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  • The “Class”

    Avery, Naim, Aaron

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April-May 2014

Springtime! I can’t believe this year is going so fast. I feel good about what we have done, even if I have blogged so little.

Updates in a minute, but first, the big issue we are thinking about now is whether to change schools from Village Home Education Resource Center to Village Free School. (We will just call them VH and VF for short.) The data is not all in yet, but I have mixed feelings about this decision. This sort of came about because, although I had half an eye on VF for years, it was always too far away. But recently it moved to the OMSI campus…which is still far away, but in the realm of possibilities. So one day, we were at OMSI, and I just walked in and asked for a tour. And although the facilities itself are nothing really special, it did shed some possible light on some ongoing problems we have had at VH, with possible solutions.

There are many things I like and admire about VH. I have a sentimental attachment to it. But as the kids get older, there seems to be some ways where it is not really meeting their needs. Here are some of the problems:

  1. VH has an inner core of adult/parents who are kind of the show runners. Although these folks are basically nice and well-intentioned people, their kids more easily fall into many more opportunities than mine. I am not in the inner core, partly because I don’t take the time to sit there and hang all the time like they do, and so that is on me. But I don’t think my kids should suffer for it. This really hit home when I tried to get Naim into Destination Imagination. I tried for MONTHS up to and including being a group facilitator, and I was just pushed out at every turn. I don’t think this was intentional, I think it was based on the fact that other people are thought of first when team building because it is who they know, and the limitations I have on time and transport. There have been many things like this, and my kids are really starting to notice and feel it.
  2. The kids change all the time. Again, although there are some core kids, my kids generally get excluded from that group, mostly due to my lack of relationship to the parents. Of the other kids, they come and go, if not totally from VH, then from the classes the kids take. They make friends one year and then the next year never see them again. I know that happens in life, but for them, they have not had an opportunity to make their own friends there, which was one of the main points of it all.
  3. It is very hard to schedule the classes that the kids actually want to take, so we end up fitting classes into our schedule. This means that they often are in at least some classes that they are not totally interested in and are not a good fit. Sometimes, I am paying for classes just to fill gaps since they are not allowed to be there alone if they aren’t in class.
  4. The classes/teachers vary significantly in quality. Some teachers there have been fantastic. Some other times, I pay for a class and it does not seem like a damned thing really happens in them. Naim is in a sort of P.E. class right now and it sounds like for the most part they just hang out at the park. Which is ok, but why am I paying for that?
  5. The classes are disjointed from each other. The teachers are not integrated much at all. For example, They have done some of the same science experiments over and over and over in different classes. They are sick of the same stuff. Or, the other day the kids were taken outside to see a beehive. That’s great. But Naim was taken out 5 times to see the same beehive because every teacher did so separately from the other teachers. He was bored of it by the second time.
  6. They don’t deal with Aaron. I freely admit that Aaron’s level of maturity can be disruptive and problematic. Some teachers just roll with it and work with him. I am willing to work with the teachers as well. But he gets thrown out of classes ALL the TIME. Classes that I know he would excel in and enjoy if given the chance. But, one Aaron upset and he is thrown out. I know he is a pain in the ass, but he is not hitting/hurting anyone. How is he ever going to learn if not worked with? When I was a teacher, I worked with the kids because that was my job and the responsibility I took on. I did not ditch them at the first sign of difficulty. If the kids can’t fit completely in to the particular teacher’s model, he is in danger of being thrown out. I get sick of this. He can be a pain, but he can also be a joy. He is not THAT bad.

Ok, so keeping in mind that up to this point we have just done one tour and one interview with VF, here is how I think some of these problems MAY be able to be solved. (They will be going to two “trial days” next week.)

