The Vase with 12 Sunflowers, by Vincent Van Gogh

Painting by Vincent Van Gogh

Life has been super busy lately. We scrambled to get the birthday season up and running, barely having time to put away the Christmas tree.I have a longer post planned, but have had no time to get it done. In the meantime, please enjoy the archives and this month’s artist, Vincent Van Gogh.

Photo by Unknown

I’ve been following the advice of David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, for some time. I wouldn’t consider myself a GTD Blackbelt by any means, though. His system of increasing productivity is thorough at best. At its worst, it can be considered overkill. To follow his system by the book takes loads of time and mountains of effort. And that is what I lack.

Controlling the Flood

I aspire to be one of the uber-organized, with a place for everything and everything in its place, but the reality is that I am constantly struggling to keep the clutter and outright mess under control. I am the perfect candidate, for benefiting from Getting Things Done . I need to control a multitude of projects: writing lesson checklists, shopping for our school texts, planning menus, managing the ever-growing list of home maintenance chores, completing housework, appointment setting, budgeting, writing, chauffeuring. This is not a complete list by any means. My head can not contain it all. Getting Things Done is the perfect tool for a wife and mother of 3. It is clean, it is neat, it is organized.

If It Doesn’t Work, Let It Go

Now don’t get me wrong. I love this system. I just need to tweak it for my own use. If motherhood has taught me anything, it is that it is OK to change things to make them work for you. I spent precious time and energy setting up my tickler files. Then, they just sat there. Nothing was ever added. They were never checked. Once I added an invitation to them only to almost miss the engagement because I had lost the invitation – IN MY TICKLER FILE.

Bye Bye Tickler, Hello Calendar

So, I am letting go of the part of the system that does not work for me. I refuse to feel guilty or bad in any way put myself down for not following through. What I have done is to free myself from worrying about something. I can spend my time and energy in better ways. I still need a way to have a tickler file, though, because I just can’t keep everything in my head. Enter the online calendar. While researching ways to implement the GTD system, I ran across this video:

I have now begun use my Yahoo Calendar more and more to keep up with the kids appointments, husband’s gigs, school commitments, church meetings and other items. Life is much smoother now. Thanks to Michael at The Black Belt Project.

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Photo by Adrian Gtz

I am almost used to having a boy in school. Almost. If you are homeschooling a special needs child and are thinking of sending your child to public school, I want to send you some words of encouragement. I have been homeschooling my 3 sons for 12 years, Birthday season is almost here, but right now, my boys are 12, 9 and 6.

Until Now…

 

My eldest has Asperger’s Syndrome. His main issues were sensory(all areas but eating and food), but he also has some auditory processing issues and sequencing issues, plus some day to day issues that just can’t be categorized. Since he has never been to public school, I have always just used his age when telling folks what grade he is in. So, he is in the 7th Grade.

Up until now, homeschool has helped us work through many of these issues. However, this year we decided to put him in public school because our mornings were constantly filled with tears and we weren’t getting any “school” done, only meltdown interventions. We decided to try him in the neighborhood middle school in the middle of 7th grade.

The First Hurdle

 

At first, I thought this would be horrible. To start with, this school required uniforms. We had never been able to get him to wear anything but t-shirts and jeans. Button downs and slacks were out of the question. He was just as picky about the colors – no white and only dark colors. As for shoes, he had worn the same brand, color and style for 4 years. To my utter amazement, when we told him that it was “the rule”, he cheerfully helped pick out his uniform, a white polo shirt, khaki pants with a belt and black on black shoes. I tried to give him as much control and ownership over the process as I could.

Problems were solved without me

 

I have to admit, the first week was an emotional one, but mostly for me. His biggest complaint was that he didn’t like waking up early and he didn’t like having to follow a strict schedule. I noticed that learning where his classes were was a challenge, but he got through it. In fact, with the exception of a small meltdown AT HOME during ONE homework assignment, he has been all smiles. He recovered quickly from that meltdown and was able to correctly complete the assignment. His teachers have seen the beginnings of meltdowns but quickly moved in to mitigate the situation. I never heard about them until much later.

