Science- What a bummer



Science is not what it used to be.  I don’t remember science ever causing me anxiety when I was a kid.  I don’t remember ever feeling like we were on the verge of an apocalypse.  I also don’t recall feeling any guilt in science class (that’s what CCD was for).  No, science in the 1980’s was a breeze.
Now it seems every science lesson we do somehow goes back to the fact that mankind has destroyed this planet.  Animals and rainforests are disappearing.  Polar ice caps are melting.  Everything is polluted. There will be great floods and lots of death.  If we changed everything right now: stopped driving, used clean energy, cut out the pesticides, and closed factories, even then we could only slow this process down, but we can’t stop it.  We’re doomed.  What a downer!

I get it.  We need to motivate our kids to make the world a better place and all of these things are, sadly, true.  I just feel so bad that kids have to take that on.  I think my biggest worry as a kid was giving a hoot and not polluting or preventing fires for Smoky the Bear.  I was not at all concerned with the destruction of Earth. I didn’t see this coming.

I do remember lying in bed worrying that the USSR would “push the button” and nuke us.  I had faith though.  I would pray and I believed that because I asked, God would make sure everything was okay.  He did.  We never got nuked.

I had guilt about the Garden of Eden and Eve eating that apple.  I felt bad when I broke commandments.  But I never had to look a baby polar bear in the face after learning that my species will probably be responsible for its annihilation.  I never had to learn about all the emissions from the cars heating up the planet, sealing our fate of ultimate destruction, and then five minutes later having to get into that vehicle and pretend that it’s all okay.

Science is just pretty awful these days.  What’s worse is that less kids seem have religion and without any sense of spirituality I wonder how any of them can have any hope?  I have heard friends of my daughter say that they do not believe in God.  I have heard these little girls discuss whether they want to be cremated or eaten by worms when they die.  They don’t seem to suffer any guilt for anything, but they also don’t seem to care about much, other than serving their own immediate self-interests. It makes me sad because I wonder what they would have to hold on to if everything truly did fall apart.  Do they know there is a greater power, an underlying love that cannot be destroyed no matter how hard we try?

If all you believe in is science and this physical reality of ours, life must seem pretty miserable, especially now that the outlook is so grim.  And all the toys and money in the world can’t make it any better.  

I’m not a preachy person.  I don’t think everyone has to have my religion.  I just think kids should have something.  They don’t have to call it God, if that makes people uncomfortable these days, but they should know there is something that is better at all this than we are and that there is a part of us that will always continue and be forgiven no matter how much we screw up.  Also, kids should feel that link to other living things; know the interconnectedness, so they do not repeat the mistakes of their elders.

Maybe it’s just me, but personally, without all that, I don’t think I could face fourth grade science.
Thanks to Time 4 Learning, my DD A and I learned about a beautiful soul today named Rachel Carson. She was a scientist back when there were very few women in the field.  She was an ecologist that absolutely loved nature and all living things.  She led the fight against DDT.  People made fun of her and laughed at her but she was right.  She stuck to her guns even as she was suffering and dying of cancer. She never stopped fighting for her cause and for the planet.

I think she is a wonderful person for kids to look up to.  We need strong and hopeful figures to turn to when we face the doom and gloom.

Borrowed from http://www.rachelcarson.org

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"A Bird Pooped on My Mom's Shirt" (Public School Joys)


As I have previously mentioned, this is the first year I am homeschooling at all.  I homeschool my fourth grade daughter.  My son goes to public kindergarten.

Upon picking up said son from school this afternoon, I was told that he wrote a story about me in class today.  Now being that he is in kindergarten, they are not expected to know how to spell everything.  They are just supposed to stretch the words and do the best they can.  Still, I was touched that he had decided to write about me, his mommy. 

After piling into the car, belting in, and commencing driving, I asked C what he had written about exactly.  He said, "I wrote, 'I went to the boardwalk with my family and a bird pooped on my mom's shirt."  He and my daughter then laughed hysterically for the rest of the ride home.

My first question was, "Did your teacher know what it said?"  I figured there was a chance that, since they are on their own with trying to sound out the words, nobody would know what it meant. 

He said, "She didn't know until I read it aloud to the whole class. Oh also, I made a picture so she could see it."

Next question: "What did she say when you read it aloud and showed her the picture?"

Answer: "She, and the whole class, laughed."

