Category: Pynni-Pie


Perhaps you know some of this, perhaps not. If you want to know more history in the journey to educate Pynni, please see these posts (These may or may not be all of them, I got tired of looking. Apparently I’m not very consistent with my categories)(Sorry bout that):

Pynni has always been a happy child: easy going, curious, creative, and compassionate. She is delightfully silly and prides herself on being a little weird. She’s really not too weird, but don’t tell her that.

She has this ability to be friends with absolutely anyone at all times. She seems infinitely capable of seeing the good in everyone and is most happy with all her friends are all together. I envy her this. I, as a general rule, am not a people person. “Friend” is not a common term and the fact that Facebook uses it to describe everyone you have contact with really bugs me. I have lots of acquaintances and very few friends. I like it that way, thanks. But I love the fact that Pynni likes and loves so broadly and freely. Go her!

But all that light dims when it’s time to read or write. If you’ve read any of the above linked posts, you will have some inkling of what we go through with reading and writing. It was good, actually, to go back and see some of the positives that I highlighted about her education in reading and writing because it is so frustrating and so daunting and so confusing to figure out what is the right thing to do; what is the right direction to take; what is the right or wrong reaction to have or thing to say. It is so easy to get bogged down in the negatives that it can be hard to remember any positives.

And through it all I question whether I’m up to this. Whether I can help her at all. Whether I’m hurting her more than I’m helping her.

For so long, I blamed the public school. I blamed them, and not entirely incorrectly, for not placing a permanent sub in Pynni’s Kinder class after her teacher went on maternity leave. That is absolutely a failing of the school administration’s. But was it the cause of Pynni’s difficulties in learning to read and spell? I know it had a huge impact on her self esteem, but now?

Now I wonder about all the rest of it. I wonder if the inconsistent teacher situation was the problem at all. I wonder if it was actually a problem with Pynni all along. I’ve posited that some of her issue may be sensory and I still believe that. We’ve done nearly two years of language therapy with a Speech Language Pathologist who diagnosed Pynni with a “severe written language disorder” and the strides she made were huge, but we hit a wall, and it seemed as if Pynni wasn’t advancing anymore. I felt like we were wasting money and we stopped the therapy, with SLP’s consent. The idea being that we’d been given all the tools. We knew what to work on. We would keep doing that and come back in the fall for her yearly assessment and see where she stands. Improvement? We can keep on, keepin’ on. Digression? We start therapy again.

Then one of my Homeschool Friends, told me about the NCSU (North Carolina State University) Psychoeducational Clinic and the awesome work they do there to assess and help people who need it. They test for lots of things: Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, learning disabilities, etc. AND THEY ARE RELATIVELY AFFORDABLE. That’s key because we spent a friggin’ mint having Chi tested and we’d already spent so much having Pynni tested and treated. (I know I make this sound like it’s all about money, and really it isn’t, but we don’t have one of those Money Trees and so it is definitely a consideration and a limitation.) Hubs and I discussed it and decided that it was something we really needed to do.

And so we did.

After all was said and done: all the interviews given, all the questionnaires filled out, all the tests taken, and all of the assessments completed, we were left with a hefty file folder of information that was detailed to us in a final meeting with the team we worked with at NCSU. They made sure we understood everything they did, everything they learned, everything they determined, and everything they think we can do to help Pynni.

After two months from beginning to end, we had answers and we had some directions to take and we know what Pynni struggles with EXACTLY and how best to help her.

She was diagnosed with Specific Learning Disability (DSM v 315.00 and 315.2): with impairment in reading and in written expression.

Her biggest hurdles in reading are word accuracy and fluency which, in turn, affects her reading comprehension. Basically, at some point in learning to read, most people stop having to sound out familiar words and letter patterns every time they come across them because their brain has memorized, in essence, the shape of the word. This opens up working memory to contain the meaning of the words you’ve read and compile them into a broader comprehension. Pynni does not do this. She has to sound out a word many more times than should be necessary to imprint those, should be familiar, words on her brain and so her working memory is always full of letter sounds as she pieces words together. By the time she finishes a sentence, she can’t remember the meaning of the words she just read. This level of reading inaccuracy directly affects her fluency. So we have to work with a level of repetition that is bound to drive us both to frustration, but she won’t learn to read better or faster any other way.