Non-Issues

 

All of the issues that I thought would be a problem just weren’t. The crowds, the noise, the smells, having to sit next to strangers (this is a biggie for him) were non-issues. By the second week, he had memorized his schedule, learned where his classes were, and had communicated with his teachers and the administration. By the 3rd or 4th week, he was beginning to talk to other students. I think that now, he actually enjoys public school, though the computer class and the robotics may have something to do with that. He also enjoyed dissecting a frog.

Be Open

 

I was very up front about my son’s diagnosis with the administration. I told them exactly what his issues and triggers were. He does not yet qualify for Special Ed and he may not. It turned out that his math teacher was a former Special Ed teacher and that his other teachers were more than willing to accommodate his needs. His science teacher moved him closer to the front and all were willing to listen to him and help him navigate public school life. His shop teacher even sat with him at lunch that first day and chatted about how things were going. I just had a mid-year conference with all of his teachers and got glowing reviews from all of them.

In Hindsight

 

If I could do it over again, I would have enrolled him in 5th grade, where there is less movement from class to class and where he might have an easier time getting used to the public school environment. My son did not use the bathroom the first day because he wasn’t sure when he could do that. I helped him by organizing his binder every night and going over all of his homework. I also still remind him to turn things in. I temporarily suspended all of his chore requirements during the weekdays and often tidy up his room for him. These are small things that I can do that take some of the pressure off him, and make time for his homework.

At Home and At Public School

 

I still homeschool my neurotypical sons. I do not know if they will want to attend public school. (My middle child will be in the 5th grade next fall.) But I have seen a dramatic change in my eldest. He is all smiles these days. No matter what he learns or doesn’t learn in public school, he is learning the invaluable lessons of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. He is learning to interact with life beyond our front door. The academics are a bonus. I still plan to homeschool in the summer because I do not want kids doing nothing all summer. But we can have a light load and pick up his favorites that he left behind, like Greek, Latin, and some readings.

The Big Picture

 

While I dearly love homeschooling, with Asperger’s, I have had to look beyond the academics and decide how to best serve my son, who will enter society at large someday. Before, I was really truly worried that my son would never be able to leave home, get a job and live on his own. My doubts are still there, but they are retreating. He is now looking forward to “choice sheet night” this week, when he will choose his classes for 8th grade. I do not know if he will attend public high school. My husband and I have decided to take it one semester at a time, knowing that if things are not working, we can withdraw him at any time to attend our “private school”.

Communication is Key

 

As for Special Ed, as you know, there are many hoops to jump through. Make sure you start jumping before his first day. And communicate, communicate communicate with the teachers, administrators. Get to know the cafeteria lady and the librarian. (The janitor told my son that “at this school we tuck our shirts in, son.”)They are there to help your child have a positive experience. Ask directly for what you need, but don’t be afraid to let go a little and let your child flourish.

While your child may have other issues, I urge you not to underestimate him. Take it one day at a time and communicate with your child. He will tell you if things are not right. You will know how things are going even if he says nothing. Build strong support at home and there is nothing he can’t do.

I noticed that the comment section was not working. I have fixed that problem and just wanted to let you know that the comments are up and running. I will be adding a new captcha plugin as the old one was the root of the comment problem.

My older readers may have already noticed that I changed the look and the title of my blog. The Lesgaux School is now Home and Away.This may not be the final title, so bear with me as I redesign. If something disappears that you liked, tell me and I'll try to bring it back.

I need to tweak things a lot more, adding back some things I had on my old design, but my PHP skills are rusty, so it will be a gradual process. I hope you enjoy the posts to come and let me know what you think. I would welcome your suggestions.

A couple of weeks ago the cedar count began edging upwards. Then there were itchy eyes, sniffles and sneezes showing up in everyone. At first, we just claimed it was allergies. After all, the weather man said we had the highest cedar count since 2004. But when T said he couldn't remember not feeling stuffy and R started refusing meals, I had to admit that we had a virus making its way through the family. These secondary infections always get us. Before the evening was over, all three boys were complaining.

This morning, I finally caved and decided I needed to take a decongestant. The decongestant ended up making me really sick. I curled up while my dear husband took T to school ( he's not feeling sick enough to stay home, just a stuffy nose), and we let the younger two sleep. School at home is hereby canceled while I wait this out. When the kids are feeling better, we'll resume.

