Monday, February 28, 2011

School Progress

I suppose I'm overdue for a progress report about how the schoolwork is going. The girls got a little out of sync with their school work during the month or so we were doing half days. The Adrenaline Junkie, being on a half day schedule anyway, continued at the regular pace. The Pillowfight Fairy, being on full days, is now three weeks behind her sister. We would have been finishing up at the end of April if this were a typical year. Since it is not, we will probably be finishing up near the end of May. Although the Junkie will finish first, I plan to continue her studies with a variety of items to keep her busy and learning as well. The plus side to all of this is that they will have less time to forget what they learned before the next school year begins in July.

So, What is the Pillowfight Fairy doing? In her Bible reading, she is starting II Kings. In her spelling, she is being challenged with 4th grade level work, although I consider her 3rd grade by age. She has daily piano practice, and although she complains, she is doing well and making progress. I'm pleased with her progress in grammar, and she is quite good at sentence diagramming. She likes her Latin lessons enough that she has been spontaneously making sentences with what she knows and trying to teach it to the Junkie and the Happy Boy. She is getting the hang of narration and questions for reading comprehension which I have been concerned about in the past. She still has trouble when we read something she has no interest in. She has also developed a dislike for most of the literature I have chosen for her to read. Right now we are reading the Hunchback of Notre Dame (an adaptation for elementary school level) and she doesn't like it much, but she is starting to identify with Esmerelda. I think she is going to be furious when she finds out the ending. It will confirm her suspicion of all things French. We are also studying about the French revolution in history. She was really worked up about how French society, pre-revolution, was soooo unfair. Tomorrow I get to teach her about the reign of terror and how French society, post-revolution, was soooo unfair too. We are doing chemistry in science. Today we did an experiment that created visible layers of liquids of different densities. It was pretty cool. In math she is starting to learn about remainders when dividing and is getting the beginning steps toward long division. She is doing well. She is learning. Every little bit seems to build on what there was before. I feel like I'm starting to see progress in understanding, that previously, I was only trusting would eventually come.

What is the Adrenaline Junkie doing? She is practicing her reading everyday and getting better steadily. Currently we are using the "Phonics Bible" for this since she likes the stories and it gives good reinforcement of phonics rules. She is also practicing reading with the McGuffey Primer. But with the primer, I am having her do copywork exercises to practice writing. She has daily spelling lessons that help her learn simple words and reinforces the reading. Once a week I have her write out ten dictionary words from her spelling book as writing practice, vocabulary building, and composition practice by making up a sentence using one of the words from her lesson. She has daily math lessons and can add and subtract, understands a little about clocks and coins. She has made good progress with getting her two digit numbers correct and rarely miswrites them anymore. She also has piano practice. She has made good progress, too. She struggles more than her sister, but her sister struggled early on as well.

The Happy Boy mostly just want to play. He will play by himself or with whichever sister is taking a break at the time. He loves to be read to. I try to make sure that he gets some book time with Mommy during the day. He is making progress with his potty training which is a little more important to us at the moment. So far my three oldest kids have all potty trained after age four and it gets old after a while.

Little Chunk is usually a content baby. He has fussy times when he gets overtired or goes through a teething bout, but still is amazingly easy-going most of the time. This is very helpful for our school days. I have to work feeding and diaper changes around everything else we do, so it's nice that he isn't too demanding. He is a hungry child most of the time though. It is not unusual for this child to drink a quart of milk a day. He is supposed to have his four-month check-up tomorrow. I hope all of us are well enough for a well-baby visit to the clinic. However, it was not looking promising this evening. I'll have to figure that out in the morning. I would kind of like to know just how much this huge child has grown. At four months old, his 6-9 month clothes are tight. Either he needs to slow down his growing, the weather needs to warm up or I need to go shopping, because I don't have many long-sleeve/long pant clothes for the 9-12 month size. (Boys can wear pink can't they?) I'm also concerned that he will grow too big, weight-wise, for his car seat carrier. We have another car seat for when he does grow out of it, but I don't have another stroller that can handle a baby that can't sit up yet. This is an example of when my plans don't always match up with what reality throws at me.

Our cat, Misha, has improved some since I last posted. She will come out and visit with us in the evening, but she still doesn't move much beyond that.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Dreary Days

Life has been feeling dreary lately. The rain keeps coming and coming. Our backyard is looking a bit like a swamp at the moment. I had to put a plastic tent around our tiny lemon tree today, since our area is expecting a hard freeze either tonight and/or the next night. We harvested all of our oranges yesterday and began giving them away. It's a pity I don't like marmalade. This would be a perfect opportunity to try to make some.

For the last several weeks we have all been drifting in and out of cold symptoms making it hard to tell when we are well and when we are truly sick.

School work has been getting done steadily, though I think we all could use a break. I hate to take one, though since we took extra time off when the baby came. So, three of the four kids were extra drippy with their noses today, I decided we were taking the day off.

