SchoolHouseTeachers.com ~ Review

I you’ve been following my blog for awhile you might remember that I was on the 2013 Schoolhouse Review Crew. I skipped the 2014 year due to John’s cancer treatments but decided I missed the Crew and wanted to be back on the 2015 team. So here I am with my first review. I was given the opportunity to review a full year online membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com

It’s a fantastic site for online learning, full of resources for everyone not just homeschoolers. There are semester long courses or year long courses in a variety of different subjects. Jahnna has been begging to learn how to play the violin so I was excited when I saw that there was now a violin class available. I just might have to break down and get her one after she sees that. So far I’ve been able to direct her attention to other classes but I know she will see that one soon.

There is a variety of levels and interests some include

  • Nature/Outdoors (Elementary to High School)
  • Family Fitness (All age levels)
  • Home Economics (a 6 month course for ages 6 to 12)
  • Statistics (Middle to High School)

There are way too many to list all of them over 100 but a few more of my favorites are the Whole Foods cooking, ASL and guitar classes.

In the Families tab there is a Special Needs course that consists of 19 lessons and goes over topics like Adaptive Technology, Adaptive Learning Techniques, and Choosing Materials. I don’t homeschool Colby at this point because quite honestly I need the break when he goes to school. He makes it difficult to get shopping and chores done at times. Eventually I can see teaching him at home depending on how the transition to middle school goes in a very short year and a half. There is very useful information and links to other sites and programs in this course that will benefit special needs families even if you aren’t new to special needs. If you are new to having a child with special needs then this is even more helpful for you. It’s positively written with good encouragement and practical tips to school your child or even with after school enrichment.

Another feature I enjoy is the course checklists. It’s easy to get overwhelmed on a site with this much information. These sheets let you keep track of which classes your kids are using and how they are progressing in them. There are several different options available as there is no one right way to keep track of things. This is also useful if you live in a state that you have to show your progress to the school district.

Being a member of SchoolhouseTeachers.com also gives you discounts to other homeschool companies and products, lets you access past issues of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, access to Schoolhouse Expo recordings, Schoolhouse planners, bonus ebooks, and the AppleCore Record Keeping System.

If you’d like to follow SchoolhouseTeachers.com on Social Media here is that information”

Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SchoolhouseTeachers/

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/tosmag/schoolhouseteacherscom/

Jahnna really enjoys computer-based homeschool. It is a great resource for her to either supplement her learning with or in the case of the violin possibly start learning something completely new and different. For those of you out there that aren’t interested in a Christian homeschool curriculum this is probably not for you as this was developed by the The Old Schoolhouse company and has a religious tone to it. Personally, I enjoy that but I know that not everyone is looking for the same in a curriculum.

SchoolhouseTeachers.com is having a huge sale right now and through Christmas Day at 11:59pm ET.

40% off the monthly membership ($7.77/month) or 50% off the Yearly Membership ($64.26/year). Homeschool families who join at this rate will keep it forever as long as they maintain a continuous membership.

SchoolhouseTeachers.com Review

If you would like to see what others on the 2015 Review Crew have to say about the site head on over and check out their reviews.

SchoolhouseTeachers.com Review
Crew Disclaimer

STL Ocarina ~ Review

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I recently received a Spider-Man Ocarina to review. I hadn’t heard about them before so when I was approached to review one I went to their website to learn more.  Before I get to that, here’s a little more about the company for some background.

“STL Ocarina was established in 2005 to help revive interest in the art of ocarina playing. An outgrowth of the St. Louis School of Music, the company produces ocarinas for all ages and skill levels, from colorful kids’ models shaped like fish, whales and dolphins starting at $10 to professional models starting under $100 and made of Purple Clay, a rare natural mineral found only in the region of Yixing, China. The company’s ocarinas have been used in performances by major symphony orchestras including the New World Symphony, the Atlanta Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.”

STL Ocarina makes a pretty amazing product! Here are some pictures so you can see what they look like. These are the new Marvel ones.

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There are so many different variations. This one is a Lord of the Rings Dwarven Axe.

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This one is for kids and is made of plastic.

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The one I received is made of ceramic and is pretty heavy duty. So now that you’ve seen pictures what the heck do they do? From the picture of the girl above and what I told you about the company you can probably tell it’s an instrument. It’s actually a beautiful sounding instrument. Remember Lord of the Rings? That flute type music was actually an Ocarina.

If you can’t remember here you go.

That’s great but not many people go around playing Lord of the Rings theme songs so what else can you play? This one should sound appropriate for the holidays.

 

Fun right? I couldn’t wait to try it.

Mine came packed in a sturdy box and looks like a piece of art to hang on Colby’s wall, not a musical instrument.

front

 

This is the front and here is the back.

back

 

I tried it out but I’ve never played one before so I wasn’t sure how to hold my hands correctly. Luckily there are instructions, sheet music and a fingering composer on the website. After playing around with it for a little bit I decided that this was a lot of fun and I can see both of my daughters enjoying it. It’s going to be a Christmas present for Jahnna so I don’t have a clip of her playing it yet because she still doesn’t know about it. I originally thought this would be fun for Riley but knowing her and how clumsy she can be at times together with her inability to sit still while learning something, I decided that we’ll have to get her a beginner plastic one to learn on first. I’m afraid she would drop this one and break it.

I love that the company has a section for homeschool students. I also was impressed at the different varieties and looks available. This is a fun instrument that will appeal to a lot of different people. Head on over and check STL Ocarina out. I’d love to have you come back and tell me which one is your favorite.

 

 

Pneumonia

This is how my Wednesday night went

 

It’s kind of how Sunday night went also. The last two weeks have pretty much been the same just at home and not in the ER. 101.5 to 102.9 fevers every day for two weeks with no clear answer. At first I felt like it was pneumonia but was told his lungs sounded great. So then I started second guessing myself and trying to figure out what else it could be.

He’s done this once before with one of his seizure meds so I decreased that a little bit. No seizures and for one whole day he was fever free. Tricky boy! Then it shot back up and stayed put.

Thursday the pediatrician asked the radiologist to read the film and it says Extensive Left Sided Pneumonia. So much for the ER doctor and the Respiratory guy reading the film and saying he looked fine the night before. Oh well, it’s figured out for now. He’s on an antibiotic and feeling better though he is grumpy today because he had a seizure this morning. I’m not ready to go back up on his seizure med right now so I’m just going to wait and see what he does for now.

The dumb thing about this pneumonia is that I think he aspirated during his pH study and that’s what caused this. I knew I didn’t want to do the study but it had to be done in order to go forward with the fundoplication nissen surgery. The study that was supposed to show how bad he refluxes. The study that showed he only refluxed fifteen times total in 24 hours which is well below normal. Yeah, that study. We’re meeting with a surgeon because even though the study didn’t show bad reflux he still throws up. His teeth are horrific. His gums are constantly inflamed and his esophagus is always bleeding. No matter how much I brush his teeth they will eventually fall apart with that much stomach acid covering them every day.

I’m really hoping this will help but we probably won’t do surgery until next year. Until then we’ll keep managing the throwing up the best we can. It’s not like he just started this, it’s been five years of daily vomiting. It would be nice to not have to cart around a backpack full of washcloths and changes of clothes.

More medication changes

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I know I’ve been saying this a lot lately but is it really the end of November? I’ve sat down to write several blog posts over the weeks but monitors beeping kept interrupting or projects on the house needed to be done. Colby spent most of October with a 101 degree fever and a tremor in his right hand. He had good lab work, his chest x-rays didn’t show pneumonia. I was stumped. His pediatrician was stumped. Colby was miserable. I finally sat down with a calendar and all my apps that I use to track his seizures, his blood pressure and medication changes.

The fever didn’t start until I upped his seizure med to his final therapeutic dose and weaned him off his old seizure medication. Weird, right? I called the neurologist to find out her thoughts on it. I left her a message saying labs were good, x-rays were good and urinalysis was good so the only thing I was left with was medication related.  Nope, not the cause is what the nurse passed on to me. I explained that I could find no other explanation and that I was going to try and back him off the dose and see what happened. She said the doctor agreed to that plan but was sure it would do nothing. When it did nothing she wanted us to get a urinalysis done. Again I relayed the information that he’d just had a urinalysis that was clean. The “uhhhhhh, huuuuuhhhhmmmm, went on for a long time while she thought about that. She agreed that if he had just had a clean UA than it was quite possible that the medication was the cause.

