Friday, June 12, 2015

Weekly Summer School and Life Wrap-Up 6/12

This post is long because I'm behind on my updates, but I put bolded headings in so you can skip what doesn't appeal to you. There are character training books featured below, as well as newly published elementary non-fiction science books. Thank you for being here!

An Overview of Our Summer School 
two boys, ages 11 and 13, and two girls, ages 6 and 8

I hope you're all enjoying summer weather. We're still in school, though using a more relaxed approach. Paul, age 11, is reading selections from the library as part of the summer library reading program. He still loves American history, finishing a library book about the Louisiana Purchase, as well as The Adventures of Pinocchio. He's taking a break from Teaching Textbooks Math 7 to try pre-algebra on Khan Academy this summer. He continues with the Khan Academy computer programming courses as well. His aptitude for the detailed work amazes me.

Peter's (age 13) OCD is severe and he still struggles to get through novel reading, some math, some writing. I won't be giving him much else this summer. Whenever there's a crises or problem with a child or family, I believe in keeping it to the three R's. We supplement by checking out Discovery Kids, National Geographic, and Disney Kids Non-fiction Science DVD's, and Magic School Bus DVD's. Peter always checks out non-fiction animal and plant and garden books from the library, too.

The girls, ages 6 and 8, continue with math, reading, and writing in their journals. I read a lot of non-fiction to them from the library and find that along with the experimenting and discovery learning they do on their own, they're getting a well-rounded curriculum.

Update on the OCD situation

As much as I mourn his disorder, God showers us with grace, still. Peter is not ready for a residential treatment center yet, but when he has had enough and is ready to do Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) therapy, we will probably have to admit him to a center in Cleveland for a few weeks at least. The OCD is stealing his life away. I've researched and learned that it's a bad idea to put an OCD patient in intensive therapy before they're at the end of their rope. It's hard to get insurance to pay for it, and it doesn't accomplish much if a patient doesn't commit to it 100%.

The therapy is grueling, scary, very difficult, as it forces the patient to deal with the fears and thoughts rather than try to neutralize them with rituals as a knee-jerk response. The ritual response worsens the OCD. The more rituals they do, the more their brain bombards them with disturbing thoughts, and eventually the rituals no longer work to neutralize the thoughts, and they can no longer function in their daily life. Peter is getting to this desperate point, even as he understands much about his disorder and how it works within his brain. It's hard for any of us to understand, but the thoughts are so strong the patients can't help themselves, even though they know it's all ridiculous.

Peter's ADHD makes it hard for him to focus consistently on what he needs to do to filter the OCD thoughts. He knows the normal thought filter in his brain doesn't work, so he has to manually filter thoughts and throw them in the garbage can, otherwise his brain reacts to each thought with panic. The two disorders--OCD and ADHD--work against each other, which is a tragedy.

It is very hard, but I have to accept this situation and the effects it's having on our school year and household. I don't know that I can graduate Peter at 18 years old if something doesn't change with his condition, but I will keep Paul on track to graduate at 16. Paul has always been taught with his older brother, who is 22 months older. Research affirms that very bright students do far better when allowed to jump grades. Schools have shied away from allowing bright kids to skip grades, due to the social aspect, but current research doesn't back up that hesitation.

A Hard Lesson for Homeschool Moms (and moms in general)

As homeschool moms we have a lot of ideas and desires when it comes to our homeschool, but we have to commit to teaching the students we have, not the students we wish we had. God has given each of our children a unique path to walk, and pain is naturally part of it in some form, due to the sin curse. The big picture compels us not to spend time putting out fires constantly, but to teach children how to walk with God consistently. We should spend as much or more time on their spiritual growth, as on their intellectual growth. Academic success without spiritual success won't take children far, or anywhere we want them to go.

Our daily trials here lend themselves to much growth as we cling to God for our sanity. My children are gleaning much from these difficult years. I see it and feel it within my own heart, and I embrace it for his glory.

