Tag Archive: Elementary


Curriculum Round-up 2016/2017

So we’ve started our 6th year here at Lamp Post Academy. We still use the Workboxing System and have streamlined it since implementing it 4 years ago. Our school room is now the dining room, which happened a couple of years ago. It keeps my whole downstairs from being consumed by school stuff. I’ve implemented what I call “Boardwork.”

Boardwork is a series of index cards taped to my white board  that stipulate certain activities. The kids place a magnet with their initials on it on the card they’ve completed. These are mostly supplemental type activities and they are all to be done on their own time. Things like reading practice (read for an hour if  you’re Chi and 30 minutes if you’re Pieces and Pynni), math worksheets, various apps that supplement math and language arts, typing, free writing, copywork, etc. These are things they have to complete every day before they can hang out with their friends. I’m hoping it fosters personal responsibility that they don’t get from having to turn in homework.

Pieces has caught up with Pynni and we’ve been doing “class” together when we do “Work With Mom”s (WWM). They really like this and make a game of spelling and reading. All of the work we’ve been doing with Pynni has really been paying off big time. While she’s still behind grade level by quite a lot, she has less issues with doing the work and moving onward. Pieces was recently assessed for ADD/ADHD and we’ve started a low dose of Ritalin to see if we can help him organize himself a little better and focus better. This is new, and I can’t really tell yet if it’s having a positive affect.

Chi started 9th grade. Let that sink in for a minute. Chi is now in high school and everything he does here on out is to go on his high school transcript. I considered enrolling him in a virtual charter school but I didn’t like the idea of being beholden to someone else’s schedule and Chi was hard against it. I’ve been sort of panicked trying to decide what the right thing to do was and what direction we should take and then finding all the resources I needed to make this high school thing happen. I have been trying to decide if I feel like I can adequately teach high school English, Social Studies and Science. I’ve looked every place I can think of for information and suggestions. What you’ll see here is the culmination of months of researching, planning, scrapping, etc until I felt I had something both comprehensive and affordable.

So what follows, as far as the curriculum round-up is concerned will be first, what I’m doing with Pynni and Pieces followed by the course plan for Chi for this, his freshman year of high school.

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Pynni and Pieces (4th Grade)

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

Mathematics and Critical Thinking 

Extras: 

  • Handwriting Without Tears: all three kids with Pynni and Chi learning cursive
  • A History of US by Joy Hakim: all three kids
  • R.E.A.L Science Odyssey by Pandia Press: all three kids
  • Science Detective by Critical Thinking Co.: all three kids
  • Young Scientists Cluball three kids. This is a lab mailed to your house once or twice a month.
  • 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
  • Rosetta Stone: Spanish Level 1 and 2
  • Keyboarding Without Tears by Handwriting Without Tears: Pynni and Pieces
  • Study Island: I’m using this in lieu of other supplements and review curricula I’ve done in the past.

Joint Reading:

  • FINSIHED Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (We’ve been reading through the Harry Potter series. I thought I’d start including our group read-aloud books here, as well.)
  • FINISHED The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (We finished the Harry Potter Series and started with the Maze Runner series. The books aren’t nearly the tomes of Harry Potter and makes for fast reading.)
  • FINISHED Savvy by Ingrid Law
  • FINISHED The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee (This is just with Pieces right now. It’s for The Arrow. We take turns reading out loud. Chi will read this on his own and then he will read the passages used in the curriculum out loud to me. He’s read this book before about 4 years ago.)
  • FINISHED Scumble by Ingrid Law
  • FINISHED The Death Cure by James Dashner
  • Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

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Chi (9th grade)

English 1 credit

  • Brave Writer: Help 4 High School (writing papers)
  • Brave Writer: Arrow/Boomerang (literature)
  • Editor-in-Chief by Critical Thinking Co. (grammar)
  • Vocabulit by Perfection Learning (vocab)
  • All About Spelling by All About Learning Press (spelling)

Foreign Language 1 credit

  • Rosetta Stone Level 2

Math 1 credit

  • Math U See Pre-Algebra by Demme Learning
  • Math U See Geometry

Science

  • With us. I create a lesson plan, lessons, and use labs to teach various topics in Earth Science, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. He won’t get a credit for this, but UNC requires only 3 science credits. He will start earning credits in science next year.

