Monday, October 30, 2006

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

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

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

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

Monday, October 23, 2006

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

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

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

Thursday, October 19, 2006

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

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

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

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

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

Sunday, October 15, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 12, 2006

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 09, 2006

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

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

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

Saturday, October 07, 2006

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

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

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

Maybe I should start listening...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

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

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

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

Monday, October 02, 2006

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

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

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

Colleges Coveting Homeschooled Students