Graduation Day!

We did it! We graduated our first born son from high school this weekend. The process was an intense emotional roller coaster, but the event went smoothly, and family, as well as the graduate, enjoyed their time together in celebration.

Family w Grad

We participated in the WHO (Washington Homeschool Organization) Commencement Ceremony. The ceremony was intimate and well organized. Each parent wrote an 80 word statement about his graduating student, which was read by two preselected, honored readers. While this statement was being read, the parent handed his or her graduate the high school diploma and the graduate handed his or her parent a rose in return. Some of the graduates greeted their parents with the traditional smile and hug, while others, my son included, decided to be a bit more comedic in their approach. My son, donning his bow tie, scanned me with his sonic screwdriver before determining that it was safe to take his diploma. The Dr Who fans in the audience got a kick out of that, but I was left not quite knowing how to react, since I can’t get through even one episode of the series. It’s just not my sort of thing.

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This is the 80 word statement we wrote for our graduate:

Our son is the first home-schooled high school graduate from our family. He has persevered through everything from research reporting to classical piano training. He is dedicated to his church worship band and helping people in need. In his leisure time, he can be found composing music in his studio. He is a visionary in every aspect of his life from music to science. Son, we are proud of all you have accomplished. Seek the Lord in your journey to come.

After the ceremony, the family gathered together at our church to celebrate the graduation of four high school students, including our son. It was a fabulous party, for everyone. Church members provided a delicious spread of food. We made a slide show with pictures of the graduates looping through to my son’s composition pieces. Each student had a display board representing their achievements and they even announced their goals for the future to the crowd gathered before them.

Church GradKids eating

Putting together the display board and the slide show, was a very emotional experience. I found myself crying and laughing, both with tears, at the various pictures of different life events throughout the last 18 years. I was delightfully surprised however to find that the portfolios my son had put together at the end of each year made the job of displaying his achievements much easier. Family and friends were able to peruse these well organized and content rich portfolios going back to 7th grade. I even put out some elementary work we had saved, including a letter he wrote to President Bush about the “invisible children” in Uganda.

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The process of preparing for my son’s graduation also boosted my confidence and made me proud to be his parent and teacher. If you have been following my blog, you know that my oldest struggles with dyslexia and auditory processing disorder. Sometimes when talking with my son, I feel like he hasn’t learned a thing, and that all of the work we had done was a waste of time. Sometimes I even wonder what we did. Did we even do anything? But we did! And we did a whole lot. He has read over 100 books, since 7th grade, and written countless essays and research papers. He won the presentation award and advanced to state level with his team in the First Lego League competition. He participated for 2 years in Search and Rescue, and not to mention the 7 years of Piano Guild evaluations, winning International to National awards and receiving superior scores. The kid has a dream transcript, with well rounded activities and a 3.6 GPA, but he can’t take a test to save his life. That is when all the flipping happens. He understands the concept, but getting the correct answer is a challenge.  I pray that in his maturity, he will remember to use all of the test taking strategies he has learned. He can’t get by without them.

 

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So what’s next?

The first step for my composer will be to spend time in LA this summer networking with people in the movie industry to see if any doors will open for him to compose music for movies or video games. And yes, we have connections to Hollywood movie and tv producers, so he will be able to make these connections easier than the average person.

If this doesn’t pan out, he will come home and attend a community college while working and learning how to program with his father. He will continue to compose music and network with potential employers until his dream career opens up. Thankfully, he is picking up programming languages quickly, so if need be, this will be the medium he uses to make money until he lands his dream job.

So what did I learn in the 10 years homeschooling my first born son?
Probably the biggest lesson that I learned in these last ten years is not to project myself onto my kids. My son and I butt heads most of the way through elementary and middle school, because I expected him to be like me, to learn like me, and to think like me. I taught him according to how I learn best. But he is not me! In fact, he isn’t anything like me at all. It wasn’t until he reached high school and I started to see the same struggles magnified in my second born, that I started to let go of my expectations and really look at him for who he is. He is a visionary. He wants to create and solve problems, musically and scientifically. If I could go back, I would have done more science and interest led schooling. Because of his auditory issues he didn’t learn much when I was reading to him. Instead, he learned best when he was able to build, experiment, create and design.

