If you read here with any regularity, you know that Mary, my seven-year-old daughter, has suffered from anxiety this summer over thunder/lightning storms. Finally, I can say she is much improved. While she no longer sleeps through the night and that has complicated things--like my writing life!--the daytime stress has improved around here; there have been fewer incidences of high anxiety. She did become very agitated about going to church on a cloudy day last Sunday, but we forced the issue and it went fine.
She wakes every night thinking she sees spider webs or daddy longlegs in her bed. Sometimes the wakings occur more than once. If phobias are beginning to show up in her, I suppose it could be a spider phobia, or just a symptom of anxiety. At any rate, I've tried several times in the last 8 days to write a post, to no avail.
Writing while the kids are awake always means a large number of grammar and other errors, as well as some incoherence. I always end up embarrassed as I read and reread and go back in and correct and then correct some more, wondering how the errors escaped me before I hit publish.
It's a wonder I can think straight enough to sort laundry or measure ingredients for cooking! I love these children wildly and they brighten my world so much, but they do make it so hard to think!
Is it the Topamax I've been on for migraines for 60 days (that isn't even working)?
But no, I've had this problem for a long time. Tell me it's not just me?
Our 2014-15 school year will start in September. We're still continuing with our 2013-14 school year, which will end right before my August 20 portfolio review appointment.
Since I last wrote about school, Peter has read The Cay by Theodore Taylor, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi, and The Borrowers by Mary Norton. Yesterday he started on the first sequel, The Borrowers Afield. He's also read numerous, short, non-fiction space books checked out from the library, including two about black holes. Black holes are fascinating both my boys right now. Paul is following Peter's path in books this summer, only slower and in a different order.
Space has never fascinated me, perhaps because what's right here in front of me seems so amazing and keeps me so busy, but I'm glad my boys see so much wonder in space. My husband doesn't agree with allocating massive amounts of money to space exploration (too many starving people), but my boys don't quite agree. They're getting their feet wet now with how it feels to disagree with a parent's political ideas. I found myself giving Peter permission to disagree because he felt guilty for doing so. I told him that adopting his parents' views without thinking them through for himself is never a good idea for a youth his age, but this "thinking challenge" doesn't include challenging our house or family rules. Ahem.
I told him, too, to filter everything through a Christian worldview to see if that helps clear the matter up, and if it doesn't, then it's probably an area we are free in. For example, are there enough resources to explore space and feed the poor? Who is in control of resources? Who is responsible for feeding the poor? Where does money for space come from? Is government the only source for both? If not, what are the other sources? Are there enough of them? How do we access them?
On to the literature:
The Cay by Theodore Taylor
Phillip is excited when the Germans invade the small island of Curaçao. War has always been a game to him, and he’s eager to glimpse it firsthand–until the freighter he and his mother are traveling to the United States on is torpedoed.
When Phillip comes to, he is on a small raft in the middle of the sea. Besides Stew Cat, his only companion is an old West Indian, Timothy. Phillip remembers his mother’s warning about black people: “They are different, and they live differently.”
But by the time the castaways arrive on a small island, Phillip’s head injury has made him blind and dependent on Timothy.
“Mr. Taylor has provided an exciting story…The idea that all humanity would benefit from this special form of color blindness permeates the whole book…The result is a story with a high ethical purpose but no sermon.”—New York Times Book Review
My Comments: This is an exciting, moving book, excellent for challenging a child's views on race and equality. The symbolism is not lost on an adult, but some children will need help fully grasping the author's intent. I agree that while it teaches a moral, it's not a sermon and will provide much meat for journal and paper topics.
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Charlotte Doyle is excited to return home from her school in England to her family in Rhode Island in the summer of 1832.
But when the two families she was supposed to travel with mysteriously cancel their trips, Charlotte finds herself the lone passenger on a long sea voyage with a cruel captain and a mutinous crew. Worse yet, soon after stepping aboard the ship, she becomes enmeshed in a conflict between them! What begins as an eagerly anticipated ocean crossing turns into a harrowing journey, where Charlotte gains a villainous enemy . . . and is put on trial for murder!
