Sunday, September 25, 2011

Please come check out my new blog

Yes, I need another blog like I need a hole in the head, but alas, here I am.

I decided I needed to write an blog independent of this one that is focused on this year of schooling Iris and Eloise. In my admittedly limited research there is a lack of information online about what it is like to school children in the same family in completely different ways.

I also think there is a severe bias in the homeschool community that believes that kids who aren't homeschooled are somehow missing out on something. Interestingly, there also is a fairly prevalent belief in the public schooling community that homeschooled kids are also missing out. What *I* believe is that there is no one way to educate children that is the right solution for all of them, even children who live in the same family.

I just posted my very first post on my new blog this evening, but I am hoping to go back and start catching up on some background info about how we got to where we are and also talk a little bit more about how our year is starting out and where it looks like it is going. I hope to include personal stories as well as report on information that I come across on the internet about public schooling, homeschooling and maybe a few things in between.

Follow along, won't you?

The Schooling Bridge.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Shifting frustrations

Thank you so much everyone for the creative suggestions on my last post! I really appreciate it greatly. It's so hard for me to think outside of the box when I am buried deep within said box at the time. Today I did all of our math using coins and Iris was really interested in it, at least for a bit longer than she usually is. I also gave her lots of paper for problem solving on and doodling on. I realized that no matter how exciting I make it, there is still a time limit on an attention span (including mine!).

Yesterday Iris's Waldorf teacher (two days per week) was telling me how fidgety Iris is in class, as well. I have never received this feedback from her Kindy/1st grade teacher so I am curious if Iris wasn't so fidgety or if Iris was given more freedom to roam during lessons (highly possible) or if she just didn't act that way before. I definitely want to do a mix of meeting her where she is at as well as helping her to try and sit and focus on some things.

Although I didn't do home school with Iris at home yesterday (she was at her Waldorf school) it was a very exhausting day centered around Iris. Matt and I met with what is now the fifth mental health professional (and that is not counting MD or NDs, that would bring the total to several more) we've reached out to for help with Iris. We liked the person we saw today, and she came highly recommended, but she told us flat out she wasn't the right therapist for us/Iris. She referred us on, yet again. She respected our decision to not jump to medications for Iris quite yet, but did say it will probably be a long, intense road of working on things to start seeing some changes. Yay. She also gave us lots of kudos for what we have done already and how hard we have worked, which feels nice to hear, but also frustrating ("you've worked so hard! but nothing has changed!")

Among many other helpful tidbits, she also pointed out some interesting things about what could perhaps be seen as "flaws" in our logic to not medicate Iris based on fear of what the long-lasting effects could be on Iris's brain development. She said what Iris is going through on a daily basis is deeply affecting her, and affecting her development as a human being (paraphrasing here), and not in a good way. So we can leave her be, and let her brain and body continue to freak out (while we seek other treatment) or we try a medication that can put a stop to all of that. I won't lie, hearing it laid out that way made Matt and I seriously reconsider our choice.

After that meeting I met with Iris's Waldorf teacher, a woman who I am growing to really respect and enjoy having as a large part in our family's life. But, as you can imagine, the conversation quickly turned to Iris and her issues, as it always does. And not necessarily because of the other party steering the conversation there. I am certainly guilty of jumping to the "bad stuff" and hashing it all out. My conversations always sort of gloss over the amazing things, which I hate, and is totally my own issue.

I have to say, though, after days like yesterday especially, I am tired of talking about Iris's issues with other people. I am tired of explaining it, tired of just dealing with it at all. Today we are having a quiet day at home, just the two of us. I know I can't keep her holed up at home forever, but some days I really am glad I can, to take the pressure off.

I am starting to do our paperwork to enroll in the online public school and am wondering if using them might be more trouble than it's worth. I'm already annoyed with the process of the whole thing and I am only on the second stage of enrolling. I guess right now I just have little tolerance for needing help from anyone and therefor needing to jump through their hoops.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fixing frustration

I knew that I was going to have some battles to fight when it came to homeschooling Iris, but so far they haven't presented themselves in the way I thought they would. I assumed we would have the usual screaming "I hate you! You're stupid!" and outright refusal to work. So far, the only time I had that was on the very first day when I asked Iris to get a pencil. That day I was sure I had completely set us both up for failure, but we carried on just fine.

