Sunday, July 30, 2006

Not much to blog about. I worked all day Saturday. B took the kids with him to get the car transmission flushed and then to a cast party hosted by our old friends. It was a big barbecue celebrating the last day of their play's run. The kids played horseshoes and got wet with waterguns and a sprinkler. I was going to meet them after work, but it was pretty much over by 6.

B drove out to my mom's today with the kids. I stayed home to get this apartment in shape. I get way more done when no one is around. Mom took them to the beach all day and then they all went in her pool. W was thrilled to learn that he can finally stand with his head above the water - so he didn't need floaties at all today. B had to call and tell me. They got home around 8 and everyone was a gorgeous reddish tan (except B who was really red, lol). Thank goodness the kids got some olive-toned skin from me!

I cleaned the hell out of 3 rooms. I would like to have another 2 days alone, but I'm lucky I got one! I'll do the bathroom tomorrow and the kids and I can work on their bedrooms during the week. I can tell you right now, we're not going anywhere this week with it being above 95 every day. ICK! I think I'll stop at Michael's Craft and pick up a bunch of artsy craftsy stuff to do with them this week.

Friday, July 28, 2006

We took a ride out to a shopping area and spent considerable time in Barnes and Noble book store. All the kids picked out a magazine. W wanted a Captain Underpants book, and since J likes those books, too, I suggested they choose one together and J can read it to W. They both thought that was a great idea (I figured they can both enjoy it together that way). I found cheap workbooks - thick 1st and 6th grade ones. W wants to "do workbook" almost every day, so I think he deserves a fresh new one, lol. J found a "pre-algebra" workbook (that was only $2.75!). K was browsing the teen section, but ultimately just wanted the magazine and nothing else. She's in the middle of 2 books now anyway. I used my B&N educator's discount card and saved about $12! Woohoo!

J started reading the Captain Underpants book to W in the restaurant where we had lunch and then some more in the car. They all read their magazines at home (J-14, Bop, and Nickelodeon, respectively. I get these for them once every 6 months or so. I'm not crazy about them, but they do tend to read many of the stories and keep the posters).

When I got home from work, J brought over the pre-algebra book and asked me to do some with her. She ended up doing 3 pages/over 30 problems on "powers and exponents", "order of operatons", and "evaluating algebraic expressions". I like the way the book is set up. It makes it easy to transfer what J does in the learning log I keep for her. I always have a hard time breaking her activities down into subjects. There's so much overlap. I don't really have to keep the log, but NY is so weird sometimes with the regulations. I send them no detail at all throughout the year - just a course-of-study in the IHIP. But I know other districts expect more. I worry if one of those strict superintendents gets transferred to my district and gives us a hard time. You never know. I also like having the log for my own personal reflection on our year. I love that feeling of amazement looking back at all the things J accomplished all year through unschooling. And it helps having something to show curious (or negative) family and friends.

K joined us in the pre-algebra book, excited to show us the way she learned it in school. I can honestly say that this little sit-down pre-algebra activity was a blast. The kids treat what I consider the schooly educational academic stuff the same as an arts and crafts project, or a board game, or digging in the garden. If its interesting and fun we want to spend lots of time on it! What an awesome way to live.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Now that we're home, I'm finding it so hard to get myself moving. I came down with a terrible head cold and cough and all I see is how much cleaning I need to do. I worked Monday, was off yesterday and worked tonight. I just want to empty out every room, scour it all, and put 1/4 of the things back (with 3/4 of everything thrown out!). I did some today, but it feels so overwhelming.

I was reading someone's blog today and they mentioned MathUSee, which I had looked into some months back. I went to the website and checked out the sample pages. W happened to walk by at that time and said, "can I do that math?", "can you print that out for me to do?", "I want to do that page with you". So I lifted him into my lap and we played around with counting by tens and doing simple addition. Earlier we had done about a dozen pages in his first grade workbook - ending sounds, missing vowels, silent e, and matching games. This was J's old book and he just loves it. He treats it like any other game he has. Today he also had me go over the US president flash cards and play a 1st grade LeapFrog game with him (Madagascar). He played with Play Doh, learned how maps work (along with north, south, east, and west), played games on, read "I Like Bugs" and "Caps for Sale" with me, painted a bunch of pictures with watercolors, played waterguns in the bathroom, and started a soap carving. His days are unbelievably productive, aren't they?

