Friday, June 22, 2012

Homeschool Mother's Journal 6/22/12

In My Life This Week
Our week has been full, but much less busy and exciting than last week.  In the ebb and flow of life, it's sometimes good to be at "low tide."  Too much prolonged excitement would be too exhausting for my family!  As much as we love to do exciting things we also love weeks where there is little or nothing on the calendar.  I'm relieved for the chance to catch up on housework, cooking, scrapbooking and writing. Unfortunately there always seems to be more housework than the fun stuff!
It is Thursday afternoon while I sit in my comfy chair to write.  I have to finish up all my loose ends this afternoon because, much to my dismay, I have jury duty tomorrow.  I have been scheduled for 3 trials so far this spring and all were settled out of court.  I assumed (and hoped) that tomorrow's trial would be cancelled also.  All the previous days when I was scheduled, I had nothing on my calendar.  Tomorrow is my son's birthday party.  Isn't that just how things work sometimes?!  I'm thinking about showing up at the courthouse with all the kids and telling them that we are a homeschool family and decided a trial would be a great field trip. Either my kids would get in a day of school or they would send me home! Sounds like a win - win to me! But...I think I'll be good and just leave them with grandma for the day!  I'll let you know how it goes next week!  **Thursday night at 7:57...Called the Jury phone number again just to see if anything had changes since 5:10, AND NO DUTY FRIDAY!  Yah!**

In Our Homeschool This Week
We are enjoying our relaxed summer school schedule.  Besides finishing up math and various loose ends, we have had some unschooling or maybe Charlotte Mason moments this week that were just delightful!  My 13 year old is notorious for bringing home any stray animal that he thinks needs a bit of TLC.  This week it was 4 baby swallows.  He said he found them under the apple trees. (I kind of wonder if he got them right out of the bluebird box where they were hatched.)  Anyway, he put them in a cage on our patio.  Last week he caught 2 baby sparrows who fell out of their nests after a wind storm. I think he just enjoyed having the 2 sparrows overnight and wanted more pets. He fixed up the little cage so nicely with water, food and sticks for a perch.  (The two sparrows both died after one night in the cage.)  Much to our surprise, the swallows lived through the first night and the next.  On Monday morning they began chirping and their parents heard them!  All day long for the next few days the parents flew in to feed the babies and one by one they fledged their temporary home.  It was fascinating to watch! The parents dive bombed us each time we walked onto the patio to watch them!  Now, I just wonder if he will look though the rest of the bird boxes for more pets!  We have at least 2 more families of bluebirds.  

This is the old cage Caleb found in the barn to make the "Bird Condo" from.

Helpful Homeschool Advice or Tips to Share
While reading through the Tuesday Top 10 posts, I came across some really neat blogs and web sites.  One of them I would like to share. 
These ladies have made some really awesome lapbooks and they share  them for free! I would highly recommend that u check them out!  Click their logo to go to their blog.  I can't wait to do the titanic one with my daughter.

I am Inspired By...
The book of Ezra.  I love the Old Testament and am currently reading Ezra.  I am inspired by those who had the courage to re-build the Temple.  I'm sure they had gotten quite comfortable living in their new homes with new neighbors and new friends after  their parent's generation had been taken captive.  With no Israelite temples in Babylon or Persia I'm sure they could have become quite lax about their religion too.  I'm hoping to be so inspired.  Even though I probably will not build something, I do have areas of complacency to work on.  Inspire me, LORD!

Places We're Going and People We're Seeing 
I'm super excited to be meeting a friend for breakfast on Saturday.  We have not seen one another since high school (That was 22 years ago!).  We are facebook "friends" but it was not until she started reading my blog that we found out we have MUCH in common.  We both have boys with Aspearger Syndrome and another boy who struggles with dyslexia and daughters who can be quite the Drama Queens!  Sometimes being the mom of a "Labeled" kid can be quite lonely.  We are both so excited to have found another mom who "gets our life!"  Saturday morning Cracker Barrel here we come!

My Favorite Thing This Week was...   
My In-laws!  They are such wonderful people!  Today they brought their camper to our house and set it up behind the barn for our son to have a slumber birthday party in!  The party is tomorrow but two of my kids are already sleeping out there tonight!

