Thursday, March 31, 2005

I realized that my headaches were caused by lack of coffee. I guess I'm addicted to the stuff. Now that the weather is getting warmer I might return to my 100% raw diet. I did this for about 8 months last year and felt terrific. In mid headache last night I saw Carol Alt on TV talking about how she only eats raw food. I think it was a sign. I enjoyed that way of eating more than anything. I have always done things against the grain in my family. They have actually all finally stopped thinking I'm nuts. They were very uncomfortable with my extended breastfeeding and the cloth diapers just threw them for a loop. I mean, everyone was accepting, but I got a lot of rolled eyes thrown my way. And I used unbleached prefolds and covers - I was no nonsense, darnit! I also carried my children around in a sling. What a lifesaver that thing was - especially with W. I had an OTSBH and I couldn't have lived without it. I used to nurse him in it no matter where we were. Then the way I fed my kids was always different. I never let them have soda - or milk for that matter (it's makes all 3 of them so full of mucus it wakes them up at night). We shop at Whole Foods or Trader Joes a lot and buy all natural, organic, or raw food. The kids LOVE "going healthy" with me. They could drink homemade fresh juice all day. I even went 8 weeks without using any shampoo or other hair products. You just rinse it with water. I read about others trying it and that it's supposed to bring your hair to amazingly beautiful place. Well, it didn't. LOL. And now that I'm homeschooling, well that's just the icing on my natural cake. I love all of it, though. I will never be a blind sheep following the crowd. Here are pictures of W in a Stacinator diaper cover and a Bummies(?) animal print cover (prefolds are inside the covers):

I took the kids to the playground yesterday. K says she is too old for the playground but I know she had fun anyway. She and J were flipping upside-down on the high bar and taking running leaps to grab the handle that slides across another long bar. W was playing with a little girl named Dashvi and a boy named Matteo. With Dashvi, he spoke gently, asked if she wanted a push on the swing, asked if she wanted to go on the slide ("don't be scared I'll go with you"), and do you want to try my scooter. With Matteo it was fists up and "AAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRR" and chasing each other, and rough play. Interesting. Then he saw a few big boys (age 10, 11?) playing basketball and he asked if he could play, too. I was about to go get him but they passed him the ball and he passed it back. When he had the ball he ran around with it waiting for his "teammate" to be next to him to pass it. It was awesome watching these kids play together like that. They were so nice to W and played with him for 1/2 hour before we had to go home. We ended the night watching Shark Tale from Blockbuster with a big bag of popcorn (Oh, and we watched Lost and American Idol too, of course!).


Wednesday, March 30, 2005

This week is going so slowly. J hasn't done anything "academic" at all and I have had an ongoing between-the-eyes headache since Monday. It's 60 degrees today and I can barely move. K's cooking class teacher called me before to say the facility is moving locations and cooking won't be available anymore, but how about cardio-kickboxing? I have to see if K is up for that. I was planning on dropping K off at cooking today and taking the little ones to the park. Now that it's cancelled I have to find something everyone wants to do. When I go pick up K I think we'll just stay outdoors. Maybe the park, maybe just the block with skateboards, bikes, and scooters. There should be lots of kids outside later, too.

Oh, and I am so happy to report that I have found another homeschooling family 5-minutes away from us with an 8-year-old dd! I was on the phone with this mom for over an hour yesterday. It was so refreshing to finally have a real person to talk about homeschooling with! We are getting together next week! Woohoo!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

I meant to make a blog entry last night, but fell asleep around 9:30pm. I shut all the lights and the TV so all the kids would fall asleep quickly and I could finish cleaning the kitchen and go on the computer. It worked a little too well - all of us were out cold for the night (all in my bed, too). It's great not having to jump out of bed in the morning and rush W to school this week. K's paperwork, money, and copies are all being turned in today for her 3-day trip next month. I'm still nervous, but feeling better about it. B is way more nervous than I am and is already insisting she take our cell phone. I said she'll either lose it or forget to charge it anyway (B says I'm a pessimist. I say I'm a realist. Which is it?).

I was pondering the whole unschooling thing the last few days. I have been reading a lot of posts about it on various message boards. I feel we lean very heavily toward it, but haven't actually jumped into it with both feet. J asked what "unschooling" was yesterday. I gave her the "messageboard definition" and explained how you learn all you need to learn by just experiencing life, and how there's no sit-down-and-learn, or workbooks unless she wanted them, and used words like "child-led" and "strew". I think I gave a great explanation. She looked at me funny and said she doesn't want to do that. I asked her why and she said she will never learn anything and what about the (mandatory) standardized test next year. I have said from the beginning that it's impossible for J to be taken out of almost 5 years of formal, structured schooling and be unschooled just like that. If we never put her in school to begin with it probably would have worked out fine. She always asks for the sit-down-and-learn and the workbooks.

Maybe that is what unschooling is all about. If not, then I do believe we are very child-led. I have the (district) guidelines written out and we made a weekly schedule together. And she picks what she wants to do - or doesn't want to do. She prefers to do most things with me at her side, checking and "grading" completed pages. I realize I can take J out of school, but it'll be a while before school is out of her. I am just not going to worry anymore about labeling our way of doing things. But if we HAD to label ourselves (lol) I would say we are eclectic, child-led, Charlotte Mason followers. Basically, we are just going with what works for us at this time.

