Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dealing with the Distractions

It seems impossible that the summer is coming to a close and one of our last nice days is occurring. I found it difficult to keep the kids focused on their studies today. The wind is actually whistling, the sun is bright in the windows and the Jared...he can't think.

Jared is my ADD child. I use that term lightly because I have never had him tested. Actually, I never had to because it was SO VERY OBVIOUS. That kid struggles everyday with trying to keep his mind on his studies. Then add in a little sister, new concept or fatigue and I have lost him. The good news is that I can call in my external motivators and he figures it out. For example, if he misses more than 4 total in math, he gets no screen time. He does not like the rule but it appears to motivate him to overcome his natural weaknesses.

The youngest continues the journey toward reading. It is actually an interesting thing to teach because she does not say all of her sounds correctly. ESL has its challenges. I find it difficult to know how hard to push her. She is slowly working through the concepts of telling time and counting money. Those are tow very difficult things to master. She gets it some days and has no idea on other days. It amazes me how different children are.

The oldest is fairly self motivated. He is doing very well in school and continues to progress with a decent amount of understanding. I respect it in him and often find myself relying on him to complete his work without my input. That is not always good either. I think that he feels left out sometimes with the other kids needing so much supervision and assistance. The balancing act comes in meeting all of the kids' needs with relative grace and efficiency. I do not always succeed in this realm.

On the whole, the year is going well. We have a lot of curriculum things that are working well and bringing the kids one step closer to fulfilling their educational goals. I like that.

~Camo Pants

Friday, October 19, 2012

Full Force

It is interesting to began this blog again as the summer has wrapped up for us and school is in full force. As much as I love the summer months, they are busy, busy,busy. I covet the slower fall/winter months when we can focus on our education. I know that the kids would shake their heads at that but they actually enjoy learning at home as well.

I am in a dilemma when it comes to Jared's grade. He is what I would call a solid B student- except in math. He is currently in 8th grade (ish) and uses a 5th grade curriculum for math. The hardest part is that he is doing some 9th grade work, some 8th grade work and well, some 5th....

So where do I place him categorically? So far I have maintained him in 8th grade except for extracurricular things- then I list him in 9th like his brother. I figure that if Jared has to do an extra semester at the end of his senior year- so be it.

The kids picked most of their curriculum and I believe that has helped them to own it. I love it when they come running up the stairs with their newest 'nugget' of information. They are really in tune to what they are studying and it makes me think that maybe we are on the right track.

Jacie continues to learn about our culture and is still trying to learn to read. I have never taught a non-English speaking child to read and have found that it has its one set of difficulties. The good news is that she now desires to read- that will speed the process. I know that she would have learn by necessity earlier in the public school situation but really desire for her to love to read. That is why we are just starting to focus in that direction though she has been here just over two years. I want to make lovers of learning- not just someone who can read.

~Camo Pants

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Woman of Leisure

It is hard to believe that I am lying on a bed, staring out the window at 5 pm. If I were home, I would be bustling around the kitchen attempting to fill hungry bellies or yelling at someone to move whatever piece of random stuff they discarded onto the kitchen table. But I am not.

My youngest and I are living in a rehab hospital right now so someone is cooking and cleaning for me. I have to admit- a girl could get used to this. I am trying to soak in the feeling of being able to walk down, order whatever I want and have someone come and clean up the mess. This does not happen often. I have to say that the food is not exceptional either- thank heavens for the salad bar.

The big question that is probaly going through your head is how are you lying in a hospital and still homeschooling your children? Welllll, the boys are in full control of their school and are responsible for emailing/calling me if they need help. They have been almost completely in charge of their schoolwork for about 2 years now- so everything should be continuing like clockwork.

I have not talked to Jared about his math score for today but he is doing so well right now. He wasn't. At all. He was averaging about a D until I made the penalty for anything less than a B so big that he doesn't dare not try hard. I found that he was bored and giving only half the effort that he should have and thus was missing over half of the problems. Not acceptable in mom's school of hard knocks. Now before you get upset and say, "He doesn't understand the information," I will jump in and tell you that he is running through this particular course for the second time.'s time he got it himself.

