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

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Homeschool 2016 is going great!

We are doing ballet/gymnastics, a co-op, and another gymnastics class this year. We did no outside activities last year due to working on really getting homeschooling established. 

This year we are expanding a bit more and so far everyone loves it. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

How are you so smart?

V asked me, if your mom was so mean and didn't care about you, how are you the smartest person every what was in this world? You know everything!

His mom neglectful and substance abusing.
Mine simply abusive.
I said "Well I didn't learn things for her; I did it for me. I learned everything I could for ME."

Suddenly he saw. A weight lifted.
His bio mom has nothing to do wifh his worth or abilities. He can do things not to impress the mom he has now (me) but for himself. To better himseld. 

This is the gift I hope to pass on. The love of learning simply because its fun and does not require anyone else's approval.

I love my V so much.
He gets me.
I get him.
Our trauma, the mother wound, still hurts.

Maybe it always will. I get that.
Its ok. People were made to love and even if "she" screwed up, he didn't do anything wrong. I didn't either. We loved our mothers. They couldn't love us.

Now we learn to love ourselves.
I am forever gratefuk for these kids. They heal me more than I could ever heal them.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

7 Tips for Homeschooling Kids With Learning Disabilities

I wrote a post for The Mighty about homeschooling kids with learning disabilities. I've had 12 stories published on The Mighty so far which has been fun. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Help Us Get Back To School

As my readers know, since having a disastrous and traumatizing experience with the Special Education system in our local public schools, we made the decision last year to homeschool our six school age children. 
For several years, we advocated strongly for accommodations, adaptive technology, and research based programs to help them in school. We had the children evaluated by a nationally recognized neuropsychologist and have tried our best to give the children what he recommended. Even with social workers and lawyers involved, we were unable to have the children’s needs adequately met by the school system.  Currently we are doing our best to meet their needs by homeschooling.
One of our biggest frustrations is that adaptive technology and multi-sensorial programs for learning disabled children are expensive. The biggest challenge we face in teaching our children at home is trying to accommodate their Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, Auditory Processing Disorder, and Visual Impairments. While the public school had thousands of dollars in funding coming in for each of our children identified with special needs, as homeschooling parents, we get zero. $0. None. Nada. Zilch. Unfortunately, parents do not even qualify for a tax deduction for money spent on curriculum or supplies. 
We want to explore options of crowd funding or partnering with businesses or organizations who might want to donate their older model iPads or laptops to our children.
Two of our children have visual impairments in addition to their Dyslexia which means they greatly benefit from enlarged, highlighted text. We use a specialized app called Learning Ally for them.
"Learning Ally is dedicated to empowering blind, visually impaired, or dyslexic students achieve their goals".
Learning Ally requires a tablet such as an iPad to run it on. Without this app, several of our children are effectively unable to read. Currently we have one iPad and a few old iPhones that the kids run the app on. We truly need a few more iPads with larger screens to allow all of the children to use the app throughout the day.
Dyslexia can also cause difficulty with math. We have a computerized math program called Teaching Textbooks that is wonderful for teaching the kids in a way they can understand. We also plan to purchase Touch, Type, Read, and Spell. TTRS is a multi-sensory course that teaches touch-typing skills to help children improve their reading and spelling.TTRS can be used as a stand alone touch-typing course and is especially useful for those with dyslexia and other learning difficulties. 
To run both Teaching Textbooks and Touch Type, Read, and Spell we need computers that the kids can use. Currently we have one older model desktop computer that everyone shares for math. However its too old to run TTRS.
We also purchase materials from Dyslexia Games to use along with our reading and math programs. “Dyslexia Games is a series of workbooks packed with learning activities that empower your student’s brain with new abilities and new brain connections for literacy.”
We are hopeful that by sharing our story, businesses, schools, or organizations might think of us if they are upgrading to new equipment. We can use older model iPads such as the iPad1 or iPad2 to run Learning Ally. We do not need brand new laptops, just something fairly lightweight and portable that each child can run their programs on.
Please help us give our children the best education possible by sharing our story.

Donate to Our School Fund

Friday, August 19, 2016

My Homeschool Wish List and Plans for 2016-17

I have decided to organize my wish list for school on one post.  I've had several people ask both what we use and what we need for the kids, so I want to put it all in one place.