J decided that since W is off that she's off, too. In her free time she has been very artsy lately and I'm just letting her go with it. Right now it is 8:30am and she and W are creating something out of cardboard, glue, scissors, rubber bands, and her dismantled diorama. I will STREW things this week because I'll admit I too need to feel she is getting something done that I can document into my quarterly summary. I will leave a workbook or two out on the table that she hasn't done any of yet. And maybe the new typing or Spanish program will just happen to be ready to go at the computer. Of course, I can always just ask J if she'd like to do some reading or math or whatever. She will usually say yes, although lately she has started to get resistant to my suggestions. I will never make her do "schoolwork" when she doesn't want to. That defeats the whole purpose of my taking her out of school. I don't need her to shut down and regress again. I really hate to keep questioning and second-guessing myself and our methods, but having her entire education in my hands gets a bit unnerving sometimes. But of course the other part of me sees J's love of learning coming back and how happy she is now and I know there is no other way but to homeschool.

Anyway, today I have a cute wooden craft project for the kids to do. They are also going to learn how to do laundry today. Gotta learn sometime, right? Hopefully J will want to do some reading later - or at least an educational CD Rom. We're also going to make brownies and continue fixing up her room. I'm in Spring Cleaning mode this week. Yesterday I finally put up our new pot rack, moved some furniture to make more space, pulled-off wallpaper from and cleaned the bathroom, changed a few lightbulbs, reorganized and cleaned the kitchen, and finally found a great spot to keep all the seldom used small appliances (pizza maker, crockpot, chocolate fondue thing, etc.). I have a ton of stuff to bring down to the basement, too. B got home lastnight after 10pm and this morning told me how he loved the way everything looked. I usually get a lot done when he's not home. I think I should be done with everything on my list by the end of this week. I still want to paint, pack away all the fall/winter clothes and retrieve the sping/summer bags, and finish reorganizing a few rooms. Everyone is so much calmer around here when the house is organized and clean.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Happy Easter! Mom's house was great yesterday. The girls got their nails done (I decided not to), we went to the mall, Mom bought them tons of stuff, we went back to the house, ate dinner, had coffee, and left at 6:30. I rushed back home to sing at mass and didn't get home til after 11pm. This morning the kids woke up to toy and candy-filled Easter baskets and hidden eggs. I started cleaning at 8:30am and continued til 11:30. I pulled everything out of everywhere and threw out 3 bags of garbage and 2 bags of recyclables. I need clean, cleared surfaces or I get really anxious and grouchy! I had to stop short and go to mass again at noon. At 1:30pm I was home and resumed cleaning. Had to stop short again at 3 to go to MIL's. I have to finish tomorrow. Now I'm on a roll and have to get it all done.

W is home all week and I'm trying to come with ideas to keep him occupied while J reads with me. Tonight at MIL's she was asking me to give her some math word problems to do. I'm glad she likes math. I'm going to try my best to stick with our schedule this week, but I'll still follow J's lead and give her more choices with what to do. And another field trip is a good idea, too!!

Friday, March 25, 2005

We ended up staying home yesterday. The kids were dying to go to the NY Hall of Science in Flushing Meadow Park. So, I went on the website and checked out admission price and directions. I saw that adults were $11 and kids were $8 each. Then I saw that Fridays from 2 to 5pm were FREE so that would definitely be our best bet. I had to sing today at Good Friday mass and since B was off from work he took them. Even parking was free today - well, it probably wasn't, but since there was no lot employees around, it was free by default! (heh heh). They loved it. They went to all the stations and did lots of cool science experiments. Their favorite was the huge bubble tank and the optical illusion mirror. In the Magic Schoolbus room they saw bearded dragons and a turtle that ate goldfish (they were too fast for him today!). Then they ate in the cafeteria and went outside to the Science Playground. Starting in April the playground has fun water-play things. I guess we're just going to have to go back their in a few months! Check it out!

I love Flushing Meadow Park. They have a nice carousel and right across from the nice-sized zoo they have a nice-sized petting zoo where during the summer kids can go into the barn and do a craft. They also have the Queens museum of Art where every Sunday there is a drop-in program for kids. The Queens Theater in the Park is there, too. J used to have her dance recitals there. About 50 feet away from the theater are those tall spaceship-looking towers where Will Smith fought that huge bug-thing at the end of Men In Black. They were left over from the World Fairs. There is also the USTA Tennis Center where the US Open is held every year. My friend Ben installed all the lighting for that place. And the Flushing Meadows Ice Skating Rink. We went there so much last year and didn't get there once this year. They close from April to October. Oh yeah, and there's Shea Stadium, too - home of the NY Mets. I'm a Yankee fan actually, but I still love that park. Read more about it!

We're going out to my mom's tomorrow. She wants to take the girls and me to the mall to get our nails done. She also wants to buy the girls some clothes. She never thinks they have enough. K and J already requested we go to Abercrombie Kids - and I'm sure Mom will not hesitate to go there first. Since we're not going to be there for Easter we will probably go out to a restaurant for dinner. There's no need for mom to cook. She is going to get grandma from the nursing home and take her out to eat for Easter on Sunday. We are going to MIL's for Easter. She is such an amazing cook. She got a nice Polish ham from a little shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn the other day. It's famous for it's Polish foods and the line was out the door with people buying Easter dinners. She also bougt 2 huge kielbasas. She made them for us last night with baked beans and homemade sauerkraut. I can't wait for Sunday dinner!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The first thing J wanted to do this morning was get back on that folk-cultures website and grab the globe. We were at that for an hour and a half! She found the countries and capitals much faster than I did and was so proud of herself. This is the kind of information she will retain well since it was she who initiated it and enjoyed it so much. Then she made an Easter-themed diorama with watercolor and tempera paints, construction paper, and an old cardboard shoe box. It was pretty detailed. We didn't follow our normal schedule today, but followed her lead instead. I think she might have finally gotten a bit of an unschooling spark. She doesn't care too much about TV anymore and I have noticed her imaginative play has increased. She did a puppet show with W yesterday, made-up a few original hip-hop dances, and even started cleaning her room!