As soon as we are released from here, I am planning to take the kids in the Chicago to see the Mythbusters exhibit which came into the Museum of Science and Industry. I am looking forward to another day spent in the museum district of Chicago. Jacie and I have been going through all of the museums and zoos that the town we are in has to offer. It has been quite fun. Tonight I am checking her out and going downtown to listen to the band in the amphitheater. I think that Jacie will enjoy taking pictures of the building in the city and the many sights that come with being in a different place than normal. I don't think that you can replace that kind of teaching.

I guess I should check in with those boys and make sure that they are not trying to draw blood from eachother.

I am blessed to walk this road.

~Camo Pants

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Insert Evil Giggle

The boys have finished their latest papers and we all lived through it. Not that it was without incident...

First, Jared cancelled his whole document, I think I blogged about that last time. Then he copied which is never allowed. Then I took all his books away and made him write it from memory and then drop in his sources. That went a little easier for him. I tell you what- he is so funny. At the end of his paper he wrote: ...thank you mom for the time extension and for the patience to Nottawa Township Library[.] to Loren for not taking the computer from me and I hope that you like it Jared m. K.

I tried to leave everything true to form as he wrote it. My heavens. All I could think was that the end of this 'thank you' it should say, "And I accept this nomination for president of the United States..."

He is so dramatic. Loren on the other hand seems to carry through life pretty low-key. His paper was formatted to the APA style and thoroughly researched and cited. He is so funny.

Having said that, I have thrown a monkey wrench into the works. The next paper is going to switch my overachiever out of his role and place his brother in. Here is what I did (insert evil giggle.) The last paper is a three page paper about themselves. What they feel they are good at, what they want to do with their lives and where God fits into the whole thing. My Jared- thrilled. Loren...? Not so much. He can't believe it. "What can I say mom?" he keeps questioning.

I made it a little tougher because I decided to use a random idea that I read about. In it a public school teacher requires that her students write a six word sentence describing themselves. This intrigued me so I made it the requirement for the first sentence of the boys' papers. You should have heard them sigh...

I do love to incorporate new things into their lives. Things that stretch them just a little. Things that require them to think. What 14 year old boy likes to do that?

I am blessed to have the privilege of being their teacher. It is something that I do not take for granted.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Salt and Pepper Shakers

It seems that I often start my blogs by saying, "It is so quiet in here and I am enjoying the time by myself."

You probably don't think that I really have kids much less homeschool them...

It is true though, it is quiet here AND I am enjoying my time to myself. The three oldest are at youth group and Jacie is downstairs watching a movie. I marvel at how much I enjoy these couple of minutes to reconnect with myself and sit for a breather. It is so different having the boys (and our exchange student) old enough to attend a 'teen' function. Does that make me sound sentimental...? It should. I am. It seems like just yesterday those boys were little. I called them my salt and pepper shakers...A matched set- now they tower over me.

They have grown into quite the young men.

You know how I blogged last week about the middle son's attempt at a paper? Well, guess what...? Yup, you guessed it. Papers are due TODAY. This paper is supposed to be four pages long with four sources about a historical event. He chose the Civil War and set about to work on it a couple of days before the deadline. Let me insert here that he knew about this for a month...

Anyway, he worked pretty hard at it, got up and left it on the computer without saving and...well, need I say more? He lost everything. I have done that and can feel his pain BUT am not out to teach him that he can quit so I said, "Man, that stinks. I guess you better start over."

He promptly went down and plagerized an entire page of a book. I made him start over again. Today, he must have figured out that extensions were out of the question because he got himself up at 6 am. I cannot explain to you how significant that is. I have described him as my lazy daisy before- he is...

I have not seen a copy of the finished product. We'll see if he hits the deadline. That poor kid. Everything seems to go wrong for him in regard to school. More than anything, I want him to learn to work around his own abilities in order to be successful. I know in my heart he can do it but it is difficult to watch.

