Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Harvest Moon Festival

I didn't take any pictures, seeing as how is was very dark, but we celebrated the Harvest Moon Festival by walking around the neighborhood, watching the eclipse of the full moon, then eating moon cakes. We talked about what the holiday means and the girls remembered some Chinese poems and songs. Apple got her first real taste of moon cakes and didn't finish it. I don't find them very good myself, but my big girls really like them.

Friday, September 25, 2015


Finally wearing an outfit I made about 20 years ago. I took the picture and she promptly had an accident out on the grass. She's in the "holding it" phase.

Our Homeschool Week

We continued with maps and directions and made a compass. It all looks exciting and successful, but my girls actually absorb very little information. Sissy is good at finding things on a map and understanding what the symbols mean. Blossom isn't getting it much at all, and Jie Jie falls in between. I have Blossom and Jie Jie repeat the same mapping assignments two or three times to see how much they can improve and it's not by much, unfortunately. They get stuck for different reasons. Blossom can't seem to grasp what the map key symbols mean and they both can't grasp the language of the questions. For example, Mapleville lies between what two roads? They won't even write down a road, but another city name or population number. One of the free map worksheets we are using this week can be found on tlsbooks.com.

We worked on reading and reading comprehension. Believe me, they are two very distinct entities in our home. Today, I finally got Blossom and Jie Jie back on their computers for math and I stayed in the room while they did it to make sure they didn't go off on any other websites since I've not gotten around to installing K9 yet. I'm also reigning them in as to the number of problems they can attempt. The program will let them keep working until their percent correct is high, but today for Jie Jie that meant doing over 378 problems - way too time-consuming! The topic was equivalent coins. Now, I've limited them to 100 problems. If their percentages are low, so be it. It's bound to come around again in the next level and they might be more ready for the information then. If not, we can always go back.

It's after lunch now and time for their weekly spelling test. Sissy's spelling is improving even though her composition is not. grammar is still a work in progress. They may get everything correct in their grammar workbooks, but they are unable to use the knowledge in their writing and speaking.

Next week, they begin human anatomy with My Firefighter. So, each week he'll teach them on two days. One day will be geography/civics, etc... and the next day will be science, starting with the human body.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Our Homeschooling Week

It's been successful! Blossom declared this week that she feels smarter.

We are getting through large amounts of work. I might even cut back just a little because it's a lot to go over at the end of the day and keep sorted, but the girls actually love it. They like having things to do since one of their difficulties is finding things to do when they have free time.

This week, My Firefighter started teaching them. He is doing a blend of everyday geography, civics, science and geology. Last week the girls learned the cardinal and intermediary directions, how to take notes so that they can remember their lessons, the parts of a map: key, compass, cities, streets and more. This week, they are going to learn more terms, such as border, and keep working on learning the continents and oceans.

They did very well on their spelling tests and Jie Jie and Blossom passed their test on ordered pairs in one quadrant with almost perfect scores. This week, we'll move on to two quadrants. We will also use the same skills to identify intersections on a very basic street map.

I am using the second grade 16 word spelling lists at www.k12reader.com and their accompanying worksheets and dictation. On Mondays, they get the new list and we go over it. They write each word twice and do some kind of puzzle with the spelling words. Last week it was a word scramble. I make the puzzles online and print them out. On Tuesdays, they do the accompanying worksheet and put the words in alphabetical order. Wednesdays, they write sentences using the spelling words. They can use more than one spelling word per sentence. Thursday is the pre-test. If they don't miss any, they don't have to take the test on Friday. If they misspell some words, they need to write each one 5 times and take the test on Friday. However, if they only miss one or two, I might still skip the test on Friday, depending on how much we need to finish up for the week.

The girls worked on their online reading program, Headsprout, even Apple, who I have do it for speech. Sissy did her math online. They did work in their workbooks in vocabulary, spelling, writing and had to learn a simple poem and do a worksheet on the poem. Apple loved the poem because it was about Apples and she almost memorized it herself, on her own. It was super cute. We also did our reading comprehension assignment from superteacherworksheets.com. I'm loving this site!

