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  • The “Class”

    Avery, Naim, Aaron

  • Subjects

  • Portfolio

Naim, 6th Grade Year

*I lost a bunch of data/pics/etc from 2016. This is a bit of a reconstruction.

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Naim, 6th Grade

Curriculum:

  • Math U See, Gamma
  • Child’s History of the World
  • Touch, Type, Read and Spell
  • Khan Academy, Grammar
  • HOP Master Reader
  • Voyages in English 3

Classes:

  • HOA PE
  • HOA Elementary Face-to-Face
  • VH Kids Design the Future
  • VH Oval Office, Bill on the Hill, Court in Session
  • VH Chess Club
  • VH Cultural Arts
  • VH Human Rights Heroes
  • VH Fall Musical Elf, Jr.
  • HOA Outdoor School (Cedar Ridge)
  • VH Outdoor School (Opal Creek)

Media:

  • CNN Student News

Field Trips:

  • Elf, Jr
  • Democratic Party Election Night Party
  • NWCT Schoolhouse Rock
  • Oregon Rail Heritage Center
  • Japanese Garden
  • Seaside Maritime Museum
  • Seaside Bike Riding/beach trip
  • Science Fair (HOA)
  • Science Fair (Hillsboro District)
  • Oregon State NFB Legislature Meeting
  • Oregon State Legislature House of Representatives Page
  • Nike World Headquarters Tour
  • OMSI Pompeii Exhibit

Naim, 5th Grade Year

Naim 5th Grade

Naim, 5th Grade Year

Classes:

  • VH Explorers
  • VH Children’s Chorus
  • VH Presentation Club
  • VH Gardening
  • HOA “Face-to-Face” Class
  • HOA 5th Grade PE
  • HOA 5th Grade Art
  • HOA 5th Grade Music
  • NWCT: Jack’s Nightmarish Christmas
  • OMSI Survival Camp
Curriculum:
  • Math In Focus 3A,B
  • Life Of Fred: Book 3 Dogs
  • Life of Fred Book 4: Cats
  • Voyages in English 2
  • Calvert World History
  • Hooked On Phonics 2(A,B)
  • Touch Type Read and Spell
  • Raz Reading
  • Moby Max Math Factor
  • CNN Student News
  • DIY. org
  • Harry Potter Series
  • Doodle Crate
  • Gandhi: YA biography
  • Exodus
  • 1984
  • Animal Farm
  • Harriet the Spy
Fieldtrips:
  1. Tillamook State Forest (HOA)
  2. Lakeview Farms
  3.  VH Entrepreneur Fair (Participant)
  4. Washington County Museum (Lego Displays)
  5. Dairyville at Alpenrose Dairy
  6. Mary Poppins at Liberty High School
  7. Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum
  8. Wings and Waves Waterpark
  9. McMinnville Theater
  10. Champing State Park
  11. Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (Gamers)
  12. iFly Sports Indoor Skydiving
  13. Washington County Democratic Party Springfest
  14. Hillsboro Library and Pond
  15. Jackson Bottom Wetlands
  16. Rice Museum of Rocks and Minerals
  17. HOA Science Fair (participant)
  18. District Science Fair (participant)
  19. Outdoor School at Opal Creek
  20. Haag Lake
  21. Bullwinkle’s Family Fun Center
  22. Washington Park/Hoyt Arboretum
  23. World Forestry Center
  24. HFAC Summer BBQ

Naim’s Essay

So here is the backstory. Naim and I went on a Village Home field trip to the Oregon Jewish Museum last February for an Ann Frank exhibit. The docent there told everyone there (kids from about 7 to high school) about the Sala Kryszek Writing and Art Competition. She handed out a little flyer that had a writing prompt and told how to submit entries. Then, she came up to Naim and I afterward and totally went off about how insightful Naim was and how he is special and how he really should enter this contest. We even talked to her about how he is not really into art that much but maybe he could write something.