My oldest son did compete in the Horse Quiz Bowl that he was preparing for. He had a hard day. I have to tell you that he is incredibly shy and worries what others think of him a lot. Amidst his hard day- he took 2nd place and will be going to state this month. I was proud of him for taking the chance and making a good showing out of a difficult day. He is amazing to watch when he sets his mind to something.

Jacie has finished her surgery and is awaiting her rehab. You can read about her journey @

I am blessed.

~Camo Pants

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Neurotic Book Sniffing, Dictionary Reader

You may be wondering if I still homeschool or if I have sold the children to the gypsies and admitted myself to the nearest home for the bewildered- unfortunately, I have to admit: no and no. I am still at home and the children are still here to torture me. Which they are very good at.

At this time, I am trying to recover my family from Jacie's recent surgery- not an easy ordeal. You can read about it in her blog:

As for school, the boys are working independently through their studies. With the surgery under our belt, I can now focus on getting them back on track and working on their third paper (which is due in 2 weeks.) I am certain that they have forgotten about the paper and assumed that I have forgotten as well. Nope. I giggle at the thought of telling them on Monday that the due date still stands. Is that mean to giggle about something of that nature...? Probably but I give myself a little leave to be evil since they are teenagers now and routinely torment me. The problem for the kids (boys especially because they are older) is that I am a book sniffer. I love books. I am the type of person who loves to skim a dictionary for pleasure. One of my favorite times recently was when I had to go to the bookstore and replace my worn out dictionary. I figured that it was time since it had been split in two pieces for over 10 years and was missing the middle three pages. Anyway, I had such a great time getting a new one that I bought several.

So my children are being taught by a neurotic book sniffing, dictionary reader who loves fact. I almost pity them. Did I tell you that I also suffer (slightly...) from perfectionism as well? AND I assume that my desire for the pristine is universal to all of my children~

So the middle prisoner, oh I mean child, in my school is my dyslexic, laid back underachiever- well, not in this house. I hold him to the same standards that I hold the others to and amazingly, he is able to man up to the requirements and meet them. I had to laugh though at his attempts last month. On the exact date that his paper was due, he stayed up half the night finishing it. Then when he was done, he brought me his paper without the sources cited page. I handed it back to him and said, "Uhhmm... I think that you are missing something."

He hemmed and hawed around until he figured out the missing component and then went downstairs to get it. He came back up and handed me a wadded up piece of paper that he had obviously retrieved from the garbage can. To which I wordlessly handed back to him. He said, "What is wrong?"

I replied, "I do not accept your paper as you have turned it in."

Then he got mad. I said, "This is not optional. You must fix this paper within 15 minutes or you will receive the pre-determined punishment (losing video games until the end of the school year.)"

He walked away and returned with a newly printed, fresh copy of the trash can paper and life resumed. Can you say, "Wow?"

If it gives you any idea of the sheer differences between the two boys, Loren turned his in a day early, thoroughly collated.

Jacie and I do her school together. I am not certain which way she leans- whether she is a Loren or a Jared. I do think that her concentration is not up to par but the poor kid has had many distractions in the last few years... It is hard to know where to take her educationally. I was planning to go to the homeschool convention in May. We do all of our shopping for school books that day for next year but now Jacie and I will be in Grand Rapids for rehab through that time. I do not know at this point what I will do to get what I need.

I love the materials that the kids picked last year. They are really into figuring out what they want and need. I, of course, offer guidance but I want them to explore areas that are fresh and enjoyable. How many kids can say that when they studied WWII, they read about the artillery (in detail), the weaponry (in detail) and personal journals. What an amazing way to learn.

Loren continues to teach himself piano. He researched self-teaching piano curriculum and settled on Master Piano. He really enjoys the teacher. I think Jared will start Master Drums in the fall. Hopefully it is as effective. Both boys are learning Japanese. They hope to use it when they go with their aunt and uncle to her [home] country in the future. Jacie continues in Chinese though she has not done it since her surgery. I have a hard time carrying her up and down the stairs as she cannot walk since her surgery.