Twelve hours after lowering his dose the fever was gone and twenty four hours later the tremoring was gone. I was convinced. If the tremor had stayed I think it would have been a fluke or some crazy long virus but because they both went away I was pretty convinced that was the source of the problem. So what happens when you lower a seizure medication from therapeutic dose? More seizures of course!

His longest seizure was three minutes. Do you know how long three minutes is during a seizure? It feels like forever! Up to this point his longest seizure was just under two minutes. I had a rescue medication when he first started having seizures but it was only good for three months. Three minutes is way too close to the five minute point of needing a rescue med for me! Luckily by this point his appointment with the neurologist was only a few days away.

The appointment went well. The doctor agreed that the medication had caused the fever and that he should not be on that dose anymore. We discussed the possibility that he might need low doses of his previous medication and a low dose of the current medication to control his seizures. For now that is what we are doing. No matter how many times I try to get him off of lots of medication Colby throws something else at me and needs another. I told Colby I didn’t think that was very funny at all and he laughed! Typical of him right?

It’s been two and a half weeks since he’s been on his current doses of both medications and so far so good. Hopefully it stays that way. This last week Colby and I went down to Primary’s and spent the night in the Rapid Treatment Unit or the RTU. He had a pH study done which means they stuck a probe down his nose for 24 hours. Every time he threw up or burped I had to record it on a little monitor attached to the probe. Neither one of us slept well for a variety of reasons and we were both so happy to be done the next day. I have not gotten the results of that study back yet but the radiologist that read his chest x-ray checking for the correct placement of the probe said he still has hazy lungs. It’s looking like he’s aspirating a lot more than anybody thinks he is. Hopefully the study will tell us what we need to know to make a decision on doing the stomach surgery or not.

A lot more happened this month but that is a post for another day. Did you know that when a water main two houses down from your house blows through the street it can cause your garbage disposal to blow all the gaskets out and cause crazy water leaks? It can. I’ll tell you more soon!

Our Adventures with Hypokalemia

Doesn't look sick

Doesn't look sick
Hypokalemia is not a term I was familiar with until this last week. Hypokalemia is low levels of potassium. I don’t know if I ever mentioned that I was able to switch Colby’s formula in August from Compleat Pediatric a lovely formula that is supposed to be made from real food but is actually made up of mostly corn syrup to a new formula call Liquid Hope that is made of real food with no crazy additives and words you can’t spell let alone say. I was thrilled Tricare was going to pay for this as it’s pretty expensive. What does that have to do with potassium levels?

It appears that Hypokalemia occurs when there is not enough potassium in your diet but can also occur with large levels of vomiting. Colby vomits daily. Yes, daily. Somedays it’s only once or twice, most days around 5:00 he starts throwing up every ten to fifteen seconds until I give him his meds to go to sleep. That’s two hours of throwing up every night. He gets no food by mouth or even in his G tube so he’s basically throwing up stomach acid, then bile, then blood. Good times right? His GI doctor has said for the last seven years that he is to spastic for a nissen and she wouldn’t recommend it. The last time Colby saw her she changed her mind and decided he was now a candidate. We’ve been resisting the idea of getting a nissen for a long time but I think that we’ve finally reached the point where we need to have it done.

Back to the food issue. Compleat Pediatric has less potassium in it that Liquid Hope does. It is not natural potassium though so it is more bioavailable than natural potassium is. Weird right? I think it is. The combination of vomiting and switching from a synthetic potassium to a natural potassium caused Colby’s potassium levels to drop drastically within a month.  It started on Monday when we went back to the doctor for what we thought was pneumonia that wasn’t clearing up. The doctor ordered a chest x ray and blood tests. The x ray was clear. No sign of any pneumonia at all. At any time in the last two weeks! Now we needed to wait for his blood tests. His CBC came back normal but thankfully the doctor also ordered a metabolic panel. Wow were his electrolytes screwed up. Low sodium, low potassium. Fun stuff. He wanted me to take him back for another blood test that night and possibly be admitted to the hospital that night.

