Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Matthew's Writing a Song

Yesterday I had a rare opportunity to sit in on Matthew's guitar lesson without any of the other children.  This afforded me the luxury of taking some videos of the lesson itself.  This was my particular favorite:

His teacher has started getting him to write his own song.  Matthew had picked out 4 chords last lesson (a few weeks ago with illness interfering) and this was their first chance to talk them out.  It went from what you see here to this in just 30min:

There need to be at least 4 parts to the song and this is only the first but I'm thrilled with how it's coming along!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

57 days in...Where are we now?

I have to say, I always envision this blog as somewhere I will come daily to describe in loving detail what I did with my children each day and what they learned from it.

Then reality comes crashing in with the lack of time because I'm busy DOING that stuff with my kids and how boring so much of the day to day stuff is.  I want to do more fun experiments and crafty stuff with them but so often, life gets in the way of it and we are dealing with that and trying to get the basic stuff in.  It does get done and there are lots of good times but it's not what I like to envision.

So instead of focusing on what I haven't been doing with them, I want to focus on what we have been doing and where the kids are at.

We have continued to hit KSW fairly regularly.  Or at least Mark and I have and have had good luck getting Jon and Nick to go.  The older two, less luck there.  Chris seems burned out and Matt seems to spend a good portion of his life lately injured or too sick to go.

I took Jon and Nick to Mori Point for a habitat restoration day 2wks ago and we have another one scheduled for tomorrow.  They love going and being outdoors and helping.  We try to volunteer at least once a month and because their clay class is nearby, I get to walk over with Nick 1-2xs a month as well just to check it out.  We walked by yesterday and he saw the patch where we had been clearing ice plant back in May and was thrilled with how it had stayed clear of that and how the new plants were thriving there.  I was thrilled that it had made such an impact on him that he remembered quite clearly that area and what we had done.

Nicholas is doing fabulous when it comes to school stuff.  He moved into the 2nd grade math with no problems and when he's focused blazes through each lesson.  When he's not focused...well...not so much.  LOL  His reading has gotten to the point where he will try to read absolutely every word he sees and there is no trying to spell around him anymore.  I'm thrilled with how easy it seems to be for him after watching Jon struggle because of his speech issues and I'm glad that it hasn't been that way for him.

Jon continues to be at once the easiest one to work with and the hardest.  If I'm working with him, he works hard and wants very much to please me but on the tasks I assign him to do independently, if it's not one he likes, amazing how it doesn't get done.  Most things involving writing would fall into this category.  His resource specialist and I have been working hard on this with him.  It all really boils down to a mental block he developed when handwriting was such a struggle for him.  Handwriting was hard therefore writing was hard.  I'm really thrilled at the progress he has made in this.  A year ago, getting him to write 5 sentences would take a full hour.  He's now able to make a nice paragraph with topic sentence, concluding sentence, and 3 supporting sentences in 12min.  His new goal is to do it in 10min and even he says that he can do that.  A year ago, he would completely freak out at the thought of having to write a multi-paragraph essay.  We've worked on that, breaking it down and having him write the main body of the essay as three separate blog entries and then we put those together and have him just write the introductory and concluding paragraphs.  The first time I tried that with him, he still freaked out but now he's realized that he can do this and it's not hard.  Again, I'm amazed at how far he has come.  And it's not just in writing.  He's become a reader now and while he's a little slow, his speed is picking up and even better, he's loving to read and will pull out his reading book when bored.  LOVING this!  I truly think that enjoying a good book is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child.  This has also made math much easier as he was getting board with Aleks and having problems with their lack of decent explanations so we've moved him to Art of Problem Solving.  It's a much more advanced style of math and it's reading intensive.  We had problems with Saxon because of the amount of reading it entailed but we discussed how this system worked and he got to look through Matthew's Algebra book and he agreed to go for it.  Unfortunately, this curriculum doesn't start until Pre-Algebra but never fear, MathWhiz can pass that pre-test.  So yeah, he's in 5th grade and doing Pre-Algebra.  I figure it means we can take it as slow as he needs to in order to get it and keep it fun.

Matthew is finally getting to the point where he can work mostly independently and I can trust that most of the work is getting done.  Switching the math seems to have helped a bit and we've cut down in a few other places because he was overloaded.  We may still cut back further still, but we'll see.  He wants to take college classes next year and those won't be a walk in the park so part of me wants to help prepare him for what he'll be dealing with but only as far as it helps and not hinders.  Still trying to find that line as he wants so much to do it all and doesn't say when it's too much or too hard or boring or whatever.  I have to figure that out once things have started going sideways with him.  The fun thing is figuring him out but once you do, all this amazing creativity comes forth and you just have to get out of the way for it.  He doesn't like research papers and chapter summaries and book reports or things of that ilk but tell him to write an imaginative story or personal narrative or even poems where he has complete creative control and it's fantastic what you end up with.

