Saturday, May 26, 2012

Ashley's Graduation!

Today was a memorable day. Ashley graduated from high school with honors!

It has been a busy 10 days preparing for family and friends to arrive and planning for Ashley’s big party. I was so uncharacteristically calm despite all of the work and stress. My mantra was, “Focus on the memories” and we made some great memories this week!

Family and friends at the graduation ceremony

My parents, Brian’s father and sister, and a close friend from Texas came into town earlier this week to join us in the festivities. 

My High School graduation (1986)
Graduation ceremonies have always seemed boring and anti-climactic to me. Although I attended my high school graduation, I skipped my college and graduate school ceremonies.

I swore I wouldn’t get emotional during the ceremony. To my surprise, I got all teary eyed during several parts of the 90-minute ceremony. As we waited for Ashley’s turn out of her 425+ classmates to walk across the stage of the huge church where the ceremony took place, I just kept thinking about how she has her whole life ahead of her and how she is now in control. Scary, exciting thoughts.

Brielle and her big sister
I also couldn’t help but to think Brielle will never go through a graduation ceremony like this since we homeschool. Like the overpriced school pictures, a big graduation ceremony is one of the few things I miss since she is no longer in public schools.

Brian, Ashley and me
Despite my misty eyes during the ceremony, it was a happy day and I am so proud of Ashley! We had more than 50 people at her party this afternoon to help us celebrate. Although it was 93 degrees in Hot-lanta, we stayed cool with tents and water misters outside and cool AC inside.

Although our family and friends will be leaving this week and the festivities will be over, I know it was a special week and day for Ashley. Today begins the rest of her life!
Brian's sister and  Ashley

My father, Brian's father, Ashley and my mom

On to college in just 10 weeks... I'm trying not to think of that part.

Monday, May 14, 2012

No More Brace Face!

September 2010
May 2012
Brielle got her braces on in September of 2010....
After wearing them for 20 months, she got them off today!!!

Woohoo! Hello beautiful smile!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Remembering Prom

It’s prom season! Oh, I remember mine well, as I am sure most people do. However, for some reason, I remember the date was May 10, 1986 – 26 ago today. Brian and I had been dating for about 10 months. Four years later, we were married.

I have watched Ashley go to three proms and all of the excitement that goes with prom – shopping for the “perfect” dress and jewelry, getting nails and hair done, taking endless pictures, and waiting up late to hear all about the evening by a very, tired girl.

Ashley Prom 2009

Ashley Prom 2010
Ashley Prom 2011

As I reminisced today about my prom and Ashley’s proms, I was saddened to realize that Brielle will never go to prom.

Daddy Daughter Dance 2010
Spring Dance 2010
Brielle loves to dance. She has been to other dances – Daddy Daughter dances and a Spring Dance just for special needs kids. But, prom is a unique experience, one Brielle will never have.

Even if we did not homeschool, I wonder if Brielle would go to prom. It is difficult to imagine who would ask her and how she would manage without me being there to help her. Our local district has a separate prom kids with special needs can attend. That does not mean they are “excluded” from the traditional prom. It’s just a different outlet for them. If we did not homeschool, I wonder if Brielle would have gone to that prom.

My Prom (with Brian)
May 10, 1986
Prom is one of the few casualties of homeschooling. I know that there is a prom for local homeschoolers, but how would she fit it? Today, I am just feeling a little melancholy thinking about the prom Brielle will never go to as I remember mine.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Day!

Two years ago, we made the bold leap into homeschooling. It was the best decision we ever made. Brielle has learned more in these two years than she had in the last five or more years before that. It has been a great experience for both of us and for that, I am grateful.

So, what is our homeschooling day like? It’s busy, that’s for sure! Here's a snapshot of what our day is like:
-      Devotion: We do a short devotion designed for young girls. She is learning more about God (in simple ways) than she ever could have simply by going to church.
-      Calendar Time: Brielle loves knowing what the plan for the week is.
-      Weather: Brielle gets on the computer to check the weather for the next two days.
-      Reading: We read a chapter in a book together. I read one page aloud, then she signs the other page and I speak what she signs. We talk about words she does not know and look up signs we do not know and keep a running list for the day.
-      Handwriting: She does a 150 dot-to-dot to warm up. She does a page from a handwriting workbook and copies sentences I write about something important we did the day before.
-      Language Arts: We do a page from a book series with missing words and has to come up with the kind of word written underneath the missing word (like a noun, verb, adjective, etc.) to create a crazy story. She does a worksheet from a third grade Language Arts book usually on parts of speech, word usage, punctuation, or grammar.
-      Social Studies: We read about history and government in a simple workbook and supplement it with a higher grade level history book just by reading excerpts from it, looking at the pictures and sometimes looking up things on-line. We sometimes also do a geography lesson on map reading and information about each state.
-      Science: We work on simple science concepts from two workbooks books that overlap. So, we do the subject from one book and then repeat the same subject in another book that presents it in a slightly different way.
-      Math: I use an on-line site that allows me to create simple addition and subtraction fact worksheets with exactly the numbers we are working on. Brielle also does on-line games on that same website.
-      Art and Music: She watches an episode of a preschool show that focuses on art and music appreciation. We look up the artist and composer to learn more about them.
-      Spelling: We talk about all of the words and signs she did not understand from our running list for the day. She then copies them three times on the computer.
-      Creative Writing: She always writes her dad an email. In addition, she writes other family members and friends emails.
-   P.E.: Although Brielle does bowling with Special Olympics during the winter, Miracle League baseball in the fall and spring, and cheerleading and dance year round, we do take time to get in some physical activity. We play outside or play physical video games regularly. 
-      Life Skills: She sorts laundry and folds towels. She helps make simple recipes. She does simple cleaning chores. We review money skills each time we go shopping.