I am blessed to be part of the lives of my children daily and continue to watch in amazement at the grace and happiness they possess. This is truly a gift.

~Camo Pants

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mumbling Gibberish

Today is the type of day that makes me feel blessed that I am able to stay at home with the kids and home school. If for no other reason, these (semi) quiet mornings when I get up before everyone else to allow myself a little space for thinking. There is only one person in this whole world that I agree with completely and I like to touch base with her on occasion.

School for us has been going steady. Jared is finally progressing in math. It almost brings tears to my eyes to write this. I have struggled so long and hard with math for him. I finally found his motivator. If he does not do well (misses more than 4) he cannot play any video games until he 'brings that score up.' Little did I know that this was the way to go. The kid works harder on math than I have ever seen. One point for mom.

The oldest is focusing on Horse Quiz Bowl. He loves random facts and cannot wait to compete in the competition this weekend. It has been fun to quiz him. I think that he will do well. He is very competitive so I have been talking to him about focusing on having fun- not worrying. The sun will rise again and set again if he doesn't win. That is such a hard concept to learn. He is also running for a State Award in horses. This required that he write a three page story, formal business letter, ten page activities log and three page picture collage. For a 14 year old, that is a lot of work. He did it quickly and well. I was impressed. Sometimes it is difficult to know whether the kids are behind, ahead or right with their peers. It seems that he is doing alright.

We took the kids into the Lego Store, American Girl Place and the aquarium. It was really fun. The kids learned a lot. I love hands-on learning. Not only was the aquarium a great learning tool- the Lego Store has upgraded and moved. It now has a pretty cool computer aided design program that the children can access. The kids seem to love it. They create their lego design on the computer and then build it. We are planning a trip back to Chicago in April and will hit the Museum of Science and Industry- Mythbusters are coming in. We will also make the trek to the Lego Store again. It is a tradition for us!

I have been struggling in the area of not comparing my kids to the other kids. As the boys are now attending Youth Group functions- there is constant opportunity for me to see them interact with the other kids and see their weaknesses. I remind myself that I see their strengths as well and they do have many. Just in the last couple of days, I have had to work hard to see my kids for exactly who they are and respect that in them.

Homeschooling has been such an amazing journey for our family. I think it is one of the best decisions my husband and I made. Believe it or not, we knew that we would home school when our oldest was about 18 mths old- that was before the middle son was adopted and long before Jacie was a 'twinkle' in any one's eye. That seems like a lifetime ago.

My duties keep calling- literally. They keep walking into my room and talking to me which makes it difficult to form coherent sentences. I had better sign off before I start mumbling gibberish and rocking back and forth. Hope that all is well for you.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Life in the Hangman's Noose

This picture is a great indicator of how my home school days go...

I had to laugh when Jared came up wearing the hangman's noose- obviously his brother got ahold of him! When I told them to work on their knot tying- I didn't mean on each other.

The boys are also working on their second paper of the year. I am a little bit of a task master about writing because I believe that it is important to be able to express yourself verbally and on paper. Their first assignment was on an animal. It was 5 pages long with 5 sources (1 Internet, the rest books.) They really did well. Jared is VERY dyslexic so I am still trying to figured out some of his paper. I will proofread it and give it back. Then they will have 2 weeks to fix it and return. Their second paper is a little easier- 3 pages, 4 sources. It is about something in science. I am curious what I will get in return. I love that fact that we are able to work on writing in a relaxed format in order to learn it and still like it- that was one of my goals when choosing my teaching style. I really wanted the children to gain a love for education. They also just completed the Novel in One Year Curriculum and are looking forward to the Sci-fi one (second year.) They will start that as soon as I get my ducks in a row and order it. Man, teachers today...