Social Studies 1 credit

Electives 2 credits

Supplementals

  • Study Island
  • Spider Island Logic
  • Spider Island Riddles
  • Reflex Math

The plan is for Chi to finish out any of his current supplementals. He has puzzle books that I won’t be buying more of, but I want him to finish them. Study Island covers language arts, math, science, and social studies for K-12.

He will also finish the Handwriting Without Tears book he is on and that will complete that, and he will finish out the All About Spelling level he’s on and that will finish that.

Chi and Pynni

I never would have believed in a million years that Pynni would be harder to teach than Chi.

There are any number of challenges I face when dealing with Chi in any situation, and they all seem to be amplified when set against a backdrop of education. Until homeschooling started, education was a struggle of epic proportions with Chi. It required meetings and extra work and special considerations in class and lots of pep-talks and tons of extra time and effort spent on homework. There have been various therapists and therapies and extended leaves from school due to upheaval in the teacher situation.

My whole experience of parenthood with Chi has been difficult at best.

Cutie Pynni Pie

Pynni has been the complete opposite. She was a very happy baby and almost always had a smile on her face. That has been the case with her through all her phases. She finds the humor and the joy in everything. She has a curiosity about the world around her that Chi never exhibited. She has been keen to learn and was ecstatic at being in school.

Through everything that we went through last year, her love of school remained untarnished, but her love of learning was damaged. Now, I struggle to get her to participate. She lays her head upon the table and mumbles into the crook of her arm when I ask her questions. She huffs and rolls her eyes and shrugs her shoulders. I don’t feel as if she doesn’t know the answer. When she’s struggling with a concept, she will strive to retain her ignorance. She actually refuses to get a new concept. I can see her choosing to ignore the click in her brain as something starts making sense.

Food is FUN!

Reading has been a particularly hard subject. I’ve chosen to teach Pynni to read through the use of phonics as opposed to the memorization of sight-words that was used in public school. Part of her struggles with reading stem from the difference in learning styles. She wants to look at the picture and guess at the words that she doesn’t have memorized as opposed to sounding out the words she doesn’t know using the letter sounds she does. I took her back and started at the beginning. We were able to speed through the first 30 lessons or so because they were all relating to letter sounds, at which she is proficient. The following two weeks we worked on simple three letter words and combining them into simple three or four or five word sentences.

The third week of school she hit a wall and refused to even try to overcome the difficulty she was having with words ending in ‘en’ (Ben, den, hen, pen, etc). Part of it is this crazy North Carolinian accent she is sporting. Words like hen sound almost like ‘he-yun’ but the biggest part is that she isn’t used to seeing a word and then sounding out the individual letter sounds before saying them all together in a word. She wants to be told what the word is every time she sees it until she knows it by sight. So after she cried, well, weeped is probably more apt, all through one reading lesson, I realized that I was going to have to spend a little more time on these simple words and sounds before moving forward any further.

Look, Ma, no nostrils!

So I did some research and found a workbook that teaches phonics that can be used in conjunction with my reading curriculum. She balked at first, but has realized, I think, that when she takes a deep breath, she can do the worksheet easy-peasy. Once she started doing the worksheets easily the reading part of school got just a smidge easier.

I went to visit my parents at the end of our first 5 weeks of school (after which we were taking a week break) and had our first homeschool away from home experience. It went really well, except for the fact that there isn’t any one particular room I can shut Pieces (and whichever sibling isn’t working) into where they can stay occupied, out of trouble, and quiet, so there were a lot of interruptions. Regardless we got the work done and began our first break.

Pynni's Waxed Teeth

My mom observed the schooling. She has been extremely supportive and is very interested in what we are doing. She took the opportunity to listen and watch how school went with Chi and Pynni. She says that I am obviously frustrated with Pynni when she starts in with the mulishness. I told her that’s because I AM frustrated and I slow my speech down and speak more clearly because I’m trying not to yell at her and wring her ornery little neck. *ahem* She says Pynni gets more and more recalcitrant as I stress my enunciation more and more. And apparently I use too much bass in my voice. I point out that I have never talked to my kids like they were frightened little animals who might shy away at the slightest provocation. I have always talked to them like people who deserve respect and that raising the octave of my voice seems false and patronizing.