For the last week we have had a sick cat too. Quite suddenly, Misha, couldn't walk last Friday. Tim took her to the vet Saturday. After giving her some fluids, she was able to use her legs again. But, when they tested for particular problems that they expected to be the cause, the tests came back negative. So we have a sick kitty, and the vet doesn't know why she's sick. We suspect it is old age having its effect on her. She will be 17 years old in April. We are doing our best to help her as we can. But all she wants to do is lie in her favorite place. Unless it is a simple quick passing illness, we think her health is going downhill fast.

I'm looking forward to spring. My spirits pick up a bit with the sunshine and flowers.

Friday, February 11, 2011


As I mentioned briefly in a previous post, we are going to have the Pillowfight Fairy evaluated to see if she may have Asperger Syndrome. The more we read about it, the more it sounds like our daughter. My mother-in-law loaned us a book titled "The OASIS Guide to Asperger Syndrome." I would highly recommend it for anyone wanting to understand this fairly common disorder.

In leading up to our daughter's evaluation, I got to go to a parent-only screening class. This involved letting one psychologist go over all of the basic information once with a group of parents instead of having every psychologist say the same thing over and over to every parent they see. Then I got to talk to a psychologist about our particular concerns one-on-one. The gist of the conversation resulted in the psychologist agreeing that we may have an Asperger's kid, so an evaluation would be appropriate. We have an appointment scheduled for next month.

Between reading the above-mentioned book and listening to the two psychologists at the clinic, I have had several ideas floating through my mind that I thought might be worth sharing.

  1. The book keeps using the term "neurotypical" in place of the term "normal" to refer to the majority of the population. I love that term. I have had a love-hate relationship with the word "normal." That is probably because I have never quite felt "normal" as it was always depicted to me. But I can understand something being typical without putting a value judgment on it. In reading the book, it helped me see some of the areas where I may not be typical myself. As it describes Asperger's as opposed to typical thought and behavior, I kept seeing how I don't always have typical thought or behavior myself (though not along the Asperger's direction). It makes me wonder how much of what is considered a "disorder" is simply natural variation among people. It also makes me wonder how our society does not adjust well to having people who are different among them, despite all the pride in tolerance.
  2. While the introduction was being given by one psychologist, she spent time explaining what kinds of psychological help is given at their clinic and what stresses kids deal with. She also described how their schedule of appointments flows with the school year. What she did not mention directly was that school is a major stress point in kids lives. She did mention that the appointments drop off when school is not in session. I take that as either the schools or parents are not feeling the need for psychological assistance when school is out.
  3. One thing that I thought was helpful to me is that just because something is normal or typical, doesn't make it good. Her example was that typical behavior for 2 and 3-year-olds is to have tantrums. That behavior is typical, but it is not OK and the child needs help to change that behavior to something better. This resonated with me after reading the above-mentioned book, since some examples of Asperger kids having trouble with others involve things like socially accepted white lies. These would be things like one person asking another if they liked their new hair color (which looked bad) and the friend, lying to reassure her, tells her that she looks great. The person asking the question neither wants nor expects the truth and the person responding understands this and provides the desired lie. In the case of Asperger kids they are trained to recognize such things and respond in a more socially acceptable way than the tactless truth. Personally, I find this sad. I consider the normal behavior depicted here as undesirable mind games that encourage an acceptance of deception both against others and toward one's self. However, to function in our society, we train those who have a natural disinclination for such behavior to imitate it to blend in. Yeah, I have a lot of gripes against the normal or typical way of doing things.
  4. One thing mentioned that I found quite disturbing was that among the stresses that are currently typical for your average 4 and 5 year olds, besides the fact that they are starting school, is that they are frequently going through a divorce in their family. I have my own opinions about how we put kids through school in our society, but this statement about the commonplace situation of kids enduring the divorce of their parents as they start kindergarten just wrenched my gut.
  5. When I was speaking one-on-one to another psychologist, he mentioned that we may have to change our decision about homeschooling or at least accept services through the public school district if that is deemed necessary for our daughter. He stated "that's how we do it (at that clinic) because it's free". Now, I agree that one should always be open to making adjustments as needed to meet the circumstances in which one finds oneself. However, I have found homeschooling to be so beneficial to our kids and to our family that it would take a lot to just switch to public school without weighing other options first. It could be that the services could be provided without full enrollment. It could be that there are other options that would suit our family better. I'd like to find out the full range of options before making a decision about that. Besides, we haven't even had the evaluation yet. Isn't that jumping the gun a bit? Maybe I've read about too many conflicts between public schools and homeschoolers or maybe it's my individualist streak coming out, but the saying that keeps popping up in my mind is "there's no such thing as a free lunch." Too often things that are labeled free have strings attached, hoops to jump through, or a hidden cost.
So, after the evaluation, we will have a better idea of what is going on with our daughter and what kinds of help she might need to get along with people better. In the meantime, I've been enjoying her company and being reminded how much she is like a normal kid too. We have told her a little bit of what this is about. She is looking forward to the evaluation. I think she likes the idea of having a new person to talk to.