Sunday, March 22, 2015

Brag Post

My children never cease to amaze me and make me proud.

A year ago, K had just started beauty school.  Within a month of graduating, she landed a position in an upscale styling salon (while still continuing to work as a server in an ale house near home).

She took her cosmetology practical state board exam on Monday and on Wednesday she got the email that she passed.  On Saturday (on a whim) she decided to update her resume and called a bigger and better salon closer to home.  They told her to come in for an interview and had her demonstrate a hair blowout.  The ad required 3 years experience, but they were so impressed by her skills, they hired her on the spot!  She was not expecting to get hired so quickly.  She's not even starting as an assistant - she's going in as a full hairdresser/hairstylist.  Cuts, color, highlights, treatments, everything.

J is getting all As and Bs in school.She is pushing herself beyond any limit she's ever had to go through.  She's memorizing scenes, learning to lose her Queens accent, singing more than ever, and dancing more than 20 hours a week.  She auditioned for and made it into the school-wide tap showcase.  Only 10 kids were chosen and she was picked to be in a trio. I can't wait to see this performance.  She has adjusted so well to living on her own.  They don't do meal plans there, so she grocery shops and cooks her own food, does her own laundry, and is never late for, nor missed a class.  She keeps her dorm room super clean and it seems to be the room all her friends hang out in.

She is also still assisting a major choreographer on the weekends.  She travels with him all around the tri-state area to different studios teaching master classes, competition solos and group numbers, and special recreational classes.  She is an incredible teacher.

I am constantly in awe of their confidence, maturity, independence, and fierce determination.  This has made them both stand out in almost every situation.  I truly believe homeschooling had a huge hand in this.

W seems to be on that same path.  He knows what he wants, he is focused and determined, and already independent and confident.  He has overcome almost all of his visual processing issues and dyslexia.  Looking at the diagnostic report from just 3 years ago, you wouldn't know it was the same kid.  I see a great future for him as well.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Happy Birthday!

I think the freezing cold, snowy NYC winter is finally ending.  I love the cold and the winter, but the snow became too much.  We still got out of the house a lot, though.  W has been meeting up with his friends for go-karts, laser tag and dodge ball, bowling, and for some cool classes, including a seal necropsy at the Riverhead Aquarium.

That was an awesome experience.  A seal was found in the Bellport Harbor (Long Island), having died of some unknown cause.  It was taken to the aquarium and put in a freezer.  It was thawed out for the teens to perform an autopsy on it.  After a few kids started cutting open the skin, they measured its blubber layer.  Then, using scalpels, they got most of the skin off and broke through the breastbone.  The organs looked good.  The instructor cut open the heart to see if there was heartworm (which seals can get just like dogs can).  Then she spent a few minutes feeling the lungs for any parasites or disease.  When she opened the stomach we saw a lot of sand and rocks in there.  This is what killed the seal.  When seals are stressed they eat things they're not supposed to.  It was sad to think the seal was stressed for any reason, but seals really don't belong in Bellport Harbor - or anywhere in Long Island, really.  It was so cool for W to experience a bit of what veterinarians and forensic workers do.  

W made his Confirmation last week!   11 years of catechism classes and now he's got 4 sacraments under his belt.  He started classes at 2 years old since he begged to go - and the third child was free,   It's going to be weird not having classes anymore, but he's glad to have reached the end.  The ceremony was wonderful.  J was his sponsor and went up with him as he got the chrism oil.  At his Christening, his father and I answered questions from the priest on what we believe.  At Confirmation, W was asked the same questions from the bishop and was able to answer for himself.  It's such a beautiful full circle.  We all went out for a great lunch afterwards.  The next day W turned 14.  The years really went by quickly.  8th grade will be over in 3 months and he'll begin his high school years.  

We're starting to get ready for 9th grade. Here's the tentative list:
  • Lee Binz' Reluctant Readers High School Book List 
  • Writing with Skill Level 1
  • Easy Grammar Grade 9
  • Saxon Algebra 2 OR Life of Fred Advanced Algebra into LoF Geometry  
  • Apologia Biology w/Lab (I can't find anything else I like)
  • History of the Ancient World into History of the Medieval World 
  • All Ye Lands:  World Cultures & Geography
  • Light to the Nations 1 (World History)
  • Easy Spanish Step-by-Step
  • PSAT prep book  
I may change everything again in a few months.  Who knows?  But this is what we'll start with.  W is nicely on track to finish his 8th grade books by the summer.  We've changed to LoF Beginning Algebra and will go right into LoF Advanced Algebra (finishing during the summer).  I like the way LoF explains math in a practical, usable way.  Saxon is great, but he's just been going from one thing to another, memorizing abstract concepts without really understanding the point.  I'm choosing to bring him back a bit  to solidify the concepts he's already learned.  Tons of busywork problems don't work for him as well as a new approach does.  Plus, I feel we may need to slow down because the 9th grade standardized test W has to take next year lines up with algebra (from what I hear).  I'll hopefully find out for sure soon.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sample Quarterly Report (8th Grade)

Quarterly Report  #3                                        2014-2015

Jan 31, 2015 to Apr 15, 2015
Apr 15, 2015
Child's Name
NYC Student ID:  ___________________ (optional)
DOB:  ____________         Grade Level:  8
Address:  ___________________________________
________ is progressing at a satisfactory level or above in all subject matter. He has had instruction in all subjects listed in Section 100.10 of the Regulations of the New York State Commissioner of Education and as outlined in ________’s Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP). The following table lists some of his many resources and experiences this quarter:

  • Holt Science & Technology: Physical Science (Holt, Rhinehart, & Winston - Harcourt Education Company, 2007) Units 3-5, Chapters 10-16
  • Saxon Math Algebra 1: An Incremental Development, 3rd edition (John H. Saxon, Jr. - Saxon Publishers Inc., 2003)  Lessons 41-75
  • Story of the World 4:  The Modern Age (Susan Wise Bauer, 2005)  Chapters 1-15
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends (Shel Silverstein, 1974)
  • Weekly religious education classes, retreat, & Sacrament of Confirmation
  • Field Trips/Outside Classes:   Washington D.C.  - 2 days of sightseeing and visiting local TV station. Department of Homeland Security (26 Federal Plaza, NY) - 5 hour class and presentation.   National Weather Service at Brookhaven National Lab (Upton, NY) - 2 hour class.   NY Hall of Science (Corona, NY) - free exploration.   Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY) - 2 hour class and tour.   UMake Lab (Massapequa, NY) - "Into to 3D modeling & 3D Printing"
  • Community Service:  40+ hours of volunteer work for ___________ (fundraising, delivering supplies, etc. for animal shelters and rescues in Queens and Long Island)  

_________ has covered at least 80% of the planned material for this quarter.  He has had no absences from  instruction this quarter and has exceeded the required hours of instruction (247.5).                              

