Saturday, April 30, 2005

We went to a great First Communion party today! The whole restaurant was closed for the party and they hired a deejay. The deejay was fully equipped with stuff for all the kids - maracas, sunglasses, leis, hats, and blow-up guitars and microphones. The buffet dinner was all Italian food - eggplant, mussels, chicken, pasta, etc., and finally, a Napoleon cake from Stassi's bakery - which is one of my faves. I danced a lot. I had a few beers and some white wine so I was in a very happy mood! We did the Hokey Pokey, the Conga, the Electric Slide, the YMCA, and Hands Up, along with music from the 50's until today. B and I slow-danced to It Had to be You by Harry Connick Jr. (it's our song!). I love these kinds of parties.

My friend T was there who has a daughter J's age. I told her that J was homeschooled now and she revealed that she was seriously thinking of the same thing for her dd - S. S has neurofibromatosis, which is a disease which may cause learning disabilities, lots of tumors, and precocious puberty. No learning disorders for S, thank goodness. J and S have known each other since they were 2 and I would love if she were to eventually homeschool. I told her to call me if she has any questions.

I just got John Holt's Learning All the Time and Mary Griffith's The Unschooling Handbook. Woohoo! I cannot get enough information about unschooling! The more I read, the more I love! I told B I may let W go to Kindergarten, but homeschool him for 1st grade on. B sees how well J has done so far being home, so I don't think there will be much of an objection. We'll see when the time comes.

B is thinking of getting a part-time job on the weekends. He put an application in to Modell's today. Any extra money will be a big help. He is also working at the US Open in August. He does that every year. He makes a few thousand for a couple of weeks work. We have to put that right to our Florida vacation this year. We have been racking up a lot of debt lately, so I just re-vamped our whole bill paying system. My dream is to be debt-free. I know we will get there!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The girls had a great time at work today with B. He works on Park Avenue and K and J love it there. They made a collage, had a scavenger hunt, ate pizza, learned about B's company, decorated desserts, and got lots of gifts to bring home. All 3 kids have been playing very nicely together in K's room since they've been home. I hear a harmonica, a guitar, and a tambourine coming from in there. I wonder if being around each other all week is actually having a positive effect on them. Hmmmm. The girls each started their own blogs yesterday. I found a kid-friendly blog site for them. It would be pretty cool if they write in it regularly. J prefers keyboard writing over handwriting these days.

W asked to pleeeeeeease go to school this morning. Fine. I'm letting him decide for himself whether he wants to be there or not. He wants to go. I was a little hasty in making a decision yesterday without knowing the whole story. I spoke with the teacher today so I feel ok with letting him go back if he chooses.

Saturday is gardening day. I think we may need a full day for all we have to do. I am booking our flight to Florida in the morning as well. We're all going to go to J's national competition and make a nice famiy vacation out of it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

After I picked W up from school today, we all drove out to the Long Island Children's Museum to meet up with another hs'ing family. It was packed, the people were totally obnoxious, and the exhibits were boring and run by impatient morons. Gimme my city museums anytime. I'm never going to anything that Long Island considers a museum again. The only thing I like about Long Island over the past 10 years are some of the beaches and the fact that my mom lives there. That's about it.

W is not going back to his preschool. He was in time-out for the zillionth time and the teacher was a bit too nasty today for my liking. Preschool is supposed to be fun - like day camp in a way. W is not happy there anymore, so we're done. I'm not spending over $200 a month for my son to get yelled at all day. I can do that myself at home for free! (tee hee)

Tomorrow is take your daughter (and son) to work day. The girls are so excited and dh's work has a lot of activities planned for the kids. I'm going to stay home with W all day, clean the whole apartment, and wait for the cable guy to fix this digital crap we have.

(I have PMS today, can you tell??)

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

I am so exhausted. I haven't been home for more than 15 minutes since 10 this morning. I kept W home from school today and we met our new hs'ing friends at the park. We went into the zoo first. J was so happy to see G again. They were running together and holding hands. We watched the sea lions get fed and do a few tricks and then we ate lunch (we all packed a bunch of stuff). I like that zoo. The bald eagle is definitely my favorite. I couldn't help humming "America the Beautiful". A man stands near the aviary with a cart that has all this cool stuff on it like hawk skulls, an eagle's foot, coyote fur, etc. He gives this really cool mini-lesson on hunting animals. There was also a nice petting zoo we went to next. Then to the big playground where we saw it was "Spring Fling" week. Music was playing and there was crafts for the kids to do. I saw an old friend there with her 3 kids. She's a math coach at a middle school and was surprised to hear I was homeschooling. We talked about that for a bit and she admitted one of her kids was just like J. She agreed with me that homeschooling was a great idea - but I don't think she would even consider it for her kids.

