Tag Archive: Fourth Grade


I’m not real big into the whole “New Year’s” thing. I don’t, on the whole, look back at my year with grateful fondness, or wistful nostalgia, or even apathy. It was a time period. It passed. What’s coming up this afternoon? Tomorrow? Next weekend?

In the same vein, I do not look forward with gleeful hopes of major lifestyle changes. I don’t plan lists of resolutions that will get dumped and/or forgotten in the first few days of the year. Sure, I have things I’d like to change about myself: lose weight, eat better, get more exercise, be more patient, smile more, laugh more, etc. But this dreamer is a realist and I know that making a giant list of “THIS IS WHAT I’M GOING TO DO, DAMMIT” is just setting myself up to fail which injures a self-esteem that wobbles from assured and confident to shattered and bewildered and back again.

Those things I’ve listed? I like to think I work on them always. I’m far from perfect and I’m a professional rebel. I question all authority, even that which I have over myself. “Self,” I say, “Self, sodas are bad for you. They rot your teeth and they are addictive and they make you fat(ter).” Self gives me the finger and has soda. So I have to play mind games with Self and trick it (me). (I AM NOT CRAZY!)

So, anyway. What I thought I wanted to say, was that with all the above mentioned things in mind (that’s YOU keeping those things in mind since I already know them), I was thinking about this year passed. It was a year like any other, I guess. It had bad, dark moments, months even, but then the light always broke through and things got better.

There were things like:

My back. It was awful at the beginning of the year. I was heading into month four and I was still almost completely stuck lying flat, no sitting or standing. Very little vertical allowed or even possible. The pain was awful. I saw my chiropractor two times a week until March or so and then I saw him every week until August when I was finally able to start physical therapy. Now I go once a month and physical therapy is over. And you know what? I’m better. I’m still at risk for surgery, but I have tools to help myself, now. Yoga for one and Tai Chi for another. Pain is minimal and sometimes gone altogether which is a revelation!

Chi. His third grade year was so much better than his second grade year thanks almost entirely to Miz Eff, his third grade teacher. We fretted and worried and planned and prepared and still I just knew that Chi was going to bomb that End of Grade test, but when we got his scores, he was among the top 5% in his grade. And all with no drama. He just let that test roll right off him as if it was nothing. I’m still not sure if it was nothing because we prepared so much, or because Chi was just inexplicably unaffected. Then we started homeschool in the fall and that has exceeded my wildest imaginings for what it would do for him. He is wholly himself. He hops around on his exercise ball and answers questions. He will even write a few sentences with no complaints. He loves school. He is more calm and collected than ever and seems so at ease in his own skin. A first.

Pynni. The start of 2011 began the odyssey that pushed me over the edge and made the decision to homeschool. It has been a hard row to hoe with her, but we seem to have hit our stride. I can only guess that most of our issues stem from how her Kindergarten experience damaged her self-esteem. It took four long months but she is reading. The light returned to her eyes when she was reading a short book to me and as she struggled through and sounded out all the words without any help from me, I touched her cheek to get her attention and said, “Pynni. You’re reading. Do you realize that? You. Are. Reading.” A grin that became a full on smile that lit the room (I swear) dawned across her face. Every so often, now, she’ll be reading quietly to herself and turn suddenly and say to me, “I really love to read!” All of that has made school with her easier, quicker and more enjoyable for the both of us.

Pieces. My fabulous, jolly little man is in preschool again and again it is all business. He loves it, but he is very serious about school. And it turns out, he may be my smartest child. He knows all of everything he is supposed to know for Kindergarten already. I’m going to start teaching him to read.

Doodle. He lived with us for most of 2011. Things got strained at the end. Things that are too personal, and still yet, painful to put down here. He moved out and then promptly got a new job and moved away. I will not be seeing him much anymore, although we talk on the phone. We have a very special relationship, my brother and me, and distance has never interfered, but I miss his presence. With his move comes the reality that his kids won’t be here much anymore, but we will get them here for a week or so every summer. I can be happy with that. Content? No, but happy and grateful for any amount of time for sure.

Grandad. My maternal grandfather was hospitalized after Thanksgiving. He’s had bypass surgery before and due to his age and heart issues, he is no longer a candidate for bypass surgery. Things were very sketchy for him there for a bit. He is very at peace with where he is in life and what his life has represented. He is a Godly man who has spent much of his adult life ministering to those in need, and I don’t mean preaching. His life is such a great example of what being Christian means. I can look at his example and be less jaded. Still, I am not ready to say good-bye and I am very grateful that he pulled through and is at home recovering.

