Saturday, May 29, 2010

Kohl's Kids Who Care

A few months ago, one of my sweet friends (Melissa) told me about a contest for which she wanted to nominate Rebecca!  What a sweet thing!  As she got into the process, it became clear that the nomination needed to come from someone closer to Rebecca and so I completed the paperwork for her for the Kohl's Kids Who Care contest.

I shared about her work raising money for children with heart defects at Duke University.  She was touched by all that Eliana had gone through and wanted to do something to help others that needed it.  She began making bracelets and selling them.  To date, she has raised over $8000.  We are hoping to set up a store for her to be able to sell online, but it hasn't happened yet.  (One of the many things on my undone to do list.) 

Well, this week she received a large envelope from Kohs ... and she WON!  She won for the local store division and is now entered into the regional division.  Way to go Rebecca!  She was given a Kohl's gift card which she is pretty excited about!

I know that she didn't start this for the recognition.  Rebecca has an amazing heart for children.  I see this over and over again in the ways she interacts with children, in volunteering to help with the children at church, in her desire to help orphans, in her help with our family all in addition to helping children with heart defects.

I'm proud of you Rebecca!



PS  If you are interested in seeing some of her bracelets, I know I've posted about them on my blog in the past.  Hopefully the search function can help you find them.  Her ministry is called Wholehearted.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Hatmaker's Sign - FIAR Vol 4 Co-op

For our last co-op, we rowed the book, The Hatmaker's Sign.  It's a story about Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin and the Constitution.  It's a fun story with so many neat lessons.  I have to admit as I approached the idea of teaching that I was not excited.  I'm a little burned out and in need of a break.  (We have been going full steam since after Christmas with no break.  This is our last week of school!)  Anyway, as I started reading, I began to get excited.  I was learning about Benjamin Franklin and the more I read, the more excited I became.  I think that there are enough fun ideas related to Ben Franklin that we could do a week of summer camp on him!  It was a blessing to have this excitement as I know it made the day more fun for me and for the children too I'm sure.

We started our day the same way we always do - with a reading of the story.

I began the morning talking about Ben Franklin.  I shared that he was an observant and curious man who learned much just from watching and noticing things as well as asking many questions.  We played a game to see how observant the children were.  One child was picked and they spetn a few minutes observing the child.  The child left, changed 3 things and then came back to see if the others could pick out what was different.

Things changed included socks (they were different colors, jewelry, hair part, etc.)  We did this several times and the children got all of the changes.  The next game was one of patterns  - to see if they noticed a pattern.  One child was sent from the room.  The rest of the children picked an object.  When I went to get the child who was "it", I explained the game to them.  I would point to various items.  When I pointed to a black item, they were to say no.  The next item would be it. 

The child and I would go back into the room and I would point at various things.  Until they got the right item.  I asked the other children to try to find a pattern.  They tried several things but weren't coming up with it.  I then told them the name of the game was "Black Magic".  Then they observed again.  It was still tricky, so I helped them to figure it out.

For the next section on Ben Franklin, I explained that he was a man who "wore many hats" (get the tie in to the title of the book?).  We talked about what that meant.  I had a box with 7 items in it representing 8 of the hats that he wore.  We looked at each item and talked about the different areas of interest that Ben Franklin had.  Here are the 8 areas.

1.  Inventor - He invented numerous thing, many of which are still in use today.  I showed the children pictures of various items to see if they could guess what they were.  These are the items - Franklin stove, glass armonica, bifocals, daylight savings time, lightening rod, an odometer and the Gulf Stream Current.  I loved learning that when he served as postmaster he noticed that letters coming from England took about 2 weeks longer to get to  American than letters going the other way.  He wondered why and began studying to find out!  He was the first to discover and map the  Gulf Stream!

2.  Biologist - He was fascinated with ants and believed that they communicated with each other.  We tested this out by placing a sugar water mixture into a jar and tying it to a tree.  We then placed one ant in there.  He crawled out and we waited (over an hour) to see if he led others back to the sugar.  This experiment didn't work for us. 

3.  Mathematician - Ben  Franklin was fascinated with numbers.  We learned about his Magic squares and worked on solving some ourselves.

4.  Scientist - They all knew about his experiment with lightening and electricity, but we decided to try a few with static electricity.  This was a really neat one.  I told the children that they were having a dinner party and someone mistakenly mixed the salt and pepper into the same bowl.  It was their job to separate it.  LOL  Then I gave them wool sock and a balloon. 