But sometimes, like yesterday, I feel like I'll break down. I worked diligently to get the kids out to the van by 10:30 AM, to make a pre-op appointment at Children's Hospital, ahead of Beth's early July eye muscle surgery. Paul closed Beth's thumb in the van door and it swelled up immediately, so we headed to the ER at the same hospital, instead of to her eye doctor's wing. The x-ray came back normal, and then we got lost as we headed out of the ER parking lot, trying to get to the downtown parking garage we needed for the other part of the hospital.

Then, when we got to the ophthalmology wing, they were out for lunch but the waiting room was open. We waited 30 minutes, then found out we needed to go to pre-surgery floor of the main hospital. I thought the ophthalmology nurses were to do the pre-op appointment. The whole ordeal took six hours, and then Paul had a piano lesson at 5PM.

Long day! We all agree we hate running around. We're homebodies here.

Learning to Hold My Thoughts Captive

As we started out that day, during the whole 20-minute drive to the hospital I fought tears--a culmination of severe stress accumulated over several days, due to the OCD and my daughter's storm phobia and other issues. The swelling thumb and Beth's tears seemed like the last straw for my nerves. I wondered if Beth would have nerve damage in her thumb, and how would it affect her love for the arts? An artist needs her hands and her eyes, and God was messing with both lately in my little girl.

As much as I didn't feel in control inside, I kept control outside, due to being able now, in my late forties, to hold my thoughts captive far quicker than I could do in my thirties or early forties. Our thoughts can lead to joy, or despair (more so than our circumstances), so learning to hold them captive and direct them heavenward is an essential life skill for every Christian.

It's not that we ever entirely stop worrying or stressing or wondering "why me". It's that with personal trials and growth therein, the Holy Spirit teaches us to hold all these normal-but-damaging thoughts captive within minutes, rather the hours or days it used to take us.

Some pictures from the past two weeks


 Cosmos flower, which has since been eaten by bunnies down to ground level

 yellow squash

 Strawberry patch is producing beautifully this year. I haven't needed to buy strawberries in the last week.

 tiny maple tree saplings from the seedlings cleared from our rain gutters


When given adequate free time, kids always find ways to amuse themselves (and learn). Here they're floating balloons over the air filter in the boys' room. They were thrilled and experimented with how to get them to float lower or higher, and how size of balloon affected float level. 

A cardboard animal family

Miss Beth continues to use all her free time making things from cardboard, leaves, flower petals, etc. She is conscious of the amount of tape she uses now, and one day took me by the hand and showed me the duct tape she had used up and hidden under a bed, so as not to stress or anger us, I suppose. We had given her a talk about the cost of tape the prior week. I had to inwardly laugh, folks, and wonder how long she was stressing about having used a ton of tape in three days. While I'm not thrilled with the cost, I see genius in her creative mind (don't all parents think and I can't hinder her.

She even asked me this week for three free duct tape rolls for her Christmas present.

The first place she heads upon arriving at the library is the craft book section, although she doesn't seem to make things from these books. She tells me they just give her ideas, which I think is more like saying, they open her eyes to the possibilities. Being dyslexic helps too; she fits the profile in so many ways. She truly sees possibilities we don't see, and keeps the big picture in mind.

Her fine motor skills are getting a rigorous work-out with all the cardboard she cuts out. Forming lower-case letters is still a challenge for her, as they were for all my kids at this same age (six).

 A cheetah

 An octopus that Paul made.

 A squid made by Beth.

 A flying creation of the Beth kind. She has a stick, two yellow leaves (waning milkweed leaves), a rock up front, a green leaf, and enough duct tape to hold it together. 

She's made more in the last two weeks, but I didn't get it all photographed.

I couldn't stand the disheveled pantries and the filthy fridge another day. Half a Saturday went by as I cleaned and rearranged.

Living payday to payday means I can't stock up on groceries, which isn't that big of a deal, considering our 1960's cupboards (i.e. no space!). The only cereals I buy are Cheerios and oatmeal, both of which have to be stored on top of the fridge for lack of other options. I basically keep to the same pantry staples, like dry and canned beans, tomato sauce, nuts and seeds, rice, pasta, taco shells, tortilla chips, popcorn, baking supplies, and applesauce. All the spices are in another tiny cupboard, which I also cleaned.

The annual fishing derby at a local state park. The child on the left is mine. 

