Monday, January 30, 2006

J has a stomach virus and threw up a lot since last night. She slept most of today, only getting up to come with me on a Mary Kay delivery and to pick up W, K, and her other pair of glasses. I read 3 chapters of Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear (L. Namioka) to her and she loved the story so much, she probably could have listened to the whole thing in one sitting. She ate nothing today and feels a bit feverish. Both girls stayed home from Musical Theater class (K didn't feel like it) , tomorrow B is coming home from work early to take W to hip-hop class, and the studio owner cancelled Wednesday tech class to work with the older team's numbers. We'll be in serious dance withdrawal! LOL! I have a lot of work to do yet on J's costumes and I'm glad now there's plenty of time to get it done.

Link of the day:

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Today, J had a few hours of dance and we all drove out to my mom's . It was my (step) sister's birthday and we had a nice dinner, cake, and coffee. We got there around 5:30 and left at 9:30. I get a bit irritated being there any longer than that. It was nice that the kids got to see and play with their cousins and see the rest of the family.

I made a decision today to enter the world of vegetarianism. B and the kids are excited about it. I dabbled in it on and off for years and loved it, but usually gave up because I only bought the expensive organic products. We won't be so strict this time around, but will do our best to eat organic as much as possible. B has diabetes and I always thought that eliminating most carbs and eating mainly meat and veggies was the way to control it. I learned that diabetics do very well with this type of diet. Taking control of the family meals is something I like doing - unless it involves raw meat. I can't look at it, smell it, or dare touch it. It's so disgusting so I delegated B to making most meals. I loved when I was vegan and then raw. So, now that I have everyone on board with me this time, I hope to make it work.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Today was a looong day of dance. I brought J's costumes to work on there, but got too interested in watching the kids rehearse! A guest was there to day to critique the numbers and choose some kids for a lyrical number to go to competition. We got there at 1:30 and finished up around 6. No word yet on which kids made it. The owner bought everyone pizza and soda, too. And we moms bought some beer for the adults! J has dress rehearsal tomorrow. P finished up her costume and I can't believe how great it looks. I'll take a picture soon.

The kids have been complaining about going to Sunday school. Basically, they hate it. I hated it too when I went as a child. I feel it's important that the kids make their sacraments, but not as much as I used to. I think they shouldn't have to go if they don't want to. It never made me a better Catholic. I'm thinking about dropping it completely. But of course my mom is being weird about them never being able to get married in a church. What?? Of course they can. Even if certain sacraments are required, they can always make them as adults - if they choose to. I am so amazed at how ingrained certain customs are. People always just obediently go with the flow even when miserable about it. I don't get that. I'll talk with B about it and make a decision by next week.

J started a journal! She got the idea from a book she likes that is in the form of a preteen's journal - that shows lots of writing (thoughts, ideas, etc), drawings, and snippets taped in. She wants to make hers like that. I'm glad she's writing again. I mean she does a lot of keyboard typing, but except for a few page-long celebrity fan letters, she hasn't done much pencil/pen writing. I'm going to leave her be with it, or she might think of it as an "assignment" (God forbid!) and lose interest. She wrote in it for over an hour tonight! woooohooo.

Link of the day:

Friday, January 27, 2006

J took a couple of science and language arts quizzes today on She always has such a great time with quizzes (now, not when she was in school). Today's were mainly about weather (the greenhouse effect, cumulonimbus clouds, etc) and antonyms. We drove out to pick up some new jazz shoes this afternoon when we got home, she worked on her blog for a while. W learned about the Chinese New Year today in school and ate Chinese food and got a balloon. K and her friends threw a birthday party for a girl in their class who doesn't have any friends. She said they just wanted to do something nice to make her feel good about herself. Wow. They decorated one of the classrooms during lunch (The teacher let them use the room during the free period) and surprised the girl with a small cake, cookies, balloons, some little gifts, and a big card signed by everyone. I am so proud of her.
I feel tons better today. I'm not going to worry about anything in my life at all. I don't need to. We are all happy and healthy and I don't need to put any effort into trying to live up to someone else's definition of "ideal". I'm not going to mention homeschooling to K again. She knows it's always there if she chooses it. As for W, I'll always be ready for him to stay home, but again, I need it to be his own choice - without coaxing - or he'll be resentful and miserable. He likes school, but has complaints already, so we'll see. He prefers the fun outings with J and me and the h/s group events. I will be taking him out of school on the up-coming event days. I am glad that the kids got to experience school, though. I feel that J probably appreciates homeschooling moreso than a child who has never gone to school. She'll never be wondering what it was like. Several people I know have kids who asked to go to school around middle school age. The kids see and hear so much about school (completely idealized) on tv and through friends that how can they not want to try it?? I read a lot about kids returning home after a year or two of school. I'm sure now they realize how good they really had it! LOL!

