Thursday, May 08, 2014

End of School Year Surprise!

Today we are celebrating the end of another successful school year, as well as the gift of help our kids offered on our rental house project.  As a surprise, we purchased super discounted tickets to an amusement park in Denver, Elitch Gardens, as they had a special Homeschool Day offer.  The kids worked throughout Spring Break to repair the damage done by our renters, as we washed all the walls and ceilings to get rid of the cigarette smell (All of us), repainted (Mainly Matt and Olesya and I), cleaned bathrooms that looked as if they hadn't been cleaned in two years (Olesya and I), scrubbed floors (Kenny!), used two cans of oven cleaner to clean the disgusting oven (Angela), pulled weeds and loaded a huge trailer full of garbage to be hauled away (Josh), and replaced floor tiles, fixed electrical outlets, cleaned all carpets, and repaired other assorted damaged things (Dominick).  One week stretched to two, and we even had the help of a friend who repaired damaged drywall and doors.

All the work paid off though, as we had an offer in 24 hours after putting it on the market! It was so sweet and unexpected, as there were evidently three showings scheduled for the first day, much to our surprise, and the very next morning we had an offer accompanied by a letter from a young Hispanic family who had been looking in the neighborhood for four months trying to put an offer in on a house there that they could afford, only to get beat out every single time they tried.  Their handwritten note was accompanied by a photo of them and their very young son, and when we counter offered very close to their offer, we said a little prayer that they would be able to accept it.  We all cheered when they immediately did, as this is going to be the first home they ever own, and they said they just knew it would be "perfect" for them.  As we were so discouraged cleaning it up, we all talked about who might end up living there, and whether they would appreciate the home.  We have no doubt that will be true, and we all feel this was a Divine Intervention that is allowing us to do a couple of things we want to do (like a roof on our own home!), as well as help this sweet little family get a start in the world.  As we all gathered round the kitchen table to read their note the morning the offer came in, we felt our hard work was well worth it...and it really had nothing to do with our much needed new roof we can now afford.

Matthew cracked us all up, as he was the last one to be working on his Math for the year, and he decided he really wanted to be done before our "May Surprise".  We held off telling the kids about our surprise plans for Elitch's until this weekend, and he had 22 lessons left and 4 tests.  Everyone else had completed their curriculum for the year, including Kenny who did 17 lessons over the six days the girls and I were in California helping mom get resettled, but Matt is doing Algebra 2 and the lessons are much longer and harder, so he hasn't been able to do as many quite as quickly as the rest of the crew has.  He issued himself a challenge, and asked Dominick and I if he could have a little reward of root beer floats if he actually met the challenge of completing all 22 lessons and 4 tests before we leave today.  We said, "Sure!" so off he went to work, getting up at 5:00 AM a couple of mornings with no one else awake to work on it.  We were all pulling for him and cheering him on as dawn to dusk he was at it, and managed to complete the entire thing by yesterday morning...with no less than an 85 score on every lesson/test!  Hurray!  Root Beer Floats for everyone!!

In other news, we have decided to pursue getting a neurological work up for Kenny, with an eye toward perhaps getting services for him as an adult or social security disability, if he qualifies.  Kenny is a true "falls through the crack" sort of kid, and as he matures it is clearer he may just straddle the line between making it on his own, and being unable to.  In the right setting, where someone can guide him all the time and help him think things through, he would do fabulously well.  In a standard employment setting, we fear he will never make it as the expectation for independent logical thinking and remembering instructions will prove too difficult.  He is far too bright for a sheltered workshop, and yet his Executive Functioning/Memory/Planning deficits are huge and will truly hinder him.  He is still hopeful he can own his own business, which might eventually be possible were he to have a secretary to keep him on track and focused, but on his own he would be unable at this time to organize himself well enough.  He is an incredibly hard worker, and he is also very, very bright...a weird combination to add to a kid who still can't correctly manage to recall the months of the year.  Basically, the description of him as a recovering stroke victim is pretty darned accurate in the way he presents, and so we are hoping we can get some brain scans and explanations to fight for more services for him as he matures...maybe a job coach, subsidized work experience, who knows?

We have just hit some more road blocks and aren't sure we can jump higher hurdles.  Kenny is reading about a 7th grade level, but is pretty much holding steady there and I am not sure we can get him much further as he regresses and forgets to apply the rules taught him that help overcome his difficulties with reading.  We re-teach and re-teach things, and there are gains, but also constant regression, which is hard sometimes not to allow to discourage us all.  He has a strong set of gifts as well, so creativity is in order as we look at his future and try to continue to move forward.  I see my job as being specifically to continue to press and push him, and to not let the setbacks get to me :-)  However, ask that kid about history, and he will stun you with what he knows...and how he can analyze that knowledge and apply it to current day news events.  His brain is so interesting sometimes in what it can do versus what it can't!

