Saturday, December 31, 2005

J had dance again yesterday. The groups went over almost all their numbers and are just about ready for this year's competition season. Their first one is in a few weeks, in Manhattan. Then there's one or 2 every month though May. I'm so happy that these competitions are incredibly family-friendly and all of us have a great time at them. There's always food and other stuff to buy and so many kids that my 3 are never bored. There is so much excitement with all the costumes, makeup, rushing around, anticipation, cheering, screaming, awards, etc. My parents and sisters usually meet us there and always find it to be a blast. I used to worry that maybe K was feeling left out, but she totally involves herself, helping everyone out with everything.

My sister drove in from Long Island last night and we went out to a Greek restaurant and to a karaoke bar. It was a much needed night out for me since I hadn't been out since March. We did a lot of singing and laughed all night. I got home about 2am and just felt really good. Not drunk good, just happy good. At the bar, we saw my mom's friend who asked me about the kids, and school, which led to the whole story of how we came into homeschooling. She was so impressed and amazed at the fact that I took the time to realize what J needed and wow that must be so hard. I told her it wasn't really hard at all and we both enjoy it so much. She had a ds who could have benefitted from homeschooling but she never thought of that and says she probably wouldn't have had it in her to try it anyway.

So at home, I was telling B about the night and all about what she said. I mentioned again that I'd love to have W homeschooling as well. B agrees that homeschooling is the best thing and has no worries about how the kids will turn out. So I asked him what's with all the hesitation and "well, I don't know"s when I bring it up. He said the reason was that since we've been homeschooling the apartment has been messier and not much is getting done with cleaning, laundry, or cooking. Also, he thought I could maybe get a job so we could have more money so we could maybe move out of this apartment. Oh. Well that put a lot into perspective for me. This whole time I thought it was the actual homeschooling he had a problem with.

I thought about that a lot last night and admit, he's right, and I feel bad about it. So basically I plan to start doing 45 minutes of cleaning/laundry every morning and 30-45 minutes every evening, do 5-minute clutter pick-ups throughout the day, and get back into being a Mary Kay consultant. My friend, M, ordered me some new catalogs and I'll begin again with the house parties. I usually make about $200-$300 per party - which would only be on evenings or weekends. It's fun, I love it, it gets me out of the house, and I'll be raking in the cash! I'm glad that B finally said something. And I'm glad it's the new year where new beginnings can happen!

Link of the day:

Friday, December 30, 2005

Today was rainy, so we ended up staying in.

K finished a book she was reading, learned to do laundry with the new washing machine, cooked dinner (pasta with her special alfredo sauce!), also updated blog and website.

J did lots of drawing, practiced her solo and danced along to an old recital DVD, wrote an entry in her blog, updated her website, read to ds, played Madlibs with K, made another marble run, used her new counting bank (counted tons of coins and compared it to the bank total), looked through new American Girl catalog, played with new American Girl, and did a few pages in her new activity book.

W did lots of drawings, played a few computer games, brought me the first grade workbook to do with him (he did 11 pages!), read to me (Dora's Ready to Read Adventures), practiced a few magic tricks, helped with laundry, played marble run with dd9, played with trucks and cars, and played V-smile.

Link of the day:

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

None of us wanted to get up this morning. J had solo rehearsal at 10am so I had to nudge her a bit to get her up by 9:15. We made it on time and the practice went well. They worked on J's entrance and exit from the stage and cleaned up a few moves. This is the first solo P has coordinated so she's as excited as we are about it. I know we'll both be crying come competition day. LOL. P's daughter (T) was there and she and K are good friends now. T is probably the best dancer in the whole studio and is working on 3 solos for this competition season. And she's a great kid (they all are in the dance group). T invited K over to watch the new Laguna Beach episode. Don't know when that is, but T said several of the dancers always come over to watch it. K was thrilled. W played kept himself busy with his Gameboy and drawings for the hour we were there.

We went to Target after that where we all spent our gift cards. The kids spent theirs very sensibly and one of W's picks was a 1st grade workbook. I looked through it and noticed he is pretty much at that level now. In the last few months he has made tremendous leaps in reading and math - all stemming from his own interests. Everywhere we go he sounds out words and adds things together. J spent time this evening talking on the phone to her friend, G, who called to see when they could get together. She's a homeschooled kid, too, and she and J have become best friends. W fell asleep at about 7:45pm. I just told the girls I'm going to read and does anyone want to read with me. K said fine and J said No. J still rarely picks up a book to read, but I still have hope she will enjoy reading again one day.

Link of the day

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

J's tap rehearsal went well. They'll need more than this one practice, though. The teacher was an hour late and only about 2/3 of the kids showed up, but it looks good. J did great even though she was the littlest one. B and I decided to use our free trip credit for dance Nationals. We'll use some this year and some next year. The 2006 Nationals will be driveable so we'll use about $700 for the hotel. 2007 Nationals is probably going to be in Las Vegas, so the rest of that money will go to airfare and hotel. It's a big load off our backs to have that expense covered.

The kids had a ball today playing with Stuck-on Marbleworks. It's a marble run with pieces that suction-cup to flat surfaces. We were hysterically laughing at how many times we just couldn't get it to follow the trail we made. It has lots of cool pieces instead of just flat slides and chutes. J didn't put Marisol down all day and then found out that there's a new American Girl named Jess who is HOMESCHOOLED. So now you know she wants that one, too. BIG SIGH. J was on the phone today with her friend from her old school. They talked for over an hour, catching up on different things. She said the 4th grade teacher is really mean and gave them a lot of work to do over the vacation. J just looked at me and smiled. And I smiled back.

K and I watched almost all of the Degrassi episodes. Ok, so they're not so bad. There was one episode where a sex-ed teacher was showing the kids how to put a condom on a banana, but I asked if K would just fast-forward that and we kinda laughed at it. There were other episodes on porn, internet stalkers, and periods, but we talked about that as it was on and she didn't seem uncomfortable or embarrassed. I do like the fact that we can talk about things (although I am totally cringing inside! LOL). I know the newer episodes (on The N channel) deal with a lot more sex and drugs so we'll just stick with the DVDs for now. One thing at a time. K also spent time today writing back to her penpal in Spain. Frances and K were in Kindergarten together. Frances moved to Spain that summer and she and K have been writing to each other ever since.

Link of the day:

Monday, December 26, 2005

So Christmas was really nice. We went a bit overboard with the spending, but I feel it was worth it. They each got a big main gift and a bunch of small ones. K got an Ipod nano, J got "Marisol's Whole World" (American Girl), and W got a Nintendo DS. The funny thing about Marisol is that it was a limited edition doll that won't come back. J saw it in the catalog and was amazed at how much she looked like her and that Marisol was a dancer! We got it early and by the beginning of December it was completely sold out. A week before Christmas J was sobbing because she saw online that all of it was sold out. You can only imagine her surprise on Christmas morning.

K made a sock monkey today from a kit - it's so cute, yet so strange. We all played "Twister Moves" and J watched a few Shirley Temple DVDs. W got Rockem Sockem Robots and I forgot how fun that is. He played with his new V-smile and 1/4 size guitar today (gifts from grandma). Grandma got K and J Ugg boots, new winter coats, and J and W got a DVD/CD/VCR for their bedroom. She got B and me a new all-in-one printer/copier/scanner - which we needed badly! My sister got K a boxed set of Degrassi The New Generation DVDs, which I'm not thrilled with, since it contains some topics that are a bit advanced for K, I feel. My sister (not married, no kids, no clue) says K is old enough to be exposed to heavy stuff. So K and I watched a few episodes together in case she had questions. She didn't. I guess I'll allow her to watch sometimes - but only with me. Am I being paranoid? K and I also tried solving a few mysteries from the new book she got. It's great! There's a story and in the back there are case files, autopsy reports, data analyses, and all sorts of cool stuff to help you figure out Whodunit. She loves these and loves doing them for hours with me.

J has her new tap class tomorrow (4 hours). Then solo on Wednesday and group numbers on Thursday. I want to make a really nice week for the kids. The weather has been really mild the past few days and I'd like to get into Manhattan one day - maybe Wednesday. W is at a weird age where he's too big for the stroller and too little to walk around the city for hours. I'm not sure what to do. I think I'll try and find some family programs at various museums. We'll try and stay away form the tourist traps if possible. It gets crazy around here at Christmastime.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. And happy first day of Chanukah and Kwanzaa!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

It's Christmas Eve!

All day was spent just lounging around, watching Christmas shows, and eating. I spent about an hour wrapping presents in the basement when I realized that I skipped being in choir this year to spend more time with the family on Christmas Eve and here I was in the basement. B and i will wrap together after the kids are asleep. We have done that every year and it's become our tradition. We'll probably begin about 10. Usually we don't start til almost midnight - when I get home from 10pm mass. We can maybe get to sleep at a reasonable hour this year!

