Tag Archives: Dyslexia

Lots of changes for Tyler

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This past month has been a big one for Tyler. He has had some “big news” moments that should be recorded for posterity so we will dedicate this blog to all the latest Tyler news…

Tyler continues to be blessed by equine therapy. Animals are one of Tyler’s greatest therapeutic tools and the effect this horse based therapy has had on his emotionally well being is astounding. He looks forward to these Saturday lessons and his skills and emotional stability have increased by leaps and bounds.

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He is currently working with a horse named Pumpkin. He outgrew Smokey (his first horse) and so his therapist was debating what horse to pair with him next. It is fascinating to observe this process. The pairing of rider and horse isn’t simply a match of size and skill but also a match of personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. After graduating from Smokey his therapist paired him with Rosie. It was not a good match. His trainer felt the pairing would go one way or the other. Either it would be a match made in heaven (assuming Tyler was confident and dominant enough to lead Rosie) or it would go the other way and Rosie would walk all over Tyler (figuratively not literally 🙂 ) leaving him feeling insecure and frustrated. He wasn’t dominant enough to manage Rosie and she definitely set him back a few paces in his confidence. He is now paired with Pumpkin and the match is perfect. He is gaining confidence and connecting with her in a way he never did with Rosie.

The lesson begins with horse care as Tyler brushes down his horse, cleans her hooves, and saddles her.

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Then he climbs on and has an hour long lesson where he learns the skills of horsemanship while also doing therapeutic work with his equine therapist. He loves it and has made awesome gains.

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He now rides independently with confidence. He can stand in the stirrups, trot and canter.

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Glade Run Adventures has proven to be a great blessing in Tyler’s life!

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Tyler has also acquired a new smile in the last few weeks.

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Once again Tyler’s bottom front tooth broke. A few years ago he chipped that front tooth while on a bouncy pad at a corn maze outing. Since then he has had it repaired many times. Its location and Tyler’s natural bite has resulted in that cap breaking off time after time. The last time it happened his dentist felt it was beyond his scope of ability to fix, fearing the break was too close to the root, so I set up an appointment at Children’s Hospital’s dental department. We went in for a consultation and they had no concerns about their ability to patch it. They also took note of his two canine baby teeth that were holding firm despite the adult teeth pushing in from above and erupting through the gums just north of the firmly held baby teeth. They suggested that we pull those two baby teeth at the same time they were repairing the chipped tooth.

A few weeks ago was the follow-up appointment. Toby took Tyler. For the dental work they used laughing gas and put Tyler into a twilight sleep. Tyler left the appointment having no memory of the experience, the only evidence that anything had happened was his new and improved smile.

He came home eager to show it off and share the good news that the dentist gave him permission to have ice cream for dinner that night.

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Tyler’s look changed even more this week with the addition of glasses.

Yes, you read that right. Tyler is now in glasses, leaving this Momma as the last one standing without spectacles. Toby and all my kiddos now wear glasses in some fashion or another while I continue to hold on proudly to the bragging rights of 20/20 vision.

Last week at Tyler’s annual physical he failed his vision screening. He score 20/20 in one eye and 20/70 in the other so his pediatrician sent us for a more comprehensive eye exam. His appointment was Tuesday morning. We went in and sure enough glasses were in order.

His vision test confirmed a strong right eye, a weak left eye and a stigmatism that led to the recommendation of glasses for Tyler. These glasses won’t need to be worn 24/7 but rather for anything that requires seeing details both near and far (like  school work, computer work, movies, etc.)

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Once the need for glasses was confirmed we heading out to the display cases to pick a style.

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Tyler, who is typically pretty indecisive, knew very quickly the frames he wanted. Once he found the style he liked he didn’t want to try on any others.

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His glasses will be in on Friday and we will officially have another “four-eyes” in the family!

Tyler continue to makes strides in all areas of his life. This has  been a breakthrough year for Tyler, as he has really come into his own. His growth physically, emotionally, behaviorally, socially, and academically have been HUGE.

School has been a dream this year. The struggle is a thing of the past and we can now sit, do lessons, and really have fun with it without the usual battles, bribing, and tears (mine, not his!). It is no longer like pulling teeth. He is engaged, eager, and so much fun. Much of his success comes from the additional reading support he is getting thanks to the Children’s Dyslexia Center of New Castle and Jan Newman, his Barton Reading tutor. This week he passed his level 3 assessment and is now in Barton Reading level 4. This is a HUGE accomplishment and a reflection on how hard Tyler is working.

