Saturday, March 18, 2017

taking a break from social media

I've not posted here in a while, but that is because many things have changed.  First, we are no longer homeschooling all our children.  Only our oldest continues to learn at home because of her learning difficulties, and we are NOT using a virtual academy.  She is doing 8th grade this year, and will be doing a second year of 8th grade in the fall.  We are about a year from pre-algebra and still working on basic English concepts to prepare for high school level material, so she is not ready for the status of high school officially at this point.  That may change at some point during next school year while we do that second year of 8th grade, but she's completely good with the decision to not proceed into high school at this point.  Second change, we had a seventh child in December 2015.  Turned out he has Down Syndrome.  If you follow me on social media, you have seen me post about Billy and his progress.  We have been very blessed with him even if he wasn't even close to planned, and his DS was missed at further testing after initial screening came back with elevated odds of it.  He is our delight and joy, and our little boy.  That is all that matters.  Now on to the point of this post.

I've gotten deeply involved in social media the last few years, and have found that it has taken quite a toll on me in many ways.  I've been spending less time doing the things I love, and I've met a lot of amazing people.  However, I've also been immersed in a lot of information at the same time.  You get conflicting reports on everything, from politics to parenting to even whether the Earth is round, flat, or a dome.  If you want to know about essential oils, you can get a million views on social media and lots of memes and links to articles supporting every view.  If you are looking for supplements and diet ideas, look no further than social media.  There are even groups dedicated to any topic you can imagine.  It can really suck the life from a person if they allow it.

I have allowed that to happen, at the expense of my family and my sanity.

Politically, this has been quite possibly the most controversial election in US history.  I've let my emotions and my family be affected by things that are happening.  I've watched as the nation has chosen leadership that is destroying the middle class and trampling on the lower class, all while claiming they are going to make America great again.  I've had to sit and read about legislation that is going to strip health insurance from part of my family, possibly cut WIC benefits that we receive, and cause only goodness knows what other damage will come from it.  I've watched people singing the praises of our leaders as they move to slowly dismantle the department of education and wonder myself how it will change the education my special education students get at school.  Will I have health insurance in a year to cover my medications that total about $300 a month without the Medicaid that we get from the ACA expansion?  Will Billy be able to get the therapies he has and will need in the future, and be able to continue to see his doctors?  Will Nathaniel and Preston get the speech and sensory support services they need at school as written in their IEPs?  Will Lydia be able to continue with her counseling and all her allergy medications that she needs to function safely?  The questions continue, and the fear builds every time I log on social media and see new articles ans posts from my friends about things.  Then I read and research these things, and the fear continues to grow as conflicting information emerges and there is no clear answer to what is going to happen.  I bottle that fear up as long as I can, and then it lets loose and takes over for a while.

That takeover happened again today.  I'm angry and disgusted at the current administration and new legislation that is being pushed through, and angry because people are supporting it and singing the praises of the administration.  I'm watching my family slowly be destroyed a little at a time, and there is nothing I can do about it.  If all these things happen as legislated, over the next couple years I don't know what is to happen to my family as we slowly lose every safeguard and buffer we have.  We depend on that assistance we get while Scott works full time and is in college full time.  He has 2 more semesters of classes after this one to get his 2 year degree, and is currently looking at 4 year colleges to transfer to.  He will be the only one of his siblings to have a college degree (I think, he is the youngest of 10 and I have trouble keeping track of them all sometimes) and he's worked so hard for so long to try and put us into a better place.  He even changed jobs to better support us, working third shift on an odd schedule that fits with therapy schedules and doctor appointments and all that I have to do daily.  He is slowly breaking his body down to nothing at this new job because it better fits the needs of our family's schedule at this point.  It pays less than his old job, but we are making it work.  There are so many unknowns about the future, especially when we add Billy to things.  I don't know whether to laugh, scream, cry, be happy, be angry, or just say heck with it all and just give up.

