Homeschooling and Special Needs

My oldest son has pretty profound dyslexia. I had known he was struggling with reading, of course, but early on,  I attributed it to his being a boy, and much more active. than the norm.  He had tantrums during reading lessons, but so had one of his older sisters, and I thought he was just frustrated on a regular level. After much prayer, debate, and counsel, I realized it was more than that.

I learned of the Barton Method from a friend, and was grateful to learn we had a center in the Quad Cities.

I literally had to drag him into one of his first sessions, which, looking back, was not one of my best parenting moves. At the time, I felt so helpless. He felt so scared and overwhelmed. We were lost.

To my astonishment, he had to start at the most remedial level. He wasn’t understanding ANY reading or phonics at all. I had been helping him a lot more than I realized when we were reading together, and he’s so bright, he compensated  so beautifully that I didn’t know how acute his disability is.

I’ve seen him be brave. To continue to show up every week, and try his best, despite his fear, despite all the previous failures, despite my not handling everything right, despite how enormously challenging it is for him, is courage.

He’s grown immensely. A couple years ago, he wouldn’t sound out anything, and didn’t even want to do copy work because it was so hard for him. When he wrote “pirs” on the grocery list, it was a victory of the highest order. You’d better believe I bought him an entire bag of pears, and he didn’t even have to share them.

Giant lengthy tantrums used to happen on the regular, partly due to his frustrations with what he viewed as his inability to “do it right”, and partly due to his innate emotional dysregulation. They’ve largely stopped. I see this as a result of the tutoring, which has shown him how very much he’s capable of, and helped him realize he isn’t doing anything wrong. We’re helping his brain grow and giving him tools to be successful in spite of his disabilties.

Another struggle he has is ADHD, which is highly misunderstood, and highly misdiagnosed. Before our own family’s experiences with it, I didn’t even really think it was real for most kids, and adults, who were on medication for it. I thought it was because of the structure of schools, and expecting children, especially boys, to go against their very natures for so long. I still do think this is part of it, but I now know that ADHD brains are just wired very differently and their natures are completely divergent from a “normal” brain. ADDitude Mag has helped me immensely as I journey this new territory, in understanding how his brain functions.

Having a child with special needs and being a homeschooling mama who loves him more than breath is an extraordinarily difficult thing. I want to push him to be his best, as I do all my children. At the same time, I want to be cognizant of his contrastive abilities. I want him to thrive and yet it’s hard to know where the line of too much pressure lies.

All last year, he went  to school in the mornings to get one on one help from the special ed teacher in reading and writing. He was getting the Barton Method tutoring twice a week. We realized that he really was not benefiting as much from the reading recovery special education and would have had to adjust to a new teacher, so we pulled him from the public school program.

Now he strictly gets Barton Method tutoring two mornings a week. We do Classical Conversations and read alouds for the bulk of our curriculum. All of these things work amazingly in concert to play to his strengths while we bulwark the inherent challenges of dyslexia and ADHD.

Having a child with special needs is never easy, and homeschooling is inherently challenging. Combining the two can seem insurmountable. We’ve used our resources and contracted out some of our learning. God gives us strength every day, His faithfulness is great and His mercies renew. We all face tests of our abilities and resolve, but especially when we confront them together and we have support, we can do hard things.

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Farm Fresh Family Update

Brielle and Finnella looking for books on CD

I haven’t blogged for six months! I have lots of good reasons/excuses, depending on how you look at it. But I miss it and I enjoy it and I am doing it for me, so I’m back! It’s hard to let go of expectations–like how blogging has kind of turned into article writing, and I don’t always (ever) have the brain space for an actual article, so I felt like I couldn’t compete. But with whom am I competing? And why!?

I’m learning a lot about myself and being a better self.
The Farmer: He’s busy with the farm as always. He’s got more cows than ever, and more feed lot cattle too. He’s putting up a lot of forage (hay, rye) for the winter and to hopefully sell. He’s working on spraying now. He does his best to take children with him whenever he can and to be home for dinner, or at least bedtime. As any working parent knows, it’s a challenge to be pulled in a lot of different directions, and with farming, you can’t leave your woes behind at the office, it’s always there. Staring you in the face. Glaring at you.
The Farm Fresh Mama: I’ve got my hands in a lot of different pots. I’ve gotten back into serving my community as a doula and love holding space for mamas so they can see their own power. It’s a beautiful, celestial calling.

