AO Year 4, Term 1, Week 9 | AO Year 2, Term 1, Week 11

This week was one of those weeks where flexibility was the name of the game. It came apparent to me that we had something going on every day of the week and in some instances; had some double booking going on. Happily Grandma helped out by taking the kids to and from choir for me while I went to the doctor; and we basically forced ourselves through the rest of the week.

Monday and Tuesday Peanut (Yr 4) and Moose (Yr 2) discovered the wonder of having all their school done by 11:30 in the morning. I have told them until I’m blue in the face that if you finish your work well (as in, not slopped or rushed through) and don’t dawdle; you can be finished before noon – which leaves the rest of the day for playing, reading, visiting Grandparents, playing with friends, and so on. Sure enough they discovered that I wasn’t yanking their chains.

Peanut and Moose both had math tests and passed. Peanut finally finished up Math Mammoth Grade 3 and can begin Grade 4; Moose moves on to the next chapter in his Math Mammoth text. We also went on to the next list in both Phonetic Zoo and high frequency words.

Wednesday was a day where everything went south but we managed to get things accomplished. Our special needs kid had an extremely hard morning of therapies which meant that that child was fried and drained and needed to rest all day (but was irritable making it hard for others to work), I was fried and drained from whatever health problem I’m having, and it was just blah. I didn’t force school too much on everyone because when we’re at each other’s throats, sometimes we just need to shelve everything and have some hot cocoa (or a Snickers bar) and chill. The relationship with the kids trumps any knowledge they may gain. And besides, who can learn when someone’s antagonizing you, you’re frustrated because things “aren’t easy” and so on.

Peanut did have her heart broken a little bit more about Benjamin Franklin, she was entirely unimpressed that he stayed in England so long, despite his wife begging him to return (and not returning until after her passing). She still thinks he’s a “mostly good guy” though. 😉

Thursday was worse than Wednesday, in that I had a blood draw scheduled for 1 in the afternoon. “Please fast for 12 hours beforehand” said my doctor. Welllll I don’t know about you, but I’m not up at midnight getting my last meal in. I ended up having an unintentional 17 hour fast. At least I was hydrated enough for the five vials that needed to be drawn. I forgot to ask the phlebotomist (I was ready to go to the grocery for ALL THE FOOD) when my results would be in, and since I have no new lab reports in my online account I’m guessing all the tests are done across the state. Maybe on Monday!

(My doctor thinks that maybe I feel so screwed up because my ferritin iron levels may be low, so he’s having that checked, plus thyroid antibodies and like 249820675698719584867 other tests.)

Friday was swim class day and absolutely TGIF. Moose wasn’t impressed to learn that we’re finishing Understood Betsy next week. I find that we’re slowly “falling behind” except that we’re not, if that makes sense. Yes, we got off on our Latin schedule so the regularly scheduled quiz wasn’t on Friday, and next week we’ll do some extra reading to get done with Moose’s first term. But really, it’s not a big deal. I’m finding in necessary to cut myself slack and let go of some tightly held (and wound) beliefs. I’m participating in Brandy Vencel’s “Charlotte Mason Boot Camp” right now. I wasn’t sure if I could handle it while feeling so lousy BUT it’s so great, I’m glad I took the chance and signed up. Plus, I enjoy having to make some time to be quiet, read and discuss and pray about certain aspects of our homeschool and life in general.

AO Year 4, Term 1, Week 8 | AO Year 2, Term 1, Week 10

It’s hard to believe that we are almost finished with Moose’s first term! Peanut is not far behind, and soon we will be switching some books and moving on to new ones. I’ll be quite bummed to finish Understood Betsy, but we’re moving on to The Wind in the Willows which I haven’t read; so it’s not totally a loss.

This week was another crazy week – scheduling a new doctor appointment for me, a nature walk (the weather was GLORIOUS for it and it was just great to be outside and enjoy some sunshine), choir and therapies, homeschool swim class and a park day with a friend and her daughter. I think I need to readjust the school schedule to allow for some afternoons to be truncated or some mornings to be removed because we’re busy with therapies.

