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Friday, January 8, 2010

Learning the beat of his drum is not like mine

Today was casual Friday at school. I wore my footie PJ's and he wore his PJ's. BONUS...the teachers lounge offered GREAT coffee...and the student was…well…not happy about his math work or writing assignment but we both survived. Other than math and writing today was a good day. He was attentive, cooperative, and getting it! I’m really starting to see what struggles and difficulties JD has not yet learned to work around or overcome. This will be a terribly difficult process since I’m a sequential learner and he is a visual spatial learner. It just reaffirms that public school was “leaving him way behind” and home school will be the best decision our family has ever made.

Today’s devotional was about Elvis and all the lifetime awards he earned. Then, it moved to three people from the bible who did an outstanding thing and didn’t earn an award. But thank God we have the bible to teach us about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They stood firm to the belief that their God could save them but even if he didn’t they would never worship another god. Then into the fire they went. Do you ever feel like you’re being thrown into the fire? Well I do. But no matter what that extra person is walking around it with me, and I will always come out unscathed.

Our 40 days of Purpose Driven life reading was about knowing our purpose on earth to give us meaning in our lives, to simplify our lives, to focus our lives, to motivates our lives, and prepares us for eternity. We were all made for a purpose. We might struggle with what to do with our gifts and talents but we do know our main purpose is to love God our creator.

My favorite part about today’s reading is at the end of the chapter when Rick Warren tells us we will all face judgment one day. This part intimidates me a bit but it is also what drives me. What will be my response when asked, “What did you do with the gifts, talents, opportunities, energy (What?! Where?), relationships, and resources I gave you?” I can only hope I am using all of these resources correctly.

Math has always been my WORST subject. I had to attend summer school and special classes in the third grade just to pass math. JD passed me up in math when he reached the third grade. Today’s lesson was not difficult for me, but you would have thought I grounded JD from ever touching Tater again, the way he behaved during our lesson. We (he) had to add and subtract long numbers today. Ex: 1,234,567,891 + 987,654,321. JD refused to write anything down to figure it out. He tried unsuccessful to retain the numbers in his head again and answered them incorrectly. He got so frustrated and started sighing very loudly and ignoring me when I said, "That method may not be working for you YET." I tried to calm both of us down by saying, “Breath, it’s ok.” He absolutely hates being wrong. But I wanted him to see his method was not effective. I told him, "We're a team, you and I. It's going to be us together through all of this. You've shown me you're way. Can you TRY to learn my way too?" I finally pulled out the graph paper and had him write each number in it‘s own “prison cell“ for neatness. Then when everything was lined up horizontally he could clearly solve the problem. This also enabled him to have room for those pesky carry over numbers. When asked how he liked math today he responded, “Hated it.” Apparently, it was too much writing.

Computer keyboarding was a short lesson today because the math quiz too long. (He scored 100% by the way.) There are many web based typing lesson games out there but JD showed me a website back in November. It’s called “Dance Mat.” It has the student type what is shown on the screen and they can also see the keyboard on the screen. The main rule the characters teach is for the student not to look at their fingers. Today he practiced only the home row of the computer keyboard. The lesson went well and he liked it. I took three typing classes in Junior High and I still look at my fingers. Ugh! I tried it after he did and wow do I feel stupid. When you miss a letter the computer button you were suppose to touch talks to you. The “L” key kept saying, “Click me.“ I started talking back by saying, “I know I’m trying to find you without looking at my fingers!“ Jonathan calmly said, “Don’t you like how she says it so quietly? That way it doesn’t embarrass you.” (Oh he’s so compassionate and full of delicate feelings. It makes me wonder how many times he’s been embarrassed in public school. The mama bear in me just wants to bust out of the den and…well…we won’t have any of that. After all I’m a Christian.) JD is very confident in computer keyboarding. (Whew! One more subject he likes.) It looks like a great contender to follow the dreaded math lesson.