Okay, well laughing is good, I guess.  I'm glad my bird poop misfortune has brought joy to the students and staff.  At least he's not in trouble.

"Wait, C, one more thing.  It's not hanging up in the hallway or anything, right?"

"No."

"Phew, okay.  So, can I see it then?"

"No, Mrs. B said she is going to show it to a special teacher."

A special teacher?  Uh oh!  My first thought was, "OMG, he's in trouble!"  But after more questioning it sounded like all the kids' papers are going to the special teacher so I am thinking (hoping) maybe it is to look at where they are with their writing.  Still, of all the things to be passed around and analyzed why oh why did it have to be this one?

Another, often overlooked, benefit to homeschooling is definitely PRIVACY!

(The picture above is not the original picture he made since that is with "the special teacher."  This one he made just moments ago to show off to me what he had done in school.  He is very, very amused by the whole situation and loves how he made the whole class laugh.  I only hope this does not encourage him further- the kid definitely has a lot of dirt on me...)
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Determination



I am very proud of my son.  He is a natural athlete, makes friends easily, and does great in school.  His teacher even makes it a point to thank me for raising such a respectful boy!  He has his challenges in life- speech is a hurdle for him that he tries to conquer in therapy and he is prone to anxiety and sensitivity (like his mom), but he doesn't let anything get in his way.  He is awesome and he makes me smile every single day.

It's harder sometimes to brag about kids with learning disabilities.  My daughter "A" is so very creative and I see this in her, but because she loses focus or her ideas are too big for her current skill set, not everyone can see her genius yet like I can and she often doubts herself. Sometimes her life is so peppered with frustration, it is hard to see the kind and beautiful soul that was so apparent before she became school aged.

Today I am beaming with pride about A and this is based on her determination.  When A was in first grade, she would come home frustrated because she was not in as high of a reading group as her friends.  Her teacher assured me she was on track, but A insisted she wanted to do better.  It was already late in the year so I arranged for her to have tutoring over the summer from my aunt, a former teacher.  This was not enough for A.  For two straight weeks, she would arrive home from school and angrily state, "I want to READ!"  She would then sit on the floor in her room, pull out books from her bookcase, and just stare at them.  When my aunt went into the school to meet with A's teacher and grab some resources for the summer tutoring, her teacher informed us that Abs had actually just jumped up three reading levels in the last month.

A has always loved aquatics but she had a hard time learning to swim above water.  After watching the 2012 Summer Olympics, she decided she was going to swim.  She took just six weeks of lessons and tried out for the swim team and made it.  Being on the team was extremely challenging for her with the coordination issues, but she beat her previous score at every meet.

Now with the bike riding I see this fierce persistence again.  We started riding again a couple of days ago.  It was a little rough as I wrote here.  She is not giving up this time though. All day she told me, "I need to get back on my bike.  You need to take me on my bike after school."

My son had to see a doctor after school and it was only in the 30's today, so I thought we could put a pin in the riding.  However, as soon as we pulled in the driveway she was in the shed pulling out her bike and strapping on her helmet.  Nevermind that her hands were red with cold or that she was wearing leather boots!

She did pretty well.  She is still having some issues with riding straight and getting scared, but nothing is going to stop her.  She has made up her mind and when A makes up her mind there is no going back!

I cannot express how much I admire and even envy this quality in her.  I am a very proud mom.


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ADDitude Magazine






I love ADDitude!  It's an online magazine for people with ADHD.  My daughter was originally diagnosed with this, mainly because so little is known about Dyspraxia in the US.  Even though this is not her official diagnosis any longer, I still find this site extremely helpful, not only in dealing with her, but even for myself!

Their articles and webinars often cover other conditions that go hand in hand with ADHD and a lot of their advice is helpful even if you do not have an ADHD diagnosis.  When I clean my kitchen at night I often listen to the webinars because they are packed with helpful advice for organizing myself and helping my children.

I just wanted to share this amazing resource.  Here is a link to their webinar page.
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It's As Easy As Riding a Bike?






I have posted a lot about Dyspraxia and its many symptoms, but in case you missed it this condition affects balance and coordination among other things, such as executive function.  My daughter has a lot of anxiety and fear especially in regards to physical things as a result of this neurological difference.