When you rub the sock against the balloon it became charged and attracted the pepper.

5.  Physicist - Ben Franklin liked to study basic parts of the universe and the effects on them.  He was particulary interested in oil and water.  WE did an experiment, but the pictures aren't so great showing the effects of oil on water with the wind blowing.  The oil "smooths" out the water so that it doesn't wave as it does when it is clean.

6.  Linguist - He enjoyed making rebuses.  Here is a site with some of his sayings in rebus form.  The children did a great job figuring them out.

7.  Printer - Just discussed briefly as we were tying in another activity with this one.

8.  Civil Servant - From postmaster to fireman, from militia leader to assembly recorder, Ben Franklin served in many roles.  One of the best known is his work with the Constitution.  The children tried their hand at signing their names using a quill pen.

We had a snack in the middle as I was so excited about Ben Franklin that I probably went long.  We had cheeses, cornbread muffins with honey, devilled eggs, some sausages and dried cranberries.  The kids really enjoyed drinking from the pewter mugs.

We had a devotion while they were finishing their snacks on the importance of words. 

For the last activity, each child made a sign. 

They practiced on a small piece of paper (like the man in the story who was designing a sign for his shop).  When they were happy, they drew with pastels to create their own sign on a large piece of wood. 

My sweet Daniel (with some coaxing) participated.  Happy mama here.  I think being outside made all the difference for him in this activity. 

This is a group shot of everyone with their signs.  They did a great job!!!

Did you notice that someone was missing?  It was Joshua.  He and his Daddy left for a long week-end trip to Gettysburg.  It was so odd for me to have him gone.  I have not been away from him for more than a couple of hours - in a year!  They had a great time!!!  I'm so happy they were able to take this trip with Roger's work.  I'm happy to have them home again too.

This was our last co-op of the year.  A little bittersweet.  I'm not sure I can explain what a blessing this group has been.  When I had the idea late in the summer to do a co-op, I just put the idea out to our group with no expectations of what would happen.  God brought together 7 moms to plan and teach a wonderful set of lessons.  The creativy, laughter, learning and fun was sweet.  As was the sharing and deepened friendships.  I knew that this would be fun for my children.  I didn't expect for it to be such a blessing for me.  As we close out our year, we don't have plans yet for next year.  No matter what we do, it won't be the same as one of our families is moving.  I'm thankful that God gave us this sweet year - filled with many memories. 



Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mom Field Trip

In the spirit of loving field trips, for our last Mom's meeting of the year, we decided to forego meeting at my house and instead go somewhere new.  It was a last minute decision, but a small group of us was up for some fun.  We headed to Guglhupf Bakery.  What a delightful place!  It was a lovely day and we sat outside in an artful patio area.  I should have taken more pictures.  If you are local, it's worth a visit!  I definitely see some mother-daughter time here in the future.

We each went inside and chose a treat for ourselves.  Beautiful baked goods.  Here's a peek at the plates.

The next one was mine.  It was a raspberry chocolate brownie and it was yummy!

Hungry yet?  We sat and talked about many things ... homeschooling, co-op, our vision for our school, children, free time and more.  It was a wonderful afternoon.  We look forward to doing something like this again next year!

I'm thankful to have sweet, godly friends to encourage me, walk with me and to share time.  I'm thankful for the laughter, support and memories I have with these friends.  God has blessed me richly.  Homeschooling is a much richer journey because of friends like these!

I'm looking forward to more encouragement this week-end as I head to the homeschool conference and will see all these friends and more!  I'm excited about hearing some new speakers and learning things to bless our family.  I'm interested in looking at the books!  I love books!  I'm looking forward to no cooking (well, one meal in a crockpot, but that hardly counts).  I'll miss my family that is staying home and enjoy the older children that will be with me.  I'll share more on this next week.  Hope your week is a great one!


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Standardized testing and ADHD

For those who have not had the pleasure of combing the two, let me just share a little bit.  As background, we are required in NC to test our students ages 7 and up yearly.  This year I'm using the CAT test as it is easy and inexpensive.   The test has 6 sections.  One of the first sections was reading comprehension.  You read a short story and then answer several questions about it.

One of the storied involved children at the beach building a sand castle.  He read the story.  He then started talking. 

"Remember when we went to the beach?"

I redirect back to the test.

