Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Unstructured Structure

That word is not my whole mantra for homeschool.  Even it if it was, it is still so vital in our daily curriculum.

One of the greatest assets of homeschooling is unstructured time.  This may be time to play, create, draw, paint, think, read, etc.  I have found, in the short while we have been homeschooling (plus, 1 year), my children are happier, more willing to learn, and better listeners when I allow them "free time".  

Really, I don't "allow" anything. I know when they can't sit still, can't focus, or are being rebellious...we need a break. All of us.

Today is one of those days. I was so frustrated this morning because we were having so many problems from child #2. After pushing, pushing, crying, prodding, I let him take a break.  After all, if I push too hard, learning becomes, well, boring.

A friend posted this (or was tagged in this on FB).  Thank goodness for social media.

I agree with it fully and know that if it wasn't pouring rain, my children would be outside playing.

Of course, with this weather, they could go out and play in the rain.  It is 80 degrees after all.

So I gave them free time.

What are they doing?

The oldest is doing a math "game".  This comes from the child that is not a huge fan of math. #winning

Child #2 is reading on Epic. This is such a great site for books you don't have to go the library for. Best $35 we spent and it's been three days...He read/had read to him and entire 8 chapter book on Benjamin Franklin yesterday.  It was way above his reading level, so I didn't mind him getting help.

Child #3 did IXL preschool math on her own.  I didn't ask her and she wants to finish and get her "medals". She also wrote two letters to her cousin.

Child #4 decided to focus on his Starfall counting. Starfall has been fantastic. I am shocked by the progress the two youngest ones have made in such a short amount of time.  Both went from having difficulty identifying letters and numbers (not my finest admission as a parent) two months ago to child #3 being able to write her whole alphabet and #4 can identify the whole alphabet in random order.


Just so the 2 people reading this want to know all websites we use for our curriuculum:

Starfall $35/year.  But there's a monthly payment plan too. Perfect for Pre-K and K (ages 3-5).
IXL This was more expensive because we bought a year in advance with four subjects: math, language arts, science and history ($199/year for "two" children.  They have other payment plans too). We'd used this before and loved it for practice.  So far, it's been really helpful and the Hubs and I LOVE the analytics we have access to as parents. There's no hiding questionable work and we can see where they need some more help. We require them to show mastery (aka 100 percent & a "medal" before they move on).  I let child #3 do work on the other children's profiles because I can still track, compartmentalize, and follow her too.
Epic ($35 for the year) We got this after after purchasing the Reading Rainbow app. This app is perfect for older children and does the same thing (aka read to you) for the young ones like RR.  Definitely not as confusing.
Reading Rainbow Don't get reading rainbow if you have older children or have any other tablet than a kindle.  It's quite annoying and confusing to use for me as an adult. My children were confused also.  I am attempting to get a refund for the year we paid in advance.
Prodigy  My children love this game. They were introduced to it at their last public school.
Khan Academy We just started using this. I donated $10 to use it. I'd like to spend more time using it and learning, but I know it will come in handy. Everyone learns concepts differently and this will allow other teaching methods to learn these things.
 Our oldest loves chemistry, but I am definitely NOT well versed in chemistry. This was highly recommended by my sister-in-law who has lived all around the world and has/is homeschooling her children.  She did have a child just get a ridiculous ACT score and will be starting school at Texas A&M in January, so I believe this has quite a bit of merit...

There is also a random spattering of books, printable worksheets, and other supplements.  These are not quite VITAL, but they do help. (Our favorite, simple practice book is the Brain Quest book from Sam's Club.  It is probably available on amazon too.)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Home Birth

Those two words fill my soul with peace and calm. 

After our last eventful, uncomplicated birth, and expecting a baby on the island here, my soul started searching.  And last week, we got our answer.

Home birth.

If I tell someone here why I am doing this, they look at me like I am from outer space.  It is so foreign to many native Puerto Ricans.  I have one neighbor that tried to scare me with the "what ifs" and "think of your family".  Yes, thank you I have.  Another neighbor said it was fantastic.  I have a few friends that think it is amazing and others that think I should go back to the mainland to have the baby. I know it is intense.  I have done this four times before.  It is a process during which my mind focuses on the job that has to get done.  It is normal, intense, and awesome when you look back.

Birth here is treated like a disease. Birth is treated like a disease most places.  But here, exceptionally so. After research, I discovered several things that are not okay with hospital births here.

No. 1: C-section rate.  I read 60 percent in a research paper.  The midwife we saw last week said 50%.  Either way, it is way too much. It's not the rate for first time moms.  Its the overall rate.  So, if I had another birth like my third, which was uncomplicated, it was just slow due to her positioning, I could guarantee a c-section.  No. No. No.  I am not opposed to lifesaving c-section, but the likelihood of a complicated birth, with ZERO drugs/interventions on a 5th baby, is very small.