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Tyler has come so far. He is a delight. My days are so starkly different now than they were two or three years ago that I sometimes forget that things weren’t always this easy with Tyler.

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His is in his Renaissance, fully thriving and finally “settled.”

This past Friday he was invited to a friend’s birthday party from church. Tyler and his best friends went for pizza and laser tag to celebrate Carter’s birthday. It was the first time I was able to simply drop him off with a “Have Fun!” farewell and have no worries. He had a wonderful time.

What joy fills my heart to see my youngest thriving.

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We are so proud of you, Tyler!

Finding hope at the Scottish Rite Cathedral

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The Scottish Rite Cathedral was our home away from home for many years. It became the answer to our prayers when Grace and Molly were diagnosed as Dyslexic in early elementary school. Both were struggling academically and as we prayed for answers as to best help them we were led to the Children’s Dyslexia Center of Western Pennsylvania.

It was here the girls found the missing keys to understanding the mechanics of language.

It was here, using an Orton-Gillingham program, that my girls learned to read.

It was here, under the instruction of some awesome tutors, that my girls came to believe that they were not stupid, but that their brains worked differently than their peers. They learned they too could find academic success, it just required a different approach and a lot of perseverance.

The Children’s Dyslexia Center of Western Pennsylvania is outstanding and is completely free to families of students who have a diagnosis of Dyslexia or reading disability. Sponsored and funded by the Scottish Rite Freemasons, this center offers the best therapeutic reading approach for Dyslexic students that is available in our area. This is an incredibly charitable undertaking, as the tutoring cost per student/each year is $5000.00…all funded by this nonprofit organization.

This means we have been beneficiaries of over $25,000.00 of free Dyslexia tutoring over the past decade…

And now we find ourselves here again.

Once again we find the answer to our prayers at this lovely, old building in the heart of New Castle.

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Last fall, after getting the results of Tyler’s most recent testing numbers for his IEP team, I felt prompted to send his file over to the director of the Children’s Dyslexia Center to see if he would qualify or benefit from their method of tutoring. I soon heard back that not only did he qualify but he was an ideal candidate.

We were put on a waiting list, hoping for an opening in the upcoming year.

Because this center is in such high demand,

AND because of the fact they have a limited number of specially trained instructors,

 AND because students remain in the program for two to three years,

there is a waiting list to get in.

This week we got the call we were praying for.

At 8:45 am on Tuesday morning the director called and said they had a spot open unexpectedly and if we could be there in 30 minutes Tyler could be tested and begin the summer session with the tutor that just became free.

Needless to say, we raced over. Un-showered and looking a little worse for wear, we went, grateful for the opportunity, desperate to not lose our spot.

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When we walked through the doors it was like stepping back in time. Nothing had changed. It looked the same. It smelled the same. I think even the magazines were the same. 🙂 

Last time we were here my girls were Tyler’s age. I remember Rusty playing in front of the giant mirror, as I tried to keep him occupied while the girls met with their tutors.

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It was like stepping back into a sweet memory.

This place was such a great blessing in Molly and Gracie’s lives.

I pray it was be an equally great blessing in Tyler’s life.

This now means our Tuesdays and Thursdays are crazy days…but full of activities that are blessing and benefitting Tyler, and giving him the extra help and support he desperately needs.

We leave the house at 8:30 am.

Tyler has tutoring at the Dyslexia Center from 9:00-10:00 am.

Then we drive 45 minutes to Beaver Falls were the boys have back to back therapy sessions from 11:00- 12:45 pm to work through their past trauma with their therapist, Miss Tina.

Then it is 45 more minutes of driving as we head to Wexford for another hour long tutoring session with a Barton trained reading specialist (Miss Jan) who Tyler meets with from 1:30-2:30pm.

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After all that running the boys are rewarded for their hard work with a picnic and playtime at the park before we head back home at 3:30 or 4:00 pm.

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It makes for a LONG day.

By 3:00 we are all spent, especially Tyler who says that his brain hurts by the end of it all,

But we are making huge strides and working toward good things,

Which makes the craziness worth it.

How grateful I am for answered prayers!