B made pasta with seafood sauce, baked clams, and stuffed flounder for dinner. It's an Italian tradition to have fish on Christmas Eve. He also barbecued some marinated venison ( a guy form work brought him some - yucko, I'll pass). After dinner the kids made pointsettias out of construction paper and glitter. They look gorgeous and I hung them right up. Now the girls are watching "A Christmas Story". W is in the tub and all 3 will put on their new Christmas pajamas. We'll hang the stockings in a few minutes, I'll read them the first few chapters of Luke from the Bible (they love the story of Jesus' birth), and then "Twas the Night Before Christmas". Hopefully they'll be asleep soon after.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Link of the day:

Friday, December 23, 2005

I am very excited for Christmas. B is off from work and I'm heading to Target to get the rest of the stocking stuffers - alone. I took a great Christmas card photo of the kids yesterday morning before K went to school. Costco got 50 cards made for me in less than an hour (that's unheard of three days before Christmas). J, W, and I spent about an hour last night writng them all out (and stamping and labeling), and B mailed them this morning. I can't believe I actually did it.

The rest of today will be spent cleaning, doing laundry, and hopefully getting a bunch of things wrapped. For the first time in 10 years I won't be singing in the choir on Christmas Eve at church. I decided I just want to be with my family all evening instead. I want to spend tomorrow baking cookies, making Christmas crafts, hanging stockings, wrapping gifts, and snuggling with everybody while watching Christmas shows. I want to make eggnog and hot chocolate and just RELAX. Sappy, I know, but who cares. LOL!


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

HaPpY OnE YeAr BlOgGiNg AnNiVeRsArY To Me!!!!!

One year ago today I wrote my first post. Twelve months and 272 posts later, I can look back and be so thankful we have come so far. Here's a link to my very first blogger post:

Today J and I went shopping. I had to deliver a Mary kay order and we went rihgt over to Kohl's. I finished all preliminary shopping and now all that's left is fill-in stuff for the kids. This afternoon was the dance company Christmas party. So much fun. B made it into work this morning. I dropped him at the railroad at 6:45am and he was at work by 9. He had a round-trip ticket, so coming home was fast, too, since he didn't have to wait on line to buy a ticket. We'll be doing the same thing tomorrow morning. I hope that transit president goes to jail for all the money this city lost and the aggravation he caused 7 million people. What a selfish prick.

Anyway, my Christmas blues are over and I feel a little more on top of things here. I am still going to try and get those Christmas picture cards made. We'll see if I can do it! B is off Friday so that's when I'll finish shopping (all by myself!, LOL). I'm eating waaaaay too much chocolate, lately - so much for South Beach.

But I think that all in all it has been a fantastic year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

UGH this transit strike really bites. B had to stay home today because it seemed that everyone had the same idea we had - to take the LIRR to Penn Station. The line for the railroad was SIX BLOCKS LONG. I drove him over there this morning, he got out, asked what the line was for (one woman was standing on line for an hour-and-a-half!), and he looked at me and said, "Uh-kayyy, I'm going home". He can work from home but didn't think of bringing any work home with him yesterday. Personally, I think the transit workers have some nerve. Oh, boo hoo, we have no dignity driving our choo choo trains, waaah. They don't think of all the millions of people in this city (and suburbs) who rely on the trains and buses to get to work and back home again. The policemen and firemen didn't have a contract when they ran into the burning World Trade Center. Teachers have been working without a contract. That's what happens sometimes when you work for the city. People's lives are at stake since emergency vehicles get delayed in all the traffic. The 4-person-per-car rule means that cab drivers got stuck in the city because they have to have 4 people in every car now - they drop them off in Manhattan, don't have 4 people anymore, and aren't allowed to drive back out of Manhattan until they get another 3 passengers. People's jobs were at stake. We have families to support too! Work it out amongst yourselves and LEAVE THE INNOCENT PEOPLE OUT OF IT. Ok, I'm off the soapbox.

W had hip-hop class this evening and J came with us. She brought a backpack full of what I thought was just Sunday school homework. At the studio, I saw she did a bunch of puzzles in a Christmas puzzle book - mazes, crosswords, and unscrambling long words. Then she said, "I'm going to read my book". And she read about a page of Lilliput, The Adventures of a Parakeet. It's out of print and we have an original 1960 edition (where did we get that?- oh right, the public school). Then she took out a huge science workbook, and did a page on the food chain. She opened her notebook, wrote her name on top, and answered questions in complete sentences. The studio owner said "Doin' homework? Good job!". Another dance teacher (26ish recently married, no kids, happens to be a public school teacher) said to me, "Don't you homeschool her?". I flashed a huge smile and said, "Yes we do!". She asked a few questions - how do you do that, does the government give you books, how much time do you spend each day teaching her. I answered each briefly and spent more time telling her how awesome it is. I asked her if they taught a lot of "classroom management" in her education college classes. She admitted they do and I told her that kids really don't need "management" unless they're among 30 others at a time nor do they need someone to dictate their learning. They are learning sponges and all school did for J was squash all the enjoyment out of learning. (I did say it very tactfully, lol). She then said she plans on homeschooling when she has kids. She was just so in awe of the fact that J voluntarily packed a bag full of books to do. I guess teachers don't normally witness such things, lol.

Monday, December 19, 2005

I haven't been much in the mood to blog for the last couple of days. Christmas blues, I guess.

I'll get back here soon.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

J started yesterday morning with a private dance lesson. P says she just needs to work on her timing, which is happening with most of the other kids too. We finally got an email stating that J's new tap group will be meeting over the Christmas break. She auditiond over 2 months ago and made it in. She is the youngest (of about 17 kids) in the group by 2 or 3 years. They are going to knock this number out in 1 day (4 hours) and I think I heard that it's going to competition.

W brought over some math workbook to do with me and had me read an ABC book to him. He pointed out more silent 'e's and some letter blends, like 'ph', 'ow', and 'qu'. Then he did some math games on rainforestmaths. Then he was off to school. Seems so pointless to initiate all of these activities at home and then go off to school. He's not learning anything there, but enjoys the crafts, songs, stories, lunches, and friends. if I can just see preschool for that, then I feel ok about him going. I'm noticing he is very close to where J was at his age. Very similar determination, drive, enthusiasm, precociousness, and abilities. Not that I should compare, but it might just prepare me for what's to come:

walked alone at 10 months
had about 7 words at 11 months
held pencil correctly at 12 months
held fork/spoon correctly at 12 months
knew alphabet at 15 months
completely day/night potty trained at 2 yrs 3 mos
took gymnastics class at 2 yrs
wrote name at 2 yrs
propelled self on 'big swings' (pumped legs) at 2 yrs
read words at 3
started dance classes at 3 yrs
tied shoes (and anything else) at 3 yrs 11 mos
read books at 4
wrote well at 4 yrs
taught herself cursive at 5

walked alone at 9 months
held pencil correctly at 12 months
held fork/spoon correctly at 12 months
spoke first words at 2 yrs
knew alphabet and colors at 2 yrs
completely day/night potty trained at 2 yrs 4 mos
snapped fingers at 3 yrs
tied shoes at 3 yrs 4 mos
wrote name at 3 yrs
blew bubbles with gum at 3 yrs
zipped coat at 3 yrs
buttoned shirt at 3 yrs
read Bob books at 3 yrs
hit a baseball over the fence at 3 yrs
Sunday school at 3 yrs
reads longer words at 4 yrs
started dance class at 4 yrs

So, while J continued an even progression, W had a huge burst of activity at 3 yrs old. At 4 they seem to have had the same abilities. And K was mostly right there too with most things (walked at 9 months, potty trained before 2.5, and I know she was reading and writing before PreK). W's teachers constantly tell him (and me) how smart he is. I certainly don't want him down the school's road to handling smart kids. They have no idea what their doing. Th gifted program, though well intentioned, was still forced, uninteresting work that took most of the fun out of learning.

Oh, one of the moms at dance asked me how J had a dance lesson in the morning, "doesn't she have school?".
"No, she's homeschooled".
And I went right into WHY, lol! I did keep it very "gentle" and after a few minutes she agreed it seemed better and that her son has been asking to homeschool. She just assumed it was too expensive (she pays $6000/yr for his Catholic high school). I set the record straight and recommended TLHB for her to read. That book just gets better and better. I cannot put it down. I'm telling you if anyone needs more confidence to homeschool GET THIS BOOK! You don't even need to have teenagers to read it.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

J found some interlocking cardboard pieces and created a 3-dimensional, portable tic-tac-toe game. It folds down flat when your finished and she made a folder to keep it in. She also made pieces labeled "X" and "O" on carboard squares. She is very proud of it. W has been a little on the ornery side lately. He is getting annoyed at the kids tattling on him at school for no reason. He's a huge grouch by the time I pick him up. He still wants to be there, though. I want him home next year. I dread having to endure the crap I'm going to get about it from everyone. That's such a huge thing for me. Unfortunately, I have a very difficult time letting things slide and my feelings can get hurt pretty easily.

W has been amazing me with understanding reading concepts. He can't really read well yet, but is a step or 2 beyond the BOB books. Here's an example from yesterday: He saw my Diet Coke can and told me he can spell 'Coke', C-O-K-E. He said - that's a silent 'e' and the 'o' says 'oh', not 'ah'. So he grabbed a magazine and looked for all the silent 'e' words and got them all right: game, time, and code. I know he didn't learn that in school.

