Apr 182017

This is a post from a few years back.  As I reread this post, I was reminded to keep using what works, and adjust what does not.  We still move while learning, especially math facts and spelling words, but I need to find other methods to use for abstract concepts and general remembering. 

Last summer I went to a 3-day Parent Practicum held by a local Classical Conversations group.  My reasons for going were two fold:

  1. I was curious about CC.
  2. The kids got 3 days of a summer activity that was educational and fun.

I am so glad I attended.  Here was a group of parents who were pushing their kids beyond the standard I saw most of those around me doing.  What they were doing is what I had been trying to do at home with our kids without any guide to follow.  They were taking an active role in what their kids were learning and asking them to do things I would never have considered possible.  I left that practicum with a renewed sense of what I wanted our kids to do.

Then George started Kindergarten at the local public school.

George had been in preschool at this same school from Day 3 of living with us, and did well in preschool.  We did have some concerns about how he would do in Kindergarten, so set up extra help before he even started.  He was able to spend time each day in a much smaller class with a teacher who knew him.   He was able to get extra review of what he just learned.  Due to his learning disability, review is a must.  Though George might learn something one day, there is no guarantee that he will remember it in an hour, or tomorrow, or on Friday.  He might know something three times, then forget it the next five.  Eventually he gets it, it just takes a bit longer and a lot more review.  

The biggest difference between preschool and Kindergarten was the focus.  Instead of a small class setting where everyone had individual goals, they were setting the challenges for a class of over 25 kids.

school supplies 2013

I really struggled for the first few months.  The homework they sent home was too much for him to do every night.  Every night ended in tears and frustration on both our parts. Aren’t parents and kids were supposed to finish Kindergarten still liking each other? Life became better.  We learned through what we happened to be doing at that moment, something we as a family do naturally.  At one point I gave up. We did not do any homework.  None at all.

After a few months, I began to think of alternative ways to do the homework and help George learn at home. After all, what example was I setting to say that he did not have to do his homework?  What would happen when he got older and actually had to complete assignments?

I began to think back to the CC Parent Practicum and how the kids there seemed able to do so much.  In my searching online for ideas, I also kept coming across blogs of families who homeschooled their kids using Classical Conversations.  How were they able to learn so many things every year?  Not only that, how were they able to retain it and recite it back?

Reward chart for learning New Testament Bible books 2

Hand motions, songs, and movement is what I noticed accompanied all of the recitation given by the kids.  These things also showed up in the suggestions for how to teach the lessons.  It was also something I remember them demonstrating to the parents last summer.  And come to think of it, this was the exact method I used to teach George and Jack the names of the 12 Disciples and the books of the New Testament.

Okay, I may be a bit slow, after all it took me over 6 months to get to this point, but I got there.  Not sure why I didn’t make the connection sooner.  Perhaps because I didn’t think about the method I used when I taught them the Disciples and NT books – I just did it.

George needed something beyond verbal reviewing and me drawing demonstrations of concepts. (i.e. the things that caused him to shut down, me become extremely frustrated because I knew he could do it, and we both ended up in tears.)

So where do I find what is needed for George and what he is learning in school?  The audio CDs and DVDs that go with the CC material had some of what he was learning, but there was a lot that was not related.

I began the search for CDs and songs that would match the topics the school was teaching him – I searched online, asked people, checked out teacher resources … nothing fit what I needed.  Back to the drawing board.

(I’m not sure if we just do more with our kids in this area, or maybe we just do not know the right people.  Either way, there was no one around me who does something similar with their kids so it took me a while to figure out exactly what it was I was looking for.  I actually got a lot of confused looks from parents when I asked which CDs of songs to help their kids learn some of the things from school.)

One week, George came home with a new thing he was supposed to learn.  In a moment where I was short on time and patience, I turned to the web.  That is when I found a YouTube video that explained everything.  In fewer words than I would have used.  AND it had pictures.

He got it!

The next day I began in earnest to search for videos to review what he had learned, videos to cover things he might learn, and videos to review things he already knew.  It took a while to put together a list of videos that weren’t too flashy, too loud, too long or too boring,  I was looking for catchy songs, quality videos, to the point lessons without a lot of fluff, and ones that he would also enjoy watching.

With these in hand, I was able to make a play list for George (and Jack) to listen to during breakfast … or lunch … or after school.  We can even listen to these in the car while running errands.  What took him months of saying over and over, yet not learning, he learned in two weeks.  TWO WEEKS!  Now he may still not be able to count by 2’s and still forgets what coin is what value, but he can count by 10’s to 100 down, tell you the days of the week, months of the year, and many other things.  Add this to the Starfall, Reading Eggs, and an online math programs we are doing and I think we are set at home to help him review and learn in a fun stress free way.

Now I count it as doing his homework if he can sing me the song or pick up where I leave off while singing it.  At random times through the day I may break into song (didn’t I say they were catchy?).  There are even times I catch him singing while playing or explaining something to someone.  YES!!

Some of these, like the one above, have been helpful when we are working on things like reading.  I can remind George of the rule by singing the first line of the corresponding song.  A much better method than nagging him.

Once I got the basic songs down I began to look for others that he may enjoy or that Jack would like.  Speaking of Jack, he too has learned a lot of the songs and can sing them.  He is prepped for Kindergarten when it is time for him to start.  Actally, a few of the videos are for him, as his brain works differently and has been able to grasps concepts that George still struggles with.  To help avoid bad behaviors due to being bored, I began to give him things that he would actually be doing if he were in Kindergarten already or about topics he finds interesting.

Here is my current list of songs.  As time goes on there will be more added to this.  What are some songs/videos not on this list that you have found helpful?

Jack loves saying, and I love hearing, “fundamental process”.  He even tries to give it an accent.


