Planners, Homeschool and a Deployment

I am coming to terms with the fact that I am NOT a “slacker blogger”, as I have referred to myself in the past. I am, however, an extremely busy, homeschooling, mom of 4 whose husband is often out of the house, out of town, out of the state, or out of the country. (And I’ve recently signed on as co-leader of our new FRG during a deployment because I wasn’t busy enough.) I’m still a writer, even if it’s not here, though I anticipate many more writings here in the future as I do tend to get wordy during deployments and sometime in the next two or so weeks, my husband will be gone again… This time, for nearly a year… This time, it’s Korea… This time, he’s the company commander… This time, I am instrumental in helping to form our FRG and the families of our unit. I’m excited and nervous. Our first FRG meeting as part of the command team was a few weeks ago and I’m torn between being authentically me, and being the “commanders wife” (because we all know SHE wouldn’t have purple hair and Batman themed shoes, right?)… Everything is changing, all at once, but the show much go on, and on it will.

Our school books for next year have already been purchased. Sissy is a soon-to-be seventh grader! Holy goodness y’all! I started this blog when she was so little, and though I haven’t always been here to write, she has been by my side growing into a beautiful young woman. I’m excited to see how she continues to grow and learn in the coming years. Bug is nearly 8. He wants to be “The Flash” when he grows up… The boy was born earliest and hasn’t stopped moving since. Punkin will be three in August and isn’t talking yet. He’s starting to manifest some autistic-like behaviors and he’s already seen more specialists than I can count in his short years. From failure-to-thrive to possible apraxia, he keeps me on my toes. Mini Mouse just turned one this past March. She does her best to keep up with her brothers… Seems I’ve got three speedsters in my midst.

Part of getting next year’s school work together was getting my new planners. I love my planner! I mean, I really love my planner. I’m not the most organized person in the world, and this thing helps keep me together on the day to day business of running a home: FRG meetings, basketball season, doctors appointments, the military and homeschooling.

To be honest, when we started homeschooling, I had no idea what we were doing. I’d tried using planners and could NOT make my brain function in a linear enough way to make my life simple AND use the planner. They seemed to just make things harder. I couldn’t keep up with the writing and the teaching and lesson planning was NEVER my strong suit in school. In fact, I repeatedly got marks off for having incomplete, incoherent lesson plans. I was always taught the purpose of a lesson plan (from a teaching standpoint) was so that anyone who walked into your classroom could teach your lessons in your absence. That doesn’t fly with homeschool and I was freaking out. My best friend had a planner that she had barely used and wanted to throw out, but as is her style, she thought of me instead and passed it on. I WAS HOOKED!

The Well-Planned Day is easily the best planner for OUR family. I stress that this is what works for us because the planner was given to me by a friend whose family struggled to use it. Our family has thrived on it for at least three years now and I couldn’t imagine using another planner. I look forward to ordering it every year and get excited when it finally arrives. This year, knowing my husband would be deployed and I’ll have slightly more obligations outside the home, I got my typical planner as well as the On-the-Go Planner. This, I feel, will allow me to keep notes on lessons and our day as things happen throughout our day.

The Well-Planned Day has loads of features that extend beyond just a homeschool lesson book.

The front of the book contains: Before the lesson planning begins, there are keepsake pages and so much more. On the keepsake page, you get to fill in some basic information about your family for this school year. Things like, grade levels, ages, favorite things to do, all of this will change year to year, so it’s nice to have these little mementos (with a place for photos) each year. There is a page for “staying in touch”. This is a great place to write names and special dates. Anniversaries, birthdays, just special dates that you’d like to reach out on. There is a section for special projects and household chores. These can be written by the day if you’re anything like me and need to focus on certain tasks per day, or by week, more as a chore goal, AND there’s a place for monthly projects. I LOVE the monthly projects! These are really helpful when I know the garage needs to be cleaned out or I have to budget for something big. I can set a deadline on that budget at a certain month OR I can simply write in “Clean the Garage” on the May box and know that I don’t have to worry about the garage right this minute because I’m doing that in May. Then, I just have to focus and get it done during that month. It’s so easy when I have things written down. I don’t make it through deployments or long separations without writing my chores down because I get easily overwhelmed by having to do everything on my own.

There are separate pages for each child to have there own unique schedule as well as your own (if you write out daily schedules for lessons). These pages also include room to write which books your student is using (so you know what not to use if it wasn’t a good book for your particular child’s learning style), it also includes space for your child’s stats and a photo so you have a second place to keep specific information on each child, each school year. There’s a Year-at-a-Glance page featuring all major (and some minor) holidays throughout the year and each half of the planner features a Semester Goals page (I like to make notes here on where our lessons should be by the end of each semester).