"Our cousin watches a video before he goes out each year to build a sandcastle."

Again redirect to focus on the test.

More comments on sand castles.  Picking up pencils.  Dropping pencils.  Tapping pencils.  Staring out the window thinking about sand castles.

We are just on the first story!  In the first section.

I'm thankful to have this sweet, smart boy at home.  I'm thankful to have the privilege of teaching him.  I'm trying to be thankful for the additional opportunities to practice patience.  I'm thankful for the many ways he makes me laugh and lightens my day.

Can anyone else relate?


Monday, May 24, 2010

Tried to make some changes

Hi Friends,

I've had several people tell me that they were not able to post a comment if they were not on Homeschool Blogger.  I've changed the settings so hopefully that is corrected.  Please email me though if it's not as I can't tell from here.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

He heard ... and He answered

I've been pondering this post for awhile and trying to share it for almost a month. Between life and then the blog changes, I'm just now finishing it up. I am excited to share some things that have been going on in our lives.  For those of you that have read my blog for awhile, you know that the last several years have been filled with many challenges. Many. My world changed in late 2006 with the birth of our precious Eliana. I remember at the time just wanting things back the way that they were. I had no idea of all that lay ahead for all of us - both the challenges and the blessings.

I've been a Christian for many years. My faith has never been challenged like is has in the last 3.5 years. I've probably never grown as much either. I've always wanted a stronger faith and would often pray for God to grow my faith. What I didn't realize then, was that it would take trials, heartache and pain to produce growth.

So many things have happened that broke my heart and left me feeling battered, worn and sometimes used up. I have wondered at times if things would ever be like they were before - easy, good and smooth. I know now that things will never be the same, and thats alright. God hasn't called me to live an easy life. He has called me to walk with Him and sometimes that leads to places I might not have chosen to go. His ways are best and I'm learning daily to trust in that. God has pieced my broken heart together, but there are now a lot of holes in it. Holes in which the tears spill out so freely. I think this is probably good, but so very different from who I thought I was for so many years, kwim?

Over the course of the last 4 years so many things have been a challenge - learning so many new things - therapies, medical procedures, treatments, testing, and unfortunately also, church. Having 4 children with different special/medical needs has made it difficult. Roger and I finally agreed that for a number of reasons, that we needed to find a new church. This was hard as we have been in our current church for over 20 years!

I visited a nearby church that some friends attended. I liked it. The teaching was wonderful, but for several reasons, I didn't think it would work for some of our children and knew that it would not have worked for some of the seasons that we have been through. Next, I visited another church with a couple of our children. We knew only one family there even though it was a large church. At the first worship service, I just felt a peace in my heart. After the service, our friends took us to see the Sunday school area. After asking many questions, I was introduced to the gal in charge of the program. I explained the variety of needs our children have and she was receptive to wanting to help.

The next Sunday, more of us went (can't remember if it was all of us). Rebecca took Eliana to a class. Her first. She did really well. I was encouraged that they were willing to have someone be a helper with Eliana which would be wonderful. I think at first though, I'd like for one of us to be with her to help her with the transition.

I stayed with Daniel. Church has been particularly hard for him. In the past, he didn't like church at all. Even though either Roger or I were always with him, it still wasn't enough. It was overwhelming to his sensory needs and we were at a loss as to what else to do for him.

This new church has a room for kids with special needs and so we tried it. There were just 2 other children in the room - one a boy a little younger than Daniel and one much older. The two littler boys played together some. After being in this room for awhile, we went to a corporate worship for the preK kids. There was a story, memory verse and singing. It was a little hard for Daniel - big room, lots of kids, loud. He was much happier when we went back to the smaller class. When we were home, I asked him what he thought about the class. He said he liked it because it was "peaceful".

As we were driving to church the next Sunday (me with 3 or 4 of the kids to the new church, and Roger with 2 or 3 kids to the old church), I was praying. I was talking to God about the music and how it is just really loud. It was loud to me and I knew it was loud for Daniel. I just wasn't sure if this was going to work for him. I didn't want a long drawn out search and wanted Him to just guide us.

When we got there, the gal the runs the Sunday School program came by the room Daniel is in and talked to me. She told me that she had been talking with another mom with a child with Sensory Processing Disorder. This mom has found some earplugs that are musician quality that will cut down the decibels of sound, but not muffle things. She then told me that the church would be willing to buy some for Daniel to have at the church.

