January Updates

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We have been pretty busy this month.  I would say it’s been a great month.  We took on a lot of new things, perhaps too many, but sometimes you just need that momentum to keep you excited and engaged.  (Okay, perhaps just me.)  Despite having to travel for a medical visit this month, I still feel we’re pretty much on track and somedays even enjoying ourselves.

During our recent visit to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.

During our recent visit to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

Kate has handled all the changes well.  We have been having weekly Spanish classes now this month and just love it.  We do these classes through Homeschool Spanish Academy.   Everything I read about this company in other mom’s reviews was true.  The teachers are so nice and highly trained.  Through a Skype connection they work one-on-one with your student and during that time they mostly speak in Spanish. When they assessed Kate they recommended she start with the middle school curriculum because she has grown up hearing Spanish and speaking a little, mostly with my parents.  I’m a native speaker, so I also work with her during the week on the assignments that they ask her to do.  It’s going great because this approach is focused on speaking and hearing Spanish, and Kate is an auditory learner.  So yeah!

Technology

The dictation feature on my MS Word was not easy to work with, so my husband got a Dragon app on his Ipad, which is working out a lot better for writing journal entries.  One thing that using  dictation software is  good for is helping you to organize your thoughts and ideas, which is a challenge for my student.

Kate is enjoying her audiobooks.  She listens to an audiobook for fun each day through Learning Ally. (We finally got all the IT issues worked out by the first week of January.)  The first book she wanted was Ever After High, a book about fairy tale princesses.   I also found her math book and put it on our digital book shelf.  We used it for listening to the word problems. We are just starting to explore these tools, but so far so good.  Also, the Minecraft homeschool course has been a lot of  fun.  I’ll write more specifics next time.

What we’re reading this month:  Alligator Crossing by Marjory Stoneman Douglas

We are using this book as the base for a literature unit with a focus on science (ecosystem), history and geography of South Florida.  This book was written in 1959 and yet the story is as relevant today as back then.  At the time she wrote this book, Everglades National Park had barely been established a decade.  Protecting the natural environment meant that many people were pushed out of their way of life, which included poaching alligators and hunting birds for their plumes.  It also included the freedom of living in nature, something very hard to give up willingly.

While today the challenges are different, their is a tension between the need to protect the environment and the legitimate need of humans to make a living.  Most recently their is a proposal to develop an area of pine rockland in Miami, making me feel that the issues are still very relevant to all of us, especially in South Florida.

This has been a great book to learn about the wildlife and the habitats of the Everglades as well as why this national treasure had to be protected (from poachers and “plumers”).  We’ve really enjoyed all our read alouds, but this book is special because it feels like one generation passing to the next generation the stewardship of something truly amazing.   We hope to finish reading it this week in time for our field trip to Everglades National Park next weekend.

Tomatoes from the garden. We used these to make tomato sauce ;).

Tomatoes from the garden. We used these to make tomato sauce ;).

The other day Kate asked me when we would read the next book in the Kaya series (American Girl); we have read four of the six.  I felt so lucky that we’ve shared all these great stories so far this year and I can honestly say I’ve never seen her so excited about reading, that’s for sure.

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Homeschool 2.0

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Happy New Year!

Over the break I read a helpful book by Ben Foss, The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan. He is a super successful entrepreneur and advocate for dyslexics, like himself. Reading has always been a challenge for him, as it is for most dyslexics, and he shares what helped him to learn and live his dreams. He stresses that it’s about finding those strengths within our children and focusing on what they do well and even better than kids without LDs. We live in a world that places a high value on the written word and an educational system that tends to will exclude those who struggle with reading. He gives a lot of practical insight into how parents can be supportive and how to technology helps our kids to learn.

I also thought it was  cool that both of Ben’s parents were in the Peace Corps, as both my husband and I are returned Peace Corps Volunteers as well.  He mentioned how having parents that didn’t quite fit in themselves, helped them to relate to their son and understand his point of view and how that made a difference in how he viewed himself.

With all that in mind, this next half of the year we’re going to shift the focus from remediation to accommodations/compensations, especially using technology when we can. We know that there will be a steep learning curve, but the technology will  give her access to the learning materials that hopefully she will use beyond her schooling, in life.

Learning Ally (Text-to-speech)

I had already been planning to get this, but after reading the book I was I was so ready to set up her account and download the app onto her brand new tablet so she can get audiobooks anytime, anywhere.  Well…I’m still excited about doing this, but we were one of those super lucky customers that got stuck in glitchville and are awaiting to hear from IT because their system will not let us log in.  I am not happy about this delay, but I’ve waited a long time for this and I’m not giving up.  Eventually, Kate will have thousands of books to choose from that will help her read to learn, while she continues to learn to read.

Speech-to-Text

Over the break my older child, our little techie, showed me a free way to get Kate writing on the computer using the dictation feature on MS Word. We started to practice it over the break, because it’s not perfect. But I still wanted her to become familiar with it because I’m hoping this will be a way to get her to express her ideas while her ability to write and spell come along. While still doing daily handwriting practice, she started using this for her daily journaling. I need her to know that she can express her ideas on paper, in her own way.

What else we’re working on for January.

  • Science- studying ecosystems , which will include a read aloud by Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Alligator Crossing and a trip to the Everglades at the end of the month.
  • Adding Spanish lessons using Skype with Homeschool Spanish Academy
  • Completing golf lessons- it’s been wonderful for her.
  • Taking her first online class through Minecraft Homeschool– She started her first lesson today,  as part of an intro course.  We thought it would be a good way to use her interest in gaming to learn.
  • Continuing to work toward completing level 1 one of All About Reading!
  • Keep growing our vegetable garden- tomatoes did okay and kale is very abundant.

Now I’m  ready for 2015 and the second half of the school year. Taking a break is exactly what I needed to feel energized and recharged for homeschooling again. Here we go…