Well. It can be good to get outside opinions on things because seeing what needs changing can be difficult to discern from inside the problem. The first thing I’m going to do is divide up their learning. I will start with Chi and typing because he can get that finished before we take Pieces to preschool. After the preschool drop-off, Pynni will do math followed by Chi doing math.

Lamp Post Academy

Then I will alternate the subjects and the students in that manner until we get to the things they do together: history and science. Hopefully that will negate any attention span issues with Pynni.

The second thing I’m going to do is incorporate educational games into our curriculum. There are great, fun games out there that reinforce reading and spelling and math and logic. That, I think, will help make my kids more excited about learning.

Finally, I will try to curb my frustration differently. I’m hoping that switching from student to student will help alleviate my frustration as well as their attention spans, and in the end, we will all win.

Lamp Post Academy

We just wrapped up our second week of homeschool at Lamp Post Academy and I’ve learned a few things.

    1. Mornings are the best time for school because the kids are more alert and their attention spans seem longer.
    2. Chi has some sort of mental block with doing math problems when they are presented to him in 10 rows of 10.
    3. Pynni is much more advanced in mathematics than Saxon starts out in the First Grade year. Today was day 8 of school and Pynni completed Lesson 26 today. I think she is still beyond a lot of what we’re doing, but Saxon gradually introduces new concepts and spends a lot of time reviewing previous concepts, so when the book started in with addition, I stopped jumping ahead.
    4. Pynni is too far advanced in reading to be taught side by side with Pieces, so I have Pieces stay upstairs, which he hates when Pynni is downstairs with me. I have been able to move Pynni forward by 30 lessons because she knows all her letters and their sounds.
    5. I cannot effectively teach Chi and Pynni math, writing, grammar, and reading simultaneously. For example: I was trying to teach them math at the same time by giving Chi his warm-up worksheet and then doing the lesson of the day with Pynni. Then, while Pynni works on her daily worksheet, I do the daily lesson with Chi. Problem: Chi can’t pay attention when there is too much going on in the room and his noise canceling headphones do not help. With writing and grammar and reading, Chi is too advanced and answering questions based on a narrated passage is something Pynni is just learning to do while Chi can answer those questions with detail and extrapolation in complete sentences.
    6. Pynni was taught to memorize sight words in Kindergarten and is struggling with phonics, but she is actually able to read some Dr. Seuss books only 8 days into school that she couldn’t have read before.
    7. I have come up against the “I-don’t-knows” from Pynni that her subs last year must have encountered. She seems to think it’s cute to get the answers wrong a couple of times before getting the right answer. The REALLY irritating thing is that she KNOWS the right answer. I know this because I hear her mutter the correct answer under her breath before she deliberately, and with a coy little smile, answers incorrectly. INFURIATING.
    8. I’ve instituted a positive reinforcement strategy and award them stickers for completing a subject with no-fuss. They turn their sheets of stickers, which they can potentially fill in a week, for prizes. I’ve had to increase the cost of the prizes, otherwise we’ll go broke.
    9. Right now, due to having to teach each child individually to meet Chi’s needs, I teach Pynni math, grammar, writing and reading before bringing the boys downstairs for joint penmanship. Then Pynni and Pieces go upstairs while I do the same with Chi. I may have to alternate kids every other subject because Pynni gets done with the sitting after math. I’ve tried jumping-jacks after each subject to get her more alert, but it is short lived. I’ve tried giving her gum to stimulate her, but she just smacks it and blows bubbles while planning how to incorrectly answer questions. I just don’t know how Chi will tolerate that.
    10. School time with Pynni can be as short as 45 minutes or as long as 2 hours depending on her cooperation and attitude. This fluid time does not suit Chi at all. I’m planning to start with Chi next week and then transition to Pynni. I let you know how it goes.

      Silly to the MAX

    11. I’m having to take deep breaths and practice “raw spaghetti, cooked spaghetti” to be okay with Chi hopping all over the room during school. He IS learning and paying attention. He IS. (“Have patience, have patience, don’t be in such a hurry…” etc. It’s my constant mantra)
    12. Using white boards, and chalkboards makes Chi much happier than having to put pencil to paper.
    13. Pynni has some sort of visual sensitivity. I’ve noticed some signs of this before, but it hasn’t seemed to effect her in broad terms. These past two weeks she has complained of her eyes hurting and she rubs them during school almost constantly. She rarely looks directly at anything that is in writing. She told me it hurts to look at things so I like it sideways. I’m going to talk to her pediatrician about it and she may not be severe enough to need an OT, but I’m going to need to do some reading on it and see if there is anything I can do to help her. Chi’s OT said that visual and auditory sensitivities are the hardest to address with visual being even harder than auditory so there may not be anything except help her learn to cope.
    14. I really can do the school part of the day at any time if I need to.