In the meantime, enjoy these links on Homeschooling And Illness:

Enjoy!

My youngest is in the first grade. It’s funny…when one has multiple children, there is a certain Mommy Amnesia that sets in, causing one to forget that one’s other children went through the same stages. R has always had difficulty focusing on and completing his work. (The other two did also at his age.) Lately, I have strayed from the Charlotte Mason model of short lessons and tried to get him to focus for longer than he is really capable. The result is a boy who is very difficult to teach.

Charlotte Mason said in her Original Homeschooling Series, vol 1 pg 142:

…the lessons are short, seldom more than twenty minutes in length for children under eight; and this, for two or three reasons. The sense that there is not much time for his sums or his reading, keeps the child’s wits on the alert and helps to fix his attention; he has time to learn just so much of any one subject as it is good for him to take in at once: and if the lessons be judiciously alternated––sums first, say, while the brain is quite fresh; then writing, or reading––some more or less mechanical exercise, by way of a rest; and so on, the program varying a little from day to day, but the same principle throughout––a ‘thinking’ lesson first, and a ‘painstaking’ lesson to follow,––the child gets through his morning lessons without any sign of weariness.

Without further ado, here is R’s new schedule.

First/Second Grade Schedule

  Time Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
20 Minutes 8:30 – 8:50 Old Testament New Testament Italics Old Testament New Testament
20 Minutes 8:50 – 9:10 Italics Drawing Reading Reading Reading
10 Minutes 9:10 – 9:20 Repetition – Poem Repetition – Poem Reading Reading Repetition – Poem
10 Minutes 9:20 – 9:30 Latin Artist Study Latin Latin Natural History
20 Minutes 9:30 – 9:50 Math Handcrafts Math Composer Study Math
15 Minutes 9:50 – 10:05 Piano Greek Piano Greek Spelling
15 Minutes 10:05 – 10:20 Science FREE Science FREE Science
30 Minutes 10:20 – 10:50 Reading Math Spelling Health Handcrafts
10 Minutes 10:50 – 11:00 Natural History Reading Geography Math Geography
20 Minutes 11:00 – 11:20 FREE Spelling FREE Spelling FREE

Thanks to Carol Hepburn at Hepburn Family Homepages for providing the inspiration for my new 1st/2nd grade schedule.

FREESpellingFREESpellingFREE11:00 – 11:2020 MinutesGeographyMathHandcraftsHealthScienceFREESpellingGreekMathComposer StudyNatural History LatinRepetition – PoemReadingReading ReadingNew Testament Old Testament FridayThursdayGeographyReadingNatural History 10:50 – 11:0010 MinutesSpellingSciencePiano MathLatinReadingReadingItalics WednesdayMathReading10:20 – 10:5030 Minutes FREEScience10:05 – 10:2015 MinutesGreekPiano9:50 – 10:0515 Minutes HandcraftsArtist StudyRepetition – PoemDrawingNew Testament TuesdayMath9:30 – 9:5020 Minutes Latin9:20 – 9:3010 MinutesRepetition – Poem9:10 – 9:2010 MinutesItalicsOld TestamentMonday8:50 – 9:1020 Minutes8:30 – 8:5020 MinutesTime

When Things Are Not Working, Change and Follow Through

Our lives have recently changed dramatically. My 12 year old has just started public school. It was a fairly quick decision on the surface, but really, it had been on our minds for many months. T has not really been thriving in our home school environment. Since the beginning of this year, he has been tearful and has not been able to complete a full day’s worth of work more for than one day at a time. On most days, he was only able to complete 1 subject. Every now and then, he would surprise me and complete several subjects; but mostly, it was tears and frustration for us both.

At first, I blamed this difficulty on his diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome . We have had to work through sensory issues, fine motor problems, emotional issues and processing issues. On the other hand, I had said many times, “If you can’t be successful here at home, you will need to go to the school down the road.” This is the strict parent speaking. I realize that this had been, up until now, an empty threat. I know that such threats are not conducive to learning. I realized that at this point, at 12 years old and in the 7th grade, some thing would have to change soon, as high school and college are growing closer.