  1. There are about 50 kids at VF, with probably less families. It is much harder to be on the outside when dealing with that small number. Furthermore, the kids attend school alone, not with parents. They kind of need to make their own way.
  2. Although there are part-timers and full-timers (mine would be part-timers) the same kids are there day after day, year after year for the most part. They are all mixed together and they can talk with whoever they want. The staff (of about 5) are also the same. They could really establish long-term relationships here.
  3. They will go all day on designated days (and have some flexibility week to week on days if something is happening that they want to attend on a different day.) They schedule themselves and their own activities. I do not have to do the awful VH class registration race.
  4.  It remains to be seen how they will end up spending their time there, but I doubt they will have to go out 5 times to see the bees or do the mentos and coke experiment over and over again.
  5. See four. This is the area that I still need to learn more about. What WILL they do all day and how constructive will it be for them. However, I do like the idea that they will be encouraged to take their own initiative and figure out for themselves what to make of their own day.
  6. I have been pretty frank with the director about Aaron. She gave me no indication that this would be a big issue. She talked about how she would deal with it, which dealt with talking with him and giving him time to process. She talked about having a sort of “recovery corner” in her office with a bean bag chair that kids can go to if they need time to get over a disappointment. What I liked best is that it seemed like she  was willing to give him the time and space to work it out. I like that they are committed to nonviolent communication and a democratic method of governance where the students and teachers votes count the same.

So, we need to learn more. I am excited about trial days next week. I am going to go with on one day, and let them go it alone on the second. We also have to work out financial aid and schedule, so it is not a for sure thing yet. But it is an option. Naim is especially excited about it, he is already sold. Aaron is a little torn, which is funny because he is not even going to VH right now. But I understand. I would miss VH, too.

Ok, now for updates:

Curriculum

  • Math: We are on Ch. 5, Multiplication and Division. Which the kids are having fun with.
  • Reading. I have been working with Aaron a lot on writing and spelling. He can read pretty much anything, so I don’t worry so much there, but writing and spelling need some work. He is working with Sylvan spelling words and we do a test on 12 at a time. He is doing those Teacher’s Mailbox reading/essay cards. I usually only get a sentence or two out of him, but it is a start. He continues to work on grammar and sylvan reading.
  • Naim is in the third lesson (or lesson 18) of Ch. 2 in Reading Horizons. We still do about a week or more per lesson and don’t move on till he has at least 90% of it down. And then we circle back like good little constructivists and review all the time. It is tedious but he is learning to read! I am very happy with his improvement. It is incremental but constant. He also works with Sylvan and Grammar but not so much spelling and writing yet.
  • Aaron is about at the back 5th of his current HWT book. I have another cursive book for him, and then there are also additional cursive and print supplements he could do. But I may move him on to keyboarding after he finishes this book (while also having him work through the last book I have in the series.) I may also supplement keyboarding with the two available practice books just to keep him remembering how to do print/cursive. But I only see maybe a year left of handwriting for him.
  • Naim has just the last 2-3 pages of the current practice handwriting book he has been working on. I am thinking of circling him back through the ZB K book (that I have an extra copy of), next. His handwriting is getting much more legible. He needs to work on his backwards numbers, though!
  • We have done, lets see, Chapters 1-3 now in chemistry. We read the chapter, have done a few experiments and they have to record in their lab books, spend a day on reviewing and making lap books, then they take the test. I really see how test taking is a skill. They need work on it.
  • They made masks in Atelier Art, and I think have done one or two lessons in reading.
  • We continue to work through the “A Life Like Mine” book

Classes

  • Naim is my only VH student this term. He is in Explorers, Schoolhouse mash-up, Ancient Egypt and Fun Sports. They made mummies in ancient egypt, but I have not heard too terribly much about the others.
  • Naim and Aaron switched for Art and Drama at PCAS and NWCT respectively. That has gone really well. Naim has made robots and some kind of hamster maze and I am not sure what all in Art. Aaron was shy at first but really seems to enjoy intro to acting. I will see his demo next week and THAT should be interesting.
  • Naim and Avery are taking swimming. Naim is in his second session of the beginning class for 6-12 year olds called Electric Eel. Avery is in his first session of the beginning 3-5 year old class called Catfish 1. Both are progressing.
  • Avery continues to do well in Goddard preschool. He had his parent teacher conference today. His “report card” is markedly improved from fall. He is talking more and sharing in circle time and playing well with kids.

