Saturday, December 30, 2006

On Saturday, J went over her friend's house all day. K and W tried the new Slurpee machine and tended to the hamster. K created a new layout for B's website and W found the shiny green piggy bank I forgot to put in his Christmas stocking. He keeps polishing it and wants to keep it shiny, lol. Everyone picked me up at work and we went to see "Avner the Eccentric" at Queens Theater in the Park. It was a great show! The Unisphere at Flushing Meadow Park looked so beautiful at night that I had to get some pics of the kids in front of it:

J watched some of the Math Success CD ROM. She chose long division and was actually into it. It's great the way it explains math concepts and goes quickly. I enjoyed it too. She even asked me to create problems for her to do afterward. She always prefers to do "academic" stuff at nighttime.

K has been reading a lot, writing in her journal, and being creative on the computer. We've been playing Blokus a lot. It's an abstract spatial strategy game that I'm sure has lots of educational value. The kids just love it and I can play it all day.

Today we're going to Nassau Coliseum to see High School Musical the Concert. . It was a surprise Christmas gift and the kids cannot wait. They have been eating,sleeping,breathing High School Musical for forever it seems. All 3 kids know the entire script and score by heart and it's even the theme for this years Musical Theater class at the dance studio. Tonight we're just staying home, having lotsa "pickins" food, and just being together. I have to work tomorrow so no big partying for me tonight, lol.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I did a big shopping after work on Saturday finishing up all the Christmas presents. On Sunday morning, B took the kids out to run some errands and I went downstairs to wrap everything. I think I ended up wrapping over 60 things. We got to my mom's around 3ish. We decided it would be so nice to sleep over and wake up with everyone on Christmas morning. Christmas Eve was great. The kids made cookies, helped with the seafood dinner, watched A Christmas Story, and listened to the story of the first Christmas. They all wanted to get to sleep early so morning would come faster.

The kids did pretty well, I must say. K's favorite gift was the chocolate brown Juicy Couture sweat suit. J's favorite was the pink Nintendo DS Lite. And I think W's was probably his new hamster in a cool Spiderman hamster habitat. My favorite gift was the rac 'n roll dance bag for J's competitions. It's a huge rolling suitcase that comes with it's own clothes rack and plenty of space for costumes, shoes, makeup, and snacks. I love things that make my life easier!

My sister and her family came over around noon and we all had brunch and opened more gifts. In the evening, we packed up the car and headed to B's mom's house for another round of food and presents. I think it was one of our better Christmases. I had practically no stress the whole holiday season and the final days went very smoothly.

I never did get the cards mailed, though. Next year I'm mailing them on December 1st!!


Friday, December 22, 2006

I was reading a message board thread that touched upon something called "radical unschooling". I'd heard of it in the past and decided we're not "radical" anything. But the more I read about it, and the more I hear it described by different families, the more I think we could possibly fall into that category. My kids have no set bedtimes, are free to choose what to eat, are free to wear whatever they choose, are free to choose how much tv they watch, and how much computer time they have. And of course, how to go about learning.

It feels weird to type that. It just doesn't "sound" right in our society, does it. But it was just the normal progression from the attachment parenting they all received from birth. Are my kids running amok, eating tons of candy and sugar, watching tv til their eyes blur over, and staying up til 3am every night? No, not even close. I have noticed that allowing these freedoms create children who self-regulate, are independent, and have high self-esteem and confidence.

For example, in the past I have given the girls $5 in the supermarket to spend on whatever they wanted. I was really shocked (but didn't show it, lol) to see they picked things like fruit, crackers, and canned ravioli. Where was all the candy and chips? There weren't any. K snacks on fruit and salads very often when we go out. J chooses fruit, veggie booty, or soy chips. W is still learning how to make healthy choices, but he'll eat anything and is getting a good example from his sisters.

As far as tv, I'll admit I have the parental block on anything PG-13 and up. But that's as far as my intervention goes. The kids watch a medium amount of tv. They actually prefer imaginative play, dancing, doing artwork, or going out somewhere. I grew up with the tv always on - mainly for background noise. I tend to do the same thing now and it's the kids who go over and shut it off several times a day.

Bedtimes are a big issue for people. I never understood that. We have no bedtime rules and yet W is asleep by 8:30, J by 9:30, and K by 10:30. My 5 y/o tells me he's really tired and ready for bed - he does this for naps too. I remember I fought my mother every night about bedtime - probably up until at least age 10. If there's something going on early the next morning, I will remind the kids that it will be difficult to get up if they don't start winding down now. But it's still their choice. And the next morning when I'm dragging them out of bed to get to a homeschool event they were looking forward to, they will remember this the next time.

I don't even make my kids wear a coat when it's cold. If they choose not to, I'll just bring one in case they want it later. They know if or when they're cold. I don't see the point of turning something like that into a battle of wills. My kids have gone coatless many times - and I probably have the healthiest kids in the neighborhood.

Oh and as you've seen, learning without coercion is very effective. My kids gravitate toward academics and are very curious and interested in the world. All the kids love being read to, love educational computer websites and CD-ROMS, have asked to learn Italian (all 3 of them! So I'll be purchasing Rosetta Stone soon), and J and W are "workbooking" a grade level ahead. Last night, W and I did Brainquest cards and read a book called "What If...". B was listening and couldn't believe how much W knew about the human body, animals, and space. The kids ask questions about any and everything all day. The answers I give them or that they find out for themselves do not leave them, it seems. And J has started reading a new book. K has decided to start working on 9th grade subjects to get a head start on high school. Fine with me! I'll take her to the bookstore to choose things she'd like. I'll also find her a bunch of websites and put them in a K folder.

I couldn't imagine this all working out any better than it does.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Monday our homeschool group had a Winter Solstice Celebration. There were great presentations on the different ways the December holidays are celebrated. We heard about Hannukah, Christmas, Atheists and cultural celebrations, Buddhism and the new year celebrations, and most of all, what the Winter Solstice is, scientifically and traditionally. We had a Wassail toast to the return of the light and celebrated with lots of food and games. A main theme was religious tolerance. I think we all learned a lot about each other. One game the older kids played revolved around that theme and was created by one of the moms (she will soon be patenting the game and plans on getting it on store shelves!). Very fun day.

Yesterday, we stayed in and just hung out. K spent about an hour reading and W and I did a few workbook pages. Then J and I did some. She did reading comprehension and spelling/vocabulary. The spelling words incorporated geography in that all the words were names of continents, oceans, seas, and mountain ranges. So she had to know the what-and-where as well as how to spell the words. The last bit was proofreading, which she loves doing. The funny part was that we had to leave after about 45 minutes and she was really disappointed to have to cut the workbooking short. I just think that's so cool. Learning for her is no longer a miserable chore to be rushed through in order to get to more fun things. Learning has BECOME one of the fun things.

Today we saw a wonderful production of "A Christmas Carol" at Hofstra University. There were about 25-30 of us there from the hs group. We met some new families with 9-11 y/os that I would love to see more often. At regular hs events we have at least 15 kids in that age range. And of course there's always plenty of 4-6y/os for W to play with. But I'm glad that there is the potential for a strong teen group in a few years. I'm sure there will be some who choose to go to high school, but even 7 or 8 regulars will be plenty for that homeschooling teen comraderie. K is making do usually being the oldest at the events - although there are some older boys (14-16) that usually just keep to themselves. She's content with the several outside friends she has for now. I'm still on a quest to recruit more teens for our group, though.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

We've had a relaxing couple of days. The kids have been doing lots of crafts including a Native American arm band and a feeble attempt at creating a geodesic dome out of rolled up newspaper, tape, and staples. J and W watercolored and drew pictures. K wrote to her penpal in Spain (they last saw each other 8 yrs ago in Kindergarten and have been writing ever since). W played with some Sculpy clay and the girls are still into Mall Tycoon. J has been altering photos on the computer for her website and W learned his phone number with a catchy song.

Dance is great. The company has finished most of their numbers and just need to clean up a few things before competitions start. Their Christmas party is next Wednesday and they're doing a local performance on Thursday. Costumes are done (except for the ritual "stoning" we'll probably do next month) and all I need to buy are tights, toe thongs, black gores, and foot undeez -- so far.

The girls and I are hitting the mall tomorrow. I have about 5 people left to buy for and I figure I can knock them all out in one mall trip. We're probably crazy for going, but I know we'll have fun. We put up the Christmas tree tonight. I just did the lights (white only this year) and 2 rolls of silver/gold garland - instead of the burgundy and cream theme I usually do. Tomorrow evening, we'll finish up with the ornaments, candy canes, and angel on top. I'm so not ready for Christmas. We still didn't take our pictures for the cards yet.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

So I ended up buying a wireless keyboard at Radio Shack. HP sucks and their tech support is the worst I've ever dealt with. They lost my info and have no record that I spent $200 on a 3-year accidental damage plan. Gee how convenient. All the tech calls are routed to India and no one is on the same page with anyone else. I will never buy another HP product again.