The Garden Song – not a fan of the “Mother Earth” sentence, but the rest is cute

Spring Songs for Children – Spring is Here with Lyrics – Kids Songs by The Learning Station


Butterfly, Butterfly! (a song for kids about the butterfly life cycle) – Harry Kindergarten Music

 The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle – reading of the book and showing of illistrations

I Like the Flowers – by Beat Boppers Children’s Music

Let’s Plant a Garden – Nursery Rhyme

plant parts – the parts of a flower, sung to the “Head and shoulders, knees and toes” song



Solar system

Solar System Lesson for Kids | Learn about Planets , Stars, Galaxy – a decsripition of the solar system, no songs

Animal (Classification) Song

4 Seasons In A year  – Harry Kindergarten Music – Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter – asks you to name the seasons as he describe them

Seasons Song: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter – video asks you to name the seasons they show



Phonics song

YouTube.com, really like

Between the Lions: “When two vowels go walking” by BTLfanatic – fun to watch youtube.com and also catchy just to listen to.

Super “e”!!!!!!! (hip children’s song by Mark D. Pencil) by harry kindergarten music

The Sentence Song With Miss Jenny / www.edutunes.com – a quick video and song, but a favorite of our preschooler

Punctuation Explained (by Punctuation!) – not flashy, but very clear and to the point

Kindergarten Sight Words

Classic Schoolhouse Rock : A Noun is a Person, Place, or Thing (1973)

 The Five W’s Song ♫♪♫



Shapes Song 2 – circle, square, triangle, rectangle, star, diamond, oval, heart, then some more advanced shapes.  May work for a review of shapes rather than a teaching of the shapes themselves.

3D Shapes I know (solid shapes song- including sphere, cylinder, cube, cone, and pyramid) – Harry Kindergarten Music

Good video to go with it – The Big Numbers Song (counting 0-100) 

Learning Numbers from 1 to 100 – Counting Song for Kids 

Counting by 5’s

Favorite – Counting by Tens – Barbara Milne

Count by tens song – also mentions money though a bit busy

Counting By Twos Song

count by 2- a sing-along for early elementary – Mr. R’s Songs for Teaching – a song that probably works best with the visual

Number Line Addition

Basic Addition

When You Add With A Pirate (addition song for kids)

Counting Song 1+1

Addition Songs for Children: Addition 1, Addition 2, Addition 3, Addition 4, Addition 5

Addition +1

Addition +2

VIDEO showing chart and explaining – 1st Flipped: Skip Counting

The Big Numbers Song for Children – Ep 6 

“Penny Your The One” Penny Counting Song (Money Math)

Coin Value Song- Pennies, Nickels, Dimes, Quarters! – Mr. R’s Songs for Teaching

The Coin Song

Money Song – fun video for once the kids know their coins and values



Days of the Week Song – 7 Days of the Week – Children’s Songs

Days of the Week Song

Months Of The Year Song

Kindergarten Time (Sun travel with words) – a visual display of the different times of day – tracks the sun across the sky from morning till night.  Has words telling the time of day but no audio.



The continent song – this has become a favorite bedtime song, as we can do it with me singing the first part and the kids doing the response.


No More King! (Schoolhouse Rock!) – Pilgrims sailing across the ocean to leave the King of England behind


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Jan 092016

Children at work cutting with scissorsWhat’s Going On Inside The Brain Of A Curious Child – Ah ha!  This is so Jack. 1,001 questions every day. I have learned to ignore some, as they are him thinking out loud, and answer others.  So many questions, it is often hard to stay on track.  He tends toward ADHD or autistic type behaviors (cumpulsion at times, trouble transitioning always), so that does not help with all the questions either.  He sure impressed our HVAC person with his knowledge (and questions) yesterday.  Perhaps there is something to curiosity and retaining knowledge.  I will have to keep that in mind when looking to teach some of the ‘boring’ subjects.

Rich Children And Poor Ones Are Raised Very Differently  – interesting read. The findings were not quite what I thought they would be.  I expected more of the “preschool is great, screen time is bad, spend time with your kids” rhetoric. Instead, they actually looked at the differences, both a young kids and as adults. Seems we all love our kids and want what is best for them, even if we try to achieve it in different ways.

We very much used to, and still at times do, parent out of fear – not that they will be shot, but that they will grow up lacking skills to learn; that they will be so far behind academically and skill wise that they will give up, that there would be no striving to gain knowledge.

From almost the first day they lived with us it was Enrichment 101 at our house, or so it felt. They were both about a year behind on many skills, this at a point where 1 year was a significant portion if their lived, so we focused on those needing the most work. We didn’t know how long they would be with us, so we made the most of the assumed limited time.

A few years later it was actually hard to realize that they had caught up in some areas, others were almost there, and the ones that were not would get there with maturity and time. Yes, consistent work still needed to be done, but we did not need to fear anymore. Now the goal is to relax some, but still provide tool to encourage learning.

This past month our home school routine has been more relaxed as I was focusing more time on the house. The result? Jack began understanding some math concepts he had been struggling with before.  It was like they needed to simmer for a time before becoming ingrained.

In public school, George finally latched on to the idea of adding. He went from not understanding at all over the summer and having nothing memorized, to now being able to subtract. There are other areas of struggle, especially where memorization is involved, but that is something with which he will always struggle. I am growing to acceptance of that reality. We still work hard to get him to fix these things in his memory, while knowing that Time has its place, too.


Dear Moms, Jesus Wants You To Chill Out – A great reminder that we do not need to be Martha (as in Mary and Martha) about everything.  It is a great reminder and encouragement, as I often ‘fail’ to achieve the do-everything-perfect-mom which I have set for myself.  I have relaxed more, both in parenting and homemaking, but have a ways to go.