The weather here sucked today and will continue to suck for the next few days. We are still going somewhere special tomorrow, since I promised. It might be fine, though, since in bad weather places like that are usually empty. W's school break started and I would like to go somewhere on most of the days. He gets antsy if we're stuck inside all day. I have to come up with a really good game plan in order to keep J in some sort of learning mode. When those 2 are together it gets loony around here. LOL!

K has a 3-day trip to Pennsylvania in May with the whole 6th-grade. I don't know how I feel about that. It makes me terribly nervous and I know I hold those apron strings a bit tightly, but I'm leaning toward letting her go. I mean she'll be 12 this year. I had way more freedom at her age. But times were different then. I watch those damn news stories and freak out. But on the other hand, I want her to have these great experiences. This is part of the reason I chose this middle school for her - because they do the coolest stuff. I have until Monday so I guess I really need to think this through.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

I started a new "quarterly summary". This one will go from now til mid June. I have it set up where I can input info every day quickly and easily, then by the end of the year I can just clean it up a bit and send it. I made it much more simpler and readable than the previous one.

J and I did more LHBW today. I cannot tell you enough how reading this book the way we are doing it has made such an impact on J. I never thought I'd see the day she would look forward to reading and then be able to narrate it back to me. I continuously shake my head in disbelief. She did 3 pages of math (10 minutes) and 3 pages of cursive (10 minutes). We did more Stone Age reading, mainly about shelters, nomads, shamans, hunter/gatherers, clans, and migration. Then she begged me to find that online site about folk customs so she could find all the countries, cities, capitals, mountains, and rivers on the globe. This afternoon we all went to the park for a feeble attempt at a nature walk. I insanely chose a park near the river and it was FREEZING over there. W and J ran around the playground a bit and we did get to identify some sugar maples, scrub oaks, and a tamarack tree (I think) with the field guide before we left, though.

K's class went to the Guggenheim museum today. She loved it and was amused at how much "naked lady" art there was. When you're 11, that's really funny. But of course if B was there he would have cracked a couple of jokes himself, sigh. They made sculptures out of marshmallows and toothpicks. When they got back to the neighborhood, the whole class got to go to the fast-food place across the street. All in all, she had a great day.

Monday, March 21, 2005

The quarterly report is now signed and ready to mail. I got a letter from the Supt. office stating that "in order to be in compliance with the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, Section 100.10, all appropriate documentation verifying home schooling of your children needs to be submitted in a timely manner. Any missing items must be submitted immediately.". They did put that line in bold. And then I got a little chart with what they received so far (letter of intent and ihip) and what needs to be yet sent in (quarterly reports #3 and #4 and the annual assessment). Geez, they make it sound so damn complicated and technical. All they had to say was, hey, your quarterly report is due soon. Don't forget! I am so not sweating this.

J was eager to do follow our schedule today. We started with LHBW and she just wanted to keep on reading and reading. It was great. We're up to the part where they explain how to collect the maple sap to make maple syrup. I am so pissed - we were supposed to go to "Maple Weekend" upstate and see how the whole process is done and then have a big pancake breakfast. I totally forgot about it. Anyway, she was very interested in that and can tell you the whole process from memory. Then she did 3 pages of multiplication and 2 pages of cursive practice (in lieu of copywork - which she doesn't feel like doing at all lately). Then we went online together to learn about folk customs. We found a great website that had a slideshow with about 50 different people from all over the world dressed in traditional clothing and various houses from different regions. J got the globe and found all the countries (Yemen, Syria, Uzbekhistan, Samoa, etc) and looked closer to find each country's capital. She absolutely had a ball with that and was upset when we had to cut it short to pick up W.

I was trying a free sample today in the supermarket and the sample woman saw J and asked where she goes to school. J looked at me as if she didn't know what to say. I said she's homeschooled with total confidence and a big smile. This woman smiled back and said "Good for you, that's wonderful". Ahhhhhhh. Love it. Then we got into this big discussion about how her grandchildren in Michigan were homeschooled, went to college, and were so advanced, they finished a lot of courses way ahead of schedule. Then we spoke about ADHD and autism and diabetes and how dietary changes affect so much, and chiropractors, and gifted kids. Thank goodness we were right next to the ball and hula-hoop diplay. J and W kept busy!