J and K also kept pretty busy today. They are much more mellow and relax a lot more than W, but I don't blame them after the long week and long drive we had. K read a lot today and plans on writing to her penpal in Spain tomorrow. J played on the computer, practiced some acrobatics, and watched tapes of when she was little. We all watched a few movies today, all together in my bed. I love the snuggly time. Tomorrow we'll go run some errands (food shopping, Mary Kay delivery, etc), maybe I'll get some cleaning done, and I'll go to work at 6. I'd like to get to Hershey Park in the next few weeks, to the Museum of Natural History (W's been asking to see the dinosaurs again), and to a few library shows. Summer will be over before I know it and soon K will be going back to hell, um, I mean middle school. I want to make the most of the weeks we have left. ;)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Here are some pictures from J's solo.

The week was wonderful. The semi-finalist number was beautiful. Although J didn't win, she said she had such a great time and made so many new friends. One of the boys on her team won Junior Mr. XXXXX 2006, and a girl from the 12 y/o team came in 3rd for Miss XXXXX 2006. That team also was chosen to be televised. J's team won Platinum for their tap number and Gold for their 2 jazz numbers. J was a little disappointed in her solo score. She's excited for next year, though, with new numbers and new competitions.

The kids played together every night and day at the hotel or while rehearsing. One night we has a big rehearsal/pizza party. The pool and hot tub was fun, until it started looking skanky by the last day, lol. We parents enjoyed our time too, having cocktails and gabfests every night til 11pm. My parents took K into town one day and B went to a ball game with a few of the other dads. I'm happy to be home and am looking forward to a relaxing August.

Monday, July 17, 2006

We're leaving first thing in the morning! I think we're all set. I'm so nervous, but I'm sure it's going to be great!

See you all in a week!

Friday, July 14, 2006

The countdown to Nationals has begun. We leave in 4 days. I bought some cute luggage today for us - better than the crappy decade-old duffles we always use. I got 2 big rolling suitcases, 3 smaller ones, 3 totes, and 3 accessory bags all for $100. I'm happy. I think we're all set for the trip. I still need to pick up some snacks and drinks at Costco for the ride and the hotel. J has everything she needs for the semifinalist part: an outfit for the interview, leotard and tights for the audition, and her production costume, accessories, and shoes are all ready. Her 5 studio costumes and shoes are good to go and we have plenty of safety pins, bobby pins, hair elastics, hair spray, extra tights, and sewing stuff. Of course as I type this I'm remembering about a dozen more things I need to buy before Tuesday. Sigh. But the good thing is that this year we'll have the car with us all week (we flew to Orlando last year and didn't have a car) and we can pick up last minute things up there if we need to.

I came across some chemistry sites this morning, printed out a periodic table of elements, and watched short videos on chemistry experiments. This brought J and W right over to watch too. J grabbed the periodic table and started asking what all the letters and numbers mean. I gave a brief explanation about metals, gases, mass, and how they're grouped. The video we watched mentioned several elements and she proceeded to find them in the table. We talked about sodium and others abbreviated using their Latin name and we discussed how they could be used together to form things she recognizes (H2O is water, NaCl is table salt, etc). W was fascinated by the whole thing and listened and asked questions.

W is still loving the readalouds. This week's favorite is "Tikki Tikki Tembo". That's another one I loved as a child. I think I read that to him 3 times today. After work I stopped at Target for some detergent when I saw a big Dylan and Cole Sprouse life story magazine. I knew J would love it and I was right. She started reading it right away. The articles are long and there's lots of them. This is exactly what I was hoping to find for her. It's something I know she will keep a long time and read over and over again.

