Sunday, September 7, 2014

Two Weeks of School Completed



School has been in session for two weeks and it is going well. So well, in fact, that I feel guilty. Many of my fellow homeschoolers are working hard all day long to get everything done. I have two fairly independent students which makes my day that much easier. Kaelyn is really my only concern.

My mornings start off with getting the three youngest to the neighborhood public school. Some mornings have gone better than others. Where I used to get my littles up at eight, I am now waking them up at seven. It’s a bit of a rush to get them all up, fed, dressed, and ready for the day. Not to mention I have to do something with the crazy amount of hair that Lily has!


One of my goals this year was to walk my children to school every day. We live so close. So far I have only driven one time when we were running late. There’s something about taking the time to walk to school that makes the day feel less rushed. We sing songs, practice our phone number, and fight over who is in the lead. My favorite game is when Nathaniel gets up ahead and then squats down trying to “hide” from me. He thinks since he can’t see me anymore I obviously can’t see him. It cracks me up! I’ve tried telling him that I can still see him, but it doesn’t seem to stop the game. Before they walk into their classroom I pray for their day and then they are off. Kaelyn and I then turn around and head back home.


While the youngest are learning at school, I get to work with Kaelyn. In my previous post I explained how we are working on her task boxes. This is going very well.  Towards the end of last week we started working on her letters, numbers, and identifying an animal. She is a very literal learner. She may learn the letter A with the red felt letter, but then when I show her the letter A somewhere else she no longer can identify it. It can be very frustrating. I also spent quite some time showing her pictures and videos of horses. We talked about what it was and the sound they make. I must have done this for about five minutes straight. Then I asked her what sound a horse makes and she said, “ruff”. Sigh.

On Tuesdays Kaelyn attends the homeschool choir. I love this opportunity for her. The choir director asked another little girl to be her friend and it’s so sweet to see little Abigail helping Kaelyn. Both girls will be the better for this experience by the end of the year. I knew Kaelyn loved to sing and I am pleased to see that she is actually learning the songs. She isn’t always clear, but she is learning.

Every Friday Kaelyn and I spend the morning at the school helping in the kindergarten class. I love getting to know the other children and seeing how my girls are behaving in the classroom. I’m also trying to make connections with the other parents. I have found this to be difficult. I’m not sure why. It’s possible that our backgrounds are just so different that it’s hard to break down the barriers. I keep trying, though.

A little after eleven, we walk back to the school to pick up Mae and Lily. Those two girls are LOVING school!!!  They are thriving in the classroom. Lily has an amazing vision teacher and orientation and mobility specialist. In the classroom she has a CCTV, an iPad, and a full-time aid to help her see everything that goes on. She is learning braille three times a week and a lot of her work gets translated to braille as well. I love how her brain is being stretched in learning braille. It’s challenging! Mae is doing great as well. Her weak right arm doesn’t seem to slow her down one bit. She’s already passed all of her sounds, letters, and knows twelve sight words. She will be reading books in no time!

After lunch the girls take a nap and I spend some time with my big boys. I read to Alex for about an hour and check through his work. Micah is pretty much self-taught, so I just need to check in with him on occasion. I love having older students!

Nathaniel gets out of school at three and rides the bus home. I love the fact that he gets to come home on the bus. It’s such a fun experience for him! School is going well for Nathaniel. He has the same teacher and aid this year, so everything is familiar. Holding him back was the best decision. He is successful in every subject. When homework comes home, he can complete it all on his own. Yay!


There’s much more that we are doing, but I will save that for another day.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Homeschooling a Child With Intellectual Disabilities

I did some research over the last few weeks and finally feel like I have a handle on how I want to teach Kaelyn. My biggest goal this year is to teach her how to independently work through some tasks. My hearts desire is to homeschool all my kids next year. In order to do that well, I need Kaelyn to have something to do. I came across the idea of task boxes. I bought twelve plastic shoe boxes to fill with tasks. These tasks will all be things that Kaelyn will learn to complete independently. Right now she needs to be talked through each step. I'm sure that by the end of the year she will be able to move through the boxes on her own. The tasks in each box are very simple, but with Kaelyn they will probably last her a month. Remember that the goal of this is to create independence. It's not about pushing her to think. However, some of them do push her.

