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Archive for the ‘horses’ Category

Here it is…the final week of The Summer of Color challenge that is being hosted by Kristen at Twinkle Like a Star. This has been such a wonderful project, and helped motivate me to:

– do some projects that I’ve wanted to do for a long time,
– create new window star patterns,
– try existing window star patterns in different colors, and
– make a quilt.

Projects I’ve Wanted to Do

I did several embroidery projects during the weeks when the featured color was pink and green.

Embroidered Greeting Cards
Pink hand-embroidered greeting cards.

Embroidered Dala Horse
Green hand-embroidered Dala horse and tree.
They can be used as ornaments or tags.
For the Blue Week, I did some sewing projects – a bunting and tablecloth.
Blue Bunting Close Up
Blue bunting.

Puzzle Tablecloth
Tablecloth that I made by tracing puzzle pieces
onto pieces of fabric. Each are hand-cut and then ironed onto
the white fabric using an iron-on adhesive.

Create New Window Star Patterns as well as Use Existing Patterns to Make Window Stars in New Colors

For many of the weeks, I enjoyed making window stars in a variety of colors. It was fun to create new patterns and see what the new window star would turn out like.

Trio of Purple Window Stars
Trio of purple window stars.
The pattern on the bottom is one I created.

Equally exciting for me was to see what window stars look like in different colors using patterns that I normally use.

Trio of Brown Window Stars
Trio of brown window stars.

Two orange window stars.
I’ve made these patterns before, but never in orange.
The pattern on the left is one I’ve used before, and
the pattern on the right is a new one I created.

Two yellow window stars. The pattern on the left is one I created
and the one on the right is one I’ve made in different colors
but never in yellow until The Summer of Color challenge.

Creating a Quilt

My on-going project during the summer was a quilt. Each week, after the color was assigned, I created two quilt blocks that were about 11 1/2″ square. Each square included seven different patterns of fabric – to represent the seven days of the week.

My goal was to use only fabric, thread, and batting that I had on hand.  This wasn’t a challenge when I was doing the squares – it seemed like I had plenty of fabric to choose from.

WIP - The Summer of Color Quilt
Five weeks’ worth of quilt squares.

However, once I got to the backing and batting, it became a bit more difficult. I didn’t have either the fabric or batting in the size I needed for the quilt. So, I had to piece both elements together to create the quilt.

The batting needed to be hand-sewn in order to attach each piece to one another (there were three pieces of batting used). For the quilt back, I used one of Sophia’s floral-print sheets and cut about a six-inch section off the end.

By cutting that in length-wise and sewing the pieces together, I was able to create enough fabric to sew to the other piece…thereby creating a quilt backing.

Quilt squares bordered by 3″ white fabric strips.
The white fabric strips are from
bed linens that were discarded from a hotel.
I washed the sheets and was able
to use the fabric to make the quilt.

What I like about the quilt is that it is made entirely from fabric, thread, and batting that I had on hand. I didn’t have to purchase anything to make it!

The Summer of Color quilt that I made
during June-August 2011.
Lots of color will be welcome during the middle of winter
when the landscape is all white and
the temperature is well below zero.
Sophia, Olivia, and I will use this
soft, colorful quilt when
we homeschool and read together.

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For the 30th book that I read this year as part of the 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, I chose Golden Sun by Ruth Sanderson. This is actually a youth fiction book that I read to Olivia, but it fits the goals of the challenge (e.g., over 100 pages, has a plot).

The book is the fifth one in the Horse Diaries series, and is a wonderful story that combines history, Native American life, and horses.
Much like how the book Black Beauty is narrated by Black Beauty (the horse) himself, Golden Sun is written in a conversational tone and told from the perspective of the horse (also named Golden Sun).
Golden Sun is a chestnut snowflake Appaloosa. During the summer, he treks through the mountains with his rider, a Nez Perce boy named Little Turtle who collects healing plants. He accompanies Little Turtle on his Vision Quest where both realize their true calling.
Golden Sun intersperses words used by the Nez Perce which Olivia and I knew because we had read the Kaya books (an American Girl series about a Nez Perce girl).
The Kaya books had a translation/dictionary in the back to explain what the Nez Perce words meant which was helpful. Having read that series first, we had a greater appreciation and understanding of Golden Sun.
Golden Sun has realistic, beautiful illustrations by Ruth Sanderson. Her ability to capture the detail and beauty of horses is consistent throughout the entire Horse Diaries series.
There is a sixth book in the series that will be released (hopefully) soon. Both Olivia and Sophia are looking forward to reading it.