Graduation Day!

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Saturday marked the end of one journey and the start of the next one.

It was the day my first born walked on stage, dressed in a cap and gown, and graduated high school.

It was an action-packed day that began at 10:15 am and stretched to 3:00 pm, packed full of graduation day activities.

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Unlike a local high school that might spread graduation preparation over a weeks’ time, 21st Century has to make it all happen in one day. Many of their families have traveled far distances to be there and are only there for the day, so all the activities that lead up to graduation day for seniors must fit into one five-hour period.

But they orchestrated what could have been pure chaos, beautifully.

We woke early Saturday morning and went down to the lobby of the hotel to meet the Hudaks for breakfast. We knew better than to dress everyone before we ate, so it was breakfast first, followed by everyone getting dolled up in their Sunday best.

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Then it was off to the local high school where our charter school was holding the commencement ceremony.

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We arrived to find what can only be described as a “well-oiled machine.”

We were greeted and welcomed at the door by teachers and directed where to go. Toby had Gracie’s school laptop and was sent in one direction to get in line to return it. Grace and Olivia were sent to get in line to receive their senior gift bags which contained a complimentary yearbook and a 21CCCS alumni t-shirt.

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While the seniors were off preparing for graduation the families waited in the cafeteria where the school had catered a lunch for the families to enjoy while they waited for the graduation ceremony to begin.

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While we were eating and visiting, Olivia and Grace were kept busy behind the scenes.

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First, they got fitted for their caps and gowns. Lana and I stepped in to watch the process and that is when the emotions fully hit. Watching our babies have their graduation caps pinned to their heads made it all real. Lana expressed my emotions best when she said, “How can this be? I just brought her home from the hospital yesterday.”

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Then Grace and Olivia donned their National Honor Society medallions for being members of the NHS presidency.

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After hugs and a few tears, we let them move on to their next station, “graduation photos,” where they had a professional photographer taking graduation portraits of each senior in their cap and gown.

Once each senior moved through the line it was time for the graduating class to do a few practice runs before the actual ceremony began.

While we waited in the cafeteria the other kids kept busy with the photo booth,

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Playing games on Toby’s phone,

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Napping,

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Playing card games,

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And visiting with their teachers.

Each of the kids wanted to get a photo with their learning coach.

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Ozzie and Mrs. Scarpignato

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Molly and Mr. Winterode (Coach)

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Rusty and Ms. Heleniak

We have been blessed with such awesome learning coaches over the years at this school, so perfectly fitted to each of my kids’ personalities and exactly what each has needed to find success.

In fact, Gracie really credits her first learning coach, Mr. Dolan, who has since moved away, as the catalyst for her success in high school and the reason she wants to be a special education teacher. She has personally experienced the impact an invested, caring teacher who believes in you, can have on the life of a student with a learning disability, and wants to pay it forward and have that same impact on another student like herself.

When Mr. Dolan moved away Grace was crushed. But God knew what he was doing and He sent what Grace needed next in the form of Mrs. McGuire, her learning coach for her remaining two years in the school. Mr. Dolan helped Grace see the ability within her disability and helped her believe in her capabilities…just what 9th grade Grace needed. Mrs. McGuire stepped in and was the catalyst for dreaming big dreams and showing Grace that she could do anything she wants with those abilities. Both were powerful influences in Gracie’s life when she most needed to learn those lessons.

Grace received the thrill of her life on Saturday when both of her learning coaches came to graduation. Mr. Dolan, who now lives out of state, surprised his graduating students by showing up for their special day.

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Grace was moved to tears to have both of these important people there to celebrate her achievement. She never thought she would see Mr. Dolan again and now Mrs. McGuire will be leaving the school to follow her husband across the country to California. What a gift Grace received in being able to share this moment with them before they all go their separate ways!

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It was soon time to head to the auditorium for the commencement exercises. Tatum, Lucas and Molly were asked (as members of National Honor Society) to stand at the doors and hand out programs.

We picked up our programs and waited for the ceremony to begin.

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The students walked in and the tears began.

The girls looked so grown up and pretty.

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They were seated on stage and the School principal stood up to welcome the families and introduce the speakers. Grace was the first of three students who were chosen to speak at graduation.

