Tuesday, April 18, 2017

An Update on Moose's Leg

Resurrexit Sicut Dixit! Alleluia!

I hope you all had a blessed Easter Sunday, and will be able to thoroughly celebrate the Fifty Days of Easter. I know I have a hard time maintaining the Alleluia spirit, especially as crosses come into our lives; but at least trying to helps to keep the eternal perspective. At least it does for me. :)

I always enjoy how whenever life is mostly figured out, another wrench is chucked into the system, mucking up the gears. Poor Moose is having a hard time recovering from his leg break, so his surgeon agreed with our thoughts about physical therapy. We met with the PT last week. I'm still waiting for her written evaluation report but she gave us homework exercises before we even left her office, so I'm guessing it's not just a "mind over matter" thing that we were all hoping for. Moose's leg is incredibly weak, despite walking (limping) on it and his gait is all messed up.

We can add physical therapy now into our weekly lives, including the homework exercises (on top of the OT for handwriting exercises) and make sure that we are staying on top of those, schoolwork, housework, as well as time for leisure. Not to mention all the other appointments and other things we have going on.

Just another string in a line of things Moose has to deal with since breaking his leg. He still has regular x-rays, random pain in the leg (moreso now that we've been doing the PT exercises), and the like.

He's already declared that he will NOT be sledding anytime soon, if ever. I can't say I blame him.

St. Luke, please intercede for Moose that his leg strengthens up well and his gait returns to normal.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Atmosphere of Education

One of Charlotte Mason's mottoes is "education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life". She grounded her entire view of education in the simple fact that "children are born persons" and are to be treated as such. You can read her 20 Principles which discuss what exactly she means by the personhood of the child, education as an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life and more over here.
Principle 6 reads: "When we say that "education is an atmosphere," we do not mean that a child should be isolated in what may be called a 'child-environment' especially adapted and prepared, but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the child's level."
A child-environment is a false environment, one that doesn't exist once you get past a certain age. I remember the brightly colored Kindergarten that I went to (half-day, I'm that old) and by second grade, it was a different story. I also see child-environments as ones that select which ideas a child should be obtaining - regurgitated ideas, essentially. While children need to learn life skills and basic arithmetic, staging environments for them isn't the way to do it.

Charlotte is pointing us to where it all begins: the home. We aren't to make mini-preschools in our homes, but rather to create an environment where the child is fed great ideas and is respected as a person. Additionally, she mentions that bringing the world down to the child level will kill any enthusiasm for the idea. We should be aiming to create a home atmosphere where a child is brought up to the ideas vs the ideas being dumbed down to them.

What's the difference between a child-environment and reasonable accommodations? My ASD kiddo needs accommodations, my petite girls need them, even the baby needs them. I see accommodations as something that you supply for a person in order to help them function in the world. My ASD kiddo just received a bunch of sensory items in the mail, when we use them my kiddo can then be focused. It's not making a child-environment, but rather giving them a tool to use to help them in the world. My petite girls all need stools to reach various things; without those stools they are deprived of their dignity in some areas (bathroom) and have a hard time functioning in the world (we see this in public bathrooms, actually).

I like to think the atmosphere of my home is pretty rich, that we have good ideas to feed the children and that they can pick up things simply by being in the house. One doesn't need gobs of money to do this, either:
  • Spotify or Pandora play great music for free (although sometimes ads are not kid-friendly, especially on Spotify around St. Valentine's Day, yikes)
  • There is plenty of art online to look at, as well as books of great artists at the library, thrift store, etc
  • Nature tables of rocks, empty wasps' nests, sticks with buds in vases, and so on provide an up-close and personal view of nature (although make sure you don't have any hitchhikers coming inside with you or else you may get REALLY up-close and personal with nature ;-) )
  • Nature walks provide some greenery when you don't have any. Our yard still has no grass. The kids love to romp in the dirt - digging holes, looking under rocks, and so on - but the mountain in our backyard provides trees, shrubs, flowers, grass, scat, prints of animals and people, and more. 
  • Well-stocked bookshelves of living books - kids can take up and read as they see fit. We also hit up the library for subjects we lack (sharks, at the moment). Most of my books come from thrift stores both online and offline.
  • A prayer corner provides everyone with a quiet place to go to spend time with God. The art and statues in the corner remind us at a glance what our ultimate goal is.
  • Any kind of life skills, such as helping with cooking, cleaning, hand-work (Moose right now is helping his Grandpa with a woodworking project). 
There's always some things that I feel like we could improve on, such as less Netflix; but we're headed in the right direction. Many times one of the kids come to me and say "did you know _________?" without me ever having sat down and formally "taught" them. Yesterday the kids made a plethora of connections with Euclid and Archimedes based on other books they've read, documentaries they've seen, and conversations that they've heard Greg and I have. There's no way I could teach them the connections, they make them on their own. Not to mention I make connections as well - Greg, bless his heart is always happy as I fill the gaps of my own education (especially in history) and patiently listens to me go on and on about the Persians or whatever. (He has a history degree so he can appreciate my enthusiasm!)