My father - in - law can fix anything!  He took my oldest son's RC boat home last night and already brought it back today...fixed!  

He also thought my idea of using an old pull down map of the US from a local school that was torn down was a great idea for a shade to our dining room school room window.  It faces west and for years we have been blinded when we eat dinner during the spring and fall when the sun hits it just right at 6 pm.  He is fixing the pull handle and helping me rig the hardware on the wall.  

What's Working for Us 
Allowing the Aspie (kiddo with Asperger's)to do only half a math lesson a day in the summer instead of the whole thing.  He has much less anxiety and many less tantrums if I let him do only half the lesson.  Because he often takes a slower pace in math he needs to do it year round to keep up.  I was blessed today when I heard him yell, "I LOVE Geometry!"  

Questions and Thoughts
Can an experiences blogger tell me how to make a button link on my blog that others can "grab" and stick on theirs if they want?  

I'm {still} Reading...
"Bonhoeffer"  As much as I don't like reading about the negative reasons for the start of WWII, the book does an amazing job of portraying why the war came about. The following quote shocked me but really didn't surprise me.  "I shall give a propagandist reason for starting the war; never mind whether it is plausible or not. The victor will not be asked afterward whether he told the truth."  Adolph Hitler    

When the German's prepared to invade Poland, they had no just cause to do so.  The Nazi plan was to make it look like the Poles invaded Germany and their return "attack" was self defense.  They took their own men and put them in Polish uniforms.  Then they took concentration camp inmates and dressed them in German uniforms. Then they staged a scene where the "Poles" "Invaded" the Germans!  Seriously!   No wonder some people thought Hitler was the Antichrist!

I'm Cooking...
Today I'm making Funfetti cupcakes with bright blue frosting for the 11 year old's half birthday.  We would ordinarily not make a big deal out of a half birthday, but Josh was born the week of Christmas and June is a much easier month to have friends over than December. 

I'm Grateful For...
The rain we got last night!  We only got a half inch but it was the first rain in six weeks!  The corn around my house is surely sighing a big  relief!  You should have seen how fast and furiously the farmers worked behind us to get the last of the wheat in before it cut loose!

I am also grateful for the moms that have been touched by my blog.  Writing about raising kids on the Asperger and ADHD spectrums is therapy for me.  I'm so blessed by all of the positive feedback I have received from my blog.  I pray that it can be used as an encouragement and ministry to moms who live a life like us!  A friend of mine made this cute logo for me.  I'm hoping to make one of my own someday...we'll see!  Thanks for taking the time to read there.


I'm Praying for...
One of our pastors and his wife.  The pastor is leading a team in India this week to evangelize as well as teach local pastors on child trafficking. Two days before he left, his wife's dad died so he couldn't attend the funeral with her.  We are praying that the LORD sustains his wife and enables him to reach others as well.

A Photo, Video or Link to Share
 When Josh finished his math last week he asked me if he could use his own money to buy a treat for the family to celebrate!  He picked out this Reece's Blizzard Cake from Dairy Queen!  He was so excited when the girl at the register asked him if he wanted anything written on it!

Another VERY cool thing I came across this week is this AWESOME LEGO unit.  I plan to use it with my kids as a back to school unit in August to get them in the school groove again in a fun way!

     There are LEGO units, Lapbooks, Building Clubs (Which I hope to use in our coop!) and so much more!  
 The "Walking By The Way" Blog is also wonderful in and of itself too so check it out!

Once again, thanks for reading this week!  I pray that you will inspire someone and be inspired as you read and create your own blogs!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Top 10 Tuesday 6/19/12

Top 10 in 10 Tuesday
Why did you choose the Homeschooling Method you did?
10.  The first semester we pulled our oldest son out of public school we used his public school books for the rest of the year. Our oldest kiddo started homeschooling a semester before the younger two.  He has Asperger's Syndrome and does not adjust well to change. It was also the middle of the school year when we pulled him out.  (If you would like to hear more of his story and why we pulled him out, click here. His former principal was very understanding and was more than happy to let us keep using his books.  It made for a very smooth transition.

