Home School Life Journal

Home School Life Journal ........... painting by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

December 2017: Snapshot Summary: Traditions

December 2017

December is always a happy month for us, filled with traditions.

 We begin the month celebrating Saint Nicholas day by filling shoes with some sort of goodies. My boys, of course, are older now, but they still don't mind an unexpected treat or two, or following traditions that remind them of their childhood days.
My family insists on a live Christmas tree, and the best way to insure that they will remain green throughout the 12 days of Christmas (which, by the way are not the twelve days leading up to Christmas, despite what the stores would like you to think, but begin on Christmas day) is to cut it yourself, so that is also a tradition for our family.
On another day, we decorate the tree, accompanied by Christmas music and mugs of hot chocolate, made by Sam this year. (This photo, however, was taken right before we opened the presents Christmas morning.) 

The ornaments are a collection of blown glass ornaments (some of them antique), ornaments the kids have made, the kids First Christmas ornaments and ornaments the grandparents have given the kids. Lots of tradition there.

 James and Katie went Christmas Caroling with other residents of Betterton, while Quentin, Sam and Steven went to see It's a Wonderful Life in the theater. I stayed home with Alex, but we did go out on the porch to wave to Santa and the carolers as they went by.
 Katie and James also went to a live nativity...
 and gathered mistletoe from the trees in the park.
Steven and I celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary. We went to Crackle Barrel to celebrate and to buy Secret Santa gifts.

 We baked lots of cookies, including having our annual Cookie Bake with Hope, in which seven of us made 12 different kinds of Christmas cookies.

 Despite the fact that it wasn't actually a white Christmas on Christmas day, we did have several snow storms in December. I really liked this photo of one of the snow storms that James took in which you can actually see the snow fall.
A sampling of the paintings Alex made as gifts.
Alex and I enjoyed painting gifts for friends and family this year...
and Katie enjoyed making ceramics gifts as well.
 It was a lovely Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. After Mass on Christmas Eve, we opened the Christmas Eve presents of pajamas and Steven read The Night Before Christmas...

and then we set out the Christmas stockings that we handmade by Steven's mother...
which, of course, were filled by Christmas morning.
 I am blessed that I was able to share Christmas with all of my children. I can see that soon they will be sharing Christmas Day other places so I am cherishing the ones I still have with everyone there.
We decided to have a Colonial Christmas dinner this year, with Williamsburg Ham, Peanut Soup, Southern Green Beans (similar to Green Beans Splashed With Cider Vinegar), Kings Arms Tavern Sweet Potatoes and Colonial Corn Pudding.
Steven made his traditional Steamed Pudding with hard sauce for dessert.
 Later in the week we celebrated Christmas with Hope and Eddie...
and then with Brenda.
Sam and Katie successfully finished their first semester at AACC, and Sam got straight A's! Katie also did well, getting two A's (Statistics, First Aid), and two B's (Ceramics, Drawing I).
We celebrated James' 17th birthday...

and we celebrated New Year's Eve with Hope and Eddie.

How was your December?

November 2017: Snapshot Summary

November 2017
I have been feeling as if the months are just flying by for some time now, but November went by even faster than ever! The first week started off with my 56th birthday...
This little plate is one of the gifts I received for my 56th birthday. My BFF really knows what I love.
...and the 5th anniversary of my being diagnosed with breast cancer. With the 5th year, doctors consider the cancer threat to be gone and that cancer patients have no more a remission than the average person has for having first diagnosis...as close to cured as you can get. This marks the first of my five year cancer anniversaries and I will be happy ticking off each one as they come.
In the middle of the month I went to my sister-in-law, Brenda's house for a BFF retreat.  It was filled with good food, good friends (Brenda's sisters have now become the sisters I never had!), games (Dominoes from around the world), TV watching, going to Tai Chi and Line Dancing lessons, book borrowing from the library, but, best of all, just hanging out with my BFF.
Turkey  (of course) with gfcf stuffing
Cornbread stuffing in crockpot
Cranberry Relish
Mashed potatoes in crockpot 
Sweet Potato Casserole in crockpot
Lima bean casserole 
Southern green beans
Fried apples
Indian Pudding
Indian Fry Bread
Deviled Eggs
Pickles and olives tray

Chocolate Pecan Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Coconut Custard
Blackberry Cobbler
Thanksgiving marked the end of the month, with two feasts, one for just our family and one that included friends.
While Quentin was peeling the potatoes, he noticed this heart. I absolutely love finding a heart in the midst of hectic meal preparations, especially on Thanksgiving.