After we finished keyboarding I dictated three letters of “thanks” for him to copy in manuscript. There is minimal writing in my curriculum but he will need to retain this skill for…um…life! So I figured, let me put purpose to this lesson. Jeff walked by during this time and JD said, “Hey there’s the lunch lady. What’s for lunch?” Funny story goes with this statement. Jeff asked JD, “What’s my position in this school?” JD replied, “You’re the lunch lady, and um, the JANITOR!”

We were suppose to edit and rewrite a journal writing today but since the only journal writing we did was absolutely beautiful I opted for him to write three letters of “Thanks.“ So I dictated and he rewrote. This was a painstaking task because he HATES to write. But the bait to accomplish this task was finishing it up quickly so we could go to the Pope AFB gym to play racquetball. He was not attentive to this task at home but he was able to write one letter in the car on the way to my VA appointment and he wrote the other two. While we were in the VA office. I have observed that when a task seems too labor intense that JD will shut down. He slams on the brakes and that’s it. Now if I could just install anti-lock brakes in him there would be a lot less drama. JD will make some excuse, IE bathroom break or water break, to avoid writing. He also tends to hurt himself in some form or fashion to delay the assignment. So many hurdles to help him through. Ugh.

We did a really quick health lesson today on strengths and weaknesses. He was not particularly cooperative with the reading portion of the three slide presentation. (It was really more like three paragraphs total.) We worked through the frustration level again and concluded the lesson with listing five strengths and five weaknesses. This lesson builds on establishing goals to overcome those weaknesses and building on those strengths.

We opted not to do the spelling test since we did not devote study time to learn them. What with Jeff in the hospital and all.

Our last activity of the day was a friendly game of racquetball. We don’t know or care about the rules of the game. We just smack that ball all over the place and avoid getting hit. He loves it when I become part of the wall to avoid getting hit. We have played three other times before this one. Today I said, “Take all the day’s frustration out on the ball. AND he did! Before too long I usually end up being the voice of the ball talking to JD, saying things like, “You can’t catch me” or “Oh yeah, I will come get you.” Of course I always add accents. This was a great activity and we shared many laughs together. (Now, if only I could figure out how to incorporate math or writing into a game of racquetball.)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The faith of a mustard seed will move those "road blocks"

Today’s lesson went on the road. It started with reading the devotion in the car on the way to a doctors appointment we had to attend. I wanted to speak to JD's doctor about reducing the dosage of Concerta he takes daily. Since he’s being home schooled now I wanted to see if his inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyper activity would be acceptable in the home school environment. The appointment went well and she agreed to try a reduced dosage and applauded the idea. While waiting for our appointment we read 40 days of Purpose driven life and learned we are not an accident. God planned us! While waiting on the medication I had him do two math worksheets. This was a big mistake. (Road block #1) There were entirely too many distractions in the waiting room. (Dah! Go figure! What was I thinking?)

From there we went to Womack Army Hospital. I didn’t mention it in yesterday’s blog because it was way too lengthy, but Jeff was self diagnoses as possibly dehydrated. This was Tuesday night. All night and Wednesday morning he vomited all he had left. The stress of vomiting all night brought on a erratic heart patterns. So we all packed up early Wedsneday morning at 0 dark hundred and piled into the ER. After a short stay in the ER they admitted him for observation. He stayed over night without any treatment for sickness other than his heart. He’s finally out now with the official diagnoses that he has the “common cold.” (What!? Zero tolerance for drugs they say...someone needs tested for drug abuse...Oh don’t even get me started…because this blog is suppose to be about JD’s home schooling adventures and not a platform for Cheryl’s ranting about our fine military medical care.)

Anyway, we drove over to see daddy and JD vegged in front of the TV for 4 hours until Jeff’s discharge. (Road block #2) I tried my best to get JD to focus on the two math quizzes when we finally got home but he was bothered, frustrated, inattentive, and moody. All of this can be explained because his medication was wearing off. So he took one math quiz on sums and differences and received a 100%. He did not fair well with reasonableness, with 8 out of 10 correct but even then I had to coach him on a few. For example, to JD it was reasonable that an elephant weighs 444tons. I tried my best to say most trucks weigh ½ ton. He replied with, “Well elephants weigh a lot more than that.” Reasonableness in case you don’t know is guessing how much a gallon of milk costs, guessing the weight of an elephant, and such.

