Friday, March 31, 2006
This was another quick week. It seemed to just fly by. On Wednesday J and W asked to do a science experiment from one of the library books J picked out. It's a whole book on water experiments and we chose one on water pressure, gravity, and surface tension that used an old soda bottle with a few holes punched into it. J explained out loud what it was we were looking for and how cool it was. The kids noticed so many different things.
J met up with the handball friends at the playground again and W met some new kids and played tag with them. J had dance in the afternoon and I took W to that playground over there again. I talked to him again about treating other kids nicely and he was the friendliest I'd ever seen him. He met a few new kids and got a new game of tag going and then hide-and-seek. He prefers playing with older kids - ones that can teach him new things, I guess. The school park kids were between 8 and 10, and the dance studio park kids were between 6 and 9. He seems to have outgrown being a sore loser and even pushes himself hard to keep up.
K hasn't been off my nerves for 3 days. I started analyzing the situation again and realized that at school, there is definitely no respect for the teachers and even less respect for the students. I think middle school is a whole 'nother planet, actually. I think the teachers feel powerless against these kids will exert their own power in the only way they can - being really nitpicky about tests (K failed a math test for "sloppiness"), punishing the whole class for the actions of one, and being insulting (whether it's subtle of overt). This is done to excess - I've seen it in K's school (and she is in one of the "better" schools in this city). So the kids hook up together with a gang mentality (us against them), consisting of like-minded others (clique) and find there's strength in numbers. The "I have to fit in or I'll be alone" fear/attitude runs rampant and then they bring it home to their parents - because it doesn't just turn off like a switch. Once the teachers are out of the picture for the afternoon, the parents and siblings may take their place in the "us against them". Parents won't deal with this attitude and will audibly wonder what has happened to their good kid (causing tons of frustration on both sides) and the kids will shut themselves up in their rooms and stay on the phone (or IM) for hours with the like-minded others. It feels good to fit in and be accepted. Friends are fickle at this age. Parents are "safe" and kids know it. So, guess who gets the disrespect? Here's a hint: it's not their friends.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
After dropping W off at school, we went home and J picked up the bridge workbook and did some math and language arts pages. I had left it out with a sharpened pencil closeby (the book was missing for a few weeks) and when she saw it, she said "Oh Yay!". "Suggestive strewing", we'll call that, maybe, lol. Then we picked up W and went to the playground. W found his friend Roberto and they played together the whole time. J surprised me by coming over to tell me she's playing handball with a few girls at the handball court. I watched them from far away and was proud of her. She has been shy lately with meeting new people and today she seemed to overcome it. She saw the same girls playing tag yesterday, but was too nervous to approach them. W's not shy at all and even asked Roberto's dad for a dollar so he could get an icee (which he got and was proud of himself for figuring out a way to get an icee after mom said no). I had another talk with him later on.
K had play practice and W's hip-hop class was cancelled. J and W played with his Disney sticker workbook and watched a movie. Later on, W and I sat at the computer "doing words" - a game we haven't played for a long time. We open an MS Word document page, make the font really big and colorful, and type words to sound out. J googled and printed out the lyrics to the song she's singing in the dance recital and spent about an hour practicing in her bedroom. I created a homepage link to a "safe search" Google, so I no longer have to worry about objectionable pictures and words appearing in my kids' searches. In the evening, K and J both fixed up their respective websites, adding music videos, icons, and new photos.
Link of the day:
Public Schools - Public Prisons
Monday, March 27, 2006
After picking up K, we went out to Musical Theater class. I took W to the playground while the girls were in class. W met a couple of boys and they seemed to be playing great together until I saw them all beating the crap out of each other a few minutes later. W said it was because he got tired of them following him around the park. Sigh. We left right after that and I had a long talk with him about keeping his hands off other people. I know he'd had a long day and was tired, but it's still no excuse. It's weird after having 2 girls, to deal with testosterone outbursts.
The girls enjoyed the class - the number looks great. They are both in the front pretty much the whole time, too. J is doing forte turns by herself in the dance at one point. K is excited to get to show what she can do and her new hip-hop class is supposed to start Monday. J found out one of the boys on her team "likes" her. He told her yesterday. He even carries around a picture of her in his wallet. He's 11 and they've known each other over 2 years. She's a little weirded out by it, but is taking it in stride. One of the other boys is kind of (playfully) teasing them both about it, so I'm sure all the kids know. I just don't want J to start feeling uncomfortable and awkward now. We had a little talk about boys and feelings and how this won't be the first time this happens and I'm pretty confident she'll handle it well.
