Curriculum Round-up Summer 2014

I’m in denial that our school year starts in just 3 short weeks.  I’m also in denial that I have a kid in high school.  When I started this blog I was a homeschool mom to a 2nd grader, a kindergartner, and a toddler.  And then I blinked.

3_Students(That is my finger in the upper left. I have mad photography skilz.)

I don’t think I really thought I’d be in this for the long haul.  I simply took it a year at a time.  Or as my husband would tell you, a week at a time.  My biggest fear (besides a complete mental breakdown) was how in the world I would homeschool a kid through high school.  I have no idea how I ever made it through high school, much less how I would get someone else through it.

So much of our journey has been trial and error.  Heavy on the error.  I think I’ve tried nearly every curriculum available, from A Beka through Our Father’s World.  Some worked some years, for some kids, for some of the time.  We’ve settled on an eclectic mishmash that I believe will get me through the remainder of our homeschooling journey.

One of my favorite curriculum is Our Father’s World.  I wish I had discovered it when we were beginning to homeschool.  Alas, I had to abandon it when Emme began Classical Conversations her 7th grade year.  I had all 3 of them on different schedules and curriculum and I nearly went crazy.  When I saw that we might not have a tutor for CC 8th grade, I switched her to a local Co-op which catered to 7th – 12th grade.  That was the best homeschooling decision I’ve ever made.  The courses offered suited her academically, the teachers were amazing, and I dearly love the kids that she’s become close with.  This program will see her through high school and save me from the scary high school courses that include labs and DISSECTING STUFF.  And she is excited to start school (first time ever) because of how much she loves this co-op and that two of her best girlfriends will be joining her there this year.

I attended our annual homeschool convention in May with my sister-in-law, Trish.  Honestly, when things get really bad in our homeschooling day, we can console one another with, “but if you quit, you can’t go to the homeschool convention.”  Not even kidding.

We both had to pay extra attention and attend all the “how to homeschool through high school” classes.  The biggest takeaway I got was how important the SAT scores are for scholarships and that transcripts really aren’t all that frightening.  Fortunately I am OCD when it comes to record keeping.  I’m certain that Emme’s transcript will be suitable for framing.

So, here’s a rundown of how our school year will look.  Both Emme and Cailey will be doing the Co-op one day a week.  Their teachers give them their assignments for the remainder of the week.  My job is to simply follow up with them to make sure they have their work done and have them to their class at 8:30 dressed in something other than footie pjs.

Emme (my 9th grader) will be taking Apologia Biology, American History, Advanced Literature, a 2-D Art class, and a Math tutoring class.  She will continue Teaching Textbooks for Math at home and will be in Algebra 1.  She will also continue Spelling and SAT Vocabulary with our Big IQ Kids program.

She’s been doing Big IQ Kids to supplement her Spelling since 1st grade, and I totally attribute this program to how amazing she is at spelling.  All 3 kids do the program to supplement and it is the one constant through all of our homeschooling years.  I cannot say enough wonderful things about it.

Oh yeah, and she’ll be taking DRIVER’S ED.  {{{Hold me.}}}

Cailey (my 7th grader…gulp) will be taking Apologia General Science,  Latin & Greek Roots, a Writing class, 2-D Art, and a Science study hall at the Co-op.  At home she will be doing Teaching Textbooks 7 for Math, Accelerated Christian Education for Spelling, English, and Social Studies.  I will continue Story of the World Volume 1 for history with both Cailey and Jensen.  We are in our 3rd year of Volume 1.  We evidently like to study our history in real time.

Jensen (my reluctant 4th grader) will be doing everything at home.  With his mother.  Otherwise known as The Torturer.   Jensen is my most difficult student to date.  I know.  Hard to imagine.  He’s a wiggly learner who is likely to spontaneously fall out of his chair at any moment.  But I have to say, he’s come a long way since the beginning of his 3rd grade year.  When we began last year, he was not reading.  Not.  At.  All.

He is now reading, learning cursive (the bane of his existence), and is known to carry armloads of books out of the library for his own personal science research.  The kid is scary smart.  I just need to direct and redirect ALL THE ENERGY AND DEFIANCE.