Well, it’s been fun and frustrating, eye-opening and challenging. We will add the two new language arts next week and after our break in mid-September we will be adding Biology and History. Should be entertaining at the very least.

It is official. I sent in my notice of intent (NOI) to open a homeschool in the state of North Carolina and they responded to let me know they’d gotten it. Got that? I didn’t have to ask. I tell them what I’m going to do and I do it. So far? That’s my favorite part.

To successfully file a “NOI” one must pick a name for your school. The name needs to be something that won’t look stupid on your kids’ high school transcripts, if you go that far. So no Mac-n-Cheese High or Hogwarts School. If you pick a name that is the same as an existing homeschool, your name will be tacked onto the end of it. It could end up being New Life School Johnson or Raleigh Academy McGregor (which goes back to the whole stupid name thing) because they tack your last name on to the school if there are duplicates (thank god, there’s a list). So I researched school names and checked against both stupidity and the list of existing schools.

Lamp Post Academy

I picked Lamp Post Academy. Lamp Post because one of my favorite childhood book series is The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I like the imagery of a lamp post in the forest for no particular reason. I like the ping on the imagination and the memories it conjures. I like the idea that Lamp Post is a light in the darkness, illuminating your path, and in this case, it is the illumination of knowledge on the darkness of ignorance. We will be learning things at LPA. I’m excited to start.

I will not be “unschooling” as the trend in homeschooling seems to be. Our day will be structured and our curriculum specific. I will be catering to the needs of my Aspie (the schedule being one of the things) and throwing in fun to keep them interested. Our day will be fairly short compared to public school, but probably longer than it will be when they get older and can do a little more independent work. Pynni will be the most labor intensive since she is in the first grade and will be needing me to work very closely with her. In the beginning weeks, maybe as long as the first year, I will be doing a great deal of hand holding for Chi. In the end, my hope is that he becomes accustomed to my schedule and will crunch through the subjects one after the other without a whole lot of redirect from me (on good days).

I have all of my curriculum picked out and I’m going to start out with just the basics to get the feel of this homeschool thing and then add things like science and history and foreign languages in stages as we get more comfortable with the process. More about all that later.

We start on August 22. I know I said earlier that we were going to start after our vacation this summer, but I came to realize pretty quickly that I just wasn’t going to have the time to get completely prepared to start by then and that it would be better for Chi and Pynni if we started after Kip and Mae go back to their mom’s. So the 22nd it is.

Pieces doesn’t start preschool until after Labor Day so I will be starting out thin in the subjects we cover for the first two weeks.

I’m going to start with Math, penmanship, writing and reading. The math is going to be the most difficult to teach because of the breadth of the divide between what Pynni will be learning and what Chi will be learning and how much direction they are both going to require from me. The penmanship will be taught to all three of my kids at one time. I’m starting some gross motor skill reprogramming with Chi and I’m just going to include the two smaller ones in these exercises. It won’t hurt them and might help them in the end. The writing is a program I’m going to do to help teach Chi that writing isn’t so scary. I’ve talked about it before here. I can teach Chi and Pynni side by side at first, but I’m thinking Chi will sprint through the early levels where Pynni will be taking her time. Then reading is kind of a gimme. Chi is advanced enough that he is going to be given chapter books to read and then a worksheet to complete after a couple of chapters. I will be teaching Pynni to read so I figure I will just teach Pieces alongside her. If it turns out that Pynni is further along than Pieces can keep up, then I will divide and conquer in that manner.

Once Pieces goes to preschool, I will add grammar and vocab, spelling and typing. Wish me luck!

So, summer has started and things have been cranking right along. There’s swimming, and playing, and crafts, and heat, and cousins, and company, and more company, and trips, and having five kids instead of three. It’s pretty crazy around here these days. Then, in July, after that family trip? We start school. I have to figure out how to work around having two extra kids; include them, I guess, but I’m intimidated enough at the prospect of teaching my own kids much less weave in two kids for all of three weeks. Well, I’ll figure it out.

