Flocabulary is another awesome resource I found.  Now with math I needed something for extra help, but with language arts my daughter is way ahead of the game so I needed something fun and challenging.  I have to admit Language Arts is challenging for me to teach only because there is just so much of it.  We could probably do it all day long between writing, reading, puncutation, grammar, and vocabulary.  Flocabulary has videos on all of this and on other subjects too like math, social studies, and science.

Unlike Time4Learning, you don't have to pick a grade level, so I can skip my kid ahead when I want to and I have access to lower grade levels as well.  Each subject has a video and then both online and printable activities.  The vocabulary arena is where this site really shines but I have enjoyed all of the activities we have done thus far.

All of the vidoes are fun, hilarious, hip hop songs.  They are catchy so they stick with you and they are clever so they make smart kids light up and get inspired.  I had a few people look down their noses at me and say "Well we don't listen to hip hop."  It's not gangster rap, people.  It's intelligent rhyming that takes talent and is intended to make kids smarter.  It honestly reminds me a lot of Will Smith back when he was the Fresh Prince and he told us how, "Parents Just Don't Understand."

To add an even cooler element to this site, there are lessons for how kids can make up their own rhymes to help them learn (or just for fun!).  I plan to do this sometime soon with my daughter.  She's a writer at heart and loves words.  Vocabularly is so easy for her so taking it to another level by incorporating words into a rhyming song will be right up her alley.

I also have used the math videos to help her remember facts (just as a little extra added to what we are already doing) and if I find a social studies or science video that goes along with something else we are learning, I use that too.  I just love seeing her light up and laugh when she watches these things.  I love seeing her enjoy herself with schoolwork!  I also feel like these lessons don't talk down to kids, if you know what I mean.  It gives kids credit for knowing a lot more than most other online lessons do.  So, it challenges them and makes them think. I can't say enough good things about this site.  In fact, I may ditch Time4Learning and just continue a membership with this site (I am on a free trail right now).  Time4Learning is cool in that is basically is a whole online curriculum but the science and social studies are boring, a lot of the language arts are way too easy, and I find the site overwhelming and confusing.  We wind up just using it once a week or so to mix things up so it may not be worth the money since I have a curriculum outside of the site.

If anyone is actually reading this and wants to check out Flocabulary, here is the link.  They have free videos and printables to check out and, like I said, a free trial.

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Lots of Guilt

Now that I am home with A, I feel so badly that I have almost no time with my son C.  When I was home with him, pretty much for the past five years, I squandered our time together trying to make money from home (ironically, so I could spend more time with my kids) or by just generally wasting time, stressing out, and cleaning.  Now I see him a few hours before he goes to bed at night.  I feel terrible.

C is a great kid.  He is always cheerful and enthusiastic.  He helps me with everything.  He is generous.  He'll offer you his last piece of candy or last sip of his treasured slushie.  He's a real shirt off his back kind of guy.

He always tries to take care of everyone's feelings, too.  Like if I told him that I felt bad for not being a good mom, instead of feeling bad for himself he'd try to cheer me up.  He just wants everyone to be happy all the time.

When he was born he was different.  He cried for a year straight.  He never slept.  I never slept either.  I sort of forgot how to be an awesome mom then and became more like a Zombie Mom. What do you know, there is actually a term for that...a Mombie.  Yes, I was a mombie.

When he stopped crying, he started running and tackling.  Then I had sibling rivalry to deal with.  I guess I was more like a werewolf mom then, always howling.

Then, I was just tired of being a mom altogether. I was sick of folding laundry and cleaning up after everyone over and over again.  I hated to hear myself yell and I was still somehow tired.  So, then I started working more.  Then, I guess I was like an invisible ghost mom.

(But continued to showed up to howl and walk around like a zombie because I still wasn't sleeping.)

I guess you really don't realize what's important until it feels too late.  Luckily, it is not too late.  He's five and I have spent time with him, he has good memories of me despite my many monster forms.  I just need to really concentrate on making a lot more of those.  He really deserves someone more like this:

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Tired and Painful

Now that I am working with A so closely, I can see why she started rushing through work and hating school.  It literally hurts her to sit up straight and to write for long periods of time.

Having dyspraxia, she has low muscle tone and weak upper body strength.  She also has a delay in motor skills and poor coordination.  She is smart as a whip and loves to learn, but the physical demands of school were too much for her.  Even being at home, it may be too much, so I am trying to accommodate her.

Once her arm starts hurting I have a tray for a laptop.  It has a pillow on the bottom of it. When I put this on the desk or on the floor, it is on a slant.  Writing on a slanted surface does not tire her arm out as much.