I started perusing some college websites and came across which gives lots of details. I was looking at Barnard with J in mind (not that I'm picking her college, but I like seeing what's out there). She's such a homebody and so like me that she probably wouldn't want to go away for college. Barnard is right in Manhattan (Morningside Heights), affiliated with Columbia University (which is right across the street), very selective, and according to the reviews, one of the top colleges in the country. Their website mentions the admissions process for homeschoolers and stresses that they do not need to obtain a GED. They say that "In addition to their high school records, recommendations, and standardized test scores, the candidates' special abilities and interests are also given careful consideration". I'm sure this is the same admissions policy for most colleges.

After I picked up K yesterday our coversation was as follows:

ME: I was looking at colleges online today.
K: Yeah?
ME: Do you think you'd want to go away to co---
K: YES!!!!!

So, my girls are polar opposites. Whaddayagonnado? I know I'm crazy to look at colleges this early - I mean they're only 12 and 9 - but it's necessary for me to try and untangle (or at least be prepared for) any foreseeable snags in the road and not to be caught offguard with unpleasant surprises. I'm anal and I know it (being a first-born and a Virgo it's a given). J and I are already creating a long list of places she'd like to volunteer or take classes at in the future. Of course it'll change a hundred times by then, but it's fun exploring how open the world is for her.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ok, so my mom believes that homeschooling is the best thing for J, but just not for the other kids. She actually said "I do think school has one benefit - it's an education being there on how to deal with the outside world - which most kids are a part of.". I explained in detail how school is so not the real world, but she came back with the fact that since most kids go there, it's the norm. I was kind of aggravated that she hasn't really heard a word I said about homeschooling this whole time. She's always been one to go with the flow of society, but I was hoping that some of my rebellious attitude might have rubbed off a little. She also thinks that because I feel the need to explain my thoughts to her that I'm feeling insecure about it. UGH! No, I want to really have someone in my family totally understand about homeschooling so I can talk about it with them. I hate that her opinion holds so much weight with me! She tends to enjoy disagreeing with me on things and being "right", when usually I just throw my hands up and stop debating. But then again, she had audible doubts about my extended breastfeeding, cloth diapering, raw vegan diet, family bed, baby/toddler sling-wearing, dressing/feeding my kids properly, living in the city, and being a SAHM. So, maybe I should just forget about it and stand firm. Just once I'd like to hear her say she's proud of us instead of embarrassed.

I mailed out the quarterly report this afternoon and then went food shopping. J cut out tons of coupons and we searched out the bargains together. She's getting very good at doing math quickly in her head and seemed to really be using her skills at the store. Even at the PO, she asked about a dozen questions and wanted to learn all the ins and outs of how it all worked. W had hip-hop class in the late afternoon and I think he's starting to take this seriously. All the moms got to form an "audience" today and W just ate that up. He's good at being "gangster" with the hip-hop moves. K seems to still be doing well at school. She has chosen to do some extra credit for several classes and her tests and reports are getting good grades. Report cards are out next week, so we'll see. B's band is playing at CBGB's next month. I think that's so exciting! As for me, I got a lot done today and feel pretty organized.

Link of the day:

Monday, January 23, 2006

J and W made a puppet theater out of a big cardboard box. Each decorated one side and J cut a square out of the middle. She opened up the box, took one side off and has it standing up with two sides folded back. They plan on putting on a show soon. We had a great time today at the homeschool group get-together! Today was "Present This" day, so a bunch of the kids did a show-and-tell of their favorite thing from home. Then all the kids played while the moms chatted. There was another girl there J's age and they got along very well. W played with her brother who is 3 (and very cute!). The rest of the kids were all 9-10 y/o boys who kept mainly to themselves playing "boy stuff" of no interest to the girls, lol. We enjoyed it very much and plan to go to more of them - even keeping W home from school.

With January being National Hobby Month, K is teaching me to knit. I am constantly reading about all these knitting things going on and it looks like so much fun. It took a while, but I think I got the hang of it. Now I want to go to Michael's Craft and get my own knitting stuff!

The girls had Musical Theater this afternoon and B had rehearsal with his band. I cut B's hair yesterday with the buzzer set at #1. I think it came out pretty durn good. These home haircuts should save us a whopping $50 a year. We have been spending too much on take-out again. B came home with $37 worth of White Castle the other day. I didn't know people could actually spend that much on White Castle! Jeez! So, I'm going to become the family money saver again. I need to dig up all my old thrifty tips from several years ago (when B lost his job - that was an amazing experience and a long story for another day).