I had some glimpses this week of learning with Moose and math. Math isn’t the easiest subject for him, and lots of patience and manipulatives and S.L.O.W. learning. I contemplated even giving up on his current math and going back to absolute core basics, much like I did with reading – lay off and wait, and try again in a couple months. But, I don’t think we need to go back to absolute basics, or wait a few months; because the connections are being made and it IS coming together. Even if it feels like we’re treading water in molasses sometimes, it’s good for both him and me to see the little successes and that YES, he is learning math;  just at his own pace.

I gave the kids reading level assessments this week, and both kids are above grade level. Moose was sort of reading CVC words in January, which is when we began systematic phonics instruction and ta-da he completely caught up and surpassed where he “should” be. Hot diggity dog.

Peanut is finding her friend, Benjamin Franklin quite the person. We had a spirited discussion about taxation, the Stamp Act and its repeal, why the colonists were SO unimpressed with the taxes and how that relates to our lives today. A lot of aha moments happened. I love these times of discussion, to see how her wheels are moving and what she’s thinking.

Peanut and Moose unearthed a rabbit skeleton with their friends on the mountain behind our houses, which has been THE highlight of the week. Earlier this week they had found just the legs, and so I was enlisted to help ID what they were looking at. Today the skull and jaw was found, along with ribs and other bones. Triumph! Peanut was ecstatic that “it still had its bunny teeth!” Thankfully no one has taken to calling the skeleton “Peter Rabbit”, which may put a slight damper on Moose’s enjoyment of Burgess’ Animal Book. 🙂

AO Year 4, Term 1, Week 4 | AO Year 2, Term 1, Week 6

And now, for this week’s work! 🙂

Year 4

We had the return of “elastic time”. I gave Peanut one of my Happy Planners that I had no use for and wrote out her assignments, breaking them down into “by yourself” and “with Mama”. I came across this post on Afterthoughts, and I will be definitely incorporating that into our days. It should help Peanut begin to manage her time better.

Some things I’m noticing this year with Peanut:
– copywork has drastically improved her cursive writing.
– math is coming along really well. We use Math Mammoth and Simply Charlotte Mason’s Living Math. I use Living Math to explain the concept and Math Mammoth for practice problems.
– Latin had a giant leap and not only is she learning it well, she’s correctly spelling everything
– English spelling is also improving and I suspect it will take a giant leap forward when we start dictation and written narrations

I’ve found some problems with introducing the actual plays of Shakespeare and beginning Plutarch. My plan is start Plutarch again but use Publicola instead of Julius Caesar. I’m also going to either go back to Shakespeare retellings that we did last year or perhaps s l o w l y read the play of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as we read the retelling of that last year and the kids really enjoyed it.

Year 2

I am absolutely loving this Ambleside year. Moose is growing and learning so much through it, it’s exciting to watch him grow. Based on his excitement in narrations, Understood Betsy is his current favorite book. I’m really enjoying it as well. I was the spoiled youngest of my family so I definitely relate to Betsy, especially as she begins to stretch her wings, so to speak. 🙂

Moose finished six weeks of work which means he gets the next week off for a break week. He won’t be left feral, but it will be good for him to take a week off the books and have some relaxation time.

His major accomplishments so far:
– handwriting is massively improving. We finished the cursive Handwriting Without Tears book and went to printing.
– math is also improving. I’m the same setup that I use for Peanut – Math Mammoth and Living Math – and it’s been the key to unlocking math for him.
– his narrations are really developing well, and I’m quite pleased with how he’s doing. He used to just repeat the last sentence, then he pretty much told me back word for word everything I read. He’s understanding that I’m not looking for a regurgitation, but rather in his own words what he’s heard. What’s impressive that he completely GETS that he has one only one listen through and I think only once or twice has he been not paying enough attention to give any narration. Way to go, Moose!