There might be a Transit strike today. It's about 7am and they still didn't come to an agreement. A Transit strike would be very bad. Millions of people in this city need the buses and subways to get to work. Schools will open 2 hours later, K's dance tonight will be cancelled, B would probably take the LIRR to Penn Station and walk the rest of the way. J has solo practice at 9:30 this morning and B and K may need rides at that time. UGH. I have nothing to do with the transit workers' salaries/benefits and yet my family will be paying for their anger. They shouldn't do this to people who aren't involved.

(Hey! I just found out I could change the font and the colors! Kewl)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

It is sooo cold this week. I think today's average was around 19 degrees. W refuses to wear a hat or a scarf because they're "itchy". Nor will he wear a long-sleeved shirt. Half the time he'll agree to a pullover sweatshirt and he'll wear the hood in lieu of a hat. J brought him into school while I stayed right outside in the car. I always wonder if anyone in there even notices a 9 y/o girl walking out of the building alone. She's been prepped on what to say, in case. She's at the point where she almost dares them to say something to her. LOL. I'm sensing some good ole homeschool pride right there! Woohoo!

At home J and I looked at lapbook examples online. She loved what she saw and is already full of ideas to do her own. She then read to me out of her Colonial Times book and was actually upset when we I had to cut it short to pick up her brother :^) . After dance class, K, J and I were talking about colleges and K said she wants to be a fashion designer and go to F.I.T. J said SHE want to do the same thing and of course K got annoyed but they decided they could go into business together. They would design their clothes and also be their own runway models. And they decided to stay local and work on Fashion Avenue in Manhattan. J went right for the notebook and started creating some sketches. I gave her a pile of too-small stuff I was about to toss and she experimented cutting some up and turning t-shirts into tank tops and long-sleeves into long fingerless gloves. Now she wants a sewing machine and more sketchbooks.

I was reading about how some homeschooled kids take classes at a community college or "junior college" for college credit. So, I started researching how it's done in NYC. I'll assume that a community college and a junior college are the same thing - no one calls it "junior college" here. Most of the colleges I looked up require that you be at least 18 to take classes. Some have "continuing education", but that's not for any credits. Then I looked up "non-degree" programs and found some. Hunter College has programs for "qualified" high school students, whatever that means. So I guess I still have to figure out how this is done.

I've started reading the Teenage Liberation Handbook, since K isn't. I already love it. Man, Grace just tells it like it is. I love her. The book makes you really reflect on your own crappy school experiences and wonder where this woman was back then when you needed her! It's a fantastic book so far. I recommend it.

Monday, December 12, 2005

I finally figured out what I want to say to folks who constantly ask me why we homeschool. I came up with this scenario. (although it may not come out this way most of the time):

Them: Hey, no school today?

Me: No, she's homeschooled.

Them: Why would you do that?

Me: Because my daughter is more than just another kid out of 30. She's not one of the "average". She shouldn't have to concede to someone else's idea of how, what, and when she learns. She has her own learning style and her own interests. She finds it much more effective to engage in real life applied learning as opposed to the school way which is canned and artificial. Socially, she is at an advantage. Her friends are all different ages instead of all the same. She knows how to interact with adults as well as little children since she's out in the real world more than schoolchildren are. Instead of being cooped up for over 6 hours a day behind a desk being forced to conform, my daughter is free to run, play, explore her world intensely, and be a child. She can eat when she's hungry, sleep when she's tired, and use the bathroom when she needs to. I have no worries about her self-esteem remaining intact throughout her teen years. Nor do I worry about her falling in with the wrong crowd, changing who she is to fit in, or facing any kind of continuous peer harassment. She maintains a wonderful love of learning and self-motivation since coming home and best of all, she is happy.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I love seeing all the learning that goes on here. J and W were playing with a garland of gold beads. They pulled it into a straight line and whipped a "wave" back and forth to each other. She asked if this is how ocean waves work, so I looked it up and this led to discussions on wind, earthquakes, plate shifting (tectonics), and tsunamis. Sunday school was uneventful; they're having Christmas parties next week. W and I watched another "Christmas Carol" movie together and he asked so many great questions. He really pays attention. He has been writing a LOT. He asks me how to spell certain things and he makes lists. He makes a card for his teacher almost every day and was praised at school for remembering to bring in something round, LOL.

I think J and I will make a lapbook together this week on colonial times. She's so interested in that time period and a lapbook can bring out her creativity. It looks like fun and she's excited about it. I don't know how we'll go about it yet, but I'll post pictures when we're done. She's still doing lots of drawings every day and shows W how to draw cartoon characters. She has been busy updating her websites and IM'ing and emailing friends. A cool thing she likes to do is bring up a digital photo on "Paint" and add things to it (glasses, mustache, etc). Neopets is still her favorite website - she plays Hannah and the Caves a lot. Then of course there's the workbooks, reading, writing, consumer/household math, and dance classes that round out her week. There is so much getting done and being learned and the best part is there is no stress or pressure and she's HAPPY! I couldn't ask for homeschooling to be better than this.

I've been looking at different high schools all week for K. I need to know where she'll be going by this time next year, so I figure I'd better be prepared. I like the local Catholic high schools, but she can only go if she can get a scholarship. The "good" public schools are an option if she can keep an "A" average. She wants to try out for one of the performing arts schools, but I know the kids who make it in have been somewhat trained for years. She'll still audition, though. The closest public high schools suck and I think she's too little to travel into Manhattan for school every morning. That leaves one other school - that accepts kids by lottery. I explained the situation to her and concluded with the fact that if none of these high schools pan out, then homeschooling will be the route we will go. She said OK. Wow! That's the closest I've gotten to a 'yes' so far!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

B took J to dance rehearsal this afternoon. She did her solo at the end and I'm glad B got to see the whole thing. P (her solo coach) was there, too, and told B that J is doing really well. She mentioned something about how J has "eight eights" at the end and how hard that is. They stopped at Michaels Craft on the way home to pick up pins so we could make these cool ornaments. While they were out, I put up the tree, lights, bead garland, and ribbon. The kids put on most of the ornaments.

We all sat around the table making ornaments out of styrofoam balls, pins, beads, and sequins. I followed the directions that were given, having a starting point and continuing with my pins and sequins in concentric circles until I got to the other side. B got all elaborate with his, using pearl ended pins and making it look like a crown pattern. K made her initial out of pins and beads and added sequins all around it. J decided hers was going to be a tomato and put a series of red sequins all over. W made a snowman out by pinning 3 balls together and added eyes and other decorations. Then he took that apart and stuck a bunch of pins in the snowman's head. Then he wanted to make one like mine and I showed him how to put the bead and sequin on the pin. Then he got frustrated because it wasn't "nice" like mine. SIGH.

B is at band rehearsal tonight - they have a gig on Monday night. The kids have Sunday school tomorrow and I plan on cleaning all day. I wish I would just stick with my daily schedule and I wouldn't have to cram all the cleaning in on the weekends. We got our new washing machine, but the delivery guy couldn't hook it up for some reason. Now we have to wait til the plumber comes sometime this week. Thankfully I did lot of laundry the other day and everyone has plenty of clean clothes. I will stick with my schedule this week.

Friday, December 09, 2005

J and I went to the laundromat yesterday. Boy, I have never felt so stupid. I haven't been to a laundromat in over 10 years and didn't expect everything to be so "new-fangled". You use cards now instead of pushing in quarters. A talking machine tells you how much you have left on your card. I put the soap in the wrong hole, forgot to add bleach to the whites, and didn't realize you could program the dryer to go for a full 45 minutes instead of getting up to insert the card every 8 minutes. A large washer cost $4.29. I remember them being $1.50. The dryer was $.29 for 8 minutes. I remember it used to be $.25 for a half-hour (or was that the parking meter?). At least they gave you free soap.

J brought her bridge workbook to do while we sat there and waited. She got a couple of pages done - division, past-tense verbs, and a page about the US flag where she wrote about the differences between the colonial one and today's. We should be getting our new washing machine tomorrow.

Today we woke up to a beautiful snowy morning. Several inches of nice big, fat, watery snowflakes that make great snowballs. The kids and I love to eat fresh snow. We scrape it off every surface in the backyard and it's heaven. NYC snow gets pretty scuzzy after a day, so we have to get it while the gettin's good! I craved crushed ice and snow when I was pregs with W. B would smash ice cubes and put the "snow" in a bowl for me with a spoon every day. And then I couldn't even look at ice for months afterward. Now I love it again.

