flour for my weekend baking. I make my own mixture.
(TOP-RIGHT) Homemade, from scratch, GF multigrain tortillas.  We haven't had quesadillas since last summer!
(BOTTOM-LEFT) Sickly Amber eating snack of freshly baked foods
(BOTTOM-RIGHT) GF Chocolate chip yogurt dessert bread! It was so moist. The yogurt really helps counteract the dryness of the dextrose over sugar. 

We hope to have a relaxing weekend, but since we are assembling Amber's rowing machine it may turn out to be less than perfect.  :)

Happy Weekend!

Linking with:

Weekly Wrap-Up  photo FF_zpsc6f74f35.jpg Homegrown Learners

Sunday, August 17, 2014

7th Grade Back to School Photos

Our traditional back to school photos are pretty simple.  When Amber was in parochial school the first day photos were rushed, quick pics taken right before walking out the door.  Once in a while we remembered a photo at the school too, but that wasn't a guarantee.

While we have time now, we still keep it pretty simple since she doesn't have the patience for pictures and I don't have the talent for much more than iPhone photos.

So, without further delay... I give you 7th Grade Amber

She's been showing her new grade on her fingers in first day pictures since she started school!

The standard inside picture.  The weather has not cooperated for outdoor pictures every year
We have gone out to lunch the first day of school every year, even when she was in parochial school (half-day first days).  This year it was American Girl shopping and lunch.