Link of the day:
Why Natural Learning - Does It Make Sense?
Sunday, March 26, 2006
When we got home, B fired up the barbecue and the kids played outside. We didn't get any cleaning done this weekend. I told my mom that she has to call me in the morning to get my butt up and cleaning or I won't do it. LOL. I promised myself that I'd get the whole apartment done this week. It's hard to cook, do arts and crafts, or do a science experiment when it's messy around here. I feel we could get so much more done if only I stuck with my cleaning schedule. This is going to be a good week.
Link of the day:
Imagine a Day Like This One
Saturday, March 25, 2006
The rest of us hung around the apartment all day. I was so exhausted for some reason and actually got a 20-minute nap in at around 4:30pm. W and I played some word-guess games and he and J watched a movie together. J talked to a bunch of friends today on the phone and on IM (one girl from dance, one from Annie last summer, and one from her old school). I'm so proud of the fact that J has maintained great friendships over the past year. It makes me wonder how there's such a socialization concern with homeschooled kids. Tomorrow's a busy day. Signing off...
Link of the day:
Unschooling Lets Children Pursue Their Own Interests
Thursday, March 23, 2006
After picking up W, we all went to the playground, where they found their friends. Sarah was there, but when I didn't see her little sister I asked where she was. Sarah said she was in "afterschool" to help with her learning because she couldn't read yet. I felt so bad that a Kindergarten child was missing a great time at the playground on one of the most beautiful days of the year because the government demands this child be a fluent reader at 5 years old even if she's not ready. Yeah, that's gonna make her want to read. Unbelievable.
We picked up K, drove to dance, I dropped off the girls, and brought W to the playground over there. He made friends quickly and was soon playing catch and tag with several other boys there. A woman struck up a conversation with me and in 20 minutes told me her whole life story. I must just have that "safe", approachable look, because this happens very often. Maybe people could tell I was a psych major? LOL. After a while W and I went back to get J and ended up watching the kids run their solos. W showed the owner how he can do a perfect cartwheel. She was shocked - and so was I. When did he learn that?
B and the band had a gig tonight at a popular place between Canal and Chambers Streets in downtown Manhattan. He said it was great. They've got a bunch of other gigs coming coming up, including CBGBs in May or June (who cancelled last month due to a movie being filmed there). I gotta get out to see one of his shows soon. It's been too long.
Link of the day:
Homeschooling for Dads
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
I dropped J off at dance, then brought W to baseball. W is one of the 4 "good hitters" on the team. While one kids was batting, the rest were catching grounders thrown to them by one of the dads. It was so cold and windy , though, that we left after about an hour. K got her progress report from school. Her grades are hovering around average - which isn't going to get her into a good high school, and she has some missing homeworks in few classes. Her homeroom teacher called me to 1) find out if K showed me the progress report and 2) to tell me how chatty she is in school. I spoke to K about it later, reminding her that she promised she'd play the game of school by the rules. I have to say that over the past month or so she's been doing a lot more homework at home. And for the past week she's been showing me all her assignments. She always said she did her homework in school - ergo had nothing to show me. I would still rather K be homeschooled. She's been way overly concerned with friends, boys, clothes, and the upcoming Pajama Day and Spring Fling dance. This would be fine if it wasn't at the expense of her grades. But, I think K will be alright. She has a good head on her shoulders, is very smart when she wants to be, and is a pretty good judge of character. I'm proud of her.
Link of the day:
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
B was home in time to bring W to hip-hop class. Of course the girls wanted to go, too, so I had some time alone to cook dinner and straighten up. I finished up J's 3rd quarterly report and will mail it at the end of the month. I'm going to call the superintendent's office tomorrow morning to see if I can get one of those free Metrocards I keep hearing about. That would be great! It supposedly allows 3 bus/train trips per day. I don't know all the details yet, but I'll find out.
Link of the day:
An Interview With John Holt
My 3/15 post is listed under "A Personalized Education" (5th paragraph in that section).
Sunday, March 19, 2006
The dance studio created a new 5-week intense hip-hop class for ages 12-18 and K's going to take it. It'll be right before Musical Theater on Mondays so timewise, it works for us. The owner is teaching it and K is excited to show her what she can do. And it's a "non-recital" class, much to K's delight. So that starts next month.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
W didn't feel like going to school yesterday so he stayed home. We had fun looking up dinosaur websites and playing games. After we dropped J off at dance, K, W, and I came home and made a big corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots dinner. B brought home bakery rye bread and I found some fresh Irish soda bread. It was sooooo good. I heard that the bishop gave a dispensation allowing us Catholics to eat meat, so it was enjoyed guilt-free, LOL! And tonight B surprised us with a half-gallon of Edy's coffee-chocolate chip ice cream. Mmmmm. Heaven.
