Tuesday, October 30, 2007

W sat on my lap today and breezed through 1/4 of the hardcover Dick and Jane 3-in-one book I got at Borders the other day for $3.99 ($3.19 after educator discount!) in the clearance bin (yay me!). There's something about that book that just did it for him. It's repetitive with the sight words and the pictures are cute. As annoying and outdated as many people find it, it sure made him feel like a very competent reader today.

After that, I read to the kids about the Aztec, Mayan, and Incan empires. We have "The Everything American History Book" which has short chapters and covers everything in a nutshell - it's a great starting point for further discussion and activities. So we went online and found sites about the history of these empires, their gods, artwork, and culture. That led to Spain and Hernando Cortes, and North America. This led to the 13 colonies and into westward expansion, and touching upon the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican American War, slavery, the Civil War, the Spanish-Indian War, the Alamo, and the Oregon Trail. J was really into it and asked lots of questions. Now that she has a basic understanding and definite interest in American history from the 1300s, we're going to go back and delve into it, one area at a time.

I also wanted them to check out the new poetry book I picked up. So later on, I just started reading various poems to them while they did other things. I used silly voices and foreign accents and within 10 minutes, both of them were on either side of me. W had me repeat the funny ones a few times. J took over reading aloud on a couple of them. Again, this is a fantastic treasury of poems - everything from Mother Goose rhymes all the way to Whitman, Wordsworth, and Shakespeare (bargain bin $7.99 - $6.39 after educator discount!!). They even protested when we had to put it down to go pick up K from school.

We went to Claire's to get the girls some accessories for Halloween and W asked if we could also stop in the bookstore. Now, W never wants to go to the bookstore. I played it cool and asked if there was something he was interested in getting today. He said, I wanna get my own poetry book and hey, maybe I could use it for copywork, too. Wow.

Monday, October 29, 2007

We went out to the homeschool art class today. The kids continued working on their "reinterpretation of a masterpiece". Last night J (VanGogh's "Rowboats") and W (Monet's "The Bridge") copied these pieces of art into basic shapes on their paper using a grid to prepare for today's class. In the class they worked on the shapes to make them look more like the original artwork. The grid lines were erased as much as possible and then they started to add the colors. J is using acrylics on canvas and W is using oil pastels on watercolor paper. I can't wait to see the end result of these. J's picture is blooming with color and every inch of the canvas is painted. W used a perfect combination of blues, greens, and pinks to capture his version of the Monet. He also used the smudge technique we learned at an art class several months ago.

J had dance Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. She's back up to about 12-18 hours of dance a week. 4 months til the first competition, you know, lol. Her new dance solo is coming along great and her tailor-made costume is already with the seamstress. I haven't seen it, but I know it's a dress and it's royal blue. Saturday evening she went to her friend's birthday party at this posh Japanese restaurant (her favorite food!). I spent almost an hour by myself in Borders bookstore, savoring every second. I got a new educator's discount card and got $80 worth of books for $62. Wheeeeeeeee!

K had a birthday/Halloween party on Saturday night, too. We picked J up at 9pm and K up at 10pm. Sunday morning was CCD - K was assigned to J's class again this week. She helps with their projects, gets their supplies out and ready, and basically acts as teacher's aide. She hung out with some friends at the park in the afternoon and J and W carved scary faces in pumpkins and B roasted up the pumpkin seeds in oil, salt, and garlic. Oh that's so good!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Today we went to an environmental center for a class on Ecosystems. The kids spent about an hour in a class and another hour out on a nature trail walk. The educator talked about and brought us to a pond, a forest, and a salt marsh. Back at the center she brought out some animals and the kids got to hold one or 2. The class was for J's grade, but all of us were welcome on the walk. W got so excited about it all that he asked a hundred questions and threw his 2 cents in wherever he felt it was necessary, lol. The educator was wonderful with him. I mentioned to him a few times to hang back with me and let the big kids have their class, but he kept ending up right back in the front. I do love that he is so curious and free and wants to be a part of it all, though. And it was great to see genuine NYC honey!!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Saturday J had large-group jazz dance practice and then took part in a ballroom dancing fundraiser for the studio. B and I would have done it too, but since I was working we felt as long as one of us is there, we're good. In the early evening we decided to go to the movies and we saw Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D. It was very cool. We have the movie and we love it (we even have Jack Skellington Christmas ornaments), but seeing it in 3D made us love it all over again. And we got the cool Disney 3D glasses that have tannish lenses not those horrible red and blue ones.

