Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Vision Update

Capt. N's eye doctor says he is about half way through his vision exercises - which is exciting. His dr is working on improving his eye tracking skills (reading left to right with ease), focusing ability & flexibility (changing focus quickly and accurately) and eye teaming strength & sustainability (getting his eyes to both work well together).

Daily, we work on exercises at home for about an hour. This is hard for me. I'm sure even harder for him. But, it's hard for me watching him struggle. And, in a selfish way, it's getting boring. I'm tired of timing him, listening for mistakes, & recording the results multiple times for every little test he does... every single day. I know this makes me sound like a terrible, ungrateful, disgrace of a human being. I know things could be a lot worse. In a way, I'm also irritated that the hour we work on vision is an hour we aren't doing other school stuff. I want him to learn everything and anything possible & this is holding us back. I feel heavy pressure of making sure his academics are at or above where they should be. If I'm going to pull him out of school, I better damn well make sure his education doesn't suffer. But, I know if he's going to excel in life he needs to master this vision stuff. As much as I'm complaining about doing it, I'm actually so glad I get to help him. I'm grateful that if one of my children is going to have an issue, I'm glad it's this. It's fixable & we live in a great place in proximity to his doctor & much knowledge on the subject.

In the beginning Capt. N had such a good attitude every time we sat down to work on his vision exercises. Even now he doesn't do much moping about having to do the work, but I can tell he's just not excited about working on it anymore. Don't tell his eye dr, but we've been slacking a bit this Christmas break. I've been giving him a bit of a break. We've been working on it, but not every day. I'm guessing this holds him back another week, but I need the break from it as much as he does. At one of our first visits the lady in charge told me, "When they start to get frustrated with doing the exercises is when you know it's working." So, hopefully that means its working.

About a month ago Capt. N took a progress exam with his eye dr. The results are promising. He is not yet where we hope he will end up, but he's definitely improving. He made fewer mistakes. One test he took he did at one of his first appointments was a computerized test where he wears goggles that track his eye movements. He reads a story that's printed on paper and the results & the goggles are connected to the computer. Some type of software records the results. The first time he took the test he did as bad as you can do. The ratings are based on grade levels. He should be testing in at 3rd grade. His scores showed him at the very beginning of 1st grade in everything - & that was the lowest possible score - who knows how low he really was. I don't know all the things it was testing, but one thing I remember is the way his eyes track - the eye movement while reading. It should be smooth & gradual, left to right. His eyes were back & forth, a lot. No wonder he has difficulty reading. When he took the test again he improved. Not into the 3rd grade level, but most things had at least moved further up into 1st grade & a time or two even into the 2nd grade level.

Here's a few of the exercises he's been working on the last 12 weeks:

My accessories - a kitchen timer & a stopwatch. I have to time many of his exercises & record it with the hopes that his time will improve. We use the stopwatch for this. The kitchen timer is used when he needs to do a task for x amount of time - usually 1, 5 or 10 minutes.

This was one of the first exercises he brought home. One of the things he did with it was say the first & last letter in each line, then starting back at the top say the second & second to last letters, then do it again with the third & third to last. Another exercise he did with this was I would call out a coordinate, say A2, & he would call out the letter that was there. The goal was to get as many letters as possible in 1 minute.

For this one he would patch one eye. Then he holds a lens up to the other eye & when his eye can see the letters clearly, he says the group of letters. He puts down that lens and holds up the other lens, when the letters are clear, he says them aloud. Repeat. After a set amount of time he moves the eye patch to the other eye & repeats the process with the lenses on the opposite eye. He did this one for a few weeks, each time the thick lens got thicker, making it harder for his eyes to focus when using it.