A Sudden Transition

Our transition was rather sudden. In a perfect world, I would have gradually gotten him ready for public school in the fall. Starting in the early spring, I would have looked for a good school, gone to the orientation day in the fall, toured the school ahead of time and mentally prepared T for the atmosphere of public school. Of course, this is not what happened. One Monday in November, before Thanksgiving, I decided to put him into 7th grade at the neighborhood middle school. We all put away our studies for the day to get the paperwork from the school office, buy a uniform and supplies, and retrieve his vaccination records from his pediatrician. The next day, he started.

Throughout all the preparation, I could tell by looking into T’s eyes that he was nervous. I was a wreck and tried not to cry a mother’s tears, usually reserved for kindergartners, now flowing for my 6 foot tall adolescent. However, he was cheerful and helpful throughout the entire process. There were so many new things to adjust to, for me and for him. We both had about 10 new people in our lives. T also had the campus map to contend with as well as unfamiliar routines, crowds, bells and other sensory bombardments. But we both survived. We got through it all. The things I thought would bother T were non issues.

I Love the Smiles

T seems to be a very well-adjusted middle-schooler. His first report card is filled with A’s. Academically, I have no real worries, though, as with any child that age, I still have to remind him to turn in his homework. More importantly, the tears are gone. T has started smiling again. Most days, he gets into the van full of tales of the day – and the smiles…I love the smiles.

Our lives are now filled with taking T to and from school, helping him with his homework and washing his uniform. His weekday chores are suspended for now, as he gets used to his new life, and I am sure he’s happy about that. We plan to take things one semester at a time. The younger two are now starting to think about public school in the fall. On the other hand, now that we all have to get up early to get T to school on time, they finish their schoolwork by noon.

The following is a homily I delivered at my church during the first service of the year. It was one of three homilies by different speakers on the subjects of birth, love and death.


Birth – A Homily
January 2011

I’ll try to spare you the gory details of my three labors and births. Innumerable mothers have written about the nitty-gritty of labor and delivery. Birth is a visceral event, messy and uncomfortable. Birth is emotional, painful, chaotic, ecstatic, and supremely uplifting. Instead, I want to tell you what I’ve learned from giving birth, what I’ve learned about losing control, an experience both frightening and wonderful.

As a child, teenager, and young adult, I was fond of being in control. I remember having fifty-six stuffed animals – fifty-six exactly. I remember because I counted them twice daily, when I made my bed before school. I lined them all up on my smooth bedspread, sometimes according to size, with the bigger ones in the back, sometimes by name, and sometimes by species. My room was impeccably clean. The books were neatly arranged on the shelf, the clothes hung in the closet. There were no toys left carelessly on the floor. At least that’s how I remember things – my mother may have a different story. I liked everything just so. I was in control. I liked activities in which the outcome was guaranteed. If you do your schoolwork correctly, you will get good grades. If you follow the recipe exactly, you will be rewarded with the perfect chocolate cake. I liked predictability, and I still do.

Childbirth is not predictable. A perfect pregnancy and delivery do not always result in a perfect baby. Child rearing is not a perfect science. Spur of the moment decisions are often the rule. Mistakes are made by the dozens, but time does not stop for you to be perfect. The babies grow and change by the minute. This morning my son’s pants fit. This afternoon, they are too short. Discipline strategies that worked last week probably won’t work ever again.

My husband and I, or maybe more correctly, I, planned our births according to the seasons and the astrological sun signs. I didn’t want a Summer baby. I didn’t want to sweat through a Texas summer eternally uncomfortable and round. My mother had spoken of this often, as I am a September baby. Moreover, and rather selfishly, I wanted Pisces or Aquarius babies because I was convinced that I, a Virgo, could not possibly get along with or live with any other sun signs. After all, my mother is an Aquarius, my father, my stepfather, and my husband are all Pisces, and, so far, I had managed to get along well with all of them. I was in control.

Giving birth and raising children means letting go of a great deal of control. First, there’s the mess. Labor and delivery are messy – the sheets, the towels, the blood. Birth is loud – both mother and baby make noises that I was sure no human has ever uttered. Then comes the mess of a mother nursing, feeding, bathing, and changing an infant, not having time to wash dishes, vacuum, or do laundry. I was always relieved when my husband said, “Don’t worry about the mess. It proves we have children.” I still have to be told this from time to time. Sometimes the messes are emotional, as when I referee arguments among my three boys, or take their behavior personally. Now my kids are older, and our house is often messy and lived in. It proves we have children.