The last weeks of school were really quite pointless. After the EOG’s were administered, the kids basically went to school for structured day care. There was no homework outside of daily reading, and no school work, apparently. Lots of drawing and reading and movie watching. So, the third grade did this thing where they counted down to the end of the year using the alphabet. Each day they had a theme that began with that letter. Things went anywhere from simply wearing a hat or bringing your favorite book, to ice cream or popcorn parties.

One of the days was “Kindness Day” during, which, the kids were to say kind things about their classmates. Mizz Eff took it a step further and gave each kid a piece of paper with their name on it and then the kids went around the room and wrote the kind things on each others’ paper. Chi brought his home.

Kindness

Mizz Eff wrote “creative with new ideas,” which just makes me beam, but my most favorite one, because I think it is so perfect, is right under his name: “You know all the rules =)”. And isn’t that the truth.

Well, we are in the home stretch. School for my elementary kids ends on June 10. (Pieces’ last day of school was last Thursday) We’ve successfully navigated this year and it was a hard row to hoe, but every obstacle brings a learning experience and I can only hope that I’ve learned…something. Patience? One can hope.

Chi finished the EOG’s and was none the worse for wear. AND HE PASSED!  He got 3 out of a possible 4 on the reading and combined math tests with 2 requiring a retest and 1 meaning “sorry there is no hope for you”. So, yay! He has, since, struggled with the changes in his daily schedule because, well, it’s the end of the year and there’s retesting for those who got a 2 which puts all the kids who passed in different classrooms where they have to be quiet. (and in case you forgot? Chi is almost NEVER quite, during sleep included.) Still. It’s close to the end and I can’t help but breathe a giant sigh of relief.

Both of my kids have moved on to the next level. I will be teaching it to them. I’ve discovered that it’s possible to be so excited about something you can’t sit still and paralyzed with a sick fear of making the wrong decision all at the same time.

EVIL END OF GRADE

Chi took the dreaded EOG this week: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. He was as prepared as possible. His attitude was positive and he seemed unfazed all of a sudden. So okay, I’m thinking, maybe all will be well.

When Chi got home Monday afternoon, I asked how it went. We had talked about what he was expected to do a bunch and I reiterated all the salient points on the way to school that morning. He was excited and said that it went, “GREAT!” and that, “IT WAS WAY EASY!” (I can’t make those letters any bigger, but I could add extra exclamation points and it still wouldn’t impart the level of excitement this kid was vibrating with when he walked in the door.)

I asked him if he wore his headphones (yes) and if he finished all the questions (YESSSS! With much sighing and irritation. How could I even need to ASK this question, his tone of voice seemed to say.) I asked if he had any meltdowns or if he was able to work diligently (OH-MAH-GAWD-YES! IT WAS ALL FINE AND NO FITS AND ALL GOOD! If he were a teen there would have been eye rolling involved. I think if he cursed, now would be the point when those would be added.). So I asked if it took him the whole three hours. He just looked at me. “Well, did it?” He huffed and said, “We got breaks, Mom. Every twenty minutes.” As if I hadn’t planned it that way. As if I hadn’t had meeting after meeting about what would be the best way to present this testing situation to Chi.

But I was curious. How did these scheduled breaks factor into his test completion. So I asked the question differently, “How much time did you have to finish the test, bud?” He plunked his hands on his hips and then flopped into a heap on the couch (His favorite position is with his head jacked at a ninety degree angle to his body, up on the back cushions with his back along the seat cushions and his legs folded up near his ears. I’m not sure why, but there you are. OH, and he almost ALWAYS achieves this position by slamming himself onto the couch.). “The test ended at 12:30 (pm), Mom, ” he deigned to reply. “We started at 9:30, but I finished in 40 minutes.”

“…y-you. You did whaaaaaaat?!?” I’m a little in shock. I was told to expect this part of the test to be the most grueling. It may have the fewest questions, but it takes the longest to complete.

“I finished the test before the second break. We had a break every 20 minutes.” He seems completely unphased by this, like somehow it was to be expected.

“You were supposed to be taking your time.”

“I DID, Mom. I answered all the questions.”

“Well what did you do for the rest of the time?” I’m still stunned. Unable to wrap my brain around this.

“I just sat there.”