Chris has found some teachers that he has really clicked with this semester and it's been fantastic.  He's got an A in his math at mid-terms and a B- in his English class.  We are still struggling with his thinking ahead and following up on things but when things are immediately in his face, he is doing well.  Slowly but surely tho, I think we are seeing progress.  I'm saddened that his English teacher doesn't teach at the actual college level (English 100 and above) but he has already been kind enough to give Chris a list of other English professors at the college he believes he would do well with.  Definitely a big plus!  Now if can just finish things up for his read class from the spring semester, he'll be almost 1/2 way through with credits needed for his AS and over that by the time he graduates high school!  It's when I think about things like that that I realize just how far he's come and how well he really is doing.

So there's the catch-up on what the kids are doing.  I need to post some of the photos soon of their various activities too but that's for another night.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Another IEP done

So I now have 2 kids with IEPs.  I'm still a little miffed that they waited until almost the last freaking day they had to have this meeting and I had to call to get things moving and then get told "Oh, he was next on my list".  Um, yeah, whatever.  The other issue is that when I originally asked for testing, I asked for a full evaluation as I was concerned about his handwriting and figured let's just do the whole thing and be done with it and the school psychologist played games and said point blank that she refused to sign-off on it.  After going round and round with her for 2 freaking hours I gave up and rescinded the request.  Then at the meeting, they ask point blank about his gross and fine motor skills and I bring it up and then tell me to write in requesting an evaluation of that if I want them to look at it!  Really?!?!  These people make me nuts!

Ok, but the good news is that Nicholas starts speech next week as his intelligibility in spontaneous speech is at about the level of a 3yr old (which we already knew).  The school official running the meeting was in such a hurry that she rushed everything but since I was prepared for it, I asked about ESY (extended school year) services.  Of course, standard practice is to deny it especially for a first IEP and before he's had his first session (knew that but figured I'd start that ball rolling now).  Then the educational advocate I always bring along spoke up and talked about his diagnosis and what the standard procedure for apraxic kids is which is they get ESY because of severe regression.  The speech therapist was asked for her opinion and she said she would be able to better tell after Winter Break but that yes, apraxic kids typically do need ESY.  The school backed down at that time and set it up.  Score points for them not wanting to argue with us over that.

Now I need to figure out if/when I'm going to deal with getting Nick assessed for OT for his handwriting.  Which of course means sending in more letters, filling out more paperwork, setting up more testing, and then going to another IEP for him.  Basically getting to do everything I already did for him for the speech all over again.  Or why the heck I wanted to just do it all at once.  Ugh!

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Yep, we are a month in and the problems are starting to crop up as things get in place.  The biggest problem...Matthew and Saxon math.  Christopher did great with it.  It comes highly recommended.  Matthew did great in pre-algebra with it.  We have now been at Algebra 1 for over a year and he's failing miserably.  He won't ask for help, he won't check his work, and he leaves it for last every day in the hopes that he won't get to it.

That is what we call classic Matthew avoidance or "I HATE this crap!" in passive aggressive behavior.

After trying a few different tacts, it was decided that it was time to try something new.  It's going to be hard because he's in the middle of the curriculum so we will have to try and figure out where he fits into the new curriculum but it should be worth it.  We are borrowing the Art of Problem Solving from Ian which is where we get all the good curriculum for Matthew.  There learning style is so similar that if it has the Ian stamp of approval, it's almost a guarantee that Matthew will do well with it.  There are no tests with it until the end so I'm having him do selected problems from each chapters review section until we find areas where he doesn't understand stuff or just needs more practice.  Hoping we can get at least half way in before he has to start doing full lessons.  It's a pretty advanced curriculum tho so we'll see.  The other nice thing is that there are corresponding online courses for a reasonable price taught by the people who wrote the texts and free online help even without enrolling.  Really nice.  And it goes through calculus so we have time before we have to use the JC for his math.

While looking through his other problems, its apparent that while he wants to do all of the courses, it's an overload so we looked at some ways to tone things down a touch to make it easier for him to get everything done.  *crossing fingers* we've got things set-up better for him now.

In other changes, Jonathan will be starting US History this week.  We had to wait for Matthew to get through the first book in the series so Jonathan could start it and that's now done.  Jon will be going slower through it so there wont' be any more problems with them sharing.  Now I just need to find time to do all the work with him. Always with the needing more time.  *sigh*

And the last big change is that I had to pull out the 3rd box in Hooked on Phonics for Nicholas!  He has completed the 2nd box and chomping at the bit for the next one.  He is doing great with his reading and really enjoying it.  He's starting to try and read all over the place and people are amazed when they realize he just read something to them.  He was at clay class this week (need to post more pictures of that) and picking out his glaze color.  He pointed to one on the top shelf and Margaret picked the one next to it.  He told her "Not that one, the Hot one".  She looked confused for a moment but then looked and realized that the one next to where she was pointing was Hot Tamale.  He couldn't read the second word but he was able to get his point across.  Totally amazed her!  She just looked at me and said "He read that?!"  Um, yep.  He's been able to read that for about 6mos now.

So here's hoping things go smoothly for a bit now.  I know we'll end up tweaking things further, it always happens but maybe we can get a month out of these current changes before needing the next batch.  LOL

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The First Month

So it's officially been a month since the start of this school year.  Activities are continuing to trickle in, we have all our curriculum, and are starting to get into a groove.

