Friday, June 30, 2006

Ok, first major work drawback...I can't be there tomorrow for J's performance. My mom, B, K, and W are going though. Mom has agreed to be "me" for the day and get J where she needs to be, when she needs to be there, and fully dressed and made-up. I'm totally starting to panic now, though. B has done this sort of thing before, so maybe I'll just tell him what to do as well, so they can team up. I hate being so nervous like this. The emails from the coordinator are so damn vague that *I* hardly know how things are supposed to play out tomorrow. How the hell are B and Mom going to know? UGH! I'll be making a lot of personal phone calls from work tomorrow.

J had a private lesson this morning, working more on her solo. P said that "her feet have come such a long way". ROFL! That dance lingo cracks me up. P also said she's looking a bit sloppy, but that's one area that's easily fixed. J just dances without a care in the world. She recently learned how to do a back-walkover, too, and does them all day long now. She reminds me of the end of the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie where Violet flips herself down the stairs and along the walkway. LOL!

On my drive home and also from my house I can see the Empire State Building. It's lit up in red, white, and blue for Independence Day and looks so beautiful. It made me feel so proud to live where I live and lightened my mood a bit. I heard on the radio this evening that a poll revealed that the US is the most patriotic country in the world. I can believe that.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

We stayed home and relaxed today. J spent time in her room reading Aquamarine. She told me how much she loves the book, which was nice to hear. I love that she's enjoying reading again. So much more world can open up to you through books. W wanted to read in the room with her, but she needs to be alone and have quiet. So he brought me Hop on Pop to read with him in the living room. He read most of it to me, realizing it's easier now that he understands it's a rhyming book. Then he brought over an old first-grade workbook to do with him. He started with circling the ending sound/letter of words and then found some mazes, and then circling all the words on the page that start with a certain letter. He has so much fun filling out workbooks - as long as he can choose the pages he wants to do and skip the ones he's not in the mood for. Works for me.

K has a great time at her sleepover. I picked her up around 3 and brought J to dance right afterward. They worked on some group numbers for Nationals, had a snack break, then Musical Theater class, and leaps-turn-kicks technique class. I went to work and B picked up J and then me at 9pm. Work is great - 6 of us did some more training tonight and we should be working at the next level by Saturday. I really enjoy it. It's different every day and I feel like I've learned so much in 5 weeks. And the extra money rocks, too!

I got a quick response to all the homeschool correspondence I sent last week. My letter states that everything is in compliance and J moves on to the next grade. I already typed out her (one-page!) 5th-grade IHIP, but I know now to wait to send it since they tend to "lose" things. I send the exact letters I linked in my sidebar (Sample Quarterly Report, Sample Annual Assessment, Sample IHIP, and Sample Letter of Intent). They're short, to the point, and in compliance with the regs. They're so easy (just change the dates - or new copy and paste for the IHIP) and take about 10 minutes from opening the document to sealing the envelope. I highly recommend sending out the minimum required. It's worth a shot and will save you so much stress.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

No more school! W had an early day - 8:20am to 9:30am. B forgot to wake me up before he left for work, so J woke me up at 8:40 saying we were late. Cripes. We finally got W to school a little after 9 and just hung around til he was done. We don't get his assigned Kindergarten class til mid-summer - not that he's going anyway, but I was curious to see if he was assigned to the teacher who requested him. They gave him a packet of alphabet letters to write and a counting packet for over the summer, a few books, and a preK certificate.

K made it through 7th grade and will head to 8th in the fall. Her final report card was mediocre at best. The thing is that many NYC high schools are zoned unless you apply for one of their special programs - but to get into these special programs, your grades need to be up there. I told her straight out today that she needs to maintain above a 90% average every marking period next year or forget about getting into a worthwhile high school. She promised me things will be different next year. She spent the afternoon at her friend's house and will be sleeping over tonight.