On Sunday the kids went to CCD - K volunteered as teacher's aide in J's class this time. After that, J had small-group lyrical dance practice, K hung out at the park with her friends, and W and I spent 1-on-1 time together playing Monopoly and cooking. Monopoly is awesome for teaching how to count money and make decisions. He was great at it. B sewed the criss-cross straps on J's new ballet shoes and she gets to wear those and her new tap shoes this week.

Today we had our homeschool group geography club and this month was Greece! J did an oral report on geography and W did his on Musical Instruments of Ancient Greece. He got up in front of about 40 of us and READ his report without a hint of nervousness.
We worked on it together and I drew small pictures on the paper to help a bit. I can't tell you how proud he was of himself and several moms commented on his confident and loud-enough-for-everyone-to-hear-him voice. I made onion fritters called "Kremidokeftedes" in Greek. Thankfully they were a big hit and I went home with an empty bowl. Other fantastic Greek food we enjoyed today was spinach pie, pita with tzatziki sauce, moussaka, pastitsio, stuffed grape leaves, cabbage rice, baklava, and the flag cake. After the Greek fun, the kids went out to run around and play for a couple of hours. J spent the rest of the afternoon/evening at her friend A's house. Busy day as usual!

Friday, October 19, 2007

J's copywork poetry was Conkers by Barrie Wade and Spring Burst by John Travers Moore. In the bridge book she did a section on adverbs, a page on equivalent and simplifying fractions, and a page on the branches of government. W has been doing pages in the Sight Words book, in another workbook, he did a section on months and seasons and a bunch of analogies with pictures. In math he's been doing lots of addition and today we started some multiplication. He really gets this. I explained it as saying instead of "1 times 3", say "1, 3 times". It was clearer for him multiplying numbers by 2, where he could use his fingers as the manipulatives and show 4x2 as 4 fingers, 2 times - holding up 4 on each hand. He was shocked when it actually clicked and he got so excited about it. It was so fun to make the concept of multiplication understandable for him.

J rejoined the horseland website, wrote out a 1/2 page on what a "grande jete" is, made dueling K'Nex robots with W, played on girlsense.com, got new tap and black ballet shoes with me at the dance shop, and had 2 hours of ballet and lyrical class today. K did her volunteering yesterday and got to be the teacher's aide again, helping kids with art, helping on the trail hike, and handled (and talked about) the big blue macaw, the dragon lizard, ferret, and bunny. She also got an A- on an English paper today. W is still into paper crafts, building stuff, and learning to cook. It was a fun and relaxed week.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

This morning J copied and read aloud An October Wind by Zaro Weil and Rags by Judith Thurman. In the bridge book she did a section on simple and compound sentences, and a page on the western US states (location, capitals, and other major cities). Math was number patterns, area of a rectangle, and averages. It's a 7-8th grade math workbook, but it seems the beginning part is all review. She likes it because she can speed through a section in minutes.

W chose to do copywork out of a Ready Reader. He did 2 sentences from a page of one of the stories. It had lots of different punctuation marks in it, too. Then he did a couple of pages from his Sight Words book, and matching opposite words, and reading Yes and No questions in his bridge workbook. Later on we went through a whole semester of 1st grade spelling words on this website I found. And together we played a Widgets thinking game from iknowthat.com. He loves these.

Both kids got creative going through the Halloween costume box trying to come up with a new look for old costumes. They were cutting and smearing black makeup on things making them somewhat of a "dead" version of what they used to be. We used to always buy costumes but at almost $40 each and getting to wear them only 2-3 times, it's not worth it. So we've been making them the last few years. I'll splurge a little on accessories only now. They protested at first, but now they like this better. They put more thought into and appreciate their costumes more now.

K has started taking the bus to school. B went with her the whole way this morning, but tomorrow he'll just wait with her til the first bus comes, then head off to work. It's public transportation and she has a free Metrocard. She does have to make one transfer, though, and that's the part that worried me a little. But after actually doing it, she says it's great and has absolutely no problem with it. Tomorrow she does her 2.5 hours of volunteering at the educational center. She enjoyed it so much last week, that she also decided to volunteer as a teacher's aide at CCD (their 1 hr. Sunday religion class). She started this past Sunday and was happy to be placed in W's class! This year is already starting off great.