My comments: Peter and I both read this. It's more about class and challenging the rigidness of one's place in society than it is about gender. It has a wonderful message and we were quite mesmerized by the adventure of it, although the ending is not quite satisfying (too unrealistic). Still, it's worthy of a Newbery Honor.
The Borrowers by Mary Norton
Synopsis: (for 4th grade through 7th grade) The Borrowers—the Clock family: Homily, Pod, and their fourteen-year-old daughter, Arrietty, to be precise—are tiny people who live underneath the kitchen floor of an old English country manor. All their minuscule home furnishings, from postage stamp paintings to champagne cork chairs, are “borrowed” from the “human beans” who tromp around loudly above them. All is well until Pod is spotted upstairs by a human boy! Can the Clocks stay nested safely in their beloved hidden home, or will they be forced to flee? The British author Mary Norton won the Carnegie Medal for The Borrowers in 1952, the year it was first published in England.
Awards: 1952 Carnegie Medal, a Lewis Carroll Shelf Award Book
Don’t miss the other classics in the Borrowers series: The Borrowers Afield, The Borrowers Afloat, The Borrowers Aloft, and The Borrowers Avenged.
If you search sites that include literary reviews, you can usually come up with some very good journal questions, teaching your children to respond readily to literature. Sometimes I come up with my own, and other times I'm just too tired or swamped. Also, when your child chooses a novel that is somewhat below his reading level, you can still use it for some challenging writing projects so the experience still teaches.
From commonsensemedia.org on The Borrowers:
What parents need to know:
Positive messages The relationship between Arriety and the human boy is an inspiring one that encourages readers to look past differences. Those who are able to do so grow and develop into more mature characters that don’t live their lives guided by prejudices.
Positive role models Arriety’s natural curiosity and hunger for freedom are often considered negative characteristics in a Borrower’s eyes – especially for her father. Trapped in a world that is seemingly too small for Arriety, her fearless character dares to dream and think outside the box. Her father, Pod, is a lot more skeptical when it comes to the idea of freedom but it is revealed that this fear of uninhibited exploration is for good measure. Pod makes risky sacrifices every day to provide for his family. Homily, Arriety’s mother, makes similar sacrifices but her fixation on material things often puts her family in precarious positions.
Violence & scariness When the Borrower’s presence is made known, Mrs. Driver calls the rat catcher to exterminate them. She also tells the boy to watch as Arriety and her parents are about to be forced out of their home by smoke.
Language Not applicable
First Grade News
Mary's first-grade school days were for several weeks affected by her anxiety, but I tried to press on. We did continue to make progress. I have considered her year critically this past month, coming to some not-so-wonderful conclusions. I believe she has some dyslexia, which has revealed itself more with numbers than with reading, but it would also explain some inconsistencies in her reading progress, and the sheer effort it takes for her to read a book. She is exhausted afterward!
Her brother Peter had similar issues with math and still does. His issues affected his reading at first too, then he shot ahead. He just needed more time as a beginning reader, and I think Mary does too. She is a low-average first grade reader. Not too far behind, but definitely not an A or B student either, which, because we homeschool, doesn't matter. If she were in school, she would have labeled herself already, I presume. Dyslexia that only affects math/numbers primarily is called dyscalculia. She learned her letters and sounds with no problem, so not all symbols are an issue.
All year long and even before, I have worked with her on the numbers to 100 in various ways, starting small and then working toward seeing patterns, and picking out individual numbers in a group, either in order or out of order. It continues to be a struggle for her and there are inconsistencies from day to day, which usually points to a learning disability. Peter never received any special help, but just needed more time and the right materials. What's ahead is lots of patience, above all. Anyone with a learning disability needs to have their dignity preserved to have motivation to overcome. They need to know, too, that a difficulty with learning something does not necessarily speak to intelligence. There are many geniuses with learning disabilities.