With my firstborn, especially, I was really afraid of what was to happen to my body in the process of giving birth. At the end of my first (or was it my second?) trimester, my midwife advised me to put aside all of the books on childbirth I had been devouring and trust nature instead. She assured me that my body instinctively knew what to do. It did, but nature herself had other plans. My first delivery held many surprises and there were many times that we all – I, my husband, the two midwives, the obstetrician, and the pediatrician – had to make sudden decisions. But in the end, it all turned out OK. My eldest is about to turn thirteen.

With my second child, I already knew that my body was physically capable of giving birth. I didn’t have to wonder what was coming, and I was able to surrender to the process more. This birth proved to me that I was capable of having a totally normal pregnancy and delivery. I let nature tell me what to do. My body knew exactly how to proceed. My toddler slept through the whole thing. By moonrise, our house was quiet and dark and calm, as if nothing unusual had happened that day. My middle boy will soon be ten.

With my third birth, my midwife referred me to the obstetrician’s care in my thirty-sixth week because of abnormalities in the pregnancy. I ended up having to surrender myself to Dr. Love (yes, that was his name), while still feeling like I had some say in the matter. During labor, the umbilical cord prolapsed, coming out before the baby. I ended up having an emergency C-section, my eyes closing to the anesthesia on the way to the delivery room. When I awoke, my husband and midwife were by my side, cradling the sweet baby that was the root of all the activity and concern. My youngest will soon be seven.

In all three births, I had to let go of the control that I so dearly loved. I learned that to grow and to help my children grow, I have to let go. If I always do things for them, because, of course, I can do things better and faster, they will not be able to do for themselves. I am proud to say that all three of my boys can and do clothe themselves, feed themselves, and, for the most part, clean up after themselves.

To this day, I still feel most comfortable when I’m in control. It’s still hard to let the floors have sticky, dirty spots, to let the beds go unmade, to allow my boys to make their own mistakes, and to let them make questionable decisions. But I have grown with them. Letting go has allowed me to take on more things to nurture myself and feed my own soul. Letting go has allowed part of me to become a child again. I can sit back and watch my dear boys as they grow and appreciate their individuality. By relinquishing control, I can relax and enjoy the happiness they bring and dream of the bright future that is theirs.

Today is a slow day. T did not sleep last night, so I expect him to take a nap. He was the first one started on his school work and is slowly completing his math (or reading the body book for boys).

R is participating in school only minimally. He is up for reading, but not for writing. Right now he is in time out for not doing his work. I wonder how long he’ll sit there.

I’m trying to write for at least 15 minutes every day during school time. Nothing too personal in this journal, as folks could be looking over my shoulder. This means you, D !

Five minutes left. What to write???

D is practicing his Pyon Moo Do techniques. We spoke briefly about his home and school stripes. He did a good job not complaining about writing a 3 – 5 sentence narration. I think I’ll work on getting him up to 10 sentences. Then, have him choose those that are about the same theme and put them together into a paragraph. Or, I could ask for more information and have him expand just one of his sentences. If I choose the latter, I’ll most likely keep the list to 5 – 7 sentences.

R  just tried to get up. I told him to sit until he was ready to complete his work. He’s starting to squirm.

We have almost 4 weeks left of summer. We’ve been slacking this summer, but are starting anew after Labor Day. I have just enough time to order last minute books and get the curriculum charts ready. The 6yo is very excited about starting Year 1 of Ambleside. In addition, his Greek, Latin, and Italics books came in the mail. We have to purge his shelf to make room for his new books.

Though Ambleside has schedules already made up, I find that making a chart helps me keep track easier. I can see at a quick glance where I am in the year and what is lacking for the week. I divide the 36 week schedule into 3 12 week terms. My eldest, who  has Asperger’s Syndrome, works slower than the schedule. I spread the 36 week schedule out, taking 1-2 weeks to every week scheduled. If I let him see the Ambleside schedule, he thinks he is too far behind. In my mind, he is where he is. This year, as encouragement, I plan to award a book from the bookstore for every 12 weeks completed.

Since I’m back from a very long blog vacation, I’ll have to learn how to upload an image, so stay tuned.




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