Sunday, February 27, 2005

We just spent 14 hours at J's dance competition. It felt a lot quicker than it was. Her numbers won 2 golds and a hi-silver. They also won for best costume and best choreography in their division (mini). Pretty cool.

She had an awesome time hanging out with all her friends all day long. I was a bit worried about her "socialization" at first, especially because MIL keeps asking about that. I don't worry anymore because she is with her dance group 2-3x a week and all day long on competition days (every 2-3 weeks). All these kids get along amazingly well - there are about 20 of them - and the ages range from 8 to 12y/o. I think they're all a great bunch of kids. Very caring, very positive, and are good influences with very involved parents (who are also great!). This kind of peer interaction is way better than what J had at school.

I planned out our whole homeschooling week. I'm staying with the Charlotte Mason approach and yet I want to keep things as child-led as I can. We'll see how that goes. Copywork, Literature/Narration, and Math are done every day. History, Nature study, library, Geography, Picture study (artists and paintings), Music study (music and composers), Science, Drawing, Handicrafts, Piano, Spanish, and journal writing will be done 1 to 3x a week. Since J currently prefers some structure and planning (I guess because she's used to that) that's the way we'll go. I made a schedule for each day of the week. Eventually I would like to just have one list of all the subjects and let her choose what she wants to do and when. By that time she will have a good sense of the way she would like to approach each subject on her own.

The superintendent's office says they never received my IHIP. Great.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

We went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art today. I haven't been there since high school so it was really new for me as well. We started out on the packed subway which always makes me nervous with 3 kids in tow. I just have this vision of one of them falling onto the tracks or being left behind on the train. Irrational, I know. Anyway, we amazingly made it to the 11am Family Program. I mean, everything that could have slowed us down today, did. But, we got there just on time. First our group went to a gallery with African bronze plaques. The guide asked the kids questions about the art pieces and J answered a few. W had his hand up for every question but wasn't really paying attention and just liked being called on. LOL. The group went on to South American art made of gold and after a brief lecture about the pieces, the kids got to go around the whole exhibit and sketch their favorites. The guide has paper for everyone but I brought their new sketchbooks and colored pencils. The girls enjoyed that a lot. W found a water vessel shaped like a cat that he liked and drew it. Finally the group ended up in a hall of European statues. By this time the kids were getting restless and wanted to see the rest of the museum. We all got a handout of how metal is cast in a mold and then went on our merry way.

We headed straight for the cafeteria and ate a quick lunch before hitting the rest of the museum. I wanted to buy a disposable camera in the gift shop but they were out. I always forget my camera (later on at home I discovered it was in my bag the whole time. Grrrrrrrrr.). K's favorite exhibit was Modern Art. She especially liked Matisse and Georgia O'Keeffe. J's favorite was the Egyptian Room. She was sketching so many things. She loved the burial linens and the papyrus with heiroglyphics on it. From one of the large halls we could see into Central Park and had a great view of the Gates. They were letting people onto the museum roof to get a nice view of them, but we decided it was better to just go right to them.

We left the museum and went around the corner into Central Park. The Gates were along every walkway. It was so cool to walk right under them and see them go on and on. We ended up walking through about 20 blocks of Gates. The kids were chasing each other along the paths and took long running jumps to touch the Gates fabric. We actually got pieces of the fabric from park guides who were giving them out. We passed the duck pond and the zoo and came to a nice playground. The kids played there for over an hour. I met another mom and her kids from Long Island and we all walked together until we got to the Plaza Hotel. K bought a hot pretzel and we got on the subway to go home. It was 4:30pm, our legs were about to fall off, and W hadn't napped all day. I was dreading the subway, but it was pretty enjoyable - and quick. I'm glad we left when we did. It started getting so cold by 4pm. It's supposed to snow 5-8 inches tomorrow. I hope it's early so we can get out and play in it! And I won't forget my camera.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

We all just spent a few days at my mom's house out in Long Island. Both of my grandparents are now in a nursing home (both have severe dementia) after being cared for by mom for years and it got really overwhelming for mom so we wanted to spend time with her. We all went out to dinner 2 nights in a row and that definitely made her feel better. Monday was Grandpa's 90th birthday so I'm glad we got to spend it with him. My car needed some stuff done so I got it done out there. It took all day and I just couldn't wait to get the hell out of there today. 2 days is more than enough for me. My stepdad and me do not get along and I thought I was going to lose my mind today. Finally at 6pm I bolted out of there with the kids. Oh, it's so good to be home!