Dance is still in full swing (ha ha, get it? dance, swing?). J had technique today and has tap, jazz, and solo rehearsal tomorrow. Her solo is done, but she needs a lot of "clean-up". She goes to competition with it in February and she can't wait. B is going to finish the Christmas lights tomorrow and put up the tree and tree lights. Then the kids and I will decorate while he's outside. Our asshole neighbors up the block totally copied our decorations this year. We always have the same setup every year and were very original. Now they have the same stuff and ideas as us. Every day K threatens to cut their wires. So now we just have to come up with something better. SO THERE!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

B has been getting a lot of holiday gifts from work. The other day he brought home 5 boxes of Michael Mootz chocolates, and today we got a UPS delivery of honey-baked turkey (with baby swiss wheel and mustards) from the Honey Baked Ham Company and this box of assorted Godiva Chocolates. Last year someone gave him a Sirius Satellite radio set (with car set). We also have a free trip coming. We were supposed to join one of his sales reps on a cruise this March, but they can't accomodate any kids, so he offered us our own vacation with the kids - anywhere, anytime, all expenses paid. I looked into a Club Med resort in Florida, but they were booked, so now we're thinking of a resort in Mexico. This is the same rep who gave us 2-days worth of Dorney park tickets, took us all out for an upscale dinner, and book a hotel room for us. A couple of years ago, we joined some sales reps on a trip to Venice and Florence. Everything was included (airfare, hotel, meals, tours, entertainment) and all we spent money on was souvenirs for the family. It was the best vacation we'd ever had. I told B he better not ever lose this job! LOL!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Yawn. Nothing much is going on around here. J did some reading today - Mitch and Amy by Beverly Cleary. Then I showed her the World Almanac for Kids website and she did a bunch of science and history trivia quizzes. I noticed afterward she was perusing the 2005 Time Almanac we have and started asking me questions about different things. She finally received a response to the celebrity she wrote to a couple of months ago. She got a short letter and an autographed 8x10 photo. This evening she wrote another fan letter - to a rock band this time. I didn't get to read it before she sealed and stamped it, but she did ask me for the spellings of "especially" and "sincerely". K was so impressed that J got a response that she, too, plans on writing to celebrities. I love that J enjoys reading now and has found a cool way to want to write again. I'm sure if she was still in school, she would have continued to find no joy in either.

W had hip-hop class tonight. He's not staying with the beat sometimes and the teacher constantly stops the whole class to go over and over it again with W. I don't think it's that big of a deal. W will get it - I mean he has until the June recital to get it right. I think I'll go over it with him a lot this week so he can really impress them next week, LOL. Oh, and he's done with Musical Theater. He hates the "girliness" of it and just refuses to participate any longer. That's fine - I didn't want him in it to begin with (the 2 teachers dragged him in the first day), K was annoyed to always be paired with him (lol), and now I'll save $20 a month.

I think I'm going to nix the Christmas photo cards this year and just send regular cards. I'm way too broke and lazy lately. I'm off to bed now. I caught another respiratory bug. Yuck!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Today was the opposite of yesterday. Nice and relaxed. The kids went to Sunday School and B ran a few errands. He spent most of the afternoon putting up our outside Christmas lights. J and W went out to help and even got to make a little snowman from the 2 inches of snow we got this morning. J made tuna casserole for everybody for lunch - she's getting to be such a great cook! K wanted her hair to look like yesterday so after her shower I spent about 30 minutes on it with the straightening iron. Oh, and yes, my hair still looks fantastic too. ;)

Our washing machine died in the middle of a load of towels so we have no clean towels nor does W have any clean uniforms. I may have to schlep to the laundromat in the morning. We're broke this week and of course everyone seems to need money for something: W needs money for the Christmas Gift Shop at school, K needs lunch money, the laundromat will cost at least $10, I owe $15 to the dance studio fund raiser, and I still have to get the damn Christmas cards done. Shit. Oh well. I'm going to stay positive and figure a way through the week.
Today was a total whirlwind. K and I dropped J off at dance rehearsal at 12:30 and headed over to get her hair cut. She got the same as J and just loved herself afterward (LOL). Then we went over to the store where I saw a cute dress (which was even cuter at only $19.99). She ran right over to it before I even pointed it out, tried it on and it was perfect! It's sleeveless, so we also bought a sequinned short jacket to wear over it. We also got a strapless bra and a pair of earrings there. We headed back over to the dance studio and caught the kids running their solos. When class was over, the 3 of us went to the mall. Ok, mall + Saturday + December = BIG MISTAKE. But we somehow found a parking spot and had some good luck. We went first to Payless and got K shoes and a bag. Then to Claire's and got J a bag and some earrings, and both girls got some lip gloss. That's it, we were done.

I dropped the girls home around 5pm and went to get myself a haircut. It's been over 3 years since my last one, so I was due. I look like a new person and I don't know why I waited so long. At home, K put on the dress and said it was really loose. I checked the tag and it said Large. WTF??? I know she tried a small on in the store. Now it's almost time to leave and K was saying to just pin it. I decided to scour her room looking for the tags she ripped off and zip back to the store to get the right size. Thankfully they let me exchange it and I zipped back home.

We got to the party right on time. This Sweet 16 was right out of MTV. My niece had on what looked almost like a wedding dress complete with a ton of makeup and a tiara. The hall was set up like a wedding with numbered tables and assigned seating. There was a DJ and an open bar and tons of food. W wouldn't take his coat off for over an hour and totally refused to stand in front of the Christmas tree for a picture. An hour later his shoes and tie were off and I think his socks were too. Birthday girl called people up to light her candles and we all did lots of dancing. I'm sure I embarrassed the hell out of my kids with my Electric Slide, Macarena, and Cotton-Eye-Joe. I was one of the "old people" dancing. I felt pretty old, too.

K wants a party like this. J does not. I think it was a bit much. But in NYC we have parties like this for any occasion. No one bats an eye anymore over spending thousands of dollars on a birthday party. Does anyone out there have these big ole shindigs where you come from? My relatives in Montana don't do things this big. I mean, they have backyard weddings - which is completely unheard of here. Sometimes I read about how things are done in other parts of the country and I long for that kind of simplicity. I don't know. Maybe everyone feels the grass is always greener on the other side.

Friday, December 02, 2005

J had a private dance lesson this morning and the number is finally all learned! Now the rest of the lessons will be for "clean up". I think it looks great. During her lesson, I took W for a haircut. I will only go to this one place from now on. I've tried others but no one can cut W's hair like this old Russian guy can. It's like a 1950's cut. I love it! J finished later than I thought so I told W he won't be going to school today. Man did he cry. I felt terrible, but I had so much to do that I thought it wouldn't be a big deal. I promised him a hot dog from the cart outside the store and that cheered him up a bit. J and I had the shishkebabs (or "monkey meat" as I call them). I could eat 10 of them at once, I swear.

So we all went to Kohl's and J found a perfect dress for the party tomorrow. We also found tights and cute little strappy velvet shoes to go with it. The dress was $68 on sale for $34 and the shoes were on sale for $18. Back near home, J got a haircut and the lady straightened it all out. Then I took W to the kiddy store nearby and got him black pleated pants, a shirt, and tie. Now I have to find black shoes for him.

J had dance tech class this afternoon. Tomorrow, she has group rehearsal and solo, so during that time, I have to get all K's stuff. First a haircut, then to Macy's for a dress and shoes. I think when everyone is all dressed for the party, that's when I'll take the Christmas picture!!

Right now W is asleep on my lap, J is asleep on my bed, K is also on my bed watching cartoons, B is watching a basketball game in J's room, and I'm about to start cleaning the kitchen right after I finish my Michelob Ultra. I have a cold and I really don't feel like moving at all. Please say some "get off your ass" prayers for me. Til tomorrow...

Thursday, December 01, 2005

That's it! I have to change. I have been disorganized, lazy, and have been spending too much money for way too long now. Yesterday I went to the grocery store and spent $100 for 7 days worth of food (breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, drinks) for the 5 of us. Plus, included in that $100 I got some cleaners and disposable plates, forks, and bowls because I can't seem to wash the real ones faster than we use them. I did so well at the store. I have to always shop like that and stop ordering take-out!

I am spending all day today and tomorrow cleaning this house. I could do so much more with the kids at home if only it wasn't so cluttered in here. I get so anxious and depressed looking at the piles of clothes, papers, dishes, etc. Flylady works for me only when I constantly read the motivational testimonials. Otherwise my schedule goes out the window. I can do it! I can cook every night! I can clean this place! I can be organized! I can save money!

J has been busy with dance this week. She is almost finished learning her solo. I'm glad P is taking her time with it. J has been practicing it every day. Tomorrow is another private lesson. As far as J's homeschooling schedule, she hasn't been following it perfectly - actually not at all this week, but she finds comfort knowing it's there. Today she is working on a crossword puzzle book (which is full of vocabulary and logical thinking) and helping me tidy up. I told K she could take off school so we could go shopping and she asked if we could go after school instead. She said she really doesn't like to miss school. I swear I don't know where she came from. If my mother ever told me I could take off I would jump at that. W's been asking to stay home from school the past few days, but then rushes around all excited about going. Today he made his teacher a card and couldn't wait to get there to show the class and give it to her. Sometimes I wonder if maybe K and W are just the school "type". K NEVER wants to stay home (unless she's deathly ill). And she still didn't start reading the Teenage Liberation Handbook I gave her.

So anyway, as of today, grocery shopping is done for the week, I have 75% of my Christmas shopping done, I have started on the "the big clean", and I know what we're having for dinner tonight. Over the next week I have to take everyone for a haircut, get dresses and shoes for the girls (Sweet 16 party on Saturday), put up our Christmas decorations outside and inside, find an Airborne Express to send back a package, get Christmas cards made, and finish decluttering and organizing this apartment. I think I should write these all down.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

It was such a warm day today that we got to go to the playground again after we picked W up from school. He played with Daniella the whole time and for a change they got along really great. J played with her sister Sarah. At home, we got ready for W's hip-hop class. He looks so forward to this every week. And today the teacher came out and said he was reeeeeally paying attention and doing well. Of course that jinxed it and I caught W fooling around soon afterward, LOL. But the class is late and he gets tired and antsy 15 minutes before the class ends.

