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Most kids who are available for adoption have siblings.  Sometimes their siblings are available for adoption with them, while other times their siblings are in care but not available for adoption, still living with birth family, or have already been adopted.  Sadly, it is not uncommon for siblings to be split up in foster care or in different orphanages (in some countries, babies and preschoolers live in “baby houses,” while school-age children live in separate orphanages).  There are places where, due to lack of resources and social pressure, families who have children with special needs place them in orphanages, while they raise their children who don’t require special care.  Whether an adopted child had a relationship with their siblings or not, the loss of their siblings is often one more loss that comes with adoption.

Sibling groups often wait longer for adoptive families than children who are placed individually.  Families may be concerned about the amount of extra work that comes with adding multiple new family members, may not have enough space in their home to add more than one child, or may be discouraged by the additional cost of completing the adoption or caring for the children.  Sibling groups in which one or more children have special needs may wait even longer.

I would like to introduce you to two sibling groups currently listed on Reece’s Rainbow.  I can imagine either of these sibling groups in my family, but we’re not in a position to start another adoption right now.  Even if we were, we wouldn’t adopt both sets.  Thus, I am spotlighting them here in the hopes that their future forever families might see them.

The first group is two brothers, “Evan” and “Ethan.”  (These are not their real names.)  Evan, born in 2016, has no medical diagnoses.  Ethan, born in 2014, has HIV.  Their Reece’s Rainbow page is here.  Don’t you just want to give them big hugs?

The second sibling set is “Elaine,” “Jerry,” and “George.”  Little sister Elaine was born in 2018.  She has HIV, a speech disorder, and abnormal cardiac function.  Her brothers, born in 2016 and 2014, have no medical diagnoses.  Their Reece’s Rainbow page is here.  Note that the older boy (the one with the outdated photo) is the one on the left on the Reece’s Rainbow page, though the listing reads like he should be the one on the right.  I put them in order from youngest to oldest here.  (It turned out kind of small, but you can click each photo to see a larger version.)  The younger two are in the same orphanage, while the older boy has already been moved and is thus separated from his siblings.  Is your family the one who will bring them together again?

You probably noticed that both of these beautiful sibling sets contain a child living with HIV.  Nowadays, HIV is a very easy special need!  Adoptive parents of children with HIV agree that the social aspect of living with HIV is more challenging than the medical aspect.  If you’d like to learn more, here is an essay by a woman who adopted a child with HIV and here’s another by a doctor who would rather have HIV than diabetes.

I have more information (including photos and videos) that I can share privately with interested families.  The country that these children live in has a quick adoption process (often less than a year from starting the home study to homecoming) and is relatively cost-effective for adopting siblings.  The estimated additional cost of adopting a sibling from the same orphanage is about $5000 (including facilitation fees, medical exam, visa, and flight home).  The estimated additional cost for a sibling in a different orphanage in the same region, if the court process can be combined, is $7000.  Please contact me if you want to learn more.

What you can do:

  • Pray for waiting sibling groups and for families adopting siblings.  If you wish, you can look at photolistings and pray for specific children.
  • Donate towards the Reece’s Rainbow grant accounts of waiting sibling groups and family sponsorship accounts of families adopting siblings to help defray international adoption expenses.
  • Support organizations such as Second Mile Haiti that work to support vulnerable families so that they can keep their children, rather than placing them in orphanages and potentially splitting up siblings.
  • Consider whether you may be called to foster or adopt a sibling group.
  • Share information about waiting sibling groups (like these kids!) on social media.  Many children have been chosen for adoption after their future forever parents first saw their photos or information shared online by a friend or acquaintance.

Please pray especially for “Evan” and “Ethan,” and for “Elaine,” “Jerry,” and “George.”  I’ve been to orphanages, and even a well-run orphanage is not as good for children as a family is.  The sooner these children go home with loving, committed families, the better!

I’ve been interested in whole food, plant-based (WFPB) eating for a long time.  I first came across the idea (though not that term) over a decade ago.  When Peter was a baby, I picked up a copy of Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book Disease-Proof Your Child: Feeding Kids Right.  At that time, I was eating a standard American diet with plenty of processed food, lots of dairy, and meat almost every day.  I didn’t doubt that the diet based on vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts, and whole grains recommended by Dr. Fuhrman was healthy, but I thought it would be impossible.  A few years later, I came across The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted by T. Colin Campbell and his son Thomas M. Campbell.  I was blown away by the scientific evidence they compiled to make their case for the importance of diet to health, and particularly, the negative effects of animal food consumption.  Slowly, over a period of years, I started to wean myself away from the standard American diet.  I stopped drinking soda pop.  I stopped buying red meat, pork, and ice cream (but still occasionally ate them away from home, as a treat).  I stopped eating obvious dairy products.  I started eating more fruits, vegetables, beans, and foods made with whole grains.  Although my diet still wasn’t amazing, it was definitely healthier than it used to be.  I knew I should be eating a WFPB diet, but I couldn’t commit to going all the way.