Sunday, January 22, 2006

I was up til after 3am stoning J's dance costumes. Yawn. B spent about 2 hours sewing patches on the pants for the tap number. He loves being involved in all this dance stuff. And the costumes look really great! J had 4 hours of dance yesterday and 3 hours today. My mom picked K up at the dance studio today and took her to the mall for a while. K got a bunch of stuff from Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle. She had an A&F gift card from Christmas and was eager to spend it. Mom bought out the rest of the stores for her, lol. She got J a tiny digital camera on a keychain and W a cool spinning top that has lights and comes with a launcher. B spent the day bonding with W. They took a walk to 7-11 for some snacks, played baseball in the backyard, and lit a wood fire in the barbecue. Mom and K got here at about 6pm and thankfully the apartment was nice and clean {you know how moms are}! Mom loved J's "new" room, too.

Tomorrow W has no school so we are actually going to be able to get to a homeschool group event! I thought maybe K would maybe want to maybe take the day off from school and maybe come with us, but no such luck. I'm still reading TTLHB and now The Unschooling Handbook again. My favorite part of the UHB is at the very end when everyone sums up their version of what unschooling is, what it means to them, what they've learned, and how wonderful it's been for the kids. I am mailing my 2nd quarterly report tomorrow - that took all of 3 minutes to update, print, sign, and stuff in an envelope. I'm sending it receipt requested, since the supt office always seems to "lose" my correspondence. That's ok, I know my butt's covered! Also, I happened to check out the typical course of study and except for 2 math topics, J has covered absolutely everything "scheduled" for this school year (4th grade) already. Can unschooling really be that thorough? Can a child with no formal lessons stay on grade level? Does a child really learn when they have total education freedom?


Friday, January 20, 2006

As soon as J woke up, she pushed in the trundle (that K has been sleeping on! LOL), made her bed, and put away whatever was out. I'm glad she's taking pride in her re-done bedroom. Since she has been showing an interest in sewing, I ordered her a cute sewing machine that we can use together. She can't wait for it to get here. After having some leftover Chinese soup for breakfast *g*, she read W his storybook from school and filled in the first line of his reading log. We drove W to school, left the car there, and walked back. It was soooooo gorgeous out today.

J and I played with some 6th grade Brainquest cards for a little while and she went on a math website to do a quiz while eating lunch. Those Brainquest cards are a great starting point for further research - and lots of questions! We walked back to get W, drove to pick up K, and headed out to dance class. The class worked on technique, a few numbers going to competition next month, and solos. J was complimented several times by the teachers on leg position and expression. Good. They're not too generous with the compliments, so that made J feel great.

I'm so glad it's Friday. I'll probably stay up too late and sleep too late tomorrow. Well, at least the apartment is pretty clean. All I have to do is put away laundry and clean K's room (in addition to the regular daily stuff). I'm ready for the weekend!

Link of the day:

Thursday, January 19, 2006

W has letter tiles (single letters and combinations) that we played with together this morning. He created nonsense word that I pronounced for him, LOL, and I made words that he sounded out. He made his name and J's name, too. J spent a lot of time today on her American Girl dolls, dressing and redressing them on the floor of her beautiful, "new" room. later on she updated her website a bit and her blog. I suggested using the blog (or creating another one) for journaling all the things she does during the day - but she had no interest in that. She's just not a diary keeper. But, she has been reading a lot more lately! She has her own reading area with a rocking chair and lamp. She even shoos W out of the room so she can concentrate! Her newest interest is sewing, so she's asking for a sewing machine so she can create new "fashions" and dance outfits for Marisol that match hers. Did you know that Marisol means "ladybug" in Spanish?

B is home today (doc appt) and is brought K and W to school, picked them up, and brought J to dance. This is giving me a chance to catch up on some cleaning. I need to help K with her room either tonight or tomorrow and bring down all the bags that belong in the basement. Everything is so peaceful around here when there's no clutter or mess.

Link of the day:

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

J and I went to the eye doctor this afternoon and it seems that she needs glasses. She has been squinting a lot over the past few months so I figured as much. She has very slight myopia and won't need to wear them all the time - just at the movies or to see anything else far away. She doesn't have to wear them at dance class yet, but by the time she does I'll probably have contact lenses for her. She's kind of excited about it and picked out really cute frames. I feel a bit sad about it. I started wearing glasses at her age and I still hate them. I mainly wear contacts, except at night at home. Well, at least she won't feel like the only one - now all of us wear glasses except W.

W had hip-hop class tonight. The teacher tends to focus on him a lot and today danced right next to him several times making sure W got it right. In the last few classes he has improved so much. He loves it and I can see he really tries his best there. The fact that it's all boys and taught by 2 guys (macho types, with girlfriends) helps W not feel like dancing is only for girls. Being one of the few boys in the dance world, he could really go far with it if he chooses to continue. I'm proud of him.