I have more than doubled the garden this year. I’m doing Square Food Gardening and trying something new, Straw Bale Gardening. I don’t think my peas are going to make it, and will have to start over with them, but everything else looks good. I’ve gotten a new hobby of “planning”, which is writing my to do list and decorating it, and writing down what we did in quick bullet points in a composition notebook. It’s a fun segue between scrapbooking and keeping track of what I need to do on the backs of kids’ drawings. Writing “water garden” in my planner helps it actually get done. Funny how that works.

Finnella on Memorial Day

I’m doing something new with the boys for school, called Easy Peasy Homeschool. The woman who put it together did a curriculum for ALL THE GRADES, of activities to do with links added. It’s amazing she did this and I am so thankful. It eliminates the problem of never being able to find the book I need. It doesn’t matter how organized I am, there is always a missing book! They like being able to play games and be on the computer. 

I love homeschooling and seeing their successes and the delight for learning gleam.
Aviana: This child is almost as tall as I am and it blows my mind. She weighed as much as a bag of sugar when I brought her home from the hospital and now she’s looking me in my eye. IN MY EYE! She earned Memory Master again this year. I am proud of how she puts her mind to something and attains it. She’s going to be a seventh grader. She plays piano and earned a spot in a special recital for students who have been given a Superior rating three years in a row at festival. She took up violin this year too and we are putting her in orchestra at the junior high. I’m feeling nervous about that, almost like sending a child off to kindergarten!
Brielle: She’s as precocious and adorable as ever. She achieved Memory Master in Classical Conversations this year, as a nine year old. That is a big deal! She plans to do it the next two years and try for National Memory Master, which would put us on a cruise (and makes her my favorite)! I love how much she can do when she puts her mind to it! 
Cadrian; My sweet boy has grown so much this year! He is reading better than ever, helps me garden, and is our chief breakfast maker. He specializes in Toad in a Hole and oatmeal. He is amazingly thoughtful and kind to me (which is why he’s my favorite), and absolutely likes to stir the pot when it involves his siblings. 
Denton: He is learning right along side Cadrian and often feels shuffled in the middle. He’s sensitive and tough at the same time, the tough being a cover up for the sensitive. I wish people could see the sweet and sensitive easier, because it’s so easy to start off going toe to toe with him. I’m so thankful I discovered what Gentle Parenting really means before he ever got spanked (because he’s my favorite). It’s hard enough to figure out how to help him reach his full potential with the respectful parenting tools I DO have in my arsenal. He’s as bright as a brass button and full of his own ideas. 
Elivette: She is talkative and adorable and loves to say “Pwetty Pwincess Pwease”. She sports dresses all the time and often a tiara. She is smart as a whip and as thoughtful as you please. She has an amazing memory and astounds me with what she comes up with. Her three year old year has been so completely different than the older girls’ (probably because she’s my favorite). I can’t help but wonder how much my parenting shift has had to do with it. She 
Finnella (my favorite) has turned one! She has been taking some steps here and there. She loves being outside and in point of fact is sitting right next to me on the couch literally screaming at me because I am not taking her outside. I stood up with her just now and she stopped screaming. I took her outside and put her in the swing and she smiled. She knows what she wants and doggedly goes after it.She likes her swing in the tree the best, but will happily crawl around where ever we are. She doesn’t like the feel of the sidewalk or grass so crawls on one knee and one foot. She waves, babbles like crazy, and lets you know her needs, but doesn’t sign anything yet. 
One more thing that I wanted to mention is how vital my mama tribe has become. I have always had friends, but in the past couple of years, I have been given the gift of people who understand my heart and my very soul in a way I haven’t experienced. It has helped me become more like the person I’ve always wanted to be.

D, F, E, B, A and C and me on a hike at Starved Rock State Park
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My favorite

 Ten is a first born. Ten loves a schedule, solitude and creativity. Ten writes novels and stories and plays and journals and songs. Ten fills notebooks and loses them. Ten loves to play piano and sing. Ten practices regularly without being reminded. Ten needs lots of reminders when she’s on kitchen zone. Ten loves to bake and then eat. Ten begrudgingly cleans up after so she’ll be allowed to bake again. Ten loves to read and would read all day if she could. Ten loves to read with many voices and drama and accents when she reads to her littles. Ten patiently does preschool and games with them. Ten puts up with a lot of grief from youngers who pester. Ten is usually quite kind and thoughtful. Ten is helpful and can do so many things. Ten is brave and bold and unafraid of public speaking, but is reluctant to go up and introduce herself. Ten very much wants a bosom friend. Ten prefers the company of one to a crowd. Ten has great ideas. Ten folds her long legs and long arms up as small as she is able and lays her head on my shoulder and snuggles. Ten questions. Ten is quick witted. Ten is often a child but is often a young lady. Ten sprawls haphazardly and holds herself erect. Ten bursts into torrents of tears without warning or knowing exactly why. Ten is long limbed and long necked and blonde haired. Ten has sprinkles of freckles and a sometimes hesitant smile. Ten tries so hard to do her best. Ten is a perfectionist and ten is perfect and ten is my favorite.

