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Category: 2019-2020 School Year

A Couple Things That Have Caught My Eye: Neuralink Update and Focusing During a Pandemic


A much awaited update about Neuralink! I am so excited to listen to this in detail. From what I’ve heard so far it sounds amazing. Right now it sounds like the goal of Neuralink is to fix what is broken with regards to the brain or body, like poor eyesight. Imagine what could this could do for things like paralysis or neurodegenerative conditions like MS or Parkinson’s. This interview was recorded today so it’s nice and fresh. I’m excited to listen in depth tonight and see what other details Elon is willing to give.

(Also it’s nice to see that he’s kind of settled down some and hopefully he stops being such a fruit loop about the pandemic. Hopefully his new baby – who has a normal name if you can decode the name released to the public – will help reground him.)

Speaking of the pandemic, this article about focusing during the pandemic should be required reading right now. I’ve seen this in my kids, in my husband, and in myself. I know I feel perpetually on edge because I know there’s a “silent threat” floating around and it’s really hard for me to relax. Of course focusing on higher level things like education is hard. The biggest homeschool takeaway right now is just take things one day at a time. We are just now digging into history because earlier this week we just couldn’t handle it.

Planning a week out is great but in a way almost futile, because everyone’s mental health is so over the map it’s hard to see what will happen on any given day. I’ve had to learn to be kind to myself – this is NOT the time to try and check off everything. If anything, this is the time to rely on the organic learning environment as much as possible.

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The Week Ahead: Phase 1 Reopening, Adding History, and More

Last week was the first official week of “reopening” for my state. Phase 1 reopening meant:

  • healthy people no longer need to shelter in place, but people at risk need to continue to do so
  • some businesses can reopen with restrictions
  • masks strongly recommended
  • no gatherings larger than 10 people

So far our Covid cases have appeared to hold steady which is encouraging, however I tend to send a side-eye because I haven’t really been able to get a grasp on the current state of our testing situation. Is it stable because we’re testing enough or is it stable because we aren’t?

Nevertheless, this week we will return to one in-person therapy appointment: occupational therapy. Of all the therapy appointments we have, OT has been the only one which has been the hardest to convert to telehealth. I spoke with the OT on Friday and we went through the clinic’s procedures for doing in-person appointments for those who want them, and we are comfortable with what they have set up. All of our other appointments will continue to stay in telehealth – some like speech require touching faces for cues and others have a lot of people coming and going in the clinic and we don’t feel quite comfortable with that kind of a situation yet.

This week I’d also like to fold in History to our scholastic line-up, in addition to math and phonics. Eventually we will have a routine in place that won’t feel overwhelming, which was my overall goal of dealing with homeschool and a pandemic simultaneously.

Finally, I came across this video titled “Massimo Pigliucci on Stoicism, Ethics, Transhumanism, and the Singularity”. If this isn’t a video that is pretty much IT for me right now, I don’t know what is.

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History Resources for Grades K, 2, 4, and 6

I wanted to write about what I plan on using for resources once I get our homeschool up and running. Feel free to use what I’m using. Please cite my blog as a source if you choose to blog or somehow share this online. Finally, all links to Amazon are affiliate links. Thank you. 🙂

For all the kids, I’m utilizing selections from Home Learning Year By Year by Rebecca Rupp. This book is awesome. It has everything laid out grade level by grade level, and each grade is broken down by subject and then each subject has a general idea of what SHOULD be taught at that grade. And then you get suggested resources for each subject! Glorious! I don’t use it religiously but like to keep it on hand to make sure we are hitting things that need to be hit in order to make conversations with medical professionals more smooth. And it gives me some much needed peace of mind.

In my state we just have to have hit a specific number of education hours, so I have spent a lot of our corona quarantine analyzing (deeply) what works and what doesn’t work and am changing up resources to better suit each individual child.

Kindergarten
Blossom and Root Kindergarten has history included, focusing first on the history of the child in that we get to take a trip down memory lane and revisit all sorts of fun things like what movies and songs were popular, who was the President, and whatnot when the child was born. From there it expands to learning about the child’s family, and then local, state, national, and world heroes, and even has a nice section on the future. Love it.

We’ll add in some well-written biographies about interesting people, and watch shows like Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum on PBS.

