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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

June 30-July 5, 2013

Summer means once a week consolidated posts, I guess.

June 30, Nik and I went to dinner and to the Fleetwood Mac concert and the kids stayed with Casper, a mom from VH (whose kids are all grown up, now.) That seems to go ok.

Avery went to Goddard M,T,W all day so I could run the kids around to their respective camps. I have Mon,  Tues and Wed DARs.

Naim went to Timbers Soccer Camp at Jeld-Wenn Field. He liked being at the big stadium. He fought heat and dehydration but seemed happy each day. He met a Timbers player who autographed his hat. (Diego Valeri? I think?) He said the coach says he is too slow. I am not sure if he is that slow or if he just gets self conscious and doesn’t run full-out. He has better endurance than a lot of the kids. But he is a marathoner and not a sprinter (or at least that is what he does more of) so I am not sure. He got a certificate.

Aaron, meanwhile, went to the children’s museum’s City Builders camp. He seemed to have a lot of fun and brought home a lot of glue gun and wood items. They seems to all revolve around Decepticon (some kind of Transformer.) He pretty much made himself a whole playset. He drew one version of transformer on one side of a thing he made, and the other version that it transformed into on the other, so you could switch sides and play both. This is his second camp this summer with no “meltdown” incidents. He brought this home.

On Thursday, they went to the Independence Day parade with Nik. Then later we walked around the neighborhood and ran into the neighbors around the corner who were doing fireworks in the street. Aaron got himself adopted to this family and they gave him a popsicle. I never know what to do in those situations. They seemed really nice, but I hope we weren’t crashing in an annoying way. I can’t make heads or tails of what is going on in the dark with a bunch of firecrackers going off. I was just trying to figure out what my kids were doing.

Friday, Aaron had his last day of camp and so Naim and Avery and I went to the zoo. I think this was the first time Avery really “got” the zoo. That you are supposed to look at animals. He liked the sea lions and he really liked the elephants. He said “bye, bye, elephants” on his own. Then later when I said that he said, “hello, elephants.” He made a joke!

I got tired of running them around, but it was a good week for them at camp.

May 28, 2013

We went to the Children’s Museum because Avery did not have school and they had a new Dinosaur exhibit. Avery was really happy about the dino exhibit and just being there. He also carried around a stuffed basset hound for a long time. Woof Woof! We spent some time in the clay studio because we had been reading about Maria Martinez. Naim made a nice little pinch pot. Aaron made a snake/cobra. I found out there is a glazing and pot throwing lesson on Sundays, so maybe we will go to that when we pick up the things from the kiln.

February 21-27, 2013

Well, since this last whole week was taken up by my emergency surgery business, and  I need to conserve my energy to be able to more quickly go back to the job at hand, I will do a quick summery:

2/21

The kids and I went to the Children’s Museum, where we saw the Storyland exhibit, and did our usual stuff. Avery was great except for lunch, when apparently I ordered him the wrong thing. The new cafe sucks and is overpriced, so we learned our lesson there and next time will be taking our lunch. I’m sure there are pics below.

That night, I took the ambvan to the ER, where I stayed until Sunday. I had surgery Friday afternoon while Nik stayed home from work (eye roll!) until today.

2/22

I was supposed to take them for their VH OMSI class, but obviously…Nik took Avery to Goddard and I do not think I saw any report from that day. But he stayed the day in the Forest and so I think he is a permanent member now.

Due to all the ER goings-on, the kids did not make it to OMSI in time for their class, but they decided to go to OMSI anyway and see the Mythbusters exhibit which Aaron has been waiting for for months. So I am glad they went but sorry I missed it. But always next month, I guess.  It seemed like it was part exhibit and part show. They were duly impressed.

2/23

On Saturday we were supposed to start our yoga class in downtown Hillsboro and then meet with our park guy, but obviously all of that went to hell. I had Nik bring the kids down to the hospital to  visit me and also bring me some clean clothes and of course my all important iPad charger! They only stayed about 1/2 hour, which was fine because I was sleeping the day away.

2/24

I think the kids went to the store and the pharmacy with Nik because I was unable to do safeway and I needed scrips. Apparently, like a true homeschooler, Naim interviewed the pharmacist and learned all about her job while he was waiting for her to sort out my scrips.  I came home on my own in a cab this day.

