Tuesday, November 28, 2006

We had a great day today meeting other homeschoolers right in our neighborhood! Her kids are J's age. All the kids got along wonderfully. First we went to the playground and then to their house for pizza. While the kids played, L and I had the homeschool conversation and we found we are so much alike. It was so cool and we can't wait to see them again.

I emailed the quarterly report 6 days ago and haven't heard anything yet. I got a "read receipt" so I know they got it. I'm surprised because my emails to them have always been answered within 2-3 days. I'm nervous in a way because I know my quarterly is very minimal and maybe she's deciding whether or not it's in compliance or something. I just want a response already. I'll give it another week and follow up.

Speaking of the coordinator, B went down to the main headquarters on 7th Avenue to hand deliver K's high school and metrocard applications. He met Ms. Becoat, whom he said was very nice and friendly. She gave him our 2 metrocards and he left. He only had to wait 10 minutes. That's actually much better than the 45 minute wait I had at our Queens Region last year. I think I might be liking this new system. And I say that with a little trepidation.

All the kids had dance today. W was awesome in his hip-hop class. They did some free-style and W did coffee grinders, a split in the air, and a perfect handstand - all things Ms X wants in his solo but he wouldn't do. I hope the teacher today tells her he can really do all of that, lol. After his class, the girls had theirs and W and I were counting money. He fished 3 dimes and a penny out of my pocket and asked to have them. I said "If you can count it, you can have it". So he said the small ones were dimes and ten cents and the brown one was a penny and one cent. Then he counted by tens to 40, then backed up and said, No, 30.... and 1, THIRTY-ONE! Ok, so this week W has been reading, rhyming, adding coins, learning his phone number and address, telling time, writing words, mastering the dance moves, and oh yeah - losing a tooth - and it's only Tuesday!

I took an online quiz today - and I'm durn proud of myself (p.s. I don't attribute much of my score to anything I "learned" in high school, btw)

You paid attention during 91% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thanksgiving was spent at BIL's house this year. The food was great, my kids were very well behaved, and the subject of homeschooling didn't come up once. I was surprised since this is a real touchy subject for MIL. The rest of B's family is just indifferent about it. Which is fine.

We drove the kids to my mom's house after that, stayed about 30 minutes, and drove home. Mom took the girls shopping Friday morning at 6am. All three of them love it. They love the stores, the crowds, the clothes. And yes, Mom bought them tons of stuff - gave some to them now and saved some for Christmas morning. The majority of the stuff for the girls came from Abercrombie, which is usually too rich for my blood. J got a down coat (gorgeous), both got pajama pants/shirts, a large canvas zipper bag, and mitten gloves. Mom got W new sneakers (Jordans) and Timberlands (and some shirts and pants). J asked for a Build-A-Bear and mom told me that she said No, but K stepped right up and said she would buy the Mumbles penguin for J there. K used some of the birthday money she got. My mom was so proud and impressed with K, that she had to call later on and let me know.

W was at his cousins house all day. He had a great time. Mom and the girls met up with them there later and they all went out to The Cheesecake Factory for dinner and dessert - and to celebrate K's birthday. Mom told me that she sees such a wonderful change in the kids since they've been homeschooled. K and W have both mellowed out so much, are generous and kind with everyone, and have lost a lot of the competitiveness, attitude, and tantrums. Yes, I've noticed that too.

I worked a full day Friday (part-timers had to), and B and I had a wedding that night. Great big Italian fun, food, and dancing, til 1am. I finally got to sleep that night at 3am and woke up at 7am to work another full day. B tried to get some Christmas shopping in. He was fairly unsuccessful at finding most of what was on the list. I'm probably going to end up doing all the shopping online. It's so much easier.

J has dance practice today and I'd like to get some cleaning done so we can start decorating the house. This is my favorite time of year!

Monday, November 20, 2006

We had a great Thanksgiving event with the homeschool group today. There was a Cherokee guest speaker, amazing food, the kids made their own flavored butter, played games, and had a fantastic time for over 3 hours. We met some new homeschoolers and lots of dads came today. I really love this group.