J's been busy dancing - 5 hrs yesterday, 6 hrs today, 3 tomorrow. Big State Fair performance this Saturday and Sunday and the big Nationals countdown has begun - 3 weeks to go. She made a website layouts page using her own designs, arranged them all by category, and made it easy for anyone to use on their own website pages. The dance studio "assigned" an essay to the kids on where you see yourself in dance in 5 years. J eagerly started hers but it's taking a while for her to get into it again after a few days. She won a $50 cash award for last year's essay. I don't want her to think she has no shot now this year and doesn't bother trying. She really never does things for the sake of winning something (not even dancing), so I'm wondering if she's feeling self-conscious about her writing. I think I'll see if she'll share her feelings about it.

Monday, June 26, 2006

2 more days of school.

J is still reading Aquamarine. K just finished another "Clique" book and is about to start the book I just finished - The 5 People You Meet in Heaven. After I began reading it, I realized it was a tv movie I saw a couple of years ago and remembered the story. K loved the movie and was excited that I bought the book. W is getting better at longer words, but still won't read sentences to me. He really enjoys it when I read to him and listens intently, asking questions as we go along.

W's teachers gave out a paper to enroll your kid in summer preK - from 8:20am to 12:30pm. It's basically a free babysitting service that provides free government breakfast and lunch. Kinda like Kindergarten (and all those other grades). No thanks. Maybe if I had to work during those hours, or if I couldn't provide food for my children, or if it could be more like summer camp, or if my kid wouldn't be doing stuff all summer where he'd have fun, I would consider it. I don't see the point otherwise. He's looking forward to a fantastic summer of sun, fun, water, trips, family, friends, fishing, sand, rides, and relaxing. So am I.

J has a pretty big dance schedule now for the summer. Her new summer session includes 5 hours of technique each week whick includes ballet barre, floor barre, and 2 kick-turn-jump classes. She takes regular mainstream classes, too, including tap, modern, hip-hop, and musical theater (with K). Also thrown in there are group number rehearsals (on Thursdays) and July 3rd, 5th, and 7th are her private morning lessons to work on her solo. On July 1st and 2nd she's performing at the State Fair Meadowlands at Giants Stadium. She has rehearsal both mornings and then performances in the afternoon. On July 18th we leave for Nationals in New England. Being a semi-finalist for Title (Miss Junior so-and-so 2006) she must be there 2 days earlier than when the competition starts for an audition, interview, and production rehearsals (all the semi-finalists perform a new number together at the beginning and end of the National competition). Then she competes on Friday and Saturday. This is going to be so great. The whole family is going and we plan on making it a wonderful vacation.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

So I call Hewlett Packard for a new keyboard. Ours got sticky and broken and since I paid for accidental damage replacement, I figured let's get a new one. The idiot technician tells me I have to download 2 new drivers since my new keyboard will be an updated version of my current one. I download the new keyboard/mouse driver, then when I started downloading the motherboard BIOS driver - my whole computer froze, crashed, and became totally unusable. So after a long angry phone call to a supervisor, I have to send them my tower to get the motherboard replaced. I did not back up my info on the hard drive so I have to keep calling them to remind them not to restore everything to "factory settings". I'm shipping it off tomorrow. Oh, and the "new" keyboard I got in the mail is the exact same model as my other one.

In the meantime, I took K's computer (which is in her room with no internet access) abd brought it out to the dining room where the cable modem is. I thought we would be tossing it out a few years ago, so I deleted everything I could on the old hard drive. Then when we decided to give it to K, she couldn't do anything with it except write Word documents and play CD Roms. I tried hooking it up once, but got nothing. So yesterday I came up with a plan. I dug out the old system restore cd with Windows XP and booted up the computer with that in the disk drive. After a 45 minute setup - we are up and running!!!! Wow!! I thought I wouuld be fine with no computer for a week, but after 3 days, I realized I need all the dance studio emails, my checking account information, and most of the homeschooling support, encouragement, and info I have is from the internet. It's working fine except that my favorites aren't here. It'll do until I get my HP back.