I went clothes shopping late this afternoon and got the kids Easter outfits. K's class is going to a museum tomorrow and she wanted to look nice. I always cave in. I love Kohl's, though. Everything is always 30%-40% off. The kids were so well behaved today - it was such a pleasure going shopping.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

This was a total organization weekend. Due to my sister's help and encouragement the other day, I have kept up with the cleaning and tossing out the junk. The problem with this apartment is that I have no place to put anything. We really don't own that much stuff, either. I have small appliances in boxes everywhere, no where to keep the recyclables, and not enough closet space for clothes. I may need to pare back even more. As it is, B and I sleep in the pull-out sofabed while the kids have the 2 bedrooms. We got rid of the huge dining room table and got a corner nook bench (it makes all the difference in the world and I love it so much. Why we didn't think of that sooner, I'll never know). I just bought a potrack to hang up the pots and pans. All the homeschool stuff is in a narrow 7-foot shelving unit (love that, too!). Last year, I got rid of the carpeting to reveal beautiful hardwood floors that thankfully make it look larger in here. The walls are light sage green with white ceilings and trim in the main areas with sheer valance curtains and white miniblinds. I wish we had just one more room. I think we're in about 700 square feet (yes, you heard that correctly) of space for the 5 of us (and 1 parakeet). If anyone out there has any small space tips, I'd appreciate it. We're lucky, though, in that we are in a 2-family house (2nd floor) with a large (unfinished) basement, a washer and dryer, paved backyard (great for skating/biking/skateboarding), front gated patio with garden, and our own garage. Not many urban NY'ers have all that. And our rent is very low since B's family owns the house. We are also in walking distance to the train, church, several playgrounds, the library, and to lots of shopping. A 15-minute subway ride can take us all over NYC. My block has nice families, lots of kids, and is pretty quiet. I really can't complain and I don't think I'll ever move from here.

I went online to today and bookmarked about 100 websites of places I want to go with the kids. I swear I never knew there was so much stuff out there. I mean, I found kids programs in the least likely places! There are kids programs at the Statue of Liberty, the Skyscraper Museum, and St. Paul's Chapel. I found them in the Intrepid, the Federal Reserve Bank, and the NYC Police Museum. There are "pre-visit" funsheets to do, museum scavenger hunts, and junior ranger badges to earn. The programs are for kids around ages 4 to 17 with most of them for ages 6 to 12. I have a goal to go to at least 10 new places before July.

K didn't get a special award for her science project, but she's still happy that hers made it into the running. W only has 3 days of school this week and is off all next week for Easter vacation. They're having a big party on Wednesday with egg hunts, egg coloring, and pizza. J has no dance classes this week. I think we'll go somewhere fun on Thursday (J, W, and me). Since W is off, we can go early. K's vacation (and all the PS kids) is at the end of April (Passover). She only gets Good Friday off in March. Speaking of which, I'm singing with the church choir on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday vigil, and Easter Sunday. It's always my favorite time to sing - next to Christmas.

Time to go and make a plan for tomorrow!

Saturday, March 19, 2005

I finally finished J's Quarterly Report for the superintendant's office. I probably included way too much information (as usual). Even though the supt. office asks for a lot of detailed information, no one ever gives this much. Usually it's just a short, one page overview of the quarter. I'm not sure what they want exactly. I feel like I'm just re-writing the IHIP. Well, I guess too much is better than not enough, right? Ok, so here it is (FEEDBACK WELCOME):

SCHOOL YEAR 2004-2005

STUDENT I.D. #: 0123456789
THIS QUARTER COVERS: 2/1/05 to 3/30/05

EVALUATION: J has satisfactorily completed all her work for this quarter. Her progress is excellent in all areas.

Subject / Material Covered

Arithmetic – Geometry, multiplication, and fractions (Math Steps Level 3), Consumer math, Multiplication and division review, Decimals, Percentage, Addition and Subtraction (several large numbers), Money, Equivalent fractions, Reducing fractions, Word problems

Reading - Classic poetry (Dickinson, Longfellow, Frost), Little House in the Big Woods (Wilder)in-depth study, Folktales, Fables, Critical Thinking, Silent reading (The Giraffe, Pelly, and Me – Roald Dahl) , Read-alouds, Summaries, Predictions, Drawing conclusions, Vocabulary.

Spelling - Words taken from literature and poetry reading.

Writing – Classic poetry copywork (Dickinson, Longfellow, Frost), Book/chapter summaries, Journal, Haikus, Letter writing, Handwriting (cursive).

The English Language – Daily reading/writing, Sentence construction, Punctuation, Parts of speech, Paragraphs, Friendly letters, Educational phonics/grammar videos.

Geography – Locations, capitals, landmarks, and state bird/flower of 50 States, Continents, Oceans, Neighborhood mapping, Compass rose, Map scale (miles/kilometers), Marking distance between cities, and countries. Use of ruler, atlases, globe, and maps.

U.S. History – Study of 1800s (U.S. Pioneer times) – colonies, westward migration, Louisiana Purchase, 1849 California Gold Rush, Oregon trail, Homesteading, Presidents and Vice Presidents.

World History - Stone Age, Africa, Europe, Animal and people shelters, Climate, hunters/gatherers, ancient landforms, cave drawings, early man.

Science – Astronomy/Solar System, Common birds, trees, and flowers, Experiments, Human body, Organs and their function, Circulatory system, Digestive system, Scientific Method, Nature study (walks, sketchbook, field guide), Planting/tending garden for spring, Field trip (NY Hall of Science).

Spanish – Alphabet, pronunciation, capitalization, grammar, words, phrases. Use of “Elementary School Success” CD Rom (Spanish), Standard Deviants TV program, and “Perro y Gato” (Spanish/English TV program for children).