Whew! We work on so much that I know she would not be getting at a public school.

So, on this National Teacher Appreciation Day, I don’t expect to get any handmade cards or gifts from my one single student. Instead, I am the one who feels appreciative for the last two years of homeschooling Brielle.

"Mothering should involve both taking care of someone who is dependent and at the same time supporting that person in his or her efforts to become independent." ~Stone Hammer

UPDATE (later the same day): My sweet teenager, Ashley, brought me home a perfect, red apple! Now that just made my day!!! :)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday's Making a Difference

Cooper is an example of treating people the way he would like to be treated. This friend influences Brielle’s life every day from early in the morning until late at night. Cooper is one of Brielle’s best friends. He is our dog, but he is more than that. He is family.

Cooper's first night with us!
We found Cooper in the spring of 2005. We knew we wanted a Miniature Schnauzer for their size, coat (no shedding) and friendly demeanor, especially with children. At his breeders’ home, just south of Austin, Texas, we tried to pick which puppy should come home with us as we played on the floor with his brothers and sisters. They were all adorable puppies and special because they were all either white or “partis” (black and white like a panda bear) rather than the traditional gray.

We fell in love with a little girl parti that snuggled into Brielle’s lap and was so quiet and well mannered. Not Ashley. She fell in love and tried to convince us to get the one who was stirring up trouble playing and rough housing with the other puppies. Ashley’s little troublemaker came home with us and Cooper became part of our family.

Cooper is a little dog, only about 11 pounds. However, he’s got big dog syndrome. He thinks he can tangle with even the biggest dogs until he gets right up next to them. Then he embarrassingly rolls right over and submits like a little wimp. He’ll bark ferociously at visitors, but never jumps or bites. Two minutes later, he’s quiet and begging for pets.

Their morning play session!
Brielle’s day begins when Cooper trots into her room to make sure she is awake. Before we can start our homeschooling day, Brielle plays a quick round of tug-o-war and fetch with him. He follows us from room to room, as we do Brielle’s schoolwork and I get the housework done. Cooper is there waiting patiently on her bed at bedtime while I brush Brielle’s teeth and follows me out after I tuck her into bed. He spends the rest of the evening on my lap.

What a ruff life!

When he’s not stressing himself out by holding the sofa down, Cooper can be quite handy around the house. He cleans up the floor around Brielle’s side of the table always managing to score some little morsel of food Brielle drops. He patrols the house and barks away any intruders, especially squirrels or birds.

 When we return from an outing, Cooper is there to greet us at the door with little bounces and happy barks. Brielle often turns to me to interpret for her as she signs to him, “We’re home, Cooper!”  She will keep signing it over and over again until I speak aloud to him for her. I know dogs can follow hand commands and the signs of people who are deaf. However, our little dude has not seemed to master any of Brielle’s signs.

Wild animals seem to instinctively know when an animal is “lame” or hurt. We are sure Cooper knows that about Brielle. It was difficult to teach him at first, but he has learned to be submissive to her. He gives Brielle a little wider berth when she walks and is so patient when her pets and cuddles are not quite as calm and soft as he would like. He knows when she taps on top of his kennel to get in that he must obey her as well.

Brielle and Cooper are buddies. Although they don’t hang out a lot, they have fun together when they do. They understand one another without a lot of expectations, demands or preconceived discrimination.

One of my favorite sayings is: “Be the person your dog thinks you are.” Brielle already is.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Numbers Game

Can a child have a “learning spurt” just like they have “growth spurts”?

I have been homeschooling Brielle for the last two school years. One of her most difficult subjects has been math. Although she is 16 years old, she studies 3rd and 4th grade work in all subjects, except math. She is only doing first grade math work and it is a constant struggle.

Lately, however, Brielle has been kicking some serious butt in math!

I have no idea what changed. I haven’t been doing anything majorly different with her in math. And yet she FINALLY seems to be getting the concepts of simple addition and subtraction facts and has mastered each to 11.

I am so proud and excited for her! (And happy to moving on to bigger numbers after two years of doing the same facts over and over again!)