A day in the life


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Yesterday, I uploaded this photo to facebook. It shows a handful of 15 pills, all of which I took in one gulp.  It was nothing extraordinary.  In fact, I do it four times every day.  But, it made me realize I’m at the same time both kinda badass for being able to swallow 15 pills at once at kinda ridiculous for needing to.  But, other people’s amazement made me realize that no one (aside from medical professionals) has the complete scorecard. 

So, a day in my (mostly functioning) life.

6am:

I start my day with a heavy duty cocktail of Gabapentin, Topamax, Relafen (if my stomach can handle it…if my stomach is upset I skip this so I don’t risk a bleed) multivitamin, zinc, calcium w/ vitamin D, kratom, spirulina, borage and flax oil. 

 With my pills, I have a snack with 1 carb exchange and 1 protein exchange.  Often, a slice of peanut butter toast.  Then, I surf facebook, read blogs, work, lesson plan or just go back to sleep until kids start waking up at 8. 

8am:

Breakfast, hygiene etc.  We do overnight oats a lot with added molasses for iron (recipe in the next post).  3 of us heat them up, Makenna eats them cold, Jo has something else.  Sometimes, we have bagels, muffins, fruit, smoothies etc.  Just typical breakfast stuff.  I medicate the kids.  We do devotions and prayers. 

8:45

quick pick up.  Anything that isn’t where it belongs gets put where it goes, table gets cleared and set up for school.

9am:

School starts.  What happens depends on the day but we always start with math drills, spelling practice and dictation. 

10am

I take Iron, B vitamin complex, probiotics, borage and flax oil.  School continues.  Makenna and Silas do math and grammar together.  Ben works independently and gets help as needed.

12pm

Lunch: soup, left overs, tacos, sandwiches etc.  I get creative from time to time but nothing terribly clever.  We use lunch to reinforce lessons.

12:30: chores.  Each kid clean up his/her spot at the table and does one other chore.

1pm: science or history- M and W we do science, T and Th we do History.  1st day, we read the lesson (and in history label the timeline), 2nd day we complete a project.  Depending on the unit/lesson, we may do additional study during the next week. 

1:30 art or legos.  My girl child loves art projects.  My boys prefer playing legos.  Most days, I allow them to choose.  At least once a week, I push them to do the thing they don’t prefer.  Also, I do art appreciation once a week or so.  During this time, I play good music…classical, reggae, classic rock, blues, jazz etc. 

2pm

I take Gabapentin, Effexor, vitamin E, Vitamin C, Megadose of vitamin D twice a week.  Then, I lay down for a 2 hour rest while kids read silently.  Each week, they read books on the subjects we are studying.  They are also allowed to choose a “fun” book each week. On average, each kid reads 7-10 books per week.  Our kids don’t need anyone to push them to read…they do it without a fight.

4pm:

PE.  Sometimes we go for nature walks, hikes, kick a soccer ball…sometimes we do an exercise video or yoga.  Afterwards, small snack (trail mix or fruit and nut bar) and 1/2 Norco. 

5pm

Kids have down time.  Outside or screen time (if they earned it with good behavior).  Moms catch a TV show.

6pm

Start dinner. Kids continue down time. 

7pm

Eat as a family.  Typical dinner foods.  I’ll update with more information in the future.  But, tonight, we had sautéed green beans, corn on the cob, ratatouille, and hash brown potatoes.  Sorry, no picture….scarfed it down too fast.

8pm clean up, hygiene, medication and bed for children.  Moms clean up, watch TV, lesson plan, work or do whatever.

10pm

Gabapentin, Topamax, metformin, Norco, Relafen (if possible) kratom, spirulina, flax and borage oil, B6, B12, calcium with Vitamin D, benedryl (x2)

12am Bedtime and Nexium

 

So, there you have it…I also drink copious amounts of diet coke, lol.  But, my boring, crazy, almost functional life with a ton of diagnoses.