Monday, June 19, 2006

J danced at a fundraiser at the studio on Saturday. I worked all day, so it was up to B to make sure she was there on time, with her costume. I was a little nervous since she'd never been costumed without me. I also wasn't there to make sure the whole costume with all the extra doodads came home intact. But all went well as I should have known. The owner and another mom got her dressed, put on the makeup, and did her hair. B couldn't stay there, since W wouldn't sit through that, so he took himtothe park wher he met a few older kids and had some great water fights with them. K stayed for the show and said it was pretty good. B and W came back at the end and the owner talked about W's solo next season. W showed her some of his moves, made some of his own suggestions as to how he wants his solo, and said he can't wait. They really see potential in him there. I never say anything about it. I'm glad they always bring it up first.

Yesterday was a nice Father's Day. The kids and I gave B cards and his favorite sugar-free candy. W gave him the card and gift he made at school - a picture of himself with a frame he decorated. So cute. B said he wanted to cry. W made a drawing on a folded piece of paper and wrote "o-p-i-n" on each fold. This was his very first attempt at figuring out a word to write it down. He writes often, but usually asks someone how to spell something. He was very proud of himself. Later in the day he brought over his 1st grade workbook and did some spelling pages with me. The girls loved workbooks too - until they went to Kindergarten. In Kindergarten they make you do workbook pages every day. I can see why they stopped being fun at home. I'm curious to see if W continues to enjoy workbooks beyond Kindy age. I don't see why he wouldn't. It's like any other game to him.

I drove K to her friend's house and they spent the whole day at the beach. She's so good - she checks in with me every few hours. We were out in the backyard all afternoon with J and W in the little pool (8' round/2' deep) and the really cute sprinkler mat I bought last week. After 4 hours we came up, got dressed, and went out to eat. K got home around 9:30pm (friend and family dropped her off).

Today was W's dance festival. It was outside on the avenue, and the parents got to watch fromthesidewalk across the street. It was a good setup. A group of 2-3 PreK, K, 1st grade and 2nd grade classes danced to a song. W's class re-performed it in the classroom for the parents. We bought ice cream on the walk home and the kids got their suits on to go in the pool and sprinkler again. They played for a couple of hours while I sat and read in my beach chair.

I got the schedule for J's Nationals today and all her numbers are on the Friday and Saturday - so we get to relax Sunday and just watch the senior dancers. J actually has to be there Wednesday for an audition, interview, and all day rehearsal since she's a semifinalist for Title. She also has rehearsal on Thursday and an early Friday performance (and Saturday afternoon) with all the other semifinalists from all over the east coast. It sounds like so much work for her, but she loves it so much and can't wait. 3 others from her team and 5 or 6 from the older team are semifinalists as well, so she'll have friends there with her. K had a park field trip today with school. I so can't wait til she's done for the year. Sigh.

Friday, June 16, 2006

W had a pizza party at school and everyone's family was invited. It was cute. W's teacher told me that Ms. O - a Kindergarten teacher who is the SIL of my SIL's friend and who happens to know B from the neighborhood from years ago - has "requested" my son for next year. Sorry to disappoint you Ms. O, but we're done. W is not having a graduation I just found out. That was one of the reasons I wanted him to finish out the stupid school year in the first place. Anyhoo, the whole school is having a dance festival on Monday and they're closing off the avenue for it. That sounds cool. The teacher also said that coming to school for the rest of the year is optional for PreK, since they're only going to be playing games and going outside to the playground for the next 2 weeks. Well, that's what W likes to do, so he'll be going.

We went out and bought another parakeet today. She's yellow, the kids named her "Bella" and we all hope she'll make a nice mate for Tyler. Mating season is here and it would be awesome if they get to know each other a little better - ifyouknowwhatImean. Right now, though, they are just kinda starting at each other like who the hell are you, so we'll see.