Link of the day:

Monday, January 16, 2006

We did it. We went to Ikea this morning, bought tons of stuff, and redid J and W's room. We got the trundle bed, a closet, 2 floor lamps, a hanging canopy, a cute throw rug, some quilt covers, hangers, light bulbs, 2 rows of hooks to hang coats, a curtain rod, purple finials, some stuff for the kitchen, and some pillowcases and sheets for B and me. I think we spent about $400 for everything. We also ate a nice breakfast there (eggs, bacon, potatoes) for $.99 a plate with free coffee! I spent most of the day assembling everything and I have to say the room looks fantastic! J is thrilled to death and said it feels like her own room. W loves it, too. He was so excited to sleep in the trundle bed. But, he'd still rather crawl in with me and B. LOL.

K and J were surprisingly nice and generous to each other today. K has been downright nasty lately with a mouth on her I can't believe. I talked to B again about homeschooling her and he nods his head in agreement, but never seems to actually say, "hey that's a great idea, let's just go for it". I don't think he's totally on the same page as me yet. If she's still in school for high school, I think we'll go with a nearby charter school. It's small and cozy and is ranked highly (not that ranking means anything to me anymore, though). She's all for it. And she's coming a little closer to understanding what homeschooling is all about. Last week when I spoke about what she could do if she were homeschooled, she said she 'just couldn't wrap her head around the whole concept'. I know what she means. I couldn't either a few years ago. Maybe she just needs to really see more of what we do. I don't mention it frequently at all - I'm sure that would just push her totally away from the idea. So, we're still taking it day by day with her.

Link of the day:

Saturday, January 14, 2006

So, that 20/20 show on public schools didn't even mention homeschooling once. I already knew most of the stuff they said about public schools and the stuff I didn't know really pissed me off. And I am convinced that Randi Weingarten (head of the teacher's union in NYC) is the one who doesn't care about kids. She only cares how well the teachers have it - herself included. Charter schools work and yet she is doing everything possible to unionize their teachers and put a cap on the amount allowed in the city. I'm disgusted at how huge a waste of time most schools are for kids. They don't learn much of anything academically, the socialization scene is usually disgraceful, and now parents have to worry about whether or not their child's teacher is a criminal (who probably won't get fired no matter what crime he commits). It's amazing how things just stay the same even when it's shown over and over again that it's NOT WORKING. Ok, I'm off the soapbox.

Everyone in my house was asleep by 10:15 last night except J and me. J went to the computer at around 11pm, went on and did a virtual frog dissection. She asked me a couple of questions, like, "what is a thorax?" and she looked really intrigued by the whole thing. This morning she read W a book, played some V-Smile with him, and got ready for dance rehearsal. Today she was there for 3.5 hours and 3 moms and I went around the corner to a pub for some lunch and drinks. J got to spend the day doing what she loves with friends she loves and I got to have some fun girl-time. J is sleeping over S's house tonight. I can't ask for better friends for J - they range in age from 7 to 17, they treat each other with kindness and respect, and the boys are just as sweet as the girls. I like that I know all of these kids (and their parents) well and get to see how they are with each other and with adults, and I am so impressed. I think it's because they're all part of something they love and want to always do their best at it. Being on the competition team is no joke and they all know it. There's no room for show-offs or big egos. The studio owner treats them with an unbelievable amount of respect and their attitudes reflect that.

W fell asleep at 6:30 and K and I will probably either play Rhem (CD Rom game) or watch a movie. She has math homework (pie charts) but has til Tuesday to do it. Her school science fair is coming up, too. B needs to stop by his rehearsal studio tonight. His band has a gig next month at the Pussycat Lounge in Tribeca. Lol, it's a strip club on the ground floor, but upstairs is a rock club/bar. Tomorrow we may go visit my mom, and hopefully Monday we can all go to Ikea!

Link of the day:

Friday, January 13, 2006

J started out today reading her National Geographic Kids magazine. Later on, she helped W get to his computer game page and made soup for brunch. After we dropped W off at preschool, J made a photo collage for her friend, S, from dance. S had a bunch of pics on her website - including a few baby photos - and J got really creative with them. She printed it out and gave it to S at dance that afternoon. She also updated her own website today with new photos and icons. And now that K has an Ipod Nano, J got to have her old mp3 player, so she's been all into that lately.

I decided to change J's room around so she has more private "girly" space. She currently shares the bedroom with W, while K has her own bedroom. (W crawls into bed w/B and me anyway and couldn't care less about having any bedroom, actually). In a year or so, that room will go to W, and K will share the room with J again. J was really upset the other day over the fact that she'll never have her own room and hates being the middle child. So, I feel she deserves some new embellishments. She outlined a plan for how she wants things to be and is eager to get started on it with me. This will involve a trip to Ikea for some cool new stuff. She was estimating measurements to figure where the new bed should be and how that would correspond with the dresser and space for her table.