We desperately need a few more iPads. They don't have to be the newest model, but the kids dyslexia app Learning Ally runs on the iPad as well as dragon diction and a few other apps that we use very often. Learning Ally is the kids' main reading curriculum. Its basically an audio library with thousands of books that display text as the words are read.

We need a few more sets of ear phones.

We could really use another laptop or two.

I want to try the Osmo app for the kids.

We use Teaching Textbooks for math and I need to purchase TT6 right now. Its around $90 used.

I also want to purchase Touch, Type, Read, and SpellTTRS is a multi-sensory course that teaches touch-typing skills to help children and adults improve their reading and spelling.
TTRS can be used as a standalone touch-typing course and is especially useful for those with dyslexia and other learning difficulties. Its bit pricey at $400 for 12 months to get access for 4 children. I'm exploring the monthly or tri-monthly subscription option though. I really feel this program is what we need to get.

We'd also need more than one computer for this program to be practical so I'm checking into a discount program (price list in link) for homeschoolers. Right now we have one desktop and running 6 kids through math lessons and a typing program just isn't workable.

I need several more Dyslexia Games DIY Homeschool Journals. They worked well for many of my kids so I'd like to continue with them.

We need a whiteboard.

We need gel pens.

We need erasures and pencils.

My Brother printer/copier is out of ink and paper.

We need a few small tables and chairs as well as a few school desks.

I want a world and a U.S. wall size map.

I want to get Snap Words flash cards for the kids still struggling with sight words.

We need paint and new carpet for the basement to turn it into the school room we had planned.

Several kids continue to need therapy that is not free outside of the school system.

This is my Homeschooling amazon wish list.

I'm adding my PayPalMe link for people to donate to if they feel so inclined. I hate asking for money, but the facts are that my kids desperately need adaptive equipment that I cannot afford. Crowd Funding helped us bring our boys home, so I am turning to it again to help us raise the money to give them the education they deserve.

Donate to Our School Fund

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Contemplating the upcoming school year

You might have noticed I updated my blog with several posts I wrote for The Mighty. I've been pleased to have several stories published lately.

I have kind of neglected this blog since I had surgery though, so as summer winds down and we begin school again, I plan to blog more.

The public schools in our county had their first day of school today. I don't plan to start school back up with the kids until after Labor Day though. I mean… its HOT! Its still summer!

We've been doing catchup work with D, V, E, and M all summer anyways. M is doing sooooo great! I am so proud of her. She needs her own post, and I'll get to it soon I promise.

I find myself in kind of the same place as last year. I know exactly what I want to get the kids to help them with school. I know which curriculum and which programs they need, but I lack the money to buy it.

This is SOOOOO frustrating because my kids were special education cash cows for the public school system. Thousands were brought in per year because of their disabilities, yet here I sit without a penny to their name for education funding. Its so crushingly unjust.

While I wrestle with being angry over all of that again, I am conspiring ways to make money.
Sell plasma? Donate an organ?

I've settled on writing. I am good at it and I like doing it. I want to write a children's book series about our rabbit, Daisy, who has more of an attitude than M. Seriously, she deserves to have books written about her, and people will buy them I know! I only have to get her to sign off on the rights to her story before I can begin "My Life as the Owner of 9 Humans."

I had grand plant that I'd write a memoir about M's adoption to fund our schooling needs. I got about halfway into it and was struck down with horrible pain from a cyst then ended up in emergency surgery a few days later. I just haven't gotten back into working on that book again yet as I've spent the last 6 weeks recovering. Phillip had to take two weeks off from work which also did not help our bank account. I seem to be going backwards rather than forwards with my efforts!

All of this is kind of rambling on just so I can get it out of my head. I was thinking of doing a GoFundMe post or something, but that just seems so desperate. Not that I am NOT desperate; I just hate to appear desperate. I'd rather go quietly sell a kidney than ask for money.

I did donate a cyst, but apparently those are not in high demand as the bills rolling in clearly show!

Somewhere along the line this summer, I did manage to find my sense of humor again. You'll notice the sarcasm dripping off of your screen if you look closely.