No. 2: Your baby pretty much goes MIA for 9 hours after birth to the nursery.  If you want to see them, feed them, you go to them.  No.

No. 3: Some doctors here do not let you go past 39 weeks.  I have always gone past 39 weeks and go as long as 41 weeks.

No. 4: General practice here is a lot of testing and telling patients what they will do, even if it isn't necessary.  The mother can even fight it or balk. Ultrasounds at every visit, multiple overall labs done three to four times a pregnancy (it's done ONCE in the mainland). I am not making this up.  I went to my "back up doctor" visit - I am not a fan of him, but we want a plan B - and he sent me away with another order for general overall labs and another ultrasound.  He even told me, "This is how they do it in the states."  To which I kindly said, "I've had four babies there and they don't. I have only ever had one set done in the beginning.  Ever." He had the gall to argue with me. I knew I would be in a losing battle, so I shut my mouth and started my prayers for a smooth, healthy home birth because I really didn't want to see this man in labor.   I later asked my midwife, "Do I have to do these things?"  She shook her head, no.  So I am sure I will have a doctor super thrilled with me next visit.  We are not flying back to the US to have a baby.  And I am not changing my mind.

No. 5: Fathers do not stay at the hospital with you.  You share a room and children are not allowed to see the new baby in the hospital.  Seriously?

No. 6. This is does not have an effect on our choice, but epidurals are not common here.  That was my main reason for having my first three in the take that off the books.

No. 7. Research has found that women that have had a previous, uncomplicated vaginal birth are actually safer to birth at home.

No. 8. It is safer for the baby to be born at home vs hospital because of bacteria.  My Dad, who I thought would be a tough critic, was my surprising ally.  He is an RN and said that the baby already has immunities to the bacteria in the home, whereas the baby and mother do not have those same immunities to things in the hospital. Jim Gaffigan, while hysterical talking about it, is spot on.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Homes in PR

So we have an awesome house in PR.  It's very large (by my standards) around 2,800 sq ft.  When you have a growing family of 7, I feel it is justified and perfect. (When it is clean I will post photos.  So don't hold your breath.)

It is all tile and some of it is dated - from the 90s - and we have given it a facelift in some areas.

I really love it.

But, being a homeowner stinks.

We came home to cucarachas (cockroaches), bugs in most of our grains, and some other necessary, quick fixes. 

We now have bug exterminator, a bunch of trashed food, and today we will have clean inverters (high efficiency-air conditioners).

AND I wish we had a dishwasher.  I need a dishwasher.  My children have finally started helping me, which makes it so much faster, but still, I would LOVE a dishwasher.

The problem is that the countertops are to shallow in depth to put a dishwasher by the sink.  I am so tempted to extend the counter top (in a L shape) with butcher block or stainless steel covered plywood) to get that thing to fit better.  We have space to extend it.  We have corian (whatever they are - the fake, plastic stone).  Can you cut this with out cracking the rest?  Because seriously, it would be an "quick" awesome fix if we could.

Any ideas?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Learning Styles and Strengths

Homeschool is the ultimate way to learn about your children and their personal learning styles.

Child #1: definitely a "free spirit" kind of girl, yet mildly, she is a perfectionist.  She is very intelligent when she wants to apply herself.  Strengths are in science, social studies, and reading.  She is good at math, but doesn't like it.  She isn't exactly a follow the directions girl because she wants to figure it out herself.  I am trying to explain to her that having directions isn't "cheating", it is learning to do it "right".  This concept is slow in application, although today it was much better than yesterday.

Child #2: is a "get it done" kind of person.  He does not like to "fail" or "lose".  If his activities take him longer than he expects, he will have a melt down and there will be tears. He does not know how to lose graciously. For example, today, we were identifying nouns.  This is above his first grade level, but I know it is not above his learning ability.  So I challenged him.  21 minutes later and one big fit, he mastered the concept.  But to him, it took him 19 minutes too long.

Meanwhile, child #3 was skating and falling all over the tile floors.  She is going to be bruised tomorrow but her sheer will to learn helps her get up.  Her determination astounds me sometimes  and other times it confounds me.  Either way, I am trying to embrace it all and go with who she is.

Child #4, is re-potty training after regressing the last few weeks.  Yesterday was very successful, ZERO accidents.  Today: we're hoping for another successful day.

Me: I finished my 8 month long kitchen painting project while the kids did HS around me.  This may not have been the best use of our time but I couldn't look at that wall anymore!  (Do you see a pattern with child #3?  Oh yes, that one is MY child.)

I feel surprisingly patient with home school, which think is because we chose a curriculum that fit our family.  I did not realize how important this was until THIS time around. This is a game changer for sure.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Homeschool..Attempt 2.