Health Education – Care of own body (hygiene, teeth, eyes, ears), Manners, General Health, Nutrition, Safety, Adolescence.

Music – Daily exposure to classical and contemporary music, Composer study (Mozart), Piano keyboard, Singing, Dance

Visual Arts – Various projects pertaining to that day’s literature, history, or science, painting (watercolor and tempera), sketching, coloring, origami, costume making, clay sculpting, artist study (DaVinci), field trip (Metropolitan Museum of Art and Central Park "The Gates").

Physical Education – Advanced dance instruction – 5 hrs per week (competition team), Outdoor play (playground, skating, skateboard, bicycle), Indoor play (dance practice, kids’ exercise tapes).


Friday, March 18, 2005

We just got back from the Ringling Bros. Barnum/Bailey circus! It was out at Nassau Colliseum. All the preschool kids and parents (and a couple of siblings) came. It was really fun. I felt a bit sick the whole time since I got home last night at around 4am. M and I met our cousin (C) in downtown Manhattan. We hung out at a bar called Shades of Green and one called Bar None. I was drinking pints of Harp and Sierra-Nevada on tap and catching up with C. After I got home I fell asleep at 4:30am and got up at 8am to get W and J dressed to get to school fast or we'd have missed the bus for the circus. I felt really gross and hung-over. The last thing I needed this morning was a busload of screaming 4-year-olds, but except for a couple of waves of nausea, I was ok.

J and I didn't "do school" today. That's fine. She was so helpful at the circus and on the bus. She has dance later and no competitions this weekend - actually none til the middle of April. Woohoo! After dance yesterday we went straight to MIL's for dinner and I fixed her computer while everyone watched "The Incredibles". I'll watch it tonight. I didn't go to the homeschool meeting. I realized it was in a really bad part of town (and in NYC a bad part of town is really bad) and I didn't want to risk life and limb (and car) for it. I'll find another one.

I feel like staying in bed all weekend.


Thursday, March 17, 2005

Over the last 2 days, J has done lots of math, LHBW, cursive practice, maps and graphs, Spanish, and piano. My sister (M) came over yesterday early afternoon. She helped me start the corned beef and cabbage dinner (I wouldn't've had time to make it today). She also picked up K from school and drove her to cooking class. K made an incredible Irish soda bread. Then M helped me organize the kitchen. LOL. We were supposed to go out last night together but B didn't get home til almost 11pm. He and his coworkers went out for drink to say goodbye to someone who is leaving. My sis and I were online looking at all the NYC bars trying to find one that had karaoke. We ended up buying a couple of Coronas at 7-11 and just stayed home. She slept over and brought W to school this morning while J and I got some work done. Now she just went to pick him up. She's really helping me out! This is great!

Today J has dance and MIL will watch the other 2. I had intended to go to my first homeschool meeting tonight, but MIL said she's making a nice dinner so I probably won't make it. I'm going to try, though. I have been looking forward to this meeting for weeks. Hey wait! B took a half day today! I just remembered that! Maybe I can get there somehow after all.

HaPpY St. PaTrICk'S DaY!!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

We had a nice, productive day today. We did 4 pages of and discussed LHBW. J learned 2-digit by 2-digit multiplication in 10 minutes. She did a bunch of problems I made up for her and actually admitted math was fun. She also loved getting back to the Stone Age with History today. We went over evolution, human migration, and topography before and after glacial melting. She mapped out every area on the globe and followed human migration from Africa into Europe, through Asia, and over the land bridge by the Bering Sea that led into North America. She really enjoyed that.

And miracle of miracles she was reading with K in K's room this afternoon! K finished up Tales of Despereaux and J read up to page 20 of The Giraffe, Pelly, and Me (Roald Dahl)! I asked her later what the book is about and she went on and on about each character, the funny parts, and who did what. She said she loves the book so far. I told her how proud I was of her and she gave me a big smile and hugged me so tight. Ohpleaseohpleaseohplease let this not be a one time thing! It is this kind of major step that convinces me we made the right decision.

And here are a few more brags: K got a 103% on a math quiz and aced her Princeton Review test today. W has gone 5 whole school days with no "time-outs". We found out today that J's dance on day-2 of the weekend's competition won for best costume and best overall production number (given at evening award ceremony her team didn't stay for). A close friend from high school who I haven't seen or spoken to in 12 years called me from California today - we talked and laughed for an hour! And B surprised me today with a $700 bonus from work. I love days like today.

Monday, March 14, 2005

We did pretty good following my schedule today. We did Little House (I really love that book), Copywork (Dickinson), Math (school workbook - 2-digit multiplication and division with word problems), Spanish (tv), and Piano. J is having a ball with it so far. I let her choose the course of the morning. I notice she's more "into it" that way. Fine with me. I also read 2 folktales to the girls this afternoon. They loved them.

B took off from work today. He participates in a Focus Group every now and then and today's was 2 hours. It's like being part of a big survey and he just answers opinion questions and walks out of there with $150. Cool, no? He has so much vacation time this year he figured why not just take the whole day. He got a gift the other day from a sales rep. It was $100 worth of steaks from Omaha Steaks. It was nice to have him home to cook a few of them! He cooks way better than I do.

