Friday, August 28, 2009

OK or Bust!

I'm taking my courage in my hands and attempting something I've never tried before. Tomorrow morning I will load up all six kids and make the ten hour drive to Daniel's parents' house in Oklahoma. We'll be near Stillwater. Daniel has always been the driver on all of our trips. I don't think I've ever driven longer than about three hours on my own before.

We talked it over and we just can't pass up the opportunity. Although Daniel can't take the time off of work right now, this week is a perfect week for the rest of us to travel. The kids' Friday school (Options) doesn't start until the following week. Neither does AWANA, gymnastics, or Brianna and Shane's new speech, counseling, and OT/PT appointments. Now that we've adopted them, we don't have to get anyone's permission to take them out of the state either.

One more good reason is that the kids' godparents are moving to Virginia soon, and this may be our last chance to see their godmother and her two kids before they go. Finally, it's possible that Daniel's sister, Robin, who is in the hospital eight months pregnant with her eighth child, may have the baby any time now. And it's her birthday, too. And even though I said "finally" I'm going to also tack on the fact that my oldest friend and my sister both have birthdays in September, so I'd like to visit them while I'm there. The kids really want to see their cousins, although, since they don't homeschool, we may not be able to be up where they live at a time when they aren't in school. Anyway, wish me luck on the trip. I'll be praying that I can stay awake and focused for that long!

Recording Keeping & Lesson Planning

This is our 5th year of home schooling. You'd think we'd have it all figured out by now. Actually, the one thing I've learned for sure about home schooling is that every year is different. Why? First, because our kids are all different and what works for one kid at a certain grade level might not work for the next kid. Secondly, I'm still trying new things and seeing what fits our family. It's fun looking back over my old blog posts seeing all the different ways we've kept track our home schooling progress over the past four years. Since we're trying something new this year I thought I'd create a post about it. I know I personally love getting a peek at other mom's lesson plans and record keeping, so here's a glimpse into mine.
If you click on each image you'll see a larger, readable version of our lesson plans. There's one for Danya and Gloria since they share a lot of subjects, one for Brianna, since she's mostly on her own this year, and one for Shane and Kevin. I'm attempting to teach them together even though Shane is older by two years. Kevin is advanced for a three year old. He already knows all but two of his colors (he mixes up pink and purple) and can count to 10 and do simple addition. Shane is working on counting past five and knows some colors. They both know some of their letters and can recognize their names.
The basic concept with these lesson plans that I created is simple. I wanted to have a quick overview I can glance at to see what to work on next in each subject, and I wanted to be able to record when we got it done. So I gathered up all the books and things that I wanted them to work on and put them into these spreadsheets so that I can see the next 20 days worth they'll be doing. Obviously this is not a comprehensive list of everything they will do. I didn't include games, flash cards, videos, or any of the extra things we'll do. I also didn't include a place for independent unassigned reading. This is just the basics. Also, we won't work on every subject every day, so it's not literally the next 20 school days worth of work. I guess if I wanted to I could have made two pages worth of assignments for each kid. I was trying to keep it simple. Now, as we complete each section, I just note the date (or the older kids do) in the box next to the assignment.

We've been using this for about two weeks now. I printed them out and keep them in a small binder. I've got dividers with tabs for each month in it and I hope to add more pages as we complete these. Originally I didn't have a sheet for Shane and Kevin. I didn't think they needed one. Then I realized that they really do have quite a bit of work they do. I also wanted to set aside specific books to read to them and keep track of what we've read. I'm going to do this with library books, too, so that I'll have a record of just how often I'm reading to them. I figure Katie doesn't need a record sheet yet, lol.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Mini Homeschoolers 11: The "S" Word

Danya and Gloria have added another video to their Mini Homeschoolers series. This one is about the dreaded "s" word: socialization. If the video doesn't work yet, here's the direct link.

Finally Ours

Introducing the new and improved Elliott family (version 6.0) ! We're so happy to finally be able to show pictures of ALL our kids. For the record, Snow White's real name is Brianna and Brother's name is Shane.