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Welcome to the Fun in the Summer Sun event!

Each Monday until September 7th
Mama to 4 Blessings along with Harvest Moon By Hand,
Adventures of Mommydom, Sweet Diva, and Sweet Phenomena
will be hosting Fun in the Summer Fun link up events.

Here’s the line up:

1st Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer activities”
2nd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer crafts”
3rd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer recipes”
4th Monday of each month: link up your “How to stay cool in the summer heat”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

This week Sophia and Olivia did two different crafts that they enjoyed: embroidery and beading.

Sophia embroidered a pillowcase with a horse and foal design. The supplies were all ones that we had on hand: a pillowcase, embroidery floss, and an iron-on pattern. I never have used iron-on patterns, though they were something that I wanted to try after seeing the selection at Joann’s.

Sophia’s embroidered pillowcase.

Sophia worked during the week on the design and was very happy with how it turned out. She’s 10 years old, and has being doing embroidery now for several years.

Sophia used the backstitch
to do her embroidered pillowcase.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Olivia enjoys doing arts and crafts – anything that lets her creatively express herself. She picked out a loom that can be used for both beading and cotton-floss weaving.

Olivia working on her beaded bracelet.

She chose to make a bracelet with red, white, and blue beads. I set up the loom for her; and then Olivia beaded the bracelet. She followed a graph-paper chart that I did based on a picture of a bracelet pattern she liked that came with the loom.

Olivia used a sewing needle to secure the beads
in place on the bracelet.

It took a lot of concentration and patience, but she completed the bracelet within a half a day. She’s happy with it, and wants to do more beading…but not right away. “My hand needs a break. It’s tired,” she said.

Olivia wearing the bracelet she made.
Now it’s your turn! What are some fun ideas for crafting with kids?

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On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  5 Kids and a Dog explains:

The word “homeschooling” can cover so many things. From teaching and learning, to home skills and life skills, and everything in between. Homeschool families are very busy people! It’s not about staying home, although we try to do that so we get our school work done, but it’s about raising well-rounded kids who grow into well-rounded adults. It means phonics lessons and sports and music and languages and climbing trees and jumping in puddles.


Since we can talk about everything from the Alphabet to Zoology, The ABC’s of Homeschooling was born. Please join in each week as we cover a new letter, and link up together to go through the ABC’s!

Since I just found out about the series, I’m grouping the first eight weeks together.  Here’s what each letter of the alphabet so far looks like with our homeschool:

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter A ….is for Animals.  Having two dogs, five cats, a pony, and miniature horse provide lots of opportunities to learn about animals. The girls not only can learn about their similarities and differences, but also take responsibility for their daily needs and health care.

Meeting Gretel on Pick Up Day
Sophia and Olivia ready to take Gretel home on her adoption day. 
Gretel is about 3 months old in this picture.

We also take field trips to extend learning about animals we have as well as ones that we have read about in books.

Girls by a Clydesdale Baby and Adult
The girls by a foal and adult Clysdale horse.
The foal is taller than Olivia’s miniature horse.
Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter B

….is for Butterflies. The girls have raised butterflies for several years now by finding monarch caterpillars in the backyard and pastures.  They feed them indoors and then watch the transformation process.  At the end, they release the butterflies. 

Girls in Awe as Monarch Flies Away
The clarity of this picture isn’t great,
but the expressions on the girls’ faces show the
amazement and awe they felt when they saw the butterfly
fly right in front of them.

In the fall, the girls spread milkweed seeds throughout the farm so the monarchs that return in the spring and summer have food to eat.

Floating Milkweed
Sophia spreading milkweed seeds in the south pasture.
The wind is carrying the seeds off to new locations.

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter C …. is for China.  Both the girls were born in China.  Sophia was adopted at 11 months old, and Olivia was adopted at 10 months old.  Their birthdays and adoption days are celebrated by integrating Chinese customs, food, and gifts into these special days.

Girls Looking at Chinese Items
Sophia showing some of the items she has
that are from China to other homeschoolers.