Yeah, 2011 was mostly good. I’m sure I could month by month it and list all the things, good and bad. But I won’t. 2011 ended and I’m moving onward, but resolutions? Nah. I’m constantly working on bettering myself. One thing, though. I’m making my cousin a scarf or something, even though she hasn’t blogged SINCE JUNE!

Advertisements

Chi in motion.

Ten years ago, I birthed a baby boy. He was a difficult baby, if exceptionally cute. He seemed very unhappy with his lot. He cried a lot. When he wasn’t crying he was staring out at the world through giant blue eyes that grabbed your attention and held it. At about three weeks old, he started crying every evening for hours on end. Most people told me this was colic or gas, but I didn’t buy that then and I don’t buy it now. I discovered, by sheer force of intuition, that his crying was less severe and lasted for a shorter period of time if I turned out almost all the lights, and made my apartment as silent as possible after the dinner-time feeding. I also learned that keeping his day dim and quiet helped with the nighttime crying jags.

As he got older and he developed far beyond his age, for the most part, (commando crawling by 4.5 months, pulling up by 5 months, cruising by 6 and walking by 9), he got happier. The more he was able to move the more smiles wreathed his face. When he started cruising, he would circle the room over and over and over again. Once he started walking, he always walked on his toes and would run as fast as he could. This began the day after he took his first steps out into the room. When he became more proficient at both walking and running, he would slam into things on purpose and spin and spin and spin without getting dizzy.

As he began his tactile and oral explorations, I noticed that he never touched anything with his hands first. He always touched things with his feet, played with things with his feet. I have record of this phenomenon as early as 10 weeks old.

As he got older, instead of falling less, he fell more. He would fall right out of chair at the dinner table even when sitting directly on his behind. His movement grew more, not less, awkward with time and maturation.

Whenever we would go out, he would fall into screaming fits for no reason that I could see. He wasn’t worried about not getting something he wanted, he just seemed extremely distressed. If the schedule was off by the barest fraction of a minute, he would fall apart. If something was a surprise, if plans changed last minute, if a playground wasn’t exactly as he’d expected, he would melt into a limp little ball of Chi. (This still happens today, by the way.) He isn’t a spoiled brat. He knows that no means no and I don’t do negotiations. Still, these things happen.

**note: If you see one of those parents with the screaming kid who seems much to old to be throwing a temper tantrum, consider for a moment that they may have an autistic child, or simply a child with SPD or ADhD that cannot process the sheer sensory overload that occurs at places like grocery stores and the mall**

Once he started public school things seemed to progress in a backward sort of direction almost immediately. He became uncontrollable and completely over-stimulated at all times. I had not had him assessed before public school, because I had, somehow, always figured out how to best deal with him without professional help, but school introduced a whole lot of outside influences that I had no way to control.

Fast-forward to this year. (You can read about our struggles through public school elsewhere on this blog just look under Educational Experiences in the Categories section. I’ve pretty well documented things since he was in the second grade (when things when from awful to untenable).) We started homeschooling and we’ve had our bumps along the way, but one thing stands out as a bright shiny beacon of AWESOME. Chi is better.

Chi is flourishing. He’s not cured, if there is such a thing, if I would even seek it out if there were, but he loves homeschool. He looks forward to it. He pays attention, in his way, and does the work and cooperates. We’ve been slowly working toward him doing more and more of the work himself without me having to walk him through everything, and he hasn’t balked at being asked to write more and more of the answers himself.

He is calmer. He can still meltdown unexpectedly, but it is very far between right now. We keep a schedule still and we stick to it. He knows what to expect and can even deal with things he’s not that excited about without much issue. The only time in the last few months that we’ve had major issues has been when I’ve taken him to the grocery store (or Target or mall). I’ve learned that avoiding those places unless absolutely necessary when Chi is with me is really the best course of action. It makes everyone’s lives a little bit easier.

I can’t tell you how awesome it feels to know that I made a good decision so far as Chi is concerned. I’m so glad that the investment we’ve put  into homeschool  is paying off in such big dividends. It’s priceless, really.

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!