Ok aside from that wonderful note, we're having a fantastic week! Last Thursday we hung with some homeschooling friends at their house. We did the usual language arts skill set, had lunch, and had fun. It was a beautiful day for mid-December (like 55 degrees) and the kids were running around outside and trampolining. Friday we stayed home and got tons of cleaning done. I finished everything up by Sunday night and ended up with 12 bags of garbage. It was mainly old clothes. I used to give everything away, but I just have no time for it anymore. Monday we went to see "The Nutcracker" at Hofstra University with the homeschool group. I think 30 of us were there and we had front row seats! It was such a nice ballet and even W sat still (mostly) for the whole thing.

Tuesday, J's new homeschooling friend came over for a few hours. She's 9 and just started hs this fall. K went over my sister's friend's house to be a "mother's helper". This girl and my sis have been friends for over 15 years and she's so similar to K! They chatted about shopping, makeup, and shoes while putting up Christmas lights and playing with the baby. So funny. K can't wait to "hang out" with her again. I think they have a shopping date planned soon.

Today was rainy and we stayed home. J asked me to do division flash cards with her. It's short division up to 144 and she quickly answered every one. She felt she was a little "slow" on some and would like to go over her 6, 7, and 8 times tables. She really had fun with it and kept asking to go over it again. (What's with that?? LOL). Of course in the meantime, W is annoyed at the time I'm spending with J and want to do his workbook with me right then. He finally realized whining and complaining doesn't work with mommy, and waited for us to finish. He did a whole test-prep page on beginning sounds, putting a check in the bubble instead of coloring it in. He liked it better that way, he said. LoL. He lost another tooth this week, too. Now there's just this adorable gaping hole where his 2 bottom teeth used to be. I'll take a picture tomorrow. I finally bought Lithium AA batteries, so hopefully the camera will last more than a week.

Both girls were very into "Mall Tycoon" today and I'm pretty sure they'll be on it most of tomorrow. The "Tycoon" games are awesome and I really recommend them. J had dance rehearsal tonight (like almost every day). Her group is performing a couple of Christmas-y numbers at a middle school next week. I'm calling in sick from work so I can go. I haven't even seen these numbers yet. One of them is the company production number that will be going to competition in Jan or Feb.

K asked me to read her some Grimm's Fairy Tales before bed tonight. She and J love being read to but they have to keep reminding me or I don't think of it. I love the Olde English language and the gratuitous gore of these stories. We have the complete and unabridged version of the stories. They weren't written for children, I don't think, but the girls love them. I have to make a point to read to them more. It's on my (unwritten) resolution list, lol.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Monday we had our Foreign Lands Club with the homeschool group. The country was Argentina and the girls did a great presentation on "music". They spent a good deal of time finding Argentinean music for the ipod, researching various websites for info, and creating a script for the presentation. We brought empanadas and a loaf of crusty bread. There was also gnocchi, scones, steak, salad, dulce de leche cake, ice cream, pan dulce, and fruit. They learned about Argentina's geography, history, culture, exports, food, languages, and rulers. Such a fun event!

Today we are going to see a production of "Tim and Scrooge". Tomorrow we are hanging with outher homeschoolers for some language arts skill sets. They usually do a fun writing activity and a game, then spend the rest of the afternoon playing. Friday we are meeting up with the homeschool group for ice skating.

W's reading and writing is coming along very nicely. He is getting more comfortable showing us what he can do. The girls are also reading and writing more. J and W are using their workbooks a lot and K will peruse her text books, but prefers the computer. All of them have been real creative lately and are increasingly more respectful to each other. It's such a big transition for all of them to be home. K and W are still getting used to it, and J is getting used to having them home, lol. I think we're doing ok so far. The kids are happy and busy, and I'm seeing positive differences in them.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

We had a nice week. Visiting friends on 2 days, going to another high school open house, and rearranging the living room, which opened up a lot more space. Dance was good all week. J's team already got one of their costumes and is almost finished with another. They will be performing their production number (has a Christmas theme) at a nearby middle school this month.

So, the high school we went to see has to be the most perfect school I've seen so far. It's small, in a great neighborhood, and specializes in what K loves most. We met the principal, vice principal, got a tour, visited various classrooms, and signed the sheet. I am getting such a good vibe from this place. It's exactly what I've been looking for. There's 90 kids in each grade (very small for NYC standards), cute uniforms, and oh yeah, it's public! I couldn't ask for a better (free) school. So we'll hear in March if she gets in. And the parochial high schools are sending out their acceptance letters in January.

I'm excited for K because I know she wants to go to high school. And I feel it's my job to find the perfect school for her. There are at least 412 high schools in the 321 square miles that make up NYC (Rhode Island has 60 high schools in 1200 square miles!) . Finding a potentially good "fit" for her has been crazy. Kids can go to any high school in any borough (zoning rules are in place mainly for lower grades). I'm a perfectionist and I will not settle for anything that doesn't meet my standards. If she chooses to go to school, at least I'll feel comfortable knowing I did everything I could to seek out that "fit". K did say she will consider homeschooling throughout her teen years, but wants to give high school a fair shot. I think this was when J said she'll be homeschooling til college thankyouverymuch. I know K is loving being home. She is still getting used to not being around 400 kids all day every day. It's hard to find other 12-14 y/o homeschoolers and she gets worried about that. She has schooled friends her age, but I think she wants the homeschool comraderie. And I can't blame her.

Work has been getting better and better. I decided to organize my finances, pay down all our debt, and start being more frugal. And as soon as I went into that mindframe, I started getting more sales at work. I really believe 'thought' is creative and you achieve what you believe. If you harp on fear and misery, you'll have it in your life. If you believe you are worthy and good and are doing your best to reach your goals, you will get there pretty quickly. And my mind has been so clear and focused.

This financially-clearer mind has overflowed into the rest of my life. I have been in total organizing mode this week. My living room looks amazing and today I'll focus on the dining room. During the week I'll fix up the bathroom. Just rearranging things and finding new homes for things (even if it's the garbage can) really can lift your spirits. Today I want to get more Christmas shopping done, get the Christmas card pictures taken, re-organize the dining room, decorate the house for Christmas, and plan the rest of the week.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

We had a great day today meeting other homeschoolers right in our neighborhood! Her kids are J's age. All the kids got along wonderfully. First we went to the playground and then to their house for pizza. While the kids played, L and I had the homeschool conversation and we found we are so much alike. It was so cool and we can't wait to see them again.

I emailed the quarterly report 6 days ago and haven't heard anything yet. I got a "read receipt" so I know they got it. I'm surprised because my emails to them have always been answered within 2-3 days. I'm nervous in a way because I know my quarterly is very minimal and maybe she's deciding whether or not it's in compliance or something. I just want a response already. I'll give it another week and follow up.

Speaking of the coordinator, B went down to the main headquarters on 7th Avenue to hand deliver K's high school and metrocard applications. He met Ms. Becoat, whom he said was very nice and friendly. She gave him our 2 metrocards and he left. He only had to wait 10 minutes. That's actually much better than the 45 minute wait I had at our Queens Region last year. I think I might be liking this new system. And I say that with a little trepidation.

All the kids had dance today. W was awesome in his hip-hop class. They did some free-style and W did coffee grinders, a split in the air, and a perfect handstand - all things Ms X wants in his solo but he wouldn't do. I hope the teacher today tells her he can really do all of that, lol. After his class, the girls had theirs and W and I were counting money. He fished 3 dimes and a penny out of my pocket and asked to have them. I said "If you can count it, you can have it". So he said the small ones were dimes and ten cents and the brown one was a penny and one cent. Then he counted by tens to 40, then backed up and said, No, 30.... and 1, THIRTY-ONE! Ok, so this week W has been reading, rhyming, adding coins, learning his phone number and address, telling time, writing words, mastering the dance moves, and oh yeah - losing a tooth - and it's only Tuesday!

I took an online quiz today - and I'm durn proud of myself (p.s. I don't attribute much of my score to anything I "learned" in high school, btw)

You paid attention during 91% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
Create a Quiz

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thanksgiving was spent at BIL's house this year. The food was great, my kids were very well behaved, and the subject of homeschooling didn't come up once. I was surprised since this is a real touchy subject for MIL. The rest of B's family is just indifferent about it. Which is fine.

We drove the kids to my mom's house after that, stayed about 30 minutes, and drove home. Mom took the girls shopping Friday morning at 6am. All three of them love it. They love the stores, the crowds, the clothes. And yes, Mom bought them tons of stuff - gave some to them now and saved some for Christmas morning. The majority of the stuff for the girls came from Abercrombie, which is usually too rich for my blood. J got a down coat (gorgeous), both got pajama pants/shirts, a large canvas zipper bag, and mitten gloves. Mom got W new sneakers (Jordans) and Timberlands (and some shirts and pants). J asked for a Build-A-Bear and mom told me that she said No, but K stepped right up and said she would buy the Mumbles penguin for J there. K used some of the birthday money she got. My mom was so proud and impressed with K, that she had to call later on and let me know.

W was at his cousins house all day. He had a great time. Mom and the girls met up with them there later and they all went out to The Cheesecake Factory for dinner and dessert - and to celebrate K's birthday. Mom told me that she sees such a wonderful change in the kids since they've been homeschooled. K and W have both mellowed out so much, are generous and kind with everyone, and have lost a lot of the competitiveness, attitude, and tantrums. Yes, I've noticed that too.