So where are we:

Chris has settled into his schedule at school.  He LOVES his Math and English teachers.  He has been getting the math teacher to post homework assignments in advance so he can work on them early because he is finding them easy at this point.  He has gotten nothing less than a 90% on his quizzes and the teacher was even giving out extra credit questions on one that were designed specifically for him.  Talk about awesomeness!  He has just turned in his first major paper, a movie review, in his English class.  I really like that the teacher took time to see his beginning work and give feedback and then has the kids bring in several copies of a rough draft a week before the final draft is due to get feedback from him and other students.  Great way of helping them!  I'm excited to see how he did on this one and how he does in this class a teacher that, at this point, seems so supportive. I mean hey, this guy was bringing up old Schoolhouse Rock songs in class which when he couldn't remember them totally, Chris helped him out with and then he went and found it on You Tube and played it for the class.  You can't get much cooler than that!

Matthew is still struggling to balance everything.  His Civics class first couple of assignments consisted of three 2-3 page essays.  Instead of talking to me about it, he kind of let it slide out of view.  It didn't take long for me to catch on to it so we discussed it and came up with the workable solution of a good paragraph for each part of each question the was supposed to write an essay on so it comes out to about 1page per question rather than 2-3 which made it more manageable with everything else he has going on.  Of course, as we are working through that, he gets sick again and is in bed for several days unable to even read so now we are behind schedule on things yet again.  Some things can sort of get caught up but some things can't.  Going to have to have a discussion with him on how to handle it going forward.

Jonathan is continuing to excel at what he loves and balk like a stubborn mule at anything he has gotten into his brain as being "too hard".  This definitely includes writing.  I think because the mechanical process of writing was so hard for him for so long that he just remembers it being hard and has now decided that the entire process is super difficult and he can't do it.  His resource specialist and I keep plugging away at this but it's hard as it ultimately has to be something that he realizes.  Until that time, we just keep trying.  Now if only we could figure out someway to keep him from forgetting everything everywhere as he left his swimsuit at swim class 2wks ago and his backpack with his science materials at clay class last week.  Ugh!

Nicholas is just excelling at everything right now and is actually the easiest of all the kids to deal with (such a change from all other areas of his life).  He has the attitude of "This is easy so let's get it done quickly so I can go play" which is what I've always told the kids.  He reminds me of what hasn't gotten done and is quick to pull it out.  He is reading well and almost through box 2 of Hooked on Phonice (1st grade level).  He loves his math and blazes through that each day and is starting to read most of the ordinal numbers phonetically which is amazing to me. He's already figured out that when he's sounding something out if it sounds off but familiar that it's likely this other word he knows.  His memory is also incredible.  We've been doing these animal worksheets as part of his science and after one reading he can generally answer the questions and I just underline the part so he can copy it down on the sheet.  He remembers a lot of the details from his Five in a Row books as well and we can go to the library and he'll see a previous Five in a Row book and tell me about it (and usually insist that we check it out again).  I remember what a struggle all these things were for Jon so it's a relief and a joy that Nick has such an easy time of it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ups and Downs

The Ups:
Chris got a perfect score on his last math quiz and actually had someone wanting him to tutor them.  Considering he's already getting to the point where he needs some help at home, I suggested a study group idea instead but still, it did his confidence good which is priceless.

Jonathan and Nicholas got all their schoolwork done in a timely fashion today which was so nice.  Nicholas even read "Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you hear?" and "Spot goes to the Farm" to me today with only a little help on the words that don't sound out easily.

The Downs:
Notice who I didn't mention in the first section?  Yeah, Matthew.  I started going through his work today and found that a lot of it just isn't done.  *sigh*  Yep, apparently we are back to that.  We discussed it and I gave in on a few points but then also showed him what absolutely had to get done.  He didn't get to go to KSW again tonight because he needed to stay home as he has a ton of work to do to get caught up again.  Here's hoping he's figured out I'm on top of it right now and these things will get caught within a week and he just starts getting it done.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tuesday = Activities!

 Tuesday is seriously our busiest day for activities right now.  Not a lot of book schooling goes on although
 we do what we can along the way.

Our day looks a lot like this....

First Jon & Nico have swim lessons.  It's first thing in the morning so they get a nice wake-up for the day....

 Cause hey, who doesn't wake up well after climbing into a 90F pool to do some laps and have some fun with friends...

 Today Nicholas started clay class right after swim.  It's his first time working with clay and it was absolutely precious to watch.

Here he is just getting a chance to work with clay and the different texturing tools...

 This is his first project.  They are making fish to hang on the wall, working on learning to score the clay, cut out the shapes you want, and play with textures.

Their teacher is really hands-on and so great about offering lots of praise and encouragement.
They had some extra time at the end so she had them practice working on making coil people for next week's project.

And I missed most of Jon and Matt's clay class because I was walking on the beach with Nick (need to get pictures of that but here is one I managed to get of Matthew at the end of class just before his bowl was taken off the wheel...

After all that, we come home and collapse.....

Until soccer practice for Nicholas in the evening.