Now, I intentionally consider each child separately. What are their interests? How do they learn? Even my identical twins are different learners. If I need to teach one concept using 4 different methods, I will do so.  One may need explicit instruction, while the other just picks it up logically, with little instruction. One may be more art orientated and the others may learn best through classic literature or text books. Regardless, all of their needs will be met, because of the flexibility homeschooling allows. What a gift! I have been blessed to be able to homeschool my first born son from second grade to graduation. We both learned a lot through the process, but I am also convinced that his education would not have been as rich, nor would he have been as successful had he attended public school. I constantly thank God for putting it in my heart to homeschool, and I thank all of the pioneer homeschooling moms who have made it so much easier for us now to do what is best for our children.

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The Week Before Spring Break

The week before Spring Break had a frustrating start, but ended in accomplishments in growth.

On Monday, I spent about 15 minutes teaching one of the twins how to make circles, again! He seemed to have lost all orientation with the top, middle and bottom lines, but only while making a circle. He consistently writes his capital J in the lines, so I know he understands the concept. We also had to spend a considerable amount of time finding 2’oclock when orientated at the top line, although he understands how to find 2’oclock when he writes his o and a from the midline. This twin’s brain was turned off!

Twins practice cursive
To top that off,  my daughter rushed to play through her piano piece and played the entire thing incorrectly. I think she was hoping that I wasn’t listening. Well I was, so I very patiently, with a smile, went to sit beside her in order to help her play it correctly. The minute I sat beside her, she began to cry! If you have been reading my posts, you know the battles that we have had with the dreaded piano lessons. The piece is only 2 lines long!

But the Monday woes were not over. Both my 7 and 10 year old decided to use their checklists as a race agenda. Each child spent about 5 minutes on each checklist item. At one point, my drummer boy took out a book, looked at it, and then marked his reading log off as done. Really! Both practiced their typing for about 2 minutes and my drummer boy played his guitar for 5.

On Tuesday, the twins decided to switch roles in their cursive practice. The one who struggled Monday, did much better with sticking between the lines, but the other had a melt down, because he couldn’t do things his way. When he needed my assistance, he didn’t want it. Then when he messed up, he got upset. I insisted on aiding him, but he resisted. I do, however, always win!

I added times to the checklists and the kids had fun setting their timers. Their work was of a much better quality and there was no melt down at the piano!

Activity M T W F
ELI
Typing 15 Min
Drums 2 songs
Guitar 30 min
Reading Log 20 min
Drawing

On Wednesday, the twins did the ol’ switch-a-roo again! Both did much better at writing in the lines, but this time it was the others turn to attempt to control the situation through whining. The outcome was the same, however. Mom won!

Sample cursive Caleb sample

 

 

 

Thursday and Friday were pretty low key. I did end up correcting the twins grip. One of them actually writes better with the incorrect grip, so I am reluctant to correct much further. I will, however, gently guide him towards it as he continues to practice. The other twin corrected his grip quickly and easily. And these twins are identical?

incorrect grip incorect grip 2 Cursive J Correct grip Caleb incorrect grip

 

 

 

 

 

 

As for other curriculum news:

Easy Grammar

We started Easy Grammar, Grade 3, a few weeks ago, and we are truly loving it. My daughter and my drummer boy have both memorized the list of prepositions and find the lessons to be quick and painless. I was worried that my drummer boy would struggle through grammar, because of his language processing issues, but he is progressing very well and I am seeing connections forming.

