Sunday, January 29, 2012

Week 18

I am very spoiled to have a husband who can telecommute certain days of the week. This is tremendously helpful when our 3 kids attend 3 different schools and have a variety of other activities throughout the week. One of my biggest pet peeves is to drive home, just to turn around an hour later to leave again. We live too far away from anything & it wastes a ton of time in the car. But... it is totally worth it if I can trade kids with my hubby so I only have to take the one(s) that need to go out at that moment. It means my days are crazy busy, but at least all my kids aren't always on the go. This week, though, my husband was out of town which means Capt. N & I did his school just about everywhere except our new school room. While Mr. T was at kinder for nearly 3 hours we studied in nearby restaurants. After kinder, but before the other activities we read in the car. I even took them to a local pizza play place just so I didn't have to drive back home. I didn't do any teaching at the pizza place, but I had Capt. N finish a couple math & cursive worksheets. During the week we also went to the library & a rock museum. I am pleasantly surprised that we finished all his school work this week. I actually think we would have accomplished less had we taken the time to drive home each day. Instead of wasting the hour driving home & back to town we were comfortably sitting in a restaurant getting school work done. It was a fun, out-of-sorts week.

Pics from the Week:

There was lots of down time in the car this week, so he was able to finish reading Who is Barack Obama? This was an informative book starting with his life as a child, moving into his college years, meeting Michelle & ending when he becomes president. Whether or not I agree with a president's agenda, I want my kids to grow up to respect the presidential office.

In one of our restaurant school sessions, Capt. N built this paper model of the White House. It's from & he loves it. I've caught him a couple times coming into the school room looking at it.

He also built one of the the Capitol Building. I love it! Thanks Paper Toys for a fun way to introduce Capt. N to the world of the US government.

This week at vision therapy, Capt. N's dr gave him reading glasses to try at home. I think the exercises she's given him in the past to work on his focusing abilities isn't working like she hoped, so this is the next thing she's trying. After that appointment, in the car, he started crying. He said he didn't want to wear glasses and that he was working hard on all the exercises she gives him so his eyes will just get better. I think he was feeling a bit duped. He was told this wasn't an issue where he would need glasses. He has 20/20 vision. Since I had my other two kids with me, I didn't get to talk to his doctor as much as I usually do in his sessions. So, I don't fully understand it either. From what I understand all his other vision issues (he has many) have been improving like she would expect. But, not his focusing. This is the next thing to try to help that. She wasn't even sure if it was going to work. This was like a trial run. If he feels like he can see better while reading with the glasses then she'll keep pursuing it. If it's not helping she'll work on something else.

The verdict is still out whether they're helping. The first day I thought he did seem to read more fluently, but the next day not so much. Maybe it was just a good reading day the first or maybe he was too tired the next. I did have him read a few of the stories I got from Super Teacher Worksheets and overall he improved from when I had him read them just a couple weeks ago. But, maybe that's why his scores were better, the stories were fresh in his mind? Or maybe the glasses really did help?

Emily's Harvest (2nd grade level) ~ 1/6/12: 86wpm   1/25/12 (glasses): 105wpm !!!! That's his most wpm ever
Robot Fun (2nd grade level) ~ 1/6/12: 86wpm   1/25/12 (glasses): 82wpm
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (3rd grade level) ~ 1/6/12: 78wpm   1/25/12 (glasses): 82wpm
Skunks (3rd grade level) this was his first & only time reading this story ~ 1/25/12 (glasses): 94 wpm

His Raz-Kids wpm also improved. I'm not sure the reason, but his wpm are always lower on the computer program raz-kids than when he reads from a book or piece of paper.
12/18/11: 55wpm   1/25/12 (glasses): 70wpm

All this info points towards the idea that the glasses are helping. But, Capt. N seems to really be "on it" one minute and not as on it the next. His scores on the same test will fluctuate, even taking the same test 5 minutes later. And, like I said, his reading the next day at bedtime was not near as fluent. It just makes me a little apprehensive to believe in the glasses just yet.

I already feel like his reading abilities, especially his quiet reading, have improved in the last couple months from vision therapy, mostly I think from working on his tracking problem. If the glasses improve his reading that much more, I will be ecstatic. I think very soon he could be up to grade level. I can already tell, even w/o the glasses, that it doesn't seem to be such a struggle for him to read - which makes me so happy I could cry.

My kids love rocks. Last year for Christmas, Santa left them a rock tumbler. Here's a post on my other blog about polishing their rocks. This week we visited a rock museum nearby. We will definitely need to go back when we can spend more time. Here's a few of my fav rocks of the day:
This rock museum is known for having this, the Alma Rose. It's rhodochrosite & an impressive size of rhodochrosite.