This week, we'll be adding XtraMath.com to Blossom and Jie Jie's day. They need to learn their basic math facts better so that we can move on to multiplication facts and understanding more about how to count money and figure out change. It's also time to begin learning cursive writing again; we never finished last year.

Last Labor Day at Morro Bay

This was one of those really nice, perfect days. We started at Morro Bay and played on the beach, saw otters and seals and sea lions, then when to Pismo Beach and walked out onto the pier and saw whales. The older girls loved having their picture taken with the Pelican since they like the movies A Dolphin's Tail 1 & 2 and in those movies is a pesky pelican.

Out to sea, almost at the horizon, was a huge pod of whales. We watched them spouting as they slowly swam toward shore. They got close enough that when they breached, it was easy to see their pectoral fins. It was my first time seeing large whales in the wild and even though they were very far out to sea, it was still amazing.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Blossom's Family Day Anniversary - 3 Years!

It's hard to believe it, but it's been 3 years since Blossom's been home. She was tiny when she came, nearly 12 and wearing size 8. She's still fitting into size 10 because she's small-boned, but height-wise, she needs a 12 or 14 which is tough because they are so wide, even the 12 slims.

Today was the end of a long, but good, week, as far as things go for us. Things got a little tense as I spent many, many hours trying to sort out the girls' laptops and they had some periods of waiting that led to boredom, but we got through it. They did some damage to them with their random, ignorant clicking around. They've been banned from them for over a month but we really need them for school.

Blossom's behavior has been very good since I pulled her out of public school, but she had a big meltdown today. I'm not surprised. It was her first one in over a month. I'm sure it isn't a coincidence that it's on her Family Day, happy when we look at it from where we are now, but very traumatic for her when she first came to me. Her voice is hoarse from the screaming she did, but I'm glad she was able to get it out. She was on the verge yesterday, but I was able to bring her out of it before it escalated. I'm getting really good at noticing when she's slipping into PTSD.

She's had a great week of homeschool. We did more academic work in the last 4 days than she did in 10.5 days of public school, plus we had P.E. in the form of a family bike ride, a trip to the coast, playing outside on our big trampoline and working out on the Rebounder. She's learned to find and plot x,y coordinates on a graph with 10 rows. She and Jie Jie have been working on this very hard all week.

We started our new reading program today, Headsprout. I gave the girls the recommended evaluation but as they began at the recommend levels, I realized the evaluation wasn't very accurate so I'm starting them at the VERY beginning so that they can go through the phonics and learning better to recognize letter groups (blends), and sound words out. This program is designed to teach, re-teach, and improve their reading skills. We are also continuing with our second grade level reading comprehension lessons. They get a worksheet to review with questions pertaining to a very short story. Then I read the story. They do as many questions as they can. Over the next three days, each girls takes a turn reading the same story out loud and then they work on the questions again. On day 5, we go over the questions together and they can read the story again by themselves if they need to find or correct any answers.

We are doing a TON of reading aloud this year!

To celebrate Blossom's Family Day, I picked up some authentic Chinese food from a local hole-in-the-wall and it was the best ever! We have enough for left-overs tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Fun Stuff & School Update

In August, my adoption agency had their yearly party for families. It was also their 20th Anniversary.

By the end of our two weeks of public school, we were all EXHAUSTED. This was on a Saturday morning. Apple went to bed the night before around 8:50pm and I woke her up in the morning after 10am. She had her morning milk while waiting for me to get her cereal and fell back to sleep for another hour sitting like this without moving. She usually closes her eyes to sleep, but when she's super tired, they stay open like this because of her special need.

Let's here it for HOMESCHOOLING!!! This was our P.E. today since it's 103 degrees outside right now. They are on Urban Rebounders following the Kid Bound video. This is also what I'm going to be doing for the next month as I prepare to climb Half Dome again in October.

Homeschooling is going pretty well. I've joined Superteacherworksheets.com and have been using them every day. I also signed up for Raz Kids and a vocabulary and help-with-reading program through the same website. We still have CTCmath and IXLmath. A couple of good free sites are mathworksheets4kids.com, K12reader.com and math-drills.com. We use a lot of workbooks. This year will be heavy on grammar and reading comprehension.