Fieldtrips

  • Washington County Museum Family Day (technology through the ages). This was fun and we all went along. It was ancient hunting and shelter tech all the way up to Intel stuff and police bomb sniffing robots. They also had a art exhibit on display that Avery liked.
  • We took Naim and his bike on the max up to a bike trail and he rode around while Aaron and I trailed behind.
  • Children’s Museum. There was a Portland Bike Exhibit and the new outdoor part opened up.
  • Sky High Sports. First time we took Avery to the trampoline part. He was cautious at first but then got on really well.
  • Portland Spirit for Easter again. They got to “drive the boat” and it is kind of becoming a yearly tradition. I liked this cruise way better than the Christmas one. (Better food, less kid crap to run around to, more relaxed.)
  • Rood Bridge Park. This takes a bit to get to, but we did it and had fun. We didn’t get to stay that long, but wanted to come back and do a day trip with picnic, etc.
  • Lowes. I count this because we spent a LOT of time there and the kids just soaked it up and looked at everything. This was in regards to our backyard project. The kids have helped with small parts of that.
  • Aaron and I went to the Lan Su Chinese Garden. It was very pretty. We took the tour and learned a lot about Ming Dynasty scholars.
  • The usual scattering of parks and stuff.

I think that is about it. Pretty well considering we have dealt with some illness and D’s hospitalizations and of course the business business. This summer we have some camps lined up, although not as many as previous years. Aaron and Avery are going to zoo camp (Avery’s first camp!). Naim will go to NWCT improv class. (Aaron and Avery will probably go to drop in art at PCAS during this time.) A and N have a pioneer camp through washington county museum to tie in to our Little House reading. And we are still trying to figure out the details of a family camping trip.

Pictures

February-March, 2014

Dude, if I get this in today, it counts for March!

We are doing pretty well. My main challenge is just that I am ridiculously overworked with too many projects and I cannot let any of them go. We are digging ourselves slowly but surely out of the last few months challenges.

But! Here we go!

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We were organizing school stuff. This is pretty much this years’ curriculum.

Curriculum highlights:

  • Math…They finished the 1B book in Math in Focus. We are in Chapter 3 of the 2A book which is subtraction of 3 digit numbers with regrouping. We are chugging along.
  • Reading…Naim is on the last lesson of Ch.1 in Reading Horizons. We need to wrap up the test stuff before we go on to the next book. He is doing fairly well with his “Most Common Words.” He can read a lot of stuff and I notice him reading other stuff out in the world on the fly. We are sloooowly coming along.
  • Reading for Aaron…he finished all of Master Reader and thus the whole 5 year Hooked on Phonics Curriculum. I tried to have him read on his own, but he doesn’t really do it well. So now I bought him a curriculum from the Teacher’s Mailbox which is just 36 cards with some non-fiction reading, questions, and then a writing assignment. And then somedays he will read a National Geographic or something.
  • We have started to read “Little House in the Big Woods.” After finishing Mr. Popper’s Penguins and Ramona, Age 8. There are two more Ramona books but I think they needed a break. So far, the LH book is doing OK for them.
  • They are both moving along in Sylvan and Sylvan Spelling.
  • Aaron is midway through the first Cursive HWT book. He is doing ok with it.
  • Naim and I have just bought some practice handwriting books from Learning Palace and are just working through them. I do think his handwriting has improved in legibility, although it still has a way to go.
  • We have done two Atelier Art projects. One was on Van Gogh, the other was a chalk and glue mixed media tactile thing.
  • We are on Lesson 13 in Music.
  • We have started Real Science for Kids Chemistry (the primary book.) There are ten lessons. We read a chapter from the book, do an experiment and write up a lab report, do a sort of lap book study guide and then take a test. We have just finished the first lesson on the basics of atoms.
  • We have started reading the UNICEF book  “A Life Like Mine.” It is based on the UNICEF charter of rights for children. It talks about the right, then shows how different children around the world live in regards to that right. So far we have read the first unit on Survival, which had chapters on water, food, shelter and health.
  • We have done a bit of Angel Bear Yoga.
  • Oh, we did a Little Passport or two. I think I only have one left. They want to do the states one, but I don’t think I can afford it right now.
  • This isn’t really curriculum per se, but we continue to work on what I will call ADLs (holdover from special ed) Activities of Daily Living, AKA chores! We are working on having upstairs and downstairs partners to get work done. It goes incrementally slow and tedious. But that is pretty much how housework goes.
Aaron finished HOP Master Reader! The poster behind him shows his progress.

Aaron finished HOP Master Reader! The poster behind him shows his progress.