With writing, her biggest hurdle is spelling. There is no explanation that I can see for it except that she needs the same level of repetition in her spelling as she does in her reading to make the common words familiar and to make the common letter patterns familiar. Unlike her older brother and I, she does not internalize all the rules for spelling in the English language and use them to great effect throughout her spelling career. She learns the rules and applies them appropriately, then immediately discards them after learning other rules. She doesn’t consult any of the rules she’s learned many days past learning them.

Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. It’s what the doctor ordered. Literally.

I was given a great deal of information on how to help her and I’ve been working on putting the plan together for the rest of this school year, which starts back up in a week and a half.

The team at NCSU also suggested I take Pynni to a specialist for her eyes. This wasn’t an official diagnoses because it would be outside the realm of their expertise, but they experienced for themselves her difficulty with bright, fluorescent lights, white paper and the speed with which she fatigues. So we’ll be seeing a behavioral ophthalmologist. This is an eye specialist that focuses on uncommon eye issues, mainly for people with brain injuries, but I think they might be able to point us in the right direction with Pynni.

I’ll go further into what exactly I’ve got in the works to help Pyn with the reading and the spelling another time, after I’ve gotten a better handle on it.

I never thought, never for one second, that I would be dealing with a kid who struggles and hates to read. I never thought that my most difficult student would be my best behaved child.

I’m scared, to be honest. I’ve got to get this right. I can’t let that self doubt in too far or it will eat me alive. And I’ve got to do this work. I’ve got to help my sweet girl navigate this world of words that seems to be so daunting to her.

We’ll get it figured out. We will win.

 

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This post requires backstory.
Backstory: A few days ago, Pynni and I were out running errands just the two of us. Somehow the conversation got around to Harry Potter, as all things do, and I mentioned that Hermione is my favorite character. Pynni said that Harry was her favorite, and I agreed that Harry is, indeed, a great character and worthy of some admiration. But, I said, “But, without Hermione, Voldemort might have won. Hermione did all the research, knew all the spells, gave Harry all the information he needed to solve the problem of the Horcruxes and defeat Voldemort. Without Hermione, nothing gets done. Hermione is AWESOME!” To which Pynni replied, “Yeah, but Harry is my favorite.”

Today.

We went to the library. We don’t do this often enough, but I like books and I usually buy them so there are lots around the house for any and all reading/maturity levels. Anyway, today we went to the library and I told the kids before we went in that we had a time limit due to upcoming lunch and after lunch appointments, and that they were going to need to pick out one or two books to check out. We ended up checking out 11 books between the two littles and spent almost an hour doing it. (no worries, we made all our afternoon obligations, including lunch.)

As we were hauling our load of books out to the car, Pynni gasped. “I’m Hermione!” I looked at her in question. “I LOVE the library! I LOVE books! I’m JUST LIKE Hermione!”

I laughed and laughed. Not in amusement, but in joy. She loves books! She’s identifying with this great female character that maybe she didn’t feel too parallel with until now.

I’ll take it.

Wynni Penny Pie (or on this blog Pynni)

This post has been much harder to write than I thought it was going to be. For some reason, talking about Chi and any struggles we’ve had felt natural. I felt like talking about it helped me and may, in turn, help someone else. I’m struggling to view Pynni in this light.

For some reason, learning disorders feel so much more personal. It feels like it can change how people view you, how they treat you, how you view yourself.

Pynni made a comment to me the other day that hurt me to the core. She was skipping away from her school day and whirled around and smiled broadly at me and said, “I’m getting smarter and smarter!”

I said, “Babe, you’ve always been smart. You are learning more and more things.”

I said, “Reading has been hard for you, but that doesn’t make you not smart.”

She says, “Really?”

Oof. I thought I’d been pretty clear on how smart I thought she was, but SHE doesn’t view herself like that. I don’t want ANYONE to think she is any less smart than their over-achieving early readers because my sweet Wynni struggles in that area.

So there it is. Maybe, I’m the one with the issues. Reading was always very easy for me. I was one of those over-achieving early readers. I was like my oldest: big vocabulary, advanced reading level. Maybe, I’ve unknowingly judged people who didn’t read well and found them less smart than I. That’s changing right now.