Here Are 7 Sky Watching Events In 2016 You Don’t Want To Miss – late Autumn through early Spring is my preferred sky watching time. Yes, it may be cold outside, but you do not have to be up late waiting for the sun to set.  Not only does it allow me to get some sleep, it also increases the likelihood that I say “Yes” to letting the kids observe the event.


Dec 152015

I have come to love having an audio book for the kids to listen to at breakfasts, lunches, and in the car.  I try to find something they will enjoy that is also of good quality.  This may not always be achieved, and we have been known to stop listening to certain audio books after not really liking them.

While this activity can fall under schooling, I prefer it to be more simply a love of reading.  With a children who are learning or struggling with reading, audio books not only saves a Mama’s voice, but also helps bring the story alive in their minds.

All the audio books found at LibriVox are books from the public domain and are recorded by volunteers.


From Librivox: Daddy Takes Us Skating by Howard R. GARIS (1873 – 1962) Hal and Mabel’s Daddy knows everything – how a thermometer works, what makes a car go, why we get warm when we run. It’s a cold and icy evening after school and Daddy has a secret but what is it? And what is in the mysterious packages he has for the children? The “Daddy” stories were originally published as part of the ‘bedtime stories’ of the Newark News. – Summary by Lynne Thompson


From Librivox: Miss Ashton’s New Pupil by Sarah Stuart ROBBINS (1817 – 1910) – Marion Park, the daughter of missionaries, is sent to Miss Ashton’s boarding school. There she meets with many young girls and together they learn not just lessons in German, Logic, Arithmetic, Latin and Rhetoric, but also life lessons of study habits, lady like manners, self control, thoughtfulness of others, truthfulness, and many other character traits. Join these girls of Montrose Academy as they plunge into the adventures of a secret society, fall into a scrape with the boys of Atherton Academy, and plan many Holiday festivities. (Summary by Abigail Rasmussen)

Story of The World, Vol. 1 – I added the audio version of this book when I realized my voice was having trouble keeping up with all the read aloud and talking I was doing.  Thanks to Ebay, I was able to get a used copy at a reasonable price.

I like have the audio version/ the kids do not care either way.


Jun 032015


Before we ever had children in our home, I had been browsing blogs of homeschooling families.  The idea appealed to me, as I have known several different families over the course of my life who home schooled, and I was curious about what all they did on a daily basis – what did it look like?  Though my husband said we would, “Talk about it later”, in other words “We are not homeschooling” :) ,  I kept browsing.

While preparing to become foster parents, I started taking note of what they did with their preschoolers and mentally adjusting to what we could do with kids to help them while attending public schools.  Any foster children that came into our home were required to go to public school.  You could request a variance to that, but I do not think they grant many of them. Their reasons usually fall under:

  1. The kids are often behind in various areas and need extra support catching up or not falling behind
  2. Increased appropriate adult role models
  3. More eyes to make sure everything is okay with the kids
  4. It can be very emotionally and physically draining to deal with traumatized children. The more people to help, the more likely it is that the placement remains stable. (i.e. the foster parents do not request a child is moved due to it being overwhelming.)


When George (3) and Jack (2) came to live with us, that knowledge became very helpful.  See, for over 6 months, if you ever turned on the television when they were around a tantrum would ensue. It did not matter if you turned on an adult show, a children’s cartoon, or a show aimed at babies.  It was the oddest reaction I had ever seen.

They required constant attention from me during the day, then from my husband and I at night.  They did not know how to play on their own, so there was no sitting them in front of a pile of blocks while I sorted socks.  They just could not do it.  (This is why my sorted and filed paperwork ends right before they came to live with us.  It has been in an ever-growing stack since then.)

Add to all of this the fact that both boys were basically non-verbal.  Jack would point and grunt.  George could say some words, but no real sentences.  It was not exactly like you could ask if them they wanted trucks or balls.

Additionally, the habit of Obedience was not one they processed.  I am not sure if it was a result of their previous home life or a result of the upheaval their little lives had just experienced.  While one was better than the other at responding to boundaries, it still was not safe to take them out of the house unless they had on their harnesses or you held them.


This resulted in me trying all the ideas I had been gathering on my mental list of preschool activities.  The main things were: reading out loud, going outside, schedules, including them in your work around the house (this was easy as they would follow me everywhere), and hands-on activities.  What commenced was a series of trial-and-error experiments to see what worked and what did not.

The result was amazing growth in a relative short period of time.  It may have seemed to take forever, and our stress levels were pretty high, but in the long-term view it really was not all that long.

  • George began talking in 5+ word sentences within 7 months.
  • Jack learned a few signs, then a few words.  Within a year he was almost caught up verbally.
  • I worked with George on saying my (proper) name.  We took it a syllable at a time, which sounded pretty funny at times.  He never really got there till after living with us for over a year, but …
  • After being tired of Jack not calling me anything after 3 or 4 months, I sat down with him one day and tried to get him to say my name.  He got the one syllable while looking directly at me, so I earned a new nick name.  It was easier for George to say also, so my name was ‘officially’ changed.
  • Several children’s songs were learned, even if they could not sing them.  They would respond and sometimes ‘sing’ along.
  • Once they learned to talk, they could ‘fill-in-the-blank’ on words I left out of poems or songs we had learned.
  • George went from having 2 half-day preschools the first semester here, to having 1 specialized half-day preschool and more time at home.
  • Jack slowed down on his eating and rarely choked on food.
  • Jack went from biting off the corners of a newspaper, to loving books.
  • After about a year, I almost fell off my seat when one of the children said they did not like a certain food.  This was a HUGE milestone and I almost hugged the kid.
  • Now, if I go somewhere with George, I can usually trust him to stay where he is supposed to or behave as he is expected.
  • Jack has turned into a hard worker, who loves to help.
  • The children went from never having attended church, to Jack being able to sit through most of the service on my husband’s lap.  George had a harder time as he did not want to use appropriate behaviors.  He outgrew that phase, which I attribute to him ‘finding his words’ and overall calming down.  Jack, however, has since found his independence and has had to work hard at controlling it.
  • The children went from screaming in the car drive was longer than 10 minutes, to being able to tolerate car trips several hours long and traveling via airplane.

