Saturday, December 30, 2006

On Saturday, J went over her friend's house all day. K and W tried the new Slurpee machine and tended to the hamster. K created a new layout for B's website and W found the shiny green piggy bank I forgot to put in his Christmas stocking. He keeps polishing it and wants to keep it shiny, lol. Everyone picked me up at work and we went to see "Avner the Eccentric" at Queens Theater in the Park. It was a great show! The Unisphere at Flushing Meadow Park looked so beautiful at night that I had to get some pics of the kids in front of it:

J watched some of the Math Success CD ROM. She chose long division and was actually into it. It's great the way it explains math concepts and goes quickly. I enjoyed it too. She even asked me to create problems for her to do afterward. She always prefers to do "academic" stuff at nighttime.

K has been reading a lot, writing in her journal, and being creative on the computer. We've been playing Blokus a lot. It's an abstract spatial strategy game that I'm sure has lots of educational value. The kids just love it and I can play it all day.

Today we're going to Nassau Coliseum to see High School Musical the Concert. . It was a surprise Christmas gift and the kids cannot wait. They have been eating,sleeping,breathing High School Musical for forever it seems. All 3 kids know the entire script and score by heart and it's even the theme for this years Musical Theater class at the dance studio. Tonight we're just staying home, having lotsa "pickins" food, and just being together. I have to work tomorrow so no big partying for me tonight, lol.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I did a big shopping after work on Saturday finishing up all the Christmas presents. On Sunday morning, B took the kids out to run some errands and I went downstairs to wrap everything. I think I ended up wrapping over 60 things. We got to my mom's around 3ish. We decided it would be so nice to sleep over and wake up with everyone on Christmas morning. Christmas Eve was great. The kids made cookies, helped with the seafood dinner, watched A Christmas Story, and listened to the story of the first Christmas. They all wanted to get to sleep early so morning would come faster.

The kids did pretty well, I must say. K's favorite gift was the chocolate brown Juicy Couture sweat suit. J's favorite was the pink Nintendo DS Lite. And I think W's was probably his new hamster in a cool Spiderman hamster habitat. My favorite gift was the rac 'n roll dance bag for J's competitions. It's a huge rolling suitcase that comes with it's own clothes rack and plenty of space for costumes, shoes, makeup, and snacks. I love things that make my life easier!

My sister and her family came over around noon and we all had brunch and opened more gifts. In the evening, we packed up the car and headed to B's mom's house for another round of food and presents. I think it was one of our better Christmases. I had practically no stress the whole holiday season and the final days went very smoothly.

I never did get the cards mailed, though. Next year I'm mailing them on December 1st!!


Friday, December 22, 2006

I was reading a message board thread that touched upon something called "radical unschooling". I'd heard of it in the past and decided we're not "radical" anything. But the more I read about it, and the more I hear it described by different families, the more I think we could possibly fall into that category. My kids have no set bedtimes, are free to choose what to eat, are free to wear whatever they choose, are free to choose how much tv they watch, and how much computer time they have. And of course, how to go about learning.

It feels weird to type that. It just doesn't "sound" right in our society, does it. But it was just the normal progression from the attachment parenting they all received from birth. Are my kids running amok, eating tons of candy and sugar, watching tv til their eyes blur over, and staying up til 3am every night? No, not even close. I have noticed that allowing these freedoms create children who self-regulate, are independent, and have high self-esteem and confidence.

For example, in the past I have given the girls $5 in the supermarket to spend on whatever they wanted. I was really shocked (but didn't show it, lol) to see they picked things like fruit, crackers, and canned ravioli. Where was all the candy and chips? There weren't any. K snacks on fruit and salads very often when we go out. J chooses fruit, veggie booty, or soy chips. W is still learning how to make healthy choices, but he'll eat anything and is getting a good example from his sisters.

As far as tv, I'll admit I have the parental block on anything PG-13 and up. But that's as far as my intervention goes. The kids watch a medium amount of tv. They actually prefer imaginative play, dancing, doing artwork, or going out somewhere. I grew up with the tv always on - mainly for background noise. I tend to do the same thing now and it's the kids who go over and shut it off several times a day.

Bedtimes are a big issue for people. I never understood that. We have no bedtime rules and yet W is asleep by 8:30, J by 9:30, and K by 10:30. My 5 y/o tells me he's really tired and ready for bed - he does this for naps too. I remember I fought my mother every night about bedtime - probably up until at least age 10. If there's something going on early the next morning, I will remind the kids that it will be difficult to get up if they don't start winding down now. But it's still their choice. And the next morning when I'm dragging them out of bed to get to a homeschool event they were looking forward to, they will remember this the next time.

I don't even make my kids wear a coat when it's cold. If they choose not to, I'll just bring one in case they want it later. They know if or when they're cold. I don't see the point of turning something like that into a battle of wills. My kids have gone coatless many times - and I probably have the healthiest kids in the neighborhood.