OOOOKAY…

So on Tuesday we talked about the Math part (there are two days of Math testing) and he seemed ready. His math test was going to be read to him, not because he can’t comprehend reading math problems, but to help pace him and keep him from getting overwhelmed by the sheer number of math problems. Plus, his class practiced these tests with the teacher reading the questions to the students. Wednesday morning we were going over, one last time, the expectations.

I said, “You listen to the teacher and take your time. She’ll help you stay focused.”

He pauses for a moment and then says, “Oh, I just finish all the problems on that page and sit and wait until we can turn pages.”

Me, deep breathing, “So you don’t wait on the teacher?”

“MOOOOOOOM, she’s sooooo slooooooow! I can finish all the problems on the page before she gets finished reading the second question.”

Me, almost afraid to ask, “So what do you do while you wait?”

“Oh, I just sit there.”

Sheesh, well, I guess, at least he didn’t shut down and not finish his test, but I don’t know how to feel about this. Did he rush too quickly and make a bunch of stupid mistakes? Did taking the test with all these buffers help him stay focused and that’s why he finished so quickly? Would he have fared perfectly well with the rest of his class? Jeez, I guess I’ll find out when we get his test results.

You can bring the EOG to the kid, but you can’t predict how he will handle it. No matter how prepared he is.

**Disclaimer**  I didn’t sleep much last night so I expect major leeway in what actually gets put into this post.

**side note**  Other than minimal brain function, that has absolutely nothing to do with what I have to say.

Dimple

I had an email from Chi’s teacher Wednesday morning, early. (I don’t usually check my email before I take the kids to school because that can take more time than I have to give and we might end up being late. You know how it is.) I checked my email for reasons unknown and came across one from Mrs. Eff requesting an emergency conference and an immediate call back, which I did. We scheduled the conference for later in the day and I did a short scramble to find childcare for Pieces.

I get to the school and the conference isn’t just with Miz Eff, but also, with the PrinciPAL, Ms. A and a woman I know but have no clue what her job title is. We’ll call her EOG Admin (EOGA for short), as that seemed to be her duties in this meeting. (Ms. A is the 504 coordinator). There were some concerns that there was no way to meet all of Chi’s requirements for testing as laid out in his 504. I had talked a little about some of this with Miz Eff in March but I thought things were settled.

Here’s the score:

Chi’s 504 has some pretty specific requirements for him while taking the EOG. Things to help him cope better with a process that is likely to be very difficult for him to adjust to because it changes everything he knows to expect in school for three days only, but three crucial days. These things are (and I’m gonna use bullet points, YAY!) (in no particular order):

  • He is able to write in his test book. Meaning that he doesn’t have to fill in little circles. For a kid who hates writing and coloring, that would be tedious at best. Also, he couldn’t stay in the lines to save his own life. And that’s a fact.
  • He is to be in a group of kids of no more than 10 and no fewer than three (including himself). He does not do well at all when he is the center of any kind of attention. He does not perform. He will shut down. That is a fact. Also, if there are too many kids things get too busy and too distracting. Not good. Additionally, Chi is noisy. He is almost constantly making noise. When he is in a good mood and doing his work, they are little and quiet: hums and chirps and little squeaks, but when he is shutting down and having a bad day, they escalate in decibel level and intensity/frequency, etc. This is not a quiet kid. If he were to be too much of a distraction for the class, a mistest could be called and the whole class would have to be retested. Yeah. So not good. (oh, by the way? These noises are not something he does consciously. Yes, sometimes they are, but for the most part he has no control over them. For the record? Bringing them to his attention to makes matters worse.)
  • He is to get as many breaks as he needs, whenever he needs. Chi is remarkable at focus. When he is enjoying himself. When he is uninterested he can take a task that should take 5 minutes and stretch into hours and hours of flopping and moaning or just diving into his inner world. Plus, he has movement needs.
  • He is to wear his headphones. He has noise canceling headphones. They eliminate white noise, and most extraneous ambient and distracting noises and allow him to hear the teacher or those talking directly to him. It is like a miracle drug for his ability to cope.
  • He is to be allowed as much extra time to complete the tests as he needs. Because his focus can wander and he can have shutdowns and he may need breaks as often as every 15 or 20 minutes, he will need extra time to complete his exams.