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Each month, you’ll find: Each month begins with a Month-at-a-Glance calendar. There’s a place on the side of this two-page spread for notes and plenty of space to write in appointments and happenings for the whole family (remember that we are a family of six and still have plenty of room for appointments, sports, meetings, etc.). Each day on the calendar has a scripture reference printed to facilitate reading through the Bible within the school year, if that’s what you choose to do. Sometimes, I read them. Other days I don’t. We school year-round, so there’s plenty of references to facilitate that. There is an entire page of tear out shopping lists (six lists per month) and a two-page article on a homeschool specific topic. These topics range from how to pick curriculum for each child’s learning type and challenges and how to budget meal plans and stick to it. Each year, these articles are changed, so in the four years I’ve been using this planner, I’ve never received the same article twice. Also each month, is a small section for your monthly budget and a section for book lists for that month or field trips you’d like to take. Then come the detailed lesson pages. Now, I only have two kids in school now, but this planner supports up to four students per subject. Each of these lesson pages comes as a weekly planner. Each week has a section for Weekly Priorities, Dinner Menu, Bible verses for the week and an organization or teaching tip.

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Nearing the back: At the end of each semester, there is a section for your successes. I love this section because this is the stuff my family has done, the places we’ve been and the challenges we’ve overcome in the past few months. When you have kids with learning disabilities, when you have kids with special needs, when you have a husband who is deployed, SEEING THESE SUCCESSES MAKES A DIFFERENCE! It is such a blessing to not have to see the day to day crap to be able to see where we have made progress. Included within that section is the semester attendance reports and grade progress. I use these to track our work daily (or weekly) because our umbrella school requires us to check in twice a year with attendance and grades. There is also a color printed, gloss finish report card to be filled in for each child (remember this planner is workable for up to four students). Future plans and the next Year-in-Advance pages are helpful to me because it allows me to plan out any changes to next school year in terms of books or scheduling. With my husband deploying to Korea soon (like before the first of June, he’ll be gone, SOON!), comes the realization of block leave when he returns. Here at Ft Hood, TX, they get 30 days when they return (that’s new to us). Future planning makes it easy to set up our schedule, in advance, knowing that he’ll have that 30 days at home and that we DO NOT have to use that precious time filling in worksheets and answering quiz questions.

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In the first semester section of the planner, there is a special section just for holiday organization. Gift buying, card sending, get-togethers, budgets, etc., all the planning in one place. LOVE IT!

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Well-Planned: On-the-Go has a lot of the same features, in a smaller format and a much more portable design.

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I’m so excited to have my books, in hand, and ready to go. As daddy leaves us behind for Korea, our schedule, our routine, it’s what’s going to get us through. We support him, we support each other, and these planners help to support us.

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Why we are chosing to homeschool next year: UPDATE

So many of you voiced your frustration of the issue of my daughter’s test and her teacher’s… inability to teach effectively… And I am being nice about this. Thank you for the support. It is not easy going through all of this alone, and I really do think of my dear readers as a little blogger version of an extended family.

(To be honest, I talk to most of you much more often than family anyway.)

I have had a meeting with the principal and the teacher. We discussed the tests in question (and her report cards missing grades for the past two quarters, which turned out to be an error with the printers, not any fault of the teachers). We also talked about my daughter’s behavior in class and I made sure to point out which ones are manifestations of her disability and how it’s effecting her test scores. We went over the reasons that she cannot get an IEP, a 504, and why her gifted evaluation was done a little too half-assed for my liking. (Though this is done at the district level, NOT at the school level and they shared my frustration in this area.)

Ultimately, she is still being homeschooled next year. I have already submitted my request for the registration packet to the online virtual academy she will be attending next year. Public school has reached a point where they are simply ill-equipped to handle a child like my daughter. In emails to other parents, who also have autistic children in this district, I have found that they too are struggling with little help from the school. With autism being the faster growing diagnosed learning disability in the country, we have GOT to focus on how to reach these kids. Everyone agrees that early intervention is the key, but what are we supposed to do when BY LAW, our insurance company doesn’t have to cover services she can receive in school for free, but the school refuses to allow her access to those services. I can site specific examples, and did, of how my daughter would benefit from Occupational and Speech therapy, and yet, she is denied both.

Homeschool will allow me to teach her in terms of real world applications. This is an area that has always failed me. I can know the textbook inside and out and still not understand how it applies to the world beyond the classroom. I think this will go a long way in helping Sissy understand the world around her and maybe, someday, she’ll be able to better navigate the world than I do.

