Hoping to someday find M's brother adopted in the U.S. -
Myckola Oleksandrovych Markov - 8/26/2003

Friday, December 18, 2015

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Teaching Textbooks

We have been using Dyslexia Games for reading, but I had not settled on a math curriculum.  A friend suggested Teaching Textbooks so I bought the program used on a FB group.  Wy was in first grade last year but tested into Teaching Texbooks 3rd grade.  We started it and he just loves it!  He says he wants to do extra so he can get to 4th grade :)
I love how motivated he is!

V tested into TT 4 and he is also doing very well so far.  I highly reccomend this program.  W and D are also doing TT4 so I am getting lots of use out of the program :)

M is still plugging away at her Dyslexia Games curriculum.  She exhibits honestly every single dyslexic symptom EVER lol. She read "wings" as feathers today.  Her brain is just wired sooo amazingly different!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Mirror Reversal Dyslexia : what it looks like

M did these math problems on her own time and the MATH is right (mostly).  She can read to me what she meant. Top rigjt is 18-4=14
Left side is 12-4=8

But do you see what she struggles with?

This is why schools should adequately screen for and provide programs FOR dyslexia.  Reading programs for the broad umbrella of "learning disability" do not help this.  

We are currently having her continue to work with Dyslexia Games for reading and specifically beginning the workbook for number and letter reversals.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

An Open Letter to the U.S. Department of Education

An Open Letter to the U.S. Department of Education on Why We Now Homeschool

Dear DOE,

You know me as complaint number 11-14-1261. I first had contact with you after a complaint I filed with the Department of Justice over our school district discriminating against my children was transferred to your Office of Civil Rights Division.

First I want to say that filing the complaint was not something I ever wanted to do.  No parent wants to admit that their child needs more than other children just to accomplish the same things.  No one wants to be “that parent” that everyone in the office knows and all the teachers whisper about in the hallways.  That was never my intention or my hope.  I had a rose colored view of the public school system before my children needed your special education services.  

I thought that the schools were supposed to want to help children.  I thought that if a school knew a child had a problem, they would do everything in their power to give that child the help they needed to succeed.  I thought that if a child had a disability the help would come automatically.  I thought that if a professional made a recommendation for a child then the school would do their best to provide what was needed.  

I never dreamed that I would have to fight to prove my child with cerebral palsy had brain damage and a learning disability.  I never could have imagined being in a position where I felt the need to sew a recording device into her pocket so I could listen to her day after she got home.  
I mean WHO does that?  
I did that.  
I guess that is what happens when a parent feels there is no other option to try to get to the bottom of what is happening with their child.

IEPs?  I’ve done them.  Last year I had 5 children with IEPs.  Do you know how many meetings that requires? Then throw in the little fact that the school did not want to find several of my children eligible for special education services or adequate services despite extremely obvious needs.  Factor in that I had to go through the entire eligibility process for several children only to get to the end of it and be told “Sorry.  Your child doesn’t qualify for that.”  I had to request outside evaluations that took months to have completed, then reconvene with the school to discuss those results.  Oh and I had to find an advocate because this process and the findings of those evaluations were met with great resistance from the school district.

After a disastrous experience at Moss-Nuckols elementary school, we moved to a different elementary school district in the same county in hopes that a different school with different staff would be more supportive and helpful to our family.  We are a single income family with (then) 6 children that was balancing two mortgages in a desperate attempt to give our kids what they needed.  I desperately wanted it to be worth it.  For a few blissful weeks I thought it would be.  Unfortunately, I realized very quickly that it was the same song to a different tune. I was lied to straight to my face by an administrator at Open House then realized it months later. The teachers either didn’t understand how to or chose not to properly implement their IEPs.  Despite massive amounts of data and very specific recommendations from a board certified neuropsychologist, the school chose not to provide the types of programs and accommodations my children needed for their severe dyslexia, PTSD, expressive receptive language disorders, processing deficits, math disorders, central auditory processing disorder, and other learning disabilities.  The hours I spent researching meant nothing in the IEP room.  I was the mom, but they were the “experts.”