The biggest event this week was, of course; the solar eclipse. We saw about 93% of totality, and it was awesome. We had our solar glasses on and watched everything from the beginning up to peak. We saw crescent shadows on the ground, we felt the temperature get cooler, we saw the surreal haze – it was excellent. The kids were a little disappointed that it didn’t get really dark – but it’s a good lesson that a smidge of sun is still really bright. The kids drew the stages of the eclipse in their nature journals, and even Wok (five next month) has been drawing little eclipses on pieces of paper since Monday. 🙂

‘What I’m Reading’ Wednesday, day-late edition

Well, the best intentions don’t always translate into concrete plans; so here we are on a Thursday discussing books. 🙂 My big “behind the scenes” drama is that insurance is being whiny and claiming medically needed services are in fact, not medically needed at all and are flat out denying the coverage. I am appealing with the assistance of our provider, and thus far we have 50 pages alone of why these services are needed. I am writing a letter detailing how the services have benefited the receiver, and so on.  I am pretty much mentally exhausted after I work on the letter, and of course we’re on a time constraint AND I want it to be clear and detailed. God willing we will win the appeal and resume our regularly scheduled life.


We are still plugging through and enjoying our read-alouds that I mentioned last week. Right now I’m focusing only on the Mowgli stories in the Jungle Book. The little girls (ages 3 and almost 5) often lose interest through Jungle Book, but Peanut and Moose love it. Unfortunately, they’ve already seen the Disney cartoon and therefore are comparing the book to the movie (and hoping certain movie events happen in the book) BUT it’s a nice change of pace from our last read-aloud (Peter Pan, which is paused as my thrift store vintage copy completely bit the dust and pages are falling out, ugh. I was hoping to get the Word Cloud Classics Peter Pan from our Costco, but alas they ran out of copies).

The more I read of the Jungle Book, the more I find out that I really enjoy Rudyard Kipling’s writing. It’s so whimsical but elegant, and I think he’s a very understated author in terms of “must read books”.

I’m going to start Volume 3 – School Education soon, as I was trying to figure out which volume to read after finishing Volume 1. People have been quoting Volume 3 recently and I’ve been enjoying them; so off we go there!

For spiritual reading, I’m reading this inexpensive book about the Christian home. I’m not too far into it yet, so I don’t have an opinion formed.

I am hoping to purchase this book soon (preferably hard copy, my eyes are getting too old for the Kindle app on my tablet, and Peanut has claimed my Kindle for herself).

AO Year 2 Term 1 Week 3

Within the last week, I ended up extremely frustrated with the State of the House and its occupants. Despite my best intentions, chores slowly were piled on my back, too much technology had crept in, and attitudes were everywhere. Obviously the problem was too much unstructured time – idle hands and idle thoughts and all. So, I sat down and thought “what are the things that I want to incorporate into our family culture” and “how will that be accomplished?” I ended up generating a schedule like so:

Breakfast – Wake up, make beds, get dressed, brush hair. Eat breakfast, clear off table, load dishwasher. Morning prayers.

Morning – Chore of the Day. Everyone plays with the baby. School for those old enough, Nugget naps. Everyone else is playing, coloring, or reading a book.

Snacktime – Only if people are respectful during school and Nugget’s nap (we’ve had a problem with people deliberately waking up the baby, grr).

Lunchtime – Mom and Nugget eat, everyone else plays, prays, reads, or cleans. Big kids eat with Dad during his lunch break. Afterwards – clear table, load dishwasher, sweep floor.

Afternoon – Big kids finish up school. If school was finished in the morning, then afternoon occupations. Little kids can play, color, be read to, etc. When Nugget is napping everyone has quiet time.

Snacktime – Only if people are respectful during Nugget’s nap.

4 o’clock – Quick tidy so Dad doesn’t come home to a disaster area. Make dinner, eat when Dad is back from work. Clear table, load dishwasher, run it.

Evening – Playtime with Dad while Mom eats chocolate in the bathroom. Final clean up. Bath/showers for all kids. Read aloud. Bedtime prayers, tuck in, lights out.

I made several copies of the schedule, and gave one copy each to Peanut and Moose. Everyone else gets it read to them and reminded regularly about what they should be doing and what’s coming up. It’s working out rather well – I’m not as frustrated, the kids aren’t as aimless, and everyone is understanding that Mom Means Business if you dare to wake the baby from any kind of sleep!