The first task is a two step process. She takes a puff ball, puts it in the film can, and then puts the lid on.


She is so proud of completing the task. So am I!


Task box #2 is to color in a picture. Kaelyn struggles with fine motor skills. She isn't very strong and has had a hard time with hand dominance.


I'm amazed at the progress she has made in her coloring skills. You can tell by the look on her face that she is proud of her work.


Next up is to practice her name. As she becomes more proficient, I will cover up certain letters with a post it note. Maybe by the end of the year she will be able to spell her name!


Task #4 is to put Mr. Potato Head together correctly. As you can see, she put the ears where the arms should go. This is actually a difficult task for her. 


Task #5 was a piece of cake for her. She matches what is on the clothespin to the square piece of paper. This works on so many things for her: fine motor, matching, and midline crossover by having the box to her left.




Next up is some time on the swing. This girl loves to swing. She will spend hours on the playground. The swing set was the best investment. Since its purchase Kaelyn no longer spins in circles inside the house.


Here Kaelyn is working on sorting buttons by color. Eventually I hope her to be able to categorize things.


Box #8 is to work on prewriting skills. 


Here she is matching pictures that are exactly the same.


Task box #10 was tough. I wanted her to build the same thing as the model. She could not do it. I had to walk her through each step. I may need to make it even simpler.


Below she is working on one-to-one correspondence. This is beginning math skills. It is also helping her with fine motor by building strength in her hands and midline crossover.


Last box is to work on cutting. She is starting to be able to cut a straight line! Yay!


Even putting on the lid when the task is complete can be challenging.


Each box has a number she removes and puts on her chart. This helps reinforce reading from left to right and also beginning to identify numbers.


This task box idea worked beautifully with Kaelyn. I'm hopeful that she will soon be able to work through these on her own. 

Is There Hope?

Is there hope?

Is there hope that she will be an independent adult? No

Is there hope she will ever be married? No

Is there hope she will have children? No.

Is there hope she will ever read, write, or do math? I don't know.

Sometimes it feels hopeless when it comes to educating Kaelyn. The thought of teaching her every little skill that should come naturally is overwhelming. Daunting. There are times when I want to hide from the task.

However.....

Is there hope that she will be loved? YES!

Is there hope that she will show love? YES!

Is there hope that she will impact others in a positive way? YES!

Will she teach others how to love more? YES!

Is there hope that she will live a full life? YES!


When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he answered with the following verse.

"And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:37-39 ESV)

Love God.

Love others.

That's what it all boils down to.

Life is not about how smart you are, what amazing job you get, or how much money you make. It's about loving and honoring God. Kaelyn is capable of so much love. God loves her and cares for her more than I will ever be capable of. He has a plan for her life.

Is there hope? Yes!


Monday, August 25, 2014

First Day of School Pictures


My baby started kindergarten today! I can't believe it. She is going to public school.


Lily also started kindergarten today. She is so ready. Lily and Mae are in the same class.


Nathaniel is in first grade at Nelson with Lily and Mae. He wasn't so happy about leaving his sisters. He would prefer to go back to kindergarten.


Kaelyn is in first grade at home. There will be many posts about how I am teaching her.


Alex is an eighth grader and will be homeschooled this year. Praying for a smooth year.


Micah is a Sophomore! Next up is his license. What happened to the time??? Poor guy was sick today. However, he usually is the last one to get up.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Our Educational Plans for 2014-2015

Last year brought so many changes to our family. We added a beautiful daughter, enrolled Nathaniel in public school full time, enrolled Alex in a charter school, and learned to navigate special needs we weren't prepared for. It was rough. Many days I felt like crawling under the covers and never showing my face again. However, God gave us the strength to run the race and I feel as if I can finally breathe. Jon and I have learned to only look at the coming school year. We no longer try to plan for the future. We have a goal, but the details on getting there may look different every year. Here is what next year looks like for us.

Micah- 15 years old and a sophmore in highschool

Micah will continue his education at home. He is self taught and very easy to have around. Actually, I'm not sure I could manage daily life without him. He is my right hand when Jon is at work.

Sonlight Core 300- 20th Century World History
20th Century Literature
The One Year Adventure Novel
Chemistry- outside class
Algebra 2
Beyond the Beat- outside music/drum group

Alex- 13 years old and in 8th grade

Alex had a great experience at Kepler for the last few months of his seventh grade year. We learned many wonderful things about Alex. He discovered a love for science and drawing. While Kepler was a great opportunity, the drive every day was getting to be too much. So, next year he will come back
home for his education.