My Response To Hillary's Statements on Educating Kids With Disabilities

(written for The Mighty)
Every kid with a disability has the right to go to school,” Hillary Clinton said during her speech at the Democratic National Convention. “But how do you make an idea like that real? You do it step-by-step, year-by-year… sometimes even door-by-door.”
As a mom with five children who have spent time in the special education system of our county, I could not agree more with that statement. My children have varying needs from reading disorders, severe dyslexia, central auditory processing disorder, brain damage, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) dysgraphia, visual impairments, and cerebral palsy. I have spent hundreds of hours in IEP meetings and doing research.
Clinton’s message is inspiring and encouraging to those looking in from the outside. The reality is, equal opportunities for disabled children in the public school system has yet to actually happen in most places. Yes, they can go to school, but the struggle for parents now is what happens once they are there.

It’s wonderful that Clinton devoted time to demanding equal access to education for disabled children, but I wonder if she knows equal opportunity has yet to become a reality?
I’ve sat in rooms with people who were all too eager to write my child off. I had a school psychologist, whose job on the IEP team is to be an advocate for the child, tell everyone, “We want to be careful not to expect much progress due to his lack of cognitive ability” while she refused to acknowledge he had a learning disability. She basically sat there and told everyone he was not intelligent enough to make any progress. My child was denied special education services and offered “a breakfast buddy so he doesn’t slip through the cracks.” So yes, he was allowed to go to school, but it did him precious little good when he wasn’t given the tools he needed to actually learn something from his time spent there.
I have had to fight for another one of my children to even be evaluated to receive speech services. The speech therapist just flat out refused to evaluate him when I requested it. I had to call the Board of Education and inform them of her denial to perform her job. Once he was evaluated he was found to have a severe issue. That same speech therapist told me his IEP would only reflect speech goals. She had two. Two goals for my son who could only be 50 percent understood. His teacher said he frequently was unable to make himself understood or understand what was being said to him. Two goals. That was it. The team would not put one additional thing in his IEP to help him in the classroom. He was denied further evaluations, denied accommodations, and denied further services.
I could tell 10 more stories like this. I had to take the fight to the school system just to get my children evaluated for what the Democratic presidential nominee says is a right. Every child has a right to a free and appropriate education.
I wonder how many people realize there is still so much work left to do here? We need to have a conversation about how many civil rights complaints are filed against school districts on the behalf of children with disabilities. I filed a complaint against our school district, which resulted in them having to work with the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights to reach a resolution because they were found not to be in compliance with the Federal Law that already exists. My children were provided compensatory services, due to their unlawful denials of evaluations and unlawful denials of eligibility for services. If I had not taken on the system and challenged what I saw going on, nothing would have changed.
I homeschool my children now because being the “whistleblower” in a small county is not a popular position to find yourself in. I also realize we have a long, long way to go to properly train educators and therapists about children with disabilities. Yes, they are allowed to go to school, but often they are not treated the same as their typical peers.
I want to see more discussion of this at the national level. I want politicians to realize that getting the children in the door was just the first step. I want parents of children with disabilities to stop being bullied by the system that is supposed to be helping their kids. I want federal and state dollars that come into a county meant for special education to actually be spent on special education. I want kids to qualify for special education based on their needs and not on caseload limits. I want to see kids receiving services based on their needs and not being told they don’t qualify because “an orthopedic impairment doesn’t quality a child for math intervention.”
This job of advocating is not done. These issues are not yet solved.
Let’s talk.