This pic doesn't do this rock justice. I loved it. The white parts were so white, the black's so black & the green, almost neon. It was such a fantastic rock with all it's contrast.

Look at this gigantic thunder egg!

I am linking this post to Moments to Remember hosted by 1plus1plus1equals1 & Homeschool Creations

Sunday, January 22, 2012

New School Room!

Besides the 2 feet+ of snow we got, the next most exciting thing of the week is that I organized our new school room. This used to be our tv room. We moved the tv & couch out into our great room - which I was a little apprehensive about. I don't like the idea of having a tv in the main part of our house, but it actually seems to be working out ok.... Ha! Maybe that's because it's only been out there since Sunday & we've been out of power for 4 days since then. Even though I don't love it out there, I'm hoping it works because I really felt like I needed a room dedicated to school. I tried rearranging my craft room to turn it into half craft, half school room. But, it just wasn't working for me. I'm very visual & need posters & examples & organization. It was hard to be organized when the room was so cramped. In our new room I've been able to give each subject it's own area. The other thing I'm happy about is that it didn't cost me a dime to rearrange & we didn't do any major renovations. After next year, if I decide to send my kids back to public school it's not going to take much to put it back to the way it was.

Week 17

This was an abnormal week for us - both with school & in every day life. Since Martin Luther King, Jr. day was Monday this was already going to be a short week. Tuesday morning we woke up to a foot of snow, which meant Mr. T wasn't going to school. Not long after making that decision our power went out & didn't come back on until Friday afternoon. We are used to being without power, but it still throws our daily routine out of whack - especially during the winter months when it gets dark so stinking early. It started getting dark about 4:00 & pitch black by 5:30 & didn't start getting light again until 7:30. Between the holiday on Monday, playing in the snow & no power we didn't spend near the amount on school as we usually do. But, I'm happy to say we did enough to keep Capt. N from getting behind in math, grammar & cursive. We also did a few snow themed science activities. Capt. N also spent a few of our precious daylight hours finishing his car for the pine car derby race.

We've got about a foot of snow in this pic. We ended up with over 2 feet - which is a lot for our house.

Making his car for the Pine Car Derby

A Snowy Week

Sunday & Monday we got a little bit of snow. Tuesday we got a lot of snow and by Wednesday morning we had 27". So, we took this opportunity to do a few snowy science projects... and of course, play in the snow.

Borax Snowflakes
We tried making borax snowflakes again and this time the results were much  more impressive. The pipe cleaners had a ton of crystals all over them. I didn't have enough white pipe cleaners to make 3 white snowflakes so we experimented with one white, one shiny silver & one blue. The plain white was my fav. The shiny silver just looked gray & muddy. The blue one was pretty, but not my fav.

X amount of snow = How much water?
We filled a glass full of snow & the boys guessed how much water would be in the glass once the snow melted. They both guessed the glass would be fairly full of water. They were shocked to see that they were wrong. Although, I was surprised to see there was so much water in the glass. I had read, on average, 10" of snow will make 1" of water. Ours resulted in a higher percentage of water. We had 6" of snow, which melted down to 1.75" of water.

Looking at a snowflake up close
We placed a black piece of construction paper in the freezer to make sure it was good and cold then brought it outside to collect snowflakes. The idea was to use a magnify glass to see the 6 sides of a snowflake. Honestly, this wasn't all that impressive. I don't know if our magnify glass was junk or what.

My little artists
I took a couple pinterest ideas & made this fun wall collage in our entryway. The framed art is easily interchangable using the clips. Right now the frames are appropriately filled with snow-themed artwork.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Upcycled Plastic Bags

What to do with all those plastic grocery bags? Well, recycle them or reuse them, of course. But, I have had a ton of fun upcycling them by turning them into new, one-of-a-kind bags. It's not difficult, but it is time consuming... and, it takes a lot of plastic bags.

The first thing I do is go through the kazillion plastic bags I've been saving for some unknown reason. Target bags are my favorite. (Thank goodness I shop at Target a lot). They have a fairly large section that is plain white, which makes a great background for my bags.

Next, I cut off the section of the bag I want for my new bag.

I usually layer my bags like this: 4 or 5 white target bags, then the plastic bag pieces I'm using as decor, then a clear garbage sack. The clear bag is just some bags we had laying around that were too small to fit in any of our trash cans. This bag is very important. You can't iron on top of the colored plastic, so this bag allows me to decorate any way I want and still see my design.