K has resolved all problems with crazy nutjob girl (CNG). CNG has apologized and K is playing it real cool and will never trust her again, although will be nice. CNG believes she is a witch and the devil wants her for something evil and that's why she was so nasty. Sigh. Ok. Whatever. K cannot believe how weird CNG is. But, at least K isn't calling to come home or letting her grades suffer. K has the upper hand now, after telling CNG off last week. I am proud of her for sticking up for herself and not taking any crap from anyone. I'm so happy that K still tells me everything (well, a lot, anyway) and I feel we have a very close relationship. I was just reading that Queen Bee/Wannabe book and I cannot believe how dead on it is. Scary.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

We're back from a 2-day dance competition. J performed in 3 numbers and received 3 platinum ribbons! Her small group also received a special award for best costume and they won overall best performance by a petite (7-8 y/o) group. Awesome 2 days. J loves competitions and loves being with her friends. I feel she is learning so much about working as a team, winning and losing, and she has such a great sense of self. I see her enthusiasm spilling over into other areas - like learning. I hoped so much that I would see that "spark" come back in her. She looks forward to reading with me now and even asks for me to read the folktales I get from the library to her. She still won't voluntarily read on her own, but I think she will soon. Her reading level is several grades ahead, but you'd never know it. I love seeing her happy about learning again. I haven't seen her this way since she was 5.

My dad made a comment this morning that J is always happy.



Friday, March 11, 2005

We are making such good progress with reading. J has improved tremendously on her comprehension. Maybe with the next book we will start on written narrations. She could type out a summary per chapter or something. We played Monopoly today, too. I bought the Deluxe Edition yesterday. You can learn so much playing that, like: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, money, banking, saving, spending, mortgaging, trading, negotiating, probablility, debt, bankruptcy, estimation, decision making, consequences, tax, rent, real estate, percentage, basic counting, and handling a lot of monetary situations that adults face. I'd like to play that with the girls at least once a week.

I feel so unprepared for tomorrow's dance competition. J's stuff is all still in the car from the last one. We don't have to leave tomorrow til 11:30am so I have most of the morning to organize. I picked up bobby pins, safety pins, and hairspray before. Her team gear is all ready to go. Her costumes don't need any fixing up. She needs new jazz shoes, but that can wait til next time. I think I need to get her some black tights tomorrow. I'll just run into the drug store in the morning for anything I forgot.

For all of you reading this, don't be shy - leave a comment! I would love to hear from anyone out there.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

I am so sick and tired of all this middle school drama. There is one girl who is just out of her mind - a total attention seeker who turns her friendship on and off with K every week. K is so outgoing and friendly and tends to wear her emotions on her sleeve. This is making her an easy target for this crazy nutjob. She told K she's a witch and performs spells and loves her Ouija board. Sigh. K is still handling this pretty well, though, I think. I ran out of things to say to help. I sucked at this kind of thing in school.

J and I had a good day, though. She got in a good Spanish lesson watching Standard Deviants on PBS. We did more Little House and she spent 20 minutes on multiplication and fractions on She had dance from 5-7 and thank goodness W slept the whole time. K and I sat in the car and talked and made each other laugh a lot. I can't find my debit card so no supermarket today. We ordered Chinese.

I have now found and will soon join THREE local homeschooling groups! Each have a yearly fee of around $30, but that's fine. The activities and meetings planned look really fun and interesting. I hope J finds at least one good friend out of it all. Phone calls to her old school friends are getting fewer and fewer. Thank God for dance. Now those are some really nice kids.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Here we go. Back in the swing of things. J got so much done today and was so happy doing it. We started with reading. We got 6 pages read from Little House an she gave a great narrative. Her copywork today was a Dickinson poem. She took a break from the math workbook and spent 1/2 hour reducing fractions and reviewing times tables on She read a list of all the US presidents and vice presidents to me. She is fixated on Kennedy and today at the library chose a book on him.

We also did Science today. I opened the old textbook to the Table of Contents and let her pick a section. She chose the Human Body. We read a bit from that and from the new Human Body book I bought a few weeks ago. She learned about all the body's "systems" and we focused on the Circulatory System.

After we picked up W, we went to the library and got more educational videos, 2 folktales, 2 books about pioneer life (keeping with the Little House time period), and that book on JFK. At home, the younger kids played Play-Doh for a while and after I picked up K, they all spent an hour painting with watercolors. I love watercolors. They look so beautiful. I think I'm going to frame one picture from each of them. Then, K and I watched "Supersize Me" while J and W played computer games.

I think I found a good homeschool group! They're having a meeting right in my neighborhood next week. I'm so excited! I ran into K's principal today. She and I got to talking and she asked J where she goes to school. I said we're actually homeschooling now. She had the most perplexed look on her face. So, I said I took J out of XXX school because I felt she needed a bit more and how that school was too focused on test scores and things are really going well now and WHY CAN'T I EVER JUST STOP TALKING??!! She asked how long I plan on hs'ing and I said we're taking things year by year and oh by the way... And she jumped in with "yes, we take homeschooled children, all she needs to do is take a test".

Of course.