I worked a full day Friday (part-timers had to), and B and I had a wedding that night. Great big Italian fun, food, and dancing, til 1am. I finally got to sleep that night at 3am and woke up at 7am to work another full day. B tried to get some Christmas shopping in. He was fairly unsuccessful at finding most of what was on the list. I'm probably going to end up doing all the shopping online. It's so much easier.

J has dance practice today and I'd like to get some cleaning done so we can start decorating the house. This is my favorite time of year!

Monday, November 20, 2006

We had a great Thanksgiving event with the homeschool group today. There was a Cherokee guest speaker, amazing food, the kids made their own flavored butter, played games, and had a fantastic time for over 3 hours. We met some new homeschoolers and lots of dads came today. I really love this group.

I can't believe it's already the end of November. Autumn really flew by. K is ready to start some structured learning. She says she doesn't want to be behind when she starts high school. I'll sit down with her and we'll come up with a schedule together. Having her input is important. I'm figuring on following the worldbook guideline for 8th grade and just finding really good websites, books, kits, and trips to experience throughout the year. I think I would like to do the same with J. She likes a loose schedule that she creates herself. And of course, I'm totally willing to follow her lead. W is doing just fine lately. We do lots of workbook and readalouds, and his days are always filled with imaginative play.

The one thing people still tend to harp on is "socialization". My kids know how to act among others. What they actually mean is "socializing". Well, they spend several days a week with their friends and they spend every day out in the real world. Even K says she is so much happier having these new friends. She feels no pressure or anxiety and just enjoys life so much more now. We have become closer as a family, too. I don't believe children benefit socially from spending 6 hours a day with 25 other kids their age that they can't get away from if they wanted to. I think a feeling of helplessness from being so controlled builds over the years and manifests itself into rebellion right at about 6th or 7th grade. By the time their in high school, if you've noticed, attitudes change and reading and math levels plummet. I think NYC has about 37% of middle and high school kids at grade level. The rest of the country isn't much better. Thirty-seven percent? A little more than a third of this city's kids are reading at grade level?! How can anyone say government school is working for them?

I see an incredibly bright and successful future for my kids. I really can see it. I'm not sure many public school parents can be that optimistic. And even though I know K will be going to (private or parochial) high school next year, I believe she has gotten a new start by staying home this year. She is already thinking and behaving differently than from just a month ago. High school is something she wants, not something being forced. I'm comfortable with her decision and I'm confident she will not disappoint herself.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Monday was ice skating with the homeschool group. We all ended up skating. W is doing really great now - even with the rented skates. We all used to have our own, but outgrew them, except J who used K's old ones. It was a nice afternoon and I had a lot of fun with the kids. Tuesday, W had a solo dance lesson. I videotaped it so he can practice at home. The studio owner wrote out all of W's steps for me to go over with him. She said he is really smart and has excellent timing, in that he really *hears* the music and that's not something that can be taught. She seems pretty excited about him and says he may be ready for an optional December competition. I'm not so sure. But we'll see.

Today the kids and I went to the American Museum of Natural History. We stopped for some hot chocolates and pastries to eat on the subway and were actually on the way to the American Indian Museum when all 3 decided they really wanted to hit the other one instead. It wasn't a big deal since we just need to go one extra stop in order to change trains and head uptown. They have a new special exhibit called Lizards and Snakes Alive that was cool. Their favorite room was the Hall of Biodiversity and the Ocean rooms. I'm pretty sure I saw several homeschooling families there, but was too chicken to go up and ask them.

After we left the museum, we got some hotdogs and pretzels and watched some museum workers create a dinosaur Christmas tree. Christmas is a huge deal in NYC and every place decorates - big. We walked around Central Park for a while after that. It was gorgeous with the red-, orange-, and yellow-leaved trees and leaf-littered walkways. We stopped in one of the playgrounds and W ran around with a new friend he met. Then we walked from the West Side or the park to the East Side to ride a different train back to Queens.

Here are some pics from today:

Sunday, November 12, 2006

OK. K's test is finally over. We can all relax and get back to normal, lol. She said most of it was pretty easy and almost identical to what we crammed in the week before. I brought the Applicant Record (the other thing that gets you into Catholic high schools) to her old guidance counselor. She will send a copy of that to all the listed high schools after she fills out K's 6th and 7th grade scores. This woman has been more than helpful to us and although a little hesitant about our homeschooling, she's still supportive. I'm trying to educate her a bit on what homeschooling really is about, so maybe she'll get rid of some of her misconceptions. Doesn't everyone have those same misconceptions? Why? It's weird. I feel like making pamphlets to hand out instead of repeating the same shit to everyone we come in contact with.

This a great video: Do Schools Kill Creativity.

A lot of what is said reminds me so much of J. I always said J needed more creative freedom than school allowed (and academic and social freedom, too). She was labeled ADHD when she couldn't sit still and then ADD when the fidgety went away and she couldn't focus. They wanted her on medication "to keep her in line". It just makes me sick. And my daughter is also a dancer. She always needed to move to think. Well thankfully, now she can, although she seems to have no problems thinking sitting perfectly still now either!

We didn't get out like I planned to this week - lack of funds, plus hyper-focus on K's test. The kids did plenty of workbook - one day while I was folding laundry, I happened to notice all of them on the couch helping each other! K was correcting J's reading comprehension practice test and showing her analogies in the TACHS prep book, and both were showing W an easier way to add numbers together. They were at it for about an hour. Beautiful.

The kids had dance every day but Wednesday. They're all doing great. W did his solo yesterday in front of the other kids for the first time. All the cheers and applause has him ready for the first competition in February! He's got most of it choreographed already. We'll be setting up a regular weekly schedule for him soon.

This week is full of homeschool groups outings and I'd like to take the kids to a museum. I was thinking about The National Museum of the American Indian. I keep hearing how awesome it is. Hopefully I'll have batteries my camera this week so I can post pictures of things! AA batteries don't last long in a digital camera.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

We had a really long week. I have to say my grandmother's wake and funeral were beautiful, and it was wonderful seeing extended family I haven't seen in years. One thing I noticed was how many times I was asked how the kids are doing in school. I confidently told everyone (individually, lol) that we homeschool. Yes, all three kids. No it doesn't involve all that - they enjoy learning so they're naturally drawn to it with no pressure or frustration. The questions were endless as was the genuine support. Everyone who found out we homeschooled was fascinated and loved the idea.

And the best was at a fundraiser last night. I got into a conversation with a first-grade teacher who was going on and on about how standardized tests are a huge joke (especially the 8th-grade test which holds no weight with high schools and kids might as well just "wipe their ass with it", lol), how parents argue with how she runs her classroom, how kids are diagnosed with ADHD way too often and medicated into a stupor, and how the range of abilities in a class makes it impossible to meet needs. And this was all before I even mention that we homeschool! So then I happened to slip in that fact, and she thought it was brilliant. I could see it got her really thinking. She was so supportive and told me to call her if I need anything. She has tons of Scholastic books and other stuff. She also said she knows that homeschooling is really taking off now, since parents are just fed up. I was so proud and it was another moment where homeschooling just felt so "right".

This week, I plan to really connect with the kids. TV will be off most of the day, and we'll go to some fun places. Some workbook here and there and lots of games and imaginative play. And a crackdown on the TACHS prep with K. The test is this Saturday and she needs to do well. Ideally, by the spring she will have been accepted to her top schools and she can have the option to attend or stay home. I believe she can do it.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Still crazy around here, but we're doing well. We've been enjoying all the homeschool group activities, seeing lots of family, and doing lots of learning. J and W are using their workbooks frequently. W, last night after trick-or-treating, was proud to reel off to me what 4+2 is and 9-6 is. He loves just about all subjects. His behavior has been so wonderful, although he still needs a bit more time to get the stuff he learned in school out of his system. It'll come, though. He is really starting to understand so much more about this world. He's a joy to be with every day.

J not only has been workbooking, but doing lots of writing (insert Hallelujah Chorus). She recently started a journal, too. She has been making lots of drawings and beautiful crafts. Next week she wants to work on a few basics like multiplication and division again and then move quickly on to stuff like algebra and geometry. She requested more science experiments and we might even get into some deeper Colonial stuff this month. She is still adjusting to not being the only homeschooler anymore, and I see it aggravates her sometimes, but she's loving having her siblings home.

K is busy with her TACHS studies. I plan on really cracking down with her over the next few weeks before the test. She is still fixed on attending high school next year, but she is curious about distance learning programs, getting in touch with other teen/preteen homeschoolers, and other "homeschooly" things. She has been getting more and more in touch with her kid-self, jumping in leaves, playing running games, and watching more tame tv. She is also getting along much better with the rest of the family. There is hardly any eye-rolling and door slamming anymore, lol. She has realized a need to release all her "friends" from middle-school and has made several new friends already. I know she has been doing a lot of thinking and re-evaluating what's important in her life. I am so proud of her maturity and willingness to take a big leap toward change. Her creativity has blossomed - she is cooking, crafting, and writing a lot. And she suddenly has this glowing happiness - something I haven't seen in a long time.