This past year, we celebrated Chinese New Year by making Nian-Gao – Chinese New Year Cake. The recipe was in the back of the book The Runaway Rice Cake which I read to the girls prior to the cake-making activity.

Pouring Oil in Bowl
The girls making Nian-Gao for
Chinese New Year.

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter D … is for Dance. Each of the girls took dance lessons through the Minnesota Dance Theater when they were younger.  Although this isn’t something that they’ve chosen to pursue, they enjoyed dancing at the time. 

Homeschooling gives the girls an opportunity to be exposed to a variety of different subjects which they can choose to learn about in depth…or simply be content with learning a bit about the subject/activity and moving on to learn something else.

Sophia during the performance
Sophia at the dance recital at Minnesota Dance Theater
at the end of a dance camp.
Olivia Spinning in Costume
The girls enjoy dancing to music at home.
Olivia often will dance to piano music that Sophia or I play.
Lion Dance with 2 Lions
The girls watched a Chinese Lion Dance
at a summer festival. 
It was the highlight of the day for them.

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter E …is for Experiments.  The girls both enjoy science, particularly when there is an experiment or hands-on activity that relates to the subject they are learning. 

Olivia Learning About Vocal Cords
Olivia learning about vocal cords.
Volcano
Sophia learning about volcanoes.
Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter F

…is for Field Trips. An important part of homeschooling is being away from home and learning at different locations throughout the local area or even short day/multi-day trips. 

The girls both enjoy seeing and interacting with animals.  One summer, the Minnesota Zoo had a special African animal exhibit.  There was an opportunity to feed the giraffes.  It is a memory that is vividly etched in both girls’ memories.

Olivia Feeding Giraffe
Olivia feeding a giraffe.

We also regularly attend the Minnesota Orchestra’s student performances that are held throughout the school year. 

Girls at the Minnesota Orchestra
Sophia and Olivia at the Minnesota Orchestra.

We have been able to take some multi-day trips during the past few years thanks to my parents.  In exchange for driving them (since both no longer can drive), they have given the girls and I an opportunity to travel to places that have provided wonderful learning experiences.

Girls by Tulips
The girls by hundreds of tulips in Pella, Iowa.

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter G …is for Geography.  For several years, the girls have been doing an ABC journey around the world.  I picked a different country for them to learn about for each letter of the alphabet (with the exception of “X” which no country begins with…they learned about MeXico instead). 

Sophia in Kimono with Outstretched Arms
Sophia showing the back of a kimono.
The girls studying about Japan and enjoyed learning about the country.
The kimono is from my friend, Yoshiko, who lives in Osaka.

When we studied about Sweden, there were many local opportunities and historical sites which related to Swedish immigration and pioneers.  We used the Kirsten books (of the American Girl series) as a literature base, and supplementing it with hands-on activities in many different areas.

Olivia with Swedish Braided Bread She Made
Olivia learned to make braided bread;
and, in the process, learned how to braid.
She was proud how her bread turned out.

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter H … is for History. The curriculum I have been using for the past few years (Sonlight) has a wonderful history focus.  The “living books” (versus textbooks) that relate to history make the subject come alive, and have much more of a lasting impact on the girls. 

To supplement what we read, we also take field trips to museums and living history organizations. 

Obstacle Course at Fort Snelling
The girls pretending they are soldiers during WWII.
They are at a Homeschool Day event at  Fort Snelling.

The girls enjoy cooking, so sometimes history and cooking/home economics can be connected.

Making Homemade Peanut Butter
The girls making peanut butter after
learning about George Washington Carver.

Sophia with Fossil Sandwich
Sophia making a “fossil” sandwich
when she was learning about fossils.

We have read the entire American Girl series now which helped the girls learn about American history from the 1700s to 1970s.  After completing that series, we moved onto the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

Olivia took a class at the homeschool co-op that focused on the Little House series.  She was able to do her first play during the class.  Her role was “Christy Kennedy” in “On the Banks of Plum Creek” (a Laura Ingalls Wilder story).

The costume she’s wearing was made by a seamstress who I hired many years ago when I did a farm/art camp for kids. The seamstress created costumes for kids to wear that represented a variety of times in history (from the mid-1800s to 1970s).

Olivia Listening in Play
Olivia in her first play based on the book
“On the Banks of Plum Creek.”