Pynni was diagnosed with “Severe written language disorder” by the Speech Language Pathologist that Pieces sees for his speech therapy (I’ll call her SLP here). SWLD is characterized by difficulty sounding out phonemic words, letter reversals, omission and addition of phonemes, as well as, global errors, such as, reading words that are similar yet different (i.e. goes/gets, tale/tall, when/what).  SLP also noted that Pynni also demonstrated difficulty in the area of phonemic awareness in her attempts to sound out phonemic words. Such tasks often took greater than 10 seconds at which point the word was provided to her. She lacked confidence when decoding phonemic words and tended to guess a word if she did not recognize it, even after an attempt to decode it. Her fluency rate is negatively affecting her comprehension. She shows mild deficit in the area of phonemic awareness skills for encoding.

SLP noted that when Pynni was provided the word, she applied that knowledge to every recurrence of the word in the rest of the reading. Which is, apparently, not something many kids do when they are struggling with written language like she is.

There may be other components to this, and I’m prepared to find that there are other issues at play. Right now, though, this therapy is going to start addressing a large chunk of the issues Pynni has exhibited while reading.

We’ve only had two therapy sessions and a little bit of work to do at home, but I can see little bits of that natural self-confidence she has peaking out while she goes about her school work. There’s a lot of work do, yet, but little bits at a time seems to be what she needs.

 

Prepping for School

Prepping for School

We’ve officially started our school year. We’re actually about six weeks into it now. The last two years have seen a lot of fluctuation in our curricula for various reasons. So the following is where we are now, and will hopefully be for some time to come.

Language Arts: spelling, reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary

  • All About Spelling by All About Learning Press: all three kids
  • All About Reading by All About Learning Press: Level 1 for Pieces and Level 2 for Pynni
  • Explode the Code by Nancy Hall: Level 2.5 for Pynni and Level 1.5 for Pieces (they will be moving up to 3 and 2 respectively in the near future)
  • Guinness Book of World Records Reading (comprehension): Chi
  • Reading Detective by Critical Thinking Co.: Chi
  • Writing with Ease by Susan Wise Bauer: Pynni and Chi. Pieces will start when Pynni moves on to the next level.
  • First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise: all three kids
  • Vocabulit by Perfection Learning: Chi

Mathematics and Critical Thinking 

  • Math U See by Demme Learning: all three kids
  • Splash Math App by Study Pad Inc.: all three kids
  • Mathematical Reasoning by Critical Thinking Co.: all three kids
  • Time App by Study Pad Inc.: Pynni and Pieces
  • Money App by Study Pad Inc: all three kids
  • Building Thinking Skills by Critical Thinking Co.: all three kids

Extras: 

  • Handwriting Without Tears: all three kids with Pynni and Chi learning cursive
  • Snatch: a programming language for Chi
  • Typing Instructor for Kids Platinum: Pynni and Pieces (Chi has done all of Type to Learn 4 and Typing Instructor. He is at a point now where he just needs practice for typing fluency and speed. I have him type three or so sentences about his daily reading. This correlates well with his work in Writing with Ease.)
  • A History of US by Joy Hakim: all three kids
  • R.E.A.L Science Odyssey by Pandia Press: all three kids
  • Supercharged Science  by Aurora Lipper: all three kids
  • Which Way USA? and Top Secret Adventures by Highlights: all three kids (this helps cover basic geography on top of what they learn in their history curriculum)
  • Piano Adventures by Faber: all three kids

And that about does it for this school year so far. I’m pretty happy with how comprehensive our school day is and that it isn’t frustratingly long for all that. We do 12 workboxes four days a week and on the fifth day we do a math box, a reading box, history, science, and piano lessons.

We aren’t joining two of the homeschool groups we were a part of last school year at this time. One of them took up a big chunk of one day a week and I felt like we didn’t get as much covered as we otherwise would have had we been at home during those hours. It’s a great co-op type group, but it really meshes better with unschooling and not our super structured school days. The other group is good for finding out about all of the things going on in the area that might be relevant to homeschoolers, but it requires a small amount of time commitment dedicated to the group. That bit of time really hung heavy over my head last year and I want to try going without this time around. We may rejoin mid-year, but for now we only have the group we go to the park with on Fridays. If we get more covered, we may join the group that has Wednesday park days as well just for the break those days afford and the society they provide.