Monday, October 30, 2006

What a crazy week! Friday was Game Day with the homeschooling group. Very fun and we met some new people. K's Confirmation and party were great on Saturday. Sunday was my cousin's new baby's Christening and today was the big homeschool Halloween party. So much to talk about, but I'm just not up to it. My grandmother died last night and I have been out of sorts all day. So, maybe tomorrow or Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

After W found the keyboard stand and was using it as gym bars, I decided to take the big keyboard out of the closet and set it back up again (on the stand). I forgot how they took to it last year and forgot why I ended up putting it away. So, since yesterday the kids can't get enough. They've been creating their own melodies and learning new ones from the keyboard playlist. It's a teaching keyboard that has a screen showing which keys to use when you pick one of their 100 songs. W is happy playing Chopsticks over and over and experimenting with all the buttons.

I have been way overly consumed with K's Confirmation party. I spoke to the restaurant on Monday, have the buffet menu and cake all picked out, and how the tables are to be set up. I spoke with the DJ yesterday. We went over music and how the evening will be played out. K will be "announced", she'll have a dance with Dad, I dance with W, J dances with Grandpa, everyone is invited to dance, Conf sponsor (my sister) does a toast, we clap, we dance, we eat, we dance, we take pictures, we have cake, we dance, and we go home. Sounds simple enough, but I can't relax. K is going out with my sis today to look for more outfit accessories. Friday K is getting a manicure and pedicure. Saturday morning her hair appointment is at 9am - she wants it all blown straight. Church at 11. Party at 2. No sweat, right?

Yesterday the kids had Musical Theater. They were acting out a few scenes fom Cats. W was adorable, sitting in a small prop-garbage can, popping out on cue. I took K to Confirmation practice at the church while B stayed at the studio with J and W. W had Hip-Hop and J had Advanced Hip Hop. The practice was looong and I stood in as sponsor. We practiced how to go up to the Bishop and what to say, etc. My sister will be at the Thursday practice. We drove back to pick up B and the kids around 9 and just ordered some Chinese take-out for a late dinner. Everyone fell asleep around 10 and woke up at around 9:30 this morning! They have a good 12-hour sleep about once a week. I think it's the cold weather and heat being on now. I looove autumn and winter.

Monday, October 23, 2006

On Friday we got together with other homeschoolers for a class at a Nature Preserve. We talked about how pollution is created and how it affected neaby waterways. We also talked about the falcon and plover they rescued. It was pretty cool and geared toward ges 9-15, but a few 5 y/os snuck in, lol. I'd love to find more of these fun homeschooler classes. Friday afternoon was dance for J and work for me. Saturday I worked all day. J had dance at 2:30, learning the new choreography for her group numbers. In the evening I went home, got in my PJs and relaxed. I love Saturday evenings. We all watched scary Halloween movies together.

On Sunday, J and W had private dance lessons for their solos. P (J's coach) said J was better than ever and she was so impressed at how well it went. F (W's coach) has so much faith in him and tells me how quickly he learns. I'm still not so sure about him having the nerve to perform in front of a huge audience and several judges. But, we'll see. He enjoys it so much and is so proud when he "gets it", and besides he is as hammy as the rest of us in this family, lol, so it might work out. I mean if I don't feel he's ready by the time the first comp comes around in February, then of course he can wait til another one. I think we're doing 4 or 5 and then Nationals in July.

In the evening, I asked J if she'd like to take the Texas TAKS 5th grade standardized test. J enjoys these and came to the computer to see what she knew. I was curious myself, since we don't use a math curriculum or do formal lessons. And I knew she'll be taking the CAT in the spring, so it was good practice. Out of 40 questions, she missed 5. But I noticed that all the missed answers were toward the end when she was getting tired and bored with it. So, still, not bad at all. After the kids were in bed I went over all the paperwork I have saved in my hard drive and updates J's learning log. I break the log into subjects and quarters (mainly for easy reference in case I ever need to prove what she's learning. With NY regs, you never know!). Even with a narrow font set to "9" it fills up a whole page. At least I'm getting good practice with transcript writing. And I just feel better knowing I have that. I didn't start one yet for K and since W needs no paperwork this year, I'm not doing too much with his. Maybe I'll post it here one day.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

We went over our homeschooling friends' house today. The idea was to initiate some writing and grammar stuff by having them work in a group. They each did a "story starter" page, played Scrabble, and had fun with a printout on double-meaning words. Then the rest of the time was spent having lunch, playing some Gamecube, and jumping on the trampoline. My kids had a great time. I love that this family is so free and positive and wonderful to be around. We left at 3:30 to get J to dance by 4:30, pick up B, and drive me to work. J worked on a new musical theater group number with her team. Tomorrow is another homeschool event!

I am very happy to know that we can email our homeschooling coordinator all our paperwork from now on. That alone saves about $5 every couple of months. I emailed a bunch of stuff yesterday and already got a confirmation email saying she received it and will process it. I can save these confirmation emails for my records! I'm still not 100% thrilled with our new coordinator. A phone conversation revealed she is very much in favor of heavy regulations and "keeping tabs on our kids". Oh please. NY is one of the 2 heaviest regulated states. Parents are way more capable than we get credit for. Schools are failing all over the place and homeschooled kids are coming out on top. And schools sure aren't healthy emotionally or socially. Raising children to be successful, productive adults is the most important goal for most parents. Homeschooling seals that deal for me. I have no doubts whatsoever.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Monday was a great get-together with the homeschool group. We had our Foreign Lands Club and this month was Yemen. The girls worked on their presentation on "clothing" in the morning, complete with display board and practicing their parts. I made a maple rice pudding to bring to the Yemen potluck. They did very well, speaking clearly and taking questions. W still doesn't feel ready to do a presentation, but he says next month he might. I love that each child there presents in their own way, at their own level. The food was wonderful, as usual. We had things like tabouli, pita chips, hummus, lentil/spinach soup, couscous, babaganoush, honey pie, and decaf chocolate coffee. My rice pudding was a hit - I felt I had to redeem myself after the bland noodle casserole from last month's Russia day. Afterwards the kids made a "jambia" (a decorative curved, sheathed blade worn as a status symbol by Yemenite men) out of construction paper, tinfoil, and stick-on beads. Then they all played together outside. K was loving the whole thing, finally being able to let loose and be a kid. She ran around playing tag and was happy that there were a couple of other kids her age. One mom commented on how awesome it was to see teens playing ball with 5-6 y/os and how the kids just play with each other without gender or age biases. W got a little rough with an older boy, who wasn't into rough play, so I spoke to W about that and I vowed to keep a closer eye on him. But that was my only concern of the day. I love my group and I'm so thankful to find these like-minded folks.

In the afternoon, J had 2 hrs of dance tech, a 45 minute kickline class, and an hour-long lyrical class. I know she had to be tired after the long day. She fell asleep around 9pm and woke up this morning at 9am. Gotta love 12 hrs of sleep!

It was a rainy day so I used it as an excuse to say home and clean a bit. W found a spelling workbook that must have fallen behind the couch at least a month ago and wanted to do some pages with me. He wrote out some words like "bed", "rug", "dog", "wagon", and "boy". He's reading and writing pretty well now, but still doubts himself and will just refuse if it looks harder than it is. I'm not worried - it'll come. At 4 we picked up B and went to dance again. All the kids had musical theater at 4:45, then K had TACHS prep class at 5:30 (at a nearby high school), W had boys hip-hop at 6:15, and both girls had advanced hip-hop at 7:15. K says the prep class is going well - she even got 2 girls' phone numbers who live near us. We spoke about how easy it is to make friends even when you're not in school. And I mentioned that she now has a choice whether or not to see them, as opposed to being forced to at school every day. She said this way was definitely better. :)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

What a crazy weekend! Yesterday J had to be at Team Rave rehearsal at 8am in New Jersey. We woke up at 4am, picked up another kid from her team at 5:30am, and got to the dance studio in NJ at 7:15 (after getting a bit lost). We had breakfast at a nearby bagel shop, got the kids to rehearsal on time, and hung out for 1.5 hours til they were done. In the meantime, I notice there was a nail in my tire and I drove to get that patched up. Thankfully it took all of 15 minutes and it was during the rehearsal, so no time lost. After the rehearsal was over we drove the 30 minutes to Six Flags. This took us over an hour, though, since we got lost once again. God, I suck at directions! The park was all decked out for Fright Fest, which I hoped wouldn't scare the living shit out of J and W.

We went on a few rides, I got J dressed and made up, and we met the rest of the kids at 2pm. We found good seats at the theater and the kids went on around 2:45. They were fantastic as usual. We decided to spend the rest of the day at the park, so after J got changed and got most of the makeup off, we set out with the other families from her studio. It was very crowded (which always makes me uncomfortable) but we still had a good time. They went on some roller coasters and ate a lot of crap. At almost 6pm, the kids who had done this last year said the ghouls come out and scare you. I thought that was funny and how much fun that would be. We heard a parade going on but couldn't see much through a wall of people 5 rows thick. I lifted J up and B lifted W up on his shoulders. The next thing I know they are both starting to cry and desperate to get the HELL out of there. I didn't understand why until I pushed through some people to actually see the parade.