I fought like hell to get what I could.  I did my best to explain what was needed for my children to be successful.  It was the longest hardest most frustrating battle of my life.

Even though I wasn’t happy that my children were not being given everything that they needed, we did reach some compromises. I was happy to continue working towards more if only the IEPs were followed.  At least once a day I was hearing from my children or discovering for myself at least one instance of an IEPs not being followed.  One memorable homework issue went on for months involving the teacher, the principal, and  finally the Special Ed director who was the one that finally told me to just not do the homework since her teachers couldn’t send it home in a form my kids could complete.  

A mother can only take so much.  I was labeled as combative, nit-picky, and always looking for problems.  I had my Facebook posts copied and sent to administrators in Central Office then passed on to the school board’s lawyer.  Members of our church that also worked at my children’s school participated in spying on and talking about me, and when we tried to explain what our struggle was to our pastor, he refused to talk with us about it.  We lost our church over trying to get our children the help they needed in your special education system.  I lost so much time with my children because I was always glued to a computer doing more research, trying to find a way around the most recent roadblock the school had thrown in my way.    

All of this would have been worth it if I had succeeded.  But you see, I didn’t.  I became pregnant last December and the IEP meetings had become so stressful for me that my midwife wrote a letter explaining that it was life threatening for me and my baby to continue attending.  I couldn’t sleep for days leading up to a meeting and was having anxiety attacks.  My life had been consumed with IEP meetings, evaluations, lawyers, advocates, emails, and phone calls.  
And then it wasn’t.  
I had to stop it all for the sake of my unborn child.  

The sudden pause gave me time to reflect.  What the hell was I fighting for?  The evaluations showed my children were not improving.  I had frustrated, angry, anxious kids that the school insisted were great!  I had fought to get special education services for my children for two years and after finally getting IEPs, they weren’t being complied with. I think the final straw for me was the day when I took my son to his pediatrician and found out that the school counselor even went so far as to lie about contacting my son’s doctor.   

We consulted a lawyer, and considered Due Process for each of our 5 kids with an IEP, but he said that there was no point to Due Process because for whatever we may gain, the school could continue to choose what they wanted to do or not do.  We have completed 2 international adoptions for 4 children.  We are ok with doing incredibly difficult things as long as there is a purpose to it, but this scenario left us with no positive ending.  Why fight a hellacious battle when even a win was a loss?

I found myself on a battleground with our school district.  Me on one side with limited time, money, and resources, and them on the other with their lawyer and a blank check.  The question became “Where do I want to focus my time?”  On fighting?  Or on my kids?

I chose my kids.  We sent our Notice of Intent to Homeschool for the 2015-2016 school year before school was out in May.  

Now I have 7 children at home ranging from newborn to 13.  I spend my night up with the baby and my days teaching.  I have no access to the resources that the public school system does.  I blogged about the Dyslexia curriculum I wanted so the author would send me the downloads for my children for free.  I joined used curriculum Facebook groups to save money, and I spend my “free” time researching ways to teach my kids that line up with what was recommended in their Neuropsychological Evaluations that the school blew off.  

If you asked me what I needed to help my children learn I could tell you.  I’d say that I homeschool on a shoe string budget, but that’d be a lie because we don’t even have a homeschool budget.  My husband works his butt off for us, but there is nothing left over to purchase the items I need for my special ed kids.  

I do not have a teaching degree, but I can tell you how each child learns.  I stretched myself to the limit for years trying to make the school system work for them and now I stretch myself to give them what the school never would.  There are times I have nothing left to give.  I go to my room to cry then somehow talk myself into finding a way to give just a little more for just a little longer.  What keeps me going is something the school could never show me: Progress.