This is by far the hardest one for him. There's a lot going on & it's a real strain on his eyes. The red & green glasses and the clear sheet with red & green strips are to make sure his eyes are working together. This has been identified as a problem for him. His left eye is doing much of the work when he reads. (Just an observation, but he's also left handed.) If one eye isn't working well, the letters behind the strip will be blacked out. The whole strip of green is black if the eye behind the green lens isn't working like it should. This frustrates him to no end. Obviously he can't read the word if he can't see it. Then on top of this he also uses the flippers. When he gets to the end of a paragraph he flips them and he does this for a long 20 minutes.

And... he has to read aloud for those 20 minutes. I've come to realize he's just not good at reading out loud. I'm hoping, hoping, hoping that by the time he's done with vision therapy this will improve. I'm not totally convinced it will, though. He's at the half way point in his therapy & I don't feel as though he's reading aloud half way to where he should be. But, I do think his quiet reading is improving - which makes me extremely happy.

This is a slightly different way he has used these 3 items. The idea is the same, but instead of reading a book he is reading single letters. Each time he reads a letter, he flips the flipper, making his eyes refocus. He does this for 1 minute. We write down how many letters he read correctly in that minute. He does this for 10 minutes.

The Brock string. The best way I can explain this one is linking to this YouTube video.

This one makes his eyes work together to get the 2 images/paragraphs to become one so he can read what it says. The various cards told stories. He didn't seem to really enjoy this one either.

The paper on the left is the one Capt. N read from. He just read one number at a time in the direction you would read a book. The paper on the right is my answer sheet. The numbers are there for me to see if he's reading it correctly. Then I recorded his time & how many errors he made. Overall he did fine on this. But, occasionally he would repeat a line or skip a line. I also noticed him repeating the last number in a line many times. It's as if he would say it then scan down to the next line, but then go back up to make sure he was in the right spot. Sometimes he would say a number wrong - even though I know he was in the right spot.

These are paragraphs of nonsense words. In each paragraph he is to circle, in order, the letters a through z. As with everything else, this is timed. About half the time he would get these the first time through. But, the other half he would get to the end and realize he must have missed a letter somewhere because he wouldn't get to z.

I can't quite remember what this is supposed to work on - I'm guessing focusing or getting his eyes to work together. He would hold this clear sheet up with one hand. In his other hand he would hold a pen behind the sheet. He would focus his eyes on the pen and in doing so get the pair of red & green circles to form a third circle between them. Ideally, this circle should be brownish & have some depth to it. The bottom circles were easiest since they are closer together. He seemed to be able to get the top ones to come together too, though.

Every time he came to a pair of underlined letters he was to say them out loud & do this for the entire group. Timed, of course.

Read the first & last letter in every line. Timed.

He places his nose right at the end of the stick & looks through the hole at the pages behind it. He needs to get the image to become one. There's two different books & another thing to look through that has a hole for each eye to look through. This is a bit difficult for him.


Here's a few You Tube videos that I have found informative:
Vision Therapy & ADD ~ Describes how many kids are misdiagnosed with ADD, when they may actually have a vision problem. This is something I'm very curious about. Vision therapy doesn't seem to be widely well known. It was up to me to figure out the real reason Capt. N was having a hard time reading. No teacher or doctor led me on this path and I'm very curious how many kids are out there with the same problem & don't even know it.
Ocular Motility Testing ~ Her presentation isn't the best, but this video was actually quite informative. A lot of the words she describes are words Capt. N's eye doctor uses - and honestly I didn't fully understand.
Vision therapy for Reading problems ~  This guy mentions a few signs to look for: letter or word reversals, short attention span, inability to concentrate visually, loses their place while reading or skips lines, rereads words & headaches - Capt. N has every single one of these warning signs & I didn't even know to look for them.
Intro to Vision Therapy ~ This man mentions the symptoms as: trouble reading aloud, short attention span, difficulty doing close work, reversing words, losing their place, trouble with eye-hand coordination, avoidance of school work ~ again this absolutely describes Capt. N.