Parent Signature  


Ok, so it's basically the same quarterly I've always used, but with a little extra detail. I've always said that my sample IHIP is just a general outline of what you "may or may not" be using this year. This new quarterly states what you've actually used and some great educational things you did. I still believe that no one at the district office cares about the awesome homeschooly things you do and that that they are there for the sole reason of checking off a box, but these quarterlies are great for your own records, portfolios, scrapbooks, etc.  And I think it looks pretty cool, too.

I am fully aware that it's not necessary (i.e. in the NY State Regulations) to include some of the information I've included in this new quarterly, but it's just a sample and it covers just about all the bases. It should satisfy even the strictest districts. Plus, it still only takes a few minutes to write up and it's still less than a page long. This is how I'll be doing mine from now on.

p.s. If you'd like to use this sample for grades 1-6, remember that the required hours of instruction are 225 per quarter, not 247.5.

p.p.s.  I create it in Google Documents using tables and shading, then save as a PDF.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Science, Weapons, and Weather

My homeschool groups are so active and I'm seeing so many amazing classes and trips for teens.  It's so great to see how many homeschoolers in this age group are out there.  Just within the last few months I've seen classes being given for pottery, creative writing, tennis, philosophy, science lab, robotics, debate, string theory, non-fiction writing, drawing, psychology, glass working, comedy improv, ethics, American history, chemistry, digital photography, chess, cooking, ancient civilizations, rhetoric, fencing, video production, song writing, and a ton more.  Plus list upon list of classes for teens (homeschooled or otherwise) given at various museums, galleries, labs, theaters, and parks.  The choices are almost overwhelming (in a good way).  We may not get to very many of them, but knowing they're there is great.  I love my city.

We made a visit to the NY Hall of Science last week.  We haven't been there in so long.  Now that I'm back at my old job, I (we) have the corporate membership to everything again.  They redid the place.  The lower level is all maker, DIY, and lab stuff now.  They have better hours than they used to, too.

Two great homeschool group trips were held this week.  In the first, we were part of a wonderful class at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It was on weapons used throughout the world from the Sumerians and Assyrians to World War I.  Our instructor is a homeschool mom and also a college professor of history.  You can tell by the way she put everything together (the handout, the tour, the topics) and by the way she spoke that she truly loves history.  Anything becomes so much more engaging when taught by a person so passionate about it.

Met Museum

The other trip this week was to the National Weather Service at the Brookhaven National Laboratory.  This is the office where all of the weather alerts, warnings, and advisories come from.  They are in constant contact with the mayor, schools chancellor, and all the major local tv and radio stations.  They are present for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, New Years Eve in Times Square and for events at Met Life Stadium.  We discussed so many things about weather, including the upcoming snow storms, the major hurricanes our area had, and the recent tornado watches.  We got to see the main area where several people were monitoring a number of computers, televisions, barometric pressure-readers, and satellites, and clocks (set to "z-time").  Our guide was a meteorologist who also does outreach.

National Weather Service at the Brookhaven National Lab

National Weather Service

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Homeland Security

I can't say enough good things about the field trip W and our homeschool group went on the other day.  It was to Federal Plaza in downtown Manhattan to learn all about the Dept. of Homeland Security.  They created a beautiful outreach program for us - as we were their first "school" group visiting ever.  First we got to hear about a couple of agents' "day in the life".  A PowerPoint presentation on the department's history and current goings on was next.  Each slide was so incredibly fascinating.  We learned about terrorism, border patrol, drug smuggling, human trafficking, customs and immigration, TSA, cyber crimes, counterfeiting and property rights, and so much more.

Two federal agents from JFK Airport came in with their German Shepherds to talk about the K9 unit there.  The dogs sniff out drugs and currency.   They did a demonstration for us, too.  The dogs are very well cared for and loved and will only work for that one agent - who gets the dog while the dog is still in training school.  Various dogs are used and they are found at all the international airports.

Then a FEMA agent came in to discuss what they do and he brought a whole team of FEMA Corps volunteers in with him.  FEMA Corps is a group of 18-24 year-olds who spend 10 months traveling around the country together to help with emergency preparedness.  Some kids were taking a year off between high school and college and this earns them some credits and scholarship money.  Other kids already graduated college and were in FEMA Corps to gain work skills and figure out what they want to do.  One guy was an EMT, a few deal with the social media part, all have CPR training, all do some office work, etc.  These 10 kids comprised one team, but there are dozens of teams around the country.

Every topic was so interesting.  The kids asked so many intelligent, mature questions that the presentation started to head into its 5th hour.  I've never seen 13 & 14 y/os so enthralled by anything like this.  The agents seemed very impressed by how smart and well-behaved these kids were.  Our group of 6 teens and parents (so happy we could sit in!) are so grateful to the Department for having us and teaching us so many things we never realized.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

It's All About Simplicity

What I'm coming to realize about homeschooling a teenager (well, mine, anyway) is that a lot of their education and learning and academics has to be very "organic".  It has to encompass the whole child through a more natural, environmental approach.  We can have all these seemingly wonderful varying pieces of curriculum that promise to be the best laid out or the one kids like most, but if there's no true understanding, then it's a waste of money and time.  There has to be an interest or at least some sort of meaningful context for anything to be understood, absorbed, and applied.  And learning, like almost everything else in the world, usually turns out better the simpler we make it.

