Friday, July 05, 2013

What's Going on in LaJoyland

** I am adding this information in here, as I already received an email and a comment on this post asking where we got the AGS Globe textbooks. I found the AGS Globe books in two places, one is www.pcieducation.com, and the other is www.wiesereducational.com. I much prefer Wieser Educational, as their web site is better designed, and they have a really nice preview available for almost all materials sold.  You can get a good feel for what a textbook or workbook contains there.  You can also look for used selections on Amazon.com, as they have many very good used copies (I purchased student and teacher additions there that are almost all like brand new for well below the retail price).  Hope this helps! **

I seem to have little to blog about recently, which in some ways is very good.  We had a wonderful, relaxing, stress-free 4th of July, and the past couple of weeks have been mainly about getting school work done, testing out our new curricula for the year, and not a whole lot else.  I have been in a different sort of mood lately, tending to pull inward a little and hibernate from the world a bit.  My Facebook hiatus has been helpful, and with the unseasonably hot weather we've had here this summer we all have agreed that it has been nice to just hang out with the swamp cooler on and do school work rather than be out in near 100 degree temperatures.

Mainly, we have been working on science, and it seems we finally found a good fit.  We are doing Biology and Life Science, with plenty of dissections (Blech!!) and microscope work:


Here we are doing an experiment with worms, and their reaction to light and dark surfaces.

Angela thought it was so funny to watch the worms, but no way would she touch them!


We bought two microscopes to share for the year.  They are high powered, good microscopes.  With Joshie around, it is highly likely we will be using them for a good long time.


Olesya looking at the tools that came with her dissecting kit.  No dissections until later in the year, thank goodness.


Josh and blankie checking out the 'scope.

Joshua just gets the hang of this science stuff so easily and quickly. Here he has created a slide with a cover slip and is examining a piece of hair.  

For those who read our blog for homeschooling curriculum ideas, etc. (just a few folks, I know, but I like to share what we've found that works!), we are using lab kits from Quality Science Labs.  They contain a full year of experiments and supplies, including a very simple, easy to understand lab book.  They have middle and high school lab kits for several topics.  Joshua and Olesya are doing the upper middle school life sciences labs, and Angela, Kenny and Matt are doing the high school biology labs.  They kits come with virtually everything you need, including all specimens to dissect, dissection tools, petri dishes, and much more. You do have to supply the microscope.  These kits are very well done, and we will probably be using this company's kits throughout the remainder of our homeschooling.

For those looking for textbooks for high school with special needs or English Language Learners, we finally found something that is now working extremely well.  Pearson Publishers has a series called AGS Globe.  Two companies who focused on the special needs market merged (Globe Fearon and AGS) and were then bought out by Pearson.  After a total bomb with textbooks from another company, Walch Publishers and their "Power Basics" texts, we found this new publisher and it is perfect for our needs.  It presents all the common core material for high school biology, but at a lower reading level.  For Matthew's needs, it also has more multiple choice and fill in the blank questions versus requiring lengthy written essay type answers.  Matthew really, really disliked working 100% on his own for much of his curriculum last year, and with this textbook, Kenny and Angela can join him.  Even though we have to go through the material at a much slower pace than some might, Matthew is much happier having learning companions and he told me he didn't mind the slower pace to allow Kenny and Angela to ask questions and go over vocabulary.  I was growing discouraged trying to meet the needs of all three of them, thinking I'd never find something that would work well, but this is proving to be a very effective tool for us.  

It is a real dilemma sometimes, trying to meet the needs of kids who are all the same age, but wide apart in skill levels in almost every topic.  I am finding that meeting in the middle is a good strategy, and while the reading level is certainly low in some texts for Matthew, we can meet him at the higher level in his English courses.  It is far better for him to be happy in joint learning where we can, than to ensure that the reading level is higher for ever subject.  While science and history are going to be at lower reading levels, he'll be using a combination of an 11th grade reading text along with a college reading anthology this year.  Once I finally let go of trying to have the curriculum be everything for every subject for every kid, and realized we could let go in some areas while stretching in others, it grew a little easier to find materials.  For history, we are going to throw in some Teaching Company college instruction level video lectures as well.  I am not yet sure if we'll be able to wade through that with all five kids, or just Matthew, but that too will ensure a higher level in history is met, just not through a written text.

By the way, I know much of this is boring as heck to many of you who visit the blog, but I feel an obligation to share what I can as many have shared with me.  There are a handful of people who read this blog and are homeschooling older adopted kids, or special needs kids, and the higher the level the harder it is to pull it all together.  Learning what has worked for one family can often lead to solutions for others...so I appreciate you bearing with me while I sometimes spew this sort of seemingly boring information. :-)  There is very little out there to help families like ours, so it becomes even more important to share opinions on what seems to work.

We continue to volunteer on Mondays at our local food bank, and that has proven to be such a valuable experience.  The social contact there is unlike any other that we would have, and it is a great learning tool.  Just this week we witnessed a very sad situation with a young high school aged girl who appeared to be a bit naive, but was flirting with a couple of young men in a very provocative way.  If only she had heard what these guys said about her after she left, she would have been crushed but perhaps learned an important lesson about her own self-worth.  It led to a long conversation afterward about how we need to respect ourselves, and about how young men should never talk about a girl.  