I couldn't believe what I saw. People dressed like zombies, so real looking, that I can't believe I let the kids see that. Then a huge open busload of them came by. I figured thank goodness we were far back enough so as not to see them. Then I started to hear screams and the crowd opened up in front of us and here comes the whole busload - right toward me and the kids. Holy fuck! I screamed to B to grab the kids and face them the other way, QUICK. And of course Mr. Roaring-Chainsaw-Zombie has to be the one the kids saw. SHIT! So they all finally left our area, but J and W are now totally hysterical crying. We got them calmed down and explained how they are all actors, paid to do this for Halloween, it's their job, and look those 2 are taking pictures with that guy, and the weapons are fake, and it's makeup, and on and on I went. They both decided they wanted to stay a little longer but after about 45 minutes, they'd had more than enough. The zombie people were everywhere and the kids just stopped enjoying themselves. We left by 7 (covering their eyes the whole way out).

Great. Now I'll probably be paying their therapy bill in a few years. I really didn't expect it to be THAT scary for them. I mean they absolutely love scary movies and ghost stories and stuff. K was loving it all and was upset we had to leave. I don't know. I guess next year we'll leave at 5:30 - before the ghouls come out. I feel terrible.

Ok, so the kids went to CCD this morning. K got her Confirmation gown and the iron-on letters for her Conf. name. She is volunteering in different younger classes, helping the teachers with things. We spent the afternoon together going to a couple of high school open houses. She loves one of the schools (my alma mater, :D) and if she's definitely going to high school, this is a great place to go. It's about $6000 a year, so we need to start on the frugal living again. I think we'll manage.

Tomorrow my homeschool group is doing Yemen at the Foreign Lands Club meeting. K and J will be doing a presentation on Yemenite clothing together and W is still deciding if he wants to participate. We're making a maple rice pudding, which we found on a Yemen recipe site. The rest of the week is filled with dance, TACHS classes, and homeschool get-togethers. We might go to the Hall of Science again some time this week, too.

I'll be spending time on reorganizing the apartment and the finances, the summer/winter clothes change-off, arts and crafts, and more home-learning. The kids are finding so many interests lately. I plan on keeping the tv off a lot more and being more involved in providing them with whatever teaching they need. This could be anything from finding a website for them to sitting down learning geometry for an hour. They've been asking for more direct teaching. I think we'll do some science experiments, crafts, and US history this week (in addition to the workbook math/reading/spelling/writing). The fact that they love and ask for stuff like this makes things easy for me. And I enjoy learning stuff right along with them. I know that the kids are just used to school teaching and that's why they prefer it at home, too, but at least at home there's no anxiety or misery. Oh, and they really learn. No cram and dump here. Should be a good week.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

We're still adjusting to K being home. I have a lot to do since she does still want to go to high school. I already contacted the homeschool coordinator - Ms. Claudia Rothman (Ms. Becoat's supervisor) who said all I need to do is email her requesting the high school forms. She said it would be an easier process if K takes a standardized test this year so the high schools will have something more than just an application. That's no problem. I also spoke to K's guidance counselor who called wondering why K hasn't been in school. We spoke about the whole situation and she was so obviously clueless about homeschooling and rattled off things I know I do not need to do. I told her I already took care of everything and not to be concerned. She made everything sound so difficult and scary, when it's not like that at all. I hate when teachers act like they know it all. Sigh.

K's been fine so far. She's enjoying being home and I can already see an attitude improvement. She went on a Confirmation retreat today and got better acquainted with other kids. It was nice for her to be around different kids all day.

Speaking of which, we all went to a homeschool Meet-n-Greet in the park yesterday. K met kids of all ages and ran around playing. I can't remember the last time she let loose and ran around and played. She raved about the day and is looking forward to the next hs function. I'm a little surprised that she was so willing to be a part of the games. She is usually very reserved, prim, and overly concerned with what she looks like. It's almost as if she knows a tremendous weight has been lifted and she is finally able to relax. It was wonderful to see her like that.

J and W had a nice time, too. J has been doing heavy-duty dance this week, learning a new production number and several small group numbers. She did a few pages in her workbook, mainly reading, spelling, and math. W loves the new workbook he got the other day (cheapo writing-words book at B&N) and even woke me up yesterday tapping me with a pencil begging me to do a few pages with him. So, he's learned how to read, write, and spell c-l-i-m-b, b-l-u-e, p-l-a-n-e, and f-l-a-g. He has also learned how to do better "coffee-grinders", which are part of his dance solo. He and J were practicing today and he really got it down well now. He was very proud of himself several times today!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Soooooooooo, after a lot of soul-searching, talks with B, talks with K, talks with my mom and sis, and absorbing all of it with a somewhat clear and open mind, it has been decided that K is not going back to her middle school and will start homeschooling. It is her wish. She has said she is done with the "pseudo-friends", the constant frustration, and daily disappointments of middle school life. She feels she has been traveling down the wrong path, putting too much weight on what others think of her, and neglecting things that are important to her. She and I had a serious discussion about everything. She talked to B and opened up to my mom (who's house she is sleeping over). Mom is very open to the whole idea and thinks it best. And of course I always thought homeschooling would be best for K, but I wanted her to want it, too. I really did try and sing the praises of school to her, so as not to seem like I'm influencing her decision. But she is adamant and her mind is made up.

I already sealed the envelope for her letter of intent. :^D

K and W both slept at Mom's house last night (and will tonight) because my niece's birthday party was this morning. J had 2.5 hours of Production number rehearsal so had to miss the party. She didn't bat an eye about, since dance is what she lives for. In the afternoon, she had 3.75 more hours of dance (tap tech, kickline, and lyrical). The teacher today (a former Rockette, btw) praised J for really focusing and being "right on" with all the moves and technique. J was so excited that she finally understands what it's like to really "focus" (something she's had difficulty with for as long as I can remember). She felt so proud and now nothing can stop her.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

K stayed home from school yesterday, so we all went to Michael's Craft Store to buy a bunch of craft stuff. The kids went through our books looking for fun things to make, so we made a big list of supplies and spent about $70. At home, the girls cleaned the kitchen (??) and made these amazing potato-onion-cheese stuffed pastries. Then we drove to dance, picked up B, and I went to work.

Today, J had rehearsal for an evening performance in Staten Island at a Light the Night fundraiser. I left work at 4:30 to get to S.I. by 5:30. The performance was great and it really brought a tear to my eye watching J out there giving her all and loving every minute of it.

K enjoyed the day as well, meeting up with our cousin (her age) who just happened to be there. K is still having a rough time with her school friends, though. She was all ready to go back to school Tuesday, but spoke to someone on the phone today who revealed that all the girls involved in the "incident" are saying K is the one who initiated the whole thing. She was so confused Thursday when she went to school and everyone ignored her (which got her so upset I had to go pick her up) - now she sees why. And now she is once again saying she never wants to go back. I spoke to my mom about this and she's angry and upset about it too. Mom is actually saying I should keep her home. I don't know what to do. I'm not prepared for it. K is scheduled to take the TACHS exam next month for Catholic High Schools. She's supposed have all these so-called "friends" at her Confirmation party in 3 weeks. Now she's not talking to any of them. I feel like she is making a rash decision, but I don't want to throw her back to the wolves and face this awful rejection and misery. I read Reviving Ophelia and Queen Bees and Wannabees. I knew some girls who cut themselves, some who were very promiscuous, and some who were borderline junkies. All of them escaping something and not having anyone who understands or helps. K has a need to be accepted. She always has. She tends to migrate toward the bad-populars. Even as far back as 2nd grade. There is nothing I can do to help her now - except to understand she needs to be away from the pressure. Not just the trouble she's going through now, but the pressure of the whole facade of being cool and perfect all the time at school. She calmly and maturely told me she would like to start homeschooling.

Maybe I should start listening...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

W brought over his workbook yesterday to do some reading exercises. He's really been into reading lately. We read the stories together - I read the big words, he read the little words - and he would answer the comprehension questions that followed. Then we did some spelling pages where he wrote out some words ending in "an" and "at". He has also been asking me to find "word" websites for him, so he can read to me. I found a cute one called Carl's Corner that we really like. Another thing he loves lately is subtraction. He ran to get the 10 pennies we always use and did a good handful of problems from the workbook. He likes the "take away" action, lol. He's getting good practice writing numbers, too. The way we "do workbook" is basically he plops one of the books in my lap when the mood strikes him and flips around the pages until one looks good to him. I'll read him the directions and he goes at it. It's fun that way!

J was MIA while I was "workbooking" with W. I finally found her in K's room reading. She was reading a book called Isabel by Annie Dalton. She read the first couple of chapters and likes it a lot. She even brought it to dance class! I do get so excited when I see her reading. School had sucked all the joy out of it for her over the years and she shunned almost all books once we started homeschooling (and writing, too, btw). I would love for her to once again consider reading as something enjoyable and as a way to find information, not something tedious and torturous like it was. That's why I'm giving her as much freedom with reading as she needs. She has been slowly getting back into it, though, picking up ones that are way below her level or just sticking with magazines and fun workbooks. And that's ok. Her enjoyment for learning has definitely returned and that's what's important.