The App Making a World of Difference for my Dyslexic Kids

Since making the decision to leave the world of public school and the special education system, I had to find a way to provide the resources my children needed on a tiny budget. I have 6 school age children. Four were internationally adopted, so we have had the ESL aspect to consider for them along with their many learning disabilities. Five of my children were on IEPs by the time we finally made it out of public school with what remained of our sanity.
I won’t lie. Its one thing to research and advocate as a parent-member of an IEP team, its entirely another to be the only one responsible for calling the shots. I was beyond frustrated and disappointed at the lack of progress my children were making in public school, but bringing them home meant that I became the one responsible for ensuring just that.
We just successfully completed our first year of homeschooling in June, and per the laws of our state, I had an evaluator come out and test my kids for adequate progress. I was beyond pleased at the results, particularly in reading!  W who was on a Specific Learning Disabled IEP and in reading intervention went from reading on a beginning 2nd grade level to a 7th grade level. D who was stuck and frustrated to tears on a Kindergarten reading level is now reading on a 3rd grade level. 
I attribute this to a fantastic app I found through a reader comment on my blog. Its called Learning Ally. Learning Ally has thousands of pre-recorded books for visually impaired and Dyslexic individuals to access. The books that have VOICEtext show the text as its being read with the current sentence highlighted. The user can change the text size, background color, highlighter color, and text color. Because many Dyslexic kids are able to read better with color overlays, this is a fantastic feature. The app also allows the user to slow down or speed up how fast the book is read to them. Some of my kids’ with processing issues or visual impairments cannot keep up with a typical read-out-loud speed, so they can set the speed to super slow to allow their eyes to keep up with what they are hearing.
Before a reader left a comment on my blog (THANK YOU!!!) about Learning Ally, I had no idea it existed. I want to share with other parents what a fantastic app this because it truly has been life changing for my kids to read books on their maturity level without being stuck at their reading level.
My kids have been discussing the Little House on the Prairie series, Moby Dick, The Jungle Book, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Aesops Fables, Frog and Toad, The Origami Yoda series and many more! Learning Ally has turned reading from a frustration into a joy!  Everyone with a Dyslexic or visually impaired child should know about this.
There is a very quick and easy qualification process required to ensure that the child does have a disability that requires this type of adaptive technology. An IEP, an evaluation from a reading specialist, or some other type of evaluation diagnosing their difficulty with reading will suffice. The yearly fee can be waived for those who can prove a need for financial assistance.  

When My Daughter Wishes She Was Like Everyone Else

(written for The Mighty)
To the best of our knowledge, the reason you have cerebral palsy is from not getting enough oxygen to your brain when you were born because you just weren’t ready to come out yet. Your tummy mom got very sick, and because of that her body couldn’t keep you in her tummy any longer. You had a strokeshortly after you were born. That’s why the muscles in your right arm are so tight, and it’s smaller than the left.
Therapy has been a part of your life from the time we adopted you. Unable to walk, and told by doctors that you never would, you were determined to prove them wrong. Twenty-five pounds of steel will did what the professionals said you would never do. You walked.
I remember the first time you took independent steps. You were wearing your new AFOs (leg braces) and your little purple shoes. You tried over and over to take more and more steps before you fell. You didn’t even know how to catch yourself because at 5 years old, you had never developed a fall reflex. We had to do more therapy just to teach you how not to fall over like a dead tree. You’ve had busted lips, bloody elbows, and staples in your head, but you never, ever gave up. You walked.
The school system and doctors both told me that you were just not a smart kid. The quote I remember the most from a doctor was right after we came home from Ukraine with you, when a developmental pediatrician told me, “She’s never going to be at the top of the IQ scale.” You glared at him; I glared at him; we never went back.
I sat in one very memorable IEP meeting for you and listened in complete shock and horror as every person in that room agreed to label you intellectually disabled. I wanted to ask them how they could even think that after spending an entire year with you? This time I was the one who didn’t accept what the professionals said you wouldn’t do. I disagreed with them and requested more evaluations.
We discovered you have a visual impairment, a math disorder, severe dyslexia, PTSD and debilitating anxiety, along with the classic traumatic brain injury symptoms from a stroke. But IQ tests showed that you are not intellectually disabled; your verbal IQ was literally one point from the gifted range. You just learn differently. The quote I remember the most from the 6 hours of neuropsychological evaluations was “How could they think she’s intellectually disabled? Did they even talk to her?”
When you told me you wished you could run and climb trees, it made me sad because I wished you could too. You want to learn to swim and ride a bike like your brothers, but it’s so hard for you. I wish I could find a way to make things easier for you. The surgery you had helped so much, but I can never take away your cerebral palsy, though I wish I could.
I have never been so proud of someone as when you learned how to run. What other kids take for granted, you worked on for over a year. You said you wanted to learn how to run and you did. You are an amazing girl for setting such a hard goal and reaching it!
So, when you looked at me and said you wished you could just be like all the other kids, what I really want you to know is that I wish I could be more like you.
You with your feisty spirit and iron will sometimes drive me crazy. When you do not want to do something, I have never been able to make you do it without a fight. Your sassy attitude frustrates me sometimes, and other times I wonder how after all you have been through, you still dare to be sassy! It’s the fighter in you that makes you special.
You are not “just like the other kids.” You have your struggles, but you have something deep inside of you the “other kids” don’t have. You have never let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do, and that, sweetheart, is so much better than being like everyone else. Your life has no limits because you don’t believe in them.
Go change the world.