 

 

 

An Update


So sorry that I have been gone for so long.

 

Life got overwhelming and I cocooned.  Currently, I am fighting a horrible virus so this won’t be a long post but it will be an update.

 

Summer was long.  Pretty good…but long.  The kids have spent a ton of time at my mom’s giving me a break and them some fun.

Ben enjoyed a trip to a real gold mine a few weeks back.  Fulfilled a long-time dream of his.

 

Makenna lost her toe nail this summer and needed minor surgery on that.  Also, we’ve been fighting a lot of other health issues with her.  And, she has her own blog.  http://www.makennasigns.wordpress.com

 

Silas is crazy, fun, precocious Silas.  We’re working on a lot of skills and things for him and we’re going to start having him see a therapist but he is still just the crazy kid.

 

Jo has been battling shingles for since the beginning of the year and is still dealing with PHN symptoms.  Even worse, it is difficult to get doctors to believe that a 30 year old is really THAT sick.  SIGH!  I’ve been there, lol.

 

And finally, me.  It is hard to see past the 102-103 fever I’ve been running for the past few days.  I’m achy and feeling really icky.  Beyond that, I have taken control of my life.  Emotionally, physically, spiritually etc…I am making changes.  I was diagnosed with mild diabetes this summer.  So, changing my eating, exercising more etc is needed.  I am losing weight and (most of the time) feeling better.

 

So, school starts next week…I will be back in full swing then 🙂

Homeschool Curriculum


A few days ago, I promised that I would write about our typical day, including homeschooling, and the curriculum we use.  Since I have had several bad days in a row, it has taken me a while to get this post written,   But, better late than never.

We started out the year in an eschool.  I have nothing good to say about it.  So, I will follow the advice of Thumper and say nothing at all.  I will note, however, that Common Core math books the kids were using (the boys books specifically said common core but I am assuming Makenna’s book was too) were watered down and just…not right.  Their other books were also weak, watery and frustrating.   They stressed the wrong things or nothing at all.  So, we left in January and did not look back.

Around 10, after we handle breakfast, hygiene and chores, we start the school day.  We begin with drills and seat work.  Then, the kids break off for individual work.  Ben is often more independent, working alone until he has questions.  Then, when he has questions, we work together on the problems.  Makenna often needs more one on one help.  Silas gets the concepts quickly but needs a lot of time to write the work down as his coordination is poor.  We typically finish school around 3 or 4.

As far as the standards I use to measure progress, I use this as my primary resource along with the standards that their typical peers would be held to for math and language.  However, my kids are unique and we need to adjust these at times.  Silas has all of the k-2 standards, all of the 3rd and some 4th grade standards in math.  Benjamin has mastered all of the skills in the elementary standards.  For him, we use the typical standards exclusively.

Makenna is missing skills as far back as kindergarten in every subject.  Most of the time, these skills are related to vocabulary.  Other skills that are still developing involve figurative language, sentence structure and verbal and written retelling of stories.  This is common for students who are English language learners (English is her second language, ASL her first).

As far as history, we choose to teach history as a story with a beginning, middle and end.  We started this year with ancient times through the fall of Rome.  Next year, we study medieval through early renaissance.  The third year, we study late renaissance through the early modern times.  Then, we will complete our course with the late modern times.  Ideally, this cycle is completed 3 times (grades 1-4, grades 5-8 and grades 9-12) but when starting in the middle (as is the case with Makenna and Ben), history, obviously, still begins at the beginning.

We also do science on a four year loop.  We study Earth science, biology (including human anatomy), chemistry and physics.  We also cover health, nutrition and personal skills on an annual basis.

The standards, however, are only a starting point.  I teach other, different skills at each level.  Memorization of facts, for example, is not emphasized.  We utilize a variety of online and paper resources to do this.  I will break that down subject by subject.  My first parent resource I would recommend every parent read is The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise.