In this last video the man mentions that vision therapy is often covered under medical insurance. I'm not sure that's entirely true. Our insurance covers it - kind of, & the billing ladies at the office are surprised, telling me most insurance companies don't cover it. Btw, if they do cover it, it is your medical insurance that will cover it since this is a medical problem not a sight problem. Each visit, for us, is $50 - which I think is a cheap price compared to other vision therapy offices. With a lot of haggling & phone calls, our insurance pays $20, so we pay $30.

I'm sure I've said this in previous posts, but I've just got to mention it again - I am so proud of him. He doesn't take the easy way out or give me any trouble. Almost everything he does school related is difficult in some way for him & he always tries his best. These vision exercises take a lot of concentration & are mentally straining. He doesn't get through school half-assed, like some kids can. He works hard for every answer he writes down or passage he reads & I think being a hard worker is a great character trait. I know its a faux pas to compare children, but honestly how can you not & how else do you know when there's something wrong or great if you don't compare. It's just something I notice in my two boys now that Mr. T is in kindergarten & brings home homework. I never realized how slow Capt. N was at doing school work because I had nothing to compare to. But, Mr. T flies through his school work - which I'm glad about. But, I will say I'm a little disappointed in his lack of trying. I know he can try harder, but guess what, he doesn't need to. He does what's required of him quickly & moves on to other things. Which shows me just how different every child is & how every child has their strengths & weaknesses. This is going to make things a bit challenging next year when I homeschool them both. Mr. T really is a whiz & things come easy to him. He very well may be a kid that can learn well by doing worksheets - which does not work for Capt. N. Oh well, that's a topic for another day.

All in all, I'd say the vision therapy is a success!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Around the World

For three weeks we've been learning about how Christmas is celebrated around the world. We studied 3 countries each week. A lot of the information I got from Homeschool Share. I also checked out many books from the library & searched the web. Capt. N & I both enjoyed this unit. I thought it was a great way to discuss other countries, even if it wasn't in great detail. I liked learning about so many countries, but next year I think we will only do 1 or 2 countries per week so we can study each country more in depth. I would like to learn a song, do a craft & cook something from each country.

Our cork board filled with the 9 countries we studied.

For each country I printed a pic and wrote how that country says "Merry Christmas." I also printed a mini flag for Capt. N to color. He has expressed interest in learning the various flags so this was a fun way to incorporate that.

Little known fact (or at least I didn't know this): Santa Clause actually lives in northern Finland. He lives up in the mountains in a place we can't get to, but there is a town nearby which we can go visit. If we lived in Finland or if we were rich, I would totally take my kids there.

My husband's great grandparents came to America from Finland. His grandma is still living & to this day enjoys her very Finnish sauna (which btw, is pronounced sow-nah, not saw-nah).
Finnish Star
I made the one on the left, Capt. N did the one on the right. The directions came from There was a bit of a learning curve, but they were simple enough to put together. Capt. N was able to do it with just little help from me. They are a little more interesting if you use double sided paper, like the one on the left. Capt. N also made a slightly smaller version using music themed paper for his 3 piano teachers.

Apparently gnomes are a big thing in Finland. So, we made these cute little gnomes from pinecones. I used the directions on the Duo Fiberworks site. I love these guys. The only problem is that I found I did the majority of the crafting on them. Capt. N gave one to his eye dr & sent one to his great grandma, whose family is from Finland.

I had this doll hair lying around, so I couldn't help but make a girl gnome.

The Finnish also set out treats for the wildlife during the holiday season. So we made these birdseed ornaments. I found the directions on Homemade Mamas. The kids really enjoyed this project. We made a bunch & gave them to my kid's teachers.

On our first attempt we used cracked corn since we didn't have regular birdseed. I don't recommend this. It was more crumbly than using the birdseed.

Before we had kids, the hubby & I spent a day in Paris. This collage of pics hangs in our craft/school room. Capt. N enjoys looking at it, so this gave us a reason to talk about it.

In these modern days, the French eat their yule logs, as opposed to burn them. We made the easy-peasy version. My kids didn't know what twinkies were so this was especially fun for them.