We went back and got more labs drawn. His levels came up .1 so the doctor felt that we could go home and run him on pedialyte all night and see if that brought his levels up to a more acceptable level. We did that and then went back for more labs the next morning. This time his levels dropped .5. Now he was in the dangerously low levels. He earned himself an admit to the local hospital. I took him in with a bag of stuff for overnight. The doctor ordered an EKG that showed he was going to be having heart problems quickly if this problem wasn’t corrected fast. John felt like it would be best for Colby to go down to the children’s hospital so after discussing it with pediatrician I agreed that’s where we should go.

EKG

It all sounds pretty straight forward but I was seriously stressing out. John was upset over the whole situation. I was upset that he was upset. I was stressed because so far other than high blood pressure we haven’t dealt with cardiac issues. I wasn’t home to get the girls to where they needed to go. John couldn’t find the stuff I needed him to pack. Let’s just say that by the time the ambulance crew was there to take us I was in full breakdown mode. Colby’s doctor handled my tears well. The two EMT’s were very patient while I tried to get everything straight and settled. It’s not often I break down but when I do it tends to happen at really inopportune times!

I got Colby his medicine and I figured he’d have a very nice comfortable trip down to the hospital. I on the other hand forgot that lately I’ve been getting motion sick in the car. Not cool when you are sitting sideways in the back of a very bumpy ambulance. I was worried about Colby throwing up instead I was the lucky winner of the throwing up contest. Tears, throwing up and being incredibly tired do not make me very happy camper.

ambulance ride

I think we got down there around 9:00 at night. The nurse got him hooked up to the monitors fairly quickly but did not put in an i.v.. About an hour later the resident came in to get his history. The really crazy part of the whole puzzle was that he had a fever of 101 degrees every day for the last two weeks. Fever is not typical with hypokalemia. He was also having stridor and an increased need for oxygen. The resident went and got the attending physician who was also stumped. They decided to go discuss things with the entire team and said they’d get back to us. Around midnight it was decided that he would go get another chest x ray to see if Monday’s x ray had missed something and he would also get an x ray of his esophagus. I watched the images as they came up on the screen. The chest x rays looked the same but I was shocked when I saw the one of his esophagus. There was clearly a narrowing of his esophagus. I didn’t know what it meant but I knew it was why he was having stridor.

I’m able to access Colby’s medical records online so I saw the radiologists read of his x ray before the doctors came back. Turns out Colby had croup the last two weeks. He doesn’t cough on his own so I never heard the bark. I’m quite familiar with croup. Jahnna had it a lot and my brothers also had it when they were younger. It never once crossed my mind that is what Colby had going on.  Finally around 2:00 in the morning the resident came back and said that they were going to give Colby some potassium into his feeding tube and they were going to order a consult with the ENT department in the morning.

The rest of the night went by in a blur. Three lab draws, vitals, all the usual fun of a hospital stay. I didn’t get much sleep but thankfully John got some. The next day Colby’s potassium had risen dramatically from dangerously low to the high side of normal. Crazy how fast it works. His heart rate slowed to normal levels, his EKG was normal, he was starting to breath easier. We waited for the ENT doctors to show up and they finally did. Basically they want to do a bronchoscope the next time he has anesthesia. Colby has been intubated over forty times in the last seven years and they feel that there might be scar tissue causing some of the narrowing. The croup had inflamed his esophagus to much to do it while he was there. They want to wait six weeks and then do the procedure. The ENT also said that based on his history he would recommend a nissen as soon as possible.

sleeping in the daytime

Colby was discharged late Wednesday night and we made it home around 1:00 in the morning. It was a very long three days that capped off a very long two weeks of trying to figure out what was going on with him. I now have to give him potassium and sodium supplements daily to keep his levels at the correct levels. He will have a follow up blood draw tomorrow and hopefully it will remain at a good level and things can calm down a little bit around here. That was our fun week, how was yours?