I should have a better handle on my Pynni update after today’s visit with the language specialist. For now, we’ve started therapy, but I do not have the official diagnoses just yet.

All About Reading Success! AAR has help Pynni tremendously.

All About Reading Success! AAR has help Pynni tremendously.

I’ve documented the struggles I’ve had with Pynni in both math and mainly reading here on my blog, and those struggles have put her even further behind than she should be as she starts her 3rd grade year. On a much more positive note, she is flourishing and reading better and better and with more and more confidence. I can see, now that Pieces is reading, where the confidence deficit has really hurt her because she doesn’t try and read every word she comes across. Pieces tries to read every word he sees. He isn’t more advanced in his reading level, yet but, he is way more adventurous and less worried about getting a word wrong. Still, without Pieces as a gauge, she is doing much, much better. I’m so proud of her extra hard work and perseverance.

With that said, I still worry about her. When she writes, she still gets letters mixed up and backward. When she reads, it’s slow and painful. She often complains of her eyes hurting and headaches and being sick to her stomach. The complaining can seem, at times, to be a ploy to get to stop reading. It’s not a ploy and fall into, but I have been trying to teach her to take small breaks to give her eyes a rest. It doesn’t seem to help, but I think it makes her feel better that I’m listening to her problems and taking them seriously.

She is so smiley and happy and wonderful and then she has to read or write and she becomes something else. Not my Pie. She gets frustrated easily and will completely lose her shit during class. So I’ve been addressing that and trying my hardest not to get frustrated with her. I’m trying to teach her ways to help deal with debilitating frustration. I’ve given her leave to take mental health breaks. If she gets frustrated, or preferably, feels herself getting frustrated, then she can get up from the table and get a drink, take deep breaths, move on to something else for a bit, go upstairs to the quiet of her room and cry if she needs to. Of course, part of learning to deal with frustration is also to learn when the breaks need to be over and what sorts of things are acceptable during school to alleviate frustration. Hint: Getting online to play a game or chat with your friends are not acceptable.

But all of this seems to be dealing with symptoms only. It’s reactionary and I like to be proactive so I’ve done some reading; research, if you will. I’m going to have her assessed for dyslexia or some other reading/writing delay (dysgraphia?). I HOPE that an answer will be found here. I don’t WANT her to be dyslexic, but I do want strategies to deal with her difficulties. I DO want to help make her learning experience less frustrating. She may not ever LOVE reading, and as an avid reader I really struggle with that, but I would love to make school less odious for her.

Then this happened:

My kids read independently for a set period of time every day. Chi will read for pleasure outside of this set time period, but the two littles haven’t found that love for reading, yet. I decided to take them to the library. I’m not sure why it’s always the last thing I think of when talking and thinking about reading, but there you are. So, I took them to the library. Chi has a ton of books at home that he’s working through (have I mentioned I’m an avid reader?) and rarely wants to go to the library. Pieces and Pynni LOVE the library. I told them to get 7 books in their reading level. They ended up get 8 or 9 a piece and they were SOOPER excited to get home and start reading.

I would find both Pieces and Pynni reading outside the allotted time for the next week or so. It made me smile. Pynni told me she didn’t like reading unless it was a book she picked out. This was after asking the week before if she could just skip learning to read altogether. So progress, I think.

Anyway, I’m still having her tested. The issues she has are too consistent and too pervasive to ignore. I’ll keep you posted.

Things. Stuff.

Things. Stuff.

That’s all I’m going to say right now. Stuff and Things have happened; have been going on. I’m hoping to turn stuff and things into some posts. There are updates needed, I know.

Onward!

While we officially started our new school year in mid June, we didn’t really kick it into high gear until last week. This is our third year of school here at Lamp Post Academy. Chi is moving into the 6th grade, Pynni is starting on 3rd grade and Pieces is charging through 1st grade.