My kids that couldn’t read are starting to read.  I realized I have two incredibly gifted artistic boys.  I’ve discovered how Dyslexic children learn, and its not how I learn.  I’ve had to teach myself how to teach them, but it is working.

What keeps me up at night is the ever present question of “Am I doing enough?”  We have 1 iPad, 1 ancient desktop, and 1 Laptop.  Where we moved, we no longer have access to DSL so we cannot stream or access many of the learning programs available on the internet.  It kills me that we find ourselves in this situation.  My children are 110% better off at home with me, but I lack so many of the resources that I need to teach them and it eats me alive.   

Constantly my mind wanders, making up possible scenarios of how I could try to get “x, y, or z” for my kids.  I am never not thinking of ways to do a better job.  I am not just doing my best, I am doing what is required and I will continue to do so until my last child graduates.     

I’ve been told that this is, “Just the way things are” for special needs kids in Louisa County, VA.  I know other parents in this same scenario.  My situation is exacerbated by the fact that I have not one, but five special needs children. Some have said that I deserve this because we adopted many of them, but the law tells me that they were entitled to better.  Our taxes go to both Louisa County and the Federal Government, yet we got a raw deal.  The system utterly and completely failed us and our children in every way possible leaving us with nothing.  In accordance with the state laws of VA, we are now in the position of having to prove “adequate progress” to the school district at the end of the school year in order to continue homeschooling.  Adequate progress is something that Louisa County Public Schools could never achieve with my children yet now I am expected to do just that without any of the resources they have.    
I’m not writing this letter to inform you of these things.  You already know.

My question to you is, “Why is this acceptable?” 


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Do-It-Yourself Homeschool Journals Review Week 1

Since receiving our review materials, the kids and I have jumped right into the Homeschool Journals from Dyslexia Games.  As a mom with a newborn, the idea that I could spend a few days showing the kids what to do and then turn them loose for several weeks was appealing to say the least!

One thing I've been concerned about with homeschooling this year is the amount of screen time to let the kids have.  Some of them seem like they'd sit in front of the TV playing Minecraft all day or watching movies until I turn it off and make them do something else.

One of our main focus areas this year was to de-stress the learning experience.  So many of our kids experienced massive anxiety at school.  They would get so frustrated and upset that it was impossible for them to really learn anything when they were in tears literally banging their head off the desk, saying how stupid they are because they can't read.

I was struggling with finding a balance of "unschooling" so they didn't feel so stressed, while still providing enough structure for them to learn.  Many of them are so behind and I get hung up on just how very far behind they are.  I want them to catch up right.now.  I've really had to let go of some of my ideas for how I thought reading should be taught.  Dyslexic kids just don't learn the typical way!  

I have VERY active kids.  They like to DO things, BUILD things, and watch things.
Sitting and studying or doing worksheets is like torture to them.  Drill work?  They HATE it.

One activity in the DIY Homeschool Journal that kids have really gotten into this week is the one that tells them to go outside and draw something realistic from nature.  We had a little talk about what "realistic" meant (remember I have 4 ESL kids) and what "nature" is so they understood the assignment.

We have a beautiful tree at the end of our driveway that is turning just the most lovely shade of yellow.

E and Wy were determined to get the leaves at the top that the sun was hitting because they were the prettiest.  

So Wy climbed and got a few.

Not to be outdone, E climbed really high and stood on a branch, shaking the entire tree making leaves rain down on all of us.
See him up there?
He was having so much fun!

M got herself several lovely leaves to draw pictures of.

Even baby Ellie and I got some leaves :)

The boys had so much fun climbing the tree with the pretty leaves that they decided to climb another tree to look for slug trails to draw in their books… 
M watched a safe distance from the slugs.

Being outside looking for things to draw has been so much fun that the boys all decided they wanted to go on a bike ride with their backpacks on so they could pick up any other fun things they saw.  We ended up walking/biking for over an hour around our subdivision.  We all got tons of exercise, talked about why its not actually sad the trees lose their leaves, and V found several neat rocks that he was very interested in.
I'm thinking our focus for the next few days will be on different kinds of rocks because we can just go with the flow of natural curiosity.