We left the playground at 3, said goodbye to our friends and went home to wash up and change out of the dirty park clothes. J had a playdate with her best friend from her old dancing school at 4:30. [At 3 years old, J was asked to model for her old dancing school's website. She's still on there. Check it out at ] W fell asleep so when we got there I just laid him on their couch. I was served a beautiful strawberry margarita and we all went outside so the kids could play. J learned how to use a pogo stick and she loves it so now I want to buy her one. K had fun, too. She always seems to get along great with J's friends (sometimes it's to a fault, but usually J loves having her sister around). We ordered a pizza and left at 6:30.

I dropped the kids off at home at 7, picked up my friend M at 7:05 and drove 20 minutes to a special prayer service honoring all diocese choir members. There were over 200 people there. It was nice and we had refreshments downstairs and were given a pretty wooden cross that says something appreciative on it. I like it and I'm hanging it up somewhere :) So I got home around 10 and I'm just ready to drop. Great day, though.

Monday, April 25, 2005

We finally got to Michael's craft store today. They don't do educator's discounts, but I still got a lot of stuff for less than $40. I got pipe cleaners (they're called "chenille stems" now - did you know that?), googly eyes, modeling clay, popsicle sticks, pompoms, stickers, small beads, craft thread, paint, large foam squares, and small hinged wooden boxes for them to decorate. I found out there was a kids craft going on there at 1pm so all my kids stayed for that. It was a good 45 minutes and it was one wooden piece fitted into an L shape that they painted (for Mother's Day). K's was a cat and cathouse (?), J's was a bird and birdhouse, and W's was a dog and doghouse. Very cute. There's one every day this week since the ps kids are off from school.

When we got home W played with the modeling clay (the color came off all over him! LOL) and the girls made mini beach flip-flops out of the foam squares. They found this idea in one of their craft books. K then made a nice lunch for everyone - her own recipe, consisting of spaghetti, tuna, sauteed garlic, and cream of mushroom soup. It wasn't half bad! J spent the next hour talking on the phone with her friends, testing out our new 3-way calling feature, K made me an awesome bracelet by diagonally braiding 4 pieces of craft thread and beads, and W is just running around with blue all over his body.

I have decided NOT to put W into full-time PreK in September. He will go to what's known as "universal PreK" which is free here in NYC. It is 2 1/2 hours a day (9-11:30am), 5 days a week. This will save me $315 a month and have more time to spend with W. I originally felt he should do full day since I was now "teaching" J and she needed all the 1-on-1 possible with me and no distractions. Now I feel differently about all of that since we have started unschooling. I want W to be a part of everything we do.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Okay, I'm getting excited again. I did a lot of thinking about a lot of things and I think I've had an epiphany (thanks to a couple of unschoolers who laid things out for me). The bottom line is that J needs to deschool - probably for several more months. I know J made a list, but I made a list as well and wrote about 15 general things on it. All of these things are truly what J wants to do - with me. I am not going to worry about what she's learning, because learning will happen regardless. Arts and crafts are number 1 on the list. J wants this every day. She also wants to do science experiments and cooking with me every day (hey, those 2 can even be combined sometimes. Then again, my cooking usually ends up being a science experiment anyway!). Reading aloud to J is important to both of us and I will make a greater effort to do that daily. Other things on the list are: gardening, nature walks, field trips, regular errand-outings, biking/skating, playground, picnics, cultural trips, washing the car, and popcorn and movie. Of course I will also be an available resource/facilitator with J's current interests (like the solar system) if she needs me.

I was up at 3am to 6am at the computer doing more research on unschooling. I am mentally at a much better place with it and feel it is possible for us now to jump into unschooling with both feet. I even revised J's IHIP for 4th grade to allow us more academic freedom by using words like "may include". Here's the new IHIP which includes everything required for the sup't. The suptopics were copied and pasted from the "typical course of study" for her grade. It's better than coming up with all this myself and it satifies the powers that be. Plus it's all on only one page! What do you think? :


SCHOOL YEAR: 2005-06

DATES FOR SUBMITTAL OF QUARTERLY REPORTS: 9/15/05, 12/15/05, 3/15/05, 6/15/05

J will be using various methods/tools for 4th-grade instruction in all the subjects specified in Section 100.10 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. The corresponding subtopics may include and are not limited to:

Arithmetic: Reading and writing numbers, Roman numerals to C, Prime numbers less than 100, Prime factoring, Numeration systems, Subsets, Decimal and fraction equivalents, Addition and subtraction, Facts to 7 places, Multiplication and division facts to 144, 1-, 2-, and 3-digit multiplication problems, 2- and 3-digit dividend, 1-digit divisor problems, Meaning of mixed numbers, Finding simple averages, Geometric concepts, Customary and metric measurement, Time to the second, Problem-solving methods, Charts and graphs
The English Language: Silent and oral reading, Choral reading, Listening skills, Telephone skills, Making and accepting simple social introductions, Summarizing simple information, Listening to literature, Critical reading, Short stories, chapter books, poetry, plays, Spelling, Increasing dictionary skills, Cursive handwriting, Simple outlining, Writing letters and informal notes, Written and oral book reports, Creative writing, Developing skills in locating information, Increasing indexing skills, Developing encyclopedia skills, Utilizing parts of a newspaper
Social Studies: Types of community life, History and development of the local state, Relation of the state to its region, nation, and the world, World cultures, Reasons for our laws, Regions of the world, Continents, Time zones, Earth's resources, Climatic regions of the world, Map skills: longitude, latitude, scale, Using a globe
Science: Environment of the local region, Biological organization, Classification systems, The insect world, The reptilian world, Plants and animals of the past, Structure of plants, Seeds, Ecosystems, Balance of nature, Human body, Weather's influences, Weather instruments, Climate, Cause of seasons, Earth and its history, Oceans and the hydrosphere, Air and water pollution, Magnets and electricity, Light and color, Solar system and the universe, Living in space, Scientific method and scientific inquiry
Health/Safety: Personal and mental hygiene, Dental health, The body and its functions, Skeletal and muscular systems, Care and proper use of the body, Principles of digestion, Basic food groups, Good nutrition habits, Diseases, Safety, Substance abuse
Music/Visual Arts/Physical Education: Wide exposure to all forms of music, Piano keyboard, Music appreciation (composer and piece study), Art appreciation (artist and picture study), Daily arts and crafts, Structured group dance lessons (tap, jazz, lyrical) 3+ hrs. per week, Free play indoors and outdoors

Instruction methods/tools may include but shall not be limited to: reference materials (atlas, dictionaries, globe, maps, encyclopedias, various non-fiction books, videos, the world wide web), workbooks, worksheets, hands-on activities, experiments, projects, library visits, frequent field trips, group activities, classical/contemporary literature, research, journal/narrative/essay/poetry writing, games, creative thinking, predicting/forecasting, gathering facts, written peer correspondence (pen pals), music CDs, CD ROMs, piano keyboard, art supplies (clay, paint, crayons, pencils, felt, sketchpads, chalk, etc.), structured group dance classes, free play, conversations, and real life.

Primary instruction to J will be provided by XXXX and XXXX, her parents. Supplemental instruction will be provided by others, as necessary.

I also changed the quarterly reports to be as minimal as possible. I copied this format from another unschooler who lives in NY and she says it's always accepted. Here is the main part of the 4th quarterly which is due mid June:

J is progressing at a satisfactory level or above in all subject matter.

We have had instruction in all of the following areas:
Reading, Writing, Spelling, Language, Math, U.S. History, Geography,
Science, Health, Physical education, Music and Visual Arts.

We have covered at least 90% of the planned material for this quarter.

J had no absences from instruction this quarter, and has exceeded the required hours of instruction (225).

Knowing me I will probably revise it 20 more times before I mail it. LOL! Did I mention I'm a perfectionist?

Saturday, April 23, 2005

I am seriously going to make a written list of ideas to do all week. There already are several outings planned. J has playdates tomorrow and Monday. We are meeting up with 2 hs'ing families - one Tues. and one Wed. And one day we're going to a children's museum. I am definitely going to Michael's craft store one of these mornings and stocking up on supplies. I never want to be at a loss as to what to do. It's hard for me to think of things at the spur of the moment. It's better if I keep a running list handy for ideas. I'm finding lots of great ideas on various websites - especially crafts. J wants to do arts and crafts every day. I think that's doable!

J has been getting antsy about not doing enough. I feel I was too involved in the beginning and not involved enough now. So, I am in the process of finding a happy medium. I know she needs a lot of attention, but I guess I got caught up in the whole "self-directed" thing. Yesterday she wrote out a list of things she's interested in. These are topics we can learn about together. We both prefer the child-led approach but from now on I promise to be more available - the computer and the housework can wait til later.

W was reading and showing me places on our new inflatable globe he got from MIL. Then he grabbed a pen and paper and asked for words he could write down. He did "mom", "dad", and "kid" and had enough of that. He was supposed to go to the Mets game with B but it was raining and they stayed home. B has several sources of free Mets tickets, so they'll probably try again in a few weeks or so. K had a bowling birthday today and is excited to be off from school all week. I'm excited, too.