ABCs of Homeschooling

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This week was a good one to do the Outdoor Hour Challenge’s Spring Series #2 Spring Weather Observation since there has been a variety of weather:  warm (in the 60s) and cold (in the 30s); rainy, snowy, and no precipitation; and windy and calm. 

As with other posts:

Bold Typeface – is from the Handbook of Nature Study website where the Outdoor Hour Challenges are found.
Italic Typeface – is used for quotes from The Handbook of Nature Study book.
Regular Typeface – reflects my words.

Inside Preparation Work:


Read pages 851-854 in the Handbook of Nature Study. This section is not exactly about weather, but it ties in nicely with some springtime observations of the sun and its path. You might like to construct the Shadow Stick (page 852 #13) and make observations over the next few weeks and months with your children.

We ended up not doing this because for the majority of the week the weather has not been sunny.  However, it does sound like it would be interesting to do, so we will revisit making a shadow stick during the summer when there are more sunny days.

At the very least, look up your sunrise and sunset times to calculate how much daylight you have now that it is spring in your area.

There’s an interesting website that will create calendars with different information that you want that relates to the times of sunrises, sunsets, moonrises, and moonsets as well as other items that you can select for a personal calendar.  We found it interesting to compare the length of daylight and how much it had increased over a period of one month (1 hour and 27 minutes for our town). 

Look in the section “The Relations of the Sun to the Earth” for this week’s reading.

Outdoor Hour Time:


Your Outdoor Hour time this week can be spent making observations about the weather. Enjoy whatever spring weather you are currently experiencing and spend 15 minutes outside looking at the sky, clouds, wind in the trees, dew on the grass, mud puddles after a rain, or whatever else you can experience in your part of the world.

Bailey (the pony) joined Sophia, Olivia, and I
on our nature walk this week.

A few things that we observed on our nature walk that didn’t relate to weather or clouds were: (1) a robin sitting on her nest; (2) male and female pussy willow plants growing near the pond; and (3) perennials growing in the garden.

A robin sitting in her nest in the oak tree.
I was able to see her build part of her nest
when I was on another nature walk.

The other thing we noticed is that the male pussy willows have moved from the catkin to the pollen stage, and now onto yet another stage. 

Male pussy willow that has been through the
catkin and pollen stages. It’s in a third stage now.

In willow trees, male catkins grow on one tree, and different-looking female catkins grow on another.

Female pussy willow. 
The plant has more delicate leaves and
doesn’t produce the catkins (as does the male pussy willow).

According to the Naturalist’s Almanac, “When bees first start looking for food in the spring, they head straight for the willow trees because willows are among the earliest pollen and nectar producers. The hungry bees gather some pollen from the male trees and then visit the female trees for nectar. The bees pollinate the willows unwittingly while they themselves are gathering food.”

After we were done with the walk, we took a quick look at the garden to see how the perennials are coming along.  The rhubarb has grown quite a bit in a few days.

The rhubarb is growing quickly. 

The raspberries are growing leaves (both the cultivated domestic kind as well as the wild kind), the strawberries are coming up, and the catnip had plenty of leaves so the girls could both pick some of it for the cats to enjoy.

Olivia picking catnip for the cats to enjoy (which they did!).

Suggested Observations


Have your children describe any clouds they see in the sky.

These clouds were moving in from the west.  The girls described the clouds as “white” and “fluffy.”  They noticed that the entire sky was not covered, and that the blue sky was showing (quite a change from the morning sky which was completely overcast, gray, and very dismal as it rained heavily for most of the day).

A bright sky and bright, white clouds
moving over the farm from the west.

Notice how hard the wind is blowing by how things are moving: leaves rustling, trees bending, etc.

There were little ripples in the pond, but the trees were not moving much.  There have been much stronger (and scarier) winds here…this one was a pleasant, mild one.

There was a slight breeze, but it was warm enough
so the girls quickly took off their jackets.  

Notice the wind’s direction. Where is it coming from?

The girls faced in the direction that the wind was blowing, and determined it was coming from the south. 

The girls and Bailey are walking towards the
south part of the pasture.  Notice the puddles…there’s
quite a bit of standing water after a day of heavy rain.

Describe the temperature of the air and/or look it up on a thermometer.

It was 54 degrees around 4:15-4:30 p.m.  It was comfortable weather to be outside and do a nature study.  However, it was about 11 degrees colder than yesterday afternoon at about the same time.