M spent quite some time not just drawing her leaves, but making several pages of rubbings with them as well.  She has been so much more relaxed now that school is FUN and can be done at her pace.  

I told her I don't care at all how much time she spends on the art page.  
She can make drawings and rubbings all day if she wants.

The other activity in this journal that my boys have really gotten into is the "Math practice" page.  It says they can use the graph sheet for math practice OR drawing designs.  Again, we went over what a "design" can be and it was like their head exploded.  

W loves Legos.  He can build ANYTHING out of Legos if he just has a picture.  Often he'll ask me to print him off a picture of something so he can look at it and build it.  No instructions needed.  What his brain can do with a picture is amazing.

He built this *working* Lego pistol.  
It cocks, and shoots a Lego like an actual working gun.
He watched a YouTube video on how to create this.
Did I mention he's just 9?

He also drew a design for a treehouse based on what he'd learned from watching Tree House Masters.

 Click this to see all DIY Journals available

Its so neat to see how he learns and then applies it.

It looks a little like a death trap right now, but we have good insurance!  LOL
They are all off working on it right now actually, which is why my house is quiet enough to blog!

D drew this yesterday.  
I find it so fascinating that several of my boys would rather spend a lot of time designing something than practicing math problems BUT it works for them.  
They love the flexibility.

What I'm most happy about is that these journals provide several hours of structured learning time, but give the kids the flexibility to learn about what they want in the way that works for them.  There is no cookie cutter method that these have to be done it.  They don't have to be graded.  Everyone can do something a little different and be celebrated for their unique take on it.  If I think they need to spend a little more time on something or do it differently then I go over that with them when I review their books at the end of the day.    

As a mom with a new baby, these journals have been wonderful.  
I love that I don't have to be standing over top of my children for them to learn.
So far we give these Do-It-Yourself Homeschool Journals 2 big thumbs up!      

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The ENT for EG

The baby has been having a lot of screaming and crying fits especially at night.  I am one tired mama.  2-3 hour stretches with no naps during the day just aren't cutting it.  My midwife looked at EG's lip and realized she had a lip tie.  She sent us to an ENT immediately because she said that the lip tie was affecting her ability to latch properly.  She's been sucking in air while she nurses.  

So we took our tiny little baby for "surgery" on her lip.  It immediately made a difference in her latch.

She's still not sleeping well though so we see a naturopath next week to try to get her adjusted and feeling better!

This stage of not sleeping is always hard for me. I need sleep and I'm not getting it.  Time is going by fast though in my sleep deprived daze.  She's 6 weeks already!  

Some days I feel like  all I get done is feeding the kids and getting them started on their schoolwork.  I can't seem to form thoughts to blog about anything much because my brain is not operating at full capacity!  

We are loving the Dyslexia Games Homeschool journals though!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Even the baby does school

Tummy time and eye development :)
She likes to look at art. 

Little EG helped me make bread too.
Whew. Exhausting!

Lego Gun

My kids are amazing.  We don't have wifi at our house. It's one thing we gave up for the larger space when we moved. This county is stuck in the dark ages!

W and D were at the library making use of the wifi to watch YouTube videos about Legos.  D recorded the video with his iPod so they could watch it at home.  

W and D told me they were making a Lego gun that really shoots. 
I was like "Oh that's nice..." But it'll never work.

They spent a few hours like this.

Behold the working Lego pistol. 

D and W somehow manage to work together with Legos and make all kinds of things from just a picture or video.  It's like their brains run the same program and they work side by side in unison.  

This is definitely the coolest thing they've made.

Next up, a working rifle. 

And no, W is almost never dressed. He has sensory issues and lives in his pajama pants!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Your Child Is...