It was way too hot to go out much today. J was practicing cartwheels, roundoffs, and back-walkovers in the living room a lot. She's trying to master something called "aerials", which is a no-handed cartwheel. I told her to wait til after Nationals please - we don't need any broken limbs or other body parts right now. W joined in for a "dance-off" with J. I jumped in with my own awesome dance skills - which of course blow everyone away thankyouverymuch. As long as I don't dance in front of anyone, J will tolerate it for about 2 minutes. hee hee.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Not that I mean to over-value the academic-type stuff over anything else that takes place in real life, but I can't help being amazed and happy when my kids veer in that direction - which is pretty often. I don't want to treat the math and reading "better" than the Play-Doh house or the game of tag, but I do take joy in seeing learning happening. I don't think I will ever be a true "radical unschooler" unless I can see all of life as having equal value when it comes to learning. Well, I don't know how to do that. I mean, I think everything has value, but things like reading, writing, math, etc. that my kids ask about, find interesting, or take upon themselves to indulge in, just make me giddy.

Like for example, this afternoon, W read me a whole book for the first time. He couldn't believe it and hugged me and felt so proud to really do it. You better believe that beats the pants off this morning's Tom and Jerry cartoon. And this evening, J started talking about angles and before I knew it she was printing out a paper protractor, measuring and identifying angles, and did a series of splits on the floor showing me all types of angles. Before she went to bed, she said she'd like to continue with angles in the morning. WOW! How the hell did THAT happen?

The key is not letting *them* think any interest is more important than another. Putting a value on something can create a fake feeling about it. Too high a value and it can become stressful; too low a value and it can feel pointless. You can crush any spark that could have formed. I just feel that real, lasting learning always stems from something that's fun and interesting and challenging. The most visible example of that for me is the academic stuff. But I am slowly realizing that things I normally think of as being time-wasters are actually incredible learning tools. I mean, this is where a lot of creativity, patience, social ettiquette, and life laws are learned and practiced, and a million questions are formed and ready to be explored. I'm getting it. I'm understanding there's value.

But, yes, I"ll admit I love when I see a simple thought snowball into something that would put any curriculum to shame. I had way too many years of schooling to rid me completely of placing value and importance on what kids find interesting or how they spend their day. But that doesn't mean I want my kids to feel that way. I want them to just enjoy everything in life without unneeded stress or tedium. They can leave all of that to me, lol.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The kids and I walked around Chinatown, Little Italy, and the South Street Seaport today. We took the bus into Manhattan - which took so long that we're not doing that again. I'll stick with the subway from now on, thank you. Chinatown was interesting as usual. We had lunch in one of the restaurants that served regular sounding stuff like sliced chicken in black bean sauce and fried dim sum. But then we saw the not so regular souding stuff like steamed frog and goose intestines. Um, eew. But it's always fun seeing the roasted ducks hanging in the windows, feet and heads all still attached. LOL.
In Little Italy we went up and down the bright streets amazed at just how many restaurants can actually fit in a matter of several blocks. Most of them have tables outside on the sidewalks and no one cares that people are practically bumping into them walking by. I also love the touristy gift shops full of NEW YORK items everywhere you look. I probably look like a tourist myself.

We jumped on the J train down to Fulton Street where we stopped for a bubble tea and a snack. We walked down to the Seaport, past an outdoor mall on a cobblestone street (complete with Gap, Coach, The Body Shop, etc), the Seaport Museum, and the Centre where Bodies-The Exhibition is showing. The Seaport is really beautiful. Pier 16 has a couple of old large sailing ships docked there and Pier 17 has an indoor mall with quaint little stores (like "Purplicious" and "Graffiti") and restaurants. Every floor has a large wraparound outside part so you can take in the river, the boats, and the city.