With our homes providing a great educational atmosphere, we know our kids are getting good ideas simply by living, Moose is a great narrator for his age, despite me never really teaching him how to narrate like I did Peanut. Simply by being in the house and within earshot of Peanut doing her narrations, he picked up what I was looking for and most days can deliver great narrations. I've given him some suggestions (such as, "tell me in your own words what you remember" lest he tell me verbatim everything I just read), but he does understand the overall goal.

So there's my musings on atmosphere and how it relates to education. I'm a work-in-progress, as is the house and everything else; but I like to think I have a good foundation started that we can build on in the future.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Good-bye, term 2!

We wrapped up our second term today! And really, it didn't feel like 12 weeks worth of work, it was all quite pleasant, actually. We'll be moving on to third term on Monday, and Peanut has that awesome problem of finishing up third grade in terms of required hours before we finish up the bookwork. :)

Here's a quick update on where we are all at:

Peanut - getting into the thick of division and is having zero problems. We're still using Math Mammoth but I'm considering switching her over to Singapore for fourth grade for some challenge. Reading is great - she reads books that are at a 6th-8th grade level in terms of complexity (such as the Chronicles of Narnia, Black Beauty, etc). Her favorite subject this term was Shakespeare.

Moose - took to AmblesideOnline quite nicely. His reading has taken off - he went from Progressive Phonics (short vowel books) to Bob books in no time, and is now reading at a second grade level. His handwriting is improving, thanks to his diligent work and his phenomenal OT. He can write in print and cursive now, and is much less resistant to things like drawing. His favorite subject this term was Shakespeare and learning to read. He could care less with Math, but I think we have figured out how to do Math in a way that doesn't result in hysterics.

Wok - she can now write her first name (as long as I tell her the letters), draws all sorts of things and has a very wiiiiide art streak. Her coloring is much more complicated and intricate, and she has a great eye for detail. Her favorite subject this term was "preschool." ;-)

Little Miss Sunshine - impressed us all by potty-training (day and night) in about 2 weeks flat. Only one in diapers again, whoo-hooo! She often tags along with Wok at "preschool" and currently likes to draw circles.

Nugget - his big success was learning to sit. He's about 20 pounds and has fat rolls for miles; so it's hard to keep that much weight upright. :P He also has 4 teeth, likes to stand with help, and rolls all over the house.

Me - I've been reading about Social Stories for my ASD kiddo, helping other mamas who want to homeschool their kids who are also on the spectrum, reading through Charlotte Mason's Home Education, and making sure the home fires are burning.

I plan on getting everything ready this weekend for term 3, which we will begin on Monday. I like to take time off between the terms, but I think we will push and take off around Holy Week and Easter. We may take a couple days off this coming week, but not a full week. Then we can get a little bit of downtime over the summer and start all over again in the fall!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Nineveh 90: Weeks 3-5 Update

Every time I attempt to do this update, Life Happens. So, here's about three weeks' worth of thoughts and reflections on Nineveh 90.

It's definitely incredibly hard. I suppose that self-denial isn't supposed to feel like a gentle massage but I was terribly underprepared for just how intense it was going to be. I don't think that I'm a Nineveh 90 Flunkie, because I've learned some incredibly important things the last couple of weeks with regards to my spirituality.

First, I've had to pare back more the sacrifices because Our Lord has definitely sent His own ideas for them. The biggest being that my father, who cares for my mother; became quite under the weather and needed some serious assistance so he could rest. We left on a whim (thank God for homeschooling, as we could just grab our supplies and leave) and stayed for four days to do things like laundry, cooking, cleaning, shopping, caring for my mom, and the like. I'm thrilled to say that my Dad is on the upswing and was ready to resume his regular role.

Second, one of the biggest things that happened was while I was going through these rather intense acts of self-denial, I basically made my penances everyone's penances. Essentially, I became extremely crabby. I basically had to make a decision - either keep on keeping on and continue to be crabby or to stop, re-evaluate and resume with what I can do right now (clearly I was too optimistic when I modified it originally).

I'll let you guess what I opted for.

It's incredibly humbling to realize just how weak I am at this point in time; but I'm understanding that it's through no fault of my own (well, not entirely). I still have an infant under one who is depending on me for nourishment. I have a flock of young children who definitely need an even-keeled mom in the house, not one who is crabby, sleep-deprived more than normal, and just wrung straight out (see point the first, above).

And as would be anticipated, the Peace that surpasses understanding has arrived and the Holy Spirit has been moving in significant ways.

My even more modified program has dropped most of the sleep and food fasting. I still keep the radio off and I struggle to stay off the Internet (which, hey hey, started as a way to escape some stuff that FINALLY, praise the Lord, has been resolved), and work on developing the prayer-side of Nineveh 90 (Angelus, Rosary, 20 minutes of mental prayer).

In the true fashion of Holy Father St. Benedict, "always we begin again". Even if we have to start over every single day, as long as we start over in our search for the Lord, we will always get where we are wanting to go.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

My two pieces of homeschooling advice

If there is one piece of advice that I wish I had heeded, and that I could offer anyone who is just starting out with homeschooling; it would be to trust the process. The second piece of advice would be to respect the personhood of your kids.