When I saw the documentary Forks Over Knives in 2017, it struck a nerve.  It felt wrong to keep eating the way I was, but I didn’t know how to make a major change.  Life was busy with hosting Valentine, the adoption process, and then integrating a new child into our family.  While I had plenty of excuses for not overhauling my diet, my conscience troubled me; I was neglecting something important.  I watched Forks Over Knives again in late 2018, seeking motivation.  Finally, in December 2018, I visited the website associated with the documentary.  When I discovered that the Forks Over Knives team was going to have a free 21-day Fresh Start Challenge beginning in early January 2019, I signed up.

With considerable investment of time and energy to try new foods and learn new habits, I made it through the Fresh Start Challenge last January.  I didn’t know if I could do it all, but I decided to take it a week at a time.  The first week’s goal was to eat a WFPB breakfast every day.  Since I already did that at least five or six days a week (I’ve been having a chocolate smoothie for breakfast almost every day for the past couple years), I decided to add evening snacks (anything eaten after dinner) that first week.  The second week’s official goal was to eat WFPB for breakfast and lunch; I made my personal goal to eat only WFPB through lunch (including morning snacks) and after dinner, so I was only eating non-WFPB foods for afternoon snacks and dinner.  The third week’s goal was to go all the way—breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  True to its name, every week was a challenge, but I pushed myself to rise to the occasion.  I will always remember how proud of myself I was the first day that I ate nothing but WFPB foods.

Unlike any other New Year’s resolution I’ve ever made, I am still eating WFPB as 2019 comes to an end.  A crucial component in accomplishing this is the support offered by the Forks Over Knives team.  Their e-mail newsletters keep me motivated with success stories, informative articles, and a wide variety of recipes to try.  For the first couple months, their official Facebook group was my lifeline.  I don’t know anyone in real life who eats this way, so finding a welcoming online community with a wealth of experience was extremely helpful.  I could not have done this all on my own, but with the encouragement and advice of those who have forged the path ahead of me, I am making this stick.

I have faced numerous challenges in following the WFPB diet and I am by no means perfect at it.  From the beginning, my goal was to get to 90-95% WFPB.  Because I am basically healthy and have no chronic health conditions, I allow myself “treats” here and there; I couldn’t commit to never eating certain foods again.  A slice of turkey at Thanksgiving, one of my family’s traditional almond rolls at Christmas, or a bite of brownie when my husband bakes a pan won’t do me too much harm when the rest of the foods I eat are health-promoting.  One of the hardest parts of eating WFPB is eating away from home.  Few restaurant meals are WFPB and it can be difficult to find foods that come close.  I basically give up eating WFPB when eating at someone else’s house; I don’t want to burden them with preparing something different for me or seem rude by not eating what they have prepared.  Potlucks are not too bad; I bring a WFPB entrée that I can eat and usually someone brings fruit.  Even eating at home is not always easy.  Despite me subjecting my husband to the Forks Over Knives documentary, he has not chosen to change the way he eats.  As the rest of my family continues to consume a standard American diet, I often cook the equivalent of two dinners—one for them and one for me (which they are welcome to eat, but usually don’t).  I feel guilty about serving my kids foods that I know are detrimental to their health, but as long as my husband is not on board and there are unhealthy foods in the house, the kids are going to eat them.  I encourage my kids to make healthy choices, but I don’t have it in me to fight over what they eat every day.  Most of my challenges in WFPB eating stem from the fact that I’m an anomaly in following this diet; I hope that as this way of eating becomes more widespread, there will be more restaurant options and greater social acceptance.

