Friday, May 10, 2013

End of School-- Beginning of School!

Just 4 1/2 days left of school for Kristopher this school year, and our home school year is going to end at the same time!  WOW, it has gone by quickly!!

As we finish off one year, we are getting ready to immediately jump in to another school year here at home, though.  Last year I started homeschooling for the current year in June.  I really liked doing it that way!!  This year we'll take a month off and in mid-June we'll start our 2013-2014 school year here at "Cornish University" (haha, no, it's not an actual incorporated school, just what I jokingly call our household school!  I'm the President and Educator, WOOT!!).

I'm excited to say that next year we'll be stretching our homeschool to include one more member of the family!  Kristopher will be joining us here at home for 4th grade!  He and I were talking in the car this morning and he's looking forward to the self-paced movement of homeschooling but will definitely miss all of the wonderful friends he's made in school this year.  He looks forward to staying in touch with them and will continue in the out of school activities that he's built wonderful relationships through (youth groups and karate!).  He'll be using the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum and is going through the testing process right now so that we start right where he is rather than ahead or behind where he needs to be.  It's been exciting to see how he's testing already, and we are glad for him to have this individualized path for school this year.  It's also a very independent-based learning which he does WELL with, and it will allow the flexibility we will all need to make life work together.

In addition to Kristopher using the ACE program, Brianna and Lynae will be using it for some subjects as well.  Both of the girls were able to take the online (free!) diagnostic testing and I was pleased to see that Brianna has tested through 90% of the first grade skills in math and reading, and that Lynae has as well!  I want to really solidify the skills and go back to work on those that they are missing (neither of the girls is reading well yet) so I plan to start both of them at the beginning of first grade in the ACE program.  Of course, their progress will be much more parent-directed than Kristopher's.  Lynae has informally done Kindergarten and now first grade with me as Brianna has homeschooled through those grades, and though she's turning 4 in September, we're letting her progress at her own pace.  We're regularly asked if she will go to school at some point, and to that we don't know!  She isn't eligible to even attend 4 yr old PreK for another year!

For our other 5 school-aged children, Aleksa and Emma will be 4th graders "by the books" and Wesley will be 2nd grade, James and Micah 1st grade (Brianna is also 2nd grade).  These grade levels mean very little to us, because we are teaching on their developmental levels.

It was asked in a homeschooling group about how to make your own IEP so you have something to measure goals by as you go throughout the year.  Though I don't do this "formally", I do have an informal way of doing it that I'd like to share so others might be able to glean whatever they may be able to off of it to use for themselves.

In determining goals, I  look at what I want my child to accomplish in 1, 3, 5, and 10 years and as an adult. Consider what skills are needed to make those things happen.

For some of my children, my 5-10 year goals include independence in ADL (activities of daily living) and following a "list" of directions. For instance being able to have a list (picture or written, depending on the child's current perceived future goal, though I work on reading with ALL of them, some are more likely to be competent readers than others at this time) of activities for them to do in the morning. Wake up, look at your list. Go to the bathroom, start a timer for 10 minutes and get in the shower, get dressed, make and eat breakfast, put dishes in the dishwasher, take their sheets off their bed and start the washing machine, then start a 30 minute timer to play on the iPad before their day gets moving with whatever is on the schedule for that day.  (Or whatever that day's chore/routine needed to look like.  Following a list allows for change without remembering what happens which day that makes them different!).

This amount of independence I desire for my kids, and I am working on all the "little things" that they can accomplish with it now. I'm working on setting timers and being able to complete a task in that time. Working on toileting, dressing, buttons and snaps and putting on socks and shoes. Working on pouring cereal and milk. Reading, following a list. Doing a task to completion. Coming back to me for a next direction rather than finishing a task and going to do something else. For toileting, once trained, work on the entire process. Tearing toilet paper off the roll, washing hands, following the entire routine without assistance. Showering, prompted steps through the body to wash, which means they know their body parts. Tooth brushing and OT skills to hold firmly and move the hand around to get the toothbrush everywhere...

Then there are academic goals, which for me focus on whole life as well. Counting, recognizing numbers, 1:1 correspondence, skip counting so that eventually we'll get to money. I want them to be able to go in to a store and make purchases off a list and pay for it, knowing how much is within the amount they have and how to do it independently.

I want the kids to be able to and WANT to read for enjoyment, though some of mine are so significantly delayed that I'm not sure if that's realistic. So, in the mean time to teach that, we use Leapfrog TAG books and teach the turning of pages, following the directions of the page turning, and that type of skills that go with reading, so that they can still enjoy this type of activity whether or not they read.