Here is what she had to say:

“In 1986 a man by the name of Robert Fulghum published a piece of prose titled, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” This humorous, yet insightful, piece of literature revealed that the most important life lessons do not happen at graduate school but in the sandbox of our childhood. Following Mr. Fulghum’s example I would like to summarize the lessons I have learned these last four years in a piece I call, “All I really need to know I learned at 21st Century Cyber Charter School.”

Here are some of the life lessons I have learned:

·         I learned that the teachers want to be your friend. From your very first orientation day they wanted to get to know you. They wanted to know your likes and dislikes. They didn’t just want to be your teacher but also your ally. In life, we all need allies.

·         From Ms. Cloetingh I have learned that sometimes you just have to sit down and paint. Einstein said, “Creativity is contagious.” At 21st Century it is a downright epidemic! Between mural club, the art and literary magazine, and a variety of music and drawing classes, creativity flows through the veins of this school, teaching students how to share their soul with the world.

·         I learned that having one person believe in you and your ability can change you. Mr. Dolan was that one person for me. Mr. Dolan used to be a teacher in this school. He believed in me and my abilities, which helped me believe in myself.

·         I learned that there is a leader within all of us. As a student with a learning disability I never thought I would be accepted as a member of National Honor Society, much less serve as president of National Honor Society my senior year. It is through the support of great teachers and the belief I had in my own abilities that I discovered a leader within me that I didn’t realize existed. There is a leader within all of us.

·         I learned that raising your hand, multiple times in a row, while in the VO won’t help you get help any faster. I bet many teachers can attest that they can often hear the sweet music of the many hands of students being raised. As students, we had to learn how to be patient, but we also learned we would always get the help we needed. We must find the right balance of patience and self-advocacy as we seek out the right people to support us in our journey.

·         I learned that untraditional friendships can often be the best kinds of friendships. I find it funny when people have the misconception that cyber school students are backwards or unsocial just because they don’t interact with their peers face to face in a traditional classroom. The friendships I have made with fellow students and teachers are not only authentic but deep and meaningful. It may not be a traditional way of making friends, but the friendships I have made at 21st Century mean the world to me.

·         (Signed in American Sign Language) I learned that it takes courage to pursue your passion. Mrs. McGuire really helped me learn this. She helped me have the courage to pursue my own passion for American Sign Language. This fall I plan to begin school to become an American Sign Language interpreter.

I started attending 21st Century Cyber Charter School in 9th grade. I have been in this school for four years and have loved every moment of it. Some might look at this day as the end of a journey when in reality it is simply the start of the next great journey. By taking the lessons we’ve learned within the cyber walls of this school we are equipped with the life lessons needed to go forth and make an impact on the world. Today we celebrate where you have been and where you are going. Happy Graduation Day!”

And this Momma and Papa couldn’t have been prouder. Our baby may be all grown up, but what a beautiful young lady she has grown up to be.

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Next it was time for the presentation of scholarships.

At 21st Century Cyber Charter School the teachers have a long-standing tradition of presenting four students from the graduating class with scholarships from the school. These scholarships are not funded with school budget money, but rather are funded solely by teacher donations. Throughout the year they will have events at the school for staff, like special breakfasts during inservice/training days, which they will use to raise money to help fund these scholarships, in addition to cash donations by the teachers. They try to raise $500.00 for four chosen students but this year were even more generous and raised $750.00 for four students.

The teachers of this school are incredible and are at the heart of why this school shines brighter than the rest.

 

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Mr. Winterode, a favorite teacher at the school!

 

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Ms. Cloetingh, Grace and Olivia’s mural club teacher.

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Mr. Dolan, Gracie’s 1st learning coach.

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Mrs. McGuire, Gracie’s 2nd learning coach.

There are four scholarships given to four students that best exemplify the four pillars of National Honor Society. One scholarship for academics, one for leadership, one for service, and one for character.

We watched as they handed out the three scholarships for greatest academic excellence, the Eagle service award for the student most service minded, and the leadership award. Then it was time for the scholarship awarded to the student that shows the most exemplary character, as voted on by the teachers of the school, and we heard them announce Gracie’s name!