Second Grade
My second grader isn’t totally into history, she’s much more into arts and crafts. She also prefers to bounce around like Tigger as opposed to sitting and listening to a story. History for her should be hands on as opposed to strict Charlotte Mason.

We are covering the War of 1812 right now with her, so we are using books like Dolley Madison Saves George Washington, Mr. Madison’s War, plus several books we own about the American flag. Curiousity Stream has a four-part series about the War of 1812 that she may be interested in, so we will add that in as well. Her narrations will still be oral, but also drawn and will employ liberal use of Playmobil and Lego as needed.

Are the books considered “living” books? Probably not. But, I know they will hook and engage her, and will be enough to get her interested in the War and may lead to more stories down the line. Also do I care they’re not living? Nope.

Fourth Grade
If we did nothing BUT history for my fourth-grader, he’d be in hog heaven. Despite his love of history, I’ve had some problems finding books that hook him. He particularly loves military history and of course there aren’t many military history books that are appropriate for a fourth-grader.

We’re giving Joy Hakim’s “A History of US” a spin. I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews on it, but I found some cheap copies of the volumes I need on Thriftbooks so if they don’t work for us, I’m not out much. We’ll spend some time on the French and Indian War and read Calico Captive and The Matchlock Gun.

For World History, we’ll focus on the Scientific Revolution with The Human Odyssey volume 2, and biographies of the great minds of that time – Newton, Copernicus, Galileo, and wherever else we end up. We’ll add in shows like

  • Curious Minds: Science in Society: How Did Newton Change World History (Curiousity Stream)
  • Once Upon a Time – Discoverers (Amazon Prime Video) (has Galileo, Newton, and more)
  • The Who Was Show (Netflix) (has Franklin, Einstein, Newton, and Galileo)

Narration is still oral, and will also include props and Minecraft as well.

Sixth Grade
My sixth grader is rather ambivalent towards history. She likes to read, she likes to watch shows. She’s also sensitive so I do have to be careful for what we talk about. We will start talking about immigration to the United States, always fun as my mom is an immigrant. I’m hoping we can get some excellent oral history from her, but with the coronavirus we can’t get together and my parents don’t have internet. Phone calls may have to work but they aren’t always the clearest.

Books we’ll use: Joy Hakim’s A History of US: Age of Extremes, Dragonwings, Inside Out and Back Again, A Different Mirror for Young People.

For world history, we’ll be hitting up the Dark Ages. I couldn’t find books that I thought would work for my sixth-grader, so I decided to give History Odyssey a try. We’ll use The Middle Ages at Level 2 and see how that works for us.

She will be doing both written and oral narrations. She is a strong oral narrator and typically doesn’t rely on props, but we may bring them in to help organize her thoughts for written narration. She also loves Minecraft narrations so we’ll throw some of those in there as well.


Once all the kids have finished these books in however long it takes (paced for sure), we’ll move on to the next chronological thing for them to study in history. Get more books, wash rinse and repeat. I’ll share the topics and book selections once we get there.

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Homeschooling During the Time of Coronavirus

I like that I thought the concussion + surgery combo meant that our homeschool year was a dumpster fire. That seems like smooth sailing compared to what we currently are doing: homeschooling during the time of coronavirus.

As most of us, we are homeschooling through the coronavirus. Unlike most people, we are homeschooling by choice and thus when my governor closed the schools, it didn’t directly impact us. What did impact us was

  • having Dad working from home (has been since mid-March)
  • closure of activities like 4H and nature walks with local homeschoolers
  • any kind of activities or events that may have been scheduled (my sixth grader did a frog dissection in February, for example)
  • all of our autism and most medical appointments moved to telehealth
  • hit-and-miss in the grocery stores (although that has gotten better for the time being)
  • not being able to play with friends, go to parks, and so on

However, we understand and respect why we are inside and know that we will return to a new normal.

As soon as we went to sheltering-in-place, I gave us time off from everything to allow for us to adjust to staying inside a lot, to having Dad home around the clock, dealing with technological woes as we worked out the kinks with telehealth, and importantly – grieving about what was happening. I don’t mean crying – although some of the kids did that – but just allowing us all to feel the feels of shock, anger, confusion, uncertainty, and whatever else cropped up. It took us about 2 weeks to really work through it all. The kids did well but eventually hit a wall and fell apart, but I think giving them that space of no pressure to allow them to do so really helped us immensely.