How was your November?

Our 22nd Year of Homeschooling, November 2017 : High School with a Struggling Reader with Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum and Our Homeschool Report

Last month I promised to tell you more about the curriculum that James and I have settled on for his high school work. I have always been a somewhat laid-back, hands-on kind of teacher, so at first when my son James struggled with learning to read, we just plugged along slowly and was comforted by the thought that although all of my kids (except, ironically my autistic son, Alex) struggled with learning to read, but eventually it kicked in and now the older two are going to college successfully.
But then he was in middle school, about to go to high school and we were still struggling, so we decided to get him tested by experts, to find out exactly where he was with reading and to hopefully get some ideas for ways of teaching him that I had been missing. The results were probably as expected, but they were depressing as I had no hope for something to make it better. He was reading at about mid-first grade level (I had put him at second grade) and they offered no help because James' learning disabilities made it hard for him to tap into alternate resources because he had dyslexia, language disorders that affected acquiring, processing and producing language. This made it hard for him to read, hard for him to understand written language read to him and hard for him to process information. They did not have any advise for me.
In my search for curriculum for him, I picked up a science book I had used with Katie in high school (for her it was in addition to the usual Apologia curriculum) off my shelves because I remembered that it had an easy read-and-answer-the-questions format. 
We began using The People, Places and Principles of Integrated Physics and Chemistry by Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum. 
It has a very structured and repetitive format that is useful necessary for students who have severe language disabilities. It can also be used with students without disabilities, but they may find it a bit too repetitive in format. It drove my son, Quentin, crazy, for example. But, it was just was James needed. It helped him to know in advance what information to focus on. For most students, even students with learning disabilities, following the pattern of reading the entire chapter and then answering the questions will prove successful. The questions range from fill-in-the blanks, true/false and multiple choice. The focus is always on reading comprehension, with questions such as cause and effect, in each section. Other than the fact that the science curriculum does not have any math in it, your student will know exactly everything  else by the end of the series that any other high school student will know, so it is not dumbed down, just in a format that is less challenging.
They have a complete curriculum available, including English, Science, Math and History, starting in 7th grade, and going through to 12th grade. Since we started in ninth grade, we followed their suggestions for science, Integrated Physics and Chemistry I  and English, English I: Language Skills, but we are using Basic Math Skills for math, suggested in seventh grade and American History I, suggested for eighth grade. I chose the math because I wanted to make sure he did not have any gaps in his concrete math before we went on to more conceptual math (harder for students with language disorders) and I wanted to start American history from the beginning.
The result? For the first time in a long time, James comes to the table to complete school work without a struggle and it is because it is no longer a traumatic event. Every time he worked on school work in the past, it reminded him of his inadequacies and took an emotional toll on him. It also took so much work for him to do the simplest of activities, he wore out before we really got anything of substance completed. That has all changed since our curriculum switch  and so, I recommend that if you are having struggles with your student with learning disabilities, give Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum a try. Start with just one subject and see how it works. You can purchase the curriculum in chapter sections, starting at about $6.00, so it is not a large financial commitment to try it. I want to also note that I am writing this out of my love for the curriculum, and did not get any compensation for writing this post, not even free curriculum. 
Lastly, I wanted to mention that I received a phone call from the head of the company when I placed my order. He wanted to know more about me as a customer since I had ordered the curriculum across the board, and he wanted me to give him feedback after I had used the curriculum so that he could better meet the needs of his customers. How often do you get this kind of service?
If you have any questions for me about this curriculum, feel free to shoot me a note in the comments or via email.

Now on to other to other educational happenings in our household...

Quentin, 8th grade
Quentin is doing fine on his own self designed program. He has quite a large array of subjects, so he only gets a little of each completed each week, but that is fine by me as he is getting a well-rounded education and is progressing each week.
He is writing a paper on the history of weapon and armor progression. He is struggling at this a bit because he wants it to be perfect and I cannot convince him of the concepts of drafts.
For his science worked on Biology mainly this month, finishing the chapter on the chemistry of life and will soon experience his first test on it.
He is continuing work in Ancient Greek and Latin, preferring Latin. He is writing little reports for history. We are reading George Washington's World and The Sherwood Ring, as well.
He is still working on fractions in math and I have turned math teaching over to Sam, as he now has the most math education under his belt, having taken more math classes than either Steven or I in college.
source: pictures from Rod and Staff, Growing with Music
He is doing well with his voice lessons, focusing on breathing and the parts of the body that make the different sounds we sing. I happened to find these illustrations of these while looking through my books as I was getting rid of curriculum that is too young for my high school-ish boys.
After suspending fencing in October due to illness, he came back to it in November with gusto.