Despite the challenges, I feel good about eating WFPB.  I can draw parallels between eating WFPB and living a Christian faith.  Both are counter-cultural; doing the right thing is often quite different from what society expects or encourages you to do.  Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  The truth is that a WFPB diet is the way to eat for a healthy life.  Once your eyes have been opened, you can’t pretend that you don’t know.  Many people experience dramatic weight loss and health improvement after making the change to a WFPB diet.  As I was not overweight and was basically healthy to begin with, I didn’t experience a significant improvement in my health, though I did have a modest weight loss.  When I went for an annual physical in the fall, my doctor didn’t see the need to order blood tests.  While of course I’m happy to be healthy, I was disappointed not to have my blood tested, as I was curious to see how the results would compare to tests done before I started eating WFPB.  With time, certain aspects of WFPB eating have become easier.  I have found many new recipes that I enjoy.  I have figured out some quick-and-easy WFPB foods so I’m less tempted to cheat when I’m tired or pressed for time and there are no WFPB leftovers.  My tastes have also changed, so even when I do have a treat, I often don’t enjoy it as much as I expected.  It’s easier to pass up unhealthy foods after several disappointing experiences of eating them.  The successes I experience and the conviction that I am doing the right thing keep me motivated to continue eating WFPB.

I encourage you to learn more about whole food, plant-based eating and try it for yourself.  If you haven’t seen the Forks Over Knives documentary, take two minutes to go watch the trailer now, and find the time to watch the whole thing soon.  If you’re a reader, pick up one of the many books on the subject—Plant-Strong: Discover the World’s Healthiest Diet by Rip Esselstyn is an easy read, or choose The China Study if you like to see scientific data.  Explore the Forks Over Knives website; there is a wealth of resources there.  If you’re up for it, make a New Year’s resolution to complete the Fresh Start Challenge; the Forks Over Knives team is doing it again for 2020.  The orientation e-mail goes out on January 1st and the challenge officially begins on January 4th.  Even if you’re not ready to commit, you can get on the Forks Over Knives mailing list (scroll to the bottom of this page to sign up).  Educate yourself and start making changes to improve your diet and your health—it’s a worthwhile journey and I would love more company!

Find more 7 Quick Takes (about who-knows-what other topics) here:

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My husband, Don, and I recently went on a cruise from New York City to Atlantic Canada (Halifax, Nova Scotia and Saint John, New Brunswick) and back.  While I was hoping to do some serious writing on the cruise, vacationing got in the way of my plans.  However, I did manage to type up a few thoughts and observations from my travels.

  1. We don’t even have a stoplight in my entire zip code, so New York City is very different from where I live. It was fascinating and stimulating.  Everywhere I looked, there were interesting things to see and so many things to read—signs and notices and advertisements.  It was exciting to visit, but I can imagine that it would be stressful to be bombarded with so much information all the time if you lived there.
  2. There are so many tv shows and movies set in New York City that it seems familiar, even though this is only the second time I’ve spent any appreciable amount of time there (the first was in 2017 when we took our host child “Valentine” to JFK to fly back to Ukraine). On our ride from the airport to our hotel, it almost seemed like we were passing through a caricature of the city.  Among other things, we passed a shop that specialized in taxi parts, a manufacturer of Statue of Liberty replicas, a bagel bakery, several delis, food carts on the sidewalk, and lots of graffiti.
  3. I took advantage of the opportunity to attend a Haitian Creole Mass. We specifically chose our hotel because it was located close to the subway line that went near the church.  I was impressed to see probably 50-60 people at a Saturday morning Mass.  I arrived early and they were saying the rosary; I lost count of which decade I walked in on, but the first one I heard was in English and the rest were in French.  The Mass was conducted in both French and Creole (the standard prayers were in French, but the readings and the homily were in Creole) with some Latin thrown in for good measure (the Sanctus and Agnus Dei).  After the effort I put into memorizing the Our Father and the Hail Mary in Creole, I was a little disappointed that they were both said in French (which I also have memorized, from my days as a French teacher in Catholic elementary schools in Ontario).
  4. While we were in Brooklyn on a Saturday morning, I saw a surprising number of parents and children out and about. However, I did not see anyone with more than two children.  I suppose the expense and pressures of urban living result in people choosing to have smaller families.
  5. Sitting on the cruise ship, looking out at the Atlantic Ocean stretching to the horizon, reminds me of sitting on the shore of Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake by surface area, which I am lucky enough to live near. They both inspire me to reflect on the fact that there is so much water in the world.  The number of water molecules out there dancing around is just unfathomable.  They are all touching each other, all connected, all the way from Lake Superior to Lake Huron to Lake St. Clair to Lake Erie and over Niagara Falls and through Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence Seaway and out to the ocean.  Then the water molecules are all touching and all connected, all the way to Europe and Africa and beyond.
  6. One unexpected bonus of our itinerary is that for most of the cruise, we were in the Atlantic time zone, an hour ahead of Eastern time (where we live). It meant that we could stay up late and sleep in without actually messing up our body clocks very much.  Normally, I would find it scandalous to go to bed at midnight and stay in bed until 8:30 am, but it’s equivalent to 11 pm and 7:30 am Eastern, so it’s not that bad (though still later than I would go to bed and get up at home).
  7. Don is dreaming about going on a world cruise someday, maybe after he retires. Financial considerations aside, I’m not sure it’s a great idea.  Our trip was less than a week and I was already looking forward to being home.  The food was amazing, but I couldn’t eat that way every day.  I missed my own food.  I missed my kids (though by the time Don retires, they should all be grown up and moved out).  It makes me feel a little guilty to have someone make my bed and clean my bathroom multiple times a day.  We faced challenges in sharing a cabin when one person wanted to watch tv and the other wanted quiet to read or nap, or when one person went to bed or woke up earlier than the other.  I don’t know that I would enjoy being on a cruise for almost four months.  Seeing new places is enriching, but fifty or so different ports might just be too many to take in in that period of time.  Fortunately, it’s not a decision we’ll be making any time soon.

