Sunday, August 2, 2015

Our 2015-2016 PreK Curriculum

I am so beyond excited to have Evan join us more formally this year for homeschool! He loves to learn and I know he is going to be thrilled to finally have his own worksheets and activities to complete right along side his big sister! Evan is 4.5 years old and I really struggled with the decision to homeschool vs sending him to attend public school VPK. Half-day VPK is free in my county, but Evan's special needs definitely pose a challenge and would not allow him to attend a regular classroom. Ultimately, we have opted to work diligently with private therapy services and homeschool this year. If at any time I feel Evan isn't progressing, we can always reevaluate and try to get into an ESE PreK for the remainder of the year or just start in Kindergarten. But I am confident Evan will thrive working one-on-one at home, in his own environment, with minimal distractions and the ability to learn however he wants to!

Many of you have seen me prepping Evan's curriculum via Instagram this summer and have asked about our curriculum choice for PreK. I searched all over the internet, read reviews, viewed hundres of pins on Pinterest and finally settled on Confessions of a Homeschooler's Letter of the Week curriculum. Letter of the Week is a 26 week homeschool PreK 3 curriculum. Each week is themed and focuses on a letter of the alphabet. It includes so many options for games, worksheets, skill development, counting, etc. Evan already knows all of his letters, numbers to 20, colors and shapes, but he is really struggling with fine motor skills and some other skills that LOTW includes in the weekly lessons. I decided it was more important for Evan to really build up these skills he is behind on and master them rather than move on to a more advanced PreK curriculum option. Plus I don't want to overwhelm Evan during his first year of formal homeschool! Or overwhelm myself for my first year with two students! ;)

After I purchased LOTW, I was opening all of the files and had a little bit of buyer's remorse. Seriously, there are over 1500 printables included with this curriculum! What was I thinking?! I started sorting through the lessons and decided there was only one way we could successfully complete this curriculum - I needed to prep the entire year before we started.  I am a procrastinator. I have proven to myself over and over that if I need to do a lot of prep work before a lesson, I will put it off and put it off and then it just won't get done. So I really had no choice but to print out every page, for every lesson, for every week and then cut/laminate/hole punch/staple/sort/organize everything. I finished prepping everything about a week ago and I can't believe I finished. My hands were blistered from cutting out hundreds of little shapes, the dining room table was a disaster zone, my printer tried to die multiple times. It was a challenge, to say the least, but now I am so happy that I literally do not have to prep a single thing for the rest of the year for Evan.. And that feels amazing. It took me around 6 weeks of working a few hours each week to finish prepping and I highly recommend you do the same if you plan to use this curriculum with your Preschooler or even if you're using one of the many free options with a lot of prep work. This method will definitely save your sanity for the year and trust me, you'll need all the sanity you can get.

If I haven't scared you away yet, I would love to share with you my method for prepping a year's worth of lessons! Before I started printing individual pages, I printed out the weekly lesson plan pages and highlighted assignments I wanted to work on each week with Evan. I generally picked between 4-5 assignments per day. Next, I opened each week's file and printed the selected assignment pages. It took me a few evenings over the course of a couple of weeks to print out all of the pages I needed. I also printed the Daily PreK journal pages. Next, I organized my binders in groups of 5 letters and separated each letter with tabs. I cut out and laminated any pieces I wanted to be sturdier, like the lacing cards, and then stored all of the cut outs in labeled plastic bags. I hole punched all of the worksheets and put the labeled bags in a page protector sleeve to keep everything for each letter together. I repeated this process for each letter. There are still several things I opted not to print/use this year because again, I do not want to overwhelm myself or Evan! We can always add these things later in the year if we want to.

Each day of the week is in a page protector. Evan will complete these with a dry erase marker so we can just keep reusing them!
This is the weekly lesson plan page. I highlighted all of the assignments Evan will be completing.  
All of the worksheets for each letter are hole punched and stored behind their subject divider.
Here are all of the cut outs for the letter "A" week. Everything is labeled and sorted into plastic bags and then kept in a page protector behind the rest of the week's worksheets.
I purchased LOTW for $15 and spent about an additional $200 in supplies (paper, printer ink, notebooks, dividers, page protectors, laminator sheets, books, manipulatives, etc). It definitely wasn't the cheapest option but I'm sure the cost would be less shocking if you spread out the printing and prep throughout the year.

Here are most of the manipulatives we need for the year. (Not pictured are large plastic tweezers, play doh, crayons, pencils, etc)
These are some of the books LOTW recommends.
Evan officially starts PreK tomorrow and I can't wait to see how much he learns this year! If you want to see a more in-depth review of LOTW, click here. I am also happy to answer any questions you may have!

Our Homeschool Room.. Or something like that

I'm pretty sure every homeschool mom daydreams of their perfect school room. Mine would be huge- with wood floors, light teal walls, an on-suite bathroom, a reading corner complete with a super cute Pinterest worthy teepee, a community desk that seats 4, and curriculum storage that would put Ikea systems to shame. You know, sort of like Confession of a Homeschooler's amazing classroom. Except a little more awesome. :)

While I would absolutely love to have even a dedicated classroom, that is just not in the cards right now for us. We moved from our small cozy home to our current, much larger home about a year ago and while we do have space to have a dedicated classroom, I just have a hard time giving up the "traditional" rooms- like the dining room and guest bedroom. I know, that sounds SO dumb, but I just love simple, clean d├ęcor at home and would rather find an alternate solution. Last year, we kept the school books in the living room and Elli worked at our dining room table, at the kitchen bar, and at the computer desk. Yeah- it was kind of chaotic. My darling husband and I spent a few hours this past week literally moving the bookshelves into all the rooms and rearranging furniture to find a permanent homeschool space for the coming year. We ended up settling on taking over the breakfast nook and I am really pleased with the way it looks! We rarely use that space and I don't know why we didn't come up with this solution earlier! Yes, it is small, but I'm very optimistic it will suit our needs perfectly this year!