Yes, I'm getting her a new bed. Their old beds are taken-apart-bunkbeds and they're too huge for the room. This is what we've decided on in white. W will use the underbed and when K moves back in, I'll get her the same one. The underbed part turns into lots of storage when the mattress is taken out. I'm picking it up this weekend, along with a hanging canopy, a small rug, a floor lamp, a small table and 2 chairs, and a few storage pieces.

Link of the day:

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

J and I dropped W off at school early today for his trip. We were on the way back home when I asked her what she felt like doing. She said How 'bout the Hall of Science? It was a bit too "spur of the moment" for me, but I said Hey, why not? So we got there at 10am - before the school crowds. We started on the lower level and ended up having our own "guy". He was one of the guides and followed us to each exhibit explaining things about how this works and why that happens when you do this. Even when the school kids started coming, it was still fairly empty. We watched a cow's eye dissection demo and a chemistry demo. J answered almost all the questions they asked and I feel she learned so much there today. Her favorite exhibits were the heat sensor shadows and the tons of stuff on microbes. We ate a quick lunch in the cafeteria and left around 1:00 to pick up W. J had the best time, she said. I was debating whether or not to give J's friend, G, a call to come along, but it turned out better that we were by ourselves today. J got to go wherever and do whatever she wanted for hours, and really paid attention to what was going on. The schooled kids were being shuffled and rushed from one exhibit to the other and getting yelled at to stay with their partner. One poor girl got to an exhibit late and the teacher told her everyone's done now so you don't get a turn now. UGH! I loved that J was free to wander about spending as much time as she wanted at each exhibit, going back to the ones she really liked, and choosing to excuse herself from the boring laser demo. It was wonderful and definitely motivated me to get out to more places like that!

It turned out W's trip was cancelled and the kids ended up having snacks and watching movies in the auditorium all day. Jeez. I would have brought him with us if I knew that's what they'd be doing all damn day. He said he had fun anyway.

J had company technique class at 4:30. While she was in there, W was asleep in the car and I brought along some costume sewing to do. The tap number has them wearing suspenders that I had to tack to pieces of elastic. An hour later W woke up, we went into the dance studio to watch the class and hang out with the other kids and moms (after grabbing his Gameboy from the car and buying him a bag of peanuts). I really love being there. I have never met so many great people in one place in my life.

Link of the day:

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

W stayed home from school today because he has a fever. He also stayed home from dance class. He was upset about both, but understood (I think). Tomorrow he is going on a class trip and he needed to rest today. I gave him half a Tylenol this morning (he prefers swallowing pills to taking liquid or chewables) and although the fever came back a few hours later, it seems gone again. My kids always get the "one-day fever", rarely any other symptoms. So we spent a lot of time together today snuggling and playing computer games. We found some cool ones, including which he liked. He did a lot of reading on these sites, as well as alphabetizing letters, remembering order, and catching all the letters in a given word. He learned about the different types of poems (rhyme, alliteration, and rhythm) in a fun game where monsters turned into keys after you guessed the right type. he used the map to keep track of where he was and at the end he knew he had to get to the dragon's lair (I didn't know that). I had so much fun with him today.

J and K are interested in entering a kiddy pageant. Like there isn't enough stuff going on. The timing of it works for us and it's not expensive, so we'll see. K had a trip to the New York Hall of Science today with school. She loves that place. She tried the surfing experiment, where you try and balance on the surfboard while it simulates being in waves. I gotta take J there soon. She's been asking for months. K got a progress report the other day and although there is some improvement, there's still a talking and missing homework problem. I told her that as long as she is choosing to be in school she might as well try and play the game well and get the most she can out of it. Otherwise it's such a waste of her time. I told her I could think of dozens of things she could be doing instead, but she said she really likes school - even the work. Some things I mentioned as examples piqued her interest, though, so maybe I got her thinking about homeschooling a little more. I told my mom about the difficulty I'm having choosing a high school for K and her only advice was to move. Sigh. She's so damn hellbent on Long Island and I so don't want to live there. I think I'll keep my thoughts to myself from now on.

Link of the day:

Monday, January 09, 2006


Such a mysterious word. No one can really understand it unless they actually try it. And I mean a good, healthy shot. Not leave a kid to their own for a few weeks and decide it doesn't work. And not when a parent says they unschool, um, except for math and writing. That's like saying you're a vegan except when it comes to your mama's fried pork chops. Unschooling is not exactly a homeschooling method as it is a homeschooling philosophy. You have to have so much trust that your child will learn what they need to learn. It's extremely difficult, especially since just about all of us parents were brought up in school - with rules, a curriculum, expectations and demands, and a "linear-ness" to our learning (well, to our teaching, anyway). I'll admit, I'm not there yet. I'd like to be. I believe that unschooling is the best way to bring up a child. I know unschoolers IRL and spend lots of time reading about unschooling families and I envy their confidence. There is such a big difference between homeschooled children and public/private schooled children. But unschooled children (from what I see) seem to have a greater sense of self, greater self-esteem, greater goal-setting ability, better time managing, and better ideas of where they want to be in the future than anyone else. This is what I want for my kids.