So we went home and he worked on this essay for probably about three to four weeks. He first spoke his ideas into his iPod Touch using Siri. Then I helped him trim the ideas down (like I got rid of all the “and, uh” type of things and fixed words that Siri got wrong and I put spaces in between each sentence/thought. Then he printed them out and cut them into strips and made an outline. He took a big piece of paper and glued the strips into the appropriate space on the outline. Then he retyped it in that order. I proofread and copyedited it and did give him some ideas on how to better transition from paragraph to paragraph. He made the corrections. Then he gave it to me to submit.

So, it wasn’t until I submitted it that I actually read the rules on the website. (Oops! I had read the flyer, but the flyer did not indicate age ranges.) I found out on the website that this contest is only for middle and high school kids. So, I don’t know. The docent GAVE Naim the flyer and encouraged him to enter. He does NOT look like a middle or high school kid. I think she might have even asked him his age. But, she is a volunteer, I believe so maybe she didn’t know. Anyway, we decided to enter anyway. But, alas! He was disqualified because of age. 

He was a bit disappointed, but he said what he really wanted was for people to read it, not to win so much. So I said, well, they probably did read it? But he thought they might have just looked at his age and thrown it out. So, he asked if I would publish it online and throw it around a bit so that his work wasn’t in vain. I really wish I could find another appropriate competition to enter it into, but I have not yet. It is a bit sad for me to read in a way because, seriously? He hears people say his father should die? But it is important to him and it is a good first essay, I thought. He worked hard on it. So, without further ado:

Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education

Sala Kryszek Art and Writing Competition

March 13, 2015

 

 

We Should Respect All Life
by Naim Ferris

 

When I visited the Ann Frank Exhibit at the Oregon Jewish Museum, I learned that people with disabilities were killed in the Holocaust. According to The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, over 70,000 people with disabilities were killed and others were used in medical experiments without their permission. I saw how much The Holocaust was and still is a source of fear and that Hitler gained power by using fear. People like to be powerful to be a step above everyone else and to have authority. Hitler used people’s differences to gain power. Treating people differently is a simple and easy way to make some people powerful and other people not powerful. Although people are learning that Jewish people and other minorities are not so different, disabled people are still treated as different. I think this is outrageous and I do not believe they should be treated as such.

I have three disabled parents. My mother is vision and hearing impaired. My father uses a wheelchair and my stepfather is blind. It is normal to have disabled parents. The only thing that is different is that they always have to prove themselves. They sometimes have difficulty getting jobs because people think that they are incapable, yet they won’t admit that is what they think.

My mother is a kind and loving parent, who can teach my brothers and me reading and math, handle a guide dog, talk to people and have her own business. My stepfather makes us breakfast and is a really good cook. We talk about good things and bad things. Sometimes we nerd-out on the couch. He teaches me and teaches other people about technology and we go a lot of places. He can cross streets, clean, bake and laugh. My father is quadriplegic and has been in and out of hospitals. He is special because he is able to handle lots of stress and deal with situations in a very bright light and stick to what are the main things about being a parent. People sometimes say my father doesn’t deserve to live because he is a so disabled. He has value because he exists. He is nice and smart and is good at math and fixing computers and answering questions. He helps me and teaches me things.

There are a lot of advantages to having disabled parents. We get to have our guide dogs go with us everywhere. My parents can problem-solve and can handle a lot of different kinds of put-downs. They don’t get upset about things and don’t let little things get them down. People think having disabled parents is a bad thing, but it is mostly a good thing.

Most people have things that they are good at or not good at, but maybe they would not be considered disabled, like not being able to cook or do math or stay in shape. A large percentage of the world’s population is disabled people if you think of it like that, so putting one group down because they can’t see or hear or walk doesn’t make much sense. I think mostly people treat them differently because they may look different or do things differently. They might have some challenges, but the biggest challenge is how they are treated by society. They have the same dreams, feelings and rights as everyone else.

I would like people to treat disabled people as individuals and not like they stand out as something to stare at. People should just treat them like they want to be treated themselves. People should ask questions if they don’t know what to do or how to act, but ask the person and not someone else. Trust them to tell you about themselves and not other people who may want to put them at a disadvantage.