There you have it!  Now you can head over to This Ain’t the Lyceum to check out what kind of 7 Quick Takes other bloggers have written this week.

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I foolishly thought that I’d have more time to blog after the school year started and the two older kids transitioned from homeschooling to regular school.  As always, life is busy, but I squeezed out some time to put together an update for my adoring fans who might be wondering how my family is doing.

  1. Peter is off to a great start in his freshman year in high school. He’s keeping up with his school work reasonably well and he survived marching band season (our first snow wasn’t until the day after the last football game he had to play at).  In addition to Scouts and moving up to our parish’s high school faith formation program, he’s now involved in several clubs and activities at school.  I’m looking forward to seeing him perform with the JROTC rifle team at the Veterans Day ceremony next month.
  2. Amina, on the other hand, hasn’t had quite as smooth a start in middle school. Let’s just say that school is giving her many opportunities to learn to be responsible for herself.  Academically, she is getting plenty of support from the school, which I appreciate.  On the social/behavioral side, she’s still finding her way.  She enjoys going to school and being a cheerleader, and she is excited to have started our parish’s middle school faith formation program (I didn’t send her to faith formation last year, as she wouldn’t have understood enough of what was going on).
  3. Simon, as always, is a bundle of energy and big plans. He is becoming quite a reader; among other books, he’s read the first four Laura Ingalls Wilder books and just this week, he picked up the first Harry Potter book from the library and polished it off in four days.  Not bad for October of second grade!  He was enthusiastic about selling popcorn as a Cub Scout fundraiser and sold over $600 worth.  Last week, he was involved in an intensive theater experience.  The kids auditioned, got their parts, and started rehearsing on Monday, then rehearsed every evening until they performed on Friday and Saturday.  Last year, all three school-aged kids did it, but this year it was only Simon.  It’s a great experience, and although it makes for a crazy week, it’s only one week.  This year, they did the Jungle Book.  Knowing that in advance, I read the book to him this summer.  He was a jackal and had a lot of fun with his part.
  4. Clara is happy and cute. She loves going to her preschool class at our weekly homeschool co-op and she is always excited about going in the pool with me during Simon’s swimming lessons.  She enjoys being read to and often looks at picture books by herself, retelling the stories from memory and from the pictures.
  5. While “balance” is elusive, I’m finding it easier to manage homeschooling two kids rather than four. Our house is calmer during the day when the big kids are gone, and I’m not as stressed about trying to meet everyone’s needs.  I can never quite seem to get school done and get caught up with all the housework; I feel like I could do it if only Don didn’t go out of town this week or Simon didn’t have play practice that week or I didn’t have to take kids to dentist or optometrist appointments, etc.  However, on the whole, I’m getting things done that need to be done.
  6. So far, the biggest downside of school is transportation. Peter’s school doesn’t provide transportation out-of-district, so he needs to be dropped off and picked up every day; usually Don takes care of it, but not always.  Amina rides a bus in the morning and some afternoons, but she has cheerleading practice or games three days a week, so I often have to pick her up.  We’ve already looked into driver’s ed for Peter.  There is only one driving school here that he can attend and there is more demand than they can meet, but we’re hoping to get him in a class in the spring.  It will certainly be more convenient when he can get himself to and from school and his various activities, but that’s over a year away.
  7. My in-laws are coming to watch the kids while Don and I escape for a low-budget cruise vacation. We’re using airline miles to pay for our flights to New York City, hotel rewards miles for a hotel room there (we’re flying a day early in case of bad weather or mechanical problems—flights from our little airport are often delayed or cancelled), and the cruise itself was a fantastic deal because it’s the last New England/Canada cruise of the season.  We’re looking forward to spending some quality time together with no child-related interruptions.