When I see her getting tired and slouching I put a blanket down on the floor and let her lay on her tummy and work. Now actually doing this is strengthening her upper body, but it feels better because now she is using different muscles for a while.

I let her type some of her work on the computer.  Not all of it, because I want her to develop her skills and muscles, but when she needs a break I do it.

She really does not complain.  Not nearly as much as I would.  All the doctors and specialists we have seen are always impressed by how much she pushes herself and how much she accomplishes.  I am impressed, too.  For instance, she insisted on doing ballet again this year.  She will not do an easier dance.  I see her holding those poses and her body tiring out, but she just keeps trying and pushing through it.  I would have given up.  In fact, I did give up. I am pretty sure I had dyspraxia as well when I was a kid and I bowed out of anything physical because I was so bad at everything. I did not even try because I was a coward and I did not want to be embarrassed.  My daughter is awesome.

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Our Schedule (for now)

Here is how the days have been working out (not exactly as I planned because we are moving a lot faster than I thought).

9-9:15- Spirituality- read a devotion, write a prayer, write about what you are grateful for, or work on SpiritualityforKids.com lessons. (I think she likes Spirituality for Kids best.  It has an 80 page workbook- we will probably just do this going forward).

9:15-10:00 (but we always finish earlier)- Math- Addition the Fun Way and Life of Fred- possible quizzes on basic facts.

10:00-10:45- (Always finish earlier) Language Arts- I have been coming up with my own curriculum and taking things from here and there.  This week we learned to write an outline, wrote a persuasive essay, learned alphabetical order, and looked up vocabulary words in dictionary. Also printable activities for vocb words from Flocabulary.com- the 5th grade level (I may cancel my time4learning account and get a Flocabulary one instead- she loves it!).

10:45-11:30- One cursive writing sheet and Rosetta Stone.  Learning languages is her strongest asset, yet she is HATING Rosetta Stone.  It is the only thing we are doing that she hates.

11:30-12:15- Lunch/ Recess- Recess is sort of like gym and OT, too.  I try to incorporate things that I know will help her with her dyspraxia during this time like her scooter or bike for balance, exercises for upper body strength, etc.

12:15-1:00 (again this is done way earlier)- Social Studies. This is her second favorite thing.  We are using a NJ History Kids site for now.  Today we also watched a short movie for kids on 9/11 and she took a quiz on it- got 100 (me=proud).

1-1:45 (never takes this long either)- Science.  We are working on astronomy now.  We have a lapbook and are doing two sections per day.

1:45 (by now it is usually waaaay earlier than this)- 2:05 practice your recorder for band.

2:05-2:30- Choice.  I thought she's pick Time4Learning because it is online, but she has been asking to do more Fred during this time.  We have only used Time4Learning once so far but I am having a hard time figuring it out...

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Two Great Resources for Dyscalculia


If your kid has a disability in math, I highly recommend the two products I am using: Life of Fred and Addition the Fun Way.

Now, my daughter is in fourth grade.  One of the things that scared me is that with math I have opted to pretty much just start over from the beginning.  She does not know her basic facts- neither multiplication nor addition.  I know in school they are doing high level work, but there is no way she can do this if she cannot even tell you how much 4+3 is.  Still, knowing this, I was still afraid that I was somehow doing "the wrong thing."

Now that I have used these two products for a couple of days, I feel much better.  I feel better because they are WORKING.  My daughter is 1) retaining the information, something she has never been able to do with math before (except for doubles for some reason- she knows all the double facts). and 2) she actually loves math now!

Life of Fred- The writer Stanley Schmidt would have been my favorite teacher if I ever had him back when I was in school.  You can just imagine how he would be.  He doesn't just teach math, he teaches everything and everything is amusing and makes you laugh.  When you laugh, you tend to remember why.

The book of Fred is a story book.  Within the story there is math, but kids barely know it, and they don't mind it either. At the end of each section is a "Your Turn to Play" with just a few questions, nothing to get worked up about.  Some of the questions are just fun or silly, which mixes things up a bit.  There is a lot of repetition in the stories- like, for example, within several chapters you are told that 5 an 2 make seven.  You are told in lots of different ways and it comes up in several different scenarios. Eventually, you remember.

You are also told about ancient philosophers, geometry, geography, the Greek alphabet, and much more. If you think this book is simple and talks down to kids at all, you're wrong.  I learn a lot reading this book as well!

This series is perfect for my daughter.  She has great reading comprehension and excellent language arts skills.  Learning math by reading a story is working for her. When we have extra time she asks me to do more Fred.  She hated math before and said she was bad at it.  Now she loves it and it's only been three days.

