Back To School Entryway

Oh, how I love to do a little seasonal decorating!  And today seemed like the perfect day to think about fall...yes the temperature was still in the 90's, but hey, it wasn't over 100!  And it was cloudy and rainy, and the sun hardly showed his face all day.  With the air conditioner on, I just decided to pretend fall was here, and I pulled out a few back-to-school things to decorate the top of my new little dresser in the entryway. 

I picked this little thing up off of somebodies curb.  It was just waiting there for the trash man to do his large pick up rounds.  I shoved it into the back of my car and saved the trash man and the landfill a bit of trouble.
The top is a bit messed up, so I covered it with three bright place mats from a thrift store.  I raided my new home school room for some supplies like chalk and crayons and the small chalkboard.

I am having a small love affair with milk glass right now, so I used thrift store milk glass vases with sunflowers to add some height.
Of course some vintage books HAD to be included.  The red one is "Back to School with Betsy."  Seriously, how cute is that!  I am really enjoying my cute little area as I fantasize about fall.  The hard truth is, we won't have cool weather until late October at the earliest, but a girl can dream, right!
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From Guest Room to School Room

How I wish I could have remembered to take a before picture of this room! It was truly dismal. Dark wood paneling with picture molding made this office into an absolute cave, it was so dark. We have used it as a guest room since we moved into the house, but now we needed a school room. So, we took a chance and pulled down the paneling. Behold! Dry Wall! (I thought there might be just studs under the paneling, and that would be not so good...)  So, a little patching and some paint made a perfect, bright room for learning.
We used furniture that we had, except for the new desks and lamps from Ikea.  They were very frugal, and they are lightweight enough that we can easily move them around if we want to.

I purchased this map at a garage sale for 50 cents.  It is really old and was falling apart on the creases, but I loved the colors, so I took it to the teacher supply store and had it laminated.  It totally worked!  I also got this globe at a garage sale, as well as the little cases.

Of course, we must have a computer in our school room, so we moved it in here from the master bedroom.  I must say, I am happy that it has a new home.  My desk and shelf were things that we already had.  In fact, the shelf was made by Mr. Sahm's grandfather.  We used to have it in the kitchen, but it hasn't had a home since we got a new hutch in its place.  I'm thrilled we could use it in here!  I made these curtains, and I just love the fabric!  I still need to get hooks for the tie backs.

This corner always had bookshelves, but we had to get longer ones once all the paneling was down.  I am thrilled to have a spot to put all our books.  I know that over time, I will need to add more book storage, but this works for now.  We even have a great spot to stash our bean bags.  I got both of them for $5 at another garage sale.  Mr. Sahm got us our little fish tank, which now is home to 5 happy fish.  How do I know they're happy?  They told me.
Miss Mae painted the R-E-A-D for our room.  The wire baskets were also from yet another garage sale, and we had been using them in Miss Mae's closet.  Now they hold our library books as well as the books we are currently reading for school in the top basket.

The white file box holds timeline materials and our geography stuff, and our memory verse is written on the chalk board.

This is our biggest splurge of the whole room...a genuine white board!  Magnetic too!  We use it a LOT.
As expected, we do spill out of this room a little every day.  Sometimes we take books and beanbags to the front entry, and sometimes we read or watch videos in the living room.  I'm sure that when we start doing science experiments, that will happen in the kitchen.  I hope that will happen in the kitchen...  In any case, we love our room.  It is just what I wanted it to be- bright and colorful, but not overwhelmingly bright.  Everyone has a place to do some work and all our supplies are in reach and organized.  What more could I want?

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Fun and Field Trips

In this first week, we have been learning about Archeology, so that we can go on to learn about the earliest people. We did a silly little activity that the kids seemed to like a lot.  I gathered some small stuff from around the house and buried it in a bin of "sand" from the far away time of 2012.  It was really grits, cause that's what I had, but the kids went along with it.

Using small paint brushes they brushed aside the sand to find their "artifacts."  They found amazing things!

They really enjoyed themselves!  Can't you tell!

We also learned about Israel and Judaism, so we went out to lunch to sample some falafel.  Yum!
Miss Mae thought it was delish!  Little Dude on the other hand...

Not so much.

Later that day the kids made up a game to play that I think is the official thing that makes us official homeschoolers...officially!  This video explains it all...
So they made up the game "Artifact."   Too much fun!  Quite ancient, those artifacts from 1972!  (Yikes!)