I did no cleaning today and the apartment is a wreck. B came home and made soup out of whatever he could find, since tomorrow is payday and we're almost out of food today. He found a can of lentil soup, some spaghetti noodles, some wilted spinach, a can of beans, and a bit of frozen chicken stock. I brought home a $1 loaf of Italian bread and we had a nice dinner. B is very adept at what he refers to as "doing a Ready-Set-Cook", after that old Food Channel game show. He wasn't thrilled about the place being so messy, though. I promise I'll get back into my routines tomorrow.

Monday, November 28, 2005

W had school early today to watch an acting troupe perform "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" (well, most of it). He loved it and thankfully it got him in the mood for Musical Theater class tonight. Then he decided he wasn't going anymore. Then he decided he definitely will go every week. Sigh. The only reason he is hesitant is that there are no other boys in the class. Otherwise he really would want to be there. We werwe expecting the piano lady to be there so they could do some singing today, but she wasn't. We were the first ones there and W sang for the teacher anyway, LOL. During the class, Miss Q spoke about the upcoming singing class and asked J to sing acapella to "show them what to expect". Without missing a beat, she belted out "Born to Entertain" for everyone (shy kid, huh?). Then the other kids stayed afterwards to watch J perform her solo. I hope there is no resentment from the other kids and parents. My 3 kids are so obviously favored in that class (since bonding in Florida at Nationals) that it's almost unnerving (Almost, but I can't help be proud of their confidence - and they are humble with no pretention which makes me even prouder).

B had band rehearsal tonight. They have a gig in Tribeca in a few weeks. Maybe I'll get to that one. I need a regular babysitter. Hmmm. I have no family nearby (MIL doesn't count) and I don't trust non-relatives with my kids. So, I'll have to wait for the dance fund-raiser in February and then we can all see the band. Most of them have been together more than 15 years and they do pretty well for just a 'hobby' band. They've been on the radio several times, won a few contests, made a professional CD, and perform all over Manhattan. He says he'll be singing well into his old age. LOL.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

I can't believe it's Sunday already. The long holiday weekend is over. Yesterday was spent at home relaxing and cleaning. I noticed that the Legos were being played with, many pictures were being drawn, W spent an hour doing pages in a K-1 workbook, and the girls worked out of puzzle books before bed (K had a word-find and J had a vocabulary based book with all different puzzles in it). I made eggnog from our old family recipe and actually relaxed about there being raw eggs in it. The kids were asleep by 9:30 and I was out by 11.

Today, J has solo dance practice at 2 and we're all going to the movies to see Harry Potter 4 right afterward. I think I'll attempt to take the Christmas picture tonight so I can get them made into cards tomorrow. I usually take about 25 different shots and hate every one. Forget about trying to pick one out. This time should be better now that the kids are older. I wish I wasn't so cheap or I'd have them done professionally.

I mailed out the first Quarterly Report about a week ago. I wonder if they'll send me a response. Usually I get a checklist with the sent stuff marked off. But there has been a time where I got no acknowledgement at all and after a few months, I called and they had never even checked what I sent. I do think that my district isn't really concerned about the homeschoolers. They require paperwork because the state demands it, but it's never looked at or checked over. Well, all I can do is take care of my end of the rules. Everything I send is saved in a binder and in my hard drive so whatever they "lose" I can send again. Next one is due in January.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Parade & Ice Skating

Thanksgiving was pretty cool. We went to watch the parade from a nice restaurant in Columbus Circle. We had our own little section with couches and a table. They had a beautiful buffet for all the guests and we ate so much. There were eggs, croissants, bagels, fruit, muffins, cookies, coffee, tea, and a bar to buy mimosas and other drinks. There's nothing like watching the parade in style! I was so excited about all the balloons and floats and after about 30 minutes, it seemed like just B and I were watching! LOL! All the kids got a goodie bag as we came in (coloring books, markers, a paddle ball, stickers) and stayed by the couches eating and playing with their stuff. K loved the camera we got her for her birthday and I borrowed it to take pics of the parade:

Inside the Time Warner Building
A Great View
Scooby Dooby Doo
J's Watching Big Bird Go By

Dinner at Mom's was good. It was nice to eat with all the family. After dinner we all played "Texas Hold 'Em" which is a kind of poker game. We ended up sleeping over and early this afternoon, we took the kids ice-skating. W gets tired of it after about 15 minutes, and B got a crick in his back after holding W up a few times around, lol. So, they just hung out together eating fries and watching the girls and their cousins skate.
We got home around 4 and B met a couple of old friends for some Indian food in Jackson Heights (the "Little India" of Queens). They used to eat there pretty often about 20 years ago. People from all over the city go to Jackson Heights for the Indian food. I hope he brings some home!
I think I'm going to try and talk the kids into watching Scrooge. It's the 1970 musical version with Albert Finney. It's one of my favorites. It makes me all Christmassy. LOL!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

J worked in her Bridge workbook today. She did exercises on present and past tense verbs, helping verbs, lines of longitude and latitude, world hemispheres, some multiplication and 5-digit addition and subtraction, a word-find on Alaska terms, and a math problem involving map coordinates, highways, and cities of Arizona. She seems to be enjoying following the schedule. She likes to have me next to her while she does work. I guess she still likes me to tell her how well she did. Maybe it gives the work more meaning that way. I would like to see her engage in this kind of learning for herself more, not just to feel she's crossing something off a list.

K is very excited about her birthday being in 2 days. Tomorrow at school, about 10 of her friends will be surprising her with gifts. They have been hinting about it all week. I know she has lots of friends there and I know she loves everything about school, but I still feel she'll be better off at home. If she stays in school, she will most likely lose touch with all of them when they all go to different high schools, anyway. There are dozens of high schools to choose from around here. I asked her if she'd like to take a day off here and there to go on outings with J, W, and me. She was all for that. I plan on doing lots of fun things over the Christmas vacation. I really want to expose her to other homeschoolers her age from our h/s group. I need her to come to me with the decision to homeschool. The more I mention it or allude towards it, the more she hates the idea. We'll see what happens by January.

Monday, November 21, 2005

J worked on "Fourth Grade in Review" today, unscrambling state names and practicing multiplication problems. When it was time for silent reading she chose the Colonial Times book again. She was horrified to read how humiliating school could be back then, with dunce caps, whispering sticks, and signs you had to wear. We went to the playground after picking up W and she bought 3 churros from the churro-cart-lady (with her own dollar). It is getting way to cold for the playground. W has Picture Day tomorrow (actually it was today but I forgot his envelope). The teacher promised me she'd take him before he eats lunch so his shirt isn't splotched with tomato sauce and chocolate milk in the picture. LOL. In the evening all 3 kids went to Musical Theater class. W is still reluctant to participate with no other boys in the class. He does end up joining them 20 minutes before class ends, though. I guess it's too much to just sit back and watch from the side.

I have been giving more thought to homeschooling K. I spoke with B and my mom and after 30 minutes of talking, THEY ACTUALLY AGREE WITH ME! K has been nothing but a ball of stress this year and she is pulling away from her family. When she gets home from school, she unloads all her angst and anger onto us. She has gone from being a polite, caring, perfect child, to a nasty, sneaky, lying, disrespectful kid who only cares about clothes, friends, and boys.

I want my daughter back. K is adamant about being in school, though. I need her to realize there is so much MORE out there for her. She has a wonderful sense of self-motivation and taught (unschooled) herself so many things - how to knit, how to do HTML and make great websites, how to play guitar, how to cook, etc. She has the desire to learn and took the steps to find things out. I am seeing that slowly disappearing. As soon as I receive The Teenage Liberation Handbook in the mail I'm giving it to her to read. Now that I have family support, I feel I can put more effort into convincing K that this is the right thing to do. But how can I do that? She lives in a school clique fantasy world that has this vice-grip on her. I have to go about this very slowly and carefully - I feel like one wrong move will ruin everything. I'm going to start with taking her out of school for outings every few weeks. I am starting up read-alouds with her again. I forgot how much she loves that. Tonight we started Little Women and she listened so intently and when she was about to fall asleep she puckered up her lips to kiss me goodnight. I don't remember the last time she offered me a goodnight kiss. All it takes is a little sign like that to let me know I'm on the right path.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

My mind has been racing with homeschooling thoughts again. In reading Guerilla Learning I am relaxing a bit more about K's middle school life and planning awesome outings for us all. We watched a show lastnight on a NYC PBS station called "$9.99". It's a regular series about doing stuff all day in NYC for less than $10. This particular episode was devoted to kids and I got so inspired by it. I never knew there was so many free and inexpensive things to do here. I found out that the Queens County Farm (10 min. from me) is the largest and oldest working farm in the city (47 acres). Belvedere Castle in Central Park has a whole nature adventure pack for kids that is free. Brooklyn has the Kensington Stables which dates back to the 19th century. And they happened to mention that NYC is one of the most kid-friendly cities in the country. But I knew that already.