Frost a twinkie with chocolate, sprinkle with powdered sugar & decorate with sprinkles. Yummy, sugary goodness.

The nativity scene is a huge part of Christmas tradition in France, as well as many other countries.

My hubby's grandma painted this fabulous nativity set. It was nice to tell the story to Capt. N. I think it made it more significant to him since many of the countries we studied also value the nativity and that we, too, have our very own family nativity scene being passed down.

Although originally from England, the Australians also make Christmas poppers. The week before we had made little star ornaments out of plaster of paris. I asked Capt. N to pick 2 people he wanted to give one to & then wrap it popper-style.
There is an Australian version of the 12 days of Christmas. So, Capt. N made a drawing of that song as well as a drawing of the version we sing in the United States.

We watched this you tube video: Christmas in Australia.
Which led us to this video on you tube: Aussie Jingle Bells ... for some reason this totally cracks me up...

This couldn't have worked out more perfectly. The hubby wanted to make tamales, so I asked him if Capt. N could help. And, wa la our Mexico activity was complete. Although, Capt. N didn't really care for the taste of the finished tamale.

When Capt. N was 3 & Mr. T was 1 we had the opportunity to go on a Mexican cruise with some friends of ours. Again, this was a nice way to throw in some real life conversation with learning something new. (Although, I don't recommend going on a cruise with such young children.)

The parol is a common Christmas decoration in the Philippines. This one Capt. N made is not lighted or near as fancy as the ones seen in the Philippines, but for some reason it makes me happy. It just seems cheery.
This year, through our church, our family put together 2 gift boxes for Samaritan's Purse. I received an email saying our gifts were sent to the Philippines.

You can tell the Christmas hub-bub is catching up with me by now. These last couple countries didn't get near the exploration as the first ones we studied. The Switzerland activity was making a natural bell. The instructions are on Homeschool share. It turned out so-so.

I was also able to pull in real life experiences for Great Britain. The hubby & I spent a week in England. So, we talked about this collage I made. And, Capt. N has a friend who was born in Wales & his mom speaks with the British accent.
It seems many of the traditions in the U.S are quite similar to those in England. Since they also send Christmas cards to friends & family I had Capt. N make cards for 3 different people. They also do advent calendars, so we talked about those & the various ones we have in our house. I have one I made for me, one I made for the kids to do each day & my mom got them each a chocolate advent calendar this year. We also watched the episode of 19 Kids & Counting when they traveled to England. Capt. N says he really wants to go to London so he can ride a red double decker bus. I hope he gets to do that some day.

Italy is a place on my really-gonna-go-to-someday list. We talked about why I would like to go there - which is that I'm a huge fan of the Renaissance time period. I've just gotta see those masterpieces in person. And the rolling hills, the Venetian canals & real Italian pasta are calling my name. And, Rome. I want to walk the streets of Rome. Many of the countries we studied were primarily Catholic, so we also talked about the Vatican. It actually was a great way to pull all the countries together. Capt. N learned to play the Italian song, Carol of the Bagpipes, on the piano. Something I didn't know is that bagpipes are a big part of Christmas in Italy.

We ended this unit with the Holy Land. We talked about Bethlehem & Jerusalem & how many people attend the Christmas service right at the spot where Jesus was born. We also watched the episode of 19 Kids & Counting when the Duggar family traveled to Israel. Capt. N loved the camels, of course. He practiced playing Little Town of Bethlehem on the piano. I would like to study this country again & explore Hanukkah.

This was such a fun unit of study. I feel like I learned just as much as Capt. N. Now how do I pick which countries to study next year? We already discussed the ones that have meaning to our family in some way. I will have to pick a country in South America & Africa since we didn't visit those continents this year. And, wouldn't it be fun if I could come up with a whole unit study on Christmas Around the World incorporating math, spelling, reading & grammar. I've got a whole year, maybe I can come up with something.