2/25

Nik was home and Susannah took the kids to visit Dwight at the nursing home in the morning. This is good because I have not been able to take them for about two weeks. Later, Nik took them downtown to drama and art, so I was happy they didn’t miss those since they missed last week because of my being sick. (roll eyes AGAIN.) Aaron made “marble paper” out of I guess shaving cream and paint.

2/26

Nik home again, it was a pretty low-key day.  Avery went to ECSE and we finally got all the vaccine stuff straightened out. Naim and I went for a walk around the block to get me started back to getting up and around. And to test whether I could take them to VH.

2/27

I really, really meant to take them to VH today, but once I got Avery up and over to Goddard,  I was completely wiped out and having dizzy spells. So, ugh, I didn’t make it. We did the latest “kiwi crate” things with pom pom pets and pet playgrounds.

Avery was over at Goddard all day today instead of Monday, as Nik arranged that so it would be easier for me today and he could go back to work. He did well there and here is his “freely.”

Tomorrow, Avery goes back to ECSE and I will start school up again, but except for maybe some walks with the kids, I am not planning to go anywhere. Friday will be half day for Avery at Goddard and we will continue school. I think we are going to see Seussical at NWCT this weekend if I remember right.

Onward!

Here are the pics off my camera, the OMSI ones aren’t here.

July 24, 2012

Still felt crappy, but within tolerable limits. Felt sorry for kids who have been puttering around for the last two days, so bucked up and took them to PCM. We saw my (gay) boyfriend, John Ellingson do story time as a special guest. I love him. and Naim, especially loves him. If Naim keeps doing NWCT classes, I think he will be starstruck if he ever gets to the point of having Ellingson as a teacher. (He only teaches the advanced classes.) Even Avery sat fairly well for him. We are rarely ever that excited to do story time there, but he was fun, his voice projected, he acted out the stories with different voices, and he can do the most believable fake laugh ever.

Then went to clay area to pick up Aaron’s boat that he fired last time. I thought he could paint it there, but we brought it home to paint. Naim did another tie-dye for Nik, and then just general playing around. We build was almost identical to last year, where I famously figured out that Avery was possibly autistic and if not, had to finally admit that Something Needed to be Done~ and thus headed into the wonderful world of EI. He is both the same and different. It was like the IFSP meeting. You could see all the improvements he has made over the last year, but you could also see how there is still a big gap between him and typically developing children. But, I am way less stressed about it this year, and we are slowly moving through it and he will be who he will be. But despite pushing myself through ongoing pain and fatigue, fun day and glad I went.

Oh! Also want to mention that I am noticing a new manipulation tactic in Aaron’s employ. So, he goes to the fenced off messy garage area and the staff person wants me to come in with him to help him with glue guns and stuff. I say I have a two year old. She says he can come, too. I say, It won’t be pretty, he has just sat for story time and for big kids doing clay and stuff, he is not in a sitting mood. Besides, Aaron has approximately 467 times as much experience using a glue gun as I do. I have used one exactly once, and he has used one in about 8 billion classes and camps, he will be fine, I say. She reluctantly lets me off the hook. So, to be a good responsible parent, I did go check on him a few times, and once she comes over to me and tells me how great he is doing and how he told her that his parents were visually impaired and how she was sorry she asked me to help him with the glue gun. OK, BIG FAT ROLL MY EYES TO THE BACK OF MY HEAD! He has figured out that by playing the “all my parents are disabled” card, he gets SO MUCH ATTENTION. I mean, it is quite amazing how much attention he can solicit for himself, using this and other methods. But people act like since he has disabled parents he must be neglected and forlorn at home and that they are his only opportunity in LIFE to use the glue gun, because god forbid his parents can’t help him use one at home. So, of course, immediately I had to go in and use the glue gun right in front of her, lest she thinks we actually are too “impaired” to use a glue gun. Eh, he’s fine. I say. He just likes to tell others his whole life story. I will turn him into a piss-ass, militant disabled advocate yet. He’s not pulling that shitty PR when I’m present. Geez, can’t use a glue gun, my ass.

Pictures:

June 12, 2012

Started Tuesday Fieldtrips for summer today. We were going to go to the zoo but it was so rainy when we got there that we opted for children’s museum instead. Good day, spent from about 10-3 there. Naim made a Tie Dye shirt and they both made clay projects. Naim opted to bring his home and Aaron is kiln firing his boat that he made. Pictures: