Our 5th Grade Curriculum Choices for the 2019-2020 Homeschool Year

As relaxed-ish homeschoolers, we still follow the general guidelines of workbooks and curricula that we have loved in the past, but we are no longer feeling beholden to checking every box by a certain point in the year or using every aspect of something if it doesn’t work well for our needs as a family on the spectrum. We try to touch on each subject every day that we do school, but if things are taking a little longer or we’re feeling a little burned out, we just start where we left off the following day to ensure we are not missing any particular subject repeatedly. My main goal with subjects like history, Bible, literature, and science is exposure to the ideas, while I prioritize daily practice in small chunks of math and language arts concepts so we don’t lose new skills from the lack of repetition. With that in mind, here is what we are using going into the fall semester of Anya’s 5th grade year:

Sonlight Core E (American History Year 2 of 2):
We completed reading the materials up to the beginning of WWII last year, so that is where we will be picking up this year.*

Sonlight Core F (Eastern Hemisphere):
Once we complete Core E, we will be moving on to Core F, probably after the Holidays. We’ll likely make it through a study of the East Asian countries in the program before breaking for summer.*

Sonlight Core E (Starting Strong Series):
We completed two of the three studies included in the collection provided by Sonlight for this Core. We will begin the fall semester with the final book.**

Sonlight Core F (Case for Kids Series):
We will move right into Case for a Creator for the rest of the fall semester, with plans to continue into Case for Christ and Case for Faith in the spring.**

Sonlight Core E (American History Year 2 of 2):
We will be reading through the remaining books that accompany the WWII materials, as well as a few just for fun titles included in Sonlight’s program. We also added the rest of the Logan family saga to our Audible list rather than only reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry on its own.***

Sonlight Core F (Eastern Hemisphere):
As with history, we will read through the titles that correlate to the East Asian nations for our spring semester literature and see where things go from there. Living in Japan means we will probably spend a bit more time on this portion of the Core.

Sonlight Science E (Electricity, Magnetism, & Astronomy):
We only have a couple of titles left from this Core to finish up during the fall semester, along with about half of the experiments. Interests in astrology and mythology were spurred by the astronomy materials last semester, so we’ll be exploring that a bit on our own, as well.*

Sonlight Science F (Health, Medicine, & Anatomy):
We’ll move into these materials as we finish up Science E. I decided to swap out the nutrition-related experiment book for a DK book about nutrition that we will read through together instead. Involved experiments are not realistic for us, and they would just end up left undone.*

Teaching Textbooks (Math 5 and Math 6):
We switched from Saxon Math to TT after the Holidays last year, and it has gone very well. She has finished over half of the program and will keep working through the lessons this semester, moving on to the next level once completed.

Life of Fred (Elementary Series):
She just began using this series when we switched to TT, and it has been a lot of fun! She’ll continue reading through them at her own pace, beginning with Book D for this semester. Applying math to real life was alluding her, and this has helped tremendously.

Free, timed math fact practice. Finishing up multiplication this semester and moving on to division facts soon.

Language Arts
Sonlight Core E Readers:
She still had a couple of just-for-fun titles left from Core E that she began reading through over the summer, and there weren’t really any historical readers that needed to be held off for the WWII portion of the Core, so she has already almost finished these materials a few weeks into the semester. We added in additional novels based on her interests instead, such as the Pandora series and fairytale sagas by E.D. Baker.

Sonlight Core F Readers:
As with history, she will begin reading the novels that correlate to East Asian studies when we begin working on Core F materials as a whole, probably after the Holidays.

Handwriting Without Tears (4th and 5th Grade):
She has already almost completed the last few pages of the 4th-grade cursive workbook from last year and will now be moving into the 5th-grade cursive workbook for the rest of the fall semester. She plans to then complete the print review workbook afterward for extra practice because dysgraphia has made writing neatly a struggle. We only use the workbooks, which she does independently.

Easy Grammar (Grade 4 and Grade 5):
A couple of pages of this a day keeps her up to speed with grammar mechanics and identifying parts of speech. She had a few weeks of Grade 4 to finish up this month but has now begun Grade 5. She does this independently and checks her own work to identify mistakes.

Wordly Wise Vocabulary (Book 4 and Book 5):
She had about three lessons left of Book 4 at the beginning of this semester, so she will be completing what is still left of those before moving on to Book 5 in a couple of weeks. We only use the workbooks, which she does independently.

All About Spelling (Level 5):
She is about halfway through this level. We will continue on to the next levels as she is ready, as the program is designed.

Essentials in Writing (Level 4):
I had been feeling for a while that composition was a weak point in our homeschooling. We tried a lot of different things before finally trying this program about halfway through the spring semester last year. I was okay starting her out in Level 4 because I felt she needed the extra instruction and practice. We’ll move on to the next level as she completes this one, whenever that ends up being. She enjoys the online teacher videos and fun design of the accompanying workbook.

Keyboarding Without Tears (5th Grade):
She completed all of the 4th-grade program last year, so we began the new school year with the 5th-grade level. She will be sad to complete this final year of keyboarding using these materials, as it has been a source of a lot of random knowledge that correlated to other things she’d learned and a fun part of her school day because of the game-like presentation.

Piano Lessons:
Once weekly piano lessons with an instructor, with daily practice and recitals twice a year. This will be her seventh year of piano, and she still loves it.

Ballet Classes:
She is cutting back to just two ballet classes at the dance studio each week this semester, as adding in jazz, tap, and contemporary last year ended up being very stressful for her. She would never admit it, but having almost every weekday be just school, dance, sleep, repeat was very draining for her. She is doing much better with more free time after school. She will still have a recital at the end of each semester. This will also be her seventh year of ballet.

We have been attempting a formal art curriculum every year we have homeschooled and never made it very far. It would be the first thing to go when a day got overwhelming. This semester I have instead opted to make sketchbooks, art supplies, how-to-draw books, etc. more accessible for every-day use, and she is enjoying being able to pursue art in the direction she so chooses (currently anime and fairytale illustrations).

Girl Scouts:
She has been in Scouts since kindergarten and will be continuing as a second-year Junior this year. We are careful not to overdo it by opting out of events that don’t jive with our internal clocks or sensory needs when we feel it is reasonable to do so. She saves her energy for attending overnight camp at the end of the year, as it is something that is important to her.

*We read the books provided by Sonlight, but we do not use any other part of the IG or extra activities. It was more than we could realistically handle. Instead, we use the internet links from any Usborne books in the program for a fun way to make the information more engaging for Anya, whose interest in history and science is limited only to things that relate to her other existing special interests. I have been relying only on the schedule from Sonlight, but moving forward, I won’t be purchasing an IG at all. We will instead work our way through the books that we would like to use from the program at our own pace in the order we choose, eliminating some cost and books that we have learned from experience won’t be a good fit.

**We do not do any of the extra scripture reading or memorization scheduled by Sonlight. We simply do the devotionals and related reading together, otherwise discussing Biblical topics as they come up naturally in our household. We often read other Bible story materials together and have lots of such resources available all over the house.

***We divide literature up between Audible in the car and read-alouds on the couch, and we like to add in sequels and prequels to books listed by Sonlight every chance we get, which extends the time needed to finish a Core’s worth of reading. We don’t do discussion questions or activities from the IG; we just discuss naturally as we read and things come up in the day-to-day that relate to the material.

1 in 4

I should have had a baby this week. Our family should’ve grown by one to reach a grand total of six. I should’ve been watching Anya and Marie fawning over a new brother or sister, while Benjamin’s adorable fascination with babies overwhelmed us all with an overload of cute. He would be the sweetest, gentlest of big brothers. And I hope someday he gets to be one; but, unfortunately, that day isn’t today.

Today, I’m grieving the loss of a child I never held or named. One that existed only for a moment in my mind’s eye. The pregnancy was unplanned, but I fell in love the second that pink line appeared. I wasn’t ready for another baby, it’s true…but during the twelve or so hours between that positive test and the first signs of miscarriage, I convinced myself otherwise. I got excited. I daydreamed. I hoped. And then, as quickly as it arrived, that hope vanished.

I spent several weeks in a pretty dark depression, one I posted about online here and there without revealing the reason. I wasn’t ready to share just yet. I usually share everything, but this was my first loss. Every other pregnancy has ended in a beautiful baby placed in my arms and sent home with me to grow into the three amazing children that we already have. I never once for a moment believed that this one would be any different…until it was. It happened in November, just before the Holidays, which I’m sure didn’t help matters.

It still feels surreal that I was pregnant at all, while at the same time it seems impossible that the pregnancy was so short-lived. The kids don’t know; it wouldn’t be right to tell them and put them through this grief, so as parents we are mourning alone. There aren’t any more babies in the cards for us right now; the housing situation and lackluster medical care options available to us here in Okinawa just aren’t something I want to deal with through another pregnancy. My last overseas birth resulted in an intense postpartum depression that kickstarted years of autistic burnout from which I’m still not entirely recovered. My health is an issue, too, and I need to figure out what is going on there before I add anything else to the mix.

But, logic doesn’t sway the longing I feel for another baby or the intense reaction to the loss of this child we weren’t expecting. The kids are always asking when they will get another sibling; they have baby fever worse than I do, it seems. It fills me with joy to know that the love they have for one another is so strong and sure, that the idea of adding another member to their bond is a given to them. There is no fear or jealousy, just…love. And a desire to nurture and care for one another that seems innate to their precious little personalities. Knowing how much it would add to their lives for this child to have become reality makes it that much more difficult for me to process and bear.

I know it’s not the thing I should want right now; that it makes absolutely no sense to even consider it until I am healthier and preferably when we are no longer stationed overseas. I think it scares me a bit to know I’ll be in my mid-30’s by then, and considering the alphabet soup of diagnoses already present in our family that rolling those dice becomes exponentially riskier by then. It makes me feel like a clock is ticking, but life circumstances dictate that I must wait and potentially miss the opportunity to have another child entirely.

I try to convince myself to be content. I have three amazing kids; I need to be okay with this being it for me. They need to be enough. And they are. I had already accepted that three might be all we can handle for a multitude of reasons…but then that test turned positive, and it just completely wrecked all of the delicate scaffolding built through the mental gymnastics of putting the tangible realities ahead of my emotional desires.

I’ve been slowly rebuilding it, knowing that the best thing I can do is concentrate on myself and providing the best possible childhood for Anya, Marie, and Benjamin right now. They are here and need their mother; that keeps me going. I know I am blessed to have never experienced the loss of a pregnancy before now. I know the statistics. But that doesn’t dull the pain of knowing what could have been.

How I Finally Told My Daughter About Our Shared Autism Diagnosis And Why I Wish I Hadn’t Waited

While I have been fairly certain of our family’s various neurodivergences for quite some time, only my eldest daughter Anya and I each have an official diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. We were both diagnosed by the same psychologist upon our first visit to his office about three years ago, and although over the course of our sessions there, he verbally confirmed my suspicions concerning my younger two children, they weren’t technically his patients to diagnose.

Earlier this year, I finally set myself to the task of jumping through the hoops necessary to get an official diagnosis of ADHD for my middle daughter Marie and Autism for my son Ben, the resident baby of the family. Since ADHD varies a bit from my own atypical brain wiring, I’ve been eagerly reading and researching how this neurotype could present in my middle child’s behavior, which led to the realization that she is likely dyslexic, as well. Being homeschoolers, this immediately helped our recent struggles with teaching her to read with the same materials that my eldest had breezed through make sense, and I set out to discover what curriculum might be a better fit.

Honestly, that is another entire story, but it is relevant here because my eldest was listening (she is ALWAYS listening) as I talked over our options with my husband and called my mother to talk incessantly about weighing the pros and cons of different materials. (I mean, isn’t that how you process picking out your curricula?) Finally, a couple of months ago Anya started asking questions about her sister’s differing needs, and I explained to her that dyslexia means that Marie’s brain works a little differently when it comes to processing information and experiencing the world; that meant we’d have to approach things a little differently for her. Without skipping a beat, Anya said, “I know I’m not dyslexic because reading is SO easy for me, but…” Then she asked, point blank, “Do I have something else like that?” as her eyes searched my face longingly for an answer that might explain how she was feeling.

Now, I had known the time was coming for us to have this discussion. Her psychologist had recommended that we not tell her about her diagnosis until she was around 10; it was his experience that kids any younger used it as an excuse for misbehavior. At the time, I listened because this was all new to us. In retrospect, however, I feel quite differently. (More on that in a moment.) Anywho, I had been preparing over the past few months as I sensed her getting curious and, frankly, a bit confused about how she was being interpreted by others. I had a couple of books set aside, one a picture book from the perspective of a young girl with Asperger’s and another a collection of anecdotes from girls on the spectrum and their parents, both discussing the challenges and celebrating the advantages of life as an Autistic female. I wasn’t sure how I would broach the subject, but I knew I would just handle it naturally as I have any other question Anya has had about more mature subjects over the years.