So I was reading more of The Teenage Liberation handbook (man, that's a great book and yes I got it from the car) and I came to a paragraph by an unschooled teen who listed things she does with her time. This prompted me to think of what J does with hers. I ended up with a bigger list than I anticipated. Here is a list of what J does (almost everything was over the course of this week except most of the outside stuff due to cold weather):
- Reading a book (alone, with me, to W)
- Creating new themes/pictures/icons/music/etc on her website with HTML
- Playing a computer game (educational or fun or both)
- IM'ing friends
- Writing a celeb fan letter
- Playing with her American Girl dolls
- Playing a board or card game
- Cooking lunch or helping with dinner
- Going over a friend's house
- Going to dance class/workshops/competitions
- Visiting a museum
- Doing a puzzle book
- Doing a math, language arts, geography, science or history workbook
- Watching a cartoon
- Watching a documentary
- Drawing or making art/craft projects
- Trying a science experiment
- Going to the playground
- Walking around the neighborhood or Manhattan with mom
- Helping with chores
- Creating scrapbook pages on the computer
- Listening to music
- Researching music, TV, and movie celebs online
- Asking hundreds of questions (a few of this weeks questions were about: A directional compass, energy, weather, the water cycle, magnets, the sun, food chains, MSG and other food ingredients, alcohol, creating city streets, and driving rules)
- Using the computer and books to answer some of those questions
- Visiting a library
- helping with errands (supermarket, post office, clothes shopping, laundromat, dry cleaners)
- Going on a nature walk and looking up all we find in the field guide
- Taking photographs
- Watching old family videos
- Emailing family and friends
- Gardening (weeding, raking, planting)
- Playing with, feeding, and caring for pet bird
- Riding bike, scooter, pogo stick, skates outside
- Calling friends and family on the phone
- Going to Sunday School
- Going to Musical Theater class

I'm sure there's more, but that's all I can remember right now. Lately, I'm finding that it's easier to see all the connections being made throughout the day. One activity or idea somehow tends to lead to another. Anything can trigger a question and we just take it from there together. One simple question about the compass in the car led to dozens of different discussions the other day. It was so awesome to be a part of that. It's been almost a year that J has been home and I feel we have both come a long way. She is finally able to "just be" and not have the need for constant attention and stimulation like she did when she spent the majority of her time on school drudgery. I never hear her say she's bored anymore either. And I certainly have a very different mindset than when we first started this journey. J has never been happier and I have never been more excited about the future. What a great way to live.

Link of the day:

{{{the "unschooled and proud" tote bag can be found at!}}}

Sunday, January 08, 2006

And here's a lovely NYC Public School story...



January 4, 2006 -- EXCLUSIVE

Criminal charges leveled against teachers, principals, janitors and other city public-school employees shot up an astounding 58 percent last year, according to data obtained by The Post.
The huge jump was fueled by a 44 percent surge in charges against teachers and a near doubling in the number against school aides and low-level employees, statistics culled by Special Schools Investigator Richard Condon show.
In all, 2,348 charges were brought against school workers in 2005, including 517 for teachers, 319 for janitors, 206 for school aides and 10 for principals.
In 2004, Department of Education employees faced 1,486 criminal charges.
The department employs roughly 130,000 people.
Because multiple charges can accompany an arrest, the figures do not indicate how many employees were collared or convicted. They also do not show whether an alleged crime was committed in a school.
But the figures represent a startling 74 percent explosion in criminal charges against school workers since 2002.
Aquila Haynes, a spokeswoman for Condon, stressed the charges did not result from investigations opened by his office. Probes by Condon yielded 21 arrests last year, she said.
But Condon is provided the data by the NYPD and other police departments that arrest Department of Education employees, Haynes said.
Reached late in the day, Department of Education spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said the agency would have to examine the data more closely before commenting.
For instance, the department noted the data do not indicate whether charges were subsequently dropped or reduced.
Tim Johnson, chairman of the Chancellor's Parent Advisory Council, perhaps the most prominent parent group in the city, said the jump was "shocking."
"Parents entrust their children to people who work in public schools and one would like to think that trust is well placed," Johnson said.
Teachers union president Randi Weingarten said it appeared very few of the charges against teachers were school-related, adding, "The more important issue . . . is how many ended in convictions."

And this....

January 5, 2006 -- A Bronx middle-school teacher was arrested last night for threatening a 10-year-old student following a brawl in a school cafeteria, police said.
José Garcia, 47, a teacher at MS 390 in University Heights, allegedly grabbed the boy by the throat and told him, "I could kill you," police said.
The student had marks on his neck, police said. Garcia was charged with assault and endangering the welfare of a minor. Joe McGurk

Oh yeah, and this...