Disabled people should be cared for like everyone else, because life is a life worth living. If Hitler had been successful, there would have been no disabled people. If there were no disabled people, I think that would be awful. A lot of problems would not be solved because they see the world in a different way and know how to find solutions to difficult situations.    In the Holocaust people with disabilities were dying. Currently, there is still a lot of unfair judgment and putting this group of people on a lower level. If people aren’t treated with respect, they are not valued. This is important because this has been happening long enough. The Holocaust could slowly happen again if people don’t pay attention. There are always people who stand out and can make a change.

 

Summer/Fall Plans

We kind of go quarter to quarter, with a big yearly assessment and overhaul that happens every September. You have to figure out summer in April and Fall, well, kind of starts in April and doesn’t end until August.

Here is what I have for now:

Summer Camps:

Aaron-Zoo in June, Oral Hull in July, and OMSI Farm in late July

Naim-Oral Hull in July, OMSI Farm Camp in late July, AM Soccer and PM Acting Camp at NWCT (Star Trekkers)

Avery-Continuing Goddard all Summer, Zoo Camp in June, Oral Hull in July

This will be the fifth year that Aaron does Zoo Camp. Each year builds on other years and concentrates on specific areas. This year I think they are doing some kind of nocturnal thing so this camp includes a late night and dinner. It’s on my birthday so can a make a date out of that before pick up? hmmm. Avery went to 1/2 day Zoo camp and liked it last summer. This will be his first full-day camp. Naim and I have house cleaning/sorting plans this week while the As are away.

Oral Hull Foundation for the Blind Family Camp: We didn’t go last year and caught hell for it from the kids. They really like it and it is an easy way to get them out of town and let them run free. Avery will really be old enough this year to run free as well for the most part, so that will be fun. It is a bit of work for Nik and I, we usually do a class for the parents of blind kids, but the whole week is like one long education and counseling session for us. We are happy to do it, but it does get a bit draining (especially when we have to answer questions like how do blind people wipe themselves? yes, seriously.)

OMSI has given us a $400 scholarship so I am very happy about this. They will go up to a farm on Sauvie Island and learn about organics and environmental farming and a little cooking thrown in. I’m jealous.

Naim will do the PGE Park Timbers Camp in the am and then walk up to NWCT for acting camp in the afternoon. He gets an hour in between. He could SO TOTALLY do this himself as it is only about 5 blocks, but Nik will probably come from work and have lunch with him to help the transition, since Soccer will not release him to his own recognences.

 

Fall is a bag full of possibilities right now. In some ways, my Aaron/Naim isolation problem has been solved as now they are constantly out for hours with the neighborhood kids and I think it fills that peer gap for them pretty well. It may get worse in the Winter, but maybe then we are back to indoor playdates. I love shooing them outside.

So, in the grab bag of possibilities for Aaron and Naim are:

  • Swallowtail Farm Mondays, A private farm school with an open-to-homeschoolers Monday component
  • Some Combination of Village Home Classes
  • Some Combination of Hillsboro Online Academy
  • or….and this is a new, big one…Swallowtail School full-time four days a week. Essentially, they would be private school kids.

The reason I can even consider Swallowtail, a Waldorf program, is because it has an amazing sliding scale tuition program. I figured out that the cost would be about the same as what I am paying now for all their VH et al classes and curriculum. It would be a big step, but I have to get them on board and they are not quite yet. We go on our second visit this week. The Waldorf thing is good with me, but it is almost marrying into a new community. We have to still see how we all match up.

 

Curriculum-wise, if we stayed home, we would probably continue with Naim in Reading Discovery and Math in Focus. And Aaron with Voyages in English and Math in Focus. Those would be daily.  I am thinking about letting them plan the rest themselves within some parameters. (2 hours of SS/History, 2 Hours of Science, 1-2 hours of the arts, 5 half hours of physical fitness/sports a week.) Then they could fulfill these with HOA classes, VH classes, their own choice of curriculum, or stand alone projects like DIY.org or something. Naim and I are actually really enjoying a World History Timeline project we are doing now. He is making a timeline and I help him read with Calvert’s A Child’s Book of World History and the Usborne World History Encyclopedia along with other books and resources. Lots of fun, and poor Aaron has had to do PS Oregon History for like two years in a row now (and going on a 3rd  with more western expansion if he continues with HOA). How they think they can get away with teaching YEARS of pioneer/settler/western expansion history at the expense of all else is beyond me, but welcome to Oregon. Lets talk about a 200 year period of mass genocide and racism by your ancestors ad nauseum and make it out like it is all fun and good and Little House on the Prairie. Ugh. I got American History shoved down my throat growing up as well. And since Nik was educated in Europe, he completely laughs and my embarrassing lack of World History knowledge. I am having fun learning along with Naim as well. The timeline thing makes you put all the jumbled stories you have heard over the years in context and space and time.