What I have begun to notice with Iris, however, is not a refusal to work, but if she can't answer a question immediately, usually with math so far, she fidgets, scribbles, slides off her chair, writes the numbers all big and crazy, breaks the lead on her pencil, gets up to sharpen it, you get the idea. Any little thing to procrastinate the task at hand and also, apparently, get her anxious energy out.

Pretty much every day I have had to send Iris to her room (and not in a "go to your room!" sort of a way, more of a "why don't you go take a break and we'll resume math in 10 minutes" sort of way). It works in that she comes back about 50% calmer and we can at least finish things.

The other thing that has been coming up is how tired she is. It's true, Iris gets much less sleep than kids her age are "supposed to" have. We have battled it for years and now she has a later bedtime, since an earlier bedtime just left her cranky and awake in bed. Now she's awake and happy in the living room. It wasn't until homeschooling that she ever complained of being tired. Now, I have a lovely schedule and it may appear I am attempting a lot, but it's much less than she ever did at her private school. And there she never complained to me of being tired. So I can't tell if the tiredness is a way to try and eek out of the work, or if she really is tired. I will probably try to push up her bedtime a bit and see if it helps her fall asleep earlier.

I don't really know how to combat the ADD-like tendencies she is showing over this work, though. I wish I was a super creative homeschooling mama who could find a bunch of different exciting ways to teach math, but I just am not. We work through the workbook together and so far that is about it. The concepts aren't even that difficult, she just doesn't want to do it. I could probably be asking her to add two plus two (and honestly, today we basically are, as we're adding two digit numbers to two digit numbers by adding the tens and ones up separately).

I'll keep brainstorming. And waiting for CVA to finally call me to finish our enrollment. I am so anxious! I can't help but feel a very outlines curriculum would at least help ME immensely right now.

Friday, September 16, 2011

First full week of school

We have had an overall fantastic first full week of school, both on the public-schooled Kindergartner's end AND the home-schooled second grader's end. Oh, and on my end, too!

I'll start with Eloise.

Have I gushed enough on here about how much I love Eloise's teacher? Probably not. She is fantastic. I put my name in the hat to be "clan leader" which is the school's term for room parent. We'll see if I get picked! I think it would be really fun and get me as involved in the class as I would like to be.

Eloise has been working hard on her behavior in class. Some of the same stuff that came up in preschool, of course. Using her body to send a message instead of her words. But she is getting there.

One night Eloise told me about a girl she was having a hard time with. Apparently the girl called E names and also "told the teacher" on E. Well, of course, I get out of E that she had said something rude about the other girls hair (or rather, it was said, and taken, rudely, though it didn't sound like it was intended to be rude, but whatever) which, of course, brought on some retaliation. The next day E and this girl were good buddies. Ah, to have the ability to hold no hard feelings whatsoever!

Iris has had a decent start to homeschooling. Monday was a mostly at-home day. We followed my schedule pretty well, except that it took Iris about 3 times longer to do the math assignment than I had scheduled for. No biggie, we just scooted a few other things around. We decided to study gems and crystals and are going to try our hand at making a lapbook for each topic. On Wednesday I didn't sit with Iris at the table quite as much and it definitely caused Iris to completely lose her attention for the work she was supposed to be doing. Good lesson for me, I need to be very hands on. I also realized that I really don't need schedule reading/writing time because those are two things Iris does a great deal of on her own. It was almost like pulling teeth getting her to write and read on a schedule, which is not something I need to fight with her over.

Tuesday and Thursday Iris went to a homeschool program for a few hours. She reported that her lesson was "drawing curved and straight lines". I will have to ask the teacher about this. I know it's a whole different approach to learning, but, ah, curved and straight lines? Why? Iris did very much enjoy the classes, however, so I am quite happy about that.

Today I brought Iris to the community center so she could take an art class and a fashion design class. She loved both. And I loved getting to swim laps while she was in class!