Social media has brought an ugly future to my home, one that I would be happily oblivious to if I wasn't on these sites.  I didn't regularly watch the news or read news sources until I got into Facebook.  Then I started watching and following things more and more.  I've seen the good, the bad, and the ridiculous all over.  I can't keep living with that.  I already am on two anxiety medications just to function without the added stress of seeing the things that I read and research thanks to social media.  I need to step away from it all, and I'm doing just that.

I have deleted all social media apps on my phone.  Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, all gone.  Facebook messenger is gone as well.  I haven't decided yet if I'm going to be deactivating my accounts, but we will see.  My heart and soul are hurting so much at the things I see and the path that things are going down.  Knowing how powerless I am to stop it, it angers me.  I need to step away.  This isn't because I've hurt others with my words, because I don't really care if I hurt people.  If the shoe fits when I say something, then maybe you need to step back and evaluate things and decide for yourself.  If you are hurt by my statements on something, you need to look at why it hurt you and if you need to fix something.  However, if there is nothing to fix then you can be assured that my words are most likely not directed at you.

Now, I need to get back to what used to motivate me and fuel my life.  My family.  I need to return my focus on them first and foremost.  If I do keep my Facebook account open, it will be purely to post updates on Billy's page.  I have not decided on that yet, and quite honestly if I do close my account I can still get on Scott's account to update Billy's page since he is also an admin on it.

Consider this my farewell to social media, outside of blogging here once in a while.  I may pick this blog up again and post once in a while, especially as I build my portfolio as a writer.  I may abandon things completely and just focus on my home and family.  I have enough therapies and doctor appointments and outside commitments (such as Lydia in 4H band this year) to keep me busy enough anyway.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

so I don't lose this recipe yet again lol

I am constantly losing my favorite recipes.  I print them out and put in a folder in the kitchen, and every time a kid gets hold of the folder and a few disappear.  So, I don't want to lose this egg-free, dairy-free muffin recipe again.  It was given to me by a lovely homeschool mom I know, and is one of our favorite breakfast things because it is easy and fast to make.

Updated Basic No-Egg Muffins – makes 24
•4 c. flour or a mix of flour, cornmeal, oatmeal. We use whole wheat flour with a handful of whatever other flours/grains sound yummy that day.

•½ tsp salt
•½ tsp cinnamon
•1 ½ c. sugar
•2 T. baking powder
•1 3/4 c. water
•½ c. oil
•1 cup mashed fruit
•1 tsp vanilla or other flavoring (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F. and spray your muffin pan with nonstick spray. In a bowl stir together all dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and stir well. Spoon batter into 24 muffin cups – 1/2 to 3/4 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until cooked through. Remember, ovens vary and the type of pan you use matters. I find that metal pans cook quicker than silicone. Adjust your time to fit your oven!

Variations We Enjoy:

We like to add 1 c. chocolate chips to the batter for just about any flavor. For the fruit we use any of the following with appropriate spices we enjoy:
•1 can of pumpkin with extra cinnamon
•1 cup mashed sweet potatoes a lot like pumpkin and gets a veggie in!
•1 cup mashed banana with Maple flavoring
•1 cup unsweetened applesauce
•1 cup frozen blueberries, slightly thawed and drained.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

New curriculum

Earlier I shared that Jordan is repeating second grade with a switch in curriculum.  Yesterday her new curriculum arrived.

As you can tell, I don't have it too organized yet beyond just separating her student textbooks and workbooks from the rest of it.  However, I have had a chance to look through the materials a bit and begin to get familiar with the layout.

I like it.  A lot.

When we enrolled with QDA, they suggested we use Calvert from the start with Lydia, Kim, and Jo.  I chose their other options though, thinking a little more independence would be a good thing for all of us.  That had Lydia and Kim doing their online curriculum, OdysseyWare, and Jo doing Little Lincoln.  Lydia has pretty decent grades in OdysseyWare and isn't doing too bad with it, despite the fact that she isn't a fan.  The other girls are a different story, however.

Kim is almost finished with the third grade curriculum, she just has a little language arts left to finish for the school year.  She rushes through the work and doesn't like my reminders to read the material, and her grades reflect that.  She is going to barely pass 3rd grade as a result.  The format of the online classes annoy her, and she's too young to be annoyed by curriculum and forced to do it anyway.  She needs something more interactive, and more interaction with me directly.