K has been keeping her grades up in school and then today she apparently made a bad decision. I won't go into details, but she did something very irresponsible and will have to work very hard to gain back my trust. She has also said today that she doesn't want to go back to school, she doesn't like her friends anymore, and she wants to be homeschooled the rest of the year. I guess I should have been careful what I wished for. I didn't want it to come about like this. She will be going to school tomorrow because I think she is just angry and embarrassed. I can tell you that I will be watching her like a hawk from now on, removing several privileges, and making sure she comes with me whenever I leave the house. I'm angry, but I thank God she's ok and hopefully will learn from this.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Saturday, J's group danced at a mall grand opening. B handled everything that day - I had to work - and he did a great job. That's really the only sucky thing about working - missing the Saturday stuff. And why does there seem to be more Saturday stuff now that I'm working?!!??

J is finally going to start on her solo lessons on Wednesday. It's the same day as W's so that works out for me. So we're back to being at the studio 5 days week - some weeks, 6. There are lots of dance things happening in the next 2 months. J is dancing at a Light the Night (leukemia) fundraiser on 10/7, at Six Flags on 10/14, and for the NY Knicks in late November (at Madison Square Garden). We also have tons of other stuff like K's Confirmation, a cousin's wedding, another cousin's baby's Christening, CCD classes, and a bunch of homeschool group events. Autumn has always been my favorite season, but I've never seen us so busy. But I'm grateful to be making the extra money that allows the kids to be a part of so much more, I'm grateful that we're homeschooling, so they get plenty of rest and have no undue stress in their lives, and I'm grateful that they found an activity that they truly love which only seems to get better every year.

K is happy at school and thankfully in Musical Theater class. I think she needs some outside interests. Her TACHS test prep class starts this week, high school open houses are this month, too. There's too much focus on the "right" high school lately, which is causing K (and me) a bit of stress and anxiousness. It's so ridiculous that we have to worry about this. She is also having attitude problems again and the grades are already starting to go downhill. During the summer she wasn't like this. She was so pleasant and eager to read and learn. A few weeks back at middle school and her whole personality is back to last June. I am really hating the whole idea of school more and more. If you just stop and think about it for a while - I mean REALLY think about it - school makes absolutely no sense. Or maybe it does makes sense to most people, but just doesn't fit into what my ideals are for my kids. School is an artificial world with what's equal to a totalitarian government system, where children are bossed around, told when they're allowed to eat and go to the bathroom, and forced to be in a room with 30 other kids within 11 months of their age. Then there are the boring lectures. If the child isn't interested in a topic or if it doesn't apply to them at that moment - they're not going to learn it! The whole idea of homework is a hot topic now, too. Books and articles writtin this year explain how homework is USELESS and just makes kids/parents unhappy and takes more time away from their families. School purpose is outdated. We need a nation of free-thinkers, not factory worker drones who can barely get by. But the latter is what schools have been created to produce. Especially in the early 1900s when schools became compulsory to get kids off the streets. I guess it still stems back to just keeping kids off the streets, running around and being a nuisance. This is my own opinion and I'm aware that having kids in school is very convenient for most families. But homeschooling is really on the rise and I think it's because parents are starting to do their own research now, questioning the norm, and being courageous enough to step out of their comfort zones.

Colleges Coveting Homeschooled Students

Thursday, September 28, 2006

We went out to visit some homeschooling friends this morning! C and M are in our homeschool group and invited us over to do some grammar games and hang out. M is J's age and they get along very well. He is a gorgeous, exuberant boy who's never been to school and I feel is such a positive influence on J. C is one of the most creative moms I've ever met and I could sit and talk to her all day. She and M have always unschooled and now that he's 10, she wants to start him on some "skill sets" and will do some brief, fun lessons/games reviewing the basics. I loved that she invited us along for the ride, since J loves learning games - and with others involved, it's just that much more fun. She couldn't wait to play and wanted to keep playing after they were finished! The board game is called "Go To Press" and involves moving around the board into different rooms, correcting the grammar in newspaper headlines.

C has lots of those cool educational games that I always see in educational catalogs, but are too chicken to buy, lest my kids hate them and there goes $20 down the toilet. So I got to check a bunch out and now I plan on buying most of them! W liked one in particular with plastic cars that teaches logic and spatial reasoning. He didn't feel so good today. He's a bit constipated and had a tummy ache all afternoon.

After the game, the kids went outside and played on the trampoline for hours. My kids loved it. They also have a cat which kept them entertained as well. I enjoyed watching the kids have so much fun, spend time playing outdoors, and get along so great. I was hoping J wasn't tiring herself out too much because she had dance in the evening. She did fine, though. Speaking of dance, she has a lot of performances coming up over the next 2 months. Now she might do Madison Square Garden again in November! Cool!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Today I asked if anybody felt like doing workbook with me. Two voices screamed, "ME ME ME ME". Hmm, ok. I normally don't ask, but since I know for a fact that they enjoy them, I figured they just got forgotten about. W was first and we flipped through the pages, stopping on what looked like fun. What he passes over one day will be the fun one the next. He did pages on beginning and ending sounds, telling time on the hour (I didn't know he knew how to do that - he even knew the tricky 12:00), addition and subtraction up to 10 (using pennies and fingers), and learning how to use a table of contents. Then we read several stories in a book that actually had a table of contents. He liked to read me the same story I just read him. It makes sense because he feels like he is reading really well, when in fact he's just remembering what I read first. But, he points to the words as he reads (remembers) them, so he's really teaching himself.

J was almost losing patience that I was taking so long with W. She really wanted to get started. I really wish I had this drive for learning at that age. She got out her new bridge workbook and we did pages on metaphors (she totally gets it and came up with excellent ones that I feel she should put into a story), a quick review of prime and composite numbers, and about an hour on US states and capitals. We first labeled all the states in the correct places (I always get stuck on everything between Nevada and Kentucky, sigh). Then matched up the states with the capitals. Forget it, I totally suck at that. So, I decided to just cheat and found J's "Kids Atlas of the US" and told her to read me off the capitals, lol. I was done, but J remembered how much she loved the Kids Atlas and did a 2-page puzzle where the only way to find the answers are if you know what a legend is, what scale means, and what coordinates are. She also had to know what city was in what state and how to find an interstate, National Park, and river on a map. I never seen 2 kids have more fun with workbooks.

Musical Theater was at 4:45pm (all 3 kids), Boys Hip-Hop at 6:15pm (W), and Advanced Hip-Hop at 7:15pm (J). W was the best behaved he's ever been. I swear it makes all the difference in the world whether B or I take him. Today *I* took him. And I will be taking him from now on. B doesn't mind when W goofs off. Sorry, but I do and W knows it. And I will be taking W to his solo lesson from now on, too. He has one tomorrow at noon. W's behavior has been incredible lately. With me, anyway. I do believe that with homeschooling he is learning how to act and be in the real world. He has more patience, is less frustrated and angry, is way more interested in things around him, and is more open and friendly with new and old friends. I've noticed a huge difference since JUNE. I mean he has his moments, but he's just such a happier kid now overall.

One of the moms at dance was telling me she read an article on homeschooling today and how they mentioned advanced test scores and higher achievement than schooled peers. I told her yesterday about our Russian afternoon and she said it all sounded to wonderful. Today all I heard from moms (at least 5) was how much studying and homework their kids have, how many tests are this week, how they had so much to do they had to miss the dance class yesterday, how their kids' class is reviewing old stuff to death because of the big standardized test this year, how this one was up til midnight finishing a report, yadda yadda yadda. I did feel bad at what the kids and parents had to go through, but inside I was dancing and so thankful that we homeschool. We are freeeeeeeeeee, and yet my kids are still very smart, very socialized, and very active. 'Nuff said.
We had our "Foreign Lands Club" get-together yesterday. Russia (The Russian Federation) was the country of focus this month. The kids and I ended up making a quick and easy noodle, egg, and cheese casserole. It came out pretty good - a little bland, but everyone liked it. The rest of the food there was out of this world. We had potato babkas, lamb stew with chestnuts, appetizer plates with cucumber, pickles, beets, eggs, sliced cheese, thin-sliced meats, caviar, sardines, tea, and several types of thick, crusty bread. And the desserts would blow you away: blinis, stewed/fresh berried with whipped cream, Russian tea cookies, and a jam tart.

The children each did an oral presentation on some aspect of Russia. I think the children picked things like: food, sports, Josef Stalin, Faberge Eggs, music, and Matrouska (sp?) dolls). J did a presentation on the flag - talking about the history of the white, blue, and red flag as well as the red flag with the hammer and sickle. She did great! The last time shemade an oral presentation like that was in 3rd grade. It was on Japan and she was so nervous, she turned sideway so to not look at anyone. And she talked so fast to just get it over with. She was a wreck and I felt terribly sad for her. But yesterday she was very in control, confident, looked out at the "audience", and asked if anyone had questions. It was such a turnaround. And she told me she cannot wait til next month's presentation.

One young child (5) was losing her place and getting stuck on some words. She didn't want her mom to help (she was determined to get through it), but did accept help from one of the older (10) boys. She felt more comfortable with another child helping than being the only one who needs mommy up there. What I thought of was that if this child was in school, she would be up there struggling with her presentation, the others would most likely laugh, the teacher most likely wouldn't say the right things to make her feel better, and the poor child would grow up with a fear of public speaking (like most of this country has).