W has led his education since the beginning.  I have always followed along, providing him with the resources he needs and coming up with various experiences, opportunities, and suggestions for him to foster his interests and learning.  It's so fun this way - and effective.  I research and suggest a lot and he's actually happy to try anything.  Some things stick and some things suck and we toss it.  We both still learn from things we toss - even if it's just not to use something like that again, lol.

The outside experiences and free time are what's really filling out W's education.  It's been getting better and better the older he gets.  Exploring Manhattan, getting together with the other homeschooled teens a few times a week for parkour and other activities, traveling, fundraising for animal shelters with his friends, building his computer, our restaurant adventure, and getting ready for several things in the works are what's making him who he is.  And every year will have more and more things for him to be a part of.

As far as formal academics are concerned, math, science, poetry, and computer coding have been the favorites for the last few weeks.  The other night W spent 3 hours creating a ton of computer code to create a really cool tic-tac-toe game.  He taught himself.  It has a lot of detail and was really fun to play.  Math and science he's just really good at, so it makes him enjoy it more.  History, literature, and writing are subjects that are slightly more informal.  The rest of this year will be spent on basic US History, U.S. geography, and U.S. government.  Lit has been a mix of poetry and modern and classic short stories.  Writing is usually done every day, in context to what's W's into or doing at the moment.  The funny thing is that we're getting more of these subjects done this way than when I had them scheduled.  Go figure.

I just did a huge book purge getting rid of everything I know we won't use at all.  My china cabinet now just has a row of reading books, a row of high school and reference books, and a row of notebooks, paper, & art supplies.  It's calming to be more organized.  Also, December is a big clutter clean-out month for me.  I want it beautiful for the holidays, so I minimize as much as I can.  Once January comes, I get back on track with my usual week, including resuming our Restaurant Adventure.

K is loving her job at the SoHo salon.  It's better than she could imagine.  She turned 21 a couple of weeks ago and we're going to see Aladdin on Broadway together next week (B and I got her 2 tickets for her birthday and she said she wanted to go with me - Yay!).  J so far enjoys her new part-time job.  She's working 3 days a week, which I think is perfect for her.  She was just on TV last night in the background of this new reality show on TruTV.  I kept pausing the show and taking a picture whenever she was shown, lol.  I'm back with my old company and happier than ever!  It's in a different location and the job is very similar to what I was doing for 7 years.  It's closer to my house, too.  My old supervisor and manager are there, along with about a dozen of my old coworkers.  I'm working evenings, 25 hours a week.

My blog is 10 years old this month.  Crazy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Keeping Busy

W just got back from a trip to Washington DC with one of his best friends and his family.  He had a blast and took a lot of pictures.  His friend founded an animal charity and was in DC to be on a local news broadcast.  W really enjoyed being in the TV studio and getting to watch how everything works.  They got to see the White House and the Washington Monument as well.

Parkour has been going really well.  W is in a weekly class with other teens (and some younger kids).  He has a lot of fun and loves the whole idea of what parkour is.  It's his 2nd or 3rd year going.  Speaking of teens, a bunch of homeschooled teens are starting to get together every week at a different venue.  Last week they hung out for hours at Dave & Buster's and they went to an indoor trampoline place this week  A few weeks ago they did a fundraiser/Halloween party for the animal charity at a local roller skating rink/arcade.  I love that there are so many NY teenagers homeschooling.  W has a really great group of friends.

B, W, and I went to a high school open house last week.  W has no intention of attending high school, but he wanted to satisfy his curiosity about what it was.  We went to the morning open house - while school was in session - to get a good idea of the school day.  He had no shyness asking questions about their math curriculum (lol) and they seemed pretty surprised at his interest.  Then we went on a tour of the building.  Less than half-way through W was ready to leave.  The kids were loud and show-offy in the hallways when they changed classes, the classrooms were small and dark, and he found out the day is really long (7:20am to after 4pm).  He was totally unimpressed and it solidified his decision to continue homeschooling.  I think the only thing he liked was that they have a personal chef who provides a really varied menu and salad bar for the kids.  We finished the morning having a wonderful brunch at IHOP.

J met up with her choreographer and assisted him at a dance studio in New Jersey for 2 days last weekend.  She's so happy to be going to college in NYC so she can continue to assist-teach and still see all her friends (and us!) whenever she wants.  She also landed a part-time job in a retail store near her dorm!  It's her first retail job and they gave her the hours she asked for.  K did not like the Upper East Side salon, and subsequently got a new job at a salon the West Village.  She is so much happier here and I'm proud of her for not settling and for staying on the lookout for something more ideal.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

What a Great October!

J has been at college now for over two weeks.  She LOVES living in Manhattan.  Her dorm room is wonderful - it's a private room with a big mini-fridge, desk, big closet, sink with vanity and overhead light, mirrored medicine cabinet, 4 dresser drawers, comfy bed, big window, a/c, and mini-blinds.  Then she (we) added a microwave, Keurig, tv, fast wifi modem, pictures, posters, Christmas lights, rugs, and a shelving unit.  She has everything she needs and she's been eating right, waking up on time, and remembering everything.  I'm so proud.  Her weekly classes include ballet (3 different classes), tap, jazz, modern (2 different classes), theater dance, theatrical gymnastics (acro), acting (3x/week), vocal, diction, and dance history.  Some start as early as 8am and some days she's finished at 5:30pm and they're either 2 or 2.5 hours long each.  The classes are really challenging - especially since she's in the highest levels in all dance classes. She loves it, though, and feels so lucky to be there.  I've tallied up her dance classes and figured that she's dancing about 21 hours each week.  She was surprised that she liked the acting classes as much as she does.  I'm just happy she's loving it all.