As Friday rolled around, we wanted to have a field trip to celebrate the first week of school.  I had heard that there was a display of the Dead Sea Scrolls at a nearby seminary.  Oh boy!  It was Awesome!  
First, before it got too hot, we went outside to the 80% scale Qumran dig site- a smaller version of the place where they found the scrolls.  There was a very friendly doctoral student there to tell us all about Archeology and the digs he had been on in Israel.  Miss Mae and Little Dude were able to use tools and brushes to unearth treasures.  Miss Mae found a column.
Little Dude found something a bit more creepy...
They both found bits of pottery that were actually 2000 years old and from Israel, and they were allowed to bring them home!  (Apparently 2000 year old pottery shards are so common there that they can be given away as favors!)

Once we went inside, there was a beautiful exhibit of artifacts from around 300 BC to about 100 AD, and copies of the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as some smaller fragments of the actual scrolls.  It was Ah-maze-ing! 

The kiddos didn't enjoy looking at the scrolls and fragments quite as much as I did, but they enjoyed being archaeologists and trying to put this pot together from its many pieces.
 After this week, I don't think Miss Mae and Little Dude will ever forget what Archeology is, or what archaeologists do.  After all, they'll still be playing Artifact!


First Day of School, Second Day of School

Our first day of homeschool was so greatly anticipated.  I was entertaining visions of my two sweet children listening as I read, playing together, and having time to passionately follow their own interests, independently.  Miss Mae had ideas about lots of computer time and lots of crafting.  Little Dude thought that every day would be a field trip.  How sad.  Dissapointment all around!

Our first day started out just great!  We did our morning chores with such good will, and then we took our traditional first-day-of-school-pictures standing by the front door.  We have been taking these pictures since they went to thier first day of pre-school.
Look at my handsome boy!  I always measure how much they have grown by where the door knob is.  And, this beautiful girl is growing so fast...
Usually, they have first day of school clothes, and first day of school brand new backpacks.  Of course, this year we didn't need any of that, so, here they are...wondering what happened to their backpacks...
From there, it all went downhill.  Math went well, they are both pretty good at that.  But I had forgotten how hard it is for this Little Dude to sit still.  Oh, yeah, ADHD, the reason for homeschooling!  And every little correction brought cries of, "I am so stupid!" or "I can't do anything!"  Rather than listening while I read, they fought over where they would put their beanbag chairs and who touched who.  Writing ANYTHING apparently is far too difficult for Little Dude.  By the end of the day, I was exhausted and seriously wondering why I ever thought I could teach these two.

Thankfully, Mr. Sahm came home from work and sent me to Target.  By myself.  I love Target by myself.  So after a bit of time to re-charge, I came home, and this is what I saw...
Little Dude, dressed up like a cowboy.  He was running around the house, shooting everything and calling his daddy "Pardner" and calling me "Ma'am."  Now, some people might find that seriously annoying, but it was like a balm to my soul.  This is the gift that homeschooling brings.  A little boy, playing like a little boy.  Pretending.  Free from the expectation to be "cool."  Me being there to see it happen.  I'll tell ya, you better watch out for this guy...
Our second day was still difficult, but much better.  We're working the bugs out, and I'm not quitting yet!!

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Homeschool is Starting!

School doesn't start for three more weeks around here, but, since it's too hot to do...  well,...   ...anything, I figured we may as well start our homeschool.  We can take a week off in October when it's safe to go outdoors again.  Aren't we the lucky one's that will be able to play outside in the beautiful golden fall sunshine!?  I am really getting into not having to follow the school's schedule. 

I had Little Dude home with me for the last nine weeks of last school year, but that was just practice.  Now we are starting homeschooling for reals!  I was pretty nervous about choosing a curriculum.  I scoured websites and read forums till my eyes just about popped out of my head.  I didn't want to make a mistake.  When I had reached a fever pitch of anxiety over this choice, my sweet Mr. Sahm reminded me that this was not in my hands alone.  He reminded me that God would guide me in this choice, and he was so right!  So finally, I chose one of the first curriculums I looked at.

Sonlight, of course!  It covers Reading, Language, Science, History, Bible and Geography.  It has a lot of qualities that I think (and hope!) will really work for us.

One really great part is the BOOKS!

I love books, and I love reading, and I love reading out loud, so what could be more perfect than a curriculum that comes with stacks and stacks of books?  Miss Mae and Little Dude are good readers, and really love being read to, so I think it will be pleasant for everyone concerned.

Another thing that I like about it is all the History!
I am so interested in History! I love it, and I always have. I'm kind of excited that now, I get to teach my kids History, instead of some teacher that doesn't know how fascinating it all is!  Saved from boring History!  This year, we are doing Core B&C, which is a quick trip through World History.  We are gonna have so much fun!