54 degrees means no coats and
almost “shorts weather” in Minnesota.

Notice any precipitation that you may have this week: sprinkles, rain, mist, sleet, snow, fog, hail.

There’s been quite a bit of precipitation this week: sprinkles, rain, sleet, and snow.  The pond has fluctuated a bit with its depth and size, but seems to be of some depth which is nice.  There were two ducks swimming in the pond in the late-afternoon.  This is a special treat because the pond usually isn’t that deep for waterfowl to swim in – even at this time of the year.

The girls standing in one of the many puddles in the pasture. 
The water in the puddles is quite murky. It may be because
the grass hasn’t grown in much yet and
there’s quite a bit of dirt showing still.


As we were exploring the pond area, a sudden movement on the ground startled us.  We looked down to spot a frog.  It let us look at it for a rather long time before hopping off to the southwest pasture.

Northern Leopard Frog by the pond in pasture.

We were surprised at how large this frog is – many of the ones that we see here are rather small (an inch or two in length).  They can grow to be 2″-3.5″.

According to the Minnesota DNR site, “The leopard frog is called that because it is spotted, like a leopard. This was once the most widespread frog species in North America. But since the 1960s, its population here and throughout the United States has declined.”

The DNR site continues, “Minnesota’s leopard frog has been on a steady decline since the 1960s. Red-leg disease, pollution, pesticides and the loss of wetlands and other habitat are the main reasons. Leopard frogs are harvested for bait and for use in biology laboratories.”

If you made a Shadow Stick, make sure you spend one day marking the board every half hour from 9 AM to 3 PM. This experiment will need to be repeated again in June, September, and December if possible. (see page 852 #13)

We didn’t make a shadow stick because almost every day this week it seems like it has been either raining, sleeting, or a raining/snowing combination. We will make one to use in June, September, December, and March.

Follow-Up Activity:


Be sure to complete your Seasonal Weather notebook page. If you completed previous weather notebook pages, pull those out and compare the scenes you recorded in Autumn and/or Winter. Note that your days should be getting longer and any other differences you can find between the observations made in the past and now.

The girls and I each did an entry in our nature journals.  In addition to what is shown below, each journal will include at least a couple of photographs from today’s nature study to add a different visual element to the entry as well as bring back memories of the time spent outside together learning about nature.

Olivia’s nature journal.
Sophia’s nature journal.

Sophia also did a second page in her journal listing some of the things she saw and heard during her time outside. 

Sophia’s list of things she saw and heard.

Some of the 26 items on her list included: green grass, mushrooms, moss, a bird house, a baby pine tree,bird calls, the dogs, the sun, and chimes. 

My journal entry.

Extra Information on Clouds


If you observed any clouds, you might like to download this lesson plan and cloud identifier activity for your children. This is a handy tool to use in cloud identification.

A few minutes before we started to head indoors,
the sun began to shine and try to move from behind the clouds.
Another view of the clouds – a bit more
to the northwest than the previous picture.

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For the 14th week of the 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, I’m reading a book aloud to the girls called Mr. Revere and I by Robert Lawson.  The short description on the cover says, “Being an account of certain episodes in the career of Paul Revere, Esq., as revealed by his horse.” 

The back of the book describes Mr. Revere and I:  “Paul Revere didn’t make his famous midnight ride alone. Meet a patriot unlike any other: Scheherazade, the mare who doesn’t mind mentioning she was once the fastest and most admired horse in the King’s army. But on arrival in America, ‘Sherry’ is quickly let down by her British rider and recruited by Sam Adams to join the Sons of Liberty.

“Before long, she finds herself teamed with Raul Revere to play a key-if unnoticed-role in the American Revolution. Full of wit and wisdom, this beloved classic presents an unforgettable view to the birth of a nation-straight from the horse’s mouth!”

Mr. Revere and I provides a deeper look at Paul Revere – including his skills and personal life.  He is noted for his work as a silversmith and being a good family man…not for his horsemanship.  He sacrificed many basic physical comforts and much of his homelife to help the Sons of Liberty; and was the courier to other colonies on political missions.

Lawson isn’t attempting to be meticulously accurate in Mr. Revere and I.  His aim is to write an entertaining story that will bring a human historical figure to life. Aimed at young readers (though equally enjoyed by adults), Mr. Revere and I is an easy and enjoyable introduction to American studies.