This family photo was taken on adoption day right outside the courtroom. We also took pictures with the judge, the caseworkers, and the GAL (kids' attorney). Unfortunately, I didn't get very good photos since I wasn't the one taking them. I've also included a recent photo I took of Brianna and Shane close up. They are some seriously beautiful kids. But then, biased as I am, I think all my kids are pretty cute. I love having some brunettes in the family. Finally, children that look like my side of the family tree! The first thing we did after the adoption was call and leave my mom a message. She agrees that Shane looks a lot like my dad, Clint; dark hair and gorgeous baby blues.

To celebrate we took the kids out to eat and then went swimming in the South Platte River. The kids had a great time and got a nice sunburn. Danya and Gloria had an exciting moment as the current started to pull them away, but Daniel saved the day. Afterwards he said, "I'm pretty sure this activity wouldn't have been approved for foster kids." We're enjoying the freedom we have right now to do whatever we want as a family since we don't have any foster care involvement right now. We're taking a two month break while finishing up our training hours so that we can become a specialized "emergency intake" home.

Since Miss Lady and Thumbelina went home about a week and a half ago Brianna is deciding which room she wants to sleep in. She could be the big sister of the room if she shares Katie's room. She could stay with Gloria. Currently it looks like she's going to move her things into Danya's room. I hope that works out since Danya has been very lonely in her room since Thumbelina left. Gloria is adjusting to the idea of having no one to help her clean her room. I'm just loving the "just us" feeling right now and enjoying the peace and quiet.

Friday, August 07, 2009

American Symbols

One of the things the kids are learning about right now are the symbols of our country. Snow White really picked up quick on the meaning behind the stripes and stars on our flag. I'm also trying to incorporate plenty of craft projects into our school days because it keeps the kids excited to learn and gives them a goal for when the book work part is done.

This time the girls made paper flags and the boys made star mobiles. I think the girls were a little bit jealous of the boys' mobiles. We hung all of their projects up around the house. They really enjoyed showing them to all the caseworkers and other people who've come to visit since then.

Superman turns Three

If Kevin was a foster child instead of our biological child and I had to come up with a nickname for him on my blog I would definitely call him Superman. He loves to sing along with that song on our Kids Bop CD, although he gets the lyrics slightly wrong. He runs around stores and everywhere else singing, "If I go crazy will you keep calling me SUPERMAN!?" And he's constantly informing us that he's "superhuman". Then he tells us to look at his muscles and says, "Yeah. That's cuz I'm really strong."

For his birthday we took him back to the Children's Museum. We had originally intended to have a party at the local outdoor pool, but after trying the place out we didn't feel up to trying to keep multiple 3 year olds safe in that environment. In the end none of his friends were able to come anyway, so it didn't really matter. He really likes the museum and had a great birthday. Some gifts we gave him were a train set, Lincoln Logs, and big dinosaurs. His favorite gift was probably his Speed Racer car. He calls it "Feed Racer", but that's alright.

Yankee Doodle Girl!

Katie was so cute in her Fourth of July outfit. She actually had two different outfits since the one I'd been saving for her for months now was what she wore on July 3rd when we celebrated at Sarah's house. This is the outfit she actually wore on the fourth.

I can't believe she's already 5 months old. She can do so much more. She getting really good with her hands. When she's hungry she can even get some foods into her mouth after a few tries all on her own. For some reason she thinks it's hilarious to bang rattles against her diaper. Best of all, she mimics everyone around her. If we smile, she smiles. When anyone laughs, she giggles and wants to join in whatever the fun is. She's so ticklish, too! When the doctor was examining her for her check up she was giggling on the table. Of course, she stopped smiling when the nurse gave her a shot. But she was back to her happy self again within a few minutes.