Peanut, who has had spelling struggles for a while now has had several massive leaps where spelling suddenly makes sense. Phonetic Zoo is helping, but even words that aren't "Zoo-words" are no longer fouling her up. The only thing I've done with her that's a "proper" spelling program is Phonetic Zoo. I explain some of the spelling rules as they come up when she's trying to write journal entries; but other than that it's all been her brain learning, growing, and adapting.

At the same time that her spelling improved seemingly out of no where, so did her handwriting. It's as if those two skills were linked and improving one improved the other. While we did work specifically on handwriting, I think a lot of her improvement has come from old-fashioned time.

Looking back, I wouldn't have given any concerns over Peanut's lack of spelling and would have been much more laid back regarding her handwriting. I suppose this is why the eldest children are considered to be guinea pigs, more or less!

For me, it's hard to break free of the mentality that the kids have to be "somewhere" academically; when in reality what they need to do is keep moving forward. Wherever they are academically is where they are, and it's not a big thing if they are "ahead" or "behind". Obviously, Peanut wouldn't do first-grade math or Moose do 3D Calculus right now; but I think many people (myself included) get hung up on "grade-level" or "behind" or even "ahead". Especially in February, the Worst Month of the Year For About Everyone In the Northern Hemisphere. Sometimes, being behind isn't something bad but rather a signal more help is needed - like getting an OT to help Moose with writing (he can write in both print and cursive now).

Homeschooling is like chiseling a sculpture out of marble. It's hard work, it's a long-process, it's tedious and many people look at the work in progress and think, "what is that?" But before long, an arm appears, or a leg; and it makes more sense. Homeschoolers chip away every day, little by little; to form the character and minds of little people who are made in the image and likeness of God. Sometimes (a lot of times) it looks like a hot mess. But, things like spelling and handwriting improve, the kids enjoy the books that they are reading (or having read to them), and they start really loving each other and themselves. The fruits are beginning to blossom in a big way, much like the arms and legs appearing for the sculptor. Suddenly things are making sense to us and to those around us, and it's truly breath-taking to watch the development happen.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

My Lenten Resolution for 2017

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. There are a lot of posts out there about what people are going "to do" for Lent. It's the new Big Question - what are you doing for Lent? What are you giving up for Lent?

I've thought long and hard about this - well, at least since the beginning of February. Originally I had expected that my Nineveh 90 obligations would more than suffice. Over the last month, I've been evaluating my behavior, the kids' behavior, how the house is running, what's working, what isn't. I've decided that while the Nineveh 90 obligations are definitely a great thing to do and continue through Lent; my personal "giving up" for Lent is more of an "adding on".

For Lent, I'm keeping it simple for me - all I will do this Lent is the next thing. It may look simple but much like St. Therese's Little Way, it's easy to remember but not exactly easy to execute.

Crying baby in the middle of the night? Do the next thing - feed him without sighs, whining, or hopes he'll fall back asleep (he won't).

ASD Kiddo having massive meltdown about something only God knows? Do the next thing - engage all meltdown techniques and stay calm.

Want to futz around on the Internet but the laundry needs to be done? Do the next thing - finish up the library, then futz - or even better, read something spiritual. Pray a Rosary.

So, it seems simple but I'm expecting it to be freakishly hard, in that it will require a lot of dying to self and sacrificing what I want for what I need to do. Lent should be ... interesting.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Nineveh 90: Week 2 Update

Today ends Week 2 of the Nineveh 90 challenge. The last week has been ... rocky, to say the least. Week 1 was pretty easy, to be honest; but this past week I've definitely felt the spiritual pressure. So much that can't be talked about online, and even barely able to be discussed in person. It's a very dry time right now.

1. Let go of repetitive sin
I'm focusing on the absent-minded computer time, which was off to a good start at the beginning of the week, but miserably failed at the end of the week. 

2. Wear the Brown Scapular, attend daily Mass if possible, go to Confession monthly
Check, check for Sunday Mass, and I'm intending on going to Confession at the Catholic Women's Conference in a couple weeks (or earlier if I need it, of course!).

3. Daily prayer: Morning Offering, Angelus, Rosary, Holy Hour or 20 minutes (not neccessarily before the Blessed Sacrament), bedtime prayers
Failed miserably. Prayer is incredibly hard to do, it all feels so pointless and empty. 

4. Regular and intense exercise, seven hours of sleep, no alcohol, no dessert, no sweets, no pop or sweetened drinks, no TV or movies, only music that is uplifting, no televised sports, limit recreational computer time
I've also fallen off the wagon regarding some parts - like exercise, alcohol, and pop. And limiting recreational computer time. I have managed to stay away from the Top 40 and it's easy to give up televised sports when you never watched them in the first place. ;)

Week 3 begins tomorrow, and of course Lent begins on Wednesday. I'm really not exactly looking forward to Lent, because Lent will most likely end up being Lentier than usual.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for me.