Week 14

Being the last week before Christmas break, it was crazy busy. Far more busy than I care for it to be. But, we still managed to squeeze in vision everyday, math, reading & many Christmas themed activities such as graphing a Santa Claus, decoding a secret holiday message, writing a fun Christmas story & finding common and plural nouns in the song Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Capt. N also had his first piano recital where he played Rudolph & did a fantastic job.

Pics from the Week:

This week for our Christmas Around the World unit we learned how they celebrate Christmas in England, Italy & Israel.

This year for teacher gifts, we made bird seed ornaments. We put them in bag with a bird or birdhouse ornament for the teacher & a card. On a scale of 1 - 10, I'm not sure how well they liked these, but at least it's something different.

As well as the birdseed ornament, Capt. N's piano teachers got a Finnish star made with fun metallic paper with music notes & symbols on it. Why, oh why didn't I take a pic of them? This is the star Capt. N made on the day we discussed Christmas in Finland.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Week 13

Pics from the Week:

At the beginning of the year I had this delusion that I would make a daily schedule & be able to stick to it. Ha ha ha ha ha! This is our new method - make a list of tasks to accomplish in the day & try to get them done before bedtime. This, for me, is the hard part about homeschooling. I would love, love, love it if we could do school at a set time every day & concentrate on certain subjects from this time to that time. That just does not work for us. We live in our house, which means our lives happen all day, every day in our school. The 3 year old has an especially hard time understanding that I can't tend to her every need while we're doing school. I would not get any school done if I did. This method seems to be working (at least for the moment). I don't get so stressed out that we're behind.... because we were almost always behind. While I was planning my year I read other people's blogs about how long they spent on each subject & based our schedule on what I found. Well, what I've discovered is that we need about twice the time as what everybody else seems to need. Why? I'm not sure. Maybe I blibber-blabber too much. I've discovered Capt. N is just plain slow at getting things done. Part of it is that he gets distracted quite easily - whether it's his sister or something the chickens are doing outside or something new he's figured out on his mechanical pencil. The other thing, though, is I think it truly is just mentally hard for him to look & process & write things down. Something I've always taken for granted. On Monday, Wednesday & Friday, I try to get as much schooling done in the morning as we possibly can while Mr. T is at school. But, we don't seem to be able to cover many subjects. For instance on Wednesday, we started school at 8am & the hubby got home with Mr. T at 11:00 - that's 3 whole hours. It seems as if we should have gotten a ton accomplished. Nope. We got through all the vision exercises & 2 lessons of math. That's it. He took one 5-10 minute break & Princess K wasn't even terribly disruptive. Later that day, as I was contemplating this I couldn't come up with a reason why we didn't get much done.  I just don't know.

Learning perimeter.

Today while he was taking a 45 second timed test on the 7's multiplication facts, he got frustrated. He wrote down 65, knew it was wrong and went to write 63, but he made his 3 backwards. He realized this was wrong too & corrected it, but by now he was frustrated. It through him off for the rest of the test - which meant he didn't get a great score. I know he knows the 7's facts, which to me is what is really important. But, these types of things just show me what a poor test taker he is & it worries me. The whole school system is based on tests & they just don't show his true potential. Even as a homeschooler he needs to take the state tests (which I do agree with, btw). Colleges base entry & scholarships on SAT's. This was not a one time thing, he often does this. It's like some days (even minutes) his eyes & brain work perfectly together, then most of the time they don't. We have the awesome Math Wrap-ups for multiplication. The goal is to answer all the problems in less than 1 minute. One day I had him do the 7 facts 5 times in a row. I timed each one. His scores were all over the place. They were: 1:35, :54, 1:14, :33, :45. I'm certainly impressed with the one he did in :33. That's awesome!

He read this book in less than a week. He really seemed to enjoy this one. A couple times he even read more than one chapter in one sitting.  That's great for him. He usually gets tired of reading before he finishes even one chapter. I didn't add any other activities to this book. I just let him read it for fun. When he finished he did a little book report on the beginning, middle, climax & ending of the story.