That’s what’s going on here, in a nutshell.  Find more 7 Quick Takes at This Ain’t the Lyceum:

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As I hinted in the curriculum update for last school year that I wrote in June, this school year will be a real change for us.  Last year, I had four kids at home–a toddler and three homeschooled kids, including a pre-teen newly adopted from Ukraine who needed to learn English and start with the basics of academics, from our English alphabet to one-digit addition and subtraction.  This year, I will only have two kids at home on school days: Simon (grade 2) and Clara (preschool).  Peter will be a freshman at a local public high school (sadly, there is no Catholic high school anywhere in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan) and Amina will be in 6th grade at a local public middle school (the nearest K-8 Catholic school is a 45-minute drive, which is just not do-able).  We are taking advantage of Michigan’s Schools of Choice program for both of them; neither is attending school in the district that we live in.  Peter and I toured three high schools in the spring and talked with the principals, then he chose the school that he felt would be the best fit for him.  For Amina, Don and I interviewed principals from three different middle schools to learn what kinds of supports they would offer her, as well as their attitudes towards helping her.  We are excited about the school we’ve chosen, which is in a different district than Peter’s school (and is, in fact, in the opposite direction from our house).  Having both big kids in school will give me more time and energy for teaching the two younger ones.

I follow a classical education philosophy in homeschooling.  For this year, the only real difference that makes is in my choice of read-aloud books for both kids and reading books for Simon, memory work for Simon, and the inclusion of Song School Latin in Together Time (I don’t really expect Clara to learn Latin, but she enjoys singing and I figure it won’t hurt her).

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Our family in early August.  The two kids in the front are the ones who will be homeschooled this year.

Together Time:

I’m going to keep Together Time simple this year.  As with last year, we’ll begin with a song, say a prayer, and read two pages in a book of nursery rhymes or poetry.  Over the summer, I brought back Song School Latin, which I originally started with Peter and Simon before Amina came home; we will continue that.

 

French:

My overall goal for the year is to help Simon and Clara develop their language skills in French (as you may know if you’ve read my “About me” page, I used to be a French teacher).  I intend to use French regularly in day-to-day life, to read aloud to them in French every day, and to use multi-media resources (tv/videos, stories on audio CD, websites, tablet games) to make their exposure to French frequent and enjoyable.  Because I didn’t want Amina to feel left out, I used very little French with the other kids last year.  Now that Amina will be in school, I will feel free to use French with Simon and Clara during the school day.  I hope they will develop a solid foundation in the language while they are still young.

We’ll do some French every day, but I’m planning to try doing all of our Thursday afternoon lessons in French for a real immersion experience.  We can do Together Time in French–we can sing and pray in French and read French comptines (nursery rhymes).  Simon can do Khan Academy math in French and/or play math card games with me in French.  Clara will be doing her math in French every day.  Simon will practice reading in French.  We have a French Bible storybook that we can read for religion.  We have various fiction and non-fiction books for read-aloud, science, and history.  The key will be to make it seem special and fun that Thursdays are different from the rest of the week (Thursday mornings we will be at co-op).

 

Co-op:

I have been helping organize a new Catholic homeschool co-op that is starting this year in our area.  We will be meeting once a week, on Thursday mornings.  After 9 am Mass (which we may or may not attend, as the parish we’re meeting at is a half-hour drive away), kids will have a snack, then preschool and nursery will split off and grades K-8 will do art.  After art, K-3 will do hands-on science and 4-8 will do writing.  I will be teaching writing, Simon will do art and science, and Clara will be in the preschool class.  This should be a good opportunity for socialization (for kids and parents alike), for me to teach kids who are NOT my own, and for the kids (Simon especially) to do activities that I would not be likely to do at home.

 

Simon, grade 2:

Read-aloud–Angelicum Academy’s Good Books program. We’ve read about half of the First Grade Good Books so far; we’ll finish those up.  Then we may do some of the Sonlight Read-Alouds C, but I’ll also have Simon sit in on the Nursery level Good Books that I’ll start reading to Clara.