Oh and as you've seen, learning without coercion is very effective. My kids gravitate toward academics and are very curious and interested in the world. All the kids love being read to, love educational computer websites and CD-ROMS, have asked to learn Italian (all 3 of them! So I'll be purchasing Rosetta Stone soon), and J and W are "workbooking" a grade level ahead. Last night, W and I did Brainquest cards and read a book called "What If...". B was listening and couldn't believe how much W knew about the human body, animals, and space. The kids ask questions about any and everything all day. The answers I give them or that they find out for themselves do not leave them, it seems. And J has started reading a new book. K has decided to start working on 9th grade subjects to get a head start on high school. Fine with me! I'll take her to the bookstore to choose things she'd like. I'll also find her a bunch of websites and put them in a K folder.

I couldn't imagine this all working out any better than it does.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Monday our homeschool group had a Winter Solstice Celebration. There were great presentations on the different ways the December holidays are celebrated. We heard about Hannukah, Christmas, Atheists and cultural celebrations, Buddhism and the new year celebrations, and most of all, what the Winter Solstice is, scientifically and traditionally. We had a Wassail toast to the return of the light and celebrated with lots of food and games. A main theme was religious tolerance. I think we all learned a lot about each other. One game the older kids played revolved around that theme and was created by one of the moms (she will soon be patenting the game and plans on getting it on store shelves!). Very fun day.

Yesterday, we stayed in and just hung out. K spent about an hour reading and W and I did a few workbook pages. Then J and I did some. She did reading comprehension and spelling/vocabulary. The spelling words incorporated geography in that all the words were names of continents, oceans, seas, and mountain ranges. So she had to know the what-and-where as well as how to spell the words. The last bit was proofreading, which she loves doing. The funny part was that we had to leave after about 45 minutes and she was really disappointed to have to cut the workbooking short. I just think that's so cool. Learning for her is no longer a miserable chore to be rushed through in order to get to more fun things. Learning has BECOME one of the fun things.

Today we saw a wonderful production of "A Christmas Carol" at Hofstra University. There were about 25-30 of us there from the hs group. We met some new families with 9-11 y/os that I would love to see more often. At regular hs events we have at least 15 kids in that age range. And of course there's always plenty of 4-6y/os for W to play with. But I'm glad that there is the potential for a strong teen group in a few years. I'm sure there will be some who choose to go to high school, but even 7 or 8 regulars will be plenty for that homeschooling teen comraderie. K is making do usually being the oldest at the events - although there are some older boys (14-16) that usually just keep to themselves. She's content with the several outside friends she has for now. I'm still on a quest to recruit more teens for our group, though.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

We've had a relaxing couple of days. The kids have been doing lots of crafts including a Native American arm band and a feeble attempt at creating a geodesic dome out of rolled up newspaper, tape, and staples. J and W watercolored and drew pictures. K wrote to her penpal in Spain (they last saw each other 8 yrs ago in Kindergarten and have been writing ever since). W played with some Sculpy clay and the girls are still into Mall Tycoon. J has been altering photos on the computer for her website and W learned his phone number with a catchy song.

Dance is great. The company has finished most of their numbers and just need to clean up a few things before competitions start. Their Christmas party is next Wednesday and they're doing a local performance on Thursday. Costumes are done (except for the ritual "stoning" we'll probably do next month) and all I need to buy are tights, toe thongs, black gores, and foot undeez -- so far.

The girls and I are hitting the mall tomorrow. I have about 5 people left to buy for and I figure I can knock them all out in one mall trip. We're probably crazy for going, but I know we'll have fun. We put up the Christmas tree tonight. I just did the lights (white only this year) and 2 rolls of silver/gold garland - instead of the burgundy and cream theme I usually do. Tomorrow evening, we'll finish up with the ornaments, candy canes, and angel on top. I'm so not ready for Christmas. We still didn't take our pictures for the cards yet.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

So I ended up buying a wireless keyboard at Radio Shack. HP sucks and their tech support is the worst I've ever dealt with. They lost my info and have no record that I spent $200 on a 3-year accidental damage plan. Gee how convenient. All the tech calls are routed to India and no one is on the same page with anyone else. I will never buy another HP product again.

Ok aside from that wonderful note, we're having a fantastic week! Last Thursday we hung with some homeschooling friends at their house. We did the usual language arts skill set, had lunch, and had fun. It was a beautiful day for mid-December (like 55 degrees) and the kids were running around outside and trampolining. Friday we stayed home and got tons of cleaning done. I finished everything up by Sunday night and ended up with 12 bags of garbage. It was mainly old clothes. I used to give everything away, but I just have no time for it anymore. Monday we went to see "The Nutcracker" at Hofstra University with the homeschool group. I think 30 of us were there and we had front row seats! It was such a nice ballet and even W sat still (mostly) for the whole thing.

Tuesday, J's new homeschooling friend came over for a few hours. She's 9 and just started hs this fall. K went over my sister's friend's house to be a "mother's helper". This girl and my sis have been friends for over 15 years and she's so similar to K! They chatted about shopping, makeup, and shoes while putting up Christmas lights and playing with the baby. So funny. K can't wait to "hang out" with her again. I think they have a shopping date planned soon.