Wikki Stix 2

Things still are not perfect, nothing ever really is, so we keep working and growing.  As much as the children have changed, my husband and I have also changed as parents.  I think differently now than 4 years ago.  I look ahead for problems that may arise and try to avoid or dissipate them.

I could not have foreseen all that has happened.  Sometimes I am also amazed at what we have come to consider to be ‘normal’.  Other times I wonder when this roller coaster is going to end.  Till then I want to share some resources/links with you that have helped us.  First up, reading ….


Feb 252015


This morning I was working on homework with George in the kitchen.  We made it through his assigned reading book, his spelling words (done today while he jumped on the trampoline), and his speech practice (/th/ sounds).  Vocab was saved to review while we ate.

The teacher had marked that he should practice math, but had sent nothing specific home.  Yesterday she mentioned that he was having trouble switching between addition and subtraction.

With his other homework finished it was time to eat and his cereal was waiting for him on the counter.  Perfect. To get to his cereal, he had to take the number of steps toward the counter that I told him.

We have done this game in a variety of ways, sometimes counting forwards/backwards (face appropriate way), adding/subtracting, skip counting, etc.  Today it went like this:

Take 2 steps forward.

Take 1 step backwards.

Take 3 steps forward.

Take 2 steps backwards.

Add 4 steps.

Subtract 1 step.

Add 3 steps.

Subtract 2 steps …..

George was catching on, his steps backwards got smaller as his steps forward got larger.  :) The last instruction of “Take 1 step forward” resulted in 3 steps forward with a smile on his face. Silly Goose.


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Feb 122015

question marks on stars

Sometimes life as the parent of a kid with Apraxia feels like a game of Taboo.  Here is an example:

We were in the car driving home.  George was talking about something he was looking at, so I had just a bit of context.  However, who knows where his brain will actually go once he starts talking, which he had been doing for several minutes.

George: Mom, you know those things you eat that are round?

Me: Um, no. (Thinking to myself, “how does this have anything to do with what he is looking at?”)

George: They are brown.

Me: I’m not sure.

George: Yes you do.  They are round, sometimes with two round things.  They also can have straight lines on them.

Me: Ice cream cones?

George: No.  They have two round things together and are brown.

Me: Pretzels?

George: Yes, pretzels!  This looks like a pretzel but with beads.

… a minute later …

George: She is wearing … what is the thing that girls wear around their waist?

Me: (thinking a belt or a skirt, so I guessed the biggest one) a skirt?

George: No.  You wear it when you dance.

Me: A tutu?

George: Yes.  She is wearing a tutu.


This is something that has not happened as much in the past year as it used to when he was 3 -5 years old.  At that time is sometimes felt like the game version of “this is the song that never ends, it goes on and on my friend …”.  As George has gotten older, I notice when he briefly pauses and finds an alternative word to use instead of the one he can not think of at that time.  The conversation above was at the end of a full day of school, which is when I notice that his apraxic tendencies begin to show more – his brain is just … tired.  Poor kid.

If you did not get the song reference above, here is a YouTube clip to clue you in.


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Jan 192015

our school week collage 2

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I did not get this posted last week, so I am doing a two-week version.  :)  That also means it is long.

Things went a lot better school wise this past week.  I’m not sure if that had to do with having a plan or just getting past the chaos of the holidays.  Jack still loves having school and reminds me if we do not get to it in time, or if he feels at the end of the day that we have not done enough.tow fire truck

George is having trouble at school and I know I am slacking on getting him to do his homework.  The boys go to bed really early, as they sleep about 12 hours, and wake up 1 – 1.5 hours before we have to leave to take George to school. (We used to have to still wake Jack up 30 minutes before it was time to leave.  I’m so glad not to have to worry about that any more.) Evenings are not at all a good time to do homework with him, as it takes 3 times as long, but he has become extremely reluctant to do it in the mornings.  Something needed to change.  So I thought it was a brilliant idea to have him do his homework on Thursday while I did school work with Jack.

We sat down at the dinning room table and what resulted was anything from ideal.  The boys were talking over each other, impatient for my attention, seemed unable to do work independently (really, I need to watch you write your spelling words three times?), and other fun things.

Next time I find myself having to do Jack’s school work after George gets home, it will not be in that same fashion.  First off, we no longer do school work at the table since I realized we own a clip board that can go to the couch where there are blankets.  So much better than sitting at the table.  The table was just a convenient place at first.

write on wipe off dry erase

The collage at the top is of some of the activities from two weeks ago.

Top Left: One of the libraries we visit has these wonderful blocks you can build with, as well as ideas of what to build.  We found ourselves trying to use up 4.5 hours on Sunday afternoon. Jack sat down with his Daddy and worked on building a pier.  He also learned that if the supports are on the outside of the boards on bottom, you can not use the boards to make a roof … surprising to him was the fact that they kept falling between his supports.  He figured out an alternative and all was right with the world again.  :)

Top Middle: I have found a few books to add to that week’s reading.  These came from our home, the public library, and from the church’s library.