Because I am new to homeschooling, and because I know how scattered I can get, the best part of the curriculum may be this...
Lesson plans all laid out for me.  I don't have to spend a bunch of time getting this done.  I can spend my time getting fun activities prepared to go with these lessons.  Or, if I'm scattered, it's already there, ready to go.

For Math, Little Dude will be using Saxon, which was recommended by my sweet friend, math teacher/former homeschool mom, Celia.  Math has always been easy for Miss Mae.  In school, her standardized test scores were consistently very high, but since the gifted program in school is geared towards language skills, she did not qualify.  She is so excited that now she will be using an online math program, Aleks and she can go as fast as she wants, as long as she is mastering the material.  I'm sure she'll be in Algebra by next year...if she can ever memorize her multiplication tables!

Because writing on paper with a pencil is sooo challenging for my ADHD Little Dude, I also will have them both work on typing for a bit each day.  I'm hoping that if his skills are good enough, he will be able to type his writing on the computer and really be able to get his ideas down, rather than struggling with the pencil.  I bought the Jump Start Typing program.  I'll let you know how it works out!

For Music, they will both take piano lessons and sing in the children's choir at Church.  Miss Mae wants to take a musical theatre class too.  (Hope I can afford it!  It looks like so much fun!)

For PE, they will participate in soccer in summer, baseball/softball in fall and spring, and basketball in winter.  We will also have weekly park days with other homeschooling friends, as soon as it is less than 1000 degrees every day.  (No, that is not a typo.  1000 degrees.  This is Texas, y'all!)

Field trips, the library, art projects, and hopefully a bit of volunteer work should round it all out.

Well, I am new to this.  I don't know if I have gaping holes to be filled, or if I've bitten off more than I can chew.  Whaddaya think?  I think it sounds fun, and I think my kiddos will have fun.  They are so excited to get started!  Here we go! Not Back to School Blog Hop


Little Dude's Diagnosis

Before I had kids, I had a vision of what mothering would be...

Needless to say, it did not turn out as expected!

I did not expect, because I could not imagine, the deep love and the overwhelming joy that I would experience through my children.  The beautiful smell that lingered at the back of my son's sweet little baby neck.  The connection of a mother with her daughter as she brushes her hair.  The utter happiness when one of my kids takes my hand to walk through a parking lot, even though they are big enough to walk alone.  Truly so much more beauty than I ever thought.

Okay. I also NEVER thought it would be this hard!  From sleepless nights with a newborn, to terrible two's, to sibling rivalry-  I didn't know it would be so challenging.  Before I had kids, I thought I would homeschool for sure. When I was actually to the point of Miss Mae beginning pre-school at age 3, I was happy to have a break for a few hours one day a week.  I was really happy when they were both in school five days a week.

Little Dude was always more hands-on and more needy and more challenging, and as he got older, the problem just got worse.  I was frustrated and his pre-school teachers were frustrated, and then his kindergarten teacher was frustrated.  At some point I knew that his struggles with his behavior were more than most of his schoolmates.  Mr. Sahm did not think so and was pretty set against any kind of testing.  Little Dude did see a play therapist for a while- not much help there.

This year, in first grade, we started the year out great!  After Little Dudes tonsils and adenoids were removed, there was a tremendous change in his behavior.  We thought that perhaps he had sleep apnea or just being sick all the time had triggered the behavior.  It lasted 6 weeks, and then a little bit at a time, the impulsiveness and the defiance and the frustration started creeping back.  We were managing things reasonably well, with a lot of communication with his very caring teacher and as much positive energy that we could muster. 

Then my mom got sick.  I flew off to California, and my sweet kiddos did not know exactly when mom was going to come back.  Little Dude cried at school and said he couldn't remember what I looked like.  The doctors kept saying my mom would get better, and I would make plans to go home.  But she didn't get better.  As much as I knew my Little Dude (and Miss Mae) needed me, how could I leave my mom to die alone? 

When I did return home, Little Dude's behavior went from bad to worse. In December, we found a new therapist.   In January, he spent a whole week in the principal's office and was not allowed to go on a field trip with his classmates.  Everything was going crazy.  We agreed to allow the school to do testing, since getting testing anywhere else takes 6+ months of waiting and we were in crisis mode.  So, the school began their testing, which also took some time, but was at least moving towards figuring out what was wrong.