Avery is pretty much staying home with me next year.  He is not, Not, NOT going to the 60+ kid Quatama classroom. I would consider Swallowtail for him this year but he would be waitlisted. He may do a combination of Farm School or Village. If it ends up being just him and me, I may put him in WeVillage for a day a week or something. We will see. I am thinking at home I will just do K Math in Focus and Reading for him. Maybe Calverts Discoveries in Reading or Hooked On Phonics or a combo. We also could get a little more structure in the day if I did something like Sunshine Express or Mother Goose Time, but that is a lot of curriculum. I plan on not killing myself over Kindergarten.

Stay tuned! Big decisions will be made soon!

 

Wrapping up the “official year,” heading to summer.

I have updated the “Summary Pages” for each kid. And I added the post below that explains what happened with Aaron and Public. So, a summary of where we are now, a couple of months post public.

Aaron

  • I enrolled Aaron in Hillsboro Online Academy for Social Studies and Science. It was kind of an experiment. It has both success and failure, I guess. The good things are that it is much more interactive than I thought, he likes the science, he likes the face-to-face classes and activities. It’s free, it offers a lot of resources. It keeps him on his toes. The bad is that it is a LOT of work, the Social Studies is lame, it has a lot of stupid MC tests where there are only 3 questions so it is really easy to get a 66%, and it is an overlord, but the overlords are generally pretty nice. For now, I have tentative plans to put them both in next year, but we will see.
  • He is doing a pretty intense grammar and writing curriculum out of Loyola Press (i.e., the Jesuits). I had to pull teeth at the beginning to get him to do it, but now he is doing much better and complaining less. His writing still has a ways to go, but he is writing more every day than he probably did in a month last semester.
  • I took him back to 3rd grade math as per his request. But I let him pretest out of chapters so we have skipped a few. He is really good in math, just doesn’t like to do the work and thus got behind. We are moving pretty quickly through the A term of 3rd grade and will be in B term next couple of weeks. I did not think he really needed to go back, but his comfort and confidence in his math skills since public has increased dramatically. The jump to 4th grade with no help just completely made him feel stupid. He likes having the control back.
  • Those are the areas we are concentrating on. His “school day” usually goes like:
    • Morning meeting where we go over tasks
    • Life of Fred Math
    • some kind of arithmetic drills (flashcards, iPad app, etc.)
    • Math in Focus (both the book and workbook on the same day most days)
    • Voyages in English (grammar)
    • Raz kids (a reading program online
    • Voyages in English (composition)
    • Alternating SS and Science
    • Chores
    • Go outside and play with friends
  • He is not enrolled in anything else since he missed all the enrollment deadlines. He goes to HOA one day a week for class and PE.
  • We are slowly getting the old Aaron back. Still working on some of the emotional stuff, but I see slow maturity there.