Today was rainy and we stayed home. J asked me to do division flash cards with her. It's short division up to 144 and she quickly answered every one. She felt she was a little "slow" on some and would like to go over her 6, 7, and 8 times tables. She really had fun with it and kept asking to go over it again. (What's with that?? LOL). Of course in the meantime, W is annoyed at the time I'm spending with J and want to do his workbook with me right then. He finally realized whining and complaining doesn't work with mommy, and waited for us to finish. He did a whole test-prep page on beginning sounds, putting a check in the bubble instead of coloring it in. He liked it better that way, he said. LoL. He lost another tooth this week, too. Now there's just this adorable gaping hole where his 2 bottom teeth used to be. I'll take a picture tomorrow. I finally bought Lithium AA batteries, so hopefully the camera will last more than a week.

Both girls were very into "Mall Tycoon" today and I'm pretty sure they'll be on it most of tomorrow. The "Tycoon" games are awesome and I really recommend them. J had dance rehearsal tonight (like almost every day). Her group is performing a couple of Christmas-y numbers at a middle school next week. I'm calling in sick from work so I can go. I haven't even seen these numbers yet. One of them is the company production number that will be going to competition in Jan or Feb.

K asked me to read her some Grimm's Fairy Tales before bed tonight. She and J love being read to but they have to keep reminding me or I don't think of it. I love the Olde English language and the gratuitous gore of these stories. We have the complete and unabridged version of the stories. They weren't written for children, I don't think, but the girls love them. I have to make a point to read to them more. It's on my (unwritten) resolution list, lol.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Monday we had our Foreign Lands Club with the homeschool group. The country was Argentina and the girls did a great presentation on "music". They spent a good deal of time finding Argentinean music for the ipod, researching various websites for info, and creating a script for the presentation. We brought empanadas and a loaf of crusty bread. There was also gnocchi, scones, steak, salad, dulce de leche cake, ice cream, pan dulce, and fruit. They learned about Argentina's geography, history, culture, exports, food, languages, and rulers. Such a fun event!

Today we are going to see a production of "Tim and Scrooge". Tomorrow we are hanging with outher homeschoolers for some language arts skill sets. They usually do a fun writing activity and a game, then spend the rest of the afternoon playing. Friday we are meeting up with the homeschool group for ice skating.

W's reading and writing is coming along very nicely. He is getting more comfortable showing us what he can do. The girls are also reading and writing more. J and W are using their workbooks a lot and K will peruse her text books, but prefers the computer. All of them have been real creative lately and are increasingly more respectful to each other. It's such a big transition for all of them to be home. K and W are still getting used to it, and J is getting used to having them home, lol. I think we're doing ok so far. The kids are happy and busy, and I'm seeing positive differences in them.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

We had a nice week. Visiting friends on 2 days, going to another high school open house, and rearranging the living room, which opened up a lot more space. Dance was good all week. J's team already got one of their costumes and is almost finished with another. They will be performing their production number (has a Christmas theme) at a nearby middle school this month.

So, the high school we went to see has to be the most perfect school I've seen so far. It's small, in a great neighborhood, and specializes in what K loves most. We met the principal, vice principal, got a tour, visited various classrooms, and signed the sheet. I am getting such a good vibe from this place. It's exactly what I've been looking for. There's 90 kids in each grade (very small for NYC standards), cute uniforms, and oh yeah, it's public! I couldn't ask for a better (free) school. So we'll hear in March if she gets in. And the parochial high schools are sending out their acceptance letters in January.

I'm excited for K because I know she wants to go to high school. And I feel it's my job to find the perfect school for her. There are at least 412 high schools in the 321 square miles that make up NYC (Rhode Island has 60 high schools in 1200 square miles!) . Finding a potentially good "fit" for her has been crazy. Kids can go to any high school in any borough (zoning rules are in place mainly for lower grades). I'm a perfectionist and I will not settle for anything that doesn't meet my standards. If she chooses to go to school, at least I'll feel comfortable knowing I did everything I could to seek out that "fit". K did say she will consider homeschooling throughout her teen years, but wants to give high school a fair shot. I think this was when J said she'll be homeschooling til college thankyouverymuch. I know K is loving being home. She is still getting used to not being around 400 kids all day every day. It's hard to find other 12-14 y/o homeschoolers and she gets worried about that. She has schooled friends her age, but I think she wants the homeschool comraderie. And I can't blame her.

Work has been getting better and better. I decided to organize my finances, pay down all our debt, and start being more frugal. And as soon as I went into that mindframe, I started getting more sales at work. I really believe 'thought' is creative and you achieve what you believe. If you harp on fear and misery, you'll have it in your life. If you believe you are worthy and good and are doing your best to reach your goals, you will get there pretty quickly. And my mind has been so clear and focused.

This financially-clearer mind has overflowed into the rest of my life. I have been in total organizing mode this week. My living room looks amazing and today I'll focus on the dining room. During the week I'll fix up the bathroom. Just rearranging things and finding new homes for things (even if it's the garbage can) really can lift your spirits. Today I want to get more Christmas shopping done, get the Christmas card pictures taken, re-organize the dining room, decorate the house for Christmas, and plan the rest of the week.