9.  When we pulled the other two kiddos out we had NO idea what we wanted to do so we went to the homeschool convention in Cincinnati, OH.  We laid out all the flyers from all the vendors out on our hotel bed and began to pray that God would lead us to just the right books at just the right levels for our kids.  

8. and 7.  God did lead us to great books.  They are right at the levels our kids are at AND from a Christian Perspective! We hoped to find books that didn't cover too much of what our kids already learned in school.  We also were thrilled at the Christian perspective offered by so many well written text books.

6.  As a former school teacher, I have sat on text book adoption committees. In our homeschool I AM the comittee!  :O)  I know how my kids learn, what levels they're at and since I know best, I get to be the "picker!"

5.  Not only do I get to be the picker, my husband and kids love to help.  We changed our Science curriculum from Apologia (which we loved) to Abeka because our middle child would never be able to keep up with the reading level of the secondary Apologia books.  One of the main reasons we chose to homeschool is because we could meet each of the kids right where they were at.  Tailoring their curriculum is one of the perks!

4.  We had boys who did not like reading.  Now they love it!  In school our middle son, who struggles with dyslexic like reading setbacks hated being told, "You have to read this because it is at your grade level."  We knew that reading level and grade level didn't always go hand in hand.  We now get our reading books right from the public library.  The kids love choosing what they read.  I love watching them learn to love reading because they pick books that CAN read.  

I love this pic of Josh.  He was so proud of how far his reading has come.  These are JUST A FEW of the books he has finished.

3.  We love making up our own curriculum. We love creating extension activities for the books we read and the chapters we study.  These are a few of the posters the kids have made.

Caleb loves making maps of each continent he has studied.  BIG maps are easier for him than notebook paper sized ones.

 Caleb also make a power point of all of his individual countries.

This is one of Josh's "Book Reports."  He loves making Posters that extend his knowledge of the time period he just read about.

 After reading an American Girl book about The Great Depression, Carolyn made a timeline of events that happened during The Depression.

2.  Sometimes the best learning happens outside of a book or classroom. We love to make the Real World part of our curriculum!

 Mmmmmm!  Real Maple Syrup!

 Meeting meteorologists is much more fun than reading about them!  This is Caleb & Mike Bettes from The Weather Channel!

1.  We LOVE having textbooks that respect and teach the Christian Faith!  We love science books that include apologetics!  We love history books that haven't stripped the Christian history from our nation.  We love grammar books that Use scripture as well as just kid friendly sentences.  (Well, I love grammar; the kids, not so much!)

So, I guess as you can see from my top ten, we are definitely very eclectic in our methods of teaching and purchasing of curriculum!

The question that I often ask myself now is, "Why didn't we start homeschooling sooner?!"  :O)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Raw Emotions

There are just some days when I have to ask God what He was thinking when He gave me the kids He did.  The saying that "God won't give you more than you can handle" is true; I know.  But, sometimes I just have to wonder what He thinks I am made of emotionally. 

Last night was one of those times when I had to ask my husband to "Tell me it's not my fault."  Parenting is hard even on a good day when you have kids on the autism and ADHD spectrums.  And when ALL of your kids fall somewhere on these spectrums, parenting is on a whole different level.

This morning I listened to a radio program about the differences between stress and burn out.  (The authour who was interviewed expressed her symptoms of burn out related to working in ministry.   Neither my husband nor I work in ministry full time, but I could relate to her burn out nonetheless.)  We experience high levels of stress here on a daily basis and sometimes these stress levels can lead to burn out.  In the radio program the author talked about the symptoms of burn out in 4 categories:  emotional symptoms, physical symptoms,       symptoms and             symptoms. (I can't remember the last 2!)

At one time or another I have had all 4 categories of symptoms.  Once or twice I have had all 4 at the same time.  A few years ago the physical and emotional symptoms combined caused permanent  damage to my digestive system. 