Link of the day:
Thursday, March 16, 2006
K had a trip to the Museum of the Moving Image with her video class. She had an awesome day, she said. I dropped J off at dance around 4:30 (K went too) and took W to his first baseball practice! He practiced throwing, catching, and batting with the coaches and was one of the 2-3 kids with the best swings. He hit a line drive past the pitcher's mound - much to the delight of the coaches. One kid on the team will be 7 in July and he's very good from what I've seen today. They don't do "T-ball" here. The coaches pitch to them from the mound from the getgo. W's hand stung after he hit the ball - he wasn't used to that - and then he took a pitch to the hand. He tried so hard not to cry, but he couldn't help it. He went back onto the field after a few minutes. I think he enjoyed it in spite of getting hurt and it being windy and freezing out. LOL.
Link of the day:
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
The teacher seemed proud that we went, saying that a lot of kids never get to go to things like this. I had an epiphany at that moment. The whole meaning and purpose of public school became clear. There are kids in the world who don't eat regular meals, don't get to see museums or live theater, don't have attentive parents, aren't provided with opportunities and resources, don't have anyone to watch them while their parent(s) work, and don't get to go out of their homes much. I see how school can be beneficial for kids with those circumstances. I feel very lucky to be able to give my kids all of the aforementioned and more - without having to rely on a government institution to do so for me.
B told me that he's been talking to people at work about our unschooling. He tells them how great it is, how J makes connections, and how cool "strewing" is. WTG, B!!!! MIL watched J today while I was on the "trip" with W and after she asked B 4 times about how much work J is supposed to be doing, he said, "She can do as much as she wants, Ma". I think B has finally gotten it. :D
Monday, March 13, 2006
W is sick again. He has a cold with fever and chills. What kind of sucks is that his trip is Wednesday and I was chosen as a chaperone. I called MIL to watch J that morning, but, as usual, she had that tinge of annoyance in her voice and said she'd let me know tomorrow if she's available. I hate that she's the only family I have around here.
I broke down and mentioned homeschooling to W today. He said, "no thanks, I like school". I dropped it, but then a few minutes later he said, "you know, maybe I want to homeschool". I'll try not to bring it up again. If he does, I'll tell him about it, but I wouldn't feel right unless it's what he really wants. We do so much together during the day that I know homeschooling would fit him perfectly. Today we played with Dr. Dreadful's Freaky Food Lab and made foaming brains and a spider in venom (we were all set to make the "spicy spider farts", but you need the other kit with the straw attachment). We did several pages in his big sticker book and J played cards with him. He wore his Heely's all morning (getting good at keeping his balance!) and we threw some baseballs to each other so he could try out his new glove. He went to starfall.com all on his own and listened to (and read!) The Gingerbread Man story a few times. After school, he met up with his friend Roberto at the playground and they played together the whole time. He's very independent and self-motivated, like J. I think he'll thrive with homeschooling.
Link of the day:
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Today we took W to Chuck E Cheese. We scrapped the movie idea since it would have been too late to get back to my mom's. He had a blast, playing with his cousins and accumulating 557 tickets, which bought him a few silly toys that will probably all be in the garbage by next week. Mom bought him Heely's, baseball cleats, new Nike sneakers, a baseball glove, 3 baseballs, and a Spongebob Gameboy game. Speaking of baseball, his coach called today to say that the first practice is on Thursday. W's team is the "NY Mets" (much to B's delight. I, however, am a Yankee fan. So I told B that no one else wanted to be the Mets so they gave it to the 5-year-olds, hahahaha! B was not amused). I can't wait to see W play. Lotsa photos and video in the near future!
Link of the day:
Saturday, March 11, 2006
K's grades have been improving. She has done extra credit for math and social studies, got a A+ on a poem, and a 94 on her science project. She has her heart set on certain (specialized and private) high schools and I told her the ball is in her court. She has to put in the work to yield the results she's looking for. This morning she has play practice (from 8 - 12:30) and will find out what part she got. I get so worried about her sometimes. On every news channel this morning there are stories about how girls are getting worse and worse as far as drinking, drugs, sex, and violence. Somehow, though, I don't see many homeschoolers falling under the spell of peer-pressure because they're not forced to face and remain in toxic/dangerous situations like high school kids are. I really hope K keeps a good head on her shoulders - because I'll be keeping the reins pretty tight.