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We had no idea that she would be a recipient of one of these scholarships, and for me that was the acknowledgement that we, as her parents, have done right these last 19 years. I remember holding her as a baby and speaking to God during one of our middle of the night gatherings between Grace, God and I. I remember praying over that  little bundle I held in my arms and saying to God, “It matters little to me that this child grows up to be exceptionally pretty, or smart, talented, or gifted in the areas of music, art, or athletics…as nice as those traits might be. What matters most to me is that I raise a child who is known for her kindness, her selflessness, and her goodness. Help me to raise a woman of character.” And God has been merciful. He has answered my prayers. How blessed we are by this sweet girl! God is good.

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Then it was time for the diplomas to be handed out. The students were called to the front of the stage one by one.

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Once everyone had received their diploma it was time for the traditional turning of the tassels, signifying the transition from high school to life beyond.

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And it was done.

13 years of hard work, sleepless nights, advocating for her needs, teaching and reteaching tough concepts again and again, endless fieldtrips, Dyslexia tutoring, IEP meetings, 3 schools, and the culmination of the decade of my life’s work came together in that moment as we watched our baby girl walk down the aisle with diploma in hand.

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A diploma hard earned by both student and teacher! 🙂

It was time to celebrate:

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She did it.

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Olivia did it.

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We did it!

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Congratulations, ladies. We are so proud of you.

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What a beautiful journey it has been!

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We can’t wait to see where God takes you next!

Wrapping up the year

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We are in the home stretch. 24 hours until we are done with school for the year. I can’t believe it. It has been a surreal year. It feels like we never really found our groove, and now here we are at the end.

Here is a look into all our end of the year news:

Soccer season is coming to a close. We have one week left and it is hard to believe it is almost over. This happens every spring. It seems to just begin and then it’s done. This is so different than football season which GOES ON FOREVER! I must admit I prefer soccer season! This year has been particularly relaxed and enjoyable. It has been such fun watching Tyler excel and grow on and off the field.

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Soccer is just one of many activities that are wrapping up for Tyler. This past week marked the final Occupational Therapy session of the year and Barton tutoring session of the year (until summer session begins.) We are so proud of how hard Tyler has worked this year. Academics don’t come easily for Tyler and he has clawed his way toward success, overcoming a lot of obstacles that make learning more challenging for him than the average child. This year we saw a lot of improvement in the area of reading and writing under the support of a new occupational therapist and a new reading tutor. Miss Jan has been awesome with Tyler. She uses the Barton program to tutor students with dyslexia and this spring Tyler finished level one and two with her and has progressed to level 3. We are so proud of all Tyler’s hard work!

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Two weeks ago the three big kids had their last seminary live class. Seminary is a religion class offered through our church to high school students. It is an amazing program that requires great commitment and dedication on the part of these high school kids, as it means getting up early and completing an hour-long religion class prior to starting their school day. This is an optional, enrichment activity that all three of my high schoolers choose to participate in. They are students in the online class which requires them to complete 4 independent, hour-long lessons a week and one live class every Monday morning at 5:50 am. This year they read and studied the New Testament. It has been an awesome, testimony building experience for each of them and we are proud of their dedication and commitment to the seminary program.

This was their final live class for the year and Gracie’s last seminary lesson for good. She is a seminary graduate! Way to go Grace!

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Grace has also been keeping busy with creative projects. For her one-on-one time this past week she asked if we could make bows together. This is a craft we did a lot when she was little. This time she had a specific idea in mind. She wanted to create some “Disney-bounding” bows, reflective of certain Disney characters. It was a fun, creative project and we both enjoyed the challenge of trying to capture the essence of a certain Disney character in a single bow using only color, texture, and a few accessories tied on to portray some of our favorite characters.

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Can you guess which Disney character this bow represents?

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While on a creative streak, Grace decided she wanted to do something special for her learning coach for the last few years of support. At her cyber school the students are each assigned a “learning coach” which is in essence a personal guidance counselor/head teacher who stays with you through your four years of high school. They monitor your progress, communicate with parents, keep you informed on school activities and outings, and act as your mentor and advocate. The students who have IEPs are assigned a special education teacher as their learning coach which is a huge benefit to the student as they have a trained mentor who is familiar with the unique challenges of a student with learning disabilities and can support them in a way that specifically meets them where they are at and can help them grow and achieve from there. Grace has been profoundly blessed to have had two awesome learning coaches who both singlehandedly affected how Grace sees herself, understands her disability, and then showed her how great her potential is, challenging her to rise to the level of excellence she has while a student at 21CCCS. The first of those teachers was Mr. Dolan. He is the reason Grace now wants to become a special education teacher herself. When he moved away halfway through Gracie’s high school journey she was devastated but God knew what He was doing and gave Grace Mrs. McGuire to walk with her and be her cheerleader for her last two years of school. Now that Grace is graduating she felt a desire to thank Mrs. McGuire in a special way and let her know the great influence she has had on her life.