K is still doing pretty well in school. She's gotten grades all in the 90s so far, except for yesterday's 65 in math. It's like she just has this cut-off switch with math. No matter how many time we go over it together, it's not clicking. Thankfully, I find 8th-grade math very easy and I'm able to help her. I think I'm going to change my approach and create problems for her in a way she understands from now on. I know if I can get over that hump-of-understanding, she'll be fine.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Whoa! Long time, no blog. Sorry 'bout that.

We've been busy this week, with dance starting and being there just about every day. The kids have been learning lots, too. W has been using the computer for educational games (and fun games) and his workbooks are getting used a lot too. J has also been computerin' and workbookin'. Dance has been intense for her, as they kicked it all up a notch this year. They have 2 new technique teachers and several big performances over the next 2 months. She is dancing at a mall opening on Sep 30th, a Light the Night Leukemia fundraiser on Oct 7th, and Six Flags Great Adventure on Oct 14th. She's excited, but I'm a bit saddened that I can only go to the last one. I work Saturdays and cannot get those days off. Sigh. B says he can handle it, though, and my mom said she'd help, too.

We have been doing so much with our homeschool group lately! It's great that we can go to these activities now that W is home. Today we had an Arabic Calligraphy lesson that the kids just loved! They used calligraphy pens and sponge brushes to make the letters on rice paper. We learned some of the history of Arabic lettering and how it's used in art. J was very into it. She stayed behind to do more after the lesson was over and even asked to do more when we got home! She also ran around the playground with the other kids playing tag and cops/robbers. I so enjoy watching my kids run around in the fresh air like kids are supposed to do, instead of being stuck sitting behind a desk doing boring work for 6 hours.

Speaking of which, K seems to be doing well so far this year. We're still doing homework together every night, studying for tests, and she even got a 95% on a small project for Spanish. K admits school is very boring and sometimes frustrating, but enjoys the social aspect. She talks about all the boys she thinks are cute and who's flirting with her this week, who's coming to her party and what clothes she HAS to have by next week. The Halloween Dance is coming up soon and the 8th graders are entitled to the best spot on the dance floor. Yup, that's what school is all about for her. Well I'm doing my best to help her keep her head on straight, make good decisions, and know that her family is her rock.

Here's an article I came across as I was cleaning out my favorites. I can relate, how 'bout you? :

Homeschooling Saves Your Child From Destruction

Monday, September 18, 2006

We had a great day at the playground with 6 other homeschooling families from our group. The kids (ranging in age from 2 to 10) played an hours long game of cops and robbers while the parents had a group meeting. We had lunch together and I noticed W freely sharing everything he had - which was just a refreshing, wonderful thing to witness. On the way home, both kids raved about how much fun they had and how awesome the other kids are. Yay! I love my group!

We picked up K and drove J to dance. Today was the first day of the season. J had 2 hours of company tap and jazz technique, then a kickline class, and finally a lyrical class. I know she had to be exhausted after running around the park for 4 hours, but she did great. Tomorrow all the kids have Musical Theater, then W has Boys Hip-Hop, and J has a mainstream hip-hop class.

K is doing very well so far in 8th grade. I'm vigilantly checking and helping with all her homework and explaining things she doesn't understand. She's enjoying school - it's especially great this year with all the cool things the 8th graders get to do. She has vowed to do her best this year. So we'll see. I'll feel better in the spring once she's accepted to a good high school. Then I'll be able to relax a bit, lol.

Friday, September 15, 2006

J was supposed to have a tap class, but the teacher was sick so it was cancelled. I went out to buy her new tap shoes this morning ($73!!), but I heard later that they may not be using that style this year so just keep them in the box til we know for sure. We went to visit J's old dance studio and say hi to the owner who was there and commented that J got so big. J is still part of the logo on that studio's website - a pic they took of her when she was 3 (which you can see HERE). It's a great studio, with tons of classes and even voice, drama, and audition classes. K was selected by the talent agent who works with them and she went on several auditions for print and tv ads back in 1999. That's too much of a strange world for us, though. The other parents and children we met were very, um, "holier-than-thou" and unfriendly. Besides we cannot drop everything when they call, as they expect you to. We may have considered pursuing more of it if it were feasible at that time, though, mainly for K's college money.

We went food shopping this afternoon and got into a conversation about why the bagged spinach was off the shelves. We discussed e-coli, physical symptoms, crop growing practices, and farms in general which in turn led to why Macintosh apples are real cheap this time of year (we got lots!). They helped me shop and J rattled off math facts very quickly in her head regarding unit pricing, sales, and produce weight/price.

I have been letting K walk home from school this week with 2 of her friends. Of course I'm a nervous wreck, but she calls me when her friends go home and we talk the whole 1.5 blocks she's by herself. She is almost 13, and I can remember being allowed to do a helluva lot more at that age. But it's a different world now and I'm not comfortable with too much freedom for her yet. CCD (Sunday school) starts up this weekend and K goes only for a month before making her Confirmation. I stopped by the restaurant we're having her party in and left a $ deposit. We're having a big buffet spread and a DJ for the 4-hour party. I bought an invitation "kit" in lieu of ordering the $116/for 50 she originally wanted. I spent about 1 1/2 hours printing them out myself with font, color, and content chosed by K. I must say for $26.99 they came out FANTASTIC and look almost identical to the professional ones.

In the dance shop, I got into a conversation about high schools with the lady there. Her daughter goes to the school that I was looking at for K and I asked her about it. I told her I called them and the guidance counselor there told me we weren't zoned for that school so I sadly had to cross it off my list. She said it wasn't a zoned school and she gave me the name of a woman she knows who works there. OMG! This school is so perfect for K - very small and in a neighborhood I like. It would be ideal if she got in there. I read once there were no coincidences in life and that everything really does happen for a reason. This had to be one of those.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

It's so strange to me.

J and W ask to do their workbooks every day. I am truly amazed that they find them so fun. I guess I kind of understand, since we are unschooling and I read that children do regain/maintain a love of learning. But I just remember HATING anything even resembling schoolwork. But I do love math and word puzzles now (way after putting school behind me). Both kids are learning brand new concepts in math and language arts in these books and get so giddy when real understanding sets in and they get the answers right. J actually said subtraction is fun (e.g. 5,000,000 - 3,867,532). What?! How awesome is it to live life without that school-dread? I so wish unschooling was around when I was a kid.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I'm not sure I'm feeling so positive about the new homeschool coordinator. I'm hearing she is overstepping a bit and imparting her own "extras" to the NY regulations -like telling hs'ers not to be outside during school hours and to use a packaged curriculum. I'm so not in the mood for this crap. I know she's new and has no idea about ANYTHING, but this is ridiculous. The only thing to do is make sure all of us homeschoolers stick with what's in the regulations and don't offer anything more. Correspondence should be very minimal - just what is written. Many proponents of public school education don't trust us and will create additions to the regs to suit their own insecurities. Don't let it happen. If you're new to NY homeschooling I advise you to join the NY-HEN Yahoo group and read back at least 10 pages to get a good understanding of what is really expected of you as far as reporting to the state. Know as much as you can.

Anyhoo, yesterday we stopped at Toys R Us and picked up a really cool edu-science Scientist Kit, a fully-organ'ed head/torso of the human body, and a Trivial Pursuit game - which we played as soon as we got home. I have always loved Trivial Pursuit (since the very very first edition came out). I wanted to buy the regular one, but all they had were ones based on Disney, LOTR, Star Wars, Saturday Night Live, the 80s, and a kids version. I reluctantly got the kids one, figuring it would be no challenge for me, but I was so wrong. I barely got half the questions right and ended up glad we got that "kids" version. K and J were 3 pieces ahead of me and here I was thinking it would be too easy. With a little tweaking for W, I find it's a game that can suit everyone.

This morning, J, W, and I tore into the scientist kit. We spent most of the time putting the cool "lab stuff" together. We put together the balance and spring scales, main console (with test tube and battery holders), and several other things. We did a few basic experiments, but are looking forward the ones using electro-magnetic force, solar energy, electricity, and chemical energy. It tries to be so "professional", with so many intricate little parts and instuctions to calibrate everything correctly. The kids asked to do a few experiments a week. I like that idea!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Today was J's company auditions at the dance studio. The kids worked with new choreographers and were evaluated and scored on abilities by about 5-7 judges watching their every move. J and one of the girls from the older group sang, too. She said it was so cool and fun, and she felt she did really well. We should get their scores in a few weeks. The point of this is to get the kids used to auditioning and working with new and different people. These kids are all so talented - some will be trying out for a performing arts high school, some will be auditioning for professional venues, and all of them just love displaying what they can do, so the more practice the better.

K is at her cousin's 14th birthday party. Their going to an Italian feast tonight and K is sleeping over. I wanted to go to a medieval festival tomorrow out in Long Island, but we'll just go next weekend, maybe. I had a nice day at work and B did a great job chauffering all the kids all over NYC today. Now we get to relax. I think we're all pretty exhausted.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Today was great! We went to a homeschoolers picnic in the park and the kids played wonderfully together the whole time. From basketball to shuffleboard to tag in the playground, they had such a great time. My kids found the other homeschoolers to be so friendly and fun and can't wait until the next event. And of course I feel totally in my element among the other moms who just *understand* things. We share the same concerns and many of the same interests, even beyond homeschooling. I'm so happy we can finally be a bigger part of this great group.