J went on aaamath.com to play around with fractions and taught W some dance moves with the tv set to "dance music". We walked home from W's school and back to get him enjoying how spring like the air was. J had team tech class last night (mainly ballet) and went over some group scores with the teacher. She came home and watched "High School Musical" - which she has seen every time it's been on and knows every song, dance, and just about every word in the movie.
Today we have my niece's birthday party upstate, after K finishes practice, and then K, J, and I are going to a show this evening. Tomorrow we’re meeting up with my sister, G, and her 2 kids to see The Shaggy Dog, go to Chuck E Cheese, and have dinner and cake back at my mom’s house.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Today J came to me out of the blue and said, "I want to know how tax works". She had been counting her money ($2.24) and decided to spend it on some Chinese food for lunch. I told her that on take-out menus tax is usually included in the price and we went on to discuss sales tax, what never gets taxed, what always gets taxed, and the different percentages rates. This led to how much tip to leave at restaurants and she played with different totals and figured 20% of each. She said, "That's pretty cool! So, today I'm going to get a shrimp eggroll ($1.10) and a small wonton soup ($1.25). That comes out to $2.35, so I'll need another $.11, ok?". You got it, babe.
While watching Tom and Jerry, she asked me what "truce" meant. At the Chinese restaurant, she pointed to the tax on the receipt to excitedly show me it was the same percentage as the tax on the Toys R Us receipt from yesterday. She said she felt bad for her friends who are in school because they have to sit there and get told what to learn. Then she put in our new Schoolhouse Rock DVD (which has every cartoon ever made on it!!) and asked me questions throughout about a dozen of them (about gravity, prepositions, women's rights, inventions, etc).
As of today, B, my mom, and my sister are all supportive of W's homeschooling in September. My sister's comment was, "Yeah, you don't want to dummy him up at school" (and no, it wasn't sarcastic, lol). I watched the older kids at W's school being herded around like cattle through the hallways at dismissal today and wanted my son as far away from that as possible. PreK is only 2.5 hours, he wants to go every day, and is looking forward to the graduation ceremony in June. Otherwise I'd pull him now. K still won't budge on her decision. It's ok. I promised her I would never ask her about homeschooling again.
Link of the day:
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
I remember he wanted to come out 3 months early. I was on bedrest until my scheduled C-Section 1 week before his due date. He came out crying and flailing - perfect. He seemed so much bigger than the other babies there.
He was my "earth baby". Breastfed on demand for over 2 years, cloth diapered, with me in the sling everywhere, in our family bed, no bottles, no cow's milk til he was 3, homemade babyfood. He loved the park swings and being anywhere with his sistersHe walked at 9 months, spoke words at 12 months. His favorite thing was (and still is!) water - the beach, baths, and jumping into grandma's pool, pouring cups in his kiddy pool. He has never stopped being curious, silly, precocious, proud, and so happy and healthy.
I thank God every day for my kids. Each one makes my life full and meaningful. I have learned so much from them. Happy birthday, my sweet boy. He celebrated his birthday at school today. We brought in Munchkin donuts and I got to see a little of how the preschool day is run. The teacher read a story about St. Patrick's Day. Her grammar was atrocious. She asked the kids, "Where do you see the 2 boys is?". What....The....Fuck???? Ok, I understand she's Filipino and English is not her first language, but Jeez! This is what my son is learning?! Then during "carpet time" they sang the ABCs. W was so bored he didn't even sing. At one point she asked me if I'll be sending him to Kindergarten or keep him home. I told her I didn't know yet. She said W is very smart and homeschooling is good for smart kids. The aide said they learn socialization here - how to follow rules like raising their hand, sitting still, being quiet, walking in a line. Um, yeah, okay - they learn how to play the game of school. The other kids were cute. One girl snitched on someone every 5 minutes. One boy wouldn't leave J alone. One girl kept asking W if she was still his friend. One boy came out of the bathroom all unzipped and unbuttoned. No one gave a shit about the story or the sitting on the "blue oval" part of the carpet with their legs crossed. But W likes it. He basically only likes 1) showing off the toys he brings in to the other kids and 2) being given "jobs" like opening the other kids' milk cartons, tying the other kids' shoes, and going to the office with the aide.
Oh, and by the way, this will be his last year of institutionalized school. Yes, I have made the decision to homeschool him. I still have to discuss this with B and W, but I have no qualms about it anymore. My mother even thinks it's a good idea. She finally sees. Her main concern was W not being with other kids, but she started asking about our homeschool group and knowing that there are over 100 families in the group (with many many other 4-7 year-olds) was the turning point for her. B will be easy to convince. W will agree to it once I start taking him to hs group events and out into the world.