I can't believe it's already the end of November. Autumn really flew by. K is ready to start some structured learning. She says she doesn't want to be behind when she starts high school. I'll sit down with her and we'll come up with a schedule together. Having her input is important. I'm figuring on following the worldbook guideline for 8th grade and just finding really good websites, books, kits, and trips to experience throughout the year. I think I would like to do the same with J. She likes a loose schedule that she creates herself. And of course, I'm totally willing to follow her lead. W is doing just fine lately. We do lots of workbook and readalouds, and his days are always filled with imaginative play.

The one thing people still tend to harp on is "socialization". My kids know how to act among others. What they actually mean is "socializing". Well, they spend several days a week with their friends and they spend every day out in the real world. Even K says she is so much happier having these new friends. She feels no pressure or anxiety and just enjoys life so much more now. We have become closer as a family, too. I don't believe children benefit socially from spending 6 hours a day with 25 other kids their age that they can't get away from if they wanted to. I think a feeling of helplessness from being so controlled builds over the years and manifests itself into rebellion right at about 6th or 7th grade. By the time their in high school, if you've noticed, attitudes change and reading and math levels plummet. I think NYC has about 37% of middle and high school kids at grade level. The rest of the country isn't much better. Thirty-seven percent? A little more than a third of this city's kids are reading at grade level?! How can anyone say government school is working for them?

I see an incredibly bright and successful future for my kids. I really can see it. I'm not sure many public school parents can be that optimistic. And even though I know K will be going to (private or parochial) high school next year, I believe she has gotten a new start by staying home this year. She is already thinking and behaving differently than from just a month ago. High school is something she wants, not something being forced. I'm comfortable with her decision and I'm confident she will not disappoint herself.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Monday was ice skating with the homeschool group. We all ended up skating. W is doing really great now - even with the rented skates. We all used to have our own, but outgrew them, except J who used K's old ones. It was a nice afternoon and I had a lot of fun with the kids. Tuesday, W had a solo dance lesson. I videotaped it so he can practice at home. The studio owner wrote out all of W's steps for me to go over with him. She said he is really smart and has excellent timing, in that he really *hears* the music and that's not something that can be taught. She seems pretty excited about him and says he may be ready for an optional December competition. I'm not so sure. But we'll see.

Today the kids and I went to the American Museum of Natural History. We stopped for some hot chocolates and pastries to eat on the subway and were actually on the way to the American Indian Museum when all 3 decided they really wanted to hit the other one instead. It wasn't a big deal since we just need to go one extra stop in order to change trains and head uptown. They have a new special exhibit called Lizards and Snakes Alive that was cool. Their favorite room was the Hall of Biodiversity and the Ocean rooms. I'm pretty sure I saw several homeschooling families there, but was too chicken to go up and ask them.

After we left the museum, we got some hotdogs and pretzels and watched some museum workers create a dinosaur Christmas tree. Christmas is a huge deal in NYC and every place decorates - big. We walked around Central Park for a while after that. It was gorgeous with the red-, orange-, and yellow-leaved trees and leaf-littered walkways. We stopped in one of the playgrounds and W ran around with a new friend he met. Then we walked from the West Side or the park to the East Side to ride a different train back to Queens.

Here are some pics from today:

Sunday, November 12, 2006

OK. K's test is finally over. We can all relax and get back to normal, lol. She said most of it was pretty easy and almost identical to what we crammed in the week before. I brought the Applicant Record (the other thing that gets you into Catholic high schools) to her old guidance counselor. She will send a copy of that to all the listed high schools after she fills out K's 6th and 7th grade scores. This woman has been more than helpful to us and although a little hesitant about our homeschooling, she's still supportive. I'm trying to educate her a bit on what homeschooling really is about, so maybe she'll get rid of some of her misconceptions. Doesn't everyone have those same misconceptions? Why? It's weird. I feel like making pamphlets to hand out instead of repeating the same shit to everyone we come in contact with.

This a great video: Do Schools Kill Creativity.

A lot of what is said reminds me so much of J. I always said J needed more creative freedom than school allowed (and academic and social freedom, too). She was labeled ADHD when she couldn't sit still and then ADD when the fidgety went away and she couldn't focus. They wanted her on medication "to keep her in line". It just makes me sick. And my daughter is also a dancer. She always needed to move to think. Well thankfully, now she can, although she seems to have no problems thinking sitting perfectly still now either!