**Side Rant**

As a homeschooler, I really dislike this need for every kid to fit into a specific grade category. I get why it’s a thing for kids in public school, but here at home? We do whatever level we need to be doing. If Chi is struggling with a math concept, we will back up and take a harder look at it. If that doesn’t help, I will find a different resource to help explain the concept to him in a different manner. We will work on it as long as we need to. If a reading curriculum isn’t working for Pynni, I can switch it, but that generally means backing up to learn how that curriculum introduces concepts or explains them. What terminology they use for concepts.

So we end up, with Chi for example, being in early 5th grade in math, but 8th grade in grammar, and 11th grade in vocabulary and reading comprehension. He couldn’t write his way out of a cardboard box, but he can verbally address many subjects quite eloquently and with a vocabulary that will stun you. So you see? What grade is that really? Well, I guess we’ll just stick with the conventional “this is where you’d be if you were in public school” levels and continue on with our regularly scheduled programming.

**End Rant**

Chi age 11.75 beginning 6th grade; Pieces age 6.25 beginning 1st grade; and Pynni age 8.25 beginning 3rd grade.

Chi age 11.75 beginning 6th grade; Pieces age 6.25 beginning 1st grade; and Pynni age 8.25 beginning 3rd grade.

When we started with our homeschool adventure, I backed up with Chi and Pynni, and started behind where they were in public school. I did this for several reasons, but the two main ones were to get a good feel for their knowledge level without starting out ahead of where they ended their public school education (All curricula are different and teach things in differing orders and ways. It’s easy to start out and quickly come across a concept the curriculum has covered in previous books, but not one your child has ever seen.) and to start a few things from the beginning that, Chi especially, hated in school like writing and Pynni was shutting down doing like reading. In the end my strategy worked amazingly well, and I accomplished all the objectives I was working to meet, but it also set the kids up to be behind in all their subjects as pertains to grade level.

So now that I feel like I have a real handle on the homeschool thing and that I’ve sussed out all the correct curricula and that we’ve got a schooling system and organization that works great for us, I feel the need to press ahead. We, with the exception of Pieces, are behind our public school counterparts in some areas and I think we need to remedy that. Because it’s just the three of us, we can move exactly as fast as necessary moving forward in this school year without leaving anyone behind.

Last year we just sort of mosey’d along with our school days while I worked to figure out what was best for Pynni and Pieces; what worked for them. This year, we can really buckle down and get some learning done. Last year was figuring out how to integrate Pieces into our school days. Last year was meeting with a bunch of homeschool groups and doing a bunch of socializing to figure out what we like best. Last year was making friends and switching curricula whenever we needed to do so.

This year, we have it down. This year we are going to finish at grade level or above. Now, of course, I am aware that “things happen”. Yes. I do know that. So if it takes two school years to be all caught up or more then it takes that long.

Our goal, for this year however, is to be grade level in as many subjects as possible. I’ll keep you posted.

School Table Before Workboxes (and that’s the part I’m willing to show in public)

We’ve been homeschooling for entire calendar year. Wednesday (22nd of Aug) is our official anniversary.

One of the things I’ve been struggling with the most, outside of my back, is getting anything else done at all besides school. When I’m down with my back the number of things besides school getting accomplished falls to zero. Times like now, when I’m sort of up, but waiting on the referral for physical therapy, and trying to accomplish things without rehurting (yes, that is a word! I have LIVED it.) myself, I get very little done outside of school. Dinner gets made. The occasional load of laundry gets done. A few things get picked up here and there. Some cat hair gets swept. I may take a shower. The kids appoints are met. That’s about it.

I, mostly, “do school” and plan to “do school”. (Again, this is a legitimate action verb and direct object, just ask Chi.) Those things listed above fill in the spaces along with back icing and laying (I am the most productive person EVER). Even though I spend most of my time on school or preparing for school, we rarely get through every subject every day. If I work with each kid for three hours, I’m teaching for 9 hours and that does not account for preparation. Three hours of school for a kid is GREAT! But 9 hours of school for me isn’t so much. I don’t mind, really, but I wish we were more organized, more efficient.

Enter Workboxes. Workboxing is a system designed by homeschooling mom, Sue Patrick. It is brilliant. If you google “workbox system” you will find all kinds of people who have adapted this to their homeschooling. There are photos and ideas. It’s excellent.

Took a while, but finally all parts are together and put where they go. Ready for school!

Chi’s workboxes.