Two years ago when we had him tested by a psychologist the report stated JD “has difficulty dealing with problems that require common sense to solve.” This is absolutely true when it comes to prices, dollar figures, and weights. He also has no real concept of time. He can read a clock but times slips away from him, or creeps up on him at bedtime. So I try to give warnings like you have 15 minutes before bed. You have only five minutes left. This is suppose to help him develop a sense of time. So far not very well.

So we fought our way through an entire lesson (15 minutes) on reasonableness and he was so moody. He would try to answer a question that would have been incorrect and when I assisted him he would lower his head as if to show defeat. I hated it for him and tried to get him to tell me what he was “feeling” but he didn’t participate in the conversation, only shrugged it off by trying to push through the lesson without really understanding it. (Shh…don’t tell JD, but I totally see more disguised lessons in reasonableness in our daily lives.) I know he doesn’t like writing things on paper but he tries to visually do his math in his head instead of on paper. 2+3=5 is ok but when you are adding 100 + 87 + 75 + 63 = (WHAT! I need to write this out.) But JD does his best to hold those numbers in his head and more times than not he will get the wrong answer. So I will need to work on getting him to write them out or something.

So math was finally completed and I scraped the lessons for civics, e-mail & snail mails, language arts, and science. We’ll just call it a day and pick up trying the Friday schedule tomorrow.
(Don't you love this road sign?)
So here’s what I know. I know Satan is trying to put road blocks out for us to stumble on. I know Satan wants us to get frustrated and just give up on this home school thing. BUT, I also know I can call on God to push Satan aside. We all have FAITH that this is God’s will for our family. Hence the name Faith Christian Academy.

I will leave you with this...Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them. With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation. (Psalm 91:14-16)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Another successful day!

In our opinions the first full day at Faith Christian Academy was a complete success for both the teacher and the student! We tried our best to keep to the schedule I drafted up. I have no clue what time of day is optimal for JD to really apply himself and stay focused, since communication with public school teachers for the past 5 ½ years has been sparse. So I drafted a schedule for Monday through Friday.
Everyday starts with a 15 minute devotional followed by 30 minutes of reading. Today we read The 40 days of Purpose Driven Life together and will continue until done. During these times JD was both talkative and inquisitive, but it was constructive rather than disruptive.
Next, we moved onto 45 minutes of math. Even though he was slightly fidgety, he managed to relearn comparing and order of numbers and rounding and estimating. Two quizzes were taken and he scored a 100% on one and a 90% on the other. Each quiz is only 10 questions so he only missed one question. I asked him how he like each subject and in math he said, “The English lessons are funny and fun. Math is more like a lesson than fun.” Again, the repetition of how to do the steps bothered him.
One of Jeff’s inputs to the curriculum I teach was to have JD expand his vocabulary even more. So I created a subject block called “Word Bank.” We took three big words from this morning’s readings and we looked up the definitions and used them in sentences. (Seems he lacking basic dictionary skills since the invention of the internet.) We did the same for a random adjective from his list.
I thought the lesson block called “Journal Bucket” would be a downer for him but he liked it much better than journaling in public school. JD has extreme difficulty getting words, sentences, and stories from his mind to the paper. So I developed a journal bucket. It has an old pickle jar with journal prompts in it. He picked three out and selected one to write about. Next, was to close his eyes and make a movie about this topic. Next, in the bucket was a tape recorder. I had him move the movie from his mind to the recorder. Today was writing in cursive. He was suppose to then rewind the recorder and write his story but cursive writing has not been practiced enough in public school so we looked up a cursive letter chart and taped it in the cover of his journal. I wrote his story in cursive leaving space between lines so he could copy each line below. (I forgot how much lengthy writing can cramp the hand - what with computers and all.) He copied four lines and took a break, copied four more, etc. His cursive is SO NICE it’s hard to tell the two apart. Journal writing took a lot longer than expected so we scraped music until next week. Overall, journal bucket was a success because in public school the teacher wanted two full pages in his journal. All I ever saw in his book bag from the past was a messy topic sentence scribbled on a piece of paper crushed at the bottom of wrinkled folder. Apparently, this year it was “acceptable” for him to sit for hours on end in his classroom. No more of that! Anybody heard about Edison getting kicked out of school for being too $tupid? Disclaimer: I am in no way stating JD is stupid. What I am saying is none of his public school teachers have recognized the vast educational potential given the right tools, structure, and time. Voila…Momma Bear to the rescue!
The last topic we covered was history. He learned about “Before the Mexican-American war.” This lesson was engaging to him even though it was a reading assignment. I taught him how to take notes or draw pictures during lectures where minimal graphics are shown. This really helped him stay focused on the topic. His “notes” were needed when the program did flash card questions and the quiz at the end of the lesson. He scored nothing less that perfection in the subject of history today. Woo hoo!
I created a weekly sheet for JD to write what subjects he learned that day and if he liked it or not. This will be easy for him to glance at when his daddy asks, “What did you learn at school today bubba?” and it can be a tracking device for me. I created another assessment sheet for me. It reads: Topic, Attentive? Cooperative? Getting it? In all subject areas today he was attentive, cooperative, and most of all getting it!
Now for some funnies. Early on in the day when he was suppose to be reading/listening he was quite talkative. He was being very observant of the “class room” atmosphere. He observed (from the couch) that the “classroom” was decorative (speaking of the Christmas tree.) I also had a Nature CD in for ambiance and tranquility while reading. At the moment he stopped speaking about the decorations nothing but cricket sounds came from the speakers. I stated, “and apparently we have a bug problem.” He also declared that we had two class pets! And the last funny is when he interrupted me impulsively without speaking permission with, “Um, excused me teacher? Do you want to be called mommy or teacher?”