Not much going on academically around here. Everyone's off this week, so J is off, too. We're still planning on "doing Manhattan" this week. I can't wait. J has another dance competition this weekend. These go on all day and it's a nice girls-day-out.

I am doing so much reading on Charlotte Mason. The more I read, the more I like. I have been spending some time figuring out how I want to go about it. I'm adding a new subject each week and I need to get it all down on paper so there's some sense of order. The snow has been making nature walks difficult, but I think sketching the bare trees is a nice idea. Then we can sketch the same trees in all the other seasons. History and science are not so hard to figure out anymore. I actually have a good plan for those now. J's been doing great with the copywork, reading/narration, and math. Next week we are adding more and also starting a "handicraft". I may go to the new huge craft store and find something J wants to learn. I feel so great about this.

Friday, February 18, 2005

I love Fridays. And especially this one because all all the kids will be home next week for mid-winter break. K has been having a rough time with some mean girls at school. I can't believe how nasty some kids are these days. So I'm glad she'll be home a whole week for it all to hopefully blow over. I have a good plan on how to deal with it, though. I hope it works. **insert evil laugh**

I plan on hitting a few museums this week so I got the kids new sketchbooks and colored pencils yesterday. I heard the weather may not cooperate, but we'll make the best of it. J had a really easy week so I'd like to see her getting back into the swing of things next week. She works best sticking to a routine. She prefers copywork first, reading/narration second, and math third. All the new things we add have to go at the end of the list. I will get to history and timeline next week. My being sick knocked us off our groove this week.

I'm still waiting for feedback on the IHIP I sent. I called the guy (my nice contact guy) and told him that I mailed it 2 weeks ago and haven't heard anything. He said he hasn't seen anything yet but will contact me when he does. I was a bit worried that it got lost or something and that I knew I should have sent it certified mail. But then I realized it's only been ONE week, not two, and I probably shouldn't have called in the first place. I won't call again unless it's really important.

More and more people are finding out that I'm homeschooling and once again, all have been very supportive. Other kids think it's cool and all the parents are fascinated by the concept. I still have yet to be successful in finding other homeschoolers, though. One group I contacted is now defunct. Another hasn't gotten back to me at all. And all the others are too far away. Maybe once I start hanging out around Manhattan during the day a little more I'll find some.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

I am still getting over being sick, so J just had a nice unschooling day today. She's amazingly at the point of preferring the tv being off - which is so great - and found other things to do. She did ask me to get off the computer this morning so she could find a good poem to copy, but I was balancing my checkbook and paying the bills. That took me about an hour and before I knew it, it was time to get W from school. K had a half day today because of parent-teacher conference day. She got her report card yesterday and did wonderfully in all subjects. She's averaging about a B+.

I ended up taking the kids shopping all day. Boy, that tax money is dwindling away fast! But hey, spring is coming and they all need clothes. I even bought myself a few shirts! We finished our day at the mall. W didn't nap all day and was tired and grouchy from about 4pm. B went to the p-t conference and thankfully came back with glowing reports about K. It's amazing how different K and J are. I don't think I've ever had a good conference with any of J's teachers. Sigh.

K and W are off for "winter break" next week. It's a great opportunity to hit a few museums. Many are having kids days with free workshops, tours, activities, etc. Central Park has beautiful new "Gates" that I want to check out. Here's a little more about them:

~7,500 gates, 16 feet high (4.87 m) with a width varying from 5 feet 6 inches to 18 feet (1.68 m to 5.48 m) will line 23 miles (36.8 km) of footpaths in the park.
~Free-hanging, saffron-colored fabric panels will be suspended from the top of each gate and hang down to 7 feet (2.13 m) above the ground.
~The Gates will be stationed approximately 12 feet (3.65 m) apart, except when low branches extend above the walkways.
~The Gates will create a visual golden river appearing and disappearing through the bare branches of the trees, highlighting the shapes of the footpaths.
~The luminous moving fabric will underline the organic and serpentine design of the walkways, while the rectangular poles will be a reminder of the grid pattern of the City blocks around the park.

Monday, February 14, 2005

J's group did fantastic at the regional competition! They won "gold"! It was a long day. We were there 13 hours. By 9pm we were all so tired. I've had a fever and bronchitis since Friday and thankfully got to sit for most of the day. I just feel like relaxing all day today. J is eager to start some copywork and this week I wanted to add history. I was supposed to come up with a game plan for that over the weekend, but I didn't. I think today we'll start at the beginning of our world history book and begin a timeline. That's a nice, easy way to begin. We'll also do a few Valentine crafts later.