We did have one issue with the order of adjectives to nouns, that told me a lot about how my drummer boy processes and retrieves information.
In the lesson, he had to unscramble the prepositional phrase. The scrambled words read, “old inside an shed.” He unscrambled them to read, “inside an shed old.” I had him read his phrase out loud and then asked him if it sounded correct. He said that it did. Then I read his sentence back to him the way he had written it, and asked him again if it sounded correct. He held to the affirmative. Next I asked him if “the boy young” sounded correct. He thought it did, but when I asked him which sounded better, “the boy young” or “the young boy,” the light went on, and he said that the young boy sounded much better. So then I asked him again if the shed old still sounded correct. He did not connect the two phrases, so I asked him to choose which phrase sounded better, “an shed old” or “an old shed.” At that ah ha moment, he took off, and with only a little more help, completed the lesson correctly and quickly.

ELI

My oldest and my drummer boy have been participating in educational therapy through the Essential Learning Institute for about a year now. I haven’t seen much improvement in my drummer boy’s ability to recall word meanings after an exercise, so I called the therapist for advice.
The therapist decided to move him back several lessons until his word meaning recall becomes more automatic. I had to encourage my drummer boy to persevere through his exercises this week. I explained to him that this will make the brain stronger so that he can learn easier, just like physical exercise makes the body stronger, so that every day life is easier. I believe I was encouraging myself as well, because I am just as sick with this therapy program as he is. The program was only supposed to be 9 months and he would be “fixed.” Honestly, that should have been a red flag right there, but I was suckered in anyway. It is not all for waste though, we have seen tremendous improvement in his language processing capabilities, but is that because of the therapy, or the GAPS diet, or the art classes? How is one to tell? My oldest says that it has helped his concentration, so that is good. Still wondering when it will end though!

Bible/Character Study

We have been studying 1 Samuel and this week we studied the story of Abigail and her foolish husband Nabal. I was amazed that Abigail actually took the blame for her foolish husband’s actions toward David which nearly got them all killed. This was the characteristic trait that I wanted to teach my children. I have been pointing out situations in which they place the blame on another, and ask them to rethink it “Abigail style.” For example, when a younger sibling is playing with legos and leaves the room without cleaning up, and an older sibling is in the room, not playing with the legos, but sees that the younger sibling has left the room without cleaning up, that older sibling should remind the younger sibling of our clean up rule and then help him clean up. Therefore, when I tell everyone to clean up the room, and I hear, “But I did not make the mess!” I can redirect their thinking Abagail style. It is a humbling experience to take the blame for someone else, but Jesus took the blame for us too.

Amanda Bennett Unit Studies

This week we also started our first Amanda Bennett,  Twisting Tornado, unit study. It should only take 4 days, but will probably take us 8. My drummer boy is easily distracted this week, probably due to the Zyrtec, but it is either that or allergies, not sure which is worse, so the study is taking longer than it might when he is better focused.

Encyclopedia

This is our first unit study and we have only completed the first day, but I already love it. I especially love how she incorporates scripture. This gets us out of the box of grammar, spelling, and math as separate subjects and connects it all together. It allows the kids to express themselves and critically think about a subject. This study even had the kids use a dictionary. Oops! I may have forgotten to teach that skill. I look every unknown word up on Google. I guess they should learn how to do both, just in case they don’t have a computer, Iphone, or Ipad near by, which is almost never for my kids. I actually had to dust the dictionaries off!

We chose to study tornadoes because the book club we had joined chose weather as the first month’s theme. Not to mention that ever since we had read “The Wizard of Oz,” the kids have been obsessed with tornadoes. More updates to come on this engaging activity.

That’s the skinny on the week before spring break as we anxiously await the arrival of our beloved family.

Learning the Hard Way

My first and second born are 7 years apart, so I have learned a lot in regards to homeschooling at the expense of the first. Unfortunately, he was sort of the guinea pig. Gratefully he didn’t fair too bad and the 7 years worth of one on one time made up for what I might have done wrong. I am not saying that I am now a perfect parent, but I have learned a few things from the journey of homeschooling my now graduating senior.