The time had come a bit early, as Anya turned 9 last fall, but I didn’t let the silence linger after her pointed question; instead, I went straight to my room for the books, and then we sat on my bed as I explained:

  • You and Mommy both have something in common that makes us different from many other people. We are Autistic. That means our brains work differently from what is considered “normal” in society.
  • Emotions can be hard and feel really big to us. That’s why it’s difficult to hold in excitement, anger, or sadness. It’s also why things that scare you feel so overwhelming and might cause you to panic.
  • Our senses are more sensitive. We smell, taste, hear, feel, and see everything stronger and more vividly, which can cause us to get overstimulated and either shut down or have a meltdown.
  • Even though some of these things are harder for us, some things are easier for us. We each have gifts that we wouldn’t have without Asperger’s. Like, how we both read so quickly and understand complicated vocabulary, and how you remember the tiniest of details from a long time ago, sometimes even what day of the week something happened.
  • The things that we like become things that we love with every fiber of our being, and we put a lot of energy into those things to know a lot about them or be better at them than we might otherwise.
  • All of this explains why you might feel different from your friends; why sometimes the things they do don’t make sense to you, and why other times they don’t understand why you make certain choices or behave in certain ways.
  • None of this means there is anything wrong with us. We just have a different brain, and there are lots of other people out there just like us. Autism is just a different way of thinking and being, and it is perfectly okay to be the way that we are.
  • We should still do our best to work on ourselves when we do things that could be harmful to ourselves or others; everyone should. But, we don’t have to do everything the same way as everyone else.
  • Doing things our own way, though, will sometimes cause people to be mean or tell us we’re doing something wrong. It’s going to take time for the world to see Autism the way we do, and until then you just have to be brave and strong and stand up for what you need and what you know is right.
  • Don’t let other people make you feel like you are worth any less than them, and don’t ever be afraid to be who you are. You have so much to offer the world because of the way your brain works. Be proud of that.

Then, I handed her the books and told her I’d been saving them for this day. She smiled and shimmied into a comfy spot on the bed with excitement as she opened the picture book and began to read. Every few seconds she exclaimed, “Oh, that is SO me,” and “That is DEFINITELY me,” as she read about the experiences of the little Autistic girl in the book navigating her day. When she was done, she looked at me, beaming with pride. I told her she could ask me questions any time she needed to, and I told her exactly what her psychologist had said that had influenced our decision not to disclose her diagnosis to her until now. She told me she understands but she is happy to know now and proud that we are the same.

In the weeks since, our days have been filled with realizations of, “Oh, that’s why I do THAT!” and questions like “Mommy, is this because I’m Autistic?” I answer her honestly, helping her figure out her newfound identity, one I’ve embraced for myself over the past three years. And as these wonderful, in-depth conversations fill the moments between homeschool work and ballet classes, I’ve made my own new realization: I never should have kept this part of her life from her, this core piece of who she is. We would have still needed to have a more thorough, serious conversation at some point, but I wish I hadn’t avoided mentioning it in the day-to-day.

I wish I had kept the topic of Autism and how our lives are shaped by being on the spectrum sprinkled into normal conversations and events as we’ve done over the past month or so. The difference in our connection as a family and in Anya’s behavior and self-awareness has been absolutely amazing. She was already doing phenomenally with trying new things and talking herself through difficult scenarios after attending therapy for the past few years to help her cope with changes and process emotions, but this just gave her the missing information she needed to understand why that was even necessary. Having that knowledge has made a world of difference in her anxiety and helped her to be much more mindful and cooperative at home. (Not that she was super rebellious before, but now and again we could butt heads and dig our heels in against each other on something.)

She sees the world the same way she always has, but it’s like the color has been turned up a notch in the best possible way. I’m loving the renewed atmosphere of our home and confidence I see in both of us as we take on the world together. She is able to help me determine when certain assignments or curricula aren’t fitting her needs and why, and that is SO much less frustrating than me guessing based on my own assumptions. Our school days are going so beautifully now that she feels like she has a say and can understand why we need to change up things just here and there, such as when her coexisting dysgraphia makes writing too much by hand difficult. She is just…thriving in a whole new way.