Math

Both Makenna and Silas completed this course this year.  Silas also completed the 2nd grade course on the same site.

Benjamin worked through the 5th, 6th  and 7th grade course at Khan Academy.  He is currently working through algebra on the same site.

All three kids do daily drills on www.xtramath.org.

We use flash cards and story problem workbooks to work on those skills we felt needed more consideration.

Each kid had a logic workbook they did a page in each day.  We also did logic puzzles on this site several times a week.

Depending on the skills being taught and the amount of practice needed, I printed worksheets from this site.

 

Language Arts

Makenna and Silas are working on the dolch sight words for spelling this year.  Silas is working on the 1st grade list, Makenna the 2nd.

We use the games on Spelling City.

Benjamin is using this list of spelling words for the second half of the year.

For literature, we are using age appropriate versions of stories beginning with creation tales from around the world.  These included short stories, poems, novels and selections of non-fiction.  We utilized anthologies of myths from several ancient cultures. Benjamin and Silas also listened to, and recounted stories via audiobook.  Makenna watched short stories in ASL and English and recounted them.

We bought a grammar workbook for each kid to use for a 10 minute daily practice.  We are also doing lessons on parts of speech, punctuation and other particulars of grammar.  Each kid  takes between 5 and 10 sentences of dictation daily. The kids also do daily journaling activities and work on other writing assignments regularly.  These present us with opportunities to practice correct grammar and to correct their work.

Benjamin used a workbook called reading for the gifted 6th grader that involved reading a lot of nonfiction pieces and answering questions or writing essays.  Each kid used a handwriting workbook as well.

 

History

We use the Kingfisher Illustrated History Encyclopedia and supplement with library books and the BBC history for kids.  We d0 a variety of projects based on the events studied and the level of the child.

 

Science

This year, we are studying Earth Science as well as health and nutrition.  We are using the Usborne Science Encyclopedia, a nutrition curriculum and the games found here.  We are supplementing this with plenty of documentaries, field trips and projects.

Other Classes

This year, we are studying ancient art, music appreciation, physical education, American Sign Language and technology.  The lessons varied based on the kid.  Next year, Ben will begin studying Latin.

 

 

Recipe: Strawberry Rhubarb Waffles


Yesterday, I made a whole grain, vegan waffle for dinner with strawberry rhubarb sauce.  They turned out so well.  So, before I get onto a serious post about homeschool curriculums and educational activities, I want to give you one more recipe.

I adapted this from a typical strawberry waffle recipe by substituting flax eggs for typical eggs and coconut milk plus lemon juice for the buttermilk.  I also added rhubarb from my CSA.  This is instructions for 12 servings so I could freeze enough for breakfast this morning as well.

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Strawberry rhubarb waffles with strawberry rhubarb sauce, coconut whip and vegan dulce de leche sauce ( hey, I broke my leg…I can have a treat, lol)

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Waffles

5 cups whole wheat flour

8 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2  teaspoon salt

4 cups coconut milk plus 1/4 cup lemon juice

1 cup melted coconut oil

1/4 cup whole flaxseed plus  3/4 cup water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 pint fresh strawberries

1 1/2 large stalks rhubarb, finely chopped

First, make your flax eggs and coconut buttermilk.  Grind the flax in a spice grinder or other device.  Add flax to bowl then water and stir (DO NOT add water first).  Place in refrigerator for up to an hour.  Longer is better.  At the same time, combine coconut milk and lemon juice and let sit at room temperature.

Once that is complete, combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl.  In another bowl, place strawberries and mash with a potato masher.  Add rhubarb and honey then mix. In the bowl of stand mixer (or separate mixing bowl), combine flax eggs, coconut milk and oil.  Beat on low until well combined.  Add dry ingredients slowly.  Once batter is fully mixed, add fruit.  Pour into prepared waffle iron (I am a cheater…I use the generic form of PAM for this…) and cook according to directions.