Top Right: On a recent day of no school for George, we went into our spare bedroom to watch a movie and have hot cocoa. This is a ‘fun’ thing as they don’t normally go into this room.  I had made a batch in the crockpot and left it on low all day, thereby ensuring a steady supply of cocoa when we wanted it.  The candy canes were my effort to make it even more fun and use up something that has been lingering around the house.  While not technically an academic activity, it was nice to have a ‘snow’ day.

Middle Right:  This is something that entertained Jack for longer than it should have – a piggy bank and stocking hooks.  The word spelled out there is “Ol-pig-en”.  Yes, ‘pig’ is part of the word.  He thought it was hilarious and did every variation he could think of, even moving the pig around in the word.

Bottom Left: I did this activity with both boys – printed off a blank calendar from the computer with the month and days of the week on it.  I had the boys, individually – see note about table work above, fill in the dates and year.  Then we decorated it.  In the end, I showed them the trick of using your knuckles to figure out if a month has 30 or 31 days.  The foam stickers were found in the after Christmas clearance section at a local store.

Bottom Middle: The game of Sorry was found upstairs and I thought the boys were finally old enough to play it.  They needed some help reading the cards, but quickly got the concept.  It did take several times of explaining, between tears and hugs, that there was a reason the name of the game is “Sorry”.  After a week of having it out, we need to switch games but I am so glad to find they are old enough for things like this.

Bottom Right: The ongoing construction.  One of these days … really, at some point in the future, this will all be a sweet memory.  Right now it is a source of many lessons.  “If the temperature in the house keeps falling, we must have a draft.  Let’s find it and figure out a way to stop it.”  Out comes the hammer and nails and old blankets to cover up exterior doors that are no longer inside a garage.  I can’t do anything about the lack of roof currently over our kitchen.  Thankfully it is finally above freezing.  “The reason your blocks don’t stay up for a roof like the builders, is because they cut theirs at an angle.  Remember watching them?”  “No, we can not go jump in the mud in our church shoes.”  “I don’t think they will let you climb the ladder and help nail in roofing beams. You can take pictures though if you like.”

We have finished two more chapters in The Story of The World, volume 1.  This was something I decided to ‘officially’ add to our weekly plan.  At first I was not sure Jack would like having history added in, but turns out he is LOVING it.  The first volume, and its activity book, is something I picked up last Spring, thinking we would work through it during the Summer.  That plan did not work, but I had not given up.  Over Christmas break I realized Jack needed more to do during the day and thought I would try this again.  As it turns out, that was a great decision.

Not only is Jack following along, he is making connections!  It is great to see him nudge me while listening to something else and say, “Mom, nomads!  They said nomads!”  He now knows what those are.  We were also able to tie in the map work with present day reality – I showed him what the area looks like today and pointed out where a relative is going to be moving to soon.  He thought it was so cool that this person would be living in the same part of the world as Egypt.  “Do they know they will so close?!  They are almost to Egypt!  They should go visit.”  Granted ‘almost’ is very relative when talking to a 5 year old.  This potential abstract map suddenly became so much more a part of his reality.

As this is Kindergarten, I decided to skip over giving him tests.  Instead, I ask him to tell back to me what we learned or we review what we read the last time.  So far he has shown me how much I underestimate his brain and ability to retain information.

Children's Book of Art

For Art we are still working through the Usborne’s Children’s Book of Art.  We read about two artists this week.  For the activity I took a coloring sheet I had two copies of and we colored them in different colors; Jack using warm colors and I using cool colors.  We then compared how different they looked.

Several of the descriptions talk about the artists painting on wood.  With the construction happening, wood scraps abound.  The plan is to take a few pieces and have both George and Jack paint on them.  First, though, I think I’ll have them finish painting their wood tractors.  They have been asking and asking to finish, but I have not had the patience to do so.  That sounds bad to write, but it is the truth.  Doing this sort of craft with two active boys takes energy and focus and patience.  It also means I have to let go of my idea of how things should look at times and just let them do it.  In all, it means I have to sign up for a time to have a lot of intentional character building.

warm cool colors

We took advantage of a music class for preschoolers at a library in Big Town.  Jack is still 5, so he fit in the age range.  Olaf also went with us.  It turned out to be really fun, though is only a one time thing I think.  Still, I counted it as music for the week.  I am not sure what we will be doing this upcoming week.  Jack really wants to go to the local gazebo and play music outside, so we might do that if I can find a day when the weather will be warm enough.

My Book of Numbers 1-30 (Kumon Series)     My First Book of Cutting (Kumon Series)

Another realization I had over Christmas Break was that we needed to have some sort of math lesson involved in our week.  While looking for ideas on what to use, I came across the suggestion to use Kumon workbooks. I had several unfinished workbooks in the basement.  Specifically I had two Kumon books, the ones pictured above.

This was perfect to add to some other Kindergarten work books I had been given by a former teacher.  Using the Number 1-30 book, as well as pages for patterns and other basic math lesson from the other workbooks, we had a math curriculm for ‘free’ right in our basement.  I went through and erased the pages George had started in My Book of Numbers 1-30 and gave it to Jack.  The beginning is a bit behind where he is, but this works well as he thinks it is fun.

We first happened upon these while I was waiting for my husband and boys to finish using the Little Boys Room inside Barnes and Noble several years ago.  We started off with My First Book of Tracing, in hopes of helping George with his pencil control.  Jack saw what he was doing and begged for his own book.  Finally we agreed.  We have been pleased with the books and the boys always beg for more.

I have followed the suggestion at the begining of one of the books – “Always leave them wanting more.”  With that in mind, we do one or two pages a day even if they ask beg plead for more.  If I know it is going to be an issue, I will not share the plan of how many pages they are supposed to do, but instead tell them to “do this page”, then seemingly agree to “just one more”.  They need never know it was actually the plan to do 2 pages.