The real question is, I suppose, why did I, a proud Autistic woman fighting for acceptance and the normalization of neurodiversity, allow the doubt of others not on the spectrum to creep into my psyche and inform when I would talk about Autism more openly in my own home? Honestly, I’m still figuring this all out for myself. Years of being told you aren’t good enough as a person does a number on your self-confidence. You start to believe the naysayers and doubt your own judgment. These last few years I’ve been slowly pulling myself out of that hole, but it hasn’t been easy or perfect.

Knowing who I really am has made all the difference in my own self-perception and abilities, and I should have known it would do the same for my daughter. After all, she is a piece of me, too, and I a part of her. I will never make the mistake of hiding any part of what makes myself or each of my children uniquely themselves again. It’s too important; for them and for the change we want to be and see in the world that currently misunderstands so much about us. We are not ashamed. We are here, and we are not broken. We will not hide any longer. We are Autistic, and we are proud. When you know better, you do better, and the world has a lot of learning to do.

You can find the books I gave my daughter here and here.

April is Autism Acceptance Month. Learn more here.

Adulting Through Autistic Burnout

Autistic Burnout: Identifying and Coping with it as an Autistic Adult
Okay, so everyone gets tired and overwhelmed sometimes, right? We find ourselves overburdened by the most typical of tasks, adding up over time and combining with the unexpected to thwart the best laid plans. I can’t really speak for anyone else dealing with the spinning of plates necessary as a wife and mother in today’s society, but I would assume I don’t have a monopoly on exhaustion based on my Facebook newsfeed. Even so, I have the added bonus of dealing with something called Autistic Burnout. The symptoms often mimic or coincide with depression. There have been several great articles written on the subject by other adults on the spectrum, but I personally experience these symptoms when in a period of Burnout.

  • Heightened anxiety
  • Feeling more and more lethargic
  • Increased sensitivity to sensory triggers
  • Panic and meltdowns over the smallest mishap
  • Withdrawing verbally and emotionally from social relationships
  • Shutting down completely for periods of time, desiring only to sleep and exist
  • Inability to regulate emotions and crying easily and frequently
  • Forgetfulness and brain fog due to a slowdown in thought processes
  • Decreased motivation and difficulty getting your body or mind to do anything
  • Feeling overwhelmed and extremely guilty for not keeping up with things
  • Drastically worsened Executive Dysfunction

How does it happen? Well, typically it comes after extended periods of time wherein I push myself too hard to constantly achieve a level of productivity that isn’t sustainable while also masking in social situations without taking any time for self care to recharge and process. Basically I try to force myself into the proverbial round neurotypical hole as a square Autistic peg, genetics and psychology be darned. Spoiler alert: reality doesn’t care about my delusions of grandeur.

Burnout can last for days, months, or years. Looking back over my childhood through adolescence and early adulthood, I realize there were several times I remained home from school or work literally sick from exhaustion. An overachiever by nature, I would go and go until there was nothing left to give, and then I would collapse into sleep for anywhere from one day to several until I felt decent enough to get back up and out there accomplishing the things that needed doing.

A little over four years ago, I hit a major brick wall of Burnout after the birth of my middle child. It was triggered by an episode of Postpartum Depression (Or maybe the other way around? Chicken? Egg? Does it even matter?! I dunno. And I digress.) that just would not quit. Around the time my daughter turned one, we moved back to the United States from our duty station in Japan, a place I loved and did not want to leave. I powered through the overseas move, a surprise third pregnancy, and the ridiculous hours and emotional strain of my husband’s temporary job as a recruiter in our new location. Then my daughters were diagnosed with Celiac Disease, and the days of grabbing takeout or frozen dinners to get by were over; they were replaced with the need to cook mostly from scratch for all of their meals to avoid contamination and get their systems clean. With every passing day, my symptoms grew worse and worse.

Two years ago, in the midst of all this, I realized I was on the path to a shutdown of epic proportions. My eldest daughter’s homeschooling was falling miserably behind while I cared less and less about managing the household needs. I was afraid the day would come when I wouldn’t even get out of bed to feed my crying infant son, and with my husband’s work demands, there’d be no one to care for the three children depending on me to survive. I ended up in my psychologist’s office being officially diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and required to attend therapy sessions twice a week to stop the emotional hemorrhaging until I could breathe and get my bearings.