But there are other benefits aside from the social interaction with people from all walks of life.  We have had wonderful, thoughtful conversations about poverty, about food insecurity, and about work ethics.  At the food bank, they have a supervisor who they work for while often I am working in the office or helping clients with food requests.  The kids are proving to be extremely well liked by their supervisor, who has often complimented their ability to work in a mature fashion.  At the end of their shift each Monday, they are the ones who remain behind to finish the more menial tasks that others walk away from, such as sweeping and mopping the floors, and washing down all the tables.  While we will have a very difficult time fitting in our volunteering during the fall, when they all start volleyball, I think it is a more important activity than just about anything else they are doing, so we will definitely find a way to keep it in the schedule.

Dominick has been busy this summer, as thankfully work has been coming in.  I don't know how he handles getting up so early, often going to work at the airport for the 6:00 am flights, then going to detail cars for 10 or more hours in almost 100 degree heat.  If our family relied on me to do the same, we'd have long ago starved and lost our home. We have been blessed this past year with a couple of employees who have proven to be a great help, and God has blessed us with enough work to keep these men busy at least part-time. Dominick often takes on employees who others would never consider. It is one of the things I love dearly about him.  He doesn't see a "parolee", he sees a man who needs a fair chance.  Sometimes, of course, it doesn't work out.  Other times, however, you can see you have made a difference for someone as they try to re-enter society and re-build a life.  I doubt Dominick would ever see himself as ministering to anyone, but that is exactly what he does...he has ministered to the souls of many a broken man through the years, offering them hope, respect, and a little dignity.  He has assisted them in getting their driver's licenses, given them rides back and forth to work when they couldn't yet drive, and fed them daily when they might not have money for even a McDonald's hamburger.  Many of these men have so little education that they can barely read or write, but almost always they have been incredibly hard workers, and we are so appreciative of their efforts which help us put food on the table and clothes on the backs of our kids...and sometimes theirs, too.  I doubt that few would ever see an auto detailing business as a place for healing and a stepping stone to returning to wholeness, but that is exactly what Dominick has made it...one man at a time...it's about a lot more than our paycheck.

We spent our Fourth of July morning attending the local parade.  This is the one we are usually in with Dominick's business, but this year we decided not to do it and instead just go watch Matt as he marched in it for Civil Air Patrol.  We told him ahead of time that we would cheer for him as he walked by, and he grinned and said we couldn't make him smile.  I said, "Oh yea?  Watch me!  I know I can make you smile...you can't resist."  As he walked by, we hollared and cheered, and he didn't crack a smile.  Just as he passed I yelled out, "Don't smile, Matthew!!" and even with his back to us, we all laughed as we saw his cheeks pull into a big smile.  Mr. Serious has a serious soft spot for mom :-)

Our crew minus one, plus two young friends visiting!  
Waiting for the parade to start.


Another young friend of ours, but not so young anymore!  Allison is dear to us, she is the daughter of our longtime employee at the restaurant, and we have literally watched her grow up. We first met when she was 12 and her mom came to work for us.  Mom still works for us, and Allie is now a grown woman and a 1st grade teacher in Portland!  Small town living can be so terrific...families become intertwined.  Allie's mom has covered for us at the restaurant for every single one of our adoptions, we couldn't have our family without her!  Allie has babysat our kids, washed dishes at the restaurant, and been a part of our life for many years.  We were so glad to get to see her while she visited this week.


The LaJoy Women.  Sometimes I see a rare photo of us together, and I realize we really do look a lot alike.  LOVE LOVE LOVE my amazing, wonderful, awesome, very special daughters!!!  
My dear ones...


Here they come!!


Mr. Serious, marching proud!


We had a church picnic this afternoon, then watched the fireworks together.  We love our church family so much, and we've all been through a lot together.  What makes 'em so special?  Well...would you believe the gentleman in the bib overalls is our longtime friend...a judge...who just happens to love playing with the kids??  Humble as they come, and a kinder man couldn't be found.


It is sweet to me to see our kids become the "older ones" and share their time with the younger kids in their lives. They are always warm and caring, and willing to play with and entertain the younger children.  It is definitely a "pay it forward" sort of thing for me, as I recall the many hours some wonderful older kids spent with ours, and it warms my heart to the core to see that kindness being repaid to others.  This little guy visits his grandma, who is a close and dear friend of mine, and he has long idolized Matthew.  When he is here visiting, he always tags along behind Matt, who spent almost the entire afternoon and evening with his little buddy.

It's proving to be a different sort of summer this year, we've all noticed the difference.  The weather, the kids growing older, the changes that came in our life this year...lots of things are just a little different than in years past.  It might be a little unsettling, a bit uncomfortable, but it is in those uncomfortable times when we grow the most.  We are enjoying every moment with our teens and not-so-teen :-)  I know many complain about this stage with kids, but thus far we are finding this stage to be mostly delightful, in spite of the typical teenage spacey head that hits from time to time.  We couldn't ask for better young people to be living with, who are so generous and thoughtful, helpful and kind.  I know it all may change tomorrow, for it seems that many have the need to warn me about the awfulness we are soon to experience.  I am not naive, and I know we have a long way to go, but for now...for today...I am going to continue to squeeze every drop of joy out of our family that I can.  Whether it be cracking up at the bluntness exhibited in old shows with Hell's Kitchen chef Gordon Ramsay, laughing our way through Target as we share 3 sodas with 7 of us so we can afford to have a cold drink, or grinning over our personal jokes that no one else gets but we all find funny as heck (and probably totally stupid), we are loving together, living together, and being the light together in the ways we can.

And that is what is going on in LaJoyland.



1 comment:

Dawn said...

Where did you purchase the AGS Globe book from? I can't seem to find anywhere that sells them.

Olesya, The Sculptor

Today was not a stellar day for me in the homeschooling arena, as I finally gave in to the realization that for a couple of subjects the re...