A is going to be 10 in eleven days.  I know this because she has been counting down for quite some time.  She is just like any other "tween."  She plays with her iPod, wants American Girl stuff, has sleepovers, and likes to shop at Justice.  You would never know, unless you were her mom or an insightful occupational therapist, that she "has" anything.  I had/have the same thing but when I was a kid it was just called being uncoordinated, or clumsy.  Clinically, they even called it "clumsy child syndrome."

Anyway, every year in the spring A and I decide that we are going to have her master the two wheeled bike.  We vow that we are going to ride every day.  It usually winds up to be once a week or so until it gets too cold in the fall.  Sometimes it is even less than that due to frustration.

A actually CAN ride her bike.  She got the hang of the balance part finally last year.  She has not ridden since the fall but today when she got on her bike she rode about a quarter of the way down the street right off the bat.  However, then she inexplicably turned the wheel instead of staying straight on the sidewalk and went into the grass and stopped.

That was her longest run.  She continued to get scared and turn her wheel into the grass throughout the half hour ride.  When she sees a turn coming up ahead, even though it is a good distance away, she starts turning her wheel this way and that instead of going in a straight line.  Sometimes, she realizes she has been riding for a while and then she gets nervous and thinks of something bad happening like her crashing and then she goes and crashes.

It is hard for her to plan.  It is problematic for her to judge distance.  It is difficult for her to be fearless.  Going uphill is a nightmare for her because of her low muscle tone.

It is challenging for me to help her, especially when I am also helping my six year old son who is probably going to surpass her on the bike this summer.  It is also difficult for me because I turn into my dad and find myself doing to her what he did to me: acting angry to try and push her to do well or constantly critiquing.  I start to feel as frustrated as her.  I try not to show it, but I know it comes through sometimes.  I act tough like a coach, "Okay this time I want you to keep the wheel STRAIGHT!  You CAN do this!  The grass is hot lava!"  None of this helps.  It just puts more pressure on her.

Now that she has mastered the balance, we really just need to conquer her own thoughts.  I am not sure how to do that except to try and make our practice time as stress free as possible.  I am not sure how to help her with steering or judging distance.  The only advice I can give her is not to think about it too much.  She'll turn when she needs to just like when she walks.  So far, telling her this has not worked.  I think I need to ask an OT.

To learn balance last year, it helped for her to sit on the bike but walk instead of pedal and every now and again lift up her legs and glide.  If she felt like she was going to fall she could just put her feet down.  This was less scary than me running along with her holding the bike and then letting go.  She was able to master balance at her own pace.

Since we have been finishing school early lately, I am going to try and do the bike with her every day if I can and if she is willing.  My son is in public school so this way it will be just the two of us.

Anyway, riding a bike is not easy and I think the phrase "As easy as riding a bike," is ridiculous!  There are a whole lot of skills to be mastered in order to ride.  Some can do this without thinking and once they get it down it becomes second nature, but that's not the case for everyone!
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Kids Animated History With Pipo


I found these gems quite by accident when A and I were studying Ancient Civilizations.  They are excellent!  They really bring to life what you read in the history books and they talk to kids in just the right way- not over their heads but not so simple it is insulting. There are sixteen cultures that are explored in the set.  We only did the ones we studied in our curriculum.  I really wish they had more of these and brought Pipo into modern history so that we could continue to watch these along with our lessons.  One thing I love is that at the end of each movie they explain what was going on in other parts of the world at the same time.  

You can buy this DVD set on Amazon. However, you can also watch most of them for FREE on Daily Motion. 

Since we are now studying the US Revolution I have found that there are many free episodes of Liberty's Kids   A used to say she hated this show when it was on TV, but now she seems to enjoy and appreciate it.  It's fun to see what we read come to life and so we have been lucky in that everything I have wanted her to watch has been on You Tube for free. 
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Fourth Grade Update

School has been going well. I find myself not being as stringent with our schedule anymore. I do not always get as detailed in my lesson plans and if things come up I am okay with letting a subject or two go for one day. Honestly, the amount of work we put in every day for the first 100 days of school was a lot, much more than she ever would have covered in public school. So, now if cool classes arise either online or with a co-op, or if we have the opportunity to do an excellent field trip, or even if I just find that A is completely enthralled in what we are learning and she wants to stay with it, I am now willing to be flexible. I think before I was scared not to follow everything down to the letter.

A is reading like a mad woman. Last week, she read seven chapter books in five days. She devours books! She has completed her non-fiction and biography book reports for the year as well as historical fiction, sci fi, and regular fiction.