January 6, 2006 -- Pervert public-school staffers were nabbed in record numbers last year, leading to 43 percent more recommendations from city investigators that employees be fired or disciplined.
A report issued yesterday by Special Schools Investigator Richard Condon said his probers substantiated more complaints of misconduct by public-school workers in 2005 than in any year since the office was created in 1992.
The 568 cases opened last year represented a 19 percent jump over 2004, and the 250 cases that were substantiated represented a 43 percent hike.
Of the 250 cases, 92 involved sexual misconduct complaints ranging from rape and educator-student relationships to sexual harassment and public exposure. In all, Condon called for the firing of 124 employees.
"It was the busiest year in the history of the office," Condon said in an interview. "We're getting more complaints from within the system, people are paying more attention to misconduct and know that we will go after them if they don't report a complaint."
Probers opened 214 investigations related to sexual misconduct in 2005, compared to 164 in 2004 — the second-highest number on record. The 92 substantiated sex cases topped the previous high of 71 set in 1996.
Department of Education spokesman David Cantor commended Condon "for the continued value and thoroughness of his work."
Perhaps the most significant result of a Condon investigation last year was the arrest of 16 custodians on charges of taking kickbacks for cleaning supplies that were never delivered.
But among the best known cases were those involving two female educators at Health Professions and Human Services HS in Manhattan, who investigators last spring said had affairs with male students.
One of them gave birth to a student's child, stunning parents and sparking pledges from officials to an aggressive crackdown on sex offenders in schools.
Other cases that grabbed headlines were those involving teachers who probers said wrongly used sick days to pursue side interests or second jobs, including conducting a Scandinavian orchestra and climbing into the ring for World Wrestling Entertainment.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

I'm reading Learning All the Time by John Holt as well as The Teenage Liberation Handbook. I left the latter in the car and was too lazy to go out and get it, so I picked up Holt's book again! It's really very good. Holt is talking about reading, writing, spelling, and numbers and makes a great statement on page 53: "...our minds are much more powerful when discovering than memorizing". I wonder why so many people just don't get that.

J had dance rehearsal today and B took all the kids so I got a couple of hours to veg out by myself. Later on, I found a website that listed a bunch of "kindergarten words" and W came right over to read them to me. I was just looking for my own interest, but I found that W cannot resist showing me what he knows. He read me most of them and only got stuck on some "ing" and other tricky words. I love that he has learned to read words (and sentences) without any curriculum or assignments. He just wants to.

A cartoon brought about some curiosity for J about William Tell and B noticed how readily J asks questions. She was IM'ing her friend, S, this afternoon and I saw as she was writing about some celebrity, she simultaneously googled the name and copied and pasted the website link for her friend to see. She maneuvers the computer like a pro now. Just watching the kids throughout the day has really opened my eyes. I am finding unschooling so much more effective than school or other homeschooling methods. I can only imagine how far my kids could go if they're able to learn everything like this.

Link of the day:
Why We Homeschool

Friday, January 06, 2006

J played around on a website about energy today. It's Friday, so I tried getting a head start on the weekend cleaning. I swear I'm going to stick to my routine next week (broken record, I know). J has also been playing W's NintenDogs game - which is cool because there's some math and logic involved with that. She updated her website again, putting in a new background, icons, and a streaming photo thingy that I have no idea how she figured out how to do. She put a music video on it as well as a moving banner. J and K are both learning so much HTML. K was showing me how to get what she wanted on her website and I was lost after about a minute.

J's January competition was cancelled so their first one will be in February. The costumes are pretty much all ready except for the tons of "stoning" we parents have to do. Everything needs rhinestones, you know. I actually enjoy it - it's cathartic and it relieves stress. Kinda like I hear knitting does - which is something else I plan on learning how to do real soon.

K is getting her grades up at school. Her LA teacher raved about her essay and told her she's proud of her for improving so much {this after failing every test since September and the teacher calling me about K's preoccupation with friends, boys, and gum chewing}. K is a very gifted writer and I feel she should do more of it. She has been published 3 times in a children's poetry anthology series and has won top honors in the past for research papers and presentations. I always sucked at reports, but I enjoyed writing poems. B writes (or co-writes) all the songs for his band so I'll assume K gets this talent from him! W got his school pictures today and I have to say he is the most handsome kid I've ever seen - even with the little booboo on his nose. He is still refusing to wear his uniform at school, but I was told they will be strictly enforcing that rule over the next few weeks. We'll see how THAT goes.