By March, There were not so many trips to the principal's office, but Little Dude was so down on himself.  Many times, he would talk about how "bad" and "stupid" he was and how anybody that had been to the principal's office seven times was bad for sure.  Sometimes it was an excuse for further bad behavior.  The school had an unofficial behavior plan for Little Dude, which mostly involved a lot of trips to other rooms or offices.  The plan didn't seem to work, and Little Dude was feeling so discouraged, so with a bit of encouragement from his therapist, I dis-enrolled him and started homeschooling.

Yikes!  Homeschooling!  I figured I would keep him home until the school completed their testing and had a better plan in place.

Homeschooling was way more fun and just as frustrating as I thought.  The first thing that I noticed was his complete inability to focus on his schoolwork much of the time.  And some part of his body was always moving!  And the boy could not spell, even though his reading was great.  And working independently was just NOT going to happen.  I had to sit next to him at every moment of academic work.  At that point I figured I had a pretty good idea that the diagnosis would be ADHD.

Last week, the testing was done and sure, enough ADHD, combined type, was the conclusion.  They also felt he had Oppositional Defiance Disorder, but he is too young to be diagnosed officially.  Their plan to help him when he came back to school was...
  1. Officially making him a "Special Ed" student
  2. A one on one aide with him in a general ed classroom
  3. Removing him to an empty special ed classroom when his behavior becomes disruptive.
  4. Support for his teacher by way of getting methods to encourage compliance.
As I sat in the meeting, I thought that this plan was really no different than what they had already been doing, except for the special ed label and the one on one aide (further proof, in his mind,  that he was bad and stupid.)  I knew Little Dude would see through this immediately and would know and not understand why he was going to a special ed room.

Let me be clear- this is a great school, and I do not attribute any malicious motives to anyone there.  They are doing their best.  Thing is, it wasn't going to work, and I knew that returning Little Dude to school would mean he would scrape by and be the bad kid and never do work that truly reflected his ability.  Little Dude is a square peg and school is a round hole.  Just not a good fit.  He would end up being one of those kids that fell through the cracks. 

So, I decided.  I am going to continue homeschooling my boy, probably for years to come.  Miss Mae has always wished she could be homeschooled, so she will finish this year and then join us.  We will be a homeschooling family, just not exactly how I pictured it back in the days before kids. Weekend Bloggy Reading


The Art-Over

What do you do when this awesome, sweet, funny, independent, creative girl has a birthday?
Well, you invite six of her closest friends over for an art extravaganza sleepover, aka: an Art-Over.

We found some really cute American Girl party goods at Michael's. They had paint brushes and hearts and flowers on them and phrases like "Create" & "I Love Art," so we thought they were perfect and so cute.

There was a coordinating scrapbook paper pack that was kinda spendy, but with a 50% off coupon, we figured it was worth it. We used pieces of paper to make a runner on the dinner table and the cake table, as well as crafting a banner for the hallway.

We made a Happy Birthday banner to go over the cake table...

...and gussied up these paper fans to hang in the window.

Miss Mae requested home made cupcakes for her party- so we frosted each one a different color and Mr. Sahm cut out a paint palette from foam core from the Dollar Tree. I think it turned out great!

We set the cupcakes on the buffet under the Happy Birthday banner.

I cut out this number 9 from the foam core and painted it- it's a little rough, but being surrounded by marshmallows made it just fine! A cupcake seemed like just the thing to secure all those skewers.

Mr. Sahm, the awesome printer man, made posters of paintings by women artists to hang on the walls (His idea! He is seriously the best dad ever!)

We gathered all our supplies, which were many! Miss Mae had some definite ideas for what she wanted to do for her activities. The supplies were so cute, I used them to decorate this shelf in the kitchen. It was nice to have it all laid out and ready to go in one place.

First, as an experience in textile art, we tie dyed t-shirts. What a mess, but so worth it! All the girls were so excited to have their shirts, and everyone wore them to school on Monday. Then we painted on real canvases with acrylic paint.

Each girl had her own paint palette and the freedom to paint whatever they chose.

This sweet girl made a self-portrait. How cute is that!

Of course, pizza was neccessary after all that creative energy was spent!

We did a little freeze dancing and ate cupcakes and watched a movie and at 11:30, I begged them to go to sleep, which, eventually, they did.

In the morning after breakfast, we did a large cooperative art installation on the driveway with chalk and packed up to go home. Each girl took home her t-shirt, her painting, and this little bucket of goodies, including crayon hair bands and crayon buble gum, as well as an initial necklace from the dollar bins at Michaels.

They had a great time and Miss Mae's birthday was thoroughly celebrated. Everytime these girls all get together, I am struck by what a blessing these sweet friends are.

Happy Birthday, Miss Mae!