We're going to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday morning. Mom hooked us up with a spot in a Columbus Circle restaurant with a huge 4th floor window we can watch out of. I haven't been to the parade since I was a kid. My uncle would always take us and we'd go down the night before, too, to watch the balloons being filled. We're spending Thanksgiving Day at my mom's house. It's K's birthday that day, too, so it's going to be extra special.

I decided to start venturing out on the weekends. I have been a staunch weekend-activity-avoider because I hate crowds and weekends are full of crowds everywhere. But several people told me that it's not bad at all and usually all the fun stuff happens on the weekend. So, I caved in. And besides, this way the whole family can go places together. I'd like to start next weekend by visiting the Sony Wonder Technology Lab. I saw it on the show lastnight and it looks fantastic.

So, basically, our homeschooling adventure is going to include lots more outings. And as soon as I get my digital camera fixed I'll be posting pictures again. I'm really feeling organized and together lately. J is feeling good with her schedule and we are making a better effort to immerse ourselves into NYC's arts, culture, and fun. This is the kind of education I would have loved to have as a child. I'm glad I get to experience it all now with my kids.

Friday, November 18, 2005

J had "history" on the schedule for yesterday, so she decided to read If You Lived in Colonial Times (McGovern). She read to herself and out loud and we discussed each short chapter. She really liked learning about this time period - the states involved, the timeline, the clothes, the food, the schools, etc. She asked me a lot of questions and learned about spinning wheels, looms, powdered wigs, plant dyes, hornbooks, and so many other cool things. When she tired of that, she asked to make dinner (tater-tot casserole). She made it last time and it came out great.

At the playground we saw the summer icee-cart lady, but this time she was pushing a shopping cart with a huge tray of churros on it. They were 3/$1, and after we each had one, I bought 9 more! Yum! NYC pushcart food is the best!!

W had a school Thanksgiving feast this morning. His class came into the cafeteria in paper pilgrim headwear. Very cute. They sang 2 songs and then it was time to eat. All the parents brought a dish from their country - and in my neighborhodd, there are a lot of countries. So the feast consisted of basmati rice and samosas, arroz con pollo, quesadillas, flan, baked ziti, a strange shrimp soup, and tons of other stuff. Bringing J into a school is awkward sometimes. When we first walked in the security guard (different than usual) told her to get a late pass (ROFL). Then inside the cafeteria, the school social worker asked her where she was supposed to be and I jumped in with "she's homeschooled". I got a cautious, "Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh" (from high-pitched to low pitched with fixed smile) Then she walked away. I have to stop saying we're homeschooling. Nobody gets it. Especially not public school people. I am definitely going to use my famous, "School? Why no. She's in an autodidactic, interest-based program with very flexible hours. It's great". They'll probably say "Wow! Sounds cool!" since they'll just be too confused to form a negative opinion! heh heh heh.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

This morning I woke up to find that I was charged almost $200 in overdraft fees for being a few hours too late with the paycheck covering about 5 or 6 outstanding debits/checks. I called the bank and the woman said she couldn't do anything about it. I was actually crying because I knew that was our food money that went to those charges. So, a few hours later I called again (hoping to speak with someone more sympathetic this time) and let them have a whole big sob story and I got all but one of the charges removed. Yay!!! J and I dropped W off at school, went to another bank to withdraw our savings and put it into the checking account. Then we went food shopping where I spent $100 on a week's worth of groceries. I rock! Our dinners this week include pork chops/stuffing, ravioli/spinach salad, chicken breasts/green beans/Lipton rice mix, and tater-tot-casserole/broccoli. I also got lots of produce, staples, lunches, and breakfasts. I may even start doing my coupons again and go to the double coupon store. I once saved over $118 in double coupons and sales!

With all the running around today, J didn't get to her schedule again. She doesn't mind and knows she's learning so much throughout the day anyway. She was full of questions today, too: What is charity? How do you lose and win money gambling? What is claustrophobia? How did languages start? How do you file taxes? And on and on. I love it.

I'm also loving Guerilla Learning (G. Llewelyn and A. Silver). I'm only on page 20 or so but it's so right on. Here are some quotes from it:

"...homeschooled kids - many of whom did few or no traditional, 'schoollike' activities at home - learned faster, more easily, and with more joy and enthusiasm than most other children. They remembered what they learned. They couldn't wait to learn more".

"For real learning to take place, the information must occur in a world...The relationship of the information to reality - its context - must be apparent. People can be asked to absorb a certain amount of meaningless data in good faith, on the promise that eventually it will be related to a larger world and transformed into information. but most people can't absorb meaningless data on good faith for twelve years."

"...a homeschooled child learns everything in a meaningful context. The context is automatic: It's the child's world."

"In contrast, unfortunately, most schools work on the opposite assumption. They remove information from its context. They present no relationship to the child's world beyond the abstract world of the classroom. Subjects are artificially separated from one another. It's as if schools believe that if you give kids one tree at a time, year after dreary year, the kids will save the trees up and eventually make a forest out of them."

"...test scores and grades don't actually predict anything much. (Can you imagine if kids knew that secret?!) Higher-level skills such as critical thinking are neither taught nor tested in most schools. Artistic ability, mechanical ingenuity, interpersonal strengths, musical talent, and gifts for synthesizing information are disregarded (if not disparaged). People who can quickly memorize meaningless data and deliver it on demand are rewarded, while poor test takers with other strengths are penalized...And the greatest opportunity children have to develop their strengths, cultivate self-discipline, and find their calling - is ignored in favor of the effort to teach what can be measured".

"School can sap kids' interest in learning, confuse them with so many meaningless 'trees' that it takes years for them to recover and begin to see the 'forest' again. School can simply eat up so much of their time that there's none left for real learning, for spontaneous exploration, or for free play, which is the real work of childhood. At worst, school can cause true emotional stress: anxiety, depression, and crippling self-doubt. Instead of discovering their unique gifts, talents, and place in the world, many kids will learn to see themselves as mediocre, as 'disabled', or as losers if they don't keep up with the traditional school system's standards of measurement. Even the 'winners' may one day awaken to wonder why they spent their youths chasing after external approval, meaningless incentives, and other people's purposes - 'gold stars' - to the exclusion of what they loved and cared about".


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Today was pretty crappy. I brought the car in for an oil change and inspection. Thye found a cracked wheel boot, which wasn't covered. I wanted to take it elsewhere, since these people charge fortune for repairs, but they couldn't do the inspection without it. So after waiting there almost 4 hours (with W and J) the shuttle service drove me home. Then I realize my housekeys are in my car - back at the garage. So we just walked W to school with no uniform. Thankfully, he did have his book and little project that we finished together at the mechanic's. K had a half day so we then walked over to get her, then 15 blocks back to the mechanic. I had to wait another 30 minutes or so, and finally they were done and charged me almost $300.

The good news is that I had my book with me to read (Guerilla Learning - Grace LLewelyn) and there was a TV and vending machines for the kids. They were well-behaved and kept themselves busy. We had some Dunkin Donuts and they ripped up the free newspapers to make airplanes, cootie catchers, and hats. When we got home I saw my new computer was delivered! It's an HP with 17" flat screen and 2x as much memory and GZ as my old one. I spent hours transferring files, address books, documents, pictures, and favorites from the old computer. I used a "memory stick" which made things soooo easy. I think we may keep the old computer without internet access. The kids can have it for CD-Rom games and Word Processing.

W had hip-hop class this evening. He did a LOT less fooling around today and I can see he is starting to take it seriously now. There's a kid named "Jeremy" in that class and W swears it's "Germy". I guess that's what he hears. ROFL! K stayed home 45 minutes by herself until B got home. She wants to be so independent, but ended up calling B 3 times (telling him to hurry) because something spooked her. J came with me. She spent the hour drawing, mostly. She'll draw anything. My favorite picture was a very detailed likeness of our entertainment center. LOL.

We haven't gotten to J's schedule yet this week. She just hasn't had the time to herself. I'm sure we'll get to it tomorrow.

Monday, November 14, 2005

I went to W's parent-teacher conference today. They told me that he's very smart and is always the first to raise his hand to give an answer. He is very active so they give him jobs to do, like tie his classmates' shoes and help them with their coats. He sometimes gets aggressive (pushy-shovy-hitting) and that he goes into the "thinking chair" sometimes. He has a great appetite and always eats all his lunch (no shock there). They showed me his folder full of drawings and paintings. And told me how absolutely adorable and handsome he is (and that he looks like me, LOL). They don't push writing at this level "because by the time they're in third grade they get bored with writing". No kidding. There are many trips scheduled starting in January and they're having a big Thanksgiving feast this Friday. All in all it was a good meeting. There are no concerns or problems and they knew so much about what he can do and how he is socially. I've never seen teachers like this whom I really like and feel this comfortable with. I can see why W likes school so much.

K got her report card today. It wasn't great (as I knew) and we had a talk about improving her grades. She now has limited time on the phone and computer (30 minutes each per day) until the next report card (January) - where I expect to see major improvement. She acting pretty indifferent to it all and I'm getting a bit concerned. I have been wondering if she feels overshadowed by J. Not just with the homeschooling, but with all the dance attention she gets. I do my best to include K in everything and make sure she gets lots of special things, too, and I try and spend extra time with her. I feel I should do more, though.