The idea of the workbox system is to divide your child’s school day up into twelve, easy to swallow, portions that include new material and review. The boxes should be diverse in nature so that your child does not get bored with some easy tasks and a few challenging ones. There should be many tasks that require your child to work alone and a few that require work with Mom (or Dad, you know, whoever is doing the teaching). Thus, teaching your homeschooled children independence in their school work, which is something that can be difficult to do when the one on one time can be pretty constant.

The over all concept is a little more complicated than that, but you get the idea.

Here is our school table after the workboxes are filled. There’s room to work!

We took the week off school so that I could get this thing implemented. The work up front is pretty intensive, and on the whole, won’t really cut down my school prep time, but the actual school time will be slashed dramatically. Also, this system will keep us better organized and on task. I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going and what my thoughts are as we go along.

With all the “back to school” things everywhere, it’s funny how implementing this workboxing thing is like the mark of a new school year for us.

edit: I’ve found in the few days since implementing the workbox system that if I plan ahead, the daily prep takes about twenty minutes. MUCH better than before. A surprising, but welcome, development. And with all three breaks, the kids take about three and a half hours to get through all their subjects. In September we will start rotating history and science with the social studies we’re doing now. Pynni wasn’t too thrilled with the length of time working at first, but she’s come around now that she doesn’t have me looking over her shoulder for her entire school day. Chi took a day or so to acclimate and really struggled with the change, initially, but I expected that to be the case, even considering all the prep work I did with him. Pieces is Pieces and school is his mission while he’s doing it, whatever form that takes.

Piece of Cake

Done and done. We have officially finished our first year here at Lamp Post Academy. I’ve posted about the things I’ve learned and about some of the ups and downs we’ve had this year. I think, all in all, it was a great success!

Except for one thing. In North Carolina, I am required to test my kids with a standardized test at the end of every calendar year (for us that would be in August). I am not required by law to report the results, just keep them on hand in case I get audited. I have been dreading this. Mostly because I didn’t teach to the test. I hit the reset button on a lot of things for my kids this year, and while they are ahead in a few areas, they are a little behind in others. No worries, we are closing the gap rapidly, but I didn’t want to do any damage to my kids’ self-esteem if the tests were too hard.

Well, we finished those tests today, and they passed with flying colors. I know they did because I went back over the tests and checked. Heh.

So now, onward with the next school year. That one will start on July 18 after our trip to San Antonio to attend the annual Jackson Family Reunion. YAY!

Cheeeeese!

Teaching Pynni has been hard. She balks, fights, pouts, whines, sulks, mumbles, cries. In essence, she acts completely unlike her usual, giggly, smiling, easy-going, happy self. It has been baffling and frustrating and stressful to say the very least. I’ve wondered if I’ve done the right thing for her. Kindergarten may have been its own special kind of hell and may have damaged her self-esteem, but at least she was happy (except for that pesky crying during homework, OH, and when she begged to stay home because school made her cry).

Right, so I would get to a point during school days that I would begin rethinking this homeschooling thing for her, but then I would begin the litany of reasons that I started homeschooling. That very list of reasons that pushed me into the deep end of childhood education in the first place. Then, I would see that I just had to figure out what is up with her attitude about school.

Reading was difficult, and can still be so. I’d decided that her issue was either physiological or sensory in nature relating to her vision and have set the wheels in motion to get her tested or assessed or whatever is needed.

Then in a flash of brilliance I realized something. I, the teacher, was struggling teaching her the math curriculum we’ve been plodding through. I chose Saxon Math, and it is wonderful. For Chi. Mister Cut-and-Dried, Mister Point-a-to-Point-b, Mister Get-in, Get-done and Get-out. Why did I think Pynni was doing fine with this boring, dry curriculum when I was dreading teaching her math every day? And why did I think that she would be looking forward to much of anything when that core subject, that makes up half of her school time, was so stinking boring?

Pynni is NOTHING like her brother. Pynni needs colors and pictures and glitter! Pynni needs arts and crafts and projects! Pynni needs stories and crayons and PAINTS!

So I returned to the Homeschool store and asked those wonderfully informative, approachable people if there were some workbooks I could use to supplement Saxon Math 1. It was very pricey and I’m not willing to dump it until after the school year. HA! RIGHT!