Olesya is working hard at math, but that girl has some very serious issues as well.  We are trying a couple of approaches, but at 14 we are STILL working on cementing foundational things like place value, and odd/even numbers.  We are using an adult adaptive curriculum, another popular homeschooling curriculum, and just working one on one whenever we can with her.  Clearly, Algebra is not in her future...much to her relief AND mine! Hahaha!  Thankfully, she is a wonderful student and excels in every other area, once again, providing me with another unique brain to try and figure out.  She has taken an interest in Japan and is reading a lot about the country and culture.  She also is going to work on a Boy Scout merit badge on cinematography to explore that as well.  Another interest arising is forensics, and she is the most excited about our Fall forensics science course, and she is watching police shows on Netflix that explain forensics a lot.  As she grows older, she is branching out a little more, and it is interesting to see her move in directions never anticipated.

Angela has finished the year with a strong interest in anything graphic arts related, and so we are going to pursue a serious course in photography and Photoshop next year, then lead into Adobe Illustrator.  While her outside class was a decent exposure to what graphic arts is, toward the end it fizzled out as she discovered that a person who knows something really well is not always someone who can teach it all that well.  We don't consider it a loss though, as it sparked a real interest in Angie, and we are going to go the "self teach" direction this next several months using as our main "go to" resource, and see what develops.  We are finding, over time, that locally taught outside courses are a big disappointment and not worth the large sums of money charged.  I am sure that there are a few good teachers around for homeschoolers, we just haven't encountered many as good as the kids' art teacher was a few years back.

Joshie is just motoring along, already about 30 lessons into next years Pre-Algebra course.  I sometimes forget I have an 11 year old learning with us, because he is such a mature student with great habits.  That kid NEVER puts anything off, ALWAYS has his work turned in immediately, and like with all the other kids,  I consider myself blessed that I have never been put in the position of "Chief Nag", something I read online is a often a huge problem for many homeschoolers.  I assign it, and it gets done.  Period.  How did that ever happen so easily?  I have no idea but I am so grateful for it!  Josh is such a different, independent thinker these days, and it is a blast when he speaks up with a fresh perspective no one else had thought of.  He is confident in his school work, and is doing everything right along with the older kids.  We jumped him up a couple of levels in reading, as Miss Mary saw no reason any longer to keep he and Olesya at a lower level than Angie and Kenny, and I thought the same thing, so next year he will be doing 8th grade literature along with everyone else as a 6th grader.  We are definitely going to give him high school credit for history this year, and once I grade their finals he may also get it for Biology, too.  He'll move into Algebra 1 mid year next year, and will get high school credit for that as well.

Matthew loves AutoCAD.  LOVES IT!  Though he hasn't quite finished the year's course due to computer problems, he has most definitely found his future.  In order for him to finish, we need to get a new upgraded computer, and we are going to work on that this next week...maybe buying parts so it can be built be he and Dominick much more inexpensively than buying what he needs, as it is higher end that is required.  His teacher is excellent and enthusiastic...and lives elsewhere...hahaha! He is excited to finish this years course and move into what he thinks he might really love, 3D modeling.  I wish we had the money for one of those new 3D printers, as I think he could really explore with that.  Matt completed 11th grade Literature this year as a 9th grader, and this next year we are moving off of the traditional textbook route and going to do a wider variety of more modern material.  Yes, basically, I am going to make it up as we go along...much more fun for both of us!  Matt is also working on something in the garage that I don't quite "get", but he and Dominick do.  It is some sort of independent science project where he separates water into oxygen into hydrogen, as he is interested in water engines.  Please don't ask me, I just say, "Yes, I'll buy the parts." and turn him loose.

So as our school year winds down, we are looking forward to summer and some fun.  We'll keep school up, of course, and I have a lot of end of year bookkeeping to do as I develop the first part of a high school transcript for Matthew and record courses for everyone else.  Our weekend is a celebration of LOTS of hard work, a lot of successes, and perhaps a little acknowledgement that we are NOT going to let our challenges get the better of us!!  


Kirsten Glasbergen said...

Wow! Sounds like you have busy! What a great way to wind down your school year! Praying you and your family will have a wonderful summer.

schnitzelbank said...

For Angela: check out Class on Demand, as well. My husband has freelanced there as an instructor. It is a good place! :)