Friday, April 22, 2005

J is obsessed with wanting to do science projects. I have been putting her off, but we'll do something tomorrow. Don't know what yet, though. She wants to "concoct" something, and I should actually let her, but I guess I'm just dreading the mess it entails. I need to get over that.

This afternoon was dance and J's dance teacher got them all ice cream for doing so well at the competition. All the parents had a meeting and we talked about the upcoming fundraiser, recital, and national competition. We may be going to Orlando, FL for the national and all the price quotes were very reasonable. It would just be me and the girls. B will take off that week and stay home with W.

I went out tonight with 3 friends from high school I haven't seen in at least 15 years. We met at a local bar and talked and sang (we were all in choir) til midnight. Sadly, our paths will probably not cross again any time soon (we don't live near each other), but I'm so glad I got to see them.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

J and I did some LHBW this morning and I feel a bit sad that we're almost at the end of the book. LOL. I might get the next book, which I think is Little House on the Prairie. Later on, J and I somehow got on the subject of water and the whole water cycle. She was genuinely interested and we talked about evaporation, rainfall, reservoirs, oceans, and clouds. I'm trying not to make things too "teachy", but she asks tons of questions and I find it hard not to share everything I know about it. She's doing very well on her own now and is at the point where anything that even resembles busywork is not in her plan. Any specific subject "work" is either done hands-on, from a fun website, or discussed with me. She likes using workbooks mainly as a guide for something more interesting to do on her own now, but will occasionally do a page or 2 if she's in the mood. She changes how she wants to do things every week it seems. And that's ok.

I have a lot of things on the calendar coming up! Tomorrow is a big meeting with the dancing school teachers about which national competition we are going to. While the kids are in their 2-hour class, we parents meet in the bar across the street, get drinks, relax, and discuss. LOL. It's great, and the first round is always free! Friday we are either meeting up with J's new homeschooling friend (and her family) or heading out to a large homeschool "playgroup" - which may be canceled, not sure yet. This weekend J is going over her friend's house after Sunday School. This is a kid she was best friends with at her old dancing school a couple of years ago. All next week, K is off from school and we will be "doing Manhattan" a lot, hopefully. I have tons of places bookmarked that I just have to go to! Oh, and we can't forget educators week at Barnes and Noble!

The sprinklers at the playground by me were on today! It reached about 85 degrees here today. We were going to go, but I haven't even gotten the summer clothes from the basement yet. We'll be doing a lot of that though in the future.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Today is my 12th wedding anniversary! B surprised me this morning with a gold and diamond claddagh ring. The hands open to reveal the word "eternity" inside. I was overwhelmed. Maybe one of these days we'll go for our annual all-encompassing dinner and movie. It's funny, at dinner we toast our glasses and say, "Happy birthday, Valentine's Day, anniversary, Mothers Day, and Father's Day!". Can't wait! We're due for it soon!

I had the MRI today, too. It wasn't so bad. I dreaded laying there totally still for 45 minutes, but I passed the time saying the rosary and counting. I thought there would be music playing or something but not today. Now I wait until Saturday morning for the biopsy and MRI results. I hope this week goes fast!

I'm very nervous about the results and could use some more prayers. Please leave some for me in the comments. Thanks!

Monday, April 18, 2005

We were at mom's all weekend. The kids missed Sunday school as we were all exhausted from getting up at 5am the day before and being out all day. They had fun playing tag with the neighbor kids all afternoon. So, as the kids are running around the backyard, they look up and see 3 ducks flying by. Then the ducks dive-bomb down and land in mom's pool. The pool is covered and there's a foot or so of rainwater on top. The ducks got comfortable really quick and about an hour later were all snuggle into themselves resting. It was adorable and I took a couple of pictures. The 2 males are the greenish-headed ones and the brown female is behind the one on the left:


I am pretty sure 2 of these ducks visited Mom last year and hung out on her front lawn for 3 days. Now there's 3 of them - could one be a baby from last spring?

J wanted to "do science" first thing this morning. In my huge order from bookcloseouts there is a great science book that has daily problems for kids to do. Today she chose to do leaf rubbings so we went to the front garden and plucked 4 different kinds of leaves out of the ground to bring upstairs (grass, tulip, lily, and a small broad one). She found this pretty cool and we talked about the shapes of the leaves and the purpose of the veins and stems. Then she found another daily problem about heat conductors and playground equipment. She named things that get hot quickly and things that stays cool and why that is.

I have a few scheduled get-togethers with the homeschool families we met. I love that there are kids J's age and they get along great! There's also kids W's age and he played so good with them. K has 3 or 4 birthday parties to go to in the next few weeks. Her class has 4 museum trips scheduled and her statewide math test is tomorrow. Ok, my MRI is tomorrow. I don't know how I'm going to lie still for 45 minutes. I hope I don't freak out.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

J had a competition today! We had to be there at around 6:30am this morning and didn't get out of there til almost 5pm. They won a few gold ribbons and she had a great time hanging out with all her friends.