I was stunned. I'm not even sure what I said to her. I couldn't believe they would do that for us. We were strangers, visitors and yet they were reaching out to help us. I needed this.

She then found the mom (who was leading the preK worship music) and we talked and she showed me the earplugs. I had told Daniel I was stepping out for few minutes (which he told me he didn't hear) and when I returned he was a mess. Crying and angry and it took awhile to get him back. During the preK worship I could even see this mom trying to do things to help Daniel. (Having the children *whisper* their Bible verses together.) We've never had anyone care for us like this. I've never asked (and am not trying to say that others should have done anything. I'm just blown away that they are willing to do something.) Having so many kids with such different "issues" has really made church very challenging. We want to find a place where we were all happy and growing.

I still continued to God about the loud music. (It was much louder than what we were accustomed to and I wondered if it was "too loud". And yes, we have recently studied noise and the effects on the ears.) I wondered if there was a service that wasn't quite as loud or a place to sit that wasn't as loud. I wondered how I could even figure this out. Can you ask that kind of question? I don't want them to think I'm a total nutcase!

Within a couple of days, I got a phone call from someone at the church. I had filled out a card the first Sunday I visited and this was a follow-up. Guess who it was? The one person that could best answer my questions. He wanted to know if I had questions and if he could help in any way. It was the Worship Pastor. I just teared up when I heard the message. God heard and answered ... again. .

I'm not sure I can explain how much all this meant to me. Yes, I know God hears and I know He answers. I've been in a hard season though with so many things to juggle with my children and some days it was just lot. Some days it felt really lonely. Some days I wondered where God was in all of this and why He wasn't more vocal.

God is hearing my questions and He is using the people at this church to answer them. It's not perfect by any means, but we believe it is where God is calling us.  In sharing about the things that are blessing us in this new place, I don’t mean for that to sound like a negative reflection on the church where we were attending.  That is not what this is about.  There are obviously wonderful people in our previous church doing neat things too (or we wouldn't have stayed there for so many years!).  Our lives have had a lot of change in them and this is now a part of that change.  Change is often hard, but often good as well.  I'm very excited to see what God has in store for us.

There are many things that we're excited about in this new church. I love how on fire this church is for reaching the lost and making a difference in the lives of those around us. There is passion in this place!  The teaching has been incredible and challenging!  Oh, and did I mention that this church has 5 areas in which they are focused on helping people - one of them is orphans. That too touched my heart.

After walking a path that has been rocky and waiting for answers to so many things, I'm just overwhelmed by these small blessings. I'm overwhelmed that God is listening and answering. I'm overwhelmed that He loves me so very much. I'm thankful and excited to hear from Him. It really makes me feel loved.

For those who are curious, here is where we are attending.  The Summit Church



Friday, May 21, 2010

The Raft - FIAR Volume 4 Co-op

One week after our scorching hot day for field day, we headed to the Eno River for co-op.  Wouldn't you know that the day was on the cooler side and overcast.  It didn't matter at all though!  We had a blast!

We started as always with the reading of the story.  Can you picture a more scenic spot to read a story about a boy who discovers all sorts of things in nature on and in a river?

We were briefly interupted by this.

The story paused as you can't compete with a big vehicle fording a river.  LOL

After reading the story, it was time to head to a small island IN the river!!!  Ooooh, was the water COLD!  I don't think the kids even noticed at all. 

 I watched my Daniel head out with the group.  :-)  He has not participated fully in this co-op and he really does well when we are outside.  It just always makes my heart feel good when he is able to join in.  Its hard to explain, and maybe it doesn't even make sense, the challenges he faces.  He has come a long way though and my heart rejoices to see the progress he has made!

In case you were wondering, they are all wearing socks under their crocs, sandals and swim shoes.  This was to help prevent leeches from attaching to feet!!!  YUCK!  Apparantly the presence of leeches is a good thing because it means the water quality is really good and healthy.  Thankfully, no leeches were found on this outing!

The activity on the island was to learn more about the course of the Eno River.  Each child drew a "labelled marker" out of the pot.  Each marker had the name of a city or location along the Eno river - starting in the mountains and ending at the sea.  Daniel drew Cape Hatteras.  Really appropriate since he LoVeS the lighthouses and was even wearing a t-shirt with Hatteras on the front of it this day!