How Finding Her Sister is Helping M Beat Dyslexia

When I first met my daughter, she was 4 years old and in a Ukrainian orphanage. All I really knew about her was that she had cerebral palsy caused by a stroke and was unable to walk. When a nanny brought her into the director’s office to meet us, she said in perfect Russian, “Hello. Are you here to take me home?”
We were.
She struggled much more than most children in PreK and Kindergarten. At first we thought it was just due to being so neglected and delayed, but in first grade I pushed for her to be evaluated for dyslexia. Her writing was nearly always reversed in a mirror image, and often the words were spelled backwards. Sometimes she would write an entire sentence backwards from right to left, flipping every letter in every word backwards. It was mind-boggling to me how her brain could produce something like that. She often got math problems wrong because although she knew the answer verbally, her 6 was written as a 2 and 17 became 71. The school said they didn’t diagnose kids with dyslexia until third grade. My daughter was only in first, but I knew she had it.
A neuropsychologist diagnosed her with severe dyslexia and dysgraphia as well as a visual impairment and math disorder. She sees things as “mirror reversals and distortions” because her eyes don’t work together or with her brain, due to her brain injury from having a stroke.
School was a constant source of frustration for her because she had so much to say, yet struggled to get anything legible out onto paper. Trying to complete worksheets full of printed words just left her confused. I have watched her write a 7 down the correct way, then say “Oh oops, it’s backwards,” and erase it so she could write it…backwards. When I pointed out that she had it right, she said, “Oh why do I write things backwards?”
Well aware that she was performing below her peers, she was constantly talking in an effort to distract from her seat work. She hated writing so much that one day she just drew scribbles on her writing paper in a refusal to work on letters. Her teachers were angry at her for being so defiant, but oh, that spirit! She just didn’t see the point in writing when she was so easily able to talk.
I knew that before we adopted her, she had a sister at the orphanage with her. Through the help of an online friend, we were able to find the French family that adopted her sister a few years before. We never knew why the girls were separated, but finding her sister has been a great source of happiness for M. Imagine our surprise when we found out that her sister also has cerebral palsy and dyslexia!
The first day we were able to have the girls Skype face to face with each other was wonderful. Her mother and I were a hot mess of Google Translate, but it didn’t matter to the girls. They wanted to show each other baby dolls, Peppa Pig, and compare their AFOs (braces worn on their legs). What a gift for them both to look at a face so similar to their own. “I don’t like wearing glasses, but look my sister has them too!”
Since finding her sister, we have sent pictures and letters through the mail. My daughter was thrilled the day a letter arrived from her sister addressed to Mademoiselle M****. “She wrote it in cursive to me! I want to learn to write in cursive too!” And just like that, writing had a purpose. I homeschool M now, so for the past year we have worked on her handwriting with Dyslexia Games workbooks, and I’ve taught her cursive.
“Writing practice” and “spelling” have been stories she’s written for her sister, and she voluntarily re-writes them with corrections I make, “So my sister can read it easily. I want it to look really nice for her!” The improvements M has made with her writing, and the joy with which she now does it make my heart happy.
I hope to one day take M to France to meet her sister face to face. Neither girl remembers the other from their time in the orphanage, but both are eager to one day meet again. Until then, letters, cards, and pictures cross the Atlantic from two little girls who have been thrilled to connect as sisters with not just the same disabilities, but similar interests as well.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Summer Update

Its been busy.

We went to Busch Gardens and got an epic pic of our kids's first time on a rollar coaster.

The faces are epic. I die. Just look 😂

Six days later after 3 ER trips, I had emergency surgery to remove a cyst. I spent 3 days in the hospital and two weeks recovering at home.
Nursing Ella after surgery. 

Going home.

D had a birthday. He's 14 now!

The boys did two weeks of swim lessons.

Little E is getting so big and is such a beautiful baby!

We had evaluations done for the kids to provide proof of progress for the school district. Lets just say my kids blew progress out of the water. Here's M after she just got a 95% on her third grade math lesson. We've continued working on school over the summer with the kiddos still catching up, and turned in our notice of intent to homeschool again next year yesterday!

