Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Update on "Mimi" our foster baby

BTW, Mimi is not her real name, it's just a nickname we have for her.

It's funny to call her our "foster baby" because in many ways she is like our own. At the same time, it's always on our mind that she isn't ours, so we have to keep ourselves mindful and at the same time allow ourselves to get attached to her.

She is 5 months now, and she is just a happy little lady! She is pretty attached to us too--if we leave her alone in a room, say in her exersaucer, she will start crying, then smile when we come back! She is a little social bug too, always laughing, smiling, cooing and in general being super cute!

Physically the experts say she is on target for her age (had her evaluated by early intervention), but personally, I disagree. She isn't rolling at all or even trying to, or trying to sit. She isn't grabbing things or holding toys. She can't support her body on her arms and still face-plants during tummy time. I'm not too concerned, but it's something we are keeping our eye on.
Her reflux is under control at the moment, and thus she has mastered the art of sleeping on a flat surface, finally! Just this week she started breaking out of her swaddle so we are now laying her down without a blanket too! Big girl! No solids yet, though we tried a couple times and she did fine, she also did fine without, so I figure, why bother if she doesn't really need it?

She is a big girl! I think she is probably about 20 pounds! Amazing since when we got her she was only 4 pounds 9 ounces. She drinks four 8 ounce bottles a day. And she sucks them down, boy! We've already had to switch to a convertible car seat since she was way to heavy to tote around in the bucket seat.

As for her permanency plan, we don't know yet. We have another court date coming, that may reveal more, but I honestly highly doubt it'll be very productive. We'll have to wait and see!

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Monday, January 9, 2012

Live and learn

A while back I typed up my curriculum post for our new school year. I've always been pretty eclectic and have avoided "boxed" curriculums, like Abeka, Bob Jones, Sonlight, etc. And so every year I try to piece together the "perfect" curriculum package for my kids, based on my wants and their needs. After I typed up my post though, I read over it and I kept thinking how I wished we had something that was more cohesive, that wove the subjects together in a creative and fun way, and was less "choppy", for lack of a better word. The kids are doing fine with their current curriculum, and academically, they are progressing at amazing rates. In fact, I just got Little Bean's testing scores back and he did awesome!

BUT...we get lots of complaints about school around here. I hate that! It's so discouraging to work so hard on something have your work be under-appreciated and even sometimes just plain hated. :( So, since none of my choices were finalized yet (read: I had purchased nothing), I began searching for a curriculum that was both fun and more unit study in style to bring that elusive cohesiveness to our days.

What I landed on was My Father's World. I would consider My Father's World to be a boxed curriculum, as well as an overtly Christian curriculum. We have always incorporated Bible into our day, but with MFW, it's different--Bible is the base from which all the other subjects flow. So it's definitely something that we have never done before in any way.

MFW has packages for K through 12th grade, and built into the program is the ability to teach multiple grade levels from the same texts. They have a K program, a 1st grade program, a transitional program for 2nd and 3rd graders and then they begin a 5 year cycle through history before introducing fully independent work in high school. Being the busy person I am (and knowing I'll get even busier next semester with a new baby coming), I like the sound of putting both kids in the same program.

I chose Adventures, the transition program for 2nd and 3rd graders, though Miss O would only be in 1st because Little Bean will be in 3rd. I put in my order. I ordered my supplementary materials (MFW does not include Language Arts or Math). And then I started thinking more about what would happen if we continued using MFW for several more years. Miss O would, in essence be skipping 1st grade, and I'd be modifying Adventures for her as a almost 6 year old. Then she would head into the history cycle as a 7 year old! In my opinion, that's too young! Even Little Bean would be on the young side for the history cycle since he started K at age 4, and progressed quickly through lower elementary. I knew if the information was over their heads and I had to do a lot of modifying, this curriculum would not work for us. Who wants to hear me summarizing book and after book every day? I'd rather do something more suited to both their levels. The other option was to put Miss O in 1st and Little Bean in Adventures. Then Miss O would skip Adventures entirely and move on to the history cycle next year with Little Bean. But that really only solved my problem for this year. Both kids would be in the right programs for their levels this year. But I'd run into the same issue next year with Miss O being too young. Plus, I'd have to do two programs at once, and I didn't relish that idea!

SO...I've decided to back pedal (and isn't that the beauty of homeschooling? I can back-pedal when I want to, and speed up when I want to, according to the needs of our family!). I want to take this coming school year and make it a time of coming together as a family, learning to love learning, and enjoying school time together. I don't know if that's impossible given the dynamics of our family relationships or not. But I'm going to give it a try. And the way I'm going to attempt that is to keep Miss O in MFW 1st (on grade level), and take Little Bean back and have him to do 1st along with her. I cringe at the thought in some ways, and those that know him, know he is way beyond 1st grade work. But I know this will be good for him emotionally to be able to sit back and enjoy learning without having to think so much!