Sonlight Core G/H- World History/ Literature
Cover Story writing curriculum/ grammar
Spelling
Pre-algebra or Math 7 (depends on his placement test. This will be a new curriculum for us.)
Life Science- outside class
Beyond the Beat- outside music/ drum group where he will be playing the bass guitar

Kaelyn- 7 years old and will be in 1st grade

Kaelyn will also be homeschooled next year. As explained in the previous post, we went through the public school IEP process and decided that home was best. Age wise, she should be entering second grade. However, we feel that holding her back will close the gab a bit between her and her peers. It
won't help a ton but maybe a smidge. She is not able to follow any curriculum, so everything will be taught through various means. I've been developing my own IEP for her and will work on reaching certain goals. When I'm done with the IEP I will write a separate post about it.

Nathaniel- 7 years old and will be in 1st grade

Nathaniel will continue in our local public school. We are retaining him in first grade and we feel this will give him the opportunity to mature and be even more successful. He could probably manage moving up, but Jon and I don't feel like that would be in his best interest. Fortunately he will continue with the same teacher and aid. Everything will be familiar and I suspect that he will soar. My goal will be to help him become independent with his homework. Our school gives a ton of homework which we didn't do much of this past year. My goal is to get through it all.

Lily- 5 years old and will be entering Kindergarten

This next year will have Lily in public school. We aren't sure whether or not she will be a print reader or a braille reader. These next few years should help us to decide. Jon and I both feel that the public school vision program is amazing and will be the best place for her to learn braille. I have someone who is willing to teach her outside of the school, but the time investment would probably be my undoing. To master braille she needs at least an hour of instruction a day once she hits first grade. I can't do that and homeschool my others effectively at the same time. Lily is an amazingly bright little girl and will thrive wherever we put her. We hope to homeschool her some day, but we are willing to leave her in school for braille if that is what will make her most successful in life.

Mae- 5 years old in September and in Kindergarten

I can't believe that my baby is going to be in kindergarten! It's quite shocking and exciting all at the same time. Mae will be joining Nathaniel and Lily at our local public school. She will actually be considered transitional kindergarten because she misses the cutoff by 17 days. However, Mae is very smart and I know she will be done with kindergarten by the end of the year. If we decide to keep her in public school for the following year we will petition to have her moved to first grade. If we homeschool her, then we will just move her on up.

Our biggest goal for having the three youngest in school is to allow me the time to really focus on Kaelyn. I will be her speech therapist, occupational therapist, and special education teacher all wrapped up in one. I want to really focus on her so that we may then transition the others back home when the time is right.

I'm very excited about our coming year. I feel The Lord has given us so much peace about each child's path.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A New Label for Kaelyn

Early this year Jon and I decided to have Kaelyn go through the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) process to see what the educational system could provide for our girl. The process itself was very long and involved. We spent hours upon hours at the school with various professionals testing Kaelyn. There was the vision teacher, orientation and mobility specialist, adaptive PE teacher, occupational therapist, physical therapist, resource teacher, speech therapist, and psychologist. Some of the testing was pretty much what I expected. Other days it was incredibly frustrating.

The final report was that Kaelyn is intellectual disabled (ID). ID is the new way of saying mentally retarded. Her IQ scores were very low. Much lower than I had anticipated. I believe that her scores will climb as she acquires more language, but I do not think she will ever lose the label of ID. The school recommends that she be put in full day special education. This was not a surprise. What was a surprise was that she would not get many outside services besides a one on one aide, some O&M services, and thirty minutes a week of speech consult with her teacher. Medical professionals outside of the school recommend occupational therapy and speech therapy. This is why we went to the school. Private OT and speech is expensive. More than we can do on a regular basis. I thought if we put her in school then all of that would be provided. 

In the end we declined the IEP with the school. We feel strongly about keeping her home where she continues to learn the security of being in a family. I can provide her everything she needs to grow and learn. I've been working on developing my own IEP for her for next school year. We are going to focus on language development, preschool skills, and music. I'm most excited about enrolling her in our homeschool choir. She loves to sing and I can already see her giant smile as she learns new songs. She will also continue gymnastics at Break the Barriers to strengthen her muscles and develop coordination.  Kaelyn and I will also volunteer once a week in my little girls' kindergarten class. This will give her even more of an opportunity to interact with typical developing children. 