School has become such a joke. I care way too much about my kids' futures and well-being (socially, academically, mentally, emotionally, etc) to have them go through endless years of potentially harmful mediocrity. K has to come to the decision on her own. Mom even asked me if K wants to homeschool. I explained that K has a fake, idealized, TV version of high school in her head. Mom said that maybe she won't like it after a year or so and can come home. I was like, - who are you and what did you do with my mother?
W has been given a better birthday present than he'll probably ever realize. He's a lucky kid.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
W is turning 5 tomorrow and hasn't been to school this week yet because of a belly ache. I hope he's better by tomorrow!
I'm still exhausted from the weekend and my brain can't come up with anymore to write. goodnight
Link of the day:
Sunday, March 05, 2006
The competition was fabulous. Eleven dance studios competed, totaling over 300 numbers. J did great - and received 2 special awards for her solo, one for best costume and one for best personality! She won a "GOLD" (out of "silver", "high-silver", "gold", and "high-gold"). Her 3 team numbers (1 jazz, 1 open, and 1 tap) all received "GOLD" as well and out of the top 5, all 3 team numbers placed (4th, 3rd, and 2nd). Their large production number got a "HIGH-GOLD" and won for best costume. Saturday night all the kids went in the pool for a few hours and then we all converged again in what we deemed "the party room", lol, ordered take out Chinese and hung out with each other til midnight. The kids bopped around from room to room again, really bonding and having the best time.
Today J went to a 7 hour dance workshop. They started at 9 with a 1/2 hour warmup and had an hour each of "Folkloric Fusion", "Jazz Funk", "Audition Workshop", "Contemporary Modern", "Musical Theater", and "Tap". There was also a 1/2 hour thrown in there for lunch. We parents dropped food off for the team and went out to a pub to eat lunch ourselves. We talked all about the competition and P said that J did better than she could have ever hoped for - especially this being her first solo year. Lunch was fun (and informative!) and then we all went back to the workshop to wait for the kids to be finished. I watched a bit of it and was so impressed at the level of teaching there. All the kids slept during the car ride home and none of us can wait for the next one!
Thursday, March 02, 2006
J worked on aaamath.com today, multiplying fractions and reducing the answers while being timed. We read a couple of chapters of Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear (I hate that title, but it's a cute book). She added new things to her website and removed other things. She IM'd a few friends and talked to her homeschooled friend, G, on the phone. G and her brother have enrolled in school for next year. J doesn't know why on earth they would voluntarily do such a thing. She figures that they are just curious to know what it's like since they've never been there before. I'm sure she's right.
Link of the day:
Homeschooling Grows Quickly in the US
J and I went back to the Japanese restaurant yesterday for lunch. She was soooo excited. We had edamame, tempura, miso soup, california rolls, chicken teriyaki w/vegetables, rice, and salad. J ate all of everything except the salad. It's such a great place. According to an online phone book, there are about 461 Japanese restaurants within 20 miles of my house. I'm glad we found a good one! J and I decided to get back there on the first Wednesday of every month (or thereabouts).
She likes the idea of knowing what the day is bringing, so we came up with a basic outline of a weekly schedule (again) that looks like this:
Tuesday: Workbooks, Reading, Writing, Websites
Wednesday: Grocery Shopping (and restaurant)
Thursday: Workbooks, Reading, Writing, Websites
She likes having time sectioned off for "educational stuff". I see the educational stuff happening every single day, so if she doesn't get to it during the hour or so on Tuesdays and Thursdays, it's ok (I just gotta tell her that). I'll never get the list-making out of my system, I'm convinced. And J likes having something like this stuck to the fridge so she can look forward to what's next. She has been feeling a bit scattered and aimless again since her siblings went back to school. I mean, she's doing lots every day, but has a hard time noticing. I think she has a need to know what she's getting done. It's hard to escape that feeling of insecurity with 2 sibling and most of her friends always talking about what they're doing or have done in school. I totally understand.
Yesterday in the car J asked me what exactly is Costco. This ultimately led to a great discussion on manufacturing, distributing, marketing, demographics, advertisements, pricing, retail, wholesale, and how it all ties together. The great thing about it, is that it's not a "lesson", it's a casual, comfortable conversation. And J retains any new info from these conversations, since it all started with her question. She is currently figuring out a marketing plan (including demographics) for her clothing line, lol, These conversations happens at least 2-3 times a day on various topics. That's unschooling for you. :)