I am proud of my kids. W and Wy are reading above grade level now. W tested at 7th and Wy at 3rd. They are rising 5th and 3rd graders now. Wy is completing 3rd grade math this summer. He will be starting 4th grade in september at 8 years old. 

D and V made huge reading progress. They are both reading near 3rd grade level now after starting the year at a K level. I could just squish them. We have worked so hard!

E is at a beginning second grade reading level and working on 3rd grade math. Again, huge progress for this guy! 

There is no doubt in my mind that Learning Ally has made a huge difference in my children's reading ability. 

We plan to continue using Teaching Textbooks for math, Dyslexia Games curriculum for core subjects and dyslexia therapy, and Learning Ally for reading. I also found a new app to help with spelling called Easy Spelling Aid. It has the dyslexic font and it also has a translate feature. I am in love with it!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Math Update

I'm so proud of my kids and incredibly happy with Teaching Textbooks!  

D was going to be in 6th grade at the Middle School this year, but he was struggling with 3rd grade level math last year. He had made very little progress in math during 4th and 5th grade in public school.

V's strength is math. Other than word problems, he did well in math. He continues to excel and is on par with where we enrolled him in school.

W was making progress, but struggling with math concepts. He was probably around a year behind in math in 3rd grade last year.

E was still struggling with concepts like 1+1 and 2+1 and 9-9 last year. It just wasn't clicking.

M also struggles with 9-1 or 9-9 and fact families. If 3+4 = 7 then 4+3=? *blank stare*

Wy is as smart as a little tack and doing multiplication already…

As we near the end of the school year here is where my kids stand with their math.

D has completed 4th grade math and is nearly halfway through 5th grade math. W and V are finishing up 4th grade math this week. Wy is halfway through 3rd grade math (he's in 2nd grade).  

In the last few weeks, Eli has started working on 3rd grade math and is making good progress.
Consider that W was a year behind in math, D was nearly 3 years behind, E was 2 years behind, and that the school wanted to retain Wy in 1st grade, you can see how great they are doing!

M has just started trying the first few lessons on TT3. I'm not sure if she's ready for it yet, but she's close. Right now she's working on a Math Comic Book from Dyslexia Games. She and E like to use the abacus to help them visualize the problems. M's weakness is math. She just doesn't get the concepts, but she is definitely trying and excited to be able to work on the computer like the other kids for her math.

We are also using Times Tales for the kids to work on multiplication facts. Slowly but surely they are getting them :) If we have to watch the videos all summer for the kids to learn their multiplication facts and have them down for next school year then we will!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Editing My Book

I printed my entire blog and am editing the 800+ pages now with the intention of eventually publishing a mini-series. I'm starting with M's adoption. Next I plan to write about adopting my boys. Then I plan to write about our struggles with our schools. Later I can perhaps write about how having a mother with a personality disorder prepared me for all of this.
 I simply need a publisher. 

A Spring Wedding

My brother got married Saturday.

No not that brother. 

This one.

Yes the one next to the bride, not the one posing like its his GQ shoot 😎

My boys had a great time. 

We all took lots of pictures and hopefully the professional version has us with all eyes open 😜

W and V were posing with their grandma.  

The girls spent the day went my MIL having a girls weekend.  Big events like weddings are overwhelming for M and Little E needs her naps!

Baby Food!

I found an Infantino system on clearance at Wal-Mart. I made 15 packs of Organic baby food for little E today!

Friday, April 15, 2016

An M Update!

Its been nearly 2 years since M had SPML surgery in New Jersey with Dr. Nuzzo.

We are approaching her ortho appointment next month so we have been talking to her PT about what type of bracing we should be thinking of.  She needs to be casted for a new pair and is doing FABULOUS so we don't want to do anything that will impede her progress.

We decided to take a few videos and send them to Dr. Nuzzo for his input on what he thinks would be best for her.

Here are the videos we took of her.  She's doing fantastic.  SPML surgery was the best choice for her!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Vote for Me Please!

Educents is having a "Win Your Dream Classroom" contest.  The top 7 teachers with the most votes get to split $10,000 worth of products from Educents!!

This is a chance for us to get some much needed multi-sensorial materials for teaching our kids that learn differently.  I can't tell you how excited I would be if I won!

Please go vote for me then please share my link and encourage your friends to vote for us too!
Thank you so much!

