Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Homeschool High School and Special Needs - Social Studies

For High School our state requires the following for Social Studies:

Three units of history and government, which shall include world history; United States history; United States government, including the Constitution of the United States; concepts of economics and geography

Here is how I plan to meet the requirement and teach my daughter who has Down syndrome.



Veritas Press is a product I have continued to use since reviewing it. In middle school Gess has completed the first two in the self-paced history courses which were Old Testament and Ancient Egypt and New Testament Greece and Rome. This year she will be completing Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation. That will be part of "world" history.

The self-paced series is considered an elementary level curriculum but it offers a way for me to give her one class that I don't have to teach. It allows her some independence that way. Gess loves the way it is presented and with quizzes often done via games, activities, and songs she has not only learned the information well, she retains it! She loves telling me all about the emperors of Rome, or Greek architecture, or whatever the current subject happens to be. The program even keeps her grades and hers is currently 95%!

While Gess is going into high school I will be continuing these as our main curriculum. I want her to finish the series which will also include Explorers to 1815 and 1815 to present.




Along with this we will be focusing on Geography. Every two weeks she will study a country around the world. I am pulling out some old Memoria Press geography books to start with. We will re-read the information about these countries and then supplement that with information learned from other sources. At the end of the two weeks Gess will give a report, cook a meal, or do something to highlight what she learned about the country. She will then place a marker on her map to show that she can identify where the country is. We will use the United States units in a similar way during the year that we focus on US History.




For American History and Government I plan to use Homeschool Legacy's Once A Week Unit studies. We reviewed one on the weather and some holiday ones and they were great. While these are to be used once a week, with Gess' special needs we found a day's worth took us about a week to get through anyway. I currently have the We the People from the Founder's Series. We will do that and several others for their history selection.


These are a really fun and hands on way to learn. This shorter "mirco study" looks delicious!




I think the economics aspects of it will be the toughest part. We will be working on personal money management but to understand the entire scheme of things will depend on how that goes. I am sure we will cover it at some point. Here is what I am using this coming year for our personal finances. We tried it before but she wasn't quite ready. I think she is now.




Along with all of these we will supplement with various field trips, documentaries, videos, books, and other things we find. At the end of four years Gess will have a firm foundation on both world and US history as well as geography.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Record Keeping for High School and Special Needs

With Gess entering High School I have to make sure that she completes the requirements for graduation. Because she has Down syndrome I am able to adapt the subjects to her current level of learning and capabilities. As we start the 9th grade I am trying to make sure that I have a plan in place. I know that parents who homeschool their child with special needs often want to know what to do for high school. I know, because I am one of them! Well, I am learning as I go but I think I have it figured out!


Before I get into the curriculum we need to talk about record keeping. I have been using My Student Log Books since I reviewed them a couple of years ago. It has been helpful for Gess to track her own work and keep her on task. Here is an example of that from my previous review.


While I used it as a visual check list, it is so much more than that! If you utilize all the functions in this book you can keep track of your student's work and easily transport that information onto a high school transcript. They have detailed information and videos about how to do just that. They are very informative!


I will be following the second option mostly, creating my own curriculum based upon hours spent on a subject. So now instead of just filling in an X when Gess has completed a subject she might put a time slot in the box instead, or a grade if it was a test. I even got a timer to use to see how long it takes her to complete a task to make sure that we are getting our full hour of subject time in each day. She has been practicing with it this summer timing how long it takes her to read a book.


On the timer she can just press start and then stop when finished and write in the number of minutes spent. It can also be set for an amount of time in which it will count down and then stops when her time is up. She had no trouble learning how to use it or remembering to do it.

In the back of the logbook are pages to log books read, events, projects, field trips, presentations, activities, and record test scores. 

Now when I am ready to fill in my transcript I will have all the information I need! I am using the transcript templates provided by the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. I am a member and highly recommend them. Besides legally representing you if you ever get questioned about homeschooling they have a lot of helpful information and forms for you to use. As a member they will even review the transcript for you! These templates are available for anyone though.