Well, I found out in March that there was no group that met all of his requirements, which meant that he would be alone with two teachers (the proctor and the administrator)(talk about center of attention, sheesh). There was one, however, that met most if Chi could have the test read to him (just the Math portions, not the Reading portions). Since the kids have been practicing taking the EOG in class and those practice exams have been read to them problem by problem, Miz Eff thought this might be a good fit for him. After some discussion, I agreed.

Yesterday they tell me that the group that meets all the other requirements has only one other kid in it. This is a problem if that kid is sick because that would leave Chi all alone, which is why the 504 stipulates no fewer than three kids. I was told that, really, Chi could write in the test book and wear his headphones in any group, so those aren’t deal breakers, but there was no one group that fit all of the other stipulations. So we set about deciding what was most important.

There was a group that fit everything, but the breaks were scheduled every 20 minutes. Miz Eff worried that with Chi being such a proficient reader such a rigid schedule would interfere with any groove he may get into with reading and answering the subsequent questions. So I pointed out the most important parts: he will need breaks and he cannot be alone. I, then, pointed out that while I found Miz Eff’s concerns valid, that Chi does really well with a rigid schedule and that the best solution would be to tell him what that schedule was going to be and let him know what time the timer started and what time it was set to go off. I think he would do fine with that. If every thing else was met in that scenario, then things should be set to run a smooth as possible for him.

PrinciPAL was worried that if Chi was sick that he would have to make up that testing day in a one on two scenario and I assured her that, if that were to be the case, then we could deal with that when it happened. It would be hard, but I think with the right prep, he would be semi-okay. Miz Eff then asked if she could be the one to administer any make up testing and was assured that, indeed, she could. That’ll make a big difference if that is a necessary thing.

EOGA was concerned that Chi was going to be uncomfortable with his testing administrator and has been pairing him for the last couple of weeks with a woman, Ms. Title 1 to be exact, who sees Chi at no other point. Thus eliminating any stress of feeling like he’s being judged by any of his academic authority figures, but still putting him with someone familiar.

So now, I come to it. I sat in this conference room, with these Education Professionals and boggled at how thoughtful and caring they were about this one student. These women have fought for Chi along side me. There has been no fighting, no head butting, nothing but cooperation and compassion. They truly care. They see the exceptional kid before them and not his issues. They want to help him.

Things have been far from perfect this year for Pynni and Chi has had his struggles, too, but in the end these people are trying, and in the case of Miz Eff going so far beyond that it takes my breath away. I sat in this room with these people, strangers really, who were fighting for Chi, and found myself, not questioning whether or not I should homeschool, but lamenting that they wouldn’t be in my children’s lives anymore. Homeschooling still solves so many problems that we will face in the future.

But I can’t say that I’m unhappy with the adults they’ve had in their lives thus far. I can say that I’m grateful. I can say that I appreciate what they’ve done; what they do.

When I left, they, each one, told me how amazed they were with my quick response and willingness to come in to meet with them so last minute. That still, flabbergasts me. Who wouldn’t, I think, this is for my son, how could I not?

Okay, so I mentioned before that the elementary school administration has decided that Pynni needs a PEP (Personalized Education Plan) which sounds great, I know. The point of this PEP is to address deficits in Pynni’s academic performance. In math. In Kindergarten. What she needs to know by now and what she needs to know before the end of school (in 8 weeks if you count this week. (and I do)) is how to count/write/draw to 30 (now) and how to add/subtract using visual aids and manipulatives (by the end of school).

Wait. What? BUT SHE ALREADY CAN COUNT TO 30! SHE CAN WRITE TO 30!

WHAT THE HELL?!?

Now, admittedly, she can’t add or subtract. She doesn’t even really know what those terms mean.

because

THEY INTRODUCED THAT TWO WEEKS AGO! (and last week was spring break. HELLO?!?)

Irritated Face


Kay, sorry. I’m a little angry. I’m a lot disgruntled. I knew this was coming because Pynni’s “not very happy” Teacher warned me it was coming even though she has argued against this necessity. She tells me over and over that she knows Pynni is proficient in these areas; that she is not behind.

Still.

Really?

Angry Face with ! and !!! and !!!1one

Oh yes. The system has failed. What are the statistics for illiteracy in middle school students? I don’t know but I found this when I googled “illiteracy statistics us”. What it says is that 42 million Americans cannot read at all and another 50 million read no better than a 4th or 5th grader and those numbers grow by 2.25 million every year as kids leave the school systems to become part of adult society. Those numbers are scary and I actually have a passion for teaching literacy, but that isn’t the point of this post.