MIL babysat the 2 younger kids while I went to a doctor appointment yesterday. She said J needs to go back to a school situation because she was very hyper and just didn't know what to do with herself. I told her that she knows J has always been that way and that it was worse before I took her out of school. MIL never watches J for me. She only watches the other 2 while J and I go to dance. I told her that overall J is actually better behaved and learning tons more than when she was in school. She "uh-huh'ed" me and I just dropped the subject because I really didn't feel like getting into it with her.

So the reason I went to the doctor is because a few weeks ago I notice a weird lump in my neck. The ENT (ear, nose, throat doc) said it's probably a tumor on my parotid salivary gland. He did a needle biopsy and I'm going for an MRI on Tuesday morning. He couldn't really tell me anything else but he said it's either benign or malignant and we need to be sure. Great. If any of you out there feel like saying a small prayer on my behalf, I'd really appreciate it.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

W was coughing and sniffling all last night so I kept him home from preschool today. J did nothing but watch tv all day, but I guess it's my fault for letting them put it on in the first place. W actually came to me with a preschool workbook and wanted to do some with me. He did about 10 pages of number work. I learned that he can write the numbers very well, understands patterns, knows which sets have "more" or "less", can circle the correct amount shown, can count backwards from 10, and can even recognize what word = what number (e.g. s-e-v-e-n = 7). He is the kind of kid who gets fixated on a task and won't stop trying til he gets it perfect. His determination has allowed him to learn:

At age 1: to hold a pencil and fork correctly, draw faces (head, eyes, nose, mouth, hair), and dress himself (nothing backwards!).

At age 2: snap his fingers, do and undo buttons, tell people his birthday, and count to 10 in Spanish.

At age 3: whistle, zip his jacket (that was so frustrating for him!), tie his shoes (with double knots!), pump his legs on the swing, write his name, learn all 12 months and 7 days of the week in order, and blow bubble-gum bubbles.

I think he is a bit of a perfectionist, I know because I'm still one. I wonder also if he just wants to try and keep up with his sisters.

I had a talk with my mom today about the possibility of my homeschooling W as well. She was totally against that yesterday, but I emailed her the running list I'm keeping for J showing all she's accomplished in the last 3 weeks and an article on why homeschooling socialization is way better than public school socialization. She agrees with my idea that as long as W is enjoying school he can stay in it. I am anticipating that once 1st grade comes, he may not go for the 6-hours at a desk deal and will probably be ahead of everyone academically which brings about its own problems. I've already been through that with J, I don't need to go through it again.

K decided she definitely does not want to be homeschooled. I will go along with that since she is a very good student and things have been more than positive with her friends. I am working on the attitude problem, but I know this is the age where they start trying to "find" themselves. I'm ok with things for now. You never know what the future holds, though.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

J loves working with fractions. She asked to "do fractions" again today. I just opened to a page in her old school workbook and said, "how about this". That's basically how we do things now. She is responding well to having freedom in her choices and I'm happy that she's happy. She's reading a new book now called Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander. She saw me reading this morning (I'm trying to get through all the library books I took out) and grabbed her book and joined me. Wow, huh? She also read a bit of it this evening, too. I'm not saying another word about that or I'll jinx it.

She said she is interested in learning about Ancient Egypt. She remembered seeing it in the book with the Stone Age stuff, so we'll read about it together and do some fun projects. She is dying to make a pyramid so that will be one of the first things we'll do - maybe out of sugar cubes or marshmallows or something. I remember how much she loved the Egyptian Room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art so I'm thinking this will be real interesting for her. The book I have contains tons of pictures and crafts, too, but it's not babyish at all. You know, letting J decide what she wants to do everyday is working out much better than I thought it would. My giving her "assignments" seems so silly now since she's doing totally fine on her own. I like following her lead and providing the resources to help her. I still make suggestions when she looks a bit bored or restless, but even that's happening less and less lately.

Now tomorrow I need to buy J new jazz shoes, wash her team gear outfit, and go through all her competition stuff so we're ready for this weekend. I want to go to Michael's craft store and get a bunch of new supplies for the kids - and see about an educator's discount! - I'm all about those now! LOL!!