Joshua built the town of Smithfield.  Each child was given an object that could go along with their site OR an idea of what was located at the site for them to build or replicate.  Smithfield is known for its great BBQ.  He was wishing he had brought his pig Silly Bandz, but when with what he had.

Let me back up as I'm not starting at the beginning.  The job for the children was to build a replica of the Eno river.  Each site was numbered so that they could go in order from the beginning of the river until the end.  They worked to build their location and then began digging a trail for the river to follow.

Of course, they needed water for the river.

It took numerous trips to "fill" our river, but they didn't seem to mind at all!

Can you see the start of the river?

Here it is from another angle.

What a fun, hands-on activity that the children LOVED!

After all this hard work, they were ready for a snack.  They had a bagged lunch with a pbj sandwich, an apple and animal crackers.  There was lemonade to drink.

Now it was time to learn a little more about the wildlife in the area.  The children were given a sheet with pictures from this area.  (Actual pictures of actual things seen here just a week before!)  One side had animals and critters.

The other side had plants and flowers.

They were given nets to use to find things.  They also had boxes or jars into which they could put the things that they found. 

They needed no encouragement to get back into the river again!

After spending time hunting ... and finding... they gathered together so that they could see what each person had found.

It was most helpful that Miss Laura knows an amazing amount about all sorts of plants, bugs and animals!  She helped the kids to identify what they had found and also shared interested facts about a number of them! 

Check out the size of this crawfish!

A large spider and the smaller bugs are water striders (I think - a nymph of a more common bug?).  Sorry, my details on bugs are really sketchy at best. 

Some of the plants and flowers that were found.

The co-op ended with the children decorating and floating rafts in the river. 

What a fun morning!  I know I couldn't post about co-op without saying how thankful I am to be a part of this group.  I'm thankful for the gifts, talents and experience that each mom has brought.  I'm thankful for this sweet group of children and how much fun it has been to hang out and learn with them.

We have one more co-op after this one which just happened yesterday.  I'll post more about it soon. 

Hope you are enjoying this beautiful spring season.  I hope you are able to enjoy some of the amazing things that God has created.  There are so many interesting things to learn from and to enjoy.  Thank you God for creating such diversity!



Thursday, May 20, 2010

Field Day

I'm still playing catch-up for the month of May ... and determined to get close soon!   We had our last co-op today and it was a lot of fun!  More hopefully in a few more days. 

For the last couple of years, we have ended our school year/field trip days with our FIAR group with Field Games.  It's a fun way for our kids to be able to enjoy some of the same games we did as kids and things that are hard to do without a large group. 

We divide the kids up by age.  The oldest group was 11 and up.  The middle group is 5-10 and then there is a little kid area with some things for the youngest kids (though no formal games).  I had signed up to help with the little kids before realizing that Daniel wasn't in this age group any more.  (sniff, sniff)  When I realized it, I thought there was no way that he would participate in the games with me in a different area.  (He will typically not go do much of anything in a different environment without me there.)  A friend graciously agreed to cover for me so that I could hang out with Daniel.

I sent my 3 little boys to the races which were their first events while I was helping Eliana.  Guess what?  Daniel went happily without me!  :-)  He also started to participate in the races!  I can't tell you how encouraging it is to see him able to make some steps like this.  I know this may seem small, but with all that he deals with regarding the SPD (sensory processing disorder), so many things overwhelm him.  I'm grateful to see this step of progress.  I know it was because he had his brothers with him. 

The races included an egg race,

backwards race,

three-legged race

and sack race.

Joshua and Daniel were in the 3-legged race together and were a little mismatched by size. 

They still won though!  (That was a surprise to me!)  I loved seeing Daniel having fun.  It just did my mama's heart good!

In the other area, the kids competed in broad jump and softball throw.  I don't have many pictures of these events as things were going on simultaneously and honestly, it was so much fun watching the races.  They also played horseshoes.

I did get this fun shot of the broad jump. 

The older kids competed in the same events as the younger ones.  Some of these photos just tickled me.  Can't you just see the frenzy from the photos?

The sack races added extra challenges for the older kids because they don't fit in them as well.  It makes for some funny moments too!

All in all, it was a fun day. 

I'm thankful for good friends - for me and for the kids.  I'm thankful for healthy bodies (I don't think I'll ever take that for granted).  I'm thankful for a beautiful day.  I'm thankful God has blessed me in so many ways!  More later on co-op and other May happenings.