Classes:

  • Aaron did a good job in Art at PCAS. I heard no major grumbles from the teacher. Naim actually tried a trial day and liked it, so we are thinking of switching them next term.
  • Naim was the Emperial General in the Emporer’s New Clothes at NWCT. He did ok in the play. But I am kind of thinking that he needs to take learning lines more seriously if he wants to continue in theater. I really wish I could find him a good improv class, because I think he would enjoy it.
  • At Village, Aaron had Explorers, American History, Pirates, and Legos. Explorers was fine. AM we had trouble getting him to read the assignments. Pirates seemed ok except I am suspicious over what happened when they had a treasure hunt and Aaron “won” a giHUGic lego pirate ship. This mystery has never quite been resolved. Legos was OK but he had some incidences getting picked up because he often lost something he brought and put everyone through hell until he found it. Because of this and some other meltdown problems, I am pulling him out of VH for a term.
  • Naim had Explorers, Schoolhouse mash-up, World History, and Fun Sports. He did well in all of them.
  • They took 2 days of Spring Break Zoo Camp while I dealt with a medical issue. One day was Zoo Clues and the other was Animals of the Northwest. There was another meltdown on one day concerning aftercare and pickup with Aaron. So….
  • Our Homeschool PE class got canceled, so now we are starting swimming (for Naim and Avery only for now.)
  • Avery has continued to attend Goddard two days a week and is doing well.

Field Trips:

  • Let’s See…Naim and I went to OMSI and saw the Tony Hawk exhibit, the usual OMSI stuff and toured the submarine.
  • We went to VH’s Bloom fund raiser and talent show.
  • We saw Goodnight Moon at NWCT (with Avery! His first play and he did very well.)
  • Kids and I went to see the Lego Movie.
  • Naim went to a youth symphony with his friend R. They also made several trips in the snow to sled.
  • We’ve done some of the usual 53rd Street Park and Outdoors In, also Bagley Park. We also went and checked out the new library.
  • Avery went to a birthday party for one of his Goddard classmates at Oregon Gymnastics Academy. He did really well after the first few minutes. It really helped that his former teacher, Tracie was there because her son is also in his class.

Other stuff:

  • As I mentioned, A has been having meltdown problems again, after I thought it was getting better. The final straw was taking him to get his haircut. He just had a screaming fit. When we talked later about it and about how he had other options (one being sitting and enduring a few minutes of discomfort respectfully) he said that he did not know that was an option. (!?!?!) So I have been reading up on self-regulation and executive functioning skills and trying to come up with some strategies. But for now, (and because there are consequences for his actions) he has been pulled out of every class except drama (which he is at right now!) My thought process is that maybe he might learn some self regulation in drama (it is just intro to acting, all games and no play). And he needs something to work with so he can earn back the privilege of more classes.
  • Naim got braces! Finally! It is the first step and he has them on the bottom only until May when they will finish the top ones. He has done really well and is very compliant. This is another reason we thought he might like to chill out in art and not have to worry about a play. Talking hurts right now, he says.
  • We had some fun snow days in February. (this is really out of order, no?)
  • Aaaand…Naim learned to ride his bike in like, one afternoon.

We are getting there, we are making it…slowly!

Pictures:

Nov.-Dec., 2013

My brain is so busy with different projects. It is hard to get a handle on everything. But here we are, Dec. Already.

Classes:

We did an OMSI class. Physics Lab. Aaron and Naim had a lot of fun and it sounds like Naim was the volunteer guinea pig and was use to demonstrate what sounded to me like a TENS unit. Basically a volt of electricity through his body. Later, they also took an impromptu class about planet ice in the solar system. Also, they tested organic vs. flash frozen strawberries in the cafeteria.

This isn’t so much a class but Naim has been going to my WW meetings with me. So, he learns a lot about nutrition and manage your food choices. They have also gone swimming and we have played around in the gym before the meetings (which take place at the gym.) They are now old enough to take a self-manager class to have more responsibility and privileges at the gym.

We have signed up for the full day at Village on Wednesday. Classes don’t start till after the new year.

Avery’s Goddard DARs. I am hoping now that we are in this career change that he can continue to go there. I am hanging on for now and will be applying for childcare assistance, but we will have to wait and see.

Curriculum:

Aaron is on the Orange Level in HOP Master Reader. He complains about Sylvan 2nd grade but does get it done well. He continues in grammar.  He is almost done (like a day or two from being finished, with his  current HWT book. He will go on to the cursive one next.

Naim and I have been doing the first Chapter, Lessons 1 and 2 of Reading Horizons Discoveries. It is slow and tedious, but the good news is that I think we are making headway. He still has trouble with b, d, y, and g. And sometimes p and q. But progress is being made Goddamn it!