The other thing I did this week is discover the Columbia Virtual Academy and enroll Iris. I haven't gotten past that point, though, as someone has to call me now to set everything up. CVA is an online public school in WA state and is therefor tuition-free. There was a lot about CVA that attracted me, the largest being that I don't have to really think as much about our curriculum this year. I think it might also help me keep Iris on track to slip back in to a traditional school for third grade without too many gaps in knowledge. I have read good things about CVA and it sounds perfect for what I am trying to do with Iris, but I am not going to get too excited about it until I hear from an enrollment advisor and see what it will actually end up being. Apparently you can even enroll part-time and do other homeschooling things at the same time, so that is perfect.

I was surprised to not run in to too many issues with Iris this week. She did throw a huge fit over her math work on Monday, it was a pretty tough lesson (the rest so far have been just fine). I had her take a break in her room and come back to the table when she was ready. That seemed to work out well. I also am trying to get her to slooooow down, be more thoughtful in her answers instead of just writing the first thing that comes to mind. She is also writing a lot of her numbers backwards, which is a little frustrating. I am trying to get her to correct the mistakes but I don't want to kill the whole lesson by harping over the way the numbers are written. We will keep working on it.

No pictures to share, our main laptop has a failed hard drive (and yes, it's pretty much all backed up! woo hoo!) so I have nothing to show on our crappy little netbook. Remember netbooks? Before ipads came out and made them completely obsolete? Our wireless router is also kaput, which means (gasp!) we have to be wired in to use the 'net. The upside is that it has kept me off the internet!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

A kindergartener and a second grader!

As I mentioned in my last post, there is a lot going on this week. Amazingly, everything is going swimmingly!

Eloise started Kindergarten on Wednesday. On Tuesday she stated that "tomorrow will be the best day of my life!" and you know, while maybe not the very very best ever, it probably ranked pretty high up there.

Eloise and I before her first day of school. Taken by Iris.

Matt, Iris and I walked Eloise to school. I took a cool photo of the girls walking up the ginormous flight(s) of stairs that separate our house from the new school, but my phone seems to have deleted every picture I took that morning! We have never counted the stairs, but it is a serious workout to hike them.

At school Eloise got settled and the families got to sit around while the teacher led the kids in a short circle time and then the families took off. At pick up Eloise said that recess was her favorite part of the day. Of course! While we walked home we got to gorge ourselves on the blackberries growing along the stairs.

After school I took the girls to an outdoor pool, we were so glad one was still open with the 80+ degree weather we have been having. Then we high-tailed it home (or rather, crawled along in Seattle's rush hour) to get Eloise to her soccer practice. So, yeah, pretty darn good first day!

Iris and Eloise before Eloise's first day of school. Taken by me.

Have I mentioned how in love I am with Eloise's teacher, school, parents, kids, principal, etc etc? Cause I am. Eloise's teacher is perfect. Perfect for her and perfect for me, too. She is super communicative, which I love in a teacher. She is even fine with Iris coming with me to volunteer in the classroom! I am so happy about that, because I am also so happy about the fact that I even get to volunteer in the first place.

Iris and I before Eloise's first day of school. Taken by Eloise.

Side note, have you read this blog post by Teacher Tom? He mentions in this post that the number one predictor of a child's success in school is parental involvement. He then goes on to speculate on how to get more parents volunteering at schools, particularly schools with a higher population of lower income families. Want to know what he thinks should be done? Go read the post! Then follow his blog, because it is amazing.

Today was Iris's first day of her home school Waldorf class. The teacher arranged for the group to do a rose ceremony, which I gather is a Waldorf tradition. We sang a song, the teacher told a story about a princess and a prince (with a cliffhanger!) and the kids walked under a rainbow scarf to receive a real rose, which symbolized . . . well, I think it symbolized the beginning of this journey. I am so darn new to Waldorf, I pretty much have no clue why most things are done the way they are, but I am learning! Iris seemed to be comfortable at the ceremony, which was good.

I did take a picture of Iris, and her teacher and classmates, after the rose ceremony, but I don't have permission from any of them to post their picture here, so I won't. I wish I would have gotten one of just Iris!