He will be doing Teaching Textbooks 4 for Math (he is certain that Math is going to kill him…but he’s doing great), and Accelerated Christian Education workbooks for English, Spelling, Social Studies, Creative Writing, and Science.  Since Science is his favorite subject, I’m adding a new curriculum that a girlfriend of mine suggested (she also has wiggly boy scientist wanna-be’s), The Sassafras Science Adventures: Zoology.  This is an adventure story with a corresponding work-book.

I’ve gotten my Journal all set up with Donna Young free printables, curriculum is on the shelves, and Extra-strength Excedrin is stocked in the cabinet.  I think I’m ready.

I love to know what curriculum everyone is doing, so please feel free to list yours in the comments!

DeeDeeSig

The Evaluation

ABC

At some point during the month of June, I schedule an evaluator to peruse my homeschooling journal and the kid’s portfolios.  If she gives her okiedokie, everyone is promoted to the next grade, and I breathe a huge sigh of relief.

(We’ve never ever NOT received an okiedokie, but you know, there’s always THE CHANCE.)

We’ve had the same evaluator for the last 7 years of our homeschooling adventure and we dearly loved her.  Alas, she retired and I knew I needed to procure the services of someone else this year.  I have a friend of many years (who has successfully completed her homeschooling AND has children that MADE IT INTO COLLEGE) who holds her teaching certificate and is able to do evaluations.  I set up an appointment with her to have all 3 of my children LOOKED AT.

The morning of the evaluation, Jensen worked himself into quite a state.  He doesn’t care for change and he REALLY didn’t take to the idea of someone looking at his school work and, you know, JUDGING HIM.  No matter how I tried to assure and reassure him, he still managed to successfully hyperventilate.  The sisters noticed his dilemma and sought to comfort him.

Just kidding.

They only added to his misery until he was pretty sure he was going to be repeating Kindergarten, even though he had just completed 3rd.

We met at a designated area and the evaluation began with my oldest.  About 5 minutes into the meeting, Jensen came up to me, hyperventilating again, and scratching himself until I though he was going to hit an artery.  As far as I know, no homeschool kid has ever died during an evaluation.  I didn’t prefer mine to be the first.

I comforted him and slid a couple of Kid’s Benydryl tabs between his lips.  There may or may not have been a promise of ice cream should we successfully finish the meeting without a trip to the emergency room.

After Emme’s evaluation was finished, we wisely decided to do Jensen’s, thusly putting him out of our his misery.  I sat and watched Jensen’s eyes shine as my friend, Pam, gushed over his handwriting (the bane of my existence), his careful attention to his math problems (he is certain that math is going to kill him), his detail to Science (the only subject which gives him a reason to live), and eventually, she marveled at his many colorful dinosaur drawings which depict every type known to man and include the requisite 9 year old boy guts and gore.

All scratching ceased.

I’m certain that there is a very special place in heaven that’s extra nice for people like sweet Pam.

I’m happy to say that all 3 children, plus their bedraggled  teacher, passed with flying colors.  Ice cream was enjoyed by all.

I typed up my letter, included the evaluation, and sent all three envelopes off to our local superintendent of schools.  Certified.  Return receipt requested.

After 9 long years, I am now officially the homeschooling mother of a high school freshman, a 7th grader, and a reluctant 4th grader.

And still, no one is in therapy.

So far, so good.

DeeDeeSig

Musically Declined

We listen to a lot of music in our house as of late.  And by “we,” I mean the teenager and her sidekick, the tweenager.  If it were up to me, I’d go for All The Silence, because I may or may not have burned out the interior of my eardrums with headphones and cranked up AC/DC during my impetuous teens.  Do not judge me.

If they must listen to music (Dear God, I’ve become my mother) I do prefer they listen to non-secular music (and now I sound like the nuns I grew up under in parochial school).  However, we do allow a certain amount of secular music as long as it doesn’t make me gasp in maternal horror.

And to be fair, they have somewhat good taste in music, thanks to their father.  In that they can recognize pitch problems and an overuse of voice auto-correct.  (Good riddance Britney Spears.)  Broadway show tunes are a favorite.  Which secretly delights me.

Lately I’ve noticed a preponderance of what I’d like to call the I’ve-got-tears-in-my-ears-lyin’-on-my-back-crying-over-you music.  Seriously.  WHAT’S WITH ALL THE SAD MUSIC?  If I hear “What about angels” one more time I’m going to drive ice picks into my ears.