Monday, April 11, 2005

J read a short couple of paragraphs on the life cycle of grasshoppers and did some comprehension exercises on it in a little cheapo workbook she found. There were a few questions, matching definitions, and sequencing and it all took her about 10 minutes. She then wanted to paint with her new set of watercolors. She drew our parakeet and I think she did a pretty good job:

Jelly the parakeet (watercolor by J)

She and W played with a new plastic tea set I bought the other day at the mall. They both love playing "house" and making up different scenarios and using any kind of kitchen-y stuff. This afternoon we all drove to Flushing Meadow Park and met 2 other homeschooling families. W had 2 other boys his age he played with and there was a boy there J's age that she played with, but they really all played with each other. They went on the carousel a couple of times, got some hot pretzels, and basically ran around chasing each other and riding their scooters. It was great. We planned to meet up again real soon in Manhattan at the Natural History museum.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

B took J and W to the playground today. They rode their bikes and scooters and played with lots of other kids. I took K to the mall. She got some clothes and new sneakers and I got some summer shirts (5 short-sleeve tees for $19!!!). At the foodcourt we had Japanese - she had sushi. The family next to us were audibly amazed that this child over here was eating that. It was kind of funny. Hey, what can I say, she knows what she likes! The mall is always fun for K and she told me several times how much she likes hanging out with me. Cool.

I'm meeting another homeschooling mom tomorrow. Her kids are around my kids' ages, and she seemed really nice on the phone, so it sounds like fun. In the evening I want to go to a hs group's meeting. I don't know if I want to join this one, but it'll be fun to check out. It feels as if there is this whole secret homeschooling "underworld" that no one knows about and that I'm getting to be a part of. Meetings, playgroups, conventions, workshops, special discounts, email groups, webrings, seminars, ... the list goes on. It's so great.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

B took J and W down to the ballfield today to watch their friends practice. I told B to take a mental note of the place since W will start Little League there next spring. K made chocolate cupcakes and homemade lemonade while they were gone. She's really an excellent cook - already better than me! W fell asleep on the way home so he'll probably be awake all night. B went to the supermarket and K and J played Trivial Pursuit Junior for a while. We all watched Little House on the Prairie tonight while snuggling together on the couch. Tomorrow the kids have Sunday school and K and I are going to the mall. She was very upset about my decision not to let her sleep over a friends house (bad neighborhood, don't know friend or her family) so I told her I'd make it up to her. We need some 1-on-1 time anyway.

We are going to plant gladiolus bulbs in our garden one of these days. B wants to get that roll-out mat with all the seeds in it that you just add water to. It's only $20, so if it's a dud, then not much was lost. We are also going to try and plant some Easter lilies taken out of a flowerpot. The kids have so much fun gardening and really take care of the flowers from spring until late fall. I also bought some plastic planters that I want to fill with impatiens or something in a month or so. I think they'd look so pretty bordering the garden.

Friday, April 08, 2005

J started with LHBW this morning and then she went to to take a little quiz on it. The quiz was 10 multiple choice questions on the whole book and she got 10/10 right. I only knew about 4 of them so I was pretty shocked that she remembered little details of chapters we read 1 1/2 months ago. I asked her why it came so easy for her at home but was so hard to take a test in school. She said everyone constantly asked the teacher for help and there was so much noise she couldn't concentrate. I definitely understood that. Then she wanted to do math so we went over the stuff we did on fractions and percentages, and threw some decimals in there as well (since they all connect). I found a practice 4th grade test online and she was able to tell me the correct answers to about 15 problems in a row. She likes doing these. I think she's proud of showing what she knows - especially since it was a 4th grade one. She ended the morning on the website and played a bunch of fun learning games.

Today at dance they went over technique and are starting some heavy duty practicing for the upcoming competition. They will also have summer classes - 2x a week tap and jazz and once a week for technique. Other classes are offered during the summer that the kids can take, such as cheerleading and hip hop. The company teams have the option to get unlimited classes at one set monthly price. I think we may go for that since J would go to dance lessons every day if she could! I was also considering letting J go there once or twice a week to help out the morning preschool dance classes. It's a 45 minute class that goes from September to June. She really loves little kids and has already expressed interest in it. I'll talk to the owner over the summer about it.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

J and I were talking in the car this morning and I mentioned how I was so excited to go back to Barnes and Noble next week to get my 25% educator's discount. She asked how much I would save on the price and that started a whole discussion on percentages! I explained how easy it to figure out 10% and 50% and then we moved on to 20% and 25%. She saw how it all tied in with the fractions we did yesterday and she understood the whole thing. J likes to learn a new math concept and do lots of examples that either I make up or we find on a math website. Then she did a vocabulary CD Rom that was mainly a bunch of fun word games. After that, she wanted to read her Roald Dahl book (next to me while I read my own book) and she couldn't remember where she'd left it last! Total wasted reading opportunity!