My oldest son is 2E. He has always read well above his grade level, is an excellent problem solver, and understands high-level math concepts. He was a difficult child to teach however. We butt heads often and I always felt he just resisted my teaching and me. At the age that he should have been able to do more independent work, he seemed to get slower and lazier. It seemed as if he wasn’t retaining anything. After all the incredible literature we had read and analyzed together, all of the countless hours I had read to him, and all of the spelling and phonics lessons we had done, how could it be that he was still an atrocious speller, takes hours to complete an assignment that should only take 20 minutes and constantly makes what I considered to be careless mistakes? I was certain that he was just lazy and disobedient.

By this time, my second born was about 3 years old and I saw in him a lot of the same developmental characteristic my first born had. Neither of them spoke very coherently until they were about 4, but my second born was much more delayed than my first.  My second born is a musical prodigy, but this gift could not cover his language disabilities, whereas the gifts of my first-born were able to mask some of those same language challenges that my second had. Because of the language delays in my second born, I started to research learning disabilities. Through my research, I discovered stealth dyslexia, auditory and language processing disorders, and the twice-exceptional child. I was humbled and convinced that my oldest had all of these. I was determined not to overlook these issues with my second, but this is a subject for a future blog.

I had assumed that my firstborn’s resistance to school work was because of laziness. Now I understand that he just didn’t get it. The words and information get jumbled up in his head. Information retrieval is not an inherent skill of his. It doesn’t matter how much I read to him, or how often we analyze literature, the information in his head just does not get processed correctly. In the last 5 years, however, things are finally clicking and I think it is because I am seeing “him” and God’s design for him. He is a visionary and science orientated and I wish I had seen that in the beginning. I had on blinders, and could only see my vision for my child, but my vision was not God’s.

Now with my little ones, I look for those things that they delight in, and that drive them and I let them run with it. I don’t get hung up on what lesson they are on, or how much they have read. If my daughter wants to spend the whole day sewing and designing clothes, I let her. If my musical prodigy wants to spend the whole day drumming and playing his guitar, I let him. Fact is that in order to get good at the things they delight in, they have to know how to read, and they have to have basic math skills, so that is how I hook them in.

My second born has to work 5 times as hard as my younger 3 to be able to read and comprehend as well, so I have to ask myself how much of that is necessary in the big picture. Honestly, I believe he was created to be a rock star for God’s glory, so how much reading and math is really necessary? I will teach him the basics and if he wants to know more I will teach it. This was never my attitude with my oldest. It was always that he had to be at this level in reading and math or else I was a failure. Now days, if my children show frustration, resistance, or even tears, I change it and find something that they like. If they aren’t getting it, I stop and bring it back later, sometimes even a year later. I don’t care what level they are at, but only that they know more than they did last year. I focus on the things they can do well. We move as slow or as fast as we want. They play a lot. They create a lot. My younger children know who they are, because I have let them discover the things that they are good at and delight in.

There are many things I wish I could go back in time and do over with my firstborn, but that thinking is futile, so I have picked up the pieces. I have put together those pieces that fit into his personality and have thrown out those pieces that don’t. He has been allowed to pursue the activities that drive him and because of this, he has grown into an excellent example of a God fearing young man who takes great care of his younger siblings and has the utmost respect for his parents. He loves to be with his family and even willingly takes his younger siblings to the movies and on outings with his other teenage friends.  He is a musical composer and mad scientist at heart and I am a thrilled to see where he will go with that. He no longer has that lazy attitude. He willingly tries even those things that are hard, probably because I don’t badger him for taking too long. I keep those assignments that I know will be difficult, short and simple. I am happy if he obtains a basic knowledge of the subject and more times than not, he is now pushing himself to get it right and even to find out more. School time is more enjoyable for everyone, and all of my kids and I have a better understanding of God’s purpose for each one of us. This is homeschooling for the glory of God.