Stealing an idea from Pinterest Grace sent Mrs. McGuire a “Box of Sunshine.” It was a gift box full of yellow products that Grace personally loves and she sealed it with the quote:

“Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.”

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The final end of the year event that took place this week was our End of the Year Co-op Picnic. After not seeing our co-op friends for the last few weeks it was fun to get together and catch up.

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We had a potluck lunch together of hot dogs, chips and salsa, salads, and desserts.

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We ordered a graduation cake to celebrate our two graduating seniors: Grace and Olivia.

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While there Grace received this adorable handmade graduation card from Miss Tauni. Isn’t it charming?!

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Everyone had a fun time hanging out with friends, celebrating the final week of school, and catching up on each other’s lives and summer plans.

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How blessed we are to be sharing our “home schooling” journey with such a special group of people. We love our co-op!

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Now here we are, days away from another school year coming to a close, and my last year schooling five students.

 It is the end of an era.

 Life is changing,

but

New adventures are on the horizon!

 

 

A Visit to CAL U

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Monday was President’s Day which meant the kids were off school. This day off proved to be a blessing because it also happened to be the day of California University of Pennsylvania’s spring open house.

California University of PA, better known as CAL U, happens to be on Gracie’s short list of potential colleges. She has been accepted and offered a scholarship there, but due to unforeseen obstacles in the fall, hadn’t actual visited the campus.

Now that we are in the final leg of decision making it has become necessary to visit CAL U to determine the pros and cons so that she can make her decision which school acceptance she will accept.

Tyler’s vote has been CAL U from the beginning when Grace first expressed an interest in going to CAL U.

To which Tyler responded: “Caillou?!  I LOVE Caillou!”

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CAL U is about 1 ½ hours south of us in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania.

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Some of the pros already established include cost and proximity to home, but we were eager to get a big picture glimpse into life on CAL U’s campus and the other pros and cons only revealed through a more in depth look.

Grace and I made a day of it and had a great time enjoying some one on one time. The weather was beautiful and the event was wonderful.

We arrived and were assigned a tour group based on prospective majors. Grace toured with the other education majors. When we reached the education building the students were broken down even more specifically when they were given the opportunity to sit down and talk to one of the professors in that major’s department.

Grace and one other girl were the only Special Education majors so they received some incredible one on one time with the head of the department where they were given a behind the scenes, all access tour of the latest and greatest technologies utilized by the Special Education majors. The girls had the opportunity to ask questions and really get a feel as to what they can expect as Special Education majors.

From there we joined up with other potential students for a tour of the campus. It was a beautiful campus and a beautiful day to tour it.

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Following the campus tour we returned back to the student union building where tables were set up with representatives from all facets of campus life, from security to study abroad to clubs and organizations.

Here we were able to meet with a representative from the students with disabilities office to discuss possible accommodations and assistance Grace can expect as a student with Dyslexia. I was SO impressed at the lengths they are willing to go to so that all students can find success in the college environment.

From there we headed over to the housing area to tour one of the dorm rooms. Grace liked the exceptionally large dorm rooms and the fact that each dorm room had its own private bathroom and shower. I liked the fact that it was a three-deep security system and that a security guard was stationed at the entrance 24/7.

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As we drove home we went over the list of notes we took while on tour and compiled a list of pros and cons… with the pro list far outweighing the cons.

Grace finds herself so conflicted, uncertain which school and which path to her future God is calling her to.

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Stay tuned.

I’m sure the reveal will be coming soon!

Storybook Day with Gracie

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“The more that you read,

the more things you will know.

The more that you learn,

the more places you’ll go”  – Dr. Seuss

Today was a smashing success!

After much planning Gracie completed her National Honor Society service project requirement for her upcoming junior year. To keep her membership in the National Honor Society active she is required to log a required number of service hours each year, a required number of tutoring hours, and one large service project in which she displays the character attributes of service and of leadership as she leads her peers in the service project she has planned.