One of the early parts of the book that stood out was the description of the unsanitary long-distance transportation of horses via boat over the ocean which was a surprise to the girls and me.

“We were quartered in the hold of an extremely old and leaky vessel misnamed the Glorious. There was no light and less air. Our hay was moldy, the grain mildewed and weevily, the water unspeakable. Rats were everywhere; they ate the food from under our very noses, they nibbled at our hoofs, they made sleep impossible. Our stalls were never cleaned, and of course currying and brushing were unheard-of.

“Our grooms occupied the deck above us and a worse lot could scarce be imagined. They had been plucked from the gaols and prisons to fill out our ranks and fought and caroused unceasingly. Ajax and I were fortunate, for the thug assigned to us had been in prison for horse stealing, so at least he knew something of horses, and we fared a bit better than our less lucky companions.”

This entire section of the book about the ocean transport of animals, was quite informative and certainly an aspect of which very little is written. Mr. Revere and I provides a memorable – and sobering – perspective about how animals were treated and the conditions that they had to endure on their journey to the New World. 

I am in the middle of reading the book to Sophia and Oliva and should have it done by the end of the week.  However, if the beginning of the book is any indication of our interest in it, I may be done reading it in a few days.  It is a book worth reading – even as an adult…particularly if the book isn’t one that was required reading during your elementary school years.

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This week I took a departure from reading historical fiction and autobiographies as part of the 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge to read a book that is relevant to what is currently happening in my life.  It is called A Special Mother – Getting Through the Early Days of  Child’s Diagnosis of Learning Disabilities and Related Disorders

This book, written by Anne Ford, presents a guide for mothers whose child is diagnosed with a Learning Disability (LD). The book is written in a conversational tone and there are many sections that feel like the reader is joining a group of women (all of whom have a child with a LD).

The book begins by discussing mothers’ intituition and their feelings that “something’s not quite right with my child.”  A Special Mother continues through the stages of denying that anything is seriously wrong, the eventual diagnosis, and advocacy.

For me, I could identify with many of the mothers who shared their experiences with knowing something wasn’t quite right with her child, but not being able to pinpoint the cause.  Olivia, who was adopted as a ten-month old infant from China, was diagnosed with a host of medical problems and developmental delays when she had her initial evaluation at the University of Minnesota’s International Clinic. (The referral said she was a healthy baby with no medical problems.)

By the age of three years old, at my request, she was evaluated by several teachers and therapists in the local school district who helped identified some special needs and a plan for reaching developmental, cognitive, and speech goals. 

For about two years, she worked with this team of professionals who provided guidance and therapy to help her reach her goals in combination with therapy and learning activities that they asked that I would do at home with Olivia.

Olivia Playing with Oodles of Ooze
Olivia playing with Oodles of Ooze
that I made for her.  It was meant to
strengthen her hands and
get her comfortable with different textures.

Concurrently, Olivia was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (a.k.a. Sensory Integration Dysfunction) and went through an intense ten-day, full-day program at Special Children Center in Hudson, Wisconsin.  She had many follow-up sessions to help address on-going issues that were too great for the district to handle.

Olivia on Blackie
Olivia doing therapeutic horseback riding in 2007.
She was 4 years old in this picture.

Olivia also began therapeutic horseback riding at age three through Courage Riders and later participated in River Valley Riders’ program as well.  These two programs provided physical therapy, occupational therapy, cognitive therapy, speech therapy, and body/muscle strengthening…not to mention a love for horses and horseback riding. 

When she first began riding, she could barely sit up straight (she was hypotonic which basically means she had no muscle tone in her hips or upper arms/shoulder area) and couldn’t put more than one word together. Her language was at a standstill for a long time, and most of it was being done through American Sign Language. 

Within the first six-week session of therapeutic horseback riding, she put her first two words together!  It was huge breakthrough.  Now, five years later she can sit straight up on a horse and can compose multi-word sentences.  In fact, she is almost always talking.  She even still remembers some of the ASL signs she used as a toddler and young child. 

Exercising While Riding
Olivia exercising while horseback riding

For the past five years (from age 3-8 years old), Olivia has been seeing an opthamologist on a quarterly basis since she is legally blind in both eyes (without glasses).  Her left eye is substantially worse than her right eye, so it was recommended that she wear a patch on her right eye so that her brain would be forced to use her left eye.  In this way, it would strengthen her vision and prevent a complete loss of vision in her weaker eye. 