“Of course, there are workbooks!” they said. “BUT, you should look at this,” handing me The Life of Fred. “And maybe you should look at this,” handing me Mathematical Reasoning. Mathematical Reasoning is a full curriculum in and of itself, but it is presented in bold, colorful, and fun workbook pages. “This,” I thought to myself, “screams Pynni.” But it’s a $40 book and I’ve already spent so much on the Saxon Math course.

Fred

So I check out The Life of Fred. It, too, is a complete curriculum, but it’s sub $20 for one year of study. It is, now see if you can wrap your brain around this, literary math. It takes a literary approach to teaching math. It tells the story of Fred, a five year old college calculus professor. He encounters math in everyday life.

The author, Dr. Stanley F. Schmidt, writes, “When I taught at the high school and college levels, the most frequent question that other math teachers and I got was, “Why are we studying this stuff?” In this series, every piece of mathematics first happens in Fred’s everyday life, he needs it, and then we do it. Everything is motivated–everything from introducing the number zero in this book (as the number of elephants that Fred owns) to hyperbolic trigonometric functions were we find three uses for them on page 250 of Life of Fred: Calculus when Fred and the 8’2″ lion enter an all-you-can-eat buffet.”

The first lesson, in this book they are called chapters, introduces you to Fred, his home (his office at his place of employment), and his best friend (a “happy meal” toy named Kingie). He wakes up at 5am and wants to go for a run but it’s too dark, and in February it won’t get light until 7am. TWO WHOLE HOURS! He proceeds to have a conversation about this fact with his friend and through this teaches the first lesson in addition (5+2=7). The chapter ends in a “Now it’s your turn” sort of way and asks 4 questions that require Pynni to think about that equation in a few different ways and then to notice that both 5+2 and 2+5 are equal to 7.

Pynni and Fred: Fast Friends

It was brilliant. It is funny, concise, and entertaining. Pynni laughed all the way through and answered all the questions. The following day we did the Mathematical reasoning pages that most resembled this lesson. She did all her work in marker and used a separate marker for each different worksheet. She completed 8 of them. She spent over half an hour doing math, two days in a row, and complained not one single time. She was smiling when it was done and completed the rest of her school day in record time with minimal whining about reading (although still periodically complaining about her eyes).

I feel like I’ve won something HUGE with this change-up. I can’t stop smiling about it. I’m excited for school on Monday with Pynni!

Anybody want to buy Saxon Math 1 plus manipulatives? I know where you can get one for cheap.

A really good thing about homeschooling is flexibility. Before we started school, I sat down with my computer and my iCal and worked out our school year (over and over, actually). I took into account holidays and birthdays and summer breaks that include my niece and nephew staying with us during their summer break. I took into account not having too many weeks of school in a row without a week break (we don’t want to burn out, after all, and we can literally go all year round).

Now, I don’t do schedule changes well. I like things that are planned to be exactly as they are planned. Surprises and I aren’t on good terms. (Sound like anybody else?) So, when I made this schedule, I knew at some point that there would need to be changes occasionally, like a day when I’m sick or the kids are sick and we can make up those days on the weekend if necessary, and we’ve done that pretty successfully. And somehow, I’m not freaked out by it.

Next Saturday is Chi’s tenth birthday, and I had set up the break for the following week. Well, this morning Pynni is sick, and this weekend I destroyed the living room to put my area rug together and before the furniture was brought back in, I cleaned out the two closets in the living area. NOW, a lot of that mess is all over our school table and needs organizing which I need to do before we can have school today, so I proposed an option to the kids of Lamp Post Academy:

Yes. Yes, that's grey hair.

Let’s move next week’s break to this week. That way we don’t have to make up Pynni’s missed school day on Chi’s birthday weekend.

I left it up to them to agree upon, and they chose to take the break a week earlier (surprise!). I’m fine with this, it gives me an opportunity to finish my organization project and get caught up on some house work and school prep that I’ve been needing to do. (History and Science are more labor intensive than I was prepared for.)

I’m still a little weirded out that the schedule got changed at the last minute and I’m not suffering from panic attacks and fits of anger and irritation. Hey, maybe I’m growing as a person.