My First Book of Cutting is something Jack had started last Spring when I took him out of preschool.  The book had been set aside over the summer, as I only had one book but two boys who would love to use scissors.  We had move onto using my  husband’s old papers or random magazines that were delivered to the house.  This is one work book that I am okay if he does a few pages in each day, though I have yet to give in to more than 3 pages at a time.

homeschool planner collage

Something I realized at the beginning of last week, was that I had no system to organize what I wanted to accomplish for the day, let along the week.  Doing a search online for ‘home school planners’ resulted in a vast array of choices, some expensive, some not.  All seemed too complex for what I wanted.  In the end, I did a quick stop at the local Dollar General and picked up a planner for $1.

The first week using it, I filled in as I thought of things or as we did them.  So when I told Jack he needed to do Reading Eggs, I opened the planner, wrote it down and filled in a few more days I wanted him to do this program again that week.  I realized quickly that there were so many things I was forgetting.

With the cold weather last week, I knew doing laundry in our basically open air garage was going to be a no-go.  Instead I had my husband agree to let me go, solo, to the laundry mat after church.  Of course, that turned into being Sunday night as we spend a few hours at the library first.  I also told him my plan was to do school planning for the week.  He agreed and off I went.

First lesson – if you go on a Sunday night, the laundry mat is not nearly as empty as it is in the middle of the day in the middle of the week.  ::shock:: There are actually other people who use the laundry mat!  I had to either wait 40 minutes to use the washers I wanted, or divide my loads between multiple smaller washer and pay several dollars more.  Next time, I will not be going on Sunday night.
lesson planning laundry mat collage

Between washing and drying all of our laundry I was able to look ahead at several books, pre-read through our read aloud book (English Fairy Tales And More English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs), and write down much more of what I wanted to accomplish.  There were still some gaps, but it was much better planned out.

Oh, and as for the pre-reading, I thought it was not needed at first since they are only fairy tales after all.  I learned better when I started to read one story and the step-mother cut off the head of her step-daughter and used her organs to make a meal.  Pretty sure Jack will remember that one for a while.

When I got out our Kumon books, I also re-found some other workbooks I had.  One in particular was something I had forgotten we owned but now glad I gave in to the desire to buy it at a local garage sale – Mead’s Write-on Wipe-off Lowercase  Letters and Uppercase Letters.  Using dry erase markers is so much more fun than doing this activity on paper with pencil.  We also do not have to use printer ink to create pages.

Having all the books I wanted to use for the upcoming week in one bag made it seem so much more manageable.  While we would not use every book every day, I was pretty sure we would use all at some point in the week.  As it turns out, there was 1 book we did not get to.  I had picked up an addition book from the Dollar Tree this past summer to help George review his math facts.  We never quite got that far, as I realized he was having trouble with a more basic concept first.  Jack liked it though, and it was my first glimpse into how his brain works.  I have no doubt he can do this, but was wanting to make sure he understood some of the other basic concepts first.

I have presented him with several mental math problems, and he seems quite confident in solving them.  When I told him that he needed to put up “3 plus 2 shirts” on laundry day, he stopped looked at me and asked again.  I repeated myself and then asked him how many shirts he need to put up. “5 shirts.”

So what is the plan for the upcoming week of Kindergarten?  Take a look:

Monday (George has a school holiday)

  • Audio Book (Daddy Takes Us Skating) – 1 chapter
  • Story of The World, volume 1, chapter 6
  • Puzzle – sit out a new puzzle
  • Read aloud – English Fairy Tales
  • Read aloud – library books
  • Read new Bible verse for the week
  • Math game – great/less than
  • Kumon Numbers 1 – 30, 2 pages
  • Sensory games


  • Audio Book, 1 chapter
  • Reading Eggs
  • Read aloud – English Fairy Tales
  • Trace new Bible verse for the week
  • Math worksheet – greater/less than
  • Kumon Mazes, 2 pages
  • SOTW activity
  • Practice reading
  • Sensory games


  • Audio Book, 1 chapter
  • Read aloud – English Fairy Tales
  • Kumon Numbers 1 – 30, 2 pages
  • Cutting
  • Handwriting Practice – Letter ‘D’
  • SOTW activity
  • Practice reading
  • Math game – greater/less than with cards
  • Sensory games


  • Audio Book, The Adventures of Buster Bear , 1 chapter
  • Reading Eggs
  • Read aloud – English Fairy Tales
  • Kumon Mazes, 2 pages
  • Worksheet choice – do 2 of choosing from Kindergarten workbooks
  • Handwriting Practice – Letter ‘D’
  • Write note/card of encouragement and mail
  • Practice reading
  • Sensory games


  • Audio Book, 1 chapter
  • Read aloud – English Fairy Tales
  • Kumon Numbers 1 – 30, 2 pages
  • Worksheet choice – do 2 of choosing from Kindergarten workbooks
  • Handwriting Practice – Letter ‘D’
  • Practice reading
  • Math game – greater/less than
  • Sensory games


  • Audio Book, 1 chapter
  • Activity at library (animals)
  • Practice reading
  • Sensory games

The outline above is just that, an outline.  There may be things added or taken away from it, but those are my basic goals for each day, taking about 30 – 45 mintues.

Two days this week Olaf will be here, which always throws off schooling.  I also need to make a trip to get a tire repaired/replaced at some point, which will also take several hours out of one day.  While we need to stay flexible, consistency in getting these things accomplished every morning is important to forming the habit of getting our ‘work’ done before ‘playing’.

Dec 172014

Through February 28, 2015,Reading Eggs is offering a 4-week Free Trial for new users (subsequent children qualify for the 2-week free trial).  With school breaks coming up, kids may be looking forward to no school, while the parents want to help them not forget what they have learned these past few months.  This would be a great time to take advantage of this limited time offer.