I did a lot of work in those sessions, which continued into once a week appointments over the course of that first year. With a lot of introspection, realizations, and acquiring of tools needed to manage a home and family with my unique circumstances, I eventually reached a level of mental health never before achieved in my life. I came out the other side stronger, wiser, and aware of my needs as an Autistic woman. But guess what? The Burnout still isn’t completely over. I’m still pulling myself out of that hole, one step at a time, being careful not to do anything that might send me flailing back into the worst of it.

Unfortunately, at least in my case, adulting does not stop just because I’m experiencing Burnout. As a military spouse, there is no calvary coming. Thankfully, we are no longer on recruiting duty and were able to move back to Japan for our next station, where we currently plan to live for the next three years. Even so, I have to able to manage the household and the needs of all of the children and myself no matter how I’m feeling because it just isn’t possible for my husband to drop everything and step in, especially if he’s in the midst of training or deployed. My kids can’t eat whatever is convenient because of their health, and I have to be an advocate for my children concerning not only their dietary needs but the spectrum needs of my oldest and youngest children as well as myself.

So how do I deal with the stress of the everyday needs of my family while pursuing my own goals and passions without losing it? I put into place a few boundaries and practices to keep me realistic but productive and healthy.

While you can’t set a clock by me necessarily, I try to maintain the same order of events in my day. We get up, make beds and prepare ourselves for the day, eat breakfast, and start independent homeschool work while the littles play and I get writing work done. After a couple of hours, we take a one hour lunch break. The kids get cartoons and playtime while I allow myself to watch an episode of one of my shows on my laptop with my headphones in and eat my lunch in relative peace. This break is imperative to keep me from feeling like I have spent my whole day spinning my wheels as a mother, teacher, and professional with no downtime.

After lunch I work with my prekindergartener while the older continues her independent work for about an hour, and then we do reading time together for an hour or two per our literature-based curriculum. Afterward, I get about an hour before dinner needs to get started that I currently use to finish up any work that might be weighing on me, whether related to writing or household management. Dinner, nighttime clean up, and bedtime routine for the kiddos follow, and then I take the evening after they are in bed to watch TV and/or spend time talking with my husband for a couple of hours.

The nightly recharge is a necessity. If I skip it more than one day in a row, I will start to shutdown and get overwhelmed. I know this, so I plan accordingly and force myself to stop and take my designated breaks unless I absolutely do not have a choice because of work or school deadlines that cannot be changed. Even if we have obligations outside of the house, at the very least my evening break is set in stone.

Along those same lines, I keep a color-coded calendar that divides out the days and weeks to help me keep track of extracurricular activities, nights out with friends or as a couple with my husband, appointments, etc. I block them out and remove homeschool time or office hours as necessary, being sure to make sure we have ample time the other days in our routine so I don’t feel like I’m falling behind. I keep the calendar on my phone and computer so I can check it regularly throughout the day.

Knowing that time for work or school or errands is already accounted for keeps me from feeling like I need to get to everything RIGHT NOW. I also try really hard to set aside Sunday as a family day for a fun outing or a chill day to sit around playing video games or watching movies to completely recharge before we roll into a new week of commitments.

Self Care
The breaks built into my days and week are a great way to make sure I just relax a few hours a week to avoid getting overwhelmed, but I also know I need time to pursue my own interests. Not only do I make an effort to join social groups within our military community (I’m an extroverted Autistic woman. We exist. Hi. Also, it sucks to have social anxiety while also craving social interaction.), but I also take dance and music classes. Though I do usually need a little extra downtime after either event because of the stress of being in a social environment, I love feeling like I have an identity that is my own in pursuing these experiences.

I build work hours into my day and will soon be adding grad school studies to the mix, both allowing me to achieve professional goals that are important to me. I also make it a priority to read almost every evening before bed, filling my literature nerd cup with something not required by my academic career. Productivity is fulfilling for me as long as I am careful to balance it with intermittent social and logistical detox time.

Delegating/Being Realistic
Realizing my own limitations was a major eye-opener for the way I run my life. I simply cannot do it all. I literally can’t. I may be smarter than your average bear, but I cannot function logistically on the same level as my neurotypical peers. Now, I lean on my husband for support to cook and run errands and take care of the kids any time that he can instead of letting my control freak nature make it impossible to ask for help. (And being a team in this way improves our communication and relationship, so bonus!) I hire babysitters to take over when I have an event or appointment that taking the kids to isn’t possible or would be a nightmare for my stress levels.