Historically, we are working on the Revolution right now. The unit on Time for Learning is insanely long. I feel like we might not finish it before year's end! We also covered NJ history this year, Native American Culture, Ancient Civilizations- Mesopotamia, Egypt, Aztecs, and more.

Social Studies wise she learned all fifty states and capitals. We have also done a lot of religion. First we did the entire Spirituality for Kids Lessons, then we worked on Christianity and the Life of Jesus. We also learned about Buddhism and some of those teachings.

 In science, we covered astronomy first and spent a lot of time on our solar system. Then, we moved on to a book I got on the natural world around us that included local field trips and experiments. Now we are working through the Time for Learning Science. We skipped up to 5th grade and did weather, did the scientific method, energy- then stopped and read some books on our own about alternative energy sources, and now we are learning about living things and eco systems. Because she loves animals so much, I am slowing down and letting her do some research independently on different animals from each ecosystem we cover.

Spanish has been tossed to the side for now. We had covered a lot this year but for the last month we have not done it at all. We lost our Rosetta Stone because it was on my computer that crashed (we had it downloaded in but did not have the CD any longer). She hated it so much that I almost didn't even want to get back to it. We started doing Computer Programming on Khan Academy in its place. Learning programming is no different than learning another language and this she has a real passion for. So we will go through this unit and then we'll get back to Spanish. Since we did Spanish every single day and not just once or twice a week like they are doing in the public school in our district, I do not think she is behind the other kids in her grade (at least in this city).

Once again I will stress that the programming is great fun for kids who love the computer! Here is the link to Khan Academy. Also, check out Code.org. They have super fun games for kids that teach them about programming as well.

We're still doing spelling and vocabulary and learning all the fun things like adverbs, quotation marks, etc. We do a lot of writing. I worry about her writing. She is a great writer but she often neglects to use the proper punctuation. She knows how as demonstrated in lessons and worksheets. But when she is writing she gets swept away in it, as she should, and does not adhere to any of the rules. Further, she seems to not see the need to do so. I would not mind if she rewrote it later properly but she complains a lot about pain from writing or even typing (dyspraxia/ low muscle tone) and she never wants to do this.

Her attitude about things not mattering carries over into math as well. She has dyscalculia so math is a huge challenge for her and she gets frustrated easily. She often pulls the "What's the point? I am never going to use this," card. I want her to want to succeed. I think deep down she does and the other stuff is just a cover. She is doing well with math. We literally started over with first grade stuff this year and now we are well into fourth grade, probably at the same place most other fourth grades are right now- adding and subtraction fractions. She is GREAT at fractions. She does not do them the way we do. For example,  when she has to simplify she does not divide the fractions as we do dividing the numerator and denominator by the same number. She just somehow "sees" it in her head. She gets it right. It's a mystery to me.

We still practice math facts every day- addition and multiplication. It takes her time to remember the facts but she gets them right if given enough time (10-30 seconds or so usually- she needs to think and recall). We also do large addition problems (1 or 2), at least one double or triple digit multiplication problem, and 1 or 2 long division problems. She makes mistakes like forgetting to add what she carries and sometimes she forgets what the next step is in long division. We have reminders of how to do the problems all over the desk area but sometimes she just draws a blank or does something that makes no sense at all to me. That being said, she is light years ahead of where she was before and these mistakes are sometimes, not always. Sometimes she gets everything right.

She is still in band and playing the recorder. For a while, I stopped being on top of her when she practiced but she has started to kind of lose her touch now that I have done that so I am back to being very actively involved in her practice time again.

We do a lot of current events. We also will sometimes immerse ourselves in an artist or historical figure because somehow or another they come up. Sometimes we find ourselves watching old newsreels and exploring a topic from them in great detail. As things comes up, we learn about them. I think that is what education is all about. I think my daughter has learned how to learn and how to like studying. I have to admit I have learned a lot, too. Not just about myself or about my daughter. I have literally learned a lot of the subject matter! I knew nothing of the planets before, for example, and I learned a lot of things in history I had never known either!

I love homeschooling. I am so glad A and I have had this time together. I wish we could keep going but that was not "part of the deal." She will most likely be attending a school outside our home next year. I don't want to be cocky or anything, but I really don't think it will hold a candle to the school we created here!
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