K graduated from beauty school a month ago, has her temporary cosmetology license, will take her state boards really soon, and has just landed an awesome position at an Upper East Side salon/spa.  This is her first full-time job.  She'll starting out assisting (which includes shampooing and selling product), then she'll go right into being a colorist.  It's a great job with salary, tips, and commission and it's in a great part of town.  I'm so excited for her.

W's weekly academics have been nicely streamlined - as it's November and about that time.  I've decided to make every day practically the same with W doing a lot more independently.  Here's our new weekly breakdown:

  • Math - Saxon Algebra 1. One lesson, together using white board
  • Literature - The Story of King Arthur and His Knights (Pyle). This is read aloud and W gives a spoken narration
  • History - The Complete Book of World History. Silent reading with spoken narration. Using maps & globe for reference. (He just isn't into the AO history readings at all. The 2-page chapters in this book are easy for him to read it himself and and it keeps his interest). 
  • Science - Holt Physical Science. Silent reading and questions. W reads the whole 4-page chapter silently and I verbally quiz him on it when he's done. This is working really well this year.
  • Free Reading - He reads about 15-20 minutes a day. He types out a summary after each chapter or so (a 5-sentence paragraph at least). He still does not particularly like to read, but again, I'll take what I can get.
I'm just happy he's gotten to the point where he can read so much independently. 2 years ago he struggled a lot and was exhausted before he could finish a page. He's come so far - I'm still shocked at how that happened. But we're still taking things slowly so he doesn't get overwhelmed and burned out. This takes a little over 2 hours a day. In addition to the formal academics are W's informal stuff, including: technology and computer science, health, safety, physical education, practical arts, research skills, field trips, and our restaurant adventure (which we're going to start doing more regularly now that I'm back at my old company!).

Friday, October 03, 2014

Getting Back Out There

W, J, and I went back to the American Museum of Natural History last week.  We haven't been there in a couple of years so I decided it would be a good idea to see it again.  My sister and my 3-year-old niece came, too.  It was my niece's first time riding the subway.  Before we went in, we had a nice lunch at Shake Shack on Columbus Avenue.  J always eats at Shake Shack, but it was the first time for the rest of us.  I'll admit, it was a damn good burger.

At the museum, we more or less just zipped through a bit of the first floor and most of the 4th floor (dinosaurs) before spending most of the time in the Discovery Center.  I remember how much my kids loved it when they were little.  I'm happy to say that my niece loved it just as much.  She put on goggles and dug for bones, was fascinated with little clear blocks of various insects, built a totem pole, saw the live Madagascar hissing cockroaches, and really loved the nesting Matryoshka dolls. 

The W 77th Street side

My beautiful niece

 Today we went with the homeschool group to the Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium in Centerport, Long Island.  We'd gone here years ago with J - W was to little to have paid any attention.  It was such a beautiful day out today for it.  We walked around the grounds and saw the Vanderbilt collection of safari animals, bugs, butterflies, sea creatures, and trophies. Our tour guide was a very knowledgeable and funny guy.  He made everything a lot more interesting.  I don't remember having a tour last time.  The planetarium had a wonderful show on the life cycle of stars.  It's a new building - just put up 2 years ago in place of the old one they'd used for 30 years.  We all enjoyed it very much. W hung with his friends.  It was nice to see these awesome homeschooled teens pay attention and have genuine interest in the exhibits.  It's great that there are so many new homeschooling teens this year, too.

The Long Island Sound is in the background

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Great Restaurant Adventure #3: Australia


W and I went to an Australian restaurant in Astoria, Queens yesterday called, The Thirsty Koala.  Our host and waiter seemed very Australian - accent and all - but who knows, lol.  W was all set to have a kangaroo burger - No, really, an actual hamburger made from kangaroo meat - but we both settled on the Ginger Beer battered Mahi & Chips.  I'm not a fish fan, but this was really really good.  They serve it with 3 sauce cups:  one was a Thai basil yogurt, one is a sweet chili sauce, and one is ketchup.   W said these were the best "chips" he'd ever had.  I loved all of it.  We each got an additional side with this, too.  I got the roasted fennel and beets and W got the mashed kumara (sweet potato).  The portion sizes are huge, which was great because we had a nice amount to bring home to B.

They serve handcrafted, organic sodas that are great.  The ginger brew is a bit on the spicy, throat-burning side.  It has little pieces of ginger in it.  The lemon-lime was really good.  The table comes with a carafe of water as well. 

                                              Didgeridoos and boomerangs are part of the decor

 I love their description, made me want to eat there more often:
The Thirsty Koala uses local, natural and organic fruits, vegetables, breads, pastry, eggs and dairy products. Our meats are free range, grass fed, hormone and antibiotic free. Our small goods are chemical free from local artisans who cure and smoke their meats naturally. We make our own goat cheese and farmers cheeses using organic milk. By using local producers and artisans and following best practices, we are working to minimize our carbon footprint. 
So thank you for eating with us and supporting our mission to make the world a better place one bite at a time.


Austrian cuisine is next...

Friday, September 19, 2014

Kids' Update

Things are moving along nicely.  Now that we've gotten into some kind of rhythm that is working, I'm moving toward W becoming even more independent with his work.  I'd say that at this point we do about half the subjects together and he does about half the subjects independently.  His reading is now as close to perfect as can be with hardly any hint of dyslexia and processing issues.  I'm shocked at how he's improved over the last 2 years since his diagnosis.  So I feel he's finally ready for a lot of academic independence.  He's definitely more independent than he'd be at school.  I still read most of the literature aloud and we do math and geography together, but he does grammar, history, poetry, copywork, Spanish, and science independently - I just ask some questions, check it over, and/or he'll narrate when he's done.

As far as our curriculum this year - we love it.  Ambleside Online, Saxon Math, Holt Science, Painless Grammar, GSW Spanish ... we love it all.  I hope it stays nice like this, lol.  