Sissy's (nearly 17) reading and writing are very poor. She is failing at a beginning 2nd grade level. It's not the language, it's her inability to process and think. She doesn't draw from any experiences she's had at all in any of her writing. Math, she's 6-7 grade and doing very well. We had a great surprise. If I give her a blank piece of paper and tell her to draw a picture, it's about like a 5-6 yr. old would draw, subject as well as ability. Last week, though, I gave her bottle of salad dressing to draw and it was very well done. She didn't even know herself that she could draw like she did. I, of course, had no idea either.

Blossom (nearly 15) is having a hard time with 2nd grade math. She can figure out the answers quite well if I help her understand the questions. She just can't understand the questions, again not a language thing, but a processing thing. Her reading level is hard to gauge, but it's much higher, and always has been, than Sissy's. She is a prolific writer, but it appears to be mostly gibberish unless you understand how she "thinks" and put aside grammar and spelling altogether. She's been much happier and content lately and she's been behaving well.

Jie Jie (11.5) is behind Blossom in math, but would move along faster if she'd obey me and stay on her math programs and not go to random websites involving princesses and movies the minute I leave the room. Her reading and writing are about a solid beginner 2nd grade, perhaps her reading a bit higher than that, but it's hard to tell since she can't explain verbally or write well due to the auditory processing and some other things yet to be diagnosed. She's still in speech therapy and making steady progress.

Apple is coming along in her speech. She's up to 3-6 word sentences, missing articles and often prepositions. "Uh, oh, I need towel please, mama." I am doing Razkids reading with her, too, and she really likes it, though it's more for speech therapy than reading readiness.

All three older girls are currently banned from all computers. They have repeatedly violated our rules and Sissy crashed another computer sneaking onto QQ on her sister's laptop. I will be getting a baby video monitor or some other type of camera to train on their screens when I cannot be in the same room with them, since, even though the computers are in the main family room, they switch websites the minute I leave the room.

All three older girls have a lot of trouble with honor, trust and obedience. The simplest rules are broken the minute I leave the room and the more serious rules are broken the minute my back is turned. They are good girls. They don't want to disobey. They just don't have self-control or the ability to reason with themselves. According to the book Hold On to Your Kids, they are stuck in immaturity and I can't budge them to reach the next level of maturity. Not surprising is that making this shift is all about attachment. Everything seems to come back to that and when you've lived nearly 14 years of your life unloved, never held, never nurtured beyond the basic necessities to sustain life, you just don't know how to attach, don't want it, don't miss it, don't know you need it.

As we delve deeper into the specifics of the girls' current levels of development and get hooked up with more and more specialists, I'm sure we'll get more answers, and certainly more questions. I'm glad that I tried public school. It really gave me the confidence I needed to understand that I am doing a great job and that I'm on the right path in the areas I'm working to improve upon.

Last Monday we went to the coast for the day with My Firefighter (pictures coming soon!). In the car we were teaching the girls about the rock formation on the beach and asked them if they knew why the rock was white. It's from the seagulls and other birds that live on it, but the girls couldn't come up with that, despite many, many clues and hints and just using their eyes to see all the birds. We asked, "What animal has wings?" with birds flying all around that we were pointing out. All three girls were unable to figure it out and Sissy said, "Deer!" One might again think this was a language thing, but she knows English well and knows what a bird is and that it has wings, but she can't THINK. She can only memorize, so she drew deer out of her brain (not the first time) because it's an animal I frequently tell them to look for when we are driving through the hills in the car. See, we were in the car, so the mystery animal must be a deer. Doesn't make sense to anyone but me, but I see why she said it. My Firefighter was stunned beyond anything. I was, too, but I'm used to it and could logic my way to seeing why she said it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

In the Words of My Firefighter...

"Their failure is complete."

After cancelling bus service yesterday and un-enrolling my child from public school, the school bus showed up this morning at my front door. I never even received a call letting me know what time it was supposed to have come (had we still needed it).