I could go on and on, but I suggest to anyone wanting to set these type of goals for their homeschooler (or to give this type of input in to your child's school IEP!) you look at these types of things YOU want your child to do and work on the things that will eventually get them there. If you want a list of NOW skills, write them as formally or informally as you'd like to. There's also an old book (out of print) that a friend of mine showed me that's called Luke's List. Two books, actually, One is Luke's School List and one is Luke's Life List. Each goes through the developmental steps to attaining final goals and it's a very comprehensive book. I don't know if there's anything more current that lists it out, however developmental milestone lists would be a starting point to know "what naturally comes next" to work on those emerging skills.

We are looking forward to the new school year, the newness of having Kristopher home and beginning new curriculum with some of the kids!

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

God’s new direction for our family

We have loved being a part of our church for the last 12 years.  At this time the last of our children with special needs have outgrown the nursery services which worked all right for their various needs. We've approached the church leadership about starting a special needs ministry since three of our boys and Emma (who regularly ends up in the hallway half way through church) won't be appropriate to be in children's church (Aleksa we have never tried it with). Leadership has let us know that they are not going to start any ministry for special needs children.

God has made it clear to us that we need to be a part of a church that all of our children have a future in.

They need, right now, to be a part of an appropriate Sunday morning program, and in an environment that our kids with special needs will have the capacity to grow and learn in alongside their typical peers, and where needed, more individually.

We recognize that every person, every child, has a soul and that our children with special needs' souls need to be fed and ministered to just as much as our "typical" children. All of our children need to know that they are of infinite value and worth within God's Kingdom, and in the Church.

Because of this, we are looking for another church to attend as a family.

Due to the nature of Michael's job at the church, he cannot continue to be employed by them if he doesn't maintain active membership. Because of our strong family convictions and the inability for our family to incorporate further in to the church as a family, Michael will be resigning from his position at the church.

We trust that God has a great plan for our family and look forward to where He has us to be. We appreciate your prayers and petitions to the Throne on our behalf. We also appreciate any "earthly" help you may provide if you'd be interested in being a part of this journey and assisting in bringing any potential IT, marketing/graphic design, and business related jobs to our attention. We are willing to relocate if that's God's plan.

Thank you for your prayers, and we walk forward with Hope and Knowledge of a Loving Savior.

Keep reading...

More thoughts on change

I am publishing this one minute before the post that preceeds it so you will read the previous post first... So the post that explains what this is about is above it on my blog feed. But yes, it is backward if you are reading it on an RSS or email. Hang on. In one minute it will make sense. :)

Let me take a minute to share with you our heart in all of this.  I believe there are four groups of people that will be processing this differently. 

The first group: NON-BELIEVERS.  Those that look at this situation and think “this is why I don’t believe.”  I hope you will realize two things.  1- we don’t follow MAN, we follow GOD.  2- not all men have the same convictions, and the Bible isn’t always 100% clear in everything.  See the 3rd group below for more on that.

The second group: BELIEVERS who think we are crazy.  Yes, we have a large family, adopted kids, special needs kids, and we homeschool.  Any one of those groups leads us to have people that disagree with us.  We are used to it.  We are ok with that.  We are responsible to God and ONLY God, and in that we know there will be plenty of people that disagree with us… even believers :).

The third group:  BELIEVERS who think that there is a problem in the church.  We struggle with this because of our own convictions, and I recognize that many of the people that read this will have similar convictions.  Here is where I am trusting the Lord and knowing that He has great plans in this.  Not everyone’s convictions are the same.  There are some things that are VERY clear in the Bible.  I believe there IS ABSOLUTE TRUTH.  There are also other topics in the Bible that require us to go with the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  Not to stir up trouble, but this would be an example of where people’s convictions differ: Drinking wine.  Jesus performed a miracle to create wine from water.  But then it says not to lend yourself to drunkenness.  Some would say don’t ever drink so there’s not temptation.  Others would say drink and don’t be drunk… it differs.  Churches take a stand on it.  People take a stand on it.  Yet, it isn’t a piece of ABSOLUTE truth.  I believe that this topic falls in to the category of convictions.  I strongly believe, and God is working on my heart to trust Him in it, that the Holy Spirit is the one to CONVICT, and that is absolutely not my job.

The fourth group: BELIEVERS who know that God moves in mysterious ways, and we are following Him.  If this situation had not come about, we would continue to be firmly planted.  Now, we know that God is moving us, without a doubt, in to a new season.

We walk in to this new season with NO BITTERNESS or ANGER or DISLIKE toward our church for their actions.  We are sad, yes.  But that is because of the things that right now feel like losses, not because of the absence of a ‘program’.  It is because of the community that we have been a part of that we are stepping away from due to our own convictions.

I hope and pray that your heart will understand these decisions and that if you struggle with the decisions of our church, the Lord will pierce your heart with understanding and you will recognize that we are following a great and wonderful God and not man.  HE IS SOVERIEGN.  :)