J has had an incredibly busy summer.  She has been assisting her choreographer at numerous top competition-team studios.  She demonstrates his hip-hop choreo for everyone and the best part is that she gets paid!  It's so great that she gets to get paid for something she loves doing.  She's grateful that she can continue dancing all summer and not be out of practice for when college starts.  There is only one more month before college move-in day.  She got her housing assignment already and cannot wait to be living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in her own single dorm room.  B and J went to a get-together at the school and J already made some friends. We started dorm shopping already and we're about 1/3 of the way done.  Her room is their standard 84 square feet and has a bed, dresser, desk, mini-fridge, big window, big closet, a/c, and vanity sink.  Most rooms have a semi-private bathroom (toilet & shower) that is between 2 rooms (ala Brady Bunch) - that would be nice to have.  We won't know her final placement until move-in day.  

K graduated The Aveda Institue last week.  The whole family went out to dinner at this amazing Greek restaurant in Astoria called Taverna Kycledes.  I can't rave enough about this place - best food I've had anywhere in years.  K enjoyed the school so much and is ready for a salon career.  She already landed an interview next week at a very swanky, posh salon in Manhattan.  Fingers crossed!

And I just realized that this is my...   1000th POST!!!!  

Friday, September 05, 2014

First Week Back with AO

I'm glad we decided to bring Ambleside Online back into our lives.  It just feels so right.  This week was W's first week of 8th grade.  Each day we start with math.  As we're waiting for the delivery of Saxon Algebra 1, we're going over some Saxon Algebra 1/2 to review anything he forgot over the summer.  I'm surprised he remembered so much since he hasn't even looked at math since June.  We're still using the whiteboard, but I got W a graph paper spiral notebook to start using next week or so.  Literature is King Arthur by Howard Pyle.  So far, I love it.  The language is very old and beyond what we've seen so far.  So much awesome vocabulary.  I'm reading this aloud and W's narration showed me he understood everything.  A lot of books from previous AO years had old and/or difficult language, but I would abridge to make sure he understood.  I'm not doing that anymore.  I think he'll be ok.

Copywork (for now) is a short Shel Silverstein poem.  On Friday he studied one he'd used for copywork for about 2 minutes and we did our first real Studied Dictation.  What a wonderful way to do language arts.  It makes so much sense and he won't forget the vocabulary or spelling since it was in context.  History is Augustus Caesar's World by Genevieve Foster.  It's a bit young, but it's a nice story and a great intro to the world of Ancient Rome.  Getting Started with Spanish is still something he does independently.  Each lesson takes him about 15 minutes.  It's such a simple program, but so effective.  This term's composer is Hildegarde von Bingen.  All we did was learn her name, learn when and where she lived, and closed our eyes and listened to one of her songs called Kyrie Eleison.  I really loved it and could listen to it all day.  It's so haunting.  W said it sounded like the music that plays during a slow motion death scene at the end of a movie.  Hey, whatever connections he makes are fine with me.

Already I'm realizing what we don't need.  Spelling, vocabulary, and geography are fully incorporated into the other subjects.  There is no need for us to have separate programs.  I have them on hand if we feel like using something down the road, but I don't think we'll have to.  We're also going with Holt (Science & Technology) Physical Science.  I originally just wanted to do the Apologia experiments this year for science, but W isn't as much of a hands-on kid like his sisters.  He's mainly an auditory learner (K is visual, J is kinesthetic).  Having 3 kids with 3 different learning styles is ridiculous.  I'm constantly changing things and can't use many of the curricula I have on hand because it doesn't work for W.  What works is reading out loud (either one of us), narrations, oral exams, and, (based on today) studied dictation.  He usually takes the lead if working in a group and is great at explaining how to do things - especially when he's in a teacher-type role.  And he's always talking and singing.  I think he'd enjoy learning a musical instrument.  I should get on that.

Monday, August 04, 2014

The Great Restaurant Adventure #2: Argentina

The next restaurant we went to for our Great Restaurant Adventure was called La Fusta.  It's an Argentinian restaurant in Elmhurst, Queens.  J joined W and me this time for a great bunch of lunch specials.  For $9-$11 a lunch special included a large choice of entree (meat or pasta), one side, salad, a beverage, and flan.

I had "tira de asado" (short ribs) with real mashed potatoes, W had skirt steak with french fries, and J had chicken milanesa with french fries.  Before our food was brought out we had a basket of incredible bread for the table and the waiter put out a bowl of chimichurri sauce.  This is a green, garlic & oil sauce to put on grilled meat.  We LOVED the food here and the prices were amazing.  I think we'll be going back here one day soon.

Short ribs lunch special


Australian cuisine is next...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Reaching the Next Level

Whew.  What a summer so far!  W has been enjoying having July off from academics and I think he'd like August off as well, so why not.  We'll just pick things back up in September.  I have all the supplies I need:  tons of notebooks, drawing paper, sketch books, dry erase markers & whiteboard, pens, pencils, and most of his curriculum.  All I have to buy is Saxon Algebra 1 (maybe, lol).

J continues to dance up to 3 days a week.  She was one of 3 girls selected (out of at least 30) to be one of the backup dancers for an up-and-coming singer.  All this paid work (and paid rehearsals) makes her a true professional dancer.  And so many more incredible projects are coming up.  She is also sometimes assisting her choreographer in his weekly classes.  Another music video she's in was just released yesterday.  And we just got back from...  Nationals!  We went to Atlantic City for a week.  J did great and her new studio was amazing.  We had such a great time.  We have always treated Nationals as our family vacation, and this was the best one yet.

K is almost finished with her cosmetology training.  She has about 6 weeks left.  For the last month or so she has just been taking clients all day.  She gets great tips and 90% of them re-book with her (usually for 6-8 weeks later).  She's already building her own clientele this way.  She is so happy that she threw care to the wind and followed her heart and found something she absolutely loves to do.