 Eight is a commander. Eight is a challenger. Eight is passionate and wild and loud. Eight is persistent and independent. Eight follows through exactingly when she sees how she benefits. When she doesn’t, garnering cooperation is an arduous ordeal. Eight loves to read and loves to climb and loves to make houses out of anything, jump on the hay bales, swing from the rope and play games. Eight is a leader. Eight is friendly and draws people to her. Knowing what will happen is important to Eight. Reality aligning with expectations matters to Eight. Eight can express her disappointment better now. Eight swoops up small children. Eight finds delight. Eight is creative. Eight loves stick fighting in Kuk Sool Won and is tenacious. Eight is gentle and rough. Eight is thoughtful and thoughtless and thought provoking. Eight is coming into her own. Eight needs reassurance. Eight snuggles fiercely and pulls away from being over parented. Eight likes her own ideas best. Eight likes instant gratification and works several months to complete a model sailing ship which she gives away to her friend the day she finishes it. Eight is generous and impulsive. Eight is energetic and calm. Eight wonders. Eight questions. Eight pushes. Eight encourages. Eight is pink cheeks and freckles and gap toothed grins and scabs and giggles. Eight is perfect. Eight is my favorite.

 Six is loud covered in dirt. Six loves rockets and volcanoes and airplanes and dinosaurs. Six does things big. Six moves fast. Six does all the puzzles all at once until in the middle of kitchen. Six fights with swords of sticks, of wood, of Styrofoam, of pegs. Six is a pirate, a knight, an army guy. Six is action. Six is the exact middle. Six is the little brother. Six is the “big bruvver”. Six taught himself to write and can draw pictures, especially of monsters. Six is sensitive and self-critical. Six is unafraid to climb to the top of the windmill but doesn’t like to talk with grown ups he doesn’t know. Six will tantrum when tired or misunderstood, but usually has it under control. Six kisses fiercely and hugs thoroughly. Six is learning how to do the work well. Sitting is a chair is just not that fun for Six. Six will follow and also leads. Six loves people and to be alone. Six is tidy and trails a swath of mess.  Six eats as much as a grown man. Six is energetic and tiring. Six is growing into his sense of humor. Six generally follows the rules and has a strong sense of justice. Six is helpful. Six is learning to read. Six spoils his baby sister. Six helps his mama. Six follows directions. Six is tender. Six needs his story, his song and his prayers before bed. Six can wash his own feet but not the muddy tub. Six tries. Six is perfect. Six is my favorite.

 Four is fast and funny and friendly and furious. Four makes mad faces and hits and kicks mostly the air when he’s frustrated. Four outgrew naps, but sometime he needs one. Four hides when he’s mad or doesn’t want his hair washed. Four is snuggly. Four is hungry. Four is thoughtful and sweet and gentle. Four needs to be told to not hit the cat with the broom. Four gets a bite of ice cream when he complies with a request the first time. Fours is giggles with gusto. Four apologizes for screaming. Four loves rough housing. Four’s favorite is “sody pop and ‘tato tips”. Four loves Jeeps and fish and lions and flipping upside down. Four remembers. Four needs reassurance. Four notices. Four asks questions. All day long. “Dada, what would happen if the ‘wuk tuwrned into a boat and ran wan into a volcano?” Four sits in on Six’s reading lessons and answers the questions. Four is tender with his sister. Four catches Two and then falls down. Four does preschool. Four learns new things every day. Four is independent and needs to hold hands. Four wants to do it himself and needs reminders. Four loves to be read to and loves to race and loves to be silly. Four loves to make me laugh. Four is earnest and genuine. Four is sticky and sweaty and pudgy and solid. Four is bronzed and blonde and baby growing into boy. Four is quick and curious and contrary and certain. Four is dimples and dirt and dynamite. Four is perfect. Four is my favorite.