Naim

  • Naim and I had a nice holiday when it was only him and I. We have had to work to integrate Aaron back in. It has been kind of frustrating at first, but improving. I have been giving them task lists and having them do more and more on their own without me babysitting them every second.
  • Naim continues to do Reading Horizons and Hooked on Phonics. The biggest thing you notice with him is that he gets along so much better out in the world in regards to reading. He can read menus, signs, scripts, etc and is not so dependent on us to help him. He is a “reader” but it has been an arduous process.
  • He wanted to double speed in math, so we are doing both book and workbook on same day as well. One thing that is starting to help math so much is that now he is better at reading instructions and word problems by himself. It is still frustrating when he completely screws up an instruction when you know he knows the math, but it is getting more independent. We are also (especially Nik) incorporating expecting them to do more math in day-to-day life like cooking, figuring out dates, distances etc. We may give hints but really expect them to do the math themselves.
  • He bugged and bugged me for weeks to learn about puberty, so I looked for an OWL (Our Whole Lives Sexuality Education) program for him. I could not find one, so I bought the books myself and we did it ourselves with some participation from Aaron and Nik. That was our science curriculum after we were done with Chemistry.
  • For Social Studies, he worked on an essay for an essay contest. We have not heard back yet about winners.We will soon go back to continuing with world history.
  • His day goes like:
    • Morning meeting
    • Life of Fred
    • arithmetic practice
    • Math in focus
    • Reading Horizons
    • Voyages in English/Handrwriting/Journal
    • Touch, Type, Read and Spell (keyboarding)
    • CNN student news for current events
    • Either Ss or Science, sometimes Music or art
    • chores and then outside with friends.
  • He also takes swimming once a week and a whole day of Village, where he has explorers (the block class) drawing/painting/ music/chorus and destination imagination.

In light of what I wrote in the previous post about isolation (which I just reread and remembered) I should add that we have had a very positive development there. This, also was probably helped by Aaron’s PS experience. The kids have been playing outside with the neighborhood kids nearly every single day for hours. These are kids that Aaron met from the bus stop, although we had seen a lot of them around for years anyway, so I don’t know that this would have never happened without the bus stop, but it certainly helped. Anyway, with some encouragement by several of the parents, we have been working with them to seek each other out (actually go knock on doors old school style…no play date planning for me!) and go just hang out outside on bikes or with balls or whatever. Its great! It is sometimes bumpy for them. As I listen to them outside sometimes, I hear the chaotic and disorganized way they try to build consensus. Its painful to listen to. But I don’t think any of the kids have these social skills (all others in this group are PS kids.) I suspect it is because their time together at school to just be social is so limited compared to when we were kids, and then they started this playing outside together later than when we were kids. But they will figure it out. This is kind of the only way TO figure it out. So, I think it is very good and has helped the feeling of isolation a lot.

Avery

  • This year Avery has been in school for four hours four days a week. It got pretty academic there this year, which he has a love/hate relationship with. He talks a lot about school this year. There is Ms. Jenn and Ms. Kaley and “my kids.” He has been doing numbers and letters and can write his name (well, he writes Arvey.) He picks things up very fast. I think he is going to be more like Aaron and not really have Naim’s issues. His will also be a motivation issue, in that he wants to do what he wants to do when he wants to do it. It is a balance to keep that spirit but still have high academic expectations for them.
  • I am going to visit his class and then have a conference with his teacher in the next couple of weeks to plan for curriculum for him for Kinder. I need to get a better idea whether we should do letter names/sounds and numbers/sorting type of thing again (that is what they did this year) or if I can go on to more straight up reading and math. I will get a better idea if I see what he is already doing there and what the teacher thinks. I thought about keeping him in Goddard for Kinder, which would be fine except I can’t afford it. I thought about going to Quatama kinder orientaion just to see how they are going to do 60ish kids per classroom for a whole day, but I decided I couldn’t stomach the walk up to Quatama to see the counselor again, who is kind of a douchebag. If Nik wants to go, he can go. I’ve been there, done it.
  • He also has been swimming in beginning swimming class with Naim (different class/same time.) But other than that, we have left him be for school since he has so much through Goddard.

That’s pretty much it. We are making summer camp decisions now. Stay tuned! Maybe I will update before the end of summer!

All that has happened…

I’m not sure how to get back to blogging. So, I will do a summary of where we are now, then go back and backfill as I can. It will probably be more like occasional posts.

Back in May, we visited the Village Free School. We went for an interview and spent two days with them. I admire what they are doing, but both kids said it wasn’t for them. And to be honest, the trip would have been long. It is located next to OMSI.

Then one day, after school had ended for public but before the office was closed for summer. I just took Aaron and Naim there to enroll them. I think I was just burnt out of everything. I was working several jobs and so was Nik and we are still just above poverty level and so we qualify for nothing and I just felt like my head was a jumbled mess.