Monday, October 15, 2007

It was another Mad Science day today! Our homeschool group had a great class on dry ice. The instructor was hysterical and the kids loved him. He did great experiments and had the kids do a hands-on activity, making their own seltzer. J read about the properties of dry ice before we got there. She learned that dry ice is 109 degrees below zero, sublimation is changing right from a solid to a gas - and that's why it's called "dry" ice, what carbon dioxide is, and what dry ice is used for. On the way to the class, she felt like studying the periodic table of elements, read off each one to me, described its properties, and asked a lot of great questions. W participated a lot in the class and was fascinated at the experiments. We're making this a monthly event and they can't wait to go to the next one!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Yesterday J did copywork of a poem called I Am the Rain by Grace Nichols. Then in the bridge book she did some equivalent fraction work and a page on midwestern states (location, capitals, and trivia info). W did a new workbook called "Hooked on 1st Grade". He did pages on capital letters (cities and names), homonyms (homophones), and addition. J went to her friend A's house in the afternoon and they both went to acro class together at 4pm. W played outside for a while on his scooter and we played hide-and-seek together in the house until I had to leave for work.

Today J had Book Club. The story they focused on was The White Umbrella by Gish Jen out of the Junior Great Books reader. I read it too, and I thought it was really good. J liked it and did a good job of participating in the discussion. After that, we went over a friends house for a few hours until I needed to pick K up from school. J rode her friend's moped around all around the area and now is begging me to buy her one. It was so nice to have a relaxing afternoon chatting with a friend while the kids played.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

WOW! We went upstate to a fantastic colonial historic site today called Mt Gulian. The kids learned so much. They were told about Dutch trading and got to simulate real trading by running stores, selling things like hats, glasses, rum, and blankets in exchange for (small felt cutouts of) animal skins. They learned about the Algonquin Indians who lived right in that spot on the Hudson River. J ran one of the stores and had to figure the monetary value of the different skins - bear skins were worth 200 shillings, deer=100 shillings, squirrel=30 shillings, etc. After lunch in the 250-year-old barn, they made their own bows and arrows out of twigs and rope. They spent the rest of the time running around the grounds, trying out their bows and arrows, and spotting different animals and insects. It was a very cool experience.

Today was also K's first day volunteering at a local educational center. She took the bus down by herself and started working right away. She put away supplies, vacuumed one of the rooms, brought animals out to show the kids (ferrets, bunnies, guinea pig), and was the teacher's aide for an after-school preK class. Here she read stories, brought kids to the bathroom, helped wash hands, brought out animals again, cut out paper shapes, set up art/paint supplies, and help the kids with their projects. She loved it. It's something she was thinking about doing last year, but kept going back and forth about it. This year she feels more confident and independent - and she'll get credit for it for school. It's great - she'll be volunteering every Wednesday from 2-4:30pm.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Armed with our newly received Metrocards, we headed into Manhattan to the American Museum of Natural History. We met up with some of our best friends (another homeschool family) and boarded the subway. In a short while we were there and the first thing I wanted to do was find all the stuff from the Night at the Museum movie we watched last week!

We spent most of our day on the first floor and then the fourth floor (where the dinosaurs are). Today the kids favorites were the Hall of Biodiversity and the Hall of Planet Earth. In the latter, they watched the earthquake screen - it showed all the earthquakes happening at that moment (and those that occurred yesterday, within 2 weeks, and within the past 5 years). You wouldn't believe how many that is. There were a few workers, older women, at a cart where they talked about the wide arrangement of rocks they had. The kids were amazing. They asked and answered questions, came up with ideas about everything, and were so truly interested and engrossed in that rock moment. W's power light seemed to go on here. He was fascinated by the different textures and colors and how old some of the rocks were. One of the women asked where they went to school. W said, "I don't go to school". She looked at me and laughed and I said, "No, he really doesn't. We homeschool". I got the usual "Ohhhhh. Okaaaaaaaaaaay". You know, with that oddly fixed smile. A few minutes later she asked me privately, "If they don't go to school, umm, how do they know so much about rocks?".

Heh heh. I love these moments. I casually explained that homeschooled kids are a whole 'nother breed and tend to learn and retain more than their schooled counterparts since most of their studies come without any pressure, stress, or anxiety and are usually focused around what they're interested in. Turns out she taught elementary school for years and was full of "how is it done" questions. And although I'm usually always in the mood to discuss homeschooling til the cows come home, she seemed insatiable and I eventually had to cut her off with, "if you Google homeschooling, you'll see what I'm talking about. Have a great day".