So, J has that option open to her. If she eventually wants to go to that middle school (which is the ONLY one around here I would send her to), then I'm glad they'd have no problems with the fact that she's homeschooled. It's a "specialized" middle school with a very involved admissions process. I didn't think they dealt with homeschoolers. It's nice that they do. We'll just cross that bridge when we get to it.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Ok, so I'm back to keeping an "activity log" on the computer. I made a table on a Word document with every subject from the NY regulations listed in the left-hand column and everything J does pertaining to them in the right-hand column along with the date. This way, I can refer to it when preparing my quarterly report. I started my first q-report this morning and practically drew a blank when trying to remember all the stuff we covered over the last month. I think it came out OK, though. I am not using the blank one they sent me because I'd rather not hand write everything in, but I did follow their format. It's not due until March 30th so I'll probably keep adding to it until I mail it. I called the supt. office again yesterday (I'm such a pain) and they said they DID receive my IHIP and I would only hear back from them if their was a problem with it. I told them my first one got lost in the mail (supposedly) and if I didn't call I would have never known they didn't receive it. Whatever. I'll just make sure to send everything certified mail from now on.

J decided she didn't want to do anything on the schedule today. I said fine. Then later on, I kinda regretted that because she watched TV all day. I said she could watch Reading Rainbow or Standard Deviants but she didn't. I later explained to her that I would never force her to do any work, but she's not homeschooled to sit around and do nothing all day. I guess I probably should have came up with ideas for her, but I got caught up writing the quarterly report. It's also difficult for me to just create things to do. I'm not creative at all. I am lost without a schedule. They did their own creative stuff, though. J made robot costumes out of old cardboard boxes. She and W were wearing theirs and being silly, changing the words to "I'm a Little Teapot", adding the word butt in the middle somewhere. Eventually, she agreed that from now on we are sticking with the schedule I made. I promised her that we would only use it as a daily guideline, that she would have a lot of choices, and that I would do my best to see that she enjoys it.

K's project made it into the competitive part of the Science Fair. Only 3 kids per class qualify to compete for awards. I'm excited to see how her project does.

I am running into various school moms in the supermarket in the mornings. I know they know we're homeschooling, but no one mentions it and just casually say Hi to us. I wonder if I'm just paranoid and expecting everyone to bombard me with questions and comments. If I see one, I find myself trying to avoid her a little so I don't have to explain things. I gotta get over that.

We're going to the library tomorrow again, weather permitting. It snowed again today. It was weird. This morning it was 55 degrees and all of a sudden it was 24 and snowing. My car was a huge ice cube and I had to use a hanger to scrape the ice off all the windows. Even the doors were frozen shut. My street is one long sheet of ice. Where are the salt trucks?

HaPpY BiRtHdAy, to my sweet baby!!

Monday, March 07, 2005

Today at the supermarket J was such a big help. She reminded me of everything I kept forgetting! She asked a ton of great questions - whys and hows - about everything from preservatives to bargains. We bought fries at 3/$5. I asked her what one bag would cost and she came up with $2 first, then changed it to $1.69. Very close! And I was amazed at how quick she was with her answer. We also went to Toys R Us to get W's presents. By the time we got home, unloaded the groceries, and hid the toys, it was time to pick up W. So, needless to say, we veered off the schedule today.

J always acts so mature when we're alone together and then as soon as a sibling gets home, she regresses to the behavior of a 3 year-old. It drives me nuts! She whines and complains and teases incessantly. And forget about getting ANYTHING scheduled done. W is bored and restless when he's home during the day and J needs structure without distractions so W going to school full-time in September will work beautifully for all of us.

K presented her Science Fair project last week and got a 98! This was the highest in her class. I'm hoping she gets some sort of overall award. There are 14 6th-grade classes in her school. Last year she placed 3rd in her grade and won the "Environmental Award". All of K's grades have been excellent this year. I am already looking at high schools. I would love her to get into a top specialized high school. Either that or a full scholarship to one of the top parochial high schools around here. NY has so many high schools, but 75% of them suck. I only really like 2 or 3 (out of about 30).

Play practice starts this Saturday as well. It's from 8:30am to 1pm. J has a competition that day (all day) and my niece's birthday party is that afternoon. J and I won't make it to the party, but B, K, and W will hitch a ride upstate with MIL since I'm taking the car. No problem.

Tomorrow is W's actual birthday. He's bringing in Munchkins to celebrate. The teachers always prefer those. I'm glad he likes them, too - it makes things so easy. We got him Spiderman sneaker-skates and J picked out something for her and K each to give him.

The kids got their Sunday School report cards. K didn't get one for some reason. J got 4 As, 5 Es, and comments were: "(J) is continuing to work well. Her participation is excellent and she is very enthusiastic". W got 5 Es and his comments were: "(W) is a trip. He listens to directions and brings joy in the class. He also knows how to do the Sign of the Cross". Very proud mom, here.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

We had a cool birthday party for W today. It was at a "funhouse" near me. It was like a Chuck-E Cheese except with a DJ and laser tag. Everyone had a great time and I didn't have to do a thing (except break out the wallet at the end). Gotta love it.

I'm going to relax all day tomorrow. The kids have Sunday school in the morning - B will take them. I may get some laundry and cleaning done, but I'm totally taking it easy. I'll also plan out J's homeschool week. We still never got to the nature study part yet. And that's the thing I wanted to get to first!

The girls are eager for me to read them the folktales I picked up at the library. I want to make a habit of reading more bedtime stories to them. K still loves them too. There are lots of nice Irish ones (gets us in the St. Patrick's Day mood!).

Friday, March 04, 2005

Yesterday J just watched a few of educational videos we got from the library: one on Sentences, one on Punctuation, and a kids chess tutorial. She woke up later than usual so it was an easy day. She had dance in the late afternoon. It's wonderful to see how great all the kids get along. A friend of mine from J's old school called me last night - something about the school newsletter. She didn't realize we weren't there anymore. I told her about our homeschooling and she was supportive and encouraging and is giving my phone number to another hs mom in the area with kids around J's age! YAY! Maybe finally I can meet others!