The train ride home was quick and I got ready for work. Work is unbelievably still great and I love being there. I've already put aside my last paycheck to use in Boston and my next paycheck has my first bunch of bonuses on it - which actually more than doubled the amount (woohoo!) . We get this extra money every 2 weeks. It's nice. It will certainly pay for a Catholic High School for K - since that's the direction she's leaning towards, and cover all the kids' dance expenses. This way, more of B's paycheck can go toward the bills and groceries. It's working out pretty well so far. I couldn't ask for a better place to work.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

W had a cool idea yesterday. He wanted to copy the "Jig and Mag" Bob book onto a Word document so he could have the whole story on one page. He typed out the first few pages and them wanted me to do the rest. I asked if he would read me what to type since I can't type and read at the same time ;). So he did and I typed it and printed it. He folded the paper in half, wrote the title on the front and drew a picture of Jig and Mag. He thought it came out great and he's very proud of himself for thinking of it.

His favorite readaloud so far is Caps for Sale. I remember that one when I was little. I asked him if he knew what a "peddler" was, and he said a "seller". I didn't think he knew that. He says he gets sad for the peddler that no one wants to buy any caps. So he decided to add a bit at the end where he walks back into town and sells most of them and gets a lot of money. LOL.

J is still reading Aquamarine. She has been taking it out with her, then forgets to bring it back home so it's never here when she wants it. But I'm happy she has an interest in reading at all. It's been such a long road getting that love-of-learning spark back. It's still not all there, but she's definitely come very far. She's never lost her spark for dancing, though. 6 years of it and she loves it more than ever. Rehearsals are going very well. She's had a couple of private lessons this month and P says she's perfect - except for a bit of sloppiness, but that's not anything a coach can fix. J knows her weaknesses and P even said she's overcome most of them. J really focuses so much more on just having a great time dancing than thinking about technique, winning awards, or qualifying for Title or performance teams. To her, it's all about having fun. I love that about her. I wish I had a fraction of her personality and drive.

K spent the day at her friend's house yesterday. They went to the mall and to the park and K slept over. Her attitude has been so-so lately. I have been reading lots of John Taylor Gatto lately and everything he says about public schools is so true. I see it. And the problems escalate the more years you're there. Sigh. She has changed so much since last year. I worry every day. But I know K has a good head and a good heart and I may need to put forth more effort understanding where she's coming from. I can do that. :)

Thursday, July 06, 2006

J had Nationals practice at a local high school. They have a big stage and an excellent sound system. It was just renovated and has huge screens on either side of the stage - we're having our recital there next year. And the show will be shown on the screens at the same time the kids perform it. Awesome. The kids ran all their numbers. I'm glad they're getting lots of practice. Yesterday the owner set up mock interviews for the ones going for Title. J said she was a little nervous, but it was fun.

After B drove me to work, he went back to pick up J at the high school and took the kids for some takeout. He found an Arby's whereby he had to call me to revel in his good luck (lol). I haven't had Arby's in like 20 years and told him he better get me some too!

There was a party tonight at the dance studio for one of our guest choreographers who is going away to California to college. He is an amazing person and it's so sad to see him go. The kids performed for him - lots of Team Rave stuff, he sang with one of the moms, he danced for us, they played big group games, and we all has lots of food and cake. W hung out with the owners son and 2 boys from J's team - they are 9-11 y/o. He doesn't have patience for the other 5-year-old boys. K stayed all night with the 12-year-old team, and J bounced around everywhere, mainly with her team, dancing all night, and so full of energy. We all had a fun time and got home after 11pm.

W is still insatiable with readalouds. We're still averaging at least 10 a day - mostly picture book stories that can be read aloud from cover to cover in about 15 minutes. He loves playing "find the word" at the end of the stories, where I pick a word and he has to find it in the book. He found his old Bob books and after every 3 books I read to him, he'll read me a whole Bob book. I guess he's starting to feel more confident in his reading abilities. He's learning so much with all this reading and listening and finding. He's also writing a lot more. He asks me "how do you spell ____ ", I spell it for him, and he turns it into a card for one of us, lol. And today he played addition games on He had to figure out the addition answers quick before the turtle met up with some life-threatening danger. Two problems correct and he saved the turtle. He was quickly answering ones like 5+4 and 2+6. He used his fingers at first, but when a problem repeated he would remember the answer. I thought that was cool. I can't help but be amazed at his enthusiasm and love for learning. And the best part is that life and learning can always be fun like this. Even when he does something difficult and challenging, it's still fun and will help him achieve a goal. And most everything he chooses to learn will be done in context, having meaning for him. I love unschooling.