When I broke the readings into their daily components, one thing I did for Moose (year 2) is leave one day a week as a “light” day. He’s the kind of kid who will burn out quickly without regularly scheduled breaks. In addition to trying a six week on/one off break schedule this year; we’re testing out a four day on/one day “light” day for five days of school each week. He still has to do reading, math, handwriting, literature, and religion but the rest (British history, history tales, etc) isn’t done. Thursday is our “light” day, which worked out well yesterday. At 11am my husband called me to let me know that at 2pm, I needed to take our dog to the vet to get his rabies shot updated. Okie-dokie. Thanks to our “light” day, everything was pretty much done and so it was easy to work into our schedule (although it did make it so Nugget couldn’t nap, but oh well).

On Monday we add in Peanut, who will start Year 4. It shouldn’t be too chaotic as she’s pretty independent and Moose is off to an acting camp for the week. The following week the juggling will begin as both will be doing school at the same time. 🙂

AO Year 2: Term 1, Day 1

I’ve decided to do a “rolling start” to the school year this year. Rather than start everyone at the same time, I’m starting kids one at a time, based on their year, their level of independence, their needs, and more. As things roll on, I’ll add in the other kids.

Moose, my Year 2 student this year; is my first one to begin this year. Of all the kids, he needs the most flexibility in his schedule and still needs my help for almost everything. After giving him a little bit of time off, we hit the books today.

Honestly, things went well. Very well. He has had a lot of maturation recently and was able to do the entire day’s work without drama. We utilized the baby’s nap, and the girls all played Playmobils downstairs while we worked upstairs. He was done in about 2 hours, which shocked him as he said it didn’t feel like two hours at all (with a couple of breaks). 🙂

There was some slight whining about why he had to start now but no one else did; but I explained to him that as long as we don’t overdo it on the breaks (or take months off at a time), he should finish Year 2 before Peanut finishes Year 4. Additionally, he saw the stack of Year 2 books and was super excited to dive in, although he desperately wanted to start with Robin Hood. Sorry buddy, going to have to wait until the third term for that one.

I am waiting until Peanut begins (next month) to do “the riches” with them. In order to keep Moose’s days varied and fulfilling, I am using other composers/hymns/artists that strike our fancy. Tomorrow is the U.S. Independence Day, so there’s a lot of Sousa and patriotic songs currently playing.

Thriving At Mass

We finally are at a point after a lot of behavioral therapy and maturation that we can go to Mass together and actually thrive there, versus “just surviving”. For most people, going to Mass requires no special planning or anything like that. For us, it involved only being able to attend certain parishes, at certain times of the liturgical year, making sure we had an escape in case of meltdowns, and more. Add in dirty looks and the like and I don’t find myself surprised when many families that have special kids just simply stop coming.

The biggest issue for our ASD kiddo was the fact that this child felt extremely overwhelmed by being in any church with high ceilings (spoiler alert, that’s pretty much all of them). This child would have panic attacks and feel like they were going to float up to the ceiling. And then fall back down and die.

After much trial and error, consulting with therapists, working on skills like expeccted vs unexpected behavior, Zones of Regulation and so on; we have a Mass bag put together for our ASD kiddo. The bag contains everything needed for a prayerful Mass attendance:

  • A Mass visual schedule that Summer at Writing Like a Mother created. It’s been such a blessing because my ASD kiddo can finally follow along with the Mass and make checkmarks as we go along. She has other great special needs resources, so be sure to check them all out. I laminated our chart and put it on a keyring to keep the pages together. I also bring along a dual color dry erase marker for checking off boxes.
  • I couldn’t find the exact weighted vest at Fun and Function, but that’s where we purchased the vest in the picture. It snaps (although one of the snaps ripped out of the fabric, so I’ll need to get it repaired) and has small sandbags inside of it to help provide some grounding and sensory input.  In the wintertime we’ll use this compression shirt (also from Fun and Function) and see how that works out.
  • The sunglasses help block out bright lights (or sunlight), and the gun muffs make the organ not as loud.
  • Not pictured is a ballcap. That is also used (with the bill low) to block out visual stimulus and help our kiddo feel grounded and be able to focus on the Mass.

As you can imagine, we’re kind of … obvious when we’re at Mass, but we finally can worship together as a family vs one of us having to sit out with our ASD kiddo, we don’t have to avoid parishes (especially while travelling) because of architecture, and we can finally get into a regular routine which will go a long way in alleviating anxiety. I finally feel a little more relaxed, as opposed to constantly on edge about what could go wrong.