Here is our experience with using the Reading Eggs program:

As the end to last school year approached, I was looking for activities to do over the summer to help George continue on with his school work over the summer break.  Something fun and exciting, yet with some structure that did not require me to create the lesson plans.

After seeing a free-trial offered by Reading Eggs, I decided to try it before the year ended to see if George was as excited about it as I hoped he would be.  He quickly fell in love with the program.  I’ll even admit to letting him to this as homework some nights, since he never threw a tantrum doing his lesson here but would if I would try to sit and review words with him.  Hey, sometimes we do what we must.

As it turned out, over the summer, Reading Eggs quickly became something we could use as a ‘reward’ for finishing up morning routines.  How great is that?!  No sugar or bribing with money.  They get to play on the computer and learn reading and phonics as well.  It was a win-win situation for all of us.

“Now that you have finished all your morning routines, you can do Reading Eggs.  Once you unlock X number of steps, you may go to the Playroom and do whatever you want.”

Kid in Library

Turns out it was even better than I thought.  Reading had become a source of frustration for George and he had basically given up mid-year.  I was afraid he would never get it.  After a summer of no prodding by me, but ‘earning’ Golden Eggs and new Critters on Reading Eggs, he had caught onto many of the basic words that had been giving him trouble.  Yes, I may have done a dance around the room when I realized this little, but very important, fact.

When school started in the fall, the kids were already spending so much time at school, that we did not have the desire to require them to do extra lessons at home.  Yet, they still asked to do these, especially on weekends when they had more free time.  It is a source of fun, not work, for them.

Last week when we decided to take Jack out of public school and homeschool him, I had no worries about his learning to read.  I knew that it would be more of an issues to limit his time on Reading Eggs, than it would be to get him to do the lessons.  Again we took the approach of work first then play – do your lesson, then you can go to the Playroom or create a book.

After a week of this, Jack still says at the end of the day, “Mama, but we didn’t do schoolwork today.”  He doesn’t even realize he is learning, as he is having too much fun.



Dec 052014

broken concrete in driveway

Every time something new goes on here with the construction, I feel bad that Jack is not here to see it.  George too, but Jack is more into construction stuff than George.

That is no longer going to be an issue, as come Monday, Jack will not be going to the public school for Kindergarten.  We have decided to try homeschooling him for various reasons, part of it being the hope that with one-on-one attention and more time with Mommy and Daddy we can address some issues related to his past.

After talking with someone who has more experience in the area of early childhood trauma, and asking if homeschooling was a completely unadvised option or if it could be a possibility, I was advised to be careful of homeschooling as “the emotional attachment right now between you and him is more important than his education.”  They meant that we should not let being his ‘teacher’ come before being his ‘Mom’, that the stress of teaching should not get in the way of strengthening our attachment.

That evening I repeated to my husband what I was told, reminded him of how much better Jack was last Spring when it was me and him, and that we still had the stuff we used when we supplemented George and Jack’s schooling over the summer.  We were pretty sure what we were going to do, but he said he really would like to ask someone else’s opinion or get some been-there-done-that advice.

book I am

All the homeschoolers I know near us have ‘typical’ kids, none with beginnings like our kids.  So I turned to a group of foster parents I know and asked their advice.  Everything I heard back was encouraging, especially on the part of getting the attachment and security down before focusing too much on academics.

One mom even said what were were thinking, “If that is what is needed during this season, then do it.  Life may change and the next season may not need him to be home for school.”

That night we decided to take him out of school, where he was just not ready to be, and keep him home.  At some point we may change our minds again, but we feel this is the place we need to be at right now.

This is the main thought my husband finally came to, and one I have been feeling for a while but was unable to put into words – if kids are not emotionally in the right place (or if they are continuing to experience triggers), learning will not happen to the best of their abilities; you will be fighting the current to get ahead.

book I am a

This interview, done during the Attachment & Trauma Network’s Educating Traumatized Children Summit 2014 between Anna Paravano, MS, ATN Education Director and Christine Moers, Therapeutic Parenting Coach,  says very much how we are feeling right now:

“… one of the things that I tried to help parents grasp that it took me a while to get and really absorb it was that children with a history of traumatic events, abuse, neglect, neurological struggles, mental health issues – there are some gaps, in particularly kids who have experienced early childhood trauma. There are gaps in their development. They either miss stages because of what was going on, or the things that did happen. They’ve got skills that are underdeveloped that a lot of other kids got. Those first couple of years of life and they need that first, period. And being therapeutic with them and creating a safe space for them to heal, we are re‐parenting them through those gaps…. And if I can help my kids get through and start to parent through those gaps and create this space over and over and over again, the academics are going to come.”


“In addition, many of these children have difficult times allowing themselves to trust and attach with their parent or care‐giver and end up needing more time, not less, with these key individuals to help them grow and heal. For these reasons and more, home schooling can provide the answer parents and care‐givers need for the educational piece for of the child’s life puzzle.”

But what about learning, it has to happen right?

“My goal as a teacher is to teach my children how to find information and I keep that as… And if they can grasp that, and we can connect and attach and practice love, they can always find their way through life and they always know who to call, “Mom, I think I would like to do this and I’m not sure where to start,” “Well hold on, let’s look up some resources.””
“And again because we should always be learning – adults can always learn, it’s always there and it has helped me to breathe and remember what is most important for my children now. And I encourage all parents regardless of their schooling situations to remember that too.”


So what about George?  He seems to be doing fine in public school.  It provides the structure and social setting he needs.  A large part of this is due to how we have his day set up there.  Advocating for your child’s educational needs happens no matter the setting of said education.