One last thing, I am writing my own version of an IEP. Instead of saying what I need to work on since I am already aware of that, it is mostly just to document what level Gess is on at the start of each year. That will help explain why she was able to do things on a lower grade level. It will also show advancement when compared to the year before. This link has templates that I found helpful. http://www.cherylmjorgensen.com/Resources.html

I am now working on ordering curriculum and planning my schedule based upon my state's graduation requirements. In Kansas we need:

*Four units of English language arts, which shall include reading, writing, literature, communication, and grammar. The building administrator may waive up to one unit of this requirement if the administrator determines that a pupil can profit more by taking another subject.

*Three units of history and government, which shall include world history; United States history; United States government, including the Constitution of the United States; concepts of economics and geography

*Three units of science, which shall include physical, biological, and earth and space science concepts and which shall include at least one unit as a laboratory course

*Three units of mathematics, including algebraic and geometric concepts

*One unit of physical education, which shall include health and which may include safety, first aid, or physiology

*One unit of fine arts, which may include art, music, dance, theatre, forensics, and other similar studies selected by a local board of educatio

*Six units of elective courses

I will blog about what we are doing for each subject in the weeks to come. I am having a blast working it all out. I just love teaching at home and am excited about entering the realm of high school this fall!



Monday, May 30, 2016

My Summer Reading List From Progeny Press

Lately I have been entering the adult summer reading program along side my daughter. Once she reached middle school the goals for us have been the same: Read 10 books over the summer. It makes it fun because we often race to see who finishes first. Gess usually wins. They even give adults a break and let them read from any section of the library, but I always chose adult books - until now.

Since Gess is entering high school and reading comprehension and books reports are part of her requirements I have decided to use some resources from Progeny Press. I reviewed their guide for Hall of Doors: Dragon's Hoard a few years ago and we really like it. While Dragon's Hoard was on their upper elementary level list of books, for high school I will try using their middle school guides. I will probably only have Gess do one per semester because of how long it takes her to read a book of this length and how difficult it is for her to examine it thoroughly. In the past she always read a book twice before answering questions but that will be harder for longer books.

Here is the link to the Progeny Press Middle School E-Guides. One of the things I love about Progeny Press is how they use Scripture as the lens for truth when examining literature. I also like them because they are interactive and allow the student to type their answers directly into the PDF. That is very helpful for Gess who types better than writes anyway. I will most certainly have her answer each chapter's questions at the end of the section rather than wait until the end of the book.

The toughest part is finding novels Gess has an interest in. She will read non-fiction books all day long. Fiction is tougher. I also might have to get some of the books in e-book format. That will help her adjust the font to a comfortable size and keep her from seeing how long the book is. (The size of large books scares her, even if she has the skill to read all the words inside.) Here is my short list for her. I will read most of these this summer and get a feel for which ones I think she will like best.


I will share what Gess chooses to read later as her choices tend to be more random. What are you planning on reading this summer?

Saturday, May 28, 2016

I really needed a break!

I never really intended to stop blogging but life has been really hard. I have had some serious things that have taken priority. I also really struggled with what to write on a regular basis. With Gess in middle school these last few years there really was not anything new to cover. Unlike before where she was always learning a new concept or coming up with a new challenge, we were pretty much settled in.  Like a typical student, we did the same lessons each day and that is really not all that interesting to write about that!

This year though, Gess will be starting High School! I have been doing research into high school transcripts and state requirements so she can get a diploma at the end of the next four years. I am learning a lot and so I will be sharing about that! I am in the process of planning next year and getting my curriculum ordered. When I am done you will hear about it!

Summer also affords more time for writing and we sometimes do some interesting things worth writing about. That will hopefully get me back to writing. I have missed doing it!

I just can't believe my baby girl will be 15 in October and starts the 9th grade in August!! Where has the time gone!?