If you listen to the author speak on the radio, she does a beautiful job explaining the stress that those who work in full time ministry are under.  Our full time ministry may not be in a church building but is stressful nonetheless. I would like to pass along to you what the stress of full time parenting of children with Asperger's and ADHD is like.  If you are the parent of one or more of these kiddos please know that there is at least one other mom who knows how you feel.  If you are not the parent of one of these kiddos, take a moment to pray for those of us who "daily live in the trenches."  Speaking of trenches, I remember reading a blog about the stress of parents of kiddos on the autism spectrum being somewhat equal to the stress of soldiers on the front lines of combat.  Last night we definitely felt the assault of "Parents vs. Emotionally unstable children!" 

The Emotional Assault:
In a nutshell, the emotional capacities of a child with Asperger's are (in the words of our neuropsychologist) 5 to 10 years behind their peers. ADHD kids' emotions can also lag behind their peers, just not so drastically.  That puts our oldest son at best with the emotions of an eight year old.  Last might he was the full 10 years hehind...Oh ya, a 140 pound emotional 3 year old is difficult to say the least!  The thing that makes this so complicated is that all the kids can function at an age appropriate level most of the time.  At church (most of the time), in front of family (most of the time), in public (most of the time) and at home (most of the time).  Most of the time they are capable of being "normal."  The rest of the time, which is often daily, there are minutes or hours that can spiral downward so quickly that it makes your head spin!  For example, by the time we got through the social expectations of church yesterday, where the kids did great, and a family dinner at our house, where the kids did great, all on the heels of "the busiest week ever," the kids' (especially the Aspie's) emotions were spent. For an Aspie to function with age appropriate social and emotional behavior takes much brain energy.  They literally are emotionally exhausted after a full day of social and emotional life.  By the time we tried to play volleyball last night they lacked the emotional will power to be nice. They just couldn't do it.  Not a good family night set up.  Most of our family time with dad is in the evenings which is not our best time.  Poor dad often only sees the kids when they are spent.

So, what is a parent to do in a family which strives to teach its children that respect is expected...all the time?  There is never a reason to show disrespect.  We have 2 kiddos who just lag a little behind socially and emotionally but one who knows the definition of respect and can even show it when he is not too tired, hungry or in the midst of a routine change, but who can not comprehend showing respect and doesn't know that he is disrespectful when he is tired and emotionally spent.  One of the most emotionally exhausting parenting experiences for me is when we are still trying to teach the same concepts to our Aspie that we started when he was a toddler.  
  •  Don't hit people, even when you are mad or tired.
  • Don't use bad words, even when you are mad or tired.
  • Don't put people down, even if someone else does it.
  • Just because it's hard, doesn't mean its bad.
  • Just because you did "it" like that yesterday, doesn't mean you HAVE to do "it" that way ALL the time.
  • Just because it feels good, doesn't mean it's right or good.
Caleb gets very angry at us for reminding him not to hit and name call.  He yells at me every day, "Don't tell me that today!  You told me yesterday!!!!"  To which I reply, "If you learned from yesterday, I wouldn't have to remind you today."  To which he says, "Shut Up! You know it's hard for me!"  To which I remind him that if he starts showing respect I won't have to remind him.  We have been going around like this ever since he could talk. 

Someone who knows more about teaching and training an Aspie, tell me, will he ever learn?  Will he ever be able to show respect and obey even if he is under pressure or tired?  Someone tell me that there will be an end to this.  Tell me that I AM making a difference.

The "No End Of This" Assault:
The emotional differences in Caleb began when he was 3 weeks old when he started screaming and didn't stop for 6 or more hours straight a day for months on end.  The ongoing emotional assault on our family's daily life has left us with few days in the last 14 years when we didn't have at least one emotional meltdown.  Needless to say, its VERY tiring.  **I highly recommend for any parents raising kiddos on the autism spectrum and those with severe ADHD to seek respite care for you and the child's siblings.  We are blessed to have many grandparents nearby who are willing to give us a few hours of respite!  We also know other families who do not have this kind of emotional support.  The strain on their marriages is much more profound than our own.  For those of you reading this who are not living it, I highly recommend praying about how you can give one of these families a break for a few hours a week or month.**

Besides the emotional toll, there are daily life skills that lag behind in an Aspie.  I shouldn't let myself get so exasperated over"the little things" but I often do.  Caleb does not see the need for napkins and sometimes for silverware itself.  Every time I do his laundry and have to wash a shirt again because of greasy food stains I wonder how he will function as an adult.  When he won't do somethig "just because it's hard" I wonder how he will have a job.  When he won't be nice, I wonder how he will have a family.  It is a daily gining over to God.  Daily laying it upon his alter.