All of us have jump on the Mediterranean diet wagon.  I hear it's one of the healthiest ways to eat.  So, breakfast is a lot of whole grains, Greek yogurt, fruit, nuts, eggs, honey, etc.  Lunch is grilled meats, whole grains, fruit, feta, mozzarella, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, olive oil, fresh herbs, cucumbers, lettuce & tomato, pita bread, etc.  Snacks are whole grains, tuna, hummus, fruits, vegetables, yogurt, etc.  Dinners are grilled meats, fish, vegetables, salads, stir fries, brown rice, etc.  We feel better already.

I feel like all of us are stepping into the next level of our lives:  K's cosmetology career, J's college and dance career, W's starting 8th grade - only a year til high school, our new healthy living plan (not only eating but exercising too), my new job, and all the brand new things going on with B's job.  It's an exciting time and I'm so grateful.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Summer is Here

W's CAT-E results came back and he got 97 out of 100 correct, which put him in the 99th percentile.  He couldn't believe it and I'm so proud of him.  He fretted over this test all year, but I knew he'd do fine.  All he needed was the directions read to him.  He told me that this time around he felt more confident that he was answering properly since he was sure about what was being asked.  I wish I'd known that for the 5th grade test.  Now he can relax for another 2 years since the next test will be at the end of 9th grade.  All paperwork was sent in at the end of June and we already got the packet for the 2014-2015 school year.  I'm really looking forward to W's 8th grade.  I'm treating it as practice for high school.  I'll be keeping more detailed records and practicing writing a transcript and course descriptions.  I've been reading so much about it already.  My favorite resource so far has been the books and website of Lee Binz (The Homescholar).

In other news, J graduated from high school last week!  The beautiful ceremony was held in Lincoln Center.  She looked gorgeous and so does that (arts & regents endorsed) diploma.  It feels like only yesterday we were celebrating that she got into the school.  Have 4 years really gone by already?  Thank you, LaGuardia Arts, for everything.

A few days before graduation, she had her senior prom.  The venue was the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square.  She wore a light blue gown with silver stones and jewels on one side of the front.  She wore sparkly silver flats instead of heels (smart, imo), spent the day getting groomed with a mani-pedi, professional makeup, and got her hair done by none other than her sister (K) at the cosmetology school.  She, her date, and a few friends had a white stretch limo take them into Manhattan in style.

J has also been so busy dancing.  She is preparing for Nationals with her amazing new studio.  It's coming up soon and we can't wait.  She is also working with a big choreographer who has just gotten her another dance job with a gold record singer.  They'll be performing locally in August.

Now summer has really begun.  I plan on living fully every day and savoring every moment (I tend to rush summer to get to autumn - my favorite season).  By the end of summer, K will be working full-time in her dream profession and really starting her adult life.  And J will be getting ready to live in Manhattan for college.  I know it's only 20 minutes away, but it's a huge independent step.  And when did W get taller than me?  He's becoming more and more independent every day and in the blink of an eye, he will be off to college, too.  This, right now, really is the best time of my life, with my husband and children here every day.  I'm truly grateful and plan on making it count.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Great Restaurant Adventure #1: Afghan

We began our Great Restaurant Adventure last week with a trip to a local Afghan restaurant.  Afghan is the first cuisine on our alphabetical list.

The name of the restaurant was Balkh Shish Kebab House.  It's in the Astoria section of Queens.  It's a small place with a lot of Afghan decor inside.  W and I started out with Manto (beef dumplings) and Bolanee Kadu (fried pumpkin turnovers).  Those were pretty good.  For the main dish, W had the combo kebabs (2 pieces each of chicken, lamb, and beef) on a big plate of brown basmati rice.  I had Kabli Palow, which is a huge lamb shank on a plate of the same rice but with raisins and shredded carrot on top.  They also brought us a plate of lamb curry, which was delicious mixed into the rice.  I don't even like lamb, but this was so good.  W loved his kebab - especially the chicken.  We ordered some sweet lassi to drink.  It came in a small pitcher and we each got a cute stemmed glass.  This was not our favorite.  It was plain, liquid, warm yogurt.  For dessert, we split an order of firni, which is a rice pudding custard with toasted crushed pistachios on top.  It was perfumy but nice and 1 order was the perfect amount to split.

Kabli Palow

W trying the sweet lassi

Afghan decor inside the restaurant

 Argentina is next!  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ambleside Online

So as I was lamenting over the fact that W hasn't really loved a story like he did when we used Ambleside Online, I realized, hey, why not take another look at AO.  We stopped using it around 2 years ago when we were going on a ton of field trips and W still wasn't diagnosed with his processing issues.  AO was great, but in order to start working independently, you need to be somewhat of a strong reader with that curriculum.  W was not.  But, I can comfortably say that now, after 2 years of knowing what his issues are and tackling them head on, he is ready to try AO again.  So we took a look at what they call "Pre-Year 7".  This is to make up for lost time and gradually get back into the AO way of doing things.  We're trying this throughout the summer and for as long as it takes throughout 8th grade.  If he wants to, we will continue on with AO Year 7.

Only about half of what we do is changing.  We are still going to use whatever math program we like, Getting Started with Spanish, Apologia General Science through the summer (I was very glad to see no more strange science readings, lol), and a lot of the supplementary stuff we have laying around.  But some books we added in right now are:  Augustus Caesar's World, Age of Fable, and Tales from Shakespeare.  We also added back in:  copywork, studied dictation, nature, art, and composer study, literature, book of centuries, timelines, and current events.  We are also continuing all the Charlotte Mason stuff we've always done, such as:  oral and written narrations, short lessons, lots of free time, handicrafts, and poetry.  The transition back to AO was seamless and easy and it almost feels like we never left.

Now I plan on reading the whole AO website again, along with tons of Charlotte Mason for teens pages.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

My Fidgety Kid

WHERE was this article when J was little??  This is one of the main reasons we started homeschooling.  She was fidgety and chatty and the teachers wanted her on Ritalin.  I could scream now thinking about it.  J was bubbly and happy and eager and curious and full of life before she started school.   Schools killed her love of learning, killed her self-esteem, and turned her into just a sad shell of who she was - all by the time she was 6 years old.  Thank God for homeschooling.  I'm so glad I got her out of there before any more damage was done.  I'm glad I listened to my gut instead of teachers who thought they were experts on my kid.  I'm so glad she got to have a rich, full, happy childhood which included a whole lot of running outside in the sunshine.  And most importantly I'm so glad that, after only a few months of homeschooling, I got my bubbly, happy, eager, curious, full of life daughter back (and yes, she's still like that!).  