Oh and I want to take J and W on a field trip this week! Last week 2 kids were sick, and this week I'm sick, so we'll see if we get anywhere.

HaPpY VaLeNtInE's DaY!!!!!

Saturday, February 12, 2005

It's 5:30 in the morning and I'm awake. I drank coffee late last night and I should have remembered that it messes up my sleep. So, I thought I'd make a blog entry.

J went right to the computer yesterday to find another Dickinson poem to copy. She didn't even want to take our early morning break first. She said she likes doing the copywork. We talked about the poem afterwards and although the language usage is over her head, she did get the main idea. We recapped chapter 1 of Little House and she drew a pencil sketch of her favorite part. It's almost overwhelming to finally see her excited about a book! She also did 2 pages of math and was even happy to do that. We were done in 1 hour.

Later that day she was playing Lincoln Logs with W and I saw that J made the Ingalls' log cabin, the little smokehouse, and Ma's garden - complete with dog Jack chasing away the deer that got in. It was really cool and I have it all in an open box on display.

More and more people are finding out that we're homeschooling. Everyone's still being amazingly positive and very curious. I feel so comfortable talking about it now. Every day just gets better and better.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

After dropping W off at school, J and I went right out to Barnes and Noble (I just cannot stay away from that store!!). I got some more books for J. I got Anne of Green Gables, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, a human body book, a bio of Ben Franklin, a Mensa Logic book, one on doing fun things with History and Geography, a math chart, a book on tape for W, and a perfect nature field guide. Everything (except for the field guide) was discounted or real cheap - ranging from $2.99 - $6.95. Then we relaxed at Starbucks with some coffee cake. I went to Staples yesterday, too, and got a bunch of basics to have on hand, along with coverstock paper (cheaper than cardstock) and a binder for her timeline, a nice sketchbook for her nature study, a binder and sheet protectors for me to keep track of superintendent correspondence, and some fun art stuff.

J did some Emily Dickinson copywork when we got home. Then we read more of Little House and she did an excellent narration for me. It's amazing how many small details she remembers. She was struggling so much with this in school. She is really getting into the story, too. She then did a couple of math pages. She's using the one she used in school now. I think she's just more comfortable with that one, and that's fine. Now J and W are painting on some coverstock paper and Mozart is playing in the background. The music definitely keeps the atmosphere calm around here. I feel so peaceful this week. It's fantastic.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

J is responding well so far to the schedule. It looks like a lot, but everything is done is 10-20 minute increments and we're done pretty early. Everything would be made fun and interesting and not boring or tedious. I've notice that she's not so comfortable with total child-led learning. She wants to do some sort of work and keeps asking me to please do something with her. The Charlotte Mason method interests her a lot. There are no worksheets or studying and we can do it all together. As she gets older, using a guideline, she can do more things on her own.

This is what will be J's schedule. So far we are adding one new thing per day each week until we finally get to everything in the schedule. So every day this week will just be Copywork, Literature/Narration, and Math. We will also do Library, Field Trip, Nature Study, Typing, Piano, Journal, and Drawing this week (and every week) since J enjoys these immensely and can't wait to get started. Next week we add History (World, U.S., and State). The week after we'll add Picture (artist) and Music (composer) studies. The following week we'll add Spanish, Science, Timeline, and Handicrafts (home-ec stuff). All the major stuff will be done before lunchtime, and the fun stuff after lunch and W can join in (drawing, library, field trip, nature walk, handicrafts).

Basically we are going to try CM for the rest of this year. If she enjoys it and responds well to it, we will continue through next year.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

I think I may start following the Charlotte Mason way of homeschooling. I seem to agree with so much of her philosophy on learning, teaching, and children. It's much more relaxed than many other methods I've read about and everything about it fits perfectly with J. I love the idea of living books (whole original classic stories), along with poetry, fables, biographies, and myths. Narrations are a perfect way for J to practice comprehension. Copywork is such a simple way to learn proper handwriting, grammar, and spelling. Nature walks/nature studies are right up J's alley. History and geography are also big parts. Much of what we will do would tie in with each other in regard to time frame and what part of the world. I love the focus on artists and composers, too. Lessons are to be kept short (from 10-30 minutes) and you should be done with everything by lunchtime so your child can spend the afternoon "following her own pursuits". I would use Singapore Math as the math program and have J continue with Spanish for the language. CM is about good habits and attention to detail as well. I am going with my gut on this one. It just sounds so good.