Serve with strawberry rhubarb sauce (recipe to follow) and coconut whipped cream. If you have a broken leg and an uncontrollable sweet tooth, you might even add a bit of vegan dulce de leche syrup!

I topped these with a sauce made with strawberries, rhubarb and sugar plus whipped coconut cream.  For the coconut whipped cream, simply refrigerate coconut milk overnight then whip the contents with a small splash of vanilla and about a teaspoon of sugar.  Whip until firm peaks appear.  Alternately, use a whipped cream dispenser found on Amazon or elsewhere.  For the sauce, follow the directions below:

Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce

1 pint Strawberries

1 1/2 large stalks rhubarb, chopped

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup water

Mash strawberries with potato masher.  Combine all ingredients and cook over medium heat until rhubarb is cooked down.  Put mixture in blended and blend until smooth.

White Bean Dip


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My broken leg has left us in need of simple, yet healthy meals.  This one has just become a new favorite. 

White Bean Dip

 

1/2 cup Kale Garlic Scape Pesto

1 can cannellini beans, drained

1 T olive oil

 

Add all items to the blender and blend until smooth.  Serve with a variety of your favorite dip-carrying devices

 

Now, if I were well, it would probably involve homemade crustini or something.  However, in light of my leg, we chose simple.  We used a variety of fresh veggies from our CSA (asparagus, radishes, turnips, green onions, green garlic and Chinese cabbage that made great wraps) plus tomatoes from our own (dying) plants and tortilla and potato chips.  Delicious, nutritious and, best of all, easy! 

recipe: Kale and Garlic Scape Pesto


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Wilted beet greens, pierogies topped with pesto and fresh strawberries

So, I need a break from all the heavy posts.  Today, I made the best pesto from our CSA share.   I wanted to share the recipe with all of you.  So, here it is.

Kale and Garlic Scape Pesto

3-5 large kale leaves or 6-8 small leaves

8-10  garlic scapes

1 small green onion

1/3 cup walnuts

1/3 nutritional yeast

1/4-1/2 cup olive oil

Remove tough stems and roughly chop kale, scapes and onion.  Place everything in blender and blend until mostly smooth but still moderately chunky.  Serve.

I find this an excellent way to sneak veggies into picky kids :).  Mine loved it.

 

Why we chose to homeschool


On facebook today, I got into a discussion about homeschooling and school shooters and a couple of my teacher friends inquired to the reason why I homeschool.  Its more complex than even I thought.  Originally, the decision was simple but it grew in time.

First and foremost,  my decision to homeschool was about the health and safety of my kids and the professionals who work with them.  My daughter is considered medically fragile.  She missed 22 days of kindergarten, 34 days of first grade and the first 3 weeks of 2nd grade before being pulled out.

If she had been in school this year, she’d have missed the basically the entire 1st semester due to battling sepsis, septic arthritis, osteomyelitis, 3 separate episodes of severe neutropenia, pneumonia and complex systemic migraines.  The second semester wasn’t much better.  She had 2 different abscesses, 6 ear infections, several episodes of neutropenia and again the systemic complex migraines.  She also has absent seizures which require monitoring.

Also, when she was able to attend public school, the audio stimulation of constant hearing aid use caused her migraines to worsen and frequently, she would come home and vomit from the increased pressure in her head.  2 or 3 days a week, she was sick enough that she went to bed as soon as she got home.  The IEP team refused to give her auditory breaks as it would detract from her social opportunities.  Instead, their solution was to stop giving her homework. She was falling behind in all of her classes and her instructors told me that it was ok because Deaf kids weren’t expected to keep up, that she would likely graduate at a 4th grade level.