And now I present to you, the Magnifico Academy classroom:

(Our classroom!)

(Main white board and calendar bulletin board with empty wall space to feature projects and topics we will learn about this year.)

(Work table and storage)

(We only keep current year's curriculum and supplies readily available. Everything else is stored in the garage. The less clutter, the better! This bookshelf holds craft supplies, painting supplies, and Elli's curriculum)

(Arts & Crafts - all out of reach of our little one!)

(This cube organizer houses most of Evan's supplies and curriculum. Everything is stored in bins because if he sees it, he takes it out.. )

(Extra supplies for the year)

(Calendar and Evan's "Beginning of the Day" activities)

(Elli's Curriculum)
That is it! This is our cozy new spot and I am so excited to kick off our 2015-2016 school year on Monday!

One thing I have learned over the past 4 years of homeschooling is where you teach your children absolutely doesn't matter. You could have the "dream" homeschool room and still have an unproductive year of school! All that matters is that you are dedicated to teaching your babies and the rest will fall into place.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Evan's HLHS Update

I know, this update is well overdue. Since Evan has been so stable for the past few years, this blog has slowly died. I'm going to attempt to revive it by not focusing so much on the HLHS portion of our lives, but more on our every day adventures - like homeschooling, therapies for Evan's special needs, Disney tips from a seasoned passholder, DIY projects, successful pinterest crap, etc. But before I move on, I feel I need to bring this page up to speed on Evan and his HLHS journey since so many newly-diagnosed HLHS families still make their way to our page!

On May 21, we celebrated TWO years post-Fontan for Evan! And we are quickly approaching one year since his last heart cath! I can't believe how far we have come on this journey, yet it is daunting to see how much farther we have to go! We all thought Evan was doing pretty well developmentally, especially after seeing how much he had learned over the past two years. But when we were given the opportunity to see a Developmental Pediatrician at our cardiac center, we jumped on it. I didn't really know what to expect going into the appointment. I thought we would answer a few questions, Evan would be asked to complete a few tasks, and we would be on our way with a "here is where your child stands" letter. Yeah, no. Didn't happen that way. It was a super long, very intense appointment that covered all aspects of Evan's development and skills from birth til now. My kid is four and a half and has a detailed history - you can only imagine how much info we covered. The DR and his nurse practitioner did such a great job staying patient with my rowdy boy and I could tell they were trying to be respectful of our time while also gathering all of the information they needed. I filled out several questionnaires prior to the appointment and filled out another in the office. The DR and I reviewed all of that information and then he examined Evan physically as well as tested his skills. My boy has just recently begun to like clinicians again so he was a little unsure of them but overall did well. We definitely knew going into the appointment that Evan was still delayed in some areas but we were not prepared to find out just how delayed he is. We left the appointment with referrals to Speech therapy, Occupational therapy, Physical therapy, and a hearing evaluation. Phew. Then the detailed report came in the mail and it saddened me to see just how much harder Evan was going to have to work to catch up. It is definitely not fair to have to undergo so much in your life at a young age and then when all of the "hard" stuff is supposed to be over, you get smacked in the face with the reality of its never really over. There is always more to be done..

Evan has now had all of his evaluations for therapies completed and each specialist determined he would need their therapy 2x per week. That is six, 45 minute appointments every week. We ended up settling on five appointments each week based on what we felt we could handle in our schedule and how expensive our copays are for each appointment. You can only imagine how crazy our calendar looks with all of these appointments in addition to normal weekly activities! Evan has been going to his therapies for 2 weeks now and he is definitely still adjusting. He has some major anxiety issues and is easily frustrated when he can't complete a task or finds the task hard.. We've had our share of meltdowns these past few weeks but I am confident he will begin to trust his therapists and start to have more productive sessions.

If your center offers a neurodevelopment appointment to you for your child, take it. Even if you think your child is on target developmentally, just go. Having a new set of eyes specially trained in development and delays for cardiac kids is essential to not only helping your child to get the services they may need, but also key to helping them remain on target! I only wish we had something like this offered to us when Evan was still a baby. I can only assume his development status would be much different now.

Other than working on delays, Evan has been pretty status quo! He had a routine cardiology visit in June and everything checked out great. He is growing well and gaining weight appropriately. His heart function still looks amazing and his sats were in the high 90's. And, he made it through the appointment with minimal tears! I, on the other hand, did not have a pleasant visit. Our beloved cardiologist, the first person to give us hope that our baby could survive this diagnosis, announced she was leaving the practice this summer. I was shocked and devastated! We have always joked that we would follow her across the country if she ever moved and all of a sudden it wasn't so funny anymore. After days and days of discussion, we decided to switch to another cardiologist at All Children's. While we know she can never be replaced, and we could have followed her to her new clinic, we just didn't feel comfortable not knowing any of the other cardiologists at her new center. SO SAD! Seriously. It still makes me teary eyed to think after five years we are losing our favorite person but I know she will be loved at her new clinic by her new patients. I am just selfishly sad for my family.

This year, Evan will officially be joining his sister and I for (home)school! I know, it seems impossible that he is old enough to start school, yet here we are! He is very excited to have his own place at the table this year and can't wait to start learning! I'll share more on which curriculum we will be using in another post.

That is all for now, folks. We hope to have an uneventful second half of the year and just know our little guy is going to work super hard to catch up with his peers. :)