A so called wrench was thrown in my plans - homeschool.  I was not too thrilled when this came across my plate.  In fact, I balked at it for a while (meaning weeks, because that is all the time I had to decide).  But, after careful discussions and prayer, I knew it was right.  I could give you a whole list of reasons and complaints about things, but I won't. I felt much more comfortable and not overwhelmed going into homeschool this time, even with a baby due in 4 months. I totally feel that this is tender mercy from above.  The Lord knew I needed some peace with our lives and he gave that to us, in the most unusual and unexpected way.

We did homeschool before and while it went okay. My expectations were too high the first time and because of that, I look back at it like a hot mess.  We knew we only had to do a year.  This time, we are looking at an indeterminate time (between 2-4 years or more) and my mindset is different.
The support system is different.
My children are different.
I am different.
Our curriculum is realistic and my expectations, realistic also.  The curriculum is not quite complete yet, but I'd rather wade in slow and add more as we go.  This is something we learned last time.  Too much, too soon means A LOT of tears for all parties involved.

I am using a few work books, but we are keeping most of our studies online.

We bought a year subscription to  This has math, science, social studies/history, and language arts.  We have only been using it a few days full time (my children used it before as a supplement to their school curriculum and loved it), and I am impressed.  I really want my children to self-guide their learning and I can see where their strengths lie already. I step in when they need help, but they clip on at their own pace most of the time.

I get daily, weekly, and monthly reports and they have daily analytics broken down within their site.  I can see areas that need work.  The site also provides more questions if they are struggling until they show that they can master it.  It's like unit test, but with each section.  I really like it.  I am sure I will test them every few weeks to make sure, but it is also sequential, so if they don't know it or don't have it mastered then it will show up in the next section and we can go back and review.

We use a few other sites for reading an AR quizzes (as they finish books, they quiz on what they read, earning points per book).

This blog post is coming during a break and it is over now.

Six Months of Happenings

All of the sudden six months has come and gone and I haven’t had a single blog post.  Maybe that is a good thing, or a bad thing.  I think it is a mixture of both.

My father-in-law, who was on deaths door when he was hospitalized and diagnosed in May, took control of his diet and looked to alternative therapies to help stabilize his health, as well as the growth of his cancer.

To some people’s surprise, the cancer did stabilize and he was able to seek more mainstream treatments with low dose chemo and specialized radiation, called proton therapy.  The proton therapy is much less invasive and tends to have less side effects than a standard radiation treatment.
We are praying these treatments extend the time he has.  The doctors are hesitant to use the word “cure” but they have said that the tumors can be shrunk, leading to a more comfortable life, no matter the duration.  He has six weeks of 5 weekly treatments and is driving to 3.5 hours to receive these.  He was very persistent (stubborn might be the better word) in getting the care he desired and is willing to go the distance to do it the way he wants.  I applaud it tremendously.

The six months for me was filled with incredible learning moments.  The hardest lesson I had to learn was that life gets messy and doesn’t go the way you planned.  Now, I know the general premise of this, but what I struggle with is the application.
so, I spent the first 3.5 months pretty miserable and not so fun to be around.  I think I said, at least weekly, “I am ready to get my life off pause.”
So 3.5 months in, after a “Come to Jesus” moment in my head, I kicked myself and quit using the "pause excuse".  I missed out on 3.5 months of my life because I wanted to just to back to what I had planned and was looking forward to for the previous six months.
And then life happened.
And then life REALLY happened.  Literally.  Among all this craziness, The Baby Daddy (aka my husband & extraordinairy man) and I decided to try for another child.  It has never taken us much to get pregnant, although staying pregnant is another story.  Other than a few minor helps along the way (progesterone supplement in the beginning), we are elated and are expecting a little girl in March.  I was so nasty sick this pregnancy and the first trimester. I traveled a lot for doTerra training and a wonderful vacation with my husband.
Morning sickness and flying/traveling are a crappy mix.  Just saying.

Being in Arkansas offered me an opportunity to attend special trainings for doTerra to help grow my essential oil and essential oil-based product business.  It was not the training I thought I was going to get.  It turned ou t to be a “growing experience.”  I did a lot of crying those three days.  It hurt because I made several self-realizations that really, really stung.  I mean, I thought I was perfect.  HAHAHAHA.  Well, that training was a shock to the system that I need to develop some very, very vital traits I did not possess at that time.  I came home from that training very subdued and a confused husband.  He expected me to be pumped up.  Instead, I was hurting because I saw huge weaknesses, especially ones I didn’t expect.
So now I we are back on the Island in glorious 85 degree temperatures - did I ever mention I am not a winter girl?  Visiting and skiing are awesome...but I do not like the cold.