Two is adorable. Two is hilarious. Two is big eyes and curls and serious mouth. Two is grins and giggles. Two is mischievous. Two talks. Two is “ung-ee”. Two prefers bread and bananas to broccoli. Two nurses when she wakes up. Two runs herself to the potty when her bummie is bare. When she has on bundies, she forgets. Every time. Two sleeps alone in a queen sized bed. Two likes to be where the action is. Two loves to play with water, to play with sand and to carry purses and dollies. Two kisses and hugs ferociously. Two is a fat little belly and dimpled knuckles and legs slimming. Two is thought filled and watchful. Two teases and jokes. Two loves attention and to make me laugh. Two opens, two gets out, two dumps, two strews. Two is curious and quick. Two is intuitive. Two eschews her high chair and sits at the table with the rest of us. Two is clever. Two helps put away the dishes and takes her plate to the dishwasher. Two climbs everything. Two is a problem solver. Two gets her shoes and wants to go. Two doesn’t like to be left behind. Two wants to run with the bigglets but can’t yet keep pace. Two tries. Two loves books and to be in the wrap and for Mama to be a monster and to grab. Two loves the kitties squishingly and the puppy only when Mama is there. Two dashes, Two cackles, Two babbles. Two is tiny and pure and innocent. Two is perfection. Two is my favorite.
photos by the genius Sweekit Photography
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 Elivette has been spending meals in her chair, instead of someone’s lap. Ok, to be perfectly honest, she has been starting the meal in her chair, and ends up in someone’s lap. She doesn’t like it when she accidentally gets food in her mouth, but she sure has fun smooshing it around.

 Cadrian has become quite the little builder. It’s amazing to watch his brain work. He doesn’t write or draw much, but he can figure out puzzles and architecture like a pro. Denton is his little mimic. He does and says everything Cadrian does. It’s adorable and sometimes troublesome.

 Brielle is ingenious.  She wanted to scrub the floor like Pippi Longstocking and figured out how to make it work. She has so much energy and creativity. I forget sometimes she is only 6.

Aviana is the most reserved of the small fry. She likes to do indoor, seat work  type of things much more than anything else. Lately she has been spending a lot of time writing our family newspaper and already has a subscriber. Today’s edition even included a cross word. You can hear her clacking away at the typewriter at all hours of the day. (Yes, I said typewriter.)
Denton gets cold really quickly and I usually have to take care of the baby, so he often gets to spend more time with me. Today though, we got to go outside and help with twin bull calves. The girls named them David and Goliath.

 The girls are still in ballet. They both like it a lot, and it’s like my therapy. The boys go over to my mother-in-law’s and I get a chance to talk with my friends for a couple of hours. They have spring break this week though so I don’t what I’ll do!

 Cadrian and I built a snowman. Or a snow monster. I’m not sure if Denton thought it was funny or disturbing that it was ‘eating him’. It really bothered him when it melted and his outgrown shoes and pants were left bereft.

Tomorrow is the first day of spring and we’re supposed to get another storm…Kevin is already worried about this being a late year for planting. We have plans, pretty much immutable plans, to go to Colorado the first week of June, so that deadline is hanging over his head.

Spring is a catch 22 for me. I love that I finally see the sun and we can be outdoors more. I hate not getting to see my husband and the stress he’s under.

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Four is a new thing for us when it comes to boys. Never had a four year old boy before. Now that I’ve had a Four for five days, I think I’m going to love Four just as much as Three, but probably more. Four still holds my hand, but prefers to run ahead. Four is adorable and funny and spunky. Four is sensitive and precious and precocious and loud. Very often loud.

Four rubs off on other people. I find myself saying “gickens” in my head when I want to feed the chickens or “What’s dat noise doing?” when I wonder what it is I’m hearing. Four has many endearing traits which is lucky because Four also makes mischief of all sorts. Sometimes it’s something like taking apart all the flashlights because of his insatiable curiosity, but sometimes it’s something like spitting water all over the floor because that curiosity wants to know what I’ll do.

Four can be a handful all by himself. Four is thankfully outgrowing tantrums. I will say, “You’re not allowed to cry about that” and he will stop wailing to ask, “Why?” I’ll explain that he can be upset and frustrated but he can’t scream at me like that, and he will find something else to do. Usually.

Four enjoys his little brother (One) immensely. He also enjoys putting sand in his hair, laying on him, dragging him around by his ankles and teasing One endlessly. He seemingly can’t hear it though when the giggles of delight change to cries of protest, which means Mama has to run lot of interference. One (see picture, below) does whatever Four is doing, which is usually hilarious, unless Four is doing a bêtise, which is, unfortunately, often. (see Mischief, above)

Four likes to try to keep up with his sisters, but can’t always do it. Then Four is frustrated beyond belief. Four wants desperately to be a Big Kid, and sometimes can be. Four leads and follows equally well, and also very much likes “to do it all by my own ghelf”.