I also hire a cleaning service to come to our home every couple of weeks and handle the dirt. I can organize all day long and thrive in a neat, picked up home, but the actual cleaning was lost to the wayside a long time ago during this never-ending Burnout. Knowing it will just get done without being the one to worry about how and when makes a HUGE difference in my anxiety when I notice dust or mildew that makes me twitch.

I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew, so now I make myself stop and think about the reality of what I can accomplish in a day. I only require myself to do the minimum amount of writing for my job instead of taking on extra just because I can. I will only be taking one course at a time while acquiring my graduate degree.

I don’t focus as much on the self-imposed deadlines for our homeschooling and instead concentrate on trying to hit all of our subjects a little each day that we are at home to do school. If we don’t finish something, it is not the end of the world as long as the three R’s are the first thing we do in our routine so we are sure to maintain them at an appropriate grade level. Everything else is icing on the cake.

I don’t expect myself to go to bed or wake up early, as neither come naturally to me. I start my day around 9 and end it around midnight, with plenty of time to do the things I want and like in between. I know I need 9 hours of sleep regularly, with very sparing nights of 7-8 when I have no choice because of obligations outside the home. More than one night in a row toward the lower end, and I will not be able to function. I know my limits, and I try my best to plan around them.

It’s important to my A-type self to keep up with the daily necessities and pursue productive goals, but I also have to be mindful of the reality of my diagnosis and what that means for day-to-day expectations. Making sure I have plenty of time to recharge, giving myself downtime after social interactions, and depending on others to do what I just cannot reasonably get to during the day are coping skills I have adopted over the past year that have made it possible for me to feel fulfilled without being overwhelmed on a daily basis.

If you are on the spectrum or have people in your life that are, please be thoughtful about what overdoing it can lead to and that more help will be necessary dealing with everyday tasks than for those who are not on the spectrum. Burnout is real and can be catastrophic if not addressed. Take care of yourself, and be kind to those around you.

Our 4th Grade Math & Language Arts Curriculum Choices for the 2018-2019 Homeschool Year

4th Grade Math & Language Arts

Today I’m sharing our choices for math and language arts skills for the new school year as my oldest child enters 4th grade. Many of our selections are continuations of past years with a few changes to things that just weren’t working, as usual. Our homeschool curriculum and philosophy is ever-changing and fluid based on the needs of our lives at the time and those of my individual children.

I have learned in the past couple of years, to prioritize the three R’s, as it were, to avoid falling behind grade level when life gets crazy. Anything else learned is gravy on top, and as long as my children can read, write, and do age appropriate mathematics, they will have the tools and education to pursue knowledge in any other avenue they so desire at any point in their lives they so choose. As such we utilize workbook and textbook formats for the foundations of these subjects while preferring literature and experiences for everything else so that the kids are exposed to ideas and gaining knowledge without the stress of hitting benchmarks or enduring testing.

Saxon Math 5/4 with DIVE Instructor Videos and xtramath.org Fact Practice
We have been doing Saxon Math since the Kindergarten book, and though at times it is a lot of work and repetition, it works very well for retention for my daughter. I will admit, we often leave out memorization or practice exercises that feel excessive for an academically gifted child on the spectrum with a knack for recall because it doesn’t interfere with her understanding of the concepts for us to do so. If I ever notice something slipping, we add that practice back in until she is up to speed.

This year, we began the new to us format of the older grade books which at first made Anya a bit nervous. But, for the first time, she is able to do her math work completely independent from me until it’s time to check for mistakes. She watches the DIVE video while taking notes, then reads through the textbook lesson and works through the practice problems. Thus far she is doing very well and has yet to ask me a single question or miss a problem for anything other than a simple adding mistake. The provided graph paper worksheets for working out problems have also been very helpful to aide her in developing better habits of writing smaller and being more organized, which is a must in math. This is something that her fine motor skill struggles have made difficult for her in recent years as she needed to be able to line up columns and would sometimes end up with a confusing mess.