We found a new room today called The Discovery Room that's just for kids to touch and play with everything. They put together a giant praying mantis, crawled into a baobab tree, constructed a 4 foot tall totem pole, and excavated fossils out of a sand pit. The older kids, including J, got to go upstairs to see more stuff. A staff member was showing them a live Madagascar hissing cockroach. That was my cue to head back downstairs to the little kids - and no live stuff. It was a great day and we want to go back in a few months.

Friday, October 05, 2007

All 3 kids seemed to have allergies up this week. Not sure if it's the change in weather or what. They're sniffly and scratchy. W described how he feels: "It feels like a big, fat toad is in my throat and there's an earthquake of snots. It's like a hundred gnomes are paddling a boat the wrong way". Ok, then.

J's 2 copywork poems today were from John Smith and Christina Rossetti. W wrote out a couple of sentences and started on some more cursive writing. I'm in the camp of cursive not being as important as schools think it is, but he asked and is excited to learn it. I say, as long as he can just sign his name, that's enough. But today he went through the whole lowercase alphabet and practiced a few cursive sentences. J's math involved several steps to figure the least to greatest order of a mix of fractions, improper fractions, and decimals. W did more addition using a number line.

I have to commend the Homeschool Coordinator, Ms. Henrietta Becoat. I faxed her Metrocards forms on October 2nd and I had both cards in my mailbox on October 4th. Now THAT'S impressive. So, I'll just assume all the paperwork I sent in June is in compliance. I guess no news really is good news.

Check out this article from the Fraser Institute!!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

We started "Bridge to Terabithia" today and J likes it so far. W isn't so into it. I might start reading separate books with him that are more on his level. He loves being read to, but keeping his interest longer than 10 minutes can be challenging. Copywork was more poems for J and Kumon's Sentences for W. He likes that book. It's big, colorful, and not over-cluttered. J did a page in math (angles, decimals) and W did some reading exercises in his bridge book.

We started on Ancient Rome today, too. It was a huge hit. We read about city life, aqueducts, home and market structures, and learned some key names and dates. One section talked about the decorative use of mosaic tiles. We decided to make our own paper mosaic craft after that. While I was cutting up the construction paper, J took a brand new notebook and wrote down some important facts from what we read. It was fun and I think they really got a lot out of it. The rest of the day was made up of card games, hamsters, and K'nex creations. They had dinner at MIL's while I went to work (and B worked late).

I spent time this afternoon looking through a great blog on a very structured Charlotte Mason approach. This is so who I wanted to be several years ago. I'll admit, I really envy her organization and how great everything is laid out. Although I don't think we could ever be that regimented, I found her ideas and advice very helpful. I plan on introducing some of them to the kids - especially the wall timeline, American history notebook, calendar, dictation method, and some of her book suggestions. I think these are things they'll really love doing.

Monday, October 01, 2007

So we watched Night at the Museum yesterday and we were so thrilled to see that it's based on our own American Museum of Natural History here in NYC. Of course the layout was different, but the kids recognized it right away. There was a lot of "Hey! There's the whale! There's the cavemen! There's the T-rex! There's Columbus!". Now we have to go there very soon and see it all again - like this week, according to W.

Today we made homemade egg drop-noodle soup and ran a bunch of errands. We bought stamps, signed up for CCD (Sunday school that started 2 weeks ago, oops), brought back library books, and bought some Halloween decorations at Michaels Craft. Then we picked up K, went for lunch, and spent an hour in Barnes and Noble. J bought a magazine about the Jonas brothers, K bought a book by her current favorite author, Cecily Von Ziegesar, and W got a magazine.

We're still running strong with the academic schedule. I guess I've just expected them to get bored of it by now. But every day they remind me that it's time to start, lol. I think they're ready for the other subjects, but we'll still ease in slowly. They want to do lapbooking/notebooking for history. I like that idea. There's so much creativity involved in those. I've been doing some reading on how to make them. I'll lay out the basic idea of how to do it, with lots of ideas for the folder attachments that they can choose from. J wants to do Ancient Rome first. I figure if we do history about 2x a week, we can do at least 1 lapbook per month. I'll just let the kids take it where they want. They're looking forward to it.