J and W were out in the backyard today spraying each other with the hose and running through the sprinkler. B barbecued some marinated chicken and made a fantastic chili. Yesterday I did a big food shopping where I bought all the stuff for a week's worth of recipes from Saving Dinner the Low Carb Way. So last night I got bold and made herb-roasted salmon, mashed "faux-tatoes" (mashed cauliflower and cream cheese) and braised kale. I feel like making some healthier dinners for a change and have something different than basing the menus upon what's on sale (hamburger, chicken legs, pasta). The kids LOVED it ALL. Even the freakin' kale! They cleaned their plates of salmon, cauliflower and kale! Are you kidding me? I have to give a huge two thumbs up for the recipes in this book. And they loved the chicken chili too. Wow.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ok, so I'm using from now til the end of summer to become the new, organized, creative, patient, frugal, ideal me. I feel as though things are starting to get very disorganized and wonky around here so I've come up with a plan for myself:

I will spend about an hour doing a regular morning cleanup which includes starting laundry, washing/drying dishes, making beds, wiping down bathroom, and sweeping and swiffering the living room and dining room - and an evening routine that includes clearing the table, wiping down and sweeping the kitchen, washing/drying dishes, and doing a 15-minutes clutter pickup. The kids and I will make dinner early in the day and B can reheat it and eat with them while I'm at work (and I'll just eat when I get home). I need to stop being lazy.

Every week we will grocery shop, get to the library, and go on a fun outing. At least once every 2 weeks I'd like to get out with the kids to a homeschool group activity. I want to take them out more often to play in the playground, on the block, and in the backyard.

I have a huge list of ideas for the times we are at home. The kids do tend to get bored sometimes (though not very often) and they love the idea list - well, they should since they put all their favorite things to do on it! Several things on the list include gardening, cooking, read-alouds, and craft projects. I plan to keep my home filled with art supplies, notebooks, paper, magazines, craft books, CD Roms (well, at least dust off all the old ones), videos & DVDs, and the activity books and they like.

I can do this. I want the kids to have all the resources and opportunities open to them without clutter and mom's laziness in their way. Homeschooling for us can be 100 times better with a little more organization on my part.

I am seeing the kids play together nicely a lot more than usual. The tv is on, but no one really watches. They create new games and revamp old ones. Even K has been more tolerant of her siblings and more open and huggy with me. I am so totally motivated to get going with this. We're going food shopping to day and the Bed, Bath, and Beyond for a few new things. Oh, and to the Post Office to mail out the end-of-year homeschool correspondence. I predict that in a few weeks things will be very improved around here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

15 more days til school is out.

W had a bad day yesterday. Nothing he did came out "right", his sisters were annoying him, and he wasn't getting as many Funyuns as J was. So he pretty much lost it and cried a lot at one point. In doing so, he revealed to me that "everyone" at school calls him a baby and that he gets blamed for things he doesn't do. I don't get the "baby" thing - W is one of the toughest kids I know. He said one girl lied and he had to sit in the "thinking chair" last week. I asked him why he doesn't tell me these things and he said he doesn't want to get me upset. Then today after school, when he went into yet another rage at not getting ice cream right then and there, I asked if he'd had a bad day today. He said he did because Ms. S kept "interrupting" him during show-and-tell and then he couldn't even finish his presentation. Sigh. I'm sure he gets frustrated like this a lot at school. I'm just glad he's finally talking about it.

J has been so involved with her friends lately. She talks on the phone with several girls every day and has been having so many playdates. She's been asked to perform at a fundraiser on Saturday at the studio and is already making up new dances with 3 friends. I love her friends. I know them and their parents really well. I laugh at the socialization concern with homeschooled kids. Not only does J have more friends now, but the friendships are so much deeper.