And then I got to thinking about my sad music phase as a hormonal angst-ridden teen.  My go-to artist was Eric Carmen.  I wore that piece of vinyl right out.  So I grabbed my iPad, clicked on iTunes, and forced my daughters to listen to “All By Myself” and “Never Gonna Fall in Love Again.”  As I wept.  Emme’s eyes rolled to the back of her head as she deadpanned, “I’m gonna kill myself.  I’m gonna go into the bathroom, slam the toilet seat down onto my head, right after I bash it into the tile on the way there.”

Her sense of drama springs from I have no idea where.

And then for sport, I made them listen to some of my favorite Donny Osmond tunes from my pre-teen years.  Think “Go Away Little Girl”, “Sweet & Innocent”, and of course, “Puppy Love.”  They were all, “MOM, is that a GIRL?”

donny

Me, Donny, and my best friend Karen, circa 1971 at Cincinnati Gardens

Anyhoo.  My plan worked.

No one wanted to hear ANY music for a good day and a half.

What was your favorite pity party song growing up?

DeeDeeSig

Art Attack

One of the subjects that I don’t really cover in our homeschooling journey, is art.  Even though I actually supported myself as an artist (air quotes) in Los Angeles (I painted walls and furniture), I cannot draw to save my life.  I never progressed much past Kindergarten.

DDArt

Thankfully my children inherited their artistic flair from their father, who is a talented artist.  We’ve come to realize, however, that our 9 year may be some sort of phenom in the world of art.

Fiddledaddy filmed the following over Jensen’s shoulder last night.  Keep in mind that the film was sped up only slightly.  It took him about 5 minutes to draw the following picture.  He did not have any photograph in front of him.  This was totally from his fertile imagination.

Perhaps we’ve let him watch one too many dinosaur shows.  The images may be permanently burned into his retinas.

I have tried to correct the way he holds his pencil.  Really, I have.  At this point I think I’m just going to give up because I think he could give me a lesson or three.

He did not add the usual crime scene gore.  For that you can be grateful.

My entrepreneurial spirit tells me that somehow, I can make money off this kid.  Which will totally go to pay for the future therapy his sisters will undoubtedly need after the exposure to All The Dinosaur Violence.

DeeDeeSig

V.B.S.

VBS

As soon as we finished our school year (and by finished, I mean that we’re STILL doing Math, which makes me VERY popular with my students) we began Vacation Bible School at our church.

Only one of my 3 children is still young enough to attend VBS.  So the elder two daughters volunteer their services for the elementary week, as well as the pre-school week.

And for fun, I threw myself into the volunteering mix for one of those weeks.  It should be noted that this was the first year (in many many years) that I’ve been physically able to volunteer.

I would like to thank the makers of extra-strength Tylenol and Ibuprofin for two fine products.

I was on the decorating committee to begin with, which meant that I got to wear my attractive painter’s overalls during prep.

And I also learned how to work one of these:

VBS1

As I was ascending high into the air, I hollered to my child at the bottom, DO NOT TELL YOUR FATHER WHAT I’M DOING.

She of course made a video and sent it to him.

We’ll miss her…

When our volunteer coordinator asked me where I’d like to be assigned during the week, I said, “anywhere that doesn’t involve children.”

She knows me pretty well.  So there was no judgment.

{{{Homeschooling mom of 9 years = needs a break from all children every now and again.}}}

After the week began, one of my favorite assignments was the counting of the missions money.  A job tailor made for me.  I’m a little persnickety about the whole money counting business, as I like everything separated and the bills all facing the same way.  In other words, volunteers may or may not have hidden from me when I needed a money counting assistant each day.  It should be noted that I always play the banker whenever the Monopoly game is dispensed.

Our missions for this VBS was the local Hunger Project, in which we sought to provide meals for the hungry in our own community.    My favorite moment was when I realized on our last day that the boys had finally (after a 6 year losing streak) surpassed the girls in giving.  (It was a friendly boys vs. girls competition.)  I had to keep this information rather secretive until it could be announced at our closing VBS gathering.    An amazing moment, to be sure.  So in the end, everyone won.  Those awesome children raised over $3400 to combat hunger.

Almost every day there was a different theme.  My favorite theme was pajama day.  This is what I came up with:

VBS2

I must have clocked myself a dozen times that morning entering and exiting my van and the occasional doorway.  Worth it.