Here's what is on it!

My Homeschool Wishlist

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Learning Ally

Many thanks to someone who left a comment on my blog about Learning Ally.  I filled out the forms and applied for accounts for D, V, E, and M.  I had to send in proof of their learning disabilities which ended up being easy. I had a letter from Dr. Federici about all 4 kids,stating their severe dyslexia. Today they all got approved and I set up their accounts!

V has been thrilled!  He has been happily reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid today. W has read the entire series and V wanted to so badly.  Now his Learning Ally app reads it to him while highlighting the text!

He also read about spiders 

This app requires OS 6.0 so our first iPad won't work with it, but we have one iPad and an old phone we set up with it.  

If you have Dyslexic kids you really should check out Learning Ally.  This app is a game changer.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Quote of the Day

V - "You are the best mom I ever had."

It means a lot more when I am not the only mom he has had.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Build-a-Word Phonics

I found this neat phonics kit on Amazon for the kids. It looks a lot like an Orton-Gillingham based kit but I got it for around $20.  

E and M really love it!

V had a huge breakthrough today. He did his assigned work and then made a dinosaur book with E's stencils.  Then - the part I am excited about - he looked up the names of the dinosaurs in his Children's dictionary all by himself!

I have been trying to take an "unschooling" based approach in the hopes that some of the kids would find their interests and we could do more child led schooling.  Its been very difficult to do that with D, E, and V so I was so happy to see this today!

My baby is cute too :)


Thursday, March 31, 2016


My boys ask for the wildest hair designs. "Mom can you cut a picture of a gun in my hair?"
But I have tried lines or lightening strikes.
Wy has a horrible scar on his head so half of his lightening strike is the scar 😂

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

School is Going...

The kids have been steadily working away on their school.  I have found that M learns best when she hears things.  She has great auditory processing skills.  We have discovered books on CD at the library and she LOVES them.  She has listened to a few American Girl books and a Nancy Drew mystery so far.  Her ability to comprehend what she hears is amazing.  She can read on a 1st grade level, but she can comprehend around 5th grade.  She also likes to get educational dvds from the library to watch as part of her school.  We get Math, Art lessons, dancing, Magic School bus, Word World, Jamestown, nature dvds, space dvds… you name it, she will watch it.  Her favorite recently has been "The Body."  She was so obsessed with the inner workings of organs that she kept watching it over and over and over.

W and Wy have been doing SO INCREDIBLY WELL with reading.  I am so blown away.  They have jumped several grade levels in reading.  W has read all of the Diary of a Wimpy kid books, all of the Origami Yoda books, and is working on The Boxcar Children Series.  Wy has read some of The Little House on the Prairie, Tornado, Hatchet, and some of the Origami Yoda books as well.  I am so pleased with both of them!

W is progressing well on Teaching Textbooks math.  He is right on grade level with math now even though he has an incredibly low frustration tolerance.  I allow him to take breaks whenever he wants, but he gets SO ANGRY when he gets things wrong.  

Wy took the placement test for Teaching Textbooks and was able to start on the 3rd grade level.  He is about halfway through that right now.  Keep in mind that my littlest guy is still only 7.  His teacher and principal suggested retaining him in first grade at the end of last year.  I cannot fathom how bored he would be if we had kept him in school and followed their suggestion.  Wy spends the least amount of structured time doing school and has made an incredible amount of progress.  Little boys were never meant to sit for hours doing seat work!

E has been continuing with private speech, making great progress.  He is still reading at a K level, but a lot of his anxiety about it has disappeared making it easier for him to concentrate.  We do a lot of supplemental work with him.  He has flash cards and fun activity books to work on.  He is nearing being able to start on TT Math 3 and actually made it through the first few lessons, but quickly struggles as soon as new material is introduced.  His auditory processing skills are so deficient because he has CAPD.

V is doing well on TT Math 4.  Math is a strength for him.  He struggled with the months of the year and days of the week.  He also struggles with the concept of "obtuse" "right" and "acute" angles.  The numerical computations are not a problem for him.  Its word problems.  I had him memorize the months of the year and explained the dd/mm/yyyy format.  For some reason that was a struggle, but he seems to have it now.  If the kids fail a math lesson, I simply delete it and have them repeat the lecture and the problems.  Usually V gets it the second time around with no issues.