Here's a funny story:
This morning, we dropped K off at school and had to wait till the schoolbus in front of us let out this seemingly endless line of kids. After about 2 minutes, J says, "What is with this schoolbus? It's like a clown car." I almost peed myself laughing.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Today was the kids' dance recital. Between the 3 of them I think we had about 10 costume changes, plus the number B and I were in. After several panic attacks throughout the show, I was pretty relaxed! W was amazing. He was a flying monkey in the Oz number and in his hip-hop number he did a perfect cartwheel. I didn't know he could do that. J was her energetic, exuberant self, and K got her chance to shine. The owner said she was really really good and will let her take a tech class next season with the Company. K is so thrilled. It was a great show. The after-party was so fun. We went to a an open, airy restaurant and the kids all played outside on the sidewalk. J and her friends made up new dances, W played tag with all the boys, and K hung out with all her friends from the Company. We had an open bar for 3-hours (woohoo) and the food was fantastic.

Now we have a whole week off from dance (J's gonna go nuts, lol) and then the summer session begins. W is off from school tomorrow and I told K she can stay home if she's too tired in the morning to get up. I'm off from work tomorrow, too. It'll be a great day to relax together.

Friday, June 09, 2006

I felt like changing the name of my blog to something more expressive and distinct. In doing so, I thought I might give a brief overview of who we are and what we're about.

This is the diary of a family of 5 in New York City. We are A and B, married 13 years, and have 3 kids: K(12), J(9), and W(5). J went from Catholic school to public school, to gifted school, and now has been homeschooled for a year-and-a-half. W has done 2 years of preschool and will be a homeschooler as soon as school is out for the summer on June 28th. His preschools have been non-academic and I really just consider it a 2-hour playgroup. K is almost finished with 7th grade at a progressive middle school and has chosen to go back there next year as well.

J and W are unschoolers. We don't use a curriculum. They learn through living life and following their own interests. I am the facilitator, provider of resources and opportunities, and answerer of endless questions. Living in this city is a fantastic adventure and the learning opportunities are endless. We love being on the go, wanting to fully experience the city. At home the kids like science experiments, art projects, crafts, reading, writing stories and poems, dancing, putting on puppet shows, playing "store", creating their own websites, learning HTML, playing online games, sending emails and chatting with friends on IM, playing Monopoly or Battleship or cards, watching Animal Planet, scrapbooking, and even doing educational workbooks. Our favorite places to go are The American Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Queens Museum of Art, Central Park, The New York Hall of Science, a nearby Japanese restaurant, walking around Greenwich Village and the South Street Seaport, local playgrounds, different libraries, and to lots of ethnic grocery stores.

J is in the Company at her dancing school and goes to 4-5 regional competitions each year and a National competition in the summer. Last year the group went to Orlando, and this year it will be in New England. She was chosen to be a member of a special performance dance team and will perform in various venues throughout the year. She also is a semi-finalist for Title at this year's Nationals. K and W take recreational dance classes at the same studio and both have decided it's something they love and want to stick with. K had tried everything from karate to gymnastics to healthy cooking classes over the years. W tried baseball this year, but tired of it after a couple of months, as he much prefered hip-hop dancing. The studio wants him to compete next season with his own solo.

B works in the advertising field on Park Avenue in Manhattan. I just got a part-time job (after being a SAHM for 12 years) working evenings and Saturdays and I love it!

That's us in a nutshell. Hope you all stick around and enjoy this adventure with us.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

W's school had a half-day yesterday and only the morning preK had class, so he was off. He's also off on Thursday and Monday. He played some computer games with me - mostly on phonics and reading. K had a half-day, too, so after we picked her up we went out to Target. I got something to wear to work and something for K to look like Tinkerbell in for the recital. I also bought a bunch of other things I really don't need and then it happened...J wanted a book! She selected "Aquamarine" (Alice Hoffman), jumped into the cart, and proceeded to read until we got to the checkout counter. She kept saying she loved it so far. I figured out that she really needs quiet when she reads and will still get distracted with any noise around her. I've always been that way too, and only recently learned how to tune other noise out when I read - and it's still hard for me sometimes. So I get it. I always found a quiet "hiding spot" when I was little so I oculd read in peace. I'm going to help J find her own hiding spot. And we can schedule reading time when her sibs are in school. It's certainly quiet then!