This weeks countries for Christmas Around the World were Mexico, the Philippines & Switzerland.

Capt. N is taking pics of the clouds for 7 days. This is his pic.

While I was uploading pics from my camera onto my computer, I found this photo. Capt. N took it. Apparently he's been watching me too long. I love it. It was like a little surprise for me - I especially love that it is of books. I'm sure I'm reading way too much into this, but I'm hoping this means reading is getting a little easier for him.

Week 12

This was another short week. Mr. T only had 4 days of school this week, so, so did Capt. N.

Pics from the Week:

I bought this book to do occasionally with Capt. N. We did two puzzles & he looooved them! We will need to schedule these in more often. This book is for kids 8 - 10 years old. It was perfect for him. It was easy enough for him to figure out the answers, but not without having to think a bit first.

He loved them so much he asked if he could make a story for me to figure out. This is by far my favorite thing about homeschooling - he can explore any topic more if he wants.

He did fantastic. I did figure out the answers.

We started our Christmas Around the World unit this week. Our 3 countries for this week were Finland, France & Australia.

Ok, maybe this is a stretch on calling this pic science when literally we just glanced outside our school room & saw these two Northern Flickers. But, I was so excited. I actually thought we only had one of these birds around, since I had only ever seen one at a time - and it's a quick glimpse at that since they are very skittish. But, apparently we have at least 2 flying around. Yippey!... Although, they are woodpeckers & I saw one pecking on the play structure - they better not make that a habit. Little sights like this make my day.

Week 11

This was the week of Thanksgiving and a short school week for us. We are basing our days off to coincide with Mr.T's days off at the public school. So the kids only had school Monday & Tuesday this week. During those two days Capt. N & I did our basic routine. Tuesday night my niece & nephew spent the night & Wednesday we spent baking a few holiday goodies. Thursday we spent with our family enjoying a yummy Thanksgiving feast. And, on Friday I took Capt. N to a science center & spent the whole day doing the activities we can't usually do when 3 year old Princess K is with us.

Pics from the Week:

A favorite in our house are sugar cookies. The kids may have added a tad too much frosting but they were still delicious. We also made popcorn balls, peanut butter balls, no bake cookies, ham roll ups & macaroni salad.


This was a fantastic & weird & very informative exhibit. It had many real, but dead, bodies stripped of their skin to expose the muscles, tendons, bones &/or organs. Each body was in a different pose & focused on a particular part of the body. There were other interesting things in the exhibit as well, such as hearts, brains & lungs. There were 3 lungs next to each other - the first one was a healthy lung. It was tannish-grey, large & appeared soft & bouncy looking. Next to it was a smoker's lung. It was smaller, black, hard & cracked. Capt. N said it looked like a rock. And, the third lung belonged to a coal miner. It was by far the worst. What I learned from it, was that I will not encourage my children to grow up to be coal miner's. It was awful. What I liked about this exhibit is that whether you are 8 or 88 you could learn something new. There was tons of reading material. I noticed the older people doing lots of reading & really taking their time. Capt. N didn't stop to read much, but seeing the bodies up close & personal were a huge learning moment for him. We haven't talked a ton about the human body yet & this was a great introduction.

Because we've been learning about weather this year, we watched this amazing IMAX film.

We are also discussing animals & classification, so we watched Born to be Wild. This was Capt. N's favorite. It is a film about 2 women; 1 helps orphaned orangutans, the other orphaned elephants. They are inspiring women. Capt. N loved the orangutans. I think it's because they are so human in nature that he could relate to their actions.

And just for fun, we took a tour on an old Navy submarine. To be honest the old guy who did the tour didn't hold Capt. N's attention. But, he had a great time exploring, turning a knob or two and his favorite was seeing the huge missiles.

A pic of the city through the submarine's periscope.

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