I do all my layering right on the ironing board, so I don't have to try to move my flimsy pile of bags. Then I lay either a towel or parchment paper over my baggy creation and iron it on medium setting. Amazingly enough, those flimsy bags fuse together into one tough piece of plastic.

Pile of pieces for one bag after I ironed them

Cut the pieces to my desired size

Then I used those pieces & sewed the bag together just as i would if it were fabric. I don't have a set size. I just make it whatever size works with the size of bags I have.

The possibilities are endless. The first few bags I made had 4 sides and a bottom. The last batch of bags I made were more bookbag style - with no bottom or sides, just a front and back. Oh, and FYI, don't sew your handles on like I did this one, (one end of the handle on the front of the bag, one on the back) it doesn't work well. They are always in my way. Make sure you sew both ends of your handle on either the front or the back & your other handle on the other side.

Sometimes I add stuff to the bottom of the bag for fun.

I have no rhyme or reason to what I make, I just have fun with whatever plastic pieces I can find. Any plastic bags (bread, tortilla, chips, toilet paper, etc) will work for decor.

I think these bags are ridiculous & fun. They are far from perfect, they are even crinkly, & I love them.

Boring back, but cute bows!

Sometimes I use fused plastic bags to make the handles.

Sometimes I use material similar to what some belts are made from for the handles. One time I used a thick ribbon.

Sometimes I add fluff. Why? Because I like fluff.

I couldn't leave the hubby out. This one's for him - whether he wants it or not.

These bags are quite sturdy. They won't last forever but, I've carried many groceries in these bags and they are still in great condition. I did split a side from one by carrying too many books in the bag. But, it was the sewing that came apart, not the plastic.

Happy Crafting!

Nearing the End of Vision Therapy

Here's a look at the binder I have for all Capt. N's vision stuff. It's crammed full of exercises & equipment.

To do this exercise he wears the red/green glasses & places the flipper up to an eye. When he can see the pictures all lined up & clear, he says the name of the picture, then flips the flippers, gets the pictures lined up again & clear & says the name of that picture.

Oh man, he's doing terrible on this exercise. He reads from left to right, saying aloud the numbers. He often repeats a line or skips a line. There's 4 different worksheets, he's not doing great on any of them. On the plus side, that seems to be his only mistakes. He's done the easier versions of this exercise in the past & made other errors. So, I'm glad to see he's not doing that. He would often say 8 when he would see the number 5. He doesn't seem to be doing that as often - which is good.

 Notes from the last 2 weeks at Vision Therapy:
• Visual Perception Skills Test ~ He did very well on this test at his initial evaluation. He scored 99% on the spatial section of the test & 91% on visual memory. His doctor said these skills are directly related to reading. (I'm not sure how, I will need to google this). She also commented that he has an engineering mind. She did the rest of the test recently, but I'm not sure how he scored in those sections.

• Span of Recognition ~  When he took the test where he wore the computerized goggles, his span of recognition came back low. His dr is using a computer program to work on this and at the same time strengthen his sequencing skills, which are also low.

• Rapid automatic naming ~ Capt. N's eye dr also said maybe there is a problem with his rapid automatic naming. She tested him over the summer and he didn't score high. Possibly that's why he reads slowly out loud. I also need to look more into this.

• Spatial ~ Since his handwriting is not great, his dr did another test that tests his spatial skills. The results came back fine. Her guess is then, that the poor handwriting is due to poor fine motor skills - which they do not work on.

• Nearly done! ~ She commented at his last appointment that he may be nearly finished with his vision therapy. We don't go in this next Monday, since it's MLK Day. But the Monday after that she will do a variety of tests on him & if he has improved enough she will cut his in-office visits to once a month & his homework down to 3 or 4 times per week.

My thoughts:
Soooo happy he's nearly done. I think it truly has worked. His quiet reading has improved tremendously and it doesn't seem to be such a chore for him. When he first started vision therapy, I was apprehensive & didn't want to get my hopes up. It wasn't so perfect, that now miraculously he's at grade level. But, it has seemed to help, & almost as importantly, it has made me realize there are probably a couple other issues I wouldn't have otherwise known to look for. In particular, I'm curious if he's got some kind of glitch with what he sees, how his brain deals with that information, and then how he gets the information back out - such as when he's writing or reading out loud. It does still seem to be difficult for him to read out loud - although it is improving. It's almost like you can just see how hard his brain is working to get all the correct words out. I would like him to take again the same test he took a few months ago that tested reversals and see the results. I'm curious if he can now notice that a letter or number is reversed and that he just has the problem with getting that correct information out when he writes. I'm also happy that it has opened a dialogue for us. He knows things to look for that might not be normal, where before he had no idea it wasn't normal for everybody - even though it was his normal.

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