Talking about different needs in different season, George’s education from year to year has never looked the same.  We started with him in Early Childhood (preschool) in the morning, followed by Head Start (preschool) in the afternoons.  It was a long day, but he was immersed in structure and enrichment.  There was also consistency and encouragement.  All things he needed during a time of emotional upheaval.

As the year came to an end, we realized the following year would not need as much out-of-home support, so we pared down to just Early Childhood (preschool) and I got to spend more one-on-one time with him.  (Jack was in preschool at this point.)

Then Kindergarten was getting ready to happen.  We worked with his EC teachers to set up a routine that we hoped would enable him to succeed, or at least not get left behind.  This involved having him attend Kindergarten for half the day, then return to the EC classroom for the other half.  He would get the extra support in Kindergarten, but in a smaller setting with fewer distractions and at a slower pace.  Thankfully several other friends of his did the same thing, so he never realized it may  not have been the ‘normal’ way.

At the end of the Kindergarten year, there were still weak places in his learning.  He had struggled and pretty much given up on the reading front.  Over the summer we continued working on reading, but in a different fashion and not sitting and reading.  He played games and had fun with words and letters.  I am not sure if it clicked finally, or if it was the relaxed atmosphere, but he ended the summer about where he should have been at the beginning of it.  Math, however, took a bit more time and desperation on my part before we figured it out for him.

If you remember, George also deals with apraxia, which affects his speech, and is now almost unnoticeable to those outside the family.  It also seems to affect his learning style and the ability to retain information.  After 2 years of Early Childhood and 1 year of Kindergarten/EC, we think we are starting to figure out the pattern and his style.  This has helped a lot in 1st grade, though he still has to work harder and some things are just downright struggles.

We can also pretty much predict the causes of the few minor behavioral issues he may present.  This helps in avoiding those issues and making his day easier.  Thankfully, George has two things going for him that aide a lot in his success.  1. God made him a talker.  Even when he could not get his words out or think of the right one, he was determined to make you understand.  And before he even ‘found’ his words, he would jabber and jabber as if you could completely understand him.  2. He is a friendly kid, ready with a smile and to be your friend.

Again, do what works for the season you are in.

Okay, so back to homeschooling.  I told George that he could also join in on some of the extras, like learning about the stars (nature study/science) and learning new songs, but that all the other stuff he was already learning at school so he did not need me to reteach him.  He was thrilled with this arrangement and excited for the change.  In reality, with his homework and how we do it, he already gets a lot of extra support from here at home and I did not want to make it more official than it already is.


Here are a few more things I found while looking online:


“Children are not “little adults,” and it becomes clear, once the process of development is understood, that they are more vulnerable than adults to trauma – whether such trauma occurs in the community or, unfortunately, even in the name of “treatment.”
“Trauma informed care also involves seeking to understand the connection between presenting symptoms and behaviors and the individual’s past trauma history. “

How To Thrive As An Adult After Childhood Trauma – K Expert on Kirsty TV

Helping Foster and Adoptive Families Cope With Trauma – “The purpose of this guide is to support adoptive and foster families by strengthening the abilities of pediatricians to: 1) identify traumatized children, 2) educate families about toxic stress and the possible biological, behavioral, and social manifestations of early childhood trauma, and 3) empower families to respond to their child’s behavior in a manner that acknowledges past trauma but promotes the learning of new, more adaptive reactions to stress.”

This PDF was relatively short but did have a few good, basic tables showing how certain stresses may manifest themselves in behavior and academic related ways.  There were a few behaviors that I saw which I had never associated with stress, I thought they were just bad habits.  So, while this pamphlet may not have been a thorough study on trauma and children, it was a quick look and a good first place to start for someone who is beginning their process or for pediatricians to begin talking with their patient.

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Prudent Living on the Homefront
Nov 292014

kid shredding zucchini

This past week I have read two articles online that caught my attention as they were talking about things we deal with here at home.

A NATURAL FIX FOR ADHD – I started reading this article from the New York Times thinking it would talk about some herbal or ‘natural’ medicine for ADHD.  Instead, I found the a writer who was not against medicine but who was advocating to stop working against someone’s natural inclinations.

He also addressed the increase in ADHD diagnosis over the past few years and what may have caused them.

My favorite line was: “If you were a restless kid who couldn’t sit still in school, you might choose to be an entrepreneur or carpenter, but you would be unlikely to become an accountant.”  Oh how true.  I have found myself encouraging both my  husband and I this week several times by saying, “We just will not encourage him to be an accountant.  It will all turn out okay.”

math fun kid

Not all of what was mentioned was new to me; I had learned some of it the hard way and figured that it was just the way my kid was wired.  Some of it my husband has even brought up (alternative high schools), realizing that it would benefit our kid/s.

The end result I gained from this article was that we should stop seeing certain things as problems and start viewing them in a different light.

20 lb bag jasmine rice

HOW MUCH ARSENIC IS IN YOUR RICE – if you take a look at our meal plans, you will notice that we eat a lot of rice around here.  Rarely a day goes by that we do not eat it.  Currently in our house, we have brown rice, long grain rice, and Jasmine rice.

Also, one of the kids takes a medicine that is absorbed better when taken with no calcium.  After trial and error, I found that it works best to give this medicine at breakfast, or else I forget.  To do this and still be able to eat certain foods, I went on a search of alternative milk produce.  So far certain brands of almond milk and rice milk contain only 2% calcium, a much better level than what is found in regular milk or enriched versions (45%).

I always viewed rice as a healthy alternative to pasts and potatoes.  The title intrigued me as I never though about the level of chemicals in rice.  After reading this, it seems I may have a bit more research to do.  And no more rice milk for us.  Seems I will be making regular orders of almond milk once again.