After the class was over, however, Iris came out of the classroom and was immediately acting angry with me. As is usual, I couldn't figure out if anything happened at school, or what else she was angry about. She did say the day was "good" and that the kids were "nice" which, for Iris, is about all you will get.

I am hoping nothing but positive things about her class. I like her teacher quite a bit and the other kids and families seem so wonderful. It is just so tricky with Iris, I just pray the teacher can handle her trouble spots and nurture her wonderful ones. Time will tell on this front, but I do have good feelings. Tenuous, but good.

Tomorrow we start our work together at home and Iris says she is very excited to work on her math and language arts books. She has even been looking through them on her own and telling me things she already knows. It will be a short Friday for us, easing our way in to working together. Next week will be Iris's, and Eloise's, first full "real" week of schooling.

Monday, September 05, 2011

I will make it through this week, right?

Just humor me and say, "yes, of course" or at least, "what doesn't kill you will only make you stronger!"

Tomorrow Iris starts her gluten-free/egg-free diet. We are doing it for at least 3-4 weeks, but, well, her blood tests indicate she is sensitive to these things, so I don't really foresee an end to this change. Today I made a loaf of GF/EF bread, according to a recipe on Gluten-Free Goddess (I would link, but I am on a crappy laptop that takes three hours to load a new web page). It didn't rise at all, which I will attribute to my yeast (though the yeast appeared to be working just fine). If you have ever done GF baking, you will know how expensive and time-consuming it is. Throwing anything away is terribly sad. I also made pumpkin cupcakes, a recipe I have made before but this time I used egg replacer, which are a little flat. I made Iris a bunch of other snacks and researched a bunch of recipes to help kick off the new diet. But it is crazy overwhelming. I am praying to god we see obvious improvements by eliminating these ingredients.

Wednesday Eloise starts kindergarten. Oh, my. I can't even wrap my head around it. There is nothing more to say on that front on account of my brain unable to process it.

Thursday I start home school with Iris. Luckily her first day is a "class day" as she is doing two days a week with a small Waldorf home school group. Friday we start at home, though. I drew up an elaborate schedule of how our weeks will look, It is probably a laughable schedule to, well, just about anyone, but I decided I needed something to start with. We will give it a go. School will be Mon-Fri from 9:30 to 2:00. Before 9:30 is "chore time" and we pick up Eloise from school at 2:30, so we won't really do any home school after Eloise is home.

Today I realized that I am going to have to get a paying job ASAP. I don't have a resume yet (it will be pretty pathetic with that whole 5 1/2 year SAHM gap and all) nor do I know when I will even have time to work, but I will figure it out. So, between the schools and the new diet and everything else on my usual plate, I will figure it out.

It kind of makes me want to pull the covers over my head and call it a day. Or a week. Or a year.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Here we go again!

Just when I had rid our home of every special gluten-free ingredient and cookbook, not to mention shedding my gluten-free mindset, we once again have a gluten sensitive family member.

About one week ago I took Iris in to see my naturopath about Iris's behavior issues and anxiety. I didn't know exactly what she would do, but one of her first thoughts was to test Iris for food allergies. It was a "simple" finger prick and then the doctor filled in a few circles on a special form with the blood which was then sent to the lab. I say "simple" because pretty much anything ouchy with an anxious child isn't ever simple.

The results showed that Iris was reacting to eggs and gluten. Oh, dear. Even when I was gluten-free I still had lots of eggs, especially in baked goods.

To be honest I sooooooooo (add a few thousand more "o"s) don't want to go through this hassle again! But you know what? I am also pretty excited/interested to see what it will do to Iris to eliminate these ingredients from her diet. I honestly think Iris is excited, too. She is old enough now to understand why we are trying this and is, frankly, fed up feeling the way she has been. She wants to find an answer, too.

We are going to start after the weekend, I think. That should give me time to get some snacks together and other ingredients like pasta and bread. It will also give me time to start researching GF/EF recipes.

Wish us luck! And please share any tips/food suggestions/recipes you might have if you have eliminated eggs and gluten from your diet, too!