I am having serious thoughts of homeschooling K eventually. This whole middle school drama/angst fest is driving me crazy. She's starting to become a basket case, worrying about everything from what she's wearing to who's saying what about whom. Thank goodness she is still getting straight As. I have to think long and hard about this decision. The family understood why I'm hs'ing J - they won't understand if I take K out as well (and W in a couple of years). And having my family's support means everything to me. I am really starting to see the ridiculousness of structured schooling. I have learned so much about the public school infrastructure over these past months and a lot of it makes me pretty angry. I don't know. I need to give this a lot of thought.

J had dance today. They're taking dance photos next month and the competition kids also get black and white group pictures and head shots done by a professional photographer! The school owner is going to arrange their headshots along the entrance hallway with a banner reading: "Meet The Company". Of course us parents all get copies of all the photos. That's going to be really cool. J also has another competiton coming up soon and nationals in July. I better start selling Mary Kay again so I can afford all of this! LOL!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Another beautiful day today! J and I did LHBW this morning and she's just so into it. She hasn't tired of that book yet and that's a great sign. After that she did a page in her writing workbook. It was a puzzle where words are in code. Then she wanted to do math - fractions actually. She remembered how to reduce fractions to their lowest form so we did a few of those. We tried them a different way, too, where you write down all the factors for both the numerator and denominator and cancel out whatever is the same so your left with just the answer. Then she wanted something harder so we delved into adding fractions. We started with same denominator addition and then different denominator addition. I briefly explained that in order to add fractions you have to get both of them to the same denominator -and she picked it up so quickly. She kept asking me to give her more problems and she got each one correct. She covered so much math today! Playing with fractions gave her a chance to review a lot of multiplication and division as well.

After we picked up W we went over to visit our new homeschooling friends! They were such a nice family and J got along great with G, who is also 8. W was a bit trying today, but T (the mom) was amazing at redirecting him into something else. We had a nice lunch at her apartment and then took the kids to the playground. We had a really great time and I will definitely schedule another visit with them soon.

I'm starting to get more out into the homeschooling world! Over the next month I have on my schedule: an evening parents meeting with one group, 2 daytime get-togethers with another group, a park playdate with 3rd group, "educator's week" at Barnes & Noble, and a homeschool convention less than 1 hour away! There is also a full-day home education workshop in June I'd like to go to. I am jumping at every opportunity for J to make new friends (and me too!!) and for us to learn everything we can about homeschooling. I never knew there was so much out there!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Today was gorgeous! A perfect 65 degrees. J and I did some reading and then opened up the LHBW paper doll set. She loved it and had a great time dressing all the dolls, moving the furniture around, and reenacting scenes from the book. When that was put away I casually mentioned the new writing book and she actually wanted to do a bit. The first part is about using "sensory words" in writing and she had fun with about a page of it. That was enough for her. But I know she likes it and I believe she will want to pick it up again soon.

W had a good day at preschool. No time-outs. We went to the playground and then to the deli for some sandwiches. My friend M was there too and invited us back to her house to eat lunch together (right across the street from the deli). Her dd, E, loves playing with my kids. She goes to a 1/2-day Kindergarten. We didn't do much else the rest of the day - just relaxed and enjoyed the sunshine.

K is dancing in the school talent show with a bunch of other kids and one of them is having a sleep-over this weekend. I'm not going to let her go, though, since I don't know anything about this girl or her family. I feel bad about it, but not that bad. So of course I'm now unfair and mean. I am trying to be patient and understanding with my almost-12-year-old. She acts so grown-up sometimes and then other times she acts younger than her brother. She will serve everyone a meal she cooked and give her brother a bath one minute and the next minute she's having a screaming fit because J has her stuffed Winnie the Pooh.

Patience, mom. Patience.


Monday, April 04, 2005

This morning J and I did our LHBW reading and then she couldn't wait to grab that globe and locate more countries and capitals. I found another website that shows you a blank map and asks where a country/state/ocean/etc. is. She played that for about 45 minutes. She is really remembering most of the countries' capitals and where everything is. It's pretty fascinating. It's been over a week since she's looked at the globe and she was pround to tell me that the capital of Germany was Berlin and the capital of Jordan was Amman. She remembered over 20 of them. FUN is the key with her (and for all of us, I guess). I think I might make anything that's usually boring, banal, and aggravating as fun as possible. The kids would totally respond to that. I convinced K that fractions were my favorite thing and how fun they were and now it's her favorite, too. (and every math topic she had to do after that was also my favorite - decimals, exponents, geometry,). And ever since that, she has been making straight As in math. Hmmmm.