Jo just flat out wasn't ready for second grade curriculum, and I had a LOT of issues with her maturity matching up with her academic abilities.  Add in a curriculum that wasn't dependable about sending materials in a timely manner and all the materials at a time, and you have a disaster just waiting to happen.  Now that I know what I know about the shipping practices of Lincoln Interactive, they will never be used by my family.  Each quarter, I had to request materials at least once after the initial shipment.  Second quarter I had to request the teacher book and student workbooks, then once I got those I had to request a couple literature books and the cursive student book.  Yes, that was three separate shipments for just a single quarter (nine weeks) of lessons.  It took us close to 3 weeks to get all her materials, which didn't make things any easier with the maturity struggles we were already having.

So, both girls are switched and I'm still debating if I want to switch Lydia as well once she finishes her fifth grade curriculum.

Calvert sent everything for the year in one big box, and I didn't have to worry about it.  I just grabbed a pen and marked items off the packing list for each of the three smaller boxes within the big box.  It took me 10 minutes to unpack and check off everything I needed for the year with Jordan.

Within it, there is a lovely folder that says "READ ME FIRST" with information on where to start with it all.  Step one was to unpack and check the packing lists as I go.  In that folder was also a page with a list of basic school supplies I'll need for the school year, which will come in very handy when I go August 7th during "tax free day" to buy school supplies.  It actually has a list for each individual grade on it, so I'm going to use one list to cover all the kids who will be doing Calvert this school year to make shopping that much easier for me.

The guides are very well laid out, which is important for a busy mom with a bunch of kids.  I can see doing multiple levels on a daily basis going very well with how it is laid out.  There is even a suggested daily schedule with times and everything in the front of the book, which I may or may not use.  But having that visual really helped me to know how to expect the days to look since I do have several years of experience with doing this schooling at home thing.

The lessons to start are going to be pretty easy though, which will work to our benefit right now since Jordan's arm is still healing and hurting a lot.  I feel really positive about this switch in curriculum, and am sure that just restarting second grade with her was the right choice.

I wish I had just gone with the Calvert option for the girls from the start.  Live and learn, at least now we know a little more about what the kids need in a virtual academy program.  Now we just have to get the school year finished up for Kim so we can order her new materials, and I have to decide what we're doing about Lydia since she's doing pretty well but passionately hating the online curriculum.  I think that will be our next discussion with the school when she's closer to finished with the current grade.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Summer break stinks

I gotta say, summer vacation 2015 is not going so well for us here.  I mean, look at what all we had happen since we finished the "official" school year at the end of May.

Scott's car threw a rod in the engine
we replaced Scott's car and took on a payment that we didn't plan
Scott's hours at work got cut 3 times in 2 weeks right after we took on that car payment
our main computer quit working after someone spilled something that leaked into the tower
we replaced that computer
our kids' medical insurance got cancelled due to a computer glitch that took me a month to fix
I'm pregnant unexpectedly
my medical insurance got cancelled by that same computer glitch and after 6 weeks I'm still trying to get it fixed
Jordan found out she's repeating 2nd grade
Kim fell out of a tree and ended up with several bruised ribs and a concussion
Jordan went flying off a swing backwards and broke her arm just below the shoulder
our sweet puppy has a knee condition that will eventually require surgery

I'm ready for this summer to end now.  But first, here's Jordan showing off her newest fashion accessory with a huge grin because she knew she was going to get ice cream and she didn't have to share with anyone.  She sees the orthopedic surgeon tomorrow afternoon so we can get a better idea of what to expect with healing it and find out if it needs surgically repaired because of the location (hopefully not!)

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Well that answered my "now what do I do?" question

Today is Wednesday, which means that Lydia has math tutoring.  This is one of my favorite parts of the cyber school.  I don't have to pay for the extra help she (or any of her siblings) needs in math.  She has really come a long way with the tutoring, and is regaining confidence in her skills after a really bad time with the math curriculum our local public school used when she was in 4th grade.