Monday, February 1, 2016

Shopping and Finances

Gess and I practice shopping in many different ways. Sometimes she writes her own list, sometimes she just follows mine. I always try to have her find things herself. I will pick a few items and have her take me to that part of the store and find it all on her own. I will send her down and aisle while I wait and have her grab things I know she can find. She also helps me check out of the store. She loves doing the self check out for she can do that all on her own! She even knows how to pay with a debit or credit card as well as cash.

This past year we have been focusing on cost. We practice rounding items in the store to add as we go along. At one point she looked up asked me, "Are we doing math at Wal-Mart?" I was busted and admitted that we were. I also used that as an opportunity to explain we always use math at Wal-Mart or any other store. Shopping requires math. Whether you do it in your head or just let the cash register do it for you, math is required!

The latest element I have added is having her realize how much all that stuff costs. The total, of our entire shopping bill. The first time she heard it she exclaimed, "Wow that's a lot!" Indeed it is. Budgeting is a very important life skill so for now we are addressing it by having her simply get a handle on how much it costs to feed our family and keep our pantry stocked each week. We usually shop at 3 different grocery stores (unless it is a very hectic week). After we get home while I put groceries away Gess sits at the table, finds our total on each receipt and adds them all up with the calculator. She is getting really good at it!


I plan on incorporating more budgeting in the future. She will help get the mail, open our bills, and see what they cost. For now it is planning our grocery list, figuring out how much we can spend, doing the shopping, and then seeing how good we did to sticking to our "budget." I can see she is getting it because she is now always asking me, "how much does that cost?"

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Times Tales Part 1

I am super excited to tell you about our latest discovery! This program is helping my daughter, who has Down syndrome, memorize her multiplication facts. This is really incredible when you consider that she has yet to master her addition and subtraction facts! It's all thanks to this handy resource we found called Times Tales.

Times Tales introduces the times tables as stories. Each number is a "character" and in the stories those numbers interact. When they do you unlock the answer to what happens when you multiply those two characters together. The trick is that they don't mention that at all until the child has memorized the stories exactly as written!


Gess is an excellent reader and great at memorizing when it comes to bible verses, rhymes, and songs so this was right up her alley. Stories make sense to her - numbers no so much. Now that these numbers have a story she has her facts all figured out!

Along with the video you get downloadable resources to help the child along. There are a couple of worksheets as well as flash cards and dice with the problems presented as the characters in the story. The dice have both numbers as well as characters and are a fun way to practice the facts randomly.


We have just completed part 1. I am waiting awhile longer before moving on. With her special needs I am taking it slow. We have been at it over a month and as of today she only struggled with two facts but ultimately got them all right. She can even get the division problems, but they take more time. In a few more weeks she should be ready to move on! Do note that typical kids can learn this in a matter of hours, but we are OK with moving slow. Just having her NOT panic at a math problem is so amazing to me!


I will update and let you know how part 2 goes. For now, I am happy with what we have! Way to go Gess! And thank you Times Tales! Now if only they had this for addition and subtraction...hint, hint!


Friday, January 15, 2016

A Mom's New Years Resolution

I had quite the year last year. I had a hysterectomy in June and just as I got my OK to become active again I had a terrible pain in my shoulder which turned out to be from a herniated disc in my neck. That put me down another 3 months. After that my mother's heart failure progressed and my responsibilities for her doubled. So now that things are calm again and a new year is upon us, I have a lot of goals that I want to accomplish.

I sat down one day and listed all my goals. I want to read through the bible in a year, memorize more verses, have daily quiet time, exercise, lose 25 pounds, and my list kept growing and growing. Looking down at it all on paper completely overwhelmed me. Then, the Lord started to show me something.

My pastor preached a New Year's sermon and ended it by stating that no matter what you were able to accomplish that year, were you faithful to God? If you were faithful that was enough! God had already been revealing this to me in his Word. I was seeing that even though I had an "off" year and accomplished little in the eyes of the world, in the eyes of God I was faithful to Him and that was all that mattered! How encouraging that was, to know that my God is not disappointed in me! He extended grace in the midst of my circumstances, not judgment. So now I want to share a little bit of what I learned so that maybe it can encourage you too.