He is doing the 1st grade Sylvan language arts book. I have skipped around a bit to match what he is doing in reading. He is on the last little bit of handwriting and I have gotten him JUST the ZB workbook and a generic practice workbook to do next.

They finished the multiplication/division chapter in math in focus and are now on the last chapter on money. I have ordered the next set of books. Naim did quite well on the last chapter.

While the kids are doing their work, I try to integrate Avery with, for example, math manipulatives he can practice counting on (he can count to 10) or reading a book to him when they are doing their reading. I am trying to bring him into the fold. He seems to like it.

We are reading Mr. Popper’s Penguin. I have kind of given up on some of the activities, but we have watched videos about penguins and antarctica and have worked on some vocabulary and things.

We also have done one Atelier art project where they did 4 paintings to represent seasons. And they have done at least one or two music lessons from Calvert music.

Field Trips:

Besides OMSI, I don’t think we did any big field tripping in the last month.  We went to Outdoors In on Avery’s Birthday, and the kids had S. and R. over for a sleepover on their birthday. They also went to D’s parents house for a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving. They also have gone to HFAC a few times for WW and for swimming. I can’t think of what else they have done. It has been fairly cold and Nik and I have had to keep ourselves healthy and rested to deal with all the career change stuff.

Pictures:

August 4-11, 2013

Ok, So I think due to our A/C breaking down and my office being like, 98 degrees for the last week, I did not get any blogging done. I will review:

On 8/4, Naim and Nik went to a Portland Timbers reserve soccer game. This was a free ticket that he got from being at soccer camp. Since it was reserves, the stadium was practically empty, but he had fun. It would be nice for him to see the mayhem of  a full-fledged game. Nik rooted for the Vancouver White Caps and Naim rooted for the Timbers. I think they even had American and Canadian Flags. White Caps won.

On Monday, Avery went to Goddard and the kids did school downstairs because it was cooler. I can’t remember what they did right now. We also went to the library in the afternoon where we read some pokemon and superhero books and they turned in their summer reading poster and got their free books and stuff.

On Tuesday, we waited around for the A/C guy who didn’t show up, we tried to get some school done and Erika came for Naim and they went for a walk. In the afternoon, we went to the park and to D’s house for some cool air. They had fun going through the stuff they haven’t seen in 8 months. I should have let them do that awhile back. They also went with Nik to a neighborhood safety party at the park. They ate watermelon and talked to the police and fire people about safety stuff. Naim apparently entertained the firefighters a great deal.

On Wednesday, They went to the dentist in the morning and they went to Pump It Up in the afternoon.

Thursday I am drawing a blank, but I do know that I spent flippin’ days waiting for home repair people who did not show up.

On Friday, Avery went to Goddard and the kids did school. The A/C guy came in the afternoon. Also R. came to visit Naim for the afternoon.

On Saturday, they went to the gym with Nik.

On Sunday, we went to visit D in the nursing home and they played minecraft and other games with him.

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August 2, 2013

Avery went to Goddard. He cried and cried and dropping him off is getting harder and harder. I am not sure why, except that it might have to do with his current train obsession and never wanting to do anything except be home and play with trains. Except from the looks of the report, all they did was train stuff today, but of course he didn’t know that.

We had Seth over for the day. Not much homeschool stuff got done.

July 31, 2013

Outpost today. Avery and Naim did water stuff, Aaron did sand stuff. They had snow cones. Lunch, in which Avery, who chose Peanut Butter and Jelly, had buyers remorse when he saw Naim’s hamburger and had a shit fit. Naim did Superhero Training where they ran around with water balloons. And Aaron and Avery played around on the playground equipment.

July 30, 2013

Avery had his last day of ECSE for summer. He went a total of 6 times. He has been liking to go this summer. He brought back a lacing fish and a paint and glitter fish today. He will start back on September 5.

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Big Kids:

  • Naim and Aaron both did MIF Ch. 14 lesson 2 workbook and the “put on your thinking cap” at the end. We will do a review and test next time. And then maybe spend a day on enrichment and this chapter will wrap up.
  • Naim had Erika. They went for a walk and apparently practiced small talk with passerby.
  • Aaron did 2 pp. Sylvan
  • Aaron did the review of Unit 2 in HOP.
  • Aaron did 2 pp. of Handwriting.
  • All of us went to the park this afternoon.