The only thing that worries me is that even when I finish the elementary set she will not have covered what fourth grade has covered (but she will  have touched on things they haven't.).  We may be able to get further than this set though because the books go a lot faster than you think.  We will be done with book 1 by the end of this week!

Addition the Fun Way- Here is another great resource for kids with dyscalculia. Here is how it works.  Every number is a character.  For example, 3 is a bee and 6 is sick. Now for each addition fact there is a story. For example: Sick Six was trying to take a nap but kept being bothered.  The Three Bee wanted to help so she made him a Nine Sign that said Do Not Disturb.  The stories are a bit longer than that and more memorable, but you get the idea. I read each chapter several times before moving on to the next one.  Then, when my daughter sees the equation she can recall the story. So if she sees 3+6, she knows 3 is a bee and 6 is sick and she just has to remember what happened when they were together and she'll have her answer.

I can say this is working.  We have only done 3's and 4's so far but it works!  Once in a while, I see her trying to count on her fingers instead (she is unable to count on her fingers correctly so it is of no help when she does this) but then I prompt her to remember the story.  She will take a few seconds to remember it and then she will have the correct answer.  Some equations have already become automatic.

Fred gives kids a deep understanding of why and how math works. It provides the needed basis for kids who just don't get it the way most others do.  Addition the Fun way is good for memorization when drilling does not work.  

Our math routine is reading whatever chapter we are working on in Addition the Fun Way and possibly taking a quiz to see how much we are retaining.  Then we do Life of Fred.  My original intent was to do three chapters of Fred per day and to split them up throughout the day.  I was going to do this so I would not give my daughter who hates math, too much math at once and also I thought she might retain it better if it was reinforced throughout the day and in shorter spans so there was less chance of her zoning out.  However, we have wound up doing three or more chapters all at once because when a chapter ends she asks me to please do another and as long as she is enjoying herself I will keep on going.

I find so little out there on dyscalculia.  I don't think even the experts understand it. But the way I see it is, if your brain rejects math, trick your brain and disguise the math as something else.  If you are explaining something and it is not getting through, your explanation needs a new mode of transportation and a new point of entry. My daughter's strongest areas are her language and reading skills.  So, the math is going in through that door,

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First Day of School!

Well, first of all I had no idea how much work homeschooling is. I am just blogging this now at the end of the third day of school...

I set my alarm for 7am and put the alarm clock in the living room so I would HAVE to get up and walk a good distance to shut it off.  That's how much I don't trust myself sometimes.

We got ready without a hitch.  We were ready early, in fact.  Everyone was fed and set to go.  I was terrified on the inside for two reasons.

First, my baby, C, was going to full time kindergarten.  He had been in nursery school for the last few years.  This past year he was up to three, two and a half hour days. Now he was going to be gone five full days.  It just seems so long and so...well wrong, to give up your baby for such a long time.  I felt the same way with A, too.  I worry about the littlest things- "What if he can't open his juice box?" "What if his shoes are too tight?" 'Will he make any friends?"

But I put on a strong face and we all went to drop him off at the school.  It's not even a familiar school.  After all the issues I had at the local grammar school I put in a request to have him go to the better school across town.  So, the whole experience is new such as which doors to go to, where to line up, where the bathrooms are, you know. I don't even know the secretaries in the office yet.

We were early as was everyone else.  Must have said goodbye a gazillion times.  Then, we watched him disappear behind the doors.

When A went to school I had "the baby" home with me to sort of take my mind off of it.  Now C is going and I have my A at home to focus on.

So, we headed back to the house and my husband went to work.

Now for my second fear- I was scared for our first day of homeschooling.  Several times a terror hit my gut and part of me would say, "What the hell are you thinking?  Did you actually, really do this?" The secretary from A's school called asking why she was not there.  I know the superintendent and principal got my certified, legal letter about homeschooling- I even got a response.  Still, I imagined truant officers showing up at the door..of course, in my head they look more like a swat team.

I wiped the sweat from my brow though and we just dug in and got started.  It felt a little weird at first but we got into the groove.  We were attached at the hip all day.  I worked with her one on one on every subject. After lunch, I took her to her first music lesson for the homeschool band where she is learning to play the recorder.  She made a friend.  It was nice to see other homeschoolers.  I didn't really talk much to anyone, but just knowing they exist and seeing them in the flesh and observing how oddly well behaved all their kids (including siblings that are ages 0-12) are.  It reminded me of how A was before I ever sent her to school- how she had been always content and full of joy.