This made me cry because I've been that mom.  I've received that news from the school and knew different.  Just watch. My kids are going to change the world too.  

Until then I'll hide the evaluations and IEPs in the box I stuffed them into when we took the kids out of school.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Our curriculum is here!

We are so excited to start using Dyslexia Games Homeschool Journals!

Each workbook includes 30 Lessons, with 10 pages for each lesson, providing four hours of guided learning time. This homeschooling handbook was created by Sarah Janisse Brown, a dyslexia therapist and game designer with ten children. 

I will be writing more complete reviews of how the kids are doing with them as we get going.

E was so excited to see the Kitty Doodle one and claimed it right away! He loves cats!  

We also have Teach Your Child to Read,Write and Spell with 100 Easy Bible Verses, the Field Trip Journal, the Planner and Organizer as well as the Creative Writing Notebook. I'm pretty sure D is going to be all over the Creative Writing Notebook because it has a horse on the front (his favorite animal) and he loves to make up stories.

These books look like so much fun and tie right into what we've already been doing.  We've been using a few of the workbooks from Dyslexia Games series A during the past school year to help with letter confusion.  D, V, E, and M are all severely dyslexic and reading profoundly below grade level.  We saw improvement when they started using Dyslexia Games so we will be finishing series A with the kids that still need that, beginning series B with the ones that are ready for that, and series C is for Denis.

You can go to this link on Amazon to get a complete look at what Dyslexia Games has to offer.  I have been so thrilled with how well this works for my "out of the box" kids!

Also…. trip down memory lane time!

Its October 2nd!

Two years ago today we had our SDA appointment in Ukraine and got the referral for our boys!  How quickly the time does fly!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Blast Off To Reading

In addition to Dyslexia Games to help with letter confusion and reversals I decided to try this book with the kids.

Orton Gillingham was recommended by Dr. Federici for my kids.  I started the first lesson today and I can see why he recommended this teaching method.  It's much more verbally based than traditional teaching methods.  The print is also large and bold.  Mariah did very well.

Monday, September 28, 2015

What I'd Say

Two years ago we were two days from boarding a plane to Ukraine.  

So so much has happened in two years.  So much has changed.  

One thing has stayed the same though.  God has been faithful through our adoption process, adding three new kids, countless hours of advocating, IEP meetings, doctor appointments, neuropsychological evals, lawyers, therapies, a new school, moving, paying two mortgages, finally selling our house, a difficult pregnancy, choosing to homeschool all of the kids, a new baby... 

We've crammed a lot into two years. 
I had it all planned out...
Those plans crashed and burned. 

I've learned a lot. If I could go back and say something to myself two years ago it'd be something like this: 

This isn't going to go at all like you planned, but you're not making a mistake. 

People you respect, trust, and are depending on will hurt you. Remember your kids are worth it. You are changing the course of their lives. The devil doesn't like that so he will throw hell at you in many forms. 

Give it back. 

It will be harder than you ever imagined. 
You will want to give up. 

You will have a few good friends left. Treasure them.

You are doing a better job than you think you are. 
Be kind to yourself. 

Pray more.
Laugh more.
Try to take time to enjoy the kids more.
Drink more wine. (You're gonna need it)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

"I just want to be like everyone else."

M told me tonight while I was nursing EG, "I wish I was in your belly. Then I wouldn't have cerebral palsy. I just want to be like everyone else. I want to climb trees."

I don't feel like I get a lot of things right with M.  She's complex, acting out behaviors in negative ways sometimes before finally saying anything.  All I could say was "I wish you had been in my belly too.  But, you ARE like everyone else.  Your legs don't work as well but you are like everyone else and if you want to climb trees then go ahead and give it a shot."

I really hope that was the right thing to say.  I honestly have had the same thought many times in the past month about all of my adopted kids.  I wish I could have had them all from the start when they were so tiny and vulnerable.  

One month

Little miss EG was one month old yesterday!