That being said, the math and Language Arts in first will likely be too easy for either of them. So we are sticking with Right Start for both of them and will continue with our current spelling and Language Arts programs alongside MFW. So from MFW 1st, the both of them would be doing art, music appreciation, science and history/Bible. We will hold off on Latin until we start the history cycle in 2 years.

So to lay it out for you:

Miss O will do MFW 1st, which includes Bible/history, science, art and music, and will review the phonics rules therein. On the side she will do Learning Language Arts Through Literature, Winning With Writing and All About Spelling (as needed). She will continue practicing handwriting, whether in HWT or in MFW, we'll have to wait and see what is needed. I'm hoping she will not need to continue with the Little Books, but she will if needed. We will also continue our current Bible program next year, as that is one thing the kids love doing!

Little Bean will be "held back" in MFW 1st with Miss O, and will do the Bible/history, science, art and music portions with her, with the expectation that he can do more copywork and writing and create higher quality pieces than she due to his ability level. He will do his own Language Arts, continue with cursive, and his own math at grade level. Yes, MFW 1st will be slow for him. But, I think he will love some of the aspects of the program, that really, are great for any age.

MFW is a unit study approach with a focus on "real" books (as opposed to text books). So we'll be doing lots of hands-on experiments, read alouds and craft and art projects throughout the year. Also, in the 1st grade program, each student illustrates and creates their own Bible notebook and does memory work. The days are purposely short, following the Charlotte Mason philosophy of letting little children be little children. I like (and need) that since I will not have much time for school with two babies under 1 in the house.

So I'm hoping this is the change we need to begin enjoying learning together and making the shift from a more eclectic approach to a more integrated approach to learning.

How about you? Any changes in the new year coming your way?

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Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year, New Curriculum

A few weeks back I was lamenting the fact that I just didn't have enough time to school the kiddos. After that post, I took stock of just how far we really are in this year's curriculum, and I realized, if we stay on track, we should finish up K and 2nd before Easter! I know, I still can't believe it myself. Course, this has led me on a hunt for what we will be doing next year. And now living in a state where homeschooling is much more popular, I can just swing by our local Mardel and actually get my hands on the curriculum I'm looking at for next year!

Much of it is staying the same, but there are some changes. Plus, this list isn't final...it's just what I've been interested in lately as I started doing research about what to use.

Miss O, 1st grade (can you believe it?! She will be 6 this summer though.):

Math: We are finishing up Math U See Primer, and neither of us love it. She really didn't like Right Start much either, but I'm thinking of putting her back in Right Start A (technically a Kindergarten level) for 1st grade. She has been asking to do it, but I'd like to finish up Primer first.

Link
Language Arts: This year I want to go with something a little more cohesive, that brings all the elements of Language Arts together into one curriculum. I'm looking at Learning Language Arts through Literature, and for Miss O, I'd use The Red Book, which is geared toward 2nd grade. Miss O is reading really well, and since this is a literature-based approach, I felt better putting her in the grade level she is reading at rather than the grade level she is "officially" in. This will be our core curriculum, but I'm supplementing with the following:

Little Bean, Grade 3:

Supplimenting With:

Together:

The kids will do several of the subjects together:

History: Story of the World Volume 2. We will continue using the activity guides and tests, as well as adding in a timeline of events. I would like to add in some notebooking later in the year, especially for Miss O, who thus far has not picked up much history.

Geography: I'd really like to incorporate some geography into our studies this year. I don't know if I will do a separate curriculum or something independent for them to complete or work it in naturally (not my strong suit).

Science: Science didn't happen as often as I'd like this year, so I'm taking the plunge and getting Real Science Odyssey. I haven't decided whether I'd like Earth and Space or Life yet. I'm thinking Life since the weather will be right to do outdoor experiments (like finding actual living plants and animals!). I plan to purchase the corresponding materials kits because knowing me, science won't happen if I have to go searching around the house for materials each time.

Latin: Sigh. I'm undecided. The kids love using Song School Latin, and I am thoroughly impressed with it. But Primer A, the next level, is significantly more expensive and I don't know if I can justify the cost. If I do, I'll repeat Song School with Miss O, using the activities in the back of the teacher's guide instead of purchasing a new workbook and start Little Bean on Primer A.

Bible: We are loving Kid's Quest Catechism Club, and have enough to keep us going at least partway through next year. After that, we will go to the upper elementary level, and learn the reformed catechism in its' entirety.

Art: I don't plan to purchase another curriculum because we have plenty to do in Artistic Pursuits Book 1 still. I do want to get an art calendar so we can start learning about the different styles of art and artists of the past.

So that's my plan! When we move, I'd like to get back to the workbox system too. All that being said, I'm due in April, so we will probably have "summer" break then and start up the new school year when things have gotten less hectic, probably in the beginning of the real summer!

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