Friday, September 10, 2010

Back to Schools

After a wonderfully long and full summer(perhaps I shall post summer stories someday!), we have all been settling into new school routines this week. I am not so fond of back to school, and would prefer all my kids to be here at home all the time. I guess I just kinda like them all....a, really, really, a lot. So why not just home school all of them? I'm not really sure. But I think that just may be where we are headed eventually...maybe even sooner than we think.
For now, we have two at the elementary school: Crispy is off to a good start in third grade. He has the same fun & energetic teacher that Michael had as a 4th grader. That is good for Crispy. He needs someone whose positive energy will match his! Crispy has enjoyed playing with his friends on the playground again, and learning new things everyday. He quickly fell back into the homework routine, and dutifully does it as soon as he walks in the door. Being now the oldest in our family at the elementary school, he does well to take on the extra responsibility, making sure that his younger sister gets off the bus safely each day. What a nice boy!

Laura is now spending full days at school as a first grader. I have been amazed at how well she has done. She comes bounding off the bus, with even more energy than she leaves the house with in the morning, runs the 1/3 mile home (which includes a horribly steep hill), has a quick snack, and then takes Tubby and/or the baby out to run around and play for at least an hour in the yard/cul-de-sac. Really, where in tarnation did this girl finally find the motivation for all of this physical activity? She is also enjoying school, and a brand new teacher. Of course, sharing homeroom with your BFF will always help a girl feel good, too! Now that she is back in school, I recognize some minor delays in reading and understanding that Bob has also casually brought up in the past...possibly due to her extreme difficult start in life, perhaps even some hearing impairments? She did go half a year in Kindergarten before her adenoid problem was discovered. She missed a lot of phonetic teaching time. Time will tell. But for now, I am thinking up some remedial plans to get her up to speed.

We have two in the high school again this year. Alex is a senior. I will say it again, Alex is a SENIOR. Ohmygoodnesswheredidthetimego???? Though official classes started this week, he has been working on his college courses for a couple of weeks already. He is taking online courses this year at many credits (17) as they are allowing him as a PSEO student. This is one motivated young man, I tell you. He will be in such a great position when he enters college next year having two years of college already behind him. He has settled on a field of study: majoring in Biblical and Theological Studies with Greek emphasis, and Discipleship Ministeries to name just two of about four majors he plans to obtain. So far from the engineering degrees we pictured him in from the time his brilliant mind was evident at a young age. But now, we could envision nothing more magnificent than this for our son. He will be doing an amazing job as one of God's faithful workers here on earth and will be involved on an extremely incredible journey, to be sure. It gladdens my heart every time I think of it. A very special boy, indeed.
(These guys posed like this for the picture....isn't that just so very nice? Cool guys, cool.)
Michael ended his summer of XBOX Live to begin his sophomore year at the high school. He is looking forward to playing his instrument again, and is really taking quite the liking to making music. To help further him in this endeavor, we have been on the prowl for an upgraded, quality trombone. Last night we hit it big with the Yamaha Xeno....beautiful sound, beautiful playability. Just stunning. And now Michael will get to enjoy that everyday as he plays in the Wind Ensemble, and Jazz Bands again (as is Alex). He is busy with homework every night, just as last year. Our high school certainly knows how to give these kids an education, and for that, we are grateful. With all that is available to them, you can almost see a daily increase in the "smartness" factor. He also is in the process of driver's ed. He is taking flexible courses in Chanhassen where he can pick his own days to go, for a total of only 10. But with each class being a solid 3 hours in length, motivation to attend is tricky. With school back in session, I am guess that motivation will be even more compromised.
My favorite part of this year is having two kids on the Home School plan. Jonny, now in 7th grade, is again meeting his friends for lunch at the middle school, followed by band and choir classes. He is able to finish most of his school work in the mornings before he leaves the house. When he returns, he usually only has one more core subject to attend to. Not bad time management for a day! He is excelling at math and is already in the 8th grade book. I am thinking we might even get him into 9th grade algebra before this school year ends. Schooling at home is going quite well for his composite testing showed last year, he ranked in the 97th%! Yup, he's doing just fine.

After some emotional teeter-tottering on her part following a visit to the middle school during the middle of the day, when everything was clean, sparkling, brand new, and quiet, to meet her special-ed teacher, Melissa chose exclusively to home school. Well, exclusively except for band/choir/music classes and adaptive phy ed. The van comes to pick her up everyday for these times, giving me some one-on-one time with Jonny and the things he needs for his schooling. I have been nervous about teaching Melissa at home, as our brains work entirely differently, and I am not by any means an expert in teaching others anything. I have completely different books and curricula for her than I did for the boys, so this is unchartered water for both of us.

The subject I feared most for her was math. Abstract concepts are often difficult for her to wrap her brain around, and at this point in her education, math is becoming a bit abstract. For me, math has always come super easy.....for example, after taking calculus in high school, I went on to take an advanced calculus class in college. For fun. Not for the credits, not for my major or minor, not for any requirement at all. Simply for FUN. I can do math, but am incapable of explaining it to others who don't understand. To me, math just is because it is. It just naturally makes sense. Alex is the same way. Neither of us have been much help to Melissa over the years when she has come to us with questions.

This summer, I had the opportunity to sample a hands-on math program: Math-U-See. with manipulative's, and instructional DVD's, the concepts are taught in sequential, buildable order, focusing on . After our first week of home school, my daughter, for the first time, not only is understanding fractions and completing word problems(her most difficult tasks in school last year), she is doing it on her own and applying it to real life situations (like using fractions at the dinner table the other night when we had less helpings compared to the number of people who were requesting seconds). She went from us doing each problem together at the beginning of the week to completing her assignment and test today all on her own, and best of all, getting each and every problem correct!!! We both are thrilled. In fact, when I asked her just now what her favorite part about home schooling is, she stated "Math!" Unbelievable.

We are using a computer program for Language Arts which is typically a writing-heavy course. Being that handwriting is not a feasible expectation for Melissa, the computer version works great. She looks forward to this part of the day, and often spends an hour or two playing the supplemental vocabulary games after her coursework is completed for the day. Spanish is also on the computer, and she is currently further ahead in the program than any of us. The next time the Miami Connelly's are visiting, she may be able to have an intelligible conversation in Spanish with her cousins! I'd say we are off to a great start.
And finally, I have my two little people at home with me as well. Thomas is still as sweet as can be, and just the best buddy any mom could ever ask for. He has his very own preschool book and pencil case so that he can do "school" right along with everyone else. Being that 5 of the 8 kids are here pretty much all day long, he does not feel so lonely this year. There seems to always be someone to play with him throughout the day. And now that Bethany is a bit older, she makes an ok playmate at times as well.
Bethany remains to be as Bethany is. Cranky, crabby, crying after me all day long, anxious, demanding, simply difficult. Boy, does she make me tired. I wonder if she will ever be less challenging? And how in the world did this happen to baby #8? On the positive side, she is adorable, and does some pretty cute baby-like things. Though most of the time (when she is not crabbing), she is acting like a big girl....more like a monkey. This girl can climb and could probably swing from trees if she were not so short and could reach the branches. We may have a future gymnast on our hands.

There you have it. Our first week back to school. Quite a successful one at that, if you ask me. Yay, us!


Pam said...

Yeah! I'm so happy that I can read about your days again! Thank you!!!

Alison said...

Advanced calculus? Who are you? And where were you when I needed you in "calculus for stupid people"? Great job to all the kids starting off the new year so well!