This is happening ALoT at night.  She's great all day... Loves to be worn in a baby carrier but then bedtime... Whaaaaaaaahhhhaaaa!!!

She's a tiny little peanut.  She was 7lbs 1oz when she was born (my smallest baby of the 3) and she lost weight down to 6lb 12 oz so I do try to feed her whenever she wakes up.  Right now I'm feeling rather drained and hoping she starts sleeping better soon!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Dyslexia Games

I've posted before about how many of my kids have been diagnosed with dyslexia.  One of the things we've found to really help them overcome letter confusion is Dyslexia Games.  We've worked through part of series A with most of the kids and would LOVE to order all of series A, B, and C.  I've bought a few of the series A books off of amazon as we could afford them and I make copies of the pages so each child can work on them.

Since the creator of Dyslexia Games has recently come out with many other activity books, I've been perusing all of them, drooling.  Basically I want to try them ALL with my 5 dyslexic kids that have an alphabet soup of learning disabilities, ESL issues, dyslexia and special needs.  Even my typical 7 year old enjoys doing the activities with his older siblings.  I think he feels left out since I give them to everyone else.

The Dyslexia Games FB page is doing a giveaway for mommy bloggers, so I've chosen the next book I'd really like to try.  The Do it Yourself Homeschool Journal for the Creative Student.  I think D especially would love this book as he's so creative and always making something or drawing.

These DIY journals are especially appealing to me now with a brand new little baby needing lots of attention :)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Like Mommy

Just a picture in honor of little miss being three weeks old today :)

Saturday, September 5, 2015

And then there were 7

Lucky number 7 graced us with her presence last week.  We are all so in love with our new baby girl!  After a little bit of a scary pregnancy early on and some other complications I am very happy to have her here on the outside!  We chose to have a natural birth at a birthing center which was a great experience.  She was 7lbs of complete perfection and apparently is going to be an overachiever.  Tonight she rolled over twice!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Dynamic Arm Brace

We are excited!!  M got an articulated arm brace today.  It will provide a continuous dynamic stretch for her affected arm.  It has settings on it to allow for the adjustment of the resistance, but she can bend her arm to use it while it's on which is awesome!

We had issues last year with teachers at school being angry at her for not using her right arm to do things like cut paper, but her old brace had a stay that immobilized her elbow and didn't allow her to bend her arm.  She would ask for help from a classmate then get clipped down.  We ended up just doing away with that brace at school since no one could seem to understand when it would be appropriate and helpful to remove it for her.  When it was removed, it was not put it back on properly.  This situation was frustrating for M and me!

We got the script for this new brace from her orthopedic doctor before school let out in May.  It would have fixed all of the issues we were having with the old brace (I think) but then again so has home schooling!

So we will just be the thrilled recipients of this new brace all by ourselves. Honestly I'm happy to have her home where I can monitor how it's working 24/7 and not have to wonder if someone is angry at her for being different or if it's hurting her because someone put it back on wrong.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Getting Started

We are starting to prep for school.  The kids helped me make activity packets today for geometric shapes, sight words, and coins.  I've installed educational games on our computers and we have checked out our limit of library books!

TeachersPayTeachers is an awesome website I found for special education resources.  It has a ton of resources for Dyslexic kids.  Now that I have time to actually focus on how to educate my kids I am finding so many resources immediately available.  Not just resources to help them, but resources for educators to identify and understand their disabilities!   It truly makes me wonder what on earth the staff was doing with my kids last year... But I'm trying to release the angry feelings.  

My efforts were completely wasted trying to work with and educate the school system about what my children needed.  Now that my mind is free to focus only on how to help my kids I feel like we can do this thing.  We might need to fundraise to afford everything we need, but we can do this thing!  

We witness a miracle every time a child enters into life; but those who make their journey home across time and miles, growing within the hearts of those who wait to love them,are carried on the wings of destiny; and placed among us by God's very own hands. --Kristi Larson