Pool Boy

We let Kevin open one of his birthday presents early on the fourth of July. We thought he'd get a kick out of having a little wading pool. What we didn't anticipate was how difficult it would be finding a suitable spot in our yard to set it up. I told Daniel to put it in the front yard first, but the slope was too steep and the water wouldn't stay in. It ended up in the backyard next to a tree, but not before I got some fun photos of the kids playing in it out front.

It's not big enough to actually swim in, but the kids have enjoyed being able to get wet and splash each other on super hot days. Right now it's looking a little green, so I guess I need to send Daniel out this weekend to clean it out. One thing we discovered is that bath toys transition well to use as pool toys!

Fireworks and Friends

We had a great Independence Day this year. We bought way too many fireworks, as usual, and I forgot to take our yearly photo of the entire pile. Our babysitter, Sarah, and her family agreed to let us light our fireworks at their house. Our city has a policy now that you basically can't do any fireworks at all. Sarah lives in Westminster where you can do smaller fireworks. We had our traditional tank wars and races with anything on wheels. All the kids enjoyed the sparklers and smoke bombs. Some of the best ones were these little things called Zips that made a quick zipping sound and took off into the air.

We let each of the kids pick out about $10 worth of fireworks that they didn't have to share with anyone (unless they wanted to) which made their day. We had an interesting time trying to find actual fireworks stands, as opposed to warehouses within city limits. Sarah's dad decided to go all out and turn the evening into a cook out. He grilled up all kinds of delicious things and sliced some fresh watermelon. It was great! We brought our own diet pop and baked chips so that we could stay within our Weight Watcher's points. Sarah's brother and his friends helped our youngest kids light their fireworks since Daniel and I couldn't be everywhere at once. It was a really fun night. The only tough part was that we ended up staying up WAY too late!

New Creations

Danya and Gloria have both given their lives to the Lord. Danya had made a commitment when she was five and was baptized at that time. However, she feels now that she was too young then to fully understand her decision and wanted to rededicate her life to Christ. This was all new for Gloria.

Grandma and Grandpa were able to be here for their baptism, which made it extra special. They were baptized by their TruthQuest pastor, Mike. He said that he could see changes in both their lives and that they were a joy to have in the kids' program. They both wrote a short personal testimony that Pastor Ed read out loud before they were dunked. We're proud of both of them.

3 John 1:4 "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth."

Eating her Veggies

Katie is learning to eat baby foods of all kinds. She really loves sweet potatoes but doesn't much care for green beans, peas, or carrots. She'll eat any kind of fruit blend. Katie makes the cutest faces when she first tastes something new.

When we are eating something soft we usually let her have a taste. So far she's gotten excited and actually growled and whined when we paused after feeding her some cheese sauce and also some marinara sauce. I just know she's going to follow after me in loving all sorts of Italian foods.

She also gets to occasionally chew on bread sticks, pizza crusts, and biter biscuits. I'm sure we're breaking all the doctor recommended guidelines but our other kids survived it, so I'm guessing she will, too.

What I'm not so sure about is what I plan to do in regards to her vaccination schedule. My friend, Deanna, took me to a seminar that discusses childhood vaccines, what's in them and how they are made, and also the potential side effects. I was properly shocked and horrified and now I'm concerned about which vaccines I should allow her to receive. At her recent check up I talked it over with the doctor and we're going to spread her vaccines out over a period of weeks instead of letting them give her several all at once. We're also skipping a few. I'm not sure what else we'll do since, as a foster family, we're required to have all our kids' vaccinations up to date.

The Denver Children's Museum

While Daniel's parents were visiting in June we decided to make our very first visit ever to the Denver Children's Museum. Daniel's parents surprised us by offering to gift us with a family membership for the year! We are excited to say the least. We've gone twice more since then and still love it.

The kids really enjoyed getting to dress up and pretend to work in a veterinarian's office, a theater, a supermarket, a diner, and various other places. They especially liked painting, but their absolute favorite area was the construction site. They got to paint a room in a house, build with giant LEGO's, and play with a conveyor belt.