My oldest son is a much different story.  I wasn’t worried about his health so much as the teachers and aids who work with him.  He has bipolar disorder and autism.  He can be sweet and loving but once, he attacked his teacher because of an unannounced fire drill.  He also sent another child to the hospital on two separate occasions.  He isn’t a bad kid…he just needed help.  He continues to need help in the form of therapy, medication, dietary modifications, group programs, social training etc.  It takes a considerable number of hours each week.  These things would take away from his learning in a traditional school setting as he would need to miss 2 half days a week.

When they began talking about putting him in a self-contained behavior class, I knew I needed to remove him.  They used to call that the SBH program.  I remember the trailer that they shoved those kids in, how academics took a back seat and it was basically daycare.   That isn’t good enough for him.

My youngest son is also autistic and is, in fact, lower functioning than his brother.  However, he is not violent.  Birth defects have left him incontinent.  He also still, at the end of first grade, displays incomplete dominance and an inability to cross the midline.  When he started kindergarten, we were told that he needed an autism specific classroom.  The educational psychologist told us that we expected too much when we stated that we fully believed that in 3 years (end of next school year at this point) Silas would learn to read and write, do basic math concepts, ride a bike, identify family members from a picture, follow 4 step directions, feed himself with minimal assistance, dress self with minimal assistance, participate in bathing activities and climb stairs.  I am not going to allow my child to be sold short.

Today, he has made progress toward all of those goals.  He can do 8/10 with 90% accuracy.  He still struggles with riding a two wheeled bike (but it is coming and he does well with his adaptive trike)and following directions (doesn’t every 7 year old?).  Academics are not an issue for him at all and he graduated from PT but we continue to work with OT.  He is also quickly becoming an incredible swimmer.

Other reasons for home schooling are less concrete.  First of all, as I covered, my kids are not typical.  I truly feel that they are an undue burden on an already burdened school.  The annual spending on a child like mine is through the roof.  Makenna alone had 9 professionals named in her IEP, working with her to accomplish her goals.  She also had hearing aids, a personal FM system and a communication device to “facilitate” he learning.  The hearing aids, alone, are 4,000 and need to be replaced every 3-4 years.  Silas was not allowed to bring pull-ups from home, the school had to provide them, along with a full-time aide to handle personal care and other concerns.  Plus, they have on site PT, OT, ST and other therapies for these kids.  In a new placement, Ben was going to be receiving a full-time one on one aide, a resource worker, OT, PT etc.  This stuff isn’t cheap and the money is much better spent educating an entire class of typical kids instead of my one disabled child.

Plus, I really want my children to love learning.  I love seeing my kids eyes light up when they discover something.  I want them to love knowledge and books.  I want them to enjoy solving an algebraic equation, writing a poem or finding an interesting plant.  I want to have conversations about dwarf planets, Shakespeare and how a kernel of pop corn pops.  I want to work on fractions by doubling recipes and discuss nutrition while roasting beets. I want to enjoy documentaries, walk through farmer’s markets, hike unusual trails and peruse the library for hours.  I wouldn’t have time for this if they were in school 6 hours a day.

With autistic kids, the change from school year to summer, even with esy services, is extremely tough.  Because of that, we do school year around.  This allows us to work around illnesses, hospital stays, field trips etc.

My kids can also move forward (or backwards) as they need to.  Sepsis left Makenna with brain damage this year.  She now functions between a 1st and 4th grade level depending on the subject.  In math and science, she and Silas work at the same level.  Ben should be going into sixth grade.  He works between a 7th and 9th grade level depending on the class.  Next year, he tackles geometry AHHHHHH!

And, high school math brings me to my last point.  Kids, especially teens, can be cruel.  Bullying is even more prominent now than when I was a kid.  Yet, I was tortured.  I marched to my own drum and I was not treated kindly for it.  My kids also march to their own drums.  Don’t worry, they spend plenty of time with people of all ages…just in a different sort of environment than a public school.

So, yes, school safety with shooters and such is a concern. Home schooling my children removes them from the setting where these shootings occur.  However, as demonstrated here, it is not my only or even my primary.

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