We all went to Barnes and Noble this afternoon. W was asleep, K wanted clothes instead of books today (I got her a cute new sweatshirt from Victoria's Secret), and J was the one to ask for books for a change. She got a puzzle magazine, a LHBW paper doll set, a "dream journal", and I got her a book on 3rd grade writing. It was a fun one and she seemed excited about it (we'll see). She wrote a journal entry on Sunday and another one today (in the car). This kid hates to write. So, since I'm finally noticing a small spark if interest, I thought maybe I'd feed the fire a bit and see where it leads. I won't feed it too much, though, or it will probably go out. I know her. Then, at the customer service desk I asked about the "educator's discount" (since I'm now entitled to one!). The guy said all I have to do is bring proof that I'm an educator and I get a nice little card that gets me 20% off all educational purchases. Then I asked if they had an "educator's week" where even more is taken off purchases. It so happened that the flyer for that was right next to me and educator's week takes place at the end of this month!! YEEEEFREAKIN'HAAAAWWWW! Talk about fate!! Then I found "Teaching Your Own" by John Holt - a book I have been looking for for months! It's weird how things just fall into place for you sometimes.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

I have a feeling this is going to be a great week. W has been dying to go back to school and J and I have lots of stuff planned. I am going to take an easy approach this week with our schedule. J said she wants to do the Little House reading every day, so that stays, and I'll see if she'll do a little math, but I'm curious to see how she spends the rest of her day. I will be closely watching out for anything creative or academic and I'll be sure to jot it all down (for my own peace of mind). I did a lot more reading this weekend on unschooling and I'm leaning more and more in that direction. It's hard for me to jump into it with both feet, though, so I'll be testing the waters for a little while. We actually have the luxury of being able to experiment with unschooling right now. J is already ahead of the game since her gifted class practically shot right through third grade by the end of December - so she more than likely won't fall behind.

I ordered 20 books from last night. I got all of next year pretty well covered and I only spent $48.50 (+ $5.00 S&H). They're all fun, educational, non-fiction books on all the major subjects, plus a Mad Libs, a thesaurus, and a 4th grade test-prep book, in case I decide on a standardized test next spring. I'm sure I can put together a whole curriculum just with what I bought. And in the event we're still going down the unschooler's path, J will have all these new books in her bookshelf (or purposefully left lying about) to peruse at will.

I also spent time this weekend fine tuning my superintendent correspondence. I received another letter from them acknowledging the quarterly report I just sent. Cool. I already wrote the next q-report, the annual assessment, next year's LOI, and next years IHIP! I usually get caught up reading the NYHEN email group's past messages to get tons of ideas on how to manage the requirements better. I got the items down to only ONE PAGE each. The next q-report has all J's info on the top (name, DOB, etc) and a table underneath listing all the subjects, a letter grade, and the same sentence after each: "J has covered 100% of the material listed on the IHIP". I found out that another mom in my district (the one we're visiting Wednesday!!) has done it this way for years - and since we send it to the same people, it should be accepted. The last one I did seemed to be such a waste of time since what I was writing I had already said in the IHIP. The annual assessment is short and sweet as well. I put: " J has satisfactorily completed all the required material for this year. She has made adequate academic progress in all subjects. Highlights of the year include: (and I listed a few things here). J will begin 4th grade in September 2005.". That's it. Next year's LOI is about 1/2 a page with 2 sentences on it. And the IHIP is the syllabi from for each subject, a paragraph on our materials and learning tools, dates of q-report submissions, and that B and I will provide primary instruction. One page baby!! I got it down from 4 pages (thanks to the size 9 Times New Roman font)! I'll give myself even bigger pats on the back once I see they accept it all. I am mailing everything but the IHIP around the first week of June.

Friday, April 01, 2005

I always feel so happy on Fridays. Much more relaxed and patient for some reason. J had dance today and K came with us. K and W usually stay with MIL. We walked over to the library and I found some great homeschooling books that I have been meaning to buy. Good, I can read them for free now! I'm always up for new ideas. I also found a book on Little House crafts. I think J will love that. Then we stopped at the dollar store and of course I found a ton of things I needed. K bought chinese slippers, I got some picture frames, a set of paintbrushes, Sharpie markers, a really large spatula, needles and thread, and a suit bag (for J's dance costumes) all for $.99 each (Ok, the slippers were $1.59). The things I buy at dollar stores always seem to last longer than the expensive stuff. Why is that?

J was being particularly creative today. She and W made up a silly language and then created this fantasy world with magic carpets and adventure. It was fun to watch! I do believe she learned a lot this week even though we didn't follow any kind of schedule. I wouldn't be able to tell you what it is she actually learned, though. I wasn't paying that much attention to all the playing she did. Maybe I should have written down what I saw and then see if I could translate it into something that sounds educational. Ugh. I need to start really researching how to do that. At least if I saw her reading or watching something educational or writing something I would feel better. I'm not as concerned as I was a few weeks ago, though. The more articles I read about unschooling and deschooling, the more I understand the process.