My point is this:

My daughter is not one of those people nor will she be. We work with her on reading and writing and math after school every day. EVERY DAY. I was told in February that she was not going to pass Kindergarten when I knew for a fact she was at or beyond grade level in every subject. Still, I took the IRT’s advice and the PrinciPAL’s suggestions and began doing even more work with her. Then, her teacher came back to the school from her maternity leave (all is well with her baby, yay!) and was appalled at how her class had been handled in her absence.

She set about reassessing all of the kids and found that, at least in Pynni’s case, she had been miss-assessed (is that a term?) and was actually above grade level in reading and writing and at grade level in math. She told me that Pynni would most certainly move on to first grade, and might not have to go to summer school. (I’m still reeling from this. Summer school for rising first graders? Really? That just seems like overkill.) “MIGHT not?” I asked. Ms. S said that the administration felt that she would need the extra tutoring that summer school would provide even though Ms. S was not recommending it.

On Thursday, I found out that Pynni is being recommended for a P.E.P. (personalized education plan) which would be GREAT except that it is reserved for academically troubled students. Ms. S stated that she was against such a thing and that in the end it isn’t bad, but the administration is determined that Pynni is this horribly slow student whose parents are checked out and is in need of all kinds of interventions to keep her from falling behind.

I cannot express in words that don’t make me sound awful and uneducated how angry all of this makes me. I appreciate that they are trying to catch the “at risk” students before they are sent forward through the system without all the necessary tools, but Pynni isn’t one of them.

Conversely, Chi isn’t necessarily “at risk” but he needs all the help he can get. He needs academic and sensory interventions. He most likely needs an aide specifically for him in the classroom and that will increasingly be the case the further through school he gets as he accumulates subjects and teachers. But can I get many of these things without jumping through hoop after hoop after hoop? No.

Then the school tries to “help” Chi prepare for this test they’ve been hanging over his head since the beginning of the year by putting him in this before school “camp” twice a week. It turns out that it was a camp not geared toward kids with Chi’s particular needs or even with needs similar to his. It wasn’t a camp taught by a teacher with any experience either with Chi or with any other Aspies or simply Autistic kids. Said teacher was not briefed on how to handle Chi. Thanks in part to this camp, Chi almost completely regressed into the state he began the year in.

This is not the kind of “help” Chi needs. (Mrs. Eff agreed and we are pulling him out of that camp.)

Chi is smart. Ridiculously so. He astounds me with what he understands and what he knows. The kicker? He doesn’t like to write. Period. He will avoid it at all costs making it hard to judge how much he understands about what he’s reading or measure his writing ability when it comes to grammar or expository writing. He doesn’t like to answer questions. He doesn’t like to be the focus of attention. He would prefer it if you didn’t look at him directly (I mean he does YOU that favor, after all).

It takes a special person to see beyond his issues into the wonderful kid underneath. It takes a special person to recognize the wonder that is Chi’s intellect within all that refusal to write and cooperate and compromise.With this we have been blessed beyond belief, though. Chi’s teacher is truly a miracle in his life. She truly cares about him. She gets him. She is able to see issues and work to help him overcome them without diminishing him. She appreciates that his brain functions differently than most people. She sees that he has understanding beyond what he is physically able to show her.  (I know I gush about her, but even with all of that, you really have no idea just how great she is and how much I appreciate her)

The problem is that we can’t pocket her and cart her around from grade to grade and class to class for the rest of Chi’s schooling and even she is worried about his ability to succeed in the future grades. Not because he isn’t smart enough or because he’s behind, but because not everyone can work with him and see all of his facets through the coating of his Aspergers PDD-NOS and SPD. He’s a kid who could use the extra help.

Is there a way I can transfer the help for Pynni to Chi?

So I think the system is broken. Ninety-two million is a lot of people who leave school either unable to read or are barely functionally literate. Neither of my kids will fall into that category and I will not be allowing them to fall behind in other subjects either, and so I’m wondering, “How often is this extra help misplaced? How many kids, like Pynni, receive extra help they don’t need? And how many who do need the help slip through the system’s safeguards?”

Plenty apparently.