Reading–Combination of Sonlight and Good Books.  Simon is currently working his way through the Sonlight 3 Readers and his second book from the Second Grade Good Books list.

Grammar–Easy Grammar’s Daily Guided Teaching and Review for Grade 2.  I’m not going to do formal writing instruction with Simon this year, but he will learn basic grammar and mechanics (capitalization, punctuation, etc).

Handwriting–Catholic Heritage Handwriting: Level 2.

Spelling–All About Spelling.  Simon finished Level 1 at the end of last school year; he’ll continue with Level 2 and we’ll see how far he goes.

Math–Life of Fred: Cats, Dogs and Beast Academy.  Life of Fred is our fun summer math enrichment that we don’t seem to manage to find enough time to finish during the summer.  We’ll spend September wrapping up the first grade Life of Fred books before picking up where Simon stopped in level 2B of Beast Academy.

History/geography–RC History’s Connecting With History volume 1: Old Testament and Ancient Cultures.  Last year, we did the first unit and started the second unit.  We’ll pick up where we left off and aim to finish volume 1 this year.

Science–Behold and See 2: More Science with Josh and Hanna and Behold and See 3: Beginning Science.  We did all of Catholic Heritage Curricula’s grade 1 science program and half of the grade 2 program last year.  We’ll finish the grade 2 book and move on to the grade 3 book.

Religion–Image of God: Grade 2, CHC’s Preparing to Receive Jesus, and the New St. Joseph First Communion Catechism. This will be a big year for Simon because he’ll be preparing for his First Reconciliation and First Communion.  For years, I’ve heard other homeschooling moms gush about how wonderful CHC’s sacrament preparation materials were, so I bought them last year for Amina.  I quickly realized that with her limited knowledge of English, they were not suitable for her, so I used the First Communion Catechism with her instead.  I’ll use both with Simon.

French–Bien lire et bien écrire.  In addition to what I described above, my big goal is for Simon to develop basic literacy skills in French.  We will be using a multi-sensory, phonetic program intended for teaching French-speaking children to read.  Since Simon already knows how to read and just needs to learn the particularities of reading in French, I’m hoping that he will progress quickly.

Memory Work–RC History’s Rhyme-line Cards volume 1 (to coordinate with our history studies), some of the First Communion Catechism, and English From the Roots Up flashcards volume 1.

 

Clara, preschool:

Now that I’m teaching preschool for the third time, I have a pretty good idea of what I’m doing.  Clara’s preschool curriculum will be very similar to Simon’s.  I’ll describe the schedule and list curriculum resources below; if you’d like to know more about my choices, check out the post I wrote on Simon’s preschool curriculum.

As I did with Simon, I am planning to do 26 “weeks” of preschool, but each week doesn’t necessarily correspond to a calendar week or happen in exactly five school days.  I will print weekly schedules; after completing the activities on one schedule, I’ll change it to the next week.  If life is busy, I can skip preschool for a day or do less than a day’s work, stretching a “week” out to six or seven days (or longer).  That’s the beauty of homeschooling and scheduling only 26 weeks’ worth of preschool.

I will alternate between math and literacy days, with three math and two literacy days per week.  Literacy will be in English, but I will teach Clara math in French.  Although I will be using math curriculum resources written in English, at the preschool level it’s easy enough to just translate the material myself when I read it aloud and Clara can’t read the English text anyhow.

Here is my weekly plan:

Every day—read-aloud in English and French, color the day’s calendar square.  For English read-aloud, we’ll start Angelicum Academy’s Nursery level Good Books list mid-way through the school year, when Clara is about three and a half years old.  Until then, I’ll continue reading her picture books.  French read-aloud will be a variety of stories and non-fiction books.  We will color the calendar squares following simple patterns, starting with AB patterns such as red/yellow/red/yellow, and discuss the day of the week.

Once a week—read a story from The Rhyme Bible Storybook for Toddlers, make an animal craft (from Alphabet Art), do a Montessori activity.  These activities aren’t scheduled for a particular day, they just need to happen at some point during the week.  This gives me more scheduling flexibility so I can work around what is happening in any given week.

Day 1 (math): RightStart Math level A.  This is their kindergarten math program, but I will do it with Clara the same way I did it successfully with Simon when he was in preschool–teaching one lesson a week and repeating each lesson (so doing the same lesson two weeks in a row).  Thus we will cover the first 13 lessons of level A during the preschool year.  This provides a gentle introduction to the RightStart way of thinking about numbers.  (See my post about Simon’s preschool for why I like RightStart Math.)