*I'm glad His altar is big enough because as I type this we are under emotional assault # 2 for today.  The first was during math.  (Caleb has math year round because of the number of days when he was too emotionally fragile to do math during the regular school year.) I heard yelling and fighting from the living room a few minutes ago.  Josh was mad because Caleb took some of his LEGO creations. Caleb got mad when Josh said not to use them and kicked Josh and called him nasty names. (We are trying to teach the kids to come get us when they are mad so we can help them handle it without getting into more trouble but that is still wishful thinking!!) Caleb yelled at me when I asked him to use his own LEGO buildings and vehicles.  Caleb yelled more and told me that Josh's are more fun and on a closer shelf. (by 6 inches!")  Caleb yelled more and told me that I don't care about him. He yelled more and said that if I did care about him I would "SHUT UP!" Josh reminded us that Caleb often breaks his LEGO stuff.  Caleb said he didn't care and kicked again.  I told Caleb that if he is going to use the emotions of a 3 year old and not use any self control that he would be sent upstairs for a nap, like a 3 year old.  Caleb said "FINE!"  I walked away and he kicked again!  He is now upstairs.  He didn't go willingly to which I had to remind him that if he didn't go calm down I would call someone who could help me make him go up.  I can't move him anymore; I'm not strong enough.  All of this happened because Caleb just wanted to play "Delivery truck" and Josh said no to using his pieces.  He is currently bawling upstairs because I said he couldn't come down yet.  He yells through the vents "Can I come down now?!" as soon as we send him up.  We can't let him down before he calms down or it will all start over again.  I'm tired!

The Physical Assault:
I don't feel the physicall assault as much as I did when the kids were younger.  Today, everyone does sleep through the night...thanks to a wonderful thing called Melatonin. 

After a confrontation like the one we just had, however (and are still having...he's yelling Can I come down still) I am often very physically tired.  When we have them multiple times a day, I have to go to bed earlier than normal, or at least try to.

The Social Assault:
Socially, it has always been hard on me to watch my friends kids develop normally while mine does not.  I have heaped tons of guilt on myself over this.  Even knowing that he can't help his behaviors, it is still hard to see the other boys interact and develop socially while I wonder if mine will ever catch up. 

Last night after the whole volleyball disaster, my husband and I asked ourselves if he will ever be able to relate to others.  What will his adult life look like when he has such a hard time obeying us and showing respect at home?

The Marriage Assault:
Our marriage took the hardest hit 13 years ago during Caleb's first year.  He was such a demanding baby that I had nothing physically or emotionally left for his dad.  That is not a goos way to begin the parenting phase of a marriage!

Today, there are still some days when we are so emotionally spent after a meltdown to be good company.  It's like our brains need rest before we can move on from being extreme parents to being spouses again. 

I know there are other areas of assault that make our emotions raw, but I can't think of any more right now. 

I do want to add that we love Caleb very much.  What a paradox to love such a difficult person so much!  God has given Caleb and the other two kids some amazing abilities and personalities.  It's just that each of them also has a "Dr. Jeckel & Mr. Hyde" personality as well.  In a family when emotions can turn on a dime or flare up without understanding or control, parenting takes on a whole new dimention.  It's not what I asked or prayed for (that I know of! :O) but it is the ministry I have been given.  And as you know if you have been involved in ministry for any length of time, Ministry is often Messy! 

As I listen to the voices in the next room, Josh  just asked Caleb to play with him WITH both of their LEGOS and all is well with my world again! 

OK...not completely well...
Josh "Caleb where is my camper?"
Caleb "I took it.  Pretend you ordered it."
Josh "No! Give it back!"
Caleb "Pretend you ordered it!"
I have to go before someone gets kicked!