After about two weeks, once they started acting nutty again from lack of structure and routine, we resumed schooling. Rather than unload them with a plethora of subjects, I decided to reintroduce them to the Feast, one subject at a time. We started with math. Two weeks spent on math – and only math. If we just did math each day, we were great. After two weeks, I added in phonics for those we needed phonics work and reading for those who are beyond phonics. We’re still in the “add in phonics/reading” stage, honestly. When we are stable with math and phonics/reading; I’ll add in history. And keep going until we have all of our subjects back in.

During these times of unparalleled uncertainty and change, I’ve had to essentially shelf any and all expectations I may have had for my kids. When they are upset, stressed, or overwhelmed; no amount of learning will happen. Sometimes we just need to stop what we are doing and play Plague, Inc for a while to let those feelings of “this is happening to me and I can’t control it” be worked out in a way that is a little macabre but still rather applicable to our current situation.

I’m planning on (hopefully) writing more here, about how we’ve been homeschooling lately and what we’ve been using and all that fun stuff. I’ve had to make my Instagram private but I still want to share what I can, and I like to think that I express myself better in writing than in picture format so ideally I’d like to maintain both. Stay tuned!

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2019 = Dumpster Fire

Time for a monthly update! 😀

At the beginning of December I had surgery to remove the rogue organ. Happily, the surgery was successful and everything came back benign. We have spent most of December recovering, working on celebrating the holidays, and just decompressing.

One thing we did differently this year was to celebrate the winter solstice, or at least pause and note that the days will gradually be getting longer. I tend to have seasonal depression each winter and the post Christmas/New Year’s let down typically is the hardest on me. January 2019 was full of snow and we all went stir-crazy in a way; and I’m hoping that shifting our focus mentally from “each day is a slightly longer day” as opposed to “each day is another day closer to insanity” will help make the seasonal depression not as bad. We’ll see if January 2020 also brings us a plethora of snow.

For the solstice we lit a metric ton of candles and ate dinner by candlelight. The kids adored it and it was a lovely little nod to the return of the sunlight.


From now until we resume school in January, I’m working on the schedule and reflecting on the last six months. One thing I have wanted to do for a while is shift our schooling focus from the traditional school calendar (August – May) to align with the regular calendar (January – December). I have this fever dream of working from January – Thanksgiving, then spending Thanksgiving to New Year’s resting, planning, reflecting, and so on. January would start a new “grade” for the kids in terms of work and books, but they would get a new “grade” with their traditionally schooled counterparts in the fall to make it easier for things like 4H and swimming lessons, or anything else that tends to be grouped by grade.

Montana requires us a specific amount of hours to be completed per year, which the law defines as basically the fiscal year. So as long as I hit my hours in the correct time frame; I can school whenever and however I want, follow whatever schedule I want and so on.

I haven’t fully committed to this idea yet but it definitely is appealing. New books and a fresh beginning to align with the New Year may also help us all from going bonkers during the winters as well.


Circling around to the surgery, I’m finally starting to feel much more normal. I’m still tired a lot and still haven’t been cleared to return to ALL of my activities; but I can drive, my incisions have healed enough that I can stop wearing jammie pants everywhere, and I feel much less brain fog from the anesthesia. I still have lingering concussion symptoms, mostly in the form of headaches (which I can tell are from the concussion as I have to take acetaminophen and ibuprofen to stop the pain), but hopefully 2020 will be the year I get my brain back to mostly normal.


I hope everyone has had a good holidays and that 2020 brings in a lot of good changes and whatever else is needed to be a happy, healthy human.

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This is probably the wildest homeschool year yet

I love how my last post here was our curriculum choices following the hit-and-run. Suffice to say, those choices were woefully optimistic.

In addition to the soreness and fatigue from the accident, I ended up spending six weeks in physical therapy so I could turn my neck again without pain, and I ended up having a concussion. I still have concussion symptoms – memory loss, brain fog, word-find problems, and so on. I’m improving slowly, but you can imagine how that threw a giant wrench in my homeschool plans.

I decided this was going to be THE YEAR that I got all my check-ups, eye appointments, dental cleanings, etc done. I had been having symptoms of an issue for 2 years, but thought “eh, I’ll deal with it later”. I finally decided to look into that, and it turns out that I have (what I call on Instagram) “Something Interesting That Shouldn’t Be There”. Initially we were going to take out Something Interesting That Shouldn’t Be There, but looking at a variety of factors; we decided to remove Something Interesting and the organ it’s attached to so that we don’t have future Something Interestings.