I worried that due to band we would not get to everything but we did and we had time to spare so I let her pick any subject to work on more.  At one point, as I was letting the dogs, out she joined me on the back porch and I got sad and wondered if I was doing the right thing.  Would she be lonely now that she is going to be mainly with me more than anyone else? But, she was really miserable in school.  She says she is happy.  It's not like she doesn't get out.  She's in ballet, band, girl scouts, and has friends.   She'll probably join the after school library program, too, in a couple of weeks. Oh yes and we joined a homeschool organization that we will do field trips with as well.

The day brought me back to when she was a baby, my only baby.  Those days were the best days of being a mom because being a mom was so new and it was really all I had to do.  It was my focus.  All we did was sing songs, do activities, go to toddler playdates, and try out new toys. It will probably always be my fondest time.  I feel like I got that back in a way.  I am with A now from 9-2:30 just working right alongside her- laughing, learning, creating.  It's nice.  Maybe it's just the thing for a little girl before she heads into puberty to have some time like this with her mom.

When the day was done, we picked up my C.  He was indignant that they expect him to partake in nap time, but he was okay.  Since I schooled A all day my energy was low and I had lots to do around the house, but all I wanted to do was hug him.  He gave in for a bit but all he really wanted to do was go outside and play. I did whatever he wanted for an hour.  I wish I could have given him more.

And that was day one.  No more long ones like this, I promise.

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Here we go....

This is my first year home schooling.  I always wanted to do it, really.  I think I am good at it.  I used to work with children in residential treatment and I even substituted in the classrooms there. I thought I did a good job. Then, when I read about all the famous home schoolers out there- Einstein, Margaret Atwood, the Wright Brothers, tons of leaders in government, lots of presidents of ivy league universities, it just makes me wonder if home schooling is not the BETTER option. Maybe public schools dumb us down and institutionalize us.  Maybe we learn in a different way than we think we do. Maybe it’s not all about books and lessons, perhaps we absorb information in other ways, ways we can only access when we are surrounded by the love of our families. Just thoughts and ideas I have…
But I went and sent my kids to school.  I hated doing it.  But I did not want to do the wrong thing so I went with the status quo.
I saw that my daughter had problems right away. But we changed schools a couple of times, went through the 504 Plan process, saw doctors and specialists, and even went to a therapist. Anything to not blame the school.
When I say she was having problems, you'd never know it really. She had friends. Her grades were good in most areas. But the thing was I could see her struggling. She was so unhappy and things were so hard for her. I knew she had the potential to do superior work but she was just doing good work and it was taking so much energy and frustration in order for her to do so.
Not that the school is BAD or anything. I know the staff do their best.  I understand their position based on my own experience in social services working with kids. They are not doing anything wrong. It’s just that nothing was going RIGHT for my kid either.
After begging, pleading, bribing, and threatening, the school gave us an evaluation and met with us to give us the results. It was everything I knew. My daughter is brilliant.  She scored superior in languages and reading comprehension, high school level even. But she scored low on math, very low. She gets the concepts but she knows no math facts whatsoever. She does not have to even study her spelling words- she just looks at them and knows them, but she can look at a math equation 18 times, say it aloud, sing it, draw it, color it, and repeat it, and seven seconds later she will not know the answer to it. It doesn't make sense even to the experts. Nobody understands dyscalculia. However, I think I can conquer it. We are wiping away all the math and starting over. I think I found something that will work. (More on that later on).
My daughter also has dyspraxia, which I knew, but when I took her to the doctors and specialists they preferred to diagnose her with ADHD and seemed like they were almost offended that I had researched on my own and was bringing a diagnosis to them that they were not familiar with and that they cannot medicate. Dyspraxia means you have low muscle tone, poor coordination, little body awareness, poor spatial awareness, an inability to tell the right from the left, and more. It is usually coupled with sensory issues, too.
She also has an auditory processing disorder which means sometimes she was not hearing directions and being marked off on tests because she did not hear when they said to underline instead of circle or to skip lines.
My daughter is beautiful, talented, creative, and amazing in every way. She impresses me every day. She is so many things I never was like brave and outgoing. But school depleted her self esteem. She felt nobody liked her. She started to feel stupid.
My daughter thinks differently. She thinks in snapshots. She zones out and sees ideas in her mind’s eye in picture form. She knows no math facts but can do word problems in her head and she can figure out fractions without any problem. It’s not a disability that kids like her have, it’s truly a difference and I think different is good, especially these days.
So I’m off!  We start Monday. The plan is to do this for one year and we hope to move within the year to another district where we will try again.  I’ll be blogging away to make sense of our experience and to keep a record of it.  I am really looking forward to this, to spending time with my daughter, to teaching, and to learning.
By the way, my daughter is entering 4th grade. My son is entering kindergarten. He’s going to public school for the first time- FULL DAYS!  I will miss him so much!

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