Those rollers, btw, were circa 1990.  My actual rollers.  Which I kept all these years.  For such an occasion as this.  When Fiddledaddy caught sight of me strolling through the house, I told him, “GO BIG OR GO HOME.”

Emme wore her zebra footy pajamas, and Cailey sported her Superman p.j.’s.  Replete with cape.

Crazy hair day is always exciting in our house.  It involved what I can only describe as copious amounts of pink spray paint.  Jensen, who shunned participating in crazy hair day, at last allowed his sisters to give him a few pink streaks.

VBSpink

VBS3

It was a wonderful experience for everyone involved.  Especially for Fiddledaddy.  Who was finally able to enjoy a little peace and tranquility while he worked from the sanctity of his office at our house.

And now that I don’t have to get up at dark thirty to get anyone to any appointed tasks for a while, let the summer fun begin!

DeeDeeSig

The Wedding Dress

When Fiddledaddy and I married, we were struggling artists in Los Angeles, and poor as church mice.  I’ve never met a church mouse.  But I understand they are on the brink of destitude.

We were wed at the church which housed the 99-Seat Equity Waiver theatre company where we met, Hollywood Presbyterian Church.  A majestic church which sits on the corner of Gower, just north of Hollywood Blvd.  We were content to marry in the Rose Garden, which would have been free.  In September.  During one of the hottest months in Los Angeles on record.  Unbeknownst to us, someone stepped in and donated the funds needed to hold our wedding in the main sanctuary, and to host our reception in the adjacent Mears Center.

To this day, we don’t know who did this.  I have my suspicions.  But I will likely never ever know for certain.  But this kindly and precious person, gave me the wedding of my dreams.

Wedding

Determined not to begin our marriage further in debt, we had a pot luck supper, and ordered sheet cakes from Costco.  My dress was the one extravagance.  In that I did not get it from Goodwill, as I had planned.  I found it in a tiny shop on Ventura Blvd.  I felt and looked like a princess while wearing it.  The dress came adorned with a big poofy slip, an obscene amount of toile, and was beautifully handcrafted by the elderly lady who owned the shop.

Wedding_Dress_DeeDee

After the wedding, we considered having the dress preserved by the dry cleaners, but our inner redneck determined we should just package the whole thing in a large space bag (the kind you hoover the air out of until it’s flat), shove it in a flat cardboard box, tape it up, and simply write “wedding dress” on the outside.  And hope for the best.

That flat box followed us from house to house, across the country, and has been stored in our garage for last 15 years that we’ve lived in Florida.  I’ve been afraid to open it, afraid that my cheap method of saving this exquisite dress would have meant its certain ruin.

As my daughters have long since grown taller than I am, I’d given up hope that one of them could wear it in their own wedding.  I couldn’t see it as a tea length dress.

Over the weekend we began cleaning out the garage, parting with things no longer needed or wanted.  Fiddledaddy brought the large flat box into the family room.  Cailey’s eyes widened.  She’s wanted to get into that box since she was just a few feet tall.

I stood very far away, afraid of what might await us when the box was opened.  The space bag had taken on air.  Carefully the dress was released from its prison.  Except for excessive wrinkling, it looked just like it did on the last day that I wore it.

For the sake of full disclosure, I can admit to you that I did not entertain thoughts of coming close to trying it on.  Wouldn’t be prudent.

But this sight certainly took my breath away.

Wedding_Dress

My beautiful 12 year old daughter lay claim to the dress for her own wedding day.  The length is perfect, as I had forgotten that I teetered in heels that day.  As long as she wears flats, and grows no taller, it will be perfect.  Of course, it will help if she can fill in the upstairs a bit more.  Time will tell.

Fiddledaddy caught his breath as he saw his baby girl in that dress.  One minute she’s a fiery dimpled toddler, and in the blink of an eye she’ll be a grown woman, walking down the aisle on her daddy’s arm.

We packed the dress back up in the flat box, hoping that it will be a good long while before we release it again.  And we’ll cherish every hormonal minute we have until then.

DeeDeeSig

The Father’s Day Card

Besides Chocolate Covered Bacon, Fiddledaddy also had a plethora of cards and notes awaiting him early on Father’s Day morning.  One such card was from his young son.  It was particularly heart warming.