When pondering what to do for her big service project she considered many possibilities but decided that she wanted to do something that tied into her future career goal in the area of education. Grace has a passion for teaching, and a passion for books. As a child who struggled with learning to read before being diagnosed with Dyslexia, she knows the joy that comes from finally breaking through the wall of illiteracy and discovering the joy of reading.

She is now a book lover, and although she still struggles with Dyslexia she has learned how her brain learns. She hopes to take that personal experience into her future workplace as a special education teacher.

She is a firm believer in the quote by Frank Serafini:

“There is no such thing as a child who hates to read. There are only children who have not found the right book.”

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So when considering what to do for her National Honor Society project she decided to combine her love of children and children’s literature and plan a “Storybook Day.” She wanted to share with the children from church some of her favorite books!

Offering some of the other young women at church the opportunity to complete one of their personal progress 10 hour projects, she organized the girls into teams of two to plan a craft or activity that corresponded to a favorite children’s book. Two of her co-op buddies also came to help out for the day.

After putting out sign-up sheets at church she ended up with 13 kids at her Storybook Day, not as many as she had originally hoped for but what ended up being a perfect number.

On Friday Grace spent the day preparing for the activity. She went shopping for the food needed for lunch. She stopped at the Dollar Tree to buy treats for the goody bags that she was sending home with each child. The items in the goody bags corresponded with each of the books they were reading to the kids.

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She made name tags and a sign-in sheet.

She set up the stations for the different activities and decorated the chalkboard in honor of the activity.

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By the time the sun set she was ready for the day ahead. She even had time to paint her nails to match her story for lunch the next day:

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The other young women arrived by nine the next morning to help finish setting up and then the children began arriving at 9:30.

The kids played on the McDonald’s Play Place while the girls waited for all the kids to arrive. At 10:00 they began the day with their first book:

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The kids sat on a quilt in the yard to listen to the story and then did an apple or tree craft that tied into the story.

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The next story they listened to was:

rainbow fish

Following this story they made rainbow scales like the fish in the story by decorating clear plastic cups with Sharpie markers and melting them in the oven until they became a “fish scale.”

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The next story was:

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Molly helped plan the activity that followed this story. Using purple yarn she created a “Harold and the Purple Crayon” drawing around the yard. The kids each grabbed hold of a paperclip attached to the yarn that they pulled through the maze of twists and turns to reach the end.

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This story was followed by:

curiousgeorgepartybags

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This book ends with Curious George and his red balloon so it only made sense that the activity that followed included water balloons! The kids loved participating in the water balloon games which quickly evolved into an old-fashioned water balloon fight.

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Then it was time for lunch. Gracie took charge of this part of the day with great plans in mind. The book she planned for lunch was:

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Lunch was a plate of some of the foods featured in the book. To add to the authenticity she used a straw to cut caterpillar holes in the watermelon and strawberries. The swiss cheese came pre-poked. 🙂

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While the kids ate lunch Grace read the book.

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Lunch was followed by dessert, of course!

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For dessert the kids enjoyed chocolate chip cookies while listening to this book:

if you guve a mouse

At the end of the day the kids had about 30 minutes before parents were due to return so after packing everyone’s goody bags with their completed crafts the young women organized the kids into games. It was a perfect end to an already “booked” event.

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A lot of work went into this very special day and I think the whole family felt a bit of relief when it went off without a hitch and ended successfully. Grace was grateful to all the girls who came to help and for the many hands that made her load lighter.

After a long day it is now time to say goodnight…

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“Goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight noises everywhere.” – Goodnight Moon

First Day of School!