Of course a toad must be loved on before we can leave any park. They're a must find or Mary doesn't deem the outing successful. She's still reluctant to leave nature at the park, but we're working on her selfishness in this regard. Here, Peter holds the toad.

This park has the perfect, low-level climbing tree. After last summer's concussion due to falling out of a tree (Peter), my children now climb only this particular tree, with a parent spotting. 

The Balancing Act that is Parenting

My female doctor is married to another doctor and they share one work contract. She works Tues & Thurs, and he works M-W-F. They share the homeschooling of their three children. Anyway, I spoke with her last fall about my son's tree accident, explaining that my husband had taken the kids to the park for a church picnic and left the tree area to watch my young daughter at the playground. Peter then climbed the tree unsupervised, with another middle school boy from church. He stepped on a weak branch that broke under his weight, causing a fall that exceeded 10 feet and led to a short black-out and concussion. 

I haven't said so here, I don't think, but I was pretty angry (non-verbally angry) with my husband about the unsupervised tree climbing. Peter has had so many problems from that concussion. He still can't read with pleasure (or for school) as he once did so prolifically, partly because of the fatigue it causes and because his OCD rituals cause him to reread sections he's already read, increasing his fatigue. It's still debatable whether his OCD went from mild/moderate to severe because of his concussion or his puberty years or both. Concussion can cause OCD in patients who previously never experienced it, depending on the area of the brain affected.  

I still have to squash my resentment at times, holding it captive for the sake of the gospel and my own peace. No resentment in marriage is acceptable and all of it needs to be held captive within minutes. 

I never would have allowed a child so high up in a tree. My doctor sympathized with me, saying she and her husband have the same go-arounds concerning what is safe. Neither of us were belittling our husbands so much as validating our feelings and confirming that children need two parents, a mom and a dad balancing each other, so children are neither too careful nor dangerously adventurous. The Lord has balanced our families by balancing female and male characteristics, though there are certainly some more careful men and wildly adventurous mothers in the mix as well. 

I now go to the park with the family as often as I can for this very reason, leaving chores undone and causing myself more stress sometimes. As mothers we have to accept the stressors inherent in mothering and caring for a family and balance them as much as possible. I try to have the children tidy up all the living areas now, before we enjoy any parks, so we don't come home to a bunch of stressful clutter.

Some park photos

The tree frogs on our own property are found out quickly, even on the roofs! There's no hiding here.

And of course, we have enough frogs on this property to please even Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. They're ever fascinating to my children, especially to Mary and Peter, though Peter less so this year, at thirteen years old. He still loves the toads.

New Character Training Books
This school year we've been all through the Miller Family Series, and A Busy Hive of Bees, and Another Hive of Bees, and I needed something else for our morning character training and prayer devotional time. I found these suggestions, and used this website to buy four books @ $6.95 each, containing 8 character stories each, by Vivian D. Gunderson. We've been through three stories and I love them so far.

Some newly published non-fiction science picks we've enjoyed (elementary picture books)

From Bulb to Tulip 
by Lisa Ownings
published Feb, 2015

School library journal synopsis: K-Gr 2—Lerner adds to this long-running, well-received series about transformation (previous titles have tackled animal and plant life cycles, food, and science). Though concise and comprehensible, the books still convey the essence of how these things come to be. Each spread features only a few sentences and serviceable photos. The small trim size, vocabulary words in bold, colorful and clean design, and spare but well-presented index and table of contents make this an ideal first step for nonfiction newbies. In choice of subject matter, too, this one sets itself apart from the usual fare for this audience. Strong offerings.

Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking 
by Elin Kelsey
published April, 2015

School Library Journal Synopsis: PreS-Gr 2—From the creative team behind You Are Stardust (Owlkids, 2012) comes a new picture book encouraging readers to ask questions and observe the answers found in nature. Every creature has problems and ways of discovering solutions to fit a specific need. Using examples from wildlife, the author asks children to learn from the ingenuity of animals and apply their creativity to human problem solving. "Pigeons procrastinate. Bees calculate. Elephants innovate." Much can be learned from careful observation of the world around us—just as some squirrels learn to cross a busy street by watching humans, we can learn from watching other species. Some may be "wild ideas," like the way chimpanzees invent drinking spoons from folded leaves, while others reinforce ideas we might already employ. "Killer whales rely on their mothers' wisdom. Baboons get guidance from their dads." The full-color, full-page illustrations are all dioramas that depict the animals and children interacting. Although many scenes are quite busy and full of detail, the text, sometimes in varying sizes, is clear and easy to read. An author's endnote explains the research involved. VERDICT Although most readers will be drawn to this book because of the animal content, they might pick up some problem-solving skills in the process