I wrote a thank-you email to the convention director expressing much appreciation, raving about the teachers, and and telling how J thoroughly enjoyed herself yesterday. He wrote back (names are edited for privacy):

"I LOVE J.......




He did take a liking to J yesterday. He told me that she has something so special and her energy and enthusiasm is so strong - she should never lose that.

The kids had Musical Theater class this afternoon. W refused to go in because there are no other boys in the class, but after 20 minutes he relented. He did really well and the teacher came over to me to say how proud she is of him. She can't believe how good he did today with him being so young and all. He is looking forward to next week! K loves it, too. She seemed to stop feeling so self-conscious today. But it must be hard to keep hearing the teachers and the studio owner (who came in to observe) constantly tell J she's doing a great job. I do feel weird about it. I think K and I need some more alone time. Maybe we'll go to the mall together this weekend.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

So, except for a couple of wrong turns we made it to the workshop in 1 1/2 hours. We were the first ones there from our studio. They separated the kids into juniors and seniors. J and the only other kid from her team (a very talented, sweet boy named E) and all the older girls were in seniors. It was a blast! Lyrical and Line were taught by a former Rockette. Broadway Jazz was taught by a guy who did 3 B'way shows and several National Tours. And the director/owner of the whole competition/convention company taught them tap. J's favorites were tap and hip-hop. She thought Line/Precision (kickline) was fun, but weird and isn't too fond of Modern. Our studio was invited (as guests of the director) so none of the dancers had to pay, but I found out the other students were charged $100 each to take this workshop. Is that awesome? We were finished there about 4pm and it took us 4 hours to get home. Lincoln Tunnel and Manhattan traffic were so bad that I am once again vowing to never take my car into the city for as long as I live.

B took W to the park all day. K was home when we got there and showed me all her great new stuff. She went out for breakfast this morning and then they went to visit Gram and Papa (almost 84 and 91) at the nursing home this afternoon. One has dementia and the other has Alzheimers, but they're still happy together. They love seeing my kids (even if they don't remember who we are). K enjoys seeing them. Mom dropped K off at home around 5 and happened to see the many piles of clothes everywhere. I get so embarrassed when it looks cluttery in here. Tomorrow I am starting the reorganizing. I have some great ideas. :)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

K is still out at Mom's. They went to the mall today and Mom spent a fortune on her. Her excuse is that "K has to look good for school, and besides, it's for her birthday". Ok. So she bought her UGG boots ($120), tons of clothes, and a jacket ($125). She's out of her mind.

J had dance this afternoon. Extra rehearsals are scheduled on the weekends now. They did their group routines and ran all the solos twice. I spoke to P about how J gets distracted with everyone watching while she's learning and she was appreciative at my mentioning it. I mean, we're paying her for the lessons, so I shouldn't feel weird coming to her with any concerns, right? She spent the rest of the afternoon at S's house (also on the dance team). They drove her home at around 6:30. She has to go to bed early because we have to get up at 6 to go to an all-day dance workshop/convention. They will be there from 9 to 4, doing all kinds of dance: Broadway jazz, tap, hip-hop, modern, lyrical, and precision/line. I have all the clothes laid out, lunches/snacks/drinks packed, and driving directions in my bag. I think we're set. At right is a pic of J at Nationals.

Friday, November 11, 2005

J had solo practice this morning at 9:30. A lot of kids were there and I think J got a bit flustered and uncomfortable with everyone watching her learn her routine. P's dd does the dance with J, and that really distracts J, so I have to talk to P about that. I drove the girls into Manhattan afterward so they could spend the day with their grandmother at work. Traffic was horrendous and I don't plan on driving in there again anytime soon. Mom works in Columbus Circle and they are just starting to put Christmas wreaths all over the buildings now. They look so pretty. This is where she works:

We drove along 57th street which was a dream for K. She couldn't believe all her favorite stores were right there: Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, Prada, Coach, Berberry, etc. She definitely knows what she likes!

There was another girl, 11, at Mom's work to hang with. They played Monopoly and read magazines together. Then they all went for lunch at a small Asian place in the area (the small hole-in-the-wall places are always the best in NYC!) and took the subway back to Queens at around 7 to meet me. Mom and K went back to Long Island, while J came home with me and W. J has dance all weekend so she'll be busy.

I am helping J come up with a weekly schedule. I made a list of all the books and workbooks we have and she's deciding what will be done on what day. She's excited about it and I'll admit, it makes things easy for me to have a schedule to follow. It's pretty much going to look like this:

Monday: 1. Arts & Crafts 2. Math Website or Workbook 3. Silent reading
Tuesday: 1. Bridge Workbook (all subjects), 2. Geography Website, Workbook or Reading book 3. Read-aloud
Wednesday: 1. Library 2. Test-Prep Workbook (has math, reading, language arts) 3. Silent Reading, Read-aloud
Thursday: 1. History Website, Workbook, or Reading book (Biography, Life in Colonial or Civil War times) 2. Reading, Spelling, or Language Arts workbook 3. Silent Reading
Friday: 1. Science Experiment 2. Bridge Workbook 3. Journal Writing

It's still a work in progress. I doubt she'll follow the list 100%, but she's comfortable at least having some sort of goal for her day. She already does all of this anyway, and having a written plan keeps her from feeling aimless. And there is also so much more learning going on throughout the day. I'm very proud of her for realizing what her needs are and doing something about it.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

J went to The Museum of the Moving Image today with our homeschool group. I had to drop her off with T (whose dd, G, is J's best friend) since I had to bring W to school. She had a great time. They went on a tour of the museum where there made a craft (pictures drawn on both sides of a piece paper and when you twirl it around it looks like all the images are together), saw actual movie props, learned how sound effects are created, put their own voices into movie characters (like Babe, the pig), and made a short film of themselves being silly. There were about 10 kids altogether (5 families) and they ranged in age from about 6 to 12. I'm so glad J got to go to something with the h/s group finally!

When I dropped off W at school, the aide came to me and told me that W is "really, really smart". Then she told me some things he did, like ask great questions to the policeman on Career Day last week (and that the policeman commented about it to her), how he is reading well, and that he's "such a sweetheart". Is this the same kid from last night? LOL! It makes me a bit nervous, though, because J was really, really smart, too, and she had nothing but problems. I do see a difference in them, in that J needed lots of attention, was disruptive, and in "time-out" several times a day in Pre-K. He has been fantastic so far - coming out with "terrific" stickers every day. I know I shouldn't compare the kids, but at least this time around I'll be able to foresee any likely problems since I already went through them.

J and W made some tempera paint creations and J had dance this afternoon. Later on we picked up some Chinese take-out for dinner. It's that time of year when B works late every night, but he was home in time to watch "LOST" with all of us. Tomorrow I'll be moving furniture and reorganizing. I hope I get it all done!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

For 5 hours today there were 2 guys in my apartment capping and calking my windows. I only expected one leaking window to be fixed but 15 minutes before the guys got here, dh's aunt said they'll be doing ALL 10 windows. All of a sudden one room turned into 6 and I ran around decluttering (and almost crying) til he got there. It wouldn't have been so bad if I didn't still have the remains of 7 hefty-leaf bags of clothes for the girls taking up every clear space. I'm still looking for more closet space. I plan on rearranging the living room furniture again, using one coat closet for my clothes and one for J's clothes. Then W can have J's smaller closet. W and I currently do not have a closet. It'll work out. I just have to get creative.

With all 3 kids home for Elections Day today, I didn't get much done. I wouldn't leave them up here with the workers while I went down to do laundry. Nor could I cook anything since the men were in and out of the kitchen. So I basically sat around for most of the morning. K was on the computer, updating her website, adding pictures, and IM'ing friends. J and W played "movies" where W was the ticket-taker. He sat on the bottom step of a stepstool with the top step as his "desk" telling everyone that Fat Albert would be starting soon and hurry for a ticket. J made all the tickets and started the movie. Both of them also watched the workers and asked them lots of questions. Thankfully they were patient guys and answered them the best they could - with only the occasional request to get out of the way, lol.

W had hip-hop class at 6:30 and of course, fell alseep at 5:45. I got him up anyway because he really wanted to go tonight. He got up fine, but I worried that it might affect his class - and I was right. He did very well in the class and was only silly and noncompliant a few times. When they all came over to us for water, my friend's son said W put his hands on his neck. I talked to W about keeping his hands to himself and the other boy's mom told her ds to stop snitching, LOL. At the end of the class, though, the dance teacher, V, came to me to tell me that W choked this kid, who turned red and started coughing, and W was made to sit out for a while as punishment. OMG! I had no idea he did THAT. I gave him a very strong lecture on the car ride home. He said he understood and won't put his hands on anyone again. Now, I know W is an aggressive kid. He plays very rough. It's never in anger, though - usually it's his way of connecting with his own gender. It comes out more, too, when he's tired or bored. He never acts rough with girls. With them it's the opposite - he is protective and gentle. I tell B about these things and after initial shock, he kinda laughs and seems proud of W's aggressiveness. I told my mom, too, and she chuckled and said, "well, he's a boy and that's what they do". WHAT? See what I have to deal with?