Fathers_Day_Card

Later in the day Fiddledaddy posted it to his Instagram account with the following hashtags:  #Tyrannosaurus eating a #Psittacosaurus w/ #Triceratops seeking salad. For #FathersDay. My heart overflows.

I’m pretty sure that my son has a future with Hallmark.

We are accepting donations to the therapy fundBTW.

DeeDeeSig

Everything tastes better with bacon

Bacon_Chocolate

For Father’s Day, our church treated us with a little video about a daughter in search of the perfect Father’s Day gift for her dad.  One year she gave him an M&M decorated tie, and another year he was surprised with a snow ski trip.  His first time ever.  Traction soon followed.  Then one year his daughter wanted to surprise him with a deep sea fishing trip.  Until her mother reminded her that her dad got sea sick.  And what luck, there was even a flashback of him throwing up over the side of a boat on his honeymoon.

This is when I was glad to have an aisle seat, because, well, you know what happens to me whenever vomit enters the fray.

Finally, she found the perfect gift.  A cake made of bacon.  Smothered in chocolate.  This gave me pause.  I can appreciate a cake made of bacon.  And I certainly have a deep abiding love of All Things Chocolate.  But the thought of the two melded made me a bit queasy.

The sermon went on and soon I forgot about the bacon.  And the chocolate.  Which meant that it was a pretty good sermon.

At the end of the service, a picture of Kevin Bacon was flashed on the screen.  I don’t really know what the text said, because all I could think about was bacon.  And not the one with Kevin in front of it.  It was announced from the pulpit that the dads would be given a piece of bacon smothered with Ghiradelli chocolate in the foyer in honor of Father’s Day.

My interest was piqued.  Knowing that my husband wards off sugar at all costs, I began to think about the possibilities of a slice of crisp bacon coated with chocolate.  And not just any chocolate.  Surely he would give me his piece.  It’s kind of like at Halloween and I’m keeping pace with my daughter, “GO FOR THE REESES!”  “But MOM, I’m allergic to peanut butter.”  Through smiling gritted teeth, “GO FOR THE REESES!”

We walked out of the door, and there on a tray were slices and slices of chocolate covered bacon.  My pulse quickened.  My husband, the father of my 3 children, reached out and took THE SMALLEST SLICE ON THE PLATTER.  And then he kept walking.  I caught up with him, “Give it to me.”   He kept walking.  “Just give it to me and no one will get hurt.”

I had a flashback to a moment when we were engaged and had stopped at Carl’s Junior for a quick burger to go.  We noticed long after exiting the establishment that my order had accidentally come with an order of fries.

With a little spring in my step I uttered a small “yippie!”  Knowing that I was intent on being able to fit into my wedding dress, Fiddledaddy thought he’d help me out by THROWING THE FRIES INTO THE TRASH.  To say that I was mad was a bit of an understatement.

I’m certain that if you know me at all, it should not come as a surprise to you that I AM NOT ABOVE GOING INTO THE DUMPSTER AFTER THE FRIES.

Fiddledaddy saw a side to his almost-new bride that he had not witnessed before.

I feared that the bacon could end up in the trash.  And then I’d be forced to go in after it.  And, because of the embarrassment and all (Fiddledaddy’s) we’d be church shopping and who needs that aggravation.

I stayed right on his heels, like a nipping rat dog.  Finally.  FINALLY.  He broke off a small piece for me.  He also ate a small piece, and made a face.  I KNEW IT.  WASTED.  I took a bite.  Sing with me please, “Sweet mystery of life at last I’ve found you…”

I almost began crying it was so good.  I eyed the leftover 1/3 of a piece in his hand.  He declared that he was going to give it to his eldest daughter.  I began explaining to him that I GAVE BIRTH TO HIS 3 CHILDREN.

I may have frightened him a little.  He was walking awfully fast.  Trying to lose me I suppose.  After collecting all of our children we found ourselves back down in the lobby.  One of the pastors was walking around handing out chocolate covered bacon.  TO THE MOMS.  Finally.  I abandoned my family to take an entire piece.  MINE.  ALL MINE.

It was truly an amazing experience.  For everyone involved.

When Fiddledaddy learned that I was considering a post that was chocolate-covered bacon centric, he asked me, “Are you going to admit to your psychological imbalance?”

Phhhttt.  As if.

Bacon, chocolate, and me.  A match made in heaven.

DeeDeeSig

My view of life from the linoleum.