I do not utilize Saxon’s timed math fact sheets as there is already so much to do in a single lesson for Saxon that it is far too time consuming with a child who panics with timers put in place by me and gets distracted when writing things down on paper. Instead, I opted for timed practice online through the free program on xtramath.org, which has done wonders for her mental math skills in the two years we’ve used it for addition and subtraction. This year we’re implementing the full program to include multiplication and division, and she is whizzing through the addition section in review without difficulty. Doing it on the computer gives her a break from all the workbook writing, and takes the teacher role away from me for a subject that previously has been one that I experienced a lot of time lost during due to Anya dragging her feet just to get at me when she was in a mood. Having her independence has been a major boost in her morale concerning math, and a relief for me as someone who is not math gifted especially when it comes to teaching more than the basics to someone else.

Wordly Wise 3000 Book 4
Having completed our phonics work with Explode the Code last school year, we switched gears to Wordly Wise this year for vocabulary enrichment. You can begin it in earlier years, but our phonics curriculum did a pretty good job of introducing new words at those lower levels in addition to her reading so I decided to wait until vocabulary could replace an existing item in our homeschool daily agenda rather than add yet more to it. Anya is doing well working through this independently, and the reading comprehension sections in each lesson were something she needed practice with. Inferring answers that aren’t in black and white on the page is definitely not something she is strong in and tends to panic when she can’t find one written out, so she’s learning to trust her thought processes and not rely on answers placed directly within the page since they don’t always exist. I feel confident that this alone will make doing Wordly Wise worth it as the year progresses.

Handwriting Without Tears: Cursive Success & Building Writers Level E
Anya has been using the Handwriting Without Tears program since PreK and the cursive portion since the latter part of 2nd grade. She loves that she’s getting to learn cursive, and the workbooks have always been pretty simple for her to do independently. Learning Without Tears released their new Building Writers series this spring, and we bought the 3rd grade level book to test out before deciding to stick with it moving into this school year. Creative writing is a favorite subject for Anya so these books allow her to independently learn the aspects of writing for both research and creative purposes in small chunks without me having to put as much effort into coming up with and guiding assignments. We previously have used several different programs, most recently Sonlight’s integrated Creative Expression, for writing practice, but I struggled with the amount of parental involvement on top of our other Sonlight choices, which I’ll discuss more in a later post. This new series is meant to be used as a supplement, but there are blank template pages within each unit for the various styles of writing that I either let Anya choose or assign topics for in order to keep her writing experience well rounded. We’ll switch to something more rigorous when this program ends after 5th grade and focus more now on simple mechanics and the joy of writing so that she stays inspired to pursue it instead of getting frustrated.

Easy Grammar: Grade 4
As with writing, we have tried several different grammar programs over the years. I always felt like things didn’t review enough for retention, but didn’t want a program that added in writing since we covered that elsewhere. And most of them, again, still didn’t spiral back through concepts enough for me. Last year, about halfway through the year, we stopped using the Sonlight language arts grammar portion that was included in the Creative Expression mentioned above and switched to Easy Grammar. In a few minutes a day, Anya can work through grammar exercises that build on each other to get a better grasp of sentence structure. The difference in her understanding has been phenomenal. We worked double time to finish the book and begin book 4 for this school year, and it wasn’t hard at all for her to do 3 or 4 pages in a day if necessary. I am thrilled to finally feel a curriculum “click” for us in the realm of grammar after so many years of feeling like we just weren’t quite getting it.

All About Spelling: Level 4
All About Spelling is a progress at your own speed program that we flew through at first when we began it in 1st grade and then worked through painfully slowly in the following years due to life experiences when we prioritized other subjects. This year I think we’ll work through it pretty quickly since we’re in a better routine. I do have to be involved with this one to teach the lesson, but thanks to a release of their iPad app we no longer have to use a whiteboard with physical magnetic letter tiles which keeps things so much simpler. I love that this program teaches spelling phonetically which matched up to our previous phonics curriculum and allows Anya to understand the rules of English spelling rather than learn themed word sets. I wish we all learned spelling this way! Even though she can’t do it independently, we will continue using this for the long haul until we complete level 7.

Having most of our language arts and math materials be workbooks that require a few minutes a day each of practice that can mostly be done independently has made this year go so much more smoothly overall than when I had to be more involved with everything. It allows me to put more focus on the things I do with her while working with my younger ones or getting my own work done during her independent work. I definitely don’t feel spread as thinly as I did in the past.