Link of the day:

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

J was all into math today. After W went to school she asked me to find her a good math website. So I brought up, which is a new one for her and not so bad. She started on the 4th grade pages, but most of the examples were way too easy (she covered a lot of it in 2nd grade). But she liked playing around with the charts, 3-D shapes, perimeter and area, and <=>. She spent over 1 1/2 hours on it. In the afternoon she had 2 hours of dance technique class and we got to bring a couple of costumes home. At home she talked with he friend, G, on the phone. G is homeschooled, too, and was inviting J to her sleep-over birthday party.

There's a great new NYC homeschool website I recently found out about. Check it out! I'm adding it to my sidebar!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

School went well for both kids today. W has a trip coming up next week to some "fun factory". I hope I can chaperone. I'm too nervous to let him go without me. At home, J worked in her new activity book, doing crossword puzzles, wordfinds, coded messages, and fill-ins on animals, nature, and the parts of a rain forest. Each page is prefaced by an informative paragraph with highlighted vocabulary words. She did about 5 or 6 pages while I read my own book nearby. After about 30 minutes she asked me to check out how cool the book was and we did a few pages together.

W had hip-hop class tonight. He really missed it over the vacation! Here he is (the little one in the red shirt) just coming out of a triangle formation, jogging over to his next spot. Since W is at the front everyone else gets into place based on where he is standing, so the teacher put a blue dot on the floor. W never misses the spot now! J has a competition and 2-day workshop coming up in a few weeks. The workshop is about 6 hours each day and the competition is right afterwards on the first day. She'll be in 3 numbers (no solos at this one) so it's gonna be a looong weekend.

Monday, January 02, 2006

The kids went out with B today to spend more money at Target. The girls bought pedicure kits and roll-on color thingy for their hair. I did both their hair when they got home. J got streaks of red and blue. K tried all the blondes and browns, but every color seemed to be the same as her own hair color. We ended up going with a pretty shade of peach. W bought a Scooby Doo shaving kit and Pokemon cards. W's favorite Christmas gift is the shaving kit B and I got him. Of course, it's the one that cost the least (less than $10, I think). He "shaves" several times a day, with B's shaving cream and a sinkful of water. The kit we got him has a razor, a buzzer, clippers, and scissors, all made of cheap plastic. The kit he bought today has real kiddy shaving cream, hair gel, and another play razor. I swear it's the cutest thing watching him concentrate on shaving just like dad.

K is looking forward to school starting back up tomorrow. At some point today she did say she hates school. I heard her, I know it. I think she loves the friends and social life, but hates some of the teachers and work. But that's probably true for most kids in this country. I plan on taking her to a few homeschool events over the next few months. I want her to want to homeschool. I have come to find it so superior to anything else. But, it's her call. I can't force her to live her life the way I feel is best. Well, I can, but then I'd have a resentful, miserable teen on my hands who will blame me for anything bad in her life. But then again, most schooled teens are that way anyway. LOL!

J has been watching Degrassi with us lately. Now we've moved on from the DVDs to the newer ones on tv. I still think it's a bit risque, but I'll admit, they do talk about issues in a way the kids understand. I always thought of myself as "the cool mom" and wanted to always be open and honest with the kids. Now that the girls are at an age to start, um, knowing stuff, I feel a lot less comfortable than I thought I would. The great thing is that they ask me to watch it with them and I will explain some things they don't understand. Sigh. I can't believe they are 9 and 12. Where did the time go?

Sunday, January 01, 2006

We had a nice, quiet evening at home last night ringing in the new year with ginger ale toasts, kisses and hugs, and a fireworks show happening somewhere in Manhattan that we could see pretty well from our living room windows.

This morning W said, "I want to do math and reading, Mom". He loves his workbooks as long as he:

- does it his way
- sits on my lap
- does the pages he wants
- stops when he's had enough

He loves to write words. He prefers capital over lowercase letters usually and is starting to get the concept of writing on the lines. He can sound out words with a silent "e" - correctly changing the vowel to a "long" sound. Today he made plural nouns by adding an S at the end, put 4 pictures of the Pilgrims' Mayflower journey in the correct order, learned about natural and man-made things, added and subtracted insects, and learned what a fraction is. He'll bring the book over to me at least twice a day.

He is learning so much on his own. He chooses to actively pursue learning because he finds it so enjoyable. Of course I do believe learning is everywhere and in everything, but he'll hyperfocus for a couple of weeks on something until he's accomplished what he set out to do. This was evident a year ago with tying his shoes, getting through a BOB book on his own, and batting a ball. The girls' interests and ways of learning were very different, so this is new and very cool for me to experience with him.

I'm pretty sure a few years in school will suppress and then extinguish all of this beautiful enthusiasm and determination. Thank goodness I learned about homeschooling while my kids are still young enough for it to make a difference. As of now, W will be h/s'ed come September. When people ask me why, I will say that after 3 years of intense research and over a year of experiencing it, I see that it provides a far superior education and it's definitely a better way to grow up. How that for short and sweet!