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We have officially entered into the 2013/2014 school year! Monday was a school holiday for all the kiddos so school officially began bright and early Tuesday morning. Tuesday morning I woke early. I sat and enjoyed a mug of peppermint tea and a little solitude before the chaos began. As I sat in livingroom, snuggled under a blanket, with my pile of devotional books, quote books and scriptures beside me I reflected back on this homeschooling journey. This is my 10th “1st day of school” as a homeschooling mom. This isn’t a path I laid out for myself. This is something I was called to. As a mom of babies and toddlers I had a few friends that homeschooled their children and I looked at the path they chose with admiration but not envy. I admired their choice but never thought it would be my choice. When Grace was ready for kindergarten I put her on the bus, like millions of other moms, with mixed emotions. I was so excited for the next phase of our life while still a little sad about leaving the last phase behind. Gracie had a great kindergarten year. We couldn’t have asked for a better teacher, better classroom friends, or a better school experience so I was shocked when I first started feeling God’s pull toward homeschooling. It started as a seed of a thought, quickly followed by fears and uncertainty. I was not at a place physically where it seemed like a logical school choice. I was still battling extreme fatigue and muscle weakness from my Mysathenia Gravis, I still had two little ones at home who were very busy, and life was full…but I couldn’t deny that God was calling… so I answered. I felt completely inadequate for the job, certain that I would fail my child completely. I lived in fear that Gracie would turn 18 and I would suddenly wake up and realize I forgot to teach her cursive writing or some other key skill :). It was with faith I answered God’s call. I knew I didn’t have all the talents and skills and knowledge I needed to succeed… but I knew He did. I often whispered to myself through my uncertainty, “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies those He calls.”

Let year #10 begin!

Tuesday morning the kids woke to new school supplies on their placemats at breakfast. What is it about new crayons and paper that is so thrilling? I don’t know but to this day I still get a thrill over an unused box of crayons. 🙂

New school supplies!

New school supplies!

Our first day of school was a success. It helped that the girls had already been following their schedule for a week so I could focus on getting the boys familiar with their new routine. We are still waiting for the boys’ materials to come from the school so we did a lot of supplemental work this week. Tyler did very well. I am amazed the difference a year makes in his ability to sit still and focus. He is still my little Mexican jumping bean but he at least bounces in his seat now, rather than around the room.

In addition to school  work Molly has been working on a service project for her Personal Progress goal program. She has been making newborn baby hats that she is planning on donating to a local hospital. She has really enjoyed the project and has completed eight so far this week.

Molly making hats..

Molly making hats..

On Tuesday night we took Tyler to football practice where we waited for Toby to get off work so we could leave for activities at church. While we were at the field a small 8 week old puppy came running up to Rusty and jumped in his lap. The owner asked if he would puppysit while she ran to the bathroom. Rusty readily agreed and enjoyed a little “puppy time” before she returned.

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At church on Tuesday we played Cash Cab. This was based on the TV game show where people are randomly picked up by a cab in New York City only to discover they are on a trivia game show. They then have the chance to earn money while they travel to their destination. We played it by breaking our girls up in teams and having them hop into our “cabs.” As we drove around town the girls were asked scripture questions and had the chance to earn Monopoly money for correct answers. When we returned to church they were able to shop at the Cash Cab Store. It was a fun activity and seemed to be a hit with the girls.

Our Cash Cab Store!

Our Cash Cab Store!

Wednesday morning the kids woke early with an extra bounce in their step because it was the first day of co-op. They couldn’t wait to get there and see all their friends. Before we left we did first day of school pictures in front of the chalkboard outside. I had them write their name and grade and then pose for a picture.

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It is funny how God’s plan reveals itself over time. When this journey began I didn’t know why we were being called to home school our children but as the years passed some of those reasons began to reveal themselves. In early elementary school both girls were diagnosed with Dyslexia. Rusty, as a young boy, had to work through his challenges with Selective Mutism and then Tyler came into our lives with his own set of challenges..all of which we were better able to manage in the home environment. This school choice has brought great blessings. We have met friends we would have never met otherwise, seen and done things that we would have never had the opportunity to do, and built relationships with each other that have come from time spent together. I am grateful for this path we have taken but I am not saying it is the path everyone should take. God calls each of us to different ministries…He asks us to all travel different roads which is probably a blessing. I can’t imagine the traffic if we were all walking the same road! 🙂

I had an experience recently where a seemingly well-intentioned person asked me when I was going to put my kids back in school and then implied I was being selfish by keeping them home. A few years ago a comment like that would have stung, would have made me doubt my path, would have made me lash back defensively but I just smiled. I have become more confident in my abilities as a teacher as the years have passed, and more importantly my testimony of the importance of being obedient to God’s call has grown. I realize that the more confident I am with the path I am on the less I need others to approve of it. Perhaps we all need to spend less time questioning the paths those around us have taken and instead focus on what path God is asking us to walk. So whether you are being called to school your children at home or put them on the bus I hope your first week back has been a blessed one!