We didn't get out like I planned to this week - lack of funds, plus hyper-focus on K's test. The kids did plenty of workbook - one day while I was folding laundry, I happened to notice all of them on the couch helping each other! K was correcting J's reading comprehension practice test and showing her analogies in the TACHS prep book, and both were showing W an easier way to add numbers together. They were at it for about an hour. Beautiful.

The kids had dance every day but Wednesday. They're all doing great. W did his solo yesterday in front of the other kids for the first time. All the cheers and applause has him ready for the first competition in February! He's got most of it choreographed already. We'll be setting up a regular weekly schedule for him soon.

This week is full of homeschool groups outings and I'd like to take the kids to a museum. I was thinking about The National Museum of the American Indian. I keep hearing how awesome it is. Hopefully I'll have batteries my camera this week so I can post pictures of things! AA batteries don't last long in a digital camera.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

We had a really long week. I have to say my grandmother's wake and funeral were beautiful, and it was wonderful seeing extended family I haven't seen in years. One thing I noticed was how many times I was asked how the kids are doing in school. I confidently told everyone (individually, lol) that we homeschool. Yes, all three kids. No it doesn't involve all that - they enjoy learning so they're naturally drawn to it with no pressure or frustration. The questions were endless as was the genuine support. Everyone who found out we homeschooled was fascinated and loved the idea.

And the best was at a fundraiser last night. I got into a conversation with a first-grade teacher who was going on and on about how standardized tests are a huge joke (especially the 8th-grade test which holds no weight with high schools and kids might as well just "wipe their ass with it", lol), how parents argue with how she runs her classroom, how kids are diagnosed with ADHD way too often and medicated into a stupor, and how the range of abilities in a class makes it impossible to meet needs. And this was all before I even mention that we homeschool! So then I happened to slip in that fact, and she thought it was brilliant. I could see it got her really thinking. She was so supportive and told me to call her if I need anything. She has tons of Scholastic books and other stuff. She also said she knows that homeschooling is really taking off now, since parents are just fed up. I was so proud and it was another moment where homeschooling just felt so "right".

This week, I plan to really connect with the kids. TV will be off most of the day, and we'll go to some fun places. Some workbook here and there and lots of games and imaginative play. And a crackdown on the TACHS prep with K. The test is this Saturday and she needs to do well. Ideally, by the spring she will have been accepted to her top schools and she can have the option to attend or stay home. I believe she can do it.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Still crazy around here, but we're doing well. We've been enjoying all the homeschool group activities, seeing lots of family, and doing lots of learning. J and W are using their workbooks frequently. W, last night after trick-or-treating, was proud to reel off to me what 4+2 is and 9-6 is. He loves just about all subjects. His behavior has been so wonderful, although he still needs a bit more time to get the stuff he learned in school out of his system. It'll come, though. He is really starting to understand so much more about this world. He's a joy to be with every day.

J not only has been workbooking, but doing lots of writing (insert Hallelujah Chorus). She recently started a journal, too. She has been making lots of drawings and beautiful crafts. Next week she wants to work on a few basics like multiplication and division again and then move quickly on to stuff like algebra and geometry. She requested more science experiments and we might even get into some deeper Colonial stuff this month. She is still adjusting to not being the only homeschooler anymore, and I see it aggravates her sometimes, but she's loving having her siblings home.

K is busy with her TACHS studies. I plan on really cracking down with her over the next few weeks before the test. She is still fixed on attending high school next year, but she is curious about distance learning programs, getting in touch with other teen/preteen homeschoolers, and other "homeschooly" things. She has been getting more and more in touch with her kid-self, jumping in leaves, playing running games, and watching more tame tv. She is also getting along much better with the rest of the family. There is hardly any eye-rolling and door slamming anymore, lol. She has realized a need to release all her "friends" from middle-school and has made several new friends already. I know she has been doing a lot of thinking and re-evaluating what's important in her life. I am so proud of her maturity and willingness to take a big leap toward change. Her creativity has blossomed - she is cooking, crafting, and writing a lot. And she suddenly has this glowing happiness - something I haven't seen in a long time.