She also was receiving nightly medicine in her eyes so her lashes wouldn’t scratch her corneas.  About eight months ago, her lashes began moving away from her corneas and no longer were scratching them.  This medicine has been stopped which has been nice.

Olivia Sewing a Wool Felt Pencil Case
I had Olivia work on a variety of projects while she wore
her patch so it would even further help use the eye.
Here she is doing embroidery and
making a wool felt pencil case

Which brings her to second grade where I was noticing persistent challenges with speech/communication issues.  So, in Fall 2010, I approached the school district and requested an evaluation of her speech skills.  She qualified for services and has been going to speech therapy once a week since November 2010. 

Each week, her speech therapist (Laurie) gives Olivia several books to read at home.  She started at a very basic level since I had intentionally waited to have her begin reading. (I was following the Waldorf philosophy in terms of reading as I had done with my older daughter, Sophia who waited until the end of first grade/beginning of 2nd grade to read. She is now in 4th grade and reads at the late-5th grade level and has a comprehension level of an early-7th grader.)

Homeschooling Outside
Olivia trying her best with Explore the Code
part of her reading/language arts lessons

At this point, I wasn’t noticing anything much different from Sophia’s start in reading.  Reading was difficult for both of them, but they forged ahead with their reading assignments.  However, within a few weeks, Olivia’s ability to recall simple words that she read in previous weeks was not strong.  She would get highly frustrated with reading – almost to the point of tears.  This was very unlike Sophia’s reading experience.  I expressed concern to Laurie.

Laurie and I agreed to wait a bit longer to see if reading became any easier for Olivia.  It did not.  At that time, I requested testing for both reading and math (since she must use manipulatives in order to arrive at the right answer). 

I met with a group of eight women who made up the special education team/school administration.  I had to make a presentation about Olivia’s skills, concerns I had, and provide samples of her work. 

Olivia Doing Math with Shells
Olivia doing math with manipulatives.
She’s using shells on this day, but also uses sticks,
rocks, and other natural items.

After reviewing the materials and listening to my concerns, the team decided to move forward with testing while doing concurrent at-home interventions and testing for six weeks.  Although they didn’t anticipate the interventions/testing to improve during the six weeks, it is a necessary step in the paperwork they need to file with the state.

Olivia now has gone through a battery of tests by a special education teacher, an occupational therapist, speech therapist, and psychologist.  I’ve completed quite a few questionnaires and checklists that provide a different view of Olivia (from both a parent and teacher perspective). 

At this stage, it looks like she will qualify to receive services under the “learning disability” label.  I’ll know more specifically what her challenges are next week, but at this stage I do know that one thing she is definitely struggling with is short-term auditory memory and a bit of perceptual reasoning.  The tests that the different professionals did all will reveal more specific problems and areas with which she will need assistance.

So, going back to the book I read this week, A Special Mother, it was with interest that I read about the evaluation/assessment process, the written report, evalutation meeting, and IEP (Individualized Education Program).  The latter three items are forthcoming during the first two weeks of April, so it was valuable to get an overview of what to expect, read about a child’s educational rights, and see the wealth of resources available for parents of children with LD, autism, and other developmental learning disorders. 

Even though I’ve been through the process when Olivia was much younger, it is a bit different now that she’s moved from the “developmental delays” label and into the “learning disabilities” label.  The former, to me, is more transitory and something that can be worked through whereas the latter is, as it notes in A Special Mother, “…a neurological disorder.

“In other words, it results from a difference in the way a person’s brain is ‘wired.’ A learning disability means that a person of at least average intelligence will have difficulty acquiring basic academic skills that are essential for success at school and for coping with life in general.”

With more than three million children in the United States having been diagnosed with a learning disability, having books and resources for parents is invaluable.  It’s even more meaningful when the book was written by a parent whose child has a LD.  In Anne Ford’s case, her daughter Allegra has severe learning disabilities; and it provided the motivation to become an advocate for children with LD.

Reading about the experiences of Anne – as well as many other mothers profiled in the book – helps mothers realize that they are not alone…and that they can help their child to thrive.  I would highly recommend this book.

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