Day 2 (literacy): phonemic awareness activities from Why Our Children Can’t Read and What We Can Do About It, sound practice, Jolly Phonics story/coloring page for the letter of the week.  It’s important to note that I teach the most common sound associated with each letter, not the letter name; this makes it easier to learn to read as there is less to memorize and less chance for confusion.  Kids can learn the letter names quite easily after they have started reading.  The letter of the week is not done in alphabetical order; I follow the Jolly Phonics sequence so that letters that are used most frequently are introduced first.  Sound practice means reviewing the written letters/sounds that have already been introduced.  We do this in a variety of ways, such as playing Go Fish, playing memory, matching capital letters and lowercase letters written in little dog bones and feeding them to a “doggy,” tracing sandpaper letters, or just reviewing flashcards and saying the sounds.

Day 3 (math): Mathematical Reasoning Beginning 1 (2 pages) and cahier (2 pages).  I think RightStart Math is sufficient on its own, but Mathematical Reasoning is a good supplement and both Simon and Clara enjoy these colorful workbooks.  (I showed the workbook to Clara when it arrived a few weeks ago and she keeps begging to “do math”; we’re already 5% of the way through the book.)  Since I’m teaching Clara math in French, it seems worth a few extra minutes of math practice each week to help her practice the vocabulary.  Cahier is the French word for a workbook; we will be using a few different French preschool workbooks like this one and this oneCahier isn’t math, even though it’s a math day; scheduling it like this is just my way of making sure we do it twice a week.

Day 4 (literacy): phonemic awareness activities, sound practice, make the Alphabet Art letter craft for the letter of the week.

Day 5 (math): Mathematical Reasoning (2 pages) and cahier (2 pages).

Preschool academics don’t take much time.  Most of preschool is playing, interacting with people, and having a wide variety of life experiences.  However, it’s worthwhile to spend a certain amount of quality time on academics to lay a solid foundation for future learning.

 

Previous homeschool curriculum overviews:

You can see what I’ve done in the past by checking out the links below.

2018-2019 (grade 8, grade 5–English language learner, and grade 1)

2017-2018 (grade 7 and kindergarten)

2016-2017 (junior kindergarten)  [I still haven’t written up a synopsis of what I did with Simon for JK.  Maybe one of these days I’ll get there.]

2015-2016 (preschool, round two)

2014-2015 (grade 4)

2013-2014 (grade 3)

2008-2009 (preschool)

 

When I first started homeschooling, I didn’t identify a specific educational philosophy that I subscribed to; I just wanted to give Peter an excellent education.  Over the last few years, however, as I’ve come to better understand the classical education approach, I have adopted it as a guide to my curriculum planning.

The tenets of classical education align well with my personal beliefs.  Classical education involves contemplating beauty, truth, and goodness, making it a fitting approach for Christian education (which is why all the Catholic schools in my diocese use a classical curriculum).  Rather than focusing on teaching specific content, classical education emphasizes teaching children how to learn and training them to think.  It recognizes that children of different ages have different capabilities and interests and that they should be taught specific skills at certain times in developmentally appropriate ways.  Classical education also includes the reading of good works of literature.

Classical education divides children into stages.  Traditionally, there are three stages–grammar, logic, and rhetoric–based on the trivium, a curriculum developed in the middle ages based on ancient Greek and Roman curriculum.  However, many classical educators now divide the grammar stage into younger (foundations or primary) and older (grammar) groups.  The stages are roughly: foundations/primary (grades K-2), grammar (grades 3-6), logic (grades 7-9), and rhetoric (grades 10-12).  Children in each stage have certain characteristics, which should be taken into consideration when planning their curriculum.  For example, primary and grammar stage students memorize easily and take pleasure in memorization, so that is a good age to have them memorize poetry, famous quotations, and history facts.  Logic stage students become argumentative, questioning the world.  This is a good age to teach them formal and informal logic so they can critically evaluate what they hear and read.  Rhetoric stage students want to express themselves, so this is the age to particularly focus on the skills of writing and speaking well.

Modifying my curriculum from my “excellent education” approach to a classical education approach didn’t require many changes.  I already followed a literature-rich curriculum, I just shifted it to include more Good Books/Great Books (Peter enjoyed taking online Great Books courses from the Rolling Acres School).  The study of grammar was already part of my curriculum.  For my younger students, I added memory work–memorizing poems, catechism questions/answers, and the like.  At the middle school level, I added the study of logic.  Also at the middle school level, as part of the contemplation of beauty, I included art history/theory/appreciation.  The one area in which my classical approach has been somewhat deficient is the study of Latin.  Peter started Prima Latina in grade 4 but never finished it and I did Song School Latin with Peter and Simon for a couple months before Amina’s adoption, but then dropped it.  I plan to do Song School Latin with Simon and Clara this year and have Simon do Prima Latina when he is in grade 3.