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Our maiden voyage into homeschooling

Well, today was our first day at Faith Christian Academy. Our #1 goal in this adventure or chapter of our lives is to foster a love for learning. I was sitting with him to instruct, read, reread, encourage, and guide him. The lessons were both engaging and entertaining, so this made for fairly easy lessons. There was twinkling of the eyes and some laughter (at the cartoon characters or voices talking during the guided lessons) so all is well thus far. We were both slightly agitated with the number of times they repeated information even if he answered the question correctly. I suppose to him "once I got it, I GOT IT!" But to the rest of the world repetition works.

In math we learned about reading and writing whole numbers. Example: 8,150 = eight thousand, one hundred fifty. We also learned about expanding numbers up to a billion. Both reading and writing again. Both lessons and quizzes took approximately 50 minutes to accomplish. He scored 100% on both quizzes bringing his grade to a 95% in math. He was impulsive to answer the questions even if it was incorrect so I need to focus on having him slow down. During the multiple choice questions in math his method to getting the correct answers was eliminating the wrong answers before figuring out what the correct answer was. Weird! But he recognized the incorrect answers rather quickly. Hey whatever works.

In Language Arts we studies prefixes. It was broken down into two parts. There was also a quiz after each lesson in the form of a game show. This lesson took 40 minutes. By the way...he scored perfectly with little assistance! He was very confident in the answers he selected. So thus far in Language Arts, he is maintaining a solid 100%. He also received 10 dreaded spelling words, which are all prefixes: disbelief, midyear, etc. His vocabulary is already above grade level so I intend to keep on expanding it. Spelling on the other hand will probably be a headache for both of us. JD does not learn phonics like his peers. He learns whole words. So I will use the proven techniques we have used in the past to try to get him to "burn a copy" of those words into his "mind file."

I loved the one-on-one time JD and I had learning together. Now I'll get to know first hand what are his "problem areas," strengths, and quirks. Tater Tot seemed to like how calm Jonathan was just sitting at the computer. She laid right there at his feet the whole time. When asked how JD liked his first day he responded with, "I liked it a lot. The lessons were fun." I said, "Is that all you want to say about your first day?" (Thinking he would say, "Yep.") He added, "The teacher was very nice. She acted like the assistant, helping out the students who were falling behind." In other words, he requires and/or desires one-on-one instruction.
(Oh be still my heart! This little gift from God amazes me! Not to mention he scored MAJOR teacher' pet points!)