God has given us so much peace about this decision. I know that He had us go through this IEP process with the school so that we would be confident in our decision to homeschool Kaelyn.

Our next step is to have her genetically tested to see if she has some type of syndrome. We will also have her tested again by a neuropsychologist this next year. We will continue to have her tested so that we may keep track of her progress. I'm positive that she will progress. Even though she will never be independent, she is such a joy to have in our lives!

Monday, February 17, 2014

A New Path for Alex

Ten years ago Jon and I made the decision to home educate our two boys. We wanted to be able to provide the best education for our children and homeschooling was our path. For ten years I have covered every subject for my big boys. For ten years I have helped them through their struggles and rejoiced with them in their successes.


Tuesday will be the first day that one of them will enter a brick and mortar school. Alex is going to be taught by someone other than me. He's going to experience school in a different way than we imagined all those years ago. It's time to set aside what we desired from the beginning and make decisions based on what will be best for our creative boy.


There comes a point in time when it's ok to admit that things aren't working. I've come to that point. Alex needs more than I can give him. He needs to be taught in a way that brings life to his subjects. So often he and I just try to get it done and check it off. Tempers start to flare and frustration reigns. My desire is for him to love to learn and right now he doesn't. A change needs to be made.


Alex will be finishing up his seventh grade year at Kepler Neighborhood School. Kepler is a charter school located in downtown Fresno. This school focuses on hands on learning and has a service component. Students work together in small groups with a lot of personal attention.

I'm very excited for Alex and this new adventure. He is not. Please pray for him as he transitions. Pray that he will develop a love for learning and that he will understand what is being taught. Pray for friends.


I also ask for prayer. Pray that The Lord will give me the energy to accomplish all that is before me. These next few months are filled with at least four appointments per week. I will now have one child downtown for school, one at our neighborhood school, two homeschooling, and two preschoolers. My car and I are going to have a very close relationship!

Monday, January 27, 2014

One Year Ago Today

One year ago today we met Kaelyn for the first time.


She has changed our lives in so many ways.


One year ago we learned that the child we were adopting was not the typically developing girl portrayed to us in her file. We faced the decision of whether or not to proceed with her adoption. Obviously, we did. And I praise God everyday for her.

That first week in China was scary. She spent most of her time in the hotel rubbing her fingers against the wall or chair. We discovered that she could not drink from a cup, and her communication skills were almost non-existent. Playing was something she knew nothing about.


Once home, we made slow progress. Doctors have evaluated Kaelyn and therapy's have been attended. Step by step we have seen a beautiful butterfly emerge from her cocoon.


Kaelyn has begun to initiate conversation. Questions are being asked. Statements are being made. She has become stronger and more confident. Learning has begun. The once vacant look in her eyes has disappeared, and vibrant eyes have taken their place.


There are days when I am unsure whether she will ever be independent. She may not. However, she is showing me everyday to not underestimate her. Jon and I will continue, with the Lord's help, to help her reach her fullest potential. In the process, I expect to see God's hand at work. God's glory will be shown through this little girl's life. I am so excited to be the mama He chose to witness this little miracle.




January 26, 2013

December 2013
I want to take a moment and thank some special people in Kaelyn's life. I'm not sure if they would ever read my blog, but I wanted to acknowledge those that changed her life.


Bev- Thank you for noticing Kaelyn in the orphanage two years ago and bringing her to your foster home. God worked through you to give this precious child a new start in life. Thank you for fighting for her. Thank you for finding ways to improve her life. God heard your prayers.




Nannys- Thank you for loving our girl so completely for a year and a half. Thank you for teaching her to take care of herself, feed herself, and begin to speak. I know it wasn't easy. I'm sure there were moments when it seemed like she would never learn. Thank you for praying and fighting for her. 

Loren- Thank you for devoting so much of your time in China with our sweet Angel. Thank you for your stories and insight into her past. You have given her precious memories that we will treasure forever. Thank you for praying for her. 


A thank you, also, to the many people around the world who prayed that our sweet girl would find a family. We are so blessed that she is ours.