For years, I didn’t understand what classical education was all about.  I hope I have provided a useful summary here.  If you’re interested in learning more about classical education, I recommend reading or listening to Dorothy Sayers’ 1947 talk “The Lost Tools of Learning” (the text is here or you can purchase an audio CD here) and reading or listening to Christopher Perrin’s An Introduction to Classical Education: A Guide for Parents (the text is here or you can purchase a printed copy or an audio CD).  If those resources leave you hungry for more, check out the variety of offerings on the subject of classical education from Classical Academic Press.

Amina has been wanting to go to school ever since she came home last year.  She is very social and the transition from orphanage life (spending almost all of her time with other kids, who were mostly around her age or older) and going to a regular school in Ukraine to our family life (with only three other kids, two considerably younger than her) and being homeschooled was hard for her.  I think she also felt she was being deprived of a “real” American school experience.

At the beginning of last school year, the gap between Amina and her peers was so great that we wouldn’t even consider sending her to school.  Although she had learned some rudimentary English, she still used Google Translate regularly to communicate.  Adding three single-digit numbers together had her in tears because it was too hard.  She could read only the very simplest English words.  Her overall knowledge of the world was stunted because of the limited experiences and stimulation she had at her orphanage (as I discussed in this post).  We felt that being homeschooled would be best for her to bond with her new family and would allow her to develop her English language and academic skills in a supportive environment (with no peers making fun of her).  Although we’ve heard stories of internationally adopted kids who started school in America within days or weeks of homecoming and who were able to successfully adjust, we felt that we could provide more one-on-one attention and support at home than we could reasonably expect from a public school.

Amina has come a LONG way in a year.  She is now fluent in conversational English (with a few grammatical errors here and there, but she can understand and easily be understood by just about anyone).  She can read at about a second grade level.  She has completed kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade math on Khan Academy and is working hard on learning multiplication in the 3rd grade math program.  She has also learned to swim and ice skate, played on a soccer team, learned to cook a variety of foods, learned how to handle a knife without cutting herself (this took many months and many Band-Aids!), celebrated a year’s worth of American holidays (plus Canadian Thanksgiving, as we celebrate both), was baptized, had her First Reconciliation and First Communion, been to Totus Tuus (Catholic day camp), been to “sleep-away” camp, spent a week at a cabin on a lake with extended family, visited Chicago and Windsor, Ontario, and done many more things.  She is still behind her peers in many ways, but the gap is not quite so daunting as it was.

Making the decision to send Amina to school was difficult, as Don and I had different opinions on what we should do this school year.  He wanted to keep Amina home for another year so that I could continue to work with her one-on-one, because he felt that that would lead to her making the most progress academically.  However, contemplating the upcoming school year, I didn’t feel that I could teach three kids with very different educational needs, keep up with all the housework, deal with everyone’s extracurricular activities, and have enough time and energy and patience left over to be a good wife and mother, besides trying to find a little time for anything for myself.  I was feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and anxious about how I would do it all.  For most of last year, Amina had a light academic load, as I felt she needed to focus on learning English and bonding with her new family.  Now that she’s at a level where she needs to be pushed more academically, her attitude towards her lessons has been rather negative.  I believe it would be better for our relationship to have someone else challenging her academically so that I can just be in the supportive mother role, rather than trying to balance being her mother and her teacher (and everything else I do).  Although Don wasn’t thrilled with the idea of Amina going to school, he recognized how stressed I was and finally agreed to send her to school so he could have a sane wife.

Now that we’ve talked with the principal and the teachers and been to orientation, we both think that going to school will be a positive experience for Amina.  She has a real chance of keeping up academically with the extra help she will receive, including two periods a day of intensive reading/writing support in a class of no more than 12 students.  We know she will enjoy all the “other” stuff that comes with going to school, like being in band, participating on the cheerleading squad (she had her first practice today), and hanging out with friends.

Amina’s wish to go to school will soon be fulfilled.  School starts on the day after Labor Day.  While she is eagerly anticipating her first day of school in America, I am feeling optimistic about the growth and development she will experience and feeling more positive about my ability to keep up with everything in the upcoming school year.