I'm scheduling a field trip this week. Not sure where yet. We also need to go to the bookstore and the library. K has play auditions tomorrow and she's still not over her cold. Her fever is gone but she's a bit hoarse and congested. She's supposed to sing, too. Never seen a kid with such bad timing. J and W had Sunday school today and J has another dance rehearsal tomorrow. She's begging me put her name in for a solo, but I just can't afford anymore time and money for dance this year. Maybe next year.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

It's Saturday morning and none of us feel like moving today. K was sick yesterday with a fever so I picked her up from school early. Problem is that it was the night of the Valentine's Day dance she never stopped talking about. After much soul-searching and asking Mom for advice, I did let her go. Her fever had gone down and she felt ok and looked alright so I gave in and she had a really great time. Now her fever is raging and she'll probably sleep all day. Guilt.

J did a bit of work yesterday. A little math, a little science. Nothing that I feel is substantial, though. I know I will eventually get all the "school expectations" out of my system, but I guess not yet. I got my packet from the Dept of Ed. They acknowledged my letter of intent and registered J as a home schooled student. They sent a bunch of stuff including a form to send my IHIP on (which I'm not using - I made my own), forms for quartely reports (which I may use), the public school testing schedule (which I probably won't use since J gets too distracted with 30 other test-takers), and a homeschool group list for my area (which I thought was kinda nice to do). Nothing seems too difficult to manage, I guess. It's hard to feel comfortable, though, when big brother is watching your every move making sure you do things their way. I mean, I took J out of public school because it wasn't working for her. So why would they send a packet of stuff expecting me to do thing like the public schools??? Stuff like attendance records and hours per day?? Are they kidding? Oh well. Thank goodness I'm anal retentive about keeping good records or this would never work.

I spoke to the same guy a the D.O.E. twice already. I told him that's it, he's now my contact person. He's very nice. He even called to tell me they received my letter and to go over things with me and see if I had any questions. He's understanding and told me not to worry and go crazy so much about the IHIP and reports. And that it's all easier than it looks. Ok. Well, J needs a standardized test in 5th and 7th grades (or 4th, 6th, and 8th) and every year from 9th-12th. Ok. He also helped me a bit with my IHIP, so now that is done and ready to send. I think I am going to keep records mostly handwritten in a little notebook. I know there are many computer ways of doing it, but I won't keep up with it, I know it.

I think I've got a good handle on things around here. I made yet another schedule for myself (cleaning, errands, etc) to leave me more free time. I'm ready for our 2nd week!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Not much is going on around here. J is doing great and has adjusted well to not being in school. She is still doing her own thing, mainly workbooks and CD Roms. I'd like to create some sort of schedule, not just for J, but for all of us here. I want to get most of my cleaning done before I drop W off at school. Then from about 9:15-11:15 I want J to do something. I'll make a list of ideas and she can pick a few from that. I really would like total unschooling for J, but NY's regulations are so unnerving that if she's not where she should be at a certain time, I may fall into the category of "educational neglect". So, my plan is to see that the requirements get done, but giving J as much freedom and choice as possible.

MIL is concerned and worried now. She doesn't understand anything about HS and made me pretty upset today. I hate negative feedback. I found some excellent articles about homeschooling that I'm printing out for her to read.

I was thinking that from the time we pick up W until we have to pick up K would be a perfect time to GO somewhere. J cannot do anything academic or productive when W is home so being out is a great idea. There are a lot of places to go around here (in my very immediate area) - including the library and we have about 3.5 hours. I'll get some more sketchpads, pencils, and crayons and we can basically go anywhere! See? I feel more organized already!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Today was a quiet day. J actually made me breakfast - buttered toast, grapes, and even heated up my coffee, all served on a Spongebob tray! Lol! On the way to pick up W, she wanted to know about equivalent fractions and reducing them to lowest form. Ok, sure. When W is home, they usually just run around and play. A few hours later, J wrote in her journal, and wrote a haiku. When K was home they were both reading a book called "Math Smarts" (American Girl) together.

I really believe my blood pressure has already gone down 50 points. I have no more school/homework anxiety and I honestly so enjoy being with J all day. The only thing I need to do is get back on the Flylady bandwagon and get my home more organized.