Animal Eyes 
by Mary Holland
published February, 2015

Publisher Synopsis: The sense of sight helps an animal stay safe from predators, find food and shelter, defend its territory and care for its young. We can tell a lot about an animal from its eyes: whether it is predator or prey, whether it is more active during the day or night, and sometimes even its gender or age. Award-winning nature photographer and environmental educator Mary Holland shares fascinating animal eyes with readers of all ages.

The Nitty-Gritty Gardening Book: Fun Projects for ALL SEASONS
by Kari Cornell
Published March, 2015

Publisher Synopsis: Grow your own fruits, vegetables, and flowers! Become a gardener in any season with these fun and easy projects. You don't even need a garden space--many of these activities can be done by planting in containers to set on a porch or a patio or even in a window. Try your hand at growing potatoes and strawberries. Plant bright flowers that attract butterflies, birds, and bees. Learn how to get daffodils to bloom in the winter! You can even make your own compost. Colorful photographs and simple step-by-step drawings make each project easy to follow for gardening success. Ready to get your hands dirty and your garden growing?

Frogs: All About their life cycle, five senses, habitat, and more!
by Seymour Simon
published April, 2015

School Library Journal Synopsis:  Gr 3–5—Among the plethora of books about frogs currently in print, Simon's stands out as one of the best. Covering the life cycle, five senses, and unique adaptations (who knew that frogs use their large eyes to help them swallow food?), readers are offered detailed information and just enough text for a young frog enthusiast or report writer. Unfamiliar words are in bold, and definitions worked seamlessly into the text are further defined in the glossary. Large, attractive, uncaptioned photos are well placed, effectively conveying the material (the frog demonstrating periscope eyes is particularly well placed). Simon devotes a paragraph to five types of unusual frogs and toads from around the globe, and there's also information about the current state of frog habitats and scientific research. VERDICT A smart choice for reports and recreational reading for all libraries.—Jennifer Wolf, Beaverton City Library, OR

How was your week, friends? Thank you for visiting.

Weekly Wrap-Up


Anonymous said...

You are doing a fantastic job! I think of you often and ask God to keep His hand on you all.

Christine said...

Thank you, Sandy, for interceding on our behalf. We sure appreciate it so much. And thank you for taking the time to comment too.

Beth Bullington said...

I am sorry that you are continuing to deal with such severe OCD. Is it common to have both OCD and ADHD? Enjoy your summer.

Christine said...

Yes, Beth. It is common to have any combination of these disorders occurring together, sometimes skipping a generation, and sometimes showing up in different combinations:

- autism spectrum disorder
- Tourette's Syndrome (verbal and motor tic disorder)
- bipolar disorder
- depression
- generalized anxiety disorder
- dyslexia and other learning disabilities

Roughly 35% to 40% of people have comorbid disorders with their ADHD. It is really sad. Thanks for commenting, Beth.

Sherry Jolly said...

You are doing an amazing job with your children! What you said about homeschooling the child we have instead of the child we wish we had - AMEN! I struggled for years wanting my daughter to have a Charlotte Mason education - but that is just NOT her! Adapting to your own child's unique learning abilities and disabilities is so important for giving them a well-rounded education.

Have a blessed week!

Sherry Jolly said...

You are doing an amazing job with your children! What you said about homeschooling the child we have instead of the child we wish we had - AMEN! I struggled for years wanting my daughter to have a Charlotte Mason education - but that is just NOT her! Adapting to your own child's unique learning abilities and disabilities is so important for giving them a well-rounded education.

Have a blessed week!

Christine said...

Thank you so much, Sherry. I appreciate your kindness and look forward to visiting your site. We homeschool moms need each other!