The Bible is full of many miracles and great men and women who acted courageously for God. But if we look at the scope of all of time, we have to realize that those incredible moments were actually few and far between. Even in the life of people like Abraham or Daniel there are many years of silence before the next big step, miracle, or vision came. The point is that life isn't all about doing big things for God, it is about being faithful to Him in our day to day lives. As mothers, as grandmothers, as teachers, as wives, as daughters, our number one priority is to be faithful to God.

Gen 18:18 Abraham is to become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have chosen him so that he will command his children and his house after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. This is how the Lord will fulfill to Abraham what He promised him." 

Abraham was commanded to do what was right and just. Sometimes that required great steps of great faith like when he left his family in Ur or was ready to sacrifice Isaac, but it wasn't just those acts that made him faithful. It was doing what was right and just all the time.The times you don't read about. The dull day when his family just did their tasks without angels stopping by, or talking directly with the Lord. Even among his mistakes, which were sometimes great as when he lied about his wife and allowed Kings to have her, in his heart he was faithful to God. He wasn't perfect, but he was faithful.

Mic 6:8 Mankind, He has told you what is good
and what it is the Lord requires of you:
to act justly,
to love faithfulness,
and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah gives us three things that are required of us. None of them say how we are to do it. Others around us may seem more spiritual because they have done something “bigger” for God than you but in reality there is no "big" thing. All that God requires is that we do these three things. Maybe you are not on a mission field, not leading a class, or not having a particularly powerful season of prayer but that does not mean there is something wrong with your spiritual walk. Staying faithful in the dull moments life can be even harder than staying faithful in the tough situations. Believe me, when Gess was undergoing heart surgery I was faithful to God because I knew it was impossible without Him, but now that she is well, it's easier to forget to have that time of prayer or read my Scripture. Be faithful with what you are given every day, be humble, and be just. That's it.

The passage that stood out to me the most over the last year was this one in 1 Thessalonians. Paul was telling the people to love their brothers but there was more they were to do.

1Th 4:10 In fact, you are doing this toward all the brothers in the entire region of Macedonia. But we encourage you, brothers, to do so even more, 11 to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you,
 Love your brothers and sisters in Christ, lead a quiet life, mind your own business, and work with your hands. That is what Abraham did in between the chapters of the Bible. When Daniel wasn't before the king interpreting dreams or getting visions, this is what he did. When Paul was staying in one place for awhile writing his letters he was doing this too. Working with their hands, leading a quite life, and showing love by not striving to tear others down. They kept the Lord's way by doing what was right and just.

Note that this was not perfection. David who was a man after God's own heart did many awful things including murder. It is not expected that we become perfect, but that we stay faithful and allow the Spirit to lead us. Part of staying faithful is realizing that you will mess up but keep striving forward anyway. Perfection will not come until heaven, so walk in the Spirit and continue to grow even after you fail.

I am not in anyway suggesting that we should not strive to sacrifice or do great things for the Lord. There are seasons and times for that to be sure. I just want to remind us that sometimes the big things will not come until we can be faithful in the many little things day after day after day. Among the messy house, the dirty diapers, the piles of laundry, the cranky child, the sleepless night, if you stay faithful to God that is enough! You are a success in the eyes of the loving God. Besides, raising our kids is no small thing! I know it does not always get the praise that it rightfully deserves, especially in our culture. Those children you are raising are a reward, not a distraction from doing something greater. They are the gift you are given from a God who loves you and knows that you are enough!

Psa 127:3 Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord,
children, a reward.

So, make your lists, set your goals, and strive to do better in every area of your life, but put this one at the top of your list. Be faithful to God. Then give yourself some grace as you look back and if at the end of year you can say, "I was faithful to God" you have done well.

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