This is black history month and since Jared is black- I had tons of information to use for him. It is such an interesting part of our home school- having such cultural differences among the 3 children. Our exchange student offers another cultural experience. No wonder we have been called (jokingly of course) The United Nations Clan.

Jacie is still working through her reading and basic writing. As I said earlier, it is very important to me that she enjoy reading so I am taking it slow. I do a lot of reading to her like I did with the boys. It is harder for her because the boys grew up listening to me read, visiting book sales and spending long afternoons buried in books. She did not. Having been here only 1 1/2 years and turning 10 in April has brought a different scenario to the table. Truthfully, it has stretched me as a teacher. I have to admit, I got comfortable with the 2 boys and knew how to get the best from them. In the past 1 1/2 years, she has changed homes, changed countries, changed cultures, changed languages, had 2 major surgeries...need I say more. Just reading it makes me tired. I think that is why I am so happy that we chose to homeschool her- she has so much more time to focus on learning in an informal way.

On the whole- this little family that I have been blessed with is growing and developing. I couldn't ask for more- it is such an interesting journey.

~Camo Pants

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Crazy...? What Do You Mean?

I have neglected this blog long enough...

It is sad to say that I have been homeschooling for over 3 months (we start in October) and am just jumping back onto the band wagon. What can I say? I live a very charmed and busy life. Ughh... makes you want to gag, doesn't it?

The truth is. I have been blogging elsewhere and simply did not keep up. The good news...? I did keep the kids fed and watered through the summer so they are still available as fodder for my blogging obsession. I have decided that I blog simply because I am a talker and being talker does not mesh well with being a homeschool mom. The only people I talk to on a routine basis...? My plants. Okay, I realize that might sound a little crazy but hey- I don't get out much!

The kids are doing fantastic. Really. The boys are tall and strong. They bicker all of the time. Pretty normal stuff I would say. They are currently working through 8th and 7th grade, with a little room for interpretation... When Loren went to the homeschool convention to choose curriculum, he went with his old favorites: Saxon Math, Easy Grammar, etc. Jared on the other hand, decided that he wanted to try everything from a different company. That is so indicative of their personalities. Jared is my fly by the seat of his pants guy- Loren, exactly the opposite. Perhaps that is why I have the number for the local pysch ward on speed dial...

I am amazed at Jared's change in ability from last year though. If you remember, he is severely dyslexic. VERY. I have had to be very creative in my homeschooling techniques and patient. Ahhh, patience. I wish I had been born with that virtue. This year he has really taken responsibility for his schooling. I love to watch him grow in that manner. Speaking of growing...he is growing and growing and growing. We are not certain how tall we are looking at (in the finished product) but wowsers.

Loren is simply a nice guy. He gets up before all of us (me included) and does much of his work independently. He likes the quiet. He is currently the Vice President of his 4-H Horse Club and was elected Club Sportsman. He also serves as Reporter for his other 4-H club. All of this from a certified introvert. I think that socially- he is just fine. He is incredibly able and will require me to step up my A game in order to keep up with him. He is 14 years old and runs three days a week. He works out on the bike and weights the other 3 (one day of rest.) He is quite simply one of my best friends (all 3 of my kids are, actually.)

Jacie is our little princess. Her story can be followed at:
She is now about 89% (lol, I couldn't resist...) fluent. She does not read yet but we are working toward that and alphabet memorization EVERYDAY. She is an excellent writer and loves to copy things. She is starting to read the BOB books but is completing that by memorization instead of actual reading. I am looking to start her on the Dick and Jane books next week. That is what I used for Jared and it seemed to work. He did not read until he was 10 years old either. She does well on conceptualizing math. What an interesting journey we have been on with her. She will have surgery in March for her legs and will probably stop school for the year at that time.

The other day, someone said to me, "I can't believe that you homeschool. I couldn't do it. My kids would drive me crazy."

"Oh, mine do," I replied. I should have gone one step further and told them its the crazy that makes my life (and home) exactly what it should be. I am blessed to be at home with my children. I thank God for the opportunity everyday.

~Camo Pants