The Graduates
This is a nearly finished piece of a griffin that he will be giving James for Christmas.
Alex is still enjoying creating beautiful pieces of art (that he will be giving as Christmas presents) using the tutorials at The Art Sherpa.

A set of tiles Katie made in Ceramics I class.

I am happy to announce has found her calling. She absolutely loves ceramics and wants to pursue this as her career. She will be taking Ceramics II next semester as well as other courses. I won't be showing too many more of her pieces as some of them she is giving out as Christmas gifts.
A few of the pieces Katie has done for her Drawing class. The top one is her rendition of Rembrandt's View of London, done in ink and the bottom two are done in charcoals. A charcoal sketch of an egg can also be found here.
Now while she is doing so well in her other classes, she is struggling to make an average grade in her drawing class, which just baffles me as she has always gotten excellent grades in her other college art classes and her high school drawing classes. All of the above pieces have gotten her "C's." She says that her art teacher expects too much and that the only people who are getting "A's" in her opinion, have no business being in a Beginning Drawing class. I found these above drawings crumpled, which just shows what the class has done for her self esteem. What do you think?

A couple of his Statistics tests I managed to find in his computer bag.

Sam has a more cerebral load of classes, and has been doing well with it, getting almost all "A's" in all his classes. He is still enjoying politics and is looking forward to taking more such classes in the future.

How was the month of November in your schooling?

October 2017 Snapshot Summary

October 2017 Snapshot Summary
October began with the first chilly weather we have had this year.

(I wrote this seven years but as it was the first cold morning after a warm fall, I was reminded of it.)

And since it was The First 54 Degree Morning, I had to look at this poem I wrote a long time ago, which I do every year on the first chilly morning. It still makes me smile because it depicts my husband and one of my sons perfectly.

The First 54 Degree Morning

"It's the first day of Fall," I say,
wrapping the blanket tighter.
"No, it's not," says he, flipping a page and
pointing to the box with the 22 in it.
"I thought it started when the yellow buses started rolling,"
says the diminutive one, flipping the page back and pointing to the box with the 24.
So much like him and yet he would never admit it.
"No, " says he. He begins to draw spheres bisected with lines to explain.
Diminutive one shrugs, both an acknowledgement and dismissal
I could never understand.
"It's the first day of Fall," I say again,
thinking of days before ticking and boxes,
thinking of silence, smelling smoke and following buffalo on the move.
He shrugs, with both an acknowledgement and dismissal.
I was the only one who noticed.

Alex and Lewis enjoying each other's company.
 We all caught Infectious Mononucleosis and so were sick off and on all month...
"No, I want to read it first!" says Midas.
 and so, we did not do a lot of things out of the house. 

There were a lot of quiet moments around the house instead.

We were able to celebrate Halloween with a pumpkin carving party, complete with a monster meatloaf.

Quentin made cupcakes with orange and yellow layers and white icing to look like candy corn. Sorry, but I don't have a picture of what they looked like inside.
I also bought a kit to make mad scientist petri dishes, which are edible because they are made of gelatin, decorator's icing and sprinkles. Pretty fun even for the older kids.

We had a Creature from the Black Lagoon, a Renaissance Swordsman and a Lich for Halloween...
and Eddie accompanied us, but I can't remember what he said he was...some person from a video game.

I had a great Halloween because the kids do the trick-or-treating on their own and Steven and I can sit in the backyard with a fire in the fire-pit and wait for the trick-or-treaters to follow the signs I posted on the door and fence and give them candy. 
We put apple cider in our Dutch Oven and put it over the fire to warm. When it began to boil, it really did look like a witch's cauldron. Next year I think we will make it easier on them and just move the fire-pit to the front yard. 
When my kids got back from trick-or-treating, they toasted marshmallows and made s'mores and drank what was left of the hot cider before we retired to the house.

Happy Halloween!