Friday, July 29, 2011

Weekly Wrap Up: the first week of school...

Ordinarily we school year round, but this year we quit at the end of May for a summer break. About two weeks ago my kiddos started complaining that they were "bored" and didn't have anything to do. Thankfully the new curriculum (Tapestry of Grace) came and I was excited, so we started early.

Folks have mentioned it seems odd to start in July, but I have become something of a homeschooling snob. I like it when the museums are empty during the school year, and the weather is cooler for the parks. In the summer everything is just so crowded. We live in Texas and it is just Africa hot right now. I would rather start early, and have no guilt taking off school for more field trips. Plus, we have a major trip to Disney planned and hopefully we will be ahead of the game by the time that rolls around.

I purchased a tablet PC and I LOVE IT! So does John. I have to wrestle him to use it. I had no idea how many educational apps there are. We found one that will allow him to do phonics on there... well, phonics and "angry birds".

Sine it was our first week, a Roman dinner to kick off our study seemed appropriate. I made roasted dormice (chicken thighs) for dinner. This was so much fun, and pretty easy to throw together. I think we might try to have a theme dinner one night each week. Next week we are studying Islam, and I am thinking of doing fallafel, or at least attempting it.

On Wednesday, we had "widdershins" day. The concept is much like opposite day for Druids. John wore his clothes backwards. But then, he does that most days. Emma's favorite part was having breakfast for Dinner. She loves waffles, and these days they are a rare treat.

We were supposed to make a salt dough map of a mythical country with geographical features. I don't like salt dough, and I didn't want to run out to the store to get all the ingredients. So we made our map edible, out of rice crispy treats. We used blue frosting for the rivers, yellow frosting with brown sugar sprinkled on top for the deserts (and the dessert :), and chocolate chips for mountain ranges. Chloe's country is quite mountainous. She loves her chocolate chips. Not surprisingly, this was everyone's favorite activity for the week.

Daddy was a substitute Teacher/engineer this week. He helped the kids assemble the catapult kit. I was so glad he was home sick, I can't even manage to assemble IKEA furniture, and those direction have pictures. This looked much more complicated! We had so much fun on our first week, I am really looking forward to next week.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Homeschooling with a Chronically ill Child

Our family is emerging from a year of homeschooling with a chronically ill child. Our oldest, Emma, was eventually diagnosed with Menagerie's Disease (although we had a few red herrings). She had chronic dizziness every single day severe enough that she couldn't function and often it led to vomiting. The medications used to treat it would leave her so tired some days she spent all day in bed. We were housebound much of the time because any kind of travel made her condition so much worse. Right now she is feeling much better, and the symptoms have receded and seem to be in remission. I am not an expert, but these are the things I would tell anyone in my situation.

  • being ill is isolating. The reality of our circumstances was we couldn't get out of the house with any reliability. No one wants to drag a sick, miserable child all over the city and goodness knows all the sick child wants is to relax and be still. My advice: stock up on board games, and even on video games. This is the perfect time to start a tradition of reading a book aloud as a family. During this time where your social circle is narrowed, use it as a chance for your family to draw closer together. Every cloud has a silver lining. We have come out of this season of our lives with even stronger bonds between us as a family.
  • Your friends still care, even when you feel isolated. We live in a super busy society, people struggle to find the time for their own families. Our current way of life just isn't conducive to the challenges a chronic illness brings, because it is so different than just having the flu. Also remember that your schedule is now full of doctor visits, and has an inflexibility of its own. Sometimes you are just too tired to hold a great phone conversation. My advice: lean hard on extended family and on friends who have the flexibility to come and visit. Stay in touch with friends who don't have flexibility in their schedules through social media like facebook, message boards, and email.
  • Your academic school year is going to look different than you expected for your ill child. It's okay, give yourself a break. Homeschooling with perfectly healthy children is challenging. If your daughter doesn't learn Latin this year, it will be okay. You have enough stress and pressure already, you don't need to add any more guilt or stress at this point. You may have to look at what you consider "learning", or "schooling" to be defined as. This is most definitely not the time to lean heavily on a workbook based curriculum. You would be surprised how much everyone in the family is learning through this process.
  • Pare down your academic expectations to the "bare necessities". It is important for the ill child to be able to rest and focus much of their energy toward healing. We also had doctor appointments to juggle, and other health professionals to see. I found myself with much less time, a child who needed more time to recover, and I still had my household schedule to run and other siblings to maintain normalcy for. I decided that I was comfortable if Emma was only progressing in Math, and reading (or being read too). We saved everything else for days when things were going well.
  • Anytime is a good time to do school. In past years our family had a pretty structured homeschool schedule. This past year, that was not true. We did school whenever Emma felt like it, even if that was 10pm.
  • Be willing to use alternative media instead of textbooks. If you planned your academic year heavy on textbooks and workbooks, be willing to chuck that out the window. Most libraries have audio books and e-reader books available to loan. Be willing to switch over to a year that just includes reading, or hearing good books. If you have a Wii, or your child has a Nintendo DS, both offer educational games that teach foreign languages or challenge problem solving skills with puzzle oriented games.
  • Try to reduce the impact on siblings where you can. When one member of the family gets chronically ill, the whole family experiences it. There really isn't any way to avoid that. But when you can, make sure that siblings are able to make their classes, or continue with events that are important to them.
The most important thing I can offer is be patient with yourself and your situation.