Last week I had a biopsy of the organ to make sure we aren’t dealing with something Serious, and also to have a clear plan on how to remove said organ.

And that brings us to this week.

Naturally, alllll my plans made this past summer were out the window. I had to massively LET GO of expectations and just do what we could, when we could. In addition to all my health stuff, we still have a plethora of recurring appointments each week. There were many weeks where I felt like a colossal failure.

But despite all this health stuff, PT, the appointments – the kids are making great growth. We have basically done whatever school I feel up to doing whenever I feel up to doing it. It’s worked well.

My child with learning disabilities is almost on grade level for reading and math. That child has been getting explicit and intense instruction on reading and math since April.

My sixth grader has been exploring philosophy as a possible career choice. And she’s built some interesting games in Python.

My second grader is discovering that math is fun.

My fourth grader is discovering that reading is fun.

All three kids won special awards at 4H for their first year accomplishments AND they received money won from their blue ribbons at the Fair.

The kids have all pulled together to help me with keeping the house picked up, helped out with each other, and have spent a lot of time playing with one another.

I have thrown out using weeks because that was making me freak out – in Montana we have to measure hours anyways. I’m eyeballing some exams for December, or January depending on when the surgery is. This more relaxed schedule has been SO helpful.

With the surgery looming, I have ample time to get all hands on deck. Planning out menus and shopping lists so my husband can take it over without having to worry, getting the school planned (hello loop scheduling) so my autistic kiddo (and all the kids) can have some semblance of normality in a really abnormal time. Getting the house as cleaned up as possible and then teaching everyone how to maintain it.

Honestly I had beaten myself up massively over the last month or so for “not doing enough” but in retrospect we have done SO much. The kids have had a lot of learning about the judicial system, how insurance works, the human body – all stuff I couldn’t have planned out. They have all shown growth in the subjects we are hitting. It’s incredible.

I plan on detailing what we’ll be doing homeschool wise for the surgery, once I figure out when that is. If there’s one thing I’ve had time to do, it’s think about what needs to get done vs “the extras”.

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2019-2020 Curriculum Choices

It’s been a few months, which means I should work on regularly posting how our homeschooling adventures are going.

I came to a nice happy place of blending Wildwood Curriculum with a DIY approach, which provided us with a very nice first week of school. It was a little hectic, but I attributed that to the general “we’re still trying to find our groove” sense. We were looking forward to slightly redesigned schedule for week 2.

Then we were the victims of a hit-and-run car accident.

Happily, we only had our youngest in the car with us and his carseat protected him so well. My husband and I have some injuries, but nothing severe. We tried to do week 2, but the constant phone calls with our auto insurance, the police, the doctor, imaging done to check for broken bones; and the fatigue that comes with being in pain – I decided to reboot our entire school to account for my fatigue and pain (hopefully both of which will be short-lived). I decided to combine all the kids! into all the subjects! and using my 6th grader’s subjects as the template to follow.

Here’s my selections for Term 1 of our 2019-2020 school year. Links to Amazon are affiliate links, thank you for your support!

Language Arts

  • Spelling: copywork and Phonetic Zoo (sixth grader), copywork and spelling lists I find online (everyone else)
  • Handwriting: copywork and Harry Potter cursive (sixth grader), and a cursive workbook for my second grader. My fourth grader will keep working on refining his printing.
  • Reading: all kids have read-aloud time with me each day so I can monitor what they’re getting stuck on. My dyslexic child has some gaps to fill with regards to reading, so we’ll be using the “whatever works for us at this time” method. I have at my disposal: Progressive Phonics, Phonics Pathways, MCP Plaid Phonics, and lots of easy readers and graphic novels.
  • Grammar: everyone is getting focused grammar. In addition to reading well-written material, we’re using grammar workbooks from Amazon for my sixth grader.

Math

Literature

History

World Religions, Logic, and Philosophy

Science

Geography


I’ll post what we’re doing for Afternoon Rest once I finalize what exactly we’re doing! I have some ideas but I need some uninterrupted time to think and figure out if I’m overloading everyone or not.

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