WHY CHILDREN FIDGET: And what we can do about it
Angela Hanscom - Thursday, June 05, 2014
A perfect stranger pours her heart out to me over thphone. She complains that her six-year-old son is unable to sit still in the classroom. The school wants to test him for ADHD (attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder). This sounds familiar, I think to myself. As a pediatric occupational therapist, I’ve noticed that this is a fairly common problem today.
The mother goes on to explain how her son comes home every day with a yellow smiley face. The rest of his class goes home with green smiley faces for good behavior. Every day this child is reminded that his behavior is unacceptable, simply because he can’t sit still for long periods of time.
The mother starts crying. “He is starting to say things like, ‘I hate myself’ and ‘I’m no good at anything.’” This young boy’s self-esteem is plummeting all because he needs to move more often.
Over the past decade, more and more children are being coded as having attention issues and possibly ADHD. A local elementary teacher tells me that at least eight of her twenty-two students have trouble paying attention on a good day. At the same time, children are expected to sit for longer periods of time. In fact, even kindergarteners are being asked to sit for thirty minutes during circle time at some schools.
The problem: children are constantly in an upright position these days. It is rare to find children rolling down hills, climbing trees, and spinning in circles just for fun. Merry-go-rounds and teeter-totters are a thing of the past. Recess times have shortened due to increasing educational demands, and children rarely play outdoors due to parental fears, liability issues, and the hectic schedules of modern-day society. Lets face it: Children are not nearly moving enough, and it is really starting to become a problem.
I recently observed a fifth grade classroom as a favor to a teacher. I quietly went in and took a seat towards the back of the classroom. The teacher was reading a book to the children and it was towards the end of the day. I’ve never seen anything like it. Kids were tilting back their chairs back at extreme angles, others were rocking their bodies back and forth, a few were chewing on the ends of their pencils, and one child was hitting a water bottle against her forehead in a rhythmic pattern.
This was not a special needs classroom, but a typical classroom at a popular art-integrated charter school. My first thought was that the children might have been fidgeting because it was the end of the day and they were simply tired. Even though this may have been part of the problem, there was certainly another underlying reason.
We quickly learned after further testing, that most of the children in the classroom had poor core strength and balance. In fact, we tested a few other classrooms and found that when compared to children from the early 1980s, only one out of twelve children had normal strength and balance. Only one! Oh my goodness, I thought to myself. These children need to move!
Ironically, many children are walking around with an underdeveloped vestibular (balance) system today--due to restricted movement. In order to develop a strong balance system, children need to move their body in all directions, for hours at a time. Just like with exercising, they need to do this more than just once-a-week in order to reap the benefits. Therefore, having soccer practice once or twice a week is likely not enough movement for the child to develop a strong sensory system.
Children are going to class with bodies that are less prepared to learn than ever before. With sensory systems not quite working right, they are asked to sit and pay attention. Children naturally start fidgeting in order to get the movement their body so desperately needs and is not getting enough of to “turn their brain on.” What happens when the children start fidgeting? We ask them to sit still and pay attention; therefore, their brain goes back to “sleep.”
Fidgeting is a real problem. It is a strong indicator that children are not getting enough movement throughout the day. We need to fix the underlying issue. Recess times need to be extended and kids should be playing outside as soon as they get home from school. Twenty minutes of movement a day is not enough! They need hours of play outdoors in order to establish a healthy sensory system and to support higher-level attention and learning in the classroom.
         In order for children to learn, they need to be able to pay attention. In order to pay attention, we need to let them move.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Yearly Recap and the New Plans

On a message board recently, a question came up that asked what was not negotiable in your homeschool, besides the 3 Rs.  In my house, it's not an option to have strong interests that are not encouraged, facilitated, and pursued in all ways possible.  I think this is so important.  Nothing is ever dismissed.  How else can you know what you're good at?  For example:

K likes fashion and to sew - so she got a sewing machine, fabric, and lessons.  She likes party planning, so she found an internship for a year doing just that.  She likes doing hair, so she got to do all the hair for J's dance competitions, sought out the best cosmetology school in NY, and will be graduating in September.

J likes to sing.  So for a few years she was taking private lessons and performing songs at dance competitions (where she even won a regional title for singing).  She loves dancing.  So, B and I made sure she has had every opportunity available - competition team, private lessons, outside and master classes, conventions, admittance into the best performing arts high school, and her dream conservatory, which she's starting in a few months.

W loves computers.  So he does tons of research on what the best keyboards, headsets, mice, and programs are, and he's learned how to use Best Buy and online purchasing to his advantage.  He likes martial arts, so he's tried karate, then switched to MMA, where he goes 3 times a week.  He likes engineering projects and making YouTube tutorials and juggling and Myachi, and magic and claymation and Manga.  We have helped him pursue all of these interests.  He's met a ton of real Myachi masters and demonstrated with them, he's taken claymation and Manga drawing classes, and he is self taught with the projects and tutorials.  

I think they've had such great lives - lives I would have given anything to have as a child.  In reading some John Taylor Gatto (again) I really wish I found him right after my kids were born.  One thing that would have got me thinking about homeschooling from the beginning was this quote, "...schooling itself is a highly questionable practice.  It's possible to derive some value from it, but the damage is always, I think, much greater than any value that's possible.  In many, many instances, there is no value offered.  It's simply a confinement exercise." Powerful words that resonate with my own schooling experience.  And now that both K and J have finished their high schooling at ("excellent") public schools - well, J has 1 more week - I have to agree even more.  No matter what kind of school it is, it's a HUGE waste of time.  K got nothing out of hers, except a few more friends and she learned some cool computer programs working on the yearbook.  J got nothing out of hers except a few more friends and the fantastic dance education - which thankfully took up half her school day.  The academics in school are a joke unless your child is REALLY into them, and even so, they're full of ridiculous busywork, tedium, classroom disruptions and poor school management, and unfortunately many children like that usually have to deal with added negative social consequences.  