I found out from La Maitresse that a woman named Henrietta Becoat will be taking over all the homeschool duty in NYC. No more separation by region and worrying which superintendent is stricter than another one. Now it's just her. I called her this afternoon to get a feel of what we'll be dealing with, and she did seem genuinely concerned about how homeschoolers aren't getting the attention they deserve and how we aren't taken seriously. I'm not sure how to take that, because that could mean she plans on being as strict with the regs as possible, or it could mean she wants to be an advocate for us and accept what we give her. But, she did seem as aggravated as I was that NY happens to have some of the strictest regs in the country. So, we'll see what's in store for this year. I'm not going to get my hopes up, but had a pretty good vibe by the end of the call.

Oh, and it was my birthday today. I'm starting to feel old.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

So, things are going well. Yesterday J and W spent a lot of time perfecting their Heely maneuvers. J went from skidding and tripping all over the place to professional Heely level in about 20 minutes, lol. W was showing her his moves, too. He had his private dance lesson last night. He's learning so much with the studio owner. W is more comfortable with B in the dance room, and B loves being there. He took the kids for pizza afterward. W fell right asleep when he got home and I read some Greek and Norse myths to the girls before bed. I love that K still loves being read to.

This morning, J and W did some workbook, played on the computer, and Heely'd around the apartment some more. We went to the park around 1pm so they could Heely around outside. There were lots of kids there (it seemed the Catholic school got out early or something), but J didn't feel like playing today. She is at the same age K was when she stopped enjoying the playground. I hope that's not it.

I'm going to make another list of all the things the kids love doing - and places they love going. I'm not very creative and using that for ideas is such a big help. Many times they need me to initiate most of the activities, so having a list that they create works wonders. I am so full of cool ideas but haven't wrote anything down yet - so you know that means I don't remember any when I need them. So that's what we'll do tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, it's the Back To No-School Picnic with our homeschool group! The kids are so excited. I'll write about it tomorrow night.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

K went off to school bright and chipper this morning. She was excited to see her friends and get back into the swing of things there.

The first thing J wanted to do today was her new workbook. We sat together for almost an hour doing 2-4 pages in each subject section. She breezed through it and found all of it fun. I didn't realize how greatly her skills have improved after a 1 1/2 years being out of school. Her reading comprehension alone blew me away. That was one area in school she was constantly criticized for. The math part, as usual, was easy for her, as were the sections on language arts and writing. There's a test prep part in the back that she did some of, too, since she will be taking a standardized test this spring. She's glad she chose the 6th (rather than 5th) grade book. She also has another workbook she's eager to crack open.

J also started writing a story about a girl in an orphanage. I happened to catch her with pen and notebook last night (wow) and then again this morning finishing up the second chapter (double wow). Then she read it to me and typed it up on MS Word. I'm so proud of her for feeling comfortable writing again. I noticed that her handwriting has really changed and become more deliberate and mature all of a sudden. I think she might have finally deschooled enough now to let her real self shine through.

W played on the computer while I sat with J. She needs quiet and concentration, so having him next to us wasn't working. He watched J for a little while, though. After J was done, W came over with his big 1st grade book to do with me. We hit a few pages on each subject section. He's finding the math pretty easy and likes the reading comprehension part - it's like a game to him. He's getting better at writing letters and numbers now, too. J was reading 100-page books and taught herself perfect cursive at 5 years-old, so it feels weird to see W not loving reading and writing like J did. But I know they're different kids and I shouldn't compare. But what I do notice is that he's very particular about showing others these abilities. It's as if he has to really know it well first. Well, whatever it is, it's right for him so it's right for me. I believe he'll be an incredible reader and writer if he's able to take all the time he needs.

We visited the library around 1pm. They took out 8 books and 2 tapes. J wants to read a "series", so she decided on something light called The Spiderwick Chronicles (in addition to books on Russia, Johnny Appleseed, and Medieval times). W picked books on space, origami, kids in NYC, and funny poems. We picked up K, went home, and J and W started on some origami. K told me all about her day, what teachers she has, what supplies she needs, and I filled out and signed the usual beginning-of-school forms. I made sure to make copies of all the class outlines and her schedule so I can be fully on top of what's going on. K is shooting for straight As this year. And I'll be helping in every way I can.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

J and W are sooo excited for us to "begin" homeschooling for the year. They both are just clamoring for the fun stuff we're going to do. I have been throwing around ideas to them lately and writing down everything I (and they) can think of. I bought some more books at B&N (with my educator's discount - yeehaw), like a few more workbooks and reading books they wanted. I'm thinking of so many cool activities and trips and experiments. I love planning stuff. It fits so well with my Virgo-Type-A personality. Of course we can start "school" anytime we want, but with K starting 8th grade in 3 days (yikes) it gives us a nice launching point as well. New year, new ideas. KWIM?

So, the girls are at my mom's again. And again she took them shopping. She knows I just bought them tons of clothes, but she never thinks they have enough. Sigh. But I know she really really LOVES shopping with them and buying them stuff, so I don't mind too much. She knows W hates walking around the mall and shopping, so now that she got some of that out of her system she says she wants to bring him out there too next time.

I worked all day, B took W food shopping, and we stopped to get my nephew a birthday gift for his party tomorrow. W and I put together a big Lego knight named "Dracus". He did just about all of it himself with me reading out the directions and was so proud of it. He played with it for a long time. He loves the one-on-one time he gets with B and me when the girls are at my mom's. He's really becoming so mature, responsible, and so much more curious. I love this age.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

We just got back from a trip to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Camel Beach was definitely rained out (never saw so much rain!), but we had a good time anyway. We met up with one of B's sales reps and he took us on a tour of his TV station. We got to see the control room and meet the owner and president of the station.

We checked into our hotel and the kids spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool. It was really beautiful. Then D, the sales rep took us all out for dinner. The kids went in the pool again afterward. Our hotel room had a sliding door that led out into a gorgeous wooded area and after the kids were dried off and dressed for bed I sat outside reading. It was so relaxing.

In the morning we went to the hotel restaurant for our free buffet breakfast. Gotta love free. And of course the kids went in the pool again after that. The drive home was quick (2 hours) and now we're all tired, lol. I'm trying to rest until I go to work later. W has a private dance lesson later on, too.

Speaking of W, this was so cool. Out of the blue, in the car, he said "HEY! I know what 2+2 is! Look! (he held up 4 fingers and separated them in half) And I know that 4+4 is 8. LOOK! LOOK! See?? 4 and 4! Wow!". He spend the next 10 minutes studying his fingers and coming up with other sums and feeling so good that he was figuring something out on his own. It was like something just clicked for him and he was starting to understand how addition works and what it means. I love that B was there to see that. He looked over at me in amazement. I just nodded and smiled.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

I finally sent out W's LOI and J's IHIP. I sent them in the same envelope so I hope the sup't knows to look at both and not just shove them together into J's file. Sigh. You know, it's funny, I have been telling more and more people that we're homeschooling and no one even bats an eye. It's almost as if it's actually NORMAL now, lol. My aunt, who I see very rarely and saw at the reunion last week, was very very supportive and bragged about it to her boyfriend. She is a real free spirit - modeled a lot, is an artist, is moving to St. Martin - and I knew she'd be great about it. The rest of my family is supportive, but seems to be keeping an eye on what we're doing. They don't understand the concept of homeschooling so maybe it's just curiosity. Who knows.

So W has been doing different workbooks with me almost every day. He prefers the 1st grade ones, but will being over a preschool or Kindy one every now and then. His reading ability has pretty much stayed the same for months. I know he likes phonics, so I bought him some word cards to play with. It shows short and long vowels, consonants, and beginning and ending blends. I hate calling them "flashcards" because that brings to mind coercive parents drilling facts into their kid's head. W plays games with them, and treats them like any other game.

J has been writing out the times tables as per her grandmother's request. She feels like she forgot a lot of it so she writes them out in a triangle, then the 2 ways of multiplying and 2 ways of dividing. She got another magazine today and has been reading some of the articles and stories. She still prefers that I read to her rather than actually reading it herself, which is fine, but I do wish she enjoyed reading on her own. Will that ever come back?

I took the girls to the mall today. I got K tons of school clothes. I gave in and got some Abercrombie, Hollister, and American Eagle Outfitters stuff. But, I did draw the line at the $92 Juicy Couture hoody and $138 Coach bag. She's kidding me, right? The rest of her clothes/shoes came from Delia's, Macy's, and Kids Foot Locker. J got a couple of Abercrombie tees, an outfit from The Children's Place, and some shirts from Limited Too. And of course I got W a few shirts, too.

Tomorrow I'm going to get this apartment organized (I say that a lot, huh?), and Tuesday-Wednesday we're headed to the Poconos to Camel Beach water park! It's supposed to be cold and rainy, but we'll make the best of it. K starts school Sept. 5th. I can't believe summer's over already.