Today also meant that I spoke to QDA about a couple things.  We've been discussing switching the kids' curriculum from the online options to Calvert (for all but Melissa, she isn't eligible to do offline curriculum because of her IEP) and I sent the e-mail to our supervising teacher on Monday about doing that with Kim along with an issue I was noticing in a big way with Jordan.  Kim's all set to start 4th grade with the Calvert curriculum this fall, which makes her very happy.  Jordan, well let me dig into that now.

Jordan has a September birthday, and Ohio states that the cutoff date for school is September 30th.  That makes her the youngest in her class/grade each year.  She's always done pretty well with her schoolwork, but we've struggled sometimes with lessons that take longer than she is capable of sitting and focusing for.  We chose Little Lincoln 2nd grade when we enrolled her in QDA after they did placement testing to see where her skills were at.  They felt she'd be ok with 2nd grade this past school year based on her scores, but I was concerned about her maturity.  The maturity issues started about 5-6 weeks into the curriculum, and only got worse from there.  She started slowing down and struggling more each day, until we reached the 2nd nine weeks when the curriculum started cursive.  At that point, she screeched to a halt and it was taking us 4-6 weeks just to finish 1 week of assignments.  Her maturity had completely caught up with us at that point.

Academically, she absolutely is ready for more difficult work.  Emotionally, she's very much not at that place.  So, we discussed the issue at hand.  This has been something I've been in close contact with the school about, as we tried to find ways to keep her engaged and moving forward in her lessons with the hope of finishing within the 12 months.  We've watched her struggle with her inability to really sit still and complete longer assignments that are more complex, tiring with writing more each week.  She simply just wasn't ready for the level of work.

We made the decision together that she will repeat second grade this fall.  They also determined that we need to switch her curriculum (which I agree completely with this).  She no longer is using Little Lincoln as of right now, that order has been cancelled. They are now processing an order for Calvert second grade materials, and as soon as we get her materials and I've become familiar with it she will begin.

So far, she seems totally fine with the fact that she's repeating second grade.  Scott had to repeat third grade when he was in school, and she knows this.  He will be able to give her the encouragement that she needs to keep going instead of getting mad and giving up because she feels defeated.  He'll be able to help me combat any thoughts that she must be dumb for having to repeat a grade.  Scott is going to take her out for an ice cream cone this weekend to talk to her alone and make sure she's doing ok with this information.

So, looks like I get to spend time getting familiar with a new curriculum very soon.  That will eat up a good amount of my free time.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Summer prep

It's summer!  No more formal schoolwork until August, no outside activities really, no stress.  Right?  RIGHT?????

Yeah, right.

We had a lot of stuff happen, mostly just normal family stuff.  Lydia wanted to learn to play the clarinet, so for her birthday in May we got her a clarinet and signed her up for weekly private lessons.  She's doing really well, and enjoys playing.  Lucky for her, I also enjoy listening to her play so she can pretty much practice all she wants in her free time.

Other than that, the girls are finishing up their curriculum for the school year with the virtual academy.  Since we did a mid-year enrollment, they are working some through the summer in hopes of finishing up close to the start of the school year.  Kim is totally finished with two subjects, and should be finishing up with the other 2 subjects over this next couple weeks.  The other girls, well they are less enthusiastic about working during the summer so they will be finishing up after the school year starts most likely.

Friday I went to the used curriculum sale to look for a couple things.  Not for the girls, since they are in the cyber school.  I was looking for some simple things to do with Preston this fall for preschool.  He has been bugging me so much for his own schoolwork lately.  It felt odd though, being there and seeing all these great materials I want for the girls that I just KNOW would be great for them.  I finally, after several years of trying unsuccessfully, got my hands on a print copy of the Tapestry Of Grace curriculum to actually look at it.  I'm in love, and so wish I was able to buy it at the sale Friday.  It was exactly what I was hoping it would be, and a perfect fit for our needs as our family grows and the kids get older.  I also got to see Teaching Textbooks in action, not just the online demo at their site.  I had a feeling it would be a good choice for a couple of the girls just from what I did know beforehand, and seeing it Friday and getting to really get in there with it for a couple minutes confirmed that thought.  Yes, it was a good night for exploring curriculum.  I also snagged a couple of things that I did need, like a copy of Writers Inc. for FREE and a $2 copy of Before Five In A Row for Preston.