Here's a quote by Pat Farenga, "The only difference between a good student and a bad student is that a good student is careful not to forget what he studied until after the test." He also stated that "John (Holt) noted that a child choosing to attend school is in a far different relationship to that school than all the students who are there solely because of their age...If a child knows they can leave school at any time with their parents' support, it makes their choices easier and helps build bonds of trust and communication."  I found this to be true.  My girls, as much as they found school annoying and tedious, were there by their own choice, going in with a way different mindset than their peers. 

W is choosing to homeschool for high school and I'm so glad.  He will start college (or whatever he chooses) with such a different outlook on his future than I did (and that most of his peers will).  These next 5 years of homeschooling are looking to be some of the best ever.  Now that I finally got a new job (I'll be working weekday mornings and weekends) W and I can "do the town" once again and hopefully, way more often.  There is so much out there for teens and he wants to do it all.  This summer is going to kick it all off.  

W took the California Achievement Test for 7th grade last week.  He was so nervous, but I knew he'd be fine.  When he took it two years ago, he did ok - way above the required 33rd percentile, but not as well as I know he could have.  At that time  I just handed him the test and said GO.  But that was a month before he was evaluated for a learning disability. When he got his Visual Processing Disorder/dyslexia diagnosis he also got a list of recommended accommodations for a classroom and for test-taking.  Alas, it was too late for that year.  So, this time around I made sure to use some of those accommodations.   I read everything out loud to him to make sure he fully understood all directions.  But even with my reading I have a feeling he got some wrong in the language and reading sections.  He crinkled up his face at the vocabulary section, but seemed confident with punctuation/capitalization, comprehension, and mechanics.  He flew through both math sections.  He even laughed at it and asked me if I was sure this was the right grade.  I reminded him that he did this math more than a year ago.  He said I must be a really great teacher since he could do a lot of the problems in his head.  Then he said it was definitely the Times Tales and Saxon.  He still recalls the Times Tales pictures when multiplying.  I also swear by all the drill and mastery of the basic math we'd done over the years.  He'd still like to stick with Life of Fred for now.

We're going to start working on a lot more reading to help him with vocabulary and spelling.  He will read some things out loud to me and some things silently.  We'll do more narrations and discussions and use these readings as a base for some writing.  We'll bring back novels, too, shooting for at least 3 per year.  I want him to appreciate a good story like he used to when we did Ambleside Online.  He grew so attached to stories when we took our time with them, that he had a hard time getting rid of the books when we were done with them.  I also have Painless Vocabulary, Painless Grammar, and Daily Sparks Spelling & Grammar to throw in here and there.

All in all, it's been a great school year.  My kids have all achieved their immediate goals (K- top cosmetology school while working at an awe$ome job, J - graduating top performing arts high school and starting performing arts conservatory on scholarship, and W - overcoming reading issues/excelling in math and pursuing all interests).  I couldn't ask for better.

Here's what's on the agenda for the summer through 8th grade.  I think we actually have a real plan now, lol:

Math:  W really wants to do Life of Fred (Beginning Algebra into Advanced Algebra) for 8th grade.  We're using it now over the summer a few days a week. We also have Teaching Textbooks Algebra 1 and Saxon Algebra 1/2 on hand along with Algebra for Dummies, Painless Algebra, and No Fear Algebra (leftovers from his sisters).  They're always good to have for extra problems and different ways of explaining certain concepts.

English:  I have so much leftover from my girls that it's silly to buy anything new.  We'll be using a mixed bag of Wordsmith Apprentice, Jump In, Daily Sparks Spelling & Grammar, Daily Sparks Vocabulary, Painless Vocabulary, Painless Grammar, Simply Grammar, and Basic Series Grammar & Usage.  It's a lot, but W likes to switch things up every so often.  Nothing really builds on previous lessons, so it should work fine.

Literature:  I'm sticking with Shel Silverstein poetry since W loves it and it helps with his reading.  We'll also try to read at least 3 novels with narrations and discussions.  I have so many on my shelf - we'll just choose what sounds good.

Science:  We'll finish Apologia General Science over the summer - we really just do the great experiments and base the lesson off of those.  For 8th grade I'll either get Apologia Physical Science (again mainly for the experiments) or use the Holt Science & Technology Series Physical Science since I already have that one on hand.  W doesn't care for it, though.  I'll see how the Apologia goes over the summer.  If it's a real big hit I'll get the next one.  He gets writing in with the lab reports, as well.

Geography:  We're happy with Runkle's and will continue it through 8th grade.  We're also starting Our Great Restaurant Adventure this summer where we'll go to a different ethnic restaurant every 2 weeks, then study that country for the 2 weeks until the next one.  We're going alphabetically and starting with Afghan cuisine next Wednesday.  Can't wait!

History:  We'll finish K12 Human Odyssey 1 (Ancients) hopefully sometime in the fall and move on to Volume 2.  We also have The Complete Book of World History which is a fun and concise supplement.

Spanish:  Getting Started with Spanish is by far the best book for W.  He does this completely independently.  It's a spiral program that builds on the previous lessons.  He reads, translates, and conjugates in every lesson.  Love this.

Miscellaneous:  Summer Bridge Gr. 7-8 and Summer Express Gr. 7-8 are great for a variety of subject work any time of year.  Spectrum Gr. 8 Test Prep for basic skills, and Artistic Pursuits Junior High Book One for art, but W isn't really into this.  I'll try it again over the summer.

Religion:  CCD once a week and will make his Confirmation in the spring.

P.E.:  Mixed Martial Arts 3 days a week (4-5 classes) doing Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu jitsu.

I'll put everything in my sidebar in case anyone wants to check out what we do.