So now, we bid our time. The teacher has agreed to take more time and patience in grading Sissy’s tests. She is going to be more diligent in grading, particularly if Sissy has shown in class to know the answer but marked it wrong on the test. She has agreed to bring Sissy aside and ask her to explain answers that may be the result of her autistic way of thinking. I have been asked to send emails and return the tests if something comes home a little off from what I think it should be, so that her teacher can work with Sissy at school.

I can only hope that these small changes carry us constructively through the end of the school year. These next two months may help determine what we do when Little Brother gets to Kindergarten in Fall 2014. Unfortunately, we wont have much information about next school year, for either child, until May.

 

Also, we successfully navigated the “Preschool Round Up”, now we wait. Our packet was complete. Our “I” were dotted; our “T” all crossed. Now it’s a waiting game to see what happens and how much our current deployment pay will be used against us when determining Little Brother’s preschool eligibility. We wont know anything until, quite possibly, my husband is home from Afghanistan, something I find ironic to say the least. So now we wait. We wait for the school year to end. We wait to see if Little Brother will be allowed to attend a public preschool. We wait for daddy to come back to us.

We wait.

Why we are choosing homeschool next year

Alternatively titled: Why my daughter’s teacher is a fricken idiot!

I’ve tried to be nice about all this, I swear, I really have. It has gotten to the point where other students are now calling out the teacher during class and they are being ignored even though their answers are, in fact, correct and the teacher is wrong! Instead of ranting about all the crappy things my daughter’s teacher has done (and not done) this year. I’ll let the tests speak for themselves. These are actual questions from the tests my daughter, a second grader, has taken this year. I will mark for you the answers the TEACHER feels are the correct ones, regardless of whether or not she is correct. I have pictures of some of them, it’s starting to get cute and annoying.

Let’s start with Math: This is a hugely popular subject at our house, where my daughter had to stop learning multiplication because it was causing problems with her (second grade) teacher teaching skip counting…

1. The teacher felt the correct answer to this question was C. 2 meters. Keep in mind the very next question on the test referenced a motorcycle being 2 meters long (in the question itself). I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a “real medium dog” the same height as a motorcycle is long.

I love how she underlines "real" and then claims the medium sized dog to be two meters tall... For reference, that makes the average "medium dog" taller than I am.

I love how she underlines “real” and then claims the medium sized dog to be two meters tall… For reference, that makes the average “medium dog” taller than I am.

2. Kay’s plant was 6 centimeters tall. Four weeks later it was 24 centimeters tall. How much did it grow in four weeks?
A. 30 centimeters                        B. 10 centimeters
C. 28 centimeters                             D. 18 centimeters

Now despite being blatantly wrong, Sissy says a boy in her class actually confronted the teacher regarding the correct answer, which is D. 18 cm. He was told that he was wrong. Let me explain why the score is now Teacher 0, Students 2. When you ask “how much did it grow in four weeks”, you are NOT asking how tall it is now, but the rate of growth over the given timeline. SO, had she asked “How tall is it at the end of the fourth week?”, which btw, the answer still is not A because the problem states the plant was 24 cm four weeks later, asked and answered. BUT, she asked “how much did it grow in four weeks”, thus making the answer the difference between the height of the plant at the start and finish of the four weeks which is 18 cm.

3. Danny has a plant that is 6 centimeters tall. The plant grows 4 centimeters each week. How tall will his plant be in four weeks?

This one was open-ended meaning the students had to write out and solve a problem to arrive at the solution. Now for me, the plant started at 6 centimeters tall (way to go Danny Boy!), for each of the next four weeks, it grew 4 centimeters. Then it asks how tall will it be in four weeks. This means that 4+4+4+4=16, or 4×4=16, but any way you look at it, over the course of the next four weeks, Danny’s plant will gain an additional 16 cm. Add that 16 cm to his previous height of 6cm, and you arrive at the addition problem 6+16=22. Danny’s plant is now 22cm tall. Apparently, not according to Teacher but hey, I’m no teacher, I’m just a mathematics major who took a class on Differential Equations as an elective…

Score: Teacher 0, Students 3

Here’s the picture of Kay and Danny to confirm my side of the story.

But at least the kids make good gardeners. Those plants are growing pretty well... Even better when the teacher grades the test.

But at least the kids make good gardeners. Those plants are growing pretty well… Even better when the teacher grades the test.

Then there’s the problems that arise when the study guide answers don’t match the answers to the test. Pretty sure that IS a parallelogram, and unless you are studying Euclidean Geometry (at this point I’d love her teacher just to spell “Euclidean Geometry”), that one up top there, is a type of Rhombus. We’re now 0-5 to the Students.