When we were there, I talked to the principal about Naim and getting him evaluated for an IEP in the summer. She said it wasn’t going to happen till probably more than sixty school days into the fall. I just thought, well what will you do with him til then? It would be February before an actual IEP would be set up and in the meantime, how would he be helped with the reading he can’t read to keep up in all of his other classes that he is fine in except for the reading? Everyone just kind of shrugged it off. So then I decided to keep Naim as a homeschooler, enroll Aaron and put Avery in Goddard for four half days a week in the fall.

And that is what we have been doing. I am not impressed with Aaron’s school, but will hold judgement for a bit more. I have parent/teacher conferences on Monday and that will be eye-opening I am sure. I feel like I send him away for six hours to float. Avery’s Goddard has gotten really academic since now he is in preKindergarten. Its letters and numbers and worksheets for him now. I am paying up the ass for that and he grumbles about it a lot, but for now what it allows is for 4 days of 4 hours of uninterrupted Naim school time. Which I think really helps.

Naim and I have been using a notebook system to keep track of our work. It has worked well. I can easily sit there and fill out what we have done and what we will do next while he is working. I still would like to get him a neurodevelopment evaluation but the ESD won’t call me back, which is their tactic to wait list kids since wait listing is now allowed. If the don’t contact you; the process hasn’t started yet and the clock doesn’t tick. So, they could not contact you for months on end. I tried to go through my pediatrician; who referred me to OHSU CDRC but medicaid rejected it. So, we are just moving along. I am looking into what would be possible at Hillsboro Online Academy, which is HPS online arm.

So, where are we in curricula right now?

We are finishing up Chapter 2 (of 6) in Reading Horizons. We need to circle around and do some reviewing before we go on. As it has always been, he is improving in reading, but it goes at a snail’s pace. We started this curriculum last fall, and we have done two of six chapters. But I absolutely don’t move on until he knows it at at least the 85& level. So, we circle around a lot.

I added back in Hooked on Phonics. He kind of does it on his own as homework. He is at the tail end of the First Grade; First Level book.

We finished Math in Focus 2A and are at the beginning of 2b. This goes ok conceptually, but we work everyday on math facts and also reversing numbers.

I think he has done one or two practice handwriting books. I just have him do a page a day.

We finished the worry book and also A Life Like Mine, the UNICEF book. We started Hilyer’s A Child’s History of the World and also Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.

We have moved along in Calvert Music (Lesson 19?) and Atelier Art a bit (Lesson 15?)

We have completed RS4K Chemistry up to Lesson 9 (of ten) so we need to think of where to go from there. He wants physics next.

We started doing Keyboarding without Tears, but the application was just horrible and didn’t work. Now we are starting anew, with another typing tutorial. We also have been journaling, where he dictates a sentence and I write it, then he copies it.

I think those are the main things we work on at home.

Classes and Activities he has done:

Starting with Summer camps, he did a pioneer camp at Washington County Museum that they (A and N) both really liked.

He did a NWCT camp about improv.

He did a DI camp at Village Home.

Currently, he has done one term in VH with Explorers, Drawing, Music, and DI. He is not particularly a fan of the music class, but to my surprise he loves drawing.

He also did soccer again this year.

Aaron and Avery both did Zoo camp this summer. It was Avery’s first camp. Avery was a penguin and Aaron was an otter.

Aaron also took some classes at PCAS this summer, and attended the same pioneer camp as Naim.

That’s where we are for now. It has been tough. I have had to struggle a lot with what every mother has to struggle with, balancing career and motherhood/homeschooling. Money has been exceedingly tight (we are living on probably the lowest per capita amount than I have ever lived on before.) D has been in and out of hospitals and nursing homes and I still work for him nights and it makes for very long days. The day time is childcare (It all falls to me) and still trying to get work done for our company and current contracts I have. I also got a guide dog in October, so that was 2 weeks out of town and then the work and adjustment of a new dog since being back.

It’s overwhelming, but we keep on and keep trying our best and keep trusting that we will know what to do when we get there.

 

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