We had lunch at a Chinese buffet place. We all ate too much. I guess we have to feel we're getting more for our money. LOL. I love the freedom and variety at these places - and the price is right, especially the lunch prices! I was full for the rest of the day.

We picked up B at the train at 4:30, I got to work at 5, and B took the kids for a quick slice of pizza before W's dance class. W finally got his costume - a basketball uniform with his nickname "DASH" on the back. At the studio he is never in the same spot for more than 3 seconds so they've lovingly given him the name of the kid from the Incredibles. It fits him well. I'm feeling a little more at ease about the recital. As long as I can get myself to feel organized, I will be. A week after the recital, the summer classes start and then Nationals a month later. And then J goes nuts not having dance class the whole month of August and can't wait for September to come so she can do another whole crazy dance year!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Work was great on Saturday - I'm really enjoying this job a lot. B had a nice day with the kids, picked me up at 6, and we all went out to my mom's to stay over. B, my sister, and I went out to sing at a karaoke bar that night and stayed out til like 2:30am. I will finally admit that I am just too old to stay out that late now. I was dead tired all day Sunday. I watched some Blockbuster movies most of the day and went to the mall with everyone late in the afternoon. After dinner we drove home. It was pouring rain again. Even after 2 cups of coffee at 8pm, I fell asleep pretty early.

I was thinking about how I want to go about homeschooling the kids next year. I definitely want to be more organized and not so aimless. I want to have an idea list made up at the beginning of the week - including ideas for new art/craft projects, a neighborhood calendar of events for the week, which books I'd like to strew their path with that week, any good documentaries on tv, and the regular days for library visits, homeschool group events, and dance rehearsals. J does better with a loose plan. She may not want to follow the plan, but having one is comforting for her. I shouldn't really call it a "plan" as it's more of a guideline. She does like to know what to expect. And at 5 y/o, W thrives with a routine. I think I'll practice over the summer. Getting myself organized is the hard part. When you're not creative (like me), coming up with ideas spontaneously is extremely difficult. Having a premade list of things is what I need to have every week.

Now I just want him to really want to homeschool. His preK makes it hard by bringing the kids into the Kindergarten classroom to see them playing so they will see how wonderful it is and will want to go next year. A long time ago I would have thought that was a great idea. Now I'm seeing that the preK doesn't get to see the parts of Kindergarten that he might not like - tablework, homework, constant evaluations and testing, less freedom, a 6 1/2-hour-day, one outdoor recess a week, and teachers contolling when the kids eat and go to the bathroom. All the fun parts of Kindergarten that he thinks he'll miss will be more than covered by homeschooling. And he certainly doesn't need to spend 33 hours a week cooped up with 30 other kids within 9 months of his age in order to have friends.

I would never tell him school is bad because hey, you never know what can happen, but I do want to show him how wonderful homeschooling is. W is so curious, motivated, enthusiastic, and eager to learn - but on his terms. He is pretty quiet about his abilities and does not like to "perform" for anyone. He likes his questions answered directly and to the point, as an extra sentence or two in an explantion causes him to tune out. His 2 years of preschool were fun because there was no pressure or stress. No one needs that in their childhood. He's so excited about homeschooling next year. I think he's curious about school Kindy, but I can see he really comes alive when learning out in the real world.

Now, to somehow convince K. (lol)

Friday, June 02, 2006

It's that time of year again when I have to get all the homeschool paperwork in order. I'm just about done - I wrote out the 4th quarterly report, the annual assessment, and even next year's IHIP. All I have to do is change the dates on my old Letter of Intent and we're good to go. Last year I sent all 4 of these things in one envelope (certified mail aint cheap!), but the sup't office "misplaced" a few things and sent me a letter in the fall saying they never received some things. It was resolved when the man on the phone admitted all 4 sheets were stapled together at the moment the envelope was opened, being mistaken for one 4-page piece of correspondence. Proving once again that they don't read what I send. So now I guess I'll have to spend over $10 sending each thing separately. I don't mind that much - if I keep things easy for them, they leave me alone.