Monday, November 07, 2005

I have not been sleeping well at night. I go to bed way too late and then for some reason I wake up around 3am and don't get back to sleep for an hour or more. It sucks because then I'm a mess all day. I don't feel like moving at all. And when I do have to move, I'm slow, then late, then grouchy. So I plan on changing things this week.

Today was one of those slow, grouchy days. J and I walked W to school (J roller skated) and at home she read and spent 30 minutes on a geography website (US states). Then she made herself soup and a sandwich and perused a toy catalog. She made her Christmas list the other day on MS Word and it's 3 pages long, LOL. She also emailed it to my mom.

The kids had Musical Theater class this afternoon. K is feeling self-conscious again and didn't want to go. At first she said it was because she had a headache, but after awhile she admitted she felt fat and inferior in the class. K is not fat at all but she compares herself to the few ultra-skinny dancers in the class - J being one of them. We had a long talk about image and how no one is looking at her and how she has to really get over herself and she finally agreed to go. I feel she made a committment to the class and her not being there puts a wrench into their rehearsals. I let her stay home last time - believing the headache line. She did have fun and hopefully she feels better about everything.

W, on the other hand, wasn't too thrilled with the class today. None of the boys showed up and he felt awkward. He came out and said he didn't want to go back in there. He said it was too "girly" in there and it's not his kind of dancing. When there are other boys in the class he feels better and really enjoys himself. At the end of the class, Ms. Y promised him there would be boys in the class next time and she was going to make an effort to recruit more from tomorrow's hip-hop class. She also told me he is doing so well and he learns so quickly. That did make W feel better and he said he'd go back next week. (And I told him if he stays the whole time next week I'd buy him a pack of gum. Bribery isn't so bad, is it?).

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The weekend went by so quickly! We went out to my mom's yesterday to celebrate B's and my sister's birthday. Mom got a new computer and I liked it so much I bought one, too! It's an HP and so much better than the Gateway I have now. Mine is 3 1/2 years old and on its last legs. With 5 people using it all the time, I don't know how it even lasted this long. The kids aren't exactly gentle with it.

P gave J and K SEVEN huge Hefty bags of clothes from her 2 girls. I cannot tell you how pristine everything is. It's like Christmas here today! J had dance this morning while K and W had Sunday School. (K was not happy about having to go). They are revamping a little number from last year into one fit for competitions.

Mom's friend's dd ran in the NYC Marathon today, so she picked up K to take her into Manhattan to watch. They mainly stayed around/in Central Park. Of course then Mom brought her home right as my apartment looked as if it exploded with clothes. LOL. Now I have to find a place to put them all.

Friday, November 04, 2005

W is reading so well now. He brings home a different book from school every day. Yesterday's was "Who Can?" and he read me the whole thing. The story is like this, "My cat can run fast. I can, too!". He was so durn proud of himself! Other things he did at home today was draw me with a mad face, very detailed turtles, and make a perfect fan out of construction paper. At school, it was Career Day and when J and I picked him up his class was outside talking to policemen (which scared me half to death). But I saw it was a Bomb Squad officer who was showing the kids his bomb-sniffing dog and taking questions. Very cool.

J did more workbook today. She uses the same one every time (the 4th-5th grade summer bridge workbook by Rainbow Press). Today's pages included time zones, multiplication, 5-digit subtraction, helping verbs, and singular and plural possessive nouns. She likes it because it doesn't inundate you with tons of the same stuff - so it's not tedious and boring. It's bright and colorful and fun. Also, each activity can be a launching pad for further research and more indepth activities.

J brought G to dance today and it looked like she really enjoyed it! It was a tech day, so it was easy for her to participate - lots of jump and turn practice. J will see her again on Wednesday for a cool museum field trip. She finally gets to go to a homeschool activity! Today there was a bunch of things we missed, like dissecting owl pellets and ice skating. Well, no matter what, next year we'll be available for everything!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Same old thing today. I cleaned in the morning, brought W to school, J roller-bladed home, did a few workbook pages, went on a few websites, and then we picked W up. We went to the playground, picked up K, and went to dance class. Boring.

At the playground, W played with an adorable 2-year-old nicknamed Cha-Cha (lol). He acted like the big protector and helped her onto the swing and down the slide. It was just so cute.

K is still doing ok at school. She got 100 on a math test, but a 36 on a language arts test. I think the LA teacher is asking too much - having the kids write long word-for-word definintions. What's the point of that?! K knows very well what these words mean. I'm not upset with K. I just explained to her that although the teacher is being unfair, you have to play the game the way she wants. If the assignment is to memorize definitions, then that's what you gotta do. I brought up homeschooling again with her yesterday (mentioning that she's not going to get into the good high schools with those grades) and she started crying and saying how she'll do badly on purpose if she's homeschooled. If I had known about homeschooling 8 years ago, we wouldn't even have been having this conversation. All the kids would have been homeschooled from the getgo.

J's dance class was great. They're working on their new tap and jazz routines. W fell asleep on the way so he slept in the car while I read. He woke up after an hour and we went down to watch. He was very grouchy and had a pretty nice tantrum because I didn't have any money to buy him chips. I had to remove him from the area and we sat in the car again until class was over. I have no patience for these tantrums. I told him he is almost 5 years old and should not be acting like he's 2.

At home, J helped B make dinner (she has the cooking bug now! LOL) and phoned her h/s'd friend G to ask if she could come to dance tomorrow for "bring a friend day". That should be fun.
J and I went food shopping this afternoon. I am trying to keep to a budget and only bought dire essentials and cheapo dinner stuff. At around 1pm, J made dinner. It was "tater-tot casserole" from the Duggar website (the family with 16 kids). She browned the meat and added all the ingredients. It was done in an hour and I put it into the fridge to be reheated later on. She was really proud of herself for making dinner. I gotta hand it to her, she did a great job (and was so enthusiastic about it!). This might become a new thing with us.

J had company technique class later on and at the end, she asked to perform her solo in front of everybody. The CD skipped and she started to get nervous, but kept going and got through it all. W found the CD earlier today and got his sticky fingers all over it. I have to hide it from now on. Something always seems to go wrong when she performs in front of others. I wonder if that's a bad sign. 8^o

After dinner (we had a big spinach/cucmber salad with the casserole) MIL and dh's aunt came over to help us celebrate B's birthday. I found a sugar-free cheesecake in a bakery by the dance studio that was actually pretty good. B liked the exercise equipment we got him, but I think he thinks that we're trying to tell him something, LOL. I just want hium to be healthy. He has type-2 diabetes and I worry that he's not active enough. We got him a small stepper thingy with elastic arm bands attached and a stomach cruncher thing. Nice and small and he can use them while watching the Jets/Knicks games. And I can use them too!! heehee

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

It's B's 40th birthday tomorrow! After dropping off W at school, J and I went and got him some exercise equipment and slippers, cards and paper, and wrapped up his gifts at home. J went on some educational websites for about 30 minutes, practiced her solo a couple of times, and we picked up W and went to the playground. It was such a beautiful day out. Then we picked up K and went home. I made dinner and when B got home, he took W to his hip-hop class. W loves the class but they have it at 6:30 and he's just so tired then. Today he asked for a break and sat off to the side. He fell asleep so early tonight, too. Turning the clocks back has some effect!

After dinner I cleaned for about an hour (dishes, wiping up, sweeping, swiffering, putting away the rest of the laundry) - BIG improvement for me. I felt so calm all day with everything clean. I have to keep this up.

Monday, October 31, 2005

This apartment is finally sparkling clean. I am so sticking to my Flylady schedule from now on. It was pretty painless, too. Boxes and baskets that were filled with who-knows-what are emptied and gone. All winter clothes are hung and put away. 4 loads of laundry are done and away. Floors are swept and swiffered, bathroom is shining, kitchen is so clean and no dishes are anywhere, beds are made, and surfaces are clear. My mood is great today.

W's Halloween parade went all around the block. I thought it was just throughout the school. I can watch! J and I zipped to CVS to buy a disposable camera (all my real cameras are broken) and caught W's class as they were coming up the block. I took a few pictures of him (as he rolled his eyes in embarrassment). Then J and I went home for a few minutes so she could change into dance clothes for her solo lesson. We picked up W at 10:40 and got to the studio by 11. Her solo is so amazingly fantastic. P is really pushing all she can into 2 1/2 minutes. I can't believe J is getting it all.

We picked up K and waited for B to get home (early today). Then we all went trick-or-treating - except K, who stayed behind on the porch with the big basket of goodies to hand out to the kids (she loves that job!). We went down one block and up another and their bags were filled pretty quickly. W got tired and J and I headed over to her best friend's house (h/s friend, G) for their annual Halloween parade (which includes all 15 buildings in their co-op complex) and more t-or-t'ing in their building. Then we went to G's house where the girls had a great time trading candy and giggling for over an hour. T (G's mom) and I as usual, had a great conversation about life and homeschooling. I just love having someone close by to talk to about it.

Meanwhile, B took K and W t-or-t'ing some more with our neighbors from up the block. When J and I got home (around 9) they were both asleep and their candy bags were ridiculously huge. J fell asleep a few minutes after we got home. Daylight savings time is great! LOL. I think it was a really fun Halloween this year.