D has continued with Brain Integration Therapy.  It is supposed to remove the issues that cause dyslexia and receptive/expressive language disorder, and make it possible for him to learn to read and retain information in a typical way.  I was able to get insurance to cover this therapy so we will be doing this with the other kids as time allows.  The jury is still out on how much it has helped because it gives him the ability to learn, therefore it takes time to see how well he is able to learn new material now.  The struggle with him recently has been his complete lack of effort and interest in learning.  He honestly would be happy to do nothing but watch movies all day.  He acts like I am punishing him by expecting him to put a good effort into reading for a certain amount of time each day and even working on his Dyslexia Games books.  I try to keep things fun and geared to his "right brain" learning style with word searches, picture hunts,  puzzles, and mazes.  Really we do not do any traditional "seat work."  Everything I have him doing has a dual purpose of engaged the artistic side of his brain with the logic side.  I am just so frustrated at his lack of effort and the tendency to act like I am being mean by expecting things of him.  We shall see how this progresses as I have pulled out my stern voice and quit allowing him to get away with not following directions.  I caught him lying to me several times in a row last week about completing work.  When I checked the work, he had not done it and then tried to even talk his way out of it much like a toddler caught with chocolate on their face denies getting in the cookie jar.  He does not typically lie to me, and his emotional development is severely delayed.  I told him that I was under no circumstances tolerating lying and he had to complete the work before he was allowed to go to his grandmother's with the other kids for Spring Break.  I am afraid that this is partly my fault because I have been so lenient and tolerant and tried so very hard to modify things to how he learns and have accepted less than his best for fear of hurting his feelings.  

So that's a not so brief summary.  I like to be able to look back at home certain kids were doing at certain points in time.  Hopefully they will all continue to make progress.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Warmer Weather

V found frog eggs in the pond and rescued them from our ducks.

Little E dipped her tiny toes in the creek and expressed to me her desire to swim.

M walked over a mile on our graveled subdivision road.  She insisted.  "I want to practice running."
Take a good look. That girl is going to change the world.  

Friday, March 4, 2016

Brain Integration for D Part 2

D had his second brain integration therapy session today.  I asked Dr. Federici if he could write a referral for our insurance so we could get this covered under neuro-muscular re-patterning and he sent me a very well written referral letter.  I am hoping that this means we will be able to get reimbursed for this therapy so that we can also have V, E, and M also integrated.

A reader mentioned integrated listening on my last post, and I am actually very aware of what that is.  We did that for a while with M's OT at our therapy center.  We did see some progress, and continued for a while before eventually taking a break from private OT.

Brain Integration Therapy is different in that it takes 8-10 hours total to complete and then its done.  For M it will take 16-20 hours simply because she has a brain injury and that makes it much more difficult.

Our tutor Ms. Helen, has mentioned too many times for me to count that D has a recall issue.  Today we found out that the part of his brain that controls recall was functioning at 20%.  He cannot seem to remember much of anything that he is taught, read, told, or watches.  This is extremely frustrating for both D and the person trying to teach him something.

We also found out that he is very strongly right brained and artistic.  I knew this, but hearing it does definitely confirm that he learns differently.  I am a very strongly left brained person.  Having right brained kids has stretched me in so.many.ways.  I have to research how they learn and lay it all out logically to myself just so I can teach them.  That is how dominant the logic part of my brain is!

Next time the therapist is going to address the emotional areas of his brain.  She said that she can tell he has significant emotional trauma that is definitely impacting his ability to interact and process things.  I am making a list of traumatic things that I know have happened to him.  V and E have told me most of them.  D generally doesn't want to talk about his past much.  I think I've gotten it done tonight, but oh break my heart -- what a sad thing for a mom to write!

Today after his session was over and we were leaving, he said he had to run back in to go to the bathroom.  He came back out and hopped in the van.  As we were driving home, he pulled four scented bars of soap out of his jacket.  He had gone back in and bought 4 scented soaps for me and my mother in law.  He really is SO sweet and despite his difficulty in telling me how he feels, he does show it.  I have my own issues with emotional displays of affection so he awkwardly hands me the soap with a silly grin and I awkwardly accept the soap with a careful smile.  We truly are a match made in dysfunctional heaven.  My therapist would be proud of me for telling him thank you :)  Hah!

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