But with the curriculum sale came this odd feeling I'd not experienced before.  I realized that I really don't have any planning to do other than putting together a few fun little things for Preston to do each week this school year.  I'm so used to sitting at the computer during the summer, printing off lesson plan forms and putting together my lesson plan binder for the year with the 4 girls and all the curriculum that entails.  I've spent countless hours searching for great deals on new and gently used materials for our family, scouring the internet for free resources, looking through thrift and discount stores for things I can use, and even talking to a few people I know to borrow this or that item so that I can stay in budget.  I spend almost as many hours during the summers putting all those resources together into a comprehensive lesson plan for me to use, mainly just topic overviews and lists of things I want to cover and activities to do in the order I anticipate so that weekly I just throw an actual lesson plan together, and then creating my notification letter to submit to our district.  I spend several hours in summer administering standardized testing to the girls for our reporting portion of the notification I submit annually.

None of that stuff is happening this year.

The girls are in a virtual academy.  The school provides the curriculum, does all the planning and scheduling, and tells me where and when the kids need to be for standardized testing.  I've saved probably a hundred hours or more not having to do any of that stuff this summer.

So now what do I do?

I feel useless now, like this huge let-down has occurred.  Every school year I look forward to the summer planning.  I love doing it; the planning is my absolute favorite part of this journey of teaching my children at home.  That is gone now.  All I can do now is try not to over-plan preschool for a three-year-old boy who has determined that his favorite toy is in his underpants.  It is mildly depressing, to be honest.

My summer no longer has much meaning.

Monday, May 04, 2015

knocking the dust off the blog

Life has been pretty busy here, so I've just let things go here for a while.  Sorry!

Last time I posted was in October.  Lots of things happened then, and now we have some updates on a few of those things.  Lydia's broken foot has healed up nicely, but she will always have issues with it because it IS an extra bone that was broken.  We were able to replace Nathaniel's infant seat with a Cosco APT40 a week after the crash, and then when we got our tax refund we purchased a Graco Defender for both boys to share in Scott's car.  No more moving car seats around! YAY!

As for enrollment in Quaker Digital Academy.  Yes, we did it.  Melissa started school with them in December, and her sisters all in November.  It took Melissa longer to enroll because we had to transfer an IEP for her.  We had initially chosen the online curriculum options for them all (Odysseyware for the 3 oldest and Little Lincoln for Jordan) and it is going well.  We have discovered that we don't care for the online curriculum, so the non-IEP kids will be switching to the Calvert option as soon as they finish their current grade materials.  I won't be able to switch Melissa because school policy requires online curriculum for IEP students so they can keep closer tabs on them.  She's doing well with it though, so it won't be much of an issue.

Today we actually finished up the last day of standardized testing for QDA in fact, which is about the only real issue I have with the school.  They did PARCC testing, and Kim had to do the 3rd grade reading OAA as well because of the 3rd grade reading guarantee.  The only test that actually matters on moving to the next grade is the reading OAA, Kim has to pass it to go to 4th grade.  Thankfully, the PARCC testing and the diagnostics that the girls did don't count this year thanks to a law that twit Governor Kasich passed.  One of the few really good things he's done. (ok enough political talk, this blog is not for political talk)

Other things.....

Nathaniel is a year old as of yesterday.  Lydia got a clarinet over the weekend, and this Saturday is her first private lesson.  My old flute is in the repair shop to be fixed up for Melissa to play, once it is back I'll be doing her lessons myself again.  In February we got a Yorkie puppy and named him Spike.  I spent a day in the ER back in January hooked to heart monitors, and after over $4000 of testing (yes that is after insurance OUCH!) we have determined that I have COPD.  Yup, lots of things have happened here.  I'll have pictures later, as we are getting ready to go get lunch to celebrate the end of testing.