I haven't spoken to Mary about any of this, but her brothers are wondering why her progress is slow compared to theirs (Peter obviously doesn't remember the problem sight words gave him). I need to teach them to stay quiet and let their sisters develop at their own paces, reminding them that everyone has their strengths, and doesn't Mary narrate a story better than anyone in the family? That girl remembers everything about a story she's heard, right down to the intonation of voices. She can retell it as though she's got the book right there in her lap! Obviously an auditory learner, like Peter and my husband. (Mary thankfully hasn't heard what her brothers commented.)
The homeschooling mother/credentialed teacher I will meet with on August 20 to show our portfolios to, as per my state's policies, also has a child with learning disabilities, so she will be a valuable resource for me.
Trade Books to Share:
First two are new in 2014:
One Hen: How a Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway
Synopsis: Inspired by true events, One Hen tells the story of Kojo, a boy from Ghana who turns a small loan into a thriving farm and a livelihood for many. After his father died, Kojo had to quit school to help his mother collect firewood to sell at the market. When his mother receives a loan from some village families, she gives a little money to her son. With this tiny loan, Kojo buys a hen. A year later, Kojo has built up a flock of 25 hens. With his earnings Kojo is able to return to school. Soon Kojo's farm grows to become the largest in the region. Kojo's story is inspired by the life of Kwabena Darko, who as a boy started a tiny poultry farm just like Kojo's, which later grew to be the largest in Ghana, and one of the largest in west Africa. Kwabena also started a trust that gives out small loans to people who cannot get a loan from a bank. One Hen shows what happens when a little help makes a big difference. The final pages of One Hen explain the microloan system and include a list of relevant organizations for children to explore. One Hen is part of CitizenKid: A collection of books that inform children about the world and inspire them to be better global citizens.
My Comments: This will take two sittings for younger ones, but it's an excellent living social studies book for older K or 1st grade - 5th.
It's a Gift! by Gabriela Keselman
Synopsis: Everyone who lives around Duckling’s pool is in a tizzy: Beaver hasn’t put on his hat, and now the sun’s burning his head; Squirrel has lost her nuts, and now she’s hungry; and Bear has knocked over his jar of water, and now he’s thirsty. So it’s just as well that Duckling’s around, ready to help out the rest of the animals with his gifts!It’s a Gift! is a tender tale about the solidarity and generosity that’s so necessary in modern life. This moving story will encourage the youngest members of the family to share without expecting anything in return.
Henry Aaron's Dream by Matt Tavares
Synopsis: Before he was Hammerin’ Hank, Henry Aaron was a young boy growing up in Mobile, Alabama, with what seemed like a foolhardy dream: to be a big-league baseball player. He didn’t have a bat. He didn’t have a ball. And there wasn’t a single black ball player in the major leagues. But none of this could stop Henry Aaron. In a captivating biography of Henry Aaron’s young life – from his sandlot days through his time in the Negro Leagues to the day he played his first spring training game for the Braves – Matt Tavares offers an inspiring homage to one of baseball’s all-time greats.
But Elizabeth refused to accept the common beliefs that women weren’t smart enough to be doctors, or that they were too weak for such hard work. And she would not take no for an answer. Although she faced much opposition, she worked hard and finally—when she graduated from medical school and went on to have a brilliant career—proved her detractors wrong. This inspiring story of the first female doctor shows how one strong-willed woman opened the doors for all the female doctors to come.
An NPR Best Book of 2013
Marriage is not for every girl. God has other plans sometimes. Not usually, but sometimes, so we can't give our girls the impression that there is only one option. Motherhood gives us a strong sense of purpose, but others things can do that too. It's not that I think we can do both well. There are choices and hopefully our children will come first.
I, for one, am grateful for women doctors because I'd much rather see them. More than once I've been made uncomfortable during exams with male doctors, who don't always maintain the highest professionalism. Rather than hope for the best, I just don't see them anymore for anything other than headaches and such.
That's all for now, friends. How was your week?