This morning J and I were discussing fruit/veg seeds and mentioned what had seeds or pits and what didn't. I said that lettuce and celery don't have seeds and I'm not sure what exactly they do have. J said they have "hearts". I will be looking that up later. She surprised me this morning also by creating her own pepper shaker out of various things around the house. Then she played with an electronic game about the 50 states - capitals, state nicknames, famous people from each state, landmarks, etc. She really does seem to be learning so much on her own. It's mornings like these that prove to me I made the right decision in homeschooling!

Today she is copying a Shakespeare sonnet. She likes it, I think. We are continuing with Little House, Math, U.S. History, Science, Spanish, and Journal Writing. She's actually excited about it all because she knows I try to make it fun and interesting. We basically just read books together and do fun projects. Nothing tedious or tiresome. I got her a set of CDRoms yesterday that cover 1st to 6th grades. I think she'll like them. It's all fun learning games covering everything from astronomy to Spanish. 13 CDRoms for less than $30 - Not bad.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

I am learning how to put photos on this blog. I don't have the full hang of it yet, but, hey, I'm trying, lol! I am choosing photos that will still retain a little anonymity (sp?) for me and my family. I hope you understand. But you'll still get a jist of what we look like and things we do.

We did find a cool "stone age" project to do yesterday. I filled a spray bottle with orange paint and water and sprayed around the kids' hands on coverstock paper. The outline of their hands remain and it looks cool.

Today after the morning work, we went to the library and got lots of stuff. I asked if they have any "tween" programs before 3pm. They don't. Unfortunately, no place around here has any daytime activities for older kids. I still have yet to meet another homeschooler. Every group I tried has been a bust. There is one that I have to pay $35 a year to be a part of, but I haven't gotten around to that yet.

K got into the school play (which is hard to do!) and hopes for a really great part this year. W's birthday party is this weekend - which conflicts with J's dance rehearsal and competition meeting. Sigh. We have about 12 kids coming to the playspace for the party. Should be fun. OMG my baby is turning 4!!

Here's W at another birthday party:

Here's a pic of K and J from last year:

And here's B with the band. They had a gig in Greenwich Village last night. They totally rock!:

I think I'm having too much fun with the pictures. And when I find a good one of me (haven't so far), I'll put it up.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

We had a pretty good day yesterday. J slept til after 9am and was pretty eager to begin her copywork. She's back with poetry. It's what she prefers. This week will probably be all Robert Frost. I've always liked him, too. We moved on to reading. J loves that Little House book. Reading it as slowly as we are is working wonderfully for J's comprehension. She is getting very involved in the story and thankfully looks forward to it. Her narrations are getting better, too. I can see she is paying attention and truly understands what's going on. This is such a big improvement already from PS. She did math fairly quickly - always 2 pages. I found a cool Spanish online worksheet on the days and months. She got most of those correct and wanted to do another one. For History today, we chose from the World Book list and did "shelters of animals and people". W was home by then and we all "played school". I was "Miss Mommy" (according to W) and I had the computer screen open to a fantastic animal homes page. They raised their hands to answer questions and W even asked where the bathroom was (lol). J loved that and I could see she was learning so much. I guess I can take J out of school, but I can't take school out of J yet. We were going to start Nature Study yesterday, too, but it started snowing (AGAIN!!). I thought it would be nice to just sketch one of the bare trees from the living room window, but she never got to it. That's ok. We'll try it maybe later this week.

Today, J copied another Frost poem, we finished another chapter of Little House, and started on more difficult math. We did lots of fractions stuff: improper, adding/subtracting, and reducing. She picked it right up and enjoyed it. We moved on to World History. I have a great book that covers the Stone Age, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and Ancient Rome. We're going to follow it in order. That also incorporated Geography. The book even has lots of crafts to do for each time period. I have Art scheduled for later, so maybe instead of a famous artist, we'll learn more about cave drawings and they can draw/paint their own. I want to keep with the time period and besides, I think they'll like that!

I am realizing that because J is still in "school mode" she prefers structure now. Last week when everyone was off she didn't so much as pick up a book. When you're in school, the days off are for sleeping, watching crap TV, and maybe going somewhere. As much as I love the idea of unschooling, I think J isn't ready for it yet. I don't think she knows how to just "be". The kids were so bored last week and I found myself constantly creating things to do for them. I don't think they know how to fill their own free time. It's sad. With J, I hope to lessen the structure over time with the hope of J establishing more creativity and getting a sense of knowing what her own interests are so there would be no way for her to become bored. She could then be an example for K and W. Does that make sense? I don't know. LOL.

I was dreading K going back to school yesterday because of the "mean girls" giving her a hard time. I said to call me from school anytime if you need to. She felt confident today, though, in that she was wearing new awesome clothes and looked cool. After a lengthy chat with the guidance counselor, all the girls apologized profusely to K for believing some boy over her and now they're all friends again. I say this loosely because K will never truly trust them again. But...they are all part of the "populars" and she still insists on hanging with them. K is really very smart and does what she has to do. I have to keep in mind she is only 11 and doesn't handle things like an adult would (which is usually a good thing). She makes me so proud. Now if she would only find some new friends. Sigh.