And here's one of my favorite articles about unschooling:

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

We all went out to Long Island today for a family visit and barbecue. Mom took K and J out shopping for a while (she can't stop spending money on my kids) and W swam in the pool all day. He still needs his floaties, but he doesn't mind. When the girls got back, they spent hours in the pool, too. My sister made the best pasta salad in the world and B barbecued dinner. The neighbors had bottle rockets and Roman candles going off all afternoon. It downpoured for about 10 minutes and then was sunny again - so everyone went back in the pool after dinner. On the drive home I decided to drive us over to a great area right on the East River where we had a pretty nice view of the Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular. We grabbed a beach chair for W to lie down on and got a good spot. A few dozen others went down there as well, but it wasn't crowded. Cars had the radio simulcast on and it was so cool to see the fireworks somewhat going with the music. We stayed for about 45 minutes. Such a great end to a great day!

Monday, July 03, 2006

K is still having a grand ol' time at mom's. She spent the day in the pool yesterday at the barbecue they went to, and spent most of today in mom's pool. Then they went out for dinner tonight.

J decided to eschew the fair yesterday and spend the day at home. She and W hung out in our little backyard pool for hours while B smoked a ham in the smoker. J had dance today and was told she should wear her glasses while performing from now on. I noticed she does squint a bit on the stage so it's probably a good idea. B took W to the nearby playground where he played in the sprinklers and made new friends. W has been on such a readaloud kick. I think I read about 15 books to him since yesterday. He laid out all the books on the bed to easily pick which one he wanted next. A few times he read parts to me - creating his own funny voices for the characters.

W finished her essay for the dance studio. It was "Where Do You See Yourself in Dance in 5 Years?". She was done in about 30 minutes, making note of how close she kept getting to the 250 words. I wanted her to not think about that and just write from her heart and see how many words she ended up with, but I didn't say anything and let her at it by herself. She asked me a few times how something sounded or if she should attempt a semicolon placement in a few spots, but she did the whole thing on her own - despite a couple of reluctant starts. It's pretty durn good, too. I'm proud of her.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The day went better than expected. Mom got here from Long Island on time (wow), she found the studio in NJ (double wow), and J got to Giants Stadium right on time. B and W stayed home - it was just easier that way with all that was going on. Mom took K shopping while J rehearsed in the morning, then they all went to McDonalds for lunch. Mom was great at getting J ready. Call time was 3pm by the service gate and they didn't see J again til after 4 when the 5 dances were done.

The fair was really fun. After the performance, J got changed and cleaned off the makeup. They spent the night with their friends going on rides, watching the shows, and doing lots of eating. J ended up on stage again by herself when she was called out of the audience to be the leader for the "Cotton Eyed Joe" dance, LOL. Mom made some dance-mom friends, LOL, and said she had a blast. They got home after 9pm and their all exhausted. J is debating whether or not she wants to do it all again tomorrow. I'm guessing no, since she's not only tired and would like to sleep til 11 tomorrow, but she really doesn't want to go to the same fair again. Besides, none of the kids from her studio are going tomorrow (4th of July plans). She'd love to do the dancing again with or without the friends, but it's such a long, expensive day for a 10 minute performance.

K went back to Long Island with mom to sleep over tonight (maybe tomorrow, too). I'm sure she'll be in the pool a lot and they have a barbecue to go to tomorrow. We got the computer back the other day. I hooked it all up tonight and it seems to be working fine - except there's no sound for some reason. Well, at least they didn't restore anything to factory settings - all our pictures and documents are still there. And the new keyboard is great.

My head is pounding. I had a long day at work. Today was our first day at that next level and boy was it tough! I never felt at stupid as I did today. I was very preoccupied, worried about how J was doing all day, but I got through it and it only gets easier from here. I'm off tomorrow and Tuesday and I'm going in early on Monday (extra hours = extra money! LOL).