Four loves gains (trains), wockets, guns, gween, back hoes and construction ilk. That’s why getting a green rubber band rocket and a green bubble gun for his birthday were pretty much ideal presents. He already has gotten the rocket stuck in a tree and on the roof and lost one of the rubber bands. (Reference “all by own ghelf)

 Four is dirty and grubby and sweaty. Four smells like outside and sunshine. Four explores the world with his whole being, reminding me of dandelion seeds, dragonflies and bits of the inside of a melon.

Four is busy. Four does not like to be still except to listen to certain stories. Four still will cuddle and snuggle and ask Mama to “ghing a gong” but that’s usually just an excuse to stay up a bit later.

Four wanted a monkey cake for his birthday. A gocklet monkey cake.

Four loves everything about his Dada. Dada will ask Four if he wants to go with him and Four will say, “YES!” complete with fist pump and then ask, “Where we going?” Four loves to help Dada and dress like Dada. Four was thrilled when he got promoted to “boxas” and sometimes wants to only wear his “boxas” all day.

Four is beautiful, inside and out.  I am so very, incredibly thankful God chose me to be his mama, that He trusted me with the privilege of guiding him to adulthood. Four is new.  Four is mine.

And I could not be more pleased.
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boys with sisters

Everyone, Cadrian included, thought it would be hilarious to dress him up in his sister’s clothes and call him Maggie. This lasted, for oh, about five minutes duration after this picture was taken,

and then the take down began.

Even in pink tights, he is all boy.

I’m not sure he got much assistance from Super Baby, but they sure had a good time.

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There’s just something about boys.

The other day I was finally feeling up to doing something more than just keep the chiddlers warm and fed.

So I made Cadrian a better sword out of felt and a Peter Pan hat that actually fits (and has a “bwue fevver). The one we had that he was wearing all the time was the prototype from the birthday party a couple of years ago, which is too small for even Denton.  I don’t know what happened to all the others.

Now he sleeps with them. Yes, he sleeps with his sword.

Oh how I love that kid.

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Highlight of my day

“Cadrian, I refolded all the clothes in your drawers,” I say to my three year old with a propensity towards changing his clothes seventeen times a day. I take a breath, about to launch into Mama-mode and remind him to keep things tidy and take care of his belongings.

My near lecture is interrupted by my sweet boy launching his solid self into my arms, hugging me as if he’d never let go, burying his small face into that tender place between chin and shoulder.

“THANK YOU, Mama!” he breathes.

This. This moment.

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I love this kid

For a while, we were a tiny bit afraid he would never talk.

Trust me. That is not a problem.
I love getting pictures of this boy’s brain. He tells me everything. (yes everything) he is thinking.
And he’s sensitive too. When I have to get stern with him, he’ll be so crestfallen and sometimes run to his room crying. He’ll pop back out in a few minutes with that sweet grin and “Gaw-rwee, Mama! Gaw-rwee!” (he substitutes the hard” g” sound for “s” and”j”)
After getting in trouble for getting lotion all over the bathroom, Cadrian is eager to prove his lotion worthiness every time we’re in the bathroom together, which come to think of it, is frequently. He’ll ask me if he can use it and then show me, “Ghee Mama? Dist one pump? Ghee? Dist a wittle bit!”
We got a new McDonald’s in our town and every. time. we drove by it (which is a lot since it’s right by the turn off to the library) he would say, “Unca Donald’s almost build!”
He loves to go get the mail for me. “By my ghelf!” I asked him if he was going to be a postman when he grew up and deliver the mail. He thought about that for a minute, and then said, “No be postman wike Dewr-wek.(our cousin) Be fawr-mewr wike Papa!”
(He just started calling Kevin Papa sometimes. We don’t know why, since we always call him Dada)
The best though, is the first time he’ll see me dressed for the day, and he’ll light up and say, “I wike you in dat Mama!”
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Farm Fresh Birthday #1

Kid #3 had Birthday #1 in the Farm Fresh Birthdaypalooza.

Grandma brought over yummy chocolate cake. The frosting was a huge hit, as was my Farm Fresh Homemade Vanilla.

Brielle had all she could do to restrain herself and not open ALL of Cadrian’s presents. She loved this puppy that blew bubbles from Grandma and Grandpa.

And Cadrian was fond of his new tractor; every time he sees a tractor or big piece of equipment, he says “Dada!”

Birthday balloons are great,
but the most fun comes in letting them go, watching them float carelessly to the ceiling, and then shouting “BOO! BOO! BOO! BOO!” at the top of your voice until one of your giants gets it for you
So you can do the shouting all over again!
The birthday garland I sewed up using an idea from The Creative Family and garage sale material.

More birthday fun tomorrow, Farm Fresh Fans, when I’ll have a six year old for the first time ever.

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