Study guide that was given to us by the teacher for the purpose of studying.

Study guide that was given to us by the teacher for the purpose of studying.

The test. Note that the letter G is the designation for the parallelogram and that shape looks exactly like the one on the study guide and yet, Sissy still got the wrong answer.

The test. Note that the letter G is the designation for the parallelogram and that shape looks exactly like the one on the study guide and yet, Sissy still got the wrong answer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s move on to Language Arts, consisting of spelling, language, vocabulary, reading and reading comprehension. This is where it gets REALLY fun!

Two, To, Too... There is a difference and even my, then, six year old could see that.

Two, To, Too… There is a difference and even my, then, six year old could see that.

Look very carefully at this one. Notice that little circle placed randomly in the sentence, near the end there. Look close, it’s there. That’s not a random circle, that’s the letter “O”. When asked why she put it there, my then six year old, told me the word “too” needed two “o”… Why yes Folks, my then six year old was already correcting the grammar on the spelling tests. Makes a mother so proud.

Here we have "role reversal" the teacher spelled it correctly, so Sissy misspelled it for her.

Here we have “role reversal” the teacher spelled it correctly, so Sissy misspelled it for her.

Oh and when you format the spelling test so that the kids have to identify and correctly spell this weeks words, the least you could do is actually misspell the spelling word. You can’t fix what isn’t broken and you just confused the hell out of the kids, particularly the autistic child who knew the word, but still gets it wrong because her teacher failed her own test. That’s bringing us to Teacher 0-Students 7.

Let’s continue.

She got a perfect score on this homework assignment despite not following directions.

She got a perfect score on this homework assignment despite not following directions.

There’s the homework my daughter didn’t do “correctly” using the phrase “more clear” instead of the word “clearer” (which I was always taught wasn’t a word anyway) and the teacher didn’t notice. I’m half convinced she could randomly write anything in those blanks and her teacher wouldn’t know the difference.

There was the test on comparative and superlative adjectives where even the teacher wasn’t sure what she was supposed to be grading.

And yes, we get dozens of tests marked up like this one. Where correct answers are marked wrong and then fixed and then marked wrong again, but she gets the points anyway. It's confusing.

And yes, we get dozens of tests marked up like this one, where correct answers are marked wrong and then fixed and then marked wrong again, but she gets the points anyway. It’s confusing.

Or the time Teacher clearly didn’t read that weeks story and I can cite the page number and paragraph to prove it…

When you ask about a specific from the story it helps to READ THE STORY!

When you ask about a specific from the story it helps to READ THE STORY!

For those without a second grade reading book at home, this is the content of page 58. If you note paragraph two, as I wrote on the test, you will find the correct answer to the question.

For those without a second grade reading book at home, this is the content of page 58. If you note paragraph two, as I wrote on the test, you will find the correct answer to the question.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the test where multiple answers were correct. Yes, they were both smart dogs, but they were also both girl dogs. Sorry Teacher, you failed that test too.

Tara and Tiree, another story from class that involved two smart, girl dogs.

Tara and Tiree, another story from class that involved two smart, girl dogs.

 

And the one she got marked right though clearly half a verb phrase and a prepositional phrase do not equal a sentence subject.

I circled "mom" while arguing with Sissy about whether or not "mom" was the subject... It is by the way.

I circled “mom” while arguing with Sissy about whether or not “mom” was the subject… It is by the way.

 

Pay attention to sentence #6 on this one… If you have to rewrite the sentence post-exam to make the vocabulary word fit the test, you fail as a test preparer.

The vocabulary word is "descend" the word they were looking for "descent". FAIL!

The vocabulary word is “descend” the word they were looking for “descent”. FAIL!

Now I know I may see harsh, but I was a teacher before I got married. I know what goes into making a lesson plan and what goes into assigning homework and how much time it takes to grade all of this. But COME ON! My daughter’s grades are suffering because her teacher is just downright lazy. Every page of homework she brings home is a worksheet printed off the internet. These sheets come from websites I use during the summer to homeschool Sissy. I requested a meeting with the principal of the school nearly two weeks ago and haven’t heard back yet. I know there are answers on these tests that my daughter got wrong because of her disability. Plain and simple, her brain sees things very linear and I’m trying to work on that with her. There are answers she gets wrong because she truly didn’t know the answer.  And there are answers she gets wrong because her teacher is a fricken idiot!

THIS is an autism related answer. "as far as we can see" means "we see nothing else", makes sense to me.

THIS is an autism related answer. “as far as we can see” means “we see nothing else”, makes sense to me.